Monday, April 25, 2011

Box-office power of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ baffles insiders - Chicago Sun-Times

Box-office power of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ baffles insiders

BY PAUL BOND Apr 21, 2011 02:14AM

* Right wing rallies around Ayn Rand

The power of Ayn Rand devotees has impressed some Hollywood distribution executives, who took note of the hefty $5,640 per-theater average scored by “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” during its opening weekend.

“Shocking,” one executive said about the healthy business the low-budget film has been doing, considering its “awful” marketing plan.

Awful or not, business has been brisk enough for producers Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro to expand from 299 theaters to 425 this weekend and to 1,000 by the end of the month. They don’t have enough film prints to fill all the orders.

“Things have turned for us,” Kaslow said. “When we started, exhibitors were not embracing the film like we thought they would. Now, we can pretty much go into as many theaters as we want. It’s just a matter of logistics.”

The producers stand by their marketing campaign, which relied heavily on the Internet to drum up support among members of the Tea Party, libertarians and other Rand enthusiasts.

It’s a passionate bunch that didn’t need much encouragement. On Monday, for example, a caller to Dennis Miller’s radio show said he saw the film opening night and purchased another ticket on his way out of the theater that he didn’t use, just to support the film.

“We didn’t take the needle-in-the-haystack approach by running a bunch of TV ads looking for the needles who might want to see the film,” Kaslow said. “We turned that model on its head. When the needles looked for us, we advertised to them. We were getting 9 million online impressions a day from people looking for Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged and [the book’s popular line] ‘Who Is John Galt?’ ”

Aglialoro, who co-wrote and financed the movie, said timing — politically speaking — also has worked to the film’s advantage, so an expensive marketing campaign wasn’t necessary.

“People are hungry for what these characters are saying,” he said. “They’re telling the government, ‘Don’t entitle me with your gifts and your involvement in my life, because there’s a price I’ll pay for that. Just leave me alone. Let me hang onto my life and pursue my passions and rational self-interest. That’s what will benefit society.’ ”

Aglialoro said his “aspiration” is to make Parts 2 and 3, though he won’t determine whether it makes economic sense for several weeks. He spent $10 million of his own money to make Part 1.

Merchandise, he said, is helping the cause. When Aglialoro obtained rights to the movie 18 years ago, he also got rights to sell such items as T-shirts, mugs, posters and even jewelry, though not dolls, video games and other “interesting exceptions.”

On Wednesday, the website was sold out of its most expensive item: a $159 bracelet made of “Rearden Metal,” a replica of the one heroine Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) wears in the film.

“The merchandise has taken off like we couldn’t believe,” he said. “We’re shipping to every continent.”

Hollywood Reporter

American Thinker: Obama Versus the Constitution

Obama Versus the Constitution
By James Lewis
The genius of the Constitution is not some person, time, or place. It is a very improbable conjunction of all three. Jefferson and Madison were not the only ones to fear the abuse of power. That idea goes back to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Every family with an alcoholic father or a tyrannical grandmother knows it. In England John Locke and Edmund Burke feared tyranny as much as the American founders, but they never had a chance to build the foundations of a new, independent, great power.

Obama is our first Marxist-Leninist president. He never quite uses those words, but in words and deeds he makes it clear beyond doubt. His two autobiographies all but say it.

I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. ... The Marxist Professors and the structural feminists ... we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism,and patriarchy.

The Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation has also published a careful summary of the public record that leaves no doubt about who Obama is.

Obama wrapped himself in his own lifelong cult. Universities are supposed to be places of open debate and open minds, but Obama knew his own life course from childhood on, and never opened up to anything else.

Marxism-Leninism grew out of Europe's totalitarian and imperialistic tradition. It has nothing but contempt for electoral "bourgeois" government. In the free atmosphere of American life, Marxist campus cults are like little cysts that grow in isolation from the real world. Some of them grow bigger and bigger and finally explode into a billion cancer cells, to enter the bloodstream of American life.

No great power in Europe or Asia has ever managed to keep an American-style constitutional balance for long. After Napoleon, France kept trying different Republics, until de Gaulle created its current constitution, which is now being supplanted by the EU. Britain doesn't have a written constitution, but rather a vaguely defined cloud of principles that is now crumbling under the assault of Political Correctness. Canada was a British colony until 1931, and is turning into a PC corruptocracy like Europe. Latin America inherited a hidalgo style of politics from Spain, arrogant and contemptuous of peasants and merchants. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are just hidalgos of the left, with Fidel inflicting mandatory six-hour television lectures on his suffering people over half a century. That's what hidalgos do; no American president could get away with it, and when Obama tried one long speech after another, people just turned off their TVs. Obama must have been stunned that people were not listening to him like the Cubans were listening to Fidel. What's wrong with these people anyway?

Europe's trading cities, like Venice, Amsterdam, and Hamburg came the closest to long-lasting electoral rule, but they never controlled the hinterlands.

As for classical Athens, often called the source of Western democracy, Plato and Aristotle were slave-holding aristocrats in a time of endless war, treachery, imperial conquest, mob rule, hedonistic excess, genocide, and tyranny. Plato's Republic argues for a hereditary aristocracy as the golden mean between one-man tyranny and mob rule, because Plato saw so many political horrors.

In Europe and Asia, new power classes just kept taking over, century after century. Europe gave birth to the political ideals of the Enlightenment, but was never able to put them into practice. Today's European Union is another gigantic front for an unelected political elite.

Europe's suicidal weakness today is its cowardice in the face of radical Islam, and the prosecution of heroic Resistance fighters like Geert Wilders, just for saying what millions of Europeans are thinking. In 1938 Churchill was despised by the political elites, but he was never prosecuted for sounding the alarm about Hitler. In the Libyan mess it looked like Europe might finally be growing up. So far it's getting a D-, mostly for trying hard.
Soon after the American Revolution of 1776, history conducted one of its rare experiments as the French Revolution broke out and quickly fell into bloody anarchy. A decade later Napoleon turned Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité into another egomaniacal empire. That's what Mao Zedong did after the Chinese civil war, Lenin after the Romanoffs, Hitler after the Weimar Republic. Most countries just keep flipping between tyranny and civil war. The Arabs are doing it right in front of our eyes today.

What's new in history is 200 years of peace and stability across 3,000 miles of territory, with only one great breakdown, the American Civil War. Protected by two great oceans and a constitutional balance of powers, millions of people born in the Old World were able to thrive in freedom -- not perfect freedom, which does not exist, but far greater liberty than other major countries.

Obama is our first Napoleonic president whose beliefs are far outside our political tradition. After George Washington was elected, nobody knew how a constitutional president would behave. There was real fear that America had just traded one King George for another. When Washington went home after two terms, there was a palpable sigh of relief and celebration. In the last two and a half centuries only FDR has clung to office more than two terms, and that led to the 22nd Amendment. Washington set the precedent.

Obama acts like a Third World socialist, like his Kenyan father, and his thinking is stunningly rigid. He seems to be woefully ignorant about basic economics, science, and technology, international affairs, and the conventions of American politics. Either that, or he is acting that way as part of his peculiar character disorder. Deliberately violating norms is a way to show contempt for "middleclassness," as Jerry Wright calls it. It's the bourgeois values that Karl Marx hated so much. In psychiatry, deliberate lifelong violations of accepted rules are a sign of "oppositional-defiant personality," closely allied with grandiose narcissism. That describes Obama's lifelong character.

But let's not exaggerate Obama's danger. Politicians come and go. Obama calls Republicans "extremists," "radicals," and "unpatriotic." He's trying to flip the political world upside-down, but the American people know who is really "radical," "extremist," and "unpatriotic." It's not hard to tell. The left is unpatriotic by definition: They simply refuse to believe in "patria," the land of one's fathers and mothers. They are radical transnationalists who pin their faith in some imaginary worldwide command center that will finally solve all human conflict. It will be run by Obama and his kind, of course. This idea is so ancient that it goes back six millennia to Sumer and the Yellow Emperor.

Other politicians in the last 200 years have tried end-runs around the Constitution. The Dixiecrat South was a one-party machine that clung to power for half a century after Reconstruction. Al Capone's Chicago was a one-party machine, backed by threats and violence. Michelle Obama is the daughter of a ward heeler on Southside Chicago. When she told the world that she "had never felt proud of her country," she was just echoing the everyday prattle of her cult. Jesse Jackson is a family friend, and Louis Farrakhan is a big political power in Chicago. They are above criticism, because that's how machine politics works.

Every single imperial ideology in the last two centuries has come from Europe, from Napoleon to Stalin. Obama is not a Jeffersonian democrat. He does not understand or value the European Enlightenment; his roots are in the class war of the 19th century, which has now turned into war of all against all: Women against the men, poor against the rich, blacks against whites, gays against straights. Our media constantly whip up such hatreds, and children learn them in the schools. We have not been able to mount a coherent defense against the leftist divide-and-conquer strategy.

Europe has extreme difficulty with a self-balancing power mechanism like the US Constitution, with the three branches constantly tilting against each other; the States and localities against the Feds; and press monopolies, like today's liberal media, being constantly challenged by new technologies.

Constitutional government is under sustained and vicious assault by the internationalist left. Just read the headlines. It's not a coincidence.

Obama believes in internationalism, with grandiose egos like his own ruling the world. That's what the left is all about, and has been since Karl. Marx is not "progressive" but "retrogressive," because grandiose empires started six millennia ago in the great river valleys of the Old World, where city states amassed the power and ideological beliefs to conquer their neighbors. Obama would be at home in Egypt, Persia, Assyria, Alexander's Greek Empire, Rome, the Inca and Maya empires, Russia, Austro-Hungary, the Soviet Union. They are all pyramid-building empires made up of "soviets" -- councils -- commanded from the top.

The European Union is not an American-style delicately counter-balanced construction, designed to give the people the last word. No, the EU is just another imperial pyramid, and it is systematically disempowering the peoples of Europe.

Americans are the luckiest people in the world, not only because of our material fortune, nor even because of our fundamental decency and good will. We are the luckiest because we can afford to be as dumb as a brick, fail to educate our children, remain blissfully ignorant of the dangers that have killed hundreds of millions of people in the last 50 years, indulge in all the newest drugs, the biggest quantities of alcohol, the widest range of cuisines and tastes, and the usual range of sensual self-indulgence...and we are still protected from doom. So far.

The reason for our astonishing luck can be summarized in a few words. It's the Constitution.

We've been skating on our luck to the point of blind arrogance -- so much that our law schools are teaching their students the "revolutionary" fads of Marxism, explaining how to destroy the legal foundation that is the source of all our good fortune. "Revolution" is celebrated, but "revolution" is just a roll-over of power from one ruling class to another. Even the word "revolution" came from Copernicus's book about the rotation of the earth in the solar system. That kind of turnover of power changes nothing.

Obama really belongs in the post-colonial socialist world, like his father, who also never understood that the land he visited so briefly to father a child, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., represented the biggest revolution in political history. Barack Sr. flew back to Kenya to join Jomo Kenyatta in just another disastrous post-colonial tyranny, one that may have ended in his own death from alcoholism, despair, and two disastrous automobile crashes. Barack Sr. may have dimly apprehended that things were terribly wrong in Kenyatta's post-colonial paradise, as indeed they were. India and China also suffered terribly under post-colonial socialism. They only began to recover when they found a way to give their own talented peoples a modicum of freedom to become productive. They re-discovered their own abilities to thrive without bureaucratic tyranny. Obama Jr. has never figured that out.

The US Constitution is the revolution; the rebellions of the left are just reactionary throwbacks. Whether the liberals like it or not, it's the American Revolution that is radically new, a genuine step toward a different way of living and governing.

The left is not "progressive." On the contrary, it is a reactionary throwback to a tyrannical past.
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American Thinker: Gasoline Prices and Speculators: They Think You Are Stupid

Gasoline Prices and Speculators: They Think You Are Stupid
By Joseph Svetlic
It is with great interest that I read this past week about the President's initial response to rising gas prices. What or who was to blame? According to the President...speculators. Nameless, faceless speculators. They are to blame for the rising price of crude oil up and the accompanying price at the pump!

The problem is...speculators and people make various bets, and they say, you know what, we think that maybe there's a 20 percent chance that something might happen in the Middle East that might disrupt oil supply, so we're going to bet that oil is going to go up real high. And that spikes up prices significantly.

Now this interested me because I worked in the petroleum industry and I studied energy law at law school, and I have taken a strong interest in macroeconomics in recent years. (I read Market Ticker and Zero Hedge, if you are wondering.) I'm going to disregard for this note the fact that higher gas prices are not objectionable at all to our President, despite the fact that they are connected to every product we buy. He doesn't have a problem with high gas prices, only wishing that they become high on a gradual basis. I'm also going to ignore the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf and general opposition to domestic exploration and production of petroleum by this Administration.

No, the main culprit here isn't the nameless, faceless "speculators" that are now the object of the President's scorn, but government policy itself, both with the Federal Reserve (monetary) and the budget deficits accrued in recent years (fiscal). What is going on is that the government is trying to deflect blame to these nameless, faceless speculators for their own disastrous fiscal and monetary policies.

In other words, they think you are stupid.

Let me remind you that the Federal Reserve (Fed) began "quantitative easing" (using printed money to buy assets, chiefly Treasury Bonds) in September 2008 with over $2 trillion. "QE1" continued through the end of the first quarter of 2010, the end of March 2010. Thereafter, we got QE2, which continues to this very day but is slowly wrapping up QE2 is a third the size of QE1, but it means the same: monetizing debt.

On the fiscal side, our President has run up a lot of debt in the past two years, despite running in 2008 on a "net spending cut." He's up to nearly 4 trillion in debt over just a little more than two years.

How are we financing this? Well, the Fed is stepping up to buy 70% of treasuries. They're doing it with printed money, "quantitative easing." What's the effect of this? You're dollar is worth less. Using printed money to buy the debt of the same country will inflate the currency. Our dollar is not backed by anything. It floats. Therefore, the money that you have has been drastically devalued since the onset of "quantitative easing." This is what I call "loose money."

Why is it important to you? Because inflation is a stealth tax on every dollar you have.

Whom does this hurt the most? The poor and those on fixed incomes. To any progressives reading this who really do want to help the poor reach the middle class and get off government assistance: is the way to help them through a stealth 20% tax on every dollar they have in their pocket, a unilateral tax that bypasses Congress? That stealth, regressive tax can only drive more middle class into being poor, right? Shouldn't we want every dollar they own to have maximum purchasing power, to be worth as much as possible? Does this have anything to do, you suppose, with the record number on food stamps, one in six Americans?

These are the ravages of a loose monetary policy, high-deficit, spendthrift government. It is impoverishment. It is precisely the opposite of what is necessary for a true, strong recovery. A true recovery will feature fiscal responsibility and a strong dollar. The President ran in part on such a platform in 2008, promising a "net spending cut." Had he run on trillion-dollar deficits and monetizing debt, he would've never been elected. Such a strong recovery will have to wait until the President and Fed Chairman are replaced, beginning in 2013.

This spendthrift, loose (and reckless) policy is also reflected in the price of gold and silver, which are historical safe harbors from inflation because (as precious metals) they store value and are never worthless. Gold as of this writing was over $1,500/oz, silver over $46/oz. Gold at the beginning of the Obama Administration was just over $850/oz, silver at under $11.50/oz. Just this month, the price of silver skyrocketed from $40/oz to $45/oz in only 12 days. The loss of confidence in the dollar has been striking.

So, they are hoping that you don't pay attention to their fiscal and monetary policy. They want you to blame nameless, faceless "speculators" for the rise in the price of gas, even though everything else has risen, thanks to their loose monetary policy and spendthrift fiscal policy. They want you to ignore the rise in commodity prices and the drastic hike in gold and silver. They think you'll go after the nameless, faceless "speculators" because they think you are stupid.

My question is this: Are they right about you?

American Thinker: The Politics of Envy

The Politics of Envy
By Lloyd Brown
During the next 18 months, we can look for liberals to pull out all the stops on their hate campaign. The target is "the rich."

To generate hate, liberals will use an old device: envy.

Those who have not been as successful will be urged to hate the people who have worked hard to get an education, get a job, and master the job skills that get them promotion and raises. They have saved their earnings and provided for their retirement.

It will be difficult to hate them individually, because they are not the same people from year to year. More than half of those in the "rich" category are not there the following year.

Nevertheless, liberals will portray their hard earned wealth as ill-gotten gains, taken from some mysterious pile of wealth that in a world where "economic justice" reigned would be divided equally among all Americans. (See: Communism, 1917-1989.)

Barack Obama expressed this to Joe the Plumber as "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

They will say there are no jobs only because the wealthy don't want to create jobs. (Sheep who follow this line will not ask, "Why wouldn't businessmen want to make profits?" The shepherds count on that lack of critical thinking, which has been drilled subliminally into the sheep in government schools.)

With government debt at record levels and climbing, the nation's credit being downgraded and the economy still moribund, liberals insist everything is fine.

Obama ignores the recommendations of his own commission, and trashes the conservative plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan to trim $6 trillion in government spending.

Liberals are holding rallies around the country at which obscenities are shouted, insults are thrown about, and property is destroyed. The lapdog media ignore them and allege misconduct at Tea Party rallies, without being able to document any.

This is a must-win presidential election for liberals. Only a lame-duck liberal president can do the kind of things they want to do in the next four years. The hatred will be palpable.

For example:

"Their basic view is that no matter how successful I am, no matter how much I've taken from this country... I now have no obligation to people who are less fortunate than me, and I have no real obligation to future generations to make investments so they have a better future." Obama said this recently, purporting to explain the Republican point of view.

What it actually explained was why he never should have been elected to lead the executive branch of this republic.

Obama clearly believes the only help for the "less fortunate" is the federal government. But until 1932, the federal government did not indulge in charity, and yet the truly less fortunate were better off than now because of families and private charities, both of which liberals have worked to destroy.

Federal make-work jobs and conflicting policies helped eliminate many charitable efforts. But the federal help did not go to the truly needy. For example, poor people in the South got less aid than those in the West. Why? Because Franklin D. Roosevelt needed votes in the Western states and had a lock on the South.

Americans are the most generous people in the world, despite the stinginess of wealthy liberals such as Al Gore and John Kerry, and always have taken care of the poor, without regard to who they voted for in the previous election.

It is the fiscal irresponsibility of Obama and the other socialists that is harming the poor and future generations. The hatred is merely an indicator of their desperation to hold onto power.

Lloyd Brown is a retired editorial page editor and blogger.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New DNC chief wants to screen all gun sales -

New DNC chief wants to screen all gun sales
By Mike Lillis - 04/18/11 06:19 PM ET

The new head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is pushing for screenings of all gun purchases.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the current law, which allows private firearm sales without background checks, is "outrageous." The Florida Democrat is sponsoring a soon-to-be-released proposal extending the screening requirements to all gun purchases, commercial or private.

"It is outrageous that gun buyers evade the background-check system every day, even in broad daylight," Wasserman Schultz said Monday at a gun-reform rally in Miami sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

"While we likely cannot end all gun violence, we certainly can do much, much better," she added. "We have laws on the books designed to keep guns out of the hands of those that should not have them. We just need to close the loopholes and improve the information available to law enforcement."

The issue of gun reform rose in prominence in January after a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., left six people dead and 13 others injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a close friend to Wasserman Schultz.

The suspect arrested in the shootings, Jared Lee Loughner, had been expelled from community college for disturbing behavior and denied entrance to the military for a history of drug abuse. Yet he was able to buy a firearm and high-capacity ammunition magazines from local, licensed gun dealers.

The tragedy inspired a series of gun-reform bills on Capitol Hill, and prompted President Obama to urge tougher screening rules.

"We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it," the president wrote in a March op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star.

The comments broke a long silence from Obama on the gun-reform issue, which is often a third rail in Washington, where the gun lobby holds enormous sway.

That a lawmaker as prominent as Wasserman Schultz has come out so adamantly for reform is "indication that elected officials are catching up with the public," said Mark Glaze, director of the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The reference was to recent polls indicating that voters — even gun owners — overwhelmingly support a system of across-the-board background checks.

"Her participation shows that there's a growing understanding that gun policy is about fighting crime, not taking away gun rights," Glaze said.

Wasserman Schultz will take the reins of the DNC later this month. Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia, stepped down to campaign for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Donna Brazile is serving as the interim chairwoman of the committee.

Under current law, licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks to ensure that prospective buyers are legally eligible to own firearms. Felons, illegal immigrants and the severely mentally ill, for instance, are barred from owning guns. Licensed dealers must perform these screenings in all venues — including gun shows — but unlicensed dealers are under no obligation to follow them anywhere. Critics of the policy discrepancy call it the "gun-show loophole."

The coming House legislation will require all gun sellers to perform background checks on potential buyers — a change forcing private sellers to finalize their sales at licensed dealers or law enforcement offices, which have access to the federal database used to weed out illegal buyers.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced similar legislation in the upper chamber earlier in the year.

"We cannot bring back those we have lost," Wasserman Schultz said Monday, "but we can honor them by doing everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them."

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) is expected to introduce the House bill when Congress returns from spring recess.

New DNC chief wants to screen all gun sales -

New DNC chief wants to screen all gun sales
By Mike Lillis - 04/18/11 06:19 PM ET

The new head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is pushing for screenings of all gun purchases.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the current law, which allows private firearm sales without background checks, is "outrageous." The Florida Democrat is sponsoring a soon-to-be-released proposal extending the screening requirements to all gun purchases, commercial or private.

"It is outrageous that gun buyers evade the background-check system every day, even in broad daylight," Wasserman Schultz said Monday at a gun-reform rally in Miami sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

"While we likely cannot end all gun violence, we certainly can do much, much better," she added. "We have laws on the books designed to keep guns out of the hands of those that should not have them. We just need to close the loopholes and improve the information available to law enforcement."

The issue of gun reform rose in prominence in January after a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., left six people dead and 13 others injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a close friend to Wasserman Schultz.

The suspect arrested in the shootings, Jared Lee Loughner, had been expelled from community college for disturbing behavior and denied entrance to the military for a history of drug abuse. Yet he was able to buy a firearm and high-capacity ammunition magazines from local, licensed gun dealers.

The tragedy inspired a series of gun-reform bills on Capitol Hill, and prompted President Obama to urge tougher screening rules.

"We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it," the president wrote in a March op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star.

The comments broke a long silence from Obama on the gun-reform issue, which is often a third rail in Washington, where the gun lobby holds enormous sway.

That a lawmaker as prominent as Wasserman Schultz has come out so adamantly for reform is "indication that elected officials are catching up with the public," said Mark Glaze, director of the coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The reference was to recent polls indicating that voters — even gun owners — overwhelmingly support a system of across-the-board background checks.

"Her participation shows that there's a growing understanding that gun policy is about fighting crime, not taking away gun rights," Glaze said.

Wasserman Schultz will take the reins of the DNC later this month. Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia, stepped down to campaign for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Donna Brazile is serving as the interim chairwoman of the committee.

Under current law, licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks to ensure that prospective buyers are legally eligible to own firearms. Felons, illegal immigrants and the severely mentally ill, for instance, are barred from owning guns. Licensed dealers must perform these screenings in all venues — including gun shows — but unlicensed dealers are under no obligation to follow them anywhere. Critics of the policy discrepancy call it the "gun-show loophole."

The coming House legislation will require all gun sellers to perform background checks on potential buyers — a change forcing private sellers to finalize their sales at licensed dealers or law enforcement offices, which have access to the federal database used to weed out illegal buyers.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced similar legislation in the upper chamber earlier in the year.

"We cannot bring back those we have lost," Wasserman Schultz said Monday, "but we can honor them by doing everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them."

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) is expected to introduce the House bill when Congress returns from spring recess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taxing Just Ain't Gonna Cut It | Nealz Nuze |

Taxing Just Ain't Gonna Cut It

By Neal Boortz

Over the last few weeks, I have given you similar stats to the ones I’m about to give you. But no matter how many times I read it, and no matter how many different ways you slice it, it’s amazing to me that there are people out there who genuinely believe that our fiscal troubles could be solved by simply increasing taxes on the filthy, disgusting, putrid rich people. Take a look at these examples from the Wall Street Journal:

Consider the Internal Revenue Service’s income tax statistics for 2008, the latest year for which data are available. The top 1% of taxpayers—those with salaries, dividends and capital gains roughly above about $380,000—paid 38% of taxes. But assume that tax policy confiscated all the taxable income of all the “millionaires and billionaires” Mr. Obama singled out. That yields merely about $938 billion, which is sand on the beach amid the $4 trillion White House budget, a $1.65 trillion deficit, and spending at 25% as a share of the economy, a post-World War II record.

Say we take it up to the top 10%, or everyone with income over $114,000, including joint filers. That’s five times Mr. Obama’s 2% promise. The IRS data are broken down at $100,000, yet taxing all income above that level throws up only $3.4 trillion. And remember, the top 10% already pay 69% of all total income taxes, while the top 5% pay more than all of the other 95%.

So what if we hike it up to those evil rich people earning $500,000 a year? CNSNews ran the numbers and found the following …

If the federal government had increased the income-tax rate on Americans earning more than $500,000 to 100 percent in 2009--and seized the remaining $773 billion in income it had not initially taken away from these Americans--that would have closed the federal deficit for the year to $839 billion ($838,988,236,899.90).

After taxing away 100 percent of the income of those earning $500,000 or more in 2009, the Obama administration would still have needed to increase taxes on Americans earning less than $500,000 by a total of $839 billion--just to balance federal accounts for the year.

Look, folks .. the S&P didn’t downgrade its outlook because we don’t tax people enough. It didn’t downgrade its outlook because we aren’t collecting enough revenue from rich people. It didn’t downgrade its outlook because “millionaires” and “billionaires” aren’t paying more than their “fair share.” It downgraded its outlook because we are spending too much stinkin’ money. This isn’t rocket surgery!

Budget Deficit: Government Handouts Top Tax Income

Budget Deficit: Government Handouts Top Tax Income
By JAMES C. COOPER, The Fiscal Times April 18, 2011

* Households received $2.3 trillion in government income support in 2010.
* Government cash accounts for79 percent of household income growth since 2007.
* Since 2007, household tax payments have fallen by $312 billion.

With President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan now on the table, the political left, right and center are ready to rumble over how to assure long-term fiscal stability. The big questions are where to slash and by how much, but over the next year or two, the most important question for the economy might well be how quickly the cutting should begin. Households have become unusually dependent on the government for income support and removing that prop too fast could put the recovery at risk.

For the first time since the Great Depression, households are receiving more income from the government than they are paying the government in taxes. The combination of more cash from various programs, called transfer payments, and lower taxes has been a double-barreled boost to consumers’ buying power, while also blowing a hole in the deficit. The 1930s offer a cautionary tale: The only other time government income support exceeded taxes paid was from 1931 to 1936. That trend reversed in 1936, after a recovery was underway, and the economy fell back into a second leg of recession during 1937 and 1938.

As then, the pattern now reflects two factors: the severe depth of the 2007-09 recession and the massive fiscal policy response to it. The recession cut deeply into tax payments as more people lost their jobs, and it boosted payments for so-called automatic stabilizers, such as unemployment insurance, that ramp up payments as the economy turns down. Plus, policy actions, including the Recovery Act, boosted payments to households by expanding and extending jobless benefits and creating other income subsidies while extending the Bush-era tax cuts and adding new reductions in income and payroll taxes.

Government transfers of income to households started to overtake personal taxes at the start of 2008, and the gap has been widening. In 2010, households received $2.3 trillion in income support from unemployment benefits, Social Security, disability insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, education assistance and other cash transfers of government funds to individuals. Also last year, households paid $2.2 trillion in income, payroll, and other taxes. The difference was $125 billion, equivalent to 1 percentage point of overall personal income and about three times the amount Republicans and Democrats agreed to cut from government spending through Sept. 30.

Since the onset of the recession, government direct payments have increased by $579 billion, accounting for 79 percent of the growth in overall personal income. As job growth has picked up, that contribution has diminished, but during 2010, government cash still accounted for 28 percent of the increase in income. Not surprisingly, Social Security, including survivors’ and disability benefits, accounted for a significant portion of the increased payments and the amount paid out in unemployment benefits more than tripled over that period. At the same time, tax payments since the recession began have fallen by $312 billion, also providing a boost to consumers’ purchasing power.

Government Transfers of Income to Households
(In Billions of Dollars, seasonally-adjusted annual rates)

2007 Q4

2010 Q4


Federal Social Benefits to Households
1275.9 1742.1 466.2

Social Insurance Funds

1071.8 1383.5 311.7

Social Security, Survivors,
and Disability

581.1 699.8 118.7


437.0 532.9 95.9


35.1 129.0 93.9

Other Federal Social Insurance

18.6 21.9 3.3

Veterans Benefits

41.1 61.5 20.4

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

32.5 69.8 37.3

Earned Income Credit

54.8 73.0 18.2

Supplemental Security Income

37.9 45.3 7.4

Other Federal Benefits

37.8 109.0 71.2

State & Local Benefits
444.0 556.8 112.8

Medicaid & Other Medical Care

344.9 442.1 97.2

Other State & Local Benefits

99.0 114.7 15.7

Total Government Transfers to Households
1719.9 2298.9 579.0
Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Typically, the gap between transfers and taxes runs the other way – and by a wide margin. “In normal times the household sector gives about 8 percentage points more of its income in taxes than it receives in direct transfers,” says J.P. Morgan economist Michael Feroli. The potential problem over the next few years is the enormous drag on household income as stimulus measures such as the payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits expire. Even if unemployment declines from its current level, the labor markets may not be strong enough to generate the wage and salary income needed to offset that drag.

Feroli says that if the net flow of taxes and transfers even partly returns to normal, the resulting drag on incomes would be significant. The size of the drag would be especially sensitive to how fast that flow is reversed. A shift all the way back to the average 8 percentage point difference between taxes and transfers would be equivalent to about $1.2 trillion in income. To put that in context, half that amount is equal to the total increase in personal income over the past year.

The Inflation Factor

Consumers needed support in the first quarter, as inflation from surging energy costs ate into the buying power of their incomes. Energy helped push the Consumer Price Index in March up 0.5 percent, with prices during the first quarter rising at a 6.1 percent annual rate, gobbling up most of last quarter’s increase in income. Even with a reduced tax burden of about $60 billion last quarter, mainly reflecting the 2 percent cut in payroll taxes, inflation-adjusted spending appears to have grown only half as fast as the fourth quarter’s 4 percent pace. A tepid rise in March retail sales implies little momentum heading into the second quarter.

An increasing number of economists are downgrading their expectations for first quarter economic growth, to be reported on Apr. 28, and for the rest of the year. The drag from costlier energy is lasting longer than expected, and uncertainties over the impact of Japan’s struggles and the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East are weighing on growth. Obama’s recent deal with the GOP to cut nearly $40 billion from the federal budget for fiscal 2011 is equivalent to about 0.5 percentage points of GDP over the next six months, although the timing of those cuts is not yet set.

All this should be a yellow flag for the White House and Congress as they work toward reducing the deficit. Until the labor markets are strong enough to power consumer spending without the outsized income support from the government, withdrawing that support too quickly could put spending and the economy at risk to some unexpected shock.

UPDATE: The government outlay number of $2.3 trillion was clarified on 4.19.2011

Related Links:
House Passes Ryan’s Controversial Budget Plan (The Fiscal Times)
Welfare Nation: Government Handouts Make Up One Third of America’s Salaries and Wages (Daily Mail)
Deficit Debate May Keep Fed on Edge (CNN Money)

Monday, April 18, 2011

American Thinker: Atlas Shrugged Part I

Atlas Shrugged Part I
By Richard Baehr
Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead was published in 1943, and a film version was released in 1949. It took a bit longer to get Atlas Shrugged to the screen. Rand's lengthy book, a 12 year effort for the author, was published in 1957, and 54 years later, Part 1 of a planned three part film version opened (on April 15) at about 300 theatres around the country. Parts 2 and 3 are planned for release on tax day of 2012 and 2013.

Thursday night, I was invited by the Chicago Young Republicans to see a screening of the movie, hosted by the film's Co-Producer Harmon Kaslov. For one night the age limit on "young" Republicans was waived. Kaslov discussed the difficulty in getting the movie made, comments he also offered in a phone interview with the Illinois Policy Institute:

Predictably, the reviews of Atlas Shrugged in the mainstream press in Chicago Friday were generally awful, and some papers chose not to review the film. The reviewer in the Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern, pledged that he had really tried to be fair and open-minded, before damning the film. The local Chicago papers had nice things to say, however, about several movies in the latest run of the Palestinian Film Festival.

I did not grow up as a big Ayn Rand fan, and read little of what she wrote. That made me part of a small minority in the group of 50 or so in attendance last night, many of whom seemed to recognize scenes or specific lines, and were smiling or chuckling throughout. Kaslov made clear that the film was made with a production team and actors who wanted to work, and quickly (only 26 days for filming), and with a modest production budget of about $7 million. Many in Hollywood said they had no interest in bringing Alas Shrugged to the screen because they thought the movie would have little commercial appeal. That view is consistent with the famous comment by film critic Pauline Kael that she was sure George McGovern would win the Presidential election in 1972, since everyone she knew (in her tiny corner of the upper west side of Manhattan) was voting for him.

I don't know if the movie version of Atlas Shrugged will be a commercial success, but 8 million Americans have bought the book, and sales have increased dramatically since Barack Obama became President. Much of this is undoubtedly due the fact that Obama started running the government much in the way Rand described government officials in Atlas Shrugged -- primarily interested in redistributing (government enforced charity), and sapping the success of society's achievers and inventers with taxes and regulations, since achieving equality of results (living arrangements, income and wealth) was the highest purpose of government.

Last year I reviewed for American Thinker a fine new intellectual biography of Rand written by Jennifer Burns Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. Burns made clear that Rand lived in a world of ideas and loved intellectual combat. Avoiding intellectual combat by dismissiveness is how many on the left treat ideas and thinkers from the right side of the spectrum. As Burns describes, many on the right were also pretty dismissive of Rand in her era, due to her atheism, her opposition to the war in Viet Nam, and jealousy of her popularity with young conservatives.

The movie version of Atlas Shrugged presents an America in decline in the year 2016, with declining oil resources, wars in the Middle East, and rapidly rising inflation. Some of the cityscapes look like the bad parts of Detroit or the South Bronx (are there good parts?) . Crony capitalism is the order of the day, with the corporate losers working with their lobbyists and totally corrupted "policy institutes" and bought and paid for members of Congress, to derail the winners, and insure that the losers in the competitive market, nonetheless get their fair share of the business.

Derail is a good word to describe what passes for "managing competition" in the book and the movie, since the corporate heroine, Dagny Taggart of rail line Taggart Intercontinental, has to fight her laggard brother to get the company to invest in new track (to avoid derailments and accidents) and to make use of an untested but highly promising new metal alloy for the tracks, manufactured by Rearden Metal. It is more than a bit ironic that the result of the joint efforts of Taggart and Henry Rearden, is a high speed rail line, with long trains speeding along at up to 250 miles per hour. If such a thing could come from private industry without enormous federal subsidies, it might change the thinking of a lot of conservatives about the value of high speed rail. In any case, the scenes of the trains gliding through the Colorado Rockies are pretty spectacular.

Viewers who are unfamiliar with the story, or Rand, or the book, may find the movie confusing at times; why are corporate executives disappearing after meeting with the man in the trench coat? Who is John Galt? Do business people really speak that way and admit (proudly) that their goal is to make money? It is an entirely different experience, in general, for those who have read a book, and then see the movie version, than for those who have no idea what they will be seeing. This may be particularly true for Atlas Shrugged, since it is Rand's fullest exposition of her philosophy of objectivism, and lots of the dialogue are not there just to advance the plot.

The running time for Part I was 102 minutes, during which the federal deficit increased by just over $320 million, about the amount of spending reductions for 2011 actually realized from the recent budget deal. There are 8,760 hours in a year, and 2 of them are now a balanced federal budget. Rand would be appalled at how far we have moved towards the "collective good."

As government grows as a share of the economy, almost half now financed by debt, a film version of one of the great defenses of free markets, individualism and entrepreneurial creativity is a welcome addition to the general garbage now playing at the Cineplex. If Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is a box office success, the next two parts will be made. This is a pretty high stakes opportunity for the conservative film industry, and specifically for the producers of this movie. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was a huge box office success for Gibson, who financed the movie himself after it was rejected by the studios. That movie had an appeal to a large number of observant Christians, despite Gibson's Charlie Sheen-like rants through the years. I don't know how many objectivist or free market film fans are out there, but it would be nice if all three parts were made. Maybe Barack Obama will get his chance to purchase the 3 disc box set in his first year as a private citizen again in 2013.

Update: Ayn Rand devotee Charlotte Cushman offers these thoughts:

The book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand has been getting a lot of attention since Obama took office. In 2009 sales were higher than they have ever been since the book was published in 1957. Why is that? Americans know that they are losing their freedom and are looking for solutions. And they want answers, real answers. So many people have turned to Ayn Rand because she is a strong, consistent defender of Capitalism. Through her revolutionary philosophical ideas she was able to determine why countries eventually fall to totalitarianism and those ideas are brought to light in Atlas Shrugged.

So when the movie, Atlas Shrugged Part 1, premiered on April 15, it opened in over 300 theatres throughout the country, rather than just some theaters in a few big cities. This was because of grass-roots pressure from people expressing a desire to have the film shown in their area. The movie also had the support of the Tea Party organization Freedom Works which ran an ad for it..

The book Atlas Shrugged is near and dear to my heart. It sounds so trite to say it, because the expression is overused, but Atlas Shrugged changed my life. It is wonderful to live a life without inner doubt and contradictions. Nothing did more for my self-confidence than reading and thinking about Ayn Rand's ideas, which challenges over 2000 years of philosophy.

Therefore I had mixed feelings when I went to see the film. Would the film be able to capture the essence of the message in the book? Since many Tea Party people seem to want to see the movie, will they think that the answer to our country's problems will be in this movie? Will people understand that Atlas Shrugged is not essentially about politics? That it has a much deeper message?

The movie followed the basic story line in Part 1 of the book and I was glad to see that the movie was good. I wouldn't rate this movie as high as the classics that I love like the Sound of Music or Star Wars, and it wasn't nearly as good as the movie We the Living (another Ayn Rand movie filmed in Italy), but it was worthwhile seeing. A couple of my favorite parts, the most emotional parts, were when the John Galt line ran for the first time and the ending when Ellis Wyatt destroyed his assets and disappeared.

I do have some criticisms. The casting of some of the characters was not good. Francisco did not come across as humorous, confident and heroic as he should have and James Taggart could have come across as nastier. There was a lack of background information about the history of the relationship between Francisco and Dagny. Unless you had read the book, you would not have fully understood the scene when Dagny asked Francisco for money for the John Galt line. The pacing of the story was too fast at times. Some of the scenes could have been slower to give the audience more of a chance to think, understand their meanings and therefore feel more of an emotional impact.

If you go to see the movie and you haven't read the book, however, don't expect to get an understanding of Ayn Rand's revolutionary ideas. A few of those ideas are only hinted at in this film, but an unavoidable flaw of any movie of this book is that it couldn't possibly explore the depth of the book unless it was unusually long. Also, this is just the first third of the story and the producers plan to get into more of the philosophy in Parts 2 and 3. So perhaps if those movies are made, they will include the answer to the question, "Who is John Galt?"

Charlotte Cushman is a Montessori educator at Minnesota Renaissance School, Anoka, Minnesota and has been involved in the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy since 1970.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically - Yahoo! News

Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press – Sun Apr 17, 4:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON – As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday's tax filing deadline, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation's tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

"It's the fact that we are using the tax code both to collect revenue, which is its primary purpose, and to deliver these spending benefits that we run into the situation where so many people are paying no taxes," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center, which generated the estimate of people who pay no income taxes.

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

President Barack Obama said last week he wants to do away with tax breaks to lower the rates and to reduce government borrowing. Obama's proposal would result in $1 trillion in tax increases over the next 12 years. Neither proposal included many details, putting off hard choices about which tax breaks to eliminate.

In all, the tax code is filled with a total of $1.1 trillion in credits, deductions and exemptions, an average of about $8,000 per taxpayer, according to an analysis by the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent watchdog within the IRS.

More than half of the nation's tax revenue came from the top 10 percent of earners in 2007. More than 44 percent came from the top 5 percent. Still, the wealthy have access to much more lucrative tax breaks than people with lower incomes.

Obama wants the wealthy to pay so "the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what kind of accountant you can afford."

Eric Schoenberg says to sign him up for paying higher taxes. Schoenberg, who inherited money and has a healthy portfolio from his days as an investment banker, has joined a group of other wealthy Americans called United for a Fair Economy. Their goal: Raise taxes on rich people like themselves.

Shoenberg, who now teaches a business class at Columbia University, said his income is usually "north of half a million a year." But 2009 was a bad year for investments, so his income dropped to a little over $200,000. His federal income tax bill was a little more than $2,000.

"I simply point out to people, `Do you think this is reasonable, that somebody in my circumstances should only be paying 1 percent of their income in tax?'" Schoenberg said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he has a solution for rich people who want to pay more in taxes: Write a check to the IRS. There's nothing stopping you.

"There's still time before the filing deadline for them to give Uncle Sam some more money," Hatch said.

Schoenberg said Hatch's suggestion misses the point.

"This voluntary idea clearly represents a mindset that basically pretends there's no such things as collective goods that we produce," Schoenberg said. "Are you going to let people volunteer to build the road system? Are you going to let them volunteer to pay for education?"

The law is packed with tax breaks that help narrow special interests. But many of the biggest tax breaks benefit millions of American families at just about every income level, making them difficult for politicians to touch.

The vast majority of those who escape federal income taxes have low and medium incomes, and most of them pay other taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and retail sales taxes.

The share of people paying no federal income tax has dropped slightly the past two years. It was 47 percent for 2009. The main difference for 2010 was the expiration of a tax break that exempted the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits from taxation, Williams said.

In 2009, nearly 35 million taxpayers got a tax break for paying interest on their home mortgages, and nearly 36 million taxpayers took the $1,000-per-child tax credit. About 41 million households reduced their federal income taxes by deducting state and local income and sales taxes from their taxable income.

About 36 million families cut their taxes by nearly $35 billion by deducting charitable donations, and 28 million taxpayers saved a total of $24 billion because their income from Social Security and railroad pensions was untaxed.

"As a matter of policy, there would be a lot of ways to save money and actually make these things work better," said Leonard Burman, a public affairs professor at Syracuse University. "As a matter of politics, it's really, really difficult."

American Thinker Blog: GM: A loose nut behind the wheel

GM: A loose nut behind the wheel
Ralph Alter
There is no more appropriate metaphor to describe the flailing hybrid corporation known as Government Motors than that provided by the report of a Chevy Cruze owner hurtling down the freeway when the steering wheel came off in his hands. At least as much as a 1.4 liter 4 cylinder power plant can be said to hurtle.

The once formidable giant corporation still sadly reflects the popular sentiment, "As GM goes, so goes the nation." America, from all the available reports, rattles down the world's economic, political and cultural freeways like an underpowered compact car, rudderless and apparently incapable of changing direction. It should really be a joke, but when one asks the question: What do you get when you cross the inefficiency of a labor union with the sclerosis of a federal bureaucracy? The answer could be a.) Government Motors or b.) the Obama administration or c.) both of the above.

Now comes the report from Channel 3 Eyewitness News in Connecticut, of a residential garage destroyed in a fire that may be attributed to the owner's Chevy Volt that was charging inside. The quality control problems that have plagued American automakers since the onset of ridiculous labor union work rules continue to hamper the efforts of U.S. car makers. Despite the giant hand of Big Brother placed firmly on the scale to level the playing filed with the much more efficient Japanese automakers, Government Motors can't get its priorities right.

Or had you forgotten the media circus surrounding the reports of braking problems with Toyota's products? After millions of Toyotas were recalled to study the so-called "unintended acceleration" problem reported by a few drivers, it was found that the problem was caused by driver error. Just like the hysteria in 1986 surrounding the Audi. Only this time, Uncle Sam had some serious skin in the game and turned up the regulatory heat, costing its Japanese competition serious billions and weeks of negative publicity.

Government Motors stock continues to struggle. After what the company called a successful IPO at $33.00 after emerging from bankruptcy reorganization in November, the stock has dropped to about $30.00 per share as of Friday. After the company teamed with the Obama White House to lie about repaying its TARP loans and then paid out an average of $4,000 in bonuses to each of the hourly workers responsible for securing steering wheels and fireproofing Chevy Volt charging systems, that the stock is selling at all is remarkable.

Even in the face of rocketing gasoline costs, General Motors was only able to sell 1,210 Chevy Volts in the first quarter or 2011. A business model dependent upon securing a sufficient number of crack-pots searching for their green badge of courage seems likely to continue to plummet.

Ralph Alter is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He blogs at

American Thinker Blog: Wash. Post erases 3,000 years of Jewish indigenous history in Holy Land

Wash. Post erases 3,000 years of Jewish indigenous history in Holy Land
Leo Rennert
In an article about a growing tide of African migrants sneaking into Israel, Joel Greenberg, the Washington Post's Jerusalem correspondent, draws a false parallel between Israelis as a nation of recent refugees seeking to cope with a new wave of refugees from Sudan and Eritrea ("In Israel, flow of migrants poses dilemma -- Some fear state's Jewish character is threatened amid an influx of African refugees" page A8, April 16)

"Their presence," Greenberg writes, "has created an acute dilemma for Israel, a state founded as a haven for Jewish refugees." And he adds:"The controversy over the African migrants touches on core questions of Israel's self-definition as both a Jewish and democratic state -- a nation of immigrants created as a shelter for Jews after the Holocaust."

A nation of immigrants created as a shelter for Jews after the Holocaust?

Greenberg simply has his history wrong by a margin of 3,000 years. The roots of Jewish nationhood go much deeper and cover a far longer historical span than the arrival of Holocaust survivors after World War 2. Jews ruled the Holy Land for a thousand years before the Common Era -- with only a brief, half-century exile in Babylon. After the Roman conquest, there was a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine until modern times.

Israel as a post-Holocaust shelter for Jewish refugees? Think again. Jews have rightful claims to the Holy Land as its most indigenous people since David conquered Jerusalem.

A few historical samples that illustrate Israel's historical ties to the land -- not as immigrants, not as refugees, but as permanent local residents:

--In the 6th Century of the Common Era, there were 43 Jewish communities across all parts of the Holy Land

--In the 11th Century, Jews were among the fiercest local fighters in defending Haifa against the Crusaders.

--From 1,267 on, there were an unbroken Jewish presence in Jerusalem until Jordan briefly seized the city in 1948.

--In the 16th Century, Kabbalists flourished in Safed, whose Jewish population grew to 30,000 by the end of that century.

--By mid-19th Century -- a hundred years before the Holocaust -- Jerusalem was preponderantly Jewish.

When Jewish survivors of the Holocaust arrived in Israel, they were welcomed in Israel by a vibrant local Jewish community whose roots pre-dated the Holocaust by many centuries.

Jews as migrants or refugees in their own land? Greenberg needs a refresher course in Middle East history. Jews aren't migrants or refugees when they come to settle in Israel. They may be refugees or immigrants elsewhere, but once in Israel, they've come home.

Thus, there's no parallel between African migrants who cross into Israel and Israelis as a supposed post-Holocaust "nation of immigrants."

If there's a moral quandary in Israel about what to do with these African migrants, it's not because both Israelis and Sudanese arrivals can be lumped together as foreign immigrants.

Rather, Israelis -- as locals with an indigenous identity of three millennia -- are commanded by their Creator to always be mindful, respectful and sensitive to the needs of the "stranger in your midst for you also were strangers when you were slaves in Egypt."

As usual, the Bible has it right, while Greenberg has it wrong -- Jews have been strangers, migrants, refugees not only in Egypt but around the world. Except in one place -- the Promised Land. There, they have been and remain fully at home

American Thinker: ObamaCare: The 28th Amendment?

ObamaCare: The 28th Amendment?
By Roger D. Luchs
ObamaCare is under assault, and properly so, because it tramples on enumerated constitutional rights of individuals and the states. Given President Obama's predilection, it must also be viewed as his most aggressive effort to date to recast the Constitution to empower the Federal government to inject itself into areas of everyday life from which it has been fenced off since its inception.

In a 2001 interview, Obama expressed frustration that the Constitution was framed as a "limiting" document rather than an "empowering" document. He understands that there is simply no prospect of amending it to bestow on Congress and him substantially broader authority to regulate broad sectors of the private economy. His sole option, then, is to convince the public that 225 years of constitutional jurisprudence is wrong or outdated.

ObamaCare is his opening salvo for making his case. No doubt there are more than a few liberal judges who will back him up. Some have already ruled in Obama's favor. If Obama succeeds even in only small part in recasting the Constitution as transferring powers to the central government beyond those expressly identified therein, then, to Obama and his liberal allies, it will be seen, to borrow a phrase, as "the end of the beginning" rather than "the beginning of the end."

Obama knows better, of course, which is why he said what he did in his 2001 interview. He can't change history, as much as he'd like to try, so he hopes to erase it from people's memories so over time, it is replaced with "progressive" reading of the Constitution. Facts, however, are stubborn things.

The colonies ceded to the newly-established Federal government only those powers they agreed among themselves would benefit the separate states, collectively. The Tenth Amendment reserved to the states those many powers not expressly ceded. The Bill of Rights was adopted to ensure that the Federal government could not infringe on the liberties the Revolution was fought to restore and preserve. Citizens of the colonies, and later of the territories, agreed to this arrangement with the understanding that the states and the Federal government would honor what was a set of covenants among them, which all agreed to honor so the nation would succeed. The Civil War was fought, in part, because to the Southern states, the North, when it elected Lincoln, signaled its willingness to violate that compact, by changing one of the key terms to which it had agreed to obtain Southern participation in the union. The Civil War, once concluded, was followed by several amendments which extended the reach of the Bill of Rights to state governments.

Though the Civil War brought forth a "new nation," by destroying the institution of slavery, and causing the amendment of the Constitution to protect freedoms of newly-liberated citizens, in all other respects, it reverted to what it was originally intended to be, i.e., a compact that ceded to the Federal government only those powers that would enable the nation to take on the character of a unified assemblage of willing actors. Although in the New Deal, its powers were broadened, neither Roosevelt nor succeeding presidents sought to recast the fundamental nature of the Constitution.

Those states which have already challenged ObamaCare have focused, in part, on the Tenth Amendment's preservation of state power over those realms of governance and regulation not expressly ceded to the Federal government. Historically, each state has exercised sovereign authority over the conduct of the insurance business within its borders. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1944 that certain aspects of the insurance business were subject to the Commerce Clause and, therefore, the sovereignty of the states to regulate insurance within their respected borders could be preempted by Congress, in its regulation of interstate commerce, Congress rebelled. It overrode the Court's ruling, by enacting legislation reaffirming the sovereignty of the states over the insurance business, except as specified in the statute.[1] Absent a change in that law, then, the President's ability to infringe upon and override state sovereignty over insurance business conducted within the states' respective borders is minimal. ObamaCare, nevertheless, includes several mandates to insurers which arguably exceed the Federal government's powers to regulate insurance. However, those pale in comparison to the individual mandate.

It is that mandate that most clearly signals Obama's intent to "rewrite" the Constitution to dispense with its fundamental character. The mandate implicates the Bill of Rights' guarantee that persons may not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Obama, in this regard, must be creative, because his mandate infringes upon the same right of privacy liberals fought for years to establish, in order to afford women a constitutional right to abortion. It seems self-evident that if that right inhibits the Federal and state governments from intruding upon a woman's choice, then it also protects women, and men, from government interference in their choices affecting their personal physical and mental well-being.

ObamaCare's guiding principle, however, is not paternalism. It is about the government's power to identify "public uses," as contemplated by the Fifth Amendment, and then compel unwilling individuals to engage in conduct that would, in the government's view, advance such uses. Requiring someone to buy health insurance from a private insurer is no different, in kind, from forcing New London, Connecticut property owners to sell their land to a private development authority established by the city, so that it could devote that property to more "productive" uses.[2] In the case of ObamaCare, the "public use" contemplated is a Federally- controlled, all encompassing healthcare system that would compel the citizenry to purchase insurance, to facilitate the government's exercise of control over how they make use of the healthcare system, which comprises about 16% of the private economy. It is a means to achieving a Federally-prescribed end.

However unjust the circumstances in Ms. Kelo's case, at least the Fifth Amendment ensured that she would receive "just compensation". The Constitution expressly recognizes the doctrine of eminent domain, though that is an ancient doctrine founded on the principle that real property belongs to its owners, and they may not be compelled by government to part with it, except under limited circumstances, and for a fair price.

Anyone forced to buy health insurance will also be compelled to part with private property, i.e., private wealth, but unlike in Kelo, what he receives in return is what the government instructs him to receive, i.e. insurance from a private insurer, the content of which will be regulated, to some extent, by the Federal government. It is fair to ask, if the Constitution required amendment to authorize a Federal income tax which taxpayers must pay to avoid punishment, why should an amendment not also be a prerequisite to the implementation of ObamaCare?

If there is any doubt about government's power to compel ordinary citizens to engage in conduct mandated by the Federal government, one need only look at Supreme Court precedent on the constitutionality of Federal rent control statutes to allay such doubt. Rent control, and its intersection with Constitutional rights, was taken up in challenges to rent control statutes enacted in World War I and World War II. In two precedential decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that the laws were constitutional, because they were adopted as temporary measures, enacted by Congress in the exercise of its police power, to meet the exigencies of the pending wars.

In its decisions, the Court, both implicitly and explicitly, focused on provisions in each statute that carved out an exception for property owners who wanted to remove their properties from the rental market. Each statute reserved to this right to landlords, even if they did so solely to avoid being subjected to Federal regulation. In the decision upholding the World War I statute, Justice Holmes, writing for the majority, commented that "there comes a point at which the police power ceases and leaves only that of eminent domain."[3] Applying this same reasoning to ObamaCare, anyone forced to purchase health insurance will find himself entangled in the Federal regulatory scheme that will accompany that law's implementation, but, unlike government-imposed rent control, without any viable way to escape participation.

It is no answer that ObamaCare offers the uninsured a choice, i.e. the option to pay a fine in lieu of mandated health insurance. Under the doctrine of eminent domain, there is no "option" to pay a fine in lieu of selling one's property to the government, but the government must pay the property owner the value of his property and the property owner may use that payment as he wishes. Under ObamaCare, the government will pay the involuntary purchaser nothing in exchange for forcing him to buy health insurance. The uninsured's choice, then, falls somewhere between Scylla and Charybdis.

Beyond this, the Eighth Amendment, which bars "cruel and unusual punishments," contains a separate provision which raises an additional doubts about ObamaCare's constitutionality. That provision prohibits government from imposing "excessive fines." This language was included to prevent the arbitrary use of what in feudal times were known as amercements, employed by the crown to punish those who offended the king, or violated the king's law. Amercements had sometimes been used to ruin people financially. Because ObamaCare's fines are intended as punishment for those who refuse to buy health insurance, they too, may be excessive, at least in some instances. Absent a binding court ruling in which it is held that the statutory fines may be imposed uniformly, they are ostensibly subject to review on a case by case basis. It is doubtful that the blanket imposition of more than a token fine without regard to each person's circumstances can withstand judicial scrutiny, except, of course, by liberal judges who are indifferent to the merits of challenges to ObamaCare's constitutionality.

To Obama and his fellow "progressives", it is too much to ask that the compact upon which the nation was founded should stand in their way. The Administration and the political movement it represents are intent on changing the rules of the game for all times, and not just to legitimize ObamaCare. If they succeed, over two centuries of jurisprudence consistent with the Founders' intent will be replaced by a new jurisprudence that leaves the Constitution, as drafted and originally adopted, just dust in the wind. Over generations, any understanding of the framers' original intent will gradually fade into the background.

But properly and aggressively challenged, ObamaCare could become this century's Hindenburg. If it does crash and burn, there is little doubt that whatever takes its place will have to heed the limits on government's power set by the Constitution. If fully informed, the public will expect, and demand, no less.
[1] United States Dept. of Treasury v. Fabe, 508 U.S. 491 (1993)

[2] Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)

[3] Block v. Hirsh, 256 U.S. 135, 154(1921). The World War II law is addressed in Bowles v. Willingham, 321 U.S. 503, 517 (1944). ("There is no requirement that the apartments in question be used for purposes which bring them under the Act.")

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Irish Examiner USA: What Is So Wrong About Being Rich?

What Is So Wrong About Being Rich?
By Alicia Colon

By all rights I should be a liberal Democrat who agrees with the mantra-"Tax the Rich." After all I grew up dirt poor in the barrio, in a tenement infested with vermin-animal and human. A few years ago I was at a Christmas party for journalists given by a conservative organization. I met a man from the Associated Press who wondered how I could survive my background and not be a liberal. It should have been easy for politicians to incite envy into my soul by demonizing the "filthy rich" of this city that enjoyed a lifestyle I could only dream about. But America used to be the place where one could make their dreams come true if one were willing to work for them. What I witnessed in my neighborhood, however, was a concerted effort by politicians to sap ambition and create a subculture dependent on government subsidies.

I told the AP writer that it was observing how liberal programs destroyed families that made me a staunch conservative. I was a witness to the decline of a community that may have been initiated by misguided idealists with the very best of intentions. That decline has, however, to this day been perpetuated by power hungry politicians with a malicious disregard for what is in our best interests.

I grew up in a time when welfare was known as home relief. It was established to help families in emergency situations and was only supposed to be temporary. Eventually politicians expanded this program to the behemoth it is today and this meant that certain eligibility restrictions were put in place which removed the fathers from the family.

I consider myself blessed to have escaped the confining safety nets that have trapped and enslaved our community with dependence and the destruction of all ambition. President Reagan said it best: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

What I appreciated growing up in this great city were the cultural venues available to me for little or no money. The great museums were free then and offered events that were open to the general public thanks to endowments from wealthy patrons like Brooke Astor. In the late sixties and early seventies, we also enjoyed fantastic musical entertainment in Central Park thanks to the Schaeffer Music Festival and Mayor John Lindsay who opened up the city for multiple exhibitions. Every Sunday was a happening and you could enjoy it all for free.

I'm not exactly sure when being rich became a dirty word but I'm glad I was able to benefit from their generosity before the liberals began their attacks on the wealthy. This tactic made no sense and if the general public hadn't been so vulnerable to greed and self-interest and more discerning they would have recognized the danger that this policy presented to a thriving economy. It is the wealthy who provide the jobs and rev up the economy with their spending.

Once upon a time, immigrants came to this country in large part to enjoy job opportunities which would provide for their family's wealth and prosperity. Corrupt politicians have instead used the carrot of government programs to bring in potential voters - albeit illegal - to keep them in power. Nobody's checking to see if they're eligible to vote and until voting fraud laws are enacted these legislators will remain in office. Sadly these same politicians have continued to entrap American blacks into Uncle Sam's plantation by insisting that entitlements will be reparation for our demoralizing history of slavery.

Star Parker wrote her excellent memoir (Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can Do About It) detailing her escape from this system. Herman Cain who is currently considering running for president wrote: "They Think You're Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do To Keep It."

My best buddy Jerry, a former Marine, who grew up in the segregated South surprised me with his description of our parallel childhoods. We had this ongoing game challenging each other with sob stories of our prior destitution. Turned out he was even poorer than I was. He once told me: "Sure we were poor and our family life was a total dysfunctional disaster but no matter how bad and dangerous it got in the projects, we knew that we had one advantage - we were white. There was nothing stopping us from getting out. Blacks had it much harder and the civil rights movement was supposed to change that. It was supposed to open the doors and even out the playing field but they f***ed up."

The civil rights movement was co-opted by liberal Marxists and the ensuing sub culture of government dependency is the result. The ongoing attack on those who work hard and succeed is designed to foment discord in a polarized society. The recent debate in Congress is testament to the unscrupulousness of the left wing of the Democrat Party which tried to rouse the masses to reject the proposed GOP spending cuts by fraudulent claims of dire consequences.

Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted that women will die if we cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. The truth is that Planned Parenthood spent one million dollars last year electing Democrats to office. Planned Parenthood's main focus is on abortion not the health of women. It does not provide mammograms. It only refers clients to other facilities. It has also been caught in nefarious racist activities that should have removed it from the public trough years ago. In addition, PP charges between $350-900 for first trimester abortions so they're not even providing abortions for free. If the women organizations and Hollywood celebrities are so concerned about abortion rights then they should reach in their own pockets to fund them Taxpayers who abhor the killing of the unborn should not have to bear this burden.

America is unique among nations in that anyone with the drive and energy and willingness to work hard can rise to whichever peak they aspire. There is no caste or class system here to limit or prevent one's achievements. The sky's the limit and we should be celebrating that distinction instead of tearing down the ambition to succeed.

Too bad the liberals in Congress haven't learned to appreciate the private sector achievers of society. If they ever unleashed the bonds of government interference the economy would soar.

Alicia Colon resides in New York City and can be reached at and at

The Text of Obama’s Speech - By Daniel Foster - The Corner - National Review Online

The Text of Obama’s Speech
April 13, 2011 2:09 P.M.
By Daniel Foster

Here’s the president’s speech, after the jump, as prepared for delivery. The first bolded section is the bit about the Republican plan. The second bolded section outlines (and I do mean outlines) President Obama’s alternative:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

The Country We Believe In

The George Washington University

Washington, DC

April 13, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—

Good afternoon. It’s great to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons I kept the government open was so I could be here today with all of you. I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class. You’re welcome.

Of course, what we’ve been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future we want. It’s about the kind of country we believe in. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without those commitments.

For much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well – we rightly celebrate their success. Rather, it is a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefitted most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back. Moreover, this belief has not hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale, who continue to do better and better with each passing year.

Now, at certain times – particularly during periods of war or recession – our nation has had to borrow money to pay for some of our priorities. And as most families understand, a little credit card debt isn’t going to hurt if it’s temporary.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation’s deficit. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush and President Clinton; by Democratic Congresses and a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice, but they largely protected the middle class, our commitments to seniors, and key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program – but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts – tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

Of course, that’s not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that’s how our fiscal challenge was created. This is how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and win the future.

Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you might be wondering, “Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?”

Here’s why. Even after our economy recovers, our government will still be on track to spend more money than it takes in throughout this decade and beyond. That means we’ll have to keep borrowing more from countries like China. And that means more of your tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on all the loans we keep taking out. By the end of this decade, the interest we owe on our debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion. Just the interest payments.

Then, as the Baby Boomers start to retire and health care costs continue to rise, the situation will get even worse. By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs, Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt. That’s it. Every other national priority – education, transportation, even national security – will have to be paid for with borrowed money.

Ultimately, all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy. It will prevent us from making the investments we need to win the future. We won’t be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads and bridges – all the things that will create new jobs and businesses here in America. Businesses will be less likely to invest and open up shop in a country that seems unwilling or unable to balance its books. And if our creditors start worrying that we may be unable to pay back our debts, it could drive up interest rates for everyone who borrows money – making it harder for businesses to expand and hire, or families to take out a mortgage.

The good news is, this doesn’t have to be our future. This doesn’t have to be the country we leave to our children. We can solve this problem. We came together as Democrats and Republicans to meet this challenge before, and we can do it again.

But that starts by being honest about what’s causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political skills tell me that almost no one believes they should be paying higher taxes.

Because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse –that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.

So here’s the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans’ benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20%. What’s left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That’s 12 percent for all of our other national priorities like education and clean energy; medical research and transportation; food safety and keeping our air and water clean.

Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cuts to that 12% alone won’t solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn’t require us to balance our budget overnight – in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we will need a phased-in approach – but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders in both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five and ten and twenty years down the road.

One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates. It’s a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history.

A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what they’re proposing. These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren’t the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.

It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them. Go to China and you’ll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America – the greatest nation on Earth – can’t afford any of this.

It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.

Today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week – a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs. We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is America’s debt.

Just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. Over the last two years, Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare’s purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. We will change the way we pay for health care – not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we’ve proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional one trillion dollars in the decade after that. And if we’re wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.

But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security. While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older. As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like homeownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn’t itemize.

My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans – a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the Fiscal Commission’s model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

This is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years. It’s an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, our commitment to seniors, and our investments in the future.

In the coming years, if the recovery speeds up and our economy grows faster than our current projections, we can make even greater progress than I have pledged here. But just to hold Washington – and me – accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe. If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy – or if Congress has failed to act – my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

So this is our vision for America – a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and rising opportunity for our children.

Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach. Some will argue we shouldn’t even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It’s just an article of faith for them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn’t even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit – so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn’t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security out of a fear that any talk of change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed. I understand these fears. But I guarantee that if we don’t make any changes at all, we won’t be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation that will live longer and face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works – by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.

Of course, there are those who will simply say that there’s no way we can come together and agree on a solution to this challenge. They’ll say the politics of this city are just too broken; that the choices are just too hard; that the parties are just too far apart. And after a few years in this job, I certainly have some sympathy for this view.

But I also know that we’ve come together and met big challenges before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously and still found a way to balance the budget. In the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts. And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

I believe we can and must come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit by the end of June.

I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I’m sure the criticism of what I’ve said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all bridge our differences, and find common ground.

This larger debate we’re having, about the size and role of government, has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and more vigorous. That’s a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates we can have.

But no matter what we argue or where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility – to each other and to our country – this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea. It’s patriotism.

The other day I received a letter from a man in Florida. He started off by telling me he didn’t vote for me and he hasn’t always agreed with me. But even though he’s worried about our economy and the state of our politics, he said,

“I still believe. I believe in that great country that my grandfather told me about. I believe that somewhere lost in this quagmire of petty bickering on every news station, the ‘American Dream’ is still alive…

We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain…We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on.”

I still believe as well. And I know that if we can come together, and uphold our responsibilities to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, we will keep the dream of our founding alive in our time, and pass on to our children the country we believe in. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.