Posts tagged ‘White House’

May 12, 2011

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States Etc.

Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials
May 12, 2011, 4:01 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

May 9

Kent-Ravenna (Ohio) Record-Courier on debt limits:

In Washington’s current political climate, optimism is almost certainly misplaced — but still there’s reason to hope that the White House and both houses of Congress can reach a deal on raising the federal debt limit well before the Aug. 2 drop-dead date.

If the Obama administration, House Republicans and Senate Democrats can pull that off, there’s some hope that they may also agree down the road on the fiscal 2012 budget. …

The debt ceiling, now nearly $14.3 trillion, must be raised periodically so the government can keep on borrowing to pay its bills. Treasury says that line of credit will run out Aug. 2, when the department will have to delay paying Social Security, Medicare and interest on government bonds.

There is some urgency in reaching a deal because just the whiff of default could drive up interest rates and stall the recovery. As Samuel Johnson said of the prospect of being hanged, it does focus the mind.

The goal of enforceable spending limits is to get the deficit below 3 percent of the gross domestic product by 2015. It is now close to 10 percent.

An agreement on spending curbs along the lines of the deal being brokered would be more than a symbolic gesture toward making cuts in the budget. It also would be a more responsible way of reining in the budget than opting for default.

Online:

http://www.recordpub.com

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May 11

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on rolling back agricultural subsidies:

The question of farm subsidies is an important element before Congress on how to trim the federal deficit in the short run and roll back the national debt in the long term.

Subsidies to agribusiness, both corporate farms and individual farmers, are features of American life that have been defended vigorously by farm-state lawmakers for decades. They will amount to $16 billion in 2011. The Republican proposal for budget trimming, introduced by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, would eliminate $30 billion in subsidies over the next decade, maintaining the gifts to farmers from taxpayers but lowering their annual total to about $13 billion.

The arguments cut both ways. America started out as a country of mostly small farmers. Although the “country” romanticized by the musical genre of the same name has been supplanted largely by company-owned farms with factory-raised chickens and pigs, even a city slicker might get teary-eyed at the down-home culture portrayed in a Willie Nelson song.

There is also the strategic argument. What if an America no longer able to feed itself, because it hadn’t financially supported its farmers, were menaced by China, the Arabs or the latest post-bin Laden boogeyman?

On the other side, however, is the point that agricultural commodity prices and farm income in general have remained high for a long time. Given that, why can’t the farm industry forgo $3 billion a year in aid to boost the cause of a financially sound United States?

That’s the battle to be waged shortly between Republicans and Democrats, subsidy backers and farm-aid opponents. It seems to us that, with the farmers retaining a hefty $13 billion a year under the Ryan plan and with the need to cut America’s deficits and national debt, a $3 billion-a-year cut in agricultural subsidies makes sense. But brace yourself for the screaming and yelling.

Online:

http://www.post-gazette.com

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May 8

Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal on unemployment:

Normally, an uptick in the unemployment rate would not be considered good news. But it is a peculiarity of the economic recovery that April’s increase in the unemployment rate from 8.8 percent, a two-year low, to 9 percent is actually cause for optimism.

People who are not actively looking for work are not counted in the employment figures, but as the job market improves, people re-enter it. Until they actually get a job, they are counted as unemployed.

The job market is improving — not fast enough, but it’s headed in the right direction. The economy added 244,000 jobs in April, the most since last May, and, more importantly, that number won the all-important game of expectations. Economists had predicted a more modest increase of 186,000.

And in a week that seems to have brought nothing but good news to the Obama White House, the employment figures for March and February were revised upward to 235,000 and 221,000, respectively. …

The White House noted that the improvement came despite “head winds” like high oil and food prices and the economic disruption caused by the earthquake in Japan. …

The percentage of adults in the work force, either working or looking for work, is 64.2 percent, the lowest participation in a quarter-century. As the economy improves, participation could be expected to improve, meaning we could have more good news in the form of slight increases in the unemployment rate.

Online:

http://mdjonline.com

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May 6

The Florida Times-Union on online government information:

One of the best ways to keep government accountable is to provide public information online about how it spends taxpayer money.

Promising efforts have been made in recent years to give the public more insights into the operations of a federal government that seems too large to fathom.

But groundbreaking federal sites such as USAspending.gov, the IT Dashboard, Data.gov and others designed to enhance transparency are in danger because of a massive budget cut, despite being just a sliver of the federal budget, says the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to make federal data more accessible.

The sites provide a wide range of insights into the federal government, from who is getting various federal contracts and how much to spending levels on technology investments to raw data on federal agency actions and activities.

Sunlight says Congress and President Barack Obama cut the Electronic Government Fund from $34 million in the 2010 fiscal year to $8 million in 2011.

There’s talk of more reductions. …

These times call for frugality, and providing any kind of service to the public should entail doing it as cost efficiently and effectively as possible.

But it has taken many years to make inroads on making just a fraction of federal information more accessible on a broader scale. The public often has good ideas.

Let’s not close an important door that’s just beginning to open.

Online:

http://jacksonville.com

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May 6, 2011

Obama to honor troops, thank raid participants

Obama to honor troops, thank raid participants
May 6, 2011, 7:57 a.m. EDT

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s carefully calibrated response to the killing of Osama bin Laden is shifting from remembrance to appreciation.

One day after laying a wreath at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City, the president was to go to Fort Campbell, Ky., to thank participants in the daring raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan five days ago.

Obama, however, is seeking to convey a return to the business of governing. He was also to stop in Indianapolis on Friday to promote his energy policies and showcase a transmission plant that produces systems for hybrid vehicles.

White House officials say that at Fort Campbell Obama will express his gratitude to the raid participants privately. But the president, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, also will address soldiers who have returned recently from Afghanistan, a public forum where the military triumph will be hard to mask.

Obama so far has tried to avoid rejoicing publicly over bin Laden’s death. But he has maintained a steady stream of events and activities that have kept the success of the remarkable commando operation at the forefront. On Thursday he visited New York fire and police stations that responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack that was carried out by bin Laden’s al-Qaida operatives, and he met privately with victims’ families. He also has given an interview about the operation to CBS that will air Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

In New York, Obama did not mention bin Laden by name. He didn’t have to.

“When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Obama told firefighters.

At the same time, the White House is wary of overplaying its hand. Obama has decided not to release photographs of bin Laden’s corpse, saying, “We don’t need to spike the football.”

As a result, the president also has hewed to his regular schedule, participating in policy sessions and routine ceremonial events. The trip to Indianapolis originally had been scheduled for last month, but Obama canceled it as he negotiated an eleventh-hour deal with Congress to avoid a government shutdown.

Without bin Laden’s death to overshadow it, the Indianapolis trip would have policy and political consequences. Obama has been promoting his energy policies as a long-term answer to rising oil prices and U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The skyrocketing cost of gasoline had caused Obama’s public approval numbers to dip until bin Laden’s death shoved them back up. What’s more, Indiana is a battleground state that Obama won narrowly in 2008 by less than 30,000 votes. The state’s governor, Mitch Daniels, is contemplating a presidential run and would be considered a top contender for the Republican nomination.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood previewed the Indianapolis trip Thursday, promoting Obama administration policies that foster the manufacture of hybrid vehicles. Obama will tour the headquarters of Allison Transmission, which develops transmissions for hybrid propulsion systems.

LaHood said the administration this fall will announce long-awaited new mileage standards for the 2017-2025 model year vehicles. Under rules adopted last year, the average mileage of the new vehicle fleet will rise to 35.5 mpg by 2016, an increase of more than 40 percent over current standards.

Still, the centerpiece of the day for the president will be the stop at Fort Campbell.

The fort is home to the 101st Airborne Division and many of its combat teams have returned recently from tours of duty in Afghanistan. But its main draw for Obama is the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the highly specialized Army unit that carried Navy SEALs to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The unit, known as Night Stalkers, has fought in nearly every U.S. conflict, from Grenada to Afghanistan, and they were memorialized in the mission that resulted in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” Many of its missions are classified and among its primary duties are flying special forces commandos behind enemy lines using night-vision technology and low-flying techniques.

They are equipped with Black Hawk, Chinook and MH-6 Little Bird helicopters. Aviation experts said a helicopter used in the bin Laden raid appeared to be a stealthier, top secret and never-before-seen version of a routinely used special ops helicopter. The helicopter made a hard landing and was destroyed by the military team at the site, leaving behind wreckage for experts to analyze.

White House officials would not offer details on the meeting between the president and the participants of the raiding party.

“The successful mission against Osama bin Laden is a monumental achievement,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “But the fact remains that we’re still at war, that we have 100,000 combat personnel in Afghanistan, we have troops in a support-and-assist role in Iraq, and we have U.S. military men and women in other places around the globe and, in some cases, in difficult situations.”

“So it’s important to acknowledge that and for Americans to remember that despite the elimination of bin Laden, we’re still extremely dependent upon and grateful to our military men and women for what they do.”

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Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor and Kimberly Hefling contributed to this report.

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May 4, 2011

White House struggles to get story right on raid…

White House struggles to get story right on raid
May 3, 2011, 9:31 p.m. EDT

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Killing Osama bin Laden was a big victory for the U.S., but how exactly the raid went down is another story — and another, and another.

Over two days, the White House has offered contradictory versions of events, including misidentifying which of bin Laden’s sons was killed and wrongly saying bin Laden’s wife died in gunfire, as it tries to sort through what the president’s press secretary called the “fog of combat” and produce an accurate account.

Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that officials were trying to get information out as quickly as possible about the complex event witnessed by just a handful of people, and the story line was being corrected.

“We provided a great deal of information with great haste in order to inform you. … And obviously some of the information was, came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on,” Carney said.

The contradictions and misstatements reflect the fact that even in the case of a highly successful and popular mission, the confusion inherent in a fast-paced, unpredictable military raid conducted under intense pressure in a foreign country does not lend itself immediately to a tidy story line, some experts said.

“People are demanding the equivalent of a movie, they want to know scene by scene the most trivial details. You’re in the middle of a combat operation,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“One of the things we all have to be careful about is the idea that you can suddenly rush to transparency and understanding in a matter of minutes or hours on the first day of an event like this.”

The circumstances for the Navy SEALs involved hardly lent themselves to careful note-taking. One of their helicopters stalled even before they rushed bin Laden’s compound, entering different rooms from different angles, not knowing who they’d find and then, according to the White House, engaging in a firefight. Some of what happened during those 40 minutes in Abbottabad, Pakistan, may never be known.

Nevertheless, the contradictory statements seem certain to raise suspicions about the White House’s version of events, given that no independent account from another source is likely to emerge. The only non-U.S. witnesses to survive the raid are in Pakistani custody.

Some of the White House contradictions and corrections that have emerged so far:

—White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told reporters Monday that bin Laden’s son Khalid was killed in the raid. When the White House released a transcript of Brennan’s briefing, it substituted the name of a different son, Hamza. The White House said that was a transcription error.

—Brennan said bin Laden’s wife died while shielding the terrorist leader from U.S. gunfire. Carney said Tuesday that the wife hadn’t died and was merely shot in the leg, although another woman did die. But it wasn’t clear that either of them was trying to shield bin Laden.

—Brennan and other officials suggested that bin Laden was holding a gun and even firing at U.S. forces. Carney said Tuesday that bin Laden was unarmed.

—Officials have offered varying accounts of how President Barack Obama and his team in the White House Situation Room were able to monitor the raid. Without providing details on the technology involved, Brennan said that “we were able to monitor in a real-time basis the progress of the operation from its commencement to its time on target to the extraction of the remains and to then the egress off of the target.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta told PBS on Tuesday that “Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on.”

—The night of the raid, administration officials held a telephone briefing for reporters. “During the raid, we lost one helicopter due to mechanical failure,” one of the administration officials said. Later in the same call, another official contradicted that: “We didn’t say it was mechanical.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, clarified Tuesday that the explanation was more technical: The air temperature in the compound was hotter than expected and the helicopter was too heavy to stay aloft under that condition.

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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

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May 3, 2011

Obama going to NYC to mark Osama bin Laden’s death

Obama going to NYC to mark Osama bin Laden’s death
May 2, 2011, 7:46 p.m. EDT
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to visit New York City on Thursday to mark the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The White House says Obama will visit ground zero, the site of al-Qaida’s attack on the World Trade Center, and meet with the families of those killed nearly 10 years ago.

U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a raid on a compound in Pakistan where he had been hiding, then buried him at sea.

Flag-waving crowds have been gathering at the lower Manhattan site of the attack since Obama announced bin Laden’s death late Sunday.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer announced Obama’s visit on Twitter.

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April 20, 2011

President Barack Obama revisited a key campaign promise on comprehensive immigration reform; probably doomed

Comprehensive immigration reform probably doomed
April 20, 2011, 1:53 a.m. EDT

Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP)President Barack Obama revisited a key campaign promise when he hosted a White House meeting of elected officials and experts on immigration. But if a major overhaul of the U.S. immigration policy is his goal, Republicans in Congress say he shouldn’t hold his breath.

They say any bill that even hints at amnesty or legalization for millions of illegal immigrants already living and working in the United States is dead before it ever makes an appearance in a congressional committee.

A path to citizenship is “what has doomed all immigration legislation in the last two administrations,” California Republican Dan Lungren said during a recent House of Representatives hearing on immigrant agricultural workers.

The agricultural workers’ bill discussed during that hearing, which first was proposed in the last Congress, isn’t likely to be revived.

“It’s not going to pass,” Lungren said matter-of-factly while taking testimony on the visa program that helps supply temporary workers to agricultural businesses. “And it’s not going to pass because it has, frankly … a path to citizenship.”

Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said immigration reform proposals that offer a path to legal status are tantamount to amnesty.

“I think most members of Congress and most Americans don’t want to reward lawbreakers and don’t want to give them amnesty,” Smith said Tuesday as Obama held his White House meeting.

The Democrats’ failure in the last Congress to pass the DREAM Act is a key example. The bill would have provided a path to legal status for law-abiding young people brought to the United States as children who either plan to attend college or join the military.

Obama also promised to continue working to build a bipartisan consensus around immigration and said he would lead a “civil debate” on the issue in the months ahead, the White House said. But he also said he will not succeed if he alone is leading the debate.

According to a statement from the White House, in his bipartisan summit Obama “urged meeting participants to take a public and active role to lead a constructive and civil debate on the need to fix the broken immigration system. He stressed that in order to tackle the issue successfully they must bring the debate to communities around the country and involve many sectors of American society in insisting that Congress act to create a system that meets our nation’s needs for the 21st century and that upholds America’s history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”

Smith, the Republican congressman, said he thinks the Obama administration should first secure the U.S.-Mexican border and put a greater emphasis on rooting out illegal workers and the businesses that hire them.

“There are 7 million illegal workers in this country,” Smith said. “I’d like to see those jobs go to American citizens and legal workers.”

He also criticized the Obama administration for what he sees as a substantial reduction in workplace enforcement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is responsible for finding and removing illegal immigrants and enforcing bans on employing them, has greatly reduced the volume of highly public raids that became an enforcement staple of the Bush administration. ICE has been relying instead on audits of paperwork employers are required to maintain that proves their workers are legal.

Lungren and Smith said they do see a relatively promising future for a bill that would require all employers to use the government’s employee verification program, E-Verify, and perhaps an improved guest worker program.

Despite what appears to be solid opposition to immigration overhaul bills, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren said she still sees hope for changes to what she describes as a broken system.

“Ultimately, the system will be reformed and the question is when and how much damage is the country going to have to go through,” Lofgren said Tuesday.

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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Suzanne Gamboa contributed to this report.

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April 15, 2011

Obama visits his hometown to restart money chase
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com
April 15,2011
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CHICAGO (AP)President Barack Obama restarted his formidable fundraising operation Thursday with a challenge to supporters that the 2012 presidential campaign will be about how to fix the country’s money problems without doing harm to “the America we believe in.”

“We are going to be able to present a very clear option to the American people,” the president told Chicago hometown supporters in his first fundraisers since formally announcing his re-election last week. “We can get our fiscal house in order, but we can do it in a way that is consistent with our values and who we are as a people. Or we can decide to shrink our vision of what America is. And I don’t believe in shrinking America.”

Bracing for a fight against re-energized Republicans determined to deny him a second term, the president sought Thursday to reanimate supporters who swept him into the White House in 2008 on promises of change — including liberals disappointed at his compromises with the GOP.

He did so by offering a stinging critique of GOP budget proposals that would cut deeply into social programs, education and elsewhere, accusing Republicans of a slash-and-burn approach that says “we can’t afford to be compassionate.”

“Under their vision we can’t invest in roads and bridges … we would be a nation of potholes,” the president told a high-dollar group at MK restaurant, the second of three fundraisers he held Thursday night in the city that launched his political career and where he’s headquartering his re-election.

The president made his remarks a day after delivering a speech on deficit reduction in Washington in which he made similar charges about Republicans as the author of the GOP budget plan, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, watched from the front row.

Ryan and other Republicans later accused Obama of lobbing overly partisan political broadsides without delivering many specifics about his own plans. The president’s attacks marked a change in tone from the more subdued approach he’d taken since Democrats were routed in the November midterm elections.

Obama defended himself Thursday.

“The speech I gave yesterday was not a partisan shot at the other side. It was an attempt to clarify the choice that we have as a country right now,” he told donors at Nine restaurant.

Obama said he agreed with the need to rein in spending and trim crushing deficits, but argued that Republicans would do so while slashing areas like education, energy and transportation that he said must be preserved to ensure American competitiveness.

Republicans pounced on Obama for pivoting from deficit reduction to raising money even as a critical spending debates loom. “Campaigner-in-chief kicks of fundraising circuit,” read a release from the Republican National Committee.

The president indicated he was well aware of the big fights yet to come. He described the budget negotiations that nearly resulted in a government shutdown last week as “the appetizer that was just the trial run.” In coming months the parties will square off over the budget for the 2012 fiscal year, competing plans for bringing down deficits, raising the debt limit to avoid an unprecedented default on U.S. debt obligations, and other issues.

Among numerous other disagreements, Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich while Republicans oppose that vehemently, and the Republican plan would completely remake Medicare for future beneficiaries, offering them a set sum of money to buy their own care from private insurers. Obama says that would end Medicare as we know it and leave seniors on their own.

The president seemed likely to sustain his argument of Democratic investment versus ruinous Republican cuts as he participated in a series fundraisers that will take him to San Francisco and Los Angeles next week, New York the week after, and elsewhere.

Obama raised $750 million in 2008 and could top $1 billion this time around, though he himself acknowledges a need to re-energize the grass-roots supporters and small donors who helped sweep him into the White House.

“This campaign is not my campaign, this is your campaign. And the question is do we finish the job. I’m prepared to finish the job. I hope you are too,” he said at MK restaurant.

The last event of the night Thursday, at Chicago’s Navy Pier, priced tickets starting at $100 and was aimed at younger supporters. It drew a loud and enthusiastic crowd of 2,300 that was warmed up by Chicago sports stars, including Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Obama’s former chief of staff and Chicago’s mayor-elect, Rahm Emanuel, accompanied the president throughout the evening.

Earlier Obama spoke to about 225 people in all at events at the restaurants Nine and MK, with tickets as high as $35,800. All told the events should raise $2 million or more for Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Obama’s fundraising push comes as the Republican field begins to take shape, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announcing exploratory committees this week.

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April 15, 2011

Ex-Pa. Sen. Santorum steps up 2012 White House bid

Ex-Pa. Sen. Santorum steps up 2012 White House bid
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is setting up a fundraising committee that allows him to take the first steps toward a 2012 presidential campaign.

Santorum has been laying the groundwork for months. While the two-term senator lacks the name recognition and fundraising organization of his better-known rivals, he is a favorite among the social conservatives who hold huge sway in some early nominating contests.

“Now, the only test for me is whether we can raise the money that’s necessary,” Santorum told Fox News Channel, where he worked as a contributor until the network put him on leave while he decided whether to enter the race. “We’re going to determine over the next few weeks as to whether the resources are going to be there.”

Santorum, a blunt-talking conservative who once was the No. 3 Senate Republican, has made frequent visits to early-voting states New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. On Thursday, he planned a town hall-style meeting on the economy at New England College in Henniker, N.H.

“It’s time for America to be America again — an America that rewards innovation and hard work, that stands by our allies instead of our enemies, that protects even the most vulnerable of our society, and an America that says every life is to be cherished,” Santorum told supporters in an email that was sent as he announced his plans on Fox News Channel. “That’s what I believe in and that’s why I’m taking this next step in a possible run for president.”

His policy positions align with conservatives who are looking at many of the expected candidates with hesitation.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney‘s changes of heart on gay rights and abortion do little to help his second presidential effort. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is twice divorced. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, making his first trip of the year to meet with New Hampshire voters on Thursday, has a record as a lobbyist.

Santorum, 52, also enters the campaign with hurdles to overcome. He lost his Senate seat to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006 and has been out of elective office since 2007. He lacks the robust fundraising or personal wealth of his likely rivals.

Santorum was already looking at the White House when he lost five years ago. His opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research makes him an appealing candidate for conservatives. But his sometimes abrasive style alienated voters in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, and they replaced him with Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat.

Santorum, a lawyer by training, is married and has seven children.

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Online:

Santorum site: http://www.ricksantorum.com/explore/

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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

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Warmest regards,

April 14, 2011

Both Republicans and Democrats played major roles in run up US $14 trillion debt

Both parties helped run up US $14 trillion debt
Posted by Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,
Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com


WASHINGTON (AP) — Two centuries after America’s birth, the national debt was a bit under $1 trillion when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. Just three decades later, it has soared above $14 trillion, and accusations of blame are flying. Both Republicans and Democrats played major roles in driving the figure sky high.

If the tab were divided up now, it would come to roughly $47,000 for each man, woman and child in the United States.

In what is shaping up as the next bruising economic battle, Congress is being asked by President Barack Obama to authorize fresh borrowing once the nation’s fast-growing debt slams into the current debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion — something the Treasury Department says will happen no later than May 16.

Leaders of both parties acknowledge that failing to raise the limit could force the government to begin defaulting on some of its obligations — for instance making interest payments on Treasury bills and bonds — with severe adverse consequences, including possibly pushing the economy back into recession.

Creative accounting may help forestall the crisis for a few additional months. But then the effects could be severe, or as the White House warns, “like Armageddon, in terms of the economy.”

Republicans like to blame Obama and congressional Democrats, citing heavy spending that they claim has done little to end the recession or create jobs. Democrats argue that the stage for fiscal ruin was set by Republican President George W. Bush, with large tax cuts that favored the wealthy, two wars and a vastly underfunded prescription drug program for the elderly. They accuse Bush of squandering a budget surplus handed him by President Bill Clinton.

“We lost our way” during the Bush years, Obama suggested on Wednesday as he laid out his own prescriptions for taming the nation’s long-term budget woes, a move the administration hoped would also smooth the way for a debt-ceiling vote.

In fact, spending far outpaced revenues in both the Bush and Obama years. And the main culprit in addition to war spending was the devastating 2007-2009 recession, which not only prompted hundreds of billions of dollars in downturn-fighting spending by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but also resulted in a sharp dip in tax revenues due to sagging individual and corporate incomes.

The main reasons for big increases in the national debt in the years ahead are fast-growing obligations for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs as tens of millions of baby boomers reach retirement age.

Congress has raised the debt limit ten times in the last decade alone, most recently in February 2010. But this year, the stakes are higher than usual, with Republicans and some Democrats warning Obama that they will not vote to raise it unless he agrees to mandatory restraints on future spending.

It was against this backdrop that Obama on Wednesday countered Republican budget plans with a series of his own proposals that he held out as better balanced. They included wide-ranging spending cuts, tax increases aimed at the wealthy and a “debt failsafe” trigger for additional across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes if deficits are not headed down by 2014.

“That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road,” Obama said. Still, his plan faced difficulties ahead, with GOP opposition to new tax increases and complaints from some Democrats that his spending cuts are too drastic.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. Its bonds are viewed as among the safest investments in the world. In addition to millions of Americans, many foreign governments and investors have vast holdings in Treasury securities, with China leading the pack.

The GOP now is in the majority in the House of Representatives after mid-term elections last November that many victors and tea-party activists viewed as a mandate for deep spending cuts.

“My members won’t vote to increase the debt limit unless we’re taking serious steps in the right direction,” says House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

After a White House meeting with Obama on Wednesday to preview the speech, Boehner said, “I think the president heard us loud and clear.” He agreed that passing a debt-limit extension is highly important. “Not meeting our debt obligations is a very bad idea,” he said. But Boehner also insisted that higher taxes not be part of any debt relief deal.

The national debt is the total accumulated indebtedness of the U.S. government. As of Wednesday, it stood at $14.27 trillion. Of this, $14.21 trillion is subject to the debt limit. For various mostly technical reasons, several small governmental programs are not counted.

The national debt should not be confused with the federal budget deficit, which is only a one-year slice. The deficit is the difference between what the government spends in a given year and what it takes in. In the budget year that ends Sept. 30, the deficit is expected to be a record $1.5 trillion. At that level, for every $1 the government spends, it must borrow about 42 cents.

Only a few times in the nation’s history has the government run a budget surplus. The most recent was in the early 2000s, when for several years the government took in more than it paid out. That helped take a nick out of the national debt, then hovering between $5 trillion and $6 trillion. Soon deficits returned and the national debt resumed its relentless climb.

“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,” Obama said. “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.”

The national debt began when President George Washington and Congress agreed to take on debts incurred by the states for fighting the Revolutionary War.

It broke through the $1 trillion mark (that’s a $1 followed by 12 zeroes) in 1981, the first year of the Reagan’s presidency. But despite Reagan’s vow to balance the budget, the debt tripled during his two terms, to just over $3 trillion under the weight of a recession, large tax cuts and increased spending.

When his successor, President George H.W. Bush, left office in early 1993, the debt was over $4 trillion. Clinton’s eight years in office took it to nearly $6 trillion, despite those fleeting budget surpluses. When George W. Bush finished his two terms the debt had pushed through the $10 trillion mark.

A celebrated national debt “clock” near Times Square had to be rebuilt to allow for the extra digit.

In just 2½ years under Obama, the debt has grown to where it stands today.

Of the $14.27 trillion national debt, some $4.62 trillion is money the government owes itself — mostly money borrowed from Social Security revenues. Without it, the “debt held by the public” is $9.65 trillion.

According to Obama administration figures, just over $3 trillion of the $14.27 trillion debt can be attributed to Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program. Stimulus spending by Obama and tax cuts he signed into law accounted for about $600 billion through last Sept. 30.

If there are no changes in government policies, the debt will soar to $18.76 trillion by 2014 and $20.8 trillion by 2016, according to administration projections.

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April 5, 2011

No longer the fresh voice of change, President Barack Obama embarked on a bid for re-election Monday

Obama opens bid for new term, no longer outsider
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Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.

WASHINGTON (AP) — No longer the fresh voice of change, President Barack Obama embarked on a bid for re-election Monday by asking a divided, anxious electorate to let him finish the job he won in 2008. He’s getting an early start against a Republican field that’s still undefined, but he’s saddled with an ailing economy that still isn’t working for millions of voters.

Obama began with an effort to recapture his outsider’s touch of 2008, bypassing a public statement from the White House in favor of an email sent to millions of supporters.

He offered a kickoff video in which official Washington is ignored and even Obama himself only makes a fleeting appearance. What the campaign wanted voters to see instead were people like them speaking of real-life concerns and their faith in Obama, against wholesome backdrops in every clip: a church, a farm, a family in a kitchen, an American flag.

He told supporters later in the day he needs their help again, perhaps more than he did four years ago, because “we may not have the exact same newness that we had in 2008.”

“But that core spirit … is still there and it’s still in you and so I hope that even though we’re a little older and a little wiser now than we were back in 2007 and 2008, I hope everybody is ready to run that race one more time,” Obama said in a conference call with backers.

This time around, Obama carries both the benefits and baggage of being the establishment candidate.

The president now owns an economy that is adding jobs but still leaving millions of people without help or work. As the incumbent, he can blow into town on Air Force One, draw unparalleled free media coverage and command all the other perks of the presidency. But he must also remobilize his coalition and reenergize it, too, including getting back the independent voters who swung Republican in last year’s midterm elections.

Obama ran once on hope. This time he will run on his record as well. That means voters will evaluate him on what he has gotten done, including laws to reshape health insurance and Wall Street behavior, and the promises he has not delivered upon, including immigration reform and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A huge part of his challenge will be to spark the voter inspiration that often got lost in the slog of governing. His new campaign video gave a nod to the challenge. A woman named Alice from Michigan said: “We’re paying him to do a job. So we can’t say, ‘Hey, could you just take some time off and come and get us all energized?’ So we better figure it out.”

Obama filed his candidacy paperwork Monday, about 20 months from Election Day, so he can begin raising money in earnest for a potential campaign fund of $1 billion or more. More than a dozen Republicans are seriously considering trying to unseat him, but none has declared yet.

What comes next is a loud, undefined, unpredictable White House contest. The early party primary voting is not set to begin until next year.

Obama, as both president and candidate, is trying to keep those two roles separate. “Even though I’m focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today,” he said in the email to backers.

His campaign this time will not have the foil of George W. Bush, an unpopular incumbent who helped define the mood of 2008 without being on the ballot. The White House is eager to portray the election as a choice, but the look and feel of that contrast will not become evident until a competitor emerges from a wide-open Republican field.

Regardless, what the White House expects is that the economy will drive the election. The race could well pivot on whether voters buy into Obama’s arguments about progress on his watch — that an economy on the brink of disaster is steadily adding jobs again, and he has a vision for more. Or whether voters vent their displeasure that change hasn’t happened faster.

Here, as in many cases, incumbency can cut both ways.

The nation’s unemployment rate just dropped to 8.8 percent, its lowest level in two years. The private sector is starting to add sizable numbers of jobs again, and such trend lines always tend to attach themselves to how a president is viewed. The more the economic situation improves, the better Obama can argue he is the right steward of the recovery.

However, perceptions of the economy have not improved over the course of Obama’s presidency, and that lag can amount to a major vulnerability.

Overall, 35 percent of people in an Associated PressGfK poll say the nation is heading in the right direction. That’s the same share that said so in January 2009 before he took office.

“I think it starts with the economy. I don’t think anybody could tell you for sure how it’s going to end, especially with all the tumult around the world right now,” said Stephen Craig, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

Indeed, Obama is contending with an exploding world. The violent upheaval across the Middle East and Africa has consumed attention in 2011 and drawn the United States into a military conflict in Libya on top of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On the domestic front, Obama is grappling with a budget fight and the potential for a government shutdown.

The president must be sensitive to how and when he campaigns or risk appearing to put his political gain above the country’s.

How he responds to domestic and foreign challenges, however, will give him chances to shape public thinking in ways no other candidates have.

Obama’s path to the required 270 electoral votes could well be tougher this time. In 2008, he reached it by aggressively turning out new and infrequent voters across the country, and making a play for states that aren’t usually contested by Democrats.

The effort paved the way for victories in GOP-leaning states such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. But Obama’s standing has suffered in those states since then, putting into question whether he can engineer repeat victories. He also dominated the Midwest in 2008, the home of electoral-rich states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. But the region took a beating during the recession, and Obama’s poll numbers did, too, complicating his path to re-election.

On the flip side: Obama may have new support in other states because of the explosive growth of Democratic-leaning Hispanics in the Southwest and the migration of blacks to the South.

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AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti, Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington and Holly Ramer in Portsmouth, N.H., contributed to this story.

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Calvin Ledsome Sr.,

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