Friendly fire: Dems challenge Obama agenda

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Friendly fire: Dems challenge Obama agenda.

Boise – A day after delivering a defiant State of the Union speech to the Republican-led US Congress, President Barack Obama headed to the conservative heartland on Wednesday to promote his plans for bolstering the middle class. Obama left Washington for a two-day trip to Idaho and Kansas to push his message that everyone should stand to gain from an economy that has all but recovered from years in the doldrums. It can be assumed that Obama hopes to keep sanctions in place without provoking North Korea, while also keeping in mind developments that could lead to dialogue with Pyongyang in the future. “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” Obama said during the speech. Expanding opportunity works,” the president said at a rally at Boise State University, citing the recent surges in job growth, domestic energy production and student achievement.

The President outlined three broad areas to focus on: cybersecurity information sharing, modernization of law enforcement agencies’ weapons against cybercrime, and national data breach reporting. For the industry, the biggest of these was a tax on “highly leveraged” financial institutions to “discourage excessive borrowing.” For investors, the president proposed raising the tax rate on capital gains for the highest income households to 28% from the current 23.8%. While this appears to be criticism of North Korea, which has been pointed to as responsible for a hack on Sony Pictures, Obama did not directly mention North Korea. However, in a speech that borrowed significantly from his address Tuesday, Obama also struck a more conciliatory tone, acknowledging he got “whooped” in Iowa during the 2008 and 2012 general elections. “As I’ve travelled the country, I have seen the desire among the American people to make progress together,” he said as he restated his plan to end tax cuts for the “super rich” and close corporate-tax “loopholes” to “lower the cost of community college to zero.” The most controversial plank in Obama’s overall plan, unveiled over the weekend, is to impose more than $300 billion in tax hikes over 10 years. And rather than bashing North Korea, the comment appears to have been intended to emphasize the necessity of cyber security, which Obama has touted as a key goal of his government in the latter half of his second term in office.

Though in the minority, they hold sway because Democratic defectors – particularly in the Senate – could make the difference in helping Republicans pass key legislation, and even override a presidential veto. The funding also would pay for an initiative providing free community college for two years for students who keep up their grades (though the White House calls for rolling back a separate college savings tax break).

Gary Steele, CEO at Proofpoint, said, “The President’s inclusion of cybersecurity as a topic in his speech is further validation of the critical importance of this issue across all industries and sectors, public and private. Those changes would affect a relatively small number of taxpayers, but investors might be feeling like gun-rights activists: Any little encroachment feels like a threat. Before the address, the opinion of members of Congress – not to mention the public – had turned against North Korea after Sony was hacked. “The Obama administration seems to want to avoid putting undue pressure or sanctions on North Korea.

While laying out his ambitious agenda, the president has also vowed to fight GOP bills that would chip away at ObamaCare, financial regulations and his recent immigration actions. “If a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it,” Obama said Tuesday. As regards his specific proposals, it is absolutely the role of the government to legislate consumer protection—but not corporate security strategy. Legislation cannot evolve as quickly as the threat landscape.” “From the point of view of a company that is subject to notifying the public of breaches, I can say it would be a breath of fresh air to have a single, consolidated, and consistent regulation to deal with,” declared Mark Kraynak, Chief Product Officer, Imperva. “But from a practical industry perspective, if there’s any value to breach notifications, it’s already been realized by the plethora of overlapping state and international laws.” Tripwire CTO Dwayne Melancon also suggested starting with some clarification of the existing rules and requirements. “Organizations have an overwhelming array of choices available to improve their cybersecurity programs, but what criteria should they use to make these investment decisions?” Melancon added that the lack of clarity also hampered corporate risk assessment around cybersecurity policy and practices. “None of the expectations about cybersecurity protection are clearly articulated, and few come from an authoritative source,” Melancon said. “This means that it’s difficult for companies to legally defend themselves in the event of a significant breach, and it also makes it difficult for companies that haven’t been breached to accurately assess business risks.” Robert Hansen, VP of WhiteHat Labs at WhiteHat Security, was less than enthusiastic about Obama’s cybersecurity proposals. “While it’s understandable that the American population wants to take a stand against computer crime, what the President is proposing to enact into law would have made no difference in the Sony case.” Hansen suggested that the technologies being recommended to protect a free and open Internet will actually make government censorship easier, and have a chilling effect on benign computer security research—efforts by researchers like those at WhiteHat Labs designed to proactively identify vulnerabilities and exploits in order to protect the American public.

The Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t agree with the proposals philosophically, and even if it did, it would never deliver the president any meaningful legislative victories this late into his tenure. On the day the U.S. opened historic talks with the Cuban government in Havana, Menendez, who is Cuban-American and is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry warning about the Castro regime’s intentions. “Mr. Indeed, many of the proposals underscore how little the president and Congress have done to create tax fairness between wage earners and investors, and rein in Wall Street risk-taking. This stands in sharp contrast to the clear messages of reconciliation that he made to Cuba and Iran. “In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.

Secretary, after five decades of authoritarian, one-party rule, we must recognize that the Castros will never relax their iron-fisted control over Cuba unless compelled to do so,” he wrote. “As the Administration pursues further engagement with Cuba, I urge you to link the pace of changes in U.S. policy to reciprocal action from the Castro regime.” Menendez voiced concern that a few of the political prisoners released by Cuba as part of the deal were rearrested, and about U.S. fugitives hiding out in Cuba, among other issues. Chris Doggett, managing director for Kaspersky Lab North America, agreed that any legislation enacted shouldn’t end up prohibiting the techniques and methods used by legitimate security researchers, security consulting companies, and security vendors. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new,” Obama said, striking back at the Republican Party, which is opposed to the US normalizing its diplomatic relations with Cuba. Obama also noted that Iran has halted its nuclear program and reduced its stores of nuclear materials, hailing this as the fruit of nuclear talks between the US and Iran.

Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement that the address showed Obama slipping back into his role as “campaigner-in-chief,” pushing higher taxes and more regulations, while issuing “premature veto threats.” In a pointed swipe sure to anger Republicans, Obama in his address downplayed the jobs impact of the proposed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline, without mentioning it by name. Shortly afterward, the senator scorched administration officials at a Senate committee hearing over their pushback on lawmakers’ effort to set up new potential sanctions against Iran. Doggett also stressed that mandated information sharing could do more harm than good. “It should not cross-over into the area of broad-reaching surveillance (in conflict with our right to privacy), nor should regulations be enacted that force information disclosures which compromise criminal investigations. Camp’s own party was so irate, it not only killed the proposal, but 50 party members signed a pledge saying they would defeat such a measure anytime, any place.

Republicans called for Obama to be more humble, given that they took control of both chambers of Congress this month after winning the midterms handsomely. “We’ve only been here 2-1/2 weeks, and he’s put seven veto threats. And of course, we must safeguard against information being disclosed which causes incremental damage to the victims of the attacks or unduly punishes those who are not our true adversaries in the battle against cybercrime.” Cybersecurity plays an integral role in the safety and economic stability of our nation. Investment income, which disproportionately benefits the wealthy as more and more middle- and lower-income Americans leave the stock market, isn’t on the table. Let us work the legislation before you decide something’s going to be vetoed,” House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on the CBS “This Morning” program.

And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization.” Not only could Menendez and his fellow Democrats help pass the Iran sanctions legislation out of Congress, but they potentially could provide Republicans enough votes to override the threatened presidential veto. The speech was dominated by economic and domestic issues, though the president did devote several minutes to addressing foreign policy and terrorism and specifically the threat posed by the Islamic State. “We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies,” he vowed.

On another front, liberal House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday spoke out against Obama’s call for authority to fast-track pending trade deals with Europe and Asia. It’s important for people to be informed about what the government is planning, and to speak up to their elected officials if they disagree with proposed legislation. Tim Erlin, director of IT security and risk strategy at Tripwire, cautions against freaking out prematurely, though. “Rhetoric is just that, and the cybersecurity industry as a whole should be cautious about Obama’s proposals. While some conservative Republicans oppose giving Obama fast-track authority, the heaviest resistance might be from fellow Democrats who worry that trade deals could hurt American workers. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Wednesday that after recent talks with Republicans he was confident a business tax reform plan can make it through Congress.

In Idaho, Obama visited a lab at the university’s Micron Engineering Centre, telling students and staff that he was good at engineering despite not having studied it. They’ve not only won two significant battles from Congress and regulators in the past two months, they know Obama squandered his political capital on the Affordable Care Act, the primary legislation of his first two years in office when his party controlled Congress. Obama’s vision of a stronger and more expensive safety net stands little chance of becoming law this year, but it could shape the debate for the 2016 presidential election. Having used his clout to push through the divisive health-care agenda, President Obama didn’t have either the interest or the influence to create tougher financial-services reform.

Hillary Clinton, the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is already facing heat from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and others on the left, who worry Clinton may bow to pressure from Wall Street and not push enough of a populist agenda on the economy. It’s as if it was constructed to be delayed and dismantled once the pain of the recession faded and more Wall Street-friendly lawmakers were elected to power.

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