The State of the Union Is Irrelevant

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EST.

President Barack Obama was on a roll — until Sunday night, when the White House released a broad package of tax proposals, the latest in the State of the Union prequel-a-thon.WASHINGTON — Republicans running Congress have promised to use every weapon in their arsenal to try to repeal President Obama’s health care law, but a potentially divisive debate is looming between Tea Party forces and GOP pragmatists on how far to go.

Last year’s midterm elections, in which Democrats suffered bruising defeats and the GOP won full control of Congress, may have been the best thing that ever happened to him.WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican lawmakers are already signaling they will do what they can to block President Barack Obama’s pitch for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. Some members are questioning whether to use the congressional budget process to derail the 2010 law or reserve that parliamentary maneuver for more traditional purposes such as cutting spending or overhauling the tax code. It did not leave Obama as a beaten, feckless lame duck destined to spend his last two years in office vainly fighting Republicans bent on dismantling Obamacare and blocking any other White House legislative effort. Once again, the president will propose soaking the rich with higher estate, capital gains and bank taxes, while adding to entitlements for the working poor and middle class — new tax credits, higher child care allowance and more college tuition assistance.

Obama is making that pitch to a huge television audience in hopes of putting the new Republican Congress in the position of defending top income earners over the middle class. President Obama’s aides have drafted a team of Internet-savvy staff members to produce a series of videos, digital op-eds, Facebook and Twitter posts, and six-second animated GIFs to capture a larger audience than the mainstream media’s shrinking number of viewers and readers. Obama’s tax plan seeks to help the struggling middle class, address wage stagnation and reduce income inequality — paying for it with higher taxes on the rich. Instead, after years of capitulating to the gridlock that has become the new normal in Washington, Obama took a different approach: Instead of taking his agenda to Capitol Hill where it would fall on deaf ears, he would instead take it directly to the American people. As with other ideas about immigration, community college, broadband Internet and mortgages, the president is trying to set the issue table for 2016 and prove that he’s no lame duck.

It is the only filibuster-proof option available to Republicans, who control the Senate with 54 seats but must still muster 60 votes to pass other legislation when Democrats threaten to use open-ended debate to block a bill. Since the recovery began, GDP growth has averaged a mere 2.3 percent a year — that’s about half what Ronald Reagan accomplished climbing out of a recession of comparable depth. In recent announcements on college affordability, immigration and net neutrality, the president has relied on social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Medium, Vine, LinkedIn and Twitter. Under Senate rules, if a health care repeal measure is treated as a budget bill, senators may limit debate to 20 hours, thus averting a filibuster by the minority party.

And Obama’s approval numbers, which had reached their lowest point just this past October, are back in the black, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll this week that gave him 50 percent — the first time in more than 18 months that half the country has given the president a thumbs-up. A reconciliation measure can advance only after the House and Senate have agreed upon a measure called a budget resolution, which sets broad parameters for spending, revenues, and curbs to benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Obama previewed his plan for broadband access in a three-and-a-half-minute video posted on the viral content website Upworthy. “It’s still true that most people still get their news from television and big newspapers,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the president’s communications director. “But if that’s all you’re talking to, you’re missing big parts of the population.

The dollar is quite strong against other currencies, limiting exports and boosting job-killing imports, because China’s growth is faltering, Japan remains in neutral and Europe is on the edge of collapse under the weight of statism — the very kind Obama and Clinton want to impose on Americans. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, told a Heritage Foundation gathering of conservatives last week that Republicans should ‘‘use every procedural tool available, including reconciliation, to repeal Obamacare with 51 votes in the Senate.’’ That’s a view shared by conservative groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action, and prominent voices on the right including Erick Erickson, publisher of the Redstate.com conservative blog. ‘‘It’s time to stop pussy-footing around. . . . His agenda is resoundingly populist, focused on jobs, wages and a tax reform plan that would give breaks to working-class families and boost child care tax credits while increasing fees on Wall Street banks and closing loopholes that allow folks like Mitt Romney to save millions by overstuffing IRA accounts, which were designed to help middle-class Americans afford retirement, not shield millionaires.

On top of higher minimum wages and mandated business-financed health benefits, he wants employers to pay for mandatory sick leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. But both sides agree on a lot, including that the U.S. tax code is too complex and needs streamlining; that numerous tax breaks could be consolidated; and that the tax system could do more to encourage work, help college students and retirees, and reduce penalties on married couples.

Pragmatic voices in the GOP, however, say the certainty of an Obama veto effectively means that Republicans would be wasting the opportunity given them under special budget rules. ‘‘I’d like to get tax reform done. The overly saturated media environment has forced Obama to upstage his own address by conducting a rolling preview of his 2015 policy initiatives on a road trip that began at the start of the month. And I think that’s something that could actually get enacted,’’ said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Commerce committee.

But perhaps that is what Obama is banking on: being a man of action in a land of inaction, and hoping Americans approve of that message in 2016 and beyond. The number of young people — and especially young men — starting small businesses has fallen dramatically — and that means fewer jobs over the next generation for everyone.

Wealthy folks take the plunge on risky ventures, because the capital gains tax on successful enterprises is currently taxed at about 25 percent, whereas combined federal, state and local tax rates on ordinary income is often above 50 percent. Even though the current budget resolution is likely to project a balanced federal ledger over the coming 10 years, Republicans are signaling they are not willing to do a party-line replay of their 1995 experience. ‘‘The only way to do entitlement eligibility changes is on a bipartisan basis,’’ Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said Thursday at a news conference at a GOP issues retreat in Hershey, Pa. ‘‘We do not intend to be offering unilateral, one party-only entitlement eligibility changes.’’ ‘‘At some point we’ll decide if we’re going to have reconciliation and if we do, we’ll make some decision much later on,’’ House Speaker John A. Hiking capital gains taxes will directly discourage older successful investors, who also bring a wealth of practical management experience and advice for getting young ventures off the ground. And whatever policy priorities he outlines – many of which are already known – will be met by pointed opposition from Republican lawmakers, who will complain he’s stubbornly unwilling to compromise at home and exhibiting weak and feckless leadership abroad. “They’ll fault him for a combination of things he won’t talk about,” says David Azerrad, head of the B.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen’s U.S.-backed leadership came under serious threat Monday as government troops clashed with Shiite rebels near the presidential palace and a key military base in what one official called “a step toward a coup.” The militants seized control of state media in fierce fighting that marked the biggest challenge yet to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by the rebels, known as Houthis, who swept down from their northern strongholds last year and captured the capital in September. The view of some pragmatists is that reconciliation should be used to get a result that might get signed into law or as leverage to make Obama more uncomfortable than he would be in vetoing an Obamacare repeal measure. The violence threatened to undermine efforts by the U.S. and its allies to battle al-Qaida’s Yemeni affiliate, which claimed responsibility for the attack on a Paris satirical magazine this month and which Washington has long viewed as the global network’s most dangerous branch. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah have a similar proposal to help parents that instead centers on the child tax credit: They would augment the current credit of $1,000 with an additional $2,500 credit, and their credit would all be refundable (those without any tax liability would get a check from the government). Obama’s executive actions to stem deportations of immigrants in the country illegally and normalize relations with Cuba have also infuriated Republicans, who have chastised him for overstepping constitutional authority.

Obama’s suggested tax credit for second earners in a household — up to $500 for married couples when both spouses are employed, which would help overcome the hesitancy of lower-earning spouses to work — also echoes Mr. It would seem one out of six men unemployed, subsisting on government benefits and burdening relatives is not too high a price to elect another Democratic president. Hadi, whose government has ceded control over nearly the entire capital, doesn’t live at the palace, and extra soldiers and tanks deployed around his private residence, which is nearby. They include bills to authorize the Keystone XL gas pipeline, impose more economic sanctions on Iran, and tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security to a rollback of Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Joni Ernst of Iowa to give the high-risk response to Obama’s address, also believe the public sees their party as the main attraction this year. “They’re ready for the new American Congress, not necessarily hearing from the president,” says third-term Rep.

Conversely, GOP leaders have preemptively raised red flags about some of the president’s initiatives, like providing free community college. “Whatever he says is less likely to be a reality, therefore [lawmakers] don’t need to listen,” says former GOP Rep. Still, inside the administration, there have been numerous brainstorming sessions about how Obama should address the most sensitive issues engrossing the country. The results have caught the attention of the president’s most senior advisers, who are increasingly turning to the digital team for guidance on how technology can help Mr.

Advisers have debated whether the cases of excessive police force against African-Americans merit merely a symbolic gesture packaged with passionate rhetoric or a substantive legislative proposal. ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis is firmly upholding church teaching banning contraception, but said Monday that Catholics don’t have to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practice “responsible parenting.” Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. Obama better connect with the public, officials said. “Not only have the digital tools become more important in communications generally, but the people in the building want it more and are asking for it,” said Kori Schulman, the director of online engagement.

Camp wouldn’t have gone that far, but he was willing to tax capital gains (after excluding the first 40 percent) at the same level as ordinary income, which would have been an increase for most of the wealthy. Devine, who participated in White House preparatory sessions for the speech in December, has urged the president to hammer home the effects of economic inequality and offer concrete solutions. But he said most importantly, no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonization” of the developing world.

Reporters traveling that day with the president peppered Josh Earnest, the press secretary, with questions about what they expected to be an official announcement in Knoxville, Tenn., on Jan. 9. His comments, taken together with his defense of the Catholic Church’s ban on artificial contraception during the trip, signal that he is increasingly showing his more conservative bent, which has largely been ignored by public opinion or obscured by a media narrative that has tended to highlight his populist persona. In the past, they would have proposed government spending cuts, yet all the easy trims (and even some tough ones) have been made, and the declining deficit has put them in a tough spot on this issue. NEW YORK (AP) — Conservative distrust of Pope Francis, which has been building in the U.S. throughout his pontificate, is reaching a boiling point over his plan to urge action on climate change — and to do so through a document traditionally used for the most important papal teachings. McCurry says while the mounting skepticism around the speech is justified, it’s still the rare place the American public can hear a laundry list of items important to them.

He had recorded it on Air Force One a day earlier, and it quickly became the most viewed video the Obama White House has ever produced, officials said. Pfeiffer said he was not yet ready to give up on the traditional news media, which still reaches many millions of people. “We also have to be in The New York Times and the evening news,” he said. “Our view is not an either-or strategy.

Pfeiffer, who recently wrote two articles for the blogging platform Medium, said he sensed that a tipping point had already been reached where digital tools were no longer optional but necessary. Monday at his spiritual home in Atlanta repeated the same message: We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot left to be done to fulfill King’s dream. PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — The drama surrounding two teenage sweethearts on the run from the law ended quietly and unceremoniously in a Florida beach town.

Dalton Hayes, an 18-year-old suspected of committing a string of crimes with his 13-year-old girlfriend, agreed during a quick Monday morning court hearing to return to his home state of Kentucky to face charges. Though many still choose to remove their sons’ foreskins at the suggestion of a doctor, for religious or cultural reasons, or out of habit, opponents have been bolstered by the overall waning popularity of circumcision, and the fact this fight has gone on so long the boy at its center is now 4 years old. “I couldn’t speak when I was cut, but I can speak now,” said Thomas Frederiksen, a 39-year-old machinist who traveled from Orlando to protest, wearing a red beret and “I (Heart) My Foreskin” T-shirt and speaking breathlessly about the issue. Volumes of court filings tell the story: Hironimus and Nebus had a six-month relationship that resulted in a pregnancy, the birth of a boy named Chase, and a fight over nearly everything since. Nebus sued to prove his paternity and to get partial custody of the boy and the couple whittled out a parenting plan outlining everything from his surname to his legal address, to whom he calls mommy or daddy and, notably, what becomes of his penis. WASHINGTON (AP) — Sure seems as if Max Scherzer and his wife now will be able to afford to buy themselves at least one of those nonstick baking sheets they were hoping to receive as a wedding gift.

The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner will become the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in major league history after agreeing to a $210 million, seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals that includes a record $50 million signing bonus. A person familiar with the negotiations outlined the terms to The Associated Press on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been announced.

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