Politicians, Special Interest Groups Demand Gas Tax Hike as Part of ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Negotiations

Via CNN Money:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As lawmakers race to negotiate a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, some experts say one tax increase should be on the table: a gas tax hike.

Currently at 18.4 cents a gallon, the federal gas tax is used primarily to build and repair roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. The tax raises about $32 billion a year.

But that’s not enough. The government hands out about $50 billion a year to states and towns to help with road costs. The difference comes out of general funds or has to be borrowed. Meanwhile, the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993.

“Establishing a sustainable resource base for transportation needs to be part of any grand bargain,” said Emil Frankel, a former transportation expert in the George W. Bush administration and now director of transportation policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “In the short run, raising the gas tax is the best way to do that.”

Raising the gas tax was one of the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan in 2010. The plan called for a 15 cent-a-gallon hike to the gas tax, a level that would basically cover the current shortfall in the transportation budget.

Others went further. In a 2010 letter to the commission Delaware’s Democrat Senator Tom Carper and former Ohio Republican George Voinovich proposed a 25 cent-a-gallon hike in the gas tax, with the additional 10 cents a gallon going toward debt reduction. The pair estimated it would generate $83 billion over five years to chip away at the debt, and an additional $117 billion for road repairs.

But not everyone is convinced a gas tax hike is the way to go.

The gas tax is politically unpopular, mostly because it’s regressive — meaning it hits the poor more than the rich. It’s also regionally biased. Most big bridges and highways are near cities, yet those in rural areas would pay the same in taxes.

“The burden would fall on the great middle class, not on the millionaires and billionaires,” said Ken Orski, publisher of the infrastructure industry publication Innovation NewsBriefs, who himself supports an increase in tolls as a way to cover the funding shortfall. “That’s why the White House is staunchly opposed to such an increase, and why there’s virtually zero support in Congress.”

That’s one reason the tax hasn’t increased in nearly 20 years, even as labor, steel and asphalt costs have risen sharply. Plus, as fuel efficiency increases, Americans can put more miles on roads while at the same time buying less gas, worsening the shortfall.

Other ways to plug the funding gap include instituting a mileage-based driving tax, shifting more of the burden to the states or taping private funding sources that would then charge the public user fees.

Calls to congressional staffers revealed little in the way of an effort to raise the tax at this time.

Still, as one Democrat staffer put it, with Republicans softening to the idea of raising taxes in general, “possibilities for this sort of talk has at least opened a bit.”

Susan Rice Heavily Invested in Iranian Oil

Via The Washington Free Beacon:

The portfolio of embattled United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice includes investments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in several energy companies known for doing business with Iran, according to financial disclosure forms.

Rice, a possible nominee to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she steps down, has come under criticism for promulgating erroneous information about the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

Rice has the highest net worth of executive branch members, with a fortune estimated between $24 to $44 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A Free Beacon analysis of Rice’s portfolio shows thousands of dollars invested in at least three separate companies cited by lawmakers on Capitol Hill for doing business in Iran’s oil and gas sector.

The revelation of these investments could pose a problem for Rice if she is tapped by President Barack Obama to replace Clinton. Among the responsibilities of the next secretary of state will be a showdown with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program.

“That Susan Rice invested in companies doing business in Iran shows either the Obama administration’s lack of seriousness regarding Iran or Rice’s own immorality,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “Either way, her actions undercut her ability to demand our allies unity on Iran.”

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Report: British Nationalized Healthcare System Euthanizing Sick, Disabled Babies

Via The Daily Caller:

A British physician’s disturbing testimony is shedding light on the increasingly common practice of National Health Service (NHS) hospitals sending sick or severely disabled newborn babies home or to hospices to die of starvation or dehydration.

Newborn babies are being being placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway for end-of-life care, a system originally allotted and designed for elderly or terminally ill adults. That end-of-life care involves the removal of food and fluid tubes, a method which can take an average of ten days to result in death.

The Daily Mail reports an investigation is being launched to determine “whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced  doctors’ decisions.”

The physician, who wishes to remain anonymous, recounted his experience in a submission to the British Medical Journal, titled “How it feels to withdraw feeding from newborn babies.”

Parents must give doctors to permission to put their child on the pathway to death.

“I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby,” the doctor writes. “I reflect on how sanitised this experience seems within the literature about making this decision.”

The doctor dispelled the notion that the children die without suffering.

“Survival is often much longer than most physicians think. …Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues.”

The testimony addresses the “emotional burden” the care team experiences throughout the end-of-life process, describing monitoring the baby as “an indescribable mixture of compassion, revulsion and pain.”

“Some say withdrawing medically provided hydration and nutrition is akin to withdrawing any other form of life support. Maybe, but that is not how it feels. The one thing that helps me a little is the realisation that this process is necessarily difficult. It needs to be.”

Obama Seeks Unconstitutional Authority to Unilaterally Raise Debt Limit

Via Reuters:

(Reuters) – The Obama administration’s opening bid on Thursday in negotiations to avert a year-end fiscal crunch included a demand for new stimulus spending and authority to unilaterally raise the U.S. borrowing ceiling, a Republican congressional aide said.

The proposal, made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to congressional Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, was seen as offering little the Republicans could agree to and was greeted with laughter, the aide said.

“We can’t move any closer to them because they’re not even on our planet,” the aide said. “It was not a serious proposal.”

Obama and congressional Republicans are returning to the bargaining table to prevent across-the board tax increases and deep spending cuts, the so-called fiscal cliff, from taking effect next year.

The president wants Bush-era tax breaks to be extended for all but the wealthiest earners, but Republicans have balked at tax hikes of any kind.

In the maiden bargaining session, Geithner, the president’s lead negotiator, proposed raising tax revenues by $1.6 trillion, congressional aides confirmed. That figure is in line with what Obama has said is necessary to achieve long-term deficit reduction of $4 trillion over 10 years.

The administration also sought at least $50 billion in new economic stimulus spending.

Obama’s negotiators also sought the ability to raise the nation’s borrowing limit unilaterally. Currently, Congress must approve an increase in the debt ceiling, and it was an impasse over that issue that brought the country perilously close to default in 2011.

The administration’s proposal would put off across-the-board spending cuts for a year.

In exchange the administration agreed to make $400 billion in spending cuts to entitlement programs, an aide confirmed.

The White House had no comment on the details of the offer.

“The only thing preventing us from reaching a deal that averts the fiscal cliff and avoids a tax hike on 98 percent of Americans is the refusal of congressional Republicans to ask the very wealthiest individuals to pay higher tax rates,” a White House official said.

Dem Rep. Hank Johnson: Amend Constitution to Restrict Freedom of Speech

Via CNS News:

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) says, “corporations control the patterns of thinking” in the United States and that the Bill of Rights to the Constitution should be amended so that the government is given the power to restrict freedom of speech.

“We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations,” said Johnson.

“They control the patterns of thinking,” said Johnson. “They control the media. They control the messages that you get. So, you are being taught to hate your government–don’t want government, but keep your hands off of my Medicare by the way. I mean, we are all confused people and we’re poking fingers at each other saying, well you’re black, you’re Hispanic, immigration, homosexuals. You know, we’re lost on the social issues, abortion, contraception.

“And these folks,” Johnson said, “are setting up a scenario where they’re privatizing every aspect of our lives as we know it. So, wake up! Wake up! Let’s look at what’s happening. We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights of corporations.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission is that corporations have a right to freedom of speech, including the right to speak about politicians and federal officeholders during an election year.

Obama Admin. Pushing Welfare Programs on New Immigrants

Via The Daily Caller:

Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your new country can do for you.

Welcome to USA.gov,” a website maintained by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), bills itself as the “primary gateway for new immigrants to find basic information on how to settle in the United States” — featuring a prominent section for new immigrants about how to access government benefits.

“Depending on your immigration status, length of time in the United States, and income, you may be eligible for some federal benefit programs,” the Web page reads.

“Government assistance programs can be critically important to the well-being of some immigrants and their families. Frequently, however, there is a lack of information about how to access such benefits. Benefit programs can be complicated and you may be given misleading information about how they operate.”

The DHS page offers links to government websites that explain how to access benefits including food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, Medicare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the “official website with information on all available federal benefit programs,” with a nonworking link to Benefits.gov.

WelcometoUSA.gov also boasts to immigrants that “[f]ree public education for children is one reason many immigrants come to the United States.”

Though the website appears to advertise benefits, new immigrants are not necessarily eligible for the benefits displayed on the website; enrollment in SSI and TANF may also serve as impediments to future immigration status adjustments.

USCIS spokesman Bill Wright told The Daily Caller that the site is not intended to advise individuals on their eligibility.

“The website seeks to improve access to federal government information on the Internet by consolidating information into helpful categories and highlight new resources available to immigrants and the organizations that serve them,” Wright explained in an email.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, has taken a hard line against the federal government’s current open-door policy on immigrant welfare and believes DHS should take the Web page down.

“Some of these programs are clearly not available for immigrants,” Sessions told TheDC, “and it just creates confusion out there and suggests that if you can get into America, you can leave and get onto these programs, and from what we are seeing, many of these people are successful in getting on benefit programs that they are not lawfully entitled to.”

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Obama ‘Not Concerned” If Rice Misled America

Via The Weekly Standard:

In response to a question from reporter Major Garrett on whether the Obama administration’s mishandling of Benghazi raises “core questions of basic competency,” press secretary Jay Carney revealed that Barack Obama “is not particularly concerned” about whether Susan Rice misled the American people:

“What the president is worried about, Major, is what happened and why in Benghazi. He is not particularly concerned about whether the ambassador or I went out and talked about the fact that we believed extremists might have been responsible. And whether we named them as al Qaeda or not does not–no, it certainly doesn’t have any bearing on what happened and who was responsible as that investigation was continuing on Benghazi.”

Mexican Cartels Using Illegal Alien Labor to Grow Millions of Dollars Worth of Pot…in Wisconsin

Via Officer.com:

LAKEWOOD, Wis. — These campers didn’t come to the beautiful, pristine Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest to enjoy nature, bird watch, fish or hike.

They didn’t care about the environment, leaving behind mounds of empty beer cans, picante sauce bottles, Ritz cracker boxes, Spam cans and Gatorade jugs. They left behind clothing, shoes, camouflage tents, dark-colored sleeping bags, camping chairs. They left behind a mess.

After all they were in the forest not to sightsee but to make money – lots of it.

Heavily armed drug traffickers from Mexico are using the only national forest in Wisconsin as their personal farms and greenhouses, growing millions of dollars in marijuana and leaving behind their garbage, poached deer carcasses, fertilizer and pesticides.

For the last three summers, large marijuana operations have been discovered in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. In each of those busts, law enforcement made numerous arrests, almost all natives of Mexico here illegally. Confiscated weapons included handguns, AK-47s and a.308-caliber rifle with ammunition magazines taped together.

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DC to Spend $100K on ‘Deferred Action’ Documents to Allow Local Illegal Aliens to Stay in US

Via CNS News:

(CNSNews.com) – Officials inMontgomery County, Maryland, an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C., voted to approve $100,000 of public money to help illegal aliens sign up for President Barack Obama’s administrative amnesty program for certain young illegal immigrants.

The Montgomery County Council adopted the resolution on Nov. 13, voting to begin helping the county’s illegal aliens complete the application process for the program, which the Department of Homeland Security describes is a “deferred action process for young people who are low enforcement priorities.”

The $100,000 was allocated from Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The Council estimated that as many as 7,500 illegal immigrants would be successfully registered for the amnesty plan, which grants new work permits to some illegal aliens under the age of 30 who were brought to America illegally as small children.  It is estimated that about 1 million illegal immigrants nationwide will benefit from the deferred action process.

The Montgomery County plan was unearthed by watchdog website Judicial Watch, which discovered that the money will go to a pro-illegal immigration group Casa de Maryland, which operates centers for illegal day laborers.

The wealthy D.C. suburb is well known for its sanctuary policy towards illegal immigrants, even fighting implementation of the federal Secure Communities program that would send fingerprints and other data of illegal immigrants arrested in the county to federal authorities.

That program is intended to find dangerous, criminal illegal aliens who may be arrested by local authorities and to deport them, a priority for the Obama administration.