By Linda A. Meric

Dear Member of Congress:

You’ve got a lot to consider in this month. You’re scheduled to debate international treaties and internet censorship. There’s talk of military affairs and revamping federal agencies. But this should be at the top of your agenda: extending benefits for unemployed workers and making sure struggling parents can continue to make ends meet.

You must renew unemployment insurance benefits now for the millions of long-term jobless workers in America. And you must allow jobs to continue to be created through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund.

Think like a struggling family and your decision won’t be so hard.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taxes and Thanksgiving


By Sally Jones

“Cut My Taxes!” Americans have heard this cry for years -- and we’ve heard it shouted angrily in recent months. We hear that we pay too much in taxes, that government makes poor use of our money, and that our prosperity would rise if only taxes would fall.

But in reality our taxes have fallen steadily in recent years. In 2001 and 2003 Congress passed temporary tax cuts which will expire at the end of 2010. We must now decide what good or bad has come of that experiment and what tax law we want for the future.

Most of us recognize that one size doesn’t really fit all -- and this holds true for income tax rates. Maintaining a lower level of taxation for the vast majority of Americans makes sense in today’s hard times. But why should we do the same for the tiny percentage of citizens -- a minority to which I gratefully belong -- whose annual earnings exceed $250,000? The American people borrowed $700 billion to give people like me a tax cut over the last decade. Why should they borrow an additional $700 billion to extend the tax breaks?

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By: Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson (ret.)

At this time of thanksgiving, we are reminded how people came together, shared resources, shared opinions and worked together to form and protect our nation.

During my long career in the US Air Force I was at the very sharp end of the spear that defended our nation, rising to deputy commander-in-chief and chief of staff of U.S. Strategic Command.

During that time, going back to the Reagan years and before, the U.S. methodically and relentlessly carved out a process for understanding and reducing strategic nuclear arms -- in order increase our national security.

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By Jerry Gonzalez

Seventy-four thousand. According to a recent report issued by the Migration Policy Institute, that's the number of undocumented youth in Georgia that could potentially benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act. These children were brought to this country by their parents at very young ages, and through no fault of their own are undocumented.

We as taxpayers have invested in their K-12 education, and they deserve a chance to go to college or serve in our military. These 74,000 kids are 3 percent of the 2.1 million nationally who could potentially be impacted by the DREAM Act. They deserve an opportunity to contribute to the country they have known as their home for most of their lives. The bipartisan DREAM Act would provide undocumented students the opportunity to become legal residents if they graduate from high school and complete two years of college or military service.

It's a no brainer. The DREAM Act is a tremendous investment, a great way to further integrate students who are already an integral part of our society and economy, and a great incentive for these young people to pursue higher education or military service. The viability of the DREAM Act is even included in the U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Plan for 2010-2012 as a way to increase potential military recruits. Despite the fact that comprehensive immigration reform is truly the answer to our broken immigration system, the DREAM Act would be a good start.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New START for Women Around the World


By Linda Tarr-Whelan

The so-called New START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia, is poised for an historic ratification vote in the Senate this year. Three more major international treaties are also lined up on President Obama’s ratification to-do list: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

CEDAW is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women and girls around the world.

Our role as a human rights defender would be improved mightily by ratifying CEDAW, reasserting the United States as a strong global leader in standing up for women and girls in countries worldwide. The resulting glow of praise for the Senate from half the planet would result in more positive action.

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By Pat Marida and Beatrice Brailsford

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is considering giving a $2 billion loan guarantee to United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) to build a uranium enrichment facility in Ohio. Many in the state are hailing this project for bringing in much-needed jobs, but financially, the project is on shaky ground and is unlikely to bring anything but debt and dashed hopes to Ohio’s residents.

U.S. taxpayers are already on the hook for $2 billion in guarantees that DOE offered to the French government-owned company Areva to build a similar uranium enrichment facility in Idaho. Once that $3.3 billion facility gets a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and begins operating in four years or so, it is supposed to supply fuel to about 50 nuclear reactors, but not exclusively to plants in the U.S.

All this taxpayer money is being waved around in the name of moving the U.S. toward a clean energy policy. But what are American taxpayers being asked to invest in? Let’s take a closer look at the bets Washington is making with our tax dollars.

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By Paul Bolster

Congratulations to Georgia for recently settling the challenge to its mental health system that has hung over the state for years.

The settlement of U.S. v Georgia will shift treatment from a reliance on hospitalization and incarceration to a reliance on community-based treatment. The new plan, which won support from all parties to the federal lawsuit, came from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD).

Yes, the DBHDD budget will be bigger, but the cost and local burden will be less than what we now spend on jails, prisons and hospital rooms for the same individuals. With the legislature’s support, the DBHDD budget must increase by $90 million state dollars over this and the next budget year. These dollars will draw down more federal dollars to support the change.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Whats Really Best for Small Business


By Brian Setzler

As a Certified Public Accountant and business owner, I know the impact of taxes up close and personal. And the claim that ending Bush-era tax cuts on income over a quarter of a million dollars will hurt the economy, reduce employment and burden small businesses is patently false. Let’s take a look at the evidence.

First off, small business owners rarely have taxable income in excess of $250,000 (gross income would be substantially more as taxable income includes reductions for business expenses, personal deductions and family exemptions). Hiring people and investing in your business actually reduces taxable income, so hiring and investing decisions would be unaffected. At issue is the tax on income, or the money the owner has available to take out of the business.

According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 3 percent of tax filers with any business income make over $250,000 (couples) or $200,000 (individuals) a year, the thresholds above which the Bush tax cuts would expire, and many of those are not small business owners. As Ed Kleinbard, former staff director of the Joint Committee on Taxation, said, “Every student who is a part-time Web designer, partner in a law firm with a billion dollars of revenue and investor in a hedge fund gets lumped together in the data, along with real small businesses.”

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By: Linda Meric

The much heralded and hotly contested mid-term elections are done. The ballot questions have been decided and the candidates are either grateful because they pulled out a win or gloomy because they didn’t. Either way, it’s time to move on.

It’s time now to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Women have been waiting for a very long time. Frankly, we’ve grown impatient. The moment is here. The U.S. Senate must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, for the women of today, and for the women of tomorrow.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

We Didn't Vote for This


By Frank Knapp

Whether Americans voted for Republicans or Democrats in the mid-term election, one thing is clear: Voters were demanding that Congress focus intensively on job creation on Main Street -- not lobbyists and campaign donors from big business and Wall Street.

Apparently, many in Congress and President Obama, if recent reports are true, either didn't get the message or simply don't care now that the voting is over.

The top legislative priority of the newly "Tea Party-empowered" during the lame duck session is hardly what Tea Party insurgents had in mind. The proposal is to (1) increase the national debt by borrowing $700 billion to $1 trillion over the next 10 years; (2) spend the money on big, non-job producing tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans; (3) use small business as the excuse.

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By Susan Shaer

My uncle sifted through cracked, black and white photos of soldiers. Uncle Rob was in a rehab hospital, slowly fading. The photos were his buddies from World War II. A shoe box that held these photos and medals was practically the only thing he brought with him to the hospital.

The nurse told me it was common for older patients to reach into their distant past for memories they cherished. It was curious to me because he had never talked about his days in the war, nor his friends from that era. Now, he could recall each one’s name, hometown, hair color, and laugh.

My Uncle and I rarely agreed on anything political, but we both enjoyed the banter and ribbed each other about our candidate choices. It was a familiar rift, not a hostile one. The year was 2001. 9-11 had not yet happened and George Bush was president. When Uncle Rob was not talking about his long-disappeared friends, he encouraged me to reconsider our new president.

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