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News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & the USA. Upholding the rights granted by God & guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, "republican" principles / ideals, transparent & limited "smaller" government, free markets, lower taxes, due process of law, liberty & individual freedom. All content approval rests with the ARRA News Service Editor. Opinions are those of the authors. While varied positions are reported, beliefs & principles remain fixed. No revenue is generated for this site - no paid ads accepted - no payments for articles. Fair Use doctrine is posted & used.
Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
Contact: (Pub. Since July, 2006)
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blogs4Life - Calling all Bloggers & Twitters #prolife ##TCOT

The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama won't be the only occasion marked in Washington, D.C. next week. The 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is cause for much reflection on how to build a culture of life in America. On the morning of January 22, 2009, The Family Research Council (FRC) will host the fourth-annual Blogs for Life event. Blogs for Life is the premier gathering to discuss online activism in the pro-life community. If you can't join them in person next Thursaday at FRC headquarters, then tune into to for a live webcast of the event from 8:30-11:30 am or they will also be broadcasting the event live on You'll hear from prominent pro-life voices such as Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), Amanda Carpenter, Jill Stanek, Danny Glover, Peter Shinn, Michael New, Ph.D, Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D., Michael Illions, Chris Gacek, J.D. and Martha Shuping, M.D. - all presenting opportunities for the pro-life movement to gain ground through online activity. Whether you blog, Twitter, or text, join us to be better equipped to stand for life in 2009. See More: Blogs4Life

Tags: bloggers, Blogs For Life, conservative twitters, Family Research Council, FRC, pro-life To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Bill O'Reilly's Question - Do you hope Barack Obama Succeeds?

Macho Sauce Production: Bill O'Reilly asked the question, "do you hope Barack Obama suceeds?"

Tags: abortion, Barack Obama, change, FOCA, gun control, Hollywood, second amendment To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Tim Geithner Did What Leona Helmsley Did

Update (1/19): ALG photo: Geithner — Lazy, Stupid, or Crooked?
Eric Erickson at RedState hit the nail on the head regarding the fact that tax-cheat Tim Geither may go to Treasury and even run the IRS :
Tim Geithner Did What Leona Helmsley Did. She Went to Jail. Will He Go to Treasury? Geithner is allegedly a brilliant career bureaucrat. He's a political insider with his own ties to Obama, as Obama's mother once reported to Geithner's father. Having never worked in the private sector, he has cooked his personal books like one of the Wall Street swindlers Team Obama routinely excoriates.

Let us assume the oh-so brilliant Geithner - who does his own taxes because he is so smart - did innocently forget to pay the employer's share of taxes related to an employee. That could happen; the Democrats sank Linda Chavez' nomination as Labor Secretary over less. Even so, there is the matter of Geithner's own taxes. The International Monetary Fund sent notices to Geithner making clear he was responsible for his payroll taxes. He had direct knowledge that he was responsible, but he still refused to pay. He even accepted reimbursement from the IMF for those taxes and signed certifications that he'd paid them. When he finally decided to pay, Geithner paid only enough to avoid potential criminal liability for failure to pay taxes. He willfully shortchanged the tax system even though he'd already been reimbursed for the taxes. There is no issue of mistake here. Geithner knew he had a tax obligation, took steps to pay his taxes, and deliberately paid only so much as to avoid criminal liability, but not so much as to pay his entire obligation.

Tags: Treasury, nominee, RedState, Secretary of Treasury, tax cheat, Tim Geither, Leona Helmsley To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Group supports tougher restrictions for worker verification

KARK 4 -Arkansas Matters: A group called Secure Arkansas held a rally inside the State Capitol today to voice its support for a bill that could affect illegal immigration in the state. Rep. Bill Sample filed a bill this week which would require public employers to use a verification process before hiring workers. Secure Arkansas tried and failed to gather signatures to put an immigration issue on the ballot in November. At the capitol today, the group introduced construction workers who claim they are unemployed because they cannot compete with the wages of illegal workers. A group called the Arkansas Friendship Coalition is opposing the bill. The coalition says a similar law in Oklahoma hurt the state’s economy. See KRAK Video & Vote in News Poll on Immigration Bill (Lower right hand side - Go vote)

Tags: Arkansas, illegal immigration, poll, Secure Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Candidates for RNC chair pick up more endorsements

Bill Smith, ARRA Editor: Over the past year, while participating in several national conservative events and serving as the national political director of Conservative Solutions ("Let's Get This Right") in the support of the republican presidential campaign and 23 races for Congress, I met many committed young conservatives working and supporting the Republican Party. In their exuberance and excellent online efforts, they have invested themselves in Rebuilding the Party. They also wish to see a change in the leadership of the GOP. However, even if they are correct that the Republican National Committee (RNC) needs new leadership, it will be the delegates ("old timers") who will decide the fate of the Republican Party.

As detailed in prior articles, the Republican Party needs a person who is able and willing to be the conservative spokesman for the values and principles of the Republican Party. The Party does not need a leader who bends to pressure from incumbent elected republicans. If we stopped and asked people on the street "who is the Chairman of the Republican Party," very few people, even republicans, could answer the question. However, if we asked"who was the Chairman of the Democratic Party" more people could have answered the question. Why? Because the democratic chairman was more visible and outspoken than Republican Chairman Mike Duncan.

This year, let's hope that the RNC delegates will look seriously at the other exceptional candidates for chairmanship of the RNC. We need a person who 1) is a skilled spokesperson capable of challenging the democrat incumbents and their positions and espousing conservative principles, 2) understands web 2.0, social networks, working with the new media (bloggers, vbloggers, et ál) and the power of an independent free market Internet and does not try to control all communication solely through the RNC website, 3) is visible and inspiring thus able to recruit others to join and work with the party, and 4) is honest and open in calling out Republicans when they fail to live up to written Republican Party principles and the Party's platform.

Today's 16 year-olds will vote in 2 years and the 14 year-olds will vote along with their older peers in the next presidential elections. These young conservative voters are active in the new media and social networking. The number of young voters either lost or gained to the GOP will be influenced by the person chosen to be the new RNC Chair. While having willingly supported the current chair, I also agree with a majority of conservatives that it is time for a change in the leadership of the RNC.

However, CNN reports:
For the third straight day this week, incumbent chairman Mike Duncan picked up backing from the party membership, earning the support of Arkansas committee members Jim Burnett and Reta Hamilton. In a letter to party members, Burnett insisted that Duncan not be blamed for the party’s electoral drubbing in November. Instead, he wrote, Duncan managed to raise a record amount of money and compile a substantial e-mail list in the face of a Democratic headwind.

Meanwhile, Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis scored the support of Rhode Island GOP chair Giovanni D. Cicione, who published a letter on Anuzis’ blog praising the Michigander’s energy and commitment to technological innovation.

Duncan leads his opponents with 22 public endorsements, followed by Anuzis, who has 13. South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell each have 12 endorsements. Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele has nine pledged votes, and former Mike Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman has none.
The Tolbert Report identified:
Raising money and compiling email lists are certainly important; however, many younger members of the party are looking to candidates such as Chip Saltsman, Ken Blackwell, Michael Steele, or Saul Anuzis to bring a fresh focus to the party, one that welcomes new members and embraces new technology (two areas where the party did not do well in 2008.) But with few Young Republicans represented on the RNC, there may be little chance of having this concerns considered.

As of this posting, Chairman Doyle Webb (the only other Arkansans having a vote on the RNC) has not yet committed to any one candidate. By all reports, the race is still wide open with the vote to take place on January 28. The question remains will the members of the Committee stick with Duncan out of loyalty to him or will they listen to many party members who are looking for a change.

Tags: delegates, Mike Duncan, RNC, RNC Chairman To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Even Businessmen Deserve a Lawyer

by Arlen Specter & Edwin Meese III: The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Eric Holder's nomination for attorney general has failed to focus on the threat to constitutional rights posed by what is known as the "Holder Memorandum." Near the end of the Clinton administration, this memo changed Justice Department policy regarding the formerly unquestioned right to counsel and to confidential communication with one's counsel.

The Holder memo allowed federal prosecutors to demand waiver of these rights in exchange for characterizing a corporation as "cooperating in an investigation" so that it would not be charged with a crime itself. It thus handed prosecutors a powerful weapon in white-collar criminal investigations. But the result has been a "culture of waiver" in which employees often must choose between their jobs or going to prison, and employers are increasingly reluctant to conduct internal investigations or seek candid legal advice from counsel, lest they be forced to turn over to the government a road map for prosecuting the company.

Much of the 1999 Holder Memorandum is an unobjectionable discussion of factors federal prosecutors should consider in making decisions whether to bring criminal charges. But several of the listed factors struck at the heart of the right to counsel and the attorney-client relationship, as well as the presumption of innocence.

The attorney-client privilege has been protected for centuries by courts and attorneys. Most corporate bylaws and state courts protect an employee's access to adequate legal defense counsel when a criminal investigation relates to some action an individual took in his capacity as employee. But beginning with the Holder memo -- and continuing in two subsequent memos issued in the next administration -- employees not yet convicted (or even charged) were caught between prosecutors who used them as bargaining chips and the companies who employed them but wanted to be deemed "cooperative."

It is our hope that in his confirmation hearings, Mr. Holder will provide assurances that he will review and reverse the effects of his 1999 memorandum.

As is clear from what happened to international accounting firm Arthur Andersen and its 28,000 employees, for many companies federal indictment is instant death. Appellate review comes too late. Because Andersen ceased to operate long before what was left of the firm went on trial, the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of its tenuous conviction was a Pyrrhic victory incapable of bringing the firm back to life or restoring its employees' careers.

The Holder Memorandum policies forced companies under federal investigation to provide the government as much incriminating evidence about their employees as possible. Employers would pressure employees, on threat of termination, to give statements that compromised their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The choices were draconian, regardless of how loyal and well-meaning the employer and employee might be.

Since the Justice Department is the primary federal law-enforcement organization, its policies and practices set the tone for other federal agencies. Similar policies were adopted by the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and others.

The same day in 2008 that the Justice Department issued new, greatly improved -- but regrettably still inadequate -- guidance, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York affirmed an important decision by District Judge Lewis Kaplan in a tax-fraud prosecution of former employees of accounting firm KPMG. Judge Kaplan had held that federal prosecutors, following Justice Department policies, forced the employer to cut off payment of legal fees and otherwise prejudice its employees' rights, thereby violating 13 individuals' Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The appeals court affirmed Judge Kaplan's findings in all respects.

Legislation may be the only way to ensure that these unconstitutional practices are ended. No one questions that we must prosecute white-collar crime vigorously, especially in light of the financial debacles of the past two years. And, like many other questionable tactics, forcing privilege waivers does make the prosecutor's job easier. But the legitimate goals of law enforcement that Mr. Holder had in mind when he issued the Holder Memorandum do not justify chilling the exercise of legal and constitutional rights of employees to seek advice of counsel, and, if they choose, to mount a legal defense. There are reports that some of the far-reaching consequences of the Holder Memorandum were unforeseen by its author. If so, the most straightforward path to rectifying what has gone wrong would be for Mr. Holder to declare in his confirmation hearings that he supports legislation like the Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act and will work with Congress to enact it.
Mr. Specter is a Republican senator from Pennsylvania. Mr. Meese, former attorney general of the United States (1985-1988), is chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

Tags: Arlen Specter, Attorney General, Edwin Meese, Eric Holder, nominee To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Today in Washington D. C. - Jan16, 2009 - #pork #statebooks

Yesterday, the Senate voted 73-21 to pass the omnibus public lands bill (S. 22). As Americans for Limited Government points out, "Without question, the $10 billion, 1296-page, pork-laden legislation . . . may seem to the spendthrift salons like a pittance compared to $700 billion for TARP funds they’re already in the process of dealing out, or $300 billion for foreclosure “prevention”. But, it still represents about $67 for every adult in America. And in today’s economy, they would undoubtedly prefer to take the cash. The Reid-Omnibus giveaway represents a culture of favors, kickbacks, and payoffs to favored special interests. It includes such gems as $5 million for botanical gardens in Florida and Hawaii, $14 million for tropical research in Panama, $12 million for an orchid museum in Maryland, and $1 billion to rescue salmon in California. Were that not enough, the bill also would on substance cordon off more than 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 300 million barrels of oil out of production in Wyoming."

They the Senate voted 72-23 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Ledbetter bill (S. 181). A number of Republicans voted for cloture so that they could offer amendments to the bill. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has a substitute amendment pending. Later in the day, a disapproval resolution (S. J. Res. 5) on releasing the second installment of tarp funding failed by a vote of 42-52.

After more than three months of talking about an economic stimulus bill, House Democrats finally unveiled the text of an actual bill yesterday with a massive $825 billion price tag. But with the bill fresh off the presses, there some Democrats are already warning it might not be enough. The Washington Post writes today, “The House measure is far larger than lawmakers envisioned when the stimulus idea surfaced last fall and, as the recession shows signs of worsening, Democrats predict the price tag could grow to nearly $1 trillion before the bill reaches Obama’s desk.” According to the AP, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) told reporters, “This product may in fact undershoot the mark.”

And McClatchy reports that some Democrats are warning the spending bill won’t really do much: “In a summary of the legislation provided by [Obey] Democrats warned that the bill won't be a cure-all. ‘The economy is in such trouble that, even with passage of this package, unemployment rates are expected to rise to between 8 and 9 percent this year. Without this package, we are warned that unemployment could explode to near 12 percent,’ the summary said.”

On top of that, every week there are new reports of dubious spending proposals in the bill. Just this week we’ve heard about sod for the National Mall, eliminating dairy cows to drive up milk prices, and $650 million for TV converter boxes. Are these things really going to stimulate the economy?

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats lined up to support President-elect Barack Obama yesterday, as they voted to allow the second $350 billion installment of TARP funds go through. Politico writes today, “Only eight Democrats opposed Obama; most striking was his success among Democratic freshmen, many of whom campaigned against the same banking bailout fund last fall. Of these seven, only Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) opposed Obama on his request. By contrast, the two Udall cousins, Mark of Colorado and Tom of New Mexico, backed Obama after twice voting against the initial $700 billion bailout when they were House members.

“‘Circumstances have changed,’ said the new Sen. Tom Udall. Indeed, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, who used the bailout issue as a political lever to help oust former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), also backed the president-elect. And Republicans winced when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) backed the request after running ads attacking Republican Sen. Gordon Smith for supporting Treasury last fall.”

Tags: Congressional Pork, Harry Reid, lands bill, pork, TARP, US Congress, US House, US Senate, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

President George W. Bush Farewell Address

President Bush Makes Farewell Address to the Nation - Part 1

President Bush Makes Farewell Address to the Nation - Part 2

Tags: farwell address, President, President George Bush, United States, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obama Dines With Conservative Columnists

Fox News: President-elect Barack Obama has filled his administration with the occasional critic, but he met with the real team of rivals Tuesday night. The incoming president dined with a table full of conservative columnists and commentators at the home of George Will just outside Washington.

Little is known about what was discussed at the unusual rendezvous since the dinner was off the record, meaning those in attendance are expected not to spill the beans about any details. But by breaking bread with some of his top critics, Obama could defuse tension and even soften their assessments of his early days in office. Notable guests at Will's home included the National Review's Rich Lowry, columnist Charles Krauthammer, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan and Paul Gigot, The New York Times' David Brooks and columnist Larry Kudlow. Several of the guests are frequent FOX News guests and contributors.

An Obama transition aide said the president-elect plans to attend "similar gatherings" in the months ahead. Indeed, Obama met with a group of liberal columnists and commentators Wednesday morning, reported. They included The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, The New York Times' Maureen Dowd and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
See More: Obama dines at George Will's home & Conservatives sworn to secrecy over dinner with Obama

Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, conservatives, George Will, Peggy Noonan To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Today in Washington D. C. - Jan15, 2009

Yesterday, the Senate resumed consideration of the omnibus public lands bill (S.22). The Senate voted 68-24 to invoke cloture on the bill. Reid has said that after the lands bill is completed, he wants the Senate to take up a retread from last year, the Lilly Ledbetter bill.

In Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments, problems are surfacing for some of Obama’s picks, notably for treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, labor secretary nominee Rep. Hilda Solis, and Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. It came to light that Geithner “failed to pay $34,000 in taxes and employed a housekeeper without proper immigration papers,” according to The Associated Press. The AP story went on to point out that “the delinquent-tax part of the new disclosure, in particular, is a huge liability for Geithner, given that as treasury secretary he would oversee the Internal Revenue Service.”

A Washington Post columnist detailed that Obama’s Labor nominee doesn’t want to talk about labor policy. Solis declined to offer her views on whether federal construction projects should be open to both union and non-union bids, on state right-to-work laws, and most importantly on potential card check legislation and commented "How can senators consent if they have no clue what policies they might be consenting to?”

Today at noon, the Senate will resume consideration of the omnibus public lands bill (S.22). After 10 minutes of debate, senators will vote on final passage of the bill. Following that vote, the Senate will vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to the Ledbetter bill (S. 181). It is likely that the Ledbetter bill will garner enough votes to move to its consideration, as Republicans are looking to offer amendments, provided that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t block them from doing so. The Ledbetter bill is designed to eliminate statutes of limitations on suing employers over discrimination. In other words, 2o, 30 , 40 years later a business could be sued no matter what the merits or lenght of time that has passed. A litigation nightmare.

Later in the day, the Senate could vote on a resolution of disapproval of release of the second installment of TARP funds. If the resolution is defeated, the Treasury department will get the $350 billion it is seeking.

Early this morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee began its hearing on the nomination of Eric Holder to be attorney general. In addition, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) to be interior secretary, the Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Susan Rice to be U.N. ambassador, and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) to be homeland security secretary.

Of the four Senate confirmation hearings, primary attention is focused on the confirmation of Eric Holder to be attorney general. Republicans are concerned about a number of problems that have surfaced about Holder’s previous work, in and out of the Justice Department. Republicans particularly wish to hear more about Holder’s connections with impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the extent of the work he performed for Blagojevich in 2004. The Los Angeles Times reports today: GOP senators “want to know the details of that arrangement, and why Holder initially left out any mention of it -- and of his relationship to the now-disgraced Illinois governor -- in the disclosure form that he was required to file with the committee for his confirmation.”

Roll Call presented issues that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, is looking to explore at the hearing today: “Specter, in a floor speech earlier this month, listed a number of areas of concern for Republicans, notably Holder’s role in pardons for millionaire Clinton donor Marc Rich and a group of Puerto Rican terrorists at the end of the Clinton administration. . . . Specter is also expected to grill Holder today on the extent of his work for Blagojevich. In 2004, the Illinois governor hired Holder to conduct a review of allegations that organized crime was involved in the state’s issuing of a controversial gaming license.”

In an editorial today, The Washington Post says, “Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should press attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. today about his role in and his rationale for supporting or not standing in the way of questionable pardons and commutations granted by President Bill Clinton.” The Post writes that “Mr. Holder must be candid in addressing the pardons to put to rest any possible questions about his motives or his ability to stand up to the White House.”

Meanwhile, CQ Today raises another issue noting that Holder would be the official to implement any decision from the Obama administration to “undo the retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies” that participated in the terrorist surveillance program. Any changes to the program would be made in light of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s recent ruling that the program passes legal muster, as The New York Times reports today.

All of this, of course, comes on the heels of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s sudden withdrawal on Jan. 4 from consideration as commerce secretary because of a federal investigation into how his political donors received a transportation contract. However, it is expected, unless other items surface, that most nominees will be confirmed without issues. Of interest is the comparison of nominees. In the past, Senator Hillary Clinton, the nominee for Secretary of State, was seen as "the liberal," but in comparison with many of president-elect Obama's other nominees, Clinton seems to be relatively more conservative than the others. As the world turns, another day and events in Washington D. C. reveal interesting insights and shadows.

Tags: public lands bill, Barack Obama, cabinet, nominations, confirmations, US Congress, US Senate, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stop the Bailout for Trial Lawyers!

Eagle Forum: Call your Senators today and urge them to vote against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act! Last Friday, in one of its first actions of the 111th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. Although the bills purport to ensure equal pay for men and women, in truth they are a stimulus package for trial lawyers and liberal/feminist special-interest groups.

The Senate is expected to vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R.11) as early as Wednesday of this week. This Act would eliminate the current statute of limitations (either 180 or 300 days, depending on the state of employment) on discrimination claims so that a worker can sue in federal court for alleged pay discrimination 20 years earlier. The statute of limitations was included to prevent frivolous lawsuits against which employers are not able to effectively defend themselves. For example, the bill's namesake, Lilly Ledbetter, who worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber for more than 19 years and retired from the company with benefits, brought suit more than a decade after the alleged discrimination when her allegedly discriminatory supervisor was long dead.

The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.12), which is not yet scheduled for a vote but is sure to follow, would remove existing statutory caps and allow for unlimited money damages to be awarded, even without proof of discriminatory intent. It would mandate new federal "guidelines" about the relative worth of different types of jobs, a long-sought feminist goal called "comparable worth," which means imposing wage control by freezing wages of jobs traditionally held by men and inflating wages of jobs traditionally held by women.

At a time when more than 11 million Americans are unemployed, the highest unemployment rate in sixteen years, these bills would expose large and small companies to vast new liabilities extending back decades. What our economy needs now is for businesses to hire more workers in America, but they are not going to do that if it means exposing themselves to expensive and frivolous litigation. The only things these two bills will stimulate are more litigation and a further exodus of jobs out of the United States. The Senate will be in session this week, so the vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act could come as early as Wednesday, January 14th. Call your senators!
Tags: action alert, Eagle Forum, Fair Pay Act, Paycheck, US Senate To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Today in Washington D. C. - Jan 13, 2009

The Senate will resume consideration of the omnibus public lands bill (S.22). Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on the bill, and a vote could come tomorrow. Reid has said that after the lands bill is completed, he wants the Senate to take up a retread from last year, the Lilly Ledbetter bill, which is designed to eliminate statutes of limitations on suing employers over discrimination.

A week before his inauguration, president-elect Barack Obama is getting a taste today of the difficulty of actually governing the country. Obama will be making his way to Capitol Hill later in the day to ask Democrats in Congress to approve the second $350 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (a.k.a. the financial rescue bill). However, CQ Today writes, “[A] nasty battle is brewing in Congress between supporters of releasing the funds and those who have voiced considerable discontent over the way Treasury allocated the first half of the funding for its Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), enacted last October (PL 110-343). Congress now has 15 days to block the move through a resolution of disapproval, which already has been introduced in the House.” And USA Today notes, “The request sets up what could be Obama’s first confrontation with Congress, which is controlled by his fellow Democrats.” Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reports that “[s]ome Senate Democrats remain skeptical” of the plan and “[Senate] Republicans who originally supported the plan may be unwilling to support another round.”

The New York Times reports, “The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he was reluctant to provide the additional money. ‘The American people have a lot of questions about how additional funds would be used,’ Mr. McConnell said. ‘I would be hard pressed to support additional funding for the TARP without sufficient assurances this money will not be wasted, misspent or simply used for more industry-specific bailouts.’” Sen. McConnell added on the Senate floor this morning, “The current administration used these funds for the auto industry, a move that I opposed. Now Congressional Democrats are urging more of the same. The American people still don’t have assurances that this money will not be wasted or misused to play favorites. So far, the incoming administration has not said whether it plans to limit funds to their original purpose or to expand their use to help specific industries.”

This is not the only trouble Obama is running into with Congress. The Washington Post writes today, “Bowing to widespread Democratic skepticism, President-elect Barack Obama will drop his bid to include a business tax break he once touted in the economic stimulus bill now taking shape on Capitol Hill, aides said last night.” Obama's hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, has an editorial today voicing skepticism of Obama’s stimulus plans. The editors write, “The danger [of the close to $1 trillion stimulus proposal] is that we may inflict on future taxpayers the better part of a trillion dollars in new debt without actually hastening recovery.”

Finally, after going back and forth on what he planned to do on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for terrorists, Obama aides say he plans to issue an executive order next week to close the prison. But The New York Times writes today that it’s not so easy to follow through on this plan, given the legal and national security issues involved. From confrontations with Congress over controversial programs to criticism from his hometown newspaper to trying to figure out how to fulfill a pledge, Obama is finding that it’s never as easy as it sounds on the campaign trail.

Tags: Barack Obama, US Congress, US House, US Senate, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today in Washington D. C. - Jan 12, 2009

Yesterday, the Senate voted 66-12 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the omnibus parks bill (S. 22). A final vote on the bill could come in the next day or two. Reid has said that after the lands bill is completed, he wants the Senate to take up a retread from last year, the Lilly Ledbetter bill, which is designed to eliminate statutes of limitations on suing employers over discrimination.

Over the past week, Senate committees have begun confirmation hearings for President-elect Barack Obama’s nominees. Hearings on the nomination of Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration, are set to being on Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the have been a number of troubling stories about Holder and his actions when he was last working for the Department of Justice over the last week.

Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Attorney general nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. repeatedly pushed some of his subordinates at the Clinton Justice Department to drop their opposition to a controversial 1999 grant of clemency to 16 members of two violent Puerto Rican nationalist organizations, according to interviews and documents.” Over the weekend, The New York Times reported, “Chiquita was facing the prospect of federal charges for paying protection money to Colombian terrorists to safeguard its banana crops, and the company needed help. It turned to Eric H. Holder Jr., an elite Washington lawyer well versed in the ways of the Justice Department.”

The Washington Post noted all these threads in a Saturday article and added another: “In a pointed effort to scrub Holder’s past, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and two other leading GOP Judiciary Committee members submitted a public records request this week to Illinois officials, seeking information on a thwarted $300,000 legal services contract that Holder won from now-disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).”

Last week, The New York Times noted that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, was critical of Holder over many of these issues.

And the Los Angeles Times reports that “Senate Judiciary Committee staffers vetting Eric H. Holder Jr.’s nomination for attorney general said Friday they are seeking testimony from the Justice Department’s former pardon attorney as they inquire into Holder’s role in the 1999 grant of clemency to members of a Puerto Rican terrorist organization.”

All of these issues signal to The Wall Street Journal that Holder will face tough questions at his hearings this week. And Politico deems Holder one of “5 coming confirmation collisions” in the Senate.

Meanwhile, on the legislative front, members of Obama’s economic team met with Senate Democrats over the weekend about their proposals for a stimulus package. Politico reports that “Senate Democrats praised the President-elect’s team for agreeing to make changes to its stimulus proposal based off of concerns senators raised last week at a meeting with the president-elect’s senior aides.” This is an interesting report, given that most of the complaints from Democrats last week seemed to focus on the inclusion of tax cuts in the package. Is Obama planning to walk back the amount of tax relief in his proposal?

Tags: Eric Holder, parks bill, trial lawyers, US Congress, US Senate, Washington D.C. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Arkansas House Speaker Robbie Wills Discusses Upcoming Session

Jason Tolbert, The Tolbert Report, sat down with Democrat Speaker of the Arkansas House Robbie Wills to discuss the upcoming session.
In the first video, Rep. Wills discusses the two biggest issues of the upcoming session, the lottery and the state trauma system. We also talked about the blog that Wills just launched.
In the second video, Rep. Wills discusses the lottery proposal in greater detail. He discusses areas of agreement with Lt.Gov. Bill Halter as well as some disagreements. We also discuss ways to hold the lottery accountable by putting the proper oversights in place.
Rep. Wills talks about his view on the Governor’s Commission on Global Warming and their final report, which as he points out he discusses on his blog. Rep. Wills admits that he does believe that Global Warming exists and that man plays a role but feels that most of the Commission’s Recommendations will not be put into effect.

Tags: Arkansas, House, Robbie Willis, The Tolbert Report, video To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Impact of Increased Smoking Taxes on Arkansas

Arkansas seems to be setting on a two edge sword when it comes to relying on cigarette smokers to be the source of more revenue. On one hand, last Tuesday, Governor Beebe said that he will ask state lawmakers to increase Arkansas’ cigarette tax to raise money for a trauma system and other health-related needs. He identified that he will seek 50 cents or higher. The tax is now 59 cents per pack. Beebe said it would cost $28 million to fund three Level 1 trauma centers, the facilities in the system that would provide the highest level of care. He detailed that Revenue from a cigarette tax hike would go into the General Revenue Fund, and money not used for the trauma system could go to other health-related programs. Gov. Beebe said, “If a trauma system costs $28 million and $71 million is what’s raised, then obviously it’s a lot more than a trauma system. It’s a health care program.”

Before moving to the next point, Who is promoting cigarette sales? Arkansas has introduced numerous programs in the public school system to reduce the the use of cigarettes and thus the sale of cigarettes in hopes of eliminating future health risk problems. Is it now patriotic to smoke and thaus help pay more taxes to fund not only one but three trauma centers and unnamed medical programs? Does cigarette smoking cause medical traumas? Consider what happens when the number of smokers declines to the point that there is not enough revenue to fund all the various medical programs that may come into existence due to Gov. Beebe's anticipate surplus from this cigarette tax increase. History shows that once programs are in place, they tend to stay in place. But, then the programs would need be funded through other forms of taxation not just on smokers but on everyone.

While we think over Beebe's increased "sin tax" on smoking, consider the other side of "cigarette tax" sword hanging over Arkansas. Remember those big Tobacco settlements and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) from which Arkansas benefited and was to benefit in the future. Remember when we didn't use the initial settlement money for funding medical programs at universities (but no trauma centers) and lots of non-medical programs. Well, if a proposed $0.61 federal excise tax increase is implemented, the total annual MSA payments Arkansas payments to Arkansas could decline by $4.06 to $4.57 million per year.

One might call this the hypocrisy side of SCHIP. With increased benefits under SCHIPS comes the resultant increased cigarette tax. The following report shows just how much this tax would end up costing the state. Yes, it was prepared by Altria Client Services Inc. for the Philip Morris USA Inc. But the fact remains that an increased federal cigarette excise tax could impact the revenues that Arkansas receives from its share of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and its state excise tax revenues. Below is a "to the point" footnoted report for your review. And, smokers, we may not love your smoke, but Democrats love the taxes you can pay. So "light 'em up," while you can afford it.

Arkansas’ Tobacco Settlement Payments
Under the Tobacco Settlement Agreements,1 the amount paid by participating manufacturers is adjusted annually based on the volume of their shipments. The proposed tax increase, with its potential impact on tax-paid cigarette sales, could therefore cause Arkansas’ settlement payments to decline. Arkansas is entitled to 0.83% of the annual MSA payments made to all participating states. If a $0.61 federal excise tax increase is implemented, the total annual MSA payments could fall by an estimated $522 million to $587 million. 2 The payment to Arkansas could therefore decline by $4.06 to $4.57 million per year. Arkansas has securitized the first $5 million of its annual payments through 2046.3 Outside of this securitized mount, which would not be affected by a decline in MSA payments,the state could lose between $4.06 and $4.57 million per year.

Arkansas’ Excise Tax Revenues
In addition, the reduction in tax-paid cigarette sales that is expected to follow a federal cigarette tax increase of this magnitude would negatively impact the state's excise tax revenues. Arkansas currently collects $0.59 per pack for every tax-paid cigarette sale in the state. If the proposed $0.61 federal excise tax increase is implemented, the state could lose between $10.01 and $11.27 million per year in state excise tax revenues.4
1 Tobacco Settlement Agreements include the Master Settlement Agreement ("MSA") and separate agreements with Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas. All of the tobacco settlement agreements adjust their payments for changes in domestic volume. The MSA payments also account for volume changes in Puerto Rico, and roll-your-own product.
2 These figures are based on an estimated reduction in tax-paid cigarette sales following the proposed $0.61 per pack federal excise tax increase. Totals may not add due to rounding. The estimates of cigarette price elasticity that are used in this paper are 10 years old and estimated the impact of price increases on consumer demand for cigarettes, not the impact of tax increases on tax-paid cigarette sales. The impact of cigarette excise tax increases on tax-paid cigarette sales has been the subject of a number of recent analyses. See: Cigarette Purchasing Patterns Among New York Smokers: Implications for Health, Price, and Revenue, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, (March 2006); Michigan's Cigarette and Tobacco Taxes 2005 Statistical Update, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, (July 2006); Illinois' Cigarette Tax, Tobacco Products Tax, and Tobacco Settlement Update, ILLINOIS COMMISSION ON GOVERNMENT FORECASTING AND ACCOUNTABILITY, (July 2006). Calculations are based on elasticity assumptions forwarded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office ("CBO") in connection with Congressional hearings in 1998. Testimony by Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets Gary Gensler before the Senate Democratic Task Force on Tobacco, Treasury News, (May 13, 1998); Proposed Tobacco Settlement Issues From a Federal Perspective, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE, (April 1998). These elasticity estimates are based on testimony given in 1998, and reflect a general estimate of elasticity at that time, when prices for cigarettes were lower. The actual elasticity for a $0.61 federal tax increase could be different today. Philip Morris USA does not necessarily agree with, or endorse, the assumptions contained in this model. According to the Department of Agriculture, estimates of the price elasticity of demand for cigarettes range from -0.28 to -0.80, with most clustering between -0.40 and -0.75. Gale, H. Fredrick Jr. et. al., Tobacco and the Economy: Farms, Jobs and Communities, US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Agricultural Economic Report No. 789, (November, 2002). It is assumed that all manufacturers pass through the proposed tax increase and that the trade maintains its margins. The price increases in this analysis are for demonstration and comparison purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the actual price increases that may be passed on by either Philip Morris USA or any other tobacco company. In the absence of any mandatory price pass-through, each manufacturer would need to determine how much of the increased tax it will pass on to adult smokers. The price change also includes the maintenance of a trade margin of 17.2% and sales taxes. This margin is derived from: Thomas Capehart, The Changing Tobacco User's Dollar, US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, TBS-257-01, (October 2004). Data is based on a weighted average price from Bill Orzechowski and Rob Walker,
The Tax Burden on Tobacco, Vol. 42, (February 2008), funded by Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies, and proprietary nationwide volume data gathered by PricewaterhouseCoopers in their capacity as auditor for the MSA. An adjustment to payments for the growth of non-participating manufacturers’ sales is not included in these figures. Market share, volume adjustment and inflation figures used to estimate the MSA payments are from: Independent Auditor's Notice of Preliminary Calculations for the Tobacco Litigation Master Settlement Agreement Subsection IX(c)(1) Account Payments Due April 15, 2007, Notice ID: 0211. Using the Treasury's -0.45 estimate of the price elasticity of demand, nationwide sales would fall by about 1,467 million packs. Under the CBO's -0.40 elasticity the national decline would be 1,304 million packs. Using volume data for the year 2007, and based on the Treasury's elasticity assumptions, the volume adjustment provisions in the tobacco settlement agreements would have led to a $587 million reduction in the total annual MSA payments, and a $4.57 million reduction in Arkansas’ annual payment. Note that the sum of all the payment reductions to the 46 MSA states will add up to 98.8% the total MSA payment reduction. The 1.2% difference relates to the Smokeless Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
3 Securitization information is based upon research performed by Hunton & Williams LLP, funded by Altria Corporate Services, June 2007.
4 Following the proposed $0.61 FET increase, Arkansas’ tax-paid cigarette sales could fall by 19.09 million packs. Arkansas currently collects $0.59 per pack in excise taxes, according to Bill Orzechowski and Rob Walker, The Tax Burden on Tobacco, vol. 42, (February 2008); funded by Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies. This reduction in tax-paid sales could result in a loss of $11.27 million in state excise tax revenues.

ARRA Editor's End Note: We do not endorse smoking, nor do we endorse relying on smoking taxes to fund needed services. We would prefer that politicans and elected officials equally follow the same criteria asked of smokers, "butt out."

Tags: Arkansas, excise tax, federal government, Mike Beebe, smoking, taxes, tobacco settlement To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Rep. Roy Blunt Rejoins GOP House Leadership

Both Politico reports and Roll Call have reported that Republican Leader John A. Boehner (OH) rewarded Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt this weekend for making that decision by formally naming him to a newly established leadership post. Blunt will oversee the ranking Republicans on each committee, helping them coordinate with party leaders, one senior GOP aide said. "The leader has asked Mr. Blunt to be part of the leadership team, focusing on ranking members and integrating them more into leadership strategies," the aide said. Rep. Blunt saved his fellow House Republicans from some post-election turmoil by stepping aside as the party's whip late last year. The decision allowed Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Blunt's top deputy – and Boehner's top potential rival – to become the No. 2 Republican in the House without a fight.

Tags: GOP, House Republicans, Missouri, Roy Blunt, US House To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

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