Prosecutors request a delay in his sentencing from the end of March to June “in order to allow Mr. Abramoff’s cooperation to continue uninterrupted.”
In what has become somewhat of an annual ritual, Congress yesterday voted to raise the debt limit once again””this time to $8.97 trillion (yes that’s with a T). How can we make sure the debt will absolutely explode? Granting President Bush’s wish to make the tax cuts permanent.
This year’s projected $423 billion deficit sounds (and is) enormous, but the President’s tax cuts are yet to take full effect. By early next decade, the tax cuts alone will add over $400 billion a year to the national debt, when you count associated interest.
One of the biggest culprits in this looming fiscal train wreck: permanent repeal of the estate tax. According to the latest estimates, repealing the estate tax will cost over three quarters of a trillion dollars in the next decade (2012-2021) even without additional interest costs.
Knowing it’s an enormous price tag for something that will only benefit the wealthiest 0.5% of estates, some Senators have started shopping alleged “compromises.” Unfortunately, these compromises are about as bad as repeal. One discussed by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley would cost nearly 85% as much as eliminating the tax altogether.
It will take a lot of work to get the country back the right fiscal track, but ensuring responsible reform of the estate tax wins out over a reckless giveaway to our wealthiest estates is a good start.
– Josh Lynn
Yesterday was Freedom of Information Day, celebrating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law passed 40 years ago that gives ordinary citizens the power scrutinize government documents. Among the most vocal supporters of the FOIA bill in 1966? Freshman congressman Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois, an original co-sponsor of the legislation. Rumsfeld’s call for the new FOIA bill, 1966:
Disclosure of government information is particularly important today because government is becoming involved in more and more of aspects of every citizen’s personal and business life, and so access to government information about how government is exercising its trust becomes increasingly important.
Forty years later, Rumsfeld seems to have forgotten his calls for open government:
Now, is there a tendency to overclassify in government? You bet! It’s a human instinct when you’re involved with sensitive materials to err on the side of — well, you know this; we’re in the business — to err on the side of classification.
Today, Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense has one of the worst records responding to FOIA requests. Just this week, the Pentagon refused a request by the Associated Press to release information about the identities of Guantanamo detainees.
Somewhere along the line, Rumsfeld became what he fought against in 1966: a government official with “a vested interest in the machinery of their agencies and bureaus” who resent “any attempt to oversee their activities, either by the public, the Congress or appointed department heads.”
– Mike Darner
Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that right-wing members of the House of Representatives defeated an amendment by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately-needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked if the President was disappointed. Watch it:
McClellan claimed “we are doing everything we can to protect our ports.” That’s just not true. For example, one of the programs McClellan touted today – the Container Security Initiative – is only in operation at 43 of the 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States due to chronic underfunding. The Sabo amendment would have provided an additional $300 million in funding, enough to extend the program to all 140 ports.
Full Transcript: Read more
Yesterday, former National Security Advisor Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski gave a speech on the Iraq war at the Center for American Progress. Some choice excerpts –
On the politics of fear:
But it is a part of this atmosphere of Manichean polarization which is being bred by a phony definition of reality. Neither President Truman nor Eisenhower – Democrat and Republican – ever spoke of America being a “nation at war” during the Korean War. Neither President Johnson nor Nixon ever spoke of America being a “nation at war” during the Vietnam War. Yes we have a serious challenge from the potential threat of terrorism and we have to wage an unrelenting struggle against it. But to describe America repeatedly as a nation at war – implicitly of course with a commander and chief in charge – is to contribute to a view of the world by America that stimulates fear and isolates us from others. Other nations have suffered more from terrorism than America. None of them has embraced that definition of reality.
On the Bush administration’s Iran policy:
We are not negotiating with the Iranians. … We will not touch the Iranians. Why not? Are we perhaps trying to prevent a compromise? Do we really want Iran to desist, or do we want to drive it into extremism? It surely cannot be our deliberate intention to fuse Iranian nationalism with Iranian fundamentalism. But that is precisely what we are doing.
On the costs of the Iraq war: Read more
If you’re a corporation and you develop software, you deduct your costs from your taxes. And, in many cases, you can take an R&D Tax Credit. But if you’re an individual and you develop open source software — i.e., Firefox or WordPress — you eat those costs.
Individuals developing open source software should have the same tax incentives as corporations, which is why we’ve developed a proposal for an Open Source Tax Credit.
The code is pretty simple: if you develop open source software on your own time, you should be able to deduct part of your out-of-pocket costs as a credit on your income taxes.
The cost to the government would be minimal, but we would take an important step in recognizing the contribution open source developers are making to our communities and our economy. You can read the full economic analysis of this proposal here. Let us know what you think.
On Wednesday, ThinkProgress reported that three interest groups confirmed they paid speaking fees to Chris Matthews. Yesterday, we were contacted by MSNBC President Rick Kaplan who elaborated the blanket denial (“Totally untrue”¦totally”) he provided to ThinkProgress pre-publication. According to Kaplan, while these groups may have paid fees for Matthews to speak, the fees did not go to Matthews directly, but to a charity of Matthews’s choosing. Kaplan added that NBC policy prohibited anchors from personally accepting speaking fees and anyone who did so “would risk being fired.”
All 21 airports in a recent government test failed to detect bomb-making materials during security screenings. “Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one stopped these materials.”
$29.3 million: The amount spent in the last round of port security grants — more than 20 percent of the total — on projects that “did not meet national security priorities,” according to the Homeland Security Inspector General.
The New York Times profiles former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s new life as a Washington lobbyist. Ashcroft tries to hard to position himself as the anti-Abramoff. But for someone with no business experience, “What is he selling other than connections and knowledge of how to game the system from being attorney general?”
Senate conservatives introduced a bill yesterday that would allow President Bush to continue spying on Americans without obtaining warrants. Despite new oversights, Arlen Specter (R-PA) said, the government could still “do whatever the hell it wants” for 45 days without seeking judicial or congressional approval. Read more