Morning Briefing: September 12, 2011

In a USA Today op-ed, GOP presidential front runner Gov. Rick Perry (TX) vowed to be “honest” about the “dire financial challenges facing” Social Security. Repeatedly calling the program a “Ponzi scheme,” Perry said politicians “must have the guts” to “speak frankly about entitlement reform.”

After a “disappointing” performance at the last debate, GOP candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) will try to recapture early momentum in tonight’s Tea Party debate by hitting Perry on Social Security. Not perceived as “a big enough threat” last time, Bachmann will “showcas[e] her strengths” as a Tea Party favorite in a debate that will be “a crucial part” of her “overall strategy.”

The Washington Post reports that low capital gains tax rates are fueling the gap between rich Americans and everyone else. Capital gains disproportionately benefit the ultra-wealth and are capped at 15 percent, which means “most of the richest Americans pay lower overall tax rates than middle-class Americans do.” Some lawmakers are targeting those rates as a key way to reduce the deficit.

According to polls, Republicans are poised to win the New York congressional seat vacated by Anthony Weiner (D), a big upset in a heavily Democratic district. Republican Bob Turner is leading Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, 47 percent to 41 percent. The race is being interpreted as a symptom of President Obama’s unpopularity.

President Obama will send his American Jobs Act to Congress today as he uses a morning Rose Garden appearance to once again press lawmakers to pass the bill. Congress reconvenes this evening.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Newsmax TV that he believes Israel would launch a military attack against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. “Iran represents an existential threat, and [the Israelis] will do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security,” said Cheney.

Wildfires that are still burning in Texas have so far destroyed more than 1,500 homes. The worst of the fires, near Bastrop, Texas, has destroyed more than 34,000 acres, and officials say it is only 50 percent contained.

Shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a group of Jewish rabbis took part in an anti-Islamophobia event. “Ten years after 9/11, it has somehow become respectable to verbally attack Muslims and Islam in America,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie said. Rabbi Steve Gutow added, “Our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer exactly that in all corners of this great country of ours. Today is a day to stand up and say we have had enough.”

And finally: Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, whose every-man image took a hit after he was caught taking a Meditation cruise this summer, was spotted last night a $1,000-a-plate black-tie fundraising dinner for the opening of a new Opera at the Kennedy Center. Gingrich told the Washington City Paper that he has been a season ticketholder and donor to the Washington opera for “ten, maybe eleven years.”

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