All Articles Tagged "legislation"

Look Out Below! We’re Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

December 31st, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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President Obama during his press conference today, standing before middle class Americans who would be impacted by higher taxes. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Obama during his press conference today, standing before middle class Americans who would be impacted by higher taxes. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

After some late nights and a full day (New Year’s Eve, no less) of negotiation, it looks like we’re going over the fiscal cliff. At least temporarily.

January 1 was the deadline for resolution to avoid tax hikes and other economic changes that are set to expire when the ball drops. But with Congress (perpetually) at an impasse, it’s been decided that there will not be a vote in the House of Representatives, which will technically send us over the cliff.

Despite technically toppling from the precipice, President Obama said in a press conference today (in a rather light-hearted way, much to the dismay of Sen. John McCain) that a resolution is “in sight.”

“The potential agreement that’s being talked about would not only make sure the taxes don’t go up on middle class families, it also would extend tax credits for families with children,” he said. “It would extend our tuition tax credit that’s helped millions of families pay for college. It would extend tax credits for clean energy companies creating jobs and reducing our dependence and foreign oil. It would extend unemployment insurance to two million Americans out there actively looking for a job.”

Despite the President’s entreaties to come to a solution, there are still items to be hashed out, specifically, the “sequester.” As CNBC explains, the “sequester” is a series of spending cuts that are involved in the negotiations. It’s agreed that those cuts will be delayed, but the question is how long. Oh CONGRESS!!

It sounds like the Republicans and Democrats have decided to raise $600 billion in revenue by raising taxes on those individuals who earn more than $400,000 and families earning more than $450,000, up from the $250,000 that the President had been pushing for. Estate taxes will also go up and unemployment benefits will be extended, according to CNBC. VP Joe Biden even got involved in the negotiation, adding a veteran Congressional voice to the discussion.

House Speaker John Boehner had proposed that the tax increase threshold be set at $1 million and estate taxes remain the same.

We interpreted the President’s press conference tone as one that reflects the general feeling of the population. It’s been confirmed that this Congress — the 112th — has passed the fewest number of bills than any in decades. And the negotiations on this fiscal cliff situation have become just plain ridiculous and simply politically motivated at times.

While his tone was less than grave, the President stood his ground with regards to where he draws the line. He said:

If Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone — and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that sort of after today we are just going to try to shove only spending cuts down — shove spending cuts at us — that will hurt seniors or hurt students or hurt middle class families without asking also equivalent sacrifice from million airs or companies with a lot of lobbyists. If they think that’s going to be the formula for how we solve this thing, then they have got another think coming.

Despite the not-so-good news, the stock market responded in the affirmative, with the Dow Jones going up 166 points. The Nasdaq also closed up 60 points. The news that sent the markets up was the tax break.

Still, there is uncertainty about how the stocks will react in the days to come if a final deal isn’t reached, says USA Today.

Drink Water Instead: The Price of Milk Could Go Up to $8

December 28th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

They’re calling it the “dairy cliff,” and if we go over it, there are threats of $8 milk.

Along with the much-discussed “fiscal cliff,” which could cause a spike in taxes, January 1 is also the deadline for Congress to deal with a farm bill. Failure to pass this latest legislation could cause prices on dairy products to leap.

According to The Washington Post, the bill also deals with things like foreign relief aid and production issues to do with other food items. But because milk is produced all year round, it’s the most pressing item on the list.

Food costs for consumers could jump because of the outdated pricing laws that would go into effect, some going as far back as 1949, well before modern methods for farm production and sales went into effect. “[I]f Congress does not pass the bill by March, when it’s time for farmers to start planting crops, the antiquated laws could begin to roil production for other products, from peanuts to corn, by applying quotas discarded years ago,” the paper writes.

NPR is betting that the price of milk won’t actually reach this eye-popping $8 price that’s being buzzed about, which would be more than double the national average. “Dramatically higher milk prices won’t help Congress’ reputation for political gridlock. Farmers wouldn’t like it either,” that outlet’s blog says, citing the fact that it would bring unwanted attention to farm policy issues. It would also ultimately reduce demand, as consumers shy away from costly foods in favor of less expensive options. (Issues of food policy go largely unnoticed in this country, but play a big role in determining the American diet. Bestsellers like this and this go into further detail.)

More than anything, it speaks to Congress’ inability to do its job in the harsh and partisan environment that has taken over Washington. Parts of this farm bill actually expired in October. This coupled with the fiscal cliff are two reasons why the legislative bodies’ approval rating hovers around 18 percent.

FEMA Tells Katrina Victims It Wants Its Money Back

December 29th, 2011 - By Brande Victorian
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No one will ever forget how poorly the government handled Hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans in 2005, and now to add insult to injury, FEMA is asking victims to return money they received from the natural disaster.

More than 83,000 debt notices have been mailed out to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma who FEMA says it paid improperly. The federal agency is attempting to recover more than $385 million, or roughly $4,600 per person. The amount represents slightly less than 5% of the roughly $8 billion that FEMA distributed after the storms, and according to congressional testimony, at least a portion of the overpayments were due to FEMA employees’ own mistakes such as clerical errors and failing to interview applicants.

Despite the fact that the improper payments weren’t the recipients fault, FEMA says it is required by law to make an effort to recover the money. Last week Congress approved legislation that would allow the agency to waive most of the debts and FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen says they are reviewing the law’s provisions and developing a plan to implement them. As of now, it’s unclear how many recipients will benefit from the new law, and so far about 30% of the notice recipients have appealed their debt notices. Victims may also ask for a waiver due to economic hardship or set up a payment plan.

“It is important for any individual who has received a recoupment notice to know that these letters are the start of a conversation with FEMA, not the end,”Racusen says. But with so many people still coming to terms with the devastation of losing everything they owned, not to mention the people they loved, you would think FEMA would have forgiven the debts auotmatically.

What do you think about what FEMA did? Are they right to try to recover the funds they inappropriately distributed?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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Supreme Court Rules That Gun Rights Apply Locally

June 28th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(NY  Times) — The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in 5-to-4 decision. The ruling came almost exactly two years after the court first ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns in District of Columbia v. Heller, another 5-4 decision.

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Supreme Court Rules That Gun Rights Apply Locally

June 28th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(NY  Times) — The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in 5-to-4 decision. The ruling came almost exactly two years after the court first ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns in District of Columbia v. Heller, another 5-4 decision.

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Will Obama’s Small-Business Agenda Survive Congress?

June 28th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — It was late October when President Obama first called formeasures to stabilize struggling small businesses. Then, in his State of the Union address in January, he emphasized the role small business would play in healing the nation’s wounded economy. But it is only now, eight months after that speech, that Congress finally seems ready to act. And the House and Senate are so far apart that it is not clear that they will be able to agree on a bill that contains more than just a few of the president’s ideas.

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Will Obama’s Small-Business Agenda Survive Congress?

June 28th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — It was late October when President Obama first called formeasures to stabilize struggling small businesses. Then, in his State of the Union address in January, he emphasized the role small business would play in healing the nation’s wounded economy. But it is only now, eight months after that speech, that Congress finally seems ready to act. And the House and Senate are so far apart that it is not clear that they will be able to agree on a bill that contains more than just a few of the president’s ideas.

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Obama: Congress May Not Tackle Immigration Soon

April 29th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(BET.com/AP) – With energy legislation on the table and midterm elections approaching, Obama said Wednesday he didn’t want to force an immigration bill through Congress “just for the sake of politics.” Still, he said discussions on the issue must move forward in a way that can garner the support of the American people.

“We’ve gone though a very tough year and I’ve been working Congress very hard, so I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue,” the president told reporters aboard Air Force One returning with him to Washington from a Midwest trip.

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New Law Nets HBCU Millions

April 1st, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Tallahassee.com) — Florida A&M University and other historically black colleges in the state will get an additional $61 million over the next decade under legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.

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Obama to Sign Student Loan Legislation in Virginia

March 30th, 2010 - By TheEditor
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(Yahoo/AP) – President Barack Obama prepared Tuesday to sign the piece of his sweeping health care overhaul that makes the government the primary lender to students and strips banks of that power.

Obama’s hard-fought legislative victory packaged two of his domestic priorities. Obama already signed the bulk of the health care legislation, but a final set of tweaks provided a route for the education package, the largest rewrite of federal college assistance programs in four decades.

The legislation has a wide reach. About half of undergraduates receivefederal student aid and about 8.5 million students are going to college with the help of Pell Grants.

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