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August 28th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Should government raise taxes to deal with deficit?

 Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With a $9 trillion deficit facing this country over the next 10 years, it is almost inevitable that taxes will have to go up at some point. The questions are: When and by how much? The answers are probably soon and a lot.

As the government continues to spend more than it takes in, it keeps borrowing more – especially from overseas. These countries, like China and Japan, pretty much own us and can demand higher interest rates or decide to put their money somewhere else.

Experts say if that happened, taxes would shoot sky high in the U.S. and the government would only be able to provide the most basic public services while the social safety net would "evaporate."

The problem with raising taxes now is we're still fighting our way out of a recession, and most economists think that's the wrong time to make people shell out more.

For his part, President Obama is promising to keep taxes low for most people. The president's plan to raise taxes on only the wealthiest is estimated to raise about $600 billion over the next 10 years – but that's only a drop in the bucket when you consider a $9 trillion deficit during that same time.

Tax experts suggest Congress will eventually have to take pretty drastic measures, like making the entire tax system less complicated. Also, income tax revenue alone likely won't be enough to raise the money we'll need, which is why some suggest a value-added tax on all goods and services.

Here’s my question to you: Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Deficit • Taxes
August 28th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Who will assume Sen. Kennedy's leadership role?

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The American flag flies at half staff Tuesday following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. (PHOTO CREDIT: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

When it comes to filling Sen. Ted Kennedy's leadership shoes, it doesn't seem at first glance that there is anyone who can.

As Politico puts it, no other senator possesses the combination of "celebrity, seniority, personal charm, legislative savvy and ideological zeal that made Kennedy the most effective liberal in a generation.”

Those who worked with him call Kennedy "irreplaceable.” Many have said the senator's presence was sorely missed in the health care debate. Because of his failing health, he was unable to spend much time on Capitol Hill the last few months. Although Kennedy was a staunch liberal, he was known for compromising with Republicans – a skill pretty much lacking in both parties these days.

Perhaps the only senator who had similar star power was Hillary Clinton. And, before she became Pres. Obama's secretary of state, some aides had hoped she would assume a Kennedy-like role in the Senate.

That's not to say there aren't plenty of senators who would like to assume Kennedy's role. They include folks like Senators John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin and Russ Feingold.

In the end though, the party may not be able to find a single figure with the personality, clout and popularity to replace Ted Kennedy. Sad really, that the greatest deliberative body in the world – home to the likes of Hubert Humphrey and Everett Dirksen – has become little more than a partisan snake pit where not a whole lot worthwhile gets done anymore.

Here’s my question to you: Who is likely to assume Ted Kennedy's leadership role in the Senate?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Senate • Ted Kennedy
August 27th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

End of Camelot mean end of Kennedys' influence?

 Ted Kennedy, far right, with brothers Bobby, center, and Jack in 1948.

Ted Kennedy, far right, with brothers Bobby, center, and Jack in 1948.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

(CNN) - Despite the fact that the second generation of Kennedys has so far failed to distinguish themselves to the degree that Jack, Robert and Ted did – a bunch of them have still managed to find their way into elected office.

In addition to finding a replacement for Ted Kennedy in the Senate, it's likely to become a bit of a parlor game trying to figure out who will eventually emerge as the political leader of the remainder of the Kennedy family.

Some of the possibilities include the late senator's sons Edward Kennedy Jr. and Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, who have been named as possible replacements for his seat, along with his nephew, former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy the second.

The Daily Beast reports that when Caroline Kennedy failed to launch a bid for Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat, many thought that meant the end of the Kennedy dynasty, but they point out there are several younger Kennedys who might just be waiting to step in including:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer and environmentalist.
Kerry Kennedy, who has led human-rights delegations to dozens of countries.
Christopher Kennedy, who's avoided politics up until now, but was seen as a possible replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat.
-and Maria Shriver, wife to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a very involved First Lady and is considered one of her husband's closest advisers.

Here’s my question to you: Will the end of Camelot mean the end of the Kennedys' influence in America?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Kennedy family • Ted Kennedy
August 27th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Pentagon profiling U.S. reporters?

U.S. soldiers from the 1st Platoon Alpha 3-71 Cavalry and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers walk up a hill to a school during a mission in the Baraki Barak district of Logar Province, Afghanistan on August 22.

U.S. soldiers from the 1st Platoon Alpha 3-71 Cavalry and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers walk up a hill to a school during a mission in the Baraki Barak district of Logar Province, Afghanistan on August 22.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

(CNN) - The Pentagon is profiling reporters covering the war in Afghanistan.

The newspaper "Stars and Stripes" reports that despite denials from the Pentagon, they are in fact rating the work of reporters as either "positive", "neutral" or "negative". They're contracting this work out to a private p.r. outfit called The Rendon Group, which has come under fire before for its work in the Iraq war.

Profiles of various reporters suggest these ratings are meant to help manipulate the kinds of stories that reporters come up with while they're embedded with troops. For example, one newspaper reporter is rated as "neutral to positive" in his coverage. The report suggests any negative stories he writes "could possibly be neutralized" by feeding him quotes from military brass.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon denied a story that appeared in "Stars and Stripes” saying "There is no policy that stipulates in any way that embedding should be based in any way on a person's work". Both the Defense Department and Rendon even denied a rating system exists.

Meanwhile, this latest revelation comes as polls show the war in Afghanistan is becoming less popular among the American people. Journalism groups and media ethicists are criticizing the Pentagon's efforts to rate and manipulate reporters. One military official says "it shows utter contempt for the Constitution." And contracting the work out to a civilian firm is even more odious.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean that the Pentagon is profiling U.S. reporters?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5 p.m. to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.


Filed under: Pentagon
August 27th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Can Sen. Kennedy's death bring bipartisanship to health care?

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Can Sen. Kennedy’s death bring bipartisanship to the health care debate? (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

(CNN)
- Democrats are hoping that Senator Ted Kennedy's death will help breathe new life into health care reform.

Some believe the loss of Kennedy will bring a new spirit of bipartisanship to the issue, and at the very least change the tone of the debate, which has become downright nasty. Already, one group against reform has suspended its advertising out of respect for Kennedy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Kennedy's "dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration." Democrats plan to name the forthcoming legislation after the late senator.

But not everyone is so sure Kennedy's death will make any difference on the health care debate. One top Republican tells the New York Times the fight was pretty much suspended with the president on vacation and that it would likely "pick up right where we left off in a week or two."

In fact, several Republicans say they think Congress would be closer to reaching a deal if Kennedy had been healthy and involved in crafting the legislation – since he had the ability to cross the aisle and compromise.

And, it's not just Republicans who will need to start cooperating here. Some say the real question will be whether Kennedy's passing prompts Democrats who have been wavering on reform to get on board.

Here’s my question to you: Can Senator Kennedy's death revive the spirit of bipartisanship when it comes to health care reform?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care • Ted Kennedy
August 26th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

What if health care reform delayed until Christmas or beyond?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

One of the causes nearest and dearest to the late Senator Ted Kennedy's heart was health care reform.

Kennedy was a fierce advocate for reform during the Clintons' effort at overhaul in the early 90s - and a leader in helping pass recent legislation to provide health care to millions of children.

Had he lived - Kennedy likely would have been disappointed once again… as it seems the chances of getting health care reform done are receding yet again.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold told voters in his home state of Wisconsin that there would likely be no bill before the end of the year... and maybe never, saying: "Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas, and maybe not even then, if this ever happens. The divisions are so deep. I've never seen anything like that."

Feingold said that it's unfortunate that Congress is headed in the direction of doing "absolutely nothing." He added he couldn't say whether he would support a health care bill until he actually sees it.

Feingold has been a supporter of trying a variety of health reform proposals in different states first... instead of applying the same massive changes to the whole country. He said he doesn't think a "one-size-fits-all" approach would work as well as letting states have some flexibility.

Definitely not a good sign for President Obama when you have members of your own party questioning whether this thing will ever happen.

Here’s my question to you: What will it mean to health care reform if it's delayed until Christmas and maybe beyond?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care
August 26th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Is Barack Obama's presidency in trouble?

ALT TEXT

(PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama should take a page from former President Clinton's play book and move to the right - so says Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn.

He writes that Clinton's presidency was actually saved after his push for health care reform failed and the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress. McGurn says it was at that point that Clinton started adopting the most appealing parts of his opponents' agenda and moved his whole approach to governing more toward the political center.

McGurn suggests that a move to the right would be a "bitter pill" for President Obama since he's made health care his signature issue. But he points to polls that for months have been showing a huge gap between the president's popularity and the lack of public support for many of his policies.

He says the president bet that his personal popularity would be enough to push through his agenda... but it hasn't. Instead - his credibility and popularity are taking a hit.

President Obama has been slipping in the polls for weeks, and the latest Gallup weekly tracking poll shows the president's approval at 52-percent - a new low. It's also down significantly from 59-percent just a month ago. Gallup says the president's rating among several demographic and political groups is now registering below the symbolic threshold of 50-percent.

And, health care reform is far from the only challenge facing this White House. The recession still has a tight grip on the economy... with the dollar losing influence daily, news that deficits will be worse than the administration predicted... and an unemployment rate soon expected to hit 10-percent.

Here’s my question to you: Is Barack Obama's presidency in trouble?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama
August 26th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

America's fascination with Kennedy brothers for more than 50 years?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The death of Ted Kennedy marks the passing of an era.

The senator from Massachusetts was the last of the four Kennedy brothers to die - all of them serving their country. Joe Jr. died as a World War II pilot. John was a congressman, senator and president before being assassinated. Bobby, a U.S. attorney general, senator from New York and a presidential candidate at the time of his assassination.

Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy and John F. Kennedy are pictured on Jan.1, 1962

Ted Kennedy, the youngest of nine siblings, is the only brother to live past the age of 50; and many believe that as the survivor, he will be the one who leaves the most significant impact on this country. Kennedy - who served 46 years in the Senate - was a staunch liberal but also known for reaching out across the aisle. He was a champion for issues like civil rights, health care, education, voting rights and labor.

The Kennedy family has been an endless source of fascination for the American people for decades. To many - the Kennedys are the closest thing to royalty we have. And the family has offered glamour, the "Camelot" mystique, hope and idealism.

But along with high political ambitions and success for the Kennedys has also come great low points, tragedies and untimely deaths: the two assassinations, Ted Kennedy's nearly fatal plane crash along with his infamous incident at Chappaquiddick, John Jr.'s fatal plane crash... and numerous substance abuse and marital problems.

Here’s my question to you: Why did America remain fascinated with the Kennedy brothers for more than 50 years?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Government • United States
August 25th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Periodic gov't shutdowns a way to save money?

ALT TEXT

On August 17, Chicago held a reduced-service day. City Hall, public libraries, health clinics and most other city offices were closed in efforts to save money. (PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Rhode Island plans to shut down the state government for 12 days as a way of dealing with severe financial problems.

The plan, laid out by Governor Don Carcieri, is expected to save $22 million in a state struggling with a 12.7 percent unemployment rate and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections as a result of the economic recession.

The plan is for 81 percent of the state workforce to stay home without pay one day a month for 12 months. The first day is scheduled for next week.

The Governor said there is no other option. He said he would consider other ideas if they could also save $22 million. He said the state can't lay off anymore employees since positions were cut last year and he has ruled out a tax increase.

Essential employees, including prison guards and state police, will work on these days.

Rhode Island isn't the first state to make this kind of move. At least 19 other states have furloughed employees or considered doing so in order to survive the current economic crisis.

In Maryland, state employees will be forced to take as many as 10 days without pay and 200 will be fired and left to spend every day off until they can find another job.

And in California, state employees had been forced to take every other Friday off and a third Friday was added to that this summer.

The workload presumably remains the same as people are getting a day less of pay. Probably doesn't do much for morale.

Here’s my question to you: Should periodic government shutdowns become a permanent way to save money?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Government
August 25th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

How will surging national debt affect health care reform?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama may be on vacation but he and his staff are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to fight a backlash. This time it's over the skyrocketing national debt. The newest estimates add $2 trillion to the projections made in February and, if accurate, will bring the total national debt to $20 trillion in 10 years.

The National Debt Clock in midtown Manhattan shows that the federal deficit has topped $1 trillion for the first time ever and could grow to nearly $2 trillion by fall.

In other words, by the year 2019, the national debt is expected to double and will represent 82-percent of the gross domestic product. Unimaginable, unsustainable, and unacceptable. Those are levels not seen since World War II.

Tax increases, big ones, are probably inevitable.

Add in the fact that the President is in the midst of another battle - the one for health care reform. That's expected to cost another $1 trillion over 10 years.

So far, no one has told us exactly how that's going to be paid for. Support for the whole idea has been losing steam in the last few weeks.

Lawmakers from both parties are starting to concede that any bill that doesn't reduce projected federal spending on medical care and start to bring the national debt under control is unlikely to pass.

Some economists insist the two issues should not be linked. They say health care reform is needed now to reduce costs in the long run which would eventually lower the debt.

Pick your poison... Whatever the eventual outcome, September in Washington, DC should be fun to watch.

Here’s my question to you: How will the surging national debt affect efforts to pass health care reform?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care
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