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December 16th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Could you pass an IRS audit?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If you're scrambling to do some end-of-the-year tax planning, you might want to consider this:

The Internal Revenue Service increased the number of returns it audited by 11 percent this year - that's according to the Associated Press.

The tax agency was most likely to target wealthy taxpayers and big businesses; but it also audited more charities and other tax-exempt groups.

In total - the IRS audited more than 1.58 million individual returns; up from 1.43 million the year before. Officials say it's the highest rate of individual audits in the last decade.

And, that translates to more than one percent of individual returns that were audited. But the richer you are, the more likely you are to get audited:

Those making more than $1 million had an audit rate of more than eight percent; and people making more than $200,000 had an audit rate of more than three percent.

As the country struggles to come up with a solution for our skyrocketing national debt, "tax reform" is a phrase we hear more and more often.

Undergoing an IRS audit is only a slightly bigger nightmare than making your way through our ridiculously complex tax code.

The problem with tax reform is there's a powerful lobby in Washington representing tax lawyers, accountants and money managers who will probably fight any effort at reform tooth and nail.

So for this year, you better get it right the way it is.

Here’s my question to you: Could you pass an IRS audit?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm 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: Tax Returns • Taxes
December 16th, 2010
04:38 PM ET

What will you remember most about Larry King?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: LOU ROCCO/CNN)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Tonight night marks the end of an era - not just at CNN but in cable television.

Larry King will do his final live, nightly broadcast for CNN at 9 p.m. ET tonight. And when he walks out of the building, there will be a space that will never be filled quite the same way again.

In fact, if it weren't for King, it's entirely possible I wouldn't be doing this job right now. And a lot of the rest of us in this business wouldn't be either.

When CNN was in its infancy and the rest of television was laughing at Ted Turner's idea, King came along and put this network on his back and carried it until its credentials as a viable news organization were accepted by the viewing public.

And along the way, he became the gold standard for talk television. So many of his interviews made the news elsewhere.

There wasn't anyone in the last 25 years he didn't talk to on CNN - including Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. and George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Entertainers such as Marlon Brando, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand - virtually everyone from the world of show business - and foreign leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and Vladimir Putin. Impressive doesn't do justice to his resume.

He also was very kind to a first-time author when something called "It's Getting Ugly Out There" was published.

I have known Larry since my days at WNBC-TV in New York when he would occasionally be a guest on my program there, "Live at Five."

He's a class act. He's my friend. And I, along with millions of television viewers, will miss him.

Here’s my question to you: What will you remember most about Larry King?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: News Media
December 15th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill that some lawmakers haven't seen? 

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress had all year to do the public's business, but it didn't.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

It's Congress' job to pass a budget, which they didn't even bother to try to do. But check out what they came up with at the last minute:

A $1.1 trillion, 2,000-page omnibus spending bill put together behind closed doors. This Senate bill - which would fund the federal government for a year - includes more than 6,000 earmarks. Of course, this all comes only weeks after many senators swore off earmarks.

Republicans are blasting the bill, calling it "completely inappropriate." They say many in their caucus haven't even seen the bill.

Here we go again. Some lawmakers haven't even read the thing, but congressional leaders expect it to just sail through.

Instead of a government-wide, or omnibus spending bill, Republicans are calling for a short-term continuing budget resolution, which is similar to what the House passed last week - without any pork.

Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to keep Congress in session through the Christmas holidays and into next near, saying, "We're not through. Congress ends on January 4."

You see, with just days to go before the Democrats lose their majority in the House, they've decided now is the time to pass the legislation they haven't gotten around to in the last two years including an arms treaty with Russia, an immigration bill, repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," you name it.

It's no wonder that according to Gallup polling Congress' job approval is at a historic low of 13 percent. That's the worst it's ever been in the 36 years they've asked this question.

Here’s my question to you: Should Congress pass a 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill that some members haven't even seen?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Congress • Congressional Spending
December 15th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Do you expect to be better or worse off one year from now?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As millions of Americans continue to suffer from the troubled economy, there are signs that things may be looking up. It's very slow going, but there are some glimmers of hope.

For millions of Americans it's about a job - and unemployment remains stubbornly high, at just under 10 percent.

But economists have a more optimistic outlook for 2011: They're predicting three percent growth in GDP next year. It's not a runaway train, but not terrible either compared to where we've been. Experts have also reduced the odds of a double-dip recession to only about 15 percent.

However, the Federal Reserve struck a cautious note on economic recovery yesterday, saying it is "continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring down unemployment."

The extension of the Bush tax cuts - which passed the Senate a few hours ago - will likely become law soon, as will the extension of unemployment benefits. These measures should bring added relief to nearly everyone.

As for government spending, there's a new sheriff in charge of the Congress.

Republicans are vowing to tackle spending next year after the tax cut extension goes through. It remains to be seen how serious they are about spending cuts - or if they too will continue to add to our $13-plus trillion national debt.

For investors, the stock market is behaving okay, and businesses have a lot of cash on hand. If they ever become convinced things are finally on the mend, they can start hiring and investing.

So how do you think all these ripples in the economy will affect you and your family?

Here’s my question to you: Do you expect to be better or worse off one year from now?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Longevity • Recession • Unemployment • Unemployment / Economy
December 14th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What will (or won't) you miss about the outgoing Congress?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The lame duck session of the 111th Congress is mercifully winding down.

A man highlights vacant offices on a floor plan during an office selection lottery for new House of Representatives members.

A man highlights vacant offices on a floor plan during an office selection lottery for new House of Representatives members.

And the Democrats are going to have a lot of unhappy supporters to face as they head home nearly empty-handed.

For starters, it's looking like the deal that President Obama struck with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts will pass Congress - even though many Democrats object to it.

Also, the Democratic majority is running out of time to pass key items in their own agenda. And you can bet once the Republicans take control of the House in January, it ain't gonna happen.

This includes the so-called Dream Act - an immigration initiative that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally as children. It's stalled in the Senate, much like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

If Democrats don't get these through now - and it's looking unlikely with a Republican filibuster in the Senate - that means at least another two years before they have a shot at controlling both houses of Congress.

Experts say that Democrats are going to have to explain to their base how they didn't get this stuff passed when they had overwhelming majorities in Congress for the last two years. It's a fair question.

Others suggest the Democrats need to look for small legislative victories in the coming days and weeks in order to salvage their pride and save some face.

Here’s my question to you: What will (or won't) you miss about the outgoing Congress?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Congress
December 14th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Does Boehner's crying diminish his credibility?

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Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

"Weeper of the House"... that's what Joy Behar dubbed the incoming Speaker John Boehner after his teary-eyed performance on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Boehner got choked up multiple times during the interview with Lesley Stahl, including when talking about the nation's children.

He also teared up another time toward the end of the piece with his wife, Debbie, at his side.

And this "60 Minutes" interview isn't the first time we've seen the speaker-to-be get choked up. On election night, when it became clear the Republicans had won control of the House, Boehner got teary-eyed talking about how he spent his whole life chasing the American dream.

Boehner describes himself as "a pretty emotional guy." No kidding. He told "60 Minutes" he's comfortable in his own skin and that people who know him know that he gets emotional about certain topics.

But not everyone is so comfortable. Barbara Walters said Boehner's got an "emotional problem." Others are now questioning the emotional stability of the man who will be second in line for the presidency. Of course, there are some stereotypes at work here.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton revived her presidential campaign when she started blubbering in a New Hampshire diner. Voters saw the tears as showing her human side. But if a man cries, typically it's seen as a sign of weakness.

When outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi was recently asked about Boehner's crying, Pelosi said she cries about a personal loss, "but when it comes to politics, no, I don't cry." Where Pelosi's concerned, it's the taxpayers who cry … but that's another story.

Here’s my question to you: Did John Boehner's crying on "60 Minutes" diminish his credibility?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

December 13th, 2010
04:14 PM ET

Is Pres. Obama's health care law history?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama's signature health care reform law may soon be on life support.

A man protested health care legislation at a Tea Party protest last month.

A man protested health care legislation at a Tea Party protest last month.

In a stunning blow to the administration, a Virginia federal judge has ruled today that a key part of the law - the "individual mandate" - is unconstitutional.

The judge says an individual's decision to buy health insurance is "beyond the historical reach of the U.S. Constitution."

This ruling will likely set the stage for a drawn-out legal battle that could wind up in the Supreme Court. And at the end of the day, if the government can't force people to buy insurance, they are pretty much left with an empty sack.

Critics, who call the law "Obamacare," claim it's a form of socialized medicine. They say it will only result in bloated government bureaucracy, higher taxes and worse health care. About two dozen challenges have been filed in federal courts around the country.

Meanwhile, Politics Daily reports the hot-button issue for Republicans next year will be the health care law.

The incoming speaker of the House, John Boehner, has pledged to repeal and replace it. Republican lawmakers in 40 states have introduced bills to block all or part of the federal law; and Republican governors are also resisting implementing the law in their states.

But some warn Republicans could make the same mistake Democrats did in making health care their top priority instead of the economy and jobs. Also, in their push to repeal it, Republicans risk alienating independents and moderates who may like certain parts of the law.

Here’s my question to you: Is President Obama's health care law history?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care • President Barack Obama
December 13th, 2010
04:10 PM ET

How serious is Pres. Obama about cutting the deficit?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

When President Obama announced the formation of the deficit reduction commission, he looked at us all with a straight face and said he was serious about tackling the country's skyrocketing deficits and $13 trillion plus national debt.

Apparently that was just another "feel good" moment that meant absolutely nothing.

In addition to agreeing with the Republicans to add another $900 billion or so to the national debt by extending the Bush tax cuts, President Obama is also refusing his own deficit reduction commission's call for a summit with congressional leaders to tackle the debt crisis.

One person who attended the deficit meeting last week tells Politico that members of the administration who attended - including White House budget director and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, "didn't exactly jump at the idea."

The commission recently voted 11-to-7 to cut nearly $4 trillion in deficits over the next nine years through spending cuts and tax increases. But they were short the necessary 14 votes to formally recommend any of this stuff to Congress - which can now give the whole idea a wink and a nod as we spiral ever closer to insolvency.

Not only has the president rejected the idea of a summit on the national debt; he couldn't even be bothered to attend the meeting last Thursday.

Needless to say, committee members were annoyed. One Democrat tells CNN the president should have at least dropped by... you think?

President Obama is either getting some very bad advice these days, or his once-keen political instincts have completely deserted him.

Here’s my question to you: How serious is President Obama about cutting the deficit?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Budget cuts • Deficit • President Barack Obama
December 9th, 2010
06:45 PM ET

Path to citizenship for illegal aliens who came here as children?

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From CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Looks like it may only be a dream after all.

Senate Democrats voted to pull the so-called "DREAM Act" from consideration today. They don't have enough votes to pass it.

DREAM is an acronym for "Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act" and would have offered a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

The measure passed the House yesterday, but unless the Senate acts, it will die with the lame-duck Congress.

The DREAM Act would apply to illegal aliens who came here when they were younger than 16, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, received a high school diploma or G-E-D and shown "good moral character."

They would be given a six-year-conditional status before the next stage, where they would be required to go to college or serve in the military for at least two years and pass criminal background checks.

Those who don't fulfill these requirements would lose their legal status and could be deported.

Supporters say the measure offers legal standing to youngsters brought here who have bettered themselves and served our country. Critics say it's nothing more than backdoor amnesty for as many as two million illegal aliens.

They also say the bill allows illegal aliens to get in-state tuition at public universities and is a "magnet for fraud."

Here's my question to you: Should illegal aliens who came here as children be given a path to citizenship?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Immigration
December 9th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

What is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg up to?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

See if you can figure out who said this:

–"Both parties follow the mood of the moment – instead of leading from the front... Especially in these tough times, we need our leaders to inspire the whole country – not criticize half of it.

- "As families struggle to get by, they have seen little but partisan gridlock, political pandering and legislative influence-peddling. Finger-pointing, blame games, and endless attacks."

- "We've got to pull together, and focus on what's important for America – and then roll up our sleeves and fix the things that need fixing. This is the greatest nation on earth..."

- "We need to shift course. We need those in government to stop demagoguing and start delivering."

–"Today, we again have our future in our own hands. We can blame others or we can put our nose to the grindstone and get back to work. We can keep kicking the can down the road and allow the country to fall farther behind... or we can face up to the hard choices."

These comments are part of a speech made by a man who has said over and over and over again that he's not interested in national political office. Doesn't sound like it, does it?

The sweeping speech was actually given by the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, in which he calls for "a middle way" in government.

Maybe the Republican-turned-Independent Bloomberg is thinking the same thing a lot of the rest of us are: when you look at the possible presidential candidates for 2012, it's pretty much a yawn.

Sarah Palin? Don't make me laugh. Mitt Romney? Been there, done that. Barack Obama? Probably, but he could lose.

Here's my question to you: What do you suppose New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is up to?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Michael Bloomberg
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