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February 28th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Will the federal government ever agree to meaningful spending cuts?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Democratic and Republican lawmakers returned to work today and they've got a big deadline looming.

President Obama unveiled his 2012 budget earlier this month.

President Obama unveiled his 2012 budget earlier this month.

If Congress doesn't reach an agreement on spending cuts by Friday, the government will face a shutdown for the first time in 15 years.

The House already approved $61 billion in spending cuts in a measure passed earlier this month, but Senate Democrats have said that the proposed cuts go too far and that they will not vote in favor of them.

So the Republicans have proposed an interim spending plan that would give Congress a two-week extension. It would involve just $4 billion in cuts and would keep the government funded until March 18.

I wonder if they'll ever stop playing games and actually address our country's fiscal condition in a serious way.

Our national debt has now surpassed $14 trillion - a staggering sum that will never be repaid. And every day the government refuses to do anything about it, it just gets larger. We are bankrupt.

This weekend, Speaker of the House John Boehner called the national debt a "moral threat" to this country and said people "better start praying."

It will take more than prayers. It will take guts… the kind being displayed by people like the governors of Wisconsin and New Jersey.

Here’s my question to you: Do you think the federal government will ever agree to meaningful cuts in spending?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Budget cuts • Government • Spending
February 28th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Should the power of public labor unions be reduced?

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Demonstrators protested in the capitol rotunda last night in Madison, Wisconsin. Demonstrators have occupied the building with a round-the-clock protest for the past 13 days protesting Governor Scott Walker's attempt to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers in the state. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's been two weeks since public-union supporters in Wisconsin began protesting in and around the state capitol in Madison.

They're upset over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to close the state's $3.6 billion budget gap. It calls for putting limits on public workers' collective bargaining rights and requiring those workers to have more money taken out of their paychecks for health care and pension funds.

But the budget bill is at a standstill. It passed the State Assembly, but rather than vote on the bill in the Senate, which is their job, the Democratic state senators ran away to Illinois and have not returned. But Walker is holding his ground.

Pro-union protesters have taken to state capitol buildings in Indiana and Ohio as well over the past week. This is also in response to Republican-sponsored bills calling for cuts to public union employees' benefits and limiting their collective bargaining rights.
In Tennessee, teachers are fighting a bill that would take away their collective bargaining rights. They've already said they'd make some concessions on areas such as tenure, which prevents teachers from being fired but is often criticized as keeping bad teachers in the classroom.

In this economy, public labor unions have lost a good amount of popular support. That's because private-sector union workers no longer get the job protection, health benefits and pension plans these state employees still enjoy.

Here’s my question to you: Should the power of public labor unions be reduced?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Uncategorized
February 24th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Time for U.S. to scale back its role in world affairs?

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President Obama makes a statement on Libya with Secretary of State Clinton at the White House. (PHOTO CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama finally spoke out Wednesday on the crisis in Libya. He condemned the violence against anti-government protesters and announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be meeting with top diplomats on Monday to discuss how to respond to violence in the region.

However, the president stopped short of calling for the resignation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi or announcing any sanctions the United States would place on that nation.

The president is expected to speak with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron by phone on Thursday to discuss the unfolding situation in Libya.

All of this happened after the president didn't say anything for the first few days of the crisis. He was reportedly concerned about the safety of Americans inside Libya. It turns out not saying anything is not necessarily a bad thing, according to a new Gallup Poll.

While 66% of Americans think the United States should play either the leading or a major role in resolving international problems, 32% say the United States should be a minor player or not get involved at all. That's up from 23% just two years ago, and at its highest level since 2001.

But as tensions mount and the stakes get higher, which they inevitably do when oil is involved, it's unlikely the United States will remain on the sidelines indefinitely.

Here’s my question to you: Is it time for the U.S. to scale back its role in world affairs?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

February 24th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid to attack the deficit?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives approved more than $60 billion in cuts in federal spending. It was the first sign Republicans are trying to make good on campaign promises to close deficits and slash government spending.

But before they break their arms patting themselves on the back, it's worth pointing out that $60 billion is less than 3 percent of this year's deficit, projected at more than $1.6 trillion.

The bill cuts federal funds to Planned Parenthood, the Environmental Protection Agency, and education programs like Pell Grants and Head Start. What it doesn't touch is Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid which account for 57 percent of the federal budget this year. So far, not a single dime has been cut from any of those programs.

According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Poll, more than half of Americans think the deficit is "extremely important" for the President and Congress to tackle. However, when asked what was more important: reducing the deficit or preventing cuts in Medicare, 81 percent said preventing cuts to Medicare while just 18 percent said reducing the deficit. When asked about Social Security, 78 percent said preventing cuts to that program was more important than lowering the deficit. And when asked about Medicaid, 70 percent said avoiding cuts to the public health insurance program for low-income families was more important, compared to 29 percent who said closing the deficit was more important.

So at the end of the day it's not just the federal government that's at fault here. As the line in Pogo went, "We have met the enemy and it is us." Politicians know senior citizens are among the most consistent, reliable voters in this country, and it's a real risk to propose cuts to programs many of them depend on... especially as we approach the 2012 presidential election.

Here’s my question to you: Should the government cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to attack the deficit?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care • Social Security
February 23rd, 2011
05:38 PM ET

What's likely to fill the power vacuums in Middle East?

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Egyptians return home from the Sallum border crossing with Libya as they flee political turmoil in the midst of an insurrection against Moammar Gadhafi's regime. (PHOTO CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The political uprisings across the Middle East and northern Africa have paved the way for change for millions of people who have never known life outside a dictatorship. For the rest of us watching at home, those uprisings have created a lot of questions about the future of a region rich with oil and not exactly starved of anti-Americanism.

Until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned earlier this month, one party had held all that nation's political power for decades. Other parties were banned or restricted in power. The military is running things now, but who will eventually be in charge?

Moammar Gadhafi has ruled over Libya with a culture of fear since 1969. If he goes – and it looks like he will – what's next? And what if the ruling Sunni family in Bahrain flees and allows the Shiite majority to take control of that tiny nation? Some say it's only a matter of time before they embrace Iranian politics. And of course, what does it all mean for nations like the United States?

In a piece for the Daily Beast, Leslie Gelb writes, "To be blunt, I don't know anyone who has the foggiest idea where these revolutions from Algeria to the borders of Saudi Arabia are going or whether future leaders there will be true democrats or new dictators."

Gelb says he's hoping for – but not betting on – a brighter more democratic future for these countries.

After all, we've got a lot at stake over there. And it's not just about oil. It's anti-terrorist operations, it's U.S. military presence and how our foreign policy fits in the changing policies of Arab nations.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Middle East
February 22nd, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should President Obama stay out of Wisconsin's budget battles?

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Demonstrators protest inside the state capitol today in Madison, Wisconsin. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The showdown in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker's proposal to restrict the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions as a way of dealing with the state's budget deficit has put President Obama in a tough spot.

He doesn't want it to appear that he's turned his back on public sector unions. After all, their support helped him win the presidency in 2008.

But at the same time, his federal government is staring at deficits the likes of which we've never seen before, and there is no sign he or the Congress are about to do anything meaningful to address them.

Last week, the president told a Milwaukee television station: "Everybody's got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities" but then later added the proposed cuts seem "more like an assault on unions."

That second part got under some Republicans' collars.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the comment "inappropriate" and said the President should focus on what's happening in Washington, not Wisconsin.

And Wisconsin's unions likely won't be the last to be targeted for cuts. A new government report finds that combined federal, state and local government debt now exceeds the size of our entire economy. Ohio and Florida also have new Republican governors who are trying to make deep cuts to balance their budgets, and many other states are facing tough decisions, as well.

Here’s my question to you: Should President Obama stay out of Wisconsin's budget battles?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama
February 22nd, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Does Sarah Palin care more about her image than the issues?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A disgruntled former aide to Sarah Palin has written a scathing political tell-all in which he suggests she is more concerned with her image than she is about the issues. Shocking.

Former aide Frank Bailey, who joined Palin's political team during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign and stayed on through her resignation in 2009, based his memoir around some 60,000 e-mails he sent to or received from Palin during that time.The book was leaked to several media outlets in Alaska and Washington over the weekend.

Among the claims in the book:

Palin allegedly sent phony letters to the editor when she was running for Alaska governor, supporting herself but signed with fake names. She allegedly rigged her staff's computers so they could unfairly influence an Anchorage new station's online poll about her refusal of federal stimulus dollars. And, according to Bailey, Palin refused to appear on any network other than Fox News, referring to the rest as "the bad guys."

Also in the book, Bailey claims that just months after the McCain-Palin ticket lost the presidential race, then-governor Palin seemed focused more on her national image than on what was going on in the state of Alaska, telling Bailey and another colleague in a Spring 2009 e-mail: "I hate this damn job."

Bailey has reportedly been shopping around the book since fall 2009 and has yet to sell it to a publisher.

There's been no response from the former governor on the book, but a spokesman for Palin's PAC told the Anchorage Daily News she did not expect Palin would have anything to say about "this kind of untruth."

Here’s my question to you: Does Sarah Palin care more about her image than the issues?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Sarah Palin
February 10th, 2011
04:59 PM ET

What signal would Mubarak resignation send to Mideast?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Two weeks ago – nobody estimated the size of the story that was unfolding in Cairo. And I'm not sure anybody still does.

It's entirely possible that what we've been seeing on our TV screens for the last two weeks could reach far beyond the borders of Egypt.

There are already rumblings across the Middle East that something much larger is happening.

If and when Mubarak steps down - he'll be following Tunisia's president, who was pushed out of power last month after similar popular uprisings.

Yemen's president has said he won't seek re-election when his term is up - and that he won't hand power over to his son.

And, after calls for reform - Jordan's King Abdullah sacked his whole government and appointed a new prime minister.

Meanwhile - protests, facilitated by technology like Facebook and Twitter, have sprung up everywhere from Algeria to Sudan and Syria.

It seems that after decades of repression in some of these countries... the people are finally being heard.

Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked about a possible domino effect in the region. He described what's happened in Tunisia and Egypt as a "spontaneous manifestation of discontent" coming from people who have both political and economic complaints about their governments.

Gates says he hopes that other leaders in the region take note of what's going on in Egypt and Tunisia and start addressing their citizens' concerns.

My guess is they may not have much of a choice.

Here’s my question to you: What signal would Mubarak's resignation send to other Middle Eastern countries?‬


Filed under: Egypt • Middle East
February 10th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

Getting Americans into the street like Egypt's protesters?

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People enter Tahrir Square as news of the possible resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seeped out today in Cairo. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

They have come for more than two weeks now. Egyptian protesters by the hundreds of thousands filling Tahrir Square and demanding change. Now it looks like they're going to get it.

These courageous people have been risking their lives day in, day out because they have finally had enough.

They've put their lives on the line for political change in a country where many of them have known nothing but Mubarak's regime. This is a country where the median age is 24.

Mubarak has been in power for 30 years.

Mubarak's government became corrupt and inefficient. Egyptian citizens got fed up with high unemployment and a bleak future while their leader, Hosni Mubarak, became one of the wealthiest men in the world, worth as much as $70 billion.

As the days passed, the movement has only grown stronger. Remarkably, it has remained a largely peaceful revolution. There was almost no violence until the day that armed pro-Mubarak thugs rode in on camels and horses.

Some demonstrators paid the ultimate price. Human Rights Watch confirms 300 Egyptians have died during the uprising and they say that number could double or triple or go even higher.

As Americans sit back and watch this history unfold from the comfort of our living rooms, it's hard to imagine what - if anything - could compel us in 2011 to do the same.

We did once, but that was long ago and much has changed. How bad would things need to get in the United States for Americans to stand up and demand change?

Here’s my question to you: What would it take to get Americans into the street like Egypt's protesters?


Filed under: Egypt • United States
February 9th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Muslim Brotherhood's role in Egypt's future?

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Egyptian anti-government demonstrators and members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement pray in front of Egyptian soldiers at Cairo's Tahrir square. (PHOTO CREDIT: PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the drama in Egypt unfolds - there are growing questions about what role the Muslim Brotherhood should play.

You see, the group has a split image. Some see it as a hostile Islamic group that includes dangerous fundamentalists. Others say it's merely another opposition group in Egypt - that should play a role in whatever comes next.

The Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt for decades, but still has a following. It is the largest and most organized opposition movement. In a 2005 parliamentary election, its candidates - running as Independents - won 20% of the seats.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been part of recent meetings about political reform in Egypt.

Its leaders insist they are not seeking power... saying they want to participate, but not dominate. The group also says it rejects a religious state.

But not everyone believes them - and for good reason. Critics point to proclamations of violence and connect the Brotherhood to terrorist groups like Hamas.

They say the Brotherhood doesn't believe in equality between Muslims and Christians... or between men and women.

The Jerusalem Post reports on a 1995 book called "Jihad is the Way" - written by a former head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The book details the group's goal of a global Islamic conquest. It suggests jihad is not only meant to fend off enemies, but to establish an Islamic state, strengthen the religion and spread it around the world.

It's easy to understand why some aren't so trusting of them.

Here’s my question to you: What role should the Muslim Brotherhood play in Egypt's future?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Egypt
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