By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
With mandatory federal spending cuts looming on the horizon, some Republicans say we should cut 10% of the federal work force instead of slashing the Defense budget.
Writing in Politico, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri warn that the planned defense cuts would have "devastating consequences."
They say it would mean layoffs for more than 200,000 members of the military. In effect, downsizing our military to the lowest levels in decades.
They say we could be risking national security if we can't keep up militarily with the rest of the world.
The House Armed Services chairman describes cuts to the defense department this way: "We're past cutting the fat and past the muscle. Now we're cutting into the bone."
Price and Hartzler argue for a House Republican plan that would put off these defense cuts for one year. They would do this by trimming the federal workforce by 10% "through attrition."
In other words, for every three federal workers who leave their jobs, departments could only hire one worker.
It's no secret the federal workforce has long been criticized as bloated and inefficient and could probably stand a haircut.
Meanwhile these upcoming spending cuts all go back to the so-called Super Committee's inability to agree to a deficit reduction plan.
Its failure meant $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts over the next decade. About half are expected to affect the defense budget.
Meanwhile these cuts don't even begin to put a dent in government spending. We are still running annual deficits of more than $1 trillion.
Here’s my question to you: Should we cut 10% of federal workers instead of cutting defense?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm 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.
As the race for the White House heats up, the candidates are hoping star power can help them raise the big bucks and boost voter enthusiasm.
But Republicans are slamming President Barack Obama - much like they did in 2008 - for his hobnobbing with Hollywood and celebrities.
Obama held New York fund-raisers this week with the theme “Barack on Broadway.” The star-studded events helped the president raise millions for his re-election coffers. On the way to New York, the president hosted rock star Jon Bon Jovi on Air Force One.
The president is due back in New York next week for another fund-raiser at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker.
This visit follows the much publicized dinner at the Los Angeles home of George Clooney, where the Obama campaign raked in $15 million. A recent campaign ad featured Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and folks such as Ricky Martin, Barbra Streisand and Spike Lee have appeared at other events for Obama.
The GOP whines about all this at length, saying it just proves the president is out of touch with ordinary Americans - many of them trying to find a job.
In some cases, the Obama campaign hopes it can use celebrities to target key voting blocs, such as women, gays or Hispanics.
And the president isn’t alone here, although Mitt Romney doesn't have the same following among celebrities. Romney's been hanging out at campaign events with folks such as Donald Trump, Kid Rock, Jon Voight and Ted Nugent. No doubt about it, the president has much better celebrities.
But the point is: How much do Americans suffering under a shaky economy and high unemployment care what celebrities have to say about politics? I know I don't.
Here’s my question to you: Do politicians who hang out with celebrities help or hurt themselves?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Drones aren't just for fighting the war on terror in the Middle East anymore - they might be watching you.
As more and more of these unmanned aircraft pop up over U.S. soil, they may be used to spy on Americans.
There is an Air Force document that says if unmanned drones accidentally capture surveillance footage of Americans, they can keep the information for up to 90 days and analyze it. Where is that in the Constitution?
The U.S. military and the government aren't supposed to conduct surveillance of Americans on U.S. soil without their consent, but if they accidentally capture you on video, that's OK.
They can apparently hang on to that material to determine if you are a terrorist.
There's no question that spying on Americans without a warrant could, and should, raise some serious red flags. But when you allow something like the Patriot Act, the law of unintended consequences is likely to follow.
Make no mistake, drone use is expanding on the home front.
Regulators have approved the use of drones for dozens of law enforcement agencies and universities, including the Department of Homeland Security and local police departments.
These drones can be used for law enforcement, firefighting, news coverage and monitoring wildlife. Or to spy on American citizens.
Lawmakers from both parties have asked the FAA to answer questions about privacy, to make sure the public knows these things are being used and why.
Experts predict the use of drones domestically will increase as more of the technology is brought back from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
Here’s my question to you: Should drones be used to spy on Americans?
Washington hard at work.
ABC News reports our government is just out with a study of a study of studies.
Try to stay with us here.
Back in 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates complained that his department was "awash in taskings for reports and studies." He wanted to know how much they cost.
So the Pentagon commissioned a study to find out how much it really costs to produce all those studies.
Fast forward two years: The Pentagon review was still going on - so Congress asked the government accountability office to check in on them.
Now the GAO is out with its report - and the results aren't too promising.
They found only nine studies that had been reviewed by the Pentagon review - in two years - and the military was unable to "readily retrieve documentation" for six of those nine reports.
As for how much all this costs - don't ask. The GAO says the Pentagon's approach "is not fully consistent with relevant cost estimating best practices and cost accounting standards." Meaning these are our tax dollars they can't keep track of.
Meanwhile, try understanding what these reports even say:
"GAO's cost guide states that cost estimates should include all costs, but allows flexibility for the estimates to exclude costs where information is limited as long as steps are taken to clearly define and document what costs are included or excluded."
Perhaps it should come as no surprise. Anytime anything goes wrong, or someone drops the ball in Washington, politicians like to start a study or name a commission to investigate.
The hope is that by the time the results actually come out, we've all forgotten about whatever it was in the first place.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when the government is issuing a study of a study of studies?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
Forty-five million people – that's one in seven living in the United States – received food stamps last year.
That's a 70% increase from 2007, according to a shocking new report by the Congressional Budget Office.
It shows that in 2010, about three out of four food stamp households included a child, a person older than 60 or someone who is disabled.
Most households getting food stamps were very low income, only about $8,800 per year.
The average food stamp benefit per household was about $290 a month, which comes out to $4.30 per person per day.
The worst part is food stamp use is only expected to grow.
The CBO projects the number of people getting food stamps will rise slightly for the next two years, at which point it will start to drop, as long as the economy improves.
But we're still talking historic highs here. In 2022, it's estimated spending on food stamps will be among the highest of all nonhealth related federal programs for the poor.
Speaking of spending, it follows that the cost of the food stamp program has skyrocketed along with the growing number of participants.
The cost rose from $30 billion in 2007 to $72 billion last year.
The CBO says about two-thirds of the cost increase is due to more people getting food stamps. But spending is also going up due to temporarily higher benefits from the stimulus law.
Here he goes again. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the United States is in danger of becoming a nation of "people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check."
The refreshingly blunt Republican lawmaker says this is the least optimistic period he's ever seen for this country.
He goes on - boy, doesn't he - saying, "It's because government's now telling people, stop dreaming, stop striving, we'll take care of you. We're turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally."
Christie says that when Americans stop believing that hard work and integrity will bring them success, they'll turn into a bunch of couch potatoes waiting for the next government handout.
He didn't mention President Obama, but he has previously said lawmakers need to stop tip-toeing around the need to reform entitlement spending. Christie has even called for raising the retirement age for Social Security.
This is why people like Chris Christie, and why a lot of them were disappointed when he decided not to run for president. A brand new poll in New Jersey shows Christie with his highest approval rating yet: 59%.
The man has a point here. Entitlement spending consumes an ever growing portion of the federal budget.
We recently reported in the Cafferty File that nearly half of Americans live in a household that receives government assistance. Another study shows the public's dependence on the federal government jumped 23% during President Obama's first two years in office.
Nearly half of Americans live in a household that receives government assistance.
This stunning finding comes from a new report from a George Mason University-based research center.
More than one-in-three Americans lived in a household getting Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based government assistance in 2010.
When you add in those getting Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits, it represents almost half of the country.
More than 148,000,000 Americans.
The federal government sent a record total of $2 trillion to individuals in 2010. The stunning part is that's up 75% from a decade ago.
There's another new study from the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation that shows the public's dependence on the federal government shot up 23% in just two-years under President Obama.
This comes at a time when fewer Americans - less than half of us - pay income taxes.
Some say the rise in dependence under President Obama is due to the recession and high unemployment. But others say extending unemployment benefits indefinitely actually keeps unemployment rates higher because it creates an incentive not to work.
Meanwhile the country's safety net has become a hot topic in the presidential race.
Mitt Romney is under fire for saying he's not concerned about the very poor because they have an "ample" safety net. It's a comment I bet he wishes he could take back.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when half of Americans live in a household that gets government assistance?
At a time when the government should be making drastic spending cuts across the board, they might want to start with their own.
A new report out by the congressional budget office shows federal workers get much better benefits - including health insurance, retirement and vacation - than private sector workers.
On average, the federal government spends 48% more on benefits for its employees than private employers do.
As for salaries, federal workers make just 2% more than private sector workers.
But there's a big difference when you break it down by education.
For example, for federal workers with only a high school diploma, their benefits are 72% higher, and their wages are 21% higher than they would be in the private sector.
On the other hand, workers with doctorates or professional degrees are worse off working for the government. Their benefits are about the same and they earn 23% less than those in the private sector.
The CBO report suggests retirement benefits could be the key here. That's because most retired federal workers get pensions and subsidized health insurance. Not so for the private sector.
Overall, it's estimated that the government paid 16% more last year in salary and benefits than it would have for the same workforce in the private sector.
There are roughly 2.3 million federal civilian employees - less than 2% of the total U.S. workforce.
In 2010, Congress and President Obama agreed to a two-year federal pay freeze.
But the president now wants a 0.5% pay increase for federal workers in 2013. Hey, it's an election year.
Here’s my question to you: Do federal workers deserve better benefits and higher salaries than private sector employees?
It used to matter.
The president's State of the Union address used to be a sort of snapshot of where the country stood: How the economy was doing, what was working, and what wasn't.
Now it's just a political speech - a nicely bundled batch of b.s. designed to make the American people feel good about whichever party is peddling it.
And in an election year it will be even worse than usual.
Nevertheless it's an exercise the president has to go through once a year and tomorrow night is the night.
With a captive audience of a joint session of Congress and a national television audience of millions, President Obama will tell us all what a wonderful job he's doing and how great everything is in the country.
He probably won't mention that the country is broke.
He probably won't talk much about the long national nightmare that is the war in Afghanistan.
He's not likely to address the fact that gas prices have doubled since he took office.
He probably won't draw much attention to the fact that the housing crisis still isn't anywhere near being over.
He likely won't mention that the overall standard of living for Americans is in decline.
And I'll bet he won't dwell on the fact that millions and millions of Americans still can't find a job.
Instead he'll likely try to portray whatever problems he addresses as Congress' fault, while at the same time promising that he's going to do much better in the coming year.
The fact of the matter is the state of our union isn't very good.
Here’s my question to you: How confident are you in the state of the union?
It’s been a Wednesday without Wikipedia and other major websites. As they go dark to protest two anti-piracy bills in Congress, critics say these bills amount to censorship of the Internet.
While Google hasn't shut down, a black rectangle covers its famous logo urging people to "Tell Congress: Please don't censor the web!"
The web-wide protest is in response to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the U.S. House and the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, now pending before the full Senate.
The battle lines are drawn with Hollywood and major media companies, including CNN's parent company, Time Warner, on one side and Silicon Valley on the other.
If the bill passes, copyright holders could seek a court order to force search engines such as Google to remove links to sites that are offering illegal movies, TV shows, songs, etc. The main targets are foreign websites.
But Internet companies worry they could be punished for users' actions. Google says YouTube would have to go dark immediately if the bill passes, saying "it couldn't function."
On the other side, supporters say that online piracy leads to job losses in the U.S. since content creators lose income. They dismiss accusations of censorship, saying that the bills are meant to fix a broken system that doesn't prevent piracy.
Supporters say this bill won't hurt the average Internet user.
Many in the tech world agree that piracy is a real problem, but they worry about the implications of this legislation, fearing that it's a foot in the door that could lead to further government controls.
Meanwhile the bills that were once expected to sail through Congress have hit rough waters. One Senate aide tells CNN that because of the growing protests, the bill might not even make it to a vote.
Here’s my question to you: Should the U.S. government censor the internet?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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