November 20th, 2009
02:01 PM ET

Taxing Botox, liposuction to pay for health care reform?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/20/botox.jpg
caption="Senate Democrats are proposing a 5% excise tax on elective cosmetic procedures."]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

Something called "Botax" might help pay for health care reform. The name derives from a tax on Botox... which in the case of some Hollywood types could raise millions.

Senate Democrats are proposing a 5% excise tax on elective cosmetic procedures... that includes things like Botox injections, breast implants, tummy tucks, face lifts, liposuction, teeth whitening, eyelid repairs, etc.

The tax would bring in an estimated $6 billion over 10 years and wouldn't apply to cosmetic surgery meant to fix a deformity or injury.

Drug makers and plastic surgeons think this is a terrible idea. The company that makes Botox calls it an "easy target" and says the tax is "unnecessarily punitive".

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says it will hurt countless American women of every income level - that it's not just a tax on "wealthy, suburban Republican women."

They claim the tax would come at a particularly difficult economic time - when many women are trying to spruce up their looks as they search for jobs. I would offer that if you're out of work you probably wouldn't be getting Botox injections... but hey, what do I know?

It could have been worse. Lobbyists apparently succeeded in persuading lawmakers to reduce the tax from 10%, which would have brought in $11 billion over a decade.

Over the summer, many thought that Democrats weren't serious about the cosmetic surgery tax... but Harry Reid and Co. brought it back because they "needed money to make the bill work"."

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION TO YOU: Should the government tax cosmetic procedures like Botox, tummy tucks and liposuction to help pay for health care reform?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Health care
November 20th, 2009
02:00 PM ET

Should Rudy Giuliani pursue a career in national politics?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/20/rudy2.jpg caption="Rudy Giuliani may have his eye on becoming the next U.S. Senator from New York."]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

Rudy Giuliani may have his eye on becoming the next U.S. Senator from New York.

The Daily News reports that the former New York mayor is strongly considering a run next year for Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat - now filled by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

A Giuliani spokeswoman says he hasn't made any decisions yet... quote "Rudy has a history of making up his own mind and has no problem speaking it" unquote... adding that when he decides, he'll tell New Yorkers on his own.

The National Republican Congressional Committee says it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on any "unannounced candidates"... although they say "any credible Republican" could have a good shot at capturing New York's senate seat.

Giuliani had earlier been considering a run for governor - but reports now say he's decided against it. Some claim that's because Giuliani would have likely lost the governor's race to potential Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo – while he may have a better chance to win a senate run.

The Daily News report also suggests Giuliani could use a U.S. Senate seat as a stepping stone to run for president in 2012.

Been there, done that - and not very well either. In 2008 – Giuliani was an early favorite for the Republican presidential nomination.

But he self-destructed when he decided against putting a lot of time into the early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire... he skipped the South Carolina primary - planned to win big in Florida. He got clobbered…and that was that.

Here's my question to you: Should Rudy Giuliani pursue a career in national politics?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Rudy Giuliani
November 19th, 2009
02:18 PM ET

Could authorities have prevented the Fort Hood shootings?


(PHOTO CREDITS: Getty Images)


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

Most Americans think that authorities could have prevented the massacre at Fort Hood... and when the politicians sniff this kind of sentiment, they can't wait to rush into hearings.

A new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows 64 percent of those surveyed say law enforcement or the military should have been able to stop the shooting rampage... 31% say the incident on the Texas Army base couldn't have been prevented. The poll also found Americans are split as to whether the attack was an act of terrorism.

U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who is Muslim, is charged with thirteen counts of premeditated murder. He's accused of wounding dozens more.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held its first hearing into those shootings today. They want to know if authorities failed to "connect the dots" when it came to Major Hasan. NPR reports that Hasan's supervisor at Walter Reed wrote a memo two years ago saying he showed a "pattern of poor judgment and a lack of professionalism."

The committee also plans to look into why federal authorities didn't do anything after finding e-mails exchanged between Hasan and a radical Muslim cleric - with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Also, there's the question of whether a joint terrorism task force that had information on Hasan shared it with the military and others. Experts say they worry about "political correctness" - and that some signs may have been ignored because Hasan is Muslim.

Pres. Obama wanted Congress to hold off on hearings until federal authorities finished their investigation.

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION TO YOU: Could authorities have prevented the Fort Hood shootings?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Fort Hood
November 19th, 2009
02:17 PM ET

Are you losing interest in health care debate?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/19/reidunveilsbill.jpg caption="Democratic Senators introduce their 2,074 page health care reform bill."]
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

With the Senate health care bill weighing in at 2,074 pages... this means we now have more than 4,000 pages of proposed health care legislation. 4,000.

One Republican senator is threatening to read the whole bill on the Senate floor... that could take up to two days. But –some are wondering if anybody is going to read this thing at all.

Another question is, with Thanksgiving and the Christmas season approaching, are people simply getting tired of this ongoing mammoth debate?

It's been months now - with a lot of media focus on health care reform since those town meetings and tea party protests of the summer... Yet it seems like we're nowhere near the end yet. The Senate and House bills have some significant differences when it comes to taxes, abortion coverage and the so-called "public option."

And If the bill makes it through the Senate – and that's still very much an open question - the two chambers will have to merge the two bills together – and then that final bill has to pass both houses.

But experts suggest that Americans are more tuned in than ever. A Senate historian says what's unusual about this debate is that people have been following it from the beginning - watching the bills go through committees, markups, etc. He says the public has paid a lot more attention to this than almost any other piece of recent legislation.

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION TO YOU: Are you losing interest in the health care reform debate?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Health care
November 19th, 2009
02:16 PM ET

Good thing that senator served for almost 57 years?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/19/byrd.jpg caption="Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia is now officially the longest-serving member of Congress."]
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia is now officially the longest-serving member of Congress –ever!


The Democrat from West Virginia - who turns 92 tomorrow - has served for almost 57 years - including 6 years in the House and 51 in Senate... that translates to a record of 20,774 days.

He's served under 11 presidents - coming to Washington during the Eisenhower administration in 1953.

Byrd tops all other senators in the number of votes cast... that would be more than 18-thousand... and the number of leadership positions held - including two stints as majority leader.

He's never lost an election.

Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 40s... later calling it "the most egregious mistake" he'd ever made... and he voted against the civil rights act in the 60s... but he later followed a more traditional Democratic path, blasting Pres. George W. Bush's policies after 9-11 and during the Iraq war.

Byrd is thanking the people of West Virginia for their ongoing confidence in him... He says it's been the "quality and dedication of service" that has guided him and that he looks forward to serving them for quote "the next 56 years and 320 days."

Fine. But this isn't what our forefathers intended. They didn't envision career politicians - but rather people who would give a few years of their life to public service and then go back to farming or banking or whatever it is they did.

But without term limits - in a lot of cases, we wind up with politicians who spend their entire adult lives in Congress. And in many cases the results aren't good.

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION FOR YOU:Is it a good thing that a senator has set a record for serving nearly 57 years in Congress?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Congress • Senate
November 18th, 2009
04:05 PM ET

Would you vote to re-elect Pres. Obama 1 year later?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/18/obamaelection.jpg caption="Would you vote to re-elect Pres. Obama 1 year later?"]
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

A year after President Obama rode into office on the mantra of hope and change, a lot of people are wondering, "Where's the beef?"

There's no question that change takes time... but there's been a lack of meaningful progress on so many of the big issues that faced him when he first occupied the Oval Office.

–Unemployment is now topping 10% and many think it will go even higher before things get better. We were told the stimulus package would keep it from going above eight percent.

–Health care reform, perhaps the president's top domestic priority, still has a long way to go before it becomes a reality - if it ever does.

–Deficits continue to soar, with the national debt now topping an astounding $12 trillion. This comes less than eight months after the debt hit $11 trillion.

–The president has committed to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but with renewed violence there it's an open question how soon they can all come out. Afghanistan has now become Obama's war... as he decides whether to add more troops.

–The president's January deadline of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp will likely go unmet.

As for other issues like immigration reform, legislation on climate change or regulating Wall Street - nothing yet.

The interesting thing is despite a lack of progress on a lot of these issues, the American people still like their new president.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 55% approve of how the president is handling his job... Furthermore, apart from his job approval... a whopping 76% have a favorable view of Mr. Obama as a person.

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION FOR YOU: Would you vote to re-elect President Obama one year later?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: President Obama
November 18th, 2009
04:04 PM ET

What’s behind new mammogram recommendations?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/18/doctorpatient.jpg caption="What's behind new mammogram recommendations?"]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

The Obama administration now says that federal advisory board's recommendation on mammograms is not government policy and has caused "a great deal of confusion." No kidding.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was out sweeping up today–saying mammograms remain an important life-saving tool in fighting breast cancer.. and that women should talk to their doctors and make the decision that is best for them.

But the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said Monday that women in their forties shouldn't get routine mammograms. They claimed this was meant to reduce over-treatment... and that many women experience false positives, anxiety and unnecessary biopsies.

They said mammograms saved one life for every 1,900 women screened. Turns out this panel is made up of sixteen health care experts... none of them are oncologists.

What the hell is going on? We have a federal advisory panel making recommendations about breast cancer and there is no one on the panel who is an oncologist?

And think about this: While the Preventative Services Task Force is independent, the Department of Health and Human Services Web site calls the panel's recommendations, "the gold standard."

And insurance companies look to the panel for guidance on which preventive care practices they should cover.

Is it becoming clear now what's going on here?

Cancer experts and the American Cancer Society immediately rejected these new guidelines… with some critics asking if insurance companies would use these new recommendations to justify denying mammogram coverage for women in their forties.

Republicans are pouncing on this – saying it's a sign of rationing health care.

One doctor told the New York Times: "My patients tell me they can live with a little anxiety and distress, but they can't live with a little cancer."

SO HERE's MY QUESTION FOR YOU: What do you think is behind new recommendations for mammograms?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Health care
November 18th, 2009
04:03 PM ET

Will unemployment get worse before it improves?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/18/jobseekers.jpg caption="Will unemployment get worse before it improves?"]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

The man who predicted the worst recession since the Great Depression says the jobs picture is a lot worse than the numbers imply.

Economist Nouriel Roubini says real unemployment is closer to 17.5% and that job losses will likely continue until the end of 2010 - at the earliest. Roubini suggests the official unemployment rate will peak at close to 11% and remain at "a very high level for two years or more."

Roubini also points out that a lot of the lost jobs just are not coming back including those in construction, finance and manufacturing. He suggests that the government extending unemployment benefits isn't the solution; instead they need to create jobs through infrastructure projects and provide temporary tax credits to companies that hire more workers.

Roubini says the poor jobs situation along with a weak recovery could increase the risk of a "double dip recession." In fact, while most economists agree that the U.S. economy is in recovery, many of them are calling for another round of stimulus to prevent another downturn. They point to factors like retail, car and home sales, along with oil prices and the stock market as potential trouble spots.

And Pres. Obama is also warning that too much government debt could lead to a double-dip recession.

Meanwhile a new Gallup poll shows 31% of Americans name the economy as the most important problem facing this country - that's the top of the list. Another 20% cite unemployment.

SO HERE'S MY QUESTION FOR YOU: When it comes to unemployment, are things going to get worse before they get better?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Unemployment
November 17th, 2009
03:51 PM ET

Jobs created in places that don’t even exist?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/17/art.recover.gov.jpg caption="How much faith do you have in stimulus spending?"]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

The Obama administration is bragging about jobs "saved or created" in congressional districts that don't exist.

ABC News broke this incredible story, finding several examples on the government's recovery web site... including hundreds of millions of dollars spent and jobs created in nonexistent or misidentified districts.

For example – Recovery.gov says thirty jobs were created or saved in Arizona's 15th congressional district using under $800,000 in stimulus spending. There is no 15th Congressional district in Arizona. The entire state only has eight.

Garbage like this also turned up in Oklahoma, Iowa, and Connecticut -along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The Recovery Board - which was created to track the $787 billion in stimulus spending and provide an unprecedented level of transparency - is chalking up the mistakes to human error. They say they report what recipients, like state governments or federal agencies, submit to them and that some of those recipients don't know what district they live in.

Shouldn't someone in Washington know how many congressional districts there are in Arizona? We're being treated like mushrooms here, folks. Kept in the dark and fed a diet of - well, you know.

ABC News also reports that the White House deleted sixty thousand from the count of those "saved or created" in a recent report because the numbers were based on "unrealistic data."

Democratic Congressman David Obey, who chairs the appropriations Committee, calls the inaccuracies "outrageous" and says the administration owes "every American a commitment to work night and day to correct the ludicrous mistakes."

How much faith do you have in stimulus spending if the administration reports job creation in places that don’t even exist?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Stimulus
November 17th, 2009
03:50 PM ET

Should health care be the government’s responsibility?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/17/art.healthcare.1117.gi.jpg caption="More and more Americans are saying health care is not the government's responsibility."]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty

More and more Americans are saying health care is not the government's responsibility.

A new Gallup poll shows 50% of those surveyed say the federal government should not have to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage... while 47% say this is the government's job. This marks a big shift in attitudes from the past decade... and it's the first time since Gallup started tracking this question that more people are against the idea.

The reason for this shift is unknown... although it's possible that the current debate has increased Americans' skepticism about the role government could play in health care.

A poll by the Associated Press seems to back this up as well... it shows that Americans are worried about the hidden costs in reforming health care. Although most people agree that major changes are needed... the current Democratic bills are not getting strong support.

This poll suggests the public is now onto the fact that when it comes to these pieces of legislation, the devil is in the details.

Meanwhile - don't hold your breath for health care reform to happen any time soon. Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate won't rush the legislation... and that lawmakers can count on a lot of amendments.

McConnell says the only way to guarantee that all of the senators and the American people can really understand the bill is to –quote - "delay the process."

Should health care be govt’s responsibility?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Health care
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