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April 20th, 2011
04:12 PM ET

What should be done about the rash of air traffic controller screw-ups?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The next time you're on an airplane making a landing in a crowded metropolitan area, the thought may cross your mind whether the air traffic controller handling your flight is awake or asleep or watching a movie or doing something besides helping get your flight safely on the ground. Just a thought.

Nine incidents are under investigation by the FAA in cities from Washington to Knoxville, Tennessee, to Reno, Nevada, to Seattle, where air traffic controllers reportedly fell asleep on the job and in one case were watching a movie while working.

On Monday afternoon, a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base after coming dangerously close to a military cargo jet. The cause: error by a civilian air traffic controller. The FAA said neither plane was ever in any danger but it is launching a full investigation into that incident, too. The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into what happened.

The last time the air traffic controllers acted up, Ronald Reagan fired all 11,000 of them. The union had decided to strike. President Reagan stepped in and hired nearly 9,000 new air traffic controllers to take their places over the next year. Critics say three decades later, many of those one-time scabs are starting to retire or approaching retirement age, and employee turnover may be part of the problem with air traffic controllers right now. But the funny thing is, I don't recall a rash of sleeping controllers back in the ‘80s.

Over the weekend, the FAA announced changes to controllers' schedules, now requiring at least nine hours between shifts instead of eight. Controllers also will not be allowed to switch shifts with another controller unless they have had at least nine hours off. And perhaps if they're caught sleeping on the job they should be fired instead of merely suspended.

Here’s my question to you: What should be done about the rash of air traffic controller screw-ups?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Airlines
April 20th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Is Donald Trump playing us for suckers?

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Donald Trump at last week's Palm Beach County Tax Day Tea Party. Trump is considering a bid for the presidency in Election 2012. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Is Donald Trump playing us?

It's a question Christopher Byron asks in an opinion piece on CNN.com.

If Trump is, it wouldn't be the first time.

Byron wonders if the billionaire real-estate-developer-turned-reality-TV-star is serious about running for president or if he's up to something else. His guess is choice B.

And he may be right. After all, The Donald's flirted with the idea of running for president two times before only to bow out before the race heated up.

This go 'round, he's created a lot of drama around a possible run, using flashy quotes like "Barack Obama has been the worst president ever," latching onto causes like the so-called birther movement and appearing regularly on cable news channels to share his plans for saving the world. He's said he'll announce whether or not he's actually running for president before June, possibly on the finale of his reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice."

See, May is a ratings month in television. The Donald no doubt figures he can spike the ratings for his TV show by announcing his intentions there. He's no dummy.

Trump's possible presidential run is classic Trump. He's perpetually happy to jump in front of a TV camera and spout his opinions. And whether you agree with him or not, you have to hand it to him. He is arguably one of the greatest self-promoters ever.

As Chris Byron's piece points out, Trump has been holding off on renewing his contract with NBC for the "Apprentice" franchise. Driving up his ratings with the possibility of a big announcement like a presidential bid may be his way to get the upper hand in any future contract negotiations.

However it turns out, Byron suggests Trump is taking the country for a ride.

Here’s my question to you: Is Donald Trump playing us for suckers?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Donald Trump
April 19th, 2011
04:39 PM ET

Should U.S. be funding Mideast rebel groups?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In the abstract, it's a noble calling: Support oppressed people's yearning to breath free. Over the years, the United States has made a general practice of coming down on the side of people who are fighting for their freedom. But now that there are a dozen uprisings in the Middle East, it's probably worth taking a closer look to see if it's really that good of an idea.

Syria, for example, has been the scene of unrest since mid-March. The Washington Post reports that the U.S. State Department has secretly financed several Syrian political opposition groups since 2005. The Post reporting was based on diplomatic cables the folks at Wiki-leaks got a hold of. The State Department refused comment on the authenticity of the cables, but a deputy assistant secretary of state said the State Department does not endorse political parties or movements. Baloney.

If you provide aid - military, financial, humanitarian - you do.

In Libya, nobody knows who we are supporting but by participating in NATO-led air strikes, we're supporting someone. And as tensions continue to rise in Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, and elsewhere, we may want to exercise caution about who we are getting into bed with...

Oh, and the other part is we don't have any money. We really don't have any money. And for people in this country who have been unemployed for years, can't find a job and are faced with the thought of their unemployment benefits running out, telling them we're giving cash to a shadowy poorly organized dysfunctional group of malcontents in some faraway middle eastern country ain't going to go down so well.

Here’s my question to you: Should the U.S. be funding rebel groups in the Middle East?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Congress • Government • Middle East • Senate • Senate and Congress • United States
April 19th, 2011
04:35 PM ET

Should states require drug tests for public assistance?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Twenty-seven U.S. states, as red as Arizona and Georgia and as blue as New York and California, may soon be adding another requirement for those applying for aid such as unemployment or welfare: Being clean.

More than half the states in this country are considering legislation that would require recipients of public assistance to pass a drug test before getting their handout from the government.

The details vary from state to state, of course.

A bill in the South Carolina state senate, for example, would suspend unemployment checks to any person who didn't get a job because of a failed drug test. A measure in Arizona would call for random drug testing for all people who receive welfare. In Massachusetts, a bill has been introduced requiring random drug tests for recipients of public assistance who have prior drug convictions. If you fail the drug test, you would be placed by the state into a rehab program because of the state's mandatory health care program.

Of course, if these measures pass, they will likely be opposed by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that "suspicionless searches," like many drug tests, violate Fourth Amendment rights, unless those tests are conducted for specific reasons like public safety.

On the other hand, I don't want my tax money being used to buy illegal drugs. And that seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Here’s my question to you: Should states require drug tests in exchange for public assistance?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
April 18th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Should Dems seek someone to run against Obama in 2012?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama is hitting the road this week to speak at town hall meetings in Virginia, California and Nevada. His goal is to push his deficit reduction plan while trying to reconnect with voters.

Last week, when the president laid out his plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over the next 12 years, it was mostly greeted with a yawn and criticized as being more of a re-election plan than a fiscal discipline plan.

While the country struggles with a debt crisis, President Obama has problems of his own. A new Gallup Poll shows just 41% of Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president. That ties his all-time low rating. He's bottomed out at 41% three other times - twice in August 2010 and once in October. And while the approval rate remains high among Democrats at 77%, only 35% of independents think he's doing a good job.

Perhaps even more troubling is a previous Gallup Poll that shows President Obama's support has slipped dramatically among blacks and Hispanics as well.

But he is the incumbent and therefore presumably the Democratic candidate for 2012. Or is he?

A lot of Americans are fed up with the president's unwillingness to admit the mess this country is in. And it's not just about debt. It's about his ineffectiveness when Congress couldn't agree over spending cuts and his lack of leadership on the Libyan conflict. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to step in and take care of that. And it's about the overall promise of change Obama made to American voters in 2008, one he has not delivered on. Three wars instead of two, Guantanamo's still open.

Transparency? Not! And deficits and a national debt the likes of which we've never seen before.

A second term is far from a sure thing.

Here’s my question to you: Should Democrats seek someone to run against President Obama next year?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

April 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

How should income tax laws be changed?

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People waiting in line at a downtown Manhattan post office April 15 to file at the last minute. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Today is the deadline to file your income tax return, three days later than usual because of a federal holiday.

And despite this country's dire financial straits, the very rich are paying a lot less in income tax than they did just twenty years ago. The IRS tracks 400 households with the highest adjusted gross incomes each year. In 2007, the average federal income tax rate that group paid was just 17 percent. In 1992, it was 26 percent. Over that same period, the average tax rate for all taxpayers dropped to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

What's more is according to the Tax Policy Center, 45 percent of U.S. households - a total of about 69 million - will pay no federal income tax. In fairness, most of those 69 million households still pay other taxes like state and local income taxes and property and sales taxes too. Two thirds of that group pays payroll taxes - many pay more than they get back on their federal return.

Most of the households in the group that doesn't pay federal income tax earn less than $50,000 a year. But about 5 million make between $50,000 and $1 million a year. The secret is in the tax breaks, on everything from having a child to going to college to paying your mortgage. According to the IRS, the tax code currently has a total of $1.1 trillion in credits, deductions and exemptions. That comes to an average of about $8,000 per taxpayer.

But that could change. House Republicans want to eliminate tax breaks and lower overall rates. The President has said he wants to do away with tax breaks too.

Here’s my question to you: How should income tax laws be changed?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Taxes
April 14th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

How should Congress spend Spring Break?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress is gearing up for a two-week spring break that starts this weekend. They must be exhausted. This afternoon, the House passed that much-anticipated $38.5 billion spending cut. It went on to the Senate where it passed as well... now lawmakers can hand it over to the president and look ahead to vacation.

Getting out of town might be a good move.

You see, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revealed Wednesday that the budget deal that was made at the 11th hour before a threatened government shutdown - the deal that was touted as creating the largest spending cuts in American history - will really cut only $352 million in spending this year, not $38.5 billion as we were told.

Many of the cuts will have little or no effect on how much money the government actually spends because the cuts come from programs that are outside the reach of the annual budget.

I wonder if we're ever told the truth about anything anymore.

When Congress returns all tanned and rested, the members will have just a few weeks to address raising the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department says the United States will reach its borrowing limit of about $14.3 trillion in mid-May. If Congress doesn't approve a measure to raise the debt ceiling before then, all hell could break loose. Even a hint that it might happen would shake up world markets and knock the wind out of our already weak economy.

Some Republicans insist they won't vote to raise the debt ceiling ... in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Get ready for another game of chicken.

But Congress is going to take two weeks off anyway.

Here’s my question to you: How would you suggest members of Congress spend their two week Spring Break?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Congress
April 14th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Is the end of the nanny state in the U.S. inevitable?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

At least one in six people in the United States gets government handouts: unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid, rent subsidies, you name it. And lots of Americans get money from more than one of these programs.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas says we simply cannot afford all the entitlement and welfare programs we currently have. Paul, one of the few voices of reason in Washington when it comes to our debt crisis, is predicting an end to the nanny state in this country.

Paul wrote this on his website on Tuesday:

"Instead of dealing seriously with our situation, so many in Washington would rather allow the chaos that will ensue when all of the dependent people are suddenly cut off. Better to...tell people the difficult truth that government is simply not capable of managing people's lives from cradle to grave as was foolishly promised."

He's right. Think about it. When many of our ancestors came here generations ago, there were no welfare programs like food stamps or rent subsidies. And yet the poor and uneducated, people from places like Italy and Ireland who didn't even speak English, managed to survive and in time actually thrive and prosper in this country.

Back when we had no federal Department of Education our schools were the best in the world. Now they're among the worst.

Before the Department of Housing and Urban Development, our cities were bustling centers of progress and economic growth. Now many of them are in decay or decline with growing poverty and shrinking opportunity. See Detroit. But when people like Paul Ryan talk about cutting government spending on some of this stuff the Democrats get apoplectic.

Here’s my question to you: Is the end of the nanny state in the U.S. inevitable?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
April 13th, 2011
04:57 PM ET

How are you handling near record high gas prices?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Get ready for more pain at the pump. Some experts are predicting gasoline could hit $5 a gallon by Memorial Day.

Right now, the national average for a gallon of gasoline is more than $3.80. That's just for regular unleaded. In some places, $4 a gallon is already in the rear view mirror. Prices have been on a steady climb for weeks. We're still off the all-time high, but not by much. Gas prices peaked in July 2008, when the national average was $4.11 a gallon. It's almost a foregone conclusion we will blow by that number… and soon.

This comes at a bad time of course. It always does. We have a fragile U.S. economy, and gas prices could threaten its recovery. According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, 68% of Americans say the high cost of gasoline has forced them to cut back on other areas of spending. And 62% said they are driving less because of how much it costs to fill the tank.

Businesses are experiencing higher transportation costs. They're faced with the tough decision: Eat those costs or pass them on to consumers. Either way, it spells tough times for most Americans.

Crude oil prices, of course, drive gas prices. And the unrest in the Middle East has been pushing prices up. So has an ever-increasing demand in developing nations.

Republicans blame President Barack Obama. What's new? When Obama took office, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was about $1.79, less than half what it is today. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has used Facebook to call Obama the $4 per gallon president. She's not often right, but might be onto something here.

Here’s my question to you: How are you handling near record high gas prices?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Oil Prices
April 13th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Calif. Gov. Brown: U.S. most divided since Civil War. Is he right?

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Yesterday marked 150 years since the start of the U.S. Civil War. It was the bloodiest war in U.S. history - a war that divided our nation physically and ideologically and led to 600,000 deaths.

To mark the occasion, President Obama said, "We remember the great cost of the unity and liberty we now enjoy, causes for which so many have laid down their lives."

Liberty, yes. But unity? Not so much.

He's got a front row seat to a circus of a Congress that took six months to come up with a 2011 budget. And they still can't agree on any meaningful cuts going forward. We're a long way from unity.

In an interview in Los Angeles this week, California Governor Jerry Brown said this country is more divided now than at any time since the Civil War. Brown is facing a fierce budget battle with California Republican lawmakers. He said the difficulty he's having working with Republicans in California on the state level mirrors what's going on in Washington.

He's right.

Also look at Wisconsin, Ohio and other places where fundamental divisions are boiling over like we haven't seen maybe since Vietnam.

By the way, Brown has to close a deficit that was as high as $26.6 billion. With a hole like that, good luck on that unity thing.

Here’s my question to you: California Gov. Jerry Brown says the country is the most divided since the Civil War. Is he right?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: United States
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