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What's the right punishment in the Secret Service scandal?
Secret Service director Mark Sullivan
April 19th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

What's the right punishment in the Secret Service scandal?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Secret Service Colombian prostitution scandal keeps heating up, and it's unclear whether resignations of the agents at the center of it will put out the fire.

More resignations are expected this week, in addition to the three we already know about.

Eleven members of the Secret Service, including 20-year-veterans, have been implicated. They're accused of bringing at least 20 prostitutes to their hotel in Cartagena ahead of last week's visit by President Barack Obama.

As many as 10 members of the U.S. military are also being questioned about potential misconduct. This includes five members of the elite Army Special Forces.

It's a mess, and it's a national disgrace, not to mention a potential security risk for the president.

So what's being done in Washington? The House Oversight Committee is investigating. Also, there will likely be a review board set up to find out whether this was an isolated incident or part of a broader agency culture.

But some people don't think this is enough. At least one congressman, Republican Randy Forbes of Virginia, is calling for Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service director, to be fired.

Forbes says it's time to put someone else in charge to change the culture at the agency.

Mitt Romney says he'd "clean house" at the Secret Service. The likely Republican presidential nominee says he would fire the agents involved. But Romney, like Obama, says he has confidence in the director.

Sullivan has been director of the agency since May 2006. That means the 2009 security breach at the White House involving two party crashers at Obama's first state dinner also happened on his watch.

Here’s my question to you: What's the right punishment in the Secret Service scandal?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.

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Filed under: Scandals • Secret Service
If Congress won't fix the economy, what will it take?
April 19th, 2012
03:27 PM ET

If Congress won't fix the economy, what will it take?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress won't do anything to fix the economy - that's the disturbing result of a CNN Money survey of economists.

Despite the huge issues on the horizon - a $15 trillion dollar debt, $1 trillion annual deficits, jobs, taxes - we can once again expect our Congress to do nothing.

Although the economists polled in this survey have lots of ideas about how to jump-start the U.S. economy, they don't expect Congress to act on any of it in the near future.

One economist put it this way: Congress will act "two weeks after a sudden freeze in Hell."

These experts are most worried about a weakening in economic readings - especially job growth.

So what would help? They'd like Congress to pass comprehensive tax reform, which would likely lower tax rates for corporations and individuals while eliminating many deductions and loopholes.

Most of these economists also support some extension of the Bush tax cuts and an extension of the partial payroll tax holiday.

The survey also found 40% of these economists want Congress to repeal Obamacare and about a quarter support the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform legislation.

Some of them believe the economy will be best off if Congress does as little as possible.

Looks like they'll probably get their wish.

With lawmakers in re-election mode we can't expect much action on the economy - or anything else for that matter. Pathetic.

As if to prove this point - late yesterday Senate Democrats canceled the votes on next year's budget. This would be the third year in a row that Congress fails to produce a budget, which is their job. Like we said, pathetic.

Here’s my question to you: If Congress won't fix the economy, what will it take?

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.

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Filed under: Congress • Economy
How much do the news media ultimately affect how you vote?
April 18th, 2012
03:35 PM ET

How much do the news media ultimately affect how you vote?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

"A vast left-wing conspiracy."

That's how Mitt Romney describes the media's effort to sink his presidential bid.

In an interview with Breitbart TV, the likely Republican nominee was asked whether he was ready to take on the media and liberal nonprofit groups that are "working together."

Here's what Romney said in response: "There will be an effort by the vast left-wing conspiracy to work together to put out their message and to attack me. They're going to do everything they can to divert from the issue people care most about, which is a growing economy that creates more jobs and rising incomes."

Romney said that dealing with journalists is an ongoing problem for Republicans. He added that many in the media are "inclined to do the president's bidding" and described it as an uphill battle for his party.

But Romney insists he's ready for the fight, saying Democrats will try to make the race about anything but President Barack Obama's record and the economy.

Of course, Romney's attack on the media is an echo of words made famous in 1998 by Hillary Clinton. She said her husband was the victim of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the early days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

And we all know how that turned out. Bill Clinton was eventually impeached before being acquitted by the Senate.

Nonetheless - between 24/7 cable news and instant reaction from pundits on the Web and social media - it seems the news media play a larger role in the political process than ever before.

Just how much does all the blather actually matter on Election Day?

Here’s my question to you: How much do the news media ultimately affect how you vote?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • News Media • Voter Turnout
In light of the Secret Service and GSA scandals, who is minding the store?
April 17th, 2012
03:36 PM ET

In light of the Secret Service and GSA scandals, who is minding the store?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Your government gone wild.

As details of the Secret Service and GSA scandals emerge, there's a growing sense that Washington isn't always working for the people who pay their salaries - that would be us, the taxpayers.

The Secret Service has now yanked the security clearances of 11 members accused of bringing prostitutes to a Colombian hotel.

The investigation also includes at least five - maybe even 10 - members of the U.S. military who were working there ahead of President Obama's trip. Reuters reports there were as many as 21 prostitutes.

If true, it's more than disgraceful. It's a threat to national security.

There are reports that some of the Secret Service agents who brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms had copies of the president's schedule in their rooms and they were apparently bragging that they were there to protect President Obama.

It's not the first time the Secret Service has lapsed. The most glaring example was in 2009, when an uninvited couple managed to crash a White House state dinner. They were inside the White House mingling with the president and his guests.

Meanwhile the GSA official at the center of that $800,000 lavish conference is refusing to answer questions.

Jeff Neely - who organized the 2010 conference in Las Vegas - repeatedly took the Fifth Amendment when questioned before Congress. His former boss has already resigned in disgrace. Neely might face a federal criminal investigation.

While the GSA was spending hundreds of thousands of your dollars on things like commemorative coins, a team-building exercise, and a mind reader as entertainment, the Senate yesterday voted on whether to raise taxes some more.

This is the kind of stuff that makes Americans increasingly disgusted with their government. So far President Obama hasn't said a lot about any of this. Maybe it's time he did.

Here’s my question to you: In light of the Secret Service and GSA scandals, who is minding the store?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. How much will it matter?
April 17th, 2012
03:35 PM ET

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. How much will it matter?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Now that Mitt Romney is the likely Republican nominee - he may need to starting talking about his Mormon faith.

Politico reports that many Republicans think Romney should embrace his Mormonism publicly so people can better understand him.

During the GOP primaries, Romney has gotten pushback from evangelicals, some of whom question whether Mormons believe in Jesus Christ. One Texas Baptist pastor and Rick Perry supporter called the Mormon church a "cult."

But these days it seems like some evangelicals are more open to the idea of voting for Romney - especially when the other option is President Barack Obama.

Mormonism is a big part of who Romney is. He traveled on a two-year mission in France as a young adult, raised his five sons as Mormons and has held several church leadership positions.

Nonetheless, Romney doesn't really like to talk about it. In the lead-up to the 2008 presidential campaign, he addressed his religion in a "60 minutes" interview and in a speech called "Faith in America."

His aides have said that he has no "immediate plans" to make another formal speech for now.

But maybe he should. It could help clear up lingering questions about Mormonism, a religion that still seems odd and insular to many. It has a tainted past that includes racism and polygamy.

A CNN/ORC International poll taken in October showed 17% of Americans say that they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon, while 80% said it would make no difference.

Of course, religion and politics are a difficult equation. Many Americans thought John F. Kennedy would never get elected president in 1960 because he was Roman Catholic.

Here’s my question to you: Mitt Romney is a Mormon. How much will it matter?

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.

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Filed under: Mitt Romney • Mormons
What's behind the surge in women gun owners?
April 16th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

What's behind the surge in women gun owners?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Gun sales are booming, and women are a big part of the reason why.

The Daily Beast reports on the National Rifle Association getting in touch with its feminine side at its annual convention. Companies sell all sort of things: pink firearms, guns that are small enough to fit in a small purse, black and pink shooting targets and even a bra holster.

As the inventor of the Flashbang Women's Holster tells The Daily Beast: "Nothing comes between a girl and her gun."

Of course if you're carrying a gun there, you want to be doubly sure the safety is on. The National Sporting Goods Association says nearly 47% more women are shooting today compared with 10 years ago, and a Gallup Poll last year found almost one in four American women own at least one gun.

The number of women at NRA shooting clinics has skyrocketed in the last decade. Gun ranges hold ladies' nights and enrollment in one women's conceal-carry class in Oklahoma is reportedly up 400%.

Female gun enthusiasts give different reasons for the spike in ownership. Some cite security while others say it's an extension of gender equality. The NRA denies it's going after women over any other demographic group. They say they want everyone to be a member of the NRA.

Overall, gun sales are way up in the U.S., with big profits for gun makers such as Smith & Wesson.

Some say the trend is because of fears of a second Obama term and a potential tightening on gun restrictions. Others say a weaker economy makes people feel unsafe.

Here’s my question to you: What's behind the surge in women gun owners?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.

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Filed under: Guns
What's the point of the Buffett Rule if most millionaires already pay higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else?
April 16th, 2012
03:06 PM ET

What's the point of the Buffett Rule if most millionaires already pay higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the Senate debates the Buffett Rule - guess what?

Most millionaires are already paying higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else.

Named after billionaire Warren Buffett, the proposal would mean millionaires pay at least 30% of their income in federal taxes.

But CNN Money reports that while many millionaires pay an effective rate of less than 30%, they still pay a higher percentage than most others.

For example, the tax policy center estimates that counting federal income and payroll taxes, the average effective federal tax rate for people making between $40,000 and $50,000 was 12% last year.

Those making more than $1 million pay more than 20%.

The difference is even bigger if you look only at income tax liability. Middle income groups have an effective tax rate of 3.2% while millionaires pay 18.9%.

Sort of throws cold water on President Obama's argument that the Buffett Rule would be some sort of exercise in fairness.

Under the current rules, a highly paid executive would be taxed at 35% while a millionaire who earns the majority of his income from investments would be taxed at 15% on long-term capital gains and dividends.

The White House argues that the Buffett Rule is aimed at millionaires who can structure their income to minimize their taxes - you know, people like Mitt Romney.

Also, it's worth noting while the Obama Administration runs annual deficits of more than $1 trillion, the Buffett Rule would add less than $5 billion per year to the national treasury. Chump change.

Here’s my question to you: What's the point of the Buffett Rule if most millionaires already pay higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else?

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.

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Filed under: Buffett Rule • Taxes • Warren Buffett
Can you afford to get old?
April 12th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Can you afford to get old?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Can you afford to get old?

In case you weren't already worried about your retirement, now comes word that it's getting more expensive to get old.

The International Monetary Fund says people around the world are living three years longer than expected. That's increasing the cost of aging by 50% - and governments and pension funds aren't ready for it.

Reuters reports the IMF study, coming out next week, shows that longevity is a bigger risk than previously thought.

Researchers say that if everyone in 2050 lived three years longer than now expected, society would need extra resources "equal to 1 to 2% of GDP per year."

In the United States alone, an extra three years of life would add 9% to private pension plan liabilities.

Life expectancy in the United States is approximately 78.5 years. According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. ranks 50th worldwide. At the top of the list is Monaco, where people live an average of almost 90 years, followed by countries like Macau, Japan and Singapore.

As medicine improves and standards of living go up in some of the developed countries, people continue to live longer. The IMF is calling on governments and the private sector to prepare now for those longer life spans.

Governments' options are fairly limited. Raise the retirement age, raise taxes to fund public pension plans, and lower benefits. A lot of countries are already considering doing all of this to tackle crippling national debts.

Another step governments could take would be to educate people on how to better prepare for their retirement.

Here’s my question to you: Can you afford to get old?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.

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Filed under: Longevity • Money • On Jack's radar • Social Security
How much damage did Obama supporter Hilary Rosen do when she said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life”?
April 12th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

How much damage did Obama supporter Hilary Rosen do when she said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life”?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It took 18 hours for Hilary Rosen to apologize for her ill-considered comment that Ann Romney never worked a day in her life. And my guess is if there hadn't been such a firestorm of criticism over what she said she wouldn't have apologized at all. The apology is a day late and a dollar short. The damage has been done. And there's a lot of it.

Ann Romney - who raised five children as well as dealing with cancer and multiple sclerosis - that's work, Ms. Rosen - was classy in her response. She said she made "a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."

I think that's probably a true statement.

Democrats ran from Rosen like she was on fire. David Axelrod called the comments "inappropriate and offensive." Another true statement. Top Obama campaign officials said they couldn't disagree with Rosen more; that families should be off-limits and that stay-at-home moms "work harder than most of us do."

Before she decided to apologize, Hilary Rosen was busy blaming Mitt Romney for bringing his wife into this debate. She says that Mitt shouldn't say Mrs. Romney is the expert on women and the economy. Why not?

First rule of holes is: When you're in one, stop digging. Mercifully, after 18 hours, Hilary Rosen finally put the shovel down.

For the moment, President Obama enjoys an almost 20-point lead among women. An incident like this might make women give Mitt Romney a second look.

Here’s my question to you: How much damage did Obama supporter Hilary Rosen do when she said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life"?

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.

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Filed under: Ann Romney • Mitt Romney
Chris Christie says the U.S. is turning into "people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check." Is he right?
April 11th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Chris Christie says the U.S. is turning into "people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check." Is he right?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

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.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: Gov. Chris Christie • Government
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