District of Columbia

The Sotomayor Nomination: An Opportunity for Republicans to Reestablish Their Identity

President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court will pose difficulties for Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Sotomayor’s personal story is deeply compelling, and she is the first Latino nominee to the High Court. Republicans need to reach out to that important voting block. But they also need to reestablish their identity, which has been rooted, from the time of Lincoln, not in the “identity politics” that has so dominated the Democrats’ agenda in recent years but in the fundamental idea that every American should be treated as an individual, nowhere more clearly captured than in our national motto, E Pluribus Unum—from many, one.

Here is an opportunity for Republicans to reestablish that identity, if they handle it smartly, because there is much in Judge Sotomayor’s record to suggest that she subscribes to identity politics. She has made statements to that effect that will have to be explained, which if made by white men would be roundly and rightly condemned. And the Ricci case that the Supreme Court will hand down next month, just before Senate confirmation hearings are likely to begin, will tee the issues up nicely. The case was brought by a sympathetic plaintiff, suffering from dyslexia, who studied hard for a neutral fireman’s promotion exam, only to be told by the city of New Haven, after he had scored well, that the results would be thrown out because they were racially unbalanced. The appellate panel reviewing the district court’s decision, on which Judge Sotomayor sat, summarily upheld the district court’s dismissal of the complaint, refusing to grapple with the constitutional issues at stake. If ever a case cried out for “empathy,” this was it—not for Mr. Ricci, who was asking for no empathy, but for the principle of equality before the law, on which he staked his claim of racial discrimination against the city.

But Democrats too should be raising those questions, because equality before the law and the rule of law are indifferent to party. Tragically, however, the judicial confirmation process has been thoroughly politicized in recent years. After the stormy confirmation hearings in 1987 and 1991 for Judges Bork and Thomas, President Clinton’s nominations of Judges Ginsburg and Breyer sailed through the confirmation process with little opposition and even less acrimony. With the return of Republican nominees after the election of George W. Bush, however, Senate Democrats resumed their scorched earth practices, starting with appellate court nominees and continuing to the nominations of Judges Roberts and Alito to the High Court. Hearings were never held, filibusters were threatened, and reputations were tarnished. In such a climate, it is difficult to have reasoned discussion of the issues. If past history is any guide, we can expect Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will fully support Judge Sotomayor. It will fall to Republicans, therefore to draw out both the judicial and the constitutional philosophy of the nominee.

And they will have much to work with. Not only has Judge Sotomayor made what can only be called reckless statements about the role that race and gender does and should play in judicial decisionmaking, but many of her decisions bring that out. Then too there are cases that may give some “Red State” Democrats pause, like the per curiam decision last January of the Second Circuit panel on which  Judge Sotomayor sat, which held that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms does not apply against the states. Throw in the likely challenges ahead to President Obama’s sweeping assertions of power over the economy, and there is more than enough to keep Senators busy as they carry out their responsibilities to advise and consent.

Still, it is Republicans especially who will be tested by these hearings—tested to see what, if anything, they stand for. 

Roger Pilon is the Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.

Obama's Confederate Memorial the Right Move to Make

President Obama sent a wreath to the Confederate memorial at Arlington cemetery during the memorial services to recognize the sacrifices and service of the members of our armed forces this week. It has been a tradition since Woodrow Wilson offered a wreath to memorialize Confederate dead at Arlington and a tradition that many on the American far left wanted to see ended. They have been disappointed.

But the president also started a new tradition, one that everyone should welcome and one that we should all hope is continued by every succeeding president that comes after Obama. President Obama also laid a wreath at the African-American Civil War Memorial at Vermont Avenue and U Street Northwest in Washington D.C.

President Obama struck just the right balance on this and he should be commended. By memorializing the fallen from federal service, the fallen from Confederate service, and the fallen memorialized by the African-American monument we have at last a united effort that recognizes the sacrifice of all Americans, equally.

Sadly, many leftists in America didn't want this reconciliation, this retying of bonds, to occur. They wanted punishment, further separation, and vitriol to reign. They wanted President Obama to refuse to recognize that the many hundreds of thousands of Americans of southern heritage could possible have died in an honorable fashion. After nearly 150 years, the left wanted to continue the strife.

Don't get me wrong, rapproachement is not always the right course at just any time. There are requirements for both sides for such an effort to be worthwhile. In this case, the north was the victor the south the vanquished, but a realignment between our two once warring sections has obviously been successful for several generations. Unlike other societies wracked by sectional differences that ended in war, America's rift has healed. While there certainly remain some differences and political clashes, there is no feeling of separation that tears at those bonds of affection or shatters the mystic chords of memory between us, north and south.

So, it is right and good that President Barack Obama should continue to remember the Confederate fallen while also renewing our obligations to remember all who fell for the union. All, each and every one, not just those of the "right" color.

Some may say that the memorial at Arlington most certainly represents the black Americans that fell during the Civil War. They may say that a wreath at the African –American monument is pointless pandering. On the surface, they would be right to say so. But there is significance to recognizing the blacks that fought and fell with a special remembrance. Because of the unfulfilled promise that the Civil War represents, it is fitting that fallen African-Americans be given their due here.

Obama's wreath at the African-American monument costs us nothing and rewards us well. His continuation of the memorial to the Confederate dead reminds us that all is forgiven and renews our brotherhood, and his solemn duty at Arlington for the fallen of our federal services pays homage to those who gave their last full measure.

May God bless our fallen. Each and every one, Americans all.

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Change?? We need only ONE kind of change.. This is it!

Mealer Companies LLC also known as Mealer American Motors Corporation will succeed by manufacturing a variety of top-quality, extremely rugged products with a significant number of money-saving features and options to fulfill the needs of current and future clients. Whether it's the MEALER Automobile or the MEALER USA made laptop, Mealer Companies means more than just great products.

MealerAMC is the up and coming solution for theeconomic change the world needs.

By allowing the MEALER Bridge Vehicle to enter the market first, these automobiles will not only make a reputation of quality automobiles that are versatile, useful, performance oriented and innovative, but also economical and environmentally friendly. In addition to America's demand for a superior MPG internal combustion engine powered auto and the ability to begin building the “BV” immediately, they also appeal to a global market from the start.

Anticipation for our Flagship or Future Vehicle (FV) which provides the ecological solution decried by National governments, California (many times over) as well as the United Nations, will be immense. The solution for what many call disastrous, man-made-Global-Warming hasn't come about just yet, but the greenhouse emissions from fossil fueled cars, trucks and power plants will be resolved. What automaker can make that claim and prove it, besides MealerAMC?

The MEALER FV is designed to provide 3-phase power to a home or office or tent city for that matter when it is parked.

We are talking a fully programmable automobile with all the bells and whistles and safety requirements to race around a NASCAR track.

JL Mealer believes in the safety factor of his products to such an extent that he will demonstrate the safety features of the MEALER Automobile as a televised and living crash test dummy... He expects to play the dummy, so you don't have to.

The MEALER will fully demonstrate quality, reliability and retail potential of what American Ingenuity can produce and manufacture without the UAW, UAC and AFL-CIO restraints.

“Big deal!” Many readers say... “A new US automaker, it was bound to happen... I'm not excited in the least”.

Here's a big difference with Mealer Companies LLC. Employees with MealerAMC and any affiliate with Mealer Companies will be trained not only to build our great automobiles and power sources, but to eventually begin their own USA Manufacturing business where we will not let them fail.

They will become the new backbone for the US economy and will create countless jobs and opportunities for other Americans. Mealer Companies will have the connections for private funding to make these new businesses succeed with the proper training as upper management and CEO positions for their own LLC and Corporations.

Okay, MealerAMC will give us the beautiful and wide variety of MEALER automobiles we need and to top it off, we get a dependable power source for our homes. No Carbon Taxes! No Carbon Cap and trade! We are now free. If you happen to be lucky enough to work for Mealer Companies you will be trained in the clean Green manufacturing industry as well as the dirty much needed manufacturing industry, so that you can leave Mealer Companies and go out on your own with support and the backing of a wide variety of funding sources and experts in the field of making a fortune while re-building this great nation of ours.

Mealer Companies expects other institutions to do the same plan as and rally this nation back into the global leadership role the USA was meant to serve.

We as Americans are the builders and fabricators of the world.

As America, we lead the way when we fail and whenever we win.

So, stop crying and blaming Barney Frank, (even if it his fault)...

Let's grow a pair and fix this problem from the private sector because the spending and taxing gluttons in the US government are simply incapable of doing it.

The Right Cannot Defeat Obama's Health Care Plan If All They Offer Is 'Obamacare Lite'

It will be a few weeks yet before we see the final details, but the broad outlines of the democratic proposals to take over the American health care system are becoming apparent. And from what we can see so far, it looks like bad news for American taxpayers, health-care providers, and, most important, patients. The plan would not initially create a government-run, single-payer system such as those in Canada and Britain. Private insurance would still exist, at least for a time. But it would be reduced to little more than a public utility, operating much like the electric company, with the government regulating every aspect of its operation.

  • At a time of rising unemployment, the government would raise the cost of hiring workers by requiring employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee (tax) to subsidize government coverage.
  • Every American would be required to buy an insurance policy that meets certain government requirements. Even individuals who are currently insured — and happy with their insurance — will have to switch to insurance that meets the government's definition of "acceptable insurance."

  • A government-run plan similar to Medicare would be set up in competition with private insurance, with people able to choose either private insurance or the taxpayer-subsidized public plan. Subsidies and cost-shifting would encourage Americans to shift to the government plan.

  • The government would undertake comparative-effectiveness research and cost-effectiveness research, and use the results of that research to impose practice guidelines on providers.

  • Private insurance would face a host of new regulations, including a requirement to insure all applicants and a prohibition on pricing premiums on the basis of risk.
  • Subsidies would be available to help middle-income people purchase insurance, while government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid would be expanded.

  • Finally, the government would subsidize and manage the development of a national system of electronic medical records.

Taken individually, each of these proposals would be a bad idea. Taken collectively, they would dramatically transform the American health care system in a way that would harm taxpayers, health care providers, and — most importantly — the quality and range of care given to patients.

In the face of this assault on one sixth of the US economy and some of the most important, personal, and private areas of our lives, one would think that the Republican response would be a resounding “No!”  One would be wrong.

Instead, the Republican response has been a plan of their own to increase regulation, mandates, and government control over the health care system. 

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Devin Nunez (R-CA) have proposed a plan based on the failed Romneycare experiment in Massachusetts.  

It is not all bad. 

In fact, it contains some very good proposals, such as changing the tax treatment of health insurance and expanding HSAs. However, it would also preempt many state insurance regulations, establishing new federal insurance rules, including a requirement that insurers accept all applicants regardless of their health or age.   There would also be a federal “risk adjustment” board that would tax some insurers and subsidize others based on whether the people they insure are healthy or sick. These policies will mean higher insurance premiums for the young and healthy.

The plan falls just short of an individual mandate, setting up automatic enrollment in exchange plans at “places of employment, emergency rooms, the DMV, etc.” — essentially, trying to achieve universal coverage by nagging Americans to death.

Notably, Coburn-Burr-Ryan-Nunez abandons one of the best recent Republican ideas for health reform, Rep. John Shadegg’s proposal to allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines, in favor of a requirement that states establish Massachusetts-style connectors. But the Massachusetts Connector has been one of the worst aspects of that state’s reform, acting as a super-regulatory body, adding new mandated benefits, restricting consumer’s choice of plans, and adding both regulatory and administrative costs to insurance. (In fact, the Connector adds its own administrative costs, estimated at 4 percent of premium costs, for plans that are sold through it.) What the Connector has not done is live up to its promise of breaking the link between employment and insurance, giving workers personal, portable insurance that they could take with them from job to job, and which they would not lose when they lost their jobs. Unfortunately, the Connector has not lived up to its promise in the latter regard. In fact, as of May 2008, only 18,122 people had purchased insurance through the Connector. That’s very little gain for so much pain.

Since there is virtually no chance that the Coburn-Burr-Ryan-Nunez will actually be enacted, perhaps one shouldn’t get too excised about its failings. It is clearly far superior to Obamacare. But one can’t escape the feeling that the best way to show the American voters that Republicans have regained their commitment to limited government—and to defeat Obamacare—is not with Obamacare Lite.

Does a Leftist's Lies Matter? Pelosi-nocchio Says no Way!

There are classic lies. There's "Mom, my invisible friend broke the window, not me." Of course, we all have heard, "I didn't see any cookies." Then there's that ever favorite, "No, officer, I didn't know I was speeding." And who can forget that time worn, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica."

But these days the American left has puffed itself up as the keeper of truths, the sacred protectors of America's soul. And, since we all know the fable of rocks and glass houses, we must then realize that all leftists imagine that they simply don't violate truth. They are paragons of it, to be sure. Not a lie should cross our lips, they contend, for it if does the presence of that lie is enough to abrogate our very Americanness.

The truth, you see, is of acclaimed importance to the self-anointed high priests of truth on the left these days. And they have their Messiah as a shining example of that sitting today in the White House. He is the one we've been waiting for. The light. The truth. The way.

At least, this is their delusional self-assessment, anyway.

So, I am wondering about the following: does it matter that one of the left's most exalted leaders is a blatant liar?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has made of herself only one of two things over the “torture” issue, and neither of those things is good. She is either a liar, or an utterly disgraceful incompetent of no principles whatever.

As report after report is revealed of what and when the Speaker of the House knew about the so-called torture of prisoners held by the Bush administration, at least one fact is becoming crystal clear. She and other members of Congress did, indeed, know of what was going on when it was going on.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post is only the latest to show that Congress was made well aware of the treatment that Bush officials had directed to be carried out on terroist prisoners. In his May 9 report, Kane tells us that Michael Sheehy, Pelosi's top aid, had attended a 2003 White House briefing where the waterboarding of al Qaeda suspects was discussed. Also in that meeting was the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee Representative, Jane Harmon (R, CA), who afterward sent a letter of protest to the Bush administration over the situation. Pelosi has admitted that she was aware of that letter.

Yet, all this time, as she has ginned up the country to attack President Bush over "harsh interrogations" and his supposed criminal "secrecy," Pelosi has claimed she was never told that these techniques were in use.

One wonders how Pelosi can say with a straight face that she didn’t know anything about “torture” but at the same time was aware about Harmon’s letter protesting the same?

So, we are left with two possibilities here.

Scenario One:

Pelosi is incompetent. She has a habit of sending top aides to meetings from which she never bothers to inform herself of the outcome. Further, she does not pay much attention to the doings of her colleagues. In other words she is uninterested in her job or the duties of her office.

Scenario Two:

Pelosi is a liar. She knew everything and is only trying to obscure the fact that she knew all along of what the Bush administration was doing. She deemed it unimportant to worry over much about any "torture" until now. And now she is worried abut it only so that she can use it as a political device.

Either way, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a loathsome character. And yet... and yet the left is falling all over itself to stand behind her.

So, do lies by leftists matter? Or is it only the ends that matter?

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Did Sessions Say Abortion is Not a Problem for Judicial Candidates?

Michael O'Brien over at The Hill reports that Senator Jeff Sessions (R, Ala.) told Fox News recently that he had no litmus test on abortion for judicial candidates and that a judge that had pro-abortion views could get his vote for confirmation.

This might alarm anyone that is vehemently anti-abortion. It should also alarm all those conservatives that pushed for Senator Sessions to be made the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

...but hold your outrage for just a minute. Let's more closely look at what he said.

"I don't believe in a litmus test. I believe a judge can have a different view on abortion than I have, and still receive my vote."

On it's face, this is a prudent position. After all, when evaluating a judge it is foolish to say beforehand that any one issue will prevent that candidate from taking the bench. One never knows what one will find when evaluating a candidate. Besides, it has long been a standard to eschew litmus tests in judicial candidates. After all, isn't that what we complain about from the extreme left, that they have litmus tests?

Additionally, even if you do have a personal idea that being pro-abortion violates your litmus test, it is not a good idea to say so outloud.

Still, also on its face, we might find reason to be worried if that was all Sessions said on the matter. But even if we decide to jettison the historical non-litmus stance and find something to worry about in Sessions' statement, we can find solace in his follow up point...

"I would like to know how they analyze the logic behind Roe vs. Wade. If they are faithful to the law, then we can get along pretty well."

Think about what Sessions just said there. He just said that if a candidate follows logic and Constitutional originalism in considering the law, then such a candidate and the Senator can "get along pretty well."

So, what does that mean?

In my opinion, this was Sessions' cagey way of saying that if a judge follows the law properly said judge cannot hep but realize that Roe v Wade is bad law and should be reversed. So, that means that even if a judge is personally pro-choice, but follows the logic of the law, he'll be anti-Roe v Wade regardless of his personal convictions. Sessions was saying that this is the sort of judge he could get along with "pretty well."

I think that Sessions brilliantly set himself up as Mr. "reasonable" as far as his left-wing opponents are concerned while still sending the signal to us that he does, indeed, have a litmus test for a judge. It is a test that holds a judge to strict originalism and logic and not personal crusades.

In essence, Sessions just told us that he will vote thumbs down on any judge that adjudicates with his feelings and not the logic of the law. In essence, Sessions hinted that Obama's "empathetic" candidate won't get much empathy from him.

Let us hope I am right. Because if I am not, we just lost another one of our leaders to the mushy middle.

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Fight For Vouchers, But Think Beyond Them

I love it when good stories are told. And often times, it's good storytelling that makes for persuasive politics. Here's the story of Mercedes Campbell, one of the 1,700 students in the Washington, DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, otherwise known as the school voucher program passed by Congress in 2004. The video was produced by Nick Gillespie and Dan Hayes of Reason.tv.

We all know the why vouchers are good, and we all know the arguments for school choice. Yet, "voucher" seems to be one of the only words coming out of the Right when it comes to education policy. President Obama has already made clear what his policy goals are for energy and health care: cap-and-trade and universal government-mandated coverage, respectively. But he hasn't outlined his plans on education. Now would be a good time for Republicans to get out in front of the President and present him, and voters, with common sense principles and policies on education reform.

Yes, we should fight to save the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. But as great as vouchers are, if all we present to the public is "pro-vouchers," we will once again be struck down by the other side of the aisle as just peddling "old, tired ideas tied to the past eight years."

So what can we do? We should present the public with some simple principles, and ask the President to abide by those principles:

  • More money does not equal better results. Of course, this principle is true of many things government does, but it is especially true in education. Part of the reason the voucher program was created in DC was the fact that DC public schools were receiving one of the highest amounts of funding per pupil, yet had some of the worst results. President Obama might agree with this principle, but I find it hard to believe that he'll be practicing it. We should hold him accountable, and demand specific results: a return on the taxpayers' investment. Speaking of results ...
  • The goal should be to move every child forward instead of "leaving no child behind." The premise of No Child Left Behind was a good one: accountability. Yet the means by which the federal government demanded accountability were bad: federal government control of the metric of success and relying on standardized testing as the baseline. The idea of trying to get every student to meet a certain baseline of knowledge measured by test results flies in the face of the fact not every child learns the same way. What should be measured is whether or not an individual student improved from where he or she was previously, whatever level of knowledge he or she started out with. This should be presented as a principle that is a drastic change from President Bush, therefore one that President Obama should embrace.
  • Schools are more able focus on kids' strengths, not weaknesses, when local control is restored. Usually when the federal government gets too involved in domestic policy, it snuffs out creativity and entrepreneurship in that area. Local control of schools, on the other hand, means more local understanding of the cultural and socioeconomic issues the schools are surrounded by. This usually means more creativity in teaching different types of students and more options for parents, whether it's building special programs for Alaska Native students in the Anchorage School District or allowing folks like Ron Clark to build academies to help disadvantaged students in Harlem and North Carolina. We'll see how much control President Obama is willing to give up.
  • It should be easy to recruit the best teachers, and it should be easy to fire bad teachers. It's a classic battle: common sense vs. teacher union leadership. I'm all for increasing teacher salaries, but school districts around the nation need to have the courage to rethink teacher tenure. Will President Obama agree with treating teachers like professionals?
  • Not every child can, or should, go to college. As Charles Murray said in an NYT op-ed in December, "It’s what you can do that should count when you apply for a job, not where you learned to do it." The overemphasis by public school teachers, counselors and administrators on getting into college leads to a dangerous elitism that can instill a permanent sense of underachievement in many students. I understand that putting this principle into practice will take more cultural change than political action, but it doesn't mean that lawmakers can't make the effort to start the paradigm shift. At the state and local level, more options should be provided to students at the secondary education level so that they can start on a path of learning that suits their learning needs and potential career goals, including charter schools (which President Obama mentioned in his address to Congress.) At the federal level, more can be done to encourage vocational post-secondary education (another policy that Obama should agree with.)

Republican lawmakers on the Hill should offer these principles and corresponding policies to the White House and, for once, get out in front and make the President react to something we present instead of reacting to him. Just as important: like-minded conservatives need to be on the lookout for opportunities and ideas for reform in local school districts, and pay attention to local school board races.

Republican Strategy on the Supreme Court Vacancy

President Obama is not the only one with a difficult decision to make in the face of mounting pressure from various groups.  The Republicans will have to decide what posture to take: combative or deferential, political or analytical.

With Obama still at the height of his popularity, and with solid Democratic control of the Senate (even without Arlen Specter and Al Franken), the GOP is unlikely to sustain a filibuster or generate significant opposition to any but the most extreme nominee — such as the radical transnationalist Harold Koh, whose nomination to be the State Department’s head lawyer is currently pending.

What Republicans should do instead is force a full public debate about constitutional interpretation and judicial philosophy, laying out in vivid detail what kind of judges they want.  Instead of shrilly opposing whomever Obama nominates on partisan grounds, now is the time to show the American people the stark differences between the two parties on one of the few issues on which the stated Republican view continues to command strong and steady support nationwide.  If the party is serious about constitutionalism and the rule of law, it should use this opportunity for education, not grandstanding.

C/P Cato@Liberty

Obama's Tax 'Credit': Old People and Families Hardest Hit

That tax "credit" may cost you next April!

President Obama was praised by the Old Media as the savior of the American taxpayer when he announced in his magnanimity that he was going to give a tax break to "95 percent" of America's taxpayers. He was hailed as the hero of the working man when he said that a "tax credit" would be given to taxpayers and that this much needed "extra" money would soon be seen in their weekly paychecks. But now comes word that Obama's IRS is going to want some of that "tax credit" back from an unknown number of taxpayers next year.

It will come as a shock to two income families, some federal workers, retirees, and young people with more than one low paying job that they will be expected to give back some portion of that "extra" money that Obama claimed he was giving them come April 15, 2010.

The Associated Press is now reporting something that insiders knew all along but it was a story that wasn't getting any traction during the debate about the Obammessiah's loving gift to his people. Turns out it ain't free. At lest it won't be for many Americans.

At-risk taxpayers include a broad swath of the public: married couples in which both spouses work; workers with more than one job; retirees who have federal income taxes withheld from their pension payments and Social Security recipients with jobs that provide taxable income.

Where was this warning when the media was hailing Obama as the most caring father to ever hit the nation's capitol?

As it happens the tax tables that the IRS use to compute tax bills does not take Obama's gift into account. And the result is confusion as well as shock for untold numbers of Americans that will owe taxes at the end of the year when they didn't think they would. This bill will come due if you aren't careful calculating your withholdings.

--A single worker with two jobs making $20,000 a year at each job will get a $400 boost in take-home pay at each of them, for a total of $800. That worker, however, is eligible for a maximum credit of $400, so the remaining $400 will have to be paid back at tax time -- either through a smaller refund or a payment to the IRS.

The IRS recognized there could be a similar problem for married couples if both spouses work, so it adjusted the withholding tables. The fix, however, was imperfect.

-- A married couple with a combined income of $50,000 is eligible for an $800 credit. However, if both spouses work and make more than $13,000, the new withholding tables give them each a $600 boost -- for a total of $1,200.

There were 33 million married couples in 2008 in which both spouses worked. That's 55 percent of all married couples, according to the Census Bureau.

-- A single college student with a part-time job making $10,000 would get a $400 boost in pay. However, if that student is claimed as a dependent on a parent's tax return, she doesn't qualify for the credit and would have to repay it when she files next year.

Some retirees face even bigger headaches.

The Social Security Administration is sending out $250 payments to more than 50 million retirees in May as part of the economic stimulus package. The payments will go to people who receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, railroad retirement benefits or veteran's disability benefits.

The payments are meant to provide a boost for people who don't qualify for the tax credit. However, they will go to retirees even if they have earned income and receive the credit. Those retirees will have the $250 payment deducted from their tax credit -- but not until they file their tax returns next year, long after the money may have been spent.

Retirees who have federal income taxes withheld from pension benefits also are getting an income boost as a result of the new withholding tables. However, pension benefits are not earned income, so they don't qualify for the tax credit. That money will have to paid back next year when tax returns are filed.

More than 20 million retirees and survivors receive payments from defined benefit pension plans, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. However, it is unclear how many have federal taxes withheld from their payments.

If you are curious what effect this might have on your taxes, you can use the IRS withholding calculator to work it out. (http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id96196,00.html)

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The National Council for a New America Launches -- Conference Call Report

This morning I listened in on Eric Cantor's conference call concerning the launch of the National Council for a New America (NCNA) hosted by Congressman Cantor and Senator John McCain.

One of the main points that the two men stressed is that this is "not a contract with America," but a "conversation" with her. The GOP leaders also stressed that this is an "inclusive" effort with which they want to hear from all manner of Americans adhering to a variety opinions on today's most pressing Issues. The two also said that this is not an attempt to "re-brand" the GOP.

The first townhall style meeting is to be held on May second in Northern Virginia and along with Cantor and McCain it is expected that Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush will be in attendance.

Additionally, several Governors past and present have joined this effort. Governor Haley Barbour, Governor, Jeb Bush, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator John McCain, and Governor Mitt Romney.

Senator McCain also mentioned several times that they had contacted Governor Sarah Palin's office and asked her to join them with future NCNA efforts. Senator McCain made sure to mention that fact several times.

The effort has thus far been broken down into five areas of discussion. The economy, healthcare, education, energy, and national security all will come into focus.

My impression is that it certainly is an attempt to refocus the GOP, maybe not necessarily “re-brand” it but certainly re-introduce Republican principles to the people.

It is sure that the “conversation” meme will be looked upon with skepticism, but let’s face it. They had little choice but to employ the terminology. The GOP is in a weakened state and something does have to be done to vivify the Party.

We shall have to wait and see where this goes, but I see no reason to unnecessarily scoff at the effort. Let’s give it a fair hearing, fellow Republicans, conservatives, Libertarians, Americans.

Here is the press release that has been put out by Representative Cantor's office detailing the initial thoughts on the NCNA:

Dear Friends,

The United States is the greatest country in the world, a beacon of hope, strength, and prosperity that Democracies worldwide seek to emulate. Our nation and its people have persevered through past challenges with strength derived from our common belief in freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. Like every American, we look to the future with optimism for the great possibilities of tomorrow. Although today we face some of the toughest times in recent history, together, like so many generations before, we march forward with a vision for an even brighter future for our children.

Today, we are launching the National Council for a New America (NCNA), a caucus of Congressional leaders gathering the expertise of national leaders and doers. We hope that will form the foundation of a concerted, policy-based forum to listen to, partner with, and empower the American people with ideas and solutions that speak directly to the needs of our great nation. This forum will engage in a conversation with America that seeks to remove ideological filters, addresses the realities we are confronting, and speaks to the challenges our citizens are facing.

The NCNA will bring together citizens from across the country to begin a dialogue with the American people through a series of forums, town halls, and an online effort that will engage people in a discussion to meet our common challenges and build a stronger country through common-sense ideas. The NCNA will be a dynamic, forward-looking organization that will amplify the common-sense and wisdom of our fellow citizens through a grassroots dialogue with Republican leaders.

However, this is not a Republican-only forum. While we will be guided by our principles of freedom and security, we will seek to include more than just our ideas. This forum will include a wide open policy debate that every American can feel free to participate in. We do this not just to offer an alternative point of view or to be disagreeable. Instead, we want to ask the American people what their hopes and dreams are. Since January, the President and the Democratic Majority in Congress have – rightfully so – put forward their plan for the future, now we must listen, learn and lead through an honest, open conversation with the American people that will result in building policy proposals that will yield the best results for our nation’s long-term success.

Ultimately, however, we are only launching this effort. The real drivers will have to be the American people. We invite Americans from all walks of life to speak with us as we begin anew rebuilding and reenergizing our nation. We do not pretend to have all the answers nor do we expect the NCNA to remain a static forum. Instead, this is going to be a living, breathing, expanding group that engages Americans from all walks of life. We hope to engage other national leaders, grassroots activists and citizens and invite them to work with us to solve problems with common-sense conservative solutions.

A Blueprint for our Conversation with America

Economy: Real Solutions for Economic Recovery

As the country battles through the worst economic crisis in a generation, we must remain focused on the foundations and institutions that have made us the most prosperous people in the world and the ideas that create jobs and grow our economy. At the same time, we must learn from the mistakes that led to the current crisis and to prevent similar situations from ever occurring again.

Healthcare: Building a 21st Century, Patient-Centered System

No one doubts that our nation’s health care system is in need of reform, but we must strike the right balance that builds on what works and fixes what is broken. All Americans deserve access to high-quality, affordable care. But such coverage cannot come at the expense of their ability to choose their own doctor and have access to the right care, at the right time, in the right setting without waiting in line while sick. In addition, we must continue to focus on the innovation and science that have resulted in thousands of treatments and cures for life-threatening or debilitating diseases while allowing America to remain the leader in research and development worldwide.

Education: Preparing Our Children to Succeed

A high-quality education should not be dependent upon a parent’s income or address. All of America’s children deserve an education that will prepare them for the opportunities and the challenges that await them in the global economy. Yet today, thousands of American children, especially in our inner cities, receive a substandard education or find post-secondary education unaffordable. We must return power from Washington to parents and well-paid teachers who know what’s best for our children.

Energy: Solutions for Energy Independence

American families and businesses cannot afford an energy policy where we are held hostage by foreign oil cartels and dictators. As a nation, we can no longer send billions of dollars overseas each year, often to countries that help fund our enemies. We must implement a comprehensive energy policy that includes traditional fuels, alternative energy, and conservation resulting in affordable, reliable domestic energy. Such a policy will stabilize costs for families and businesses while at the same time creating much-needed jobs here at home.

National Security: Defending American Liberty and Freedom

The threats posed to our nation are more varied and evolving more than perhaps at any other time in our history. Modern communications, technology and the proliferation of weapons of all types have empowered our enemies and those who support them. Our national security policy must reflect these realities while allowing us to maintain technological superiority, support the most well-trained and well-equipped military in the world and have the intelligence capabilities to uncover and prevent attacks before they occur.

Our National Panel of Experts:

Governor Haley Barbour
Governor Jeb Bush
Governor Bobby Jindal
Senator John McCain
Governor Mitt Romney

These are not the only issue areas where we will engage America, but they form a starting point in our revitalization effort. In the coming months, the NCNA will focus our attention outside of Washington where American families are living and raising their children, working toward the promise of a better tomorrow, and where common-sense ideals are valued over pundits and the political winds. We know America’s best days are ahead, but we need to work hard to ensure that promise. We also know that the American people want choices and alternatives – that there is no one right solution for what America and its people need. This is what our country was founded on, this is what we stand for, this is what we hope the National Council for a New America will provide and we ask our fellow citizens to join with us.

Sincerely,

John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mike Pence, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, John Carter, Pete Sessions, David Dreier, Kevin McCarthy, Roy Blunt

Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Lamar Alexander, John Cornyn, John Thune

Brad Dayspring
Press Secretary
Office of the Republican Whip
Congressman Eric Cantor
(202) 226-5249
AIM: BDDACE2

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