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From Good Friday to a Celebratory Weekend

April 18th, 2014

April 18, 2014
From Good Friday to a Celebratory Weekend
As we head into a sacred weekend for many Americans, The Foundry would like to share these inspiring words with you. Have a wonderful celebration.
Excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on the Observance of Easter and Passover, April 2, 1983
My fellow Americans:
This week as American families draw together in worship, we join with millions upon millions of others around the world also celebrating the traditions of their faiths. During these days, at least, regardless of nationality, religion, or race, we are united by faith in God, and the barriers between us seem less significant.

>>> Read More

Why Rumsfeld Sends a Letter to IRS Every Year Congressman Calls the Export-Import Bank ‘The Face of Cronyism’

Quick Hits

For the rest of the story, see: The Heritage Foundation <morningbell@heritage.org>

Pushback Continues: States Grow Increasingly Wary of Common Core

April 17th, 2014

From The Heritage Foundation 

Photo: Sara Caldwell/The Augusta Chronicle/ZUMAPRESS.com

Photo: Sara Caldwell/The Augusta Chronicle/ZUMAPRESS.com

Common Core is on the ropes. More and more states are pulling back from the national standards as the 2014–15 school year implementation deadline looms near.

In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal (R)—formerly a Common Core supporter—is now encouraging the legislature to remove the state from the Common Core aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) test. And if they don’t act, he will.

Jindal’s new stance comes after eight members of the Louisiana State House of Representatives sent him a letter, informing him of his prerogative to opt out of the standards and encouraging him to do so. As The New Orleans Advocate reported:

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that a gubernatorial order for the state to drop controversial Common Core tests is a ‘very viable option’ if state lawmakers fail to act. Jindal made the comment in response to a letter from eight House members who said the governor can opt the state out of the exams and should do that… ‘We believe you have the authority, as governor, under the 2010 PARCC memorandum of understanding, to opt out of the consortium,’ state Rep. Brett Geymann, (R–Lake Charles), and seven other legislators wrote.

In a statement released on Monday Jindal said,

We share the concerns of these [anti-Common Core] legislators and also of parents across Louisiana. We’re hopeful that legislation will move through the process this session that will address the concerns of parents or delay implementation until these concerns can be addressed. We think this course of action outlined in the legislators’ letter remains a very viable option if the Legislature does not act.

But as The Times-Picayune reports,

On a practical level, there is some question as to whether Jindal can unilaterally tear Louisiana away from the PARCC consortium, in which 16 states plus Washington D.C. participate. [Louisiana Superintendent] John White and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education [BESE] president Chas Roemer said their permission is also required to leave the consortium, and both White and Roemer—who also avidly supports Common Core—are unwilling to do so.

Meanwhile, this week in South Carolina, State Superintendent Mick Zais officially withdrew his state from the Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests.

In a letter to the State Board of Education, Zais wrote:

I want to have a high quality assessment that meets the specific needs of South Carolina, at a competitive price. If we continue to focus only on Smarter Balanced, we lose any opportunity to consider alternatives….

In consideration of the foregoing, and the discovery that I have the authority to withdraw South Carolina from its status as a governing state of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and after full consultation with the Governor’s Office and appropriate members of the General Assembly, I am informing you that I am exercising that authority.

Oklahoma, too, is currently in a battle over Common Core. The state senate passed a bill earlier this month downgrading the state’s involvement with the national standards, although there is some difference of opinion as to whether it would fully remove Oklahoma from the standards, or merely change the name of the standards.

Governor Mary Fallin (R), a supporter of Common Core and chair of the National Governor’s Association which helped develop the standards, said in a statement that she “support[s] passing legislation that increases classroom rigor and accountability while guaranteeing that Oklahoma public education is protected from federal interference…”

Meanwhile, the Missouri House of Representatives passed their bill to find a Common Core replacement.

“We’re going to create the process to have Missouri standards and Missouri assessments,” State Rep. Kurt Bahr (R), who introduced the measure, stated. The proposal requires that by October 1, 2014 the state board must develop new academic standards by the following October 2015, in place of the Common Core, and adopt and implement these standards by the 2016-17 school year.

Fifteen states have now made strides in halting or downgrading their involvement in the standards. Last month, Indiana became the first state to exit Common Core. This is promising momentum in the effort of states to reclaim their educational decision-making authority.

 

A Nation That Is ‘Boston Strong’

April 16th, 2014

April 16, 2014
A Nation That Is ‘Boston Strong’
After the bombing shattered the Boston Marathon last year, hundreds of runners left their shoes behind in a spontaneous memorial. Many wrote messages on them.
Those are now part of an exhibit at the Boston Public Library—but thousands of people added pairs of their own running shoes to an outdoor memorial in addition to cards and flowers over the past few days.
Boston was a tragic reminder that terrorists still seek to do us harm, but the survivors have amazed the country. Brothers Paul and J.P. Norden each lost a leg in the attack last year. Yesterday, CNN reported that they set out to walk the 26.2-mile marathon route with family and friends.

>>> Read More

The Left Is Missing the Real ‘War on Women’ 2014 Tax Day Chart: Who Pays the Most?

Quick Hits

For the rest of the story, see: The Heritage Foundation <morningbell@heritage.org>

CBO: Top 20% of earners pay 90% of federal income taxes

April 15th, 2014

The current Democrat administration and their radical left base are intent on raising taxes even further.  The President has raised or attempted to raise your taxes 442 times since taking office!  Now a new report shows that the top 20% of earners already pay 90% of federal income taxes.  Is this change that you can believe in?

CBO: Top 20% of earners pay 90% of federal income taxes

video.foxbusiness.com/…/cbo-top-20-of-earners-p

  • Fox Business Network
Fox Business; Watch Live; Show Clips; News Clips … CBO: Top 20% of earners pay 90% of federal income taxes. Apr. 14, 2014 – 3:43 – Political Prospect editor …
www.foxbusiness.com/watch/…/stuart-varney-bio/

  • Fox Business Network
Before that, he was a co-anchor of CNN’s “Moneyline News Hour.” Varney helped launch … CBO: Top 20% of earners pay 90% of federal income taxes. Political …

Americans for Tax Reform

www.atr.org/

  • Americans for Tax Reform
10 hours ago – However, rather than trying to boost the competitiveness of their … Obama has Proposed 442 Tax Hikes Since Taking Office … He said he wouldnt raise taxes a damn dime to pay for the piece of crap. … It’s time that the executive overreaches seen under this Administration be held in check by the courts.

  • Ryan Ellis | Americans for Tax Reform

    www.atr.org/authors/ryan-ellis

    • Americans for Tax Reform
    16 hours ago – Obama has Proposed 442 Tax Hikes Since Taking Office ….. he or she will have to work longer hours, seek another job, ask for a raise, take a ….. other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those …
Please share with any friends and family still registered as Democrats and encourage them to leave the party that has long since left them!

ICYMI: “Incredible Work For Higher Education”

April 14th, 2014
Alan Levine, a member of the Florida Board of Governors, posted the following on his Facebook page today. Read below for his full post.

Thanks,

Greg Blair

Deputy Communications Director
Rick Scott for Florida

###

As the Florida Legislature winds down its work for this year, it is important to take a moment to thank Governor Rick Scott and the two current Republican leaders – House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, for their incredible work for higher education over the last few years.

When Governor Scott came into office, he inherited a higher education system that had seen its students paying year over year double digit growth in tuition with declining state support – and our major universities saw their gains on the national rankings begin to recede. PECO – Public Education Capital Outlay – the funds available for investment into maintenance and growth of school and university infrastructure – had been spent to almost nothing due to the huge debt piled up prior to 2011, when Scott took office, and because of the changing taxation structure, new funds to help pay for investment were effectively gone. And while the notion of measurement and standards for improvement of graduation rates, and investment into Sciences, Technology, Math and Engineering began during the Bush years through direction to the newly created University Boards to start developing long-range strategies to advance the sciences, those efforts seemed to be only priorities of the Board of Governors but with a lack of buy-in from elected leaders.

Enter Scott, Gaetz and Weatherford. People with an understanding of the type of graduates businesses are looking to hire as they reassert Florida as a destination state for high quality jobs and diversification of the workforce.

Through his appointments to the Board of Governors, and through their confirmation by the Senate, Rick Scott and the legislature have invested in leadership that believes in a few things which are now the policy of Florida, thanks to the support and leadership of the Governor and Legislature:

 

  • PURSUIT      OF PREEMINENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION. For the first time in Florida history,      Florida’s two highest ranking universities – the University of Florida and      Florida State University – are now knocking on the door of national      prominence, and I’m not talking about on the football field and      basketball court (although that ain’t so bad either). The Governor’s      direct involvement – his personal, direct and hands on intervention – led      to the passage of law that designates these universities as preeminent,      and places tens of millions of dollars on the table to achieve top-10      status for the University of Florida and top 25 status for Florida State      University. As a result, the University of Florida has already announced a      new, private capital campaign to raise another $800 million or so – to      support the hiring and retention of more high quality faculty and further      develop its research capabilities. I can’t recall since the days      Marshall Criser, Jr. was President, that the University of Florida made      such great strides forward through its selection to be the only southern      public university to be admitted into the AAU. These new public dollars      sought by the governor and passed by the legislature did not come as a      handout. They are attached to standards these universities must achieve in      order to continue receiving the support. And the Board of Governors, at      the urging of Governor Scott, is taking these standards seriously.
  • KEEPING THE COST OF      HIGHER EDUCATION DOWN. While I don’t have the      statistics in front of me, I think it is safe to say that the cost of      tuition was exploding in the years leading up to 2011. While the experts      in the media, and some politicians, were proclaiming that tuition was not      high enough, Governor Scott and legislative leaders saw something much      more important. The quality of higher education in Florida was competitive      while also much less expensive. Penn State University is the 8th ranked      public university, and often times, people point to Penn State and suggest      that because Penn State’s tuition is more than twice that of the      University of Florida’s, that is reason to increase the debt load on our      next generation. Scott disagreed. What he and others saw was that while      Penn State was ranked 8th, the University of Florida is ranked 14th -      knocking on the door to Top-10 status – at half the cost to students -      with Florida universities being ranked as among the best value in the      nation. Why would we want to give up that status? Why wouldn’t we want to      come up with a different way of getting to top-10 without making it out of      reach for our lower income families – whom the research says is the most      negatively impacted by high tuition. That’s why they created Preeminence      and tied the financial rewards to improved performance – an investment      made by all Floridians that keeps the Florida Universities competitive and      attractive to our best and brightest. Many of us think it is a      good thing that students come out of our major universities with less debt      than the average debt for college graduates nationally, and even believe      that is part of what gives Florida’s universities a competitive edge over      these other schools. I believe, because of the Governor’s policies,      because of the support of the legislature and Board of Governors, the      University of Florida will soon be a top-10 university among the other      greats like Penn State, Georgia Tech, UNC-Chapel Hill, UCLA, etc…. at a      much lower cost. And Florida State University will be ranked among the      greats like Ohio State, Wisconsin, UCONN, etc. Again….at a much lower      cost to students.
  • INVESTING      IN SCIENCES. Governor      Scott proposed $80 million to be invested in cancer research and      treatment. Last year, the Legislature funded $50 million and this      year, he increased it by $30 million – and it looks like the Legislature      will go along. Governor Scott sees what most of us see who have always      been frustrated by the fact that Florida has only one comprehensive cancer      center, while California has, I believe, 6. Along with this status comes      increased research investment by the associate organizations of the      National Institutes on Health and other private research investment.      Again, not out of populism, but out of a sheer understanding of how to      make our universities and care settings competitive, we have invested in      something that will long give our students and professionals in training      the tools to continue attracting research and investment into our state.      This means better care for those afflicted with cancer, and it means high      wage JOBS!
  • STEM. At      the urging of the Governor and Legislature, the focus on increasing the      production of graduates in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Math      professions has never been more intensive. The Governor sees what high wage      employers are looking for. Some have belittled his efforts here,      arguing that higher education should provide the opportunity for students      to receive a well-rounded exposure to the liberal arts. I personally agree      with exposing our students to these opportunities, as does the Governor      and legislature. But there is also a realism that our young people today      want JOBS. The economy of tomorrow requires we produce a workforce capable      of meeting the demands of manufacturing, the sciences and technology. If we      don’t produce these specialized, high quality graduates in more numbers,      the employers will look elsewhere. The combination of lower taxes, high      quality STEM graduates, and a business friendly atmosphere will create the      type of sustainable job growth Florida needs. Governors for decades have      been frustrated by the lack of diversity in our economy, trying to move      Florida away from its disproportionate reliance upon the service      industries. Jeb Bush saw this and made huge investment in the biosciences      in 2003 – recruiting Scripps, Torrey Pines and Burnham. Today, Governor      Scott is advancing this investment by trying to create the capacity to      actually service the job opportunities resulting from these investments      into the sciences.
  • Governor      Scott, Speaker Weatherford and President Gaetz put an exclamation point on      the idea of affordable access to higher education by investing in on-line      education opportunity – creating the University of Florida Online, and      supporting the multitude of other on-line opportunities at our other great      universities. So      many Floridians – and Americans – are now seeking to advance their skills,      and even to attend undergraduate studies, through on-line access – which      provides the opportunity for a degree at a much lower cost. Again…if we      want to provide opportunity, the future of education is such that we must      be able to bring it to where the people are, rather than force them to      incur debt and disruption in what may be their only way to earn a living      while they seek a degree – by halting their lives and coming to a massive      institution. Much great work is being done, and i’m proud of the steps the      administration has taken to advance these principles.

Good luck to the Governor and Legislature as they wind down the session. As a parent who just saw his son graduate from the University of Florida….THANK YOU for all you are doing to ensure the value of his degree means something even more in tomorrow’s economy.http://links.natmedia.mkt6416.com/servlet/MailView?ms=MjA2MjA1MzQS1&r=NzIyNzcyNTQ5MTES1&j=MzAwNzY0NjkyS0&mt=1&rt=0

The Charts Obama Doesn’t Want You to See

April 14th, 2014

From The Heritage Foundation – Talking about Obamacare’s effects is one thing; seeing hard data is another.

Heritage’s newly updated Obamacare in Pictures has 15 charts that show the law’s effects on Americans—from canceled insurance policies to new taxes, Medicare cuts, reduced choice for plans, and more.

Here’s a quick look at just three of these charts and how Obamacare is hitting three groups.

YOUNG PEOPLE

Obamacare in Pictures 2014: Premiums Age 27

Obamacare says you can stay on your parents’ health insurance until you turn 26. This chart looks at what happens after that—if you don’t have employer-sponsored insurance and you have to get insured through Obamacare. If you’re trying to save for a car or house—or just paying rent to have your own place—seeing your premiums double is quite a blow.

SENIORS

Obamacare in Pictures 2014: Medicare cuts

You may recall Heritage experts’ warning that Obamacare would cut $716 billion from Medicare. That’s still happening.

Despite the Obama administration’s recent walking back of Medicare Advantage cuts for this year, Obamacare’s planned cuts to Medicare are moving forward. This chart shows which parts of Medicare are affected.

Heritage expert Alyene Senger has explained that, instead of cutting waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare program, Obamacare targets the amounts Medicare service providers are paid. These cuts have ripple effects on seniors. Doctors, nursing homes, and other providers who can’t afford to be part of Medicare any more will cut back or stop participating—and that means fewer options and less access to care for seniors.

ALL AMERICANS

Obamacare in Pictures 2014: Obamacare Remains Unpopular (Polls)

This chart looks a lot like a heartbeat—and it tracks one of Obamacare’s vital signs: public opinion. There has been a 10-point gap between support for and opposition to the law for some time now. That spike in opposition/sharp decline in support? It coincides with the flood of cancellation notices that landed in Americans’ mailboxes last year.

Obamacare remains unpopular because it’s raising taxes, killing jobs, and cutting Americans’ health care choices. We need health reform that reverses these trends.

>>> See the rest of Obamacare in Pictures

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

For the rest of the story, see: http://blog.heritage.org/2014/04/11/obamacare-charts-obama-doesnt-want-see/

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What No One Wants to Admit About Social Security Taxes

April 14th, 2014

From The Heritage Foundation – The Morning Bell
April 14, 2014
What No One Wants to Admit About Social Security Taxes
It’s a bummer when you see how much income tax comes out of your paycheck. But when you see that Social Security line item, do you think, “At least that’s going to pay for my retirement”?
It’s not.
The tax money you’re paying into Social Security today is going to fund today’s retirees. Who will pay for your benefits? The next generation of workers.
And the payout gets worse with each generation.

>>> Read More

An IRS Employee Urged People to Reelect Obama Obama Picks Overseer of Government Shutdown Decisions for HHS

Quick Hits

For the rest of the story, see: http://blog.heritage.org/2014/04/14/one-wants-admit-social-security-taxes/?utm_source=heritagefoundation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=morningbell

Truth, Obamacare and November

April 12th, 2014
From Morning Alert – Truth, Obamacare and November

By Robert B. Charles

Presidents have long been guilty of bluster and puffing.  We, The People, learn to live with it.  We groaningly tolerate political ignorance, ill-informed opinions and tomfoolery.  That is how our civil society shows respect for Free Speech.   Today, something else has gotten loose in the public square, and it is worth examining more closely.  And remembering in November.

The Obama White House, while chilling and threatening free speech by prominent reporters, successful conservative moviemakers, governors and others who question, has now ushered in a new practice:  Unapologetic, intentional misrepresentation of facts known to be false when spoken.  This innovation represents a step beyond.  Its systematic deployment is both arresting and worrisome.  Boldly misrepresenting reality on a regular basis is either a calculated deception, or a peculiar strain of self-deception.

President Obama has set a new low-water mark in the annals of American democracy, upending the notion that truth matters.  The blitz to remake facts appears aimed at confusing, misleading and ultimately manipulating the public into a state of indifference and dependence.   From vilifying woodstoves and backyard ponds to claims of compliance by Iran and Syria with international accords; from the evils of a fossil fuel pipeline to asserting a presidential prerogative to choose laws to enforce; from dissembling on the Benghazi attacks and gun-dumping in Mexico to misuse of the Internal Revenue Service – truth is a casualty.  In a headlong rush for federal control over all aspects of life, this White House spares no contortion.  Assembled in one place, the factual misstatements of this president would produce a best-seller, or perhaps elevate a federal prosecutor to new heights.

But focus just on Obamacare, the Unaffordable Health Care Act.  As penalties bite, recall that no one was allowed to read this law before voting, that not a single Republican voted for it, and that President Obama said it would  (1) allow you to keep your doctor, (2) your current insurance plan, (3) deductible, (4) cost levels, and (5) benefit levels.  Those five promises — to a one — have all proven false.  Insiders confide they were false when made.

Take a deep breath.   Does this extraordinary breach matter?   Yes.  Because truth is the underpinning of law — without it, our laws have no legitimacy.  What is the seminal principle of law here?  The law is this:  “When financial information is misstated by any scheme, artifice, or device with the intent to mislead investors, this is a form of financial fraud.”  Obamacare is a giant financial fraud.  After all, what are we but unwilling and deceived investors — now facing added insult in penalties if we try to escape — in a fraudulent scheme, to which the president has generously given his name?   Where is the legitimacy in a law procured by fraud?  Where is accountability?

Political actors do not like to hear the word “lie,” because it smacks of intentional misrepresentation, lack of integrity, deception, even malice.  But what should we call this preplanned, force-fed, misleading financial trap and deprivation of quality health care?  Was it not a knowing misrepresentation of material facts, that is, a falsehood conceived and forced on the public, then blithely defended as “too big to fail?”

The size of this deception — and it continues to grow — is surreal.  Honest Americans are at a loss as to how they can stop its continuing infringement; it is like a nuclear reaction gone wrong, one deprivation cascading into another, until exemptions barely catch up with the next link in the chain reaction, all exemptions temporary.  Yet, the campaign to support this mutation continues apace — and with your tax dollars.

The factual misrepresentations are unabated.  In Michigan this month, the President mocked those who questioned his failing plan, belittled their intelligence, accused them of not wanting Americans to have insurance, and then lowered himself to name-calling, saying the Republican alternative was a “stinkburger.”  Really, Mr. President?  This is intelligent discourse, a reasoned defense of your failing plan?  Does America not deserve better?  If the aim is to swallow our resolve, create maximum confusion, and accelerate federal dependence — do not count on it.  This departure from truth — like the others — should stir every American.  By reference to history, burying truth in a headlong grab for social control is dangerous, even if rooted in utopian socialism.  That is not what any of us — or what most of us — are about.

Against this backdrop, an honest White House would stop talking about glitches and never-ending rollouts, and confess a policy failure.   An honest White House would eat some humble pie — a big piece.   Then, it would try to begin again with some semblance of bipartisanship.  From there, truth would include facts.  For example, six of the seven million Americans cajoled into signing up for this ill-conceived policy were stripped of coverage by the White House; they are not newly insured.  Few have yet paid, and fewer probably will.  The demographics make the plan unsustainable, and only compulsory penalties will pay for what Americans do not want.   The plan is a disaster.

But this president is tripling down — and with your money.  He appears to be stuck on go, mocking the truth, browbeating the nation with his exhausting machinations.   What can we do?  We can remember fidelity to truth, and this president’s startling departure from it.  We can remember Winston Churchill’s famous quote:  “The truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” One last thing — we can turn those out of power in November who voted for it in Congress.  We still have that right, the right to vote.  We should use it.  And that’s the truth!

Robert B. Charles was an Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former US Court of Appeals Clerk for Judge Robert Beezer, taught at the Harvard University Extension School, and currently leads a consulting group in Washington DC.

For the rest of the story, see:  http://www.morningalert.com/truth-obamacare-and-november/

 

The Pros and Cons of Ryan’s 2015 Path to Prosperity Budget

April 3rd, 2014

From The Heritage Foundation – The Foundry

 

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released the Fiscal Year 2015 Path to Prosperity Budget. Building on foundations established in 2011, this plan seeks to balance the budget within 10 years by cutting spending, reforming poverty programs, and importantly, reforming the health care entitlements—the largest drivers of deficit spending and debt.

In numbers, the Ryan Budget would:

  • Cut spending by $5.1 trillion, including about $800 billion in lower interest costs.
  • Achieve the biggest spending savings, $2 trillion, from repealing Obamacare.
  • Keep a cap on discretionary spending through the end of the10-year budget window, after the BCA expires in 2021.
  • Reduce the public debt from 73 percent of GDP in 2015 to 56 percent of GDP by 2024.
  • Increase spending in nominal terms from $3.6 trillion (20.2 percent of GDP) to just shy of $5 trillion in 2024 (18.4 percent of GDP), spending $1 trillion less in 2024 than the President’s Budget called for.

Obamacare Repeal. Ryan’s budget would repeal new spending and new taxes in Obamacare. The budget would save $792 billion over 10 years by repealing the costly Medicaid expansion and $1.2 trillion over 10 years by repealing the subsidies and related exchange spending. The Ryan budget would repeal the numerous tax increases, including the government mandates on employers and individuals to purchase coverage. Such spending reductions are a critical first step to establishing a sound budget and necessary to lay the groundwork for conservative health care reform.

Medicaid Reforms. The Ryan budget proposal rightly repeals the Medicaid expansion included in Obamacare. In addition, it would put Medicaid on a budget by replacing the current open-ended funding model with a more fiscally sound allotment model that would be indexed to population growth and inflation. Such a change would help reduce the perverse incentives created by the open-ended funding model we have today. While setting a budget is a key first step, the policy changes that accompany these fiscal reforms are equally as important. In particular, policymakers should look to mainstream the Medicaid population into private coverage and out of the failing government program.

Medicare Reforms. The Ryan budget makes the structural changes that are desperately needed to the Medicare program. Repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board and implementing a premium support model of financing for Medicare moves the program in a fiscally responsible and patient-centered direction, benefiting both taxpayers and seniors.

Unfortunately, the Ryan budget proposal doesn’t implement major structural reforms until 2024, which is too slow. Medicare’s fiscal challenges are too severe. The sooner this transition is made, the better.

The budget does consolidate the complex payment structure, secures legislative efforts to provide a long term “fix” for Medicare’s physician reimbursement system, raises the retirement age, and further reduces taxpayer subsidies for upper-income retirees. All are critical steps in order to transition toward premium support.

Tax Reform. The Ryan Budget again includes tax reform—for which Ryan should be applauded. Tax reform is vital to reviving the economy and putting it on a stronger foundation for growth going forward. The House, building off of Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp’s draft tax reform proposal, continues to do the heavy lifting for tax reform while President Obama and the Senate sit silent on this important issue. The continued work the House is doing keeps the debate on tax reform going and improves the chances for tax reform sooner rather than later.

Defense.  The FY2015 Budget Resolution is a step in the right direction for funding defense. It recognizes many areas of concern as a result of recent cuts to defense, such as, for example, the increased risk involved due to planned reductions in the force structure. Thus, starting in FY2016, the budget resolution increases the discretionary base budget for defense by an average of $54 billion each year over the Budget Control Act caps. This will, in essence, relieve the pressures of sequestration for defense. The new discretionary budget is also slightly higher than the President’s budget request for the Department of Defense by about $67 billion. While a far cry from fully funding defense, the increased spending on defense will prevent the military from making even more drastic cuts to our nation’s strength. Importantly, the budget would shift spending from inappropriate and wasteful domestic programs towards funding Congress’s main constitutional responsibility.

Education. The Ryan budget includes important reforms such as employing fair-value accounting measures. The federal government’s current accounting practices, by and large, fail to account for market risk, likely understating the cost of student loans to taxpayers. On the K–12 front, the Ryan budget wisely calls for the elimination of ineffective and duplicative programs. Moreover, the budget would put a cap on Pell Grant awards and shift the program onto the discretionary side of the budget where it would likely receive more deliberation and review by Congress.

Energy. When it comes to energy, the budget resolution makes clear that opening access to America’s natural resources and ending the federal government’s intervention in energy markets will promote competition, provide affordable energy, and avert wasted taxpayer dollars. For far too long, Washington has used the political process to control the production or consumption of one energy source or technology over another through laws, executive orders, regulations and government spending programs. The budget resolution rightly scales back duplicative and unnecessary Department of Energy programs that attempt to drive technologies into the marketplace.

Fannie and Freddie. The budget proposal “envisions the eventual elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, winding down their government guarantee and ending taxpayer subsidies.” Eliminating Fannie and Freddie is a long overdue step toward getting the government out of the housing market, but the details of how this goal is accomplished will be critical. The proposal mentions possibly following the approach in H.R. 2767, the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act of 2013, which is a step in the right direction. If, on the other hand, the Senate’s approach to housing finance reform were adopted, taxpayers would continue to guarantee private investments in the mortgage market. Also, importantly, the budget would account for Fannie and Freddie’s budgetary impact using a fair-value approach, revealing to taxpayers that the GSE’s impose a real cost on taxpayers.

Transportation. With regard to transportation, the budget would phase out subsidies for the Essential Air Services program; for over three decades, taxpayers have been subsidizing rural passengers who opt for air travel when other, possibly cheaper, ways of traveling are available. Phasing out the subsidies is a responsible reform that will give state and local governments time to plan. Perhaps most importantly, Ryan’s budget recommends that Washington give states increased flexibility to pay for their highway projects priorities, perhaps through keeping and spending the gas taxes collected in their state instead of sending them to Washington. Such a reform would empower states and citizens—not Washington bureaucrats and special interests—to solve their transportation challenges that they know best.

The following experts contributed to this blog: Alyene Senger (Health Care); Curtis Dubay (Taxes); Diem Salmon (Defense); Lindsey Burke (Education); Nick Loris (Energy), Norbert Michel (GSEs); Emily Goff (Transportation)

For the rest of the story, see: http://blog.heritage.org/2014/04/01/pros-cons-ryans-2015-path-prosperity-budget/

Rep. Cary Pigman – Update from Tallahassee

March 31st, 2014
Friends,   Tax relief is heading your way! The Florida House recently passed CS/SB 156, which provides substantial tax relief for families and businesses by significantly cutting the taxes, fees, and surcharges when registering motor vehicles. Floridians will see their registration costs reduced by $25.05 for heavy weight vehicles, $21.55 for middle weight vehicles, and $18.55 for light weight vehicles. It is estimated the cut will cost $395 million on an annual basis.   The tax relief provided under CS/SB 156 is part of Speaker Weatherford and President Gaetz’s proposed $500 million tax and fee cut, which will be the largest tax and fee cut of its kind in over a decade. With substantive tax relief a major priority this session, the House is focused on developing proposals that put money directly back into your pockets.   It is my anticipation the Florida House will pass further, meaningful tax relief for Floridians to meet that $500 million tax and fee cut goal.   The Department of Economic Opportunity recently released the state’s employment numbers for February 2014. The unemployment rate held at 6.2% from January and is down from 7.9% this time last year. Florida created 33,400 jobs in February, the largest monthly jobs gain in over three years.   University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith announced in his first quarter economic forecast that Florida’s economy is now leading the nation in 2014. Florida’s unemployment rate has remained below the national average for six consecutive months, and the annual job growth rate continues to exceed the national rate. Snaith also predicted that Florida’s economy will continue to outpace the nation as a whole over the next several years.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions.   Thank you for the privilege of being your state representative.
Sincerely,
Cary Pigman
State Representative, District 55

Notable Legislation

Clarifying Zero Tolerance Policies: The Florida House passed HB 7029, relating to Code of Student Conduct, to prevent students from being severely punished for simulating a firearm or weapon with harmless objects like their fingers, food items, or toy blocks while playing. Florida law requires each district school board to adopt a policy of zero tolerance for crime and victimization, which requires that students found in possession of a firearm or weapon be expelled for a minimum of one year and referred to the criminal or juvenile justice system. Recently, in states across the country with similar policies, students have been expelled or suspended for simulating a firearm while playing or wearing clothing that depicts a firearm or support for firearm rights.   The bill clarifies that students should not be disciplined for simulating a firearm while playing or wearing clothing which depicts a firearm or an opinion regarding Second Amendment rights. The bill preserves school board authority to discipline students when simulating a firearm or weapon substantially disrupts student learning, causes bodily harm to another person, or places another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm. However, the punishment given to the student must be proportionate to the severity of the infraction. The clarification provided by this bill will provide educators and school administrators more flexibility in enforcing policies that can have unintended consequences. Career Centers and Charter Technical Career Centers: The House unanimously passed CS/CS/HB 7057 relating to Career Centers and Charter Technical Career Centers, which will provide Florida’s students with greater access to college credit and applied degree programs. The bill uses our career centers to provide students increased access to programs that will prepare them for careers. The bill authorizes career centers and charter technical career centers to offer college credit certificate programs and establishes a process by which they can seek approval to offer associate in applied science (AAS) degree programs. A center that offers college credit certificate programs or AAS degrees can be designated as a “technical college” if it meets certain criteria. The bill brings fees for college credit courses at career centers in line with those charged at Florida College System institutions. The bill also establishes block tuition for students in adult general education programs, which promotes access and affordability.     Strengthening Self-Defense Laws: To strengthen Florida’s self-defense laws, the Florida House overwhelmingly passed CS/CS/HB 89 relating to the Threatened Use of Force.   A close read of Florida’s self-defense laws reflects that only a person’s actual use of force can be justifiable – not a person’s threatened use of force. Similarly, the law provides criminal and civil immunity to persons who lawfully use force in self-defense – not those who threaten to use force. CS/CS/HB 89 amends current self-defense law to specify that a person’s threat to use force may be justifiable. This bill specifies that a person who lawfully threatens to use force is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action. A person may have his or her record expunged if he or she was not charged or the case was dismissed because it was found that the person acted in lawful self-defense.   In recent years, those who have been convicted of crimes such as aggravated assault for threatening to use force have been sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences pursuant to the 10-20-Life law. This bill requires a judge to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence required by the 10-20-Life law for aggravated assault convictions if a judge makes certain written findings. The bill also clarifies that a person does not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force if they are in a place they have a right to be and are not engaged in a criminal (rather than unlawful) activity.

Officers

Chairman
    Kathy Rapp
Vice Chairman
    Virgil Beato
Secretary
    Olivia Scott
Treasurer
    Gil Santavenere

State Committeeman
    C. A. "Chuck" Oakes

State Committeewoman
    Joan Hartt