Lame Duck Congress, Ducking Issues?

Lame Duck Congress, Ducking Issues?

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Decisions made on the federal budget, extension of emergency unemployment benefits, Bush tax cuts, the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and an armed treaty with Russia, all by December 31st? This is highly unlikely as the democrats and republicans wrestle for power and status in the Whitehouse, as President Obama calls meetings in an attempt to get something passed by the end 2010.


It appears to be the “perfect storm” for Obama’s administration where politically, morally and economically charged issues have presented themselves all at once in a contentious environment.  All of this happening while Korea increases it’s weapons and wages battle.  These are dangerous times where decisions made this month will affect U.S. citizens for generations to come. 


The lack of cooperation between both political parties continues its tradition as they attempt to cut deals or at least talk about the issues.  Newly elected republicans remain unified in their stance on cutting back government spending and reducing the enormous deficient, yet they want to keep Bush’s tax cuts.  The democrats largely support extending long term unemployment benefits past 99 weeks, but for how long and at what cost to the taxpayers who may see their income tax payments increase next year.


Most long term unemployment compensation has expired for 2 million people on November 30th, with many of the recipients who have depended on the weekly checks to live.   Many will be forced to live on welfare if the benefits are not extended.  Yet, the extension will cost our government and its people billions of dollars, some say we just can’t afford. 


The argument over extended jobless benefits and Bush-era tax cuts is a huge political football as both parties attempt to create a plan of action that they can both support. Republicans want the extended unemployment benefits to be paid for before they are distributed, avoiding more strain on our billowing government costs.  This worries avid supporters of the extension that the extended unemployed will be cut off permanently or reinstated at a much later date, as was done in the recession in the late 80’s when unemployment was 7.2%.


Yet, if the Bush tax cuts are not extended most people including the middle class will be paying at least 3% higher in federal income taxes.  This compounded with higher state taxes, due to many states that are struggling to stay operating, will jeopardize consumer spending as they have less disposable income.  This further slows our economy since consumer spending amounts to 70 % of GDP.


The other politically and morally charged issue looming in Congress is the abandonment of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which has been effect for 17 years instituted by the Clinton administration where gays are allowed to serve, but not make it public that they are gay. Over 13,000 openly gay/lesbian military personnel have been discharged from armed forces since it went in effect.


The much anticipated report on the effect of openly gays serving in military was recently released.  This eight month long study included the largest survey of military opinion ever surprising the supporters of the current policy such as Arizona Republican senator, John McCain, who offered no opinion when the report was released only to say he and his staff were reviewing the documents in detail.  69% of the respondents surveyed which included 115,000 military personnel said they had thought they have served with gay or lesbian personnel and 92% of those believed that their units were able to work together; only 8% said the units functioned poorly as a result.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the results of the survey make it clear that the ban can safely be lifted by Congress. Thursday and Friday Gates is scheduled to testify before The Armed Services committee advocating a plan to lift the ban and outline a strategy that by doing this would have no significant impact on military operations if done on a time schedule with training needed to implement this change.


This issue is not without controversy within the military as the combative soldiers were not as accepting of openly gay soldiers. 23% of the Marines said they would quit the corps sooner than they have planned with 14.2% of the Army saying they’d leave sooner.  The Navy and Air Force fared better with 7.9% and 8.6% respectively saying they would quit sooner.

All of these issues need to be addressed by our “lame duck”  Congress,  along with agreeing on a federal budget for 2011 and a negotiated arms treaty with Russia, all while we are in war with Iran and Afghanistan.


These are difficult times for Americans and the people they have elected to represent them.  Congress, the House and the Obama Administration waited too long to come together to discuss these life-changing issues.  Let’s see what they can do in 30 days!  Quite frankly, it’s a mess.  What’s your opinion?


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