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Mitt Romney attacked as out of touch over $10,000 TV bet attempt December 12, 2011

Mitt Romney was accused of being out of touch with working-class America on Sunday, after the Republican presidential candidate tried to make an impromptu $10,000 bet during a TV debate.

The slip, at the time of high unemployment and a growing poverty divide, could damage Romney three weeks before the first of the Republican contests in Iowa.

His critics said the issue was not that he offered the bet but the size of it, consolidating Romney’s reputation as a very rich man seeking to buy his way to power.

Even before the bet offer, Romney, one of the favourites to win the Republican nomination to take on Barack Obama in November’s White House election, had been slipping in the polls. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is now the front-runner.The gaffe came when a rival candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry, claimed Romney had supported national healthcare reform in a passage in his book that was excised from the paperback edition.

Romney – who brought in healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was similar to Barack Obama’s, in a move unpopular with conservatives – denied he supported the measure nationwide or that the passage had been in the first edition.

“Rick, I’ll tell you what: $10,000 bucks? Ten thousand bet?,” Romney said, extending his hand to shake. Perry, a Christian evangelical who may have a principled stand on betting or maybe because he was wrong about the book, declined.

“I’m not in the betting business but I will show you the book,” Perry said.

It was the first time that a bet has been offered in more than 50 years of televised political debates in the US.

Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for another candidate, Michele Bachmann, told ABC, who hosted the debate: “For someone to go and throw around a $10,000 bet, just goes to show even more that he’s not the same level as the people of Iowa or the country.”

Bill Burton, who is helping to organise Obama’s re-election campaign, wrote on Twitter: “Not a lot of 99%’ers are out there making $10,000 bets.”

Romney has struggled to win over Republican voters, failing to get his poll support much above 25%, partly because of suspicion of his Mormonism among the Christian right but also because of his wealth. In the 2008 campaign, he spent $42m of his own money.

Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s press spokesman, tried to laugh the incident off, saying it was not a serious bet. “I’ve made bets with friends and family for $1m,” Fehrnstrom said. He added that Romney had made the bet because he knew Perry would not take it. “This guy was wrong. It was a phoney allegation.”

The Republican race has been one of the most mercurial in recent history, as candidates have emerged only to fade after a few weeks. Polls show two-thirds of Republicans are undecided, dissatisfied with the entire field or prepared to switch. On Sunday a poll gave Newt Gingrich double-digit leads in South Carolina and Florida.

Gingrich, as frontrunner, was the main target in the Saturday night debate in Des Moines, the 13th so far, with one more scheduled before Iowa. His rivals focused on his alleged work as a lobbyist, his three marriages and his views on the Middle East.

Who is the wealthiest of them all?

Mitt Romney: The wealthiest candidate: in his last financial disclosure, during his 2008 White House bid, he put his personal wealth at between $190m and $250m, most of it from his time in business. About $42m has to be deducted from that, the amount of his own cash spent on the failed bid.

Jon Huntsman: Although at the bottom of the polls, he is runner-up in terms of wealth. He listed his personal assets this year as between $15m and $66m, much of it from a chemical company set up by his father.

Newt Gingrich: His finances appear shambolic, with his assets changing dramatically from year to year. He earned $2.5m last year, mainly, he says, from speeches and books but also, controversially, from his own consultancies, which his rivals say are for lobbying, a charge he denies. His consultancies have earned an estimated $100m over the past decade.

Ron Paul: His assets are between $2.29m and $5.3m, based on his disclosure in the 2008 White House race.

Rick Santorum: His personal assets, based on his financial disclosure when he was in the Senate in 2006, put him in the range of $522,000 to $1.8m.

Michele Bachmann: She is worth $1m to $2.5m, mostly profits from a therapy clinic (where gay people can allegedly pray to be “cured”). A family farm brings in $5,000 to $15,000. She is carrying $350,000 in debts: a $250,000 mortgage and a $100,000 business loan.

Rick Perry: A spokesman for the Texas governor’s office put his wealth as of 2009 as $896,000, held in a blind trust. He has made his money mainly from buying and selling houses. He has debts of about $70,000, including a car loan for a Mercedes.

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White House asks Supreme Court to block suit of man arrested for criticizing Cheney December 11, 2011

December 11, 2011

by legitgov


White House asks Supreme Court to block suit of man arrested for criticizing Cheney By John Burton 10 Dec 2011 Last Monday, at the Obama administration’s request, the Supreme Court accepted review of a lower court decision which allowed an opponent of the Iraq war, Steven Howards, to sue agents of the United States Secret Service for arresting him after a brief verbal confrontation with then-Vice President [sic] Dick Cheney. As with many other cases this term, the Obama administration is lining up with law enforcement and seeking a Supreme Court ruling that curtails or eliminates suits to enforce democratic rights. Reichle v. Howards will be argued next March or April and then decided before the current Supreme Court terms ends in late June.

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Herman Cain drops White House bid December 3, 2011




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Picture emerges of White House shooting suspect November 19, 2011

(CNN) — Weeks before his arrest on a charge of attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama, an Idaho man taped a video pitch for Oprah Winfrey — expressing his contempt for government, offering secrets to solving global problems and proclaiming himself to be “the modern-day Jesus Christ.”

The video, released Friday to CNN by Idaho State University, features a man dressed in all black, with brown hair, a beard and a crucifix hanging around his neck.

“My name is Oscar Ortega from Idaho Falls, Idaho, and I feel like I am the perfect candidate to get cast on your show because not only do I have a solution to make a huge impact on this world with small changes to our daily lives, I also have with me the answer to worldwide peace,” he states.

The previous Friday, a witness in Washington described to investigators hearing about “eight sounds of popping noise” and seeing “puffs of air” from a car that was registered to Ortega. One bullet hit a window on the White House but was stopped by bulletproof glass, the Secret Service said, while another was found on the White House exterior.

The president was in California that day, traveling with first lady Michelle Obama later that night to Hawaii.

The suspect, identified in court records as Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez of Idaho Falls, was arrested Wednesday in western Pennsylvania.

Many questions remain unanswered about the young man who faces the rare charge of trying to kill the president of the United States.

Public and court records shed some light on Ortega’s background, as does a story that appeared Friday in the Post Register in Idaho Falls. So, too, does the video shot by Idaho State student Ramon Bailey in September, according to CNN affiliate KIFI.

In the video, Ortega alludes to having had “a taste of gang life … as a child,” suggesting he’s moved on.

He segues to a rant against the U.S. government, which he claims bullies other nations and has “deceived the American people so that (it) can steal other countries’ goods, which is the oil.”

“I have never felt so sure about something in my whole life. I’m willing to defend these words with my heart, my soul, flesh and bones,” Ortega says. “Please do not take me as a joke or as a deception. I have never felt so sure that I was sent here from God to lead the world to Zion.”

Later, he adds, “It’s not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern-day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for” — before “begging” Winfrey to put him on her show.

The “Oprah” show went off the air last spring. Still, Winfrey remains involved in the OWN network she helped create, and its website features “casting calls” for people who might want to get on air.

Ortega left his home in Idaho Falls in a black Honda a month ago, telling his family he was going on vacation for a week, according to the Post Register. The next time his family heard any news of his whereabouts was when investigators in Pennsylvania arrested him.

His sister, Yesenia Hernandez, told the Post Register that she noticed that her brother’s appearance had recently changed. He used to cut his hair once a week, she told the paper. That’s a contrast to the image of a young man with an unruly beard who has appeared on television screens across the country.

With long, tangled hair and a beard, Ortega wore a white jumpsuit and was handcuffed, his legs chained, as he entered a courtroom this week guarded by U.S. marshals.

“That’s what started making me think there was something wrong,” his sister told the Idaho newspaper. “I’d ask, ‘Is it for the (mixed-martial arts) fighting?’ He said, ‘No. I’m just trying something different.’ It was weird. Now he looks like, I guess, like a terrorist. It’s like he’s trying to play out the part.”

Ortega’s mother, Maria Hernandez, also saw changes in her son but told the Post Register that they were of a more positive nature.

Before, he would party a lot, and before his recent departure from Idaho, had been spending more time with his son, whose name is tattooed on his neck, his mother said. Ortega mentions his son in the video.

“A year ago, every Friday and Saturday night, he was out partying with his friends and not coming home at all,” Maria Hernandez told the newspaper. “He started staying home on the weekends with his little boy.

“It was not like he was acting violent or getting drunk and all drugged up.”

Ortega’s relatives did not respond to CNN interview requests this week.

Public records show that Ortega had a series of run-ins with the law going back into his teen years. Some charges were for minor infractions, like failure to affix tags to a dog’s collar and seat belt violations. He was charged at least twice with battery, but those charges were dismissed. In 2010, in connection with one of those incidents, he was convicted of resisting arrest.

Other charges included minor-in-possession of alcohol charges and even more traffic violations. In some cases, he was found guilty and paid fines, and others were dismissed.

According to an FBI affidavit, one witness — identified only as “W-4″ — told investigators that Ortega “has increasingly become more agitated against the federal government, and is convinced that the federal government is conspiring against him.”

He “wanted to ‘hurt’ President Obama and referred to him as ‘the anti-Christ,’ ” the witness said.

Another witness, identified as “W-6,” also quoted Ortega calling Obama “the anti-Christ.” This witness told agents Ortega told him he “needed to kill him.”

A third witness, “W-7,” told investigators Ortega owned an “AK-47 like gun.” His “opinions and comments regarding the government and President Obama have gotten worse” over the past year, the witness told agents.

“W-7 stated that Ortega-Hernandez believed President Obama is ‘the devil,’ and that Ortega-Hernandez ‘will not stop until it’s done.’” the affidavit said. “W-7 also reported that Ortega-Hernandez stated President Obama ‘needed to be taken care of.’ “

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White House shooting suspect ‘obsessed with Barack Obama’ November 17, 2011

A man was arrested on Thursday after bullets were fired from an assault rifle at the White House, cracking a window in the first family’s living quarters.

The US secret service said Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez had been arrested in Pennsylvania after a four-day search. The 21-year-old, from Idaho, was captured at a hotel after a receptionist there recognised his picture.

Ortega was due to make his first appearance in a federal court in Pittsburgh on Friday. Authorities are studying the man’s mental health. They said there were indications that he believed attacking the White House was part of a personal mission from God, one official said.

There were also indications that the man had become obsessed with Barack Obama and the White House, two other officials said.

The shots were believed to have been fired at the building last Friday night from a car. Agents discovered on Tuesday that one of the two bullets hit the outside of the building and the second cracked a window on the second floor residential level. It was stopped by protective ballistic glass.

The president and his wife were in California without their daughters, Malia and Sasha, at the time of the incident. The White House had no immediate comment on the shooting or who may have been in the building at the time.

This is not the first time the White House has come under attack. In the past 40 years, the landmark has faced threats ranging from a stolen helicopter that landed on the grounds in 1974 to a man who wielded a sawn-off shotgun on a pavement outside in 1984.

In 1994, there were five threats including a plane crash on the lawn and a suspected drive-by shooting. Another man fired at least 29 rounds from a semi-automatic weapon, with 11 of them striking the White House.

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Found: bullet that smashed White House window November 16, 2011

The US secret service has found a bullet from a semi-automatic rifle that smashed a window at the White House, according to officials.

The service has been investigating a shooting that occurred near the White House on Friday. On Tuesday morning, it discovered two bullets, one of which had smashed a window before being stopped by special anti-ballistic glass protecting the building’s interior; the other round was found outside the building.

Shots were fired between two vehicles on Constitution Avenue, about half a mile from the White House, shortly after 9pm on Friday. Later the same evening, secret service officials discovered an AK-47 rifle in an abandoned car. Officials could not confirm links between the bullets and the reported shooting. No one was reported injured during the incident.

A US park police spokesman, Sergeant David Schlosser, said on Sunday police were still looking for a suspect, and had issued an arrest warrant for a 21-year-old man, Oscar Ramiro Ortega, in connection with the shooting, for carrying a dangerous weapon.

Ortega is thought to be at large in the Washington DC area, but to have links with Idaho. Police believe he has been in the Washington area for several weeks, Schlosser said. “We want to hear from Mr Ortega. We want to hear his version as to what happened. This will help us fill in the blanks as to what actually occurred on Friday evening, and we would like to resolve this soon.”

Police found a car crashed near Theodore Roosevelt bridge, west of the White House, and the Washington monument. Schlosser said investigators had found a semi-automatic weapon and shell casings inside the vehicle. “The actions that Mr Ortega participated in on Friday evening – that being the discharge of a firearm near the White House – is an inherently dangerous activity, and because of that we do want to find Mr Ortega as quickly as possible,” said Schlosser. “At this point, we’re not certain what his intentions were.”

President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, were in California at the time of the shooting. They then travelled to Hawaii for the Asia-Pacific economic co-operation forum. The president is currently in Australia for a 27-hour visit.

Before the shooting, Ortega had been stopped by police in Virginia at around 11am after behaving suspiciously, said Lieutenant Joe Kantor, with Arlington county police. Police took photos of Ortega – who was not arrested – including an image showing one of his tattoos: the word Israel written on his neck. They later released the picture, asking the public for any information on the shooting incident.

Ortega has a history in three states of criminal activity, including drug charges, underage possession of alcohol and assaults on law enforcement officers, police say.

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Suspect in weekend shooting near White House is still at large November 15, 2011

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Police are still looking for a suspect in Friday night’s shooting near the White House and Washington Monument and say they haven’t found any bullets in buildings, cars or trees to indicate what the shooter might have been aiming at. No one was injured.

The U.S. Park Police have an arrest warrant out for Oscar Ramiro Ortega on a felony charge of carrying a dangerous weapon, and they would like Ortega to come forward.

“We want to hear from Mr. Ortega,” said Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser.” We want to hear his version as to what happened. This will help us fill in the blanks as to what actually occurred on Friday evening and we’d like to resolve this soon.”

Witnesses — including uniformed Secret Service officers — heard shots fired Friday night.

Schlosser said he didn’t know if Ortega had a history of anti-government activity or rhetoric and also did not know if he is a U.S. citizen.

Police found a crashed car near Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and say Ortega had been driving it. Schlosser said investigators found a semi-automatic weapon and shell casings inside the vehicle. That bridge is west of the White House and Washington Monument and is a major route into Virginia.

“The actions that Mr. Ortega participated on Friday evening — that being the discharge of a firearm near the White House — is an inherently dangerous activity, and because of that we do want to find Mr. Ortega as quickly as possible,” said Schlosser. “At this point we’re not certain what his intentions were.”

On the same day the shooting incident happened, Ortega was stopped by police in Virginia around 11 a.m. for some sort of suspicious activity, said Lt. Joe Kantor with Arlington County Police. Kantor did not provide details on what behavior Ortega allegedly had been engaged in.

Ortega was not arrested in that stop, but Arlington County police took photos of him including one showing one of his tattoos spelling out the word “Israel” on his neck. U.S. Park Police later used those pictures in their releases asking the public for any information on the shooting incident.

Ortega is described as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds.

According to the U.S. Park Police, the 21-year old Ortega has a history of criminal activity in three states that includes drug charges, underage possession of alcohol and assaults on law enforcement officers. Schlosser said the charges occurred in Idaho where Ortega was known to have lived, as well as in Texas and Utah.

Schlosser said law enforcement officials believe Ortega has been in the Washington area for several weeks.

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Israel refuses to tell US its Iran intentions November 13, 2011

November 13, 2011

by legitgov


Israel refuses to tell US its Iran intentions 12 Nov 2011 Israel has refused to reassure President Barack Obama that it would warn him in advance of any pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, raising fears that it may be planning a go-it-alone attack as early as next summer. The US leader was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to “seek Washington’s permission”, sources said.

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Sarah Palin ponders political future as GOP candidates await endorsement October 6, 2011

Sarah Palin is hoping to be a major powerbroker in the Republican party – in spite of opting against joining the 2012 presidential election race.

Within hours of finally bringing to an end the year-long speculation over whether she would stand, she said candidates fighting for the Republican presidential nomination were contacting her office seeking her endorsement.

But others questioned whether, as no longer a presidential prospect, she would retain any clout within the Republican party. Even the millions of dollars she earns at present through speeches, book deals and as a Fox commentator were at risk.

Palin acknowledged, in an interview with Fox, that in reaching her decision she had considered whether it could be the end of her political career. “If I say no to the opportunity that’s in front of me, politically speaking, will I die?,” she asked. Her conclusion was it would not.

Palin said she is to spend next year promoting candidates for Congress, governorships and the White House, a reprise of the role she had last year when she endorsed and gave money mainly to candidates sympathetic to the Tea Party movement.

In an interview with Fox after announcing her decision, she said: “I concluded that I believe I can be an effective voice in a real decisive role in helping get true public servants elected to office, not just in the presidency.”

Her departure removes the last remaining doubt about the Republican field.

The eventual Republican contender to take on Barack Obama in November next year is likely to be either former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, who is positioning himself on the centre-right, or Texas governor Rick Perry, who is even further to the right.

Palin is likely to withhold her endorsements until later in the race, but Perry is closer to her Tea Party brand of politics than Romney, who is detested by many in the Tea Party as too moderate. Businessman Herman Cain and congresswoman Michele Bachmann are also close to her political viewpoint but neither is likely to last the pace.

The chairwoman of Tea Party Express, Amy Kremer, expressed disappointment Palin had decided not to run, but insisted on Thursday there could still be a role for her in endorsing candidates next year and that, at 47, she was still young enough to stand in the future.

But Tom Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution, was sceptical, questioning whether she was ever a viable candidate.

“She woud have been a guaranteed ticket to Obama’s re-election,” he said. “She has been using all the uncertainty over whether she would stand to raise her celebrity status and cash flow. She was never a plausible candidate.”

He cast doubt on whether Republicans fighting in tight Congressional elections against Democrats next year would view her intervention as helpful.

Since her surprise pick as vice-presidential running mate for John McCain in the 2008 White House race, she has established herself as one of the best-known figures in the Republican party but became a polarising figure, dogged by controversy.

She cited putting family first as her reason for not standing but she been gradually dropping in polls, culminating this week in a Washington Post one in which two-thirds of Republicans said they did not want her to run.

In a Fox interview after her announcement, she said “Good old Todd”, her husband, had been answering phone calls from rival candidates seeking her endorsement.

“He’s the one answering the phone and setting up meetings for us. I do look forward to hearing more personally from these politicians.” Asked who was calling, she said: “You’ll have to ask Todd.”

Perry, responding to her decision, praised her as “a good friend, great American, true patriot”, even though she has been critical of him last month, accusing him of “crony capitalism”.

One of the outside candidates, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, is trying to set up a call with Palin to win her endorsement. But he did not expect her to endorse anyone soon.

In her Fox interview, Palin specifically praised Cain, who is enjoying a surge in the polls that has put him neck-and-neck with Romney.

She said of Cain: “He has the business acumen and that background in the private sector, knowing how to create jobs and meet a bottom line and understanding the work ethic. He’s pulled himself up from the bootstraps.

“That’s that American story that so many of us are intrigued with and impressed with.”

But the polls are volatile at this stage in the race, and Cain’s joint front-runner status is likely to prove temporary.

Palin, though young enough to mount a bid for the presidency in the future, could find the competition tougher in the future, faced with rising Republican stars such as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other potential rivals.

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Federal worker says WikiLeaks link led to interrogation September 29, 2011

September 29, 2011

by legitgov


Federal worker says WikiLeaks link led to interrogation 28 Sep 2011 In December 2010, the White House warned federal workers not to read classified cables released by WikiLeaks. In September, an author and State Department employee says he learned the government takes that directive seriously. Peter Van Buren, the author of a book critical of nation-building in Iraq titled “We Meant Well,” wrote in a Tuesday piece on that after posting an item that linked to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks he was “interrogated for the first time in [his] 23-year State Department career by State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security… and told [he] was under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information.”

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8 Things Missing From Obama’s Debt-Cutting Plan September 21, 2011

President Obama has finally rolled out his plan to slash the national debt. One thing it’s not is timely: At least half-a-dozen other groups have published their own debt-reduction plans since Obama took office in 2009.

One of those efforts was a commission set up by Obama himself. The “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,” led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, issued a detailed report  last year on how to cut the debt by $3.9 trillion by 2020. It proposed about $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases, a proportion that generated bipartisan support. Many economists now consider that plan a baseline against which to measure others.

[See who would lose most under Obama's deb-cutting plan.]

Obama’s own plan borrows some ideas from the Bowles-Simpson effort, such as cuts in agricultural subsidies and a call for tax reform that would lower rates and eliminate loopholes. But Obama also left out some prominent suggestions made by his own panel. Those omissions indicate what Obama is willing to fight for—or not—and also reveal how he’s positioning himself for the 2012 presidential election. Here are eight ideas Obama left out of his own debt-cutting plan, even though they were included among the Bowles-Simpson recommendations:

A Congressional pay freeze. The fiscal commission pointed out that “unlike most Americans, members of Congress benefit from an automatic salary increase every single year–deserved or not.” So it suggested that a three-year Congressional pay freeze—which only Congress itself can authorize–would set an example of austerity. Obama isn’t seconding the suggestion, however, perhaps because he doesn’t want to pick a personal fight with Congress. Or maybe he doesn’t want to provoke demands for a similar pay freeze at the White House.

Cuts in the White House and Congressional budgets. The commission also felt it would be a fitting gesture for Congressional and White House policymakers to cut their own budgets by 15 percent before asking for cuts in other parts of the budget. That shouldn’t be too tough, since spending on the legislative branch, for instance, rose by 50 percent between 2000 and 2010, even though Congress itself is the same size it has been for years. But austerity, apparently, doesn’t start at home, so Obama kept his hands off the Congressional and White House budgets.

[See who would win under Obama's jobs plan.]

Middle-class tax increases. Obama wants tax increases on households earning more than $250,000, while also endorsing broader tax reform that would include lower rates. His commission went one big step further, by outlining specific elements of a tax-reform plan that would lower income-tax rates for everybody but slightly raise the tax burden on most taxpayers, because it would shrink or end deductions taken by many families. On average, the commission’s plan would raise the tax bill for the typical filer by about $1,700 per year, with the middle 20 percent of filers paying about $700 more. Many economists feel the national debt is so large that middle-class tax hikes are inevitable to help bring it down. But Obama surely knows that proposing middle-class tax hikes would be a suicidal election move. So either he plans to pretend they’ll never happen, or wait until a second term, if he gets one, to break the bad news to voters.

Eliminating all earmarks. These pet spending projects for favored members of Congress cost taxpayers about $16 billion per year, while usually evading accountability procedures that would surely find that most of them fail to serve the national interest. Obama’s fiscal commission said they should be banned completely, but Obama didn’t even mention earmarks in his own debt-cutting plan. Yet he still itemized more than three dozen other measures that would save less than the fiscal commission says ending earmarks would save. Those Congressional spending perks must be awfully touchy.

[See how to escape the middle-class squeeze.]

Medical malpractice reform. According to the fiscal commission, “most experts agree that the current tort system in the United States leads to an increase in health care costs.” That’s why it suggested reforms that would rein in jury awards and costs for malpractice insurance, at a projected savings of $17 billion. Obama has staked his entire presidency on improving the healthcare system for most Americans, yet his debt plan makes no mention of malpractice reform. Trial lawyers are traditional Democratic backers, and Obama, a lawyer himself, may not be willing to risk the loss of a well-heeled constituency.

An increase in the retirement age. The fiscal commission recommended a gradual increase in the age at which people would qualify for Social Security and Medicare, beyond the increases that are already scheduled to happen. Under that proposal, the retirement age would rise to 68 by 2050 and to 69 by 2075. Such a change would slightly reduce the outflows from these two programs and help keep them solvent. Obama proposed a few minor cuts in Medicare benefits but favors holding the retirement age where it is. He proposed virtually no changes to Social Security.

[See how the debt fiasco damaged the economy.]

Higher payroll taxes. One of the tax increases the commission suggested was raising the cutoff point for the amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Right now, the payroll tax applies to about 86 percent of all taxable wages; the commission recommended raising the cap so it applies to about 90 percent of all wages. But that would amount to a middle-class tax hike, since it would apply to many taxpayers who earn less than $250,000. So Obama wants nothing to do with it (for now).

A different cost-of-living formula for Social Security. Another way to raise a few bucks is to change the formula used to determine the cost-of-living increases that Social Security recipients get every year. The commission argued that switching to something called the “chained consumer price index” would provide a more accurate measure of inflation. But it would also cut benefits slightly, which is why it would save the government money. The months before an election are probably the wrong time to nickel-and-dime seniors, so Obama took a pass on the chained CPI. Like many other debt-cutting ideas, however, it may surface another day.

Twitter: @rickjnewman

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