Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and author
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"I wanted the music to play on forever.
Have I stayed too long at the fair?" -- Barbra Streisand lyric
The finding by the bipartisan House Ethics Committee that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is guilty of financial misconduct and the conviction of former Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay by a jury in Austin, Texas on charges of political money laundering brings a question: Are we getting the Congress we're paying for?
I'm with Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who told Human Events last week, "Make them part time; give them term limits. Don't let them become lobbyists. When they have to live under the same rules and laws they pass for the rest of us, maybe you'd see some more common sense coming out of Washington." Jindal, a former congressman, said once elected, too many lawmakers become entrenched in Washington and are transformed into the very people they campaigned against.
As millions of us gather at tables to offer thanks during this uniquely American holiday (OK, Canada has one, too, but without our Pilgrims), most will express gratitude to God for freedom and material blessings. This year, as in every year since 1989 when she escaped with other "boat people" from communist Vietnam, Kim Vu will offer thanks borne out of a deep gratitude for what America has meant to her since she and so many others risked their lives for something they regarded as even more valuable: freedom.
A generation has grown up since the boat people caught the public's attention. To many in what has become a self-indulgent generation, it may be difficult to fathom how anyone could go to such lengths to achieve something too many of us take for granted.
If the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistake over and over again, then U.S. policymakers over several administrations should be institutionalized and relegated to padded cells.
The latest, but certainly not the last example of this craziness, is the pressure the Obama administration is exerting on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank. A Nov. 14 New York Times story repeats the fiction accepted over many years by Republican and Democratic administrations. The proposed 90-day freeze, says the newspaper, would "break an impasse in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians."
If MSNBC were consistent, Keith Olbermann would not have been the only on-air personality disciplined for making political contributions.
For those who don't watch his "Countdown" program (which would be most of the country), Olbermann was suspended "indefinitely" after it was learned he donated money without approval from management to three Democratic congressional candidates. The problem for MSNBC was not only Olbermann's failure to get permission, but that he anchored part of the network's Election Night coverage. Apparently at MSNBC, the chair you sit in matters more than the content of your journalistic character.
The cynic in me says that Democrats will learn nothing from the midterm election. They not only took a bath, they were effectively water-boarded by voters.
Democrats lost the House by a margin not seen since 1948. They lost 10 governorships while retaining two -- New York and California. Both states are insolvent and can be expected to ask for bailouts from the federal government, something a Republican House is unlikely to grant. Republicans will get to re-district most states in ways favorable to them for at least the next decade. Nancy Pelosi will step down as speaker, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to survive a nose-holding election in Nevada.
For newly empowered congressional Republicans, priority one must be an extension of the Bush tax cuts. There should be enough votes not only from a new Republican majority, but also from some of the decimated and dispirited (and even newly elected) Democrats. If President Obama is smart, he won't veto the bill.
If the tax cuts are allowed to expire, everyone who gets a paycheck and has taxes withheld is going to see less money in the "net" column starting January 1.
Bloomberg.com has published some calculations. It reports that, according to the Tax Institute at H&R Block, "for a married couple earning $80,000 a year, increased taxes would drain $221.48 in withholding from a semi-monthly paycheck. Married individuals earning $240,000 a year" (just under the $250,000 standard President Obama defines as "rich") "would lose $557.78 to withholding in a single semi-monthly paycheck." Double these figures for a month and multiply by 12 and you quickly see the additional drain on the economy at a time of anemic 2 percent growth.
Thirty-six years ago when he first ran for Congress, Lake Jackson, Texas obstetrician Ron Paul rented billboards depicting a seriously obese Uncle Sam with the caption: "Put Big Government on a Diet."
Most Americans, with the possible exception of those addicted to government benefits, would probably be happy to return to the 1975 federal debt level of a paltry $84 billion. Today, the national debt is $13 trillion and rising.
While Republican congressional candidates and many GOP incumbents are promising smaller and less costly government, the new British coalition government has decided to begin a serious restructuring of its entitlement state.
Researchers announced Monday they had injected embryonic stem cells into a patient suffering from a spinal cord injury. It marked the world's first human clinical trial of a procedure developed from such a source. The procedure took place at Shepherd Center, a spinal cord injury facility in Atlanta. The use of embryonic stem cells for such purposes had been banned under the Bush administration, but allowed under the Obama administration.
The question is why?
I was preparing to applaud the Obama administration and specifically Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for announcing the deportation of a record number of criminal aliens last year. According to the Washington Times, "the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 392,862 aliens in fiscal year 2010, slightly less than a 1 percent increase over 2009 but short of the agency's goal to remove 400,000 this year."
What curbed my enthusiasm was news that removal of other illegal immigrants -- those not convicted of crimes, though it could be justifiably argued that their status as illegal immigrants is, by definition, the breaking of American law -- fell to the lowest number since 2007.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said that while it is nice that Secretary Napolitano believes removing people in the country illegally is an important function for the Department of Homeland Security, "policy directives from the highest levels of DHS clearly demonstrate that the administration is refusing to enforce laws against noncriminal aliens."
That bad cop/good cop approach is designed to pacify those on the political right while the administration and some Democrats in Congress simultaneously lay the groundwork for legalizing those who broke our laws to get here and remain in the country illegally.