Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist and author
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The contrast between what Illinois Democrats did last week and what Republicans have done in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia and New Jersey, could not be clearer.
In Illinois, Democratic legislators and a Democratic governor pushed through a massive 67 percent personal income tax hike (and a 46 percent boost in corporate taxes), claiming an accompanying "cap" would mean no new spending. Sure.
Illinois is caught in a trap of its own making, agreeing with unions (the Democrat base) to pay exorbitant amounts of retirement and health benefits to public employees the state cannot afford. Governors in nearby states are inviting Illinois residents and businesses to move from Illinois. No doubt many will accept those invitations, taking their money and their jobs with them.
In the aftermath of the senseless wounding of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, and the murder of six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green, there will be many who will use this tragedy to advance their own political agendas.
Explanations will be sought and blame assigned. Necessary questions will be asked: Did the clerk at the Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson violate any laws in selling the Glock 19 9mm gun to the accused, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner? Loughner reportedly cleared an FBI background check. So why didn't that check discover what one Arizona official called Loughner's "mental issues" and should they have disqualified him from purchasing the weapon?
Given the Democrats' track record of investigating Republican administrations, they will lack credibility when they protest Republicans investigating actions by the Obama administration. Oversight is a primary function of any Congress.
The new Republican House majority is expected to conduct several investigations. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has promised to lead six of them, including one that according to Issa's spokesman, Kurt Bardella, will focus on the "institutional culture of waste, fraud and abuse," within the federal bureaucracy. To be credible, these investigations must expose Republicans as well as Democrats because misspending the public's money is one of the few bipartisan activities remaining in Washington.
The new House Republican leadership is smart to inaugurate their return to power by reading aloud the U.S. Constitution on the House floor. Recalling America's founding principles is never a bad idea. To some on the left, though, the Constitution doesn't mean what it says, but is to be interpreted by judges and politicians. To liberals, this means the document is useful only when it advances a "progressive" economic, political and social agenda. Otherwise, it must be considered a relic of a bygone era.
The Constitution, according to liberal thinking, was written at a time when people -- including some of its signers -- owned slaves and so we moderns must interpret and regularly update it, like computer software. These "interpretationists" are like people who appeal to biblical authority when it appears to support their earthly agenda ("turn the other cheek" means unilateral disarmament; numerous verses about helping the poor mandates government welfare), but ignore it when it offends secular pursuits (abortion, homosexuality, income redistribution, capital punishment).
Sarah Palin deserves an apology. When she said that the new health-care law would lead to "death panels" deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not, she was roundly denounced and ridiculed.
Now we learn, courtesy of one of the ridiculers -- The New York Times -- that she was right. Under a new policy not included in the law for fear the administration's real end-of-life game would be exposed, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calls for the government to pay doctors to advise patients on options for ending their lives. These could include directives to forgo aggressive treatment that could extend their lives.
You don't have to be a psychic who forecasts future events for supermarket tabloids to accurately predict what awaits the new congressional Republican class of 2011. The writing is already on the computer screens and in the TV teleprompters.
A preview of coming attractions was trotted out during President Obama's last scheduled news conference of 2010. After spending most of the year worrying about the economy and whether the Democrats could fix it, sycophantic reporters gave new meaning to the term "lapdog."
Suppose what some call the "Christmas story" is true -- all of it, from the angels, to the shepherds, to the virgin birth, to God taking on human flesh. By this, I don't mean to suggest it is true only for those who believe it to be true, but what if it is objectively true, no matter what the deniers say? What difference would it make? Should it make any difference?
The narrative and the quotations written by the physician named Luke and by John, the closest disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, are unique and exclusive. The genealogical line of Jesus compiled by Matthew the tax collector is impressive and compelling. The words spoken by Jesus and recorded by these men are phenomenal. They expose the inner darkness of Man, offering a roadmap out, while also revealing the light of God, offering directions into His presence.
The Republican congressional leadership congratulated itself for leading nine "moderate" GOP senators away from a cliff and back to solid footing by persuading them not to vote with Democrats on a 1,924-page, $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill that has more pork in it than a pig farm.
Instead, most Republicans went along with another bill, which President Obama quickly signed last Friday. It preserves the Bush-era tax rates, but also perpetuates the cycle of debt and spending that contributed to America's current economic difficulties.
The "grand bargain" agreed to by the White House to preserve the Bush-era tax rates, extend unemployment insurance for another year and reduce the payroll tax for 2011 doesn't get to the heart of the country's main financial problem: overspending.
The Irish were told this week they are going to have to bite the bullet and sharply reduce their expectations of what government can do for them, as it cuts spending and broadens the tax base. But liberal Democrats in the United States remain on a different track: increasing debt and waging nonstop class warfare. Did they miss the message of last month's election?
This is where the self-indulgence of the '60s and the excesses of the modern Gilded Age have led us.
People who take polls for a living will tell you that depending on the methodology, the sample, how a question is asked and the understanding of the ones being polled, the outcome can pretty much be predetermined.
If you are dependent on a superior for your job and that superior tells you he wants a certain conclusion reached about a policy he wishes to implement, that, too, can affect the outcome.
Which do you think is less expensive, not to mention preferable: a cure for cancer, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, or caring for people with these diseases? Wouldn't it be better medical and public policy to direct more resources toward finding a cure for diseases that cost a lot to treat than to rely on a government insurance program, such as Obamacare, which seeks mainly to help pay the bills for people after they become ill?
Isn't the answer obvious? Apparently not to many politicians trapped in an old paradigm that focuses too much on hospitals, doctors and medicines and too little on medical research and preventive care so that people will not need hospitals, doctors or medicines.
"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.