My Take on the News

Suffering the pain of the cliff and fixing our fiscal mess


"AMERICA NEEDS TO GO OVER THE CLIFF": This came from a 38 year old mother of two whose household income is well below the $250,000 that President Obama considers "wealthy," and thus her family would benefit greatly from a deal that avoids the fiscal cliff. She runs an optometry practice part time and her husband is a manager for a small industrial trade association. She feels America needs to go over the cliff, feel the pain, get it over with, and then begin the arduous task of rebuilding our national economic infrastructure without the arguing, bickering and partisan agendas that have kept us on the edge of the cliff for so long. It will be costly for her family in the short term; she figures her household will lose close to $10,000 per year with the income tax rate increase, loss of deductions, and increased payroll taxes. With a three year old in part-time preschool and a teen about to enter college, losing that much of their income will severely affect the family. She feels that families like hers, families who bought houses they could afford, who keep credit card spending in check, and who do as she does - reuse aluminum foil all week to wrap lunch sandwiches - will suffer through the fall off the cliff and survive. The cliff fall will, however, get the attention of families that have spent profligately and failed to put away any savings, and will get the attention of Congress and the voters to make sure the economy is fixed so we never have to make the plunge again. In her opinion, if we don't suffer the pain now, our national forgetfulness will cause the cliff to loom again in a few short years - either before Obama leaves office or with the next president. She's a smart woman; this writer is proud to call her his daughter.

NITWITTED PAROLE BOARD: What kind of lunacy overcame the state Parole Board when it decided to parole Alfred A. Brissette, Jr., one of two killers who tortured and murdered a woman in Burrillville in 1999 simply for the thrill of killing. Even the state Supreme Court, in denying Brissette's request for a new trial, called his crime a "brutal, barbaric and utterly senseless thrill kill." What was the parole board thinking? It had Brissette's entire record in front of it, to include the judicial opinion, yet it still came to the conclusion that he should roam free among us. Brissette's crime points to a mindset that cannot be changed by prison time. His crime was not one committed for revenge, monetary gain or during a moment of rage. He and his accomplice set out purposely to kill a random person purely for the thrill of killing. This kind of monstrous act and the mental state of the person who committed it, calls for the maximum penalty without chance of parole. Thankfully, primarily due to attention brought to the case by the media, the parole board is reconsidering its totally nonsensical decision.

PUSH-UPS AS STREET JUSTICE: Rather than haul some teenagers to the police station for minor vandalism, a North Providence police officer instead made them do push-ups after detaining them near the scene of the crime. Many, to include the officer's chief, see the incident as an inappropriate violation of police procedures. Others, apparently longing for the days when police officers sometimes acted like parents and punished young wrongdoers outside of the justice system, believe the officer's actions were not only appropriate but in line with how our so-called "community police" should be operating.
This writer served as a police officer many years ago and recalls requiring a teenager to immediately clean a quarter mile of highway in lieu of being arrested for littering after throwing a soda can out his car window, and requiring three teenagers to return to the scene of their graffiti within an hour with buckets of water, soap and brushes to clean away their damage instead of being arrested. According to the famed English philosopher and criminal justice pioneer, Jeremy Bentham, punishment is effective only if it is swift, sure and severe - with severity being equal to the crime but the least important of the three. In this case, it seems the police officer's actions were in line with classical thought on punishment and deterrence.
In our litigious society, however, with thousands of underemployed lawyers lurking around every corner, it would perhaps have been more appropriate justice had the officer called the teenagers' parents for approval before administering punishment. Surely, they would have agreed.

CHAFEE AND "SUPER-HIGH-SPEED" INTERNET: Governor Chafee, in his inaugural "Plan for Jobs," his outline of the jobs-increasing efforts he intended to take on in the first 100 days of his term, included this statement, "We can target major infrastructure improvements, such as super-high-speed Internet connectivity, that will attract businesses just as traditional transportation systems attract business." So what has the governor done to speed up Internet connectivity to attract new businesses? Not much. The Providence Journal's PolitiFact gives him credit for spending $4.5 million and supporting a non-profit's spending of $21.5 million to increase the speed of connectivity between colleges and hospitals - all with federal stimulus money taken from taxpayers' pocketbooks. That's all well and good; but what has he done to increase Internet connectivity for business and industry in Rhode Island? Nothing! His original plan compared increased Internet connectivity to an expanded transportation network for attracting new businesses. Isn't increasing Internet connectivity only for colleges and hospitals tantamount to building a new super-highway between these institutions but building no entrance ramp for businesses? Tell us again, governor, how spending $26 million of our tax dollars to make public servants' jobs easier is going to attract new businesses to our state...

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: President Obama, still on the campaign trail (wasn't campaigning supposed to end after the election?), accused House Republicans of giving America a "lump of coal" for their "Scrooge Christmas," because Republicans don't want Obama to continue taxing without equal spending cuts.
Obama has now doubled his ante and wants to raise $1.6 trillion in taxes instead of his original proposal for $800 billion, and he has thus far promised to cut spending by only $400 billion while proposing to add spending in other areas that exceed that $400 billion. He wants to continue "giving the gifts" that got him reelected - such as extending the payroll tax cut that helped get Social Security into the mess it's in, extending unemployment compensation for another 99 weeks for those who have already taken over 100 weeks of "stay-at-home" pay, issuing another stimulus that would spend billions more, and having Congress relinquish to him authority to raise the nation's debt limit at his whim (a move that would be unconstitutional, but Obama seems to have no qualms about trampling on the Constitution). To pay for this largesse, Obama wants to dramatically raise taxes on small business owners who make more than $250,000 - those who employ 53 percent of America’s private sector workers, a move that will surely cost our economy even more jobs.
Obama calling Republicans "Scrooge" is like a whining teenager calling his parents Scrooge because they refuse to borrow money to buy him a Play Station 3, an iPad, and a new car for Christmas; and on top of that, having the audacity to refuse him the family credit card to use as he wishes.


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Would your daughter favor going off the cliff if she or her husband were among the millions of people that lose their jobs?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012