Domestic Policy

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  "Made in America" an Endangered SpeciesFebruary 27, 2006 17:33 As this opinion piece points out, it is nearly impossible to find goods made in the USA if you actually try. Hidden in his words is the statement that small changes in international trade, such as free trade agreements, are responsible for small changes in the cost of doing business, which result in big changes for American industry.
  National Archives On Google VideoFebruary 27, 2006 00:00 Archivist of the United States, Professor Allen Weinstein, and Google co-founder and president of Technology, Sergey Brin, have announced the launch of a pilot program to make holdings of the National Archives available for free online.

This non-exclusive agreement will enable researchers and the general public to access a diverse collection of historic movies, documentaries and other films from the National Archives via Google Video (http://video.google.com/nara.html) as well as the National Archives website (http://www.archives.gov).

Professor Weinstein said, "This is an important step for the National Archives to achieve its goal of becoming an archive without walls. Our new strategic plan emphasizes the importance of providing access to records anytime, anywhere. This is one of many initiatives that we are launching to make our goal a reality. For the first time, the public will be able to view this collection of rare and unusual films on the Internet."

  Katrina Review Suggests Bigger Role For U.S. MilitaryFebruary 23, 2006 20:28 Because the DOD did such a good job repairing the bombed out infrastructure in Iraq, the President thinks the US military should take a greater role in US natural disasters...

A new White House report on what went wrong after hurricane Katrina lashed Louisiana and Mississippi in August suggests the U.S. military should play a bigger role in disaster efforts.

U.S. President George W. Bush had ordered White House officials to prepare the review, amid criticism of how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reacted to the hurricane.

  Consumer Prices Advance 0.7%February 22, 2006 20:45 Consumer-level prices advanced at a slightly faster pace than economists expected last month, driven by a 5% increase in energy costs, but underlying inflation appeared to be generally under control.

The overall consumer price index rose 0.7% in January, following declines in both of the previous months, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The consensus estimate was for a 0.5% rise. Higher energy costs accounted for about 70% of the advance in the overall index.

The core CPI, which excludes the influence of food and energy prices, was up 0.2% last month, in line with expectations. Core prices rose 2.1% over the last 12 months.


 
  US Health Care Will Cost 4 Trillion In 2015February 22, 2006 20:43 Health care spending in the United States is projected to grow 7.4 percent and surpass $2 trillion in 2005, down from the 7.9 percent growth experienced in 2004. This rate is 0.5 percentage points less than the 7.9 percent growth observed in 2004 and represents the third consecutive year of decelerating growth, following six years of acceleration from 1996 through 2002.

As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), health care spending is expected to continue to grow, reaching 16.2 percent in 2005, up from 16.0 percent in 2004. By 2015, health care spending in the United States is projected to reach $4.0 trillion and 20.0 percent of GDP.

From 2004 to 2015, health care spending is projected to remain relatively stable and to grow 7.2 percent per year on average. Despite substantive revisions to the historical National Health Expenditures data and a new model for private personal health care spending, aggregate growth calculated in this year's projection stands a negligible 0.2 percentage points higher than in last year's projection.

Spending growth on personal health care is projected to fall to 7.0 percent in 2007, due largely to legislated Medicare payment adjustments that are to be implemented that year. In 2008, growth is expected to rebound to 7.5 percent, but then gradually slow over the remainder of the 10-year projection.

  Integrity and honesty on trial as S.D. Senate Bill To Ban Abortions is PresentedFebruary 22, 2006 00:00 Throughout the hearings for the Supreme Court nominations the public was told the nominees were strict constitutionalist and through avoidance and other tactics the public was told there was no conspiracy to overturn Roe v. Wade. Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling that is not the point here. The point is that the American people are being lied to and misled by a group of politicians who believe the ends justify the means. I find it quite interesting and not coincidental that S.D. is attempting to push the abortion issue to the Supreme Court so soon. The integrity of the judges as well as the political leaders of this country will be on trial during this debate. I wont attempt to speculate at the outcome but I will be watching as I am just as interested in whether our leaders have any integrity or honesty in them as I am interested in the outcome of this ruling. It would be nice to see the day when politicians say what they really believe and not use double talk and lies to gain a position of power to carry out their true agenda because that is just plain unpatriotic and anti American.
  Bush Comments at NRELFebruary 21, 2006 22:30 Read the President's comments at NREL in this document.
 
  Combating Global Warming Makes Economic SenseFebruary 21, 2006 16:24 When it comes to tackling global warming, the Bush administration is right about one thing: There are economic consequences. The problem is they've been too quick to assume that such consequences will be bad for the economy. It turns out that reducing greenhouse gases doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, it can be a serious moneymaker.
  $5 million - just enough to rehireFebruary 21, 2006 16:23 The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden received $5 million on Monday from the Department of Energy to help offset the nearly $28 million budget cut it sustained in the current fiscal year.
The DOE's gesture, timed to coincide with a visit by president Bush and announced late Sunday, is welcome but barely sufficient to rehire the 32 employees laid off earlier this month, NREL officials said.

Today, President Bush is scheduled to tour the lab and participate in a panel on energy conservation and efficiency. The tour is the last leg of Bush's two-day visit to three states - Wisconsin, Michigan and Colorado - to promote his administration's focus on renewable energy.

  'You Scratch Your Head And Wonder' : Unused Mobile Homes for Katrina VictimsFebruary 20, 2006 18:25 The mobile homes started arriving sometime in October, pulling into a 282-acre site at the Hope, Ark., airport, one after another, row upon row. They kept on coming, week after week and month after month, convoys of sometimes 100 at a time lugged by trucks that clogged the roads into town, queuing up on a runway and on the adjacent gumbo-like soil, side to side, front to back.

They were supposed to be shelters for the thousands of victims left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, waiting here to be shipped out, reflections of the goodwill of a nation. But they never left. Instead, they kept on coming, kept on piling up, like logs at a dam. Today, 10,777 of the units sit stockpiled in Hope, $300 million in taxpayer money gridlocked in bureaucracy, 450 miles from New Orleans with no place to go.

  Public internet usage policed in libraryFebruary 19, 2006 15:42 Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden. The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography. And further more how were they informed of what people were looking at on the internet?
  Layoffs at Colorado Energly Lab that is to be Bush VisitFebruary 18, 2006 17:43 Ali Mohagheghi expected bad news when a senior director at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory interrupted a meeting Tuesday morning and asked to see him.

Only three years away from retirement, Mohagheghi, 58, became one of 32 people laid off at the federal laboratory because of a $28 million budget cut.

It was horrible, he said. He kept saying that I had until 3 p.m. to leave.

The senior biochemical engineer had worked for the laboratory for 22 years, converting biomass, such as trees, into fuels and chemicals, such as ethanol.

His computer was disabled and his phone turned off; a manager escorted him out of the building at 3 p.m.

How do you expect, after 22 years, to wrap everything up in a few hours? Mohagheghi said, adding that he lost his job and some dignity that day.

I didn t deserve to be treated this way, he said.

The layoffs came after President Bush s State of the Union address Jan. 31 sparked optimism at NREL. The president said Americans were addicted to oil, and he vowed funding for renewable energy research.

Bush plans to visit NREL on Tuesday to reinforce his dedication to renewable energy.

  Military-focused Budget Profits at the Expense of NASAFebruary 17, 2006 15:50 Disgruntled members of a congressional oversight committee objected Wednesday to a White House budget plan that threatens to cripple NASA's unmanned space programs and Earth and aeronautics research, President Bush's plan instead emphasizes sending American explorers back to the moon by 2018.

The lawmakers' bipartisan complaint emerged as the House Science Committee quizzed NASA administrator Michael Griffin and his top deputy, Shana Dale, about the agency's proposed $16.8 billion budget for 2007.

The $104 billion Bush human exploration plan would force long delays of satellite missions intended to unlock the mysteries of the early universe, assess the Earth's environment and spur advancements in conventional air travel.

  Denver Mayor Proposes Solar Energy PlantFebruary 16, 2006 16:53 Mayor John Hickenlooper plans to put Denver's abundant sunshine to work by building one of the nation's first city-owned solar plants to provide clean, cheap power for the county jail.
"Reducing our use of petroleum and coal-based energy is one of the primary goals of Denver's Sustainable Development Initiative," Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

"With the construction of this plant, we will continue our progress toward making the Denver metro area a national leader in renewable energy."

The plan is to build a plant that can produce up to 2 megawatts of power - enough energy for about 2,000 homes - near the 2,200-inmate jail on Smith Road in northeast Denver.

  Bush Promotes Health Accounts At Wendy'sFebruary 16, 2006 16:51 President Bush campaigned for his plan to expand health savings accounts on Wednesday here at the headquarters of the Wendy's fast-food chain, declaring that his proposals were not just for the wealthy and would help some of the 45 million Americans who remain uninsured.

In an hourlong speech in one of the most politically troublesome states for Republicans in this year's midterm elections, Mr. Bush took on critics of his plan, who say that poor or underemployed people cannot afford the accounts.

"It's kind of basically saying, 'If you're not making a lot of money, you can't make decisions for yourself,' " Mr. Bush told Wendy's employees assembled in the company's lobby. "That's kind of a Washington attitude, isn't it. 'We'll decide for you, you can't figure it out yourself.' I think a lot of folks here at Wendy's would argue that point of view is just simply backwards and not true."

What Bush isn't telling you is that current law says that you only qualify for one of these plans if you also purchase a high-deductible health insurance policy. Many of the deductibles in such cases are higher than the annual poverty level for a single person. How is it likely that someone who works at Wendy's would be able to pay into a health saving account and pay for useless insurance?

  Wal-Mart Should Pay Part of Employee Health Benefits in AlaskaFebruary 16, 2006 16:46 An Anchorage Democrat is pursing legislation forcing Wal-Mart to pay more for its employee health care.
The bill by Rep. Eric Croft requires employers with more than 2,000 workers to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on employee health care or else pay into a fund for the uninsured.

The Fair Share Health Care Act is patterned on a Maryland law that has spawned both similar legislative attempts in more than 30 states and a court challenge.

Wal-Mart is one of four companies in Alaska with more than 2,000 employees--Providence Alaska Medical Center, Safeway and Fred Meyer are the others--but the only one known to spend less than 8 percent on medical benefits.

  Chertoff Slept As Katrina Swept InFebruary 16, 2006 16:18 BELEAGUERED US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has testified that he did not take charge of his department's faltering response to hurricane Katrina because his experience during the September 11 terrorist attacks convinced him that micro-managing by senior officials could make matters worse.

But members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which has spent months probing the disaster, sharply criticised Mr Chertoff for being so out of touch with the unfolding disaster that he went to bed unaware that the New Orleans levees had collapsed hours before, killing and injuring hundreds and leaving much of the city under water.

Republican committee chairwoman Susan Collins said it was disheartening that Mr Chertoff was "consistently behind the curve". On August 29, a storm surge smashed the New Orleans levees, and Mr Chertoff said he went to sleep not knowing that his department had been told the levees had collapsed.

  Chertoff Attempts to Rescue JobFebruary 15, 2006 19:51 In a butt-saving move taken from the George W. playbook, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a Senate panel today that he is responsible for the federal government's failures in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Chertoff, who was in his job six months when the storm hit Aug. 29, promised to fix the problems with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that surfaced before and after the hurricane.

``I am responsible for the Department of Homeland Security,'' Chertoff told The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington. ``I also have the responsibility to fix what's wrong.''

  Judge: Fema Can Halt Direct Hotel PaymentsFebruary 13, 2006 18:21 A judge on Monday turned aside a last-minute attempt to force the federal government to continue paying directly for hotel rooms of 12,000 families made homeless by last year's hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has promised evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita they will still receive federal assistance that they can use toward hotel stays or fixing their ruined homes, though FEMA will no longer pay for the hotels directly after Monday.


 
  Vice President Votes for Gun ControlFebruary 13, 2006 05:13 Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a campaign contributor during a weekend quail hunt on a friend's South Texas ranch, local authorities and the vice president's office said Sunday.

The wounded man, 78-year-old Harry Whittington, was in intensive care at a Corpus Christi hospital after being hit by several pellets of birdshot Saturday afternoon, hospital spokesman Peter Banko told CNN.


 
  Record Trade Deficit in 2005February 10, 2006 00:00 The U.S. trade deficit skyrocketed in 2005 to a record $725.8 billion, as American companies and consumers snapped up record levels of low-priced goods from China and high-priced oil from the Middle East, a U.S. government report on Friday showed.

The trade deficit, which has risen more or less steadily since 1991 when it was $30.7 billion, widened 17.5 percent in 2005 to set a record for the fourth year in a row.

A huge chunk of the deficit was with China alone. The trade shortfall with that country increased 24.5 percent to a record $201.6 billion. Imports of consumer and industrial goods like clothing, computers, televisions, toys, furniture, chemicals and engines from China hit a record $243.5 billion, swamping record U.S. exports to China of $41.8 billion.


 
  Ex-Bush Aide Disputes Late Katrina WarningFebruary 10, 2006 00:00 Michael Brown, the former chief of the U.S. disaster agency, dismissed as "just baloney" and "a little disingenuous" claims by top Homeland Security officials that they did not know about the severity of Hurricane Katrina damage until the day after it roared ashore.

Brown testified Friday that he notified White House and Homeland Security officials on the day that Katrina hit that "we were realizing our worst nightmare" and that New Orleans was seriously flooding.

Testifying before a Senate committee, Brown said he agreed with members who characterized him as a scapegoat. "I feel somewhat abandoned," said Brown, who quit under fire as chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency just days after the storm ravaged much of the Gulf Coast of the United States.


 
  Error May Snag $39 Bln Us Spending-Cut BillFebruary 09, 2006 20:30 A typographical error in a $39 billion domestic spending-cut bill signed into law by President Bush on Wednesday could mean another vote on the measure that passed only after Vice President Dick Cheney intervened with a tie-breaking vote.

The law, which sparked fury among Democrats and strong opposition from some Republicans in an election year, cuts funds for health care, student loan and other programs.


 
  USDA Decides To Buck The Congressional Horse Slaughter BanFebruary 08, 2006 23:35 Late last year, Congress passed an amendment to a spending bill that would prohibit the slaughter of horses for food exports for most of 2006. Due to come into effect on March 10, the ban would save tens of thousands of American horses destined for human consumption overseas. Because horses hold a unique place in the history of the United States, the ban received overwhelming public and Congressional support, culminating in lopsided, bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate.

Congress' intent was clear, and the provisions of law unambiguous. But the three foreign-owned horse slaughterhouses in the United States two in Texas, one in Illinois have been scheming to circumvent the law, and they have found a willing, if unlikely, conspirator: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the very agency responsible for implementing the agricultural laws that Congress passes.

  Key Democrat Says Bush Panel's Tax Overhaul Ideas Won't FlyFebruary 08, 2006 22:53 The Senate's top Democratic tax writer said Tuesday that a presidentially appointed panel's recommendations for overhauling tax laws didn't stand a chance in Congress.

"That's dead, Mr. Secretary," Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, who was before the Senate Finance Committee to discuss the president's budget.

"We don't accept that," Snow replied.

"Congress thinks it's dead," Baucus said. "That's going nowhere."

  Bush Defends Plan To Trim Medicare CostsFebruary 08, 2006 22:47 The $2.77 trillion budget request that Bush submitted to lawmakers on Monday would boost defense spending by nearly 7%, while attempting to curb spending in most other areas. Among the most contentious areas, the plan calls on Congress to restrain growth in spending on Medicare, the healthcare program for the elderly, by $36 billion through 2011.

Bush, speaking to a business group in New Hampshire, said the effort would trim the rate of growth in Medicare spending from 8.1% to 7.7%.

"People call it a cut in Medicare. That's not a cut," Bush said. "It's slowing down the rate of growth. It's the difference between slowing your car down to go the speed limit or putting your car in reverse."

Bush says cuts would improve the Medicare program's efficiency, while Democrats contend the administration is seeking to put more of the burden on seniors while protecting health care companies.


 
  EPA Faces 4th Budget Cut in Bush Budget ProposalFebruary 07, 2006 18:40 The Environmental Protection Agency's 2007 budget would decrease by 4 percent to $7.3 billion, the fourth cut in a row for the agency's yearly budget, the Bush administration said on Monday.

Stephen Johnson, the EPA's administrator, told reporters that even with the budget cut his agency would help achieve the president's goals of fighting the war on terror, strengthening homeland defense and strengthening the economy.

The department's budget increases funding for security measures by 43 percent to $184 million. The funds will be used mostly for detecting poisoned waters and decontaminating them if they are attacked. The EPA will also determine exposure guidelines of various chemicals for first responders.

  Bush's Budget Sparks Bipartisan ProtestFebruary 07, 2006 17:28 The administration defended President Bush's $2.77 trillion budget plan on Tuesday against congressional attacks that the cuts it sought to deal with exploding budget deficits would unfairly harm government efforts in education, health care and farm programs.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, among leadoff witnesses in a series of congressional hearings, said the administration had made the tough choices to fund programs that were working and eliminate those that were not.

"This budget represents the president's dedication to fiscal discipline, an efficient federal government and the continuation of a thriving U.S. economy," Snow told the Senate Finance Committee.

  Gas Bonanza Shakes Dust From Western TownsFebruary 06, 2006 00:00 Some small Wyoming and Montana towns are facing a huge boom in petroleum production and exploration. The exploration is changing the face of the towns and the environment around them and is expected to continue for up to 40 years. Over 5000 permits for drilling were issued last year in the two states, up from previous years.
  Compassionate Conservative? Yeah, Right...February 06, 2006 00:00 The coming debate over the 2007 budget may be the most difficult fiscal discussion President Bush has yet faced.
Mr. Bush's proposed $2.77 trillion spending plan, released Monday, contains some controversial provisions - notably, a $35.9 billion reduction in Medicare spending over five years.

But it's an election year, and GOP leaders are worried about maintaining control of Congress. Rank-and-file Republicans may have little enthusiasm for tough budget cuts, while Democrats will almost certainly oppose them.

 
  Bush Back to His Spending WaysFebruary 02, 2006 18:16 The White House has told Congress to expect requests for about $70 billion in additional funding for the ongoing budget year for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more for hurricane relief, a Senate GOP aide says.

The details of the requests are not finalized but President Bush's budget for 2007, to be submitted next week, will reflect the totals for planning purposes, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Another $2.3 billion to combat avian flu is also expected.

The funding for Iraq is in addition to $50 billion approved in December and should be enough to conduct the war through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Bush is also expected to set aside $50 billion in the 2007 budget for the war effort, though such funds won't be enough for the entire year.


 
  Bush Running on EmptyFebruary 02, 2006 16:45 As with much of the rest of his State of the Union address, US President George W Bush's proposals to boost government spending on clean energy technologies received a tepid reaction from analysts on Wednesday, who described the speech as uncharacteristically timid.

While energy and environmental activists applauded his portrayal of the energy problem faced by the US as an "addiction to oil", they said his solution - a 22% increase in clean-energy research - falls far short of what is required.

And they were particularly disappointed the president in the hour-long speech to Congress and the nation did not even mention global warming.

  Americans React To Bush AddressFebruary 01, 2006 15:55 NPR, AP, and other news organizations seem to be hitting Bush hard after his State of the Union last night. This morning, NPR had a point-by-point rebuttal of his economic statements. This article by the AP lists a series of vignettes relating the reactions of common Americans around the country.
  Katrina Report: No Chain Of CommandFebruary 01, 2006 00:00 Congressional investigators on Wednesday lambasted the U.S. government for its response to Hurricane Katrina, saying a lack of a clear chain of command hindered relief efforts and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or another top official should have been the point person on relief efforts.

The Government Accountability Office also found that the government still lacks sufficient plans and training programs to prepare for catastrophic disasters like the Aug. 29 storm that devastated much of the Gulf Coast area. But it also singled out Chertoff in several shortcomings.

The report, which marks the first congressional conclusions about the much-criticized federal response to Katrina, offered a harsh assessment of the government's preparations and reaction to catastrophic disasters.