Tales from the Trail

U.S. religious leaders urge moral solution to debt talks

Don’t balance the U.S. budget on the backs of the poor and sick, religious leaders said, suggesting that their churches’ charity work is already overstretched and social havoc could result if the government’s social safety net is abandoned.

Representatives from Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith groups and churches expressed their collective disappointment with the tone of blame in the debt debate between President Obama and congressional negotiators.

The faith groups have organized a vigil alongside the U.S. Capitol and released a letter appealing to the president and Congress to consider the poor and vulnerable in their negotiations.

“The middle class are being crushed. The poor see no hope from getting up from the doldrums of despair and whole communities are facing struggles with joblessness, crime, addictions, violence, and  lack the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and adequate education.  While these struggles exist in communities, we are witnessing our president and Congress engaging in political posturing, while bickering for power and control,” Rev. Herbert Nelson of the Presbyterian Church USA said.

“It’s time for people of faith to step up and say we as Americans can do better,” The Reverend Canon Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches said. She could not believe Americans would abandon the poor to “maintain tax loopholes,” illustrating the support among the faith leaders for more revenues favored by Democrats. However, they also pointed to the need to examine the defense budget for savings.

Washington Extra – Seven up

Ready… Set… Go… And they’re off to the races for 2012. The Republicans went north. The Democrat went south.

Seven Republicans go head-to-head in New Hampshire tonight in the first major debate in the battle for their party’s presidential nomination.

The One they hope to unseat next year, President Barack Obama, sought a head start by talking jobs (he said the word 21 times) in the battleground state of North Carolina, before attending three back-to-back Miami fundraisers in fickle Florida.

from Environment Forum:

John Kerry has had it up to HERE with “The Flat Earth Caucus”

ISRAEL/You remember John Kerry, right? Tall, silver-haired, urbane enough to be accused of being French. But there's a feisty side to the senior senator from Massachusetts, and it was on display at a forum on energy and economic growth, where Kerry teed off on congressional Republicans and others who doubt the seriousness of the challenge of climate change.

"After a while you get exasperated and jaded and frustrated about it all," Kerry told The New Republic forum at the National Press Club. "I've had it just about up to here with America's indifference to the realities of this crisis ... the United States is like an ostrich putting its head in the sand."

How do you feel about the U.S. political establishment, Senator Kerry? "I don't know what's happened to us in the body politic of this country where facts and science seem to be so easily shunted aside and disposed of in favor of simple sloganeering, pure ideology and little bromides of politics that are offered up, that offer no solution to anything but might get you through an election."

Washington Extra – Club CEO

At one point, business isn’t just about money.

President Barack Obama just assembled corporate heavyweights to advise him on the economy. OBAMA/

It was the president’s latest move to show that he is trying to get the economy rolling and is reaching out to business.

Those who made the honor list included an eclectic bunch: Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, AOL co-founder Steve Case, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, and Kodak CEO Antonio Perez.

Washington Extra – Light bulb

There is something oddly poetic about choosing a light bulb maker to head a team searching for economic ideas.

President Barack Obama named General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to lead a new presidential advisory group called the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. OBAMA/

Obama said Immelt knows a thing or two about innovation given that he heads the company founded by Thomas Edison.

As GOP regroups on healthcare, new poll questions its priority

USA-HEALTHCARE/The new House Republican majority may be about to do what President Barack Obama did a year ago — assign the top priority to healthcare at a time when Americans really really want action on the economy and jobs.

That’s what a new Gallup poll suggests. Pollsters found that a clear majority of U.S. adults (52 perecent) think it is “extremely important” for Congress and Obama to focus on the economy in the new year. Next in importance come unemployment (47 percent), the federal budget deficit (44 percent), and government corruption (44 percent).

Healthcare and education are tied at 40 percent. But when Gallup looked more broadly at what people said USA/were either “extremely important” or ”very important,” education edged ahead of healthcare.

Washington Extra – It’s my party

It’s Friday, when some people start thinking PARTY! Even in Washington.

The first employment report of the year, which was for December, gave the administration something to party about. The unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent. That is the number that resonates with the public, so a four-tenths of a percentage point drop can be politically useful. OBAMA/SPERLING

“Now, we know these numbers can bounce around from month to month. But the trend is clear,” President Barack Obama said. “We saw 12 straight months of private sector job growth.  That’s the first time that’s been true since 2006.”

Gene Sperling has something to party about, he’s just got his old job back. Obama announced additions to his White House economic team and named Sperling as director of the National Economic Council (a post he held in President Bill Clinton’s administration).

On the 8th day before Christmas, Congress…

‘Twas eight days before Christmas and all through the Hill, lots of legislative stirring…

A nuclear arms treaty with Russia, gays in the military, avoiding a government shutdown, and even loosening immigration law. All these weighty issues are enough to make any politician on Capitol Hill reach for something easier to decide. 
 
So, it’s official. Mark Twain is one of America’s most famous literary icons.

RTRFGEU_CompIt says so in House Resolution 1733. Congress, with its hands full trying to jam a year’s worth of legislative activity through the days before Christmas, managed to squeeze out the Twain bill giving the writer of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” recognition on the 175th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death.

Washington Extra – A snowball’s chance?

American voters made their feelings very clear last week. U.S. government borrowing is too high and needs to be reduced. How sad, then, that the presidential commission tasked with coming up with a credible plan to cut the deficit is already being dismissed as a non-event.erskine

“This is the most predictable economic crisis we have ever faced,” Erskine Bowles rightly said today as he unveiled his joint proposals with co-chair Alan Simpson.

What is lacking, though, is not a realization of this fact, but the political will and bipartisanship to find a solution. Already, some members of their own commission have expressed skepticism about the plan or dismissed it entirely, while the wider audience in Congress is hardly rushing to embrace the ideas.

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

INDIAWhen Barack Obama heads for India next month, he’ll be carrying a heavy policy agenda — questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India’s status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

Even as Pachauri and the U.N. panel evolve — and as Pachauri himself weathers pressure from some quarters to resign — he urged Obama to work on U.S.-India projects that he said would enhance global energy security.

Given India’s red-hot economic growth rate — 8 or 9 percent a year, Pachauri told reporters during a telephone briefing — he said it makes sense for the United States to work with India to head off an expected soaring demand for fossil fuels.