Tales from the Trail

First draft: Storms trump flu

Flu mania seems to be winding down a bit. At least on the morning U.S. television talk shows CANADA/and the front pages of the major newspapers.

Is it complacency? A feeling that it can’t hit you? Or just plain flu fatigue? Whatever the case, the slowdown of interest in the deadly new strain of flu comes just as global health officials gear up to declare a full-stage pandemic.FLU/

The morning news shows focused first on the severe weather pummeling the United States, and only after went on to talk about flu. The acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Richard Besser, said the spread of the deadly influenza is not much worse than the average seasonal flu.

The First Draft: Tax Day

ECONOMY-CALIFORNIA/TAXESToday is tax day, one of the least favorite days on many Americans’ calendars. Expect long lines at the post office and lots of grumbling.

Anti-gummint types are staging  anti-tax “Tea Parties” around the country, including one in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House at 10:00.

Another prominent day on the tax calendar has already passed. Tax Freedom Day, the day in which the average American has earned enough to cover his tax burden for the year, ocurred on April 13 — the earliest date since 1967.

No small differences over Obama’s treatment of small business

U.S. budgets can really bring out the passion in people. So much so that it’s no wonder it’s hard for anyone to agree on how Washington should tax and spend.

OBAMA/BUDGETWhen it was released on Thursday, the budget President Barack Obama unveiled sparked a war of words all over the capital. The disagreements were so profound, it’s almost as if people were looking at two entirely different documents.

Take the impact of Obama’s budget on small businesses which, like many in the United States, are reeling from the deep economic recession.

$787 billion can’t buy an ounce of bipartisanship

WASHINGTON – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were unapologetic on Friday after not a single one of them voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus package.
The Democratic majority pushed the spending and tax cuts measure through the House 246-183 at the urging of Democratic President Barack Obama, who had courted Republican support.
Republican leaders insisted the plan may do more harm than good by expanding government and not doing enough to creboehnerate private-sector jobs.
Representative Virginia Foxx went further. “I think it’s a cruel hoax on the American people that they have been led to believe that by passing this bill that there are suddenly going to be millions of jobs out there, particularly for blue collar workers that have lost their jobs,” she said.
Through weeks of debate, the two parties stuck to their ideologies, with Republicans favoring tax cuts and Democrats leaning toward government spending.
Republicans may be hoping their lock-step opposition will help vault them back into majority status in the House. They look longingly back to 1993, when every House Republican voted against a balanced-budget plan by then-President Bill Clinton that accomplished its goal.
Nonetheless, Republicans took control of the House in 1994 elections.
Asked whether Republicans risked looking bad if the U.S. economy does recover in the near term, House Republican Leader John Boehner said: “I think standing on principle and doing the right things for the right reasons on behalf of your constituents will never get you in trouble.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Boehner holds a copy of the stimulus bill, following the passage in the House of Representatives of the stimulus package)

from Ask...:

Withdraw or stand their ground?

Tom Daschle doesn’t want to be a distraction. Nancy Killefer doesn’t want to be a distraction. Timothy Geithner has already been a distraction.

What these three high-profile nominees to President Obama’s White House have in common, besides not wanting to be distractions, is that they apparently don’t know how to do their taxes. Daschle, the former senator and Obama’s choice for health secretary, and Killefer, a former assistant Treasury secretary and nominee to oversee the government’s budget, have withdrawn their nominations because of tax indiscretions. Geithner has been confirmed but his path to the top of Treasury was also marred by tax troubles that some fear may come back to haunt him.

Besides begging the question why do smart people not know how to do their taxes, it also throws a shadow over Obama’s quest to have a fast, smooth transition to power.

House Republicans see Obama as sincere, just misguided

OBAMA/WASHINGTON – Republicans in the House of Representatives say they appreciate Democratic President Barack Obama’s efforts to win their support for the economic stimulus bill, which is now approaching $900 billion. But they have made it clear that the partisan divide remains extremely hard to bridge.

“He’s sincere. I think he’s passionate,” Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, said on Thursday at a retreat for House Republicans at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia.

“When he spoke to House Republicans, it was clear to me his sincerity and passion about the level of debt,” he said. “Clearly, we disagree on the economic stimulus effect of the government spending.”

Obama leaves no stone unturned, hits up MTV audience

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama may be in the lead in the polls, but he’s leaving little to chance especially among younger voters.

He went on MTV to answer questions from young voters ranging from student loans and taxes to gay marriage and whether ordinances should be passed prohibiting sagging pants — yes sagging pants.

“I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq,” Obama said.

A taxing question on Palin’s clothing allowance

Sarah Palin’s $150,000 clothing allowance from the Republican National Committee raises questions about whether John McCain’s vice presidential pick will have to pay federal income taxes for the items she bought with the money.  palin2.jpg

Maybe, according to one congressional tax expert.

The McCain campaign says the clothing, which according to Politico.com was purchased at stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks, will go to charity after the campaign.

If everything is handed over to charity once the last ballot is cast, Palin could argue that she never actually owned the clothes and that they were more like costumes or uniforms used for work, the tax expert said.