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Fiscal cliff looms high
Dec06

Fiscal cliff looms high

Financial meltdown, debt ceiling crisis, and now fiscal cliff. Since the recession, a number of creatively named spending and budget hiccups have befallen the U.S. government. The most recent crisis is the fiscal cliff. The term was created earlier this year to describe a set of foreboding tax hikes and government spending cuts that will occur at the end of this year. Like any major political issue, there are several different opinions on the severity of the fiscal cliff. Some pundits have claimed that tax burden on businesses and families will surely cause a recession, and others believe that the supposed sheer drop of the cliff will actually turn out to be a gentle slope and will cause no adverse effects. The last surplus the U.S. government had was back in 2001. Ever since then, the government has been running at a deficit. This constant shortfall has caused the national debt to rise from $6 trillion in 2001 to its current level of $16 trillion. To put this amount into perspective, consider the Gross Domestic Product for the U.S. was $15 trillion in 2011. At the beginning of his first term, George W. Bush offered significant cuts to payroll, estate and income taxes. During his term, he also started two wars, but did not raise taxes to pay for them. The recession and the economic stimulus packages only worsened the debt. The Bush era tax cuts, which were extended by Obama in 2010 are set to run out at the beginning of 2013. This is expected to raise government tax revenue by $536 billion dollars. According to the New York Times, this would cause an average increase of $3,400 in taxes per family, and the median household would face a $2,000 increase. One fear of the leaders in government is that the increase on capital gains will cause many investors to pull their money out before the end of December. It is unlikely that the minor crisis of the fiscal cliff will cause a recession. The current uncertainty of the government is what is really responsible for any negative effects on the market. It is a shame that Congress has waited so long to take care of the situation. The threat behind the fiscal cliff is not an impending recession. CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, has compared the fiscal cliff to economic setback similar to Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Recessions are not predicted until it is much too late to do anything about them. The elected officials of the government are smart enough to know they do not want to be held responsible for a recession, so...

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Awkward holiday questions

“Pass the sweet potatoes, dear. Speaking of, is there a special man in your life?” As irrelevant as one’s love life is to tasty Christmas side dishes, these conversations are unfortunately unavoidable for a college student with a prying family during the holiday season. When leaves on the trees start to turn brown, curiosity begins to stir in the minds of extended family members, and the need to bring a significant other to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner grows more urgent. Everyone has experienced that awkward family meal, where more tension is in the air than yummy scents from the steaming piles of food on the table. While Grandma slices the turkey, one might feel the urge to fabricate a precautionary and fictitious story of an imagined engagement, straight A’s and plenty of savings in the bank. All of this is absolutely false, but seemingly necessary when a barrage of personal questions follows the green bean casserole. As each dish passes around the table, the danger of being discovered single increases. “So who is the lucky guy?” usually comes with the first course of supper. “Single and ready to mingle” doesn’t satisfy the grandparents, aunts and uncles or cousins. Instead, to answer this one, a prepared script comes in handy because making a name up on the spot might be hazardous. “Fill Glass” can deceive the old folks only so many times, regardless of how deceptively clever it seemed at first. Why am I not dating anyone? Grandma, if I knew the answer to that, we could both live happily ever after. “When do you plan on getting married? I’d like to see some great-grand kids one of these days,” may come next if the conversation grows exceedingly risky. Suddenly, the food begins to taste even better, and one might decide to shovel macaroni and cheese with a muffled, “Sorry, my mouth is full,” to avoid the inquiry. After the unavoidable romantic advice comes the mashed potatoes with a heaping helping of “What have you been learning in college?” Since I have been taking a relentless series of final exams, all the information is still fumbling around in my brain-dead mind, making it almost impossible to choose just one thing. “I don’t know,” is the natural yet forbidden reply. A collegiate scholar needs a much more intelligent answer. Instead, “the importance of higher education” or “the value of money” usually passes as adequate responses. The next course: dessert with a side of “What are you doing after college?” Of all the awkward questions, this one takes the cake —or the pie, depending on which your family prefers during the festive...

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UN meddles at polls

After much controversy in Texas over voter identification laws and accusations of voter suppression, Texas officials learned that a group made of members from other nations from the Organization for Security and Cooperation would be coming to monitor American polling stations. The announcement angered Attorney General Greg Abbot. He sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining his concerns. Abbot was adamant that Texas law be upheld. “If the OSCE wishes to visit Texas during election season, we welcome the opportunity to educate its representatives about the state’s electoral process. But OSCE is not above the law, and its representatives must at all times comply with Texas law …,” Abbot wrote. According to his letter, what sparked Abbot’s concern was a request in a communication to Clinton from the United Nations that the organization not to be “restrained in their activities.” Many Americans saw the activity as an attempt to make sure Texas and other states were abiding by voter laws. Abbot also wrote, “In addition to my desire to defend and enforce Texas election laws, I am also concerned that an unnecessary political agenda may have infected OSCE’s election monitoring activities.” He was bold enough to infer some politicians were conspiring against Texas. Abbot did not object to the visitors’ presence in the state as long as they were there to learn. “While Texas may welcome visitors from any nation or international organization who wish to learn more about the steps the state has taken to protect the integrity of state elections…,” Abbot said. He explicitly stated that they must abide by Texas law. Many Americans were outraged that representatives from foreign countries who may have witnessed few, if any, peaceful elections in their lifetime would be helping to watch for voter fraud. It is one thing for people to observe so they can help create a better system in their own nation, but to give them the responsibility that comes with the word “monitor” is simply wrong. In an interview with Fox News, Abbot said Texas law mandates that unauthorized persons who come within 100 feet of a polling station would be subject to arrest. He made clear that the state’s aim was to uphold its laws’ and it would prosecute lawbreakers. According to Fox News, Nuri Elabbar came to the United States with poll watchers from more than 60 countries. “It’s very difficult to transfer this system as it is to any other country. This system is built according to trust and this trust needs a lot of procedures and a lot of education for other countries to adopt it,” Elabbar told Fox. Ironically,...

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Faith in party misled voters

Presidential elections generally end with only half of the country satisfied. The discord comes from the elected officials rarely get more than 53 percent of the popular vote. After an election, social media are lit up with all kinds of opinions. Just after the presidential election was called last week, my Facebook page was overloaded with many statuses bemoaning the reelection of Barack Obama, and others predicting the end of America and the birth of our new socialist state. Several of my friends alluded that voting for Obama was unethical. One even went so far as to say that the Americans who voted for Obama had forsaken God. That person is wrong. They perpetuated a misplaced belief that only Republicans can uphold Christian values. In the 1980s, a movement known as the moral majority gained substantial popularity in the U.S. It was led by Rev. Jerry Falwell, who endorsed Ronald Reagan in his first campaign. The moral majority was made up of conservative Christians. Though the organization has all but disbanded, the trend of conservative Christians exclusively supporting Republican candidates continues. Virtually all of Congress is religious, and 86 percent identify as Christian. There is vocal movement from religious leaders that Christians should support Republicans mainly due to their perceived pro-life stance. However, most Republican politicians have little to show for it. Christianity has been yoked with politics since it was made the state religion of the Roman Empire. Church leaders used religion as a tool during the Middle Ages to sustain political power. With the intention of directing America toward God, Christians now participate in the political process. They have the best intentions, but they are sometime used by politicians. The moral majority was right to recognize the brokenness of America, but they placed their hope in the false idols of political candidates when they should have looked to God for change. The life of Jesus is the antithesis of what is expected of politicians. Jesus called his followers to be meek and to be servant leaders. Look to our politicians, and you will not find these attributes. Politics is the only realm where words speak louder than actions, and this is the fault of voters. Never elect politicians based on what they say. Instead, choose them for what they do. Do not let anyone fool you into believing that there is one political candidate who is the Christian choice. All congressmen are up for reelection in two years. If you want to vote in a Christian fashion, then measure men by their action, not which party they are a part of. Above all else, do not place...

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Disney purchase gives ‘New Hope’

Princesses, evil rulers thwarting plans and princes sweeping in to save the day. Sounds like a normal Disney movie, but in a few years, a new story will be coming to screen again and this time with light sabers and Jedi. On Oct. 30, The Walt Disney Company bought LucasFilm, Ltd., for $4.5 billion. The company not only bought the Star Wars franchise, it received the entire portfolio from LucasFilms, including Indiana Jones. So does pairing feel forced or will it become a Disney magic in the making? Disney officials said they had been talking to George Lucas, founder of LucasFilms and director of the Star Wars films, about the purchase for a year now. Disney is planning to release Star Wars Episode VII in 2015 with more films expected to continue the saga. The company said it will release a new Star Wars film every one to three years. Lucas will serve as a creative consultant for the next film, but plans to retire eventually. “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” Lucas said, in a statement. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.” The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was released in 1977 and starred Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Since then Lucas has given the world five more iconic films with the last one being Revenge of the Sith, which was released in 2005. So what is this new era of the iconic saga going to look like? Will Disney rewrite the ending so that it has a happily-ever-after ending? Hundreds of books have been written that begin right from where the last movie finishes, but Disney said that the upcoming movie be an all-new story with no connection to the previous films. With new technology for special effects, new episodes of the saga could improve the quality of the movies. The first three films are more technologically savvy and the last three aren’t. So the films will go from high in special effects, to low and then back to high? Most fans wonder if it is a good idea to touch the film, while others are thrilled and some are undecided. Enthusiasts are asking if original actors will be used from the last film, Return of the Jedi. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher said in an interview that they knew about the new movie and if asked, they would consider playing their characters. Playing their original roles as the stars of the movie may...

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America spreading aid thin

With wars, crises and upheaval all over the world, America is being asked to aid many hurting nations. Ultimately, the U.S. cannot meet the demands of every person who cries out for aid—there are simply too many of them. We too have our own battles to fight, our own children and our own lives. However, as a Christian nation, we must remember to follow the guidelines set for us in the Bible. Philippians 2:4 says: “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others,” (KJV). If we as a nation are to succeed, we must work to ease the burden of hurting nations. Counter to popular notion and human tendencies, lending a hand to others not only helps them, but it helps us. If we follow God in our daily affairs, including our foreign policies, then our nation will be better for it. Take, for example, the crisis in Libya. After their leader Muammar al-Gaddafi’s 42-year reign of terror ended, their nation has still been feeling the repercussions of the unrest. Civil war has led to the deaths of thousands and has caused about a million to flee the country. President Barack Obama reacted by sending aid to Libya in the form of airstrikes and military endeavors against the forces of Gaddafi. According to the New York Times, Obama thought we had a responsibility to intervene in the conflict. He said. “I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” Had America not intervened, the mass murdering of innocent civilians would have continued. We showed that we have the capability to provide aid without putting our nose into everything. In 2011, a massive earthquake caused a tsunami, which killed thousands of people and ruined resources of Japan. Many countries combined forces to send help to the island so that work could be done in the most productive manner. Had the United States tried to fulfill the burdens alone, there would be problems within our own borders as well. As a nation, we must remember that we, too, need help. Though we won’t be able to take care of every nation, it is vital to help those we...

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