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Archive for February 27th, 2009

Iraq Withdrawal was Who’s Plan?

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Via(INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY)

The Bush Pullout

Iraq War: President Obama traveled to Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Friday to announce that the U.S. would stay in Iraq at least until 2012 and keep 50,000 troops there even after combat ends. Sound familiar?

Obama’s withdrawal plan would take U.S. forces in Iraq down from a current 142,000 troops to 35,000 to 50,000. Under the status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Iran, negotiated and signed last year by the Bush administration, all forces must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

In short, though President Obama will get credit, it was Bush’s plan — not Obama’s.

When Obama first began running for the nation’s highest office in 2006, he vowed he would immediately withdraw all U.S. combat forces if elected. At the time, few with any knowledge about the conflict in Iraq took him seriously.

And sure enough, faced with the realities on the ground in Iraq and in the campaign back home, Obama changed his stance last year from immediately withdrawing all combat forces to one of removing, as his campaign Web site said, “one to two combat brigades each month, and (having) all our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.”

Now comes his much-awaited plan. Technically, Obama won’t be able keep his most recent promise on troop withdrawals, but he’ll come close. For that he can thank President Bush and the highly successful “surge” in troops he and Gen. David Petraeus put in place, making withdrawal possible.

In Friday’s remarks, Obama told the assembled Marines: “Today I’ve come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.” But in fact, the actual war has been over for some time. We hate to tell the Bush-haters out there, or to relive painful recent history, but President Bush won it, making the current pullout possible.

That victory was underscored in January when Iraq held largely peaceful elections, in which voters mostly repudiated extremist parties in favor of the moderate leadership of Nouri al-Maliki.

In his comments Friday, Obama noted the progress made.

“Thanks in great measure to your service,” he said, “the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.

“Al-Qaida in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs,” Obama continued. “The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation.”

He further lauded January’s elections showing Iraqis have begun “pursuing their aspirations through peaceful political process.”

All very true. Iraq has been a big success, which explains why you never see or hear about it in the mainstream news anymore. Suicide bombings and attacks on troops have become relatively rare, and now that Bush is out of office, there’s little political profit remaining for the left in bashing America’s bold Mideast initiative.

Whether you agree with Bush or not, he brought a kind of democracy to Iraq that can be found nowhere else in that region. His plan rocked al-Qaida back on its heels, to the point where its survival is in doubt. Iraq is a model.

In short, Obama’s policy is really, in most respects, Bush’s policy. That the troops can now come home proudly is a tribute to Bush’s steadfastness. But Obama will be wise not to remove them all.

We kept troops in Europe and Japan after World War II and in South Korea after the Korean War. Bush’s policy proved that democracy can take root where no one thought possible. But as in Europe, Korea and Japan, it must be protected.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie

Due to Drug War, Help Needed On U.S. Border!

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Via(Washington Times)

Homeland security: Help needed on U.S. border

The drug war is on.

On the same day that the secretary of homeland security told Congress that drug-related violence along the Mexican border had grown beyond the ability of the department to handle, the DEA announced an operation against a major Mexican drug cartel that netted more than 750 suspects – almost all of them in the U.S.

“I believe this is going to require more than the Department of Homeland Security,” Janet Napolitano said Wednesday during her first Capitol Hill appearance since her confirmation last month as homeland security secretary.

“So we are reaching out to the national security adviser, to the attorney general and others about how we within the United States make sure we are doing all we can in a coordinated way to support the president of Mexico,” said Ms. Napolitano, explaining that containing border-related drug violence will require more than the 22 agencies and 200,000 employees in her department.

TWT RELATED STORY: 755 arrested in drug cartel operation

Border violence, which claimed more than 1,000 lives in January and about 6,000 in 2008, is already on the radar of Pentagon and CIA officials, who have told The Washington Times of their involvement in the current crisis in Mexico and say they are watching developments closely.

U.S. intelligence officials told The Times that the effects of the global economic crisis on Mexico have helped narcotics traffickers recruit more people and corrupt more Mexican officials.

At his first meeting with reporters Wednesday, new CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said that Mexico was a “priority” for the agency.

“Mexico is an area of concern because of the drug wars going on there,” Mr. Panetta said. “The president [of Mexico] has courageously taken on that issue, but nevertheless, it’s an area that we are paying attention to, a lot of attention to.”

Meanwhile Wednesday, Justice Department officials announced the arrest of 755 people associated with Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel as part of a two-year probe dubbed “Operation Xcellerator.” The operation also netted $59 million, 12,000 kilograms of cocaine, 16,000 pounds of marijuana and about 1.3 million Ecstasy pills.

But as a measure of how thoroughly Mexico’s deadly drug gangs have entrenched themselves in the U.S., Justice Department officials said only 20 of the arrests took place in Mexico, with the rest taking place north of the border.

And in a specific example of the spread of Mexican drug-gang violence across the U.S., a confidential Department of Homeland Security advisory said an assassination attempt on a South Carolina deputy sheriff was the work of three illegal immigrants as part of a Mexican-American gang with ties to the drug trade.

Lexington County, S.C., Deputy Sheriff Ted Xanthakis and his K-9, Arcos, both survived the ambush by three men armed with a 12-gauge shotgun during a Feb. 8 incident in West Columbia, S.C.

Two of the men were identified in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report as members of the Surenos gang, or SUR-13, a collection of hundreds of Mexican-American street gangs with origins in the oldest barrios of Southern California and which federal law enforcement agencies accuse of involvement in smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants.

Violence on the Mexican border and its reverberations throughout the U.S. are emerging as one of the gravest and least expected problems confronting the Obama administration, a point that was made by President George W. Bush in a late December interview with The Washington Times.

Mr. Obama will need to deal “with these drug cartels in our own neighborhood,” Mr. Bush said. “And the front line of the fight will be Mexico. The drug lords will continue to search for a soft underbelly. And one of the things that future presidents are going to have to make sure of is that they don’t find a safe haven in parts of Central America.”

In her testimony Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano sounded a similar note, saying: “I’ve actually found the situation in Mexico one of the top priority items on my desk. It was on my desk when I was governor of Arizona, but as the secretary of homeland security, I see it in a much broader way.”

Thousands of Mexican troops have been sent to the border by President Felipe Calderon to patrol drug routes and bust drug runners.

But the drug cartels have retaliated at levels of violence never before seen, and Ms. Napolitano warned that failure could turn Mexico’s border areas into a war zone that the central government cannot effectively control, as happened in Colombia.

“They’ve been targeting in some of those homicides public officials [and] law enforcement officers as a process of intimidation,” Ms. Napolitano said.

The homeland security chief has already met with Mexico’s attorney general and the U.S. ambassador there, and said the U.S. is “working to support President Calderon in his efforts.”

“That is primarily the product of the president of Mexico and his government going after these large drug cartels, so that we never run the risk, never run the risk of Mexico descending into, say, where Colombia was 15 years ago,” Ms. Napolitano said.

The cocaine trade turned Colombia into a battle zone, with the Medellin and Cali cartels able to attack the highest levels of Colombian politics with kidnappings and assassinations.

The U.S. has spent billions of dollars on anti-drug efforts, and teamed up with the Colombian government to knock down cocaine production, but to this day the national government in Bogota does not effectively control large parts of the country, where the drug-linked Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is the de facto government.

U.S. officials will focus in particular on the traffic of guns and cash from the U.S. to Mexico to support “these very, very violent cartels,” Ms. Napolitano said.

“I believe our country has a vital relationship with Mexico, and I believe that Mexico right now has issues of violence that are of a different degree and level than we’ve ever seen before,” she said.

“But in my view, from a homeland security standpoint, this is going to be an issue, working with Mexico, that is going to be of real priority interest over these coming months,” Ms. Napolitano said.

The Obama administration says that the drug-gang violence on the U.S. side of the border does not match what is going on in Mexico’s border states, but says there is a contingency plan in place that will not include militarizing the U.S. side of the boundary.

• Sara A. Carter, Ben Conery and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R Bootie

Raise Taxes On The Rich All You Want, Won’t Help!

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Via(The WSJ -Opinion Journal)

The 2% Illusion

Take everything they earn, and it still won’t be enough.

President Obama has laid out the most ambitious and expensive domestic agenda since LBJ, and now all he has to do is figure out how to pay for it. On Tuesday, he left the impression that we need merely end “tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans,” and he promised that households earning less than $250,000 won’t see their taxes increased by “one single dime.”

This is going to be some trick. Even the most basic inspection of the IRS income tax statistics shows that raising taxes on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $250,000 can’t possibly raise enough revenue to fund Mr. Obama’s new spending ambitions.

Consider the IRS data for 2006, the most recent year that such tax data are available and a good year for the economy and “the wealthiest 2%.” Roughly 3.8 million filers had adjusted gross incomes above $200,000 in 2006. (That’s about 7% of all returns; the data aren’t broken down at the $250,000 point.) These people paid about $522 billion in income taxes, or roughly 62% of all federal individual income receipts. The richest 1% — about 1.65 million filers making above $388,806 — paid some $408 billion, or 39.9% of all income tax revenues, while earning about 22% of all reported U.S. income.

Note that federal income taxes are already “progressive” with a 35% top marginal rate, and that Mr. Obama is (so far) proposing to raise it only to 39.6%, plus another two percentage points in hidden deduction phase-outs. He’d also raise capital gains and dividend rates, but those both yield far less revenue than the income tax. These combined increases won’t come close to raising the hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that Mr. Obama is going to need.

But let’s not stop at a 42% top rate; as a thought experiment, let’s go all the way. A tax policy that confiscated 100% of the taxable income of everyone in America earning over $500,000 in 2006 would only have given Congress an extra $1.3 trillion in revenue. That’s less than half the 2006 federal budget of $2.7 trillion and looks tiny compared to the more than $4 trillion Congress will spend in fiscal 2010. Even taking every taxable “dime” of everyone earning more than $75,000 in 2006 would have barely yielded enough to cover that $4 trillion.

Fast forward to this year (and 2010) when the Wall Street meltdown and recession are going to mean far few taxpayers earning more than $500,000. Profits are plunging, businesses are cutting or eliminating dividends, hedge funds are rolling up, and, most of all, capital nationwide is on strike. Raising taxes now will thus yield far less revenue than it would have in 2006.

Mr. Obama is of course counting on an economic recovery. And he’s also assuming along with the new liberal economic consensus that taxes don’t matter to growth or job creation. The truth, though, is that they do. Small- and medium-sized businesses are the nation’s primary employers, and lower individual tax rates have induced thousands of them to shift from filing under the corporate tax system to the individual system, often as limited liability companies or Subchapter S corporations. The Tax Foundation calculates that merely restoring the higher, Clinton-era tax rates on the top two brackets would hit 45% to 55% of small-business income, depending on how inclusively “small business” is defined. These owners will find a way to declare less taxable income.

The bottom line is that Mr. Obama is selling the country on a 2% illusion. Unwinding the U.S. commitment in Iraq and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire can’t possibly pay for his agenda. Taxes on the not-so-rich will need to rise as well.

On that point, by the way, it’s unclear why Mr. Obama thinks his climate-change scheme won’t hit all Americans with higher taxes. Selling the right to emit greenhouse gases amounts to a steep new tax on most types of energy and, therefore, on all Americans who use energy. There’s a reason that Charlie Rangel’s Ways and Means panel, which writes tax law, is holding hearings this week on cap-and-trade regulation.

Mr. Obama is very good at portraying his agenda as nothing more than center-left pragmatism. But pragmatists don’t ignore the data. And the reality is that the only way to pay for Mr. Obama’s ambitions is to reach ever deeper into the pockets of the American middle class.

God Bless,
The Truth Tracker
Jason R. Bootie