While you were away — A handy guide to what you missed during the holidays
by Bill Lewis
Columnist
January 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 818 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Even though many were pre-occupied the past couple of weeks with holiday cheer and goodwill toward persons, there was still news being made in Washington. In an effort to keep up with the latest happenings, here’s a short guide to some of the more interesting tidbits that might have gotten lost amidst the tinsel and wrapping paper.

First and foremost, We the People didn’t get pushed off the fiscal cliff. Not all the way, at least. But the front two wheels of the minivan are dangling off the side and most of the weight is in the driver’s seat. The elected hired help saw fit to attack part of the economic problem. Here, in a nutshell, is the upshot: Your taxes are going up. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you make. Sure, the over-$400,000-a-year folks are paying “just a little bit more,” but, sorry to spill the beans, so is practically everybody else.

How can that be? Well, for the last two years, instead of contributing 6.2 percent of our wages to fund Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (better known by its catchy nickname, Social Security), we’ve only been paying 4.2 percent. That’s gone.

As of Jan. 1, it was back up to 6.2 percent. That will be another $1,000 in taxes on each $50,000-worth of income.

And while we’re on the subject of the cliff, nothing in particular was done about the country’s debt ceiling. Right now, it’s about $16.4 trillion. (If my math is correct, your share of that, just you, is $54,666. Your kids owe it too. And probably your dog. Be ready to cough it up at any time.) We actually hit that ceiling on Dec. 31, 2012. And without raising the ceiling, the government can’t borrow more in order to pay back China and other worthy causes. So, the Treasury Secretary said he could “juggle” accounts to keep the country solvent until mid-February or the first of March. I don’t know about you, but that idea makes me feel a tad bit uncomfortable. In the movies, when people “juggle” money accounts, they’re usually visited by a guy named Vinny carrying a baseball bat. And he’s not happy.

Next, with Obama Cabinet members in mass exodus (very normal at the start of second terms), the president has nominated a couple of replacements. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry has been tapped to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel gets the Administration’s nod as Secretary of Defense.

Normally, those two nominations wouldn’t pose much of a confirmation problem. The Senate always has to sign off on Cabinet members, and those who have served in that august body seldom are turned down. Professional courtesy, one might say.

Hagel, though, may not have such smooth sailing. Chuck’s a Republican, but there are those in his party who don’t claim him. He kind of marches to his own drummer when it comes to more defense spending. He’s pretty much against it. And he didn’t support the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hagel also has run into trouble regarding some previous comments about a “Jewish lobby,” and a few things he said in not supporting an openly gay ambassadorial candidate a decade and a half ago.

On the other hand, Kerry will probably just have to show up on time and wear a matching suit to be confirmed.

Finally, there is a move afoot to have Vice President Joe Biden star in a reality show. A for-real petition has been sent to the White House suggesting that Biden appear on C-SPAN on an ongoing basis and showcase his usual daily activities with legislators, foreign dignitaries, and regular Americans. Only about 10 or 12 percent of the required signatures needed to elicit a response from the White House has been received, but there’s plenty of time.

Given the fact Biden makes it a habit to regularly talk with a foot in his mouth, perhaps such a program would be entertaining. Ostensibly, the petitioners say the show would give the country a glimpse into just what a vice president actually does with his time every day besides ask the Surgeon General if the President is still breathing. One report I saw stated that the VP’s “non stop-gaffes, expletives, wise cracks, Cheshire cat smiles and political gamesmanship” would make for “must-watch” TV. Honey Boo-Boo might have cause for concern.

There is more, but this is a good start. Oh, sorry, one more thing. Since we rolled over to another annus domini, all Fridays this year will contain the number 13 as part of their dates.

Now you know.

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.
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