Archive for January, 2013

Obama’s second inaugural (updated)

There were, I think, three main elements to President Obama’s second inaugural address (other than its brevity at just 19 minutes, which was the only truly surprising thing about the speech):

First, there was his identification of what — or who — is at the root of our problems:

  • “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few …”
  • “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
  • “We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.”

In case you didn’t catch his drift, I’ve supplied some emphasis. There are just a “few” people who are keeping the rest of us from … what exactly? Does anyone actually believe only a “few” Americans (even granting the president poetic license to mean a “few” as a relative share of a nation of more than 315 million people) are happy? Or enjoy freedom? Or experience …

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After latest loss, down with the Dome!

OK, I give up. After watching the championship hopes of both the Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta Falcons die on the same end of the Georgia Dome’s field in less than two months, I’m finally on board with tearing that place down. Either that, or figure out a way to shorten that end of the field by 10 yards when the fourth quarter begins.

I’m kidding. Sort of.

Programming note: I’ll be blogging and tweeting about the president’s inaugural address today. There’ll be a separate post for that, which I’ll publish around 11 a.m.

Until then, feel free to treat this as an open thread for commenting on all the matters you didn’t get to discuss over the weekend. And for those of you who are frustrated with the short time frames for commenting lately, know that a solution will be in place soon. If you spend much time on the sports blogs, you’ve already seen that change there. I’m not sure when we’ll make the transition on the opinion blogs, but it’s supposed to be soon.

– By Kyle …

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Medicaid bed tax: Misnamed, unsustainable, divisive — and apparently irresistible

For an up-close view of the brokenness in our political and health-care systems, and especially of the way they make one another worse rather than better, you could hardly do better than watch the debate over Georgia’s hospital bed tax. It has it all.

First, there’s Medicaid. It’s the program states can’t live with — no matter how much money they pour into it one year, the cost only rises the next, in part because states have limited control over it — and can’t live without — the federal dollars involved are too numerous to pass up.

Medicaid funding is an inherent contradiction in fiscal responsibility: In order to balance their budgets, states look for ever more ways to get ever more money from a federal government that is ever more in debt. Meanwhile, even as Medicaid funding rises, Medicaid patients have ever more trouble finding doctors who will accept them because of the program’s low reimbursement rates.

So, Medicaid is so broken as to somehow render …

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GOP can cut spending without delaying debt ceiling

As I write, President Obama is about to announce the gun-control proposals his administration has been drafting since the Sandy Hook school massacre (although some of them almost certainly were on his wish list before he ever entered the White House). We’ll discuss that here after they’ve been made official and we’ve had time to digest them.

In the meantime, and of a more time-sensitive nature, we march on toward next month’s trio of fiscal deadlines: the expiration of temporary funding measures for the federal government, the end of a two-month delay in the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, and the end of the administration’s authority to borrow more money.

That last issue, popularly known as the debt ceiling, has drawn the most attention, with Democrats accusing the GOP of holding the economy hostage by insisting on spending cuts if they are to raise the ceiling. We’ve seen this movie before, in the summer of 2011. It didn’t end all that well.

It did, however, …

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Grover’s right: Bed-tax bill is all about passing the buck

Say what you will about Grover Norquist — and I know many of you have had plenty to say about him in the past, none of it good. But I don’t think there’s any question his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, is right about one particular element of its statement regarding Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to have the Department of Community Health, rather than the Legislature, decide whether to continue imposing the hospital bed tax (or “hospital provider fee,” in the current Georgia political vernacular).

Here’s the statement, obtained by my AJC news-side colleagues. I’ve put the seemingly unobjectionable part in bold-face:

Gov. Deal’s decision to shift taxing authority from the legislature to the Department of Community Health does nothing to improve the hospital bed tax. Instead, it is a step in the wrong direction, attempting to absolve the governor and legislature of any potential blame for the looming tax increase.

The hospital bed tax remains a job-killing tax hike that will …

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The Georgia Legislature is back in town (Updated)

Keep an eye on your life, liberty and property: Georgia’s Legislature is back in action starting today.

My news-side colleague Kristina Torres has an overview of the top five issues to watch during the next few months. I agree with the five and would add to them the continued murmurs about expanding gambling in Georgia to increase funding for the HOPE scholarship, as well as the difficulty of waiting while Congress debates its own spending levels for the years to come, which could affect Georgia’s funding for Medicaid, education, transportation and more. See, too, if Democratic legislators are able to cause trouble for the overwhelming GOP majorities on issues such as illegal immigration — for instance, when legislators try to tweak the 2011 illegal immigration law to fix unintended consequences for Georgians trying to renew their drivers licenses.

On the ethics front, look for the Senate to take some sort of action today on a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts — passing a bill for …

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Louie Giglio and ‘the right to hold differing views’

I’ve never been to Louie Giglio’s church. But I drive past it every Sunday on the way to the church I do attend.

Passion City Church meets in a building that once was home to a Home Depot Expo and a PGA Tour Superstore. If you aren’t familiar with the site, one thing you ought to know is it has the kind of enormous parking lot you’d expect for a mega-box store and that it’s filled to capacity each week as volunteers and traffic cops direct the flow of motorists, pedestrians from the nearby Lindbergh MARTA station, and the shuttles that ferry still more worshippers to Giglio’s church.

You also ought to know that, for a couple of months last year, there were fewer parking spaces available than usual. That’s because part of the pavement was occupied by a gigantic statue of an arm and hand reaching skyward — I’m talking about 103-feet-tall gigantic — with, among other messages, “Indifference Is Not an Option” written on it.

“Indifference” to human …

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Another Southern state not named Georgia looks to ditch the income tax

Another day, another Republican governor making a bold proposal on an issue Georgia lawmakers have been wrestling with. From the Times-Picayune in New Orleans:

Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to eliminate Louisiana’s income and corporate taxes and pay for those cuts with increased sales taxes, the governor’s office confirmed Thursday. The governor’s office has not yet provided the details of the plan.

“The bottom line is that for too long, Louisiana’s workers and small businesses have suffered from having a state tax structure that is too complex and that holds back economic prosperity,” Jindal said in a statement released by his office. “It’s time to change that so people can keep more of their own money and foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create good-paying jobs.”

Jindal said the plan would be revenue-neutral and that the goal would be to keep sales taxes “as low and flat as possible.”

Another Louisiana newspaper, the Monroe News-Star, reports the …

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Chambliss: Government shutdown is up to Obama

If you think the 112th Congress was a weak, unproductive bunch, you’re not alone. Saxby Chambliss agrees with you.

“Unfortunately that’s the way it feels inside, not just outside,” Georgia’s senior senator told me over coffee at his Cobb County office Tuesday. “Harry Reid’s leadership [in the Senate] leaves a lot to be desired, and the in-your-face stuff that the president’s thrown at us has gotten a lot of backs up on our side, in both the House and the Senate. You throw the presidential election in there and it just kind of all came together, and nothing got done.”

Readers who are not GOP partisans would probably add House Republicans to Chambliss’ list of Washington’s bad actors. But after spending the past few years working with a handful of his fellow senators to fashion a big, bipartisan deal to reform the federal tax code and reduce spending, to no avail, Chambliss conveyed disdain for the way the Jan. 1 agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal …

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Transportation funding: Should Georgia follow another GOP governor’s lead?

After last year’s resounding T-SPLOST flop, Georgia legislators are not expected to make any big moves regarding new transportation funding. But forget new transportation funding: Given the long-term decline in the purchasing power of the motor fuel tax, which will only accelerate as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, Georgia will have to consider alternate means of funding for building and maintaining roads and bridges. Increasing the motor fuel tax rate even just to maintain parity might work in the short term, but it’s probably not a solution in the long run.

Few of the most-discussed alternatives have obvious appeal. Tolls almost certainly will become a more important source of revenue, particularly on the interstates, but that’s a limited option. You’re extremely unlikely to face a toll booth between your house and the grocery store, and there are vast swaths of the state where tolls probably aren’t viable. Another option, tracking the number of miles traveled by a …

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