Material girl Michelle Obama is a modern-day Marie Antoinette on a glitzy Spanish vacation

NY Daily News – By Andrea Tantaros

Sacrifice is something that many Americans are becoming all too familiar with during this economic downturn. It was a key theme in President Obama‘s inaugural address to the nation, and he’s referenced it numerous times when lecturing the country on how to get back on its feet.

But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing  summer sojourns – or forgoing them altogether – the Obamas don’t seem to be heeding their own advice. While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her “closest friends.” According to CNN, the group is expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms, more than a third of the lodgings at the 160-room resort. Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times.

Reports are calling the lodgings of  Obama’s Spanish fiesta, the Hotel Villa Padierna in Marbella, “luxurious,” “posh” and “a millionaires’ playground.” Estimated room rate per night? Up to a staggering $2,500. Method of transportation? Air Force Two…

…Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight – than an average mother of two. While she’s spent her time in the White House telling parents they should relieve their chubby kids’ dependency on sugar and stressing the importance of an organic veggie garden, hopping a jet to Europe to meet with Spanish royalty isn’t the visual the White House probably wants to project. Perhaps they’ve forgotten the damning image of John Kerry, on the eve of the 2004 election, windsurfing off the coast of Nantucket?

I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime – the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders. Toning down the flash would humanize the Obamas and signify that they sympathize with the setbacks of the people they were elected to serve.

In January, President Obama insisted that “everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good. Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.”

If sacrifice is the precursor to change, what will the family that ran on change offer up? Elitist doublespeak won’t cut it.

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Democrats: Say, Let’s Exempt Rich People in Blue States From Tax Hike!

H.R.1943 — Tax Equity Act of 2009 (Introduced in House – IH)

HR 1943 IH


1st Session

H. R. 1943

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for adjustments in the individual income tax rates to reflect regional differences in the cost-of-living.


April 2, 2009

Mr. NADLER of New York (for himself, Mrs. LOWEY, and Mr. ISRAEL) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means


To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for adjustments in the individual income tax rates to reflect regional differences in the cost-of-living.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Tax Equity Act of 2009′.


(a) General Rule- Subsection (f) of section 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to adjustments in tax tables so that inflation will not result in tax increases) is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new paragraphs:


`(A) IN GENERAL- In the case of an individual, the rate table otherwise in effect under this section for any taxable year (determined after the application of paragraph (1)) shall be further adjusted as provided in subparagraph (B).

`(B) METHOD OF MAKING REGIONAL ADJUSTMENT- The rate table otherwise in effect under this section with respect to any individual for any taxable year shall be adjusted as follows:

`(i) The minimum and maximum dollar amounts otherwise in effect for each rate bracket shall be multiplied by the applicable multiplier (for the calendar year in which the taxable year begins) which applies to the statistical area in which the individual’s primary place of abode during the taxable year is located.

`(ii) The rate applicable to any rate bracket (as adjusted by clause (i)) shall not be changed.

`(iii) The amount setting forth the tax shall be adjusted to the extent necessary to reflect the adjustments in the rate brackets.

If any amount determined under clause (i) is not a multiple of $50, such amount shall be rounded to the nearest multiple of $50.


`(A) IN GENERAL- Not later than December 15 of each calendar year, the Secretary shall prescribe an applicable multiplier for each statistical area of the United States which shall apply to taxable years beginning during the succeeding calendar year.


`(i) For each statistical area where the cost-of-living differential for any calendar year is greater than 125 percent, the applicable multiplier for such calendar year is 90 percent of such differential.

`(ii) For each statistical area where the cost-of-living differential for any calendar year exceeds 97 percent but does not exceed 125 percent, the applicable multiplier for such calendar year is 1.05.

`(iii) For each statistical area not described in clause (i) or (ii), the applicable multiplier is the cost-of-living differential for the calendar year.

`(C) COST-OF-LIVING DIFFERENTIAL- The cost-of-living differential for any statistical area for any calendar year is the percentage determined by dividing–

`(i) the cost-of-living for such area for the preceding calendar year; by

`(ii) the average cost-of-living for the United States for the preceding calendar year.


`(i) IN GENERAL- For each calendar year beginning after 2009, the Secretary of Labor shall determine and publish a cost-of-living index for each statistical area.

`(ii) METHODOLOGY- The cost-of-living index determined under clause (i) for any statistical area for any calendar year shall be based on average market prices for the area for the 12-month period ending on August 31 of such calendar year. The market prices taken into account under the preceding sentence shall be selected and used under the same methodology as is used by the Secretary of Labor in developing the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

`(E) STATISTICAL AREA- For purposes of this subsection the term `statistical area’ means–

`(i) any metropolitan statistical area as defined by the Secretary of Commerce, and

`(ii) the portion of any State not within a metropolitan statistical area as so defined.

(11) AREAS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES- The area applicable multiplier for any area outside the United States shall be 1.’

(b) Effective Date-

(1) IN GENERAL- The amendment made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2009.

(2) TRANSITION RULE- Notwithstanding section 1(f)(9)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (as added by this section), the date for prescribing applicable multipliers for taxable years beginning in calendar year 2010 shall be the date 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

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Senate Approves $26 Billion to Help States Retain Teachers

Bloomberg – By Brian Faler

The U.S. Senate passed legislation providing $26 billion to help states pay their Medicaid bills and avoid firing thousands of teachers in a victory for Democrats’ long-stalled jobs agenda.

The chamber voted 61-39 to send the legislation to the House. Yesterday, Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe joined Democrats to halt Republican stalling tactics. The House plans to vote Aug. 10, making a brief return to Washington from its August recess, to complete work on the measure before the new school year begins.

“These are real people across the country who are breathing a sigh of relief today,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat.

The bill would provide $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs and $16 billion to help states pay for the Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor. The aid is paired with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget so the measure would reduce the deficit by a little more than $1 billion.

The plan would be financed in part by clamping down on what Democrats called the abuse of foreign tax credits claimed by multinational corporations. The provision is projected to raise almost $10 billion over 10 years.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, signaled his colleagues will oppose the measure next week. He accused Democrats yesterday of “scampering back to Washington to push through more special-interest bailouts and job-killing tax hikes.”

$200 Billion

The aid plan is in addition to more than $200 billion lawmakers provided states last year as part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

Many states still face funding shortfalls from slack income and sales tax revenue stemming from the slow economy along with increased demand for services from the jobless. Unlike the federal government, almost every state is required to balance its budget.

Dozens of states assumed Congress would provide the additional Medicaid funding when they drew up their budgets, so a failure to approve the aid would exacerbate state shortfalls projected to total $84 billion nationwide, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The crackdown on foreign tax credits for multinational corporations drew the opposition of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said the bill would impose “draconian tax increases” that would “hinder job creation, decrease the competitiveness of American businesses, and deter economic growth.”

The bill is also partially financed by cuts in food-stamp benefits beginning in 2014.

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Ballet sobre espejo

Portland lemonade stand runs into health inspectors, needs $120 license to operate

The Oregonian – By Helen Jung

It’s hardly unusual to hear small-business owners gripe about licensing requirements or complain that heavy-handed regulations are driving them into the red.

So when Multnomah County shut down an enterprise last week for operating without a license, you might just sigh and say, there they go again.

Except this entrepreneur was a 7-year-old named Julie Murphy. Her business was a lemonade stand at the Last Thursday monthly art fair in Northeast Portland. The government regulation she violated? Failing to get a $120 temporary restaurant license.

Turns out that kids’ lemonade stands — those constants of summertime — are supposed to get a permit in Oregon, particularly at big events that happen to be patrolled regularly by county health inspectors.

“I understand the reason behind what they’re doing and it’s a neighborhood event, and they’re trying to generate revenue,” said Jon Kawaguchi, environmental health supervisor for the Multnomah County Health Department. “But we still need to put the public’s health first.”

Julie had become enamored of the idea of having a stand after watching an episode of cartoon pig Olivia running one, said her mother, Maria Fife. The two live in Oregon City, but Fife knew her daughter would get few customers if she set up her stand at home.

Plus, Fife had just attended Last Thursday along Portland’s Northeast Alberta Street for the first time and loved the friendly feel and the diversity of the grass-roots event. She put the two things together and promised to take her daughter in July.

The girl worked on a sign, coloring in the letters and decorating it with a drawing of a person saying “Yummy.” She made a list of supplies.

Then, with gallons of bottled water and packets of Kool-Aid,  they drove up last Thursday with a friend and her daughter. They loaded a wheelbarrow that Julie steered to the corner of Northeast 26th and Alberta and settled into a space between a painter and a couple who sold handmade bags and kids’ clothing.

Even before her daughter had finished making the first batch of lemonade, a man walked up to buy a 50-cent cup.

“They wanted to support a little 7-year-old to earn a little extra summer loot,” she said. “People know what’s going on.”

Even so, Julie was careful about making the lemonade, cleaning her hands with hand sanitizer, using a scoop for the bagged ice and keeping everything covered when it wasn’t in use, Fife said.

After 20 minutes, a “lady with a clipboard” came over and asked for their license. When Fife explained they didn’t have one, the woman told them they would need to leave or possibly face a $500 fine.

Surprised, Fife started to pack up. The people staffing the booths next to them encouraged the two to stay, telling them the inspectors had no right to kick them out of the neighborhood gathering. They also suggested that they give away the lemonade and accept donations instead and one of them made an announcement to the crowd to support the lemonade stand.

That’s when business really picked up — and two inspectors came back, Fife said. Julie started crying, while her mother packed up and others confronted the inspectors. “It was a very big scene,” Fife said.

Technically, any lemonade stand — even one on your front lawn — must be licensed under state law, said Eric Pippert, the food-borne illness prevention program manager for the state’s public health division. But county inspectors are unlikely to go after kids selling lemonade on their front lawn unless, he conceded, their front lawn happens to be on Alberta Street during Last Thursday.

“When you go to a public event and set up shop, you’re suddenly engaging in commerce,” he said. “The fact that you’re small-scale I don’t think is relevant.”

Kawaguchi, who oversees the two county inspectors involved, said they must be fair and consistent in their monitoring, no matter the age of the person. “Our role is to protect the public,” he said…

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