Monday, April 2, 2012

News of the Day

1. The future is now, although it's coming slowly. With Green Energy being the wave of future energy investment and marketing, this article looks at the top ten states where green energy is making a splash. At the top of the list if Vermont, which boasts a total of 4.4% of its workforce in green jobs. This, of course, does not account for the agricultural jobs that are found in Vermont, and the article doesn't explain the green intitiatives in the state. However, it's nice to know that my home state is at the forefront of green jobs. I will say that I've noticed an increase in solar farms and wind turbines across the area. They seem to be building in popularity. The wind turbines in particular are very popular for schools and other large buildings to cut down on electricity. One turbine can provide 1/3 of a school's electricity.

2. The FDA is proposing that tobacco companies must provide information on 20 different chemicals that can be found in tobacco products. While there have been over 90 chemicals linked to tobacco, companies up until this point have not been required to list what they are and how much are in them. This new move by the FDA would make that information more public. While most people think that, at this point, the dangers of tobacco use are well-known, it's important not to forget that there is always a new generation coming up that will inevitably have smokers in it. To reduce those numbers, this kind of information is important.

3. As you can imagine, when a highly partisan bill comes up for a vote in Congress, it faces some serious criticism from the opposition. Now, imagine that this bill were a budget bill that cut taxes for the wealthy, cut social programs for the poor, and did absolutely nothing to balance the budget, get rid of deficit, or pay down the debt. Do you think there'd be a little backlash? Well, you'd be right. Of course, media groups aren't the only ones going after Ryan. Paul Krugman has done a great job blasting the budget plan and decrying its underlying principle of privilege before compassion. And as Krugman points out, Ryan's budget is another clear indication that the GOP leadership is being overtaken by ultra-conservative forces within their party. The neo-cons are not interested in compromise, they just want things their way. Ryan's budget is a perfect blueprint for the kind of America they want to see created.

4. The U.S. corporate tax rate is now the highest in the industrialized world. Japan recently lowered their tax rate, meaning we are now the most expensive place to business. Well, not really. The fact is, very few businesses if any pay 39% of their income to taxes. The majority of that is cut down by loopholes, tax credits, and other bonuses. The result is one of the lowest effective tax rates in the world, with some companies able to pay nothing or even get money back from the government after posting massive profits. While this will likely become a major talking point, it really shouldn't. Cherry-picking this information ignores the fact that our tax system is designed so that the wealthy and big businesses don't feel the pressure of taxation.

5. The US, along with other allies, have agreed to fund the Syrian rebels in their fight against the government. This is a change in the US position, which was a more "armchair cheerleader" position for some time. However, it's clear now that, without intervention, the rebellion will be stopped. SOS Clinton promised millions to the rebel cause as a way to prevent continued bloodshed...ironically. Clinton also denounced the government forces that have been bombing towns held by the rebels and killing civilians.

6. Congress has been operating under an earmark ban for a while now. It's led to some testy situations, as one of the most promising tools to garner support for a bill is now off the table. The ban was part of a plan put in place by TP-backed freshman GOPers who see earmarks as being clear evidence of out-of-control spending and special interests in Washington. However, the earmark ban came under fire recently as one Republican stood up early last month and suggested earmarks be allowed back in. While earmarks have been given a bad name in our political discourse, they are also a fundamental way for states to get funding for their projects. It's how local projects get federal funding. While earmarks can go overboard, and some are downright ridiculous, they do serve a useful purpose.

7. Finally, not so much a news story as pointing out a little piece of information. As it turns out, government mandates on health care are not unprecedented or even uncommon.

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