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E-News 12/2/11

The Week Just Past: 25 Jobs Bills Sitting In The Senate

Less Red Ink, But Still Too Much

Inside the So-Called “SuperCommittee”

Obamacare on your Radar Screen?

The IRS May Have Your Tax Refund Check

A Former Ambassador’s View of Afghanistan

The Week Just Past: 25 Jobs Bills Sitting In the Senate

“Congress returned to Washington this week after Thanksgiving which allowed our families to come together to give thanks for the blessings in their lives.

“I recognize that the people in this country remain very frustrated and angry about unemployment and worried about their economic future. I don’t blame them.

“More Americans are now forced to survive without work longer than at any time since the Great Depression.  According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trust, nearly one-third of the nearly 14 million Americans who were unemployed in the last quarter had been jobless for a year or more.  That number translates into more than 4.4 million people!

“This morning we received the news that the nation’s ‘official’ jobless rate slid to 8.6%. Though the slight decrease in national unemployment is welcome news, some perspective is in order: the jobless rate has now been stuck at or above 8 percent for 34 straight months and at 9 percent or higher for 28 of those months. Not since the Great Depression has unemployment in America been so high for so long.  When you realize 300,000 people have just given up looking for work, it’s less encouraging.

“Clearly, the economy is still not creating enough new jobs. We need to work together to provide more job opportunities for families and individuals, especially when they're facing even greater demands on their budgets during the holiday season.

“Among many pressing challenges facing our country, this is the most pressing.  We continue to work in the House to find ways that we can help the jobs situation in this country. This week, we debated and passed four more jobs-related bills so that by the end of this week, there will be 25 bills sitting in the Senate that Leader Reid refuses to take up that will help people get back to work.

“We have much to do between now and the end of the year. It’s my preference that we all work to find ways that we can agree.  As our New Jersey neighbor, Leon Cooperman, reminded us this week in the New York Post, a class warfare strategy ‘never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists’ and it’s time to tone down the partisan rhetoric.”

                                                          Rodney Frelinghuysen

Recommended Reading: New Jersey resident Leon Cooperman, writing in Monday’s New York Post, “Please Mr. President.

Less Red Ink, But Still Too Much

According to the Department of the Treasury, the federal budget deficit for the month of October was $98.5 billion or $3.2 billion every day. 

Although the deficit was down from the last October’s monthly deficit of $140 billion, October’s deficit was still $35 billion higher than the month of September. 

The deficit in the first month of the fiscal year puts the U.S. on pace to rack up a $1.18 trillion deficit in FY 2012.

Inside the So-Called “SuperCommittee”

The mainstream media provided quite a bit of hype and heightened expectations for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the panel established by the Budget Control Act in August.  As we know by now, the so-called “SuperCommittee” “failed” in its mission to develop $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.  What fewer people know is exactly why.

Co-Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX) explained why in the Wall Street Journal.  Read “Why the Supercommittee failed” here:

Obamacare on your Radar Screen?

A major human resources consulting firm recently published the results of its annual survey of employer-sponsored health plans– delivering more evidence that the President’s government takeover of health care law has failed to make coverage more affordable.

The Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Higher Premiums -The President repeatedly promised the law would reduce premiums by $2,500 per family, on average, during his first term.  However, according to Mercer, the total cost of plans rose by 6.1 percent in 2011 and is expected to rise by 5.7 percent in 2012.  Small employers saw health care costs increase by a whopping 9.9 percent.

Higher Taxes -The excise tax on high-cost plans, scheduled to take effect in 2018, is a significant concern for many employers.  “Only 39% of employers with 50 or more employees believe their current plans won’t hit the excise tax cost threshold” and nearly all employers “are determined to avoid the tax if they can” – which could mean reducing or eliminating employee coverage.  Only 4 percent of employers plan to take no action to avoid the tax.

More Cost-Sharing. As health care costs increase, employers plan to shift more of the burden to employees.  Nearly half (47 percent) of all employers intend to shift costs in 2012 “by raising deductibles or the percentage of the premium paid by employees.”

Fewer Options.  The law also imposes strict mandates on health insurance plans.  Although many employer-sponsored plans are temporarily exempt from these onerous guidelines, only “about half of all employers (and 37% of large employers) believe they will maintain the grandfathered status of all their health plans until 2014” – meaning many employees who like their current employer-sponsored coverage will lose it.  In fact, even the Obama Administration estimates that half of all employers (and as many as 80 percent of small businesses) will be forced to give up their current coverage by 2013 – a clear departure from the President’s oft-repeated pledge that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

Dropped Coverage.  One third of firms have already lost the insurance coverage they had before the President’s government takeover of health care law, and nearly one in five small employers (with 10-499 employees) say they are “very likely” or “likely” to drop coverage beginning in 2014, when the law’s subsidy provisions take effect.

The IRS May Have Your Tax Refund Check

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminded taxpayers this week that it is looking to return $153.3 million in undelivered tax refund checks. In all, 99,123 taxpayers are due refund checks this year that could not be delivered because of mailing address errors.

Undelivered refund checks average $1,547 this year.

Taxpayers who believe their refund check may have been returned to the IRS as undelivered should use the “ Where’s My Refund?” tool on IRS.gov. The tool will provide the status of their refund and, in some cases, instructions on how to resolve delivery problems.

Taxpayers checking on a refund over the phone will receive instructions on how to update their addresses. Taxpayers can access a telephone version of “Where’s My Refund?” by calling 1-800-829-1954.

The IRS also reminded the public this week that it does not contact taxpayers by e-mail to alert them of pending refunds and does not ask for personal or financial information through email.  Such messages are common “phishing” scams.  Taxpayers receiving such messages should not release any personal information, reply, open any attachments or click on any links to avoid malicious code that can infect their computers. 

A Former Ambassador’s View of Afghanistan

Recommended Reading: Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ron Neumann’s piece in the Thursday Washington Post: “How to Win in Afghanistan.”  Rodney met with Ambassador Neumann on his first trip to Kabul.  A seasoned diplomat, he followed in the footsteps of his father who held the same post back in the 1970s.