Sunday, January 27, 2013

President Obama sounds off on football violence, safety

President Obama admits in a soon-to-be released article in the New Republic that it would be a tough decision to let a son play football.

The father of two daughters also said that football will probably become a less violent game in the future out of concern for player safety.

"I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," Obama told the New Republic. “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.

“In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.”

Obama expressed particular concern for college players, who don't get paid to play and don't have the same representation as professional players.

“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he said, adding:

“You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama wins 'fiscal cliff' victory, but at high cost

 President Obama, who campaigned on raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, has fulfilled that promise even before his next term starts.

The announcement Monday night of Senate agreement on a compromise to avert part of the "fiscal cliff" meant that for the first time in two decades, Republicans in Congress were preparing to vote in favor of a bill that raised taxes, an extraordinary concession to the nation's fiscal woes and the president's reelection.

But Obama's victory fell short of what he had campaigned for, and came at a high cost. Even if the House later Tuesday or Wednesday musters the votes to approve the bill that the Senate was to vote on in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the terms of this compromise guarantee another pitched battle over spending and taxes within months.

Whether the agreement announced Monday evening turns out to be truly a victory for Obama or a lost opportunity, as many of his liberal critics feared, will depend heavily on how that next battle turns out.

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The agreement to freeze income tax rates for most Americans while allowing them to rise for the wealthiest dealt only with the most pressing elements of the fiscal storm Congress and the president created last year. A newly elected Congress will begin work in a few days and immediately will need to start negotiating yet another deal. That next fight will be aimed at further reducing the long-term deficit and raising the debt ceiling before the government runs out of money to pay its bills — a deadline that will hit sometime in late February or March.

The persistent battle over spending, which already has consumed Washington for two years, threatens to block Obama's other major legislative priorities, including immigration reform and gun control.

Moreover, to get a deal, Obama had to accept far less new revenue than he had wanted. In his reelection campaign, Obama had called for raising taxes on income over $250,000. The compromise starts the increases at $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples. Overall, the deal is projected to raise about $620 billion in new revenues over the next 10 years, almost $1 trillion less than Obama had asked for.

Without that extra revenue, White House officials have said, the nation eventually will face punishing cuts in Social Security, Medicare and other domestic programs. Concern that the deal included too little revenue led liberals in the Senate to threaten repeatedly Monday to pull the plug. Obama, they said, was giving in too much to Republican demands at the point where he had maximum leverage.

"I just think that's grossly unfair," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a liberal leader, said in a Senate speech Monday objecting to the deal. "If we're going to have some kind of a deal, the deal must be one that really favors the middle class — the real middle class."

Even after most Democratic senators made their peace with the deal, influential liberal groups such as denounced it for providing too little and conceding too much.

White House aides disputed that argument. They pointed to Democratic priorities included in the deal — tax credits aimed at students, parents and the working poor were extended for five years, for example, and long-term unemployment benefits were extended for a year.