News flash: President Romney and congressional leaders met today to review the terms of the recently concluded fiscal cliff deal wherein the Bush tax cuts were extended by four years, the corporate income tax rate was reduced from 35 percent to 25 percent, and the capital gains tax rate for middle class taxpayers was lowered to 10 percent.
The leaders returned to Washington to encouraging news from Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 800 points since the fiscal deal was announced. More good news: Consumer confidence reached a five-year high, and employers reacted to the aggressive, pro-growth agenda from Washington by creating 200,000 new jobs last month.
On the health care front, the Romney administration announced it had convinced enough Democratic senators to support the full repeal of Obamacare. Myriad private sector and religious groups praised the forthcoming repeal while promising to revisit plans to eliminate thousands of jobs and reclassify full-time employees to part-time status. A bipartisan group of members pledged to submit a health care reform measure that would target the escalating cost of health care delivery, including provisions allowing insurance policies to be written across state lines, expand popular Health Savings Accounts, increase federal support for community health care centers in poor neighborhoods, and encourage state-based tort reform to help high-risk specialists maintain their practices.
Another bipartisan group of legislators announced the outline of a fiscal plan to cut $4 trillion of federal spending over the next four years. To the astonishment of the Washington press corps, a number of hard-core liberals in the House signed onto the plan to cut 1 percent from every federal agency's budget over the next fiscal year. A joint statement read in part: "[W]e simply can no longer stand trillion-dollar annual deficits; our children and grandchildren deserve so much better ..."
But history was truly made when that same group announced an agreement in principle to raise the eligibility thresholds for Social Security and Medicare to 68 (for those 50 years old or younger). Other agreed-to Medicare reform measures include means-testing of benefits for wealthier seniors and requiring drug companies to pay higher Medicare rebates for older, poor senior citizens.
From the diplomatic front, former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the Obama administration for its failure to negotiate a long-term security partnership with the Iraqi government. The man once widely touted as a Republican presidential nominee blamed the administration for the resulting Iraqi tilt toward the ayatollahs in Iran and the Assad dictatorship in Syria. The administration's misreading of the Arab Spring and bungling of the Benghazi consulate attack were also condemned by the clearly irritated former four-star general.
In other news, the Romney administration did not issue any executive orders today but called upon guidance counselors, school administrators, PTAs and teachers unions in every school district to generate guidelines for the carrying of firearms by security/supervisory personnel on school grounds. The president has further asked groups on both sides of the gun debate to formulate bipartisan recommendations to strengthen background checks in order to keep firearms out of the hands of felons and those suffering from mental illness.
In sports, the Baltimore Ravens' run to the Super Bowl hit a bump in the road as the American Civil Liberties Union, in a desperate bid for relevance, sued Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis for his constant invocation of God during post-game interviews. An ACLU spokesman also confirmed the group's intent to rid all athletic competitions of pre- and post-game prayer. Regarding the Lewis litigation, the group insisted its action did not signal a preference for San Francisco, the most progressive city in America. In a related matter, the ACLU's Louisiana affiliate confirmed a preliminary investigation into the New Orleans "Saints," on similar grounds.
Final item: The Associated Press and a consortium of news organizations confirmed that the election of Mitt Romney signals the return of weekly news stories devoted to homelessness. In a remarkably forthright insight into the ways and means of the mainstream press, the media outlets admitted that while homelessness existed under Democratic administrations, the plight of the homeless was so much more newsworthy with a Republican in the White House. Occupy Wall Street immediately issued a press release adding homelessness to a laundry list of 164 social ills caused by "the rich" — but mostly wealthy Republicans.
In a similar vein, The Baltimore Sun reiterated its position that increases in tuition at Maryland's public institutions are likewise "not news" during Democratic administrations.
(That last one ended my dream of "What-Might-Have-Been-Ville" with a shudder. Guess I gotta stop those late night chili burgers …)
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around," a book about national politics. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts