February 25, 2013
Checks will arrive on time, but nearly every other task the Social Security Administration performs - from answering phones to determining eligibility for claims - will be delayed if Congress fails to stop steep federal budget cuts from taking effect this week, officials warned Monday. The Woodlawn-based agency is bracing for a cut of roughly 8 percent to its $11.5 billion budget if Congress does not avert the government-wide reductions known as sequestration. Officials say the cuts would leave people who call the agency's hotline on hold for 10 minutes and delay some disability decisions by a month.
February 23, 2013
Sen. Ben Cardin warns of devastation for millions of Americans if the automatic spending cuts called sequestration occur March 1 as scheduled ("No to sequestration," Feb. 20). If that's really true, however, why are members of Congress taking a week's vacation, and why is the president in Florida playing golf with celebrities? If sequestration is so terrible for Maryland, why aren't Senators Cardin and Barbara Mikulski in Washington working on a solution? The answer must be that members of both political parties no longer care about the American people enough to even show up for work.
February 20, 2013
It occurred to me that two current but unrelated news stories might hold the key to solving our nation's most pressing problem - sequestration. It is frustrating that Congress goes off on a "holiday" with two weeks to go before the draconian measures associated with sequestration kick-in. Let's send them on a "luxury" cruise, all expenses paid, on the Carnival "Triumph!" ("Triumph ordeal unlikely to hurt giant Carnival cruise company" Feb 16.) After several days of feasting and merriment, we can turn off all the power and water, and tell them we won't send the tugs out to rescue them until they address the federal government's fiscal issues related to sequestration and beyond.
February 18, 2013
Much of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address this week was a fairly ho-hum affair, with the usual laundry list of programs and goals (most so familiar that it could have been a recycled campaign speech from 2012, or maybe 2008) and the customary reaction of cheering supporters and stone-faced critics. Until he turned to the subject of gun control. What had seemed routine, even pro forma, suddenly turned electric. Invoking speech attendees including the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago just days after the 15-year-old performed in the presidential inauguration; former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a gunshot to the head two years ago; and relatives of the Newtown, Conn.
February 15, 2013
Recent news coverage of the U.S. Postal Service's proposal to end Saturday mail deliveries has focused mainly on the public's reaction to the change ("For mail carriers, Saturday routes roll on - for now," Feb. 10). What has scarcely been mentioned, however, is the elephant in the room: The main reason the Post Office is in trouble is not a decline in first-class mail but two laws passed by Congress. The first was the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act signed by Richard Nixon. This required that the Post Office be run as independent agency that makes a profit from its services.
February 12, 2013
The first State of the Union address of President Barack Obama's second term offered a list of new initiatives if not new ideas. Mr. Obama focused on improving the economic lot of the middle class, reforming the nation's immigration system, addressing climate change and finding a balanced approach to solving our budget problems. Aside from gun control - an issue thrust on the president's agenda by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre - and a new, ominous nuclear test in North Korea, all of the themes from the speech could have had a home in any of President Obama's previous State of the Union addresses.
February 11, 2013
President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, John O. Brennan, was about as cagey as they come last week at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Asked right off the bat by the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whether he would be more forthcoming than his predecessors in apprising committee members of covert U.S. military operations abroad - particularly the administration's secret drone program of targeted killings - he vigorously affirmed that to be his intention.
February 7, 2013
I direct the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and have been studying gun violence for more than 20 years. Much of my research has focused on illegal gun sales and acquisition and strategies to reduce the diversion of guns to criminals. The opinions stated in this letter are mine alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Johns Hopkins University. I support the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 ("Cummings to push bipartisan gun control bill," Feb. 4). Illegal gun trafficking is a major contributor to our nation's staggering rate of gun violence and why the rate of firearm homicides in the United States is 20 times higher than that of the average high-income country.
February 6, 2013
Is this really the best anyone in Washington can do to avert sequestration? President Barack Obama's call for delaying the automatic spending cuts past the March 1 deadline would seem reasonable enough, except he hasn't really offered up a specific plan to do so. Instead, he's recommended that a few months of delay might be achieved through a "smaller package of spending cuts and tax reform. " Republicans are flatly rejecting any form of tax increase (and, apparently, ending a tax break on corporate jets is regarded as just that by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell)
February 4, 2013
Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson added a much-needed voice of reason to the national debate over gun control last week when he appeared before Congress to testify in favor of universal background checks for gun purchases and a ban on assault rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines. It was only common sense, he told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to extend the reporting requirements for federally licensed firearms dealers to the private individuals who account for 40 percent of gun sales in this country.