U.S. Unemployment Falls To 7%

WASHINGTON – A fourth straight month of solid hiring cut the U.S. unemployment rate in November to a five-year low of 7 percent. The surprisingly robust job gain suggested that the economy may have begun to accelerate.

It also fueled speculation that the Federal Reserve will scale back its economic stimulus when it meets later this month.

Employers added 203,000 jobs last month after adding 200,000 in October, the Labor Department said Friday. November’s job gain helped lower the unemployment rate from 7.3 percent in October.

The economy has now generated a four-month average of 204,000 jobs from August through November. That’s up from 159,000 a month from April through July.

Forget Obamacare: One In Four Americans Say They’ll Pay The Fine

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The law of the land now goes as follows: either have healthcare insurance or pay a fine. Yet more than one in four Americans say they would rather pony up the penalty. A new Gallup poll reveals that 28% of those surveyed have no intention of signing up for health insurance, as required by the Affordable Care Act and will pay the fine instead.

The penalty in 2014 for remaining uninsured is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of taxable income (up to $285 for a family), whichever is greater.

Fully 17% of U.S. adults currently do not have health insurance, according to Gallup. With the self-proclaimed holdouts who say they will refuse coverage, at least 5% of all U.S. adults will remain uninsured.

According to the nearly 4,000 interviews conducted with uninsured Americans since September, more than one quarter (26%) under the age of 30 say they are more likely to pay the fine, compared with 30% of those aged 30 and older.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/philly/story/forget-obamacare-one-four-americans-say-theyll-pay-the-fine/1

Progress Reported In Talks On Funding For State Transportation

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA – A key state House Republican negotiator said Friday he was optimistic about the chances that the chamber will pass a plan to fund billions in improvements to Pennsylvania’s highways, bridges and mass transit systems, with a preliminary vote possible within a week.

Dave Thomas, an aide to Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, said that the total amount of new transportation funding in the bill was likely to be between $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion a year.

The state Senate voted overwhelmingly in June for a $2.5 billion proposal, a key agenda item of Gov. Tom Corbett’s, but that plan stalled in the House.

Thomas said he expected talks between House Democrats and Republicans to go through the weekend.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=516824

Crisis Averted, Obama Says Americans ‘Completely Fed Up’ With Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama scolded congressional Republicans on Thursday, hours after a fiscal crisis was narrowly averted and called on his opponents to help repair the economic damage caused by a 16-day U.S. government shutdown and a close brush with a debt default.

Obama stressed that he is willing to work with lawmakers wherever they can agree, but the tone he struck amounted to a rebuke of Republicans, whom Americans largely blame for pushing the United States to the brink of an economic calamity.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

“The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama in a White House speech attended by many of the aides who worked day and night through the various stages of the latest fiscal stalemate.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-rt-us-usa-fiscal-obama-20130915,0,5894864.story#ixzz2i0gCYjlb
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President Proposing Tax Hikes

WASHINGTON — Seeking an elusive middle ground, President Barack Obama is proposing a 2014 budget that embraces tax increases abhorred by Republicans as well as reductions, loathed by liberals, in the growth of Social Security and other benefit programs.

The plan, if ever enacted, could touch almost all Americans.  The rich would see tax increases, the poor and the elderly would get smaller annual increases in their benefits, and middle income taxpayers would slip into higher tax brackets despite Obama’s repeated vows not to add to the tax burden of the middle class.  His proposed changes, once phased in, would mean a cut in Social Security benefits of nearly $1,000 a year for an average 85-year-old, smaller cuts for younger retirees.

Obama proposed much the same without success to House Speaker John Boehner in December. The response Friday was dismissive from Republicans and hostile from liberals, labor and advocates for the elderly.

But the proposal aims to tackle worrisome deficits that are adding to the national debt and placing a long-term burden on the nation, prompting praise from independent deficit hawks.  Obama’s budget also proposes new spending for public works projects, pre-school education and for job and benefit assistance for veterans.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/national-news/412726/President-proposing-tax-hikes

House, Senate Approve ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Bill

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Well it’s about damn time!

WASHINGTON — Congress’ excruciating, extraordinary New Year’s Day approval of a compromise averting a prolonged tumble off the fiscal cliff hands President Barack Obama most of the tax boosts on the rich that he campaigned on.  It also prevents House Republicans from facing blame for blocking tax cuts for most American households, though most GOP lawmakers parted ways with Speaker John Boehner and opposed the measure.

Passage also lays the groundwork for future battles between the two sides over federal spending and debt.

Capping a holiday season political spectacle that featured enough high and low notes for a Broadway musical, the GOP-run House voted final approval for the measure by 257-167 late Tuesday.  That came after the Democratic-led Senate used a wee-hours 89-8 roll call to assent to the bill, belying the partisan brinkmanship that colored much of the path to the final deal.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=440254

Progress Seen In Last-Minute ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Talks

English: President Barack Obama addresses a jo...

English: President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the United States Congress in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the United States Capitol on 24 February 2009. Español: Presidente Barack Obama dando un discurose por una sesión conjunta del Congreso de los Estados Unidos en la cámara de la Cámara de Representantes en el Capitolio de los Estados Unidos, 24 de febrero de 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — Working against a midnight deadline, negotiators for the White House and congressional Republicans in Congress narrowed their differences today on legislation to avert across-the-board tax increases.

Congressional officials familiar with talks between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said one major remaining sticking point was whether to postpone spending cuts that are scheduled to begin on Jan 1.

Republicans want to replace across-the-board reductions with targeted cuts elsewhere in the budget, and the White House and Democrats were resisting.

At the same time, Democrats said the two sides were closing in on an agreement over taxes.  They said the White House had proposed blocking an increase for most Americans, while letting rates rise for individuals with incomes of $400,000 a year and $450,000 for couples, a concession from President Barack Obama’s campaign call to set the levels at $200,000 and $250,000.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/Article.aspx?id=439707

Has Pennsylvania Lost Its Swing-State Status?

English: Pennsylvania county map

English: Pennsylvania county map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s victory in Pennsylvania marks the sixth straight presidential election in which state voters have picked the Democrat.

Which raises the question: Has Pennsylvania finally lost its swing-state status?

The battleground status of the historically competitive state was the subject of political scrutiny for much of 2012.  Even when the Republicans made a brisk, last-minute attempt to wrest it away when some polls showed the race tightening, Obama still won without breaking much of a sweat.

If Pennsylvania was shaded blue on a dry erase board after previous elections, this year it might be colored in with a permanent marker.  Pundits and politicians interviewed this week offered differing takes.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/local/elections/mc-pa-swing-state-status-lost-20121108,0,2981343.story

Sharp Exchanges Mark Foreign Policy Presidential Debate

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009.  VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BOCA RATON, Fla. – President Barack Obama sharply

Congressman Poe and Governor Mitt Romney

Governor Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

challenged Mitt Romney on foreign policy in their final campaign debate Monday night, saying, “Every time you’ve offered an opinion you’ve been wrong.”

The Republican coolly responded, “Attacking me is not an agenda” for dealing with a dangerous world.

Romney took the offensive, too. When Obama said the U.S. and its allies have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran to halt nuclear weapons development, the Republican challenger responded that the U.S. should have done more.

He declared repeatedly, “We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=422747

Americans Will Feel Paycheck Pinch As Payroll Tax Break Ends In January

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama isn’t talking about it and neither is Mitt Romney. But come January, 163 million workers can expect to feel the pinch of a big tax increase regardless of who wins the election.

A temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes is due to expire at the end of the year and hardly anyone in Washington is pushing to extend it. Neither Obama nor Romney has proposed an extension, and it probably wouldn’t get through Congress anyway, with lawmakers in both parties down on the idea.

Even Republicans who have sworn off tax increases have little appetite to prevent one that will cost a typical worker about $1,000 a year, and two-earner family with six-figure incomes as much as $4,500.

Why are so many politicians sour on continuing the payroll tax break?

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/10/social_security_tax.html

Lack Of Presidential Ads Signals Pennsylvania Less Of A Swinger

Not so long ago, Pennsylvania stood unquestionably as a swing state, one presidential candidates of both major parties thought they could win.

Democratic candidates knew they had to win the state to get elected. Republican candidates knew that if they won it, they would likely be president.

Maybe Republican nominee Mitt Romney still really believes he can win Pennsylvania, but with the decision by the presidential campaigns and their affiliated super PACs to stop advertising on television in Pennsylvania after Labor Day, the state is President Barack Obama’s to lose.

As a result, the Keystone State is second-tier in importance behind states such as Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and even Wisconsin, which hasn’t voted for a Republican for president in even longer (1984) than Pennsylvania (1988).

Read more:

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/lack-of-presidential-ads-signals-pa-less-of-a-swinger-1.1374266

Bipartisan Effort Shapes Action On City Distress Issues

HARRISBURG – While the city of Scranton struggles daily with cash-flow problems, key state lawmakers see any unveiling of comprehensive legislative proposals to help fiscally distressed cities as being months away.

A rollout of bills is anticipated early next year with the start of the new legislative session, said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-30, Hollidaysburg, chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee.

A bipartisan group in the Senate and House is working on a host of related issues, including an overhaul of the Act 47 program for fiscally distressed municipalities, municipal pension benefits, collective bargaining for public employees and the role of nonprofit institutions clustered in cities.

Since four legislative committees held joint hearings last fall on the future of Act 47, lawmakers involved in the effort to find solutions to the problems cities face with eroding tax bases and increased demand for services have emphasized its bipartisan nature.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bipartisan-effort-shapes-action-on-city-distress-issues-1.1357868