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Obama Signs Sequester Bill

Austerity has hit the United States as President Barack Obama signed into law a directive ushering in significant cuts to federal agencies’ budgets and triggering the sequester that has been debated in Washington during the last several weeks.

In the White House on Friday, President Obama inked his name to the order, and with it signed off on automatic budget cuts that the country’s political class say will save the United States over $1 trillion over the course of the next decade. In doing so, though, $85 billion will be erased from this year’s budget and a number of government departments will see their funding slashed immediately.

Through the sequester deal, roughly half of all cuts will be imposed on the Pentagon, drastically reducing funding for America’s defense. While uniformed personnel are protected from the directive, civilian employees and contractors across the world will be faced with layoffs and furloughs. The Department of Defense has already published a plan explaining who exactly will be impacted, and at its worst it could mean roughly $500 billion dollars cut from the Pentagon during the next decade.

The second half of all cuts triggered by the sequester will be implemented on domestic non-military spending. While crucially important programs like Social Security are exempt from the changes, practically all federal departments and agencies will face some degree of slashed funding. The Departments of Education, Agriculture and dozens of other agencies will see serious changes during the coming days, weeks, months and years. Many have already announced that the order will bring dire consequences. The Department of Transportation, for example, has warned that budget cuts might affect its ability to control air traffic; cuts to the Department of Homeland Security will mean longer lines at international borders and airports due to personnel layoffs. Rollbacks on education are expected to cause as many as 40,000 jobs to disappear nationwide, and more than half of a million women and children across the US will no longer have access to food aid due to reductions in the Women, Infants and Children program.

With the sequester deal essentially effecting each sector and every US resident alike, lawmakers in Washington have hoped to find another solution for solving the country’s ever-increasing economic woes. During an address from the White House Friday morning, though, Obama blamed Congress for not being able to prevent the cuts.

“What I can’t do is force Congress to do the right thing,” said the president. “The American people may have the capacity to do that, but in the absence of a decision on the part of the speaker of the House and others . . . we are going to have these cuts in place.”

The Obama administration has come under fire as of late for blaming the sequester deal on House Republicans. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed,” the president said last year. By some reports, though, the budget cuts were brought to the table by White House officials during the president’s first term in office. A bipartisan commission chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles offered a way to cut America’s ever-growing deficit. Under this proposal, Congress and the president would have to both raise taxes and cut spending across the board. Knowing that neither party was willing to agree on these measures, lawmakers and Obama agreed on a law that would trigger automatic cuts beginning March 1, 2013, unless a deal could not otherwise be reached. Back then, it was seen as a sword of Damocles that would prompt action from either party.

“Nobody who ‘agreed’ to sequestration actually wanted it to happen,” reports Molly Ball of The Atlantic. “The supercommittee was supposed to forge the deal that Obama and House Speaker John Boehner could not in their July 2011 debt-ceiling talks. It was this hypothetical future deficit reduction that got Republicans, grudgingly, to agree to raise the debt limit,” she says.

As time passed, though, the lawmakers that agreed to make the sequester an option stopped searching for other solutions. A failure to find a compromise between lawmakers on the Hill left the spending cuts scheduled for March 1 inevitable, and as the clock wound down on Friday the only option left was to slash the budget.

“In the end, nobody could agree, and nobody took the deadline very seriously anyway,” adds Ball.

While the sequester officially starts today following President Obama’s signature on the directive, most government agencies won’t feel the pinch until later in the year. Many departments have already published their plans for handling the crisis, including outlines of how spending will be conducted during the coming months. But with funds drying up quickly and a further deal reversing the sequestering uncertain, the impact of the cuts are likely to only increase over time. – RT

WEB Notes: The continued destruction of the United States. Half of the spending cuts are directed at out ability to protect this country.

Related:

Hamas warns Obama: Don’t visit Temple Mount

Designated terrorist group Hamas has warned President Obama against visiting the holy Temple Mount site in Jerusalem when he visits Israel next month, saying the action would be “a diplomatic catastrophe.”

Mr. Obama hasn’t confirmed a visit to the Temple Mount. But Muslim leaders have heard rumors and have issued a blunt statement nonetheless, The Times of Israel reports.
Hamas said a visit by Mr. Obama to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located just on the southern side of the Mount, would be “an imminent danger which the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem have never faced,” according to The Times of Israel. Hamas — which has been designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department since 1997 — also called any visit by Mr. Obama to the site of “the Zionist occupation” an act of danger.
Ekrima Sabri, who heads the High Islamic Council in Jerusalem, said his group “insist[s] on Muslim sovereignty over the Temple Mount,” according to The Times of Israel report.- The Washington Times

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Americans See Biggest Monthly Income Drop in 20 Years

Americans saw their income drop so dramatically in January that it marked the deepest one-month decline in 20 years.

Personal income decreased by $505.5 billion in January, or 3.6%, compared to December (on a seasonally adjusted and annualized basis). That’s the most dramatic decline since January 1993, according to the Commerce Department.

It’s something of a combination of one-time events, though.

Monthly income was unusually high in December because companies paid out early dividends to avoid upcoming tax hikes. Companies like Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500), and Costco Wholesale Corp paid special dividends to their shareholders at the end of 2012, instead of waiting until 2013.
                                          
In doing so, they helped their high-income shareholders (individuals earning at least $400,000 a year, or married couples earning $450,000) avoid paying higher taxes on their gains. In their last-minute fiscal cliff deal, lawmakers decided to raise dividend tax rates for high-income households from 15% to 20%.
                                          
The payroll tax cut’s expiration also played a role in January’s drop, because most workers have to pay 2 percentage points more in taxes this year. The Commerce Department’s “personal income” calculation subtracts out individuals’ contributions to government social insurance programs like Social Security, which are funded by the payroll tax.
                                          
Excluding those special factors, the Commerce Department estimates that after-tax income actually increased 0.3% in January.

Meanwhile, economists are closely watching consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
                                          
They’re waiting to see how the payroll tax hike will affect the broader recovery.
Spending increased $18.2 billion, or 0.2%, in January. Some economists, like Chris Christopher, Jr. of IHS Global Insight, called that “anemic” and pointed to weak retail sales at low-end and mid-tier retailers as proof that consumers are being squeezed.
                                          
The payroll tax cut “hurt many Americans where it counts — in their pocket books,” he said.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, said its late January and early February sales have been slow, which it blamed on higher payroll taxes, delays in income tax-refund processing, and higher gas prices.

Economists think that rising gas prices in February could cut into consumer spending temporarily.

Gas prices rose 10% in February, according to AAA, but are expected to fall in coming weeks.
All of that said, consumers are benefiting from a housing recovery and rising stock prices. The Consumer Confidence Index rose in February, showing that Americans are more upbeat about the economy than they have been in two months.
                                          
They’re not able to save much, though. On average, people saved about 2.4% of their disposable income in January, down from 6.4% in December. That marks the smallest saving rate since November 2007. – CNN Money

Related:

Obama: “I Am Not A Dictator; I’m The President”

Mayor Bloomberg: Don’t Panic About the Sequester

At midnight tonight, a bevy of steep spending cuts will hit the federal government unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative deficit-cutting proposal. Although the national media has been relentlessly focused on this deadline, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it will only affect New York City if the so-called “sequestration” continues for a significant length of time.

“It depends on how long,” Mr. Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show with John Gambling. “If it lasts a few weeks, no. If it does, yeah. We get 10 or 12 percent of our budget from the federal government, not all of that is going to be cut back, but there would be effects–not good effects. But in the context of, ‘Is anything going to change tomorrow? Are we going to run out of money tomorrow?’ I’m sure I’ll get that question at the [next] press conference. No.”

Furthermore, while saying the federal deficit does indeed need to be curtailed, Mr. Bloomberg argued the United States could owe “an infinite amount of money” and there is no specific amount that would cause the country to default.

“We are spending money we don’t have,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “It’s not like your household. In your household, people are saying, ‘Oh, you can’t spend money you don’t have.’ That is true for your household because nobody is going to lend you an infinite amount of money. When it comes to the United States federal government, people do seem willing to lend us an infinite amount of money. … Our debt is so big and so many people own it that it’s preposterous to think that they would stop selling us more. It’s the old story: If you owe the bank $50,000, you got a problem. If you owe the bank $50 million, they got a problem. And that’s a problem for the lenders. They can’t stop lending us more money.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Bloomberg said it wouldn’t be easy to find the spending cuts that do emerge. Accordingly, when Mr. Gambling suggested cutting “waste” could solve a significant portion of the deficit, Mr. Bloomberg flat-out disagreed.

“Listen, I’ve worked now in government for 11 years,” he said. “One of the problems is the definition of ‘waste.’ You think the programs that I want are waste. And I think the problems that you want are waste. It’s not like somebody is taking wheelbarrows full of dollar bills and throwing them out the window. It’s a question of definition, what is ‘waste’ and what is not. Everything we have was put in by Congress, signed by the president. There was a reason for it, or a constituency for it. Most of the tax breaks are designed to encourage or discourage economic activity. There’s a reason for it.” – Politicker

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The FISA Amendments Act Is Clearly Unconstitutional; And Congress Doesn’t Care

We’ve been discussing the now annual rush to re-approve the FISA Amendments Act, despite the fact that the original bill was on shaky constitutional ground, and it’s been made much (much, much) worse due to a secret interpretation of what the law means (a secret interpretation that many in Congress apparently have no interest in finding out about). Andrew Napolitano, a former judge, has penned an interesting column laying out many of the reasons why the whole thing is completely unconstitutional. First, he notes that the establishment of FISA itself is likely a violation of the 4th Amendment: 

The constitutional standard for all search warrants is probable cause of crime. FISA, however, established a new, different and lesser standard — thus unconstitutional on its face since Congress is bound by, and cannot change, the Constitution — of probable cause of status. The status was that of an agent of a foreign power. So, under FISA, the feds needed to demonstrate to a secret court only that a non-American physically present in the U.S., perhaps under the guise of a student, diplomat or embassy janitor, was really an agent of a foreign power, and the demonstration of that agency alone was sufficient to authorize a search warrant to listen to the agent’s telephone calls or read his mail.

Already troubling enough, but, as Napolitano notes, things weren’t just left there. They’ve continued to stretch and change the conditions, taking it further and further into unconstitutional realms:
 

Over time, the requirement of status as a foreign agent was modified to status as a foreign person. This, of course, was an even lesser standard and one rarely rejected by the FISA court. In fact, that court has rarely rejected anything, having granted search warrants in well over 97 percent of applications. This is hardly harmless, as foreign persons in the U.S. are frequently talking to Americans in the U.S. Thus, not only did FISA violate the privacy rights of foreigners (the Fourth Amendment protects “people,” not just Americans); it violated the rights of those with whom they were communicating, American or non-American.

It gets worse. The Patriot Act, which was enacted in 2001 and permits federal agents to write their own search warrants in violation of the Fourth Amendment, actually amended FISA so as to do away with the FISA-issued search warrant requirement when the foreign person is outside the U.S. This means that if you email or call your cousin in Europe or a business colleague in Asia, the feds are reading or listening, without a warrant, without suspicion, without records and without evidence of anything unlawful.

It’s just those Patriot Act amendments (the FISA Amendments Act) that is being debated right now. And given some of the questions being asked by politicians who understand the “secret interpretation” of the FISA Amendments Act, it appears that it actually gives law enforcement the ability to go even further. So it’s not even just about emailing or calling your cousin in Europe, but as long as law enforcement (a) claims that it’s related to a terrorism investigation and (b) they have no specific knowledge at the time of acquisition only that the communication is domestic — then they can collect just about anything. So, under that interpretation, it appears that the NSA can just collect well, almost anything, by saying that it’s all for the sake of a permanent and all encompassing terrorism investigation, and since they’re just collecting absolutely everything, they have no specific knowledge at the time of acquisition that the communication is domestic.

Considering that Napolitano’s argument starts from the idea that FISA itself is unconstitutional, looking at where we are now from where we started, we’re no longer just in “unconstitutional” mode, in which we’ve tip toed over the boundary. We’re now in a full on, 100% “let’s mock the Constitution” mode. And, Napolitano, like many others, wonders why almost no one in Congress is willing to point this out:

Moreover, everyone in Congress has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, which could not be more clear: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…” shall not be violated, except via a warrant issued by a neutral judge upon the judge finding probable cause of crime. If we let Congress, which is a creature of the Constitution, change the Constitution, then no one’s liberty or property is safe, and freedom is dependent upon the political needs of those in power.

The President and the leadership of both political parties in both houses of Congress have abandoned their oaths to uphold the Constitution. They have claimed that foreigners and their American communicants are committed to destroying the country and only the invasion of everyone’s right to privacy will keep us safe. They are violating the privacy of us all to find the communications of a few. Who will keep us safe from them?

It’s no secret that politicians use fear to increase their own power and to cut away at civil liberties. We have plenty of history that demonstrates that. It’s just a real shame that so few people seem willing to speak out about this — or that so few people even seem to care that the government has done this. – Tech Dirt

Obama’s Ex-Secret Service Agent: It’s Not Gun Control… It’s People Control

Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino speaks to Fox & Friends. He explains how we live in a post-constitutional world in this first video. Bongino stated, “This administration manipulates a crisis to further their ideological agenda”. If you pay close attention at the 1:34 mark the video has been cut and it wasen’t by the youtube poster…

With the quote of Bongino please check out the second video below of Rahm Emanual’s famous quote, ‘never let a crisis go to waste.’ These are the tactics of this administration.

Sarah Palin: Feds ‘stockpiling bullets’ to use against us

Sarah Palin says America will eventually default on its debt and claims that the federal government is “stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest” to prepare.

“If we are going to wet our proverbial pants over 0.3% in annual spending cuts when we’re running up trillion dollar annual deficits, then we’re done. Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest,” Palin wrote in a Facebook message Tuesday.

The former GOP governor of Alaska was referring to the sequester, the automatic $1.2 trillion cuts in federal funding that take effect Friday unless lawmakers reach a deal.

“D.C.: Cut the Drama. Do Your Job. Americans are sick and tired of yet another ginned-up crisis. D.C. needs to grow up, get to work, and live within its means,” wrote Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential running mate of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

She continued: “The real economic Armageddon looming before us is our runaway debt, not the sequester, which the President advocated for and signed into law and is now running around denouncing because he never had any genuine intention of reining in his reckless spending.”
Palin wrote that she wants lawmakers to “stop the hysterics.”

“If we ARE serious about putting our fiscal house in order, then let’s stop the hysterics, tighten our belts, and take our medicine.” – Politico

WEB Notes: It should becoming very aparent to everyone now that the worlds financial and political systems are on edge. This type of talk didn’t happen just two years ago. We are moving into a new phase, take note and stay in prayer to our Father.

Major Earthquakes Strike the Pacific Ring of Fire

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck near the southern tip of Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, at a depth of around 52 km (33 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported on Thursday. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami, based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. Britain’s BBC quoted Russia’s Emergencies Ministry as saying there were no reports of casualties or damage, and that no tsunami warning had been issued. The arc formed by the peninsula and the Kurile Islands stretching from Russia to Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. USGS’s first report had put the quake at magnitude 7.0, at a depth of 18 miles. Today’s earthquake is the 24th major earthquake to strike the planet in the month of February. – TEP

A strong 6.1 magnitude earthquake rattled the South Pacific island of Vanuatu Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, but it was not thought to have caused any damage or sparked a tsunami warning. Godwin Ligo, a reporter at the Trading Post newspaper, said he felt his office building in the capital Port Vila shake and sway. He said he wasn’t aware of any major problems caused by the quake. The shallow ocean quake struck at a depth of 15 kilometers (nine miles), 104 kilometers west of the capital Port Vila at 2.09 pm local time (0309 GMT). Geoscience Australia put its magnitude at 5.9 and said it was unlikely to have caused any damage. Vanuatu lies on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a zone of frequent seismic activity caused by friction between shifting tectonic plates. It has been rocked by several large quakes in recent years, averaging about three magnitude 7.0 or above incidents annually, none of which have caused any major damage. – TEP

5.1 magnitude earthquake strikes off the coast of Oregon
An earthquake has hit the ocean floor far off the Southern Oregon coast, but there were no immediate reports of anyone feeling it on land. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the magnitude 5.1 quake was 114 miles west northwest of Port Orford at 2:14 p.m. Wednesday. The epicenter was 6 miles deep. USGS spokeswoman Leslie Gordon says there were no immediate reports to the agency’s website from people feeling the quake on shore. – TEP

BOB WOODWARD: A ‘Very Senior’ White House Person Warned Me I’d ‘Regret’ What I’m Doing

Bob Woodward said this evening on CNN that a “very senior person” at the White House warned him in an email that he would “regret doing this,” the same day he has continued to slam President Barack Obama over the looming forced cuts known as the sequester.

CNN host Wolf Blitzer said that the network invited a White House official to debate Woodward on-air, but the White House declined.

“It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, ‘You’re going to regret doing something that you believe in,'” Woodward said.

“I think they’re confused,” Woodward said of the White House’s pushback on his reporting.

Earlier today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Woodward ripped into Obama in what has become an ongoing feud between the veteran Washington Post journalist and the White House. Woodward said Obama was showing a “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time” for a decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf because of budget concerns.

The Defense Department said in early February that it would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing budget concerns relating to the looming cuts known as the sequester.

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?'” Woodward said on MSNBC.

“Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need?'” Or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ … because of some budget document?”

Last weekend, Woodward called out Obama for what he said was “moving the goal posts” on the sequester by requesting that revenue be part of a deal to avert it. – Business Insider

U.S.-EU Trade Deal is the Foundation For a New Global Economic Order

The U.S. and EU have agreed to launch negotiations on what would be the world’s largest free trade deal. Such an agreement would be the basis for the creation of an economic NATO and would include trade in goods, services and investment, as well as cover intellectual property rights. There are concerns that the U.S. could use these talks to push the EU to loosen its restrictions on genetically modified crops and foods. In addition, the deal might serve as a backdoor means to implement ACTA which was rejected by the European Parliament last year. A U.S.-EU Transatlantic trade agreement is seen as a way of countering China’s growing power and is the foundation for a new global economic order.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama officially announced that the U.S. would launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union (EU). A joint statement issued by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and U.S. President Obama explained that, “Through this negotiation, the United States and the European Union will have the opportunity not only to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system.” In a separate speech, European Commission President Barroso also emphasized that, “A future deal between the world’s two most important economic powers will be a game-changer. Together, we will form the largest free trade zone in the world. So this negotiation will set the standard – not only for our future bilateral trade and investment, including regulatory issues, but also for the development of global trade rules.”
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GAO Report: Obamacare Adds $6.2 Trillion to Long-Term Deficit

Obamacare will increase the long-term federal deficit by $6.2 trillion, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), who requested the report, revealed the findings this morning at a Senate Budget Committee hearing. The report, he said, “confirms everything critics and Republicans were saying about the faults of this bill,” and “dramatically proves that the promises made assuring the nation that the largest new entitlement program in history would not add one dime to the deficit were false.”

President Obama and other Democrats attempted to win support for the health-care bill by touting it as a fiscally responsible enterprise. “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future,” Obama told a joint-session of Congress in September 2009.

“I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.”
The new report exposes the “lack of honesty” surrounding such claims, Sessions argued. “The big-government crowd in Washington manipulated the numbers in order to get the financial score they wanted, in order to get their bill passed and to increase power and influence,” he said. “The goal was not truth or financial responsibility, but to pass the bill. This is how a country goes broke.”
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