WE THE PEOPLE: Week of January 5, 2012

Brighter days are in the future and we take heart that even whenour legislators fail to act, automatic federal spending reductionswill move us toward fiscal sensibility.

House Speaker John Boehner and Republican lawmakers wanted to blockan extension of payroll tax relief but public pressure forced themto relent. Representative Grimm (R-Bay Ridge) declared Republicansshould have fought harder for a one year extension instead ofcompromising on the two-month extension of payroll tax reliefapproved by the House.

He said, No one thinks a two-month Band-aid is a better policythan a one-year fix. Does anyone think a two-month fight with atax increase is a better policy than a constructive debate onlarger economic issues?

Republican and Conservative brawlers are turning the GOPpresidential primary into a martial arts cage match.

Candidate Rick Santorum called his primary rivals hypocrites andstated that what is wrong with politics today is hypocrisy. Ironyis definitely a part of politics today as well.

Mr. Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, constantly talksabout how big government must be dismantled but when he was inWashington, he was the champion of every entitlement increase putforward by George Bush including Medicare Part D.

GOP candidates work hard to develop perfect catch phrases and tobattle everyone including their own members when seeking election.Candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) is showing some sign of life in Iowa,but aside from his cult-like followers his party shuns him.

This may be caused by his policy positions. He stated U.S. foreignaid is like taking money from poor people in rich counties to giveto rich people in poor countries. A very neat turn of a phrase -however, it is completely misleading. U.S. foreign aid is generatedfrom tax collection from all U.S. taxpayers, rich and poor. Itrepresented 1.28 percent of revenue in 2009.

Its elimination would generate a $9 annual tax reduction for ataxpayer but would discredit the U.S. on the world stage. Foreignaid gives the U.S. standing to express opinion and policy aroundthe world.

Isolationists would be content if the U.S. was effectively shut outof global debate and decision-making but that philosophy wouldguarantee nuclear weapon proliferation and conflict around theglobe. Ron Paul can spout strong-sounding policy promises but theyare not backed up with practical plans and it is one reason why hisown party will not support him.

We need a functional government to work responsibly together toprovide America with sound policies and plans for the future.Governor Cuomo has taken the public employee pension bull by thehorns.

He recognized that the state pension system without change isunsustainable. He is looking at reduced benefits for futureemployees and a state infrastructure bank for public projects to bean engine for economic activity.

In the New York Assembly, Democrats including Peter Abbate(D-Bensonhurst) have championed public employee rights whileworking with the governor for the future. We cannot assure a betterfuture if our goal is to be embroiled in partisan conflict.

Brian Kieran is a community activist who works for the State ofNew York and is a Democrat.

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