With lawmakers showing little enthusiasm for an ambitious proposal by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to overhaul the byzantine U.S. tax code, Congress has to decide what to do about dozens of temporary tax breaks that expired Dec. 31. Among them is an exemption for forgiven mortgage debt that’s an essential part of a broader federal effort to solve a nagging problem, namely the spate of defaults caused by the recession. Failing to renew it would cripple efforts by government and banks to mitigate the damage caused by the housing crisis.
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Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they’re all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site — every bank account, every email address, every music-streaming service, every social media profile and so on?
Just in time for tax day, the Congressional Budget Office delivered a pleasant surprise. Based on current law, the national debt will grow by $286 billion less during the next decade than the CBO projected only two months ago. The main reason is a downward adjustment in the nonpartisan agency’s forecast of subsidy costs for health insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.
Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by the theft of their personal information in the digital age. In a recent major data breach at Target stores, numbers and names were taken from about 40 million customers, and many millions more suffered compromises in other personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers. The victims trusted their retail stores, their credit- and debit-card issuers, their banks, and such security measures as a four-digit personal identification numbers, to protect their information.
In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”
Federal officials released a huge trove of data Wednesday that shows what Medicare has paid to more than 880,000 doctors and other health care providers nationwide. There were some eye-popping stats:
In the midst of shock and sorrow, there is bewilderment. The mass attack Wednesday morning at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh — with 19 students and a security guard stabbed or slashed, including at least one critically — leaves a host of unanswered questions. While the shrieks and sobs still echo, all the questions boil down to one: Why?
Chinese officials gave U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a tour of an aircraft carrier this week. The Liaoning is their only such vessel — but not for long. China plans to build three more by 2020 as part of its new “blue-water navy,” a prospect that sounds alarming but isn’t. The cause for concern lies elsewhere.
Anyone worried about the cost of health care in the United States should view this week’s capitulation on Medicare Advantage with concern.
After any mass shooting, a vocal faction in Congress insists that Americans would be safer if more people carried guns into restricted public places. Allowing teachers to carry firearms on campus struck us as not helpful. But now that Fort Hood, Texas, has seen its second rampage in five years, the argument seems stronger when applied to military bases: Aren’t they filled with well-trained, trustworthy marksmen who could take down would-be mass murderers? Why not allow military personnel to carry weapons on base?
Before they go on duty with U.S. nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, officers are trained in classrooms and simulators. They are schooled in weapons systems, missile code handling and emergency war orders, among other things. For decades, these missileers have been surrounded by a mystique. They were at the front lines of the Cold War — the officers in the silo who get the codes from a president and turn the keys to launch a nuclear-armed missile.
If you drive down Buckeye Road at the southern edge of Lima, Ohio, you’ll pass an industrial complex where General Dynamics makes armored vehicles for the U.S. military. But if you stop and take a photograph, you just might find yourself detained by military police, have your camera confiscated and your digital photos deleted. Which is exactly what happened to two staffers for the Toledo Blade newspaper on Friday, in an unacceptable violation of the First Amendment and common sense.
Rarely is a government program shut down because it is too successful. Yet that is essentially what happened to a U.S. initiative to create a Cuban version of Twitter.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned yet another federal law meant to check corruption and influence-peddling in national politics. The ruling shows two things: The Roberts Court’s destructive view on these matters wasn’t changed by the backlash to its Citizens United holding, and Congress must respond by designing new rules that can pass the court’s overly skeptical review. If lawmakers tackle the issue forthrightly, they have some workable options.
There are two things we know for sure from the last-minute surge to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act: