Saturday, August 2, 2014

Obama speech outlines deficit cut policy proposals

President Barack Obama has laid out a fiscal policy “vision” to reduce the US budget deficit while maintaining America’s social safety net.

He offered a package of tax increases and spending cuts aimed at reducing the deficit by $4tn (£2.45tn) by 2023.

And he attacked Republican proposals he said would harm the poor and elderly while cutting taxes on the rich.

Mr Obama’s proposal would raise taxes on the wealthy, a move Republican congressional leaders swiftly rejected.

“We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt,” Mr Obama said in a speech at George Washington University in Washington DC.

“And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and win the future.”

The ballooning US deficit is set to be a top issue in the 2012 election campaign, and in recent weeks, Republicans have laid out their own plan to cut it, based on big reductions in healthcare and social programmes for the poor and elderly and in education spending.

The deficit is forecast to reach $1.5 trillion (£921bn) this year and both Democrats and Republicans have said cutting it is a priority.

Mr Obama on Wednesday unveiled his own proposal – in a speech in which he used the word “vision” more than a dozen times.

The remarks came after Republicans had accused him of failing to exercise leadership, and many US political analysts said the Republican opposition had seized the political momentum.

Republicans on Wednesday attacked Mr Obama’s speech as mere campaign rhetoric, noting he recently launched his re-election bid. Primarily, they firmly rejected his proposal to raise additional tax revenue from the wealthy.

“At a time when millions of our countrymen remain unemployed, the president again proposes tax increases on job creators,” said Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a member of the party’s House leadership team, calling Mr Obama’s speech “class warfare”.

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House budget committee, said: “Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy and anxiety is not hope, it’s not change, it’s partisanship. We don’t need partisanship. We don’t need demagoguery. We need solutions.”

Led by Mr Ryan, Republicans have offered their own proposal that would go further than Mr Obama’s, slashing $6.2 trillion from government spending over the next decade, in large part through cuts to government programmes that serve the elderly and the poor.

The proposal would also drastically reduce taxes for wealthy Americans, a move conservatives say would boost economic growth.

The House is due to vote on Mr Ryan’s proposal on Friday.

In his speech, the president repeatedly drew a contrast with the Republicans’ proposal, insisting that spending cuts should not harm the US social safety net, such as the social security retirement system and healthcare programmes for the poor and elderly.

In particular, he singled out the Republicans’ proposal to cut taxes for the wealthy while making elderly Americans pay more for their healthcare, as analysts say the Republican plan would work out.

“This is not a vision of the America I know,” he said.

“They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.

“The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.”

Bruising battle ahead

Buoyed by the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, Republicans have won a series of policy victories, including forcing $38.5bn in government spending cuts for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

On Wednesday, Mr Obama also sought to brush back liberals in his own party who warn cutting spending now would hinder the nascent economic recovery.

“Doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option,” he said. “Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.”

US political observers expect the fight over the government budget for the fiscal year beginning 1 October to be bruising, as Republicans and Democrats push their competing visions.

Last week, the US government came within an hour of shutting down as Republican and Democratic leaders battled to reach an agreement on a budget for the next six months.

The deal reached just before midnight on Friday cut $38.5bn in government spending to 30 September.

source: BBC News

Hosts Ambassadorial Conversation on “Afghanistan and its Neighborhood” at Fairleigh Dickenson University


On 6 April, the Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck Campus, co-organized an event with the United Nations Ambassador’s Club entitled, “Afghanistan and its Neighborhood.”  H. E. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations was a guest speaker. The founder and CEO of the foundation, Ambassador Ahmad Kamal requested Ambassador Tanin’s presence to shed light on important topics concerning Afghanistan and the region. The esteemed former Ambassador of Pakistan, Ambassador Kamal had not only organised the event but also chaired the session. During an ‘informal conversation’ setting, Ambassador Kamal and Ambassador Tanin discussed a broad range of topics including Afghan history, its relationship with the region, particularly Pakistan, and the future direction of the country. The event was well attended by an audience of 110 diplomats, students and faculty staff and was followed by a formal dinner in honor of Ambassador Tanin.

A common theme from the discussions was the emphasis that despite their many differences, Afghans and Pakistanis have much shared culture and language.  Ambassador Tanin described the historical divisions during the time of the Cold War, the political context that led to the rise of the Taliban, and the further strategic divide between the two countries.  However, he mentioned the importance of realizing the potential for cooperation throughout the region.

Questions from audience members focused on the role of the US in Afghanistan.  Ambassador Tanin spoke with certainty, “we’d like to see an America that helps us stand on our own feet.”  He acknowledged that the US and Afghanistan hold dialogue in order to further develop and improve their strategic partnership, and that this communication is both “frank and friendly.” When asked about how Afghans view the American presence there, Ambassador Tanin pointed out that there are a range of views within the country, and that many Afghans want international involvement in the country, but also that “any action, whether by the Afghan government or international forces” can have an effect on public opinion.

In response to further audience questions, Ambassador Tanin argued that women’s education is of crucial importance, and that corruption must be addressed, but that the war has been an obstacle in overcoming this issue. He emphasized the need to work for a lasting peace in Afghanistan and responded to questions about the negotiation process. “We need to end this war,” he said, “it cannot be done in only a military way.  A reconciliation is needed.”

During the formal dinner following the conversation, the Provost gave a warm welcome to Ambassador Tanin.  An Afghan student from the university gave thanks on behalf of the student body, describing that he had listened to Ambassador Tanin as a former BBC journalist in Afghanistan many years ago.

President Karzai Condoles with UN Secretary General over the killing of UN Staff in Mazar-e-Sharif

Arg, Kabul – H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan spoke this morning on phone with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki moon to convey his grief over the attack on Friday on the UN Assistance Mission Office in Mazar-e-Sharif in which seven of his staff were killed.

The President asked the Secretary General to convey the grief and the sadness of the people and the government of Afghanistan to the mourning families of the victims.

President Karzai described as “ruthless” the yesterday’s violent attack and affirmed that the government of Afghanistan is committed to launching an all-out probe into the incident and bringing to justice those responsible.

Stressing the importance of promoting a peaceful co-existence and harmony among the religions, President Karzai asked the Secretary General to play his role in raising public awareness on the significance of resorting to non-violence and non-desecration of faith and dialogue among religions particularly in countries where such sacrilegious practices were carried out.

News Unit,

Office of the Spokesperson to the President of Afghanistan,

Presidential Palace (Arg), Kabul

Ph:

+93 (20) 210 2853

+93 (20) 210 3705

www.president.gov.af