The U.S. has entered the dreaded sequester, a very costly consequence of the federal government failing to reach a budget deal by their self-imposed deadline (March 1). This is one for the history books - the largest, automatic across the board spending cuts in American history.
But if this latest government crisis hasn’t been keeping you up at night, you’re certainly not alone. A recent study found that the vast majority of Americans have paid little to no attention as the sequester drew near; many dismissed it as a poorly made sequel to last year’s more compelling fiscal cliff thriller (along the lines of the The Hangover Part II, if you will).
But despite the lack of popular interest, the sequester is actually a pretty big deal – and real pain will be felt. While it won’t lead to across the board tax hikes – as the fiscal cliff threatened to do – it will result in sweeping cuts to government services that millions of Americans rely on.
In the days leading up to the deadline, Obama referred to the sequester as “a meat cleaver approach” to reducing the deficit, making dire warnings about the damage it would inflict on the economy and individual states.
“Across the board spending cuts mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans won’t get services they rely on from the government,” he said.
Gun control advocates say yes. Gun rights folks beg to differ.
Big surprise on that one, huh?
Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group pushing for tougher regulations, assigned every state a grade based on 29 different policy approaches to regulating firearms and ammunition. California topped the list with an A-. (New York – which now requires background checks for ammunition sales – has since surpassed California in the toughness of it’s gun laws. It’s the first state to enact such legislation following the Newtown shooting. And debates have begun in a handful of other states – including California and Colorado – to strengthen gun laws there.) Continue reading →
When it comes to gun laws in the U.S., we’re as far from united as it gets. Beyond the loose set of federal regulations that everyone must follow, there are 50 unique state laws and even more individual county and city rules. It’s resulted in a confusing tapestry of gun regulations that vary drastically depending on where you happen to be. There’s variation in anything from background checks and handgun permit requirements to the sale of semi-automatic weapons and waiting periods. Even rules on allowing firearms on college campuses, in bars, or even in churches can differ across certain state lines.
Federal Gun Law
Federal regulations apply to everyone. But due largely to the intense lobbying efforts and political influence of the gun industry and gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, these laws have been significantly stripped over the last two decades (see our gun control timeline); they’re now far and away the loosest (and vaguest) of any industrialized country in the world. States must meet the basic requirements, and then have the option to enact some stricter regulations … if they choose to do so.
Federal law prohibits buying or transferring firearms across state lines, owning machine guns and other certain high capacity devices, and bringing guns onto school zones (“except as authorized”). Under the law, you also can’t buy or possess a gun if you’ve been convicted of domestic assault or other serious crimes, dishonorably discharged from the military, or if you have a restraining order against you. The prohibition also includes fugitives, drug users, illegal immigrants, and those deemed mentally ill or institutionalized. Continue reading →
Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.
“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”
Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective, the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 – and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)
“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading →
Source: Pew Research (click to explore the interactive)
President Barack Obama tonight delivers the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech is expected to include an ambitious list of policy goals and priorities – from boosting the economy and reforming the nation’s immigration system to advocating for new policies on gun control and climate change.
The speech is widely considered to be among the most significant of Obama’s remaining political career. That’s because second term presidents generally only have a limited window of time – as little as year – to accomplish their big-ticket goals before the lame duck syndrome sets in. Continue reading →
When Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he neglected to mention a third absolute: our government’s eternal failure to agree on how high those taxes should be and what they should pay for.
As long as our nation continues to spend a lot more than it takes in, the issue will continue to be a saga between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes, fewer public services, and smaller government; the latter pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, more government revenue, and a preservation of the social safety net. It’s like a really boring, annoying version of the NeverEnding Story (without the cool flying animals). Just think about the last few months in Washington: we narrowly averted hurling ourselves over the fiscal cliff only to re-enter into a battle over the debt ceiling. Continue reading →