Washington Watch- October 19, 2012
There is a lot of important news coming out of Washington, D.C., this week. I know most eyes across America are focused solely on the presidential campaign, but after the dust settles on November 6th, the hard work to get America back on track will be just beginning.
This week, we learned that yet another recipient of President Obama’s “stimulus” has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. After receiving nearly $250 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, electric car battery manufacturer A123 Systems, Inc. has gone belly up and tried to sell an 80 percent stake of the company to Chinese competitors. Reading this story, one can’t help but be reminded of the Solyndra boondoggle. This failed company was awarded a whopping $528 million taxpayer-funded loan guarantee and all we have to show for it is 1,800 more jobless Americans and a modern art exhibit that was created using its remaining inventory. Taxpayers can no longer afford to foot the bill for this Administration’s political agenda. Unfortunately, President Obama has learned this the hard way while the American taxpayer is picking up the tab.
Social Security COLA
On Tuesday, the Social Security Administration announced that the automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2013 Social Security benefits will be 1.7 percent. That amounts to an average increase of about $250 next year. I know that these dollars will be helpful to the millions of Americans receiving Social Security, but these COLA numbers are also good news for all Americans as they indicate that overall consumer prices have remained relatively stable over the past year.
Click here to read more about the 2013 COLA.
While the housing market has a long way to go before we can declare that it has undergone a “recovery,” the latest report from the Department of Commerce (Commerce) indicates that there is some positive momentum. On Wednesday, Commerce released its monthly “New Residential Construction” Report for September 2012. New privately-owned housing unit starts increased nationally to a seasonally adjusted 872,000, an increase of 15.0 percent from August 2012 and 34.8 percent from September 2011. This represents the highest level of new starts in over four years, albeit below pre-recession levels.
Rather than try to craft new housing plans that involve government intervention, the housing report exemplifies the resilience of the American spirit, that if permitted to flourish, the private sector will grow. The best “housing plan” that Washington can offer you is one that fosters an environment of economic growth and job creation. If folks have more money through increased job opportunities, housing will clearly follow.
TSA's Union Trouble
This week the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admitted it was having a difficult time reaching a consensus on a new collective bargaining agreement with its airport screener’s union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). The end result of these disagreements, over issues such as employees “bidding” on work shifts, is that the TSA and the AFGE will likely have to go to a Federal arbitration panel for resolution. It is important to note that this is the first collective bargaining agreement for TSA’s employees who only recently voted to join the AFGE in June of 2011. Already troubles have arisen.
It is even more troubling that the TSA is being forced to focus on issues such as who will work what shift when an Inspector General report released last week by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee highlighted failures in the TSA's basic mission -- security -- and as an example, documented the dereliction of 48 TSA airport screeners at Honolulu International Airport. The Inspector General’s report also concluded that the incident at Honolulu International Airport was not an isolated incident and reflected shortcomings in security procedures throughout the TSA. It hardly seems appropriate to be discussing union packages or expanding the TSA’s reach when the TSA is failing to accomplish its most basic task, airport security and baggage screening. I will share more from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee’s continued investigation into the TSA’s practices and effectiveness in the coming weeks.
This week, 1,000 American troops traveled to Israel to participate in a joint military exercise with our closest friend and ally. The three-week defense exercise, known as Austere Challenge 2012, will test the ability of Israel’s major missile defense systems, including Iron Dome, Arrow 2, and David’s Sling, to counter a variety of simulated short and medium range ballistic missile threats.
Just in the past month, the State of Israel has endured multiple rocket attacks from Gaza, violence from Sinai militants along its border with Egypt, and a surveillance drone that was reportedly sent into its airspace by Hezbollah. Additionally, despite the U.S. sanctions targeted at Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Central Bank, Iran remains committed to pursuing its nuclear weapons program and continues to call for the destruction of Israel. During a time when the entire region is filled with increasing tension and volatility, the United States must support Israel more vigorously than ever before. I wish our troops the best as they work side by side with Israel in Austere Challenge 2012 over the next several weeks. We must make it clear to the world that our greatest ally is never facing its security challenges alone.
The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., recently held a panel discussion on the U.S.-Israel military relationship. Please click here to learn more about our joint security efforts with the State of Israel.
These issues and many others are at stake in this election. Thank you for what you are doing to support our great land. Early voting has already begun here in Georgia, so make sure to bring one of the required forms of photo identification, such as a driver's license or a valid U.S. passport, and exercise your right. Folks in the Seventh District can find their polling place right here on the Secretary of State’s website.