A ride on Air Force One
On Wednesday, President Bush made his fifth visit to Lancaster County since he was elected President. The President spoke to a group of about 400 people for over an hour and a half including a question and answer period that included a wide range of subjects. The President likes Lancaster County, he likes the people. I had the privilege to accompany the President from Washington on Air Force One. I rode with him in his cabin on the way to and from Lancaster. I spoke with the President about many issues, from the politics of the Middle East to the need for strict constructionist judges. One of the most striking things about the President is how relaxed and at ease he is with people. He really enjoys his job. Even with all of its pressures and demands, the President truly likes his job. And one interesting note from the trip, while the President can order anything he wants to eat while riding on Air Force One, his choice for lunch on Wednesday a peanut butter sandwich.
No such thing as a temporary tax
On Tuesday, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, proposed a war tax in order to pay for the President's request for continued funding for the war in Iraq. Obey and Representative Jack Murtha (D-PA) proposed the tax even though their own leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea as a non-starter. Obey said the tax would be temporary. This brings to mind another notable temporary tax' from history. In 1898, Congress imposed a phone excise tax in order to fund the Spanish-American war. Although the IRS stopped collecting the portion of the tax aimed at long distance service, many customers are still paying the 3 percent tax on local calls. Temporary can be a relative term. Fortunately, the Democratic leadership of Obey's own party thought the idea a poor one and dismissed it at first glance.
Help wanted for seasonal businesses
Each year, American businesses utilize the H2-B visa program to legally employ temporary workers for jobs that cannot otherwise be filled by American workers. This program has been beneficial in meeting the demand for seasonal laborers, who return home each year at the end of the season. Unfortunately, on September 30, Congress failed to extend the exemption for returning visa holders, meaning thousands of businesses are in jeopardy of losing the labor force on which they depend. I am a cosponsor of legislation in Congress to correct this problem, and provide the needed legal workforce for seasonal businesses, but the bill has yet to be considered on the House floor. Today I signed a letter urging the Speaker to bring the bill up for a vote.
Disturbing news from Burma
Protests in Burma have died down after the military junta reacted with brutal violence to the peaceful marches by the country's citizens and Buddhist monks. Reports on the number of deaths perpetrated by the dictatorship range from 700-1000. It is difficult to get specific numbers, particularly as other reports detail the regime burning of dead bodies so that no one can get an accurate count of the dead and disappeared. The regime also has no respect for journalists - a Japanese journalist was shot point blank by the dictatorship's troops, and the regime has detained other journalists. One senior Burmese intelligence official is claiming that thousands of protestors are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.
Quote of the Week
"I think a lot of people rearranged their priorities. A lot of problems seem insignificant now."
-A farmer in Nickel Mines, commenting on the one year anniversary of the school tragedy.