Election is behind us; bigger bills lie ahead
By Joe Grata
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 12:06 a.m.
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013
America and the Mid-Mon Valley have spoken!
You know, of course, Barack Obama was re-elected President last week, winning both the popular and electoral votes to defeat Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Romney prevailed overall in Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties, where Democrat voter registration majorities have been dropping for two decades.
Nevertheless, Obama won 24 of 40 municipalities between Brownsville and Elizabeth.
Voters in larger townships such as Carroll, Rostraver and Elizabeth favored Romney. Towns such as Monessen, Donora and Charleroi went for Obama.
I've heard divisive talk in the election aftermath.
Whether or not you like the outcome, get over it!
Accept the results. Pray that Obama's second term will be better than his first term and Congress will put national interests ahead of political interests.
As CEO, no president can move the country where it needs to go without the U.S. House and Senate approving the appropriate legislation, including the budget.
Jobs, taxes, spending and the deficit remain the focus of the federal government because of the well-publicized “fiscal cliff” threatening the nation.
Blame Obama if you insist, but Congress was complicit in devising and passing the Budget Control Act of 2011 that created the latest crisis.
The election is history. Congress has 47 days remaining between today and New Year's Eve to address the act scheduled to erase Bush-era tax cuts and mandate spending cuts seen as disastrous to the economy.
Expect compromises, not miracles. Expect stop-gap measures, not long-term solutions.
Elected lawmakers you'll want to watch are Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and our local U.S. Representatives, Bill Shuster and Tim Murphy, one “D” and three “R's” respectively in terms of party affiliation.
No matter what happens in Washington, D.C., be prepared to fork over more money at virtually every level of life.
Take health insurance.
Medicare will increase by $7 per month, wiping out part of the 1.7 percent increase in Social Security benefits.
People enrolled in Highmark's Freedom Blue PPO Medicare Advantage Plan at no additional cost in the past face a monthly premium of $16. Part D prescription plans and private healthcare premiums are going up, too.
The two-year, 2 percent reduction in the so-called payroll tax that's actually the FICA tax financing Social Security is to revert to 6.25 percent on Jan. 1. So, for example, workers grossing $800 a week will find $16 less in their paychecks.
For 1 in 16 wage earners in upper income brackets, the maximum amount subject to FICA will rise by $3,600 to $113,700 next year, an extra $225 at the 6.25 percent rate.
Grocery prices are on the increase, a result of recent droughts, fires, freezes and floods.
Gasoline prices between $3.50 and $4 are the “new normal,” a result of world demand, refinery capacity and economic factors beyond the control of any President.
Close to home, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will hike tolls again, largely a result of state lawmakers foolishly requiring it to raise billions of dollars to subsidize PennDOT.
Cash tolls for cars traveling the mainline from New Stanton Interchange will jump to $2.25 to Monroeville and $9.10 to Breezewood.
Two increases are especially repulsive in the context of today's state and national problems.
State legislative salaries will go up by 1.7 percent, to $83,420, in time for Christmas.
Congressional salaries will go up by $1,900, to $175,900, effective Jan. 1, unless members enact a pay freeze over the next 47 days as they debate the approaching economic storm and our future.
Lousy government is getting more expensive.
Quote du jour - “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” –Abraham Lincoln
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