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Blowing smoke

"Blowing smoke" Continued...

Issue: "Broken beyond repair?," Sept. 25, 2010

Tax skeptics

With more political pundits predicting a Republican takeover of the House, President Barack Obama is taking a curious campaign tactic: promising tax hikes. Blaming Republicans for a tax cut "philosophy that led to this mess in the first place," Obama told a crowd in job-hungry Ohio on Sept. 8 that he would allow many Bush-era tax cuts to expire. In response, House Republican Leader John Boehner said job growth would follow the "cutting of federal spending to where it was before all the bailouts, government takeovers and 'stimulus' spending sprees." Obama's promise to tackle taxes in an election year may be met by as many skeptical Democrats as Republicans when Congress returns this month. Democrats know that voters are in no mood for tax increases in the midst of persistent economic turmoil. But ignoring taxes in an election year-the first choice of most lawmakers-is not an option: Without congressional action, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are scheduled to cease for all taxpayers at year's end.

More Middle East talks

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced plans to travel to Egypt and Jerusalem in mid-September for the second round of negotiations begun earlier this month in Washington. She is scheduled to meet again with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, along with other regional leaders. But outside analysts questioned the timing of U.S.-orchestrated talks and whether either side is ready to compromise on the main sticking points: dividing territory and construction of Israeli settlements. "It's hard to be optimistic about these direct talks," said analyst Steven A. Cook. "There have been years of direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians that produced very little. But beyond the kind of symbolism of hope such talks produce, the reality is that at the domestic political level, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are capable of making the types of concessions that are necessary to achieve significant progress."

Rich Outlier

Worldwide, 84 percent of adults say religion is an important part of their daily lives, according to a Gallup survey in 114 countries in 2009 released on Aug. 31. That number is unchanged from what the polling group found in other years. In 10 countries-mostly Muslim or Buddhist, and all poor, like top-ranked Bangladesh-98 percent say religion is important in their daily lives. Rich countries in general are less religious-except for the United States. Sixty-five percent of Americans say that religion is an important part of their daily lives-compared with 30 percent of the French, 27 percent of the British, and 24 percent of the Japanese.

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