While politicians dream of a blockbuster holiday shopping season that could blunt public fear of the "fiscal cliff," some creative rivalry is brewing among competitive retailers. "Violent shopping tactics" could await eager consumers in major cities, such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, warns Buy.com, a major online retail site. At week's end, the California-based company urges folks to stay home, log on and click their way to the perfect gift. Or else.
"With big retail chains opening their doors earlier and earlier each year and shoppers willing to get violent to score a deal, in-store bargain hunting on Black Friday is quickly escalating into a physically aggressive sport," chief operating officer Bernard Luthi says.
"The average American gets 14 vacation days per year, fewer than most of the industrialized world. It's remarkable that residents are willing to brave the wild and frenzied in-store shopping experience rather than spend the treasured holiday time with friends and family," Mr. Luthi reasons. "The hidden costs of high gas prices, traffic congestion and potential fist fights at brick-and-mortar stores can make a real dent on those discounts and deals this Black Friday."
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appears to have put his nanny inclinations conveniently on hold in post-hurricane New York, his critics say.
"Mayor Bloomberg has crusaded against salt, fat and sugar, yet the city seems to have no qualms about feeding artery-clogging grub to desperate victims of Hurricane Sandy," says Gary Busio, a New York Post city reporter, who discovered that MREs — "meals ready to eat" used by soldiers in the field — are being given to hard-pressed citizenry in Coney Island and elsewhere.
They contain more salt and fat than a Big Mac, and more sugar than a 21-ounce Coke. Indeed, New York City's Office of Emergency Management is handing out such entrees as chicken with noodles and vegetables that contains 1,180 calories, 45 grams of fat, 1,330 milligrams of sodium and 64 grams of sugar. The much vilified Big Mac packs 550 calories, 29 grams of fat and 970 milligrams of sodium.
The post-superstorm cuisine, says local dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix is a "perfect storm for not feeling well."
OFF THE CLIFF
"The real fiscal cliff is the nation's $16 trillion debt, slated to rise to over $20 trillion if President Obama's budget — for which not a single member of Congress voted — is the de facto blueprint for the next four years. Obama, as far as I can tell, has never once in his life taken responsibility for a problem, let alone solved one," declares Powerline analyst John Hinderaker. "He doesn't care about our impending financial collapse, except insofar as he can demagogue it for political advantage. Hence his absurd position, that all he cares about in negotiations with Congress is that upper-income taxpayers — those who are already paying twice their fair share of income taxes, on the average — pay even more, even though the effect on the deficit will be negligible."
"I believe it is our duty as elected officials to share with our districts the fiscal reality of our situation. I also believe that when Americans are given good information, they make good decisions," says Rep. E. Scott Rigell, Virginia Republican. "Our country has a significant spending problem. We are currently spending 24 percent of our GDP — our gross domestic product. That is way outside of our historic norms. On the other side of the ledger, we collect on average 16.9 percent of GDP in revenues, and even less than that more recently. This, too, is historic. We haven't run our country on that level of funding since 1959 — before I was born, when our flag only had 48 stars, and before the existence of Medicare and Medicaid."
"Tax reform that eliminates wasteful tax preferences to generate revenue will help bring fairness and efficiency to our tax system. This approach makes more sense than raising tax rates — which will harm nearly a million small businesses and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, As a reminder, just two years ago, President Obama said that raising taxes would be unwise given the weakness of our recovery. That's as true now as it was then," points out Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
"Doing nothing is not an option. And any effort to address our fiscal crisis without including entitlement reform can't be taken seriously. A generation ago, at a time of divided government, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill bridged their differences to preserve Social Security. Some 30 years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation — with a Democratic president and a Republican House speaker. If it could be done then, it can be done now," the New Hampshire Republicans adds.
"I can't make a damn thing out of this tax problem. I listen to one side and they seem to be right and then — God. I talk to the other side and they seem just as right, and here I am where I started. God, what a job!"
- (President Warren Harding, to his aide following a 1921 congressional hearing.)
"I'm pro-choice on light bulbs."
- (Bumper sticker spotted in Rockville)
POLL DU JOUR
• 75 percent of Congress was Protestant 50 years ago.
• 56 percent of Congress is currently Protestant.
• 69 percent of Republican lawmakers and 43 percent of Democratic lawmakers are Protestant; 48 percent of newly elected members are Protestant.
• 30 percent of Congress overall is Catholic, 14 percent Baptist, 11 percent are "unspecified."
• 9 percent are Methodist, 8 percent Presbyterian, 7 percent Episcopalian, 6 percent Jewish.
• 4 percent Lutheran, 3 percent Mormon, 2 percent did not reveal their faith.
Source: Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life/CQ Roll Call review of current congressional data as of Friday.
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