Okay, now brace for it. Here’s the exact national debt according to the Treasury Department — “to the penny,” as the exacting federal agency phrases it. The amount: $18,097,814,959,110 — and 13 cents. That’s over $18 trillion, and it is a stark and very real figure to consider. Which brings us to President Obama‘s upcoming State of the Union address, now just a dozen days off. Soaring rhetoric, carefully calibrated talking points and positive news likely will buoy the speech, the debt muffled as an afterthought. But Mr. Obama may be facing a skeptical audience. “Voters still expect government spending to go up during Obama’s last two years in office,” says a Rasmussen Reports survey of 800 likely voters released Wednesday.
It reveals that 56 percent of the respondents think government spending indeed will continue to rise under the Obama administration, while a mere 12 percent expect those frugal spending cuts. A quarter of the voters expect the level of government spending will stay about the same.
VIGILANT CONCERN FOR THE PRESS
The news media has garnered serious public concern following the terrorist attack on a Parisian magazine. Reactions were many. “The fact that this was an attack on journalists, attack on our free press, also underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” President Obama said in the aftermath. “Sadly, this is not the first time terrorists have attacked this satirical newspaper for exercising free speech — a pillar of the civilized world,” noted Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio declared, “These terrorists don’t hate cartoons, they hate freedom.” But it got personal too.
“People in your business need to be concerned. You are soft targets,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, quietly advised CNN’s Dana Bash during a somber interview in the U.S. Capitol rotunda, though he also voiced concern for budget cuts in the intelligence community and White House policy decisions about “detention and interrogation techniques.”
The FBI appears to be way ahead of everyone, though. In October, the agency issued a warning to U.S. news organizations that Islamic extremists consider journalists and broadcast personalities “desirable targets.” The advisory stated: Members and supporters view members of the U.S. media establishment as legitimate targets for retribution attacks as the US-led air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria continues. The FBI is providing this information to media outlets to highlight the current threat environment so that they may take appropriate steps to notify their journalists in the field.”
FOR THE LEXICON
“Je suis Charlie.”
— Phrase plus the #jesuischarlie hashtag adopted by those supporting victims of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris; translated, it means “I am Charlie.”
EMERGING IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION
While the opening dramas of the 114th Congress played out, one Alabama Republican was in action mode, armed with the “Repeal Executive Amnesty Act,” of course directed at President Obama‘s executive amnesty proposal, an idea that has irked conservatives for many weeks.
“The laws of the land make it clear that it is illegal to enter the United States without going through the proper channels. The President’s order to enact amnesty, issued in November, circumvents Congress and sets a dangerous precedent. So, today I have introduced legislation that will reverse the President’s executive action. It not only defunds the President’s actions toward amnesty but also removes the President’s discretion in the ability to grant work permits, Social Security, and other federal benefits that go along with his order,” declared Rep. Robert Aderholt shortly after taking his own oath of office on Tuesday. Reps. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Lamar Smith of Texas have joined him in the introduction.
“My legislation will also put limits on the President’s future ability to enact such wide-reaching actions that circumvent the Constitution’s separation of powers. It returns the legislative authority of our government back to the legislative branch,” Mr. Aderholt explained.
“For six years, the Obama administration has taken a wrecking ball to immigration enforcement, compromising the interests of American workers, taxpayers, national security and our constitutional system of government,” says Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a public interest group. “This legislation will help restore respect for our nation’s immigration laws and for the right of the American people, through their elected representatives, to determine who can live and work in this country.
AN EMERGING CANDIDATE
“Despite these cheery numbers, America’s middle class is in deep trouble. When I look at the data here — and this includes years of research I conducted myself — I see evidence everywhere about the pounding that working people are taking. Instead of building an economy for all Americans, for the past generation this country has grown an economy that works for some Americans. These families are working harder than ever, but they can’t get ahead. Opportunity is slipping away. Many feel like the game is rigged against them — and they are right.”
— Sen. Elizabeth Warren questioning White House economic numbers in a speech before the AFL-CIO on Wednesday; fans of the progressive Massachusetts Democrat hope she runs for president in 2016.
A YOUTHFUL BURDEN
A “Youth Misery Index” in the U.S.? Alas, such an index exists, this tabulated by Young America’s Foundation, which calculates the annual measurement based on youth unemployment, student loan debt and national debt. “Young people are experiencing hardships like never before under the Obama administration, and this generation is especially suffering the consequences of this administration’s leftist policies,” notes the research, released Tuesday. And the numbers: Youth unemployment among those 16-24 was 18.1 percent last year. Average student loan debt for 2014 was $30,000 and national debt per capita now stands at $58,400.
“Young people will be stuck paying for government debt they had no part in creating, and they’ll have to do it with less discretionary income,” the analyses said, which combines the three aforementioned figures — 18.1, 30 and 58.4 — to arrive at the index number, which now stands at 106.5 — up from 98.6 in 2013. “Since 2008, the index has increased by 53.7 percent, the highest increase under any president, making President Obama the worst president for youth economic opportunity,” the research concludes.
POLL DU JOUR
• 58 percent of Americans say the government does “too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses”; 84 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats agree.
• 47 percent say the “new Congress” will not be any different from the “last Congress”; 59 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats agree.
• 41 percent say the government should promote traditional values; 59 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats agree.
• 37 percent say the new Congress will get more done; 63 percent of Republicans, 35 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats agree.
• 15 percent say the Congress will get less done; 1 percent of Republicans, 13 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 1,011 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 18-21 and released Tuesday.
• Stray ideas and sundry notions to email@example.com.