As Congress agonizes over health care, an even more daunting and dangerous challenge is bearing down: how to shore up Social Security to keep it from burying the nation ever deeper in debt.
What to do about mushrooming government payments as millions of baby boomers retire? How about a giant federal Ponzi scheme? That might work for a while.
But wait. That's pretty much the current system. Social Security takes contributions from today's workers and uses them to pay the old-age benefits that were promised to retirees. But there are serious concerns how long that can last.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney believes his old boss, President George W. Bush, gradually turned away from his advice during their second term in the White House, showing a surprising independence as he started taking more flexible positions on a range of issues, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Cheney, often described as the most influential vice president in U.S. history, has been discussing his years in office in informal talks with authors, diplomats, policy experts and past colleagues, the Post said, as he works on a memoir due out in 2011 from Simon & Schuster's Threshold Editions.
Robert Barnett, who negotiated Cheney's book contract, passed word to potential publishers that the memoir would be packed with news, said the article published on the Post Web site, and Cheney himself has said, without explanation, that "the statute of limitations has expired" on many of his secrets.
The U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., didn't see enough evidence when asked to prosecute some voter fraud cases in his state.
In Washington, however, then-White House political adviser Karl Rove was getting a different message and acting on it.
Transcripts of closed-door congressional testimony indicate that Rove played a central role in the ouster of David Iglesias, who was one of nine federal prosecutors fired in a series of politically tinged dismissals in 2006.
Harriet Miers, then White House counsel, said in testimony June 15 to House Judiciary Committee investigators that Rove was "very agitated" over Iglesias "and wanted something done about it."
After the "birthers," now come the "deathers."
Just as there were those who believed, in the face of all evidence, that President Obama's birth certificate was a fake and that he was not really native born, there are those who believe, again against all evidence to the contrary, that Obama's health-care reform has a provision that encourages, even requires, euthanasia.
This canard floated around the fringes of the Internet until Sarah Palin put it into mainstream play with a posting on her Facebook page:
The handwriting on the wall of the local post office is not hard to read: the United States Postal Service, established at about the same time as our country, 1775, is probably on its way out. I'll miss it.
But the numbers are grim: even though a recent study by the Government Accounting Office found increasing efficiency in mail delivery, the USPS is facing a $7 billion loss for 2009. Mail volume is down and some 700 local post offices are slated for closure.
If it occurs, citizens of a certain age will regret the end of postal service. Plenty of Americans are old enough to remember when the average home had neither a television nor a telephone, and contact with the outside world was maintained largely through mail service and the newspaper, which was often delivered by the mail carrier.
A safe way for a top-level American official to disappear from the public spotlight, without actually appearing to hide out, was to arrange a fact-finding trip to Africa. The media would ignore the trip and the absence while the official could bulk up his resume with high-minded thoughts about the Third World.
But Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to have broken that mold.
Video of her dancing with the Masai and at a Nairobi nightclub are on the Internet, and she really broke through the clutter with a teeth-clenched response to a mistranslated question.
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a "death panel." Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.
Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:
Q: Does the health care legislation bill promote "mercy killing," or euthanasia?
Q: Then what's all the fuss about?
A wise and practical man once said that it is all right to stand on principle if the principle you're standing on has a good foundation, otherwise the consequences may be more than you can bear, particularly in politics. That is exactly the dilemma Republicans may face after voting overwhelmingly not to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some 31 GOP Senators cast their lot with the most conservative elements of the party and the National Rifle Association, which regards her as an enemy and threatens to downgrade their opinion of those senators who voted aye, in declining to support the nomination although the passage was never in doubt. Nine Republicans joined the majority Democrats in overwhelmingly approving her.
In reality there was nothing terribly unusual in so many of the minority voting against a nominee of a president from the opposing party. Of late that has been the norm rather than the exception. The previous nominee, Samuel Alito, proposed by George W. Bush, was confirmed in 2005 despite the loss of 40 Democrats. A year earlier 22 Democrats voted against Bush's choice for chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, who received 78 votes for easy confirmation. Normally, these votes are like one's numbers on the SATs, no one asks your score after you're admitted. It is enough to know you made it.
Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of terrorism suspects, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Citing current and former US government officials, the newspaper said Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be "narrow" in scope, focusing on "whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized" in memos issued by the administration of former president George W. Bush that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.
Current and former CIA and Justice Department officials who have firsthand knowledge of the interrogation files contend that criminal convictions will be difficult to obtain because the quality of evidence is poor and the legal underpinnings have never been tested, the paper said.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally requested that Congress raise the $12.1 trillion statutory debt limit on Friday, saying that it could be breached as early as mid-October.
"It is critically important that Congress act before the limit is reached so that citizens and investors here and around the world can remain confident that the United States will always meet its obligations," Geithner said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that was obtained by Reuters.
A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.