Apr 15 2008

Tax Day -- April 15 -- is dreaded by taxpayers across the country.

 

Whether it's the mountains of paperwork some pore through to file their taxes or the fact some have to send more of their hard-earned money to Washington , few people find April 15 to be an enjoyable experience.

 

I often hear from South Carolinians encouraging me to find some way -- any way -- to make Tax Day less burdensome.

 

Taxpayers are frustrated and with good reason.

 

Congress has repeatedly drug its feet on making the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cut permanent, while the sheer length and complexity of our current tax code is mind-boggling. And calls to move toward a simpler, easier to understand tax system go unanswered.

 

In 2001 and 2003, President Bush brought forward a tax relief package designed to reduce the burden on taxpayers. Tax rates were cut across the board allowing working Americans to keep more of what they earned. We eliminated the marriage penalty, the quirk in the tax code which forced married couples to pay more in taxes than they would if they filed as individuals. Taxes on dividends and capital gains were reduced, encouraging people to invest for the future. The child tax credit was doubled to $1,000 and we put the dreaded death tax on a path to extinction.

 

It was the right medicine for an ailing economy and the results were clear. By lowering taxes, the federal government spurred economic development and actually collected more in tax revenue. Since 2004, tax revenue has steadily increased as a percent of gross domestic product and is currently around historical averages.

 

The tax cuts have been good for South Carolina as well. If the tax cuts expire, the average family would pay an additional $2,300 per year. Seniors would pay $2,200 and small business owners would see their tax bill increase $4,100.

 

I believe some of the uneasiness taxpayers feel today about the economy is driven by concerns they are going to be hit with huge tax increases when the tax cuts expire. The day of reckoning, 2010, is rapidly approaching, and if we don't extend the tax cuts Americans will be confronted with the largest increase in personal income taxes since World War II.

 

Earlier this year I introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution which makes the Bush tax cuts permanent. Unfortunately, it was defeated in a near party-line Senate vote of 47-52. I'll pose to you the same question I posed the members of the U.S. Senate. With uncertain economic times ahead, does it make sense to raise taxes on Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet?

 

I'm confident the U.S. Senate's answer is not the same as taxpayers in South Carolina .

 

Making the Bush tax cuts permanent is the short-term goal, but if our nation wants to remain prosperous to come, we need a clear, long-term plan to reform our broken, outdated tax code.

 

The new global economy requires a tax code which makes us competitive.

 

There are many exciting and varied proposals which have been put forward. Many in South Carolina and across the nation favor a Fair Tax, while others support a flat tax. Some express support for a value added tax (VAT) or other system. The proposed ideas are as varied as our state, but the one thing they all have in common is the belief the current tax code is completely broken and beyond repair.

 

Unfortunately, before we can move forward to adopting any of these exciting possibilities, we have to get rid of the current tax code. History has taught us that if we do not impose a deadline and terminate the tax code by a certain date, we will never get to the fundamental tax overhaul that is so desperately needed.

 

The Tax Code Termination Act, of which I am a co-sponsor, is based upon the same premise as the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) that closed unnecessary military installations. It will sunset the current tax code and create a commission charged with reporting to Congress reform options. All ideas would be on the table.

 

In addition to the flat tax, Fair Tax and other ideas, it would also determine if tax systems in use in other nations could provide a more efficient and fair method of taxation here at home. I believe the Tax Code Termination Act is the first step our nation must take toward fundamental, long-overdue tax reform.

 

It's time for our nation to implement a bold and ambitious tax agenda for both the short and long term future of our country. Working together, I am confident we can lower the tax burden in future years and move our nation toward a tax system which makes us competitive in the global economy.

 

(This oped began running in South Carolina newspapers on April 15, 2008.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 10 2008

WASHINGTON-  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today voted in favor of the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008.  The Senate approved the measure 88-12.

“While not a perfect package, this bill will hopefully provide short-term relief to homeowners facing foreclosure and flexibility to lenders to renegotiate loan terms,” said Graham.  “Additionally it provides incentives for homebuyers to help stimulate the housing market.”

The legislation includes the following provisions:

  • A $7,000 tax credit, spread over two years, for Americans who purchase a foreclosed home
  • A standard property tax deduction for taxpayers who do not itemize on their returns
  • Over $10 billion in bond authority that could be used for subprime loan refinancing, mortgages for first-time home buyers, or multifamily rental housing
  • Extension – from two years to four years – of a provision that allows corporations to apply current losses to previous profits and receive applicable tax refunds
  • An additional $180 million for foreclosure prevention counseling
  • $4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program

The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives.

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Apr 08 2008

Senate Armed Services Committee

April 8, 2008

 

SENATOR LEVIN:

Senator  Graham?

 

SENATOR GRAHAM:

Thank you, both of you, well done.  You know, according to some, we should fire you.  It sounds like, that everything is just -- really nothing good has happened in the last year and this is a hopeless endeavor.

 

Well, I beg to differ.  If I could promote you to five stars, I would.  And if I could -- I don't know where to send you.  You've been to every bad place there is to go, so I'd send you to a good place, Ambassador Crocker.

 

I cannot tell you how proud I am of both of you.


And let's start this with kind of a 30,000-foot assessment.

 

The surge, General Petraeus, was a corrective action -- is that  fair to say?

 

GENERAL PETRAEUS:

That's correct, Senator.

 

GRAHAM:

The reason it was a corrective action is between the fall of Baghdad and January of 2007, all of the trend lines were going in the wrong way: economic stagnation, political stagnation, increased proliferation of violence.  Therefore, something had to be done, and that something was called a surge.

 

Now, I would just ask the American people and my colleagues to evaluate fairly from January 2007 to July 2008, and see what's happened:  The challenges are real, but there are things that have happened in that period of time that need to be understood as being beneficial to this country, that came at a heavy price.  And Al Qaida cannot stand the surge.

 

If you put a list of people who wanted us to leave, the number one group would be Al Qaida, because you've been kicking them all over Iraq.

Now, the reason they came to Iraq is why, General Petraeus?

 

PETRAEUS:

That Al Qaida came to Iraq , sir?

 

GRAHAM:

Yes.

 

PETRAEUS:

To establish a base in the heart of the Arab world, in the heart of the Mideast.

 

GRAHAM:

Are they closer to their goal after the surge, or further away?

 

PETRAEUS:

Further away, Senator.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  What's the -- if you had to pick one thing to tell the American people that was the biggest success of the surge, what would it be?

 

PETRAEUS:

Probably Anbar province and/or just the general progress against Al Qaida.

 

GRAHAM:

Would it be the fact that Muslims tasted Al Qaida life in Iraq and Iraqi Muslims joined with us to fight Al Qaida?

 

PETRAEUS:

I think the shift in Sunni Arabs against Al Qaida has been very, very significant.  The rejection of the indiscriminate violence, the extremist ideology and even, really, the oppressive practices associated with Al Qaida is, again, a very, very significant change.

 

GRAHAM:

Is it fair to say that when Muslims will stand by us and fight against bin Laden, his agents and sympathizers, we're safer?

 

PETRAEUS:

Absolutely.

 

GRAHAM:

Ambassador Crocker, what is Iran up to in Iraq?

 

CROCKER:

Senator, I described what I believe to be an effort at Lebanizatian through the backing of different militia groups.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Let's stop there.  Lebanon kicked Syria out a few years ago, and they tried to create a democracy, some form of democracy.  Hezbollah, backed by Iran , had a say in that endeavor.  Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

That's correct, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

And they launched an attack from Lebanon against Israel at the time the United Nations was about to sanction Iran for their nuclear endeavors.

 

Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

I believe so, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

So is it fair to say that, from an Iranian point of view, one of their biggest nightmares would be a functioning democracy in Lebanon, a functioning representative government in Iraq on their borders?

 

CROCKER:

Certainly, their behavior would indicate that that may be the case.  You make an important point because we look at Iraq as a nation in its own terms.  The region looks at it a little bit differently.

 

Iran and Syria have been cooperating over Lebanon since the early 1980s.  Over a quarter of a century they have worked together against the Lebanese and against our interests.  They're using that same partnership in Iraq, in my view, although the weights are reversed With Iran having the greater weight and Syria the lesser.  But they are working in tandem together against us and against a stable Iraqi  state.

 

GRAHAM:

If I can walk through what these laws mean to me, and this is just my opinion:  Provincial elections in October are important to me because it means that the Sunnis understand that participating in representative government seems to be in their interest; therefore, they're going to vote in October of 2008 and they boycotted in 2005.

 

Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

That's one of the reasons they're important, yes.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  So the Sunnis are going to come in -- by the millions, we anticipate to send representatives to Baghdad or to the provinces rather than sending bombs, is that correct?   

 

CROCKER:

That is what I would expect, yes.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Now the reason the surge has been successful to me, General Petraeus, is that the Anbar province has been liberated from Al Qaida, but we've had a reduction in sectarian violence.  

 

Is that true?

 

PETRAEUS:

That is true.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Now, this breathing space that we've been urging to have happened to have better security, from my opinion, has produced economic results not known before January, 2007.  Is that correct?  The economy is improving?

 

PETRAEUS:

That is correct.

 

GRAHAM:

The Iraqis will be paying more over time to bear the burden of fighting for their freedom?

 

PETRAEUS:

That's correct.

 

GRAHAM:

They will be fighting more to bear the burden of their freedom.  Is that correct?

 

PETRAEUS:

Correct.

 

GRAHAM:

Is there any way Iraq could be a failed state and not affect our national security?

 

PETRAEUS:

No, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

What would happen if the policy of the United States began January, 2007 to remove a brigade a month in Baghdad -- I mean, of Iraq ?  What would be the military consequences to such an endeavor, in your opinion, if we announced, as a nation, we're going to withdraw a brigade out of Iraq every month?

 

PETRAEUS:

Sir, it clearly would depend on the conditions at that time.  If the conditions were good and quite good, then that might be doable.

 

GRAHAM:

At this point in time, does that seem to be a responsible position to take, given what you know about Iraq , to make that announcement now?

 

PETRAEUS:

Well, Senator, again, I have advocated conditions-based reductions, not a timetable.  War is not a linear phenomenon; it's a calculus, not arithmetic.  And that is why, again, I have recommended conditions-based reductions following the completion of the surge forces drawdown.

 

LEVIN:

Senator Graham, thank you.

 

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Apr 08 2008

WASHINGTON – The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today announced that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is one of the few dozen lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives to win the 2007 ‘Taxpayers’ Friend Award.’

 

“While many Members of Congress talked about reducing the size of government last year, Lindsey Graham backed up those words with votes,” said NTU President Duane Parde.  “This award proves that Graham is a staunch ally we can count on in our battle to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington .”

 

The award was presented to Senators who achieved an ‘A’ grade in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress.  The Rating, which is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, assigns a ‘Taxpayer Score’ to each Senator that indicates their support for reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.  For 2007, 182 Senate votes were selected.

 

“By consistently voting to reduce federal spending, taxes, and the debt, Lindsey Graham has led by example in the fight to ease the burden on taxpayers everywhere,” said Parde.  “This is an achievement for which he should be proud.”

 

From 2006 to 2007, the average pro-taxpayer score in the Senate fell 11 points to 37 percent. 

“If every Member of Congress had voted as responsibly as Lindsey Graham did in 2007, Americans could have enjoyed much lower taxes and less waste in government,” Parde concluded.  “Overburdened taxpayers in South Carolina and across the nation owe Lindsey Graham a debt of gratitude for his work on their behalf.  He has truly earned the title ‘Taxpayers’ Friend.’”

 

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels.

 

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Apr 07 2008

When Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress tomorrow, he will step into an American political landscape dramatically different from the one he faced when he last spoke on Capitol Hill seven months ago.

 

This time Gen. Petraeus returns to Washington having led one of the most remarkably successful military operations in American history. His antiwar critics, meanwhile, face a crisis of credibility – having confidently predicted the failure of the surge, and been proven decidedly wrong.

 

As late as last September, advocates of retreat insisted that the surge would fail to bring about any meaningful reduction in violence in Iraq . MoveOn.org accused Gen. Petraeus of "cooking the books," while others claimed that his testimony, offering evidence of early progress, required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

 

Gen. Petraeus will be the first to acknowledge that the gains in Iraq have come at a heavy price in blood and treasure. We mourn the loss and pain of the civilians and service members who have been killed and wounded in Iraq , but adamantly believe these losses have served a noble cause.

 

No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been swept from its former strongholds in Anbar province and Baghdad . The liberation of these areas was made possible by the surge, which empowered Iraqi Muslims to reject the Islamist extremists who had previously terrorized them into submission. Any time Muslims take up arms against Osama bin Laden, his agents and sympathizers, the world is a safer place.

 

In the past seven months, the other main argument offered by critics of the Petraeus strategy has also begun to collapse: namely, the alleged lack of Iraqi political progress.

 

Antiwar forces last September latched onto the Iraqi government's failure to pass "benchmark" legislation, relentlessly hammering Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as hopelessly sectarian and unwilling to confront Iranian-backed Shiite militias. Here as well, however, the critics in Washington have been proven wrong.

 

In recent months, the Iraqi government, encouraged by our Ambassador in Iraq , Ryan Crocker, has passed benchmark legislation on such politically difficult issues as de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections. After boycotting the last round of elections, Sunnis now stand ready to vote by the millions in the provincial elections this autumn. The Iraqi economy is growing at a brisk 7% and inflation is down dramatically.

 

And, in launching the recent offensive in Basra , Mr. Maliki has demonstrated that he has the political will to take on the Shiite militias and criminal gangs, which he recently condemned as "worse than al Qaeda."

 

Of course, while the gains we have achieved in Iraq are meaningful and undeniable, so are the challenges ahead. Iraqi Security Forces have grown in number and shown significant improvement, but the Basra operation showed they still have a way to go. Al Qaeda has been badly weakened by the surge, but it still retains a significant foothold in the northern city of Mosul , where Iraqi and coalition forces are involved in a campaign to destroy it.

 

Most importantly, Iran also continues to wage a vicious and escalating proxy war against the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. The Iranians have American blood on their hands. They are responsible, through the extremist agents they have trained and equipped, for the deaths of hundreds of our men and women in uniform. Increasingly, our fight in Iraq cannot be separated from our larger struggle to prevent the emergence of an Iranian-dominated Middle East .

 

These continuing threats from Iran and al Qaeda underscore why we believe that decisions about the next steps in Iraq should be determined by the recommendations of Gen. Petraeus, based on conditions on the ground.

 

It is also why it is imperative to be cautious about the speed and scope of any troop withdrawals in the months ahead, rather than imposing a political timeline for troop withdrawal against the recommendation of our military.

 

Unable to make the case that the surge has failed, antiwar forces have adopted a new set of talking points, emphasizing the "costs" of our involvement in Iraq , hoping to exploit Americans' current economic anxieties.

 

Today's antiwar politicians have effectively turned John F. Kennedy's inaugural address on its head, urging Americans to refuse to pay any price, or bear any burden, to assure the survival of liberty. This is wrong. The fact is that America 's prosperity at home and security abroad are bound together. We will not fare well in a world in which al Qaeda and Iran can claim that they have defeated us in Iraq and are ascendant.

 

There is no question the war in Iraq – like the Cold War, World War II and every other conflict we have fought in our history – costs money. But as great as the costs of this struggle have been, so too are the dividends to our national security from a successful outcome, with a functioning, representative Iraqi government and a stabilized Middle East . The costs of abandoning Iraq to our enemies, conversely, would be enormous, not only in dollars, but in human lives and in the security and freedom of our nation.

 

Indeed, had we followed the path proposed by antiwar groups and retreated in defeat, the war would have been lost, emboldening and empowering violent jihadists for generations to come.

 

The success we are now achieving also has consequences far beyond Iraq 's borders in the larger, global struggle against Islamist extremism. Thanks to the surge, Iraq today is looking increasingly like Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare: an Arab country, in the heart of the Middle East , in which hundreds of thousands of Muslims – both Sunni and Shiite – are rising up and fighting, shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers, against al Qaeda and its hateful ideology.

 

It is unfortunate that so many opponents of the surge still refuse to acknowledge the gains we have achieved in Iraq . When Gen. Petraeus testifies this week, however, the American people will have a clear choice as we weigh the future of our fight there: between the general who is leading us to victory, and the critics who spent the past year predicting defeat.

The following oped by Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 7, 2008.

 

 

 

 

Apr 04 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Graham said:

 

“Dr. King’s legacy is secure in American history and he will be viewed by generations to come as transforming our nation for the better.  At great personal risk, both to his family and himself, he challenged the status quo of segregation.  Through his words and deeds, Dr. King transformed a nation.  His legacy and works will be celebrated as long as our country remains free.  Dr. King is a true American hero.”   

 

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Apr 03 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement in response to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s warning to General David Petraeus “not to put a shine on recent events” in Iraq.

 

Graham said:

 

“Speaker Pelosi’s warning to General Petraeus about his testimony being ‘too shiny’ says more about her than it does about him. 

 

“General Petraeus has been forward-deployed for over four years since 9/11 and is one of the most talented, respected military commanders in our nation’s history.  I’m confident he will tell us about the gains that have been achieved and the challenges which lie ahead.  That is his duty to his country and the troops under his command.

 

“I have no confidence Speaker Pelosi will ever accept anything coming out of Iraq other than a loss.  She and other Democratic leaders long ago declared the war lost and have built a political model for the next election around that outcome.  It’s sad the accomplishments made by our men and women serving in Iraq cannot be acknowledged.

 

“Speaker Pelosi seems to be more concerned about the outcome of the next election than receiving accurate information from a distinguished military leader like General Petraeus.”

 

 

 

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Mar 31 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made this statement on South Carolina and REAL ID. 

 

Graham said:

 

“I am pleased South Carolina has been granted an extension by Secretary Chertoff regarding REAL ID compliance.  The decision was more than justified.

 

“The Governor has done an excellent job in explaining his concerns to federal officials, many of which I share.  Our state already meets 16 of the 18 compliance benchmarks – about 90 percent -- called for in REAL ID.  Governor Sanford’s efforts to reform our state drivers’ license program has made the system more secure and efficient.

 

“REAL ID grew out of recommendations made by the 9-11 Commission over the need for more secure forms of identification.  It was viewed as an effective means of cracking down on the use of fraudulent documents like those used by the 9/11 hijackers.  In addition, REAL ID would make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to obtain employment by tightening acceptable forms of identification.

 

“I will do my part to help ensure the federal government addresses the unfunded mandate burden imposed on the states by REAL ID.  Governors and state legislatures across the country are rightfully concerned about these requirements.

 

“However, in this age of international terrorism we must secure the homeland.  We need better identification to protect air travel, access to federal buildings, institutions, and other high value terrorist targets.

 

“I believe we can accommodate the legitimate national security needs of our nation with the concerns raised by Governor Sanford and the state legislature.” 

 

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Mar 31 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement in response to news the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper have submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build and operate up to two new nuclear electric generating units. 

 

Graham said:

 

“I’m very pleased and excited to hear SCE&G and Santee Cooper have applied to construct and operate two new nuclear power plants in South Carolina .

 

“The additional use of nuclear power is one of the major steps we must take to become more energy independent as a nation.

 

“The benefits of nuclear power are clear: It is reliable, efficient, and safe.  It helps lessen our dependence on foreign oil.    It is an environmentally-friendly energy source which does not pollute our air or produce carbon emissions.

 

“I strongly support this application.  Construction and operation of new nuclear power plants will provide South Carolina with abundant, affordable power for decades to come.” 

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Mar 24 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham today made this statement.

 

"Yesterday, I misspoke when I said we will be, ‘somewhere around 100,000 troops’ in Iraq by the end of 2008.  I think we will be at pre-surge levels, about 130,000 troops, at years end.  I have consistently said any changes or further reductions in troops should be based upon conditions on the ground and the advice of our commanders.”

 

 

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