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Oglesby: Thoughts on budgets, Newt, AARP and milestones
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California has done exactly what I've said in this space Congress ought to do. The most important task any legislative body has is to pass a balanced budget. Congress to this date, mid-2011, still hasn't even passed a budget since 2008.

The 2012 budget deadline is Oct. 1. Games of political chicken make one wonder if that will be met.

California's legislature similarly is all tied up and its deadline is the end of the month. California has a state law that all legislative pay beginning July will be forfeited permanently until a budget is passed. The forfeits will not be repaid, ever.

I still bet we'd get some federal level action if Congress implemented the same. Thank goodness Georgia doesn't have that problem.

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Several who know of my and Newt Gingrich's decadeslong friendship have asked what I make of his senior campaign staff's wholesale resignations apparently in response to clumsy stumbles kicking it off.

Make no mistake. I consider Newt the best technically qualified of all the announced and still rumored candidates, period. His passage of the contract with America with a Democrat president in power proved his ability to get things done. He is an expert in several fields, healthcare foremost among them. He understands that legislative compromise is necessary in a democracy. What we want right now instead might have to be achieved in several steps.

Can he win? I don't know. When and if I conclude I don't think he can, I'm willing to toss my support to someone I think can. While Mitt Romney is the current leader, among those now in the race who I think also are potential winners are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Still undecided are Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey. I believe either would do better than the other alternates to Newt.

It'll all shake out. Voters have plenty of time even if some candidates don't.

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A personal note: I've been celebrating since the last column. June 12 was our 58th wedding anniversary. June 14 was my 79th birthday. Betty's 79th won't come until July 14, exactly one month after mine.

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I lost a longtime friend and our community a loyal, effective public safety leader when former Fire Capt. George Hope died. He contributed to the overall community in many other ways. His personality and achievements are a tremendous legacy that all could use as a model as we develop our own legacies.

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AARP stunned all and angered some of its members when it suddenly reversed its long-standing record of strongly opposing Social Security benefit cuts. It finally realized the statistical reality that it will go broke far sooner than later if something isn't done.

The greatest opposition to change comes from people either already on or soon to be drawing benefits. They mistakenly think they will be financially hurt in any adjustments.

The AARP reverse appears to be having an impact on Congress, even Democratic members. This should be the perfect opening for a permanent solution rather than the usual band-aid approaches that have continued regularly since the program was launched back in 1935.

A permanent solution does exist. It not only would protect the interests of opponents described above, but could, over the long run, produce even greater retirement income for future retirees and their beneficiaries while costing taxpayers practically nothing.

A prototype was introduced in 2005 but was dead on arrival, Democrats refusing even to consider it. The political ground now is fertile for a workable permanent solution if we'd just take advantage of the moment. I've outlined that solution in detail in previous columns. It's time to dust it off.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor of The Times. His columns appear biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.

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