September 27, 2013

The Myth Of The Government Shut-Down

The government of the United States is not going to be shut down this week. Or next week. Even if the continuing budget resolution is not passed by both the U.S. house and senate, and signed by the president, the government will not be shut down.

A government “shut-down” has become a term of political myth, partisan melodrama, and rhetorical comedy.

First, the vital functions of the government are not ever shut down. Second, the current impasse is an incessant replay of a wearying political soap opera in which one party attempts to score points in public opinion against the other party. (Usually these points are won by the party occupying the White House because of any president’s media advantage. This also heavily favors Democrats since the Old Media overwhelmingly favors the liberal party.) Third, most of those who endure any consequences are government employees, most of whom vote for Democrats. Presidents can also easily grandstand by closing down low-cost items such as White House tours (which are made to seem much more important than they are).

The last “shut-down” confrontation produced the celebrated “sequesters” which were advertised in advance by the Obama administration as imminent disasters. In fact, the sequesters have turned out to be rather effective, if uneven, as a limit on public spending and only a minor inconvenience. Sequestering is not a viable permanent solution, but as a short-term strategy, it has turned out rather well.

Obamacare is in deep trouble. The administration has already postponed major parts of the legislation, and might have to postpone more. The various components of the labyrinthine so-called healthcare reform are mostly not ready to be implemented. The Democratic legislation itself is extraordinarily unpopular, and in 2010 led to an electoral disaster in that year’s midterm elections. It threatens to result in the same in 2014. Various states have already begun to set up Obamacare exchanges, and some are claiming they will work, but the numbers so far do not add up.

Senator Ted Cruz conducted a 21-hour pseudo-filibuster against funding Obamacare, but it was not meant to be anything more than a publicity monologue for the Texas senator, aimed at the conservative political base. Immediately after concluding his effort, Mr. Cruz voted along with the entire senate (100-0) to begin debate on the continuing resolution — a debate that inevitably led to its passage.

The U.S. house has voted one more time to defund Obamacare, with Republicans again fulfilling their promise to vote against the unpopular legislation. However, without control of the U.S. senate and the White House, any action of theirs is merely symbolic, and cannot accomplish anything except public relations.

Some of the most thoughtful conservatives who strongly oppose Obamacare have suggested that Republicans in Congress should, in effect, get out of the way, and let the long-winded, contradictory and unsustainable legislation begin to take effect. As totally the political property of the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, these conservatives say, let them take the inevitable backlash for its construction and enactment.Former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, now a conservative TV commentator/host, has made this case particularly well.

Like so many political issues today, realities are clouded by emotional and intimidating rhetoric. “Governmentshut-down” is one of the most blatant examples of this.

The public should ignore these petty games, and demand that both parties work out settlements that will actually improve healthcare delivery, boost the economy by helping entrepreneurship, lower unemployment and stimulate positively the public markets.

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Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

by @ 12:06 pm. Filed under 2013, Campaign Issues, Mike Huckabee, Spending, Ted Cruz

October 20, 2012

Romney’s “Unique Qualifications” for the Economy

The Romney campaign likes to refer to Mitt as “uniquely qualified” for the office of the presidency. While I enthusiastically agree, I’d like to extend the phrase to a particular subset of the role: economic policy.

A couple days ago, I argued that a political windfall would potentially lay at Romney’s disposal should he win November 6th. To recap, that windfall would depend on a couple significant developments: job growth would have to pick up, the deficit would have to decrease, and Mitt would have to persuade the American public that his leadership directly contributed.

This time around, I’d like to go through a few ways Mitt’s background and policy positions can make progress on the most pressing component of the equation, the economy, in descending order of bipartisan support needed and, thus, ease of implementation.

First and foremost, day one of a Romney administration (and perhaps even the day after his election) would present a crystal-clear signal – a green light, of sorts – to the business community. We’ve seen countless stories about how the investor class and business leaders have increasingly kept cash on the sidelines, because of the painful uncertainty regarding tax and regulatory policy and the distinctly hostile attitude Washington and the culture at large has taken toward wealth, business, and success in general since the financial crisis of 2008.

Having Romney in the White House would essentially tell the business community, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and this one appreciates you. This one values what you do, so please, do it. We won’t demonize you, we’ll celebrate your achievements and contributions.” While policies obviously matter, rhetoric does, too. Having a president who understands the business community and uses the bully pulpit to lead a change in attitude toward capitalism, free enterprise, and success in general will make a huge impact from day one.

Now, onto the issues that would require legislation, starting with the one that would have the most bipartisan support: corporate tax reform. Our left-of-center friends and even President Obama himself often note, correctly, that the President supports reform of the corporate tax code. However, this is a matter of priorities, and Obama clearly doesn’t place corporate tax reform high on his list. A President Romney, however, would. And this issue truly does have a great deal of bipartisan support, so much so that Romney could easily get legislation on his desk in the early days of his administration. Numerous authorities have studied the stimulative effects of cutting the marginal rate to 25% or less – essentially the OECD average, reducing or eliminating deductions, and instituting a territorial tax system. This is an easy one, and Mitt would get it done, quickly.

The next issue would necessitate more bipartisan support, but still less than those I’ll discuss later, since Republicans could go the reconciliation route: healthcare reform. Mitt has made it no secret that he would embark on an endeavor to repeal Obamacare as soon as he took office. Removing the tax increases and crushing regulatory burden Obamacare would impose would certainly help job growth, but to promote the maximum positive impact on upward mobility, Romney would need to follow up Obamacare repeal with reform of his own.

Simply enabling states to “craft their own solutions” represents a marked improvement over the status quo, but he could take it one step further by moving toward a system that detaches healthcare from employer-based coverage. Empowering individuals to take their insurance plans from one job to another and especially to self-employment would make MASSIVE progress on one of the most important issues of the day: income growth. After all, studies have shown that people usually obtain the greatest raises when they accept promotions at different companies, but many hesitate to take the leap due to benefit-based concerns. Healthcare reform like that described above, along with the aforementioned corporate tax reform and improved attitude toward the business community would represent some of the most powerful measures Washington has taken to promote income growth and upward mobility in years. We must not underestimate the magnitude of this proposition, not merely from a political standpoint, but also from a personal perspective, as it would make a real, noticeable impact on millions of everyday lives.

After tackling these issues, President Romney could then move onto those that would involve the greatest across-the-aisle cooperation and, thus, the most challenging paths forward: personal income tax reform and entitlement reform. As Gov. Romney so compellingly argued in his first debate with Pres. Obama, reforming the personal income tax code would have a stimulative effect on the greatest job creators in our economy: small businesses.

And entitlement reform, while having less of an immediate effect on the employment picture, would still help, as it would supply another positive signal to the financial community – that taxes will not skyrocket in the future to chase runaway entitlement spending, and that America’s political leaders can break the gridlock on key issues. However, this would obviously involve extraordinary negotiation, effort, and political capital. As a result, a Pres. Romney should focus on it after addressing the other topics cited above, since those reforms and the subsequent boosts to the economy would create a proverbial political wind at his back and maximize his ability to secure public support of his positions.

Of course, while Mitt’s background of executive experience and cooperation with Democratic legislatures act as key components of his “unique qualifications”, we mustn’t discount the helping hand his running mate would play, as well. The influence and contacts Paul Ryan has built over his 13 years in the House would prove instrumental in stewarding Pres. Romney’s agenda through Congress.

In the end, Mitt Romney’s experience and positions on the issues do, indeed, render him uniquely qualified to provide the leadership and reform necessary to confront the matters most salient to the American public: economic revitalization, income growth, and upward mobility.

by @ 1:44 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Campaign Issues, Deficit, Economy, Mitt Romney, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

October 18, 2012

Great Challenges Bring Great Opportunity

Many within and outside the Republican Party have commented on the intimidating situation Mitt Romney would inherit (yes, I went ahead and used one of President Obama’s favorite words) if he won this election. The remarks usually fall along the following lines: “Romney will have to make so many tough and unpopular decisions to fix the economy and deficit that he won’t win a second term.”

While I certainly agree with the assessment of the situation facing the tenant of the Oval Office come January 20th, I’ll add a bit of a caveat to the forecasting of the 2016 election: because a President Romney would encounter such difficult circumstances, and because American voters understand this, a political windfall that would bear fruit for the Republican Party for years would potentially lie at his disposal.

After enduring almost four years of a near-collapse and painfully weak “recovery”, Americans have for the most part fully internalized the economic circumstances facing our elected officials. Therefore, they wouldn’t expect immediate results from a President Romney. In fact, many probably doubt he could even make a significant difference. The frequent references to a “new normal” by countless talking heads only compounds these beliefs. In effect, low expectations have become baked into the cake.

But, as we saw after the first general election debate, low expectations can become a tremendous advantage. If the economy started to produce strong job growth by the second or third year of a Romney administration, if the deficit finally began to shrink, and if Romney could persuasively argue that his actions contributed to these improvements, he’d enjoy a massive swell in public opinion, possibly to the extent that he’d cruise to a landslide re-election.

If this became reality, it could reverberate throughout the American political landscape for years. Bill Clinton showed just how effectively a president can re-brand his party with the right policies, messaging, and results, when he changed the public’s perception of Democrats from heirs to the Vietnam-protesting counterculture to champions of the middle class, siphoning off millions of votes from suburbanites and college students in the process. Under the right circumstances, Romney could re-brand the GOP as the “competence” party that gets things done on the big issues of the day (especially if he can spearhead and sign entitlement reform) and Democrats as ideologues out of touch with mathematical reality.

Obviously, A LOT would have to fall into place for all of this to happen, but the possibilities are very real.

July 23, 2012

New Film About America’s Bubble Economy

There is a new film coming out about America’s bubble economy and the dangerous policies our country is pursuing.  The Bubble (www.TheBubbleFilm.com) is based off the New York Times Bestseller “Meltdown” by Tom Woods and has an all star cast.  The film features interviews with Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, Jim Rogers, Jim Grant, Doug Casey, Marc Faber and 10 others taking a free market look at The Panic of 2008, what America is facing and the solutions we should pursue.

The trailer for the film premiered at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas last week followed by a panel with Peter Schiff, David Tice, Gene Epstein, Doug Casey and Tom Woods.  Over 1,500 people attended that event and the response was overwhelmingly positive.  It seems that the film is coming out at a perfect time – a time when Americans are concerned about the economy and want real answers about what is going on.

The full feature length documentary will be out this fall with a premiere in New York City followed by a nationwide release soon after.  In the meantime, raw footage from several of the interviews is available at www.thebubblefilm.com.


by @ 8:55 am. Filed under Spending

May 31, 2012

The Coalition to Reduce Spending

The 2012 election is about far more than just the single office of the presidency.  The fate of our nation will be shaped more so by the hundreds of congressmen, the thousands of state legislators and other local office holders, as well as all the bills and ballot issues that will be voted up or down in November.  At the forefront of the effort to win the battle against the unsustainable national debt is a new organization called The Coalition to Reduce Spending.  There is a bit of political nepotism in my post here, as the group is founded and run by my friend and colleague Jonathan Bydlak (finance director for Ron Paul 2008 and Gary Johnson 2012), but the Coalition to Reduce Spending has the resources and the ground game to make a major difference.  You can become a part of the effort to get this country serious about tackling the national debt, by signing up at their website, and following their progress on Facebook and Twitter.

by @ 7:00 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Deficit, Spending

May 23, 2012

Thomas Massie Wins KY-4 GOP Nomination

If you haven’t heard of Thomas Massie yet, you should. He is now the Republican nominee for U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky’s fourth district. As Lewis County judge-executive, he paid for his first three year’s salary entirely by cutting waste from other parts of the budget. Endorsed by the Club for Growth, Massie opposes all bailouts and government “stimulus” bills, and supports tax reform, entitlement reform, and eliminating the Department of Education. The outgoing Congressman Geoff Davis has enjoyed a decade-long reign as a popular incumbent, but KY-4 is by no means a completely safe seat. It was represented by a Democrat as recently as 2004. If there’s a congressional candidate you send a few dollars to this season, consider helping out Massie, who certainly represents a bright future for the GOP.

by @ 3:54 am. Filed under 2012 Misc., Conservatism, Fundraising, Republican Party, Spending

May 18, 2012

Interview with Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz

Last evening conservative favorite Ted Cruz, the insurgent candidate in the Republican Texas Senate Primary who is closing the gap as we hit less than two weeks from primary voting day, gave me 15 minutes of his time for a few questions about taxes, term limits, immigration and Sarah Palin’s endorsement. Below is our conversation, which was originally posted at HotAir.com

 

Dustin Siggins (DS): 12 days out, you’re closing in the polls, Sarah Palin endorsed you…what are your thoughts on how things are going?

Ted Cruz (TC): The campaign is going extraordinarily well. The momentum is off the charts. Sarah Palin endorsed us last week  and we had a thousand contributions come in within 48 hours. We have conservatives of all stripes backing us: grassroots leaders, Republican women – everyone is coalescing behind our campaign.

DS: In a recent interview with Kathleen McKinley at Smart Girl Nation (transcript posted at RightWingNews.com), you said you opposed Democratic amnesty proposals as well as “Democrat-lite” proposals from Republicans. Can you elaborate upon this a bit?

TC: We have a crisis on illegal immigration. Neither party is serious about stopping it. I strongly oppose illegal immigration. I categorically oppose amnesty. I support legal immigrants who come here supporting the American Dream.

I come from the perspective of someone who spent much of my adult life in law enforcement. In a post-9/11 world, it is absolutely unacceptable that we don’t know who comes over our borders. We need to do everything humanly possible to secure the borders. Electronic surveillance, a wall, helicopters and, most importantly, boots on the ground. If elected, the first thing I will do is triple the U.S. Border Patrol.

We should celebrate legal immigrants. No matter the party or the politician, I oppose amnesty. Amnesty is contrary to the rule of law and is unfair to legal immigrants who wait years or decades to come here legally.

When it comes to illegal immigration, conservatives often feel like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football. The 1986 amnesty was allegedly to secure borders in exchange for amnesty, but the borders were never secured. We should not fall for that again.

A better immigration system is both possible and simple. First, we enforce the law – securing the borders will stop the inflow. Second, put in place a strong E-Verify program. The lack of jobs will dry up the magnet for being here and illegal immigrants will leave. America MUST remain a nation of the rule of law, and non-enforcement of illegal immigration undermines that.

DS: What is your reaction to the Senate budget battles this week, especially with four GOP budgets being voted against by four GOP Senators, one of whom was Dean Heller (R-NV)?

Last year, this nation hit two major marks: first, our credit rating was downgraded. Second, our national debt exceeded GDP. We are on the path to Greece, and the Senate and President Obama aren’t doing anything about it. The fact is that the Obama budget got zero votes in the Senate, there is no Senate Democratic budget…and Democrats don’t want to focus on the problem that is our national debt.

We have politicians in both parties who won’t stand up and get serious about cutting spending. What is critical in 2012 is electing strong, free market, constitutional conservatives. This is absolutely important. Right now we have six or seven strong conservatives in the Senate. If we can double that to a dozen or more, that would be a strong step towards balancing the budget.

There are only five truly strong fiscal conservatives in the Senate. They are Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Tom Coburn and Mike Lee. Not coincidentally, all five back me. All five have also said they are outnumbered by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. If we can get that number of strong fiscal conservatives up to 12 or 15, especially in leadership, I know the rest of the Republican Senators will follow them in the right direction.

DS: Your website says you support a flat income tax. Are there any credits or loopholes that should be kept in the code? Charitable donations and the mortgage interest deduction, for example?

TC: Those two should stay. They are necessary in order to get a flat tax enacted.

The current IRS code needs to be entirely revamped. It’s designed to keep politicians in power. Lobbyists go to career politicians to manipulate the tax code for special exemptions, and then career politicians say “Of course I’ll help you out. When I am finished doing that, can you please come to my fundraiser?” This breeds enormous power for elected officials and for lobbyists. I want politicians who say “No, build a better mousetrap and succeed in the marketplace instead of manipulating the tax code.”

DS: You’ve come out in support of term limits, specifically no more than three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate – the same term limits Senator Coburn has self-imposed. Will you  impose these limits upon yourself?

TC: I have pledged to help lead the fight to get that constitutional amendment passed – no more than three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate. This should be applied equally across the board. Unfortunately, the Senate shot down term limits with Republican support, much as it shot down an earmark ban with Republican support. Term limits are critical to getting career politicians out of D.C.

DS: To clarify, would you hold yourself to the aforementioned term limits if the Senate does not pass such a law?

TC: I have not pledged to unilaterally disarm. If all conservatives hold to term limits, and liberals don’t, we have a disadvantage. I will fight to make term limits apply equally across the board.

by @ 9:58 am. Filed under 2012 Misc., Spending

April 27, 2012

The Unserious Nature of Washington, Exhibit A: The Student Loan Debate

Over the last week, President Obama made a series of speeches at colleges around the country in which he decried the coming rise of student loan interest rates on July 1. Obama, joined by Mitt RomneySenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  and House Republicans, has said he refuses to let rates rise from 3.4% to 6.8%. Following his lead, as Morgen Richmond noted yesterday, Democrats immediately jumped on the chance to raise taxes on upper earners. Republicans, meanwhile, pushed a bill through the House today that takes $5.9 billion from what Speaker Boehner called an “ObamaCare slush fund” to pay for the extension.

Unwittingly, this student loan debate highlights the debacle that is politics in Washington. To wit:

1. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the House legislation was part of the “war on women” because it took from a women’s health program. I must say, she’s good at staying on message. Good at solving the nation’s problems, or leading her caucus to do so? Not so much.

2. Pelosi also denounced “robbing from Paula to pay Peter.” This from the same women who wants to tax the wealthy because they are wealthy. And while I actually agree with her that we should get rid of oil subsidies, tax credits, etc., a) I support eliminating all such subsidies and credits, not just for companies I personally or professionally dislike, and b) Pelosi is being intellectually dishonest in pretending many of the oil industry’s “subsidies” are specifically targeted to them. Jazz Shaw nicely pointed this out last year.

3. Much like they did with the payroll tax holiday extension, Republicans let themselves get suckered into a media game. The fact is that federal subsidies to higher education institutions and/or students increase the tuition students pay, and helps increase the size of the college bubble that is likely to come crashing down soon. Republicans would better serve the public in highlighting this fact instead of playing to the voters’ lack of economic knowledge.

4. The Republican National Committee has stepped up to challenge Obama’s travels to various states under the auspices of “official events,” despite the obvious campaign style and intention of the tour. (For the record, I am aware that President Bush did the same thing. That was just as wrong.) However, the fact that it took ABC News’ Jake Tapper to really bring this issue to the public’s attention says a lot about the willingness of Congress to do its duty and challenge the President on this and other issues of the public trust and corruption, since the RNC’s challenge has no actual legislative power or authority.

5. How many more “temporary” patches to subsidies, tax breaks, pay cuts and like can the federal government afford? The Alternative Minimum Tax, the Bush tax policies, the Doc Fix, the payroll tax holiday, etc. have all been temporarily patched to prevent angering this constituency or that demographic. Once again, elections take priority over effective policy on taxes, spending and other critical issues.

As the two parties head into formal election mode – Romney is about to be the GOP nominee for President, and President Obama just announced his first “official” campaign rally will be May 5 – the voters should note the unserious nature of Washington and give a bipartisan reminder in November that we want real solutions. After all, there are 1.2 million abortions annually in this country. We have the federal government violating the First Amendment with various mandates. Debt is skyrocketing, the economy stinks, Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt fast, we refuse to solve our immigration problems, major tax hikes are on the horizon and we’re still sacrificing troops for Karzai despite no discernible national interest…and the primary focus of Washington is on student loans.

Of course, the people may not want real solutions. In that case, I’d say it’s time to start packing; America’s decline may soon be steepening.

[Originally posted at Hot Air's Green Room]

 

Dustin Siggins is an associate producer with The Laura Ingraham Show and co-author with William Beach of The Heritage Foundation on a forthcoming book about the national debt. The opinions expressed are his own.

by @ 3:23 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Deficit, Democrats, Spending

April 1, 2012

The Path to Prosperity Beats the Alternatives

The Bipartisan Policy Center has produced a nifty graph comparing Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity to the plans prepared by Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici, Simpson-Bowles, House Democrats, President Obama, and the BPC itself (to provide a baseline). The results are striking:

And to top it off, these numbers use the CBO’s pessimistic growth assumptions.

Of course, some have attacked the Path to Prosperity from the right, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough or balance the budget quickly enough. However, we must remember that Chairman Ryan incorporated a keen understanding of political reality when he compiled the plan. When we consider this, the merits of the Path look all the more impressive.

by @ 1:57 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Deficit, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

March 7, 2012

Where’s the Focus on Obama’s Budget?

Since last summer, the various GOP primary opponents have offered a myriad of tax and budget proposals. Different pundits, think tanks, campaigns and others have come up with their own numbers on the budget-balancing sincerity of all of the GOP candidates, and this has caused many of the candidates to spend a vast amount of time, ink and money defending (or in the case of Romney, expanding and then semi-retreating from) their respective plans. However, I think the candidates have erred in doing so. Rather than spend time on their own flawed proposals (with the exception of Ron Paul, whose cuts are so necessarily massive the budget would actually balance, and quickly), the candidates should focus on a four-prong attack on President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal, which is far worse than any of the candidates’ plans.

The first attack point should hit the economic growth projections of the President. I used this attack last evening in a post on the Reason Foundation blog:

[T]he President’s FY 2013 budget assumes 3 percent “Real GDP” growth for 2013 and “around 4 percent annually” in 2014. This projection is far greater than the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) expectations, which as of January 31, 2012 were that: “real GDP [will grow] by 2.0 percent this year and 1.1 percent next year [2013].”

The wish-based estimation by the President is consistent with the inaccurate projections in the President’s FY 2012 budget, which said 2011 would have economic growth of 3.1 percent and 2012 would grow at 4 percent. The CBO, which said in 2011 that growth in 2011 would be 2.7 percent and 2012 will be 3.1 percent, was far closer to the actual GDP growth of 1.7 percent in 2011, as currently calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Since the President’s proposal was intended as an election budget instead of a true starting point on the upcoming budget debates of FY 2013, I think it’s safe to assume CBO is going to continue being more accurate when it comes to economic growth expectations than the White House.

The second point of attack should focus on the President’s tax hikes, both those explicitly stated and manipulatively unstated. In his proposed FY 2013 budget, the President claims the intention of enacting tax increases of $1.561 trillion over the next ten years. However, as pointed out by Curtis Dubay of The Heritage Foundation, the President claims credit for extending a number of current tax policies…but in doing so he claims he is cutting taxes. Clearly, extending current policy (in this case, the Bush-era tax rates for those making less than $250,000 annually) cannot be considered a new tax cut. Between this misleading statement and actual tax increases Dubay found, President Obama’s tax increases are far closer to $2 trillion than $1.6 trillion.

Third, of the $4 trillion in deficit “cuts” over the next ten years, over a majority consist of those mandated in the Budget Control Act and winding down military actions Iraq and Afghanistan (for the record, the latter is a bipartisan trick, used by both parties in the last three years alone). As noted here:

Similarly, the President says in his budget message, “[T]his budget will cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.” But that includes $2 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted into current law under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and other measures last year. The President can’t claim savings for his new budget that were already enacted into law last year.

Moreover, the President is taking credit here for the spending cuts Tea Party Republicans forced on him to get his debt ceiling increase…over his demand for a “clean” debt limit increase. President Obama rhetorically blowtorched the Republicans for forcing him to the wall over the debt limit increase to get those spending cuts, and continues to do so. But in his budget message, he wants to take credit for those results.

The President also includes in his supposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction another trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those funds were never requested and were never going to be spent…

The President’s budget also doesn’t include over $300 billion in additional spending just enacted in the Medicare “doc-fix”…But the budget does include $300 billion in assumed debt interest savings from all of these supposed deficit reductions in the budget that are not new deficit reductions.

That leaves an actual net deficit reduction proposed in this budget of $400 billion over 10 years, only about 10% of what Obama claims, and less than 5% of the additional deficits and debt that would otherwise result over the next 10 years.

The fourth attack is a simple one: Does the President actually think a tax hike of nearly $2 trillion is in any way plausible, given the current makeup of the House and Senate, especially in a year when Senate Democrats are desperate to keep their majority? (To those who are opposed to the candidacy of Ron Paul, yes, I am aware that his proposed cuts are unrealistic as well. However, he is not the President of the United States, and therefore can propose what he wants as opposed to what can pass into law.)

The fact is that most of the remaining candidates’ tax and budget plans nibble at the edges of our vast tax and spending problems – again, with the exception of Paul. Rather than let an Obama-friendly media dictate the course of the economic and spending debates, the candidates should relentlessly and aggressively note the obvious: “The President put forth a budget that fudges the numbers, hides the facts and is a campaign document instead of a governing proposal. This is irresponsible, and I can do better. “

by @ 7:49 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Spending

February 25, 2012

A Libertarian Republican’s Thoughts on Romney-Paul 2012

Since it became increasingly clear, following my candidate (and employer) Gary Johnson’s decision to drop out and run third party, and my second choice Ron Paul’s failure to gain traction after his very-respectable-but-just-not-energizing-enough finishes in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, that a libertarian would not be representing the Republican Party in the general election, my sense of disappointment, frustration, and burn-out has compelled me to take something of a slight break from politics for a month or two. (I’m sure you were all enormously grieved by my absence.) A lot of libertarians in the GOP have been, and are currently, going through this phase right now. One thing that may be snapping a lot of us out of our funk, however, is the chilling surge in popularity of Rick Santorum–quite possibly one of the most overtly anti-libertarian candidates ever to come within reach of the GOP presidential nomination.
(more…)

January 12, 2012

Leading by Example

Today, Politico reported that Sen. Rand Paul took the initiative to demonstrate his personal commitment to cutting government spending:

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul is making good on his promise to cut federal spending. The Kentucky Republican and tea-party favorite said Thursday he’s returning $500,000 to the U.S. Treasury — money from his operating budget that his office never spent.

The half million dollars represents about 16 percent of Paul’s annual budget, and he contends no senator has returned as much to taxpayers.

Obviously, $500,000 amounts to a drop in the bucket. Still, with all the broken promises and reneged commitments we see from our elected officials, it feels refreshing to see one quite literally put his money where his mouth is.

by @ 4:42 pm. Filed under Deficit, Misc., Spending

November 25, 2011

Why America needs a libertarian President

The first bubble I ever darkened on an American electoral ballot was that of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney for President and Vice President in 2004.  Being an 18-year-old young conservative, the choice was clear: smaller, more honest government with Bush, versus what would inevitably be scandalous, big government with John Kerry.

Over the next four years, I would watch as the man for whom I had cast my first vote expanded the federal government to its largest size in history, ramped up government spending to its greatest volume in history, engaged in some of the most radical and opaque redistributions of wealth ever undertaken by an American president, and began effectively nationalizing vast swaths of the private economy.

The effects of these actions were a housing bust that never corrected, a recession that turned into a lumbering depression, a dimming and slowing American economy, a new culture of corporatism and dependency, and a social order that has begun unraveling into civil unrest.

Needless to say, I and many others who had initially supported George W. Bush have been seriously disillusioned.  No longer do I (and the majority of grassroots conservatives) merely take it for granted that the individual with the (R) adjacent to their name will necessarily be preferable to the individual with the (D) adjacent to their name.  And it wasn’t just George W. Bush being one bad apple—the entire executive branch, Senate, and Congress, were awash with Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives.  We got government that was larger and more unsavory than anything Democrats had ever delivered us—unprecedented federal regulations on the education system, a huge expansion of Medicare entitlements, and a Great Society program for the entire Middle East under the guise of “protecting us from terrorism”.

I needn’t relate the terrifying numbers to you, which constitute the national debt, the tens of trillions more in unfunded liabilities, and the unfolding population shift that spells crisis for all the entitlement systems.  We have heard these numbers endlessly, and we are all well aware of them.

We are in a serious crisis, and the root of this crisis is a federal government that has stifled the ability of our once robust and well-oiled free market economy to provide for its participants.  The federal government has disoriented and impoverished the individuals comprising the free market slowly, bit by bit, over the course of many decades.  Each additional, little program has contributed a little bit more to the economic and fiscal disaster now upon us.  What the economy needs is not someone who will tinker with, and try to “fix,” all these thousands of poorly-functioning trinkets that, combined, are crushing us beneath their weight.  What the economy needs is someone who will simply throw all of this junk off of our backs entirely.

The charge typically thrown at those who advocate such a massive paring down of federal responsibilities is that we would be “throwing out” these things entirely.  Without federal student loans, we just won’t have college education anymore.  Without subsidies to the arts, we just won’t have any museums.  Without massive entitlement systems, we just won’t have health care in this country.  If the federal government doesn’t do it itself, it just won’t happen.

As conservatives, our immediate response should be, “Bull hockey.”  We know better than that.  We had all these things before the feds got involved in them, and their rate of improvement has either slowed or reversed since the feds got involved.

The biggest portion of federal weight on the private economy is of course not student loans and subsidies to the arts, but rather military spending and entitlement spending.  Once again, the charge of big government-supporters is that if the Pentagon isn’t expropriating and using the wealth we create, then we will be unsafe.  If Medicare and Social Security are not humming with a steady intake of taxpayers’ money, then retirees will waste away in the streets.  On so many other issues, we conservatives readily see and admit that government spending more money on a good or service does not equal a better good or service.  Shoveling more money into the Department of Education does not equal a better educational system, just as shoveling more money into the Department of Defense does not equal a better national defense.  We can and should see huge portions of the defense and entitlement budgets returned to private control.  For every dollar that we take away from a bureaucrat’s pocketbook and return to the individual who earned it, we see an increase in the prudence and ingenuity with which it is put to use.

We need a very, very big change—not only in the size of government, but in the entire attitude and culture that defines the citizenry’s relationship to government.  A President can only accomplish so much, which is why every President accomplishes far less than they promise.  This is why I feel it is so important to risk erring more on the side of small government and individual liberty.  A President who promises to eliminate three federal Cabinet departments will probably only eliminate one—and it will probably be eliminated by joining its staff and budget to other departments in such a way that no net decrease in spending occurs.  A President who promises to cut federal spending by 10% will probably only slow the increase in federal spending by about 10%.  If we really want to see even minor changes in the way the government operates, we need to elect someone who promises to cut federal spending by a full 40%, or someone who will submit a balanced budget to Congress in his or her first or second year in office.  There will be push-back from the legislative branch and other elements of the government, but we will be much farther on the road to a balanced federal budget and an economic recovery with a President who pushes the envelope a great deal and only makes half the progress they intend to, rather than a President who promises to push only a little bit past the status quo and ends up only maintaining the status quo (or worse).

Now is not the time for status quo moderation.  We cannot afford a “safe” (which is not truly safe anyway) presidential candidate that will merely get an “(R)” into the Oval Office without actually making a serious difference in federal spending and monetary policy.  It’s time to move past the red flag / blue flag game we so enjoy playing and actually get serious about changing this government from a huge, limitless one, to a limited, constitutionally constrained one.  Only a libertarian Republican can accomplish this.

If you want an America defined by personal responsibility, free market capitalism, and strong communities, then vote for Ron Paul or Gary Johnson in your state’s primary or caucus.  If you want an America that continues its slow, gravely slide into economic stagnation, uncontrolled government power, and civil strife, then vote for any of the other seven candidates with a great haircut, a perfectly-fitting suit, smooth oratory skills, and a milquetoast commitment to individual freedom and free markets.

September 27, 2011

Illinois: A Case Study in How NOT to Manage Budgets

A new report from the non-partisan Civic Foundation illustrates yet another example of how not to govern courtesy of my home state of Illinois:

Despite a major income tax increase, the state of Illinois is expected to end the budget year more than $8 billion in the red, according to a report set to be released Monday by a nonpartisan tax watchdog group.

The Civic Federation analysis found that while lawmakers cut spending for state agencies this year, the reductions were offset by higher pension costs and the growing cost of paying back years of increased borrowing to keep Illinois afloat.

…”What we’re seeing is that even after a considerable tax increase and a commitment by the Illinois General Assembly to set expenditures based on revenues, because of the manipulations to under fund Medicaid and the growing debt service and pension contribution costs, the state remains in an unstable and unsustainable fiscal situation,” said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation president.

…Despite the bleak picture, Msall said there was a silver lining this year — lawmakers made the annual pension payment without borrowing money. But Msall said that payment, roughly $4 billion, ate up most of the extra money the January tax increase brought into the state, and the pension systems remain severely underfunded.

So, let’s recap: Illinois elected officials, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, argue in favor of a tax increase as a means to address the state’s mountains of unfunded pension liabilities. The hikes pass, and, lo and behold, while they do generate some additional revenue (aside from making the state even less competitive for businesses), the structural deficit has hardly changed!

If this should sound familiar, that’s because it is. The Illinois government and budget offer plenty of lessons we can apply on a national scale. Indeed, you can substitute “entitlement” for “pension”, “country” for “state”, and “trillion[s] for billion[s]” and have almost the same overall scenario. This provides us with a key insight: that we should look to spending restraint (read: entitlement reform), not tax increases, as the primary means to address our fiscal woes.

As the Land of Lincoln has showed us, you cannot erase red ink without focusing on the true driver of budget gaps. Public pensions act as that for Illinois; for the federal government, entitlements do.

by @ 7:19 pm. Filed under Deficit, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

September 15, 2011

Bipartisan Group of Senators Urges Super Committee to Go Big

Here’s an interesting item in the blogosphere this afternoon concerning the Congressional Debt Panel and its deliberations:

A bipartisan group of 36 senators urged the joint committee on deficit reduction Thursday to exceed its legal mandate and cut the deficit by as much as $4 trillion by embracing tax reform and entitlement cuts.

The group was led by Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Mark Warner (Va.), members of the Gang of Six, a group of senators who worked for months on deficit reduction ideas and unveiled a similar proposal in the days just before Congress accepted the debt deal with much more modest goals early in August.

The group’s message to the panel, dubbed the “supercommittee,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D): “Be brave, be bold, go big.”

Let’s hope this leads to something.  Read the full story here.

 

by @ 2:29 pm. Filed under Deficit, Misc., Spending

September 8, 2011

The Debt-Paying Generation Has the Most to Lose If America Doesn’t Start Creating Jobs

Yesterday, Conserative Home published an op-ed by former Race42012 contributor Dustin Siggins and me.  I initially posted this yesterday but then figured it made much more sense to wait until today, so we had time to discuss and process last night’s debate.  Without further ado:

With President Obama making a major speech about jobs this week, and the House GOP, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman putting forth their own plans in response, it appears employment will finally be on the forefront of the public debate. This year’s often vitriol-filled discussions of the United States’ bleak fiscal future, despite their intensive media coverage, have overlooked a stark reality: millions of Americans still sit out of work. Paul Krugman gets a rare cheer for a recent column in which he hammered Washington for replacing leadership with gamesmanship.

Let’s be clear: the national debt is the greatest issue facing America. However, to achieve long-lasting success, any plan to balance the budget must encourage job growth. A growing economy will do a great deal to shrink the deficit as it increases tax revenues, and it will enable more Americans to provide for themselves, control their own financial destinies and avoid government dependency. This especially matters to the 115 million Americans aged 5-30, who will become the Debt-Paying Generation (DPG) if our national debt continues to skyrocket.

With some ideas already on the table, and others still being hammered into actual plans, here are some proposals our leadership and potential leaders should embrace:

  • Eliminate all tax loopholes and simplify the tax structure. Americans spent 6.1 billion hours and over $160 billion (equivalent to about 40 hours and over $1,000 per working American) complying with just the personal and corporate income tax code in 2010. Certainly, under a flat tax or the FairTax, taxpayers could redeploy these resources in productive activities that would expand the economic pie and thus increase tax revenues. Furthermore, such reforms would eliminate or at least shrink the IRS, taking up to a $13 billion dollar bite out of the deficit.
  • Eliminate all subsidies from the government to private companies. The energy industries, for example, received direct subsidies of $37.2 billion in 2010, all at the expense of the American taxpayer— and some at the expense of the poor in this and other countries. Total corporate welfare totaled $92 billion in 2009. These and other subsidies only distort markets, essentially taking productive dollars out of the private sector and redistributing them at the whims of politicians and government bureaucrats.
  • Utilize all of America’s energy resources without prejudice. Essentially, get the government out of the way and let each form of energy- from nuclear to oil to hydro to ethanol- stand on its own merits. This will create hundreds of thousands of new high-skill, well-paying, long-lasting jobs in the nuclear and oil industries alone. Additionally, allowing equal competition would create a smaller regulatory bureaucracy in Washington, and eliminate many of the above-mentioned subsidies. This would save the taxpayers money and increase tax revenues, creating a two-fold deficit reduction effect.
  • Cut regulations with an axe. The size of the Federal Register, the official record of federal regulations, swelled to nearly 80,000 pages during the Bush administration. To name but a few egregious current examples:
  1. The infamous light bulb law, which effectively bans standard incandescent bulbs, has already begun to drive jobs and capital overseas. It also restricts the choices free, law-abiding Americans can make regarding their energy options.
  2. According to a 30-year veteran of business ownership interviewed for this piece, the minimum wage is a significant job-killer. Instead of helping low-skill workers, it actually crowds them out of the job market by making their cost to an employer more expensive than the benefit to an employer.
  3. “Richard Gale,” a general contractor and member of the Debt-Paying Generation, told us a series of 2010 EPA lead regulations impose significant costs on his business. Formal estimates of the impact on businesses vary, but according to “Richard,” the “cost of training, licensing, lead testing and extensive precautionary measures make the cost of contracting services prohibitive to the customer,” and thus deprive “Richard” of approximately $20,000 in lost annual revenue.
  4. Myriad rules and restrictions on energy projects caused a natural gas pipeline, which stretches from Opal, Wyoming to Malin, Oregon, to finish four months late and 23% over budget.

Ours is the longest-lasting recession in several generations, and it is likely to continue for some time— despite the influx of government debt over the last 4 years. At the current pace of job creation vs. debt creation, the Debt-Paying Generation is in serious trouble: according to August 2010 Bureau of Labor Studies statistics, 16-24 year olds have an unemployment rate of over 20%. An entire subsection of young people is losing the opportunities necessary to garner job skills, grow their retirement savings and purchase their first home. And while the spending cuts we recommend won’t balance the budget, they represent a serious down payment that will grant politicians a little more time to tackle the “big four” expenses of our federal government: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and national defense.

It heartens us to see influential public figures finally returning their collective focus to unemployment. Now, we challenge them to take matters one step further and offer credible proposals on how to get America back on the path to recovery.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Let us know what you think!

by @ 10:00 am. Filed under Deficit, Misc., R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

August 24, 2011

Obama Is Irresponsible and Unpatriotic

When Obama took office, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion.

Since then, it has risen to $14.6 trillion.

That is irresponsible and unpatriotic of the President. But don’t just take my word for it…
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kuTG19Cu_Q[/youtube]

And to top it off, Obama complained about Bush adding $4 trillion in debt over eight years. Our current commander-in-chief has achieved that feat in less than half the time!

We all know how much Obama loves calling the actions of his administration “unprecedented”. Well, he can add this to the list.

by @ 9:48 pm. Filed under Barack Obama, Deficit, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

August 10, 2011

Breaking — GOP Appointments to “Super” Select Committee

Per The Corner:

Today we learn the Republican picks in both the House and the Senate. Boehner is sending Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.). Mitch McConnell is sending Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), and Rob Portman (R., Ohio).

My two-bit reaction to those picks: The only real tea-party type to make it onto the committee is Toomey. Hensarling and Kyl are solid conservatives but also party leadership and Washington pros who know how the game is played. Kyl has somewhat of a deal-maker reputation and is retiring . . . . Camp and Upton are the House’s chief appropriator Ways and Means (which handles tax policy and entitlements) and Energy and Commerce chairs, respectively. The biggest wonk among the picks is Rob Portman, a former U.S. Trade Representative and OMB Director. He’s also been discussed as a future presidential candidate, so maybe he has the most to lose as well.

Read the rest here.

by @ 12:18 pm. Filed under Misc., Spending

August 5, 2011

My Take on the S&P Downgrading

In case you haven’t heard, Standard & Poor’s just announced that they will downgrade the U.S.’s credit rating:

S&P dropped the ranking one level to AA+, after warning on July 14 that it would reduce the rating in the absence of a “credible” plan to lower deficits even if the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit was lifted. The U.S. was awarded the top credit ranking by New York-based S&P in 1941. It kept the outlook at “negative” amid the failure to end Bush-era tax cuts.

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics,” S&P said in a statement today.

…S&P said it may lower the long-term rating to AA within the next two years if spending reductions are lower than agreed to, interest rates rise or “new fiscal pressures” during the period result in higher general government debt.

Well, we can’t act surprised. Ratings agencies have warned us for years that our elected officials needed to enact structural entitlement reform to maintain top-quality credit. One can’t help but assume that the Obama administration convinced S&P to wait on making the decision official until the markets closed today.

In a shameless abdication of reality, the media has already begun attempts to lay the blame on the Republican Party or the ratings agencies themselves. Just look at some of these headlines: “Is the U.S. Credit Rating a Victim of GOP Sabotage?” (written by none other than Yahoo! Finance’s economics editor) and “S&P Downgrades the U.S. – But Why?”

How will President Obama try to wriggle out from under this one? Sure, he can lean on his tried-and-true tactic of blaming the opposition party, but the fact remains that he has bowed to political considerations and avoided entitlement reform (other than adding an additional entitlement, of course…) as much as possible, in an attempt to force the GOP to “make the first move” and thus create more fodder for the negative attacks he vowed to cast aside but has instead embraced.

Simply put, the President had his chance; with the stratospheric amount of goodwill he carried when he entered office, he could have harnessed the opportunity to advocate true entitlement and tax reform. However, he passed. Instead, he opted to pour his political capital into an ill-begotten “stimulus” plan that did more to safeguard public union jobs than it did to fund the infrastructure projects Democrats so love, in addition to a frighteningly complex and opaque health care bill.

Try as he might, I can’t see how anybody other than hardcore Democratic partisans and the lowest of the low-information voters can let Obama slide on this. The problem didn’t start with Obama, nor with George W. Bush (although both did their part to contribute), but he sure didn’t do anything to help.

by @ 10:21 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Barack Obama, Deficit, Democrats, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

August 2, 2011

Poll Watch: CNN/ORC Debt Ceiling Survey

CNN/ORC Debt Ceiling Survey

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?

  • Approve 45% (45%) [48%] {54%}
  • Disapprove 52% (54%) [48%] {45%}
  • No opinion 2% (2%) [5%] {2%}

Note: Results in parenthesis taken July 18-20. Results in brackets taken June 3-7. Results in curly brackets taken May 24-26.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

  • Approve 14%
  • Disapprove 84%

As you may know, an agreement between Barack Obama and the Republicans and Democrats in Congress would raise the federal government’s debt ceiling through the year 2013 and make major cuts in
government spending over the next few years.

Based on what you have read or heard, do you approve or disapprove of that agreement?

  • Approve 44%
  • Disapprove 52%
  • No opinion

As you may know, the agreement would raise the debt ceiling through the year 2013. Regardless of
how you feel about the overall agreement, do you approve or disapprove of raising the debt ceiling
at this time?

  • Approve 48%
  • Disapprove 51%
  • No opinion

As you may know, the agreement would cut about one trillion dollars in government spending over
the next ten years with provisions to make additional spending cuts in the future. Regardless of how you feel about the overall agreement, do you approve or disapprove of the cuts in government
spending included in the debt ceiling agreement?

  • Approve 65%
  • Disapprove 30%
  • No opinion 4%

And as you may know, the agreement does not include any tax increases for business or higher-income Americans. Regardless of how you feel about the overall agreement, do you approve or disapprove of the fact that the debt ceiling agreement does not include tax increases for those
groups?

  • Approve 40%
  • Disapprove 60%

Do you think that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday would create a crisis for the United
States, major problems, minor problems, or no problems at all?

  • Crisis 14%
  • Major problems 38%
  • Minor problems 31%
  • No problems at all 15%

Who do you think is more responsible for the debt ceiling agreement? Do you think Barack Obama
and the Democrats in Congress are more responsible for that agreement, or do you think the Republicans in Congress are more responsible for that agreement?

  • Obama/Democrats in Congress 34%
  • Republicans in Congress 42%
  • Both equally 18%
  • Neither/no opinion 6%

Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the negotiations over the debt ceiling in Washington over the past few days.

    Barack Obama 46% approve/53% disapprove (-7%)
    The Republican leaders in Congress 30% approve/68% disapprove (-38%)
    The Democratic leaders in Congress 35% approve/63% disapprove (-28%)

Interviews with 860 adult Americans conducted by telephone on August 1, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%

A few follow-up points:

1. Ouch. These numbers certainly don’t look good for Republicans. Apparently, the majority of the public views our Republican leaders’ performance as childish, unreasonable, and selfish (maximizing political gain at the expense of “reasonable compromise”). Prepare to see the Democrats paint their Republican counterparts with this brush well into the future.

2. After seeing this, the decision of all the Republican presidential candidates except Jon Huntsman to oppose the deal make more sense (at least from a political standpoint).

3. This poll gives the Dems even more ammo to wax poetic about the need for a “balanced approach”, filled with “shared sacrifice” and “millionaire and billionaire corporate jet owners paying their fair share” in future deals. In fact, we’ll probably hear the words “balanced approach” so often from Democratic leaders, they might as well tattoo them on their foreheads.

By: TwitterButtons.com
By TwitterButtons.com

August 1, 2011

House Passes Debt-Ceiling Deal

As was expected, the House of Representatives passed the debt-ceiling deal tonight by a margin of 269-161. Democrats split their vote exactly evenly 95-95 while Republicans voted 174-66 in favor of the bill. As Politico points out, all this talk of uber-radical freshmen turns out to be more than a little spin. You can see how your Representative voted here.

However, the most dramatic moment of the night was when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from an attempted assassination, made her way to the floor and cast her first vote since January. As you might guess, the returning Congresswoman was met by an emotional, emphatic and overwhelming response. I defy anyone to not feel a small lump in your throat or a tear in your eye at this one.

by @ 9:40 pm. Filed under Deficit, Misc., Spending

Just a Reminder…

Sorry to spoil the President’s victory lap and throw some cold water on his fire, but the issue of the day – the economy – still looms large:

Manufacturers had their weakest growth in two years in July, a sign that the economy could weaken this summer.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Monday that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 50.9 percent in July from 55.3 percent in June. The reading was the lowest since July 2009 — one month after the recession officially ended.

…The disappointing report on manufacturing is the first major reading on how the economy performed in July. It suggests the dismal economic growth in the first half of the year could extend into the July-September quarter.

…The economy expanded at a dismal 1.3 percent annual rate in the April-June period after an even worse 0.4 percent increase in the first three months of the year, the government said Friday.

…The index fell in May to 53.5 from April’s reading of 60.4. That was the sharpest one-month drop since 1984.

Employers have responded by pulling back on hiring. The economy added just 18,000 net jobs in June, the fewest in nine months, and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent. Hiring by manufacturers was nearly flat in the April-June period.

Of course, when the economy continues to sputter into 2012, Obama will most likely suggest that the spending cuts contained in the debt ceiling/deficit agreement contributed to the malaise.

Typical of Keynesians, the President wants to have his cake and eat it, too; he stumps for increased government spending to end the recession, calls for even more when these measures fail to have their desired effects, and then rails against the massive federal deficit largely caused, of course, by spending.

When it comes down to it and people challenge Kenynesians on why their policy prescriptions rarely, if ever, achieve their expected growth effects, they often take the easy way out and argue that they simply didn’t go far enough.

By: TwitterButtons.com
By TwitterButtons.com

by @ 8:31 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Barack Obama, Deficit, Democrats, R4'12 Essential Reads, Spending

July 29, 2011

Debt Ceiling Debate Open Thread

Throwing this up here so we don’t have to thread jack posts about Rick Perry or Tim Pawlenty in order to discuss this incredibly important issue…

As Jim Geraghty notes in his excellent daily Morning Jolt (if you aren’t signed up to receive it, go do it now) today, the debt ceiling debate is causing a remarkable Republican Civil War — even a Conservative Civil War. He likens it, amusingly and appropriately, to a comic book civil war:

No, this is messy, with lots of longtime allies and friends surprised to find themselves in opposition. This is the conservative version of the Marvel Civil War, a comic-book storyline in which all of the publisher’s most prominent heroes took sides on the institution of a “Super Hero Registration Act,” in which any person in the United States with superhuman abilities had to register with the federal government as a “human weapon of mass destruction,” reveal his true identity to the authorities, and undergo proper training. Those who signed also had the option of working for a government agency, earning a salary and benefits such as those earned by other American civil servants.

Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four supported the act. Captain America and Daredevil opposed it. And the storyline tossed away the familiar story of heroes’ fighting villains to the surprising, unpredictable, and incongruous sight of popular, noble heroes’ fighting other popular, noble heroes — each convinced that his view is the right one and the best way to protect his values.

Geraghty points out that this issue has pitted Rush Limbaugh vs. Thomas Sowell; Sean Hannity vs. Ann Coulter; and Pat Caddell vs. Hugh Hewitt. Count this blogger as surprised that I would ever see the day that Ann Coulter is trying to talk sense into Sean Hannity. I would also add to the list of brothers against brothers the Grover Norquist vs. Club For Growth showdown. This issue is dividing us like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime, especially not in my 13 years of following politics.

My general thoughts (and they are mine – in no way representative of this site or any other front page posters, who are welcome to post their own thoughts) are this: the Tea Party – and candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann – are on the verge of costing us every opportunity to win in 2012. After already defeating our chances at taking over the Senate in 2010 with self-inflicted wounds like Angle, O’Donnell, Miller, and Buck, the Tea Partiers seem hellbent on relegating our chances to retake the White House next year to the trash heap as well.

If these negotiations (whatever level they still exist) in the House and Senate fall apart, Obama will point to the Republican Party and say, “They did nothing. All I wanted was a balanced approach. A compromise. And all they wanted was to lift up their unrealistic extremist principles. And the horrible economy that resulted is their fault.”

The American people will buy it hook, line, and sinker, and Obama will be re-elected overwhelmingly in 2012. We will squander the number one line of attack we have against Obama going into 2012: the economy.

All because of… what, exactly? What is so horrid about the Boehner plan, which was crafted in the face of intense Democratic opposition in the Senate and the White House? It gives conservatives $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. That is huge. It also gives conservatives a vote on a balances budget amendment. Also huge. In return, it raises the debt ceiling by $1 trillion. Of particular note is what is not included in the bill: tax increases. Gone. Something that was unthinkable a few weeks ago.

And so this plan appears to me to be a fantastic compromise. But there are those, sadly, for whom “compromise” is a dirty word.

Refusing to back the Boehner plan because it doesn’t include a balanced budget amendment in the actual bill (like Tim Pawlenty) – is a ridiculous reason to hold the process hostage. You’ll get your BBA vote; the legislation requires it. Personally, I think holding a vote at a later date would be more beneficial anyhow, because it gives the American people time to work their Congressmen and women and express our desire for a BBA.

On the other hand, refusing to back the Boehner plan because it raises the debt ceiling at all (like Michele Bachmann) is pure, childish foolishness. The debt ceiling is going to be raised because the debt ceiling has to be raised. The adults in the room entered this debate understanding that, and determined to get what we could in return for raising the ceiling. The Boehner plan would most likely pass and be signed by Obama — yes, I realize that Obama said he would veto it, but let’s be honest: it’s the only serious plan being considered that could pass before August 2. Obama will be pressured into signing it, all the while declaring that he didn’t really like it but it was all Congress could give him. And when America hears about the Boehner plan being passed by Reid and signed by Obama, guess what they will hear? A Republican came up with a plan to end the stalemate. The Republicans saved the day with their plan, when the President never had one.

The fact that non-candidates like Sarah Palin threaten the new members of Congress over this, and that candidates such as Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann give them cover to oppose the Boehner plan, is simply despicable to me.

Reports are that many Republican Congressmen weren’t actually opposed to the bill last night, but that they simply requested a night to sleep on it and mull it over. I’m hoping against hope that they wake up this morning and realize there are two paths before them now: one, pass the Boehner plan and become the saviors of the debt talks; two, defeat the Boehner plan and essentially give Obama the White House for four more years. If the Boehner bill goes down in defeat, this Civil War may be one that the GOP does not recover from for a very long time.

by @ 8:57 am. Filed under Misc., Republican Party, Spending, Tea Parties

July 23, 2011

Club for Growth White Papers: Ron Paul

Following their analysis of fellow libertarian Republican Gov. Gary Johnson‘s record, the Club for Growth has released their Presidential White Papers on Congressman Ron Paul.

On taxes:

Ron Paul’s record on taxes is excellent, epitomized by his rallying cry for phasing out the IRS.

On spending:

Rep. Paul’s strong belief in limited government translated into an impressive list of votes against increased federal spending.

On trade:

While he supports free trade in theory, Rep. Paul chafes at the government’s role in the process, arguing that “We don’t need government agreements to have free trade.  We merely need to lower or eliminate taxes on the American people, without regard to what other nations do.”

On entitlements:

Rep. Paul’s limited-government philosophy found a particularly useful victim in the country’s entitlement programs.  Long in favor of reducing individual dependence on government, Rep. Paul was a vociferous opponent of Medicare Part D, calling it “firmly in keeping with the failed New Deal and Great Society programs of the utopian left.”

The Club for Growth summarizes Ron Paul thusly:

When it comes to limited government, there are few champions as steadfast and principled as Representative Ron Paul.  In the House of Representatives, he plays a very useful role constantly challenging the status quo and reminding his colleagues, despite their frequent indifference, that our Constitution was meant to limit the power of government.  On taxes, regulation, and political free speech his record is outstanding.  While his recent pork votes are troubling, the vast majority of his anti-spending votes reflect a longstanding desire to cut government down to size.

But Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform.  It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of Congress develop and propose idealized solutions.  But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect.  In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.

Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth, limited government policies.  But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency we might never get a chance to pursue the good too.

by @ 5:46 am. Filed under Ron Paul, Spending

July 21, 2011

Club for Growth White Papers: Gary Johnson

The Club for Growth continues their Presidential White Papers series with former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

On taxes:

Overall, Governor Johnson has an excellent record on taxes and consistently pushed for tax cuts despite having to deal with the liberal New Mexico Legislature.  Late in his second term, the Cato Institute found that Johnson was one of “four governors proposing or enacting the largest income tax rate cuts during their tenures.”

On spending:

Governor Johnson was one of the most anti-spending governors in New Mexico history.

On entitlements:

Governor Johnson has an excellent record of holding down the exploding growth of entitlement programs that now cripple state budgets.

On trade:

On trade, Johnson “generally supports NAFTA and other free-trade agreements,”  In a June 9 segment on John Stossel’s program on Fox Business, Johnson “debated” Obama impersonator Reggie Brown and said he wanted “no tariffs, no restrictions” on trade.

On education:

Governor Johnson has a consistent record of support for school choice and vouchers. Governor Johnson proposed giving every student in the entire state of New Mexico vouchers worth $3,500. . . . He supports eliminating the Department of Education and wants universal school choice.

Club for Growth summarizes Gov. Johnson thusly:

As John Stossel noted in a recent column, Gary Johnson “was missing from last week’s Republican presidential debate, and that’s too bad. He’s an announced candidate who was a two-term governor of New Mexico, and he makes a case for strongly limited government.”   Until or unless Johnson rises in the polls, people may not hear Johnson’s views in future Republican primary debates either.

With few exceptions, Governor Johnson’s tenure as New Mexico’s Governor and his public record since that time has revealed a generally pro-growth attitude. We are slightly concerned that, like fellow libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, that he may harbor anti-free trade sentiments. Governor Johnson deserves special praise for his consistent use of his veto-pen as Governor. We believe that Governor Johnson would most likely be a pro-growth President if elected.

This is a very fair assessment of Gov. Johnson’s record over his two terms in New Mexico.  Gov. Johnson does suffer from the same need to precisely explain his stance on trade legislation that Ron Paul suffers from.  While both Johnson and Paul are staunchly in favor of free trade, they both have fears that the thousands of pages of regulations that often go along with “free trade” bills might outweigh the benefits of the increased trade.  However, the Club for Growth notes that Gov. Johnson supports “no tariffs” or “restrictions on trade” whatsoever.

by @ 7:37 pm. Filed under Gary Johnson, Spending

July 9, 2011

Johnson Explains Job Creation to Obama

Many people say his undiluted limited government viewpoints make him a long shot candidate, but the man sure knows a thing or two about growing private sector jobs.  Gov. Gary Johnson sends President Obama a jobs plan so effectively simple that it fits on a postcard:

July 8, 2011, Sante Fe, NM – Presidential candidate Gary Johnson has responded to today’s dismal jobs report by sending the White House and Congress a plan for kick-starting private sector job creation – and the plan fits on a postcard.

Urging three immediate steps: Eliminating the corporate income tax; cutting spending immediately by $300 billion to offset the temporary loss of revenue; and directing that regulations and their implementation meet a standard of creating certainty for employers, Johnson said, “With a June unemployment rate of 9.2% and the fewest new jobs added in nine months,  it’s time for Washington to stop fiddling while Rome is burning.  We’ve tried government ‘stimulus’ – all it did was bankrupt us.  We’ve heard a lot of talk about cutting spending and reducing job-killing debt, but it hasn’t happened.  And now we’re watching as our leaders quibble over tax loopholes and long-term spending reductions that may or may not actually happen.

“Americans can’t wait any longer for the hand-wringing to produce results.  If Congress would do three simple things, and they could do them next week with straight up –or-down votes, I guarantee that we would see historic job creation almost overnight.

“First, instead of giving lip service to the need to reduce the corporate tax rate, just eliminate the tax altogether.  It is double taxation, and the current 35% rate is among the highest of producing nations.  Eliminate it, and instead of watching jobs go overseas, we would see the U.S. become the undisputed job magnet of the world.

“Recognizing that eliminating the corporate tax may cause a temporary loss of revenue and increase the deficit – at least on paper, Congress and the President can, next week, mandate immediate spending reductions of $300 billion.  If they need help figuring out how to do that, I’m available.  One place to start might be the wars and nation-building we don’t need to be fighting or doing.  Clearly, more cuts are needed, and as president, I would submit a balanced budget for 2013.

“Finally, one can argue that the greatest obstacle to job creation in the private sector is uncertainty.  From the dark cloud of health care reform and its costs to a host of other regulatory machinations coming from Washington, investors and employers have no clue what their costs are going to be or what the competitive landscape will be going forward.  The President has tremendous power to adjust or even stop regulatory policies and enforcement that are preventing job creation, and the Administration and Congress need to focus like a laser on doing so.

“The politicians in DC like to make us think these types of actions are complicated and difficult.  They aren’t.  Certainly, we need comprehensive tax reform, such as a FairTax.  And we need to cut trillions, not billions, from spending and balance the budget.  And not all regulations are evil.  But right now, today, we are in crisis.  These simple, straightforward, steps will do more to create millions of jobs in America – quickly – than all the stimulus and budget hand-wringing Washington has ever dreamed of.  And yes, if they wanted to, Congress and the President could do these three things next week.”

by @ 10:48 am. Filed under Barack Obama, Gary Johnson, Spending

July 7, 2011

Obama Leading Progress on Deficit Talks?

After an initially rocky start to the deficit negotiations between President Obama and Congress, chronicled by none other than this blog, the proceedings have reportedly taken a positive turn, with an unexpected figure – President Obama – leading (dare I say?) the charge:

President Obama said Thursday that a new round of deficit-reduction talks with congressional leaders from both parties was “very constructive” but produced no immediate breakthrough. He also announced that the negotiators will reconvene at the White House on Sunday to try to break a stalemate over raising the nation’s debt limit.

…The White House meeting, which began shortly after 11 a.m., came as Obama pressed lawmakers to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

…Before sitting down for the negotiations with Obama, Vice President Biden, top aides and Democratic lawmakers, House Republican leaders emphasized Thursday morning that progress toward as much as $2 trillion in deficit savings has already been made. But they also renewed their pledge to oppose the inclusion of any tax increases in a final deal.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), one of the participants in the talks, said Republicans will insist that spending cuts in a deficit-reduction package “exceed the amount of the debt ceiling increase.”

…In private talks with the White House, Boehner has discussed various options for tax policy. One idea under discussion, according to aides in both parties, is a proposal to jump-start a thorough rewrite of the tax code.

Under that scenario, Republicans would agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, leaving open the possibility that the Bush tax cuts that benefit the nation’s wealthiest households would expire next year. That would be a huge win for Democrats, who have long pledged to end tax breaks for the wealthy.

In return, Democrats would agree to a rewrite of the tax code that would eliminate dozens of tax breaks and use the cash to lower income tax rates, a GOP priority. But skeptical aides in both parties said it would be difficult to craft a mechanism that could force lawmakers to follow through.

Of course, skepticism still looms large among the punditocracy. James Pethokoukis suspects that a massive portion of the spending cuts will come simply from reductions in baseline defense outlays:

Instead, I would expect more than $1 trillion in savings from defense cuts, most of which will be tweaking the baseline of projected spending, which assumed perpetual war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Grover Nordquist’s influential Americans for Tax Reform cautions us that Republicans have fallen victim to hollow promises to cut spending by Democrats in the past:

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush was promised $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes by Congressional Democrats. That’s not what happened.

…All $137 billion in tax hikes went through…Not only did the $274 billion in promised baseline spending cuts never materialize–baseline spending was actually $22 billion higher than what CBO projected it would be before the deal. This despite another tax hike/baseline spending cut deal in 1993 (the Clinton tax hike) and the GOP takeover of Congress in 1995.

Me? I just feel grateful that we might actually see some reform of our ridiculously convoluted tax code. That alone would free up billions of dollars frittered on tax compliance and avoidance to flow to value-added activities.

However, on the downside, a “grand deal” would go a long way toward improving Obama’s chances for re-election. While he would still have the economy to worry about, he would give himself more ammunition to advance the “gutsy when the going gets tough” argument his campaign will formulate (see: health care, bin Laden, deficit).

A long-term deal to address the U.S.’s fiscal situation would provide a field day for the media, which loves to trumpet Obama’s actions with favorable headlines (you can see it now: “Obama Brokers Deficit Deal”), further enhancing his appeal among the lower-information Independents who largely decide presidential elections. This type of voter may find themselves drawn to the media narrative that may arise: “Obama knows how to rise above partisan bickering and get things done on the most pressing issues of our time.”

Still, if the budget talks continue on their upward trajectory, I, for one, will largely put my political concerns aside to appreciate the potential for a plan to, quite literally, save our country.

by @ 9:13 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Barack Obama, Democrats, R4'12 Essential Reads, Republican Party, Spending

July 5, 2011

Reganomics: More Than Just an Outdated Idea

Thanks to James Pethokoukis, I came across this fascinating Forbes opinion piece:

Which leaves a question. What was the point of Reaganomics? Starving the beast? None of the above. The point was to get the private sector booming. And could we ever use this as an objective today.

The prophet of the renaissance of the 1980s was the Reagan budget team’s economic forecaster, John Rutledge. Rutledge noticed that in the dozen years prior to 1981, money had been fleeing from the real economy, what with its taxes, regulations, and currency devaluations, and into tangible safe havens – especially commodities: oil, gold, and land.

Rutledge calculated that over the 1970s, some $11 trillion had migrated out of real economic enterprises into these hedges – a whopping number. And yet if the burdens on the economy were to lessen, a prodigious amount of money stood to flow back into the real sector, with epic growth, employment, and profits in tow.

This is of course what happened in the 1980s, as taxes got cut, regulation stymied, and money stabilized. GDP growth was north of 4% per year for a seven-year run, job creation was measured in the eight digits, and the stock market was off on a 15-fold advance. All because huge money had been parked elsewhere waiting for the real sector to become attractive again.

Sound familiar? Today, we see gold at $1500 an ounce, oil crossing $100, massive retained profits at corporations, and excess reserves at banks. And we’ve just endured a real estate bubble. If economically inert investments – vehicles that are not themselves businesses or their financing instruments – are capturing an extra-large portion of our financial capital, our economy is underperforming. As Forbes columnist John Tamny says, $1500 gold is the recession.

This rather summarily refutes the frequent demagoguing of Reaganomics by Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media – you know, the “trickle-down” policies that provided windfalls for the rich and the military-industrial complex at the detriment to the middle and lower classes.

The questions now become: which Republican candidate has proposed or will propose the plan most conducive to revitalizing the private sector, as Reaganomics did, and which has the greatest chance of actually getting those reforms passed?

by @ 9:58 pm. Filed under 2012 Misc., Conservatism, R4'12 Essential Reads, Republican Party, Spending

July 3, 2011

Race42012 Polling Averages and Line Chart – July 3, 2011

2012 Republican Presidential Nomination

Poll Average FOX News McClatchy-Marist Morris Rasmussen NBC/WSJ PPP (D) Gallup
Date 6/8 – 6/28 6/26 – 6/28 6/15 – 6/23 6/18 – 6/19 6/14 – 6/14 6/9 – 6/13 6/9 – 6/12 6/8 – 6/11
Romney 24.14 18 19 23 33 30 22 24
Palin 12.80 8 11 14 15 16
Giuliani 11.50 10 13
Perry 9.75 13 13 5 8
Bachmann 9.43 11 8 12 19 3 8 5
Cain 9.00 5 5 5 10 12 17 9
Paul 7.43 7 5 12 7 7 7 7
Gingrich 5.57 3 2 5 9 6 9 5
Pawlenty 5.14 3 5 3 6 4 9 6
Santorum 3.50 2 1 2 6 4 6
Huntsman 1.57 3 2 1 2 1 1 1
Johnson 1.17 1 0.5 2
McCotter 0.50 0.5
Roemer 0.50 0.5
Karger 0.50 0.5 0.5
Moore 0.50 0.5

Bachmann and Perry are the ones skyrocketing in the polls this week.  In fact, their trajectories have been so similar that they almost exactly overlap in the line graph above, making it difficult to tell them apart.  They’ve both comfortably surpassed Cain, Paul, and Gingrich (and where oh where will Gingrich’s collapse end?  It’s only a matter of time, at this rate, before he hits 1% or less in a national poll).  Michigan Representative Thad McCotter debuts in a FOX News poll at less than 1%, tied with Roemer, Karger, and Moore — not exactly the conservative savior “Second Coming” reception he was hoping for.  What is it, exactly, that sets him apart as a candidate anyway, besides his disdain for Gucci brand footwear?  And the door is rapidly closing on any potential Palin (whose spot in the field is quickly being taken over by Bachmann) or Giuliani (whose pro-war/neocon banner is being hoisted by Pawlenty, and whose social moderate niches are being staked out by Huntsman and Johnson) runs.  It’s looking more and more like the last real late entrants who could truly shake things up would be Perry or Christie.  Perry looks like he might very well get in; Christie seems to have budged little from his long-standing, adamant “No.”

June 30, 2011

Obama Chooses Politics Over Leadership

Well, he did it again…

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama resorted to his tried-and-true practices of demonizing Republicans, invoking scare tactics, and whistling the tune of class warfare:

Challenging lawmakers to make “substantial progress” by the end of this week or cancel plans for the July 4th holiday weekend, Obama upped pressure on Republicans by tying them to tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires” while warning of default.

…But Obama, invoking the example of his daughters Sasha and Malia, told Congress to do its job: “They don’t wait until the night before. They’re not pulling all-nighters. They’re — they’re 13 and 10. You know, Congress can do the same thing.”

…Obama, echoing an argument his administration has made for weeks, sought to paint Republicans as siding with the rich and powerful over middle class Americans.

“If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners … then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship,” he said.

Oh, where to start? Setting aside the fact that the President STILL has yet to propose a credible long-term plan to substantially reduce or, ideally, eliminate the national debt, yesterday’s press conference served as yet another example of his failure to follow through on the promise of his campaign (at least to voters on the center and left), rise above “old, tired Washington politics” (to use verbiage his ’08 backers loved so much), and become a transformational, generational leader moving the needle in a positive direction on the most pressing threat to America’s future.

For further analysis, I defer to the fantastic James Pethokoukis:

Recall: The president’s most recent budget plan would add $9.5 trillion in cumulative new debt over the next decade. Eliminating a tax break for the purchase of corporate jets – it’s called “accelerated depreciation” and Obama has endorsed the deduction twice before to boost growth and create jobs – would save $3 billion, or 0.03 percent of that total.

Yet this is the place where the president has chosen to stand his ground, to say “Here and no further!” Obama astride the bridge Khazad Dûm. He challenged the GOP to “go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them, are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate-jet owner continues to get a tax break.”

…The president perpetuated this myth: “You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix. “ Yet Rep. Paul Ryan’ s Path to Prosperity does just that, even while assuming — to satisfy the Congressional Budget Office — the economy grows at a snail-like 2 percent pace year after year for decades.

Pethokoukis also notes that, a.) the August 2nd deadline Obama imposed for a debt ceiling deal does not truly exist, and b.) he declined to pass judgement on the National Labor Relations Board’s now-infamous Boeing decision, stating “he [doesn't] know all the facts of the case”. Funnily, that didn’t stop him from mischaracterizing the Path to Prosperity, assuring the American public their current healthcare coverage wouldn’t change under Obamacare, and commenting on the Cambridge Police’s arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates.

For a concise review of the press conference, I turn to the man who will hopefully become our 46th President, Marco Rubio:

“Quite frankly, I am both disappointed for our country and shocked at some of the rhetoric,” he says. “It was rhetoric, I thought, that was more appropriate for some left-wing strong man than for the president of the United States.”

by @ 9:20 pm. Filed under Barack Obama, Misc., Spending

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