Today in Liberty: Darrell Issa may hold White House official in contempt, Senate Republicans block anti-Hobby Lobby bill

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

— Issa may take action against defiant White House official: David Simas, director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, may find himself in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify yesterday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on violations on the Hatch Act. “I can’t rule it in or out, yet,” said Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), according to Politico. “I can’t answer what we will do in this case, but I can tell you that there is a similar case that occurred under President [George W.] Bush and the similarities are significant.” Democrats on the committee, of course, defended the White House, which has ostensibly claimed executive privilege in order to prevent Simas from testifying. Because, you know, the suspicious political activities of the White House are basically state secrets. Or something.

There was a huge win for the Internet yesterday, but now crony senators are pushing the Obama-backed online sales tax again

Fresh off a victory in the House of Representatives to keep the Internet access tax-free and promote innovation online, consumers may now have to brace for another push in the Senate for the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” a crony measure backed by brick-and-mortar retailers that would allow states to impose online sales taxes:

Senate supporters believe they have a perfect vehicle [for the online sales tax bill]: the Internet Tax Freedom Act, a relatively uncontroversial measure, which sailed through the House on Tuesday, that would extend a long-standing ban on state and local taxes on Internet access.

“Why wouldn’t we?” Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), a longtime supporter of online sales tax legislation, said when asked if he planned to attach the Marketplace Fairness Act to the bill. “They’re a perfect fit.”

Enzi and several other senators released their new bill on Tuesday, which would attach the online sales tax measure to a 10-year extension of the Internet freedom bill. The House passed a permanent version of the online access bill on Tuesday.

Barack Obama is a terrible president who pushes bad policies, and the First Amendment protects your right to express that

Obama float

You may have heard that the Justice Department has gotten involved in the kerfluffle over an anti-Obama float that was included in a Nebraska town’s Independence Day parade because its of allegedly racial overtones. Yes, seriously, because the Justice Department doesn’t have anything better to do.

The float featured a zombie and an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library.” The guy who sponsored the tasteless float denies that he was trying to send a racial message, though he has acknowledged that he isn’t a fan of President Obama.

To put it bluntly, this is the dumbest of mind-numbingly dumb controversies. But it has sparked some discussion about the apparent sensitivities of the Obama administration and its response to criticism. And as Charles C. W. Cooke explains, mocking our elected officials — including presidents — is sort of in our blood:

Arrogant Obama White House refuses committee subpoena seeking testimony from official over violations of federal law

The Hatch Act explicitly states that federal officials cannot use government (i.e. taxpayer-funded) offices to engage in partisan political activity. But the White House may have violated this federal law earlier this year when it reopened the Office of Political Affairs under the name “White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has pointed to a January 2014 New York Times article which made note of the motives for reviving the Office of Political Affairs, which had been dormant for three years, quoting White House officials on background (emphasis added):

[W]ith Mr. Obama in his second term and crucial midterm elections ahead, the White House seems eager to send a new message: that it is serious about defending Democratic control of the Senate and taking back the House from Republicans. White House officials said it makes more sense to have a political office during a congressional election year to focus attention on candidate needs, including fund-raising.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have criticized Mr. Obama’s White House for not being attuned to their political concerns. The problem-plagued rollout of the HealthCare.gov website last year was the latest example of the lawmakers’ frustration over the impact of White House actions on their election-year prospects.

House members are pushing Kevin McCarthy to bring up the Ron Paul-backed Audit the Fed bill for a vote

Twenty-two members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter urging incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to bring up the Federal Reserve Transparency Act (H.R. 24) for an up or down vote.

The letter was authored by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who introduced the “Audit the Fed” bill in January 2013 after Ron Paul (R-TX) left Congress, and signed by members of both parties, including Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Jack Kingston (R-GA), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

“We believe that H.R. 24 is not only one of the most important pieces of legislation pending in this Congress, but that is is also highly likely to pass the House with a strong bipartisan vote,” the House members wrote to McCarthy. “We sincerely hope that you will give H.R. 24 the priority it deserves as you begin your tenure as the House Majority Leader.”

The Federal Reserve Transparency Act, which now has 228 cosponsors, would require the central bank to open certain information to the Government Accountability Office currently excluded from audits in subsection (b) of 31 USC 714. This would include the Federal Reserve’s agreements and transactions with foreign central banks and discussions between the Treasury Department.

Americans are tired of war: Old Guard Republicans attacking Rand Paul show how truly out of touch they are

Power structures and ideological dynamics change quickly in Washington, and when a sea change happens you almost feel sorry for the losing side, who usually doesn’t realize it for a while, still clinging to their anachronistic worldview and thinking it’s mainstream. But there comes a time when you just have to point and laugh at people who have lost, and lost big, and don’t even realize it.

Politico has a new summary of all the defense hawk attacks on Rand Paul’s alleged “isolationism,” including Rick Perry, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mackenzie Eaglen from the American Enterprise Institute. In denouncing the freshman Senator’s skepticism of interventionism, they cite the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course 9/11.

Yes, “it’s been a long time since 9/11,” as Cheney said, lamenting what he sees as forgetfulness about the threat of terrorism, but also, it’s been a long time since 9/11. At a certain point you have to stop buttressing your entire foreign policy narrative with the biggest failure of our national intelligence and defense systems since Pearl Harbor. We haven’t reverted to a pre-9/11 mindset, we’ve evolved to a post-post-9/11 mindset. The world has changed, again; global interventionists haven’t.

Perhaps sadder still than their reliance on the 9/11 shibboleth is the delusion that hawks are still the mainstream of public opinion or even the Republican Party:

CBO once again shows that Washington’s budget deficits will be driven by out-of-control spending, not a lack of revenue

spending

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has, once again, issued a dire warning about the long-term fiscal problems facing the United States. But one has to wonder if how many elected officials on Capitol Hill are listening.

The good news, according to a report released yesterday, is budget deficits are expected to decline over the next few years and Medicare is doing a little better than it was last year. The bad news is that Medicare is still broken, Social Security is even worse off, and the share of the national debt held by the public is at its highest point since World War II and that’s only going to get worse.

“If current laws remained generally unchanged in the future, federal debt held by the public would decline slightly relative to GDP over the next few years,” the CBO report explains. “After that, however, growing budget deficits would push debt back to and above its current high level.”

“Twenty-five years from now, in 2039, federal debt held by the public would exceed 100 percent of GDP, CBO projects,” the report continues. “Moreover, debt would be on an upward path relative to the size of the economy, a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely.”

The public share of the national debt is currently at 74 percent, almost double what it was in 2008. Here is a look at the debt projections from the CBO report:

Today in Liberty: Obama’s Treasury secretary wants forced “economic patriotism,” Ted Cruz backs Justin Amash in Michigan primary

“People acting in their own self-interest is the fuel for all the discovery, innovation, and prosperity that powers the world.” — John Stossel

— Treasury secretary wants to force “patriotism”: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has penned a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) in which he called on Congress to pass legislation that would discourage American-owned businesses from moving their operations overseas to more friendly tax climates. “What we need as a nation is a new sense of economic patriotism, where we all rise or fall together. We know that the American economy grows best when the middle class participates fully and when the economy grows from the middle out,” Lew wrote in the letter to Wyden. “We should not be providing support for corporations that seek to shift their profits overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. I hope that you will support these legislative initiatives to reverse the trend toward corporate inversions.” The U.S. has the highest marginal effect corporate income tax rate of any of the 33 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the Tax Foundation. That’s the reason why businesses are moving overseas. Corporate inversions “hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base,” Lew says, which is the real reason why the Obama administration is trying to get Congress to act. Businesses act in their own self-interest, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They shouldn’t be compelled to stay in the U.S. by some Orwellian sense of “economic patriotism” when the problem here is a broken tax code that discourages investment.

Rolling Stone wants gun-grabbers to “politicize disaster” to push for more restrictive gun control laws

The anti-gun crowd is still searching for ways to force gun control laws down Americans’ throats, and Rolling Stone columnist Tim Dickinson has stepped in to offer them several ideas on how to do so.

Dickinson says that gun-grabbers need to prepare for a “generation-long battle” and that they need to “think federally” but “act locally,” but he also shameless encourages gun control activists to exploit tragedies (emphasis added):

This isn’t complicated: Making a political issue of the tiny coffins of dead children in the wake of a school shooting isn’t just a thing that helps pass strong gun-control, it’s practically the only thing in the last quarter century that’s moved the needle on anti-gun-violence laws. Recall that the catalyst for the 1994 assault weapons ban was a 1989 school shooting in Stockton, California, that killed five kids and wounded 29 other children.

It’s not distasteful to act in the name of victims of gun violence. What’s distasteful to squander the burning anger and intense political focus that such senseless bloodshed inspires. There’s nothing dishonorable in taking the swift and necessary action to prevent other children from being massacred by an idiot with a war rifle.

Tim Dickinson is a pretty terrible person.

But, to his point, gun control advocates are already doing this. There are a number of examples of the anti-gun crowd using the Sandy Hook tragedy to pass more onerous restrictions on gun ownership, even in the face of declining gun homicide statistics.

Here’s another reason to end Ex-Im: The crony bank spent $580 million last year to finance Russian-owned companies

Export-Import Bank and Sberbank

The House Financial Services Committee noted yesterday that Ex-Im increased funding for Russian projects by 177 percent in FY 2013, translating to a $580 million commitment, which the committee says is a record level.

“Hardworking Americans taxpayers should be asking why they’re on the hook for Russian oil projects funneled to Vladimir Putin’s cronies while they’re struggling to pay for higher gas prices here at home and NATO issues warnings of further Russian aggression,” the committee explains, pointing to a $1 billion memorandum of understanding that Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg signed in 2012 with state-owned Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia.

The committee notes that “Ex-Im worked with Sberbank on a $32.3 million loan involving a Russian petroleum project.” That deal involved UPO LLC, an oil company owned by Honeywell, a firm with a net-income of more than $3.9 billion, according to its financial disclosures.

 


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