Archives for July 2011

Is a debt limit deal coming soon?

Yesterday was another fun day of watching President Barack Obama and Democrats and Republicans slam each other over the failures to get a budget deal put together, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) trying to incite panic by dishonestly claiming that if a debt ceiling increase wasn’t passed it would mean “no school for children.”

Other myths concerning default have been frequently repeated by the White House and Democrats, including the bluff on holding Social Security payments to seniors. Veronique de Rudy recently cleared the air on some of these and noted steps that could be taken to avoid default even though it may not be easy:

Congress raiding our Oil: About to require the sale of U.S. SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) to fund additional spending

Today, as part of H.R. 2354, Congress is requiring the sale of $500 million of Strategic Oil Reserves - and then requiring any money from those reserve sales be used to fund additional spending as part of the general treasury.

This sets a terrible precedent, threatens our national security and is in all likelihood not entirely legal.

On the floor of the house today Congressman McClintock called it a scandal - and we agree. This is nothing more than accounting tricks and blatant disregard for the very idea behind the Strategic Oil Reserve.

The vote is tomorrow, spread the word.

All government programs aren’t created equal

Over at Marginal Revolt, there’s an interesting post regarding government programs.  You see, a lot of folks have been arguing that most folks benefit from government in an effort to discredit folks who are against most government programs.  This particular post, written by Alex Tabarrok, points out that it ain’t as easy as it seems to slap around that broad brush, particularly when it comes to 529 college savings programs:

Nevertheless, there are dividing lines. In a laissez-faire world we don’t get rid of 529 programs, instead all savings, not just savings for college, become tax-free. A 529 program is not a government program like food stamps, it is the absence of a government tax. (N.B. I am not taking a position here on the best tax structure.)People who use 529 programs and who think that they have not used a government social program are not willfully ignorant, they are demonstrating a healthy if fading appreciation of the distinction between civil society and government.  What Rampell et al. implicitly imagine is that the natural state is slavery and any departure from that state a government benefit. Thus, if the government taxes your saving for a college education less than your other savings, you should be grateful for how government has benefited you and your children.

To go one better though, there is the simple fact that many folks may take advantage of a government program in a particular instance, but would use a private equivalent if it weren’t available.  For example, the 529 programs.  Yes, people take advantage of them because they are there, but if they weren’t available they would make do without.

GOP caving on debt limit?

For weeks now, Republicans have stood firm on the idea that any increase in the debt limit should be accompanied by significant spending cuts.  Democrats have offered up what they felt were significant, and the Republicans have said “nope…not enough”.  Now, Mitch McConnell is offering up a compromise that will lose any good will they’ve built with their base.  He wants to let President Obama raise the debt ceiling at will.

Courtesy of RedState:

Mitch McConnell is right now talking about making a historic capitulation. So fearful of being blamed for a default, McConnell is proposing a compromise that lets Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling without making any spending cuts at all.

McConnell’s idea is to make the debt ceiling automatic unless Congress, by a 2/3 vote blocks the increase. Oh yes, he put a salve on it by dressing it up in tough talk that, to quote the Wall Street Journal, “[a] ‘eal solution’ to U.S. fiscal problems isn’t possible as long as President Barack Obama remains in office.” So since no “real solution” is possible, McConnell proposes to go Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of spending, blaming Obama while doing nothing himself.

Now, I’ve said before that they should just do away with the debt ceiling.  After all, if they can raise it whenever they want, it’s not much of a barrier to increasing debt.  However, to hand this power over exclusively to the President?

UT Senate: Chaffetz leads Hatch

In a defense against criticism against his fiscal record, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch recently claimed in a interview on Fox News that he is “one of the top conservatives in the history of this country.” The Club for Growth, a group that has not hid their contempt for Hatch, noted that his record has several negatives, including voting for the TARP bailouts, expansion of Medicare and No Child Left Behind.

While Hatch has declared that he will not share the same fate as his former collegue, Bob Bennett, a new survey from Public Policy Polling of a likely primary matchup with Rep. Jason Chaffetz shows that Utah Republicans may do just that.

Utah GOP Senate Primary

  • Sen. Orrin Hatch (i): 43%
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz: 47%
  • Not sure: 10%

Interestingly, 60% of Utah Republicans approve of the job Hatch has done. However, only 45% of them believe he should the nominee against a generic “someone more conservative,” which received 44%. In case you’re wondering, Chaffetz is viewed favorably by 61% of Utah Republicans. Only 17% view him unfavorably.

Republicans in the state don’t necessarily hold a normal primary, at least not right off. To win without a primary, a candidate has to receive 60% of the vote during the state party’s convention. If no candidate receives 60%, the top two from the convention will go head-to-head statewide.

Anyway, if you’re Orrin Hatch, you certainly don’t like the outcome of this poll; but this will likely be a very messy primary.

The Imperial Presidency, Round #43917

So Senator Mitch McConnell has released a “solution” to the debt ceiling crisis. Jason has already jumped on this topic, but I feel the need to add my own two cents. For me, the crucial portion of this non-solution is that it gives additional power to the White House, and perpetuates a seeming tradition of Congress abdicating responsibility that we’ve seen over the past decade.

The entire deal punts the debt and spending over to the President. Essentially, he decides to raise the debt limit. While Congress can pass a “bill of disapproval” with a two-thirds majority, the President can simply veto, which would then require a 2/3 vote to override. The plan would also require the President to make spending cuts roughly equal to the increase in the debt limit (as I understand it.) Yet there is no enforcement mechanism that I can see to ensure he does so. What would Congress do if he raised the debt limit with no corresponding cut in spending? Stamp their feet? It might be all they can do.

Haven’t we seen enough power consolidated in the Oval Office yet?

I mean, the President can assassinate people with a drone without so much as a whoopsie-daisy; have anyone imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism and interrogated; can have a lovely jaunt off to war and only send Congress a politely-worded letter; formulate budgets and tax policy while merely requesting Congressional approval; through executive agencies and department make and enforce law without a vote; and now we’re going to give him the power to unilaterally raise the debt limit with requirements that are so wishy-washy they make Natty Light look good?

Proof our tax code is screwed up

Anyone who follows baseball to some extent probably knows that Derek Jeter just got his 3,000th career hit.  That’s a milestone for any major league baseball player.  Fan Christian Lopez got his hands on the ball, a memento worthy of the Hall of Fame.  He gave it back to Jeter.  The Yankees, apparently in appreciation for his returning the ball to the man Lopez referred to as an “icon”, gave him prizes like luxury box seats for the rest of the season and signed memorabilia, among other thing.  Now, Uncle Sam wants a piece.

You see, these are categorized as “prizes” and are subject to taxes.  Lopez may well be on the hook for thousands of dollars.  Estimates seem to range from $5,000 to $13,000.

Lopez seems to not be bothered by the whole thing.

If it comes down to that, Lopez says he’ll pay the tax man because he’s not about to relinquish his seats. The young government major says his family and friends will help him out.

“The IRS has a job to do, so I’m not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this,” Lopez told the News.

You know what would be really cool?  If our tax code took a few things into account, like prizes and/or gifts.  You have a 23 year old kid who does something incredibly cool (the ball could have sold at auction for at least a quarter of a million dollars), and now he’s going to get shafted by the whole ordeal.

Of course, why should I expect sanity from government?  You’d think I’d be past that by now.

Obama walks out of meeting with Republicans

It looks like budget discussions between the White House and Republicans are reaching a boiling point. According to what House Republicans told The Hill, President Barack Obama stormed out of the negotiations after threatening House Majority Leader Eric Cantor:

Republicans said tense negotiations over raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit at the White House ended when President Obama stormed out of the meeting with a stern warning to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.): “Don’t call my bluff.”

“It ended with the president abruptly walking out of the meeting,” Cantor told reporters upon returning to the Capitol Wednesday.
Cantor said he asked Obama if he would consider allowing two votes on the debt ceiling to give leaders more time to negotiate additional budget savings while avoiding a calamitous default.

“That’s when he got very agitated, seemingly, and said that he had sat there long enough, and that no other president — Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this — and that he’s reached the point where something’s got to give,” Cantor said, describing the president’s reaction.

“He said to me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this,’ “ Cantor said. “I was somewhat taken aback,” he added, with a smile.

Cartoon of the Day: Obama’s class warfare

Via Dan Mitchell comes this funny cartoon that really sums up President Barack Obama’s argument for tax hikes considering that more than half of Americans pay no federal income taxes:

Obama class warfare

A free market solution to an an odd problem

There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about invasive species making life difficult in various bodies of water.  Asian Carp has been right at the top of the list as it chokes out native species.  It’s been particularly alarming for people who eat seafood as the fish that are being depleted are culinary favorites.  However, the New York Times puts forward a potential solution for dealing with these invasive species.

Let’s just eat the little bastards.

Invasive species have become a vexing problem in the United States, with population explosions of Asian carp clogging the Mississippi River and European green crabs mobbing the coasts. With few natural predators in North America, such fast-breeding species have thrived in American waters, eating native creatures and out-competing them for food and habitats.

While most invasive species are not commonly regarded as edible food, that is mostly a matter of marketing, experts say. Imagine menus where Asian carp substitutes for the threatened Chilean sea bass, or lionfish replaces grouper, which is overfished.

“We think there could be a real market,” said Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, whose 2011 Smart Seafood Guide recommends for the first time that diners seek out invasive species as a “safer, more sustainable” alternative to their more dwindling relatives, to encourage fisherman and markets to provide them.

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