Archives for April 2012
During the fight over the debt ceiling last year, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took a lot of heat from conservative groups for his part in the “Gang of Six” negotiations, which would have raised taxes in addition to cutting spending.
Coburn, who has been on the frontlines in fighting government waste during his two terms in the Senate, fought back as loudly as much as he could until it was evident that the bipartisan group’s efforts would go to waste. While I don’t agree that revenues are the problem in Washington, Coburn at least took a principled stand and worked for a solution to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems, not just short-term fix on which so many eventually settled.
But Coburn done with the issue. In his new book, The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America, Coburn explains our fiscal situation and offers his own plan for bring Washington back on the path to sustainability. He also criticizes “careerist” politicians for catering to special interests instead of tackling fiscal issues:
Sen. Tom Coburn’s new book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting American,” critiques Congress in harsh terms and warns of further economic crisis if lawmakers do not get the nation’s deficit under control.
“Congress today is a stagnant pond that needs to be drained and refilled with a steady stream of new public servants,” he writes, according to excerpts provided to ABC News. “I’m a fan of the Jack Welch principle in reverse for Congress … fire 90 percent of members every election and only keep the 10 percent who were productive.”
Even with Americans still struggling to keep with high gas prices, President Barack Obama yesterday targeted the oil industry with more proposed regulations — once again offering nothing in the way of real solutions to increase oil supply. The Los Angeles Times notes that Obama wants more money for regulators and more penalties for what “manipulation” of the oil market:
Facing heat for high gasoline prices, President Obama tried to shift the focus to Congress, Republicans and energy traders, calling for legislation that he said would “put more cops on the beat” to crack down on potential manipulation of the oil market.
Obama called on Congress to provide more money for regulators and increase penalties for market manipulators. The president, flanked by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., suggested that traders and speculators are affecting the price of oil and digging into Americans’ pocketbooks.
“We can’t afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions while millions of American families get the short end of the stick,” Obama said in brief remarks in the Rose Garden on Tuesday. “That’s not the way the market should work.”
Obama’s proposal would add $52 million to the budget for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees oil futures markets, to pay for improved technology and additional employees. The president also proposed increasing the maximum civil and criminal penalties for manipulative activity in oil futures markets and beefing up data collection.
As I noted yesterday, it’s unlikely that we’ve heard the last from President Barack Obama about the so-called “Buffett Rule,” a new tax proposed on higher income earners. The idea is sure to be a central part of his campaign rhetoric, a way to divert attention away from his own failed record.
The arguments for the tax were initially that it was needed to help with deficit reduction. However, the Buffett Rule would bring in around $5 billion annually — less than a half-day of spending from Washington, and virtually nothing when compared to the $1.4 trillion budget deficit for the current fiscal year. Moreover, if it’s revenue you want, then why not just legalize marijuana, which, as Philip Klein noted yesterday, would bring in more revenue than the Buffett Rule:
The Buffett tax, which failed to advance in the Senate last night, would have raised $5.1 billion in 2013 (theoretically its first full year of implementation), according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Yet a 2010 study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that legalizing marijuana alone would save the federal government $3.3 billion in reduced enforcement expenditures per year and raise an additional $5.8 billion in revenue assuming it would be taxed. If all drugs were legalized, the study estimated it would save the federal government $15.6 billion a year and raise an additional $31.2 billion in revenue — for a total of $46.8 billion. That’s slightly higher than the $46.7 billion the Buffett Rule tax is projected to raise over the full decade.
Yesterday, the Washington Examiner reported that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats and led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is the “laziest” in 20 years based on the number of laws they’ve passed and time they’ve spent in session:
For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.
In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.
For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.
On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.
Many conservatives have taken this as another opportunity to knock Reid and his Democratic counterparts. And while there is no doubt in my mind that Senate Democrats would pass more bills if they didn’t have to work with House Republicans, you’re not going to find me complaining about this.
Count me among those that believe Mitt Romney — or any Republican, for that matter — will have a tough time defeating Barack Obama in the fall. It’s not that Romney can’t win, but his lackluster primary campaign doesn’t exactly bode well for his future.
Whether conservatives want to admit it or not, Romney is probably their best hope for beating Obama. The only other candidate that was running close with him was Ron Paul, who never had a real shot at being the nominee. There is little doubt, however, that this election is going to be close, as Gallup’s first tracking poll indicated yesterday:
For all the pessimism, Obama’s number still aren’t that great. The Washington Examiner noted yesterday that his numbers are worse than Gerald Ford’s, who was going up against Jimmy Carter in 1976, at the same point in the campaign. And with a still-slow economy, high unemployment, and a river of red ink still flowing from Washington, Obama is going to throw everything he can at Romney to keep attention of him and his poor number.
Of course, we still have more than six months to go until election day, and anything can and will happen. But for Republicans that believe Romney can’t take down Obama, this should be a bright spot.
After going through a drawn-out primary, Mitt Romney announced yesterday that his campaign has started its search for a running mate:
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, said Monday that his search for a running mate has officially begun.
Romney’s longtime adviser Beth Myers, who was his chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts, is leading the vice presidential vetting process.
“She’s begun that process and is putting together the kinds of things you need to do to vet potential candidates,” Romney told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an interview airing Monday night on “ABC World News” and “Nightline.”
Romney said he plans to have made his pick by the time of the GOP convention, which begins in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 27.
There has obviously been a lot of speculation about this, even before Romney secured the nomination. Pundits have been making their predictions or offering up short-lists that Romney may choose from. And much like other pundits, the question of who Romney will choose has been something I’ve been thinking about for the last few weeks.
Paul Ryan: While many conservatives would like the idea of Ryan on the ticket, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, Romney has expressed support for budget passed by House Republicans, but picking Ryan would offer up more because he would be picking a member of Congress, of which Americans have a very low opinion.
The primary between Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Richard Mourdock, who has been backed by prominent conservative groups, has been very interesting. It’s not necessarily a new story. Back in 2010, when the Tea Party movement was at its peak, several conservative challengers in House districts and Senate races across the country managed to beat establishment-backed candidates or incumbents. Many we’re subsequently successful in general elections, some weren’t so lucky.
It’s no secret that conservatives have their issues with Lugar, including many previously mentioned here before. FreedomWorks recently put out a voters guide (PDF) outlining many of the fiscal issues where has fallen short. However, Lugar’s problems haven’t just been limited to his voting record.
Lugar is now faced with the editors of the National Review, an influential conservative magazine, endorsing his more conservative opponent ahead of the May 8th primary:
Is the Drug War flipping inside out?
For decades, we’ve had conservatives—traditionally associated with the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics—rail against drug use and fight for a stronger Drug War that throws more people in jail, while liberals—traditionally associated with the Democrats and the left wing—did the exact opposite, arguing for legalizing drugs or at least scaling back the war. Now, this has never been a perfect analogy—Buckley himself wrote in National Review that the Drug War was stupid and could not be enforced, and many liberals in the government have done truly nothing to try and end this war, and in fact have reveled in it (see: Clinton, Bill and Obama, Barack.)
But lately, we’ve been seeing a complete switch. First, on the conservative side, we have Pat Robertson coming out against marijuana prohibition, followed by George Will’s latest columns that, while not actually arguing for legalization, is seriously questioning prohibiting hard drugs. Meanwhile, President Obama says he wants to have a “debate” about it, but says that legalization is “not the answer.” (To which I say, “Well, then what is, big guy?”)
Of course, we can rack a lot of this up to people being out of power and others being in (and needing to appease the government beasts.) But still, it seems quite baffling to me, where we have conservatives/Republicans questioning the Drug War and liberals/Democrats more or less supporting it.
Despite the push from President Barack Obama, his campaign team, and Democrats, the 30% tax on millionaires — dubbed the “Buffett Rule” — unsurprisingly went down yesterday evening in the Senate:
The Senate rejected consideration Monday of the “Buffett rule ,” a key election-year Democratic initiative that would impose a minimum tax rate on those making more than $1 million per year, as a philosophical debate over taxes that will define this year’s elections occurred on Capitol Hill.
Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and proceed to a full consideration of the measure, with the Senate voting 51 to 45 to move ahead. The vote was largely along party lines, although Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) voted with Democrats to allow the measure to proceed and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted to block it.
As noted above, it was mostly a party line vote, but if you want to see how your Senators voted you can view the roll call here.
Unfortunately, the vote doesn’t mean the end of this charade over tax hikes. We’ve noted before that the Buffett Rule wouldn’t have brought in much in terms of revenue, approximately $47 billion over 10 years — or just under $5 billion annually; less than half a day of spending. And that small amount of revenue would literally be nothing compared to the trillion dollar budget deficits we’ve seen coming out of Washington in recent years.
It’s a day that nearly all of us dread. We have to make sure that our tax forms are filled our properly and all of our documents are correctly included and send them off to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), hoping that we at least get some money back. Others of us cross our fingers and pray that we don’t get audited on the return at some point later in the future.
But Tax Day always gives us a chance to talk about tax reform, which almost seems like a unicorn in today’s political climate. Some, including the White House, want to use the term as a way to raise taxes on politically convenient targets. Others, like Rep. Paul Ryan, are proposing a watered down, though mildly better, system that somewhat simplifies our tax code. Unfortunately, those of us wanting a system that eliminates ridiculous tax breaks and credits while at the same time creating a tax code that encourages investment and economic growth are left wanting.
Over at the Cato Institute, Chris Edwards explains why our current tax code is a complete mess and how compliance costs are hurting the economy and taxpayers, no matter where they fall on the income scale:
The federal tax code is getting uglier every year as politicians from both parties add more credits, deductions and other special breaks. In the first year of the income tax in 1913, the 1040 tax form came with just one page of instructions. This year the instruction book for the 1040 is 189 pages long.
That’s just one IRS tax form, but there are more than 500 others. Consider, for example, that the number of special tax breaks for energy has soared from 11 in 1995 to 26 today, and each break has separate tax forms, instructions, regulations and other paperwork.