Archives for April 2012
Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the White House both predicted in separate reports that taxpayers could expect to see $1+ trillion budget deficit for the fourth consecutive year. Even though it’s to be expected that we’re going to see yet more red ink this year, the latest numbers from the CBO on the first half of the fiscal year are still astounding (emphasis mine):
The federal government racked up a deficit of $777 billion in the first half of fiscal 2012, the Congressional Budget Office said in an estimate released Friday.
The shortfall is the latest sign that the government is well on its way to compiling at least a $1 trillion deficit for the fourth consecutive year.
But as CBO noted on Friday, the deficit is also a $53 billion reduction from the same period in fiscal 2011.
The budget scorekeeper said that most of the $46 billion jump in revenues — a 4.5 percent increase — was due to corporations making higher tax payments or receiving a smaller refund.
CBO also said that spending in a variety of areas — Medicaid, education and unemployment insurance, among others — also fell during the first six months of the fiscal year.
The budget office’s release comes as budget deficits are poised to play a key role in this year’s election, and weeks after CBO estimated that the 2012 deficit would be roughly $1.2 trillion.
The 2012 deficit is now expected to be some $93 billion higher than earlier expected, in large part because of the extension of the payroll tax cut for workers.
Looking for away to bring conservatives together even as Republicans being to coalesce around Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum met with movement leaders in hopes to come up with a last ditch effort to make a comeback and take the GOP nomination:
The conversation focused on the struggling candidacy of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and whether a final push could be made to unite conservatives and stop the likely nomination of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. The idea of Santorum leaving the race was not raised.
“It was a discussion of how to win, not a discussion of anything other than that,” said Gary Bauer, a prominent social conservative leader who was at the meeting.
Despite this optimism, there are signs that the wear and tear of the campaign trail and the daunting odds against his winning the nomination are weighing on Santorum.
“He is exhausted,” said one influential Republican who has talked to Santorum in recent days. “He is very, very worried about losing Pennsylvania. He is trying to find a way to throw a very long pass that could change the game.”
That search for game-changers seems unlikely to produce success for Santorum. A Gingrich decision to exit the race and endorse Santorum in an attempt to unite conservatives seems unlikely to happen or to affect the outcome of the nomination fight.
The National Taxpayers Union, one of the few great organizations willing to criticize both parties for fiscal profligacy, has released its congressional ratings for 2011. These ratings give voters concerned about fiscal issues an idea as to whether or not their representatives are being responsible with their tax dollars. And while there are certainly several members in each chamber devoted to protecting their interests, the overall view isn’t that great — though it did get better between 2010 and 2011:
Between 2010 and 2011, the average “Taxpayer Score” in the House rose from 42 percent to a rounded level of 50 percent. This is the first time the House mean has managed to reach the halfway mark since 1996. The Senate’s average inched up from 45 percent to 46 percent. The Senate had an all-time low of 28 percent in 1988, and the House hit bottom that same year, at 27 percent. The highest marks were reached in 1995, when House and Senate averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.
In the latest Congress, 53 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for an “A” grade (a minimum score of 85 percent in the House and 90 percent the Senate) and therefore won the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” – representing a decline from the 79 who achieved the honor in 2010. Typically, between 50 and 60 Members of Congress receive the Award.
On the other hand, slightly over 200 Senators and Representatives were tagged with the title of “Big Spender” for posting “F” grades (20 percent or less in the House and 19 percent or less in the Senate). Perhaps the only encouraging aspect of this development for taxpayers is that for the past four years, at least 250 Big Spenders had been lurking in Congress (the record of 267 was tallied in both 2008 and 2009).
Earlier this week, there was a relatively obscure case that the Supreme Court handed down a ruling on. The case was Rehberg v. Paulk.
Here’s the synopsis on what happened. Charles Rehberg, working with other folks, began to send out anonymous faxes all over Albany, Georgia. These faxes were critical of the business practices of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The faxes went to a number of people, including hospital management.
The management contacted Dougherty County District Attorney Ken Hodges for his assistance. Hodges, working with his chief investigator James Paulk, allegedly fabricated subpoenas for Rehbergs phone and internet records.
What began is a series of unusual circumstances that culminated in multiple indictments for Rehberg. The crimes ranged from harassment (reportedly because of the faxes), to breaking and entering a home where there was no evidence a crime had even happened. Paulk, apparently by his own admission, lied to the Grand Jury to get the indictments.
Rehberg sued both Paulk and Hodges. The case against Hodges was thrown out due to something called absolute immunity. The case against Paulk went to the Court because there was questions about whether he would enjoy something similarly.
The ruling this week was that he does.
So what does this mean? Well, for starters, this means that law enforcement apparently doesn’t have to be held responsible for their actions. Paulk lied to the Grand Jury, got the indictment, and will suffer no ramifications for anything he did. Neither will Ken Hodges (who thankfully lost his race to be Attorney General of Georgia).
All eyes were on the Supreme Court last week as the arguments in the health care case were heard. Now we wait for a ruling, and there is much speculation around which parts, if any, of the ObamaCare legislation will be thrown out. In the midst of this waiting, I can’t help but wonder at the irony in conservatives’ arguments against the health care legislation.
Don’t misunderstand me; their arguments are valid. They say the federal government can’t constitutionally require the purchase of insurance, that increased regulation drives up prices, and that the individual should be free to choose the method of providing health care for himself or his family (and accordingly, be responsible for the choices he makes). And they’re 100% correct on all of these points.
But then many of these conservatives are the same people who support federal mandates regarding drug use. They say that the increased regulation is good because it keeps people off drugs, and that the War on Drugs is a valid, legitimate purpose of the federal government.
Consider for a moment, however, the similarities between these two issues: both involve a mandate from the federal government, both have to do with how citizens treat themselves, and both issues restrict the citizen’s freedom to choose to whether or not to participate in an activity.
We have concerns that under a national health care plan, someone other than the patient will be deciding proper treatment and rationing health care. The health care decisions we make should be our own. Take, for example, the controversial issue of vaccinations. The government recommends vaccination, though many people have concerns that vaccinations can actually do more harm than good. Our stance on this issue is that the government shouldn’t force vaccinations on us – that the choice is the individual’s, not the government’s.
It appears that the 2012 race for President is all but set. Mitt Romney will very likely win the Republican nomination and he will face Barack Obama in November. For those of us concerned about restoring liberty, the rule of law and the Constitution, and getting a grips on our debt and economic crisis; this is not a joyous prospect. Neither man has a record of leadership on those issues and in fact, both men have proven time and time again to be advocates of more government, more spending, and more debt. No matter who is elected President, I’m not optimistic that our serious issues, especially concerning the debt and the economy will be addressed. We need to look elsewhere to at least hold the tide against more spending and more debt. We need to really pour our energies into the Congressional elections and electing more Constitutional conservatives and libertarians.
Every even numbered year, we have the chance to change the entire makeup of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Imagine what kind of difference we can make if we elected Constituional conservative majority in the House and give Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee some more company in the Senate this go around. The only way to do that is get involved. Find a Constitutional conservative candidate in the primaries and back them and volunteer for them. If there isn’t one in your district, consider running yourself. Granted, it maybe too late in many states to do this for 2012, but consider it for 2014.
In my previous posts, I’ve been writing about the problems libertarianism has today, the difficulties it has trying to work with the American public. First, I talked about rhetoric. Then, I wrote about intellectual property rights. Third, I devoted some time to anarcho-capitalism. Now, in what I plan on being my last post in this series (until and unless a new topic arises that warrants my attention; feel free to send suggestions) I want to focus on foreign policy, and how libertarianism, so far, has been fairly inadequate.
There seem to be two chief positions in the libertarian movement on foreign policy. The first is the view taken by Robert Higgs, who wrote in The Independent Review (from the Independent Institute) last fall that “Warmongering libertarians are ipso facto not libertarians.” In the other corner lies neolibertarians like Jon Henke and* people like Eric Dondero, who wrote on our blog, in a comment, that:
When you say “less aggressive foreign policy,” what you really mean to say is “more girly-manish foreign policy,” or cowardness, or just downright surrendertarianism.
These two extremes, honestly, do not have any place in the libertarian movement. While I agree with Higgs that “war is the health of the state,” and the half-century has shown that this government is largely incompetent when it comes to defending us abroad and we shouldn’t be involved in these expeditions, we cannot completely pull back and have a pacificst foreign policy. War is inevitable; it happens, sometimes by people who don’t like us. And sometimes, there are justifications for executing operations in foreign countries.
At an Occupy Wall Street rally last weekend, Van Jones, a self-described communist and former Obama Administration official, slammed libertarians, claiming that we areall are anti-immigrant and anti-gay:
In a venomous speech this weekend, notorious ex-Obama aid Van Jones went on a hate-filled rant against “cheap patriotism” and “libertarians,” calling out his free-market opponents as “anti-immigrant, bigots.”
Jones was introduced by actor and Obama activist Edward Norton, who likened the disgraced former Green Jobs Czar to the Dali Lama.
“When I was on a panel once with [Jones] and the Dali Lama it was a toss up as to who was wiser, Van or the Lama” Norton mused.
Jones began his speech by citing his six months of work in the White House before launching into a tirade against the “so-called Libertarians.”
In citing the Libertarian principle of economic liberty, Jones stated “They’ve taken their despicable ideology and used it a wrecking ball, that they have painted red, white and blue, to smash down every good thing in America.”
Jones continued, “They say they’re Patriots but they hate everybody in America who looks like us. They say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, ya know ya’ll.”
As you know, earlier this week President Barack Obama launched into a rather odd attack on the Supreme Court as they consider overturning ObamaCare. But he also attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Republicans over the recently passed budget proposal, channeling comments made by former Speaker Newt Gingrich last May:
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will shred the House GOP budget as a “Trojan horse” built around radical right-wing, “thinly veiled social Darwinism” and the makings of a renewed recession.
That’s the message he’ll take to The Associated Press’s annual luncheon in Washington, according to prepared remarks provided by the White House: The plan written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is directly opposed to the message of economic fairness he’s been pushing since late last year.
“It’s antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who’s willing to work for it — a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class,” Obama will say of Ryan’s budget, drawing on the same themes he touched on in his December speech in Osawatomie, Kan., and his State of the Union address in January. “[B]y gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training; research and development — it’s a prescription for decline.”
With President Barack Obama openingly questioning and attacking the Supreme Court over the future of his health care law, the a three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is asking the Department of Justice if their boss believes that federal courts don’t have the power to strike down law that violates the Constitution:
In the escalating battle between the administration and the judiciary, a federal appeals court apparently is calling the president’s bluff — ordering the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the Obama Administration believes that the courts have the right to strike down a federal law, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom.
The order, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, appears to be in direct response to the president’s comments yesterday about the Supreme Court’s review of the health care law. Mr. Obama all but threw down the gauntlet with the justices, saying he was “confident” the Court would not “take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”