Today in Liberty: Obama may take more unilateral action on immigration, Medicare and Social Security are still very, very broken

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” — Milton Friedman

— Obama may take more executive action on immigration: Well, this isn’t going to help the already chilly relationship between Republicans on the Hill and the White House. President Barack Obama is considering executive action to grant work permits to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. “Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the border, White House officials are making plans to act before November’s mid-term elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration,” the Associated Press reports. “Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed.” Politico has more specifics on the type of action President Obama could take. Republicans are worried that the move could worsen the crisis at the Southwestern border. And some Democrats worry that the move could hurt vulnerable incumbents senators if it happens just before the election. The problem is, however, not electoral or even practical. The merits of immigration reform are entirely worth debate, but what the White House is talking about is another example of the executive branch consuming more power. That’s a real concern because of the potential for abuse by future presidents.

— When environmental regulations and law enforcement collide: Even as the Senate plans to vote on a $2.7 billion measure to deal with the humanitarian crisis, some Republicans are claiming that a large part of the Southwest border is unpatrolled by U.S. Border Patrol agents because of federal land and conservation regulations. “The Interior Department controls about 800 miles along the dividing line with Mexico, or about 40 percent of the total, with other land in the region owned by the Forest Service,” The Hill notes. “GOP lawmakers argue federal regulations intended to protect land and wildlife have become an obstacle for Customs and Borders Protection officers because they restrict their ability to drive near the border, build infrastructure or install surveillance technology.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is making the most noise about this. “There is no doubt that the restrictions on accessing land along the border have made it more difficult for the Border Patrol to do their job,” said Cruz, according to The Hill. “It seems a commonsense reform to say that the border patrol should be able to fully access and patrol the border.”

— Senate Conservatives Fund lashes out at the U.S. Chamber: The Senate Conservatives Fund is apoplectic about the rumor that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will endorse Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in her bid for reelection. The organization, founded in 2008 by then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), blasted the Chamber and the Republican establishment in an email blast on Monday. “The U.S. Chamber doesn’t care about electing Republicans. It just wants more big government politicians who will force taxpayers to pay for their corporate bailouts and corporate welfare programs,” SCF President Ken Cuccinelli writes. “The Chamber’s support for Mary Landrieu isn’t what’s so surprising. It’s the lack of any meaningful response from the GOP establishment in Washington that is downright shocking!” The conservative organization also took aim at the spending records of Landrieu and her most notable Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). The Senate Conservatives Fund is backing retired Col. Rob Maness.

— Let’s just pretend a federal court didn’t strike down a ridiculous gun law: That’s pretty much the reaction of Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to the federal court ruling striking down the District of Columbia complete ban on the carrying of handguns. “It is important to note that the decision was limited to the carrying of a handgun, and gave the District the authority to regulate such carrying. I expect the District to appeal this decision, and I caution that the decision issued Saturday is only a district court decision,” Norton said in a press release. “Moreover, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of three of the District’s four major gun laws – the ban on assault weapons, the ban on large capacity ammunition feeding devices, and basic registration requirements for handguns. The appeals court remanded the District’s other registration requirements for further fact-finding, which were subsequently upheld by the district court this May, except one – vision requirements – for which the court found no standing to challenge.” She also said that the ruling “is not an invitation” for members of Congress (see Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) to target other onerous D.C. gun control laws. Because if you do try it, she’ll send out a series of strongly worded press releases! Or something. Anyway, we’ll have more on what D.C.’s gun grabbers plan to do a little later this morning.

— Court battles over D.C.’s onerous gun laws brought to you by libertarians: Dave Weigel has a good piece on the libertarians behind the lawsuits that have given the District of Columbia’s gun-grabbers a big headache. “For now, Palmer v. District of Columbia is mostly interesting as the second example in just a few days of libertarian lawyers dunking on the liberal state. Tom Palmer, listed first among the plaintiffs, is the director of the libertarian Cato University program, and a vice president of the Randian Atlas Society. He was a plaintiff in the Heller case, too; in attorney Alan Gura’s words, he was ‘a gay man who had previously, in California, fended off a hate crime using a firearm that he happened to have on him,’” Weigel writes. “Just as the attorneys in Halbig found conservatives who were eager to sue, they could find ready, liberty-minded skeptics of D.C.’s gun laws.” As we noted in Monday’s Today in Liberty, Gura was the lead attorney in the Heller case.

— Medicare and Social Security may not be as broke as they were last year: But the trustees of the two government-run entitlement programs released a report (PDF) yesterday that paints an ominous picture of things to come. “While the report found some improvement for Medicare, which will now be able to meet its obligations until 2030, four years later than projected a year ago, the overall message continued to paint a dire long-term picture for the two programs,” The Hill explains. “Both will come under more strain amid a flood of retirees in the coming years, the trustees said. And the pressure will grow as Washington’s attention has turned away from any debate over changing the programs.” Also worth noting that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare and Social Security will consume 10.9 percent of the economy by 2039, and that doesn’t include other mandatory spending (e.g. debt service, Medicaid, and Obamacare). Those two entitlement programs alone account for 7.9 percent of the economy this year.

— Oh, and Medicare cuts through Obamacare aren’t sustainable: Philip Klein picked up on this nugget in the Medicare report. The program’s chief actuary, Paul Spitalnic, says that though the cuts made through Obamacare were meant to help Medicare, they’re likely to have serious policy ramifications. “While the ACA has been successful in reducing many Medicare expenditures to date, there is a strong possibility that certain of these changes will not be viable in the long range. Specifically, the annual price updates for most categories of non-physician health services will be adjusted downward each year by the growth in economy-wide productivity,” Spitalnic writes. “The ability of health care providers to sustain these price reductions will be challenging, as the best available evidence indicates that most providers cannot.” He goes onto say that lawmakers would “likely intervene” to stop the cuts from happening, in which case much of the purported “savings” from Obamacare would evaporate. And Congress almost annually passes a “doc fix,” like lawmakers did in March, to stave off baked-in-the-cake Medicare payment cuts.

— VA reform comes with a $17 billion price tag: And Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, says that Congress is just throwing money at the problem. “It’s striking that after years upon years of ignoring the problem, the only thing Congress seems to be able to do quickly is spend more of our money. The crisis at the Veterans Administration is a sobering reminder of what happens when government agencies operate without oversight, and, ironically, Congress is now attempting to solve the problem by throwing money at it — without oversight,” Bydlak said in a statement. “We are all outraged at the state of veteran care, but Congress should solve the problem responsibly, not carry on with more of the same.” The VA reform deal hammered out between Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will likely get a vote this week, before Congress heads home for the August recess.

— NSA spying bad for journalists and lawyers: The NSA’s domestic surveillance programs don’t hurt only the tech industry, they also make it more difficult for reporters and lawyers to do their jobs. ”[J]ournalists and lawyers face challenges—both to their ability to disseminate information and to hold the U.S. government accountable—said the report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. The groups said the government’s ‘massively powerful surveillance apparatus’ limits and jeopardizes the privacy required by both groups,” the Wall Street Journal explains. “The report is based on 92 interviews, including 46 with journalists, 42 with attorneys and five with current or former senior government officials.” The report, With Liberty to Monitor All, is available for download here.

— Flashback to 1995 and William F. Buckley: Just remember that William F. Buckley, founder and editor of the conservative National Review, called for the end of federal marijuana prohibition long before The New York Times spoke up this weekend. And while we’re glad that The Times stuck its neck out, after a number of states have either legalized medicinal marijuana or recreational use, many on the political right are far too often overlooked for their efforts to raise attention to problems with federal drug policy.

— RANDPAC continues to staff up: Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) political action committee, RANDPAC, has made another notable hire by picking up John Yob, a Michigan-based strategist who previously worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “John Yob is one of the brightest political operatives in Michigan and across the nation. His experience and expertise will help me make many vital decisions,” Paul said in a press release. “John joins a growing team which will be focused on electing constitutional conservatives into every office across the United States.” Yob will serve as RANDPAC’s national political director and chief strategist in Michigan. The hire is the latest showing that Paul’s team is getting ready for the 2016 race for the Republican nomination. The release notes that Yob has expertise in digital GOTV efforts, an important piece to successful campaigns. “The Republican Party is going to need to learn how to reach out to non-traditional Republican groups in order to win a national election again given the changing demographics in a post-Obama era. Senator Paul has the ability to inspire a new generation of conservatives, libertarians, and disaffected Democrats in states across the country,” said Yob. “I am proud to join the team and look forward to building the strongest political operation in America.”

— Companies that move overseas still pay taxes: Don’t expect President Obama to actually admit that, of course. “The domestic operations of inverted companies—like the U.S. subsidiaries of all foreign based companies—will continue to pay U.S. income taxes on the profits they earn in this country. What the move abroad does accomplish is relieve the firm from paying U.S. income taxes on its foreign earnings, which it currently has to do under our obsolete worldwide tax system,” Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation explains. “One of the big concerns about inversions is that this trend will erode the U.S. tax base. But, as I wrote in a previous blog, this is a mistaken concern because the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies actually pay a higher average effective tax rate than do all corporations as a whole.” Hodge is right, but if President Obama and Democrats acknowledge this, it would undermine their narrative that corporations are pretty much the worst things in the world.

— #LibertyKaraoke encore for Justin Amash: The #LibertyKaraoke crew will host what we’re told is a last-minute fundraiser for Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) tonight at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood. Organizers are asking for a minimum $25 contribution to Amash’s campaign to attend. The January #LibertyKaraoke fundraiser for Amash drew more than 100 people and raised $6,630 for the Michigan Republican. The crew of young, D.C.-area liberty-minded activists has raised more than $20,000 in three fundraisers for likeminded Republican congressional candidates. Details for tonight’s #LibertyKaraoke fundraiser can be found here.

Reason is hiring: Reason, probably the best libertarian magazine out there, and the Reason Foundation are looking for people to fill a host of positions, ranging from a news curator to editors and writers to policy analysts. You can check out all of the openings here.

Other stories we’re reading this morning:

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