With Romney’s win Tuesday in New Hampshire, the first Republican non-incumbent to win both Iowa and the Granite State since 1976, some are saying that the primary battle is essentially over, while President Obama has “locked-in” on Romney as his opponent. I don’t need to be the one to tell you how bad this is for liberty, and how bad it is for just elections overall.
In effect, we’re going to have a choice between a Wall St. financied big business candidate who has no good record on civil liberties and created a massive government health insurance boondoggle against…the exact same thing.
Glenn Greenwald wrote an absolutely fantastic piece on New Year’s Eve about Ron Paul and how the Texas Representative is challenging progressives and liberals to take a harder look at Obama, which may not be what they want to do. In particular, Greenwald had this gem:
The thing I loathe most about election season is reflected in the central fallacy that drives progressive discussion the minute “Ron Paul” is mentioned. As soon as his candidacy is discussed, progressives will reflexively point to a slew of positions he holds that are anathema to liberalism and odious in their own right and then say: how can you support someone who holds this awful, destructive position? The premise here — the game that’s being played — is that if you can identify some heinous views that a certain candidate holds, then it means they are beyond the pale, that no Decent Person should even consider praising any part of their candidacy.
Clark Ruper, who is the VP of Students for Liberty, has a very good point to make vis-a-vis the Occupy Wall Street movement (for once, the bolding is not mine!):
A lot of the discussion lately has focused on whether Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is good or bad for liberty, whether they favor more or less government, and similar questions. While these are valid questions to ask, it is important to consider how we insert ourselves into the conversation. The protesters have already framed the debate; it is them versus the corporate/political elite (99% vs 1%). We have to move within that framework and in doing so find the most useful way to get a libertarian message across.
When the topic is government and corporations abusing power, neither of the two institutions are righteous. Rather, all parties are wrong for various reasons. Don’t pick sides! Too often we libertarians find ourselves defending corporations in our attempts to defend free market capitalism. These are the vary same corporations that often fight for and benefit from eminent domain abuse, bailouts, special tax code loopholes, protective tariff and import quotas, licensing laws to keep out market competition, and a whole host of corporate welfare programs. The analysis of corporations being moral is overly simplistic. While there are many corporations that play fair, there are clearly many that abuse their power.
That last line is officially the understatement of the week.
Leave it to Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute to use a fantastic quote to describe the true state of American “capitalism” (i.e., corporatism) so well:
I wish both the Occupy Wall Street and 53 Percenters would take a look at this and realize that, if they’re both true to their values and not partisan hacks, they really have a lot in common. Two sides of the same coin and all that. Maybe they can meet in the middle and join up with the rest of us.
Also, make sure to read his op-ed back from 2008, where he lays out all the reasons the bailouts were bad, and uses that fantastic line again.
I had the displeasure of reading a Paul Krugman column a short while ago after reading a link to it in a Reason comment thread. (That, of course, was quite pleasant.) Naturally, Krugman spouts off utter stupidity:
Watching the evolution of economic discussion in Washington over the past couple of years has been a disheartening experience. Month by month, the discourse has gotten more primitive; with stunning speed, the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis have been forgotten, and the very ideas that got us into the crisis — regulation is always bad, what’s good for the bankers is good for America, tax cuts are the universal elixir — have regained their hold.
On the face of it, this seems bizarre. Over the last two years profits have soared while unemployment has remained disastrously high. Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?
And now trickle-down economics — specifically, the idea that anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy — is making a comeback.
Yesterday it was announced that the United States would send more money to Europe via the International Monetary Fund to bailout faltering economies, such as Ireland:
The United States would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.
“There are a lot of people talking about that. I think the European Commission has talked about that,” said the U.S. official, commenting on enlarging the 750 billion euro ($980 billion) EU/IMF European stability fund. “It is up to the Europeans. We will certainly support using the IMF in these circumstances.”
“There are obviously some severe market problems,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In May, it was Greece. This is Ireland and Portugal. If there is contagion that’s a huge problem for the global economy.”
The developments have echoes of the pressure applied by Washington on European capitals last May to create the near $1 trillion EFSF safety net that was last week used to rescue Ireland after its banking crisis spiraled out of control.
The IMF, whose biggest single shareholder is the United States, has committed 250 billion euros to the EFSF.
While reluctant to dictate to Europe how it should address the unfolding debt crisis, the U.S. government is growing concerned about the global fallout of Europe’s predicament.
In addition to American taxpayers funding this European bailout, the Federal Reserve finally released details on loans it made to banks, and the list includes foreign financial institutions:
President Barack Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released a draft of their recommendations (you can read it here or scroll to the bottom of the page) yesterday to mostly negative response from both Democrats and Republicans:
A draft proposal released Wednesday by the chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan commission on reducing the federal debt calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending starting in 2012, and an overhaul of the tax code to raise revenue. Those changes and others would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says.
The federal tax on gasoline, now 18.4 cents a gallon, would increase by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015, so that revenue from the tax and similar user fees could cover all transportation and highway spending programs, and the funds set up for that purpose would no longer require money from the general treasury.
The proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent on the lowest income bracket (now 10 percent) and to 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.
Even after reducing the rates, the overhaul of the tax code would still yield additional revenue to reduce annual deficits — a projected $80 billion in 2015.
By now you’ve heard about Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) mentioned the idea of bringing back earmarks, which the GOP has had a self-imposed moratorium on for the last year. A day or so later Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) called his colleague, Sen. John McCain, a “liberal” because of his opposition to the practice. I guess Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint and Jeff Flake all now have firmly established “liberal” credentials since they have largely led the fight against the practice.
The folks over at Citizens Against Government Waste offer their two cents on the already waning commitment to fiscal stewardship by Republicans:
It looks like House Republicans took a one year moratorium on earmarks to show voters an image that they were fiscally restrained without actually sticking to it. With leadership like this, it won’t be surprising if we saw Republicans lose control of the House as quickly as they win it.
As I’ve said before, earmarks (projects inserted in a spending bill that aren’t vetted or pick winners and losers) aren’t the problem, but a symptom of the fiscal irresponsibility that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) notes has contributed to the “culture of corruption” in Washington.
Cantor’s comments show us that even though Republicans haven’t taken back the House and they’ve already become addicted to the smell of the marble. Business as usual is not going to cut it. In order to prove that you are serious about dealing with spending, you have to begin to show that you are willing to go after waste, even if it’s symbolic.
Despite that some Republicans are saying that we don’t need to cut defense spending, a new report by the Washington Post called “Top Secret America” shows that there is much waste and inefficiency in the intelligence community:
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, top-secret intelligence gathering by the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no one really knows what it cost and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported Monday.
A two-year investigation by the newspaper uncovered what it termed a “Top Secret America” that’s mostly hidden from public view and largely lacking in oversight.
In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the U.S.
Some 854,000 people — or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington — have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.
The Post said its investigation also found that:
—In the area around Washington, 33 building complexes — totaling some 17 million square feet of space — for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11.
—Many intelligence agencies are doing the same work, wasting money and resources on redundancy.
—So many intelligence reports are published each year that many are routinely ignored.
Over at the Mercatus Center, Veronique de Rugy shows what makes up the more than $66 trillion in commitments the federal government has made for the next 75 years, which includes Social Security and Medicare.
Do you still believe that Barack Obama wants to fight off special interests and working for the people? Tim Carney, author of Obamanomics, explains that not only is the president not living up to the hype, he is actually doing them some big favors:
“Tonight,” President Obama intoned near midnight Sunday, after the House had passed two health care bills, “we pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. … We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.”
But even before the president spoke, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America — whose $26.1 million lobbying effort in 2009 was the most expensive by any industry lobby in history — hailed the health package as “important and historic.”
Yet all along Obama has claimed the opposite. The Democrats’ party-line Senate vote for the bill represented “standing up to the special interests,” Obama said in December — just before the health care lobbyists and pharmaceutical political action committees hosted fundraisers for Martha Coakley to try to preserve the Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority.
Throughout March, as momentum built for passing the bill, and as Democrats adopted the mantra, “You’re either with the American people, or you’re with the insurance companies,” health insurance stocks climbed in tandem with the bill’s odds of passing. The health sector outperformed every other sector in the S&P 500 over the last month.