Pork Barrel Spending

Time for a New Narrative on Food Stamps

Food Stamps (SNAP)

By this time, if you follow politics at all, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the farm bill. Passed Tuesday, this bill represents nearly $1 trillion in new spending, with typical promises for paltry reform over the next decade.

At risk of presumption, the problems with the farm portion are rather obvious. It’s no surprise that 85% of economists from across the ideological spectrum oppose farm subsidies. It seems commonly accepted that the “farm bill” long ago ceased to be a temporary relief for struggling family farmers and has instead become a hefty bonus check for some of the biggest corporate agriculture. For example, the richest farmers get the most subsidies, and just three firms received the most in sugar subsidies last year. And Tuesday’s bill did little to address these issues.

A program so misguided is easy to attack. But unfortunately, the farm portion is a very small part of the “farm” bill. And the other part backs people who want to save the next generation from massive debt into quite a tough corner.

As USS Enterprise Retired, A Question: Why So Many Aircraft Carriers?

enterprise.jpg

Over the weekend, the USS Enterprise—the real one, not James T. Kirk’s ship—was retired in Virginia:

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was retired from active service on Saturday, temporarily reducing the number of carriers in the U.S. fleet to 10 until 2015.

The USS Enterprise ended its notable 51-year career during a ceremony at its home port at Naval Station Norfolk, where thousands of former crew members, ship builders and their families lined a pier to bid farewell to one of the most decorated ships in the Navy.

“It’ll be a special memory. The tour yesterday was a highlight of the last 20 years of my life. I’ve missed the Enterprise since every day I walked off of it,” said Kirk McDonnell, a former interior communications electrician aboard the ship from 1983 to 1987 who now lives in Highmore, S.D.

The Enterprise was the largest ship in the world at the time it was built, earning the nickname “Big E.” It didn’t have to carry conventional fuel tanks for propulsion, allowing it to carry twice as much aircraft fuel and ordnance than conventional carriers at the time. Using nuclear reactors also allowed the ship to set speed records and stay out to sea during a deployment without ever having to refuel, one of the times ships are most vulnerable to attack.

Notice how the story says that the number of aircraft carriers is only “temporarily” reduced to 10 until 2015. That’s because they’re building more of them, and yes, the next one will be named Enterprise:

Dear Media: This Isn’t About Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is under fire. Unjustly.

With Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Peter King and others seemingly deserting Grover Norquist and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, media outlets across the spectrum are declaring that the GOP is “Over Grover” and that his vicelike grip of eternal dominance on the GOP might not be so eternal after all. We have images like this one, showing Republican leaders bowing to him as if he is a god. And on and on and on.

What it really is, though, is just another round of misinformation, wrong data, and interpretations based on faulty premises. Yet another sideshow that is completely missing the point, the real debate we should be having in DC.

More about libertarianism, fusionism, and the Romney campaign

Jason Pye has written a great blog post about libertarians and the Romney campaign already. He asked me my opinion about it, perhaps even with the possibility of a “point-counterpoint” sort of thing. I pretty much agree with what he’s saying, particularly about Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party. We are not a monolithic group; we are a very wide and very diverse range of individuals who just want to increase individual liberty.

What I want to add is that, while Republicans and conservatives complain about us, and want us to support them in elections, they have done nothing to earn such support. Let me show you a few examples:

To which I responded with:

And to which I got this response:

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Crony Capitalism Is Phony Capitalism

That little gem is from a new page on Facebook, called “Crony Capitalism is Phony Capitalism.” Now, you may be wondering why I posted this. I mean yes, it’s kinda cute (c’mon, this is the postmodern 21st century, zombies and Cthulhu are automatically cute), short, pithy, and expresses a libertarian message, even if it generalizes it. A lot. But a 30-second video from a Facebook page? Really?

The reason I did so is because I feel this is the Number #1 message we need to be getting out there (well, that and how feeling up women at airports is just wrong.) Back in college, when I argued about government intervention in the marketplace, “corporatism” and “crony capitalism” were just not mentioned. It was an important discovery for me when I found these terms, because previously I had been just trying to defend capitalism, no adjectives. It was difficult, because everyone associated large businesses ripping them off with the capitalist system, and they just could not understand how government so heavily involved itself in the market, but that system was not what we libertarians were espousing. Oh, how useful these new terms were! How sharp were their blades in cutting away the web of lies! How deep were their inkwells in writing the new papers blogs on liberty and the free market!

“Let’s Flatten This Joint”

One suspects that the above title might be the new slogan for the Republican Party, with the joint being the Internal Revenue Service’s buildings. Why? Because now Gov. Perry has unveiled a flat tax plan:

 

The code that Perry is proposing would feature a 20% personal income and corporate tax, the elimination of Social Security and capital gains taxes, and the preservation of popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving. Under the “cut, balance, and grow” plan, tax loopholes for corporations would be phased out while the standard exemption for those earning $500,000 or less would be increased to $12,500.

His economic team believes that those changes, combined with deep spending cuts and entitlement reforms including a gradual increase in the retirement age, will encourage so much growth and save families and corporations so much in compliance costs that the budget could be balanced by 2020.

One thing I am glad Perry’s team admits is that the tax, by itself, will not fix our problems. They say “combined with deep spending cuts and entitlement reforms”. That is what we need to fix our problems; however, if we need to have a discussion about tax policy first to get there, then so be it.

August 2nd: A Day That Won’t Live In Infamy

If a deal hasn’t been reached by the time this is posted (the agreement reached by congressional leaders and the White House over the weekend is pending caucus approval), then tomorrow will be a day of infamy. According to public consensus, our credit rating will be downgraded, our borrowing rates will skyrocket, Social Security checks won’t go out, we’ll have to lay off millions of government workers (oh hyperbole), China will get mad, and our cost of living will sharply increase while the quality of living decreases dramatically. The sky will fall, the world economy will collapse, unemployment will make what we have now look like a cakewalk. It will be Disaster;.

Except it will be none of these things.

August 2nd, if a deal is not reached, will not spell the end of the world. Even if S&P and Moody’s try and downgrade the United States. Why? Three reasons: One, if the markets thought we were going to be screwed, they would have done it before. Second, the credit rating agencies are utterly superfluous and worthless when it come to US debt. Third, even if we hit the debt ceiling, Turbo Tax Geithner will be permitted to prioritize interest payments on the debt and send out Social Security checks, meaning we won’t have a default (and Grandma can still buy the ingredients for her damned fruitcake.)

Taken together, these three things illustrate a picture where August 2nd isn’t the end of the world, and that we should really slow down, take a deep breath, and then have a shot of whiskey. Preferably rye, but that’s just me.

Article the First: The market was supposed to explode under the debt ceiling, showing how urgent and necessary it is to raise it, according to John Carney:

VIDEO: The Spending Cut Shell Game, Cato Institute Style


Consider this an open thread.

Counter-Point: The fight against earmarks is the opening shot in a much larger battle

This is part two in a debate between Doug Mataconis, a contributor at Outside the Beltway and United Liberty, and Jason Pye, editor of United Liberty, over whether the current debate over earmarks is distraction from the larger fiscal issues facing the nation.

Over the last several years, there has been much debate in Congress over earmarking, which is the process of designating funds for a specific purpose in a spending bill. Critics of the practice call most of these earmarks “pork barrel projects.”

Earmarks are an issue for several reasons. They can distort the marketplace, allowing the government to pick winners and losers. More often than not, the cost of an earmark is greater than the benefit, a point that is especially true with mass transit projects. And there is almost no sunlight on how they are inserted into appropriations bill.

There also is not much public support for the practice. According to a CBS News poll conducted in 2007, 67 percent of the public viewed earmarks as “not acceptable.”

Members of Congress use the practice in order to secure funds for their districts and proudly point them out during their next campaign to prove they are in Washington to “bring home the bacon.” Leadership of parties in Congress will often use earmarks to entice members to vote a certain position on legislation. The 2003 expansion of Medicare and the 2007 emergency spending bill for Iraq are both examples of this practice.


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