In a shocking turn of events, the federal government has voted to maintain the status quo. That is, of course, sarcasm as the feds have an amazing track record of kicking the can. The “irresponsible” Bush tax cuts have been extended based on a deal cut by the Obama administration with the Congressional Republicans. In addition, unemployment benefits have been extended yet again.
This debate has been somewhat of a false debate. The Bush tax cuts were passed in 2001 with a provision to expire at the end of 2010. Rates would then return to the levels which prevailed during the Clinton administration. The debate and rhetoric on this issue have allowed Washington to shine at its finest.
Of course Republicans don’t want to tax the job creators, because that will bring revenue down… Ah, your answer is that spending money drives the economy, and I don’t think that’s right. It’s the creation of jobs that drives the economy. The truth is, that the unemployed will spend as little of that money as they possibly can… Do we want… to continue to ignore the issue of jobs and increase taxes?
As you may have heard, Herman Cain is planning on forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2012. I’m not surprised. Cain has always held ambition to hold elected office. He ran for the United States Senate here in Georgia in 2004; losing to now-Senator Johnny Isakson without a runoff.
Many don’t realize that this isn’t the first time Cain, who once served as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, has discussed a presidential bid. As Matt Lewis has noted, Cain ran for president in 2000.
Like many conservatives, Cain has used the tea party movement as a platform to build up his name and slam the policies of Barack Obama and Democrats. Unfortunately, the criticism of Obama and friends inside the tea party movement is no longer limited to economic policy.
However, Cain was largely silent during the six years of runaway spending under the Bush Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress. Like most Republicans, he only acknowledged his party’s failings after it was too late to do anything about it.
He backed the Wall Street bailout, or according to Cain, the “recovery plan,” as he called it on his radio show. Cain wrote that nationalizing banks “is not a bad thing.” He even went as far as criticizing opponents of the bailout, calling them “free market purists” and absurdly claiming that no valid criticism had been brought forward.
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.
This is part one 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.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans will take up the issue of whether to forswear earmarking during the upcoming session of Congress. On one side stands Jim DeMint who contends that earmarking is a corrupting process that helps increase the size of spending bills. On the other stands Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who contends that earmarking is an important legislative prerogative and that eliminating it would do nothing to cut Federal spending. While earmark opponents do have a point that the process can be corrupting when not done transparently, the truth is that the so-called “war on earmarks” is a diversion from the real battles that have to be fought in order to reduce the size, scope, and power of government.
Let’s take the Omnibus Spending Bill passed early last year as an example.
By February 2011, now just over four months away, America will know whether the Republican Party that they have returned to power in the House, along with the increased number in the Senate, truly are a new breed of Republicans (or rather, a return to the traditional Republicans of the past…true limited government, low tax conservatives), or whether we have the same mess as before in new packaging.
To be sure, Republicans are unlikely to accomplish much in 2011 and 2012, at least from an administrative standpoint. Even if they regain a majority in the House (very likely) and Senate (an outside possibility requiring all the stars to align), they are still faced with an opposition president wielding veto power, a president who has vowed that there will be “hand-to-hand combat in Washington” if Republicans win. Despite his lofty rhetoric of ushering in an era of true bipartisanship, Obama’s latest comments reveal what most of us already knew. Namely, that “bipartisanship” to Democrats means Republicans must vote for everything that the Democrat majority passes or be labeled as “obstructionist”.
This is the same president who, shortly after taking office in January 2009, and when facing Republican opposition to the stimulus package, repeatedly reminded Republicans that he’d won the election. Therefore, the implication being, America has accepted his goals and his agenda and there will be no compromises. The stimulus package was rammed through with almost no Republican support (a good thing, because now Democrats have to take full responsibility for its failure), as was ObamaCare (passed with NO Republican support, also a good thing).
Understanding the underlying meaning of a politician’s words is an art. It is a skill that must be cultivated, because all too often the words they speak are nothing more than deceptive marketing. You have the high-energy sales pitch…and thirty seconds of fine print read at high speed. Most of the time, the loud claims are completely negated by the fine print.
Nowhere is this deceptive nuance more prevalent than when politicians talk about money. To those of us in the real world, we go out and work hard to earn money to provide for the needs of ourselves and our families. We have gross earnings, and then we have “take-home pay”, which is the gross earnings minus the litany of state and federal taxes, insurance premiums, etc. If we take a pay cut, it means that our gross earnings are reduced from the previous level. This is how normal people speak.
The political world has its own Orwellian lexicon, where nothing means what it sounds like it means. Before we can even address the lexicon though, we have to address the larger underlying problem; namely, the philosophical differences between government and the average citizen. Since I believe the words of the Declaration and the Constitution, which says that I am a son of my Creator, endowed with unalienable rights, and that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, I naturally believe that the fruits of my labor belong to me and me alone. As a citizen, I have agreed to take a portion of my earnings and contribute it to the funding of the cost of government, which is there, in theory, to protect my rights.
The agenda is reminiscent of “The Contract with America” that House Republicans announced on the steps of the Capitol in 1994. That manifesto helped them win control of the House during the second year of Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidency.
While short on specifics, the new Republican plan calls for $100 billion in annual savings by scaling back federal spending to 2008 levels — with exceptions for the elderly and U.S. troops — and ending government control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Republican House leaders also vowed to stop “job killing tax hikes” and allow small business owners to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.
Under pressure from the conservative Tea Party movement to slash the size and cost of government, the Republicans promised to repeal Obama’s landmark overhaul of the healthcare system and eliminate unspent funds from his $814 billion economic stimulus program.
The reaction among Democrats has been predictable as they again try to bring up George W. Bush, a strategy that hasn’t worked thus far:
I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourself why a liberty-themed site that hits on tough national issues like the 2nd Amendment, Eminent Domain, Civil Liberties, and the like now has a post talking about playgrounds. So let me explain:
This is my first (second) post on this illustrious forum. I created another site about a year and a half ago, where UL-writer Tom Knighton is my business partner. I also wrote “The Cult of Christianity”, which appeared here as a guest post this past Easter. My own philosophy for promoting Liberty is to work from the ground up building support locally and then spreading from there. Hence the reason I wanted to start off by exploring various ways to promote Liberty Locally and show people that we who value Liberty are not crazy anarchists who don’t want government to exist at all.
So let’s talk about playgrounds, shall we?
Nearly all of us played on various playgrounds as kids. Whether it be swinging, sliding, climbing monkey bars, or simply playing tag on an open field, play is an important part of childhood and one many of us look back on fondly.
The problem for local governments is that these days, playgrounds can be expensive. Depending on exactly what you want, they can easily cost upwards of $20K for a small one, and in the six figures for larger ones. Even for larger towns, this is a lot of money - and my town only has a population of around 3,000 people!
So how do we as a community promote small government while also providing ample play space for our community’s children?
One way is to get a single rich donor to donate the money to both buy the equipment and have it installed. No government expense at all, but sufficiently rich donors can be hard to come by in small towns like mine.
The guy who set the fire that started the Tea Party Movement was in rare form again this morning:
USA Today reports this morning that doctors are starting to refuse to accept new Medicare patients due to cuts in payments:
WASHINGTON — The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program.
Recent surveys by national and state medical societies have found more doctors limiting Medicare patients, partly because Congress has failed to stop an automatic 21% cut in payments that doctors already regard as too low. The cut went into effect Friday, even as the Senate approved a six-month reprieve. The House has approved a different bill.
• The American Academy of Family Physicians says 13% of respondents didn’t participate in Medicare last year, up from 8% in 2008 and 6% in 2004.
• The American Osteopathic Association says 15% of its members don’t participate in Medicare and 19% don’t accept new Medicare patients. If the cut is not reversed, it says, the numbers will double.
• The American Medical Association says 17% of more than 9,000 doctors surveyed restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practice. Among primary care physicians, the rate is 31%.
The federal health insurance program for seniors paid doctors on average 78% of what private insurers paid in 2008.
“Physicians are saying, ‘I can’t afford to keep losing money,’ ” says Lori Heim, president of the family doctors’ group.