Spending

Point: The earmarks debate is a diversion

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.

It’s Time For An Adult Conversation

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).

It Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is

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.

GOP rolls out Pledge to America, mixed reaction among conservatives

House Republicans officially rolled out the Pledge to America (PDF embedded at the bottom of the page or you can download here) yesterday morning at a lumber company in Sterling, Virginia:

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:

Liberty Locally: Playgrounds

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.

Another Classic Rant From Rick Santelli: Stop Spending, Stop Spending, Stop Sending

The guy who set the fire that started the Tea Party Movement was in rare form again this morning:

Report: Doctors Refusing Medicare Patients

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.

Charity and Government

On April 15th, I went down to the Georgia state capitol to hang out with about 5000 of my racist friends as we discussed ways to oppress the poor, exploit and denigrate minorities, engage in violent protest and call for the death of President Barack Obama. At least, that is what we were doing according to the media, who reported breathlessly about this violent uprising which stemmed from the hatred of a black president (while conveniently ignoring the fact that the same president could not have been elected without a huge number of white voters casting their ballots for him…maybe white voters did not realize he was black until after the election).

About half an hour before the rally ended I went up to the barricade which police were monitoring, behind which was about a dozen counter-protesters. As I approached they directed their invective at me, calling me a racist, saying I hate the president, saying that because I oppose the health care control law I want poor people to die. The whole time I just smiled and listened.

When they finally calmed down I began to engage in conversation with them. I asked why I was considered a racist just for opposing big government, and pointed out that I had seen dozens of blacks, Hispanics and Asians in the crowd. Were they racists too?

The Truth About Barack Obama’s “Tax Cut For 95% Of Americans”

Yesterday in Miami, President Obama had this to say about the Tax Day protesters:

OBAMA: We cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans just like I promised we would on the campaign. […] So I’ve been a little amused over the last couple days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying, “Thank you!” That’s what you’d think!

Obama’s comment, of course, ignores the massive spending and deficit increases that he’s presided over, but what about this claim that he cut taxes for 95% of Americans ?

Yea, well that doesn’t really hold water either.

First of all, the tax referred to, the Making Work Pay tax credit doesn’t amount to much of anything:

Q: What are some of the tax breaks in the bill?

The tea party movement is a response Barack Obama (Bruce McQuain’s wrong)

Recently, former Vice President Dan Quayle offered his two cents about the tea party movement:

Like many influential causes before it, the “tea party” movement appeared on the scene uninvited by the political establishment. Democrats in the White House and in Congress recognize it for what it is — a spontaneous and pointed response to the Obama agenda — but some Republican leaders still aren’t sure what to make of it, as tea partiers have risen on their own and stirred up trouble in GOP primaries.

Over at QandO, my friend Bruce McQuain takes issue with Quayle’s comments and defends the tea party movement:

The  tea party movement is not exclusively a reaction only to “the Obama agenda”. And if the GOP buys into that, they’re buying trouble.  Quayle even acknowledges that without knowing it when he talks about trouble in Republican primaries.

This grass roots movement didn’t begin when Obama took office or in reaction to his specific agenda, but instead began to form during the Bush administration as government continued to expand. About the time TARP found its way into the political lexicon, it went public.  It was the size of the crisis and response – the trillions of dollars thrown around like confetti – that finally spurred people into the streets and birthed the official “tea party movement”.

I really wish that were true, Bruce, but Quayle is right.


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