Americans have been lied to about the vast surveillance that their government has been conducting. While politicians and intelligence officials have said in the past that only those suspected of terrorist activity are the target of surveillance, we now know that intelligence agencies have been collecting phone records and data from Internet providers about Americans who aren’t suspected of any crime. These citizens are, understandably, bothered by the surveillance programs.
In a video released last week, Jim Harper and Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute discussed the depth of these programs and the dishonesty of politicians who denied that innocent Americans were being surveilled.
K Street lobbyists may have a thing or two to teach us about bipartisanship.
Recent reports concerning the latest NSA scandals suggest major super-computer makers, defense contractors and telecommunication companies are big on landing a hand to any member of the political class from both sides of the aisle, so long as they are ready to push for legislation outlined to promote the use of their services. We might not want to blame the companies for using the tools available to attempt to create an artificial increase in demand for their services, but we can blame the government for encouraging the push.
The Hill has announced recently that defense giants Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics have contacted the National Security Agency in the last quarter. While representatives for the firms declined to comment on what was found on the record, experts claim that lobbyists were simply following the money.
Critics are quick to point out that nobody has come out publicly to state just how much money is in play at the NSA. This piece of information could be crucial in light of claims linking lobbyists for major defense contractors and the NSA. In the recent past, General Dynamics lobbied on “funding and issues related to Intelligence Classified Annex for Fiscal Year 2013.” According to official numbers disclosed by OpenSecrets.org, General Dynamics alone spent over $22 million with lobbying efforts in past couple of years.
Most Americans don’t realize that their e-mail messages, chats, and documents stored on cloud servers aren’t protected by current privacy laws. There have been efforts pushed in Congress and by groups from all across the ideological spectrum to reform these laws, but there has been little to show for it.
Even before the revelations about the NSA spying scandal became public knowledge, the Justice Department and IRS claimed that they could read Americans e-mails and web-based instant messages without obtaining a warrant, as the Fourth Amendment requires. The FBI wants even more authority than statutes currently allow to access online data.
Three members of the House — Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Tom Graves (R-GA), and Jared Polis (D-CO) — made the case yesterday for the Email Privacy Act, a bipartisan measure that would protect Americans’ electronic communications and cloud data, in an editorial at Wired:
Simply put, this bipartisan legislation would affirm what most Americans already assume — and have every constitutional right to believe — that their privacy is protected from unwarranted government intrusion.
Written by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The bitterest fights tend to be civil wars. Today, Syria is going through such a brutal bloodletting.
The administration reportedly has decided to provide arms to Syria’s insurgents. It’s a mistake.
This kind of messy conflict is precisely the sort in which Washington should avoid. Despite the end of the Cold War, the U.S. armed services have spent much of the last quarter century engaged in combat. At the very moment Washington should be pursuing a policy of peace, policymakers are preparing to join a civil war in which America’s security is not involved, other nations have much more at stake, many of the “good” guys in fact are bad, and there would be no easy exit.
Military action should not be a matter of choice, just another policy option. Americans should have something fundamental at stake before their government calls them to arms.
No such interest exists in Syria.
Intervention against Damascus means war. Some activists imagine that Washington need only wave its hand and President Bashar Assad would depart. However, weapons shipments are not going to oust a regime which has survived two years of combat. Intervening ineffectively could cost lives and credibility while ensuring heavier future involvement.
There is no serious security rationale for war. Damascus has not attacked or threatened to attack America or an American ally. America’s nearby friends, Israel and Turkey, are capable of defending themselves.
Another concern is the conflict spilling over Syria’s borders. But this does not warrant U.S. intervention. Maintaining geopolitical stability rarely approaches a vital interest justifying war.
Undeterred by President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats resistance to revisit healthcare reform, the House of Representatives is still pushing to make changes to ObamaCare that could help lower insurance premiums and costs for Americans.
The latest effort is legislation sponsored by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) to repeal the tax on health insurance plans, one of the 20 new taxes or tax hikes that were included in ObamaCare. The Hill notes that the legislation, H.R. 763, has received the backing of a majority of the House:
The bill would repeal a new tax on health insurance plans, which is expected to raise roughly $100 billion over the next 10 years. Insurers and small businesses strongly oppose the tax, saying it will drive up premiums.
It’s not especially surprising for a majority of the GOP-led House to support repealing the tax. The House has passed bills to repeal the entire healthcare law and to repeal or defund myriad individual provisions.
Still, hitting 218 cosponsors is a key benchmark for the law’s critics.
“This largely symbolic yet important benchmark for repealing the health insurer fee shows the level of bipartisan support in Congress to do away with this misguided policy,” said Joe Moser, interim executive director of the Medicaid Health Plans of America.
According to GovTrack, the legislation now has 221 co-sponsors, including six House Democrats.
Written by Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
It’s widely accepted that George W. Bush was a big-spending president. He was a social conservative, but not a fiscal one. To his credit, however, even Bush recognized how wasteful and unfair farm subsidies are, and he vetoed the last major farm bill in 2008.
That bill “would needlessly expand the size and scope of government,” he said in his veto message. Unfortunately, Congress overrode Bush’s veto and the 2008 farm bill became law at an estimated taxpayer cost of $640 billion over 10 years.
Congress is moving ahead on another farm bill this year, with the Senate recently passing its version and the House to take up a bill shortly. The Senate-passed bill would spend $955 billion over 10 years—49 percent more than the 2008 bill that was too expensive even for Bush.
Four-fifths of the spending in this year’s farm bill is for food stamps, yet 18 Republican senators still voted for it. Perhaps those members hadn’t noticed that the cost of food stamps has quadrupled over the last decade. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed that federal government debt has doubled since 2008. To members who see themselves as fiscal conservatives, it should be obvious that a less expensive bill this time around is appropriate, rather than one that is far more expensive.