budget deficit

“Fiscally conservative” Blue Dog Democrats fail to protect taxpayers

Blue Dog Democrats

Much ink has been spilled in the last few years over the decline of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House of Representatives. Just this week, the Washington Post ran a story noting that this group of purportedly centrist Democrats will has seen its numbers fall from 50 members four years ago.

“[T]he Blue Dog Coalition is a shell of its former self, shrunken to just 15 members because of political defeat, retirements after redrawn districts left them in enemy territory and just plain exhaustion from the constant battle to stay in office,” wrote Paul Kane at the Washington Post. “Several are not running for reelection in November, and a few others are top targets of Republicans.”

There actually 19 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, though three members aren’t running for reelection in 2014. Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC), whose districts were targeted by Republicans, decided to retire. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) is running for governor in Maine. Other members of the Blue Dog Coalition face tough bids for reelection, which could further dwindle its numbers at the beginning of the next Congress.

Blue Dog Democrats claim to “represent the center of the House of Representatives” and purport to be “dedicated to the financial stability and national security of the United States.” In news stories, reporters will frequently refer to Blue Dogs as “fiscally conservative” or “deficit hawks.”

No More Tanks: Army Tells Congress to Stop Spending

Abrams tank

Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like  ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

Cost of Obama’s State of the Union Address? $83.4 billion

You mad, bro?

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was filled with promises and various other costly legislative items at a time when budget deficits are still running high. According to the National Taxpayers Union, President Obama’s agenda would cost taxpayers $83.4 billion per year:

In President Obama’s most expensive and widest ranging State of the Union Address yet, his proposals weighed in at $83.4 billion worth of quantifiable agenda items, according to National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) annual line-by-line analysis of the speech. This figure could grow much higher depending on what the President aims to do to avoid the sequester. In either case, if the President intends to follow through on his promise that his speech would not “add a dime to the deficit,” individuals and businesses may be facing another round of tax increases.

“The speech gave the President the opportunity to preview his forthcoming budget,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “And although he said his agenda items would not increase the deficit, he spent far more time detailing new spending initiatives than how they would be ‘paid for.’”

If the sequester plan that the White House has put forward were passed, it would raise the cost of the spending proposals to $100.4 billion. The most costly program that President Obama wants enacted is his cap-and-trade plan, which would cost $56.5 billion each year. NTU also notes that more than half of the proposals mentioned by President Obama in the State of the Union address “could not be quantified.”

You can see the costs of each proposal here.

Another speech from Obama, another huge disappointment

Obama gives State of the Union

Last night during a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama gave his fifth the State of the Union address where he laid out his agenda for the next year. As was anticipated, the speech carried over the Leftist themes of last month’s inaugural address and was more aggressive in tone.

Despite recent GDP numbers showing that the economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012, President Obama started off the hour long speech by repeat a familiar line, explaining that “[t]ogether, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”

After a couple of shots at Congress, President Obama spent a few minutes discussing the sequester, claiming that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.” Obama claimed, “we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.”

If only that were true. In Cato Institute’s response to the State of the Union address, Michael Tanner explained, “Let’s be absolutely clear — there have been no spending cuts under this President.”

In 2010, the first year that this President was responsible for the budget, the federal government spent $3.4 trillion,” noted Tanner. “Last year, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion, and for the first four of last year, we’re spending at a fast pace than the first four months of last year.”

Do the American People Agree with Obama?

Written by David Boaz, executive vice president at the Cato Institute. It is cross-posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

News reports quote President Obama, in discussing the debt ceiling and the ongoing argument over tax and spending policy in his press conference yesterday, saying:

It turns out the American people agree with me.

Do they? It’s true that a majority of respondents told pollsters that they wanted to raise taxes on someone else. And Congress did that in the “fiscal cliff” legislation.

But what about the president’s insistence on a larger government and essentially no cuts in federal spending? The election day exit polls shed some light on those questions.

51 percent of voters polled said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals—8 points higher than in the 2008 election. Only 43 percent of voters said they believe government should be doing more.

49 percent said the 2010 health care law should be repealed, with only 44 percent of voters supporting it.

And 51 percent said they prefer smaller government with fewer services, while 43 percent prefer larger government. As usual.

Rocketing Towards the True Fiscal Cliff

You mad, bro?

Now that the “fiscal cliff” deal is law, we move on to the next acts in this kabuki theater we call Congress. The fiscal cliff deal locked in most of the Bush-era tax rates permanently, raised taxes on the highest earners, allowed the payroll tax to increase on all earners (a shock to many Democrats, who thought the re-coronation of the Obamessiah exempted them from more taxes). It once again kicked the can of spending excess, specifically entitlement spending, down the road. It supposedly reduces the huge annual deficits, yet will bring in only $620 billion over ten years (enough revenue in a decade to pay HALF of THIS year’s deficit). Since entitlement spending drives our growth in debt, the fiscal cliff deal did not avert a fiscal crisis; it simply delayed it and insured that it will be much worse when it hits.

The irony is that Obama’s fiscal cliff deal theoretically demands higher taxes for “fairness,” to get the rich to carry more of the burden. However, a recent Huffington Post article quotes Professor Emmanuel Saez of UC-Berkeley, who reveals that income inequality is actually higher under Obama than it was under Bush. Or, as the writer explains, “That means the rising tide has lifted fewer boats during the Obama years — and the ones it’s lifted have been mostly yachts.” In other words, his uber-rich friends hit the jackpot even as the poor and middle class he supposedly protects suffer more.

Despite hand-wringing and breathless proclamations of impending doom, Congress and Obama showed they were completely unserious about fixing the problem, voting on the “fiscal cliff” bill without having a clue what was in it. According to Congressman Ron Paul, the bill was voted on in the House just 22-hours after the text was made available, and the Senate voted on the 154-page bill just three minutes after it was presented.

Senate Republicans should oppose Jack Lew

Jack Lew

At the end of last week, President Barack Obama nominated Jack Lew, who currently serves as White House Chief of State, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next Treasury Secretary. While he may eventually win confirmation, the White House and Lew may have a fight on their hands in the Senate:

Republicans say Jack Lew will have to answer for what they view as the president’s bare-knuckle tactics when Lew undergoes the Senate confirmation process for Treasury secretary. 
[…]
Republicans are frustrated that Obama has not put forth what they would consider a credible plan to reform entitlement programs. And they were angered when after the election he traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia for campaign-style events to pressure Republicans to extend the middle-class tax cuts.

Senate GOP aides say Lew will be called to account for the White House’s tactics when he comes before the Senate Finance Committee.

“He’s coming to the Senate from the chief of staff’s role in the White House and this White House just points the finger at everyone else. It refuses to take the blame for the bad things that are happening. This is a White House that is overly political and not really interested in alternate points of view,” said a senior Senate GOP aide.

“He’s going to be facing a lot of questions related to his involvement in the White House. He’s the top dog over there. He’s responsible for the direction,” the aide said. “It’s a shame the president would send along such a divisive figure.”

A Compact for America to Rein in Government

Written by Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that the one thing missing from the newly minted Constitution was some kind of limit on federal debt:

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.

Now that Washington has kicked the can on our out-of-control spending yet again, isn’t it time to reconsider Jefferson’s wish?

It may be easier than previously thought, through an ingenious spin on the balanced budget amendment (BBA).  Compact for America, a Texas-based nonprofit advised by the Goldwater Institute’s Nick Dranias, is advancing an agreement among the states — called an “interstate compact” — to transform the constitutional amendment process into a “turn-key” operation.  That is, a single interstate compact can consolidate all the state action involved in the Article V process: the application to Congress for an amendment convention, delegate appointments and instructions, selection of the convention location and rules, and ultimate ratification.  It then consolidates all the corresponding congressional action, both the call for the convention and ratification referral, into a single omnibus concurrent resolution.

GOP Groups’ Ads on Sequestration, Defense Jobs Are Misleading

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

It is no surprise that the defense contractors want to protect their profits by getting taxpayers to pony up more money. Now they have secured the support of Crossroads GPS in a commercial against Senate candidate and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine. The Crossroads ad follows similar ones from Kaine’s challenger, George Allen, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. All three ads claim that spending cuts under sequestration will result in devastating job losses to the defense industry and Virginia; the Crossroads ad claims 520,000 jobs will be lost. But these estimates are wildly inflated and represent the short-term interests of the defense industry, not the American taxpayer.

3 Similarities Between President Obama and Honey Boo Boo

If you are President Obama, somehow not yet familiar with Honey Boo Boo, or if you’re in therapy after watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” please accept my sincerest apologies for the post you are about to read.

I was blissfully unaware of the whole Honey Boo Boo craze/phenomenon until I saw this post on Peach Pundit, a Georgia-focused political blog. This little girl Alana (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo) is the star of a reality show on TLC. As so brilliantly stated in that Peach Pundit post:

She has the outgoing kind of personality we like to see in children; children that belong to other people – other unrelated people – who live far, far away.

Yeah, that sums her up pretty well. So how could this 6-year-old beauty queen bumpkin be at all similar to President Obama? Here are a few ways:

1. They both outrank Republicans in TV ratings.

It’s more believable for him than for her, but he and she both topped the ratings earned by the Republican convention. And the GOP had Clint Eastwood. I don’t know if this is more of a statement about Americans’ TV preferences or Republicans in general, but either way, it’s an embarrassment.

2. They both landed a star role, despite obvious flaws.


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