This past week brought forth a deluge of breaking news stories regarding scandalous behavior within various agencies and departments of the Obama Administration. They all seem to point to the same thing: government overreach. Furthermore, they all have been earning Obama a litany of Nixon comparisons.
In case you missed them, here’s my (link fest!) summary of events:
1) Last week’s Benghazi revelations were twofold:
On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.
Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:
As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.
The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.
Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.
“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” - John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
This week I had a discussion with a new friend about politics and the state of our nation. I was commenting on the corruption so rampant in government and he replied that we can no longer expect politicians to have integrity, and must be content to pick between the least corrupt of the candidates, or the ones that will direct the fruits of that corruption towards us.
Such cynicism is certainly understandable; just look at the politicians of our day. Bill Clinton’s legacy will forever be linked to a stained blue dress and what the definition of “is” is. Al Gore is a billionaire, becoming the false-prophet of fear mongering with the junk science of global warming (or “climate change” as it is now called). Charlie Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee chair in government which controls tax policy, is under investigation for tax fraud. Our Treasury Secretary is an admitted tax cheat, and many in Obama’s cabinet and senior staff have also had tax troubles. Ted Kennedy was a notorious drunk and a womanizer.
Has anyone noticed how much our society now talks about their “rights”? President Obama just signed a massive bill, clocking in at well over 2500 pages (between the original bill and the reconciliation), which creates huge new deficits, another gargantuan bureaucracy, and allows the government ever more power to intrude into the private lives of its sovereign citizens. This was all done under the guise of a newly found “right” to health care.
In 1973, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Warren Burger, discovered a “right” to privacy that had managed to elude the Founding Fathers and all of the subsequent legislatures and courts for almost 200 years, and under this right America has callously witnessed the extermination of over 50 million of its most vulnerable; the unborn.
This week it was announced that the public transit system of a south Atlanta metro county was bankrupt and services were discontinued. As I watched the news coverage I listened to a young man tell me that the transit system, plagued with corruption and mismanagement, should be made to continue running (no mention on who gets to pay the bill to make sure that it keeps operating) because public transportation is a “basic human right”? Really? Public transportation is a right?
The Internal Revenue Service is facing more scrutiny. Not only are congressional investigators looking into the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status, a forthcoming report will show that the IRS spent lavishly on conferences over a three-year period:
The Internal Revenue Service is facing criticism over past spending at its staff conferences, the latest controversy to hit the agency.
An internal watchdog at the Treasury Department is set to report Tuesday that the IRS spent almost $50 million on more than 200 employee conferences from 2010 through 2012, spending the tax-collecting agency’s new acting commissioner called “inappropriate.” The findings come amid revelations that the IRS targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and mark the second time in the past year that a federal agency has come under fire for its spending on conferences.
And just a few months after the IRS was criticized for wasting taxpayer money on a poorly produced Star Trek-theme training video, yet another video has come out that shows IRS employees linedancing. The purpose of the video, which cost $1,600 to make, isn’t exactly known, though it was shown at a 2010 conference.
There has been some talk over the last year that House Republicans would bring back earmarks, a line-items in spending bills for specific districts or for favored constituencies. The process is scrutinized by fiscal conservatives because there is little sunlight in the process by which earmarks are included in spending bills and most projects are wasteful in their nature.
House Republicans place a moratorium on earmarks when they took control of the chamber in 2011. There were reports early this year, however, that some members were making a push to bring back the pernicious practice, perhaps as a way to influence members of either side to support legislation they may otherwise oppose.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a long-time proponent of earmarking and an apologist for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was planning to introduce a measure to change House rules that would lift the ban. But pressure from Speaker John Boehner led Young to withdraw the proposal:
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) withdrew an amendment to House GOP rules under pressure from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had made his opposition to the measure clear. The measure would have allowed an exception to the earmark ban if the recipient of the earmark was a unit of local government.
A source close to the Speaker told The Hill the Young amendment would have created “a gaping loophole” to the earmark ban.
“At the end of the day, he declined to offer it because of the clear opposition in the room,” the source said. “Prior to Young pulling the amendment, the Speaker had let it be known that he opposed the amendment and would ask for its defeat if offered.”
PA State Rep. Jesse White
After the Citizens United Supreme Court case, loud advocates protested that corporations will have exessive influence in our politics. But as we saw on election night, campaigns with nearly unlimited budgets still can not win if voters don’t approve of the candidates.
However, there is something pernicious about campaign donations, that politicans often avoid, as it involves their own fundraising practices.
This case out of Pennslyvania is a fascinating, but not unique example of how fundraising often happens:
An ardent critic of the impact of gas drilling, state Rep. Jesse White of Washington County once enjoyed a cozy relationship with Range Resources Inc. — asking for a corporate plane ride to a Super Bowl and complaining the driller didn’t give him enough campaign money, emails between the lawmaker and company show.
In late 2011, White and Range executives in Cecil began battling publicly over Marcellus shale gas drilling. Just last week, Range canceled a private meeting with Cecil officials when White said he would attend.
Range says it wants to expose a lawmaker who tried to strong-arm the company and continues to challenge its Pennsylvania business dealings. This month, White urged several agencies to investigate the state’s handling of contamination tests at a Range drill site.
Libertarians usually reserve the concept for marriage privatization for the debate over same-sex marriage. Theoretically, the position is pretty accessible: government shouldn’t be in the business of sanctioning the voluntary, free associations of fully enfranchised people, and should not confer special tax status or beneficiary privileges on one group of people while denying the same to another group. (For a contrarian libertarian view of this school of thought, see Jason Kuznicki’s “Marriage against the State: Toward A New View of Civil Marriage” — for a snapshot, he discusses his findings in this podcast.)
But what happens when the debate isn’t about same-sex marriage? What happens when we’re talking about garden variety, heterosexual, one-man-one-woman marriage? Why should we support privatization then?
For starters, people in government have lots of incentives to do the wrong thing.
Take, for example, John Arriola, Davidson County Clerk in Nashville, Tennessee, who has been using his staff to help him charge $40 cash per marriage ceremony, money which he pockets instead of depositing in the county’s coffers. When News Channel 5′s investigative reporting team uncovered the scandal, Arriola began insisting that he was accepting “gratuities,” and hilarity ensued:
Earlier this week, I told you about a poll from Rasmussen showing Republicans leading Democrats on 10 major issues ranging from the economy to health care and national security to Social Security.
Gallup came out with a similar poll yesterday showing the GOP leading in seven out of nine issues important to voters. Democrats are statistically tied with Republicans on health care and corruption in government. The only issue they are running away on is the environment.
Here is a look at the poll:
Voters rank the economy and jobs as the most important issues, which the GOP has to hammer home in the coming months to do what they need to do to win. Other issues, such as Afghanistan, the environment and immigration are not as important to voters, according to the Gallup survey.