Today in Liberty: NSA watchdog left in dark about spying, Dem pundits see writing on the wall

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” — P.J. O’Rourke

— House GOP Obamacare alternative still missing: Republicans have made Obamacare repeal a central part of their campaign platform, but they’ve yet to coalesce around a single set of specific proposals to pitch to voters, even though there’s been a lot of talk about rolling out a plan this year. “Republicans aren’t even convinced they will find consensus on any specific set of new health care bills. The ideas they’re discussing — the ability to buy insurance across state lines, wider use of health savings accounts and cutting federal regulations — are the same principles they have kicked around since 2009,” wrote John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman. “But the party is not much closer to finding a proposal — or set of proposals — that would garner enough Republican support to pass the House.”

— Who’s watching the watchers?: The Defense Department’s internal watchdog was left in the dark about the NSA’s most controversial domestic surveillance program. “The bulk of that is in reviews that we have done, and in the collaborative work that we have done with the NSA IG,” Anthony Thomas, who is charged with oversight over the NSA, told The Guardian. “From my own personal knowledge, those programs, in and of themselves, I was not personally aware.” Oh, and he’s not investigating the NSA over the programs either, despite the ongoing controversy. That’s comforting.

Economists speak out against minimum wage increase

More than 500 economists, including three Nobel laureates, have signed a letter warning lawmakers of the “serious consequences” of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a policy being pushed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats.

“One of the serious consequences of raising the minimum wage is that business owners saddled with a higher cost of labor will need to cut costs, or pass the increase to their consumers in order to make ends meet,” the letter states (PDF). “Many of the businesses that pay their workers minimum wage operate on extremely tight profit margins, with any increase in the cost of labor threatening this delicate balance.”

The economists point to the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the $10.10 minimum wage proposal. The CBO estimated that such a significant increase in the minimum wage would cost the economy 500,000 jobs, perhaps as many as 1 million, over the next two years. “Many of these jobs,” the letter notes, “are held by entry-level workers with limited experience or vocational skills, the very employees meant to be helped.”

The economists explain that the minimum wage is “a poorly targeted anti-poverty measure,” noting that [e]xtra earnings generated by such an increase in the minimum wage would not substantially help the poor,” again pointing to the findings of the CBO report.

Turley blasts Obama’s “uber presidency”

Jonathan Turley continues to be one of the few leftists with a conscience when it comes to the concentration of power in the executive branch. Though he agrees with many of President Barack Obama’s policies, the Georgetown law professor, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee, has serious concerns about the means through which he has enacted them.

In a post at his blog on Friday, Turley responded to latest major change in the law, in which the administration ostensibly delayed enforcement of the individual mandate, blasting President Obama for ignoring the Constitution and criticizing Democrats for enabling the administration: (emphasis added):

What is it with Democrats attacking Republicans’ service to the nation?

Put Alaska First's misleading ad

There’s a disgusting pattern emerging of Democrats attacking Republican candidates’ records of service to the nation. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) recently complained that Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), his general election opponent, has a “sense of entitlement” because of his military service.

“There’s a lot of people in the Senate that didn’t serve in the military,” Pryor, who never served and is the son of a politician, told NBC News. “I think it’s part of this sense of entitlement that he gives off is that almost as like ‘I served my country, therefore elect me to the Senate.’ That’s not how it works in Arkansas.”

But this sort of attack doesn’t end with Pryor, who is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year. A group supporting Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) in his quest for reelection recently released an ad in which they attack Dan Sullivan for being born in Ohio and owning a home outside of Alaska.

“Dan Sullivan, born and raised in Ohio, and the recent owner of a home in [a] swanky D.C. suburb,” the narrator says in an ad produced by Put Alaska First. “Documents show that while Sullivan pocketed a Maryland tax credit for residents living there, he was voting in Alaska, claiming to be one of us. Now he wants us to make him our senator.”

“Dan Sullivan, if elected, he won’t just go to Washington, he’ll go home to Washington,” the narrator adds.

Breaking down the WSJ/NBC poll (hint: it’s terrible news for Democrats)

Not only did Democrats got to bed on Tuesday night after a frustrating loss in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, they woke up Wednesday morning to reports of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which shows a trainwreck ahead for their party.

A special election doesn’t necessarily mean electoral victory for any party, and neither do polls released more than seven months away from election day. But the WSJ/NBC News poll shows that Democrats’ problems don’t end at a special election, no matter how hard they try to spin it.

— Obama’s approval at a new low: Just 41% of Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, down from 43% in January. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove, which is up from 51% at the beginning of the year and matches his previous high in December. President Obama’s approval rating has not been above water since June (48/47).

— We’re headed in the wrong direction: Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say that the United States is headed in the wrong direction, while 26% believe we’re “off the wrong track.” Compare that to 41/53 in October 2012, the month before President Obama won reelection, and 32/58 in November 2010, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. Needless to say, that’s not a position in which Democrats want to be.

Obama hits the panic button ahead of 2014 mid-terms

It seems like a forgone conclusion that Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives this fall. That’s why Democratic donors are turning their check books to the fight for the Senate, an electoral battle that increasingly favors Republicans. That’s why President Barack Obama is hitting the “panic button,” so to speak, by warning Democrats that the 2014 mid-term election could be a disaster:

Obama has increasingly sounded like the nerdy kid in a bad horror movie constantly warning his friends to stay out of danger as he’s called on the Democratic base to not be complacent in 2014.

“You’ve got to pay attention to the states,” he begged at a recent fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association. Obama lamented that Democrats don’t think state-level races in the 2014 midterms are “sexy enough.”

Raising cash for Senate Democrats in Virginia, Obama said Democrats tend to get “a little sleepy” and “distracted.”

“We’re good at Senate and House elections during presidential years — it’s something about midterms,” Obama said. “I don’t know what it is about us.”

The White House insists, however, that they’re not even considering the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would mean that President Obama agenda, already on thin-ice as it is, would be dead-on-arrival in Congress.

65% of Americans support Keystone XL construction

More than a month after the State Department released its report finding that the Keystone XL pipeline would have little impact on the environment, President Barack Obama continued to stall on a decision that could green-light the project. But a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans support Keystone XL:

Americans support the idea of constructing the Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States by a nearly 3 to 1 margin, with 65 percent saying it should be approved and 22 percent opposed, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The findings also show that the public thinks the massive project, which aims to ship 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta and the northern Great Plains to refineries on the Gulf Coast, will produce significant economic benefits. Eighty-five percent say the pipeline would create a significant number of jobs, with 62 percent saying they “strongly” believed that to be the case.

America’s least popular senator slams Ted Cruz

Sen John McCain (R-AZ) took a snide jab a his colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), for his suggestion that the Republican presidential nominees have a history of not standing on principle. The lack of a clear distinction, the Texas senator told CPAC attendees, is why Democrats win elections.

“I spoke to Ted Cruz. He and I have a cordial relationship about this,” McCain told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. ”And he can say what he wants to about me — and he can say anything he wants to, I think, about Mitt. Mitt is capable of taking it.”

“But when he throws Bob Dole in there, I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country? Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle,” he said. “I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole because that’s — that has crossed a line that to me is — leaves the realm of the politics and discourse that we should have in America.”

McCain said that he talked to Cruz on the Senate floor shortly after Cruz’s speech, adding that his “beloved Bob Dole,” who isn’t in good health, “doesn’t need that in the twilight of his years.”

NRA not always “unflinching and unapologetic” for the Second Amendment

Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA), gave a fiery speech yesterday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in which he decried the media and called on attendees to stop President Barack Obama’s anti-gun agenda.

“History has proven again the truth that President Obama and anti-freedom activists everywhere deny and try to empress: the truth that firearms in the hands of good people save lives,” said LaPierre. “The political elites can’t escape and the darlings in the media can’t change the God-given right of good people to protect themselves.”

There’s nothing wrong with that statement in and of itself. The White House and congressional Democrats tried (and failed) last year to enact more onerous gun control laws. The media often painted an unflattering picture of Second Amendment activists and frequently pilloried the LaPierre and NRA.

“For that fundamental human, the NRA stands unflinching and unapologetic and in defense of our freedom,” said LaPierre. “NRA’s 5 million members and America’s 100 million gun owners will not back down, not now, not ever. I assure you that.”

Democrats’ 2014 strategy: Let’s talk about anything other than Obamacare

Does anyone else remember when Democrats were going to run and win on Obamacare in the 2014 mid-term election? Those bold statements were made by DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) not long after the infamous rollout of the law.

But with the Obama administration’s most recent Obamacare delays — we’re now at 37, if you’re keeping score at home — Democrats are trying to shift the public’s attention from Obamacare to, well, anything else. Consider two recent stories, one from The New York Times and another from the National Journal.

The New York Times story focuses on Democrats’ “strategy” of targeting Charles and David Koch, which had been telegraphed in two recent, disgusting floor speeches by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). There’s nothing really new in the story that we didn’t already know. It just speaks to attempt to change the subject.

The National Journal piece covers Democrats’ attempts to pivot on Social Security by accusing Republican candidates of wanting to privatize a program that is fiscally insolvent over the long-term. The is the more interesting angle because entitlement programs are, typically, Democrats “go to” when they’re out of ammunition.

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