Today in Liberty: Rand Paul calls for unity, Harry Reid wants to bring back earmarks

“We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.” — Hillary Clinton

— Tillis tops Brannon, grassroots in #NCSen Republican primary: North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis crossed the 40 percent threshold to avoid a July 15 runoff against Raleigh OB/GYN Greg Brannon tonight. With 100 percent of precincts reporting Tillis garnered 45.7 percent to Brannon’s 27.1 percent. Tillis was backed heavily by establishment elements like Republican strategist Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Brannon rallied support from Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee as well as FreedomWorks and talk radio show host Mark Levin. Tillis’ outright victory is a setback for the “wacko bird” caucus in Washington, which has sought to thwart big-spending, compromise-at-all-cost Republicans. The Republican nominee will face-off against embattled incumbent Kay Hagan in the November election. The Real Clear Politics average gives Hagan only a slight lead over Tillis.

Today in Liberty: Obamacare’s missing Millennials, data review urges privacy law reform

“The strongest continuous thread in America’s political tradition is skepticism about government.” — George Will

— Just 28 percent of Obamacare enrollees are Millennials: The Obama administration finished first Obamacare open enrollment period far short of its target for 18 to 34-year-olds. The administration estimated that it needed between 38 to 40 percent of enrollments to be from Millennials for the risk pools to be sustainable. It got 28 percent. “The administration is still touting 8 million sign-ups—technically 8.019 million—when the official open enrollment period of October 2013 through March 2014 is combined with stragglers who came in during the special enrollment period through April 19,” Peter Suderman explains, based on the latest figures. “It’s still the case that just 28 percent of those sign-ups were between the ages of 18 and 34, far short of the administration’s target of 39 percent. State-by-state variation remains significant, with some states seeing robust sign-up activity and others posting relatively weak numbers.”

Republicans and Their Love/Hate Relationship with Pork Barrel Spending

pork spending

Every journalist has a great story that will never be told, at least not completely, or in any way other than a “hypothetical anecdote.” It’s the nature of the beast. People gravitate toward journalists to tell their stories, and when it comes to insider information on the inner-workings of government, those stories often get relegated to the “interesting, but never-to-be-published” file — a close cousin of the circular one, but these stories stick with whoever knows them.

When it comes to earmarks, I have a great one of those, that I’ll share in the hypothetical sense here. Most people already assume that there is a fair amount of Congressional involvement in garnering government dollars for “pet projects” in a given district. It’s a fair assumption, because politicians often mention jobs created when they are out on stump speeches. When it’s for infrastructure improvements, or something else that’s highly visible to the voters, it’s not surprising to hear boasting about them during the election cycle.

Then there are the ones that no one really wants to own up to promoting. We’ve all seen the video of the shrimp on the treadmill, and politicos and pundits often talk about the “Spotted Owl Society” when referring to special interest groups that enjoy government subsidies.

But, deep within the bowels of government is a whole world of research and development, that reaches like a spider web out into our institutions of higher learning, and into the corporate world. Many of the Congressional earmarks actually fund some of this work, far beyond the view of the voters.

There is a governmental bureaucracy that handles grant requests for all of the dollars that Congress makes available, and theoretically that is where the relationship between the politicians and the bureaucrats ends.

Today in Liberty: Some Dems missing from “talkathon,” election day in FL-13

“The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” — Ayn Rand

— Oh, Fox News, STAAAAAHP: Another morning, another anti-Edward Snowden rant on Fox and Friends. “Edward Snowden is a terrible person, the worst in the world. Here’s a clip of Charles Krauthammer agreeing with me.” Yeah, there are some legit complaints about Snowden, like his seeking asylum from Russia, not exactly a bastion of liberty, but the guy tried to handle things the right way by taking his concerns about the NSA’s surveillance programs to his superiors. They didn’t listen, so he went to the media. In our minds, Snowden is more a hero than anything else for exposing programs that ignore the protections guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. We also believe that he’s raised some other excellent points about the federal government wasting its resources. But neo-cons are gonna neo-con, and don’t you dare ever question them.

MS Senate: Thad Cochran says he doesn’t know much about the Tea Party

Thad Cochran

You know that Tea Party movement thing that took off five years ago this month and helped Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in 2010? Yeah, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) doesn’t know anything about it. No, seriously, that’s what he told Mississippi News Now.

Cochran is facing a conservative primary challenger, State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who has cast the 36-year senator an establishment politician who is out-of-touch with Mississippi’s conservative tendencies.

“He’s wrong. He’s flat wrong,” Cochran told Mississippi News Now. “I’m as in touch with the people of Mississippi as an elected official can be.”

But when asked about McDaniel’s support from outside conservative and Tea Party groups, Cochran said, “The Tea Party is something I don’t really know a lot about,” adding that “[i]t’s a free country. We have open opportunities for people to participate in the election process.”

Conservative groups that are openly backing McDaniel’s candidacy have seized on Cochran’s comments. The Club for Growth, for example, is running a 10-second web ad with featuring Cochran’s admitted ignorance about the Tea Party, followed by a snarky reply from McDaniel, who says, “Perhaps it’s time for an introduction.”

Today in Liberty: Audit the Fed, NSA spying hurts tech firms, earmarks make a comeback

“I think that you can’t start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it’s all going to become undone. If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn’t they take all your rights away from you?” — Bruce Willis

— Audit the Fed: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is out with a new, short video explaining the need to cut through the “veil of secrecy” surrounding the Federal Reserve. “[W]hen trillions of dollars change hands, wouldn’t you want to know who got the money and did anyone enrich themselves in the process?” asks Paul. “This is money that is being doled out in secret by our central bank.” Paul has introduced legislation — Federal Reserve Transparency Act, also known as “Audit the Fed” — that would expose the central bank’s transaction to much-needed oversight. To this point, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) has refused to bring it for a vote.

— Greg Brannon leads Kay Hagan: Rasmussen released a new poll out of North Carolina yesterday showing House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, leading Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) by 7 points. But Dr. Greg Brannon, a Rand Paul-backed Republican candidate, also holds a lead over the vulnerable Democrat, though by a slightly slimmer margin, at 43/39.

California conservatives promise bloody primary for Leftist Republican

Doug Ose

Republicans in California will have a shot next year to defeat Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), who is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House. But there is very strong disagreement whether or not a former Republican Congressman should run.

Former Rep. Doug Ose, who served in Congress from 1999 to 2005, sees an opening to return to Washington and is apparently being courted by some in state’s political establishment to run in the CA-07.

Ose, who lost a congressional primary bid in 2008, is telling the media that he isn’t happy with the state of affairs in Washington and around the country. But there are some who believe that Ose wouldn’t do much to help fix Washington based on his past support of big government policies.

A group of California-based Tea Party and conservative activists sent a letter to Ose on Monday, warning him that he can expect active opposition to his candidacy should he decide to run.

“It has come to our attention that you are considering running for Congress in California’s 7th Congressional District. We have also heard that you do not want to see a ‘bloody primary’ for the Republican nomination,” wrote the activists. “We agree. That’s why we are writing today to encourage you not to run in CA-07.”

Federal Money to the States Isn’t ‘Free’

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle recently made what should be a simple point to understand, but it’s unfortunately one that few people seem to appreciate. Writing about the supposed win-win situation whereby states expand Medicaid coverage and the federal government foots most of the bill, Hinkle reminds readers that the “free” federal money isn’t really free:

In Virginia, officials estimate expanding Medicaid would cost the state $137.5 million over nine years, while the state would receive $23 billion from Washington.

Other states report similar figures. California expects to enroll up to 910,000 residents for a cost beginning at only $46 million a year, while collecting $44 billion in federal funds over a six-year period. An Illinois study estimates that state would spend about $2 billion on expanded Medicaid over the next decade, while reaping $22 billion in federal funds. According to Danielle Holohan, who is in charge of New York’s insurance exchange, Medicaid expansion “actually works out to be an enormous savings” for the Empire State. And so on.

This all sounds great—if you are a state official. But if you are a lowly taxpayer, it leaves out one rather significant point: Where is all that federal money coming from?

Proposal to bring back earmarks is withdrawn

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.”

AZ Senate: Jeff Flake holds 5-point lead

Jeff Flake

It has been a bumpy ride for Rep. Jeff Flake in his bid for the open United States Senate seat in Arizona. Flake’s campaign was forced to spend money during his bid for the Republican nomination thanks to Wil Cardon, a largely self-funded rival.

While he won the GOP nomination by a health margin, the damage had been done to Flake’s campaign coffers. On the other hand, Richard Carmona, the Democratic Party’s nominee in the race, was able to raise and money because he didn’t have a primary challenger.

Carmona has been largely slamming Flake for being a “career politician,” echoing charges made in the Republican primary. He’s also slammed Flake for allegedly cutting benefits for veterans, which is a misleading claim, and for allegedly being weak on environmental issues. The attacks coupled with Carmona’s claims of being able to work across the aisle with Republicans looked like they were having some affect, that is until Flake’s team rolled out one of the best ads of any race across the country this year.

The ad featured Cristina Beato, who served as Acting Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, recounting an incident during which she, a single mother, was awakened by the sounds of Carmona beating at her front door one night. Beato, who was Carmona’s boss at DHHS, explained in the ad that she was scared for herself and her kids. Looking directly into the camera, Beato says, “Carmona is not who he seems. He has issues with anger, with ethics and with women,” adding that he “should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate.”

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