federal government

Uncle Sam, government slumlord

Vacant Federal Building

It is no secret that the federal government has too much real property.  Plainly put, Uncle Sam is one extremely disorganized landlord that likes purchase, lease, and hoard large amounts of costly real estate.  And as with most operations left to languish at the hands of bureaucrats, the business is terribly wrought with mismanagement and a serious lack of transparency.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has supported the sale of excess government property since the organization’s inception in 1984. After the Bush administration created the Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) database to help federal agencies manage and dispose of the surfeit property, CAGW has been following its progress and publishing numerous reports on the federal government’s real problems with real property.

Costly government leasing practices have been included on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) high-risk list since 2003. A March 12, 2014 GAO report called on the federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration (GSA), to improve both the FRPP’s budget structure and streamline the process of disposing of excess “surplus” property to benefit both tenant agencies and taxpayers.

House Republicans plan to sue Barack Obama over illegal executive actions

The House of Representatives is getting pretty tired of President Barack Obama going around the Constitution to enact laws through executive and regulatory fiat as well as ignoring laws passed by Congress. Roll Call reports that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is preparing a lawsuit against the White House over executive overreach:

The lawsuit could set up a significant test of constitutional checks and balances, with the legislative branch suing the executive branch for ignoring its mandates, and the judiciary branch deciding the outcome.

Boehner told the House Republican Conference during a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that he has been consulting with legal scholars and plans to unveil his next steps this week or next, according to sources in the room.
[…]
Boehner’s legal theory is based on work by Washington, D.C., attorney David Rivkin of Baker Hostetler LLP and Elizabeth Price Foley, a professor of law at Florida International University College of Law.

Rivkin said in an interview that in addition to proving institutional injury, the House would have to prove that as an institution, it has authorized the lawsuit. A vote by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group would do so.

The suit would also have to prove that no other private plaintiff has standing to challenge the particular suspension of executive action and that there are no other opportunities for meaningful political remedies by Congress, for instance by repeal of the underlying law.

The potential remedies the legislative branch has to deal with executive overreach are limited, and not all of them are politically viable.

Health Care Compact: Let states take the reins of health care away from the federal government

In April, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed into law the national Health Care Compact, making the Sunflower State the ninth to embrace the bold new idea.

And what, you ask, is the Health Care Compact? It’s a proposal to allow participating states to take the reins of health care away from the federal government while reducing overall federal health spending.

A shorter description for this idea is “devolution,” and it’s exactly what we’ll need, if we’re ever going to get control of federal spending and debt.

This is the most creative and exciting policy proposal in a generation. It has to be approved by Congress, and is far from perfect, but in my humble opinion every American should get behind it.

As I mentioned, nine states have signed on, so far: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

Meanwhile, James Lankford, a Republican representing Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District, introduced a bill in February to approve the HCC. It currently has 12 sponsors, all of them Republicans and all of them representing states that have approved the compact.

How It Would Work

The brainchild of Houston conservative activist Leo Linbeck III, the HCC cleverly combines two existing ideas, interstate compacts and federal block grants, in a way that can fairly be described as revolutionary.

How Georgia is fighting Obamacare and federal overreach

HB 707 -- Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act

Scot Turner is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, representing the 21st District. He was first elected in February 2013 in a special election, taking 60% of the vote over an establishment-backed candidate. Rep. Turner is part of a group of legislators who introduced the Georgia Health Care Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act, a measure that cleared the legislature in the final days of its recent session. In this guest post, Rep. Turner tells the story behind the legislation, the difficulties they faced, and how Georgia is fighting Obamacare at the state level.

In the summer of 2013, I was part of a team of state representatives that worked together to tackle the problem that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was presenting to Georgia. The federal government had just coopted a prominent Georgia institution, the University of Georgia, to help implement the ACA Navigator program without any debate in the Georgia General Assembly.

As a result, we all felt a certain urgency that something had to be done to draw the line in the sand and stand against the largest federal overreach in modern history.

There was some debate within our group as to whether we should approach it from a stance of full on nullification; the theory that a state has the ability to void federal law. Knowing that even of it did pass the Georgia legislature the likelihood that it would withstand judicial scrutiny was virtual non-existent, we pressed on.

A Convention of States A Possible Reality

It’s an idea that has been floating around for a while in some of the more frustrated circles of the conservative movement, and one that recently seems to have become a possible future political reality: an Article V Convention of the States to amend the Constitution with the goal of reigning in the growth and power of the federal government.

The newest movement to save the republic began this past Saturday on the grounds of George Washington’s old estate. Shortly before 9 a.m., nearly 100 state legislators from 32 states filed into the library that sits above the museums of Mount Vernon. It was state legislators only; supporters (and reporters) learned that the hard way, as they called for details or were stopped at the security gates.

The Slate piece is decidedly critical of the effort but it breaks down like this: Article V of the Constitution mandates that Congress convene a national convention of the States upon receipt of application for such a convention from 2/3rds of the available states. Or 34 states.

From there, 38 states would have to approve any amendments before those amendments could pass. It sounds unlikely. But then…

The answer to government shutdown is less federal power, not more

In the wake of the now five-day long federal government partial shutdown, center-left pundits have wasted no time calling for drastic changes to the republic.

In the Washington Post, Dylan Matthews openly called for fascism:

Max Weber, in conversation with Gen. Erich Ludendorff, advanced my personal favorite theory of democracy: “In a democracy the people choose a leader in whom they trust. Then the chosen leader says, ‘Now shut up and obey me.’ ” People and party are then no longer free to interfere in his business.

Max Fisher, also in the Post, called for monarchy:

You might find yourself wishing that the United States could follow Australia’s example: Fire everyone in Congress, hold snap elections next month and restart from scratch. But we can’t, because we haven’t recognized the British monarchy or had a London-appointed governor -general in more than two centuries. Maybe, if we ask nicely, Britain will take us back?

The New Republic suggested the President dissolve Congress and then attack it:

Almost exactly 20 years ago, he dissolved parliament. The vice president and the speaker of the parliament dissolved Yeltsin’s presidency, and holed up with their supporters in the parliament’s headquarters, now known as “the White House.”

Then Yeltsin [sent in the tanks].

Common Core: More Federal Government Involvement in Education

Common Core

Anyone who follows education on any level has probably heard the phrase “Common Core” regarding curriculum in their home state.  They’ve probably also heard that there is some push back against it, though most don’t really understand what the issue really is.

It would be easy to assume that Common Core requires such controversial topics as anthropogenic global warming and gun control to be taught.  Well, that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Oh, it’s happening, but it doesn’t seem to be the fault of the cirriculum.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems.

The idea behind Common Core is a national standard for education.  Basically, it’s an attempt to create a single, challenging standard that would raise the educational value of public school.

Whoops.

Common Core does create a single standard.  It does appear to be genuinely challenging as well.  So, what’s the problem?

Well, first, Common Core is really just a continuation of one of the biggest problems with traditional education, and that is the fact that it treats all students as identical.  Even the name, Common Core, alludes to this fact.

Republican Tom McMillin, a Michigan lawmaker introduced a bill to repeal that’s state’s use of Common Core, said, “We don’t want our kids to be common. We want our kids in Michigan to be exceptional.”  Since my home state of Georgia uses this standard, I can understand the sentiment.

Common Core also places and emphasis on how answers are acheived, rather than just getting it right.  The argument appears to be that the process matters more in our technologically advanced world for whatever reason.  I get the gist of the concept.  I really do.  Unfortunately, this continues to make the same assumption that all kids are the same.

Feds May Not Have ObamaCare Operational on Time

Written by Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The Washington Post reports:

By the end of this week, states must decide whether they will build a health-insurance exchange or leave the task to the federal government. The question is, with as many as 17 states expected to leave it to the feds, can the Obama administration handle the workload.

“These are systems that typically take two or three years to build,” says Kevin Walsh, managing director of insurance exchange services at Xerox. “The last time I looked at the calendar, that’s not what we’re working with.”…

The Obama administration has known for awhile that there’s a decent chance it could end up doing a lot of this. Now though, they’re finding out how big their workload will actually become.

Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Part of the reason the workload is so heavy? “Buying health insurance is a lot more difficult than purchasing a plane ticket on Expedia.” You don’t say. But I thought that’s why we needed government to do it.

Some thoughts on the looming government shutdown

It looks like we’re only 10 to 12 hours away from a shut down of the federal government. Neither side has come to an agreement on what the final budget bill would look like, though it looks like another Continuing Resolution – a measure that would carry over spending from the previous year for a specified amount of time – will be taken up in the Senate. It passed the House yesterday with some Democratic members support it (Georgia Dems John Barrow and Sanford Bishop were among the affirmative votes).

Here are some thoughts and observations on the possible shutdown:

- If Republicans make this about social issues, as it is being suggested they are, they will take a hit. Republicans are right to object to taxpayer funding of abortion. However, social issues are not on the mind of the electorate. This angle, as principled as it may be, is a political loser. The focus should be on how Democrats and President Barack Obama cannot find any program worth cutting at a time when we are running a $1.6 trillion deficit.

- Republicans holding out for $31 billion in spending cuts is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. As my good friend Doug Mataconis said today, wasting political capital on a short-term budget solution is pretty dumb. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) just presented an ambitious, though intriguing, budget plan that is going to take an enormous amount of political will and capital to push through, even if there are compromises along the way. Not to mention that the current budget fix only takes us through the end of the current fiscal year. The 2012 budget battle is next up and the ground work is just being laid into place.

Wikileaks: Criminal Enterprise or Useful Check On Government?

With the recent release of information likely to embarrass ambassadors and diplomats, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have become targets for the government’s latest arrows in the “War on Terror.” Even the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), has called for the Justice Department to aggressively investigate and prosecute the site and its founder, an Australian, for the releases that many government officials have cited as “putting lives at risk.”

While I haven’t read every word released by Wikileaks, I find it hard to believe that leaked information about the American government and their actions will endanger lives. In fact, I like the “new normal” in terms of government transparency. I hardly think that accepting and publishing information given qualifies one, as King asserts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should declare, as “a foreign terrorist organization.”

The investigation into Assange’s involvement in a suspected rape in Sweden aside, the work being done by his organization opened many eyes about the Federal Government’s actions in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their publication of government information on the Iraq War in October provided a valuable release of information to the public with statistics, documentation, and accounts of war activities that the U.S. Government feels is too dangerous for us to know. In fact, Time Magazine stated that Wikileaks “Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”


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