Jeff Flake

Was Election Day a good day for liberty?

As I’ve made clear before I was a fan of neither major party Presidential candidate.  Both stood for big government, continued spending, interventionist foreign policy, and little respect for civil liberties.  So as Election Day approached, I was excited to cast my vote for Gary Johnson.  As far as actual policies go, he was the only candidate running who offered anything different than the status quo.

That being said, I won’t deny that, while I did not vote for him, I was pulling for Romney to win, simply because I don’t think Obama has the slightest clue how to handle the economy.  This fact alone was enough to make me at least flirt with the idea of voting for Mitt as I stood in line to cast my vote.  While I ended up voting Johnson, on Election Night I was quietly hoping that somehow Romney could pull it out.

But once it became clear that he would not, my focus shifted to various other races and ballot initiatives.  And for the most part, these turned out just like I had hoped.  Gay marriage was legalized in Maryland and Maine, and marijuana initiatives did very well.  Not everything turned out great, but it was exciting to see evidence that attitudes are changing on both of these topics.

Furthermore, hard-core social conservatism had a very bad day, which is good for anyone who hopes that segment of the GOP can be reduced in influence.  Michele Bachmann almost lost her election, and both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated soundly after expressing extreme and offensive views on rape and abortion.  It looks as if Allen West was defeated as well.  All of these are good news if you want the GOP to jettison some of its more extreme members.

A note to the Liberty Movement: This is our defining moment

Obama and Romney debate

Mitt Romney had his clock cleaned on Tuesday night. There is no getting around it. People can talk about his campaign couldn’t have done any better. There isn’t much disagreement on this end. Many conservatives are understandably frustrated with how the election turned out.

Romney ran this race in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Yet, he still lost. This didn’t happen because of a lack of GOTV efforts and phone-banking. Romney lost because he failed to run on big ideas that would have made the choice before voters more clear.

Republicans didn’t win because they nominated a guy who passed a law in Massachusetts that would later serve as a blueprint for ObamaCare. When he was on the campaign trail, Romney and his surrogates played up his “experience” on the issue. There was no real distinction.

Throughout the course of the campaign Romney said that that the United States is facing long-term economic problems. However, Romney never put forward a substantive plan that would actually get spending under control.

Who are the spending cutters?

We’ve recently noted that House Republicans have largely been a disappointment when it comes to cutting spending. Since taking control of the chamber in January 2011, the national debt has increased by over $1.59 trillion and reasonable amendments to bills that would cut spending have been shot down with many Republicans opting not to keep the promise they made to voters in the fall campaign. There is also talk of bringing back earmarks, an untransparent process that is often corrupt.

So why are the spending cutters in the House? The Club for Growth has tracked the 25 votes on amendments that would cut spending and found the consistent budget hawks in the lower chamber (I’m only posting those that score 100%, for sake of space):

Washington Post uncovers earmarks used near lawmakers personal property

The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.

Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.

The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?

Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.

Mitt Romney Will Have to Work for Libertarian Support

It’s become pretty clear that Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) isn’t going to win the GOP presidential nomination. Following his fourth place showing in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Paul’s campaign announced that it would concentrate its efforts on the fourteen remaining caucus states. Even in the unlikely event that Paul sweeps the caucus states, he will receive no more than 500 delegates* — far short of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. The best Paul can hope to accomplish through this strategy is a brokered convention at which he would unquestionably be rejected as the GOP nominee by the party establishment. Even this outcome is unlikely. Like it or not, it’s time to face reality: Ron Paul will not be the Republican candidate for president.

This leaves libertarians with a choice. We can choose to support either former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), or former Governor Gary Johnson (L-N. Mex.).

Counter-Point: The fight against earmarks is the opening shot in a much larger battle

This is part two in a debate between Doug Mataconis, a contributor at Outside the Beltway and United Liberty, and Jason Pye, editor of United Liberty, over whether the current debate over earmarks is distraction from the larger fiscal issues facing the nation.

Over the last several years, there has been much debate in Congress over earmarking, which is the process of designating funds for a specific purpose in a spending bill. Critics of the practice call most of these earmarks “pork barrel projects.”

Earmarks are an issue for several reasons. They can distort the marketplace, allowing the government to pick winners and losers. More often than not, the cost of an earmark is greater than the benefit, a point that is especially true with mass transit projects. And there is almost no sunlight on how they are inserted into appropriations bill.

There also is not much public support for the practice. According to a CBS News poll conducted in 2007, 67 percent of the public viewed earmarks as “not acceptable.”

Members of Congress use the practice in order to secure funds for their districts and proudly point them out during their next campaign to prove they are in Washington to “bring home the bacon.” Leadership of parties in Congress will often use earmarks to entice members to vote a certain position on legislation. The 2003 expansion of Medicare and the 2007 emergency spending bill for Iraq are both examples of this practice.

Senate likely to push through Ryan-Murray budget deal

There were some news reports over the weekend featuring which suggested that there were not the votes in the Senate to pass the budget deal reached between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). But The New York Times reported yesterday that enough Republicans will vote to advance deal past a procedural hurdle, setting the stage for final passage (emphasis added):

Support for a compromise two-year budget deal grew on Monday ahead of a Tuesday vote in the Senate as Republicans concluded that a measure that achieved overwhelming bipartisan support in the House could not die in Congress’s upper chamber.

Cronyism: Senators supportive of Syria strikes bring in big bucks from defense contractors

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted last week to authorize military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have brought thousands of dollars more from defense contractors than those who voted against it, according to a report from David Kravets of Wired:

Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $1,006,887 to the 17 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted yes or no on the authorization Wednesday, according to an analysis by Maplight, the Berkeley-based nonprofit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request.

Committee members who voted to authorize what the resolution called a “limited” strike averaged $72,850 in defense campaign financing from the pot. Committee members who voted against the resolution averaged $39,770, according to the data.

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.”

An optimistic view of Tuesday’s election results

The big news out of Tuesday is that we’re now dealing with four more years of Barack Obama, and a lot of people are obviously not happy about that. Though I’m no Obama fan, I’m going to try to be optimistic about the election. Here goes…

President
Harry Reid would have held up the Republican agenda for the next two years. Now the House can hold up the Obama agenda. The House won’t be able to hold up everything, but it’s not like the Democrats have full control and can push through anything they want. Obama’s win also gives assurance that Republican voters will remain furious through the midterm elections in 2014 instead of latching on to Romney’s moderate-to-liberal ways.

Are we better off with Obama than we would have been with Romney? No, but an Obama re-election isn’t the end of the world, either.

Senate
It’s hard to find an optimistic Republican view of the Senate results. They should have taken the majority, but instead are in a tougher situation, making a takeover in 2014 less likely. Still, it was Jim DeMint who said he’d rather have 30 good Republican senators than 60 bad ones.

The optimistic points in the Senate results from last night aren’t numerous, but there are a couple. Jeff Flake won in Arizona, and Ted Cruz won in Texas. Those should be two good additions to the right side of the aisle.

House
The real good news in the House is that the GOP kept control. Control of one of the branches of government is critical to keep Obama in line. They didn’t expand their lead, but they still managed to maintain their majority.


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