Reform

Paul Ryan plans to balance budget in 10 years, reform Medicare

Tom Price and Paul Ryan
Image credit: Ellen Carmichael

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) rolled out House Republicans’ FY 2015 budget proposal yesterday. The latest iteration of the “Path to Prosperity” seeks to balance the federal budget in a decade, reform Medicare, and repeal Obamacare.

“This is a plan to balance the budget and create jobs, and it builds off a simple fact: We can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” Ryan said in a statement from the House Budget Committee. “This budget provides relief for families. Too many Americans struggle to make ends meet, while Washington continues to live beyond its means. It’s irresponsible to take more from hardworking families to spend more in Washington.

“Today’s proposal—The Path to Prosperity—shows that it’s not too late to tackle our country’s most pressing challenges,” he continued. “By cutting wasteful spending, strengthening key priorities, and laying the foundation for a stronger economy, we have shown the American people there’s a better way forward.”

Today in Liberty: North and South Korea trade fire, Obama’s NSA reforms face big hurdles

“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation. The impressionable libertarian kids are saying, wait a second, benevolence is fleeting, and when benevolence is gone, you’re at the mercy of an all-powerful government and it’s too late.”Igor Birman

— North and South Korea exchange fire: North Korea decided to test fire some artillery into the ocean because Kim Jong-un wanted some attention. That led to a response from South Korea, though neither side fired any artillery on land or military installations, according to the AP. “North Korea routinely test-fires artillery and missiles into the ocean but rarely discloses those plans in advance. The announcement was seen as an expression of Pyongyang’s frustration at making little progress in its recent push to win outside aid,” the AP reported this morning. “No shells from either side were fired at any land or military installations, but Kim called the North’s artillery firing a provocation aimed at testing Seoul’s security posture. There was no immediate comment from North Korea.”

House passes nearly $1 trillion farm bill filled with special interest giveaways

After a months long impasse, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill that does absolutely nothing to reform federal agriculture programs, nor eliminate protectionist subsidies for special interests:

The House on Wednesday approved a mammoth $956 billion farm bill in a bipartisan vote.

Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with only 63 voting “no.” But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting against.

Democrats opposed to the bill complained about cuts to federal food stamps, while Republicans focused their ire on the bill’s cost and the way GOP leaders rushed it through the chamber.

The conference report to the bill, H.R. 2642, was agreed to earlier this week, and seems likely to end what has been a three-year effort to reauthorize and alter federal farm and food stamp programs.
[…]
Still, the compromise doesn’t offer the breadth of reform that many were seeking, and in some ways seemed more designed to get the process out of the way for the 2014 election.

Many of the 63 Republicans who voted against the farm bill also opposed previous attempts to pass it. In June, the House actually rejected the farm bill, with many Republicans objecting to limits on what amendments could be offered to the measure.

Mike Lee to give Tea Party’s State of the Union response

The Tea Party Express has announced that Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) will give its response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Politico reported yesterday.

This will be the third consecutive year that the Tea Party Express — one of the major Tea Party organizations formed after the movement rose to prominence — has offered a response to the State of the Union address. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) delivered its response in 2012, followed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) last year.

Elected in 2010 Tea Party wave, Lee quickly established himself as one of the most fiscal conservative members of the Senate. He has also been a fierce defender of the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution as well as a critic of President Obama’s expansion and abuse of executive power.

RELATED: United Liberty chats with Sen. Mike Lee

Lee, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, published an e-book last summer in which he detailed the problems with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2012 Obamacare case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. Last fall, Lee joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the unsuccessful, though principled effort to defund Obamacare through the Continuing Resolution.

Majority disapproves of NSA surveillance, public pans Obama’s “reforms”

NSA

President Barack Obama’s big speech on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic surveillance programs fell flat with Americans, according to a new USA Today/Pew Research poll.

The poll, which was released yesterday afternoon, found that 53% of Americans disapprove of the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, up from 44% in July, a month after the surveillance programs were revealed to the public. Just 40% approve of the NSA programs, down from 50% last summer.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Republicans and 57% of independents disapprove of the NSA programs, while 37% and 38% approve.

The divide among Democrats isn’t nearly as wide. The poll found that 48% of those from President Obama’s party disapprove of the NSA programs. Forty-six percent (46%), however, approve.

On Friday, President Obama unveiled a series of so-called “reforms” to the NSA phone metadata program. He pledged a “new approach” to intelligence-gathering by taking the program out of the hands of the NSA, though he will not end the bulk collection of metadata.

When it comes to these purported reforms, only 23% of Americans said that the changes will increase protections on people’s privacy, while an eye-popping of 73% of Americans don’t believe the changes will make a difference.

Seventy percent (70%) of Americans said that they don’t believe that the should have to sacrifice their privacy to be safe from the threat of terrorism. Just 26% are willing to trade essential liberty for security.

Rand Paul on Obama’s NSA speech: “If you like your privacy, you can keep it”

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wasted no time in responding to President Barack Obama’s speech on purported NSA and intelligence reforms. Within minutes, the Kentucky Republican sent out statement in which he expressed disappointment at what he heard.

“While I am encouraged the President is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details,” said Paul in the statement.

“The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails,” he said. “President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.”

Paul added that he plans to continue to push for his legislation, the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act, as well as his legal challenge against the NSA, saying that “[t]he American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house.”

Paul further addressed President Obama’s proposed reforms during an appearance on CNN earlier this afternoon.

“I think what I heard was if you like your privacy, you can keep it,” said Paul, a jab at President Obama’s now-infamous Obamacare promise. “I didn’t hear any lessening of the spying of Americans, or collecting records of Americans. I heard that ‘trust me I’m gonna put some more safeguards in place, but I’m gonna keep right on collecting every Americans’ records.’”

Paul said that he doesn’t have an issue with spying on suspected terrorists. His problem with the bulk metadata collection program is that it targets Americans who are not suspected of a crime, arguing that the government doesn’t need records not related to terrorist activity.

Elizabeth Warren wants to expand an already broken entitlement

Elizabeth Warren

Social Security faces a long-term funding shortfall of $23.1 trillion, according to the most recent report from the program’s trustees, up nearly $3 trillion from last year. Like other entitlements, the program — expected to consume 6.8% of the economy by 2038 — is in dire need of reform to ensure its fiscal sustainability.

But Leftists in Congress are in denial about the fiscal problems with Social Security. Instead of reforming the program to ensure that it’s around for future generations, they want to expand it.

In a speech from the Senate floor on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) endorsed legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to expand the fiscally shaky program and warned of, what she called, a “retirement crisis.”

“A generation ago, middle-class families were able to put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. On average, they saved about 11% of their take home pay while working,” Warren, who has been floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, told her colleagues.”

“Many paid off their homes, got rid of all their debts, and retired with strong pensions from their employers. And where pensions, savings, and investments fell short, they could rely on Social Security to make up the difference,” she said. “That was the story a generation ago, but since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.”

Yes, there are Republican alternatives to Obamacare

Since the disastrous Obamacare at the beginning of October, some administration officials, congressional Democrats, pundits friendly to President Obama have been, unbelievably, trying to place some blame on Republicans for the problems. They’ve also countered the attempts to repeal or delay the Obamacare with the line that Republicans haven’t offered any ideas or alternatives to this administration’s ill-conceived law.

But that’s not true, as George Will explained on Tuesday night during an appearance on Fox News’ Special Report. Republicans have offered alternatives to Obamacare, and they’ve pushed these ideas for several years.

“I think it’s unfair [to say Republicans don’t have healthcare ideas]. Paul Ryan has a premium support plan, John McCain, amazingly, got it right in 2008,” noted Will, a conservative Washington Post columnist. “[H]e said, look, tax all employer-provided health insurance as what it manifestly is, compensation, but compensate for that by giving people a large tax credit to go into the market and shop across state lines, which you’re not allowed to do now, for health insurance.”

Top 7 farm amendments House won’t be allowed to vote on

News broke earlier today that the House will proceed with consideration of a “farm only” Farm Bill this week after deciding to split the agriculture and nutrition portions. The combined package failed on the House floor last month after several key crop insurance reforms were narrowly defeated and additional food stamp cuts were added.

While conservatives long have supported bifurcating the bill in this manner, the early word is that the farm portion was going to be considered under a closed rule, meaning no amendments whatsoever would be considered. That’s why we at R Street spearheaded a coalition letter of more than 20 conservative and libertarian organizations and thought leaders urging the House to pursue an open process for the bill.

The entire point of splitting the bills in the first place was to secure more serious reforms than were possible in combined legislation, due to the unique rural-urban coalition that existed for the broad package. Splitting the bills and then immediately closing off any avenues to reform just defeats the purpose.

If the House pursues this method, here’s the top seven amendments that would improve policy substantially that they’ll never even get a chance to weigh in on. Most of these were simply stonewalled by the House Rules Committee; a few were withdrawn; and others were combined into a larger package that made it impossible to deal with them individually. What they all have in common is that they never received votes the last time around and never will if a farm-only bill truly proceeds under a closed rule.

GOP leaders are to blame for Farm Bill failure

Much ink has been spilled over the Farm Bill that failed to pass the House of Representatives last Thursday. This measure, the bulk of which is SNAP (food stamp) funding, is taken up by Congress every five years and passed with limited opposition.

But that changed this year.

Sallie James, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, noted on Friday that this “was the first time in 40 years (or possibly in history) that the House has failed to pass a farm bill.” She noted the blame game being played in the media, she adds, however, that she would like to “bestow Presidential Medals of Freedom on the culprits.”

Indeed. If one wants to point to one piece of legislation that embodies Washington’s incestious relationship with special interests, there is no better example than the Farm Bill.

There are a number of things wrong with the policies pushed in this legislation. For example, it subsidizes wealthy “farmers” — including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Ted Turnerand members of Congress — and artificially drives up prices by paying farmers not to yield any crops.

It also enacts policies that are protectionist in nature. The sugar industry probably serves as the best example. Through import restrictions, price supports and subsidies, U.S.-based sugar producers get a pretty sweet deal (no pun intended) that helps them avoid overseas competition at consumer and taxpayer expense.


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