Back in 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was thought to be the next big conservative star. After Barack Obama carried 6-point in there in 2008, many believed the Commonwealth was slipping away from Republicans. McDonnell, however, was able to restore hope for the GOP in 2009 when he defeated Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial election.
McDonnell immediately became a key Republican spokesman. He gave the GOP’s response to the State of the Union address in 2010 and signed legislation — the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act — that sought to nullify ObamaCare. Despite taking on President Obama in a purple state, McDonnell managed to maintain a 62% approval rating deep into 2011 and was one of the names most frequently mentioned to run alongside Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle.
There has been dissatisfaction with McDonnell from conservatives for some time, though much of this is related to how he has handled social issues. But McDonnell lit a flame under fiscal conservatives last month when he proposed an overhaul to Virginia’s transportation tax.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was filled with promises and various other costly legislative items at a time when budget deficits are still running high. According to the National Taxpayers Union, President Obama’s agenda would cost taxpayers $83.4 billion per year:
In President Obama’s most expensive and widest ranging State of the Union Address yet, his proposals weighed in at $83.4 billion worth of quantifiable agenda items, according to National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) annual line-by-line analysis of the speech. This figure could grow much higher depending on what the President aims to do to avoid the sequester. In either case, if the President intends to follow through on his promise that his speech would not “add a dime to the deficit,” individuals and businesses may be facing another round of tax increases.
“The speech gave the President the opportunity to preview his forthcoming budget,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “And although he said his agenda items would not increase the deficit, he spent far more time detailing new spending initiatives than how they would be ‘paid for.’”
If the sequester plan that the White House has put forward were passed, it would raise the cost of the spending proposals to $100.4 billion. The most costly program that President Obama wants enacted is his cap-and-trade plan, which would cost $56.5 billion each year. NTU also notes that more than half of the proposals mentioned by President Obama in the State of the Union address “could not be quantified.”
You can see the costs of each proposal here.
FreedomWorks has done it again. One of the most well known, hardest working grassroots organizations in Washington has come up with some great tools in the last couple of years. Freedom Connector, a social networking site launched last year by FreedomWorks, provides users with an easy way to meet like-minded activists in their area and plan events.
The organization has also put together FreePAC, events that bring activists together to hear speakers and gain training to take back home to put to use during an election year or on ballot initiatives. The first FreePAC, held in July, was a resounding success, the second event, which will take place this weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio is also sure to impress.
But FreedomWorks has come up with yet another useful tool, a vote tracker, for activists and concerned voters who are interested in tracking votes in Congress on economic issues, perhaps the most important matter facing the United States.The vote tracker also includes a scorecard so voters can see if their representatives and senators in Washington have the best interests of taxpayers at heart.
Earlier this week, as the Democratic National Convention was getting underway, the U.S. national debt hit $16 trillion. Politicians – particularly the Republicans – went crazy online posting on social networks about how we should resist the Democrats and their desire to run the debt up even higher.
As if Republicans in Washington are much different.
The irony, of course, is that so many of the Republicans screaming about the debt are big contributors to (and causes of) it. But while we should definitely be concerned about debt, focusing primarily on it as our problem opens the door for raising taxes. Our national debt isn’t our primary problem; it’s just a symptom of a much, much bigger problem: spending.
If we control spending, we control debt. For far too long, spending has been out of control, and the result is an out of control debt.
We have an annual deficit (because of excessive spending), and the fight in Washington is over a fraction of that deficit. Republicans push for huge deficits, but their huge deficits are slightly smaller than what the Democrats want.
Dan Mitchell recently asked the question, “Does the $16 trillion debt really matter?” That’s a great article from Dan, well worth your time for a thorough read. In short, yes, it does. But focusing on the debt as the disease isn’t the answer.
Don’t look now, but the Solyndra scandal is coming back up in the media. The now-defunct, politically-connected green energy company was given a sweetheart $500+ million loan from the Obama Administration back in 2009. By August 2011, Solyndra had filed for bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions.
Supporters of heavily subsidized green energy projects downplayed cronyism, which runs rampant in the Obama Administration. But new e-mails show that a White House analyst warned that giving taxpayer money Solyndra would be a big mistake (emphasis mine):
As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.
Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.
We’re seeing more and more efforts to push for taxes to be collected on Internet purchases. Articles on this topic have been popping up all over the place lately (here, here, and here). The push makes sense in some minds. States with revenue issues need more revenue, and the Internet is the great untaxed frontier. (States with revenue issues more likely need a better fiscal policy more than they need added revenue, but that’s a huge topic for another post.)
You probably don’t have to wonder too much about whether or not I’d support the idea of taxing internet purchases. I’d oppose it primarily on the grounds that taxes are already too high, but there are other considerations as well. South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint addressed the issue recently and made the point that taxing Internet purchases would be unconstitutional:
Make no mistake: the online sales tax would be another unconstitutional mandate. If MFA [the Marketplace Fairness Act] becomes law, politicians in Washington would give California the right to force a business in another state to collect and pay California sales taxes.
The problem with liars and obfuscators is that, over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your story straight. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the Obama administration. Is it a tax or is it a penalty (Obama’s Solicitor General argued both sides on consecutive days before the Supreme Court in order to get the ObamaCare law upheld). Is marriage an institution pre-dating government which unites a man and a woman in a spiritual and legal union, or an oppressive anachronism based on antiquated definitions of morality? Obama has argued both sides. Are massive deficits “unpatriotic,” as he accused George Bush of being, or is it a way to stimulate the economy, as he now claims? If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it under ObamaCare, right? Maybe not, as Obama now admits that nearly three quarters of current insurance plans will fail to meet new government standards. Is the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility the symbol of America’s violation of basic human rights as Obama repeatedly claimed? If so, then why is it still open nearly three years after he promised the doors would shut?
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.
Since President Obama took office, the phrase “high speed rail” has become the buzzword for just about anything. Supposedly, it will stimulate our economy, reduce carbon emissions, and make cats and dogs live in perfect harmony. There’s just one problem I foresee with the President’s grand ambitions. I can’t find to many people interested in riding the damn thing.
High speed rail will cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. An entire infrastructure has to be put in place to support it as standard railways can’t handle the speed these trains can generate. That means more eminent domain seizures. That means less money for things people expect from government, be it law enforcement or welfare. That means years of construction with little to show for it prior to the grand unveiling.
For many that’s not that big of a deal. They’re willing to wait for something if it’s pretty awesome. They’re even willing to spend tax dollars for it. The question is, will it be worth a damn?
One of the knocks on Amtrak is best summed up by my trip to Manhattan, Kansas several years ago. I needed to actually get to Kansas City where a friend would pick me up. Taking Amtrak was going to take longer than a bus, and cost me more than taking a plane. There was no incentive to take a train at all, especially since a large chunk of that time period was a lay over.
In theory, high speed rail should solve that. The train moves faster after all. But the question is, will there be enough trains? A large part of my reason to not take a train - despite a desire to actually travel that way for once - was due to a very long lay over. The reason for that was because there isn’t enough traffic to justify more trains. So far, there’s little reason to assume high speed rail will have more travelers and therefore more trains running.
The protests in Wisconsin against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal that would require public-sector workers to pay more for benefits and pensions, though they’ll still be better off than private-sector workers, and reforms that would limit collective bargaining by public-sector unions are still receiving an incredible amount of attention.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is video a speech Gov. Walker gave last night explaining the reasons for the proposal. You can read the transcript here:
Walker, who has been falsely accused of favoring certain public-sector unions, has warned that unless the measures are passed to help ensure that the $3 billion budget deficit over the next two years can be cut, 6,000 public workers could lose their jobs.