Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: December 2, 2010


Good news–GOP to “upend” spending process

One bit of advice I’ve been consistently throwing out there for the incoming GOP House majority is to act on those things that lead to less spending and smaller less costly government.  If they sit back and complain that even if they pass these things the Senate will vote it down or, if by chance, it gets past the Senate, President Obama will veto it, they’re gone in 2012.

So I was rather pleased to see that they intend to do exactly that in a POLITICO article today:

On some level, their plans may create a sense of organized chaos on the House floor — picture dozens of votes on dozens of federal program cuts and likely gridlock on spending bills. And don’t forget that a lot of these efforts will die with a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House.

But the intent is to force debate as much as to actually legislate — and make Old Guard Republicans and Democrats uncomfortable with a new way of thinking about the size and scope of government.

For every action, however, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And, per POLITICO, that opposite reaction is going to come from the “Old Guard” Republicans and Democrats who feel they’ve earned their power via seniority and don’t want to see it threatened or disrupted.

Insiders who have made a living under the old system are sure to push back, and many fear that Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) may not understand what he is doing.

“John should talk with the professional appropriators about the complexities, rather than talk off the top of his head. His plans would take a huge amount of the House’s time, but what would it accomplish?” said a dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A former Democratic appropriator also was skeptical about describing prospective changes at that committee, which has a strong tradition of producing 12 bills every year from 12 subcommittees run by 12 very powerful Appropriations “cardinals.”

“On the practical side, it has to be nuts. Given the difficulty in passing the current bills, adding these changes would be a dream world. … There could be a revolt by members, who will want to get home and campaign.”

What is Boehner’s heresy? 

The plans include slicing and dicing appropriations bills into dozens of smaller, bite-size pieces — making it easier to kill or slash unpopular agencies. Other proposals include statutory spending caps, weekly votes on spending cuts and other reforms to ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.

Yup … real change comes hard.  The “cardinals” want their power to be undiminished.  There’s a shock.  So let’s attempt to answer the question of the “dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee” shall we?

What would it accomplish?

Well, let’s see – one, if it took more time, it would be more time spent on bringing sanity to the appropriations process – a vital job of the House – and less time celebrating such things as the Smackover Arkansas junior league squash team’s championship or recognizing National Skunk Ranchers day.

Secondly, it would take a serious look at the appropriations process in detail.  Understandable, “bite-size pieces” that one can wrap their head around and vote down if the spending can’t be justified vs. huge omnibus bills so large and complex that it is difficult for anyone to understand what they’re voting for.

Third, as the paragraph states, doing it that way would “ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.”  Or said another way – actual debate would be encouraged, not avoided.

And frankly, I like this idea as well – for the “detailed look” and context it would bring to the process:

Perhaps the most dramatic change is Boehner’s planned Appropriations Committee overhaul to require funding on a department-by-department basis, first reported by POLITICO on Wednesday. His proposal would subdivide the dozen current appropriations bills so that funding for each major federal agency would require a separate House vote.

Size and complexity are the enemy of good legislation and certainly sane appropriations.

“The [suggested] changes may be easier to follow and make more sense” than the existing practices, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “As long as members can make a case for or against a particular program, they will have the basis for objective decisions.”

Precisely. And an objective process in which to identify and eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, parts of agencies (redundant) or entire agencies (unproductive bureaucracies)if the case could be made (and it can – the question is whether it will). But this sort of process at least is a step in the right direction of bringing fiscal sanity back to the appropriations process if it can be introduced and followed.

Of course we’re talking politics and vested interests here so you never know.  And, of course, the GOP members must “buy into” the new process to make it work.  That, of course is a leadership problem, and it will be among Boehner’s first tests if he and his leadership group truly hope to change the way the House does business and enact measures that will indeed reduce spending and dial back government’s size and cost.

~McQ


The left hypocritically whines in unison about Senate GOP filibuster threat

I know this comes as a shock – shock I tell you – but the left is just in a tizzy today about the GOP Senate caucus’s unanimous decision not to allow anything to go forward in the Senate’s lame duck session until the tax cut question is settled.

Andrew Sullivan characterizes it as "dickishness" (and Dan Riehl comments that Sullivan has finally found something to like about the GOP). John Cole is on about "first priorities being millionaires", Charles Johnson hits it with "GOP totally committed to obstructionism", and the not so Moderate Voice snarks "Common ground, Republican style".

Whatever happened to the celebration of the minority power of Senate Democrats when they were not in the majority? As I recall then, Minority Leader Reid was aghast that the majority should want the ability to ramrod it’s agenda through the Senate without any input or ability to check it by the minority. And at the time he used the filibuster (and that’s what this is by the GOP, a filibuster) he certainly considered it a check against "absolute power" and something that our much "wiser" founding fathers encouraged.  Then it ensured “that no one person and no single party could have total control” according to Reid.   He even lectured everyone on it:

…when legislation is supported by the majority of Americans, it eventually overcomes a filibuster’s delay, as public protests far outweigh any senator’s appetite for filibuster. But when legislation only has the support of the minority, the filibuster slows the legislation, prevents a senator from ramming it through and gives the American people enough time to join the opposition.

Mr. President, the right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government. …

For 200 years we’ve had the right to extended debate [i.e., filibuster]. It’s not some procedural gimmick. It’s within the vision of the founding fathers of our country. … They established a government so that no one person and no single party could have total control.

Some in this chamber want to throw out 214 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power. They want to do away with Mr. Smith, as depicted in that great movie, being able to come to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they’re wiser than our founding fathers. I doubt that that’s true.

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. When it was the "evil" GOP in charge of the Senate, and brave Sir Harry and the Dems were the only shield against their tyranny, the founders were "wise". And the lefty blogs agreed.

Now, apparently, when it is used in exactly the same way Harry Reid and Senate Democrats used it while they were in the minority, well it’s pure obstructionism, “dickishness” and other such descriptions driven  by the left’s collective tantrum. 

Apparently ensuring a system exists “so that no one person and no single party could have total control” is just outside the pale now.  They want total control and they want to ram through what they desire without anyone’s interference.  And they’re willing to have the necessary convenient memory lapse they’re all experiencing right now to ensure their “outrage” seems driven by principle.

Save it, boys and girls – I’ve been in the blogosphere more than one day and I remember quite well your arguments of “principle” when Harry Reid was playing the same game as the GOP is now (see above).  Now you want everyone to swallow this faux outrage of yours and accept this argument of convenience that essentially throws your previous “principled” argument  under the bus?

Sorry, no sale.

~McQ


In which a blue blood princess gets offended by the term “blue blood” even though she apparently still doesn’t understand the term

For the most part I watch the Sarah Palin sideshow with bemusement and mostly ignore it.  Frankly I don’t want her as president but I think she’s good for politics in general because she stirs things up.  And lord knows it needs that.  I also get a kick out of watching the left obsess over her and in particular watching Andrew Sullivan make a fool of himself.

So I had to laugh as I watched the blue blood beer princess Meghan McCain rip into Palin this week for calling Barbara Bush a “blue blood”.   The humor factor? It seems our Columbia educated McCain had no idea of what a “blue blood” was and had to Google the term.  Even then she still didn’t seem to understand the term.

McCain’s a rather Obamaeque figure in my view.  She’s in a position of national prominence – a “pundit” with a national publication – although she’s really done nothing to earn such a position. That doesn’t stop her from having a rather inflated opinion of herself and her talents and abilities.  And as you might expect her work reflects that problem. 

Let’s get real here -  she’s in the position she enjoys because of her Dad’s political prominence. Otherwise she’d be a wannabe pundit slogging away on some obscure blog and wishing someday to have a national platform – sort of like me.   Because of her name, and as someone who nominally claims to be a Republican but spends most of her time ripping Republicans, she makes the perfect token for the publication where she contributes.

That’s not to say there’s anything particularly wrong or unique about her situation.  I think we know it happens all the time.  All sorts of organizations hire the children of famous “blue bloods” hoping to trade off the name they bring.  And obviously, the Daily Beast isn’t above such motivation.

The irony, of course, is she seems completely oblivious to the fact that her “blue blood” is why she’s where she is at the moment.

I remember, when Sarah Palin broke upon the scene, the almost sneering condescension she received from, well, members of the media aristocracy (blue bloods aren’t found just in politics, Ms McCain) when it was discovered her degree was from  …. the University of Idaho?  God forbid.  Idaho?  Is that even a state (yeah, one of the 57 we have out here in flyover land)?

And she had actually worked on a fishing boat and liked to hunt. She was treated like an 6-eyed alien just come to earth, something unseen and unheard of before.

True, Sarah Palin has managed to shoot herself in the foot many times, but I see that more as a function of instant celebrity, the attempt to adjust to that celebrity and the media culture’s negative obsession with those who don’t fit their template of an “acceptable” female politician.  As we’ve remarked many times, she was 1,000 times more thoroughly vetted by the media than was our current President (he fit the template perfectly).

I’d also point out that as long as she offers political commentary, she is fair game for the so-called “pundit class”.  That’s true about anyone in the political arena.

But I’m not sure I’d extend the title “pundit” to someone like Meghan McCain.  Other than snark and bad sentence structure she doesn’t offer much.

Call it tangential blue blood celebrity, but it seems to me that if you want to be taken seriously and actually earn and keep that celebrity (after daddy retires from public life and prominence)  you have to have something of value to offer. Badly worded and vapid diatribes about commonly understood terms you still don’t get aren’t likely to accomplish that.   As James Joyner says, if the Daily Beast intends upon keeping McCain, they could do us all a favor and at least get her an editor.

And yes, this will likely be the first and last Meghan McCain post – I know, thank goodness for that.

~McQ