Free Markets, Free People

Congress

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Would the GOP actually have the will to do this?

If, no, when President Obama issues his executive orders addressing immigration, Republicans are going to be faced with making some decisions about how to address those EOs. One of the ideas recently floated comes from the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and considers involving the House’s “power of the purse”, aka, defunding. The interesting point is that the rescission power rests with the President granted under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. However, Congress has used it in the past (without presidential direction) as Chairman Rogers notes:

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee pitched GOP colleagues on a plan to rescind funding for targeted programs in the next Congress to respond to President Obama’s planned executive amnesty, throwing a new idea into a ring already full of them.

“Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don’t need the president. That’s what he just told me. I’ve never heard that before,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a key conservative lawmaker who has emerged as a leader in crafting strategy on the issue.

The idea startled GOP members who, according to Salmon, hadn’t contemplated the strategy until now. And Rogers had difficulty explaining the idea to a scrum of reporters given that the last time it was used was the 1990s. “I don’t think any of you have ever seen a rescission bill!” Rogers said.

“There’s any number of possibilities including rescission of spending after the fact. One of the difficulties we’re having is we really don’t know what actions he plans to actually take. When Livingston took over as chairman, he proposed and passed rescissions of spending bills that after the fact took away money that had been appropriated for an agency,” Rogers added.

The reason he’s talking about “after the fact” is Congress is currently engaged in trying to pass a huge spending bill and that will likely take priority. Once passed, then it will likely address anything that Obama has directed via EO.  Also note that rescission bills are very rare – Congress isn’t about cutting spending or defunding much of anything.

However that are a number of Republicans that don’t even want the spending bill passed until next year:

Many Republicans are pushing to punt significant legislative action, including an omnibus spending bill, until the next Congress, when the GOP will have more leverage and control, given their control of the upper chamber.

Whatever the eventual plan, the next two months should be quite interesting.  However, should they pass the spending bill before the next Congress, rescission provides a path for the GOP to cut funding to the programs that Obama targets with his EOs and trigger quite a nasty political battle next year.

~McQ

A little reminder

A short one today, but I thought it instructive to bring up the fact that despite the claims of Democratic operatives and media types, the GOP isn’t the reason that Barack Obama’s Surgeon General nominee isn’t in that office.  Byron York explains:

There are 55 Democrats in the Senate. Since Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the rules to kill filibusters for nominations, it would take just 51 votes to confirm Murthy. Democrats could do it all by themselves, even if every Republican opposed. But Democrats have not confirmed Murthy.

 

In other words, the claim is worthy of 4 Pinnochios if fact checkers were doing their job.

No, apparently the job is still vacant (yeah, I know there’s an acting SG) because apparently Democrats have a problem with the nominee.

Go figure.

~McQ

17 trillion in debt and no relief in sight

As the world collapses around us, our borders are overrun, our leaders dither and procrastinate and the world in general thumbs their collective noses at “American power”, this sort of stuff could get lost in the shuffle:

When President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the total federal debt was $10,626,877,048,913.08. As of the close of business on July 30, 2014, it had risen to $17,618,599,653,160.19–up $6,991,722,604,247.11 from Obama’s first inauguration day.

By the close of business on July 31, 2014, it had risen to $17,687,136,723,410.59—up $7,060,259,674,497.51 since Obama first inauguration day.

Now the easy thing to do would be to go on a “it’s Obama’s fault” tirade, but that would only be partially true.  He certainly holds some responsibility for doing nothing to stem the red ink, and, in most cases, actually encouraging it.  He’s certainly exerted no leadership in trying to get the two parties together on a budget either.

But it is Congress that appropriates and spends.  Not the executive branch, now matter how bad it is.  For the first two years of Obama’s first term, it was all Democrats all the time.  And they set in motion horrendous spending programs like ObamaCare.  And there were a number more.

The fact of the matter is Congress also holds major share of the blame for this – no budget has been passed by the Senate during Obama’s entire tenure – and again, the majority of the Senate has been Democrat for these 6 years.

So what had been a horrific 10 plus trillion debt that was piled up over 40 years, became an even more horrific 17 trillion dollar debt in 6 short years – with no end in sight.

Yet most of the idiots who’ve put us in this fiscal hole will be running for re-election in the midterms and most of them will be re-elected.

Once more, the definition of insanity seems to loom large, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Lawlessness only begets more lawlessness

I imagine there are those out there who will write this off as the usual political squabble, but there’s a larger point here, and if you look closely you’ll see it:

Top White House political adviser David Simas refused again Friday to honor a congressional subpoena, prompting Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to vote to rebuke the administration.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 19-14 to reject the White House’s claim that Simas has absolute immunity from a subpoena from Congress.

Republicans said they were standing up for the principle that no one is above the law, and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa quoted a long list of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who have backed Congress’ right to subpoena top administration officials.

Democrats, led by ranking member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said they strongly disagree with the White House’s claim of absolute immunity but also strongly disagree with Issa’s push to press the issue, warning it could hurt the institution if they take a case to court.

The White House informed Issa at 7:30 a.m. Friday that Simas would not appear, Issa said. The absence was “not excused,” the California Republican added.

White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asked Issa to withdraw the subpoena to discuss his late Thursday offer for Simas to give a deposition instead of subpoenaed testimony.

Issa refused to do so.

“We have an absolute right and obligation” to investigate the new White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, he said.

It is about this presidency’s seeming desire to be unlawful.  Screw Congress, screw the law, screw oversight, we (the Executive branch) get to decide what is or isn’t lawful.  And we’ve decided that we have full immunity.

Nice.  And this isn’t even some big agency or the like.  It’s a 4 person office.  It’s about the Constitution and the law:

“This was intended to be a short, and I hope it will be, oversight of a relatively small but in the past controversial office, consistent with our requirement to do oversight even without a predicate of wrongdoing,” he said.

Issa said oversight of the previously troubled political office will help American people be more comfortable and ensure taxpayer dollars are being used properly.

“This is not alleging a scandal at any level,” Issa said of the subpoena. But oversight is still legitimate, he said. ”We are accusing neither the president nor anyone in this four-person office of any wrongdoing.”

Nope … this is just their normal duties.  Oversight.  What a concept.  Make sure that executive agency entities are following the law, spending (or not spending) taxpayer’s money as prescribed by law, etc.

And, as I mentioned yesterday, perception is going to be what?  That they’ve got something to hide.  The optics on this sort of thing are horrible – but they either don’t seem to understand or they don’t care.

There’s no good reason at work here for this president, there’s just arrogance and defiance.  Even the Democrats won’t buy into the total immunity nonsense.

So we sit and watch as this administration continues to thumb its nose at the lawful functions of government and obeying the law.

But why should they?  They haven’t in the past and nothing has happened.  Why should they worry now?

~McQ

Bald faced lies are okay if you’re from the government

The arrogant jerk that is the commissioner of the IRS typifies the type person who hasn’t and never will understand the term ‘public servant’.  He’s a bureaucrat, through and through, and he runs an agency which would never accept the asinine answer to the lost emails that he’s proffered to Congress. But he expects you to accept it without question because, well, because he said so.

Anyone with the IQ of a tea cup knows that emails don’t just reside on “hard drives”. They know that servers are involved. And competent companies and bureaucracies use systems that are redundant and back each other up (like RAID). No company OR agency of any size or worth would be without such a system.

But the arrogant prick that is the director of the IRS sits smugly before Congress and takes offense at being called a liar when he puts the excuse forward that he has. John Hideraker over at PowerLine points out something that you might not have known:

It has emerged over the last few days that at the time of Lois Lerner’s hard drive crash, the IRS had a contract with a company called Sonasoft (“Email archiving done right.”) Sonasoft promoted its relationship with the IRS in 2009: “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

So why doesn’t that solve the problem of the missing IRS emails? Because the IRS canceled its contract with Sonasoft in September 2011, a couple of months after Lerner’s hard drive crash. Everyone seems to assume that Sonasoft would have deleted whatever information it had gotten from the IRS at that time. That is certainly a logical assumption; in fact, it would make sense to require Sonasoft to get rid of any customer’s data once the business relationship ends. But it wouldn’t hurt for a House committee to lay a subpoena on Sonasoft to learn more about the IRS’s dealings with that company and make certain that it doesn’t still have any IRS records.

Two observations about the Sonasoft story: first, the IRS’s cancellation of the Sonasoft contract occurred in the context of a $1.8 billion annual budget for information services, plus $330 million annually for “business systems modernization.” All of that, and the IRS couldn’t afford an email archiving service? Not only that, it had to recycle its backup tapes to save money? Ridiculous.

Sure is convenient though, isn’t it?

An analogy as to how outrageous and unbelievable this all is comes from Kyle Smith:

To understand the latest outrage in the IRS scandal, mull over what might happen if regulators found significant evidence to implicate Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in an insider trading scheme.

Let’s say Blankfein asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions. Say Goldman was subpoenaed to provide all of Blankfein’s e-mails. Goldman replied that, instead of complying with the subpoena, it was itself reviewing the e-mails in question and was considering which ones to release.

Now imagine that, nearly a year later, Goldman admitted that it had not, in fact, reviewed the e-mails in question, because they had been lost in a computer crash two months before it claimed to be reviewing them. Imagine Goldman also said copies of the e-mails were lost, because while under subpoena it had destroyed the “backup tapes” (whatever those are) that held them and that it had also thrown away Blankfein’s actual hard drive.

The thing about dogs eating homework is, it could actually happen. This can’t. . . . Lerner wouldn’t have pleaded the Fifth unless she had reason to believe that there was potential illegality and it could be tied to her.

This is in-your-face corruption. This is a bureaucracy saying “screw you” and smugly looking on as you voice your outrage knowing full well nothing will happen to them. Unaccountable and unrepentant … the true face of big government.

~McQ

The newest oxymoron? “Government efficiency”

I’m always surprised by people that think government can run something better and more efficiently than a private entity.  Oh sure, there are things that are best left to government – like national defense – because it simply makes more sense when it comes to that.  But the fact that we charge them with that duty doesn’t mean they run it efficiently.

Governments have no incentive to be efficient.  We’ve talked about how, in private concerns, the profit motive provides incentive to be efficient.  In government there is no such motive.  So waste, fraud and abuse are rampant.

How rampant?  Take a look at this chart:

We’ve all been told by the Democrats that the government can help lower costs in health care.  But when you look at the 4 health care items on the chart (Medicare fee for svc, Medicaid, Medicare part C and D), you are looking at $63.5 billion … that’s with a “b” … dollars a year in “improper payment rates”.  Also look at the percentage of error.  In the EITC program, 22.7% or 12.6 billion of what they pay out is in error. (Don’t forget, the chart looks only at programs of $750 million or more a year – and we all know there are literally thousands of government programs below that threshold doing the same thing.)

Add all these up and government is making about $100 billion dollars a year in improper payments.  So if anyone wonders why I snort derisively when I hear Congress talk about a $10 billion savings over 10 years (not to mention that usually means not spending as much as they now spend) you can understand why. We’re not bleeding money at a federal level, we’re hemorrhaging it. What in the world is a 10 year $10 billion dollar “savings” worth when government is blowing a trillion dollars in 10 years via waste, fraud and abuse?

But do they actually address the problem?  No.  We’ve known about this level of waste, fraud and abuse for years … decades even.  And absolutely nothing of worth has been done to correct it.  In fact, given the amount of expansion the federal government has seen in the last decades, it’s gotten worse.  As the Mercatus Center says:

While people of good conscience on both sides of the political aisle can debate the merits of whether or not government should be involved in certain activities, none should tolerate the high levels of improper payments currently associated with government spending on social welfare programs. Federal spending has grown too massive to be adequately overseen. Waste, fraud, and abuse squanders public resources and undermines trust in government.

Indeed.  But there is one sure fire way to at least reduce this waste, given the apparent fact that government hasn’t a clue about how to reduce it.  Get government out of areas it has no business and cut spending.  Simplistic?  Not really.  That is a solution, or at least a partial solution.  I certainly understand there will be argument about the areas where government should be involved or not, but hey, crazy me, I’ve always found the Constitution provides some pretty good guidelines.  And, of course, then you have to elect legislators with both balls and a charter to do that (and who won’t succumb to “Potomac fever” when they arrive on the scene) and stay on them until they do what is necessary to accomplish the task.

Yeah, I know, not going to happen anytime soon.  People like their government cheese too much and most don’t mind at all that someone else is paying the freight.

Meanwhile this atrocious and unacceptable waste of your tax dollars will continue unabated (and likely get worse) – a victim of “government efficiency”.

~McQ

Elizabeth Warren: Poster woman for progressivism

If ever there was a poster woman for progressivism, MA Senator Elizabeth Warren fills the bill.  Known as “Fauxahontas” for using fake indian credentials to cash in on minority preferences, she has taken the Ted Kennedy Senate seat from the hapless Scott Brown and is now on target to out-liberal the liberal Lion.

One of the more interesting things to do with her is to disect her thinking via reading what she has to say about certain subjects.  It gives  one a good peek behind the curtain and into the “progressive” mind.  For instance, here she is talking about the school loan program the government unilaterally took over:

Right now, in order to finance the United States government, we take in billions of dollars of profits for student loans, but permit billionaires to have enough loopholes that they pay at tax rates that can be lower than those of their secretaries.

This is a straightforward choice: We can take $75 billion and either way we’ll use it to protect tax loopholes for billionaires or $75 billion can be used to help students to refinance their outstanding student loan debt. It’s billionaires or students.

This particular quote is instructive in so many ways.  First, note how she makes the point that government “permits” billionairs to keep their money via loopholes.  Obviously she believes that’s something that shouldn’t be permitted, but more importantly in infers a belief that everything you earn belongs to government.  The student loan program is simply an excuse for taking it if she has her way.  If it weren’t that, it would be something else.  But bottom line she believes government has a right to that money in the name of  … well you call it – fairness?  Equality?  Whatever.

Secondly, what is the problem right now in terms of the cost of schooling?  The price is to high.  How does one get the price down?  Competiton.  That and you don’t subsidize the cost and lay off the cost of that subsizidation on students.  If there is limited competition and vast subsidization, what is the incentive for colleges and universities to cut costs to compete for students?

That’s right, none.  So what the government program that she wants to tax billionaires for is doing is helping to sustain, maintain and grow the higher education bubble.

Heritage’s Brittany Corona, a research assistant in education policy, has criticized the federal government’s involvement in the student-loan business, citing, in particular, the unknown long-term costs to taxpayers.

“Continuing to expand higher education subsidies through subsidized federal student loans and grants does nothing to put pressure on colleges to lower costs,” Corona warned. “In fact, access to easy money does the opposite, enabling universities to raise prices, knowing students can return to the federal trough for more financing.”

Sound familiar at all?  Have we had previous experience with this sort of nonsense in the last 5 or 6 years?

When this bubble pops and collapses, I’m sure the Warren’s of the world will find some “private” boogyman to blame it on.  But in reality, it will again be a government program that fueled the expansion of the bubble and the eventual collapse.

And the students?  Well, they’ll still be on the hook to pay for their overpriced education for the rest of their lives, regardless of the interest rate.

~McQ

Unemployment the people’s main priority? So let’s hike the minimum wage …

A poll came out the other day saying that the majority of American’s first priority is unemployment.  And it should be given the incredible low we’re now suffering in labor force participation.

So what bright idea are Democrats pushing in spite of that?  Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage?

Result? Well, even the CBO, the Dems favorite “go to” agency to support their ideas (when it actually agrees, of course), doesn’t see this as a particularly bright idea if they’re concerned about the people’s priority:

Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects.

Notice it says reduce “total employment” by 500,000.  It also says it is only a projection and that it could actually be higher than that.

Wonderful.

But, but … it will help the poor!

The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting  from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not  go only to low-income families, because many low-wage  workers are not members of low-income families. Just  19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families  with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas  29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.

Or said another way, Democrats are willing to see a half million plus lose their jobs to serve 19% (and that assumes that all of the 19% keep their jobs).

But, but … it will give the poor more to spend!

Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would  be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted)  income for the people who became jobless because of the  minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.

Those are facts, folks.  Democrats don’t deal in facts, they deal in emotions … and if they can pass a minimum wage bill, they’ll feel wonderful about themselves.  And if they can’t, they’ll blame it all on the mean old Repubicans who want you to be able to keep your job or something radical like that.

~McQ

I wonder if the GOP will figure this out

I am talking about the establishment GOP – those that think compromise on principle is a good thing if it keeps it all collegial in Congress and the left doesn’t call them bad names.

As the deadline for 2014 enrollment nears, Obamacare is increasingly growing unpopular, especially among the uninsured. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that about twice as many uninsured people have an unfavorable view of the health-care law than have a favorable one.

Among the uninsured, 47 percent view Obamacare in a negative light versus the 24 percent who view it favorably. That’s a change from 43 percent who viewed it unfavorably last month, and 36 percent who viewed it favorably. Overall, half of Americans view Obamacare unfavorably, while just over one-third have a positive take on the law. ​

More of the uninsured also said Obamacare made them worse off (39 percent) than improved their situation (26 percent), according to the poll.

Got that?  The majority of people find ObamaCare to be a travesty and a plurality of those who are uninsured want nothing to do with it.

Looking for an issue GOP (clue: it’s not caving passing immigration “reform”)?

This mess the Democrats have made is the single issue on whichyou can win.  That’s right, single issue.  This is a subject very near, dear and important to every Americans.  And the Democrats have screwed it up royally. You have no need, in the interim, cave on anything.  There is nothing which requires you to pass legislation that will piss off your base.  None.

Think about it.

Please.

~McQ

Thoughts on a snowy Wednesday

I sure am glad I’m not into drunk blogging, because given the Wizard of Oz show last night, aka SOTU, I’d still be plastered.

BTW, Cory Remsburg stole the show.

On the 2014 election front, the president may be facing some real problems in his “year of action” (which I’ve come to believe mostly refers to how often he’ll wield his pen signing executive orders – something he blasted as a Senator.  I’m sure it’s Bush’s fault):

[T]he 2014 Senate playing field is potentially brutal for Democrats. Democrats are defending seats in five states — Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating was at or below 35 percent in 2013, according to Gallup. In four other states where Democrats hold a Senate seat that’s up in 2014, Obama’s approval rating was well below his national average of 46 percent: Louisiana (40 percent), Colorado and Iowa (42 percent), and North Carolina (43 percent). In Oregon, New Hampshire, and New Mexico the president had a 45 percent job-approval rating, just below his national average. That’s a whopping total of 11 Democratic seats that could potentially be in play this November.

Republicans also have seats they must defend, but far fewer of them. In Georgia, where the GOP must defend an open seat, Obama’s approval rating of 45 percent is below his national average. In Kentucky, where Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection, only 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the president.

This is intersting on a couple of fronts.  One, if the GOP holds on to the House (and there’s no real reason to believe that won’t happen) and take the Senate, executive orders are about all this president is going to have at his command.  Second, since Harry Reid went nuke, it will be interesting to see how he enjoys being on the other side of it.  Oh rest assured he’ll be like a goose who wakes up in a new world everyday, because you can count on him to blast such an abuse of power and the traditions of the Senate.

I find some solace in all of that even though I’m not a fan of the establishment Republicans.  And I darn sure don’t think they’ll do what I think is necessary to dismantle this monstrosity called ObamaCare or, for that matter, solve any other problems by just getting out of the way.  They’re “lawmakers” and that is their product  – well that and taking your money for hare-brained scemes like jobs programs, etc.  Nope, I fully expect the GOP, should they control Congress to cave to the pressure of special interests – like Democrats and media calling them names and talking about how mean spirited they are – and basically pass a Democrat lite agenda.  Watch immigration for the cue.

Where I find the solace is in defanging Obama for the last few years of his presidency.  He’ll wield his executive order pen and thunder (or perhaps by then, squeak) about Republicans blocking his agenda (something they should gladly admit too, but they won’t – they’ll cower), and blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Nope, the good news is if the GOP can take Congress, the Obama nightmare, er, presidency, will be effectively over.

That, I will drink too.

~McQ

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