Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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

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Economic Statistics for 18 Nov 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 0.2%, and rose 2.2% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.9% on a year-ago basis.

Final demand producer prices rose 0.2% overall in October, while prices less food and energy rose 0.4%. On a year-over-year basis, the PPI-FD is up 1.5% at the headline level, and up 1.7% at the core. In October, goods prices declined -0.4% while services prices rose 0.5%. On a year-over-year basis, both goods and services prices have risen 1.6%.

The NAHB Housing Market Index rose 3 points in November to 58.0.

E-commerce retail sales for the 3rd Quarter of 2014 rose 4.0%, compared to 4.9% in the previous quarter.

Very heavy foreign buying resulted in a net inflow of $164.3 billion in long term US securities in September.


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For Senate Dems, ideological loyalty trumps collegiality

Desperate for something positive to put before Louisiana voters prior to her Senate run-off, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu is looking for an apparently illusive 60th Senate vote – from her Democratic colleagues.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are stuck at 59 votes — one vote shy of the supermajority they need to move their bill forward on Tuesday.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Monday that they would vote against moving forward with the legislation, making it unclear whether supporters had a path to the magic number of 60.

Rockefeller had appeared to be one of the last possible converts Monday evening, and supporters were pressuring the retiring senator to join their side.

But he told reporters on Monday that he was firmly against the proposed pipeline: “I’ll be voting ‘no,’ ” he said.

Landrieu seems to think she has it, but the numbers don’t add up, at least at this point.  There may still be some hope for her, but it is slim:

Every Republican in the Senate is expected to back the measure, and 10 Democrats have signed on to legislation that Landrieu is sponsoring, along with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have also promised Landrieu that they will vote in favor of the pipeline, which would carry fuel from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast.

That gives Landrieu a firm 59 votes, but it’s not enough to move forward.

With Rockefeller a “no,” the best hope for Landrieu might be Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who told reporters on Monday that he is leaning against the measure.

Noting that he could be a pivotal vote, King also said of the roll call vote on Tuesday: “Wait till they get to the Ks.”

Sen. Chris Coons, who was previously considered a firm “no” on the Keystone vote has been talking to Landrieu about the bill.

“He cares for Senator Landrieu a lot, so he’s listening to what she has to say,” Coon’s spokesman Ian Koski said in an email Monday evening.

“But I have no reason to believe his position has changed,” Koski added.

And, of course, even if she does manage to convert one of those two, which seems unlikely, there’s Obama:

Even if the legislation is approved by the Senate, however, it is likely to be vetoed by Obama.

He said last week that lawmakers should not “short-circuit” the federal review of the pipeline that is already underway.

“I’ve been clear in the past. … My position hasn’t changed, that this is a process that is supposed to be followed,” Obama said at a press conference in Burma.

This is Obama thinking he’s playing “hard ball”.  In fact, it is Obama playing his favorite game, throwing someone under the bus.  So it’s likely “good bye Senator Landrieu”.  The fact that Keystone would create jobs in a down economy is moot.  Ideology trumps.  And it is much more important, after the drubbing the voters gave the green agenda early in the month, to keep the Tom Steyers of the world happy than it is to support one unimportant Senator in a mostly red state anyway.  Her reward for voting for and supporting ObamaCare in the Senate?  Stiffed in her hour of need by her party.  Irony.

Landrieu, naturally, will blame her pending loss on the “racism” and “sexism” of the South – after serving 18 years in the Senate.

~McQ

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Immigration: Political integrity, or the lack thereof

In his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope”,  then Senator Barack Obama laid out the argument against illegal immigration:

“[T]here’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border—a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before.”

”Not all these fears are irrational,” he wrote.

“The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen in this country for over a century,” Obama noted. “If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole—especially by keeping our workforce young, in contrast to an increasingly geriatric Europe and Japan—it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”

So why is he now contemplating doing, in a down economy with high unemployment and high deficits (and stretched welfare system), exactly what he previously claimed was harmful to America and its workers?  Has he somehow “evolved” in his thinking to a belief that his logically sound 2006 argument is now poppycock?  That flooding the US with immigrant workers will somehow keep wages up and not put a strain on the “already overburdened safety net?”  It seems pretty counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

But then, let us not forget that this is the guy who condemned George W. Bush for his use of executive orders and executive overreach and promised not to do it if he were elected to the presidency:

 “I taught constitutional law for ten years. I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that were facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.”

Of course, he hasn’t “reverse[d]” it, has he?  And past public polls have shown an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t support the use of executive orders to circumvent Congress (and let us not forget that he had an overwhelming Democratic majority for his first two years in office and essentially ignored the immigration issue).

Ross Douthat summarizes:

So there is no public will at work here. There is only the will to power of this White House.

Which is why the thinking liberal’s move, if this action goes forward, will be to invoke structural forces, flaws inherent in our constitutional order, to justify Obama’s unilateralism. This won’t be a completely fallacious argument: Presidential systems like ours have a long record, especially in Latin America, of producing standoffs between executive and legislative branches, which tends to make executive power grabs more likely. In the United States this tendency has been less dangerous — our imperial presidency has grown on us gradually; the worst overreaches have often been rolled back. But we do seem to be in an era whose various forces — our open-ended post-9/11 wars, the ideological uniformity of the parties — are making a kind of creeping caudillismo more likely.

But if that evil must come, woe to the president who chooses it. And make no mistake, the president is free to choose. No immediate crisis forces his hand; no doom awaits the country if he waits. He once campaigned on constitutionalism and executive restraint; he once abjured exactly this power. There is still time for him to respect the limits of his office, the lines of authority established by the Constitution, the outcome of the last election.

Or he can choose the power grab, and the accompanying disgrace.

And there’s little doubt, he will choose the latter and further add to his reputation as someone who has no political integrity at all.

~McQ

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Some of the week’s big stories in photos [with update]

First up: climate protestors in Australia demonstrate their philosophy towards actual data about climate science:

 

bondi-lead[1]

 

headsinsand[1]

Please savor the irony of them sticking their heads in the sand to demonstrate their own ignorance, while thinking they are supporting the leftist climate agenda.

Next, Hillary Clinton apparently has worn out her welcome in Iowa, and there continue to be questions about her health.

Salt-monster-46246874203[1]

Oh, sorry, wrong picture. Let me try again.

Hillary-Clinton-jobs-620x435[1]

Yeah, this whole “Hillary is inevitable” thing probably has a sell-by date of about February 1, 2016. Or sooner.

Finally, a feminist sets a world record for demonstrating her own insecurities, all because of this shirt.

newgunnergirlstshirt[1]

Included in this spectacular effort: envy of other women’s bodies, intelligence envy, sexual self-doubt, actual accomplishment envy, imaginary bad motives in her critics, pleasure at causing pain in others, and neediness for attention.

Most notable results of this harpy’s bloviating: 1. The guy in question cried during an apology, making this bint look like a bully and 2. the shirt is sold out. So trying to shame one guy into not wearing it causes a whole bunch of other guys to wear it just to piss off feminists. In other words, about the same results that leftist collectivism usually obtains.

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend.

Billy

*** Update 17 Nov 2014 10:30 AM ***

And here is what happens when the gap between government and kindergarten gets too small:

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If anyone else did this, it would be prosecuted as “FRAUD”!

Actually, the “American voter” wasn’t as stupid, as Jonathan Gruber claimed, because, as he admits numerous times, they had to resort to outright fraud to get the ACA past those voters.  Brian Faughnan summarizes:

So Gruber is previously on the record saying Obamacare subsidies are available ONLY in states that set up exchanges – not in all states. He has also said the law was sold in a deceptive way to fool stupid voters. Now we see him claim that the Affordable Care Act was actually a way to get rid of employer-provided health care, but it had to be done secretly so the American people would go along with it:

“It turns out politically it’s really hard to get rid of,” Gruber said. “And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those insurance plans…

Gruber explains that by drafting the bill this way, they were able to pass something that would initially only impact some employer plans though it would eventually hit almost every employer plan. And by that time, those who object to the tax will be obligated to figure out how to come up with the money that repealing the tax will take from the treasury, or risk significantly adding to the national debt.

“What that means is the tax that starts out hitting only 8% of the insurance plans essentially amounts over the next 20 years essentially getting rid of the exclusion for employer sponsored plans,” Gruber said.

But to these ethically crippled jerks, it’s not fraud, it’s “clever(ness)”:

A video that surfaced this week shows Gruber telling a Rhode Island audience in 2012 how the feds will collect a tax on high-end policies without families realizing they’re actually paying the tax via insurers: “(I)t’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”

Basic “exploitation” – comforting to know that your government actually and purposely was deceitful with the aim of  fooling the public into accepting something the law wasn’t.  Name a fraudster anywhere who doesn’t think he’s “clever”.

Now tell me — what do we usually call such attempts?

FRAUD.

And what do we do with those who attempt to defraud the public?

We put them in jail.

But, you know, that would be “accountability”.

We apparently don’t do “accountability” in the US.  So fraudsters are free to brag about how they did what they did without worrying about facing any consequences.

And the left – well, here’s what they’re worried about:

Former White House press secretary Jay Carney told CNN that Gruber’s remarks in general were “very harmful politically to the president.”

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 14 Nov 14

October retail sales were up 0.3% overall. Sales less autos were up 0.3% as well, while sales less autos and gas rose 0.6%.

Export prices fell -1.0% on October, while import prices fell -1.3%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices have fallen -0.8%, while import prices have fallen -1.8%. Cross-border prices are clearly deflationary, and are beginning to feed into the price of finished goods. With interest rates already at 0%, it’s difficult to see what monetary policy measures are available to counteract this trend. 

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index is up 2.5 points t0 39.4 for November’s preliminary reading. This is the highest level for the index since 2007.

Business inventories rose 0.3% in September, while flat sales left the stock-to-sales ratio at 1.30.


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