Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The omnibus blows an engine

I think it is unanimous, at least on the right, that the withdrawal of the Democrat’s omnibus 1.2 trillion dollar spending bill – larded with over 6,600 earmarks – is a “good thing”.  Instead we can hope that a continuing resolution keeping funding at current levels (or reduced – that wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all) is passed.  Sen. Mitch McConnell was waiving around a one-page bill yesterday that essentially does that.

One page.  Imagine.

Not almost 2,000.  One page.

Anyway, I’m glad to see the GOP standing tough on this stuff.  And the other good news is the midterm election losses have so unnerved the Democrats that Harry Reid couldn’t find the votes for cloture on the bill.

McConnell, embarrassed by reports on his own earmarks in the omnibus, went to the Senate floor Thursday to propose a one-page, “clean,” two-month extension of the current stop-gap funding resolution that has kept the government funded since Oct. 1. And as if caught with their hands in the cookie jar, he and other top Republicans vowed to do everything in their powers to kill the omnibus to square themselves with their tea party backers.

Fear is a wonderful motivator, isn’t it? POLITICO spends much of the article pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP who also had earmarks in the bill.  And that’s about the only talking point the lefty blogosphere has as well.   Yup, stipulated and acknowledged.  But look how it turned out and they know why.  Retribution from those supposedly on their side.  They know it will happen.  Yes indeed, fear is indeed a fine motivator if properly applied.

Which says to me that the Tea Parties need to understand that the pressure they’ve been able to bring to bear to this point is a) working and b) needs to be unrelentingly continued. They didn’t “win” and can now “quit”.  Slack up now and I promise they’ll be right back at their old ways before you can blink twice.

Of course representatives of the administration weighed in in favor of the omnibus spending bill trying to sell it as a necessity:

“We need these resources now more than ever to support national security priorities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we are helping secure gains made by our military and preventing the spread of violent extremism,” Clinton said. “Our budget is being used to help stabilize the global economy, combat extreme poverty, demolish transnational criminal networks, stop global health pandemics and address the threat of climate change.”

“These are not partisan issues; they are national imperatives,” Clinton said.

They may not be partisan issues in particular, but there’s absolutely nothing that says the funding for some of what is deemed “national imperatives” be funded in a clean bill addressing that.  But it is time to stop this incessant habit of using any passing bill as a chance to lard it up with earmarks that would never survive an actual appropriations process vote.

You can’t fix the spending problem until you take the first step – and this was a good first step.  But only that.  GOP, you’re on notice – you’re expected to do a lot more of this in the next Congress.  We want to see spending cut dramatically and the deficit reduced equally as dramatically.  

Yes, hope springs eternal.  But who knew the GOP would find a spine?  Keep it up boys and girls, we’re all out here watching you, you better believe it.

~McQ

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House votes to keep current tax rate

Dear media, the House vote last night – which sends the bill to President Obama for his signature – wasn’t an $801 billion tax cut bill, as the NYT headline blares. Certainly there are tax cuts in it, but not to the tune of $801 billion. Nor did "millionaires" get a “tax cut. “

All that happened is the House voted to maintain the current income tax rate for everyone. Nothing changes. No one gets "more" in terms of tax savings than they do right now and have gotten for most of a decade.  Well, except, perhaps, those who don’t pay any taxes into the system.  They may get more in the way of a “refundable credit”.

So quit spinning this as something it isn’t.  There is no permanent tax rate.  They aren’t “Bush era tax cuts”.  They’re the current tax rate. Period.

Keeping that rate doesn’t "cost" the government one red cent, because they never had the money to begin with. Pretending that somehow anticipated revenue from an increase in taxes is somehow a "cost" is a perversion of the English language as well as a misuse of an economic term.

Quit it.

Thank you.

~McQ

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Quote of the day–Gene Simmons “Obama is unqualified” edition

Yes, that Gene Simmons – KISS – spills the beans.  And I think the sentiment he expresses is much more common – at least on the left and left of center – than previously admitted.  This is why an unqualified man sits in the White House today:

"I voted because the man that was running was a moment in history. I–in the back of my mind I wanted to show the world that America, the land of slaves…the land that tortured its black population for hundreds of years is also the place of hope that can give an African American the chance to lead the most powerful place on the face of the planet. However, if you take a look at the resume, you couldn’t find somebody–in retrospect–more unqualified."

In “retrospect”?  You mean it wasn’t obvious prior to the election?

Well, it would have been if we hadn’t been playing the “moment in history” game and been more worried about “showing the world” something that a mature person would have known we did decades ago.  By striving to “show the world”, people like Simmons actually did more harm than good.  They elected an unqualified black man because … he was black.   It is the single most immature reason to elect anyone to anything I can think of.  And that includes voters out there who elect someone only because he’s white.  Or a Democrat/Republican, etc.

The mature adult looks at resume and stances on issues with which they’re concerned before pulling the lever.  But more importantly, elections aren’t about “showing the world” or “moments in history”.  They’re very serious affairs that effect the lives of all of us.  The legions of Gene Simmons out there who foisted this unqualified president upon us didn’t show the world anything except even supposedly mature adults can be caught up in a moment and make some very immature decisions.

~McQ

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Yep, communism kills – but fools still defend the other fools who believe in it

Following on McQ’s post about deaths due to communism</a>, the same article was noted by Glenn Reynolds. He made the following straight-forward observation:

Communists are as bad as Nazis, and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.

I’m not even sure “as bad as” is sufficient. Deaths due to Communism outnumber deaths due to Nazism by a wide margin.

But he got pushback from someone living in the halls of academia, who wants to assure us that those Marxists aren’t really so bad:

As someone who works in academia, I run into my fair share of Marxists. While I disagree with their politics, many of them are decent non-evil people most certainly deserving of respect. There is, to my mind, a big difference between communism and Nazism: it is possible to be a communist with the “good will,” i.e. to sincerely wish the best most prosperous future for everyone. I think it’s pretty obvious that communism is not the way towards that goal, but intelligent people can disagree. Nazism, on the other hand, is fundamentally impossible to commit one’s self to with a good will. It is inherently racist, hateful, and concerned with elevating particular groups of people on the basis of the subjugation and dehumanization of others.

Put another way: communism, like it or not, is an Enlightenment project and an Enlightenment ideology. The evils of communism my be intrinsic, but they are not built into the ideology itself. I.e. Marx never advocated for any society like the Soviet Union or for gulags, etc. The same cannot be said of Nazism.

This is not to give communism a “pass,” but rather to separate the ideology and intentions of the believer, from, say, crimes like the Great Leap Forward. One does not convince communists to give up their creed by calling them Nazis and refusing to show them a modicum of respect. One convinces them (and I speak from personal experience) but engaging them as people who want the good, but don’t realize that their politics cannot and will never be able to effect the society they seek.

This is so wrong-headed that I don’t know where to start. Let’s go phrase by phrase and point out some of the highest caliber foolishness.

While I disagree with their politics, many of them are decent non-evil people most certainly deserving of respect.

No, they’re most certainly not deserving of respect. They might or might not be “non-evil”, but if they still defend the rotten corpse of Marxism and its legacy of death, they’re idiots, and therefore deserving of no respect, no matter what degrees they hold or how much cocktail-party glibness they possess.

Naturally, someone in academia is likely to form some psychological accommodation to these idiots. They’re just down the hall, don’t ya know, and the kids play soccer with them, probably in games where it’s not allowed to keep score. Letting them know that they’re idiots is career-affecting, and seriously curtails opportunities for social activities on campus. So it’s pretty easy for someone in that environment to convince themselves that “on a personal level, those Marxists are not really that bad” from their own need to find a rationalization to avoid friction with them.

There is, to my mind, a big difference between communism and Nazism: it is possible to be a communist with the “good will,” i.e. to sincerely wish the best most prosperous future for everyone.

First, this is the classic leftist fallacy: that good intentions are enough to excuse anything. They’re not.

Second, it’s patently untrue. “Everyone” includes people who have a lot of wealth. Communism explicitly says such people are supposed to give up that wealth for others, and be brought down to supposedly becoming equal with them. How in Hades is that the “best most prosperous future” for those wealthy people?

That’s even leaving out the reality that goes even beyond the iron-clad logic above: Many (most?) of the wealthy were murdered in every case where Communism was tried. Anyone who can hand-wave that aside and still sincerely believe that communism offers the “best most prosperous future for everyone” has a pretty narrow definition of “everyone”.

Instead, I think it’s an indication of the Marxist’s view (shared by many academicians even if they don’t realize it) that the wealthy are nothing but a bunch of  immoral exploiters. It’s easy to leave them out of “everyone” if you hold that view of them.

I think it’s pretty obvious that communism is not the way towards that goal, but intelligent people can disagree.

No. Stupid people and people who crave a reason to control others can disagree. Intelligent people only have to look at a century long string of failure and death to know that communism is not the way towards that goal. If a person can’t see that, I can’t conceive of how they can be labeled “intelligent”. (Of course, my definition of “intelligent” includes a connection to reality, which often seems to be strangely missing from the academician’s definition of “intelligent”.)

Put another way: communism, like it or not, is an Enlightenment project and an Enlightenment ideology.

Wrong again. The ideology that inspired the terms “groupthink”, “double-think”, and all the rest isn’t an Enlightenment ideology. Communism in practice is profoundly anti-Enlightenment. It distorts every meaning that it touches, and disposes of rationalism as soon as it challenges the ideology. Hence the Soviet joke “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

This is not to give communism a “pass,” but rather to separate the ideology and intentions of the believer, from, say, crimes like the Great Leap Forward.

But separating the supposed intentions from a century of results is giving them a pass! These people defended the Soviet Union my whole life, far past the point where it was clear that it was a murdering, thuggish regime capable of producing only deprivation and violence.

Academic historians were among the worst such defenders.  They’ve never come clean about their support of the Soviet Union. These Marxist fools are still supporting Chavez and Castro today! Sorry, their supposed good intentions shouldn’t give them a pass for that.

One does not convince communists to give up their creed by calling them Nazis and refusing to show them a modicum of respect. One convinces them (and I speak from personal experience) but engaging them as people who want the good, but don’t realize that their politics cannot and will never be able to effect the society they seek.

First, saying that their ideology produces results just as bad or worse as Nazism isn’t calling them a Nazi. It’s stating the clear truth.

But there’s an even better reason to treat their "creed" with complete contempt. Behaving otherwise makes their beliefs acceptable, even respectable, in academia.

Those beliefs should not be respectable. It’s time their ideology joined phlogiston, the luminiferous ether, phrenology, and Lamarkian biology in the historical gallery of failed concepts. They shouldn’t be coddled for believing in nonsense; they should be ridiculed for it.

Giving them any respect whatsoever means that get to continue to indoctrinate new generations in the same idiocy, meaning we still have the problem of academic idiots pushing an evil, failed ideology into the indefinite future.

Far better, I believe, to make it clear and obvious that their belief is not a respectable one.  That in fact, continuing to believe in Marxism at this late date means defending over a hundred million deaths committed in its name, and advocating a philosophy that has caused hundreds of millions to live their lives in misery, deprivation, and de facto slavery. That should be beyond the pale, not treated as some sort of ideological quirk to talk someone out of.

The left wants us to play by different rules from what they impose on themselves. By their lights, believing in principles espoused by the founders of this nation is extreme and racist, but believing in principles that have killed more than a hundred million and enslaved hundreds of millions more is just an ideological quirk.

I believe that not more than one in a thousand can be convinced by the gentle means advocated by this academician. After all, they don’t really seem to learn from history or reality. They took no responsibility for the support of the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, or today’s Venezuela. And I wonder how many of this academic’s friends are *still* siding with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

So no more coddling. Just ridicule. If they don’t like it, well, too bad. I think it’s time they suffered the consequences of total ridicule for their idiocy; maybe that would convince some of them to re-examine it. 

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Communism kills–always has, always will

I know – once again I’ve managed to shock you haven’t I?

Not.

All that’s really happened is there is now proof that is hard to ignore or deny. Communism (simply a brand of "totalitarianism") kills and China is – I was going to say "living proof" but that would be inappropriate – is proof.

Remember the Mao inspired "Great Leap Forward" launched in 1958 Communist China? It was the forced "communization" of the population which had resisted it up until then. I.e. the people were pushed into communes where, they were told, life would be infinitely better because, well, because Mao said so.

Now it appears some initial estimates may have been a little low about the number of lives that forced move cost.

Historians have known for some time that the Great Leap Forward resulted in one of the world’s worst famines. Demographers have used official census figures to estimate that some 20 to 30 million people died. But inside the archives is an abundance of evidence, from the minutes of emergency committees to secret police reports and public security investigations, that show these estimates to be woefully inadequate.

Yes, I agree, that’s criminal. It is monstrously criminal.  Why?  Well obviously the force used to make people do what the state decided to do makes it criminal.  What makes it monstrously criminal?  Well the number of people that died from it and this:

In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.

Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed, often for the slightest infraction. People accused of not working hard enough were hung and beaten; sometimes they were bound and thrown into ponds. Punishments for the least violations included mutilation and forcing people to eat excrement.

They were tortured to death or summarily executed because they disagreed with who should run their lives or for doing something that those who had assumed control of their lives (by force) decided was deserving of capital punishment.

Like these:

One report dated Nov. 30, 1960, and circulated to the top leadership — most likely including Mao — tells how a man named Wang Ziyou had one of his ears chopped off, his legs tied up with iron wire and a 10-kilo stone dropped on his back before he was branded with a sizzling tool. His crime: digging up a potato.

When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, the local boss, Xiong Dechang, forced his father to bury his son alive on the spot. The report of the investigative team sent by the provincial leadership in 1969 to interview survivors of the famine records that the man died of grief three weeks later.

Yes, these are the brutal and criminal acts of a ideology that holds the “rights” of the state far above any rights for individuals.  An ideology that many collectivist fellow travelers right here in the US used to defend as the humane answer to capitalism and the “cult” of the individual.  And make no mistake the USSR was no better.  It too resorted to forced collectivization.  In the Ukraine alone, it is estimated that 3.1 to 7 million died from the famine the forced collectivization induced.  In the Soviet Union, almost 2 million kulaks – probably what we would describe as “middle class farmers” were transported to the Gulags or executed.  All their land was confiscated and collectivized.  It wasn’t hard to become an “enemy of the people” just by being born to the wrong people or having worked hard to get ahead.

And as the artificial shortage they call “famine” worsened, what do you suppose those who represented the state did in China (and most likely the USSR)?  They used it to continue the oppression of the people and extend their control.  It became of tool of dominance and it cost many, many people their lives:

Starvation was the punishment of first resort. As report after report shows, food was distributed by the spoonful according to merit and used to force people to obey the party. One inspector in Sichuan wrote that “commune members too sick to work are deprived of food. It hastens their death.”

Imagine that – purposely starving people to death if they wouldn’t cooperate or were too sick to work.   Any guess as to what that drove some too?

One police investigation from Feb. 25, 1960, details some 50 cases in Yaohejia village in Gansu: “Name of culprit: Yang Zhongsheng. Name of victim: Yang Ecshun. Relationship with Culprit: Younger Brother. Manner of Crime: Killed and Eaten. Reason: Livelihood Issues.”

‘”Livelihood issues?  Good lord.  And what did the icon of the collectivist fellow travelers have to say about all of this?

At a secret meeting in Shanghai on March 25, 1959, he ordered the party to procure up to one-third of all the available grain — much more than ever before. The minutes of the meeting reveal a chairman [Mao] insensitive to human loss: “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

Freakin’ amazing.  For those who continue to wear their Mao T’s there’s your hero and his accomplishments in spades.  And he’s absolutely no different than Che or Fidel or any of the rest of the murdering scum that brought the collectivist, murderous totalitarian socialism known as communism to power.

They should forever be relegated to the same status as Adolf Hitler because in every way they were as bad, if not worse, than he was.

~McQ

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Where are those 3 layers of editors?

David Cay Johnson seems to think today’s journalism has a huge problem.  And he confirms the “if it bleeds it leads” tendency of the media.  This anecdote illustrates the point:

To understand how badly we’re doing the most basic work of journalism in covering the law enforcement beat, try sitting in a barbershop. When I was getting my last haircut, the noon news on the television—positioned to be impossible to avoid watching—began with a grisly murder. The well-educated man in the chair next to me started ranting about how crime is out of control.

But it isn’t. I told Frank, a regular, that crime isn’t running wild and chance of being burglarized today is less than one quarter what it was in 1980.

The shop turned so quiet you could have heard a hair fall to the floor had the scissors not stopped. The barbers and clients listened intently as I next told them about how the number of murders in America peaked back in the early 1990’s at a bit south of 25,000 and fell to fewer than 16,000 in 2009. When we take population growth into account, this means your chance of being murdered has almost been cut in half.

“So why is there so much crime on the news every day?” Diane, who was cutting Frank’s hair, asked.

“Because it’s cheap,” I replied. “And with crime news you only have to get the cops’ side of the story. There is no ethical duty to ask the arrested for their side of the story.”

Cheap news is a major reason that every day we are failing in our core mission of providing people with the knowledge they need for our democracy to function.

That’s reason one.  Reason two?  Something I’ve been critical of for some time:

I ran upstairs and bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, where I worked for seven years. Buried inside I found a half column about the new budget for Montgomery County, the wealthiest and most important county for the newspaper’s financial success. The story was mostly about the three commissioners yelling at each other. The total budget was mentioned, almost in passing, with no hint of whether it meant property taxes would go up or down, more money would be spent on roads or less, or any of the other basics that readers want to know.

For this I paid money? I could only imagine the reaction of the residents of Montgomery County.

[…]

Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say—and this is especially the case with beat reporters. It’s news on the cheap and most of it isn’t worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch. Don’t take my word for it. Instead look at declining circulation figures. People know value and they know when what they’re getting is worth their time or worth the steadily rising cost of a subscription.

I’m convinced one of the reasons for the rise of blogs is the decline of journalism into what Johnson calls “cheap journalism”.  During elections we get the horserace coverage – the sensational, the quotes, etc. – but we rarely get even basic coverage of the issues.

My guess is editors would claim that no one is interested in the “in depth” coverage of issues, but I’d counter by saying that the popularity of blogs who do exactly that would seem to contradict the claim.

Johnson’s revelation about what is going on in the media comes from his own specific experience:

During the past 15 years as I focused my reporting on how the American economy works and the role of government in shaping how the benefits and burdens of the economy are distributed, I’ve grown increasingly dismayed at the superficial and often dead wrong assumptions permeating the news. Every day in highly respected newspapers I read well-crafted stories with information that in years past I would have embraced but now know is nonsense, displaying a lack of understanding of economic theory and the regulation of business. The stories even lack readily available official data on the economy and knowledge of the language and principles in the law, including the Constitution.

What these stories have in common is a reliance on what sources say rather than what the official record shows. If covering a beat means finding sources and sniffing out news, then a firm foundation of knowledge about the topic is essential, though not sufficient. Combine this with a curiosity to dig deeply into the myriad of documents that are in the public record—and then ask sources about what the documents show.

Note his point – lack of research, lack of knowledge, reliance on “what sources say” and the acceptance of what they say as gospel.

That’s not journalism, that’s the journalistic equivalent of re-printing press releases.  And, given all the grousing about bloggers by many in the media, I have to ask, “where are the editors”?  How did what Johnson reports become the norm that editors okay for publication?  Who’s establishing and enforcing the standards of journalism if not the editors?

These are the folks that used to control what was fed to the news hungry population in the past – a control they exercised because of the cost of entry into the market.  Now, with the internet and the democratization of publishing, they have competition from an unanticipated direction and it is indeed showing their weaknesses (and biases).  In any market, if a need goes unfulfilled, someone will fill it.  It just took the internet to remove that high bar to entry to prove the point.   If they wonder why circulation and viewership numbers are down, Johnson’s criticism is one of the major reasons for their decline.

~McQ

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Here’s a surprise–111th Congress has worst job approval rating since ratings began

Yeah, I know – you’re just downright shocked, aren’t you?

That’s what you get for doing the party’s business instead of the people’s business.

Here’s what Gallup had to say about their poll results:

Americans’ assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

Frankly I think its rated too high at 13%.  Their performance has been abysmal.  And while I understand that we’ve had a financial crisis and are in a recession (or out of it, or … whatever) with high unemployment, it really doesn’t matter.  This Congress has done things that have received almost universal condemnation and has gone places where the American people clearly and forcefully said they didn’t want them.

Why wouldn’t they be at 13%.  And, as of today, they’re attempting to drive that rating even lower with their shenanigans.

There are a couple polls that left me shaking my head.  There’s an Washington Post-ABC poll that claims:

In the new poll, just 41 percent of respondents say the GOP takeover of the House is a "good thing." About 27 percent say it is a "bad thing," and 30 percent say it won’t make any difference. Most continue to say that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues.

Except the GOP hasn’t taken over the House yet.  We’re stuck with the rump 111th Congress.  So I’m not really sure of the relevance of this poll.  Seems to me that regardless of who does or doesn’t think the GOP’s coming takeover of the House is a “good thing” or not really doesn’t matter.  It’s an opinion expressed without anything to base it in except, well, conjecture.  And of course the last sentence is nonsense since the present Congress is majority Democrat. 

Andrew Malcolm got a bit of a amusement from it as well:

With Republicans still 20 days away from taking control of one chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, the Washington Post could no longer resist delivering the polling news that Americans are not yet convinced the GOP is the party for them.

The bold headline: "Public is not yet sold on GOP"

Imagine, waiting for the 63 new House Republicans to actually take the oath on Jan. 4 and perhaps find their seats before polling on what dismal failures they are. With Democrats controlling merely the presidency and the Senate, the newly elected Republicans have yet to accomplish a single meaningful thing. And clearly the public knows it.

There you go – the worst Congress in history trying to drive their approval rating even lower than it is now and WaPo/ABC are polling  and “analyzing” stuff that hasn’t even happened yet.

Yeah, we’re well served by today’s media (and all those editors), aren’t we? About as well as we’ve been screwed served by the 111th Congress.

~McQ

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The return of the monster 2,000 page debt-fueled bill

A

nyone who remembers the recent passage of ObamaCare remembers the size of the bill – over 2,000 pages – and the fact that almost no one knew what was included in its pages.  Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “we’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill”.

There was very little if any debate on the bill and it ended up being rammed through Congress under the reconciliation process.   We’re still finding out all of the little poison nuggets in that mess of a law.

Then November shows up and the American pubic spanks the Democrats for doing business the way they did, taking away 63 seats and a majority in the House in a bloodbath of an election.  Quit spending like drunken sailors and focus on jobs and the economy the people said.

And the Democrats learned what?  Nary a freakin’ thing.  They’ve never passed a budget for government this year in Congress – one of its main functions – but instead have passed a series of continuing resolutions to keep it funded.  That last continuing resolution is about to run out and – back up to their old tricks — Congressional Democrats have advanced a 2,000 page, 1.1 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill that is designed to fund government (and lard out the pork) through 2011.

Instead of bringing up a straight spending bill that funds government at its current levels (or, here’s an idea, maybe 2008 levels so they could show the American people they’re serious about cutting spending?  Nah.), we get 1.1 trillion in pork, payoffs and profligacy.

Same old Democrats doing the same old thing as though November never happened.

And they’re not alone:

Despite strong opposition from Thune and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), several Senate Republicans are considering voting for the bill.

“That’s my intention,” said retiring Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) when asked if he would support the package.

Bennett said earmarks in the bill might give some of his GOP colleagues reason to hesitate but wouldn’t affect his vote.

“It will be tough for some, but not for me,” he said.

GOP Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.), George Voinovich (Ohio) and Susan Collins (Maine) also told The Hill on Tuesday they would consider voting for the omnibus but want to review it before making a final decision.

And there you have it.  If Bennett wonders why he’s soon to be unemployed, it couldn’t be more plainly obvious than his remarks about this.  And as for the other “usual suspects”, apparently they don’t much care about the November message either (and if you happen to have one of those people as your Senator, you might want to remind them of that message).

This is the “business as usual” nonsense that has to stop and stop now.  This Congress has all but abrogated its budget responsibilities for the entire year and now, on the eve of a government shutdown and the end of their session, they decide to act. But not with a continuing resolution to keep essential government services funded until the new Congress can meet to take up the budget, but with a 2,000 page pork laden, 1.1 trillion debt-fueled monstrosity that will be allowed little debate and passed without most knowing what the hell they’re voting for.  On that principle alone, I’d vote “no”.  “No” until I can read and consider the bill, debate it, amend it and do what is supposed to be done before passing legislation.

There are a few things that have leaked out concerning what is in the bill:

The 1,924-page bill includes funding to implement the sweeping healthcare reform bill Congress passed earlier this year as well as additional funds for Internal Revenue Service agents, according to a senior GOP aide familiar with the legislation.

Obviously that doesn’t cost “1.1 trillion”, so there’s an awful lot more (I wonder if the IRS agents mentioned are those whose job it will be to enforce health insurance compliance through the tax system?).

So here we are again, faced with a debt-fueled, pork laden 1.1 trillion dollar last spending fling by Democrats and you have 4 Republican Senators thinking about supporting this nonsense in contravention of the will of the people.  For those like Bennett, Bond and Voinovich (both of the latter  I believe are retiring) there’s probably nothing that can be done to punish them or change their mind.  That’s the problem with the lame duck session of a Congress.  And it is, as I’ve pointed out before, a major problem.  There is no accountability mechanism for those who’ve been defeated or are retiring so they can do pretty much what they wish.  This is their last fling and they’re going to go out as they’ve always been – earmark addicts and debt spending fanatics who really don’t give a rip about what Americans have said they want. 

Collins, of course, is always ready to side with those who spend like fools and have gotten us in the shape we’re in.  And unfortunately Maine GOP voters have yet to ensure Collins understands their new priorities.  She’s not up for re-election again until 2014.  With that cushion and no apparent pressure from her constituency, she appears to feel free to proceed as usual.  However, we can’t afford “as usual” anymore.

Many think that stopping this bill and insisting that it be a clean, clear continuing resolution to fund government is a priority.  I’d be one of those.  But the GOP worries that if it does so, and government gets shut down right before the holidays, they’ll be blamed and suffer for it as they did when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton went toe-to-toe one year over spending and shutting down government.

I’m not so sure, given the current conditions, that Democrats would enjoy the same wide-spread support now that they did then.  Not given the midterms, not given the message very forcefully sent by the electorate and certainly not given this deficit building monstrosity of a bill being considered.

~McQ

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“No Labels”? Seems more like the “mushy middle” to me?

If you don’t have any principles it’s pretty easy to “get things done”.  You just compromise on everything, never take a stand and presto, you have a mess of epic proportions.

That seems to be exactly what this latest astroturf project called “No Labels” is all about.  No more “hyperpartisanship”.  “Let’s get things done!”

On display at their roll out was the “Who’s Who” of the mushy middle:

And its speakers—who ranged from Republican moderates like ex-Virginia Rep. Tom Davis to liberal Democrats like New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand—sang the praises of cooperation and compromise.

But the only Republicans present at Columbia University’s modern, square Alfred Lerner Hall seemed to be those who had recently lost primary races, such as South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis and Delaware Rep. Mike Castle, or former Republicans like Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. No other senior elected Republican officials were in attendance, though a range of Democrats were present, some of them seeming a bit mystified by the bipartisan cast of the event, like the reliably liberal Gillibrand, and others whose clashes with unions – like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Newark Mayor Cory Booker – have put some distance between them and their parties.

One little ironic note – one of the co-founders, John Avlon is the author of a book called "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Most who’ve spent more than a day in the blogosphere know that "wingnuts" is a lefty euphemism for just about anyone on the right they disagree with. The right uses "moonbats" in the same way. I’m sure Mr. Avalon, who was a Rudi Giuliani staffer, was just using the term, uh, "interchangeably" (*cough, cough*). And if so, one can only assume he’s referring to the fringe which actually believes in something enough to fight for it messing up the "No Labels" group’s "compromise till you drop/let’s get things done" mantra. Or is it "compromise till we’re broke". Oh, wait …

And, as the POLITICO notes, what few Republicans were there were losers in their most recent attempt at gaining public office.

Any guess as to why?

Last and certainly not least (well, except in most rating books) the event was hosted by MSNBC which has been looking for its own sort of "tea party" org to which it can hitch it’s wagon.

The events were moderated by MSNBC personalities Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Dylan Ratigan, and Michael Smerconish. If Fox News seemed to be associated with the Tea Party, then No Labels was an MSNBC affair.

Bingo. If you can’t beat them at the same game, play the game on astroturf.

Yup – in today’s world standing and fighting for your principles is called "hyperpartisanship" and the mushy middle just isn’t going to stand for it anymore. And if you don’t quit it, they’re just going to have to call you names, stomp their feet and hold their breath. Oh, and sing their new anthem at you.

Meanwhile some t-shirt designs shown at the opening rally appear to have been ripped off without permission. Compromise that.

~McQ

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Constitutional? How can any seriously think ObamaCare’s mandate isn’t Constitutional?

That is precisely the take that Josh Marshall and much of the left have, amusingly, expressed:

A year ago, no one took seriously the idea that a federal health care mandate was unconstitutional. And the idea that buying health care coverage does not amount to "economic activity" seems preposterous on its face.

I’m not sure how Marshall actually believes "no one" took seriously the idea that the health care mandate was unconstitutional, unless he really means "no one who matters". And even then he’s wrong. So let’s boil it down to its real meaning – no one on the left, who consistently ignore the Constitution and matters relating to constitutionality, took the idea seriously.

I’m shocked – shocked I tell you.

Obviously a whole lot of people in the middle and on the right took it very seriously.  So much so that at least a plurality of states have initiated law suits against it and/or passed laws rejecting it.

Marshall also claims that the “idea that buying health care coverage does not amount to "economic activity" seems preposterous on its face.”  Uh, OK, who exactly is claiming that?  What is being discussed is not buying insurance.  And the decision to not buy something has nothing to do with “economic activity” does it?  So let’s turn Marshall’s sentence around: “the idea that not buying health care coverage does amount to “economic activity” seems preposterous on its face”.

Yes, I would agree – and so did Judge Hudson.

Speaking of Judge Hudson, Richard Epstein gives a pretty good summary of the key point in his ruling:

The key successful move for Virginia was that it found a way to sidestep the well known 1942 decision of the Supreme Court in Wickard v. Filburn, which held in effect that the power to regulate commerce among the several states extended to decisions of farmers to feed their own grain to their own cows.  Wickard does not pass the laugh test if the issue is whether it bears any fidelity to the original constitutional design.  It was put into place for the rather ignoble purpose of making sure that the federally sponsored cartel arrangements for agriculture could be properly administered.

At this point, no District Court judge dare turn his back on the ignoble and unprincipled decision in Wickard.  But Virginia did not ask for radical therapy.  It rather insisted that “all” Wickard stands for is the proposition that if a farmer decides to grow wheat, he cannot feed it to his own cows if a law of Congress says otherwise.  It does not say that the farmer must grow wheat in order that the federal government will have something to regulate.

It is just that line that controls this case.  The opponents of the individual mandate say that they do not have to purchase insurance against their will.  The federal government may regulate how people participate in the market, but it cannot make them participate in the market.  For if it could be done in this case it could be done in all others.

Read all of Epstein’s opinion piece by the way.  There’s a lot more to this than just the point I made and he explains it very well.  The usual suspects  disagree.

Anyway, assuming this somehow stands and makes it to the Supreme Court, where after a good breakfast and a good night’s sleep Justice Anthony Kennedy decides “what the hell,  Judge Hudson is right” and the court rules the mandate unconstitutional, what would be the ramifications?

E21 covers some of those for us:

Without the individual mandate, the whole Obamacare edifice crumbles. The judge did not rule that the entire law must be invalidated. But if the individual mandate goes, the insurance regulations — and most especially the requirement that insurers must take all comers without regard to their health status — will never work. Patients could simply wait to enroll in health coverage until they needed some kind of expensive treatment or procedure, and thus pocket the premiums they would have paid when they were not in need of much medical attention.

Or said more simply – without the mandate the whole of the law is unworkable.  Without the mandate, repeal will seem to be the best option.

Oh, and watch the GOP on that point.  When it was first passed, all I heard was “repeal, repeal”.  Now I’m hearing “repeal and replace”.  Uh, no – no “replace”.  Fix the government side of things that are in such horrendous shape and driving the cost of health care up, but stay out of people’s private insurance. 

And should repeal actually happen the insurance industry better get their heads out of their posterior and get busy finding ways to insure more people more cheaply (like creating products where employers could indeed move their workers to that would be outside the work place making insurance portable (thus no “pre-existing conditions”), affordable (large pool) and deliver quality care.   Because, as is obvious, if they don’t someone will again try to do it for them.

~McQ

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