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Archive for September, 2012
September 29th, 2012 at 6:47 pm
Constitutional vs. Judicial Conservatives

Randy Barnett, writing for the American Spectator, captures the zeitgeist of the Tea Party movement in a rousing essay about the need going forward for a different kind of mindset when judging conservative judicial nominees:

Now we will have an election to decide the ultimate fate of Obamacare. But this election should also be about who will be selected to serve on the Supreme Court. Should Republican presidents continue to nominate judicial conservatives who are enthralled with the New Dealers’ mantra of judicial restraint? Or should they nominate constitutional conservatives who believe that it is not “activism” for judges to enforce the whole Constitution? All future nominees should be vetted not only for their views on the meaning of the Constitution, but for their willingness to enforce that meaning.

With Barnett’s distinction in mind, it’s no wonder that Tea Party-inspired Senators like Marco Rubio (FL), Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Jim DeMint (SC) – and soon-to-be Senator Ted Cruz (TX) – all identify themselves as constitutional conservatives.  Restraint in judging liberalism’s faulty governing assumptions hasn’t gotten conservatives many substantive victories.  We need smart, bold nominees eager and able to make the case for the kind of limited government our Founders envisioned; both in the political branches and on the bench.

September 29th, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Obama’s Clinton Conundrum

Politico on why the Obama campaign is using former President Bill Clinton so often:

As the campaign acknowledges, Clinton brings credibility to the connection between an Obama presidency and a strong economy, reinforcing the idea that there’s a straight line between Obama’s proposals and Clinton’s legacy of budget surpluses and middle class prosperity.

It’s only a credible connection if you don’t consider the wildly differing contexts.

As Tim pointed out earlier this month, “the so-called “Clinton surpluses” didn’t arrive until 1998, four years after Newt Gingrich and the Republicans captured Congress for the first time in four decades, and six years after Clinton was elected.  Given the fact that Congress controls the budget under our Constitution, it is therefore disingenuous for Clinton and his apologists to claim sole credit.”

Thus, if in 2012 the Obama camp really wants to make the case that a national economic recovery is just around the corner, it should have prayed for a complete conservative takeover of Congress in 2010.  Had he been faced with an entire branch of government – not just the House – passing real budgets, chances are the Obama White House would have had a Clintonesque opportunity to make a deal.

Instead, Obama has had no incentive to move to the middle for the sake of compromise because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been willing to abdicate his chamber’s constitutional responsibility to pass a new budget for the last three years of Obama’s term of office.  And so the President dithers while the economy sputters.

Call it the Clinton Conundrum.  Both Clinton and Obama are doctrinaire liberals whose policy impulses created pushes to nationalize health care.  Both prefer to raise taxes and spend money.  But Clinton, unlike Obama, was saved from oblivion when Republicans took over both houses of Congress in 1994 and (implicitly and unintentionally) made him an offer he didn’t refuse: either adopt our reform agenda or face defeat in reelection.  Clinton accepted and has benefited ever since.  Obama’s choice was between Senate Democrat dithering and House Republican reform.  He sided with his party and hasn’t governed since.

If Barack Obama wants Bill Clinton’s success, he’ll have to adopt Bill Clinton’s policies.  In large part, that means adopting conservative budget reforms so that he can claim credit for a rebounding economy.

September 28th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Impartial Referees?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

September 28th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
‘ObamaPhone’ Program Grew Almost $1 Billion Since 2008

Fox News explains the ‘ObamaPhone’ program lauded by an enthusiastic recipient in this viral video:

The video is drawing attention to the government program — Lifeline — as a national debate unfolds on entitlements and the growing percentage of Americans who pay no income taxes and get a long menu of government benefits. But even though some beneficiaries may credit President Obama for providing the phones, Lifeline is an extension of a program that has existed since 1985. Still, critics including Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., note the program has swelled from $772 million in 2008 to $1.6 billion.

Much of the increase since 2008 springs from the Obama Administration’s decision to subsidize cellular phones and service on top of the landline systems the program originally covered.  The expanded coverage and spending has grown the number of beneficiaries from 7.1 million in 2008 to 12.5 million today.

The government justifies the nearly $1 billion in new spending by claiming that 92 percent of low-income homes now have phone service.

No doubt President Barack Obama needs four more years – and at least a few hundred million dollars more – to close that pernicious 8 percent gap.

September 28th, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Podcast: Nanny State New York City is Bad for Business
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Michelle Minton, Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, discusses how New York City’s big-soda ban will do nothing to solve obesity, further entrench the idea that New York is bad for business, and which begs the question:  Who has the right to decide what you consume?

Listen to the interview here.

September 28th, 2012 at 1:37 pm
AARP’s Questionable Tax Reporting Merits New IRS Audit

My column this week explains how AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired People, exploited its relationship with liberal politicians to reap a $2.8 billion windfall from ObamaCare.  The massive payout comes from regulatory exemptions that help AARP increase its lucrative Medigap endorsement scheme.

But it’s not like President Barack Obama’s landmark health law ushered in a new era of revenues for the premier non-profit advocate for seniors.  With $458 million in revenues for 2011, AARP would rank as the sixth most profitable for-profit health care company, according to a report by staff members to Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).

This puts AARP just behind Humana and ahead of industry giants like Coventry, Amerigroup and Health Net.

Best of all for AARP, because it designates much of its revenue as “royalty fees” instead of “commissions” for endorsing certain private Medicare plans it gets to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars in income to the Internal Revenue Service.

An investigation (pdf) by House Ways and Means Committee members has asked the IRS to investigate whether AARP’s reporting practices violate federal law, and for good reason.

The investigators note that “In 1994 AARP paid the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a one-time settlement payment of $135 million in lieu of taxes, resolving an audit over tax returns for years 1985 through 1993 for failure to fully pay unrelated business income tax (UBIT) on its commercial activities.”  And, “In 1999, the IRS and AARP once again reached a settlement to conclude tax years 1994 through 1998 with respect to the treatment of revenues AARP received from licensing and selling its name and logo to insurance companies.”

Sounds like AARP merits more scrutiny from the IRS.

September 28th, 2012 at 11:00 am
This Week’s Liberty Update

Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Hillyer:  Vote Fraud Threatens This Year’s Elections
Ellis:  AARP’s $2.8 Billion Medigap Windfall from ObamaCare Hurts Seniors
Senik:  Millions Flee California’s Predatory Liberalism
Lee:  Small Business Shock: 55% Would Not Start a Business in Obama’s Economic Climate

Freedom Minute Video:  The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Failure
Podcast:  Nanny State New York City is Bad for Business
Jester’s Courtroom:  California-based Animal Rights Group Ducks into New York to File Lawsuit

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

September 27th, 2012 at 6:47 pm
Kansas Students Provide a Hopeful Sign About the Next Generation’s Commitment to Liberty
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Here’s a story that will restore your faith in the next generation — and the power of civil society.

Students and teachers throughout the nation are bridling at school nutritional requirements imposed by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a piece of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010 (it barely merits mentioning that the bill’s head cheerleader was First Lady Michelle Obama). So what could possibly go wrong with some well-intentioned efforts at keeping kids fit? Well, plenty. Here’s Suzanne Perez Tobias, writing for the Wichita Eagle:

The major sticking point: a new federal rule that sets calorie maximums for school lunches — 650 calories for elementary-schoolers, 700 for middle-schoolers and 850 for high-schoolers.

Protesters in Kansas and elsewhere say 850 calories isn’t enough for some high-schoolers, particularly athletes who can burn calories by the thousands.

The students’ reaction? Well, at one Kansas school they created a nice little bit of satire set to the tune of the hit song “We Are Young” — and so far it’s generated more than half a million views. Watch and try not to admire the pluck:

September 27th, 2012 at 12:42 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: What America Has Become
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

September 26th, 2012 at 5:09 pm
Two TV Appearances Explaining Romney’s Challenge

Last week two different outlets were kind enough to invite me on their news shows. In these interviews, I explained why I think Romney has fallen slightly behind, and how I think he can start to turn it around. First, on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which generously interviewed me for about 3 minutes, 45 seconds, I give my fullest advice, which I can boil down to this: Connect the dots better. Here, my part starts at the 7:59 mark.

Chris Stirewalt’s “Power Play” show on Fox News Online also gave me some air time. The key part of Chris’ introduction of my segment starts at precisely the 10-minute mark, and I myself come on air here at the 10:40 mark.

So I’m not the greatest TV guy, not great with short sound bites — but please watch and see if I got my main points across.

September 26th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
Powerful Long-Form Ad

It’s amazing how many different styles, lengths, and messages are part of the new political ad landscape. Here’s an example that goes beyond the usual 30-second or 60-second spot, into a 270-second segment. Fairly impressive stuff. Also worth noting is the strong appearance by former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis. I don’t know why the Romney campaign doesn’t make more use of him.

This phenomenon of new ad approaches, from a purely neutral standpoint, is well worth watching. How well will these new approaches work? I bet some of them work well…..

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September 26th, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Advice Mitt Should Take
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Since we’ve all formed a little cottage industry around providing unsolicited advice to the Romney campaign, I thought it worthwhile to pass along this recommendation from my friend and Ricochet colleague Ben Domenech, writing in today’s installment of his news digest, The Transom (probably the best daily rundown in the nation).

Ben notes the conventional wisdom that the presidential debates (the first of which takes place a week from today) are likely Romney’s last chance to change the trajectory of the race and devises a helpful bit of jiu-jitsu for Mitt to employ:

Romney’s style as a debater is aggressive and that may serve him well – in debates, the first person to appear thin-skinned usually loses – and he’ll have an opportunity to bring that out in response to Obama’s woe-is-me talk, blaming Bush and the Republican Congress for everything under the sun, saying something along the lines of:

“In the private sector, one of the things I did was invest in companies. I learned a lot about how jobs are created, but I also learned a lot about leadership. One of the things I had to do when we got involved with a company was evaluate its leadership and see if it needed a change. And let me tell you, if I got involved with a company that was losing money and jobs hand over fist and piling up debt like there was no tomorrow, and I found out the CEO had been in the job four years and still spent most of his time blaming his predecessor and his co-workers, I’d fire him and get somebody in there who could get results.”

A response like this, besides being one virtually guaranteed to tick off Obama, makes the whining look petty and small. But it would also do something else, too: workers of all types, but particularly blue-collar workers, resent the idea of the incompetent senior management which survives pain while they bear the brunt of it. Romney should do his utmost to speak for those who demand accountability and turn his negative role as one of the suits into an advantage.

Mitt Romney: corner office hero of the working man? If he employed Ben’s tactic, he just might be able to pull it off.

September 26th, 2012 at 9:18 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Bumps In the Road
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

September 25th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Obama Continues Foreign Policy by Apology at the U.N.
Posted by Troy Senik Print

In my column last week, I noted how preposterous it was that the Obama Administration continued to bend over backwards to distance itself from the video (falsely) claimed to have ignited the recent round of violence in the Middle East:

Speaking shortly after the attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pronounced, “that the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message… to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”

Let’s assume for a moment that Clinton is right and that the film was made for the express purpose of working global Islam into a lather. Even taking that as a given, should the apology come from the nation of 300 million where one man produced some two-bit agritprop or from the part of the world where thousands took to the streets in violence because of a bit of inert satire tamer (and, remarkably, less coherent) than the average “Saturday Night Live” episode?

Speaking earlier today at the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama prolonged the inanity:

That [violence and intolerance] is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Contra the president, this video doesn’t demonstrate “intolerance.” Stupidity? Yes. Bad filmmaking? Yes. Garden variety prejudice? Maybe. But being critical of the beliefs of others, even to the point of gratuitious rabble-rousing, is not the same thing as “intolerance.” The filmmakers were tolerating Islam; they weren’t advocating that anyone be silenced or harmed. By contrast, Islamists who engaged in violence to the point of cold-blooded murder ostensibly because of a YouTube video were the intolerant ones.

The cherry on top of this whole debacle was the President’s statement on the video to the ladies(?) of The View. As reported by the Weekly Standard:

In the age of the Internet, and you know, the way that any knucklehead who says something can post it up and suddenly it travels all around the world, you know, every country has to recognize that, you know, the best way to marginalize that kind of speech is to ignore it.

Not a terrible idea. And you know what’s a great way to begin implementing this strategy? Not devoting paragraphs to this film at the U.N. when we know that it wasn’t the catalyst for the recent blood lust.

September 25th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
Romney’s Admirable Charitable Giving

John Podhoretz wrote the column I was intending to write. “[T]he release of these tax records,” wrote Podhoretz, “leaves no doubt about one thing: Mitt Romney is an extraordinarily, remarkably, astonishingly generous man. A good man. Maybe even a great man.”

Well, yes.

The media kvetching about Romney’s tax returns is so misplaced as to be sickening. The story isn’t that Romney paid “only” 14.1 percent of his income in taxes. The story is WHY that rate was comparatively low. The measure of a man isn’t how much he pays in taxes; some of us, after all, think that much of the money paid in federal taxes is wasted. If I had a million dollars and a choice of whether to let the feds spend it or to give it to a charity I trust, I would give it to a charity without a second thought. The charity will do more good with it than the feds will. More people will benefit, and the benefits will be more lasting.

For the idiotic media (forgive the redundancy there) to carp about the “low” taxes is for them to buy into the notion that tax-paying is somehow noble while (and this is a really strange but growing sub-belief on the left) that charitable giving is somehow selfish. How twisted! How morally depraved.

For Mitt Romney to have donated so much money to charity is indeed a mark of his great decency as a human being. I welcome the comparisons with the Gores’ and Bidens’ pathetically low amount of giving, and with Bill Clinton trying to claim a tax deduction for the donation of used underwear (yuck!). (Yes, Clinton really did that — or at least Hillary did, with regard to Bill’s used underwear. But this was before anybody might have wanted to test it in a lab….)

Romney, a private man, apparently has been donating huge amounts to charities long, long before he ran for public office. These donations are those of the heart, not of a cynical mind. It’s about time he gets some credit for it.

September 24th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
The Libertarian Dream … in Honduras?
Posted by Troy Senik Print

From Fox News:

Small government and free-market capitalism are about to get put to the test in Honduras, where the government has agreed to let an investment group build an experimental city with no taxes on income, capital gains or sales.

Proponents say the tiny, as-yet unnamed town will become a Central American beacon of job creation and investment, by combining secure property rights with minimal government interference.

“Once we provide a sound legal system within which to do business, the whole job creation machine – the miracle of capitalism – will get going,” Michael Strong,  CEO of the MKG Group, which will build the city and set its laws, told FoxNews.com.

Strong said that the agreement with the Honduran government states that the only tax will be on property.

“Our goal is to be the most economically free entity on Earth,” Strong said.

It’s a fascinating experiment, though we can’t quite call it a novel one — this is, after all, a more extreme version of what Hong Kong does on a larger scale. And therein lies the rub. While there are a few minor shortcomings in the mechanics of this project (there’s already some protectionism in the new city’s labor laws, for instance, with businesses forced to meet quotas for native-born Honduran employees), the bigger concern is that it will be a lonely success.

Hong Kong, for instance, is consistently deemed the freest economy in the world, a trait that has led to it having a higher per capita GDP than the United States. Were this simply an argument on the merits over whether free markets work, the jury would be in. But this is no academic seminar. In less economically free nations, ideology may inform some of the hostility to capitalism, but the bigger issue is that opening up markets takes the power to select winners and losers away from government — a bridge too far for many politicians. Embracing economic freedom in the fashion of the Honduras experiment is laudable. But the hard work is not in allowing capitalism to succeed; it’s in convincing politicians to give it the chance to do so. That’s the biggest accomplishment here.

September 24th, 2012 at 1:28 pm
Elizabeth Warren and the Truth about Environmental Hoaxes

Last week, in her first debate with U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren tried to nationalize their contest in terms designed to solidify her support from Bay State environmentalists:

“Senator Brown has been going around the country, talking to people, saying, you’ve got to contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate.  And he’s right.  …  What that would mean is if the Republicans take over control of the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.  He’s a man that has called global warming ‘a hoax.’  In fact, that’s the title of his book.”

To be fair to Senator Inhofe, who, as the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is in line to lead the panel if Republicans become the majority, the full title of his book is The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

The hoax Inhofe describes is the use of Climategate-manipulated science to legitimize massive increases in taxes and regulation.

In its war on coal, the EPA has been at the forefront of the environmentalists’ push to tax and regulate an entire industry out of existence; most specifically by requiring coal operators to adopt expensive and experimental manufacturing techniques that are already making it necessary to lay off workers and close down plants.

By parsing Inhofe’s insight about how global warming alarmists politicize science to justify liberal policies, Warren was trying to substitute Inhofe’s complete rejection of global warming for Brown’s position on the issue.  In fact, Brown thinks global warming/climate change/something is happening.  But like Inhofe, he thinks that getting the job market growing again trumps spending billions of dollars on policies built in part on scientific fraud.

Brown shouldn’t shy away from this issue so long as he frames it correctly.  The environmental activists that Warren was playing to won’t be voting for him anyway.  But the independents that put Brown in office two years ago know that job-killing taxes and regulations don’t make sense; especially in an era of chronic unemployment.

September 21st, 2012 at 4:36 pm
More Facts Indicate Libya Consulate Attacks Were Planned

In his column this week Troy noted the “suspicious sign of premeditation” when the American consulate in Libya was invaded by rioters on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Troy also pointed out other facts undercutting the Obama Administration’s claim that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic YouTube video, such as the use of rocket-propelled grenades, knowledge of a safe house, and the release of an al Qaeda video demanding revenge for an assassinated deputy.

Now, even more evidence is forcing the Obama Administration to backtrack its version of the story.

Eli Lake of The Daily Beast is reporting that U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that some of the participants had staked out the location prior to attacking.  What’s more, an intercepted communiqué “between a Libyan politician whose sympathies are with al Qaeda and the Libyan militia known at the February 17 Brigade – which had been charged with providing local security to the consulate,” reveals that the politician asked a brigade commander to “stand down for a pending attack.”

The growing body of facts make hash out of the Obama Administration’s initial characterization that the assault was simply and only caused by watching a stupid and little known video.  Instead, it seems far more plausible that the weak foreign policy stances of the Obama Administration emboldened the attackers to strike.  The White House’s reflexive crouch only adds to the problem.

September 21st, 2012 at 2:51 pm
Job Risk: Proposed NYC Paid Sick Leave Regulation Would Cost Private Employers $789 Million Annually
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

“Employer voices are all in opposition to this bill.”

That was Kathy Wylde, President of the Partnership for New York City, on a proposed regulation that would force city employers to offer up to nine days each year of paid sick leave.

Almost all employers already offer sick leave, with Ernst & Young reporting that only 12% of all city employees lack it.  Further illustrating the unnecessary nature of the proposed law, the E&Y study reports that small businesses (defined as those with fewer than 20 employees) already offer an average of 7.7 days of paid sick days per year, with larger businesses already offering 8.7. The study further concludes that the proposed new burden would cost private-sector employers an astounding $789 million annually, with nonprofits and small businesses carrying $189 million of that burden.  Providing another metric, the report calculates that implementing the regulation would cost businesses 48 cents per hour, per employee.  The struggling construction, utility, hospitality and restaurant sectors would be particularly hard-hit by the proposed rule.

Proponents of the entitlement offer their own study, but their report sampled only 1,200 people in comparison to the 414,000 sampled by E&Y.  The analysis concludes, “There is a growing sentiment among employers that paid sick leave is the ‘straw’ that will break their will to continue to grow or even to operate here.”  In an economy and job market that continue to struggle, how does that serve the interests of employers, employees or city residents generally?

Fortunately, Council Speaker Christine Quinn remains strong against the potential job-killing regulation, despite pressure from labor organizations and activists detached from the everyday realities of hiring workers and keeping a business above water.   New York business owners and residents interested in the city’s economic vitality should call Speaker Quinn and tell her, “keep up the good work.”

September 21st, 2012 at 2:37 pm
DOJ Fast & Furious Report Leads to Resignation, Retirement

Lachlan Markay of the Heritage Foundation excerpts the top five findings of the Justice Department non-partisan Inspector General’s Fast and Furious report:

1)      The report singles out top Department of Justice officials for wrongdoing

2)      The report appears to contradict sworn testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder

3)      The report faults top Justice Department leadership with failing to adequately respond to the murder of an American border patrol agent

4)      The White House refused to disclose any internal communications to the inspector general

5)      The report fails to consider evidence that a top DOJ official knew the department misled Congress

The fallout has been swift.  On the day the report was released Kenneth Melson, the former acting head of ATF – the DOJ bureau in charge of Fast and Furious – retired, while the DOJ’s Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, resigned.

So far, Attorney General Eric Holder has escaped culpability for the gun-walking program that originated on his watch.

We’ll see if congressional Republican investigators use the IG’s report to close the books on Fast and Furious, or use the Obama White House’s refusal to cooperate as proof that more sleuthing needs to be done.