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Posts Tagged ‘budget’
April 1st, 2014 at 6:48 pm
ObamaCare Promotion Driving Up Medicaid Applications

“According to a recent study by Avalere, the average application rate [for Medicaid] has increased 27 percent among non-expansion states and 41 percent for those expanding,” writes Angela Boothe of the American Action Forum.

For example, Tennessee – a state that chose not to expand its Medicaid program under ObamaCare – is still experiencing severe pressure on its budget due to high numbers of people trying to enroll. Though only the beginning of April, the Volunteer State has already enrolled the maximum number of people it projected to cover for the year. Adding to the pressure on state budget writers is the reality that by refusing to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare – which covers 100 percent of the increased costs until 2017 – part of the expense for covering the new enrollees falls on the state. If you work in a non-Medicaid state agency in Tennessee, beware bean counters wielding knives.

The Avalere report highlights the fact that ObamaCare creates a unique burden for non-expansion states like Tennessee. Because of the controversial health law’s media saturation, millions of people are aware that they are probably eligible for some sort of government assistance to purchase health coverage. Of these, many are discovering that they already qualify for Medicaid, even before ObamaCare was enacted. The awkward situation for states like Tennessee is that ObamaCare is still expanding Medicaid, just without any extra financial help.

If non-expansion states like Tennessee continue to see record Medicaid enrollment increases this year, don’t be surprised if anti-ObamaCare governors and legislatures start to rethink their opposition to expansion. Of course, as I’ve explained elsewhere, it would be a serious mistake to swap a three-year federal bailout for decades of increased costs by expanding Medicaid on ObamaCare’s terms. But for desperate lawmakers looking for a quick fix, ObamaCare’s “free money” may be too tempting to pass up.

March 10th, 2014 at 9:16 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Obama Budget
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.

December 17th, 2013 at 6:53 pm
GOP to Strike Back on Debt Limit?

If you’re disappointed by Paul Ryan’s budget deal to avoid another government shutdown, the House Budget Chairman has a message for you.

Wait till February.

That’s when the debt limit will be reached and, according to Ryan, when Republicans in Congress will try to extract some meaningful concessions from Democrats.

Of course, Ryan didn’t divulge any specifics about what kind of concessions would qualify, likely because he’s waiting for the results from a GOP confab in the New Year to settle on a strategy.

I’m skeptical. Ryan’s budget deal takes most of the obvious targets off the table until 2015 – that is, after the midterm elections – making it hard to see what leverage he and other Republicans in Congress can exert on Democrats and President Barack Obama to curb their spending habits.

If recent history is any guide, the most likely scenario is that Republicans continue to fracture over fiscal issues while the Democrats get an assist from the mainstream media in raising the debt limit.

The bitter pill for conservatives to swallow is that House Republicans have almost no ability to make substantive changes in law or policy unless and until the party regains control of the Senate. If the upper chamber flips next year then the silver lining to Ryan’s budget deal and the likely debt ceiling capitulation it’s that they might be the last time the GOP negotiates from a position of weakness.

December 13th, 2013 at 1:55 pm
Ryan’s Rope and Boehner’s Blunder

At NRO this week, I made it clear that I really don’t like Paul Ryan’s budget deal. I now rush in to urge everybody, on all sides on the right, not to over-react. This admonition applies to Speaker John Boehner, too.

Background: While I haven’t always thought Boehner has strategized brilliantly or played his tactical cards wisely, I also think conservatives have frequently gone way overboard in portraying him as some sort of outrageous sellout, “squish,” or (in some cases) flat-out enemy. The man has very solid ratings from the American Conservative Union, and he is a far more effective, and far more conservative, Speaker than Dennis Hastert was; and in many ways he is steadier than Newt Gingrich was.

I’ve also been, over the course of many years, one of Paul Ryan’s foremost advocates, and while I have been far less happy with him this year, my prior post on him (before this deal) was far more in support than opposed.

The point is that I think both Ryan and Boehner are, or at least usually have been, trying their hardest, legitimately, to achieve conservative goals. I mostly do not question their intentions (although both are showing worrisome signs even on that front, but that’s for another day’s discussion), but I do question some of their decisions.

I also think Boehner has very good reason to feel very, very angry at the conservative groups that have portrayed him as being just this side of the devil incarnate, utterly failing to modulate their criticism to match the severity (or lack thereof) of his alleged crimes against ideological purity. It is an axiom of politics that if you treat somebody as an enemy, as the groups have treated Boehner, then eventually he actually starts seeing himself as your enemy — and treats you accordingly. (Conservatives did this to John McCain in the late 1990s, when his only apostasy was on campaign finance, taking positions that most conservatives had taken as recently as six years earlier, before George Will made opposition to McCain-like efforts a cause celebre. McCain was wrong, but he was otherwise solidly conservative and saw himself as one, until conservatives started treating him as an outright pariah — which of course, with his awful temperament, caused him to become increasingly opposed to us on all sorts of issues.)

None of which, though, excuses Boehner’s public conniption fits this week. Boehner’s job as a national leader on the right is to pull people together, not drive them apart. His job is to make it easier to unify to win elections, not to drive wedges that exacerbate cannibalism on the right. He should be trying to bring activists in, not drive them away.

And in this case, he also was wrong on substance in way overstating the case that Ryan’s deal is a win for conservatives and a move towards smaller government. Even if one accepts all of Ryan’s numbers — which, as I explained in the column linked above, are bogus numbers — the deficit reduction over ten years ($23 billion, or a paltry $2.3 billion per year) would amount to extremely small potatoes. The fact — and it is a fact — that the claimed reduction involves lots of smoke and mirrors makes the vehemence of Boehner’s claims even more out of line.

As for Ryan, I actually do think he sincerely thinks he has gotten the best deal he can. (He knows darn well, however, that he is using a lot of gimmicks to make the deal look better to conservatives than it actually is. So he’s not being fully honest — again — and he is also helping feed the impression that conservative hard-liners are unreasonable, which is a counterproductive impression for the long-term cause of good government.) But I think he was not just wrong, but asinine, in shutting out his Senate counterpart (and longtime ally) Jeff Sessions from negotiations that should have included Sessions. What happens when one shuts out Senate conservatives is that there is nobody to raise a red flag when Senate-specific issues come up that really, really make a difference for conservative governance. In this case, Ryan allowed the deal to include an absolutely horrible waiver of Senate budget rules, to the effect that, despite his staff’s pitiful claims to the contrary, really will make it easier for taxes to be raised in the future.

All in all, despite my NRO column, I do not think this deal was an absolutely horrible one; it was merely bad, not horrific, and it was a comparatively minor deal, not a major one. But, as Fred Barnes correctly wrote, we gave up a great deal when we breached the budgetary sequester — and we got precious little in return for it.

In sum (after lots of one-hand/other-hand discussion — sorry!), while conservatives are rightly angry at yet another policy defeat, and while Boehner’s intemperate remarks — in effect, a declaration of war against some of the conservative activist groups — were extraordinarily unwise, it still behooves all of us to take deep breaths and try to gain some perspective. We now do so in the knowledge that Paul Ryan is playing macro-political games that put his personal ambitions above those of the conservative movement, and that Boehner has been pushed to the verge of a McCain-like, all-out-war against the movement. These are not good developments.

Conservatives now can do two things. In the short term, we can encourage senators to join Sessions and Mitch McConnell in opposition to Ryan’s deal. It might still be defeatable. For the long run, I repeat the call I made here two months ago for a summit on the right, to try to pull people together and strategize better. We have an extraordinary opportunity in 2014 for electoral gains, in response to the debacle of ObamaCare. It would be inexcusable for continued warfare on the right to destroy that opportunity. Constructive criticism is fine. Cannibalism isn’t.

September 12th, 2013 at 7:46 pm
Delay ObamaCare, Spend Savings on Sequester?

House Republican conservatives are considering an alternative to using the upcoming budget fight as an attempt to defund ObamaCare. In its place, the GOP would vote to delay all of ObamaCare for a year and use the money saved to restore budget cuts caused by the sequester, reports the Washington Examiner.

To entice Democrats, the proposal would also raise the government’s debt ceiling, which is estimated to be reached sometime in late October.

On the plus side, the one-year delay puts President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on the defensive. After delaying the employer mandate and income eligibility requirements, it would be difficult to justify opposing the whole scale delay of a law that is turning into a “train wreck” to implement.

Shifting the money saved on ObamaCare implementation also lets Republicans take credit for restoring budget cuts, but here the plan starts to look less favorable. Conservatives want to restore funding to the military, but liberals are likely to demand restoration across the board – including budget items that Republicans would otherwise like to see shrink or eliminated.

Besides, if at the end of the year the sequester gets “paid for,” what was the point of going through all the downsizing? Angling for praise for restoring spending in a budget that doesn’t balance seems like an odd goal for fiscal conservatives.

Finally, there’s the debt ceiling issue. Between the White House, Senate Democrats and House Republican leadership there appears to be agreement that the debt ceiling should be raised. While that’s certainly the politically correct thing to do, it too seems contrary to the fiscal instincts of conservatives.

And yet, this trial balloon proposal might be attractive to House conservatives, also known as the best hope for imposing any kind of spending discipline in Washington. If this is the best they think they can do, then it means momentum inside Congress for defunding ObamaCare is dead.

If that’s true, let’s hope they can get a full and complete delay. Otherwise, capitulating on those terms will lead to more spending, more debt and more regulations. Not exactly a win for conservativsm.

July 23rd, 2013 at 6:40 pm
Scott Walker: The Anti-Obama

In his column last week, Troy identified Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as perhaps the best potential Republican presidential candidate to correct for Barack Obama’s deficiencies.

In an editorial by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we have even more proof.

One of Walker’s first acts as governor was to sign into a law a series of big changes on how public employee unions operate. The three biggest were limits on collective bargaining, requiring unions to recertify each year and prohibiting automatic collection of union dues.

According to analysis by the paper, in the two years since the law passed the Milwaukee affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees “has gone from more than 9,000 members and income exceeding $7 million in 2010 to about 3,500 members and a deep deficit by the end of last year.”

So far Walker’s law has translated into savings of $110 for Milwaukee taxpayers, says a new report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Let’s see, budget-busting president or belt-tightening governor? Maybe, just maybe, America will get to make a sensible choice in 2016.

May 2nd, 2013 at 1:16 pm
Hidden Costs of Gang’s Immigration Bill

Andrew Stiles explains the reality behind the Gang of Eight claim that illegal immigrants won’t be eligible for public benefits until 13 years after being legalized:

“A notable loophole in the Gang’s legislation explicitly prohibits DHS from considering the likelihood that an applicant for provisional legal status will become a “public charge” — defined as any individual who is “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” Critics fear that if a significant number of immigrants meeting that definition are given legal status, state and local government could face an immediate financial burden, and one that could worsen over time.”

Moreover, as I explain in my column this week, the Gang’s prohibition against using federal law’s “public charge” criteria to decide whether illegal immigrants should be legalized undermines claims from Gang members and their allies that mass legalization won’t lead to big government spending increases.

The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector is still studying the impact of the Gang’s legalization effort on government spending, and my hunch is that he, unlike the Gang, will include the probable increases incurred by state and local governments if the public charge prohibition becomes law.

If so, the American people will get a clearer picture of the actual costs of legalization. Only then can we have an honest debate about what to do.

April 25th, 2013 at 4:37 pm
Video: Obama’s Make-Believe Budget
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the president’s budget proposal and how its calls for even higher taxes, higher spending, bigger government and more empty promises will do nothing to get us out of the Obama recession.

April 11th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
Podcast: Social Security, Obama’s 2013 Budget Proposal and Other Horror Stories for Taxpayers
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Pete Sepp, Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union, discusses Social Security, President Obama’s 2013 Budget proposal and the need for tax reform.

Listen to the interview here.

April 5th, 2013 at 3:52 pm
HHS Refuses State Requests for Medicaid Expansion Flexibility

States looking for flexibility under ObamaCare in how to structure and pay for expanding Medicaid can take a hike, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation.

States like Arkansas and Indiana have requested waivers from the health reform law’s expansion formula that creates millions of new enrollees at an eventual cost of billions of dollars to states.

The hope was to use existing state-based models like Indiana’s successful health savings account for low-income Hoosiers to increase Medicaid enrollment while retaining cost certainty for state budget writers.

But those hopes were dashed after the federal Department of Health and Human Services released a frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet that flatly denied any request to deviate from ObamaCare’s one-size-fits-all, open-ended spending commitment for Medicaid.

With this announcement, the Obama administration has definitively articulated its idea of bipartisan reform.  Republican governors who capitulate and get in line are welcomed with open arms.  Those like Indiana’s Mike Pence can take their policy entrepreneurship somewhere else.

April 2nd, 2013 at 12:40 am
Private Philanthropy Saves Easter Egg Roll

If corporate welfare is subsidies paid by government to businesses, then is government welfare subsidies (voluntarily) paid by businesses to government?

According to the Washington Post, a $25,000 corporate donation from the parent company of the popular Airborne cold tablets played a big role in funding the annual Easter Egg Roll, a 135-year-old tradition the White House threatened to cancel over budget sequestration.  Other funds came from the sale of commemorative eggs sold at the event.

Maybe this could be the beginning of a trend.  With the sequester lopping off between $42 to $85 billion from the federal budget this year, perhaps it’s worth exploring which government programs could generate enough private support to ease the strain on current and future taxpayers.

Who knows; maybe we’ll get to see signs at the entrance of national parks saying, “Supported by Wal-Mart,” or “Brought to You by Whole Food Markets.”

April 1st, 2013 at 2:49 pm
Indiana’s Pence Makes Progress with Innovative Medicaid Expansion

The Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, cleared an important hurdle today when the state’s House Public Health Committee approved a bill to expand Medicaid eligibility without relying on ObamaCare’s open-ended spending incentives.

Pence’s plan would increase Indiana’s Medicaid enrollment by an estimated 400,000, but within the state’s Healthy Indiana initiative begun in 2007.  As a health savings account, Healthy Indiana allots a certain amount of money to qualifying Hoosiers who then shop for doctors and treatment options within their budget.  In effect, it transfers the decision making process for health care away from government bureaucrats to private citizens.  By capping the amount, Healthy Indiana also gives state budget writers more certainty about the cost of Medicaid expansion in future years.

Contrast this with the unlimited spending commitment envisioned by the Medicaid expansion system under ObamaCare, and conservatives will see why Pence’s proposal should be watched closely.  Under ObamaCare, states would pay no cost for expanding their eligibility pool up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.  But starting in 2017, those that expanded enrollment would pay for 10 percent of the increase.  Though seemingly a small percentage, the costs will run into the billions, with even more likely if the federal government decides to reduce its 90 percent subsidy, as President Barack Obama has already hinted at doing.

The future of health insurance reform looks like it will include some mix of government-regulated exchanges, subsidies, and cost controls.  The question dividing conservatives like Mike Pence and Paul Ryan on one hand from liberals like Obama on the other, is who gets to make the lion’s share of the decisions on how health insurance dollars are spent.  Conservatives value individual choice, while liberals favor centrally planned mandates.

Ironically, if the President wants ObamaCare to be fiscally sustainable, he’ll have to accept that the only way to do it is allowing conservatives like Pence and Ryan to inject into it as much personal freedom as possible.

March 30th, 2013 at 9:42 pm
Obama Should Call an Audible with Late Budget Proposal

With President Barack Obama’s legally required budget proposal arriving two months late (April 10 when it was due February 4), here’s a suggestion to ensure the document is something other than a White House-approved paper weight.

Because of the President’s unprecedented delay, both the Republican House and Democratic Senate have passed budgets, each with only party-line support.  Now that both sides have put their opening bids on the table, it would be wise to make the White House version a kind of third way compromise that includes some elements that both sides like.

One example would be to incorporate Paul Ryan’s idea for putting Medicare plans on a state-based, federally-regulated health insurance exchange.  Then, make the now obvious point that this plan, coupled with ObamaCare’s exchange for non-seniors indicates bipartisan agreement on a major aspect of health insurance reform.  Doing that would help change the focus of the debate on what Republican and Democrats have in common when it comes to moving forward on this issue.

March 22nd, 2013 at 12:18 pm
Tom Coburn Axes Taxpayer Money for Absurd Research

From Quin’s lips to U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s ears…

Yesterday, Quin highlighted one of the many wasteful uses of taxpayer money funded by the National Science Foundation, a federal government agency that subsidizes some pretty dubious projects. (Such as the sex lives of ducks.)

Also yesterday Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma and a committed budget cutter, persuaded a majority of his Senate colleagues to limit NSF political science grants to only those studies that are certified as “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

Citing just one example, Coburn said that “There is no reason to spend $251,000 studying Americans’ attitudes toward the U.S. Senate when citizens can figure that out for free.”

As I understand it, Coburn’s amendment only curtails political science-related research, meaning that the project Quin cited may still be allowed going forward. Even so, it’s a hopeful sign that Coburn established a precedent for at least one part of the federal budget that aligns national spending with the (true) national interest.

March 21st, 2013 at 8:54 pm
House Passes Ryan Budget 3.0

It’s a busy week on Capitol Hill for votes on the federal budget. Earlier today, House Republicans passed the third iteration of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity plan, 221-207.

In past years, House passage of Ryan’s plan would be the first, and last, serious congressional action on the federal budget, since Senate Democrats refused to support President Barack Obama’s proposal or submit one of their own.

But not this year. Tomorrow, Senate Democrats will begin debate on their first budget outline in four years. As an added twist, the Democrats will offer amendments that resemble Ryan’s plan to see if Senate Republicans will go on the record to support it.

Voting will likely stretch into the wee hours of Saturday morning before Congress adjourns for a two week recess.

Politics aside, the Miami Herald shows just how far apart the sides are from a bipartisan resolution:

Total spending

Senate Democrats: $46.5 trillion

House Republicans: $41.7 trillion

Total revenue

Senate Democrats: $41.2 trillion

House Republicans: $40.2 trillion

10-year deficit

Senate Democrats: $5.4 trillion

House Republicans: $1.4 trillion

National debt at end of 2023

Senate Democrats: $24.4 trillion

House Republicans: $20.3 trillion

Social Security

Senate Democrats: $11.3 trillion

House Republicans: $11.3 trillion

Medicare

Senate Democrats: $6.8 trillion

House Republicans: $6.7 trillion

Health, including Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

Senate Democrats: $6.6 trillion

House Republicans: $4.0 trillion

Check out the entire list here.

March 5th, 2013 at 1:18 pm
Pennsylvania Next Medicaid Expansion Domino to Fall?

Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett may be wavering on his refusal to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare’s bait-and-switch funding scheme.

I don’t envy him.  He’s surrounded by states like Ohio and New Jersey, whose GOP governors opted to indulge the fantasy that they can accept the federal government’s promise of full funding at face value.

To his credit, Corbett isn’t allowing himself to act like there are no costs associated with agreeing to so-called “free” Medicaid expansion for the next three years.

Here’s some refreshing honesty from Corbett’s spokeswoman Christine Cronkright:

The Corbett administration has estimated that participating in the Medicaid expansion that would add 800,000 people to medical assistance would cost Pennsylvania $1 billion through 2014-15 and a total of $4.1 billion. Advocates maintain that the Medicaid expansion would pay the way for $43 billion in federal contributions, beginning with three years in which the federal government would pay 100 percent of the expansion.

“Regardless of the federal government’s claims, the presumption that they will cover 100 percent of the costs of full expansion is simply not true. Regardless of any other costs under the (Affordable Care Act) that we’d have to bear, there are still IT and staffing costs, costs for additional clients coming into the system that may have been eligible before, and costs for those we believe will drop employer-based coverage,” Cronkright said.

So it turns out “free” really means $1-4 billion.

The simple truth about ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion is that it establishes a one-way street toward greater federal intervention in every individual’s health care decisions. Democrats know this, and are using the “free” money trope to lure weak-willed Republicans into a federally-dominated system from which a state will not be able to extract itself.

GOP governors who agree to expansion and believe that they will have the political support to simply cut off access to Medicaid when the feds pull back funding are deluding themselves. Besides, what kind of leadership is it to support welfare expansion on the condition that someone else pays for it with their debt-laden credit card?

So far, Governor Corbett is standing firm in the face of tremendous opposition to fiscal sanity.  Let’s hope he continues.

March 1st, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Paul: Sequester is a 5% Cut on a 17% Increase

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) shines a spotlight on the true impact of today’s sequester cuts:

If the sequester were to take effect, our spending would only be cut by 2.3%. Let me repeat that — these “eviscerating” cuts will leave our country with 97.7% of our current spending, cutting a mere $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget.

The sequester barely begins to skim the surface of the problem. Since taking office, President Obama has increased federal domestic agencies’ budget by 17%. This 17% increase since 2008 will have to endure a 5% cut.

Even with the sequester, the federal government will spend more in 2013 than it did in 2012 — or more than $15 billion.

An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily spells out in greater detail just how much federal spending has grown during the Obama Administration:

…here are some examples — using the OMB’s data and projections — showing the growth in spending for various federal functions since 2008 (percentage increases are inflation-adjusted):

• Transportation: up $36.6 billion, an increase of 37.5%.

• Education: up $30.8 billion, or 25%.

• Housing assistance: up $16.4 billion, or 31.4%.

• Community and regional development: up $11 billion, or 36.5%.

• Natural resources and environment: up $9.5 billion, or 21.3%.

• Farm income stabilization: up $6.8 billion, or 39.5%.

• General government: up $5.9 billion, up 26.6%.

This doesn’t exhaust the list of nondefense discretionary spending; it leaves out energy boondoggles and the burgeoning food stamp program, among others.

Other important budget items immune from sequester are federal entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to name just the most recognizable three.

While any budgets cuts are going to be painful, the $85 billion on the chopping block now is, to use Paul’s word, a “pittance” when one considers that for the fifth year in a row the federal budget is likely to carry a $1 trillion deficit.

February 27th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
Chris Christie to Expand Medicaid

The key passage from Governor Chris Christie’s budget speech yesterday speaks volumes about where the New Jersey Republican stands on principle:

Let me be clear, I am no fan of the Affordable Care Act. I think it is wrong for New Jersey and for America. I fought against it and believe, in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises. However, it is now the law of the land. I will make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jerseyans. That is why I twice vetoed saddling our taxpayers with the untold burden of establishing health exchanges.

But in this instance, expanding Medicaid by 104,000 citizens in a program that already serves 1.4 million, is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health. If that ever changes because of adverse actions by the Obama Administration, I will end it as quickly as it started.

Almost all of the same criticisms I leveled at Florida Governor Rick Scott this weekend apply to Christie and his reasoning.

The Governor’s characteristic bluntness, though, merits one further point.

By claiming that the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) “is wrong for New Jersey and for America,” and that “in the long run, it will not achieve what it promises,” Christie is admitting that he has decided to entangle New Jersey in a fundamentally flawed program that will fail to achieve its goals.  But don’t worry.  In the meantime, New Jerseyans can breathe easy because Christie, like Scott and the other Republican capitulators, will make sure to gobble up as much “free” federal taxpayer money as possible until he decides to pull the plug rather than help cover the costs.

One of the first rules of persuasion is to be coherent.  Christie’s tortured, self-serving logic doesn’t come close.

February 25th, 2013 at 1:37 pm
White House Tries to Avoid Sequester by Shaming the Public

As usual, Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog has an interesting series of graphs that show the power of the federal government in granular detail.  Today’s installment, courtesy of the White House, provides a state-by-state assessment of how the coming budget sequester will impact a range of federally-funded, state-run programs.

These include popular spending on initiatives such as teachers and schools, work-study jobs, Head Start, job-search assistance, military readiness, law enforcement, child care, vaccines for children, public health, nutrition assistance for seniors, STOP Violence Against Women Program, and clean air and water.

But while the White House is putting out these details to (ostensibly) convince the public that 10 percent across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending will be devastating to popular programs, there’s also a bit of subtle public shaming thrown in as well.  Reading through the graphs it becomes painfully obvious just how much of modern American life is subsidized by federal tax dollars (and in some cases, also supported by state taxes).  Getting confronted with that reality isn’t comfortable; especially when many people have come to rely on this kind of help.

And yet, something has to change.  We simply can’t raise enough taxes to cover the cost of every liberal social experiment, or even to pay for every good idea.  Instead, we as a country need political and other leaders to think carefully about how to modify the social contract we’ve been under since the New Deal so that the generations to come will not be cheated out of their inheritance.

Much like how they react to any reasonable reform ideas to Medicare (see any number of ‘Medi-scare’ tactics), liberals can’t lead on this modification project because they refuse to acknowledge that America has a spending problem in the first place.  It thus falls to conservatives to improve on what we have, preserving what’s good and making it better.

Part of the reason I’m optimistic about the future is that I don’t believe that details about our nation’s financial problems will shame a majority of citizens into zero-sum taxation.  Rather, I think that once people become aware of how overextended is our current welfare state, they will reward politicians who can show how to scale back the public sector so that the private sector can flourish.

February 5th, 2013 at 5:25 pm
CA’s Brown Faces Big Test over Shale Oil Fracking

It’s an interesting time to follow California politics.

Last month, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown announced that, thanks to the voter-approved tax hikes from last November, the state looks poised reap budget surpluses for the first time in years.

But instead of using those projections as an excuse to restore funding for programs pared back by budget cuts, Brown is promising to set aside the money in a rainy day fund.

Moody’s and S&P rewarded Brown’s announcement by upgrading California’s credit rating.

Now Brown faces an even bigger test.

There’s an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of oil in California’s Monterey Shale formation, or four times as much as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale reserves.  Another way to put it is that California is home to two-thirds of America’s projected shale oil reserves.  Opening it up would be a game changer for the nation’s oil security and California’s economy.

But here’s the rub, according to Walter Russell Mead:

The intrigues in this drama are many. Does California’s Democratic Party come down on the side of low income Californians, who desperately need the jobs and state services new oil extraction will fund? Or does it come down on the side of a green lobby that is heavily backed by some of the wealthiest people in the state? To what extent does the wealthy coastal elite control the future of the inland poor in California? Can the GOP use the issue as a wedge to rebuild its credibility in a state it once dominated? Will black gold bail out big blue California?

Bring lots of popcorn. This is going to be a terrific show.