Archive for July, 2010
July 31st, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Charlie Rangel Wants Company in Prison

Though it’s undeniably true, it isn’t customary for a member of Congress on trial for ethics violations defends his actions by saying everyone else did it too.

So hats off for former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY).  In authorizing his attorneys to file a 32-page rebuttal to ethics charges that names members of both parties who’ve escaped prosecution for doing similar activities, Rangel is explicitly inviting prosecutors to consider going after other members of Congress.

But before they do that, one of the members Rangel didn’t name is facing her own ethics trial.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is vowing to fight charges that she improperly steered $12 million worth of financial bailout money to a bank where her husband was a board member.

Even if convicted, Waters probably won’t face a prison term like Rangel.  However, if Rangel continues to name names, he may get company in prison.  I wonder if they’ll let him name his wing after himself…

July 31st, 2010 at 3:57 pm
Bell, CA City Salary Scandal Could be the Tip of the Iceberg

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling for all city, county and state employee salaries to be posted online for easy access by citizens.  Ordinarily, such a request wouldn’t merit a mention in a governor’s speech, but these aren’t ordinary times.  With California being home to 10 of the 12 highest unemployed metropolitan areas in the country, this is not the era to be paying salaries that total a million dollars in less than a decade to individual public employees.

The fallout from the City of Bell paying its top two city administrators plus the police chief a combined $1.6 million a year led to resignations from all three.  If media and prosecutorial scrutiny grows to include other municipalities, the taxpaying public will have a much better idea whom to blame for a good chunk of the state’s budget deficit: corrupt public officials and public employee unions.

July 31st, 2010 at 9:44 am
New Poll Indicates GOP May Need to Work for Its Midterm Wins

Respected campaign prognosticator Charlie Cook is out this morning with an analysis of recent poll numbers that is sure to get Republican poobahs hitting their consultants’ speed dials.

For the four previous weeks, the two parties were tied at 46 percent on the generic ballot question. For the four weeks before that, Republicans averaged a 3-point lead, 48 percent to 45 percent. So, if Democrats really have turned up the heat and are running 4 or 5 points ahead among registered voters, the practical result would be about an even proposition among likely midterm voters and the national popular vote. If that were true, it would mean a very, very close contest for control of the House.

One of the obvious explanations for the “tie” in approval/disapproval for the two major parties is the public’s lack of faith in either the Democrats or Republicans to prioritize issues correctly and enact laws consistent with meeting those priorities.  Point in case is the economy.  Democrats continue to pass laws that keep the private sector on the defensive, while Republicans seem content to ride the voters’ frustration to victory.

People want an alternative to what’s going on in Washington, D.C. right now, and groups like Freedom Works are organizing massive demonstrations to make everyday Americans’ voices heard.  As CFIF Senior Fellow Troy Senik pointed out recently, if the GOP wants to break through the politics-as-usual noise it must adopt a program for governing that aligns with the country’s current mood.

There’s still time, but not much.

July 30th, 2010 at 6:34 pm
What Does It Mean to be ‘Fair’?

If you’ve got less than 9 minutes to spare for the best YouTube video you’ll see this week, check out the newest contribution at  Chapman University experimental economist Bart Wilson describes in fascinating detail how the concept of “fairness” has changed over time.  Per Reason’s description:

When lawmakers obscure the definition of this word, it may result in policy that is ineffective, arbitrary, and fundamentally unfair.

July 30th, 2010 at 6:11 pm
NRO Debates the Politics and Law of Arizona’s Illegal Immigration Statute

National Review Online’s Andrew McCarthy pens one of the best explanations I’ve seen refuting the Obama Administration’s argument that Arizona’s SB 1070 is preempted by federal law.  A bit surprisingly, McCarthy’s column is in response to (and a bit in contention with) his colleague Heather McDonald.

McDonald wrote a column earlier today fretting about the hypothetical “preemption” consequences of an Arizona law enforcement official deciding to prosecute an illegal alien under SB 1070 after federal officials declined to prosecute under federal law.  McDonald implied such a scenario would trigger a successful preemption claim (i.e. federal law trumping state law) because the actions of the state and federal officials would be in conflict.

Though their actions may be in conflict, argues McCarthy, that doesn’t mean the laws are in conflict.  The distinction is crucial, but too often glossed over by pundits.

In a nutshell, the legislative branch makes a law and the executive branch has the discretion whether and how to enforce it.  Since police officers and prosecutors are agents of the executive branch at both the state and federal level, they have discretion whether and how much to enforce a law passed by the legislature.  (That’s why they can plea bargain cases and drop charges.)

So, if the federal layer of government decides not to enforce its law, but the state layer of government decides it will enforce its identical law, there is no legal conflict; only a different policy choice by each layer.

Thus, claiming that SB 1070 is unconstitutional because it is preempted by federal law is a non-starter since there is no legal conflict between the two.  In fact, they are identical.  Knowing the meanings behind the terms shows that the litigation surrounding SB 1070 is based on nothing more than a policy conflict between the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Arizona over how to apply the same law.

July 30th, 2010 at 1:11 pm
Barclays Capital Study Echoes CFIF on the Danger of Raising Taxes on “The Rich”
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We note in our Lunchtime Liberty Update this week that the Obama Administration’s class warfare campaign targeting “the rich” will inflict further harm on our economy.  Not only would such tax increases hit small businesses (which create most new jobs in America) particularly hard, it would also penalize the income segment that accounts for 1/3 of consumer spending, which itself accounts for 2/3 of the nation’s economy. Confiscating even more of those dollars may sound fine on a teleprompter, but it will bring destructive consequences in the real world.

Now, a new study by Barclays Capital highlights another potential harm.  According to their analysis, Obama’s plan will cause a 9% drop in the S&P 500 and a 900-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  As noted in this morning’s edition of The Hill, that would result from the Obama Administration’s focus on taxing upper income segments:

The Barclays report attributes the potential stock drop to President Obama’s plans to increase taxes on wealthy individuals, who are the country’s chief investors.  The report claims high earners are likely to shift their investment strategies because of the coming tax increase.  ‘According to the Fed’s 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances, 75 percent of stock market wealth is held by families in the top percentile of income,’ the Barclays report states.  ‘From a behavioral standpoint, if the government follows through on its plan to raise dividend and capital gains taxes for the highest income earners, it could influence the asset allocation decisions of an important investor class and potentially bring about a shift away from equities, with negative knock-on effects for the economy.'”

July 30th, 2010 at 12:39 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  Raising Taxes on “The Rich” Will Harm the Economy
Senik:  Please, Liberals, No More “Teachable Moments”
Ellis:  Democrats Launch Suicide Mission to Equate Tea Party with GOP

Freedom Minute Video:  Beware the Lame Duck Session
Podcast:  An Update on Gun Rights and Obama’s Cozy Relationship with BP
Jester’s Courtroom:  Full Court Press Against LeBron James by Washington D.C. Lawyer

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.

July 30th, 2010 at 11:34 am
Friday, July 30, 2010: Meg Whitman’s Job Creation Strategy

For political observers looking for a glimpse into former e-Bay CEO and current gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s (R-CA) job creation plan, a 34 page glossy magazine is available for free download (pdf) or delivery.  As both a PR document and a policy manual, the plan is impressive.  After listing the parade of economic horrible facing the Golden State, Whitman moves into prescription mode promising to promote tax cuts and streamline regulations that impede business.

Implementing any of these measures would help California.  Enacting all of them might actually save the state from financial collapse.  However, there is one addition I’d like to see that’s currently missing.

Tell the voters that governments can only create one type of job directly: a government job.  Whether it is a formal state position, a job that is made necessary to comply with a regulation or one to get a government contract, all of these jobs redirect talent and resources towards expanding the tax burden by increasing government spending.

A more sustainable model is implementing the kinds of policies Whitman is pushing; policies that create a tax and regulatory environment favorable to private sector job creation.  The more private sector jobs created means more people have more money, allowing government to lower tax rates while providing the same level of services.

In reality, Whitman as governor can’t create directly a single private sector job without picking winners and losers.  Instead, the most (and the best) she can do is create the conditions for success that allow private business to flourish and add workers.  Who better to educate the public on that point than a person with top-level business executive experience?

July 30th, 2010 at 11:23 am
Podcast: An Update on Gun Rights and Obama’s Cozy Relationship with BP
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Interview with CFIF’s Timothy Lee on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago, as well as the Obama Administration’s cozy relationship with BP.

Listen to the interview here.

July 30th, 2010 at 11:09 am
David Mamet: A Free Market Voice in the Artistic Wilderness

Robert Kennedy once described himself thus: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask ‘Why?’  I dream of things that never were and ask ‘Why not?’”  Perhaps the strongest criticism against liberalism is the charge that too many of its prescriptions for achieving the good life begin from premises in a world that doesn’t exist.

For cold-eyed realists like playwright David Mamet, the answer to Kennedy’s second question is easy: people are tempted to pride and selfishness.  And after a lifetime spent in the intellectual employ of liberalism’s ‘why not’ ethos, Mamet rejected his former worldview in an essay for the Village Voice, and followed up his rejection of state control in favor of free markets in his new book Theatre.

A review of the book by Commentary’s Terry Teachout reveals Mamet’s stinging rejections of the liberal mindset in favor of conservative-libertarian explanations for how the world actually works.  For Mamet, his conversion is a matter of his personal philosophy catching up with his art, which is characterized by dark struggles for power in an unfair world.

But lest readers think the notion of realism is code for worst case scenario of the human condition, don’t worry.  Instead, Teachout describes Mamet’s reading of conservative luminaries like Thomas Sowell, Paul Johnson, Milton Friedman and Shelby Steele as persuading him that “a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than the idealistic vision I called liberalism.”

For the moment, Mamet stands alone as a free market supporter in the playhouses of elite theater.  Taking a cue from his characters in Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed-the-Plow, Mamet probably doesn’t care what others think.

Admittedly, there is a certain attraction to dreaming of a world that doesn’t – and probably can’t – exist.  It explains the popularity of fantasy tales for which Hollywood studios make hundreds of millions of dollars selling as a form of escape.  For artists like Mamet, though, the real world in all its imperfect complexity provides a much richer source of inspiration.

In an era where politicians are challenging playwrights for creating the most compelling drama, it’s good to know of at least one professional artist who prefers reality to fantasy.

July 30th, 2010 at 10:13 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Real View
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Following President Obama’s appearance yesterday on the the daytime television show “The View,”  Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez illustrates for us The Real View.

July 30th, 2010 at 9:46 am
Jolting Irony: Stimulus-Shy Germany Recovers Jobs More Quickly Than U.S.
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Earlier this month, we noted the sad irony that leaders from welfare states like Germany now lecture President Obama about fiscal discipline.  At the recent G-20 summit in Toronto, Obama attempted to strongarm other industrialized nations into more of the deficit-inflating “stimulus” spending that has failed here, but to no avail. Germany has actually announced budget cuts, whereas Obama admitted that this year’s $1.5 trillion deficit will exceed even last year’s $1.4 trillion pit.

Yesterday, German labor market data provided additional evidence that they were right, and Obama was wrong.  For the thirteenth consecutive month, German unemployment fell, and Germany has now recovered its jobs lost during the recession.  Meanwhile, U.S. unemployment remains near its recessionary high at 9.5%, compared to Germany’s 7.6%.  Obama continues to employ his mindless “jobs saved or created” talking point, but Germany suggests that fiscal discipline and spending restraint are the better course.

Perhaps Obama can go on the German version of “The View” and explain to them why his agenda works better despite the stark evidence.

July 30th, 2010 at 9:02 am
Video: Beware the Lame Duck Session

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino warns that “voting the bums out” this November may not be enough to hold down the 111th Congress and its contempt for the will of the people. “Beware the lame duck session,” cautions Giachino.


July 29th, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Should We Disclose the Home Address of WikiLeak’s Julian Assange?
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Julian Assange, editor of the WikiLeaks site that disclosed classified military documents and the names of Afghans who assisted American forces, arrogantly says he enjoys “crushing bastards.”

The 92,000 documents released by Assange and WikiLeaks included such things as military communication protocols, tactics and juicy tips for intelligence operatives in such places as China, Iran and Russia.  More horrifically, however, the disclosures identify the names, families, locations and forms of assistance provided by Afghans still vulnerable to vicious Taliban retribution.  Anyone who read or saw The Kite Runner knows exactly the sort of brutality imposed by that murderous band.

Here’s an idea.  Perhaps some enterprising citizen, or perhaps the family of someone Assange has jeopardized through his own little “bastard” jihad, would like to publicize his home address, phone number or other confidential information.  After all, complete and open disclosure is a good thing, right Mr. Assange?

July 29th, 2010 at 9:16 am
Rangel: I’m As Ethical As Any of My Fellow Congressional Leaders
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

July 28th, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Arizona Immigration Ruling: A “Be Careful What You Ask For” Moment For Opponents?
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A federal judge has temporarily enjoined portions of SB 1070, Arizona’s legislative effort to address the flood of illegal immigrants in that state.  The enjoined portions will be put on hold pending the resolution of the underlying lawsuit, and appeal of the ruling is expected in any case.

Two immediate reactions, however, immediately come to mind.  First, it seems curious that the judge would justify her injunction on the basis that local enforcement creates a “burden” that only federal officials may impose, since the entire problem arises because federal officials are simply failing to enforce something they’ve made illegal.  Second, opponents of SB 1070 may be celebrating what may prove a Pyrrhic victory.  Specifically, how do such opponents expect the electorate, which heavily favors the law, to react to a ruling that condones the federal government effectively sitting on its hands while a problem that it has made illegal festers?  The backlash in the voting booth could be severe.  Stay tuned…

July 28th, 2010 at 11:19 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Priorities
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

July 27th, 2010 at 5:19 pm
First Amendment Victory: Senate Blocks DISCLOSE Act
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Amid the flurry of inanity brought upon this nation by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, it is important to stop and smell the roses of triumph.  One arrived today when the Senate blocked, at least for now, the DISCLOSE Act. 

That act would violate the First Amendment rights of free speech and free association in its attempt to reverse the Supreme Court’s correct Citizens United v. FEC decision, while effectively exempting politically powerful labor unions.   Obama, Pelosi and Reid will surely follow with their usual bromides about “the people versus the powerful,” but the fact is that the DISCLOSE Act is nothing more than a scheme to enable the powerful, namely partisan Big Labor, at the expense of everyday citizens.  It’s a welcome victory for free speech and freedom of association, and a stinging defeat for an Obama Administration that manages to pioneer new realms of cynical partisanship on a daily basis.

July 26th, 2010 at 10:32 am
…And That ObamaCare Already Adds to the Deficit
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Remember when Barack Obama preposterously claimed that ObamaCare would reduce the deficit, rather than exacerbate it?  Last week, in admitting that this year’s total budget deficit will exceed last year’s, the Obama Administration included a noteworthy admission.  Namely, that ObamaCare is already adding to his unsustainable deficits.  As reported by The Wall Street Journal:

The White House said the health-care law, heralded as a powerful deficit-tamer in the long term, is expected to add $51 billion of debt between now and fiscal 2012. Those increases more than offset modest savings through 2020.”

Reasonable people knew it was just a matter of time until even Obama admitted that ObamaCare compounds the nation’s deficit.  But who knew that would only take four months?

July 26th, 2010 at 10:03 am
Obama Admits This Year’s Deficit Will Exceed Last Year’s…
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The Obama Administration now acknowledges that this year’s budget deficit will exceed last year’s.  Their 2010 $1.5 trillion deficit constitutes 10% of gross domestic product (GDP), up from 9.9% last year.   The administration also raised its 2011 deficit forecast to $1.4 trillion, up from its previous $1.267 trillion projection.

Barack Obama repeatedly – and falsely – seeks to escape blame by scapegoating his predecessor for last year’s $1.4 trillion deficit.  He promised as a candidate to address the deficit, but instead more than tripled it in his first year with such things as his failed $1 trillion “stimulus.”  So what will be his alibi for this year’s deficit?  And for 2011’s?

Is there no expiration date on “Blame Bush?”

Another falsehood that Obama advances is that he and Congressional Democrats were simply handed this deficit on January 20, 2009.  The truth, however, is that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Democrats recaptured Congress (which controls spending under the Constitution) in November 2006, when the deficit was merely $248 billion.  In just four years, they’ve managed to multiply that number by six.