Archive for May, 2011
May 31st, 2011 at 5:02 pm
Update on Wasserman Schultz

Now The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack has gotten into the fray on the DNC Chair’s false claims that the Ryan Medicare plan could deny seniors coverage of pre-existing conditions. He goes even further in tracking down the supposed source of the claims, and in definitively refuting them. Good stuff.

May 31st, 2011 at 7:00 am
Wasserman Schultz: Absurd and Obnoxious

As I noted here at CFIF when she first became chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is to demagoguery what Harold Stassen was to presidential campaigns: an avid, enthusiastic participant in the game, but not very effective at it.  Yuval Levin yesterday at NRO blitzed her for a recent example of her barely skilled mendacity.  The same day, at Michelle Malkin’s site, Doug Powers made mincemeat of another of the congresswoman’s lamest hits.

Stay tuned for more of the same from this left-wing prevaricator.  Because she be illin all the time, except instead of not being able to walk straight, she just can’t talk straight.

May 27th, 2011 at 8:49 pm
Second Round of GOP Presidential Candidates Coming?
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In my column this week and a discussion here on the Freedom Line blog with Tim, we focused on the current state of the GOP presidential field, which has been defined in recent weeks by a series of high profile non-starters: Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Donald Trump, and John Thune, amongst others. After Daniels — the most recent to take a pass — made his intentions public last weekend, conventional wisdom began to congeal around two intertwined propositions: that the GOP field was essentially set and that grassroots Republicans were dissatisfied with the field. Not so quick.

Not only is the field not set in stone, it may be about to get a shot in the arm courtesy of three potentially top-tier candidates. Reports this week have Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin, and Rick Perry all seriously eying a run. For those keeping score at home that’s one of the most successful Republican executives in the last half century, the most dynamic personality that the GOP has produced since Reagan, and the governor of a state that has been an economic powerhouse in the midst of a national downturn, respectively. Get ready for an interesting summer.

May 27th, 2011 at 5:30 pm
Romney Supports Ethanol Subsidies

Or, to use Romney’s phrasing, “I support the subsidy of ethanol.”  Forget the passive voice; Mitt Romney is actively standing on his principles!

Two weeks ago, the former Massachusetts governor has defended his version of an individual mandate in health care.  Now, he’s declaring fealty to a $5 billion program to create a source of energy the free market will not support.

In 2008, Romney was tagged as being inauthentic because he tried to remake himself into a social conservative when he’s really more a country club Republican.  With his background in big business, Romney’s 2012 dalliances with corporate welfare may be more authentic, but they risk being out-of-step with free market tea partiers.

Mitt Romney seems like a genuinely nice, earnest guy.  Too bad he’s just not a conservative.

May 27th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Court Smacks Down Obama

In Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting yesterday, the Supreme Court obliterated the Obama administration’s ludicrous position (with apologies to the Chamber of Commerce, which lost its usually perspicacious way on this one) that a state may not withdraw a business license from employers who knowingly or intentionally hire illegal aliens. The whole controversy was nonsense.  The Chamber and Obama had argued that federal law prohibits states from sanctioning employers in that way, even though — get this — the law they cited explicitly allowed states to enforce rules against hiring illegals through “licensing and similar laws.”  In pursuit of its extremely pro-immigration ideological agenda — which will be put to an even bigger and more politically explosive test in another Arizona case next year — the administration argued that the exact words of a federal statute should be ignored in order to read that statute as preventing state action meant to dovetail with and complement, not undermine, those very same federal immigration laws. Writing for a 5-3 majority, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that no ambiguity exists at all: “the plain wording of the clause,” “on its face,” supported Arizona’s contention that it was operating entirely within the law.

As Ed Whelan noted at Bench Memos, Roberts got in a very sharp dig at the dissenting justices (and at the administration) by noting that two dissents read the clauses at issue in completely different ways. His footnote is worth quoting, with my bolded emphasis added:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR creates an entirely new statutory requirement: She would allow States to impose sanctions through“licensing and similar laws” only after a federal adjudication. Such a requirement is found nowhere in the text, and JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR does not even attempt to link it to a specific textual provision. It should not be surprising that the two dissents have sharply different views on how to read the statute. That is the sort of thing that can happen when statutory analysis is so untethered from the text.

As The Washington Times argued last December, a decision in favor of Arizona in this case means that in the more explosive case next year, “the administration’s argument… falls apart.” The Washington Times’ conclusion also stands: “States retain certain authority unless Congress expressly says otherwise. Arizona is right to insist that the Constitution is meant to limit federal power.”

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation notes some solace for businesses worried that they could lose their licenses over a mere mistake in hiring, rather than willful or flagrant violation of immigration laws: “As the Chief Justice pointed out, there is no sanction against employers for merely hiring unauthorized workers. The state law’s sanctions are only triggered if an employer hires such a worker intentionally, knowing that they are not authorized to be employed. An employer acting in good faith need not have any fear of being sanctioned, especially since they enjoy a safe harbor from liability if they use the federal E-Verify system to check on prospective employees.”

In a different piece, this from the Washington Examiner, von Spakovsky gives evidence of the practical reasons that the states’ authority in this regard is so important: The administration is flat-out refusing to enforce immigration laws on its own.

One can be moderate on the overall subject of immigration, supporting streamlined processes for legal immigration, while insisting that the law actually be enforced against those who break it. Culturally, too, legal immigrants (it stands to reason) are more willing to acclimate to American society and to our language, more willing to become more fully Americans as earlier waves of immigrants did; illegals tend (by my observation) to be more separatist, less assimilated, and even resentful. Is it too much to ask for the federal government to allow states to take reasonable steps to guard against the worst abuses from waves of unassimilated aliens, if the feds themselves won’t do it?

May 27th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
Two New Polls Should Worry Obama
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Current commentary on the 2012 presidential race, including here at CFIF, centers primarily on the strength of the germinating Republican field.  The more Barack Obama weakens between now and November 2012, however, the easier the task for whoever emerges from the GOP race.  On that note, two new polls should have Team Obama sweating.  In the first, Rasmussen reports that Obama only leads “Generic Republican” by one point this week.  With most discussion of that generic Republican field focusing on its supposed weakness, that is significant.  In the second, CNN reports that 48% of respondents state Obama’s presidency has been a failure to date, while only 47% rate it successful.  The fact that CNN polled all adults, rather than registered voters or likely voters, is all the more reason for him to worry.

May 27th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
Firing Your Best Workers & Other California Absurdities

Mercury News opinion writers David Houston and Jot Condie give a sense of the near impossibility of doing business in California.  Andy Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurant, the parent company of Carl’s Jr., a popular hamburger eatery in California.

Even after businesses have gotten off the ground, California’s regulations continue to pigeonhole business owners in how they operate. For example, California’s strict work rules classify general managers as employees, requiring that they take breaks at specified times, harming their ability to manage the business effectively. Puzder said he has had to fire managers who insisted on working more hours than the state allows.

The reason managers would have to be fired for working hard is that it makes businesses vulnerable to litigation. With more than 1 million lawsuits filed every year, California is one of the most litigious states in the country, and its countless regulations make business owners a magnet for abusive lawsuits. No matter what type of business you are in, it seems like there is a lawsuit waiting for you.

If you own a restaurant and your bartender chooses to forgo a break to collect extra tips, you can be sued for wage-and-hour violations. If your trash can is moved by someone else in your store, you can be sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you try to bring renewable energy to the desert, you can be sued by environmentalists and unions. Is it any wonder that many owners are deciding doing business in California is not worth it?

Firing managers who want to work more hours for more money because the law makes litigation almost mandatory?  Now that’s Progressivism!

May 27th, 2011 at 11:21 am
5 Budget Questions for Barack Obama

Yesterday, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post listed five hardball questions he’d like to hear answered by President Barack Obama:

1. You have repeatedly lauded the economy of the Clinton years, yet in a time of high and mounting deficits, you want to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Economically speaking, what makes you believe the Clinton-era tax rates are too high?

2. During the 2008 campaign, you pledged never to raise taxes on any families making less than $250,000 a year. The excise tax on high-value health insurance plans, which you supported as part of health-care reform, did raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year. If you’re going to raise almost a trillion dollars by cutting and capping expenditures, as your budget proposes, that will also affect families making less than $250,000. When will you admit that fiscal responsibility requires tax increases on families who aren’t rich?

3. Your budget empowers the Independent Payment Advisory Board to push Medicare toward value-based purchasing designs. But it doesn’t empower the board to experiment with benefit design more broadly, or any form of cost sharing. The committee’s powers remain mostly restricted to payment reforms. Why?

4. The main differences between your budget and the Simpson-Bowles report is that your budget raises less in taxes and cuts less in defense spending. Why were those decisions made?

5. You’ve talked frequently about the need to “win the future” through new investments and initiatives. But unlike the budgets proposed by the House Progressives or Andy Stern or EPI, Demos and the Century Foundation, there’s nothing in your budget that specifically commits to any such investments, nor any particular funding source dedicated to them. If these investments are so important, why not build them into your budget? Why accept the framework that this discussion should be entirely about cuts?

The day before, Klein listed eight thoughtful questions to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan about the latter’s health care reform.

Responses to each set of queries would be greatly beneficial to Americans trying to sort out whether each man’s plan passes the logic and laugh tests.  After hosting several town hall meetings about his budget reforms, Ryan seems eager to go point-by-point.  The president and his entourage; not so much.

May 27th, 2011 at 10:02 am
Podcast: The Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII
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In an interview with CFIF, Mitchell Zuckoff, Boston University professor and author of Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, discusses his latest book and the gratitude Americans owe our brave servicemen and women.

Listen to the interview here.

May 26th, 2011 at 6:11 pm
Netanyahu’s “Obama Bounce”

A new Haaratz poll finds that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is enjoying a sizeable uptick in Israeli public opinion after he stood his ground against President Barack Obama’s proposal for Israel to give up land.

Netanyahu’s approval rating in Israel is 51 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable.  Five weeks ago it was almost reversed: 38 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable.

The newfound popularity puts Netanyahu in a much more powerful position to defend Israel’s interests at home and abroad.  The next time his numbers go south, maybe Netanyahu can ask Obama to create another opportunity to flex his muscles.

H/T: Political Wire

May 26th, 2011 at 5:58 pm
Good Ideas from the Obama White House?
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Believe it or not, they occur once in a blue moon. The AP reports:

Oil spill prevention requirements will no longer apply to spilled milk. Gasoline pumps wouldn’t need devices for trapping vapor pollutants, and there would be fewer bureaucratic hurdles for doctors who want to dispense medical advice to a distant patient.

These were among hundreds of existing regulations that the Obama administration said Thursday it wants to revamp or eliminate in a government-wide effort to ease burdens on business. Overall, the drive would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually for companies, governments and individuals and eliminate millions of hours of paperwork while maintaining health and safety protections for Americans, White House officials said.

No jokes. No irony. Just a thanks to the folks at the White House behind this initiative. And a question: can we have some more please?

May 26th, 2011 at 5:03 pm
Jeb Bush for 2012 VP?

Writing for The Atlantic, veteran Florida political reporter S.V. Date says don’t rule out former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) as the go-to vice presidential pick for whomever wins the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.  With the son and brother of former presidents wary of topping a ticket so close to the last Bush era, Date speculates that Bush would probably say yes to second billing because of how it would position him as an eventual frontrunner.

Unsaid in Date’s blog but equally true is the huge amount of reassurance putting Jeb on the ticket would create.  So far, the Republican field is filled with candidates who lack the other Bush’s combination of executive experience, Hispanic ties and intimacy with presidential politics.  The only problem with putting Bush on the ticket might be getting overshadowed.  But if it increases the chances of winning, it’s a chance any nominee should be willing to take.

May 26th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
Wisconsin Dems Still Wasting Time, Money

Huffington Post reports that even though a Wisconsin state judge invalidated Republican Governor Scott Walker’s bill to remove collective bargaining from public union members, nothing is stopping Republican lawmakers from re-passing the stalled legislation.

Democrats widely expect Republicans in the state legislature to simply attempt to re-pass the measure as law, and this time, the Democratic state senators won’t be leaving the state to slow down the process.

“There’s nothing that we can do,” said state Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover). “Republicans have the votes to do this, and if they choose to do it, they can and they will.”

My guess is that if given the chance to follow normal procedures, Republicans will easily re-pass Governor Walker’s bill.  When that happens, Wisconsin’s Democrats should stop wasting taxpayers’ time and money on frivolous lawsuits created by irresponsible lawmakers fleeing the democratic process.

May 26th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Irish Roots
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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.

May 26th, 2011 at 10:57 am
Initial Unemployment Claims Rise Again
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This morning, the Labor Department announced that first-time unemployment claims rose again, from 414,000 last week to 424,000 this week.

As demonstrated by this Labor Department graph, weekly unemployment claims average approximately 300,000 during periods of economic normalcy.  One year ago, the number stood at 463,000 when the Obama Administration proclaimed the arrival of the “Recovery Summer,” yet it never dipped below 400,000 for the remainder of 2010.  We finally dipped into the high 300,000 range in February of this year – still an elevated level – but the number climbed back to 478,000 last month.

This is the Obama “stimulus,” over two years and $1 trillion of government spending later.

May 25th, 2011 at 1:56 pm
California’s Listless Fourth Branch of Government

An editorial in today’s Stockton Record crystallizes one of the reasons California is facing a $20 billion deficit: it has no master list of state-funded commissions and boards.

Per the Record:

…apparently no one really knows how many are out there although 300 is the number most often cited. A 1989 report by the Little Hoover Commission put it at 400. More recently, the California Performance Review evaluated 339 state boards and commissions. Others have put the number as high as 1,000.

How much they’re costing also is unknown, although getting rid of the 37 panels Brown has targeted would save about $10 million. Admittedly, that’s a drop in the proverbial state budget bucket, but do the math, and if 37 panels are costing us $10 million, what are all of them costing?

And lest anyone think this scandal isn’t bipartisan:

When he swept into office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to dismantle the forest of boards and commissions that had grown like weeds in state government. That led to the creation of another panel to review government operations.

Among the panel’s findings: “These entities are so scattered and numerous across government that arriving at a firm number is nearly impossible. In our search, there was no single source we could turn to find out which commissions existed and why. In fact, state government has no master list of all boards and commissions and the thousands of political appointees that populate them.”



May 25th, 2011 at 11:11 am
Saving Medicare

In a newly released video, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan discusses why Congress must reform Medicare in order to save it and the dangers of doing nothing.

In a statement that accompanied the video, Rep. Ryan said:

We can no longer let politicians in Washington deny the danger to Medicare – the danger is all too real, and the health of our nation’s seniors is far too important. We have to save Medicare to avoid disruptions in benefits for current seniors, and to strengthen the program for future generations. House Republicans have put forward a plan to do just that. Democratic leaders in Congress have failed to produce a plan – it has been 755 days since Senate Democrats even passed a budget. Meanwhile, the President’s plan would empower a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats to cut Medicare for current seniors, while failing to save the program for future retirees.

“This video lays out the clear choice our nation faces on Medicare: Will Medicare become a program in which a board of bureaucrats manages its bankruptcy by denying care to seniors? Or will leaders work together to save and strengthen Medicare by empowering seniors to choose health care plans that work best for them, with less support for the wealthy and more help for the poor and the sick?  House Republicans have advanced solutions to save Medicare. Instead of working with us, the leaders of the Democratic Party have opted to play politics with the health security of America’s seniors.”

May 24th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
Don’t Sell Pawlenty Short
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It is well known throughout the halls of CFIF that one challenges our own Troy Senik at one’s own risk.  That principle carries additional weight on a week in which George Will, the dean of conservative commentators, cited Troy by name in his column.

In a fit of feistiness, I’ll nevertheless do the unthinkable and metaphorically run down those same halls with exposed scissors by responding to Troy’s thoughtful piece “Presidential Race Freefall.” In his column, Troy laments Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’s decision not to run for president in 2012, saying, “we’re essentially left with Huntsman, Pawlenty, or Romney.  Out of that group, Huntsman is too moderate, Romney is too elastic, and Pawlenty is more acquittable than embraceable.”  He concludes with a fear that, “it’s time to start proceeding to the exits in orderly fashion.”

Those are certainly understandable and justifiable sentiments.  But I have a hunch that a lot of people may be selling Pawlenty short.  Consider that he won the relatively liberal state of Minnesota’s highest office not once, but twice.  That accomplishment included a reelection victory in 2006, a devastating year for anyone running with an “R” next to his or her name, particularly in a state like Minnesota.  In fact, the Democrats recaptured both state legislative houses that November.  So we’re not talking about a candidate whose campaign for national office rests on a flimsy resume constructed in the fair weather of some deeply red state .  Pawlenty’s feat becomes even more impressive when one considers that despite governing a state so blue that it was the only one to support Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan, he was one of only four governors to earn an “A” grade for fiscal management in 2010 from the Cato Institute.  Notably, Governor Daniels earned a “B” that year.  Then, in announcing his candidacy in Iowa yesterday and appearing afterward on Rush Limbaugh’s show, Pawlenty boldly called for an end to ethanol subsidies from which many in Iowa benefit.

In other words, Pawlenty is a man who has managed to win in difficult electoral environments while maintaining a remarkably strong conservative record.  There may be some steel beneath that mild Clark Kent exterior.

May 24th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Pouring Cold Water on the Arab Spring
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The always-provocative strategist George Friedman (head of Austin-based STRATFOR) is out with a new analysis of President Obama’s Middle East policy today on RealClearWorld (caveat: Friedman is always provocative, but not always accurate. He wrote a 1991 book titled “The Coming War with Japan”). As usual, Friedman’s work is rife with insight, but no single passage deserves quotation as much as his dispassionate diagnosis of the Arab Spring:

The central problem from my point of view is that the Arab Spring has consisted of demonstrations of limited influence, in non-democratic revolutions and in revolutions whose supporters would create regimes quite alien from what Washington would see as democratic. There is no single vision to the Arab Spring, and the places where the risings have the most support are the places that will be least democratic, while the places where there is the most democratic focus have the weakest risings.

The piece deserves reading in its entirety for its thorough analysis of the region, but this is perhaps its most important point. The Middle East needs real change before hope becomes an appropriate response. Newsroom revolutions are not adequate.

May 23rd, 2011 at 7:26 pm
Pawlenty in Iowa No-Win Situation?

Roll Call speculates that with governors Mitch Daniels (R-IN) and Mike Huckabee (R-AR) not running for president in 2012, the possibility of Tim Pawlenty winning the Iowa caucuses is diminished.  With T-Paw’s operation making him look like an earlier frontrunner in Iowa, maybe he’ll get no steam heading into the New Hampshire primary.

That seems unlikely for one important reason.  As of today, the New Hampshire primary is expected to be on February 14th – eight days after Iowa’s caucuses.  If that holds, the media won’t be able to stop talking about Pawlenty’s immediate frontrunner status.  The media will crave a news story and a T-Paw win will put his campaign front and center.

If Pawlenty wins Iowa, all eyes will be on him.  If he loses, he may be one more loss away from irrelevance.