Archive for August, 2011
August 12th, 2011 at 11:24 am
Podcast: “Stealing You Blind” – America’s Out-Of-Control Bureaucracy
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In an interview with CFIF, Iain Murray, Vice President for Strategy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, discusses his latest book, “Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off Of You,”  and how the U.S. government has become a money pit filled with golden pensions, suffocating regulations and layers of bureaucracy.

Listen to the interview here.

August 12th, 2011 at 8:40 am
Video – The Nanny State: Coming to a Lemonade Stand Near You
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses how overzealous authorities are shutting down children’s lemonade stands across the country.  Giachino asks the question, “Could there be any more perfect metaphor for how government gets in the way of achieving the American dream?”


August 11th, 2011 at 8:15 pm
Britain’s Warning for America
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One does not have to be a particularly astute connector of socio-political dots to watch the recent rioting that has gripped London and find parallels to America’s enfeebled welfare state. That makes the following bravura passage from Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal all the more disquieting:

The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.

A challenge for readers: remove the first sentence from the above passage. Then see if you can find anything that doesn’t apply to modern-day America. It could happen here.

August 11th, 2011 at 7:45 pm
Voters Kill the Messenger When It’s a Union Member

The Fix notes that Big Labor is looking awfully small in recent election cycles.  Citing organized labor’s unsuccessful primary attacks on Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and this week’s failure to recall enough Wisconsin Republicans to take back the state senate, one Democratic strategist speaks the obvious – if anonymous – truth.

“The unmistakable lesson is that every time labor makes it about labor, they lose,” said one senior Democratic strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly. “It’s a messenger problem.”

With public employee unions eating up ever larger amounts of taxpayer money, it’s no wonder the majority of non-union members are revolting at the thought of strengthening labor’s hand.  In reality, the unnamed source mentioned above doesn’t quite draw the right lesson from Big Labor’s election problem.  It’s not just the messenger – it’s the message of more money in a tight recession that’s the problem.  Unless unions get on-board with the national belt-tightening, they’ll experience a lot more rejections in the elections to come.

August 11th, 2011 at 7:28 pm
Arizona Immigration Law on Its Way to Supreme Court

Politico reports that Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer has formally petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn the 9th Circuit’s opinion that important parts of the state’s tough immigration law (SB 1070) violate the U.S. Constitution.

Brewer said in May that she was “frustrated” by the court’s ruling and planned to appeal it.

“The bottom line is, is that everyone knows that the 9th Circuit has a reputation of being very, very liberal,” she said. “After deliberating and thinking about it, I said, ‘Let’s just go to the Supreme Court.’”

As usual, the outcome will probably hinge on the moderate views of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Heaven help us.

August 11th, 2011 at 11:08 am
Cost of Government Day…. Tomorrow

Cost of Government Day, as calculated by Americans for Tax Reform, falls tomorrow, Friday August 12. “This is the day on which the average American has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state, and local levels.”

This is “a full 27 days longer than 2008.” What’s worse is that further costs, via regulation alone, are built into the system for future years via regulatory burdens imposed by the Dodd-Frank financial bill and by Obamacare. Again, read the summary here. EPA regs also are in the offing, and of course the regulatory behemoth continues via the NLRB, the CPSC, the FDA, and others.

The Obama administration is filled with officious zealots who like to tell other people how to live. The result makes all of our wallets lighter, and erodes our freedom.

August 10th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
Paul Ryan to Launch Political Ads in Iowa

From Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post:

* Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is getting involved in the presidential race — sort of. He’s emailing supporters asking for money to run ads in Iowa defending his budget and urging 2012 candidates to support it. The Democratic National Committee has been painting Ryan’s budget as “extreme” in Iowa ads, Ryan wrote that he wants to launch a “counter-attack.” It’s an unusual move for a non-candidate.

August 10th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
Savvy McConnell Names Terrific Trio to Super Committee

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) earned his position today by naming three conservative workhorses to represent the Senate GOP in the new “Super Congress” charged with eliminating more than $1 trillion in federal spending.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is getting the lion’s share of attention because of his former leadership of the conservative Club for Growth, and his opposition to the debt deal that created the committee he’ll serve on.  But McConnell deserves some serious thanks from the Tea Party for also naming Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

Both Kyl and Portman own reputations as serious policy wonks who know how to get substantial conservative victories in government negotiations.  (Kyl is an expert on foreign affairs, defense, and tax issues, while Portman served as President George W. Bush’s OMB Director and Free Trade Representative.)

For his part, Toomey is no slouch when it comes to putting skins on the wall.  (Under Toomey, Club for Growth helped illuminate the economic records of several Republican candidates, helping to identify which were in line with less government.)

All told, the Tea Party should be very pleased that Leader McConnell has named a terrific trio to grow the federal government down in a smart and lasting way.

August 10th, 2011 at 10:51 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Rating the President
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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.

August 9th, 2011 at 9:01 pm
Obama Attempts to Create “National Education Industrial Complex”
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With the White House now stuck in a defensive crouch because of the state of the economy, many voters have the luxury of forgetting the activist liberal agenda that President Obama brought to the White House in 2009. Most of us remember that Obama’s first-term check list involved massive expansions of government involvement in health care, energy, and finance. But too many of us forget that the other area where he openly sought a broader role for Washington was in education.

Because there is no cumbersome education bill winding its way through Congress, the threat may seem to have ceased. But those who understand the administration’s tactical impulses know that it can always be relied on to pursue through regulation what it can’t get through legislation. That’s the point made by the Hoover Institution’s Bill Evers (former Assistant Secretary of Education in the George W. Bush administration) in this interview with The Obama Administration’s goal, he says, is to create an American equivalent of the French Ministry of Education:

August 9th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
Addendum: Striking Verizon Employees Suspected of Vandalism, Stalking, Harassment
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Updating yesterday’s comment on the Verizon landline employee strike, in which the union up and walked away from negotiations, picketing workers are now alleged to have vandalized company equipment.  Strikers have also openly admitted stalking and harassing other Verizon workers during service calls.  According to striking technician Richard Aulicino of CWA Local 1109, “We cannot stop them from doing their job, but we can harass them while they are on the job.”

Stay classy, union thugs.  Sounds like a guy who truly cares about his trade or his job.

And some people wonder what could go wrong with proposed card-check legislation, which would eliminate the secret ballot in union elections and allow union representatives to stalk employees even at home?

August 9th, 2011 at 11:52 am
Debt Ceiling Deal Sets Limits, Not Mandates

There will be much more to say on this in weeks to come, but here’s an absolutely essential thought for conservatives in Congress: The discretionary spending numbers mentioned in the debt-ceiling deal are upper limits. They do not require so much money to be spent; they only ensure that no more than those limits can be spent. My understanding is that the House has six Appropriations bills outstanding. On all six bills, it should approve significantly less than the limits allow. If conservatives choose their cuts carefully, the left will be forced to explain why, in a time of a ratings downgrade, they want to spend more money on bridges to nowhere, museums for silly things, programs that don’t work, and bureaucrats who won’t work. Get the bills done quickly; avoid a massive “omnibus bill” where so many items get wrapped in all at once that the details of lefty largess get lost. But keep on cutting and saving, saving and cutting. Keep the pressure on, for limited government and for freedom.

August 8th, 2011 at 6:46 pm
Huntsman Charting McCain Path Without the Record

The Washington Examiner reports that GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is trying to retrace the steps Senator John McCain (R-AZ) took to the 2008 nomination.  Citing his moderate stances on just about everything, Huntsman and his advisors (many former McCain hands) avoiding the conservative-dominated Iowa caucuses and hoping for “a good showing” in the New Hampshire primary.  Thereafter Huntsman hopes to win the South Carolina and Florida primaries with a pure economic message.

What a riot.  McCain was the undisputed national security candidate last time around, and was able to paper over many of his moderate-to-liberal heresies with a compelling military background.  By contrast, Huntsman has been a well-connected ambassador to the Far East (China and Singapore), and has never served in uniform, let alone suffered torture.  Moreover, McCain won the New Hampshire primary by 6 percentage points over Romney.  Alternatively, Huntsman wants a “good showing”?  Hopefully, that’s more than the 1.8 percent he’s polling nationally, or else he won’t make it to South Carolina.

The truth about the Huntsman campaign is that it features a candidate in search of a constituency.  Anyone in the Republican Party who is repelled by the Tea Party and trusts Wall Street more than Main Street is already voting for Mitt Romney.  Huntsman is a slightly different version of the same formula.

If history is any guide, the GOP tends to give the presidential nomination to the next guy in line.  In 2008 it was John McCain.  In 2012, it will be Mitt Romney.  Only a big name with big money like Texas Governor Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann seems poised to spoil the party.  Refusing to campaign to an entire wing of the Republican base by skipping the Iowa caucuses isn’t at bottom a campaign strategy – it’s an acknowledgement that Jon Huntsman is the answer to a presidential question no one is asking.

August 8th, 2011 at 5:58 pm
Rudyard Kipling’s Ode to SEAL Team Six

The Wall Street Journal summarizes the costly human waste that even worthy wars can bring:

As their Chinook was about to land, Afghan and U.S. officials said, a lone insurgent shot it out of the sky with a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, in the deadliest attack endured by the American military in a decade of war in Afghanistan. Thirty American troops, including 22 SEALs, died in the crash, as did a civilian interpreter and seven Afghan commandos.

Each of the dead was the son or daughter of a family who raised a child willing and able to defend freedom at the most demanding level possible.  And while we say a prayer for each of these brave souls, it’s hard not to feel an extra tinge of anger that none of the 39 highly trained professionals killed had a fighting chance against a lone shooter with perhaps no more skill than is sufficient to operate a video game controller.

Whether it’s an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing and maiming members of a military convoy or an RPG ambush on SEAL Team Six (the outfit who killed Osama bin Laden), these kinds of deaths defy one’s sense of proportionality.  Rudyard Kipling saw his own share of disproportionate death as a writer in India during Britain’s Imperial rule, with similar misgivings (from the poem “Arithmetic on the Frontier”):

A scrimmage in a Border Station-
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

August 8th, 2011 at 4:52 pm
TODAY’S RADIO SHOW LINEUP: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
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Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

–  4:00 p.m. CST/5:00 p.m. EST:  Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute – “Stealing You Blind:  How Government Fat Cats are Getting Rich Off of You”;

–  4:30 p.m. CST/5:30 p.m. EST:  Stacy Mott, President of Smart Girl Politics – 2012 election;

–  5:00 p.m. CST/6:00 p.m. EST:  George Landrith, President Frontiers of Freedom – end of the space shuttle program; and

–  5:30 p.m. CST/6:30 p.m. EST:  Sam Kazman, General Counsel, Competitive Enterprise Institute – new fuel economy standards.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

August 8th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
Three Near-Immediate Steps to Take

Despite its August recess, Congress remains technically in session. Its leaders of both parties should consult with President Obama and act to try to talk sense into S&P, which has caused a market meltdown with its understandable but not-technically necessary downgrade of U.S. bonds.  Rather than berate S&P publicly, American political leaders should consult with S&P privately to see if a few quick steps would convince the rating agency to call off the dogs.

Here are three steps I believe could be done rather quickly, without necessitating extensive hearings or debate, that would help the debt outlook. First, it would be a relatively easy affair for Congress to pass a law instituting a temporary cut in corporate income taxes for repatriated businesses down to 5 percent, as presidential candidate Rick Santorum has proposed. This actually, by all accounting, would create both a short-term revenue gain (5 percent of something is always more than zero percent of anything) and, in the long-term (as the special repatriation rate ends), would continue to generate more revenue if any of the repatriated firms actually remain in the U.S.A.  (Some groups argue that the immediate boost in revenues would be about $50 billion, but that it would lose money in the long run. I buy into only the first assessment; I don’t see how one can count as a revenue loss some revenue that otherwise would never come at all.) If I remember rightly, such an approach has been used in the past, and it worked.

Even liberal Democrat Chuck Schumer has proposed such a step, albeit with a spending idea attached to it. Considering the need to mollify S&P, though, perhaps Schumer can be persuaded to drop his “infrastructure bank” idea for now with promises that it will be at least on the table for the “supercommittee” budget talks coming up.

The second easy step would be to adopt a “chained Consumer Price Index” government-wide, as proposed by the Gang of Six. Forget the technical details for purposes of this blog post; all that’s necessary to understand is that by adopting some tiny changes in how government calculates its cost-of-living adjustments and its tax-rate indexing, spending in the out years can be reduced while revenues creep up just a bit faster, without really changing any economic incentives in any appreciable way.

The third step is one I’m not sure of, procedurally. As of February, the government had on its books  more than $700 billion in “unobligated” funds. I think a small amount of these were rescinded in the Continuing Resolution deal this spring, but I believe that tens of billions of dollars more remain readily available. While I absolutely do not approve of frequent use of presidential Executive Orders, I am under the impression — and this could be entirely wrong, but I think procedurally it would be okay — that at least a portion of these funds could be wiped off the books by executive order, without further congressional action. Either way, congressional action itself shouldn’t be too too hard to expedite, if needed. And none of it should be controversial.

So there: Implement a cut-rate repatriation tax, adopt a chained CPI, and cut unobligated funds. Together, these steps obviously won’t come close to solving the long-range debt problems, but they will reassure markets, perhaps impress S&P enough to give the rating agency an excuse to undo its damage, and reassure the world that the dollar is a currency that won’t collapse. Slow, steady accretions of savings may just be the best way to steady not just the budget numbers, but the entire economy.

August 8th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Verizon Strike: Union Refuses to Negotiate or Acknowledge Today’s Reality
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Yesterday, the union representing 45,000 northeastern and mid-Atlantic Verizon Communications employees walked away from the negotiating table and went on strike.  So what’s the problem?  Unsurprisingly, the union simply refuses to acknowledge today’s fiscal and technological realities.

It’s no secret that traditional copper wire communication – the division of Verizon in which the striking employees work – is a declining industry.  In many homes today, a copper wire telephone looks like a quaint throwback to a bygone era, just as a dial phone looked 30 years ago with the arrival of push-button phones.  That helps explain why wireline services are a declining part of Verizon’s business, and why most of Verizon’s profits come from wireless, not wireline, communications anymore.  Stated simply, cellular phones and Voice over IP (VoIP) provide more advanced services more competitively.

Yet the CWA and IBEW refuse to acknowledge reality, and refuse to negotiate any attempt to share healthcare costs.

Other Verizon employees, including those in its fast-growing wireless phone and high-speed Internet divisions, already share a portion of their healthcare costs.  In fact, 130,000 Verizon employees already do.  This is simply a fact of modern life.

Across America, every employing entity in the United States is adapting to today’s economic and technological environment.   Cities are dropping police and fire departments in favor of coordinating with adjoining cities.   States are reviewing their employment practices and work rules to more accurately reflect the pressures of lower revenues and higher pension costs.   Major companies are re-tooling not just their factories, but their production methods and business lines to more closely adapt to changing customer demands and new technologies.  To that end, every business – from the smallest mom-and-pop stores to the largest telecommunications companies – must deal with the ever-growing cost of health care.  Most Americans recognized long ago that individuals have to help bear the burden of growing healthcare costs.  For its part, Verizon can hardly be said to be abandoning its employees’ healthcare needs, as the company spends about $4 billion per year on healthcare for employees, retirees, and their families.

So it is no small irony that wireline workers’ unions are least interested in evolving to allow their employer to continue to provide high-paying, long-term jobs to their employees and excellent services to their customers.

August 8th, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Obama’s Poll Numbers Show a Formula for His Defeat in 2012
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Gallup is out with its new presidential polling numbers today. The results are dismal for President Obama. Only 16 states and the District of Columbia show the Commander-in-Chief with an approval rating over 50 percent.

Of course, we have to insert the normal caveats: we’re still more than a year away from the 2012 presidential election and it’s how Obama runs against his Republican opponent — not how he performs in a vacuum — that will determine his ultimate fate at the polls.

That being said, what’s most interesting about the new polls is their implications for next year’s electoral college. Crunching the numbers, RealClearPolitics’  Tom Bevan finds that the states giving Obama an approval rating of 51 % or higher have a total of 166 electoral votes between them; states at 49 % or lower have a total of 320 (270 are required to win a presidential election).

Digging deeper into the math only makes the picture more dismal for the White House. Bevan calculates that even adding states where Obama’s approval is at 49-50% (Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin, respectively) only gets him to 218 electoral votes — 52 shy of the total needed for victory.

Does this make Obama’s defeat inevitable? Not by a long shot. But it means that the president is in for a very steep climb over the next 15 months. Let the games begin.


August 8th, 2011 at 10:47 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Not Everyone Is Dissatisfied With Obama’s Performance
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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.

August 5th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
WaPo Helped Facilitate Obama’s Watergate?

Writing for Human Events, gun advocate Neil W. McCabe documents how the Washington Post was aware of ATF’s “gun walking” program before the operation led to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on December 14, 2010.

The AK-47 that killed Terry was sold by Lone Wolf Trading.

That means that the reporters working on the Dec. 13 story for months were completely aware that the bureau was getting its statistics from the undercover operations that allowed the guns to pass through the normal controls.

What they should have also known is that this ill-conceived project was a completely irresponsible abrogation by sworn law enforcement officers and their leaders.

They should have known that it was a dangerous contamination of public servants and members of the free press working together toward the political goals shared by both the platform of the Democratic National Committee and the paper’s editorial board.

Finally, they should have known that they were sitting on top of one of the biggest stories of anyone’s career, titled, “As Mexico drug violence runs rampant, U.S. government agents clear, and expedite to crime gangs, guns tied to crime south of border.”

McCabe also shows how the Post continued to report ATF’s scandal as though the deliberate “walking” of guns across the border wasn’t verified, even though the Post had been given detailed statistics by ATF about the numbers of guns flowing across into Mexico.  (How would ATF know unless it was green-lighting the transfers?)

How ironic it is that the newspaper most identified with bringing down a president for abusing the public’s trust acted as the PR firm for an administration whose actions actually killed an American citizen.

No wonder the Post couldn’t be bothered to pick up the story until after CBS and Fox News took it mainstream.