Balancing Act: The Debt, The Senator, and The Constitution

Ken Blackwell posted on his Facebook fan page a column by his friend, and the Republican Senator from Utah, Mike Lee. Senator Lee wants a balanced-budget amendment, and five other Senators on the Judiciary Committee agree.

This week, 58 senators – including all 47 Republicans, 10 Democrats and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent – recognized this urgent need and expressed support for a balanced-budget requirement. I have put forward a proposal that would require a balanced budget every fiscal year; limit federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product; and require a two-thirds vote in Congress to increase taxes, raise the debt limit or run a specific deficit.

I made the comment, “We never would have been able to have supply-side economics during Reagan if we had a balanced-budget amendment.” Nobody responded.

Unfortunately, the nation’s debt has sky-rocketed to levels high enough to be mistaken for a Ron Paul supporter at a Phish concert (I kid). Now we are at the point where even the people who say, “deficits don’t matter” are thinking, “holy hell, this deficit is out of control.” In fairness to Vice President Cheney, he was saying that deficits don’t matter in the short-term because he was responding to the naysayers from all sides of the aisle that have never been fond of supply-side economics. It might behoove us to remember that then-Chief of Staff Dick Cheney was on the ground floor of the supply-side revolution when, according to legend, Arthur Laffer drew an inverted U-shaped curve on a napkin at lunch. The Laffer Curve was used to articulate how lower tax rates might produce higher tax revenues.

In the 1970s and early-1980s it was a party of the Right Fight Club (the rule is to never speak of Party of the Right Fight Club) with the supply-siders arguing that the deficit will work itself out with the tax cuts (as it started to do) while the old guard was arguing that balancing the budget was the way to go, hands down. Irving Kristol and the Neoconservatives argued that the traditional right’s fetish with balancing the budget meant a deep-recession in the 1980s, and a pessimistic vision that would even make John Derbyshire, the king of conservative pessimism, balk.

Our current condition is one that should cause considerable alarm. However, I am not of the opinion that a balanced budget amendment is the solution to our woes. Ronald Reagan’s magic would not have been exercised had a balanced budget amendment been instituted (well, not his economic magic, if that is your thing) while he was in office. Balancing the budget is a good goal, and a deficit as large as the one we are facing is potentially devastating to our country. Yet we survived as a Republic without a balanced budget myriad times before, without considerable harm to ourselves. There may be times where we need to do so again, and I cannot say that I have enough faith in 2/3rds of the legislator being able to agree on a time when the government is allowed to carry such a debt (as would be the rule, according to Senator Lee). I know the Senator uses the time following the 9/11 attacks as anecdotal evidence of the Congress coming together, but I think it is far fetched to believe that Congress could do so barring another horrendous attack, which will hopefully never happen again.

-rj

The Americans Are Leaving- Why Some Egyptians Want Them to Stay

As the state department of the United States urges its citizens to make emergency flights out of Egypt, the US embassy in Cairo is hard at work. The US Embassy has tasked itself with the safety of US citizens to ensure a safe and quick departure from Egypt. However, is this a bad thing for Egyptians? Egyptians are saying that this departure could be a threat to their safety. The current situation in Cairo is highly unsettled and other countries are urging their citizens to pull out of Egypt as well, including Britain and Japan.

As this is happening, reports are surfacing in Egypt that President Obama is speaking to President Mubarak. No one knows what these talks entail; however, the Egyptian people assume that President Obama is still supporting Mubarak’s regime. As I am told, “We do not need the United States’ help in our revolution. What we hope is that the United States will tell Mubarak that the United States will no longer support Mubarak’s regime.”

So, why would Americans leaving Cairo affect the Egyptian people? The Egyptian people feel that as American, British, and Japanese citizens are departing for their home countries, Egyptians are left without their “shield”. With the only people left being Egyptians, people believe that Mubarak will be more willing to order the military to start using force to deter protesters. In response to this, the Egyptian people have begun asking for a million citizens to congregate at Tahrir Square on Tuesday, February 1. Some do believe that this is going to be a “million-man march” but the sentiment in Egypt is that the calling of a million people is to deter Mubarak from using force against the people. As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers.

As Mubarak’s days are numbered the reality that he would irrationally use military force on protesters in Tahrir Square which would cause a massacre is unlikely. However, it is this fear that has Egyptians concerned. They want this to be their fight and it is most certainly that now; the only individuals left are themselves, there are no foreign citizens to halt Mubarak from using direct force.

Egyptians have already seen scare tactics from Mubarak. The looters are believed to be sent from Mubarak’s regime. Public hospitals in Egypt were raided last night and the patients were stripped of any money they had. Public hospitals in Egypt care for the indigent. These are people who struggle to live day to day. Individuals who can afford more expensive, not always higher quality care, will be seen at private institutions. What does it mean that the looters choose to raid public hospitals? This would be Mubarak’s attempt to stifle the enthusiasm of the people who are, for every reason, willing to sacrifice all they have for a more equitable Egypt. These scare tactics have given most the belief that Mubarak is willing to use extreme measures until the people side with him.

What should President Obama do today? I do not wish to be the President of the United States this week, however, our President has been on the forefront in demanding human rights for the protesters. Whether the Egyptians are correct in believing that Mubarak will now start using force as foreigners have left, President Obama must take this threat seriously. A recommendation would be to again call President Mubarak to notify the leader that if peaceful protesters are met with violence then the United States will immediately and publically call for the immediate resignation of President Mubarak. The only hope is that a man whose back is against the proverbial wall will make the best decision for his fellow citizens and treat them as fellow humans, which is exactly what they are.

An article was brought to my attention that mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood seeking other opposition groups to join forces in an interim unity government. They will all be together in Tahrir Square tomorrow. What would this mean? The Muslim Brotherhood is seeking opportunities currently to be seen as a mild group that believes in the ideologies of the protesters, unalienable human rights and personal freedom. However, the Brotherhood does not support either ideal. The Brotherhood is currently locked out of the current government. If Egyptians allow the Muslim Brotherhood to play the slightest role in the reshaping of Egypt’s government, one can expect the stifling of personal freedoms and less equitable Egypt.

Egyptians, keep your eyes on end goal, put into power those individuals that will allow Egypt to flourish not suffer.  To the military, side with your fellow citizens, they wish for you to protect a better Egypt.

What the President Should, But Won’t, Say in his State of the Union Address

When it comes down to it, there are really only five first-tier issues facing America:

1. We need jobs, and fast. The policies enacted by Presidents Bush and Obama have failed to stimulate the economy.

2. We need to eliminate the deficit in the next 2.5 years.

3. We have too many abortions committed every year.

4. We have two conflicts overseas being run ineffectively and inefficiently.

5. Corruption and transparency in government are at unacceptably high and low, respectively, levels. Additionally, Big Government and Big Business collusion is at a level that is entirely unethical.

President Obama should, but won’t, admit that the State of our Union is precarious, and should do the following:

1. He will push for a flat tax or a national sales tax, as well as the concurrent elimination of all other federal taxes in America on our citiWzens.

2. He will push to eliminate or lower the minimum wage.

3. The Federal Reserve will be audited annually, and will have less power.

4. He will follow through on his recent op-ed to eliminate some regulations.

5. He will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and push to institute tort reform and Dartmouth Atlas-style payment reform. He will also increase the size of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) so it can begin to cut down on the $100 billion, give or take, of fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.

6. He will convince his fellow Democrats to make the individual health insurance market less government-influenced.

7. He will try to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 in the next two decades, and wall off Congress’ ability to take from the Social Security Administration (SSA) trust fund. Means-testing of Social Security will also take place.

8. He will eliminate or cut down the size of the Departments of Education and Agriculture, and eliminate all $90+ billion in private-sector subsidies to various energy, agriculture and other industries.

9. While the President should ban abortions, the fact is that he supports them. Given this reality, he should support H.R. 3, which bans all federal funding of abortions. He should also work to enact more welfare reforms and proper sexual education so that young people don’t think of abortion as a) necessary, and b) birth control.

10. He should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of this year, or at the latest by the end of 2012. We’ve spent more lives and dollars in those nations than ever expected, and there is no end in sight. Sending more troops to protect one’s political rear end does not count as a “strategy.”

11. He should push for term limits, and complete transparency for all Members of Congress. As an example: All donors to campaigns and Members will be recorded and posted on A Member’s wall and official website. The amount donated will be posted as well, and the issue(s) this person related their funding to. This will be done within 24 hours of the donations.)

12. Cap-and-trade should be off the table, and the lightbulb ban should be ditched.

13. Members should stop receiving pay the day they leave Congress. The idea of a lifetime pension is ridiculous for a public servant.

14. There should never be another TARP-style bailout ever again.

Obviously, I am a rather conservative individual, and President Obama is not. However, I think many of the above suggestions are not extreme, and in fact are things that could be supported on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately, the event is more about political partisanship than actual results, which is symptomatic of why our nation is headed into deep, deep trouble in the next few years.

Update: Silly me- I forgot to mention in the “jobs” portion of this post that he should allow more opportunities for nuclear power, and in the budget section that he should push for reform of our defense contracting policies.

Now if we Could Just Combine Them…

Financially, The United States of America is heading the way of Greece, Britain and France. Rebellion and fiscal implosion are possible (likely?), and a dedicated third party is almost definite, if we don’t balance the budget by 2013. Unfortunately, few Members of Congress are willing to take the political risks necessary to balance the budget at all, never mind by 2013.

Fortunately, at least some Republicans are willing to take a stab at eventual balance of the budget. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has his Roadmap, but I do not consider it all that serious since it adds debt for over 50 years before balancing the budget. We can’t afford that. What we can perhaps afford is the Ryan-Rivlin proposal which, as Veronique de Rugy shows here, significantly diminishes the cost of health care over the next 40 years and saves hundreds of billions annually while doing so.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to worry about the long-term debt if we can’t get past the short-term. This is where the decent, though not nearly expansive enough, Spending Reduction Act kicks in. Proposed this week in The Washington Examiner by Senator Jim Demint (R-SC), the House’s Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and the RSC’s Budget and Spending Taskforce leader Scott Garrett (R-NJ), it aims to cut $2.5 trillion in discretionary spending over the next decade.

However, no plan to balance the budget is complete without looking at national defense and budgetary fraud, and this is where Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) enters the field of play. First with his various attempts to combat $100 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud (see one example from the last Congress here), and secondly with his detailed memorandum last year, Coburn is a one-man wrecking machine in the Senate.

If even half of the potential savings in these efforts are realized, the federal budget would drop by over $200 billion right away. Add in the medium-term and long-term impacts of defense and health reforms and we might actually have a balanced budget before Indiana governor Mitch Daniels hits his second term. (Of course, with Chris Christie as his vice president, maybe it will happen even faster. One can only hope.)

Obama Rating Spike Par For Course

At times the only thing that surprises me is the incoherent gullibility of many in the conservative and moderate movement.  Either that or some liberals that were polled have found some renewed faith in the promised one.

Consider though a couple of stats from the latest poll outside of the 53% approval rating:

  • Only 45% approve of his handling of the economy.  Some states hit 18% unemployment this week.
  • 56% believe the country is on the wrong track.
  • 71% believe that we will have to eventually give up on Afghanistan.

And here are two that are off the charts bizarre:

  • 40% polled believe Obama is a moderate.
  • 11% polled believe Obama is a conservative.

Seriously, who are these people being polled and what cave do they live in that still have telephone service in which to be selected for polling?  Bare in mind that 3 years ago 55% considered Obama a liberal and at current after selling out Europe’s missile defense to Russia, spending more money in 2 years than Bush did in 6, pushing through a health care bill, backing FCC regulatory control over the Internet, and attempting to push through a massive global warming based energy policy, only 45% consider him liberal.  Explain that one…

So why does Obama suddenly come of as a moderate and receive a bump in approval rating?  My personal guess is that he received a slight resurgence in faith from liberals by way of the missile treaty and allowing gays in the military to be more forthright in their *cough* preferences.  Additionally, he’s probably re-captured some moderates and confused conservatives via his opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal that came across as pro-business to some.  And you’re welcome to disagree with me, but personally I felt that the Tucson memorial speech was simply another ra-ra campaign speech, which would certainly be seen as favorable by some.

In the end, Obama is a brilliant man, and he puts intelligent people around him.  Everything he is doing to appear to be having a change of heart and open arms toward conservatives and the Republican Party is fake.  And furthermore, it is strategically designed to appear that way.  The reasoning is simple:

  1. It makes him look generally more favorable and increases his poll percentages (which obviously is the reason this is being written).
  2. If he makes nice then it increases the chance of conservative members of Congress letting down their guard and voting in favor of Obama goals oriented legislation in the future which is a win for his administration.
  3. He wins (for the most part) in any case.  If Reps ignore his gestures of working together and finding middle ground, then he bashes the GOP in the next presidential election for working against him.  If Reps work with him, then he uses that to his advantage during the next election and says that the GOP was not really doing anything different.

This is simply par for the course with Obama.  Don’t let the rug get pulled out from under you.

Separation of Church and Dumb

Nothing boils my blood faster than a conversation on the “separation of church and state”.  The temperature rating will quickly escalate to levels comparable to the surface of the sun when I am additionally “informed” that the phrase is in the Constitution.

Michael Prell has a great article today on dumb people who get pissed off at anything to do with Christmas because it has the word Christ in it.  Which if anyone recalls is the reason the holiday began in the first place.  Best Buy and Amazon did not establish the event, though we have had Santa and given gifts for a very long time.  But the point really is that the anti-Christmas sentiment is quite perplexing.  Everyone knows Easter is about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  People know that Thanksgiving was established to give thanks to Jehovah.  But Target isn’t banning its employees from saying, “Happy Easter”.

Anyway, Prell talks about this guy who failed at bombing the “Holiday Tree” in Portland.  And he points out the irony in that this Muslim terrorist tries to go blow up a Christian symbol that was already neutered by the city government and wasn’t even called a Christmas tree anymore.  So basically this guy just wanted to murder people.  Why? Because Islam is a peace loving religion…

(By the way, Prell mentions that after this guy tried to murder people in Portland via a weapon of mass destruction the Portland Mayor increased security around local mosques…not Christian churches…the local mosques.  He wanted to make sure there was no backlash on the local Muslim community that is “peace loving”.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

The kid was Somalian, and their Prime Minister assures us that Somalia is a peace loving country with peace loving people.  He apparently forgot about that little incident with Mohamed Farrah Aidid. They made a movie about it.  It was awesome!

One thing that I think is very important that Prell points out is the double standard that Christianity is treated with.  It’s really treated like a plague by most of our government.  Like they don’t want the stench of it anywhere near them or someone will complain.  Only in America does the majority rule until a fraction of the population gets their feelings hurt.

What exactly is so threatening about Christians, at Christmastime, celebrating a national holiday which was proclaimed by Congress back in 1870? This is the part where the Anti-Christmas Brigade will jump up and recite from its holiest of holy scriptures: Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which he wrote of “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The funny thing about that wall is: it appears to only be impervious to Christians.

Earlier this year, President Obama smashed through that wall when he, too, invoked the name of Thomas Jefferson — not to oppose, but to defend the expression of religion in the biggest town square in America: New York City and the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” He said “Thomas Jefferson wrote that ‘all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion’” and he upheld “the principle that people of all faiths…will not be treated differently by their government.”

But people of different faiths are treated differently by their government.

Just a few miles down I-95 from the Ground Zero Mosque, the government of Philadelphia banned (and then unbanned) “Christmas Village.” In Portland, the “Christmas Tree Bomber” had to settle for trying to bomb a “holiday tree,” because the government of Portland already got to the infidels before him and changed “Christmas tree” to “holiday tree.” And, lest you think that this targeting of Christianity is limited to Christmastime, recall the case of 12 Christian students in Washington State who were suspended for praying at school. By contrast, USA Today reports that “some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions.”

Figures…

-nick

We Won, Now Let’s Find Some Perspective

Today is a great day for Conservatives.  There is a weariness in our souls that has somewhat dissipated.  But something has been troubling me for some time now, and I think that it is important that we all take a minute to find some perspective.

I’ve repeatedly heard from television talking heads, my radio, and politicians that now the work will begin to reduce spending, provide tax breaks, repeal Obamacare, push nuclear energy, so on and so forth.  But folks, that’s just not going to happen.  I’d be willing to bet that none of that happens.

This election was not about actively reversing trends.  We just don’t have the power to do that.  Our side will not be able to push an agenda, and even if our side could do that, the likelihood of President Obama signing anything Conservatives sent to him is slim to none.  In military strategy you have the “rollback” and you have “containment”.  The rollback is the complete annihilation of the enemy.  And containment of course is a strategic blockade.

What this election was truly about was creating a two year containment or a blockade.  We all saw very clearly how much damage could be done in two years with a Progressive president and a Congress full of his sheep.  The results of this election simply keep President Obama in check, when he was clearly not in check the last two years.  2012 should be Conservatives goal for really seeing a reversal of trends.

Perspective is an important thing, and it will be increasingly important as we edge closer to 2012.  Why?  Mainly because Conservatives have made a stand, the Tea Party has made a stand, and that passion, involvement and trend needs to continue into the 2012 presidential election.  If we lose perspective though, and talking heads and politicians begin waxing poetic about how they are about to roll all of Obama’s policies back over the next two years, then the reality is that Conservatives could be in the same pot of boiling water in two years time that Liberals and Progressives are currently sitting in.

Now is not the time for politicians to be making promises that Congressional Conservatives do not have the power to act on, and talking heads and radio show hosts should be reminding viewers and listeners of this fact.  We would simply be setting ourselves up for failure.  Under-promising and over-delivering should be the slogan of every Conservative in office right now.  For the last two years we have been playing a football game without a defense or an offense.  We just got our defense in play to keep Obama from out right scoring.  But the reality is that we won’t have an opportunity to get an offense into the game until 2012.  If we all keep that in mind over the next short 24 months, and keep our passions and involvement high, then we can take back the Senate and potentially the presidency and start the Republican Rollback of the Progressive movement.

Interview With Richard Ron, Senior Fellow at CATO

Thanks to Allie Winegar Duzett for the video.

Interview With Herman Cain on Minorities & the Conservative Movement

Thanks to Allie Winegar Duzett for the video.

Obama Might Be Targeting Americans… and I’m OK With That

I am trying to work some things out in my mind, and I was hoping that I might solicit the help of a few of our thelobbyist comrades-in-arms (probably a poor idiom considering the topic at hand). Am I to assume, that police departments are not allowed (according to some) to ask for documentation pertaining to a person’s legal status in these United States; but it is imperative that our troops and commanders check the citizenship of people overseas in war-torn sections of the world before we take out a target?

The specific case I am talking about has to do with an American born- Anwar al-Awlaki. “Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen, born in New Mexico, and now residing in Yemen, where he repeatedly issues exhortations to murder his fellow Americans,” as reported by the Washington Independent. The Obama Administration has secret intelligence, as well as overt intelligence, tying the American to Al Qaeda operating in Yemen; he ministered to the 9/11 hijackers, was the possible inspiration for the Ft. Hood shooter, and purportedly had ties to the would-be Christmas bomber. Because of this, he has been placed on a counter-terrorism ‘hit-list.’ It is important to note, that the CIA reported that he was not placed on that list until they received intelligence that would lead them to believe that the operation al-Awlaki has been working on recently has gone from the planning stages to the operational stage.

Civil libertarians are upset over the fact that the Executive would use its power to summarily strip away an American’s citizenship and have that person, what they call, assassinated. I want to clear up, however, because killing someone who happens to be an American is not “assassination.” Every surreptitious murder of a fellow American would be assassination. It is the murder of a prominent political figure-head, generally for political purposes. Strategically killing someone who is fighting for the other side is not assassination, or does every time a Taliban or Al Qaeda soldier get killed without knowing whom killed him/her considered assassination? I think the fact that people are saying “Obama is assassinating Americans” only works to hype up the readership of periodicals (like they ever do that).

I understand the plight of the civil libertarians, I understand that they think that this action is a gross misuse of government power and that Americans cannot have their liberties stripped away.  Let us clear the record: yes, the government can take away your citizenship. There is a set of guidelines that shows what it takes for someone to loose their citizenship. Title 8, § 1481 details all of the reasons why someone might have their citizenship revoked:


A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality—

People against the policy of killing American citizens during a time of war while those citizens are operating against the United States point to the ending clause of Subsection 8:

(8) committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of title 18, or willfully performing any act in violation of section 2385 of title 18, or violating section 2384 of title 18 by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction.

However, this final statement pertains to subsection 8 alone, because the previous seven subsections discuss other reasons why the government might revoke someone’s citizenship. Some talk about if the citizen goes to a consulate office and writes a formal letter, only then can their citizenship be officially withdrawn. Considering we are talking about people who are willing to use airplanes with civilians as missiles, and place plastic explosives in their shoes to kill Americans; I just can’t say that it is reasonable for people to expect terrorists (home-grown or not) to act reasonably. Besides, a person’s citizenship can be revoked the minute they join the ranks of a foreign army or try to usurp the United States government.

When the police are in a stand off with a suspect, an American citizen or not, they are forced to abide by the rule of law and their own standard operating procedures. In times of imminent peril and danger, either to themselves or to the hostages, they use sharp shooters to take out the suspect. No Mirandizing, no obtaining a warrant to search his persons, no trial and jury of his/her peers, the executive has the prerogative to take matters into their own hands in particular situations. I think that a war might be one of those situations. This is not the first time this question has been brought up, as Andy McCarthy writes:

The president is the commander-in-chief with primacy on questions regarding the conduct of war. Even if we were to accept for argument’s sake that at issue is a legal rather than a political judgment, Supreme Court precedent (the World War II era Quirin case and the 2004 Hamdi decision) hold that American citizens who fight for the enemy in wartime may be treated as enemy combatants, just like aliens.

The problem is that we have people who are trying to legislate war. Ironic. War is chaos, it is hell, it is the state of nature according to Hobbes. But then again, it is not the state of nature, because it isn’t all against all, it’s us against them: it’s political. Part of political justice is ensuring the safety of your own before that of those who are trying to harm you, and if it is someone who was once a part of the ‘us’ crowd, it is necessary and proper for the government to take the necessary steps to keep that person from harming the whole. We can try to contain the ravages of war with laws, but there are limits to doing this, as there are limits to everything else in life. But if we tie the hands of the president during a time of war, we tie the hands of the country and ultimately make it more possible for Americans here and abroad to perish. I support what the President is doing in this case, I think that going and throwing Hellfire missiles at every target does us no good; we loose actionable intelligence and sometimes cause collateral damage. But taking out someone that could be critical in the carrying out of terrorist operations is the duty of the President and myriad organizations that have been established to keep this country safe. When they are doing that, I will gladly thank them.

I just hope people keep this in mind when the DoJ and Attorney General Holder talk about “going after” the Bush Administration for their “detaining” and “enhanced interrogation” memos. The pro-National Security Bush crowd seems to be the only crowd (aside from the civil libertarians against both Administrations) that has a consistent policy. The real problem lies in the Obama Administration’s hypocrisy.

-rj

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