spending cuts

Putting “politics” aside is capitulation

With the August 2 deadline fast approaching, many people are getting more than a little anxious for some kind of deal on the debt ceiling.  One of those is syndicated columnist Donna Brazile.  In her column, she calls on Congress to “drop politics”.  Unfortunately, like most any other person who calls for folks to drop politics, her motivations are political.

You see, any time anyone calls on the opposition group to drop politics, it’s really a call for that other side to shut up and do what the person wants.  It’s no different than calls for bipartisanship.  It doesn’t matter on political affiliation either, because both major parties do it pretty regularly.

However, if Brazile was serious about helping the nation, I would argue, then she would also beg for deep, deep spending cuts that exceed John Bohner and Harry Reid’s plans.  She would be calling for a serious rollback on intrusive government and job hampering regulations that would, ultimately, lead to increased revenue for the federal government.  She would call for a lot of things, but she isn’t.

Like so many others out there, Brazile is just wanting Republicans to shut up and do what she thinks they should be doing.  Is she necessarily wrong?  Well, that’s a topic for debate all on its own.  I honestly don’t want to get into that one right now.  But right or wrong doesn’t really matter, not for the purposes of this post as it applies to the debt ceiling.

The Imperial Presidency, Round #43917

So Senator Mitch McConnell has released a “solution” to the debt ceiling crisis. Jason has already jumped on this topic, but I feel the need to add my own two cents. For me, the crucial portion of this non-solution is that it gives additional power to the White House, and perpetuates a seeming tradition of Congress abdicating responsibility that we’ve seen over the past decade.

The entire deal punts the debt and spending over to the President. Essentially, he decides to raise the debt limit. While Congress can pass a “bill of disapproval” with a two-thirds majority, the President can simply veto, which would then require a 2/3 vote to override. The plan would also require the President to make spending cuts roughly equal to the increase in the debt limit (as I understand it.) Yet there is no enforcement mechanism that I can see to ensure he does so. What would Congress do if he raised the debt limit with no corresponding cut in spending? Stamp their feet? It might be all they can do.

Haven’t we seen enough power consolidated in the Oval Office yet?

I mean, the President can assassinate people with a drone without so much as a whoopsie-daisy; have anyone imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism and interrogated; can have a lovely jaunt off to war and only send Congress a politely-worded letter; formulate budgets and tax policy while merely requesting Congressional approval; through executive agencies and department make and enforce law without a vote; and now we’re going to give him the power to unilaterally raise the debt limit with requirements that are so wishy-washy they make Natty Light look good?

Some thoughts on the looming government shutdown

It looks like we’re only 10 to 12 hours away from a shut down of the federal government. Neither side has come to an agreement on what the final budget bill would look like, though it looks like another Continuing Resolution – a measure that would carry over spending from the previous year for a specified amount of time – will be taken up in the Senate. It passed the House yesterday with some Democratic members support it (Georgia Dems John Barrow and Sanford Bishop were among the affirmative votes).

Here are some thoughts and observations on the possible shutdown:

- If Republicans make this about social issues, as it is being suggested they are, they will take a hit. Republicans are right to object to taxpayer funding of abortion. However, social issues are not on the mind of the electorate. This angle, as principled as it may be, is a political loser. The focus should be on how Democrats and President Barack Obama cannot find any program worth cutting at a time when we are running a $1.6 trillion deficit.

- Republicans holding out for $31 billion in spending cuts is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. As my good friend Doug Mataconis said today, wasting political capital on a short-term budget solution is pretty dumb. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) just presented an ambitious, though intriguing, budget plan that is going to take an enormous amount of political will and capital to push through, even if there are compromises along the way. Not to mention that the current budget fix only takes us through the end of the current fiscal year. The 2012 budget battle is next up and the ground work is just being laid into place.

Ryan Plan? Ho-hum!

So Paul Ryan announced his plan to balance the budget, cut trillions from proposed spending, and put America on a path to paying off the deficit.  Republicans around the country are hailing it as the second coming of Ronald Reagan, and Democrats continue to call any reasonable idea extreme.

Me?  I am not at all excited.

Let me explain.  Paul Ryan’s proposal continues to run a deficit for the next 26 years.  That means that even if the plan was adopted as is, and we know it won’t be, the best we can possibly hope for is a deficit that continues to swell for 26 more years before the first dollar is paid off.

Add to this that his projections also rely on unemployment reaching 3%, and you can quickly see that the the whole thing is just not that realistic.

I am glad that Representative Ryan has taken some leadership where there has been none, and I do not want to beat up on the guy, but this plan just isn’t enough.  It is time to get real.  And it is time to make some really tough choices.

We shouldn’t be looking at 26 years of additional deficits as the best we can do.

Today in Liberty: Obama secretly argued against your Constitutional rights; Republicans will decide Cochran vs. McDaniel today

“Political success over time is determined by the number and effectiveness of activists on either side.” — Morton Blackwell, founder and president of the Leadership Institute

— You have no constitutional rights: Because they can be revoked by the federal government whenever we’re at war. At least that’s what the Obama administration argued in the July 2010 legal memo it used to justify the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. “We do not believe that [al-Awlaki’s] U.S. citizenship imposes constitutional limitations that would preclude the contemplated lethal action under the facts represented to us by DoD, the CIA and the Intelligence Community,” the memo says (begins on p. 67). “Based upon the facts represented to us, moreover, the target of the contemplated operation has engaged in conduct as part of that organization that brings him within the scope of the AUMF.” More here. Two things about the memo. Once we begin sacrificing constitutional protections, for whatever reason, we begin going down a very dangerous road. But let’s remember that this isn’t the first step down that road, just the most recent. The other point is that David Barron, the author of this memo, was recently confirmed by Senate Democrats to serve on the First District Court of Appeals.

Ryan’s budget increases spending by $1.2 trillion

There are certainly some things to like about the budget proposal rolled out yesterday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The “Path to Prosperity” attempts to return Medicare to solvency, for example, and repeal Obamacare.

Ryan claims that the budget “cuts $5.1 trillion in government spending,” a line that has been repeated in media reports on the proposal. But this is a budgetary trick. The House Budget Committee may slash projected federal outlays, but Nicole Kaeding of the Cato Institute explains that the proposal would actually increase spending by $1.2 trillion:

How can spending both be “slashed” and increased by $1.5 trillion? It’s because of the bizarre way that Washington discusses spending, which is known as baseline budgeting.
[…]
In Washington, all spending proposals are compared to the CBO’s baseline projections. The CBO releases these projections a couple times a year, which are based on their estimates of current federal law. Every proposal is then compared to this baseline. Inside-Washington discussions of spending cuts or increases are relative to CBO’s figures.

But this is a very different way of thinking about budgeting than used by families, who don’t assume that their income will go up automatically every year. Families prioritize, and they cut back when they need to make the books balance. Sadly, few proposals in Congress make tough trade-offs and cut actual levels of spending.

Defense Cuts in the Time of Crimea

The situation in Ukraine has come at a very inconvenient time for the Obama administration given their desire, announced at the end of February, to “shrink [the] Army to pre-WWII level.” The optics, as they say, are bad.

According to the paper of record at the time of the announcement:

The cuts proposed by Mr. Hagel fit the Bipartisan Budget Act reached by Mr. Obama and Congress in December to impose a military spending cap of about $496 billion for fiscal year 2015. If steeper spending reductions kick in again in 2016 under the sequestration law, however, then even more significant cuts would be required in later years.

The budget is the first sweeping initiative that bears Mr. Hagel’s full imprint. Although Mr. Hagel has been in office one year, most of his efforts in that time have focused on initiatives and problems that he inherited. In many ways his budget provides an opportunity for him to begin anew.

So, okay, that’s good. This administration isn’t known for paying attention to things like budgets. Nice to see them decide to meet one of the parameters of a bipartisan effort to get things under control. And, truthfully, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out last year in pushing back against the National Defense Authorization Act, defense spending could use some oversight and tightening up:

No, the United States isn’t in an “era of austerity”

President Barack Obama has frequently complained that the United States is in an “age of austerity,” decrying modest cuts to the rate of spending increases he once supported. This, despite the fact that taxpayers have seen the national debt grow by nearly $6.8 trillion since the beginning of his presidency.

The idea that we’re living in some “age of austerity” is just mindboggling, as A. Barton Hinkle sarcastically explained in his latest column:

The end of austerity cannot come soon enough, as far as your humble correspondent is concerned. And a quick look at the historical budget tables shows why: In 2008, the federal government spent just a hair under $3 trillion. After six years of President Slash-and-Burn, spending has shrunk to almost $4 trillion. If we keep cutting like this, it will be down to $5 trillion before you know it.

These savage reductions have taken place in nearly every major federal program. Take defense spending: The year before Obama took office, it stood at $594 billion. It’s now $597 billion. Back in 2001 it was almost $300 billion. Even if you adjust for inflation, it’s clear that defense spending has shrunk at an alarming rate.

Same deal for food stamps: Under President Barack Obama, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has gone from $40 billion to $78 billion, in constant dollars. And that’s after it went from $20 billion to $40 billion under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Spending cuts like that are simply barbaric.

Georgia Republican highlights independence in Senate bid

Art Gardner

There is little room for mistakes for either party in the fight for control of the United States Senate. Vulnerable Democrats are struggling to survive with President Obama and the botched health law rollout hanging over their heads.

Though most Republican-held seats up this year are considered safe, recent polls out of the Peach State suggest that the GOP may have to invest to maintain control of the seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) to keep it out of the hands of Michelle Nunn, the likely Democratic nominee.

There are eight candidates running for the Republican nomination. Some of the names are well-known to Georgia politicos, including three sitting U.S. Congressman — Jack Kingston, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey — and former Secretary of State Karen Handel. But there are some candidates who haven’t received a lot of attention from the media.

United Liberty recent chatted with Art Gardner, one of the lesser-known Republican candidates running for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, about his campaign and the issues that divide Washington and the Republican Party.

Gardner isn’t an ordinary Republican candidate, especially for Georgia. Though he believes in fiscally conservative principles and opposes Obamacare, Gardner sets himself apart from others in the race with his positions on contentious issues like gay marriage and immigration, comparing his beliefs to Barry Goldwater.

No, Congress isn’t cutting military benefits

Given all the insane things that our government has done over the past few years, it’s easy to fall into the habit of believing everything you read. DEA working with drug cartels? Check. Federally funded penis pumps? But of course. Congress cuts military benefits to reach a budget deal? You be…wait. Not so fast.

At the end of December, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray reached a rare bipartisan compromise on a budget agreement to end the short and contentious series of continuing resolutions that have funded the government since 2010. Once the details of the plan were revealed, it was immediately denounced, explicitly in conservative publications, and implicitly in mainstream ones, for draconian “cuts” to military benefits:


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.