Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The College of Hypocritical Big Government Cardinals

There is an old adage in Washington that describes the political system as consisting of three political parties; Democrats, Republicans, and Appropriators.  The Appropriations Subcommittee chairmen, often referred to as the “College of Cardinals,” usually agree to concoct legislation that fuses the worst elements of the evil and stupid parties, resulting in something worse than a pure Democrat proposal.

This is exactly what transpired with the so-called minibus bill.  The Republican-controlled House passed an agriculture appropriations bill that breached the spending caps of their own budget, but nonetheless remained within the confines of the spending levels established under the Budget Control Act.  The Senate, after failing to pass a budget for over 900 days, tacked on two other appropriations bills that funded four other departments, and sent them straight to conference committee without the House ever voting on two-thirds of the bill.  They added in more food stamps spending, $2.3 billion in non-offset disaster spending, and gutted all Republican policy riders.  Then the bipartisan College of Cardinals went to conference committee for a compromise.  This “compromise” contained even more spending on WIC and international food aid, and added  a provision, which was inserted into the conference report, to expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The conference report passed the House, but not after 101 Republicans opposed it, forcing leadership to coddle together a majority with 165 Democrats.  Now, the venerable Cardinals are really embarrassed and are asking Boehner to reaffirm his commitment to get the collective rumps of his caucus in line.  In an article titled, “Cardinals to Boehner: Crack whip,” The Hill reports on the tantrums from anonymous Republican appropriators.

Here are some of the greatest hits:

Don’t Fall Into Democrats’ Payroll Tax Trap

As the original 2% payroll tax cut for employees is set to expire next month, Democrats are proposing an even bigger cut.  Earlier this week, they introduced legislation (S.1917) to cut the payroll tax to 3.1 percent for employees, and for employers on the first $5 million of their payroll.  The bill would also eliminate the payroll tax paid by employers for the last quarter of 2011 and all of 2012 on the first $50 million of a company’s increased annual wage costs.  In order to pay for it, they are proposing a “surtax on millionaires,” which applies a 3.25 percent tax on modified adjusted gross income over $1 million, or $500,000 for a married individual filing separately.

Even though this cut will discard 38% of the annual revenue for Social Security, Democrats are accusing opponents of supporting a tax increase on “working families.”  For their part, most Republicans have only voiced opposition to the tax hikes, but shied away from assailing the very premise of a temporary payroll tax cut extension.  In fact, Senator McConnell told reporters yesterday, “In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year, but we believe it should be paid for.”  He has yet to divulge how they would pay for it.  Kudos to Senator Jon Kyl for uprooting the entire premise behind Democrats’ rationale by noting that this cut has not been pro-growth and it has only further endangered the future of Social Security.

Republicans must show how it is the Democrats who are treating Social Security like a Ponzi scheme by indiscriminately marauding it, while paying out the shortfall with deficit spending, in addition to tax hikes.  Payroll taxes supposedly singlehandedly fund Social Security, yet Obama and the Democrats plan to cut 38% of its revenue source with this bill, even though SS already faces a $50 billion shortfall.

Republicans should force Democrats to answer the following questions:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Tragic Results of No Free-Market in Healthcare

What has 40 years of no free-market in healthcare wrought on the American consumer?  John Goodman, a healthcare expert at National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), posted this shocking graph:

As long as health insurance is treated as a primary payment instead of traditional insurance, the premiums will reflect this reality.

End All Green Corporate Handouts in 'Tax Extenders' Bill

Here's our opportunity to end corporate cronyism, eco-socialism, and market distortions in the energy sector

It's that time of year again.  The clock is ticking toward December 31, and green energy special interests are discreetly lobbying for the extension of their choice handouts, credits, and grants.  We must remain vigilant against these powerful interests.

At the end of every calendar year, Congress passes a 'tax extenders' bill to temporarily reauthorize specific tax breaks that have not been permanently written into law.  These bills have traditionally dealt with issues like the AMT patch, the R&D business credits, and universal deductions for depreciation, as well as state and local taxes.

In recent years, tax extenders have been magnets for non-universal carve-outs for green energy.  The 2010 tax extenders bill also included extension of the Bush tax cuts, the annual Medicare 'doc fix,' a payroll tax cut, and an unprecedented extension of unemployment benefits.  Most of these provisions are set to expire next month, and will consume the lion's share of the debate and media coverage.  This will give the green industry the opportunity to surreptitiously slip in their handouts as part of a grand bargain revolving around the bigger issues and legitimate, universal tax deductions.  They must be stopped.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fact Check: Ron Paul is Wrong About Defense Spending

Sequestration imposes real cuts on the military, not just baseline cuts 

During last week’s foreign policy debate, Ron Paul won accolades from the crowd when he professed that there are no real pending cuts to the military, just reductions in baseline spending.  Here is the full quote:
“Believe me. They’re cutting — they’re nibbling away at baseline budgeting, and its automatic increases. There’s nothing cut against the military. And the people on the Hill are nearly hysterical because they’re not going — the budget isn’t going up as rapidly as they want it to. It’s a road to disaster. We had better wake up.”

This statement is absolutely false.  Sequestration will indeed reduce military spending from ‘actual dollar amounts’ of FY 2011 spending levels over the next seven years.

In order to understand defense appropriations, we need to distinguish between the two categories of spending; base budget (ships, planes, weapons, troops) and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).  Using CBO’s numbers, roughly $703 billion (the DOD Comptroller’s office puts that number at $688 billion) was spent on total defense spending, with $552 billion allocated for base budget (true national defense) and the rest going toward the wars (OCO).  When preparing a 10-year budget for defense spending, OCO appropriations are hard to predict because our war spending vacillates with our foreign policy decisions.  Only the base budget figures are truly fixed into the budget, just like most domestic non-security expenditures.  Consequently, whenever we mention the estimated $1 trillion in defense cuts, remember that they are exclusively incurred by the base budget, aka the military, not the war budget.

So what will the ten-year budget projection of our base defense budget look like after sequestration?  Here are the results from the latest CBO report (CBO Testimony, October 26, pages 18-19):

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this day of giving, you might want to ponder how much the government is taking from you.  Here is a synopsis from Americans for Tax Reform of extraneous Thanksgiving costs "thanks" to government:
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, this year’s Thanksgiving meal for ten increased in cost by $5.73 to a total of $49.20—mostly due to rising food prices. Despite the most significant increase in food costs since 1990, government taxation still gobbles up $13.68 of your meal preparations.

Unfortunately this measure still does not account for beer and wine consumption. Between football games and meals, nearly 53 million cases of beer are consumed. Government collects $219 million in taxes—44.33 percent of the cost of each case. Thanksgiving attendees will also find it hard to be grateful for the 32.77 percent increase in the cost of each bottle of wine thanks to government.

Whether you fly or drive to be with your loved ones this Thanksgiving season, government heavily taxes your preferred mode of transportation. Of the 94 percent of travelers driving their cars, government will raise an estimated $1.1 billion in tax revenue—45.33 percent of the gasoline price tag. Similarly, government also increases the cost of the average $376 Thanksgiving flight, making up 43.57 of each ticket’s price.

Happy Thanksgiving to our entire conservative community.  May we continue to be thankful for this blessed Republic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Non-Existent Spending Cuts…Except for Defense

Yesterday, we observed the unique spectacle of a socialist president threatening to veto any bill that reinstates higher levels of spending.  Did Obama just experience an epiphany?

No.  We are merely talking about cuts in defense spending.  Those are the good kind of cuts.

Throughout the entire supercommittee imbroglio, whenever Democrats or members of the media referred to spending cuts – to the extent that they exist – they were referring to baseline cuts.  In other words, the cuts in discretionary spending will still enable the spending levels to rise each subsequent year, albeit at a slower pace.  Welfare and entitlement spending is exempt from all cuts, even baseline reductions.  Defense, on the other hand, will actually incur real reductions in 'actual dollar' spending in subsequent years.
House Armed Services Committee Republican Staff

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Anatomy of a Compromise From Hell

I just recovered from my weekend hangover celebrating our reward for raising the debt ceiling in August.  All good things are worth waiting for, and after three and a half months, we got our vote on a balanced budget amendment!  And you know what?  It was summarily defeated, even before it came to the Senate.  Oh, and 25 of the most vulnerable Democrats now have austerity-proof records to shield them next November.


We who opposed the debt ceiling deal and the budget bills this year have been censured as intransigent rubes incapable of compromise.  While the mantra about the need for compromise is in itself quite dubious, let’s discuss the virtues of a true compromise.

As the year comes to a close, it is important to reflect upon the results of the multiple “compromise” deals.  Even purists like us support the idea of a real compromise, just not a capitulation.  A real compromise is one in which our side would gain substantive results, albeit not everything that was desired.  Moreover, the degree to which a compromise is considered a success is largely determined by the magnitude of leverage that we have going into the debate.  In the realm of politics, that leverage is most profoundly affected by public opinion and electoral reprisal.  By that measure, we should have accrued a year of supreme success.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The 4th Circuit Appeals Court Becomes Casualty of Obama Presidency

While everyone is focused on Obama promulgating socialism through the executive and legislative branches of government, we often overlook the third branch; the judiciary.  Since Reagan, we have been making substantial progress in rolling back the liberal stranglehold on the courts.  In recent years, the 4th circuit has been a bastion for conservative originalist jurisprudence.  But in case you haven't noticed, a panel of that circuit actually agreed to uphold Obamacare's individual mandate.  It's no coincidence; Obama has packed the court with like-minded radicals.

The Baltimore Sun has an interesting report on the shift in the ideological bent of the 4th circuit, which covers the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern states:

When Obama took office, the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., had 11 sitting judges — six Republican appointees and five Democratic picks — and four vacancies.

The spots were left open because the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate of 2007 and 2008 refused to approve President George W. Bush's 4th Circuit appointments, including Rod J. Rosenstein, who had been named Maryland's U.S. attorney a few years earlier based on a Bush recommendation.

The inaction on judicial nominations paved the way for Obama to make an impact with his choices, which have focused on diversifying federal courts based on race, gender and sexual orientation. Since he took office, two more vacancies opened on the 4th Circuit, allowing him to nominate six people in total. Five have been approved: a woman, two black men, a Latino, and a white man.

That makes the split on the court nine Democratic appointments to five Republican. Another Obama pick, Stephanie Thacker, was nominated this year and is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

The new makeup could have an effect on national policy, given the kinds of cases handled by this court, legal analysts said.

Once again, we are paying for the tepid leadership of the Republican Senate during the middle of the decade.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mainstream Americans Oppose Citizenship for Children of Illegals

For years, conservatives have been impugned for opposing so-called Birthright Citizenship, the practice of granting automatic citizenship to children born to illegal alien parents.  Most of us with commonsense intuition just could not fathom how someone could run across the border, overstay their visa, or exploit "birth tourism" - and proceed to reap the benefits of citizenship for their children. 

We have always asserted that just a convoluted interpretation of the 14th amendment only serves to attenuate the value of American citizenship.  After all, the 14th amendment was meant to guarantee citizenship for blacks who lived in this country for centuries; not for those who break our laws as their first act on American soil.

Now, the latest Rasmussen poll confirms that this is indeed mainstream thought in America:

Voters oppose more strongly than ever granting automatic U.S. citizenship to a child born to an illegal immigrant in this country.
Now, nearly two-out-of-three Likely U.S. Voters (65%) say if a woman enters the United States as an illegal alien and gives birth to a child here, that child should not automatically become a U.S. citizen. 

Only those who live in the New York-Washington ivory tower could possibly view American citizenship any other way.  Unfortunately, they control the media, and as such, will ensure that the immigration polling data is not reported, even though these are the people who live and die by polls.

Republicans Throw Their ‘Pledge To America’ Under the OmniBus

This afternoon, the House passed Harry Reid’s first minibus appropriations bill (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Transportation-HUD), which contains record levels of spending for Food Stamps, WIC, and international food aid.  It also contains $2.3 billion for disaster spending, which is excluded from the budget caps.  Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers promised today on the House floor that spending will not exceed the $1.043 trillion spending cap.  Well, the extra $2.3 billion in disaster spending allowed him to do just that.  Moreover, if they continue to adopt the higher spending levels of the Democrats, the only way to stay below the cap will be to cut defense appropriations.  Worse, this bill has a provision, which was inserted into the conference report, to expand the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Last year, as part of their ‘Pledge To America,‘ Republicans promised to downsize Freddie/Fannie.  They also promised to end the practice of minibus bills.  Today, they violated both pledges.  Yes, we know that mantra; it’s a minibus bill; not an omnibus.  But the reality is that House Republicans never had an opportunity to vote and amend two-thirds of the bill.

Fortunately, more and more members are hearing the voice of the grassroots.  Even though the ‘don’t call it an Omnibus’ bill passed 298-121, it was opposed by 101 Republicans, and only passed with the help of Democrats.  In the Senate, Jim DeMint and David Vitter have already blocked Harry Reid from passing a second minibus bill.  So what is the response of the political appropriations establishment?
This, from CQ:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The $15 Trillion Super Circus

It's not about revenue or lack of compromise; it's about knee-jerk capitulation on spending

The day has arrived.  Our total debt has surpassed $15 trillion.  At the close of business on Wednesday, the debt stood at $15.033 trillion, and is on the cusp of overtaking our GDP.  Overall, the federal debt has risen $4.41 trillion (41.5%) since Obama took office and $6.36 trillion (73%) since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007.  Our GDP has grown by only $1.3 trillion during Obama’s presidency.  Pick your adjective of choice to describe this calamity: unparalleled, unprecedented, uncharted.  No word can begin to describe the destruction that Obama has wrought on our republic.

Over the next few days, you will read many factoids and statistics about the federal debt, but here is one acerbic point you may miss.  Ninety-one percent of Obama’s $4.41 trillion legacy of debt comes from the debt held by the public.

You see, the national debt consists of two components; debt held by the public and intra-government debt.  The debt held by the public is the sum of the treasury securities held by those outside the federal government, with the lion’s share owned by foreign countries.  The debt held by the public currently stands at $10.31 trillion.  The other component, the intra-governmental share, is owed to other federal agencies and accounts, most prominently, the non-existent Social Security Trust Fund, as well as accounts holding pensions for military veterans and government workers.  That share of the debt currently stands at $4.71 trillion.  Overall, Obama has increased the public share of the debt by $4 trillion (63%), more than Bush ever ‘accomplished’ in his entire eight year presidency.

It is through this dour prism that we must view just how vacuous is the current debate over the budget.  The prevailing narrative is that the entire supercommittee enmeshment is the result of the inter-party (and intra-party) debate over tax hikes.  The glaring reality is this: IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Supercommittee of Super Insanity

As the tumultuous year of 2011 winds down, Congress will be facing a number of crucial budget deadlines.  Aside for the supercommittee deadline to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction (over ten years), they must contend with the December 31 expiration of three provisions of the 2010 tax extenders deal; payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and ethanol subsidies.  Now the Washington Post is reporting that the supercomittee might attempt to extend unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts as part of the final deal.  The rubber is meeting the road, and conservatives need to mobilize rapidly.

By my count, the supercommittee's final report gives us five issues to deal with; oppose the three extensions, fight tax hikes, and push for real spending cuts (cuts that will make 2013 spending levels below 2012 levels).  Over the past year, the GOP has caved on virtually every budget battle.  They are now slated to pass every one of Harry Reid's appropriations bills – bills that allocate more funds for programs than requested by Obama; that jettison all Republican policy provisions; that expand the role of Freddie/Fannie.  Is there a single issue where GOP leaders will hold the line and coalesce around a coherent conservative policy?

Thanks to the inane and insane debt ceiling deal, which many other conservative outlets supported wholeheartedly, we are confronted with a double-edged sword.  We must either accept tax increases and nebulous spending cuts as part of the supercommittee report, or we face sequestration – a process that will kill the military and cut funding to healthcare providers, as well as the border patrol.  And guess which programs are exempt from the automatic cuts?  Yup – Social Security, Medicaid, S-Chip, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), public housing, Food Stamps, SSI, Child Nutrition, refundable tax credits, Pell Grants, and federal employees' retirement.  Those programs easily amount to over $1.4 trillion, and when coupled (as it should be) with the inviolable veterans’ programs (roughly $140 billion), we have about 55% of the non-defense budget (roughly $2.85 trillion) off limits.

Now Boehner is offering to compound the problem by passing an extension of the payroll tax cut and 151 weeks of unpaid unemployment compensation.  How do they plan to pay for that?  With $700 billion in phony war savings, of course.

CBO Director Admits Stimulus Will Shrink Economy

Another Keynesian beast has been slain

We could have done a lot of good things with the $830 billion that was flushed down the toilet through the 2009 stimulus.  That money could have been used to permanently transform our entitlement programs to free-market personal ownership accounts.  It could have been used for massive pro-growth tax cuts.  Instead, it was used to grow perennial dependency and for special interest handouts.  But all of the supercilious smart economists say that it helps stimulate the economy, right?  After all, it is called stimulus.

Well, earlier today, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf admitted to Senator Sessions that in the long run the stimulus will shrink the economy.  He testified at a  Senate Budget Committee hearing that the stimulus will indeed “be a drag on GDP” over the next ten years.  Any diligent student of history already knew that, but now we have the “gold standard” of budget and economic scoring to affirm that self-evident truth.  Nevertheless, fear not, the stimulus will have a stimulating effect in the short-term.  That’s why we are enjoying a robust annual average GDP growth of…..1.4%.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senator Coburn: The Agony of a Pragmatic Conservative Amidst Inflexible Liberals

Senator Tom Coburn released a report, Subsidies of the Rich and Famous, detailing a list of subsidies, transfers, and “tax breaks,” that are paid to individuals with Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of over $1 million.  The report found that millionaires have received at least $9.5 billion in “government payments” since 2003 and $113.7 billion in “tax breaks” since 2006.  Accordingly, Coburn concludes that many of these tax deductions should be eliminated, while benefits for the rich should be means-tested or reduced.

As our debt approaches $15 trillion, Coburn’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place; however, many of his proposals are misguided.  While some of the deductions enumerated in this report should be eliminated immediately, most of the savings will come from revoking universal tax deductions from those who already have the highest tax burden.  Additionally, while some of the subsidies, such as the farm and green handouts, should be abolished, most of Coburn’s savings on government benefits would come from reducing Social Security payments to the rich.  Social Security payments, unlike welfare and other subsidy programs, represent real money that was paid into the system through payroll taxes.  Any effort to deny those payments from the rich would engender further redistribution of a program that was not conceived for redistribution.  Also, it would ostensibly be a 12.4% tax increase on those high-income earners, as they would pay the tax without receiving the retirement checks.

Let’s drill through the numbers of the report.  Here is a list of government payments that Senator Coburn has identified as subsidies for the rich:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Obama's Eco-Fascism Will Eliminate 2.6 Million Jobs

While Obama is wrought to fib about the number of jobs he "saved," he fails to disclose the number of jobs lost as a result of his inane environmental policies.  Fortunately, some are keeping score.  Doug Ross has a terrific blog post detailing Obama's jobs record by the numbers.  Here is the tally of jobs lost, or slated to be eliminated, as a result of radical environmentalism:

DescriptionJobs DestroyedSource
Delaying the Keystone XL Pipeline until after the 2012 election20,000LA Times
Forcing lignite coal plants in Texas to close (EPA)14,000Heritage
Gulf Drilling Moratorium (Interior)72,000LA Times
EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule1,440,000Daily Caller
EPA's determination that coal ash is a "hazardous waste"250,000Western Caucus
EPA's shutdown of AEP plants5,000CAPPS Online
EPA's commercial and industrial boiler regulations800,000Clatskanie Chief
Interior Department's protection of lizards and smelt fish75,000Human Events
Jobs killed by the Obama environmental machine2,676,000

The IRS as Tax Preparers?

When conservatives and liberals advocate tax reform they are referring to radically divergent concepts.  Conservatives desire a low, flat, and universal tax code, while liberals desire reform that would result in increased revenues.  The obvious way to achieve that goal is to impose radical redistributive tax increases, such as the ones Obama has recently proposed.  However, there is a more subtle way that is beginning to percolate into the liberal mainstream.  Liberals envision a future in which the IRS would automatically pre-file your tax returns for free, sending you the bill.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper introduced "The Simple Return Act," a bill that, according to Cooper's assessment, would "get the IRS to do your taxes for you" using "the financial information it already receives from each taxpayer’s employer and financial institution: W-2 and 1099."  Cooper asserts that roughly 40 million Americans file tax returns that are simple enough for the IRS to pre-file.  This idea was originally floated by Obama’s former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee.  In a 2006 op-ed for the New York Times, Goolsbee cited Denmark and Sweden as success stories for government-run tax preparation.

Although this bill has failed to garner any co-sponsors, there is some concern that Max Baucus, a member of the super committee, will try to push the simple tax return as part of a 'benign' means of raising revenue.  In the past, he has been a vocal advocate for finding innovative ways to close what he refers to as "the $345 billion annual tax gap," the amount of taxes owed that go unpaid each year.

Moreover, Obama has already expressed support for the concept of the IRS serving as tax filer and tax collector.  In 2007, in a speech at the Tax Policy Institute, Obama promised to establish a simple return system during his presidency.  He opined that "the government already collects wage and bank account information, so there's no reason the IRS can't send Americans free file tax forms to verify."

Well, I can think of a couple of reasons.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maryland's Costly Green Tax Credits

We hear a lot of feigned outrage from the left concerning tax credits and deductions for upper-income earners.  Unfortunately, their antipathy for tax "loopholes" are nowhere to be seen when they are being disseminated to green special interests.

Last year, Maryland began awarding tax credits to purchasers of electric cars.  It turns out that the first few beneficiaries of the credit actually gain more in tax credits than they save in energy expenses.  Here is the report from the Washington Examiner

Maryland's tax incentives for electric vehicles cost the state almost twice as much as the cars saved in energy expenses last year, according to a report from the Maryland Energy Administration.
Sixty-four drivers who bought an electric vehicle in fiscal 2011 cashed in on the state's tax credit, which cost Maryland $126,387. Those drivers saved an estimated $71,300 total in petroleum costs, according to the energy agency.
The savings from the electric vehicles are ongoing, however, estimated to reduce gas purchases annually by more than $1,100 per car for at least eight years -- the expected life span of the car batteries. The tax credit, implemented on Oct. 1, 2010, provides $2,000 in savings from the state's excise tax for the purchase of a plug-in vehicle. 

And which county was the biggest beneficiary?  You guessed it; the people's republic of Montgomery County:

Of the 64 tax credits the state awarded in fiscal 2011, 39 credits worth $76,388 went to Montgomery County drivers, while the remaining 25 credits were divided among drivers in seven counties and Baltimore City.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Now is Not the Time to Shirk From Obamacare Fight

By now, we are all intimately acquainted with the bromide that "Republican's only control one-half of one-third of government."  Nonetheless, we must remember that, in the realm of appropriations, they control the most consequential body of government; the House of Representatives.  Unfortunately, almost a year into their stewardship of that body, they have shown only a tepid inclination to defund Obamacare.

Despite months of diligent work on appropriations bills, House (and Senate) Republicans are abdicating their budget powers to Harry Reid's "minibus" scheme – a scheme in which the House is jettisoned from two-thirds of the process, while conference committees adopt the spending bills favored by Senate Democrats [more here and here].  Next week, the Senate will vote on the second minibus bill.  Reid is using the House-passed Energy-Water bill (HR 2354) as a vehicle to carry the Financial Services (S.1573) and State-Foreign Operations (S.1601) bills (even though they were never voted on by the full House).  So we will have one appropriations bill that covers such disparate expenditures as the IRS and the State Department.  But don't worry, it's a minibus bill; not an Omnibus bill.  Hence, Republicans will get the green light to vote for it.  All but 14 of them already voted for cloture to proceed with the 'don't call it an omnibus bill.'

Here are the issues with Reid minibus number two:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

About that Perry Debate Blunder

Everyone has their own take on Perry's debate meltdown, in which he froze while attempting to remember the names of the departments he would eliminate.  Many of Perry's ardent supporters are devastated by this seemingly fatal mistake.  However, I would point to two observations about Perry's utter lack of ability to articulate his message.

1) This was bound to come out at some point.  Whether he was able to remember the three departments tonight or not, the result would have been the same.  Perry would have been a debater in the general election debates.  The bottom line is that you can survive the general election as a mediocre debater, but not a disastrous one.

2) Despite the fact that many suggest Perry's hear is in the right place (conservatism), do we really want to nominate someone who cannot articulate those convictions?

It is an unfortunate end to a very promising candidate.  I never thought I would say this, but I'm beginning to wonder if Newt Gingrich is the only electable alternative "conservative" to Romney.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bipartisan Big Spenders Appointed to Conference Committee for Spending Bills

After dithering for almost three years without a budget, Democrats are in a hellfire rush to finish all of the 12 annual appropriations bills.  Unfortunately, Republicans leaders are in such a hurry to bury the hatchet on spending fights, they are willing to void all of the House-passed bills, in return for bipartisan conference reports.  These conference committee versions – chock full of Senate Democrat amendments – will be forced down the throats of House conservatives without a chance to amend them, even though they never voted on two-thirds of  the underlying bill.  Worse, virtually all of the conferees are leftists, appropriators, and squishes.

Senator Sessions and other Senate conservatives tried to warn Republicans that Harry Reid was manipulating the process to insert $11.1 billion in extra spending to the Agriculture minibus bill.  While overall discretionary spending caps have already been set at $1.043 trillion, Democrats still have leverage (thanks to weak Republican leadership) to spend tens of billion more on transfer programs, while compensating for the extra expenditures with massive cuts to –you guessed it – the Defense appropriations bill.  They also have the ability to raise spending levels on mandatory programs, which are not subject to the spending caps imposed by the debt deal.  Moreover, the Senate stripped out many of the House-passed policy riders, such as a provision to defund most of the FDA food takeover bill (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act ).

The Senate version of the bill, and the inevitable conference report, contains millions more in spending for virtually every domestic and international food program, including WIC.  However, the most jarring difference between the two versions is the spending level for Food Stamps.  Despite the fact that Food Stamp spending has doubled in just three years, the Senate bill – which passed with 16 Republican votes – appropriates $80.4 billion for this dependency program.  That is $12.2 billion above the spending level set in the House version.  Take a look at the unprecedented growth of this program, when total appropriations and actual outlays are taken into account.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Current Status of Spending Bills

The Heritage Foundation has a useful chart out today detailing the current status of apprpriations bills:

Despite thefact that the topline spending figure is already locked in at $1.043 trillion, there is still wiggle room for Democrats to add more spending to their priorities.  How will they accomplish this?  By cutting defense spending, of course.  They plan to cut military spending by $17 billion, while adding more spending to health, labor, and food programs.  Republicans must fight for the House-passed bill during conference committee next week.

The RSC Jobs Plan: Jobs Through Growth

One of the more positive ancillary benefits of this presidential primary season is the newfound focus on taxation, regulation, and energy production.  The prominence of the presidential election has helped jumpstart a vital discourse on long-term reforms for those three policies.

The RSC, which is the most respected conservative group within Congress, has proposed a jobs growth plan today, which seeks to achieve those reforms, albeit in a more inclusive way than some of the proposals from presidential candidates, like Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain.  It appears that they are seeking changes to the tax and regulatory system that have already received broad support within the Republican party (and some lip service from Democrats, in regard to certain provisions), and are bundling them into one package, “The Jobs Through Growth Act.”

Here are some of the major provisions of the proposal:

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Republicans Must Oppose Reid's Minibus Bill

Last week, we noted that Harry Reid, with the help of Republican leadership, is attempting to come late to the 2012 budget game and commandeer the entire process through a series of 'minibus' bills.  They are using House-passed appropriations bills as vehicles to tack on at least two additional disparate spending bills.  Such a maneuver will allow the Senate to force a conference committee vote on spending measures and policies that the House never amended.  Although the topline discretionary spending figure is already set, Reid is wagering that his fast track minibus strategy will allow him to override House-passed policies, while inserting his own policies into the bills.  Thus far, he has been successful.

The first minibus is comprised of the House-passed Agriculture appropriations bill (HR 2112), along with the Senate's version of the Commerce-Justice-Science (S 1572) and Transportation-HUD (S 1596) measures.  Democrats assert that this package, which authorizes $128 billion in discretionary spending, is actually $1 billion below last year's levels.  To that end, it is slated to pass today with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The problem is that this bill will actually increase spending.  As Senator Sessions observed, this bill increases spending by $2.2 billion because it contains extra emergency spending – without any offsets.  Moreover, this bill increases mandatory spending by $8 billion on Food Stamps.  The Food Stamp program (SNAP) is, by far, the fastest growing government program, as it is emblematic of Obama’s socialist transformation of our country.  In just three years, SNAP enrollment has jumped from 27 million to 45 million, while its budget has doubled to over $77 million for FY 2011.  Yet, many Republicans are ready to sign their life away to Harry Reid.

Two weeks ago, Senator Sessions attempted to cut spending on Food Stamps by eliminating “categorical eligibility.”  This is a practice in which states automatically grant Food Stamps to people who had received a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families brochure or contacted a pregnancy hotline funded by that program.  Categorical eligibility allows many people to enroll in SNAP who would otherwise be disqualified because of their income level.  Last year, members of the Government Accountability Office flagged this wasteful practice, and called for congressional action.  Unfortunately, Sessions’s amendment to the minibus bill was defeated with the help of six Republicans.

Today, the Senate will be voting on final passage of the minibus bill, following votes on six Republican amendments.  While these are very constructive amendments, Democrats will invariably vote them down.  As such, Republicans must vote against final passage of this bill.  If the bill passes the Senate, House conservatives must oppose efforts of their leadership to steer the minibus away from the House floor directly into the hands of the appropriators in conference committee.  Conservatives must get a chance to vote down pernicious policies and extraneous spending in bills that never saw daylight in the House.