Category Archives: Government Waste

Is The PAYGO Rule Fiscally Responsible?

On Thursday, the US Senate voted to restore pay go rules on a party line vote. President Obama praised the restoration of the PAYGO rule. Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan used the vote as a club to attack Republicans. Republicans opposed the restoration of pay go calling it a backdoor attempt to raise taxes. However, the PAYGO rule is at best a dual edged sword. While PAYGO is an excellent for controlling and limiting deficit spending, it does very little to limit the size and growth of the Federal government.

The PAYGO or “pay as you go” rule simply calls for any increase of mandatory spending or reduction in revenue (ie. taxes) must be offset by decreases in discretionary spending or increases in revenue (taxes). Mandatory spending is things like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, pay for Federal employees, paying debt, and other welfare programs such as Food Stamps and Veterans benefits. Mandatory spending is nearly 60% of the Federal budget. Discretionary spending is everything that Congress has to pass legislation to authorize.

How PAYGO Is Fiscally Responsible:

The PAYGO rule requires spending to be budget neutral and budgets to be balanced. This is generally a good thing since it does not require increasing debt which has to be paid back by taxpayers. It requires that if government cannot pay for programs it appropriates, either taxes must be raised or programs and spending be cut. It also forces Congress to prioritize which programs are important them and can lead to much needed reforms in the Federal government which reduces its cost to taxpayers and ultimately the power it wields. In a Congress where the majority of members put limited government and the interests of taxpayers first, PAYGO can be a very important tool in the rollback of the Federal government.

However, PAYGO Also Promotes Big Government:

The PAYGO rule also promotes the welfare state and big government. The PAYGO rule only calls for cuts in so-called discretionary spending while leaving untouched the welfare programs that are so-called mandatory spending. This in affect leaves nearly 60% of the Federal budget (and growing every year) untouched. In order to ultimate reduce the size and scope of the Federal government, reforms must be enacted to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the other welfare programs which are “mandatory”. The cost of not doing anything to reign in mandatory spending will mean ultimately higher taxes and more poverty as jobs and opportunities are lost by a revenue hungry Federal government.

In addition, Republicans are right when they suspect that PAYGO in the hands of the current Congress and President is nothing more than a tool to raise taxes. Other than various gimmicks that do nothing to address the fiscal problems this nation will have, the Democrats (and Republicans alike for that matter) have shown no serious interest in reducing the size of government.

Finally, PAYGO has a loophole. It can be suspended for “emergency appropriations”. For example, if Congress and the President want to have another round of bailouts and nationalizations, all they have to do is declare an emergency.

Ultimately, PAYGO can be an excellent tool for fighting waste, fraud, and corruption; however it is useless in the hands of this Congress and President because they have neither the will nor the ability to cut the Federal budget where it really matters.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

“Are these Republicans Walter”? “No Donny, these men are just nihilists”

“I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the Republican party, Dude, at least it’s an ethos…”

Apologies to Joel and Ethan Coen…

There has been a recent meme circulated by the leftosphere, that the Republicans… in fact any opponent of the Obama agenda… are nihilists.

Now, I have to say, I don’t think most of the people promoting this idea even know what a nihilist is (and if they did, many of them would realize THEY are the ones that come close to fitting that bill), never mind that current republican ideology is nihilist. Current republican ideology is empty, obstructionist, and reactionary; but that’s not actually nihilism… or even close to it.

A few days ago, a person whose intellect I generally respect, John Scalzi, randomly tossed off a comment calling Republicans (and Obama oppositionists) Nihilists.

Well.. at least John knows what a nihilist is… which is why I was disappointed in his statement… because as far as I’m concerned that analysis is just lazy.

Then a few days later, as part of his commentary on the state of the union speech, he wrote this:

“As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.”

Ok… not much of the core of the analysis there I can disagree with… but again, it isn’t nihilism.

Today however he posted a link to further explain the position he was trying to express in shorthand by calling the Republicans nihilist.

Again, there’s nothing I can really disagree with in this analysis:

[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.

The best thing though, is the source of that quote: The American Conservative

Thus showing, once again, for those who don’t already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn’t necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you’re Catholic).

I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says “hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I’ll do the same for you, thanks”.

I’m well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

I don’t care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don’t have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

I have no faith in the government not to do with… really anything other than defense… exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn’t make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad… I’m sorry, you’re wrong.

It’s a sweet ideal, but it just isn’t true. Good intentions don’t mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion… HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force… stealing and killing.

That doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t and it’s DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

Sorry but, HELL NO.

I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities… But the government doesn’t have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

Actually, the government doesn’t have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the exercise of which we can delegate to the government.

It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn’t to be trusted; they just believe it’s not to be trusted over different things:

Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don’t want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don’t trust it with your education, healthcare etc…

Well, I don’t trust them with ANYTHING except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

It’s axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

Now, if we’re charitable and say they’re all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don’t hurt yourself laughing), that’s an overall government IQ of .25

Why on earth would you want THAT spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

Now… Given that thumbnail philosophy, who am I supposed to vote for?

I certainly can’t vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

On the other hand, I can’t much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide…. They just want to take a little less of it.

And I really can’t vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

So tell me, is that nihilism? I don’t think so. I think it’s playing defense, which isn’t a winning strategy; but it’s not nihilism.

Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say “there’s no point in playing, you’re all going to lose anyway”… which coincidentally is the position of a lot of Libertarians.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

A Bit of Unexpected Wisdom from a Friend

You might have heard the old saying “The best measure of a mans intelligence and wisdom, is how closely he agrees with you on any given subject”…

Well, by that measure, Kommander is a damn genius (from a thread discussing Obamas abandonment of manned space flight):

The problem with exploring and colonizing space, as opposed to exploring and colonizing the “New World”; is that there is, right now, little commercial benefit for doing so.

Remember that the first colonists to the Americas were not doing it “For Science!” but “For Money!” Until there is money to be made in space it will continue to be dominated by various governmental agencies.

Spaceship One and the space tourism are a good start, be we need more. The future of the space program does not lie with governments, but with commercial interests who will be willing to take risks where governments are not.

Indeed. I’ll take Branson and Rutan over Bolden and Garver in a split second.

Just let me know when I can sign up for the trip to freehold… or anywhere… or nowhere and back for that matter (when it costs less than a nice used car anyway).

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Alabama — We Have Nothing Better To Do

Warren, the blogger and small businessman behind Coyote Blog, does business in a number of states. Alabama, which is a relatively new state for him (6 months), just sent him a notice that he was being audited for his business over the last three years in Alabama. He called to clear this up, and was told:

But here is the part that really pissed me off. When I asked him why I was being audited after just 6 months, he said he knew the audit was senseless but his office is desperately trying to keep everyone employed during recent budget cuts so that no one would lose their job. Also he said is was good training for him. Great. I have to do 6 hours of extra work so that later I can pay higher state taxes to support more government workers. What a deal.

Foes of government “stimulus” scoff at the idea that government should employ people counter-cyclically doing things like digging holes and then filling them up…

…but I think Coyote would have preferred that to wasting his time.

Reporting On Stimulus Jobs Becomes Even Less Useful

I suspect we’ll see a corresponding shift in the rhetoric. Instead of Obama saying the stimulus “created or saved X million jobs”, he’ll say the stimulus “put X million Americans to work.”

Either way, it’s still a joke:

When the White House unveiled its nearly $800 billion stimulus package last year, it promised not only to create and save 3.5 million jobs but also to open the books and prove it. But counting jobs turned out to be a lot harder than lining up a work crew and tapping hardhats.

Now, the White House says it will no longer keep a cumulative tally of jobs created and saved by the stimulus. Instead, it will post only a count of jobs for each quarter.

And instead of counting only created and saved jobs, it will count any person who works on a project funded with stimulus money—even if that person was never in danger of losing his or her job.

The new rules came out last month in a little-noticed memo (PDF) sent to federal agencies by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. OMB said it changed the guidelines to prevent the kinds of errors and confusion that occurred when the first job counts came out in October.

I’m sure the administration knew all along that they’d get skewered for whatever number they put out, especially when recovery.gov started showing money going to non-existent Congressional districts*. But I think this change shows that they just don’t care about justifying the funding any more.

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein
» Read more

Quote Of The Day

From Jonah Goldberg, re: airline security:

Anyone who flies regularly will tell you, the hellishness of airline travel is not primarily derived from the outrage of lost privacy, it’s derived from the outrage of inefficient, time-consuming idiocy. I would gladly trade the privacy invasion that would come with those body scanners in Total Recall in exchange for the ability to casually walk into the boarding area.

As I’ve mentioned before, my job has me on the road quite a bit, and thus I visit our illustrious TSA on a regular basis. I survive largely on airports having the black-diamond “Expert Traveler” security line and having a time-tested system of packing that gets me through the line quickly.

Unlike some libertarians, who choose not to fly rather than be subjected to TSA scrutiny, I see this as an unwelcome, unnecessary, but trivial evil. I view air travel as too important to me (both personally and professionally) to allow the government to slow me down. I know I’m going to be hassled, but it is most important to me that the hassling be kept to a minimal level and that it disrupt my plans as little as possible. I must admit that I was more than a bit irked over the holidays traveling with family, when the TSA screener wiped my infant son and I down for explosive residue (I was carrying him in a Baby Bjorn) “to make sure he was a real baby”. But even that was only an inconvenience, it’s not like he swabbed us for our DNA (at least that I’m aware of).

All that said, the level of idiocy is highly annoying. On short trips, I prefer not to check baggage, lest it get lost. At the same time, as a beer aficionado, I like to buy beer where I’m traveling that isn’t distributed in CA. With the liquid restrictions, I’m then forced to either forgo a purchase and not carry beer back with me, or wrap it in my luggage and check it on the return hoping that baggage handlers don’t leave me with a wet, smelly bag upon my arrival home. I often forgo the purchase these days rather than risk losing the bag or ending up with a mess.

However, I will take issue with one thing Goldberg says:

We keep hearing how we have to trade privacy for security. “No we don’t!” says the always helpful ACLU. “Yes we do!” say some security experts. “Maybe we do, maybe we don’t,” say others.

It’s all terribly tedious and it misses a very basic point: We already trade privacy, a lot of privacy, for security.

We already trade privacy for the appearance of security. Posts like this remind me that we’re actually not much safer as a result of all this hassle. It is truly security theater, designed to make us feel better but almost completely useless.

But while I’m certainly more concerned about privacy and government surveillance than the average joe, I’d be willing to trade the concern that some screener sees my naughty bits for a much quicker and less hassling airport experience*. And when I’m traveling with family, if it would make it unnecessary for me to take shoes off my toddler (getting them back on is the hassle), I’d be positively overjoyed.

Hat Tip: Curunir @ Distributed Republic
» Read more

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

Earmark And Healthcare Wars: Ron Paul vs Jeff Flake

A recent article in the Washington Examiner by John Labeaume details the differing approaches to earmarks that two of most libertarian members of Congress have. This difference came out in a vote on an amendment that Flake wrote to H.R. 3791 which was the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009. The Flake amendment would ban earmarks as defined by Congressional rules. All in all, a modest amendment.

From the Examiner article:

Here’s a gross understatement: Friends of Freedom in the Halls of Congress are few and far between. Asked for a “Real Life” practicing politician that they can actually get behind, it’s not uncommon for libertarians of many stripes to limit their response to two: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Dr. Paul has been known to put his own sometimes idiosyncratic principle before practicality, leading his legions of fevered ‘money bombing’ fans along his particular path to ideological purity. His rabid opposition to barrier-busting trade agreements like NAFTA, quibbling with a new panel it might spawn, is a prime example. And this trait can pit his voting record against those of his erstwhile liberty-loving allies, and align himself with curious company.

……………………………

Last month, in an obscure House vote, this stubborn streak reared its head again. It’s a minor, but instructive instance, as Paul was one of only two “nay” votes on his side of the aisle against an amendment to HR 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, offered by his fellow Constitutional conservator, Flake.

The only Republican lined up with Paul – and against Flake – was that egregious earmarker, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the Ranking Member on Appropriations. Like his Showbiz namesake, the collegial Lewis’ look could pass for that of a 70’s “Nite Club” act and he certainly knows how to work a room, but he’s dead serious about defending Appropriators’ perks and the practice of earmarking.

Flake’s amendment was modest.

It merely seeks to ensure a competitive, need-based process for parceling out the firefighting grants authorized by the bill. The mechanism was aptly judicious: it enforces the bill’s ban on earmarking. If opened to earmarks, Flake fears that influential Members – like Lewis – could divert dollars to their districts, away from regions with less congressional clout, but in more dire need of an occasional emergency blaze dousing, admittedly not unlike the maverick Flake’s sometimes-parched Southwestern home base. Of course, and more significantly, once Members start horse trading in earmarks, the price tag tends to swell even beyond the bloated figure originally authorized.

Again, Paul stuck to his guns and stood by his controversial defense of earmarking, and let the red light glow next to his name on the big board above the Speaker’s Chair. His office told me, via an email statement, that Paul maintains that “that all spending should be earmarked as this provides the greatest transparency [and]…gives constituents an opportunity for input regarding how their tax dollars are spent.” The statement paid obligatory lip service to “drastically” reducing spending.

But this last line begs the question: what if that “input regarding how” just means “more,” and “for me”?

Before I go into the crux of the debate, my position on earmarking is this:

  • I don’t have a problem with earmarking in general because yes Congressmen should know the needs of their districts better than Federal bureaucrats.
  • However, earmarks lately have been a vehicle for corruption as Congresscritters reward supporters and campaign contributors with things that would be considered bribery under most circumstances (see John Murtha and the aforementioned Jerry Lewis, et al).
  • In addition, the earmarking process has been used as a way to short circuit the competitive bidding process and award contracts to politically connected companies.
  • Earmarks generally reward politically connected members of Congress and promote wasteful spending, however this is no different than other actions of Congress and the Federal government.
  • Therefore, I am a supporter of earmark reform, but I also realize that earmarks are only a portion of the overall problem with wasteful government spending and political corruption.

I believe that Jeff Flake is correct on this issue and I generally support his fight for earmark reform, Ron Paul’s opposition not withstanding. Earmark reform won’t eliminate wasteful spending and political corruption, but it will make a sizable reduction in both. It will also make it easier to defeat incumbent members of Congress as it will give incumbent members of Congress who bribe their constituents less ability to do so and therefore will increase turnover in Congress.

The Examiner article also attacked Ron Paul for not paying attention to the current healthcare fight:

With a scheme that threatens to regulate one-sixth of the U.S. economy wending its way through the legislative sausage-maker, Flake is focused. Glance at his home page; note the repeated references to health care from his multimedia page. Here’s a flurry of press releases issued in the heat of the House debate.

Meanwhile, Paul’s immediate obsession is trained on legalizing Liberty Dollars. Even though this health care overhaul threatens his livelihood – Dr. Paul is a physician by vocation, remember – from his homepage, you wouldn’t know that this issue looms over Washington one bit. Health care merits only a few addresses in Paul’s posted floor statements and press releases from the entire 111th Congress.

And though his official U.S. House site’s blog offers a few posts on this matter, his political arm, Campaign for Liberty, touts a recent interview with a right wing satellite shock jock, a self-styled “King Dude” whose trademark is liberal-lampooning novelty tunes. (Premium content, only for “King Dude” backstage pass holders, sorry.) During the interview, C4L’s homepage boasts, Dr. Paul discusses his pet “issues including Audit the Fed, Social Security, foreign policy, and nullification.” Number of mentions of healthcare? Zero. He didn’t even warble through a single “Death Panel” ditty.

………………………………………

Paul’s Campaign for Liberty sent out an action item, with orders to his loyal legions to contact Congress and demand a floor vote on his “Audit the Fed” bill, one that House leadership has no intention of unbottling.

As ‘Armageddon Day’ for health care regulation approaches, instead of taking up his scalpel to trim a behemoth, Dr. Paul is fiddling with the Fed.

Unfortunately for Labeaume, this is simply not true. Ron Paul has actually been focused, somewhat, on the healthcare debate. For example, the Campaign for Liberty, on its front page has a link to a project called Operation Health Freedom. Some of the proposed legislation in the project even made its wayhttp://www.thelibertypapers.org/wp-admin/post-new.php into the GOP’s alternative bill. Also, the Campaign for Liberty has been featuring articles almost daily on healthcare. Also if you look at Ron Paul’s House site as compared to Jeff Flake’s House site, you’ll see more writings about healthcare from Ron Paul and his office than from Jeff Flake and his office. I don’t begrudge Jeff Flake on the healthcare issue at all, but to say Ron Paul is disengaged from the healthcare fight is either the result of shoddy research at best or outright dishonesty at worst.

As for Ron Paul’s obsessions with the Federal Reserve, nullification, and foreign policy; that can be traced to Ron Paul’s political style more than anything. Paul is a populist oriented libertarian where as Jeff Flake is more a policy wonk libertarian. Flake’s big issues are earmark reform, immigration reform, and free trade which are more keeping of a former head of a think tank (which Flake was before his election to Congress). Paul’s issues are more geared toward a broad, populist appeal where as Flake’s issues are more appealing to political junkies and wonkish types.

As Nick Gillespie from Reason’s Hit and Run wrote:

To paraphrase Todd (“Godd”) Rundgren, sometimes I don’t know what to feel. Can’t we all just get along, and denounce the Fed and health care reform and earmarks and out-of-control spending? I’m sure we can.

Indeed.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Automakers Steal $30B From Obama’s Jobs Program

Now it’s the automakers. Too bad nobody predicted that throwing money into these fine well-run American corporations could have been a bad deal!

The Obama administration will tell Congress Wednesday that it expects to lose about $30 billion of the $82 billion government bailout of the auto industry.

Gene Sperling, senior counsel to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, confirmed in an interview late today that the administration’s forecast is that it will lose $30 billion on its auto investments

Or, as I like to say, that’s $30B that the automakers stole from Obama’s jobs program.

But there’s good news!

“The real news is the projected loss came down to $30 billion from $44 billion,” Sperling said, noting that auto sales have improved ahead of what many analysts had forecast. The administration still holds out hope that if things improve, the administration could still recover more.

Well, at least that’s $14B more for Obama to put into his jobs program! He’s just finding money everywhere!

Gov’t Not Going To Lose As Much Money As Expected; Reveals Plans To Spend Difference

Normally this might be considered good news:

The Obama administration plans to announce this week that it is slashing its estimate of the losses from the government’s financial bailout package by about $200 billion, Treasury officials said.

The White House had projected in August that the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, would lose about $341 billion over the next 10 years. But officials scaled back the estimate after once-shaky Wall Street firms began recovering much more quickly than expected. In addition, several TARP initiatives have been funded at a smaller amount than originally planned.

Since the TARP became law in October 2008, banks have paid dividends and interest of about $15 billion and returned aid worth a total of about $71 billion, a Treasury official said Monday. Last week, Bank of America said it would soon repay an additional $45 billion. Another $139 billion of TARP funds was never allocated to any programs.

Phew! That’s $200 billion that we won’t have to factor into the deficit over the next decade! Way to go, team!

Or not:

The new, more optimistic estimates of TARP losses could pave the way for Democrats to tap some of the program’s unspent funds for a jobs bill currently being crafted in the House. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that President Obama is likely to discuss such a plan during a speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution.

It’s like when my wife comes home after spending money on unnecessary items “because they’re on sale”, then decides she’s going to take something back because she doesn’t like the way it looks, but instead of putting the difference back into our bank account spends the refund on a new hat — at full price. She’s so thrifty!

Wow, Barack. You got such a great deal on that TARP you put on the credit card that you can use the same credit card for your jobs program! And don’t worry, because it’s the taxpayers and not you who’ll gonna have to pay interest!

Liberty Rock Friday: “Prison Song” by SOAD

Here’s a perfect song to complement my recent call to action to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

toxicity

System of a Down
“Prison Song”
Toxicity (2001)

Written by: Tankian, Serj;Malakian, Daron;Odadjian, Shavarsh; and Dolmayan, John

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Nearly 2 million [*] Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system,
Prison system of the U.S.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985,

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world,
Drugs are now your global policy,
Now you police the globe,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

*This number has since increased to about 2.4 million according to the Sen. Webb’s findings.

A symbolic victory in a sea of defeats

The governator sent a letter to the California State Assembly where he, er, told them he would “strike” them. Carnally.

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.

For some time now I have lamented the fact that major issues are overlooked while many
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration. Water reform, prison reform, and health
care are major issues my Administration has brought to the table, but the Legislature just
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.

Sincerely,

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Now that you’ve read the whole letter, read the first column of letters.

H/T The widely read libertarian culture site Urkobold.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Quote of the Day: Unlearned Lessons of Failed Experiments Edition

Peter Suderman writing for The Wall Street Journal has written an excellent article about the (apparent) unlearned lessons of government run healthcare. But unlike many others who use Canada and the UK as examples, Suderman insists that we only need to look at states like New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and Tennessee for their respective failed experiments with some of the very reforms being proposed by Obama and the Democrat controlled congress.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously envisioned the states serving as laboratories, trying “novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” And on health care, that’s just what they’ve done.

[…]

Despite these state-level failures, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing forward a slate of similar reforms. Unlike most high-school science fair participants, they seem unaware that the point of doing experiments is to identify what actually works. Instead, they’ve identified what doesn’t—and decided to do it again.

Of course if government did learn lessons of failed government policy…it wouldn’t be government.

Read the whole article to learn what future all Americans have in store should President Obama and the Democrats have their way.

Quote Of The Day

From the WSJ:

The bottom line is this: The available empirical evidence does not support the idea that spending multipliers typically exceed one, and thus spending stimulus programs will likely raise GDP by less than the increase in government spending. Defense-spending multipliers exceeding one likely apply only at very high unemployment rates, and nondefense multipliers are probably smaller. However, there is empirical support for the proposition that tax rate reductions will increase real GDP.

Government taking your money and spending it is less likely to help GDP than government taking LESS of your money and letting you spend the difference yourself.

Not that this is a new idea, of course… But it’s good to see some academic support.

Lake Los Angeles

Here in Southern California, water is a pretty precious commodity. And I’m not just talking about the pretentious restaurants where you get dirty looks if you don’t like your water “sparkling” and at $6 a bottle. No, it’s a serious outgrowth of building a major city in the middle of a desert, in which you have to pull water from supplies in other geographies to meet your needs. As we’re more sensitive to water conditions throughout the western US, we’ve been inundated with PSAs encouraging saving.

One of those PSAs has teeth, advising of watering restrictions. If you want to water your lawn, you’re only allowed to do so two days a week, and only in the morning. At least, those are the rules for us mere citizens. I’ve complained on twitter about driving past freeway medians and cloverleafs where the State of California is watering at 5 PM on a Friday, but I’ve simply assumed that this is mere government hubris.

But perhaps I was wrong. In the LA area, old decrepit infrastructure has led to a higher-than usual number of major pipe ruptures, causing significant flooding (NY Times, reg. req’d). Based on one of the potential reasons for that, I must now think that the Friday afternoon waterings weren’t about not following the same rules as mere citizens, but because they fear overloading the system (emphasis added):

Since Sept. 1, there have been 43 breaks that have flooded or damaged streets, compared with 21 in September 2008, 17 in September 2007 and 13 in September 2006.

The rash of blowouts began in June, when a new drought-induced water policy went into effect, a circumstance leading outside engineers and analysts to question whether water restrictions are contributing to the problem.

Under the policy, residents are permitted to water their lawns only on Monday and Thursday, causing a surge in water flow those days that may be taxing the system, said Richard G. Little, a policy analyst at the University of Southern California who studies public infrastructure.

So thank you, California State Government! Your inability to follow stupid* restrictions with destructive unintended consequences may have saved us from some of the negative impact of that stupid restriction! Under normal circumstances, I’d assume your inability to follow the restrictions you expect the rest of us to follow to be simple hubris, but here I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt — you were trying to save us!

Hat Tip: Brian Doherty, City of Angles
» Read more

The Daily Show Illustrates the Shortsightedness of Government

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona State Capitol Building for Sale
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

The above video clip from The Daily Show, while very humorous, illustrates a fundamental problem of government: shortsightedness.

In this example, the State of Arizona is offering to sell the state capitol for $735 million and rent it back from the new owners.

“What happens next year when you have to pay rent?” asks Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones.

Sen. Lopez responds that the state government is more concerned about this year…they will deal with the next year’s budget (and subsequent budget) shortfalls when the time comes.

If this doesn’t illustrate the shortsightedness of government (at all levels), I don’t know what does. Our government officials do not look far beyond the immediate future (i.e. the next election). They don’t worry about the insolvency of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the long term financial difficulties of the bailouts etc, they will worry about those problems (which they created and will also blame on the free market, big business, or lack of regulation) when they can no longer pretend the problem doesn’t exist. If they are lucky, the other party will be in power by that time and the American public will turn its anger against that party by voting them out.

What the American public needs to understand is that whether the blue team or the red team controls the levers of power, this shortsighted mentality is standard operating procedure for both. They are not interested in solving long term problems but trying to appear as though they are.

Politicians will not be accountable for their deceitful actions until we, the people, hold them accountable.

…I won’t hold my breath.

AARP Ad: Opponents of ObamaCare Oppose “Health Care Reform”

The “Ambulance Commercial” from AARP claims that the “special interest groups” are “trying to derail” the healthcare debate. Those who oppose “reform” are “spreading myths” about rationing of care. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the ad:

One of the things that really makes me angry about this debate is the way groups like AARP, the Obama Administration, and the Democrat Party use straw man arguments to characterize those of us who oppose government run healthcare are “anti-reform” or happy with the system the way it is. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m sure there are some who are GOP political hacks out there who oppose ObamaCare but would have no problem supporting RomneyCare or whatever variation of government healthcare McCain would have been pushing had he won the presidency. I get that. But despite what Rachel Maddow, Kieth Oberman, or any of these other Left-wing talking heads would have you believe, there actually are legitimate reasons to fear ObamaCare and not everyone who opposes it is not some sort of Right-wing lunatic.

So who is really spreading the “myths” about ObamaCare?

To be fair, I’m pretty sure it’s not the intention of Democrats to create healthcare rationing. Maybe proponents of the bill claim such things as “death panels” to be myths because such panels of bureaucrats are not part of the plan per se. Perhaps what the fans of big government do not understand is that rationing is inevitable, whether or not rationing is intended. If Red Lobster decided to serve steak and lobster for “free” to the general public every Saturday, one would imagine that there would be lines around the block and Red Lobster would run out of steak and lobster very quickly on Saturdays (and not everyone who stood in line would receive their free food).

The same is true for healthcare or any other product. If suddenly some 50 million uninsured individuals suddenly have access to “free” healthcare along with the remaining 250 million with no increase in the supply of healthcare providers, there will be shortages. Whenever there is a shortage of a product or service in a government controlled program, rationing is the only way to meet the needs for the greatest number. In other words, bureaucrats make the decision regarding who receives healthcare and who does not. The most likely choice will be that the elderly will be asked to sacrifice themselves for the good of “more productive” individuals (i.e. tax payers). This very phenomenon is already happening with vital organ transplants in the U.S. and around the world (with the notable exception of Iran of all places!).

But what is even more galling about the AARP ad than the complete ignorance regarding supply and demand is the notion that those who oppose ObamaCare are anti-reform. Just because some of us oppose ObamaCare does not make us anti-reform but simply anti-government healthcare. There are good free market approaches to health care reform; Cato Institute has an entire website dedicated to such approaches . I’m sure Dr. Ron Paul has some ideas and many other free market individuals as well but AARP, the Democrat Congress, nor the Obama Administration want to consider these approaches.

Couldn’t we just as easily say that they are anti-healthcare reform? If anyone is “derailing” the debate it would be AARP and their special interests.

If AARP believes “special interests” are obstacles to a quality healthcare system, just wait until they get their wish and politicians get between the patients and their doctors.

For those who would like to see the free market reforms Cato proposes, click on the banner below.

UAW = Unions Accepting Welfare

Hmm, I guess we can see once again that our Congress is not in any way trying to manage our car companies (and their unions) for political gain:

The latest example is the $10 billion taxpayers will be asked to shell out to prop up the United Auto Workers’ retiree health insurance program.

That provision is tucked deep into the bill passed by the House.

In effect, it would ask every taxpayer, regardless of whether they’ll have health insurance coverage themselves after they retire — and most won’t — to chip in to maintain the UAW’s coverage, which even after the union’s givebacks is still better than what the average American worker receives.

The helping hand is a recognition by Congress that the union’s volunteer employee benefit association, or VEBA, can’t possibly stay solvent if it is asked to cover all of the union workers taking early buyouts from the Detroit automakers.

So the union’s supporters added language to the House’s gargantuan health care bill that requires the federal government to pick up most of the cost of catastrophic claims for union retirees age 55 to 64.

The biggest beneficiary would be the UAW, which got $60 billion from the Big Three in exchange for taking on the obligation for retiree health care.

I don’t suppose I’ll be getting a gift basket from the UAW thanking me for my generosity. I’ll bet quite a few Congressmen will, though.

Hat Tip: John Stossel

1 2 3 4 5 14