A Tale of Two Budgets
"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson
It's budget time in Washington, which for the last four years has meant the Democrat-controlled Senate not passing a budget. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released his third "Path to Prosperity" budget with several tweaks to previous versions. Believe it or not, Ryan's Senate counterpart, Patty Murray (D-WA), also released a budget blueprint this week. Naturally, one budget is reasonable, and the other exacerbates the problem.
Ryan's budget is far from extreme as the Left wants us to believe. On the positive side, he made changes to bring the budget into balance in 10 years instead of 30. But spending under his budget still increases 3.4 percent annually compared to Democrats' planned 5 percent growth. Over a decade, that means federal expenditures of $41 trillion instead of $46 trillion. Ryan calls for, but does not assume, tax reform -- just two individual income tax brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent, which would create far more economic growth than any "stimulus" plan. He emphasizes economic growth rather than austerity.
On the downside, Ryan assumes that the recent Obama tax hikes remain in place and that tax revenue will be roughly 19 percent of GDP over the next decade, almost a whole percentage point higher than the post-1980 average. While his budget does assume the repeal of ObamaCare -- impossible given the current White House occupant -- it keeps ObamaCare's $1 trillion tax increases.
Just as Barack Obama's budget has, the plan counts "savings" from no longer fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet those expenses won't be incurred regardless of what budget, if any, becomes law. Though Ryan's budget is generally strong on defense, this accounting gimmick is disappointing.
Finally, Ryan's budget continues to put off real entitlement reform. Medicare reform is deferred until 2024, and Social Security isn't touched at all. In light of political reality in Washington, this is at least understandable, but since Ryan's budget stands no chance of becoming law, why not lay out real limited government priorities? These programs are unsustainable in their current form -- Medicare will be insolvent by the time reforms kick in -- and Ryan's plan should have been stronger and more than just "not the Democrats' plan."
For what would be the first Senate budget since before the iPad was introduced, Democrats return to their old standby -- tax hikes. Sen. Murray's plan calls for yet another $1.5 trillion in tax hikes mostly through "closing loopholes" (read: decreasing or eliminating deductions), but at the same time, it makes no effort to balance the budget. Ever. And that's in spite of assuming 20 percent of GDP in revenue, which is far above the post-World War II average.
So if this so-called "balanced approach" isn't about achieving actual balance, why the higher taxes? Obama has provided that answer repeatedly: It's an issue of "fairness." Indeed, "balance" simply means higher taxes to go along with higher spending, including another $100 billion "stimulus" this year. The defense budget is the only thing facing reduction -- and it's $658 billion smaller than the House budget 10-year plan.
Regarding entitlements, as the Heritage Foundation puts it, "the Senate budget insists on 'keeping promises' it cannot keep." It continues the $20 trillion War on Poverty by increasing welfare spending even more, with feeling. And of course, ObamaCare remains part of the package.
As for the president, he's trying once again to court GOP members of Congress to join in yet another "grand bargain" for deficit reduction. We hope they don't buy it. Meanwhile, the White House budget is now expected on April 10, conveniently after the March jobs numbers come out. Obama will happily blame any bad news on the "Republican Sequester." And don't expect any debt-reduction plan from the president, because he claims, "[W]e don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt." Oh, well, never mind then.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"[Paul Ryan's] solution to the Medicare problem is the My Lai solution. In order to save that program he's going to destroy it. ... He wants Americans to work until they die, he wants poor people who get sick not to be able to see a doctor, not to get the care they need, not to be able to get better, he wants them to die." --Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Too many voters fall for this outrageous demagoguery and keep re-electing people like Grayson.
Government and Politics
Second Amendment: Tyrants and Hypocrites Unite Against Guns
In the wake of Second Amendment decisions in DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, the issue of whether a constitutional right exists for an individual to possess a firearm for self-protection should have been put to bed. Considering this natural right of self-defense predates the Constitution, we at The Patriot Post are at a loss to understand why this issue is, well, an issue. Yet leftists everywhere continue their relentless march against Liberty, the guarantor of which is the business end of a gun barrel.
California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "assault weapon" ban cleared the Judiciary Committee Thursday, though it's unlikely to go further. During committee debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked of Feinstein, "Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment...?" Namely, restricting speech to approved books or prohibiting search and seizure only for certain individuals. "I'm not a sixth grader," retorted Feinstein, who later whined that she "felt patronized" by Cruz. Well, she sure sounded like a sixth-grader with her "Do you know who I am?" defense, and her claims to have "studied the Constitution myself" notwithstanding, she needs a refresher course on Liberty.
Meanwhile, New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer's bill to mandate a federal registry for the future orderly confiscation of citizen firearms is up for debate. Of course the bill didn't spell this out, but rather crafted the ruse with a veneer of "background checks" for all firearm buyers -- a veneer that could include criminalizing some transfers and other basic activities. Make no mistake: As Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) explained, "Criminals will continue to steal guns and buy them illegally to circumvent the requirements. When that happens, we will be back here debating whether gun registration is needed. And when registration fails, then the next step is gun confiscation."
Exhibit A: California not only registers gun owners, but also confiscates guns if the owners have "lost the right to own them." That's right: California's Justice Department agents beat at the door in full battle dress to retrieve the weapons an owner no longer has the "right" to possess. And what could cause a loss of this right? Realize that each case is subject to exaggeration by a hostile official, political motivations or an arbitrary decision made by some bureaucrat who wants to evaluate the limits of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. California is simply the leading indicator of the direction the Left wants to move the nation.
Finally, leftists tend to advocate things that they don't believe apply to their own personal lives. Mark Kelly, husband to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and outspoken gun-control nut, just bought an AR-15 "assault weapon," a .45 semi-auto pistol, and several high-capacity magazines at a Tucson gun store. Once news of the purchases hit the street, however, the walk-back kabuki dance began immediately. First, Kelly stated that he had bought the weapons merely to prove that the background check process is just too easy. Then he said he would immediately turn over the AR-15 to the Tucson police. Sure. That's why he bought them.
Never mind the fact he did have to wait to clear the background check and that all he really proved was that a law-abiding citizen with no criminal past can buy a gun. Never mind that he didn't try getting a felon to purchase the weapons, nor did he send it to Mexico. In any case, we'd have been more likely to believe this hypocrite's tale had he immediately publicized the buy and not waited three days until the news became inconvenient.
From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) gave another impassioned plea for the gun control measures before Congress this week, saying, "All I'm saying is 'do not give up.' Because if we give up and we can't get it done, then you know what? Some people that really don't know what they're talking about have won again."
But as readers may recall, it's McCarthy who doesn't know what she's talking about. Just ask her to define a barrel shroud.
Sen. Feinstein muscled in on McCarthy's incoherent act, warning us about ammunition capacity and hunting restrictions: "The other very important part of [my] bill is to ban large capacity ammunition feeding devices -- those that hold more than 10 rounds. We have federal regulations and state laws that prohibit hunting ducks with more than three rounds. And yet it's legal to hunt humans with 15-round, 30-round, even 150-round magazines."
It's legal to hunt humans?
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"There are, in increasingly frightening numbers, cells of angry men in the United States preparing for combat with the U.S. government. They are usually heavily armed, blinded by an intractable hatred, often motivated by religious zeal. They're not jihadists. They are white, right-wing Americans, nearly all with an obsessive attachment to guns, who may represent a greater danger to the lives of American civilians than international terrorists. ... What can be done to reverse this tide of belligerent ignorance? Not much. The typical patriot acts within his free-speech and 2nd Amendment rights, and in fact most patriot activity consists of venting steam by meeting with like-minded Neanderthals and firing off blog posts threatening civil war." --Los Angeles Times editorial
Hope 'n' Change: White House Tours Canceled
Public White House tours are indefinitely suspended, infuriating both lawmakers and those planning to visit our nation's capital. Barack Obama blames sequestration "cuts," but the closure is just another political gimmick. In fact, Obama has already backpedaled, instructing the Service Service to reconsider their resolution "to accommodate school groups who have traveled here with some bake sales."
Obama claims that the original decision wasn't one "that went up to the White House," but Press Secretary Jay Carney confessed otherwise: "The Secret Service came to us with a decision," Carney said at a press briefing. "It was our job, then, to cancel the tours."
The tours themselves are administered freely, but the Secret Service calculates it would save $74,000 a week on security, or a cumulative $2 million by September (the end of the fiscal year). Not only is $2 million pocket change compared to a $3.5 trillion budget, but these costs could easily be offset by Obama himself. "All he'd have to do is cancel one or two of his political trips and his Martha's Vineyard vacation ... [and] he would save that money times ten," says former Secret Service member Dan Bongino. As if that weren't enough, Carney berated a reporter and refused to answer his question regarding how much Obama's golf outings cost taxpayers. Our privileged golfer-in-chief should forgo a few vacations -- for the children.
But lavish spending is what this administration does best. Sequestration hasn't stopped Michelle Obama from planning her "Big 50" B-Day bash next year at the White House, including invitations for performances from Adele and Beyoncé. While the First Family will reportedly pay for the private party, it's less clear whether they will pay for the entire extravaganza. So while the "People's House," as Ms. Obama loves to call it, is closed to the public, don't expect the Obamas to do any budget cutting of their own -- even though they cost 23 times as much as the British royal family.
Diversity Takes a Hit
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, expressed concern over the lack of black representation in Barack Obama's cabinet. In a letter to Obama, Fudge wrote, "The people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country's diversity." Fudge claims that this causes problems with black voters because they overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008 and 2012. Attorney General Eric Holder is now the only black cabinet-level official, the fewest of any president in 38 years. Originally, Holder planned to leave after his boss was re-elected, but Obama convinced him to stay (probably to clean up Fast and Furious). Isn't it ironic that America's first black president resorts to keeping someone as incompetent as Holder in his cabinet as the "token black guy"?
Judicial Benchmarks: What Goes Around Comes Around
Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are bent out of shape over a Republican filibuster of Caitlin Halligan, Obama's nominee to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. When Halligan was New York's Solicitor General, she expressed support for holding gun manufacturers liable for consumer misuse of firearms, potentially opening a floodgate of capricious litigation.
Obama spoke of "the Republican pattern of obstruction," and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pined for the days when judicial nominees received up-or-down votes. Yet those days of senatorial camaraderie came to an end thanks to Reid and his cohorts filibustering a number of well-qualified nominees during the Bush administration (to say nothing of the disgraceful spectacle of Reagan nominee Robert Bork's confirmation hearings). Charles Pickering, Priscilla Owen and Miguel Estrada all languished because of the then-unprecedented Democrat actions. Reid himself voted against cloture 25 times on 13 different judicial nominees, among them now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Another Democrat who supported the Alito filibuster was a certain junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama.
Current Republican maneuvers are a reaction to the precedent set by Democrats. And now it seems to be the only way to slow the flood of judicial activists from the most leftist president in American history.
Voter Fraud Doesn't Exist?
Cincinnati poll worker Melowese Richardson was indicted this week on eight counts of voter fraud. Richardson openly admitted to voting twice because she was concerned that her vote for Barack Obama wouldn't count. She also took the liberty of voting under the names of five relatives. Richardson laughably claims she did not intend to commit voter fraud, but as a poll worker she knew that repeat voting or voting under another person's name is illegal -- even if it's a vote for Barack Obama.
A 54-year-old nun was also indicted for voting under the identity of her recently deceased fellow nun, and a 75-year-old man was charged with voting on behalf of his wife, who died before Election Day. These indictments are part of a statewide push by Ohio Secretary of State John Husted to investigate complaints of voter fraud and disenfranchisement. His investigation is clearly bearing fruit, despite claims by Attorney General Eric Holder and other opponents of voter ID laws that this sort of fraud simply doesn't exist.
The Cost of ObamaCare
The increasingly unpopular law known as ObamaCare continues revealing its ugliness in new ways. Last week, 828 pages were added to the law's 20,000 pages of regulatory goo. The visual of 20,000 pages of regulations is hard to beat -- and the bureaucrats are just getting started.
This week, the Associated Press discovered that complying with the onerous law might, in fact, be a burden. The law provides health insurance for everyone in part by forcing people to buy it. And that, says the AP, "could be as daunting as doing your taxes." Why? Well, "At least three major federal agencies, including the IRS, will scrutinize your application. Checking your identity, income and citizenship is supposed to happen in real time, if you apply online. That's just the first part of the process." Oh joy.
There are numerous other compliance costs that consumers and employers will pay. For example, employers face a $63 fee for each person they insure in 2014, and across the entire economy, The Wall Street Journal reports, "Companies and other plan providers will together pay $25 billion over three years to create a fund for insurance companies to offset the cost of covering people with high medical bills." Oh and by the way, insurance premiums will rise next year from 20 to 100 percent for millions of people thanks to provisions of ObamaCare. So much for bending the cost curve down.
The law also requires restaurants and other food-serving establishments to provide calorie counts for food, meaning we'll all pay more, especially at grocery stores that have thousands of items now needing nutrition labels. The Food and Drug Administration, according to the AP, is finding the writing of these regulations "extremely thorny." If only the Leftmedia had informed voters just how "thorny" ObamaCare would become before it was passed.
On a related note, however, there is some good news. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff granted a preliminary injunction Thursday against ObamaCare's contraception mandate. Zatkoff said Domino's Farms Corp. shouldn't have to provide insurance covering contraception in violation of owner Tom Monaghan's faith. Monaghan also founded Domino's Pizza, though it is no longer connected to Domino's Farms.
Regulatory Commissars: The Price of Renewables
Since the end of February, gasoline prices are up 12 percent even though the price of oil is fairly steady. If you're wondering what's driving gas prices upward, look no further than the federal ethanol mandate. When regulators decreed ethanol usage mandates in 2007, they assumed gasoline consumption would continue to increase. They further assumed that the amount of ethanol forced onto the market wouldn't overwhelm the system. But one recession and millions more fuel-efficient cars later, gasoline usage has actually decreased over the last several years.
Due to this declining market, refiners are encountering what's known as a "blend wall," wherein the total gallons of ethanol needed to satisfy the federal mandate is more than the mandated 10 percent blend. To get around this problem, the EPA tried to "persuade" refiners to increase the share of ethanol in each gallon of gasoline to 15 percent -- E15 gasoline -- but consumers (not to mention manufacturers) are reluctant to assume the risk of engine damage from E15.
In a version of cap-and-trade, refiners not meeting their ethanol quota are then forced to purchase renewable identification number credits, or RINs, from companies that used more ethanol than their requirements dictate. The cost of RINs has surged since the beginning of the year, however, and that price is passed along at the pump. Other retailers skirt the mandate by exporting gasoline, since exports are exempt -- but that leads to both a supply shortage here and increased prices. So the EPA is indeed cutting the consumption of oil, but not in a way that maintains our economic viability -- which is just fine to the Obama administration.
Abu Ghayth Is Headed to the Wrong Court
Always on the lookout for ways to slip unpopular issues past an unsuspecting public, the Obama regime moved to once again start trying terrorist combatants in civilian courts. Recall that during Obama's first term, he attempted to move the trials of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his cohorts from Guantanamo Bay, where congressionally authorized military tribunals would have handled the trials, to civilian courts in lower Manhattan. This incredibly stupid idea was unsuccessful as the American public rose up in protest, and Congress passed legislation that barred the White House from using government funds to move terrorists from Gitmo to the U.S. for civilian trials. One would think Obama had gotten the message that enemy combatants and terrorists should be entitled only to military commissions, not to civilian due process, but one would be wrong in the Obama era.
Last month, Turkey arrested the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, a top al-Qa'ida member named Sulaiman Abu Ghayth. In order to appease Turkey's Islamists, the Turkish government pretended to extradite him to his native Kuwait rather than to the U.S. But the Turks conveniently shipped Abu Ghayth to Kuwait via Jordan where the U.S. enjoys more cooperation and so was able to take him into custody. Since Abu Ghayth is a part of bin Laden's inner circle and a frequent visitor to Iran, it's obvious that he belongs at Gitmo where he should be interrogated for actionable intelligence.
Because Abu Ghayth was not detained at Gitmo, he was not subject to the congressional prohibition against using government funds to transfer enemy combatants into the U.S. So while Americans were preoccupied, the Obama regime slipped Abu Ghayth into lower Manhattan, where his indictment in a U.S. civilian court was announced and where he promptly received legal representation and all the protections of the Bill of Rights. Naturally, Abu Ghayth pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to kill Americans. This move by Obama is a thumb in the eye of Congress and the American people, designed to undermine military tribunals and remove the government's venue for all terrorism cases to civilian courts, even cases against wartime enemy combatants. It provides a stark contrast for an administration that only reluctantly agreed not to drone strike U.S. citizens on American soil.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Hagel Receives Explosive Welcome
If those who had doubts about Chuck Hagel being secretary of defense were worried before, they have even more cause now as the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. During Hagel's first foreign visit as the civilian head of our military, he was greeted in-country by withering criticism from Afghan president Hamid Karzai and two separate bombings that killed 19 Afghans. Both were blamed on the Taliban, which Karzai claims is now an American ally fighting to keep us in their nation beyond the 2014 troop pullout deadline. "Taliban are every day in talks with America," charged Karzai, who added that the bombings "were in service of foreigners not withdrawing from Afghanistan."
Hagel weakly replied, "I told the president it was not true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban." His was a far cry from the outraged denial of new U.S. commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who thundered that Karzai's charge was "categorically false," noting that "we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years" to believe Taliban violence is to our advantage. Dunford put U.S. troops on higher security alert after Karzai's statements.
The Afghan president also challenged the new American leadership with expectations beyond 2014. Each nation wishing to remain beyond the deadline must negotiate separately and commit to "limited numbers ... in a location we choose," said Karzai. On a battlefield that Obama deemed the "good war," all he seems to do is make enemies out of our friends while the other side remains solidly entrenched.
Brennan Swears Oath Without Bill of Rights
John Brennan was sworn in this week to his new job as CIA director after winning confirmation in the Senate last week. Yet all didn't go quite according to plan. Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) famously filibustered Brennan's nomination over the administration's drone policy, specifically because of concerns about U.S. citizens' constitutional rights. So the White House went out of its way to note Brennan's swearing in on a "first draft" of the Constitution dating from 1787 that included notations made by George Washington. Well, that means the copy of the Constitution upon which Brennan took his oath didn't include -- wait for it -- the Bill of Rights. The first 10 amendments were ratified in 1791. Paging Senator Paul...
China's New President
Xi Jinping was elected as China's next president Thursday. Xi became the head of the party and the military in November, so, as with most power moves in China's Communist Party, his election yesterday was no surprise.
It's noteworthy that, shortly after taking the reins in November, Xi began a series of speeches about "The China Dream." Xi says, "This dream can be said to be the dream of a strong nation. And for the military, it is a dream of a strong military." Indeed, Xi seems to be positioning himself and China with a more hawkish stance to challenge U.S. dominance. Fully doing so will likely be some distance in the future -- Xi sees China reaching his "dream" by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Communist takeover -- but China's rise has already become the next great geopolitical challenge.
Faith and Family: A New Pope
The Catholic Church has a new pope -- Pope Francis. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, became the 266th pope Wednesday -- the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis and the first from the New World to hold the office. He was runner-up to Joseph Ratzinger in 2005, and now becomes Ratzinger's successor. Last month, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. Bergoglio was born in Argentina to Italian parents and chose the name Francis after the patron saint of Italy, Saint Francis of Assisi, in an effort to communicate his exceptional care for the poor and his adoption of a simple lifestyle.
With Europe clearly in the post-Christian era, most agree that the 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church's future lies in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and it's not surprising that Francis represents this shift. And as National Review's Michael Potemra writes, "Bergoglio is a solid conservative on the hot-button social issues that agitate American laity, but that would have been true of just about any of the cardinals who might have been elected today. The story here is that he is an outsider who is the consensus choice to fix what's wrong with the church administration, but all in a Franciscan spirit of love and humility."
Around the Nation: Bloomberg's Soda Ban Struck Down
It looks like New Yorkers can drink their soda and have it too. Just before it took effect, a state Supreme Court judge struck down Nanny -- er, Mayor Bloomberg's ban on large sugary drinks. In a refreshing moment of judicial sanity, Judge Milton Tingling ruled that Bloomberg overstepped his authority in bypassing the City Council and instead using the city Board of Health -- the members of which are all appointed by none other than Bloomberg -- to issue the ban. In his ruling, Tingling said the ban would "not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it," and this "evisceration has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened beverages." Imagine that, more dangerous than sugar!
In response to the ruling, Bloomberg tried to set the record straight. A ban? No, no, no. It's "portion control," the mayor insisted, adding, "It's a typical way that companies use and governments use to explain to people what's in their interest and what isn't." In other words, Americans need the nanny state to tell them what's in their best interests. Bloomberg, who also claimed he's just "trying to defend" his children, vowed to challenge the ruling. We don't begrudge anyone the prerogative to control their own children's sugar intake, but when Bloomberg acts as if all of New York City were his nursery school, we take issue. We're glad the court agreed.
Every once in a while, a product idea comes along that sounds inspiring but ends up lacking in the execution. Such was the case with the Founders Playing Cards. Great idea, right? The American Founders on a deck of playing cards. Not so fast. First, George Washington is depicted on the king of spades, in spite of the fact that the entire American Revolution was fought to be free of a king, and Washington vehemently rejected assuming such a title. Second, the other faces on the cards include such non-Founders as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, Pocahontas and "Rosie the Riveter." To adapt one of our favorite movie lines, you keep using the word "Founders;" we do not think it means what you think it means.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team