The Not-So-Super Committee on Debt Reduction + More

Posted on Fri 11/11/2011 by

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The Foundation

“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” –Thomas Jefferson

Government & Politics

The Not-So-Super Committee on Debt Reduction

Super committee talks break down

Almost no one had high or even medium hopes for the congressional super committee on deficit reduction. The 12-member committee was established earlier this year as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling; six Democrats, six Republicans, three each from the House and Senate. Their task: Come up with at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings (over, ahem, 10 years). Failing a deal by Thanksgiving, automatic across-the-board cuts would take effect. With a federal budget approaching $4 trillion every year, this task seemed neither tall nor especially consequential. Yet politics is as politics does, and the committee’s efforts have all but collapsed.

This failure comes despite major Republican concessions. Long insisting on no tax increases, Republicans offered a plan that would eliminate or cap many deductions while lowering rates. The top individual rate would fall from 35 percent to 28 percent, and the corporate rate would drop from 35 percent to 25 percent. Static scoring says these changes would combine for $500 billion in additional revenue, and the benefit would be flattened rates and simplified returns. The last time it was done, the result was solid economic growth.

The tax proposal requires that cuts would need to total just $750 billion over 10 years to achieve the committee’s stated goal. Democrats, however, continued to refuse any deal that would involve lower tax rates, or less than $1 trillion in additional tax revenue. In fact, they still insist that tax rates go up, not down. On top of that, they want to use savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down to boost “stimulus” spending.

Still, why are Democrats suddenly unwilling to take these big concessions? After all, as The Wall Street Journal explains, “[T]he deal … would be a big political win for all concerned. It would give the economy a major lift by taking the tax increase now scheduled for 2013 off the table, and it would show that Congress could at least make some progress toward controlling federal spending. With a ratio of $1.50 in spending cuts to $1 in tax increases, the offer is far better for Democrats than the $3 to $1 ratio that President Obama’s own Simpson-Bowles deficit commission recommended.”

We think the reasons for the Democrats’ actions are actually pretty obvious. First, they need someone and something to demagogue. They can’t budge on sticking it to the rich, and lower rates would be seen by their Flea Party minions as a cave. Second, Barack Obama is desperate to campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, but he can’t do that if Congress actually does something. Obviously, he will still try to blame Republicans for obstruction, and a large part of the electorate will fall for it.

Meanwhile, the U.S. national debt will surpass $15 trillion any day now. Given that, and given the looming failure of the super committee to agree to anything resembling even minor budget tweaks, and given Obama’s record of profligate spending and deficit expansion, it was hard to believe this Washington Times headline wasn’t a joke: “[Nicolas] Sarkozy asks Obama to help with debt crisis.” That’s right — the French president is looking to his American counterpart to solve the European debt crisis. “We need the leadership of Barack Obama,” Sarkozy said. We wonder if Sarkozy is aware that more debt won’t fix the problem.

Obstructionist!!!

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New & Notable Legislation

The Senate passed the first two components of Barack Obama’s “jobs” proposal this week. By a vote of 94-1, the Senate approved tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed or disabled veterans. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) dissented, saying that government shouldn’t “privilege one American over another when it comes to work.” The other measure repealed a previous requirement that the government withhold a portion of payments to contractors, and it passed unanimously. Both measures are likely headed to the president for his signature.

Judicial Benchmarks

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld ObamaCare this week. Unlike the five previous appeals court decisions, this decision crossed party lines. A Reagan appointee and a Carter appointee stood behind the law, while a George W. Bush appointee dissented because he believed the court didn’t have jurisdiction in the case.

The most disturbing aspect of the decision was the interpretation that Reagan appointee Judge Laurence Silberman applied. He concluded that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance was indeed an encroachment on liberty, but no more so than, for example, federal mandates that require businesses to serve all customers regardless of race. “The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute, and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems, no matter how local — or seemingly passive — their individual origins.” In other words, according to Silberman, Congress has the authority, through the Commerce Clause, to regulate whatever it deems necessary to be in the national interest. It’s frightening that a supposedly conservative judge in the nation’s most important circuit court argues that Congress has unlimited power to regulate whatever it likes. We can only hope that the Supreme Court actually adheres to the Constitution when it decides the case.

Hope ‘n’ Change: Obama Advertises for Republicans

It’s abundantly clear that Barack Obama is arrogant, but a video recently released by his re-election campaign takes this truth to new heights. In the video, against the backdrop of the teeming masses that packed Grant Park the night of Obama’s election in 2008, we’re treated to a series of triumphal images and self-congratulatory captions before being presented with the prospect of The One losing his re-election bid in 2012. “One year from now, all our progress could be erased.” Here in our humble shop, we think the GOP should use the exact same ad.

It’s virtually impossible to know what the nation might look like today had 2008 turned out differently, but we do have a pretty good idea of what the next four years would be like with the same president. We need only to look at the “progress” that threatens to be undone: Unemployment holding steady at around 9 percent; three straight years of budget deficits north of $1 trillion; a financial regulatory system that’s strangling America’s competitive advantage in the world market; a shrinking military that’s making us more vulnerable than we were before Pearl Harbor; and an unconstitutional federal entitlement that will ruin the health care system and double the national debt. If that’s the progress to which the campaign video refers, we had better turn to someone new in 2012.

Campaign Trail: More Allegations Against Cain

Herman Cain’s presidential run faces a significant hurdle in the smear campaign that gained momentum this week. Sharon Bialek became the first woman to go public with accusations of sexual misconduct by Cain when he ran the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Bialek, joined by leftist lawyer and publicity-monger Gloria Allred, gave a public statement about a 1997 incident in which she claims Cain made unwanted physical advances after a dinner at which the two discussed a job opportunity for her. Cain had heretofore been able to withstand the accusations because none of the women had come forward. Now, there’s a face to put to the story, though with Allred in the picture it’s now official that the circus is in town. Cain flatly refuted Bialek’s allegations, claiming that he didn’t recognize her on television, nor did he remember knowing her during his time with the association. Her credibility is questionable as well. She has twice filed for bankruptcy and may once again be in financial trouble.

Cain deserves the presumption of innocence. Yet given the media onslaught, it’s hard to imagine his candidacy surviving much longer. On the other hand, his campaign announced that it raised over $9 million since Oct. 1, a quarter of which has come since the first allegations were made public. We doubt Cain will be the nominee, but it appears that he may weather this storm.

Campaign Trail II: Another Poor Debate for Perry

Wednesday night’s debate was indeed memorable, but for the wrong reason. While explaining economic policy under a Rick Perry administration, the Texas governor began listing cabinet-level agencies he would dismantle: “Commerce, Education and the, uh, what’s the third one there? Let’s see,” he stumbled. Even Mitt Romney tried to help, offering, “the EPA,” but that wasn’t it. “The third agency of government I would — I would do away with, Education, uh, the, uh, Commerce and, let’s see,” he tried again. He finally gave up, admitting, “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” It was one of the most uncomfortable moments ever to occur in presidential politics.

The next day, Perry was trying to make lemonade, offering a poll on his website asking voters to choose the agency they would most like to forget. He also appeared on David Letterman’s show to deliver a list of Top Ten Excuses. The problem, however, is that this wasn’t a one-time gaffe for Perry. He has had a run of bad performances in the debates, leading to his collapse in the polls. Certainly, this was his worst stumble, but it highlights a pattern. Furthermore, Perry’s campaign has touted his record on energy as a major qualification for his run, but it was the Department of Energy that he couldn’t remember Wednesday night. In other words, he forgot what’s heretofore been a well rehearsed talking point for him — something that should have been as easy as one, two … uh, seven. That said, Perry’s 53 seconds of brain freeze were better than any 53 seconds of Obama-speak.

National Security

Veterans Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day! We invite you to publish a message of gratitude to one or more Veterans. Post a note of thanks.

Also, don’t miss Mark Alexander’s essay, The Most Noble of American Patriots.

Visit a profile of one Veteran, a citizen soldier whose call to serve is typical of so many others.

Warfront With Jihadistan: The Real SEAL Story

Within hours of Osama bin Laden’s death from SEAL-induced lead poisoning back in May, Barack Obama was taking credit for finally killing the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Over the following days, various fuzzy “facts” of the “real story” behind bin Laden’s death were leaked to the media. Turns out that almost all those “facts” were completely wrong. So says Chuck Pfarrer, author of SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden. As opposed to Obama’s storytellers, Pfarrer got the real story from the SEALs themselves, who say that the Obama version of an immediate chopper crash, a 45-minute firefight up from the first floor, and finally, the shooting of bin Laden on the third floor, never happened.

What really happened was that the SEALs entered the building after being put on the roof by the lead helicopter as planned. Within 90 seconds bin Laden was shot dead — taking rounds to the head and chest — because he reached for his rifle. Minutes later, after bin Laden’s death, the lead helicopter, while trying to land, crashed after hitting a large walled enclosure near the main house. Nor was the mission’s purpose to kill bin Laden, as the White House claimed, but rather to take him alive for intelligence purposes. “I’ve been a SEAL for 30 years,” said Pfarrer, “and I never heard the words ‘kill mission.’”

Unfortunately, Obama spiked the football so quickly that it compromised much of the intelligence gathered from bin Laden’s compound, as his allies scrambled for new holes in which to hide. What’s vital war intelligence when an alleged personal political victory can be claimed?

Speaking of spiking the football, the Taliban have begun to celebrate the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as a victory, and they’re preparing for a comeback after foreign troops have left. As reported last week, the Obama regime now wants Afghan negotiations to include the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Omar. Yet Omar has rejected such talks as “pointless,” and he sees Obama’s Afghan strategy as a preparation for surrender and the final step to a complete Taliban military victory. Could Obama aid and abet the enemy any more than he has?

This Just In: Iran Is Close to Nuclear Capability

We were not surprised in the least to learn this week that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) now believes that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capability after all. Citing new evidence provided by 10 different nations, the IAEA says Iran did not cease its nuclear warhead work in 2003 — contrary to the claims made in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. Instead, the IAEA now says, “There are also indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.”

Nor were we shocked to see the outburst of media speculation that Israel would soon take military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program. UK media have been the most vocal, with one un-named “senior Foreign Office figure” saying, “We are expecting Israeli action as soon as Christmas, or early in 2012.” The Israeli government publicly downplayed as routine events planned months ago a recent ballistic missile launch, as well as long-range strike training conducted in Sardinia, but it has also made many guarded and not-so-guarded statements regarding its concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

The Obama administration, as part of its weak efforts to counter Iranian power, plans to provide the United Arab Emirates with thousands of advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and other munitions. As for actually doing anything about it, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the U.S. and its allies, but that a military strike would be “a last resort” with unintended consequences. Such a strike, he said, “could have a serious impact in the region and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region.” This could be smoke and mirrors and the U.S. could still strike Iran’s nuclear program, or, as seems more likely, the Israelis might. However, if Iran gets nukes, all bets are off. Proliferation will increase as a result, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah may get the bomb. This problem will take more than talk to solve.

The Wall Street Journal concludes, “No U.S. President could undertake a strike on Iran except as a last resort, and Mr. Obama can fairly say that he has given every resort short of war an honest try. At the same time, no U.S. President should leave his successor with the catastrophe that would be a nuclear Iran. A nuclear Iran on Mr. Obama’s watch would be fatal to more than his legacy.”

Open Mic Night in France

Obama’s chilly attitude toward Israel is as obvious as it is unprecedented by a U.S. president. The fact that he and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are not the best of friends has been apparent for quite some time — particularly the PM’s well-publicized Oval Office history lesson, which was prompted by Obama’s reckless statement that Israeli should seek peace by contracting to its indefensible pre-1967 borders. However, taking a tough stance on policy is a far cry from being caught badmouthing a world leader on an open mic. But this is precisely what happened after last week’s G20 summit, when Obama and French President Sarkozy were overheard slinging some mud in Bibi’s direction.

According to the French website “Arret Sur Images,” the microphone picked up Sarkozy saying, “I cannot stand [Netanyahu]. He is a liar,” as well as Obama’s response: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!” The website also stated that the members of the press were asked to sign an agreement not to divulge what they had heard. Of course, Obama and Sarkozy are not the first politicians to be caught saying something less than diplomatic. One would think that by now they would simply wait until they were away from reporters and microphones before making their feelings known. Regardless, Israel’s list of friends is short enough without antagonism from the West.

With Friends Like These.......

Business & Economy

Around the Nation: It’s [Still] the Economy, Stupid

When the economy entered a slight recession back in the 1992 presidential race, Bill Clinton’s wingnut political hatchet man, James Carville, popularized the axiom, “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” as a bludgeon to quash re-election hopes of then-president George H.W. Bush. We don’t hear so much of that slogan today, now that Barack Obama is wearing those shoes and the economic climate is much, much worse. Well, it’s still the economy, stupid. Of course, Team Chosen knows this, but has nonetheless not “gotten the memo” on how to solve the problem — only how to politicize it. Case in point: poverty.

The Obama administration has directed a new “Supplemental Poverty Measure” to “supplement” (i.e., redefine) the Census Bureau’s standard for poverty. Under the new standard, almost 50 million Americans are now defined as “poor.” While Obama’s policies have undoubtedly impoverished more Americans than any administration since the New Deal and the inauguration of Big Government, this new standard is really a veiled scheme to drive politicians from both sides of the aisle to make foolhardy choices regarding entitlements and taxes.

Specifically, the new poverty index rises automatically according to any improvement in living standards for the average American. Thus, even if the real income of every American doubled, the new standard would show no drop in poverty because income thresholds would also double — poverty levels decline only if incomes of the “poor” rise faster than the incomes of everyone else. In practice, this means that the new standard focuses on income differences — poor indicators of real poverty and not on actual purchasing power.

For those statist-leaning policymakers in Washington, redefining “poverty” as income inequality is just what the doctor ordered. It fits neatly into the class-envy paradigm and adds fuel to the fire for programs that support the “poor.” Levels of true poverty thus become virtually impossible to gauge, and for the statists the only acceptable argument becomes that benefits cannot be cut to the poor — never mind whether or not they are actually poor.

Meanwhile, the “fat cat bankers” — as Obama calls anyone associated with Wall Street — are not only not poor, but under the current administration have become considerably wealthier. The Washington Post reports that Wall Street firms have earned more in the first two-and-a-half years of the Obama administration than in all eight years of the George W. Bush administration. It’s amazing what a few trillion dollars of government bailouts will do for an industry, isn’t it?

All of this leads us to point out the obvious: Until the Hope-&-Changelings face reality, use economic metrics that actually mean something, and implement economic policies that acknowledge the role of free markets as opposed to class warfare, the best hope America will have for an economic turnaround won’t happen until this time next year.

No Decision on Keystone Pipeline Before the Election

It seems like a great “shovel-ready” project that would put Americans to work and perhaps reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, but the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada through the nation’s midsection to refineries along the Gulf Coast, continues to languish because the State Department won’t give its blessing. State’s input is required since the pipeline would cross an international border. The administration announced this week that the decision would continue to languish until after the 2012 election.

One key factor in this stonewalling is that the pipeline would pass through a large aquifer in Nebraska, and the slim prospect of a leak ruining drinking water is enough to send envirofascists into a tizzy. On the other hand, unions back the pipeline because of the prospect of thousands of jobs. Faced with the choice of antagonizing one of his major groups of backers by making a decision, the president chose to mollify the environmentalists.

While there is already a pipeline called Keystone I that runs between Alberta and Illinois (with a spur extending southward to Oklahoma), the new pipeline would be a more direct connection through a route hundreds of miles west of the present pipeline — thus the call for environmental study. Approved by the previous administration in 2008, most of Keystone I has been operational for just over a year, with the southernmost extension coming online last February. All told, the pipeline is initially rated to transport 435,000 barrels of oil per day, or about 2 percent of our daily consumption. Adding the XL pipeline would push the total over 1 million barrels per day and supply 5 percent of our energy needs. So much for that — the president has to raise campaign dollars from special interests.

Regulatory Commissars: Graphic Cigarette Warnings Tossed Out by Judge

Imagine buying your next car and having the hood feature a photo of a horrific accident scene, with mangled metal and bodies strewn across the pavement. This is what the cigarette industry was facing had new regulations gone into effect next year. Instead, the tobacco industry won a victory as a federal judge blocked a regulation that would have forced cigarette makers to feature graphic and disturbing images prominently on their packaging and advertising. Under the proposed rules, those who picked up cigarettes would be treated to pictures depicting the long-term effects of smoking, including images of diseased lungs or cancerous lesions.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, an appointee of George W. Bush, instead placed a stay on the regulations pending the outcome of litigation by tobacco companies seeking to overturn the rules; a resolution that isn’t expected for several years. In his decision, he also castigated the federal government for advocacy and soliciting an “emotional response … calculated to provoke the viewer to quit” rather than “disseminating purely factual and uncontroversial information.”

It’s also worth noting that while the federal government advocates that people quit smoking, it makes millions of dollars in revenue from cigarette taxes. The most recent hike brought the federal tax per pack to $1.01.

Culture & Policy

Second Amendment: Holder Testifies Again

For the second time, Attorney General Eric Holder was summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress regarding Operation Fast and Furious. The AG being questioned by Congress on the who, what, when, where, why and how of thousands of guns walked across the U.S. border into Mexico — straight to Mexican drug gangs — is fairly big news. So how did The New York Times treat the story? The “newspaper of record” spiked the story entirely in its print edition, and carried this headline on the web: “Holder Urges Lawmakers to Support Efforts to Stop Gun Trafficking.” Quite the propaganda machine.

In reality, it was the policy of the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to traffic guns to Mexico. Yet Holder himself deflected blame — even onto the Bush administration — and generally avoided taking any responsibility whatsoever. He also pointedly refused to apologize for the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Holder said, “I have not apologized to [his family], but I certainly regret what happened.” Furthermore, he asserted, “It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.” Media reports later in the week claimed that Holder sent a private letter of apology to the family, but the family says they have received no such letter.

Finally, Holder followed the lead of some other Democrats in calling for tighter gun control measures in the wake of the operation. He complained that law enforcement needed more “tools” to deal with illegal gun trafficking. Perhaps Hot Air’s Allahpundit said it best: “[T]here actually is room for a smart new gun law here if Congress is willing to take it up. I call it the ‘DOJ Shouldn’t Walk Guns to Psychotic Mexican Drug Cartels Act of 2011.’ The text reads, in full, ‘The DOJ shouldn’t walk guns to psychotic Mexican drug cartels.’” Would Democrats go along?

Fast And Furious

Village Academic Curriculum: Penn State Crisis

By now, readers are well aware of the sex scandal plaguing Penn State University’s football program, so we’ll spare you the horrific details. Earlier this week, the university’s board took action by firing both the president of the university and long-time head football coach Joe Paterno. “JoePa,” as he was loving known, had been the coach for 46 years — virtually unheard of in any sport, especially in this day and age. Yet he failed miserably in this case, and paid with his job. It was a tragic way to end a storied career, but far more tragic is the plight of the boys who were victimized.

When news of the scandal broke, the university and the nation were rightly shocked. But it was the news that Paterno had been fired that caused the real reaction among the student body: riots and protests. The students’ response is a glaring sign of our cultural deficit, particularly at our nation’s colleges and universities, and they should be ashamed of themselves. We offer our prayers for the victims and their families.

Faith and Family: Planned Parenthood’s Plight

The money Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers is not merely supporting the organization’s operations. In many cases, it’s sustaining them. Hence the recent slew of Planned Parenthood clinic closures in states that have cut taxpayer funding for the abortion mill. Lifenews.com reports that in Texas, 12 clinics closed after the state legislature stripped more than $64 million in taxpayer funding from the organization. In New Jersey, five clinics were forced to close after Gov. Chris Christie eliminated $7.5 million in funding. Even New Hampshire cut a $1.8 million grant, almost causing Planned Parenthood to shut down — until the Obama administration stepped in and doled out the funds directly.

Clearly, without taxpayer dollars, Planned Parenthood can’t sustain its operations. Indeed, the organization, which receives more than $360 million annually from taxpayers — has no functioning business model apart from government support. Despite all the subsidized ads on radio and TV, their message isn’t enough to support their mission. They need your money. No wonder they fight tooth and nail over every penny. We’re hardly crying over their plight, though. In fact, aside from Planned Parenthood itself, the only ones crying may be the thousands of babies who will live thanks to shuttered Planned Parenthood clinics. And those tears are a wonderful thing.

And Last…

The malcontents and miscreants of Occupy [Fill in the Blank City] continue to run amok, vandalizing private property, obstructing and damaging legitimate businesses, and generally befouling entire sections of cities. The destruction isn’t limited to external venues, either. There are numerous reports ranging from lice and tuberculosis outbreaks to sexual assault and murder of fellow Occupiers. Despite all this, some traders at the Chicago Board of Trade came up with a humorous way to send a message. As protesters were gathered below their offices, they showered them with stacks of papers — papers that angered the occupiers when they realized they were employment applications for McDonald’s. “Real class acts, the Chicago Board of Trade,” tweeted Occupy Chicago. “This week, it’s McDonald’s job applications they litter from the windows. Soulless place.” While we applaud the good humor and creativity of the traders, we hope the Flea Partiers don’t take the applications seriously. We’re not at all sure that we want them asking us if we want to improve our order with super-sized flies.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

*****

(Please pray for our Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families — especially families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who granted their lives in defense of American liberty.)

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