The Patriot Post Digest
“No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt.” –George Washington
Government & Politics
Shutdown Looms at Midnight
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his proposal for the 2012 budget on Monday, but as we go to press this morning, the 2011 budget process is still stuck in neutral and appears headed for shutdown at midnight tonight.
By a vote of 247-181, the Republican-controlled House passed yet another week-long continuing resolution Thursday that cuts more from federal spending but funds the Pentagon through Sept. 30. Friday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced an agreement on $38 billion in cuts, but said that the Senate will “have our own short-term” bill. The Senate hasn’t approved a budget bill of any kind in more than 18 months. Nothing like leadership, Harry.
The hang up isn’t so much the dollar amounts, it’s whether or not funds are used for Democrats’ pet social issues, such as money for abortions at Planned Parenthood. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called removal of those funds “a war on women.”
Pelosi also decried GOP spending bills, saying, “In one of the bills before us, six million seniors are deprived of meals — homebound seniors are deprived of meals. People ask us to find our common ground, the middle ground. Is middle ground three million seniors not receiving meals? I don’t think so. We’ve got to take this conversation from a debate about numbers and dollar figures and finding middle ground there to the higher ground of national values. I don’t think the American people want any one of those six million people to lose their meals or the children who are being thrown off of Head Start and the rest of it.”
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, however, only 2.6 million seniors receive these meals. In fact, Pelosi’s lie was so bad, even The Washington Post called her on it.
Meanwhile, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) fumed, “We are absolutely outraged. This is the functional equivalent of bombing innocent civilians. It’s time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell.” She continued, “If these Republicans insist that, if they don’t get the whole pie they’ll take the whole country down with them,” she continued, “then we have got to make them pay the price.” Don’t hold back, Eleanor — tell us how you really feel.
Barack Obama says he wants “to have an adult dialogue on the budget,” but apparently congressional Democrats aren’t quite there yet. Then again, neither is Obama. Though he said everyone should “quit playing games and realize it is not ‘my way or the highway,'” he called the House bill a “distraction” and has promised a veto if funding for Planned Parenthood is cut. Sounds like his way or the highway to us because that veto would cause (part of) the government to shut down.
In effect, what Obama is saying is, “Pay the ransom (allow us to continue massive government spending) or we stop paying the military, we won’t mail tax refunds, we will close national parks and the DC Cherry Blossom Festival will be ruined!”
Both parties will be happy to blame the other if shutdown actually happens, but neither side is winning the confidence of the American people.
(For more, read Mark Alexander’s essay, The Most Perilous National Security Crisis Since 1860.)
Quote of the Week
“Keep in mind this fight is only over funding for the last six months of fiscal 2011. Democrats were supposed to pass this budget last year but failed to do so. House Republicans proceeded to cut $61 billion after two years of record spending, but Mr. Obama says he’ll accept only $33 billion and most of that must come not from specific programs but from ‘unobligated balances’ that might not be spent anyway. Republicans now want $40 billion and cuts that are real. Inviting a shutdown sooner or later has looked to be the White House strategy since Mr. Obama unveiled his own budget in February that increased spending and dodged any serious budget reform. Our guess is that Mr. Obama’s political advisers have concluded that the lesson from Bill Clinton’s 1995 shutdown is that presidents win such showdowns. If they don’t believe this, why risk a shutdown over $7 billion and a few policy differences like funding for Planned Parenthood?” —The Wall Street Journal
This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award
“This is making the federal government dysfunctional on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. These guys will support three wars. They’ll support tax dodgers. They’ll support the wealthiest Americans getting tax breaks. They want to cut into education and health care. This is an ideological battle.” –race-baiting “Rev.” Jesse Jackson
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New & Notable Legislation
The Senate voted 87-12 to repeal the onerous 1099 reporting requirement included in last year’s ObamaCare legislation. The House already voted in March for repeal by a count of 314-112, and the president is expected to sign the bill soon. The 1099 provision would have required some 38 million American businesses, including independent contractors and charities, to file Form 1099 for cumulative purchases over $600. Obviously, the provision had nothing to do with health care — except that proponents claimed it would have raised $25 billion over 10 years toward funding ObamaCare.
It grew increasingly unpopular with the business community (and legislators seeking re-election) when it became glaringly obvious that it would have swamped business owners with additional paperwork. Yet, considering how the bill was rammed through Congress, it’s no surprise that a provision supported by so few ended up in the legislation anyway. Nancy Pelosi did say, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Republicans are encouraged by this repeal and pledge to keep up the pressure on deconstructing ObamaCare. Democrats may be hoping that the repeal of the 1099 provision will be enough for the public to digest the rest of the law wholesale. Next year, though, many of the waivers that have been granted are due to expire, and many of the beneficiaries will be clamoring for renewal, so the debate is sure to continue.
In other legislative news, the House voted 255-172 to nullify the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations. Nineteen Democrats voted with every Republican to do so. However, a companion bill in the Senate failed Wednesday, garnering only 50 votes and needing 60 for passage. Predictably, the White House threatened a veto.
From the Left: Obama’s 2012 Campaign Strolls Out of the Gate
Barack Obama officially announced his 2012 re-election campaign this week with an email to supporters and a simple video featuring a series of people seemingly trying to convince themselves that they should vote for him again. Obama’s not in the video, and not a single policy issue or accomplishment is named. Big surprise. The campaign has pledged to raise $1 billion, which would make it the most expensive presidential campaign ever, breaking the previous record held by … Barack Obama.
Obama says he will remain focused on his job, but he has already made two trips to New York City, including a visit this week with professional race-baiter “Rev.” Al Sharpton, to speak before the National Action Network. Obama kept Sharpton at arm’s length in the 2008 campaign, and for good reason. Blacks haven’t voted Republican for decades and there’s certainly no reason to think they will start in 2012. Yet Obama needs to energize the black vote, and for that at least, Sharpton is a capable ally.
Wisconsin Judicial Election Hangs in the Balance
When it comes to elections, leftists will stop at nothing to win. A key Wisconsin State Supreme Court race could head to a recount as just a few thousand votes out of 1.5 million cast separate incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser from his union-backed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Although Kloppenburg had already declared victory when she led by just 204 votes, Friday morning’s late-breaking word out of Waukesha County, a Republican stronghold, indicates that 14,315 ballots were counted but not reported. How these types of mind-boggling errors happen, we’ll never know. The new tally, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, would take Justice Prosser from a small deficit to a lead of more than 7,000 votes.
This remarkable turn of events should be welcome news to everyone in the Dairy State who values fiscal sanity and Rule of Law. At stake are the reforms Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has put in motion, most notably stripping the power of the state’s public employee unions to negotiate much of their contract language and ending the state’s practice of automatically deducting union dues from state employee paychecks. Gov. Walker is seeking to address a projected $3.6 billion deficit in the state over the next two years.
Such efforts at fiscal responsibility, however, have pitted Big Labor and its allies against the people of Wisconsin, who backed Walker for election last November. Unions poured cash into the campaign backing Kloppenburg and took advantage of Wisconsin’s lax election laws — such as allowing same-day registration without the need for a photo ID — to truck in hundreds or thousands of new voters for her side. Elections in Wisconsin aren’t governed by a partisan secretary of state but rather by a panel of six retired judges called the Government Accountability Board. Unfortunately, Walker’s Democrat predecessor appointed most of the board’s members.
If Prosser does win, it will be despite having lost Milwaukee and Madison by massively large margins (97-3 percent in some precincts). Most state employees reside in those cities, and it’s no surprise that they want to keep the goodies flowing their way.
Any legal wrangling over this Supreme Court election would almost certainly end up in — you guessed it — Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Conservatives hold a narrow 4-3 margin there, but Prosser would recuse himself from a decision about his own fate, leaving a possible 3-3 split to uphold a lower court ruling. And Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a leftist who has a chilly relationship with Prosser, will choose the judge who handles any court challenge. Also conveniently, Kloppenburg began her career as a clerk for Abrahamson. Despite all this, the new 7,000 vote margin in favor of Prosser might be too much even for Democrat malfeasance to overcome.
White House Reversal on KSM Trial
On Monday, the same day Barack Obama announced his all-too-predictable re-election bid, the White House made a stunning policy reversal — 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried by a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, not in a civilian show trial in New York City. These are the same military tribunals that George W. Bush proposed, but the Obama administration is trying to keep that part under wraps. Unfortunately, the administration is bowing to reality, not embracing Rule of Law.
National Review’s Andrew McCarthy writes, “Never in the history of the United States have our wartime enemies been invited into our civilian courts, clothed in the majesty of our Constitution, enabled by our due process rules to comb through our intelligence files, and given a platform to put our government, our troops, and our society on trial. Unless and until we devise a new system for prosecuting enemy combatant terrorists, military commissions remain the appropriate vehicle for war crimes trials. This is not a departure from the rule of law, it is the rule of law during wartime.”
Yet Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, has made it clear he is only grudgingly going along with scrapping the civilian trial. “Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States,” he carped. Republicans were nearly unified against the civilian trial, but it was Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democrat from New York, who spearheaded opposition from the president’s own party. Schumer called the reversal the “final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea.” And if Obama’s lost Schumer, he’s lost Middle America.
Kinetic Military Action Front With Jihadistan: Arming Libyan Rebels?
The U.S. has pulled its planes from air strikes in Libya, leaving the rest of the action to other NATO forces. U.S. planes will remain in the region, however, to provide support should NATO commanders request it. Also, several Navy EA-18G Growler electronic attack planes will continue to disrupt communications of Libyan forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
Meanwhile, the administration has so far resisted arming Libyan rebels (who just happen to be al-Qa’ida), but the idea is still under consideration. Former President Bill Clinton weighed in on the subject, saying he wouldn’t “shut the door” on the proposal to arm the rebels. “I might need to know a little more,” he said, but “I would be inclined to do it.” After all, he added, “We’re trying to build a world in which people resolve their differences in nonviolent ways. And we’re trying to build a world where no ruler can cavalierly kill its unarmed civilians.”
This is the same guy that disarmed the American populace with his 1994 gun ban. Now he wants to arm a bunch of jihadis.
Immigration Front: Napolitano’s Magic Act
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has indicated that the administration will be enforcing immigration law as if the stalled DREAM Act were actually passed. Specifically, the Obama administration will not deport illegal-alien students who would have been covered by the law’s provisions. “I will say, and can say, that you know what? They are not, that group, if they truly meet all those criteria, and we see very few of them actually in the immigration system, if they truly meet those [criteria], they’re not the priority,” the secretary babbled. “The reason we set priorities is so that the focus could be on those in the country who are also committing other illegal acts.”
We understand that not every law is going to be enforced 100 percent of the time — perfection is not for mere mortals — but the administration is acting as if a law that hasn’t passed actually has been passed in order to avoid enforcing laws already on the books that the administration doesn’t favor. To add insult to injury, Napolitano is declaring these priorities at the same time she’s touting the border as being secure. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Business & Economy
Income Redistribution: The Ethanol Scheme
Last year, Al “It’s not easy being green” Gore conceded, “It is not a good policy to have … massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol.” Now, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants to make Gore’s reluctant vision a reality. Coburn has introduced an amendment to repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), a 45-cent per gallon blender’s credit that delivers billions of taxpayer dollars annually to petroleum refiners who blend ethanol into gasoline. Opponents of Coburn’s amendment say it will kill jobs, but as the Heritage Foundation notes, many ethanol jobs are only guaranteed thanks to federal law that “requires production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022.”
Ironically, the amendment’s detractors are citing the conservative Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) to try to make their case. ATR opposes Coburn’s amendment, asserting, “Repealing the ethanol credit is the right thing to do, but other taxes must be reduced in the same legislation by at least this much to prevent a net tax increase.”
The Wall Street Journal argues, however, that “the compelling taxpayer interest in this case is to begin to dismantle the failed policy.” Indeed, “failed” is putting it mildly. Despite government backing, ethanol has never lived up to its promise as the “fuel of the future,” but since when have results constituted funding criteria? As Ronald Reagan famously summarized, government’s philosophy is “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Apparently subsidizing also now applies if it never got moving in the first place.
Regulatory Commissars: He Said, She Said
Deal or no deal? Well, that all depends on whom you ask. On Sunday, the Financial Times reported that BP and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE, or, as we call it, “Bummer”) had reached a deal to allow BP to resume drilling in the Gulf following last year’s oil spill. Not so, says BOEMRE spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz, who e-mailed reporters, “There is no deal. There is no agreement. There is no draft agreement. There are no ongoing talks. There are no ongoing negotiations. We issue permits based on the merits of the application. We have issued no permits to BP to date.” Ok then.
Meanwhile, in accordance with the Obama administration’s modus operandi of convening summits, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a forum which, as Politico reports, will address “recent blowouts and make recommendations for containing spills.” Attendees at this Ministerial Forum on Offshore Drilling Containment will include academics, industry representatives, and ministers and senior officials from 13 countries and the European Union.
While bureaucrats deliberate, however, more than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf remain inactive, and Reuters reports that according to former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani, oil could hit $200 to $300 a barrel due to unrest in Saudi Arabia. But not to worry: This administration is tackling the crisis head-on — with lots of idle oil rigs and a self-important summit.
U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement Announced
The Associated Press reports, “After weeks of intense negotiations, the United States and Colombia have reached a deal on a free trade pact that the White House says is a vital part of President Barack Obama’s economic agenda.” The deal was solidified when Colombian officials finally acceded to the administration’s demands for what the AP calls “greater protections for workers and union leaders.” As noted above, catering to unions is crushing U.S. states, but it helps Obama save face with his union constituents here.
The agreement still must pass Congress though both houses support it. The biggest hurdle has been the White House itself, though it may have just put a hurdle in front of the Colombians with the labor law changes. Under the agreement, 80 percent of U.S. exports to Colombia will become duty-free immediately, and the remaining tariffs will be phased out over the coming decade. Colombia’s is the third largest economy in South America. Some economists estimate that the agreement will add $1 billion in U.S. exports in the first year. Unions warn that American jobs will be lost, but if the export estimate becomes reality, that’s hard to imagine.
Culture & Policy
Burning a Koran
On March 20, Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who gained notoriety for almost burning a Koran last year, held a mock trial of the Koran for “crimes against humanity,” found it guilty, and then actually burned it this time. Naturally, many members of the Religion of Peace™ became not peaceful after the news broke a few days later. Rioting jihadis in Afghanistan slaughtered at least 22 people, including defenseless UN staffers, and injured hundreds. What followed was the usual international condemnation of Jones’ provocative act by the usual suspects, including Barack Obama and his Leftmedia minions. Time magazine’s Joe Klein wrote, “Jones’ act was murderous as any suicide bomber’s.” We’re still waiting for Time to produce a body murdered by Jones. In the meantime, Jones remains defiant and is now threatening to hold a public “trial” on the life of Mohammed.
As with his earlier abandoned threat to burn a Koran, Jones’ follow-through raises some conflicting questions. While the deaths and injuries in the Middle East are solely the responsibility of the Muslim rioters, there is no doubt Jones knew this would happen. He even stated, “It was intended to stir the pot; if you don’t shake the boat, everyone will stay in their complacency.” This is America, of course, and it should go without saying that he has the right to burn a Koran. But if Jones really cares about his country, why would he burn a Koran knowing that it would obviously increase the risks to American troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere?
Likewise, the reaction of much of the Muslim world to the burning — which Jones and others warned against — certainly doesn’t aid the case that Islam is at heart a peaceful religion. Ultimately, since Jones knew that his act would lead to rioting and, almost certainly the deaths of innocents, he performed a most un-Christian act. Maybe he should practice his faith in a more Christ-like manner.
Second Amendment: Mexican Cartel Weapons Not From U.S.
Score another casualty in the ongoing drug war against Mexican cartels: the truth about their weaponry. We have been told that it’s American guns and ammunition being used against Mexican (and American) law enforcement officials. In truth, most of the heavy weaponry — including grenades, light anti-tank weapons and “cop killer” armor-piercing bullets — come from stockpiles stolen from the armies of various Central American countries and smuggled in along Mexico’s own southern border.
A sad fact is that the various cartels’ battle amongst themselves and law enforcement has taken on the trappings of a small-scale war, with innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. Outgunned and outmanned, Mexican police have simply thrown up their hands, while the Mexican army, as often as not, helps the drug lords.
While many of the weapons used by drug cartels reportedly come from the United States (most come from the Mexican army itself, or other foreign countries), U.S. Embassy cables sent in 2009 and early 2010, revealed via WikiLeaks, noted that the drug lords were graduating to heavier weaponry. Coupled with another report that a large percentage of guns allowed into Mexico as part of the ATF’s Project Gunrunner simply disappeared, it seems that much of the blame for Mexico’s violence problem stems from our porous border and lax enforcement.
Judicial Benchmarks: SCOTUS Hears Arizona Campaign Finance Case
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club Political Action Committee v. Bennett, a conservative challenge to the state’s “clean elections” law. Arizona officials contend that its matching grant program only attempts to “level the playing field” between candidates, but conservative groups such as the Yankee Institute and Barry Goldwater Institute point out that the grants smack of Big Government interference, as well as an attack by the Left on free speech.
Arizona is one of nine states with such laws, which gift money to candidates who accept public funds. The Free Enterprise Club complains that state bureaucrats pay out funds to these candidates in almost equivalent amounts for every contribution their privately funded opponents receive.
“As a matter of common sense,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, “if you knew that a $10,000 expenditure that you would make that would support a candidate would result in $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, depending on how many opposition candidates there were available for them, wouldn’t you think twice about it?” In other words, the law discourages political speech. That’s just the financial end; these laws also create layers of bureaucracy that control how candidates run their campaigns.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has usually been the Court’s swing vote since Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, seems to be siding with conservatives on this one. Last year, he wrote the majority opinion in the Citizens United case, in which the Court struck down certain provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act on First Amendment grounds. “Do you think,” Kennedy asked, “it would be a fair characterization of this law to say that its purpose and its effect are to produce less speech in political campaigns?” Let’s hope the Court answers this question in the affirmative and strikes it down.
In an effort to appear to identify with the common folks, Barack Obama declared this week, “I don’t pump gas now, but I remember what it was like pumping gas.” Now he just pumps hot air — a whole lot of it.
Answering questions about energy, Obama told people worried about high gas prices, “[I]f you’re getting eight miles a gallon, you may want to think about a trade-in.” Easy for him to say though it is an interesting idea. In fact, we’re going to take his suggestion to heart; we’re going to trade in our current model in November 2012. And this time, instead of settling for something flashy, we’ll look for one that’s reliable, economical and made in America.
(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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