Monday Digest News From the Swamp: Spending Deal Near + More

Posted on Mon 12/09/2013 by

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THE FOUNDATION

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

GOVERNMENT & POLITICS

News From the Swamp: Spending Deal Near

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray (D-WA) appear close to working out a budget proposal to meet the Jan. 15 deadline for a new bill. Details are sketchy at this point, making many Republicans nervous, but word is already out that Ryan and Murray have agreed to raise spending above sequestration levels. The remaining questions are the level of increase and the combination of fees and cuts in other programs to offset the uptick.

Word is that the discretionary spending level will probably land somewhere between $967 billion, the current sequester level, and Senate Democrats’ proposed $1.058 trillion – more than the previously planned $986 billion. Unfortunately, it seems that Ryan is getting almost nothing in return for caving on the sequester because any reforms to entitlements will be so minor as to not qualify for the word “reform,” and they happen “down the road” instead of now. In addition, it appears Democrats may win an extension of unemployment benefits and increases in various taxes like airport-security fees. Didn’t we just get saddled with a $600 million tax increase on Jan. 1 of this past year?

Also, for the record, let history note that the sequester never turned into the doomsday scenario that Barack Obama so shamelessly predicted. Airports didn’t close, children didn’t go unfed and Christmas is still scheduled for Dec. 25. And let us never forget that it was his idea in the first place. Still, some Republicans are intent on unwinding automatic defense cuts, as those cuts arguably hindered the Pentagon’s ability to maintain force levels around the world. Not that the sequester stopped Obama from jetting around on Air Force One as he cancelled military flyovers and the like to make cuts as painful and annoying as possible.

The bottom line, however, is that no budget deal under consideration will actually address the core problem: The federal government spends far too much money. And if Republicans can’t maintain the pittance that is the sequester, we’re in very deep trouble.

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ECONOMY, REGS & TAXES

Income Redistribution: A Litany of Section 1705 Failure

PP_RenewableEnergy_2013-12-09-e42d7276An obscure portion of Department of Energy loan guarantees in Section 1705 of the overall American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – better known as the “stimulus” – was supposed to jumpstart the renewable energy industry, but the law has proven to be a cesspool of failure and cronyism. A Reason Foundation study released last week details the program’s lack of tangible results with the only successes apparently being those of enriching politically connected investors.

Among the more spectacular and well-documented failures such as Solyndra and Abound Solar, most of the other 24 companies that benefited from Section 1705 loans were already mired in junk-bond status prior to receiving the infusion of taxpayer cash, according to the Reason study. Study authors Victor Nava and Julian Morris also blasted the federal government for a lack of diversity in selecting recipients, noting that 83% of the project funding went to solar projects, with most of the rest supporting wind-based energy.

Rather than investing in new ideas for improving existing technology, such as improvements in electrical transmission infrastructure or in hydropower, which were allowed in the authorizing legislation, those who selected Section 1705 recipients seemed to lean on the all-important criteria of political connection. The study notes that larger loan recipients tended to spend more on lobbying, but those who spent nothing on lobbying had something even more important: a senator to back their project. Maine “Independent” Sen. Angus King founded Independence Wind, a company that received $102 million in loan guarantees for the Record Hill Wind project; meanwhile, all three Nevada-based projects (of 26 eventually selected) had backers who collectively funneled over $58,000 in campaign cash to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Instead of a system riddled with questionable investments and cronyism, the authors suggest a different approach: a prize system based on the ongoing X Prize project in which competitors come up with solutions based on a set of specific criteria. One example given in the study is a competition to remove oil from the surface of seawater, with seven of the 10 finalists exceeding the given criteria and the winner besting the existing industry standard fourfold.

The only standard the government seems to exceed under the current system is largess for the well-connected, and that’s not a direction we need to take.

NATIONAL SECURITY

We Get Results

Our headline is tongue-in-cheek, but there is good news to report. Last week, we noted that 85-year-old Korean War veteran Merrill Newman had been detained by North Korea for no apparent reason. Today we can report that he has been released and is home with his family.

The North Koreans claimed that Newman had been detained due to alleged crimes he had committed during the Korean War but that he was being released on humanitarian grounds after he admitted his wrongdoing and apologized. We don’t buy a word of it, though there’s no telling what really happened. Newman’s only public comments upon release were a bit cryptic: “I’m very glad to be on my way home, and I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good, I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.” It’s likely that he was playing it safe until he was actually on U.S. soil again.

One interesting side note is that Newman turned down a ride on Air Force Two with Joe Biden. The vice president said he had “no direct role” in Newman’s release, but offered him a ride home. Newman flew commercial instead.

CULTURE, SCIENCE & FAITH

Climate Change This Week: ‘Constitutional Right’

James Hansen

James Hansen

Retired NASA climate alarmist James Hansen recently wrote an op-ed on the climate, and, as one might expect, his “insights” are profound. Specifically, he combines climate alarmism with shoddy constitutional scholarship when he writes in support of a lawsuit filed by young people against the federal government claiming “a constitutional right to a safe climate.” They allege that they’re being deprived of their right to a planet that supports life and want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to rule accordingly.

Hansen says, “It is correctly a legal argument, but it relates to a fundamental moral question.” He claims that we “know without a doubt” that humans have cause global warming. “More than simply listing calamitous threats,” he then laughably asserts, “we wanted to jump-start the discussion of how the world can take significant action. Now.”

Of course, Hansen and his ilk never propose anything but heavy-handed government intervention and regulation – punitive measures that hamstring the economy and achieve no measurable goal when it comes to the hoax of man-made climate change. We hope the lawsuit gets laughed out of court before these naive young people get the economy they deserve but the rest of us want to avoid.

PP_StopGlobalWarming_2013-12-03-1f0ffbf0_large

BRIEF OPINION

For the Record

Columnist Jeff Jacoby: “‘Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous,’ President Obama tweeted in May. Really? That’s not what the American Meteorological Society learned from a recent survey of its professional members. Only a bare majority, 52 percent, said that climate change is mostly being driven by human activity. Scientists with a ‘liberal political orientation’ were much more likely to regard global warming as human-caused and harmful, the survey’s authors found – in fact, as a predictor of respondents’ views on global warming, ideology outweighed greater expertise. … Science isn’t settled by majority vote, and invoking ‘consensus’ to shut off debate is authoritarian and anti-scientific. There are always inconvenient truths to challenge what the majority thinks it knows. Ninety-seven percent of experts may be impressed with the emperor’s new clothes. That’s no reason to silence those who insist he’s actually naked.”

Faith and Family

Columnist Michael Reagan: “Too many people of all ages still blindly trust that what they see on TV and the Internet is true. But when it comes to social media, kids – and too many of their parents – are incredibly trusting and naive. … These over-trusting souls tell the whole world where they live, what they own and when they’re going away on vacation – and then they’re shocked to come home to a robbed and ransacked house. In the Smart Phone Age, when everyone with an iPhone thinks he’s a news reporter, trusting everyone in the room or on the street with your secret or your politically incorrect opinion is a dumb idea. … It’s pretty clear that technology and social media have outrun our ability to handle them. Until we get a grip on them, until we learn to use them maturely, we shouldn’t trust them so much. So who do we trust? We trust the people and institutions who earn our trust.”

The Gipper

“More than any gift or toy, ornament or tree, let us resolve that this Christmas shall be, like that first Christmas, a celebration of interior treasures. And let us resolve to share our many blessings with others now and in the year to come – from the hungry or the helpless near at hand to those in trouble or turmoil in distant lands from Africa to Asia and beyond. Today, as we gather with our family and friends to honor Christ, we can experience the same peace and joy as the shepherds and the Magi did almost 2,000 years ago. If we make that peace and joy a part of our lives, our example will serve as a guide and an inspiration for everyone we meet.”

For more, visit The Right Opinion.

CHRONICLE QUOTES

Insight

Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980): “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

Alpha Jackass

Barack Obama: “[W]e’re not repealing [ObamaCare] as long as I’m president and I want everybody to be clear about that. … Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you because it’s working better now and it’s just going to keep on working better over time. … And we’ve learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it’s going to be at all time.”

Braying Jackass

ObamaCare architect Ezekiel Emanuel: “If you want to pay more for an insurance company that covers your doctor, you can do that. … No one guaranteed you that your premium wouldn’t increase. Premiums have been going up. … [I]f you want to [keep your doctor], you can pay for it. … As a matter of fact, choice is something we all understand and we all understand that for more choice, more benefits, you have to pay more.”

Econ 101: Last we checked, a truly competitive marketplace drives prices down, not up.

From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

Rep. Matt Cartwright: “There’s so many people out there with what I call phony insurance policies, and the fact that they’re going to lose those policies, sooner or later, I think is a good thing. Because what we’re up to here is we are strengthening the health care system in this country.”

Village Idiots

Former Penn. Gov. Ed Rendell: “[T]he sad part for the Republicans is that it’s only going to get worse for them. … As time goes on, as the kinks are totally smoothed out of the [Healthcare.gov] system, people are going to find that this bill – the 31 million who never had health care are going to find that it’s like manna from heaven.”

Former State Sec. Colin Powell: “I think universal health care is one of the things we should really be focused on, and I hope that will happen. Whether it’s ObamaCare, or son of ObamaCare, I don’t care. As long as we get it done.”

Dezinformatsia

ABC’s Barbara Walters: “[M]ost presidents swear on a Bible before taking office, even though we have the separation between church and state. You see it again and again. … We talk about the separation between church and state and almost every president ends up saying so help me God. … The basic tenet in America is the separation. And it’s very important.”

Belly Laugh of the Week

Barack Obama: “I’m holding every cabinet member accountable.”

Demo-gogues

Rep. Keith Ellison: “We in Congress will try to raise the minimum wage. We got opponents on the other side of the aisle who say that there shouldn’t be no [sic] minimum wage. So, we are in difficulty fighting these guys. But, we know, at the executive level, an executive order can change the situation. We demand it, right now. Mr. President, sign the executive order.”

The BIG Lie

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: “Economists agree that unemployment benefits remain one of the best ways to grow the economy in a very immediate way.”

Short Cuts

Columnist Mark Steyn: “[Last] week the president pivoted (as they say) to ‘economic inequality,’ which will be, he assures us, his principal focus for the rest of his term. And what’s his big idea for this new priority? Stand well back: He wants to increase the minimum wage! Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos of Amazon (a non-government website) is musing about delivering his products to customers across the country (and the planet) within hours by using drones. Drones! If there’s one thing Obama can do, it’s drones. He’s renowned across Yemen and Waziristan as the Domino’s of drones. If he’d thought to have your health-insurance-cancellation notices dropped by drone, Obamacare might have been a viable business model. Yet, even in Obama’s sole area of expertise and dominant market share, the private sector is already outpacing him.”

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

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