Conservatives are accused of being a party of "no." Fine. That is an indispensable word in politics because most new ideas are false and mischievous. Furthermore, the First Amendment's lovely first five words ("Congress shall make no law") set the negative tone of the Bill of Rights, which is a list of government behaviors, from establishing religion to conducting unreasonable searches, to which the Constitution says: No.
Posted on June 28, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Obama has used the power and financial resources of the federal government repeatedly as he has dealt with the country's problems this year, to the consternation of his Republican critics. The poll found little change in underlying public attitudes toward government since the inauguration, with slightly more than half saying they prefer a smaller government with fewer services to a larger government with more services. Independents, however, now split 61 to 35 percent in favor of a smaller government; they were more narrowly divided on this question a year ago (52 to 44 percent), before the financial crisis hit.The Post calls a 54 to 41 lead for smaller government "barely more than half," which is fair enough, though it's twice as large as Obama's margin over McCain. It's also twice as large as the margin the Post found in the same poll in November 2007. I’ve always thought the “smaller government” question is incomplete. It offers respondents a benefit of larger government–”more services”–but it doesn’t mention that the cost of “larger government with more services” is higher taxes. The question ought to give both the cost and the benefit for each option. A few years ago a Rasmussen poll did ask the question that way. The results were that 64 percent of voters said that they prefer smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes, while only 22 percent would rather see a more active government with more services and higher taxes. A similar poll around the same time, without the information on taxes, found a margin of 59 to 26 percent. So it’s reasonable to conclude that if you remind respondents that “more services” means higher taxes, the margin by which people prefer smaller government rises by about 9 points. So maybe the margin in this poll would have been something like 59 to 37 if both sides of the question had been presented. For more on "smaller government" polls, see here and here.
Posted on June 23, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
The congressman lives in a special world, a curiously isolated world that is dominated by the advocates of government action. He is subjected to a broad chorus of persuasion that incessantly urges the virtues of spending programs. Year after year he hears how necessary government programs are.Day after day, year after year, people come to the congressman's office with stories about why some particular government program is needed -- to help their grandfather, their brother-in-law, their community -- and rarely if ever does a constituent fly to Washington to urge his congressman to vote against any particular one of the myriad programs that add up to his entire income tax bill. The Washington Post has a great illustration of this problem in the Sunday paper. The little town of Owego, New York, was excited to hear that Lockheed Martin would build the new presidential helicopter -- it's called Marine One, though fortunately for Lockheed the government wanted 23 of them -- at a plant in Owego. But as the price tag ballooned from $6.8 billion to $13 billion, even politicians began to see it as an unnecessary expense. The military canceled the program on June 1. Hundreds of jobs will be lost in Owego. And as the Post writes:
An 11-year-old Owego girl, whose parents are longtime Lockheed employees, recently hand-wrote a letter to Obama. It was published in the local newspaper and quickly became a voice for her shaken community. "Lockheed is the main job source in Owego," Hailey Bell, now 12, wrote. "If you shut down the program, my mom may lose her job and a lot of other people too. . . . Owego will be a ghost town. I've lived here my whole life and I love it here! Please really, really think it over."I'm sure she loves her parents and her town. And there's no reason to expect Hailey to understand what $13 billion means to taxpaying Americans all over the country. But this is just the kind of story that members of Congress hear all the time: save my parents' jobs, save my community, save our farms. And it all adds up to a $4 trillion federal budget with a $1.8 trillion deficit. (And by the way, if you Google "fiscal 2009 budget," you will quickly find the Obama administration's budget page, which somewhat oddly does not show the actual budget totals but does invite you to "Use the map below to learn more about how the President’s 2010 Budget is restoring long-term opportunity and prosperity in your state.") For a more, shall we say, adult view of what it means to direct federal dollars to particular areas, we might turn to an advertisement in the Durango, Colorado, Herald in 1987, which touted the Animas-La Plata dam and irrigation project and made explicit the usual hidden calculations of those trying to get their hands on federal dollars:
Why we should support the Animas-La Plata Project: Because someone else is paying the tab! We get the water. We get the reservoir. They get the bill.That's the way they tell it back home, usually without putting it in writing. In public and in Washington, they say, "Without this dam, our little town will waste away. Only you can save us, Mr. Congressman." And it's bankrupting us.
Posted on June 23, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Here's how one major news outlet reported them: Nationwide 'tea party' protests blast spending - CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/15/tea.parties/ ) ABCNews.com said "Anti-Tax 'Tea Parties' Protest President Obama's Tax and Spending Policies." USA Today wrote, "What started out as a handful of people blogging about their anger over federal spending — the bailouts, the $787 billion stimulus package and Obama's budget — has grown into scores of so-called tea parties across the country." It's hard to put specific cuts, especially COLAs and the like, on protest signs; but I think it's fair to say that the tea-party crowds were complaining about excessive spending and "generational theft."
Posted on June 18, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
This matters for the U.S., not just for California. I can't speak for the president, but when you've got the 8th biggest economy in the world sitting as one of your 50 states, it's hard to see how the country recovers if that state does not.First, presumably Lofgren knows that the federal government is projecting a deficit of $1.8 trillion for the current fiscal year -- so where is this emergency aid for California to come from? But perhaps even more importantly, Lofgren seems to confuse the state of California with the State of California. That is, she confuses the people and the businesses of California with the state government. There's no clear and direct relationship between the two. The state government is currently running a large deficit and is warning of a "fiscal meltdown." Of course, as it continued to issue claims of fiscal meltdown and painful cuts over the past many years, California has continued to spend. The state has nearly tripled spending since 1990 (doubled in per capita terms). It went on a spending binge during the dotcom boom and never adjusted to the lower revenues after the bust. During the Schwarzenegger years the state has increased spending twice as fast as inflation and population growth. What were they thinking? But a bailout for the government won't necessarily help the recovery of the state's economy. In fact, by increasing taxes and/or borrowing, it would likely weaken the national economy. And by encouraging continued irresponsible spending by the state government, it would just be an enabler of destructive policies that suck money out of the productive sector of California's economy. We all want the California economy to recover. But that's not the same thing as giving more money to the California government.
Posted on June 17, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
In April 2008 the Corporation [for National and Community Service] asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs. Mr. Walpin's investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.Other papers have been on the story, notably the Washington Examiner. But as even The Washington Post's ombudsman notes, not a word in the Post (until a small story on page A19 today, featuring the Obama administration's spin on the issue). The Post is, however, ahead of The New York Times, which has apparently not run a word on the story, even online, though it did have room for the senatorial affair. And I have to wonder: If George W. Bush had fired an inspector general who had alleged fraud by a key Bush supporter, would the Post and the Times have covered the story?
Posted on June 17, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office.
(Meanwhile, thanks to the continuing progress made by the non-state sector of society, what a wonderful world in which both these brilliant books can be read either in hard copy or on line!)
Posted on June 15, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
The bottom line is that at the end of the day, we're going to support the legislation. Why? Because with the markets functioning so poorly, the government is the only game in town capable of jump-starting the economy.Or they might even have started defending free enterprise last fall, instead of going all-out to push the TARP bailout through Congress. Converts to the cause of limited government are always welcome. But we might not need a $100 million Campaign for Free Enterprise if American business had opposed big government when the votes were going down in Congress. Still, better late than never.
Posted on June 12, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
That's one of the main themes of this week's Capital Connection conference put on by the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association. . . . This time, policy wonks and government insiders will also be there. Reed E. Hundt, former Federal Communications Commission chairman, and Tommy G. Thompson, former Health and Human Services secretary, will be speaking, as will VentureBeat blog author Matt Marshall and GigaOm author Om Malik, two well-known technology bloggers. Washington hasn't been a frequent stop for them in the past. It's just one more sign of the region's growing clout in the business and technology world. This is where stimulus dollars are doled out, where the economic recovery is taking shape, and where regulations — many of which directly affect businesses — are being crafted and rewritten. Of course, lawyers and lobbyists are getting a great deal of business helping folks find ways to tap into stimulus money. . . . Companies familiar with the Beltway culture are well-positioned to benefit from the government's increased role in nearly every sector. . . . The conference, which is open to the public for the first time, demonstrates the growing nexus between the business community and the government, said Julia Spicer, MAVA's executive director. "The spread between the two worlds has tightened a bit," she said. "The economy is the real focal point" of the conference, "and the government has a definite role in that."
Posted on June 11, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Ten of 27 departments and agencies receiving stimulus money have released records of contacts by lawmakers under Freedom of Information Act requests USA TODAY filed in April. Those records detailed 53 letters, phone calls and e-mails recommending projects from 60 members from February through the end of May. Thirteen of those lawmakers voted against the stimulus package.Critics of the stimulus bill pointed out that government money is always politically directed. It's little consolation to be proven right.
Posted on June 10, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty