Conservatives Not Thrilled with Budget Deal
House Speaker John Boehner may have staved off a government shutdown but not all conservatives are happy with him or congressional Republicans, despite getting $39 billion in cuts from Democrats. Tea Party leaders have called the deal “disappointing” and one Tea Party organization has even threatened to field a challenger against Boehner in his Ohio district. Over at Red State, they’re not happy either, writing that these were “negotiations in which one side — the Democrats — believed they had the upper hand, and the other — the GOP — agreed.” However, Human Events says that there were some important provisions of the budget deal that are worth supporting: a repeal vote on health care reform, new studies on how much it will really cost, denying additional funding to the Internal Revenue Service, a vote on ending all funding for Planned Parenthood, a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., and an audit of the bureaucracy created to implement banking reform.
Obama and the United Nations: Why Bother
President Obama’s war in Libya, conducted under the cover of UN resolutions, is an exercise in the constraint of American power by that institution, The Weekly Standard editorializes. “The reason is that foreign policymaking in the United States, more so than in most other democratic countries, is based to a very remarkable degree on a principle of saying what you mean and meaning what you say,” says the Standard. And while enlisting the United Nations might have deflected some world criticism and made it easier for European and Arab countries to support the United States, it also helps obfuscate the mission. “It is anything but clear what liberal internationalists are going to think of themselves in the morning, especially if this project gets messy, as it very likely will.”
Immigration: Circuit Court Ruling Flawed
While supporters of Arizona’s immigration bill might have been disappointed at the news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld an injunction on much of the law going into effect, they should take heart. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakosky writes that this particular court has a long track record of being overturned itself at the U.S. Supreme Court. Further, a dissenting judge on the panel pointed out the flaws of the majority ruling: namely that state and local officials have routinely been asked by the federal government to assist with the enforcement of and impacts of immigration law, such as providing housing, medical care and transportation for certain detainees. So, then, why should a larger state role be automatically preempted by the federal government
Obama Unlikely to Double Exports
Among President Obama’s cornerstone economic promises is this one: He’ll double exports in five years from taking office. And yes, there was some robust export growth — 17 percent last year, says the CATO Institute’s Daniel Griswold. But that was a “one-time achievement,” he adds, noting that it came on the heels of the steepest part of the recession and the global financial meltdown; in other words, exports had no place to go but up. And a recent Wells Fargo report dumped some pretty chilly water on the president’s claims, noting exactly the same thing, Griswold writes. Increasing trade is valuable, he says, lauding the administration’s efforts to do so in Latin America and Asia, but he points out that doubling exports is a tall order when exports grew only 48 percent just after 2000 and 78 percent in the 1980s — both periods when the economy was healthier and people had more confidence in it than they do now.
Paul Ryan: The New Star for Conservatives
Without a doubt, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and his plan to balance the budget and put the federal government back in the black is the big hit among conservatives, and certainly compared to the budget compromise that averted a government shutdown. Ryan’s plan “should dismiss any notion that the new Congress is not serious about reform,” says James Banks at FreedomWorks, adding that the proposal tackles out-of-control entitlement spending head-on and calls for reducing wasteful defense spending as well — not a traditional goal of previous Republican establishments. While not everyone has agreed with every detail, there is a consensus among conservatives and independent thinkers that the budget is bold and that it addresses issues that need to be addressed.”
This week in opinion:
- Will the GOP see its demise as whites make their way to becoming the minority in this country? Some analysts believe it’s a possibility, but Michael Barone points out that this isn’t the first demographic shift we’ve had in America.
- Paul Ryan has delivered on the budget front in a way that Obama couldn’t, and the result is a pro-growth plan that could pull us out of the financial mess we’re in. Lawrence Kudlow lays out the specifics of Ryan’s plan and explains how they’re good news for America.
- Despite the current preoccupation with how Obama is handling the situation in Libya, Tony Blankley suggests that our involvement in Iraq should not fall by the wayside. How and when we leave Iraq, he says, is a hugely important decision for Obama to make.
- Michelle Malkin looks at the serious and dangerous failures of the TSA in recent years, despite their recent creation of a program that is designed to pick out potential terror threats. What are your tax dollars paying for?
- So-called “tax cuts for the rich,” Thomas Sowell says, are somewhat of a myth — and the left insists on using taxes as political statements rather than as sources of revenue.
GOP Shouldn’t Panic if Whites Become a Minority
Are whites on the verge of becoming a minority of the American population? That’s what some analysts of the 2010 Census results claim. Many go on, sometimes with relish, to say that this spells electoral doom for the Republican Party.
I think the picture is more complicated than that. And that the demise of the Republican Party is no more foreordained than it was a century ago when Italian, Jewish and Polish immigrants were pouring into the United States in proportions much greater than the Hispanic and Asian immigration of the past two decades.
The numbers do appear stark. The Census tells us that 16 percent of U.S. residents are Hispanic, up from 13 percent in 2000 and 9 percent in 1990, and that 5 percent are Asian, up from 4 percent in 2000. The percentage of blacks held steady at 13. Among children, the voters of tomorrow, those percentages are higher.
But it’s a mistake to see blacks, Hispanics and Asians as a single “people of color” voting bloc. The 2010 exit poll shows that the Republican percentages in the vote for the U.S. House were 60 percent among whites, 9 percent among blacks, 38 percent among Hispanics and 40 percent among Asians.
Simple arithmetic tells you that Hispanics and Asians vote more like whites than like blacks. The picture is similar in the 2008 exit poll.
Moreover, while blacks vote similarly in just about every state, there is wide variation among Hispanics. In 2010 governor elections, Hispanics voted 31 percent Republican in California, 38 percent Republican in Texas and 50 percent Republican in Florida (where Cubans are no longer a majority of Hispanics).
As RealClearPolitics senior political analyst Sean Trende has written, Hispanics tend to vote 10 percent to 15 percent less Republican than whites of similar income and education levels. An increasingly Hispanic electorate puts Republicans at a disadvantage, but not an overwhelming one.
The same is true of Asians. In 2010, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid got 79 percent from Asians in Nevada, where many are Filipinos. But the Asians in Middlesex County, N.J., most of whom are from India, seem to have voted for Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2009.
The 2010 Census tells something else that may prove important: There’s been a slowdown of immigration since the recession began in 2007 and even some reverse migration. If you look at the Census results for Hispanic immigrant entry points — East Los Angeles and Santa Ana, Calif., the east side of Houston, the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago — you find that the Hispanic population has dropped sharply since 2000.
One reason is the business cycle. The 2000 Census was taken on April 1, 2000, less than a month after the peak of the tech boom. Unemployment was low, immigration was high, and entry-point houses and apartments were crammed with large families.
The 2010 Census was taken after two years of recession, when immigration had slackened off. We simply don’t know whether this was just a temporary response to the business cycle or the beginning of a permanent decline in migration.
Past mass migrations, which most experts expected to continue indefinitely, in fact ended abruptly. Net Puerto Rican migration to New York City stopped in 1961, and the huge movement of Southern blacks to Northern cities ended in 1965. Those who extrapolate current trends far into the future end up being wrong sooner or later.
Finally there is an assumption — which is particularly strong among those who expect a majority “people of color” electorate to put Democrats in power permanently — that racial consciousness never changes. But sometimes it does.
American blacks do have common roots in slavery and segregation. But African immigrants don’t share that heritage, and Hispanics come from many different countries and cultures (there are big regional differences just within Mexico). The Asian category includes anyone from Japan to Lebanon and in between.
Under the definitions in use in the America of a century ago, when Southern and Eastern European immigrants were not regarded as white, the United States became a majority non-white nation sometime in the 1950s. By today’s definitions, we’ll become majority non-white a few decades hence.
But that may not make for the vast cultural and political change some predict. Not if we assimilate newcomers, and if our two political parties adapt, as we and they have done in the past.
COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
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Paul Ryan’s Growth Budget
Of all the discussion about Paul Ryan’s big-bang budget plan, the element I like best was caught in this Wall Street Journal op-ed title: “The GOP Path to Prosperity.” In other words, it’s a growth budget. It has plenty of spending cuts, but it also has significant pro-growth tax reform.
Obsessing over the debt is not by itself a policy. Advancing the economy and setting the stage for more job creation is a policy. Ryan kept an important dose of Ronald Reagan in both the spirit and reality of his plan. Limited government, lower tax rates and deregulation (of energy) will all promote the path to prosperity.
The other big-picture thought is that the fiscal-policy ball is moving in the right direction. Most of what is being proposed faces a rocky political future. But the direction is unmistakable: less government, lower taxes.
This really started back in December with the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the withdrawal of the trillion-dollar omnibus continuing-resolution spending bill. It continues into the new year with new CRs. The direction is clear: lower spending.
Just before the election, John Boehner told us he would stop the bad stuff. Looks like he has. And now Ryan keeps the drumbeat going with a 2012 budget that would cut $179 billion from the president’s budget baseline. In 2013, Ryan would take down over $220 billion. Over 10 years, Ryan would lop off $6 trillion. The key point is not the actual numbers, but the direction of the numbers. Spending is coming down.
Ryan included the thinking of Dave Camp (the Ways and Means chair) on tax reform, which is a 25 percent top rate for individuals and businesses with a full-scale reduction in all the tax-credit, K Street, flotsam-and-jetsam loopholes. That’s very pro-growth.
Ryan also includes deregulation of energy for drill, drill, drill — another big growth and jobs measure.
The health care entitlement picture is going to be very muddled, and the outcome is impossible to figure. So I’ll leave that aside for a moment. The only thing Ryan neglected to do was highlight the need for stable money to stop the damaging Fed roller coaster. But with so much on his plate, I can understand that omission for now.
Ryan basically stole the budget bacon from President Obama, who should have put this kind of plan in his State of the Union. He didn’t. And now he’s got to play catch-up. The Senate Democrats are utterly hopeless. But the public mood is still where it was last fall: less government spending and borrowing. Ryan delivers on that and then some with his tax-cut growth booster.
The cause of the debt bomb is too much spending and too little growth. Ryan attacks this with new spending rules and tough policy decisions. He also provides the new flat-tax reform incentives to grow the economy.
So if we look at the debt bomb as a share of gross domestic product, what will happen — if Ryan prevails even modestly — is the numerator of debt will steady while the denominator of growth is unleashed.
We will be fine. I can almost hear Paul Ryan saying, “I will not allow America to become Greece.” Amen.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
“Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth”
While the president’s top advisers are currently most worried about the public judgment in November 2012 on his Libyan war actions, they might be better advised to worry about his actions in Iraq.
Admittedly, the administration’s Libyan actions are yet to be convincingly explained and may constitute an unforced error that could lead to entanglement in a prolonged and unnecessary war. But Libya is nonetheless a historic sideshow. So far, not a single American casualty has been reported. And while our intervention may turn out to be a mess and an embarrassment, Libya’s tangential connection to larger events makes it unlikely to become a geopolitical disaster.
On the other hand, in Iraq, we have lost a reported 4,443 troops killed and more than 30,000 wounded (many of them grievously and agonizingly mutilated). It has taken such a heartbreaking price, but we now have moved tantalizingly close to genuine success.
But if we now remove all of our remaining troops, and it all degenerates into tragedy, that decision will weigh heavily on the historic judgment of the Obama presidency.
And yet, according to the White House’s own homepage:
“The President intends to keep our commitment under the Status of Forces Agreement to remove all of our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
That is consistent with his campaign promise, and it completes the execution of that agreement entered into by President Bush and the Iraqi government. But it has long been expected that the two governments would negotiate an extension of the time when our troops must leave because both Iraq’s and most of our military and diplomatic experts do not believe that Iraq is ready to govern itself without the stabilizing effect of substantial continued American troops presence and activity.
But due to domestic Iraqi politics, their government has not yet asked for an extension. And if Obama sticks, legalistically, to his position, time may run out.
As a commendable editorial in last Sunday’s Washington Post (calling for Obama to quickly negotiate an extension for our troop presence) pointed out, if our troops are forced to leave at the end of the year: “… military experts warn, next year Iraq will lack critical defense capacities: It will be unable to defend its airspace or borders, protect oil shipments or platforms in the Persian Gulf, or partner with U.S. special forces in raids against al-Qaeda.
“Perhaps most seriously, American soldiers who have been serving as de facto peacekeepers in the city of Kirkuk and along the sensitive border zone between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of the country will disappear. Many experts believe that in their absence violence could erupt between Kurds and Arabs.”
And in this month’s prestigious Foreign Affairs Magazine, Emma Sky (chief political adviser to Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Force-Iraq from 2008-2010) described the fragile nature of the newly reformed Nouri al-Maliki coalition government and warned that “should Washington fail to provide such (troop) support, there is a risk that Iraq’s different groups may revert to violence to achieve their goals…”
One of the greatest dangers to Iraq — as both anti-war and pro-war advocates agree — is that Iran may come to dominate the Iraqi government. That risk has just increased in the last few months as the murderous Shiite militia leader-turned-political leader, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has returned to Iraq from Iran, cast his party’s 40 votes for the coalition government and extracted as price for his votes (as reported by Maria Fantappie, a scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut) “control of the ministries of municipality, water, and housing and construction. They also temporarily run the ministry of planning. Through these positions, the Sadrists control the provision of water, irrigation systems, and the building of national infrastructure — including much-needed housing, public buildings, roads and bridges.
“… The kingmakers of the new government now have the chance to become key players in the government itself by capitalizing on the ministries under their control.”
The danger from this is that if the stabilizing, confidence-building American troops are removed from the power equation in Iraq, the Iranian pawn, al-Sadr, may convert his community-level service portfolio into renewed sectarian violence.
How and when we leave Iraq is now vastly more important than how and why we entered Iraq. Both our interests in the Middle East and the interests of the Iraqi people hang in the balance to Obama’s judgment. It would be a tragedy if we lose all after paying so much.
As the 19th-century British poet Arthur Hugh Clough, wrote (in one of Winston Churchill’s favorite poems):
“SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.”
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
TSA Follies: See SPOT Fail
Air traffic controllers have been catching a lot of grief for sleeping on the job lately. But do you know what Transportation Security Administration officials have been doing — or rather, not doing — lately? A federal watchdog revealed this week that TSA’s counterterrorism specialists failed to detect 16 separate jihad operatives who moved through target airports “on at least 23 different occasions.” The name of the TSA monitoring program paying for all this flying-blind failure, I kid you not:
Under the “Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques” plan, TSA’s designated behavior detection officers are supposed to closely watch travelers who pose potential security risks and who exhibit any number of appearances or activities “indicative of stress, fear, or deception.” But long-entrenched, bipartisan American political correctness hampers the kind of effective, efficient national security profiling that Israeli airline security officials practice so well.
The result? TSA’s snoozing SPOT-ters catch nobody — for fear of being accused by the grievance lobby of singling anybody out.
Stephen Lord, who specializes in homeland security issues at the Government Accountability Office, reviewed Justice Department documents showing that “in December 2007 an individual who later pleaded guilty to providing material support to Somali terrorists boarded a plane at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport en route to Somalia. Similarly, in August 2008, an individual who later pleaded guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda boarded a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport en route to Pakistan to receive terrorist training to support his efforts to attack the New York subway system.”
Other terror suspect travelers who slipped through the cracks have been subsequently tied to the 2008 Mumbai bombings; the plots to attack a Quantico, Va., Marine base and New York City infrastructure; and an attack by a Pakistani-trained American jihadi on an Afghanistan base.
Young. Male. Muslim. Traveling to al-Qaida friendly hot spots. How did these at-risk terror tourists escape scrutiny?
The GAO noted that the TSA SPOT team uses a numerical grading system that has no basis in science or research. But TSA deployed it anyway despite the government’s lack of validation. More appalling: Nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks highlighted vast gaps in information-sharing and dot-connecting, TSA is still “not systematically collecting and analyzing information obtained … on passengers who may pose a threat to the aviation system.”
Nobody has guidance on how, when or what data to enter into the agency’s “Transportation Information Sharing System.” Nationwide airport access to the system, such as it is, only came online last month.
As usual, the now-unionized TSA is clamoring for fatter taxpayer rewards for their systemic failure. SPOT took in more than $211 million in fiscal year 2010; the Obama administration wants to pour $232 million into it this fiscal year — a 9.5 percent increase in funding — to subsidize 3,350 SPOT personnel.
The Department of Homeland Security wants separate funding of another $254 million to support 350 more SPOT officers. If they get what they want, TSA will have invested over $800 million since fiscal year 2007 in a program that is not spotting anyone. Labor bosses are too busy counting the $30 million in new dues they’re raking in.
In the end, the reckless ethos established by first TSA overseer Norm Mineta still haunts and hamstrings the feds’ indiscriminate grab-and-grope airline security apparatus.
Remember? Asked by CBS reporter Steve Kroft whether “a 70-year-old white woman from Vero Beach, Fla., would receive the same level of scrutiny as a Muslim young man from Jersey City,” Mineta responded in 2001, “Basically, I would hope so.”
Yep, that’s your TSA tax dollars at work: Thousands Standing Around, watching the clock while jihad jet-setters fly by.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
Taxes and Politics
Someone once said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. That may have been true when he said it, but today taxes are mostly the price we pay so that politicians can play Santa Claus and get reelected.
That’s not the worst of it. We may think of taxes as just a source of government revenue. But tax rates are a big political statement on the left, whether they bring in any revenue or not.
For more than 80 years, the political left has opposed what they call “tax cuts for the rich.” But big cuts in very high tax rates ended up bringing in more revenue to the government in the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush 43 administrations. This included more — repeat, more — tax revenue from people in the highest income brackets than before.
That was because high-income people took their money out of tax shelters like municipal bonds and invested where they could get a higher rate of return, after these returns were not being taxed as much. This has happened repeatedly, over so many decades, in administrations of both parties, that you might think this would put an end to the “tax cuts for the rich” demagoguery.
But the same rhetoric that “progressives” like Senator Bob La Follette used against tax cuts in the 1920s is still going strong in the 21st century. When you point out to today’s “progressives” that “the rich” paid more total tax revenue to the government after what were called “tax cuts for the rich,” that doesn’t make a dent.
After all, “the rich” paid that larger sum of taxes only because their incomes had risen. Their paying a higher share of all taxes doesn’t matter to the “progressives,” who see high tax rates as a way to take a bigger bite out of the incomes of higher-income people, not just provide more revenue to the government.
Tax rates are meant to make an ideological statement and promote class-warfare politics, not just bring in revenue.
There has been much indignation on the left over the recent news that General Electric paid no taxes, despite its large amounts of profit. But another way of looking at this is that high tax rates on paper do not mean high tax revenues for the government.
The liberal answer to budget deficits is almost always to raise tax rates on “the rich,” in order to bring in more revenue. The fact that higher tax rates have often brought in less revenue than before is simply ignored.
Our corporate tax rates are higher than in many other countries. That may have something to do with the fact that many American corporations (including General Electric) expand their operations in many other countries, providing jobs — and tax revenues — in those other countries.
But high-tax ideologues don’t see it that way. They would be horrified at the idea that we ought to lower our corporate tax rates, just so that more American businesses would do more of their business at home, providing more Americans with much-needed jobs.
To ideologues, that is just a cop-out from the class-warfare battle. It is far more important to them to score their political points against “the rich” or “Wall Street” than that a few million more Americans out of work would be able to find jobs.
The idealism of the left is a very selfish idealism. In their war against “the rich” and big business, they don’t care how much collateral damage there is to workers who end up unemployed.
It so happens that many — if not most — of those called “the rich” are not rich and many, if not most, of those called “the poor” are not poor. They are people who happen to be in a particular part of the income stream as of a given moment in their lives when statistics are collected.
Internal Revenue Service data show that the income of people who were in the lowest income tax bracket in 1996 rose by 91 percent by 2005. But people in the “top one percent” had their incomes drop by 26 percent in those same years.
There is nothing complicated about this. Most people simply start at the bottom when they are young and their pay rises as they get more experience. Most people in the top one percent are there for only a single year when they happen to have a spike in income. They too are not an enduring class.
The time is long overdue to start thinking about taxes as sources of revenue, not as ways of making political statements.
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