U.S. Rep. Barney Frank admitted he helped his ex-lover land a lucrative post with Fannie Mae in the early 1990s while the Newton Democrat was on a committee that regulated the lending giant -- but he called questions of a potential ethical conflict "nonsense." -- Dave Wedge
To paraphrase Captain Mal Reynolds: it takes a great man to admit he was wrong...and I'm allright...
Brothers br and Keith objected sternly to my "fix it in the 112th" plan for the omnibus porkfest. It is clear today that they were right and I was wrong. K-Lo suggests it is a tea party victory, and Jennifer Rubin calls it Leader Reid's Dunkirk:
After exposing his party, the White House and himself to an avalanche of bad press and bipartisan criticism over the earmark-stuffed omnibus spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a sort of political Dunkirk moment, gave up and fled. Just moments ago, he fessed up that he did not have enough votes for cloture on the omnibus spending bill. So instead, as the Republicans had demanded, there will be a continuing resolution, and the Republicans will get their shot to manage the budget next year.
It's better in every way to kill this bill, but -- had any question remained -- the additional feeding of the ObamaCare® bureaucracy make this a major victory.
Yet to this legislative Frankenstein Democrats carefully attached the spenders' equivalent of crack cocaine. To wit, omnibus author and Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye dug up earmark requests that Senate Republicans had made in the past year (prior to their self-imposed ban) and, unasked, included them in the bill. He lavished special, generous attention -- $1 billion worth of it -- on some reliable GOP earmark junkies: Mississippi's Thad Cochran got $512 million; Utah's Bob Bennett, $226 million; Maine's Susan Collins, $114 million; Missouri's Kit Bond, $102 million; Ohio's George Voinovich, $98 million; and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, $80 million.
The effect of this dope -- just sitting there, begging for a quick inhale -- on earmarkers was immediate. Two seconds into the sweats and shaking hands, nine Republicans let Mr. Reid know they'd be open to this bill.
Last night's victory could not have happened without the Tea Party. Earlier in the day, Tea Party-defeated outgoing- Senator Robert Bennett (R - UT) was working "actively to round up as many as nine potential Republican votes" or the omnibus bill stuffed with 6,000 earmarks worth $8 billion. But then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R - KY) worked the phones all day twisting the arms of those nine Republicans, many of them members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to drop their support for the bill.
Brothers JK and The Refugee have been trading points/counter-points regarding the efficacy of the tax rate extention deal between Obama and the Republicans. It may be a non-issue, as the liberal House Dems seem to be in full revolt against the deal. Today's WSJ has a seminal editorial on these developments. It also highlights some of the less-than-they-seem realities of the deal itself.
As for Republicans, they have already given up an enormous amount to get what is essentially the status quo on tax policy. They get a two-year reprieve against tax increases on capital and income, and two years of death taxes at 35% instead of 55%. This spares the economy from immediate tax harm while it is still emerging from recession, but this deal is nothing close to a genuine pro-growth, supply-side tax policy.
The two percentage point cut in the payroll tax is only for one year and gives no incentive for businesses to hire because it only affects what employees pay. It is merely another demand-side Keynesian gambit to temporarily lift consumption. As for the increase in business expensing for 2011 (at 100%) and 2012 (50%), this will bring investment forward in time but do little to change overall business spending.
As with most WSJ editorials, this is worth the full read. It is also outside the castle walls, so access is free.
Not picking a fight, just highlighting Jon Kyl. If I may paraphrase my pal Sugarchuck, six letters and the truth.
Kyl has a clear and compelling guest editorial in the WSJ today. Holler if you'd like it emailed (maybe it's on Kyl's site ungated). It's brief, punchy, and clearly hits the important flaws in our tax system and how to fix them. He does accept progressive taxation (as would I) but he hits all the right points hard.
What, then, encourages growth? For one, it turns out that savings, much-maligned by the president and the press, actually help our economy grow. Money saved is invested. Adam Smith, in his famed "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations," and later economists, including Jean-Baptiste Say and Friedrich Hayek, all noted that an economy grows through increased production, which is financed by capital (savings); increased consumption follows--it does not lead--economic growth.
The best way for us to encourage production is through pro-growth tax reform. And it just so happens that events are shaping up to achieve the kind of tax reform that could put our economy on a path of long-term growth.
"We always name post offices," [Democratic Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer replied with irritation. "It's a worthwhile endeavor to do that, and people really do appreciate it, particularly when it's their name and their community."
Reporters walking into House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office Tuesday morning noticed an open supply cabinet with a tape measure on the shelf.
It was a strange bit of office equipment. Are Democrats so resigned to defeat that they're expecting Republicans to stop by and take measurements of the majority offices?
The Internets are ablaze with suggestions that Leader Boehner would vote to preserve the "Bush Middle Class Tax Cuts" if he felt he could not get the high end. He and Speaker Gingrich were suggesting as much on FOXNewsSunday yesterday.
Prof Mankiw links to an AEI report that makes a substantive case that that would be the exact wrong course.
Congress is poised to allow the high-income rate reductions in the Bush tax cuts to expire while extending the middle-class Bush tax cuts. This combination would increase the deficit while reducing incentives for earning income, saving, and investing.
The middle class cuts enlarge the deficit and contribute to a steep marginal rate and überprogressive rate curve.
Most defenses of the high-income rate reductions continue to rely on misplaced arguments about small-business aid and Keynesian demand stimulus. These arguments solidified political support for the initial passage of the tax cuts, but impeded the establishment of lasting pro-growth tax policy. Laying a firm foundation for sound tax policy will require bringing the neglected stepchild in from the cold and making the economic-growth case for the high-income rate reductions.
Yes, Mister Mencken, we are getting consumer protection "good and hard."
If I may link Ms. McArdle twice, she brings a bit of obvious news that everybody else seems to be ignoring. In the fanfare and victory lap over the last bit of regulations being enacted -- all our credit card rates went up! And -- mirabile freakin' dictu -- the responsible will be shouldering the bill for the less responsible:
As Carolyn Maloney says in the article, "Better that consumers should know up-front what the interest rate is, even if it's higher, than to be soaked on the back-end by tricks and hidden fees."
Of course, lots of people weren't being soaked on the back end by tricks and hidden fees; the people who pay their bills on time or even early. Those people are paying more, while folks who have temporary cash flow problems (or permanent forgetfulness) will pay somewhat less. Whether or not you think this is fair depends on a set of moral judgments about indebtedness; do the timely bill payers deserve a bonus for living within their means, or do the bill-missers deserve some help because they're more likely to be hard up?
How much more consumer protection can credit-card customers stand? If President Obama selects activist law professor Elizabeth Warren to head the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, we will soon have an answer. Meantime, thanks to a recent flurry of federal rule-making and legislating, consumers are already learning that "consumer protection" means higher interest rates and fewer card options.
Early on, some stimulus folk pointed out that if government has to spend, why don't they spend on the military? That idea didn't go anywhere. Michael Austin makes a stark and sad comparison:
The House voted for another $24 billion bailout to the states this week, with $10 billion marked for preventing teacher layoffs. The White House estimated that might save approximately 160,000 teachers' jobs, although a number of states, including Alaska, Tennessee, and Arkansas, apparently don’t need federal support to retain teachers, but will get the funds anyway. Putting aside the clear political payback to the teachers' unions for their support, the new $10 billion handout comes out to $62,500 per potential teacher job "saved."
Yet clearly some jobs count more than others. Almost exactly a year ago, the Senate caved in to White House pressure and killed the F-22 program, canceling the last seven planes to be built. How much was saved? $1.75 billion (in today's budget world, that seems like a rounding error). How many jobs will be lost? 95,000 highly skilled jobs. In other words, that $1.75 billion would have divided into just $18,421 per job saved, plus seven more of the world's most advanced fighter jets.
WASHINGTON – The panel that charged New York Democrat Charles Rangel with 13 counts of ethical misdeeds recommended he receive a relatively mild rebuke by the full House, one of the investigators said Friday.
The House ethics committee has a range of punishments it can administer or recommend to the full House. A reprimand is simply a vote by the House to express displeasure with a member's conduct, and would follow a finding of guilt in a trial.
Really. John Fund brings word of a serious, principled budget suggestion. And it's from the GOP!
In one of the most fiscally inept stunts in many years on Capitol Hill, Congressional Democrats have taken a pass on enacting a budget this year. Legislators will just wing it and let the $3.6 trillion fall where it may and hope the public doesn't notice a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit. But the minority Republicans have just presented their own budget plan and it's a remarkably bold and honest document that involves big cuts in government spending over the next decade and a balanced budget by 2019. The GOP budget would be a Tea Partier's dream come true if it ever were enacted.
The plan, fashioned by Tom Price of Georgia, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, reduces federal borrowing from the Obama baseline by a gargantuan $6.4 trillion over the next decade. Not bad considering that it also lowers taxes by $1.7 trillion more than the Obama budget by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Spending reductions start with what Mr. Price calls a "reset" on spending for discretionary programs back to 2008 levels. That insures that "temporary" stimulus funding doesn't get continued year after year. The plan also instructs the President and Congress to dedicate every penny of bailout money repaid to the federal government by the banks to debt retirement.
Senator Chuck Schumer writes open letter to Steve Jobs, world is officially doomed -- engadget
Hat-tip: Instapundit, who adds " With his vast expertise in antenna design, and shouting at companies, he’ll have the problem solved in no time. Or at least milk it for a little pointless, cheap publicity."
Jeeeburs! GOP Leadership has, well, I'll let the AP tell it:
WASHINGTON – Who's sorry now? Rep. Joe Barton, that's who.
The Texas Republican, the House's top recipient of oil industry campaign contributions since 1990, apologized Thursday for apologizing to the chief of the British company that befouled the Gulf of Mexico with a massive oil spill.
His double mea culpa plus a retraction, executed under pressure from fuming GOP leaders, succeeded in shifting attention from the tragedy, BP's many missteps and the stoic British oil chief at the witness table, to his own party's close connection to the oil industry.
My Facebook friend is right -- he is a p***y! Like Rand Paul, the GOP is sworn that no candidates will show any principle that cannot be explained to a Freshman PoliSci class.
But Ms. [Rep. Maxine] Waters and the House are hunting bigger game—to wit, the political allocation of credit. They want to put a network of operatives at the highest level of government who are responsible for making sure that regulators put the hiring of, and lending to, minorities at the top of their priority list. The House provision makes that very clear by making each diversity officer a Presidential appointee who must be confirmed by the Senate. The post, says the bill, will be "comparable to that of other senior level staff."
The law says this diversity czar will "ensure equal employment opportunity and the racial, ethnic and gender diversity" of the work force and senior management of these institutions. More ominously, this creature of Congress and the White House will also be charged with "increas[ing] the participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the programs and contracts" of each agency and conducting "an assessment" of stated inclusion goals.
UPDATE: Here’s a video produced by [Rep. Mark] Souder’s office in which the congressman explains his passion for abstinence-only education. The woman interviewing him in the video . . . is his mistress. -- SWAT FREE, from Radley Balko
Congress is moving to enact far-reaching changes in the financial regulatory system. We need far-reaching changes. The problem is that we don't need many of the specific far-reaching changes we're about to receive. --Harvey Pitt
To be fair, Mister Pitt was not my favorite guy when he headed the SEC. But this is a good quote, and I do not hold a grudge.
Another day, another never-mind ObamaCare moment. Earlier this week, House Democrats concluded that the deluge of corporate writedowns—amounting to about $3.4 billion so far—were in fact the result of ObamaCare, not the nefarious CEO conspiracy that the White House repeatedly cited when it was embarrassed soon after the bill's passage.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke rushed to attack AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar and many others reporting losses from a tax increase on retiree drug benefits as "premature and irresponsible." He later took to these pages to denounce those who noticed these writedowns as "disingenuous" and peddling "overheated rhetoric."
Meanwhile, House baron Henry Waxman vowed to summon the offending executives to his committee because their actions "appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs."
Mr. Waxman has since canceled those hearings with much less dudgeon or media fanfare, and the report from his own staffers explains his retreat. "The companies acted properly and in accordance with accounting standards in submitting filings to the SEC in March and April," -- WSJ Ed Page
Wait -- you mean ObamaCare® really is going to cost these companies billions of dollars? They were following GAAP to disclose this? The only political games were on the supporters' side?
Enjoy it ThreeSourcers. It's one of those great moments that nobody you talk to will ever know it happened. Kind of like ClimateGate or RatherGate™ But we know!
I must "call them as I see them" and I saw enough yesterday to cement my position that I trust the greedy, insufferable, big-eared, Goldman creeps waaaaaay more than the preening Senators who felt their job was to yell at them.
I linked yesterday to Senator Levin. Boy, that guy is one of my faves. It is sad enough that not one out of one hundred of these people has any clue about risk management or how financial instruments operate, but Senator Levin cannot even comprehend business. He felt he had found the smoking gun in the "s*****y deal" email. If he had spent one second in the private sector, he would know that deals and projects and product developments "go s****y" rather frequently.
Once something turns to the dark brown side, you don't just leave it on the P&L. You have to deal with it. In the software realm you might bring in a new team. If you're Goldman, you have to get it sold and off your books.
I don't link to Powerline a lot, but John Hinderaker nails it today. He's a lawyer and does this for a living. And he is astonished at how bad the Senators are.
The process was painful due to the Senators' lack of skill. It's also probably true that the Goldman folks didn't say quite everything that they knew. But, as one who spends much of his life poring over emails and other documents, looking for evidence I can use in depositions, I can say authoritatively that the Goldman emails aren't bad. This is a relatively tame collection on which to try to hang some sort of scandal.
The Senators, seemingly without exception, are embarrassingly ignorant of modern risk management techniques. They really don't seem to understand how and why firms like Goldman Sachs hedge their exposure to various economic trends.
What the TiVo grabbed for Kudlow last night was instead filled with Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill's brutal and grilling testimony. Man, no wonder GS gained a buck a share on a day the market tanked.
McCaskill (another favorite of mine) was clearly certainly honestly deeply disturbed and upset at the things that had gone on mind you. She demonstrated that she did not understand what had gone on, but asked the CEO Lloyd Blankfein if he couldn't understand why she and everybody else was so gosh darn upset!
Hinderaker points out the Republicans were no better. I saw a clip of Senator Susan Collins (RINO - ME) this morning and she proudly boasted that she was frustrated just 30 seconds into her question. Damn those pointy head pinstriped bastards upsetting that dear flower so!
No, I am not defending GS again. My point is made particularly well by Hinderaker, in his close:
I'm not a particular fan of either Goldman Sachs or Congress, but today's hearing confirms that, given a choice, I'd rather have Goldman Sachs regulating Congress than Congress regulating Goldman Sachs. Goldman's employees are much smarter, considerably more honest, and far more likely to have my interests at heart.
Financial-overhaul legislation failed to move to the Senate floor after it failed to garner 60 votes. All Republicans voted against moving forward in the 57-41 vote. Democrats meanwhile agreed on a proposal in the bill to overhaul derivatives rules.
I just don't see the successes of regulatioon that this is meant to build on.
Spirit Airlines claims that bookings have soared since it announced it would add a fee for stowing carry-on luggage in its overhead bins, TheStreet.com reports. That publication writes "Spirit's bookings for after August 1 -- when the policy takes effect -- have risen 50%, said Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza. He said tens of thousands of tickets have been sold as a result of the policy, which was announced April 6."
Baldanza claims sales have been boosted by fare cuts he says the airline instituted along with the new carry-on fees, which top out at $45 per passenger. Fliers who belong to Spirit's subscription "$9 Fare Club" can stow carry-ons for $20. Spirit says it chopped up to $40 off its lowest fares at the same time it announced the carry-on fee.
"Our customers get it," Baldanza tells The Street.com. "The media says they don't like it, but if you are me, you see that the number of people who buy tickets is expanding. I think the outrage is from people who already pay high fares on other carriers. But our customers see the power of a really low fare with the option to choose what else they want."
Huh? Choice? Freedom? Customers "get it?"
To be fair, I must report that FOX31 Good Day Colorado did report this this morning.
Awesome piece from Gerald P O'Driscoll, Jr. of Cato in today’s WSJ. He suggests that a more common-law approach to financial reform might be better than a brand new shiny SarbOx.
The idea that multiplying rules and statutes can protect consumers and investors is surely one of the great intellectual failures of the 20th century. Any static rule will be circumvented or manipulated to evade its application. Better than multiplying rules, financial accounting should be governed by the traditional principle that one has an affirmative duty to present the true condition fairly and accurately—not withstanding what any rule might otherwise allow. And financial institutions should have a duty of care to their customers. Lawyers tell me that would get us closer to the common law approach to fraud and bad dealing.
We need to delve into financial reform. It is an interesting internecine discussion. My pal, Larry Kudlow, is on board in a big way. He had Senator Dodd on and is convinced that this bill ends "too big to fail."
Less introspective pundits blast the $50Billion fund as a "bailout fund" but it is meant to provide debtor-in-possession funding to wind-down a firm and sell off its assets if it cannot survive.
And yet, the WSJ Ed page -- no populist organ -- has argued that the Dodd bill perpetuated TBTF. When in doubt, I always think less Christopher Dodd Legislation is better than more.
I hope the article is available (I looked a little on Cato.org for an ungated link) for a fascinating subtext. O'Driscoll points out that Crony Capitalism has broken the pricing model, leaving us (my words not his) little better than Communism in the affected industries:
Congressional committees overseeing industries succumb to the allure of campaign contributions, the solicitations of industry lobbyists, and the siren song of experts whose livelihood is beholden to the industry. The interests of industry and government become intertwined and it is regulation that binds those interests together. Business succeeds by getting along with politicians and regulators. And vice-versa through the revolving door.
We call that system not the free-market, but crony capitalism. It owes more to Benito Mussolini than to Adam Smith.
Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek described the price system as an information-transmission mechanism. The interplay of producers and consumers establishes prices that reflect relative valuations of goods and services. Subsidies distort prices and lead to misallocation of resources (judged by the preferences of consumers and the opportunity costs of producers). Prices no longer convey true values but distorted ones.
Hayek's mentor, Ludwig von Mises, predicted in the 1930s that communism would eventually fail because it did not rely on prices to allocate resources. He predicted that the wrong goods would be produced: too many of some, too few of others. He was proven correct.
In the U.S today, we are moving away from reliance on honest pricing. The federal government controls 90% of housing finance. Policies to encourage home ownership remain on the books, and more have been added. Fed policies of low interest rates result in capital being misallocated across time. Low interest rates particularly impact housing because a home is a pre-eminent long-lived asset whose value is enhanced by low interest rates.
On paper, Democrats have a case to support their convictions. Their bill gives regulators new authority to wind down non-bank financial institutions. Tougher new capital and leverage requirements, as well as limits on risky activities, are supposed to make failures much less likely. A $50 billion bank-financed pool would fund resolution costs — though this whole idea may yet be dropped.
The trouble is, teetering banks and their creditors might still assume that while not too big to sue — as Goldman can attest — Uncle Sam would still think them too big and interconnected to fail. And that’s the problem for many Republicans. The bill tends to favor discretion over hard and fast rules. While the feds would have the authority to shut down institutions, for instance, they wouldn’tbe required to do it.
Taranto's lead item today is Speaker Pelosi's brilliant defense of ObamaCare. I saw this but I feared it was a bad dream:
You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don't know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention--it's about diet, not diabetes. It's going to be very, very exciting.
But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
Why don't we pass a flat-tax, then see what's in the bill?
The horror! Senator Bunning asks the US Senate to follow the rules it proudly trumpeted:
Throughout his Hall of Fame baseball career, Jim Bunning was famous for the brush back pitch: a fastball inside to a batter crowding the plate. Now Mr. Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky who is retiring after this year, is throwing a political brush back in the Senate on behalf of fiscal responsibility.
And all hell has broken loose. Mr. Bunning has dared to put a hold on a $10 billion spending bill to extend jobless insurance and fund transportation projects. Mr. Bunning says he won't yield until the Senate finds a way to pay for the new spending with cuts somewhere else in the $3.5 trillion budget. For this perfectly reasonable stance, Mr. Bunning has become the Beltway and media villain of the hour. We'd call it his finest hour.
Every time Washington wants to spend money, the Senate Majority Leader asks for "unanimous consent" to authorize the funding, and in the collegial Senate everyone falls in line. But when Harry Reid wanted consent last week for that $10 billion, Mr. Bunning broke the old-boy rules by shouting: "I object."
If you haven't seen this take five minutes and enjoy Democratic Senators waxing poetic about the joy of the filibuster, the danger of ,majority rule -- y'know, everything they believed when they were in the minority.
The Democrats in the 51st Congress ridiculed President Benjamin Harrison and Republicans for annual federal spending that reached one billion dollars for the first time: the Billion Dollar Congress! Ahh, those were the days...
Neither the House nor the Senate have figured out how to pass a reconciliation sidecar first, We are being asked to pass a piece of legislation that amends another piece of legislation which does not exist yet. We are having problems with the CBO and parliamentarian on that front. -- one senior Senate aide
If Scott Brown's election was very bad for health-care reform, it looks like it was very good for financial reform. Desperate to add a new issue into the news cycle and give Democrats something they can actually fight for, the White House is set to propose a raft of regulatory reforms that go far beyond anything that Congress has suggested so far, or that the White House has hinted might be in the offing.
The dark cloud was spotted by political meteorologist James Pethokoukis a few days ago.
Scott Brown’s stunning capture of the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by Ted Kennedy was a political black swan, a near-unpredictable event.
The result ends the Democratic supermajority in the Senate and leaves key parts of the Obama agenda in deep trouble. But the biggest loser just might be Wall Street. Desperate Democrats may see anti-bank populism as a way of holding power as the November midterm elections approach.
The last days of the heated Senate race saw the first attempts at that political gambit. Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s allies in Washington, both the White House and national Democratic officials, used President Barack Obama’s proposed bank tax as a cudgel to bash Brown via emailings and telephone calls.
Now that he doesn't have health care to worry about, he can really go after those fat cat bankers (boo, hiss!)
Buoyed by a huge advantage with independents and relative disinterest from Democratic voters in the state, Republican Scott Brown leads Martha Coakley 48-47.
Here are the major factors leading to this surprising state of affairs:
-As was the case in the Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia last year, it looks like the electorate in Massachusetts will be considerably more conservative than the one that showed up in 2008. Obama took the state by 26 points then, but those planning to vote next week only report having voted for him by 16.
I'll have to think about that one, but he presents a nice defense of the procedure that every majority party learns to hate:
On any given day, what is Congress more likely to do: violate or expand liberty? As nineteenth-century New York Judge Gideon Tucker put it, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
Libertarian science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein had a good idea. One of his novels depicted a bicameral legislature with one chamber needing a supermajority to pass laws and the other needing only a minority of votes to repeal them.
By the standard of protecting freedom and keeping government caged, that’s not a bad idea. It should be easier to repeal laws than to pass them.
Sprint showed us what it would look like "If Firefighters Ran the World."
Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Richard Durbin and Christopher Dodd show us what would happen "If the Mafia Ran the World."
Problem is, the Sprint ad was hypothetical and the Senate's actions are all too real. It can legitimately be argued that the Democrat party has become a full-fledged criminal syndicate. Just listen to Judge Napolitano.
Is what we are seeing today much different than if a majority of Mafioso had been elected to Congress?
I feel a little bit better about my two hopeless Senators when I watch this. But I do not post it just to jab my Minnesota friends with some sort of rhetorical poke in the eye with some sort of sharp stick, with large hunks of rock salt stuck on the end.
No, I post this for the same reason @mkhammer linked: the good people at Talking Points Memo put this together and posted it because they think it makes Senator Franken look so good. Yup, watch him take down Senator Thune with his repetition of a Moynihan quote -- watch in awe!
Senators Colburn and McCain have compiled an impressive document: Stimulus Checkup: a closer look at 100 projects funded by the coercive taxpayer theft act of 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It's worth a look.
Don Luskin has highlighted a few egregious examples, but I'm going to open the bidding with #14: Anti-Capitalist, Socially-Conscious Puppet Shows ($100,000)
Each spring, Minnesota is home to a nationally known Mayday parade put on by In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOTB), which includes artists that advocate for socially progressive causes such as the elimination of fossil fuels and ―free market fundamentalism.‖98 The theatre derives its name from a quote popularized by Che Guevara, who in a thinly-veiled reference to the United States said, ―I envy you. You North Americans are very lucky. You are fighting the most important fight of all – you live in the heart of the beast.
Holy cow, who's representing that State in the Senate? Some comed -- oh, never mind.
Pull up a chair and open the PDF, you'll be really unhappy you did.
UPDATE: #51 is an oldie but a goodie: Study On Why Young Men Do Not Like Condoms ($221,355)
Indiana University professors received $221,355 in economic stimulus funds to study why young men do not like to wear condoms. The research will ―advance our understanding of...the role of cognitive and affective processes and condom application skills in explaining problems with condom use in young, heterosexual adult men, and to create --education strategies tailored to the needs of individuals who have trouble using condoms effectively.
She looks at a few districts in Virginia, compares their 2008 and 2009 voting patterns, and proclaims a tipping point on heath care and the entire Obama agenda:
The White House and the congressional leadership saw this coming, and it is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi is force-marching her health bill to a vote tomorrow. She's not about to give her members time to absorb the ugly results, or to be further rattled by next week's Veteran's Day break, when they go home for a repeat of the August furies. If not now, she knows, maybe never.
Look for it, nonetheless, to be a squeaker. A lot of Democrats are getting a sneaky suspicion Mrs. Pelosi is willing to sacrifice their seats on the altar of liberal government health care. Combined with the election results and Mr. Obama's falling poll numbers, this is no recipe for loyalty. Hello, tipping point. Hello, even crazier Washington.
Must see to believe. I cannot embed, but grab a barf bag and listen all the way to the end. Rep Barney Frank defends himself from charges of inaction by Ralph Nader: "We Are Trying On Every Front To Increase The Role Of Government." Got it Ralph? You irrelevant (and strangely svelte) piece of putrefied horseflesh!
Remember when the 111th Congress stepped up to protect us little guys from the mean old credit card companies? They were going to dictate terms that are fair. Scrivener notes "Politicians shocked! Price controls produce the same result as always."
After passing the new law by an overwhelming vote, it hailed its achievement as a great bipartisan act of consumer protection.*
But now Reps. Barney Frank and Carolyn Maloney, the prime political movers behind the new restrictions, are shocked and appalled to find that credit card issuers are raising interest rates before the effective date of the new law, as per their press release ...
Pew Charitable Trust reports that interest rates have spiked by an average of 20% on credit cards representing more than 91% of the $864 billion in outstanding credit card balances. It’s clear that credit card companies are taking advantage of this period between the signing of my bill and the current effective date,” Rep. Maloney said. “The breadth and depth of the rate hikes happening now point to the need for faster consumer protections. Americans need relief now.”
I just hope that there are no unintended consequences of their dictating terms to health insurers. Nah -- certainly, they've figured all that out...
I think the operative phrase is "who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee " Having a toothless quasi-legal proceeding against him protects him from a real prosecutor, and from answering any questions. I saw him on Kudlow early on. The charming chair cannot possibly answer any questions as it would compromise the ethics committee proceedings. But, these are just wild allegations by partisan NY papers. No merit, et cetera.
Perhaps if MSM sources started to make demands, he could be in trouble -- but what's the intrade contract on that -- three cents? A powerful, charismatic, African American, Democratic leader is not a pleasant target for the Katie Courics of the world.
He'll ride it out. As will Senator Dodd. No matter how many times Instapundit reminds us of the little Irish cottage.
Half century Senator for Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, died of cancer last night. Terrible news for a family that has had more than it's fair share of tragedy.
Philadelphia's KYW1060 news radio is running segments of Pennsylvanians commenting on the passing of Senator Kennedy. The Governor, former Senator Harris Wofford, & dozens of other notables are given a couple of lines.
One Pennsylvanian not heard from?
Mary Jo Kopechne. (to steal a line from James Taranto)
Governor Rendell's segment was something to the effect of "because he didn't become President, he became a better Senator."
Imagine you’re a member of Congress. You’re a fan of the Cash for Clunkers program. You discover that the $1 billion that Congress budgeted for the program has been spent in FOUR DAYS. The program is now out of money. What do you do?
A. Realize that $4500 per clunker was too big a subsidy and that you can achieve the same effects with a much smaller amount.
B. Worry that maybe there is some fraud in the program and that some of the cash isn’t going to clunkers
C. Increase the budget by $2 billion
The correct answer for clunkheads is C, of course. That’s the wise choice when you are spending other people’s money. What fun that must be!
Hat-tip: @jives who wonders "I wonder how charities who take car donations feel about the Cash for Clunkers program?"
The WSJ Ed Page delivers a serious smackdown of Ways & Means Chair Charlie Rangel. Sad to say, Rep. Rangel is one of my favorite Congressional Democrats. Besides his considerable style and charisma, he seems to be one of the few who understand that the nation's business provides the revenue for his pet projects and -- unlike so many -- is truly reluctant to kill the golden goose.
But, he is a crook. He owns a villa at the Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic (don't all men of the people?) that "rents for $500 a night in the low season, and as much as $1,100 a night in peak season. Last year it was fully booked between December 15 and April 15." Rangel reported no income from the property, which I am tempted to ascribe to Congressional business acumen. Yet one must also consider malfeasance.
Mr. Rangel said last fall that “I never had any idea that I got any income’’ from the villa. Try using that one the next time the IRS comes after you. Equally interesting is his claim that he didn’t know that the developer of the Dominican Republic villa had converted his $52,000 mortgage to an interest-free loan in 1990. That would seem to violate House rules on gifts, which say Members may only accept loans on “terms that are generally available to the public.” Try getting an interest-free loan from your banker.
As he told Larry Kudlow, these are all just accusations and he has the presumption of innocence.
But not around here. Rangel is a powerful member of Congress and can count on the six current ethical investigations to be slow and friendly. Ergo, he must suffer at the court of ThreeSources' opinion. He's a crook.
National Black Chamber of Commerce CEO Harry Alford is my man of the week this week. He came to blog fame thanks to his testimony to the Senate. He was testifying on behalf of his members who will suffer disproportionately under the Cap'n Trade bill. He crossed paths with Senator Boxer, who made a point of showing all the support the bill has with other organizations, like the NAACP.
He is a guest on Breitbart TV and he is very engaging (not to mention clean and articulate!) If you have some time, I highly recommend his interview.
Now he's going to start a search across California looking for "all these green jobs they're talking about."
I am attending a Senate Banking hearing on the Obama proposal to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Some folks think new regulations would stifle financial innovation. Sen. Chuck Schumer just dismised “innovation as merely “clever ways to dupe the consumers.” -- James Pathokoukis.
Umm, that would be New York's Senator, Chuck Schumer.
“If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,” [Dem Leader Rep. Steny] Hoyer told CNSNews.com at his regular weekly news conference
The Bill That's Too Liberal for Senator McGovern gets new life with the addition of our newest superannuated Democratic Pennsylvanian. The man who carried his home state in 1972 takes to the WSJ Ed Page today to point out yet another horrible feature of the "Free Choice Act.:
The recent news that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has become a member of the Democratic caucus has given new life to legislation that many thought had been put to rest for this Congress -- the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).
Last year, I wrote on these pages that I was opposed to this bill because it would eliminate secret ballots in union organizing elections. However, the bill has an additional feature that isn't often mentioned but that is just as troublesome -- compulsory arbitration.
This feature would give the government the power to step into labor disputes where employers and labor leaders cannot reach an agreement and compel both sides to accept a contract. Compulsory arbitration is bound to trigger the law of unintended consequences.
Huh? You think the guys who just stole billions of dollars of equity from Chrysler bondholders to give to the unions -- you think they'd dare get political in a forced arbitration?
BREITBART: WASHINGTON (AP) - Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter disclosed plans Tuesday to switch parties, a move intended to boost his chances of winning re-election next year that will also push Democrats closer to a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority.
"I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," Specter said in a statement posted on a Web site devoted to Pennsylvania politics and confirmed by his office. Several Senate officials said a formal announcement could come later in the day or Wednesday.
Color this pragmatist concerned. Specter will be tough impossible to beat and he brings seniority and wily skills to the other side. We've lost a thorn but gained a tumor.
UPDATE: Good stuff as you'd imagine at PA H2O dS/dt>0 (keep scrolling). They're running toward the jubilant over there. We will see.
The Club for Growth Congressional scorecard/rankings are out:
In the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint gets the top slot. In the House (surprise!) it is Rep. Jeff Flake.
If I may continue my partisan hackery, the top 170 House members and all but two of the top 50 Senators have an R. Combine this with the goose-egg the stimulus bill got in the House with no Republican votes, together with some pretty stiff opposition in the GOP Senate Caucus (all but three). I don't find it too tough to pick a favorite.
I don't think this is quite what Mister Madison had in mind. At the John Murtha Airport, the screeners outnumber the passengers -- but Federal Jack keeps it in operation.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport's gleaming facilities -- and, indeed, its continued existence -- is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year's stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.
The facility, newly renamed the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is a testament to Murtha's ability to tap streams of federal money for pricey, state-of-the-art projects that are rare among regional airports of comparable size.
I don't even have a comment for this. Just make sure to watch the whole thing, especially toward the end where Waters explains why she doesn't think that Congress should read the bills they vote for -- SERIOUSLY!
WASHINGTON – Talking tougher by the hour, livid Democrats confronted beleaguered insurance giant AIG with an ultimatum Tuesday: Give back $165 million in post-bailout bonuses or watch Congress tax it away with emergency legislation.
Read that again, Read it in context if you want. These bonuses were part of people's compensation package (probably in some part because of government meddling that people take more pay as "bonus," but let's not even go there now). Now the Federal government says "take that pay back, break your contract" or we will tax it away from you (AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO'S EVER HEARD OF A BILL OF ATTAINDER?)
[Senator Kent (D - ND)] Conrad, for his part, has been reminding everyone that he was a key player at the president's Fiscal Responsibility Summit -- which took place somewhere after his votes for the $33 billion increase in children's health insurance and $787 billion stimulus, though before his vote for the $410 billion omnibus and its 9,000 earmarks. He's also been talking about the deficit Mr. Obama "inherited," just to keep things in perspective as his committee works on the president's $3,600,000,000,000 budget blueprint. -- Kim Strassel, WSJ Ed Page
WASHINGTON – Congress' automatic pay raises are in little immediate danger of being scrapped for good, even with the economy slumping and millions of Americans unemployed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday would not commit to holding a vote on a bill to do away with the annual cost-of-living increases. She pointed out that Congress recognized the economic crisis by voting this week to skip next year's raise.
In so doing, though, lawmakers defeated a Senate measure to abolish the automatic pay hikes and force them into the deep discomfort of casting actual votes to give themselves raises.
No one is rushing to defend the current system in a tanking economy that has rendered the annual raise a quaint memory for many outside Washington.
Hey, when you're getting the job done, you deserve to get paid!
A number of ideas over the past weeks have come together for me this morning-
In response to the letter I sent to my Senators opposing H.R. 1 a beloved cousin emailed me, "I’m not saying I disagree or agree with you when I ask this question…. But what would you suggest? I don’t really know what the right answer is at this point…"
The first line of my reply to her was, "Well, on numerous occasions in the past we've cut tax rates in an attempt to spur economic growth and every time that's been done the economy improved and net tax receipts increased, despite the lower rate of taxation."
Then the shamulus bill passed and a number of Republican governors, upon seeing the fine print, began suggesting they'd refuse the federal handouts. "Republican governors, as the last bastion of capitalist political power in this country, should implement a capitalist plan for job creation - eliminate the corporate income tax" I thought. By doing this in one or more states there would be a side-by-side comparison of capitalism versus government bailouts that would be difficult to ignore on the key statistics of job growth and state GDP growth.
But I wondered which states have a Republican governor AND a corporate income tax that could be axed?
This morning Tim Pawlenty and Mark Sanford appeared on Fox News Sunday with Ed Rendell and Jennifer Granholm to discuss the "stimulus" bill. Among other things, Sanford called The Big O's foreclosure plan "a horrible idea." Last week Sanford suggested that his state might "turn down stimulus money" from the feds. In that L.A. Times story real estate agent Joyce Rivas claimed to have voted for Sanford twice but was angered by his "threat." Rivas asked, "For starters, where's their answer to this?"
Lawmakers and observers said eliminating corporate income tax is an interesting idea, but want to hear more details.
South Carolina could join four other states, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, with no corporate income tax, Sanford said. South Carolina collects about $300 million in corporate income taxes annually, far less than sales and individual income tax collections.
“We’ve got to get away from this piecemeal approach to jobs incentives,” Sanford said in a written statement. “We believe a better approach would be to simply lower the overall tax rate for corporations, so that we’re not only giving companies a good deal when they decide to locate here but we’re giving them a reason to stay and expand.”
No opponents yet for the primary or general, yet John Fund reports that Senator Specter (RINO - PA) is vulnerable for his betrayal on the stimulus bill:
But a new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Republicans are finding his vote for the stimulus not at all palatable. A full 69% of Pennsylvania Republicans opposed the package, and independents are evenly divided on its merits. Only Democrats are enthusiastic, with 73% in favor. All of that means that 40% of voters are less likely to support Mr. Specter because of his vote versus only 31% who are more likely. Worse, in a Republican primary, a full 58% of party loyalists say the stimulus bill would make them less likely to back the five-term incumbent.
Rapid passage of the Reid-Pelosi-Obama "Stimulus" Bill, H.R. 1, is apparently too important to wait for even a reading of the 1100 page text - even by the congressmen who are compelled to cast their votes! Those voting "Aye" have apparently already made up their minds and are disinclined to know what was changed in Conference Committee. For example:
"We also are getting press reports that there is a plus-up - I think $8 billion - in the high-speed rail account. We also know from further press reports that Leader Harry Reid is looking at a train to Vegas and that's what he wants to see out of the stimulus bill... Again, that's exactly the kind of waste and pork-barrel spending that the American people are sick and tired of and expect a lot more," he [House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)] added.
I heard Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) say that the Vegas rail line, a maglev type, is projected to cost $10 million PER MILE and that a private partnership had already invested millions in a conventional rail link between the same points that would now be at serious competitive disadvantage. He used the word 'bankrupt" to describe the effect on the private effort, "with the stroke of a politician's pen."
But the house vote was rushed through a mere 10 hours after the bill was finalized. This despite a unanimous agreement to allow 48 hours to read the bill prior to consideration and voting. The 48-hour review provision was reportedly one of the measures that was stripped in conference.
The following statement was released by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer at 4:57 p.m.:
"The House is scheduled to meet at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow and is expected to proceed directly to consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment conference report. The conference report text will be filed this evening, giving members enough time to review the conference report before voting on it tomorrow afternoon."
"And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
I suppose that the 3 hours between 6 and 9 am qualifies as "the light of day."
"As far as getting somebody worse, I've no doubt that there are worse ideologues than Senator Daschle. Yet his book about Health Care calls for an American equivalent to the NHS's NICE panel which would provide approval of all treatments and procedures based on government-decided efficacy and cost efficiency. Senator Daschle is radical enough to scare me and is a sophisticated enough player that he seems likely to be able to achieve many of his goals."
If only JK had known how prescient those words might be. The Hudson Institute's Betsy McCaughey quotes the former senator thusly:
A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
So we shouldn't be surprised to find (McCaughey link) a Daschle-like health care trojan horse in the "we can't afford to delay it" economic stimulus bill, H.R. 1:
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system. [Emphasis mine.]
The good news is that this was discovered, and is seeing the light of day on Fox News. The bad news? What the hell ELSE is in there??
Blog Sister Dagny asked about the brave 11 Democrats who voted against the Stimulus. One is Rep. Walt Minnick from Idaho. He's got a better idea:
Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of occasionally conservative Democcrats. His START plan is a $170 billion “bare bones” pure stimulus approach that would put $100 billion immediately into the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans, then use the other $70 billion for basic infrastructure projects that create jobs. START requires that all funds not spent by 2010 be returned to the Treasury. START also stops stimulus spending when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product increases in two of three previous quarters, and all START payments are required to be posted on a public website.
Minnick introduced START as an alternative – just in case the legislative process stalls out, says press secretary John Foster. As one of the brave 11 Democrats who voted against Pelosi’s stimulus bill, Minnick explained to folks back home that he opposed the speaker’s version because it was so “Christmas-treed up” with wasteful spending, like $300 million for golf carts. Foster told The Examiner that the House leadership encourages members to do what’s best for their districts, so there has been no backlash. We’ll see how long that lasts.
I'll happily listen to comments that this is $170 Billion too much. But elections have consequences. This sounds like a fair amount to give the triumphant Democrats and I seriously appreciate the transparency of the web pages and the shutoff of spending on recovery.
The sad part is that these guys get elected in Idaho, and probably deserve it, but then they become just another member of Pelosi's army.
I must say I'm glad to be in the loyal opposition right now. It's much more satisfying to unleash full-throated criticism of government when those in control are all Democrats. And having written this prior to reading Martin Feldstein's take I see we're on the same page.
via email to both Colorado Senators:
Dear Senator [Udall / Bennet],
I am writing to urge you to vote against the "Economic Stimulus" bill H.R. 1 in its present or any amended form. To amend this bill into a productive measure would require a nearly complete rewrite.
My wife's opposition to this bill, with which I certainly agree, is primarily on the basis that it is immoral to take money from people who earned it and spend it on controversial programs in an effort to restore economic growth by principles which are, at best, merely hopeful. The magnitude of the spending proposed in this bill compared to the time spent debating it is beyond reckless to the point of criminal irresponsibility. That this could actually happen in our government is proof that value is of no consideration while engaged in the practice of spending Other People's Money. Such carelessness leads to "misfortunes" like overpaying $86 billion for securitized assets in a $350 billion bank "bailout" bill.
My personal opposition to the bill, with which my wife certainly agrees, is primarily because it would create many new government agencies (38 by some estimates) and associated recurring costs to the treasury on an annual basis. A majority of the jobs it might create are in the public sector which would have an opposite than intended effect on economic recovery.
You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that even Keynsian economists - who believe government spending can increase economic productivity - are opposed to H.R. 1. They say it is the wrong kind of spending. One might think that a body with as much experience in spending money, albeit other people's, as the United States federal government might be better able to choose the appropriate type of spending in a given situation.
H.R. 1 is not the answer to America's problems. Its passage will be a wasted effort to stimulate the economy and will only lead to further attempts at the same goal. Please vote NO on H.R. 1 and move us more quickly to the next such attempt which can only be an improvement over this one.