Friday, October 11, 2013

Cruising the Web

The list of places unnecessarily shut down keeps growing. Perhaps that is why the administration has turned so many Americans into criminals as people exercise civil disobedience. This has inspired Mark Steyn to write a new version of "This Land is My Land."

Oh, so that's how NBC/WSJ got such a skewed poll result.

Charles Krauthammer looks to Paul Ryan's proposals for the basis of a deal on raising the debt limit.
What, then, to ask for? Paul Ryan, as usual, points the way with a suggestion that would turn the partial and imperfect success of the last debt-ceiling fight — the automatic spending cuts (“sequester”) that seriously reduced discretionary spending — into the larger success of curbing entitlements, which is where the real money is.

After all, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs — plus interest payments — already claim more than half the federal budget. And they are poised to explode, eating up (estimates the Congressional Budget Office) 97 percent of projected revenue in one generation.

Raising (and indexing) the retirement age while changing the inflation measure for entitlements would themselves be major achievements. So would agreeing on a framework for genuine tax reform, although that still would remain speculative. Democrats could be offered relief on the sequester — which everyone agrees needs restructuring anyway, since it cuts agency budgets indiscriminately, often illogically, by formula.

It’s win-win. A serious attack on the deficit — good. Refiguring sequestration to restore some defense spending and some logic to discretionary spending — also good. Forcing the president off Mount Olympus — priceless.
Kimberley Strassel explains why it is in the President's interests to accept such a deal, even if Congressional Democrats oppose the idea.
Congressional liberals in particular are repelled by this idea—which is why so many are encouraging the "break the fever" baloney. Their biggest fear is that the White House will give any cover at all—much less big cover—to entitlement reform, and rob them of their favorite campaign issue.

But Mr. Obama doesn't face re-election. He faces three years of trying to govern. And while the White House might like to brag that it is "winning" this battle, that's a relative term.

Republicans have taken heat, but Mr. Obama's own approval ratings are down. His most vulnerable House members are being forced daily to take painful votes against crucial funding, which will be used against them in 2014. Another financial downturn will be remembered in the history books as President Obama's, not as some no-name GOP backbencher's.

Mr. Obama's options are extraordinarily clear. He can end the political pain now, sit down with the GOP for a real deal, get credit for tackling the debt, and clear the decks for the rest of his term. Or he can let this drag on and be pulled, kicking, into talks that yield just enough to buy him a few months. At which point we can all do this again. And then we can do it again.

That's what the "break the fever" mantra gets Democrats. Republicans lately have had to face some tough political reality about "defund." The White House might want to embrace a little reality face time itself.
Megan McArdle discovers an even worse aspect of the Detroit pension crisis.
I was not entirely prepared for the new revelations about the Detroit trustees’ custom of handing out annual holiday “bonuses” to workers, retirees and the City of Detroit. Between 1985 and 2008, they handed out roughly $1 billion this way. Had they been invested, one estimate says those funds would be worth almost $2 billion today -- or more than half the current shortfall in the funds....It’s very hard for me to attribute this to something benign, like total economic illiteracy or gross inattention to their responsibilities as pension trustees. I can’t imagine that anyone who can read and do basic arithmetic ever thought that draining off the “excess earnings” in the good years could result in anything other than exactly what it has wrought: a pension fund so disastrously underfunded that it may not be salvageable. No, wait, that’s too kind: they were also draining off … what should we call them? “excess non-earnings”? in years when the economy was melting down, the Dow Jones was trading for less than a Mickey Mantle rookie card and the region’s chief industry was teetering on the brink of extinction. What could they possibly have been thinking?
My best guess is that they were thinking the pensions would have to be paid, one way or another. After all, it’s in the Michigan State Constitution. So they could pay out bonuses, please various constituencies, and then force the city or the state to make them whole when it all came tumbling down. They didn’t reckon with the possibility that the city would simply run out of money, and the state would decline to step in, leaving them with no deep pockets to make up for their mismanagement.
Meanwhile, the woman who is in charge of the IRS administration of Obamacare insists that there are no problems with the launch. Sticking her fingers in her ears and changing "la la la" is, apparently, the administration approach. A Democratic congressman defends her by asking her whether or not she's a witch and can fly.

The Washington Post rightly severely chastised the administration for playing politics with the funding for the District of Columbia.
THE DISTRICT of Columbia repeatedly has been schooled to the hard truth that its interests will get sold out on Capitol Hill whenever that serves party politics — either party’s politics. So Congress’s refusal to separate the city’s right to spend its local tax dollars from the federal government shutdown should come as no surprise. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to be stunned by the blatant hypocrisy of Senate and House Democrats who claim to be allies of the District but think so little of betraying its interests.

Consider that on Monday, 117 House Democrats — including leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland — signed a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) urging passage of “legislation that would allow the D.C. government to spend its local funds in the event of a federal shutdown on October 1 and therefore remain open.” When a bill doing exactly that came to the floor the very next day, only 34 Democrats supported it.....

The Democrats’ bogus argument is that a piecemeal approach to restarting the federal government is just GOP strategy and poorly serves the public. At issue is whether the city can spend local money to continue local services. “It’s our money, not yours,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in underscoring that — unlike other bills to fund the national parks and veterans affairs — no federal appropriation is involved. It’s a point Democrats should understand since they have advanced it in the past, in seeking D.C. budget autonomy and permanent protection for the city when federal shutdowns occur.
Major Garrett has two perceptive analyses of the differences between the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns. And this echoes a point I've been talking about;
Trivia question: When was the last time a president signed an individual spending bill? Answer: Dec. 19, 2009, when President Obama signed the defense appropriations bill. That means Congress did not send a spending bill to Obama under the normal legislative process in 2010, 2011, 2012 or, obviously, this year. Spending bills force Congress to decide, in public, what to spend and why. When that process breaks down, there is less legislative attachment to and knowledge of the vast array of federal services.

When Congress doesn’t pass spending bills, it has to resort to continuing resolutions or catch-all spending bills that combine a slew of spending bills into legislative monstrosities known as an omnibus or minibus. The names are cute, or semi-cute, but they gnaw away at the essential legislative foundation of day-to-day federal spending. That makes shutdowns or eleventh-hour interventions to avoid them exactly what they have become—commonplace. I would argue they also make sequestration palatable—even to Democrats. What was unthinkable two years ago—across-the-board or meat-cleaver discretionary spending cuts—is now a political reality. Congress has simply given up on one of its basic constitutional functions: passing bills that fund government operations.
Examine the evidence that Obamacare has led to a massive increase in part-time jobs in place of full-time jobs.

When this budgetary crisis is over, it will be time to examine why the Department of Energy has been discriminating against veterans.

It's such a dang shame that Bill de Blasio, the Democratic campaign for mayor of New York City is determined to destroy the chances for a successful future for poor minority children.

So now the National Park Service is just making stuff up about an imaginary "First Amendment Exception" that allows some people to visit some national park sites, but not others. Where did they find that in the Constitution? It's all about the trend that Ed Morrissey details about how federal workers have become "Obama's private army."

And now Al Jazeera America has hit zero in TV ratings. At least Al Gore got his payout so the whole experience was worth it for them, right?