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Monday, October 07, 2013

Cruising the Web

Mark Steyn gets to the heart of our budgetary woes - the fact that the budgetary process has totally worn away so they're forced to pass these continuing resolution monstrosities.
For Democrats, the budget is all or nothing. Republican bills to fund this or that individual program have to be rejected out of hand as an affront to the apparent constitutional inviolability of the “continuing resolution.” In fact, government by “continuing resolution” is a sleazy racket: The legislative branch is supposed to legislate. Instead, they’re presented with a yea-or-nay vote on a single all-or-nothing multi-trillion-dollar band-aid stitched together behind closed doors to hold the federal leviathan together while it belches its way through to the next budget cycle. As Professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University put it, “This turns democracy into a choice between tyranny and anarchy.” It’s certainly a perversion of responsible government: Congress has less say over specific federal expenditures than the citizens of my New Hampshire backwater do at Town Meeting over the budget for a new fence at the town dump. Pace Senator Reid, Republican proposals to allocate spending through targeted, mere multi-billion-dollar appropriations are not only not “irresponsible” but, in fact, a vast improvement over the “continuing resolution”: To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, but continuing power corrupts continually.

America has no budget process. That’s why it’s the brokest nation in history. So a budgeting process that can’t control the budget in a legislature that can’t legislate leads to a government shutdown that shuts down open areas of grassland and the unmanned boat launch on the Bighorn River in Montana. Up next: the debt-ceiling showdown, in which we argue over everything except the debt. The conventional wisdom of the U.S. media is that Republicans are being grossly irresponsible not just to wave through another couple trillion or so on Washington’s overdraft facility. Really? Other countries are actually reducing debt: New Zealand, for example, has a real budget that diminishes net debt from 26 percent of GDP to 17 percent by 2020. By comparison, America’s net debt is currently about 88 percent, and we’re debating only whether to increase it automatically or with a few ineffectual strings attached.
Matt Lewis defends the so-called "surrender caucus." I agree. Perhaps it is time to rename them the "reality caucus."

Somehow, the National Park Service has found a way to being the most partisan national agency at the moment as they do everything possible to make the government shutdown more painful than it needs to be. They are closing places that have never been closed before when there has been a government shutdown and they're sending out more people to enforce those closures than it would take to keep them open. And then there is this tidbit.
The [House Natural Resources] committee’s leaders also noted this week that the NPS let the Occupy movement camp out in McPherson Square for months, causing thousands of dollars in damage through their illegal camping, yet erected barricades to keep Word War II veterans from a daytime visit to their memorial.
William Jacobson points to the efforts by federal officials to block people from even being able to pause and look at Mount Rushmore. They don't even want the state to pay to keep open access roads.

So how many years will Kwame Kilpatrick get for his corruption as mayor of Detroit? The federal prosecutors are asking for at least 28 years in prison.

And here's the answer to the question you may have been wondering about: who is quieter a ninja or a SEAL? One little boy went straight to the top to find out.

Michael Tanner explains why the basic unfairness of how Obamacare is being carried out with exemptions for some groups and subsidies for others is angering a whole lot of Americans.
Of course, Congress is hardly the only group to be excused from ObamaCare’s rules on the type of insurance plans that they must provide to their workers.

For example, since the law passed in 2010, 780 companies and 451 unions have received exemptions from the law’s insurance regulations, most frequently “minimum loss ratios” (the proportion of premiums that must be paid in benefits, rather than in administrative costs) or bans on annual or lifetime benefit caps. Some 4 million workers fall under these waivers. Interestingly, while companies received 63% of the waivers, most were very small. In terms of the number of employees affected, more than 88% fell under union waivers.

Of course, what might be considered the largest ObamaCare waiver, was the president’s unilateral decision to postpone the law’s employer mandate until 2015. This creates a particularly troubling Catch-22 for workers. With ObamaCare driving up the cost of insurance, many employers may decide to take advantage of the delay and drop coverage for their workers, since they will no longer be penalized for doing so. Indeed, as noted above, many employers already have dropped coverage and many more are expected to.

But the law’s individual mandate remains in force. As a result, if an employer discontinues a worker’s coverage, it is the worker who could face a fine — er, tax — for not buying insurance.
Mark Steyn explains the ridiculousness of the budgeting process that we no longer have.
For Democrats, the budget is all or nothing. Republican bills to fund this or that individual program have to be rejected out of hand as an affront to the apparent constitutional inviolability of the “continuing resolution.” In fact, government by “continuing resolution” is a sleazy racket: The legislative branch is supposed to legislate. Instead, they’re presented with a yea-or-nay vote on a single all-or-nothing multi-trillion-dollar band-aid stitched together behind closed doors to hold the federal leviathan together while it belches its way through to the next budget cycle. As Professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University put it, “This turns democracy into a choice between tyranny and anarchy.” It’s certainly a perversion of responsible government: Congress has less say over specific federal expenditures than the citizens of my New Hampshire backwater do at Town Meeting over the budget for a new fence at the town dump. Pace Senator Reid, Republican proposals to allocate spending through targeted, mere multi-billion-dollar appropriations are not only not “irresponsible” but, in fact, a vast improvement over the “continuing resolution”: To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, but continuing power corrupts continually.

America has no budget process. That’s why it’s the brokest nation in history. So a budgeting process that can’t control the budget in a legislature that can’t legislate leads to a government shutdown that shuts down open areas of grassland and the unmanned boat launch on the Bighorn River in Montana. Up next: the debt-ceiling showdown, in which we argue over everything except the debt.
Victor Davis Hanson contemplates how so much what of Obama says is projecting what he actually does onto his partisan opponents. It's come to be useful to just automatically believe the opposite of what he says.
When the president derides the idea of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, we almost automatically assume that he himself tried to do just that when as a senator he voted against the Bush administration request in 2006, when the debt was about $6 trillion less than it is now.

When the president blasts the Republicans for trying to subvert the “settled law” of Obamacare, we trust that Obama himself had earlier done precisely that when he unilaterally subverted his own legislation — by quite illegally discarding the employer mandate provision of Obamacare. At least the Republicans tried to revise elements of Obamacare through existing legislative protocols; the president preferred executive fiat to nullify a settled law.

When the president deplores the lack of bipartisanship and the lockstep Republican effort to defund Obamacare, we remember that the president steamrolled the legislation through the Congress without a single Republican vote.

When the president laments the loss of civility and reminds the public that he uses “calm” rhetoric during the impasse, we know he has accused his opponents of being on an “ideological crusade” and of being hostage takers and blackmailers who have “a gun held to the head of the American people,” while his top media adviser Dan Pfeiffer has said that they had “a bomb strapped to their chest.”

When the president insists that the Republican effort to hold up the budget is unprecedented, we automatically deduce that, in fact, the action has many precedents, and on frequent prior occasions was a favored ploy of Democrats to gain leverage over Republican administrations.

In short, whenever the president prefaces a sweeping statement with one of his many emphatics — “make no mistake about it,” “I’m not making this up,” “in point of fact,” “let me be perfectly clear” — we know that the reverse is always true. For Obama, how something is said matters far more than what is said. If he stumbles, as is his wont, through an un-teleprompted remark that on rare occasions can be mostly accurate, that is a serious lapse; if, more frequently, he mellifluously asserts a teleprompted falsehood, there is little worry. The result is not so much untruth, lies, or distortions, as virtual chaos. Is what he says untrue, contradictory of what he said or did earlier, or just nonsensical?

These strange flights of fantasy are not new. When Barack Obama boasts that “American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years,” we know that is despite, not because of, his efforts, remembering that oil and gas leases have markedly decreased during the Obama administration, as they have soared on private and state lands. Again, how do you refute fantasy?
So the federal government can allow union leaders who are paid by the taxpayers to return the work, but not the Amber alert system. Ah, priorities.

And then there is the total lack of logic in the decisions made by the administration on which government websites to leave up and which to take down.
During this shutdown, federal websites promoting Obamacare may be open but access to high-profile websites run by NASA, the Library of Congress, the Agriculture Department, as well as data.gov and many others has been shuttered. “This makes no sense,” Donald Rieck, executive director of the Statistical Assessment Service at George Mason University, told me. “It costs more money to close sites than to keep them running without being updated.” After all, the infrastructure to keep websites up is already in place.

A memo by Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell makes it clear it’s not possible to spare any expense when it comes to shutting down the government: “The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services,” Burwell wrote. Her memo also says that if a website is down, it should show a standard notice that it will be unavailable during the shutdown.

But some agencies apparently didn’t get the nonsensical memo. The Department of Veterans Affairs says its home page will be “updated intermittently.” The Federal Elections Commission site is still online “but static.” Wired magazine reports that the government’s policy appears “bafflingly arbitrary.” In many cases, it is depriving everyone from scholars to schoolchildren of government research and data that taxpayers have already paid for and should remain online.

President Obama said in his 2009 inaugural address that he planned to “restore science to its rightful place” in government. Instead, through his administration’s arbitrary policy it is shutting out science in favor of petty politics.
In one way that the shutdown might have affected my life was that I had an assignment for my A.P. European History students look at a pamphlet that the National Gallery of Art has posted on Painting in the Dutch Golden Age. I was worried that it wouldn't be available for my students due to the shutdown, but there it is. If you like the art of that period, I recommend the pamphlet. I told my students it's like having a wonderful docent giving a tour through some of the best art in history.
The Obama Justice and Education Departments are now sending letters to universities that basically misstate the Supreme Court's ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. They either didn't understand the 8-1 majority opinion or they're purposely misleading universities.

The New York Times has an interview with Justice Scalia on the eve of the Supreme Court returns to session. It's both entertaining and enlightening.

Here's a peek at the cultural indoctrination going on in the history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Probably a lot of this is going on in graduate departments across the nation, but it is still rather frightening.

8 comments:

Locomotive Breath said...

The time to kill Obamacare is now before it can fully take root. If it lasts much longer then it will have killed off private insurance which was the whole point in the first place. Waiting/hoping for a change in Congress several years from now will be too late because the cancer will have metastasized throughout the body.

Resist at every turn.

Charles Curran said...

'Reality Caucus'? Let me remind you of a famous quote: "If not us,who"? "If not now, when"? You mean the 'Give up caucus'.

LargeBill said...

The interview with Justice Scalia was more revealing about the narrow mindedness of the interviewer than it was regarding the subject. If the New York Times was capable of shame this guy would no longer work there.

Rick Caird said...

The Continuing Resolution is the preferred approach for Harry Reid. That is true because it allows him to avoid having his caucus go on record with their priorities, revenue requirements, and proposed tax increases. It also allows them to hide the proposed deficits. Finally, it is an attempt to institutionalize the large spending increases of 2009 and 2010 by not holding them up to the light of the budget day.

To call Harry Reid a "sleazy politician" is to insult sleaze everywhere.

mark said...

Well Rick, you've downgraded (upgraded?) Reid from "personification of evil" to "sleazy politician". Nice to see a little perspective.
That puts him about even with the weepy-drunk Boehner, who is most certainly lying about the votes for a CR.

mark said...

"If it lasts much longer then it will have killed off private insurance"

Such a painfully ignorant sentence.

Rick Caird said...

Mark is the little gnat buzzing around: annoying but of no consequence. In this case he says nothing about Reid and his demand for a CR in the face of years of failing to produce a budget. Al Mark does is a little name calling.

He follows that up by not even beginning to address the question of the fate of private insurance in the face of ObamaCare. We do remember that Barney Frank touted ObamaCare as the fastest way to get to single payer. Mark, by contrast, simply throws out an insult as if it were meaningful. All too often that is the best he can do. It is as if Mark feels duty bound to reply even when he has nothing to say.

mark said...

Rick,
Just further evidence that you and others such as lb have no clue. Private insurance will do quite well if Obamacare is successful. Millions of new customers. If you are going to oppose something so vehemently, you might try to understand the facts. But you see the word Obama and start to foam at the mouth.
After all the insults you've thrown around ("personification of evil"), you're now whining about a "little name calling"? Poor you!