The Battle To Define Marriage

Rush Limbaugh said that allowing gay marriage in America is now “inevitable.” Do you agree?

The popular talk-show host told his radio audience the issue was lost when the word “marriage” was redefined. “So far as I’m concerned, once we started talking about ‘gay marriage,’ ‘traditional marriage,’ ‘opposite-sex marriage,’ ‘same-sex marriage,’ ‘hetero-marriage,’ we lost. It was over. It was just a matter of time.”

It is amazing to me how quickly sentiment on this issue has changed. When the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced in Congress in 1996, the measure defining “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman enjoyed overwhelming popular support. It sailed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-67 and by an 85-14 vote in the Senate. It was promptly signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

Now, the former President says he regrets that decision. He has been outspoken in his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. And he hopes that the Supreme Court will declare that the legislation he himself signed into law is ruled unConstitutional.

Most of the Democratic Senators who voted for the measure agree with him. Of the 36 who are still in the Senate, 27 have come out in support of gay marriage. There has not been nearly as big a shift on the Republican side of the aisle. Of the 51 Republican senators who voted for DOMA and are still in office, only two have changed their position.

DOMA was one of two challenges to the definition of marriage that occupied the Supreme Court (and much of the media) last week. The other was California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution approved by voters in 2008.

The California initiative was in response to a ruling by the California Supreme Court overturning an earlier measure, Proposition 22, that tried to outlaw same-sex marriage in the State. But Proposition 22 was an ordinary statute, not a constitutional amendment. It was invalidated by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Opposition to that ruling led to the passage of Proposition 8 later that year.

Of course, that measure quickly faced legal challenges. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the new measure was also unConstitutional. However, at the same time he also issued a stay of his ruling, pending appeal.

Last year, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Walker’s decision but also continued a stay on the ruling until it could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that’s where the matter stands today.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in nine States and Washington, D.C., as the result of court rulings, statutory changes made by legislative bodies and popular vote.

Across the country, voters in a majority of States have said that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. Thirty-eight States have passed legislation banning same-sex marriages, most in the form of amendments to their constitutions. You won’t be surprised to learn that these are among the more conservative States in the union; in fact, Mitt Romney carried 24 of them last November.

So what happens now? There’s no question what the advocates of marriage equality want to see: a Supreme Court decision declaring unequivocally that gays and lesbians have a Constitutional right to marry in every State, no matter what the local laws or State constitution might say.

Meanwhile, about the best the opponents can do is hope that the Supreme Court will agree that this should not be a Federal issue and that, instead, the requirements for getting married should be left to the individual States to decide, as has been the case for more than 200 years.

You won’t be surprised to learn that that is my own position as well. By and large, I have a very “live and let live” attitude. I don’t care if a gay couple wants to live together. I don’t want any say in what their domestic arrangements should be. Voters in three States have agreed to allow them to get married in their State, and I have no doubt that number will increase. I just don’t want to see it done as a matter of judicial decree.

It’s difficult to argue what our Founding Fathers would say on the subject, since they would undoubtedly be dumbfounded by the suggestion that homosexual couples should be allowed to marry. However, they did establish some clear Constitutional principles that I hope would apply here.

First is the principle that most matters should not be up to the Federal government to decide. It is good for different States to have different policies on different matters. Competition and diversity are positives, not negatives; they will lead to more benefits than any proscribed uniformity.

Who can get married and under what circumstances should not be a matter for the Federal government to decide. It never has been in the past; it shouldn’t be in the future.

Marriage licenses aren’t issued by the Federal government. Traditionally, it has been left to each individual State to decide what requirements (age, residency, blood test, etc.) should be followed.

“Let’s not make a Federal case of it” is a sentiment that should be applied more often than it is. Is there any chance that the Supreme Court will accept it on this very divisive issue?

I suspect the answer is no. I’m afraid that the same court that found a specious way to rule that Obamacare is Constitutional will declare that prohibiting gays from getting married is not, which means that the country is about to take another gigantic lurch to the left.

I hate to agree with Limbaugh on this. But, yes, I think it’s inevitable.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Republican Shell Game On Obamacare

Give us a break! That’s what Congress finally did on Saturday, when after a marathon session in the Senate, Congressmen all agreed to head out of town for their two-week spring break. So we’re safe from their meddlesome efforts until April 8.

But what a show they put on before they left. After arguing most of the night, the Senate finally managed to pass its first budget in four years at 4:56 in the morning. The final vote was 50-49, with every Republican opposing it. They were joined by four Democrats: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana. Not so coincidentally, all four are up for re-election next year.

I’ll have more to say about the battle of the budgets in a moment. But first I need to comment on two recent Senate votes on Obamacare and the incredible hypocrisy they demonstrated. First, Congressional Republicans declared their unwavering opposition to the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Then they voted to fund it for the rest of the year.

What the heck’s going on here?

Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), two tough young conservatives who defeated more establishment-type Republicans to win election, lived up to their campaign promises to try to end Obamacare. They forced a vote in the Senate on an amendment to defund the program. As expected, the measure lost on a straight party-line vote, with 55 Democrats voting against it and all 45 Republicans in the Senate voting in favor.

On March 20, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a wonderful speech on the floor of the Senate:

In my view, Obamacare is a colossal mistake for our country. There’s just no way to fix it. It needs to be pulled out by its roots and we need to start over.

This bill needs to be repealed and replaced — not with another unreadable law or another 20,000 pages of regulations – but with common-sense reforms that actually lower health care costs.

And anyone who thinks we’ve given up that fight is dead wrong.

On March 15, McConnell gave a speech denouncing Obamacare at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He stood next to a stack of papers that were taller than he was, which he said were the 20,000 pages of new regulations that have been issued so far to implement this healthcare monstrosity. Some 828 pages of new regulations were issued in just one day, he said; and he warned that there are many more to come.

On March 11, in remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell said:

This law is a disaster waiting to happen.

Imagine the burden we’re placing on the single mom who wants to open her own store. Or the young entrepreneur who wants to sell some new idea. Or the business owners we all know from back home — the folks who employ so many of our constituents.

Instead of encouraging them to create jobs and grow the economy, we’re hitting them with a brick of regulations.

That all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But McConnell and 19 other Republican Senators voted to fund Obamacare for the rest fiscal 2013.

What you’ve got here is a perfect example of how many Republicans can vote for “business as usual” in Washington, while at the same time making sure they can posture as staunch conservatives for the folks back home.

Here are the 20 Republican Senators who voted in favor of the Cruz amendment, knowing it would fail, but then voted in favor of a measure to make sure the healthcare monstrosity gets all of the taxpayer funds it needs to continue operations for the rest of this fiscal year:

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nevada, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

By the way, you may be wondering why the vote to fund Obamacare was included in an omnibus piece of legislation called a “continuing resolution.” The reason is that our august leaders know that they can get a lot more votes for their massive spending programs if they lump enough things together in one humongous package. So rather than individual votes on various parts of the Federal budget, we get one all-inclusive continuing resolution.

It’s so much safer that way. Witness what just happened with efforts to defund Obamacare.

In the predawn hours of March 23, the Democratic majority in the Senate also did something that it has vigorously avoided for the past four years: It passed a budget.

As the kids would say, big whoop. The Democrats’ plan calls for almost $1 trillion in new revenue over the next 10 years. But thanks to 62 percent more spending over the decade, even if they get all that new revenue, the budget still won’t balance.

The Republicans, meanwhile, didn’t do much better. The Paul Ryan budget, which the House passed and the Senate rejected, also called for more spending, just not quite as much. The Republican budget would have increased Federal spending by 40 percent over the next 10 years. But thanks to increased revenue from our slowly growing economy, the budget was supposed to have balanced by year 10.

Mind you, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are actually calling for a reduction in government spending. The best we can hope for, they say, is a slight reduction in the proposed growth of government.

Until we more people in the U.S. Senate who will stick to their campaign promises on every vote and who don’t engage in the sort of shell game we just saw with funding for Obamacare, I’m afraid they are probably correct.

Of the 21 Senate seats currently held by Democrats that will be contested next year, Republicans have to win only six of them in addition to retaining the seats they hold in order to regain control of the Senate.

But it sure wouldn’t hurt if, at the same time, some of the soft-as-marshmallows Republicans in the list above could also be replaced by some people with a little more backbone.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Administration On A Roll With Sequester Threats

The White House threatens the Easter Bunny. Continuing its effort to make the forced spending cuts called sequestration seem as onerous as possible, the White House issued a warning to all of the parents who had tickets for this year’s Easter Egg Roll that “this event is subject to cancellation due to funding uncertainty.” With all of the negative press the Administration of President Barack Obama received over halting White House tours for the same ridiculous reason, you’d think someone in authority there would realize it’s time to stop such petty politics. But wait, this is the Obama White House we’re talking about.

Senate Democrats refuse to fund White House tours. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment to the bill funding the Federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year that would shift funds around to restore the White House tours. But the Democrats who control the Senate refused to agree, and the measure failed on a party-line vote, 54-45.

Those bureaucrats owe how much in taxes? Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says more than 100,000 Federal employees have delinquent tax bills totaling more than $1 billion. He introduced legislation in Congress that would require all Federal employees to pay the taxes they owe or lose their jobs. It seems like a pretty reasonable requirement to me. But Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, condemned the bill, saying that it “seeks to demonize federal employees.”

That Biden entourage is expensive. It turns out that when Vice President Joe Biden goes abroad, a whole lot of folks get to travel with him, which can leave us taxpayers with a mighty large bill. For a one-night stay in London in February, for example, the group needed 136 hotel rooms, including the presidential suite. The tab at the Hyatt Regency for the one night came to $459,388.65. But the stay in Paris the next night was even costlier. The Vice President’s tab for one night at the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand cost taxpayers $585,000.50. That brought the two-day total to over $1 million. And that was just for hotel rooms. Sure would pay for a bunch of White House tours, wouldn’t it?

–Chip Wood   

Paul For President — Rand Paul, That Is

Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll. Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was their preferred Presidential nominee. Rand won 25 percent of the vote in the straw poll, followed by Florida senator Marco Rubio, who got 23 percent. Paul’s father, former Congressman Ron Paul, won the CPAC straw polls in 2010 and 2011. Mitt Romney was the first choice last year. Earlier this month, Rand Paul said that he was “seriously considering” a bid for the White House in 2016.

The Democrats finally offer a budget. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) submitted a budget proposal for the Federal government, something the Democrats refused to do for almost four years. The proposed Democrat budget raises taxes by almost $1 trillion and, even under the most optimistic assumptions, won’t balance the budget any one of the next 10 years.

You tax dollars went where? The National Institutes of Health have awarded a Boston hospital more than $1.5 million to find out why a majority of gay women are overweight. “Nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese, compared to half of heterosexual women,” according to a description of the grant. The reverse is true for men; heterosexual males have nearly double the risk of obesity of gay men. “These disparities are of high public-health significance,” the grant stated. Right. And, of course, taxpayers should foot the bill to find the answers.

No outrage over these remarks. The national media love it when they can exploit things like Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47 percent or Todd Akins’ comments about abortion. But they’re amazingly silent when a liberal spouts off. Where was the outrage when Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said this about the budget proposed by Senator Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.): “He wants Americans to work until they die, he wants poor people who get sick not be able to see a doctor, not to get the care they need, not to get better. He wants them to die.” There was none that I heard.

–Chip Wood

The Republicans’ Dangerous Makeover

The Republican National Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Reince Priebus, said the party must change if it ever hopes to win the White House again.

So it issued a 97-page report that describes the GOP as “out of touch,” “narrow minded,” and the party of “stuffy old men.” (Those are some of the quotations in the report from focus groups the committee held.)

“Public perception of the Party is at record lows,” the report said. “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”

Unless something changes, the report indicated, “It will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.” So what should be done?

If the GOP is to become more relevant to today’s voters, the report insisted, it must “be inclusive and welcoming” on social issues. Plus, it needs to embrace “comprehensive immigration reform,” a code phrase that usually means providing illegal aliens with a path to U.S. citizenship.

Oh, and it’s important for Republican policy makers to realize that voters who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy “do not care if the help comes from the private sector or the government — they just want help.”

Do they think that’s the sort of message that will have millions of voters rushing to support Republicans next time around? Who are they kidding?

It sounds to me as though they’ve been watching too many Democratic commercials. What else can you think when the report offers conclusions like this: “The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”

It was no surprise that Democratic activists loved the resulting publicity. Jesse Ferguson, communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the report is “a total indictment of the Republican agenda in Congress.”

The report is a result of something called the Growth and Opportunity Project of the RNC. We’re told there were thousands of interviews and more than 50 focus groups, led by a team that included former George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, RNC National Committeeman from Mississippi Henry Barbour and Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw from Florida.

To make the Republican Party “more relevant,” RNC chairman Priebus wants to spend $10 million to reach out to black, Hispanic and Asian communities. Here’s how he described this part of his plan:

“It will include hundreds of people — paid — across the country, from coast-to-coast, in Hispanic, African American, Asian communities, talking about our party, talking about our brand, talking about what we believe in, going to community events, going to swearing-in ceremonies, being a part of the community on an ongoing basis, paid for by the Republican National Committee, to make the case for our party and our candidates.”

I have no doubt that having real live human beings reaching out one-on-one will be a lot better than pouring millions more dollars into television commercials no one wants or watches. But wouldn’t it make more sense to put most of that effort into areas where a substantial number of people agree with your core principles?

Oops, sorry. “Core principles” are something the Beltway consultants want to ignore, not play up.

Before Republicans make such drastic changes in how they deliver their message, I hope they’ll consider a few important points.

First, remember that they won resounding victories in the House of Representatives three years ago — the biggest gains in more than 75 years. And they held that majority through last year’s elections. Yes, the Democrats got Obama re-elected (with fewer votes and by a much smaller margin than most people realize). And they made some gains in the House and Senate.

But there are plenty of reasons to be more optimistic about next year. For one thing, the Democrats have more to lose. There are 22 Democratic Senate seats that will be decided in 2014, compared to 14 now held by Republicans.

And be aware that seven of those Senate seats now in Democratic hands are in states that Obama lost last year. In fact, his average vote in those States was a dismal 41 percent.

Already, four incumbent Democratic Senators have announced that they are retiring next year. I’d be willing to bet that there will be several more who decide to hang up their hats rather than run in a race they are likely to lose.

Yes, I’m aware that the Democrats have made all sorts of noise about how they’ll not only keep control of the Senate next year, but they will also regain control of the House. I don’t buy it for a second — if the Republicans will field candidates who stick to the message that brought them victories in the past two campaigns.

I’m talking about winning candidates such as Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah, Ted Cruz in Texas and the dozens of tough-minded conservatives who swept to victory in the House. Plus, let’s not forget that Republicans won governorships in 30 states.

My point is that the right message will resonate with a majority of voters. Oh, maybe not in New York City or in the People’s Republic of California (with a handful of exceptions).

But in area after area and State after State, a message of curbing government growth, eliminating trillion-dollar deficits, stopping wasteful government spending and living within our means has proven that it will appeal to most voters most of the time.

Rather than soft-peddle their beliefs, Republicans must point out that in the past 10 years, Federal spending has increased a whopping 89 percent. Meanwhile, the median wealth in this country has dropped 23 percent. And the median household income has fallen 5 percent. In other words, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) recently pointed out: “While families have been doing more with less, government has been doing less with more.”

That’s a message the average voter can relate to. And as candidates like Paul, Rubio and Cruz have demonstrated, when voters understand the message, they’ll elect the messenger.

Let’s hope we see more like them running for office next year.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Rand Paul’s Inspiring Stand

“For the first time since the election, I actually have some hope.” That’s what one long-time conservative said to me after Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster last week.

My friend is far from the only one to feel that way. Paul’s dramatic gesture had conservatives, libertarians and even many on the left cheering his principled stand. And no wonder. Here’s how Paul opened his lengthy marathon on the Senate floor on March 6:

I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.

Who on Earth could dispute that? Well, as it turns out, Paul’s challenge to unrestrained government power makes some Republicans very uncomfortable. Two of the more outrageous attacks came from establishment Republicans John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The day after Paul’s marathon effort, McCain pontificated, “I don’t think what happened yesterday was helpful to the American people.” Later, he inserted his foot even further into his mouth, when he told one reporter: “It’s always the wacko birds on right and left who get the media megaphone.” When asked to name names, McCain didn’t hesitate. “Rand Paul” was the first one he mentioned.

McCain’s buddy and Old Guard collaborator Graham went even further. He denounced Paul’s demand for clarification on warrantless domestic drone strikes, saying, “I do not believe that question deserves an answer.” Oh really, Senator? Sounding more like a spoiled child than a U.S. Senator, Graham added that Paul’s filibuster had convinced him to vote in favor of confirming John Brennan as CIA director.

In one of the most dramatic contrasts I’ve seen in many a month, McCain and Graham were hobnobbing with the President at a gourmet dinner while seven other Senators joined Paul on the Senate floor. Six of them were Republicans: Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. One lonely Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, was also there. Here’s a tip of the hat to all of them.

While that was happening on Capitol Hill, McCain and Graham were dining with Barack Obama at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Washington. It seems the President decided to call a time-out in his constant campaigning against the Republicans and put on a show for some bipartisan support. Obama even agreed to pick up the tab.

It was no surprise that McCain and Graham were among the first to be invited. It’s always going to be “business as usual” with these guys.

And isn’t that the point? What happened a week ago Wednesday is that one outspoken and determined person showed the world that you don’t have to go along to get along, that you can receive enormous public support when you take a principled stand for freedom.

Kentucky’s senior Senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, hasn’t always been one of Paul’s more ardent admirers. But he was effusive in his praise of his colleague last week.

“I wanted to congratulate him for his tenacity, for his conviction, and for being able to rally the support of a great many people,” he declared. In a not-so-subtle reference to Graham, McConnell said that the support Paul received demonstrates that “this is a legitimate question.”

BuzzFeed spoke for many hopeful conservatives when it wrote: “Republicans rallied around Paul in a way that hasn’t been seen on the national stage in years and could provide a glimmer of hope for a listless party.”

From where I sit, it looks like a lot more than a “glimmer,” my friends. BuzzFeed seems to agree, because it went on to write, “‘There was a hell of a lot of team play tonight,’ a senior GOP leadership aide said Thursday morning, acknowledging that Paul’s filibuster had given the GOP a much needed jolt of energy.” Indeed, it has.

The next morning, the White House finally did what Paul had been demanding for months: It issued a statement confirming that the President does not have the power to use drones in this country to kill American citizens.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued the actual response, which White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read during his daily press briefing. “It has come to my attention,” the attorney general wrote, “that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Doesn’t sound like much of a concession, does it? But it was enough for Paul to declare it “satisfactory.”  He said he would no longer oppose a vote on the nomination of Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan was easily confirmed later that week by a vote of 63-34.

So was all of this much ado about nothing? Not at all. Paul spoke to the fears a growing number of Americans have of their own government. Near the end of his 13-hour marathon, he declared:

Certain things rise above partisanship. And I think your right to be secure in your person, the right to be secure in your liberty, the right to be tried by a jury of your peers — these are things that are so important and rise to such a level that we shouldn’t give up on them easily.

In fact, we shouldn’t give up on them at all. When Paul seized the moment, he drew a line in the sand that inspired a lot of us to stand up as well. Thank you, Senator.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Senator Can Save Us $200 Billion

Waste and duplication in Federal budget. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says that he and his staff have identified more than $200 billion worth of cuts that can be made in the Federal budget just by eliminating waste and duplication. During an appearance on “Meet the Press,” he promised: “I can show them all the things, the stupid things, they’ve done over the last two years that we can stop doing.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to ask you, Senator.

Obama nixes White House tours. How low can you go? The war of words over those automatic spending cuts called sequestration has gotten pretty petty at times. But a new low was hit when the White House said it was canceling all public tours of the building because of it. Spring break is one of the most popular times of the year for tourists to visit our Nation’s capital. But this year they won’t be allowed to visit “the people’s house.” For shame, Mr. President.

“The Donald” offers to foot the bill. In what sounds like a prearranged ploy, Donald Trump said he would accept a challenge by Newt Gingrich and pay the costs of maintaining those White House tours. The former House speaker tweeted: “Donald Trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students.” Trump called the decision to end the tours “just really ridiculous” and said: “It does make us look awfully bad and awfully pathetic.” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer dismissed Trump’s offer, saying on CNN: “The Donald Trump option is not an option.”

What did all those trips accomplish? There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the most traveled secretary of state in history. During her four years in office, she flew nearly 1 million miles, the equivalent of flying around the globe 40 times. But can you think of one significant achievement from all of that globe-trotting diplomacy?  In addition to all of those frequent flyer miles, that is? I can’t.

–Chip Wood    

There’s Method To Obama’s ‘Madness’

Congratulations! You’ve managed to survive a whole week since sequestration hit. And despite all of the dire warnings that were issued, airplanes didn’t fall from the skies, prison gates weren’t thrown open, the indigent didn’t lose their food stamps and essential safety personnel didn’t lose their jobs.

In fact, nothing of consequence seems to have occurred — despite enough bluff and bluster on the topic to fill hot air balloons from one end of this country to the other.

At a press conference on March 1, President Barack Obama shed a few crocodile tears for janitors who have to clean up after Congress: “Starting tomorrow everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol. Now that Congress has left, somebody’s going to be vacuuming and cleaning those floors and throwing out the garbage. They’re going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they’ve got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real.”

Only problem was, the sequestration had nothing whatsoever to do with any janitorial pay cut. Oh, there was a tiny pay reduction taking place. But that was because, as part of the tax-increase package the Administration won at year end, a payroll tax cut that had been in effect for two years was eliminated. Thanks, Obama!

This patent doctoring of the facts was too much for the official fact checker at The Washington Post, who gave the President “Four Pinocchios” — the worst rating — for this whopper. He concluded that “nothing in Obama’s statement came close to being correct.”

Of all the doomsday cries that were issued, the funniest has to have been the claim by California’s wacko Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, that the sequestration would mean 170 million Americans would lose their jobs. For that many people to be fired, 30 million more people would first have to be hired — since the total workforce in this country comes to just over 140 million.

In the video of the event, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can be seen leaning over and whispering something to her colleague, who then restates the number of jobs that will be lost as 750,000. Even that number was absurdly high. A staff member later explains that what Waters meant to say was that the sequestration could cost 170,000 Americans their jobs.

All of which is a total bunch of malarkey, of course. Even with these so-called “devastating” budgets cuts (of course, they’re nothing of the kind), Federal spending will still be significantly higher this year than it was last year.

Did you realize that? Even if all $85 billion in spending cuts are actually made this year (something which I seriously doubt), the Federal budget for this fiscal year will still be several billion dollars higher than it was last year.

In fact, the total Federal budget of $3.553 trillion is a whopping $446 billion higher than it was when Barack Obama took office. Does anyone anywhere really believe that reducing the budget by a measly 2.3 percent will lead to an economic Armageddon? Of course, it won’t.

Even Obama finally seemed to realize that he may have been overstating things a bit. At a press conference last Friday, he said: “We will get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.”

Of course, the “some people” who issued the grimmest forecasts were mostly folks who work for him, like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who said he might have to furlough 5,000 air traffic controllers when the sequestration hit. Or Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who threatened to close or cut back hours at all of the National Park campgrounds. Or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who said she might have to sideline 5,000 agents who are supposed to protect our borders.

Another member of the doomsday chorus was Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who claimed that some teachers had already begun receiving pink slips even before the budget cuts went into effect. When challenged to identify even one public school teacher who had lost a job because of sequestration, Duncan wasn’t able to do so.

But my favorite story along these lines featured reporter Bob Woodward. He has been a darling of the media elite ever since he and his colleague (and a then-anonymous source they called “Deep Throat”) helped bring down Richard Nixon during the national scandal known as Watergate.

Referring to Obama’s claim that because of the pending sequestration he couldn’t deploy a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Woodward said, “That’s a kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Things got a lot hotter between the reporter and the White House when Woodward had the nerve to repeat something we’ve said many times: “the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House.” In a column in The Post, Woodward went on to blame “months of White House dissembling” for eroding “any semblance of trust between Obama and congressional Republicans.”

This was too much for the Obama acolytes, who have come to expect tacit support, if not outright fawning, from reporters who cover national affairs. Press secretary Jay Carney said that Woodward’s column was “willfully wrong.” Then Obama aide David Plouffle got even nastier, saying that Woodward reminded him of a once-great athlete who was way past his prime.

Woodward himself added more fuel to the fire, when he appeared on “The Situation Room” on CNN and described the White House reaction. “They’re not happy at all,” he said. He went on to reveal that one senior Administration official told him, very clearly, “You will regret doing this.”

In a major article last week, The Post revealed what is really behind all of the harsh rhetoric and hard-ball maneuvering coming from the Obama Administration: “The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office.”

Obama has promised to help raise $50 million for something called Organizing for Action. This is a new group, led by Jim Messina, his 2012 campaign manager. Its goal is to defeat key Republicans in 2014 and make sure Nancy Pelosi returns as the Speaker of the House.

With Obama in campaign mode for the next two years, you can toss any hope of compromise and conciliation out the window. Their strategy to win control of the House is the blame game. And the kid gloves are off.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Compliance Is Costly

Those expensive Federal regulations. Just how much does it cost private enterprise to comply with all of the Federal regulations that have been promulgated? According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit research group in Washington, D.C., the tab comes to more than half-a-trillion dollars a year. The CEI says the most costly agencies are the Environmental Protection Agency, whose regulations cost businesses $353 billion a year; the Department of Health and Human Services, at $185 billion; and the Federal Communications Commission, at $142 billion a year. Just think how many more jobs could be created — and taxes paid — if some of those regulatory restrictions could be eased.

Democrats stiff company for $10 million. Although it didn’t receive any publicity at the time, Duke Energy guaranteed a $10 million line of credit to a local host committee for last year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Now it turns out that the group doesn’t have any money left to repay the electrical power company. No problem, says Duke CEO Jim Rogers. It will write off the loss as a business expense, meaning company shareholders will foot most of the bill.

A dependable voice for more spending. Has Nobel Prize-winning columnist Paul Krugman ever met a Federal spending project he doesn’t like? I don’t think so. In an appearance on the “Charlie Rose” TV show a few days ago, Krugman said, “The crucial issue right now is, are we going to keep on cutting spending and derailing this recovery, or are we going to at least try to spend [the money] that this economy needs?” Of course the truth is, even if every penny of the sequester takes effect (which it won’t), Federal spending will actually go up this year, not down.

Now can we build that pipeline? Barack Obama’s latest excuse for not approving the Keystone XL pipeline was that he was waiting for the State Department to complete its review of the project. Well, that report was finally released last Friday. And guess what? It said that the pipeline would produce “no substantial change in global greenhouse gas emissions.” Does this mean the project to transport oil from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast will finally get an OK from the White House? Don’t count on it. The “green energy” movement is still opposed to it.

–Chip Wood

Beware The Unions’ Idea Of Immigration Reform

Barack Obama and his union buddies have made it clear what they mean by “immigration reform.” That is, a clear path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are in this country illegally.

If they get their way, guess how many of those new citizens will become Democratic voters?

And guess how many will be targets for union membership?

So it should come as no surprise that when the President gave a major speech on immigration reform in Las Vegas earlier this year, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka was invited to sit in the front row. Afterward, Trumka said it was clear what the top priority of any such program must be: citizenship and all of its privileges for anyone who is in this country illegally.

For “privileges,” read “voting Democratic.” Oh, and “paying union dues.”

The Services Employees International Union says that it will spend millions of dollars to rally support for such legislation. Top officials of the SEIU have made it clear that passage of such a bill is their top priority this year.

No wonder. In recent years, Hispanics have comprised the fastest-growing segment of union membership. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, their numbers jumped by 21 percent over the past decade and now make up one-quarter of SEIU membership. Meanwhile, over the same 10-year period, white union membership declined by 13 percent.

One of the biggest problems the unions are facing is that when workers aren’t forced to join a union, many won’t. After Indiana passed a right-to-work law last year, union membership in the State declined by 18 percent. In Wisconsin, passage of a right-to-work law in 2011 led to a huge and bitter battle to rescind the legislation and force Governor Scott Walker out of office. When that effort failed, union membership in the State declined by more than 13 percent.

No wonder the unions are licking their chops at the thought of organizing a substantial chunk of the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally. They will be satisfied with nothing less than a quick and easy path to citizenship. Hopefully, Republicans in Congress will stand fast and make sure they don’t get it.

By the way, one thing the unions definitely don’t want included in any immigration reform is an effective guest worker program. While Big Labor likes to claim that temporary workers would “steal American jobs,” that’s a bunch of hooey. Granting citizenship to 11 million illegal aliens would enable them to “steal” a lot more jobs than guest workers could ever dream of filling.

No, the reality is that temporary workers don’t join unions or pay union dues. Is it any surprise that the unions don’t want them here? No wonder Barack Obama omitted any mention of a guest worker program in his immigration speech. Nor did it appear in the White House’s paper on immigration principles.

Senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants who has emerged as a leading Republican spokesman for a compromise solution, has said: “The bottom line is that if we can’t convince people of all backgrounds, including Americans of Hispanic descent, that limited government and free enterprise is a better way, not just for them, but for the country, not only is the conservative movement doomed, but ultimately I think America is doomed, in terms of us continuing being an exceptional nation.”

That’s pretty optimistic, don’t you think?

Another Battle Big Labor Wants To Win

Remember the brouhaha that erupted a year ago, when Obama appointed three new members to the National Labor Relations Board without allowing the Senate to “advise and consent”? The President said he could do so because they were “recess” appointments when the Senate was not in session.

The problem was that the Senate said it was in session. The chamber met every day, even if just for a few moments, precisely to stop the President from doing what he did. The dispute soon moved to the courts.

Last month, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled unanimously that Obama violated the Constitution by making the appointments. As a result, the NLRB lacked a legal quorum since January 2012, which means that every decision it issued in the past 13 months could be thrown out.

Two weeks ago, the President re-nominated two of the people he appointed: former Labor Department official Sharon Block and former union lawyer Richard F. Griffin Jr., both pro-union stalwarts. (Obama’s third nominee had previously resigned and did not seek reappointment.)

This time around, Obama did submit the nominations to the Senate, so the upper chamber can fulfill its traditional role to “advise and consent.” Look for a lively battle over their confirmations.

But you can expect even more fireworks — and lawsuits — over the activities of the NLRB. Chairman Mark Pearce has announced that he disagrees with the Federal court ruling and is going to carry on as though nothing happened.

As a result, one critic (Home Depot co-founder and former chairman Bernie Marcus) declared in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: “After making hundreds of decisions that killed jobs and increased economic uncertainty, the board is set up to decide a hundred more.”

Marcus issued his statement in his new role as head of a new nonprofit organization he helped found, the Job Creators Alliance. He explained: “Today, many job creators are being punished for doing business. Confiscatory taxes. Suffocating regulations. Stifling energy costs. Businesses that have joined the Job Creators Alliance face these challenges every day. Now they must also endure a rogue agency thumbing its nose at an unambiguous and unanimous court ruling. How are they supposed to have the confidence to invest and create jobs?”

How indeed?

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that will bar the NLRB from enforcing any decisions until it has a quorum that has been approved by the Senate. But don’t expect it to be passed anytime soon, and don’t expect the NLRB chairman to pay attention if it is passed.

Marcus got it right when he wrote: “Worried business owners don’t invest, expand and create jobs. They hunker down and try to survive.”

That’s a pretty good description of what all of us will have to do as long as Obama sits in the White House and Democrats control the Senate. The next two years will require every Constitutionalist to “hunker down and try to survive.”

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood