Could The IRS Scandal Bring Down Obama?

So the first head has rolled in the scandal that has engulfed the Internal Revenue Service. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama ordered Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to get the ax.

And you can bet that if the powers that be in Washington could turn back the clock, Douglas Shulman’s head would also be on the chopping block. After all, he was the IRS commissioner last year who flatly denied that his agency had ever targeted Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations.

“There’s absolutely no targeting,” Shulman testified before a congressional committee last March. But of course there was. Last Friday, the IRS admitted as much — although it tried to put all the blame on a bunch of low-level employees at its office in Cincinnati.

After intimidating honest taxpayers for decades, the IRS is finally on the receiving end of some nasty publicity. The President has called its behavior “outrageous.” The FBI is launching an investigation of possible criminal violations. Isn’t it delightful?

The scandal erupted last week when an IRS official admitted for the first time — after high-level officials had denied it for years — that the agency singled out groups that had the words “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in their name for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

And it wasn’t just such obvious right-wing organizations. If your group focused on government spending, debt or taxes, or if it criticized how the country was being run, chances are it would make the list. Heck, even such an innocuous objective as “trying to make America a better place to live” could be enough to get your application flagged.

This isn’t the first time that such allegations have been made. In fact, Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) said it was precisely because he had heard such complaints that he specifically asked the IRS commissioner about them last year. On three separate occasions, Miller assured the Senator that there was no truth to the accusations.

Miller “basically misled me and purposefully did so,” Hatch said earlier this week. “He purposely misled me because he knew better.” And in a classic bit of understatement, the Utah Republican concluded, “That bothers me quite a bit.”

It’s probably no coincidence that the scandal first erupted last Friday afternoon. That is the traditional time for Washington spinmeisters to release bad news, since most folks are thinking more about their plans for the weekend than what the folks in Washington are up to. The worried parties no doubt hope that by the time Monday morning rolls around, any embarrassing disclosures from last Friday will be long forgotten.

That certainly didn’t happen this time. In fact, every passing day brought forth new and even more damaging revelations. By Tuesday, the Boston Herald actually ran the word “Obamagate” in bold, black type on its front page. Another headline read, “Scandals Invoke Comparison To Nixon.”

I’ll bet that last one made some White House staffers cringe. They remember (or surely have been told about) the scandal that erupted four decades earlier, when White House counsel John Dean told a congressional committee that Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” was turned over to the IRS, with instructions to “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

As a result, when the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment against Nixon in 1974, the second article accused the president of using “income tax audits or other income tax investigations” to intimidate his political opponents.

Could something similar happen again? Veteran political analyst and best-selling author Dick Morris says absolutely:

What’s going to happen is you’re going to get a congressional hearing. They’re going to call some of these people under oath. They’ll call Miller for example, the head of the IRS, they’ll call [Douglas] Shulman, the former head of the IRS, and they’ll ask, did you know about this?

Then the obvious question is who else knew? Who did you tell? I doubt that there’s a lot of people who are willing to commit perjury to save the president, and undoubtedly what they’ll say is, well, I told such and such in the White House. Then they’ll get this person under oath and you just go step by step up the food chain.

At the end of it, it’s an impeachable offense, which is the key thing.

Caught In Two Lies

So far, IRS officials have been caught telling at least two lies in an effort to contain the growing controversy. The first is that it was all done by a small group of low-level employees in the IRS office in Cincinnati who just weren’t supervised closely enough.

Nice try, but no cigar. We now know that some of the inquiries came from IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Oh, and at least some of the requests included demands for the names of donors, contributors and grantors — even though the laws governing such organizations specifically protect the privacy of the people who support them.

Hatch confirmed that the IRS was playing fast and loose with the truth here. “It wasn’t just some lowly staffer in Cincinnati who made a mistake,” he said. “Very senior management at the IRS here in Washington knew what was going on for over a year and didn’t say a word.”

Actually, it isn’t true that the IRS “didn’t say a word.” In fact, the agency issued many words — all of them designed to hide the truth.

The second whopper from the cover-up cohorts is that all of this took place over a few weeks in 2011 and it was promptly stopped when higher-ups learned about it. Wrong again! We now know that the troubling investigations began back in 2010 and continued for more than a year and a half.

At the same time conservative groups were subject to all sorts of scrutiny and delay, many liberal and progressive groups were put on the fast track for approval. If your organization was run by an Obama relative, let’s say, or former White House staffers or operatives from Obama’s 2012 Presidential campaign, the normal approval process could be cut from more than a year to as little as one month.

Yes, indeed, in this bright new era of fairness and transparency, some pigs are sure more equal than others.

And conspiracy buffs have got to love this one: One of the rumors making the rounds in Washington is that some top Administration honchos decided to release the story about the political-audit scandal in an effort to distract public attention from the furor over what happened (and most pointedly, what didn’t happen) in the terrorist assault on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September.

If that was the goal, the media manipulators sure made a major miscalculation. Most of us may not be terribly concerned about the activities of an obscure jihadist group in a remote country like Libya — even when it causes the death of four Americans, including our ambassador.

But every taxpayer in this country has a visceral fear of getting on the wrong side of the IRS. We’re aware of past efforts to use the IRS as a political enforcement branch of the White House. And we don’t like it a bit.

You can bet that more heads will roll before all the investigations are over. House Speaker John Boehner says that firings won’t be enough: “My question isn’t about who is going to resign. My question is who’s going to jail over this scandal?”

I’m more eager to see how far the fallout spreads. Remember, no amount of sacrificial lambs was enough to keep Nixon safe in the White House.

“Could the IRS scandal bring down Obama? Let’s hope so.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s ‘Biggest Lie of All’

Will we ever get all of the truth about the false explanations and misdirection from the Administration of President Barack Obama after the terrorist assaults on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11?

Probably not. But we’ve gotten a lot closer in the past few days, thanks to three courageous State Department employees who refused to be part of a cover-up and a House committee that dug long and hard to get more of the truth.

It’s too soon to know what all of the consequences of Wednesday’s hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee will be. One popular White House critic was probably way too optimistic when he predicted that the revelations could bring down Obama’s Presidency.

But on the bright side, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this story could end any hopes Hillary Clinton had of being elected President in 2016. More on this in a moment.

Whatever happens next, it is now indisputably clear that the murder of Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans was planned by an al-Qaida affiliate in Libya. The CIA knew it — and told Washington. Our staff in Libya knew it — and told their superiors. Top Libyan officials knew it — and repeatedly said so.

So why was any reference to terrorism or al-Qaida carefully and deliberately removed from the “talking points” handed to our U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, before she made the rounds of the TV talk shows the Sunday following the attacks?

About that, we can only speculate. Because no one in authority in Obama’s White House and what was Clinton’s State Department  will fess up.

Are you really surprised?

It was deeply moving to listen to the three State Department veterans who had the guts to come forward and testify on Wednesday. I was especially impressed by Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/charge d’affairs in Libya. He was in Tripoli, a two-hour flight from Benghazi, when Stevens called to tell him, “Greg, we’re under attack.”

Hicks told the committee that none of his efforts to get military assistance for the beleaguered Americans in Benghazi was successful. He revealed that a Special Operations team in Tripoli was ordered to “stand down” and not fly to Benghazi. The officer in charge of the team told Hicks, “I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.”

Hicks said he was absolutely “dumbfounded” when he heard that an obscure anti-Islamic video was being blamed for turning a group of demonstrators into a murderous mob. “I was stunned. My jaw dropped, and I was embarrassed,” Hicks told the committee. He knew it wasn’t true. But that was the Administration’s story; and, by golly, they were going to stick with it.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, no doubt engaged in a bit of hyperbole when he told Sean Hannity before the hearings began that his committee would force the Administration to come clean about “the biggest lie of all.” Issa said:

The Administration has made a claim that for classified reasons they changed the story. We believe right now that may be the biggest lie of all, and we intend on making the president come clean as to, quote, ‘what the classified reasons are that would justify lying to the American people.’

Gripping as the day-long hearings were, of course they didn’t force Obama or anyone in his Administration to “come clean” about the attempted cover-up. That was too much to hope for.

Still, at least one prominent critic believes that the Administration’s deceit about Benghazi could spell the end of Obama’s Presidency.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee didn’t mince words on his radio show earlier this week. “When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up,” the one-time Republican Presidential candidate declared, “he cannot continue to govern.”

Did Huckabee really mean to suggest that Obama could be impeached over the attacks that led to the deaths of Stephens and three other Americans? It sure sounded like it. How else could you interpret comments like these: “As the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next 3 ½ years.”

Huckabee is probably overstating the case. It’s certainly true that seemingly minor incidents can have enormous consequences. Who could have imagined at the time that an amateurish burglary of a Democratic Party office in the Watergate complex in Washington would ultimately force Richard Nixon to resign his Presidency? Or that a sexual escapade with an intern would lead to Bill Clinton’s impeachment?

Huckabee is not alone in warning how serious the consequences of Benghazi could be. John Bolton, our ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, said that the growing scandal could lead to the “unraveling” of the Obama Administration. “This could be a hinge point for the Obama Administration,” Bolton declared. “It’s that serious for them.”

We’ll see.

While it’s too soon to declare that our lame-duck President is a dead duck politically, I think it’s very likely that the hearings and the attendant publicity may have had a major unintended consequence. They may have saved us from a Clinton Presidency in 2016.

Remember when Clinton was finally well enough to testify about the assault this past January? She lost her cool (or at least pretended to do so) during her interrogation by a Senate committee. She was almost yelling when she lashed out at Senator Roy Johnson (R-Wis.), saying, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Actually, Madame Secretary, you knew very well that the murders occurred, not because of a protest that got out of hand or because some “guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans.” The assault on our consulate was planned by an al-Qaida affiliate to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 — and there were plenty of people who knew it.

We still don’t have “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about the events in Benghazi on Sept. 11, or about the lies and obfuscations that that started in Washington, D.C., almost immediately thereafter.

But we do know that Clinton was part of the effort to stonewall us. And I think enough voters will remember this in 2016 to deny her what she wants more than anything else: the keys to the White House.

Let’s make sure we do our part to see that they do.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Welfare For Terrorists And Other Outrages

Well, well, well. It seems the accused Boston bombers managed to swallow their disdain for all things American long enough to enjoy years of taxpayer-funded welfare benefits.

The media in Boston report that brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their relatives collected more than $100,000 in benefits since their arrival in this country. The assistance ranged from “cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing,” the Boston Herald revealed.

And get this. The same newspaper reported that the Administration of Governor Deval Patrick tried to keep this information from becoming public, allegedly because of the need to protect “privacy concerns” of the accused jihadists. Sure thing, Governor.

Massachusetts authorities said that the Tsarnaev brothers stopped receiving welfare last year. So at least they weren’t on the public dole when their homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200.

No one has explained how elder brother Tamerlan, clearly the leader of the duo, was able to afford a C-class Mercedes sedan and the fancy designer clothing he seemed to prefer, while at the same time qualifying for public assistance in Massachusetts. Or how he paid for a six-month trip to Russia.

It’s bad enough to learn that taxpayers paid for a significant chunk of the Tsarnaev brothers’ cost of living in this country while they were plotting to harm us. But it’s even more frustrating that younger brother Dzhokhar was in the middle of being interrogated by the FBI and willingly answering their questions, or so we’re told, when it came to a screeching halt.

It seems that representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler and other officials, interrupted the questioning to read Dzhokhar his Miranda rights. It’s no surprise that once that happened, the accused murderer promptly stopped talking.

Prior to that, authorities had invoked the “public safety exemption” to the Supreme Court’s requirement that a suspect be read his Miranda rights right away. The exemption permits law enforcement personnel to question a suspect for up to 48 hours without informing him of his rights, if they have reason to believe there is an imminent threat to public safety.

Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York on 9/11, was one of many observers who was furious that the interrogation was halted. “This guy is kind of telling you about how he’s coming to New York and do a bombing in New York, a judge walks in and we cut off the questioning?” Giuliani said. “What are we, crazy?”

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also blasted the decision to halt the questioning. He called it a “horrible, God-awful policy” that was “dangerous to the greater community.” He vowed that Congress would take action to correct the situation: “We have got to get to the bottom of this and we’ve got to fix it right now.”

Sure thing. In the meantime, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t talking. He’s been moved from Boston to a prison hospital at Fort Devens, Mass., where he will continue to recover from bullet wounds.

Another story making headlines is how many warnings officials in this country received about Tamerlan Tsarnaev before he set off his bombs. Intelligence services in Russia (where the older brother visited for six months) and Saudi Arabia (where he was denied permission to visit Mecca) allegedly sent us warnings that the older brother could be a potential problem.

We don’t know at this point exactly what the warnings said, who received or what, if anything, was done about them. (The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., has denied its government warned the United States about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.) But now that the rumors have become public, this story won’t disappear. In fact, it won’t be long before various Congressional committees promise to uncover “all the facts” for us. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, three of Dzhokhar’s college buddies have been arrested for trying to conceal evidence of his crimes. It seems two of them went to his college dorm room three days after the bombings and removed a backpack containing hollowed-out fireworks. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both of whom came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan, are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, was charged with lying to investigators about visiting Dzhokhar’s dorm room.

Obviously, none of the three friends will ever win a genius award. But then again, nothing we’ve learned so far suggests that Dzhokhar or his brother was very bright, either. In fact, it’s almost amazing to contemplate the destruction and panic these two would-be jihadists were able to cause with some recycled fireworks and hardware-store purchases.

Meanwhile, the boys’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, continues to claim that the whole thing is a plot against her innocent angels by agents of the United States government. In a telephone interview with a reporter from CNN, she sounded like a demented jihadist herself, when she ranted: “If they are going to kill him, I don’t care. My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too. And I will say, ‘Allahu Akbar.’”

Of course, this is the same person who was accused of stealing $1,600 worth of clothing from a department store when she lived in the United States. She fled the country rather than face her day in court and hightailed it back to Dagestan in Russia. I don’t think she’s a very reliable character witness. Do you?

More Washington Hypocrisy

If halting the questioning of an accused Muslim mass murderer isn’t enough to raise your blood pressure a bit, try this one on for size:

The Washington website POLITICO kicked up a furor a few days ago, when it reported that Democrats in Congress have been meeting “in secret” for several months with Republican leaders there, to figure out how they can exempt themselves and their staffs from Obamacare.

You may recall that during the debate over the healthcare overhaul, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) offered an amendment that would require members of Congress and their staffs to be subject to the same rules and regulations that would apply to the rest of us.

Knowing that exempting themselves would be a public-relations problem, Democrats at the time went along with the measure. But now that it’s about to become a very expensive reality, they want out.

Although Congress is in recess this week, House Speaker John Boehner’s office issued a statement acknowledging the report and declaring that this is the “Democrats’ problem to solve. [The Speaker] will not sneak any language into bills to solve it for them.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: “The fact that Democratic leaders want to opt themselves out of the Obamacare exchanges shows that Senator Baucus isn’t the only one who realizes the President’s healthcare law is a ‘train wreck.’ The Speaker would like to see resolution of this problem, along with the other nightmares created by Washington Democrats’ health law, which is why he supports full repeal.”

Of course, we all know that there’s not a chance of this happening anytime soon. In fact, we shouldn’t expect anything good to come out of Washington until and unless we can replace a whole bunch of Senators, and even a few Representatives, in 2014.

Yes, we have our work cut out for us. In the meantime, stay on guard. And keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Stop Washington’s Latest Tax Grabs

Some 21 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court did us all a huge favor. It ruled that states don’t have the legal authority to tax purchases you made from an out-of-State retailer, unless the retailer had a “physical presence” in your State.

Back in 1992, most of us didn’t purchase all that much from out-of-State companies, so the loss in tax revenue wasn’t significant. But, boy, how times have changed. Today, we buy more than $250 billion worth of stuff from online retailers each year, and that number is expected to rise to $370 billion by 2017. On most of it, we pay no sales tax.

With local and State sales taxes averaging about 10 percent, that’s $25 billion that stays in consumers’ pockets now. Needless to say, there are an awful lot of politicians who want to get their greedy little hands on those funds. You won’t be surprised to learn that the Administration of President Barack Obama wants to make it happen.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is so eager to get an Internet sales tax bill passed that he has skipped the normal committee process and is bringing the bill directly to the Senate floor. Word is that he’s lined up several moderate Republicans who will vote in favor of the measure so the big spenders can claim that it has bipartisan support.

And, of course, many State governors love the idea of collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes. Many State budgets are already perilously close to bankruptcy, thanks in large part to the incredibly generous pensions and other benefits that State and local government employees have extracted over the years.

In an editorial supporting passage of the Internet tax bill, USA Today complained that its lack “forces cash-strapped states to raise other taxes, or go into debt, to compensate for the $23 billion in annual uncollected e-commerce sales taxes.” Got that? Forget any nonsense about reducing spending. The only choices those poor States have if this measure isn’t passed is to “raise other taxes, or go into debt.”

But an Internet sales tax is just one of the schemes Washington has come up with to extract more money from you. Several others can be found in the new Federal budget proposal that the White House finally released this month.

The English newspaper the Daily Mail had the best description of Obama’s budget I’ve seen. It called it a mixture of “bad math, phantom revenues, imagined spending cuts and a middle-class tax hike.”

It’s all of that… and more. Among the budget’s optimistic forecasts is that Federal revenues will more than double over the next decade, rising 113 percent by 2023. During the same period, spending will go up “only” 60 percent. But even if both were to happen, deficits would not be eliminated. That’s why the budget calls for the debt ceiling to be raised by another $8 trillion, to $25 trillion.

While we were promised that the long-overdue White House proposals would be replete with “big ideas,” the sad truth is that they are the same old solutions we’ve heard for many years: bigger and bigger government, only partially paid for by higher and higher taxes. Rather than see any reduction in Federal debt, Obama wants to increase it by another $8 trillion.

When he released his budget, the President claimed, “I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party.” What a bunch of baloney!

The White House claims that the budget contains $2 of spending cuts for every $1 in new taxes. But it’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The so-called spending cuts are a cruel illusion. They are achieved by allowing minor reductions to previously proposed increases. Spending doesn’t go down one thin dime in Obama’s new budget. Instead, it will increase by at least $680 billion over the next five years.

Maybe figures don’t lie. But liars sure can figure.

Yes, there’s a lot not to like in Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014. One of the sneakiest proposals it contains is for the Federal government to change the way cost-of-living increases are calculated, by switching to something called a “chained CPI” (Consumer Price Index). Here’s how the Daily Mail describes the effect of this sleight of hand:

The chained CPI signals a shift in how the federal government will calculate everything from Social Security payouts and congressional pensions to college students’ Pell Grants and veterans’ benefits. Anything tied to cost-of-living increases would be subject to a new formula.

The White House’s budget blueprint suggests that these programs would see $230 billion in costs savings over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office puts the number at $216 billion.

Does anyone believe that today’s calculations for the consumer price index are anywhere close to being correct? Most of us who live in the real world know that the prices we pay for most things are going up by a heck of a lot more than 2 percent a year.

Now Uncle Sam wants to change the formula to reduce the payouts even further. That doesn’t sound very fair to me. But wait, it gets worse. Switching to a chained CPI will also hit the middle class with a huge new tax increase.

How is that possible? Here’s how the Daily Mail explains it:

The money will come pouring in because the consumer price index also controls income tax brackets, tax filers’ standard deductions, nontaxable contribution limits for 401(k) retirement plans, and more.

So millions of individual Americans will see themselves moved involuntarily to higher tax brackets, and middle-class taxpayers in particular will lose some of the tax credits and deductions that they count on.

Forget all of Obama’s blarney about only the rich being hit by these higher taxes. The brunt of these increases will fall squarely on the middle class. And, of course, the same thing will be true of the costs of Obamacare, which will be fully implemented next year.

Do you remember when Nancy Pelosi said “we have to pass” the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to see what’s in it? Pretty soon, we’ll all get to see the higher costs and increased regulations this monstrosity will produce. It won’t be pretty.

So now Congress has three different budgets for 2014 to consider: one passed by Democrats in the Senate, one approved by Republicans in the House and one presented by the White House. All of them call for increased government spending next year. None of them will reduce the deficit by one penny over the next decade.

Margaret Thatcher famously observed that “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The big spenders in Washington seem determined to speed the day when that happens in this country.

It seems to me this could be a mighty good time to trade some of your rapidly depreciating dollars for assets of enduring value. I hope you noticed that gold and silver have been on sale recently.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A Huge Defeat For The Gun Grabbers

Congratulations, patriots! Thanks to your unremitting pressure on the politicians in Washington, every single assault on our 2nd Amendment rights went down to defeat in the Senate this week.

Prior to the votes, Senate leaders had agreed that a 60-vote majority would be necessary for approval of the various proposals. They did this to head off a threatened filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

For one of the few times this year, Vice President Joe Biden even returned to the Senate to preside over the voting. The gesture was purely symbolic, since there wasn’t a snowball’s chance that he’d get to exercise his Constitutional prerogative to cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. He was there to gloat in victory; instead, he looked like he had been sucking on lemons when he had to announce the agony of defeat.

Gun control advocates had pulled out all of the stops to get passage, including numerous appearances by relatives of the victims from the schoolhouse slayings in Newtown, Conn., and Tucson, Ariz. President Barack Obama had flown many of them to Washington on board Air Force One so they could lobby lawmakers, appear with him in a photo op in the Rose Garden and pack the Senate galleries. (One violated Senate protocol, and demonstrated very bad manners, by shouting “Shame on you!” after the vote.)

The first vote was taken on the measure gun-control advocates were most confidant of getting passed: expanding background checks to include the private sale or transfer of firearms. This was the highly publicized “compromise” measure put together by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

When the votes were tallied, the measure failed by 54-46. Five Democrats joined 41 Republicans in opposing the measure. They included three Senators facing re-election next year: Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana. Significantly, all three States gave Mitt Romney a solid majority last November. The nervous Senators were joined by Heidi Heitkamp, the newly elected junior Senator from North Dakota. And a name most people would be surprised to see on the “no” side was that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He made it clear that he cast his negative ballot purely as a procedural matter, so he could bring the measure back up for a vote sometime in the future.

The three Republicans who voted “aye,” in addition to Toomey, can usually be found voting in favor of tougher gun-control measures. They were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. No surprises there.

Among the other measures that went down to defeat last Wednesday afternoon were a proposed ban on assault weapons, which got only 40 votes, and an effort to block the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, which received 46 “ayes.” Even a measure that was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which would have expanded concealed carry permits, got only 57 positive votes — three short of the 60 necessary for passage.

Obama wasted no time in declaring that the votes two days ago made it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.” His anger at being thwarted was obvious. He vowed that gun-control advocates will redouble their efforts to regulate and restrict our right to keep and bear arms. “This effort is not over,” he declared.

But for now it certainly is. Proponents failed to persuade opponents that expanded background checks would do anything to help prevent future tragedies like the ones in Newtown; Tucson; or Aurora, Colo. Of course they won’t. And every gun grabber knows it.

What would make a difference? Let’s take a look at what some cops say. When some 15,000 law-enforcement personnel were asked that question, here’s how they responded:

When asked what the likely outcome would have been at Aurora and Newtown had a legally armed civilian been there, 80 percent said there would have been fewer casualties; 6.2 percent said it would have prevented casualties altogether. Only 5.5 percent thought it would have led to greater loss of life.

When asked what could be done to prevent future mass public shootings, the most popular answer — picked by 28.8 percent  — was for more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians. More aggressive institutionalization of the mentally ill was the choice of 19.6 percent. More armed guards were favored by 15.8 percent. Of course, none of these solutions are acceptable to the gun grabbers.

Improved background checks were in fourth place, the choice of 14 percent of the respondents, followed by longer prison terms when guns are used in violent crimes (7.9 percent).

What did the law-enforcement professionals have to say about the left’s favorite solutions? A meager 1.5 percent put tighter limits on weapons sales at the top of their list. While legislative restrictions on “assault weapons” and larger magazines didn’t even get a nod from one out of 100 of the boys and girls in blue, it was the choice of .9 percent.

When it comes to making the public safer, including our children, “the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility” has the right answer: Get more arms in the right hands. And do a better job of getting the truly crazy off the streets.

Now there’s a program that would make us all sleep better at night. Don’t you agree?

In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend, knowing that we won some significant victories in Washington this week. But remember, too, that eternal vigilance will always be the price we must pay to preserve and protect our liberties.

So until next time, stay on guard. And keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

We Need Our Own Iron Lady (Or Man)

Margaret Thatcher, one of the most remarkable leaders of the 20th century, died in London on Monday at the age of 87. The only woman ever to serve as prime minister of her country, and the longest-serving prime minister in the past 100 years, she helped put the “great” back in Great Britain. She did it by an unwavering devotion to conservative principles and her country’s interests. Would that we had some leaders like her today.

Here’s how historian Paul Johnson began his tribute to Lady Thatcher in a column in The Wall Street Journal: “Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around–decisively–the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. ‘Thatcherism’ was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.”

Needless to say, the left hated Thatcher. And they still do. When her death was announced, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and others of their ilk held celebrations throughout the United Kingdom. One of the more popular refrains at their demonstrations was singing “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”

Britain’s current prime minister, David Cameron, expressed the opposite point of view. “She saved our country and I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister,” he declared.

I have no doubt that Thatcher would have been as proud of the response by her enemies today as she was nearly four decades ago, when a Soviet newspaper first referred to her as the “Iron Lady” because of her outspoken opposition to Marxism, socialism and communism.

When she was elected to the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1975, Thatcher promised a new and tougher approach to the major political issues of the day.

“I am not a consensus politician,” she warned. “I’m a conviction politician.”

For the next four years, Thatcher served as leader of the opposition to the ruling Labour Party. During that time, economic conditions in the country steadily worsened, while the unions grew more powerful and demanding. Conditions became so bad that in the United Kingdom, late 1978 became known as the Winter of Discontent.

In the national elections that followed in May 1979, the Conservative Party won a 43-seat majority in the British Parliament. The Labour Party was ousted, and Thatcher became prime minister.

She came into office at a time when Britain, like the United States, had a double-digit inflation rate, a top income tax rate of 83 percent on earned income and an unbelievable 98 percent tax rate on “unearned” income.

Slowly but steadily, Thatcher began dismantling the power of the state. She was undeterred by protests, demonstrations and even some riots that turned deadly. As she said at the time, “The lady’s not for turning.”

Her resolve was quickly tested by many of Britain’s labor unions, which for years had used crippling strikes to assert their power. They had made Britain the most strike-ridden country in Europe. Prior to Thatcher, few politicians in Britain dared challenge them.

The most militant was the miner’s union, which launched a nationwide strike in 1984. Thatcher refused to bow to their demands and increasingly brought public sentiment to her side. Although it took a year, the stranglehold that British labor unions had enjoyed for years was finally broken.

When she first became prime minister, state-owned industries represented nearly one-third of Britain’s economy and workforce. She launched a vigorous program of privatization, selling shares of the coal, steel, railways and utilities that the government owned. By the time she left office 11 years later, the state’s ownership of major industries had declined dramatically. For the first time ever, the newly privatized businesses began paying taxes, rather than merely consuming them.

Thatcher’s biggest foreign policy test came in 1982, when the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina ordered its forces to seize the Falkland Islands. Many in the West, including some in her own party, didn’t think the tiny islands in the South Atlantic were worth fighting for. Thatcher disagreed and dispatched to the area a task force that ultimately totaled 127 ships, dozens of planes and several thousand troops.

After several weeks of fighting, the Argentine forces on the islands surrendered. The Falklands were brought back under British control, much to the delight of the 1,800 English-speaking residents there. The victory made Thatcher more popular than ever back home. “We have ceased to be a nation in retreat,” she declared. The following year, the Conservative Party won re-election by a much bigger majority than it had in 1979.

Years later, she demonstrated the same fortitude when she encouraged George H.W. Bush not to permit Saddam Hussein to get away with his invasion of Kuwait. “This is no time to go wobbly,” she told the President.

Thatcher found a kindred spirit in Ronald Reagan, who was elected to this Nation’s highest office 18 months after Thatcher became prime minister in the U.K. They rekindled the “special relationship” between the two countries. Together, they were instrumental in launching the policies that led to the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire. Free people everywhere — but especially in countries behind what was once called the Iron Curtain — owe them an immense debt of gratitude.

Thatcher was finally forced from office in 1990, not because of victories by the opposition, but because she no longer had the support of a majority of Conservative politicians. She left No. 10 Downing Street in November 1990. Having been made a baroness by Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher took a seat in Britain’s upper branch, the House of Lords.

She made one of her last public appearances in 2007, when she returned to the House of Commons to unveil a bronze statue of herself. “I might have preferred iron,” she said at the time, “but bronze will do.”

Yes, in a world that desperately needs leadership that is proudly patriotic and unyielding in its commitment to principle, the Iron Lady’s example will certainly do.

Let’s hope that many of our conservative and libertarian politicians are inspired by her example and echo her resolve.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Working For The Man

Celebrate Tax Freedom Day. The Tax Foundation says that Tax Freedom Day — the day when the average American has earned enough money to pay all the taxes for the year — arrives on April 18 this year. That’s five days later than last year. The delay is largely because of the fiscal cliff deal that raised Federal taxes on individual income and payroll. Because of high State taxes, residents of Connecticut won’t enjoy Tax Freedom Day until May 13. Folks in Mississippi and Louisiana celebrated Tax Freedom Day on March 29.

Employment continues to tank. The jobs report for March was especially grim. Instead of the 200,000 new jobs that had been predicted, the Labor Department says only 88,000 people found work in March. But the ranks of the unemployed dropped because nearly 500,000 people left the job market, according to The Wall Street Journal. As a result, the unemployment rate actually declined to 7.6 percent. At the same time, the number of Americans collecting disability hit an all-time high. So much for the “recovery” that the Administration of President Barack Obama has been bragging about.

You can’t say that here. The Associated Press, which claims to be “the world’s largest news-gathering organization,” has added a new page to its politically correct style manual. Or rather it’s removed one. It is banning the phrase “illegal immigrant” and says it will no longer be used in anything it publishes unless it is a direct quotation. Columnist Michelle Malkin said in response that she will no longer use the word “journalist” when referring to members of the mainstream news organizations “who pose as neutral news-gatherers while carrying out a blatantly ideological agenda.”

Identifying “the most racist” segment. Dr. Ben Carson, the black neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, became a conservative sensation because of his anti-Obama remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in February — with the President sitting right in front of him. Now the left is out to get him. Carson said his white liberal critics are “the most racist out there.” And he added, “They need to shut me up, they need to get rid of me.”

–Chip Wood

‘Tyrannical’ Obama

Black business leader blasts Obama. Harry C. Alford, president and co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, created a furor in February with his criticism of the Barack Obama. He said the President’s use of executive orders is “tyrannical” and a violation of the Constitution. Moreover, he added, Obama’s economic policies are “borderline communist.” Although a video of his remarks has gone viral, they have been pretty much ignored by the mainstream media. There’s no surprise there.

Why not sequester foreign aid? The White House announced last week that it will release $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt. The disbursements had been held up because of concerns about Egypt’s anti-Western posturing and anti-democratic policies. At the same time, the Administration released $500 million to the radicals who control the Palestinian Authority. Hey, Mr. President, if money is so tight you had to cancel the White House tours, here’s a way to save $2 billion — and make the world a safer place, too.

Rand Paul did not say that. Despite several misleading and inaccurate reports to the contrary, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did not propose a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants when he made a major address to a Hispanic group last month. What he did say was that his plan would “allow us to admit we are not going to deport the millions of people who are currently here illegally.” And that we need to find a way of “bringing these workers out of the shadows and into being taxpaying members of society.” He never mentioned citizenship in his speech. (Yes, I read it). And his office made it clear that he is not in favor of it.

Charging passengers by weight. Samoa Air, which flies passengers between the Samoan islands in the Pacific, announced that from now on, passengers will be charged by how much they weigh. The exact amount will depend on the distance flown. Passengers will be asked how much they weigh when they purchase a ticket — and they will then be weighed when they check in at the airport, to make sure they weren’t fibbing. Sounds fair to me. But can you imagine the howls we’d hear if a U.S. carrier tried the same thing?

–Chip Wood

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

Scare Tactics Just Part Of The Political Game

Obama’s doomsday scenarios. Even if every penny of the “sequestration” goes into effect, which I doubt, you can be sure that Washington will spend more money this year than it did last year. If the Feds would just hold spending for 2013 to 2012 levels, there would be more than $85 billion in budget cuts. But President Barack Obama and his allies want to frighten the public into opposing any reductions, thus the threats to cut back on police, firefighters, border patrols, teachers and emergency personnel. It’s all part of the game to frighten a gullible public and to intimidate conservatives in Congress.

The most political Oscars ever? In case you fell asleep before the Academy Awards finally announced which movie won best picture of the year (or never tuned in to the snooze-a-thon in the first place), the biggest surprise wasn’t that “Argo” won the top honor. No, it was that the broadcast switched to the White House, where Michelle Obama announced the winner. I guess it was just part of the payback for Hollywood, since its stars raised hundreds of millions of dollars last year to insure Barack Obama’s re-election.

This “no pass, no pay” measure won’t fly. In one of the first acts of the new Congress, conservatives in the House of Representatives pushed through a bill that will withhold the pay of lawmakers in either chamber of Congress, if that chamber fails to pass a Federal budget by mid-April. While I agree with the sentiment, I don’t think there’s a chance it will pass Constitutional muster. After all, the 27th Amendment states clearly that “no law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” It seems pretty clear to me. Although, come to think of it, being unConstitutional hasn’t deterred many other Federal actions.

Reader’s Digest declares bankruptcy… again. For the second time in 3.5 years, one of the most iconic magazines in U.S. history has declared bankruptcy. Reader’s Digest Association and six affiliates filed for Chapter 11 protection in mid-February. The company, which listed more than $1.2 billion in liabilities, hopes to reorganize and continue operations. Based in New York and with operations in 41 countries other than the United States, the company publishes 75 magazines, including 49 versions of its namesake publication.   

–Chip Wood

Rolling In The Dough

Hillary will rake in some big bucks. Now that she is officially out of office, look for Hillary Clinton to generate some hefty paychecks on the speaker circuit. Estimates are that the former Secretary of State, Senator and first lady will be able to command more than $100,000 per lecture. Add to that the millions of dollars she will no doubt receive when she signs a contract to write her memoirs, and it won’t be long before she can rival her husband’s earnings. Of course, it will take Hillary Clinton a while to amass the fortune Bill Clinton has banked since he left office. Estimates are that the former President now has a net worth north of $50 million.

Marco Rubio’s so-called “drinking problem.” Isn’t it amazing the lengths the liberal media will go in their efforts to tarnish the reputations of leading conservatives? The latest example is their reaction to Senator Marco Rubio’s admittedly awkward pause for a sip of water while delivering the Republican response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. The next day, MSNBC played a clip of the incident an amazing 155 times, according to The Daily Caller. On CNN, host Wolf Blitzer said the flub could be a “career ender” for the conservative stalwart. Come on, folks. Can’t we be even a little serious here?

Reagan home to become Obama parking lot. Did you hear that Ronald Reagan’s childhood home in Chicago will be demolished to make way for a parking lot for the Presidential library of the current occupant of the White House? The University of Chicago Medical Center, which owns the place, says a small plaque will be installed somewhere on the property to commemorate that Reagan once lived there when the Obama Presidential Library is built.

A majority says government threatens our rights. The Pew Research Center says that for the first time since it began polling Americans on the question, a majority now believes that government threatens their personal rights and freedoms. In March 2010, 47 percent of respondents said government posed a threat to personal freedom; 50 percent disagreed. In the latest survey, taken Jan. 9-13, the center reported that 53 percent said government does represent a threat; only 43 percent disagreed. I’m glad to see more people are waking up.

–Chip Wood

Let’s Call Obama’s Bluff

The Chicken Littles in Washington are sure having conniptions over the thought of having to make some spending cuts, aren’t they?

“Sequestration” has become the new scare word, with the White House and its allies using language like “doomsday,” “deeply destructive,” “irresponsible” and “catastrophic.”

President Barack Obama sounded the alarm over sequestration in his State of the Union speech. “These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts,” he declared, “… would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Pardon me while I inject a little reality into this picture.

First of all, there is nothing “sudden” about this so-called crisis. It’s been staring us in the face for the past 18 months. And it was the White House, not Republicans in Congress, who first came up with the idea.

Back in the summer of 2011, Obama’s team made the proposal for mandatory spending cuts as part of the debt-ceiling negotiations. The Administration insisted that the cuts be divided between defense spending and domestic programs, no doubt assuming that the Republicans would never permit hundreds of billions of dollars to be removed from the Pentagon’s budget.

So far, Obama’s team has lost that bet. It seems that the Republicans who control the House of Representatives believe that sequestration is the only way to force some spending cuts on the Federal behemoth, so they are willing to let it happen.

I couldn’t agree with them more. During the last big tax-cut battle, doing nothing meant raising taxes for everyone. The Republicans got what they thought was the best possible compromise in the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff deal. The bargain retained the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all but families earning $450,000 a year or more.

But today, doing nothing means that some spending cuts will be enacted. Since a majority of Congress seems to be incapable of agreeing on any plan to cut spending, how else is it going to happen?

After all, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all proclaim that we don’t have a spending problem in this country. What’s even more amazing is that they can say it with a straight face — and without their noses growing several inches longer.

That’s why I urge Republicans to call Obama’s bluff. Let sequestration begin on March 1. Ignore the dire threats and howls of outrage. Instead, let’s take the first small step toward living within our means.

That said, I have to agree with Charles Krauthammer, the popular FOX News commentator, who had this to say:

Of course, the sequester is terrible policy. The domestic cuts will be crude and the Pentagon cuts damaging. This is why the Republican House has twice passed bills offering more rationally allocated cuts. (They curb, for example, entitlement spending as well.)

Naturally, the Democratic Senate, which hasn’t passed a budget since before the iPad, has done nothing. Nor has the president — until his Tuesday plea.

Well, it wasn’t so much a plea as it was a threat. Of course, the powers that be will do everything they can to make the consequences of sequestration seem truly dreadful. We’ll hear horror story after horror story about vital services being slashed. Don’t believe a word of it, folks. That’s just how the game is played. Before you buy into all of the bullhockey about all of the horrors that will ensue, please consider a few facts.

We are talking about minuscule reductions in the Federal budget. The deal is supposed to reduce Federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. But thanks to the compromise Congress made last month to raise the debt ceiling, the actual cuts this year will be just $85 billion. And they may be even lower than that trivial amount. Given a Federal budget this year of $3.6 trillion, we’re talking about a measly 2.36 percent reduction.

Guess what? Even if every nickel of those cuts takes place, the Federal behemoth will still spend more money this year than it did last year. And please keep in mind that even with the $600 billion in tax increases Obama got last month, we will still need to borrow over $1 trillion this year so Uncle Sam can keep writing all of those checks.

The American Thinker reported:

While the nation’s growth rate has been stagnant, spending by governments at all levels has increased dramatically from $4.9 trillion in 2007 to $6.2 trillion in 2012, a jump of 26.5% which is driven entirely by the federal government as it has increased its spending by nearly 41% over this period. This has resulted in the total national debt rising from $9.2 trillion at the beginning of January 2008 to $16.45 trillion as of today. (a staggering 79% increase).

By the way, it isn’t just the “poor” who have reaped the benefits of all this increased spending, reports Gary D. Halbert. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, by 2011 (the last year for which numbers were available), the average total compensation for Federal government employees was $126,200. By comparison, the average total compensation for workers in the private sector was less than half that amount.

That’s right; while government employees on average were pulling in $126,200 a year, the average free-enterprise employee earned just $62,100.

And here’s another statistic I found even more shocking. From 2007 until 2011, the average net worth of all American households fell by nearly 40 percent. Look at that number again. It’s a four followed by a zero. There’s no decimal point in there.

Most of that horrendous decline was due to the devastating collapse in home prices. But the average household income is also down sharply, falling from $54,489 in 2007 to $50,054 in January 2012. We’re getting poorer fast, folks.

The bottom line is that the past four years of Obama’s Presidency have marked the worst period of economic growth for this country since the beginning of the Great Depression. Fewer of us are working (some 3 million fewer than when Obama took office). We’re earning less, saving less and worth less.

Faced with this record of economic disaster, the Democrats want to do more of what’s gotten us in this mess in the first place. They want to spend more, borrow more and tax more.

I’m in favor of doing anything that’s legal, moral and ethical to slow them down. As far as I can see, the sequestration, while far from ideal, qualifies on all three. So I say, bring it on.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A Really Rotten Anniversary

It was 100 years ago this month that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution officially became the law of the land. Since this is the one that authorized the Federal government to implement a graduated income tax in the United States, you’ll understand why I say that Feb. 3, 1913, was a very bad day for liberty.

One of the many complaints against King George in the Declaration of Independence was that “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

But the amount of colonists’ “substance” that was taken by British authorities was the equivalent of a gnat’s nibble, compared to what our rulers in Washington seize from us every day. I think it’s safe to say that without a graduated income tax — a key plank in The Communist Manifesto, by the way — there is no way that we would have the gargantuan government we face today.

By the time the income tax was imposed on us, the rules had already been rigged so the super rich could hide their wealth in foundations and family trusts. The income tax would keep most of us from ever hoping to compete with them, while giving government the funds it needed to offer a gullible public all of the bread and circuses it could want.

But it wasn’t just the legalization of the income tax that made 1913 a truly terrible year for freedom. That was the same year that the Senate foisted the Federal Reserve System on us. In the past century, its money-creation policies have caused the U.S. dollar to plummet.

Since the conspiracy to foist the Fed upon us succeeded (if you doubt that statement, read G. Edward Griffin’s monumental study, The Creature from Jekyll Island), the dollar has lost way more than 90 percent of its value. It now takes more than 20 Federal Reserve notes to equal the purchasing power of a single buck 100 years ago.

Yes, the dollar has lost about 95 percent of its value since the creation of the Federal Reserve. That’s quite a record. The situation can only get worse, since the Fed continues to pump out $1 trillion a year to help finance Obama’s out-of-control deficits.

Oh, and let me mention one more tragedy inflicted on our country back in 1913. In March of that year, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th President of the United States.

Wilson helped foist a bunch of “progressive” policies during his first term. But nothing did as much damage as his success in getting us into World War I. One of the most duplicitous men to ever hold our Nation’s highest office, Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on the slogan “he kept us out of war.” But all the while, he was scheming to get us into it.

Once we were committed to battle, the new slogan became that we would make the world “safe for democracy.” What a bunch of baloney. At the end of World War I, instead of more “democracy,” the world witnessed a rise in some of the most murderous and destructive dictatorships in history.

Yes, the old order was dead — to be replaced by communism, fascism, socialism, and Nazism.

Wilson’s dream of using the war to create a world government fell apart when the U.S. Senate refused to ratify America’s membership in the League of Nations. But as the leader of the victorious allies, he did succeed in forcing the losers to sign the Treaty of Versailles. That agreement’s incredibly harsh terms paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and led to another world war.

Famed free-market economist Milton Friedman argued that Federal Reserve policies brought on the Great Depression. That led directly to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. There was no President in the past century who did more to promote the growth of government than FDR. Longtime socialist leader Norman Thomas said Roosevelt implemented more of his policies than he ever could himself.

And let’s not forget Roosevelt’s lies and manipulations that got us into World War II, all the things Roosevelt did to give aid and technology to the Soviet Union during the war, or the horrible concessions afterward that condemned millions of people to a lifetime of slavery under communist rule.

Yes, FDR has to be high on every conservative’s list of the worst Presidents ever. But nothing he did changed the country as much or had an impact as long-lasting as the momentous events that took place one century ago.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing then-Congressman Ron Paul for Personal Liberty Digest™. During our discussion, he said what this country really needed to do was “repeal 1913.”

While his statement was clearly meant to be rhetorical, I could tell Paul was excited about the concept.

“That way we could get rid of the income tax and the Federal Reserve at the same time,” he said. “If you repeal big government, you stop the hemorrhaging of the dollar. You repeal inflationary conditions. You restore a sound currency, which would go a long way to restoring a sound economy.”

Yes, a lot of good things could happen if we could just repeal 1913. Don’t you wish it were possible?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Missed Deadline

Obama ignores the law — again. President Obama is required to submit an annual budget to Congress every year by Feb. 1. It’s not just a tradition, it’s the law. But for the fourth year in a row, the Administration ignored this unequivocal requirement. Naturally, his friends in Congress and his allies in the mainstream media have pretty much ignored his flat refusal to obey the law. Are you surprised?

The first Social Security recipient. Ida May Fuller was the first person to receive a monthly benefit check from Social Security. She worked as a legal secretary and paid the new tax for three years, starting in 1936. Her total contribution when she retired was $24.75. She received her first benefit check from Social Security on Jan. 31, 1940.  It came to $22.54 — or 91 percent of all the money she paid into the system. She continued to receive a check every month until her death in 1975 at age 100. By then she had collected $22,888.92, or more than 900 times what she contributed. You can be sure you won’t do as well.

Ted Cruz proudly bats 0 for 11. So far this year, Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-endorsed junior Senator from Texas, hasn’t met a bill he likes enough to vote for it. He has been on the losing side of every Senate vote since taking the oath of office last month. “Sen. Cruz promised the voters of Texas he would take principled stands when it comes to fiscal responsibility and protecting America’s sovereignty,” said Cruz spokesman Sean Rushton.

The iron is gone from Monopoly. Fans of the board game Monopoly were asked to vote on Facebook to select a new token and also to boot one off. The shoe, wheelbarrow and iron led the list to be dropped, with the iron getting the most votes by the time voting ended. A cat will join a dog as one of eight game pieces. Can you name the others? (A car, a thimble, a shoe, a battleship, a hat and a wheelbarrow.)

–Chip Wood