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

Stop The Illegal Invasion

So now a “Gang of Eight” in the U.S. Senate has come up with new proposals for immigration reform. In a brilliant public-relations move, the Republicans have chosen Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Tea Party favorite, to win conservative support for the proposals.

But before you jump on this bandwagon, let’s look at some recent history.

Do you remember that in 1986 President Ronald Reagan proposed and Congress approved the Immigration Reform and Control Act? That legislation was supposed to solve the immigration crisis once and for all. It granted amnesty to nearly 3 million “undocumented workers” then living in this country. We were told this would set them on the path to becoming law-abiding, English-speaking, taxpaying citizens.

We were also assured that the flood of illegal immigration into this country would be stopped. Congress subsequently approved legislation to build a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and to hire thousands of additional agents for the Border Patrol.

None of this happened. Not a single thing we were promised 27 years ago came true.

Instead, the flood of illegal aliens into this country became a tsunami. Where we once had 3 million or 4 million illegal aliens, we’re now told the correct number is more than 11 million — several times higher than we faced in 1986, when we allegedly solved this problem “once and for all.” It’s enough to overwhelm our schools, our hospitals, our prisons and our law enforcement officials wherever illegal aliens settle in any significant numbers.

This is not immigration. It’s an invasion. And we need to deal with it as such. This is not just my opinion. It is what our Constitution says.

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion…”

Right now, there are around 11 million illegal aliens within our borders. Practically all of them came here by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. More are entering every day. It’s worth noting that the Constitution does not specify a military invasion or the use of arms. No, it simply says “invasion.” And if that is not what we are facing, what is?

Faced with such an invasion, what must our response be? There is only one promise I want to hear, only one action our government must take.

First, we must secure our borders.

Yes, it is time for Congress to act. It’s way past time, in fact. Stop blathering about an omnibus immigration bill that tries to be all things to all people. We must demand that Congress pass and the President enforce legislation that will stop the invasion — nothing less and nothing more, at least for now.

Will that mean hiring thousands of new border guards? Fine. Let’s do it. Hire them, train them and give them the equipment they need to do the job.

Will that mean building a wall along the border with Mexico, stretching from California to Texas? Then appropriate the money, get bids on the contracts and let’s build the darned thing.

Forget about spending billions of dollars on a high-tech fence that won’t work. We don’t need it. Just build a regular old fence, like the Israelis did across the West Bank. I agree with Charles Krauthammer, who said: “It’s very simple. Fences have worked for 5,000 years, and they work everywhere. Why don’t we build one…?”

In addition, we must tell the government of Mexico that we require its cooperation in halting the tidal wave of illegal immigration pouring out of its country — a tidal wave that it has been actively encouraging. That must stop. This is not a request; this is a condition for our continuing friendship.

We must also warn the people of Mexico (and their friends, family and allies in our country) that the United States is going to enforce its laws. Make it clear that we will no longer look the other way or compromise on enforcing our rules and regulations. There will be no way across the border except legally. Period.

And most important of all: We must demand that our government do whatever needs to be done to secure our borders. No more excuses. No more delays. The time to act is now.

There is much more that could and should be said on this subject. As we move to resolve this crisis, let’s make sure that illegal aliens who knowingly and deliberately broke our laws aren’t given a better deal than all those applicants for entry who have played by the rules.

Let’s make it our choice who gets to come here — when, from where, how many and for how long. If we need more temporary workers, fine. Let’s decide how many can come, how long they can stay and what they must do (and not do) while they’re here.

And let’s also insist that we get to decide what to do about the millions of illegal aliens who are already here. I’ll agree that if they’ve been law-abiding, tax-paying contributors to our society since they arrived, they deserve some consideration. But just because someone got away with a crime for years doesn’t mean they’ve earned a free pass to citizenship.

Yes, I know the Democrats are drooling at the thought of millions of new and very grateful voters. The Republicans would be committing electoral suicide if they went along with this scheme.

All of these secondary issues and more we can debate and decide later on. For now, there is only one thing that must be done: We must secure our borders.

If you agree, then there are two things you can do. First, forward this column to several other friends and family members. Urge them to read it, to act on it and to pass it on to others.

Then, contact the three people in Washington who have been elected to represent you: your two Senators and one Representative. It takes only a moment to call their office or send them an email and tell them: “Before doing anything to fix the immigration mess, I demand that you secure our borders. If you won’t help stop the invasion of our country, I will elect someone who will.”

If you’re not sure how to contact your Congressmen (or even who they are), there’s an easy-to-use website that will give you this information in moments. Simply go to www.contactingthecongress.org and click on your State. Everything you need will be just a keystroke or two away.

It isn’t often you get an opportunity to help decide the kind of country your children and your children’s children get to live in. This is one of them. So please, do it now, while you’re thinking about it and while we still have time.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama Denied

Appeals Court overrules Obama. Remember a year ago, when President Barack Obama claimed he was making “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (except the Senate wasn’t really in recess)? On Jan. 25, a three-judge panel of the U.S. court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the appointments were an illegal abuse of executive power. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court decided not to get involved in the dispute. That means all of the pro-union orders the NLRB issued last year could be thrown out. Stay tuned; this could get interesting.

Some really super ads. There were a couple of commercials that really resonated with viewers during last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Budweiser was back with another winning Clydesdale story. This one had more schmaltz than a Hallmark commercial, with even some male viewers choking back a tear or two. No comment about the dialogue, because not a word was said during the entire spot. That wasn’t the case with my second favorite, Chrysler’s powerful tribute to America’s farmers. The prose poem by Paul Harvey was deeply moving. I wonder how many younger viewers had no idea who they were hearing.

Just how low were those skeet? In a recent interview, President Barack Obama said, “(U)p at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” Really? In an effort to support the President’s claim, the White House released a photograph of him holding a shotgun that had just been fired. The gun is pointed straight ahead, however, not up in the air, as would normally be the case. This led some critics to suggest that the picture was a PR shot, not a skeet shoot. That, in turn, caused some supporters to denounce “Republican conspiracy nuts” who would make such an accusation.

No legislation needed. When asked about legislation to implement President Barack Obama’s climate-change proposals, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) had this to say: “A lot of you press me … on: ‘Where is the bill on climate change? Where is the bill?’ There doesn’t have to be a bill. There will be many approaches, but I’m telling you right now, EPA has the authority in the transportation sector, in the electricity sector, and the industrial sector under the Clean Air Act” to do everything that legislation could accomplish. Nice job of abdicating your authority, Senator.

–Chip Wood

 

 

Viewers Ignore Obama

Ratings plunge for Obama inaugural. Fewer than half as many Americans watched Barack Obama’s second inauguration on cable news channels as they did on his first Inauguration Day back in 2009. Four years ago, close to 17 million people tuned in to the special coverage on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News. This time around, fewer than 7 million Americans watched any of the coverage.

New York City surrenders to honkers. In a sign that it is abandoning the battle to stop New Yorkers from honking their car horns, the city’s Transportation Department says it is removing all of the “Don’t Honk” signs from the streets. City officials say that the move is part of an effort to “declutter” the streets of New York of signs that everyone ignores. There’s no word about what the city will do with all of the signs once they’re down. If they’re smart, they’d auction them on eBay, where they’d be sure to fetch a pretty penny.

Venezuela sinks to the bottom. In Hey, Phil, Move To Florida!, I listed the top 10 countries in the latest Index of Economic Freedom. Sad to say, the United States has fallen to the 10th spot on the annual survey. Still, that’s a whole lot better than the sorry situation in Venezuela. Pro-communist strongman Hugo Chavez has driven his country to its position near the bottom of the list. Only Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea rank lower.

Some folks will wager on anything. It should come as no surprise that more money will be bet on this Sunday’s Super Bowl than any other event this year. But what I didn’t know is that you can bet on almost any aspect of the game, including what color liquid will be dumped on the winning team’s coach. As I write, yellow is the favorite at 7-to-4, according to online sports book Bovada.

–Chip Wood

Hey, Phil, Move To Florida!

Pro golfer Phil Mickelson (known as “Lefty” to friends and fans) backed into a buzz saw when he said he might make some “drastic changes” about where he lives. Thanks to the confiscatory taxes he and his family will now be paying, he said he was even considering moving out of the People’s Republic of California.

Apparently, a whole bunch of folks thought it was shockingly insensitive of him to mention how much he pays in taxes, when he pulls in 20 times more money a year than the average worker earns in a lifetime. After a media firestorm erupted, he apologized for his remarks, saying that “finances and taxes are a personal matter” and that in the future he wouldn’t say anything about them.

According to SI.com, Mickelson’s total income last year, counting prize money, endorsements and appearance fees, came to $60.7 million. Even though his tax rate is more than 60 percent, that still leaves him a net of about $24 million. The media mob let it be known that, with that much moola, the acclaimed golfer should sit down, shut up and be glad he could pay the piper.

Strangely enough, there was very little criticism of other all-star athletes who fled “The Golden State” long before Mickelson suggested he might do such a thing. Tiger Woods moved from California to Florida in 1996, the year he turned pro. He said last week that the difference in State tax rates had a lot to do with his decision.

In the early 1990s, tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams also moved from California to Florida, where there is no State income tax, so that the sisters could train. I don’t remember anyone raking them over the coals for doing so.

Back when these pros moved out, the top marginal tax rate in California was 9.3 percent. Today, it’s more than 40 percent higher. At the prodding of Governor Jerry Brown, the State Legislature last year raised the State’s grab to 13.3 percent. And what’s more, lawmakers made the new rate retroactive to all of 2012.

So Mickelson has an $8 million incentive to wave goodbye to California’s golden shores — or almost. The State revenuers are going to nail him on his 2012 income, no matter what he decides now. But looking ahead, it sure would make sense for him to head for more hospitable climes. After all, Woods has saved an estimated $100 million by moving to Florida, a State that doesn’t tax income at all.

By the way, it’s not just all-star athletes who are fleeing from California’s great tax grab. The Wall Street Journal reports: “About 3.5 million Californians have migrated to other states over the past two decades.”

Of course, professional athletes have a huge advantage when it comes to moving to tax-friendly environs. Their jobs don’t depend on where they live. That’s not true for most of us, where moving to tax-friendly climes would require finding new employment.

It isn’t just California that takes a double-digit bite from its residents. According to the Tax Foundation, other States with a tax burden of 10 percent or more on its residents are: Arkansas (10 percent), Connecticut (12.3 percent), Hawaii (10.1 percent), Illinois (10.2 percent), Maine (10.3 percent), Maryland (10.2 percent), Massachusetts (10.4 percent), Minnesota (10.8 percent), New Jersey (12.4 percent) and New York (12.8 percent).

If you live in one of those high-tax States, maybe it’s time to do what so many professional athletes have done and consider heading elsewhere. Here are the seven States with that assess no tax on income: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. We should probably add New Hampshire and Tennessee to the list, since those States tax only dividend and interest, not salaries.

Golfers seem to prefer Florida, probably because of the huge number of superb golf courses in the State. Many professional baseball players head to Texas. And Las Vegas is home to a number of top-ranked tennis players.

Despite its tax advantages, I haven’t heard of many professional athletes who decided to make Alaska their home. That’s understandable; they’d not only face some pretty fierce winters, but also one heck of a commute to every match.

We’re All Losing Economic Freedom

Yes, moving from a high-tax State to a low- or zero-tax one will leave you with a few more pennies in your pocket. But we need to remember that the biggest tax bite, by far, comes from Washington. And there the news is not encouraging.

Thanks to the horribly misnamed American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, about 99 percent of taxpaying Americans will see their taxes go up this year, not down. Every wage earner in the country will be subject to a higher payroll tax. Federal taxes on incomes of more than $400,000 will climb to 39.6 percent. Add to that a surtax of 3.8 percent on investment income, thanks to Obamacare, plus a hike of .9 percent in Medicare taxes on wages of more than $200,000. High-income earners will also be subject to new limits on itemized deductions.

These are just some of the reasons why the United States has once again lost ground in the annual Index of Economic Freedom that is compiled each year by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.

The index is based on the theory, first promulgated by economist Adam Smith in his 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations, that “when institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all.”

So how is the United States doing in protecting the liberty of its citizens? As you might have guessed, not well at all. In the latest rankings, we lost ground in monetary freedom, business freedom, labor freedom and fiscal freedom. As a result we’ve fallen to 10th place in the index.

Which countries rank at the top? There’s no real surprise that Hong Kong is No. 1, Singapore No. 2 and Switzerland is No. 5. But we’ve been passed by several countries we used to lead, including Australia at No. 3, New Zealand at No. 4 and Canada at No. 6. The three other countries above us in the top 10 are Chile at No. 7, Mauritius at No. 8 and Denmark at No. 9.

So, Phil, if you’re looking to lower your State tax bill, come on down to Florida. You’ll find many of your peers are already here, enjoying low taxes and good weather all year long.

But if you really want to increase your economic freedom, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave our borders. Do you even know where Mauritius is? Or what sort of golf courses they have there?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Jamie Foxx, Gun Hypocrite

Jamie Foxx is one of a bevy of Hollywood celebrities who appear in a new video urging Washington to come up with a plan to end gun violence. Chris Rock, Amy Poehler, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell join Foxx in pleading: “For the children of Sandy Hook, we demand a plan.”

But of course, like liberals everywhere, they’re talking about more controls over you and me — not what they do in their own lives. Or even more significantly, the on-screen violence that pays many of them so well. A majority of the films that received a Best Picture nomination this year are replete with bloodshed. Take gun violence out of “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Django Unchained,” “Argo” and “Lincoln” and there wouldn’t be much a movie left. Hey, murder and mayhem sell.

The ultra-violent flick “Django Unchained” has already raked in more than $129 million at the box office. Foxx plays a revenge-seeking ex-slave.

While hosting “Saturday Night Live” last month, Foxx bragged about all the bloodshed in the Quentin Tarantino-directed movie.

“I kill all the white people in the movie,” he boasted. “How great is that?”

That’s actually a bit of an exaggeration. Django doesn’t kill all the white people — just a whole bunch of them.

And, of course, all of the violence in “Django Unchained” and others like it is portrayed with as much realism as possible, which these days means very realistically indeed.

But movies are just one source of the mindless violence that permeates our society these days. Cable television has always been known for pushing the borders of sex and violence. Now, broadcast TV is following suit. “The Following,” a new series on Fox Television, literally wallows in blood as star Kevin Bacon tries to stop a serial killer and his cult of followers.

I’ve seen estimates that by the time the average teenage male reaches high school, he has witnessed more than 10,000 killings on TV and in the movies. If he’s a fan of ultra-violent video games — as was the case for Adam Lanza, the deranged shooter in Newtown, Conn. — that number is no doubt considerably higher.

Michael Medved pointed out in his syndicated column: “The fact that violent entertainment doesn’t influence everybody doesn’t mean that it fails to influence anybody. The habits of prolific mass murderers — including the insane shooters at Columbine,Aurora and, apparently, Newtown — reveal a taste for brutal diversion.”

Yet don’t anyone dare suggest there could be some sort of relationship with a fascination for on-screen violence and the fantasies of a mentally unstable young man. The Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents video game makers and other parts of the home entertainment industry, sent an open letter to Vice President Joe Biden warning him against even investigating any possible relationship between movies, video games and real-life violence.

And former Senator Chris Dodd, who is now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, has been quoted as saying: “What we don’t want to get involved with is content regulation. We’re vehemently opposed to that.”

Of course they are. And, as a matter of fact, so am I. The only thing worse than the present situation would be to give some committee in Washington the power to dictate what we are allowed to see. I’d hate to see what would happen to Personal Liberty Digest™ if that were ever allowed to occur.

It should come as no surprise that there is nothing in President Barack Obama’s latest gun control proposals that will do anything to change the culture of violence that pervades Hollywood today.

Interestingly enough, even with all of the publicity and the emotional outpouring that followed the terrible tragedy in Newtown, most Americans do not believe that more gun control is the answer. In a new Gallup survey, when asked to identify “the most important problem” facing the country, responders rated “gun control” No. 6.

What were the five issues that were of much more concern to a majority of Americans? You won’t be surprised to learn that the economy was in first place, followed by the Federal budget deficit, dissatisfaction with government, unemployment and lack of money.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found similar results. “Enacting stricter gun-control laws” ranked fourth on a list of priorities that the public wants Washington to address. No surprise what was No. 1: It was the economy again. “Reducing federal spending” came in second. No. 3 was “restructuring the federal tax system.”

But none of this matters to the zealots in the White House and their liberal allies. Remember what Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, said three years ago: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … the opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

That is precisely why we are seeing such an aggressive push on gun control today by the Obama Administration and their friends. Remember: When promoters talk about additional gun control measures, what they’re really talking about are more measures to control you and other law-abiding Americans. Virtually none of the 23 executive orders promulgated by Obama will have any effect on deranged people who obtain weapons and then attack innocents in schools, theaters and other “gun-free” places.

That said, I’m not too worried about horribly restrictive new gun control measures being passed by Congress. In fact, it won’t surprise me if one of our best allies on this issue turns out to be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s why:

There are 34 seats in the U.S. Senate that will be decided in 2014. Of those, 14 are held by Republicans, 20 by Democrats. But get this: Many of the latter seats are in bright red States. In fact, Obama lost seven of those 20 States in November’s election.

That’s why Ted Cruz, the newly elected Senator from Texas, made this interesting observation: “There have got to be some Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014 who are very, very nervous right now that President Obama is picking this fight. The citizens of their states are not interested in the federal government banning gun ownership for law-abiding citizens.”

Yes, I’m sure we’ll see a slew of new gun-control legislation being submitted in the new Congress. Most of it will have three things in common:

  • One, it will be ineffective.
  • Two, it will be unConstitutional.
  • And three, I’m happy to say, it won’t get approved.

Yes, this is one battle we can win — despite all of the hype, hoopla and emotional rhetoric the left will use against us. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should relax one iota. Eternal vigilance is still the price of liberty.

So until next time, keep some powder dry… and your Congressmen on notice.

–Chip Wood

Score! Stocks Will Rise This Year

Stock bulls will like this Super Bowl. Are you familiar with Wall Street’s Super Bowl Predictor? It says that the stock market will go up in a year that an original National Football League team wins the Super Bowl, but will fall whenever a team from the former American Football League is victorious. Hey, don’t scoff; it’s been right more than 80 percent of the time. And since both contestants in this year’s Super Bowl were part of the original National Football League (the Baltimore Ravens trace their lineage back to the old Cleveland Browns), followers say the market will be up for the year. Time will tell if they’re right again.

Surprising opposition to the Hagel nomination. The Washington Post published an unusually harsh editorial opposing the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel to be our new Secretary of Defense. The Post wrote: “Mr. Hagel’s stated positions on critical issues, ranging from defense spending to Iran, fall well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate that would be asked to confirm him.” Meanwhile, some anticipated opposition to the nomination vanished when New York Senator Charles Schumer issued a warm endorsement of his former colleague after a private meeting between the two.

Wal-Mart steps up. In a speech at the National Retail Federation’s annual convention, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, said the company will hire more than 100,000 honorably discharged veterans over the next five years. He said vets “are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.” Simon also announced that the company will purchase an additional $50 billion of American-made products over the next 10 years, in an effort to create more jobs here at home.

Conservative group sues to stop new gun controls. FreedomWatch, a conservative activist group, has filed suit in Federal court to block President Barack Obama’s new gun-control initiatives, including the 23 executive orders he issued on Jan. 16. The group claims that the White House task force that created the proposals conducted illegal meetings with lobbyists, without the public notice that is required by law. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a ruling in the group’s favor.

–Chip Wood

Your Tax Refund Will Take Longer

Delays expected in tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service announced that the Congressional debate over the fiscal cliff has caused it to delay processing individual tax returns by eight days. The IRS needed the extra time to program its computers to include the changes and extensions the legislation included. The IRS says it will begin processing 2012 tax returns by the end of the month.

The rush to buy guns and join the NRA. Gun stores around the country are reporting record-breaking sales, thanks to all the publicity about further gun-control efforts. “If I had 1,000 AR-15s, I could sell them in a week,” one dealer said. The National Rifle Association also reports a surge in membership, with more than 250,000 joining the group in a month. The NRA now has some 4.25 million members and says its goal is to reach 5 million “before this debate is over.”

Time to stop subsidizing Planned Parenthood. In its latest annual report, Planned Parenthood says that it performed a record 333,964 abortions in 2011 and received a record $542 million in taxpayer support in fiscal 2011-2012. But here’s the real shocker: The same report says the abortion group has total assets of more than $1.2 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) and “excess assets” (what normal businesses call “profits”) of $87.4 million. No wonder many in Congress want to stop taxpayer funding of the group.

Save your favorite Monopoly token. Hasbro, maker of one of the world’s most popular board games, has announced a Monopoly token contest. Fans are urged to vote on the “Save Your Token” Facebook page for their favorite game piece: the race car, iron, Scottie dog, wheelbarrow, boot, hat, thimble or battleship. Whichever one receives the lowest total when the contest ends on Feb. 5 will be dropped from future editions. Fans can also vote on what should replace the loser: a toy robot, helicopter, cat, guitar or diamond ring.

–Chip Wood  

Obama’s ‘In Your Face’ Nominations

Barack Obama’s second term hasn’t even officially begun. But we already know that the tone will be even more demanding and confrontational than his first term. That became clear in the so-called negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

Except there weren’t really any negotiations. It was pretty much “my way or the highway.” One of his most recalcitrant representatives in discussions with Congressional leaders was White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew.

In fact, Lew’s intransigence so infuriated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the normally mild-mannered Republican refused to meet with him anymore. To show you just how extreme Lew was, the Democrats brought in Vice President Joe Biden as a “moderating” influence. Imagine Biden being the calming voice in the room.

So how did all those negotiations end? Here’s how veteran Washington observer Pat Buchanan described the results:

“Rather than do a deal with Speaker John Boehner and offer one-for-one budget cuts for tax hikes, the president forced congressional Republicans into a humiliating climb-down and public retreat that split the House majority asunder. Then he spiked the football to rub it in, saying he had made good on his pledge to make the rich pay.”

Obama then added insult to injury, at least as far as conservative Republicans are concerned, by nominating Lew to succeed Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury.

John Carney, an editor at CNBC.com, said that by nominating Lew for the Treasury post, Obama was being intentionally antagonistic. Indeed, he is sending a “pointed message” that he is now ready to “pick fights with Congress.”

Indeed, that is precisely what has been happening.

Two years ago, when he was serving as Obama’s budget director, Lew testified that Obama’s budget “will get us… to the point where we can look the American people in the eye and say we’re not adding to the debit anymore.”

What a joke! Instead of not adding to the debt, Obama increased the national debt by $6 trillion in four short years. His Administration overspent receipts by more than $1 trillion a year every year he’s been in office.

And now he’s demanding that the debt ceiling be increased — or even worse, abolished altogether — so the spending spree can continue. To put it another way, for every dollar the Federal government spends, it saddles our children and grandchildren with an additional 34 cents of debt.

So much for promises of “not adding to the debt anymore.”

Lew’s nomination to the Treasury post probably won’t receive the opposition it should. There would have been a ton of fireworks on Capitol Hill had Obama proceeded with his original plan to appoint U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. But the Administration wisely decided that it didn’t want to face the barrage of negative questioning that would have occurred over Rice’s repeated deceptions about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya in September.

The last thing anyone in the Administration wanted was more attention placed on the murder of Christopher Stevens, our ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. So Rice was persuaded to withdraw her name from consideration. Instead, Obama went with the very safe nomination of the liberal senior Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry.

Kerry’s vision of what this country’s role in the world should be is certainly vastly different from mine… and probably yours. But it isn’t strikingly different from that of his new boss. He is generally respected by his colleagues in the Senate, or at least not too heartily disliked. After some tough questioning at his confirmation hearings, I predict that he will be easily confirmed to become our latest Secretary of State.

That won’t be the case for Obama’s third nomination that the Senate will have to consider. There will be some heated opposition for Chuck Hagel to succeed Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.

Normally, when a President nominates someone from the other party for an important post, it is smooth sailing all the way. This won’t be the case for Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska. Not only is he to the left of his Republican colleagues, but on some important issues he is to the left of Barack Obama — as hard as that may be to believe.

Hagel has gotten a lot of criticism for comments that made him appear to many as being anti-Israel. How else would one interpret things like “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator” or “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [on Capitol Hill]”?

A decade ago, after Yasser Arafat has launched his Second Intifada against Israeli, it was not the Palestinian terrorists whom Hagel condemned. No, he said that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.”

Charles Krauthammer, the popular FOX commentator, had this to say in response:

“Good God. Exactly two years earlier, Israel had proposed an astonishingly generous peace that offered Arafat a Palestinian state — and half of Jerusalem, a previously unimaginable Israeli concession. Arafat said no, made no counteroffer, walked away and started his terror war. Did no one tell Hagel?”

Regarding cutbacks in the defense budget, Hagel in the past has called the Pentagon “bloated” and says our military “needs to be pared down.” Those views are pretty much in accord with those of Obama. But they are sure to lead to some sharp questioning at his confirmation hearings.

But expect the most heat to be generated over Hagel’s squishy soft attitude toward Iran. Not only has he been outspoken against any military action to end the threat of a nuclear Iran, but he has also opposed American economic sanctions against the terrorist-sponsoring state. He even voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

Krauthammer rightly calls Hagel “a fringe Senator who left no trace behind.” And he adds, “Hagel matters only because of what his nomination says about Obama.” And he concludes, “The lessons are being duly drawn. Iran’s official media have already cheered the choice of what they call this ‘anti-Israel’ nominee.”

In March, Obama whispered to then-President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia: “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Judging by the first three nominations for his new term, we now know what Obama meant by “more flexibility.” He will be even more demanding, hard-nosed and unyielding than he was during his first term. And he will push harder and faster in his quest to transform the country that has twice elected him to our highest office.

You all right to be worried, my friends, about what this means for our once-great Republic. Very worried indeed.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Not So Fast, Governor Christie

Did you see where New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lit into Speaker John Boehner and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for delaying a vote on giving billions of dollars in Federal aid to States devastated by Superstorm Sandy?

Christie is one of the better ranters on the national scene. But even many of his admirers were taken back by the harshness of his attack.

“There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” Christie proclaimed, “the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.”

Christie told reporters he called the Speaker’s office four times the night he heard the vote would be delayed but never got a return call. Just to rub salt in the wound, the White House announced the next day that Barack Obama had personally called the Republican Governor to discuss relief efforts. The Governor concluded his diatribe by declaring, “(S)hame on you, shame on Congress. … put aside the politics and help our people now.”

But of course, asking Congress to “put aside the politics” on anything is to ask for the impossible. In fact, politics has everything to do with why this disaster-relief bill is a pork-filled disaster. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was correct when he said, “They had the opportunity to have a $27 [billion] to $30 billion dollar legit relief package, packed it with pork, then dared us not to vote on it.”

Among the absurd bequests in the aid package are $150 million to support Alaskan fisheries, a couple of million bucks for roof repairs at the Smithsonian and dozens of other pieces of pork, including $17 billion to support “community development” activists.

The Wall Street Journal warned in an editorial: “Far from being must-pass legislation, this is a disgrace to the memory of the victims and could taint legitimate efforts to deal with future disasters.”

Under the circumstances, I think Boehner showed commendable courage by delaying a vote until the new Congress could consider the legislation. When they do, let’s hope they’ll vote to take a scalpel — or even better, a meat clever — to all of the pork that usually got stuffed into the bill. (I’ll leave for another day the argument about where in the Constitution you will find any authority for Congress to take our tax dollars for such charitable activities, no matter how noble they appear.)

I would like to see Congress discuss the folly of paying people to build homes and condos that everyone knows could be wiped out by a hurricane. Since insurance companies refuse to write policies for such properties, our benevolent Federal government decided to force all taxpayers everywhere to subsidize flood insurance for the happy owners.

When a storm comes along, as one inevitably does, the happy homeowner gets a free ride on rebuilding. In some areas, the same home has been hit, damaged and repaired several times — all at taxpayer expense. How about letting these ninnies take the risks themselves, rather than getting us to pay for it?

While on the subject of Congressional malfeasance, let me mention something that I neglected to include in last week’s column, Congress Sticks It To Us Again, on the rushed-through, unread legislation that kept this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff. Did you hear what our legislators decided to call this Frankenstein’s monster?

Even though the measure raises taxes on all working Americans, the bill is called the American Tax Relief Act of 2012. My friend Mark Skousen says the measure should have been called the “Congress Relieves Your Pocketbook Act of 2012.” But of course, that name could be used for just about any legislation that Congress passes.

While some Republicans are still trying to defend that abominable measure as “the best we could do in a bad situation,” Charles Krauthammer is one observer who isn’t buying it. He said the bill represents “a complete surrender on everything. … it’s a complete rout by the Democrats.”

The FOX News commentator said the President not only won increases in tax rates on the wealthy, he’s likely to gain another tax increase when Congress agrees to reduce deductions in the future. “So he gets a double rise in rates,” Krauthammer observed.

The Coming Clash Over The Debt Ceiling

With the fight over the fiscal cliff behind us, the next “line in the sand” for conservatives in Congress will be the battle over raising the ceiling on our national debt. The last time around, Republicans caved in and voted to raise the ceiling only after President Barack Obama agreed to spending cuts. There was supposed to be $1 in spending cuts for every $1 the debt ceiling was raised. If this wasn’t done, then $1.2 trillion in cuts would be mandated over the next decade — the so-called “sequestration” you’ve heard so much about.

Of course, the Federal budget wasn’t reduced. The Democrats didn’t even play their usual game of smoke and mirrors by agreeing to reductions in spending increases, which they would then call “spending cuts.” Nope, the spending spree continued, as Obama racked up another trillion-dollar deficit.

What’s next? We’re going to hear a lot of nasty threats and implausible promises over the next few weeks, including all of the disastrous things that will befall this country if we don’t give Obama all of the funds he wants.

But of all the absurd proposals that will be offered, this week produced the most hilarious of all: the suggestion that the United States mint a shiny new platinum coin, give it a nominal face value of $1 trillion and then deposit it with the Federal Reserve.

The theory is that the Fed could use the new funds to buy back U.S. Treasuries it holds, thus reducing the outstanding amount of government debt. Lowering the debt would mean there would be no need to raise the ceiling.

Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) says he is “absolutely serious” about putting such a proposal before Congress. Paul Krugman, the Pulitzer-prize winning economist and influential New York Times columnist, says it’s worth considering. There’s even a petition on the White House website asking the U.S. Mint to make such a coin.

I’ve learned over the years never to underestimate the ability of Congress to consider, and sometimes pass, some truly ludicrous legislation. It makes you wonder how we’ve managed to survive the government we have, doesn’t it? But at least we don’t get all the government we pay for; that would really destroy us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Get It Through Your Thick Skull

We’re getting tired as well, Mr. President. Speaker of the House John Boehner told Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore that during negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he kept trying to tell the President that the Nation doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Moore quotes Boehner as saying he repeated this message so often that the President finally responded, “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.” Well, we’re getting tired of having to say it, Mr. President.

The high costs of wind subsidies. In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, former Senator Phil Gramm gave an interesting comparison of the cost of various energy subsidies. Wind power tops the list, at a cost of $54.28 per one million watt hours generated. The same amount of electricity from nuclear power costs $3.10, from hydropower 84 cents, from coal just 64 cents and from natural gas 63 cents. Yet it looks like we will spend another $12 billion in wind subsidies this year. Why?

A costly break in a Presidential vacation. According to Newsmax, most of the Obama family’s vacations in Hawaii cost about $4 million, much of it for Air Force One. But when the President interrupted his Christmas vacation this year to fly back to Washington at the end of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the extra round trip added $3.4 million to this year’s tab.

Al Gore’s dubious deal. Current TV, the cable network founded by Al Gore and some friends, never caught on with the American public, averaging fewer than 40,000 viewers a night. But that didn’t deter the pro-Islamist network Al-Jazeera from ponying up $500 million to buy it. The sale will be worth about $70 million to Gore, who tried but failed to get the deal closed by Dec. 31 in order to avoid the higher tax rates that kicked in on Jan. 1. Gore reportedly will remain on the board of the new entity, to be called Al-Jazeera America.

–Chip Wood

More Lies

The Benghazi, Libya, deceit continues. Remember when the U.S. Department of State said that four top officials resigned after the release of a scathing report on the terrorist attack that killed our ambassador and four other Americans? It turns out that wasn’t quite true. One person simply got a new job, while three others were placed on temporary leave. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the deception, saying, “The discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”

Should we kick the rascal out? Piers Morgan, a normally well-mannered Englishman who hosts a CNN television program, has gotten in hot water for his outrageous attacks on gun control opponents who were guests on his show. He called Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, “an unbelievably stupid man” with “dangerous” views. On another show, he denounced a guest as a liar and refused to let him explain his views. As a result, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for Morgan to be deported from this country.

Good riddance to this regulator. I was delighted to see that Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has handed in her resignation. In the past four years, no one in Washington has issued more punitive regulations or done more to stifle American industry than this lady. Hopefully, her successor will stop issuing dictatorial edicts and defying Congressional authority. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Gold’s amazing track record continues. For the 12th year in a row, gold finished the year worth more than it was at the beginning of 2012 — a record no other investment class can match. The Midas metal finished up 6 percent on the year. But silver did even better, rising  9 percent for the year. Platinum climbed 8 percent. But it’s not that precious metals are getting more precious; it’s that the value of the dollar continues to decline — something that will probably be true this year as well.

–Chip Wood

Congress Sticks It To Us Again

Happy New Year, everyone! Weren’t you inspired to see how our elected representatives worked late into the night, even on New Year’s Eve, to keep this country from plunging over the fiscal cliff?

And what a great deal they got for us! Taxes are guaranteed to go up for the vast majority of Americans. Spending cuts will be postponed. Government is going to get bigger. So will the deficit. Barack Obama can gloat that he forced Republicans to accept higher taxes. In fact, an anonymous “official close to the talks” told FOX News’ Ed Henry that getting the GOP to break their tax pledge is “one of the most consequential policy achievements of the last couple of decades.”

My, doesn’t that make you feel better?

Conservatives in the House made a last-ditch effort to include some mandatory spending cuts in the legislation. But that effort failed when Democratic leaders in the Senate said they would refuse to consider any changes in the legislation they had approved the night before. When the final tally was taken, the measure passed the House 257-167, with about a third of the Republicans voting in favor of it.

The margin of approval was even bigger in the Senate, where it passed by a vote of 89-8. Among the tiny minority that voted nay were such Tea Party favorites as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

And even though everyone is sick of all the politicking and posturing, we’re going to go through all of it again over the next couple of months. That’s when we run smack into the debt ceiling, have to deal with mandatory budget cuts and are supposed to come up with some sort of budget for the next fiscal year.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner added fuel to the fire when he said last week that the United States would reach its debt limit on Dec. 31 and, thus, presumably run out of money. But then he piously proclaimed that he could use some “extraordinary measures” to find the funds to keep government going for another couple of months. So the rhetoric to raise the debt ceiling from $16.394 trillion, where it is now, will get a lot hotter between now and March 1.

There is no rest for the wicked — or for the big spenders in Washington.

In a classic example of premature congratulations, the stock market celebrated the new accord. The Washington Post reported: “The Dow soared 308 points, or 2.4%, on Wednesday, the biggest point to start a year in history, after posting the biggest ever year-end point gain of 166 points on Monday.”

But don’t expect the euphoria to last for long, as the realities of what this new agreement does and doesn’t do begin to strike home.

Just how bad is this Frankenstein’s monster? The bill is packed with pork for many of the Administration’s pet projects, including subsidies for plug-in electric vehicles, special deductions for film and television productions, a $12.1 billion tax credit for wind energy and even first-time home buyers in the District of Columbia. Numerous subsidies, tax credits and other goodies are buried in the legislation. You can be sure that the more we learn about what’s in the bill, the less we will like it.

Although Barack Obama campaigned on promises to raise taxes for anyone making more than $200,000 a year and couples earning $250,000, the final legislation raised the base a bit higher. The new limit is families and small-business owners earning $450,000 a year. They will see their personal income tax rate go from 35 percent to 41 percent.

But that’s a fraction of the hit that income from investments will take. Thrifty seniors who lived within their means all of their lives will see the taxes on their investments go up dramatically, while the incentive for anyone to invest in productive businesses will go down. That’s because taxes on dividends and capital gains will go from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. (The final number includes an Obamacare investment income surtax of 3.8 percent.)

In addition to those higher tax rates, couples earning $300,000 or more a year will see their deductions and exemptions phased out. The more they earn, they less they will be able to deduct.

One of the few pieces of good news in the measure is that the estate tax won’t be quite as bad as was feared. If we had gone over the fiscal cliff, the death tax would have been 55 percent on all estates worth $1 million or more. The new number is 40 percent for estates valued at $5 million.

But there is another tax increase that will hit every wage earner in America. That is the payroll tax collected for Social Security, which will rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. This is because a temporary reduction in payroll taxes that Congress approved two years ago, ostensibly to help stimulate the economy, expired on Jan. 1.

So every person earning $50,000 a year or more will pay an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes. So much for the myth that only “millionaires and billionaires” will have to ante up to help pay for Obama’s additional spending.

Taken all together, the Congressional Budget Office says this compromise legislation will add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. And even that estimate assumes that the budget cuts required by sequestration actually do take effect this year. I wouldn’t bet on it. Although the sequestration cuts were supposed to begin on Jan. 1, the fiscal cliff compromise kicked that can down the road for another two months.

The bottom line is that this legislation raises income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, death taxes and payroll taxes. It is a huge victory for Obama and his big-spending buddies in Congress and a big setback for everyone who believes that Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

In effect, we’ve given some chronic alcoholics the keys to the liquor cabinets. And now we hope they will somehow sober up? Don’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood