Daily Read: Where are Washington’s leaders?

There are plenty of leaders in Washington, D.C., but can any of them actually lead? That’s the question posed in a recent column written by POLITICO’s Todd Purdum.

With Congressional dysfunction at an all-time high and approval on a perpetual downward slide, leadership seems to be a rare commodity in Washington. But Purdum argues that there are pockets of true leadership inside the Beltway.

He writes:

It’s not that Washington lacks leaders. It has any number of diligent, dedicated ones, who are lethally effective in their way. Cruz may have alienated his own Republican colleagues in the Senate with his faux filibuster and support for the government shutdown last year, but he got just what he wanted out of the effort: a bigger national profile, rock-solid support in his home state of Texas, interest from grass-roots and deep-pocketed conservative activists from coast to coast — in short, tens of thousands of new “followers,” and not just on Twitter.

If that doesn’t make him a leader, what does?

Rand Paul’s libertarian jeremiads may cause eye rolling among conventional politicians. But his stinging challenge to the Obama administration’s use of predator drones to take out terrorists — not to mention his candid, post-Ferguson commentary on the plight of too many black Americans at the hands of white policemen — endeared him to untold numbers of ordinary voters.

That makes him a leader, too.

Obama seized his moment on the national stage seven years ago (against the advice of more cautious leaders); made history with his election; then jammed through Congress a health insurance overhaul that had eluded Democratic presidents for more than three generations. He remains an inspiring figure to millions of people around the world.

Surely that makes him a leader, even if most of the rest of his second-term agenda seems stalled, if not dead.

Still, leadership in all three examples requires an additional step that has proven quite unachievable in today’s political world: rallying support from both sides of the aisle to get done what needs to be done.

Some of Cruz’s recent positions so visibly pivot back in the direction of the GOP establishment that he’s lost the trust of many libertarian-leaning Republicans. His ability to reach out to Democrats, voters and politicians, is limited by how he made his name politically and the direction he’s headed.

President Obama has since his initial days in the Oval Office embraced a leadership style that hinges on the politics of division. Therefore, rabble-rouser is the more appropriate term for the president who forced through the long-held Democratic dream of healthcare reform.

Of Purdum’s three examples, Paul probably represents the best potential true leader. He’s routinely taken positions that are unpopular with his own party and made efforts to reach out to traditionally non-GOP voters.

Looking ahead to 2016, leadership is going to become a major topic as candidates for the presidential nomination in both parties go through the vetting process.

Read Purdum’s full column here.

U.S. gun control advocate praises Goebbels’ ‘wise words to live by’

We’ve been telling you all along: Many of the arguments used by staunch gun control advocates reflect those used to control the populations of totalitarian regimes. Here’s a bit more proof.

Moms Demand Action, a gun control group heavily funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has recently been a major player in the anti-2nd Amendment movement.

In a since-deleted Twitter exchange, Moms Demand Action New York Chapter Leader Alison Martin allegedly responded to detractors who argued against expanding background checks.

“I don’t understand why u would be against measures like expanding background checks. Do u have something to hide,” she asked.

The exchange that followed will have you slapping your forehead:

twitpic

The true origin of the quote is unclear, but it is often attributed to Goebbels.

Mr. Goebbels, as you probably know if you happened to take a high school history class, is Adolf Hitler propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, who served the Nazis from 1933-1945.

Martin later defended her poor endorsement:

momsd

The Twitter exchange has since been deleted, but GunsSaveLife.com summed it up swimmingly, “We are simply speechless at her ignorance of history.”

And this meme, courtesy of Hypocrisy and Stupidity of Gun Control Advocates, is pretty good too:

moms

Is the Obama administration using bad accounting to hide healthcare failures?

The Government Accountability Office issued a report this week detailing how the Obama administration has failed to adequately document where $3.7 billion in taxpayer money was spent promoting Obamacare’s online marketplace.

“CMS’s processes are inconsistent with certain federal accounting and internal control standards,” the report states.

GAO officials reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) doesn’t properly track certain data necessary to determining whether the law is working. Part of the problem, according to GAO officials, is that CMS uses an outdated records system incapable of responding to data requests from public officials. Rather than receiving the data directly from the network, officials charged with keeping the government’s budget in check must rely on manually produced spreadsheets that take months for CMS to prepare.

This means that government auditors tasked with determining whether Obamacare is working must do their jobs with outdated and sometimes incomplete information.

A major area of concern with CMS’s data-reporting processes involved its Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which has worked closely with state governments to implement Obamacare. According to the GAO report, that department was unable to track spending on advertising, polling, staff and travel, among other things, for auditors.

In fact, the GAO auditors reported that the only verifiable data CMS was able to provide consisted of “estimates for total obligations for fiscal year 2014, which was $3.7 billion; the number of staff as of September 30, 2013, which was 347; and total salary expenditures from March 2010 through fiscal year 2013, which were $79.8 million.”

Outgoing House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who ordered the GAO report, slammed the Obama administration in a statement Tuesday.

“After promising transparency and then ignoring repeated requests from Congress, we now find out that the administration is not even keeping track of how many taxpayer dollars are going out the door,” he said. “Worse yet, the administration won’t even account for how much it spent on public relations campaigns promoting their unpopular law.”

Pentagon: U.S. airstrikes only the beginning of yearslong military campaign against ISIS

A top Pentagon official told reporters Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s airstrike strategy for eliminating Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria could mean that the U.S. will be expending military energy in the region for years.

Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations of the Joint Staff, told reporters that the airstrikes currently being conducted in the Middle East have been successful, but added that this is only the beginning face of the campaign against ISIS.

“Last night’s strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy [ISIS],” Mayville said of strikes that commenced in Syria Monday.

As for how long Americans should expect to remain involved in the fight against the ISIS militants, the top military official added, “I would think of it in terms of years.”

Mayville noted that the ISIS militants will (and, in some cases, already have) adapt to the president’s from-the-air strategy, leading the fighters to move into urban areas where civilian populations make the strikes too risky.

“We have seen evidence that they’re already doing that. We’ve seen that now, as a result of the air campaign thus far in Iraq,” Mayville said.

“They are very well-funded. They are a learning organization, and they will adapt to what we’ve done … and seek to address their shortfalls and gaps against our air campaign in the coming weeks,” he said.

Still, officials say that no U.S. ground forces will enter Syria.

“There’s obviously a desire to put something on the ground,” Mayville said. “We’ve been able to provide air support without putting forces forward, and I think we will continue to look at how we can do that as we move forward.”

UPDATED Alaska reporter, marijuana advocate on air: ‘F*ck it, I quit’

Update 9-23-2014

Greene (whose real name is Charlene Egby) posted a video YouTube explaining her actions in further detail. In her monologue, the reporter explains her frustrations about the over-criminalization of marijuana, mainstream media’s sensationalism and prohibitionists’ misinformation.

“To question what they said was wrong, why they were given authority and where their claims of danger and peril come from,” the former reporter says of her goal in the video.

Original Story 9-22-2014

A reporter made a grand, if offensive, exit from Alaska’s KTVA-TV during a live 10 p.m. broadcast on Sunday.

Reporter Charlo Greene had just finished a report on Alaska Cannabis Club, a new medical marijuana business in the state, when she revealed herself as the owner of the business and informed viewers that she would henceforth dedicate all of her energy to marijuana legalization.

“Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska,” she said.

To her colleagues’ dismay, Greene continued, “And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f*ck it, I quit.”

With that, she walked out of the scene.

KTVA quickly went into damage-control mode, with news director Bert Rudman telling viewers via Facebook Sunday night: “We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.”

Of course, Rudman, it seems the reporter made it very clear that she quit.

Asked by local media why she left the station in such a dramatic way, Greene said that she’d hoped to bring attention to her cause.

In November, Alaska voters will vote on legalized recreational marijuana use in the state for people over 21.

“Ballot Measure 2 is a way to make medical marijuana real … most patients didn’t know the state didn’t set up the framework to get patients their medicine,” Greene told Alaska Dispatch News.

“If I offended anyone, I apologize, but I’m not sorry for the choice that I made,” she said.

And with more than a million views of her on-air exit on YouTube, Greene has succeeded in getting the Alaska ballot measure noticed.

 

 

With airstrikes, Obama administration concedes Romney was right on foreign policy

Vice President Joe Biden, back during the 2012 presidential campaign, was fond of attacking GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions as overly hawkish.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech the vice president gave on Sept. 2, 2012 in York, Pennsylvania:

He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he’s ready to go to war in Syria and Iran.

He wants to move from cooperation to confrontation with Putin’s Russia. And these guys say the president’s out of touch? Out of touch? Swiss bank account, untold millions in the Cayman Islands. Who’s out of touch, man?

Despite Romney’s “Swiss bank account” and “untold millions in the Cayman Islands,” the presidential candidate was aware of some things that the Obama administration seems only recently to have fully grasped.

And today, with troops back in Iraq and airstrike campaigns ongoing in Syria (not to mention the utter failure of that Russian “reset”) many watchers are unable to deny that Barack Obama is ever closer to earning the title of America’s worst foreign policy president.

HT: Buzzfeed

Daily Read: Reporter refuses to pay taxes for 500 days, duration of IRS targeting scandal

Daily Caller political reporter Patrick Howley says he is refusing to pay his taxes until Americans get the answers they deserve on the IRS’s targeting of conservatives. This week marks 500 days since the scandal broke and 500 days of Howley’s civil disobedience.

In a piece this week, the reporter outlines the sheer gall of the nation’s political class in refusing to produce former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails, documents that undoubtedly implicate her and others (perhaps all the way to the Oval Office) in the targeting scandal and were produced on government property for official review.

He writes:

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

How much longer will this go on? New IRS chief John Koskinen said that “hard drive crashes continue as we speak.” Lerner is giving softball interviews with Politico about how conservatives (who she once called “assholes”) are trying to ruin her life. The White House has yet to be subpoenaed for the emails it exchanged with Lerner. Same goes for the Department of Justice.

It’s totally understandable that Howley, in his attempts to get to the bottom of the scandal in Washington, would be frustrated after 500 days. The average American conservative remains frustrated but has the luxury of forgetting about the scandal from time to time. But the reporter has focused professionally for more than a year and a half on getting answers from government criminals guarded by government lackeys.

And in that time, much has changed in the world:

The government shut down because of Obamacare and Republicans got blamed. The Obamacare website was screwed up. ISIS beheaded three Western journalists. The “knockout” game ravaged pedestrians in major cities. Vladimir Putin seized Crimea. Guatemalan children poured across the border. John Kerry let Iran keep having nuclear power plants. War raged between Israel and Hamas. Armed federal agents stole a rancher’s cattle and then it was all okay because the rancher said something racist. Ebola broke out. A Malaysian plane got lost. Racial tensions spilled over in Ferguson. Obama’s Gallup rating dropped six points, from 49 to 43.

And in his personal life:

500 days ago, I lived alone in a crappy apartment in the depressing Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., six Metro stops from work. Now I live with a roommate I’d never met before in a crappier apartment in the even more depressing neighborhood of [redacted], seven Metro stops away.

American conservatives ought to applaud Howley’s act of civil disobedience and might do well to follow suit. He’s also owed a bit of gratitude. The mainstream media has left the IRS scandal behind as old news, so it’s nice to know that there are still some people in the right places trying to get the facts.

Read Howley’s full column at The Daily Caller.

Congress Can’t Get Anything Done Because Lawmakers Are Never In Washington

With the 113th Congress shaping up to be the least productive in six decades, freshman Representative David Jolly (R-Fla.) has a novel idea to increase legislative productivity: Require lawmakers to work the same five-day 9-to-5 schedule that most working Americans already follow.

Lawmakers in the House typically show up on Capitol Hill on Monday just in time to make a 6:30 p.m. vote and are usually nowhere to be found come Thursday afternoon. Other times lawmakers work a Tuesday to Friday workweek, typically with a light load on Friday.

In a letter to his esteemed colleagues on the House Rules Committee, Jolly suggested that all the time off could be part of the reason Congress can’t seem to get anything done.

“A work week in Washington should be no different than a work week in every other town across America. A change in the rules of the House to reflect that very basic principle is one that we as a House, as Republicans and Democrats, and most importantly as representatives of our neighbors and fellow Americans, should swiftly adopt,” Jolly wrote in his letter.

The House will be in session for only 110 days total this year, which, according to Jolly, is not enough time to take on the major issues facing the nation today.

“We should be in session more. We cannot rightfully address the many concerns of the American people like the national debt, tax reform, national security and education if we are not in session,” Jolly said.

But Jolly says that the issue is about more than making sure lawmakers spend more days at the Capitol; he wants to be sure that each lawmaker is giving American taxpayers at least 40 hours each week.

“I would respectfully request that your subcommittee require for any week that Congress is in session in Washington D.C. that such session run from 8:00 a.m. on Monday until 6:00 p.m. on Friday. Simply put, a work week is a work week. Our efforts should reflect those of every other working American,” he added in his letter.

The House and Senate adjourned on Thursday after just eight unproductive days in Congress’ latest session on the heels of its five-week August recess. Lawmakers were itching to hit the midterm campaign trail.

Rand Paul Delivers Pro-Liberty Message, Rips GOP

ALEXANDRIA, Va.Either Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) knows how to pander to a friendly crowd or reports of the lawmaker’s gradual abandonment of some libertarian values have been exaggerated. Likely, it’s a combination of the two.

Paul on Thursday spoke to attendees of the Liberty Political Action Conference, delivering a pro-liberty message and criticizing the GOP for the exclusionary politics that have stunted the growth of the party’s voter base.

The senator’s speech, which covered everything from President Barack Obama’s latest illegal war to the stupidity behind harsh anti-marijuana laws, was chock-full of decidedly pro-liberty, pro-Constitution messaging.

“So we just finished celebrating Constitution week,” Paul began, discussing how some lawmakers had chosen to pay tribute to the nation’s fundamental legal document.

“Barack Obama celebrated by doing one more unconstitutional thing,” he continued, before criticizing the president’s reversal on 2007 promises that he wouldn’t lead the nation into war without the consent of Congress.

“Apparently, that was good as a candidate but not so good as a president,” Paul said.

Failure to follow the Constitution and keep campaign promises is a problem that Obama shares with many elected officials, the lawmaker said, adding that he highly recommends “un-election” whenever that’s the case.

Moving along to an issue that Paul has tackled head-on, the senator discussed the disturbing militarization of police recently on display in Ferguson, Missouri.

Paul said he’s wondered “What went wrong?” in Ferguson as he ponders legislative solutions to the problem.

In the lawmaker’s view, the militarization is a negative consequence of other misguided policing trends and laws put into place over the past several decades.

“Maybe it’s that we went crazy somehow…” Paul said. “In a situation where there’s a hostage-taker, you want the police to be aggressive. But if someone’s got some pot, do you want them to break down the door at 2 in the morning with masks and tear gas and concussion grenades?”

The senator explained that such raids often have devastating consequences. As a specific example, he told the story of 19-month-old Bounkham “Bou” Phonesavanh who was left clinging to life earlier this year after a concussion grenade was thrown into his playpen during a drug raid in Georgia.

“Why are we doing this?” Paul exclaimed.

Other anecdotes in the speech served to answer his question: Government is too big.

The senator told the audience that change will come only as Americans dedicated to shrinking the size of government are elected to office — and that means letting more voices be heard at the conservative table.

Paul derided Republicans for inhibiting their own ability to win elections by failing to appeal to people outside of their base pool of supporters.

“So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, ‘We don’t want black people to vote because they’re voting Democrat; we don’t want Hispanic people to vote because they’re voting Democrat,’” he said. “We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don’t we be the party that’s for people voting, for voting rights?”

That’s where liberty-minded voters come in, the senator noted, saying: “The bottom line is we’re not winning — at least the big office, the presidency. We’re often not winning the statewide races, and we’re not winning because we don’t have enough people.”

“I think the liberty movement has actually been more open to receiving people of all walks of life,” Paul said. “… That’s how you win elections.”

The senator ended the speech with a quote from former Congressman Ron Paul, his father and LPAC organizer: “Freedom is popular.”

Daily Read: Conservation Through Capitalism

Government conservation efforts that attempt to protect the wildlife and the environment often include business and individual regulations that create a negative economic impact. In the case of endangered species, outright bans on goods such as ivory create confusion and do little to stop poaching in the countries where a buck can still be made trading the material.

A recent Vice Media interview with New Zealand wildlife conservationist Roger Beattie offers a lesson in capitalism 101: When people have an economic incentive to protect one of Mother Nature’s gifts, they usually will.

Vice’s Soong Phoon writes:

Roger Beattie is a New Zealand wildlife magnate. He runs several enterprises: a kelp farm, an organic sheep farm, and a reserve for weka, or Maori hen. Considering his environmental pedigree after spending 14 years working in conservation, he’s the last person you’d expect to be encouraging people to eat New Zealand’s famous, beloved, and endangered native birds.

Native birds like the weka are in decline due to predation in the wild. Beattie is vocal about the fact that endangered native birds need to be farmed for consumption to help sustain the animal’s populations. He believe there is a huge potential market for the meat due to its taboo nature, and tourists and exotic food lovers will pay the high prices to make it sustainable. It’s probably not going to blow any minds that this emphatic farmer isn’t best mates with the New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

The best quote in the interview is Beattie’s reasoning behind identifying market solutions: “If private individuals want to do conservationist things, there should be no impediment. We farm native paua, plenty of people are propagating native trees — but certain native species can’t be farmed. No species that have ever been farmed have ever died out. Since man has been in New Zealand, we’ve lost 44 bird species because they were protected. If you’ve got the choice between something being protected and dying, and something being farmed and thriving, that’s not much of a choice.”

Read the full interview on Vice’s “Munchies” blog.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand: Pentagon Discusses Ground Troops In Iraq

The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that its plan to respond the Islamic State terror threat in Iraq and Syria will not involve ground troops. But top Pentagon officials told lawmakers Tuesday that they plan to recommend U.S. boots on the ground.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told a Senate panel that, if necessary, U.S. troops would “accompany” Iraqi soldiers on the ground in an advisory role. He also discussed the possibility of U.S. troops in Iraq taking active combat roles by calling in airstrikes from the ground.

“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [ISIS] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

President Barack Obama said during a speech last week that his administration wasn’t even considering the possibility of U.S. boots on the ground in the battle against ISIS. But Dempsey suggested that Obama’s position on the matter is less black and white than the administration has suggested.

“At this point, his stated policy is we will not have U.S. ground forces in direct combat,” Dempsey said. “But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”

Dempsey’s suggesting that boots on the ground could become necessary is likely a calculated effort to ease Americans toward the reality of a forthcoming renewal of full-scale military operations in the Middle East. After all, Obama’s strategy was only officially made public last week. So — barring what military officials know from decades of U.S. meddling in Middle Eastern affairs — it seems a little early to plan for failure.

The defense official, joined by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, classified the U.S. as being “at war” with ISIS. The military leaders also appeared to suggest that Americans should plan for long-term involvement in the region, saying that ISIS’s defeat will only ultimately come as generations of radical Muslims are overtaken by more moderate adherents to the religion.

“This will not look like ‘shock and awe’ because that is not how [ISIS] is organized, but it will be persistent and sustainable,” Dempsey said.

In Syria, the officials suggested that training rebels fighting ISIS is the best approach to coincide with efforts in Iraq.

White House deflected wildly when asked about the defense officials’ remarks on possible boots on the ground.

“As was clear from General Dempsey’s remarks he was referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ground the use of ground troops,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The president is scheduled to further discuss ISIS strategies with military leaders on Wednesday.

Spreading Democracy: Afghanistan Requests A Bailout

The U.S. has spent billions of taxpayer dollars to fund military invasions and government manipulation in a decadeslong effort to “spread democracy” in the region. Meanwhile, American citizens have suffered widespread economic uncertainty, been terrorized by corporate greed run amok and have witnessed the federal government’s inability, or unwillingness, to protect the country’s borders.

The U.S. has failed in its effort to export democracy — take a look at Iraq. But America does seem to have taught the Afghan government a thing or two about reckless economic stupidity.

Afghan officials said Tuesday that the nation is broke and in need of an immediate $537 million bailout to keep its government open.

The Afghan government hopes to get the money from the U.S. and other international donors within the next week, according to a report in The Washington Post.

“We hope they will pay for us, and we are asking at once,” Afghan treasury director Alhaj M. Aqa said. “They are asking me when I need it, and I told them this week or we will have a problem.”

The budget shortfall could affect as many as 500,000 government employees in the country, including 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police.

Afghanistan’s economic officials say that the shortfall in its $7.6 billion budget is the result of a 25 percent drop in domestic revenues during political campaigning in the country. A yearlong presidential election, they claim, made international investors nervous and Afghans unwilling to spend.

Here’s the funny thing: About 65 percent of the country’s budget already comes from foreign aid and the U.S. has spent more than $100 billion in the country.

Boehner Calls House Republican Colleagues ‘Knuckleheads’ For Challenging Establishment

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized Republicans who disagree with his positions on Tuesday, telling members of the International Franchise Association, “I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”

The jibe came in the midst of remarks on the dangers of a politicized National Labor Relations Board with the power to exercise the will of whichever party controls the Oval Office at a given time.

Reforming President Barack Obama’s NLRB has been a top Republican priority for some time.

From the Senate floor Tuesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that a Republican-controlled Senate could make that goal a reality.

“Everybody’s familiar with the president’s unconstitutional effort to pack the National Labor Relations Board with liberal partisans in early 2012,” McConnell said. “It’s time to restore balance to the National Labor Relations Board. Let’s take the politics out of it.”

McConnell’s remarks were made in support of the NLRB Reform Act proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

“It would restore the NLRB to its proper role as an umpire, instead of an advocate for the Right or the Left,” McConnell said. “It’s the kind of thing our constituents want to see us doing: standing up for reform and against entrenched political interests.”

The Alexander bill would increase the NLRB’s five members to six, three from each political party.

But, as Boehner noted, majority isn’t always king in getting legislation passed.

During his Franchise Association speech, the House Republican lamented that he has a “paper majority” because some members of his party don’t toe the establishment line.

“On any given day, 16 of my members decide they’re going to go this way, and all the sudden I have nothing,” Boehner said. “You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference.”

Boehner was likely referring to disagreements he’s had with more conservative members of his party this year. In February, the House leader declared that politicians with Tea Party ties had “lost all credibility” as budget-related drama unfolded in Washington.

Pro-business lobbyists are in Washington this week urging Congress to take action on NLRB reform.

 

Daily Read: On Poverty, Another War We Lost

The Daily Signal’s Robert Rector in a Tuesday commentary tells us what the federal government has been able to accomplish after 50 years and $22 trillion taxpayer dollars spent waging President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Not much.

From the piece:

Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

The answer is it isn’t possible. Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

Johnson’s goal was to give poor Americans the tools needed to pull themselves out of the poverty cycle, and he even sold his War on Poverty plan by discussing how it would shrink welfare doles.

Of course, the federal government has made great gains in power anytime it has declared “war” on anything (drugs, terror) and gladly spends about two-thirds of the nation’s overall budget on warfare and welfare (defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security). In any free-market system, more power would come with more responsibility to demonstrate results. But the smoke and mirrors of the nation’s modern economy absolve leaders of that responsibility with unnatural economic meddling.

Thus, what look like failures to reduce poverty are, in reality, part of a larger economic problem that has to be answered by the leaders of a warfare/welfare state. And the left isn’t the only group at fault. Neoconservatives, while spending much time speaking out against domestic programs that make people dependent on government, are often all too happy to create international disturbances that leave people in far-off lands dependent on U.S. military welfare. I think we call it “spreading freedom.”

Next time a Barack Obama talks about hope and change through big domestic programs or a John McCain discusses safety through military adventurism, Americans who can no longer afford to be aloof must demand clear results.

We’ve seen three wars failed in the past half-century (drugs, terror and poverty); how many more can we afford to lose?

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” — George W. Bush from Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Bad Politics On Crack: Rethinking Mandatory Minimums Would Save Taxpayers Billions Of Dollars

The Congressional Budget Office reports that legislation designed to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders would save U.S. taxpayers more than $4 billion over a decade.

Over the past 30 years, the number of inmates in America’s prisons has increased by 500 percent, due in large part to federal sentencing requirements put in place as a result of the never-ending War on Drugs. Bipartisan legislation put forth by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) earlier this month would incrementally “modernize” drug-sentencing policies.

“Our current scheme of mandatory minimum sentences is irrational and wasteful,” Lee said of the legislation last month. “By targeting particularly egregious mandatory minimums and returning discretion to federal judges in an incremental manner, the Smarter Sentencing Act takes an important step forward in reducing the financial and human cost of outdated and imprudent sentencing polices.”

According to the CBO’s numbers, the lawmakers’ Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014 would, between 2015 and 2024, give as many as 250,000 nonviolent offenders the opportunity for release earlier than under current law.

The reduction in the prison population would save American taxpayers about $4.36 billion over the same period.

“Today’s CBO report proves that not only are mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses often unfair, they are also fiscally irresponsible,” Durbin said. “By making the incremental, targeted changes that Senator Lee and I have proposed in our Smarter Sentencing Act, we can save taxpayers billions without jeopardizing public safety.”

The lawmakers have been careful to stress that their legislation would not repeal mandatory minimum sentences altogether but gives judges more power to sentence nonviolent offenders on a case-by-case basis.

The Smarter Sentencing Act currently pending in the Senate is just one portion of a national shift in attitudes about dealing with nonviolent drug crimes. The Obama administration has announced modest plans to shift the nation’s justice system away from mandatory sentences for low-level offenders, and the Department of Justice announced in April that it was considering clemency for thousands of prisoners sentenced under the laws.

Still, Congress is the only entity real power to reduce mandatory minimums. After all, it was a perfect storm of congressional knee-jerk reaction and electoral politics that created the laws in the first place.

As Eric Sterling, Counsel to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, told NPR’s “This American Life” back in 1999:

The bottom line was the Republicans won in 1984 on the crime issue. They had beat up the Democrats. They had attacked the Democrats as soft. Former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president, went down in flames.

And so we now come to 1986, a year in which it is possible that the Democrats could retake the Senate, a year in which the stage is being set for the 1988 election, in which Reagan will not be on the ballot. And so in the overall national political calculus, Democrats are looking around for traction.

And then there was a famous overdose.

…So in June, 1986, at the end of the basketball season, the champion player from the University of Maryland basketball team, Len Bias, signs with the NBA champion team, the Boston Celtics, the team of the home town of House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Bias flies to Boston. He’s going to be the hope of the Celtics. Bias flies home. He’s celebrating with his friends. And he dies in the middle of the night from an overdose of cocaine of some kind.

The politicians politicked, the media frenzied and American Main Street became terrified of the crack cocaine epidemic it didn’t know it had before a celebrity who happened to have ties to the House Speaker died.

Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill got the “tough on drugs” legislative train rolling full speed ahead, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle attempting to outdo one another on drug sentencing laws. At some point, the campaign-fodder legislation outpaced reason.

… [I]t was being introduced at a point in which there was no longer an opportunity for hearings. We had no hearings,” Sterling said. “We did not consult with the Bureau of Prisons, or with the federal judiciary, or with DEA, or with the Justice Department, to at least find out from those folks what would be the effect of mandatory minimums. What are appropriate mandatory minimums?

…The numbers that we picked in the Judiciary Committee, the 20 grams of crack cocaine, would have triggered a five-year federal minimum. The Republicans in the Senate dropped the 20 grams to five grams and raised the– from five years to 40 years because the Republicans were going to be tougher.

Decades later, hundreds of thousands of lives stalled and billions of dollars spent, lawmakers are finally moving in the other direction. But with little political capital to gain from frantic headlines, don’t expect the reforms to come quickly.

The full 1999 NPR piece on mandatory minimums is worth a listen and available here.

 

Economic Patriotism: U.S. Ranks Near Last In Tax Competitiveness

Something’s rotten in the District of Columbia.

Democrats routinely claim that corporations in the U.S. lack “economic patriotism” and don’t pay their fair share in taxes. In fact, they claim, those corporations are so unpatriotic that President Barack Obama is currently working out a plan to prevent corporate tax inversions, where companies acquire assets outside the U.S. to avoid burdensome taxes.

The results of a recent study by the nonpartisan think tank Tax Foundation, however, neatly place a realist fly in the left’s hysterical ointment: Because of high corporate taxes and policies requiring taxation of profits made outside the country, only two developed nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the entire planet have a tax code less friendly to business than the United States.

The Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index takes into account more than 40 tax policy variables in its inaugural ranking of 34 industrialized OECD nations. The U.S. ranked 32nd, beating only Portugal (33rd) and France (34th).

“The United States scores poorly largely because it maintains the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world at 39.1 percent and is one of the six remaining countries in the OECD with a worldwide system of taxation,” the Tax Foundation said.

The think tank also cited poorly structured property, individual, and capital gains and dividends taxes as contributors to the U.S.’s poor ranking.

Via the report’s executive summary:

The United States provides a good example of an uncompetitive tax code. The last major change to the U.S. tax code occurred 28 years ago as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, when Congress reduced the top marginal corporate income tax rate from 46 percent to 34 percent in an attempt to make U.S. corporations more competitive overseas. Since then, the OECD countries have followed suit, reducing the OECD average corporate tax rate from 47.5 percent in the early 1980s to around 25 percent today. The result: the United States now has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world.

While the corporate income tax rate is a very important determinant of economic growth and economic competitiveness, it is not the only thing that matters. The competitiveness of a tax code is determined by several factors. The structure and rate of corporate taxes, property taxes, income taxes, cost recovery of business investment, and whether a country has a territorial system are some of the factors that determine whether a country’s tax code is competitive.

The top spots on the list are held by relatively small OECD nations, meaning that, in a relative sense, the U.S.’s ranking isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Larger U.S. trading competitors rank closer to the bottom of the list: Japan (25th), Canada (24th), the United Kingdom (21st), and Germany (20th).

Here’s the full list:

  1. Estonia
  2. New Zealand
  3. Switzerland
  4. Sweden
  5. Australia
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Netherlands
  8. Slovak Republic
  9. Turkey
  10. Slovenia
  11. Finland
  12. Austria
  13. Korea
  14. Norway
  15. Ireland
  16. Czech Republic
  17. Denmark
  18. Hungary
  19. Mexico
  20. Germany
  21. United Kingdom
  22. Belgium
  23. Iceland
  24. Canada
  25. Japan
  26. Poland
  27. Greece
  28. Israel
  29. Chile
  30. Spain
  31. Italy
  32. United States
  33. Portugal
  34. France

Still, the authors of the report say that tax policymakers around the world should have an eye toward reform in the future.

In today’s globalized economy, the structure of a country’s tax code is an important factor for businesses when they decide where to invest. No longer can a country tax business investment and activity at a high rate without adversely affecting its economic performance. In recent years, many countries have recognized this fact and have moved to reform their tax codes to be more competitive. However, others have failed to do so and are falling behind the global movement.

Looks like it’s time for Democrats to rethink that economic patriotism line.

Read the full Tax Foundation report here.

Read This: WaPo Wonders If Rand Paul Is Leaving His Libertarian Leanings Behind

In a front-page article, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold examines Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) evolving positions on everything from gay marriage to foreign aid.

Senators Speak on Repealing President Obama's Health Care Act in Washington
UPI FILE

Fahrenthold writes:

Sen. Rand Paul wanted to eliminate aid to Israel. Now he doesn’t. He wanted to scrap the Medicare system. Now he’s not sure.

He didn’t like the idea of a border fence — it was expensive, and it reminded him of the Berlin Wall. Now he wants two fences, one behind the other.

And what about same-sex marriage? Paul’s position — such marriages are morally wrong, but Republicans should stop obsessing about them — seems so muddled that an Iowa pastor recently confronted him in frustration.

“With all due respect, that sounds very retreatist of you,” minister Michael Demastus said he told Paul (R-Ky.) after the senator explained his position during a stop in Des Moines.

Paul has built a reputation as a libertarian ideologue, a Washington outsider guided by a rigid devotion to principle.

But his policy vision is, in fact, a work in progress. While he has maintained his core support for cutting spending and protecting Americans’ privacy rights, Paul has shaded, changed or dropped some of the ideas that he espoused as a tea party candidate and in his confrontational early days as a senator.

To be sure, Paul’s positions on many things have changed and damage has already been done among many people who initially supported him because of his relationship and similarity to another Paul. But what made Ron Paul so able to build a cult-like following was his unwillingness to play politics with his core libertarian beliefs — that’s also what precluded him from ever having a real shot at making it to the Oval Office.

Rand Paul has clearly demonstrated that he is willing to bend on certain issues to gain more mainstream appeal. The question is: How much can Paul evolve before he becomes a certified “for it before against it” flip-flopper?

Sunday News Show Roundup

President Barack Obama’s plan for a response to the Islamic State terror threat was the main topic of discussion for administration officials making appearances on the Sunday political talk shows.

On Wednesday, the president provided Americans with a four-part strategy he said would “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS, which Obama refers to as ISIL. Obama’s plan does not include provisions for U.S. boots on the ground.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked on an earlier suggestion that the U.S. was not “at war” with ISIS, saying there was a “tortured debate going on about terminology” regarding the nation’s actions against the group.

“Originally this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground, it’s not hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not that kind of mobilization,” Kerry said. “But in terms of al-Qaida, which we have used the word ‘war’ with, yeah.”

“In the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL,” he said.

Kerry is currently on a tour of the Middle East working to build a coalition of about 40 countries to help in the U.S. fight against ISIS.

White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to explain in further detail what Obama’s not-war-war ISIS strategy involves.

“[The] effort against ISIL is something that we’ll undertake with a broad coalition of nations, Muslim and otherwise,” he said. “It’s something not like the war in Iraq, but rather this is something that is going to be concerted, targeted. And it’s a war we have to win.”

He added: “This is obviously a complicated effort, and that’s why the president is going about this in a very painstaking and very prudent fashion. That’s why the secretary of state is now just continuing his efforts to travel throughout the region to get others to join us in this effort, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to lead an international effort, but this is not going to be easy.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, embraced the idea of the U.S. accepting help from any Middle Eastern countries willing to join the fight against ISIS. It would be “unwise,” he said, for the U.S. to reject offers from foreigners willing to provide ground forces.

“We want the Sunnis and Arab moderates to fight Sunni extremists,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

McCaul noted that the prince of Jordan last week offered to provide troops to fight, help Kerry said on Sunday that the U.S. is not ready to accept.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t consider that option of all the Arab nations,” McCaul said.

McCaul said he supports the administration’s decision to avoid placing conventional U.S. troops on the ground in the Middle East.

“I don’t think we want to put conventional forces in the middle of all of this,” he said. “We will need advisers and special forces to guide airstrikes into Syria which we have not done to date.”

The lawmaker stressed the importance of the president seeking Congressional approval for expanded airstrikes.

 

Tax Crusader: It ‘Defies Reason’ To Believe IRS Isn’t Being Used As A Political Weapon

Tax reform advocate Grover Norquist sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service Friday calling on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to resign after the revelation that the agency is auditing a popular conservative news outlet.

Breitbart News revealed earlier in the week that it had been targeted for a tax audit of its 2012 filings. The conservative outlet, which has reported extensively on various IRS scandals, said the audit was politically motivated.

“The Obama administration’s timing on this is exquisite, but try as they might through various methods to silence us, we will only get more emboldened,” said Stephen K. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, in a statement Tuesday.

In his letter, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist agreed that the news outlet is being harassed.

“According to your own IRS records, less than 1 percent of all tax returns (including business returns) faced examination last year,” Norquist wrote. “Even here, two-thirds of these audits were of the relatively benign correspondence variety, unlike the field audit which Breitbart is subjected to.

“It defies reason to think that an agency as politicized as the IRS began this inquiry with anything other than the worst of intentions. I urge you to stop the political harassment of President Obama’s enemies using the IRS as soon as possible.”

Norquist requested that IRS officials answer series of questions raised in a similarly-toned letter Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent to the agency earlier in the week.

  1. How many other news organizations have been audited since President Obama has been in office?
  2. How many of them could be identified as conservative- or liberal-leaning?
  3. Have any other news organization been subjected to this sort of far-reaching and oppressive inquiry, including requesting the personal tax records of editors and reporters?
  4. At what point does the IRS decide to take action to audit a news outlet?
  5. Does the IRS worry that its extremely burdensome auditing process could effectively silence the press?
  6. Previously, Senator Durbin wrote the IRS asking that it examine the tax-exempt status of Crossroads GPS, a Republican organization that spends money electing Republicans. Did the IRS ever receive any communications from any elected official asking it to examine Breitbart News Network, LLC?
  7. Who, precisely, is responsible for making the decision to audit Breitbart News Network, LLC?

“For the IRS to behave like a partisan political organization, targeting media organizations whose views differ from the President’s, would represent a gross abuse of power,” Cruz wrote in his letter. “It would undermine the statutory mission and integrity of the IRS. And it would likely subject IRS employees to criminal prosecution.

“I very much hope that is not the case,” he added.

Of course, on Wednesday, Koskinen assured lawmakers that the IRS tries to follow the law “whenever we can.”

Feel Any Safer?: Personal Liberty Reader Reaction To Obama’s ISIS Speech

President Barack Obama’s abysmal approval ratings leading in to his Wednesday speech on the administration’s planned response to the Islamic State terror threat left us wondering if average Americans would gain more faith in the president as a result in the speech. Here’s what we learned from Personal Liberty reader response.

Ninety-seven percent of readers who took Personal Liberty’s nonscientific “You Sound Off!” poll reported that the president’s speech did very little to make them feel any safer from the threat of ISIS terrorists.

In the comment section of the story in which the polling was conducted, reader response was also largely negative on the heels of the president’s speech.

A few of the replies we received:

Mike in MI

I watched it. What a miserable snake he is.
If you have children send them to a place where they cannot be touched by the/a military draft.
What he proposes can not succeed. It will lead to a general conflagration with the institution of another Military Draft. (My Dad was drafted at the age of 39 yrs.
America, you have given the reins of the highest of offices to a man with a reprobate mind. He can not make a reasonable, defensible, accurate decision. Sorry, but you have given your kids to a narcissistic monster.
In his own mind, he can not fail.

terryk

No cojones just more BS from the master BS slinger. He offered nothing that ISIS should be concerned over.

Doc Sarvis

Conservatives have criticized President Obama for telling our enemies too much and now they criticize him for not saying enough. Typical.

Stephine

I would feel a lot safer if he would do us all a favor and crawl under that rock he he slithered out from under.

vicki

“Feel Any Safer After Obama’s ISIS Speech?”

No.

nunya

ISIS is laughing so hard after listening to Queen Obozo they are probably pissing in their pants from all the laughter

michael friend

When Obozo started his speech last night the power to my place went out. When the cable box finished resetting he was finished. I’m sure glad that I missed his speech. As for Obozo being a resident in the W.H. he is not a resident, he is a squatter and tho only thing that he capable of is a push and pull palm exercise, the British have one word for him and that word is TOSSER.

bobda

Obama record speaks for itself; not one foreign policy success during his tenure but more failures than I care to remember and still counting.

Horace DeBussy Jones

HO-HUM…who cares what the USA SHEEPLE think??? They were the bozos who elected this empty-suit foreign born lazy Homo SOB into office twice!!!!

gangbuster

Someone needs to smack OBAMA up side of his head to wake him up.

bekk31

He’s great at blowing hot air out of his mouth. The idea that he’s going to act on any so called plan is just another lie. He’s probably going to go play golf with ISIS leaders.

Karolyn

I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t feel unsafe to begin with. Far too much paranoia.

To watch a recording of the president’s ISIS speech or to take the “You Sound Off!” poll to let us know if you feel any safer, visit the link below.

Feel Any Safer After Obama’s ISIS Speech?

Video: Students Unaware Of Radical Islam Threat, Knowledgeable On Celebrity Nude Photos

Ahead of the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) hit the campus of George Washington University Friday to find out what average American college students know about terror in the recent U.S. history and threats facing the nation today.

YAF asked randomly selected students the following questions in a video posted to its website:

-Next week marks the anniversary of a major national event do you know what that is?

-Do you know what ISIS is?

-Did you know that ISIS is responsible for the beheading of two American journalists? If so, could you name one?

-Are you aware of the celebrity “nude photo” hacking scandal? If so, could you name any of the celebrities involved?

The students’ answers revealed that current events about celebrity gossip is far more popular among some young Americans than more serious information.

While almost every student interviewed (29 of 30) could name one of the celebrities involved in the recent nude photo controversy, only four out of 30 were able to name one of the U.S. journalists recently beheaded by the Islamic State terror group. Likewise, just six of the 30 students interviewed were aware of the 9/11 anniversary.

YAF produced the video to bring awareness to its 9/11: Never Forget Project, an effort to memorialize 9/11 on campuses throughout the nation and remind students of the threat of radical Islam.

“With radical Islam continuing to terrorize the world, it is crucial that our young people and our schools remember the American lives lost and understand the challenges we face today,” a YAF spokesperson said.