Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 11 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Republican Leadership in Congress: Stupid is As Stupid Does

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 3 months ago

My apologies to all those Republican stalwarts out there, but I stopped identifying with the G.O.P. some time ago and now count myself primarily as a Conservative.

And when I see posts like this on Hot Air, I feel amply justified.

A couple key bits:

The congressional Super Committee is long gone, but the consequences of its failure will be felt by millions of Americans unless Congress addresses mandatory cuts that take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

A new study released today by economist Stephen S. Fuller of George Mason University and the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that 2.14 million U.S. jobs will disappear as a result of the Budget Control Act’s sequestration mandate. That would push the nation’s unemployment rate above 9 percent.

Automatic cuts totaling $1.2 trillion will hit the defense industry particularly hard. Defense-related jobs makes up about half of the lost jobs, according to the study. The report estimates losses for other sectors of the economy as well: 48,059 jobs in healthcare, 98,953 in construction, 473,250 in manufacturing. California, Virginia and Texas will fare worst.

And just who was it that agreed to the genius idea of a “Super Committee” and the “draconian” sequestration in the (all too predictable) event that the Super Committee failed to reach agreement?  Yep, those guys in leadership like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  Someone please remind me just why it was so clever of Boehner and McConnell to agree to this deal with the Democrats?  A deal that these very same people are now scrambling to escape and avoid like kids caught stealing from a candy store.   “Yeah, we did it, but we didn’t think we’d actually get punished for it or anything!”

And if the whole sequestration idea wasn’t bad enough, the particulars of the deal are just, downright horrible:

Cuts to America’s military are particularly alarming. The across-the-board cut of more than $500 billion over the next decade comes in addition to the $487 billion in cuts already proposed by President Obama for the Department of Defense. The Budget Control Act hits the military hardest.

Budget Control Act Sequestration Would Hit Defense Hardest

Chart produced by The Heritage Foundation based upon figures from the Congressional Budget Office.

These nitwit Republicans agreed to drastic spending cuts that barely touch the Entitlement Monster that is breaking the U.S. Treasury.

And why did the G.O.P. leadership do this?  Because they were afraid of forcing real and immediate spending cuts in 2011 as part of the debt ceiling “crisis.”

Anyone for a Conservative Party?   I don’t think America can afford the Stupid Party much longer.

The Vote Pump: The Sound of the Republic Being Flushed

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 9 months ago

Do yourself and the Republic a favor: find the time to watch the whole thing.

The Vote Pump

Beyond the overall point that Bill Whittle makes about the power of deficit spending to buy votes and ensure reelection of spendthrift politicians, this video by Whittle has a other worthwhile attributes:

1.  The video is an instant source of expertise on exactly what the numbers are in the Federal Budget, how much is being spent both in real dollars and as a percentage of the overall Budget.   We need this information as citizens and need to spread this information far and wide so the politicians have nowhere to hide.   These numbers are easily understood and give one of the best visualizations of the enormity of the debt problem we are facing.   The politicians in both parties are perversely determined to avoid making the spending cuts necessary because this video makes it abundantly clear that the size of the necessary cuts will be painful to many, many people.

2.  This video demonstrates the enormity of the Entitlement State. Notice that the actual dollars being spent on the so-called “discretionary” items in the Budget are relatively small compared to the enormous amounts needed to keep the Entitlement State (the so-called “mandatory spending”) afloat.    This is the A-1, Certified, Gargantuan, 16 trillion pound Gorilla in the room.   Democrats and Republicans can talk all they like about eliminating the Department of Education or cite the dollars spent on the Defense Department and foreign wars, but it is immediately obvious from this video that the real culprit in our insane Deficit spending is Entitlements.   The U.S. is borrowing over 40 cents of every dollar it spends and over 70% of that spending is going to Entitlements.

Yes, Federal agencies and departments need to be eliminated or severely cut back but those cuts will never be enough to take care of the Deficit problem.  Entitlements must be cut.

Note, too, that the cuts will have to occur now.   As much as I dislike Ron Paul’s rambling wreck of a foreign policy and his crazy, blame-America rants, he is one of the only politicians that is openly talking about reducing spending immediately in large amounts.   (Ron Paul falls off the rails, however, because he primarily talks as if cutting Defense spending will solve the problem whereas the video makes it clear that such spending is less than 20% of the total Budget).

If you listen carefully to every, other politician (including some of my favorites such as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin), they are all talking about cuts of $1 Trillion over ten years or more. That is only $100 billion each year.   Check the video and you will see that $100 billion is relative chicken feed against the enormity of the spending.  The U.S. literally cannot afford to take ten years to reduce this deficit.

This will require a fundamental change in the way Americans view the Federal government.   The vision of Franklin Roosevelt and JFK and Lyndon Johnson and, yes, George W. “Compassionate Conservatism” Bush has to be chucked in favor of States taking the primary responsibility for the welfare of their own citizens.   Such a change will require leaders who can give the public the truth about the nightmare we are facing.

3. This video shows how little it takes to actually run the Federal government. Take a look at the actual numbers cited by Whittle in the pie charts for Federal revenues.   He cites the total amount spent in Fiscal Year 2011 for the General Services Administration which is responsible for the assets and logistics of the Federal government.   That number is $700 million or 1/10th of 1% of the total Budget.   Until the last 100 years, the Federal government was able to function quite well without any personal income tax because the scope of the Federal government was something like 1/10th of 1% of what it is today.

The growth and increase in Federal programs, agencies, departments, jurisdiction and oversight in just 100 years is almost unimaginable.  Americans have been sold a bill of goods promising a utopian society where a big, central government could makes everyone happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.   It has taken 100 years to come to the realization that those promises were, however well intentioned, dangerous lies.

Battle Rages in D.C. Over Debt Ceiling: Time for Usual G.O.P. Surrender

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

If this post in Reuters is to be believed, roughly 46% of Americans are not paying attention to the debt ceiling war raging in D.C.   Given, however, that TCJ readers tend to be well informed and attentive to what is happening in the country and the world at large, I would guess that many of you have been paying attention.   I will confess here and now that I have been following it almost obsessively and things are reaching a fever pitch as the proverbial clock counts down to the fictional “zero hour” of August 2nd, the date where, supposedly, the federal government will run out of money.

Given that fever pitch, it is only right that I should throw some gas on the fire and go on record with some analysis and predictions.

Something profound happened in November 2010.   Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Independent or something else, a veritable, electoral tsunami swept the country in November with voters throwing out politicians who had been complicit with the Obama spending spree of 2009 and 2010.    One message, extremely clear and simple, rang out:  stop!  Stop the spending and the borrowing that fuels the spending.   Republicans campaigned across the country on the message of reining in spending and tackling the exploding federal debt.   And they got elected largely on that basis.  There should be no reason, therefore, that politicians and pundits in Washington, D.C. voice such shock and disbelief that the Republican-controlled House, for seemingly the first time in history, is seriously concerned about spending and, in particular, enabling another mountain of spending by raising the debt ceiling.

Consider, too, that what we are seeing in the debt ceiling battle is the direct result and culmination of the battle over the 2011 Budget (or lack thereof).  Recall that the prior Congress had not passed any sort of budget (as required by law) in 2011 but had, instead been functioning according to “continuing resolutions” that avoided a government shutdown.   When Republicans took the House in January 2011, they let it be known that the continuing resolutions had to end.  Unfortunately for all of us, the deal brokered by Rep. John Boehner that allowed a 2011 Budget to pass did little or nothing to cut actual, 2011 spending and it was clear to everyone that the real opportunity to effect spending reforms and budget reductions would occur when the debt ceiling was reached.   As James Pethokoukis observed in July, the crisis is not a government “default” but just another, looming shutdown based on a lack of funds to keep all parts of government operating.   The chart attached to his article convincingly lays out the revenues coming in to the federal government versus the outlays that come due in August 2011:

That is the context in which we find ourselves.

As I study the news and opinion articles, I have been impressed with a few politicians who seem to get it.   One of them, elected in the 2010 Wave, is Senator Marco Rubio from Florida.   Here is the link to a July 30th speech he gave in the Senate that is stellar (Warning– it is a 14-minute clip, but is well worth the time):

Sen Rubio re debt ceiling on YouTube

Rubio gets it.

He understands that the issue confronting Congress is so much bigger than a so-called “government default.”   Rubio gives a very good, initial summary of the actual problem:  the Federal government takes in roughly $180 Billion each month but spends roughly $300 Billion each month, forcing the U.S. to borrow something like 40 cents of every dollar it spends.    This is not difficult to understand for anyone who has had to manage their own finances, let alone run a business.   The attitude in the Capitol that such an imbalance between income and expenditures is in any way tolerable (and there are many in D.C. who think the U.S. is not spending enough) tells us everything we need to know about the sick culture of our national leadership.

But Rubio goes beyond just the summary of the problem writ large.   He precisely points out the deliberate inaction of the Senate and White House in refusing to propose any plan of any kind that would address the collision with the $14.2 Trillion debt ceiling, a collision that has been clearly anticipated since at least January 2011.   Rubio, in fact, accuses the Senate majority and the White House of manufacturing the “debt crisis”  by sheer political calculation that the American people will hold Republicans responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised.   This “crisis,” in other words, is only a crisis because Obama and Reid wanted a crisis.

Contrast Rubio’s remarks with the question posed by Senator John Kerry at about the 7:40 mark in the video.   Kerry was apparently miffed that Rubio would dare to quote then Senators Obama and Biden in 2006 and Sen. Harry Reid in 2007, all of whom spoke against and voted against raising the debt ceiling then.   Kerry sought to distinguish those embarrassing votes in 2006 and 2007 by pointing out that their votes did not really matter because the debt ceiling increase was being approved by large margins at the time.

Does everyone catch the implication here?  Kerry is giving away the game.  In essence, Kerry is saying that you cannot take anything said by Obama, Biden or Reid seriously in 2006 and 2007 because, afterall, everyone knew that the debt ceiling was going to be raised so there was no harm done by them voting against it or railing against it.   All that talk in 2006 and 2007 was so much puffery, no one took it seriously.   Now, it’s serious.   So anyone who speaks out against raising the debt ceiling must really mean it and that means, ipso facto, that such a person is a “terrorist” or a “suicide bomber.”   Kerry even went so far as to call those, prior votes and speeches “truly symbolic.”

At the end, Rubio makes the most important point of all, that the real crisis facing the U.S. is its apparent inability to reduce spending to a point that the bond rating agencies consider sustainable.   This is the real threat to Americans, not the manufactured crisis of hitting the predetermined debt ceiling.   The debt ceiling could be raised $2.4 Trillion dollars tomorrow (as the President has demanded) but that does not solve anything.   Until there is a plan in place that fundamentally alters the spending trajectory of the U.S., the rating agencies have made it clear that the U.S. is on the brink of losing its AAA rating which will inevitably lead to higher interest on the Federal debt and have a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy as states and lenders are forced to pay more for borrowing.  Rubio likens the situation to a house on fire and the calls by Senator Kerry and others to compromise make no sense when the compromises do nothing to extinguish the flames burning down the house.

Now comes the thoroughly disheartening news via Hot Air.   Apparently the professional politicians are on the verge of letting the American House burn down.

According to Ed Morrisey, citing an ABC News report:

ABC reports this morning that Congressional leaders have already begun briefing their caucuses on the eleventh-hour deal that emerged from the White House last night.  Jonathan Karl notes that the deal is contingent on getting enough support from each House caucus to form a majority, and in the Senate to avoid a filibuster.  We’ll come back to that in a moment, but Karl also updates the story on the deal.  The topline numbers are apparently $2.4 trillion in matching spending cuts and debt-ceiling raises instead of $2.8 trillion, but now both are split into two parts:

The current framework would give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two parts: roughly half of it now and the balance at the end of the year.

Each increase would be subject to a Congressional resolution of disapproval.

If Congress voted to disapprove that increase, however, the President could veto their disapproval.

The AP reported earlier on the $2.4 trillion number, too, although they say the cuts will be “slightly more” than the debt-ceiling boost.  That’s still enough to get Barack Obama past the 2012 election, but not by much. It guarantees that the debt ceiling will be a 2012 election issue, although by now that was a given anyway.

However, the added McConnell wrinkle is interesting — and potentially a big win for Republicans.  Essentially, Republicans get to claim credit for the cuts while laying blame for the debt increases on Obama.  If they “disapprove,” Obama will veto the disapproval and end up owning all of the political baggage for the debt-ceiling increases.  That’s a steep price to pay for Obama just to protect himself through the next election, although he could turn it on its ear and refuse to veto the second increase disapproval and force this fight all over again.  That would, however, put the country back in “crisis” mode, and that would still be all on Obama.

Despite the triumphant tone of Morrisey’s post, the reality is that Obama gets to borrow at least $2.4 TRILLION more dollars (although it remains to be seen whether there will be enough investors willing to toss another gigantic load of money into the U.S. black hole without higher interest rates or whether the Treasury will be forced, yet again, to buy up some portion of the offered bonds itself) while the so-called “cuts” seem to be the same, phony 10-year reductions in spending that will never materialize.

Morrisey provides more details on the pending deal here:

  • 2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called super committee.
  • The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.
  • The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.
  • If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
  • No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberations.
  • Note too that the second round of cuts appears to be guaranteed; if the Super Commission can’t agree on specific and precise reductions, then an across-the-board cut goes into place.

I expect plenty of hyperventilating at the term “Super Committee,” but it’s basically the kind of ad hoc committee that Congress can authorize at any time.  It sounds a lot like the BRAC process used by Congress to identify military bases for closure.  The prohibition on net tax revenue gains is a big, big win for Republicans if it holds.  I should note that Jimmie Bise in his post believes that the second round of cuts might be actual cuts; if so, then this is an even bigger win.

Again, the celebrating is way too premature.  Once again, legislation is being considered without any public debate or open discussion.  It is all being hashed out in private, back-room deals and then presented, at the last minute, under a pressure cooker of phony, Media-inspired hysteria, for a take-it-or-leave-it vote— yeah, the kind of vote where you are burned at the stake as a heretic if you vote “no.”   Will anyone have read this deal by the time for voting, or will this be another Obamacare monstrosity that has to be passed, as Pelosi put it, “to know what is in it.”  We all know how these surprises turn out.

But wait, Ed Morrisey says that there may be a requirement in the deal that if the spending cuts recommended by the Super-Duper Committee are not adopted by the end of December 2011, then the House and Senate have to at least vote on a balanced budget amendment (or perhaps actually pass a balanced budget amendment to send to the States to approve) or automatic cuts will be made to Defense spending and Medicaid (among other things).   The details are slim, but the cuts to Defense have been rumored to be draconian and far worse than the cuts to Medicaid which would only affect care providers and not the beneficiaries.   How’s that for a deal?   Republicans get to choose which poison they most prefer.  Hooray!

There is no way that the Democrat-controlled Senate is going to approve a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.   Why should they?  The only penalty is the terrible, awful “cuts” to Medicaid that come out of the hide of the evil doctors, insurance companies and drug companies.   I can hear the Democrats whining to the gullible Republicans in Bre’r Rabbit fashion, “Oh please, please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

Just to show that I can do more than complain about the bad deals the GOP is considering, I will offer at least a partial, near-term solution here.

If the Republicans cannot bear to stick to the three, different bills they have passed (the 2012 Budget, the Cut, Cap and  Balance Bill and the last version passed in the House, dubbed “Boehner 3.0″), at the very least, the Republicans should pass a short-term (read here 60-day) increase in the debt ceiling that will get the government through the rest of the 2011 Fiscal year that ends on September 30th.    Use that additional time to keep hammering away for real, immediate, tangible, meaningful cuts to the 2012 Budget.  If the Senate and White House will not agree to substantial and immediate cuts in the 2012 Budget, the House should start passing individual appropriation bills, starting with the most politically volatile items first:  Defense, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and, perhaps, unemployment benefits.   At the same time, the House can pass small, incremental debt ceiling increases that will require some level of immediate cuts to government spending— enough, in other words to pay the debt service and, say, 90% of the government expenses for the next 60 days, but not 100%.   It will be up to the Senate and Obama to ignore or vote these bills down, but at least the House will have taken concrete steps to provide spending reductions.  The House can continue to pass these bills with actual spending reductions that will reduce the need for future debt ceiling increases.   It will also short-circuit the inevitable “crisis” of a government shutdown when the Democrats refuse to pass a 2012 Budget in the Senate and then demand another continuing resolution.

This, by the way, is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Obama, Reid and Boehner that calls for spending reductions over 10 years.   Forget these 10 year plans! This is not the Soviet Union.  Even the Politburo was not delusional enough to think that they could come up with ten year plans.  Five years of fantasy at a time was enough for them.

To conclude this nice, little rant, it is just pathetic to consider that the GOP is on the verge of caving in, yet again, to panic legislation.   If this happens, it is time for fiscally conservative Americans to seriously consider ditching the Republican party in favor of a third party.  Or, rather, a second party since the GOP is, for all legislative purposes, no different than the Democrats.

The Great Decline of 2011

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 3 months ago

After tracking the news swirling around the debt ceiling debate, it has been a challenge to remain upbeat about the prospects for America’s future.  But when I saw the Powerline blog write-up on a Wall Street Journal Online opinion piece (subscribers only) by Fred Fleitz about the CIA’s latest thinking about Iranian nuclear ambitions, the camel’s back officially broke.

If Fleitz is to be believed, the CIA and other intelligence agencies are prepared to issue another National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that, essentially, reaffirms the ridiculous (and politically motivated) finding that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons activities in 2003.

According to Fleitz, who has read the estimate, the American intelligence community stands by its collective assessment, first made in 2007, that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not restarted it since:

In February, the 17 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community issued a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate updating their 2007 assessment. That estimate had been politicized by several officials who feared how President George W. Bush might respond to a true account of the Iranian threat. It also was affected by the wave of risk aversion that has afflicted U.S. intelligence analysis since the 2003 Iraq War. Intelligence managers since then have discouraged provocative analytic conclusions, and any analysis that could be used to justify military action against rogue states like Iran.

I read the February 2011 Iran NIE while on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee. I believe it was poorly written and little improvement over the 2007 version.

Fleitz baldly states that, in pre-publication review of his column, the intelligence agencies censored his criticisms of the NIE analysis, including his serious concern that it manipulated intelligence evidence.

It is so patently ludicrous to conclude that Iran halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003 and has not resumed that work that I can only wonder whether Tehran is making deposits in the bank accounts of the intelligence officers.  No one who has paid any attention to the progress of the Iranian nuclear program can have any doubts about their intentions and substantial efforts to have a working nuclear weapon in short order.

Surveying the American landscape in 2011, we are a nation beset by “enemies without, enemies within.”   And we render ourselves defenseless to both.

We have a political party that refuses to stop spending hundreds of billions of dollars that we do not have regardless of the certain fiscal collapse approaching.   And we have an intelligence community that has completely lost its sense of direction, seeking to manipulate policy choices by elected leaders rather than giving an honest assessment of the threats facing our nation.

This cannot continue.   And it won’t for much longer.

Gates Indicts NATO While U.S. Stands in the Dock

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

A fascinating speech by outgoing Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on June 10 in Berlin at the Security and Defense Agenda think tank.

From this AP article:

BRUSSELS (AP) – America’s military alliance with Europe – the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades – faces a “dim, if not dismal” future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a blunt valedictory address.

In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

“Future U.S. political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he told a European think tank on the final day of an 11-day overseas journey.

The Washington Post summarized it this way:

BERLIN — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates rebuked some of America’s staunchest allies Friday, saying the United States has a “dwindling appetite” to serve as the heavyweight partner in the military order that has underpinned the U.S. relationship with Europe since the end of World War II.

In an unusually stinging speech, made on his valedictory visit to Europe before he retires at the end of the month, Gates condemned European defense cuts and said the United States is tired of engaging in combat missions for those who “don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources … to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said in an address to a think tank in Brussels.

There are several points worth noting in Gates’ speech. The most obvious one is aptly noted in both articles: European members of NATO have been starving their defense budgets for years and it is finally becoming painfully, no, embarrassingly clear to everyone by the Afghanistan and Libya campaigns. The AP story notes the contrast between the “mightiest military alliance in history” and the patent failure of this alliance to bring about any kind of victory against a third-rate, tin-pot dictator in Libya:

To illustrate his concerns about Europe’s lack of appetite for defense, Gates noted the difficulty NATO has encountered in carrying out an air campaign in Libya.

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” he said.

Is it any wonder that the Taliban have adopted a strategy of attrition? The only, credible military force in the field seems to be the U.S., the Canadians and the British and the latter, two have already indicated that they will be pulling out of Afghanistan entirely in the near future.

Add to this the assessment by Gates that, while all NATO member countries voted in favor of intervention in Libya, fewer than half those members have made any contribution toward the effort.

On a political level, the problem of alliance purpose in Libya is even more troubling, he said.

“While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission,” he said. “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”

Afghanistan is another example of NATO falling short despite a determined effort, Gates said.

He recalled the history of NATO’s involvement in the Afghan war – and the mistaken impression some allied governments held of what it would require of them.

“I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance – more akin to the Balkans,” he said, referring to NATO peacekeeping efforts there since the late 1990s. “Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

So, to sum up what we have learned from Secretary Gates, the chasm between the military and political capabilities of the U.S. and its NATO allies has become so large that, for all practical purposes, NATO has become a toothless organization that cannot even fight a meager enemy like Qaddafi for any length of time without substantial help from the U.S. and cannot be counted on to supply meaningful levels of troops in hot zones like Afghanistan. And despite the strong punch delivered by Gates, at least some in Europe, according to The Washington Post are glad that it is being delivered:

[Jonathan]Eyal, of London’s Royal United Services Institute, said the speech would be “very welcome” in Britain and France, however, because “privately this is what officials have articulated for years.” Gates “identified the key problem, which remains Germany,” he said. “You can argue that there are many countries that do not contribute their fair share, but most of the others don’t matter, and smaller ones would likely fall into line if Germany did.”

Eyal said: “It’s a shame politicians say what they think only when they are about to depart, but the Europeans needed this cold shower, and if it’s up to Gates to administer it, so be it.”

The speech amounted to “an outburst of frustration that is bigger than bottom line of defense cuts,” he said. “It’s about the lethargic way the Europeans walk on the world stage,” lacking a sense of urgency and thinking that “at the end of the day the Americans will always be there and do Europe’s bidding.”

But the speech “hasn’t caused a great rift,” Eyal said. “Deep down, there is no one in Europe that doesn’t think that what Gates said is absolutely the truth. No one argues he’s exaggerating problem. It’s not a rift. It’s worse. It’s an act of indifference.” The missing reaction in Europe, he said, is to reconsider burden-sharing and “how the Europeans can contribute more to the common pot.”

All this is very well and needed to be said. But I cannot help but speculate that perhaps Gates had more than just the Europeans in mind when he made these statements.

Could it be that Gates was placing a shot across the bow of those in the U.S. (both in and outside of the Obama Administration) calling for reductions in U.S. military spending? Looking at Gates’ remarks as a rebuke to U.S. policymakers makes equal sense.

How did Europe become so militarily defenseless? It happened as an irresistible, default choice when European capitals opted for heavy social spending at a time of declining birthrates and economic productivity.

This is the very same choice that is facing the U.S. today. The U.S. Congress is at this very moment locked in a bitter struggle against an inescapable reality: there is simply not enough money coming into the U.S. Treasury to fund the present, enormous welfare entitlements and a robust military. The decision must be made and it must be made now to either gut our military or seriously reform the welfare state as we know it. In all likelihood, given the rate at which the budget deficit is growing (due in large part to a terrible compromise on the 2011 Budget and less-than-expected revenues from a stalling economy), the markets and foreign lenders will not be content to wait until the 2012 elections for a responsible plan to control the deficit.

So, whatever satisfaction we get, whatever approval we may have for Secretary Gates’ jabs at NATO members for their pathetic military budgets, the U.S. seems to be taking the very same road as Europe. There are already too many in Congress and in the political class class who gladly concede that the Defense budget should be subjected to deep cuts in order to preserve our welfare state. Here is a typical example from Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul. While this is expected from Democrats, even “conservatives” have been making similar noises. See this piece on Haley Barbour for example.

This is not to say that any cuts to the Defense budget are out of the question. The Captain’s Journal has long advocated smarter spending, as with the proposed, new landing craft for the Marines. Savings can certainly be found in better management and prioritizing. In light of Gates’ speech, it is worth re-examining the costs of keeping troops stationed in Europe versus the benefits of having troops pre-deployed close to the Middle East and to Russia. But, in the end, these savings will never amount to enough to reduce the Federal deficit in any meaningful way or balance the Federal budget.

The only way to do that is to either gut Defense or gut Entitlements.

I do not believe that the U.S. can make moderate cuts to both for the simple reason that the trajectory of Entitlement spending is such that it will eat up the entire Federal tax revenues by 2049. As shown in this chart from The Heritage Foundation (click to enlarge):

The U.S. faces now the very same choices that the Europeans faced some 50 years ago: guns or butter; continue funding social spending or provide for a credible military. We simply cannot do both and, as noted above, it is no longer possible to delay the decision. If we elect to cut Defense spending (and it will mean significant cuts) there should be no illusion about the results. We will soon be in the same position as Britain and France, sharing aircraft carriers; we will be unable to protect any national interest beyond our borders for any real length of time; we will be consigned to watching as thugs and fanatics remake the world into one of their liking. And you can be sure that such a world will not be to our liking. Unlike the Europeans, however, there will be no United States to come to the rescue.

The only answer, in the end, is to radically alter the welfare society that we have become.   Even if we were to gut Defense spending, that would be merely a sacrificial lamb to the ever-growing appetite of entitlements.  For proof we need only look to Europe to see that their decades of sacrificing Defense for social benefits has left them now facing the stark reality that there is nothing left to cut except the social spending.  But any attempt to do so results in riots and anarchy by a people too long accustomed to pampering and privilege.    God forbid that the U.S. reaches that stage of decay.
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Entitlement Spending: Time For Feds to Punt to the States

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 5 months ago

According to this article in The Washington Examiner, the prospects for the 2012 Federal Budget are bleak.

There are just 10 weeks remaining until an Aug. 2 debt ceiling deadline set by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It’s a seemingly generous amount of time but too short in the eyes of some lawmakers, who are wrestling with how deeply to cut the budget and whether to increase the debt ceiling, the amount of money the government is allowed to borrow.

Scores of Republicans have pledged to vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling if spending is not cut drastically, imperiling the measure in Congress and possibly forcing the government to default on its loans for the first time.

Despite months of debate, only one proposal has been advanced to address spending cuts, and that plan — written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — may come to the Senate floor for a vote this week.

Ryan’s proposal would reduce spending by $6 trillion over 10 years and reform Medicare and Medicaid. But it isn’t expected to muster the 60 votes needed to pass, mostly because senators, including Republicans, are fearful of tackling popular entitlement programs with the 2012 elections looming.

The Federal Government is deadlocked, plain and simple.

According to every conventional way of approaching entitlement spending, it is an impossible conundrum.  Conservatives have many ideas about reforming or replacing such programs, but Republicans refuse to embrace them for fear of being tarred as heartless killers of old ladies and the poor.   Liberals know in their hearts that these programs cannot, under any realistic scenario, continue as they are, but no Democrat is willing to even consider mild reforms such as the one posed by Rep. Paul Ryan for fear of being hacked to death by the Left as a sell-out or traitor to the People.   So Republicans dither and delay while Democrats (and their media allies) demagogue the issue and distort the facts.

In fact, entitlement spending demonstrates, perhaps better than any other issue, the inherent weakness and fatal attraction in a central government that has badly strayed from its original, limited role.   There is simply no way for the Federal government to make the required changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that will keep the Federal Government from falling off the financial cliff with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House and Republicans in control of the House.   And it is not an option to wait until the 2012 elections possibly give control of all three branches to the Republicans.    America’s fiscal problems will not stay put until then (and Republicans may not be trustworthy on spending reforms considering the last time they held all three branches).

With this impasse in view and the very real prospect that the Democrat-controlled Senate will go yet another year without passing a fiscal budget, I offer this suggestion as a way for Democrats and Republicans alike to escape their chains:  turn entitlement spending over the States.

This is the perfect situation for punting the football and it makes absolute and total sense.   It is the right thing to do.   The ball is deep in our own territory, it is fourth and 50 yards to go and the coaches cannot make up their minds on any suitable play to call.   “Punting” to the States is the only answer.

“Punting” in this context means that the Federal government recognizes it is simply not in a good position to administer programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and, worse, is completely incapable of controlling them.    The Federal government is far too big, too prone to waste and inefficiency and, most importantly, was never intended by the Founders to occupy the role of National Philanthropist.    “Punting” means, too, that the States are far better equipped in many ways to decide what level of care and support to accord to their citizens and implement the corresponding programs.

So, for example, if California wants to endow all of its seniors with generous retirement and health benefits, let them do so as long as the burden for funding those lavish benefits falls squarely on the shoulders of Californians alone.

Consider entitlement spending in terms of a business:  each State has to decide what benefits it can and cannot afford to dole out.  If the State is too generous, it will eventually go “out of business” as millions move in to enjoy the generosity while millions more move out as their taxes inevitably skyrocket.   If a State is too stingy, it will cease being an attractive place to work and live.  Between the extremes is an enormous range of policy options and solutions that can be crafted to fit the unique circumstances inherent in every State.  And, since most States are forced to balance their budgets each year by law, the State government will undertake entitlement spending with sobriety.

How could it work?

Such a change could not be done overnight, but it need not be terribly complex either. The first step would be along the lines of what Rep. Paul Ryan suggests in his proposal for Medicaid reform:  block grants to the States.   Florida, for example, might get a much larger grant based on 2010 Census numbers of its elderly population (and specifically its indigent population) than a demographically younger state.  According to the 2000 Census, Utah is the “youngest” state, i.e., the one with the smallest percentage of elderly persons, while Florida is the oldest.

The block grants should also factor in existing poverty levels and not just the percentage of elderly in a given State.  West Virginia has one of the higher percentages of elderly people but it also has one of the poorest populations.  Other factors could be considered as well, such as populations of disabled or other, at-risk populations.

With this grant money, each state can use it as they see fit to provide for their at-risk populations.

This kind of block granting has the unique advantage of incentivizing better care for these at-risk populations.  Say, for example, that Maryland develops a better, more efficient way of educating handicapped children.  (This happens to be true).  As this fact is known, more parents with handicapped children will move to Maryland which, in turn, will warrant more grant aid to Maryland to coincide with the higher, handicapped population.  Resources get allocated to those locations that do the best job of serving their populations at the local level.   Conversely, if another State does a terrible job with its care for handicapped children, then those parents will have every incentive to move to Maryland rather than remain in sub-optimal care elsewhere.   A key feature would have to be some method for tracking the subject populations in each State to determine the block grant levels.

But can States be trusted with a large, no-strings-attached, grant of money?  To continue the example, what if Maryland chooses to use the billions in Federal aid to plug the notorious gap in its annual budget?  I submit that even a liberal, tax and spend haven like Maryland would never do this precisely because the Governor and state legislature are far more sensitive and accountable to Maryland voters than the U.S. Congressional delegation will ever be.   Consider that, under the 2000 Census, the average Congressional district was comprised of 646,952 persons– far too many persons for individual citizens to hold the politicians accountable.  Politicians are much more easily held accountable to their local constituency simply by virtue of the smaller numbers contained in each, State legislative district.  It will, of course, be up to each State to decide how to best use the grant money and tough decisions will need to be made, but those decisions will be made far better at the state level where it is far more difficult for AARP to mobilize its members and bully politicians.

Giving entitlement spending to the States also makes sense in terms of perspective.    When we look at Social Security spending, for example, at a national level, the sheer size and scope of the spending is completely disorienting.   When speaking of hundreds of billions of dollars, it is nearly impossible to put the choices into concrete terms: who are these “millions of elderly” who will starve or go without medications?  Why can’t we afford another $200 million for this program when we are already spending $800 billion?   But when the debate is put at the state level, and more importantly, MY state level, things become much more focused.   Supposing that Maryland receives $6 billion in grant money to cover social security, medicare and medicaid for Maryland citizens for the next year, how should that money be used?  Am I willing to pay more in state taxes in order to ensure, for example, that 65 year-old Aunt Mary gets a social security check every month even though I know that she has an adequate retirement income from the Maryland Teachers Pension?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  And will Aunt Mary join in marching on the state capitol to get that extra money even if it means higher taxes for me and her neighbors, friends, colleagues?

Some States will give that money to Aunt Mary and raise taxes to do so.  Others may not.  In the end, however, it will be far easier to come to grips with the many issues involved when we are dealing with specific populations in our own state and with the direct ramifications of those decisions in our own state.

Consider, too, the enormous savings to the Federal budget when the huge bureaucracies associated with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are allowed to shrivel up and die.  The people employed at these federal agencies are not, necessarily, joining a bread line, however.   With the block granting of funds to each State it is likely that persons with pension and healthcare experience will be in demand (hopefully by private firms that provide services rather than bloated State bureaucracies, but that is another topic).  In any event, a reduction in federal personnel should be welcome relief to taxpayers everywhere.

Finally, the greatest benefit of transferring entitlements to the States is the effect upon Federal power and interference in the lives of ordinary citizens.   When the Federal government holds the power of health care in its hands, it induces an unhealthy obeisance to the central power.   This power needs to be split up among the 50 states so that ordinary citizens are empowered to hold their State officials accountable and rein in abuses.    This principle can, of course, be applied across a wide spectrum of federal activities.

Hopefully the politicians in Washington, D.C. will pass the buck in this instance which would, ironically, be the right thing for once.

“Nightmare” Budget Scenario From NY Times: The Sum of Liberals’ Fears

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 7 months ago

Professor N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard) has a piece in The New York Times‘ business section that is intended to impress upon us all the frightful prospects that await the U.S. in the future if immediate action is not taken on the federal debt now.  (Hat Tip to PowerLine)

As a disclaimer I must say that I do consider immediate action to rein in federal spending a critical piece of saving America’s future and the consequences for not doing so truly are fearful, but reading Professor Mankiw’s list of horrors brings to mind commonsense policies rather than doomsday.

Mankiw writes the column from the perspective of a U.S. president in the year 2026.   The article is the text of the president’s speech to the nation.  So let’s have a little fun and put ourselves in the audience for this 2026 presidential address.

Here is the calamitous news that the president is forced to give to the nation:

Yesterday, I returned from a meeting at the International Monetary Fund in its new headquarters in Beijing. I am pleased to report some good news. I have managed to secure from the I.M.F. a temporary line of credit to help us through this crisis.

(I like this bit about the HQ being moved to Beijing.  It fits the Times’ recurrent fantasy that China is the paragon of economic and political progress, notwithstanding that China has more and deeper challenges to its future than America ever will).

This loan comes with some conditions. As your president, I have to be frank: I don’t like them, and neither will you. But, under the circumstances, accepting these conditions is our only choice.

OK, here it comes.  The terrible, awfable, excruciating cuts…. wait for it….

We have to cut Social Security immediately, especially for higher-income beneficiaries. Social Security will still keep the elderly out of poverty, but just barely. [Emphasis added].

Nooooooooo!  High-income beneficiaries may see a “cut” in their social security benefits???  How will they live without that unneeded income?  How will they cope with the thought of having paid into what they knew was a rotten system with negative returns on their investment that had no, real prospect of ever paying them back what was paid in?  The system that they chose to keep in place all those years by voting for Democrats that continually denied that there was even a problem with the system and obstructed and demagogued every attempt to reform it???  I hope it doesn’t get worse than this.

We have to limit Medicare and Medicaid. These programs will still provide basic health care, but they will no longer cover many expensive treatments. Individuals will have to pay for these treatments on their own or, sadly, do without.

Arghhhhhhh!  The pain!  “Limit” Medicare and Medicaid??? They will only provide “basic health care” and “no longer cover many expensive treatments” ???  Cruel world!  We will be expected to actually pay for something ourselves or do without?  This sounds agonizingly like personal responsibility!  I can’t expect my family and friends to help with something like my health care when it is clearly the responsibility of the federal government to provide me with every treatment and drug into eternity!  What about healthcare being my right?

We have to cut health insurance subsidies to middle-income families. Health insurance will be less a right of citizenship and more a personal responsibility.

Curses!!! There’s that word, “personal responsibility” !  No subsidies for the middle class?  What’s next?  Are they going to stop handing out free bread and eliminate the circuses at the Coliseum??

We have to eliminate inessential government functions, like subsidies for farming, ethanol production, public broadcasting, energy conservation and trade promotion.

The world is truly ending!  Eliminate farming subsidies?  Doesn’t the gubbmint know that farmers can’t survive on the record-high prices being paid for corn, soybean and other crops?  Don’t they know that the world food shortage means that farmers need those subsidies more than ever??   And ethanol…we can’t live without that!  Even if it does reduce the world food supply and costs far more in energy to produce than the energy released, it is so…GREEN and earth-friendly and makes us feel good that we’re doing the responsible thing rather than sending that corn to the starving people in Africa.   And no more public broadcasting?  Who will give me my liberal-biased news (besides ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, the AP, Reuters, AFP, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The LA Times…).   No more money for energy conservation?  Really?  How will Americans know how to conserve energy on their own without someone to tell them how?  Those bills I get from the utility company are so complicated.

We will raise taxes on all but the poorest Americans. We will do this primarily by broadening the tax base, eliminating deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Employer-provided health insurance will hereafter be taxable compensation.

Horrors!  It’s simply outrageous to think that more than 50% of U.S. citizens should pay anything in taxes.  This almost sounds like the nutty ideas of the “Far Right” all those years ago who wanted to restructure the tax code so that everyone enjoyed a lower, simpler flat tax without needing a high-paid CPA to do their taxes.  And those employer-sponsored health plans have been so vital to keeping down costs, too!  Taxing these might actually force Americans to switch to a model for health care that would make sense and be affordable– the villainy!!

We will increase the gasoline tax by $2 a gallon. This will not only increase revenue, but will also address various social ills, from global climate change to local traffic congestion.

Thank God!  Finally this president is talking sense.  It is way past time to crank up the gasoline tax another $2 per gallon.  I’ve always thought those tiny, little Smart cars were so cute.  Now everyone will have to drive them.   And I hear they have an optional drive train installed— pedals.  So cute!   And with that extra $2 per gallon, the federal government will know just how to spend that money curing the “various social ills.”   Yes, like “global climate change.”   Even though it is the year 2026 and none of the things the global warming scientists predicted have happened — massive crop failures, all the coastal cities flooded out and the polar bears drowned– we just know that one day global climate change is going to kill us all, so why not $3 or $4 per gallon tax?

AS I have said, these changes are repellant to me. When you elected me, I promised to preserve the social safety net. I assured you that the budget deficit could be fixed by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, and by increasing taxes on only the richest Americans. But now we have little choice in the matter.

Wow!  I just had an incredible feeling of de ja vu listening to you, Mr. President.  Here it is 2026 but I am almost sure that I heard some, other presidential candidate promise that all our problems could be fixed simply by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and by re-distributing the wealth of those greedy, evil, rich people– let’s not even call them “Americans”;  real Americans don’t get rich unless they are the right kind of rich people who live in L.A. and donate small portions of their money to causes like saving the California Crested Booby-Hatch or promoting the rights of pedophiles.

It’s OK, Mr. President, I see now that you had no idea that being president of a big country like the U.S. would be so hard and I understand that you don’t have any choice but to make these terrible, awfable cuts.

But maybe, if you have the time, could you look into closing Guantanamo?

The G.O.P. And the Federal Budget: Piecemeal Approach Is The Key

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 7 months ago

Peter Ferrara has an opinion piece at Pajamas Media that urges the Republican leadership in the House to “get over” their fear of a government shutdown and get on with meaningful cuts to the budget.  Ferrara urges Rep. John Boehner:

The Republican leadership is losing their own base by displaying too much of a ready willingness to compromise, while Obama and the Democrats are not losing any support from their spending addicted political machine. The Republicans need to go on the offensive to reverse this political dynamic.

They must pass a continuing resolution (CR) for the rest of this fiscal year, which goes to September 30, with at least their original $100 billion in budget cuts for the year. No more 2 or 3 week extensions. Then fan out across the country and take their case to the people

Ferrara sees the fight playing out in Republicans’ favor:

That budget needs to inspire the grassroots by taking spending for every budget line item, not just discretionary spending, back to 2007 budget levels, except for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and of course interest on the national debt. That was just 4 years ago and America survived just fine then at those levels of federal spending. That would save roughly $500 billion in year one, and provide the foundation for balancing the entire budget within a reasonable time. The House should pass appropriations bills to implement this budget, and then again fan out across the country and take its case to the people.

This would frame the issue in the Republicans’ favor, for to resist them President Obama, Harry Reid, and the rest of the Democrats would have to publicly fight for higher federal spending, deficits, and debt. The Tea Party would then have its target clearly exposed.

If the Democrats can’t get their act together to pass a reasonable CR for this year and appropriations bills for next year that put the federal budget on a path to balance within a reasonable time, then the government can just shut down and stay shut down until the election, when the people can decide. There are big virtues to shutting the Obama administration down until the election. No funding for the EPA to implement cap and trade by regulation. No funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement ObamaCare. ObamaCare implementation funding may have been buried in the ObamaCare bill itself. But without continuing funding to keep the administrative offices open at HHS and elsewhere, there will be no one functioning to carry the implementation out.

In a shutdown impasse, House Republicans can continue to pass CRs and appropriations bills to fund the government, and demand to know why the Democrats won’t do their job and fund essential government services. They can pass bills to fund particular sensitive parts of the government. One bill can fund the federal courts. Another bill can fund the Social Security Administration.

While there is much to recommend Ferrara’s approach, particularly with regards to favoring a bold approach in the face of fiscal crisis, there is still plenty of opportunity for the Democrats to continue their intransigence by insisting that they cannot vote for a bill that cuts this vital program or fails to fund that urgently-needed priority.   So long as the Republicans present complete budgets to the Democrats, the Democrats can simply pick them apart as mean-spirited, devastating to the poor and disadvantaged, etc…  Worse, Ferrara’s approach still allows Democrats to claim that the Republicans are forcing a government shutdown by insisting on “draconian” cuts that will hurt the common person.

But Ferrara may have, unintentionally, hit on the key to drastically reducing the size and expense of the federal government.   In fact, it is a better and smarter way, politically, to achieve significant reductions in spending and put the big-spenders in D.C. on the defensive.

Republicans in the House need to fund the federal government in a completely upside-down manner, and they need to do this not only for 2011 but also for 2012 and, perhaps, beyond until some mechanism is put into place that can reliably shrink the federal government.   The solution is to stop funding the government with comprehensive, unitary budgets and, instead, as Ferrara alludes to as a sort of desperate measure, fund the government in piecemeal fashion with bills that fund specific government departments or activities.

As things stand, the Republicans in the House have been hitting a brick wall when it comes to passing a comprehensive, 2011 budget.   As Ferrara well notes, this was the work of the previous Congress run by Nancy Pelosi and they failed miserably despite having majorities in both chambers and the White House.   Whether one believes that a government shutdown is disastrous or not, it is clear that the GOP approach so far is not going to achieve any serious reductions in the 2011 budget.   Ferrara cites the horrific deficit numbers, so I will not repeat them here.   The GOP House has been forced to agree to temporary, continuing resolutions to keep the government funded on an ad hoc basis.

Instead, Boehner should flip the funding process on its head and abandon the comprehensive approach.  Rather than presenting one, unitary budget with spending cuts reflected in it, Boehner should present to the floor of the House a whole series of individual bills that fund only those essential functions of government that must be funded.  And the funding bills should be presented in order of political priority.

So, for example, the first funding bill to come up would be funding for Social Security for the balance of the 2011 budget year.  Let the Democrats in the Senate try to explain to the public why they are voting against Social Security.   They will cave in a heartbeat.  Just as liberal Senators, in the end, caved in on voting for military funding for the Iraq war in 2007, although they denounced the war as a lost cause and a crime against humanity, they knew that they could not face re-election having voted to deny our soldiers and marines the materiel needed in the midst of combat.  Same thing applies here.

Boehner and the majority in the House would continue to line up single funding bills in similar fashion:  for the Defense Department, for Medicare, for Veterans Affairs, for payment of interest on the national debt — there goes that favorite argument about raising the debt ceiling.

In short, this is a historic opportunity for the GOP to fund only those federal activities that are clearly necessary and Constitutionally prescribed.

Everything else never gets a vote.

The Department of Education?  No funding bill.  Note how this completely changes the debate.  According to the Department of Education’s own website, the Department oversees a budget of slightly more than $69 Billion.  Presumably this includes not only the cost of personnel but also programs such as the popular Pell Grant.   According to Higher Ed Watch the Pell Grant program grew from $14 Billion in 2008 to over $40 Billion for 2011.   If the GOP House took a piecemeal approach to government funding, it could easily introduce a bill that would fund the Pell Grant program at the 2008 levels and package it as a block grant of sorts to the States for each State to administer, saving the costs of federal administration.

Notice how completely different this equation is from a budgeting approach that automatically includes the Department of Education within an overall budget but seeks to cut its funding down to $14 Billion.   It effectively de-couples those who want an ever-larger budget for the Department of Education from those who do not care as much about education but strongly resist any cuts to the Federal Communications Commission.   It effectively splits the forces of the big-spenders.

Even better, piecemeal budgeting allows the House to specifically fund those programs that it finds appropriate and necessary without funding programs that are wasteful, better left to the States or are contrary to Americans’ values and beliefs.   The funding bill can specifically tie release of the funds to only specific activities or programs.

And because the most politically sensitive issues are voted on and approved first, the big spenders are left with fewer and fewer effective funding issues to demagogue.   For instance, once the funding has been set for Social Security, Medicare, Defense, the Courts and other, similar services considered essential, how effective will it be for the big spenders to howl about the House’s refusal to introduce a bill that would renew the $2.4 Million funding to New York state for, “Determining the connectivity among and fine-scale habitat use within Atlantic sturgeon aggregation areas in the Mid-Atlantic Bight: Implications for gear restricted management areas to reduce bycatch.”

Think of this approach as an aquarium tank full of electric eels.   So long as the tank is full of water, the eels can multiply the effect of their sting.  But by passing appropriation bills individually, the water in the tank is steadily drained out.   By the time the major spending bills are passed there are only the puddles of water left along with the eels harmlessly writhing on the floor.

Perhaps the biggest problem all along has been the method used to fund the federal government.  So long as funding is done in large, amorphous chunks, billions of dollars of waste and unneeded programs can slip through and no one is willing to sink the entire budget for the sake of cutting funding for what amounts on an individual level to small amounts.   But once the spending is broken down into individual and more manageable amounts, it is an entirely different matter.

Another huge benefit of the piecemeal approach to funding is where it leaves Senate Democrats who form the majority.   With the House churning out spending bills by the dozen and sending them up to the Senate for approval, the burden of keeping essential government functions instantly passes to the Senate.   If Harry Reid somehow refuses or fails to schedule the bills for a vote or cannot get the votes to pass the bills, then it will be Reid who has caused a shutdown of that government agency.   It is true that Reid could try to modify the bill and call for a committee to reconcile the two bills, but it will be a steep uphill climb for the Democrats to argue in this economic atmosphere that there must be more spending or they will shut down Social Security completely.   The American people are clearly in the mood for fiscal restraint and reduced spending.   Republicans should welcome any opportunity that paints them as the responsible cost-cutter versus Democrat big spenders.

It is time for Rep. Boehner and the House to get to work.   The present Continuing Resolution expires on April 8th.   Between  now and then, the House can vote to fund the government but only those functions and departments which are deemed essential or allow Democrats to demagogue.   Everything else must rise or fall on its merits and only after severe scrutiny.

The worst thing that could happen is the House democrats take the familiar approach and hide out in Illinois until the adults in Congress finish up the job properly.   That’s tough luck for Illinois, but, then again, Illinois is a far, far cry from the land of Lincoln.   Perhaps they should change the state motto to “Refuge of Scoundrels.”

Help Wanted Fixing Budget Deficit (Spineless Need Not Apply)

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 9 months ago

Although this information has been out since last year, in view of the $1.5 Trillion Deficit for 2011 projected by the Congressional Budget Office, it is well worth taking another look at this, updated report from The Cato Institute (and the accompanying video), titled, “New CBO Numbers Re-Confirm that Balancing the Budget Is Simple with Modest Fiscal Restraint.”

(Hat tip to Instapundit).

Here is the money quote:

Many of the politicians in Washington, including President Obama during his State of the Union address, piously tell us that there is no way to balance the budget without tax increases. Trying to get rid of red ink without higher taxes, they tell us, would require “savage” and “draconian” budget cuts.

The Congressional Budget Office has just released its 10-year projections for the budget, so I crunched the numbers to determine what it would take to balance the budget without tax hikes. Much to nobody’s surprise, the politicians are not telling the truth…

The chart below shows that revenues are expected to grow (because of factors such as inflation, more population, and economic expansion) by more than 7 percent each year. Balancing the budget is simple so long as politicians increase spending at a slower rate. If they freeze the budget, we almost balance the budget by 2017. If federal spending is capped so it grows 1 percent each year, the budget is balanced in 2019. And if the crowd in Washington can limit spending growth to about 2 percent each year, red ink almost disappears in just 10 years.

When was the last time that our political leaders found the spine to balance the budget?

… I also examined how we balanced the budget in the 1990s and found that spending restraint was the key. The combination of a GOP Congress and Bill Clinton in the White House led to a four-year period of government spending growing by an average of just 2.9 percent each year.

Mr. Mitchell perhaps gives Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress too much credit.  Recall that the 1990′s involved huge cuts to the Defense budget (which came back to haunt us later).  The savings in Defense outlays was plowed into all sorts of domestic goodies for both Clinton and Congressional constituencies, but the fact remains that the politicians somehow managed to keep overall spending down even in the midst of increasing revenues from a booming economy.

The lesson seems clear:  get the Federal budget in line with revenues and start reducing the overall, Federal debt.   This seems to be experience elsewhere in the world:

We also have international evidence showing that spending restraint – not higher taxes – is the key to balancing the budget. New Zealand got rid of a big budget deficit in the 1990s with a five-year spending freeze. Canada also got rid of red ink that decade with a five-year period where spending grew by an average of only 1 percent per year. And Ireland slashed its deficit in the late 1980s by 10 percentage points of GDP with a four-year spending freeze.

No wonder international bureaucracies such as the International Monetary fund and European Central Bank are producing research showing that spending discipline is the right approach.

As Mr. Mitchell’s article notes, fixing the deficit is not a complicated matter.  It simply requires our elected leaders to say no to the ever-growing wish lists of the Left and the President.

Hopefully the new Congress is up to the task.


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