a little more unserious

One of my favorite movies is Dave. It is a movie where an average citizen (Dave) impersonates the President of the United States for a living, and is thrown into the real job due to some really shady political operatives.  (Quick aside – Kevin Kline is awesome in that role!) There’s a scene in that movie  in which Dave enlists his accountant friend Murray to cut the federal budget so that the homeless shelter wouldn’t have to close.  Murray looks at the budget and says something to the effect of if private citizens handled their books like this, they would be in jail. Yeah.  One of the items in that budget was an advertising campaign to bolster confidence in the American auto industry.   Dave asks the Congresscritter (I forget the name of the guy) to explain this.  He explains that this was designed to boost Americans’ confidence in a previous auto purchase.  So an ad campaign to make American feel better about cars they have already bought.  Mmhmm.

What I’m getting at here is there are many unnecessary expenditures in our budget even before we get to domestic spending.   If America is broke — and if we are not there yet, we are close — then why are we spending so much money on foreign aid?   Why are we validating the UN by providing a significant portion of its financing to its collection of Third-World despots, dictators, and countries who would seriously consider wiping US off the map along with Israel?  As for Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t pretend that an already-planned troop reduction should count toward a spending cut since this will happen regardless of which plan ends up passing in Congress.  So let’s not insist that all these things (some more important than others) are off the table when we have to make so many cuts to domestic spending to balance this budget.

And yes, it’s true – neither side is serious about making the cuts we need to make to get our fiscal house in order.  But at least the House Republicans are providing some level of opposition to the bipartisan failure that is the Boehner plan.  From the way Speaker Boehner explained his plan on every single talk radio station, it’s clear to me that proposed spending cuts don’t have any weight to them, and that’s the kind of cuts in this plan.  Also, those spending cuts are spread out over 10 years, which means that they won’t offset the rise in the debt ceiling that would happen in this agreement.    I’m not advocating irresponsibility.  Still, I find it difficult to trust Congress and the president when they insist that certain doom will befall America if we don’t raise the debt ceiling.  There will be no incentive to make those necessary cuts when the government knows that they have a limitless checkbook.    For these, and many other reasons,  I would encourage Congress and especially the Republicans to keep trying.  We aren’t there yet.

For more, read Reason’s excellent article here.

motives

Finally there appears to be some agreement that we must reduce spending. Unfortunately, the mindset of those who wish to do this is all wrong. I guess I shouldn’t care about the motives of the Democrats and Republicans here, as long as they do what we all want them to do. But it does matter, because even if we manage to get our fiscal house in order (and that’s no small task), if we do not quit wasting money on unnecessary things, we will quickly get back to the same problem we are in right now. When getting out of debt, one must change the behavior that led to the fiscal crisis they were in. I know this first hand. Why is this concept so difficult for the White House and Congress to grasp?

Read the following quote from President Obama and you tell me whether he understands this concept:

If youre a progressive that cares about investments in Head Start and student loan programs and medical research and infrastructure, Mr. Obama said, were not going to be able to make progress on those areas if we havent gotten our fiscal house in order.”

So we have to put the fiscal house in order to spend MORE money on social programs. Got it. I would argue that putting our fiscal house in order requires a re-evaluation of our current spending priorities and maybe eliminating some programs. That’s not what the President wants to do.

the earmark myth

This was posted on NRO’s The Corner blog, and I thought that it was worthy of discussion – the concept that a ban on earmarks (some know this as “pork”)would be a bad idea. Now, keep in mind, I’m a huge Jim DeMint fan. I think he’s generally right on as far as the condemnation of wasteful spending and the ineffectiveness of the huge government bureaucracy. I’m down with this whole limited-government thing. This is not intended as a justification to expand government or continue funding projects that can’t be justified in this economy. However,  there is an argument against a complete ban on earmarks, and Senator Jim Inhofe makes a good case for the opposition.

Read it and decide for yourself.

Here’s a quote from his post:

Demagoguing earmarks provides cover for some of the biggest spenders in Congress. Congressional earmarks, for all their infamous notoriety, are not the cause of trillion-dollar federal deficits (of all the discretionary spending that took place in Washington last year, earmarks made up only 1.5 percent). Nor will an earmark moratorium solve the crisis of wasteful Washington spending run amuck. While anti-earmarkers bloviate about the billions spent through earmarks, many of them supported the trillions of dollars in extra spending for bailouts, stimulus, and foreign aid. Talk about specks versus planks! Over the course of the last several years, the overall number and dollar amount of earmarks has steadily decreased. During that same time, overall spending has ballooned by over $1.3 trillion. In reality, ballyhooing about earmarks has been used as a ruse by some to seem more fiscally responsible than they really are.

Yeah.  Condemning congressional earmarks is a painless way to pretend one is committed to fiscal responsibility.  But I’m going to go a bit further then the Senator is willing to go, as far as what is generally considered out of bounds to most Republicans, especially elected ones.  If we are really serious about dealing with our massive national debt, everything must be on the table for analysis -including defense spending.  In addition to that, there must be some accountability and budget justification for all expenditures.   The private sector does this.  Why can’t the government do this?  There’s too much fluid funny money, where money intended for one project goes to a different project.    There’s no way of knowing how all this money is spent.   We see this all the time from Washington, and this has to stop if we want to seriously deal with our debt problem.

my thoughts on the ground zero mosque

My thoughts on the Ground Zero mosque (in bullet form and in no particular order)

  • Tolerance should go both ways.
  • The skepticism over this project is justified. Several questions need to be asked and answered before we should allow this to move forward. The person we want representing Islam should not be someone who hasn’t committed to promoting peace both domestically and internationally.
  • This guy isn’t the right guy to build bridges.
  • Freedom of religion also applies to Muslims in this country.
  • The strongest objections are moral, not legal – and this is where we should make our case.
  • For all Americans who give their sole allegiance to this country, their religion should be immaterial to the rights they enjoy as citizens.
  • This issue cannot win Republicans an election. It may fire up the grassroots base, but the average American will be focused on jobs and the economy. That’s where Republicans should focus their energy – on pointing out the failures of this administration to make the right moves to help the economy recover. They are fully capable of screwing up an election even with the extremely favorable situation they find themselves in going into November.
  • There’s no good reason why this mosque must be built near Ground Zero, whether there’s an existing mosque close by or not.
  • Are we clear on the intent and goals of this cultural center / mosque? Is it a mosque or cultural center, or both?
  • Either way, it would be a good idea for the builders to consult with the 9/11 families to ensure that their wishes are respected, and ultimately, as a sign of good faith to those of other religions, move the mosque somewhere else.
  • In a clear bridge-building move – the cultural center should include memorials to 9/11 victims. That would be an extremely classy move, and an effective compromise that should satisfy everyone.

careful what you wish for

This is an uncomfortable position conservatives find themselves in as a result of last night’s election results – between electability and the raw passion of the tea party candidates. Not every conservative should be considered electable. For every Nikki Haley – who has shown incredible message discipline and restraint in the face of scurrilous accusations against her – there are several candidates who lack that ability when facing even the smallest challenges. I’ve said this previously, but I think it is important to remember that activists don’t always make the best candidates. They play very different roles in a political party. That’s the thing to remember with some of these winning tea party approved candidates – the transition from one role to the other is sometimes difficult. These populist heroes won’t say the PC thing most of the time and this will get them into trouble with the media. This is what we love about these guys and gals, but it’s an easy way for a nascent campaign to sink before it even leaves the harbor.

I love rebels too, and appreciate the sacrifices those potential candidates have to make to run for office. For that reason, there must be a process of vetting, interviews, and other training to properly prepare them for the challenges they will face. Of course there will always be candidates who are more than a little risky, such as Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, but ultimately the voters in this country win when the average person starts caring enough to take the challenge personally and run for political office. Political parties, and specifically the Republican Party, need to do a better job in nurturing and developing young and unproven talent in their ranks so that they can have a strong farm system for the future and so that we don’t have the same guys running for President every four years.

elena kagan – it could be worse

How does it add anything to a SCOTUS nominee’s qualifications when it is noted that a nominee’s life story is inspirational, a real American rags-to-riches success story, and so forth and so on?  While the life experiences of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are certainly a made-for-TV movie waiting to happen, they have nothing to do with being a Supreme Court justice.  If anything, those life experiences tend to suggest a certain subjective POV that leans toward one specific ideological perspective – and it’s not one conservatives can support.  But that’s hardly a surprise.

It’s difficult to believe that President Obama doesn’t know exactly what he’s getting in Elena Kagan. What we know about her so far is enough to suggest to me two things – one, she leans progressive; and two, she doesn’t have any judicial experience.  The latter doesn’t technically disqualify her from serving as a Supreme Court justice, as others have accurately pointed out.  However, this gives greater importance to her writings and speeches, and her actions as a law professor.   Those evaluating her fitness for this job will have to look at everything she has said and done in the past, and try to accurately predict which way she will go as a Supreme Court justice.  This evaluation will be completed before Elena Kagan gets her first question in the Senate confirmation hearings.

Many Democrats have already started lining up behind the President’s pick, while Republicans are promising to ask hard questions that are unlikely to be answered.  That’s the way this kabuki theater works.  Actually ask hard questions of SCOTUS nominees from the opposing party that you will never get a straight answer to, and in the end the nominee gets through, unless he/she is fatally flawed like Harriet Miers.

Honestly, I’m ok with this.  Many pundits find their latest column idea by disparaging the way nominees are told to handle their confirmation hearings.  Since both sides have already made up their minds about the nominee before the hearings ever take place, the questions will always be a formality.  When was the last time we learned something useful from SCOTUS confirmation hearings?  Bork.  Right.  If straight-up answers keep qualified candidates from making it to the high court, then I’m all for the non-sequiturs.  Besides, it’s not likely that anything said in the hearings would turn a Democrat against Elena Kagan, and since the Republicans could very well be so open-minded their brains fall out, they could decide that there’s no point in opposing a nominee when her confirmation is more than likely.

good stuff other people wrote

What I’m currently reading:

The fallacy that continues to dog Project Cameron – John Rentoul (who wrote this killer Tony Blair bio I totally loved) says that David Cameron’s ideas are just as flawed as Gordon Brown’s. Sad part is that in this battle between the Conservative Party (Cameron) and Labour Party(Brown) one of these two will probably end up being UK Prime Minister.  Side note: Current UK PM Brown was never going to be Tony Blair.  Sometimes a politician is best suited to his previous job, rather than his current one.  This is very true of Brown.   However, I have no love for David Cameron and his “New Labour” -lite schtick and his obsession with the environment.  Of course, that’s generally how the Brits roll anyway — with their entrenched welfare state and their socialized health care with the NHS.  Naturally, these are the kind of politicians they like.  Bully for them.   Moving on…

Jack Kelly on President Obama’s new nuke deals.  Here’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned – if President Obama really believes that we are facing a more challenging time in dealing with nuclear threats, then he’s got the wrong solution to this.   We can’t be voluntarily reducing our own nuclear arsenal and stopping production on more modern weapons at the same time North Korea and Iran are ramping up their nuke production.   This seems backwards to me.  The United States of America may very well be the only country which would be willing to voluntarily do this — and that’s exactly why we can’t do it.

A cautionary tale from Europe – Greece’s monetary struggles – a result of overspending and a massive entitlement society.

somebody’s not reading from the script

Watch Al Sharpton say something interesting on Fox News:

In case you didn’t catch it,  Al said that the American public overwhelmingly voted for socialism when they elected President Obama.  But that’s not possible.  How could such a committed capitalist free-marketeer as President Obama have any intention of implementing anything close to a socialist agenda? Quite a mystery to me.   Guess we have to watch the effects of what he and the Democrats do and decide for ourselves what we want to call all these new laws.

too much awesome

(h/t Hot Air)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, ladies and gentlemen (on the  must-pass health care bill):

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

The Democrats need to pass this bill so that you can find out what is in it, because obviously all these Republicans haven’t been telling you the truth. Got it. Just one problem with this though — if this is such a great bill and we are just too stupid to realize all the benefits of the health care bill, that’s the Democrats’ fault. The job of selling this belongs to the majority party, and to President Obama. It’s their failure to do that that could ultimately save us from this health care bill or anything like it.

fratricide

While we can all agree Rahm Emanuel is not the most warm and cuddly guy in politics, this Eric Massa sounds like a real jerk, and it doesn’t surprise me that these two hate each other’s guts.   It seems that the Democrats just can’t help themselves when it comes to the fratricide now in progress among the Democrats in Congress, those “retiring” from Congress, and the White House.  Conservatives and Republicans do very much enjoy watching this.  However, shredding Rahm Emanuel is very inside baseball stuff for the common people.   All those people want to know is: who will stand up and fight the Democrats’ health care plan?  We don’t like it.  President Obama and the Democrats are clearly headed in the opposite direction from what we want.

What has been proposed is not reform.   The House plan is nothing new and doesn’t make any positive radical changes to reduce cost AND increase coverage — because IT CAN’T DO BOTH.  Reduced cost will most likely mean rationing.  This is common sense.   Increasing coverage, mandating coverage, fining employers and individuals for not having insurance  — explain how health care will be cheaper under this strategy.  It will not.  I would be wasting my time waiting for the Democrats to include anything Republicans can support in the legislation, because they don’t have any intention to accomodate the minority party.  That’s just as well, because I don’t want any Republicans to have their names tied to this political anvil.