Taking the King's Shilling
"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." --Benjamin Franklin
In yet another under-the-cover-of-darkness move, Hope-'n'-Changelings at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) abetted the Obama administration in pushing the limits of unconstitutional, executive-fiat government even further. This time, they quietly waived welfare work requirements for able-bodied individuals under a twisted reading of the Social Security Act. Ignoring both the letter and spirit of the original 1996 welfare-reform law while effectively establishing "new" law from the Oval Office, the move is entirely in keeping with the administration's selective enforcement of federal statutes and the imperial diktats of the Chosen One, who sponsored the policy change through his HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This latest maneuver is simply one in an extended series that shows blatant disregard for Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers doctrine under the Constitution.
Recall that the Republican-led, Clinton-era welfare reform of the mid-1990s freed almost four million adults and three million children from the welfare plantation, halving welfare caseloads and childhood hunger while slowing out-of-wedlock childbirths. With this most recent welfare policy change, however, those days are effectively over. Witness now the return of the "Good Old Days," where virtually anyone is eligible for welfare handouts from an unlimited funding source, the U.S. Treasury (read: your tax dollars).
Why would the president do this? To make more people dependent on government, of course. Those dependents are thereby more likely to elect those who see government as the solution to every problem and who eschew individual freedom and initiative. Practically, this new edict means virtually anything amounts to "work" for the purposes of meeting able-bodied-work prerequisites under the program -- including bed rest and hula dancing (we wish we were kidding) -- thus entitling the qualifying recipient to endless welfare largesse.
Never mind the fact that Congress specifically proscribed waiver authority from the work prerequisite, because Congress didn't want no-load deadbeats on the government dole. While the rest of Planet Earth would consider these Executive Branch end-runs clear violations of the law, Barack Obama calls this "working with Congress." Congress says "no," and the Imperial Leader says, "We can't wait" -- "we" meaning him, of course -- and does it anyway, without a law authorizing his action. His acts are literally law-less.
But no matter. The important thing is that this new "law" reflects what Obama would have it reflect: free money for those who want it and are willing to not work to "earn" it. Also, pay no attention to the fact that growth in welfare spending has eclipsed growth in all other spending, including Social Security, Medicare, education and defense. Nothing to see here -- move along. The "good" news is that with a current debt of $16 trillion, the Obamanites wish to add "only" $13 trillion in new debt through welfare spending over the next decade.
Meanwhile, November looms, and along with it a fundamental question: What kind of country will America be? Are we to be like our European brethren, collectivist-minded and state-dependent? Or are we to be a people more like the Framers envisioned: independent-minded, respecting of Rule of Law and jealously protective of our fundamental freedoms? As the saying goes, "If you take the king's shilling, you become the king's servant." In November, we as a nation will decide whether we want to keep making it easier to take the king's shilling. We should choose wisely: Our liberty and our way of life depend on it.
The BIG Lie
"If you talk to economists, they will tell you there are two things that are the most stimulative that you can do -- one's unemployment insurance, the other's food stamps, okay?" --House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Government and Politics
News From the Swamp: Deliberately Driving Off the Cliff
As noted numerous times in this space, those who actually pay taxes face a huge tax increase on Jan. 1, 2013, if Congress does nothing to extend the rates that have been in place for a decade. The pressure is building for both sides to "do something," but as The Wall Street Journal surmises, "Democrats must feel really good about their election chances, because their latest campaign strategy is to say how willing and eager they are to leap off the January tax cliff. They're all but daring Republicans to make the Democrats' day by refusing to raise taxes before the election."
Are they nuts? Well, yes. Democrats are playing chicken with tax rates, threatening to throw the middle class under the bus -- and blame Republicans for it -- if they can't raise taxes on the top two income brackets. In effect, they're holding the economy hostage to their class warfare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, economic growth will suffer a 3 percent cut if taxes go up next year. Recall too that Barack Obama wants to raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses. Anybody wonder how that will affect employment?
Candidate Obama once famously said he would raise taxes on the rich, even if it brought in less revenue, all for the sake of "fairness." Well, the top 1 percent of income earners already pay 37 percent of all federal income taxes, up from 34 percent before George W. Bush took office.
Furthermore, raising those taxes wouldn't bring in the revenue needed to really reduce the deficit, much less balance the budget. According to the Office of Management and Budget, Obama's rate increase would bring in $850 billion over 10 years, compared to total government spending of $46.9 trillion over the same period. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem, and to pay for it taxpayers worked until July 15. Obama only promises to make it worse with more "investments" in a second term. Hope 'n' Change sure is expensive.
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. ... If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --Barack Obama
Campaign Trail: You Say Bain, We Say Bane -- Hey, That Rhymes With Hussein
Editor's Note: We extend our prayers and deepest sympathies to the wounded, and to the families and friends of those killed in the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at last night's "Dark Knight Rises" premiere. As we went to press, 13 were dead and nearly 40 wounded. Predictably, the Left is already blaming this heinous crime on guns and the Tea Party.
Democrat strategists reached a pathetic level of desperation in their attacks on Mitt Romney and his association with Bain Capital. To again avoid scrutiny of Obama's economic record, they spent the week linking Romney to the villain named Bane in Hollywood's new film "The Dark Knight Rises," the latest Batman tale in which the caped crusader must fight a terrorist attempting to take over Gotham City. According to Democrat adviser Christopher Lehane, Romney and Bane have a lot in common: "A highly intelligent villain with offshore interests and a past [he is] seeking to cover up, who had a powerful father and is set on pillaging society." Democrats have always had a knack for distorting reality, but now they're expanding to fiction.
In the movie, Bane attacks Gotham's stock exchange to punish the city's wealthy. Chuck Dixon, who co-created Bane for DC Comics in 1993 and describes himself as a "life-long right-wing extremist," bemoaned the politicization of it all, but argued, "Bane is a force for evil and the destruction of the status quo. He's far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you're looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney."
Besides, Obama can't be too unhappy with Bain Capital. He accepted $58,270 in campaign contributions from Bain employees in 2008, and he's taken in $34,250 so far this cycle. Most of the money came from senior executives, including chief investment officer and Obama bundler Jonathan Lavine and managing director Joshua Bekenstein, who has been with Bain since the beginning. The funny thing, though, is that so far Obama has dropped $100 million on campaign ads, a large portion of which attack Romney and Bain, with little effect in the polls.
New and Notable Legislation
Senate Democrats, self-righteously incensed about the fact that Team USA Olympic uniforms were made in China, have proposed legislation that would compel the U.S. Olympic Committee to purchase uniforms made in America. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) proposed using a Rochester, NY-based company and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the current uniforms, which were made by Ralph Lauren, should be burned. We won't argue that it wouldn't look better if Team USA's uniforms were American-made, but Democrats' faux outrage over outsourcing in this and other instances doesn't reflect the fact that it's not a conspiracy; sometimes it's just simple economics. Besides, if Democrats are really that upset over Ralph Lauren's Chinese manufacturing connections, rather than passing a law they should return the $35,000 in donations Lauren made to the DNC and Obama so far this election cycle.
Senate Democrats tried to resurrect the DISCLOSE Act twice this week, and both times they failed to secure the votes necessary to bring it to the floor for debate. Monday's vote was 51-44 and Tuesday's vote was 53-45. The bill was first introduced in March as a response to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision on campaign finance. It would require political groups to report anonymous donors and place restrictions on campaign advertising. Large non-profit groups, specifically unions that typically favor Democrats, would be exempt from the law. Sen. Schumer vowed to bring the matter to a vote again and again until it passes. At a "midnight vigil" in support of the bill, he even called for restrictions on the First Amendment in the name of equality. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a co-sponsor of the bill, probably agreed, but he left the vigil in order to attend a campaign fundraiser for an outside group.
The Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), another UN attempt to chisel away at national sovereignty, is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have pushed for the U.S. to sign on to LOST, which would force signatories to cede maritime security, environmental regulation, and economic rights to the international body. As of this week, 34 Republican Senators have pledged to reject the treaty. Since it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a treaty, that makes LOST a dead issue -- for now.
Hope 'n' Change the Definition
In 2009, Obama swore that the individual mandate to buy health insurance was "absolutely not a tax increase."
After Chief Justice John Roberts' contortions? "By the way, if you've got health insurance, you're not getting hit by a tax. The only thing that's happening to you is that you now have more security because insurance companies can't drop you when you get sick" [emphasis added].
And most hypocritically, "It's less a tax or a penalty than it is a principle -- which is you can't be a freeloader on other folks when it comes to your health care, if you can afford it."
It is a tax, it's not a tax, it is a tax except it's more of a principle. Got it?
HHS Mandate Challenged
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom dismissed a suit against the Obama Department of Health and Human Services for its mandate that forces religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and charities to provide insurance covering "preventive services." The administration announced the new policy in February as part of the unfolding regulatory burden of ObamaCare. The attorneys general of Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas filed suit, but Urbom said they lacked standing.
The mandate isn't free and clear, however, as there are still more than 20 cases and 60 plaintiffs challenging it. Contraception goes against Catholic teaching, so most of the plaintiffs are Catholic institutions that don't meet the requirements for exemption from the mandate. But there are four Protestant universities also challenging the mandate so far.
Arpaio Says Obama Birth Certificate Forged
Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio assigned a posse to investigate the birth certificate that Barack Obama released last April, and his posse concludes that the birth certificate was a computer-generated forgery. According to CBS News, "Mike Zullo, the posse's chief investigator, said numeric codes on certain parts of the birth certificate indicate that those parts weren't filled out, yet those sections asking for the race of Obama's father and his field of work or study were completed."
As we said at the time of release, however, the birth certificate controversy was one facet of Obama's campaign strategy to divide up opposition resources. In other words, it was a ploy to divert the political capital of some well-meaning Obama detractors, and lead them to focus on the question of where Obama was born, rather than much more important questions about his qualifications to be president.
Obama Economy Sputters Along
Barack Obama is not solely responsible for the sorry state of our economy, but he does bear the brunt of it due to his reckless spending, absurd calls for tax increases, and insulting treatment of business. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress this week that GDP growth has slowed substantially over the last quarter, and it will likely remain sluggish for the foreseeable future. In turn, he said, this negligible growth means that "the reduction in the unemployment rate seems likely to be frustratingly slow." Indeed, headline unemployment has remained above 8 percent for 41 consecutive months. Bernanke predicted that the rate will remain above 7 percent through 2014 -- a post-World War II record of 73 months. He further said that a normal rate of 5.2 percent to 6.0 percent will take another five or six years to achieve.
Even CBS News is aware of the dismal prospects for economic recovery. Reporting on Bernanke's testimony before Congress, Anchor Scott Pelley announced, "This is the worst economic recovery America has ever had."
We hardly expect Obama or his much-ballyhooed "Jobs Council" to fix anything, but they haven't even met publicly for six months. Perhaps that's because some Council members have conspicuously refused to endorse the president for re-election. Or perhaps it's because the council prefers Mitt Romney's corporate tax reform proposal.
There is one other excuse, given by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "There's no specific reason except that the president's obviously got a lot on his plate." Right. Obama recently completed his 100th round of golf, which, by his own estimate of six hours per round, means he's spent over 600 hours on the golf course. Obviously, his play time doesn't leave much time for the economy. Comparatively, he's spent just 412 hours in economic meetings of any kind. If only that disparity translated to a laissez-faire economic policy.
Around the Nation: Drought Harkens Midwest to Dust Bowl Days
The summer of 2012 has been unusually hot and bone-dry for a significant portion of the country, including land that should be producing the annual bumper crop of corn. Unfortunately, conditions have already ruined about one-eighth of the projected crop, according to federal estimates. That number is expected to rise as 55 percent of the nation is in what the National Climatic Data Center considers a "moderate" drought or worse. So corn prices are expected to rise due to short supply, a process that will also affect the price of many other grocery items since corn is used in roughly three-quarters of supermarket products in the United States. Shortages are also expected abroad.
Yet roughly five billion bushels of corn won't go to feed hungry Americans or be exported around the world to places where food shortages are acute, like sub-Saharan Africa or parts of Asia. Instead, this corn, enough to feed 412 million people for a year, will be converted to inefficient ethanol and pumped into our automobiles.
Obviously, the ethanol market helps prop up the price of corn for farmers, as those whose crops haven't been destroyed by this year's drought will be rewarded by prices approaching $8 a bushel. But in a land where technology has made oil and natural gas more accessible, the question is whether the "renewable" fuel of ethanol is the best use of this precious resource. Unlike corn meal, a gallon of ethanol won't feed a hungry child in Africa, and if this summer is a harbinger of a naturally occurring long-term climate shift like that of the 1930s Dust Bowl, it may be time to rethink our priorities.
Regulatory Commissars: EPA Invoking Unwanted Low-Sulfur Fuel Rules
Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted on our behalf changes to an international treaty called the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, better known as the MARPOL (marine pollution) Treaty. While the United States is a signatory to MARPOL, the changes in question are voluntary and have never been considered by the U.S. Senate.
Still, the EPA followed through on this MARPOL revision and wrote regulations forcing large ships sailing in Alaskan waters to use low-sulfur fuel beginning next month. One operator in the area estimates this will increase its fuel costs about 8 percent for dubious benefit.
In response, the state of Alaska is suing the EPA to stop the new rules from taking effect, claiming, "There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives [that] dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families." Given that this case would eventually have to pass through the notoriously leftist Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based on the state of origin, the best Alaskans can hope for is the regulations being put on a judicial hold until a Romney EPA can restore sanity. Otherwise, Alaskans, who already pay more for most goods and services than their lower 48 counterparts, will be socked in the wallet again.
Longtime Microsoft-NBC Marriage Ends
In what one NBC executive called an "amicable breakup," the longstanding partnership that brought us MSNBC is coming to an end after 16 years. Simply put, the two were no longer useful to one another, and NBC gave Microsoft a reported 300 million reasons to go away.
The key beneficiary seems to be Microsoft, as this move completed the divestment of NBC properties that started when Microsoft sold its stake in the MSNBC cable network to its former partner in 2005. The cable network's dramatic leftward shift created a perception that other Microsoft properties such as msnbc.com were also radically leftist and limited its opportunities to provide other points of view.
Instead, the future of the Microsoft Network may be one of developing new news partners and competing in the same arena as Yahoo!, which now affiliates with ABC News, as well as the AOL/Huffington Post combo. Meanwhile, NBC News will work on a new online home for MSNBC personalities as it makes the transition to its new Comcast ownership.
Department of Military Readiness: Pentagon Faces Deep Cuts
The sword of Damocles is hanging over the U.S. defense budget. Unless Congress can get its budget act together, and there are few signs it will, then come January the Budget Control Act will kick in with $1.2 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts to federal spending. The Pentagon faces almost half of those cuts, some $492 billion over 10 years, even though defense is less than one-fifth of total federal spending and the most constitutional of nearly all federal spending. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicaid, and 98 percent of Medicare, none of which is authorized by the Constitution, would be exempt from any cuts even though the Big Three account for nearly 45 percent of total federal spending.
A study by economist Stephen Fuller of George Mason University and the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that over two million jobs, half in the defense industry, would be lost as a result of the sequestration mandate, pushing the nation's unemployment rate above 9 percent. Defense spending is already down about $12 billion, or 3 percent, due to previous cuts, comparing October through May with the same period the previous year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These cuts shaved about half of a percentage point of growth from the economy, to say nothing about what the cuts are doing to military readiness.
This isn't to say that defense spending should be kept artificially high for economic reasons. It shouldn't. In fact, there should be no federal spending whatsoever for purely economic reasons, as it isn't constitutional and it doesn't work. Defense spending should be procuring whatever is required to properly defend the country against all probable threats. Unfortunately, a Congress that sticks its fingers into every Pentagon spending decision to make sure some pork gets sent back home guarantees enormous amounts of fraud and waste in the budget. A lean and mean budget that properly provides for an even leaner and meaner U.S. military is what's needed. We hope that some future Congress will finally wise up and behave constitutionally, but we won't hold our breath.
Warfront With Jihadistan: FBI PC in Hasan Investigation
In November 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 14, including an unborn child. His attack wasn't completely without warning, though, as signs indicated that he was an Islamic extremist intent on killing "infidel" civilians. Yet a new report shows that the FBI was too consumed with political correctness to investigate Hasan before the murders.
Former FBI Direct William Webster conducted an independent review of the FBI's investigation, in which he found that two FBI anti-terrorism task forces read emails between Hasan, then an Army psychiatrist, and known jihadi cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as early as December 2008, almost a year before his attack. Hasan expressed support for suicide bombings and other civilian murders, and al-Awlaki made sure to keep in close touch with his pupil. Al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen last year.
In a letter to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Webster wrote that his report outlines "18 recommendations for corrective and enhancing measures on matters ranging from FBI policies and operations to information systems infrastructure, review protocols, and training." It had better work, because political correctness is deadly.
The Left's Kitchen vs. The Left's Bedroom
While Leftists decry any law they deem an intrusion into the bedroom, they seem to have no problem welcoming the government into the kitchen. Consider New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on trans fats. The Associated Press claims that a recent study into the city's four-year-old ban shows that it has helped cut consumption of trans fats by making restaurants change their recipes and removing "responsibility" from individual eaters. Since fewer clogged arteries carries a public health benefit and trans fat is considered evil, legislating culinary morality has brought nothing but cheers from the Left.
Walk down the hallway to the bedroom, however, and the tune changes. Just this week, the FDA approved the first pill to prevent HIV. According to studies, those without HIV who take the drug lowered their risk of infection by as much as 75 percent in heterosexual couples and 42 percent in gay and bisexual men. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation says the drug "marks a new era in HIV prevention." Of course, because sex of any and all kinds is something the Left wants protected at any and all cost, the idea of curbing behavior in this case is unthinkable, even though HIV also poses a public health risk. So the bedroom is off limits but the kitchen is fair game. Can you say double standard? Then again, if it weren't for double standards, the Left wouldn't have any.
Judicial Benchmarks: New Racial Quota for FDNY
U.S. district judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled that the Fire Department of New York City has, since 1999, discriminated in its written exams administered to blacks and Hispanics seeking to become firefighters, and he imposed a quota to change New York's testing policy. Two of five new recruits must be black and one in five Hispanic until the racial quota of 186 black and 107 Hispanic firefighters is met. Originally filed by the Bush Department of Justice in 2007, the suit alleged that the FDNY violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. The Justice Department argued that the city violated Title VII because it "disproportionately exclude[d] individuals from employment opportunities on the basis of their membership in a protected group."
The July 5 ruling deems minorities who failed the entrance exams eligible to receive approximately $128.7 million in compensation under Court determination. Any individual who failed the tests with a score of 25 or better -- out of a possible 100 -- may be placed on the priority hiring list and may receive compensation for "non-economic damages" -- meaning any intangible benefit "lost" by failing the tests and, therefore, the job. Once hired, they are required to be paid "retroactively higher salaries" and granted "retroactive seniority."
The absurdity of this is almost too much, but then again, so is a racially hyperconscious system meant to dupe minorities into believing that if they aren't getting a job, the reason is clearly racism. We have a dream that, one day, citizens won't be judged by the color of their skin.
Faith and Family: Boy Scouts Stand Firm
The Boy Scouts of America spent the last two years conducting a review of its policy excluding homosexuals from participating as Scouts or leading troops. The 11-member panel concluded that maintaining traditional moral values "is absolutely the best policy" for the organization. "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," said the Scouts' chief executive Bob Mazzuca. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."
Homosexual activists have spent recent years attacking the Boy Scouts over the policy, and, naturally, expressed outrage, dismay and self-righteous moral superiority at the decision. We fully support the Scouts' decision, as we also advocate a Christian response to a complex problem.
Massachusetts Democrat Gov. Deval Patrick called the town administrator of Richmond (population 1,475) this week with an important task: Fix a pothole. Richmond's administrator called the administrator of the next town, where the pothole is actually located, to work out the details. Why? Michelle Obama is coming to Patrick's Richmond home for a $20,000-a-seat fundraiser in August, the pothole lies in her desired route, and it would be far to much trouble to just steer around it. Now, we're all for fixing potholes, but can you imagine the outcry if this had been a request from Romney? Of course, with his so-called "stimulus" of 2009, Barack Obama promised that unemployment would never exceed 8 percent and would be under 6 percent by now due to all the "shovel-ready jobs" it would provide. Michelle is just doing her part to create one such job.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team