Chicken Little, Sequester Edition
"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." --James Madison, Federalist No. 10
We're publishing today from a secure bunker in an undisclosed location so as to avoid the fallout from the apocalypse known as the sequester. Today, the $85 billion in federal spending "cuts" take effect now that the Senate failed to pass either Democrat or Republican alternatives yesterday. The devastation is unthinkable -- unable to afford plane trips home to Delaware, Joe Biden will even begin taking the train again. We just pray the nation survives.
All kidding aside, the sequester does, in fact, involve real pain for real people. Barack Obama is ensuring that layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and the like are as widespread and as painful as possible, all in an effort to defeat his political opponents and extract even greater tax hikes out of them. He even released hundreds of detained illegal aliens, and then blamed his Department of Homeland Security for doing it without his knowledge. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano also blamed underlings. Obama also warned that cuts will affect an agency that no longer exists. And the sequester is a "manufactured crisis" the White House blames for delaying its own budget submission, due Feb. 4.
But just remember who manufactured it to begin with -- Barack Obama. He will continue the charade to ensure that the maximum damage is done from the "Republican Sequester."
As we go to press, the president is meeting with Republican leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, presumably to rhetorically abuse them in private before he does so again in public. To show how serious Obama is at replacing sequestration, or even just better managing it, the White House threatened a veto of a GOP offer to let the president have even more authority to selectively implement the sequester. Senate Democrats were happy to kill the bill for him.
For his own political gain Obama needs the sequester to be a blunt object that causes as much pain as possible. Besides, it's a win-win for him. Now he can tell the affected people, "I feel your pain," all while blaming Republicans. If the GOP caved, spending would have continued to grow out of control, just like he wants. For that matter, it will still grow out of control, just at an imperceptibly slower pace. In reality, the spending "cuts" for FY2013 amount to just $43 billion.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) added to the blame game: "The Republicans want the sequester to go forward," he said. "We cannot solve the problems of this country with cuts, cuts, cuts. We've cut $2.6 trillion. We need to do more but we're going to do it in a balanced approach. We cannot continue to hurt the middle class and the poor." As usual, by "cut" he means reduced growth, and by "hurt the middle class and the poor" he means reduce government redistribution of wealth.
Remember, we're talking about just 2 percent of the federal budget, and 6 percent of deficit spending. All working Americans took a 2 percent pay cut at the beginning of the year thanks to the payroll tax hike, though we weren't supposed to notice it. How can the government not continue to function while undergoing such small spending reductions?
If you remember just one thing about this latest "crisis," remember this: Obama and his NeoCom cadres will blame the "Republican Sequester" for any and all ills between now and the 2014 midterm election. Obama knows that the net effect of his $300 billion payroll and income taxes hikes (which reduced incomes by the most in 20 years), on top of skyrocketing ObamaCare health insurance premiums, mounting debt and deep military cuts already enacted, will send the economy back into recession.
Thus, from sequester forth, every negative economic GDP or jobs report, which in reality demonstrates the continued planned failure of Obama's socialist "recovery stimuli," will be blamed on the "Republican Sequester." Indeed, while GDP growth for the fourth quarter was revised up to an exciting 0.1 percent, and we suppose that's an improvement over the initial estimate of 0.1 percent contraction, you'll have to forgive us if we don't jump for joy.
Obama will employ his classist "politics of disparity" playbook to blame sequester "cuts" for every runny nose in America, claiming the nation can't "afford" even minuscule cuts to socialist welfare programs. And make no mistake -- in partnership with his Leftmedia public relations network, Obama may win the public opinion contest. Of all people, Bob Woodward is the only one standing in the way, which is why his colleagues are now disowning him.
The sequester is absolutely the wrong way to go about cutting spending -- it's indiscriminate (though more so than it actually has to be) and it targets defense disproportionately, all while not even really cutting anything. But given that the Obama White House isn't interested in governing, only moving from crisis to crisis, it ended up being the only option.
From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
"We don't need to be having something like sequestration that's going to cause these job losses -- over 170 million jobs that could be lost." --Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
There are only 134 million jobs in the U.S. Sadly, Waters' job won't be one of those lost.
Government and Politics
Second Amendment Roundup
The Senate Judiciary Committee this week held hearings on California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposed gun ban bill, and also considered three other bills: one dealing with universal background checks, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); another addressing school security, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); and one covering illegal trafficking, sponsored by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). No word on whether Leahy's bill covers the Justice Department illegally trafficking guns to Mexico. As for Schumer's bill, the fear is that "universal" background checks will soon become a national registry of firearms. Registration, of course, is the first step toward confiscation.
The Second Amendment Foundation reports that "the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a December ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that forces Illinois to adopt a concealed carry law, thus affirming that the right to bear arms exists outside the home." In December, Judge Richard Posner gave the Illinois legislature 180 days to "craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment ... on the carrying of guns in public."
Unfortunately, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan showed his contempt for constitutional Liberty by crafting and introducing a repugnant concealed carry bill. In Madigan's world, before obtaining a permit, gun owners would have to purchase $1 million in liability insurance coverage, undergo 40 hours of police-conducted training including 20 hours of range time (just imagine the cost of ammunition), and submit to a mandatory psychological evaluation.
Also unfortunately, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to carry arms. Gray Peterson, a Washington state resident who holds a concealed carry permit as well as a Florida non-resident one, brought the case. He sued because he frequently travels to Denver, and Colorado doesn't recognize either of his permits -- though it does honor permits from states that reciprocate -- and it doesn't issue non-resident permits. The Court ruled against him, saying, in effect, because there is a long history of infringing the Second Amendment, it really doesn't mean what it says.
In New York, the state Supreme Court warned that it will issue an injunction against the recently passed SAFE Act, which limits magazine capacity and bans semiautomatic rifles, if the state fails to prove that the law is compliant with the Second Amendment. Of course it isn't, so this could get interesting. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that firearms "in common usage" may not be restricted nor may entire classes of firearms. New York did both with its seven-round magazine limit and outright ban of semi-auto rifles -- both AR-15s and standard-capacity mags holding more than seven rounds are clearly in common usage. And good luck finding a seven-round magazine. Gun manufacturers indicate they won't produce special New York-style magazines.
Meanwhile, New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to exempt Hollywood from his state's unconstitutional law. "There's no reason not to make a change ... to give an industry comfort," the governor said, "especially ... [one] we want to do business in the state." Clearly, he doesn't want to hinder any of those leftist Hollywood-types from making movies that glorify the criminal violence he's purporting to combat. Or perhaps Gov. Cuomo, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, is only principled at a price.
Once more we look to Illinois, where Robin Kelly was chosen as the Democrat nominee to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned from his Chicago district and pleaded guilty to corruption. Kelly is an anti-gun zealot who won the backing of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He filled her coffers with $2 million for television ads slamming former Democrat Rep. Debbie Halvorson because of her "A" rating from the NRA. Bloomberg is crowing about the win. Joe Biden also chimed in, saying, "The voters sent a message ... not just to the NRA but to the politicians all around the country by electing Robin Kelly, who stood up, who stood strong for gun safety totally consistent with our Second Amendment rights. The message is there will be a moral price as well as a political price to be paid for inaction. This is not 1994. People know too much." Actually, in Chicago, they clearly haven't learned a thing.
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
Joe "Double Barrel" Biden, who last week advised his wife to grab that double-barrel shotgun and "fire two blasts outside the house," is at it again, arguing for the superiority of a shotgun over an AR-15. "[M]y shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15," he bragged, "because [if] you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door."
Shooting through a door? What could go wrong? Maybe he should ask the Virginia resident who was just arrested for doing just that.
Biden wasn't done, either. He argued against the AR-15 as a tool of Liberty, saying, "For example, if the idea was to be able to repel a tyrannical government, then you should be able to own an F-15 if you have the money to buy it, with full ordnance. But you're not allowed to do that, and the [Supreme] Court says you can deny certain weapons available for individual ownership. You can't have a nuclear bomb."
No nuclear bombs, ergo no semiautomatic rifles. Sound logic, there, Joe.
Hope 'n' Change: Deficits and Suckers
A prominent politician once said, "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future." That was Barack Obama, when selling his massive health care entitlement to the public. But if there's one way to phrase ObamaCare's costs, it's "up, up, up." A new report from the Government Accountability Office projects ObamaCare adding $6.2 trillion to the deficit over the next 75 years. And that's surely a lowball calculation.
In other ObamaCare news, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie followed Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott's footsteps in accepting ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion after publicly rejecting it; Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is set to follow suit -- all to secure Democrat votes for his proposed transportation tax increase. In New Jersey, joining the exchange means 300,000 uninsured residents will be able to receive coverage, but Christie, like other GOP governors before him, fell under the spell of the promised financial benefits of the Medicaid expansion program without properly accounting for the cost. According to The Star-Ledger, New Jersey "could reap up to $300 million by expanding the state program in the coming budget year." Check back in three years.
However, the Florida Medical Association is warning that the state already doesn't have enough doctors to meet health care demand -- a problem that will only worsen with the expansion of Medicaid. Eight percent of the state's 45,000 doctors are expected to retire within five years. Additionally, up to 2.5 million are expected to join the 15 million residents already on insurance. The combination means longer lines, shorter visits and less effective and efficient care.
Finally, don't like your health coverage? There's a solution for that. CNS News reports, "The Affordable Care Act sets up a new arena of whistleblower protections for employees who complain that their company-provided health insurance doesn't do what it's supposed to do." In other words, if you aren't receiving, say, the contraception coverage you want, then you can't be held accountable for complaining to Big Daddy Obama.
"Just got off the phone with my health care [sic] provider asking them to explain why my premium jumped up. No good answer." --Donna Brazile, Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager
Uh, Donna, the answer is ObamaCare. We agree it's not good, but you can stop pretending you don't know.
From the Left: Selling Access
The White House is offering high-end donors an opportunity to become members of the board of Organizing for Action, Barack Obama's permanent campaign apparatus. According to The New York Times, donors who give or raise more than $500,000 will be offered seats on the board of OFA and direct access to the president at quarterly meetings, along with invitations to other White House meetings, presumably to discuss and shape policy that OFA seeks to influence. Press Secretary Jay Carney said there was no cause for alarm, although he was at a loss for words when it came to explaining how the OFA effort amounts to anything more than institutionalized influence peddling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This certainly doesn't sound like the Barack Obama who vigorously campaigned in 2008 against the "special interests" who buy access to elected officials. Maybe this is simply the "new politics" he kept promising us. Besides, if you're going to "fundamentally transform" America in your own image, sometimes you have to make compromises.
Judicial Benchmarks: Voting Rights Act Before High Court
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, prohibits states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." Some Jim Crow-era Southern states would often do things like require otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, thus disenfranchising blacks.
Pivotal to the Act is Section 5's pre-clearance. "Covered jurisdictions" have to convince the Justice Department or a three judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to "pre-clear" attempts to change "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting." Covered jurisdiction includes more than the Old South, however, extending even to specified townships in New Hampshire and counties in California and Florida, as well as the New York City boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
As Bob Dylan's song goes, "The Times They Are A-Changin." Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. Some of the states covered by the Act, like Alabama, where the plaintiff's case originated, contend that Section 5, which was supposed to be temporary, is an outdated burden, because racial discrimination is "scattered and limited."
One of the Section 5 issues will be the use of photo IDs for voting, as a number of the covered jurisdictions have enacted such laws. Opponents of photo voter IDs complain that such laws are supposedly an unfair burden on poor, minority and young voters, who are the groups most likely to lack a driver's license or the means to obtain the documents, such as birth certificates. Yet in 2009, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, there were 211 million licensed drivers in the U.S. In 2012, 129 million people voted in our presidential election. Is there a burden? Hardly.
Regulatory Commissars: Minimum Wage
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her cronies announced plans to push for a minimum wage hike as part of their effort to retake the House in 2014. They used this highly effective campaign hot button to great effect in 2006, and their strategy this time uses similar tactics to pre-frame Republicans as unsympathetic to low-wage workers. Pelosi summed up their plan succinctly: "Just keep it simple. We want to raise the minimum wage, and you don't. Why not?"
Leftists claim that the minimum wage will increase employment among the middle class and the poor, though it's not at all clear how raising the cost of labor will lead to employers securing more of it. Pelosi argues that a higher minimum wage will put more money into the pockets of low-income people, which is true -- if they keep their jobs. The leftist Center for American Progress claims that a higher minimum wage will actually lower crime, and they ginned up some statistics from a study in Chicago purportedly showing that youth crime was directly related to downward wage trends.
None of this holds water. If lower wages alone cause higher crime, then how does one explain the continued drop in violent crime across the country despite several years of depressed economic activity? Beyond that, the idea that the minimum wage puts more money in people's pockets and creates more jobs is demonstrably false.
Economist Walter E. Williams explained it best: "In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. That would be almost a 25 percent increase. Let's look at the president's proposal, but before doing so, let's ask some other economic questions. Are people responsive to changes in price? For example, if the price of cars rose by 25 percent, would people purchase as many cars? Supposing housing prices rose by 25 percent, what would happen to sales? Those are big-ticket items, but what about smaller-priced items? If a supermarket raised its prices by 25 percent, would people purchase as much? It's not rocket science to conclude that when prices rise, people adjust their behavior by purchasing less." The same is true for employers, who would pay 25 percent more for the same work. They will hire less and cut hours, and young minorities will be hardest hit.
Lew Confirmed for Treasury
On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary on a vote of 71-26. Jack Lew is a former executive at Citigroup who pocketed a $940,000 bonus the day before the bank took a $301 billion federal bailout in 2008. Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders voted "no," saying, "We need a secretary of the Treasury who does not come from Wall Street but is prepared to stand up to the enormous power of Wall Street. We need a Treasury secretary who will end the current Wall Street business model of operating the largest gambling casino the world has ever seen and demand that Wall Street start investing in the job-creating productive economy." Sanders added that he's "extremely concerned that virtually all of [Obama's] key economic advisers have come from Wall Street." That's due in part to the pathetic lack of any real-world experience whatsoever on Obama's part. Then again, maybe it means the administration's pattern of banker bashing will come to an end. Or that it's always been phony.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Afghanistan Withdrawal Accelerates
The Obama regime is accelerating the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and now it appears that our Afghan "allies" are also trying to speed up the process, giving us a strong good-bye kick out the door. Last Sunday, the Afghan government ordered that U.S. Special Forces must leave the critical Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, in two weeks. Wardak has long been a staging area for Taliban attacks on the Afghan capital. The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said it had to take this step because of reports that "armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people." U.S. military officials deny that our forces were involved in such acts or approved of Afghan troops committing them. With regular U.S. troops pulling out of Wardak this spring, Special Forces would have been the only U.S. military presence in the region.
These withdrawals won't help stabilize Afghanistan, which is still tumultuous, despite recent claims to the contrary. The Obama regime had been reporting that terrorist attacks and violence in the country was falling, but on Tuesday, the American-led coalition command acknowledged that its widely repeated claim that violence is easing and that the terrorist insurgency is in steep decline was in fact incorrect. Responding to questions from the Associated Press about the latest security statistics from Afghanistan, the coalition command in Kabul said it erred in reporting a 7 percent decline in attacks, that in fact there was no decline at all. Whoops. Sadly, combined with the U.S. withdrawal, the continuing strength of the Taliban does not bode well for Afghanistan's future -- or ours.
Then again, maybe Afghanistan just needs what Democrats propose for the United States: A Department of Peacebuilding.
'Whistleblower' Reports to Slammer
Better late than never: On Thursday, former CIA operative John Kiriakou reported to the federal prison in Loretta, Pennsylvania, to begin his 30-month sentence for revealing classified information. Readers may remember Kiriakou's 2007 interview with ABC News in which he confirmed the use of waterboarding against captured al-Qa'ida leaders. The transcript is worth reading, as it makes clear the real-world motivations for waterboarding senior jihadist leader Abu Zubaydah:
"Frankly there were lives at stake. And we knew that he was the biggest fish that we had caught. We knew he was full of information. And we wanted to get it. One of the reasons why it was of such importance to us that night is the room where he was when the raid [that caught him] began had a table in it. And on the table Abu Zubaydah and two other men were building a bomb. The soldering arm was still hot. And they had the plans for a school on the table. So we knew that there were immediate threats that he could help us with."
The Washington Post reported last week that Kiriakou was given a lavish going-away party at Washington's Hay-Adams hotel, funded to the tune of $20,000 by a wealthy anti-war activist and Code Pink. Kiriakou and his fans -- self-styled martyrs of the Left always have fans -- maintain that he was just a whistleblower with a conscience, and that the waterboarding program might never have been known if he had not bravely stepped forward to tell the world about it. Never mind that leaders from both parties in Congress were briefed on the program in 2002 as it was happening, including Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman and Porter Goss. Kiriakou broke the law when he went to ABC, and he was prosecuted and sentenced accordingly.
Faith and Family: Republicans Splinter Toward Same-Sex Marriage Support
It's not a large group of Republicans, and many of them are retired politicians no longer in office, but 75 have signed a friend-of-the-court brief to be presented to the Supreme Court in the effort to overturn California's Proposition 8. Perhaps the most well known is former Utah governor and second-tier GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. His support is interesting because he opposed same-sex marriage in his campaign, preferring instead to support civil unions. The White House likewise is asking the Court to overturn California's law.
Many of these Republicans contend that their views have "evolved" over the last few years -- a word borrowed from Barack Obama. Some of them embrace Dick Cheney's contention that "freedom means freedom for everybody." The brief was approved by former Bush Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who is one of two lead attorneys in the case, and signatures were gathered by onetime RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, who came out as homosexual several years ago.
Obviously the same-sex marriage issue doesn't play as well with most grassroots conservatives, but the idea for these Republicans seems to be one of attracting younger people who tend to support the redefinition of marriage. In more recent elections, several states ended a long winless streak at the ballot box for same-sex marriage, meaning a favorable decision at the Supreme Court may be the final hurdle toward nationalizing the concept.
Around the Nation: The Bloomberg Soda War
Just wait for the black market in two-liter bottles of Coke. Next month New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's long-awaited ban on sugary drinks of more than 16 ounces will take effect. Once the ban is in place, restaurants and convenience stores that sell sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces will risk a $200 fine.
Needless to say, those who run restaurants, delis, or even sports venues that fall under the purview of the city's health department by selling food for on-premises consumption are unhappy about the change. The Korean-American Grocers Association was the first to head to court to try to stop the mayor's regulation from taking effect. "It would be a tremendous waste of expense, time and effort for our members to incur all of the ... costs associated with the ban," said Association president Chong Sik Le. As one example, restaurants that deliver pizza would no longer be able to sell two-liter bottles with the meal; instead they'll be forced to sell a package of six 16 ounce bottles at over twice the cost.
While Bloomberg enacted his ban on large sugary drinks in the city, he called on the long arm of the state to reach where he cannot and ban retail grocery stores statewide from selling the large drinks. In the meantime, one can expect stores just outside the border of New York City to see a surge in business from consumers with a big thirst for Liberty.
And now for Great Moments in American Diplomacy with John Kerry. The newly confirmed secretary of state began his illustrious tenure with some laughable moments this week. First, he made up the name of an ally when he praised U.S. diplomats for working to secure "democratic institutions" in the nation of "Kyrzakhstan." That must have been a portmanteau of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Those "stans" all look alike, we suppose.
Next, he explained that we should go ahead and have bilateral talks with Iran over their nuclear weapons program, despite their repeated broken promises and general belligerence. Why? "Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations," Kerry said. Gee, why didn't somebody think of that before?
Finally, Kerry lectured the Germans about free speech after they voted to ban the Nazi party. Kerry may not recall, but the Nazis were a tyrannical left-wing party that took over most of Europe 75 years ago and killed millions of innocent people in concentration camps. The German people still live with the weight of that memory, so perhaps they can be forgiven for banning the responsible political party.
Kerry, however, bragged to the Germans that, "As a country, as a society, we [the U.S.] live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view." (Unless, of course, your view is that contraception and abortion are immoral. In that case, you're still required to buy health insurance covering them.) Kerry continued, "People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it's the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another," for example, neo-Nazis marching in Jewish neighborhoods.
Not to worry, Kerry explained all of his own gaffes when he concluded: "In America, you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be." Indeed, and you might even become secretary of state.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team