The 'Smoke and Mirrors' Budget
“The natural cure for an ill-administration … is a change of men.” –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 21
Finally, after more than two months of delays and excuses, Barack Obama released his budget for fiscal 2014. “It’s a budget that doesn’t spend beyond our means,” he boasted. Unless, of course, you consider a projected $744 billion deficit to be “beyond our means.” Furthermore, he added, “it’s a budget that doesn’t make harsh and unnecessary cuts that only serve to slow our economy.” That would be because he doesn’t make any real cuts at all, much less harsh ones.
Obama’s $3.8 trillion budget relies on further tax increases on the wealthy, despite his having just won a $660 billion tax increase on top earners at the beginning of the year. Now he wants to limit deductions and institute the “Buffett Rule” that households earning $1 million or more must pay at least 30 percent in taxes. In exchange, Obama threw in something new to ostensibly appeal to Republicans – slowing the growth of Social Security and Medicare through revising benefit calculations and reimbursement rates. In reality, that allows him to reinforce that he’s only doing it to “compromise” with the GOP, from whom he hopes to extract the aforementioned tax hikes.
The president claims $1.8 trillion in so-called deficit reduction over a decade, but all of the supposed deficit reduction is achieved through tax increases. As National Review’s Veronique de Rugy points out, “$1.2 trillion of the $1.8 trillion number comes from replacing the sequester cuts” that are already in place. And his tax increases will likely add up to over $1 trillion – nearly twice what he claims.
But not to worry, he says, “There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here.”
On top of that, Obama’s budget is not the “middle road” or “compromise” that his Leftmedia minions would have you believe. Under his plan $5.3 trillion will be added to the deficit over 10 years. Since he was off by $1.6 trillion on his first five-year projection, we’ll pass on believing this one. Spending for FY2014 would be $170 billion higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline (which by the way is also twice this year’s sequester), $240 billion higher than Paul Ryan’s House budget and even $80 billion higher than the Senate Democrats’ budget.
Other lowlights include the following:
He trims defense spending growth by a further $100 billion over 10 years, bringing it to just 2.4 percent of GDP – lower than any year since before World War II. That’s a disastrous gamble that displays the commander in chief’s contempt for his constitutional duty to ensure national defense.
His budget caps tax-free retirement savings because, as the White House explains, some people are putting away “substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement savings.” He proposes to “limit an individual’s total balance across tax-preferred accounts to an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of not more than $205,000 per year in retirement, or about $3 million for someone retiring in 2013.” So Obama now gets to decide how much of your hard-earned money you can save for retirement?
He increases the cigarette tax to $1.95 per pack (from $1.01 now and $0.39 when he took office) to pay for preschool for all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
He adds new or increased spending on infrastructure, high-speed rail, green energy, college tuition subsidies, job training, and so on and so on.
We would list the cost of ObamaCare, but the White House worked diligently to so spread and bury the burden that it’s becoming difficult to identify. We do know that Obama admits the insurance exchanges will cost at least twice initial projections, and that’s only counting the less-than-half of states that are participating. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of ObamaCare, though it’s certainly in line with what we feared all along.
None of this is to say we expected better of Obama. He’s a tax-and-spend statist through and through, and it will take a change of administration to get this nation back on the right course.
Government and Politics
Second Amendment: Senate Moves Forward
Negotiations on sweeping gun control legislation (S. 649) in the Senate moved forward as a Republican filibuster was broken Thursday, 68-31, with the help of 16 Republicans. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said before the vote, “[N]ot a single senator has been provided the legislative text.” Given the twin travesties of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, voting on unread bills seems to be the norm. A number of Republicans decided they would rather open the bill to debate because putting legislation to a vote would force Democrats up for re-election into a politically vulnerable position. Also, the bill that the Senate ultimately passes will likely die in the Republican-controlled House.
While Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the White House admit that bans on semiautomatic rifles and standard-capacity magazines are unlikely to pass, gun grabbers are still bitterly clinging to universal background checks, which they claim has the support of nine in 10 Americans. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) unveiled a deal that would include checks for gun purchases, but would exempt transactions between family members and hunters. Both senators have an “A” rating from the NRA. Their agreement supposedly prevents the federal government from using the checks to create a national firearms registry, though Sen. Lee for one fears a registry is possible. Machin and Toomey, who faces a tough battle for re-election in 2016 in an increasingly blue state, are both eager for a deal.
But no background check would have prevented the murders in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson, to name the most recent tragedies. Background checks are already required on all but private sales and transfers – even the online sales gun grabbers fret over must be completed in person by a federally licensed dealer who conducts a background check. Many state laws are even tougher. The president is simply lying when he claims that 40 percent of guns are sold without a check. Furthermore, regarding gun shows, as NRA President David Keene asked and answered, “[I]s there empirical evidence that a lot of criminals buy firearms at gun shows? The answer to that question is there is not.” Then again, the efforts of leftists aren’t truly aimed at preventing “gun violence.”
As an aside, there have been more than 70 million background checks for gun purchases since The World’s Greatest Gun Salesman took office in 2009.
BIG Lies and Demo-goguery
The White House has an itchy trigger finger on gun control, even though leftist passion for gutting the Second Amendment hasn’t translated into a broad public consensus for draconian new gun laws. Barack “Skeeter” Obama and his left-hand man, Joe “Double Barrel” Biden, are continuing to fire lies and distortions at voters in an attempt to ram legislation through Congress. Here are a few of this week’s lies and demo-goguery:
Obama returned this week to Newtown, Connecticut, to ratchet up his campaign for public support, freely willing to capitalize on the deaths of children for political gain and pre-blaming Republicans in case his desire to strip Second Amendment rights should fall short. “There is only one thing that can stand in the way of change,” he claimed, “and that’s politics in Washington. This is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families that are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. … Every once in a while, we set politics aside, and we just do what’s right.”
No gun law being proposed would have stopped the Newtown murderer, and parading these families around is disgraceful.
He also taunted lawmakers: “What’s more important to you, our children or an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby?”
And then he offered grotesque absurdities, such as, “This is about these families and families all across the country who are saying let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down.”
Meanwhile, Joe Biden offered his unsolicited and very un-expert advice to gun owners: “You know, they make fun of my saying about use a shotgun if someone’s invading your home. Guess what, use a shotgun [against] someone invading your home and you don’t kill your kids. Use an AR-15, it goes through your wall and it can kill your kid in the bedroom.”
Actually, Joe, any handguns, rifles and shotguns capable of killing someone will also defeat drywall easily – often more than one wall.
Then Biden resorted to mockery: “Kinda scary man, the black helicopter crowd is really upset,” he laughed. “No way that Uncle Sam can go find out whether you own a gun because we’re about to really take away all your rights and you’re not going to be able to defend yourself and we’re going to swoop down with Special Forces folks and gather up every gun in America. It’s bizarre. But that’s what’s being sold out there.”
Is it really bizarre? Ask the Missouri residents whose permit information was illegally given to the federal Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General by state law enforcement. Or the New Yorkers whose medical records are used to justify gun confiscation.
New and Notable Legislation on the Immigration Front
The Senate’s “Gang of Eight” has been working in recent weeks to forge a compromise on “comprehensive” immigration reform. We have repeatedly warned about such efforts to tackle the entire problem in one fell swoop. Legislation has been delayed by disagreements, as well as the recently renewed focus on gun legislation, and details are sparse at present, but the Gang anticipates releasing the bill next week. It may be granted just one public hearing, however. Suffice it to say that the bill will address border security (theater?), the current immigration system, and what to do with the illegal aliens (read: undocumented Democrats) already here. It’s always the “how” that’s the problem.
From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File: ObamaCare
“Probably no one fully anticipated when you have a law that phases in over time, how much confusion that creates for a lot of people. So that has been difficult. We find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles and, again, creating what I think is just a lot of confusion.” –HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on “unforeseen” ObamaCare complexities
Sure – the problem was “a law that phases in over time” and not the fact that the legislation was 2,700 pages that nobody had read, or that it came with 27,000 pages of regulations to-date. As for those pesky “state-by-state political battles,” that’s called federalism as outlined in our Constitution.
From the Left: Obama’s Voting Commission
Barack Obama made another executive power grab last week when he signed an order creating a Presidential Commission on Election Administration. This body, with up to nine members appointed by the president, will be responsible for studying polling places, how to train poll workers to operate more “efficiently,” “managing” voter rolls, and a host of other tasks that have up to now been left where they belong: with the states and individual election districts. Obama says that the commission is needed to address the long lines and alleged disenfranchisement of voters that he claims arose during the 2012 election.
Former Justice Department official J. Christian Adams calls the commission a “solution in search of a problem.” The long lines, Adams points out, were a result of early voting; wait times on Election Day were not out of the ordinary. As for disenfranchisement of minorities, there has been scant evidence that any such activity took place despite leftist blustering to the contrary. One group that actually was disenfranchised was military personnel, and that was because the Obama administration and the Pentagon failed to set up voter assistance offices on military bases despite being given $75 million by Congress to do so. A cynical observer might believe this oversight has something to do with the fact that military personnel tend to vote overwhelmingly Republican. Obama’s commission is really just another attempt to centralize control over one of our most sacred constitutional rights in order to pervert it for the Left’s own benefit.
Income Redistribution: Your Freedom Is Receding
We all know what April 15 means on the American calendar. Some have joked it’s the national holiday for Democrats. But far fewer are grasping the meaning of April 18, the day the Tax Foundation calculates as Tax Freedom Day, and it’s five days later than last year.
Put simply, Tax Freedom Day is the date Americans would pay off their average state and federal tax burden if they worked strictly for the government from the beginning of the year. In the several states, the dates range from March 29 in Louisiana and Mississippi to May 13 in Connecticut. Overall, the five-day gain is blamed on higher federal tax rates, including the cessation of the 2 percent FICA tax break Americans enjoyed for the last few years as well as increased excise taxes adopted as part of ObamaCare.
But while the date is five days later than last year, we’re still in better shape than in 2000, when Tax Freedom Day fell on May 3. The next year, President George W. Bush lowered tax rates, a few of which remain.
Yet if you want to join in the social media-based #IAmTaxFree campaign, be advised that the IRS is looking at Facebook and Twitter accounts. When questioned, the IRS claimed it was looking for accounts that already have a “red flag” in their returns, but in this day and age anyone who questions authority may draw scrutiny. It’s already known the IRS claims that it’s permissible to obtain a tax filers e-mail communication without a warrant, as the IRS contends there is “generally no privacy” in e-mail. In the eyes of the IRS, the Sixteenth Amendment trumps the Fourth.
Around the Nation: An Unreported Milestone
November 2012 was historic, but perhaps not for the obvious reason. In an era when “green” is promoted everywhere and subsidized heavily with tax dollars, it escaped the news cycle that the government’s own Energy Information Administration determined that last November was the month the United States passed Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top oil producer. And while Barack Obama has, at times, tried to take credit for this achievement, it’s worth repeating that his regime has placed roadblock after roadblock on domestic production on federal lands. This boom is taking place almost entirely on private or state property.
There’s no question this boom is continually threatened by overzealous EPA regulators as well as revenue-hungry Democrats in Congress who see oil companies as a drilling well for taxation. Moreover, it’s worth pointing out that a federal permitting process that averages more than 10 months for Uncle Sam gets a 10-day turnaround in North Dakota – hence, that state is booming with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. And by the way, North Dakota is also building the first new refinery in the U.S. since 1976.
The energy turnaround has been nothing short of amazing, despite the best efforts of the Obama administration to thwart it. A nation that imported 60 percent of its crude oil just five years ago is on a path to cut that in half by the end of this year, with some in the industry beginning to believe North American oil independence is possible once again. But as we saw with the coal industry, a concerted effort to make oil prices “necessarily skyrocket” like electric rates could throw a monkey wrench into these optimistic plans. The radical environmentalists wouldn’t want us to pay $2 or less for a gallon of gas again, would they?
Does North Korea Have Nuclear Missiles?
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on North Korea Thursday, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) asked of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, “‘[The Defense Intelligence Agency] assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ General, would you agree with that assessment by DIA?” Dempsey appeared caught off guard, but replied, “I can’t touch that one.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, however, said that the statement Lamborn read “is not an intelligence community assessment. Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile.”
We’re certain North Korea is working toward nuclear capability, but its increasingly crazy behavior makes unfolding events completely uncertain. Young dictator Kim Jong-un is threatening another missile launch, which could coincide with the 101st birthday on April 15 of his grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
Author Michael Totten writes in World Affairs, “Kim almost certainly isn’t serious, but what if he is? How would we know? His attention-seeking theatrics are identical to the behavior of a lunatic hell-bent on blowing the region apart. If war breaks out next month, everyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Korean Peninsula will slap their forehead and see, with the clarity of hindsight, that every warning we could possibly need, want, and expect was right there in front of us.” Barack Obama’s weakness could be incredibly costly.
Department of Military Correctness: The Threat of Christianity?
We have previously highlighted how political correctness is infecting all areas of American culture, including the critical brotherhood of the military, as well as how attacks on the Judeo-Christian roots of America are increasing. As if by example, Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism were recently used as examples of religious extremism alongside the likes of al-Qa'ida and Hamas. During an Army Reserve Equal Opportunity briefing on “Extremism,” incredibly, Evangelical Christianity topped the briefer’s list of extremism. Other “extremist” organizations on the list were Catholicism and, as though by chance, al-Qa'ida and Hamas. Also included were the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims, the Nation of Islam and “Islamophobia.”
The incident was made public by a soldier who attended the briefing and then forwarded copies of the presentation to the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “He considers himself an evangelical Christian and did not appreciate being classified with terrorists,” said Ron Crews, executive director of the Alliance. “There was a pervasive attitude in the presentation that anything associated with religion is an extremist.” Army spokesman George Wright insisted that this was an “isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army.” We certainly hope that’s the case. Wright continued, “This slide was not produced by the Army and certainly does not reflect our policy or doctrine. It was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command’s knowledge or permission.” Wright also said that after the complaint, the briefer deleted the slide and apologized. The Pentagon now considers the matter closed.
It may not have been a Pentagon- or superior-sanctioned presentation, but it does raise questions. Why was this particular presenter chosen? Was the material reviewed beforehand and, if so, why was it cleared? If it wasn’t reviewed, why not? Sadly, this incident is yet another example of how the irreligious among us lump all religions together, and how they will attack all religions, even our culture’s Judeo-Christian roots.
Profiles of Valor: Chaplain Emil Kapaun
As tensions rise once again with North Korea, “The Forgotten War” was remembered this week. On Thursday, Father Emil Kapaun received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his service in the Korean War. As The Washington Post reports, “The military chaplain did not carry a gun or grenades. He did not storm hills or take beaches. He picked lice off of men too weak to do it themselves and stole grain from the Korean and Chinese guards who took the American soldiers as prisoners of war in late 1950.” However, “Kapaun did not survive the prisoner camps, dying in Pyoktong in 1951.”
Kapaun was known by other soldiers as a kind and courageous man who regularly risked life and limb for his brothers. As Kapaun and his fellow soldiers were taken prisoner, he walked up to an enemy soldier pointing his rifle at a wounded American and pushed it aside so he could carry the wounded man. He risked his life to bring food to other prisoners and tended to them when no one else would. Kapaun was also awarded the Bronze Star just two months into the war for braving enemy fire to pull wounded soldiers to safety. As for the Medal of Honor, Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican from Kapaun’s home state of Kansas, worked to secure the award. He said, “It has taken a long time, but the flame of the Korean War just can’t be extinguished, and this is an outstanding example of that.”
Faith and Family: Media Ignore Philadelphia Case
For weeks, abortion’s truly ghoulish face has been showing itself in a Philadelphia courtroom, and it’s the stuff of nightmares. Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell is on trial, charged with, among other things, seven counts of first-degree murder for killing infants born alive after failed late-term abortions.
If you haven’t heard about the case, you’re not alone. While the media endlessly rehashes the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy (or the mean things a Rutgers basketball coach said to his players, or Brad Paisley and LL Cool J singing a song about racism), with few exceptions, they’ve all but ignored the Gosnell trial, the details of which are gruesome beyond description. One worker in Gosnell’s clinic testified of an 18-to-24-inch newborn who didn’t yet have eyes or a mouth but who was “screeching, making this noise … [that] sounded like a little alien.” As one blogger points out, “That’s called crying. It’s what human babies do when they’re in distress, in this case, the ultimate distress.”
Former Gosnell employee Steven Massof told of babies having their necks snipped in what was “like a beheading.” Such cases were not unusual. Massof testified that in Gosnell’s clinic alone, he saw at least 100 babies born alive after failed abortions, only to be “snipped” in the back of the neck with surgical scissors to guarantee their “demise.”
Instead of being outraged, though, many are still hiding behind the farce of a woman’s “right to choose.” Indeed, one Planned Parenthood official callously insisted that the decision of what to do with a surviving baby “should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.” Notably, when the Born Alive Infant Protection Act was introduced in the Illinois State House some years ago, a young state senator named Barack Obama opposed it for three consecutive years. And voters have now elected this advocate for the slaughter of innocents to the presidency, not once but twice. Just as the Leftmedia protected Obama’s record from public review, they are spiking the story of Gosnell’s alleged crimes, and it’s all to serve the “progressive” agenda. But to what are we progressing?
Plan B and Kids
Back in 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided that the emergency contraceptive “morning-after” pill known as Plan B should not be sold over the counter. Sebelius agreed with pro-lifers that making Plan B as easy to buy as any other over-the-counter medicine was a bad idea, and that teenage girls in particular should not have such easy access. Even Barack Obama said it shouldn’t be available for 10- and 11-year-old girls “alongside bubble gum or batteries.” Hey, a stopped clock is right twice a day.
However, District Court Judge Edward Korman ruled last Friday that Sebelius’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” and that because Plan B “would be probably among the safest drugs approved for over-the-counter sale for the pediatric population,” it must be made available that way. Yet the Family Research Council notes that “young people under 25 are infected with about half of the sexually transmitted infections nationwide – and Plan B doesn’t protect against a single one.” Furthermore, easy access could contribute to the rise in teen sexually transmitted infections because girls might substitute the pill for a doctor visit. And despite the possibility that the drug aborts a life, it has no discernible effect on teen pregnancy rates.
Village Academic Curriculum: What Second Amendment Rights?
“The courts have consistently determined that the Second Amendment does not ensure each individual the right to bear arms. Instead, the amendment provides the right for the states to arm a militia such as the National Guard.” These words sound somewhat familiar, and you’d be forgiven for attributing them to Barack Obama or one of his gun-grabbing minions. But this quote is, in fact, from a middle school social studies worksheet titled “The Second Amendment Today,” assigned to students at Northeast Middle School in Connecticut. The propaganda doesn’t end there: “The courts have also said that the Second Amendment is not incorporated against the states,” the worksheet continues. “This means that the rights of this amendment are not extended to the individual citizens of the states. So a person has no right to complain about a Second Amendment violation by state laws.” The teacher also advanced the common “progressive” fallacy that the Constitution is a “living document.”
Quite simply, this is bogus. In truth, individual Americans are ensured Second Amendment rights (and, in fact, the people themselves are the “militia” that the Left so often claims is a government body), and these rights are incorporated against the states; the Supreme Court acknowledged these truths in the Heller and McDonald decisions.
“It’s not up to the teacher to determine what the Constitution means,” says a parent who discovered the assignment given to his eighth grade son. “If you want to learn about the Constitution, recite it word for word.” While that’s a principle difficult for the Left to grasp, it really is that simple. The school has since pulled the assignment, and while this wouldn’t be the first time that outlandish propaganda has been taught in our schools, it’s a disturbing trend.
The BIG Lie
“We haven’t had a very collective notion that these are our children. … [W]e have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the households, then we start making better investments.” –MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, who moonlights as a professor of political science at Tulane
Harris-Perry, who recently opined that an unborn child is a “thing” that takes a “lot of money” to “turn into a human,” now believes that those who are born are property of the state. Just look at the outcome of trillions of dollars spent to maintain government welfare plantations and educational institutions. Or consider the above stories about Plan B and education on the Constitution.
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Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team