Thursday, February 24, 2011

In Defense of Obama

He has less than two years left, so this may be the last time, but I must come to the defense of the Obama administration. I've heard several times in the last two days that Obama is stepping all over separation of powers by deciding the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional without an edict from the court and refusing to press the case. This is as daft as the observers on the left who mocked incoming congressmen last year for saying that they would care about the constitutionality of pending legislation. The Constitution does not say that the Courts are the ultimate arbiter of Constitutionality. If Congress passes a law and the President believes it unconstitutional, he shouldn't defend it. There is even a provision that the Senate and House can appoint their own counsel to defend their laws before the Courts if this happens.

I'll note that I fully expect them to do so, and I fully expect Obama to come out and say that it's a distraction that they're taking up defense of a law he refused to defend in a time of budget constraints. That will be unacceptable politicking, but his decision not to fight for a law he thinks is unconstitutional is perfectly reasonable. I'll also note that I wouldn't be surprised to find a Republican administration in 2013 refusing to defend Obamacare because they believe it Unconstitutional. When that happens the mainstream press will go berserk claiming (as some on the right do now) that the administration is shirking their duty and it's up to the Courts to decide if it is unconstitutional. The mainstream press will be wrong just as the right wingers are now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Note to Gov. Walker: take a page from Reagan.

It's all over the news that there are protests at the State Capitol and the Governor's private residence in Wisconsin. What might also be in the news, but I haven't seen as much, is that the teachers and students present are there illegally. They're taking advantage of sick time to join in a political rally and based on video I've seen they're encouraging students to be truant as well.

I'm not going to advise Walker to arrest the teachers for contributing to the delinquency of a minor (though it is appealing to me). I will, however, advise him to take a page from Reagan when he had a group striking illegally: fire them all. I have no tolerance for people who don't show up to work and I doubt the majority of Wisconsin citizens do either.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Balancing the budget

I happen to agree with Sessions, which I'm sure colors my judgement, but I don't see how any thinking person who has looked at the facts can not think that Mr. Lew and the President are being extremely disingenuous in their statements. In 2008 we had a deficit of $460 billion on a total outlay of $2.97 trillion (roughly 19% of GDP). I think this is way too high, but that's irrelevant to this discussion. In 2010 we had a deficit of $1.29 trillion on outlays of $3.46 trillion (roughly 25% of GDP). Obama is increasing that to $3.8 trillion (25% of GDP) in his proposal and never bringing it down from there. He also never gets back below 20% of GDP in spending. He balances the budget by assuming away entitlement spending, stating that there will be reductions he doesn't specify, ignoring interest on the debt, and assuming he can get receipts (taxes) up to 20% of GDP.

This is like my saying that I make $50,000 and I started this year $50,000 in debt and spent $52,000. I'm looking at bankruptcy, so I come up with a plan for the bankruptcy judge: I'm going to get out of the hole by making loans against my retirement and spending $55,000 this year (and increase from there every year in the future) and by ten years from now I'll be making $100,000 and only spending $100,000 (if we ignore debt repayment) so then, when my budget is balanced, we can start to worry about how to pay back those loans and catch up on retirement.

This would be horrifically misleading even if I had a good plan for increasing my income, but the budget assumes receipts at 20% of the GDP, which is a record level. No matter how high taxes go, we have never taken in more than 20.9% of GDP (1946) or sustained more than 19%. (see here) The OMB uses static scoring, so they just assume that if they charge more in taxes that they will get proportionally more in receipts, but reality doesn't work that way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's not that hard

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to prestimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone

That's what the Republicans promised when they were elected. The $100 billion is the effect of their promise, not the promise itself. The promise is a good one (except maybe that seniors, veterans, and defense are common-sense exceptions). Before the failed spend-a-palooza "stimulus" we had a budget that was too high. Allowing that to become the new baseline and whining about how the government is going to shut down if we don't keep the unprecedented, temporary, emergency levels of spending we went to in a vain attempt to recover the economy is one of the biggest crimes of the last congress. So going back to pre-stimulus, pre-TARP 2008 spending levels should be the starting place for any conversation about spending. I think we should go much, much further, but I'm not willing to even talk about it until we get the trillion dollar barrel of pork injected into the baseline in 2010 out of the discussion.

So, when Hal Rogers talks about cutting $100 billion from Obama's massively inflated FY2011 budget proposal, he's dissembling. The incoming Republicans didn't promise to take whatever Obama proposes and cut $100 billion (and certainly not less than $100 billion), they promised a return to 2008 spending levels. And to hear even Paul Ryan, who I like (unlike Hal Rogers, who is a first class appropriator), talk around the issue makes me mad. Here's how you keep the promise the Republicans made:
  1. Ask the Congressional Records Office for a copy of the 2008 budget
  2. (optional) Submit that to the floor with a rule that any amendment offered must not increase the size of the budget.
  3. Send it to the Senate
Was that really that hard?