Daily Digest for Wednesday
“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks and adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” –George Washington, Letter to Bushrod Washington, 1783
TOP 5 RIGHT HOOKS
More Executive Orders on the Way
For most of his time in office, Barack Obama has frequently taken executive action rather than waiting for congressional legislation. He complains that “we can’t wait” for Congress, and brags that he’s “getting things done” this way. This week he once again renewed his promise to do something about jobs via executive orders: “[W]e are not just going to be waiting for a legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen … and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward.” Not only is this approach becoming his standard operating procedure, but he also seems increasingly to view himself more as a monarch than a president.
Another Rebuke for Obama
The DC Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously struck down the Obama FCC’s unilateral imposition of so-called “net neutrality” rules on Internet providers. The FCC acted when Congress didn’t, a pattern all too familiar in this administration. The Wall Street Journal explains, “Net neutrality travels under the guise of ordering Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast not to discriminate against content providers. In reality it’s a government attempt to dictate how these providers must manage their Internet pipes and how much they can charge companies for using those pipes.” The ruling undoes one of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promises for the second time. We could go for a lot more of that.
See — ObamaCare ‘Works’
At least one sector of American business won’t suffer substantial losses from the skyrocketing costs of ObamaCare: big insurance companies. First, $1.07 trillion will come their way either directly or indirectly over the next 10 years to help reduce premiums for lower income people. Unfortunately, the machinery to pay those subsidies isn’t quite ready for implementation yet, so smaller companies may suffer untenable losses. Second, a section of the ACA about which Barack Obama has remained mute guarantees insurers a 75% reimbursement for all their loses that exceed 102% of their planned annual outlays. This subsidy will last three years, after which insurers are expected to raise rates as they see fit. The government will pay this largesse out of ObamaCare’s $63 billion annual “Belly Button Tax” assessed on almost every insured belly button (including dependents). And they said ObamaCare couldn’t work.
Mass Shooting Rhetoric Shot Down
Northeastern University criminology professor James Alan Fox and co-researcher Monica J. DeLateur recently published an extensive new study taking a detailed look at mass shootings in America over last four decades. As one would expect, their findings mostly contradict the Left’s narrative concerning the need for expanded gun control: “Mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall death toll, at least not over the past several decades,” based on statistics from the FBI. They also found that so-called “assault” rifles are hardly the weapons of choice. In fact, between 1982 and 2012, perpetrators used handguns, revolvers and/or shotguns 75.4% of the time. That doesn’t quite fit the narrative, does it? (Source.)
Feinstein’s Moment of Truth
A recent report by The New York Times clearing al-Qaida of initiating the terrorist attack in Benghazi even has some on the Left raising eyebrows. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is among those questioning the Times’ analysis: “I believe that groups loosely associated with al-Qaida” directly orchestrated the attack, Feinstein said. She even rejected the administration’s initial claim that the debacle was in response to an anti-Islam video, adding, “It doesn’t jibe with me.” Nor does it jibe with ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who perished that fateful night. If only Feinstein were as quick to admit the obvious truth about mass shootings as she is concerning terrorism.
Thrown Under the Omnibus
With the legislative branch of the federal government divided as it is, getting work accomplished is much like herding cats. For example, one of the most basic functions of Congress is to enact a budget for the following fiscal year, but over the last decade or so the nation has increasingly relied on giant “omnibus” spending bills as stopgap measures to avoid the dreaded government shutdown. The latest case is a $1.1 trillion discretionary behemoth that serves as a compromise no one really likes but both sides will likely vote for in order to keep the government going for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Negotiated through the appropriations chairs of both the House and Senate — Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), respectively — the headline restorations went to the failed federal Head Start program, which is now back to what’s considered “full funding,” and a 1% raise for federal workers. But the TSA will endure a $336 million cut, and not all veterans were given back the pension cuts they lost in a previous budget deal. So we can fund a worthless preschool program but not veterans benefits. That reflects extremely poor priorities on Capitol Hill, but what else is new?
Congress continues to get itself into this position year after year because members can’t seem to pass the dozen or so departmental appropriations packages in a timely fashion. Normally spring is the time the budget begins to come together, but in an election year political posturing and thoughts of re-election seem to take precedence.
So around the middle of September we will probably go through all this again just to push the day of reckoning past the election, and the cycle of uncertainty and deficit spending will continue. It’s a heck of a way to run a country.
It’s a Less Free America
Remember when you could say, “It’s a free country” and actually mean it? Unfortunately, according to several reports on economic freedom, that old adage is becoming less accurate every year. Last month, Canada’s Fraser Institute reported on America’s declining rank in economic freedom. The libertarian Cato Institute, citing growing debt and regulation, also found the U.S. has continued to slip in the ranks of economically free nations.
Now, for the seventh year in a row, the U.S. has slipped on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom as well — falling out of the top 10 (to number 12) for the first time. The Index bases its ranking system on several factors, including government spending and property rights. Our scores regarding business freedom, monetary freedom, labor freedom and fiscal freedom are all headed south. Interestingly, the global average score of 60.3 was the highest (best) in the 20-year history of the Index.
While U.S. decline began during George W. Bush’s second term, Obama’s crippling economic policies and ever-growing government has made it significantly worse. This comes as no surprise to conservatives, who, three years after the “official recovery” of the Great Recession, see an environment increasingly unfriendly to business interests. We realize that while the term “recovery” may technically be correct, it means little to the millions of Americans still affected by high unemployment rates, higher taxes and health care uncertainty.
We need government to back off and allow Americans to pursue another direction. We need leaders who actually believe in the free market, rather than those who use it as a scapegoat for “income inequality” and as a justification for more regulation. According to the Index, it will take leaders with the determination to reform the tax and entitlement systems, and the guts to take on the proponents of Big Government, in order to turn things around.
OPINION IN BRIEF
Columnist Terence Jeffrey: “Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a closed session of a House Armed Services subcommittee in October that the military cannot kill the terrorists who attacked the State Department and CIA compounds in Benghazi, Libya, because Congress has not authorized the use of force against those terrorists. … In 2011, by contrast, Obama did not defer to Congress … when he ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Libya’s civil war. … Ten years before Obama unilaterally ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Libya’s civil war, President George W. Bush secured congressional authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the American homeland. … If the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in Libya had been allied with Gadhafi, would Obama have ordered the military to go after them? If Obama asked Congress for an authorization to do so now, would Congress deny it? Does Obama care that under our Constitution he can only use force without congressional authorization if it is necessary to repel a sudden attack?”
Columnist Jonah Goldberg: “Feeding-frenzy defenders insist the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge is special because innocent constituents were deliberately inconvenienced for partisan purposes. That’s surely what makes this scandalous, but it hardly makes it unique. The Obama administration employed similar tactics during the sequester and the government shutdown. Closing the open-air World War II Memorial, furloughing air traffic controllers and other efforts were deliberate attempts to maximize the pain of innocents for political benefit. The tactic worked, but that’s not a justification for it, is it? The allegation that the Obama administration used the IRS to target political opponents is far more explosive (similar tactics were at the core of the Nixon impeachment effort). … Christie is new, exciting and interesting in ways Obama once was. The difference is that when Obama was new and exciting, the media were biased in every regard and heroically skeptical of any Obama wrongdoing. … Christie, like most Republicans, never benefited from such skepticism, and never will.”
Edmund Burke (1729-1797): “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Columnist Thomas Sowell: “While the creation of a traffic jam in a small New Jersey town shows the calloused ugliness too often found among political operators puffed up with their own power, this cannot compare with the threat to freedom when the Internal Revenue Service targets the administration’s political opponents during an election year. Nor can a traffic jam compare with the Department of Justice’s gun-running operation that led to the death of an American Border Patrol agent in the southwest or the State Department’s actions and inactions that led to the deaths of four American officials killed by terrorists in Benghazi.”
Comedian Jay Leno: “Did you all watch the Golden Globes [Sunday] night? … Of course, the big winner … was ‘American Hustle,’ a film about the marketing of ObamaCare.”