It’s Tuesday, March 20th, 2012….and here’s The Gouge!

Leading off the Tuesday edition, two related commentaries from the editorial pages of the WSJ; the first, from Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, highlights the indivisibility of….

The GOP Budget and America’s Future

The president’s budget gives more power to bureaucrats, takes more from taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commits our nation to a future of debt and decline.

 

Less than a year ago, the House of Representatives passed a budget that took on our generation’s greatest domestic challenge: reforming and modernizing government to prevent an explosion of debt from crippling our nation and robbing our children of their future.

Absent reform, government programs designed in the middle of the 20th century cannot fulfill their promises in the 21st century. It is a mathematical and demographic impossibility. And we said so.

We assumed there would be some who would distort for political gain our efforts to preserve programs like Medicare. Having been featured in an attack ad literally throwing an elderly woman off a cliff, I can confirm that those assumptions were on the mark.

But one year later, we can say with some confidence that the attacks have failed. Courageous Democrats have joined our efforts. And bipartisan opposition to the path of broken promises is growing.

And so Tuesday, House Republicans are introducing a new Path to Prosperity budget that builds on what we’ve achieved.

Like last year, our budget delivers real spending discipline. It does this not through indiscriminate cuts that endanger our military, but by ending the epidemic of crony politics and government overreach that has weakened confidence in the nation’s institutions and its economy. And it strengthens the safety net by returning power to the states, which are in the best position to tailor assistance to their specific populations.

More important, it tackles the drivers of our debt and averts the fiscal crisis ahead. This year, our nation’s publicly held debt is projected to reach 73% of the economy—a dangerously high level that, according to leading economists, puts the nation at risk of a panicked run on its finances.

As shown in the nearby chart, our budget tackles this crisis head-on by cutting debt as a share of the economy by roughly 15% over the next decade, putting the nation’s finances on a path to balance, and paying off the debt. By contrast, the president’s budget pushes debt as a share of the economy even higher. In his budget’s own words, it allows the government’s fiscal position to “gradually deteriorate” after 2022.

On the critical issues of health security and tax reform, our budget draws a clear distinction between serious reformers and those who stand in the way of the growing bipartisan consensus for principled solutions.

Our budget’s Medicare reforms make no changes for those in or near retirement. For those who will retire a decade from now, our plan provides guaranteed coverage options financed by a premium-support payment. And this year, our budget adds even more choices for seniors, including a traditional fee-for-service Medicare option.

We also introduce a competitive-bidding process to determine the growth of government’s financial contribution to Medicare. Forcing health plans to compete against each other is the best way to achieve high-quality coverage at the lowest cost, and implementing these reforms in Medicare can have the effect of lowering health-care costs for everyone. This is the key to increasing access and affordability while preventing government debt from threatening the health security of seniors and the economic security of all Americans.

Our budget also spurs economic growth with bold tax reform—eliminating complexity for individuals and families and boosting competitiveness for American job creators. Led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, our budget consolidates the current six individual income tax brackets into just two brackets of 10% and 25%.

We propose to reduce the corporate tax rate of 35%, which will soon be the highest rate in the developed world, to a much more competitive 25%. Our budget also shifts to a “territorial” tax system to end the practice of hitting businesses with extra taxes when they invest profits earned abroad in jobs and factories here at home.

We reject calls to raise taxes, but revenue nevertheless remains steady under our budget because we close special-interest loopholes. More important, our reforms will grow the economy—and the faster the economy grows, the more revenue the government will have to meet its priorities and start paying down the debt.

These patient-centered Medicare reforms and pro-growth tax reforms have a long history of bipartisan support. Medicare reforms based on choice and competition have their roots in the Clinton administration’s bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. And in recent years, I’ve worked with Democrats to advance these reforms.

Tax reforms based on lowering tax rates and closing loopholes go back to the Reagan administration, when Democrats served as the congressional co-sponsors of the landmark 1986 tax reform law. More recently, the chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission put forward a plan for lower rates and a broader base.

It makes sense that these ideas have attracted leaders in both parties. The premium support model offers the only guarantee that Medicare can keep its promise to seniors for generations to come. And pro-growth tax reform, by lowering rates for all Americans while closing loopholes that primarily benefit the well off, can eliminate unfairness in the tax code and ensure a level playing field for all.

While these ideas have enjoyed growing bipartisan support, President Obama has doubled down on policies that have drawn growing bipartisan opposition.

With regard to Medicare, his latest budget calls for giving “additional tools” to the Independent Payment Advisory Board, an unaccountable board of 15 unelected bureaucrats empowered by the new health-care law to cut Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for seniors. Just this month, Democrats and Republicans alike voted for a measure to repeal this board.

And with regard to tax reform, the president’s latest budget calls for taking more from American families and businesses by raising rates and adding complexity to the tax code—precisely at odds with the bipartisan consensus for tax reform.

It is rare in American politics to arrive at a moment in which the debate revolves around the fundamental nature of American democracy and the social contract. But that is where we are. And no two documents illustrate this choice of two futures better than the president’s budget and the one put forward by House Republicans.

The president’s budget gives more power to unelected bureaucrats, takes more from hard-working taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commits our nation to a future of debt and decline.

The contrast with our budget couldn’t be clearer: We put our trust in citizens, not government. Our budget returns power to individuals, families and communities. It draws inspiration from the Founders’ belief that all people are born with an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. Protecting this right means trusting citizens, not nameless government officials, to decide what is in their best interests and make the right choice about our nation’s future.

….while the second only serves to emphasize the essence of his argument:

The Anti-Jobs Lobby

All of a sudden, bipartisanship is a bad idea.

 

For months we’ve heard that the only obstacle to Congressional progress is the GOP refusal to work with Democrats. But then what to make of the sudden opposition from regulators, liberals and some Senate Democrats to the bipartisan Jobs Act that passed the House 390-23 less than two weeks ago?

Hint: Maybe the real obstacle is Washington’s refusal to cede any control over even a small corner of the private economy.

In writing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Republicans followed the script that the media-Beltway elite said they should. No “radical” entitlement or tax reform to address big problems. They were supposed to think small, hold hands with Democrats and sing Kumbaya at the Gridiron Club.

And so House Republicans focused on modest reforms that would help the economy by making it easier for companies to raise capital, reinvigorate initial public offerings and make U.S. markets more competitive. They reached across the aisle to include proposals from Democrats. They drew in the White House—and 232 Republicans and 158 Democrats.

But now that the bill is headed for the Senate floor, a chunk of the Beltway elite is refusing to support even this modest regulatory reform. The SEC and its media chorus are suddenly waving the bloody shirt of “deregulation.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor last week to invoke “the dot-com crash, the Enron debacle, and the litany of bubbles and bursts.”

What horrors could inspire such panic? Well, there’s the provision to exempt “emerging growth companies,” with annual revenues under $1 billion, from a variety of regulatory frivolities, including Dodd-Frank’s votes on executive compensation and duplicative Sarbanes-Oxley audits of internal controls.

The U.S. economy did well for 230 years before Sarbox passed in 2002, but now we are supposed to believe that waiving its most onerous provisions for even a few companies would be catastrophic. The claim is that this would endanger investors, as if the people who play in these markets are mom and pop pensioners who like to gamble on Internet and biotech IPOs. Most of these players are big institutions, and in any event the Jobs Act sets strict limits on how much average investors can participate.

The red tape lobby is also upset that the bill would raise the number of shareholders (to 2,000 from 500) who can own a stake in a closely held company before it is subject to stricter reporting rules. The SEC could have made this sensible change long ago and claims to be studying the issue.

But SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro is offended because Congress might do it instead of leaving it to her. The SEC’s flatfeet can’t stop Allen Stanford or Bernie Madoff, but they want everyone to believe they’re needed to look over the shoulder of the next Mark Zuckerberg even long before he files for an IPO.

Despite this investor-protection blather, the real driving force behind this opposition is the accounting lobby. (You know….the same guys who adamantly oppose any sensible tax reform, let alone a….SHUDDER!….flat tax.) These are the big four firms that turned their failures in Enron and WorldCom into one of the sweetest political oligopolies in history. They’re now afraid they’ll lose some of their government-enforced business if new companies are exempt from Section 404(b) of Sarbox even for a few years.

Unions also worry that they’ll lose leverage over companies without Dodd-Frank’s mandated disclosures on executive pay, even though the Jobs Act doesn’t apply once a company reaches $1 billion in revenue. The media are also raising the specter that investment bank analysts will start flogging companies to win business. But the Jobs Act doesn’t change SEC antifraud measures, the Spitzer global investment bank settlement or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s rules on conflict of interest.

Democrats would like to pretend that the fall-off in IPOs has nothing to do with regulation. But entrepreneurs tell a different story, pointing to the costs of Sarbox and Dodd-Frank, the reduction in research on small and mid-cap companies that the Spitzer settlement wrought, and heightened competition from abroad.

What the opposition to the bill really shows is Washington’s continuing hostility to risk-taking and capital creation. Regulators and liberals claim to want more jobs and growth, but not if it means taking their hands off the economy’s financial choke points. They’re afraid someone might make a buck without their say-so. This is what sends IPOs overseas and has produced the slowest recovery since the Great Depression.

In a related item, remember how military spending has to date been the only segment portion of the President’s $3.7T budget with fat to cut?

Report: US government spent at least $945M on advertising in 2010

 

Granted, just under half of what was, in reality, well over a billion dollars in government advertising expenditures went to military recruiting; so what was the remaining $600M spent to promote….

….other than The Obamao’s Marxist agenda and reelection campaign?!?

By the way, great points, Andy!  Who cares if it bankrupts the country, your children, grandchildren and every future generation to come.  At least you got yours!

Turning now to International News of Note, the Journal reports what everyone with half a brain knew was coming:

Food for Missile Program

So much for buying good Korean behavior.

 

The pace of world events keeps speeding up, and that includes the rapidity with which North Korean dictators break their promises. Less than three weeks after the Obama Administration said it would provide food aid to Pyongyang in the name of reducing its nuclear and military threat, the Kim Jong Eun regime has announced it will launch a satellite into orbit in mid-April.

This was as predictable as a California tax increase, though the U.S. State Department never seems to learn. The U.S., Japan and South Korea all announced their shock and dismay, as if nothing like it had ever happened.

The satellite launch—which the U.S. and Japan say is really a missile test—is meant to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jon Eun’s grandaddy and the man who started the Korean War by invading the South. Perhaps the latest Kim to inherit the throne feels the need to show he’s a tough guy nationalist in that image. Having pocketed the food aid pledge, he probably figures his foes-turned-suppliers will do as they always have and let the food go ahead lest the Korean people suffer. Never mind that much of the aid would be siphoned off by military and political elites.

Apologists for engaging North Korea are busy assuring everyone that the satellite test is no big deal and doesn’t threaten anyone. That’s what they always say. (You know….sorta like “Increased drilling won’t lower our dependence on foreign oil because we won’t see the results for 3-5 years”.) But North Korea has built nuclear bombs as a way to give it greater political leverage, and no one should doubt that it is trying to build a ballistic missile that would threaten Japan and the U.S. as a way to gain even more international clout. A missile launch will assist that effort even if it doesn’t complete it.

The Obama Administration had been doing well with its economic sanctions and diplomatic neglect toward the North, until it fell for one more round of offering alms for good behavior. The only message the North’s dynastic junta will understand is if the West now cuts off the food aid. Even better if the U.S.—or preferably, Japan—blows the missile out of the sky.

Let’s not forget this headline from Media Mutters, which was, to say the least, premature in its self-congratulatory tone:

Experts Commend North Korea Deal That Right-Wing Media Are Attacking

 

Oooh!

Never mind!

And since we’re on the subject of Emily Litella Moments, here’s one Rick “John McCain in a Sweater Vest” Santorum would just as soon forget:

 And in the “You Can Tell A Lot About A Network By The Friends It Keeps” segment, courtesy today of Bill Meisen, Inside the Beltway‘s Jennifer Harper tells us….

FOX-ALICIOUS

 

Just revealed: Osama bin Laden was told by al Qaeda’s U.S.-born media adviser Adam Gadahn about the best broadcast outlets to send an “anniversary video” commemorating the 9/11 terror attacks, according to Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius in an analysis published Saturday of recently declassified material taken from bin Laden’s compound after his death last May.

“I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official,” Mr. Ignatius explained.

The aforementioned video, Mr. Gadahn wrote to bin Laden, “should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News let her die in her anger … From a professional point of view, they are all on one level — except [Fox News] channel, which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks objectivity, too.”

“What an unintended boost for Fox, which can now boast that it is al Qaeda’s least favorite network,” Mr. Ignatius observed.

“That’s a subject Ignatius will not be exploring in a future column. And it would make a good one, in which the columnist could speculate on the newspapers that might populate a comparable list of al Qaeda’s favorites. Ah, well, maybe that’s too easy,” counters Scott Johnson, a contributor to Powerline.com.

Meanwhile, another Dimocratic Senator’s stock continues to fall faster than Barney Frank’s towel in a Provincetown steam room:

McCaskill’s ObamaCare Baggage

Many conservatives are calling President Obama’s contraception mandate a “war on religion,” and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill could become a political casualty.

 

Many conservatives are calling President Obama’s contraception mandate a “war on religion,” and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill could become a political casualty. A new Rasmussen poll shows the Democratic incumbent trailing all three of her potential Republican opponents. According to the poll, Sarah Steelman, a former state treasurer who ran for governor in 2008, boasts a 10-point lead. A month ago, Public Policy Polling had the senator and Ms. Steelman running even.

Since Ms. McCaskill voiced her support last month for the mandate, the conservative super PAC American Crossroads has been running ads slamming her “for following the president over a cliff to champion policies that hurt Missouri families from ObamaCare to wasteful stimulus spending to special-interest bailouts. Now, she’s joining him to insert government into our private lives.”

Ms. Steelman got in on the act with an ad blasting the mandate as “a slap in the face for religious freedom and it is another disastrous byproduct of ObamaCare . . . Claire McCaskill has agreed with him. I don’t.” A liberal Catholic, Ms. McCaskill took to the radio to defend herself and the mandate, but her assurance that “no church or hospital will be forced to pay for anything that violates their beliefs” isn’t very convincing in light of the Catholic Church’s insistence that the mandate does just that.

Missouri is a socially conservative state with a deep antipathy for ObamaCare. More than 70% of voters approved a symbolic referendum in 2010 to exempt Missourians from the individual mandate. The senator’s vote for the health-care law is one reason why her approval rating stood at only 42% six weeks ago, which was before the contraception controversy heated up.

Too baaaaaad!

Next up, in the “Do As I Say, NOT As I Say” segment, James Taranto relates the latest bit of unwitting honesty from an Administration founded upon lies:

“At a Washington D.C. middle school, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hosted a screening of the Cartoon Network’s new film, ‘Stop Bullying: Speak Out,” notes Tina Korbe of HotAir.com:

As its name suggests, the movie aims to teach kids to speak out when they witness bullying–and to not bully other children themselves. One of its many prescriptions: Don’t call classmates words like “stupid,” “fat” and “jerk.”

Sebelius must have dozed off during the film, though, because, after the screening ended, in a panel discussion moderated by CNN’s Don Lemon, she gave advice that directly contradicted the movie.

As CNSNews.com reports:

“What do you think is the best advice for people who are going into watching this film and anyone who is watching?” asked Lemon. As part of her answer, Sebelius said: “I think, very important, is for kids to understand how powerful you really are. You might feel like you’re not big enough, not strong enough, not–don’t have enough tools. But just saying, ‘Stop it! You know, you’re being a jerk!’ . . .”

And if that fails, put two behind their ear.  The Queen of Partial Birth Abortion went on to add, “Besides, if Republican’s would stop their obstructionism, we could identify bullies in the womb and eliminate the problem before it even starts!”

On the Lighter Side….

Finally, we’ll call it a day with today’s installment of Tales From the Darkside, brought to you by Best of the Web and America’s public education establishment:

The Washington Post has an appalling little story from suburban Virginia:

Fairfax County school administrators are investigating a student’s allegations of racially insensitive behavior by a veteran English teacher at George C. Marshall High School.

Ninth-grader Jordan Shumate said that during class this month, he was reading aloud a poem by acclaimed African American writer Langston Hughes when his teacher interrupted and directed him to read in a “blacker” style.

“She told me, ‘Blacker, Jordan–c’mon, blacker. I thought you were black,’ ” said Shumate, who is African American. (And while you’re at it, dunk this basketball, run a sub-10 100 and give me a swig of your grape Nehi and a bite of that Moonpie!)

Isn’t this just the reductio ad absurdum of the educational philosophy of “diversity”–put forward by, among others, Justices Lewis Powell and Sandra Day O’Connor–in which it is important to have, in O’Connor’s words, a “critical mass” of minority students for the edification of their peers?

The WaPo story went on to say….

Another ninth-grader, Kaila Denny, said she witnessed the incident. Shumate was “just sitting there reading normally like any person would,” Denny said, when Bart instructed him to speak “blacker.”

Shumate said that when he refused to continue reading the poem, Bart read it aloud herself, demonstrating what she meant. “She sounded like a maid in the 1960s,” Shumate said. “She read the poem like a slave, basically.” Shumate said he asked Bart that day whether she thinks all black people speak that way. She reprimanded him for talking out of turn, he said, and told him to take his seat.

In the BACK of the classroom!  Your education dollars at work.

Magoo