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The Keystone Kops Are After Greenwald!

Steve Ragan in Tech Herald:

After a tip from Crowdleaks.org, The Tech Herald has learned that HBGary Federal, as well as two other data intelligence firms, worked to develop a strategic plan of attack against WikiLeaks. The plan included pressing a journalist in order to disrupt his support of the organization, cyber attacks, disinformation, and other potential proactive tactics.

Update:

The Tech Herald was able to get in touch with Glenn Greenwald for his reaction to being singled out in the WikiLeaks proposal. He called the report creepy and disturbing. Moreover, he commented that the suggestions for dealing with WikiLeaks, along with the assumption that the organization could be undermined, were “hard to take seriously.”

The listed mitigations, such as disinformation or submitting false documents, have been discussed before. In 2008, the Pentagon had similar ideas, so that aspect of the document was nothing new.

Greenwald, as a journalist, is a prolific writer on media topics. He is a harsh critic of political figures and the mainstream media. The suggestion made by the proposal that he would pick career over cause is “completely against” what he is about, he told us.

“The only reason I do what I do is because im free to put cause before career,” he said.

Pointedly, he reminded us that his work includes taking aim at political figures, which could be a source of professional leverage with scoops or favors, as well as news organizations who could offer him gainful employment. None of these actions paints a picture of a man who would pick career over his passion.

Update 2:

WikiLeaks is hosting an official mirror of the sixth and final draft of the report. You can see a copy here.

Update 3:

Palantir Technologies has severed all ties with HBGary Federal and issued an apology to reporter Glenn Greenwald. More details here.

Update 4:

Berico Technologies has cut ties as well. More information is here.

Jesse Walker at Reason:

According to a report in the Tech Herald, three security firms recently pitched the Bank of America with a plan to take down WikiLeaks. If the documents at the core of the story are legit — and as Andy Greenberg of Forbes notes, “their level of detail would require immense effort on the part of counterfeiters” — the companies come off as Keystone Kops.

The most interesting detail is that the firms involved — HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies, and Berico Technologies — placed a lot of emphasis on the pro-WikiLeaks blogger Glenn Greenwald, arguing that “Without the support of people like Glenn wikileaks would fold,” so “It is this level of support that needs to be disrupted.” The firms are confident that this can be done, since “most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.”

The source of the documents is a massive trove of HBGary emails that was seized and released by Anonymous. The backstory behind that is pretty fascinating in itself.

Matthew Yglesias:

A consortium of national security contractors, led by Palantir Technology, seems to have been shopping a counter-WikiLeaks strategy. This slide is about neutralizing Glenn Greenwald:

— Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH transition
— It is this level of support that needs to be disrupted
— These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals.
— Without the support of people like Glenn, Wikileaks would fold

I like that they’re on a first-name basis with Greenwald. Lee’s 2008 book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, is highly recommended. And remember, without the support of people like you, the Yglesias Blog would fold!

Kerry Lauerman at Salon:

We take threats against our own very seriously.

A bizarre plan for an attack on the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks and journalists construed as sympathetic to it — first reported by the Tech Herald — clearly targets Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, saying that his “level of support” for WikiLeaks “needs to be disrupted.” The report (you can download the purported final draft here) is listed as an “overview by Palantir Technologies, HBGary Federal and Berico Technologies,” and according to a string of e-mails also leaked, was developed following a request from Hunton and Williams, a law firm that represents, among others, Bank of America.

Bank of America is the presumed next target of WikiLeaks, and has reportedly been bracing for what’s to come.

The leaked report singles out other journalists, as well, and suggests that “these are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause …” And goes on: “Without the support of people like Glenn wikileaks would fold.”

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

Now aside from the predictable, but nevertheless rather shocking detail, that these security firms believed the best way to take WikiLeaks out was to push Glenn to stop supporting them, what the fuck are they thinking by claiming that Glenn weighs “professional preservation” against “cause”? Could they be more wrong, painting Glenn as a squeamish careerist whose loud support for WikiLeaks (which dates back far longer than these security firms seem to understand) is secondary to “professional preservation”? Do they know Glenn is a journalist? Do they know he left the stuffy world of law? Have they thought about why he might have done that? Are they familiar at all with who Glenn is? Do they really believe Glenn became a household name–to the extent that he did–just in December?

I hope Bank of America did buy the work of these firms. Aside from the knowledge that the money would be–to the extent that we keep bailing out Bank of America–taxpayer money, I’d be thrilled to think of BoA pissing away its money like that. The plan these firms are pushing is absolutely ignorant rubbish. They apparently know almost nothing about what they’re pitching, and have no ability to do very basic research.

Which is precisely the approach I’d love to see BoA use to combat whatever WikiLeaks has coming its way.

Glenn Greenwald:

My initial reaction to all of this was to scoff at its absurdity.  Not being familiar with the private-sector world of internet security, I hadn’t heard of these firms before and, based on the quality of the proposal, assumed they were just some self-promoting, fly-by-night entities of little significance.  Moreover, for the reasons I detailed in my interview with The Tech Herald — and for reasons Digby elaborated on here — the very notion that I could be forced to choose “professional preservation over cause” is ludicrous on multiple levels.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have spent the last year vehemently supporting WikiLeaks — to say nothing of aggressively criticizing virtually every large media outlet and many of their leading stars, as well as the most beloved political leaders of both parties — if I were willing to choose “career preservation over cause.”

But after learning a lot more over the last couple of days, I now take this more seriously — not in terms of my involvement but the broader implications this story highlights.  For one thing, it turns out that the firms involved here are large, legitimate and serious, and do substantial amounts of work for both the U.S. Government and the nation’s largest private corporations (as but one example, see this email from a Stanford computer science student about Palantir).  Moreover, these kinds of smear campaigns are far from unusual; in other leaked HB Gary emails, ThinkProgress discovered that similar proposals were prepared for the Chamber of Commerce to attack progressive groups and other activists (including ThinkProgress).  And perhaps most disturbing of all, Hunton & Williams was recommended to Bank of America’s General Counsel by the Justice Department — meaning the U.S. Government is aiding Bank of America in its defense against/attacks on WikiLeaks.

That’s why this should be taken seriously, despite how ignorant, trite and laughably shallow is the specific leaked anti-WikiLeaks proposal.  As creepy and odious as this is, there’s nothing unusual about these kinds of smear campaigns.   The only unusual aspect here is that we happened to learn about it this time because of Anonymous’ hacking.  That a similar scheme was quickly discovered by ThinkProgress demonstrates how common this behavior is.  The very idea of trying to threaten the careers of journalists and activists to punish and deter their advocacy is self-evidently pernicious; that it’s being so freely and casually proposed to groups as powerful as the Bank of America, the Chamber of Commerce, and the DOJ-recommended Hunton & Williams demonstrates how common this is.  These highly experienced firms included such proposals because they assumed those deep-pocket organizations would approve and it would make their hiring more likely.

But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power.  I’ve written many times about this issue — the full-scale merger between public and private spheres —  because it’s easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics.  Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized.  There is very little separation between government power and corporate power.   Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former.  The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did.  It’s not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it’s worse than that:  corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.

That’s what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally:  it’s a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation).  The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton & Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government.  The U.S. Government’s obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented.  And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its “private partners” able to act lawlessly.  That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity in lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.

Nate Anderson at Wired

More Greenwald

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Who Is Happy With This Budget? No One? Bueller? Bueller?

David Rodgers at Politico:

Long on tough choices, short on final answers, President Barack Obama’s new 2012 budget goes to Congress on Monday in what many hope is only an opening bid before he and Republicans come to the table on a bipartisan deficit reduction plan.

For the current year, the White House projects a more-than-$1.6-trillion deficit — even higher than the Congressional Budget Office forecast. But outlays would actually drop in 2012 and stabilize in the $3.7 trillion range, as deficits fall to $1.1 trillion in 2012 and $768 billion in 2013.

After November’s election results, no one assumes this is sufficient, but more than any of Obama’s prior efforts, the new budget makes choices that help define the man himself.

He bets big on education spending — an 11 percent increase next year — while altering the Pell Grant program to try to save the aid levels now allowed for college students from the poorest families. The National Institutes of Health would grow by about $1 billion, even as old anti-poverty programs and heating assistance would be reduced. And $62 billion in Medicare savings would be plowed back into paying physicians who care for the elderly.

Foreign wars, particularly the one in Afghanistan, would cost $118 billion, but for the first time in many years, total expenditures for the Pentagon and military would begin to fall. And while Republicans ridicule Obamat’s five-year cap on domestic spending, it has bred new restraint in the president.

Jonathan Cohn at TNR, before the budget came out:

Between the administration’s recent statements and a series of calculated leaks, we have a pretty good idea of what Obama is trying to do. He’s going to call for spending more money on education and other public investments, but he’ll also endorse enough cuts to keep overall non-defense discretionary spending at last year’s levels. Elementary and secondary school education, for example, should get a boost. But Pell Grants, for low-income college students, are going to take a hit, albeit a carefully crafted one.* There will be more money for building high-speed rail but less for helping low-income families pay their heating bills.

Is this a good thing? In absolute terms, clearly, the answer is no. The demand for Pell Grants is unusually high right now; among other things, cash-strapped states are raising tuitions at state schools just as cash-strapped students and families have fewer resources to pay them. Energy costs for next winter, when the cut in heating assistance would take effect, are likely to be higher than at any time since 2008. Unless the economic recovery quickens very suddenly, plenty of people will struggle to pay those heating bills. And those are just two examples of program reductions that will leave needy Americans even more needy.

But everything is relative, and that means judging these cuts alongside both the modest increases you’ll find elsewhere in this budget and the much larger increases you saw in previous ones. Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, will spend the next few days dissecting the Obama spending request and, as he does, he will likely find plenty not to like. But, during an interview, he also put disappointments in context:

I think [Obama’s] record is very strong — major expansions in refundable tax credits for the working poor, major expansion of student financial aid for low-income students so that more of them can go to and complete college, and of course, major health reform that will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured people. This is the most impressive record of any president since LBJ.

Obama’s spending request looks even better when you consider what the Republicans would do if left to their own devices. They haven’t committed themselves to a 2012 budget just yet. But they’ve said they want a far deeper freeze than Obama’s, reducing non-defense discretionary spending to what it was in 2008. On Friday, they offered a preview of that vision when they announced their proposal for how to finance government for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

They want far more severe cuts to Pell Grants and home heating assistance, plus reductions to such essential services as food inspections and the elimination of programs like Americorps. They also want to reduce spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children. That initiative, known as WIC, provides nutritional assistance to expectant mothers and newborns. As Paul Krugman notes, that cut will hurt today and tomorrow, since kids who grow up malnourished are more likely to have problems later in life.

Ezra Klein:

Happy Valentine’s Day, Wonkbook readers: I know you said not to get you anything this year, but I saw the president’s 2012 budget coming out and, well, I couldn’t resist. Head here at 10:30AM EST to download it. You’re welcome.

The budget — which proposes to spend $3.73-trillion in 2012 — includes $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Two-thirds of that comes from spending cuts, with the largest chunk the administration’s proposed five-year freeze of non-security discretionary spending. The final third comes in tax increases. If all goes well, that’ll take the deficit down from the 10.9 percent of GDP we’re projecting for 2011 to 3% of GDP in 2017 — a much more manageable level. Entitlements, tax expenditures, and other traditionally toxic parts of the federal budget are not being addressed. The final document bears very little resemblance to the report produced by the president’s fiscal commission.

One thing to note: The document assumes that the high-income tax cuts expire in 2012, as they’re currently projected to do. The administration isn’t counting that in their $1.1 trillion of deficit reduction, but if the prediction is wrong and the Bush cuts do get another extension, they’ll wipe out most of this budget’s savings in one fell swoop. Conversely, if we decided to get serious about the deficit and let all of the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012 — yes, including the cuts for the not-so-rich — the reduction in the deficit would be vastly larger than anything envisioned in this budget. It’s an odd turn of events, but for all that this budget, and the various Republican proposals, attempt to actually do for the deficit, the biggest single thing we could do would be to do, well, nothing: Let the Bush tax cuts expire and let the health-reform law and the associated Medicare cuts and excise tax get implemented as planned. Doing by not doing: That’s the zen of deficit reduction. Somehow, I doubt Washington will find it very calming.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

Echoing the administration’s line that “the easy cuts are behind us,” Politico’s David Rogers says Obama’s 2012 budget is “long on tough choices.”  That depends on how you define “tough.” Jake Tapper of ABC News gives those alleged hard choices some context: “At no point in the president’s 10-year projection would the U.S. government spend less than it’s taking in.” By the president’s own definition, then, today’s budget plan isn’t sustainable.

Instead, the president outlines a plan that would keep the yearly deficit above $1.6 trillion this year and around $1.1 trillion the year after. The 10-year plan is to shave off about $1.1 trillion from the next decade’s total expected deficit. But in the context of a $7 trillion-plus projected deficit, this is hardly a breakthrough, or a serious fix. Last December, the president’s own fiscal commission proposed about $4 trillion in cuts, including an overhaul of Social Security. The president’s budget, by contrast, barely touches our unsustainable entitlements—and certainly doesn’t offer anything in the way of major reform.

In other words, despite the president’s recognition of the basic math underlying our country’s ongoing fiscal distress, his budget still doesn’t fix the problem that we spend more than we make. So much for confronting the facts.

Brian Darling at Redstate:

The fact of the matter is that the President is using fuzzy math to create an inflated budgetary baseline (in other words he has inflated projected spending over a 10 year period) so that he can claim cuts that don’t exist.  Today is the President’s day to pitch his plan, but the Obama Administration has to answer why his baseline is so inflated and why he is planning to raise taxes at a time of economic pain.

The President’s budget has something called the “Bridge From Budget Enforcement Act Baseline to Adjusted Baseline.”  This is the math theory used to create the fiction of cuts to the deficit.  This document has a “Budget Enforcement Act Baseline” deficit of $5.5 trillion over the 2012-2021 period and adds in some calculations to inflate that deficit baseline.

The President is actually cutting the projected deficit using projections created by his own administration.  This is a great way to make it look like he is going to balance the budget in 2021, a date where he will be far away from the Oval Office and in no way can he be blamed if his numbers do not pan out.

The Obama Administration adds in a factor, the “indexing to inflation the 2011 parameters of the Alternative Minimum Tax” which adds $1.5 trillion to the Obama baseline.  Then the Obama numbers crunchers add a continuation of the tax cuts for middle income taxpayers to the tune of $1.3 trillion.  Please note that this projection does not calculate in an extension of tax cuts for job creators — this is an projected increase in taxes starting in the first year of President Obama’s replacement.

More Obama math.  Add in a $3.3 trillion in program adjustments and $642 billion in debt services on adjustments.  Add in all of these projections to the baseline and you have adjusted the baseline from $5.5 trillion to $9.39 trillion in debt from 2012-2021.  That is how you adjust debt upward to make it look like the President’s budget is cutting spending.  You inflate projected spending over the next 10 years then increase spending at a lower rate than the baseline, you can create a “cut.”

On taxes, the President has hidden a massive increase in the gas tax.  There is a line item in the President’s budget summary tables titled “Bipartisan financing for Transportation Trust Fund” that adds up to $328 billion from 2012-2021.  In the President’s Bipartisan Debt Commission Report, they recommended a 15 cent increase in the gas tax.  The President’s budget seems to assume that his commission’s report is implemented by Congress and send to his desk.  This is an implicit endorsement of a massive increase in the price of gas at the pump in the form of increasing the federal gas tax from $18.4 cents.  If this idea does not pass, then you have a $328 billion shortfall in the projected transportation budget.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Andrew Sullivan is back from his absence and in incredibly high dudgeon over the Obama administration’s failure to propose a more austere budget. Andrew concedes that any such proposal would fail and exact huge political damage upon Obama but somehow thinks it’s unconscionable Obama didn’t do it anyway:

The cynical political calculation is obvious and it is well put by Yglesias and Sprung. If Obama backs Bowles-Simpson, the GOP will savage him for the tax hikes, while also scaring the wits out of the elderly on Medicare. The Democratic left – just look at HuffPo today – will have a cow. Indeed, if Obama backs anything, the GOP will automatically oppose him. He has to wait for a bipartisan agreement which he can then gently push ahead. But that’s exactly why we are in this situation today. Because no president has had the balls to deal with it, and George W. Bush made it all insanely worse.

So… why would proposing something that gets shot down not be not only useful but an absolute moral obligation? I don’t really get it. It seems like the smart play is to first win the budget showdown and try to beat some sanity into the Republicans, who can’t possibly compromise right now, and then either cut a deal or (preferably) just let the GOP kill the entire Bush tax cuts for you, which would more or less take care of the medium-term deficit problem.

Anyway, that’s not even my main point. My main point is that Andrew seems to endorse the endlessly discredited doc fix myth:

But in a mere nine years, entitlements will account for 64 percent of all federal spending. And Obama just punted on his promise to cut Medicare payments to doctors, as pledged under Obamacare as a core part of the case that health insurance reform would cut the deficit. So congrats, Megan. We can chalk that up as a cynical diversion (even though Obama pledges to find savings elsewhere in the Medicare budget to make up for this lie – a promise we now have no reason to trust or believe).

Once again, the physician reimbursement is not part of the Affordable Care Act. It’s part of a poorly-drafted 1997 law. Promising to carry out the never-intended 1997 physician reimbursement cuts was not part of the Affordable Care Act. Nor is it anybody’s idea of good policy. I’ve seen this myth circulating among conservatives and hard-core libertarians but it’s the first time I’ve seen it leap over the ideological divide. One of my many attempts to dispel the myth can be found here.

Andrew Sullivan:

Chait says there is no point in Obama proposing a real solution to the country’s medium-term fiscal collapse … because of the nature of the current Republicans. That’s Jon Cohn’s and Josh Marshall’s position too. I have not exactly been easy on the GOP either and their fiscal fraudulence when it comes to the long-term debt. And yet Tom Coburn boldly came out in favor of Bowles-Simpson, and Saxby Chambliss and Kent Conrad are on board for serious long-term entitlement and tax reform. It seems a little strange to believe that a GOP just elected on a platform of ending the debt would oppose Bowles-Simpson’s outline for eventual fiscal sanity. And if they did, Obama could call them out for their fiscal recklessness.

Instead, Obama’s transformation into a “what debt crisis?” liberal means that the GOP for the first time can legitimately call Obama out on his fiscal recklessness. Like Megan, I can see the point of spending in a recession. But when you have a new opportunity to set a new fiscal compass in a slowly recovering economy, outflank the GOP on the long-term debt, and help prevent a looming fiscal collapse, and you give the lame-ass SOTU Obama gave and unveil the risibly unserious budget we got yesterday, you reveal yourself as, well, not exactly change and certainly not hope.

I am not turning on the president given the alternatives, but I am not going to use the alternatives as excuses for the president to shirk his core responsibility to the next generation. I didn’t send eight years excoriating George “Deficits Don’t Matter” Bush to provide excuses for Barack “Default Doesn’t Matter” Obama. Like other fiscal conservatives, I’m just deeply disappointed by Obama’s reprise of politics as usual – even as the fiscal crisis has worsened beyond measure in the last three years. My point is that actually being honest about the budget and what it will take to resolve its long-term crisis is not political suicide, as Chait says. It’s statesmanship. It’s what a president is for.

One reason many of us supported this president was because he pledged not to return to the cynical politics of the Washington game in which partisan maneuvring always, always outweighs the national interest. But what he is telling us now is that he is indeed a classic pol, aiming for re-election, even if the US risks becoming a fiscal banana republic in the next decade.And if you really wanted to help the economy, wouldn’t reassuring domestic industry and international markets that the US is not on an auto-pilot for default be a lot more effective than planning more broadband access (however admirable that may be)? Does the president really believe that leaving Medicare and defense and Medicaid as they are is sustainable?

Leadership is not a bullshit SOTU that dredges up that ancient cliche about a “Sputnik moment” (really, Favreau? That’s all you got?), as if Obama were Harold Wilson extolling the “white heat” of the technological revolution as some sort of cure-all. It is not new slogans like “cut and invest”, which involve trivial amounts of money in the grand scheme of the things and may do actual harm to good government programs, instead of tackling where the real money is. It isn’t trimming a pathetically small amount from defense, while still adhering to Cold War troop deployments across the entire globe.

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Live, From CPAC, It’s Friday Afternoon!

David Weigel:

First, a word about hecklers: It’s awful that they get so much attention. A few bad apples in a room of thousands can create the impression of massive dissent, when it really isn’t there.

That said, boy, was there a lot of heckling when Donald Rumsfeld arrived at CPAC to accept the Defender of the Constitution Award. The ballroom for big events fills up many minutes in advance. In this instance, the people who wanted to hear Rand Paul speak at 3:45 had to arrive around 2:30, and stay there. If they did, they sat through a speech from Donald Trump (a surprise to attendees who weren’t checking the news frequently), and used every possible moment to yell “RON PAUL” at the Donald. When Trump responded to one of the heckles, and said that Paul “can’t win” the presidency, there were loud and righteous boos.

It takes a while to exit the ballroom. This means that hundreds of Paul fans — recognizably younger and sometimes beardier than the median CPAC attendee — are in the room or in lines as Donald Rumsfeld is introduced.

“I am pleased to recognize our chairman, David Keene, to recognize Donald Rumsfeld,” says emcee Ted Cruz.

There are loud boos.

Robert Stacy McCain:

Total CPAC attendance is more than 10,000, among whom are hundreds of Paulistas – more than 10 percent of the total attendance, due not only to the fanaticism of Paul’s following but also because Campaign for Liberty has paid the way for his student supporters to attend the conference.

As might be expected, the Paulistas are at odds with most conservatives on foreign policy and this coincidence of scheduling that had many of the anti-war libertarians in their ballroom seats during the Rumsfeld recognition is just typical of the unexpected happenings at CPAC. And this unfortunate incident of inexcusable rudeness should help put the whole GOProud “controversy” in perspective. Are conflicts between anti-war libertarians and pro-war neocons really any different than the clash between gay Republicans and pro-family social conservatives?

Grant that these would seem to be what might be called irreconcilable differences, and yet if the broad coalition of the Right is to cohere — as it was powerfully coherent in 2010 — the disagreements must be tamped down. Courtesy and forebearance would seem to be requisite to the endeavor.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Republicans may not yet have the ideal candidate to take on President Obama in 2012. But at least they have an apprentice program.

“This is the largest crowd we have ever had in eager anticipation of our next speaker!” Lisa De Pasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, told the annual gathering this week. “We have overflow rooms filled! This ballroom filled!”

The reason for this eager anticipation, and for the whoops and hollers from the crowd: “someone who is thinking about tossing his hat in the ring for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.”

The sound system played the theme from NBC’s “The Apprentice.” A puff of orange hair appeared on the stage, and somewhere underneath it was the billionaire Donald Trump, giving a flirtatious, finger-wiggling wave to the crowd.

“You’re hired!” a woman in the front called out to him.

Basking in the adulation, Trump announced: “These are my people!”

Oh? The last time Trump tested the presidential waters, as a prospective Reform Party candidate a decade ago, he favored abortion rights, campaign finance reform and universal health care. He’s thrice married and has had many girlfriends in and out of wedlock. He’s behaved erratically in his handling of the Miss USA competition. He’s contributed to Democrats as recently as four months ago. And – unbeknownst to most in the audience – he was invited to CPAC by a gay Republican group, GOProud, whose participation in the conference sparked a boycott by social conservatives.

“Over the years I’ve participated in many battles and have really almost come out very, very victorious every single time,” the Donald said. (Except for the bankruptcy, that is.) “I’ve beaten many people and companies and I’ve won many wars,” he added. (Though he didn’t serve in the military.) “I have fairly but intelligently earned many billions of dollars, which in a sense was both a scorecard and acknowledgment of my abilities.”

Joshua Green at The Atlantic

Jennifer Rubin:

Mitt Romney’s wife Ann introduced Romney, trying to humanize a candidate that in 2008 seemed remote if not plastic. However, this line didn’t exactly make him seem warm and cuddly: “When the children were young and Mitt would call home from a business trip on the road, he would often hear a very tired and exasperated young mother, overwhelmed by our rambunctious five boys.” She’s an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic; she however needs better material.

Romney’s delivery was more relaxed and quick-paced than in the past. His use of humor was perhaps the most noticeable change. (This got a hearty laugh: “The world – and our valiant troops – watched in confusion as the President announced that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan….as long as it didn’t go much beyond August of 2011. And while the Taliban may not have an air force or sophisticated drones, it’s safe to say… they do have calendars.”) Romney is a polished and professional pol.

As for the substance, he made clear he’s not a pull-up-the-drawbridge Republican. In fact he began his speech with a foreign policy riff:

An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak President. The President who touted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression. His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How’s that worked out? Iran armed Hezbollah and Hamas and is rushing toward nuclear weapons. North Korea fired missiles, tested nukes, sunk a South Korean ship and shelled a South Korean island. And his “reset program” with Russia? That consisted of our President abandoning our missile defense in Poland and signing a one-sided nuclear treaty. The cause of liberty cannot endure much more of his “they get, we give” diplomacy!

But the heart of his speech was the economy. But, for obvious reasons, he limited his focus to job creation, entirely ignoring ObamaCare. His attention to jobs was effective insofar as it went:

Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can’t find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles.

Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy–a moral tragedy of epic proportion. Unemployment is not just a statistic. Fifteen million unemployed is not just a number. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!

Curiously his only mention of debt was this: “Like the Europeans, they grew the government, they racked up bigger deficits, they took over healthcare, they pushed cap and trade, they stalled production of our oil and gas and coal, they fought to impose unions on America’s workers, and they created over a hundred new agencies and commissions and hundreds of thousands of pages of new regulations.”

Reason

Michael Scherer at Time:

The heirs to Ronald Reagan’s conservative legacy gathered Thursday in a hotel ballroom to exchange variations on the dominant theme in today’s Republican politics: It is evening in America.

“The Germans are buying the New York Stock Exchange,” announced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world,” exhorted reality television star Donald Trump. It’s “a national reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime,” explained former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rick Santorum, a one-time Pennsylvania senator preparing a run for president, rounded out the collective cry of Cassandra by announcing that the nation was being run by a heretic. “This is someone who doesn’t believe in truth and evil in America,” he said of President Obama. (Read about what to expect from CPAC 2011.)

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a bellwether of conservative thought. And the first day of this year’s event, with record attendance boosted by ever multiplying scores of college students, did not disappoint. For journalists looking to crack the code on the right’s narrative for the 2012 election cycle, it was evident in nearly every speech delivered in the main ballroom.

The next election, different speakers argued in different ways, would not just determine the occupant of the Oval Office, but the very survival of the country as a global superpower. “This is a crossroads of American history. This is a moment,” said Santorum. “Were you there? Did you see it? Did you understand what was at stake?”

As can be expected, much of the blame for America’s precipitous state was laid at the feet of Obama and the Democratic agenda, which Rumsfeld poetically described as “the gentle despotism of big government.” Several speakers accused Obama of not believing in the exceptionalism of America, or understanding American power, and therefore precipitating the country’s declining influence. Downstairs, in the exhibit hall, supporters of Mitt Romney distributed stickers that read only, “Believe In America,” as if his Democratic opponents did not.

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with a round-up

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

The new chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, today distanced his organization from GOProud, telling FrumForum in an exclusive interview that “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with the gay conservative organization.

The ACU, which annually organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference, has faced some criticism for including GOProud as a co-sponsor for the second year in a row. Socially conservative organizations have denounced the move, and the Heritage Foundation claimed that GOProud’s inclusion was part of their decision to opt-out.

Cardenas, who was selected yesterday to replace outgoing chairman David Keene, told FrumForum that he disapproved of GOProud’s response to the furor.

“I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable. And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things,” said Cardenas.

GOProud had asserted that Cleta Mitchell, the chairman of the ACU Foundation, was pushing conservative groups and individuals to boycott CPAC because of GOProud’s inclusion. Chris Barron, the chairman of GOProud, recently said in an interview that Mitchell was “a nasty bigot.”

“It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude,” Cardenas told FrumForum.

Asked for GOProud’s response, the group’s chairman apologized for his comments about Cleta Mitchell.

“For the past six months, we have watched as unfair and untrue attacks have been leveled against our organization, our allies, our friends and sometimes even their families. Everyone has their breaking point and clearly in my interview with Metro Weekly I had reached mine. I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell and for that I apologize,” said Chris Barron.

Asked about whether he values a big tent approach to conservatism, Cardenas said that he did – but that his vision applied principally to reaching out to different minorities and ethnic groups.

“There are not enough African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities here. That diversity is critical – you don’t need to change your value system to attract more diversity into the movement… [but] I’m not going to – for the sake of being inclusive – change the principles that have made the movement what it is,” said Cardenas.

“David [Keene] invited these folks [GOProud] in an effort to be inclusive… Having friends of ours leaving… presents difficulties to me,” he said. “There’s always going to be some tension, [but] there should never be any tension between time-tested values.”

Asked if someone who supported gay marriage could be a conservative, Cardenas replied, “Not a Ronald Reagan conservative… I will say this: we adopted a resolution unanimously at ACU advocating traditional marriage between a man and a woman, so that answers how we feel on the issue.”

Cardenas says that his priorities as the new ACU chairman will be focused on “making sure that our true friends never leave the table.”

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He (We Gave Him Most Of Our Lives) Is Leaving (Sacrificed Most Of Our Lives)

Anthony Shadid and David D. Kirkpatrick at NYT:

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt prepared to address the nation Thursday, with government officials indicating that they expected him to step aside, and Egypt’s military announcing that it is intervening in state affairs in an attempt to stop a three-week old uprising.

The military declared on state television that it would take measures “to maintain the homeland and the achievements and the aspirations of the great people of Egypt” and meet the demands of the protesters who have insisted on ending Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Several government officials said Mr. Mubarak is expected to announce his own resignation and pass authority to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman. But if the military does assume formal control of the government, it remains uncertain if it would give Mr. Suleiman, a former military officer, a leading role.

State television said in a bulletin that Mr. Mubarak would make a statement tonight. The news anchor stumbled on her words as she said Mr. Mubarak would speak “live on air from the presidential palace.” Footage just before then had showed the president meeting with Mr. Suleiman and the country’s prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

Weasel Zippers:

Victory, but for whom?

Michelle Malkin:

Twitter is hoot this past hour, with BIG-CAPITAL-LETTER BREAKING NEWS flying about Hosni Mubarak possibly stepping down. Or maybe not. Or maybe so.

CIA director Leon Panetta leaped forward to proclaim a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would be out today.

And then, a CIA spokesman quickly retracted the statement because Panetta was basing his assessment on cable news reports — not independent US intel.

And now, Panetta’s office assures us they are “monitoring the situation.”

From White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, we learn that it’s a “fluid situation.”

I’ll let you decide what kind of fluid.

Stephen J. Smith at Reason:

American and Arab media are buzzing with late-breaking rumors that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will announce his resignation tonight, almost surely in anticipation of massive rallies planned for tomorrow after Friday prayers. If true, this would be a significant victory for the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo and throughout Egypt throughout the last few weeks.

What comes next, however, is not clear. The military has been threatening a coup since yesterday, with the Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Sami Enan telling the masses in Tahrir today that “all your demands will be met…it ends tonight.” Although that statement is similar to ones made by other regime officials throughout the last few days, the mood among the protesters in Tahrir suggests that they expect the Army to be more receptive to their demands than Mubarak and his intelligence chief and newly-minted Vice President Omar Suleiman.

The big question now is who exactly will take over, and how temporary his rule will be. Speculation is changing rapidly, but the predominant theory that’s being pushed on Al Jazeera English right now is that the military was troubled by the possibility that Hosni Mubarak would try to hand over the reigns to Omar Suleiman, and that is why they’ve effectuated what appears to be a coup. Suleiman is Mubarak’s dyed-in-the-wool intelligence chief, and few have faith in him to carry out real reforms, with even his American backers expressing doubts about his commitment to change.

Doug Mataconis:

So, basically what we’ve got is a military coup with the promise of a democratic transition in the future. Whether that’s how it turns out remains to be seen, of course, but it seems clear that this is turning out the best it could so far under the circumstances.

Kevin Drum:

I’m not dumb enough to make any predictions about how this is going to end, but historically, when a country’s military announces that it’s taking over in order to “support the legitimate demands of the people,” that doesn’t bode well for the legitimate demands of the people. It may be good for stability, but count me skeptical that this is going to turn out well for democracy.

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy

Andrew Exum:

I was in Beirut when Rafik Hariri was assassinated and lived in Lebanon for the next 12 months as well. The March 8th and 14th demonstrations, and the popular movement that led to the end of the Syrian military occupation of Lebanon, were all very exciting to live through and witness — especially as a young guy, fresh out of the Army and studying the politics of the Middle East. (I learned more on the streets than I did in the library that year!) But in so, so many ways, the six months that followed the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon were more interesting than the frantic weeks that led up to the withdrawal itself. In those six months, we saw what had really changed in Lebanon, and the answer was not much at all. If the rumors are true, and if Hosni Mubarak steps down today, the most interesting “Friedman Unit” will be the six months starting now. We will see what kind of order replaces — or doesn’t replace — the current regime, and we will see how the disorganized opposition groups fracture and fight among themselves about the way forward. The true meaning of this uprising will be found not in what happens today or what has taken place in Tahrir Square over the past three weeks but in the weeks and months ahead.

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“The ‘Tribe-Moral Community’ United By ‘Sacred Values'”

John Tierney at NYT:

Some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on bias discovered an unexpected form of it at their annual meeting.

Discrimination is always high on the agenda at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s conference, where psychologists discuss their research on racial prejudice, homophobia, sexism, stereotype threat and unconscious bias against minorities. But the most talked-about speech at this year’s meeting, which ended Jan. 30, involved a new “outgroup.”

It was identified by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who studies the intuitive foundations of morality and ideology. He polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

“This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

Instapundit

Ann Althouse:

But let’s skip into the middle of the piece and think about the mechanisms of exclusion, these “sacred values” that displace scientific thinking. Haidt notes the example of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, back in 1965, who “warned about the rise of unmarried parenthood and welfare dependency among blacks” and “was shunned by many of his colleagues at Harvard as racist.”

Similarly, Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). “This was not a permissible hypothesis,” Dr. Haidt said. “It blamed the victims rather than the powerful. The outrage ultimately led to his resignation. We psychologists should have been outraged by the outrage. We should have defended his right to think freely.”

According to Tierney, Haidt’s audience of social psychologists “seemed refreshingly receptive to his argument.”

A few even endorsed his call for a new affirmative-action goal: a membership that’s 10 percent conservative by 2020.

Affirmative action? Why not just stop giving affirmative action to liberals? I think that would get you way above the 10% quota… if you could do it. Ironically, talking “affirmative action” is inherently off-putting to conservatives. It’s more of those sacred values from the tribal-moral community that ward off outsiders.

Steven Hayward at Powerline:

I have a good friend–I won’t name out him here though–who is a tenured faculty member in a premier humanities department at a leading east coast university, and he’s . . . a conservative! How did he slip by the PC police? Simple: he kept his head down in graduate school and as a junior faculty member, practicing self-censorship and publishing boring journal articles that said little or nothing. When he finally got tenure review, he told his closest friend on the faculty, sotto voce, that “Actually I’m a Republican.” His faculty friend, similarly sotto voce, said, “Really? I’m a Republican, too!”

That’s the scandalous state of things in American universities today. Here and there–Hillsdale College, George Mason Law School, Ashland University come to mind–the administration is able to hire first rate conservative scholars at below market rates because they are actively discriminated against at probably 90 percent of American colleges and universities. Other universities will tolerate a token conservative, but having a second conservative in a department is beyond the pale.

John Derbyshire at The Corner:

What’s to be done? Get ’em reading National Review!

To overcome taboos, he advised them to subscribe to National Review and to read Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions.

By a friendly little coincidence, the current issue of National Review contains a feature article on Prof. Sowell.

Some said [Haidt] overstated how liberal the field is, but many agreed it should welcome more ideological diversity. A few even endorsed his call for a new affirmative-action goal: a membership that’s 10 percent conservative by 2020.

Ten percent by 2020? Hey, let’s not go overboard here, guys.

[And never mind Queer Literary Theory: If I’d been writing a few days later I could have cited Gay Math.]

[And-and, I should qualify having said “the New York Times of all places” with a word of tribute to their excellent Science section, which routinely publishes results from the human sciences that would cause apoplexy among the newspaper’s op-ed writers, if they bothered to read them.]

Ronald Bailey at Reason:

Haidt has given me a look at a good bit of the manuscript of his new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (January, 2012), and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it.

I earlier wrote about some of the recent research that Haidt and his colleagues have done on The Science of Libertarian Morality. If interested, see how liberal social science bias works when it comes to demonizing conservatives in my 2004 column, Pathologizing Conservatism.

One more story, I was invited to speak at a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship seminar at MIT a few years ago. After I gave my spiel, we got to talking about for whom the 12 or so journalists were planning to vote in the upcoming 2000 election. As I remember it, the vote split 9 for Gore and 3 for Nader. I joked that perhaps the Knight program should invite me to join it for reasons of diversity. The puzzled head of program blurted out, “But you’re a white male!” I gently explained that I meant ideological diversity. He (also a white male) had the grace to look chagrined.

Megan McArdle

James Joyner:

That the university professoriate, particularly at elite institutions, is radically more liberal than the society at large is undisputed. The causes for the phenomenon are hotly debated.

Presumably, Haidt’s assertion that this lack of diversity skews research findings — and even acceptable topics for research — is more controversial. But it shouldn’t be. After all, it’s widely accepted within the academy, particularly the social sciences, that the longtime domination of the field by white males had that effect.

But it’s far from clear what to do about it. Women and racial minorities were actively discriminated against while the bias against conservatives is subtle and largely unconscious. Indeed, the fact that their professors are liberals who show disdain for conservative values doubtless discourages conservatives from pursuing the academic career path.

Should there be active outreach to conservatives? Maybe, although I’m dubious. Should liberal professors undergo sensitivity training in order to learn not to offend conservative students? Probably not.

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Vinson Goes The Whole Taco

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

I am not, with this post, going to attempt a detailed exposition on Judge Vinson’s ruling that declared the individual mandate unconstitutional and, due to the lack of a severability clause, struck the whole law as unconstitutional. But I will give you a brief overview and direct you to other good sources.

Here are the basics you will need to start your day.

First, you need to understand that the case before Judge Vinson was not directed at whether the federal government can involve itself in healthcare. Instead, the case was whether the individual mandate is constitutional.

The individual mandate is the keystone to the whole legislation. Without it, the funding mechanisms of the law collapse in on themselves. Judge Vinson ruled that forcing people to buy healthcare insurance, whether they want it or not, is unconstitutional.

Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

In short, if I read the opinion (plus this final judgment) correctly — quite apart from both the lofty philosophical principles I applaud Judge Vinson for adopting and the nitty-gritty technical details of his individual mandate analysis — Obamacare is dead in its tracks.  Now, Judge Vinson himself or the Eleventh Circuit (or even the Supreme Court) may issue an emergency stay of this or any other part of the ruling, but as of right now, the federal government must stop implementing Obamacare.

Aaron Worthing at Patterico:

Well, go ahead, see what happens if you try to implement Obamacare without actually overturning the decision.

And notice that term “activism.”  The correct translation when a liberal says it is “a decision I don’t like.” There is no other definition for liberals.  They don’t mind cases that overturn precedents, that overturn federal laws, and that invent rights out of thin air.  Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the judge’s opinion is supported by the constitution or precedent—they have no principled objection to that.  So their objection is merely to losing.

And meanwhile anonymous White House officials had this to say:

White House officials said that sort of “surpassingly curious reading” called into question Judge Vinson‘s entire ruling.

“There’s something thoroughly odd and unconventional about the analysis,” said a White House official who briefed reporters late Monday afternoon, speaking on condition of anonymity.

David Bernstein:

Hmm. I think it’s a bit curious that the White House would send an “anonymous” official to criticize the ruling of an Article III judge, and surpassingly curious that a gaggle of reporters would agree to respect the aide’s anonymity in exchange for the “anonymous” quotes.
Shouldn’t the reporters either tell the official to go on the record, or refuse to take part in a “briefing” that amounts to simply a colorful attack on an unfavorable opinion?

Orin Kerr:

Now let’s return to Judge Vinson’s analysis of the Necessary & Proper Clause. The words of the relevant Supreme Court cases point to an extremely broad power, and Judge Vinson is supposed to be bound by those words. But Judge Vinson concludes that these words can’t be taken at face value because “to uphold [the mandate] via application of the Necessary and Proper Clause would [be to] . . . effectively remove all limits on federal power.” Page 62. He writes:

[T]he Commerce Clause limitations on the federal government’s power would definitely be compromised by this assertion of federal power via the Necessary and Proper Clause. . . . .The defendants have asserted again and again that the individual mandate is absolutely “necessary” and “essential” for the Act to operate as it was intended by Congress. I accept that it is. Nevertheless, the individual mandate falls outside the boundary of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority and cannot be reconciled with a limited government of enumerated powers. By definition, it cannot be “proper.”

This might work as a Supreme Court opinion that can disagree with precedent. But Judge Vinson is just a District Court judge. And if you pair Justice Thomas’s dissent in Raich with Judge Vinson’s opinion today, you realize the problem: Judge Vinson is reasoning that existing law must be a particular way because he thinks it should be that way as a matter of first principles, not because the relevant Supreme Court doctrine actually points that way. Remember that in Raich, the fact that the majority opinion gave the federal government the power to “regulate virtually anything” was a reason for Justice Thomas to dissent. In Judge Vinson’s opinion, however, the fact that the government’s theory gave the federal government the power to “regulate virtually anything” was a reason it had to be inconsistent with precedent.

Obviously, I’m not arguing that Judge Vinson was bound by Justice Thomas’s dissent. Rather, my point is that Judge Vinson should not have used a first principle to trump existing Supreme Court caselaw when that principle may not be consistent with existing caselaw. Either Justice Thomas is wrong or Judge Vinson is wrong, and Judge Vinson was not making a persuasive legal argument when he followed the first principle instead of the cases. Because Judge Vinson is bound by Supreme Court precedent, I would think he should have applied the cases.

Anyway, I realize this argument will only resonate with readers who care about binding precedent, which at times seems like a vanishingly small group of readers. But it does seem to be the weak link in Judge Vinson’s opinion for the three of us who are interested in whether the decision is correct under existing law.

UPDATE: I closed the comment thread, as it featured the same commenters making the same comments that they have each made several dozen times before.

ANOTHER UPDATE: My co-blogger Ilya Somin defends Judge Vinson by pointing out that the Supreme Court’s majority opinions insist that the federal government does not have completely unlimited power. Ilya’s argument is unpersuasive because the existence of nonzero limits in no way implies the existence of major limits. The current state of Commerce Clause doctrine is that there are certain largely symbolic limits on federal power but those limits are relatively minor: As Justice Thomas put it, Congress can regulate virtually anything.  Judge Vinson says that this cannot be the law because it would make the federal government too powerful. But Judge Vinson does not consult existing doctrine before declaring the principle, and that’s the problem: If you take existing doctrine seriously, it readily fits the mandate under the Necessary and Proper clause.

Peter Suderman at Reason

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Based on existing Supreme Court precedents, Judge Vinson’s opinion strikes me as well-reasoned. But this case is different from any that have yet come before the Court, and the Court could go either way. The final decision will be essentially political.

While everyone purports to agree in principle that our federal government is one of limited, enumerated powers, the true liberal position is that there are no limits at all on what the federal government can do, except as set forth in the Bill of Rights. Thus, the delineation of the role and powers of the national government, as laid out in the main body of the Constitution, is ignored. On the other hand, the amendments are selectively given an expansive reading where necessary to prevent the government from doing something that liberals do not think is appropriate (e.g., enforcing laws against abortion). Affirming Obamacare would represent a new high-water mark for that philosophy.

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2.5 Is The Number, Baby!

Jon Ward at The Daily Caller:

A number of the House GOP’s leading conservative members on Thursday will announce legislation that would cut $2.5 trillion over 10 years, which will be by far the most ambitious and far-reaching proposal by the new majority to cut federal government spending.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, will unveil the bill in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning.

Jordan’s bill, which will have a companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, would impose deep and broad cuts across the federal government. It includes both budget-wide cuts on non-defense discretionary spending back to 2006 levels and proposes the elimination or drastic reduction of more than 50 government programs.

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic with a round-up
Tina Korbe at Heritage:

Jordan, who serves as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the SRA would immediately return spending to 2008 levels and eventually cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels, as well as implement a hard freeze through 2021.

“I have never seen the American people more ready for the tough-love measures needed to put our country back on a sustainable path,” Jordan said. “The question today is: Will the political class rise to the standard the American people have set the last year and a half? … I think the answer is yes.”

Jordan authored a Washington Examiner op-ed with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) detailing the proposal, which also eliminates unused stimulus money and severs the government’s ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It’s one of several priorities for the RSC this year. Jordan reminded the Heritage audience that the RSC exists to ensure that Republicans act like Republicans.

Following shortly after the spending proposal, the RSC plans to unveil a Welfare Reform Act — something Jordan said he feels especially strongly about, as he ran for office in large part to strengthen the institution he considers the country’s bedrock: the family.

Jim DeMint, Jim Jordan, and Scott Garrett at The Washington Examiner:

Known as the Spending Reduction Act, this bill makes major strides toward resolving the debt crisis by cutting $2.5 trillion of spending between now and 2021. Here’s how it works:

In the short term, the Spending Reduction Act makes $125 billion of immediate rescissions, which target money already approved by Congress, by cutting current spending back to 2008 levels and repealing the remaining funds from Obama’s failed “stimulus” package.

The largest step toward spending reduction begins with the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1. On that day, the bill further cuts non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels and implements a hard freeze through 2021.

This alone will save taxpayers $2.3 trillion. A portion of these savings come from reducing the size and cost of the civilian federal work force. Attrition will trim the work force by 15 percent, while salaries will go without automatic pay increases for the next five years.

Our plan’s overall reduction specifically targets more than 100 separate budget items and spending reforms, ranging from the elimination of duplicative education programs (saving $1.3 billion annually) to a 50 percent reduction of the federal travel budget (saving $7.5 billion annually).

These specific savings, when combined with additional reforms like ending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s taxpayer bailout, total approximately $376 billion over the next decade.

America’s debt problem wasn’t created overnight, and implementing a complete solution will take both time and perseverance. With a healthy dose of courage from elected leaders, however, we can get America moving on the right track again.

Over the long term, balancing the budget will require lasting private sector job creation and robust reforms to entitlement programs that still operate on outdated demographic assumptions.

After passing the Spending Reduction Act, Congress must work to tear down barriers to job creation and make our safety-net programs sustainable for the 21st century. Only when all Americans have ample opportunity to earn success and build prosperity on their own will we enjoy lasting fiscal and economic stability.

David Weigel:

The proposal does what Republicans have been talking about for two years — “repeal” of remaining stimulus funds (now $45 billion), privatizing Fannie and Freddie ($30 billion), repealing Medicaid’ FMAP increase ($16.1 billion), and what they estimate at $330 billion in discretionary spending cuts. Highlights of these projected annual savings:

– Cutting the federal workforce by 15 percent through attrition, and do this by allowing only one new federal worker for every two who quit.
– Killing the “fund for Obamacare administrative costs” for $900 million
– Ending Amtrak subsidies for $1.565 billion
– Ending intercity and high speed rail grants for $2.5 billion
– Repealing Davis-Bacon for $1 billion
– Cutting annual general assistance to the District of Columbia by $210 million, and cutting the subsidy for DC’s transit authority by $150 million.

Reforms that go after their own perks:
– Cutting the Federal Travel Budget in half, for $7.5 billion
– Cutting the Federal Vehicle Budget by 1/5, for $600 million
– Halve funding for congressional printing – $47 million annual savings
– Ending the death gratuity for members of Congress

And cuts that get revenge for Juan Williams: $445 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $167.5 million from the NEA, and $167.5 million from the NEH.

“Everything on this list pales in importance to saving the country,” said Rep. John Campbell (R-Ca.). “We are much closer to the Greece-Ireland-Spain precipice than any of us would like to believe.”

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

I’m still awaiting a more detailed breakdown of the proposal, which the RSC tells me won’t be released until later today or tomorrow, but in a press release and an op-ed by Sen. Jim DeMint, and Reps. Jim Jordan and Scott Garrett, they claim the proposal would save $2.5 trillion over 10 years. It’s not clear how they get to that number, but I would imagine it’s largely a result of the spending freeze, which would lower discretionary spending relative to projections. The problem with relying on spending freezes is that you still have to figure out down the road where the actual savings are coming from, especially as time goes by and inflation makes it more challenging to meet those annual spending targets. And as we know, we won’t get the long-term debt under control without a serious effort to reform entitlements. That said, at first blush, I don’t see anything in the above list that would not be worthwhile to cut.

As the authors acknowledge, “On its own, passing the Spending Reduction Act will not get us over the finish line — but we will get a $2.5 trillion head start.”

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

If you want to get serious about cutting spending, you can’t be talking about going back to 2008 levels, a favorite GOP ploy since it focuses attention on the Obama years. Yet as readers of this site well know, the ramp up started with George W. Bush and the GOP Congress.

Doug Mataconis:

The fact that the plan doesn’t even touch to two biggest items on the budget is troublesome, and it’s worth noting that $2.5 trillion over ten years amounts to no more than 6.5% of the total amount of anticipated Federal spending over that period. Nothing to sneeze at, but hardly the solution to our problems. Nonethless, it’s a good start. Let’s see them put this in legislative action, get it passed, and dare the Senate not to be fiscally responsible.

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