fiscal cliff

Reason Chats with Rep. Thomas Massie, a Liberty-Minded Republican

Thomas Massie

Nick Gillespie of Reason TV recently sat down with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who is one of the new libertarian-minded Republicans in the Congress, to discuss a number of issues, ranging from his support of the Keystone XL and his opposition to expansive government surveillance and the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal that was passed earlier this year.

On Keystone XL, which was recently approved by the House, Massie explained that he voted to support the project because he “thought that the government was trying to hold up the project.

“I sit on the committee that marked up the bill, and so I got a chance to hear the amendments that the Democrats offered,” explained Massie. “They had some good points, but most of their amendments were designed to kill the bill. I wish they had offered amendments that were actually constructive.”

Gillespie asked about passing more laws to protect Americans from onerous and overreaching proposals like CISPA and other forms of government surveillance. Massie said that Congress doesn’t really need to pass new protections because the Constitution already protects the rights of Americans.

“A lot of what I see Congress grapple with here is the introduction of new technology into society and trying to resolve that with existing laws. I don’t necessarily think we need new laws, we need to respect the Constitution,” Massie told Gillespie. “So just because we have a new type of technology like the Internet or drones, for instance, doesn’t mean that all of our constitutional rights have to go away. As Congressmen we have be sure that they’re preserved even with the advent of new technology.”

Obama’s New Budget is Not a Compromise

The new narrative being pushed by the media is that President Barack Obama’s new budget is an olive branch of sorts to congressional Republicans. Politico ran with the headline, “President Obama’s risky ‘goodwill’ gambit,” which highlighted some of the proposed changes to Social Security.

The Associated Press noted the frustration from some on the Left in its piece, “Liberals balk at Obama’s 2nd term overtures to GOP,” which also focused on the proposed cuts to entitlement programs.

While it’s true that the only real measure of good news from the the White House’s budget is the changes to Social Security, there is absolutely nothing here in terms of compromise or reform. The White House has made that much clear by telling Politico — in a separate article from the one mentioned above, of course — that Republicans can take the Social Security changes in exchange for more $1 trillion in tax hikes or leave it:

And Gene Sperling, the director Obama’s National Economic Council, on Wednesday afternoon emphasized that the proposal is ”not an à la carte menu” for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and congressional Republicans to choose what they like and discard the rest.

“You can’t decide to only pick out the concessions the president has made and not include the concessions from the Republican side that need to be part of a bipartisan deal that can pass both houses,” Sperling said.

Harry Reid endorses the sequester

Harry Reid

In a telling moment with reporters yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who voted for the sequester in 2011, said that the spending cuts should take place if no deal is brokered with House Republicans for more tax revenue:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would support letting the $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect on Friday if Republicans don’t agree to increasing taxes as part of an alternative plan, the Nevada Democrat said on Tuesday

“Until there’s some agreement on revenue, I think we should just go ahead with the sequester,” Reid told reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats.

Basically, the scare tactics haven’t worked. They’re not going to work. With that statement, Reid is admitting that everything — all of the fearmongering and brow-beating of Republicans — was just for show.

With All Due Respect, Mr. President, That Is Not True

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Conor Friedersdorf notes that stay-at-home mom (and video blogger) Kira Davis asked tougher questions of President Obama on a recent Google+ “hangout” than Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes ever asked. You can watch the exchange in this video starting at the 35:10 mark.

In response to Davis’s question about transparency, President Obama said:

This is the most transparent administration in history, and I can document how that is the case. Everything from—every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. That’s something that we changed. Just about every law that we pass, every rule that we implement, we put online for everybody there to see.

With all due respect, Mr. President, that is not true.

Sequestration Cuts Will Lead to Floods, Plagues, and Pestilence

Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The odds that $85 billion in “unthinkable, draconian” sequestration spending cuts will go into effect in March as scheduled are looking better. The odds must be getting better because, as if on cue, the horror stories have commenced.

A perfect example is an article in the Washington Post that details the angst and suffering being experienced by federal bureaucrats and other taxpayer dependents over the mere possibility that the “drastic” cuts will occur. You see, the uncertainty surrounding the issue has forced government employees to draw up contingency plans. Contingency plans? Oh, the humanity!

From the article:

Sequestration, as the law is known, has sent agencies scrambling to buffer themselves, spending time and money that ultimately may be for naught. Even if cuts take effect, it might not be for long — making the hiring freezes, canceled training, deferred projects, and lengthy planning for furloughs and other contingencies an exercise in inefficiency.

GDP contracts in the fourth quarter

Don’t look now, but the economic recovery that we’ve been constantly told is upon us may unsurprisingly be fading away. The Commerce Department released less-than-stellar numbers this earlier today showing that gross domestic product (GDP) contracted in the last quarter of 2012:

The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus.

The economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter.

Oh, and by the way, you’re taxes have gone up. That’s right, Americans will have less money to spend as the affects of the tax increases that hit at the beginning of the year are felt. When money is removed from the economy, it will translate into slower economic growth or even, given that the economy contracted, a recession.

Rick Santelli, the CNBC contributor whose rant on the floor inspired the Tea Party movement in 2009, summed up the news best:

“Hey Joe,” Santelli said, “when you act like Europe, you get growth rates like Europe, and our discussions with economists sounds like we’re in Europe. They have the same discussions constantly.”

Bankrupting America: “Talk Is Cheap, Overspending Is Not”

United States Capitol

If you’ve been in Washington, DC since the end of last year, you may have seen the ads sponsored by Bankrupting America posted all over the Union Station and Capitol South Metro stations. The ads, an example of which can be viewed here, feature quotes with promises from presidents and members of Congress to tackle the nation’s ever-growing national debt.

Even though the “fiscal cliff” debate may be over, the fight over the debt ceiling is right around the corner. Armed with a new web ad, Bankrupting America is continuing to call out Washington over how they are spending our money.

Fiscal cliff deal: TARP 2.0

In the fall of the 2008, the Bush Administration and Congress ironed out the details of what would come to be known as TARP in secret negotiations, hoping that rent-seekers on Wall Street would react positively. Fast-forward to 2013 — Washington has done it again.

Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks explains that Congress has again stuck it to hard-working Americans with the passage of the “fiscal cliff” deal that not only raises their taxes, but includes special interest tax breaks and corporate welfare:

On New Year’s Day, Republicans and Democrats joined together to bilk taxpayers with their phony “fiscal cliff” deal. They voted to raise taxes on 77% of Americans, yet larded the bill with pork, corporate welfare, and special-interest giveaways. They voted to increase spending by $330 billion, while throwing around buzzwords like “compromise” and “deficit reduction.” And they once again postponed the promised sequester spending cuts negotiated in 2011.

It was a team effort. Senator Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden drafted an outrageous bill behind closed doors; Harry Reid gave Senators all of 6 minutes to read and vote on the bill around 1:30am on New Year’s Eve when nobody was watching; Speaker Boehner scheduled a rushed, up-or-down vote in the House the following day without allowing for sufficient time to read or amend the bill.

This type of collusion against the average American is no surprise. Republicans have been negotiating with themselves ever since the Boehner-led House Republicans passed the consensus “Cut Cap Balance Act” in July 2011 and then began walking away from it. Democrats have been winning since that day, and the goal of fiscal responsibility has been losing.

Wait, Didn’t the Fiscal Cliff Deal Originate in the Senate?

Written by Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

If you thought the policy side of the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” is bad, did you notice that there’s a constitutional problem too? I’m sure there’s more than one, actually, but this one was easy to spot without even digging into the gory details.

Recall that the fiscal cliff bill was first passed by the Senate in the wee hours of New Year’s Day, and then seconded by a vote of the House some 20 hours later. And yet, Article I, Section 7, Clause 1—known as the Origination Clause—states: “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

John Boehner: Panem et Circenses

John Boehner

In March of 2009, at a Georgia GOP county convention, Sen. Johnny Isakson gave a stump speech in which he pleaded for the help of the faithful grassroots in returning him and other Republicans to power because, as he told the assembled crowd, we had to defeat the Democrats and Barack Obama to stop the reckless, runaway spending in Washington, D.C. I turned to my wife in abject shock and asked if he’d really just said that.

Afterward, I went to him and respectfully but pointedly reminded the Senator that, when Georgia W. Bush was president and spending money like he had a golden goose, as our senator he’d voted for every one of those pork-filled, bloated budgets. Yes, Obama and the Democrats were on a drunken spending binge, but the Republicans had only been better by degree. I told him that the Republicans will never regain the trust of the American people unless they governed in a way that mirrored their conservative campaign rhetoric. I also told him the surest sign I’d seen that they had not yet learned their lesson was the fact that the Senate Republicans had re-elected the porkmeister, Mitch McConnell, as Senate Minority Leader. It is hard to take seriously a party which talks about fiscal responsibility and then elects as their leader of the upper house a man who campaigned on the amount of pork he’d brought back to Kentucky.

And now we have the re-election of John Boehner, the eternally weeping love child of George Hamilton and the Great Pumpkin, as Speaker of the House. The ONE branch of the federal government controlled by the Republicans and they re-elect the man who received the MVP Award from Team Obama; a man whose chief negotiating tactic is to fold faster than a card table in a hurricane.

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