• Robert Taylor
  • 20
  • Dec
  • 09

When news stories started reporting that DC might be closed this weekend due to a blizzard that was sweeping across the East Coast, I finally got into the Christmas spirit; let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. For the brief bliss of one weekend, Americans would be spared  from the draconian legislation that usually crawls its way out of DC.

Members of the Imperial Senate, however, did find time on Friday to put the finishing touches on President Obama’s 2010 “defense” budget (H.R. 3326, which passed 93 to 6 in the Senate and 400-30 in the House), a $636 billion appropriations bill. It is loaded with all the corruption you would expect in the largest welfare program in US history, $20.5 billion more than President Bush’s last defense bill.

While taking a look through the bill, it’s easy to see why so many members of Congress enthusiastically voted in favor of such a monstrosity. Americans will be robbed of nearly a trillion of their dollars in order to fund pork, pet projects, foreign aid to abusive governments, defense contractors, and all of the politically-connected cronies that always gravitate towards DC when “defense” budgets are being voted on.

I say “defense” because if Congress or the President were interested solely in the defense of this country, than the amount of money needed for effective intelligence gathering and protection of our shores would be about 2-3% percent of this.

George Orwell famously noted that manipulating the language is an essential task of any government, and labeling this a “defense” bill would make Orwell laugh (or cry).

For example, $30 billion is guaranteed to the Israeli government over ten years, which means that the US taxpayer will be funding about a fifth of Israel’s military expenditures every year. $500 million is headed to the thuggish Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Israel is required to spend at least 75% of this money on US contractors. Who says Obama isn’t creating any jobs!

$130 billion of it will be used to keep funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which despite claims by the Obama Administration that we’ll be leaving just in time for his re-election run, we’re not leaving anytime soon.

So far under President Obama’s watch, 231 soldiers (and counting) have died in Afghanistan since he took office, over one-fourth of the total American casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom. In 10 months. After that $130 billion is spent, how many more Marines will have died? And how much more money will be thrown at this mess?

The bill also increases funding to the US Navy, which already has 11 nuclear-armed warships patrolling every ocean and is larger than the next thirteen biggest navies combined. Part of this money has probably funded the US Navy’s new PR campaign, asking more farm-boys and poor blacks to join the “global force for good.”

Even our Navy admits that the US is a global empire.

In addition to the Democrats who voted yay, 34 out of 40 Republicans in the Senate and 170 out of 178 Republicans in the House also voted for this Leviathan bill, which means the Boeing’s and Lockheed Martin’s in their district will continue to supply the money and lobbying power to get them reelected again and again.

This “defense” bill proves that Congress and the President are not divided; they are united behind a single, imperial cause: war.

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For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

  • Rob Spectre
  • 15
  • Dec
  • 09

As the final year of this decade of fail draws to a close, everyone with a keyboard is making a list and checking it twice.  It’s the hour for picking the winners and picking the losers; the snoozer season when writers can phone it in for a few weeks with top ten drivel and self-serving ratings.  For those with an eye on Washington, we are producing a familiar name on lists both favorable and failing:  Joe Lieberman.

Photo: US Senate

Photo: US Senate

He kicked off the 21st century as the base play on the Democratic ticket – the guy who was supposed to solidify the Democratic diehards behind former veep Al Gore during his impossible run against the red state calculus that had tilted in strong favor of George W. Bush.  He was the guy to whip Clinton’s old guard behind the less charismatic, but no less thoughtful, leader of a new Democratic party.  Neither he nor his commander-in-chief-to-be succeeded in either task, little match against a decade of gerrymandered districts and Karl Rove’s timely tactics.

Just under ten years ago, Joe Lieberman was the guy you went to if you needed Democrats on your side.  Now, they can barely speak his name without spitting it.  Particularly as we near the endgame for Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative, Lieberman (I-CT)  may be a pariah in cocktail party circles but his careful manipulation of the letter beside his home state has assured his spot as a power broker in the United States Congress.

This week was one where his handiwork was particularly characteristic.  With a single press conference he catapulted himself from the annoying periphery of voices regurgitating talking points to the place where he always seems to end up – the center of the action.  No sooner was a compromised healthcare package announced by Harry Reid’s Democratic caucus that was it torpedoed effortlessly by a short public statement of opposition by Lieberman.  Within hours of his remarks, party leaders were hurriedly meeting and scurrying about, with Joe’s smug smile to greet them across the table.

A few days later, the public option is out.  Early Medicare buy-in is out.  And several previously core provisions of a healthcare reform bill already neutered in committee now seem to be on the table.  Lieberman is playing coy, saying he is “moving towards a yes vote.”   The store might be sold outright by the time the deal is done, leading some on the progressive side of the supposed Democratic supermajority to squeal.  Even some used to the pariah label themselves are calling for an outright revolt, with former DNC chairman (and real-life doctor) Howard Dean calling for the Senate bill to be killed.

Indeed it would seem that Lieberman holds all the cards in Washington and by the masterful straddling of the aisle until the last possible second, he has usurped even the President of the United States as the sole man in America who says what will or will not happen.

If only Lieberman were that man.

But behind the eye popping headlines is the truth that Lieberman is just an instrument of a larger machine, a pawn in a game with stakes so high the odds are always certain.  Were his stand against the Medicare buy-in the principled stance of a deficit hawk holding firm, Democrats would have great cause for concern with Joe Lieberman.  The problem is, he doesn’t believe a bit of it.  Just this past September – three months ago – he said straight into a rolling camera that he believed that people should be able to buy into Medicare at the age of 55.

What caused the flip-flop?  In September, public universal healthcare looked like it could really happen.  Now with the negotiations dragged on by Republicans and Reid’s ineffective caucus coming up short in the red zone, the public option is thoroughly defeated.  With that obstacle down, Lieberman is free to turn on the firehose to water down the bill even more.  While Obama takes a bath in the negotiating room, the bill soaks up the excess until it poses little danger at all to the status quo.

How did the status quo effect such a dramatic change of heart in Joe Lieberman?  Through over $1 million in donations from health insurance in this decade.    During his last campaign in 2006, he ranked second in the Senate for health insurance donations.  And his home state is headquarters to many of the nation’s leading insurance companies, employing 22,000 in Connecticut.  The private health insurance system that raked in billions keeping America sick during the last ten years paid for Lieberman’s independent run.

And this year, that investment is looking awfully sound.

But before Joe Lieberman is vilified as the Judas Big Healthcare bought to kill the public option, before he makes the tops of the movers and the bottoms of the shakers, we should consider his company.

He’s not the only one on the payroll.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/12/15/lieberman-moving-towards-a-yes-vote/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_politicalticker+%28Blog%3A+Political+Ticker%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
  • Rob Spectre
  • 21
  • Nov
  • 09

It’s been a while since the Democratic Party tasted win.  Outplayed since March by a small, but clever Republican opposition, the only tangible political victory the Obama-led Dems has been the gimme-election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.  That contest – more a product of GOP self-destruction than strong Democratic campaigning – still leaves the landslide Democratic government rapidly closing out its first year solidly in the red, scuttled more by their own dissension than their opponent’s unity.

But in the clutch vote for cloture for Obama’s number one legislative priority, Harry Reid’s supposed supermajority Senate is coming through.  Securing the last vote mere hours before the roll call, Reid disproved the smart money that he could deliver the votes when it really mattered.  Undoubtedly, the votes of Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu, the last holdouts over the cloture motion, came at some significant cost to the more liberal elements of healthcare reform, but early indications suggest the store was not sold to bring healthcare to the floor.

For the more jaded observers among us, that cloture was ever in doubt is further evidence of our decline.  In the incomprehensibly meta game of the modern American legislative process, just getting to talk about a bill is a landmark victory.  Just getting a bill to a floor debate has, for a decade through the disruptive work of both sides of the aisle, become dental work; a thoroughly unpleasant grind that barely staves off the inevitable loss of its subject.

It is unlikely the modern model of passing law is what our Founding Fathers had in mind.  Passing laws should be this difficult, debating them should not particularly with a electoral mandate this large.  That a supermajority has to perform this many roots canal in order to get its primary objective accomplished suggests a procedural perversion of the original intent of the Constitution.  It’s a status quo for which both political parties should be rightly blamed; a condition where writing law is like making a Hollywood blockbuster – one phone call can kill everything.

But if tonight’s roll call reflects today’s dealmaking, it would seem that a supermajority is worth something after all, if it is an advantage that can only be leveraged once a year.

  • Robert Taylor
  • 04
  • Nov
  • 09

In the highly publicized gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, the Republicans all came out victorious. Even with heavy support from President Obama, Corzine still went down in Trenton. Predictably, the Democrats are trying to spin the results in their favor at the same time conservatives are hailing this as the beginning of a political comeback.

But was this a victory for the Republicans, a sign of a resurrected party? Despite the high profile wins on the east coast, the Democrats did gain two House seats in special elections. Last time I checked, there are still a handful of corporatist healthcare “reform” bills being debated in Congress, and Pelosi now has two more likely loyal votes.

Ever since Barack Obama was elected, the Republicans have not offered a legitimate alternative to the President’s policies and have instead resorted to calling him a Muslim Kenyan socialist or a “pacifist.” After eight years of defending the Bush Administrations’ unprecedented expansion of the federal government, why do they hate Obama so much? Our young emperor is killing Afghan women and children daily with Predator drone strikes, sanctioning torture at Bagram Air Force Base, further destroying habeas corpus, and recently put million-dollar missiles in Eastern Europe; on foreign policy, he’s Bush on steroids.

The GOP is portraying themselves as the anti-Obama party, but they show their true colors when candidates who actually represent an intellectual opposition to the warfare-welfare state in DC are weeded out and ignored.

For example, Rand Paul (son of Ron) is trying to win the Republican nomination for the Kentucky Senate seat, and is actually doing quite well. He has raised far more money than his opponent, and it’s easy to see why. He is skeptical of foreign wars and in favor of small government, sound money, and individual liberty, representing the fading libertarian streak of the GOP that was once its only redeeming feature. Or the libertarian-minded Peter Schiff in Connecticut, who has raised more than a million dollars trying to get to chance to beat the crooked and corrupt Senator Chris Dodd.

Both of these candidates have received little to no support from the RNC; they are principled men, after all, something the McCains, Huckabees, and Romneys know nothing about. What these libertarians represent are an actual alternative to the two-headed party in DC, something America needs now more than ever.

Progressive writer Brent Budowsky captures this point excellently. He argues that the meteoric rise of Ron Paul and the spread of his ideas are a breath of fresh air.

Forget the spin and the slop. The real winner of the 2009 elections is the public official and candidate who has championed the core insurgency driving the election. It is Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul.

Paul embodies the anti-Washington, anti-tax, anti-big government, anti-financial insiderism viewpoints that are galvanizing large numbers of activists and voters. It is not a majority, but a majority has never been Ron Paul’s goal. Paul is a conviction politician, an idea man, an advocate and a change agent.

I agree with some things Paul says, and disagree with others, but the truth of the matter, politically, is that his agenda has moved center stage and his people are highly motivated and this is a serious movement that is underestimated and misunderstood by Washington insiders.

It’s a shame the Republicans aren’t listening.

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For more of Robert’s work, please visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.

  • Robert Taylor
  • 24
  • Sep
  • 09

The California Governor’s race is really starting to become more and more interesting as election day comes closer. A few months ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s campaign was losing steam; aides were quitting, and Jerry Brown said Newsom would make a great Lieutenant Governor. Ouch. Barely a week after Newsom’s campaign hopes were resuscitated by a Bill Clinton endorsement, Meg Whitman publicly announces her candidacy.

Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, has never held public office before, which alone is enough to get my endorsement. Plus, she’s actually got some very interesting ideas. Like getting rid of “AB32.” According to the SF Chronicle blog, Whitman wrote an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News urging Governor Schwarzenegger to put a moratorium on AB32’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements. If he doesn’t, as Governor, that would be her first move.

California’s crippled economy is starving for capital and investment, and getting rid of most or all of AB32 would allow at least a little more of both of them to start flowing in to the private sector. Extensive government regulation, even with the noblest of aims, makes it incredibly difficult for new businesses to get started, especially smaller ones. California’s entrepreneurs need less control, not more. Plus, our environment is way too important to be regulated by government since it is by far the biggest polluter in the world (just take a look at the destruction of the Aral Sea).

She would also cut 40,000 state jobs (about the 2004 levels) and start selling and leasing surplus state property. Even if Whitman was elected and was able to make these spending cuts, they would still be relatively small compared to the total deficit. But it would be a start, and the only way to realistically and effectively trim down the size of our state government (How about a 10% cut every 2 years?). Plus she likes the idea of using a line-item veto to reject some of the routine “district friendly” spending that Republicans get in exchange for voting for a large Democratic bill.

California voters have heard this promise before. Remember Arnold parading from city to city, promising to fix California’s “spending problem?” Much, much more spending was soon to follow. But he was a Hollywood actor who found himself at the helm of the world’s 6th largest economy, and the temptation to keep feeding the public trough was too hard to resist.

Whitman, on the other hand, was the former CEO of eBay, one of the most successful enterprises in history. It’s also one of the closest thing to actual capitalism America has, where millions of people engage in (nearly) unrestricted commerce and the exchange of goods. Best of all, there are no greedy unions involved either.

In the last 30 years, we’ve had actors and career politicians to choose from, and for some reason, Sacramento is buried in debt. Whitman may not have the name or the celebrity of Newsom or Brown, but her outsider background could make her more and more appealing to frustrated Californians.

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For more of Robert’s work, please also visit his Libertarian Examiner blog.