The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan lays out the known facts of the IRS case and concludes that it requires a special prosecutor. She’s right, and frankly, it’s amazing how in a week, the American media has pretty much come around from the question of if a special prosecutor is needed for the IRS investigation, to how broad should be the limits of the special prosecutor’s investigation?
But here’s where Noonan gets it wrong. Right in the last paragraph:
“Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.”
Actually it wouldn’t be “tragic” if the American people were not to have confidence in this or any arm of their government. It would be exactly what the Founders called for.
My favorite quotation from the entire 85 editions of the Federalist Papers is this one from Federalist 25 by Alexander Hamilton:
“The people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
In fact, you could almost sum up the gist of the entire Constitution with that single statement, as the Constitution attempted to set up a system where no branch of government was in sole possession of the means of injuring our rights. How far we have strayed, however, when the wing of the government that determines how much of our labors are to be taken into the Federal trough also inquires about our associations, our religious practices, and soon, our medical care.
Peggy, you are right to call for a special investigator. But you are wrong to assert that it is a tragedy if, as a result of this scandal, we no longer have confidence in the IRS. The real tragedies would occur as a result of believing that any branch of government was deserving of our unsuspicious confidence.
Conservative Pundits are Outraged that Army Major Nidal Hasan has received approximately $278,000 since he allegedly shot dead more than a dozen Soldiers at Fort Hood more than three years ago. I wish they would reconsider their outrage, because this is what “presumption of innocence” means.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from the individual state legal codes in the sense that when you are accused of violating it, it is your employer who is going to determine your guilt. The normal criminal defendant can return to his job–or at least a job–while he awaits trial. It is not possible that a military defendant could be removed from the service before trial–for to do so would punish his pursuit of career advancement were he to be found not guilty. Furthermore, were defendants to be deprived of their livelihood while they awaited military trial by court martial, they would be deprived of their livelihood just by being accused.
To those conservatives who decry this condition, imagine this unfortunately all too plausible scenario:
A Coyote News reporter hot on the trail of a controversial secret Administration program to support rebels in a far-off land discovers classified documents that shows that those rebels are in fact terrorist affiliated and that the Department of State knew about it and still provided them with Stinger missiles. The Administration, afraid of the political fallout were the revelation to become known, charges the journalist as a co-conspirator in the leak. Were that Coyote News reporter subjected to a criminal justice system that denied him his paycheck while he awaited trial, the mere accusation of criminality could be used to subdue whistleblowers and to punish innocents.
Now sure, there is little doubt that Nidal Hasan is guilty of murdering his comrades. But we have a system that does not express guilt as shades of grey. You are or you are not guilty. And until a jury of your peers finds you guilty, you are presumed innocent.
Trust me, you do not want to live under a system where the yet-to-be-tried are considered to be mostly-guilty and are essentially treated as such. And trust me, you do not want to live under a government that has even more tools to freeze out those who speak out against it. In other words: $278,000 is a dirt cheap price for freedom.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is facing criticism for his insistence that any federal disaster relief money for the victim’s of yesterday’s storms in his home state be offset by cuts somewhere else in the federal budget.
Online commenters are outraged. One said:
“It does indeed take a special person to look at the situation in Oklahoma and immediate wonder “Who’s going to pay for this?”
While I’m pretty sure that “special” was intended snarkily, it does indeed take a special kind of person to wonder who is going to pay for this. And thank goodness Senator Coburn is that kind of person.
The immediate response to any tragedy is to want to help. And when you are the keepers of nearly $4 trillion budget, it is very easy to wish to throw a few billion at the problem as a genuine gesture of good will. But the fact is that someone is going to pay for this. And it very much matters who that someone is.
Should it be the taxpayers, who then don’t have that additional money themselves to spend on their own necessities of life? A billion dollars of new spending paid for by taxes adds approximately $12 to the tax bill for a family of four. That doesn’t seem like much, but that’s a billion dollars less spent on food, transportation, and clothing. Not to mention, what do you do for the next tornado, hurricane, or wild fire. Is it the taxpayers who should pay for this?
Should the cost be borne by more debt? That saddles generations to come with the expense, since they will be paying back the billion dollars. Or since we rarely retire debt, we just roll it over, it might be more accurate to state that future generations will make infinite recurring payments on the billion dollars of debt. In effect, then, the cost will be diminished future spending and investment. Is that who should pay to recover from the tornado damage?
Should the burden fall upon current recipients of government spending as Senator Coburn suggests? If you ask me, that’s a less sympathetic lot than the other two choices of higher taxes or larger debt. You can’t tell me that any sentient being (which means, apparently, the majority of Americans other than most of Sen Coburn’s colleagues) couldn’t find a billion dollars somewhere in the federal budget that couldn’t stand to be trimmed.
It’s easy to want to throw money around willy-nilly at problems but it really does take a special person to ask the uncomfortable but important question: ”Who is going to pay for this?”
Whenever you feel yourself about to utter the I-word (impeachment), Stop it! Just Stop it!
It makes you look like a fool, much like the President made himself look like a fool when in the space of a single sentence he contradicted himself when he said of the arrest of a black Harvard professor: we don’t yet know the facts of the case, but the police acted stupidly.
We don’t yet know enough of the facts surrounding Benghazi-IRS-AP to really know what happened, certainly not enough to begin saying the I-word.
So when you find yourself about to say the I-word, take Bob Newhart’s advice:
“S-T-O-P . . . new word . . . I-T!”
Da Tech Guy agrees: The Impeachment Trap.
If it gets to the point where what we know is that damning, it will be Democrats who will be screaming the I-word so as to distance themselves from crimes. Until then. Stop it!
Rep Chaffetz and National Review’s Andrew Johnson: Stop it!
Tim Dunkin: Stop it!
Sen Inhofe: Stop it!
Pamela Geller: Stop it!
Two Boston area immigrants who fell under the spell of a radical ideology that espoused the use of bombs against innocents were allegedly behind the violent April 15 multiple murders.
But it’s not who you think it is. The year was 1920 and the two men were Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Aside from the date and the location, there are other parallels too. And they speak more about us than they do about either Sacco and Vanzetti or the Tsarnaev Brothers.
The nineteen-teens and twenties was a period of great tumult in the United States. After the First World War, which was widely viewed as disastrous mistake for having gotten involved, Americans rejected all things associated with the outside world. The aftermath of the Great War brought upheaval to Europe. Replacing failing empires and monarchies was Russian communism, German socialism, and varying amounts of anarchy seemingly everywhere else.
Today there is the ongoing collapse of the Euro and the demise of Middle Eastern strongmen, and so we fear radical islamism and economic contagion from Cyprus and Greece.
Eight decades ago the end of the war brought economic troubles too. High unemployment, which was widely and mistakenly thought of as a normal post-war adjustment to a lack of military demand and a surplus of returning soldiers, was actually just a result of the post-war continuation of the ongoing de-agriculturalization of the world economy. Regardless of the cause, greater unemployment turned American workers against more recent immigrants who were looking for work too. In 1917 America passed its first immigration restriction laws barring the entry of “idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics . . . ” and Asians. Just a year before, an influential eugenicist wrote The Passing of the Great Race that became widely popular. By 1924 America had its first immigration quotas that attempting to freeze in place the country’s racial composition.
Today unemployment is higher than normal as the world deals with the fallout associated with becoming a post-manufacturing economy. Pat Buchanan hawks The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. Politicians from all sides rail against “illegal” immigration but very often demagogue all immigration.
Both periods were characterized by big fights over petty tangential issues that many prudes insisted contributed to unrest and crime. The Volstead Act passed in the wake of the 18th Amendment gave us Prohibition, while today the President and many Democratic leaders want to outlaw guns. Were those laws to pass, more, not less, crime would be the result, just as more crime was the result of Prohibition too.
Certainly I could carry the parallels further, but let me just conclude with a few questions:
- Was it really necessary to quarantine an entire city to capture a couple criminals whose bombing victims numbered one-one-thousandth of those killed on 9/11?
- Does it not speak volumes about the limits of power and the power of people that the police were unsuccessful during their hours of uninhibited manhunt, but as soon as the house arrest was lifted a citizen found the suspect?
- Is it realistic to expect that among millions of immigrants there won’t be a few criminals, when we have millions of native Americans locked up here at home?
- Is not labeling violence as “terrorism” or “an act of war” just another form of “hate” crime, which attempts to characterize criminals by their thoughts instead of their acts?
- If three dead bombing victims is enough to rescind an American citizen’s constitutional rights, is two? Or one? Or none?
As I read this story about Senate Republicans considering giving the President the power to decide which budget cuts to make, I’m reminded of how much this sounds like impoundment. If so, it’s a wonderful idea, as it would restore executive spending power to the nation’s chief executive.
The anti-impoundment act passed with the 1974 budget. Like so much legislation that came out of the immediate post-Watergate era, this attempt to neuter Nixon left long term negative consequences for the nation. From 1803 to 1974 presidents had the power to spend UP to what was budgeted by Congress. They couldn’t spend more, but if circumstances dictated, the could spend less. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to use the power when he decided not to buy boats that Congress had authorized to patrol the nation’s western frontier on the Mississippi River after his purchase of Louisiana made naval riverine patrols unnecessary. For the next seventeen decades presidents underspent their budgets. Even big spending presidents like Lyndon Johnson routinely spent only 95% of what was authorized.
Since 1974, however, every dime is spent. Anyone who has spent a late September working for the federal government knows the rush to spend wastefully as the waning hours of the fiscal year wind down. That is because Presidents can no longer spend less than what was authorized by Congress. No business would dare operate in such a manner. So why does government?
You might remember that two years ago, I advocated that President Obama seize the opportunity to challenge impoundment. My advice still stands. This is a good thing for the nation if the chief executive has it within his power the ability to properly execute a budget.
Let me first stipulate that the best plan would contemplate cuts across the entire budget: to so-called entitlements as well as to defense and discretionary spending. (BTW, it’s all discretionary spending as no Congress can obligate a subsequent Congress to its laws.)
That being said, for all the sturm and drang over a paltry 2% cut that leaves 2013 budget still greater than was spent in 2012, the secquester isn’t that bad. Yes, the brunt of the cuts falls on defense. So? Quite frankly, it’s not nearly enough. And if there’s that much waste in DoD where I work, I’m sure I could find even more in the other departments.
Here’s the problem for those on both sides of the aisle. Nearly everybody to the right of Paul Krugman acknowledges that federal spending has to come down. But when it comes down to making actual cuts, it’s always going to be easier to find 51% support for any program than there it is to just make across-the-board cuts.In a perfect world, we would target entire agencies and programs for closure. (I propose a LIFO rule: last-in, first-out; first to go Obamacare, Homeland Security, Medicare Part D, then the Departments of Energy and Education . . . ) But we don’t live in a perfect world.
I’ve seen this drama play out in a small way at EUCOM where we tried to trim staff, but in doing so, actually added bodies. Cuts only came when they were mandated across the board. It’s just the nature of bureaucracy that every department, agency, or directorate can argue successfully for more, even while it recognizes the existence of excess across the entire enterprise.
So let sequestration happen. Who cares who gets the blame. If anything, I’m blaming Republicans for not making the sequester cut deeply enough.
Similar thoughts at NRO.
Thom Hartmann argues that the Second Amendment is a vestige of slave-holding days:
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states
He’s cherry-picking. But, okay, I’ll play his game. Let’s stipulate that Mr. Hartmann is correct and that the Second Amendment was designed by Southerners to prevent the possibility of armed slave insurrections.
Okay, but if that’s going to be your position, then you must recognize that the Constitution also specifically treated slaves as non citizens, and thus, the Second Amendment offered slaves no Second Amendment rights. And who was hurt by that most?
Yes, that’s right, those who were legally prohibited from owning guns were powerless to resist their own government’s laws that were used to oppress them.
Thank you, Thom Hartmann, for so eloquently pointing out that our own nation’s history shows examples of the evil that can befall individuals at the hands of the government when they are denied Second Amendment rights.
For those who advocate a value-added tax . . . beware the unintended consequences.
As an American servicemen stationed overseas, I am exempt from the host-nation’s taxes. (Yes, that makes Germany’s $8 dollar-a-gallon gasoline much more palatable than it is for the Germans.)
This evening I was in an antique shop about to make a purchase and I asked if they would remove the tax from the price, when the proprietor told me that antiques are not subject to a VAT.
It dawned on me what should have been obvious. Re-sellers of finished products add no value to the item for sale, and hence, there is no value-added tax. Duh. The second thing that dawned on me was that under a VAT regime, used items retain quite a bit of value, while new items have to be that much better to garner a sale. In other words, a VAT is a sure way to reduce the production of new manufactures, because while there is a tax on the new, the used item that it replaces isn’t subject to a tax.
Here in Germany the VAT is 19.5 percent!!! Yes, anything new is marked up by a fifth by the government. Now imagine how much more expensive a car would be in America under such a confiscatory tax arrangement. Do you think that used car sales would spike under such circumstances? And that consequently new car sales might fall? Of course they would. Duh.
Beware the unintended consequences: a VAT may raise tax rates for the government, but it will also reduce the manufacture of new items. And that means fewer American jobs.
“House Republicans abandoned their effort to add spending cuts to the Senate’s budget legislation and . . . Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole said he expects the House to pass the Senate bill unchanged with a ‘substantial’ bipartisan vote.”
If this is true . . . if House Republicans and their leadership support a bill that raises taxes and spending as opposed to the status quo that raises taxes and lowers spending, then it is time for a third party. I don’t care how many Democrats win House seats in 2014. I really don’t. If this is what Republican style fiscal conservatism looks like, then I am done with the GOP.
I’ve received lots of criticism for my post. Let me tell you why you’re wrong to think that this bill was anything less than a complete catastrophe.
1. There were NO spending cuts. None. Not a single dime. In fact, there were spending increases. Massive ones. If the Republican Party believes that spending is the problem–and it is–then this deal is a complete betrayal of that belief. Going over the cliff, as imperfect as that option was, at least sends the strong message that without spending cuts, the GOP will not be on board.
2. Along those lines . . . seeing that, Barack Obama going forward would know that every time he has a wish, he would have to come to the table with something he is willing to cut. Now he knows that when bargaining with the GOP, it’s just a matter of how BIG future spending increases will be.
3. Under the fiscal cliff, the biggest spending cuts would have been to DoD–which is as it should be. The Defense Department is bloated and wasteful as a result of twelve years of unshackled restraint. The GOP, by making defense spending the center piece of its opposition to the cliff says loud and clear that they are exactly the same as the Democrats: we want spending cuts–as long as they aren’t cuts to our spending programs. The cliff was a cut to every program. We need that. Big time.
4. Nickel and dime tax victories over a few tax cuts pale in comparison to what was lost in new taxes. We’re still going into a recession because of this tax increase (I actually think that it will be back-dated to the third quarter of 2012, so we’re probably already there anyway.) So if you thought that this is going to save us from a recession, you should think again.
5. Republicans will be portrayed by the media as having lost. That was going to be the case no matter what happened. The GOP will always get the blame and will always be losers–at least in the eyes of the media. So if you’re always going to get the blame no matter what you do, you might as well do what is right. Any attempt to play nice with the media will not work. So stop trying.
6. Any political victories were tactical in nature. Strategically, the GOP ceded the long game. Spending is the enemy. Politically, spending creates addicts for government dollars. Those addicts will always vote for the party of more spending. By voting for more spending while giving lip service to restraint, the GOP has created more Democratic voters over the long term. Congratulations.
7. Still on the subject of strategic failures, and perhaps most importantly, the GOP has not positioned itself for the time when math finally catches up. The only thing enabling our spending binge is a prolonged period of historically low interest rates. Rates are only that low because of (A) a slutty Fed that’s just giving it away for free, and (B) there are no other investment options because the worldwide economy sucks. (A) is obviously inflationary in the long term. And as for (B), it does not benefit the party in power to maintain a crappy economy so that the government can continue to borrow at low rates. Eventually something gives, and when it does, the party out of power–IF IT HAS BEEN MAKING THE PRINCIPLED CONTRARY CASE–is perfectly poised to make changes of historic magnitudes.
From 1912 until 1930 Democrats were largely out of power. They aligned themselves with progressivism, and in the 1920s especially, national Democrats paid a huge political price for it. But once the collapse came, they were perfectly poised to cement in place progressive rules that are with us to this day. Those very rules are the foundations of the next failure. Last night the GOP decided that it didn’t want to offer the nation a different path. It has become just a Dead Elephant Walking.