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Puppies + Bureaucrats = Federal Free Speech Lawsuit

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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What do you get when you mix bureaucrats with a bunch of adorable puppies?

In Kim Houghton’s case, you get a major First Amendment lawsuit.

Kim Houghton decided after a successful, 20-year career in advertising that she wanted more.  She wanted to realize her American Dream and become an entrepreneur in a business focused on dogs.

She had the gumption to quit her job and make her dream come true:  Wag More Dogs is a high-end canine daycare located next to a popular dog park in Arlington, Virginia.  Kim commissioned an outdoor mural on her wall that has cartoon dogs, bones and paw prints as a way to give something back to the park she’d frequented for years, and build up some good will for her new business.

The mural was a big hit.  After all, who doesn’t like puppies?   Things were smooth for a few months.

And then Arlington bureaucrats got involved.

Officials blocked Kim’s building permit and told her that she could not open unless she painted over the mural or covered it with a blue tarp.

Her crime?

Painting a piece of art that—in the eyes of government officials—had too strong a “relationship” to her business.

According to city bureaucrats, a mural that depicted something other than dogs would be fine.  Turn those adorable puppies into fire-breathing dragons or flying pink unicorns and she’d be back in business.

But because Kim’s sign shows puppies, it’s illegal.

Under the threat of losing her American Dream, Kim was forced to purchase an expensive tarp and cover the mural.   Several months later, it remains covered.

Today [FRIDAY], the Institute for Justice is showing up in federal court to change that.  Economic liberty expert Rob Frommer, the IJ attorney who filed the federal lawsuit on Kim’s behalf, is asking a judge to allow Kim to remove the tarp and once again display her mural.  Specifically, Rob wants a preliminary injunction so the law cannot be enforced until the lawsuit is settled.

As Rob explains in the Daily Caller:

Today I will ask the judge for a preliminary injunction, meaning we want the court to temporarily stop the city from enforcing this terrible law until our lawsuit strikes it down for good.  When we prevail, we will have done more than just help Kim tear down a tarp.  We will have advanced the cause of liberty by vindicating in federal court a simple but incredibly important legal principle:  Under the First Amendment the right to speak is just that, a right—not a privilege for government officials to dole out as they please.

The editorial board of the Washington Post agrees with Rob.  In a powerful editorial written in conjunction with the launch of the lawsuit, the paper wrote:

[The lawsuit] notes that there would not have been a problem if the mural depicted flowers, dragons or ponies instead of dogs. The absurdity that reveals should cause Arlington residents to wonder about their government’s grasp of common sense.

What do you think?

Are Arlington officials using common sense?  Or are they violating Kim’s rights by playing art critic with her sign?  Please let us know your thoughts on our facebook page.


Big Government

Federal judge approves government funding for Sharia indoctrination

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Another foolish decision by an ignorant and politically correct judge. “Judge OKs ‘flag of Islam on American soil’: Decision approves government funding for Shariah indoctrination,” by Bob Unruh in WorldNetDaily, January 19 (thanks to all who sent this in):

Attorneys for a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War say they have filed a petition to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district judge ruled it is OK for the U.S. government to fund commercial enterprises that promote the indoctrination of Islamic law, or Shariah, in the United States.

The decision came from Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, who changed his perspective on the issue and said just last week that he would dismiss a constitutional challenge brought by Kevin Murray against the U.S. government’s bailout of AIG, the insurance giant.

AIG used more than “$ 100 million in federal tax money to support Islamic religious indoctrination through the funding and promotion of Shariah-compliant financing. … SCF is financing that follows the dictates of Islamic law,” said the Thomas More Law Center, or TMLC.

TMLC is representing Murray in his challenge to the use of federal tax money to promote Islam in the U.S.

The non-profit legal advocacy group’s president, Richard Thompson, warned of the precedent.

“Judge Zatkoff’s ruling allows for oil-rich Muslim countries to plant the flag of Islam on American soil,” he said. “His ruling ignored the uncontested opinions of several Shariah experts and AIG’s own website, which trumpeted Shariah-compliant financing as promoting the law of the prophet Mohammed and as an ethical product and a new way of life.”

TMLC and co-counsel David Yerushalmi immediately filed a notice of appeal to the 6th Circuit.

“[Zatkoff’s] ruling ignored AIG’s use of a foreign Islamic advisory board to control investing in accordance with Islamic law,” Thompson continued. “This astonishing decision allows the federal government as well as AIG and other Wall Street bankers to explicitly promote Shariah law – the 1,200-year-old body of Islamic canon law based on the Quran, which demands the destruction of Western civilization and the United States.”

Thompson warned it is the same law “championed by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban; it is the same law that prompted the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks; and it is the same law that is responsible for the murder of thousands of Christians throughout the world. The law center will do everything it can to stop Shariah law from rearing its ugly head in America.”

The lawsuit, Murray v. Geithner et al., was brought because Murray, as a taxpayer, alleges he is being forced to contribute to the propagation of Islamic beliefs and practices predicated upon Islamic law, which he says is hostile to his Christian religion.

Among those who submitted statements in the case were two noted experts in Islamic law and terrorism, Stephen C. Coughlin and Robert Spencer.

Coughlin, a lawyer and decorated Army Reserve officer, is a leading Pentagon expert on the link between Islamic law and jihad. He explained that by engaging in Shariah-compliant financing, AIG and the federal government – which owns 79.9 percent of AIG – are engaging in the religious practice of Islam.

Islam teaches hostility and discrimination against Jews, Christians and anyone who doesn’t accept the Quran as the “word of Allah,” he said, explaining that the indoctrination stems from the same law that motivated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

As WND reported, Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, has studied Islamic theology and history for 30 years. He is author of “Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs,” “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades” and eight other books on Islam. He has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. Command and General Staff College, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the U.S. intelligence community.

Spencer explained that by offering Shariah-compliant financing, AIG is promoting religious behavior that teaches hatred and discrimination against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims….

Indeed.

Jihad Watch

Boehner: Barring federal funds for abortion one of GOP’s ‘highest’ priorities

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Washington (CNN) – House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the House of Representatives will consider legislation to permanently bar federal funding for elective abortions, calling the measure “one of our highest legislative priorities.”

“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people and it ought to be the will of the land,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

Asked why House Republicans were making the social issue a top priority when GOP leaders have repeatedly said economic issues were their main focus, Boehner said he’s making good on a promise Republicans made last year. “Our members feel strongly about the sanctity of human life. We listened to the American people, we made a commitment to the American people in our Pledge to America and we’re continuing to fulfill our commitment.”

The House GOP unveiled their policy agenda in their “Pledge to America” last fall, which put a heavy emphasis on job creation and fiscal responsibility. But in a nod to social conservatives it did include a short section mentioning the issue of abortion: “Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and the executive order issued by President Obama in conjunction with congressional passage of the health care law is inadequate to ensure taxpayer funds are not used in this manner.”

The bill, which Boehner labeled “HR 3" – the low number reserved for prominent legislation – was introduced by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, who has pushed the issue for several years. Smith has advocated since the 1980s for permanent restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions. Currently, Congress renews those restrictions each year by attaching the so-called “Hyde amendment” to annual funding bills. It was named after the late Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde who opposed abortion rights, and first attached the amendment to a spending measure in 1976.

Boehner reiterated his view that the compromise language included in the health care bill last year did not adequately preclude the federal government from using funds for abortions. During last minute negotiations before the health care vote last year, President Obama reached an agreement with a group of anti-abortion House Democrats and issued an executive order directing agencies not to use federal money for abortions.

“There is an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration is on this issue. I think the will of the people is that we enact this clear cut prohibition on the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions,” Boehner said.

The abortion rights group Planned Parenthood released a statement opposing the Smith bill.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, said, “Republicans took control of Congress on a promise to create jobs, but instead, one of their first acts is to take away health insurance benefits that the majority of women currently have. The true intent of Congressman Chris Smith’s bill is to end insurance coverage for virtually all abortions, including private insurance coverage that Americans pay for with their own money, even in cases involving the most severe dangers to a woman’s health.”

But Smith’s office maintains that the bill includes exceptions for abortion coverage for victims of rape or incest, or in cases where the life of the mother is in danger.

Abortion rights advocates also object to a provision in the Smith bill that would prohibit those enrolled in insurance plans that cover abortion to claim tax deductions for high health care costs.

GOP leadership aides tell CNN a vote on the bill has not been scheduled yet.

– Follow Deirdre Walsh on Twitter @deirdrewalshcnn


CNN Political Ticker

Video: GOP introduces ban on federal funding for abortion

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Stupak Amendment revived.


Fox News interviews Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) mainly about the repeal of ObamaCare yesterday, but also asks about the effort today to pass a legislative ban on federal funding of abortions. Noem handles the interview very impressively and says in both cases that Republicans in Congress intend to honor their campaign promises: Watch the latest […]

View the video »

Hot Air » Top Picks

House Conservatives Offer Bold Proposal to Cut $2.5 Trillion in Federal Spending

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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Rep. Jim JordanHouse conservatives are holding firm on their promise to cut federal spending. Speaking this morning at Heritage, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) outlined $ 2.5 trillion worth of cuts between now and 2021 — a bold proposal called the Spending Reduction Act.

Jordan, who serves as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, immediately return spending to 2008 levels and eventually cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels, then 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 today 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.

“We’ve got to be willing to have the courage to do the right thing,” Jordan said. “Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it. … We are at a point where we can no longer afford to do things the convenient way.”

The congressman’s speech was cut short because he had to return to the House for voting. The House today debated legislation to replace “the job-killing health care law.”

“That was probably the shortest political speech you’ll ever hear,” Jordan joked.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

MEDC gets federal money to back small business loans

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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On Friday Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced that Michigan will be the first state to benefit from funds made available through the Small Business Jobs Act signed into law last October.

Michigan will receive $ 79.1 million as part of a new federal program designed to boost lending to small businesses.

“The problem in Michigan we’re facing is that credit-worthy companies are unable to get loans because banks have tightened up lending,” Snyder said in a news release. “This means small businesses that want to expand and hire can’t get access to needed capital. Using the federal funds to insure against default will give banks more confidence and make them more likely to lend, which will spark job growth.”

MEDC will administer the funds, the administration said, and the goal is to help small businesses obtain loans of at least $ 10 for every $ 1 dollar the state provides in support.

The new federal program was introduced and championed by members of the state congressional delegation who modeled it on a successful small scale MEDC lending program, MEDC spokesman Mike Shore said.

The recent economic recession has left businesses like auto suppliers unable to use their heavy machinery as collateral for loans. By putting up money to guarantee their loans, MEDC was able to get banks to lend companies money to move into new areas such as medical device manufacturing or defense contracting, he said.

According to Shore the $ 20 million used by MEDC to back loans since June of 2009 has resulted in $ 191 million in loans for small businesses, and so far none of those loans have defaulted.

Snyder, who was the first chairman of MEDC, said that this new lending program is part of getting the state economic development agency “back to the basics of economic development.”

Michigan Messenger

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Jared Loughner On Three Counts Of Attempted Murder

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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The first round of indictments against Jared Lee Loughner were handed down late today:

A federal grand jury in Tucson today handed up a first round of indictments against suspected Tucson shooter Jared Loughner, charging him with the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the attempted murders of her aides Ron Barber and Pam Simon.

The shootings occurred during a spree outside a Safeway supermarket near Tucson on Jan. 8 that left six dead and 13 others wounded.

“We are in the early stages of this ongoing investigation,” U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke said in a written statement. “We have made considerable progress in a short period of time.”

Superseding indictments could come as early as 60 days in the murders of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords’ aide Gabe Zimmerman. Sources indicated that the indictments would be done piecemeal in order to meet constitutional requirements.

The federal criminal code allows penalties of up to life in prison for an attempted assassination of a member of Congress. When federal murder charges follow, prosecutors could seek the death penalty.

“This case also involves potential death-penalty charges, and (Justice) Department rules require us to pursue a deliberate and thorough process,” Burke said. “Today’s charges are just the beginning of our legal action. We are working diligently to ensure that our investigation is thorough and that justice is done for the victims and their families.”

By federal law, defendants in felony cases must be indicted within 30 days in order to hold them in custody.

Loughner, 22, the lone suspect in the case, is being held in a federal detention facility outside Phoenix. He is scheduled to appear for arraignment Monday at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns in the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.

There will be an indictment for the murder of Gabriel Zimmermann at some point, but that will have to occur after the Justice Department does a review to determine if the case is death penalty appropriate. The same thing will have to happen with regard to Judge John Roll, but that case has an additional factual issue that will have to be resolved. The Federal statutes covering murder of a Federal official mandate that the murder occur while they were performing their official duties. In the case of Giffords and her employees, that’s not an issue since they were conducting an constituent event. In Roll’s case, prosecutors would essentially have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Judge Roll went to the Safeway on the morning of January 8th for some purpose related to his duties as Chief Judge. There have been conflicting reports as to the reason Judge Roll was there and if he in fact had just happened to stop by after going to Mass that morning, then I don’t think the U.S. Attorney will be able to establish Federal jurisdiction for his murder.

More to come, I’m sure.




Outside the Beltway

Mike Lee Suggests FEMA, Federal Poverty And Food Safety Programs Are All Unconstitutional

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Last week, ThinkProgress highlighted a lecture by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) where he claimed that federal child labor laws violate the Constitution. Under Lee’s vision of the Constitution, basic labor protections such as child labor laws, the minimum wage, and bans on race and gender discrimination all must be “done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.” Yesterday, in an interview with Utah public radio host Doug Fabrizio, Lee doubled down on this call for a return to failed constitutional vision that spawned the Great Depression, suggesting that even victims of Katrina-like disasters cannot constitutionally receive aid from the federal government:

LEE: The listener identifies an issue with flood and disaster relief—should that be a federal prerogative or is that a state power? I think a compelling point can be made that’s one thing that states historically have focused on…and I think that’s one area where we ought to focus—one of many areas where we ought to focus — on getting that power back to the states, keeping that money in the states to begin with.

FABRIZIO: But could Louisiana, for example, have dealt with Katrina? That would have absolutely broken the bank. Should the federal government, in an ideal way, should the federal government have been involved in that at all?

LEE: Well, look, they were, and I generally make a practice of not unnecessarily and futility going back a few years and saying we shouldn’t have done that because the fact is that we did. But looking forward…states will prepare differently if they understand that it’s their responsibility rather than that of the federal government.

Nor are disaster victims the only people Lee would leave out in the cold. Earlier in the same interview, Lee also claims that all federal anti-poverty and food safety programs also violate the Constitution:

QUESTION: Are you saying that if the government would have stayed out of it, the country could have worked out the issues that are being dealt with by these programs, like poverty, like food safety…?

LEE: I’ve never said that isn’t the role of government. What I’ve said is it’s not necessarily the role of the federal government. I think it’s important to ask the question, not just “should government do this? What is the proper role of government?” But “which government are you talking about?”

QUESTION: You said the framers intended state lawmakers deal with that, not the federal law?

LEE: Absolutely.

Listen:

Of course, Lee’s bizarre ideas call into question whether he has actually even read the Constitution. As ThinkProgress has explained, the Constitution gives Congress broad authority to regulate interstate commerce and to raise and spend money to benefit the “general welfare.” These two powers easily enable Congress to regulate the national food market and to provide a basic safety net to the poor and the unfortunate, regardless of what Lee may claim.

For the folks at home who are keeping track, this means that Lee has now suggested that child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Like Joe Miller before him, it turns out that there’s only three things Mike Lee likes in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and “unconstitutional.”

ThinkProgress

An Imaginary Federal Election Commission

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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By John Samples

Jeff Patch and Zac Morgan of the Center for Competitive Politics report on the storm that is brewing at the Federal Election Commission over regulations to implement Citizens United. The three Democratic appointees propose regulations that would impose significant elements of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that failed to pass Congress last year. The three Republican appointees, in contrast, propose to clarify existing law and clear away defunct regulations, all with an eye toward the holdings in Citizens United. The FEC seems unlikely to adopt the proposals by the Democratic appointees. After all, the Democratic commissioners do not have and are unlikely to obtain majority support for their agenda.

Imagine if the Federal Election Commission were directed by a seven-member board where one party or the other held a working majority. Imagine also the Democrats had a majority on this fictional commission. The regulations proposed by the three current Democratic commissioners would become the law of the land. They would become so despite the fact that Congress itself did not pass the DISCLOSE Act and the regulations contravene the spirit and perhaps the letter of a major Supreme Court decision.

How would that (imagined) outcome be compatible with American constitutional democracy? How would it comport with the rule of law?

An Imaginary Federal Election Commission is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog


Cato @ Liberty

An Imaginary Federal Election Commission

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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By John Samples

Jeff Patch and Zac Morgan of the Center for Competitive Politics report on the storm that is brewing at the Federal Election Commission over regulations to implement Citizens United. The three Democratic appointees propose regulations that would impose significant elements of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that failed to pass Congress last year. The three Republican appointees, in contrast, propose to clarify existing law and clear away defunct regulations, all with an eye toward the holdings in Citizens United. The FEC seems unlikely to adopt the proposals by the Democratic appointees. After all, the Democratic commissioners do not have and are unlikely to obtain majority support for their agenda.

Imagine if the Federal Election Commission were directed by a seven-member board where one party or the other held a working majority. Imagine also the Democrats had a majority on this fictional commission. The regulations proposed by the three current Democratic commissioners would become the law of the land. They would become so despite the fact that Congress itself did not pass the DISCLOSE Act and the regulations contravene the spirit and perhaps the letter of a major Supreme Court decision.

How would that (imagined) outcome be compatible with American constitutional democracy? How would it comport with the rule of law?

An Imaginary Federal Election Commission is a post from Cato @ Liberty – Cato Institute Blog


Cato @ Liberty

MASSACHUSETTS: NOM Files DOMA Amicus Brief With Federal Appeals Court

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 18-01-2011

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Joe. My. God.

Interesting Slate Article on Federal Judges and the Problems of Aging

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 18-01-2011

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(Eugene Volokh)

The article is here. I’m not sure what the solution is to the problem, or even how large the problem is — for obvious reasons, it’s hard to measure accurately — but human physiology and psychology being what they are, I suspect the problem does exist, and is not trivial in size.




The Volokh Conspiracy

Political Ignorance and Federal Spending

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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(Ilya Somin)

Although federal spending was a major political issue in the 2010 campaign and for many months before it, this recently released CBS poll [HT: Dan Mitchell] reveals widespread public ignorance about the distribution of spending between various programs. The detailed data reveal that only 23% know that Medicare and Medicaid take up between 20 and 30% of federal spending, and only 15% realize that Social Security takes up between 20 and 30%. Some 48% underestimate the extent of Social Security spending, with a much smaller percentage overstating it. Similarly, only 23% recognize that defense spending takes up between 20% and 30% of the budget. In this case, the most common error is to overestimate the extent of spending (a mistake made by 42%). Defense, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid, are by far the three largest items in the federal budget. And the vast majority of Americans don’t know how much of the federal budget is spent on them. Even if we count as “correct” answers that are close to the truth (on the grounds that all three programs are right around 20%, so both 10 to 20% and 20 to 30% might potentially be correct), the large majority still doesn’t know the answer in all three cases.

The majority overestimates the percentage of federal spending that goes to foreign aid, welfare, and earmarks. For example, only 9% realize that foreign aid is less than 5% of the federal budget, while 67% believe that it is higher than that, including 48% who believe that the true figure is a whopping 10% or more.

Knowing approximately how much federal spending goes to which program is not enough to have a reasonably informed discussion on spending policy. But it’s probably a necessary prerequisite to doing so. Therefore, it’s noteworthy that the majority of the public is ignorant on these points, despite the extensive public debate over the issue over the last two years.

This result is, of course, in line with previous data showing widespread public ignorance on a wide range of issues. As I have argued elsewhere, it is in fact rational for most voters to make little or no effort to acquire political information, because the chance of influencing electoral outcomes is so low. Few people find the details of federal spending policy interesting, and there is little incentive to learn about them just to be a better voter. Voters may have a duty to become informed, but if so few take that obligation seriously.

It is tempting instead to blame politicians and the media for the extent of public ignorance on these issues. Certainly, politicians often talk about spending in very vague terms, and pretend that we can cut the deficit without touching entitlement programs or defense. No doubt, the media is also often uninformative. However, it is still easy for people to get accurate data on federal spending if they were so inclined. A quick google search turns up several easy to use sites such as this one and this one. It’s also not hard to find think tank studies, newspaper and magazine articles, and other information sources that discuss the budget in an accessible way.

Moreover, to the extent that politicians and the media don’t provide more information on spending, it is largely because they are responding to voter and consumer demand. If TV news viewers wanted more programming discussing the details of the federal budget, TV and radio news stations would be happy to provide it. It would be cheaper to produce than much of their current programming. Similarly, if voters punished at the polls politicians who fail to discuss budget specifics, more candidates would do so. In reality, of course, politicians are more likely to be rewarded at the polls for avoiding discussion of specific budget cuts than for embracing it. Doing the latter will earn them the ire of organized interest groups, while getting little reward from the general public. And TV news executives know that most viewers prefer entertainment to stories on the budget. In sum, politicians and the media are primarily responding to and exploiting public ignorance, rather than creating it. They may exacerbate the problem, but they didn’t cause it.

UPDATE: To my mind, the good news in the CBS poll is that it partly refutes the conventional wisdom that the public wants to cut spending in general, but opposes cuts in specific programs. Substantial majorities say they are willing to cut Social Security benefits for “retirees with higher incomes,” farm subsidies, defense spending, and money for “projects in your community.” There is a statistical dead heat (45% in favor, 48% against) on eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. The public isn’t nearly as willing to cut spending as I would prefer. But it is not correct to say that they oppose cuts in all important programs. Obviously, the fact that a majority is willing to support cuts in these areas does not necessarily mean that any will actually be enacted. Social Security, farm subsidies, defense spending, and porkbarrel grants all have strong interest group constituencies behind them, which may be able to prevail against poorly organized majority public opinion.




The Volokh Conspiracy

Edwards target of federal grand jury

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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Hush money?


Last we heard in October, the Department of Justice had prepared a flurry of subpoenas to delve into the handling of campaign finances in John Edwards’ presidential run, with a specific eye towards the use of some funds to keep the Rielle Hunter scandal under wraps.  Today, the Associated Press reports that the grand jury […]

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Hot Air » Top Picks

The Case For Federal Higher Education Policy

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 16-01-2011

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People are bound to debate at the margin what services should be publicly subsidized and to what extent. But voters like services and dislike taxes, so there’s always a robust market for trying to fudge the idea that less subsidization means lower levels of service. One frequent dodge here is federalism, whereby you sort of wave around the idea of state government as a way to evade the issue at hand. To wit, via Kevin Carey comes the thinking of Rep Virginia Foxx of North Carolina:

Q. More generally, you have said you don’t believe there’s an appropriate role for the federal government in higher education. How far do you think the current, fairly significant role can — or should — be rolled back?

A. The federal government’s involvement in higher education can and should be scaled back gradually in the coming years. Ideally we’d be able to reduce the burdensome federal bureaucracy and delegate much of the funding and policy decision making to state governments. This would help to foster better solutions to the specific issues confronting higher education and provide improved accountability for taxpayer dollars.

This is doubly nonsense. For one thing, as Carey argues if you devolved responsibility for research spending decisions to state governments then instead of “improved accountability” what you’d find is that each state government wants to fund research at home state universities. For an equal dollar amount of spending, we’d get less value.

More generally, I for one think labor mobility and social mobility are excellent things. If a poor kid from Detroit manages to get into the University of Michigan, graduate, and go get a good job in Chicago or New York or Atlanta or Houston then that’s an American success story. And it’s something officials responsible for education policy in Michigan shouldn’t be afraid of—the long-term decline of automobile industry employment isn’t something they’re responsible for or able to change. But it’s naturally that Michigan public officials will to an extent overweight the interests of Michigan qua Michigan relative to those of Michigan residents. If you tried to entirely devolve responsibility onto the states, then you’d find economically declining areas allocating a larger and larger share of a shrinking pool of resources to a kind of desperate effort to prevent people from leaving the area rather than giving them the skills that will best suit them in life.


Yglesias