1.) Has the Great Walking Back of Promises (TM) begun? — House Speaker John Boehner has been in possession of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bejeweled gavel for less than 24 hours and already his party is modifying its promise to cut $100 billion in spending before the fiscal year is over. “A few House Republican aides admitted to TheDC that the party had slipped up in failing to correct the $100 billion figure – first thrown out in the ‘Pledge to America’ document released in late September – before this week,” writes Jon Ward. The more important goal, say Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan, is to reduce spending to a level last seen in 2008, an apparent golden age of fiscal restraint. Also, says Ryan, the fiscal year began three months ago, which means “[w]e are halfway through the fiscal year right now,” and cutting $100 billion from the budget would be almost as difficult as figuring out how many months are in a year. Why did Republicans not walk back this promise on, say, September 23, 2010, the day after the Pledge was announced? Because Congress critters are terrified that the Tea Partiers will drizzle their coagulated blood on the Tree of Liberty. And metaphorically speaking, you know they will do it, too.
2.) Scott Garrett opposed ‘general welfare’ principle because he actually cares about ‘general welfare’ — In 1921, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that a Virginia law allowing for the forced sterilization of genetically inferior humans was constitutional. The majority opinion, written by progressive Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., cited the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.” On Wednesday, New Jersey Republican Rep. Scott Garrett attempted to modify the GOP’s new Constitution rule, which says that new bills must cite their constitutional authority, by excluding bills that cite the ambiguous “general welfare” principle. While the modification died in Republican conference, Democrats could not resist mocking Garrett’s attempt to impede big government’s trampling of individual rights in the name of the collective. You’d think that the party that has swamped America with incompetence for the last two years would be voicing full support for Garrett.
3.) Former Clintonista confused about who pays public employees — Robert Reich, labor secretary under Bill Clinton, takes to the Business Insider this morning to rail against the “scapegoating” of unionized public sector employees, all of whom are underpaid, and none of whom are the least bit responsible for their pensions being drastically underfunded. “After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year. Few would call that overly generous,” Reich writes, without citing a single source. “And most of that $19,000 isn’t even on taxpayers’ shoulders. While they’re working, most public employees contribute a portion of their salaries into their pension plans. Taxpayers are directly responsible for only about 14 percent of their retirement benefits.” Actually, taxpayers are responsible for 100% of public employees’ pensions, because they are responsible for 100% of public employees’ salaries. This is why we call them public employees. And as the obligations of their pensions continue to increase at a rate inverse to their funding, taxpayers will be 100% responsible for bailing them out.
4.) Health-care costs slowly spin out of control — “Don’t take too much solace from news that health care spending in 2009 rose at its slowest pace of the past 50 years,” writes the Fiscal Times’ Merrill Goozner. “In a year when the rest of the economy actually shrank and inflation was around 1 percent, health care still managed to grow at four times the rate of inflation.” Federal spending on health care jumped from 38% of federal income in 2008 to 54% in 2009. Prescription drug prices jumped, too, despite an increase in generics. The only place where spending fell was the category of state and local spending, but even this has a depressing explanation: “The Obama administration’s stimulus act, passed in February 2009, picked up a greater share of the tab for the poor and unemployed. That goes away in June.” In a sane world, we’d turn to Alan Simpson’s catfood commission to save us. This is not a sane world.
5.) TSA perverts keep handicapped woman off airplane because of her butt — Tammy Banovac gets hassled every time she goes through TSA security, she claims, because she is in a wheelchair. Last November, to expedite the hassle, Banovac arrived at the airport in her wheelchair, but wearing a bikini. She assumed this would give TSA agents more confidence that she was not a terrorist, and perhaps prevent a dreaded “enhanced” pat-down. She assumed wrong, and was denied entrance to her terminal after being interrogated for an hour. Lo and behold, the story gets worse. “As she tried to board a flight — fully clothed– for the first time since the earlier incident,” writes Raw Story, “the TSA informed Banovac they had found an ‘unusual contour’ around her buttocks which they couldn’t explain.” Banovac offered to take her clothes off (something she’d done for the TSA before), but was instead simply kicked off her flight. Again.
6.) Feds will not intervene in state budgetocalypse — “As of June 30, 2011, the federal government will have spent about $165 billion on temporary aid to the states to help them weather the recession. The states have used most of that money on education and health care — keeping teachers in the classroom and reimbursing doctors and hospitals for treating the growing number of people eligible for Medicaid,” reports the AP. It is unlikely that Washington will provide another round of bailouts for poorly managed states. How large a problem are we looking at? “States closed a cumulative budget gap of nearly $84 billion in the last fiscal year. In the coming year, 31 states and Puerto Rico face budget shortfalls totaling $82.1 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.” As soon as you stop hyperventilating, consider picking up the phone, calling your local state representative, and asking him/her/it why he/she/it continued to spend like a drunken sailor, knowing full well that the stimubucks had dried up.