Tag: barney frank

Shades of Nixon: ‘IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative Groups’

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for inappropriately flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, said organizations that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews.

Lerner said the practice, initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati, was wrong and she apologized while speaking at a conference in Washington.

Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They said the agency asked them an inordinate number of questions to justify their tax-exempt status.

Certain tax-exempt charitable groups can conduct political activities but it cannot be their primary activity.

Let’s all recall what President Obama told Ohio State University graduates just days ago:

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny [is] always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

We have never been a people who place all our faith in government to solve our problems. We shouldn’t want to. But we don’t think the government is the source of all our problems, either. Because we understand that this democracy is ours. And as citizens, we understand that it’s not about what America can do for us, it’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

“Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together,” says Barney Frank. Like persecute our political enemies.

A Modest Proposal to Improve Federal Reserve Bank Governance

Recent losses at JP Morgan, and Jamie Dimon’s position on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, have renewed debates as to who should be eligible to sit on the boards of the twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks. In yesterday’s on-line New York Times, Simon Johnson raises additional, and important, questions as to the appropriateness of Dimon’s presence on the NY Fed’s board.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has also introduced a bill, S. 3219, that would remove bankers from the regional Fed boards. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) would go as far as removing the regional bank presidents from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)—although I suspect this has more to do with wanting inflation than anything else. Frank has even proposed replacing those members with additional members appointed by the president of the United States, as if the current Fed is not already too aligned with the White House.

Rep. Frank has called his proposal to pack the Fed with White House loyalists “increased democratization” of the Fed. Frank is, of course, correct to say that regional Fed presidents who sit on the FOMC “… are not subject to a confirmation process by elected officials, and instead are chosen by regional Federal Reserve Bank directors who effectively are appointed by large commercial banks in each region.” [Emphasis in original.]

Here’s my modest proposal to “increase democratization” at the Fed, but to do so in a manner that actually gives more voice to the American public: have the governors of states within the various Fed regions appoint some, or even all, of the board members of the regional Feds. In districts, such a Philadelphia or Cleveland, the governors could appoint multiple members, with over-lapping terms, so that board would have a reasonable minimum size.

To truly increase the “democratization” of the Fed, we should also remove the various vetoes that the DC-based Federal Reserve Board has over regional Fed Bank governance. For instance, Section 4-4 of the Federal Reserve Act requires approval of the DC board of regional bank president appointments.  That allows the Fed to reject anyone who might challenge the status quo. Under any circumstances, having the Fed Board appoint a third of the directors (class C) of the regional banks is also problematic.  Rather then represent Washington’s interests, all regional directors should be either appointed or elected within the region, and without the need for Washington’s approval.

These modest changes could improve the accountability of the Fed, helping the break the dominance of the current Cambridge-Wall Street-Washington group-think that has so badly undermined the Fed. Of course none of this should deter us from exploring alternatives to the Fed.

I’ve Never Seen an Unbroken Window Create Jobs

Such is, literally, the wisdom of retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who (according to ThinkProgress) said:

I’ve never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I’ve never seen a tax cut build a bridge.

That is the equivalent of saying, “I’ve never seen an unbroken window create jobs, so let’s break this one.”

Frank either never read his Bastiat, or didn’t understand what he read.

Barney Frank: Cut Military Spending by Following Cato Plan

U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) believes that cutting the military means rethinking the purpose of our military. He argues that the far-flung adventures that have killed thousands of American soldiers and consumed trillions of dollars simply haven’t been justified by U.S. defense needs. He also takes issue with President Obama exempting military spending from his so-called “spending freeze” proposed earlier this year. He spoke at the Cato Institute November 19, 2010.

Let’s Regulate Barney Frank’s Pay

“Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said Tuesday that he will hold a hearing this fall to examine whether regulators are being tough enough in curbing pay practices at Wall Street firms that can lead to excessively risky practices,” writes Zachary Goldfarb in the Washington Post.

Hmmm. “Pay practices that can lead to excessively risky practices.” Since Barney Frank entered Congress, federal spending has risen from $590 billion in 1980 to $3.7 trillion this year. (U.S. Budget, Historical Tables, Table 1.1) The annual deficit has risen from $74 billion to $1.5 trillion.  Gross federal debt rose from $909 billion to $13.8 trillion – and to over $15 trillion next year. (Table 7.1) And all this without a major war or depression during those 30 years.

Maybe we should adjust pay practices for members of Congress to give them an incentive to avoid risky, unaffordable, out-of-control borrowing and spending.

How to Cut Military Spending

Several months ago, I co-authored an op-ed in Politico with Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network calling on the White House and Congress to include the Pentagon’s budget in any deficit reduction package.

because our national security rests on our economic health as well as on the strength of our military, a liberal and a libertarian can agree that the Pentagon should no longer get a pass.

That op-ed caught the attention of Congressman Barney Frank. He formed the Sustainable Defense Task Force, an ad hoc advisory panel to assemble a list of possible reductions in military spending that would not undermine essential U.S. security.

Last Friday, the task force presented its findings at a press conference at the Capitol. You can read the full report here [.pdf].

Ben Friedman and I collaborated on the portion of the report that makes the case for a new grand strategy of restraint that would allow for substantial cuts in military spending. Our op-ed in this morning’s Los Angeles Times focuses on one key theme: we spend too much because the U.S. military does too much.

A few excerpts:

The Cold War is over. While we were defending our allies in Europe and Asia, they got wealthy. The new status quo is that we offer them perpetual security subsidies — and risk being drawn into wars that do not serve our security interests.

[…]

By avoiding the occupation of failing states and shedding commitments to defend healthy ones, we could plan for far fewer wars, allowing cuts in force structure, manpower, procurement spending and operational costs. The resulting force would be more elite, less strained and far less expensive.

[…]

Our deficit problem is an opportunity to surrender the pretension that we are the world’s indispensable nation, preventing instability, shaping the international system and guiding history. We should be content to settle for being the big kid on the block that looks out for itself and occasionally helps friends in a bad spot. That approach would take advantage of the security we have, and save money we don’t.

As Cong. Frank explained at the press conference, if cutting defense was easy, we would have done it by now. Defense is a core function of government – any government. That might explain why conservatives, and even some libertarians, are more resistant to Pentagon spending cuts than they are to cuts at the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Education (etc.).

Yet much of what Washington does today isn’t defense, which means that the Pentagon’s budget shouldn’t escape scrutiny. The notion that we should close the budget deficit while leaving the military’s share off the table is untenable.

For one thing, it is a key driver of the enormous growth in government spending over the past decade; inflation-adjusted “national defense” outlays (including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) have grown by 86 percent since 1998.

What’s more, the phrase “national defense” is a misnomer, at worse, misleading, at best. We should ask “Defend whose nation?” Most of what Americans spend on our military today is focused on defending other countries that should defend themselves. Once that reality sinks in – and I think it has already – it shouldn’t be that hard to focus the public’s attention on what we spend on our military, and what we get in return.

For the sake of our fiscal health as well as our physical security, we can and should make responsible reductions in military spending. By drawing down the size of our military, reducing our global footprint, and adopting a more restrained grand strategy, we can achieve a sustainable level of military spending that keeps America safe and strong for a very long time to come.

Congress Begins Conference on Financial Regulation

Today begins the televised political theatre that Barney Frank has been waiting months for:  the first public meeting of the House and Senate conferees on the two financial regulation bills.  While there are a handful of important differences between the House and Senate bills, these differences are overshadowed by what the bills have in common.  The most important, and tragic, commonality is that both bills ignore the real causes of the financial crisis and focus on convenient political targets.

As our financial system was brought to its knees by an exploding housing bubble, fueled by government mandates and distortions, one would think, just maybe, that Congress would roll back these distortions.  Despite their role in contributing to the crisis and the size of their bailout, however, neither bill barely mentions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.   Except, of course, to continue their favored and privileged status, such as their exemption from a proposed new “consumer protection” agency.  What we really need is a new “taxpayer protection” agency.

Nor will either bill change the government’s meddling in what is probably the most important price in the economy:  the interest rate.  Given the overwhelming evidence that loose monetary policy was a direct cause of the housing bubble, one might expect Congress to spend time and effort preventing the Fed from creating another bubble.  Not only does Congress ignore the issue, the Senate won’t even allow GAO to look at the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy.

Instead of spending the next few weeks gazing into the camera, Congress should stop and gaze into the mirror.  This was a crisis conceived and born in Washington DC.  The Rayburn building serving as the proverbial back-seat of the housing bubble.