Tag: Heritage Foundation

How Much Power Will the Obama Administration Seize in the Name of “Cybersecurity”?

If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

That aphorism about Washington, D.C. power games certainly applies to the “cybersecurity council” that a draft Obama Administration executive order would create.

The failure of cybersecurity legislation in Congress was regarded as “a blow to the White House“—heaven knows why—so the plan appears to be to go ahead and regulate without congressional approval. Under the draft EO, a Department of Homeland Security-led cybersecurity council will develop a report to determine which agencies should regulate which parts of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”

Keep an eye on that phrase, “critical infrastructure,” because it’s a notorious weasel-word. I argued in 2009 congressional testimony that something might be critical if “compromise of the resource would immediately and proximately endanger life and health.” But the CSIS report—the prominence of which is matched only by its lack of rigor—said, “[C]ritical means that, if the function or service is disrupted, there is immediate and serious damage to key national functions such as U.S. military capabilities or economic performance.”

When hungry bureaucrats are doing the interpreting, economic performance means “anything.” The subjectivity of “immediate” and “serious” don’t change that.

So the “cybersecurity council” will sit down at a table and carve up the economy to determine which agency regulates what industry in the name of “cybersecurity.” They’ll wheel and deal amongst themselves over everything that might fail with imagined “critical” consequences—nevermind that they have no idea what to do about it.

Then it’s fake it ‘til you make it. Though they haven’t got authority from Congress, these agencies will act as though they do. Businesses that don’t participate in government standard-setting will risk having the standards used against them in liability actions. Companies that don’t participate in “voluntary” information-sharing will see their ability to win government contracts erode.

Again, I don’t see why the Obama administration thinks it matters so much to seize power under the “cyber” banner. Perhaps they’re taken in by the gross threat-exaggeration that pervades in this area. But Steven Bucci of the Heritage Foundation has it right:

The President should resist the temptation to ladle on a new regulatory bureaucracy (or bureaucracies) simply to satisfy the need to “do something.” If it is not done right, it will do damage. Let the debate continue until it is done right, Mr. President. It’s called the democratic process, and it invariably provides the best answers, even if it takes awhile.

Fair and Balanced, Think Tank Edition

The website CapitolWords.org allows you to track the use of words uttered by members of Congress. Our intern wrangler, Michael Hamilton, decided to compare uses of the term “Cato Institute” to the names of other think tanks around town. Here’s what he found:

Cato is mentioned roughly equally by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. It’s hard to draw conclusions based solely on members’ use of the names of think tanks, but it seems clear that Democrats and Republicans make roughly equal use of Cato research in making appeals to their colleagues and the public.

Note: The Brookings Institution is sometimes misstated as “Brookings Institute,” so both are included.

Blocking Obamacare Exchanges Is Only Risky for Obamacare Profiteers

USA Today reports that groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Cato Institute have had much success in discouraging states from creating Obamacare’s health insurance “exchanges.” Even the Heritage Foundation, which once counseled states to establish “defensive” Obamacare exchanges, now counsels states to refuse to create them and to send all exchange-related grants back to Washington.

In response, Obamacare contractor and self-described conservative Republican Cheryl Smith sniffs:

When you work at a think-tank, it’s really easy to come up with these really high-risk plans.

Except, there is no risk to states. The only risks to this strategy are that health insurance companies won’t get half a trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and that certain Obamacare contractors won’t get any more of those lucrative exchange contracts.

Wisconsin Stiff-Arms ObamaCare

For the better part of a year, I have been urging states to refuse to implement ObamaCare, and to send any ObamaCare grants back to Washington, D.C.. In October, I was pleased to see the Heritage Foundation’s Ed Haislmaier call on states to do the same.

Late yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) became the latest governor to heed that advice. Walker announced Wisconsin will return the $37 million “Early Innovator Grant” it received from the Obama administration under the health care law.

Wisconsin never should have accepted that money. Its purpose was to rope state officials into implementing a law that Walker himself described as “unprecedented,” “unconstitutional,” and jeopardizing “the foundational principle, enshrined in our Constitution, that the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers.” Yet Walker accepted the Early Innovator Grant after Wisconsin joined the Florida v. HHS lawsuit, and after a federal district court declared the entire law unconstitutional and void.

Nevertheless, Walker did the right thing by joining the other two GOP governors who received Early Innovator Grants—Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin—in sending the money back. Walker’s move probably took no small amount of political courage, given how hard the health insurance industry and other ObamaCare profiteers—including prominent Republicans—have been lobbying states like Wisconsin to create an Exchange.

Kudos.

Misleading Images on Defense Spending

The Washington Examiner ran this Heritage Foundation chart on January 10 under the title (not online) “Defense spending at lowest levels in 60 years”:

Dramatic, eh? It shows defense spending plunging for the past 40 or more years. Except … wait a minute … has defense spending plunged? This chart from the Cato Institute’s Downsizing Government project sheds some light:

Chart: Department of Defense Spending

In fact, Pentagon spending in real, inflation-adjusted dollars has roughly doubled since 2000 and is up about 50 percent since 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War. (And note that the recent figures don’t include the cost of the ongoing wars.) So what’s going on? Why the difference in the charts? The Heritage chart, of course, focuses on Pentagon spending as a percentage of the federal budget. And what has happened to the federal budget in the past 40 years? Well, as it happens, another Heritage Foundation chart shows that pretty clearly:

Obviously, the big story in the federal budget over the past 40 years is the dramatic rise in spending on transfer payments. Does the Heritage Foundation really want to suggest that when spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid rises, military spending should rise commensurately? That when President Bush creates a trillion-dollar Medicare prescription drug entitlement, he should also add a trillion dollars to the Pentagon budget to keep “Defense Spending as a Percentage of the Federal Budget” at its previous level?

Cato and Heritage scholars have often differed on U.S. foreign policy and the defense budget that it implies. But surely neither group would actually suggest that U.S. national security should be measured by the relationship of military spending to entitlement spending. Surely we would agree that military spending must be sufficient to ensure U.S. security and not tied to some extraneous factor. So I invite the creators and promoters of the above chart to explain exactly what they think it proves.

By the way, Heritage’s Rob Bluey, in introducing this chart, writes, “The chart also debunks the myth that our Founding Fathers were isolationists.” But again context matters. I’ll leave the debate over foreign policy in the early Republic to another day. But if total federal spending in 1820 was $19.4 million, and 53 percent of it was for defense, what that tells us is that the federal government was wonderfully small in the early years of the Republic. I’m pretty sure that $10 million military budget didn’t pay for two wars, troops in 150 countries, or a million-man standing army.

Heritage Scholar Urges States: Don’t Implement ObamaCare Exchanges, Send Back Grants

Back in March, Heritage Foundation scholar Ed Haislmaier wrote that states could blunt ObamaCare’s impact (A) by creating non-ObamaCare compliant, “consumer-centered” Exchanges and/or (B) by creating ObamaCare-compliant, “defensive” health insurance Exchanges.  Many states, including some that are suing to overturn ObamaCare as unconstitutional, saw this as a green-light from the free-market groups and forged ahead with creating an ObamaCare-compliant Exchange.

In a blog post last week, Haislmaier recanted on Strategy B.  He writes that “defensive” Exchanges won’t blunt the impact after all, and that states should refuse to create any type of ObamaCare-compliant Exchange and send back all federal ObamaCare grants:

Initially, while HHS was still deciding how to implement the legislation, a narrow window of opportunity existed for states to pursue a “pushback” strategy of creating a restricted exchange and requiring it to contract with the state’s Medicaid program and insurance department to perform the eligibility, enrollment, and insurance regulation functions that state lawmakers seek to retain control of. HHS effectively closed that window in its proposed exchange regulations issued in July…

The combined effect of these regulations and grant requirements are that a state would have to agree to surrender any last vestiges of meaningful control over how Obamacare is implemented. Thus, a state would now have no more real control over an exchange it set up than over one HHS established

Consequently, at this point the best course of action for states is to neither apply for nor accept exchange establishment grant funding.

Free-market groups are now united on these points.

Haislmaier still recommends that states pursue  Strategy A: a “consumer-centered,” non-ObamaCare Exchange using only state-government dollars.  As I explain here, however, there is no such thing as a non-ObamaCare Exchange.  Insurance carriers will not patronize non-ObamaCare Exchanges, and the federal government will commandeer them or push them aside to create an ObamaCare Exchange.  Creating any type of Exchange merely lends manpower to ObamaCare’s federal takeover of health care.  States should refuse.

‘Counterfeit Comfort’

Steve Chapman on sex offender registries:

Most convicted sex offenders do not go on to be arrested for new sex offenses, and more than 90 percent of child victims are assaulted not by strangers but by relatives or other people they know.

Sex offender registries may cause parents to focus on the remote peril while ignoring the more pertinent one. And, as in the examples cited earlier, they can inflict harsh punishment that departs from common sense and does nothing for public safety.

Shielding citizens from vicious predators is unquestionably one of the central functions of any sound government. Megan’s Laws were enacted in the sensible pursuit of that goal. What they offer in practice, though, is counterfeit comfort.

Read the whole thing.  Lenore Skenazy has more thoughts about this here.

The Heritage Foundation is not only making the case for registries, but is making the case for federal intervention in this area.   Wrong.  Like education, crime-fighting is a subject the feds should stay out of.  See the Tenth Amendment (pdf).

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