Bush’s Dishonest and Spendthrift Budget

Here are some notes on the federal budget released by the Bush administration today:

  1. Total outlays are scheduled to rise 7.4 percent in FY2008. But if the $100 billion in stimulus “rebates” were properly counted as added spending instead of tax cuts, FY2008 outlays would be up an even larger 11.0 percent.
  2. Bush proposes that FY2009 outlays be increased by 6.0 percent.
  3. This adminstration loves spending, and does not know how to actually cut the budget. According to the “Spending Discipline” section of the budget (page 7), the administration proposes ”the termination and reduction of 151 programs for a savings of over $18 billion, a step that will help channel resources to more effective programs.” The administration doesn’t have the backbone to say that spending will be cut — period. Instead, it nearly always promises that any savings will be spent elsewhere.
  4. In a continuation of its dishonest accounting for the alternative minimum tax (AMT), the administration again includes only one year of AMT relief. Yet the debate over the AMT in 2007 showed decisively that both Congress and the president, both Democrats and Republicans, will continue to pass AMT relief that is not offset. The administration should have included either full AMT relief through 2013 (or, better yet, AMT repeal) in the budget.
  5. And in a continuation of dishonest accounting for the “Global War on Terror,” the budget includes no funding for years after 2009. The GWOT cost roughly $200 billion in both FY2007 and FY2008, funded through “emergency supplementals.” In the new budget, the administration includes just $70 billion for the GWOT in FY2009, when in fact the cost will be likely much higher. The bottom line is that the FY2009 deficit will be well over $500 billion, not the $407 billion that the administration claims.

Let’s compare total outlays as a share of GDP over eight years in office for various presidents:

  • Over Ronald Reagan’s eight years, outlays decreased from 22.2 percent to 21.2 percent. 
  • Over Bill Clinton, eight years, outlays decreased from 21.4 percent to 18.5 percent.
  • Over George W. Bush’s eight years, outlays will increase from 18.5 percent to 20.7 percent.

Given that all spending is paid for by either current of future taxes, Bush’s spending increase of 2.2 percent of GDP is a roughly a $300 billion annual tax increase. (This year’s GDP is about $14 trillion).

Forced Nudity and Detainee Abuse

Disturbing video clip here of government agents employing forced nudity against a prisoner.

A couple of points about the video clip:

1.  Prisons are places where the government has total control over prisoners.  A prisoner may or may not get access to food, water, clothing, medicine, or even a toilet.  As a practical matter, the jailors call those shots, at least in the short term, which is long enough from the perspective of the prisoner.  Jails are necessary, to be sure, but policymakers should keep such institutions limited.  Not every legal infraction needs to be an arrestable offense.

2.  Remember this video clip the next time someone says, “Well, if the government steps over the line, there will be accountability because any victim of abuse can file a big lawsuit.”  In the absence of the video, how well do you think Hope Steffey’s complaint would hold up in court?  I dare say that without the video many attorneys would refuse to take the case if it came down to the word of one woman against seven deputies.  Even when lawsuits are filed, the government often argues that it enjoys legal immunity.

3.  The men and women who run our jails have very tough tasks to perform.  They must regularly process individuals who are drunk, defiant, and sometimes violent.  Not everyone can perform such tasks.  Thus, constant vigilance is necessary so that discipline does not turn into brutality.

4.  The video is also a dramatic reminder about some of the claims we have heard from the Bush administration with respect to the treatment of prisoners.  President Bush and his legal advisors want to employ “alternative interrogation techniques” against persons they call “enemy combatants.”  One legal memorandum said state agents could employ forced nudity and physical force where the pain induced fell short of that associated with “organ failure” or death.  Since Hope Steffey did not experience pain equivalent to organ failure or death, an incident deemed outrageous in Ohio would be lawful abroad, at least according to that memo.  I don’t know why certain CIA personnel destroyed their own interrogation videotapes, but it was probably because they did not want the American public to see what they were doing.  That is,  disclosure would have had legal and political ramifications that certain persons in the government want to forestall.

Sullivan on Wehner on Obama

Peter Wehner argued in yesterday’s WaPo that, although it’s seemingly impossible to dislike Obama, the guy’s just too liberal for conservatives to support. Andrew Sullivan, the conservative author of a favorable profile of Obama in the Atlantic a few months back, chimes in:

If a Democrat ran for office today pledging a massive increase in entitlement spending, a decades-long multi-trillion dollar nation-building project in the Middle East, the biggest increase in discretionary spending since LBJ, a huge increase in the power of the executive branch, a doubling of the federal education budget, a de facto amnesty program for 12 million illegal immigrants, and a cool additional $32 trillion to the country’s unfunded liabilities … would Wehner be saying he is out of bounds for conservatives because he is a special interest group liberal?

Nothing in Obama’s policy book comes even close to the massive lurch to the left that Pete Wehner engineered and supported and celebrated when it was done by a Republican president.

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

A Clear Division Among Candidates

So much of the presidential nominating process is issue-free posturing, it’s welcome to spot a clear division among candidates on a discrete issue.

Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) disagree quite starkly on whether illegal immigrants should be licensed — or, more accurately, on whether driver licensing and proof of immigration status should be linked.

Senator Obama supports licensing without regard to immigration status, and recently received the endorsement of La Opinion, the nation’s largest Spanish language newspaper, largely for that reason. (His “Yes, we can”/”Si, se puede” rhetoric probably hasn’t hurt.)

On This Week With George Stephanopolous Sunday morning, Senator Clinton said (9:09), “[M]y position has been consistent. I don’t think we should be giving drivers’ licenses to people who are not documented.”

The right answer here isn’t obvious, but it is important.

Many people believe that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be “rewarded” with drivers’ licenses. Fair enough: the rule of law is important. There’s also a theory that denying illegal immigrants “benefits” like driver licensing will make the country inhospitable enough that they will leave. This has not borne out, however. Denying illegal immigrants licenses has merely caused unlicensed and untrained driving, with the hit-and-run accidents and higher insurance rates that flow from that.

The major reason, though, why I agree with Senator Obama is because the linking of driver licensing and immigration status is part of the move to convert the driver’s license into a national ID card. Mission-creep at the country’s DMVs is not just causing growth in one of the least-liked bureaucracies. It’s creating the infrastructure for direct regulatory control of individuals by the federal government.

Were immigration status and driver licensing solidly linked nationwide, the driver’s license would not just be a “benefit” of citizenship. It would then clearly be amenable to use as an immigration-control tool — as has already been proposed. Law-abiding, native-born citizens would more and more often be required to show ID. And it would be converted to additional uses. The federal government could condition our access to goods, services, and infrastructure on carrying and presenting a national ID, possession of which the government could make conditional on every regulatory whim that swept past.

We need to restore the driver’s license to its original role — as a license to drive. American citizens should not have to submit or prove their Social Security numbers in order to get licensed. If illegal immigrants “benefit” from that, so be it. It’s more important to protect U.S. citizens’ liberties now and for the future than to “go after” illegal immigrants while reform of our out-of-whack immigration laws languishes.

Ve Have Vays of Making You Buy Ze Health Insuranze

One of those ways, suggested by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), is to force employers to monitor their workers’ health insurance status:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to have workers’ wages garnished if they refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

Evidently, compassion for your fellow man is measured by how much you’re willing to badger and harass him.

The Latest on RomneyCare

Faced with rising costs that threaten to put the program $150–400 million per year over budget, the Massachusetts Connector Authority is now adopting a number of changes to RomneyCare. They include:

  1. Pressuring insurers not to increase premiums (ie. premium caps).
  2. Ordering insurers to cut reimbursements to hospitals and physicians by 3–5 percent.
  3. Reduce the choices available to consumers.

The Authority postponed a vote to increase co-payments and other payments by patients.

Ah, the wonders of government-run health care.

Would You Vote to Put this Statist in the White House?

Last month, I wrote on this site about a Republican who genuinely believed in limited government. The bad news is that my example was not from this year’s campaign, but instead came from a 1920s-era video featuring Calvin Coolidge. After further research, I’ve discovered a more recent video that captures the words of someone who is getting a lot of attention in this year’s GOP campaign. Sadly, this high-profile Republican uses class-warfare rhetoric to condemn tax cuts. He urges more income distribution and a bigger role for the federal government. He even claims that corporate profits cause inflation. Would you vote for someone who gave this speech?