Brady Campaign Suing to Block Concealed Carry in National Parks

As I noted before, the Department of the Interior recently announced that it will allow the concealed carry of handguns in national parks and wildlife refuges. New West reports that the Brady Campaign is now suing to block implementation of the rule. (H/T to David Hardy at Of Arms & the Law.) The Brady Campaign claims that the rule will allow concealed carry on the National Mall just in time for inauguration. Not true. 

The full complaint is available here (pdf), where the claim about National Mall carry is repeated. Scroll down to pages 19-20, where one of the Brady plaintiffs alleges harm from the new rule because he lives in Maryland and visits the National Mall, where he may feel threatened by the prospect of concealed weapons.

Actually, the rule only allows carry “if, and only if, the individual is authorized to carry a concealed weapon under state law in the state in which the national park or refuge is located.” D.C. officials recently ramped up requirements for a gun permit, and a gun permit does not permit concealed carry outside the home. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier made it explicitly clear that “[w]e have no plan to expand those laws to allow people to carry handguns in public.” 

The Department of the Interior’s rulemaking came in the wake of the landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned the District’s long-standing gun ban. The Heller case is detailed in Brian Doherty’s new book Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment. The Cato book forum is available in video and podcast formats here.

TARP

The Bush administration has blown through the first $350 billion of your money that Congress authorized it to spend under the Troubled Asset Relief Fund. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is now asking for the second $350 billion.

Will Congress approve the second $350 billion of TARP money? I have no special skill at political speculation, but since a reporter asked, here are five reasons I think that it won’t, thankfully.

  1. It is not clear that the first $350 billion of TARP money has aided the economy at all. I suspect that all the recent Treasury micromanagement through TARP has destabilized the economy and delayed the recovery, not helped it. But certainly TARP supporters cannot claim any big success
  2. Congress and the general public are unhappy with the lack of transparency and poor oversight of TARP spending. President-elect Obama campaigned on creating a more transparent government. TARP spending does not fit into that Obama vision.
  3. Democrats don’t like TARP anymore. Democrats are unhappy that TARP money has bailed out Wall Street and not Main Street, to use their nomenclature. They are resisting further bailouts of financial firms.
  4. Republicans don’t like TARP anymore. Republicans in Congress are unhappy that the Treasury bailed out the auto firms with TARP money after they explictly opposed an auto bailout. They don’t want to give the new Democratic administration a similar open-ended opportunity to spend.
  5. The U.S. economy will recover from the current recession, and the Obama administration will want to take credit for it. Renewing TARP will muddy the waters for that credit-taking. For Obama, it is politically important that he “do something” in his first few months to the economy so that when the recovery comes he can claim success. TARP is a Bush thing, Obama needs something fresh and new.

What Obama should do is a pass a large corporate tax rate cut, which would spur long-run growth. Alas, Obama appears to be an old-fashioned Keynesian, and his credit-taking vehicle is shaping up to be a gigantic “stimulus” spending plan. I think that’s crackpot, as I touched on here, and will address in future blog posts.

The Bluegrass Porker

The following howler from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in today’s Wall Street Journal is worth calling out:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in a statement Monday supported the idea of using federal spending to boost the economy. But he warned that the price tag, which could approach $800 billion over two years, shouldn’t become an excuse for funding undeserving projects. “We should have a simple test: Will the yet-unwritten, reportedly trillion-dollar spending bill really create jobs and grow the economy – or will it simply create more government spending, more bureaucrats and deeper deficits?” Mr. McConnell said.

Didn’t the Republican Senator from Kentucky, along with his Republican congressional colleagues and Republican president, oversee the largest federal spending binge in decades?

If history is any guide, it’s a good bet that Sen. McConnell thinks “creating jobs” means funneling taxpayer pork to the state of Kentucky. Back in October, when he was struggling for reelection, the Washington Post reported that “McConnell boasts of the projects he has brought to Kentucky – a total of $500 million for the state last year, he said last week. He lists every project he has brought to every town he visits, and argues that Lunsford couldn’t do the same.”

Apparently it’s perfectly acceptable to “create more government spending, more bureaucrats and deeper deficits” when Sen. McConnell and his party are running the show.

(For a list of Sen. McConnell’s recent pork grabbing, which totals $195 million, check out the Citizens Against Government Waste’s 2008 Pig Book by clicking here and selecting his name from the pull-down menu.)

Government “Stimulation” — Shouldn’t the Economy be Booming?

Prevailing wisdom among politicians, media talking heads, and a sizable number of economists is that a downpour of government money is needed to “stimulate” the economy into recovery. (To understand why this belief is bunk, please see Dan Mitchell’s helpful video here.)

But isn’t spending tons of money exactly what government at all levels has been doing in recent years? According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers, combined federal, state, and local expenditures in 2000 were an already unhealthy 30% of GDP. Eight years and two recessions later, government spending now sucks up 35% of the nation’s economy and is trending higher. During that time we have witnessed the first $2 trillion federal budget and the first $3 trillion dollar budget.

With all the money federal, state, and local governments have been spending shouldn’t we be experiencing a boom? It would seem to me that proponents of government spending as a cure for our economic cold have it backward.

‘First, Assume I’m Right’

In a Saturday New York Times op-ed, Matt Miller of the Center for American Progress writes: “Drive around Chicago, Detroit or most other big cities and you’ll see dilapidated schools staffed largely by rookie teachers. The districts spend, say, $10,000 a child.”

Perhaps my memory is corrupted by nostalgia, but wasn’t there an era when the Times op-ed page discouraged policy commentary based on made-up, make-believe numbers?

As Miller might have discovered if he had researched the issue, Detroit is spending roughly $13,000 per pupil this school year, while Chicago spent roughly $14,000 in 2007-08. These figures can be calculated by reviewing readily available budget documents, summing all applicable expenditures, and dividing by enrollment. In Detroit, for instance, we sum FY09 “General Fund” expenditures (funds # 11, 13, 14, 22) with those of the Bond Redemption Fund (#31), and relevant items of the Food Service Fund (#25). Total expenditures come to roughly $1.24 billion while the official enrollment estimate for the school year is 96,194. The quotient of the two is just under $13k. FY08 data for Chicago yield a figure just above $14k.

Miller goes on to assert that “If you compare most poor, urban areas to their nearby affluent suburbs, the suburbs typically spend thousands of dollars more per pupil.” Do they? Let’s go Miller one better and compare ALL poor urban districts to ALL wealthy suburban districts. The National Center for Education Statistics publishes a table with these numbers (Table 37-2, page 172) in its most recent edition of the Condition of Education. The relevant numbers are (for the 2004-05 school year, in 2006-07 dollars):

Current per pupil spending, highest poverty city districts: $9,901
Current per pupil spending, lowest poverty suburban districts: $9,455

Had Miller checked his numbers, he would have discovered his assumptions to be not only mistaken but exactly backwards, and his policy prescription thus entirely groundless.

Had the New York Times checked his numbers, or simply asked him to check them, it might have done a better job of disguising how low it has sunk in recent years. Or was it always this bad?

I’m Changing My Name to Bank Holding Company

It was a Merry Christmas for GMAC, which learned on Christmas Eve that the Federal Reserve had approved its application to become a bank holding company. That gives GMAC “access to new sources of funding, including a potential infusion of taxpayer dollars from the Treasury Department and loans from the Fed itself,” as the Washington Post explains. Of course, that’s on top of the $13 billion that General Motors itself has been granted as a short-term bailout until a bigger bailout can be arranged. 

GMAC isn’t the only company that has suddenly become a “bank holding company” in order to cash in on the $700 billion financial bailout. Late one night in November, American Express was granted the same privilege. Not to mention Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, CIT…

Maybe it’s time for a new version of Tom Paxton’s classic song “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler,” sung here by Arlo Guthrie: “When they hand a million grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out.” Of course, there’s already been a new version, “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae,” sung here by Arlo and here by Paxton. Besides the name of the company, they had to make a few other changes in the lyrics, like “When they hand a trillion grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out.”

So take it away, Tom and Arlo: I’m Changing My Name to Bank Holding Company.

Downsizing the Federal Government

President-elect Obama has pledged to go through the federal budget “line by line” to root out waste. In this new video, Cato analysts Chris Edwards, Sallie James and Daniel Ikenson explain why the Department of Agriculture is a great place to start.

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