Alan Reynolds’ Critique of Obama and McCain Tax Plans

Peter Ferrara writes that, “Obama’s tax increases will not produce nearly enough revenue to finance all his lavish spending proposals, as shown by a brilliant new paper from Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute.” Brilliant or not, it’s serious paper I prepared for a Hillsdale College conference, which is now online (at the link to my name).

How Much Racism in the Campaign?

At the Guardian I point out that “Liberal journalists are combing the back roads of America looking for evidence of the resurgent racism being generated by the prospect of a black man becoming president. The striking thing is how little they’ve turned up.” Despite headlines like “Ugly reception for Obama” and “Racist attacks on Obama growing more heated,” the journalists have had to go to Danville, Va., and the Arkansas-Missouri border to find a few individual instances of racist attacks. Nothing like what the Catholic JFK faced in 1960.

The Bailout: Secret Payments?

From the WashingtonWatch.com blog:

Just two weeks after the passage of the bailout bill, and one day after a Treasury Department official declared, “we are committed to transparency and oversight in all aspects of the program,” the Treasury Department began covering up the amount it would pay to New York Mellon Bank to act as a financial agent in the bailout.

Spending $700,000,000,000.00 in taxpayer money is not business as usual. And hiding the terms of government contracts shouldn’t be business as usual anyway.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on REAL ID

I just came across the transcript of an interview with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) about the REAL ID Act. His characteristic forthrightness makes it refreshing to read.

Here’s a key point about the REAL ID Act’s attempt to coerce states into complying:

So I spoke with Chertoff and it became apparent to me that Homeland Security needed all the states worse than we needed them to do this thing.

In the early going, many state politicians were cowed by the threat that the federal government would interfere with their constituents’ travel plans if they did not go along with national standardization of their states’ ID documents.

As this interview makes clear, Secretary Chertoff and the DHS recognized that the federal government would be blamed if the Transportation Security Administration interfered with the air travel plans of millions of Americans.

DHS blinked. And it’s not the first time that happened.

Sarah in Charge?

Some in the media (or at least Keith Olbermann at MSNBC) are ridiculing Sarah Palin’s recent answer to a third-grader’s question of “What does the Vice President do?”  The part of her response that seems to have people in a tizzy is the following: “[A] Vice President has a really great job, because not only are they there to support the President agenda, they’re like a team member, the teammate to that President. But also, they’re in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to they can really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes… ” (emphasis added).  Haha, Ms. Caribou Barbie Palin, the wags chortle, don’t you know that the Vice President is only mentioned four times in the Constitution (two of which mentions are in later amendments) and has no power but to break ties in the Senate?

Well, that’s right, except it’s not.  While true that the only formal power the Constitution (specifically Article I, Section 3) gives the VP is to cast the deciding vote when the Senate is deadlocked, the Constitution is understandably silent as to what else the VP can do with his or her time.  Yet nobody would deny that Dick Cheney has been an extremely powerful figure, and not because of any explicit powers but because he has aggressively pushed the Bush Administration’s agenda and lobbied senators (particularly Republicans).  So sure, the VP can have a big effect on policy.

Moreover, the VP is the “President of the Senate,” which is sort of like being in charge – if indeed anyone is in charge of that motley group of wannabe presidents.  This isn’t “in charge” the way a president or CEO is “in charge” – the VP can’t fire senators or force them to vote a given way or veto their bills – but I don’t think anyone can reasonably construe Palin’s comments to imply that.  The most reasonable construction is that she was trying to explain in her own words what being “President of the Senate” means, and could’ve done a lot worse than characterizing it as being “in charge.”

You can read more on this issue in this CBS News posting, which further quotes my thoughts on the matter.

Bloomberg Tries to Buy Himself Another Term

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $158 million on his two elections, now thinks he should stay in office despite the city’s two-term limit. So far it’s much cheaper–he’s just pressuring all the civic groups and charities in town that have received donations from him, or from the taxpayers, to get themselves down to City Hall and testify to his indispensability in a time of financial crisis. The voters have twice endorsed term limits, but the mayor doesn’t see any need to ask them again; he wants the City Council to overrule the voters.

Of course, as Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute has shown, New York’s revenues have risen 41 percent under Bloomberg, while he has jacked up spending even faster, so it’s not clear why he’s the man you need in a financial crisis.

But the striking thing about the plutocrat mayor is the way he’s using his personal wealth–and the city’s tax dollars–to pressure people to support his bid to stay in office. The New York Times reports:

The mayor and his top aides have asked leaders of organizations that receive his largess to express their support for his third-term bid by testifying during public hearings and by personally appealing to undecided members of the City Council. …

The requests have put the groups in an unusual and uncomfortable position, several employees of the groups said. City Hall has not made any explicit threats, they said, but city officials have extraordinary leverage over the groups’ finances. Many have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Bloomberg’s philanthropic giving and millions of dollars from city contracts overseen by his staff.

Sounds like a lot of overlap between his personal philanthropy and the city’s own spending, and the Times doesn’t seem to find anything odd about that aspect of the story. And then the New York Post found that the mayor’s tax-funded “slush fund” was being enlisted in the campaign, too:

Mayor Bloomberg showered cash on key City Council members with the power to kill a term-limits extension bill in the last year.

Members of the council’s Government Operations Committee have received millions from Hizzoner’s slush fund, a once-secret pot of taxpayer money the mayor doles out to favored lawmakers for their pet causes….

Five members of the committee secured $3.1 million from the $5.3 million stash in Bloomberg’s 2008 budget. Only three other council members received funds from the mayor in the last year.

And the New York Daily News noted that everyone working for Bloomberg at the City Council hearings is on Mayor Mike’s payroll one way or another:

There was the mayor’s legal counsel and the city’s corporation counsel, both paid with tax dollars, testifying that Bloomberg can and should get another term.

There were aides from the mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, who rounded up pro-Bloomberg speakers from the community and religious and civic groups they work with all day long - many of which thrive on city grants.

There were the dozens of “Ready, Willing and Able” guys from the Doe Fund, which gets funding from the city - and used its vans to bring people to the hearing.

No doubt it’s all just chump change compared to another $80 million if he wins the right to run again.

Personally, if the Council does decide to give the mayor another term, I hope they do just that. Don’t get rid of term limits. Just do like the Romans used to do in an emergency. Name Bloomberg “dictator,” an extraconstitutional position with extraordinary authority but limited duration. Then you keep the rules, you just make an exception. And I’m sure Bloomberg would be willing to addressed as Dictator for the duration of the emergency powers.