March 26, 2010 12:29PM

This Week in Government Failure

Over at Downsizing Government, we focused on the following issues this week:

  • A discussion of the mechanisms that fuel government growth.
  • The Postmaster General inadvertently makes the case for privatizing the USPS.
  • The growth in federal health spending is almost beyond superlatives to describe it, and it will increase even faster as a result of President Obama’s new health legislation.
  • Federal homeownership subsidies have caused lots of trouble, but that doesn’t mean we need more rental housing subsidies instead.
  • It’s hard to imagine, but the Congressional Budget Office finds the president’s latest budget to be worse than we thought.
March 26, 2010 10:06AM

Regardless of the Problem, the European Political Elite Thinks More Centralization and Bigger Government Is the Answer

Greece is in trouble for a combination of reasons. Government spending is far too excessive, diverting resources from more efficient uses. The bureaucracy is too large and paid too much, resulting in a misallocation of labor. And tax rates are too high, further hindering the productive sector of the economy. Europe’s political class wants to bail out Greece’s profligate government. The official reason for a bailout, to protect the euro currency, makes no sense. After all, if Illinois or California default, that would not affect the strength (or lack thereof) of the dollar.

To understand what is really happening in Europe, it is always wise to look at what politicians are doing and ignore what they are saying. Political union is the religion of Europe’s political class, and they relentlessly use any excuse to centralize power in Brussels and strip away national sovereignty. Greece’s fiscal crisis is simply the latest excuse to move the goalposts.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Germany and France are now conspiring to create an “economic government” for the European Union. Supposedly this entity would only have supervisory powers, but it is a virtual certainty that a European‐​wide tax will be the next step for the euro‐​centralizers.

Germany and France have [proposed] controversial plans to create an “economic government of the European Union” to police financial policy across the continent. They have put Herman Van Rompuy, the EU President, in charge of a special task force to examine “all options possible” to prevent another crisis like the one caused by the Greek meltdown.

…The options he will consider include the creation of an “economic government” by the end of the year. “We commit to promote a strong co‐​ordination of economic policies in Europe,” said a draft text expected to be agreed by EU leaders last night. “We consider that the European Council should become the economic government of the EU and we propose to increase its role in economic surveillance and the definition of the EU’s growth strategy.”

…Mr Van Rompuy, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, is an enthusiastic supporter of “la gouvernement économique” and last month upset many national capitals by trying to impose “top down” economic targets. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has called for the Lisbon Treaty to be amended in order to prevent any repetition of the current Greek crisis, which has threatened to tear apart the euro.

March 26, 2010 7:18AM

CBO on Obama Debt Orgy

This week the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the president’s FY2011 budget. The CBO projects that combined deficits for 2011 – 2020 under the president’s budget will be $1.2 trillion (for a total of $9.7 trillion) higher than the Office of Management & Budget’s forecast.

The CBO projects that debt held by the public as a percentage of GDP will be significantly higher:

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One major reason why the CBO projects higher deficits than the OMB is because the CBO projects that cumulative revenue over the period will be lower (its economic growth assumptions aren’t as rosy as the OMB’s).

But a lack of revenues isn’t the big problem. The CBO projects that revenues as a percentage GDP would rebound from 14.5 percent in FY2010 to 19.6 percent in FY2020. The big problem is that spending as a percentage of GDP is projected to remain at post‐​war record highs throughout the decade:

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March 26, 2010 7:03AM

Due Process Victory for Concealed Carry Permit Holder

That’s the outcome in the Second Circuit (full decision here), where a Connecticut man who has held a concealed handgun permit since 1982 was given the run‐​around when he tried to renew it, prompting a year‐​and‐​a‐​half of delay.

In March 2007, Kuck applied to DPS to renew his permit to carry a firearm. He was subsequently contacted by Defendant Albert J. Masek, an employee of DPS, who requested that Kuck provide a U.S. passport, birth certificate, or voter registration card in support of his renewal application…

Kuck objected to the requirement, arguing that he had submitted proof of citizenship when he first applied for a permit in 1982 and, over the subsequent 25 years, had never before been asked to provide such proof with a renewal application. He claimed then, as he does now, that the DPS requirement was arbitrary, designed to harass, and, in any event, not authorized by state law. Ultimately, he refused to provide the requested documents. As a result, DPS denied his renewal application.

Why the additional citizenship inquiry?

Notably, at the time of his renewal application, Kuck was the Secretary of the [Board of Firearms Permit Examiners]. Members of the Board are appointed by the Governor and include individuals nominated by gun clubs in Connecticut. In 1998, Kuck was nominated by Ye Connecticut Gun Guild, Inc. to the seat on the Board reserved for its representative.

Kuck alleges that, since his appointment, the estimated waiting‐​period for a hearing has increased dramatically, and that the Board Chairman, Christopher Adams, opposed his efforts to speed up the appeals process. He contends that DPS and the Board have acted to burden gun‐​owners’ ability to obtain carry permits by improperly denying applications in the first instance and then subjecting applicants to unjustified and prolonged appeals…

It appears that being critical of the discretionary licensing process can earn you extra scrutiny from bureaucratic overseers.

As I’ve said previously (and before that), enforcement of the right to bear arms against the states will force them to abandon discretionary “may‐​issue” permitting regimes. Where Due Process is owed, Due Process shall be honored.

March 25, 2010 9:38PM

Chavez Arrests the President of Globovision Television

Today, the Venezuelan government arrested Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovision Television, the only remaining television on public airwaves critical of Hugo Chavez. According to the government, Zuloaga made offensive comments about Chavez (which is against the law in Venezuela) while speaking at a conference of the Inter‐​American Press Association (IAPA) in Aruba, where media representatives criticized the Venezuelan regime’s crackdown on freedom of speech.

Globovision and Zuloaga have been under constant harassment from the government, and Chavez has promised to close the station. Last July, Cato held a forum in Washington on “Venezuela’s Assault on Freedom of the Press and Other Liberties,” which was to feature Zuloaga. After the event was announced, however, a politically directed court prohibited him from leaving the country. So Zuloaga taped this 3 minute video address to the Cato audience and sent his son and vice president of Globovision, Carlos, to take his place.

Robert Rivard of the IAPA also spoke at the forum. You may also see various short videos prepared by Globovision for the forum starting here.

“It is becoming a crime to have an opinion.” That’s how Carlos Zuloaga summed it up this afternoon when he referred to this incident and the recent arrest of former Venezuelan state governor Oswaldo Alvarez Paz for having said during a Globovision interview that Venezuela has become a drug‐​trafficking haven.

How will hemispheric leaders and the Organization of American States react to this renewed attack on free speech in Venezuela?

March 25, 2010 4:56PM

Ramming Through Radical Nominee Takes Back Seat to Ramming Through Obamacare

Senate debate on the health care reconciliation bill forced Democrats to postpone yesterday’s hearing for Goodwin Liu, President Obama’s controversial nominee to the Ninth Circuit (which covers the western states). Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy accused Republicans of “exploiting parliamentary tactics and Senate Rules” — GOP senators have stopped consenting to afternoon hearings for the duration of the health care debate — to delay Liu’s appointment “at the expense of American justice.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Despite the postponement, Liu’s confirmation is proceeding at breakneck speed. His hearing was scheduled only 28 days after his nomination, while the average Obama appointee waited 48 days for a hearing and the average Bush appointee waited 135 days. And Senate Democrats themselves cancelled all hearings Tuesday afternoon so they could attend the ObamaCare signing ceremony at the White House.

Moreover, Leahy’s intent is not so much to urge the timely vetting of judicial nominees, but to further the government’s Blitzkrieg takeover of civil society — before the Democrats’ congressional majorities turn into pumpkins this November. As Liu stated in a January interview with NPR, “now we have the opportunity to actually get our ideas and the progressive vision of the Constitution and of law and policy into practice.”

According to Liu, that progressive vision includes constitutional rights to health care, education, housing, and welfare payments. Liu states outright that “rights to government assistance” are “essential to liberty.” He defends this contradiction by claiming that “experiences of other nations suggest that the existence of such rights is compatible with constitutionalism.”

Liu’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee thus concerns much more than a seat on a federal appellate court (just when you thought the Ninth Circuit couldn’t get more radical). The Washington Post has noted that the hearing might serve as a test of Goodwin Liu as a Supreme Court nominee. With so much potentially at stake, postponing Liu’s hearing to ensure it receives the Senate’s undivided attention — and any other legal method of stopping or delaying by even one day his ascension to the bench — serves “American justice” rather than betraying it.