Topic: Government and Politics

Karl Rove’s Hypocritical Call for Fiscal Rectitude

Karl RoveEven though I’ve been in Washington for almost 25 years, I still get shocked by the deceit and double-talk that characterizes this town. A perfect example can be found in today’s Wall Street Journal, which features a column by Karl Rove attacking President Obama for fiscal incontinence. I’m a big fan of condemning Obama’s big-government schemes, but Rove is the last person in the world who should be complaining about too much wasteful spending. After all, he was the top adviser to President Bush and the federal budget exploded during Bush’s eight years, climbing from $1.8 trillion to more than $3.5 trillion. More specifically, Rove was a leading proponent of the proposals that dramatically expanded the size and scope of the federal government, including the no-bureaucrat-left-behind education bill, the two corrupt farm bills, the two pork-filled transportation bills, and the grossly irresponsible new Medicare entitlement program.

Not surprisingly, Rove even tries to blame Obama for some of Bush’s overspending, writing that “…discretionary domestic spending now stands at $536 billion, up nearly 24% from President George W. Bush’s last full year budget in fiscal 2008 of $433.6 billion. That’s a huge spending surge, even for a profligate liberal like Mr. Obama.” This passage leads the reader to assume that Obama should be blamed for what happened in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, but as I’ve already explained, the 2009 fiscal year started about four months before Obama took office and 96 percent of the spending can be attributed to Bush’s fiscal profligacy. Yes, Obama is now making a bad situation worse by further increasing spending, but he should be criticized for continuing Bush’s mistakes.

Rove then has the gall to complain that Obama is “…growing the federal government’s share of GDP from its historic post-World War II average of roughly 20% to the target Mr. Obama laid out in his budget blueprint last February of 24%.” Yet a quick look at the budget data shows that the burden of federal spending jumped from 18.4 percent of GDP when Bush took office to more than 25 percent of economic output when he left office. Even if the (hopefully) temporary bailout costs are not counted, Bush and Rove are the ones who deserve most of the blame for today’s much larger burden of government. It should be noted, by the way, that none of the new spending under Bush was imposed over his objection. He did not veto any legislation because of excessive spending.

Finally, Rove concludes by writing that, “After a year of living in his fiscal fantasy world, Americans realize they have a record deficit-setting, budget-busting spender on their hands.” I’m almost at a loss for words after reading this sentence. All during the Bush years, I would complain to people in the Administration about wasteful spending. It didn’t matter whether I was talking to people at the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Treasury Department, or the National Economic Council. They almost always expressed sympathy for what I was saying, and then complained that the decisions were being made by the “White House political people.”

There’s an old joke about chutzpah and it features a guy who murders his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he’s an orphan. Karl Rove has taken the joke to the next level, but there’s nothing funny about the consequences for America.

Speaking of Transparency …

A thing I really like about Sunlight Before Signing is that it’s a clear promise President Obama made on the campaign trail.

An equally clear promise, highlighted by Michael Cannon earlier this week, was to broadcast negotiations about health care reform on C-SPAN.

C-SPAN is ready. As reported by the RealClearPolitics blog on Time.com, C-SPAN public service icon Brian Lamb wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership offering to cover health care negotiations:

President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system. Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

Many others could be, but Brian Lamb isn’t pulling a partisan stunt or trying to affect the health care debate one way or another. He’s trying to fulfill the promise of open democracy that had audiences roaring when President Obama extolled these virtues on the campaign trail:

“[W]hen I’m president, meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public. No more secrecy. That’s a commitment I make to you as president. No more secrecy.”

Sunlight Before Signing: Obama Racks Up the Wins!

I’ve covered President Obama’s “Sunlight Before Signing” campaign promise here many times before. And, as predicted when I last reported, Obama has turned the corner and begun giving bills some sunlight.

In December, five bills were posted on Whitehouse.gov for five days before the president signed them. (Technically, they were only linked to from Whitehouse.gov, but the link allowed citizens to find the text of bills awaiting his signature—the substance of the promise.)

Those five join the DTV Delay Act, Public Law 111-4, to make six out of 124. That’s a .048 batting average on Sunlight Before Signing, a huge rise from the .009 average he had after signing P.L. 111-118.

After the jump, you can see the latest SBS chart. I expect that President Obama’s average will continue to rise as more bills see the public airing he promised when he campaigned for the presidency.

Public Law Date Presented Date Signed Five Days? Posted (Linked)? Posted Five Days?
P.L. 111-2, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 1/28/2009 1/29/2009 No 1/29/2009* No
P.L. 111-3, The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 2/4/2009 2/4/2009 No (2/1/2009)* No
P.L. 111-4, The DTV Delay Act 2/9/2009 2/11/2009 No 2/5/2009* Yes †
P.L. 111-5, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 2/16/2009 2/17/2009 No (2/13/2009)* No
P.L. 111-6, Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2009, and for other purposes 3/6/2009 3/6/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-7, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2105 East Cook Street in Springfield, Illinois, as the “Colonel John H. Wilson, Jr. Post Office Building” 2/26/09 3/9/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-8, The Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 3/11/2009 3/11/2009 No (3/5/2009)* No
P.L. 111-9, To extend certain immigration programs 3/18/2009 3/20/2009 No (3/19/2009)* No
P.L. 111-10, To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes 3/19/2009 3/20/2009 No (3/19/2009)* No
P.L. 111-11, The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 3/30/2009 3/30/2009 No (3/27/2009)* No
P.L. 111-12, The Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2009 3/24/2009 3/30/2009 Yes (3/24/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-13, The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act 4/20/2009 4/21/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-14, To designate the United States courthouse under construction at 327 South Church Street, Rockford, Illinois, as the “Stanley J. Roszkowski United States Courthouse” 4/14/2009 4/23/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-15, The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program Act of 2009 4/14/2009 4/24/2009 Yes (3/27/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-16, The Statutory Time-Periods Technical Amendments Act of 2009 4/30/2009 5/7/2009 Yes (4/29/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-17, A joint resolution providing for the appointment of David M. Rubenstein as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 4/28/2009 5/7/2009 Yes (4/23/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-18, A bill to repeal section 10(f) of Public Law 93-531, commonly known as the “Bennett Freeze” 4/28/2009 5/8/2009 Yes (4/23/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-19, The Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 4/30/2009 5/12/2009 Yes (4/29/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-20, The Protecting Incentives for the Adoption of Children with Special Needs Act of 2009 5/5/2009 5/15/2009 Yes (5/5/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-21, The FERA 5/19/2009 5/20/2009 No (5/15/2009)* No
P.L. 111-22, The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009 5/20/2009 5/22/2009 No (5/20/2009)* No
P.L. 111-23, The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 5/21/2009 5/22/2009 No 5/14/2009* No
P.L. 111-24, The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 5/20/2009 5/22/2009 No 5/15/2009* No
P.L. 111-25, The Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act 5/21/2009 6/2/2009 Yes (5/28/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-26, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 12877 Broad Street in Sparta, Georgia, as the “Yvonne Ingram-Ephraim Post Office Building” 6/9/2009 6/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-27, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 300 East 3rd Street in Jamestown, New York, as the “Stan Lundine Post Office Building” 6/9/2009 6/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-28, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 103 West Main Street in McLain, Mississippi, as the “Major Ed W. Freeman Post Office” 6/9/2009 6/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-29, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3245 Latta Road in Rochester, New York, as the “Brian K. Schramm Post Office Building” 6/9/2009 6/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-30, The Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004 Extension Act 6/19/2009 6/19/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-31, The Family Smoking Prevention andTobacco Control Act 6/16/2009 6/22/2009 Yes (6/12/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-32, The Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 6/19/2009 6/24/2009 Yes (5/20/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-33, The Native American Heritage Day Act of 2009 6/16/2009 6/26/2009 Yes (6/16/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-34, To designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 306 East Main Street in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, as the “J. Herbert W. Small Federal Building and United States Courthouse” 6/19/2009 6/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-35, To designate the Federal building located at 799 United Nations Plaza in New York, New York, as the “Ronald H. Brown United States Mission to the United Nations Building” 6/19/2009 6/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-36, The Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 6/19/2009 6/30/2009 Yes (6/19/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-37, The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009 6/25/2009 6/30/2009 Yes (6/25/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-38, A bill to provide additional personnel authorities for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 6/24/2009 6/30/2009 Yes (6/19/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-39, To make technical corrections to the Higher Education Act of 1965, and for other purposes 6/26/2009 7/1/2009 Yes (6/26/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-40, A bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (”WASP”) 6/24/2009 7/1/2009 Yes (6/29/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-41, The Korean War Veterans Recognition Act 7/27/2009 7/27/2009 No (7/25/2009)* No
P.L. 111-42, Approving the renewal of import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, and for other purposes 7/27/2009 7/28/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-43, A bill to provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes 7/30/2009 7/31/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-44, The New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal Act 7/27/2009 8/7/2009 Yes (7/27/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-45, To authorize the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to use funds made available under the Trademark Act of 1946 for patent operations in order to avoid furloughs and reductions-in-force, and for other purposes 7/27/2009 8/7/2009 Yes (7/27/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-46, To restore sums to the Highway Trust Fund, and for other purposes 8/4/2009 8/7/2009 No (8/5/09) No
P.L. 111-47, Making supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2009 for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program 8/6/2009 8/7/2009 No (8/5/2009) No
P.L. 111-48, The Miami Dade College Land Conveyance Act 7/31/2009 8/12/2009 Yes (7/31/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-49, The Judicial Survivors Protection Act of 2009 8/3/2009 8/12/2009 Yes (8/5/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-50, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 46-02 21st Street in Long Island City, New York, as the “Geraldine Ferraro Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-51, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 601 8th Street in Freedom, Pennsylvania, as the “John Scott Challis, Jr. Post Office” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-52, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2351 West Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach, Florida, as the “Elijah Pat Larkins Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-53, The Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act of 2009 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes (8/11/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-54, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 41 Purdy Avenue in Rye, New York, as the “Caroline O’Day Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-55, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 431 State Street in Ogdensburg, New York, as the “Frederic Remington Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-56, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 123 11th Avenue South in Nampa, Idaho, as the “Herbert A Littleton Postal Station” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-57, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1300 Matamoros Street in Laredo, Texas, as the “Laredo Veterans Post Office” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-58, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 702 East University Avenue in Georgetown, Texas, as the “Kyle G. West Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-59, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 19190 Cochran Boulevard FRNT in Port Charlotte, Florida, as the “Lieutenant Commander Roy H. Boehm Post Office Building” 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-60, To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes (8/11/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-61, Recognizing the service, sacrifice, honor, and professionalism of the Noncommissioned Officers of the United States Army 8/11/2009 8/19/2009 Yes (8/11/09) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-62, A joint resolution granting the consent and approval of Congress to amendments made by the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the District of Columbia to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Regulation Compact 8/7/2009 8/19/2009 Yes (8/7/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-63, The WIPA and PABSS Reauthorization Act of 2009 9/10/2009 9/18/2009 Yes (9/10/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-64, A joint resolution providing for the appointment of France A. Cordova as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 9/11/2009 9/18/2009 Yes (9/11/09) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-65, To provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of Congress to Arnold Palmer in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf 9/21/2009 9/30/2009 Yes (9/21/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-66, To provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes 9/30/2009 9/30/2009 No (9/30/2009) No
P.L. 111-67, The Defense Production Act Reauthorization of 2009 9/24/2009 9/30/2009 Yes (9/24/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-68, The Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2010 9/30/2009 10/1/2009 No (10/1/2009)
and
(10/23/09)
No
P.L. 111-69, The Fiscal Year 2010 Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act 9/30/2009 10/1/2009 Yes (9/30/2009) No
P.L. 111-70, To amend the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 to reauthorize the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy 9/30/2009 10/9/2009 Yes (10/1/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-71, To amend the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 to extend by one year the operation of Radio Free Asia, and for other purposes 9/30/2009 10/9/2009 Yes (10/1/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-72, To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to delay the date on which the accreditation requirement under the Medicare Program applies to suppliers of durable medical equipment that are pharmacies 10/7/2009 10/13/2009 Yes (10/7/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-73, The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 10/5/2009 10/15/2009 Yes (10/2/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-74, To designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at McKinley Avenue and Third Street, SW., Canton, Ohio, as the “Ralph Regula Federal Building and United States Courthouse” 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-75, To designate the United States courthouse located at 525 Magoffin Avenue in El Paso, Texas, as the “Albert Armendariz, Sr., United States Courthouse” 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-76, To provide for the transfer of certain Federal Property to the Galveston Historical Foundation 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes (10/7/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-77, To designate the Federal building located at 844 North Rush Street in Chicago, Illinois, as the “William O. Lipinski Federal Building” 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-78, To designate the United States courthouse located at 301 Simonton Street in Key West, Florida, as the “Sidney M. Aronovitz United States Courthouse” 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-79, The Foreign Evidence Request Efficiency Act of 2009 10/7/2009 10/19/2009 Yes (10/7/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-80, The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 10/16/2009 10/21/2009 Yes (10/9/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-81, The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 10/16/2009 10/22/2009 Yes (10/16/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-82, A bill to authorize major medical facility leases for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2010, and for other purposes 10/15/2009 10/26/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-83, The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 10/22/2009 10/28/2009 Yes (10/9/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-84, The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 10/26/2009 10/28/2009 No (10/21/2009) No
P.L. 111-85, The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 10/21/2009 10/28/2009 Yes (10/21/2009) No
P.L. 111-86, The Girl Scouts USA Centennial Commemorative Coin Act 10/22/2009 10/29/2009 Yes (10/21/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-87, The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 10/26/2009 10/30/2009 No (10/21/2009) No
P.L. 111-88, The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 10/30/2009 10/30/2009 No (10/28/2009)* No
P.L. 111-89, A bill to provide for additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes 10/30/2009 10/30/2009 No (10/29/2009) No
P.L. 111-90, The Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Amendments Act of 2009 10/22/2009 11/3/2009 Yes (10/22/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-91, The Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Act of 2009 10/29/2009 11/6/2009 Yes (10/29/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-92, The Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009 11/5/2009 11/6/2009 No (11/5/2009) No
P.L. 111-93, The Credit CARD Technical Corrections Act of 2009 10/30/2009 11/6/2009 Yes (10/30/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-94, Proclaiming Casimir Pulaski to be an honorary citizen of the United States posthumously 10/29/2009 11/6/2009 Yes (10/29/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-95, A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to grant a Federal charter to the Military Officers Association of America, and for other purposes 10/30/2009 11/6/2009 Yes (10/30/2009)* Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-96, A bill to allow the funding for the interoperable emergency communications grant program established under the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 to remain available until expended through fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes 10/30/2009 11/6/2009 Yes (10/30/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-97, The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act 11/4/2009 11/11/2009 Yes (11/4/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-98, A bill to authorize a major medical facility project at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Walla, Walla, Washington, and for other purposes 11/4/2009 11/11/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-99, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10355 Northeast Valley Road in Rollingbay, Washington, as the “John ‘Bud’ Hawk Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-100, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 37926 Church Street in Dade City, Florida, as the “Sergeant Marcus Mathes Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-101, To name the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture in Lane, Oklahoma, and the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 310 North Perry Street in Bennington, Oklahoma, in honor of former Congressman Wesley “Wes” Watkins 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-102, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4282 Beach Street in Akron, Michigan, as the “Akron Veterans Memorial Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-103, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 140 Merriman Road in Garden City, Michigan, as the “John J. Shivnen Post Office Building” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-104, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1615 North Wilcox Avenue in Los Angeles, California, as the “Johnny Grant Hollywood Post Office Building” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-105, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 115 West Edward Street in Erath, Louisiana, as the “Conrad DeRouen, Jr. Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-106, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 867 Stockton Street in San Francisco, California, as the “Lim Poon Lee Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-107, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1165 2nd Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa, as the “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Memorial Post Office” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-108, To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 936 South 250 East in Provo, Utah, as the “Rex E. Lee Post Office Building” 11/20/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-109, A bill to redesignate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2777 Logan Avenue in San Diego, California, as the “Cesar E. Chavez Post Office” 1/28/2009 1/29/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-110, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 60 School Street, Orchard Park, New York, as the “Jack F. Kemp Post Office Building” 11/19/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-111, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 630 Northeast Killingsworth Avenue in Portland, Oregon, as the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Post Office” 11/19/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-112, A bill to extend the authority for relocation expenses test programs for Federal employees, and for other purposes 11/19/2009 11/30/2009 Yes No No
P.L. 111-113, A bill to amend title 36, United States Code, to include in the Federal charter of the Reserve Officers Association leadership positions newly added in its constitution and bylaws 12/2/2009 12/14/2009 Yes (12/2/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-114, A bill to permit each current member of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance to serve for 3 terms 12/2/2009 12/14/2009 Yes (12/2/2009) Yes and No ‡
P.L. 111-115, To amend titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act to prohibit retroactive payments to individuals during periods for which such individuals are prisoners, fugitive felons, or probation or parole violators 12/14/2009 12/15/2009 No No No
P.L. 111-116, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, to amend title 49, United States Code, to extend authorizations for the airport improvement program, and for other purposes 12/14/2009 12/16/2009 No (12/14/2009) No
P.L. 111-117, Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes 12/15/2009 12/16/2009 No (12/15/2009) No
P.L. 111-118, Making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes 12/19/2009 12/19/2009 No (12/19/2009) No
P.L. 111-119, A bill to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to clarify the eligibility requirements with respect to airline flight crews 12/9/2009 12/21/2009 Yes (12/11/2009) Yes
P.L. 111-120, To extend through December 31, 2010, the authority of the Secretary of the Army to accept and expend funds contributed by non-Federal public entities to expedite the processing of permits 12/14/2009 12/22/2009 Yes (12/14/2009)
Yes
P.L. 111-121, Appointing the day for the convening of the second session of the One Hundred Eleventh Congress 12/16/2009 12/22/2009 Yes (12/16/2009 Yes
P.L. 111-122, A bill to establish a section within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice to enforce human rights laws, to make technical and conforming amendments to criminal and immigration laws pertaining to human rights violations, and for other purposes 12/17/2009 12/22/2009 Yes (12/17/2009) Yes
P.L. 111-123, To permit continued financing of Government operations 12/24/2009 12/28/2009 No (12/25/2009) No
P.L. 111-124, To extend the Generalized System of Preferences and the Andean Trade Preference Act, and for other purposes 12/23/2009 12/28/2009 Yes (12/23/2009) Yes
P.L. 111-125, To extend the commercial space transportation liability regime 12/24/2009 12/28/2009 No (12/25/2009) No

* Page now gone, but it was either directly observed, evidence of it appears in Whitehouse.gov search, or White House says it existed.
† Bill was posted for five days after final passage, though not formal presentment. Counted as “Yes.”
‡ Link to final version of bill on impossible-to-find page.

Michigan Court Inexplicably Tosses Suit, Endorses Forcible Enlistment of Day-Care Workers into the State Government

When lawyers and other commentators say that a court did not properly explain its decision, it’s typically for hyperbolic effect. But, in a bizarre move, a court in the failed great state of Michigan has dismissed an economic liberty case brought by our friends at the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation for reasons the court quite literally did not explain.  The court simply denied the plaintiffs’ complaint and that was that.

Home-based day care owners Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry, and Paulette Silverson have all been taxed by the Michigan Department of Human Services because, according to the state, they are somehow employees of the state and (further!) must pay union dues.  because this baseless assertion comes directly from the state DHS, an executive department, among the significant constitutional objections to the case presents separation of power problems.  (Ok, I haven’t studied the Michigan Constitution, but I assume they separate their powers there.)  Enough ridiculous laws are passed by state legislatures – more than 40,000 last year alone – we don’t need state executive agencies getting into the act.

Yet, the Michigan Court of Appeals has nothing at all to say about the case.

Inexplicable – and unpardonable.

Private Sector Guts and Growth

The Wall Street Journal has an article today for people who think that we need government to thrust itself into the economy because major projects, like energy and technology projects, are too big or risky for private businesses. The article focuses on Chevron’s offshore oil development:

Chevron is leasing the Clear Leader, which floats in 4,300 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, to drill for oil through nearly five miles of rock. Big Oil never wanted to be here, in 4,300 feet of water far out in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling through nearly five miles of rock…

It is an expensive way to look for oil. Chevron Corp. is paying nearly $500,000 a day to the owner of the Clear Leader, one of the world’s newest and most powerful drilling rigs. The new well off the coast of Louisiana will connect to a huge platform floating nearby, which cost Chevron $650 million to build. The first phase of this oil-exploration project took more than 10 years and cost $2.7 billion – with no guarantee it would pay off….

“This is technology capable of going to the moon,” says Robin West, chairman of consulting firm PFC Energy, involving “extraordinary uncertainty, immense levels of information processing, staggering amounts of capital.” …

“What has enabled us to do that is technology,” says David Rainey, BP’s head of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico. “We have been pushing the limits of seismic-imaging technology and drilling technology.”…

The push into deeper water hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Offshore projects are expensive, time-consuming and prone to failure. Chevron boasts of a 45% exploration overall success rate in recent years, a remarkable run by industry standards, but one that also means the company has spent billions on projects that haven’t panned out.”

Bravo for gutsy and aggressive American capitalism! Chevron is taking huge investment risks, making remarkable technological advances, creating jobs, and finding new energy supplies to keep our homes bright and warm.

Political leaders in Washington should be encouraging such private business activities to pull the nation out of its slump. So rather than trying to hike taxes on multinational corporations and oil companies – as the Obama administration proposed in its budget last year – policymakers ought to be cutting corporate tax rates and making other pro-investment changes in federal tax and regulatory policies.

H&R Block and the IRS: An Unholy Alliance to Ransack Taxpayers

The late George Stigler, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, is famous in part because of his work on “regulatory capture,” which occurs when interest groups use the coercive power of government to thwart competition and undeservedly line their own pockets. A perfect (and distasteful) example of this can be found in today’s Washington Post, which reports that the IRS plans to impose new regulations dictating who can prepare tax returns. Not surprisingly, the new rules have the support of big tax preparation shops such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, which see this as an opportunity to squeeze smaller competitors out of the market. The IRS and the big firms claim more regulations are needed to protect consumers from shoddy work, but this is the usual rationale for licensing laws and other government-imposed barriers to entry and the Institute for Justice has repeatedly shown such rules are designed to benefit insiders rather than consumers.

Tax preparers do make many mistakes, to be sure, but that is a reflection of a nightmarish tax code, and the annual tax test conducted by Money magazine showed that even the most-skilled professionals – such as CPAs, tax lawyers, and enrolled agents – were unable to figure out how to correctly fill out a hypothetical family’s tax return. But since the IRS routinely makes major mistakes as well, perhaps the moral of the story is that we need fundamental tax reform, not IRS rules to create a cartel for the benefit of H&R Block and other big firms. Would any of this be an issue if we had a flat tax or national sales tax?

Can the GOP Recover Its Principles?

Today, Politico Arena asks:

How helpful is it to the GOP to have its chairman say the party’s “credibility snapped” while in power and it became “just another party of Big Government?”

My response:

If GOP chairman Michael Steele means it, it’s very helpful for him to say that the party’s “credibility snapped” while in power and it became “just another party of Big Government?”  You first have to recognize a problem if you want to solve it.

For better or worse, we’ve had two major parties for most of our history, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.  At least since the New Deal, the Democratic Party has been the party of government, especially over economic affairs.  By contrast, since the Goldwater revolution of 1964, the Republican Party has claimed to be the party of individual liberty and limited government, although that claim was often undermined by calls for restricting certain personal liberties, and the party was slow, as were parts of the Democratic Party, in supporting the civil rights movement.  But broadly speaking, in our recent history the two parties have been distinguished, nominally, by their different conceptions of the proper role of government.

At no time was that contrast more sharply drawn than during the Reagan administration.  Yet even then there were internal struggles between the Reagan people and the Bush people.  Recall that when Bush ‘41 became president, he called for a “kinder and gentler nation,” which was a slap at Reagan’s limited government principles.  And eventually, of course, he broke his “no new taxes” pledge.

After Bush lost the presidency, the Gingrich “Contract with America,” leading to the Republican take-over of Congress for the first time in 40 years, was supposed to return the party to a principled, limited government path.  It did so briefly, in those heady days of 1995, but by the end of the year the siren song of government power was calling and the party started its slow slide, at the end of which it was barely distinguishable from the Democratic Party.

Thus, it was no accident that in 2000 the party selected as its standard-bearer George W. Bush, who had been utterly absent from the intellectual ferment of the Goldwater-Reagan years.  Not unlike his father, Bush ‘43 stood for “compassionate conservatism,” a slogan ripe with promise for government programs.  And the Republican Congress, now rudderless, was anxious to supply them.  If the party stood for anything, it was incumbency protection.  What better example than the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” bill, which Bush signed while saying he thought it was unconstitutional.  What’s the Constitution among friends?

But rudderless, unprincipled government could not go on forever, and so in time it came crashing down upon the Republican time-servers – and the real party of government took over.  Immutable principles, however, such as you can’t get something for nothing, favor no party, and so Democrats too are facing, or will soon face, the harsh realities that flow from abandoning political and economic discipline.  If the Republican Party can recover the fundamental principles that are captured in the nation’s founding documents, and take them to the people, it will then fall to us to decide what we want.  And if we too believe in something for nothing, we will have no one to blame but ourselves for the consequences that follow.  But at least we will have had a choice, which we have not had in recent years.  So, yes, Mr. Steele’s call for a return to principle is helpful.