Archive for February, 2013

What You Need to Know About the Sequester

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by Legatus Libertatis

Cold Hard Fact:

If the Sequester goes through, not a single program or department in the Federal Government will have its funding cut.

This is true.  Every affected department will spend more money this year than it did last year, and more money next year than it will this year.  The “cut” is only a cut in the projected rate of increase in spending.

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Our government employs baseline budgeting, which assumes an automatic increase in spending every  year, based on projected growth of the GDP and inflation.  Any increase in spending less than the assumed automatic increase is considered a “cut”.

Many of our elected officials and the bureaucrats they have appointed are making wild and outrageous claims about the dire consequences of the dread Sequester.  The elderly and the children will starve.  The sick will be untreated.  Our borders will be left undefended.  National parks and forests will be closed to the public.   A shortage of TSA agents will increase wait times by many hours on all flights, while many other flights are cancelled outright due to closed runways and Air Traffic Controller losses.  We’ll lose teachers, police and firefighters and our children will be left illiterate, our streets in chaos and our homes and businesses in flames.   Those of us who aren’t starving will be eating diseased meats and rotten produce because we’ll have no one to inspect food.  Prosecutors will have to drop cases and release dangerous criminals.  Our military will rendered sorely deficient in manpower and technology, and we’ll become vulnerable on all sides from innumerable hostile threats.  Some of these apocalyptic consequences are already occurring; hundred of illegal immigrants have been released from jail because the Sequester will leave us unable to pay for their cells, and an aircraft carrier has had its deployment to the Persian Gulf cancelled.  All this because the Sequester threatens the Draconian step of decreasing the planned increase in future government spending by around 2%.  That is beyond ridiculous.  These threats are absurd now.

At some point, the threats and warnings about the dire consequences begin to speak more to the administrative and managerial ineptitude of our “leaders” than it does about any budget issues.  What business in America, large or small, would be so utterly incapable of even contemplating spending 18% more money next year instead of the 20% they planned on?  They would make a minor adjustment and move on.  The fact that our government officials are throwing such a tantrum over even being forced to think about increasing their spending by slightly less than they intended to, tells me that they are not up to the jobs we have given them.

The tactic being employed is a classic one used by bureaucrats and department heads throughout the private and public sectors.  When a budget cut is threatened for your department or program, you immediately put your most vital and important project on the chopping block.  It’s not even an  underhanded and unwritten tactic amongst bureaucrats – it is taught in political science textbooks.

This is tactic is known as the “Washington Monument Syndrome.”  When the National Park Service is threatened with a cut in its budget of a few cents, the director would claim the need to close down the Washington Monument; he doesn’t threaten to cut cupcakes from the department cafeteria or cancel the second band hired to perform at the office President’s Day party.  But our officials today are taking this tactic far and beyond.

The Right and the Left are using the tactic shamefully, and telling us that they are incapable of protecting us and serving us without spending as much more money every consecutive year as they see fit.  And approximately 2% less the increase they have in mind is going to ruin the nation.  The Neo-cons and Republican warhawks make these claims about proposed Defense Department cuts leaving our country vulnerable, and the Democrats make the same claims about everything else.  It is ridiculous to think that we need to spend more on defense this year and next to stave off calamity when we are already spending so much more than we need to.  The top 15 nations in the world, ranked by total defense spending, see the United States unsurprisingly at the top of the list.  But add the next 14 countries on the list together, and we still spend more than they do combined, and more than 10 times the second highest spender.  President Obama, when he took office, promised his initial defense cuts were aimed at developing a leaner more flexible military, but now our defense department is so inflexible that a minor decrease in the rate of increase in spending could bring about our nation’s downfall.

I’ll illustrate with hypothetical but analogous figures the dire consequences in terms of lost jobs.  A given department is planning to hire 100 new workers next year, and if the Sequester goes through they will have to hire only 98 new workers.  Those 2 workers not hired are today being counted as lost jobs, and added together with all the other “lost jobs” across other programs and departments, allowing officials to claim that thousands of people will not have employment.  Some departments are counting their losses from furlough days, where various government employees may have to work a 4 day week instead of a 5 day week.  There was once a time long ago when our government was run by people who had “real” jobs on the side, and only came together to do the public’s business when there was business that needed doing.  Now we have impossibly massive bureaucracies who spend their time writing laws and regulations to keep themselves relevant and employed full time.

There are a number of reports out right now identifying literally billions of dollars in government waste, redundancies and duplicate programs.  All of this can be addressed before the dire cuts which being threatened need to take affect.  There are countless – and I mean countless – programs throughout the government which cost millions and billions of dollars and are laughably unessential.  I could easily quadruple the length of this post listing wasteful programs; for example, our military spend millions to study fish behavior and learn about possible diplomatic applications and then saying the tours of soldiers will need to be extended because of the Sequester.

for examples of billions in waste see http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public//index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7b23f66-2d60-4d5a-8bc5-8522c7e1a40e

President Obama seems unwilling to accept any deal from Republicans which does not allow for tax increases.  The Republicans say they have already given tax increases, and the deal needs to focus on “cuts”.  The entire dialogue is deceptive because what both parties refer to as cuts are merely smaller increases in spending than planned.  Republicans continue to gloatingly point out that the Sequester was the President’s idea.  It was his idea, but it was an idea proposed as a bluff to force a different outcome.

I support the Republicans taking a stand and refusing to approve more tax increases, but even if the Sequester is allowed to take effect the Liberty cause will be hurt.  The American people will be left with the impression that a major blow was struck to our national deficit, when the reality is that we’ll still be spending more next year than we are this year.  People will think we have turned a corner and are moving towards a balanced budget.

In truth we are driving towards the edge of a cliff at 100 mph.  The most drastic painful step we can even force ourselves to consider (the Sequester) is barely lifting our foot on the accelerator to slow to 95 mph.  We are still speeding towards disaster.  The debate today is not even including options like turning the steering wheel or moving our foot to the brake.

Slowing the rate of growth in government spending is not even remotely close to being a solution.  Spending more money every year but not as much more as you’d like is not drastic and Draconian.

Spending the same amount of money for two years in a row is not even remotely close to a solution, yet is too ridiculous an option to even reach the floor of either House of Congress.  Actually reducing the amount of spending – which means spending less money in the future than the present – is the only solution, but it is a line trillions of dollars away in the opposite direction from what is being discussed right now in Washington D.C..

A Libertarian’s Response to Glenn Beck

Posted in Politics with tags , , on February 24, 2013 by Legatus Libertatis

On Friday, Glenn Beck addressed the conflicts and possible collaborations in the offing between himself and Libertarians.  I would like to take Mr. Beck up on his request for an open-minded dialogue to explore common ground.  I do have some reservations about him, though.

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Dear Glenn,

On Friday’s program you apologized for coming around so slowly on some critical liberty issues, and begged Libertarians to open their minds and give cooperation with you a chance.  Of course, you stopped several times to mock us, sarcastically call us perfect, yell at us for being hypocrites, and call us Nazis and fascists during the course of apologizing and asking for a chance, but I am looking passed the insults and condescension and responding to the genuine request you were making.  I am open to the possibility of coming together on key issues to build a coalition that has more winning power than the Libertarians alone but that champions liberty and freedom more than the current Republican Party.  Keeping in mind that my goal is a civil discussion to explore the possibility of coming together, I still have criticisms of you I intend to voice.

It took me more than two days to get through the seventeen minute video from Friday’s show (http://www.video.theblaze.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=25608397&topic_id=&tcid=vpp_copy_25608397&v=3).

I kept feeling my frustration and blood-pressure rise, and would pause it to return to later.  More than once, I found myself flipping my middle finger at the monitor when I paused.  But, like a side of undercooked vegetables, I forced it all down and eventually cleaned my plate, reaching the end of the video.

I have never been an avid follower, but I have been following you to an extent for years now.  I occasionally watched your program on Headline News.  I occasionally watched your program on Fox News.  I occasionally listen to your radio program.  I see your occasional appearances on O’Reilly.  So the opinion I have of you is formed from my own experiences watching and listening to you, and I am not speaking for anyone other than myself.  I am not echoing criticisms I have read elsewhere.

While I have often agreed with you on various issues, I have been turned off by your delivery.  More than anything else, I find you terribly condescending and insulting.  Perhaps it is because I am a student of history, and consider myself well informed on new and politics, both current and past.  You would often promote or begin one of your TV shows with the promise of teaching your audience something new about our country or one of the Founding Fathers.  “Tonight, you’re going to learn something you never learned in school or knew before.  I’m going to show you (insert historical figure) in an entirely new light.  I am going to teach you something you could not possibly know or be aware of if not for me.”  I would watch your show and realize that I already knew everything you were “revealing”.  I got very tired of constantly being told I was going to have my tiny mind blown by your charitable wisdom.  If you would speak to your audience like intellectual equals instead of lost souls you are shepherding into the light, I would probably watch and listen to you more than occasionally.  But this is a personality conflict between us, and it doesn’t necessarily need to stand in the way of political cooperation.

My politics and ideology have evolved over the years from conservative Republican to fully Libertarian.  It was not an overnight change, but a slow process that took years as I became better educated about our nation and the principles it was founded upon.  I probably turned the corner to Libertarianism about seven years ago, but 2012 was the first time I did not vote for the Republican candidate for President; I voted for Gary Johnson.  During the Republican primaries, I caucused for Ron Paul in my state.  I listened to your radio program during the Republican primaries as well.

I supported Ron Paul because he most closely represented my beliefs, plain and simple.  I respected his consistency and his deference to the Constitution when questioned during the debates.  I think Ron Paul did incredible things for the liberty movement, and has brought many young people into the fold.  I supported and still support Ron Paul, but I do not commit idolatry and worship him.  During the Republican primary season I listened to your radio program, and you did much more than disagree with Ron Paul.  You went out of your way to mock, deride, marginalize and insult him.  You extended your insults to “idiots” like me who supported him.  You included Ron Paul’s name in the list of contenders only as a punchline to a joke, followed by the sobering assertion that Ron Paul’s beliefs were dangerous for the country (mainly his foreign policy).  If you had simply disagreed respectfully with Ron Paul, that would be one thing, but you laughed with cruelty and ridicule and tried to paint him as a buffoon who should not be taken seriously, except as a threat.  That left a very sour taste in my mouth, but it is not the greatest reservation I have about you.

As the Republican primaries began to approach a finish, you put your support behind Rick Santorum.  You said that you believed Rick Santorum was the best candidate of those who available, and the one you thought would be best for the party and the country to run for President.  Rick Santorum was the one person in the GOP primaries who called for the Republican Party to “purge” itself of its Libertarian influences.  You supported the one candidate who wanted the Libertarians “purged” from the coalition, and now you complain that we Libertarians are intolerant towards you and are acting like members of the Spanish Inquisition.  This is the greatest reservation I have about you.

If we are to collaborate and work together, you must accept that some Libertarians could be dubious of you for reasons other than our own ignorance, arrogance and short-sightedness.  I have no problem with you sharing much of my political philosophy, considering yourself a Libertarian and voting for Libertarians in elections.  That does not mean I have to embrace you as my spokesman or poster-boy.  Many Libertarians are secularists and are uncomfortable with the prospect of having their party redefined as overtly Christian.  The “religious right” is a label that has been successfully turned into a pejorative, used to paint the Republican Party as intolerant and archaic.  There is a party out there which combines a respect for our founding principles with a heavy Christian influence, and that is the Constitution Party, not the Libertarian Party.  I am willing to accept you into the Libertarian Party, Glenn Beck, but I am not willing to accept you as a leader of the party or the person who represents me to the rest of the nation.  I think you need to be willing to accept that as well if anything will come of this collaboration.

Right now, you remind me of a wealthy boy who has moved to a new city, and has found a local sandlot where other boys from the neighborhood play baseball.  You claim that you merely wish to join our game and play with us.  At the same time, you say that you were the best player in your old town, that you own a fancy new glove and bat, and your dad owns a clothing store and can give us all new uniforms, so we should be thanking our lucky stars for the privilege of having you even walk over to look at our crappy field.  Not only should we be thanking you for wanting to play with us, but we should make you team captain and remind ourselves that we would be laughingstock losers forever if you weren’t willing to be our savior.

Just take your place on the bench, wait for your turn to bat, and play a couple of games with us before demanding we change the team name to the Fighting Becks and put your face on our caps and shirts.  Or continue to insult and mock us while professing a common cause, and drag out this conflict indefinitely.  We have common ground, and I think if you can stay on this message you ended your segment with about the Bill of Rights without calling Libertarians too many nasty names along the way, a winning strategy might even be found.

-Legatus Libertatis

 

P.S. (2/27/13)

Beck laments the Libertarians turning off conservatives with their desire to legalize drugs, but he turns off secular and progressive people with his heavy Christian themes, like End-of-Days rallies in the Holy Land, or re-writing American history to portray George Washington as a latter day Moses who only defeated the British because of divine intervention earned by his pious prayers and fasting.

The Blaze should just be what it is without declaring itself a Libertarian vessel.  There’s nothing wrong with bringing the liberty message to his audience along with the rest of his programing.

But labeling a network as a Libertarian messenger, and then delivering Faith-based programming as well, will turn off more of the greater electorate by creating the false impression that Libertarians would legislate morality – the same stigma that is crippling the Republican Party.

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