When will black people get as outraged over a gang-banger killing innocent people as they do when a police officer kills an unarmed black man?After police in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood fatally shot 16-year-old Kimani Gray last week, mobs of teenage protesters went on a rampage, smashing windows and throwing rocks.
Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large-size sodas at certain establishments, colloquially known as the soda ban, is a lesson in how to make your cause look ridiculous.Bloomberg hoped the ban would spark a nationwide crackdown on sugary beverages. Instead, it became the subject of widespread mockery, inspired an instant-classic Post headline (“Soda Jerk”) and got struck down by a New York judge this week as “arbitrary and capricious.”
I suppose it’s a measure of how far the fight for gay equality has come that within minutes of Senator Rob Portman’s announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage, because he learned that his own son is gay, my inbox began filling with messages not of celebration, but of complaint. Readers, colleagues and friends wrote that they were pleased with his destination, but offended by the route there.
Shortly after Rand Paul’s talking filibuster unexpectedly seized national attention, Bill Kristol came back with his normal comedy routine. The junior senator from Kentucky was dismissed as an emblem of “kookiness” and “fearmongering,” “waxing semihysterical” as a “spokesman for the Code Pink faction of the Republican party.”John McCain and Lindsey Graham were Kristol’s opening act. McCain grumbled about “wacko birds” and the dang libertarian kids who need to get off his...
Rob Portman’s dual revelations that his son is gay and that he has decided to support gay marriage are both a touching story of familial love and another signpost in the astonishingly rapid success of the gay-rights revolution. Just over eight years ago, when Republicans gleefully seized on the gay-marriage issue to mobilize their base in Portman’s own state, it was inconceivable that a statewide Democrat would endorse gay marriage, let alone a Republican. The triumph of the issue relies upon the changing of minds — some thanks to force of argument, others to...
In choice of both topic and foil, Rand Paul’s now legendary Senate filibuster was a stroke of political genius.
Staff members at NBC’s “Today” show huddled for a performance review last month, 10 months after the longtime morning show leader first fell behind ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the ratings. The mood was anxious, according to several attendees, as network executives discussed the findings from focus groups with hundreds of viewers. With Matt Lauer commiserating, the former co-host Ann Curry made a tearful departure from NBC's "Today" show last summer. Matt Lauer, the...
G.K. Chesterton tells the story of the time that St. Francis of Assisi visited Rome and the pope of the day proudly showed him all the wondrous treasures of the Vatican. Referring to a story in the Biblical Book of Acts in which St. Peter spoke with a beggar in Jerusalem and told him he had no money, the pope pointed to the treasures around him and said, “Peter can no longer say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’”St. Francis’ response: “Neither can he say, ‘Rise up and walk.’” (In the Bible account, St....
In the aftermath of President Obama’s now-obvious-to-all sequester overreach–in which he first predicted the end of the world as we know it, then backed away from those claims once the cuts went into effect, then attempted to inflict maximum pain on the American people, and is now blaming the Secret Service for the stupid and unnecessary decision to shut down White House tours–something is changing.President Obama’s RealClearPolitics.com approval rating is in the 40s. His disapproval rating exceeds his approval rating in three different polls (Fox,...
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., recently took to the House floor to tout a bill she’s sponsoring that would change the structure of job training programs. She warned that the economy faces a paradox -- despite historically high unemployment rates, many jobs are going vacant. "There are 3.6 million jobs sitting vacant, in part because there aren’t enough qualified applicants to fill them," Foxx said in the March 12, 2013, speech. To check Foxx’s claim, we turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government’s scorekeeper on employment data.
(VATICAN CITY) I’ve been in Rome since Friday, reporting from the Vatican and one of its media centers. I didn’t find out until yesterday that there are actually two media centers, packed with credentialed journalists, reporting on the papal conclave. I found out about the other when they closed it at 5 pm local time as the conclave procession was under way and a flood of people created a standing-room-only situation here for a while. Over 5600 journalists have been credentialed for this event, and La Sala Stampa even erected a pavillion on...
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has drawn the ire of the poverty-industrial complex for launching a gutsy ad campaign against teen pregnancy. Posters in thousands of bus shelters and subways show tiny tots bewailing the bad news about teen pregnancy. “Because you had me as a teen,” cries one, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school.” Other stressed-out toddlers warn of the financial burdens their unwed mothers will face and the near certainty that their fathers won’t stick around. One little sage identifies the simplest way...
In case you haven’t heard, President Obama leaves for Israel next week. It is possible, though, that you haven’t heard because it is hard for me to recall a less-anticipated trip to Israel by an American president. But there is a message in that empty bottle: Little is expected from this trip — not only because little is possible, but because, from a narrow U.S. point of view, little is necessary.
When House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his previous budget last year, I wrote that for most of the past half century, its extreme nature would have put it outside the bounds of mainstream discussion. It was, I wrote, “Robin Hood in reverse -- on steroids,” because it would have produced the largest redistribution of income from bottom to top in modern U.S. history. Ryan’s new budget is just as extreme. Its cuts in programs for low-income and vulnerable Americans appear as massive as in last year’s budget, and its tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans could be larger than in last year’s.
In addition, in critical ways the budget is exceedingly vague -- and, as a result, its claim to reach balance in ten years is hard to take seriously. It leaves unspecified hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts as well as the several trillion dollars of needed tax expenditure savings to pay for its proposed deep cuts in income tax rates. Thus, the budget’s fiscal claims rest on massive magic asterisks.
Consider the following:Taxes
Last year, Ryan proposed to cut the top individual and corporate income tax rates from 35 to 25 percent, to cut other tax rates, and to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). At the time, the Tax Policy Center estimated that these tax cuts would cost more than $4 trillion over ten years. Since last year, however, the American Taxpayer Relief Act has returned the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent, adding at least another $400 billion to the cost now of cutting the top individual tax rate to Ryan’s goal of 25 percent. Yet, the Ryan budget says that, somehow, the large cost of cutting the top rate to this level, cutting other rates as well, and eliminating the AMT would add nothing to the deficit. In essence, it uses a huge magic asterisk, assuming policymakers will finance the entire cost of cutting tax rates and eliminating the AMT by curbing tax expenditures -- without identifying a single tax expenditure to narrow or close.
Governor Romney adopted a similar approach in his presidential campaign, arguing that he would use unspecified tax expenditure savings to offset the cost of cutting the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, or by 7 percentage points. Analysis by the Tax Policy Center indicated that Romney could not do that without raising taxes on middle class and working poor Americans. Yet now, Ryan proposes to cut the top rate by as much as 14.6 percentage points, or more than twice as much as Romney proposed, while still claiming to finance it through tax expenditure reforms that policymakers would identify later.Health Care
Ryan again proposes to repeal the coverage expansions in health reform (i.e., the Affordable Care Act or ACA) and cut Medicaid (and some smaller health programs) another $756 billion on top of that. These two steps would cut over $2.5 trillion, largely by greatly boosting the number of low- and moderate-income Americans who are uninsured.
Last year, the Urban Institute estimated that a very similar Medicaid block grant proposal in Ryan’s previous budget would result in 14 to 21 million individuals losing their Medicaid coverage by 2022. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the ACA’s coverage expansions will mean that 27 million Americans who otherwise would be uninsured will gain coverage by 2023.
Thus, under the Ryan budget, 40 to 50 million more poor or moderate-income Americans would be uninsured, even as the wealthiest Americans enjoyed new tax cuts.
As in his prior budgets, Ryan proposes to replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a flat premium-support payment, or voucher, that beneficiaries could use to purchase either private health insurance or a version of traditional Medicare. Premium support would apply to all new beneficiaries starting in 2024 and to all other beneficiaries who chose to participate. Over time, premium support would significantly raise out-of-pocket health costs for many Medicare beneficiaries.
Over the next ten years, the Ryan budget would cut Medicare spending by a total of $356 billion. His budget would save $129 billion compared to current law from limiting medical malpractice awards, increasing income-tested premiums, and repealing the Medicare benefit improvements in health reform, including closure of the prescription drug “donut hole.” Ryan’s baseline includes $138 billion in scheduled cuts from Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula for physicians and $89 billion in Medicare cuts from sequestration, bringing his total Medicare reductions to the aforementioned $356 billion.Massive Cuts in Other Domestic Programs -- with Deep Cuts Targeting the Poorest And Most Vulnerable Americans
Ryan’s budget document makes clear that he again proposes severe cuts in Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college and in SNAP (formerly food stamps). He would freeze the maximum Pell Grant for 10 years, cancelling increases scheduled in law that are designed to keep up with inflation through 2017. Consequently, the maximum Pell Grant would fall substantially in purchasing power, and the budget would cut Pell Grants in other ways as well. In addition, the budget again proposes to cut SNAP substantially and replace it with a block grant at lower funding levels.
More generally, the document contains a stunning -- and deeply disturbing -- figure. It shows that the budget would cut mandatory programs other than Social Security, health care programs, civil service pensions, farm programs, and interest payments by about $800 billion over ten years, relative to current law. This figure is alarming, since 70 percent of the spending in this budget category goes for programs for the needy and disadvantaged. Programs in the category, from which the $800 billion in cuts would come, include:
- Pell Grants;
- The Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) for the aged and disabled poor;
- School lunches and other child nutrition programs;
- The Earned Income Tax Credit and the low-income component of the Child Tax Credit; and
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Ryan’s new budget, like last year’s, apparently seeks to camouflage the severity of many of its cuts in programs for the needy by leaving most of this $800 billion in cuts unspecified. The budget math shows, however, that most of these cuts likely would come from benefits and services for the least fortunate Americans.Non-Defense Discretionary Programs and Defense
The Ryan budget effectively cancels the “sequestration” cuts in defense for all years starting in 2014 -- while cutting non-defense programs substantially below sequestration levels.
If one starts from post-sequestration funding levels, as Ryan’s budget documents do, his budget increases defense funding by about $550 billion over ten years while cutting non-defense discretionary programs by about $700 billion.
But many budget analysts, including ourselves and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, prefer to measure budgetary changes from a pre-sequestration level. Doing so shows the budgetary changes that are needed to replace sequestration — which both parties say they favor — and still hit a given fiscal target.
Measured this way, the Ryan budget cuts non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending by more than $1 trillion below the level of the 2011 Budget Control Act caps. Yet those caps already reduce spending in this category to its lowest level on record as a share of GDP, with data back to 1962. Moreover, Ryan’s budget leaves most of these NDD cuts unspecified. He does not even assign them to broad budget categories such as education, transportation, natural resources, veterans, or law enforcement but, instead, leaves them as a big lump sum of unspecified cuts.
Cutting NDD this deeply will invariably have serious effects on:
- investments that can boost future productivity growth such as in education, infrastructure, and basic research;
- low-income families and individuals, since one-quarter of NDD funding goes for programs such as Head Start, WIC, child care, homelessness prevention, services for frail elderly and disabled people, low-income housing, Title I education, and the like; and
- state and local governments, since one-quarter of NDD funding goes to those governments to help them perform various functions.
Chairman Ryan has at times received praise for having the courage to propose these policies. In reality, this budget reflects more of a lack of courage than an abundance of it.
Is it courageous to propose tax cuts but not identify a single tax expenditure to rein in? Is it courageous to target your deepest cuts on the poorest Americans, who vote in lower numbers and provide little in campaign contributions? Is it courageous to camouflage hundreds of billions in cuts for the poor and disadvantaged in broad budget categories without identifying the programmatic cuts, so that analysts, journalists, and other policymakers can’t identify the specific cuts and assess their impacts?
What stands out, above all else, is Chairman Ryan’s unwillingness to propose anything that would upset his party’s base of supporters or, in particular, its ideological opposition to any revenue increases.
Paul Ryan is a smart and engaging individual. But, make no mistake: His budget is extreme. And, in its reverse Robin Hood policies, its ideological rigidity, and its calculated vagueness, it sadly reflects some of the worst features of American politics at this crucial time.
In recent decades, the judiciary has been at the forefront of efforts to expand the power of government and to restrict the rights of the individual citizen. But today at least one judge has struck a blow against the nanny state and its billionaire advocate. Justice Milton A. Tingling of the New York State Supreme Court handed down a ruling today that prevents the city of New York from putting into effect Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s law banning the sale of certain sizes of sugared drinks. While Bloomberg’s administration plans to appeal the decision, for now the effort to...
When Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., staged his historic filibuster over 13 hours on March 6, 2013, he said he just wanted answers. He wanted President Barack Obama’s administration to definitively say whether the use of armed drones could ever be justified on American soil. During his epic stand on the Senate floor, which only ended with the inevitable call of nature, Paul cited several statements made by administration officials that concerned him -- including one by CIA Director nominee John Brennan. "When Brennan, whose nomination I am opposing today, was asked directly, 'Is there any ...>> More
These are not happy times for the Church of Global Warming, which has been trying to repackage its manufactured hysteria as “climate change” for several years. But according to the New York Times on Thursday, we’ve actually come full circle to where we began in the Seventies: global cooling.After some flapdoodle about global temperature spikes (in fact, not only is there no evidence connecting human activity to any such spike, most recent data says there wasn’t much of a “spike,” and what heating...
The latest report on the state of the U.S. job market offered good news all around, the best reading in months on the state of the economy.Jobs? There were 236,000 more of them on U.S. employers’ payrolls in February than in January. The unemployment rate? Down to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent. Wages? Private-sector pay rose 0.6 percent as people both worked more hours and at a higher hourly wage.
President Obama’s advisers have telegraphed their goal to win control of the House in 2014, which would give the president unfettered control to advance his favored policies. But the bigger concern for the White House should be the more realistic possibility that they could lose the Senate in 2014 – an outcome that’s only enhanced by the president’s second-term strategy focusing on rallying the base over centrist governance.It’s no coincidence that on Wednesday, in a welcome about-face, Obama belatedly engaged a charm offensive with...
“When I first met Richard Nixon,” Robert Bork says in the book he completed a few weeks before his death in December, “I could see in his expression the conviction that someone had blundered badly.” With the dry wit that, together with his mastery of the dry martini, made him delightful company, Bork says the president, who “almost visibly recoiled,” evidently considered his red beard emblematic of Ivy League left-wingery. Nixon probably thought the barbarians were within the gates. They were. On Nixon’s staff.
Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster on March 6, 2013, expanded from the Senate floor to Twitter, where he, among other things, accused President Barack Obama of "advocating a drone strike program in America." The Republican from Kentucky spoke for nearly 13 hours until the early morning on March 7 to keep senators from voting on the nomination of White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan for CIA director. The subject of Paul’s concern: a letter from the attorney general that didn’t appear to rule out drone strikes against U.S. citizens on American soil.
Rand Paul: "When the president's spokesman was asked about (Anwar) al-Awlaki's son, … he said he should have chosen a more responsible father."
Sen. Rand Paul said a lot of things during his 13-hour filibuster of President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director. We’ll be checking several of his claims related to the Obama administration’s policy on drones, the unmanned aerial vehicles that can be used to track and kill almost anywhere. One of the comments Paul made during his filibuster concerned the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. He was the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric tied to al-Qaida who was killed in a drone strike. The killing of the elder al-Awlaki in September 2011 attracted widespread ...>> More
The Left has already started the whitewashing of Hugo Chávez’s record, and I have no doubt that within days his image will adorn T-shirts the way the thuggish Che Guevara does.Within minutes of the announcement of the strongman’s death, Ken Livingstone, London’s former mayor, tweeted the following:K: Hugo Chavez showed there is an alternative to neo-liberalism and colonialism in Venezuela and worldwide. He was a friend & comrade #RIP
Late last year, a few days before Christmas, former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford embarked on a delicate political mission. He went to see his ex-wife, Jenny.It was only four years ago, in early 2009, that the couple were approaching their twentieth wedding anniversary and Sanford, a popular two-term Republican governor, was laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign. That was when, one afternoon in the governor’s mansion, Jenny went searching through some of her husband’s work papers and discovered a printed e-mail exchange between Mark and Maria...