Archive for October, 2010

Tea party’s challenge: Change what it means to compromise

The theme of this midterm election is clear: Stop the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda of big-big-bigger government now.

The irony is that, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as one big possible exception, the largest projected losses for the Democrats are not in the most liberal wing of the party. The big losers will be among the Blue Dogs, the party’s self-described moderates.

And they’re going to lose because, while they barked loudly about checking the Dems’ more extreme impulses, in the end they always rolled over.

Many of the Republicans set to take their places are, or have been boosted by, tea partiers. They may not be moderates, but they are like the Blue Dogs in that, sooner or later, they will be asked to stand up for their principles — and against the majority in their own party.

That means they will have to work hard to avoid the Blue Dogs’ fate of submission and eventual irrelevance. And they can only do that by changing the language and currency of …

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Terror by special delivery: Something’s weird here

Obviously, today’s discovery of an attempted terror plot is a very serious matter. And the serious hashing out of what it all means will come as more details emerge (though, while U.S. officials aren’t naming al Qaeda as the culprit just yet, a bomb sent from Yemen to Jewish organization in America seems pretty plainly to signify Islamic terrorism).

In the meantime, I have what may be some stupid questions:

What does it mean that these jerks decided to send a bomb that would travel more than 7,500 miles, on two trans-continental flights, to be delivered to an office building — and only then blow up?

Given the trouble that jihadists have had lately with carrying out even their simpler plots successfully (thank goodness), doesn’t it seem odd that they would now try to take up the degree of difficulty several notches?

Does this mean they’re having trouble recruiting/converting more local people to extremism? Does it mean they felt they needed to pull off something spectacular — …

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One man’s list of $343 billion in federal spending cuts

As I’ve noted before, newly empowered Republicans will have no choice but to act fast in slashing federal spending to balance the budget. In the long run, that will require them to reform entitlements. But what about next year’s budget?

Brian Riedl at the Heritage Foundation has come up with a list to get them started: 90 specific cuts exceeding $343 billion.

He describes the principles guiding the cuts as:

  • Empowering state and local governments. Congress should focus the federal government on performing a few duties well and allow the state and local governments, which are closer to the people, to creatively address local needs in areas such as transportation, justice, job training, and economic development.
  • Consolidating duplicative programs. Past Congresses have repeatedly piled duplicative programs on top of preexisting programs, increasing administrative costs and creating a bureaucratic maze that confuses people seeking assistance.
  • Privatization. Many current …

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Some pointed questions for Gov. Deal

In 1992, before I even started shaving, my neighbors in North Georgia first elected Nathan Deal to Congress. For 12 of the next 17 years, as I began following and then reporting on politics, Deal was my congressman.

Then, 18 months ago, Deal announced he was running for governor. And I found I couldn’t name a single thing he had done while in Washington. Not one.

Come Tuesday, however, this one-time invisible congressman stands to win the most votes for governor. Even if he is forced into a runoff with Democrat Roy Barnes, Deal will be heavily favored to prevail.

If he does win, it will happen despite his thin congressional record and thick paper trail of mixing public office and personal business interests in a way that is questionable at best.

It will happen even though the most partisan Republicans know deep down that that record and paper trail would, if owned by a Democrat, cause them to howl.

But mostly, it will happen because he has the good luck to face, in Roy …

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Will Dems put their special-interests money where their special-interests mouths are?

Top Democrats have been demonizing lobbyists, special interests and shadowy outside groups ahead of next week’s election.

So here’s a question: How many of the 50-plus Democrats about to leave Congress involuntarily will pledge not to go to work as lobbyists or other representatives of special interests or shadowy outside groups?

Anyone? Anyone?

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GOP’s sense of urgency will be telling

The big question about Republicans in this election has been whether they have truly reformed themselves after their spending binge during the last decade. Will they prove willing and able to stop the debt-fueled car still speeding toward disaster (you know how President Obama loves his car-economy metaphors), or will they be nothing more than a speed bump?

We’ll get part of the answer after the election when we see the urgency with which Republicans focus on the budget, as opposed to issuing subpoenas to administration officials. Forget “airy-fairy beyond-the-blue-horizon” projections about a fiscal crisis looming mid-century, writes the incomparable Mark Steyn. There’s no time to waste:

The existential questions for America loom not decades hence but right now. We face not genteel Euro-style decline cushioned by America, but something faster, wrenching and far more convulsive — with nobody to cushion it.

We know American government is living beyond America’s means. What’s …

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Obama commission’s deficit ‘compromise’: Raise taxes

If recent reports about President Obama’s deficit commission are accurate, taxpayers will be going on a starvation diet while the government steps up to a dessert buffet. From the Wall Street Journal:

Sacrosanct tax breaks, including deductions on mortgage interest, remain on the table just weeks before the deficit commission issues recommendations on policies to pare back with the aim of balancing the budget by 2015.

The tax benefits are hugely popular with the public but they have drawn the panel’s focus, in part because the White House has said these and other breaks cost the government about $1 trillion a year.

At stake, in addition to the mortgage-interest deductions, are child tax credits and the ability of employees to pay their portion of their health-insurance tab with pretax dollars. Commission officials are expected to look at preserving these breaks but at a lower level, according to people familiar with the matter.

The officials are also looking at potential cuts …

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In attorney general’s race, a clear choice for a big job

The best statewide race this year happens to be one of the most important contests.

Forget the offices of lieutenant governor (whom a motivated and disciplined majority of senators can neuter), schools superintendent (who watches while the governor and Legislature make the biggest waves in education policy), U.S. senator (important, but no real contest this year), and the rest.

Georgia’s next attorney general will enter office amid the state’s biggest conflict with Washington in decades, and more may be on the way. The public is demanding better enforcement of ethics and open-government laws. Only the governor stands to be more important over the next four years.

Fortunately, the race to succeed Thurbert Baker has drawn two of the strongest major-party candidates.

You won’t confuse the resumes or campaigns of Democrat Ken Hodges and Republican Sam Olens. (The Libertarian nominee, Don Smart, has been one of that party’s least visible candidates this year.)

Hodges: South …

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And you thought Al Gore was living un-greenly large (video)

A helicopter? A Humvee firetruck? I didn’t even know they made those. But I won’t spoil the ending (from the folks at Not Evil Just Wrong) …

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Year after year, our culture of dependence grows

The best explanation for the tea party phenomenon is the overwhelming sense among so many Americans that our relationship between government and the governed has gotten out of whack.

But it has been easy for critics to pick at the movement because this sense, this feeling, has as many origins as the tea party has leaders. Just as there is no front man for the tea party, there has been no single fact or figure that tea partiers could point to and say, See this? This is what we’re talking about.

But the Heritage Foundation may have come close with the release last week, at an event in Buckhead, of its 2010 Index of Dependence on Government.

Heritage has compiled federal data on public spending dating back to 1962 on housing, health and welfare, retirement, education, and rural and agricultural services. The stalwart conservative institution then indexed them through the 2009 fiscal year.

The not-so-surprising result: Americans’ dependence on government is higher than …

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