Archive for the ‘Federal’ Category

Bipartisanship is not a magic word

Jeb Bush caused a stir this week when he said partisanship in Washington had gone too far. If that doesn’t sound like news, what really drew attention was the former Florida governor’s apparent belief his father and Ronald Reagan would find it difficult to become the GOP nominee these days.

I say “apparent” because Bush’s statement, in an interview with Bloomberg, included one enormous qualifier. Reagan and George H.W. Bush would have trouble with today’s GOP, the younger Bush said, “if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement.”

Well, that settles that!

The notion that Reagan, at least, would be spurned by the contemporary GOP is odd. In 1980 he was considered far more conservative than the elder Bush, who succeeded him as the Republican standard bearer. Nothing about nominees Bob Dole (1996) or John McCain (2008) places them to Reagan’s right. Even George W. Bush was less aggressive than …

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Obamacare costs more than advertised, double-counting edition

I’ve written many times about the budgeting/accounting/scoring gimmicks that allowed Democrats to claim Obamacare would reduce federal deficits when the opposite is true. The latest piece of evidence came from Charles Blahous, an economist and trustee of the Social Security and Medicare programs who recently reported Obamacare’s “double counting” of spending cuts and tax increases means the law will actually increase deficits by $340 billion over 10 years (or about seven Buffett Rules).

Blahous, writing with former federal budget official James Capretta in today’s Wall Street Journal, explains double counting by making an analogy to Social Security:

If we generate $1 in savings within that program, then that’s $1 that Social Security can spend later. If we also claimed this same $1 to finance a new spending program, we would clearly be adding to the total federal deficit. There has long been bipartisan understanding of this aspect of Social Security, which is why Congress’s …

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Now you, too, can soak your way to . . . less of a deficit

Here’s one for the night-time crowd: Visit SoakTheRich.us, play around with the options for raising taxes on CEOs and companies (as depicted, albeit inoperably, below), and report in the comments thread how much budget-balancing progress you can make.

Soak the Rich website

Spoiler alert: You won’t close the deficit this way. Not even if you add the $4 billion to $5 billion from the Buffett Rule. Not even close.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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However court rules, Price ready with alternative to Obamacare

When the Supreme Court last week heard arguments in the 26-state legal challenge to Obamacare, Georgia was well-represented. There was Sam Olens, who as our attorney general is one of the plaintiffs. And there was Tom Price, a leader in the effort to repeal and/or replace the law, however the justices rule.

“It was really uplifting, actually,” Price, a fourth-term congressman from Roswell and the fifth-ranking Republican in the House, said in a phone interview. “I think [the justices] were giving it the serious consideration that it warrants.”

Price, who previously practiced medicine, not law, stopped just short of predicting the outcome: “My suspicion is this will be ruled unconstitutional, but I’m not a court watcher so that may be more hope than fact.” Either way, he’s ready.

As he did months before Obamacare was passed, Price has introduced the Empowering Patients First Act. It’s a more market-oriented approach to fixing what ails American health …

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Think Washington subsidizes Big Oil the most? Think again

Not that this will stop the Obama administration from decrying giveaways to Big Oil — facts have never much bothered this bunch before — but a new government report shows there’s big money to be had in energy subsidies, mostly for fuels other than oil and coal.

The Congressional Budget Office compiled federal tax-credit and spending data since the Carter era and found that, lately, the vast majority of the corporate welfare is going not to fossil fuels but to renewable energy:

CBO energy subsidies chart

In case this picture isn’t worth a thousand words to you, CBO summarizes the trend neatly:

Measured in 2011 dollars, the cost of energy-related tax preferences more than doubled between 1977 and 1982 and then fell dramatically between 1982 and 1988, in part because of declines in tax rates and fuel prices… . The cost of energy-related tax preferences grew gradually between 1988 and 2005 and averaged about $4 billion a year from 2000 to 2005. That cost (including outlays for grants in lieu of tax …

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Where the top of the 1 percent lives (hint: not mostly NYC)

“Based on Where the Top 1 Percent Lives, the Occupy Crowd Should Be Protesting Against Big Government.”

So says Cato’s Dan Mitchell, who takes an MSN Money report on the 15 U.S. counties (the highest one-half of 1 percent) with the highest per capita income and creates this map:

rich-bureaucrats-and-lobbyists from Dan Mitchell

Map of wealthy counties near D.C. (source: International Liberty blog by Dan Mitchell)

The stars, as you may have guessed, represent counties in the top 15. You’ll notice there are 10 such stars — meaning two-thirds of America’s very richest counties are suburbs of the nation’s capital. That includes the three highest-earning counties and four of the top five. By comparison, suburbs of New York City account for only four of the top 15. (The 15th is just south of Denver.)

Here’s a sampling of what the MSN report had to say about some of these counties:

15. Charles County, Md.: “The first of five Maryland counties to make our list, Charles’ population grew 21.6 percent in the first decade of the 21st …

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Why Ron Paul should be in some president’s cabinet

I have said throughout this Republican presidential primary that I do not believe Ron Paul will win the nomination. That said, I do think he will be in the race until the end because of his loyal supporters and fund-raising prowess. He might well finish second, and most likely no worse than third, in number of delegates to this summer’s GOP convention. That kind of success would merit more than a nice speaking time slot in Tampa and a few relatively meaningless planks on the party’s platform.

Should the eventual nominee, whoever it is, defeat Barack Obama in November, he ought to appoint Paul to his cabinet.

Which cabinet position? Whichever one that president-elect wanted to eliminate or dramatically shrink.

That’s not a way of pulling a fast one on the man who more than one wag has deemed America’s Grandpa (i.e., he says some things that sound wise, and some other things that make you think, Oh, there goes crazy ol’ grandpa again!). I intend it as a compliment.

Of all people …

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Savannah’s port and the regulatory problem

If you missed George Will’s latest column — written from the site of the next GOP primary, but about the question of deepening Southeastern ports to handle the larger container ships that will begin coming through the larger Panama Canal within the next several years — I draw your attention to this bit citing the head of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, Jim Newsome:

Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done.

Writing at Power …

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SEC accuses ex-execs at Fannie, Freddie with understating subprime exposure by tens of billions of dollars

The role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the subprime lending crisis will be fleshed out in court thanks to lawsuits filed today against former executives of the quasi-governmental agencies. Bloomberg has the basic facts about the suits:

Daniel Mudd, the former chief executive officer of Fannie Mae, and Richard Syron, ex-CEO of Freddie Mac, were sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for understating by hundreds of billions of dollars the subprime loans held by the agencies. …

In the lawsuits, the SEC said Syron, Mudd and others understated the lenders’ exposure to subprime mortgage loans. From 2007 to 2008, Freddie Mac executives said the company’s exposure was between $2 billion and $6 billion when it was actually as high as $244 billion, according to one SEC complaint. From 2006 to 2008, Washington-based Fannie Mae executives said the firm’s exposure to subprime mortgage and reduced documentation loans was about $4.8 billion when it was nearly 10 times …

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Forget Greece and Italy; we’re headed for a housing bailout costing tens of billions of dollars

Or at least, that’s the conclusion of a real-estate expert in a new study that says the Federal Housing Authority has gotten so far off track that U.S. taxpayers are staring down the barrel of a bailout of the agency costing between $50 billion and $100 billion, rivaling the bailouts of GM and Chrysler.

Joseph Gyourko, a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school of business, based that calculation on the fact that: a) The FHA has tripled the value of the mortgages it insures, to a total of $1 trillion, in the last four years, and is already under-capitalized to the tune of $12 billion-plus; b) more than half of the homeowners insured by FHA have negative equity; and c) the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.

He concludes:

This combination of increasing leverage at the entity level (i.e., FHA having far less capital per dollar of insurance guarantees) and among the homeowners being insured (many with negative equity in their homes) has …

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