Rand Paul blocked the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund bill but there are better things to cut

                Today, GOP senator Rand Paul blocked a bill that would extend the timeline of the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Though he is technically a Republican, Paul is a stalwart libertarian that is tough on the national debt. It should then come as no surprise that the reason he objected to it was on economic grounds saying that, “It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country and therefore any new spending … should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.” Admirable that he stood up for his principles as it is, the debt hawks like Paul should look elsewhere for things to cut.

                Enter Citizens Against Government Waste. Its roots go back to the administration of the great Ronald Reagan and his crusade against waste. In 1982 the Grace Commission was created to find any and all examples of government waste and provide recommendations to eliminate them. The real beauty of it was that it was privately funded and cost the taxpayers exactly nothing. Reagan instructed them to “work like tireless blood hounds to root out government inefficiency and wastes of tax dollars” and for two years that is what they did. Their report made thousands of recommendations that would have saved upwards of $400 billion dollars over the course of three years. Over the next two decades, their recommendations would save over one trillion dollars. Today they boast over a million members and they are one of the most influential sources on the topic of blatant waste.

Every year, Citizens Against Government Waste publishes a report entitled “prime cuts” where they list the worst sources of waste and provide recommendations on how to eliminate them. They boast of big savings that could be had if congress followed their advice going as far as writing “The 2018 version contains 636 recommendations that would save taxpayers $429.8 billion in the first year and $3.1 trillion over five years.” Waste is abhorrent in scale and needs to be slashed. It is this that should be cut not the 9/11 victims compensation fund. For the purposes of illustration, a few of the prime cuts will be examined from the most recent (2018) report linked to in this paragraph. All statistics come from the report unless otherwise noted.

  1. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act

Created in 1931, this piece of legislation has the innocent sounding objective of ensuring that laborers on federal projects receive the prevailing wage. What could possibly be wrong with that one may inquire? The fault lies in the idea of a “prevailing wage” which is a term that refers specifically to the union wage. Quoting from Prime Cuts 2018, “Davis-Bacon was passed as part of an effort by high-skilled, high-wage, mostly white workers to keep out lower-paid, non-union, minority competition. In 1931, Rep. Miles Allgood (D-Ala.), arguing for the act’s passage, complained of ‘that contractor [who] has cheap colored labor which he transports … and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.’” The theory is that minority, non-union workers would work for less than the white union workers and thereby the former would be more attractive to hire than the latter. To stop this, the government set a something of a minimum wage on the federal projects in the form of Davis-Bacon. The act has been suspended before such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and shockingly, the world did not end. In 2017, the Heritage Foundation found that the federal government could add 160,000 construction jobs without increasing the deficit if it were not for this law. In 2016, the Congressional Budget Office found that eliminating it would save $15.7 billion between 2017 and 2026. Citizens Against Government Waste projected its elimination would save over $6 billion dollars in five years. Axing it would save taxpayer dollars, possibly add jobs and end a legacy of union-sponsored racism.

2. Reduce US funding of the United Nations by 25%

                America pulls her own weight in funding the UN. Perhaps more than her own weight. Perhaps way more than her own weight. The US funds 22% of the UN’s general budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget. In 2016 this amounted to a whopping $10 billion dollars. In the past two decades, the UN has doubled its budget and tripled the peacekeeping budget. One must keep these numbers in mind when one is reminded that “former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali once estimated that ‘perhaps half of the UN work force does nothing useful.’” As depressing as that quotation is, it does not touch the fact that the UN undermines America all too often. One must remember the vote to recognize condemn the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in which nine nations voted against –with the US and Israel included! It only makes sense to scale back our monetary support of an organization that does act in our interests and it would save $12.5 billion over the next five years.

3. Eliminate the Rural Utilities Service

What began life as the Rural Electrification Administration is another one of those old New Deal programs that needs to be put out to pasture but instead keeps growing. It was founded all the way back in 1935 to electrify the countryside. By the dawn of the Reagan years, 98.7% of the country was electrified and 95% had telephone wires. Any sane government would go drink champagne and celebrate a victory but our government didn’t do that. In 1994, it was transformed into the RUC and began giving out loans and grants to “underserved” areas. In 2002, it was then expanded again this time to include broadband services to the same areas. Citizens Against Government Waste recounts a tragic RUC story as follows: “Some of the BAP’s (the broadband delivering wing of the RUC) wasteful projects include the $667,120 given to Buford Communications of LaGrange, Arkansas, (population 122) in 2009 to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network and a new community center.  This equates to $5,468 per resident of LaGrange.” Pork spending like that is absolutely insane and needs to be cut. If congress did wise up and cut it, the savings would amount to $41 billion dollars in the next five years.

The moral of the story is that waste is everywhere. Government is like a pig, it has vital organs that must function and it has fat –lots of fat. The state does important work like provide the courts, the police, the military and basic infrastructure but it also ventures far beyond this. When government wanders into the weeds as it has a proclivity to do, the result is the RUC, the Davis-Bacon Act and sending billions to the UN. These are the cream of the crop of examples of fat that needs to be trimmed. Rand Paul today blocked a bill that would indeed cut some material off the government pig. It would save money that is true and there is merit to that too but one must look at what was cut in relationship to what still needs to be cut. Senator Paul was correct, cuts must be made but, one should look to blatant examples of fat to cut instead of the 9/11 victims compensation fund.

Photo credit: “Rand Paul Wants To Block Nation’s Top Doctor Over Gun Views” via The Physician’s News Digest

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Top 10 must read books for conservatives Part 2 of 2

Continuing the theme of must read books for conservatives from the previous article. The fields of economics and politics are very complicated as anyone who has looked into either can attest to. These twin studies underlie everything all the current events that grab the headlines. One can understand the happenings in Washington just fine from the news but to truly appreciate their depth, one must understand what is behind them. To do this, one must sit down and crack some books. Only when one obtains a solid foundation of political and economic theory can one get the most out of the daily happenings in DC. That is where this list comes in. Without further ado, here is the second half of the list of the top 10 books that every conservative should read.

5. The Road to Serfdom by F. A Hayek

                It is a classic of economics and it is Hayek’s magnum opus. In this wide ranging and beautifully written treatise, he writes about the dangers of central planning in all of its forms. If his book was to have one unifying theme it would be that the government control of the economy is fundamentally undesirable and even dangerous. Though that is his thesis, The Road to Serfdom encompasses many subtopics. He discusses the violence of totalitarian, socialistic regimes for instance. Elsewhere he determines that government can never know the desires of every man under its jurisdiction and that is what would be required for planning to function as well as a market economy in delivering the wants and needs of its citizenry. Planning can never then be as desirable as the free market. He also made the important point that socialists of all stripes be they orthodox socialists, Nazis or communists differ only in their goals and very little in their methods. Anyone looking to understand the root of the hard left philosophies and where they go wrong must should start with Hayek.

4. The Law by Frederic Bastiat

                Bastiat is one of those hidden gems in the field of economics. He is most known for this book when he is known at all. Since it is only around 60 pages, it is a quick read. His thesis boils down to the fact that perverting the law of the nation to destroy justice is as equally possible as it is immoral. Specifically that it is immoral for the government to take from one and bestow upon another without justice. Much contempt is lathered on the planners who would use the coercive instruments of the state to remake society in their own image as if they were God. A parallel can be made here with Hayek which makes these two books go especially well together.

3. A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen

                This one is a behemoth by anyone’s standards which may turn some off but it is worth the commitment. Totaling over 900 pages, this volume tells the story of America from Columbus’s journey until the early 2000s. Unlike other historians who without mincing words hate America such as the late Howard Zinn, Schweikart and Allen look at our collective history from a viewpoint that is definitely positive without being obnoxious about it. They weigh the negatives but find that overall, American history is long narrative of the triumph of liberty, free markets and the Judeo-Christian way. No stone is left unturned in their pursuit of the truth of history. They devastate the New Deal and the Great Society, reinforce Reagan, show the selflessness of the Founding Fathers, redeem the so called “robber barons” and debunk misnomer after misnomer. For those who are seeking the conservative view of American history, this is a one stop shop.

2. 48 Liberal Lies About American History by Larry Schweikart

                Written by one of the authors of the previous selection, this read is a pleasure for history lovers. As the title suggests, it is partisan and reflects the conservative view of history. No claims are made that aren’t backed up with copious sources and no cheap shots are taken. Rather, the goal of this book is to hit back at cheap shots doled out by school textbooks about American history. He is explicit about this. At the opening of each chapter, he quotes a few textbooks that claim they teach history with some grisly misrepresentation. Then he pounces and proves it categorically incorrect no fewer than 48 times. He tackles numerous (reoccurring) lies in these books such as the free market caused the depression, Columbus killed millions of Indians, the A-bomb strikes on Japan were done to intimidate Stalin and women had no rights in early America. For the conservative unwilling to submit to leftists monopoly on history education, this is a must read.

  1. New Deal or Raw Deal? By Burton Folsom Jr.

For the final book on this list of the best books for conservatives in no particular order, we come to New Deal or Raw Deal, the defining criticism of FDR’s economic policy. Full disclosure, one of the deciding factors for adding this book to the list was that I spoke with Dr. Folsom at a conference with the student group Young Americans for Freedom. He may or may not have autographed my copy that I happened to bring with me. This aside, it is one of the best history books I have stumbled across. He theorizes that contrary to the popular belief among academics, the Great Depression was a result of the policies of Uncle Sam not Wall Street. Most of the book is made up of long, well-researched criticisms of each of Franklin Roosevelt’s most recognizable programs. Negative externalities ran rampant, business was stifled, and the crisis was actually lengthened. New Deal or Raw Deal presents a fresh look at Roosevelt’s era without the cult like worship of the man so prevalent among historians.

                Indeed, politics and economics are complicated endeavors that require deep understanding of the underlying theory. Not everyone is willing to spend the time needed to get through these books neither will they appeal to every single conservative for one reason or another. There is nothing at all wrong with that because these are merely a few ideas on where to start for he who is just beginning the research.

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Top 10 must read books for conservatives Part 1 of 2

The theory and practice of politics and economics are more in depth than should be allowed. To be truly versed in them, more is required than being current on the news and happenings in Washington. Knowledge of current events is very necessary but without grounding in philosophy and hard doctrine it can only go so far. To understand current events with all their merit, it is requisite to view them through the kaleidoscope of theory. Because of this, all who seriously follow politics must be acquainted with the basic reads of said field and adding a sprinkling of history and economics has never harmed anyone. Here are a few well known and some lesser known tomes that all conservatives should familiarize themselves with. This list is divided into two articles to keep them both at a comfortable reading length. Note, these are not in any particular order.

10. The Constitution of the United States of America and Selected Writings of the Founding Fathers

                In 2012, Barnes and Noble published a voluminous 800 page compilation of the writings of the men who founded America. These documents are not only of value because they outline the origins of US, they are also thought of as some of the greatest works of political theory in world history. Anyone searching for the core principles of republican government must inevitably start here. This book hits the highlights of the revolutionary era with writings such as The Federalist Papers, Common Sense, various speeches of the first four presidents and whole slew of documents from the Continental Congress.

9. The Two Treatises of Civil Government by John Locke

                Continuing the theme of foundational theory, one must recognize the value of the works of Locke and most notably the Two Treatises of Civil Government. In these books, the argument against divine right monarchial government is advanced in concert with advocacy with what would become known as classical liberalism. Book one deals exclusively with a long debunking of the divine right which held that kings have the right to rule with absolute power because they are ordained to do so by God. Book two which is more consequential than the first deals with his conceptions of the formation of government, its role and the rights of the people. Locke is a staple of political theory that is almost single handedly responsible for dethroning the doctrine of absolute monarchy and for forming the ideological backbone of classical liberalism. The specific text that I recommend is that of the Cambridge texts in the history of political thought series which includes over one hundred pages of commentary on the text which provides deeper insight.

8. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

                Continuing with the theme of vital theory again, at some point every conservative must read the playbook of the most radical of the radicals: The Communist Manifesto. It is not the quality or thoughtfulness of this book that mandates right wingers examine it (because it possesses neither of those) rather, it is its influence. Untold millions were hypnotized by Marx in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Untold millions went to their graves because of it as well. History has pounded many nails into the coffin of communism but even though few leftists today profess to be Marxist-Leninists, Maoists or Trotskyists their arguments are still used. The politics of envy that yesterday’s reds trafficked in are still trafficked in by today’s garden variety leftists whether it is realized or not. Because of this continuing relevance, one must return to the root and at least briefly, study Marx. I personally recommend having a trashcan nearby in case one’s lunch becomes unstable in one’s stomach as a result of reading this.

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

                Speaking of communism, Orwell’s classic parody of early Soviet history is a must read. In it, the story is told of a farm in which an uprising by the livestock creates an animal run state. In the beginning, the animals have an idealism for better lives and they resolve to seize what they imagine they are being robbed of by the farmers (again, the politics of envy). Just as what happened in the Soviet Union and indeed in all communist states, corruption, mismanagement, demonization of opponents and the harsh realities of central planning’s ineffectiveness shatter that idealism. What is left is a tyranny indistinguishable from the one that was escaped in the first place. In short, it is an analogy for what will inevitably happen whenever the Machiavellian designs of the communist intellectuals marries the misguided idealism of a supposedly oppressed people in the form of revolution and establishment of a dictatorial state. Animal Farm is very readable and since it was written by a socialist, it speaks volumes of the evil and unworkable nature of communism.  

6. Excuse me Professor edited by Lawrence Reed

                Unlike the ones listed prior, this read is contemporary. Created by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and Young America’s Foundation (YAF), this book trots out no less than 52 leftist economic talking points and they are systematically debunked with an essay for each. It is designed as a field guide for students to challenge the tropes of the left on campus and it speaking from experience, it is useful for that. Some of its themes include “the minimum wage helps the poor, big government is a check on big business, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, the economy needs more central planning” and more. This book goes a long way to showing that what has too often been accepted as axiomatic in American politics is nothing of the sort. It is a must read for those who frequently talk shop with committed leftists.

Part two of this article will be published in the coming days.

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Brief reflections on American liberty

For those who were born and raised under the stars and stripes, freedom is as natural as the sky being blue and the grass being green. It is the normal state of being for Americans so much so that it is sometimes difficult to comprehend that it does not have to be this way. For one who knows nothing but freedom and has existed in that state his entire life, he sometimes is lulled into complacency. In other words, the liberty that exists in the United States while enjoyed in every facet of our lives can so easily be taken for granted because we have never lived without it and God willing, never will. Let us take a moment to appreciate the freedom this country affords to us via our institutions, our military and the good Lord.

                For one thing, that this article is being read is a tremendous expression of liberty. Our country has always enjoyed the benefits of a free press as enshrined in the first amendment. Regardless of how much the president criticizes certain media outlets, the fact remains that action is not being taken against them. Around the world, that is not the case. In Turkey, journalists are jailed by the dozen for alleged involvement in anti-government activity. In Russia, more journalists languish in prisons than at any time since the days of the Soviet Union. Throughout Eastern Europe and Asia, the story is the same. Repressions of the press are ramping up in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Tajikistan among others. Reading this article, turning on the TV and flipping to the news, going on the internet and reading commentary from angle imaginable as one can so easily in America is far from a universal freedom around the world.

              If there happens to be a demonstration near where a man lives, he can join it or counter protest it with great ease. Minor regulations in the way of permits to promote public safety and police on scene for the same purpose aside, no one stands in his way of expressing himself. Much like the freedom of the press, the right of free speech is not respected by all governments. In the lead up to the anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese arrested dozens of activists who committed no crimes. This is the same Chinese state that starved tens of millions to death while exporting massive amounts of food in the name of communism. As Americans celebrated our freedom with fireworks, alcohol and hamburgers, protestors demanding democratic reforms in Sudan were murdered in the streets by their own government. In the past few months, the Sudanese government has killed hundreds of protestors and incidentally, their government is the same cabal that was responsible for the genocide in Darfur. Just a few months ago, around a dozen were killed, upwards of 70 were shot and an unknown but large number were jailed for protesting against draconian fuel price increases in Zimbabwe. Their situation has degraded to the point where five members of the opposition party in parliament have been arrested and chillingly, four are unaccounted for. Unlike the oppressed masses in these authoritarian and totalitarian states, who is to stop an American from expressing himself?

                In America, if a man is feeling curious, he can visit a bookstore and find an unabridged library of all human knowledge. For a moment, consider what this entails. No matter what the government thinks of a book, an author or an idea, a man can go and read about it without interference. No bureaucrat can tell a man he is not allowed to read Marx, Hayek, Locke or anyone else. A man’s only constraint in getting one of the great works of philosophy, the pinnacle of human reason is only the disappointingly small size of Barnes and Noble’s section on the same. Failing to secure a book there, it is sure to be on amazon or eBay. To illustrate this point (and because I simply needed a physical copy of it) I walked into a book store and purchased John Locke’s Two Treatises of Civil Government. The radical words in that volume sparked revolutions (most notably the American variety) to secure the rights of man and to develop new governments centered on the preservation of property and liberty. I encountered no trouble in securing this excellent book and I promptly had a discussion with a bored but well-read cashier about his arguments. I also saw approximately zero NKVD, SS or Red Guard men running up to burn it as soon as I purchased it either. Barring a misguided few schools or libraries removing a title or two, this is the general rule.

                What this all condenses down to is that America possesses freedoms that are not enjoyed by all humanity. This is the case whether or not the people appreciate it every day. Because we are so inundated with our liberty every second of every day, its blessings often go unseen. It can be said that our freedom and our attitude towards it is like a beach. The people notice that freedom exists at all times because it is so self-evident that it does. That is much like looking out at a beach and seeing the amalgamation of the sand instead of all the individual grains of it. When a man sits down and tries to think of all the displays of freedom in America, then he sees the individual grains of sand on the beach and appreciates their boundless expanse. That is really the purpose of this article –to imagine the individual acts of freedom that are carried on in this great land every single day. To be sure, they are as plentiful as the sand.

Photo credit: “Statue of liberty” Wikipedia

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Six Realities of Supporting President Trump Part 2 of 2

                Continuing a theme that was explored a few days ago, in part one of this two part series on the realities of supporting president Trump, this article will explore the final three. First some context is in order. These articles are meant to explore a drain of enthusiasm that I have noticed among some Trump supporters. Of course, any decline in energy among in a segment of voters makes them more likely to abstain from voting for their previous choice in the next round. With the presidency on the line, any falling away in the president’s support will endanger his 2020 bid. Because of this, it is only prudent to examine the causes of this waning enthusiasm. This article expresses my personal frustrations with the president as well as those that are often expressed in conversation with other conservatives. As a disclaimer before the analysis begins, barring any unforeseen developments, I will vote for Trump in 2020 though the enthusiasm to do so has decreased.

4. Trump is the face of conservatism

                Whether we like it or not, the president has taken the reigns of the Republican Party and the conservative movement at large. He is the face of it and its undisputed leader. This can be shown in a few ways. For one thing, he takes the brunt of the acid from the media and the leftists. Being opposed to Donald Trump is shorthand in the media and even in everyday conversation for opposing conservatism. Rarely when discussing politics with an average person will they say something about the ideology of conservatism as opposed to focusing on its personification. Another mental exercise to show his dominance in the GOP, imagine for a moment that Trump resigns tomorrow and leaves politics for good. Who then will replace him? Obviously Mike Pence would become the president but who would become the authority figure of the party? That is not quite as clear cut. VP Pence is a great man but he lacks the force of personality and charisma of the president. Due to this, him becoming the flag bearer of conservatism is not guaranteed. Other figures would come out of the woodwork just as they did in 2016 to vie for the position of leader of the right. Donald Trump monopolizes the party like Reagan or Goldwater did in their days and without him, there is no clear leader of the movement or the party.

5. The GOP cannot split in the general election

                Some Republicans are interested in primarying Trump. Perhaps this can be chalked up to his coarseness, his assorted small scandals or his agenda items left unfulfilled. The reasons some right wingers seek to unseat the president are entirely immaterial. Whatever they are, doing so would be sinking any chance the conservatives have of holding the White House in 2020. Bill Weld who was last seen running as Gary Johnson’s VP in 2016, is currently seeking the Republican Party nomination. It is unlikely that the disconnected New England republican could pose a serious threat to Trump but the possibility remains of him becoming a spoiler. Since only a few years ago he ran as a libertarian, what rules out him running in the generals in 2020 when the GOP denies him the ticket? If he garnered enough disaffected but short-sighted conservatives there would be a rerun of the 1912 election where Theodore Roosevelt running as an independent ruined William Howard Taft’s re-election bid. The lesson of the day is that whether or not we love Taft (read as Trump in contemporary politics), he can’t be passed up in favor of the independent Roosevelt (read as Weld or any other libertarian/ conservative willing to run in 2020) or we will get Wilson instead (read as whatever socialist the democrats want).

6. Re-election will be just as hard as 2016

                The left has made it abundantly clear that they utterly despise the president. Few people expected Trump to win a few years ago and the campaign was so hard fought then. Those few years since then loom large in Washington and the President has not done much to warm the left’s opinion of him. If anything, the democrats’ collective opinion of him has chilled over time. With the birth of groups like the women’s march, the resistance, the spread of militant ANTIFA thuggery and the like the left’s opposition to him has crystalized. One can expect widespread leftist grass roots activity in this election cycle. No one can be certain until the primaries begin and vote tallies can be measured if the Trump coalition is still functioning at 2016 levels. For the reasons outlined in part one of this article detailing negative aspects of his administration and him as a candidate, it may not be. If considerable chunks of said coalition are gone in 2020, then the election is lost. But either way, the conservatives have their work cut out for them this time around.

                In part one of this series, the negative aspects of the president were analyzed, in this last part of the series, the realities of the political climate in regards to him were. What this all boils down to is that Trump is not perfect. He is not an intellectual and that irks no shortage of people. He has not accomplished all that he said he would and because he is under siege from the left to the extent that he is, getting a whole lot more done looks improbable. All those things are true but at the same time, the political reality that he is the face of conservatism, that splitting the right wing vote would make everyone but the leftists lose and that the re-election will already be an uphill battle, abandoning Trump is not in the cards. Everyone has qualms with the president but if Republicans would like to keep a socialist radical out of the White House those must be set aside. This is not abandoning principles, it is accepting reality. It is not reality as we wish it were, it is reality as it is.

Image credit: CNN “Donald Trump isn’t learning from his mistakes (opinion) – CNN”

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