April 10, 2011

Federal Spending

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An update on Federal Spending from Mike Wilson, President of the Cincinnati Tea Party:

Lost in the Washington D.C. debate is perspective on federal spending and any context over what the current fight is about. The media won't do this since adding context favors Republicans, so I'm going to try and shed some light on it (warning, math and numbers coming up).

In 2010, the Democrats controlled the presidency and had commanding majorities in both houses of Congress. They failed to pass a 2011 budget. What does this mean?

In a normal year, Congress passes 13 appropriations bills which fund everything from the Department of Energy, to the military, to national parks. These are called the discretionary part of the budget. Notably absent from these bills are what is called "mandatory spending" - these are what are commonly referred to as entitlement programs. Instead of being reauthorized each year, those programs are structured so that they pay benefits according to certain eligibility requirements. Unless Congress passes laws to change these programs, they continue in perpetuity. 

***note that all numbers below are approximate and are estimates*** 
The current fight over "government shutdown" is about 2011 non-military discretionary spending. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other entitlements, and interest on the debt comprise about 3/5 of the nearly $3.5 trillion in federal spending - about $2.1 trillion. The remaining 2/5 is split about equally between defense and other spending. This means that the current fight is over about 19% of federal spending - about $660 billion - and for that, only about half the year remains. The Republicans in their 2010 election campaign promised to cut $100 billion from that number.

The continuing resolution agreed to last night by Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama cuts a total of $38.5 billion from the roughly $317 billion remaining in FY 2011 (25/52 weeks of spending). On the 10-year basis that the media always cites, this represents $780 billion in cuts over 10 years. Some say that Boehner sold out by not holding out for $100 billion. Others are happy with the $38.5 billion. I take the middle ground - I think this a positive first step, but ONLY a first step. While this may be among the largest (non-post war) spending cuts in American history, it amounts to a week and a half of the 2011 deficit. If we stop here, we have accomplished nothing.

The anticipated 2011 deficit is $1.5 trillion - more than twice the $660 billion in spending up for debate right now. The simple truth is that entitlements and defense must be on the table in order to balance the budget. It is simply not possible to do so otherwise. This means the real fight occurs with the 2012 budget and beyond. The House Republican budget, introduced by Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), is the first serious proposal from either party that attempts to reflect reality.

Understand that while the short term is bad, the long term is worse. Social Security and Medicare spending will begin to shoot up as baby boomers begin to retire and Medicaid spending will greatly increase under Obamacare. These programs are already broken and must be fixed.  Ultimately, these three programs and interest on the debt have the ability to destroy our economy if left unchanged.

The Tea Party must continue to pressure the politicians to make the hard, but necessary decisions. We must also work to educate our family, friends and neighbors. The average person understands that spending and deficits are a problem. Unfortunately, they also think that the budget can be balanced by eliminating foreign aid and welfare. Because you know better, you are critically important.

The Democrats didn't pass a budget in 2010 because they wanted the Republicans to take the heat this year. They plan to demagogue this issue and scare people into maintaining the unsustainable status-quo. We have to be the truth squads alerting people to the seriousness of the crisis.

Our work isn't done, we will rally on Tax Day in Glendale, and we will continue to advocate for our core principles - fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. While it isn't easy work, it is the least we can do for our children and grandchildren. 

March 31, 2011

Senate Bill 5 Passes!

Update from Mike Wilson and the Tea Party

Yesterday, S.B. 5 passed the Ohio House on a mostly party line 55-44 vote.  There were a number of changes made in the House passed version that made it better.  Since it was changed, the bill went back to the Ohio Senate where it passed on the same 17-16 vote as it did previously.  Governor Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law early next week.

The key changes from the original bill are the following: 

  • Clarifies that safety issues can be negotiated by police and fire
  • Bans "fair share" contract provisions that force those who opt out of
         union membership to pay some amount anyways
  • Requires union members to opt in for automatic deduction of political contributions
  • Removes penalties associated with illegal strikes
  • Adds a provision that allows a taxpayer referendum as a final check and balance
         if a political jurisdiction agrees to a contract that requires additional
         revenue (taxes)
Note that the first 3 provisions were those specifically requested by tea party leadership across the state.  We were able to work directly with House leadership to improve the bill. 

I see this bill as a huge victory for taxpayers.  Unfortunately, the unions and Democratic Party (hard to tell where one ends and the other begins) are planning a petition campaign to put this on the ballot in November.  Once Governor Kasich signs this into law, they have 90 days to collect signatures equivalent to 6% of the voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election. 

The reason for such strong union and Democratic opposition to the bill has as much to do with politics as it does anything else.  Over the last 20 years, organized labor has outstripped nearly all others in their contributions to candidates - losing out only to the Ohio Republican and Democratic Parties themselves!  More than 95% of those contributions have benefited Democratic candidates who then support expansion of government.

This bill has the potential to break that cycle as long as we counter the misinformation the Democrats and public unions will spread and win the anticipated November referendum.

I'd like to directly address a few myths.

Myth: This bill reduces collective bargaining rights

Response: This bill reduces the special privileges granted to public unions.  Unions are a special entity under Federal and Ohio law and have much greater powers than if workers just got together and signed a contract
with someone to represent them.

Myth: This bill is an attack on the middle class.

Response: 26 states don't allow public employees to collectively bargain.  The federal government does not allow workers to collectively bargain.  They still have a middle class.  In fact, the real middle class is paying for
generous salaries, benefits, and perks for public workers that are generally unavailable in the private sector world.  This bill will help us keep the size of government under control and keep money in the hands of middle class taxpayers. 

Myth: This bill is an attack on our first responders.

Response: The tea party supported adding language to allow police and fire unions to negotiate
safety concerns in their contracts and this was included in the final version of the bill.

Myth: This bill will allow cities and municipalities to fire workers prior to fully vesting in pensions to
avoid their pension obligations.

Response: This is more a problem associated with public workers relying on a government promise of
benefits instead of owning their retirement accounts (i.e. 401k or IRA) like those in the private sector.  Regardless, existing civil service and age discrimination law protect older workers.  Removing seniority provisions are critical to improving productivity and ensuring that workers retain the financial motivation to do their best instead of just marking time until retirement.  Cities and municipalities will still value experience and
time on the job as long as that translates into doing the job better and more efficiently.

February 12, 2011

Welfare: More Harmful Than Slavery

Last year, I did a 5 part series on the racist observance of Black History Month. Recently, I enjoyed watching a series of videos on YouTube that featured Dr. Walter E. Williams. These videos were done some time ago, however, the information contained therein is exceptional, to say the least. Dr. Williams was explaining the economic tie to the decline of the black family. Through the statistics and economic foresight, Dr. Williams made an intriguing statement. He said that welfare programs have done more harm to the black family than slavery did.

What?! Who dares question something to be worse than the slavery that existed in this country? After all, in today's society, slavery is used as an exploitative device (see my post on Reparations http://theconservativeanthem.blogspot.com/2010/02/black-history-month-part-1-reparations.html). But, what would Dr. Williams have in mind about this? I decided to do a little research.

During the time of slavery in America, most slaves married and lived with the same spouse until death. Now, slave marriages were illegal in the South, but marriage is given by God, not the State. To further keep their family ties tight, often children were named with the name of a deceased family member. (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=76)

Despite their circumstances, slave families grew a strong bond.

Allow us to move forward to the 1960s. Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. (By the way, this war is still being "fought" and is costing more than the anti-war crowd's hobby-horse, the Iraq war). Through this war, Johnson hoped that the Government would supply the answer to poverty. But, as we know, Government isn't the solution to the problem, Government is the problem. A major campaign of this war was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. This Act has provided many social services including Head Start and Job Corps (it's a silent 'p', Obama. Pretend you are saying "core" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNr66HHhMjs&NR=1) This war also saw the institution of Medicaid and Medicare as additions to the Social Security Program. Medicaid and Medicare are nothing more than "I didn't do anything to prepare for my future, so I want the tax payers to subsidize it." This is ultimately a dependency issue. Social programs are designed to create dependency and indirectly give more and more power to the ones who create these programs. However, this dependency is with Government. No longer did black women depend on a husband. In 1965, about 25% of black families were led by the mother. By 1980, it had risen to 40%. 40% of black families were without a father. (http://www.jstor.org/pss/1816815). After, who needs a man when the Government is here to take care of you? This death spiral of dependency has torn asunder the black family and black communities. Social programs that are designed to fix poverty just create more of it. As I said, these programs aren't about what they advertise. They are about dependency and power.

I'm not glorifying slavery. But it is interesting that kinship bond during slavery was much stronger than that under the Welfare state.

For more on the Government's interference in the community, watch/listen these: