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Conservative Political Commentary

...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bluegrass Bruce: NRA Endorses Sen. Lamar Alexander Despite Anti-Gun Votes

UPDATE BY Eddie Howell -- A subsequent article by Bluegrass Bruce finds that it's questionable whether NRA has actually endorsed Sen. Lamar Alexander. He apologizes for incomplete fact-checking as do I. Please read the later article. Thanks.
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Bluegrass Bruce: NRA Endorses Sen. Lamar Alexander Despite Anti-Gun Votes --  The NRA is supporting moderate Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander in his primary against Tea Party challenger Joe Carr, despite Alexander’s poor track record on gun issues in Congress. Alexander is merely the latest in a string of questionable endorsements that the group has made in this year’s Republican primaries.


Alexander sided with Democrats when gun rights were on the line in 2013. When Rand Paul tried to lead a Republican filibuster of the Obama’s background check bill, Sen. Alexander joined Democrats and provided a crucial vote to allow debate. He also voted to confirm Obama’s gun-grabbing Attorney General, Eric Holder.


Several other gun groups are opposing Alexander, including Gun Owners of America and the National Association for Gun Rights.


In their endorsement of Joe Carr, GOA said: “Washington establishment insiders — who care more about their reelections than your constitutional rights — are being defeated by an electorate fed up with the status quo. It’s time for the same kind of change in Tennessee.”


Unlike Alexander, Carr has an unblemished record on gun rights. In its endorsement, GOA said:


“Time after time in the state legislature, Rep. Carr stood up for gun owners’ rights. Joe voted to protect the privacy of concealed carrypermit holders, and he voted to expand concealed carry to all restaurants so you are better able to protect yourself and your family.Joe voted to eliminate the unconstitutional requirement that gun buyers submit a thumbprint to Tennessee firearms dealers."


GOA added that Alexander has a “C” rating from the group and he refuses to fill out the group’s survey.


This is far from the first time that the NRA has chosen to support a moderate Republican with a weak record on guns over a more worthy conservative challenger. The group endorsed several moderate candidates
in 2014 including Mitch McConnell, Mike Simpson and Thad Cochran.


Like Alexander, Mitch McConnell won the NRA’s support despite having a history of weakness on gun issues. In 1991, McConnell voted for Joe Biden’s crime bill that imposed a waiting period on handgun sales. In 2004, he supportedBarbara Boxer’s bill to prohibit the sale of guns without a safety storage device.


McConnell also voted with the Democrats to allow debate on Obama’s background check bill. Just like Alexander.


The NRA needs to go back to picking candidates according to their record on gun rights — period. If gun issues are not important to the NRA,then what is?


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bluegrass Bruce: Obama’s Biggest Regret? Failure to Pass Background Checks

Bluegrass Bruce: Obama’s Biggest Regret? Failure to Pass Background Checks:  A few weeks ago, Obama said that his biggest disappointment as President was Congress’ failure to pass background check legislation . Yes, you read that correctly. Of all the things he has bungled and ignored over the past six years, Obama thinks that his failure to limit the Second Amendment is the worst failure his presidency.

Really? That’s all he can come up with?

There are about seventeen million things that he should regret more than failing to take away gun rights from law abiding Americans. In case he forgot, here is a short list to remind him of some of the big ones:

Abandoning Iraq and thrusting the country into civil war.
Using the NSA to spy on millions of Americans.
Spending the country’s future into oblivion.
Bailing out all of those banks and companies that were “too big to fail”.
The unmitigated disaster of Obamacare.

Instead, despite this endless list of screw-ups, Obama’s biggest regret is the fact that Congress didn’t pass a background checks law.

2016 cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What Obama's "Leadership" Has Given Us: Condensed Version

Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma has summed up the major features of President Obama's leadership in a one-minute speech on the House floor. And he doesn't mention the economic failures, which would take a few more minutes.




 This is the same congressman who wasn't allowed to visit a federal facility for housing illegal alien children in his district.


From the website of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma):

Congressman Bridenstine Denied Access to UAC Housing at Ft. Sill

Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK) was denied access yesterday to the HHS facility at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma currently housing up to 1,200 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who illegally crossed the southern border into the United States.
 Congressman Bridenstine said, “There is no excuse for denying a Federal Representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held.  Any Member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks."

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Case for American Liberty: Rand Paul's CPAC Speech


Senator Rand Paul at CPAC: "[President Obama]s got a pen, he’s got a phone, he doesn’t care what the law is. A tyranny will ensue, and we must stop this President."

As Rand Paul points out in his outstanding CPAC 2014 speech, our liberties are not respected by the Obama Administration, and their lawless actions must be stopped. Senator Paul (R-KY) fired up the CPAC audience, not simply by his speaking ability (which is considerable), but by the compelling content of his speech. It is one that should not be missed or overlooked by Americans who value liberty. The speech  deserves a hearing. Whoever you support for president or whatever your political affiliation, if you are someone who values our liberty, please listen.




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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obama the Lawless


By Eddie Howell

That time has arrived.
O.K., you can put me down as pretty much anti-government, that is, anti-Obama Administration. This administration's continuous power grabs and attacks on constitutional freedom must be stopped. The Administration's outrageous acts cannot be allowed to continue unabated. There are various steps that can be taken to keep them somewhat in check.

Apparently, congressional Democrats in both houses are not up to any kind of constitutional challenge to the dictatorial President Barack Obama. This is likely due to one or more of the following: Fear of jeopardizing their career, being OK with the status quo because they don't know and/or don't care about American freedom, the Constitution, or their constituents (other than as vote sources), or, like Obama himself, they just simply have a very strong Marxist/fascist mean streak. It's hard to believe nice people in high office would have such low regard for Americans' freedom. Many of these people apparently do have a low level of concern for these things, or else they're very afraid.

The Republican leadership has yet to show much of a desire to do anything about it, except for the occasional good-sounding statement. They are upset with their colleagues who are actually voicing concern, people like Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). The fact that John Boehner (R-OH) is still House Speaker is rather remarkable in view of the leadership's acceptance of being steamrolled on such issues as the debt ceiling. The GOP controls only one house of Congress, but their leaders behave as though they control nothing. Actually, they control quite a lot since they have the power of the purse. Yet they are so lacking in skill and/or desire to plan any kind of strategy to oppose Obama, that they look helpless.

At this point, the best strategy, to me, seems to be this: Wait until after the 2014 elections, and if the GOP ends up controlling both houses of Congress (and the congressional elections are, after all, theirs to lose), then impeach Obama and remove him from office. Of course this is likely only in some fantasy. But Obama's malfeasance in basically every area rises beyond the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” because of his lawless behavior.

When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” – Claude Frederic Bastiat

The Administration has plenty of willingness to go after people of opposing political views who might have disobeyed the law, for example Dinesh D'Souza, but care little for obeying laws that inconvenience themselves, such as Obamacare, which has been changed just about weekly, by executive action, without regard to Congress. The Administration has no concern about violating religious freedom, as illustrated by the Obamacare contraception mandates, or economic freedom, as evidenced by Obamacare itself. (Nor can the Supreme Court be relied upon to protect liberty, but that's another article).

The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” – Thomas Jefferson

The history of the Obama Administration is a continuing story of abuse of power, obsession with increasing executive power, stonewalling on scandals, lie upon lie, attempts to destroy their opponents or people who might get in their way and vicious attacks on personal liberty.

The latest attack on American freedom today comes from the Federal Communications Commission, which is going to carry out a “study” of local news broadcasters about whether the regime is pleased with their performance regarding “critical information needs” of various audiences. This is extremely disturbing since the “study” could, and likely will, later be used to exert pressure on any who are politically inconvenient, the FCC being the licensing agency for local broadcasters and having power to shut them down by executive action. It is very clearly an act of intimidation to small, basically defenseless local broadcasters, who may feel the need to please the government and not risk losing their broadcast licenses. One member of the FCC had an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal warning of the dangers of the “study” (not to mention the million-dollar cost). Conservative House members plan to investigate and probably hold hearings.

As serious and potentially evil as this FCC action is, it is a relatively small thing in the agenda of the Obama Administration. They readily send government agencies (FCC, EPA, IRS, etc.) after people who are effective political opponents of theirs. It is clear that Obama's "pen and phone" Executive Branch is a special interest striving to promote itself and increase its power by whatever means it can get away with. It is foolish to suppose that we can rely on the federal bureaucracy to be concerned about citizens, especially those they don't like. The great irony is that We the People are paying for our own oppression.

I am confident that this state of affairs will not stand. I believe Americans are not so weak and docile as to continuously put up with abuse of their liberties and policies that undermine the economy, harm the United States in the world arena, and create ever-more citizen dependence upon government. To correct this, we should start by voting Democrats out of Congress, and replace a few Republicans as well.
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Further reading: Jay Sekulow, "Is Obama trying to kill a free press?," Fox News, 02/20/2014.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Repost: On Wealth and Income Inequality

Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[I am re-posting this article which originally appeared here on November 9, 2009, with minor revisions. Because of the recent increased interest in income and wealth inequality, addressing this topic seems to be especially needed now.]


By Eddie Howell

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin [1]

When tougher economic times come, as at present, we hear more about how we need to redistribute wealth and income to help those who have less. This is especially true under Barack Obama, who is on record as favoring redistribution. For him, this should have been part of the Supreme Court’s decrees during the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We are fortunate that it wasn’t, because that would have brought on a constitutional crisis and, if serious redistribution happened, the collapse of our economy.

Equality of wealth and income in a nation has never been and never will be a fact. It is a grasping at straws and striving after wind to attempt to realize it. If it could be made real, it would result in universal poverty, economic depression and degradation of everyone’s standard of living.

When people observe the different economic levels among people, their sympathy for those at the lower part of the spectrum sometimes leads them to believe that wealth should be confiscated from those at the upper end, and distributed to the less wealthy. Sometimes this motive drives political movements and tax policy. In some people’s religious efforts to help and serve the poor, they call upon government to help in their projects through grants, tax changes, etc.

We do not wish poverty on anyone, but we do recognize that some people are going to be poorer and some richer than others. Poverty is not necessarily a permanent or long-lasting condition, nor is wealth. There are opportunities and hazards which can sometimes change things quickly. I want to discuss reasons that forced redistribution of wealth, as advocated by some left-wing or liberal activists is a terrible and destructive idea.

Safety Net
To start, I will say that we need some kind of safety net to prevent and correct conditions of life-threatening poverty, i.e., hunger and homelessness. For those unable to work and support themselves, we rightly have programs to help them. For the homeless, the focus should be, not only on helping them in their homeless condition, but also in striving to help them to earn their way out of that condition. Most welfare help, other than for those permanently disabled, should be of a temporary and emergency type.

A High Standard of Living
According to distinguished Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises:
“Inequality of wealth and incomes is an essential feature of the market economy. It is the implement that makes the consumers supreme in giving them the power to force all those engaged in production to comply with their orders. It forces all those engaged in production to the utmost exertion in the service of the consumers. It makes competition work. He who best serves the consumers profits most and accumulates riches …

“This country enjoys the highest standard of living ever known in history because for several generations no attempts were made toward ‘equalization’ and ‘redistribution.’ Inequality of wealth and incomes is the cause of the masses’ well-being, not the cause of anybody’s distress. Where there is a ‘lower degree of inequality,’ there is necessarily a lower standard of living of the masses.” [2]

In general, it is unjust for the government to take the fruit of a person’s labor and give it to someone who has not earned it. It is, in fact, legalized thievery if it goes beyond a minimal reasonable amount. The best role of government in preventing and dealing with poverty, beyond a minimal safety net, is to maintain an environment of free market competition and to punish fraud and abuse.

Capitalism Is Not the Problem
Here is a brief conversation between Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue about the supposed drawbacks of capitalism:



There are so many examples of government interference and manipulation in the markets today that hardly any transaction completely escapes. Thus we have constant cost overruns, extreme tax rates, overbearing regulation and low incomes for many.

Any serious attempt to equalize wealth or income requires the imposition of socialism and the loss of economic freedom:
“The only alternative to this financial pressure as exercised by the market is direct pressure and compulsion as exercised by the police power. The authorities must be entrusted with the task of determining the quantity and quality of work that each individual is bound to perform. As individuals are unequal with regard to their abilities, this requires an examination of their personalities on the part of the authorities. The individual becomes an inmate of a penitentiary, as it were, to whom a definite task is assigned. If he fails to achieve what the authorities have ordered him to do, he is liable to punishment.” [3]

Inequality Is Not Unjust, and Is Necessary
The market economy requires an inequality of wealth and income. The pressures of the market serve as incentives to work, save, improve, advance, learn, and innovate. Without these incentives, under a socialist system, the incentives are toward gaining political power by exercising more control over others. The tendency is always to “innovate,” not by research, and more efficient production and marketing methods, but by more onerous requirements and expanding government power. This is always the tendency of bureaucracy. Bureaus try to perpetuate themselves by finding more things to regulate and more ways to control people.

Consider the fact that when the authorities determined that environmental pollution was a problem needing attention (as it was), the number and kind of regulations grew rapidly. Having achieved a good deal of cleaning up, government sought ever more authority to regulate and rule, and more hazards were “discovered,” even to the point that carbon dioxide, the gas we breathe out, has now been declared a pollutant, and the objectively stupid cap and trade legislation is actually being considered. We have reached the point where the “cure” is truly worse than the disease.

The same kind of bureaucratic growth tends to happen whenever government can take authority over activities that under capitalism are part of the private sector.

Private Sector Abuses Involve Government
The main abuses by the private sector have occurred when companies, professional associations, and unions and others have succeeded in getting government to enforce their economic interests, to the disadvantage of others, and in defiance of market forces, as discussed here by Ayn Rand with Mike Wallace in 1959:



Because of private-sector interests colluding with government, we have a lot of large and smaller evils such as:

1. Abuse of eminent domain: Taking property from citizens to provide to other citizens for their private gain, including spending public funds to finance sports arenas and events.
2. Handing out government funds to lure businesses to locate in a particular area.
3. Using the power of the Fed and the Treasury Department to bail out large private banks and take over private companies.
4. Government granting authority over a given profession such that a private association’s pronouncements have the force of law (e.g., AICPA, AMA, and ABA).
Also, these groups can restrict education and practice in these professions.
5. Labor unions employing government help to shake down employers for more benefits, beyond what the market alone would warrant.

If these entities could all operate without the force of government, outside of dealing with crime and abuse, the market would determine the results of economic activity. And the market can do a much better job than government. The more government control we have in any area, the less freedom. “That governs best which governs least.”

Liberal Offers
A major mistake people make when they accept the liberals’ claims that the government must provide what they need, is that they somehow trust politicians more than they trust private enterprise. Politicians are definitely not more trustworthy, nor, as a group, better-motivated than businessmen. Nor are they more knowledgeable, and generally they are much less knowledgeable about running a business operation of any kind. So when they set about to determine everyone’s income (think: pay czar), and wealth (IRS), we need to be prepared to work at gunpoint. Remember, current government officials think it will be all right to imprison people who refuse to buy insurance. That’s how much respect they have for our freedom.

Low-income people have many opportunities in this country. True, a lot of better opportunities are open to people who have inherited wealth or who are especially talented in some high-paying skill. There is always someone who has more and who does more than his fellows. But these are among the differences that make life interesting, and encourage people to strive for improvement, and to appreciate their accomplishments.

Many of the poorer people have items considered luxuries not long ago. Many items people of modest means have are of comparable quality to items rich people have. Even after all the liberals’ attempts to destroy incentive, most people want to try to succeed on their own, and don’t want a handout unless life leaves them no other choice. For those who need help, many charitable operations are at work. The Obama Administration hurts this by planning to reduce income tax deductions for charitable contributions, and allowing the economy to languish, making it harder for people to contribute to charities anyway.

Liberals buy votes by promising government benefits to “victimized” groups. People in these groups are often willing to give over control of much of their lives to the authorities in order to receive these promised benefits. The benefits prove to be less than expected, and less as time goes by, but these voters are trapped into thinking that they must rely on government, so they keep voting for those who make the promises.

Conclusion
The demagoguery about “income and wealth inequality” is appealing to some people who think they should be entitled to what others have, and that government should give it to them. It also appeals to people who want to be in charge of the redistribution, whether to gain power over others, or to feel good about themselves. Class envy is the very lifeblood of "liberalism" today, as it is with communism. The exploitation of the “class struggle” is the whole process. Clinging to that narrow and misguided view is what has produced much of the economic and social failure in our society. The sense of entitlement and victimhood encouraged by liberals, their false promises, and exploitation of the powerless drive much of the feeling of helplessness and despair around us. People who should know better, including politicians, fall for the liberal premises that lead to frustration and discontent. Liberals have little to offer as economic solutions. The results of their tax-and-spend and welfare-state policies can be seen in places like Michigan and California, and are coming soon to a state near you.*

*By "liberals" and "liberalism" in this article, I mean liberals and liberalism as understood today, not classical liberalism. Mises refers to liberalism in the classic tradition, which is something very different.

[1] Quoted at Goodreads.com.

[2] Ludwig von Mises, “Inequality of Wealth and Incomes,” Ideas on Liberty, No.1. Irvington, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education. (May 1955) 83-88. Reprinted in Essays on Liberty, III. Irvington, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education. (1958)123-31. Previously found on Mises.org, at http://mises.org/EFANDI/CH9.ASP, but the link is currently not available (as of 12/04/13).

[3] Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Scholar’s Edition, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, Ala., 1998, 285-286. Ebook available at Mises.org. Excerpt at http://mises.org/humanaction/chap15sec7.asp.

Further reading: from Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, "5 The Foundations of Liberal Policy: The Inequality of Wealth and Income," German edition published in 1927, English 1985. Ebook available for viewing and download at http://mises.org/liberal.asp    
 This section at http://mises.org/liberal/ch1sec5.asp

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Obamacare: Just Another Unsustainable Boondoggle of Our Out-of-Control Government

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...
Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As if the Obama presidency was not already enough of a disaster, the presentation of Obamacare, in all its polluted, poisonous, and maddening reality should convince us that those we have in charge of the Executive Branch represent a sad, sick, and sorry parody of what government should be. No administration in memory approaches this level of incompetence and arrogance.

One theory I have thought about is that Obama's plan is working out just as he wants. When you're trying to transform a great nation into a third-world dictatorship of fascist/marxist socialism, what you have to start with is destroying the institutions that have characterized that great nation over the years of its greatness. That is what we are seeing, whatever Obama's intentions may be. At the end of his term, we are going to be less free, greatly further in debt, and with little to be optimistic about based on the performance of this pathetic administration.

Obama today, 12/03/2013, is starting a “new campaign” to try to re-sell Obamacare. He is trying to cover over his deliberate lies with new lies, such as the one that says Republicans have presented no healthcare plans. They have presented plans that would address the problem of uninsured people without wrecking the entire system to do it. Obama's rhetoric suggests that he has a poor grip on reality, apparently thinking that more speeches and a shriller tone will correct things, when Obamacare can never be corrected at all, since it tries to defy the laws of economics.

Despite the Administration's touting of the improved healthcare.gov website, the following is still true:
  1. Many people have still been unable to navigate through the process;
  2. The website is not at all secure, and people are putting their personal information and social security numbers on a site that is said to be subject to easy hacking; and
  3. The website does not have a mechanism to effect premium payments to the insurance companies, and thus it cannot complete a transaction for the purchase of insurance. Therefore, many people who may think they have purchased insurance because they have created an account and shared their information will likely find that, when they need the insurance, it is not going to be there. It's hard to believe that this is going to go over well with these people.
We are learning of millions of people losing their insurance coverage, and many finding that the coverage available to them will come with higher premiums and much higher deductibles.

With Obama's approval rating barely at 40 percent, and with the president vowing to spend the next three years fixing Obamacare if necessary, his second-term agenda may be dead in the water. And even Obamacare is unlikely to survive. Although the president has vowed that Obamacare will not be repealed as long as he is in office, it could be killed through defunding, if Congress could work up the necessary courage.

Obama's other problems and scandals are ongoing, and despite administration stonewalling, they have only begun to be investigated. Obama's ranks as the most corrupt and inept presidency yet. Lies, crony capitalism, illegal harassment of political opponents (IRS, for example), gun-running, endless debt that can never be repaid, etc.

The increased debt alone defies comprehension by its enormity. To think that this is going to end well for America's economic situation if continued on the present path, is to live in a fool's paradise. I truly believe that President Obama should be impeached and removed from office immediately, while America is still functioning. Think Detroit. That's the path we're on, only on a much greater scale.

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