February 18, 2007

Bush Goes Pork-Busting: “A Major Victory”

Filed under: Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:24 pm

This shouldn’t even have been necessary, but an e-mail from John Boehner’s office (web link) describes what the president did, and why:

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Boehner Praises White House Action Ordering Federal Agencies to Ignore Hidden Earmarks in Democrats’ FY 2007 Spending Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) today praised President Bush for ordering federal agencies to disregard hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hidden earmarks that are in line to be funded through the massive FY 2007 spending bill passed recently by House Democrats.

The White House action, announced today by Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Director Rob Portman, comes a little more than a week after the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call revealed Members and lobbyists have been quietly calling federal agencies to ensure their hidden projects would be funded by the money from the bill, despite Democratic leaders’ pledges that the bill would be “earmark free.” Boehner issued the following statement:

“The spending bill rushed through the House earlier this month by Democrats contains hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding for hidden earmarks. I commend President Bush for taking action today to ensure these taxpayer funds are used responsibly and allocated based on their merit, rather than politics.

“I was encouraged at the beginning of this Congress when House Democrats joined with Republicans to adopt earmark reforms that renewed and strengthened the earmark reforms passed under Republican leadership last fall. But I’m disappointed Democratic leaders did not take action to keep these backdoor earmarks out of the recently-passed spending bill. I’m very pleased President Bush has taken this action today to ensure these taxpayer funds are spent wisely, through a process that is more transparent and visible to the public.”

Boehner, a longtime congressional advocate of earmark reform, worked with other House Republican leaders in 2006 to pass reforms requiring public disclosure of all earmarks and earmark sponsors.

Boehner represents Ohio’s 8th District, which includes all of Darke, Miami and Preble counties, most of Butler and Mercer counties, and the northeastern corner of Montgomery County. He was first elected to Congress in 1990.

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The new congressional majority’s hidden earmarks gambit, described at this Monday post, was (and perhaps still is) a blatant and obvious violation of separation of powers. Congress passes laws, and the Executive Branch carries them out. If Congress wants pork, it has to itemize it in bills it passes, not make phone calls to agencies telling them what they should be doing with their funds.

Next questions: Will some agencies still follow the illegal requests that have been made by congresspersons, or carry out future requests in defiance of the president and the Constitution? How will we know whether they have or haven’t?

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UPDATE: A commenter at another post was giving me grief about my characterizing the “slow bleed” strategy the current congressional majority plans to employ to undermine the war in Iraq and the War on Terror as fitting the definition of this word that rhymes with “reason”. In my response to he/she/it, I suggested that committing that act on the domestic front wasn’t really possible. I believe I misspoke. When the legislative branch goes outside the law in an attempt to dictate spending priorities of Executive Branch agencies, it is undermining the government, which indeed fits one of the definitions of that word.

UPDATE 2: Porkopolis posted the text of Budget Director Rob Porman’s memo to agencies on Friday. Americans for Prosperity, originally objected, and now calls the Administration’s move a “Major Earmark Reform Victory for Taxpayers.”

Excerpt of the Day: On Social Security

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:03 am

The excerpt is from back in December, but it’s probably timely, because the push to increase Social Security taxes on the most productive people in the economy in the name of (very short-term) solvency is probably just around the corner.

So here’s Cato’s Michael Tanner, from “Social Security Reform Is Not Just About Solvency” — a reminder that while the short-term news about the federal deficit has been improving, the long-term should be dealt with — assuming we don’t want to further shaft our kids and grandkids (with the Boomers, that’s not an automatic thing; bolds are mine):

According to Social Security’s trustees, the system’s unfunded liabilities — the amount it has promised beyond what it can actually pay — now total $15.3 trillion.

Still, while solvency is important, the goal of Social Security reform should be more than just balancing the books.

We should try to provide workers with the best possible retirement options, and that involves giving them more control and ownership of their retirement funds.

Social Security taxes are already so high relative to benefits that Social Security has quite simply become a bad deal for younger workers, providing a low, below-market rate of return. In fact, many young workers will end up paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

They will actually lose money under the program. While the tax increases and benefit cuts envisioned ….. would restore Social Security to solvency, they would also make Social Security an even worse deal for younger workers, who would end up paying more and receiving less.

Again, if the Boomers’ objective are getting through retirement with the system untouched, ripping off future generations in the process, and leaving the worsening problem to subsequent generations to fix (by which time the repair options will be severely limited compared to today), nothing will get done. The current national mind-set appears to be leaning in that direction, and the leadership to move that mind-set is sorely lacking.

Positivity: NYC Teen’s Heart Makes Miracle Comeback

Filed under: Marvels,Positivity — Tom @ 6:51 am

A boy’s heart started beating days after it stopped following a gym class collapse. That is nothing short of a miracle, but you also shouldn’t miss the point that it wouldn’t have happened without the amazing technology that kept Daniel Walker alive until then:

NEW YORK, Feb. 12, 2007

Daniel Walker was on his final lap jogging in his high school gym class when he collapsed, his flawed heart giving out on him.

Days later, his heart at a standstill, kept alive by a bypass machine, it began beating again. The 17-year-old’s parents called it divine intervention. His physicians were no less amazed.

“I’ve been a surgeon for 10 years, and this is probably one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Abeel Mangi, one of Walker’s cardiac surgeons at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Walker’s father described his son’s recovery in spiritual terms. “God turned around, put His hand on my son, and recharged him,” said William Walker, 58, a retired sanitation worker.

His son’s ordeal began Jan. 19 when he collapsed in gym class. The younger Walker suffered from a rare congenital heart flaw that left his coronary artery pinched, giving him only 10 percent of normal heart capacity. He was shuttled to two hospitals before finding himself at Columbia, waiting for a heart transplant, attached to the bypass machine.

“I was on my final lap, and I felt real woozy. I knew I was messed up,” the teen told the New York Daily News. “I’m glad those guys were there,” he said of his doctors.

Walker’s cardiac surgeons said they could not account for the young man’s recovery.

“It’s a miracle,” Mangi said. “There’s really no other way to put it.”

Two days after it began to beat on its own, surgeons were able to fix the flaw in Walker’s heart, increasing its capacity to 60 percent.

Mangi, along with Dr. Rachel Bijou, helped save Walker with CPR and electric shocks from a — making him the first person with that particular heart condition to be successfully revived. “He had no pulse at all,” Mangi told the Daily News. “It was just like on TV. We didn’t give up. We were able to get him back.”