June 9, 2008

Congress Gets “F” Grade in Economics

By Donald G. Mashburn

It’s remarkable that American voters continue to send the same tax-and-spend Earmarkers back to Congress. If voters ever bothered to objectively grade the sorry performance of their congressional delegations, they would be handing out a lot of failing grades.

The worst of those who favor higher taxes, bigger spending, and bigger government are liberal Democrats, but they are aided and abetted by spineless so-called Republicans who like big government, and who never met an earmark they didn’t like.

If we were to grade on matters that are important to our nation’s security, and to us as taxpayer citizens, the “F” grade would be all too common.

Just look at the national debt. During an election campaign, both major political parties claim they are against deficits. Yet we have deficits. We can’t expect a dot-com economic bubble to come along and bail us out, as it did in the late 90s – no thanks to President Clinton, who had nothing to do with it.

Members of Congress love to tell the folks back home that they oppose inflation, bigger government and higher taxes. Yet they go to great lengths to publicize the pork they bring home in the way of federally funded projects, grants and earmarks. If we had to mark their report card, we’d give them a big “F” for performance, and “Failure” and “Unacceptable Behavior” for being dishonest hypocrites.

The opposition party in Congress loves to blather on before the television cameras about the “administration” and the “president’s failure” to do this or that. But informed voters should know that the president does not vote on appropriations. He does not vote on tax increases, nor can he fund big spending programs. Only Congress can do those things.

Neither the president nor the average citizen can block development of our energy resources, such as drilling the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and our best oil areas offshore. Only Congress can, and has, blocked drilling for oil and gas that actually belongs to the American people.

And, while the president is commander-in-chief of our armed forces, only Congress can appropriate funds for their operations.

The president can propose, but can’t bring up a bill for a vote. The president can veto a bill he opposes, but Congress can override that veto if enough members wish to do so.

Of all the problems facing this nation, the president is not actually responsible for any of them. He can be criticized for not vetoing enough of the bad bills, but he’s one man, and cannot actually control or command Congress.

Congress, on the other hand, has 535 members – 435 in the House, and 100 in the Senate. These 535 represent over 300 million Americans, but they often act as if they “own” the country and all its (our) resources.

And since Congress holds the power of the purse, it must be held responsible for all our problems involving economic policy, energy shortages, increasing debt, and higher taxes. Voters should remember that, and grade each incumbent before voting this fall. And they should grade hard, not allowing credit because their representatives go into the tank for special interests.

And in voting for those running against incumbents, voters should vote against any politician advocating higher taxes, higher fuel costs (by opposing drilling offshore and in the ANWR), and bigger government (by proposing new programs that increase debt).

All of the above involves economics, a subject Congress fails repeatedly.

Missile Shield Skeptic Rattles On

By Daniel Clark

If conservatives have trouble motivating themselves to vote this November, they might keep in mind that a Democrat victory could mean the return of Philip Coyle to the Pentagon. An inveterate missile defense skeptic, Coyle is usually presented by the media as if he were a dispassionate scientist offering objective, expert opinions.

A recent Reuters story about Coyle’s congressional testimony identified him as having “served from 1994 to 2001 as an assistant secretary of defense and the head of Pentagon arms testing.” With credentials like those, his testimony that a missile shield is both unworkable and unnecessary sounds like a pretty compelling indictment of Bush administration policy.

That is, until you recognize that Coyle’s tenure in the Defense Department was during the Clinton presidency. After taking office, Clinton almost immediately began to decimate our missile defense program, and squelch its funding, so that his liberal domestic agenda could reap the benefits of the so-called “peace dividend.” That Coyle would serve that administration so prominently for so long suggests agreement with Clinton’s antipathy for national defense.

In reaction to an alarming National Intelligence Estimate on the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea, Congress passed a law in 1999 requiring the deployment of a defensive missile shield as soon as it was “technologically possible.” President Clinton initially threatened to veto the bill, but relented after an overwhelming 97-3 passage in the Senate.

Enter Philip Coyle, who, in his 2000 annual report, concluded that a missile shield would not be technologically possible in the foreseeable future, and that the development of our missile defenses should not be “schedule-driven.” This assessment eviscerated the carelessly worded law, and allowed Clinton to keep the program in mothballs for the duration of his term.

President Bush resurrected the project. Coyle, now senior advisor to a think tank called the Center for Defense Information (CDI), has been a constant bearer of gloom and defeatism. This January, he traveled to Prague, at the same time that Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, was trying to persuade the Czech government to host a radar station as part of the system. Coyle did all he could to foil those efforts, by telling our allies that they were in danger of triggering a new Cold War.

Coyle made this appearance for the explicit purpose of undermining American foreign policy, at the invitation of Greenpeace, the environmentalist group that opposes our missile defense plan on the basis that it is likely to “upset the global strategic balance.”

It’s no coincidence that Coyle should associate with Greenpeace, given the obvious leftward slant of the CDI. Among the center’s board of advisors are liberal Hollywood icons Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, radical feminist author and “women’s studies” professor Barbara Winslow, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream co-founder Ben Cohen. One might as well solicit national security advice from Country Joe and the Fish.

Opponents of our missile defense plan base their criticisms on the premise that it will prove effective. They would have no concerns about escalation or strategic imbalance if our defenses were as inept as Coyle portrays them to be.

Coyle has an additional reason to oppose a missile shield. He obstructed it for seven years, and if the project is ultimately successful, the naysayers will be remembered as dangerous fools. Further, if that success arrives too late to save one of our allies, both Coyle and President Clinton will bear some of the responsibility.

That’s a pretty compelling incentive to torpedo the whole program, which is what Coyle might soon have the authority to do. That’s one consequence of a Democrat presidency that Americans should find too grim to contemplate.

Daniel Clark is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc.

Obama’s Excremental Economics

By Thomas E. Brewton

As prolongation of the 1930s Depression and stagflation in the 1970s demonstrated, Sen. Barack Obama’s announced policies are a prescription for economic disaster.

Keynesian economic doctrine, not under that name, but in substance, is back in the news in a truly menacing way. Sen. Obama proposes to repeat the policies of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that turned an ordinary two-year recession into an eight-year disaster, with unemployment rates continuously in the high teens.

The key elements of Senator Obama’s proposed economic policies, as in the New Deal and the stagflation of the 1970s, are much higher taxes, along with a pervasive increase of business regulations and price controls in healthcare and energy (which sharply depress business activity and employment rates), full-frontal embrace of labor unions (which will push up wages and benefits to levels deterring profitable expansion of industrial production), and massive new government deficit spending (which will accelerate the already dangerously high rate of inflation and devaluation of the dollar). Carried out as he proposes, Sen. Obama’s polices will lead us again into the swamp of stagflation.

The basic thrust of Keynesianism is the belief that control of the economy must be collectivized at the Federal level, because private business is incapable of providing full employment, and because the proper goal of economic policy must be thwarting greedy businessmen to attain so-called social justice: equal distribution of income and wealth, without regard to merit, capability, or hard work.

Not surprisingly the New York Times editorial board and the Time’s propagandist Paul Krugman are prominent Keynesian enthusiasts.

In practice (in the 1930s Depression and in the 1970s stagflation), Keynesian economics caused devastating harm to every citizen. In the stagflation of the 1970s not only was unemployment distressingly high, particularly in Midwestern industrial areas, which became known as the Rust Bowl, but also inflation wiped out roughly 57% of the purchasing power of every citizen’s lifetime savings.

For an eminently readable analysis of Keynesian economics, the economic bedrock of liberal-progressive worship of the socialist religion, read Professor Murray Rothbard’s 1947 critique, Spotlight on Keynesian Economics.

One caution: when Professor Rothbard speaks of liberal economists, he is using the classic terminology of 18th England that referred to true freedom: laissez-faire economics, free from government intervention, not to today’s American sect of the international religion of socialism.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of contributors are their own, and are not necessarily those of Sage Commentary.