Monday, February 7, 2011

Popular REINS Act Needs Our Support

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act would restore greater accountability to the regulatory process by requiring both houses of Congress to sign off on all major rules, which are defined as any regulation with a total yearly impact of $100 million or more. 

This senate bill is the first step to rein in the bureaucracy and re balance  the power in Washington.  I have to praise  Senator Mike Johanns for co sponsoring this bill and encourage all of you to do so as well.

Senator Paul's press release

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Maverick Senator Mike Johanns

Davis-Bacon Act
Senator Mike Johanns, who touts himself as a conservative republican, once again votes in favor of the cozy relationship that unions have with governments.  Senator Rand Paul recently introduced and amendment that would allow the FAA to be exempt for the Davis-Bacon act which forces the government to pay inflated union wages instead of true market prices for construction projects.  Johanns is one of three republican senators to vote with all the democrats to table this amendment showing that he is not brave enough to start cutting federal spending. 

If Mike Johanns is incapable of voting to cut spending, his time in Washington will be wasted. There is plenty of uproar about Senator Ben Nelson's Obama care vote but no one in the Nebraska Republican party is willing to criticize the darling senator and former governor, Mike Johanns, for essentially the same big government mentality. 

The two senators career paths have followed strikingly similar roads. The two have had the same titles and indeed have often chosen to vote together on many bills.  Perhaps the two senators have Nebraska's interests above party, but more likely these career politicians vote to preserve their power.  Nebraska can do better than both Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns.  Our state is in less terrible financial turmoil than most others but these two senators do not bring that tradition of fiscal restraint to Washington DC.

Mike Johanns is cut from the mold of borrow and spend republicans from the George Bush era of republican majority.  Borrow and spend was the mantra of the 2000's with soaring deficits and unpopular wars. These big government republicans and their policies led to the democratic sweeps that brought us Obama and unheard of deficits.  Now these borrow and spend republicans are back in the majority in the house and have yet to live up to their promises of fiscal restraint.

Mike Johanns is not a fiscal conservative and should be held to the same standards of criticism given to the opposition.  This recent vote proves his reluctance to put aside special interests for the greater good of financial stability.  Government deficits and the monetizing of our deficit by the federal reserve is a driving force of increased prices and inflation and any politician willing to reduce the value of our money to serve a select few should be removed from power regardless of party affiliation.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What is so Hard About Cutting the Budget?

Why is it so hard for legislators to balance the budget without resorting to revenue farming bills and raising taxes?  The Nebraska Legislature is facing nearly a billion dollar budget shortfall over the next two years.  Governor Heineman did all the tough work for the legislature by proposing a balanced budget without raising taxes yet there are several tax hikes and creative revenue bills introduced this year.  The republican dominated legislature is either hard of hearing or they just hold special interests above the greater good.

On January 27th during a Douglas County republican central committee meeting three state legislature gave an update on happenings in Lincoln.  Senators Kirst, Lautenbaugh, and Pirsh discussed how hard it is for the legislature to agree to cut a $250,000 subsidy for motorcycle safety classes from the budget.  With a 34 to 15 majority it should be easy for a fiscally conservative republican party to downsize the deficit.  It is clear to me that the republican majorities rhetoric does not match their actions. 

Why does the state have a deficit in the first place?  A major part of the deficit was caused by lost tax revenue during the recession and the federal stimulus ending.  15% of the deficit is caused by pension shortfall and no senator has addressed that issue.  Sure there is several bills out there attempting to reform the CIR, the labor court, but none addressing defined benefit pension plans and the problems associated with them. 

The senators down in Lincoln need to understand that some people will be upset no matter what they choose to cut.  Its ok to piss people off and some people need to be fired.  Showing the courage to do the hard things may not be popular or get you re elected, but it will help put the state in better fiscal standing.  The republican majority needs to stop acting like liberal democrats and show us what fiscal conservative means. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Regulators, Mount Up Red Tape

The United States is being pushed off course.  The creation of a myriad of regulating agencies has stifled innovation, competition and nearly usurped the power of we the people.  Some of  these agencies have the power to be legislator, enforcer and judge of the regulations they create.  They have tipped the balance of power to the executive branch. The potential for corruption is alarming.  It is much easier for a corporate lobby to influence or even get appointed to a regulatory agency and pass regulations to crush competitors out of business then it is to influence a majority of congressmen to do the same.

Since the first agencies creation in 1887, to regulate railroad fares, corporations have been attacked by this awesome power.  They would learn to use the iron fist of regulation to form cartels in nearly every industry.  In fact the early 1900's was ruled by large corporations headed by robber barons.  We are told that Teddy Roosevelt beat back the corporate takeover of America but he was really just an agent  of corporations.  His trust busting was more of a political attack on competitors than a true attempt at reigning in the power of corporations.  

For over 120 years America has been divided up by those with political clout.  Corporations have benefited from expanded power and given oversight over their industries.  This has lead to record profits, diminished quality and lack of competition.  Cartels such as the Federal Reserve, a group of private banks,  have gained the power to print money, a power constitutionally reserved to the Congress.  The USDA has practically regulated small farmers and butchers out of existence while ensuring a food recall almost every week.  The EPA, with good intentions in mind, just passed stringent lead cleanup regulations, which will most likely lead to joblessness and further deterioration of inner cities.

Some agencies pass regulation that the congress has voted down.  If this continues to happen then what is the point of having a congress?  We can just elect a dictator and he can appoint more czars.  There would be no need for courts either. That is anarchy.  

If the agencies were eliminated private businesses would form guilds and police themselves. The court system would regulate fraud and keep business honest. At least that's how its supposed to work. There are several ways to insert fraud and corruption but to legislate it into law is ridiculous. If the agencies are not eliminated their power should be stripped and returned to congress. If the congress is overwhelmed with creating new legislation the agencies could assist in an advisory way and enforce congressional law. If that's to big a reform then we should  make sure that all regulations expire after six months unless the congress passes them into law. 
The unelected bureaucracies power represents the biggest threat to American democracy and freedom today.  We need bold reform to reign in that awesome power.  The congress needs to reassert itself as the sole lawmaker of this nation.  A return to the constitutional balance of power can save the republic from crumbling under the weight of a bloated executive branch.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Why can't the city tear up its contracts?

This is my response to Patrick Barret, the labor counsel for the City.  His Midlands Voices can be read here:

I am pleased that Patrick Barrett laid out the facts that have led the city and fire union to an impasse.  He notes that after 30 years of overall wage and benefit increases this is the first time that any major concessions have been reached.  The main concession was the ending of pension spiking.  Hailing these changes as substantial is partisan hyperbole at its best.  Noting that the city cannot void its contract, dictate terms, or do nothing has shown how one sided these negotiations have become.

The city is tied by law to have only one fire department and that fire department is union.  By law the union cannot strike leaving the city without fire responders, a law that was necessary because of the previous law.  By law the CIR is to bring wages up to be comparable to other cities.  The CIR may not give the union everything it wants but they get something.  The pension system is by law required to pay out defined benefits which has led to the shortfall.  The city by law is not allowed to raise its sales tax without state approval which led to the unfair restaurant tax and increases in property taxes.  Those taxes led to the recall.

Poorly written laws have led to this whole mess and no side is willing to take a look at the big picture.  The fire union has monopoly control of fire response in Omaha and ultimately gets its wages from the threatening side of a gun.  It is hard to negotiate with someone who knows you have no alternatives.  After 30 years of greasing the legal system the public unions, state legislature, and past city councils  have written into law a beniefit plan that is detrimental to Omaha's finical stability.  It takes a special person to let go of a deal like that, but this path is unsustainable.

We need a leader willing to make the sacrifices necessary to put the city on sound financial footing.  Defined benefits need to be reformed to defined contributions.  This may be costly in the short term but is the morally right choice.  The laws that are a barrier to this transition need to be eliminated.  Omaha, the state legislature, and indeed the whole United States, have made a mistake in thinking that defined benefit plans for monopolistic government services are sustainable.  The time for reform is now.  This recall is an investment in the future as much as it is a referendum on the past 30 years of bad deal making.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Different Look at the State Budget Plan

Today was another bitterly cold day in Nebraska.  Winter is digging in and people are getting frustrated.  Homeless people are voting early and the Governor delivered his state of the state address with little fan fare.  The budget shortfall for 2 years was just under $1 billion and the Governor, true to his word, proposed a balanced budget without raising taxes.  The budget also increases spending by  2.2% over the next two years.

This budget is not nearly as bold as the governor claims.  Dipping into the rainy day fund may be required but only because the Governor is unwilling to actually cut spending.  His moderate stance on spending increases is balanced only by his vocal opposition to any type of tax increase or tax credit elimination.  Let's hope the legislature gets the message.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Morning After

Last night I watched the election results pour in with some fellow political junkies overwhelmed by what I was witnessing. All across the nation republicans and tea parties were winning. This was an obvious defeat for Obama and his agenda. I wasn't able to stick it out much past 11pm but went to bed feeling hopeful about our nations future.

I awoke today, groggy with a mild headache, regretting having some beers the night before. Once I got my head together I was eager to get the newspaper to scour through some official results of last nights election. The last time something like this happened I was 12 years old and more interested in Michael Jordan than Newt Gingrich and his crew.

I never understood the gravity of 1994 even after studying the Clinton's failed health care reform attempt as a sophomore in high school. Back then I was still formulating my philosophy and had little interest in the required reading of my government class. But something must have stuck with me because ever since then I have had some interest in politics. The election of 2000, the first time I could vote, I did a lot or research and reading and wound up siding with the libertarians. After witnessing what politics is truly about I became apathetic and didn't vote again until 2006 and then voting against someone.

It wasn't until 2007 that I truly got hopeful again. That is when a little known congressman from Texas took the nation by surprise with his record breaking internet fund raising and his limited government philosophy. I was energized and started volunteering by handing out pamphlets and becoming a delegate to the republican state convention. Although Ron Paul lost I stayed in the party practicing patience. The next few years it appeared that some of the people had woken up to the massive spending of both Bush and Obama. They were staging protests and rallies and were calling themselves the Tea Party. Rand Paul, Ron's son, became somewhat of an icon of that movement and I was also a buzz in rand fever.

With the republican wave pushed by the limited government tea party movement we can be hopeful that they will be more attentive to what Americans have been asking for since the early 1990's. Smaller government. I am also hopeful that the republican party can once again be opposed to nation building and interventionist foreign policy. After all, George W. Bush did win on that platform. Ron Paul will even be up for Chairman of the Subcommittee on Monetary Policy. And what about a Tea Party caucus in the senate? I am truly hopeful of the future. Ron Paul 2012!