Wednesday, August 31, 2011

U.S. Government to Block AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

According to Bloomberg, the United States Justice Department has just filed papers in Washington to block the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger despite the fact that AT&T and T-Mobile are pledging 5,000 new jobs if the merger were approved. The Justice Department says the merger would "substantially lessen competition" among wireless carriers. If the merger falls through, AT&T would owe T-Mobile $3 billion.

The FCC has responded with the following statement:

"Although our process is not complete, the record before this agency also raises serious concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on competition."

AT&T also responded:

"We are surprised and disappointed by today's action, particularly since we have met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated. We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed. The DOJ has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive affects and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court. At the end of the day, we believe facts will guide any final decision and the facts are clear. This merger will:

· Help solve our nation's spectrum exhaust situation and improve wireless service for millions.
· Allow AT&T to expand 4G LTE mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, or 97% of the population;
· Result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.

We remain confident that this merger is in the best interest of consumers and our country, and the facts will prevail in court.

T-Mobile's statement:

On August 31, 2011, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) informed Deutsche Telekom that it will file a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a permanent injunction blocking the proposed stock purchase agreement between AT&T and Deutsche Telekom under which AT&T will acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom.

The Company is very disappointed by the DOJ's action, and will join AT& T in defending the contemplated merger against the complaint in court. DOJ failed to acknowledge the robust competition in the U.S. wireless telecommunications industry and the tremendous efficiencies associated with the proposed transaction, which would lead to significant customer, shareholder, and public benefits. We appreciate the DoJ's willingness to discuss possible remedies to address the competitive concerns.

And this post would not be complete without Sprint's statement:

"The DOJ today delivered a decisive victory for consumers, competition and our country. By filing suit to block AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile, the DOJ has put consumers' interests first. Sprint applauds the DOJ for conducting a careful and thorough review and for reaching a just decision – one which will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of a competitive U.S. wireless industry. Contrary to AT&T's assertions, today's action will preserve American jobs, strengthen the American economy, and encourage innovation."

AT&T and T-Mobile are both disappointed and argue that there are plenty of other small, budget carriers for Americans to choose from, while Sprint, and more importantly the Department of Justice, think otherwise.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) Gives GOP Weekly Address

Sen. Dean Helller (R-NV) gives this week's Republican Address, which focuses on the economy.  Heller is in a position to know something about how that hopey changey stuff is workin' out.  His state's economy has the sad distinction of leading the country in unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.

Here's the link to his video. Democrats like to complain that Republicans have no specifics on how to fix this economy.  To the contrary, Heller's address is replete with specifics:  repeal Obamacare; pass a balanced budge amendment; provide certainty by simplifying taxes to close loopholes and by making tax cuts permanent; open up energy exploration; and fix social security and medicare for the long haul..

Friday, August 26, 2011

U of L Law Federalist Society Events

Some upcoming events that should appeal not only to lawyers but to non-lawyers who consider themselves constitutional conservatives:

  • August 30 at 12:00. room 275 of the Brandeis Law School:  "Do Public Unions Cause the Public Harm?" The speakers are Prof. John McGinnis from Northwestern University Law School and Don Meade from Priddy, Cutler, Miller and Meade.  This event is co-sponsored by the Labor & Employment Organization. Certainly a timely topic after the events in Wisconsin.
  • September 8, 12:00, also in room 275:  "Does the PATRIOT ACT draw the right balance between liberty and security?"  The speakers are Nathan Sales, Prof. of Law at George Mason and Prof. Marcosson from U of L Law.  This event is co-sponsored by the American Constitutional Society (the liberal clone of the Federalist Society).  Lunch will be provided.
The law students who have organized these events are our future.  Come support them with your attendance, and a job interview, if you are a member in a law firm that is hiring.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time to End Metro Council Sludge Funds

The Metro Council members' "discretionary funds" are once again being used to promote incumbents -- with our tax dollars. These discretionary funds ($75,000 per member) need to go.  Republicans are criticizing the latest misuse when they should be making a motion to abolish the funds altogether.

The C-J reports that Mayor Greg Fischer promised to advertise the names of any Metro Council members who donated part of their discretionary fund to pay for the WorldFest.  A city worker from the office that organizes WorldFest asked Councilman David Tandy to solicit $1,000 from his fellow council members.

Here's the quid pro quo:  those council members who ponied up donations from their discretionary funds would be named on banners, in print and radio advertising regarding WorldFest.  In other words, taxpayers would pay to promote the name ID and reelection chances of these members.

Vice Chair of the Republican Caucus Keven Kramer called the practice "incredibly distasteful."  That's an understatement but at least he spoke up.  As did Councilman Kelly Downard, who said council members were being asked to buy advertising rather than support a worthy project.  (Not only that, you're being asked to buy advertising with other people's money:  the taxpayers.)  Jerry Miller did not contribute from his discretionary funds, according to the C-J, because the promise of advertising made him uncomfortable.

We learned last year that some members of Metro Council were using their discretionary funds to give gift cards to citizens for putting up Christmas lights.  Seriously. And then there was Judy Green, who gave discretionary funds to 100 Black Men and told the group to steer it to others.

In short, the discretionary funds have been abused too often for too long.  It 's time to end this form of budgeting altogether.  The response, no doubt, will be that this is decentralized government; the members from each district know best what needs are in that district, and should have a fund to respond to those needs. Take pot holes and minor road improvements, for example.  It's hard to see why such needs -- if they are legitimate -- cannot be addressed by the mayor. It's not like he lives in Washington, D.C.  In any event, the WorldFest event asked each member to pool their money; this was a not district-specific event, it was a city event.

 But assuming for sake of argument that we do need this level of decentralization, then let's replace the "discretionary funds" with a pothole fund.  And let's reduce the amount.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Huck to Campaign for Todd P'Pool

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee will appear at a fundraiser for Republican nominee for Attorney General, Todd P'Pool, at the home of Cathy and Irv Bailey

That's a perfect fit for the P'Pool campaign; many of us have been struck by the similarities between P'Pool and Huckabee in terms of style and substance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Todd P'Pool Takes to the Air

Republican candidate for Attorney General Todd P'Pool is running his first TV spot. It's well done:  top of the line narrator and a positive tone to introduce his candidacy. Though the ad is feel-good, it is substantive regarding Todd's attributes (faith, family, hard work) and his key issues (fight crime, protect coal, fight Obamacare).

With respect to Obamacare, Virginia Attorney General  Ken Cuccinelli will campaign with P'Pool on September 29th in Elizabethtown.  Cuccinelli made a national name for himself as one of the first state Attorneys General to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sen. Pat Toomey (Member of the Super-Committee) Gives GOP Address

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) gives this week's Republican address (video here). Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell appointed Toomey to the joint special committee to cut spending.  It's worth a couple minutes to listen to Toomey's address just to take comfort in this solid appointment.  Toomey, as a small business owner, has a personal understanding of how government regulation has stymied job creation. His address is also worth a listen -- especially as consumer confidence has plunged -- for his optimism that America can move past this recession by returning to the principles that made us great, that is, by government getting out of the way.

Note that the last Republican address featured the Republican Whip Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kly also serves on the "super-committee."  His address (click here if you missed it) emphasized the damage that raising taxes could do to our fragile economy.  Kly gave his address just days before the concept of the "super-committee" became the basis of the debt ceiling compromise. Again, a listen to Kyl's address should reassure conservatives that McConnell did well to choose Kly.

I'm guessing that the next Republican address will be given by the third Senate Republican on the "super-committee": Sen. Rob Portman.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Todd P'Pool Praises 11th Circuit's Obamacare Ruling

The Republican nominee for Kentucky Attorney General, Todd P'Pool was quick to praise the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit for holding the Obamacare individual mandate to purchase insurance unconstitutional.

 P'Pool has made his opposition to the individual mandate a cornerstone of this campaign -- in contrast to Attorney General Jack Conway, who refused to join the multi-state Attorneys General challenge the the healthcare takeover.

Conway justified his failure to join the multi-state challenge on the grounds that he did not want to waste taxpayers' money on a "frivolous" suit. Now, the 11th Circuit has vindicated P'Pool and made Conway's legal skills look sub-par.

Here's P'Pool's statement:

I am encouraged to see that the 11th Circuit ruled to uphold liberty and protect the general police powers reserved to the states by ruling Obamacare unconstitutional"; said P’Pool.

Jack Conway believes that Obamacare is irrelevant to his job as Attorney General. When I’m Attorney General, the Constitution will be relevant to this job.”

On Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, ruled the individual mandate in Obamacare to be unconstitutional. Since the individual mandate provision is the cornerstone of President Obama’s law, this ruling is a significant blow to the White House and to supporters of the 
President’s health care reform.

Todd P’Pool has pledged throughout his campaign that he would join the other 26 Attorneys General from around the country who are challenging Obamacare in federal court. Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway has refused to join any of the lawsuits, repeatedly referring to them as “irrelevant” or as a “gimmick.”  

McConnell on 11th Cir. Ruling Striking Obamacare

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is praising the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit for its decision striking down the Obamacare individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

McConnell and many of his Republican colleagues had filed an amicus brief with the court. Here's McConnell's statement:

Like countless other Americans, I welcome the 11th Circuit's ruling against the individual mandate. Forcing Americans to buy health insurance approved by the government was an unprecedented, unwelcome, and unconstitutional expansion of federal power, and today's decision only strengthens and adds more momentum to the efforts of those of us who are working to repeal it. Congress should repeal this costly and burdensome law and replace it with the kind of commonsense reforms Americans really want.

That Iowa Republican Debate Sure Was Fun

The Republican field at last night's Iowa debate looked electable, all in all.  That is, except for Ron Paul, who insisted that a nuclear Iran is no threat to the U.S. because the old Soviet Union had nukes and that worked out OK.

Michele Bachmann looked presidential.  She remained poised, and kept a sense of humor, no matter who attacked her. She managed to answer -- without rolling her eyes -- a really offensive question about whether her religious beliefs would force her to "submit" to her husband even if she is elected president. Without condescending or taking umbrage, she patiently explained that the verse in question meant that she and her husband have built a marriage based on mutual respect.

The only time Bachmann failed to deliver was when pressed about government-run healthcare at the state level.  In that example, the tenth amendment does not provide a vehicle for attacking the program.  As a constitutional conservative, and a lawyer, she should have grasped that distinction.  Her instinct that even a state should not compel a citizen to buy a product (healthcare) was laudable but not well reasoned.

Tim Pawlenty attacked Bachmann relentlessly, unfairly and to little effect. Bachmann, for her part, gave as good as she got -- revealing an intellectual toughness and calmness.

T-Paw's theme was that Bachmann had failed to achieve any of the causes she had championed in Congress.  But let's be clear:  when Bachmann was railing against Obamacare, Republicans did not control the Congress. Rather than fault her for her inability to prevent the passage of Obamacare, she should be commended for making the case against it -- loudly and articulately -- even knowing that she lacked the votes.  That is called courage and principle. It was a cheap attack on T-Paw's part and it diminished his standing even further.

Newt Gingrich had a good night.  He alone stressed that time is of the essence on creating jobs; he called Republican members of Congress to return on Monday, and gave a specific plan of action:  repeal Dodd-Frank; repeal Oxley-Sarbanes.  His specificity and sense of urgency were refreshing. One surprise from Newt:  he embraced Ron Paul's call to audit the Fed. Even Ron Paul expressed surprise that his idea had gone "mainstream."

Mitt Romney comported himself like he always does.  He is the presidential candidate from central casting.  His responses were intelligent and polished. No one was able to land a punch on him, though he failed to explain why federalism works for healthcare (state experimentation good!  10th amendment!) but not for marriage (NY vote on gay marriage bad!  need for uniformity).

Rick Santorum, poor guy, got little air time.  But he used what he got masterfully to advance the cause of life. He pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow the execution of a rapist, which means that under current law, the rapist gets to live but the baby conceived by the rape can but put to death.  It was a powerful moment.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to those of us who don't know him was Herman Cain.  He is smart and funny.  Best moment of the night was when he told the panel of questioners that the country needs to learn how to take a joke.  Like Gingrich, he was very specific on what he would do to encourage economic growth -- including by cutting capital gains and corporate taxes.  Cain made clear that he brings a  business savvy that all the other candidates (except Romney) lack.

Poor John Huntsman. Enough said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More Super-Committee Members Named

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has named the following to the committee:  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA); Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT); and Sen. John Kerry (D.MA).  Kerry recently tried to peg the S&P downgrade as the "Tea Party downgrade," so we can't look to him to support any serious cuts. Perhaps his role, as a super-rich windsurfer, is to advocate the "balanced approach" that is code for raising taxes on those wealthy enough to create jobs.

House Majority Leader John Boehner has named: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX); Rep. David Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).  I don't know anything about these members of the House, but I find it odd that Boehner chose two from Michigan.

The Republican Members of the Super-Committee

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has just announced his choices for the joint super-committee that must designate massive cuts by Thanksgiving. They are: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz., Republican whip); Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA; former head of the Club for Growth); and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH; former head of OMB).

Note that I have not called it a "Super-Congress," as have some in the media.  The Constitution does not provide for a "Super-Congress." Instead, this a joint, bipartisan and bicameral committee.

McConnell has said all along that he wanted creative, thoughtful conservatives who were committed to finding the cuts without blowing up the process. On the one hand, it would have been fabulous to have Jim DeMint and Rand Paul sit on this committee. Chances are, however, that it would have blown up.  We need to approach cutting the government like a diet, with discipline, perseverance and the realization that the government didn't get this big overnight and we cannot shrink it overnight.

Let's lift the senators up in prayers.  The importance of the task at hand is historic.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Day the Magic Died

President Barack Obama has been losing luster for a while. It didn't help, for example, that he lectures us to "eat our peas" and then sneaks a smoke. The ostentatious "date nights" and vacations in the midst of 9.2 percent unemployment seemed a bit tone deaf. His performance yesterday, however, has called into question his vaunted intellect.  This is a milestone, not seen since Jimmy Carter's donned a cardigan and told us to turn off the Christmas lights because of our "malaise."

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank -- no friend of Republicans -- had these words about Obama's press conference yesterday, in which he managed to take a volatile stock market and drive it further south:

No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country,” Obama said, as if comforting a child who had been teased by the class bully. . . .  It’s not exactly fair to blame Obama for the rout: Almost certainly, the markets ignored him. And that’s the problem: The most powerful man in the world seems strangely powerless, and irresolute, as larger forces bring down the country and his presidency.

Bret Stephens was even more pointed in the Wall Street Journal, quoting Forrest Gump that Obama is a case study in:  "Stupid is as stupid does."

Much is made of the president's rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama's big speeches that didn't amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a "Triple-A country." Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent. 

It is now clear that Obama will not lead, even leftward, because he lacks the ability;  leadership is just not in his skill said.  Given the effect his rhetorical skills had on yesterday's stock market,  it is in nation's best interest that someone hide his teleprompter until it's time for the concession speech.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How an AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Could Benefit Rural Kentucky

Governor Steve Beshear and Kentucky Senate President David Williams do not agree on very much, but both agree that high-speed internet should be available to all Kentuckians, and that it could be achieved through a T-Mobile/AT&T merger for zero cost to taxpayers. AT&T promises that if its merger succeeds, it will invest $8 billion to cover 97% of Americans with its 4G LTE network, including rural Kentucky.
In a letter to the FCC, Williams explained the major economic growth that result from wireless broadband in rural Kentucky:
For rural Kentucky, particularly, economic recovery has, and will continue to be, hard won. Without the resources to support its businesses, schools, and communities, these areas are apt to struggle for years to come. But by expanding its advanced wireless broadband network to reach an additional one million square miles across the country, the merged AT&T and T-Mobile can give rural communities a connection to the future of education, employment, health care and more. Expanded wireless broadband capabilities will put communities like rural Kentucky on a more level playing field with its more metropolitan counterparts.

Beshear also wrote a letter to the FCC where he noted that the Commonwealth can only encourage this innovation, and that the private sector is needed:

The merger of T-Mobile USA and AT&T is a private-sector initiative that complements our efforts to build Kentucky's future now and that’s why I support it. Once approved, the merged company would be able to expand the upgrade of its existing wireless networks to offer our residents, businesses, schools, hospitals, and other organizations with access to state-of-the-art mobile broadband.

Besides helping rural communities, the proposed merger will also benefit people in urban areas. AT&T and T-Mobile both use GSM wireless technologies for their 3G networks: therefore AT&T customers could use T-Mobile towers, and vice versa, resulting in expanded coverage for both companies' customers.

Verizon recently acquired Alltel Wireless. It took six months to get the approval of the FCC. AT&T has said that it believes its merger with T-Mobile will take 12 months, and many people think it may take even longer. Why? Market saturation.

Currently, there are four large cell carriers in the U.S; Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. If AT&T merged with T-Mobile, there would only be three. Some people think that three large carriers are not enough, and that there wouldn't be enough competition, resulting in less innovation. To the contrary, If AT&T merged with T-Mobile, more competition would result, because AT&T would have the funds to deploy a 4G network that others would try to match.

Wireless broadband would open up a whole new world for people living in rural Kentucky. All that’s stopping it is the FCC. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rand Paul: Sack Geithner

Sen. Rand Paul has called for the resignation of Treasury Sec Timothy Geithner, who told the country in April that America's credit rating would not be down-graded. Historians will debate whether Geithner was telling a whopper or just didn't know what he was doing.  In any event, it is time for him to join the 9.1 percent of  unemployed Americans who suffer the consequences of his policies.

Here is Sen. Paul's statement:

Sen. Rand Paul today issued a statement calling for the resignation of U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner from his cabinet post, effective immediately, for his gross mismanagement of federal economic policy and for his role in the first-ever downgrade of United States debt.

“Secretary Geithner assured everyone that raising the debt ceiling without a plan to balance the budget would not result in a downgrade to our debt,” Sen. Paul said. “He was clearly wrong. Our debt has been downgraded for the first time in history, and now American taxpayers will have to suffer the consequences”

This is not the first time Secretary Geithner and his team have failed to correctly diagnose or manage an economic problem. During his tenure at the Federal Reserve and as Treasury Secretary, Secretary Geithner has had a direct role in the failure of the Fed to diagnose and act on the housing crisis. He presided over bank bailouts, auto bailouts and failed trillion-dollar stimulus plans.

Last year, he announced to the American people “welcome to the recovery,” when in fact the our economic crisis has continued. He has contributed not only to the first-ever debt downgrade, but is on the record as clearly disputing it could ever happen.

“There is plenty of blame to go around. Both parties have contributed to our $14 trillion debt. But it is hard to say this crisis wasn’t predictable, because it was. House and Senate conservatives clearly predicted this, and also offered the only solution that could have prevented our downgrade with our Cut Cap and Balance plan,” Sen. Paul continued. “We must rescue our finances through a Balanced Budget Amendment, and we must do it soon. We must cut spending immediately. And we must get new leadership, and put in place people who have seen problems coming and offered credible solutions, rather than those who continue to misdiagnose and mismanage our economy.”

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fineman: This is McConnell's Moment

Howard Fineman has a piece on the Huffington Post regarding McConnell's pivotal role in the recent debt ceiling compromise. Fineman, who wrote for the Courier-Journal before he left to make a name for himself at Newsweek, has been observing McConnell since the '70's.

Fineman is grudgingly complimentary of McConnell's intellect and mastery of the legislative process. He attempts a tortured analogy between the populist demand to cut spending as compared to the the debate over school busing. Add some references to the canny McConnell and the angry white people, and Fineman's take fits so nicely into the Mainstream Media portrait of the tea party as mean-spirited racists:

If you haven't noticed, this is Mitch McConnell's moment. And if you haven't realized it, this won't be the last. In fact, there will be many more, especially if -- as is quite possible -- he becomes Republican majority leader of the Senate after next year's elections.
In what amounted to a victory speech as the final vote approached on the debt ceiling he brokered, the senior senator from Kentucky reached what has been a career-long goal: to be this century's Henry Clay.
Only instead of being Kentucky's "Great Compromiser," McConnell is and wants to be the Bluegrass's "Great Dismantler."
A handsome portrait of Clay hangs in McConnell's spacious Capitol suite. But the two men represent diametrically opposing traditions. Sen. Clay wanted to be president, and used his eloquence and shrewdness in the service of constructing and protecting the power of the federal government. He championed the "American System" of national roads and public works, and spent decades trying to keep the Union from flying apart under the centrifugal stress of slavery, economics and ideology. He inspired another Kentucky-born politician named Abe Lincoln, and infuriated yet another named Jefferson Davis.
McConnell, equally as shrewd if not as eloquent, has a fundamentally different view. He sees his job, as he said on the floor as the vote began, to "rein in Washington" and "slow down the Big Government freight train." He mesaures success in terms of how much he can reduce the power, purse and reach of a federal government he has been a part of since he was elected at the height of the Reagan Era in 1984.
McConnell is a past master of channelling middle-class resentment at the power of government to gain power for himself in government. And he is one of the most patient and canny legislators and negotiators in modern politics: always superbly prepared, never given to rash actions or statements and a potent mix of brains and chip-on-the shoulder disdain for people with fancier pedigrees but fuzzier minds.
With the debt ceiling negotiations, he basically took the president to the cleaners. He used the energy of the Tea Party as a threat, and the weakness and division in the House GOP leadership to make himself the indispensable player in the final days. He proposed a fail-safe route to avoid default that played to the president's vanity (the idea of giving the president the power to decide debt-ceiling raises on his own) and then used the sense of trust to drive a hard bargain that took takes off the table. McConnnell also used his 26-year relationship with Vice President Joe Biden to smooth the pathway to a deal. As Rep. Charlie Rangel said, the GOP "mugged the president but let him keep his wedding ring.

"The president thinks that the "super committee" that now will be appointed will be able to -- and will -- recommend revenue increases and even tax cuts when it has to report Nov. 23. There may indeed be some loophole closings, but don't count on it.
Was the president listening today when McConnell discussed the "super committee" group of 12, which will include six Republicans and six Democrats? McConnell called it the "cost-cutting committee."
Game on.
McConnell's whole career has been about skillfully tapping anti-government resentment and turning it into deals and power. That is how he began his rise in Louisville and Kentucky.
In 1974, Louisville -- a border city on the Ohio River in the Border State of Kentucky -- was sullen and divided in a way it had not been since the Union Army occupied it during the Civil War. The issues in many ways were the same: race and the power of the federal government. In the summer of 1974, a federal judge had ordered the widespread use of busing to integrate -- in fact not just in law -- the public schools in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County. Well over 100,000 students were involved, but so were decades of de facto segregation.
In the working class neighborhoods of the city and its suburbs, anger at the order -- even occasional street protests -- was widespread. McConnell, originally born in Alabama, hailed from one of those neighborhoods. He wasn't a protestor or anti-busing leader by any means. He had worked for moderate GOP Sens. John Sherman Cooper and Marlow Cook, and had been an attorney in the Ford administration.
But he knew the neighborhood folks, as well as their fears and resentments. When he ran successfully for County Judge (the chief administrative job) in 1978, he ran strongly in places where he could make the case that government had too much say in local lives, and that services needed to be decided by families and neighbors, not by distant powers downtown or inside the Beltway.
That was the Reaganesque message he took statewide when he ran for Senate and won with the Gipper atop the ticket in 1984.
It is a straight line from there to the floor today.
And we may not have seen anything yet. As patient as he is remorseless, as deeply political as he is lawyerly, McConnell built a machine in Kentucky. It is crumbling now -- the incumbent Democratic governor is up by 25 points in new polls, and Sen. Rand Paul of the Tea Party is hardly a faithful ally -- but Mitch is moving on to do the same thing in the Senate that he did in the state years ago.
Meticulous, tactically focused, he runs a tight ship in the Senate and keeps a very close eye on the GOP's Senate election process. Here's the key statistic for 2012: of the 11 seats considered to be in play by handicapper Charlie Cook, nine are held by Democrats. The Democrats currently hold a 51-47 majority, with two others caucusing with them. Do the math. The GOP is within reach.

The Great Dismantler is on the march.
Please note: The postings of "G. Morris", written by John K. Bush and which end in 2016, stated his views as of the dates of posting and should not be understood as current assertions of his views. The postings, which have not been altered since they came to an end, remain on this blog to preserve the historical record. In 2017, Mr. Bush took a position that precludes further public political comments or endorsements. He will no longer be contributing to this blog.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Senate Passes Debt Ceiling Bill

The Senate has passed the bill to raise the debt ceiling.  The bipartisan vote was 74-26.  Given that Rep. John Yarmuth voted no to it in the House, and Sen. Rand Paul voted no in the Senate, it's probably a pretty good compromise:  it enraged extremes from both ends of the spectrum. This is just the start in the long process of restoring the proper size and scope of the federal government, but it is a start.

Here are some of the statements in reaction to the vote:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:

“Over the past few weeks, Congress been engaged in a very important debate. It may have been messy. It might have appeared to some like their government wasn’t working.

“But, in fact, the opposite was true.

“The push and pull Americans saw in Washington these past few weeks was not gridlock. It was the will of the people working itself out in a political system that was never meant to be pretty.

“You see, one reason America isn’t already facing the kind of crises we see in Europe is that presidents and majority parties here can’t just bring about change on a dime, as much as they might like to from time to time. That’s what checks and balances is all about. And that’s the kind of balance Americans voted for in November.

“The American people sent a wave of new lawmakers to Congress in last November’s election with a very clear mandate: to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. Those of us who’d been fighting the big-government policies of Democrat majorities in Congress welcomed them into our ranks. Together we’ve held the line. And slowly but surely, we’ve started turning things around.

“That’s why those who think that no problem is too big or too small for government to solve are worried right now. They’re afraid the American people may actually win the larger debate we’ve been having around here about the size and scope of government; and that the spending spree may actually be coming to an end. They can’t believe that those who’ve stood up for limited government and accountability have actually changed the terms of the debate in Washington.

“But today, they have no choice but to admit it.

“Now, I know that for some of my colleagues reform isn’t coming as fast as they would like. I understand their frustration. I too wish we could stand here today enacting something much more ambitious. But I’m encouraged by the thought that these new leaders will help lead this fight until we finish the job. And I want to assure you today that although you may not see it this way, you’ve won this debate.

“In a few minutes, the Senate will vote on legislation that represents a new way of doing business in Washington.

“First, it creates an entirely new template for raising the nation’s debt limit. One of the most important things about this legislation is the fact that never again will any President, from either party, be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people and without having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just come through.

“This kind of discussion isn’t something to dread; it’s something to welcome. And while the President may not have particularly enjoyed this debate, it was a debate that Washington needed to have.

“As for the particulars, this legislation caps spending over the next 10 years, with a mechanism that ensures that these cuts stick. It protects the American people from a government default that would have affected every single one of them in one way or another. It puts in place a committee that will recommend further cuts and much-needed reforms. It doesn’t include a dime in job-killing tax hikes at a moment when our economy can least afford them. And, crucially, it ensures the debate over a balanced budget amendment continues, and that it gets a vote.

“This is no small feat when you consider that just last week the President was still demanding tax hikes as a part of any debt ceiling increase, and that as recently as May, the President’s top economic advisor said it was `insane’ for anybody to even consider tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts. It’s worth noting that two and a half months later, that advisor is no longer working at the White House and the President is now agreeing, as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, to trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

“Let me be clear: the legislation the Senate is about to vote on is just a first step. But it’s a crucial step toward fiscal sanity, and it’s a potentially remarkable achievement given the lengths to which some in Washington have gone to ensure a status quo that’s suffocating growth, crippling the economy, and imperiling entitlements.

“We’ve had to settle for less than we wanted, but what we’ve achieved is in no way insignificant. And we did it because we had something Democrats didn’t. Republicans may only control one half of one third of the government in Washington. But the American people agreed with us on the nature of the problem. They know that government didn’t accumulate $14.5 trillion in debt because it didn’t tax enough.

“And if you’re spending yourself into oblivion, the solution isn’t to spend more, it’s to spend less.

“Neither side got everything it wanted in these negotiations. But I think it was the view of those in my party that we’d try to get as much spending cuts as we could from a government we didn’t control. And that’s what we’ve done with this bipartisan agreement.

“This is not the deficit reduction package I would have written. The fact that we’re on pace to add another $7 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years is nothing to celebrate. But getting it there from more than $9 trillion the President continued to defend until recently, is no defeat either. And slowing down the big-government freight train from its current trajectory will give us the time we need to work toward a real solution, or give the American people the time they need to have their voices heard.

“So much more work remains. And to that end, our first step will be to make sure that the Republicans who sit on the powerful cost-cutting committee are serious people who put the best interests of the American people, and the principles that we’ve fought for throughout this debate, first.

“But before we move on to the next steps, I would like to say a word about some of those who made today’s vote possible.

“I’ll start with Speaker Boehner.

“It should be noted that he helped set the terms of this debate by insisting early on that he’d oppose any debt limit that didn’t include cuts that were greater than the amount the debt limit would be raised. And he stuck to his guns. The Speaker and I have worked shoulder to shoulder over the past few months, and it’s been a pleasure. He’s been a real partner. We wouldn’t be here without him.

“So I want to thank the Speaker and the entire Republican Leadership in the House for standing on principle, and I want to thank my Republican colleagues in the Senate for their determination and their ideas and their support. We wouldn’t be here without them either. And I want to thank my friend, the Majority Leader, for his work in getting this agreement over the finish line. We may disagree a lot, but I hope everyone realizes it’s never personal. And I think today we can prove that when it comes down to it we’ll come together when a larger good is at stake.

“I also want to thank the President, the Vice President, and everyone on their staffs who believed, as we did, that despite our many differences, we could all agree that America would not default on its obligations. It’s a testament to the good will of those on both sides that we were able to reach this agreement in time. Neither side wanted to see a government default. I’m pleased we were able to work together to avoid it.

“This bill does not solve the problem. But it forces Washington to admit that it has one. And it puts us on the path to recovery. We’re nowhere near where we need to be in terms of restoring balance. But there should be absolutely no doubt about this: we have changed the debate. We’re headed in the right direction.

“How’d it happen? Because the American people demanded it.
“So, in the end, we’re back to where we started. The only reason we’re talking about passing legislation that reins in the size of Washington instead of growing it is because the American people believed that they could have a real impact on the direction of their government. They spoke out, and we heard them. And it’s only through their continued participation in this process, and lawmakers who are willing to listen to them, that we’ll complete the work we’ve begun. As Winston Churchill once said, `Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; [and] courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’

“I can’t think of a better way to sum up this last year and, in particular, these last few months, in Washington than that.
“The American people want to see accountability and cooperation in Washington. And they want to see that we’re working to get our fiscal house in order. This legislation doesn’t get us there. But for the first time in a long time, I think we can say to the American people that we’re finally facing in the right direction. And for that, we have them to thank.” 

Sen. Rand Paul:
To paraphrase Senator Jim DeMint: When you're speeding toward the edge of a cliff, you don't set the cruise control. You stop the car. The current deal to raise the debt ceiling doesn't stop us from going over the fiscal cliff. At best, it slows us from going over it at 80 mph to going over it at 60 mph.

This plan never balances. The President called for a "balanced approach." But the American people are calling for a balanced budget.
This deal does nothing to fix the overreaches of both parties over the past few years: Obamacare, TARP, trillion-dollar wars, runaway entitlement spending. They are all cemented into place with this deal, and their legacy will be trillions of dollars in new debt.
The deal that is pending before us now:
  • Adds at least $7 trillion to our debt over the next 10 years. The deal purports to "cut" $2.1 trillion, but the "cut" is from a baseline that adds $10 trillion to the debt. This deal, even if all targets are met and the Super Committee wields its mandate - results in a BEST case scenario of still adding more than $7 trillion more in debt over the next 10 years. That is sickening.
  • Never, ever balances.
  • The Super Committee's mandate is to add $7 trillion in new debt. Let's be clear: $2.1 trillion in reductions off a nearly $10 trillion,10-year debt is still more than $7 trillion in debt. The Super Committee limits the constitutional check of the filibuster by expediting passage of bills with a simple majority. The Super Committee is not precluded from any issue, therefore the filibuster could be rendered most. In addition, the plan harms the possible passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Since the goal is never to balance, having the BBA as a "trigger" ensures that the committee will simply report its $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan and never move to a BBA vote.
  • It cuts too slowly. Even if you believe cutting $2.1 trillion out of $10 trillion is a good compromise, surely we can start cutting quickly, say $200 billion-$300 billion per year, right? Wrong. This plan so badly backloads the alleged savings that the cuts are simply meaningless. Why do we believe that the goal of $2.5 trillion over 10 years (that's an average of $250 billion per year) will EVER be met if the first two years cuts are $20 billion and $50 billion. There is simply no path in this bill even to the meager savings they are alleging will take place.
Buried in the details of this bill is the automatic debt limit increase proposed a few weeks ago. The second installment of the debt ceiling increase is initiated by the President automatically and can only be stopped by a two-thirds vote of Congress. This shifts the Constitutional check on borrowing from Congress to the President and makes it easier to raise the debt ceiling. Despite claims to the contrary, none of the triggers in this bill include withholding the second limit increase.
Credit rating agencies have clearly stated the type of so-called cuts envisioned in this plan will result in our AAA bond rating being downgraded. Ironically then, the only way to avoid our debt being downgraded and the resulting economic problems that stem from that is for this bill to fail.
This plan does not solve our problem. Not even close. I cannot abide the destruction of our economy, therefore I vigorously oppose this deal and I urge my colleagues and the American people to do the same.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rand Paul Gets Creative for David Williams

For a guy who likes to tell us how he stands on principle, Sen. Rand Paul's direct mail piece for Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams reads like an exercise in truthiness.

Take the first sentence: "It's clear that Governor Steve Beshear is one of Barack Obama's most loyal Governors."

Really?  Then how come Beshear wasn't invited to join Obama in congratulating the Navy Seals at Fort Campbell?  And how come Beshear faked us all into thinking (1) he had been invited to the Obama event but (2) declined because he was so busy (and Obama is so unpopular in Kentucky)?

"Snub-gate," as Joe Arnold has dubbed it, illustrates that Beshear and Obama are not BFFs.  The Fort Campbell trip is the only time Obama has come to Kentucky since he was elected president; he hasn't even come to the Derby!

Moreover, as Joe Gerth points out, Beshear was not a big Obama supporter in 2008 and did not commit to vote for his nomination until Beshear arrived at the Democratic National Convention.

The "p.s." to Rand Paul's letter states that "With liberal Steve Beshear's brazen support of 'Obamacare' and the entire Obama agenda, it's little wonder Kentucky is in competition with Puerto Rico for among the highest unemployment rate in the nation!"

I don't recall Steve Beshear's "brazen support of 'Obamacare'" or the "entire Obama agenda."

Beshear requested that Kentucky be given a three year exemption from Obamacare.  (The administration denied the request and will only exempt Kentucky for part of 2011.) Someone who asks to be exempt from a law can hardly be called a "brazen supporter" of that same law.

Gerth notes in the same article linked above that Beshear has criticized the Obama administration's proposed coal rules.

Obama is hugely unpopular here, no doubt. A campaign strategy that ties Beshear to Obama would work if it were based on something other than to two having a "D" next to their name on the ballot.  The fact is that they appear to have no personal relationship and little ideological overlap. Kentuckians know that Obama is much more liberal than Beshear. The strategy is doomed to fail because it has such little basis in fact.

More is the pity that Rand Paul tarted up his letter with exaggerations trying to tie Beshear to Obama; Paul offered some really great ideas about how to make Kentucky better able to compete with Tennessee for jobs:   reform the Kentucky tax code; repeal the prevailing wage; pass a Right to Work law. These are substantive issues that could transform the economy of Kentucky.

To be sure, these are complex issues, but Williams has the intellect to present them in a way to make Kentuckians not only understand but care about them.  Williams needs to remember that voters are smart enough to get these sensible changes to make Kentucky competitive.  And Kentuckians are smart enough to know that Steve Beshear is not some wild-eyed liberal in the tank for Obama.

Beshear Scandal Goes National

The Instapundit has picked up this tid-bit from Roger Alford:
 A whistle-blower is alleging his colleagues in the Department of Juvenile Justice have been threatened with termination if they don't contribute to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's re-election campaign.
State psychologist Rodney Young, who works at the Hazelwood Center for the Mentally Handicapped in Louisville, made the claim in letters to the head of the state GOP and to the attorney general's office.
Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson attached Young's letter to complaints he filed Monday with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. In the letter, Young said he also contacted Attorney General Jack Conway for a potential criminal investigation.
Young said a Beshear aide told his colleagues that they could lose their jobs if they don't contribute $500 each to the re-election campaign.
The Beshear campaign had no immediate comment.

WaPo: McConnell is Winning

The Washington Post lists winners and losers in the recent negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. McConnell is a winner, according to the Post:

Mitch McConnell: The Kentucky Republican was like the Mariano Rivera of the debt deal. He waited until the game was in its final moments, came onto the field and helped close things down (in a good way). McConnell was also a voice of reason and frankness for Republicans, making clear that default would be a huge political loser for the party. In the end, he got a deal the way he wanted one — with him at the center of negotiations.