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Where’s the Leadership on Social Security?

-This article was originally published at Hot Air.

In 2010, the Social Security Trustees Report said Social Security would be able to fulfill all current obligations until 2036.  In 2011, that estimate was bumped to 2035, and this year it was changed to 2033.  Clearly, the program must be reformed, yet many Washington politicians think like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who said in January 2011 that “Social Security is a program that works and is fully funded for the next 40 years” and that “the arithmetic on Social Security works.”

Any politician who thinks Social Security “works” for the American people is either dishonest or not paying attention to the facts.  This was starkly outlined recently by Charles Blahous, a trustee for Medicare and Social Security.  In a paper published through George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, Blahous explained the bleak situation Social Security finds itself in. From the paper:

Social Security’s future, at least in the form it has existed dating back to FDR, is now greatly imperiled. The last few years of legislative neglect … have drastically harmed the program’s future financial prospects. Individuals now planning their financial futures … should be pricing in a substantial risk that the federal government will not be able to maintain Social Security as a self-financing, stand-alone program over the long term. If Social Security financing corrections are not enacted in 2013, or at the very latest by 2015, it becomes fairly likely that they will not be enacted at all.

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Is the Farm Bill Worth Passing?

-This article was originally published at Hot Air.

This week, a number of House Republicans and House Democrats are trying to force action on the so-called “farm bill” the House Agriculture Committee passed in July. The bill, which includes billions in direct farm subsidies, will cost $100 billion per year for five years if made into law. Approximately 80% of that cost is related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The good thing is the farm bill appears to lack the support to get the votes necessary for passage through the House this week. As such, the House will go to its seven-week recess and not consider the farm bill for passage until after the November elections. Considering that the farm bill is far more about welfare than farm support – both of which are constitutionally and financially challenging – the House leadership should be commended for not rushing its passage without a full House debate and input from grassroots activists.

However, not all conservatives believe the bill should be held up. In a statement to me earlier this week, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) stated the bill’s $35 billion in savings over ten years was worth supporting. Noem is one of the Republicans pushing action on the bill:

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Romney’s ‘47 percent’ comments: Needed honesty or political gaffe?

-The article was originally published at The American Spectator.

Yesterday, liberal magazine Mother Jones released a video of Mitt Romney talking about the nearly 50 percent of Americans who are dependent on the federal government for at least some of their income. Romney also talked about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no individual income taxes. His conclusion in the video — which was secretly taken at a fundraiser several months ago — was that he was never going to win the votes of those people, since his message is about low taxes and decreasing government dependence.

As is typical when a non-liberal talks about the truth of dependency on government, themedia has become apoplectic. Never mind that Romney was largely speaking the truth.

Romney’s statement has drawn many negative reactions, and while some of them have substance (such as Quin Hillyer’s excellent points), others do not. Here are a few that have made news:

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A Lesson in Washington Campaign Tactics

-This article was originally published at Hot Air.

Of the four or five regular magazines and newspapers read on Capitol Hill every day, Politicois probably the least policy-focused, and the one that places the most value on entertainment and drama. However, sometimes that reporting focuses on the biggest drama in Washington – elections – and a new article on Politico’s website outlines an important yet subtle distinction between actions on Capitol Hill designed to do what’s actually good for the country and what’s good for the Member’s re-election campaign.

Here are a few examples highlighted by Politico:

Rep. Michael Grimm of New York is pushing a resolution of support for peace in Sri Lanka. And Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois has scored two legislative victories: one bill to rein in lavish, taxpayer-funded conferences and another that aims to help travelers by loosening restrictions on checked baggage….

Though Washington is staring down a number of critical policy issues this year — not least of which the so-called fiscal cliff — much of its agenda is consumed by hard-to-refuse bills that lawmakers can tout back home.

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The 2013 Political Courage Test: Will Congress Stand With the People?

-This article was originally published at Hot Air.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives is expected to pass a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through March 2013. The CR is expected to gain bipartisan support, and will fund the government at the levels dictated by the Budget Control Act (BCA). The Senate may pass it as soon as next week.

Unfortunately, the CR does not defund the President’s health care law either in part or full. As such, Tea Party Patriots co-founder and National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin is calling upon conservatives in Congress and across the country to oppose the legislation. According to Martin, “The budget is where Congress can show where its priorities stand: with the American people, who oppose the health care law, or with Big Government-centered health care reform.”

Last week, Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) told me that he pushed for this approach to a partial-year funding of the federal government because he felt the risks of pushing things off to the lame duck session that typically takes place after an election were too great:

Rep. Jordan: First, let me say that a bunch of us conservatives pushed for this, on the House and Senate side. You know how this game is played – a CR that lands in the kind of situation we’re looking at – a lame duck session – will impact defense, and the government will threaten shutdown, the troops won’t get paid, etc. We thought it was important enough that, while we don’t want to have a full year at the level of spending, hopefully a new Congress and/or new President will get a new, lower level in the last six months of the 2013 fiscal year.

When asked for comment yesterday related to funding the health care law, RSC spokesperson Brian Straessle e-mailed the following statement:

We’re talking about solid conservatives who have never supported spending at this level and never voted to fund ObamaCare. They don’t like this bill at all. Sadly, the alternative is even worse.

If conservatives vote for a straightforward 6 month bill, Sen. Reid and President Obama won’t be able to use a CR in the lame duck session as a vehicle for a massive, catch-all omnibus/Farm Bill/tax hike.

Without conservative votes, they’d just pass a shorter-term version of the exact same bill. It would expire in November or December and give Reid and Obama more leverage to wreak havoc in a lame duck session.

It’s a lose-lose situation, so conservatives are doing what we can to try to limit the damage.

While grassroots conservatives should have some sympathy for Jordan’s position – he is a proven fiscal conservative put in a very difficult voting position – the fact is that budget legislation is exactly where Congress can tell President Obama where its priorities and values are. After all, what else is federal spending, if not a prioritization of various values in a society? This is an important chance for conservative Members of Congress to show that their values are unequivocally in line with the values of the American people.

One argument by the chattering class of pundits against holding the line on the health care law will likely be that a government shutdown – which is what would happen if President Obama vetoed a CR that did not include funding for the law – could devastate the chances of victories against liberal candidates on all levels in November. Simply put, this kind of calculation is exactly why Tea Party Patriots was first started: in Washington, the right decisions are too often pushed off until next time, until things are easier tomorrow, or next week, or after the next election.

Additionally, a government shutdown would only happen if too many Members of Congress sided with the big insurance companies and oversized federal bureaucracies instead of the people they are elected to serve. For Republicans, following the principles upon which they were voted into office in 2010 should be simple, and for Democrats, many of their constituents oppose the law. Principles and representing constituents are the two reasons Members of Congress should be voting for legislation, after all – not because of election concerns or campaign donations.

However, one cannot ignore Jordan’s concerns above; moderates and liberals could very well pass worse legislation without conservative support, and next year the odds are at least even that there will be a Washington more dedicated to full repeal of the President’s health care law. Unfortunately, Jordan’s line of thinking includes the assumption that many Members of Congress will have the fiscal and electoral courage necessary to overcome lobbyists and big government temptations. Were every Member of Congress able to overcome those obstacles, we would never run a deficit and America would be thriving. The simple fact is that since the 112th Congress first banged down the gavel those elected to stop overspending have failed in this duty. Consider:

  1. The April 2011 debate over the 2011 budget was originally promised to cut $100 billion. That number was dropped to $60 billion, and then agreed to at $38. However, it turned out the actual savings in 2011 were a mere $350 million – which wasn’t even a cut, but instead a cut in the expected increase in the budget.
  2. The Budget Control Act was supported with the agreement that there would be ten-year “cuts” in exchange for an equivalent increase in the debt ceiling. Now it appears possible that Congress will overturn the Budget Control Act, meaning conservatives in Congress voted for legislation that may not cut anywhere close to the level the law dictates.

Simply put, grassroots activists have learned that when it comes to legislation, now is now, and next year is always uncertain.

Finally, the chattering class and certain politicians may say Tea Party Patriots are extreme for taking this position. Don’t we know that Congress takes time to consider and pass legislation, and pushing for a hard line on the health care law the same week of voting is a tough thing to do? The response to this is also simple: Congress just spent five weeks on campaign swings through respective districts and states. Yet it is only in session for two legislative weeks in September, and one in October before another month-long campaign break/recess/“district work period.” Who’s more extreme – the activists who hold politicians accountable, or the politicians who fight harder for re-election than the future of the country?

When all is said and done, conservatives in Congress were elected by grassroots to repeal the health care law and stop overspending. They have failed to do this, and so grassroots activists across the country are asking them to finally take a stand against the big government, big-spending health care law before it may be too late. After all, all elections are uncertain, and waiting until next year may cement the law in place for good.

Duckworth and Backlogs at the DVA

-The article was originally published at The American Spectator.

Yesterday, congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Duckworth, a former Army officer who served in Iraq as a Black Hawk pilot under President Bush and subsequently as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Obama, praised Obama for working to help veterans:

Then President Obama asked me to help keep our sacred trust with veterans of all eras at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We worked to end the outrage of vets having to sleep on the same streets they once defended. We improved services for female veterans. I reached out to young vets by creating the Office for Online Communications.

Unfortunately, other testimony about the state of things at the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is not as positive. According to an August 10 column by Al Poteet, a former Vietnam-era Army gunship pilot and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is a backlog of 900,000 claims at the DVA. This number has grown significantly in the last several years. According to Poteet, “the growing backlog exists due to four external factors.”

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