Wednesday, November 08, 2006

defending individual liberties

These are examples of how the American political system has lost sight of what the Founders intended decades ago. The only true freedom is individual freedom, and gov't was established only for the purpose of defending our individual liberties.

I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.

I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man's soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.

-Ayn Rand, Anthem

Words Get Around II

The following is something I posted at RN in response to this article:

(Mad dope props to Ayn Rand for inspiration)


Any system which aims to respect individual liberty must accept that society (or the greater good, or the majority) is built up from the basic unit of the individual. There must also be the recognition that no group of individuals -- be it a group of only two individials, or of all other individuals -- has any special rights of its own; and it certainly has no superior rights over the individual. Put briefly: society has no rights; government has no responsibility to safeguard society. The term "social contract" clouds the truth that government is basically a contract between the individual and his government; society itself has no political-cum-legal substance, with no rights, privileges, or responsibilities of its own.

Society must be allowed to take whatever course it will, regardless of the outcome. Representative government is founded on the principle that the constituency deserves whatever it votes for, and should be allowed to freely choose its fate. Society must be treated -- respected -- in the same way: whatever society as a whole wants, society as a whole should get.


In other words, government is assumed to be more responsible than the individual -- even though the enormous mass of human history has proven the reverse. Misanthropists-as-socialists do not trust people; and since according to human nature they must trust in something to make things right, they place their trust in government. Beware those who would take away responsibility from the individual, for they are putting responsibility into the one human institution which least deserves it: government, which has the power to arrest or even kill those who dare violate the tyranny guarding the current social ideal.
-Lo Bastido, on individual freedom and the negatives of socialism

Words Get Around II
- Murder
- Assault
- Property damage and theft
- Copyright and patent infringement
- Breach of contract

All these activities violate one fundamental precept: that we all have the rights to our own bodies and property, and nothing else. (None of us, of course, have any rights toward other people's bodies and property.) The principle is that adults of sound mind may consent to activities with other adults with no interference from government except as an arbiter in case of dispute.

-Lo Bastido, on the five areas gov't are needed

Free Market News
Tibor R. Machan
The Libertarian Perspective #75 Tue, 24 Oct 2006
The Common Good

I have a better idea. Let Democrats, Republicans, and the rest recover the powerful idea that got the country going in the first place, one laid out pretty neatly in the Declaration of Independence. This idea is that the common good is pursued precisely when government does what justifies its existence—namely, secure our rights. That, indeed, is THE common good in the American political tradition.

There are millions of disparate "goods" that individuals pursue, but only one unites them, only one is their common good: the protection of their fundamental individual rights. This was part of the revolutionary idea that animated the Founders and put the country in opposition to so many others, including those in Europe from which so many of its initial population fled.

In most countries throughout human history the idea was promoted that there is a rich common good, a whole slew of objectives that everyone must pursue. In other words, the common good was really the collective goods of all the people, as if they really did share goods galore that they needed to promote. The one-size-fits-all mentality was encouraged by rulers, monarchs, tsars, and the rest who needed to hoodwink us into thinking that their goals are really our goals and we cannot really, individually, have goals of our own. That was the common good–the leaders' good peddled for the rest as their good, too.

The American Founders, guided by the classical liberal social-political philosophies of John Locke and company, saw through this. They realized that in a big country, the millions of inhabitants share but very few goods. (Of course, small associations—churches, clubs, corporations, professional groups and so forth—can have some common objectives all right. But no such common good or objective exists for the millions of us!) And the most important—probably, in fact, only—common good we share is the protection of our individual rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. It's the one good that's indeed good for us all, that we have in common.

If government, which is instituted to secure these rights, does its job right, it will stick to little more than making sure that everyone's liberty is safe. Why? Because then all the millions of different individuals, and some of the groups they voluntarily form amongst themselves, will quite successfully embark on the task of pursuing all those goods that suit them. Securing our rights does that for us!

But today's public pundit-intellectuals don't get it. They want to find some thick public good—a whole, humongous basket of allegedly common goods—that government will set out to achieve. And they are surprised that there isn't such a basket; in a largely free society people have their own basket of proposed goods they want to obtain for themselves. And this isn't because they are selfish and will not make sacrifices—notice how looking out for yourself is being demeaned in Tomasky's call to arms—but because even in what they consider appropriate objectives for which sacrifices should be made the citizenry differs significantly. They don't need having one idea of what's worthy of a sacrifice shoved down their throats. No, they want to choose those objectives, as well as the ways of making the sacrifices for them if need be.

Maybe the Democrats—and Republicans—ought to recover the Founders' vision. Then they wouldn't have to concoct an impossible one behind which they cannot manage to unite folks.

Strike the Root
Libertarians in general knew government had every motivation to grow in size and intrusiveness and lacked any real deterrent against doing so. The Libertarian Party represented a growing understanding that force or the threat of force, in whatever form, was required to maintain control of a population increasingly aware of the illegitimacy of so much government in their lives. Most people simply wish to be left alone, but government cannot leave them alone. Men in uniforms with shiny badges and seal-embossed parchments demanding service to “The King” have always been accompanied by the threat of violence for non-compliance.

The Revolution between the ears won’t take place all at once, but it will take place overnight. One morning everything will be different. Government actions against the people in the form of laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, surveillance of the innocent, controls on communications and the supposed dominion over one's body are creating an explosive environment, and the central planners know it. These police state tactics are not for our protection from outside threats, but for the protection of government from the American people. Government limits on our ability to seek redress and physically defend against tyranny are increasing -- an outcome predicted for decades by libertarians.

There are reasons to avoid being in public office these days. I firmly believe there will be at least a metaphorical guillotining of public officials responsible for destroying the American Dream for tens of millions of Americans. And I do not wish to be affiliated with those standing in line for their turn to have the lever pulled on their fate. I have absolutely no political goal other than to be left alone. My whole family and large circle of friends have invested a great deal of time, effort and money to that end. But I don't see wielding the power of elective office as a path to that goal.

While content to focus my efforts at home in Arizona , I have become increasingly aware of those with a great desire to be a “respected member” of the very system we oppose. The claim that one needs positions of power in order to free individuals is very troubling. We should be the Hobbits who do not seek power over others, and are willing to make great investments to ensure being left alone. Changing the hands on the levers of power won’t eliminate the levers. The abandonment of the principled foundation of libertarianism now would be disastrous and leave us with nothing of value to distinguish us from our ideological competition.

And while most libertarians would welcome a return to the size of government allowed by the US Constitution as championed in the Federalist Papers, many recognize that this document created the opportunity for the powerful central government we oppose today. The liberty-minded people of the American Revolution were profoundly ambivalent about the US Constitution, and detailed their concerns in the Anti-Federalist Papers. What good are checks and balances when all three branches of government are aligned against the rights of the individual? The Bill of Rights was the libertarian compromise. These ten “Thou Shalt Nots” of government was the deal made to avoid conflict. But the document has proven to be binding only on the people, in our forced support of our present government, while every single one of the Bill of Rights is constantly violated without hesitation by government. I am certain that I am not the only one wondering when this “social contract” will finally be declared null and void.

-Ernest Hancock

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Terri Schiavo, Part 3

Another important Schiavo column on what really went down.

QandO (see column for links)
Michael Schiavo’s Evolution into a Republican Kos Kid: Harbinger for Libertarians?

"They [the “Save Terri!” movement] asserted that Schiavo's coma may have been caused by abuse from her husband, Michael. With their cries of "medical terrorism" and their comparisons to Nazi Germany, these so-called champions of life created an atmosphere in which some of their supporters made death threats not only to Michael Schiavo but to judges and legislators who had been on the "wrong" side of the dispute.

-Cathy Young

We libertarians are frequently caricatured as “Republicans who just want to smoke dope and have orgiastic sex.” Actually, we hold fealty to many serious general principles, including: the rule of law, basic human rights, federalism, and, yes, the individual adult’s liberty interest in making all manner of personal decisions sans interference from the state; we are also usually skeptical of moralistic social crusades. Many of us, historically, have concluded that our principles and attitudes are best, if imperfectly, upheld by the GOP. Political conditions, however, have changed, and today’s GOP violates libertarian values with promiscuous abandon (but this post focuses on only one of myriad examples of such abandonment). Most intriguingly, we are receiving what could be taken as an invitation from soi disant “libertarian Democrat” Markos Moulitsas that has excited some discussion in our ranks.

Well, I am one libertarian who is cautiously receptive to the Donkey Team’s lure. The canary in the GOP coal mine for me was Michael Schiavo and the (predominantly) GOP grotesqueries imposed on him, his family and his friends during the jihad to “save” his former wife, Terri Schiavo. Not surprisingly, life-long Republican Michael himself seems to agree that the contemporary GOP has become malignant, and he has been both posting a diary at Daily Kos , and last week attended the YearlyKos Convention. What libertarian could blame him? (And please don’t suggest that he could make recourse to the Libertarian Party; Michael is obviously interested in a political force potent enough to evict the current, populist GOP extremists from some branches of the federal government, as am I.)

Let us recall how the Bush/Frist GOP utterly savaged Michael, gleefully joined by its handmaidens at Fox news, the latter of which virtually drove the hysteria , with no little bit of assistance from some pro-Bush blogs. Armed with absurd conspiracy theories, pure lies and faux experts, as well as outrageous and repugnant accusations (“Sean Hannity accused Schiavo of abusing and possibly killing his wife while broadcasting Hannity & Colmes from outside Terri Schiavo's Hospice”), the GOP and its media minions turned a family tragedy that was being competently and properly adjudicated in the Florida Courts by a Republican probate judge, into a fevered national circus.

Most of the Bush-worshipping denizens of the leading conservative journal, National Review, were on board with "saving Terri." But there was one dissenter in the NR stable, and that is John Derbyshire, whose acid review of NR senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru’s execrable book, Party of Death, is as scathing as it is accurate. (Do read the whole thing, and note it was not published at NR.) (h/t David Weigel at Hit ‘n Run) Writes Derb:

... the grotesque carnival surrounding the death of Terri Schiavo last year, when a motley menagerie of quack doctors, bogus “Nobel Prize nominees,” emoting relatives, get-a-life monomaniacs, keening mobs of religious fanatics, death-threat-hissing warriors for “life,” dimwitted TV presenters straining to keep their very best my-puppy-just-died faces on while speaking of “Terri” as if they had known her personally from grade school, pandering politicians, and shyster lawyers all joined forces in a massive effort to convince the American public that [Right to Life] was a thing no sane citizen ought to touch with a barge pole while wearing triple-ply rubber gloves.

Does Ponnuru denounce his co-ideologues’ deranged atmosphere that generated hatred and death threats against Michael Schiavo? Derb again (emphasis in original):

In fact, Ponnuru has nothing to say at all about the monstrous character assassination, carried out by utterly unscrupulous RTL propagandists, of a decent man [Michael Schiavo] who coped humanely and well with a terrible life calamity. Well, not quite nothing: “It cannot be denied that pro-lifers were guilty of some excesses,” Ponnuru murmurs. Some excesses? I would say. Here the author sounds like nothing so much as a Soviet Communist Party apparatchik, circa 1960, offering a grudging admission that Stalin and his cronies might, just once or twice, have been a tad over-zealous in dealing with class enemies…I came away more convinced than ever that Michael Schiavo is a good man criminally traduced by brutal, unprincipled RTL fanatics, from whose number, on the evidence of this chapter, Ponnuru cannot with certainty be excluded.

About the medical charlatanry peddled by the GOP regarding Terri Schiavo’s status, another life-long Republican — physician Elizabeth Whelan, president and founder of the American Council on Science and Health — had this to say at TCS:

While the family video [of Terri] repeatedly shown on television suggests otherwise, her non-functioning cortex precludes cognition, including any ability to interact or communicate with people or show any signs of awareness. Dozens of experts over the years who have examined Ms. Schiavo agree that there is no hope of her recovering — even though her body, face and eyes (if she is given food and hydration) might continue to move for decades to come.

Those are the harsh facts.

Thus it was shocking that Sen. Bill Frist — a heart surgeon before becoming Senate majority leader — went to the Senate floor twice last week to argue that Florida doctors had erred in saying that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state." How did Frist arrive at this diagnosis? From watching the family videotapes.

Frist's comments were picked up by journalists, including FoxNews's Fred Barnes, who cited Sen. Frist as an authority in a debate with Morton Kondracke on The Beltway Boys last week.

The GOP-led federal madness that ensued in the wake of Frist and Fox’s reprehensible antics is well-described by Reason’s Ron Bailey:

After making their video diagnoses, our legislators got busy. After all, a leaked memo from a Republican staffer had also diagnosed Schiavo's plight as "a great political issue" that would help the GOP rally conservative Christians for the 2006 election. In March, three Senators during an extraordinary Palm Sunday session passed "emergency" legislation to throw the Schiavo case into the federal courts by a "unanimous" vote. The members of the House of Representatives rushed back from their Easter holiday to vote 203 to 58 for the bill. Those voting in favor included 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats. And President George W. Bush melodramatically flew back from his Texas ranch to sign the legislation. All for naught, because the federal courts all quickly ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo.

And, just as life-long Republican Dr. Whelan deplored the medical codswallop of the Bush/Frist GOP spewed forth during l’affaire Schiavo, arch-conservative, pro-life, Republican Constitutional Law scholar Douglas Kmiec rejected the GOP’s attack on both the rule of law and federalism as “a constitiutional abomination”:

... Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University and prominent conservative, called it a "constitutional abomination," because, he said, Congress had overstepped its authority.

The Constitution grants to Congress only certain powers, leaving the rest to the states. Kmiec said nothing in the Constitution gave Congress the power to pass the law, which, he said, sets a troubling precedent that Congress can simply order a federal judge to direct a person's fate.

"What Congress has said is, 'We can take that away from you. We can make the decision not yours, but that of a federal judge,'" Kmiec said. "That is a profound thing to say, and not just for the Schiavo case."

Michael certainly will find no GOP restraint from the "federalist lawyers" at Powerline, which declared:

Disgusting... That's the only word to describe the conduct of Michael Schiavo and his crusade to end the life of his wife Terri.

Nor would he encounter anything but shrill, hyperbolic contempt from pro-Bush blogger LaShawn Barber, who, in a post titled Death Culturists Say Michael Schiavo ‘Vindicated’ wrote:

Look at the thing itself, to paraphrase a fictional man-eater paraphrasing Marcus Aurelius. What is it in itself? What is its nature, this culture of death?

It is dark, dank, and putrid. And hungry....

And in another post, instead of denouncing death threats directed at Michael, and the climate that produced them, Barber more than hinted that he deserved them and excuses the “emotions” that drive some to such lawless and vicious behavior:

A man has been arrested for making threats against Michael Schiavo via the Internet. In that case, he shouldn’t be the only one. How many people have said or written such things about Schiavo in the past week out of emotion? Should they all be arrested?”

(In fairness, it must be noted that a comparative handful of pro-Bush bloggers were disgusted by the Schiavo mania and the slander of Michael Schiavo, as reflected by these collected quotes and links at The Politburo Diktat. And, pro-Bush blogger Jeff Goldstein, with whom I disagree about a great deal, wrote: “…an autopsy could very well prove that Michael Schiavo abused his wife—or, more likely, such a procedure will clear Michael Schiavo of some of the more pernicious pieces of conjecture I’ve heard floated during the ongoing coverage of this case.” )

But, it was it was a left-of-center blogger, Matt Stoller, who interviewed the Republican Michael Schiavo at Stoller’s MyDD blog, and from that interview I leave newly minted Kos Kid, Michael Schiavo, with both a challenge to Republicans (which might also apply to libertarians), and the last word:

Interfering with families' rights to make private, personal decisions shouldn't be any politician's platform.

There are many good Republicans - where I work, in my family and all over the place. And many of them were sickened by what they saw their party doing to the rights of individuals and families. But the people leading the Republican party in Washington D.C. and in Florida today aren't like the Republicans I know.

The leaders of that Republican party are, in my opinion, out of touch, mean spirited and very selfish. To do what they did just so they can win re-election is the lowest kind of politics. And it cost them the support of at least this Republican.

I have gotten hundreds of letters and emails from other Republicans who agree with me and many of them have joined me in leaving the party.

My message to moderate Republicans is: Pay attention. Learn what these people are doing in your name and with your votes.

Terri Schiavo, Part 2

Over time I have lost my luster for Dennis Prager, the most well-known religious moralist on the right. This is a person who stands by a pro-life position on the Schiavo case, but on his radio program has openly admitted to being for early-term abortions, a contradiction right there. (see column for links)
Facts and Lies about Religion in the Terri Schiavo Case
The forces opposed to removing Terri Schiavo's gastric tube are almost uniformly religious in their perspective. Unfortunately for them, a significant number of those who support Michael Schiavo are also religious in their perspective. How can the Christian Right attack others in the usual manner, i.e. pretend that they are immoral and godless?

Dennis Prager rummages around in the trash and comes up with:

"[C]hances are that if you affirm Judeo-Christian values, you have opposed pulling the feeding tubes from the severely brain damaged woman's body. Why? Because if there is anything that Judeo-Christian values stand for, it is choosing life and rejecting death."

If this is even vaguely true, then why do most people in a population that is primarily Christian agree that they would want the tubes removed if they were in Terri Schiavo's condition and would act similarly to how Michael Schiavo has done? Why do so many people in a population that is primarily Christian make similar decisions about removing gastric tubes and ventilators every single day?

Perhaps Dennis Prager would argue that all those people don't "really" affirm "Judeo-Christian values" (because he's just the person to determine what qualifies as genuine and false adherence, genuine and false interpretations). Well, if anyone were to be thought of as affirming "Judeo-Christian values," it would probably be a Jesuit priest — right?

Well, here's what the Rev. John J. Paris, a bioethics professor at Boston College, has to say:

"The church doctrine, and it’s been consistent for 400 years, is that one is not morally obliged to undergo any intervention. ... What the right-to-lifers want to say is the pope said you must always use artificial nutrition and fluids for patients in persistent vegetative state—and there’s no exception. The Florida bishops say that’s not what the church has taught and that’s surely not what this means.

Richard McCormick, who was the great Catholic moral theologian of the last 25 years, wrote a brilliant article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1974 called “To Save or Let Die.” He said there are two great heresies in our age (and heresy is a strong word in theology—these are false doctrines). One is that life is an absolute good and the other is that death is an absolute evil. We believe that life was created and is a good, but a limited good. Therefore the obligation to sustain it is a limited one. The parameters that mark off those limits are your capacities to function as a human."

I've caught Dennis Prager misrepresenting the truth before — he's not above ignoring facts in order to serve his religious or political agenda. His misrepresentations are naturally popular with religious conservatives who, it seems, don't bother to think critically about what he says.

In this case, the agenda is both religious and political: he and others need to portray themselves as the only ones defending "real" religious morality while their opponents are, by implication, godless and immoral secularists. They can't come right out and say that last bit because they know that most of the people opposing them are anything but godless or secularists, but they can push their position by claiming (without supporting arguments) that their position is the only truly moral one.

Terri Schiavo, Part 1

Like I said before, now seems like a good time to jump off the Republican ticket, let alone the abyss called the two-party system.

No Rush Limbaugh--liberals are not “gleeful” about the death of Terri Schiavo.

We have not “gotten our wish,” that she be dead nor, as Big Pants accused, will we see this shameful event as freeing us up to work on “saving Scott Peterson,” the convicted killer at the locus of the last prurient 24/7 cable channel snore-orgy.

It’s not glee that fills my heart today, but relief. Relief that Terri Schiavo’s poor carcass will finally be put to rest.

Relief that her family, now useless to the political and media axe-grinders, ox-gorers and ideological opportunists, can simply be grieving husband, parents and siblings.

These shameful opportunistic ghouls propped up this woman like Frankenstein and used her body like a whore’s. It was top-down equal opportunity opportunism.

President Bush: rushed back early to DC from Texas like Roy Rogers riding Trigger all night bringing the doc to the rancher’s dying wife. As usual from the faux Texan--it was all hat, no cattle--or, as Frank Rich wrote in the NY Times:

The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Tom Delay: a moral midget with a heart of carnival glass and a meanstreak the width of the Rio Grande, needed a values-rich issue to change the subject from his disturbing and deepening ethics problems in Congress.

Dr. Bill Frist: is Senate Majority Leader, a heart surgeon, who stunningly made a grave neurological diagnosis of Schiavo from videos of her running relentlessly on Fox News. And oh yeah--he’s running for President.

Randall Terry: slithered out from under his rock to flack his pro-life point of view by spokespeeping for the parents. You’ll remember him as the anti-abortion media whore of Operation Rescue, repeatedly jailed in the ‘90’s for well-publicized attacks on abortion clinics. The clownish, homophobic, evangelical Christian needed press redemption after his IRS problems; his son’s very public coming out as a gay; and, according to the Washington Post, his censure by his Binghamton, NY church in 2000 for a "pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women."

Sean Hannity: is always on the lookout for stories that he can give the appearance of controlling. With skillful earnestness, tiny Irish lips, deeply-felt smarm, great hair, and a lot of impressive sheeves of paper, he seemed to be in charge of the moral, legal, and family matters for the Schindlers. I almost felt sorry for MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough pitifully begging over the air to the Schindlers to talk to him. As a "friend of the family," Hannity had them exclusively, heartbreakingly, endlessly, tediously. The sad part is that Fox drove the so-called story that highjacked real news for the better part of two weeks.

Jesse Jackson: It was revolting to see the craven Jackson, and Hannity fellating each other in a circle of mutual self-promotion. He's usually Hannity's favorite example of liberal depravity, flawed black leadership. and here’s-what’s-wrong-with-the-Negros. Jackson, stranger to neither media whoring nor pimping, insinuated himself at the last minute into the Schiavo case sucking the air out of the room for the lifeless politicians and media suck-ups milling about hoping to get some juice from the circus. The Rev got his face in front of every camera; and in the end, gained nothing but some very temporary favor from the religious right.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

'Decline of the Republican Party' Part 5

It was Reagan, not Congress
National Debt by President
The national debt peaked at 120% of GDP in 1946 due to the war effort, but Roosevelt, Truman, Ike, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon and Carter all did their part to bring the national debt back to pre-war levels. By the beginning of 1981, the national debt had fallen to 32.5% of GDP. Then, Reagan took office and the national debt took off. It rose non-stop for 12 years to 66.3% at the end of Bush's term, erasing 25 years of progress in paying down the national debt.

From the White House: The Reagan-Bush Debt Explained
The traditional pattern of running large deficits only in times of war or economic downturns was broken during much of the 1980s. In 1982, [Reagan's 1st budget year] partly in response to a recession, large tax cuts were enacted. However, these were accompanied by substantial increases in defense spending. Although reductions were made to nondefense spending, they were not sufficient to offset the impact on the deficit. As a result, deficits averaging $206 billion were incurred between 1983 and 1992. These unprecedented peacetime deficits increased debt held by the public from $789 billion in 1981 to $3.0 trillion (48.1% of GDP) in 1992.
The most popular national-debt web sites continue the same confusions that caused Reagan to believe the national debt was higher than ever when it was at its lowest point since before World War II. Here is what you see when you look at the debt in nominal dollars.

Brillig (named for Alice in Wonderland) has been reminded of inflation and has corrected for it by adding the following graph. But this still ignores population growth and that fact that the country has gotten a lot richer in the last 50 years. The result is still tremendously misleading, but you can see the Reagan rise and the Clinton dip.

The nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) takes all of these effects into account. It grows with inflation, population and increased income. By comparing the national debt to GDP, we get a fair check on whether it is growing or shrinking relative to what we can afford. That is why the White House web site give gross national debt as a percentage of GDP, which is what I have plotted on the page above.

The Heritage Foundation
Historical Context
The 7.9 percent of GDP spent on discretionary programs in 2005 was not far off the historical average. Discretionary spending topped 10 percent of GDP from World War II through the early 1980s, before falling to 6.3 percent in 2000, and then spiking back up to 7.9 percent in 2005.

Defense spending has driven much of these fluctuations. From 9.3 percent of GDP in 1962, it typically remained over 5 percent until the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Then, after dropping all the way down to 3.0 percent of GDP in 2000, the War on Terrorism has pushed it back up to 4.1 percent.

Non-defense discretionary spending has remained more stable over the past few decades. After dropping to 3.2 percent of GDP in 1999, it has since surged to 3.9 percent in 2005.

Recent Large Spending Increases
Conventional wisdom holds that non-defense discretionary spending has been cut to make room for defense spending increases. Conventional wisdom is wrong. According to OMB Historical Table 8.2, non-defense discretionary outlays – adjusted for inflation –surged by 34 percent between 1999 and 2005. That is the largest six-year expansion since the 1970s.

One way to compare current discretionary spending trends is by presidential administration:

Overall discretionary outlays rose 2.3 percent annually under President Clinton, compared to 9.7 percent annually under President Bush. Defense was virtually frozen in nominal dollars under President Clinton, and has averaged 12 percent annual growth under President Bush. Non-defense discretionary outlays rose 4 percent annually under President Clinton, versus 8 percent annually under President Bush.

Let me re-emphasize that last point: Non-defense discretionary spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton.
Examples of discretionary spending increases between 2001 and 2006 include the following:

Education is up 62 percent, or 10 percent annually; International affairs is up 74 percent, or 12 percent annually; Health research and regulation is up 57 percent, or 9 percent annually; Veterans’ benefits are up 46 percent, or 8 percent annually; Science and basic research is up 40 percent, or 7 percent annually. and Overall non-defense discretionary outlays are up 46 percent, or 7.8 percent annually.

Budgets are about making trade-offs among competing priorities, and these recent guns and butter budgets raise serious questions about federal priorities. To enact the largest six-year non-defense discretionary spending hike, at the same time funding a war, has placed federal spending on an unsustainable path. Last week’s harsh reactions to the President’s budget proposal shows that certain constituencies have now grown accustomed to large annual spending increases, and consider even a temporary freeze at these higher spending levels to be out of bounds.

Large Entitlements Threaten Discretionary Programs
Discretionary spending faces a perilous future. The reason is not because the President’s budget proposal forecasts discretionary spending cuts through 2011. Discretionary spending is budgeted on a yearly basis, and any projected discretionary spending numbers after 2007 hold no statutory weight, but serve only as temporary placeholders to make future budget deficits appear smaller. These out-year numbers are typically dismissed by the White House when writing subsequent budget requests.

The real reason for concern comes from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, whose steep growth will likely crowd out all other spending.

The math is simple. Annual spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – what I call the “big three entitlements” – is projected to leap by 10.5 percent of GDP between now and 2050. That money will have to come from somewhere. The entire 7.9 percent of GDP currently spent on discretionary programs will be at risk.

It is possible that Congress will raise taxes to pay for this spending. However, Congress would have to keep raising taxes every year until they reach the current equivalent of $11,000 per household above current levels to fund those entitlement costs.

Assuming that Congress balks at such large tax hikes, it becomes more likely that discretionary spending will have to be substantially reduced to make room for those entitlements. Competition for scarce budget resources will become increasingly intense, and the big three entitlements will leave smaller and smaller crumbs for discretionary spending. Overall, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending increases are projected to squeeze out the entire non-defense discretionary budget by 2020, and the entire discretionary budget (including defense) by 2034.

The message is clear: If you prioritize spending on education, health research, veterans’ health care, homeland, security, defense or the environment – the single biggest threat to these programs is Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that within a decade, the big three entitlements will be growing $172 billion each year – which will be more than the entire combined budgets of the Departments of Education and Justice at that time. At that point, it will become difficult to maintain even a shell of current discretionary programs. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will swallow almost all of the tax dollars.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

'Decline of the Republican Party' Part 4

A recent local Minnesota pre-poll showed 52 percent would vote within the two-party system, and the other 48 percent would vote either independent or not at all. An interneter told me the RNP is a "bad idea" while the DNP has "no ideas". I responded with, "Promoting a bad idea on the basis of no idea is not a good idea." I've come to realize the RNP's vision is simply to not be Democratic. Blah. Third party, or any "other" party, anyone? Lets really shake up the political format.

What next for conservatives
Nov 17, 2005
by George Will

The conservative coalition, which is coming unglued for many reasons, will rapidly disintegrate if limited-government conservatives become convinced that social conservatives are unwilling to concentrate their character-building and soul-saving energies on the private institutions that mediate between individuals and government, and instead try to conscript government into sectarian crusades.

But, then, the limited-government impulse is a spent force in a Republican Party that cannot muster congressional majorities to cut the growth of Medicaid from 7.3 percent to 7 percent next year. That "cut'' was too draconian for some Republican "moderates.''

But, then, most Republicans are moderates as that term is used by persons for whom it is an encomium: Moderates are people amiably untroubled by Washington's single-minded devotion to rent-seeking -- to bending government for the advantage of private factions.

Conservatives have won seven of 10 presidential elections, yet government waxes, with per household federal spending more than $22,000 per year, the highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II. Federal spending -- including a 100 percent increase in education spending since 2001 -- has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton, 65 percent of it unrelated to national security.

In 1991, the 546 pork projects in the 13 appropriation bills cost $3.1 billion. In 2005, the 13,997 pork projects cost $27.3 billion for things like improving the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio (Packard, an automobile brand, died in 1958).

Washington subsidizes the cost of water to encourage farmers to produce surpluses that trigger a gusher of government spending to support prices. It is almost comforting that $2 billion is spent each year paying farmers not to produce. Farm subsidies, most of which go to agribusinesses and affluent farmers, are just part of the $60 billion in corporate welfare that dwarfs the $29 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security.

Brian Riedl of The Heritage Foundation reports that Congress responded to the Korean War by setting priorities, cutting one-fourth of all nonwar spending in one year. Recently the House failed to approve an unusually ambitious effort to cut government growth. This is today's ambitiousness: attempting -- probably unsuccessfully -- to cut government growth by $54 billion over five years.

That is $10.8 billion a year from five budgets projected to total $12.5 trillion, of which $54 billion is four-tenths of 1 percent. War is hell but, on the home front, it is indistinguishable from peace, except that the government is more undisciplined than ever.

Lew Rockwell
Four Years Growth
by Laurence M. Vance

The Republicans gained control of the Congress in the third year of Clinton’s first term. They had complete control of the 104th Congress (1995–1997), held on to control in the 105th Congress (1997–1999), and remained in power during the 106th Congress (1999–2001) through the end of Clinton’s presidency. After George Bush was inaugurated in 2001, he had a Republican-controlled 107th Congress (2001–2003) until May 24, 2001, when Jim Jeffords (R-VT) switched from Republican to Independent, changing the Senate from 50/50 to 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 Independent. The House remained in Republican hands. The 108th Congress (2003–2005) was once again solidly Republican, giving the Republicans an absolute majority in Congress and the White House for the last two years of Bush’s first term.

This means that the Republican Party has no excuse for the size and scope of the federal government as it exists right now. Republicans can’t blame anything on the Democrats like they did for the fifty years before they gained control of the Congress.

Now that we are at the end of Bush’s first four years, a simple question needs to be asked: Is the government at the end of Bush’s first term in any way smaller or less expensive than the government at the beginning of his first term. If it is, then Bush and the Republican Party told the truth, but if it isn’t, then Bush’s rhetoric was just hot air and the 2000 Republican Party Platform wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
(See also What a Republican Majority Has Not Meant.)

Milken Institute
How Republicans Became Defenders of Big Government
by Stephen Slivinski

The Price of United Government
Why the big change under W? Because the Republicans own both the House and Senate. Divided government, with at least one house of Congress controlled by the President's opposition, tends to keep spending under control. As a onetime Reagan economic advisor William Niskanen noted, "The only two long periods of fiscal restraint [since World War II] were the Eisenhower administration and the Clinton administration, during both of which the opposition party controlled Congress."

Friday, May 19, 2006

'Decline of the Republican Party' Part 3

The American Enterprise
Unlimited Government
by Christopher DeMuth

Government bloat 1980-2005
Well, what difference does all of this make? Why in the age of the Internet, globalization, and al-Qaeda should we attend fastidiously to a document written more than two centuries ago, in radically different circumstances, that itself contains many artful fudges and reflects many political compromises on issues that long ago lost their salience? Here are three reasons why we should be much more fastidious than we are.

First, the American political order is very old and very successful, and tolerable Constitutional adherence has already seen us through many epochs and crises. Have you heard the joke about the student who went to the reference librarian and asked for a copy of the French Constitution? “I’m sorry,” the librarian replied, “we don’t keep periodicals here.” Ours is the oldest written Constitution, and our nation, for all of its problems and shortcomings, has been an unprecedented success. For most of our 216 years, other countries have been places of continuous political upheaval and oppression, punctuated by periods of mass violence. Progress and stability are cardinal virtues where political systems are concerned; when you find yourself in possession of them, hold fast to your institutional inheritance.

Second, the principle of limited government is not a bit less urgent today than it was two centuries ago. It has now been 25 years since Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington announcing his intention to “check and reverse the growth of government.” That quarter century has been governed mainly by Republican Presidents, and increasingly by Republican legislatures, and even the one Democratic President declared that “the era of big government is over.” Yet the federal government’s annual domestic spending doubled during the period, from about $900 billion to about $1.8 trillion (in 2000 dollars). Today the federal government’s fiscal imbalance—the excess of projected future expenditures over projected future revenues—is close to $70 trillion. About $20 trillion of this enormous sum was tacked on just in 2003, with the addition of a massive, unfunded Medicare entitlement to prescription drug benefits. Increasing taxes to pay for our standing policy commitments would move U.S. rates to the levels prevailing in today’s socialist European nations.

In recent years, with the Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress, domestic expenditures (even excluding post–9/11 “homeland security” spending) have been growing faster than during the previous two decades of divided government, and the incidence of pork-barrel projects has reached an all-time high. The 2001-2005 period marks the transformation of the Republican Party from its traditional role as a win-or-lose guardian of limited government to that of a majority governing party just as comfortable with big government as the Democrats, only with different spending priorities.

Perhaps the best illustration of this transformation is the Department of Education. Following the Department’s creation under President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Republican leaders routinely called for its abolition, and the 1996 GOP platform did so explicitly on Constitutional grounds. Then, in 2000, the party dropped its platform pledge. And by 2004 the Bush administration was campaigning for re-election boasting of a “huge, historic, gargantuan increase in federal education spending.” The claim was correct: the Department’s annual budget grew 83 percent after inflation during President Bush’s first term, by far the greatest rate of increase since its creation.

And the expenditure and debt figures offered here seriously understate the extent of recent government growth. That is because they ignore the burst of regulations whose costs are borne largely by the private sector. As with domestic spending, off-budget regulatory growth has been particularly pronounced in the recent years of unified Republican government. Examples include the institution of national “corporate governance” and accounting regulation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, national school testing requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s issuance of a profusion of new rules throughout the financial services sector, the Department of Justice’s use of aggressive new legal theories to prosecute “economic crimes” and establish new forms of federal crime, and the national regulatory regimes established by state attorney general litigation described earlier. In 2005, political leaders of both parties proposed national price controls for gasoline, heating oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals. The bipartisan deregulation movement of the late 1970s and ’80s has been supplanted by new, equally bipartisan enthusiasm for regulation.

These developments have not come without resistance, but the nature and futility of that resistance is highly instructive. With the decline in Constitutional adherence, political leaders (mainly Republican) have been searching for several decades now for substitute, sub-Constitutional devices for curbing government growth. During President Reagan’s first term, I participated in lively White House debates where some promoted a “starve the beast” strategy of continuous tax reductions (reasoning that swelling government deficits would produce pressure for spending restraint), while others favored a “serve the check” strategy of matching taxes to current spending (on the theory that charging voters the full costs of government, rather than bucking some of them to our grandchildren through borrowing, would create a constituency for spending control). Reagan came down unhesitatingly for tax reductions, with auspicious political and economic results that made tax cutting the new mantra among all practicing Republicans.

In the Congress, Senator Phil Gramm devoted much of his public career to devising budget rules that would oblige his colleagues to make difficult spending choices they would rather avoid. More recently, House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s theme of an “opportunity society” and President George W. Bush’s theme of an “ownership society” have aimed to popularize the personal benefits of shifting insurance and subsidy programs from government administration to private institutions and markets. But these and other expedients have had little durable effect. It seems that, when accepted external constraints on government action are abandoned, there is no solution within the political system to the problem of government’s turning “every contingency into an excuse for enhancing power in itself.”

Thursday, May 18, 2006

'Decline of the Republican Party' Part 2

I wouldn't say I agree with every word of Lew's, but it's the gist of what he says that's important. The Republicans have never actually in history been a "small government" party. When I think about it, why would any administration seek small government considering all their agenda is is to reduce individual freedoms for their party's gain? I'd also make the argument that the Democrats are actually better at balancing a budget in the last 25 years because of the taxes (which are not good but unavoidable since citizens no longer are in control of their own money). I can say though that any gov't (Reagan and Bush Jr.) that spends as excessively, if not more, than the Dems, and continues deep tax cuts, spells greater national debt.

Anyhow, this cat & mouse game talk of these two party's is pointless in my book. I am not voting for the Repukes on the basis that Hillary Clinton "will ruin America" with her concealed socialism agenda. That tag will just continue with the next DNP candidate, and the next, and the next...I can't wait another 50 years for "the promise" of a better tomorrow in all its lustered facade.

I recommend you read the entire link. Interesting stuff.

Lew Rockwell
1. The party began as a coalition of Americans who wanted to expand federal power. Its heritage was with the Hamiltonian Federalist Party, which more or less transformed into the big-government Whig Party. When the Whig Party became defunct, the Republican Party emerged to include centralist big-government Americans and other opponents of the Democrats without a party.

The party also absorbed many folks from the Free Soil Party, which was, itself, a loose coalition of Americans who opposed the extension of slavery into the western territories. Some were genuinely anti-slavery, and even a few abolitionists, with nowhere else to go, joined the Free Soil movement. But the Free Soilers, by and large, only opposed slavery because they found it unfair that free white laborers should have to compete with black slaves. They wanted to keep blacks out of the West. Free Soilers and Republicans who were authentic abolitionists were rare and without influence, much like the libertarians in the GOP today.

2. There were surely some early Republicans with good intentions, with a greater interest in liberty and equality for blacks than in pillaging through the federal government. However, the party as an institution was always about expanding the central state and nationalizing sectors of the economy – and such goals, however well-intentioned or falsely associated with the more noble principles of abolition and equality under the law, undoubtedly had little to do with America’s founding principles of Constitutional and decentralized, limited government.

In the late 19th century the president most sensitive to liberty was the Democrat Grover Cleveland, who, in the 1880s and 1890s, defended the gold standard, reduced tariffs, relied heavily on his veto pen, and rooted out corruption. When the Republicans took over with William McKinley in 1897, they continued their trademark trend of expanding government and using subsidies and tariffs to benefit Big Business. In 1898, they took America on its first step toward global empire – the Spanish-American War.

3. Enter Ronald Reagan – a man that personifies the deceptive façades and realities of the modern Republican Party. Reagan began acquiring his undeserved good reputation as a champion of liberty in the 1950s, when General Electric hired him to tour the country and talk about free enterprise – a topic that neither Reagan, a devout New Dealer and former president of the Screen Actors Guild Union, nor General Electric, a top player in the military-industrial complex, had a true, heart-felt passion for or interest in.

As governor of California, Reagan signed into law the largest tax increase in state history as well as the most egregious modern gun control law in state history – the 1967 Mulford Act, authored by a Republican, which prohibited the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle or on a public street. The California budget grew at a much faster rate under Reagan than under either Democrat Pat Brown before him or Democrat Jerry Brown after him.

As president, Reagan increased government spending through the roof. Federal spending totaled $590 billion in fiscal year 1980; by 1988, Reagan’s last year, it rose to $1.14 trillion. Under Reagan, the national debt climbed from less than $800 billion to more than $2 trillion. Although some people like to attribute this to "defense spending," that’s largely a myth, and irrelevant to the question of sheer government size, anyway.

Reagan cut taxes on high-income brackets, but he also dramatically raised payroll taxes, causing tax revenues to go up. At any rate, his spending nearly doubled the size of government. Since all spending increases are tax increases, whether in the form of direct taxation or inflation, Reagan must be seen as a tax raiser. Unfortunately, this doesn’t register with all conservatives, who learned from Reagan the neo-Keynsian mantra that "deficits don’t matter."

Reagan also pumped up the War on Drugs. The number of drug offenders in federal prison rose from about six thousand in 1980 to more than twenty-two thousand in 1988; the percentage of inmates in federal prison for drug offenses increased from 25% to 44% during Reagan’s two terms.

In spite of his lip service to free trade, Reagan was an ardent protectionist who strengthened the fraudulent Export-Import Bank and imposed horrendous tariffs and quotas on everything from electronics to clothespins to motorcycles to sugar. Despite his getting credit for deregulation, he only continued what Carter had begun. Despite his promises to eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education as well as the Selective Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, President Reagan abolished none of these, or any other major bureaucracies, and actually inflated them, for the most part.

Reagan was also a shameless interventionist, bombing Libya, militarily assisting both Iran and its enemy Iraq, illegally supporting thugs in Latin America, and invading Grenada. Despite the Cold War mythology, the USSR fell under the weight of central planning, not because of Reagan. It is absurd to credit Reagan’s central planning as a paragon of economic liberty that defeated Communism by example, or to think his militarism kept Americans safe.

4. 2000 rolled around with George W. Bush, who had been quite Reaganesque in his big-government polices as governor of Texas, carrying the banner of the Republicans and proposing a centrist agenda of "compassionate conservatism." On the one hand, he advocated a "humbler" foreign policy, lower taxes, and a modest Social Security "privatization" program. On the other hand, he proposed expanding Medicare and greater national involvement in education.

The two parties squared off in one of the closest presidential races in history. Sick of Clinton and fearful of Gore, many libertarians supported Bush, falling for the often-asserted nonsense that the Republicans, once they controlled both the White House and Congress, would finally deliver on promises of smaller government and greater individual liberty.

Now that Bush has taken power, and the Republicans dominate Congress and the Supreme Court, we see once again what fans of smaller government can expect from the GOP: the very opposite of liberty, big government in all directions. Endless war, Medicare expansions, protectionism, enormous agricultural welfare, the Patriot Act, campaign finance censorship, education nationalization, the end of due process, and half-a-trillion dollars a year in deficit spending.

Most small-government conservatives and libertarians feel betrayed by Bush, and yet are thinking of lending him their helping hands on election day. They hope the Republican Party will return to its supposed roots in small government and liberty. They hope that Bush will improve in his second term.

'Decline of the Republican Party' Part 1

This is 1-3 of 6 steps on the demise of the Republican Party. I cut it off at 3 because the remainder starts promoting Libertarianism, and I wanted to focus on what your vote goes to.

"If government growth were a videotape, liberals would be pushing the 'Fast Forward' button, moderates the 'Forward' button, Republican Politicians would talk about hitting the 'Pause' button, while they left the tape on 'Forward'. Libertarians are the only people trying to push the 'Rewind' button."

With the Bush administrations spendaholicisms, the changes might be that the RNP have fully committed themselves to 'Forward' or 'Fast Forward' themselves. The days of "fiscal responsibility" (what a joke) are truly over, if it ever existed in the first place. (According to 20/20's independent/libertarian John Stossel, gov't has done nothing but grow each and every presidential term over the last 75 years.)
Why Republican politicians keep selling out freedom

By Jo Jorgensen

Republican Politicians give us the political equivalent of 1-900 Phone Sex. They tell us that we're special. They ask us what we really want -- and tell us that they want it, too. Then they start breathing heavy and getting excited by what we want. They tell us their fantasy for us. They tease us and tempt us. They arouse our passions. They tell us how much they want it and how good it's going to be.

When we hang up from the 1-900 Republican Tax Cut Fantasy Line, we realize three things: They cost us a lot of money; the real thing is a lot more satisfying; and they're never going to come across.

There are many fine Republican voters. Many fine Barry Goldwater Republicans. Many fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party.

But where are the Republican Politicians who aggressively pursue de-regulation, sizable tax cuts, and radical reductions of government?

Why do Republican Politicians keep selling out freedom?

Individual freedom and government power are polar opposites. More government means less freedom. More taxes, more regulations, more laws, more policies, more programs, more government employees, and more government spending. . .all grow at the expense of our freedom.

More individual freedom means less government.

Voting for more government is voting for less freedom.

Republican Politicians regularly vote for more government.

Republican Politicians regularly voted for the Nixon Federal Budgets, the Ford Budgets, the Reagan Budgets, and the Bush Budgets. Each budget was larger than the previous year's federal budget.

Ronald Reagan's lowest deficit was higher than Jimmy Carter's highest deficit.

In eight years as President, Ronald Reagan never even proposed a balanced budget.

In eight years as President, Ronald Reagan proposed higher federal spending every single year.

And Republican Politicians voted with Reagan. They voted for higher federal spending and higher federal debt.

Then, for four more years, Republican Politicians supported George Bush's spending hikes, increases to the federal debt. . .and even the Bush TAX HIKES.

Republican Politicians voted for more government power. More government power means less individual freedom.

Why do Republican Politicians sell out freedom?

FIRST, We do not sell out our most precious values.

Since Republican Politicians are selling out freedom for government power, we know that freedom is not sacred to them.

In "Dead Right," David Frum says:

"Conservatives are not libertarians. They do not believe that maximum personal liberty is a good in and of itself, without regard to its consequences. 'The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please,' wrote Edmund Burke, the hero of American conservatives, 'We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.'"

Libertarians always put freedom first.

Republican Politicians sometimes put "National Security" first. Sometimes they put "Public Order" or "the Public Interest" first. Sometimes they put "Character" or "Virtue" first. Sometimes they put "Western Civilization" or "Religion" or "American Values" first.

Sometimes Republican Politicians put "Special Interests" in their districts first.

We cannot add to government programs, we cannot add to government priorities without subtracting from freedom. When Republican Politicians give government responsibility for other values, they take away freedom.

SECOND, Politics is priorities. Although many Republican Politicians evangelically preach the doctrine of cutting taxes, cutting back government and cutting out government waste -- they go Brain Dead when you ask them exactly what they'll cut out of the Federal Budget.

In 1992, Policy Review, a publication of the Heritage Foundation, asked 20 moderate-to-conservative Republican Senators what they would do to cut $25 Billion from the federal budget. That was less than 2 percent of the budget.

Only 5 of the 20 Republican Politicians responded. And only Hank Brown of Colorado could find $25 Billion to cut from the federal government.

Republican Politicians now have more important priorities than cutting back Big Government.

Conservative author George Will wrote, "A conservative doctrine of the welfare state is required if conservatives are even to be included in the contemporary political conversation."

Years ago, Irving Kristol said, "The welfare state is with us, for better or worse, and. . .conservatives should try to make it better rather than worse."

Newt Gingrich personally added a revealing sentence to the 1992 Republican platform. Gingrich said that Republicans must try to, and I quote, "transform the bureaucratic welfare state into a government that is customer-friendly, cost-effective and improving constantly."

Think about a 'customer-friendly, cost-effective and improving constantly' Internal Revenue Service. How about the Drug Enforcement Administration? Or a lean and mean Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?

Republican Politicians think we are badly taxed, not over-taxed. Badly regulated, not over-regulated. Badly governed, not over-governed.

If you back them into a corner, Republican Politicians will say they want to cut waste from the budget. I've been through the federal budget. There is no line item labeled 'waste'.

I have a message for the Republican Politicians: Stop trying to be all things to all people. Stand up and tell the truth. Exactly what are you going to cut out of the budget?

They have higher priorities than freedom. They are trying to make government efficient and effective. They are streamlining statism.

In the words of Fred Barnes, these Republican Politicians are "Big Government Conservatives." They no longer seek to dramatically reduce the size and power of government. They seek to use that power to re-shape America in the image of their conservative values.

THIRD, the Republican Political Strategy is to slow down or stop government growth, not turn it around.

Decades ago, William F. Buckley, Jr. said, "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop'."

George Bush said, "Read my lips: no new taxes."

Nancy Reagan said, "Just say 'No'."

Slow-growth statism or even stand-still statism is a loser strategy. One expands and empowers the government. The other preserves and protects government.

"Holding the line" on taxes and government is a prescription for failure. On D-Day, we didn't want to "hold the line" at the English Channel. We wanted to move the line forward. To free Europe of Nazi domination.

"Holding the line" on government means protecting and respecting all the new taxes, new spending, new bureaucracies, new laws and new policies that have been added to government since the Constitution was first ratified.

"Holding the line" means letting the Big Government advocates keep what they have stolen from us.

We must begin by dramatically cutting the size and scope and power of government. We must move the line forward to freedom.

We've had enough negativism. We don't want politicians who only say 'No'.

Libertarians just say 'Yes' to huge budget cuts, 'Yes' to dramatic tax cuts, 'Yes' to fiscal restraint. We say 'Yes' to significantly reducing government power. We say 'Yes' to restoring individual freedom and responsibility.

If government growth were a videotape, liberals would be pushing the 'Fast Forward' button, moderates the 'Forward' button, Republican Politicians would talk about hitting the 'Pause' button, while they left the tape on 'Forward'. Libertarians are the only people trying to push the 'Rewind' button.


This is the speech that Jo Jorgensen, the LP's 1996 vice presidential candidate, first gave in February 1995, at the height of the so-called Republican Revolution. She encourages members to copy and distribute the speech, with proper attribution.

Libertarian Heritage

Great introduction on the history of the Libertarian Party here. I'd say it's a motivational piece, and why the two-party system will do nothing but grow and continue to reduce individual freedoms along the way. My recommendation is to get out while you still can because our current system, with the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade, is largely a cess pool that replaces liberty and freedom with regulations and gov't intervention.

Please, if you are seriously tired of our dinosaurific political system, place a vote away from the two-party system. I don't even care if it's for the Libertarian Party. Vote for the politician who will get like 17 votes. If enough Americans voted away from the norm, we could make a significant impact on the current system in place. Of course not all politicians are incompetent, but it would make the whole rethink what they are doing, which judging by my local state gov't is nothing. Thanks

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dennis Prager and homosexuality

Andrew Sullivan's take on Dennis Prager's 2003 article on homosexuality is far more intelligent than mine. So please take a moment to read his because mine is really only an alternative.

Society has the right and obligation to prefer heterosexuality to homosexuality. It is better for children -- they need a mother and a father. And it is better for the individual -- a woman makes a man a better person; and a man does the same for a woman. Advocating heterosexuality as society's ideal no more implies bigotry or "homophobia" than advocating marriage implies bigotry against singles or "single-phobia."

Under libertarian ideology, societies do not have rights. Individuals do.

Societies that regard homosexual sex as the equivalent of heterosexual sex have far more homosexual sex. Ancient Greece esteemed man-boy sex, and consequently had far more of it than modern society.

Societies that allow gay marriage are not claiming any sort of "equivalence". They would be allowing couples the freedom to decide for themselves. Societies will never from what I can see ever view homosexuality as "equal". The issue at hand for heterosexual society is whether or not they can tolerate homosexuality. BTW, Dennis never backed up his assertion with statistical facts.

Religion is an active supporter of suppressing gay marriage through gov't. Gov't is a direct and forceful approach that reduces individual freedoms in the name of fixing those homosexuals who might not be able to be fixed, if you catch my drift. Somewhere along the way religion failed in educating people on their word, and now Dennis Prager and religion believe they have a right and/or duty to utilize gov't to pass laws outlawing homosexual conduct. I'm getting a bit off topic, but the religious right and Republican Party are for the very thing they claim the Democrats are for: more gov't. No matter what way you cut it, it is not true liberty. And as I have either experienced or heard, this approach cannot be mentioned to the religious without denial for the most part. "I'm freeing people from the need to sin" (a true quote) may be a noble gesture under religious ideology, but it is a roundabout way of imposing regulations on the secularist. Outside of violent acts, I'm not convinced it is any of my business to tell homosexuals what they can and cannot do. Sooner or later society will tire of hearing about gay marriage and just come to accept it or tolerate it. (The homosexual movements incorrect move is in trying to push "equality" onto a largely heterosexual society. Liberty is the point in question.)

It is unfair to a child who can be adopted by a married couple to be adopted by a same-sex couple. Children have a basic human right to a mother and a father.

Possibly, probably...but should that decision come down to the child and couple, or Dennis Prager and society? You decide.

The Boy Scouts have the right and the duty not to place gay men in situations where they are alone with boys -- just as the Girl Scouts should not place heterosexual men in positions where they are alone with girls. Yes, most gay men control themselves around boys; but the disproportionate sexual abuse of boys by homosexual priests suggests that some proportion of gays will not be able to control this desire.

It isn't the Boy Scouts' "duty" to anything. In an ideal world without (or less) gov't intervention, they'd have the right to make whatever damn rules they want. Just as homosexuals would have a right to make their own club. If you as a parent have a questionable issue with a scout master, screen them. If you cannot do so, pull your child out, because you have the individual freedom and right to follow your beliefs.

None of these propositions in any way contradicts the opening statement: The homosexual is equal in God's eyes to the heterosexual.

Unfortunately this comes across as more of an insult and is not very convincing. Dennis doesn't even truly believe God loves homosexuals. Otherwise maybe he wouldn't be trying so hard to remove homosexuality from society, or atleast utilizing gov't for religions own failures.

Added later:

If God loves homosexuals too, wouldn't Prager want to just accept them for who they are, or at minimum tolerate them? In essence Prager's entire religious mission in life is under the scope of being a contradiction: a person motivated by the loving message of God while acting in a manner, even acknowledging on occasion such as above, which promotes [legislated] force and hatred.

I do not have all the answers here. All I know is the DNP nor the RNP nor religion nor Dennis Prager believe in true freedom. They all prefer more gov't involvement, not less, and for different reasons.

A funny piece on the Homosexual Agenda...

Pam's House Blends
I know that many of you have heard Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and others speak of the "Homosexual Agenda," but no one has ever seen a copy of it. I have finally obtained a copy directly from the Head Homosexual. So we're all up to speed, it follows below:

The Homosexual Agenda:

6:00 am Gym

8:00 am Breakfast

9:00 am Hair appointment

10:00 am Shopping

12:00 PM Brunch

2:00 PM (Here's the really important part)

1) Assume complete control of the US Federal, State and local Governments as well as all other national governments
2) Recruit all straight youngsters to our debauched lifestyle
3) Destroy all healthy heterosexual marriages
4) Replace all school counselors in grades K-12 with agents of Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels
5) Establish planetary chain of "homo breeding gulags" where over -medicated imprisoned straight women are turned into artificially impregnated baby factories to produce prepubescent love slaves for our devotedly pederastic gay leadership
6) Bulldoze all houses of worship
7) Secure total control of the INTERNET and all mass media for the exclusive use of child pornographers.

2:30 PM Get Forty Winks of Beauty Rest to prevent facial wrinkles from stress of world conquest

4:00 PM Cocktails

6:00 PM Light Dinner

8:00 PM Theater

11:00 PM Bed

National debt
"Each year since 1969, Congress has spent more money than its income. The Treasury Department has to borrow money to meet Congress's appropriations. The total borrowed is more than $8,000,000,000,000 and growing. Even when government officials claim to have a surplus, they still spend more than they get in. We pay interest on that huge debt."

"In Fiscal Year 2005, the U. S. Government spent $352 Billion of your money on interest payments* to the holders of the National Debt. Compare that to NASA at $15 Billion, Education at $61 Billion, and Department of Transportation at $56 Billion. For the current FY06, the running total is $213 billion spent on interest payments!"

"The interest expense paid on the National Debt is the third largest expense in the federal budget. Only Defense and income redistribution (The Departments of Health and Human Services, HUD, and Agriculture (food stamps)) are higher. Do you have "Compassion" for the lower income earners? (You may note that social spending is the largest item in our federal budget. (Anyone complaining about the run-up of the deficit, should note that almost all of it is going to social spending)."

Nat'l Debt 1950-2005:

Tax can be good:
Who do we owe this money to?

We owe it to the people and entities that have bought or received U. S. debt instruments, such as Savings Bonds, Treasury Notes or Treasury Bills.
That includes:

* Average folks like us
* Large and small corporations
* Banks
* Pension funds
* Insurance companies
* Various U. S. government entities such as the Social Security Trust Fund
* State and local government entities
* Foreign investors
* Foreign corporations
* Foreign governments
* For more information:
The Public Debt Online (U. S. Treasury, Department of the Public Debt)
Treasury Bulletin (U. S. Treasury, Financial Management Service)

Why do we owe it?

We have this debt because our government (that's you & me) spends more than it collects in taxes. The solutions are:

* Spend less. That's a lot harder than it sounds; most government spending that could be cut is relatively minor. The things that cannot be cut (or would be extremely difficult to cut) are huge.
* Tax more. If we can't (or won't) cut spending, it's our only choice.

Why can't we just cancel the debt?

We can't cancel it (default) because real people would be hurt—lots of real people, very badly hurt.

* Some people say, "It's not really a debt, because we owe it to ourselves." It would be closer to the truth to say we owe it to each other—and it isn't owed equally to all Americans.
* Defaulting on the debt would do great damage to many pension funds, life insurance companies, banks, state, county and municipal governments, and foreign governments.
* When you—or your parents—or your grandparents are ready to retire, and cash in life insurance policies or pension funds, the money must be there. In fact that happens every day. But we don't have the money to pay what's owed, so we borrow more, further adding to the debt.
* A huge amount of the debt is owed to the Social Security Trust Fund. When, in a few years, that fund goes from positive to negative cash flow, the money has to be available. If it hasn't been repaid to the fund at that time, it will have to be raised through additional borrowing, or additional taxation.
* Internationally, the consequences of a default are hard to imagine. World trade as we know it is dependent on stable financial structures and international trust. The U.S. economy is an immense part of the world's financial structure. The world may not trust us politically, but if they couldn't trust us financially, the impact on the world economy, and on our own, would surely be catastrophic.

Why should I have to pay for incompetent government spending, generations ago?

We have to pay the government's debt, because the government is us.

* Most of the past spending was done for us—it really was.
* We benefited from the low taxation that left money in our pockets instead of paying for our government's expenses as we went along.
* Most of that debt was not incurred generations ago. The biggest chunks were incurred as a result of tax cuts in the early 1980s, and in the early 2000s.
* The consequences of default are unthinkable. Our economy, and the world economy would be severely damaged, perhaps destroyed.

What kind of debt is this, exactly?

The instruments of the debt are things like Savings Bonds, Treasury Notes or Treasury Bills.

* When your grandmother bought you a U. S. Savings Bond, she was actually loaning money to the U. S. Government. If you never cashed in that bond, the Government still owes you the money, with interest.
* When your bank needs to invest the money you've deposited in a savings account, they're likely to invest some of it in government securities—the safest investment available to them. In effect, they're loaning your money to the government, which will pay it back with interest, part of which your bank will pay to you when you withdraw the funds.
* When your city government has collected a bunch of sales tax during December, and won't be spending it until they fill potholes in your street in April, they may buy short-term government bonds with the money. Yep—they loan it to the government, and get it repaid with interest when they need it. If they don't buy the bonds directly, they may put the money in a bank. Guess what the bank does with the funds? Uh huh.

Why does the government keep borrowing, when they know they can't pay it back?

We have to borrow, every month.

* Every day, people and institutions cash in government securities. They must be paid. Since we haven't had a surplus since 2001, we have no money to pay them. The only way we can pay them is to borrow more, by selling more securities.
* We're spending more than ever before, for military incursions, for increasingly expensive health care, and for interest on the debt. Our taxes aren't high enough to finance that spending, so we must borrow.

Why is our government pouring money into other countries as aid?

There are several variations on this question, targeting spending on such things as foreign aid, welfare, or congressional salaries. Everyone has a government expenditure he or she loves to hate. The problem is that most of those expenditures are so small that even their elimination would have no significant impact on the deficit.

* Put on a personal level, reducing such expenditures as foreign aid or congressional salaries would save each working American a few cents or a few dollars per year.
* There are really only three expenditures big enough that they have great impact on the budget; they are health care, defense spending and interest on the debt.
* Interest is a single item; the others are categories. Interest on the debt is the biggest single item in the federal budget. If we had no debt, and therefore no interest, our deficits would be easily manageable in the short term. In the late nineties, interest on the debt actually accounted for the entire deficit. The only way we can reduce interest is to reduce the debt.
* Our expenditures for health care are immense, including active and retired military and their dependents, active and retired civilian government employees and their dependents, and Medicare. None of the plans that have been presented on the main political stage in recent years even pretend to reduce expenditures for health care—they only nibble around the edges of the problem, if that.
* It's pretty hard to talk about defense reductions in the midst of a major military incursion.

How can we get out of this mess?

The solutions are:

* Spend less. That's a lot harder than it sounds; most government spending that could be cut is relatively minor. The things that cannot be cut (or would be extremely difficult to cut) are huge.
* Tax more. If we can't—or won't—cut spending, it's our only choice.
* Realistically, we have to do both. In fiscal 2004, the deficit equaled 17.5% of spending. I can't conceive that growth in the economy is going to amount to 17.5% anytime soon. I can't imagine that we can reduce actual spending by 17.5%. So taxation has to be a part of this.
* If we are really ready to sacrifice significant spending programs, perhaps we could cut overall spending by as much as 8% or 9%. But think what that means! The average increase in spending over the past 5 years has been almost 5%. If inflation in the next few years averages 3%, and we stop the increases in spending, and we reduce spending by a real 8%, that totals 16%!! What do you think? Is that 8% reduction realistic? Nah, 1% or 2% is more realistic.
* So we have to increase taxes—we have no choice. Won't that hurt our economy? Probably.

Won't more tax cuts stimulate the economy enough to reduce the deficit?

The short answer is: NO!

* The only tax cut I know of that ever actually increased revenues was in the early 1960s. The situation then was vastly different from now. The highest tax rate in the fifties was actually over 90%. The early sixties tax cuts restructured taxation in fundamental ways, and did indeed stimulate the economy. We were also in the full bloom of post-war recovery. And the tax cut wasn't as big as it sounded, either. Very little income had ever actually been taxed at those enormous rates because most large incomes were well sheltered from extreme taxation.
* The tax cuts of the 1980s and the early 2000s created huge increases in the deficits and the debt.
* There is no room for significant tax cuts now, because even short term deficit increases could be deadly.
* There's another problem with this question as it's asked: it talks of reducing the deficit. Deficit reduction isn't what we need; that only slows the disaster. We must eliminate the deficit. Only when we replace the deficit with surplus, can we begin to reduce the debt. Only debt reduction will reduce the tremendous cost of interest we are paying.

What happens if nothing changes?

This answer isn't as simple as it might seem.

* In the very short term, very little happens if we don't address the problem. That is in fact part of the problem, because it helps us remain complacent. In the short term, your taxes won't go up, because a lot of politicians are dead set against tax increases. But larger and larger portions of your tax money will go to pay interest on the debt, rather than current expenses.
* Interest rates will continue to rise. The government is a huge borrower, getting bigger every month. The amount we borrow impacts interest rates significantly.
* Rising interest rates will increase deficits.
* Increased deficits necessarily increase the debt.
* Increased debt means higher interest payments.
* Higher interest payments create higher deficits.
* As this cycle continues, interest rates must rise further.
* The problem worsens exponentially.
* At some point there is a critical mass effect; the government's appetite for borrowing will exceed the world economy's supply. Then interest rates will soar, and the entire house of cards may well collapse—that's financial collapse—worldwide.
* If that collapse can somehow be avoided, at the very least, we will all have to pay sharply higher taxes than we have ever paid, and for a very long time, to restore worldwide financial stability.

Why do interest rates fluctuate so wildy?

OK, this is a bit complicated.

If you look every month at the interest paid on the debt, you'll see that it is much higher in some months than in others, even though the size of the debt changed very little. The explanation is in the way the Treasury Department sells and redeems securities. They sell securities several times every month. Some securities mature in as little as four weeks, others in as long as thirty years Every month, some securities mature and are redeemed. Some of those will have been sold in the previous month, but some were sold thirty years ago.

Study Table PDO-1, Maturity Schedules of Interest bearing Securities, which is linked from the Treasury Bulletin website. It lists all the market offerings of securities that are still outstanding, and their issue dates and interest rates —all sorted by the dates they mature. Notice that the interest rates on individual lots of securities can be as low as 1.5%, and as high as 14%. Refer also to the Monthly Interest Rate Certification. It shows the interest rates Treasury has recently paid, and expects to pay in the immediate future, on new security offerings. In September '05, these rates ranged from 3.5% to 4.625%.

Each month, some old securities mature, and new securities are sold. If we redeem a lot of old 13% and 14% securities, we replace them with 3.5% and 4.5% securities, and our interest payments go down. On the other hand, if we redeem a bunch of 1.5% and 2% securities, replacing those at the current rates, our interest payments rise.

As obscure as this seems, it is actually extremely important. The chief reason that our deficit fell so dramatically in the late '90s is that we replaced a lot of old, very high-interest debt from the '70s and early '80s, with much lower interest debt. Even though the amount of debt was still increasing, the overall interest payments were reduced. We're still retiring some of that high-interest debt, but there's a lot less of it than there once was. When it's gone, our interest payments will begin to rise, reflecting the rising interest we are paying on new debt. When that happens, the deficit will rise even faster than it has been rising.

Reaganific! Go for growth and skip the debt:

Monday, January 09, 2006

Economics in Nat'l Parks

I used the comment in this topic to make a point: Always deriving environmental protections to economic indicators spells trouble for National Parks. To answer the question: We can do something to try and designate more outerlying areas that allow more motorized recreational activities. I've even gone to the extreme of hypothetically suggesting we reduce the amount of "National" Forest and Park lands for the sake of higher standards within those designated Parks. Why again? Because they were meant to be appreciated for what they are, not what the technologically inclined need. I'd like a little frickin' peace and quiet. Cell phones, snowmobiles, touring planes? When is enough, people? And I'm trying to be serious. This is geared towards the metropolitan resident or technologically conscious individual who isn't necessarily familiar with natural heritages: At what point is it appropriate to stop the need to conquer nature in our behaviors?

Garden Web
In a proposed comprehensive re-write of administrative rules that govern the national parks, powered off-road vehicles would be given increased access to the national park system. Jet skis, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and 4-wheel atv's will be able to enter and use areas that have been historically off-limits. The new rules are proposed by Paul Hoffman, appointed Deputy Secretary of the Interior in 2002. There is opposition to the proposal coming from a group of retired Park Service employees.

My personal sense is that people visit the National Parks to get away from noisy activity, and will be disappointed if they encounter dirt bikes on woodland paths. I find the proposed rules incomprehensible. The concept lacks common sense. Is anyone in charge over there?

See "Island Park News," online, dated September 9, 2005.

What can we do? The consumer market for Chinese dirt bikes, ATVs, jet skis, etc. must continue to expand or we'll go into a recession.

Paul Hoffman changing National Parks

National Park Service is Being Skinned from the Inside-Out
By Todd Wilkinson, 12-01-05

Editors' Note: The re-writing of boilerplate protective language for the National Park Service by political appointee and Assistant U.S. Interior Department Secretary Paul Hoffman should cause broader public analysis of the climate of fear that exists inside America's most beloved government agency. This is the first of several dispatches from Todd Wilkinson who was written about the National Park Service for the last 20 years. Click here for the entire series

You have to wonder, at least I do, what goes through the minds of high-level civil servants and business executives when they know they’ve been busted.

What are they thinking when they appear in a public forum, getting grilled by members of Congress (or in a court of law), and then deliver lame answers they know full and well are less than honest.?

Such as:
“I have no recollection of what you are talking about.”
“It was an innocent exercise in creative brainstorming.”
“You gotta trust me on this. Really, everything is legit.”
“I was only following orders.”

When Steve Martin, the former Grand Teton National Park Superintendent who now serves as the National Park Service’s Deputy Director in Washington, D.C, appeared recently before a panel of U.S. senators, he struggled mightily to pass the red-face test. But I sympathize with the compromised position he was placed in.

Coming under intense bi-partisan scrutiny lead by U.S. Sens. Craig Thomas, a Wyoming Republican, and Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, he claimed that some of the controversial changes written in to the National Park Service’s operating manual may have been “inadvertent.”

As in, they happened by accident. As in, they just slipped by or were typos. As in, even though the changes would radically alter the primary mission of America’s most beloved government agency, which is charged with protecting our crown jewel wildlands, they were added by some strange occurrence of alchemy.

The bald-faced truth is that nothing about the overhaul of the Park Service’s operating manual was done without radical deliberateness executed by former Cody Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Hoffman.

Mr. Hoffman knows better than to take the public for a bunch of gullible fools.

As an assistant Secretary of the Interior, a politically appointed position, he got his job NOT because he holds any professional expertise in stewarding public lands but simply because he was a former staffer decades ago for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Hoffman couldn’t wait to tinker with the Park Service’s boilerplate language that puts preservation ahead of resource exploitation. None of this is speculation.

His dislike of former Yellowstone Superintendent Mike Finley was well known. His attempts to undermine Finley by threatening him with political retaliation for advancing conservation in Yellowstone are well documented. His frustration that Yellowstone and other parks are guarded by a shield of armor, forged by the words laden in the 1916 Park Service Organic Act, is not a secret.

In addition to Hoffman’s anti-environmental agenda now being exposed (though Park Service workers are afraid to discuss it for fear he will punish them), another problem, lesser known to the public, is the intense pressure coming to bear upon career civil servants like Steve Martin.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a climate of fear as much as an atmosphere of intense intimidation,” says one active Park Service veteran who notes that Hoffman has made it clear “heads will roll” if career rangers challenge his agenda. One has to wonder—am I the only one who does—that when the President of the United States makes a speech justifying our military intervention in Iraq, telling bereaved family members who have lost soldiers that they gave their lives fighting for freedom and Democracy—that before we export liberty perhaps we have to get it right here first.

If fear, harassment and intimidation are not tolerated in the private sector, why does it appear to exist and be condoned in the U.S. government? The great thing about living in a Democracy is that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Hoffman deserves to have the benefit of the doubt accorded him because, after all, our soldiers are in Iraq fighting to protect American-style freedom which I assume includes our system of justice. But I have spoken with many civil servants who work for a variety of federal agencies (Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service) and they are afraid of what will happen if they don't follow the script being handed to them.

Denis Galvin, who spent three decades defending national parks as a career civil servant under Republican and Democrat administrations, says there’s always politics at work with political appointees but Hoffman’s meddling is unprecedented.

Good people, including Galvin who dedicated their careers to the Park Service and received the highest honors of civil service, are leaving in droves because Hoffman and others in the Bush Administration are forcing them to compromise their principles of what is right and wrong, he says.

“The most obvious quantifiable phenomenon is the number of people who have left the agency,” Galvin says. “They got fed up. That’s a huge loss. The intimidation is more intense today than it ever was before.”

Recently, Park Service Director Fran Mainella circulated a memo to the rank and file demanding that all agency employees, civil service grade GS-13 and higher, devote themselves to carrying out the political agenda of the Bush Administration.

Galvin says it is tantamount to “a loyalty oath”. The performance of employees is judged on how well they implement policy changes being handed down down to them by political appointees like Mr. Hoffman.

In the past, it was customary for an assistant Interior Secretary to approve the appointments of Park Service officials who were part of the “senior executive service” meaning those above GS-15. Hoffman, however, wants to be able to confirm all Park Service posts GS-13 and above which applies to hundreds of employees.

Galvin says it is an insidious attempt to transform the professional culture of the agency by weeding out employees who are committed to the Park Service’s conservation mission that currently takes precedent over the desires of the industrial recreation industry. For example, a park visitor’s desire to experience peace or quietly watch wildlife in a national park is given higher priority over another’s wishes to drive noisy, intrusive, and polluting snowmobiles, jet skis, and ATVs in national parks.

Hoffman would like to tip the balance in the other direction by rewriting the regs. It’s more than profoundly ironic that Mr. Hoffman and others were at the lead of the pack in accusing the Clinton Administration of crafting rules in dark rooms in Washington without soliciting public and professional review. At least with the Clinton Adminstration, agency employees who devoted their professional lives to being public stewards of our landscapes, wildlife, and resources such as clean air and water didn’t flee their agencies because they were afraid to talk.

Denis Galvin knows the difference between then and now. Things were never like this under the administration of the current President’s father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Deny and I have had several conversations over the years in the halls at the Interior Building in Washington and on the phone. He’s a civil servant I greatly admire. He’s the kind of guy who should’ve been a Park Service Director or been plucked to hold the position that was given to Hoffman.

Updating the Park Service operating manual isn't an uncommon event. Galvin says he was involved in helping to assist with two previous updates that were carried out transparently with agencywide participation and openness. Hoffman’s rewrite, however, was done surreptitiously, he says, noting that he’s studied the changes line by line and there’s nothing “inadvertent” about them.

The unfortunate thing is that people like Steve Martin are being set up as fall guys. That’s not fair and frankly it’s a very Soviet approach to how government, freedom and Democracy are supposed to be run. Martin’s taking the heat for decisions he didn’t make.

By Robert Hoskins, 12-01-05
We haven't seen such a direct attack on the public trust and public lands since the days before the administration of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago. It's people like Todd Wilkinson who are telling it as it is. Pay attention, folks!

By John Baden, 12-01-05
Good piece by Todd!

In the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 16, 2005

National Parks’ Future Lies in Trusts
by John A. Baden, Ph.D.

Creating the national parks was one of America’s best ideas, but inevitable political pressures jeopardize their mission. The parks’ strongest supporters warn of dangers from political management.

Consider a recent New York Times editorial. After noting Americans’ overwhelming support for national parks, the Times opines: “Yet in the past two months we have seen two proposed revisions [of management policy]. The first, written by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary in the Interior Department, was a genuinely scandalous rewriting that would have destroyed the national park system.”

The second draft was only somewhat better. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “the proposed policies re-define the over-arching duty of the park service, eliminating references to longstanding legal mandates that clearly emphasize preservation of resources.... The replacement statement sets a dangerous precedent that could put enjoyment of resources, including motorized abuse, ahead of conservation.” They warn it would foster increased air and noise pollution due to more jet skis and snowmobiles, as well as expanded livestock grazing: both “high-impact” uses.

As I’ve argued for decades, these treasures deserve better. In today’s rancorous cultural environment, is it naïve folly to trust our parks’ fate to politicians? Political pressures move the Progressive Era’s ideal of management by neutral, scientific experts ever further from reality.

Yellowstone Park was established in 1872. Due to failure to protect its resources, management was turned over to the U.S. Army in 1886, where it remained for some 30 years. The military left the Park in 1918, two years after the National Park Service was established.

When avarice first threatened the Park’s values, the cavalry came to the rescue. At that time, naked private interests tried to stake claims on public resources. Now, their descendents utilize the political process to achieve similar goals. Is this an aberration or the predictable consequences of our institutional arrangements? I believe it’s the latter and that reform is long overdue. Here’s why.

First, the parks will always offer values that attract potential exploiters, folks with little interest in promoting the public interest. Poaching, a huge problem in the 1870s, remains troublesome. And poaching is trivial compared to the ecological damage caused by ORVs. There are multiple opportunities for exploitation, and their value is growing; there have always been huge political incentives to pander.

Second, an increasing proportion of visitors will be from foreign countries, especially China and India. As admissions provide more of the park system’s funding, there will be strong incentives to cater to visitors’ demands. And few of them will draw a sharp philosophical distinction between Disneyland and Yellowstone. The implications are chilling to those who care about the mission of our national parks.

Third, the federal government is facing huge and growing deficits. The park system now carries a maintenance backlog (estimated at roughly $5 billion, twice the entire annual Park Service budget), and it will be ever more difficult to allocate funds to relieve it. Concurrently, there will be seductive opportunities to use the national parks as cash cows. It’s easy to imagine how a budgetary tradeoff between controlling noxious invasive species or vaccinating children might play out.

A public treasure does not inherently require governmental management. Public, nongovernmental trusts present sensible alternatives to federal management. Both Mount Vernon and Monticello are clearly “public” and both are run by trusts rather than government agencies.

Endowment boards, like those running museums, hospitals, and private schools, would operate under a legal charter to steward individual parks. After receiving a one-time Congressional endowment, each park’s individual trust would be “on its own.” The board, established by local environmental groups, business leaders, and citizens, would promote ecologically sensitive economic activities as part of their trustee responsibility.

Creative mechanisms such as a “Friends of Old Faithful” program could entice membership, dues, and democratic feedback from park lovers everywhere. Park trusts would free our parks from their precarious dependency on national politics, encourage long-term planning, and reintroduce accountability in management.

Perhaps Hoffman’s recent assault is an aberration we can ignore. More likely, the dangers to our parks will become more obvious as the threat of commercialization looms larger. Should this occur, those who care most deeply will look for alternatives to political management. Think trusts.

John A. Baden, Ph.D., is Chairman of FREE and Gallatin Writers.

By Brodie Farquhar, 12-01-05
Like Todd, I've been covering Hoffman and the growing commercialization pressures on public lands.
Right after the Hoffman rewrite controversy started, Paul Hoffman spoke before a very appreciative audience: the American Recreation Coaltion--a wide spectrum of businesses that sell outdoor experiences, goods and services, ranging from resorts, ski areas and marinas, to user groups and manufacturers of boats, ATVs, luxury coaches, etc.

Dozens of reporters (myself included) were hounding Interior for an interview with Hoffman. As far as I can tell, no reporter spoke to Hoffman until the Park Service rolled out their toned down version that Todd addressed above.
Scott Silver of Wild Wilderness is probably THE best source about commercialization of public lands, which Scott traces back to a Cato Institute paper about 20 years ago. Scott's admirable detective work traces the idea of privatizing public lands from Cato to PERC to Reason Magazine and thence to some of Bush's top appointees at Interior: Norton and Watson.

The game plan seems to borrow a page from Grover Norquist (starve the federal government until you can drown it in a bathtub): Cut budgets and professional staff (and thereby morale), until recreation fees, volunteers and concessionaires look like a reasonable alternative to severe options like shutting down campgrounds, parks, etc.

In the midst of staggering federal deficits, the option of fully-funding our land and wildlife agencies is quickly dismissed. Extreme ideas like selling public lands to draw down the deficit start sounding rational.
Commercialization of public lands is not the revolution that James Watt advocated (and why he got slapped down). This is an evolutionary, stealth approach that may take decades to unfold.

By Bill Wade, Chair, Coalition of NPS Retirees, 12-02-05
Todd's article is right on target. The real issue here is that the NPS now has a Director who is more concerned about satisfying her political leaders than she is about the values and purposes of the National Park System. With regard to the proposed revisions to the NPS Management Policies, she is now intent on doing everything possible to convince the public (and the employees of the NPS) that this version was "written with the participation of nearly [Note that this qualifier has recently crept into the statement, earlier she was stating that it was "over"] 100 professional National Park Service employees" - a claim the NPS now admits it can't back up. Whether this is intentional misrepresentation or just sloppy public information we don't know. We do know that Mainella has been conspicuously absent from the recent "listening" meetings conducted with various interest groups - leaving that task to Steve Martin and other career employees. Presumably this is to bolster the claim that the management policies being reviewed are the "career professional version," even though they, and we, know it isn't.

By Texas reader, 12-02-05
Thanks Todd for calling what it is: "anti-evironment".

By hal herring, 12-05-05
I just got back from Yellowstone, so am late in seeing your excellent and timely stories here. I am fascinated that mainstream journalism is not publishing stories like this everyday-- that perhaps the saturation of extremist views like Hoffman's --and the overwhelming majority of appointed decision-makers on public lands and energy issues that have no credentials other than an extremist anti-enviro or anti-conservation platform (or simply a profit for campaign contributors at any cost) is not the fodder of every publication in America right now. That's a convoluted sentence, yes.
I am not nostalgic for the simpler days of James Watt, but I don't think we ever grasped (then) that Watt was merely the Reagan-enabled visionary, whose visions would come to fruit when business and population pressures (now) created the environment to make them reality under an administration who draws all of its energy from extremist rhetoric-- from religious to right wing business....I would posit that Ms. Norton is no more or less extreme in her views than was her mentor Mr. Watt, but she inhabits a time when such views can more easily be realized. I am, though, nostalgic for the time when I wrote the story, pasted below, for Field and Stream..I don't remember the date of pub. but it was sometime on 2000. A figure like Richard Pombo has been slouching towards Bethlehem, waiting to be born, for a long long time.

Thanks for your work and attention, Todd. Americans, especially westerners, are confronting
what Joseph Conrad,in Heart of Darkness, called "the flabby devils" -- destructive forces that are hard to pin down or fight against, because they involve so many aspects of human nature common to us all--
where need becomes greed, ie. the need for natural gas which has to come out of the Jonah Field, to heat our homes, versus our desire to preserve ecosystems and wildlife, or the need to "recreate " in the National Parks versus the role of the Parks to serve as redoubts of the last wild systems on earth.... so many nuances, so many places for those of us who do not value the natural world or creation at all, to put on the mask of the reasonable advocate for "balance"
ie. unleashing the forces of private business and capitalism on the public lands and parks. Whew.
Hal Herring
Post: #1 Posted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 9:42 pm
From Field and Stream magazine No Place Whatsoever by Hal Herring Some say the concept of national public lands is obsolete. Where would that leave sportsman? There are about 630 million acres of federal public land in the United States, managed by the military, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Park Service. About 222 million of those acres are in Alaska, but that still leaves a big chunk in the lower 48 states. But the public lands have never been under as much scrutiny, and the source of so much conflict, as they are today. Environmentalists fight the loggers and the miners and the drillers. Hikers hate ATV riders; snowmobilers leave backcountry skiers cussing in clouds of purple exhaust. Ranchers who lease grazing rights run afoul of hunters who say that the forage eaten by cattle could support vast herds of game. Communities surrounded by public lands that produce almost no revenue watch their children leave home for work in the cities. Western politicians yell "federal government!" from their soapboxes, and crowds roar with anger. As when toys are simply taken away from children who won't stop fighting over them, there are plans afoot to solve the conflict over the public lands by simply getting rid of them. Ironically, some of the same representatives that sportsmen have counted on to preserve the right to bear arms and to guarantee our hunting privileges have said that the whole concept of public lands should be questioned. What would this mean for sportsmen? Without public land, hunting and a lot of fishing would be reserved for those who can pay the highest price. Wildlife would be privatized along with the land, owned by whichever landowner could afford to fence it in. There would be vast private wildland preserves bordering virtual moonscapes where all the timber and minerals have been taken away by some international consortium. It could mean a busy economy of land trades and housing developments and pay-to-play recreation. It would mean that there would be no place whatsoever for us to go. The Push to Privatize Selling off the public lands to the highest bidder is not a new idea. Bernard DeVoto, the renowned historian and editor of the journals of Lewis and Clark, spent years writing about the efforts of the timber and grazing interests to transfer federal lands to state ownership -- and then into private hands, since no single state has the budget to manage or maintain them. In his anthology The Easy Chair, published in 1955, DeVoto wrote, "The ultimate objective is to liquidate all public ownership of grazing and forest land in the United Statesäthe plan is to get rid of public lands altogether, turning them over to the states, which can be coerced as the federal government cannot be, and eventually to private ownership." GET INVOLVED Find out about local land-ownership issues in your state by contacting your state wildlife management agency, or get involved by joining the following conservation organizations: The Izaak Walton League of America was founded in 1922 as a national organization of hunters, anglers, and other conservation-minded outdoor enthusiasts who work through volunteer, community-based action and education programs to ensure the sustainable use of America's natural resources. 800-453-5463; The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance comprises individual sportsmen and women and 500 national, regional, and local conservation groups concerned about the future of wildlife and outdoor activities on the 192 million acres of national forests and grasslands. 877-770-8722; The National Wildlife Federation, established in 1936, is the largest member-supported wildlife conservation organization, offering a wide array of education and advocacy programs. The NWF works to ensure that any transfer of government lands to private owners is made for the sole benefit of the wildlife and ecosystem. 800-611-1599; The landgrabbers, as DeVoto called them, have never gone away. In 1995, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) cosponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) that would transfer all lands managed by the BLM to the states. Under the plan, the state of Montana would gain control of 8 million acres, including most of the Missouri Breaks, the Rocky Mountain Front, and the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge -- some of the most valuable public hunting grounds in the nation. Idaho would gain control of 11 million acres; Wyoming, 17 million. What would happen to all that land? "If the state gets the lands, they will go on the sales block," Montana state Sen. Al Bishop (R-Yellowstone) told a reporter for Time magazine in October 1995. The Montana Wilderness Association campaigned against the bill, running radio and newspaper ads to let the public know what was being proposed. Louise Bruce, then the president of the association, said, "The legislation doesn't stand a chance in the light of day. If the public knows that their land is being threatened, they will be outraged. It's our job to keep letting them know. We will keep pounding on this issue until our lands are safe." The bill failed, in large part because of the rallying of public opinion against it. But Burns, now serving his third term in the Senate, has never changed his stance. "The federal government now controls nearly one-third of the land in the United States," Burns said in an address to Congress last summer. "That is wrong, and was never intended to be as envisioned by the Founders of our nation nor the framers of our Constitution." Montana state Rep. Bob Davies (R-Gallatin) is now pushing for privatization. Davies believes that the federal government does not have the power to own any land inside the states, except for military uses. He has introduced a bill to bring suit against the U.S. government to force the return of 27 million acres of federal land to Montana. "We're not advocating that there be no public lands," says Davies. "We just say they have to turn the lands over to the states. We can manage them much better." Trouble in Nevada The sale of public lands is already established in Nevada, where the federal government owns 87 percent of the land. The antifederal fire has always burned hottest there. In the 1980s, county commissioners in Elko County, Nevada, sparked what came to be called the sagebrush rebellion, by laying claim to all federal lands within the county's boundaries. That term is now commonly used for any opposition to federal regulations and control of public lands in the West, but northern Nevada remains the epicenter of discontent. In July 1994, Elko County Commissioner Dick Carver made national news when he rammed his bulldozer through a gate that closed a road in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The same forest was the site of the so-called Shovel Brigade protest last July 4, when citizens gathered to reopen a Forest Service road that had collapsed into the tiny Jarbidge River. The road had been closed by Forest Service officials to protect the southernmost population of bull trout known to exist in the nation. Most of the citizens who participated in those acts were not clamoring for the public lands to be sold to private interests -- they were demanding that local communities be given a stronger voice in managing them. "Most everybody knows that Nevada will never have the budget to manage all that land -- one big range or forest fire would bankrupt us," acknowledges Elsie Dupree of the Nevada Wildlife Federation. "If the state got those lands, there would be a huge sale, and people from all over the world would be here, buying it up for dude ranches or whatever." In Las Vegas, the fastest-growing city in the country, public lands are being sold outright as the city expands into the surrounding desert. "We have a law passed in 1998 that says we can sell any land needed for urban development," explains Bob Stewart, a real estate specialist with the BLM. "Every sale goes through a series of reviews, and sometimes, with rural lands, the value of the land does not pay for the review process. New legislation addresses that problem, allowing us to pay for the reviews with money from more valuable lands and get ready for the next sale." The Ultimate (Final) Solution? In the opinion of some economists, it is time to abandon the concept of public lands altogether and let the market decide where people can hunt, fish, ride their ATVs, or seek the solitude of the forests. "We could auction off all the public lands over the next 20 to 40 years," says Terry Anderson, the executive director of the Political Economy Research Center (PERC), in Bozeman, Montana. If PERC sounds familiar, it's because Gale Norton, Anderson's old friend and former research fellow at the center, is now the secretary of the Department of the Interior, which manages the 630 million acres of public land. "Right now we have federal land managers who have no clear incentives to produce anything," Anderson says. "They feed at the public trough, and they face enormous pressures from special-interest groups -- it doesn't matter if those groups are loggers, or environmentalists, or rock climbers, whoever. There are no clear goals. We do not have the multiple use for which the lands are mandated." In 1999, Anderson coauthored a study titled "How and Why to Privatize Federal Lands," outlining the benefits of divestiture, the term he uses to describe the selling off of what he calls the federal estate. Anderson views the current deadlock over the management of the public lands as yet another demonstration of the failure of socialism. He is a free-market economist first, but he is also a lifelong hunter who believes that converting the public lands to private ownership could lead to better management for wildlife and hunting, as well as for natural resources like timber, oil, minerals, or simply clean water. "Incentives matter," he insists. "If I pay a landowner top dollar to hunt elk on his property, that landowner is going make sure that he's got the best elk habitat possible. If the market demands clean water, he's not going to clear-cut his mountainsides and jeopardize that resource. You can't make those kinds of decisions on the public lands, because there are so many conflicting demands placed on them." What would our country look like if the public lands were sold off to the private sector? "We would see true multiple use of the lands, for one thing," Anderson asserts. "I think you'd see more development, both for natural resources like oil, and for housing and condos. But it would be done with greater sensibility, to keep from degrading the resource. If you own it, you don't want to diminish its value. "People always ask me whether I think places like Yellowstone would be protected, and I think they would be. But in a free market, there's no guarantee. Someone might decide to tap the geysers for energy or build condos at Yellowstone Lake. There are risks involved, but there are also risks in letting the government continue to mismanage these lands." Anderson's office is decorated with photos and trophies of hunts, both in the American West and in Africa, where he recently took a Cape buffalo with a bow. All his hunting, on both continents, is done on private land. "I'm not so satisfied with these pristine corners of the world that are run by government. They are crowded, the parking lots at the trailheads are packed with cars, the hunting is bad. I'd much rather pay a fee to access private, controlled spaces, with better hunting, and better habitat." Some see this way of thinking as a progression to European-style hunting."What Mr. Anderson is talking about with divestiture is turning our national heritage back to the king," rebuts Thomas Power, chairman of the economics department at the University of Montana and a well-known writer and lecturer on natural-resource issues around the West. "If you sell off the commons -- in our case, the public lands -- you are not going to have very much hunting, certainly not for anyone but the wealthy." The Dilemma of the Commons The politics of the last eight years have been confusing for many American sportsmen. Repeated attacks on the Second Amendment drove a lot of outdoorsmen deep into the Republican ranks. Somehow, that movement was perceived by many Republican politicians as a sign that hunters and fishermen were no longer the premier conservationists that they had always been, and that a mandate had been given to them to push issues like the privatization of federal lands, or at least return to a more industrial concept of those lands, even though both of those issues run counter to the interests of most sportsmen. This may also be a sign that as sportsmen's numbers drop, politicians simply pay less attention to their concerns. "The antigovernment, antienvironmental folks have greatly exaggerated the coincidence of interests between themselves and outdoor recreationists," Power says. Under the Bush administration, sportsmen are going to have to shout a little louder to be heard over the voices of industry looking to make up for lost time on the public lands, and they are going to have to convince their elected representatives that just because they are staunch defenders of gun and property rights, they will not tolerate assaults on other freedoms: to wander the public lands, to hunt and fish, and to enjoy the American outdoors and its wildlife. Will the public lands be around for our grandchildren? Only those who now own them can decide.

By Greg, 12-05-05
I'm with Hal: great piece Todd -- and where's the media outrage???

By R Kimpel, 12-07-05
I'm sorry to see this happen to an agency I worked for (NPS,31 yrs)... I hoped that my grandchildren and their offspring can enjoy the parks and public lands as much as we have. Seems Bush/Cheney can be decisive when it comes to fighting for our precious oil supply but are poor judges of who to appoint to the various cabinet posts.

By Herman Smith, 12-12-05
Thanks for the great article, looking forward to the rest of the series.

Remember that Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett was the ED of the Reason Foundation. Check out their papers and articles--Privitization is their agenda. Paul Hoffman is doing exactly what he is authorized to do by Scarlett, Norton, and the White House.

Back after the first election, John Turner was up for a post in DOI. He would have been a great choice for Deputy Secretary or Secretary. Being friends with Cheney you would think he would have been a shoe in, but even those ties could not stop the far right property rights movement--the Chuck Cushman's of the world- of tarring him as an extreme environmentalist. What nonsense. So these are the folks running things now. The media is doing a roten job of exposing their true agenda.

By Ralph Cramer, 12-30-05
Ah, The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

Get over it people, change is due, and always painful for those stuck in the past.

It would be nice to see some objective, reasoned analysis on the proposed changes in USPS management, rather than the hysterical polemic that is epidemic in the articles and comments found here.

By Todd Wilkinson, 12-30-05
Dear "Ralph Cramer",
Please tell us more about yourself. Here's an invitation, too, to lay out an objective, reasoned analysis. Please hold forth.