Posts tagged draconian
Posted by Lew Rockwell
Despite claims that the Administration and Congress saved America from the fiscal cliff with an early morning vote today, the fact is that government spending has already pushed Americans over the cliff. Only serious reductions in federal spending will stop the cliff dive from ending in a crash landing, yet the events of this past month show that most elected officials remain committed to expanding the welfare-warfare state.
While there was much hand-wringing over the “draconian” cuts that would be imposed by sequestration, in fact sequestration does not cut spending at all. Under the sequestration plan, government spending will increase by 1.6 trillion over the next eight years. Congress calls this a cut because without sequestration spending will increase by 1.7 trillion over the same time frame. Either way it is an increase in spending.
Yet even these minuscule cuts in the “projected rate of spending” were too much for Washington politicians to bear. The last minute “deal” was the worst of both worlds: higher taxes on nearly all Americans now and a promise to revisit these modest reductions in spending growth two months down the road. We were here before, when in 2011 Republicans demanded these automatic modest decreases in government growth down the road in exchange for a massive increase in the debt ceiling. As the time drew closer, both parties clamored to avoid even these modest moves.
Make no mistake: the spending addiction is a bipartisan problem. It is generally believed that one party refuses to accept any reductions in military spending while the other party refuses to accept any serious reductions in domestic welfare programs. In fact, both parties support increases in both military and domestic welfare spending. The two parties may disagree on some details of what kind of military or domestic welfare spending they favor, but they do agree that they both need to increase. This is what is called “bipartisanship” in Washington.
While the media played up the drama of the down-to-the-wire negotiations, there was never any real chance that a deal would not be worked out. It was just drama. That is how Washington operates. As it happened, a small handful of Congressional and Administration leaders gathered in the dark of the night behind closed doors to hammer out a deal that would be shoved down the throats of Members whose constituents had been told repeatedly that the world would end if this miniscule decrease in the rate of government spending was allowed to go through.
While many on both sides express satisfaction that this deal only increases taxes on the “rich,” most Americans will see more of their paycheck going to Washington because of the deal. The Tax Policy Center has estimated that 77 percent of Americans would see higher taxes because of the elimination of the payroll tax cut.
The arguments against the automatic “cuts” in military spending were particularly dishonest. Hawks on both sides warned of doom and gloom if, as the plan called for, the defense budget would have returned to 2007 levels of spending! Does anybody really believe that our defense spending was woefully inadequate just five years ago? And since 2007 we have been told that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next eight years military spending would increase 20 percent without the sequester and would increase 18 percent with the sequester. And this is what is called a dangerous reduction in defense spending?
Ironically, some of the members who are most vocal against tax increases and in favor of cuts to domestic spending are the biggest opponents of cutting a penny from the Pentagon budget. Over and over we were told of the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would be lost should military spending be returned to 2007 levels. Is it really healthy to think of our defense budget as a jobs program? Many of these allegedly free-market members sound more Keynesian than Paul Krugman when they praise the economic “stimulus” created by militarism.
As Chris Preble of the Cato Institute wrote recently, “It’s easy to focus exclusively on the companies and individuals hurt by the cuts and forget that the taxed wealth that funded them is being employed elsewhere.”
While Congress ultimately bears responsibility for deficit spending, we must never forget that the Federal Reserve is the chief enabler of deficit spending. Without a central bank eager to monetize the debt, Congress would be unable to fund the welfare-warfare state without imposing unacceptable levels of taxation on the American people. Of course, the Federal Reserve’s policies do impose an “inflation” tax on the American people; however, since this tax is hidden Congress does not fear the same public backlash it would experience if it directly raised income taxes.
I have little hope that a majority of Congress and the President will change their ways and support real spending reductions unless forced to by an economic crisis or by a change in people’s attitudes toward government. Fortunately, increasing numbers of Americans are awakening to the dangers posed by the growth of the welfare-warfare state. Hopefully this movement will continue to grow and force the politicians to reverse course before government spending, taxing, and inflation destroys our economy entirely.
Photo added to original post.
The Philippines has approved measures to prosecute users that post “defamatory” comments on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. They will be liable for a fine of 1 million pesos (US$24,000) or face up to 12 years in prison.
Websites that publish the material may also be shut down.
The cyber-law has been branded as ‘draconian’ and a serious violation of freedom of speech by rights groups.
“The cyber crime law needs to be repealed or replaced,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch. “It violates Filipinos’ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government’s obligations under international law.”
He stressed that while the bill was in action it will have a “chilling effect over the entire Philippines online community.”
The new legislation extends Philippines libel law, which has been previously contested by Human Rights Watch, into cyberspace.
Aside from prosecuting users who post material deemed offensive, the bill grants authorities the power to collate and retain information from people’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, as well as eavesdropping on conversations over Skype.
“Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader – including government officials – bring a libel charge,” Adams said. “Allegedly libelous speech, online or off-line, should be handled as a private civil matter, not as a crime.”
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Congressman Ron Paul addresses his New Hampshire primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
Imagine having government-approved employees embedded at Facebook, complete with federal security clearances, serving as conduits for secret information about their American customers.
That’s not a hypothetical — those words are a verbatim excerpt from concerned GOP presidential hopeful, Congressman Ron Paul. The Republican representative from Texas asks Americans to consider that draconian dilemma before it becomes a reality. It will all be possible under a new bill slated for discussion on Capitol Hill this week.
The legislation in question is CISPA — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — and the United States Congress is expected to meet in Washington, DC this week to propose advancing the bill all the way to the White House.
In an address released to the public on early Monday this week, Congressman Paul addresses to his supporters his concerns over the bill by outlining just what really the federal government could accomplish if it can move CISPA all the way to the oval office for President Barack Obama’s approval.
The bill is being touted as a necessary legislation to crack down on threats of cyber terrorism. What is really being done behind the damning verbiage, though, is something much worse, warns Paul.
“CISPA is essentially an Internet monitoring bill that permits both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications with no judicial oversight, provided, of course, that they do so in the name of cyber security,” he explains.
Although advertised as an implement to ensure national safety, the lawmakers that penned CISPA were not exactly clear as to what constitutes cyber security when drafting the bill. The result, warns Paul, is a legislation that, if passed, will let the government pry into the personal correspondence of anyone in America if the feds believe that, by their interpretation, it poses some sort of threat to the country.
“The bill is very broadly written and allows the Department of Homeland Security to obtain large swabs of personal information contained in your email or other online communications,” warns the presidential hopeful. “It also allows email and other private information fund online to be used for purposes far beyond any reasonable definition of fighting cyber terrorism.”
By John Stossel
President Obama said in his State of the Union speech, “We’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.”
That was reassuring.
The new budget he released this week promises $4 trillion in “deficit reduction” — about half in tax increases and half in spending cuts. But like most politicians, Obama misleads.
Cato Institute economist Dan Mitchell cut through the fog to get at the truth of the $2 trillion “cut.”
“We have a budget of, what, almost $4 trillion? So if we’re doing $2 trillion of cuts,” Mitchell said, “we’re cutting government in half. That sounds wonderful.”
But what the president was talking about is not even a cut. The politicians just agreed that over the next 10 years, instead of increasing spending by $9.48 trillion, they’d increase it by “just” $7.3 trillion. Calling that a “cut” is nonsense.
Mitchell gave an analogy: “What if I came to you and said, ‘I’ve been on a diet for the last month, and I’ve gained 10 pounds. Isn’t that great?’ You would say: ‘Wait, what are you talking about? That’s insane.’ And I said: ‘I was going to gain 15 pounds. I’ve only gained 10 pounds, therefore my diet is successful.’”
Democrats use this deceit when they want more social spending. Republicans use it for military spending.
And the press buys it. The Washington Post has been writing about “draconian cuts.”
“The politicians know this game,” Mitchell said. “The special interests know this game. Everyone gets a bigger budget every year. … And we wind up, sooner or later, being Greece.”
We are definitely on the road to bankruptcy.
“We have maybe 10, 15 years’ advanced notice. And what’s frustrating is that we’re not taking advantage of that, even as we see these other countries collapsing into social chaos and disarray.”