Jefferson's democracy

Franklin Jefferson's thoughts on the world

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On Marxism and Libertarianism

A thoughtfull blog-entry "On Marxism and Libertarianism" here:

I like the idea of a libertarian taking a good, unbiased look at Marxism, although I think he misses a little in not really noticing some of the absolutely loony conclusions that Marxism ends up at. In general, all of the worst excesses of the 20th century-- genocides, agressive wars, mass starvation, ethnic cleansing -- seem to stem from governments, not from corporations. Indeed, of almost any century! To the extent that evils are perpetrated by corporations, it tends to be when corporations are given a state-supported monopoly, or are given state protection or state exemption from laws.

But I think it's a good thing to think about. What do we want, and why, and what is the best way to actually defend our individual liberties?

(For what it's worth, I am not a libertarian of the libertarian-anarchist variety, who thinks that the best outcome would be no govenment at all-- it is not at all clear to me that a true anarchy does not devolve into a society of thugs, warlords, and thieves, where the closest thing to law is protection rackets-- as, say, has happened in Somalia. It seems to me that some government is needed to support the legal system that allows commerce to function. However, this government needs to be strictly and vigorously kept small and to the point; it's the government's job to maintain our liberty, not to take it away, or to tell us what to do.)

Why I love a divided government!

Ah, this is why I love a divided government!

For six years President Bush has been signing budgets without a single comment (much less ever vetoing a budget) about the fact that the Republican Congress has been stuffing into the budget as much pork-barrel spending as they could grab. With the undivided government, the Republican party turned into the spend-spend-spend party, and budget deficits have taken gargantuan proportions.

But now, the instant that a Democrat congress is about to take office, Bush comes out with a major statement condemning pork-barrel budgets!

I love it! Yes!

Bush is actually turning into a Republican!

Cut down pet projects in budgets, Bush says
Posted 12/16/2006 10:07 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush said Saturday that his administration will outline a series of changes that would clamp down on the common Capitol Hill practice of slipping pet projects into spending bills.

[Sure. And in the six years of Republican Congress, how is it he never hinted at any desire to clamp down on pork barrel spending?]

These projects, called earmarks, are spending provisions that often are put into bills at the last minute, so they never get debated or discussed, Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"It is not surprising that this often leads to unnecessary federal spending, such as a swimming pool or a teapot museum tucked into a big spending bill," he said.

The president said his administration's proposal would make earmarks more transparent, make lawmakers more accountable for the earmarks they propose, and help reduce the overall number of earmarks.

Many lawmakers claim they are better suited than others in government to know what their states need. Bush said the use of earmarks has exploded, and pointed to a Congressional Research Service report that the number of earmarks has increased from about 3,000 in 1996 [i.e., under Democrats] to 13,000 this year [under Republicans].

"I respect Congress' authority over the public purse, but the time has come to reform the earmark process and dramatically reduce the number of earmarks," Bush said.

Democrats, who will take control of Congress on Jan. 4, already announced their plan to wipe out billions of dollars in lawmakers' home-state projects in unfinished spending bills. On Monday, the incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees announced that they would eliminate earmarks from the nine unfinished spending bills for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said they would restore earmarking in the upcoming 2008 budget cycle, but only after implementing changes. Obey said he was pleased that the president supports their plan.

"But it should be noted that all of the earmarks combined don't begin to match the increase in the deficit caused by the president wasting $50 billion in supersized tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year while other Americans sleep on the streets," Obey said.

This summer, Republicans announced changes to require spending bills to carry lists of earmarks and their sponsors.
[The author neglected to note here that this "change" enacted did not apply to this year's spending, only to next year]
That's a good start, Bush said, but more needs to be done by both parties.

"Republicans and Democrats alike have an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to spending restraint and good government by making earmark reform a top priority for the next Congress," Bush said. "When it comes to spending your money, you expect us to rise above party labels."

Byrd said any effort to change the way business gets done in Washington cannot begin and end with the appropriations process.

"We also must address earmarks in the tax codes which have resulted in huge loopholes for corporate America while middle-class America is left holding the bag," Byrd said.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Do-nothing congress

"...Congress will convene Tuesday for what some fear will be the lamest of lame-duck sessions, and GOP leaders have decided to take a minimalist approach before turning over the reins of power to the Democrats. Rather than a final surge of activity, Congress will probably wrap up things after a single, short week of work. They have even decided to punt decisions on annual government spending measures to the Democrats next year.

"Before the midterm elections, GOP leaders had dismissed the Democrats'"do nothing" label for the 109th Congress as political posturing, promising that a robust post-election session would put the accusation to rest. Instead, Republican lawmakers will have met for one week in November, devoted almost exclusively to leadership elections, and one week in December, largely to pick committee assignments, move offices and pass a measure to keep the government operating through February.

"That will mean this Congress will have spent the least time in session of any in at least half a century, according to Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, congressional historians and the authors of The Broken Branch, a critical look at recent Congresses. In the time they did meet, lawmakers will have failed to approve a budget resolution or pass at least eight of the 11 annual spending bills.

"Other significant pieces of legislation will be hard to find. Bush's push for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws produced a partially funded measure to build a border fence. "

--of course, there are those of us who think that doing nothing is the best thing that any Congress can do.