The Nacilbupera Guzzle

Whoever examines with attention the history of the dearths and famines … will find, I believe, that a dearth never has arisen from any combination among the inland dealers in corn, nor from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned sometimes perhaps, and in some particular places, by the waste of war, but in by far the greatest number of cases by the fault of the seasons; and that a famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconveniences of a dearth. (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations IV.5.44)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fighting Hunger in Utah (Update)

Government doesn't necessarily need to be involved in a social safety network; indeed federally it is a violation of Constitutional principles. Jesus commanded his disciples or followers to "feed [his] sheep"; what Jesus didn't do was command the Roman government to feed the sheep. As families and as citizens in our communities we are empowered and even admonished to take responsibility for our own.

An example of a corporate program which we all can support as a community during this Christmas season is Walmart's Fighting Hunger program. Walmart has identified two communities in our state (Ogden and Salt Lake) as needing help among many nationally and has committed to donating $1M to fighting hunger in the community garnishing the most Facebook votes by Dec 31st and $100K to each of the next five communities.

The contest has been fun to track and participate in. Both Utah communities were far down in the rankings and have gradually moved up. Ogden/Clearfield is now in 6th place which just barely qualifies for the $100K if no other community posts a late surge to overtake (quite possible, to be sure) while Salt Lake City is in the #2 position. A large last-minute push these next couple of days could be what SLC needs to get the $1M.

Part of the Nacilbupera mission is a call to action. With less time than it took to read this entry, you could help fight hunger in Utah. I encourage you to so do.

+++ Update 12/30 6pm:

With less than 24 hours left to go, Salt Lake has taken first place by a narrow margin for the first time over Fresno in the contest while Ogden has settled in for a solid 4th. The amount of interest in the contest has surged with tallies of both first and second place exceeding the entire populations of their respective counties. Wow.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sunday Nite Surprise? Congress Violates Constitution, Grows Govt, Debt In "Food Safety" Bill

If you went to bed early last night with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, you missed the Senate's passing of another Constitutional mess of a bill. The 242-page "Food Safety" act S. 510 was snuck in the Senate last night by Harry Reid through a voice vote--a horrible way for Congress to do its work because no Senator has their vote recorded, and thus accountability becomes encumbered.

The bill appropriates $1.6B (link to Sen Coburn's astute dissection of the bill) granting the FDA expansive new powers to regulate food and farming activities 90% of which is unfunded debt spending. (So, what happened anyways to the Democrat-touted PAYGO this Democratic Congress passed and Obama signed earlier this year?)

It becomes a "Constitutional mess" because the Senate goofed on their normal get-around-the-Constitution ways. Alexander Bolton of had a revealing article (if you read between the lines) entitled In Sunday-evening surprise, Senate passes food-safety legislation (emphasis & hyperlink mine below):

The Senate passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act on Nov. 30 by a vote of
. But the bill was later invalidated by a technical objection because it was a revenue-raising measure that did not originate in the House — Senate staff had failed to substitute the food-safety language into a House-originated bill.

The term "technical objection" was Bolton's euphemism for saying that the bill was offered and subsequently passed in direct violation to specific, easy-to-understand US Constitutional language explaining that the bill was supposed to originate in the House, not the Senate (Article 1 Section 7 Clause 1):

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills

Bolton's final phrase about the failure of Senate staff masked a weak attempt in hiding accountability. You see, it is sadly customary now that when the Senate wants to originate an appropriations bill, they simply completely gut a House bill already passed; for example, Obamacare was passed in this manner. By blaming "Senate staff" rather than the bill's Sponsor--none other than Democrat Dick Durbin (IL)--Bolton attempted to diffuse the blame to the unnamed staff perpetrators.

In theory, it should be an easy act to declare this bill unconstitutional because it so plainly violates the First Article of the Constitution and could warrant blue-slipping by the House (h/t Whether anyone will rise to do so whether in the House--or if signed into law by the POTUS, by the SCOTUS--remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hatch Opposes His Own Earmarks in Omnibus Bill; Obama, Democrats, Bennett, Hatch All Fail Utah (Update)

Senate Democrats ruined last Christmas by passing Obamacare. This Christmas, they want to push the country into further oblivion by passing a last-minute, $1.1T, 1924-page (link to actual text), massive pork-barrel-laden Ominbus bill with 6600 earmarks, to make up for dereliction of duty in not passing a budget.1 The bill if passed and signed by Obama (as widely expected if passed), would violate Obama's election promises to keep government transparent with C-SPAN coverage, fight wasteful spending, and not vote for earmarks.

Senate Democrats overwhelmingly support the spending. A few RINOs have voiced support including Bob Bennett who is on his last month as Utah's Senator and is ending his reign by showing his true, liberal Democratic colors: (The, emphasis mine)

“That’s my intention,” said retiring Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) when asked
if he would support the package.

Bennett said earmarks in the bill might give some of his GOP colleagues reason to hesitate but wouldn’t affect his vote.

It will be tough for some, but not for me,” he said.

After still not listening to Utah's desire for us to actually follow the Constitution and decimate the deficit, all I can say to Bennett that since I can do no more to get you any sooner out of office, may God hold you accountable for the country and the lives you are destroying.

Hatch meanwhile is doing the doublespeak. While is denouncing the Omnibus on Fox News2 his own earmark requests have been stuffed into the bill. That's the problem, and he hasn't owned up to it either. As I reported in my last blog entry: Hatch Proposes UTOPIA Bailout Earmark for 2 Towns, Hatch proposed a $1M bailout earmark for helping with the UTOPIA buildout for Perry City and Tremonton in a $132B appropriations bill which had yet to be voted on: S. 3606.

The proposed $1.1T Omnibus takes S. 3606 and adopts it in full or modified form (so sorry, like anybody else in Congress I haven't had time to read it all) and combines it with the other pending appropriation bills Congress has failed to address. If you compare p. 55 of S. 3606 which authorizes the money to p. 63 of the Omnibus, they read exactly the same: both grant the continuation of the $18M in grant money (the grant money was separately earmarked on p. 76 of Senate report 111-221).

I've only had time to identify these two earmarks by Hatch in this bill. The real question--and I honestly don't know (probably no one does as of this moment)--is just how many earmarks of the hundreds Hatch has proposed for FY 2011 are in this awful Omnibus? And when will Hatch be honest to the people of Utah about his role in earmarking and contributions to the deficit?

Obama has failed. Democrats have been derelict--as well as proposing thousands of earmarks themselves--Bennett has converted to the Democratic Party, and Hatch is saying one thing and doing another. Utah: we've got a big problem on our hands. It's time to raise the alarm that Scrooge is about to steal another Christmas.

++++ Update 12/16 8am:

(h/t) Political Cornflakes Hatch has apparently stripped out his [other] earmark requests in the Omnibus due to his moratorium support (TPM). Still remains viable for Perry and Tremonton to get the money Hatch asked for.

More importantly Hatch's website has been scrubbed of his earmark requests. I half suspected this might happen so I downloaded copies before and am happy to repost the documents or email any interested parties. Naughty, naughty Hatch. Trying to cover up your wrongdoings before it gets out of the blogosphere into broadcast media.

At least Hatch is shrewd enough not to ignore lowly blogger Nacilbupera.

1 Not to mention lame-duck Democrats attempt at passing a START treaty, a federal land grab, and a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and others I am missing...

2 While the denunciations are good, they're probably more aimed at kicking off his 2012 re-election bid than to seriously attack spending. Case in point: Hatch's vote today to extend unfunded unemployment benefits and pork spending for a weak 2-year deferment of tax increases.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hatch Proposes UTOPIA Bailout Earmark for 2 Towns (Updated)

It is no secret that UTOPIA, Utah's 11-city1 fiber optic services consortium is struggling to compete against private sector internet providers. In its eight-year life despite inclusion of the 2nd and 6th largest cities in Utah, the consortium has only 10,000 subscribers (SL Tribune) and has extensive annual losses. What has remained uncovered in the media is Sen. Orrin Hatch's plan to bail out two of the smallest member cities--Tremonton (pop. 7K) and Perry (pop. 3K)--with a $1M earmark to help cover these cities' UTOPIA buildout costs.

From Hatch's website Hatch proposed for FY 2011 $272K in help for Tremonton while Perry City gets $750K. That's $250 of redistribution of wealth from the hardworking taxpayers of America to every man, woman, child, and babe in Perry for a fiber optic system that only a handful of residents will use.

The earmark is contained as part of a $18M undistributed grant [taxpayer] money [I think of it as unspent money against a credit card limit as we have no money] found on page 55 of the $132B S. 3606 which has not been voted on in the Senate; the Democrats having voted to leave town October [Utah's Matheson to blame here] in hopes of campaigning to save their political lives leaving Congress to run under a "continuing resolution" fiasco. The specifics of the earmark are found on page 76 of Senate report 111-221 (pdf version), under the section "DISTANCE LEARNING, TELEMEDICINE, AND BROADBAND PROGRAM LOANS AND GRANTS" where the "Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies" [Wow. Maybe we could acronym it the A.S.A.R.D.F.D.A.R.A.!!!] lead by Sen Kohl (D-WI) recommended its expenditure alongside a bunch of other pork from other states, many having Senate representation on the subcommittee.

Unfortunately this $1M bailout is only one bite of the porkulous hog Hatch has proposed for FY 2011. The website lists 13 pages of earmarks numbering in the hundreds Hatch has proposed. The website is interactive and one can sound off by voting for or against individual earmarks and leaving comments.

Did Hatch not get the message as to what voters want? The $18M in its entirety should be cut from the bill. No pork-barrel earmarks. Slash spending and no bailouts. A fiscal conservative is supposed to do what I'm doing and identify pork and to try and stop it. I don't know what Hatch is fiscally, but away from the spotlight he's doing the opposite of what a fiscal conservative would do: adding to the pork when he should be cutting.

1 UTOPIA lists membership as 16 cities on their website. Wikipedia defines the additional 5 cities as "non-pledging."

+++++ Update 12/13 8pm

To my pleasant surprise, Holly on the Hill and Free UTOPIA! had wonderful write-ups on this story today. Holly pointed to the Hatch's press release statement:
"...I have always said I have an obligation as your Senator to make sure our state, our communities and our people get back the hard-earned tax dollars we contribute to the federal treasury." (emphasis mine)
The problem with Hatch's press release is that it is the antithesis of fiscal conservatism and gives reason to why he is not acting like a fiscal conservative. From this statement I extract three egregious points:

(1) The "hard-earned tax dollars" are supposed to be paying for constitutionally-defined vital federal services such as national defense and the post office and flow one-way to the government to pay for these services. That one could "get back" the money means that constitutionally the government has no place in misappropriating private property in the first place.

(2) If Hatch indeed has authority to give back money to Utah, then he must accept that all other 534 members of Congress do as well. This results in protracted bickering among equals as to who gets what share of the pie and is resolved only by everyone getting everything which does further damage to the deficit.

(3) Hatch's statement thus defines him as a believer in "redistribution of wealth," a tenant of socialism. Hatch believes it is his job, indeed his "obligation" to take money the government has coerced from the people and decide who the winners and losers are in the state of Utah to receive back the distribution.

Contrast Hatch's press release with what a fiscal conservative such as myself would say regarding earmarks:
I have always said I have an obligation as your Senator to make sure our state, our communities and our people do not pay a single excessive dime of the hard-earned tax dollars we contribute beyond what is vitally necessary and Constitutionally permitted to the federal treasury.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Democratic Nebraskan Senators

With the 1978 Labor Law Reform Act (as recounted in the Orrin Hatch biography "Leading the Charge" by Lee Roderick, Chapter 7), Democrats wielding control of all of Congress and the White House [sound familiar?] sought to greatly expand the power of the Unions by easing election rules and expanding federal power exercised by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).

Economist Pierre Rinfret projected the measure to have a severe inflationary effect on an already bumpy economy while Carter-administration pollster Pat Caddell showed the President the people wanted unions to have less, not greater power. The Senate, then with a 61 Democratic +1 Independent supermajority needed the help of moderate Democrats to stay in line with with the party in order to avoid being filibustered by the Republicans.

The filibuster endured several weeks and repeated failed attempts by Majority Leader Robert Byrd at cloture, but the last Democratic holdout--a Nebraskan Senator by the name of Ed Zorkinsky seemed on the verge of wavering just before a record-setting sixth cloture vote on a single bill (ten years later Byrd would later push the record to eight attempts in 1988). "Leading the Charge" describes the pressure on Zorinsky thus:
Hatch calls Zorinsky and says he must have his vote today. Zorinsky sounds haunted. Hatch guesses that Byrd worked him over last night, Zorinsky confirms it: "They promised me everything."

"Ed, you didn't give in did you?"

"No, but you can only count me as a mushy no," says Zorinsky, meaning he's still with Hatch--barely. "If I change my mind I'll call you." (p. 98)
Yet Zorinsky went on to stick to his convictions and became the deciding holdout vote against big government and big unions when 58 Senators had voted for filibuster-ending cloture and a 59th had announced on the floor his conversion. The bill was defeated and the filibuster held.

When I read this story, I reflected on the contrast to the modern-day story of another Senator from Nebraska--Ben Nelson1--and the infamous "Cornhusker Kickback" he received in exchange for his vote a year ago this month for cloture on another economy-busting Democratic bill: Obamacare.

As 2012 elections slowly begin to roll around, I hope we will not forget the damage Ben Nelson did to our country through his vote and find someone better in Nebraska with Zorinsky-like toughness to vote for what is right.

1 Coincidentally, Nelson occupies the selfsame Class I seat previously held by Zorinsky

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hatch, GOP, Sell Out on Up-Or-Down Vote to Extend Bush Tax Cuts

A mildly bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress are ready to vote an extension of all of the so-called Bush era taxes set to expire at year's end. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid have had the past 4 years in their total control of Congress to get their act together on this. Instead, they close to emphasize healthcare reform and financial regulation to the dismay of We the People. Pelosi in particular punted on trying to resolve the issue before the November elections with Utah's Jim Matheson casting the decisive vote to adjourn rather than to address the issue.

Now at this eleventh hour of the expiration and on the verge of a dramatically more fiscally-responsible Congress about to be sworn in in January, Democrats want to deal. Note that the desire for a deal comes after last week's class-warfare rejection votes to only extend tax cuts for the middle class. Yet still we haven't had an up-or-down straight vote on extending the tax cuts.

And with Pelosi and Reid controlling congress, we probably won't get one. Fine. Let the Democrats show We the People that they are willing to raise taxes on everyone in a recession rather than cut taxes for everyone. In January, we will get the GOP back in control of the House and will get the tax cuts extended retroactively. The GOP will win twice, both in December as the Dems let the tax cuts expire and in January when they save everyone from those hikes.

But what some--including Sen. Orrin Hatch--want to do is to cut a deal to extend unemployment benefits to get the tax cuts to remain in place 2 more years. Huh? What? Why? Unemployment has been extended already to a record 99 weeks and we want to extend it longer? NO WAY! If you've been unemployed 99 weeks you probably aren't doing what you need to do to find a job. Either you need to move, improve or update your skills, or lower your wage expectations. Michelle Malkin points to the tremendous burden on business these record-long UI extensions are having. Folks, 99 weeks is WAY beyond a "safety net" it IS redistribution of property, a dole, socialism, welfare, or whatever name you prefer.

The GOP should not be negotiating from weakness when in a month their numbers go up and they can negotiate from strength without having to add yet another entitlement program to the deficit. They should have an up-or-down vote on extending all the Bush-era tax cuts or no vote at all. What Congress has yet to understand is we want votes simple, one-topic bills not quagmired compromises.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Utah Co. Commissioners Poised To Vote Pay Raises in Deficit Budget

With the 2011 Utah County budget still $2M short of being able to be in balance (see County Commission Notes 11/16/2010 page 1), County Commissioners led by Commissioner Ellertson are on track to vote a 2.3% pay increase for 700 county employees, or an approximate $6M expenditure when weighed over the next 10 years.

According to an article Wednesday by Daily Herald political reporter Joe Pyrah, the County plans to tap into reserves "to keep from raising taxes" as our county's debt load continues to pile up.

The Daily Herald itself courageously spoke up against the proposed pay hike in this morning's editorial:

Proposing a raise for government employees right now painfully highlights the element of coercion in taxes. Revenue for private business comes from customers who take money out of their pockets in a free market and spend it as they choose. By contrast, government just takes your money whether you agree to give or not. You have no choice.

Raising the pay of government employees on the backs of taxpayers who are getting no raises thus borders on the unethical. We don't recall any of the candidates for county commission in the recent campaign loudly proclaiming that, if elected, their priority would be to raise the compensation of all government employees. That one probably wouldn't fly back then. So why does anybody think it flies now? It shouldn't.
The Herald is right on the mark here with the "unethical" label, but even a step short of where I would take it: if you pass an irresponsible budget including pay increases when we can ill afford them, this is a de facto tax increase and unsound Republican government.

A Herald reader/commentor self-identified as "grumpydad" brought to light the conflict of interest issue I have personally sensed as a county delegate myself regarding county delegates who are also county employees: this group overwhelmingly votes in favor of Commissioners who raise county employee pay.
Are these people crazy!!!!??? What planet are they living in to give raises on the backs of the taxpayers? They keep collecting more and more of our money, and
stack the party caucuses with County employees (mostly deputies) to guarantee that they can keep getting elected and the deputies get all their special favors and raises from the Commissioners.
This is a total racket. [emphasis mine; ed. sp.]
Perhaps then it is more than coincidence then that Commissioner Ellertson--the next Commissioner up for reelection--is the outspoken supporter of such raises. What the Commissioners should be discussing instead is whether pay cuts are necessary for us to meet our financial obligations.

With a final vote on the budget scheduled for Dec 14th, two days hence on Pearl Harbor Day Tuesday, December 7th, at 9am at the County Administration Building will mark the final opportunity for citizens (who aren't working at that time slot) to voice their opposition to these Utah County tax-increasing pay raises in the deficit budget.

The Budget-Barfing, Hungry Power-Grab Act of 2010

On Thursday, the House voted 264-157 (mostly along party lines) to pass S. 3307, a 220-page, $4.5B monstrosity so-named "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010", the brainchild of Michelle Obama and last May's congressional conceiver, now lame-quack Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

The bill--expected shortly to be signed into law by Michelle's husband--is clearly unconstitutional as it expands grasp of federal government into the domain of the states through funding of school lunches. Nowhere in our Constitution is the federal branch of government granted the right to meddle with our kids' education; indeed the 10th Amendment allows these non-enumerated powers to be reserved to the States:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

S. 3307 was first passed in August by unanimous consent in the Senate rather than a floor vote. For Utah, this means that neither GOP Senators Hatch nor Bennett stood up to voice any objection to yet another unconstitutional power-grab by the federal government. While Bennett is scheduled in January to be replaced by Mike Lee ("I will not vote for a single piece of legislation that I can’t reconcile with the text and the original understanding of the U.S. Constitution," NBC quote / C-SPAN full video of speech), the consent vote certainly leaves Hatch open for just criticism as he prepares to run yet again in 2012.

Rep. John Kline (MN-02), Senior Republican on the House Committee on Education and Labor, took a courageous stance against S. 3307. One of the truths he points out in his widely-underreported Floor Statement was in debunking the myth that S. 3307 was "fully paid for" as touted by the media. While much of the money for S. 3307 comes from cuts in the Federal Food Stamp program, this was additional unused one-time monies coming from the Stimulus bill and will leave us long-term further indebted (emphasis mine below):

...The majority claims this bill is “paid for.” They want us to believe we can grow government with no cost or consequences. But the American people know that is just not true.

More spending is more spending, whether or not those dollars are offset elsewhere in the massive federal budget. But one offset in this bill is particularly questionable.

The truth is, at least some portion of the billions in new program costs is deficit spending. This money was borrowed from our children and grandchildren in 2009 when it was put in the stimulus; that borrowed money is simply being redirected today.

This bill – with its so-called “pay for” – is merely a stalling tactic. It obscures
government expansion in the short-term so this bill can become law and its spending can become permanent.
So here we stand, playing a shell game with the federal budget and hoping the American people do not notice that government continues to grow, spending continues to expand, and our children continue to fall deeper and deeper into debt.

In his statement Rep. Kline further highlights that S. 3307:

  • Nets opposition from local school leaders responsible for implementing these new requirements because of rigid mandates and higher costs
  • Creates or expands 17 separate federal programs
  • Implements dangerous federal price controls, as highlighted by the National Governors Association
Utah's Representatives fell in line as one would expect with Matheson voting along with the Democrats to expand government and indebtedness while Bishop and Chaffetz opposed.