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Archive for April 6th, 2010

Isn’t it nice that mere taxpayers, who overwhelmingly ride in the steerage section, are paying for bureaucrats to go on first-class and business-class junkets around the world? It’s “only” a $13-billion burden, so let’s not hear any complaints from the galley slaves! The Washington Times has the details:

…taxpayers spent $2.8 billion in 2009 just on hotel rooms for federal employees, an amount that ensured bureaucrats would always go to sleep with a mint on the pillow. In limited circumstances, employees can even qualify to stay in luxurious five-star hotels. When these expenses are combined with airfare, meals and pocket money given to federal employees, the total cost to taxpayers was $13.1 billion. …The problem is that the system does nothing to prevent taxpayers from being ripped off to bankroll trips that double as vacation junkets. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, frequently sent employees overseas on first- or business-class airplane tickets that cost taxpayers up to $10,000 each. …Likewise, agencies spend millions sending employees to private industry trade shows that just happen to be in resort locations such as Las Vegas. The Department of Commerce spent $7.5 million on conferences of this sort in 2007. …At the Environmental Protection Agency, apparently each bureaucrat can decide for himself. Earlier this month, EPA’s IG audited agency travel records and found that midlevel staffers approved one out of five trips even though they lacked explicit authority to do so. …When spending other people’s money, there is no incentive to verify that trips are legitimate or worthwhile. With taxpayers facing $12.7 trillion in rapidly growing debt, it’s time for bureaucrats to give up one of the most prized perks of so-called “public service.” Self-approved, first-class travel with five-star accommodations in exotic locations at public expense should never be allowed.

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In his Townhall column, John Stossel cites my Cato colleague Jerry Taylor as he explains that nuclear energy may not be viable without government subsidies.

President Obama recently announced $8 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power plants. I smiled when I heard. Finally, even Democrats woke up to the benefits of nuclear power. But Cato Institute energy analyst Jerry Taylor set me straight: “If nuclear power made economic sense, we wouldn’t need to subsidize it.” Affordable nuclear power, says Taylor, is a Republican fantasy. Promoting it makes no more sense than Nancy Pelosi’s promotion of wind and solar power. “Take a Republican speech about nuclear power, cross out the phrase ‘nuclear,’ and put in ‘solar’ — you’ve got a Democratic speech about energy.” …I thought the only reason that nuclear didn’t pay for itself is the burden of excessive regulations and objections from silly environmentalists. Apply for permission to build a plant, and their cumbersome lawsuits impose ruinously expensive delays. Again, Taylor set me straight. He says the nuclear industry itself is comfortable with today’s level of regulation. The big problem today is not environmental rules, but simply the huge cost. The same high costs, he says, are found in countries that have long been friendly to nuclear power. He also notes that when the Department of Energy proposed offering to guarantee 80 percent of the cost of new nuclear plants, the big investment banks told the department that even 80 percent loan guarantees wouldn’t be enough. They needed 100 percent guarantees, or they wouldn’t make the loans. “To me that’s a market verdict that you’re supposed to respect. … We need to leave these (matters) to markets. And in the marketplace, investors will not spend a single red dime on nuclear power because it’s too expensive. … It’s not Jane Fonda or Greenpeace that killed nuclear power. It’s Wall Street investment banks who’ve looked at the bottom line.”

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I’ve been on a lonely crusade to expose big-government Republicans for being just as bad as Democrats (or even worse, since they should know better), so I’m glad to see Don Devine and David Keene in the Washington Post making similar points. Every conservative who despises big-government RINOs such as Arlen Specter (who at least had the decency to become a Democrat) should feel the same about Bush and Rove.

From William F. Buckley Jr. to Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, the creators of the modern conservative movement always taught that excessive concentration of power in government leads inevitably to corruption and the diminution of personal freedoms. But while Rove credits these leaders for shaping his early political views — “at the age of thirteen, I was wild for Barry Goldwater,” he writes — he did not pursue their values while in the White House. To the contrary, as the chief political architect of the Bush presidency, Rove was instrumental in directing an administration most notable for its enormous expansion of national government. …In total, Bush increased federal spending on domestic programs more than any president since Richard Nixon, easily surpassing Bill Clinton, Carter and his own father, so much so that by 2008, America had two big-government parties. Rove writes that as a teenager he carried around a paperback copy of Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative,” but he should have heeded the book’s first few pages, in which Goldwater warned against hyphenated conservatism. The Bush administration’s move toward big government was not gradual, either; it was signaled during then-Gov. Bush’s campaign. In 1999, the journalist Tucker Carlson interviewed Bush in Austin and asked him if he was a small-government conservative. Mr. Bush replied no; he said he was an “efficient-government conservative.” Bush’s campaign rarely called for spending cuts of any kind and even opposed eliminating the Department of Energy, whose abolition had been in every GOP platform since 1980. …Rove reveals his true heroes in his memoir, when we learn that he decorated his White House office with memorabilia of progressive Teddy Roosevelt and pragmatist William McKinley. …The astonishing concentration of power in Washington today has created a huge opportunity for conservatives and the GOP. With President Obama’s policies of big government, big bailouts, big banks and big bureaucracy, the Democratic Party has jettisoned the working men and women of America, who are increasingly coming to reject being ruled by one corrupt city along the Potomac. They want to be governed by themselves in their communities, their localities and their states, in a 21st-century version of the founders’ federalism. But thanks in part to their recent big-government legacy, Republicans have been slow to seize this opportunity. In his concluding passages, Rove concedes that Bush “went deep into Democratic territory to show how government can use the tools of capitalism to soften its rough justice” — an admission that neglects state, local and individual alternatives to creating a just society, and that confirms our worst fears about hyphenated conservatism. Recently, President Obama visited a bookstore in Iowa and joked that he was there to purchase Rove’s memoir. Conservatives can only hope it was not to get any more ideas on how to expand government.

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