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Archive for January 24th, 2011

Regardless of what one thinks about abortion, it is preposterous for the federal government to be subsidizing the procedure. Yet that is what happens thanks to annual subsidies of as much as $363 million for Planned Parenthood.

Defenders of Planned Parenthood sometimes claim that federal money doesn’t actually pay for abortions, but that’s a silly assertion. Money is fungible, so if taxpayers are keeping an office open and lights on, it means they are subsidizing all of an organization’s activities. But that’s not the point. Even if Planned Parenthood didn’t perform abortions, it should not receive any money from taxpayers. Last time I checked, family planning was not listed in Article I, Section VIII, as one of the functions of the federal government.

This is not a “pro-life” or “pro-choice” issue. Indeed, it also would be wrong for the federal government to subsidize groups that counsel against abortion. Or abstinence groups. Or any other organization dealing with reproductive issues. The federal government shouldn’t be involved, period.

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review makes all the right points in her column about how this is an issue that should unite social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, Tea Party folks, and libertarians.

It’s a question that we might see play out on Capitol Hill in the coming months as the new majority seeks to make the late pro-life congressman Henry Hyde proud, by defunding Planned Parenthood and prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion. …“Ending taxpayer funding of abortion and getting Planned Parenthood’s hand out of the pocket of taxpayers are clearly crossover issues,” says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Social conservatives as well as fiscal conservatives can generally agree that the government has no business being in the business of funding or subsidizing abortion.” …Thomas J. Gaitens of Florida…goes out of his way to make clear that “the Tea Party movement has been purposeful in not getting into social issues, as not to dilute the fiscal, constitutional, and liberty focus; we do, however, see many ways we can impact this debate and remain steady with our positions.” …Gaitens absolutely agrees that such a person could naturally sign on to both the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and nixing further grants to Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer funding for abortion — whether direct or through organizations such as Planned Parenthood — serves, he says, as “a prime example of government overreach.” …An excellent question for social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and plain old voters is the one Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation poses: “Why are U.S. taxpayers borrowing money at a record rate to, in part, provide grants to an organization, Planned Parenthood, which raised $388 million more than it spent from 2002 to 2007?”

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I’ve always rejected coercive redistribution, particularly when imposed by the federal government.

But some types of redistribution are worse than others, and when big business and big government get in bed together, ordinary people are the ones who get screwed.

This is why Obama’s supposed “move to the center” is a bunch of nonsense.

Tim Carney is the go-to guy on this issue, and his column this morning in the Washington Examiner exposes the real meaning of Obama’s recent appointments of a “banker” and a “CEO.”

Let’s start with Bill Daley, the supposed banker who will be Obama’s new Chief of Staff. Does this signal a move to the right, as some left-wingers fear? That might be the case if Obama had appointed a real banker like John Allison of BB&T, who wants government to get out of the way and believes banks should sink or swim without bailouts or subsidies. But, as Tim explains, that is not the attitude of Bill Daley, who is more akin to Jim Taggart, the rent-seeking businessman in Atlas Shrugged.

Check out Daley’s resume. In the 1990s, he ran Amalgamated Bank, owned by a union and described by the Chicago Sun-Times as “one of the city’s most politically connected financial institutions.” Bill’s brother, Mayor Richard Daley, kept the city’s money on deposit at Amalgamated. Later, Bill held a seat on Fannie Mae’s board, pocketing six-figure compensation from the government-sponsored enterprise that used a housing bubble and an implicit government guarantee to fill a slush fund for well-connected Democrats — until taxpayers bailed it out in 2008. This is Obama’s kind of businessman: a banker who leverages his political connections for profit.

Or what about Obama’s appointment of Jeff Immelt of General Electric? Does this mean Obama wants to unleash the power of free enterprise? That would be welcome news, but GE has morphed into a corrupt company that specializes in fleecing taxpayers (a very sad development since GE once sponsored Ronald Reagan). Once again, Tim hits the nail on the head with a devastating indictment.

GE, which marches in sync with government, pocketing subsidies, profiting from regulation, and lobbying for more of both. …Obama bragged GE would be selling to a power plant in Samalkot, India. That sale is no triumph of free trade — Obama’s Export-Import Bank is providing at least $400 million in subsidized financing to grease the skids. Subsidies are GE’s lifeblood, and Immelt’s own words make that clear. In his op-ed announcing his appointment, Immelt called for a “coordinated commitment among business, labor and government…” He also advocated “partnership between business and government…” This is Immelt’s style. …wherever Obama has led, GE has followed. Obama has championed cap and trade in greenhouse gasses, and GE has started a business dedicated to creating and trading greenhouse gas credits. As Obama expanded subsidies on embryonic stem cells, GE opened an embryonic stem-cell business. Obama pushed rail subsidies, and GE hired Linda Daschle — wife of Obama confidant Tom Daschle — as a rail lobbyist. GE, with its windmills, its high-tech batteries, its health care equipment, and its smart meters, was the biggest beneficiary of Obama’s stimulus. To get these gears in sync isn’t cheap: The company has spent $65.7 million on lobbying during the Obama administration — more than any other company by far. So much for Obama’s war on lobbyists.

In other words, appointing Daley and Immelt does not mean a change in policy. These are people who want a bigger government because these are people who have learned to line their pockets when government has more power. They may have different motives than traditional leftists, but the result is the same. As I’ve noted before, my former Cato colleague Will Wilkinson said it best when he wrote that, “…the more power the government has to pick winners and losers, the more power rich people will have relative to poor people.”

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