Archive for December 27th, 2009

It hasn’t gotten this bad yet, but give the bureaucrats a bit more time.

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Having observed government in action for 25 year, I thought I was no longer at the stage where I could be shocked by bureaucratic stupidity. Looking at the response to the recent terrorist attack, I was wrong. No, I’m not talking about the fact that the government knew Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab was an Al Qaeda sympathizer yet they were too incompetent to put him on the no-fly list. Nor am I talking about the inane political correctness that leads to random searches of grandmothers rather than focusing on young muslim men. Or the periodic seizure of my toothpaste by TSA drones. These are examples of typical government behavior.

What does shock me are two of the new “security” rules announced in the wake of Friday’s attempt. According to the Washington Post, “Passengers must remain seated for the final hour before landing. During that time, they may not have access to their carry-on baggage or hold personal items on their laps.” Let’s think about what possible impact this may have. Imagine you are Achmed the terrorist, and that you have something dangerous in your carry-on luggage. If your goal is to crash the plane, is it really going to matter to you whether you launch your attack 65 minutes before landing or 55 minutes before landing? What exactly do the bureaucrats think they are accomplishing with this rule?

The second rule – which also only could be dreamed up by a bureaucrat – is that: “While over U.S. airspace, flight crews may not make any announcements to passengers concerning the flight path or the airplane’s position over cities or landmarks.” Once again, let’s put ourselves in the mind of Achmed. And let’s assume Achmed has an IQ above 53. Achmed knows the projected time for his flight, and he presumably knows how to tell time. Is there even the slightest chance that this rule would stop a terrorist from taking down a plane, even if he wants to strike while the plane is in U.S. airspace? Again, what do the bureaucrats think will be achieved by this rule? But I suppose we should be happy they didn’t insist that all the windows be covered with newspaper so Achmed can’t tell when the plane is over land rather than ocean.

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The Associated Press nails the GOP for budget hypocrisy, pointing out that a majority of Republicans voted for Bush’s reckless Medicare expansion. This story gives me an excuse to pontificate on why fans of limited government and free markets should not blindly link themselves with the Republican Party. And sometimes they should even hope Republicans lose. There is a very strong case to be made, for instance, that big-government RINOs such as Bush (on economic policy issues) are far more dangerous to economic liberty than Democrats. Not only do they expand government while in power, they create a fertile environment for Democrats, with their out-of-the-closet statism, to gain power and impose even more government.

That certainly has happened this decade. Bush’s profligacy slowed the economy and discouraged the GOP base, which (combined with unhappiness about his nation-building exercise in Iraq) helped deliver the House and Senate to Democrats in 2006 and the White House to Obama in 2008. It is quite likely, by contrast, that the GOP would control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue today if Kerry had won the 2004 election. A Kerry victory almost certainly would have enabled Republicans to hold the House and Senate in 2006. And since Kerry would have followed Bush’s big-government interventionist policies, the bailout would have occurred on his watch, making it quite likely that the GOP would have enjoyed a strong year in 2008. There may have been some damage to liberty caused by a Kerry presidency (above and beyond the damage caused by Bush), but nothing compared to the damage now being imposed by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Food for thought. If nothing else, this AP story shows that we’d be better off if politicians of both parties stayed home all year long:

Republican senators attacking the cost of a Democratic health care bill showed far different concerns six years ago, when they approved a major Medicare expansion that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits. The inconsistency — or hypocrisy, as some call it — has irked Democrats, who claim that their plan will pay for itself with higher taxes and spending cuts and cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for support. By contrast, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House in 2003, they overcame Democratic opposition to add a deficit-financed prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The program will cost a half-trillion dollars over 10 years, or more by some estimates. With no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying the Medicare drug program, the cost has been added to the federal debt. …”As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt,” said Bruce Bartlett, an official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He made his comments in a Forbes article titled “Republican Deficit Hypocrisy.” Bartlett said the 2003 Medicare expansion was “a pure giveaway” that cost more than this year’s Senate or House health bills will cost.

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