Archive for March 8th, 2011

Taxpayer-funded cowboy poetry? Is this an example of when parody becomes reality? Or is it the other way around, when reality becomes parody?

All I know for sure is that it is nauseating that the corrupt crowd in Washington thinks it is not only proper, but also praiseworthy, to steal money from the rest of the nation to fund vote-buying gimmicks in their home states.

Here’s a blurb from Politico about Harry Reid and his boondoggle.

In the middle of his tirade against House Republicans’ “mean-spirited” budget bill on the Senate floor Tuesday, the Senate Majority Leader lamented that the GOP’s proposed budget cuts would eliminate the annual “cowboy poetry festival” in his home state of Nevada. …“The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1 … eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts,” said Reid. “These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”

I must have an out-dated version of the Constitution, because my copy doesn’t say that cowboy poetry is one of the enumerated powers of the federal government.

I suppose a caveat is appropriate. I realize that I’m not the most sophisticated guy in the world. I wouldn’t recognize good poetry from bad poetry. I’d rather chew on broken glass than attend an opera. My idea of a good time is playing softball with a bunch of guys, talking sports and swapping jokes.

So I’m not attacking poetry in general or cowboy poetry in particular. But I am objecting to federal subsidies for such events. I don’t ask other people to subsidize my softball. All I ask in exchange is that they don’t coerce me into subsidizing their hobbies.

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In this discussion on Larry Kudlow’s show, I reiterate the central point from my National Review article and explain that the government shutdown in 1995 led to real fiscal restraint. If that was a loss for the GOP, I hope they lose again this year.

But will this happen? If Republicans don’t surrender, a shutdown is inevitable. The Democrats clearly have adopted a rope-a-dope strategy, hoping GOPers will preemptively compromise. Here’s an excerpt from a story in the Washington Times.

A top Senate Democrat said Sunday that the $6 billion in additional spending cuts that his party offered is the limit Democrats can accept — drawing a line well short of Republicans’ goal with less than two weeks to go before a government shutdown if the two sides can’t agree. Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said the $6 billion proposal, released Friday, has “pushed this to the limit” on domestic spending. …Meanwhile, the Senate’s top Republican said his talks with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. show that the White House is not serious about tackling longer-term spending challenges, making it difficult for Congress to work with the president. …“I’ve had plenty of conversations with them. What I don’t see now is any willingness to do anything that’s difficult,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on CBS‘ “Face the Nation” program. “So far, I don’t see the level of seriousness that we need.”

There’s no reason why Republicans should unilaterally compromise, but I’m worried. One major problem for the GOP is a misguided focus on red ink. Too many people, including Senators, Representatives, pundits, and policy wonks, keep talking about deficits and debt. Government borrowing is not desirable, but red ink is merely a symptom of excessive spending.

This is why all the focus should be about controlling the size and scope of Washington. That’s not only smart economics, it’s also astute politics. If the short-term question is how to save $61 billion from FY2011 spending levels and the long-term question is how to cap federal government spending at 20 percent of GDP, higher taxes obviously are not relevant.

But if Republicans keep talking about deficits and debt, that automatically puts tax increases on the table. And the primary long-run goal of the Democrats is to seduce GOPers into going along with a tax increase.

The next thing to watch for is what happens, presumably later today, when the Senate votes on the House plan and the Democrat’s proposal. The Associated Press is probably correct that these are key test votes.

The Senate appears likely to reject both a slashing GOP budget bill and a less ambitious Democratic alternative. …Neither measure can muster the 60 votes required under Senate procedures to advance; not a single Democrat is likely to vote for the GOP measure, and some may shy away from the Democratic bill as well. That could put pressure on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as other congressional leaders of both parties to find a compromise. …By the same standard, the vote on the Senate Democratic alternative — it would cut about $5 billion from domestic agencies compared with about $60 billion under the House GOP plan — is unlikely to get unanimous support from Democrats, especially moderates up for re-election in 2012.

What Republicans need to understand is that they hold the trump card. Taxpayers will save much more than $61 billion if Democratic obstinacy results in a government shutdown.

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