Bureaucrats Gone Wild?

Do you know any career federal bureaucrats?  If so, do you find they are inclined toward bold, impulsive actions, heedless of consequence?

Put it another way:  Do you think a government that still maintains a national helium reserve so Navy dirigibles will be able to fight submarines is full of underlings carelessly committing criminal abuse of people’s tax information without making sure there won’t be any trouble from upstairs?

Along those same lines, we decline to apply the word “idiotic” to claims that IRS employees had no partisan purpose in harassing conservative organizations. That would be a slander against idiots.

Last week we suggested that the IRS’ disclosure of its own scandal—deciding out of thin air that a Bar Association Q&A session was the perfect occasion for casually copping to multiple felonies—might have been calculated to distract attention from something else; the Benghazi murders, for instance.

We were half joking, and also half right. The IRS disclosure was evidently calculated to draw attention away from—ITSELF!

The more that’s known, the more sinister the picture grows.  Friday brought the disclosure that an Iowa group applying for nonprofit status received an IRS demand to know the content of its members’ prayers.

The pattern revealing itself a little more each day can hardly come as a surprise.  A few years ago, we dissented from conservative friends who labeled Obama’s economic policies “socialism.” We argued that the administration’s modus operandi –coercing private businesses to become active agents of the Obama agenda—much more closely resembled fascism.

The resemblance, which is to say the methods, can now be seen to have spread far beyond economics and deep into the bureaucracy.

A Coordinated Assault on Speech

Democrats have been largely reticent to explain the Obama Internal Revenue Service spending three years contriving to frustrate organized activity by conservative-leaning groups. That it’s happened, and in a big way, is undisputed, even as the regime’s defenders keep trying to sell the idea that it just sort of happened for reasons no one can possibly imagine.

Of the few explanations that have been floated, perhaps the most bizarre—no surprise here—comes from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Last week she served up the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United caused a kind of chain reaction in which right-wing organizations sprang up like mushrooms after a spring rain, causing the IRS, in turn, to run amok.

And unashamed, Pelosi hauled a major leftist agenda item into the picture.

To refresh memories, Citizens United is the decision in which the Court ruled that corporations—and unions—have a First Amendment right to express themselves politically. Naturally, the Left is enthusiastic about the union part but appalled by that corporate thing. A source of irritation that prompted our Beloved Leader to trash the Court and lie about its decision in the faces of the Justices during his 2010 State of the Union address.

All of this, while offensive and legitimately frightening to fair-minded individuals of whatever political persuasion, is also entirely logical in the context of the current administration. Nearby, we mentioned the news getting out last week of the IRS requiring an Iowa group applying for nonprofit status to share with the agency the content of its member’ prayers.

That simply begs the question: Why on Earth would anyone expect any part of the First Amendment to remain safe when a president says he’d amend the constitution to restrict political speech?

A Tax is a Tax is a Tax

It was perplexing last week to hear a conservative commentator express modest enthusiasm for an Internet sales tax. Governor Walker, who has no part in the eventual decision, indicated he’d use the revenue to cut income taxes if Congress turns Internet merchants into tax collectors.

More income tax reductions would be good. But there’s more to consider.

First, remember Wisconsin has a sales tax solely because it was sold a half-century ago as a way to relieve other taxes. There’s nothing unique to Wisconsin in the fact that creating or increasing one tax to relieve another produces not tax relief, but more and higher taxes.

A second objection, we’ve mentioned before: An Internet sales tax is recognized as unworkable unless 9,000-plus U.S. taxing jurisdictions simplify and harmonize tax policies. Here, “simplify” means “increase rates,” unless, for example, the City of Chicago might consider imposing fewer and lower taxes in order to “harmonize” with Wyoming.

And finally the biggest objection, that being taxation without representation: Every customer of an Internet business would become subject to taxes enacted by officials of other states and localities who owe them no accountability.  It’s one thing to drive across the state line and pay seven different and unfamiliar taxes because you decided voluntarily to have dinner in Chicago. It’s quite another to have Chicago alderpersons reach across the line and take money out of your pocket.

It’s easy to fall for the argument that an Internet tax would “level the playing field” and make things fair for brick and mortar merchants. The truth is it would make the playing field profoundly uneven by facilitating “the power to destroy”—as Daniel Webster characterized the power to tax—to an unprecedented degree.

The Difference It makes, II

Some days a community organizer just can’t get a break. On Sunday, for instance, our beloved president delivered a commencement address at Ohio State and told the graduates to “reject these voices” of people who warn against unbridled government power. You know: the kind of thing the founders thought we needed a constitution to prevent.

But His Majesty was having a run of bad luck. On the same day, story after story came out, detailing how the government-we-need-never-fear swept into action the minute the American consulate in Benghazi came under assault last September 11, not to rescue anyone or get help to the Americans who wound up being murdered, but to deceive the nation about what had happened.

We can remember when, for all its warts, the government of the United States was not actively conspiring on a daily basis against the interests of its citizens, in order to gather unlimited power unto itself and beat down anyone who might expose its lies.

Things are different now. The abuses of power revealed over the past few days sound like precisely the sort of things the president told the Ohio State grads they needn’t bother worrying about. By now, no one should be surprised.

And as for the former secretary of state now angling to become the next White House tenant, she asked a while back, “What difference does it make?” in relation to who was responsible for the Benghazi murders.

Now she’s getting the answer she deserved.

The Medicaid Blues

Bad news this week for the subsidy-grubbing knuckleheads who make political strategy for Wisconsin’s health care establishment: A long-term, large group study from Oregon shows Medicaid enrollees driving higher health care spending than uninsured people obtaining care at emergency rooms, while overall health outcomes are no better for Medicaid enrollees than for the uninsured.

This explodes any pretense that the lobbying campaign we criticized here last week aims at a new golden age of health care for Wisconsin residents. You’ll recall that virtually every high-profile health care provider in Wisconsin had signed on, hoping to steamroll Governor Walker’s principled objection to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

We can’t say this too many times: Every detail of Obamacare is a trap to snare the unwary, the naïve, and those whose lust for a quick payoff blinds them to the unsustainable burdens they’ll be forced to carry once they swallow the bait of temporary subsidies.

Volunteering additional evidence, the Hustler-in-Chief told a news conference last week that yes, there will be “glitches and bumps” along the way to setting his masterpiece in motion—this from the man who at the same event characterized the slaughter of Syrians by their own government as “a blemish on the international community.” His sense of proportion thus demonstrated, you may safely assume the “train wreck” analogy other Democrats have applied to Obamacare is on the money.

And as always when supposedly free government money is on offer, supposedly intelligent people will be pushing and shoving to board a train that’s already going over a cliff

It was reasonable seven days ago to suspect the Wisconsin lobbying effort had lots to do with grasping for subsidies and little to do with health care. It’s now reasonable to conclude that last week’s assessment was needlessly generous.

Medicaid Expansion: Wisconsin’s Pathway to Insolvency

It all sounds so appealing. The federal government is telling us that if Wisconsin agrees to expand Medicaid coverage to an additional 235,000 adults who earn below 133% of the federal poverty line that the federal government will pick up 100% of the tab for three years and 90% of the cost after 2017. Proponents of expansion say that this would mean an additional 4 billion dollars in free money flowing into Wisconsin over the next few years. It sounds too good to be true and history has shown us that it probably is. The federal government has made a career of promises to fund programs, only to later go back on their word. All too often these broken promises have left state governments scrambling to find other means of funding, robbing them of the money needed to pay for state priorities like education, infrastructure, community support and job training.

In 1975 Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, better known as the IDEA Act, for the purpose of guaranteeing a free public education to all children with disabilities. At the time of its passage, Congress promised that the IDEA Act would use federal funds to pay for 40% of the cost of the program as a way to alleviate the extra burden placed on state and local budgets.

Almost forty years have passed and the federal government has never come close to keeping its promise of 40% funding. The actual annual federal commitment to the cost of implementing the program has fluctuated between 17% and 20%. Because the IDEA Act demands that children are offered a free education in the least restrictive environment regardless of how high the cost, special education spending has skyrocketed since the law’s passage. In spite of the fact that President Obama made full funding of the IDEA Act one of his key campaign promises in 2008, states are now facing the prospect of having to cover even more of the cost due to the financial crisis in Washington.

A few years ago the big idea coming out of the White House was a plan to reinvent how Americans traveled by investing billions of dollars in a national high speed rail system. While states would be on the hook for portions of the cost, the President promised huge sums of federal support to anyone that broke ground on new passenger rail lines. After a long, contentious debate, several governors rejected the federal rail money amidst concerns that the federal government would be unable to keep its funding promises. These governors feared that when promised federal dollars failed to materialize, their states would face the prospect of either having to leave their rail lines unfinished, or to ask state taxpayers to come up with budget busting amounts of cash to complete the projects.

Only a few years have passed and it appears that their fears were justified. The state of California bought the promise of federal dollars hook, line, and sinker only to see cost estimates rise and the will of Washington to fund the project dry up. Now the already broke California taxpayers are left holding the bag not only for the construction of the high speed rail system, but up to $373 million a year in operating subsidies.

These are only a couple of the countless examples of the federal government’s broken funding promises.

The percentage of state spending that comes from federal funds has risen from 26.3% to 34.1 percent% in just a two year period. However, with the federal debt skyrocketing to $16 trillion, huge cuts to state aid have already begun. In the 2013 fiscal year, states will receive $18.2 billion less in federal aid.

The potential for future federal cuts makes the situation even bleaker. In our home state of Wisconsin, where federal dollars constitute 29% of the budget, taxpayers face having to make up $350,000,000 in monthly federal support for Medicaid, $140,000,000 for law enforcement training and equipment for first responders, and $162,300 in Veterans’ monthly benefits. Yet we are simply expected to take it on blind faith that the federal government will live up to its promise to fully fund the expansion of Medicaid. What in recent history justifies that expectation?

Despite all of the evidence that the federal government will fail to keep their promise to fully fund the expansion of Medicaid, special interests are trying to convince the public that Wisconsin should take the money while it is on the table. They argue that if the money fails to materialize, or shrinks in the future, that states will simply be able to hit a magic reset button by removing the additional people that they have added to the Medicaid rolls. This argument is disingenuous at best. Anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to the news has seen how difficult it is to alter an entitlement once it is given. But, in the case of Medicaid it won’t only be the lack of political will that prevents Wisconsin from going back to the old formula. The federal government has made it perfectly clear by its actions that once a state changes their Medicaid eligibility that change is set in stone.

As we watch this Medicaid expansion battle unfold and the people who raise the caution flag about believing the federal government’s funding promises vilified, we can only hope that Wisconsin’s elected representatives choose not to ignore their history lessons. The expansion of Medicaid, as called for under the affordable care act, is destined to be a financial burden on the state for decades to come. Wisconsin politicians should not walk away from the federal government’s empty funding promises, they should sprint.

Rope-a-Dopes

Vladimir Lenin said: “A capitalist will sell us the rope we use to hang the last capitalist.” A parallel concept is more succinctly stated in the phrase “useful idiots.”

We’re reminded of this by an all-hands-on-deck lobbying effort aimed at overwhelming Governor Walker’s good sense in resisting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Seemingly every prominent entity in Wisconsin’s health care establishment is aboard, along with the usually sensible Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Righteously trolling for subsidies, they either don’t care or are too dimwitted to see that in every last one of its treacherous details, Obamacare is a deliberate trap contrived to exterminate private-sector health care and remake providers as enforcers, implementing the agenda of universal—and literal—life-and-death dependency on government.

Is it coincidence that these subsidy-seekers adopt The Transformational President’s rhetoric and ask legislators to “transform” Wisconsin’s Medicaid program?

Undoubtedly some in the health care establishment have their own reasons for seeing wholesale transformation as desirable.

We prefer the company of Walker, who will be owed a debt of gratitude by future generations for turning down the free heroin of Obamacare subsidies. Would those who fancy themselves all-knowing had as much wisdom—and half as much courage?