Monday, July 11, 2011

Obama at Press Conference: "We're Smarter Than You."

Welcome to Tony Island Blog!

President Obama held a news conference this morning in which he spouted more hot air that sounded good, but, when examined closely, is the same ole, same ole. Basically, the (evil) Republicans are holding him back from making a grand cut in the deficit (upwards of $4 trillion over the next so many years). He's willing to cut the budget and reform entitlements "if only" the (evil) Republicans would allow him to raise taxes, mostly by letting the Bush tax cuts expire in the "outlying years". By making all these reforms, the President, with absolutely no evil plans to expand goverment, would be able to continue making investments in America such as job re-training, "infrastructure bank" and student loans, among many other Progressive initiatives. Of course, all of these intiatives are outlined in the Constitution, thus justifying the President's spending of taxpayers money on them.

The President was pummeled by reporters from CBS News,, Congress Daily, McClatchy Newspapers and American Urban Radio (has anyone heard of these besides the first two??) about why the Republicans are holding him back. Surprisingly (not), no reporter from Fox News was allowed to ask a question. Told by one reporter that a CBS News poll showed only 24% of the American people believe the debt crisis is important, the President responded that the American people aren't properly paying attention to the nuances of the debt and debt reduction. That professional politicians such as himself were hired to deal with these issues. Basically, the American people are stupid and those smart politicians in DCwill solve the debt problem, your help not needed, thank you very much. Next Question?

The President was willing to personally take a "small" tax hike as others in his and higher tax brackets should. (Though there was no mention that the President's salary is actually tax money and as such it doesn't make a difference how much is nicked by taxes - he never earned it in the first place). He did admit that, without reforms, entitlements would be in danger as no amount of tax increases would be able to save them. Odd though that he continues to push for a "small" tax high on the oil executives, jet owners and other "rich" taxpayers to pay down the debt.

Seriously, I could go on and on - I wanted to throw rocks at my TV...he talks the game, but then goes around and doesn't play the game. We'll see how things pan out.

Your thoughts?

Thanks for reading Tony Island Blog!

Why I Dislike Balanced Budget Amendments

Welcome to Tony Island Blog!

While you would think that a right-leaning blog such as Tony Island Blog would whole-heartedly support a "balanced budget amendment", in this case, you would be wrong.

I am currently reading a book (review forthcoming) that, among many issues, outlines and supports a balanced budget amendment ("BBA"). There are eleven sections (when the book was published) to this proposed amendment, some of which contain definitions of various terms used in the amendment. While the idea of a balanced budget amendment gives my heart the "warm fuzzies", my logical head tells me it's not the way to go.

So, without further ado:

Here are my 5 reasons against any constitutional balanced budget amendment:

1) The Constitution should not be filled with economic amendments - Our Constitution elegantly outlines our (limited) form of government. It doesn't contain economic theories or definitions and neither should any proposed amendment. Just like the Prohibition amendment was an embarassment  to the Constitution (morality should NOT be part of the Constitution), so would a balanced budget amendment.

2) Constitutional Amendments should not contain "escape" clauses - The proposed BBA, like similar efforts, has an escape clause to allow deficit spending in case of declared war (other BBAs allow deficit spending during recessions). What does this tell us about the amendment itself and our political leaders if we need an "escape" clause? Imagine if our Founding Fathers put an escape clause in the First Amendment? Or how about in the succession of the President? Or any other part of the Constitution? So why would we pass any amendment that contains an escape clause?

3) Constitutional Amendments should not contain man-made measurements - The proposed BBA contains a provision to cap total government spending to 18% of GDP. The problem with this is who determines GDP? Perhaps one of the sections defines GDP, but it's all too easy to expand (or contract) GDP to suit the political needs of either the Congress or President in power. Constitutional amendments should have wording that is enduring, not based on some sort of man-made measurement.

4) Constitutional Amendments should not contain binding or easily overridden provisions - One of the provisions of the proposed BBA is a three-fifths vote requirement to raise the debt ceiling. While this sounds like a "tough" hurdle to overcome (and it may well be, which is its intent), it could also be a tightly binding provision that could bite us in the ass during a "real" emergency. What if the US Congress were attacked while it was in session and 50% of the Congress were injured or dead. How then do you increase the debt limit? Do the living (but injured) Congressmen now constitute "Congress"? Do the dead Congressmen negate the ability to have a three-fifths vote to raise the debt? What's to prevent Congress, minutes before the final vote which would make the BBA law, from passing a one-time $560 trillion(or any other outrageously high number) debt limit thus effectively eliminating the need to vote to increase the limit under the new Amendment's debt increase provision? What if the Congress were to eliminate the "debt ceiling" all together?

5) Constitutional Amendments should not be unenforceable - My biggest problem with a BBA is the inability to enforce it. How do you jail 535 Congressmen if they don't follow the letter of the law? There are absolutely no provisions in this or any BBA to have enforcing legislation. I don't know what kind of self-enforcing could be built-in (perhaps the President could dismiss the Congress and call for new elections? That would open a can of unimaginable worms), but without it, the BBA becomes a toothless tiger. We already have trampled the Constitution. Why then would we add a BBA that was laughably unenforceable? That would only further erode our system of government and society. We're doing enough damage without the need for a BBA to hasten such damage.

Well, there you have it - my 5 reasons against any BBA. Do you agree? Disagree? I love a good debate - open my mind by posting a comment below.

Thanks for reading Tony Island Blog!