Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet

Activists note that most of the candidates for top security posts voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq or otherwise supported launching the war.

By Paul Richter
November 20, 2008

Reporting from Washington -- Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

Penny Pritzker, Obama finance chair, said to be Commerce choice
"Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the 54-chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The activists -- key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House -- fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.

The president-elect has told some Democrats that he expects to take heat from parts of his political base but will not be deterred by it.

Aside from Clinton and Gates, the roster of possible Cabinet secretaries has included Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who both voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq, though Lugar has since said he regretted it.

"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy.

Clinton, who was Obama's chief opponent during the Democratic presidential primaries, appears to be the top candidate for secretary of State in his administration. Speculation about Clinton has dismayed some liberal activists but has cheered some conservatives such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and editor William Kristol of the Weekly Standard.

Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq war resolution, and despite pressure, she never said during the primary campaign that she regretted that vote. She also favored legislation last year to support the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, another decision that pleased conservatives.

In a move to advance her candidacy, Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, has agreed to take steps to avoid conflicts of interest posed by his far-flung financial dealings, Democrats close to the discussions said Wednesday.

Bill Clinton has agreed to check with the Obama administration before giving a paid speech. He also has agreed to disclose the sources of new contributions to his charitable enterprise, the William J. Clinton Foundation, those close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.

He also is trying to devise a way to share the identity of past donors, a touchy matter because some contributors do not want their identities divulged, said one Democrat.

Knowledgeable Democrats say that Gates is under consideration to remain in his post for at least several months even though he frequently has said he wants to return to private life when the Bush administration leaves office.

Activists note that Vice President-elect Joe Biden, also expected to be a leading voice in the new administration's foreign policy, voted for the 2002 war resolution.

Another possible contender for the diplomatic post, former U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, also backed the Iraq invasion.

Kevin Martin, executive director of the group Peace Action, said that although Obama had campaigned as an agent of change, the president-elect is "a fairly centrist guy" who appears to be choosing from the Democratic foreign policy establishment -- "and nobody from outside it."

"So, in the short term, we're going to be disappointed," he said. "They may turn out to be all pro-war, or at least people who were pro-war in the beginning."

Martin said that his group was concerned about Gates and Clinton as well as Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for White House chief of staff. He also said his group was trying to mobilize its grass-roots supporters with e-mail alerts, but recognized that it must approach the subject delicately because of public euphoria over Obama's historic victory.

"There's so much Obama hero worship, we're having to walk this line where we can't directly criticize him," he said. "But we are expressing concern."

Peace Action urged in a letter for its members to speak up because "we can be sure that the Obama team is under pressure to dial back plans to withdraw from Iraq."

Despite concerns, some groups are trying to remain conciliatory.

Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, said that although he finds Sen. Clinton's views "very troubling," Obama should be given the benefit of the doubt.

"I take him at his word that he is committed to ending the occupation of Iraq in 16 months and that he's going to assemble a team that's committed to that goal," Andrews said.

Obama campaigned on a promise to remove all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, or roughly one brigade a month.

Since winning the White House, Obama has affirmed his pledge to remove the troops but has left himself some flexibility on the withdrawal timetable.

In an appearance on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Obama promised a troop pullback but described it in broad terms.

"I've said during the campaign, and I've stuck to this commitment, that as soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security apparatus, and we will start executing a plan that draws down our troops," the president-elect said.

Richter is a writer in our Washington bureau.


Times staff writer Peter Nicholas in Washington contributed to this article.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

GOP must admit it has spread wealth

By George Will

Washington Post Writers Group

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Washington —- Conservatism’s current intellectual chaos reverberated in the GOP ticket’s end-of-campaign crescendo of surreal warnings that big government —- verily, “socialism” —- would impend were Democrats elected. John McCain and Sarah Palin experienced this epiphany when Barack Obama told a plumber that he would “spread the wealth around.”

America can’t have that, exclaimed the Republican ticket while Republicans —- whose prescription drug entitlement is the largest expansion of the welfare state since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society gave birth to Medicare in 1965; a majority of whom in Congress supported a lavish farm bill at a time of record profits for the less than 2 percent of the American people-cum-corporations who farm —- and their administration were partially nationalizing the banking system, putting Detroit on the dole and looking around to see whether some bit of what is smilingly called “the private sector” has been inadvertently left off the ever-expanding list of entities eligible for a bailout from the $1 trillion or so that is to be “spread around.”

The seepage of government into everywhere is, we are assured, to be temporary and nonpolitical. Well.

Probably as temporary as New York City’s rent controls, which were born as emergency responses to the Second World War, and which are still distorting the city’s housing market. The Depression, which FDR failed to end but which Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did end, was the excuse for agriculture subsidies that have lived past three score years and 10.

The distribution of a trillion dollars by a political institution —- the federal government —- will be nonpolitical? How could it be? Either markets allocate resources, or government —- meaning politics —- allocates them. Now that distrust of markets is high, Americans are supposed to believe that the institution they trust least —- Congress —- will pony up $1 trillion and then passively recede, never putting its 10 thumbs, like a manic Jack Horner, into the pie? Surely Congress will direct the executive branch to show compassion for this, that and the other industry. And it will mandate “socially responsible” spending —- an infinitely elastic term —- by the favored companies.

Detroit has not yet started spending the $25 billion that Congress has approved but already is, like Oliver Twist, holding out its porridge bowl and saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

McCain and Palin, plucky foes of spreading the wealth, must have known that such spreading is mostly what Washington does. Here, the Constitution is an afterthought; the supreme law of the land is the principle of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Sugar import quotas cost the American people approximately $2 billion a year, but that sum is siphoned from 300 million consumers in small, hidden increments that are not noticed.

Conservatives rightly think, or once did, that much, indeed most, government spreading of wealth is economically destructive and morally dubious —- destructive because, by directing capital to suboptimum uses, it slows wealth creation; morally dubious because the wealth being spread belongs to those who created it, not government. But if conservatives call all such spreading by government “socialism,” that becomes a classification that no longer classifies: It includes almost everything, including the refundable tax credit on which McCain’s health care plan depended.

Hyperbole is not harmless; careless language bewitches the speaker’s intelligence. And falsely shouting “socialism!” in a crowded theater such as Washington causes yawning. This is the only major industrial society that has never had a large socialist party ideologically, meaning candidly, committed to redistribution of wealth. This is partly because Americans are an aspirational, not an envious people. It is also because the socialism we do have is the surreptitious socialism of the strong, e.g. sugar producers represented by their Washington hirelings.

In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking —- bending government for the benefit of private factions. The difference is in degree, including the degree of candor. The rehabilitation of conservatism cannot begin until conservatives are candid about their complicity in what government has become.

As for the president-elect, he promises to change Washington. He will, by making matters worse. He will intensify rent-seeking by finding new ways —- this will not be easy —- to expand, even more than the current administration has, government’s influence on spreading the wealth.

George Will is a Washington Post columnist.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why socialism is evil

November 19, 2008
by Walter Williams

© 2008

Evil acts can be given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution or caring for the less fortunate. Let's think about socialism.

Imagine there's an elderly widow down the street from you. She has neither the strength to mow her lawn nor enough money to hire someone to do it. Here's my question to you, and I'm almost afraid for the answer: Would you support a government mandate that forces one of your neighbors to mow the lady's lawn each week? If he failed to follow the government orders, would you approve of some kind of punishment ranging from house arrest and fines to imprisonment? I'm hoping that the average American would condemn such a government mandate because it would be a form of slavery, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Would there be the same condemnation if instead of the government forcing your neighbor to physically mow the widow's lawn, the government forced him to give the lady $40 of his weekly earnings? That way the widow could hire someone to mow her lawn. I'd say that there is little difference between the mandates. While the mandate's mechanism differs, it is nonetheless the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Probably most Americans would have a clearer conscience if all the neighbors were forced to put money in a government pot and a government agency would send the widow a weekly sum of $40 to hire someone to mow her lawn. This mechanism makes the particular victim invisible, but it still boils down to one person being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another. Putting the money into a government pot makes palatable acts that would otherwise be deemed morally offensive.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, coercion or taking the property of one person, to accomplish good ends, helping one's fellow man. Helping one's fellow man in need, by reaching into one's own pockets, is a laudable and praiseworthy goal. Doing the same through coercion and reaching into another's pockets has no redeeming features and is worthy of condemnation.

Some people might contend that we are a democracy where the majority agrees to the forcible use of one person for the good of another. But does a majority consensus confer morality to an act that would otherwise be deemed as immoral? In other words, if a majority of the widow's neighbors voted to force one neighbor to mow her law, would that make it moral?

I don't believe any moral case can be made for the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another. But that conclusion is not nearly as important as the fact that so many of my fellow Americans give wide support to using people. I would like to think it is because they haven't considered that more than $2 trillion of the over $3 trillion federal budget represents Americans using one another. Of course, they might consider it compensatory justice. For example, one American might think, "Farmers get Congress to use me to serve the needs of some farmers. I'm going to get Congress to use someone else to serve my needs by subsidizing my child's college education."

The bottom line is that we've become a nation of thieves, a value rejected by our founders. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, was horrified when Congress appropriated $15,000 to help French refugees. He said, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." Tragically, today's Americans would run Madison out of town on a rail.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is it constitutional?

November 5, 2008
by Richard W. Rahn

Which section of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government the power to bail out banks? If you don't know, it could be because no constitutional authority exists for such an action. It is all too common for both Congress and the executive branch to ignore that the Constitution limits what they can and cannot do.

The United States is not a parliamentary democracy; it is a constitutional federal republic, giving basic rights to the people and limiting the powers of government. America's Founding Fathers understood that simple majoritarian democracy could trample the rights of minorities and could lead to tyranny. One of the major reasons for the relative success of the American republic is the difficulty of making significant changes in the government structure and policies. Many find this frustrating, but it allows momentary passions to cool and a more deliberative process to take place. As a result, fewer mistakes are made, in contrast to many parliamentary democracies. Because it was more difficult to put socialist schemes in place in the U.S., such as the nationalization of major industries, the people observed the failure of such programs in parliamentary countries, which diminished the enthusiasm for doing it in America.

A number of constitutional scholars, including former New Jersey Supreme Court Judge Andrew P. Napolitano and Robert A. Levy (who spearheaded the recent successful suit to overturn Washington, D.C.'s unconstitutional ban on gun ownership), have argued that the bank bailout scheme is unconstitutional. In a recent article in the Legal Times,Robert Levy stated: "The federal government has no constitutional authority to spend taxpayers' money to buy distressed assets, much less to take an ownership position in private financial institutions. And Congress has no constitutional authority to delegate nearly plenary legislative power to the Treasury secretary, an executive branch official." (This violates the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution.)

The following is likely to happen: The immediate financial crisis will wane. The problems in the bank bailout scheme will become increasingly apparent, and the politicians who put in it place will engage in their characteristic finger-pointing and denial. The scheme will be the subject of much litigation, some of it over time reaching the higher courts and likely even the Supreme Court. Provisions of the bailout legislation and actions by the Treasury will be ruled unconstitutional. After all of this comes to pass, most government shares in the banks will have been sold, making much of the issue moot, but Congress and the executive branch will be on notice that such actions in the future are impermissible, and the American Republic will carry on. (Pessimists may disagree with this optimistic scenario, but history shows that most often the government swings back from gross excesses.)

The Constitution has been abused by many presidents and Congresses over the centuries (perhaps, beginning with the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, which was soon repealed). The original Constitution, even though the work of an enlightened collective genius, was flawed, most notably by the allowance of slavery, which was corrected by the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.

There have always been political pressures on the courts to read nonexistent things into the Constitution. After President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to pack the Court to obtain approval for his "New Deal" excesses, the Court did allow much of the new regulation and reinterpreted the commerce clause far beyond the original text. This abuse of the commerce clause over the last 75 years is the source of many of today's economic problems.

In recent years, as the court's makeup has changed, there has been a slow drift back toward interpreting the Constitution on the basis of the original text and/or what appears to be original intent. Those who are unhappy with this direction, rather than following proper procedures to amend the Constitution, now argue that judges should be appointed who will interpret the Constitution in light of "today's circumstances" and their own preferences for outcomes. Advocates of the "living constitution" frequently advocate the addition of "active rights," such as the right to a home, free medical care, etc., as contrasted with "passive rights," such as freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, the right to bear arms, etc.

"Active rights" force one person to provide for, or subsidize, another person, unlike "passive rights" which do not diminish another's liberty. If you think the "government" should pay for your medical insurance, you are advocating that some other person should pay your bills. Think about someone you personally know (rather than the collective "rich") who has become at least moderately wealthy by working hard and being innovative, providing goods, services and jobs desired by fellow citizens. Then ask yourself, "What moral right do I have to claim a portion of that productive person's income?" The farther the nation goes down this slippery slope, the more "takers" and fewer "providers" there will be, and, at the end, all will share in the poverty of "active rights."

America's founding fathers clearly understood the dangers of "active rights," which is why they kept them out of the Constitution. The American Republic can correct the occasional abuse of the Constitution, such as the bank bailout legislation, but it may not survive the wholesale ignoring of the original text by allowing judges to suddenly create "active rights." The next time some politician proposes a scheme to "help the people," look at the text of the Constitution (which is more clearly written and shorter than many magazine articles). If you cannot find the constitutional power for the proposal, consider its long term consequences - and, in most cases, I think you will conclude it is a bad idea.

Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Taxes: A Fair Share for All

Taxes: A Fair Share for All
America already redistributes its wealth. A lot of it.

By Jonah Goldberg

We almost had a really interesting conversation about taxes in the waning days of the election. Almost.

To the surprise of few, it was discovered that Barack Obama favors something called “redistributionism.”

John McCain, it was discovered, opposes it — which also surprised a lot of people. To a certain extent, the outrage from folks on the right, at times including yours truly, over Obama’s response to “Joe the Plumber” was overdone. It was, after all, Teddy Roosevelt — McCain’s hero — who introduced the progressive income tax for precisely the purpose of spreading the wealth around. The maverick’s campaign saddlebags are heavy with redistribution policies that redistribute wealth as well.

I still believe that redistribution for its own sake is little more than institutionalized covetousness. But that’s a subject for another day. What was left out of the national tax conversation was the reality of the situation: America already redistributes its wealth. A lot of it. In fact, we’re one of the most progressive countries in the world in this regard.

Now, first let me vent a peeve. Many people think “progressive” means “good,” even though something can be progressive and bad, too. When economists refer to a “progressive” income tax, they merely mean a tax rate that increases as you move up the income ladder. (Right now in the U.S., the poor pay somewhere between 0 percent and 10 percent in federal income tax. The middle class pays 15 percent to 28 percent, and the highest earners pay 33 percent or 35 percent.) But most liberals also think that the income tax is “progressive” in the same sense that fair-trade coffee and weepy acoustic-guitar college music are progressive — i.e. good and enlightened.

Either way, the U.S. tax code is a lot more progressive than you might think. A new study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reveals that the United States “has the most progressive tax system and collects the largest share of taxes from the richest 10 percent of the population.” Our tax system is, in fact, the most “pro-poor,” according to a Tax Foundation analysis of that study, of any developed country’s save Ireland. That’s right, we’re more progressive than France and Sweden.

The bottom 40 percent of income earners receive more from the federal income tax system than they pay into it. Meanwhile, the top 10 percent pay 71 percent of all income tax, despite only earning 39 percent of our pretax income. Taxes on the top 1 percent constitute 40 percent of tax dollars.

Lower- and middle-income workers pay a lot in other forms of taxation, particularly regressive payroll and sales taxes. Indeed, that’s one reason Obama wants to offer the middle class a tax cut. I don’t like his version of it, but I think he’s right that the middle class deserves some tax relief.

But what all Americans need is tax reform. Our tax code is outrageously impenetrable. And we’ve built a system that treats the wealthy like an inexhaustible natural resource.

Experts on economic development have long noted what they sometimes call the “oil curse.” Countries with huge oil reserves become economically wealthy but democratically impoverished, because the government can fund itself without taxing the middle class. As a result, the middle class demands less accountability from government because, heck, they didn’t pay for it. (No taxation, no representation.) In the process, the people become subjects rather than citizens.

Both Obama and McCain have a tendency to see villainy as an explanation for our economic woes. Obama thinks opposing tax increases is unneighborly and selfish. McCain has a long habit of denouncing Wall Street “greed.”

One moral hazard of such attitudes is that the investor class will start applying its entrepreneurial skills to protecting its existing wealth from the tax collector rather than trying to create more wealth.

But the greater danger is that millions of Americans might believe that all that is keeping them from the good life is the tightfistedness of people doing better than them and a government unwilling to pry those wealthy fingers open. That’s a recipe for an unhealthy political culture.

A sane tax code, under any president, would be simple, clear and direct. We’re not going to give up on redistribution in the form of, say, the earned income tax credit. But it’s important that the working and middle classes feel as if government spending comes out of their wallets, too. Otherwise, the line between citizen and subject is blurred and the costs of government are seen as someone else’s problem.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The GOP's silence on Bush's failures

November 4 2008
by Patrick Buchanan

After losing control of the Senate and 30 House seats in 2006, the GOP is bracing for losses of six to nine in the Senate and two dozen to three dozen additional seats in the House.

If the party "were a dog food," says Rep. Tom Davis, "they would take us off the shelf."

Bush's approval is 25 percent. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton left office with ratings more than twice as high.

But while John McCain and others have deplored the Bush failures, what, exactly, did he do wrong?

What were the policy blunders to which Republicans vehemently objected at the time?

That Bush is a Big Government Republican is undeniable. His two great social spending initiatives, prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare and No Child Left Behind, so testify. But how many Republicans opposed Bush on these initiatives? How many have called for the abolition of either program, or for raising payroll taxes to pay for prescription drugs?

McCain now supports the Bush judges and justices and the Bush tax cuts, as do almost all Republicans.

True, Bush sought amnesty for illegal aliens and backs the free-trade globalism that exported our manufacturing base and 3 million to 4 million jobs. But McCain is even more enthusiastic about both.

Does the party dissent on free trade and mass immigration?

Two-thirds of Americans now believe the Iraq war a mistake. Yet, all but a few Republicans backed the war. At the time of "Mission Accomplished!" in May 2003, the nation gave Bush a 90 percent approval rating, as his father had after Desert Storm.

What turned America against the war was not the decision to invade, oust Saddam, destroy the weapons of mass destruction and depart, but the long, bloody slog, the five-year war, with nearly 5,000 dead, that Iraq became. It was not the lightning war of Tommy Franks, with journalists riding tanks into Baghdad, that soured America, but the unanticipated duration and cost of the war.

Yet, Republicans still believe that the war was not a mistake, only mishandled. And now that Gen. Petraeus got it right in Iraq, they say, we should pursue the Petraeus policy in Afghanistan.

How many Republicans have repudiated the Bush Doctrine that got us into Iraq – the belief that only by making the world democratic can we keep America secure and free?

Americans no longer believe that, if ever they did. And history proves them right – for Iraq has never been democratic, and America has always been free. Yet, the Republican Party has never renounced the Bush Doctrine.

Indeed, it is being applied today in Afghanistan.

That war, too, after we failed at Tora Bora to capture or kill bin Laden, has become a long slog to create a democratic Afghanistan, which, like a democratic Iraq, has never before existed.

In Afghanistan, we are entering the eighth year of war with victory further away than ever. The Taliban grows stronger. U.S. casualties are surging. Opium exports are breaking records. Our NATO allies grow weary. Even the Brits are talking of reconciliation with the Taliban, perhaps accepting a dictator.

These two wars helped to cripple the Bush presidency and end the GOP ascendancy. Yet, at the highest levels of the party, one hears no serious questioning of the ideology that produced these wars. McCain has pledged to stay in Iraq until "victory" and send 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Nor have Republicans objected to the U.S. air strikes that have killed hundreds of Afghans, or the Predator strikes that have inflamed Pakistan, or the helicopter raid into Syria that humiliated Damascus and enraged the population. If Republicans disagree with these policies and actions, their voices are muted.

Bush is for facing down Russia and bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Does any Republican disagree? For McCain is more hawkish than Bush when it come to Moscow.

The party says it is losing because the economy went south. But who caused that? Was it not because Republicans colluded with Democrats in pushing "affordable housing," sub-prime mortgages, for folks who could not afford houses?

Is the GOP prepared to demand tough terms for home loans?

Was it not GOP presidents who appointed the Fed chairmen who pumped up the money supply and created the bubble? How many Republicans objected to the easy money when the going was good?

The country wishes to be rid of the Bush policies and the Bush presidency. But where does the Republican Party think Bush went wrong, other than to be asleep at the wheel during Katrina?

The GOP needs to confront the truth: The failure of the Bush presidency lies not in a failed execution of policy but in the policies themselves and the neoconservative ideology that informed them.

Yet, still, the party remains in denial, refusing to come to terms with the causes of its misfortune. One expects they will be given the time and opportunity for reflection soon.

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Posted: October 29, 2008
by Walter Williams

© 2008

For the U.S. Congress, news media, pundits and much of the American public, a lot of economic phenomena can be explained by what people want, human greed and what seems plausible. I'm going to name this branch of economic "science" wackonomics and apply it to some of today's observations and issues.

Since July this year, crude oil prices have fallen from $147 to $64 a barrel. Similarly, average gasoline prices have fallen from over $4 to a national average of $2.69 a gallon. When crude oil and gasoline were reaching their historical highs, Congress and other wackoeconomists blamed it on greedy oil company CEOs in their lust for obscene profits. But what explains today's lower prices? The only answer, consistent with wackonomic theory, is easy: Oil company CEOs have lost their lust for obscene profits. Or, maybe, since many of these CEOs are getting up in years, they might have begun to heed Matthew's warning (19:24), "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

Speaking of CEOs, there's the "unconscionable," "obscene" salaries they receive, in some cases over $10 million a year. Wackonomics has an easy answer for these high salaries: it's greed. However, CEOs don't have the corner on greed. There are other greedy people we don't scorn but hold in high esteem. According to Forbes' Celebrity 100 list, Oprah Winfrey receives $275 million, Steven Spielberg gets $130 million, Tiger Woods $115 million, Jay Leno $32 million and Dr. Phil $40 million. I need to talk to these people and learn their strategy. I've been making every effort to get that kind of money. I go to bed greedy, dream greedy dreams, awaken greedy and proceed through the day greedy. Despite my heroic efforts, it's all been for naught; I earn a pittance by comparison.

Wackonomics can help us understand what some people call the income distribution. The logical extension of wackonomic thought is that the unequal or unfair distribution of income is the handiwork of a dollar dealer who distributes dollars. The dollar dealer might deal one person a million dollars a year while dealing most others a mere pittance like $10, $20 or $30 thousand a year. Thus, the reason why some people are wealthy while others are poor is because the dollar dealer is a racist, sexist, a multi-nationalist, or just plain mean. Economic justice requires a re-dealing of the dollars, income redistribution or spreading the wealth, where the government takes the ill-gotten gains of the few and returns them to their rightful owners. Wackonomics might have a greed-based explanation for income inequality. There is a pile of money called income and greedy people got there first and took their unfair share. Similarly, economic justice requires a redistribution of income.

Wackonomics isn't just practiced by the uninitiated. This year's Nobel Laureate, Princeton University professor Paul Krugman, after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, gave one rendition of wackonomics in his column "After the Horror," New York Times (Sept. 14, 2001). Krugman wrote, "Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack – like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression – could do some economic good." He went on to point out how rebuilding the destruction in New York and Washington, D. C., would stimulate the economy through business investment and job creation. For practitioners of non-wackonomics, this reasoning doesn't even pass the smell test. If professor Krugman's vision is correct, and extending his logic, the terrorists would have made an even larger contribution to our economic well-being had they been able to fly a plane into the White House and destroyed buildings in other cities.

Wackonomics isn't all bad. There's an upside to it. It spares people the bother of having to understand the complexities of the world.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis

Note: For the entire article please go to my blog and click on the title for this article there. It will bring you directly to the full article. Sections of the article have been posted below.

By George Reisman, October 21, 2008

The news media are in the process of creating a great new historical myth. This is the myth that our present financial crisis is the result of economic freedom and laissez-faire capitalism.

The attempt to place the blame on laissez faire is readily confirmed by a Google search under the terms “crisis + laissez faire.” On the first page of the results that come up, or in the web entries to which those results refer, statements of the following kind appear:

“The mortgage crisis is laissez-faire gone wrong.”

“Sarkozy [Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France] said `laissez-faire’ economics, `self-regulation’ and the view that `the all-powerful market’ always knows best are finished.”

“`America’s laissez-faire ideology, as practiced during the subprime crisis, was as simplistic as it was dangerous,’ chipped in Peer Steinbrück, the German finance minister.”

“Paulson brings laissez-faire approach on financial crisis….”

“It’s au revoir to the days of laissez faire.”[1]

Recent articles in The New York Times provide further confirmation. Thus one article declares, “The United States has a culture that celebrates laissez-faire capitalism as the economic ideal….”[2] Another article tells us, “For 30 years, the nation’s political system has been tilted in favor of business deregulation and against new rules.”[3] In a third article, a pair of reporters assert, “Since 1997, Mr. Brown [the British Prime Minister] has been a powerful voice behind the Labor Party’s embrace of an American-style economic philosophy that was light on regulation. The laissez-faire approach encouraged the country’s banks to expand internationally and chase returns in areas far afield of their core mission of attracting deposits.”[4] Thus even Great Britain is described as having a “laissez-faire approach.”

The mentality displayed in these statements is so completely and utterly at odds with the actual meaning of laissez faire that it would be capable of describing the economic policy of the old Soviet Union as one of laissez faire in its last decades. By its logic, that is how it would have to describe the policy of Brezhnev and his successors of allowing workers on collective farms to cultivate plots of land of up to one acre in size on their own account and sell the produce in farmers’ markets in Soviet cities. According to the logic of the media, that too would be “laissez faire”—at least compared to the time of Stalin.

Laissez-faire capitalism has a definite meaning, which is totally ignored, contradicted, and downright defiled by such statements as those quoted above. Laissez-faire capitalism is a politico-economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and in which the powers of the state are limited to the protection of the individual’s rights against the initiation of physical force. This protection applies to the initiation of physical force by other private individuals, by foreign governments, and, most importantly, by the individual’s own government. This last is accomplished by such means as a written constitution, a system of division of powers and checks and balances, an explicit bill of rights, and eternal vigilance on the part of a citizenry with the right to keep and bear arms. Under laissez-faire capitalism, the state consists essentially just of a police force, law courts, and a national defense establishment, which deter and
combat those who initiate the use of physical force. And nothing more.

The utter absurdity of statements claiming that the present political-economic environment of the United States in some sense represents laissez-faire capitalism becomes as glaringly obvious as anything can be when one keeps in mind the extremely limited role of government under laissez-faire and then considers the following facts about the present-day United States.

1) Government spending in the United States currently equals more than forty percent of national income, i.e., the sum of all wages and salaries and profits and interest earned in the country. This is without counting any of the massive off-budget spending such as that on account of the government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nor does it count any of the recent spending on assorted “bailouts.” What this means is that substantially more than forty dollars of every one hundred dollars of output are appropriated by the government against the will of the individual citizens who produce that output. The money and the goods involved are turned over to the government only because the individual citizens wish to stay out of jail. Their freedom to dispose of their own incomes and output is thus violated on a colossal scale. In contrast, under laissez-faire capitalism, government spending would be on such a modest scale that a mere revenue tariff
might be sufficient to support it. The corporate and individual income taxes, inheritance and capital gains taxes, and social security and Medicare taxes would not exist.

2) There are presently fifteen federal cabinet departments, nine of which exist for the very purpose of respectively interfering with housing, transportation, healthcare, education, energy, mining, agriculture, labor, and commerce, and virtually all of which nowadays routinely ride roughshod over one or more important aspects of the economic freedom of the individual. Under laissez faire capitalism, eleven of the fifteen cabinet departments would cease to exist and only the departments of justice, defense, state, and treasury would remain. Within those departments, moreover, further reductions would be made, such as the abolition of the IRS in the Treasury Department and the Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice.

3) The economic interference of today’s cabinet departments is reinforced and amplified by more than one hundred federal agencies and commissions, the most well-known of which include, besides the IRS, the FRB and FDIC, the FBI and CIA, the EPA, FDA, SEC, CFTC, NLRB, FTC, FCC, FERC, FEMA, FAA, CAA, INS, OHSA, CPSC, NHTSA, EEOC, BATF, DEA, NIH, and NASA. Under laissez-faire capitalism, all such agencies and commissions would be done away with, with the exception of the FBI, which would be reduced to the legitimate functions of counterespionage and combating crimes against person or property that take place across state lines.

4) To complete this catalog of government interference and its trampling of any vestige of laissez faire, as of the end of 2007, the last full year for which data are available, the Federal Register contained fully seventy-three thousand pages of detailed government regulations. This is an increase of more than ten thousand pages since 1978, the very years during which our system, according to one of The New York Times articles quoted above, has been “tilted in favor of business deregulation and against new rules.” Under laissez-faire capitalism, there would be no Federal Register. The activities of the remaining government departments and their subdivisions would be controlled exclusively by duly enacted legislation, not the rule-making of unelected government officials.

5) And, of course, to all of this must be added the further massive apparatus of laws, departments, agencies, and regulations at the state and local level. Under laissez-faire capitalism, these too for the most part would be completely abolished and what remained would reflect the same kind of radical reductions in the size and scope of government activity as those carried out on the federal level.

What this brief account has shown is that the politico-economic system of the United States today is so far removed from laissez-faire capitalism that it is closer to the system of a police state than to laissez-faire capitalism. The ability of the media to ignore all of the massive government interference that exists today and to characterize our present economic system as one of laissez-faire and economic freedom marks it as, if not profoundly dishonest, then as nothing less than delusional.

In this way the enemies of capitalism and economic freedom are able to proceed in their campaign of economic destruction and devastation. They use the accusation of “laissez faire” as a kind of ratchet for increasing the government’s power. For example, in the early 1930s they accused President Hoover of following a policy of laissez faire, even as he intervened in the economic system to prevent the fall in wage rates that was essential to stop a reduced demand for labor from resulting in mass unemployment. On the basis of the mass unemployment that then resulted from Hoover’s intervention, which they succeeded in portraying as “laissez faire,” they deceived the country into supporting the further massive interventions of the New Deal.

Today, they continue to play the same game. Always it is laissez faire that they denounce, and whose alleged failures they claim need to be overcome with yet more government regulations and controls. Today, the massive interventions not only of the New Deal, but also of the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, and of all the administrations since, have been added to the very major interventions that existed even in the 1920s and to which Hoover very substantially added. And yet we still allegedly have laissez faire. It seems that so long as anyone manages to move or even breathe without being under the control of the government, laissez faire allegedly continues to exist, which serves to make necessary yet still more government controls.

The logical stopping point of this process is that one day everyone will end up being shackled to a wall, or at the very least being compelled to do something comparable to living in a zip code that matches his social security number. Then the government will know who everyone is, where he is, and that he can do nothing whatever without its approval and permission. And then the world will be safe from anyone attempting to do anything that benefits him and thereby allegedly harms others. At that point, the world will enjoy all the prosperity that comes from total paralysis.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally, the Story of the Whistleblower Who Tried to Prevent the Iraq War

by Norman Solomon September 26, 2008
Of course Katharine Gun was free to have a conscience, as long as it didn't interfere with her work at a British intelligence agency. To the authorities, practically speaking, a conscience was apt to be less tangible than a pixel on a computer screen. But suddenly – one routine morning, while she was scrolling through e-mail at her desk – conscience struck. It changed Katharine Gun's life, and it changed history.

Despite the nationality of this young Englishwoman, her story is profoundly American – all the more so because it has remained largely hidden from the public in the United States. When Katharine Gun chose, at great personal risk, to reveal an illicit spying operation at the United Nations in which the U.S. government was the senior partner, she brought out of the transatlantic shadows a special relationship that could not stand the light of day.

By then, in early 2003, the president of the United States – with dogged assists from the British prime minister following close behind – had long since become transparently determined to launch an invasion of Iraq. Gun's moral concerns were not unusual; she shared, with countless other Brits and Americans, strong opposition to the impending launch of war. Yet, thanks to a simple and intricate twist of fate, she abruptly found herself in a rare position to throw a roadblock in the way of the political march to war from Washington and London. Far more extraordinary, though, was her decision to put herself in serious jeopardy on behalf of revealing salient truths to the world.

We might envy such an opportunity, and admire such courage on behalf of principle. But there are good, or at least understandable, reasons why so few whistleblowers emerge from institutions that need conformity and silence to lay flagstones on the path to war. Those reasons have to do with matters of personal safety, financial security, legal jeopardy, social cohesion and default positions of obedience. They help to explain why and how people go along to get along with the warfare state even when it flagrantly rests on foundations of falsehoods.

The e-mailed memorandum from the U.S. National Security Agency that jarred Katharine Gun that fateful morning was dated less than two months before the invasion of Iraq that was to result in thousands of deaths among the occupying troops and hundreds of thousands more among Iraqi people. We're told that this is a cynical era, but there was nothing cynical about Katharine Gun's response to the memo that appeared without warning on her desktop. Reasons to shrug it off were plentiful, in keeping with bottomless rationales for prudent inaction. The basis for moral engagement and commensurate action was singular.

The import of the NSA memo was such that it shook the government of Tony Blair and caused uproars on several continents. But for the media in the United States, it was a minor story. For the New York Times, it was no story at all.

At last, a new book tells this story. The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War packs a powerful wallop. To understand in personal, political and historic terms – what Katharine Gun did, how the British and American governments responded, and what the U.S. news media did and did not report – is to gain a clear-eyed picture of a military-industrial-media complex that plunged ahead with the invasion of Iraq shortly after her brave action of conscience. That complex continues to promote what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism."

In a time when political players and widely esteemed journalists are pleased to posture with affects of great sophistication, Katharine Gun's response was disarmingly simple. She activated her conscience when clear evidence came into her hands that war – not diplomacy seeking to prevent it – headed the priorities list of top leaders at both 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing Street. "At the time," she has recalled, "all I could think about was that I knew they were trying really hard to legitimize an invasion, and they were willing to use this new intelligence to twist arms, perhaps blackmail delegates, so they could tell the world they had achieved a consensus for war."

She and her colleagues at the Government Communications Headquarters were, as she later put it, "being asked to participate in an illegal process with the ultimate aim of achieving an invasion in violation of international law."

The authors of The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, describe the scenario this way: "Twisting the arms of the recalcitrant [U.N. Security Council] representatives in order to win approval for a new resolution could supply the universally acceptable rationale." After Katharine Gun discovered what was afoot, "she attempted to stop a war by destroying its potential trigger mechanism, the required second resolution that would make war legal."

Instead of mere accusation, the NSA memo provided substantiation. That fact explains why U.S. intelligence agencies firmly stonewalled in response to media inquiries – and it may also help to explain why the U.S. news media gave the story notably short shrift. To a significant degree, the scoop did not reverberate inside the American media echo chamber because it was too sharply telling to blend into the dominant orchestrated themes.

While supplying the ostensible first draft of history, U.S. media filtered out vital information that could refute the claims of Washington's exalted war planners. "Journalists, too many of them – some quite explicitly – have said that they see their mission as helping the war effort," an American media critic warned during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. "And if you define your mission that way, you'll end up suppressing news that might be important, accurate, but maybe isn't helpful to the war effort."

Jeff Cohen (a friend and colleague of mine) spoke those words before the story uncorked by Katharine Gun's leak splashed across British front pages and then scarcely dribbled into American media. He uttered them on the MSNBC television program hosted by Phil Donahue, where he worked as a producer and occasional on-air analyst. Donahue's prime-time show was cancelled by NBC management three weeks before the invasion – as it happened, on almost the same day that the revelation of the NSA memo became such a big media story in the United Kingdom and such a carefully bypassed one in the United States.

Soon a leaked NBC memo confirmed suspicions that the network had pulled the plug on Donahue's show in order to obstruct views and information that would go against the rush to war. The network memo said that the Donahue program would present a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war." And: "He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." Cancellation of the show averted the danger that it could become "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Overall, to the editors of American mass media, the actions and revelations of Katharine Gun merited little or no reporting – especially when they mattered most. My search of the comprehensive LexisNexis database found that for nearly three months after her name was first reported in the British media, U.S. news stories mentioning her scarcely existed.

When the prosecution of Katharine Gun finally concluded its journey through the British court system, the authors note, a surge of American news reports on the closing case "had people wondering why they hadn't heard about the NSA spy operation at the beginning." This book includes an account of journalistic evasion that is a grim counterpoint to the story of conscience and courage that just might inspire us to activate more of our own.

This article was adapted from Norman Solomon's foreword to the new book by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, "The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Politics of Presidential Spending

I advise you click on the title above and go directly to the article. The article contains some great graphs not included below.

by R.W. Bradford

Most people believe that Democrats are big spenders and that Republicans are tight-fisted. The evidence leads to a very different conclusion.


How do various political regimes affect government spending and, hence, the size of government's intrusion into our lives? This is a fundamental issue in political and economic theory.

R.W. Bradford is editor and publisher of Liberty.
Dr. Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate in economics and one of our era's greatest advocates of liberty, recently entered the debate on the historical background of the question. Dr. Friedman wrote to Liberty challenging my claim that "government spending grew rapidly" during the Reagan presidency. Friedman offered as evidence a graph showing "Federal non-defense spending as a percentage of National Income" from 1960 to 2003. This graph showed a leveling off of such spending in 1983. Friedman stated that "the record speaks for itself" and offered no further argument or data.

I couldn't see why "government spending" should be limited to "federal non-defense spending." Nor could I see why spending should be normalized by national income, unless one believes that the government is somehow entitled to a certain portion. It made more sense to me to consider "government spending" to refer to all the money government spends, to adjust the actual spending figures for inflation, and to normalize spending for changes in population.

I searched in vain for figures on government spending per capita, corrected for inflation. But I found on the Census Bureau's website annual government spending for each fiscal year from 1947 to 2003 as well as annual population figures, and, of course, the Consumer Price Index is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it was just a matter of putting the numbers into a spreadsheet and doing relatively simple calculations to determine annual government spending per capita, and to see whether it grew more slowly during the Reagan years than before or since. The data verified my earlier claim: spending grew a little faster during the Reagan years than during the Carter and Ford years that preceded his terms in office, and at a much faster rate than during the Bush I and Clinton years that followed. I wrote a brief response to Friedman, which was published in the October Liberty.

Since 1970, spending has grown 64% faster when a Republican sits in the White House than when a Democrat does.
It quickly occurred to me that the data I had developed might help answer questions like these:

Does spending grow more slowly during Republican presidencies than during Democratic presidencies?
Does spending grow more slowly when Republicans control the House? the Senate?
Does divided government (in which one party controls Congress and the other party controls the White House) result in lower spending growth? If so, does spending grow faster under Republican presidents with Democratic congresses than under Democratic presidents with Republican congresses?
So I added fields to my database for the political affiliation of the president and the party which controlled each house of Congress during each fiscal year, and began to look for correlations. A summary of the data can be found in the chart below.

It quickly became evident that the more recent data are quite different from the earlier data in two significant ways:

During the earlier years, annual changes in government spending were much greater than in later years. During the first six years of available data, during which Harry Truman was president, the average annual variation in per capita spending was 14.6%. The highest average annual change in any six-year period since Truman was president was 5.6%. As you can see from the graph below, which shows the year-to-year absolute change in spending, spending has become much less volatile over the years, and especially after 1970.
During the years before the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon (i.e., before fiscal year 1970), there was a strong correlation between the Republicans and lower growth in government spending, and between the Democrats and higher growth. Since 1970, this correlation has hardly existed.

Prior to 1970, the correlation was strong:

When a Republican held the White House, spending fell by an average of 0.70% per year; with a Democrat in the White House, it grew by an average of 5.98%.
With Republican control of Congress, spending fell by an average of 2.12% per year; with Democrats in control, spending rose by an average of 4.82% annually.
With the GOP in control of both the White House and Congress, spending fell by an average of 6.85% per year. It is worth noting that this is a very small sample — just two years (fiscal years 1954–55). During the twelve years that the Democrats controlled Congress and the White House, spending rose by an average of 6.55% per year.

During the six years of split government with a Republican White House, spending grew at an average rate of 4.92%. During the two years (fiscal years 1948–49) of split government with a Democrat in the White House, spending grew by 1.46%.

When Democrats controlled the White House plus both houses of Congress, spending grew at 1.70% per year, slightly below the average growth rate of 1.83% for the entire period.
This strong correlation between spending growth and the party affiliation of the president disappeared with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968.

A New Era Begins
Starting in 1968, a very different pattern emerges. Government continued to grow, but year-to-year spending changes became much less volatile. Part of the reason is that during the 1947 to 1969 period, government spending more than doubled, so that absolute changes resulted in much smaller changes expressed as percentages. We can hypothesize about other factors causing this drop in volatility; for example, the abandonment among Republicans of opposition to the welfare state.

But much more importantly, the correlations between spending and political parties changed radically. Prior to fiscal year 1970, there were very strong correlations between fiscal restraint and Republican control of the White House and Congress, and between spending increases and Democratic control of those institutions. Since then, there has been hardly any correlation, despite the fact that Republican candidates for office generally claim to favor fiscal restraint and Democratic candidates for office generally claim to favor the expansion of government.

Consider the following:

In the twelve years that a Democrat has sat in the White House, spending has increased at an average rate of 1.29% per year; during the 22 years of Republican presidencies, government spending has risen at an average rate of 2.12%. In other words, spending has grown 64% faster when a Republican sits in the White House than when a Democrat does.
During the 20 years Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress, spending has grown at an average rate of 1.84% per year, more than double the average rate of 0.89% per year during the six years the GOP ran Congress. (During the other eight years, when control of Congress was split between the two parties, spending grew at an average rate of 2.52%. The split-control years all occurred during Republican presidencies.)
When Democrats controlled the White House plus both houses of Congress, spending grew at 1.70% per year, slightly below the average growth rate of 1.83% for the entire period.
The slowest spending growth occurred when a Democrat sat in the White House and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. Spending rose by an average of just 0.89% during the six years of this situation, which all occurred with Bill Clinton as president and Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House.
During the 14 years Republicans controlled the White House and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, spending grew at an average annual rate of 1.92%. During the eight years with a Republican president and a split Congress, spending grew at 2.54% per year.
All this must come as a shock to the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that Democrats are spenders and Republicans want to cut government spending. The simple fact is that during the past 34 years, government spending has grown significantly faster when a Republican has sat in the White House.

But the old prejudice still seems to have some validity regarding Congress: Democratic-controlled congresses have increased spending at a rate more than twice the rate that Republican congresses have.

Government spending has grown fastest when a Republican was in the White House and Democrats controlled Congress. It has grown most slowly when a Democrat was president and Republicans controlled Congress.

* * *

To this point, everything I've written is strictly factual, derived from figures published by the Bureau of the Census and the Department of Labor. So far as I am able to determine, these facts cannot be unchallenged.

But they are open to interpretation, and what follows is an attempt to provide background and explanation for why the growth in government spending in relation to political control of Congress and the presidency has taken the course I've described above.

The Early Post-War Years (1947–1969)
The strong correlations between Democrats and spending and between Republicans and restraint during the early postwar period make perfect sense. The Democratic administrations of Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson were characterized by war and the expansion of the welfare state, both of which are expensive projects, while the single GOP presidency was a time of peace and restraint.

Although Ike was criticized by many conservatives for not slashing government enough, government spending per capita actually fell during his presidency.
The domestic policy of President Harry Truman (fiscal years 1947–53) called for federal subsidies for (and control) of medical care, housing, and education, as well as other expansions of government programs, under the slogan of "The Fair Deal." Not all of Truman's ambitious program was enacted, but enough of it was implemented that in combination with the Korean War (which began in fiscal year 1950) government spending increased at an average rate of 6.77% during Truman's second administration.

John F. Kennedy (fiscal years 1962–65) was elected on a platform calling for increased government spending domestically and an aggressive anti-communist foreign policy. But a coalition of conservative southern Democrats and old-line Republicans made it difficult to enact his domestic program and, with the exception of his abortive invasion of Cuba in 1962, his war against communism didn't really come to fruition until after his untimely death. Spending grew at an average of 3.27% per year during his brief administration.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1965–69) called for a massive increase in the welfare state, under the slogan of the "Great Society," and greatly escalated the war in Vietnam, which Eisenhower had almost entirely avoided and for which Kennedy had laid the groundwork. Unsurprisingly, government spending increased rapidly during his presidency. During his only full term, spending rose at an average rate of 6.46% per year.

The only Republican to capture the White House during this period was World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he was criticized by many conservatives for not rolling back government as much as they wanted, his is the only administration since World War II in which government spending per capita actually fell. He combined fiscal restraint on domestic programs with an inclination to disentangle America from wars abroad: he presided over the end of the Korean War, refused to get involved in the wars in the Middle East, and did what he could to keep America from greater involvement in Vietnam. During the first two years of his administration, when he had the support of a GOP Congress, spending fell by more than 13%, but during the final two years, with the Democrats firmly in control of both houses of Congress, spending rose at an annual rate of 1.46%. Even with these increases, spending fell at an average annual rate of 0.70% during his administration.

The New Era (1970–2003)
The fact that Republican presidents have been bigger spenders than Democratic presidents during the past 34 years startles many people. This is probably a product of people's greater inclination to listen to the rhetoric of the candidates than to pay attention to what winning candidates actually do once they are in office.

Consider the case of Ronald Reagan. He called for cutting back government, but presided over a massive increase in the size and power of government, at least as measured by government spending per capita. Government spending during his administration grew at an average rate of 2.28%, nearly three times as fast as during the administration of Democrat Bill Clinton.

George W. Bush is establishing himself as the biggest spender since Lyndon Johnson.
Similarly, Richard Nixon was elected based on his promises to cut back government, but spending increased during his administration at a faster rate than during any subsequent administration except that of George W. Bush. Nixon pursued policies that he thought would maximize his chances for reelection and his historic reputation. He had no interest in repealing any of the Great Society measures. His "de-escalation" of the Vietnam War proceeded very slowly, and involved sending more troops and dropping more bombs. His legacy includes such expansions of government power as the War on Drugs and the Environmental Protection Agency. The result? During his years in the White House, government spending grew at an average rate of 2.31%, virtually identical to the rate during the Reagan years.

George W. Bush was elected on the strongest and most explicit conservative platform ever, yet he supported massive increases in military spending, created a whole new bureaucracy to fight the War on Terror, invaded two countries, and pushed through the largest single increase in welfare spending in decades. Not surprisingly, spending has grown the fastest during his years of any presidency since Lyndon Johnson's.

The other two Republican presidencies were different cases. Gerald Ford, who assumed the powers of the presidency when Nixon resigned in disgrace, was an old-line, fiscally conservative Republican who faced a very hostile and overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. Ford responded by using his veto power more frequently than any president before or since. The result was the lowest average annual spending increases of any presidency since Eisenhower.

George H. W. Bush was also a special case. He presided over a country that favored fiscal restraint and was elected largely because of his promise not to raise taxes. When he broke that promise, many Congressional Republicans treated him as if he were their enemy. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority in Congress, smelling blood, focused on making him look bad, sensing a victory of the White House for them. They succeeded. The result: spending grew at 1.15% per year during his presidency, the lowest rate of increase of any post-war president except Eisenhower.

The two Democratic presidents of this era faced radically different situations. Jimmy Carter was elected during post-Vietnam public cynicism about the military, and his years saw actual cuts in military spending. He eschewed most of the traditional Democratic calls for increases in welfare programs. Not surprisingly, spending grew at a relatively low 1.70% annual rate during his administration.

Bill Clinton is perhaps the most interesting case. He was elected very narrowly, on a platform that included a government takeover of the entire health-care system, the largest expansion of government power any president had proposed in decades. But he got only 43% of the vote, with the remaining 57% going to candidates who plainly opposed the measure and portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives. Upon his wife's advice, he pursued the take-over of medicine in a manner so high-handed that, in combination with strong opposition from conservatives and libertarians, the entire package was abandoned.

After Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1994, Clinton, having no real political convictions, proclaimed that the "era of big government is over," and embraced other elements of the GOP agenda, such as welfare reform. The result was that spending grew at a rate of just 0.81% during his administration, the lowest growth rate since Eisenhower.

What can we learn about the future from this study? Past experience is not a perfect predictor of the future, but it seems far more likely that America's government will become larger, more powerful, and more expensive if George W. Bush is reelected than if he is defeated. A Democratic victory in either (or both) houses of Congress would likely accelerate this trend. Republican congresses combined with Republican presidencies during the past 34 years have consistently resulted in faster spending growth than Democratic presidencies. Democratic congresses have tended to increase spending faster than Republican congresses. And spending has grown faster with a Republican president and Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress than in any other situation. In addition, Bush is establishing himself as the biggest spender since Lyndon Johnson.

The election of John Kerry as president would likely result in slower spending growth, especially if Congress remains in control of the GOP, which seems overwhelmingly likely. Government spending grows most slowly with a Democrat in the White House and the Republicans in control of Congress. While John Kerry's positions have been all over the place during the campaign, ranging from pro-war to anti-war, from support for the traditional Democratic tax-and-spend policies to "Bush lite" reforms, his record in the Senate is generally one of fiscal responsibility. And the Republicans, particularly those in the House of Representatives, have shown a strong inclination against all sorts of spending. But you never know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

T. Boone hard-wired for subsidies

Jerry Taylor, Financial Post
Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virtually every claim made by T. Boone Pickens to justify the lavish subsidies he is seeking for his wind energy investments is flat wrong.

First, oil imports are not the cause of high gasoline prices. On the contrary, oil imports serve to keep gasoline prices down. After all, we import oil for a reason -- it's cheaper than the domestic alternative. If we were to restrict our energy diet to energy produced in the United States, it would make domestic energy producers (like Mr. Pickens) far richer and energy consumers (the rest of us) far poorer, and GDP would be reduced as well. While one can understand why Mr. Pickens is attracted to the idea of "energy independence," for the rest of us, keeping the country open to imported goods is pro-consumer, whether we're talking about oil, steel, textiles or athletic shoes.

Second, we are no more forced to rely on the "goodwill" of foreign oil producers when we shop for petroleum than we are forced to rely on the "goodwill" of supermarkets when we shop for eggs and milk. Oil producers export crude oil because it's a great way to make money -- and for many, the only way to make money. And once that oil is in the global marketplace, market actors, not oil producers, dictate where it goes. Hence, we are betting on producer greed -- which is a pretty safe bet.

Third, if wind energy were a sensible economic investment, it would not need the lavish federal and state subsidies already in place or the additional largesse sought after by Mr. Pickens. Likewise, if compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles are an economically sensible alternative to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, then no government "master plan" is necessary to deliver them to market. Price signals will induce investors to invest and consumers to buy, without government having to lift a finger. The same goes for all the other energy-related R&D Mr. Pickens would like the taxpayer to dole out. If that R&D is promising, it will be pursued, whether government subsidizes it or not.

Fourth, if reducing our carbon footprint is the goal, then the most direct and efficient means of reducing that footprint is to impose a tax on carbon emissions and then leave it to the market to sort out how to most efficiently order affairs under those new prices. Maybe it will mean windmills and CNG, but maybe not. Perhaps it will mean more nuclear power, new hydrogen-powered fuel cells, "clean" coal, the emergence of cellulosic ethanol, battery-powered cars or hybrids -- or a continuation of the existing energy base but less consumption as a consequence.

Of course, if the market were to go into any of those directions, Mr. Pickens would be out a lot of money, which is probably why he wants to hard-wire the market to consume the things he's investing in and have the government lavish him with subsidies in the course of doing so. I wish Mr. Pickens well in his wind energy business, but I see no reason why taxpayers, ratepayers or consumers ought to be forced to sacrifice in order to fatten his already ample bank account.

- Jerry Taylor is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Global warming' scheme to push global tax

Note: Both major parties push the view of global warming and its causes in spite of thousands of scientists believing the contrary. Why?

Posted: June 19, 2008

By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A scientist whose reservations about "global warming" have been officially endorsed by tens of thousands of other scientists is accusing the U.N. of using "mob rule" to generate fear-mongering climate change reports intended to scare national leaders into submitting to its worldwide taxation schemes.

"Science has always progressed on the basis of observations, experiments, and thoughts published by individual scientists and sometimes pairs or small groups of scientific coworkers," Art Robinson, a research professor of chemistry and co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, said in a recent column in Human Events.

Except at the U.N., he said.

Robinson's concern over the political manipulation of science earlier led him to launch the Petition Project, a compilation of more than 31,000 scientists – with more names arriving daily – who have voluntarily signed their names to the following statement:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."
He said the scientific process begins with the results of individuals' work and their distribution of their ideas.

"A few of these published articles are especially valuable; a greater number, while not remarkable, provide relative mundane studies that add to the infrastructure of science; many are not useful at all; and some are completely wrong. As individual scientists read these articles, they use their own wisdom, knowledge, and judgment to separate new information that they find valuable from information that they find of no use," Robinson said. Eventually, the good, accurate and valuable information is advanced.

"Always, scientific progress is a result of a large number of individual decisions that trend in a specific direction," he said.

Not so, however, at the United Nations. Especially with the organization's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has generated many of the claims of catastrophic results of man's use of hydrocarbon fuels, including submerged coastlines and a deadly, massive expansion of African deserts.

The IPCC website boasts of sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore Jr. for "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change." It also notes its goals are to eradicate poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve mothers' health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental sustainability and others.

"The IPCC provides its reports at regular intervals and they immediately become standard works of reference, widely used by policymakers, experts and students," the organization itself says. .

The IPCC conferences do, in fact, feature "a few hundred" people, including some with formal educations in science, some actively engaged in scientific work, some retired, holding discussions on "the entirely unsolved problem of climate prediction for time periods decades and even centuries in the future," said Robinson, who also publishes the Access to Energy newsletter. In 1973, Robinson co-founded the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine with Linus Pauling.

"The primary requirement for selection is a willingness to participate in the United Nations' new 'process' and the agenda behind it," Robinson said. "These people study and discuss the current and past research literature concerning climate and climate prediction. … These emanations are closely observed by a very select small group of United Nations operatives."

At the end of the meetings, "this small group of observers combines the products of the meeting into a large important-looking report – carefully editing the report so that it supports United Nations political objectives," Robinson said. "At no time is this report submitted to the 600-plus 'scientists.'"

The results then are distributed as "settled science," he said, "regardless of the fact that the scientists involved do not agree upon the text. … The elite few who oversaw the meeting and interpreted its results are special. They are the U.N.'s anointed messengers of the truth."

A spokeswoman for the United Nation's Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declined to respond to WND questions about the process, referring those questions to the IPCC office in Geneva. There a spokeswoman confirmed for WND the process that has a small number of specially appointed U.N. operatives write reports following "scientific" meetings.

Robinson's petition, which includes the names of leading experts in fields such as atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and dozens of other specialties, also features the names of more than 9,000 Ph.D.s in their areas of expertise.

But Robinson said the U.N. operatives have fallen victim to "a peculiar and dangerous virus" infecting American public discourse.

Victims of that disease, which robs words of their meaning, also believe that "democracy" means "republic," "gambling" becomes "investment" and "vice" becomes the "virtue of diversity," Robinson said.

Also, "science" has become devalued.

"And nowhere is it more abused than in the United Nations, where institutionalized mob rule is called 'science,'" he said.

"In its headlong drive to gain the power to tax and ration world energy (and thereby control world technology – sharing taxation authority with other governments in return for their support) the United Nations has created a 'process,' which it calls 'science,'" he said.

In real science, however, "truths are never determined through such meetings; unsolved scientific questions are never resolved by such meetings; and scientific articles are never published unless every putative or listed author has personally approved every word of the publication," Robinson said. "Scientific truth is never decided by meetings organized to decide which ideas are true and which are false.

"If the mob rule process of the United Nations worked, many great unsolved scientific questions could be quickly solved. United Nations observers could attend scientific meetings of cancer scientists and determined the causes and cures of cancer. With the 'science settled,' this scourge could be eliminated. Likewise Alzheimer's disease, human aging, the origin of the universe, and other great unsolved problems could be solved," Robinson wrote.

"In the present case in which United Nations apparatchiks have proclaimed that human activity is catastrophically warming the planet, the human cost of error is so great than many other scientists have become motivated to individually examine the evidence. Now, a total of more than 9,000 Americans with Ph.D.s in science and therefore professional educational credentials that, on average, equal or surpass the United Nations 600 – and a total of more than 31,000 Americans with at least B.S. degrees in science have signed a petition to the U.S. government specifically rejecting the United Nations claim that human use of hydrocarbon energy is injuring the climate," Robinson said.

"In fact, the 31,000 scientists state that carbon dioxide released by energy production is actually beneficial to the environment," he said.

"It is time to kill this counterproductive virus that has sickened American science and engineering, and get on with the job of expanding the American hydrocarbon and nuclear energy industries. To do less poses a terrible risk to America's prosperity and to her future," he said.

WND reported a surge of names was submitted to Robinson's petition project following the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" by Gore.

The film was widely distributed and preached about the "settled science" of U.N. global warming prognosticators, Robinson said.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's movie contains many very serious incorrect claims which no informed, honest scientist could endorse," Robinson said at the time.

The late Professor Frederick Seitz, the past president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and winner of the National Medal of Science, concluded U.N. pronouncements notwithstanding, "Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful."

The Petition Project's website includes both a list of scientists by name as well as a list of scientists by state.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shooting the Messenger (The Story of Sibel Edmonds)

Note: A great introductory story about a Patriot, Sibel Edmonds, former contract translator with the FBI. For more information there is a link at the bottom of the article with a great interview transcript.

By: William F. Jasper
July 7, 2008

For six years, Sibel Edmonds has been carrying out an heroic crusade to protect her adopted country from national security threats within the top levels of the American government. Hired as an FBI translator in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Edmonds, a Turkish American, threw herself into the daunting task of translating thousands of hours of recordings of backlogged intercepts in Turkic, Farsi, and Azerbaijani. What she heard on the tapes was alarming: Turkish agents in the United States bribing high-level U.S. officials and obtaining our military and intelligence secrets. What she witnessed at the FBI was even more appalling: translators who were intentionally filing false translations and passing information to foreign powers; and, what’s even worse, FBI superiors who did nothing about it when these serious breaches were brought to their attention.

Unwilling to settle for the bureaucratic “don’t rock the boat” response she faced from immediate supervisors, Sibel Edmonds decided to take her concerns higher up the FBI chain of command. The result? She was fired, and those she tried to have investigated got off scot-free; some fled the country to avoid potential prosecution, while others continued their alleged criminal and treasonous activities. Some of the FBI colleagues who blocked her efforts were promoted.

How could this be, especially in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when “homeland security” was our number one concern? And especially since FBI Director Robert Mueller had expressly promised that the agency’s notorious penchant for punishing whistle-blowers was now a thing of the past.

In a November 2001 memorandum to all FBI employees, Director Mueller stated: “I will not tolerate reprisals or intimidation by any bureau employee against those who make protected disclosures, nor will I tolerate attempts to prevent employees from making such disclosures.”

However, Director Mueller’s assurances notwithstanding, the case of Sibel Edmonds is Exhibit A in a long line of examples indicating that reprisal and intimidation against whistle-blowers continues to be standard operating procedure at the FBI and other federal agencies. The public may be tempted to wonder: “Well, if the national security compromises Mrs. Edmonds alleges are as grave as she claims, why doesn’t she go the Congress, or the courts, or the media?” She has attempted to do all of that, but has been blocked at every turn by a smothering gag order imposed by the Bush administration under the “State Secrets Privilege.” The gag order not only classified all of Edmonds’ testimony to the 9/11 Commission, to the investigative staffs of congressional committees, and to the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), but even letters by members of Congress requesting information from the executive branch.

Turkish Spy in the FBI?
Governments, obviously, have a legitimate interest in protecting secrets vital to national security. But as history abundantly shows, governments frequently invoke “national security” to avoid embarrassment or to protect those guilty of criminal negligence, corruption, or treason.

Sibel Edmonds has been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment if she reveals what she knows. Plain and simple, the administration has been trying to make her disappear into a black hole. However, the petite, plucky whistle-blower refuses to be bowed or intimidated.

Considering the meat of Sibel Edmonds’ charges, we may be fortunate indeed that she has been so tenacious and unyielding before the fearsome threat of a retaliatory indictment. The information she reportedly was privy to on nuclear proliferation alone is, literally, explosive, of the kind that has to do with the ultimate nightmare terrorist scenario: a nuke attack inside the United States.

Since Edmonds herself has been prevented from publicly naming names and providing details, most of what is now in the public domain about her case has come from leaks of documents by anonymous sources in government and the investigative work of “alternative media” journalists and Internet activists.

In December 2001, Sibel and her husband, Matthew Edmonds, received a surprise visit to their Alexandria, Virginia, home by one of Sibel’s co-workers, Melek Can Dickerson, and her husband, Douglas. Like Sibel Edmonds, Melek was a Turkish translator for the FBI and carried a Top Secret security clearance. Her husband Douglas is a major in the U.S. Air Force who had served as a military attaché in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. According to Sibel and Matthew Edmonds, Maj. Dickerson proposed that the Edmonds become members of a certain Turkish “semi-legitimate organization,” as Sibel Edmonds put it.

It has since been revealed (by others) that the organization referred to is the American Turkish Council (ATC), a lobbying and cultural organization that also allegedly functions as an intelligence front for the Turkish government.

Maj. Dickerson’s mention of the “semi-legitimate organization” and high-level friends at the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., immediately set off Sibel’s internal alarms; the ATC and some of the individuals he named were subjects of FBI counterterrorism investigations that she was working on.

It sounded to the Edmonds like they had just been propositioned to spy against their country for payoffs by a foreign power. According to Sibel Edmonds, she recounted the incident, both verbally and in writing, to her FBI superiors.

Long story short: in March 2002, the FBI fired Sibel Edmonds for having a “disruptive effect” on the agency; Melek Can Dickerson, on the other hand, kept her job. No criminal charges were brought against the Dickersons and no known counterintelligence investigation was opened on them. Indeed, it appears the government did everything possible to shield them from investigation. When attorneys for Sibel Edmonds prepared to depose the Dickersons in a civil suit in August 2002, the Air Force conveniently transferred the Dickersons beyond legal reach, to a NATO assignment in Belgium.

Vindication and Warning
In July 2004, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General finished its investigation of the Edmonds’ case — but it was immediately classified, assuring that its contents would not reach the public. Finally, in January 2005, the Office of the Inspector General released an unclassified summary of its report, which, at least partially, vindicated her claims. The OIG report reads, in part:

We found that many of Edmonds’ core allegations relating to the co-worker were supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds. Moreover, we concluded that, had the FBI performed a more careful investigation of Edmonds’ allegations, it would have discovered evidence of significant omissions and inaccuracies by the co-worker related to these allegations. These omissions and inaccuracies, in turn, should have led to further investigation by the FBI.

The OIG found that “the FBI should have investigated the allegations more thoroughly” and that “the FBI’s handling of these allegations reflected an unwarranted reluctance to vigorously investigate these serious allegations or to conduct a thorough examination of Edmonds’ allegations.”

Moreover, the Inspector General’s report noted, “The FBI did not, and still has not, conducted such an investigation.” (Emphasis added.) Finally, the OIG reported, “Rather than investigate Edmonds’ allegations vigorously and thoroughly, the FBI concluded that she was a disruption and terminated her contract.”

Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), both of whom sit on the Judiciary Committee and have heard Sibel Edmonds’ classified testimony, express confidence in her. “She’s credible,” Grassley told CBS 60 Minutes, in a 2002 interview, one of the few broadcasts about Edmonds’ case by the major media. “And the reason I feel she’s very credible,” the senator continued, “is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Does her case fall into any pattern of conduct on the part of the FBI, he was asked. “The usual pattern,” Senator Grassley responded. “Let me tell you, first of all, the embarrassing information comes out, the FBI reaction is to sweep it under the rug, and then eventually they shoot the messenger.”

A ray of hope seemed to appear in 2005 when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) promised Edmonds that if the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, he would hold hearings on her case. “But you know what happened,” Edmonds told THE NEW AMERICAN in a recent interview, “the Democrats did win the House and Rep. Waxman did become chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. But nothing has changed; there has been no investigation.” Rep. Waxman seems to have developed selective amnesia, a common affliction on the Potomac. He has not responded to any of her calls or inquiries.

Bipartisan Obstruction
Perhaps, she suggested to THE NEW AMERICAN, Rep. Waxman is aware that Democrats could be as damaged by the revelations of bribery and espionage as the Republicans. “This didn’t start with the Bush administration,” she reminds us. “Many of the wiretaps I was translating at the FBI were from the 1990s, during the Clinton administration.”

Following up on her revelations, independent researchers have begun putting names on some of the “high-level officials” Edmonds had been referring to, but not identifying, over the past few years.

Late last year, Edmonds decided the stalling game had gone on long enough. In December 2007, she approached the British newspaper, the Sunday Times, which ran an explosive story, “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets,” on January 6. Edmonds described for the paper how “foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.” She told how “one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.”

This same State Department official, she told the Times, “was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”

The above-mentioned official, whom Edmonds and the Times did not identify, was outed in an article in the American Conservative by retired CIA officer Philip Giraldi. According to Giraldi, the official in question is Marc Grossman, a career State Department bureaucrat, who served as ambassador to Turkey under Bill Clinton, and retired in 2006 after serving as Under Secretary of State (the Number 3 position at the State Department) for George Bush.

In retirement, Grossman has followed a familiar career trajectory, accepting a lucrative “consulting” position at The Cohen Group, the lobbying outfit set up by former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen that counts Turkey as one of its chief clients.

Other former high officials who now openly ride the Turkey gravy train as paid lobbyists/consultants include former Democratic House Speaker Richard Gephardt and former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert, allegedly, is one of the officials identified in FBI intercepts as receiving multiple cash payoffs through the American Turkish Council.

“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case,” Edmonds told the Times, “you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials.” Perhaps that explains why top Republicans and Democrats would rather see Sibel Edmonds locked up with a permanent gag order.

Interview of Sibel Edmonds conducted June 12 2008

Sunday, July 06, 2008

McCain meets with Hispanic leaders

Jun 19, 11:22 PM (ET)


CHICAGO (AP) - Republican presidential John McCain assured Hispanic leaders he would push through Congress legislation to overhaul federal immigration laws if elected, several people who attended a private meeting with the candidate said Thursday.

Democrats questioned why the Arizona senator held the meeting late Wednesday night in Chicago. But supporters who were in the room denied that McCain held the closed-door session out of fear of offending conservatives, many of whom want him to take a harder line on immigration.

Both McCain and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama support giving legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, but neither has made the issue a centerpiece of the campaign. At one time, McCain's campaign suffered because of his stance on the issue.

"This was not a secret meeting," said Rafael Rivadeneira, a vice chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Illinois, who was among more than 150 Chicago-area Hispanic leaders who attended. "There was nothing he said that they wouldn't want people to hear."

Other attendees said they were not so sure.

"He's one John McCain in front of white Republicans. And he's a different John McCain in front of Hispanics," complained Rosanna Pulido, a Hispanic and conservative Republican who attended the meeting.

Pulido, who heads the Illinois Minuteman Project, which advocates for restrictive immigration laws, said she thought McCain was "pandering to the crowd" by emphasizing immigration reform in his 15-minute speech.

"He's having his private meetings to rally Hispanics and to tell them what they want to hear," she said. "I'm outraged that he would reach out to me as a Hispanic but not as a conservative."

After the event, McCain met privately with Martin Sandoval, an Illinois state senator and Democratic convention delegate for former candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sandoval said he left open the possibility of backing McCain, citing his immigration stance and pledge to keep business taxes low.