[shared via Google Reader from ThinkProgress]
Republican election officials have been unable to find even scant evidence of voter fraud. In voter purges in Colorado and Florida, targeting mostly Democrat and independent registered voters, officials uncovered that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of voters are potentially unqualified to vote. These findings drastically downgrade Republican fears of voter fraud from the tens of thousands of noncitizens officials originally estimated. The Associated Press reports:
Last year, [Colorado Secretary of State Scott] Gessler estimated that 11,805 noncitizens were on the rolls. But the number kept getting smaller.
After his office sent letters to 3,903 registered voters questioning their status, the number of noncitizens now stands at 141, based on checks using a federal immigration database. Of those 141, Gessler said 35 have voted in the past. The 141 are .004 percent of the state’s nearly 3.5 million voters. Even those numbers could be fewer.
Officials in Florida found 207 noncitizens on its voter list, .001 percent of the state’s voters, but they did not necessarily commit fraud. Florida’s purge discovered just one Canadian who illegally voted. In North Carolina, hundreds of voters have received letters requesting proof they were citizens, but an elections board member acknowledged there were just 12 instances of noncitizen voting. Iowa has filed charges against three noncitizen voters.
Unfortunately, voter supression tactics could disenfranchise millions of low-income and minority voters, including 10 million Hispanics.
[shared via Google Reader from Reason.com Full Feed]
As April turned into May, the political class spent the better part of one week furiously missing the point. Instead of a debate about whether America’s battle against Islamic extremists was going well, whether the Pentagon’s extensive activities across the Muslim world were making the country safer, or whether a country with $15 trillion in debt could continue accounting for almost half of the world’s military spending, the foreign policy flap du jour centered around whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had been sufficiently gung ho in 2008 about sending assassins into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden and whether President Barack Obama’s choice to “spike the football” with a campaign ad celebrating the one-year anniversary of Bin Laden’s death was inappropriately political.
This meaningless, backward-looking debate—on which I dutifully weighed in for cable news and talk radio (if they ask, I will come!)—at least had the virtue of being somewhat related to the federal government’s core business. Not so the hot topic of discussion the week before that, which was how exactly Congress should pay for the estimated $6 billion annually it would cost to extend an expiring 2007 reduction in the interest rate on federally guaranteed student loans.
Both major political parties wanted to keep subsidizing the loans at 3.4 percent instead of letting the rate go back up to the pre-2007 6.8 percent. The dispute concerned whether the money would come from boosting payroll taxes on corporations (as favored by Senate Democrats), cutting subsidies to oil and gas companies (as House Democrats wanted), or cutting spending from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the House Republicans’ proposal). As frequently happens with microscopic differences on minor issues, the choice was portrayed by the political class as a matter of life or death.
“This is personal,” Obama told college students in Iowa. “This is at the heart of who we are. We’ve got to make college more affordable for more young people. We can’t put the middle class at a disadvantage. We can’t price out folks who are trying to make sure that they not only succeed for themselves but help the country succeed.”
While there is an interesting policy debate to be had about government intervention in the increasingly expensive higher education business, a little perspective is in order: The federal leviathan currently burns through $6 billion in less than 15 hours. It takes about a day and a half for Washington to rack up $6 billion in debt. With each passing hour, our debt crisis grows larger, our entitlement time bomb ticks closer to detonation, and our politicians do everything in their power to change the subject.
If there is a lesson to be gleaned from the charade of student loan politicking, it is that nothing gets the competitive juices of Democrats and Republicans flowing quite like the opportunity to promise “free” money to favored constituencies—a fact that helps explain our acceleration toward the fiscal cliff. They prefer to campaign on these small differences in patronage methodologies, while condemning the unforgivable venality of the other guys, rather than take the political risk of dealing forthrightly with mathematically untenable budgets.
Even the politicians who at first seem to be exceptions to that rule are often disappointments. In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger swept into the gubernatorial mansion in California promising to balance budgets, “blow up boxes” of bureaucracy, reform runaway pension promises, and tackle entrenched public-sector interests head-on. He was a hit at the Republican National Convention in 2004, calling Democrats “economic girly-men,” whatever that meant. By 2005, after losing a bruising battle with nurses’ unions and other labor groups, Schwarzenegger beat a hasty retreat, leaving office with a record that looked eerily similar to that of his disgraced predecessor, Gray Davis.
Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, proved more daring than the Austrian Oak after winning office in 2010, pushing through legislation by the slimmest of majorities to eliminate most collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, compel government workers to contribute more money to their health insurance and retirement, and trim state spending by modest amounts. The result was a local backlash that turned national, leading to a recall vote scheduled for June 5 and sending shivers down the spines of budget realists everywhere.
In this environment, it feels safer to speak loudly about reform but carry a little stick. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has warmed Republican hearts by conspicuously clashing with Democratic politicians and public-sector unionists who have helped drive the Garden State into a fiscal ditch. But look beyond the crowd pleasing one-liners (“What the hell are we paying you for?” Christie once said to Obama after the president failed to come up with a debt reduction proposal), and you see a proposed state budget that increases spending by $2.1 billion (according to The Record of North Jersey), corporate-welfare giveaways since 2010 amounting to nearly $1.6 billion (according to The New York Times), and signals that the governor favors raising New Jersey’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. But Christie probably will remain a conservative favorite (especially outside his state) as long as he continues calling opponents “numbnuts” now and then.
Mitt Romney has taken this risk aversion strategy a step further, altogether avoiding specific proposals for confronting the federal fiscal crisis. Romney promises to “cut, cap, and balance” the budget, but he also vows to boost military spending, protect Medicare, and shore up Social Security. In a comical mid-April flurry, news outlets reported that Romney had told high-level donors at a private fundraiser, “I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate.” When word of this vaguer-than-Schwarzenegger promise got out, the Romney campaign immediately backpedaled. A spokesman told CNN the candidate was “tossing ideas out, not unveiling policy.”
The rhetorical cowardice is deliberate. During his 1994 campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Romney told The Weekly Standard in March, “one of the things I found…was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education.…So will there be some [departments] that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.”
This is the tepid stuff that wins Republican Party nominations in 2012, the first full year since World War II in which total federal debt will exceed gross domestic product. There isn’t a politician alive who doesn’t understand that the current trend is unsustainable. Yet there are virtually no politicians who have placed this national interest at the center of their agenda.
So what are we going to talk about for the next six months? In early April, Democrats were keen to discuss the GOP’s “war on women,” with the president convening a special “White House Forum on Women and the Economy.” A week later, Republicans struck back after Democratic operative Hilary Rosen charged that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” And for a few stunning days later that month, conservatives who were fed up with liberal snickering over the story that Mitt Romney once strapped his dog to the roof of the family car gleefully seized on a passage in Obama’s memoir where he described eating dog in Indonesia. If we don’t get serious about our problems, we will soon be eating something much worse.
Editor in Chief Matt Welch is co-author, with Nick Gillespie, of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America (PublicAffairs).
[shared via Google Reader from Lifehacker]More »
Banning and Boycotting Sweatshop Products is Counterproductive. When will the Left figure this out?
Today’s lousy jobs numbers may go some way to refocusing the election on the economy. But despite the Romney campaign’s best efforts to make the economy central, and political scientists’ insistence that it’s the single best determinant of who will win in November, much of the political conversation has been about women’s issues this year. This week, it was sex-selective abortion; the week before, congressional Republicans tried to ban late-term abortions in D.C.. Earlier, there were battles over whether employers should be forced to cover birth control and the Planned Parenthood funding saga.
Those issues have been unavoidable for anyone paying attention to the news, but you’ve probably most heard about them from men. Though it’s hardly shocking or novel that men are overrepresented in media and punditry, it’s horrifying how true that is even for issues that primarily concern women, as the above graph shows.
Read more. [Image: 4thEstate]
From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
» via The New York Times (Subscription may be required for some content)
And you want to give this man unfettered control and investigatory powers over the internet?
The lesser of two evils is not Obama
Just a reminder.
It really does kill me to hear people on either side say “But what is Candidate X gets elected? The country’s down the tubes!” They’re one and the same. Romney hasn’t done this stuff…yet. Given the opportunity, I’m sure he would have.
But there are alternatives. Help us change directions.