BREAKING: Senate Acts on Filibuster-Proof Budget Blueprint for $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut, 51-49

Finally, we have something Republicans legislators can hang their hats on. This budget “blueprint” makes possible the estimated $1.5 trillion tax cut and allows that to operate under budget reconciliation rules–meaning no filibusters.

It really protects the filibuster more than it protects the tax reform proposal, which has yet to be worked out. From the New York Times:

“This is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Budget Committee, who warned that the consequences would be ruinous if the party failed.

Graham continued:

“That will be the end of us as a party,” he said, “because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”

Well, yeah. That about nails it.

Now on to negotiations with the House, which passed its budget resolution on Oct. 5.

Chris Christie’s Whale of a Beach Tale Smells Fishy

First off, I’d like to say that seeing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in beach wear is an experience I could have happily gone through life without–but now that it’s happened, and neither I nor the rest of America can unsee it, I might as well toss in my two cents and try to make sense out of all the madness.

Some background:  New Jersey is having some budget difficulties because it’s New Jersey.  That is to say, in spite of having some of the highest taxes and fees in the nation, the state had to shut down its government because it didn’t have enough left in the coffers to keep the joint running.  Those fees, by the way, include around $75 in tolls you’d need to pay just to get to the Jersey Shore, plus the $50 or so you’d have to cough up to park there–but even all that wasn’t enough to keep the beaches open the weekend before the 4th of July.

Except for Chris Christie, of course.

The guv known for his girth apparently also has a voracious appetite for the sun, and didn’t let a little thing like the state budget keep him and his family from soaking up some rays even as his constituents were told to pound sand.  As you would expect, the media quickly got wind of the story, whipped out a wide-angle lens and snapped a pic of Christie in flagrante delicto–which led to no shortage of memes taking note of his hi-larious hijinks:

 

On the bright side, with the beaches as empty as Amity Island after Bruce the Great White Shark munched on some swimmers, the line for the governor’s favorite hot dog stand was a lot shorter than usual.  Unfortunately, a lot of people are also starting to say the same thing about Christie’s political career.

So how is he spinning a blunder so obvious that it has Anthony Weiner thinking he should have run for office in Jersey instead?  Well, let’s just say that he’s not exactly being contrite about it:

“I think my poll numbers show that I don’t care about political optics,” Christie said at a press conference. “What I care about is doing what’s right and wrong.”

Christie was polled as the most unpopular governor in at least 20 years last month, clocking in with an approval rating of 15 percent.

That’s an interesting way of putting it, governor.  But if I were you, I’d work on doing what’s right–because you already got that whole wrong thing down cold.

As for not caring about political optics, I’m guessing that was true–all the way up to the moment Christie got caught.  Much like Bill Clinton when he took a dip in the intern pool, he obviously didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing, otherwise he woudn’t have done it.  What Christie doesn’t seem to understand, however, is that most of the time things look bad because they are bad.  In this case, the highest official in state government was perfectly happy to inflict punishment on his citizens that he was unwilling to suffer himself.  Put that together with what happened during Bridgegate, and a pattern emerges:  Chris Christie views himself as above the people he was elected to represent.  In common parlance, that makes him a jerk.  And jerks don’t tend to be very popular.

In that light, governor, the optics are the least of your problems.  It’s your attitude that needs to change–because right now, it stinks like a beached whale.

The President and His Team Get It Right

Congressional leaders may be declaring it dead on arrival, but President Trump’s budget is a great conservative framework for getting the country on sound fiscal footing. The wailing and gnashing of teeth are a great distraction from what is a reasonable document.

The left in the United States has decided the measure of government programs should be by how many people are helped. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, has determined the best measure should be how many people government programs help elevate out of their need. It is a profoundly wise and proper measure.

Jesus may have said we will always have the poor, but he did not mean the very same people. The left seems determined to breed addiction to government programs instead of providing meaningful opportunities for upward mobility. We should be able to shrink government programs, consolidate them, and end them as we improve the lives of Americans.

Fundamentally, though, the left has a harder problem. If we were to give them all the tax increases they wanted, we would still not close the budget deficit, and we would still not reduce the national debt. Something must be cut.

While waste, fraud, and abuse can be cut, that is not enough. The left would prefer to cut the military, but a quick look at Manchester, England suggests that would be foolish. So what will they cut?

On top of that, if we give the left the tax increases they want, the economy would tank. That would reduce tax revenue negating any tax increase.

The simple fact is that we have $20 trillion in national debt and something has to be cut. In fact, a great many things must be cut.

Trump Administration To Propose Balancing Budget

The complete proposed budget for Donald Trump’s first fiscal year will not be released until next week, but advance word is that the president will propose a plan to balance the federal budget within 10 years. The budget will reportedly ask for cuts in federal entitlement programs in conjunction with an overhaul of the tax and regulatory system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the plan will not include cuts to the two largest drivers of future spending, Medicare and Social Security, but will ask for trillions of dollars in cuts to discretionary spending such as education, housing, environment programs and foreign aid as well as nondiscretionary spending in programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and federal employee-benefit programs.

The budget will also include budget increases that were announced in the budget blueprint released in March. One of the largest increases in funding would go to the military, which was slated for an additional $54 billion to be split between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. There is also likely to be additional infrastructure spending, a neestimatedement for paid parental leave and border security measures.

The Journal notes that the budget does not include the details of the tax reform, but is likely to estimate the Republican tax reform as revenue neutral. Rate cuts would be offset by the elimination of tax breaks so that a Congressional Budget Office estimate would show no loss of revenue.

Balancing the budget will require growth as well as spending cuts. “The way we balanced the budget in the 1990s is we had spending restraint and GDP growth caught up—government revenues caught up, as the GDP growth came in,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said. “That’s what we’re trying to get back to.”

White House estimates of growth are much more optimistic than CBO estimates. The White House estimates three percent growth by 2021 while the CBO forecasts a 1.9 percent growth rate. Economists polled by the Journal estimate growth at 2.3 percent if Mr. Trump’s policies are enacted.

Conflicts over the growth rate may make it hard for the Trump Administration to find support among budget hawks for its spending increases. “I am extremely pessimistic that you can show a balanced budget unless you’re going to make the mother of all ‘rosy scenario’ type assumptions,” said William Hoagland, a former Republican budget aide who is now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The spending cuts are also certain to draw fire from Democrats. Expect much weeping, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the proposed slashing of funds for safety net programs. Some moderate Republicans are also likely to object, making it extremely unlikely that the full measure of the cuts will become law.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said as much on Thursday, claiming, “It is an ideological document, not a document that will ever be utilized.”

The budget is slated to be released next Tuesday, while President Trump is touring Europe and the Middle East. Given Mr. Trump’s problems over the past two weeks, that may increase Republican chances of getting the budget passed.

Astroturf Groups Storm Heritage Foundation to Protest Trump’s Budget

This morning, leftist activists stormed the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Protestors, apparently, don’t like that the conservative think tank has largely influenced Trump’s economic agenda.

Here’s a live stream broadcast captured by their media outlet, Daily Signal:

 

Here’s more from Heritage and other supporters:

https://twitter.com/EWErickson/status/856892486006054913

 

The groups in attendance tweeting were The People’s Lobby, Jane Adams Senior Caucus, and People’s Action — all progressive-affiliated groups–just to name a few. What exactly were protestors protesting?  Here’s more from the protestors:

https://twitter.com/PplsAction/status/856893755726725120

The People’s Lobby apparently participated in this protest as part of their #ResistTrumpTuesday efforts. They held this so-called protest in line with their “Rise Up” People’s Action Founding Convention, which is in Washington, D.C., this week. More about them can be found below:

People’s Action affiliates around the country have pledged to stage public events every Tuesday in resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda and to strengthen our movement for a people-and-planet agenda that serves the needs of all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.

These local events and actions will build toward the “Rise Up” People’s Action Founding Convention in Washington D.C., on April 23-25, 2017.  That’s when our grassroots organizers and progressive allies will take the fight to the power corridors and streets of the nation’s capital. Go to the “Rise Up” conference page to learn more.

Both The People’s Lobby and Jane Adams Senior Caucus hail from the Chicago, IL area. Hmmm. (The former resembles ACORN, if you look at them very closely.)

What is the goal of these perpetual protests? To undermine the Trump administration’s legitimacy, of course. If they keep this schtick up, they will guarantee eight years of President Trump. Ha!

Federal Hiring Freeze Ends But Restructuring Continues

It was good while it lasted.

President Trump is ending the federal hiring freeze that he put into place in January as one of his first acts as president. The freeze excluded military personnel and key posts in the Departments of Defense, State and the Veteran’s Administration.

Under the exemptions, the Department of Labor estimates that the federal government hired about 4,000 people in January and 2,000 in February. These include staffers to help reduce the backlog of claims at the VA, which recently topped 100,000.

The upside is that even though federal agencies can resume hiring, it will be at a slower pace. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that some positions would be permanently unfilled. The elimination of the freeze “does not mean that the agencies will be free to hire willy-nilly,” he told the NBC. “What we’re doing tomorrow [Wednesday] is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on Day One in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan.”

Mulvaney said that federal agencies will be required to submit plans to make themselves leaner and more cost-effective. Even agencies that are slated to receive increased funding under the proposed Trump budget will be required to eliminate redundant and inefficient activities and positions.

“The government reorg is probably the biggest story nobody is talking about,” Mulvaney told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re trying to do something that’s never been done.”

The Trump Administration had ordered agencies to start from scratch in their planning. Mulvaney admits that many of the proposed changes will need congressional approval and said that he was confident that a bipartisan agreement could be reached on improving the government. Under Senate rules, at least eight Democrats need to vote for cloture before the Senate can vote on proposed bills.

“We’re not trying to ram it down their throats,” he said.

“This is a big part of draining the swamp,” Mulvaney said. “What you’re talking about doing is restructuring Washington, D.C. and that is how you drain the swamp… This is a centerpiece of his campaign and a centerpiece of his administration.”

White House: There Will Be No Funds for Border Wall in the Immediate Future

In what will likely be a shock to some supporters, the Trump White House is pretty much waving off any need for the previously requested “seed money” to begin building a southern border wall.

Senate Republicans have said they felt that including a $1.5 billion request in with the pending government funding bill would cause complications, as the goal is to fund the government past April, and sandwiching that request between other items could cause a partisan split.

In a Wednesday press briefing, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer responded to the question about funding and the wall:

“That is our request,” press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday when asked if the wall funding is a deal breaker for a must-pass spending bill.

“We will continue to work with Congress on the rest of the FY ’17 budget,” he said.

Trump requested $1.5 billion from lawmakers this year to begin work on the wall he wants to build along the southern border, a central pillar of his campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration.

President Trump has proposed several ways to pay for the wall, most of which consists of the Mexican government taking on the costs (which they refuse to do).

Having the American taxpayers foot the bill, then getting the Mexican government to pay for it, retroactively, is just the latest mutation of the wall plan.

For now, however, those plans will wait, as lawmakers set about getting a budget passed that takes care of what they see as more immediate necessities of keeping the lights in Washington on.

Elmo Gets Fired in Liberal Video Attacking Trump Budget

A new parody video from WhatsTrending.com purports to show what might happen behind the scenes at PBS and the Children’s Television Workshop due to President Trump’s proposed budget. Most of the claims made by the video are off target. Nevertheless, the parody does expose the liberal mindset on the arts, jobs, healthcare and government funding.

In the sketch, Elmo is being laid off because, as his boss says, “the Trump Administration is cutting all arts and education funding from the new congressional budget.” There is truth to this statement. The Trump budget calls for elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Defunding the federal subsidies of the arts would not kill art, Sesame Street or PBS, however. PBS funding was an issue in the 2012 election when Mitt Romney said, “I love Big Bird… but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things that we have to borrow money from China to pay for.”

At the time, PBS CEO Paula Kerger discussed PBS funding on “The Fix.” “Communities treasure their public stations, and it’s individual philanthropy in those communities that actually makes public television work,” Kerger said. “We get about 15 percent — that’s one-five percent — of our funding, in aggregate, from the federal government. That actually goes to our stations, not to me, and that really enables public broadcasting to be seen in communities that may not have the economic means to sustain it. States like Alaska for example, where 50 percent of the funding to maintain that infrastructure comes from the federal government.”

That’s right. Eighty-five percent of PBS funding comes from sources other than the federal government. According to recent figures from Fortune, the federal government spends only $450 million on PBS and NPR combined. That amount could be easily made up by corporate donations, especially if corporations could improve their bottom lines in other ways, for instance a cut in the corporate tax rate.

The threat of firing Elmo was even too outlandish for the Huffington Post. The liberal site pointed out a recent tweet by Sesame Street that confirms that the show does not receive any funding from PBS or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

So how does Sesame Street get its funding? It is already funded by an (evil?) corporation. Since 2015, HBO has financed the classic children’s show. The partnership with HBO still allows PBS to broadcast Sesame Street episodes at no charge and even allows the show to produce more episodes than while it was funded by PBS. HBO’s partnership with Sesame Street is an example of free markets at work.

Elmo also worries about his insurance and pre-existing conditions in the video. This reflects the liberal belief that jobs are vehicles to provide workers with insurance, a core tenet of Obamacare.

In reality, jobs exist to provide economic benefits to the employer. If a job is not producing benefits for the person or company paying the worker’s salary, then the job is not sustainable. A company cannot pay more in salaries and benefits than it earns in revenues. Jobs that are not producing wealth (or aiding others in producing wealth) should probably be cut for the good of the company.

This is why Obamacare and increases in minimum wage adversely affect the job market. By making it more expensive to hire workers, the workers must produce more to justify their employment. All too often the result is fewer jobs, especially for unskilled, entry level workers.

“Elmo, you’re going to land on your feet,” the boss says. “Don’t worry.”

We know this is true. Elmo is a celebrity who could easily find a job on another children’s show. Elmo could make a lucrative deal licensing himself for toys and other merchandise. Who can forget the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 1996?

If PBS has a product that people want to buy, then it will survive. Elmo and Sesame Street will thrive in the private marketplace. It’s the shows that no one wants to watch -or pay for – that should be worried.