Tag Archives: deficit

House committee reshapes NASA budget

The House appropriations committee has outlined its recommendations for NASA’s 2017 budget.

Like the Senate the House is pushing more money for SLS and is demanding NASA use it to fly two missions to Europa in the early 2020s (likely delaying SLS’s first manned mission), In addition, the House wants NASA to abandon any plans for an asteroid mission and instead go back to the Moon. They also pumped up the planetary program, and express reservations about the manned commercial program.

Finally, in a wonderful example of congressional micro-managing, the committee ordered NASA to begin work on flying an interstellar mission to Alpha Centauri by the 100th anniversary of Apollo 11.

While some of the changes the committee is recommending (increasing planetary research funding for example) make sense, the overall priorities of Congress continue to appear to me to be misplaced. Their continuing emphasis on SLS while questioning commercial space illustrates their focus on pork rather than actual accomplishments. And their continuing effort to micromanage many NASA missions does not bode well for the success of those missions.

There is one takeaway from this House budget recommendation that most news sources are missing: The first manned flight of Orion is almost certainly not flying in 2021. I have seen numerous indicators in the past four months suggesting that NASA is going to delay it, and this budget recommendation’s insistence that NASA use SLS to fly Europa missions in 2022 and 2024 almost guarantees that delay.

Congress pushes for Europa missions

A new House budget bill stipulates that NASA fly two unmanned missions to Europa, including a lander, and do it soon.

The bill also includes several hundred million per year for the missions, at least at the beginning. Even though planetary scientists have recommended that NASA do at least one mission to Eurpoa relatively soon, it appears that these missions are the particular pet projects of the committee chairman in Congress.

Airbus begins assembly Orion service module

My heart be still! Airbus has announced that it is beginning assembly of the first Orion capsule service module.

Considering the cost to build about three Orion flight capsules, about $25 billion, one would think that would be enough to also build the capsule’s service module, especially since this is not cutting edge technology, having already been done with Apollo.

Not however when you are dealing with pork-laden government operations, where the customer, the taxpayer, is a good mark that you can suck for as much money as possible without any bad consequences. Make it sound cool and they will buy it, hook, line, and sinker!

Republican-led Senate passes spending bill larger than requested by Obama

Feeding the anger: A bill passed today by the Republican-led Senate included more funding that originally requested by the Obama administration.

Moving legislation and avoiding fights has been a top election year priority for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican wants the GOP Senate to prove that Republicans can govern by avoiding a one-and-done omnibus spending package at the end of the year. But the energy and water bill received little fanfare from Senate conservatives. They complain that the measure, which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior, spends $261 million more than even Obama requested.

Sen. Mike Lee described the legislation as “simply unacceptable in a time of rising debt and slower economic growth.” The Utah Republican told The Daily Signal that “we’re never going to get our nation’s rising deficits under control until we can stick to our previous agreements on spending levels,” referring to the limits set in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Though Congress has not passed a budget resolution, the Senate started advancing spending bills at levels established in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which increased government discretionary spending by $30 billion above the 2011 caps.

Still Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal he’s glad the appropriations process has gotten off the ground finally. “This is the first time this appropriation bill has passed the Senate since 2009,” Lankford, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, explained. “To avoid last-minute continuing resolutions, backroom deals and omnibus bills, we must move bills through a regular order appropriations process.”

These guys just don’t get it. There is a reason that Trump and Cruz dominated their party’s presidential campaign, and it wasn’t because they were calling for Congress to advance big spending bills in Congress quickly.

Posted from El Paso, Texas.

Senate committee throws money at NASA

The Senate appropriations subcommittee has announced its proposed 2017 budget for NASA, including significant budget increases for SLS and Orion.

SLS is the big winner in the bill, according to a summary of its contents provided by the committee. The heavy-lift launch vehicle would get $2.15 billion, $150 million more than it received in 2016 and $840 million above the administration’s request. The SLS funding includes $300 million directed for work on the Exploration Upper Stage with the goal of having it ready as soon as 2021, the earliest planned date for the first crewed SLS/Orion mission.

The bill also provides $1.3 billion for Orion, $30 million above 2016 and $180 million above the administration’s request. It also directs Orion to be ready for its first crewed mission in 2021.

The bill provides $5.4 billion for science programs overall, $200 million below the request. The summary does not break out spending among the various science mission directorates. Commercial crew would get $1.18 billion, the amount requested by NASA, and space technology would get $687 million, the same as 2016 but $140 million less than requested.

Meanwhile, in order to keep NASA’s overall budget about the same as last year the subcommittee, led by porkmeister Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), apparently trimmed the agency’s science budget.

The full plan will be revealed tomorrow. Moreover, the House still has to make its budget proposal, and then the House and Senate have to agree. Regardless, this Senate budget proposal is more indication that this Republican Congress is going to throw endless gobs of money at SLS and Orion, so the boondoggle can fly once, maybe twice, and then get mothballed. What a waste.

It also tells us how insincere many Republican elected officials are when they claim they are for fiscal responsibility.

The Orion fantasy

There is a commercial space conference going on in Colorado this week, which explains the plethora of breaking stories from the new commercial space companies both yesterday and today.

Two stories today from Aviation Week, however, are more about the old big space industry and the old way of doing things, and both reveal the hollow nature of that entire effort.

Both stories are about work Lockheed Martin is doing in connection with its Orion capsule, and both try to convince us that this capsule is going to be the central vehicle for the first missions to Mars.

Function starts in the bones of the spacecraft,” [Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager,] said in an April 12 interview at the 32nd annual Space Symposium here. “To be a deep space spacecraft, you have to build differently than you would if your requirements were to stay in low Earth orbit and be quiescent at the International Space Station for a few months. That’s driven Orion from the beginning. Any architecture you look at needs a crew capability, a long-term design requirement. So, you can debate a lot of different missions, but you need that fundamental capacity we have invested in Orion.”

I say balderdash. Orion is an over-priced and over-engineered ascent/descent capsule for getting humans in and out of Earth orbit. Spending billions so it can also go to Mars makes no sense, because its heat shield and other capsule technologies for getting through the Earth’s atmosphere are completely useless in interplanetary travel. Moreover, such a small capsule is completely insufficient for a long Mars mission, even if you test it for a “1,000 day” missions, as Hawes also says in the first article. To send a crew to Mars, you need a big vessel, similar to Skylab, Mir, ISS, or Bigelow’s B330 modules. A mere capsule like Orion just can’t do it.

Eventually, it is my hope that Congress will recognize this reality, and stop funding big space projects like SLS and Orion, and instead put its money behind the competitive private efforts to make money in space. Rather than trying to build its own capsules, space stations, rockets, and interplanetary vessels (something that NASA has repeatedly tried to do without any success), NASA should merely be a customer, buying the capsules, space stations, and interplanetary vessels that private companies have built, on their own, to make money, on their own.

Consider for example Bigelow’s B330. Each module is about as big as Skylab or Mir, and costs mere pennies to build and launch, compared to those government-designed stations. Moreover, Bigelow can build it fast, and repeatedly. Similarly, Orion has cost billions (about $16 billion when it makes its first manned mission in 2021 at the earliest) and will have taken 15 years to build. SpaceX built Dragon in seven years, Orbital ATK built Cygnus in five years, and Boeing is going to build Starliner in about four years, all for about $10 billion, total.

The contrast is striking, and though ordinary people with the ability to add 2 plus 2 can see it, it takes Congressman a little longer (as they need to use their fingers to count). Sooner or later they will get it, and Orion and SLS will disappear. Bet on it.

Another subsidized solar power company going bust?

Your tax dollars at work! The U.S.’s largest solar power company, heavily subsidized by the federal government, now faces bankruptcy.

An SEC filing from TerraForm Global, a unit of SunEdison, claims “due to SunEdison’s liquidity difficulties, there is a substantial risk that SunEdison will soon seek bankruptcy protection.” Both SunEdison and TerraForm are delaying the filing of their annual financial report to the SEC.

News of SunEdison’s impending bankruptcy filing comes after the company’s shares fell 95 percent in the past 12 months, with shares now trading for less than $1 for the first time since the green energy company went public in 1995. SunEdison’s market value fell from $10 billion in July 2015 to around $400 million today.

The news also comes after the SEC announced it was launching an investigation into SunEdison’s disclosures to shareholders regarding the company’s liquidity. SEC enforcement officials “are looking into whether SunEdison overstated its liquidity last fall when it told investors it had more than $1 billion in cash,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

…The pro-labor union group Good Jobs First reported last year that SunEdison and its subsidiaries got nearly $650 million in subsidies and tax credits from the federal government since 2000. It was the 13th most heavily-subsidized company in America. This includes nearly $4.6 million in subsidies from the Department of Energy and Department of Treasury. Watchdog.org reported in October 2015 that SunEdison had gotten nearly $4.6 million from the Obama administration, including funding to build semi-conductors. A SunEdison bankruptcy could leave taxpayers on the hook for more than $2 billion.

But hey, what’s a few billion here or there, if the cause is worthwhile?

SLS software over budget and behind schedule

Surprise! The launch control software NASA is writing from scratch for its SLS rocket is way behind schedule and way over budget.

Development of this new launch control software is now projected to exceed $207 million, 77 percent above 2012 projections. The software won’t be ready until fall 2017, instead of this summer as planned, and important capabilities like automatic failure detection, are being deferred, the audit noted. The system is vital, needed to control pumps, motors, valves and other ground equipment during countdowns and launches, and to monitor data before and during liftoff.

NASA decided to write its own computer code to “glue together” existing software products a decade ago — while space shuttles still were flying and commercial shippers had yet to service the space station. Both delivery companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, rely on commercial software, the audit noted. [emphasis mine]

In other words, even though NASA could have simply purchased already available software that other launch companies were using successfully, the agency decided to write its own. And that decision really didn’t come before the arrival of these commercial companies, because when it was made a decade ago that was exactly the time that SpaceX was beginning to build its rocket.

This is simply more proof that SLS is nothing more than a pork-laden waste of money designed not to explore space but to generate non-productive jobs in congressional districts.

House proposes killing Commerce Department

In a just released budget resolution, the House budget committee has proposed eliminating the Department of Commerce in an effort to cut costs.

The biggest potential shift from the status quo would be breaking up the $9 billion commerce department. DOC is one of the least-known, and most unloved, of all federal agencies. But it nonetheless oversees a huge scientific portfolio that includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Census Bureau. Under the heading “options worthy of consideration,” the budget committee suggests moving NOAA to the Department of Interior, placing NIST within NSF, and assigning the Census Bureau, including the massive decennial census, to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another commerce agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, would become an independent agency.

The obvious goal would be to eliminate the expensive upper management positions at Commerce and thus reduce cost. Such changes however are going to face opposition in the privileged science community. While that community has been unable to sustain the growth of its funding in the past decade, it has successfully prevented the elimination of any program or any significant reduction in the science budgets. We shall see if that record will hold in the coming years, with the electorate appearing to steadily shift more and more to the right.

The article, by Science reporter Jeffrey Mervis, also included this wonderful example of yellow journalism:

The proposed budget resolution talks repeatedly of the need to reduce spending and, in particular, curb the clichéd “waste, fraud, and abuse” that is allegedly rampant across the federal government by killing duplicative or unnecessary programs. [emphasis mine]

I’ve noted Mervis’s agenda-driven writing in the past. In the sentence above he illustrates his unreliability as a reporter. For any educated journalist to consider waste and fraud in the federal government to be “alleged” is to be a person either with his head in the sand or having so strong a bias that he is intentionally misreporting the facts. Sadly, in the case of Mervis and many in today’s so-called elite intellectual community, I think it is both.

Conservatives to block gigantic budget plan

Good news: The conservative Freedom Caucus in the House is moving to block the new 10-year budget plan put forth by the Republican leadership.

And why you ask? The highlighted sentence below explains it all:

The fiscal blueprint, released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., relies on eliminating health care subsidies and other coverage provided by Obama’s health care law, sharp cuts to Medicaid, and reprises a plan devised by Ryan years ago that would transform Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees.


But as in past years, GOP leaders have no plans to implement the severe cuts recommended by nonbinding blueprint. [emphasis mine]

This budget plan is merely a tool to make us think they are cutting things, when they really have no intention of doing so. When they finally get down to writing the real budget the increases will be there, as will funding for Obamacare and many of Obama’s pet projects, as they have been in all the previous years since the Republicans took power in Congress.

National debt tops $19 trillion

The coming dark age: The national debt has hit $19 trillion, and the increase from $18 trillion was the fastest on record.

It took a little more than 13 months for the debt to climb by $1 trillion. The national debt hit $18 trillion on Dec. 15, 2014. That’s a slightly stepped-up pace compared to the last few $1 trillion mileposts. It took about 14 months for the debt to climb from $17 trillion to $18 trillion, and about the same amount of time to go from $16 trillion to $17 trillion.

The facts here also illustrate the complete failure of the Republican leadership to do what they promised when the voters gave them control of Congress.

But increasingly, Congress has instead allowed more borrowing by suspending the debt ceiling for long periods of time. That allows the government to borrow any amount it needs until the suspension period ends. Back in November, the debt ceiling was suspended again, after having been frozen at $18.1 trillion for several months. As soon as it was suspended, months of pent-up borrowing demand by the government led to a $339 billion jump in the national debt in a single day.

Under current law, the debt ceiling is suspended until March, 2017, meaning the government can borrow without limit until then. Obama is expected to leave office with a total national debt of nearly $20 trillion by the time he leaves office.

It was the Republican leadership that suspended the debt ceiling and allowed spending to rise so fast. This is also the reason that their favorite candidates for President, led by Jeb Bush, have done so poorly, and why the outsiders (Trump and Carson) and the new generation of tea party politicians (Cruz and Rubio) dominated the Iowa caucuses. And I expect that domination to continue in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and beyond.

Corruption uncovered in federal environmental project

Government marches on! A federal environmental project costing almost a half billion dollars is over budget and has had its management company removed over accusations of accounting irregularities.

During its five-year construction phase, NEON has encountered a series of high-profile problems that have raised concerns about the programme, which is funded entirely by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). In June 2015, the network came under fire from the NSF and Congress after NEON, Inc. — the non-profit organization that manages the project — reported that it was running $80 million over budget. Amid revelations that the company had spent federal money on parties, Congress levied charges of mismanagement and convened hearings with officials from NEON and the NSF. Events came to a climax in December, when the NSF decided to take NEON, Inc. off the project, citing a lack of confidence in the company after years of delays and questions about accounting irregularities.

The agency will now seek another operator to complete construction and take over the project’s management. One of the toughest tasks will be winning the support of ecologists; some researchers felt alienated during the project’s planning phase and have been critical of the way the observatory network is turning out. [emphasis mine]

The accounting irregularities included “$25,000 for a party and $3,000 for T-shirts.”

I highlight the last sentence because this gigantic federal project not only has financial and corruption issues, its big governmental design has less to do with science research and more to do with pork and getting federal dollars.

Scott Collins, an ecologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, was the first NSF [National Science Foundation] program director for NEON back in 2000. Collins says that the idea for a large ecological observatory sprang from NSF staff who were seeking ways for biologists to get a slice of the agency’s big-science money: the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction budget. “That put us on a very different footing from the start because this was not something that the community and vocal ecologists had wanted,” Collins says. [emphasis mine]

Based on reading the entire article, I would recommend that Congress end the entire project. The science produced will be questionable and not worth the money. Considering the federal deficit it makes no sense to spend money foolishly right now.

Budget deal boosts NASA budget

The gigantic $1.1 trillion omnibus budget deal announced today by Congress leaders would increase NASA’s budget by $1.3 billion.

The increase to the NASA budget goes mostly to SLS and the planetary program. Congress also decided this year to fully fund the administration’s budget request for the commercial space budget, the first time this has happened since the program began back in 2006.

Though the increase to the planetary program as well as the funding to commercial space is good news, the fact that the Republican leadership in Congress agreed to increase spending at NASA illustrates everything that is wrong with Washington. These Republicans leaders promised they would bring fiscal common sense to Washington, cutting the budget to bring the deficit under control. You don’t do that by funding everything.

SLS/Orion is a waste of money. It will accomplish little if nothing, as it is so expensive that we can’t afford to finance any actual missions using it. It should be eliminated entirely. Instead, these guys raise its budget 68%. If they were serious about cutting the budget, they would have recognized the inefficiency and impracticality of SLS/Orion and cut it, allowing them to fund the programs at NASA that are working (science and commercial space) while simultaneously reducing the budget.

Sadly, they are not yet serious about regaining control of the budget. The public has been screaming for this to happen, and their failure to do as the public wants is a further explanation for the success in this election cycle of outsiders like Trump, Cruz, and Carson.

Spat between senators over Russian rockets

Pig fight! In response to Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-Alabama) effort, with the lobbying aid of ULA, to slip an amendment into a budget bill that would allow ULA to use Russian engines in its Atlas 5 indefinitely, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has written a scathing letter condemning the effort.

In a Nov. 19 letter, McCain asked Cochran to “respect the well-informed work my committee took” and to avoid the “year-over-year relitigation” of the engine issue.“Recent attempts by the incumbent contractor to manufacture a crisis by prematurely diminishing its stockpile of engines purchased prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea should be viewed with skepticism and scrutinized heavily,” McCain wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews. “Such efforts should not be misconstrued as a compelling reason to undermine any sanctions on Russia while they occupy Crimea, destabilize Ukraine, bolster Assad in Syria, send weapons to Iran and violate the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”

McCain is no saint when it comes to pork, even if he is right on this issue. Shelby however is and has always been a pork pig. He has always put the needs of local companies ahead of the needs of the country. This story illustrates this perfectly.

Ryan to support budget deal

The fix is in: House Speaker-to-be Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) announced today that he will support the two year budget deal worked out by the White House and Republican and Democratic leaders that locks in increased spending and raises the debt limit for the next two years.

I could also say that Ryan’s betrayal of the conservatives in Congress didn’t take long. He didn’t even wait until he was officially elected Speaker. And if you read his reasons for this decision at the link, you will see them for what they are, shallow talking points that mean nothing.

The only good thing about this is — and it isn’t much — is that it will likely provide Ted Cruz some nice ammunition during tonight’s Presidential debate.

That the Freedom Caucus in the House is pissed at the deal and will oppose it also suggests to me that we are getting closer and closer to a split in the Republican Party.

Congressional leaders negotiating 2-year spending deal

The fix is in: The White House and Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders hope to complete a two year budget deal by tonight that will allow an increase in the debt limit.

White House budget director Shaun Donovan and legislative affairs director Katie Beirne Fallon are hammering out the package with staff representing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to be elected Speaker on Thursday, but he has not taken part in these budget negotiations, aides said. In recent weeks, Boehner has said he wants to “clean the barn up a little bit” before he leaves Congress at the end of the week.

Legislation to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government is central to the deal, but the talks are also said to include measures that would fund highway and infrastructure construction and renew the Export-Import Bank for one year.  

If you read the article with a clear mind, you will see that all the dealmaking is designed to increase spending. Moreover, it notes how Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) does not want to have the renewal of the Export-Import Bank on a stand-alone bill. Unstated is why, as he knows that on its own the Republican majorities in both Houses would shoot it down in a second.

When Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) refers to these guys as the “Washington cartel” he is exactly right. They have no interest in cutting the size of the federal government, and are doing whatever they can to maintain their steadily weakening grip on power. The good news is that their grip is weakening.

Government workers earn 78% more than private workers

We’re here to help us! A new study has found that Federal employees earn 78% more than private sector workers.

The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards compared data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to show that, in his view, civilian federal workers are overcompensated. Factoring both salary and benefits, Edwards pointed to BEA data showing the average federal employee earns about $119,000 annually, compared to the private sector worker who earns $67,000 per year. When comparing just salaries, feds collect 50 percent bigger paychecks, Edwards said.

The wage gap between the federal and private sectors has grown since the 1990s, Cato’s director of tax policy studies found. The divide has doubled since 1990, when it was just 39 percent. The growth, he said, came from not just raising pay levels and offering more generous benefits, but also a more “top-heavy” bureaucracy that routinely moves employees into higher salary brackets and redefines jobs as higher earning positions. “The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy,” Edwards wrote in his findings.

I wonder, do you think we are getting our money’s worth?

Government overpayments going up by billions

Government marches on! A GAO report has found that since 2003 the federal government has wasted almost a trillion dollars in improper overpayments, with the numbers increasing by 20% in 2014.

The GAO said three programs were most at fault: Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These three government programs were responsible for a full three-quarters of the nearly $19 billion in erroneous payments the federal government made in fiscal 2014, the GAO said. “Improper payments remain a significant and pervasive government-wide issue,” the congressional watchdog unit warned.

The Earned Income Tax Credit program was the worst offender. The Internal Revenue Service estimated that the program erroneously handed out $17.7 billion worth of “improper” payments. That amounts to a whopping 27.2 percent of the total $65.2 billion in EITC refund checks that the IRS sent out in fiscal 2014. And that means the federal government is now fast approaching the day when one out of every three earned income tax credits is erroneous.

Medicare was nearly as bad. The program, which covers about 54 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries, incorrectly doled out $59.9 billion in fiscal 2014, which is about a tenth of its $603 billion budget. So, one out of every $10 that Medicare spent last year was erroneous, the GAO found. Medicaid made $17.5 billion in mistaken payments out of its $304 billion budget, for a nearly 6 percent error rate.

It is obvious that the solution to this government problem is to give the government more power and money. How else can they reduce this waste but by spending more money!

Boeing lobbies for renewal of the Export-Import Bank

Boeing on Monday told its satellite workers that it will eventually lay off hundreds because of lost contracts due to the failure of Congress to renew the Export-Import Bank.

Boeing Co (BA.N) on Monday told its workers that it expected to cut as many as “several hundred” jobs in its satellite business through the end of 2015 due to a downturn in U.S. military spending and delays in commercial satellite orders. Multiple commercial orders were being delayed by recent failures of launch vehicles and uncertainties about the future availability of financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, whose government charter lapsed on June 30, the company told key managers in an internal communication.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale confirmed the reductions and said the total number of people affected would be finalized in coming months. Some could find work in other parts of Boeing, he said. [emphasis mine]

This announcement is pure lobbying, no more. They might have to lay off workers, but they haven’t done it yet, and when they do the numbers are likely to be far less than they are implying. And even so, the layoffs will probably be good for the company, making it more lean and efficient.

The reason they have made this public now is to generate support for a renewal of the Export-Import Bank, which Congress allowed to expire last month. Boeing wants it back, because the company uses the low interest loans it provides (using government money) to get contracts abroad. However, they really don’t need it to do that. They could trim costs, work more efficiently, and get loans in the private sector, as every other private company is expected to do.

This announcement is really no different than the doom that was predicted prior to the arrival of sequestration. Those budget cuts were going to cause the destruction of the defense industry and the American military, while causing the airline industry to collapse because the TSA and the FAA wouldn’t have the staff to keep the planes in the air. Twas all a lie. Nothing happened, and by some miracle the government still had plenty of cash to keep things running smoothly. Similarly, Boeing can compete without the help of the government. They just have to stop whining and do it.

New poll finds hostility to the federal government growing

A new poll has found that the public’s hostility to the federal government, including the Supreme Court, has grown in recent years and jumped significantly in the past six months.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 33% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe that states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials agree with them. That’s up nine points from 24% when we first asked this question in February. Just over half (52%) disagree, down from 58% in the earlier survey. Fifteen percent (15%) are undecided. …

Support for ignoring the federal courts is up among most demographic groups, however. Most voters have long believed that the Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda, and they still tend to feel that that agenda is more liberal than conservative.

That’s just the public’s changing attitude to the Supreme Court. Overall trust in the federal government is down as well:

A plurality (47%) of voters continues to believe the federal government has too much influence over state governments, and 54% think states should have the right to opt out of federal government programs that they don’t agree with. Even more (61%) think states should have the right to opt out of federally mandated programs if the federal government doesn’t help pay for them.

The Declaration of Independence, the foundational document that Americans honor on the Fourth of July, says that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, but just 25% believe that to be true of the federal government today. Only 20% now consider the federal government a protector of individual liberty. Sixty percent (60%) see the government as a threat to individual liberty instead.

The more power the federal government grabs, the more the public will resist. Eventually, the federal government, and all of society, will break under this strain. The sooner the public reins in the federal government, by voting for legislators who will do that reining, the better chance we will have of avoiding that collapse.

From what I can see right now, however, I must sadly say that I am not hopeful. Since 2010 the voters have clearly made their position clear: They want the government reined in. Our society’s intellectual class, including the Republican leadership in Congress working with the congressional Democratic minority, doesn’t seem to want to listen to that message unfortunately.

Then again, this update on the growing power of the Freedom Caucus in the House suggests that the voters might finally get their way if the next election puts more conservatives in office.

Republican-led Senate proposes big budget boost for NIH

This is fiscal restraint? The Senate, under the leadership of the Republican party for the first time since 2006, has proposed a $2 billion increase in the 2016 budget for National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The House Republican leadership hasn’t shown much restraint either, proposing $1 billion boost in the 2016 budget. And this in the context of a flat budget for NIH during the period from 2006 to 2014 when Democrats controlled either both or at least one house of Congress.

Since Congress completed a 5-year doubling of the NIH budget in 2003, the agency’s funding level has fallen more than 20% below the 2003 level after taking into account the rising costs of biomedical research.

This is once again evidence to me that the Republican leadership in Congress really has little interest in reining in the out-of-control federal budget. They talk a conservative game during elections, but when it comes time to write the budgets, the Republicans in charge of committees become spendthrifts to support the pork in the government agencies they are assigned to manage, and are almost always centered in their own districts.

Republicans pass the first budget resolution in six years

For the first time in six years both Houses of Congress, now controlled by the Republicans, passed budget resolutions outlining their plan for the 2016 budget.

The Senate and House plans still have to be reconciled. Also, they call for eventually balancing the budget in 10 years, hardly my idea of good fiscal policy, though certainly an improvement from past budget battles.

The most important aspect of this however is this fine detail:

In addition to aiming to eliminate deficits within 10 years, both documents seek to ease the path for a repeal or replacement of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law. … [D]ifferences between the two documents still need to be worked out and a combined budget passed next month by both chambers. Doing so would allow Republicans to invoke parliamentary rules to repeal “Obamacare” with a simple majority in the Senate rather than a tough-to-achieve 60 vote threshold.

In other words, the Republicans have set the situation up where they can use reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal, the exact same legislative sleight-of-hand that the Democrats used to pass Obamacare in 2010.

No one in favor of shrinking the power of the federal government and its budget should be too enthused by this budget, however. All it is is a start. Or as Churchill once said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

What we have now running Congress is a Republican leadership that wants to balance the budget in as painless a way as possible, so they will not upset any of the DC bureaucratic special interest groups, including the leftwing press. What we will eventually need is a Congress being run by people who don’t care if that DC bureaucracy and its water-carriers in the press get upset, and instead acts to make the rest of the country happy. We are moving in that direction, but we have a long way to go to get there.

Sloppy biosafety procedures found at federal disease center

Does this make you feel safer? An investigation of a federal center for studying dangerous diseases in primates has found serious biosafety procedure violations.

Concerns arose at the center in Covington, Louisiana, after two rhesus macaques became ill in late November with melioidosis, a disease caused by the tropical bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Agriculture investigators traced the strain infecting the primates to a vaccine research lab working with mice. Last month, as the investigation continued, CDC suspended the primate center’s 10 or so research projects involving B. pseudomallei and other select agents (a list of dangerous bacteria, viruses, and toxins that are tightly regulated). Meanwhile, a report in USA Today suggested the bacterium might have contaminated the center’s soil or water.

…In addition, workers “frequently entered the select agent lab without appropriate protective clothing,” the release says. No center staff has shown signs of illness. On 12 March, however, Tulane announced that blood tests have found that one worker has low levels of antibodies to the bacterium, suggesting possible exposure at the center, according to ABC News.

Is there any area of government expertise that isn’t screwing up royally these days? As far as I can tell, the answer is no. The sooner we as a people can cut back on the government’s resources so that they won’t have the ability to do us harm, the better off we will be.

Feel the middle-class rage

While this story is about the testimony of a mother before the Arkansas State Board of Education, objecting to Common Core standards and demanding that they be changed or abandoned, I think its most important take-away is watching the intelligent and thoughtful anger she expresses.

I have included the video of her testimony below the fold. Anyone who thinks the tea party movement is dead needs to watch this video to find out how wrong they are. This woman speaking as a representative of over a thousand parents and teachers, all of whom object to Common Core, the federally-imposed education standards. She also reveals the increasing level of rage and anger that is percolating in the general public over the incompetent and destructive dictates that are being imposed on them by bureaucrats in Washington.

The Republican leadership in the House and Senate might think they were elected to keep the government open, but this woman’s testimony tells me that the mid-term elections were a demand by the public for the Republicans to shut it down.

And they better do it soon, because the rage is continuing to build. If our elected officials don’t respond to it soon the very system of democracy on which our society was built — founded on the principle that government is the servant to the people — is going to become very seriously threatened.

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Social Security still has 6.5 million people older than 112 active in its files

Obviously we must give the government more responsibility! An inspector general audit of the Social Security administration has found more than 6.5 million names of people older than 112 still in the agency’s files.

The audit, dated March 4, 2015, concluded that SSA lacks the controls necessary to note death information on the records of number-holders who exceed “maximum reasonable life expectancies. … We obtained Numident data that identified approximately 6.5 million number holders born before June 16, 1901 who did not have a date of death on their record,” the report states.

Some of the numbers assigned to long-dead people were used fraudulently to open bank accounts. And thousands of those numbers apparently were used by illegal immigrants to apply for work: “During Calendar Years 2008 through 2011, SSA received 4,024 E-Verify inquiries using the SSNs of 3,873 numberholders born before June 16, 1901,” the report said. “These inquiries indicate individuals’ attempts to use the SSNs to apply for work.”

Moreover, to even think of trimming the budget of any government agency is madness! Madness! They need every penny!

New CBO report reveals that Obamacare will add more than a trillion to debt

Finding out what’s in it: A new CBO report has revealed that Obamacare will add $1.35 trillion to the federal government’s debt over the next decade.

Anyone want to bet me against me when I say that I have no doubt that this is an understatement? Also, the link above makes sure to include this juicy quote from President Obama, made in 2009 while he was selling Obamacare:

First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.

It seems that whenever Obama uses the word “period” to emphasize his position, he is signalling to everyone that either he hasn’t the faintest idea what he is talking about, or he is a bald-faced liar. Personally, I think it is both.

Boehner had made a deal with Pelosi

Despite claiming that there had been no deal, John Boehner had negotiated a deal with the Democratic Party leadership to get a funding bill passed that also funded Obama’s illegal amnesty.

If there isn’t a successful revolt in the Republican Party to get Boehner replaced as Speaker, than that party will fall apart, giving more even power to the Democrats. It is unacceptable for a Republican leader to back stab his own caucus like this, and for them to accept it is as unacceptable.

Meanwhile, here are the names of the 75 House Republicans who backed the Democrats and Boehner in this back stab. I think I’d rather have Marxist Democrats in these seats than two-faced RINOs who say one thing during campaigns and then do another once elected. At least with the Marxist Democrats we’d know what we’ve got, and we can blame them when things go wrong. These Republican liars however have instead created the illusion that the left wing agenda of Obama and the Democrats is a bi-partisan effort.

Senate RINOS whine about the House’s refusal to give Obama what he wants

Well ain’t that a shame: Republicans senators McCain, Graham, Flake, and Kirk are fuming over the House’s refusal to settle the Homeland Security budget issues and give Obama what he wants.

GOP senators say it’s time to move on to other issues, such as the budget, trade legislation, and regulatory and tax reform. They must defend 24 seats in the 2016 election and worry that voters could soon start to question their ability to govern unless they can move forward with a more substantive agenda. The fight over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration brought that agenda to a standstill in February, as the threat of a homeland security shutdown thwarted other priorities.

“I just think we ought to move on to other things. I’m not sure how it helps for the American people to have the perception that Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House are at odds with each other,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “We have a lot of initiatives I think we could show the American people we can work together on,” he added.

This idiot thinks that achievement is passing a budget, no matter how stupid or illegal. McCain also thinks that the public wants Obama’s agenda fulfilled. Meanwhile, elections tell us a completely different story. I hope the conservatives in the House continue to make these guys squirm.

What infuriates me the most is that McCain and Flake are my senators. McCain I’ve known as a back-stabbing RINO for more than a decade, but Flake had been a decent congressman who had been instrumental in squelching a lot of pork from the budget. Once elected as a senator, however, I have discovered him to be as bad as McCain.

Homeland funding bill fails

Good! A large number of conservative Republicans combined with most House Democrats to defeat a cobbled-together three week funding bill for Homeland Security.

As of midnight tonight many Homeland employees will either be furloughed, or have to work without pay (if their job is deemed essential).

The Republican leadership continues to brainwash itself into thinking a government shutdown will hurt them at the ballot box, when all the evidence from recent elections says exactly the opposite. After the 2013 shutdown the press screamed “Republicans did it!” as if it was a bad thing but the voters rewarded the Republicans one of its biggest landslides in almost a century in 2014. If anything, shutting the government down appeared to help the Republicans win elections. The public wants the government brought under control. Moreover, every shutdown helps prove how useless and unneeded that government is, the exact position conservatives have been touting for decades.

Let Homeland Security shut down. We didn’t need it for more than 225 years, and we don’t need it now.

Update: Congress has hurriedly passed a seven-day funding bill for Homeland Security.

The AP story linked above does the usual media hatchet job of spinning the story to make it all sound like the Republicans caused all the problems. As far as I am concerned, the failure here is the fact that not enough Republicans stood firm. A majority did, but we are still stuck with that handful of fake Republicans, such as Hatch, McCain, Flake, and Graham, that screw conservatives every time.

What happens if Homeland Security shuts down?

Not much it appears.

Salmon and a few other conservatives are the only ones saying it publicly so far, but the reality is that a department shutdown would have a very limited impact on national security. That’s because most department employees fall into exempted categories of workers who stay on the job in a shutdown because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. Even in a shutdown, most workers across agencies, including the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Customs and Border Protection, would continue to report to work. Airport security checkpoints would remain staffed, the Secret Service would continue to protect the president and other dignitaries, the Coast Guard would stay on patrol, immigration agents would still be on the job.

Indeed, of the agency’s approximately 230,000 employees, some 200,000 of them would keep working even if Congress fails to fund their agency. It’s a reality that was on display during the 16-day government-wide shutdown in the fall of 2013, when national parks and monuments closed but essential government functions kept running, albeit sometimes on reduced staff.

In other words, the cries of disaster, mostly from Democrats and from a few in the wimpy Republican leadership, are the same bull we heard prior to sequestration and the previous government shutdown. From a political point of view, the Republicans have nothing to lose politically by letting this agency run out of funds, and everything to gain.

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