Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Politics

Return surplus to the taxpayers

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.

Thanks to over a decade of solid budgeting from Republican Legislatures, the state of Wisconsin is in a strong financial position and forecasting a massive budget surplus when the current fiscal year ends next June. The Wisconsin Department of Administration issued a required report in November forecasting that the state will finish the current biennial budget with a general fund surplus of $6.6 billion. This is the largest forecasted surplus in Wisconsin history.

 

With the state’s coffers overflowing, every hog is at the trough jostling for position and every politician is eyeing their favorite one to fatten. There will be no shortage of requests, demands, justifications, and admonitions from advocates to spend every dollar of the surplus and more. Instead, the Legislature should give it, and more, back to the beleaguered taxpayers.

 

First, let us dig into the anatomy of the forecasted surplus. According to the 62-page DOA report, the state entered the budget with a $2.52 billion balance, added $1.78 billion to the balance in first fiscal year of the budget, and projects to add an additional $2.276 billion to it by the end of this fiscal year for a total biennial budget surplus of $6.576 billion. This is based on the current economic outlook and current tax policies. The reason for the surplus is relatively straightforward. The state spent every dollar it appropriated (actually, a little more), but it collected far more in taxes than it needed. For example, in FY22 which ended on June 30th of this year, the state collected $534 million more in income taxes than lawmakers said they needed in the budget. It collected $338 million more in sales taxes and $1.05 billion more in corporate taxes than it needed.

 

Why? The primary reason is inflation. While the underlying economy is struggling, the price of everything is going up. Incomes are up, corporate taxable profits are up, the price of consumer goods are up, and taxes are based on percentages of those things. The budget did not make any inflationary assumptions when it was created. Inflation has averaged 7.4% since the beginning of this budget in July of 2021. If the projected surplus is realized, it will be due to the state collecting about 10.6% more in taxes than it budgeted.

 

The assumptions used to forecast the surplus are telling, and troubling. The DOA uses economic projections from a single source — IHS Markit. It is concerning that in such tumultuous economic times that the DOA would rely on a single source. They forecast that the nation will have a mild recession in 2023 with a 0.2% decline in GDP before returning sluggish growth in 2024. It also forecasts that inflation will decline to 3% versus prior year by the end of 2023.

 

I hope they are right because those are relatively optimistic projections compared to many other sources. But it reminds us that a forecast is just an educated guess, and we should not spend money that we do not have.

 

The data also shows that while inflation is also pushing up wages, the buying power of those wages are not keeping up. According to the data in the DOA report, personal income rose by 7.4% in 2021 (inflated by COVID bailouts) and 2.3% in 2022. That compares to annualized inflation of 7.1% in 2021 and 7.75% year-todate in 2022 according to the Federal Reserve. Every dollar of wage increases is being consumed by inflation and then some. Wisconsinites’ expenses are increasing at a far faster rate than their wages.

 

Under normal circumstances, it is immoral for the government to overtax the people and then use that as an excuse to increase spending. With a suspect economic forecast and the buying power of Wisconsinites being eaten away by inflation, it would be unconscionable for our elected leaders to do anything other than to return the surplus to the people who paid it with a sheepish, “ope.”

SCOTUS to Rule on Unconstitutional Student Loan Handouts

Good, but

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday said it will review the legality of President Joe Biden’s federal student loan debt relief plan, putting borrowers on track to get clarity on the fate of the program by next summer.

 

The program, which would grant up to either $10,000 or $20,000 in federal debt relief to student borrowers who make under a certain income, depending on the kind of loan they used, has been blocked by lower courts since November. The administration initially planned to start rolling out cancellations by the end of this month.

 

The Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in February, allowing the case an expedited schedule, and is expected to make a decision by the end of June, when the term ends. February’s arguments are also likely to give insight into how the justices view the program.

It is nuts, in this day and age, that citizens should have to wait seven months – SEVEN MONTHS – for SCOTUS to act. There should be an expedited process for the court to adjudicate issues of this importance. Really… all interested parties should be able to be reasonably ready to argue their cases by January and the court should have plenty of time to render a ruling within a couple of weeks. It’s ridiculous that the court moves at glacial speed in a modern country. Too often, irreparable damage has been done while everyone sits around and waits on the court.

Audit Finds 46.6% Error/Fraud Rate in COVID Grant Awards

This is just a scratch of the surface.

We performed a detailed review of 87 program grants totaling $805,000, including 61 small business grants and 26 restaurant grants. Our detailed review found that DOR did not follow the written eligibility requirements for 25 program grants totaling $375,000,

This was a limited scope review of just a couple of the COVID slush funds. Notice that in this case, they were just checking to see if the DOR actually enforced the eligibility requirements before awarding grants. Almost half the time, they didn’t. In other words, some DOR bureaucrat waived through the application and sent cash to people who weren’t even eligible.

This audit doesn’t even look into how many of those recipients lied on their applications or committed other fraud in order to get the money. For example, this is suspicious:

Our detailed review found that DOR awarded a total of $15,000 in three program grants to three small businesses that began operating in 2020 and had annual revenue that ranged from $1,200 to $4,200, which was less than the $10,000 minimum specified in the agreement. DOR indicated it:

Begun in 2020, eh? Could it be that these folks founded a fake company, threw a little cash into it, and applied to get the free COVID money? How many of these businesses continued operating after getting the money?

I know that we already knew it, but every audit of the COVID handouts confirms again that the entire operation was riddled with fraud, corruption, and incompetence. It’s possible that the COVID relief funds will prove to be the greatest transfer of wealth from American taxpayers to global criminals in the history of mankind. And politicians patted themselves on the backs with every dollar spent.

Biden Spend $75 Million of Taxpayer Money for Tribal Moving Costs

Really? Our nation is broke. Why are we paying for people’s moving costs?

US President Joe Biden’s administration will help fund the move of three tribal communities facing urgent threats from climate change.

The three tribes will receive $75m (£62m) divided equally between them, Mr Biden announced on Wednesday.

 

All are located along coastal areas and rivers in the states of Alaska and Washington.

 

The money will fund the move of key buildings and residential homes to higher ground, away from rising waters.

 

Mr Biden made the funding announcement at the White House during the Interior Department’s Tribal Nations Summit.

 

In his remarks, he said the tribes receiving funding are “at risk of being washed away”.

The money will help “move, in some cases, their entire communities back to safer ground”.

Michels Highlights Problems With Wisconsin GOP

He’s not wrong.

“I don’t mean to throw anyone under the bus here on the Republican side, but we’re probably operating in a lot of aspects as we did three election cycles ago. In some cases 10 or 20 years ago,” Michels added. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has 20 people on staff, full time, year round. … The Republican Party of Wisconsin has five people on staff.”

 

Michels said Wisconsin Republicans simply cannot keep up with Democrats by relying on volunteers every two years.

 

“[Democrats] are using the most modern Silicon Valley technology to do voter identification, ballot identification, following-up with these people, and getting them to the polls,” Michels explained.

 

“They had 90% voter turnout in Dane County. That’s incredible. I don’t know how you could get 90% of the people, in say Oconomowoc, to show up for anything. You could give out $100 dollar bills and I don’t know if 90% of the people would show up, ” Michels said. “But they drove all of those people to the polls. And then the results were 80-20. That is a huge, huge hurdle that has to be overcome by conservatives and Republicans.”

It is also worth noting that the Democrats have a structural advantage because their voters are so concentrated in Dane and Milwaukee Counties (with a couple of other pockets). It’s logistically easier to focus efforts on a smaller geography while Republicans have to turn out voters in 300 small towns.

If Republicans really increase staff, they have to get that staff out of Madison and into the communities where Republicans live. If there are 20 GOP staffers, they better be in places like Wausau, Oshkosh, Osseo, Hayward, Manitowoc, New Berlin, and other communities that turned out Republicans. If they hire 20 staffers to sit around Madison and Milwaukee, they will lose the next election too.

Return surplus to the taxpayers

Sometimes I feel like I’m spitting into the wind, but I’ll keep trying. My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

With the state’s coffers overflowing, every hog is at the trough jostling for position and every politician is eyeing their favorite one to fatten. There will be no shortage of requests, demands, justifications, and admonitions from advocates to spend every dollar of the surplus and more. Instead, the Legislature should give it, and more, back to the beleaguered taxpayers.

 

First, let us dig into the anatomy of the forecasted surplus. According to the 62-page DOA report, the state entered the budget with a $2.52 billion balance, added $1.78 billion to the balance in first fiscal year of the budget, and projects to add an additional $2.276 billion to it by the end of this fiscal year for a total biennial budget surplus of $6.576 billion. This is based on the current economic outlook and current tax policies. The reason for the surplus is relatively straightforward. The state spent every dollar it appropriated (actually, a little more), but it collected far more in taxes than it needed. For example, in FY22 which ended on June 30th of this year, the state collected $534 million more in income taxes than lawmakers said they needed in the budget. It collected $338 million more in sales taxes and $1.05 billion more in corporate taxes than it needed.

 

Why? The primary reason is inflation. While the underlying economy is struggling, the price of everything is going up. Incomes are up, corporate taxable profits are up, the price of consumer goods are up, and taxes are based on percentages of those things. The budget did not make any inflationary assumptions when it was created. Inflation has averaged 7.4% since the beginning of this budget in July of 2021. If the projected surplus is realized, it will be due to the state collecting about 10.6% more in taxes than it budgeted.

 

The assumptions used to forecast the surplus are telling, and troubling. The DOA uses economic projections from a single source — IHS Markit. It is concerning that in such tumultuous economic times that the DOA would rely on a single source. They forecast that the nation will have a mild recession in 2023 with a 0.2% decline in GDP before returning sluggish growth in 2024. It also forecasts that inflation will decline to 3% versus prior year by the end of 2023.

 

I hope they are right because those are relatively optimistic projections compared to many other sources. But it reminds us that a forecast is just an educated guess, and we should not spend money that we do not have.

 

The data also shows that while inflation is also pushing up wages, the buying power of those wages are not keeping up. According to the data in the DOA report, personal income rose by 7.4% in 2021 (inflated by COVID bailouts) and 2.3% in 2022. That compares to annualized inflation of 7.1% in 2021 and 7.75% year-to-date in 2022 according to the Federal Reserve. Every dollar of wage increases is being consumed by inflation and then some. Wisconsinites’ expenses are increasing at a far faster rate than their wages.

 

Under normal circumstances, it is immoral for the government to overtax the people and then use that as an excuse to increase spending. With a suspect economic forecast and the buying power of Wisconsinites being eaten away by inflation, it would be unconscionable for our elected leaders to do anything other than to return the surplus to the people who paid it with a sheepish, “ope.”

Celebrated Government Bureaucrat Indicted for Felony Theft

Wow. Check out the details of the charge. This is an immoral person who should not be trusted. As a federal civil servant, will he keep his new job? Probably.

Law enforcement at the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport were alerted to a missing suitcase in the baggage claim area on Sept. 16. The adult female victim said she flew into MSP on a Delta flight from New Orleans and went to retrieve her checked bag at carousel seven.

 

Airport records confirmed the navy blue Vera Bradley roller bag arrived at 4:40 p.m. but was missing from the carousel. So law enforcement reviewed video surveillance footage from the baggage claim area and observed Brinton removing a navy blue roller bag from carousel seven, according to a criminal complaint.

 

The complaint says Brinton removed a luggage tag from the bag, placed it into a handbag he was carrying, and “then left the area at a quick pace.” Brinton arrived at MSP Airport around 4:27 p.m. on an American Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., but did not check a bag, meaning he had no reason to visit baggage claim, according to the complaint.

Sam Brinton/Department of Energy

 

Police showed the surveillance video to the victim and she confirmed it was her bag.

 

Brinton left the airport in an Uber for a stay at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront hotel, where he checked in with the blue bag, the complaint says.

 

He returned to MSP on Sept. 18 with the bag in hand for a departing flight back to Washington, D.C., authorities allege.

 

Surveillance video from Dulles International Airport shows Brinton traveling with the bag on an Oct. 9 return trip from Europe, the complaint notes.

 

The victim said the estimated value of the bag and its contents was around $2,325.

 

Police questioned Brinton about the missing bag in an Oct. 9 phone call and asked him directly if he “took anything that did not belong” to him.

 

“Not that I know of,” Brinton allegedly responded. He later admitted to taking the bag but said the clothes inside were his, according to the complaint.

 

“If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have any clothes for another individual. That was my clothes when I opened the bag,” he told police, according to the complaint.

 

Brinton allegedly called the investigating officer two hours later and apologized for not being “completely honest.” This time Brinton said he took the bag because he was tired and thought it was his, the complaint says.

 

He allegedly told police that he realized the bag didn’t belong to him when he opened it up at the hotel but “got nervous” and didn’t “know what to do.” Worried that people would think he “stole the bag,” Brinton told police he left the victim’s clothes in the drawers in the hotel room, according to the complaint.

 

Brinton said he brought the bag back to D.C. with him because it would have been “weirder” to leave a bag in the hotel room, according to police.

 

Police told Brinton how to return the bag to Delta, but as of Oct. 27 the victim still had not received her bag back.

 

Police also learned that no clothing was recovered from the hotel room.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did. As I settle in to watch the Packers and write my column for this week, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

A few weeks ago, in a regrettable spurt of optimistic exuberance at the prospect of Tim Michels defeating Governor Tony Evers and ushering in an opportunity to make great strides in advancing progressive conservative policies, this column advocated that education reform should be at the top of the priority list. With Evers’ electoral victory and Wisconsin deciding on divided government for at least another two years, reforming Wisconsin’s education remains the absolute top priority, but the tactics and realistic goals must, necessarily, change.

 

By every meaningful measure, Wisconsin’s government education system is failing kids. There are, of course, individual success stories, but the overall performance is systemic failure at all levels. According to ACT Aspire, Forward, and ACT testing data from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s kids are failing to learn basic reading, writing, and math in our schools. Roughly two-thirds of Wisconsin’s kids at every grade level are not proficient in language or math. It is utterly intolerable.

 

Bear in mind that those testing results are statewide averages. A large number of individual districts and schools are even worse. Again, according to DPI data, there are some Wisconsin schools where not a single child is proficient in language or math. President George Bush once lamented the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is nothing soft about the bigotry that abandons kids to ignorance.

 

Tony Evers and the Democrats like to sell themselves as the party of education. If that is the case, then they are terrible at it. The Democrats have had a stranglehold on the state DPI and most government education districts for decades. The result has been a steady decline in performance punctuated by catastrophic failures. They have abandoned at least two generations of kids as they continue to fund failing systems.

 

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

 

If Republicans play the same old Democrat game of pretending that the system is great and only needs more money, they will fail to capture the powerful electoral support of parents. Worse, they will doom yet another generation of kids to ignorance and exploitation. Our nation will be worse for their complacency.

Senator Daring Ends Storied Career

While not without flaws (what politician is?), Darling’s positive impact on Wisconsin will reverberate for decades to come and legions of kids have a better future thanks to the School Choice she advanced. Thanks for the service, Senator.

Jay Weber
@JayWeber3
Early Exclusive: State Sen. Alberta Darling will announce her retirement later this morning. She’s 78, and has served in Madison 32 years (New Class of ’92). Alberta has been influential in School Choice and tax relief over the years.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste before Thanksgiving:

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

Second SCOTUS Leak?

Nobody seems to be looking very hard for the first leak.

Following the monumental leak of the draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade in May, a former anti-abortion leader claims he was told the outcome of a 2014 case weeks before it was announced publicly, according to a report published on Saturday in The New York Times.

 

Rev. Rob Schenck, who led an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he was informed ahead of time about the ruling of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a landmark case involving contraception and religious rights, according to a letter he wrote to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Roberts did not respond to the letter.

 

Schenck used his knowledge of the verdict to prepare public relations materials, the report said, and to inform the president of the Christain evangelical-owned craft store Hobby Lobby, the winning party of the case. Schenck said the ruling was also shared with a handful of advocates, according to the report.

I do think that there is a distinction between the two leaks. Leaking the full draft opinion was an egregious breach. Giving a heads up at a dinner party was not appropriate, but a far cry from the first leak. I expect that the latter has been happening for eons while the former was unheard of in modern times. Also, the latter was allegedly done with the intent to be a private heads up while the former was a public attempt to intimidate justices.

But both leaks are wrong, and they need to stop. Also, the court needs to operate more swiftly so that there isn’t the gigantic lag between when decisions are made and when they are released.

Make government small again

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best.

 

Over the decades we have allowed our government at all levels to increasingly encroach on our lives. It is the natural progression of government to grow, and it has often been done with good intentions. When there is a problem in our society, whether it be poverty, pollution, or poultry, our political leaders look to try to solve them. Solving problems, or pretending to solve problems, is how politicians garner support to further their political careers and the only tool at their disposal to solve problems is government.

 

From this impetus we get government programs to “solve” poverty. We get regulations, programs, and subsidies designed to reduce pollution. We get more regulations, programs, and subsidies to ensure that our Thanksgiving turkeys are safe to eat. While each regulation, program, tax, subsidy, prohibition, and mandate might be argued on its relative merits, the cumulative effect is a government that has its beak in everything we do.

 

The last few years revealed the raw power and brute force that we have allowed our government to accumulate. With the wave of a hand, our government locked us out of our jobs, forced unproven medicines into our veins at penalty of being excluded from society, crippled our kids’ education and development for years, and looted the next generation’s wealth. It happened while we were told that it was for our benefit and that the government was looking out for our best interests.

 

Underneath all of that altruism, entities used the same levers of government for ill intent. We saw regulations applied unevenly based on political favoritism. For example, leftist protests were allowed to continue unabated while churches were closed. We witnessed Governor Evers and other governors doling out COVID relief money for personal political impact instead of actual need. We will be tracking for decades the incredible amount of fraud and corruption that is taking place as the federal government prints and spends money with little or no oversight.

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

 

I find myself rereading General Washington’s prophetic farewell address in 1796 and anticipating our future with dread:

 

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Election Denier Likely to Lead House Democrats

Heh

The leading candidate to replace Nancy Pelosi as the next House Democratic leader is a 2016 election denier who openly argued that former President Donald Trump was an “illegitimate” president.

 

House Democratic Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries announced Friday he’s running to lead Democrats in the next Congress. He appears to have a clear path to the job since no other challenger has emerged so far, and he has won praise from several Democrats.

 

But Jeffries was one of many Democrats who questioned whether Trump legitimately won the 2016 election due to alleged Russian interference and collusion. He often made statements about Trump’s 2016 victory that are similar to claims Trump made about the 2020 race being stolen.

 

“The more we learn about 2016 the more ILLEGITIMATE it becomes,” Jeffries tweeted from his congressional account in 2018. “America deserves to know whether we have a FAKE President in the Oval Office.”

Greene Pushes for Accounting of Ukraine Aid

I go back and forth on whether or not we should support Ukraine. I get the geopolitical argument that we should because it saps Russia’s strength and builds support with allies. I get the humanitarian reasons for doing so. I also get the argument that Ukraine is a corrupt kleptocracy teetering on totalitarianism and we shouldn’t support it. I also get the argument that we have very little national interest in the conflict and should stay out.

I get all of it. And I remain somewhat on the fence leaning toward NOT supporting sending more weapons to Ukraine.

BUT… shouldn’t we at least be debating this? Shouldn’t we have a real accounting of where all of the money is going? Especially in light of the FTX debacle, shouldn’t we follow the money? It isn’t asking too much to know what’s happening with our money and why.

In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid.

 

She said, at a news conference with other members, that she’d introduced an effort to force a vote on a resolution requiring the Biden administration to provide all documents related to the security assistance that has already been appropriated to Ukraine.

Trump Announces Presidential Run

Meh. I think I’ll pass this time.

Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president for the third time in 2024 in a speech attacking President Biden, the ‘radical left’ Democrats and their record on the economy and the world stage in the two years since he left office.

 

The former president ignored Republican critics and those who blamed him for the GOP‘s disappointing midterms to go full steam on stating his intent to be back in the Oval Office to ‘drain the swamp’ with the country ‘being destroyed before our very lives’.

 

‘I order to make America great and glorious again, I am today announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,’ he confirmed to huge cheers before laying into the FBI raid, the ‘fake’ dossier’, the ‘deep state’ and lobbyists.

Make government small again

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

As I sit writing this column, it has been five days since the election, and we still do not know the outcome of several critical races. It is unacceptable that our elections have become so sloppy and rife with opportunities for fraud that we can no longer trust that the outcomes reflect the true will of the people. Irrespective of who ends up winning, the losing side will rightfully question the results and the steady erosion of our civic society will continue apace.

 

In the aftermath of another contentious election, I once again find myself lamenting the emotional investment that so many of us have in the outcome. Why does the outcome of this election matter so much to so many people? Why does it matter at such a personal, emotional level? Why do we think that the outcome will have an impact on our daily lives? Why is it so easy to appreciate why people would be willing to risk ruin and cheat in order to bend elections their way?

 

We care so much because it does matter so much, but it shouldn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were not supposed to live our lives so much under the boot of government that every election feels like we are making irrevocable life-altering decisions. If, as Henry David Thoreau said, “that government is best which governs least,” then our government is very far from being the best. 

 

[…]

 

We have allowed our governments at all levels to be too big, too intrusive, too powerful, too coercive, and too corrosive. As long as this is the case, our elections will continue to be battles in a passionate ideological warfare where the combatants are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win because the consequences of losing are too dire. Such warfare will continue to rend our civic society along the many seams of our polycultural society.

 

If we want a return to normalcy, or, at least, if we want to avoid the inevitable slide into further despotism, we must drastically push our government back to the fringes of our lives. The purpose of our government is to protect individual liberty. That’s it. Nothing more. It is not the purpose of government to manage the economy, dictate our culture, or regulate our personal lives. The longer we allow our government to stray from its purpose, the more our society will devolve into irreconcilable factions that lurch for power.

U.S. Facing Diesel Shortage

This ripples across the entire supply chain.

The U.S. is facing a diesel crunch just as demand is surging ahead of winter — with only 25 days of supply left, according to the Energy Information Administration.

 

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told Bloomberg TV that diesel inventories are “unacceptably low” and “all options are on the table” to bolster supply and reduce prices.

 

However, even as the stockpiles are being drained, the Biden administration seems to be left with very few sustainable options for long-term relief.

Biden to Threaten Xi

Could we please not get into WWIII rn, mmmmkay?

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will warn Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting on Monday that North Korea’s continued pursuit of weapons development will lead to an enhanced U.S. military presence in the region, the White House said.

 

The United States is concerned that North Korea plans to resume nuclear bomb testing for the first time since 2017 and believes China and Russia have the leverage to persuade it not to do so.

 

Biden and Xi are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting as national leaders on the sidelines of a summit of the G20 grouping of countries in the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Biden Hints at Investigation of Musk’s Relations with Other Countries

It does a breathtaking degree of arrogance to suggest this when Biden has been running a family foreign influence ring for years. Also, consider where we are when the POTUS is saying that we should investigate citizens without any actual evidence of criminal wrongdoing. This is what abuse of power looks like.

One day earlier, President Biden said: “I think that Elon Musk’s cooperations and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at. Whether or not he is doing anything inappropriate, I’m not suggesting that, I’m suggesting that it’s worth being looked at and that’s all I’ll say.”

Construction Halted After Noose Found at Obama Site

So

A noose was discovered at the site of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on Thursday morning, according to the group overseeing the center’s construction.

“This morning, we were informed that an act of hate was discovered at the project site,” Lakeside Alliance said in a statement, adding that operations on the site have been suspended. “We reported the incident to the police and will provide any assistance required to identify those responsible.”

 

The circumstances of the discovery weren’t clear. Chicago police didn’t immediately respond to a request for details.

 

[…]

Lakeside Alliance said it was offering a $100,000 reward for help in finding those responsible for “this shameful act.” It is also holding anti-bias training for staff and workers.

First, there’s a 96% chance that this is a hoax. The last 20 years has shown us that this kind of stuff is almost always a hoax.

Second, isn’t the reaction waaaaaaay out of proportion? Let’s say that a worker found a noose and it isn’t a hoax. What is a reasonable response? Maybe call the cops to report it and then go on with your day? Or perhaps just throw it away and get on with your day? But is it really a reasonable response to halt construction, offer a $100k reward, force all employees into sensitivity training, and have the mayor and governor weigh in? How many LEO resources will be committed to this investigation compared to the murders and assaults happening nightly down the street?

Ridiculous.

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