Senator Rand Paul (R-Ken) held a press event to announce he is returning $600,000 in unused funds to the US Treasury. The Senator said he was “proud of the fiscal prudence shown by my staff in making sure we are as efficient as possible with the taxpayers' money.” This is the second time Paul has refunded money. Last year he returned $500,000.
Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) also announced his office was returning $160,000 in unspent funds. “At a time when Americans are tightening their budgets, I have made an effort to do the same with my Congressional office budget,” Mulvaney said.
Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney denounced the refunds, calling them “political grandstanding” and “deliberate attempts to undermine the nation's confidence in the President's program. Given the perilous state of the economy the President has made it clear that maintaining a high level of government spending is essential to sparking economic recovery. The savings on computers, paper and ink that Senator Paul boasts he has achieved are the exact opposite of what the President wants.”
The Press Secretary promised that “these uncooperative actions will not succeed. The amounts diverted by these Congressional misers are small enough that a single additional trip to a golf course outside of the DC area by the President can expend sufficient funds completely obliterate their negative impact.”
Carney speculated that “seeing their errant penny-pinching wiped out by a leisure expenditure benefiting the President could be a severe blow to the morale of these right-wing obstructionists.”
Chicago Says No to Guns on Public Transit
The Chicago Transit Authority rejected the National Rifle Association's stance in support of allowing those with concealed carry permits to board buses and trains with their weapons. “We think it would be disastrous to allow passengers to carry concealed weapons on our trains and buses,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.
“On balance, it would be better for passengers to simply allow themselves to be robbed or even shot than to engage in gun battles with assailants on board our vehicles,” Claypool reasoned. “Fewer people will be hurt if the criminals are unopposed than if victims attempt to resist.”
Claypool discounted research showing that looser restrictions on the law-abiding owners of weapons seems to lead to fewer crimes, including shootings, saying he was “uncomfortable with how crime is defined by these right-wing screeds. Who's to say that the existing distribution of property is equitable? Is the use of deadly force to oppose a free lance redistribution really justifiable? It is our position that the confined spaces of buses and trains are not an appropriate venue for deciding such complex issues.”
Robert Kelly, who represents Transit Workers Union Local 308, concurred with Claypool's view. “Drivers are instructed not to resist when confronted by an armed assailant,” Kelly pointed out. “If this is the proper response for the most important person on the vehicle why shouldn't the same rule apply to the other occupants?”
Administration Unfazed by GAO Report
A recently issued report by the Government Accountability Office says that the federal government is on a financially unsustainable course. The debt is so large that the anticipated annual interest payments are expected to exceed the economy's rate of growth. The government would have to run annual budget surpluses just to maintain its current debt to GDP ratio.
Despite all the publicity being given to the so called draconian cuts envisioned by the sequester, there are no actual cuts to spending. At best, only the rate of growth in spending would be slowed, but not by enough to generate a budget surplus anytime in the foreseeable future.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner brushed aside the report's findings, insisting that “the assumptions made by its authors are by no means certain. The belief that we have no alternative but to pay these debts is false. The government is sovereign. It has the means to perpetuate itself by whatever actions it deems necessary. If paying these debts becomes too burdensome it can decline to pay or inflate the currency sufficiently to wipe out the value of the money owed. The American people can rest assured that their government will survive by hook or by crook.”
Of course, failure to pay would inflict huge losses on holders of US Government obligations. Geithner questioned whether this would be as bad as it sounds, though. “Buying US Government debt is a voluntary act,” Geithner reminded. “No one forced these purchasers to risk their money in this way. They bought these bonds out of greed. We shouldn't weep too much if they suffer losses instead.”
The Treasury Secretary took some solace in the fact that “the Democrats' core constituencies are largely safe from this risk. People on food stamps and welfare don't buy these bonds. Most of the working class owes more than they own. An inflation that wipes out the value of government debt would also wipe out the value of their debt. So we're pretty confident that the Party isn't exposed to any retribution at the polls.”
Head Start Students Do Worse
The rationale for the federal government's “Head Start” program is to give disadvantaged students a boost with their school work. Sadly, though, a recently completed research study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that students enrolled in the program actually do worse than similarly disadvantaged peers not in the program. The biggest deficits show up in math and behavior.
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urged that “we should not read too much into these findings. Given our society's widespread access to computers, calculators, and cash registers that can do the math for us, proficiency in math may not be as an important a skill as it once was. Many people occupying positions of high authority in our government readily admit a lack of aptitude for math. So, I'd say that discovering that our Head Start students aren't grasping the subject isn't something I'd get worked up about.”
“The important thing is that President Obama has stressed how crucial this program is to his agenda,” Sebelius argued. “While this and previous studies have indicated that there seems to be little tangible benefit from the program, from what I've seen, the intangible gains are significant. When students are joyfully singing the President's praises it is clear that their lives have been improved. I'll take that over a dry comparison of test scores any day.”
The Secretary was disdainful of critics who see a disturbing similarity between the indoctrination of American children and that of North Korean children. “Just because we have our differences with these other cultures doesn't mean that everything they do is wrong,” Sebelius pointed out. “Teaching children respect and reverence for the country's leader strikes me as a very positive objective of our educational system.”
State Senator Wants Crackdown on Anonymous Internet Commentary
Illinois State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation that would require Internet web sites to remove anything posted by an anonymous poster if someone complains about the content. Under the proposed bill, to avoid having his content removed a poster would have to attach his legal name, IP address, and home address.
“As it stands now, pretty much anyone can post anything he wants,” Silverstein complained. “If he does it anonymously someone who is offended by the posting has no recourse other than to try to rebut it in his own post. This may be acceptable for a person who is articulate, but many people aren't.”
Silverstein said he isn't worried that his bill could chill freedom of speech. “Freedom of speech shouldn't be a 'blank check' to offend other people,” he contended. “There's also a need for government authorities to be able to identify potential troublemakers. Restricting web site access to those willing to give their real names will significantly aid this process. If these potential troublemakers are uncomfortable with identifying themselves to the extent that they refrain from posting undesirable remarks is that really a bad outcome?”
Colorado Representative Apologizes for Remarks
Democratic Colorado state Representative Joe Salazar issued an apology for suggesting that women fearful of being raped couldn't be trusted with guns.
“It was not my intent to offend anyone,” Salazar maintained. “It's just that I don't believe more guns are the answer to any public safety problem. I think that if a woman has a gun a dangerous situation could easily be escalated from rape to homicide. Her having a gun just increases the risk of doubling the casualty count.”
As an alternative to arming themselves Salazar suggested that women who feel threatened should carry whistles. “Most of the time a toot or two will scare off a potential attacker,” he insisted. “If it doesn't it still increases the chances that the rapist will be interrupted or possibly apprehended. The big plus, though, is that the woman will be relieved of the risk of feeling guilty for shooting someone. In my mind, it is better for a woman to be an innocent victim with a clear conscience than to have to bear the blame for harming another person.”