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Whatever Ashton Carter's Views on War Are, He Should Stick to the Pentagon Budget

December 3, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

The White House has apparently settled on Ashton Carter to replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, after other leading candidates withdrew their names from consideration. It can never be a pleasant experience to come into a new job with the baggage of everyone knowing that you were the third or fourth best choice for the position. But that is the least of Carter’s challenges.

He will be expected to manage several ongoing wars, at a time when the public wants to kill bad guys without necessarily using U.S. ground troops to do it. Carter must also oversee numerous major new and costly weapons programs (especially nuclear weapons) in an increasingly tight budgetary environment. The Pentagon’s base budget (excluding the costs of the wars) remains near historic highs in inflation-adjusted terms, and personnel expenses are likely to remain high despite some reductions in the numbers of men and women serving in uniform. The just-released draft budget implements modest cost controls, but the Military Times reports that these “are likely to irritate outside advocates who pushed against any pay and benefits cuts.” Absent significant reform, military pay and benefits will place additional downward pressure on both new weapon R&D and normal operations and maintenance.

On top of all this, the rancor surrounding Hagel’s departure has shone new light on the White House’s tendency to micromanage foreign policy from the West Wing. It is reasonable to ask, “Why would anyone want this job?”

One hopes that experience has taught Dempsey, even if others have failed to grasp it, that the U.S. military is ill-suited to fix Iraq and Syria’s broken politics, the true source of the Islamic State’s strength.”

On the surface, Carter is well-positioned to lead the world’s largest bureaucracy despite all of these challenges. He has arguably been training for the job for well over two decades. He served in the Pentagon during Bill Clinton’s first term, and had been studying security issues going back at least to the 1980s. He has therefore won early praise from the Wall Street Journal’s editors for being an experienced “technocrat” who can hit the ground running.

Carter is also presumed to be sufficiently hawkish to satisfy pro-war pundits — or at least more hawkish than Hagel, who was excoriated during a brutal nomination battle for daring to question whether the Iraq war was such a good idea and for seeming …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Paul Introduces Declaration of War Against Islamic State

December 3, 2014 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -Sen. Rand Paul today introduced S.J. Res. 46, to declare that a state of war exists between the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State (ISIS) and the government and people of the United States. ‘I believe the President must come to Congress to begin a war and that Congress has a duty to act. Right now, this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it,’ Sen. Paul said.TEXT OF RESOLUTION:Whereas Article I, section 8, of the United States Constitution provides, ‘The Congress shall have the Power to … declare war’;Whereas President George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, lectured: ‘The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress. Therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure.’;Whereas James Madison, father of the Constitution, elaborated in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: ‘The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.’;Whereas James Madison wrote in his Letters of Helvidius: ‘In this case, the constitution has decided what shall not be deemed an executive authority; though it may not have clearly decided in every case what shall be so deemed. The declaring of war is expressly made a legislative function.’;Whereas the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State has declared war on the United States and its allies; andWhereas the Islamic State presents a clear and present danger to United States diplomatic facilities in the region, including our embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and consulate in Erbil, Iraq: Now, therefore, be itResolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Declaration of War against the Organization known as the Islamic State’.SEC. 2. DECLARATION OF A STATE OF WAR BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST THE ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS THE ISLAMIC STATE.(a) Declaration.-The state of war between the United States and the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been thrust upon …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Speaks in Support of Military Justice Improvement Act

December 3, 2014 in Politics & Elections

Sen. Rand Paul yesterday joined Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and retired Air Force Chief Prosecutor Colonel Don Christensen to renew the push for passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act at a press conference. This bipartisan piece of legislation will combat sexual assault and other violent crimes in the U.S. military by restructuring the way in which they are reported and prosecuted. Sen. Paul’s remarks can be found below. CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL’S REMARKS AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE

### …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Does Financing Spur Small Business Productivity?

December 3, 2014 in Economics

Access to adequate financing is an important issue for firms, particularly younger and smaller ones. Given the role these firms play in the process of creative destruction, alleviating financial constraints for start-ups and small businesses is an important concern around the world. New research by Karthik Krishnan, Debarshi Nandy and Manju Puri establishes that greater access to financing leads to higher firm level productivity, particularly for financially constrained firms. Banking deregulations alleviated such constraints, leading to an increase in productivity.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Repeal and Replace the Immigration and Nationality Act

December 3, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

President Obama’s executive action on immigration revealed some deep-seated problems with our immigration laws. They include broad grants of presidential discretion, arbitrary immigration restrictions, and complicated quotas that make a mockery of James Madison’s vision of the Constitution. Obama’s executive actions should be seen as a logical consequence and feature of our immigration laws, not some overreach that shreds them.

Obama’s actions, combined with our dysfunctional immigration laws, hint at a radical solution: scrap the Immigration and Nationality Act altogether and replace it with laws that actually work.

Our immigration laws, written by Congress over the centuries and kludged into the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952, delegate significant power to the president to defer the deportations of unlawful immigrants, grant some of them temporary work permits, and allow migrants into the country for humanitarian and other purposes.

Obama’s executive actions should be seen as a logical consequence and feature of our immigration laws, not some overreach that shreds them.”

The laws provide numerous specific statutory avenues by which the President can defer deportations. As the Supreme Court observed in the 2012 case of Arizona v. United States, “[d]iscretion in enforcing immigration laws embraces immediate human concerns” that extend to economic and other humanitarian imperatives.

Even though the president’s actions are likely legal, they do raise troubling constitutional concerns. Congress’ vague and poorly-written immigration laws grant wide authority to the President. Constitutional law professor Josh Blackman wrote, “in most cases the legislative branch has delegated to the president the sole responsibility to decide what the law should be, how and when to implement it, and even whether to enforce it at all.”

Worse than the delegation of power to the president, our immigration laws are a convoluted maze of gobbledygook. California Associate Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. wrote that our immigration laws are “second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.” Conservative U.S. appellate lawyer John Elwood, who has argued seven cases before the Supreme Court, wrote , “It’s well known that prolonged exposure to the hyper-reticulated Immigration and Nationality Act can actually cause your brain to melt.”

Such an inscrutable body of law has several consequences. First, it has produced a thoroughly unjust immigration system that primarily serves to harm immigrants and Americans alike. It shuts out virtually all foreigners who want to come here legally. And it effectively makes broad use of executive authority inevitable.

These problems can only …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Paul Appears on Fox's The Kelly File- December 2, 2014

December 3, 2014 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Rand Paul Finds Victory and Anger on the Campaign Trail

December 3, 2014 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Increasingly, it seems more Americans are becoming less influenced by their political parties when casting their votes, as Republican Rand Paul is finding out.

Writer and “liberal Democrat” H.A. Goodman explains in a recent column for Huffington Post: “I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life, but in 2016, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will be my choice for president (on) issues that affect the long-term survival of this country” (“I’m a Liberal Democrat. I’m Voting for Rand Paul in 2016. Here Is Why,” Goodman, Huffington Post, Nov. 17).

Among the present dangers he lists is the Barack Obama-led Democratic Party’s “domestic spying (on Americans) that could eventually lead to a police state.”

Constitutionalist Rand Paul is a champion of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of our communications being free from government surveillance.

Explains Goodman: “Rand Paul has shown that he bucks both the Republican and Democratic penchant for succumbing to public opinion, an overreaction to the terror threat, and a gross indifference to an egregious assault on our rights as citizens.”

But Paul’s insistence on fundamental constitutional principles led to hostility from certain civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, when he was directly responsible for the recent failure of the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act.

As Ronald Bailey reports on Reason.com, this bill would have limited “the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.”

The bill, having never made it to the Senate floor, received 58 votes, two short of those needed for debate.

The bill also would have strengthened the Constitution in other ways, yet one of the votes against it was Paul’s.

How come? The senator emailed various news outlets the next day: “I think NSA reforms are necessary,” but “I stood on principle by opposing a bill that (also) included a provision reauthorizing elements of the PATRIOT Act that violate the Bill of Rights.”

Reason’s Bailey further explains: “Paul specifically objected that the act would extend three provisions of the PATRIOT Act beyond their June 1, 2015, sunset dates to 2017.

“These include bulk collection of records under Section 215 (even without the limitations on the collection of records that the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations wanted), secret ‘lone wolf’ surveillance of non-U.S. persons not affiliated with any terrorist organization, and roving wiretaps that allow one authorization to cover multiple devices — say, an unnamed suspect’s cell phone, computer and tablet.”

That could have …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Tax Non-Reform Bill

December 3, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

There have been few occasions over the past six years when I have found reason to praise President Obama. Rarer still are the times that I have been critical of a proposal to cut taxes. But in threatening to veto the so-called “tax extenders” legislation currently making its way through the lame-duck Congress, the president may be doing the right thing.

As with most bad legislation, the tax-extenders bill has bipartisan support, ranging from Harry Reid on the left to Senator Jim Risch from Idaho on the right. But if this is an example of Congress “getting things done,” we would be better off with more gridlock.

That is not to say that the extenders legislation contains no good ideas. Some portions are valuable, such as making the research-and-experimentation tax credit permanent and continuing an immediate write-off for some types of small-business investment. But most of the legislation is a grab bag of special-interest giveaways.

In threatening to veto the so-called “tax extenders” legislation currently making its way through the lame-duck Congress, the president may be doing the right thing.”

The “green energy” lobby is a big winner, as usual. For example, the bill would extend the wind-production credit through 2017, at a cost of around $20 billion. Electric cars have long been subsidized by the government, of course, but this legislation would also extend the tax credit for electric motorcycles, three-wheeled vehicles, and low-speed vehicles. There is also the usual collection of tax breaks for the makers of energy-efficient appliances and the builders of environmentally conscious homes. And of course it wouldn’t be a proper piece of special-interest legislation without a tax credit for the producers of cellulosic biofuels — that is, ethanol.

Hollywood also gets a reward, in the form of an extension of special expensing rules for movie and television production. Other winning industries include railroads and NASCAR, which continues to receive its special depreciation rules. Actually, Congress appears to like all types of racing, since the owners of race horses under three years old also get a special depreciation schedule.

And if all this drives you to drink, don’t worry. There’s a provision extending the special tax break for Puerto Rican rum.

Even the few provisions designed to help ordinary taxpayers are likely to have unintended consequences. For example, state income taxes have long been deductible from federal taxes, but this legislation would allow taxpayers to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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An Innovative Approach to Land Registration in the Developing World

December 3, 2014 in Economics

In all nation states, governments claim the right to control and regulate land use and to allocate land rights within their sovereign territory. However, in most poor countries, the actual practices on the ground differ substantially from the government’s records and rules. A new paper by Peter F. Schaefer and Clayton Schaefer suggests that informal communities and support organizations can and should engage in self-registration of property and transactions, in essence bypassing incompetent, inefficient, or hostile land registry bureaucracies, until they reach the critical mass necessary to achieve formal recognition of their land rights.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES