Voting to Save Pork Programs Doesn’t Save Allen West

House freshman Allen West (R-FL) – a tea party and Fox News favorite – finally conceded defeat to his Democratic opponent on Tuesday. According to a Politico article, “The congressman’s unexpected loss left his advisers, donors and legion of tea party fans searching for answers.” Here’s one answer: West’s hypocritical votes in favor of federal programs that…

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‘Mediscare’ and the Pennsylvania Senate Race

Back in August, Cato adjunct scholar Veronique de Rugy expressed concern about Republican campaign rhetoric on Medicare. As Republicans tell it, they want to “protect” and “strengthen” Medicare, whereas President Obama wants to “cut” and “weaken” it. Veronique thinks that the GOP’s “Mediscare” campaign could end up backfiring by making it harder to reform Medicare if Republicans succeed in taking control of Washington.

What I find irritating is that for all the standard platitudes from Republicans about getting federal spending under control, they’re simultaneously attacking Democrats for allegedly wanting to cut the budget’s big-ticket items like Medicare and military spending. Democrats might deserve it for decades of trying to scare the pants off of seniors, but the GOP’s adoption of their tactics is evidence in support of the view that the parties merely represent two sides of the same coin. (Don’t forget the last big expansion of entitlements came from the Republican-engineered addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare in 2004.)

That brings me to the Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate , where Republican challenger Tom Smith is trying to unseat Democrat Bob Casey. Smith is apparently in striking distance after months of running television ads attacking Casey. However, one particular ad being run by the Smith campaign is a good example of how low Republicans have sunk when it comes to Mediscaring:

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Members of Congress Financially Benefit from Legislation They Support

A Washington Post investigation found that 73 members of Congress have “sponsored or co-sponsored legislation in recent years that could benefit businesses or industries in which either they or their family members are involved or invested.” Here’s the part that caught my eye: When the House and Senate wrote their first set of modern ethics rules in the…

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Subsidies for Electronic Medical Records Leads to Higher Medicare Bills

Government subsidies often produce unintended consequences. The latest example comes from the New York Times, which reports that federal subsidizes to encourage doctors and hospitals to use electronic billing and recording records are leading to larger Medicare bills. That means that taxpayers are taking a double hit even though policymakers claimed that electronic record-keeping would make health care delivery more efficient, and thus less costly.

From the article:

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The ‘No More Solyndras Act’ Charade

Last week, the House passed the “No More Solyndras Act” on a mostly party-line vote. However, instead of terminating the Department of Energy loan guarantee program that subsidized Solyndra and other boondoggles, the bill allows applicants who filed before the first of this year to still receive handouts. The DOE will still have $34 billion in…

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How GOP Freshmen Voted on Continuing Resolution

Last week, the House passed a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded for the next six months. Republicans and Democrats were eager to avoid a budget fight—and possibly a government shutdown—with little more than a month to go before the elections. With that potential distraction out of the way, the two sides can now focus on convincing voters that their brand of big government is the superior choice.

Politico has a good breakdown of the CR’s contents. Here are a couple of snippets:

[The continuing resolution] restores the higher spending targets set in the Budget Control Act—and with such haste and pique—that billions will go out without any distinction between the merits of different programs. Labor, health, and education spending that’s so often targeted for cuts by the GOP will grow by close to $1 billion. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission budget, the bane of anti-regulatory forces, inches up again, albeit far less than the White House requested…

The new top line for non-emergency appropriations will be $1.047 trillion, an $8 billion increase over what the Congressional Budget Office estimates is the current rate of spending… But in their desire to keep the bill simple—and move fast—Republicans opted to distribute most of the increase, $5.9 billion, through a mechanical formula that automatically ups most accounts by 0.612 percent.

As Roll Call noted earlier in the week, the CR vote represented a test for Republican freshmen, a.k.a., the “Tea Party Class”:

The defining narrative of this Congress has been deficit reduction, pushed mostly by an anti-government-spending class of 87 freshman House Republicans. But as November inches closer, Members will have to balance their promises to slash spending against the reality that a shutdown could be an irreversible gamble in their bid to win back the Senate and White House. For his part, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seems optimistic, having recently said the group has “matured.”

After the jump, the table shows that only 28 of the 87 Republican freshmen—32 percent—voted against the CR. (A “yes” means they voted against the CR.) I guess that means that, per John Boehner, those 28 members have maturity issues.

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Groundhog Day II: The Fiscal Cliff

Back in May, I said that Congress would avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ by agreeing to some sort of deal that would effectively kick the can down the road (yet again). According to Politico, a group of Senators are considering a can-kicking idea that immediately brought to my mind the movie Groundhog Day: Several sources said the lawmakers are working on…

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Enron: Dependent on Government

A new piece at the Library of Economics and Liberty written by Robert J. Bradley is a timely reminder that it’s often government policies that fosters bad corporate behavior—not the “free market” as the left likes to claim.

Bradley, a sixteen year employee of the now defunct Enron Corporation, demonstrates that the company was actually “a political colossus with a unique range of rent-seeking and subsidy-receiving operations.” Manipulating the tax code, pushing for self-serving government regulations, and grabbing taxpayer handouts were all key components of Enron’s energy empire. It’s not a stretch to suggest that in the absence of government, the Enron story never happens.

In my recent Cato paper on corporate welfare in the federal budget, I discuss the government subsidies that Enron received:

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Food Stamps Growth Has Bipartisan Roots

Republicans are jumping on the news that participation in the food stamps program hit a new record of 46.7 million individuals in June (about one in seven Americans). In a sluggish economy, an increase in food stamps participation is to be expected. Thus, it’s fair to hold up the increase in food stamps usage as being emblematic of the Obama administration’s failed economic policies. In addition, the president’s 2009 “stimulus” bill increased benefits and eligibility.

What Republicans don’t want to acknowledge is the role they played in expanding the food stamps program before President Obama ever took office. The 2002 farm bill—passed by a Republican-controlled House and signed by Republican President George W. Bush—expanded the food stamps program. As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page correctly noted yesterday, “The food-stamp boom began with the George W. Bush Republicans, who expanded benefits in the appalling 2002 farm bill.”

The 2008 farm bill further expanded the program. However, on this the Journal lets the GOP off the hook when it says “But the supercharger was a 2008 bill out of the Pelosi Congress that goosed eligibility and rebranded the program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to reduce the stigma of being on the dole.” Although Bush vetoed that farm bill (he didn’t cite the increase for food stamps in his veto message), congressional Republicans were instrumental in enabling the “Pelosi Congress” to override it. In the House, 99 (out of 195) Republicans joined most Democrats in voting to override the veto. In the Senate, only 12 Republicans voted to sustain Bush’s veto.

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Ryan and the Janesville Plant: the Fact that Matters

The latest conflagration over the media’s attempt to “fact-check” campaigning politicians centers on comments Paul Ryan made in his speech last night about a shuttered GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin:

President Barack Obama came to office during an economic crisis, as he has reminded us a time or two.  Those were very tough days, and any fair measure of his record has to take that into account.  My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.  It is locked up and empty to this day.  And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

A number of “fact checkers” cried foul. The left was pleased. The right was not pleased and has been crying foul on the left and the fact checkers. If you’re unfamiliar with the claims and counter-claims, you can Google the controversy if you’d like because I’m not going bother hyperlinking to all the back-and-forth.

I’m not going to bother because lost in all the predictable haggling between the left and the right over veracity of Ryan’s claim is the fact that really matters: Paul Ryan voted for the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry. In fact, he was 1 of only 32 Republicans to do so

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