Friday night videos episode 29

Back after a one week hiatus, the focus shifts to fiscal responsibility and TEA Parties.

Obviously the GOP is critical of Barack Obama’s policies, and this video explains why.

The same goes for, which reminds us how California got into its financial mess.

Two filmmakers for Americans for Limited Government bring the green jobs fallacy home by looking at the closing of the BP Solar plant in Frederick, Maryland.

Now it’s time for a little bit of tea. But first, it’s interesting to note the tenor of counterprotests, as an alert reader sent me a video from another March 20 rally in Washington D.C. that had little to do with health care.

To echo one commenter, I bet you didn’t see this on the nightly news.

Fellow blogger and patriot Bob McCarty does yeoman’s work covering the TEA Party scene in the St. Louis area. Here I have two videos, one from their weekly (!) rally last weekend and one from their TEA Party Express 3 stop a week or so back.

Finally, here’s local TEA Party organizer Chris Lewis from yesterday’s Salisbury rally as I excerpted the conclusion of his speech. Good background music, too.

Speaking of music, there’s no local music to wrap up this week, but that’s intentional. Next Friday I’m doing another all-music edition of FNV and plan on making it a regular event every 10 episodes (along with placing a music video or two in most other editions.) I look forward to putting it together so hopefully you’ll enjoy watching!

The TEA Party test

It was at this time last year that the TEA Party movement was still in its infancy and doubters were rampant. The conventional wisdom predicted little chance of success for the rash of TEA Parties slated around the April 15th tax filing deadline – perhaps a few dozen cranks would show up, they argued, but real Americans truly didn’t mind the policies put forth by the fledgling Obama administration.

We all know what really happened, though – thousands of angry Americans of all races, religions, and political stripes showed up during that April week. Some came despite weather conditions which could be best described as raw, while others basked in sunshine. To a person, they were sickened by the direction our government had taken over the previous few months as they saw Wall Street banks and auto companies bailed out yet also saw jobs being lost and economic conditions slow to improve despite billions of stimulus dollars spent.

One year later, the job market is somewhat better but nowhere near the halcyon days of sub-5 percent unemployment just a few short years ago. And despite the best efforts of many TEA Party supporters to fight it, Obamacare became the law of the land last month. In the final days of debate, arrogant Democratic leaders baited the protesting crowd hoping to catch an embarrassing incident on video but TEA Partiers refused to swallow the bait. They weren’t exactly civil but no proof of any of the claimed racial slurs or spitting on members of Congress has come to light despite the media’s best efforts.

In fact, recently it was leftist protesters who were caught literally egging on the TEA Partiers – a bus for the “TEA Party Express 3” was pelted with eggs on its way to their initial tour stop in Harry Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, Nevada. So far that bus tour, which will conclude at an April 15th TEA Party in Washington, has drawn significant crowds at most stops.

However, the TEA Party Express tour does have the advantage of national press coverage and an all-star speaking lineup which at various points has included major media personalities and its most famous backer, Sarah Palin. A truer test of the staying power of this movement will come when hundreds of communities around the country host their own local events. Most of these won’t have the star power of the TEA Party Express to boost their numbers.

It’s these local events which have served as the backbone of the movement, and although many have been adopted by larger organizations like the TEA Party Patriots, the bulk of the leadership remains local. Their focus, though, is shifting from fighting the Democrats’ socialist agenda with phone calls, e-mails, and marches on the Capitol to one of cultivating conservative political candidates and getting them elected to office come November.

Certainly a huge turnout for the events next week will bode well for their November hopes, then again, a day is an eternity in the political world and 6½ months could see any number of developments. Still, there are a number of issues for TEA Partiers to fight (cap and trade and amnesty for illegal immigrants being the two chief ones) and it’s doubtful the socialist agenda is going to grind to a halt just because a majority of Americans aren’t behind it. For the most part, these protesters have keep their noses clean and to the grindstone thus far but there’s still a vast amount of work to do before they achieve their goals.

Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer. This cleared the LFS wire just last Tuesday, making this release timely!

Friday night videos episode 28

This won’t be the longest edition of FNV but I think it will be a good one.

The TEA Party Express 3.0 is off and running. While they are coming no closer than Washington, D.C. they had quite the shindig in Searchlight, Nevada as I understand.

With success come imitation, and a candidate billing himself as a “Tea Party” candidate weaseled his way onto the Nevada ballot. The real TEA Partiers want him off.


Another real group of TEA Partiers express their fears of Obamacare thanks to fellow blogger Bob McCarty.

Note to self: remind Bob some of us need a 480-pixel wide format. Same for whoever put this next one up.

Just remember: the speaker in this next one is a Democrat who voted for Obamacare. This video has been viewed over 750,000 times and is proof positive a Congressman is no smarter than us average folk – and in some cases not nearly as bright!

Getting a little more local, fellow Red Maryland blogger Brian Griffiths put together Martin O’Malley’s first campaign advertisement. Surprised? You won’t be after you see this.

Last but certainly not least, here’s the musical portion of the program – old friends and a video shot by my significant other! She taped this last Friday night at Skip Dixxon’s Spring Luau at Pickles Pub in Ocean City. It’s foreshadowing of a post I’m going to try and put up this weekend – another weekend of local rock! But the sizzling coda at the end of this only comes out in video form, darn it!

Until next time, have a great weekend and hopefully I’ll have more goodies for the next edition of FNV!

Thinking about tea

It’s a beautiful morning outside, and the snow pile that lay across the street from the driveway here has finally disappeared, so it must be spring! It’s not the type of morning which makes one think about doing taxes – as it happens, I haven’t done mine yet either – but it is the kind of morning which makes me think about the Tax Day TEA Party coming up in just over a month.

Certainly I hope the weather is more like what we’re enjoying today than the miserable damp and rainy day we endured last year, but the event promises to be bigger and better in many other ways. I know organizers are looking for musical entertainment to help fill a four-hour or so program, and that’s fine.

Yet I don’t necessarily want the event to lose its impact or its message by being bogged down in entertainment. It becomes less of a protest and more of an event like the annual picnic or fireman’s carnival if the pendulum swings too far in that direction.

The thing which appealed to me as I stood on the steps of the Government Office Building last year and said my brief piece was that the people I surveyed weren’t comprised of the same old political crowd I saw at any other party meeting or candidate forum. Instead, I was looking at a crowd of real-life Howard Beales – mad as hell, and they couldn’t take it anymore. Rather than stew about it or yell at the televison news, they came despite the weather to air their own grievances and make their voice heard.

No one knew if this would be a one-shot deal; after all, the naysayers always told us you can’t fight City Hall. But one protest sparked another and with several political battles being fought the anger and frustration were easily channeled into positive directions – in particular, the continuing fight against the takeover of one-sixth of our economy by the federal government. (If Medicare is broke, do we honestly believe putting more people on a similar program will enjoy success?)

So where do TEA Parties go from here? Well, they’ve spawned a copycat movement from their polar opposites, but the Astroturf known as the Coffee Party may not have the passion that it could have had it sprung up a year or two earlier. (Let me throw a question back at those guys – where were you when President Bush was enacting policies you didn’t like?)

But as the TEA Party movement matures there’s a risk that it ossifies into that which we protested against in the first place. While some say there’s room for a third political party, for years we’ve had a third, fourth, fifth, etc. and they’ve made little to no impact. The trick is figuring out how to infiltrate one (or, even better, both) of the major parties yet keep the movement fresh. After all, there’s always the possibility we get what we want, and like a team which wins the World Series after a long losing streak, we need to learn how to stay on top once we arrive there.

The biggest lesson, though, is that things will never again be as they once were. The TEA Party isn’t going to be the new cool thing forever but tyranny has been around as long as we’ve recorded history. In a time where fifteen minutes of fame is rapidly becoming fifteen seconds and yesterday’s hero is today’s zero (witness the souring of many on Sarah Palin), even protest has to change and grow.

But it can’t lose sight of the original message, for even when we have success the fight will be to maintain those victories.

Republicans divided

At a time when the political winds should be at their back the Republican Party may be ill-poised to make the electoral gains conventional wisdom and history dictate they should at this fall’s midterm elections.

Nowhere was this more evident than at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, better known by the acronym CPAC. One case in point: Rep. Ron Paul, who showed outstanding fund raising ability but few votes in the 2008 Presidential campaign, won 31% of the vote in a straw poll of preference for the 2012 Presidential nomination. The 76 year old Texas Congressman beat out such luminaries and former candidates as Mitt Romney (who had won the previous three CPAC straw polls), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee was also critical of CPAC, an event he skipped for the first time in several years, noting that the gathering had taken a more libertarian turn and focused less on conservative social issues. He also pointed out that the numerous TEA Parties had taken some of the luster off CPAC – however, over 10,000 participants registered for the event, making its 37th edition the largest ever.

There’s no question the TEA Party movement, which began with rallies about a year ago and became popularized by a nationally televised rant from CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli, has affected the GOP over the last year. While these newly-minted political advocates helped secure Chris Christie’s and Bob McDonnell’s victories in their respective New Jersey and Virginia races for governor and financially put Scott Brown in a position to be elected to the Senate, they also created a rift in the New York 23rd Congressional District race, allowing a Democrat to win there for the first time in over a century. Certainly this movement has caused GOP Chair Michael Steele no shortage of headaches during the first half of his two-year tenure.

Of course, Democrats have taken notice and are attempting to use this rift to their advantage. In Nevada, embattled Senator Harry Reid received some help as a group billing itself as the Tea Party placed a candidate on the November ballot. Organizers of the actual TEA Party movement in Nevada claim they know nothing about candidate Jon Ashjian or the ten people who are listed as the Tea Party’s slate of officers. Yet the group obtained the required 250 signatures and filed the requisite paperwork under the Tea Party moniker. Reid needs the third-party assistance as recent polls show he trails two of the leading GOP contenders, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, by double-digits.

With a mindset of fiscal conservatism and dislike of President Obama’s agenda, those who comprise the TEA Party movement seem like the Holy Grail of supporters for the Republican Party. But many in the GOP establishment dislike the libertarian streak present among TEA Party participants while social conservatives like Huckabee fret their pet issues will continue to get short shrift. And TEA Party protesters themselves dislike many Congressional Republicans who supported unpopular Bush-era policies and entitlements, dismissing them as “Democrat-lite.”

Perhaps herding cats would be an easier task, but to win in November the Republicans will have to walk the tightrope of appeasing their existing base while integrating the TEA Partiers by appealing to their fiscal side. But TEA Partiers don’t mind the Republicans being the “party of no” because they fear the effect of President Obama’s statist policies, so standing firm in opposition and not heeding the siren song of “bipartisanship” with the unpopular Obama agenda may be the key to turning over Congress this fall.

Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

With a personnel change at LFS, apparently they are holding on to these for far less time. This cleared on Tuesday – tomorrow you get last week’s op-ed.

Vote on the Contract FROM America

Earlier today I commented on the newly-minted Mount Vernon Statement, which to me is a noble gesture but seems to fall short on actionable items. After all, most conservatives are America-first, limited-government types who simply want Washington to get out of their way and allow America to continue to be the greatest country on earth – the “shining city on a hill” as it were.

In 1994 Newt Gingrich took similar principles and, with the help of dedicated conservatives, created the Contract With America for Republicans seeking seats in the House of Representatives. The success was obvious as the GOP took over the House for the first time in 40 years and all but one of the ten principles spelled out had some kind of Congressional action (term limits being the exception.) By nationalizing the election, Gingrich and his allies created the impetus for voters to look beyond their district and support a principle of governance.

This time, Newt is a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to the game, and it’s a coalition of conservative groups (including a large number of TEA Party organizers) which are spearheading the effort. And instead of a select cadre determining each planks, this contract is based on input from the grassroots. Ten of these 22 planks will be inserted into the Contract From America.

  1. DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
  2. STOP THE TAX HIKES: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
  3. COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent.
  4. PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
  5. PASS REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM: Greatly improve affordability of health insurance by permitting all Americans access to all health insurance plans sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
  6. ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution.
  7. END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
  8. LET US SAVE: Allow all Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account they own, control, and can leave to whomever they choose.
  9. PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM: No regulation or tax on the Internet.
  10. GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN: Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
  11. PASS AN ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ ENERGY POLICY: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
  12. PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring “localism” or “diversity” quotas.
  13. RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.
  14. PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
  15. REJECT CAP & TRADE: Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
  16. STOP THE PORK: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
  17. NO CZAR REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: All “lawmaking” regulations must be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, as the Constitution requires for all laws.
  18. AUDIT THE FED: Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System.
  19. NO MORE BAILOUTS: The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
  20. STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
  21. SUNSET REGULATIONS: All regulations will be “sunset” after ten years unless renewed by Congressional vote.
  22. LET US WATCH: Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.

Talk about your tough choices! Most of the lot is good, but right off the top I would say that items 7, 20, and 21 would be my favorites.

Number 7 is a slightly adapted form of TABOR laws, with TABOR standing for Taxpayers’ Bill Of Rights. This provides for necessary increases in government but not excessive ones. Yes, there is the weakness of not requiring cuts which should be made (since the natural tendency would be to budget to within a gnat’s eyelash of the limit) but the principle is sound.

I would only change number 20 to a 12+12 rule (6 House terms and 2 Senate terms.) However, the one thing missing from this plank is to restore the states’ voice in the process by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment. The idea of popular election of Senators has shifted the balance in Congress and federalized the government, when the intent was to create tension between states and Washington.

Number 21 might just have been my suggestion from three years ago, back when I did my ’50 year plan’ series. My argument now is the same as it was then – if Congress is busy justifying the renewal of old laws, they may be too busy to think of new ones.

I could probably vote for 10, but it’s likely I’ll only vote for a few to strengthen their position. Bullet voting may be a good practice in this case. In any case, here’s a chance for the people to decide what they think is most important and what they’ll vote to change come November.

Just how essential is “non-essential?”

As the large majority of my readers know – I’ll say large majority because readership is fairly Delmarva-centric but others from across our land stumble onto the site as well – this neck of the woods just endured two significant snow events in a week’s time (and may get another half-foot for the Presidents’ Day holiday.) In each case, state and local government shut down as did the gears of Washington, D.C. Only “essential” workers needed to come in while others were told to stay home or placed on the (aptly-named) “liberal leave policy.”

The obvious question to ask, then, is just how these positions can’t be cut in an era where we all need to cut back on our personal spending due to unemployment, lack of raises, or cutbacks in hours. Sure, there will be some government workers added to the unemployment rolls for a time but leaving capital in the private sector will eventually allow these workers to be absorbed back into the labor pool.

Of course, some would ask about the services which these temporarily furloughed workers were performing to make them non-essential. One example could be the paid staff at one of the many attractions run by the federal government and closed during the height of the storm. Tourism wasn’t exactly bustling during this time when everyone was hunkered down.

Perhaps the biggest shock was the news reports that these unexpected furloughs cost taxpayers $350 million in lost productivity for 3 1/2 days off. Some did their work from home, but if you take that figure and assume 200 days’ work per year it seems like an easy $20 billion cut right there without even breathing hard. It was a tough go for us in the mid-Atlantic region but out in flyover country people survived the lack of non-essential federal services pretty well.

Then again, if the definition of lost productivity includes not dreaming up needless regulations and lobbyists losing a chance to buttonhole their bought and paid for members of Congress on their newest rentseeking schemes (which only qualifies as productivity in the bizarro world of Fedzilla,) $100 million a day might not be a bad price to pay considering the federal government now spends over $10 billion per day.

We are approaching a point where the federal government is taking in less than 60% of what it spends (a $1.6 trillion deficit on $3.8 trillion budget.) Just to make things even we would need to cut entire departments or seriously curtail entitlement programs, or both. The Blizzards of 2010 proved that not everything is a vital function of government; however, the weaning of dependency needs to spread far beyond the borders of the District of Columbia.

Often I write about returning to a government based on the Constitution and much smaller than what we’re saddled with today. Those who more or less agree with me banded together into TEA Parties and eventually took that message to the “belly of the beast.” I’m certain that the vast majority of them would be willing to give up some cherished government service or entitlement as their sacrifice to the cause. To be truly independent and free requires losing the chains of dependence and slavery that Washington puts on us, and the elections of 2010 and 2012 could provide the key.

At that point, perhaps the next “storm of the century” won’t be such a big deal because the federal seat of government will command much less importance in life.

Note: while I was crossposting this to Red County, I ran across a great article by Chip Hanlon about those TEA Partiers – it’s well worth reading. Some places will need these protests longer than others will as there are governmental bodies who are getting the message.