Nah, obviously not, but I say that because we learned on Wednesday that yet another semi-prominent Bay State Republican -- Sean Bielat -- will not run for the seat.
Republican Sean Bielat announced Wednesday that after mulling for less than a week, he will not join in the special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry in the U.S. Senate.
The two-time congressional candidate said in an email to supporters that his candidacy never left the exploratory phase, although he recently filed papers with the Federal Election Commission as well as an official statement of candidacy for the Senate seat.
"The numbers looked pretty good and the fundraising went well so I think we could have mounted strong campaign but now is just not the right time for us," Bielat said. "After spending some time thinking it through with Hope, we decided running another campaign just wasn't a good fit for our family right now, given the age of our one and two year old children and their needs."
Bielat is well-known throughout the Bay State (and the nation, too, I suppose) as the former Marine officer who came unexpectedly close to unseating longtime Congressman Barney Frank in 2010. He came up short, of course, but not before making a name for himself and laying the foundation for his political career (although it’s worth pointing out that he later lost his second bid for Congress in 2012 to Joseph Kennedy III by a demoralizing, double-digit margin).
That being said, with Scott Brown, William Weld, Richard Tisei, and now Sean Bielat all opting to sit this race out -- who’s willing to step up to the plate and (presumably) take on Ed Markey? Well, there’s at least one candidate I think we should all start paying close attention to. Meet Gabriel Gomez, a Hispanic former Navy Seal and private equity investor:
We’ll be keeping two eyes on Gomez until June, as the run-up to the Republican primary will provide a lot more exposure to this promising contender. Remember, Scott Brown was a relatively unknown candidate when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 2009.
So who’s to say Mr. Gomez -- or some other candidate with limited current name recognition -- can’t do the same thing in 2013? We’ll see.
Nearly three-fourths of New Jerseyans support the way Republican Governor Chris Christie is running their state, according to a brand new survey conducted by Quinnipiac University.
It's good to be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday shows the Republican with a sky-high approval rating of 74 percent -- the highest a Garden State governor has ever recorded in the 17-year history of the Quinnipiac poll -- and he leads his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, by 37 percentage points.
The new survey is just the latest indication that the bounce Christie received following Hurricane Sandy has yet to recede. In mid-October, his approval rating stood at a solid 56 percent, but that pales in comparison to his current poll numbers.
"Most governors would kill for a 56 percent job approval rating," said Mickey Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Christie gets that from Democrats!"
Christie leads Buono in this November's general election, 62 percent to 25 percent, the poll shows. Buono does lead among Democrats, 51 percent to 31 percent, but that is almost entirely based on party cues. Respondents were told that Buono is a Democrat, and Christie is a Republican.
The vast majority of voters, 83 percent, say they don't know enough about Buono to have an opinion of her, including 81 percent of Democrats. The percentage of voters who have no opinion of Buono has remained in the low-80s in the three polls Quinnipiac has conducted since November of last year.
The poll does contain some bad news for Christie. Asked whom they would support in a 2016 presidential matchup between Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 49 percent of Jersey voters choose Clinton, compared to just 45 percent for Christie. But Christie fares much better against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, leading 54 percent to 36 percent.
The poll was conducted Feb. 13-17, surveying 1,149 registered voters. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points.
But not all Americans (or conservatives, for that matter) are fans of Chris Christie. Indeed, for an interesting take on the governor's antics during the 2012 election cycle -- as well as his unforgettable, blistering condemnation of Congressional Republicans last January -- read my colleague Katie Pavlich’s exclusive column in the March issue of Townhall Magazine.
You can purchase a copy by clicking here.
Guy covered this in detail a few days ago, but there’s at least two points worth re-emphasizing: (1) The budget process commonly known as “sequestration” originated in the corridors of the White House, and was signed into law by President Obama himself. Hence, the president’s insistence that Republicans are somehow solely responsible if the negotiations fail -- and the cuts kick in -- is erroneous. (2) The negative consequences of sequestration -- discussed endlessly by this president and his lieutenants -- are exaggerated to a mystifying degree. Yuval Levin blew the lid off Team Obama’s opportunism and endless fear-mongering yesterday in a piece at National Review Online:
Let’s get a grip. In its first year, fiscal year 2013, which ends September 30, the sequester would involve a total of $85 billion in spending cuts. That’s a reduction of 3% from what federal spending otherwise would have been this year.But even that significantly overstates the effects the sequester would actually have this year. The federal government is so lumbering and huge that it can’t even reduce its own spending that quickly. That’s why “first year” cuts are always so difficult in even the most fiscally conservative budget proposals. The Congressional Budget Office (on page 11 of its latest budget outlook, published earlier this month) estimates that while FY 2013 spending will ultimately be reduced by $85 billion, “discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year as a direct result of those procedures; additional reductions in outlays attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years.” So in this fiscal year, we would actually be looking at a $44 billion spending cut, or less than a 1.5% reduction from what federal spending otherwise would have been. It would mean that federal spending in 2013 will be about $3.553 trillion. In 2012, federal spending was $3.538 trillion. Yes, that means that even with the sequester we will be spending slightly more in 2013 than we did in 2012. In fact, we will be spending more than we did in any year in American history except for 2011 (when we spent $3.598 trillion). Here’s a quick sense of what we’re looking at (the historical figures are from this CBO spreadsheet and the 2013 ones are from this one, both are updated as of earlier this month):
In other words, the sun will still rise on March 1, 2013 if the “sequestration” cuts go into effect. Murderous criminals will not go free and millions of Americans won’t die of food poising. Put simply, these cuts are anything but “draconian” (from the article):
This is not to say that “sequestration” is sound public policy, although I think (like most liberal ideas) it was well-intentioned. (Clearly, it is far from sound). But it is worth pointing out that the president is once again trying to demonize his political opponents and absolve himself of any wrongdoing by not letting this latest crisis “go to waste.”
For what it’s worth, “sequestration” will do absolutely nothing to solve the nation’s long-term budget deficit problem. And yet the president’s histrionics suggest Republican obstructionists are actively seeking to destroy America.
We shouldn’t let him get away with it.
What happens when a city government tries to tax, spend, and borrow its way to prosperity? Hint: it goes broke:
A state-appointed review team has determined Detroit is in a financial emergency, paving the way for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint an emergency manager who would need to come up with a new plan to get the city out of its fiscal crisis.
The team released its findings Tuesday, saying in a report to Snyder that "no satisfactory plan exists to resolve a serious financial problem."
The review team pointed to the city's ongoing cash crisis, which have threatened to leave the city without money to pay its workers or other bills. It noted that the city's deficit could have reached more than $900 million in fiscal year 2012 if the city had not borrowed enormous amounts of money; that Detroit has long-term liabilities, including underfunded pensions, of more than $14 billion; and that the city's bureaucratic structure makes it difficult to solve the financial problems.
"The cash condition has been a strain on the city," said state Treasurer Andy Dillon, a member of the review team. "The city has been running deficits since 2005 ... (and) masking over those with long-term borrowing."
Under Michigan law, Snyder has 30 days to decide for himself whether there's a financial emergency. Mayor Dave Bing would have 10 days to request a hearing. Snyder could then revoke his decision or appoint an emergency manager.
Sure, Governor Snyder has exactly one month to appoint an emergency manager to handle the city’s finances. But declaring bankruptcy might be Detroit’s only option at this point:
However, others said that even with an emergency manager, municipal bankruptcy may be the city's only way out of the financial mess.
"Is it imminent? Well not tomorrow," said Doug Bernstein, managing partner of the Banking, Bankruptcy and Creditors' Rights Practice Group for Michigan-based Plunkett Cooney law firm "You need to give a financial manager the opportunity to formulate a plan and let the plan have a chance to succeed or fail. It may not avoid a bankruptcy, but you don't need to do a bankruptcy today."
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said he will review the team's report carefully.
"He won't make a determination immediately, but sooner rather than later," she said. "The governor believes that a strong and successful Detroit is key to Michigan's continued comeback."
Detroit’s systemic budgetary and spending problems should be a wake up call to members of both political parties. But at least Republicans seem to understand that a government that spends more money than it takes in every single year is destined to go bankrupt. Remember: Congressional Republicans actually pass budgets and want to cut federal spending; the same can’t be said about Congressional Democrats.
Syndicated columnist Mark Steyn calls America the Brokest Nation in History and perhaps he’s correct. But I can assure you that if Detroit’s political leaders continue down the reckless fiscal path they’re on, the once thriving metropolis will one day be known for something else: being the Brokest City in America.
Appearing on “Hannity” Wednesday evening, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin said the president “told lie after lie after lie” during his “Castro-like” State of the Union address and had no qualms whatsoever about misleading the American public:
That’s a pretty grim appraisal of life in America in 2013, although we should probably expect more of the same for the next four years. After all, Mitt Romney did in fact make these exact same arguments during the 2012 election cycle, but the public nevertheless endorsed the status quo by the slimmest of margins. But the status quo is unsustainable, of course. Which is why Charles Krauthammer’s assessment of the president’s prime-time speech was equally as harsh (via Ed Morrissey):
"You say it was a poverty of ideas. I think it was a throwback to mid-twentieth century liberalism. It was a pre-Clintonian tax-and-spend. We have a program for every human ill and the reason it won’t increase the deficit is cause we will tax accordingly."
Interestingly, for his part, NRO’s Yuval Levin raises an important point about the president’s annual address: Because “real progressives” passionately oppose (among other things) entitlement and tax reform and fixing America’s broken public education system, the president is genuinely hamstrung. There’s simply no policy ideas he can advance that would benefit middle class Americans (except handing out more government benefits) that his base could or would support. This is quite the dilemma for the White House, he argues, but very good news for Republicans:
This suggests a huge opening for Republicans—an opportunity to advance a prosperity agenda with direct benefits for middle-class families and which the Democrats could not really match. It also suggests that we should expect more empty speeches from the president in the coming years, and that for all that liberals today feel ascendant and empowered, they are both exhausted and vulnerable. If Obama is as true a modern progressive as his second inaugural suggested, then he will not be well positioned to get the Left out of this difficulty. And if Republicans move to capitalize on the opportunity (which is still a big “if”), Democrats could find themselves in serious political trouble relatively quickly. There will surely be steps they can take to alleviate that trouble, but voting on gun control and cap-and-trade are not among them.
We’ll find out if the Democrats really are in trouble in 2014. But in the meantime, go read about how the president’s job approval ratings already seem to be plummeting.
Ugh. It’s probably a good idea to finally accept the fact (if you haven’t already) that the American left’s unquenchable thirst for ever-higher taxes on “the rich” will never, ever be satiated, no matter how much money they get. Only if we tax upper incomes earners more, they insist with a smile and a straight face, can we finally find a “balanced approach” to solve the greatest fiscal challenges of our time. This is nonsense, of course, but Democrats in Washington seem utterly incapable of facing reality and accepting hard-truths. Enter Harry Reid (via Daniel Halper):
"Democrats believe we should replace this harsh austerity with a balanced approach that targets wasteful spending and tax loopholes," said Harry Reid, "and ask the wealthiest among us to contribute a little more to reduce the deficit."
As Halper notes, the Republicans in Congress recently agreed to about $617 billion in tax increases on “the wealthy” during the fiscal cliff negotiations. This isn’t chump change, my friends -- and yet Reid’s assertion suggests that this never actually happened. One would think moving forward there would be an implicit understanding between both political parties that since Senate and House Republicans capitulated on tax hikes in good faith, Democrats would now be willing to roll up their sleeves and get serious about Washington’s very serious spending problem. No sir. The Democrats have zero interest in confronting reality, even though it’s staring them blankly in the face. They want more taxes increases -- and they're going to fight tooth and nail every single day to get them.
If PBS says it’s true -- it must be, right?
Allahpundit is “extremely skeptical” that the White House staff made such a “crucial error” and didn’t realize Ryan would accept the invitation, even though they invited him. And so am I. The way I see it, though, there are at least three possible explanations for what happened. (1) The president never expected Ryan to show up, let alone sit in the front row, and his advisors couldn’t get to him in time before he took the stage. (2) The president did realize Ryan was in attendance, but by the time he found out it was simply too late to change the teleprompter -- and he wasn’t willing to speak extemporaneously. (3) The president knew Ryan came and just didn’t care.
Doorway number three sounds most probable. But feel free to draw your own conclusions and leave them in the comments section below.
(H/T Matt Lewis)
The leaked DOJ memo outlining the Obama administration’s legal justification for assassinating American born citizens on foreign soil has divided lawmakers in Washington, and the public at large. But the use of the drone strikes generally is actually quite popular, at least according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center (via The Washington Times):
"While U.S. drone strikes have faced new scrutiny in recent weeks, a majority of the public continues to support the program. Overall, 56 percent approve of the U.S. conducting missile strikes from pilotless aircraft to target extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; just 26 percent say they disapprove," notes a survey released Monday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Amazingly enough, the political parties almost agree on this. Almost.
The pollsters found that 68 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats approve of the strikes.
Partisan opinion diverges elsewhere in the survey:
53 percent of Americans overall are concerned the strikes could endanger civilians; 37 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats agree.
32 percent overall are concerned the strikes could lead to retaliation from extremists; 22 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats agree.
Most Americans -- more than half, in fact, according to the poll -- presumably support the program because it allows the U.S. government to kill enemy combatants without risking American lives. But does the program need greater oversight? Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates certainly thinks so:
"And so I think -- I think this idea of being able to execute, in effect, an American citizen, no matter how awful, having some third party being ... having a say in it or perhaps some -- informing the Congress or the intelligence committees or something like that ... I think some check on the ability of the president to do this has merit, as we look to the longer term future."
This sounds reasonable to me. After all, the current policy gives the president of the United States and his top advisors a “license to kill” -- that is to say, the administration can effectively assassinate any American citizen they deem a national security threat to the United States in part because there's no government oversight or accountability whatsoever. If anything, this is precisely what the Founding Fathers feared: concentrated and unchecked power in the hands of one man (or a group of men). Checks and balances and the separation of powers are staples of American democracy. We’d do well to remember that.
Even though the president only mentioned the word “jobs” three times in his second inaugural address, he nevertheless wants us to believe that the economy is his “number one priority”, according to ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. Hmm:
In contrast to his inaugural address, President Obama’s State of the Union speech will focus primarily on jobs and the economy, outlining new initiatives on manufacturing, education, clean energy and infrastructure.
He will elaborate on the big themes of the inaugural — immigration, gun violence and climate change — but a top White House official tells me the State of the Union will have a “heavy economic focus,” specifically on “the middle class as the driver of economic growth.”
To drive home the point that the president sees jobs and the economy as his number one priority, the president’s travel after the speech will be used to promote his new economic initiatives.
The new initiatives will entail new federal spending, but the spending will be off-set by reductions elsewhere in the federal budget. In terms of cost, these initiatives will be relatively modest: the days of big economic stimulus programs are over.
The president will use his speech to warn Congress to avoid automatic spending cuts — the dreaded “sequester” — scheduled to go into effect on March 1. The across-the-board cuts, the president will warn, would jeopardize the economic recovery and endanger national security.
But the president will also make what the official called “a progressive case for deficit reduction” — warning that if entitlement spending is not brought under control it will crowd out spending on other social programs that progressives hold dear.
The president has zero interest in reducing the deficit. Remember, then-candidate Obama called George W. Bush “unpatriotic” in 2008 for adding $4 Trillion to the national deficit in eight years. This was “irresponsible,” he said, and pledged -- if elected -- to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. He won that election but then promptly broke his promise by adding more than $5 Trillion to the national deficit in his first term alone.
So where are we now? Nearly $17 Trillion in debt and headed straight for a European-style debt crisis.
Meanwhile, the president and the House Minority Leader don’t believe America has a spending problem. Incredible. As I noted yesterday, wasteful government spending is one major reason why private sector job growth is so anemic. Question: How can anyone possibly hope to solve a problem if they don’t understand one of its root causes?
The president can say all he wants about growing the economy and “putting Americans back to work” on Tuesday, but actions speak louder than words. Rhetoric notwithstanding, I genuinely hope that he will forthrightly address the scarcity of jobs in America. At this point, unfortunately, it seems -- like always -- that this president has other priorities.
It’s a well-established fact that members of Congress more often than not leave Washington far richer than when they arrived. (Just look at how Harry Reid made his money, for example). But at a time of such high unemployment and trillion dollar-plus deficits, should members of Congress really be making $174,000 a year? Perhaps they should. But while this never-ending debate rages on, it’s comforting to know that at least some Congressional lawmakers (mostly Republicans, it seems) recognize the glaring disconnect between Washington’s rich and famous and the average working American. And, to their credit, they are trying to do something about it (via The Hill):
House and Senate lawmakers are seeking to slash their salaries with bills seeking cuts ranging from 10 percent to all of their pay.
The bipartisan efforts come at a time when congressional approval ratings are near record lows.
In a little more than one month since the 113th Congress convened, at least 16 bills have been introduced to downsize members’ paychecks.
The belt-tightening measures range in scope.
Some, such as Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) measure S. 65, would repeal the law that allows for an automatic lawmaker pay increases. There are several companion versions of the measure on the House side.
Others bills are more stringent, calling for decreases in salary as long as the federal government runs a budget deficit.
For example, GOP Reps. Morgan Griffith (Va.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) would require a 10 percent across the board cut for lawmakers, the vice president and the president.
“We as elected officials should show that solving America’s biggest challenge is personal to us, too. We’re past due for Congress and the White House to consider major reforms to our federal budget, but we can give those needed reforms a jumpstart by beginning with our own salaries,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement of her “Saving Starts with Us Act.”
House GOP Conference Vice-Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) introduced a harsher measure to decrease lawmaker’s salaries by 20 percent.
Jenkins’ “Congressional Pay Adjustment Act,” which has no co-sponsors, would “reduce the annual rates of pay for members of Congress by 20 percent, and to prohibit an adjustment in such rates during a year unless the federal government did not run a deficit in the previous fiscal year.”
To be clear: I am very much in favor of Senators and Representatives collecting paychecks. The Founders were explicit on this point: if lawmakers didn’t get paid, only “the rich” (I’m borrowing a line from the president here) would be able to serve (and stay) in high federal office. And that would have disturbing implications for a country unambiguously founded on the principle of self-government.
But in any case, how -- might you ask -- does the public at large feel about cutting Congress’ salaries? In short, they love the idea:
According to a recent poll taken by the Rasmussen polling company, 81 percent of respondents want to see even deeper lawmaker pay cuts.
The poll, taken Jan. 19-20 of 1,000 likely voters, found that a majority of respondents said lawmakers should take a 25 percent pay cut until the budget is balanced.
Of course, just like the president’s recent tax hikes, slashing congressional salaries will neither begin reducing the deficit (in any meaningful way) nor get our fiscal house in order. That said, members of Congress clearly aren’t doing their jobs (Democrats in the Senate haven’t passed a budget in almost four years) and yet are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, while so many hard working middle class Americans (who actually pay their salaries) are struggling to make ends meet.
Perhaps we should lobby Congress to cut their salaries not simply because they make too much money, but because they haven’t earned them. That seems pretty reasonable to me ... don't you think?
BREAKING: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Gang of Eight Immigration Reform Bill | Daniel Doherty