Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oral arguments set for McDonald v. Chicago

From David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy: oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago are set for 1000, Tuesday, 2 March 2010.

Expect to have local law school students, 2A supporters, and civil libertarians camping out on 1st Street, NE waiting for the doors to open. It's chilly here in early March, so camping out on the sidewalk is a sign of real interest and passion. There really isn't anywhere to get food nearby, and there isn't a place to stow your camping gear when you finally get in the door, so there are some logistics-related challenges.

I thought briefly about heading down to witness Heller v. District of Columbia first-hand last year, and I'll probably consider trying to see this case. The audio recording was good, but I would really appreciate getting the total experience. Hearing Alan Gura arguing to overturn the Slaughter-House Cases would be well worth the early morning chill.

McDonald v. Chicago oral argument scheduled

From David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy: oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago are set for 1000, Tuesday, 2 March 2010.

Expect to have local law school students, 2A supporters, and civil libertarians camping out on 1st Street, NE waiting for the doors to open. It's chilly here in early March, so camping out on the sidewalk is a sign of real interest and passion. There really isn't anywhere to get food nearby, and there isn't a place to stow your camping gear when you finally get in the door, so there are some logistics-related challenges.

I thought briefly about heading down to witness Heller v. District of Columbia first-hand last year, and I'll probably consider trying to see this case. The audio recording was good, but I would really appreciate getting the total experience. Hearing Alan Gura arguing to overturn the Slaughter-House Cases would be well worth the early morning chill.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shooting stars

I just looked up and out the window (which looks north, to the Blue Ridge Mountains), and saw what must have been a pretty big meteor moving from east to west. It’s very dark here, and the leaves are off the trees, which gives a good view for very bright objects.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jeffrey S. Flier, Dean of Harvard Medical School speaks out

In a WSJ opinion piece last week, the Dean of Harvard Medical School gives the current health care debate a failing grade.

Our health-care system suffers from problems of cost, access and quality, and needs major reform. Tax policy drives employment-based insurance; this begets overinsurance and drives costs upward while creating inequities for the unemployed and self-employed. A regulatory morass limits innovation. And deep flaws in Medicare and Medicaid drive spending without optimizing care.

Speeches and news reports can lead you to believe that proposed congressional legislation would tackle the problems of cost, access and quality. But that's not true. The various bills do deal with access by expanding Medicaid and mandating subsidized insurance at substantial cost—and thus addresses an important social goal. However, there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care. So the overall effort will fail to qualify as reform.

So the majority of our representatives may congratulate themselves on reducing the number of uninsured, while quietly understanding this can only be the first step of a multiyear process to more drastically change the organization and funding of health care in America. I have met many people for whom this strategy is conscious and explicit.

H/T to Jonathan Adler at Volokh.com. As Professor Adler suggests, I recommend reading the whole piece.

Monday, November 23, 2009

McDonald v. Chicago amici briefs

David Kopel has provided links to some of the amici briefs over at the Volokh Conspiracy.



Congressional (58 Senators, 251 Representatives: a solid bipartisan majority by any measure)

Institute for Justice


These briefs are very accessible, and provide important insight into the meaning and interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Applebees had a Veteran's Day offer going yesterday, so I stopped by the Columbia, MD location last night after work. I hadn't anticipated the crowd -- the line was out the door, and the wait must have been at least an hour. I tried the Alexandria, VA location. (also on the way home) and it was the same story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Couple Sues AARP Over Health Plan Marketing

From The Blog of Legal Times comes a story about Texas couple James and Allison Halpern who are suing AARP in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging deceptive marketing of health insurance.

AARP is an insurance company that has also developed a knack for lobbying. AARP has also turned out to be an effective special interest group in the so-called “Health Reform” effort (which has now morphed into “Health Insurance Reform”, after AARP and the AMA figured out how to shift the debate from cost control to insurance).

John Allen Muhammad

Convicted terrorist, murderer, and conspirator John Allen [Williams] Muhammad should have reached the end of the line by the time I press “Publish” on this post. I was living in the DC area at the time, and recall the fear and disruption that spread across the region during this period. I remember watching the news in the evening, as each new shooting was reported.

He, and his accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, murdered people in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, DC, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was widely reported after the two were caught in Maryland (where most of the killings occurred), that Maryland and DC worked out a deal with Virginia to have them tried here because there was a possibility for the death penalty as a result of the terrorism charge (Muhammad was later convicted of six murders in Maryland, and received six consecutive life terms without possibility of parole). Muhammad earned lethal injection for killing Dean H. Meyers in Manassas, Virginia, while Malvo received life without possibility of parole.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fwd: The Wall

Twenty years ago, the wall came down.

We have a whole generation, now, who have no direct knowledge of Soviet-style communism. Someday, perhaps, someone will be able to say the same about Cuba.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Are Lawyers A Productive Part of Society?

Thoughtful words from Justice Antonin Scalia, courtesy of Paul Cassell at the VC: Are Lawyers A Productive Part of Society?

David Kopel on incorporation

Travel put me a bit behind, so here's a belated link to David Kopel's blog entry at the Volokh Conspiracy yesterday, regarding the issue of incorporation of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution against the states. Incorporation is the central issue behind McDonald v. Chicago, and very important case that will be heard during this session of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I heartily recommend both the short version and the long version, at: Want to do it the easy way, or the hard way?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nina Totenberg’s report re McDonald v. Chicago today

I’ll spare readers my usual quibbles with Nina. What I’m particularly pleased about, in this afternoon’s report, is the phone interview with chief conspirator Prof Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. He was a nice counterpoint to the fellow from Brady, Paul Helmke.

Note the DC = federal enclave connection. That must have caused some tooth-grinding at the Wilson Building (and with the DC voting rights crowd). DC tried playing on both sides of that fence in 2008, between the proposed voting rights legislation and their claim in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Note also the subtle suggestion that Circuit Court Judge Easterbrook (a Reagan appointee) sided with Chicago; I read his decision in McDonald as being consistent with District of Columbia v. Heller, in that 2A incorporation has not been decided [yet] by the U.S. Supreme Court. We’ll know by June 2010 where this issue stands.

McDonald v. Chicago goes to the Supremes

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the plaintiff’s petition for certiorari today, so the case will be heard in the next term. Alan Gura, the attorney who successfully argued District of Columbia v. Heller, will be making another appearance before the court to argue this case.

More facts on the case here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ACORN et. al v. Breitbart.com et. al

The long-awaited civil complaint in the latest ACORN scandal was filed in the Baltimore City Circuit Court today (thanks to Politico for posting the complaint). If this goes much further, expect the legal defense fund to start up pretty quickly.

There’s some nice analysis in the comment threads at Volokh.com.

More great analysis on this saga over at Popehat. My favorite quote?

“Moreover, the suit will allow the defendants — if they don’t get out on a motion to dismiss — to use the discovery process to rampage through ACORN’s records in an effort to prove that any reputational harm to ACORN was a result of ACORN’s actual bad behavior being revealed. Does ACORN really want to roll the dice and count on getting a judge who won’t let the defendants delve deeply into their practices and into the bases for their reputation?”

I feel sorry for the two young filmmakers for having to deal with the legal hassle, but their support network must be huge, so they’ll get through this just fine. The Google search phrase <o'keefe legal defense fund> serves up about 26,400 hits, so the game is on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


After 31 years of military and public service, I started work in the private sector this morning. The last private sector job I had was in 1977 as a computer programmer while I was in college.

Some things are the same, and some are different, but I appreciate both. I had some great time off this summer to really be retired and to enjoy a lot of great time with my kids and my wife, and I was able to get Lorraine packed off on her business trip with everything she needs.

I’ll be working with a lot of old (and new) friends in my new job, and will be able to continue to work to solve the problems to which I’ve devoted the past 16 years of my life. I’m also back in an industrial facility, where real products roll off an assembly line, which I’ve missed since leaving Pomona in the late 80’s. It’s nice to be able to walk from my office to see people working with their hands to build mechanical and electronic assemblies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Office of Thrift Supervision on AIG

Scott M. Polakoff, Senior Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, Office of Thrift Supervision testified before the U.S. Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on 5 March 2009. For whatever reason, his testimony didn't get much play in the so-called mainstream media. I prefer to think that because his easy-to-read and easy-to-follow testimony is so far from the "failure of government regulation" narrative, that the only alternative is to bury the story.

Congress is burying the story, also. The very committee before which Mr Polakoff testified flat-out dropped the ball, either from inattention, incompetence, or, most likely, by letting political and other concerns outweigh the public benefit.

"Consistent with changing business practices and how conglomerates then were managed, in late 2003 OTS embraced a more enterprise-wide approach to supervising conglomerates. This shift aligned well with core supervisory principles adopted by the Basel Committee and with requirements adopted by European Union (EU) regulators that took effect in 2005, which required supplementary regulatory supervision at the conglomerate level. OTS was recognized as an equivalent regulator for the purposes of AIG consolidated supervision within the EU, a process that was finalized with a determination of equivalence by the French regulator, Commission Bancaire."

So, how do individuals in the Congress (such as the grandstanding Sherrod Brown (D-OH), member of the very same U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee) conclude that AIG was unregulated?

“At AIG, it was not enough to insure lives or property or health,” Brown said today at the hearing. “A largely unregulated corner of the company decided it would make enormous bets on exotic financial arrangements—providing insurance where there were no actuarial tables and almost no actual experience. You would think that such a colossal miscalculation would lead to contrition. In the world of Wall Street, you would be wrong.”

Senator Brown, AIGFP didn't, actually, live in "a largely unregulated corner of the company", according to the testimony of the U.S. agency charged with supervision and regulation. But you already knew that, based on Mr Polokoff's testimony 12 days earlier. Also, actuarial tables are appropriate for life insurance, not for other forms of insurance (such as credit default swaps).

Also, Senator Brown, I wouldn't "think that such a colossal miscalculation would lead to contrition", I would think that such a colossal miscalculation would lead to reorganization of the company under U.S. bankruptcy laws. Why didn't we take that step? It sure would have saved a lot of money. In the end, we're going to wind up reorganizing AIG anyway, it'll just be after a previously unbelievable amount of taxpayer wealth has been squandered by a profligate administration and congress.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I can't help but think of Rainn Wilson's character Dwight Schrute in NBC's The Office, whenever I hear about nunchaku.

Eugene Volokh brings us, today, the story of Maloney v. Cuomo, a Second Amendment case concerning the state of New York's 1974 ban on nunchaku. Mr. Maloney, the petitioner in this case, seeks to appeal his case to the SCOTUS, which provides an opportunity to incorporate the 14th Amendment against the states.

Interesting reading...start here:

The Volokh Conspiracy - Kirkland & Ellis Will Ask Supreme Court To Consider Incorporation of Second Amendment, in the Second Circuit's Nunchaku Case:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Personal and economic freedom in the United States: a study

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler posts a link to Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom, recently published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (here in Northern Virginia).

See the data behind the study here.

I'm heartened that Virginia ranks [relatively] high on personal freedom (relative, that is, to many other states) and also relatively high on economic freedom.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Passenger rail economics (and subsidies)

Over at Cato @ Liberty, a piece on Crédit Mobilier as a Model for High-Speed Rail.

Why, if we have such large subsidies for Amtrak, do we think that high-speed rail is affordable? What's changed?

Priorities and their constituencies

Use of sloppy, imprecise language and [intentional] misreading of the U.S. Constitution are favorite gripe of mine, particularly when the abuse of the Constitution is at the hands of our representatives in the Congress.

During yesterday's NPR story on the repeal of the Congress' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly opened the piece with:

For those anxious for the Clinton-era law that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military to be repealed, the wait may be longer than expected.

Longer than expected? Why's that?

While he was on the campaign trail, President Obama promised to work to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." And in January, on the eve of becoming White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs reiterated that Obama would repeal the law.

But Obama can't simply sign an executive order to overturn the law — he has to persuade Congress to change it.

If Robert Gibbs really reiterated that [President] Obama would "repeal the law", I'm hoping that now Mr. Gibbs is in the White House, he has a better grip on the executive powers given to the president by Article II of the U.S. Constitution [hint: the president has no power to repeal a law].

That [obvious] fact aside, why does the 111th Congress need any persuasion?

And Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, says he does not expect the issue to be an early priority for lawmakers.

"I'm going to be working with colleagues to see how much support there is for it," Levin says. "And where along the process we can take that issue up. I just don't think we can give that a high priority, given the situation that we face," like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown.

That's rich. The Congress is spending time on the so-called District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (S. 160 and H.R. 157), including a procedural vote today in the Senate. Given the fact the DC House Voting Rights Act has NOTHING to do with either the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the over-hyped, crisis du jour, "economic meltdown", Sen Levin's explanation seems oddly incomplete. 

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who is sponsoring legislation as early as next week in the House to lift the ban, says it's a significant priority, but not necessarily while Congress is "triaging the effects of very bad tax policy from the Bush administration," and "people are losing their homes and their jobs."

I'd ask Rep. Tauscher why, if "Congress is 'triaging the effects of very bad tax policy from the Bush administration'", the Congress has time to spend on arguably unconstitional legislation that will likely tie up the federal courts.

Also, I hasten to remind readers that the U.S. Constitution contains the following passage: 

"Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

...." -- U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8.

Constitutionally speaking, the tax policy to which Rep. Tauscher (D-CA) refers is tax law, passed by the U.S. Congress. Blaming bad tax law off on the administration does real damage to our citizen's understanding of their constitution, and causes people like me to question if our representatives have read the document lately. Note: the venerable Sen. Byrd (D-WV) is known to carry a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution wherever he goes.

Secretary Gates is then quoted:

" 'Don't ask, don't tell' is law — it is a political decision," Gates says. "And if the law changes, we will comply with the law."

Yep. It's a political decision, made by the U.S. Congress, in accordance with Article I of our constitution. The Congress needs nothing from the administration to change this law.

And Tauscher says the argument about igniting a controversial debate is nonsense.

"I would only say that it is always the right time to right a wrong," she says. "And this has been a very big wrong."

The congresswoman calls repealing the law "the last big piece of civil rights legislation left."

Tauscher plans to introduce the legislation, but she's still waiting to see when the Obama White House will start fighting to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Okay, this is really too much. The administration is unneeded in this discussion, since we're talking about legislation, not regulation. Rep. Tauscher is waiting for the administration to "start fighting"? With what, and with whom? The U.S. Congress? Come on. The Congress is stalling, and it ought to fess up on the issue, instead of generating a smoke screen behind which it can hide.

“America is ready to get rid of the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. All that is required is leadership.” -- President Barack Obama, in a speech to the Human Rights Campaign in November 2007

Actually, all that is required is legislation, and the 111th Congress certainly has proven their ability to pass legislation. So, Rep. Tauscher, let's see some of that leadership that the people in your district sent you to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate. Let the debate begin.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Maureen Dowd on crisis management

Maureen Dowd's column in the New York edition of today's NYT focuses on the administration's approach to describing (and managing) our present economic state of affairs. She makes some interesting (and comment-worthy) points.

In reference to [former] President Bill Clinton's suggestions regarding President Obama's engagement with the American people (and, for that matter, people outside of America whom we expect to loan us a HUGE amount of cash):

Instead, he implies, the president’s warnings of calamity, designed to gin up support for borrowing and printing trillions to shore up the sagging economy, might actually be dragging down our already sagging self-esteem.

It's less self-esteem than it is perception and confidence. We make  decisions based on perceptions of the future. Given a choice between saving, investing [speculating?] in the market (equities or bonds), paying down the mortgage [cost avoidance], or spending, we consciously or unconsciously select between those alternatives based on what we think [feel?] will happen. The alarmist drum-beat of late appears to be a cynical attempt to defuse opposition to the $US 8,000,000,000.00+ deficit spending bill.

It’s hard to muster moxie with stocks shriveling, Chris Dodd talking nationalization, and Paul Volcker making Chicken Little sound cheery — “I don’t remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression,” he said, “when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world.”

Yes, the market has retreated. That's what a market correction does - the market was overpriced for a long time, propped up by massive government intervention and misregulation (e.g., unprecedented and artificially-low interest rates, loan guarantees, nationalized financial institutions, bail-outs). The market will stop dropping as soon as assets are perceived to be priced correctly - no sooner, and no later. Hand-wringing (by politicians or columnists) isn't helpful.

We dutifully cut back on Starbucks macchiatos, designer water and even Girl Scout cookies, but we keep hurtling down.

Strangely tone-deaf for Maureen Dowd. The complaint in the MSM (and amplified by the administration and the Congress) is that AMERICANS ARE HURTING! It isn't about fewer caffè lattes, or drinking [heaven forbid!] tap water, it's about all the people being thrown out of their homes by craven bankers. Isn't it?

Many Americans lost a paper fortune when the equity market's valuation fell. Some of that fortune will come back, and some won't.

Many Americans are now structurally or cyclically unemployed. Individuals in real estate, housing, and related industries will need to shift industries, at least temporarily.

Many Americans lost another paper fortune if they owned a home (particularly in the big housing bubble states: California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado). People who thought that the tremendous run-up in housing prices was sustainable were foolishly delusional. Remember, we even had cable television programs dedicated to house flipping (note: this show is still running new episodes! What's with that?). What were people thinking? I can't know what they were thinking then, but now they're thinking about getting bailed out.

Two words come to mind: moral hazard.

While W. and Dick conjured an alternative reality about Iraq, our avaricious bankers created an alternative reality about our financial system. Now our busted trust is not so easily fixed.

Aha. The obligatory shot at President Bush and Vice President Cheney. BDS is tough to cure. Did "avaricious bankers" really create an alternative reality about our financial system? Did these "avaricious bankers" force us to think that a 100% increase in the value of a home over a period of just a few years was at all realistic or sustainable? I'm inclined to believe that it is the avaricious consumer who ran those home prices up, then vacuumed home equity out as quickly as possible, who is responsible for this mess as the interventionist and over-regulatory policies of our government.

In an Associated Press article headlined “Obama Plans Eclipsing New Deal Spending,” the Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker notes, “Not surprisingly, people are wary of some very expensive proposals with no guarantee of success or even a high probability of how well they’ll work.”

Wariness = uncertainty, which leads to sitting on the economic sidelines. Note that savings rates have increased significantly -- that, and chipping away at the mountain of credit card debt racked up by profligate Americans, is a good thing. [Note: at the end of 2008, consumer credit outstanding was a whopping $US 2,596,000,000,000.00].

In The Times, Eric Dash reported that Wall Street is losing confidence in Washington’s vague and shifting plans, sending shares of bank companies plunging to new lows on Friday.

"Washington" = the administration + the Congress. "Washington" doesn't have plans; the administration and the Congress, on the other hand, have plans and interventionist policies. Shares of banks and bank holding companies are heading down to their real valuation. The sooner we get there, the better. Let's rip the metaphorical bandage off all at once, instead of prolonging the damage.

He spoke for those who want a pound of flesh. With the Wall Street bailout, Mr. Obama at least gave bankers a bit of the belt, and capped their pay. But homebuyers who wanted more than they could afford seem to be getting a free ride.

More moral hazard. Why on earth should we think that the federal government should be in the pay-setting business? This is poor political theater, and even worse public policy. The federal government has no business attempting to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. And while I'm at it, since professional sports teams are often subsidized by the public, shouldn't we cap those salaries?

Yet Obama is oozing empathy compared with his attorney general, who last week called us “a nation of cowards” about race.

I've ignored the AG Holder remarks -- he's stepping on the administration's news cycle (and message).

We need leaders to help us through our crises, not provide us with crude evaluations of our character. And we don’t need sermons from liberal virtuecrats, anymore than from conservative virtuecrats.

I agree.

In the middle of all the Heimlich maneuvers required now — for the economy, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, health care, the environment and education — we don’t need a Jackson/Sharpton-style lecture on race. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to get us past that.

Whether or not we need a Jackson/Sharpton-style lecture, we're going to get it [routinely]. Witness the frivolous discussion over the NY Post cartoon this week (which also stepped all over the administration's message and killed another news cycle -- I wonder what would happen if President Obama told Reverend Sharpton to simply shut up).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Terminology, and why it matters (Part 2)

Advice, from Copious Dissent, regarding words and phrases that we need to strike from our daily discourse. Well worth reading and sharing with others....

Copious Dissent - Your Daily Dose of Liberty

Terminology, and why it matters....

I watch The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer many nights for several reasons: the analysis is generally more thoughtful, and individual segments are longer, providing more context. There is a distinct leftist bent to the coverage, but it's not the shallow and superficial coverage available from the so-called broadcast networks or the shrill shoutfest at cable outlets such as MSNBC or CNN.

I had a few minutes, earlier this evening, to send a short note to the folks at The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, which I'll share here:

Selection of terminology is important to clearly and concisely explain complex subjects, such as the economic situation facing our country (and the world). I'm bothered by a selection of terminology that obscures, intentionally or not, the source of the treasure that will be spent. For instance, one of tonight's stories has the following lede on your web site:

"Nine weeks after automakers made their first plea to Congress for emergency aid, General Motors and Chrysler submitted new restructuring strategies and requests for additional federal funds that could bring the government's total tab to $39 billion."

Use of the term "federal funds" obscures the fact that funding will come from two sources: taxpayers and bondholders. While bondholders are important, and have a critical stake in the problem, taxpayers will bear the full brunt of any decisions made to "stimulate" the economy. Additionally, the phrase "government's total tab" can easily be interpreted by inattentive citizens as being somehow different from "taxpayer's total tab". Using the more accurate phrase will help avoid misinterpretation, and continue to remind taxpayers that they (and not "the government") are picking up the tab here, and are accountable for the decisions made by their elected representatives.

By the way, "bailing out" General Motors and Chrysler is a bad economics and bad public policy. It was a bad idea in December, and it's a bad idea now. Taxpayer intervention in market forces that are trying to establish the fair value of these companies will postpone (and increase the cost) of the inevitable.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nelson County, VA

Two beautiful days in Nelson County, this weekend. The pond was still frozen from the last few weeks of chilly weather, but I was able to break the ice up this afternoon, to give the fish a break (and a little O2).
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why the Size of Government Matters

Ilya Somin evaluates the relative merits of larger government and smaller government, and addresses the quantity and quality issue discussed by President Obama during his inaugural address.

"Quantity has a quality all its own", but that's not an argument for a larger, more muscular government.

The Volokh Conspiracy - Why the Size of Government Matters:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So, whatever happened to the last big infrastructure bill?

Remember the infrastructure bill that was rushed through the Congress in response to the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota? Ilya Somin, over at the Volokh Conspiracy wonders (as do I)...read more at:

The Volokh Conspiracy - -#1233088443#1233088443

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The on-again, off-again Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the so-called stimulus package (H.R. 1) was posted on the CBO Director's blog today.

Assuming enactment in mid-February, CBO estimates that the bill would increase outlays by $92 billion during the remaining several months of fiscal year 2009, by $225 billion in fiscal year 2010 (which begins on October 1), by $159 billion in 2011, and by a total of $604 billion over the 2009-2019 period. That spending includes outlays from discretionary appropriations in Division A of the bill and direct spending resulting from Division B.

How do you spend $92B intelligently in only six months (the time remaining in this fiscal year)? Didn't we just have an acrimonious debate about spending incident to the Iraq War? I may be missing something important here, but it seems to me that the folks who were so concerned about wasteful spending and contracting abuses in the past are getting ready to open the floodgates.

In addition, CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that enacting the provisions in Division B would reduce revenues by $76 billion in fiscal year 2009, by $131 billion in fiscal year 2010, and by a net of $212 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

In combining the spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase federal budget deficits by $169 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $356 billion in 2010, by $174 billion in 2011, and by $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

Outlays increase. Income decreases. We eat the difference. Ugh.

But wait, it gets better!

The budgetary impact of the bill stems primarily from three types of transactions: Direct payments to individuals (such as unemployment benefits), reductions in federal taxes, and purchases of goods and services (either by the federal government directly or indirectly via grants to states and local governments). CBO estimates that impacts from the first two categories of transactions would occur fairly rapidly. In the third category, CBO estimates slower rates of spending than historical full-year spending rates in 2009 for a number of reasons:

  • The bill’s enactment would likely occur nearly half way through the fiscal year.
  • Previous experience suggests that agencies have difficulty rapidly expanding existing programs while maintaining current services; the funding in H.R. 1 for some programs is substantially greater than the usual annual funding for those activities.
  • Spending can be delayed by necessary lags for planning, soliciting bids, entering contracts, and conducting regulatory or environmental reviews.
  • Agencies face additional challenges in spending funds for new programs quickly because of the time necessary to develop procedures and criteria, issue regulations, and review plans and proposals before money can be distributed.

Frequently in the past, in all types of federal programs, a noticeable lag has occurred between sharp increases in funding and resulting increases in outlays. Based on such experiences, CBO expects that federal agencies, states, and other recipients of funding would find it difficult to properly manage and oversee a rapid expansion of existing programs so as to spend added funds quickly as they expend their normal resources. The seasonal nature of some spending also affects the speed at which activities can be conducted; for example, major school repairs are generally scheduled during the summer to avoid disrupting classes.

In short, there's no way this money will be spent without waste -- perhaps a LOT of waste.

Read all about it, here:

Director’s Blog » Blog Archive » American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Two interesting posts, recently, on the subject of Guantánamo and the ordered closing, here and here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

America passes a milestone! « Fabius Maximus

Ugh. According to the folks at Contrary Investor, there are more people employed by government than are employed in the manufacturing and construction industries. 

America passes a milestone! « Fabius Maximus