Drone Warfare and Benghazi

As more details emerge about Obama’s drone policy, a more worrisome picture seems to be developing.  It is hard to intelligently discuss a policy that is being purposely kept from even top lawmakers.  However, when details do leak out they seem to paint an ugly picture.

Even though there are a myriad of topics that could be discussed on this issue I’ll just point out one inconsistency that seems to have cropped up in my mind. In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack the administration seemed to be arguing that drone footage alone does not give you an accurate picture of what is what is happening on the ground and because of this further intelligence is needed to act.  However, when targeting persons for death who are not in a theatre of war the administration seems to have no problem relying on drone video alone.

Again, without accurate information outlining the policy, its justifications, and its actual uses this is all just speculation.  Hopefully, if enough inconsistencies emerge then Congress will have enough popular support to actually force the White House to participate in meaningful oversight.

What can be stated now is that the administration’s refusal to share information with Congress is unacceptable.  The administration seems to conflate the executive branch’s broad authority on foreign affairs into the authority to hide its actions from Congress.  Just because you have the authority to set the policy and make the decision does not mean that you have the authority to hide the facts.


Keynesian Benefits?

I was recently reading this New York Times article.  The article was discussing unemployment benefit cutbacks for people who have already received 26 weeks of unemployment benefits.  That is, people who have been on unemployment for six and one half months. The main subject of the article was having her benefits cut back some forty-four dollars after six and a half months.

What really caught my attention was a particular sentence.  Ms. Cozart felt that the cutbacks were “really dumb and really mean, given that everybody knows that unemployment benefits stimulate the economy.”   The article seems to accept that statement as an obvious truth.  Is it?

I would think this would have been a great opportunity to investigate that allegation.  Ms. Cozart claims that she spends every dollar she gets from the government.  So the question that remains unanswered is what does it cost to get her one dollar of benefits?  If it costs the government one dollar and fifty cents to get her that one dollar then there is a net loss to the economy of fifty cents.  Not to mention every dollar she spends will have to be taxed to create the very benefits she uses.  If each dollar represents a fifty cent loss to the economy then her argument is dubious at best.  The New York Times fails to even consider this in their article.

If her thinking is erroneous, which the New York Times doesn’t seem to care about, then the errors she is making are compounded.  If she thinks her actions, taking unemployment benefits and spending them, are a net gain to the economy then her interest in getting off the government program is lessened.  We see this very type of disincentive with the other person in the article who decides against taking a minimum wage job because she takes home more money in unemployment benefits then she would with a minimum wage job.

The real point is that this article belongs in the opinion section of the paper.  A real news item would deal with where the money comes from, where it goes, the effects of those decisions, and possible policy alternatives.  This article is an attempt to make the reader feel bad for the person whose benefit is cut.  It does a disservice when it is pushed as news as opposed to opinion.

Tax Day For Me

Today I filed my federal and state income tax returns.  It’s always interesting to learn exactly how much of my money goes to the government.  This year I paid 29.79% of my income in state, federal, and local taxes.  Of course, this is excluding all of the fees, surcharges, sales taxes, and other various items of taxation.  This means that I work approximately 4 months out of the year for “the common good.”  I understand that roads need to be built.  I understand that a standing military is a necessity.  I also understand that  assistance to the poor is a necessity.  However, it seems to me that a bipartisan consensus can be formed around eliminating all forms of government waste. Senator Coburn and the GAO have found billions of dollars of waste in our federal programs.  The government needs to get its house in order and root out this waste.  Then we can then root out the fraudsters. The billions saved would be well worth the effort and may help me get back a portion of those four months.