Newsletter 79 - Fall 2015
•Iranian nuclear deal
•Delaware climate (David Legates)
•We the People
Fiscal responsibility - The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much. – Ronald Reagan
If there is any point we have stressed over the years, it is that the government should habitually balance the budget (or even pay down debt) – preferably by cutting spending. And don’t rely on spending freezes, budget caps, etc. Based on the false premise that all government-spending programs are of equal value, they never work for long.
The most effective way to balance the budget is targeted spending cuts, which are achieved by studying the government’s operations and eliminating operating units, programs or activities that aren’t justifiable on a cost versus benefit basis. Numerous opportunities are identified on the Spending page of the SAFE website.
Big government fans may concede the need for fiscal discipline (typically couched in terms of cutting the deficit versus balancing the budget), but suggest a “balanced approach” (tax increases and spending cuts). Experience has shown that tax increases tend to be frittered away on spending increases rather than used for deficit reduction, however, so our advice would be to say “no” to tax increases unless and until all reasonable spending cuts have been implemented.
The government is a long way from running a tight ship at the moment; the real issue is not the feasibility of spending cuts, it is the political will to make them. Thus, consider our mid-August analysis of the impasse that had developed because Senate Democrats were filibustering appropriation bills. Another budget shutdown looms, 8/17/15.
Our suggestions went unheeded, and the new fiscal year began on October 1 with an omnibus continuing resolution to keep the government operating. Better luck next time!
Iranian nuclear deal – Speak softly and carry a big stick. Theodore Roosevelt
Why did SAFE speak out against this controversial agreement, which would supposedly delay Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for the release of blocked funds, lifting of sanctions, etc.?
First, we thought the IND would create more problems than it solved – and that supporters were glossing over some key negatives. See our 9/12/15 letter to the two senators from Delaware.
Both of you have acknowledged that there is little reason to trust Iran, a point that is underscored by an ominous buildup of Russian and Iranian forces in Syria and the pending Russian sale of sophisticated air defense missiles to Iran, but apparently chose to believe that the inspection provisions of the IND (including Iranian self inspection of the Parchim nuclear site) would serve to prevent Iran from cheating.
Second, even more clearly, the administration had made every effort to bypass Congress on the IND. Proposed to label it as an “executive agreement” (no congressional approval needed) versus a treaty (requiring 2/3 approval in the Senate) – only agreed to allow a congressional vote due to strong bipartisan pressure – immediately sent the IND to the United Nations for approval rather than waiting until Congress had voted on it under the Iran Nuclear Review Act – threatened a presidential veto if Congress passed a resolution of disapproval, meaning that a well-nigh impossible 2/3 vote of both the House and the Senate would be required to stop the IND.
Forty-two (out of 46) members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted to filibuster a resolution of disapproval, so the resolution failed and didn’t even reach the president’s desk – much as appropriations bills and such had been blocked earlier. Once again, it seemed, a minority in the Senate was acting in a way that would ensure the institutional decline of Congress in our system of government and encourage executive branch overreaching. Moment of truth nears for Iranian nuclear deal, 9/14/15.
Bottom line: unless and until the filibuster is abolished, this session of Congress won’t be able to pass any legislation of substance that the minority party dislikes. Observers who are concerned about gridlock in Washington should take note.
SAFE website – Regular visitors to our website have probably noticed that the blog, Delaware Chatter, and letter pages are updated frequently, but other content only changes occasionally. We do try to keep the other pages current, however, and in the third quarter revised many of them by eliminating dated references and reflecting recent developments.
Also, the format was streamlined so that our website content will show up better when viewed on mobile devices. Many thanks to SAFE member Davis Jefferson for his yeoman efforts in developing this snappy “new look.”
Trivia corner – Invented by Mary Anderson in 1903, this device made driving much safer. What was it? (Answer here)
Delaware climate – Dr. David Legates delivered a talk about “Climate Change in Delaware” at the August 21 meeting of the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club. It’s a subject he knows very well, having been a member of the University of Delaware faculty since 1999 (he also studied at UD, receiving several degrees including a PhD in climatology in 1988) and served as the Delaware State Climatologist from 2005 to 2011.
David’s views have been somewhat controversial because he believes that the effect of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (due to burning fossil fuels) on global temperatures and other aspects of climate has been considerably exaggerated. As Legates put it, he was “removed as the State Climatologist” for declining “to agree with non-scientific proclamations” produced by the State.
One might think the validity of the manmade global warming theory could be resolved by tracking actual global temperatures and engaging in rational scientific discourse. That’s likely to take quite a while, however, as many factors influence the climate and much natural variability exists in the data.
In addition to warming temperatures, climate alarmists have suggested connections between growing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere and other aspects of climate, e.g., extreme weather events, heavy rains versus periods of drought, flooding, and sea level rise (a scary claim in a low-lying state like Delaware).
In many cases, an apparent correlation exists between rising CO2 levels and these phenomena. Bear in mind, however, that correlation does not prove causation because other potential causes must also be considered.
Having laid this foundation, Dr. Legates presented a series of charts of various climate data for Delaware dating back as much as a century. In so doing, he pointed out cases in which (1) no clear trend was evident, (2) an apparent trend was negated when several additional years of data were added, or (3) well-known explanations for the trend exist other than rising CO2 levels (faster flood runoff, for example, is an inevitable result of urbanization and building more paved roads).
In the speaker’s opinion, backed up by his analysis of the historical record, there are no signs of Delaware’s climate veering out of control.
To take a case that has been heavily publicized, everyone agrees that average sea levels along the Delaware coast have been slowly rising. It is important to consider, however, that a major cause of sea level rise (SLR) in this region is the sinking of the coastal land, a process that has been going on since the end of the last ice age in North America. Note that alarmist projections have had to be repeatedly adjusted because the predicted acceleration in SLR has not occurred.
The presentation was comprehensive, and in the view of most of the attendees reassuring. We were gratified that State Senator Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) was able to attend. Hopefully, Delaware officials will make full use of Dr. Legates’ expertise in formulating state energy and coastal management policies and not ignore him because he does not tell them what they want to hear.
Was he talking about 2016? - When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become president. Now I’m beginning to believe it. - Clarence Darrow
We the People – Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“We the People” have been called the three most important words in the Constitution, yet there is some disagreement as to whom is referred to. Judging from a recent series of Constitution Day essays, the point is that the government must redouble its efforts to ensure that the rights of all minority groups are fully accommodated – even if this means impinging on the rights of other segments of the population. Does “We the People” matter any more, News Journal, Sept. 13-17, 2015.
Here is a picture from “the March on Washington” on 9/12/09 that captures our idea of “We the People.”
The people in this picture (and many more) had assembled to peaceably express their views. They were concerned about the general welfare, not the interests of some particular faction. And very importantly, they were asking for government restraint rather than government support.
The need to resist overbearing government practices was notable in colonial times, and it continues to this day. For example, consider how civil forfeiture laws have become a revenue-raising tool for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. “Innocent until proven guilty,” well not exactly! Freedom Works, video (3:52), 6/11/15.
Trivia corner answer – Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers, which were operated from a handle inside the car.
Fed blinks –Given a slowing global economy, financial market turbulence, and a lower than hoped for (2% is the target) inflation rate, the Federal Reserve decided to refrain from adjusting interest rates in September.
Short-term interest rates have been held at near zero levels since 2007, for the purpose of bolstering the economy (but with less than impressive results). Meanwhile, paltry returns on fixed income securities have encouraged normally conservative investors, e.g., pension funds, to shift their funds into riskier investments.
It had been expected that the Fed would raise rates by 0.25 percentage points in September as the first in a series of adjustments that would gradually return interest rates to normal market levels. The decision to hold up was described as a “close one,” and Fed Chairman Janet Yellen has said a rate increase remains likely this year, but it strikes us that the Fed is unnecessarily agonizing over this decision. Fed mulls shift in monetary policy, 9/7/15.
Andrew Betley, (302) 239-9679
Edgar Fasig, treasurer, (302) 999-0611
Dan Kerrick, (302) 658-7101
Steve McClain, (302) 998-3910
Jerry Martin, (302) 478-5064
rycK Stout, (302) 478-9495
Bill Whipple, president, (302) 464-2688
For e-mail addresses see Contact information.
About SAFE - SAFE is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that was founded in 1996. We advocate smaller, more focused, lower cost government, to be achieved by cutting spending, restructuring “entitlements,” simplifying taxes, and rationalizing regulations.
The SAFE agenda is promoted through: (1) Our website, including issue statements, a weekly blog, and a “Delaware Chatter” microblog; (2) Letters to the editor, public events, legislative contacts, etc., which are also posted and/or recapped on the website; (3) This quarterly newsletter, available in print (since 1996) and now electronic editions; and (4) Posts on Twitter and/or Facebook (click icons on the website to access).
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