NEWS AND OPINION:
Old habits die hard. During the first session of the 113th Congress, members of the U.S. House authored 496 spending bills, compared with 112 bills that would save money. U.S. senators, meanwhile, drafted 332 increase bills and 56 savings bills — all this according to “Bill Tally,” an analysis released Wednesday by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
But wait. Had all 828 of those big-spender wish lists been passed, it would have increased the federal budget by $1.09 trillion. So we need to be careful not to tell our lavish lawmakers what comes after a trillion, so they don’t get any ideas. That goes for the White House, too. Amazingly enough, the study also reports that the number of proposed spending bills is actually the lowest in eight years.
There are some frugal folk on Capitol Hill, however, both Republicans. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona proposed spending cuts that would have resulted in $269 billion in savings. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wins the prize: He offered legislation that would reduce the federal budget the most, the study found — by $317 billion.
“Congress’ agenda still exceeds $1 trillion, as it did during 2011-2012. For concerned taxpayers and fiscal hawks that bottom line may stand out as a sign that legislators are still offering major government-expanding agendas, even with a noted cooling of activity and despite the grim long-term forecast for the federal budget,” says Demian Brady, who led the research. Find it here: NTU.org
THE BATTLE WON
Here’s a million-dollar federal expenditure that may not rile patriots too much. The National Park Service has awarded 21 preservation grants totaling $1.3 million to preserve, protect, document and “interpret” 75 of America’s significant but endangered battlefields dating from King Philip’s War, the Second Seminole War, the Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
“Preserving these sites for future generations and providing a means for research and interpretation is a fitting way to honor our nation’s military heritage and the courage and service of our armed forces,” says National Park Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
ONE LAST LITTLE FUNDRAISER
Well, there had to be a last one, at least for this week. For those keeping track, President Obama will appear at his fifth and final West Coast fundraiser in Los Angeles on Thursday. It’s few in people, but large on funds. Thirty guests will assemble for a morning “roundtable discussion” at the home of a millionaire concert promoter. Admission is $32,400 each, for a total take of $972,000, or thereabouts, the funds destined for the Democratic National Committee.
FOR THE LEXICON
— A new “digital bully pulpit” launched this week by former Rep. Ron Paul to give voice to people “beyond the Beltway elite,” he says.
“The site seeks to crowdsource the very best early-stage political ideas and liberty-minded leaders, nurture this untapped human capital, and bring them together to amplify the cause of American freedom,” Mr. Paul, Texas Republican, explains. “Just as Wikipedia crowdsources knowledge, the non-partisan Voices of Liberty platform gathers actionable solutions and constructive dialogue from well-known champions of liberty and everyday citizens.”
With gold-plated shovel in manicured hand, Donald Trump broke ground Wednesday on his new $200 million hotel project in the nation’s capital, an effort which will reinvent the historic Old Post Office building just four blocks west of the White House, and just about in time for 2016. Mr. Trump won the project from the General Services Administration two years ago. But more importantly, here’s what he plans, carried out in “American design” that won’t compromise the architectural integrity of the august 115-year-old building.
A tiny sampling: Mr. Trump plans to reinstate the long-shuttered original entrance with backlit marble and a glass ceiling. Then there’s “the Cortile” — a nine-story atrium with natural sunlight, trees, water sculptures, brass chandeliers and furnishings in tones of deep red, aubergine, sapphire and emerald. There will be 271 guest rooms that retain original woodworking, paneling, windows and 14-foot ceilings. They average 600 square feet each; furnishings are in a palette of Federal blues, creams and ivories, with soft gold and silver accents. The 3,000-square-foot Presidential Suite will be located in the original former offices of the postmaster general, retaining original fireplaces, and commanding grand views of Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall.
“Too often in modern politics, debates about our values have been viewed as either wedges to win elections or unnecessary distractions to be avoided. But the truth is that the social and moral well-being of our people has a direct and consequential impact on their economic well-being,” Sen. Marco Rubio told a Catholic University audience on Wednesday, in a speech titled “Strong Values for a Strong America.”
The Florida Republican added, “As the social philosopher Michael Novak once said, the family is the original and best department of health, education and welfare. It is crucial in developing the character of the young. And those efforts can be reinforced in our schools, religious institutions, civic groups and our society.”
A TAXING MOMENT IN YUP’IK
Alaska is currently wrestling with a native-language challenge; namely, how to translate the state’s longest tax measure, due on the public ballot in August. The informational pamphlet that accompanies the measure is 48 pages long — and both documents must be translated into Yup’ik, Inupiak, Siberian Yupik, Koyukon Athabascan and Gwich’in Athabascan — some of the local dialects in the region.
“The ballot measure to repeal the state’s oil-tax cut might be the thorniest issue Alaskans ever vote on, but imagine trying to understand terms like ‘gross revenue exclusion’ and ‘progressivity’ in Yup’ik and other Alaska Native languages,” says Alex DeMarban, an Alaska Dispatch reporter following the progress, which includes recorded versions for those folks who only communicate in an “oral tradition.”
The ballot in Yup’ik, for example, ends with “Una-qaa alerquun ciuniurumanrilli?” or “Should this law be rejected?”
The task is so complicated that the state Election Division office is having a hard time retaining translators who command as much as $50 an hour.
“That ballot measure was a pain in the neck,” said Oscar Alexie, one of six intrepid translators who stayed on to help create a Yup’ik sample ballot usable in dozens of villages in western Alaska.
POLL DU JOUR
• 59 percent of Americans oppose the health care law known as Obamacare; 92 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 28 percent of Democrats agree.
• 40 percent overall favor the law; 7 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats agree.
• 46 percent overall say Obamacare has had no effect on their family; 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats agree.
• 35 percent overall say they are “worse off” because of the health care law; 57 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats agree.
• 18 percent overall say they are “better off”; 1 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of independents and 32 percent of Democrats agree.
• 38 percent overall say Obamacare is “too liberal”; 74 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats agree.
• 17 percent say the law is “not liberal enough”; 15 percent of Republicans, 21 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A CNN/ORC poll of 1,012 U.S. adults conducted July 18-20.
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