Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Social Security

Democrats and Fiscal Reality Present Roadblocks for Trump’s Budget

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, August 1, 2017:

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Deciding to move on following the failure of the Senate to pass the “skinny” ObamaCare repeal bill, the Trump administration announced on Monday its accelerated plans for passing its budget bill. According to Marc Short, President Trump’s director of legislative affairs, background work on the budget will take place in August in preparation for committee action in the House in September. Assuming little resistance there, Short hopes for a floor vote in October, a Senate vote in November, and the president’s signature on it immediately thereafter.

It’s good to dream big.

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Trump Keeps Another Promise: Ignore Social Security’s Impending Shortfalls

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 12, 2017: 

English: Scanned image of author's US Social S...

During his presidential campaign, Republican Party candidate Donald Trump made it abundantly clear that he would not do anything to restore the financial integrity of Social Security:

I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.

Now that he is president, he no doubt has discovered just “where the money is”: It’s been spent by the government. And likely due to the commitment by the Democrats to oppose anything and everything he’d like to do, he’s just going to leave the failing and shrinking program alone.

This has caused angst among realists who see the federal program failing to meet its promises in less than 17 years and offering various ideas and suggestions on how to “fix” it.

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CBO Raises Its Deficit, Debt Forecasts in Latest Revision

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 5, 2017:  

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just revised its January report with new data on spending, revenues, and economic growth. The revision isn’t good:

The projected rise in [annual] deficits would be the result of rapid growth in spending for federal retirement and health care programs targeted to older people, and to rising interest payments on the government’s debt, accompanied by only moderate growth in revenue collections.

In other words, the CBO simply doesn’t believe that President Trump’s plans to reduce regulation, cut taxes, and repeal ObamaCare will amount to much. Instead the government programs on autopilot — Social Security, Medicare, and especially debt service on the country’s $20 trillion national debt — will eat up nearly 80 percent of the government’s total budget in less than 10 years. Said the CBO:

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Gov’t Collects Record $240 Billion in May; Still Runs $88 Billion Deficit

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, June 16, 2017:

English: Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explan...

Medicare and Medicaid as % GDP Explanation: Eventually, Medicare and Medicaid spending absorbs all federal tax revenue.

The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday that the federal government collected more money in May than in any other month in history: $240.4 billion. In the same breath, it said that the government spent $328.8 billion, creating a deficit of $88.4 billion.

From a wage earner’s perspective, it meant that in May the average worker paid $1,572 in taxes but the government spent $2,149, making up the $577 difference by borrowing. Such deficit spending is making the S&P Global credit rating agency increasingly nervous.

Just a week earlier, the agency affirmed its best rating — A-1+ — for the government’s “short term” debt, which means, in its own parlance, that the federal government’s ability to pay its current bills is “strong.” But in the longer term, the agency is far less sanguine. While holding its current long-term rating at AA+ (one full notch below its best rating), it said it’s unable to give the United States its highest rating (AAA) because of “high general government debt, relatively short-term-oriented policymaking, and uncertainty about policy formulation” for the future. It explained what it meant about that “uncertainty”:

Some of the [Trump] Administration’s policy proposals appear at odds with policies of the traditional Republican leadership and historical base. That, coupled with lack of cohesion, not just across, but within parties, complicates the ability to effectively and proactively advance legislation in Congress, particularly on fiscal policy. Taken together, we don’t expect a meaningful expansion or reduction of the fiscal deficit over the forecast period.

And what does it say about what’s likely to happen over that “forecast period”?

The U.S.’s net general government debt burden (as a share of GDP) remains twice its 2007 level. While, in our view, debt to GDP should hold fairly steady over the next several years, we expect it to rise thereafter absent measures to raise additional revenue and/or cut nondiscretionary expenditures.

What does that phrase “next several years” mean? How much time before the government’s national debt explodes upward? Says S&P:

Although deficits have declined, net general government debt to GDP remains high at about 80% of GDP. Given our growth forecasts and our expectations that credit conditions will remain subdued, thus keeping real interest rates in check, we expect this ratio to hold fairly steady through 2020. At that point, it could deteriorate more sharply, partly as a result of demographic trends.

Translation: Deficit spending will remain “subdued” for three and a half years, and then Katy bar the door!

Here is where S&P bows out of the picture, giving way instead to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which completed the picture in its March report:

Federal debt held by the public, defined as the amount that the federal government borrows from financial markets, has ballooned over the last decade. In 2007, the year the recession began, debt held by the public represented 35 percent of GDP. Just five years later, federal debt held by the public has doubled to 70 percent and is projected to continue rising.

“Continue rising”? By how much? And by when? The CBO is blunt:

Debt has not seen a surge this large since the increase in federal spending during World War II, when debt exceeded 70 percent of GDP. The budget office projects that growing budget deficits will cause the debt to increase sharply over the next three decades, hitting 150 percent of GDP by 2047.

So, that ratio of government debt compared to the country’s economic ability to produce goods and services was 35 percent in 2007, is now 70 percent, and will soon be 150 percent.

And what’s the reason?

The majority of the rise in spending is largely the result of programs like Social Security and Medicare in addition to rising interest rates. For example, Social Security and major health care program spending represented 54 percent of all federal noninterest spending, an increase from the average of 37 percent it has been over the past 50 years.

It appears to be an unstoppable locomotive. Non-discretionary spending (spending already locked into place by past Congresses and fully expected to be received by its beneficiaries) is on autopilot. And interest rates now coming off historic lows are only going to increase those annual deficits into the future as far as the eye can see.

The CBO is about as close as one can get to a truly non-partisan federal agency — one that has no partisan political agenda and is considered by many as the most reliable forecaster of future economic events. So it’s not only willing to cover, analyze, and present its findings candidly, it’s also willing to tell the truth. It asked, rhetorically, “What might the consequences be if current laws remain unchanged?” It answered:

Large and growing federal debt over the coming decades would hurt the economy and constrain future budget policy. The amount of debt that is projected under the extended baseline would reduce national saving and income in the long term; increase the government’s interest costs, putting more pressure on the rest of the budget; limit lawmakers’ ability to respond to unforeseen events; and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis, an occurrence in which investors become unwilling to finance a government’s borrowing unless they are compensated with very high interest rates.

Which brings one to the ultimate rhetorical question: What happens when even those “very high interest rates” aren’t enough to compensate those investors for the risks they are taking by loaning their money to a government that increasingly isn’t able to pay its bills and must continue to borrow increasingly massive amounts to cover its deficits? What happens next?

May’s Jobs Report Stronger Than It Appears

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, June 2, 2017:

The headline number from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) May jobs report, released on Friday, appeared weak: Just 138,000 new jobs were created last month compared to expectations of 185,000 by forecasters. But as usual, a peek beneath the headlines shows an economy growing steadily, providing it with more than enough workers to absorb those leaving or retiring.

After revisions were made to March and April numbers, May’s job creation was more than the last three months’ average of 121,000. Taking into account robust numbers reported from ADP, a national human resources and benefits firm, on Wednesday — it reported that 253,000 new jobs were created in May — Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics remarked,

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Puerto Rico Headed to Bankruptcy Court, Likely Costing Investors Billions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, May 3, 2017: 

English: Map of Peuto Rico, with inset showing...

The federal fiscal oversight board created by Congress last June to fix Puerto Rico gave up on Monday, putting the island country into the hands of a federal bankruptcy judge.

The board, created last June, was designed to help newly elected Governor Ricardo Rossello come to terms with mutual funds and hedge fund owners that own the bulk of the island’s $73 billion debt. Rossello’s first effort, which would have applied a one-third financial “haircut” to them was turned down by the board, which called it too generous.

Rossello’s second effort would have applied a 50-percent haircut, but Franklin Advisers and Oppenheimer Fund, the two largest entities holding the island’s debt, pushed back.

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Former Heritage Economist Stephen Moore Refutes CBO’s Doom & Gloom

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, April 26, 2017:

Stephen Moore by David Shankbone, New York City

Stephen Moore

The Heritage Foundation’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow Stephen Moore, now a CNN economics commentator, thinks the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is far too pessimistic. Instead, he believes that most of the nation’s fiscal problems can be solved just by prodding the economy.

The CBO report, “The 2017 Long-Term Budget Outlook,” assumed that little would change politically over the next 10 to 30 years, despite promises from President Trump that his policies would “make America great again.” It projected that the Baby Boomers would exhaust the resources of Medicare and Social Security, and then those costs would be shifted directly to the Department of the Treasury.

If nothing changes, said the CBO, the percentage of the national debt held by the public (pension plans, mutual funds, foreign governments, and wealthy individuals) would double over the next 30 years, which would “pose substantial risks for the nation.”

The problem is exacerbated, said the CBO, not only by an aging population demanding that the government keeps its promises to them, but also

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Social Security Disability Fraud Hides the Biggest Fraud of All

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, April 12, 2017:

English: Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1...

Mug shot of Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949).

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General reported in 2015 that nearly half of the nine million people receiving SSI (Supplemental Security Insurance) benefits were being overpaid, running up $17 billion in excess disbursements over the previous 10 years.

Such overpayments were just the beginning of the story. On Monday, a former Kentucky attorney pleaded guilty to filing more than 1,700 false SSI disability claims in a scheme that netted him millions in fees that he lavishly dished out to his co-conspirators: a Social Security administrative law judge and a psychologist, among others. In his plea bargain, former attorney Eric Conn fingered Judge David Daugherty (whom he said birthed the scheme originally) and Dr. Alfred Adkins.

The fees that Conn collected ran into the millions, while Social Security dished out some $550 million in benefits to beneficiaries who willingly participated, some of them saying later that they didn’t really know what was happening but were happy to pay Conn $200 in cash under the table for his “advice” and assurance that their claims would be approved.

The setup was simple:

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Social Security Disability Fraudster Just Tip of the Iceberg

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, April 11, 2017: 

A former Kentucky attorney pleaded guilty on Monday to filing more than 1,700 fake disability applications under Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The complex scheme netted Eric Conn millions in kickbacks while costing SSI an estimated $550 million in phony benefits paid out to unsuspecting beneficiaries.

Conn’s plea bargain accused his co-conspirators, psychologist Alfred Adkins and Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty along with other unnamed individuals, of working with him in the scam. Conn claimed that the scheme was hatched originally by Daugherty.

The setup was simple:

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The Clock is Running Out on Trump’s Use of the CRA

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, April 7, 2017:

English: blue scissors Español: tijeras azules

The beauty of the CRA, the Congressional Review Act, is that it provides a process by which an incoming administration can look back at the previous administration’s rules and regulations and repeal, neuter, or abandon those it doesn’t like. In addition, once a rule has been repealed, the CRA prohibits it from growing back again. Call it “Roundup” 2.0 for political weeds and unwanted grasses.

What’s remarkable is that, since its enactment in 1996 as part of the Republicans’ Contract with America, it has only been used once: by George W. Bush. Congress passed five CRA resolutions under Obama but he vetoed them all. For him, no government was too big nor any regulation too outrageous.

When Marc Short, Trump’s Director of Legislative Affairs, was given the mike at the White House press conference on Wednesday, he spoke at length about the president’s aggressive use of the CRA to turn back a few of the many hundreds of burdens applied to businesses by the previous administration. Before taking questions Short said:

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Trump Uses CRA to Roll Back Obama Rules

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, April 6, 2017:

President Donald Trump will be signing legislation to overturn a rule that the previous administration put in place prohibiting states from blocking federal grant money to abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. The announcement was made during Wednesday morning’s press conference and will affect some $300 million of federal money this year.

The president has already signed legislation repealing or neutering 11 such rules left over from the Obama administration, with two more pending and a couple more working their way through Congress. There’s a time clock running: the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows a 60-day “lookback” on the previous administration’s rules, runs out on April 28.

The leftist DailyKos celebrated the collapse of RyanCare but warned its progressive audience that these small victories using the CRA are mounting up:

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Second Amendment Victories Continue to Pile Up

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 3, 2017:

The restoration of Second Amendment-protected rights in the states is happening so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. On Friday, the Georgia legislature sent a bill to Governor Nathan Deal that would allow concealed handguns on public college campuses, with some exceptions built in to appease Deal, who vetoed a similar but stronger measure last year. Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, a pro-gun rights group, was realistic: “It’s not the bill that we wanted but it’s the bill we got. It gives [us] a foot in the door.” If Deal signs the bill, Georgia would become the 11th state with this kind of campus-carry law.

Georgia legislators also sent to Deal’s desk a bill that

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Growing Pension Crisis Looms Over Wall Street

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, March 27, 2017:

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

The looming state and municipal pension plan crisis, estimated by Moody’s at $1.75 trillion just a few months ago, has now been adjusted upward to  $1.9 trillion. But that number, according to Bloomberg’s Danielle DiMartino Booth, greatly underestimates the level of underfunding. It’s more like $6 trillion “if the prevailing yields on Treasuries were used.”

Instead, most state and local pension plans use a much higher, more generous, and more deceptive assumed rate of return of between six and seven percent, with some still clinging to a “castles in the sky” eight percent. Those assumptions greatly reduce the pressure on plan sponsors to make proper contributions to fund those plans.

And, according to the investment firm GMO (Grantham, Mayo & van Otterloo),

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Trump Preframes the Budget Conversation with His “Blueprint”

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 17, 2017: 

After reading Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal, “Peter W.” wrote how “The Donald” preframes a conversation with an opponent: “When he makes an opening bid, it is far away from where his deals end. It is a poker game with high stakes, and it is up to the other to negotiate a better position.”

That is what Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney offered on Wednesday: the opening bid in the budget conversation to take place later on this year. Mulvaney was very clear about that: “This Blueprint is not the full Federal budget, [but] it does provide lawmakers and the public with a view of the priorities of the President and his Administration.”

It also serves to warn the public – the American taxpayer who is the deeply interested third party in that conversation – that the budget is going to be much larger than the one Obama left his office with in 2017, which was $4.15 trillion.

It’s called “America First – A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” and it’s Trump’s attempt to set the parameters of the conversation with Congress after his full budget is released in late May. The strategy might have worked well for Trump – he brags that he successfully closed more than 100 real estate “deals” during his career – but dealing with 535 members of the House and Senate is, to put it mildly, going to be a different cup of tea.

Said Trump:

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Trump’s “Blueprint” Budget Is a Policy Statement; Real Budget to Follow

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 16, 2017:

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Mick Mulvaney. Trump’s OMB Director

President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) unveiled “America First — A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” on Thursday, noting that the president’s actual budget will be released in May. President Trump and his OMB Director Mick Mulvaney joined in outlining the “blueprint” without disclosing hard numbers, revenue projections, or even an economic outlook to back it up. It was, in other words, a policy statement, with details to follow.

Said Trump:

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Trump “Slump” in Gun Sales Is Only Temporary

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, March 15, 2017:  

With a decline in the number background checks being performed, the fall in the stock prices of gun makers, the cutting back of workers in the gun industry, and the bankruptcy of a major sporting goods chain, some in the media are suggesting that the boom in the firearms sector is over.

On the surface the evidence is persuasive.

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Trump’s 2018 Budget Won’t Touch Social Security, Medicare

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 27, 2017:

English: The standard Laffer Curve

The standard Laffer Curve

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News on Sunday that cuts in entitlement programs — i.e., Social Security and Medicare — won’t appear in the president’s budget: “We are not touching those now. So don’t expect to see that as part of this budget, OK? We are very focused on other aspects and that’s what’s very important to us.”

Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 (starting October 1, 2017) is expected to be presented to the House on Monday, March 13, just two weeks away. And there are a lot of moving parts that must be glued into place before then.

Those parts include

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NRA Moving from Defense to Offense

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, January 31, 2017:

For eight long years the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, along with similar groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), largely been playing defense. The anti-gun executive orders spewing from the pen of former President Barack Obama, the anti-gun media seizing upon opportunities to promote its agenda thanks to crazed killers committing atrocities, the push to ratify the UN small arms treaty, and more have kept pro-Second Amendment groups such as these back on their heels.

No longer. Jennifer Baker, the NRA’s national spokeswoman, told The Hill on Monday:

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Trump’s Regulatory Executive Order: One In, Two Out

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 30, 2017:

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

White House officials described President Donald Trump’s Executive Order for “Reducing Government Regulations and Controlling Regulatory Cost” as Trump’s “one in, two out” plan: For every regulation promulgated by a federal agency, that agency must “identify” two existing regulations to be targeted for extinction.

The order also sets a cap of $0 for the cost of new regulations, with the only exceptions being military and national security regulations. The president said when signing the order,

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Congress Plans to Repeal Obama Rules Through Congressional Review Act

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, January 26, 2017:

To facilitated mining of a coal seam in Gillet...

To facilitate mining of a coal seam in Gillette, Wyoming, blasting was used to loosen the coal after the overburden was removed. Approximately half a million tons of coal in a seam 80 feet thick was loosened by this single blast.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy explained in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday just how Congress is planning to roll back numerous egregious and harmful rules promulgated by the Obama administration: the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA was included in the “Contract With America Advancement Act of 1996” and allows Congress to review, and to cancel by majority rule, new federal regulations issued by federal agencies. There’s a window of 60 “legislative” days to disapprove, which explains some of the Trump administration’s haste in pushing to repeal them. Once passed by both houses, repeals then become effective with President Donald Trump’s signature.

There are plenty of targets, but McCarthy focused on just three: the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule impacting the coal-mining industry, new methane gas regulations that would cost up to $1 billion and force many small energy developers out of business, and the Social Security Administration’s new rule that states that if a S.S. recipient needs a third party to manage his finances, he will be added to the gun background check list.

The CRA shouldn’t be necessary. If Congress hadn’t unconstitutionally allowed power it alone possesses under the Constitution to make laws to pass over to the executive branch’s various and sundry regulatory agencies, the problems with the Obama administration’s overreach wouldn’t exist in the first place. Those agencies have grown into Leviathan, issuing rules, regulations, and mandates far beyond those imagined by Congress. Now Congress is in the backward position of having to limit the regulations pouring out of that unconstitutional “fourth branch” of government. The child is now threatening its parent.

Parsing the language of the Interior Department’s rules on its expanded regulation of coal miners proves the point:

Under [the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977], the regulatory authority may not approve a permit application [from a coal mining company] unless the application demonstrates, and the regulatory authority finds, that the proposed operation would not result in material damage to the hydrologic balance [i.e., streams and rivers] outside the permit area.

How does a coal mining company, in its application, “prove” a negative? How does it satisfy a bureaucratic unelected unaccountable and invisible agency that it will cause no harm, or at least not enough harm to avoid trespassing on that agency’s environmental sensitivities? What assurance does a coal mining company have that said agency won’t change the rules arbitrarily and capriciously in the future? Would not such future uncertainty tend to dampen said coal company’s interest in developing its reserves?

Similar charges could be levied against the federal agency issuing its rules on methane emissions, but the best example of egregious overreach is the Social Security Administration’s new rule that allows it to “deem” who shall have his or her name entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) based on whether or not they receive third-party assistance in managing their finances. Here’s what the SSA says it will do:

We will identify, on a prospective [in the absence of evidence of any proclivity towards criminal activity] basis, individuals who receive Disability Insurance benefits … or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments … who meet certain criteria, including … a finding that the individual’s mental impairment meets or medically equals [various] requirements.

And just how, pray tell, would such “identification” take place? The SSA responds:

If we have information that the beneficiary has a mental or physical impairment that prevents him or her from managing or directing the management of benefits, we will develop the issue of capability.

And just how is that “issue of capability” to be determined? Again, the SSA provides the guidelines its bureaucrats should follow in making that determination:

Does the individual have difficulty answering questions, getting the evidence or information necessary to pursue the claim, or understanding explanations and reporting instructions?

 

If so, do you think this difficulty indicates [that] the beneficiary cannot manage or direct the management of [his or her] funds?

If the answer, by this nameless, faceless unaccountable bureaucrat, is yes, his or her name is entered into the NICS.

The agency then condescends to tell the soul who just had his Second and Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution obliterated that they have just done so, and that if he cares to contest this arbitrary and capricious decision by said unnamed bureaucrat, he is free to hire an attorney and seek redress. Guilty until proven innocent.

Where is due process? Where is the beneficiary allowed to defend himself or explain himself or offer an explanation? What happens to the right to face his accuser in a court of law?

When Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislation Action (NRAILA), learned of McCarthy’s plan of attack to repeal this particular rule, he was delighted:

Congress’ decision to review the Obama administration’s back-door gun grab is a significant step forward in restoring the fundamental Constitutional rights of many law-abiding gun owners.

 

The NRA has been fighting this unconstitutional government overreach since it was first discussed, and we look forward to swift congressional action to overturn it.

Those in the energy industry will likely be equally ebullient once Congress has righted the wrongs imposed by federal agencies on its businesses. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Energy Committee, told Reuters that using the CRA will not only wipe out entire regulations but forbid them from writing new versions in their place.

In effect Congress’ use of the CRA will be equivalent to hacking off some of the branches of the Fourth Branch’s tree, but leaves the trunk and the root intact. It’s a start, but only a start.

Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.