The world remains dangerous. Last week North Korea launched several missiles and detonated a nuclear device. Less than a week earlier, Iran tested a new missile and sent warships into international waters. Last year, Russia's defense spending increased by 34 percent and China's by 15 percent. Yet this year Russia issued a National Security Strategy identifying the United States and NATO as the major threats to global security. Meanwhile the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says China's military buildup is "very much focused on the United States."
Congress should keep these vast and varied threats in mind as it debates the Pentagon's budget. According to a new Pew poll, the majority of Americans still believe the best way to ensure peace is through military strength. President Obama's budget request assumes the opposite -- peace can be attained with less, even during times of war. Congress can effectively veto Obama's weakening of the military by fully funding vital programs including missile defense, the F-22 air superiority fighter and the development of the Navy's next generation cruiser. A peaceful future may very well depend on today's decisions.
A New Era of Ownership
President Bush passionately touted an "ownership society." People would own their own homes and control their healthcare and education. Instead, Obama is creating a government ownership society. Unelected bureaucrats are now making decisions that should be made by private companies, shareholders and creditors, even if under the supervision of a bankruptcy court.
When General Motors reemerges from its likely pseudo-bankruptcy proceeding, taxpayers could own more than two-thirds. The President has not yet indicated how long taxpayers would remain committed to a company that many didn't even realize they were buying into. A senior Senate staffer tells Human Events, "We are terrible investors if the American taxpayers are taking majority stakes in the failing businesses of GM and AIG."
Similarly, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner indicates he'll recycle money repaid by TARP recipients rather than returning it to the taxpayers. Fortunately, TARP is a temporary program, scheduled to expire in December 2009. Americans should hope Obama's ownership society and bailout addiction expires then as well.
Hoping and Talking
It's disconcerting that the administration considers global warming a priority. Last week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, "The U.S. will move. Inevitably it will move first. As a more developed country we should be moving first, and I hope China will follow." Well, many past Presidents held out "hope" China "would move." Consider human rights. Some 20 years after the Tiananmen Square protests, those hopes haven't been realized.
Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- in China last week touting her cap-and-trade national energy tax -- has no real plan for how to engage China, India or Russia, which together generate nearly one-third of global CO2 emissions. The supposed benefits of "moving first" could ring hollow to the millions of Americans who lose their jobs and struggle to pay thousands more each year for energy under a failed cap-and-trade scheme.
Similarly, this week the Senate debates the nomination of Regina McCarthy, nominated to be the next Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation. During her confirmation hearing, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked her how she would handle lawsuits from radical environmentalists aiming to force enormous bureaucratic compliance costs on schools, churches, hospitals and farms that emit greenhouse gases.
McCarthy intends to "follow-up with the potential litigant." That's still not a plan. Simply put, since the administration has no way to protect American jobs, it should kill off its cap-and-trade scheme.
Another New National Tax
Last week, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) opened the door for a national sales tax. "There is a growing awareness of the need for fundamental tax reform," he said, adding the Value Added Tax (VAT) should be "on the table." They're common in high-tax Europe, but the idea of a VAT is new to the U.S. Today's intrusive government and Obama's massive spending plans have highlighted the need for more federal revenue.
At first glance, a VAT and the $9 trillion national energy tax advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee may not have much in common, but upon closer inspection there is a startling resemblance. Each is necessary to raise desperately needed revenue that will fund new government programs. Either would kill economic growth and destroy jobs. And perhaps worst of all, both will hide their true cost to Americans, which is why they have so much appeal to politicians.
Dan Holler is deputy director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First Appeared in Human Events