Monday, July 26, 2010

Ron Paul: On the Bloated Intelligence Bureaucracy

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Ron PaulI have often spoken about the excessive size of government, and most recently how waste and inefficiency needs to be eliminated from our military budget. Our foreign policy is not only bankrupting us, but actively creating and antagonizing enemies of the United States, and compromising our national security. Spending more and adding more programs and initiatives does not improve things for us; it makes them much much worse. This applies to more than just the military budget.

Recently the Washington Post ran an extensive report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on the bloated intelligence community. They found that an estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. Just what are all these people up to? By my calculation this is about 11,000 intelligence workers per al Qaeda member in Afghanistan. This also begs the question - if close to 1 million people are authorized to know top secrets, how closely guarded are these secrets?

They also found that since the September 11 attacks, some 17 million square feet of building space has been built or is being built to accommodate the 250 percent expansion of intelligence organizations. Intelligence work is now done by some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private contracting companies in about 10,000 locations in the United States.

The former Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, has asserted that US intelligence now has the authority to target American citizens for assassination without charge or trial. How many of these resources are being devoted to spying on American citizens for nefarious reasons at home rather than targeting foreign enemies abroad?

It has been pointed out how much information we had about the impending attacks on 9/11, but because of layers upon layers of bureaucratic inefficiencies, our intelligence community was unable to act meaningfully on that information. Obviously we needed drastic change. But it was pretty clear that we did not need more bureaucracy, more confusion, more expenditures and more government.

It is even claimed by some leaders that the intelligence community has grown this way by design; that it is advantageous to have more than one set of eyes looking at the same information. With this logic, is there any number of intelligence employees at which we achieve diminishing returns? Can there ever be too many cooks in the kitchen, in their view?

Are there any problems at all that the government wouldn’t attempt to solve by throwing more money at them? Even now, the government is trying to solve our economic problems related to too much government spending and debt, with more government spending and debt.

The problem with our intelligence community before 9/11 was not an inability to collect information. Therefore, the post-September 11 build-up of the surveillance state does nothing to enhance safety. Instead what Americans have gotten in return for the billions of tax dollars spent on security is a surveillance state that reads our e-mails, wiretaps us without warrants, and strip searches grandmothers at airports. This is yet another instance in which Americans would be safer, richer and freer if our government would simply look to the Constitution and respect the boundaries it has set.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ron Paul's Statement on the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
House of Representatives

H.R.5114, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010

July 15, 2010

Ron PaulMr. Chair, the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act makes a number of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. Some of these changes are in the interests of taxpayers, such as the new restrictions on subsidies for second houses and vacation homes, while others, particularly the coverage limits, are in the interest of those who own property in flood plains. However, taken in its entirety this bill is not really in the interest of taxpayers or property owners because it creates new federal programs that appear to serve no useful purpose and it continues to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to impose unnecessary costs on local communities.

At a time when the flood insurance program is running a deficit of 2 billion dollars this legislation wastes millions of taxpayer dollars on ``outreach'' and "education" programs designed to make sure people living in flood prone areas are aware of the need for flood insurance. Madame Speaker, as a homeowner in a flood plain, I can assure you that property ownership these areas are very aware of the need for flood insurance and do not need any outreach or reminders of the need for flood insurance.

Many critics of flood insurance have pointed out that federally-subsidized insurance encourages people to develop land in areas where under a free market system flood insurance would be prohibitively expensive. This is a valid point; however, it is also true that the flood insurance program often imposes flood insurance mandates on property owners in areas where there is little actual risk of flooding. Much of the controversy over the redrawing of the flood plain maps revolves around concerns that FEMA may force local communities to spend millions of dollars refurbishing levees and dams even though these structures were constructed specifically to protect against the worst conceivable storms.

In some cases, FEMA is even demanding that communities spend money to alter levies that were constructed after consultation with the Corp of Engineers! While I am pleased the bill at least provides a phase-in of the flood insurance mandate for property owners living in the newly-mapped flood plains, I am concerned that it does not do enough to ensure communities and individuals are not forced to incur needless expenses simply to satisfy FEMA bureaucrats. At the least, Congress should not give FEMA the ability to impose new flood maps without adequate oversight. Yet, under this bill, it would be five years before Congress seriously re-examines the flood program.

The basic problem with the flood insurance program is that it assumes government officials are capable of knowing who should and who should not be required to purchase flood insurance, and also determine the premiums for every individual living in a flood-prone area. However, there is no way that government bureaucrats can determine correct amounts of coverage and premium prices for millions of individual homeowners.

If flood insurance were allowed to be provided by the market, private insurance could do an accurate job of pricing risk so that those who wished to live in flood-prone areas could do so as long as they were willing to pay for the risk. Under this market system, property owners and insurance companies would have incentives that are lacking when the program is subsidized by the government; i.e., incentives to adopt innovative ways to mitigate the damage from floods.

My district has experienced numerous storms and floods, including Hurricane Ike in 2008. After each incident, my office inevitably receives complaints from my constituents regarding FEMA's failure to provide them with timely assistance and compensation. My constituents' dissatisfaction with FEMA, along with the shameful way extension of the flood insurance program was held hostage last month in order to blackmail representatives into supporting adding billions more to the national debt, has strengthened my conviction that private markets, local communities, and states can more efficiently and humanely deal with the demand for flood insurance than the federal government.

The Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act does take some steps toward fixing some of the problems with the flood insurance system, but it also needlessly spends taxpayer money and does not adequately address concerns that FEMA may impose unnecessary costs on local communities--communities which do have plenty of incentive to make sure they are adequately prepared for a flood. Therefore, I must oppose this bill.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Violent Christians and Iraq (Jacob Hornberger)

Jacob Hornberger has a hard time understanding why a great number of American Christians seem to believe that "God supports the killing of some people (or even just one person) for the sake of bringing democracy to everyone else":

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, I have been absolutely amazed by the position taken by many American Christians. Needless to say, I’m no theologian but it just seems to me that it would be difficult to find a clearer example of a violation of God’s prohibition against murder than what the U.S. government has done to the Iraqi people, with the full support of many American Christians.

You’ll recall that initially, the Bush administration justified its planned invasion of Iraq based on its infamous WMD scare. Bush and other U.S. officials strongly suggested that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to attack the United States with the WMDs, weapons that, ironically, the United States and other Western nations had furnished him several years before so that he could use them against the Iranian people. (That’s why Bush and his people were so certain that U.S. troops would find WMDs in Iraq — they had the receipts!)

Prior to his invasion of Iraq, Bush’s goal was to implant a tremendous post-9/11 fear into the American people, a fear that would motivate Americans into supporting an invasion of the country without asking too many challenging questions.

And it worked.

Read the rest at the FFF blog

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy We-Should-Restore-The-Monarchy-And-Rejoin-Britain Day! (Stephan Kinsella)

I used to think that the Declaration of Independence was a shining example of a libertarian political document. It turns out I was wrong. Read Stephan Kinsella's blog post on the subject from last year as well as the many eye-opening links it contains:

The celebration of the 4th of July as if it’s a libertarian holiday is a bit much to bear. Secession from Britain was a mistake. It’s easy enough to realize that the Constitution was not some libertarian achievement as conservatives and libertarians delude themselves into thinking. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 led to all the standard evils of war and raising an army–in the words of Jeff Hummel, “unfunded government debt, paper money, skyrocketing inflation, price controls, legal tender laws, direct impressment of supplies and wide-spread conscription.” Hmm, doesn’t sound very libertarian to me. (See also below on the language of the Declaration.) Stealing, conscripting, enslaving, murdering. The glorification of democracy. The expansion of empire. The entrenching of corporatist interests with the state. The substitution of traditional order with worship of the democratic state.

Read the rest at the blog

Friday, July 2, 2010

U.S. Presidents and Those Who Kill for Them (Laurence Vance)

A powerful article by Laurence Vance on how tyrants can do nothing without people under them willing to do their bidding:

"The Czar can send any of his officials to Siberia, but he cannot rule without them, or against their will."

~ John Stuart Mill

What kind of a man would kill someone he didn’t know for someone else he didn’t know? I suppose our opinion of such an individual would depend on the circumstances. Most people would condemn a hit man for hire even as they would praise a man who came to the defense of a little old lady in a parking lot who was being attacked with deadly force by a gang of thugs.

But what kind of a man would kill someone he didn’t know, who had never harmed or threatened him, his family, his friends, or anyone he knew for someone he didn’t know, who didn’t know him, and had never been harmed or threatened by the person he wanted killed?

And even worse, who would do such a thing at a moment’s notice, without giving it a second thought, laugh while he did it, brag about it afterward, and then expect to be lauded as a hero?

It pains me to say that the answer is a soldier in the U.S. military.

Read the rest at