Passing Bad Laws

A short guided tour-by a congressman-of the worst bills in Congress

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Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is a hard-core fiscal conservative, famous for voting against his own party's bills and for his willingness to talk trash about his colleagues' legislative efforts. Citizens Against Government Waste calls him a "taxpayer superhero" for his cost-cutting, small-government attitude. In January Reason asked Flake to name the three worst bills oozing out of Congress.

1. The Farm Bill: "Both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill extend subsidies, distort markets, and hamper future free trade agreements, and the final bill is only likely to get worse in a conference committee. Sugar growers who didn't get what they wanted in the initial legislation are urging conferees to repeal portions of NAFTA."

2. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill: "Congress rolled 11 appropriations bills into one massive package and passed it in late December. House members had less than 24 hours to read the legislation before we voted on it. We're still finding out what's actually in the bill. But we do know it contained nearly 12,000 earmarks. That was reason enough to vote 'no.'"

3. Economic Stimulus Package: "Any time Republicans and Democrats can so easily agree on legislation as expensive as this, it's not a good sign. Rebates look to me like an admission by Congress that perhaps the federal government shouldn't have taken that money in the first place. Hopefully, Congress will keep this in mind as the Bush tax cuts get set to expire."

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  1. “Rebates look to me like an admission by Congress that perhaps the federal government shouldn’t have taken that money in the first place.”

    It didn’t. Do you see a surplus lying around? The rebate is paid in Zimbabwe Dollars.

  2. I can’t just let economics get slandered so easily. Dogzilla, stimulus packages and the other services that government produces are jointly produced. Attempts to distribute costs amongst these services are arbitrary because they’re all taken out of a big pot of money that people pay in taxes. You can’t say that your federal tax money is being spent on ___ and John’s money is being spent on ___ and so on. Basically, for all you know, the Iraq War is paid for in Zimbabwe dollars. In a sense, I would say that Flake is right.

    PS economics is serious business.

  3. Flake is basically saying, “If giving money back to the people makes the economy stronger, why did we take it from them in the first place?” That’s all.

    Flake for VEEP!

  4. I don’t disagree, and didn’t mean to imply that the rebates are less paid for than other spending.
    But Congress isn’t admitting anything, and I doubt few Congressman beyond Flake and Paul think they “shouldn’t have taken the money in the first place”.

  5. Look, it’s not our money, the government just lets us play with some of it at their whim.

  6. There are only 3 bills in Congress bad enough to mention? This must be the bestest Congress ever!

  7. I know Reason has a love affair with handsome, self-described “libertarian” politicos, but what gives Flake any right to give a tour of the worst bills in Congress? This is the same man who voted for the worst pieces of legislation to come through Congress in our nation’s history — the PATRIOT act and the Military Commissions Act, which between them further gutted the 4th amendment and habeas corpus while retroactively legalizing the use of torture.

    Oh, and he voted for the Iraq war “use of force” authorization. In other words, he’s the perfect fit for Reason’s brand of libertarianism — the kind that sees the estate tax and the minimum wage as the greatest threats to liberty while ignoring foreign policy (unless it’s to link to a piece in the Weekly Standard or to make fun of Chavez or some other “enemy” of the American political establishment).

  8. And did I mention that this “hard-core fiscal conservative” has voiced no objection the three trillion dollar war in Iraq?

    I guess you can’t put a price tag on the killing of swarthy foreigners.

  9. Flake for VEEP

    Unfortunately, he is from the same state as McCain. So, unless you think Flake is going to leave the GOP….

  10. Damn, never even thought of that.

  11. Unfortunately, he is from the same state as McCain.

    Just a hop, skip, and a jump over to Wyoming from Arizona.

  12. Man oh man is he hot for a congresscritter.

    Why can’t he change that damned last name.

    I wouyld never want to be Mrs. Flake.

  13. Charlie how big an idiot are you. Have you seen a lot of pro-Patriot Act pro-Iraq War pieces published on Reason.com?

  14. …he voted for the Iraq war “use of force” authorization. In other words, he’s the perfect fit for Reason’s brand of libertarianism…

    More like “Eric Dondero’s brand of libertarianism”…

  15. If anything, I sometimes wonder why Reason is always on about the war. Not why it never mentions it. Hah!

  16. Bruce —

    I’ve seen plenty of pro-Flake fluff pieces over here praising him as a courageous libertarian — all failing to mention those little things like his votes on civil liberties and the war.

    And seeing as how Reason continues to pay people like Ronald Bailey, Michael and Cathy Young, and Michael Moynihan, there has certainly been a fair share of militaristic cheerleading here, even if the aforementioned no longer trumpet their support for the Iraq war like they used to (and I wonder why…).

  17. charlie, you are a fool.

    There’s been some hand wringing about the initial reasons to go to war and the quagmire that the US is in now. Check out Reason’s coverage of the war before you go pointing fingers.

    It was the economy and limited government aspects that Flake was being praised with. No one’s perfect, especially when it comes to politicians. Is Reason ever going to find a perfect libertarian politician to support that has all the same views as you charlie ? Doubtful.

  18. Windtell–

    Fuck you. I have been reading reason long enough to know that they were “ambivalent” on the war — one wonders if that ambivalence would extend to a willingness to allow dissenting points of view on, say, the war on drugs. I think not. Is it too much to ask that the one relatively successful, self-described libertarian magazine defend the traditional, non-interventionist libertarian standpoint? Why do I need to go to the American Conservative or the Nation if I want some decent analysis of U.S. foreign policy?

    You don’t have to read this blog for long to see that nearly all the foreign policy writing comes from a hawkish point of view — whether it’s Michael Young praising the liberation of Iraq or Michael Moynihan writing in the fucking Weekly Standard that Chavez is fueling a leftist guerrilla war in South America (the implication being that we should step up support for our dear ally Colombia).

    And I’m not asking for a perfect politician. In fact, I know that there is none — which is why reason should probably stop kissing up to them, ala the Cato Institute. But I think it’s clear that this magazine — like it’s parent foundation — sees libertarianism as aligned to the Republican Party. Fair enough. But it’s worth pointing out.

    And sorry, I don’t consider voting for warrantless wiretapping, the abolition of habeas corpus, and the retroactive legalization of torture to be minor deviations from libertarian philosophy. But I’m one of those idealists, I guess.

  19. Hopefully, Congress will keep this in mind as the Bush tax cuts get set to expire.

    Is this guy an optimist, or what?

    He thinks Congress has a mind.

  20. I don’t see the linkage between the Bush tax cuts and the rebate. The people who get the rebate and the amounts given are not the same as the people and amounts involved in the Bush tax cut.

  21. This is the same man who voted for the worst pieces of legislation to come through Congress in our nation’s history — the PATRIOT act and the Military Commissions Act,

    Gosh, worst in the nation’s history?

    Now, I agree that those two bills are odious pieces of crap, but I’m not sure they are the worst in 200+ years, or even on what scale you could judge laws that do things as odious as establishing the drug war (which has led to far more violations of civil rights than the PATRIOT Act ever could) or confiscating large portions of your income to give to other people.

  22. Still don’t know what to make of Flake. Also his support at CPAC or RPAC if you prefer causes concern. I love watching him during appropriation debates in Congress but he seems lukewarm on other issues and I believe he supports a federal marriage amendment, which worries me about his personal concept of Federalism. Right now he seems like the Jeff Foxworthy of Pork Barrel Spending, a one trick pony. “You might be a pork barrel amendment if…”

  23. Reason on Iraq —

    https://www.reason.com/search/results/?cx=000107342346889757597%3Ascm_knrboh8&cof=FORID%3A11&q=Iraq&sa=Search#946

    You could have found those yourself though, and if you’re telling the truth then you’ve already read the articles.

    Reason does support non-interventionism although not to the extent as it is anti-WOD as you point out. Yes, reason does see libertarianism aligned with the Republicans, not something that I agree with myself.

    Praising a politician for his economic viewpoint doesn’t mean that you give him carte blanche for his other viewpoints, it is possible to separate the two.

  24. Newsflash: the tax rebate is not really a tax rebate. It is a welfare check that will be sent out to all taxpayers and some non-taxpayers too. It has no connection to the amount of taxes that people pay; it is simply a check from the government. Such things are often termed “tax expenditures” because they are cloaked in the tax code but have little connection to taxes. If Flake think that this is a good, fiscally conservative, idea then he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  25. He didn’t say that it was.

  26. Is it too much to ask that the one relatively successful, self-described libertarian magazine defend the traditional, non-interventionist libertarian standpoint?

    It’s not as traditional a libertarian standpoint as you think.

    the tax rebate is not really a tax rebate. It is a welfare check that will be sent out to all taxpayers and some non-taxpayers too. It has no connection to the amount of taxes that people pay; it is simply a check from the government.

    And how many non-taxpayers, as compared to taxpayers, will receive it? In the overwhelming majority of cases it will be a rebate, and if it’s simpler and cheaper doing it this way, why not?

    To put it another way, why wouldn’t you rather the money be in the people’s hands where they’ll use it as they like, rather than being used to buy things for the USA? Or to pay off debt that was incurred buying things for the USA?

  27. I didn’t say that it was necessarily bad. But it is very different than a tax cut. If you feel that people who have been paying taxes have paid too much, then why not cut their taxes? Sending out checks is just government spending, not tax cutting. For example, we could just quit collecting social security taxes for a few months. People would keep more of their hourly earnings and may choose to work more, earn more, etc. The government could float bonds to pay Soc. Sec. for the loss, so that they would not go even more in the whole.

  28. A pro-war libertarian is an oxymoron, except without the “oxy” part.

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