Amid all the publicity of the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy and bailout, the scramble to find money for road repairs and school superintendents who have spun funding increases as reductions, what may be lost is that the overall state budget is projected to increase by $2 billion in fiscal 2014-15.
In fact, the state will spend about $4.7 billion more than it did in 2011-12, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. An increase in federal money accounts for $2 billion of that $4.7 billion increase over the past three years.
The state has appropriated $53.12 billion for 2014-15. The overall state budget was $48.42 billion in 2011-12, then increased to $48.55 billion in 2012-13 and is at $51.15 billion this year, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Those figures include federal dollars. For the 2014-15 budget that has been proposed, $21.73 billion is federal money.
“Am I surprised? No,” said Jason Gillman, a tea party activist from Traverse City.
“Truthfully, people have given up trying to keep track. Are other people going to be surprised? They aren’t going to care. If they cared, they’d see it coming, too.”
The state’s economic rebound has caused tax revenues to increase even after business tax cuts and a slight reduction in the personal income tax rate, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
“It’s all the more reason to be skeptical of policymakers demanding more taxpayer money,” Hohman said.
Romeo Area Tea Party
When: Wed July 30th @ 7PM
Where: Washington Township Hall/Senior Center
57900 Van Dyke, Washington Twp.
(park in the back lot and enter in the South entrance)
****This event is free and open to the public****
About The Monuments Men:
Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action-thriller focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements.
Movie Web Site: http://www.monumentsmenmovie.com/
Movie Trailer: http://youtu.be/oBfMOmR4S9M
• Drug cartels are helping would-be immigrants cross the border.
• Border officials: 3 of 4 people crossing the border are from countries other than Mexico.
• State lawmaker: “Texas is not waiting for Washington to act.”
Last weekend, I visited McAllen, Texas, a hotbed of activity in the recent immigration surge on the U.S. – Mexico border. I rode with U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, on a boat with the Texas Department of Public Safety along the Rio Grande River and toured one of the busiest processing centers in the country as it dealt with the flood of illegal aliens from Central America.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Jose Rodriguez, regional commander of DPS (pictured left-right here), led the briefing on Operation Strong Safety, the surge operation ordered by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in June to address the growing crisis on the border. They told us the surge is aimed primarily at fighting the drug cartels and human smuggling operatives that control much of the Rio Grande Valley border.
McCraw and Rodriguez said these Transnational Criminal Organizations are fueling the influx of illegal aliens coming from Central America. They believe TCOs are behind the media stories and advertisements in countries such as Honduras that encourage people to come and that they serve as coyotes/human smugglers. Criminals benefit from immigration surges: When border officials are overwhelmed by a flood of immigrants, their attention is diverted from monitoring drug smuggling.
Aiming more law enforcement at these criminal organizations and shutting down their operations along the Rio Grande and larger Texas border will go a long way to address the Central American and unaccompanied children issue, said McCraw and Rodriguez.
“We’ve seen increased scouting of our activities by drug cartels,” Rodriquez said. “Their goal is to determine where we are and when we’ll be there, so they can figure out the best times to smuggle drugs and people through. The surge allows us to go after the organizers of these activities in a major way.”
According to McCraw, the “objective is not to inconvenience them [the drug cartels] but to hurt them. The drug cartel and human trafficking agents are a threat to communities not just on the border but across America.”
This is the view from the dock of a park in McAllen that overlooks one of the widest areas of the Rio Grande River. The land you see directly across is a park in Reynosa, Mexico, and the boat here belongs to the Texas Highway Patrol, which monitors the waterways.
Many of the unaccompanied children and family units are crossing in this area, and most immediately turn themselves in to the border patrol.
This video clip shows a beach in Mexico approximately 200 to 300 feet across from the park in McAllen. The beach is a recreational and swimming area used by Mexican locals. But it also is one of the main areas where smugglers bring immigrants from Central America and push them across the Rio Grande River in rafts or bring them across on jet skis.
As we traveled down the Rio Grande River on the Texas Highway Patrol boat, military officials described some of the specific challenges of securing this area of the border. According to the young Marine featured here who works on the Texas border operation and who didn’t want to give his name, the most dangerous parts of the job are going after those smuggling drugs across the border.
Another challenge he and others on the border face is that a majority of illegal crossers are coming across U.S. Fish and Wildlife area refuges – areas where border officials have limited access to roads and where the types of vehicles allowed are severely restricted.
These two homes, not more than 250 feet from the U.S. shoreline, belong to Mexican drug lords, the officials said. They stand on the Mexican banks of the Rio Grande River.
Even at its widest parts, the Rio Grande is often very shallow and easy to cross. Standing in the middle of the river in this photo are two Mexican men fishing, with Mexico on the right and Texas on the left. There are walls and fence structures along parts of the Texas southern border, but most areas are open.
One of the state lawmakers in our group was Rep. Bryan Hughes, a Republican who represents District 5 in Texas. When I asked him what he would want folks in other states to know about how this affects Texas and could affect them, he was thoughtful.
“Border security is not a state responsibility,” he said. “But the dereliction of duty by the feds affects us all. Texas is not waiting for Washington to act.”
The Lone Star State, Hughes said, is spending “hundreds of millions” on border security, and has just allocated “another $1.3 million per week for a surge in law enforcement resources.”
“Working with Border Patrol, county, local and state law enforcement, we will aggressively disrupt the drug cartels’ operations,” he said. “And we believe that will go a long way in reducing all illegal border crossings.”
For Texans in Hughes’ district, there are two top anxieties about the current border situation.
“My constituents are concerned about the safety and well-being of the thousands of unaccompanied minors who are flooding into Texas,” Hughes said. “Texans are also alarmed about the security risks to our country as drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists can more easily sneak across our southern border during this time of crisis.”
This is the Department of Homeland Security building in McAllen, currently the busiest such facility in the U.S. It processes more than 1,000 people a day. When illegal immigrants are apprehended by the border patrol, this is where they are brought.
After arrival, officials find out where they’re from and if they have a criminal record. Normally, this process should take a day, but because federal immigration authorities have not been able to handle the flood of immigrants, people are being kept here for three days or more.
When I was there in June, more than 300 illegal border crossers were being held here, most from Central America. They stay in holding cells with large windows so agents can monitor activities. People are divided by age and sex, except for mothers with children.
This is the sally port on the backside of the DHS building. Normally this is a secure area where vans and buses would enter to transport those in custody. But because of the overwhelming number of illegal aliens crossing the border, it is currently being used to shelter more than 500 people.
It’s an open-air area with just fans to provide a reprieve from the Texas sun. There are no beds or cots: People are given silver blankets, like you’d see at a race event, to sit and lay on. There are no bathing facilities, just portable toilets. Many of those coming across have lice and other skin infections. To try to prevent the infections spreading, they are sectioned off from the larger group.
Albert Spratte, pictured on the left talking with Gohmert, is the sergeant at arms, Union 3307, for the National Border Patrol Council. According to Spratte, drug and human smugglers monitor the border and river crossing areas on the Mexico side, along with bus and train stops in Mexican border towns, to ensure no one comes across without paying the smugglers to get them across.
“We’re good at what we do,” Spratte said. “We’re being asked to do things we’re not supposed to do. We’re supposed to stop and detain. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is supposed to deport. The situation is worse than you think, and it’s not going to change until you start deporting people.”
As for the facilities where immigrants are held until ICE steps in, “If we were a jail, we’d be closed down,” he said.
According to officials I spoke with, three out of four of those crossing the borders are “OTMs–the term for “Other Than Mexican.” At least one in four are children, 45 to 50 percent are family units, and the male/female ratio is roughly 60-40.
Although the current wave of border crossers is primarily from Central America, people from more than 140 different countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have crossed the southern border. Earlier this month, 33 people from China were apprehended.
As to why so many from Central America are coming now, a top border offical told me, “They recognize they’ve overwhelmed the system. And they know they are going to be released and told to report, but a very minimal number of them ever do.” In other words, those released to family members in the U.S. are supposed to report to the local immigration and customs office once settled to begin their deportation process, but few ever do.
Since I’ve returned from the border, a number of people have asked me about the morale of border agents dealing with this crisis. I would say the majority, although seriously overworked, are encouraged by the recent attention the issue has gotten and the surge of law enforcement promised by the state of Texas.
A senior border official, who didn’t wish to give his name, summed up the view I heard from many there when I asked how his unit was handling the situation: “For border patrol, it’s a good news story. We’re doing our job.
“For the federal government … not so much.”
Vote of No Confidence: Americans Have Little Faith in Media
Philip Wegmann /
A recent Gallup poll finds that Americans’ confidence in each of the three major media platforms—television news, newspapers and Internet news—has plummeted to record lows.
When asked to identify from a list of 17 vital American institutes which they had a “great deal” or “quite a-lot” of confidence in, more than a thousand participants ranked the three platforms consistently below par.
Television news, the most prominent medium, has fallen to a historic new low. In 1993, at the beginning of the Clinton administration, 66 percent of Americans expressed confidence in TV news. Now only 22 percent place their confidence there—a four-point plummet from last year.
Confidence in American newspapers has fallen to less than half of what it used to be at its apex. In 1979, 51 percent of Americans placed their confidence in print institutions, but today only 22 percent express confidence in newspapers.
While news sites have reached newfound prominence on the Internet, their confidence ratings continue to lag behind. Internet news sources garnered 22 percent of American’s confidence in 1999 at Gallup’s only previous measure. Fifteen years later, confidence remains anemic at 19 percent.
Behind these figures, Geoffrey Lysaught sees failed responsibility. The Heritage Foundation group vice president for strategic communications explained “there is nothing more important to the defense of liberty than high-quality journalism.”
According to Lysaught, these numbers are indicative of the contemporary media’s practice of allowing opinion and bias to supplant facts and evidence in their reports. “The American people are smart and they know when news media are advocating as opposed to educating.”
Gallup’s poll was based on interviews conducted June 5-8 with 1,027 adults. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
The Crony Capital
Capitalism, Washington, D.C., style.
This view is wrong. Not all of the concerns of today’s grassroots are fundamentally about left versus right, and not all political appeals to the center are bound to alienate conservatives.
For too long, conservatives have lazily substituted rhetoric about free markets and lower taxes for the hard work of identifying and eliminating structural obstacles to economic dynamism. That work is uncomfortable, as it forces conservatives to come to terms with claims made more often by the left than the right about our political and economic systems. But it is necessary, and not just as a corrective to the left’s misguided arguments; it will also lead to sounder public policy.
Republican political professionals might prefer to dismiss such assertions, but most Americans—conservatives included—are indeed frustrated with a political economy that increasingly seems to benefit the well-connected. Tea Partiers have as much trouble as Occupy protesters identifying with bailed-out mortgage lenders and Washington lobbyists. Elizabeth Warren’s policy prescriptions may be unwise, but the critique of American capitalism underlying them has more resonance than we conservatives like to admit. Until we begin to address the tension between the interests
of K Street’s clients and the interests of most Americans, many voters who might be inclined to agree with us will stay home.
Conservatives should recognize, moreover, that there is nothing conservative about the status quo that has engendered such cynicism in so many Americans. Where the left errs is not in its frustration with our current system but in its diagnosis that the problem is the free market itself. The truth of the matter is perfectly compatible with conservatism: Many of big business’s greatest advantages over small competitors stem not from scale achieved through success in the free market but from success in capturing the levers of political power.
Sometimes, the means employed by politicians to protect big business are clear: subsidies and bailouts delivered to political allies, for example. Others are less obvious: licensing requirements easily overcome by large-scale enterprises but especially onerous for small-staff operations; tax loopholes available only to those who can afford savvy tax lawyers; complex regulations comprehensible only to experts in administrative procedure.
These decrees kill competition, and in so doing, they don’t merely hurt small business; everyone in the market suffers. There’s a reason most Americans are struggling to keep up with essential expenses such as housing and health care. Government policy directly insulates entrenched players in these industries from competition while providing them taxpayer-funded financial support. This nexus of big business and big government is a recipe for greater costs for most Americans, through higher prices and higher taxes.