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Obama’s wishful budget isn't serious

When President Barack Obama submitted his proposed budget one year ago, he claimed that he wanted to do away with the “mindless austerity” of the sequestration, which had provided some measure of limitation on government spending. Then in December, aided and abetted by a Republican-controlled Congress, he eradicated those minor restrictions and replaced mindless austerity with clueless profligacy.

Now he puts forth a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, that calls for $4.15 trillion in spending, a $223 billion increase over the current year’s budget. His proposal, curiously released while all eyes were focused on the New Hampshire primary, spans more than 2,300 pages, which, in itself, serves as a testament to the federal government’s bloat and overreach.

The president’s budget contains $3 trillion in proposed tax increases over the next 10 years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The most controversial of these is a $10.25-per-barrel oil tax, which would be used to fund “clean” transit projects and low-carbon technologies such a self-driving cars, which the private sector is already rapidly developing. With oil prices currently hovering around $30 a barrel, that is a roughly 35 percent tax, which experts project would translate to a price hike of about 25 cents per gallon at the pump. Fortunately, this is a nonstarter for congressional Republicans.

The president’s budget message reads like his State of the Union addresses, espousing his wish list, from “green energy” subsidies to universal preschool to high-speed rail and increased transit funding to $4 billion for a K-12 computer science program to two years of “free” community college to apprenticeship programs to “encouraging” state paid leave policies — none of which is the province of federal, state and local governments.

Obama’s budget would, once again, expand government control over our lives and further burden current and future generations with debt. It is understandable that a lame-duck president with a somewhat hostile Congress would advance a budget sprinkled with fairy dust, but Obama’s proposal should not be taken seriously with regard to fiscal responsibility.

The Orange County Register, Feb. 10

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Fractured Libya is a worry for U.S.

Libya is rapidly growing as a concern for the United States, joining Iraq and Syria as areas where the presence and influence of the Islamic State are increasing.

In the absence of a government, which was destroyed in 2011 by the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and some internal elements, Libya remains the principal springboard for Africans fleeing across the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. Migrants from the south are not as big a problem for Europeans as the refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but they, too, are difficult to absorb.

Libya is partly presided over — not governed — by rival groups, one in Tripoli, the former capital, and the other at Tobruk. Both pretend to be the legitimate government, but neither is accepted across the country. Other nations tried to assemble a government of national unity, incorporating elements of both groups, in Rome last year. It didn’t hold when the opposing leaders returned to Libya.

Another important element is the Islamic State group, based in Sirte, a port on the Mediterranean. Some speculate that the Islamic State is looking for a staging area outside Syria and Iraq, where it would be potentially safer from U.S. bombing and possible ground attack. Libya offers the added advantage of access to oil money. Under former leader Moammar Gadhafi, Libya pumped more than a million barrels a day. Its daily production is now down to 400,000 barrels, but the Islamic State would have the income from at least part of that.

Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States needs to do something about Libya, a problem he inherited from predecessor Hillary Rodham Clinton, who pushed the intervention that overthrew Gadhafi. He recently ruled out U.S. boots on the ground, something that should please Americans, given the futility of trying to resurrect Libyan governance.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 5

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