NewsBusters Columns

Twenty-nine years after her death, novelist Ayn Rand is coming to a theater near you. After many failed attempts, her 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" has been made into a film.

In an age when overspending, overreaching, higher-taxing and overregulating government increasingly strangles the private sector, robbing us of our liberties and transforming the country into the model of a socialist state, Rand's story reminds us how far ahead of her time she was and just how dangerous a time we live in now.

Last week was the culmination of a process begun years ago. A bill was introduced to Congress that could end American dependence on foreign oil. What is called the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act — more simply put, the NAT GAS Act — was introduced to Congress on April 6. It has bipartisan support. It ought to pass and pass promptly. It could be called the Boone Pickens bill.

The process began with the Pickens Plan for global energy security in 2008. Authored by legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens, who put some $80 million of his own money into promoting it, it called for the development of all sources of energy, even wind and solar. Boone recognized that as long as America is dependent on foreign oil, America has a national security problem. We import 70 percent of our oil, an amount that can only go up unless something is done. The oil comes from unfriendly countries in the worst scenarios, unstable countries in slightly better scenarios. Canada is the best scenario but cannot provide all the oil we need.


It's time for a 21st-century retirement age. __If 40 is the new 20 and 50 is the new 30, why shouldn't 70 be the new 65? The last time Washington politicians tinkered ever so gingerly with the government-sanctioned retirement age, Ronald Reagan was in office and Generation X-ers were all in diapers. Since then, American life expectancy has increased by half a decade and continues to rise — while the "traditional" retirement age (established eight decades ago) has only recently begun phasing up to 67 and the official "early" retirement age (established four decades ago) remains stuck at 62.

There is simply no good reason 21st-century workers should operate under obsolete 1930s-era expectations and 1970s rules. We're living longer, working longer and, in general, holding down jobs that are far less physically taxing than those of previous generations.

The great American engine of democracy is beginning to build up a head of steam, and it remains the finest device created by man to organize collective human action.

Two months ago, the conventional wisdom held that Washington would do nothing of consequence to start dealing with our fiscal crisis. Certainly, that was the political baseline for the president's Feb. 14 budget proposal for 2012, which, while roundly condemned as a call to inaction, was seen as politically "shrewd."

I've often said that I wish there were some humane way to get rid of the rich. If you asked why, I'd answer that getting rid of the rich would save us from distraction by leftist hustlers promoting the politics of envy. Not having the rich to fret over might enable us to better focus our energies on what's in the best interest of the 99.99 percent of the rest of us. Let's look at some facts about the rich laid out by Bill Whittle citing statistics on his RealClearPolitics video "Eat the Rich."

This year, Congress will spend $3.7 trillion dollars. That turns out to be about $10 billion per day. Can we prey upon the rich to cough up the money? According to IRS statistics, roughly 2 percent of U.S. households have an income of $250,000 and above. By the way, $250,000 per year hardly qualifies one as being rich. It's not even yacht and Learjet money. All told, households earning $250,000 and above account for 25 percent, or $1.97 trillion, of the nearly $8 trillion of total household income. If Congress imposed a 100 percent tax, taking all earnings above $250,000 per year, it would yield the princely sum of $1.4 trillion. That would keep the government running for 141 days, but there's a problem because there are 224 more days left in the year.

The ominous threat of a government shutdown dominated the news last week. The media weren’t wrong to cover it as a dramatic debate, but all of the hype and horror looked a little bizarre by the weekend – like wide-eyed, screaming hurricane warnings on the Weather Channel followed by a sunny calm.

When the deal was struck, the TV pundits quickly moved on to how there were sharper, harsher battles ahead over much larger chunks of federal spending. That’s true. But in hindsight, the entire shutdown fight looks by comparison like a war over who was splitting the pizza delivery bill....tip. The $38 billion in spending cuts is a bit of an achievement when Obama didn’t want to cut anything – but it’s still the drop in the proverbial $3.7 trillion bucket.

Instead of fighting over who’s the “winner” in this small skirmish, let’s just focus on a few obnoxious shutdown spins.

The Republicans did not win this budget fight, but the cuts they were able to extract illustrate, ironically, that Democrats are finally on the defensive. Scorekeeping aside, we must build on this non-victory because it was also a Democratic retreat.

Last week, I argued that the GOP should not cave on the budget negotiations for many reasons, including that today is not 1995-96. Things are so much different now, especially because of the existential threat to the republic that the exploding national debt represents.

This week, the picture is finally complete. First, the Obama White House decided to leap headfirst into the gun control debate. Then came the response from Congress, which is far more interested in investigating the "Fast and Furious" scandal, in which federal agents allowed thousands of guns to be "walked" into Mexico and furnished to drug cartels. And now the final piece: President Barack Obama has filed his papers to run for re-election.

That in a nutshell is all gun owners need to know about the 2012 presidential election. After two years of avoiding the gun control debate (and violating his own campaign promises to push for additional restrictions), Obama finally is showing his true colors on this important issue. Let's not forget that this is the same candidate who once espoused a total ban on handguns and more recently supported a nationwide ban on right-to-carry laws. And if he couldn't get that done, he said he would support increasing the taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent. Now he is trying to be measured about his gun control objectives, using vague and gauzy rhetoric that his handlers hope will be difficult to hang around his neck.

"He feels things like a normal guy from Queens. Not like a politician."

That's Maggie Gallagher, stalwart defender of traditional marriage, on The Donald.

When asked about gay marriage, real-estate tycoon and longtime media celebrity Donald Trump sorta shrugs, sorta hesitates, because it's not something he wants to campaign on or particularly talk about. But he says he's against it, and has said so a few times now.

As the network TV barons peruse through a menu of pilots for new fall shows, some just jump out of the pile. Some Tinseltown pundits have already pegged it as “likely” that NBC will pick up a show for fall called “The Playboy Club.” Just like it sounds, the show is based in Hugh Hefner’s original Playboy Club in Chicago in swinging 1963. If that doesn’t sound porn-friendly enough, the pilot’s producers at 20th Century Fox TV required all actors on the show to sign a nudity clause – virtually unheard of in broadcast television.

"Nudity” in this contract is defined as well, nudity. But that’s not what grabs attention. This is: “Nudity as defined above and/or simulated sex acts may be required in connection with player's services in the pilot and/or series," the clause reads, according to Variety. Actors may now be required to be naked on NBC.

Despite this new low, Variety was told there was no nudity in the pilot, and producers didn’t plan any such thing for NBC. But apparently, the broadcast version would provide temptation for the titillated to buy the DVD for the “extras.” (And if there will be no nudity, why a nudity clause?)