The latest ranking of contractors providing services to the federal government reveals that at least nine of the top 10 are tied to the Department of Defense and took in nearly $70 billion of the government’s money in 2010. Leading the pack as it has for the past 17 years is Lockheed Martin, with $17 billion, followed by Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.

The top 27 contractors each received at least $1 billion in contracts from the government last year, with Number 100 on the list, Teledyne, getting $170 million. This reflects the enormous growth of government spending in general, and on outside vendors in particular, growing from $207 billion in 2000 to $535 billion last year.

While the private-sector is drowning under a perpetual recessionary storm, U.S. regulatory agencies are flourishing. "If the federal government’s regulatory operation were a business, it would be one of the 50 biggest in the country in terms of revenues, and the third largest in terms of employees, with more people working for it than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined," writes John Merline of Investors.com.

Indeed, the federal regulatory business is thriving, and if there is one "victory" President Obama can declare, this is it, because government regulation has grown rapidly under his watch. From Investors.com:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack claims food stamps and other forms of government welfare are camouflaged stimulus programs that stir job growth by pumping money into the economy. After questioned about the cancerous issue of unemployment and the growing number of impoverished Americans forced to live on food stamps, Vilsack responded that the reason so many Americans are on food stamps — 46 million, or one in seven people — is because the Obama administration has helped states get "the word out" about the program.

During an interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," Vilsack asserted that though the food stamps program dates back to 1939, large states such as Texas and California have "underperformed" in bridging eligible participants to the program. "The reason why these numbers have gone up is that we’ve done a pretty good job of working with states that had done a poor job in the past in getting the word out about this program," he alleged. "We’re now working with them to make sure that people who are eligible get the benefits."
 

Now that Texas Governor Rick Perry has announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, there has been heightened scrutiny of his record and his rhetoric by the very organizations he likely counted on for support in the primary elections.
For example, Rick Perry’s hard-talking (“it takes balls to execute an innocent man”), don’t-mess-with-Texas, socially conservative image has been polished eagerly by many of the coterie of Tea Party organizations anxious to impact the contest to take the White House in 2012.
 
While his appeal to many Tea Partiers is unquestioned (particularly by Perry himself), more than a few discordant notes have sounded in the Tea Party chorus of praise. Some in the anti-tax band of the Tea Party spectrum have begun questioning Perry’s anti-tax bona fides in light of his record as Governor of the Lone Star State.

Mark Levin is a talk radio show host who, like his colleague and friend Sean Hannity, prides himself on being a “Reagan conservative.” From as far as I can determine, it is with justice that he describes himself as such. The problem, however, is that a “Reagan conservative” isn’t a real conservative at all; for all practical purposes, “Reagan conservatism” is just another name for neoconservatism.  This is an attack against neither Ronald Reagan, “Reagan conservatives,” nor neoconservatives. That Reagan never succeeded in eliminating a single government program, much less an agency, and that federal spending increased exponentially under his watch are just a couple of the considerations that some have invoked to argue, quite persuasively, that Reagan was not a real conservative.  At the very least, if he was a conservative, his presidency didn’t prove to be all that successful as far as his conservatism was concerned.

But Reagan aside, judging from the policy prescriptions endorsed by Levin and all self-avowed “Reagan conservatives,” the verdict that “Reagan conservatism” is evidently synonymous with neoconservatism is inescapable.

The Reality Church in Olympia, Washington is considering filing suit against the state government for denying its request to perform a baptism in a public park.

Over the weekend, the church had hoped to use Heritage Park, a public park near the state Capitol, for a baptism ceremony and a barbecue. So as not to use the park's 260-acre manmade lake to conduct the baptisms, they planned to use a portable baptistry; but their request was denied. The church is now examining its legal options to determine whether the state has violated its own constitution.

 

Rick Perry’s self-propelled entry into the contest for the Republican presidential nomination is creating a bit of a stir among conservatives. He missed the debates and straw polls in Iowa and yet immediately emerged as one of the front runners before even facing a Tea Party audience. The fact that Michele Bachmann won the straw poll (barely squeaking by runner-up Ron Paul) and that Pawlenty pulled out of the race, means that there is plenty of time for all sorts of things to happen in the months ahead.

According to the latest poll, Perry has come out ahead of Romney and Bachmann and Paul. But it is unlikely that Mitt Romney will play dead and not do some research into Perry’s record and find a way to demolish this new threat to his candidacy. Romney’s strategy is to get as many delegates at the Republican convention as possible to vote for him. After all, it’s the delegates who will pick the next President of the United States.

But already, conservative Republicans in Texas are sending out email messages warning us about Rick Perry.

Beginning in 2000, with the election to the presidency of George W. Bush, the Republican Party enjoyed control over both the legislative and executive branches of government. Election Day, 2006, however, marked the beginning of the end of this era, and by November of 2008, voters had long since resolved to bring the Republicans’ reign to a decisive close.

While watching the Iowa Republican presidential primary debate, one could be forgiven for thinking that none of this had happened. With the sole exception of Ron Paul, there wasn’t a single other candidate on the stage who so much as signaled regret over, much less repudiate (as Paul did), the very Republican Party agenda with which Americans became thoroughly disenchanted three years ago — an agenda to which, judging from the candidates’ utterances, Republicans remain committed today.

To put it in terms of our contemporary political vernacular, President Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism” is apparently alive and well in the Republican Party of 2011.

By his first executive order, Governor Sam Brownback appointed Dennis Taylor to the new office of Repealer, to cut the size of government and reduce its intrusion on the people and economy of the Sunflower State. The website for the Kansas state government now includes a tab for the Repealer, which, when clicked, states:

If you believe that an unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, onerous or conflicting law, regulation or other governing instrument, detrimental to the economic well-being of Kansas, exists, please provide us with information in the fields below.

Please enter your information and the law, regulation, or rule that you would like to have reviewed.

During a luncheon at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Taylor explained what has already been done to improve the efficiency of the Kansas Department of Administration, adding that he expects approximately 300 repeal recommendations to be delivered soon.

On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to freedom of speech. The court said that despite the Topeka, Kansas, church’s contentious behavior — extreme demonstrations against homosexuality, including anti-gay protests at military funerals — such actions are subject to constitutional protections.

State legislatures, however, have attempted to pass laws that would undermine the Supreme Court ruling. The latest endeavor can be found in Illinois.

On Sunday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the “Let Them Rest in Peace Act,” which would force anti-gay protests at military funerals to be at least 300 feet — the length of a football field — from military funerals. Additionally, the bill bans protests from taking place 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after funerals.

At the time he signed the law, Governor Quinn declared:

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