In my last post I discussed the apparent inversion of the responsibility of the executive branch of government, namely that it has taken on a far greater role in domestic policy while turning its back in large part on its traditional responsibility for foreign affairs. The result has been an over-mighty presidency at home, a weakened and ineffectual Congress, and a rudderless foreign policy.
While I challenged the American public to rise against the tide of executive overreach, I did not thoroughly address what Congress itself can do to challenge the siphoning away of its traditional powers. There is in fact a great deal it can do.
The supreme legislative power of the United States is vested in the two houses of Congress. It is the only body with the authority to make laws. Yet that power has been furtively ignored by the Obama administration, which has taken to issuing executive orders with gusto. Executive orders are meant to be directives on how best to execute the laws made by Congress, not laws in themselves. Yet that is the character they have begun to take. One way for Congress to reassert its control over the legislative process would be to create far stricter guidelines in law as to what constitutes an appropriate executive order.
A reassertion of congressional eminence can only succeed if there is a culture change in its members. Senators and congressmen once jealously guarded the privileges and powers of their chambers and branch, even if it meant challenging a president of their own party. The culture in the legislature has to be restored to the belief that the branches of government are institutions in themselves that must be preserved, not just organs for exercising power for whatever party happens to hold them. The political culture in Washington has to change if the constitutional checks and balances are to hold.
It is one of the ironies of history that it is the executive branch that has grown over-mighty. Indeed, the framers of the Constitution feared far more that the Congress was the most likely institution of government to accrete power at the expense of the executive and judiciary. In their eyes the president was simply the chief magistrate of the republic, not an elective monarch.
We need more execution of the laws from the president and less kingly pronouncements. There is a great deal that can be done to restore the presidency to its rightful bounds, but it can only be accomplished if Congress also accepts its proper role as equal partner in the business of government.
In 1900, we had no airplanes, no computers, no cellphones, no internet. We had only rudimentary versions of cars, trucks, telephones, even cameras. As Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon report in their underappreciated work, It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years,
“It is hard for us to imagine, for example, that in 1900 less than one in five homes had running water, flush toilets, a vacuum cleaner, or gas or electric heat. As of 1950 fewer than 20 percent of homes had air conditioning, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven. Today between 80 and 100 percent of American homes have all of these modern conveniences.”
Indeed, in 1900 only 2% of U.S. homes enjoyed electricity.
Moore and Simon explain that the real difference between 1900 and today is that real per capita GDP in the U.S. grew by nearly 7 times during that period, meaning the American standard of living grew by that much as well. Such continued, sustained economic growth would solve every real problem America faces today.
An Often Overlooked Math Lesson
If total real compensation, wages and benefits, grow at just 2% a year, after just 20 years the real incomes and living standards of working people would be nearly 50% greater, and after 40 years they would be 120% greater, more than doubled. At sustained 3% growth in wages and benefits, after 20 years the living standards of working people will have almost doubled, and after 40 years they will have more than tripled.
The U.S. economy sustained a real rate of economic growth of 3.3% from 1945 to 1973, and achieved the same 3.3% sustained real growth from 1982 to 2007. (Note that this 3.3% growth rate for the entire economy includes population growth. Real wages and benefits discussed above is a per worker concept). It was only during the stagflation decade of 1973 to 1982, reflecting the same Keynesian economics that President Obama is pursuing today, that real growth fell to only half long term trends. And Obama is falling short of even that, now in our sixth year of his misleadership and misrule, way too long to wait for now long overdue true recovery.
If we could revive and sustain that same 3.3% real growth for 20 years, our total economic production (GDP) would double in that time. After 30 years, our economic output would grow by 2 and two-thirds. After 40 years, our prosperity bounty would grow by 3 and two-thirds. If we are truly following growth maximizing policies, we could conceivably do even better than we have in the past world dominant (though actually declining) 40 years. At sustained real growth of 4% per year, our economic production would more than double after 20 years. After 30 years, GDP would more than triple. After 40 years, a generation, total U.S. economic output would nearly quadruple. America would by then have leapfrogged further generations ahead of the rest of the world.
Such restored, sustained, economic growth would rebuild the rapidly rising living standards that today’s middle class so anxiously wants to see again. It is also the ultimate solution to poverty, as after a couple of decades or so of such growth, the poor would climb to the same living standards as the middle class of today.
Such renewed, booming growth would empower the middle class to the prosperous retirement to which they still aspire, or at least still dream about. It would greatly ease the way to assuring health care for all, and privately finance the rapid medical advances and breakthroughs that modern medical science now increasingly offers in prospect. Families could more readily fund and finance higher education, and new, expansive homes for growing children.
Booming economic growth would produce surging revenues that would make balancing the budget, while still maintaining funding for essential needs, so much more feasible. Surging GDP would reduce the national debt as a percent of GDP relatively quickly, particularly with balanced budgets not adding any further to the debt.
With sustained, robust, economic growth, maintaining the most powerful military in the world, and thereby ensuring our nation’s security and national defense, will require a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP over time. That security itself will promote capital investment and economic growth in America. The booming economy will produce new technological marvels that will make our defenses all the more advanced. With the economy rapidly advancing, there will be more than enough funds to clean up and maintain a healthy environment. America’s previous prosperity is what has enabled us to do so much to clean up the environment already.
As my colleague Louis Woodhill has observed, “There is nothing that the federal government could possibly do for the middle class (or any other class, for that matter) that having 30% more income would not do much, much better.” That is where we would be today if we had just kept the bipartisan economic growth of the Reagan and Clinton years going. But there is so much more that can be done now to spark a 21st Century economic breakout today. For all of the above reasons, this is the top policy priority of today, by far.
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
The short book Room to Grow, published on May 22 by an outfit calling itself the “Young Guns Network,” is a collection of essays by known, recognized, younger policy intellectuals, purporting to offer new ideas for the Republican Party. An untimely outgrowth of a project of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Tea Party wags used to call him “CantorWont”), the essays can remind readers of why there is such a strong feeling of unease about the current Republican leadership (counterproductively cautious and afraid of truly pathbreaking new ideas, without the courage of their convictions demanded by the times and circumstances).
The real problem with the book intellectually is that after the third word of the title, what should be Job 1 for the Republican opposition, restoring traditional, American, booming economic growth, and the American Dream, is basically entirely overlooked. Woodhill’s further commentary on it bears repeating here for emphasis,
“The Republican Party is either the party of economic growth, or it is nothing, and it loses elections. Not only does Room to Grow not emphasize economic growth, it scarcely mentions it….The phrase ‘economic growth’ appears only four times in total….Only twice…in the context of calling for increasing it, and in those cases, no specifics are given about how this might be accomplished.”
The first introduction by former Bush speech writer Peter Wehner reflects this problem. It says the aim of the book is “to offer a concrete, conservative, governing agenda that is equal to this moment.” But the book clearly fails to do that, offering not only no agenda for economic growth, but no inspiring, strategic, big ideas for liberating the American people from high taxes, excessive government spending, deficits and debt, runaway overregulation, and our debauched currency. In other words, there is no focus either on liberty or making government smaller. It ignores rather than draws upon the good work done by others and successful precedents and strategies. It is all air brushed, sharply circumscribed, overly cautious and complex, dull colors, rather than the bright flag of bold pastels that inspired a generation of conservative Republican governance. In other words, the book reflects the spirit of McCain and Romney, or Boehner and Cantor, rather than Reagan and Kemp.
Even some of the authors included in the book have written better elsewhere. Even Boehner has been more inspiring, canny and effective at times than this book. Woodhill again captures it when he writes, “The ideas that Room to Grow contains are not the ones upon which Republicans must campaign to win in 2014 and 2016. Room to Grow is largely irrelevant to solving America’s most important problems.”
Wehner’s chapter accurately reflects a country dominated by anxiety, insecurity, unease, and economic and social pessimism. But he fails to accurately tie that to the failed policies of the Obama Democrats who currently have the throat of the nation under their boots. He fails to identify how the spreading family breakup caused by the welfare state policies of the Left are at the root of the increasing inequality and declining social mobility that he echoes the Left in decrying. He cites statistics of longer term economic stagnation often cited by the Left, but fails to recognize the great work of Steve Moore and Alan Reynolds debunking those statistics and demonstrating much brighter longer term perspectives.
Worst of all, he fails to see that the exact answer to the anxiety, insecurity, stagnation, and economic and social pessimism he identifies is precisely a promising agenda for restoring traditional, booming, American economic growth and prosperity. Instead, he tells us, “There’s no simple answer to what ails America’s economy,” and then actually cites Obama’s excuses for his economic failures “as President Obama frequently reminds us,” he writes. The real truth that this intellectual abdication reveals is that Peter Wehner does not know what policies would restore traditional, booming, American economic growth and prosperity, and which lead to the stagnation, pessimism, and despair of today.
It is not a crime that he does not sufficiently understand economics to provide the necessary leadership in this regard. But it does mean he is better qualified to serve as a speech writer for the ideas of others than the intellectual leader with the vision and understanding conservatives and Republicans need right now.
Tax and Social Security Reform
The most troubling is the book’s chapter on tax reform, by Robert Stein, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury. Stein recognizes that Reagan’s dramatic marginal income tax rate cuts were enormously successful in promoting economic growth and prosperity. While marginal income tax rates are lower now, he doesn’t seem to recognize that with Obama’s rate increases, and high state rates, top marginal tax rates are near or even above 50% today. Moreover, the book’s authors show no recognition of the negative economic effects of the multiple taxation of capital.
Stein says that today, “Cutting marginal tax rates is not, however, an effective tool for delivering tax relief to the middle class. It does very little to lower their tax bills or improve their work incentives.” That is because Republicans, from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush II, already delivered dramatic tax relief to the middle class. The latest data shows that the middle 20% of income earners pay just 2.9% of federal income taxes, while earning 14.2% of before tax income. The book’s authors fail to show any recognition of that.
Moreover, economic studies and models show that tax reform reducing rates similarly to the proposal by the next Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, with a rate of 10% on family income up to $100,000 a year, and 25% above that, and a corporate rate of 25%, would strongly boost economic growth, jobs, and incomes, for everyone, including the middle class. That is why such tax reform is a crucial, central component of the economic growth policies so badly needed today.
But Stein says, “Instead, tax cuts for the middle class should be designed to offset the greatest fiscal-policy distortion that affects middle class Americans: the disincentive to raise children caused by Social Security and Medicare. Tax cuts should reduce the cost of raising children, making it easier for parents to pursue the family size they would desire in the absence of federal interference.” That is because Social Security and Medicare benefits “have crowded out the traditional incentive to raise children as a protection against poverty in old age.”
To correct for that supposed effect, Stein favors a tax reform proposal to raise the current $1,000 per child tax credit to $2,500 per child, which could be taken against both income tax and payroll taxes (recognizing that the actual middle class does not pay significant income taxes). To make that revenue neutral, Stein would actually favor raising the current 25% income tax rate to 35%. He says this is “a better pro-growth tax cut.”
But while that increase in the child tax credit may increase the number of children, the proposed tax reform would not be clearly pro-growth at all. Moreover, I dispute that in modern America today, without Social Security and Medicare, people would bear children because they think those children would support them in old-age. That is a rural 19th century notion. In today’s wealthy society, most Americans think they don’t want to be a burden to their children.
While Stein cites a couple of economic studies purporting to show that Social Security and Medicare does reduce fertility, much more evidence shows that Social Security and Medicare reduce savings and investment, as the programs displace the need for people to save for their retirement. That is decidedly anti-growth, and correcting for that distortion would be decidedly pro-growth, as increased savings and investment is the foundation of increased economic growth and prosperity, as long time Harvard Economics Professor, and Reagan’s former Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, Martin Feldstein has long argued.
But we can best resolve this argument with a market test. Similarly to what was so famously and successfully done in Chile over 30 years ago, allow people the freedom to choose to shift the employee share of the Social Security payroll tax to a personal savings and investment account. For every year they choose to do that, their retirement age would be delayed by 4 months, which Social Security actuaries estimate would be actuarially neutral. Doing that every year from age 22 to 67 would delay the normal Social Security retirement age for that worker by 15 years, to age 82. The personal account could then provide vastly better benefits than Social Security even promises, let alone what it could pay, during those years age 67 to 82. And Social Security benefits would then kick in at age 82, still providing a safety net against living too long. The same could be applied to the Medicare payroll tax as well. The resulting enormous influx of capital into the economy would be enormously pro-growth.
But also allow every worker with a child 21 or below the same freedom to choose to forego the employee share of payroll taxes every year, using the money to raise his or her children, with their retirement age delayed by 4 months for every year they chose this option. Then when they reach retirement, they would look to their children to support them, until the delayed Social Security benefits kick in. Then we could see which people would choose to provide for retirement, and how much. They could even choose some of each during their careers. Because ultimately, liberty and freedom of choice is the most fundamental.
Next week, I will discuss a complete policy reform strategy to achieve maximum economic growth (or maybe that will take a series of columns). That will include tax reform, regulatory reform, monetary reform, and thorough entitlement reform including every entitlement program, resulting in the largest reductions in government spending, taxes, deficits and debt in world history, resulting actually in better incomes and benefits for the poor and seniors, and better health care for the sick. These would all be positive, populist, win win reforms, all of which are currently in various stages of drafting in Congress, and all of which have already been tried and proven enormously successful in the real world. They are consequently all politically feasible, indeed, quite politically appealing and winning, not a wish list, dream agenda. I expect some leading GOP Presidential candidates to actually campaign on this entire agenda in 2016.
Indeed, I expect one of them to win. That would be the next generation advance of Reaganism, with the next President effectively serving politically as the free market conservative analogue of Franklin Roosevelt to Reagan’s Woodrow Wilson (in other words, fascism in reverse). The free market’s New New Deal would then have arrived (with the fall effectively of Progressivism’s “Berlin Wall”).
Call it the Tea Party War on Poverty (this time it actually works), or Swedish capitalism (the opposite of Swedish socialism), at long last ending the centuries old bitter conflict between labor and capital that has burdened western civilization, indeed, the entire world, since the industrial revolution.
FOIA request seeks hidden data and analyses that agency claims back up its climate rulings
Can you imagine telling the IRS you don’t need to complete all their forms or provide records to back up your claim for a tax refund? Or saying your company’s assurances that its medical products are safe and effective should satisfy the FDA? Especially if some of your data don’t actually support your claims – or you “can’t find” key data, research and other records, because your hard drive conveniently crashed? But, you tell them, people you paid to review your information said it’s accurate, so there’s no problem.
Do you suppose the government would accept your assurance that there’s “not a smidgen” of corruption, error or doubt – perhaps because 97% of your close colleagues agree with you? Or that your actions affect only a small amount of tax money, or a small number of customers – so the agencies shouldn’t worry?
If you were the Environmental Protection Agency, White House-operated US Global Change Research Program and their participating agencies (NOAA, NASA, NSF, etc.), you’d get away with all of that.
Using billions of our tax dollars, these government entities fund the research they use, select research that supports their regulatory agenda (while ignoring studies that do not), and handpick the “independent” experts who peer-review the research. As a recent analysis reveals, the agencies also give “significant financial support” to United Nations and other organizations that prepare computer models and other assessments. They then use the results to justify regulations that will cost countless billions of dollars and affect the lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, health, welfare and life spans of every American.
EPA utilized this clever maneuver to determine that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger” public health and welfare. It then devised devious reports, including national climate change assessments – and expensive, punitive regulations to control emissions of those gases from vehicles, electrical generating plants and countless other sources.
At the very least, you would expect that this supposedly “scientific” review process – and the data and studies involved in it – should be subject to rigorous, least-discretionary standards designed to ensure their quality, integrity, credibility and reliability, as well as truly independent expert review. Indeed they are.
The Information Quality Act of 2000 and subsequent Office of Management and Budget guidelines require that all federal agencies ensure and maximize “the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies.” The rules also call for proper peer review of all “influential scientific information” and “highly influential scientific assessments,” particularly if they could be used as the basis for regulatory action. Finally, they direct federal agencies to provide adequate administrative mechanisms enabling affected parties to review agency failures to respond to requests for correction or reconsideration of the scientific information.
EPA and other agencies apparently think these rules are burdensome, inconvenient, and a threat to their independence and regulatory agenda. They routinely ignore the rules, and resist attempts by outside experts to gain access to data and studies. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said she intends to “protect” them from people and organizations she decides “are not qualified to analyze” the materials.
Thus EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviews the agency’s CO2 and pollution data, studies and conclusions – for which EPA has paid CASAC’s 15 members $180.8 million since 2000. The American Lung Association has received $24.7 million in EPA grants over the past 15 years and $43 million overall via a total of 591 federal grants, for applauding and promoting government agency decisions. Big Green foundations bankrolled the ALA with an additional $76 million, under 2,806 grants.
These payoffs raise serious questions about EPA, CASAC and ALA integrity and credibility.
Meanwhile, real stakeholders – families and companies that will be severely impacted by the rules, and organizations and experts trying to protect their interests – are systematically denied access to data, studies, scientific assessments and other information. CASAC excludes from its ranks industry and other experts who might question EPA findings. EPA stonewalls and slow-walks FOIA requests and denies requests for correction and reconsideration. One lawyer who’s filed FOIA cases since 1978 says the Obama Administration is bar-none “the worst” in history on transparency. Even members of Congress get nowhere, resulting in testy confrontations with Ms. McCarthy and other EPA officials.
The stakes are high, particularly in view of the Obama EPA’s war on coal mining, coal-fired power plants, businesses and industries that require reliable, affordable electricity – and families, communities and entire states whose jobs, health and welfare will suffer under this anti-fossil fuel agenda. States that mine and use coal will be bludgeoned. Because they pay a larger portion of their incomes on energy and food, elderly, minority and poor families are especially vulnerable and will suffer greatly.
That is why the House of Representatives is moving forward on the Secret Science Reform Act. It is why the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development is again filing new FOIA requests with EPA and other agencies that are hiding their junk science, manipulating laws and strangling our economy.
The agencies’ benefit-cost analyses are equally deceptive. EPA claims its latest coal-fueled power plant rules (requiring an impossible 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030) would bring $30 billion in “climate benefits” versus $7.3 billion in costs. Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution has trashed the agency’s analysis – pointing out that the low-balled costs will be paid by American taxpayers, consumers, businesses and workers, whereas the highly conjectural benefits will be accrued globally.
That violates President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order 12688, which requires that agencies “assess both the costs and benefits” of a proposed regulation, and adopt it “only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits … justify its costs.” EO 12866 specifies that only benefits to US citizens be counted. Once that’s done, the EPA benefits plummet to between $2.1 billion and $6.9 billion. That means its kill-coal rules costAmericans $400 million to $4.8 billion more than the clearly inflated benefits, using EPA’s own numbers.
Moreover, the US Chamber of Commerce calculates that the regulations will actually penalize the United States $51 billion. Energy analyst Roger Bezdek estimates that the benefits of using carbon-based fuels outweigh any hypothesized “social costs of carbon” by orders of magnitude: 50-to-1 (using the inflated SCC of $36/ton of CO2 concocted by EPA and other federal agencies in 2013) – and 500-to-1 (using the equally arbitrary $22/ton estimate that they cooked up in 2010).
Even more intolerable, these punitive EPA rules will have virtually no effect on atmospheric CO2 levels, because China, India, Germany and other countries will continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels. They will likewise have no effect on global temperatures, even accepting the Obama/EPA/IPCC notion that carbon dioxide is now the primary cause of climate change. Even EPA models acknowledge that its rules will prevent an undetectable 0.018 degrees Celsius (0.032 deg F) of total global warming in 100 years!
Fortunately, the Supreme Court recently ruled that EPA does not have the authority to rewrite federal laws to serve its power-grabbing agendas. FOIA requests seeking disclosure of EPA records that could reveal a rigged climate science peer review process – and legal actions under the Information Quality Act seeking correction of resultant data corruption – could compel courts to reconsider their all-too-common practice of deferring to “agency discretion” on scientific and regulatory matters. That clearly scares these federales.
The feds have become accustomed to saying “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” The prospect of having to share their data, methodologies and research with experts outside their closed circle of regulators, collaborators and eco-activists almost makes them soil their shorts.
Bright sunlight has always been the best disinfectant for mold, slime and corruption. With America’s economy, international competitiveness, jobs, health and welfare at stake, we need that sunlight now.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.cfact.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. Lawrence Kogan is CEO of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (www.ITSSD.org).
“The difference between taking a part of my life,
and taking my whole life, is just a matter of degree.” -Anon
There was a time, before the baby-boom generation took over, when we took pride in the achievements of our builders, producers and innovators. There was always great celebration when settler families got a phone, a tractor, a bitumen road or electric power. An oil strike or a gold discovery made headlines, and people welcomed new businesses, new railways and new inventions. Science and engineering were revered and the wealth delivered by these human achievements enabled the builders and their children to live more rewarding lives, with more leisure, more time for culture and crusades, and greater interest in taking more care of their environment.
Then a green snake entered the Garden of Eden.
Many of the genuine conservationists from the original environmental societies were replaced by political extremists who felt lost after the Comrade Societies collapsed and China joined the trading world. These zealots were mainly interested in promoting environmental alarms in order to push a consistent agenda of world control of production, distribution and exchange – a new global utopia run by unelected all-knowing people just like them.
The old Reds became the new Greens.
They used every credible-sounding scare to recruit support – peak resources, acid rain, ozone holes, global cooling, species extinction, food security, Barrier Reef threats, global warming or extreme weather to justify global controls, no-go areas and international taxes to limit all human activities. However the public became disenchanted with their politics of denial, and their opposition to human progress, so they have adopted a new tactic – death by delay.
“We are not opposed to all development, but we want to ensure all environmental concerns are fully investigated before new developments get approval.”
In fact, their goal is to kill projects with costly regulations, investigations and delay. Their technique is to grab control of bureaucratic bodies like the US EPA which, since 2009, has issued 2,827 new regulations totalling 24,915,000 words. A current example of death by delay is the Keystone Oil pipeline proposal which would have taken crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the US Gulf Coast – far better than sending it by rail tankers. It was first proposed in 2005, and immediately opposed by the anti-industry, anti-carbon zealots who control the EPA and other arms of the US federal government. The proposal was studied to death by US officials and green busybodies for nine long years.
This week the Canadians lost patience and approved an alternative proposal to take a pipeline to the west coast of Canada, allowing more Albertan oil to be exported to Asia. Jobs and resources that would have benefitted Americans will now go to Asia. Naturally the Green delayers will also attempt to throttle this proposal. Over in Europe, shale gas exploration is also being subject to death by delay. In Britain, the pioneering company, Caudrilla, has been waiting for seven long years for approvals to explore. In France, all such exploration is banned.
No wonder India recently accused Greenpeace and other delayers of being “a threat to national economic security”.
It was long the case that American presidents held less power on domestic issues than did the Congress. The executive branch could only enact the laws of the legislature with a limited ability and proclivity to veto.
The president’s real power lay in setting foreign policy, as he had much more freedom of action in that arena than on the home front wherein the checks and balances of the Constitution were in full force.
That traditional balance has been overridden in the current political system, and the fault for this breakdown of traditional magisteria of influence lies with both the executive and the legislative branches.
In domestic politics, the legislature has ceded, both deliberately and under protest, a great deal of power to the executive. The so-called imperial presidency has been growing in power since the end of World War II, but it has become a monster since Barack Obama took office.
The Obama White House has sought to dominate the American political system, and has attempted to paint opposition forces in Congress as enemies of progress.Yet it has not been a mere rhetorical attack on checks and balances. Indeed, the president’s promise to use his “pen and phone” to enact executive orders so as to bypass Congress wherever possible has become a terrifying reality.
Perhaps what is most shocking about Obama’s stated aim of bypassing the constitutional checks on his power is the fact that much of the mainstream media has endorsed his actions. They seem to forget that the president is not the only elected official in the country and he is not the only person with a mandate to govern. The Congress has an electoral mandate to do as it was elected to do. The president cannot pretend he has a right to run roughshod over Congress and the Constitution.
Also disconcerting is the trend in the Congress itself to permit executive overreach. There was once a time when senators and congressmen viewed their office as taking precedence over party. That is no longer the case (in either party). During the administration of George W. Bush, the Republican-controlled Congress was more than willing to hand sweeping powers to the president. The Democratic Congress after 2009 gave even more powers to Obama. In both cases, Congress has been complicit in the erosion of the essential checks and balances that preserve the United States government and the liberty of all Americans.
The Obama administration is a particularly strange beast. At the same time that the White House has been hoovering up domestic powers from a Congress too divided and weak to fight back, it has also been entirely rudderless on foreign policy. Almost everything Obama has done on the world stage has weakened America. He has snubbed our allies in Israel and South Korea, ceded control of the Internet to even more statist (and sometimes authoritarian) interests, and has led a foreign policy in the Middle East so senseless as to render any observer speechless. What we are witnessing is a fundamental inversion of the proper power and role of the presidency.
Can the situation be saved? That is a matter up to the American public. They can stand by and continue to allow the gradual whittling away of their liberties at home and security abroad, or they can call on their elected leaders and candidates to uphold the Constitution. For the sake of the nation, they had best choose the latter.
In an effort to address growing budget problems, many states have attempted to draw on the as yet untapped revenue source of online sales taxes. Currently, these efforts have been stymied by legal precedent and a lack of public support. However in the last few years, Congress has attempted to accelerate these efforts with several pieces of legislation that expand the states’ ability of states to charge sales taxes on out of state retailers regardless of if the retailer has a physical presence in the state. The most prominent of these is the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which was first proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2011.
This week, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the R Street Institute launched a 20-state tour to announce new poll results that demonstrate the publics near complete lack of support for the MFA and the detrimental the tax plan would be. The first stop was in South Carolina, where R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan and NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp hosted a press conference annoying the results. Voters in South Carolina rejected Internet sales taxes by a significant margin of 51-36.
It should come as no surprise that the majority American public against attempts to impose taxes on internet purchases. Internet sales taxes have long been unpopular with everyday shoppers, for good reason. Imposing such a tax on online and mailer order sales would unfortunately have strong negative effects on the online economy, hinder tax competition amongst the states while raising far less revenue than legislators expect and worst of all open taxpayers up to a slew of new possible taxes.
A Gallup poll conducted in 2013 found that 57 percent of respondents opposed enacting a law that would allow states to collect sales taxes on online purchases, as the Marketplace Fairness Act does. Another 2013 poll commissioned to Mercury by the National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute found the same results, 57 percent of respondents were opposed to an Internet sales tax scheme like the MFA.
“New Internet sales tax laws are bad policy, but this polling proves that they’re terrible politics as well,” said R Street’s Andrew Moylan in a press statement. “It shows that strong majorities across the country seek an Internet that enriches their lives, not out-of-state revenue agents.”
NTU’s Pete Sepp pointed to a disconnect between Washington and the average taxpayer, “Special interests might convince some in Washington, but in the states, voters are not fooled by any attempts to unleash tax collectors from reckless states like New York and Illinois on their hometown businesses.”
The tour will continue over the upcoming months, with individual results being released for each state. More information on the fight against Internet sales taxes can be found online here: DontTaxtheInter.net.
While proponents of this measure and others have argued that efforts like it are needed to restore a balance between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers, the reality is quite the opposite. The Marketplace Fairness Act would give bricks-and-mortar retailers a distinct advantage over online retailers. Even with today’s technology, it is difficult and expensive for online merchants to accurately charge sales taxes for the products they sell to the 9,600 different taxing bodies in this country. In addition, local retailers benefit from services such as roads; police, fire, accident, and disaster protection; and utilities delivered over money-saving public rights of way. Out-of-state retailers get none of these.
One alternative state legislators could consider is an origin-based sales tax system for Internet sales taxes. It stays within the parameters of the physical presence standard and ensures that out-of-state consumers are not paying taxes for services they will never use. Preserving this standard is essential. Allowing it to be overridden would create a significant expansion of state taxing powers and would undermine tax competition, which helps keep taxes low.
Slowly but surely, Washington is waking up to the idea that the current surge in populism is not some flash in the pan, but a real and sustained trend in politics on the right and left. Distrust and frustration with an economic and political system that rewards, defends, and bails out the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected while leaving the middle and working class to get squeezed by stagnant wages and the higher costs of the basic staples of life, has made things which were once considered humdrum politics as usual suddenly controversial.
The most recent hot-button issue to attract populist frustration was highlighted in yesterday’s hearings on Capitol Hill concerning the Export-Import Bank, an institution not many in politics could even name a few months ago. As a test case for how both parties are responding to this issue, the arguments yesterday over ExIm served as an illuminating example of the political shifts taking place in response to the populist frustrations with corporate cronyism.
Republican Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling opened today’s hearing on the Export-Import Bank by excoriating corporate welfare and calling out big businesses by name in something of a populist speech: ‘Who benefits? Overwhelmingly — and indisputably — it’s some of the largest, richest, most politically-connected corporations in the world — like Boeing, General Electric, Bechtel and Caterpillar. … And big Wall Street banks apparently benefit as well. As reported in the press recently, one former JP Morgan and Citigroup banker said of Ex-Im’s credit guarantees, “it’s free money.” So if you’re a politically-connected bank or company that benefits from Ex-Im, no doubt you would like it to continue. After all, it’s a sweetheart deal for you. Taxpayers shoulder the risk and you get the reward.’ …
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats were singing hosannas to corporate America. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., warned darkly that if Ex-Im dies, we might “wake up in 20 years” in a world with no Boeing. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pointed to the Chamber-of-Commerce-led lobbying effort to save Ex-Im and declared, “865 businesses and associations can’t be wrong!”
It seems the Democrats are going to ignore calls to reconsider the defense of this corporatist entity, even as investigations into its corruption haveshifted the position of past defenders. Picking winners and losers is just that appealing. But the more interesting battle lines over ExIm are going to be on the right, where there really are people arguing that “Corporate welfare in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Did you know that the ExIm bank won the Cold War and is critical to the cause of human flourishing?Neither did I.
The populists have a challenge: as a practical matter, there are simply not enough Republicans who agree with and share their views to shift policy priorities on the big issues. So they have to pick fights like ExIm to highlight these problems in ways that are clear-cut. They can rely on members like Jeb Hensarling to speak their language, but they need something more: they need people who recognize where the political winds are blowing, and adapt to these priorities.
There’s an interesting contrast here between Thad Cochran and Kevin McCarthy. Cochran is headed back to Washington after surviving a runoff thanks to a deluge of political activity from Haley Barbour and his family, Mitch McConnell, the NRSC, and the Chamber of Commerce to turn out Democratic voters for their candidate. As a Senator, Cochran is little more than a puppet operated by traditional corporate and K Street interests - a life-long appropriator with no real ideology, and someone whose Coping With Senility process is going on in the public eye. If Republicans take the Senate, Cochran is in line to take over the Appropriations Committee, and with his re-election, his backers will stand to benefit enormously, where he is expected to bring back the old appropriations culture and “restore some of the spend-along-to-get-along spirit of bipartisan collegiality that drives insurgents on the right absolutely nuts.”
It’s no accident that the Barbour family’s role includes leading the lobbying effort to defend ExIm, and they and their clients stand to benefit enormously from this arrangement. That’s discouraging, but what do you expect – it’s politics as usual.
On the other side of the Hill, however, Kevin McCarthy’s new position on the Export-Import bank is an encouraging sign, particularly given its status as his first big shift post-election as Majority Leader. McCarthy is indicating that he’s happy to be swayed by conservatives when they’re on the same page as the WSJ editorial board, and he’s not going to go out and sacrifice himself over the plate on the first at bat to save some cronyist pocket change. This is another reason why ExIm was a smart play for a populist assault – Republicans don’t actually have to do anything in particular to kill ExIm, they just have to sit on your hands and let it die.
Here, we have a good test case for how Republican leadership will treat fiscal conservatives going forward. If McCarthy’s not even willing to let anti-cronyist policies happen that way, he’ll be a problem. But if McCarthy does keep his word, it could indicate why, on balance, it’s sometimes better for conservatives to have a pragmatic operator like McCarthy as a leader as opposed to the likes of Mitch McConnell (whose approach in the Senate has been to say the right things and vote the right way, but work behind the scenes to make sure K Street always wins and cronyist institutions like ExIm survive).
McCarthy’s not a dumb guy. He knows his position as leader isn’t very secure. With elections again after November, he’s basically an interim coach with a few months to win the permanent job. The chief difference between McCarthy’s and Cantor’s relationship with the conservative members is that McCarthy doesn’t think he’s a leader, either. And he seems to be okay with that: he’s a glad-hander, not an arm-twister. He just wants everybody to have a good time at the party, and if that takes an extra keg of Sierra Nevada, Kevin McCarthy will get those suds for you.
That’s why the new battle lines over cronyism are so interesting in charting the country’s political future. The always-too-simplified lines of establishment and conservative movement are already completely outdated. One of the important lessons for easily discouraged conservatives to remember about politics is that when political winds change, windsocks move too. And when the wind moves the GOP in this populist direction, it appears politicians like McCarthy will move with it, even as politicians like Cochran don’t.
It’s an intriguing possibility which indicates that maybe, just maybe, the Republican Party could reject some of its corporatist pro-business past and get serious about free market policies. We’ll see if McCarthy’s as good as his word on ExIm over the next few months, and particularly in the upcoming lame duck session, where – if candidates like Cochran prevail and the GOP as a whole underperforms in November – K Street will smell sweet, sweet taxpayer-funded blood.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
Despite a slight contraction during the first quarter of this year, the American economy has been expanding slowly but steadily since the end of the “Great Recession.”
And America’s newfound abundance of energy — especially oil and natural gas — has played a key role.
As a result of what’s sometimes called the “shale revolution” — the extraction of oil and gas from shale and other source rocks buried up to 10,000 feet below the surface — domestic oil production has jumped 40 percent since 2010 and is nearly back to its peak in the mid-1980s. What’s more, according to the International Energy Agency, America’s incremental production over the next four years is projected to be greater than the expected increase in total global demand; and by 2018 at the latest, the U.S. will have reclaimed its crown as the planet’s number one oil producer.
Natural gas output has also climbed dramatically, up 33 percent since 2010, pushing us ahead of Russia to become the world’s number one gas producing country.
Five years ago, the oil and gas industry accounted for only 3 percent of America’s economic output. Today, it’s more than 10 percent. Employment in the oil and gas industry is up nearly 30 percent since 2008 while total U.S. employment has just returned to its pre-recession level. In those states that have embraced energy development, output and jobs have grown faster than in most other states while unemployment rates are well below the U.S. average of 6.3 percent.
Because of greater domestic production, oil imports have dropped from 50 percent of consumption to 30 percent in just five years. Lower petroleum imports, combined with higher exports of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from America’s refineries, have had a positive impact on our trade deficit.
Growing use of natural gas for power generation, industrial boilers and heating has driven down utility costs for millions of households and thousands of businesses while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a 20-year low. To sustain this trend, new nuclear plants are being constructed in Georgia and South Carolina using an AP1000 reactor design, a technologically advanced system that will add stability to the power grid while producing no greenhouse gases.
Abundant and relatively inexpensive energy supplies are also helping to revive America’s manufacturing sector and attract foreign investment. As evidence, since 2010 the 15 states with the lowest electricity prices have all posted gains in industrial employment.
Importantly, America’s evolution as an energy colossus offers the promise of greater international political clout if we pursue sensible policies. Federal authorities could expedite the construction of export terminals for liquefied natural gas . By exporting LNG from the U.S. to Europe and Asia we can help break Russia’s hold on those markets.
Similarly, Congress could remove the current prohibition on crude oil exports, an action that would quickly produce 90,000 new jobs according to a recent analysis by the American Petroleum Institute.
A strong foreign policy requires a strong economy, and energy is America’s trump card. We’re number one in natural gas, number one in nuclear power, number one in renewables, number two in coal, and we’ll soon be number one in oil. By playing this card smartly, we can boost economic growth while reclaiming some of our lost global political leverage.
Bernard L. Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a fellow with the 4 Percent Growth Project of the George W. Bush Institute.
The delay of the Keystone XL pipeline is a perfect example of the way President Obama and his administration has engaged in, not just a war on coal, but on all forms of energy the nation has and needs. Even his State Department admits there is no reason to refuse its construction and, as turmoil affects the Middle East, there is an increased need to tap our own oil and welcome Canada’s.
The latest news, however, is that Canada has just approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a major pipeline to ship Canadian oil—to Asia.
The pure evil of the delay is compounded by the loss of the many jobs the pipeline—that will not require taxpayer funding—represents to help reduce the nation’s obscene rate of unemployment and to generate new revenue for the nation. That’s what oil, coal, and natural gas does.
Less visible has been the out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency that has, since Obama took office on January 20, 2009, issued 2,827 new final regulations totally 24,915,000 words to fill 24,915 pages of the Federal Register. As a CNSnews article reported, “The Obama EPA regulations have 22 times as many words as the entire Harry Potter series which includes seven books with 1,084,170 words.” Every one of the EPA regulations affects some aspect of life in America, crushing economic development in every conceivable way.
The worst part of the EPA regulation orgy is the fact that virtually all of it is based on a hoax. As reported by James Delingpole, a British journalist, “19 million jobs lost plus $4,335 trillion spent equals a global mean temperature of 0.018 degrees Celsius. Yes, horrible but true. These are the costs to the U.S. economy, by 2100, of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory war on carbon dioxide, whereby all states must reduce emissions from coal-fired electricity generating plants by 30% before 2005 levels.”
Citing a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Delingpole reported that the new regulations will cost the economy another $51 billion annually, result in the 224,000 more lost jobs every year, and cost every American household $3,400 per year in higher prices for energy, food, and other necessities.”
This is an all-out attack on industry, business, and the use of electricity by all Americans.
There is absolutely no reason, nor need to reduce “greenhouse gas” emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas on which all life on Earth depends because it is to vegetation what oxygen is to all living creatures. It is the “food” on which every blade of grass depends. More CO2 means more crops and healthier forests.
Disastrously, even the Supreme Court—the same one that signed off on Obamacare as a tax—has not ruled against the EPA’s false assertions about CO2. In late June, however, it did place limits on the EPA’s effort to limit power plant and factory emissions blamed for a global warming that does not exist. The Earth has been cooling for seventeen years, but the Court ruled that the EPA lacked authority in some cases to force companies to evaluate ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
As Craig Rucker, the Executive Director of the free market think tank,CFACT, points out, “The Court served notice that the Executive Branch cannot unilaterally write its own laws. This is an important principle. However, the United States still remains fated to suffer most of the economic damage EPA’s regulations will cause. True reform will require congressional action.”
Thanks to the lies that have been taught about “global warming”, now called “climate change”, in the nation’s schools to a generation of Americans, and the deluge of lies about the environment that have been repeated in the nation’s media, too many Americans still do not make the connection between the use of the nation’s vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas, and their personal lifestyles and the nation’s economic growth.
The attacks on the energy industries by environmental organizations have been attacks on all Americans who turn on the lights or drive anywhere. Their mantra has been “dirty coal” and “dirty oil” along with lies about the way energy industries contribute billions to the nation’s revenue in taxes.
An example of these attacks have been those directed against “fracking”, the short term for hydraulic fracturing, a technology that has been in use for more than a half century and whose development has generated a boom in natural gas these days. Claims about fracking pollution have no basis in fact.
A new book, “The Fracking Truth—America’s Energy Revolution: The Inside, Untold Story”, by Chris Faulkner is well worth reading for the extraordinary way he explains fracking and the facts he provides about energy in America. It is published by Platform Press.
America has huge reserves of coal, oil and natural gas. “This phenomenon of energy abundance and efficiency,” says Faulkner, “makes it almost a certainty that the cost of powering our nation—already a bargain by international standards—is going to become even less of a burden for our economy for many decades to come.” But not if the EPA and other Obama government agencies such as the Department of the Interior have their way.
One example: “According to the American Petroleum Institute, at least 87% of our federal offshore acreage is off-limits to drilling. API commissioned the consultancy Wood Mackenzie to assess the foregone offshore opportunity in specific terms. The upshot: Increased access to oil and gas reserves underlying federal waters could, by 2025, generate an additional 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, add $150 billion to government revenues, and create 530,00 jobs.”
“In fact, since 2007, about 96% of the increase in America’s oil and gas production occurred on private lands in the United States. Meanwhile, oil and gas production on federal lands declined to a ten-year low in fiscal years 2011-2012.”
Who is forcing coal-fired electricity plants to close? The Obama administration. Who is denying access to vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas on federal lands? The Obama administration. Who continues to lie about “climate change” pegged to carbon dioxide emissions? The Obama administration. And this is happening as China and India cannot build new coal-fired plants fast enough and Europe abandons wind and solar energy.
Who is the enemy of energy, current and future, in the United States? Barack Obama.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
Eighty years ago. The depths of the Great Depression. Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt blindly flailing around, throwing ever more government-centric “solutions” at the growing list of problems. Each new centrally-planned effort making matters worse – and the Depression last longer.
Remember, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hideki Tojo ended the Depression – FDR elongated it by more than a decade.
Begat in all of this failed government uber-action was the Communications Act of 1934. The anniversary of which current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheelerjust decided to celebrate.
Eighty years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act of 1934, creating the FCC – so what’s Chairman Tom Wheeler doing? He’s throwing a party for all the past FCC chairs, commissioners and key staff.
We’ll move past the fact that the Barack Obama Administration is commemorating the creation of a now ridiculously overreaching entity that a great many people – including a former Commissioner or two – think should no longer exist.
Because there’s an even more bizarre dis-honorarium potentially afoot. Chairman Wheeler is contemplating applying the woefully antiquated regulations of the 1934 Act – to the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art, constantly-evolving Internet.
In other words – the Chairman is considering Title II Reclassification of the the World Wide Web.
Putting it up front and center, and asking for public comment on the use of Title II reclassification (which would make broadband providers subject to common carrier rules) is a big deal. Wheeler…stated that he’s really committed to this….
Because the Chairman wants to party like it’s 1934. Because certainly law and regulations written eighty years ago are apt and easily applicable to the 2014 fast-forward Web, right?
Why does Chairman Wheeler want to go back to the future – without the future part? Because in true failed FDR fashion – he wants to throw a gi-normous government “solution” at a non-existent problem.
As an entrepreneur who started companies that offered new programs and services to cable companies, I was subject to being blocked from access to cable networks….
Note the lawyerly wording – Wheeler was “subject to being blocked.” Because he never actually was blocked. No one ever has been. Even the most ardent Title II Reclassification proponents begrudgingly admitted that. To fix that factual problem, the Left warped and broadened beyond all recognition their definition of what “blocking” is.
To a very large extent, this experience has been the backbone of my long-time support for the Open Internet.
Note the lawyerly phrase change – “Open Internet” rather than Network Neutrality (NN). Because we Internet defenders have now rightly defined Net Neutrality – so they had to come up with an alternative term.
Chairmen Wheeler’s Internet Reclassification Party will be very sparsely attended. Most of even the most ardent of Leftists have long thought it to be aterrible idea.
So did more than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers.
Seventeen minority groups (that are usually almost always in Democrat lockstep).
And many additional normally Democrat paragons. Including several large unions:
• Communications Workers of America (CWA)
• International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
Several racial grievance groups:
• League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
• Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC)
• National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
• Urban League
And an anti-free market environmentalist group
• Sierra Club
So when you add in that we already know this:
Is it any wonder that that kid’s dorkier, slower, fatter big brother – Title II Reclassification – is going to throw a party and no one is going to come?
The companies that have already invested trillions of dollars to build the Internet into the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love – certainly won’t attend. They’ll take their massive coin and find much less inhospitable places to invest it.
And where will that leave us Web users? Staring at Chairman Wheeler in his strap-on pointy hat – playing Pong on his Commodore ’34.
And praying for 28K dial-up.
Our current immigration rules outline acceptable reasons for border agents to follow, when deciding whether undocumented aliens can cross into the United States. What has and is continuing to happen with the unprecedented 60,000 currently asking for entry is an example of how our laws are being violated by “gaming the system”. The aliens were given a “cheat sheet” (see above), which has been found at the border, with prepared instructions on how to answer designated questions asked by border agents how to provide the right answers, which will in turn guarantee them entry. One of the more important questions they are being asked is their reason for wanting to leave their country of origin. The aliens were told to claim it was due to poverty and/or fear of their government or gangs. Those answers are the “triggers” or the “loop holes” in our immigration law, which were originally written and intended for specific purposes (such as preventing sex trafficking) and certainly not for qualifying half the world’s population for entry into America.
If this loophole is not quickly corrected, we can expect a steady stream of immigrants to invade our country, creating a disaster we are not equipped to handle, and which our established immigration law was enacted to avoid. There are some concerned that within a short period of time, the parents of these children will be allowed to join their children under family unification. We certainly suspect others who see the success of the masses already here, will be eager to try the plan themselves. Quick action to shore up the loopholes, and resolve this problem is required by our government, or the precedent created will cause great harm to America.
It has been suggested that President Obama and his “no borders supporters” might perceive this increase in child immigrants to be a politically opportune moment. President Obama has pushed Congress to act on long-stalled proposals to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, and he has indicated the changes would ease requirements for illegals to gain citizenship. Should immigration reform pass, the flood of those invading the U.S. will become even more massive, as the hope of amnesty entices them to make the difficult trip north. That phenomena happened when President Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986. Although closing the border was stipulated in that 1986 bill, the border security promise never kept.
While President Obama advocates for amnesty, it appears there are already those in place who will protest increased border security. An Obama-appointed judge has recently ruled that a fence protecting the border is discriminatory against minorities! Sadly, some in our judicial system are more concerned with citizens from other countries then they are in protecting our own. According to liberals, sealing the border is bigoted and racist. Apparently that opinion allows them to disregard our immigration laws and previous agreements to secure the border. Agreements and promises are ignored, and the unprecedented onslaught continues.
For those who put compassion above all else, they should consider the dangers of transporting unattended children so far without their parents. Some die before reaching their destination, due to the multitude of dangers they encounter. Also, it is important that we discover who set up and financed those dangerous trips. Most parents were obviously not in a position to do so, and if they did do so, how then can the child claim poverty. The costs of How did they get through Mexico without passports and the right papers? Mexico has much more stringent rules about authenticated passports. Yet, they breezed through Mexico. There is much more to this story that we do not yet know, indicating serious mischief by top officials. We are learning that these children rode what are called death trains, where it is common to jump on top of moving trains, and then struggle with hunger, illness and exposure to the elements as they ride a train 3,000 miles to our border. Worse yet, Sen. Ted Cruz said the children are being placed in ‘unspeakable’ peril when the traffickers, known as ‘coyotes,’ take over. ‘We just heard stories of little boys and little girls, forced by these drug dealers to cut off the fingers or cut off the ears of other little boys and little girls, in order to extort money from their families,’ Cruz said – See more at:http://www.teaparty.org/illegal-alien-children-forced-cut-fingers-ears-kids-coyote-gangs-45310/#sthash.SSgJlEgm.dpuf
Who will step forward with inconvenient facts?
Another problem not being discussed is that agents are now being pulled away from their patrol stations elsewhere along the border, resulting in dangerous gaps in coverage, and thus allowing drug traffickers to exploit the situation. While we are caring for citizens here illegally from other countries, we are harming American citizens by inadvertently allowing an increase of illegal drug supplies and criminals into our country.
Will this tragedy be just one more example of a liberal media effectively protecting the Obama administration from the full extent of a White House involvement? Will they turn this horrendous situation into some kind of a humanitarian effort in which our government is to be applauded? Too often the “spin” effectively hides important facts with irrelevant fluff. Will the media investigate or sufficiently explore the impact this mass immigration will have on our population, such as the exorbitant costs to taxpayers who will now be responsible for the immigrants’ expenses, their education, their very lives?
Will the use of this immigration crisis open the door to universal citizenship for illegal aliens
There are good reasons for our immigration laws; they protect our citizens. Our porous southern border is harming Americans due to the importation of drugs, sex trafficking, criminals, and contagious illnesses, including one known case of swine flu in San Antonio, directly linked to the border surge.
What is not being discussed is that due to the unprecedented number of immigrants in America, our Country’s demographics are changing too. One example of America’s future can be seen in what has happened in Santa Ana, CA, which is the county seat of Orange County. Fifty years ago Hispanics made up barely 15% of Santa Ana’s population, which were mostly farm workers. Today, Hispanics make up 79% of Santa Ana’s population and Whites now are a mere 10%. If the current lack of immigration enforcement continues, Santa Ana will not be an exception.
Democrat officials have done very little to stop this invasion by illegals, which many attribute to the fact Hispanics vote for Democrat candidates by large percentages. It has been said that Democrats don’t see people, they see voters. Republicans see overcrowded classrooms, higher taxes to support the massive welfare programs needed to support them, and cultural changes due to the problem Hispanics do not assimilate. They remain loyal to their birth country, and send much of their money to Mexican relatives. Santa Ana schools have even used Mexican textbooks in their classes; books that are favorable to Mexico, not the United States.
The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO) made some interesting observations about the border crisis, saying: “Congress must take immediate action to protect our homeland from this invasion. The orchestrated surge exposes a crises in leadership which by design fosters lawlessness which is bound to end in anarchy. The humanitarian issue is a false argument put forth by the administration which is very likely the reason the administration will not allow interviews of the minors by the press. The administration does not want the truth to get out. The truth would dispel the deception. Whatever America does, whatever NAFBPO does, should protect American and Americans first to the maximum extent possible. That means consequences for the lawbreakers to stop the invasion and return the invaders to their home country. Period! Anything less is political posturing.” Possibly their most potent statement was this: “America is undergoing the most intensive campaign of political deception ever launched against Americans by her political leaders.”
It is incomprehensible why all of America isn’t absolutely demanding that all the children be returned to authorities in their home country, and stop this potential precedent that has more potential to harm instead of help America. They should not just be returned to their parents, but to their respective government officials so that they will have the burden of and responsibility for locating parents and reuniting these families. No asylum, no amnesty, no sheltering them in our cities. This is a critical national security issue. We urge all concerned citizens to ask their Congressional representatives to take immediate action to protect our homeland from this invasion, by demanding this of their elected officials.
University of California Professor Darrell Y. Hamamoto, a Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis, warned on June 25 that “the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States through mass uncontrolled illegal immigration is part of a plan to create a new underclass of people who can be re-educated from the ground up in order to create a subservient underclass who can be controlled much more easily.”
Hamamoto’s warning is noteworthy given his position at one of the most liberal institutions in the United States. He has received backlash from his vocal stance against the mass influx of unaccompanied children across the border. Even so Professor Hamamoto’s concerns are so profound that he has had no reservations in going public.
Many concerned citizens are recognizing another potential aspect of the recent wave of “Unaccompanied Alien Children”, claiming it is one more application of the left’s long-championed Cloward Piven strategy, which has been used multiple times in the past to accomplish liberal goals. It has been suggested that Obama is using the hordes of unaccompanied children sent to our southern border as pawns to implement his goal of universal citizenship for illegal immigrants, by referencing the intentionally created crisis as a humanitarian one.
The big question which everyone must consider is whether the liberal’s goal to help other country’s citizens will be realized or whether American citizens will refuse to be influenced by emotions, and instead be motivated by logic and wisdom. America is $17 trillion in debt, with a myriad of problems that will take great efforts to correct, including security concerns and continuous problems with a significant jobless rate and homeless population. Close to 50 percent of Americans are on some type of financial assistance program. We simply cannot take on the “needy” of this world, without soon suffering a similar fate ourselves.
Thorner & O’Neil: Part 1: Surge of immigrants: humanitarian issue or political deception?
[Originally published at Illinois Review]
I saw tears in the eyes of ranchers. These were tough men; men who could scrape a good living out of the rock and tumbleweeds in the harsh New Mexico deserts. But when asked about passing on the ranch to their children, a ranch that may have been in the family for generations, eyes grew moist, jaws quivered, and grown men became so choked up they couldn’t speak.
Carolyn Nelson, who teaches kindergarten through third grade in a one-room school house in Catron County, New Mexico, while her husband handles their ranch, held the camera crew spellbound as she told her story. She stated: “The federal government has taken away jobs; they’ve taken away hope. Shame on them.”
I spent two days with a film crew from the For the Record (FTR) television show that airs on Glen Beck’s Blaze TV.
A year ago, FTR did a show on border security. For the “Borderless” episode, the
crew met with ranchers in southern Arizona’s Cochise County. After working with the ranchers there, when Nevada’s Bundy Ranch story broke earlier this year, the producers knew there was more to the story. Why would people from all over the West show up, en masse, to help defend a rancher they’d never met, against the excessive force of the Bureau of Land Management? For answers, the FTR crew reached out to the friends they’d made in Arizona, who steered The Blaze team to Joe Delk New Mexico.
The team spent three days in New Mexico—June 23-25. I was with them for two.
My first day was spent in the blazing sun on Steve Wilmeth’s Butterfield Trail Ranch. After an hour’s drive from Las Cruces, that included interstate highway, dirt roads, and rocky cow trails, we gathered on a bluff overlooking arid land dotted with cattle. The Organ Mountains, the subject of Tuesday’s shoot, could be seen in the distance.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. I cited numbers such as the 600,000 acres the monument encompasses when the private property is included; 1906 when the Antiquities Act—which allowed President Obama to sign the national monument proclamation—became law; and 95—the number of families who’d receive direct negative impacts from the designation. Now the numbers had faces. I heard their stories. I saw the tears. I felt their pain.
What surprised me the most was the vastness of the space. Even though we could barely see the Organ Mountains, and we’d driven miles on a combination of private and federal lands, this distant locale was still part of the “monument.”
Many of these ranchers’ families had cared for this land for generations—long before the federal government claimed it. They had an “allotment”—meaning they owned the right to graze their cattle on the, now, federal lands. Most ranches contained a mix of private lands and allotments. Yet, with one stroke of a pen, and talk of protecting a distant mountain, their property, their livelihood, is threatened.
Each rancher interviewed by FTR, had already seen friends give up and quit as a result of the increasing federal regulations that made it harder and harder to support their families and the families of the ranch hands—and harder and harder to feed America the quality beef they raised on their lands. The new National Monument designation was just one more layer that may be the last straw. Though the final management plan for the monument will take years, each impacted ranch faces uncertainty as to how it will be affected. But they know the history, and they know it won’t be good.
Each story was powerful. But, perhaps, the most compelling was that of Jim and Seth Hyatt. The father and son work together on the ranch. Jim was interviewed first. He told about the ranch history—the Hyatt family has ranched in the area continuously since the 1890s—and about the joy of working with his son and passing the ranch on. Next, came his son Seth, who shared how the ranch was in his blood. His brother, he said, didn’t take to it. He lives in Dallas. Then Haize, Seth’s two-year-old son—wearing cowboy boots and hat, and jeans held up with a belt and a big silver buckle—climbed up into his dad’s lap. (When I commented on Haize’s cowboy outfit, I was corrected: “That’s not a cowboy outfit; that’s how he dresses every day.”) Seth turned somber when he told how he’d like to teach ranching to his son, like his dad did for him, but now, because of the monument designation, that was in doubt.
Wes Eaton, was the youngest rancher. His family had ranched for most of his life on the other side of the mountains in Carlsbad. A year ago, an opportunity came up for him to manage a ranch. He jumped at the chance. However, a large portion of the ranch falls within the monument designation. He doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be able to continue to live his dream.
These ranchers spent eight years going to meetings, providing public comment, doing studies—anything they could to stave off the proposed monument; eight years where they were distracted from their actual job of ranching. All for naught.
When asked if they felt their government listened, the answer was universal. Not only did they feel unheard, they were confident that the goal was to drive them off the land.
Each rancher interviewed on Tuesday faces imminent expulsion as a result the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. On Wednesday, the villain was different, but the end game was the same.
The recording session started on Wednesday with Catron County Commissioners Glyn Griffin and “Bucky” Allred. In Catron County, they don’t have a monument designation, but ranchers in the region were being chased out by the reintroduction of the Mexican grey wolf—which the Fish and Wildlife Service, cooperating with environmental groups, insisted on bringing back to the region despite the direct threat they pose to humans and livestock. Both commissioners talked about the declining tax base in Catron County and how hard it was to provide basic services to residents.
Griffin talked about feeling as if he were fighting his own government. Allred said: “Our towns are dying because of the federal governmental agencies and the gang green organizations.” He continued: “I call them gang green because they are like a poison, a death.”
Both pointed out how listing the spotted owl, as an endangered species, had caused economic devastation in Catron County. Logging was stopped and family sawmills were shut down. Next, came the wolf reintroduction—promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity—which has made ranching even harder.
Paul Decker has spent his entire life in livestock, but he said: “It’s been especially tough the past five years in Catron County since dealing with the wolf issue.” Decker told The Blaze producers that the ranch he manages is 20,000 acres. In the past five years, they’ve lost 150-175 calves due to the wolves that need ten pounds of meat a day to survive. In ranching, Decker explained, there is one payday a year when the calves are sold for about $1000 each. If the wolves kill 50 percent of your calves, you lose 50 percent of your pay. But there’s more. Many cows have lost several calves. They fight off the wolves and try to protect their babies, but the wolves win. Some cows are so emotionally shattered by their babies being eaten by the wolves, they become stressed and won’t breed. Ranchers who kill a wolf threatening their livestock on an allotment, face huge fines and may go to jail.
If a wolf attacks a calf on private land, it can be killed—but the rancher had better hope that there is evidence. The calf needs to have teeth marks as proof of the attempt. Even then, the family protecting their property faces months of stressful investigation where they are assumed guilty until proven innocent.
One couple told about shooting a wolf on their private property. They are required to report the wolf’s presence to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) within 24 hours—but they called a lawyer first. Apparently, news of the shooting was leaked from the FWS to the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. Threats from animal rights activists were posted online: “When I find out who did this, I’m going to shoot his kids.”
Others told about their children encountering wolves in their yards and at their schools. Children waiting for the school bus in Catron County sit in a cage to protect them from the wolves.
Once the ranchers give up, wealthy people buy the property as a “retreat” or hobby ranch that they visit a few times a year—further hurting the tax base.
Ranchers in Catron County who are actually trying to earn a living, like those within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation, feel that they are being chased off the land; that environmental groups want to turn the entire region into a “wilderness area”—without human beings. They feel bullied by the U.S. Forest Service and the FWS, who are being driven by fear of lawsuit from the environmental groups. They feel their government doesn’t listen, doesn’t care.
It turns out, what these ranchers are feeling is real. Environmental groups do want them off the land—them and their cattle. The effort is called theWildlands Network. The ranchers are quick to point out how they protect the land and how the deer and the elk are present because of the water and infrastructure they put in place for the livestock. “If you don’t take care of the land, the land won’t take care of you,” was a frequently heard sentiment.
Jerry Schickedanz, Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University, told me: “The environmental groups subscribe to the idea that natural ecosystem are superior to human altered ones. Anything man has been involved in is considered to be degraded and they have pushed the idea that human alteration is a bad thing—all humans, and evidence of humans, must be removed. I see this ideology as the underpinning of the Wildlands Network.”
Is there any hope for these ranchers? Are they destined to be bullied by the federal agencies and the environmental groups or can they continue to ranch the lands of their forefathers? Stories like those I heard along with The Blaze team are what prompted the level of outrage at government overreach expressed at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. It wasn’t about Bundy; it was about bullying.
Allred believes they must fight for the transfer of federal lands to the states as was originally planned by the Enabling Act. He shook his head as he sighed: “We’ve become the weakest generation.”
Last week, I, too, would have sighed. But that was before the Supreme Court shot down the Obama Administration for its overreach. Perhaps House Speaker John Boehner can include these land abuses in his lawsuit against the Administration for its abuses of executive power. We can hope the Supreme Court would hand down its decision before the good folks I met are chased from their family ranches.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
The federal government has been expanding for decades. More laws, more spending, more regulations. More executive actions and judicial decisions that enlarge the role of government. Everybody knows this, but nothing is done about it. Why? Because the corrections cannot be made under the system that now exists. If they could, they’d have been made before now instead of successively adding to the problems. The system has been corrupted to facilitate growing the problems rather than solving them. Sending new faces to Washington will not correct the problems; the system itself must be corrected.
Take the problem of balancing the budget. In 1978 Congress enacted a law sponsored by Sen. Harry F. Byrd that stated: “Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed it receipts.” What happened? Nothing
Then there was the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, officially titled the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. It was supposed to balance the budget gradually over six years through a series of spending cuts. Six years later the deficit was larger than before.
Now there are several members of Congress talking about another balanced budget act. That is a waste of time. It would be no more effective than the two I have just mentioned. Congress isn’t bound by laws of previous Congresses. It can change them whenever it wants. It doesn’t even need to go through the formality of changing a law or repealing it. All it needs to do is pass a bill that doesn’t obey the law—and that then becomes the law. So legislators can get credit for passing a budget-limiting bill when that is politically popular, and then quietly ignore it when spending benefits their reelections. This is why a balanced-budget amendment must be produced by a new constitutional convention called for by the states, as specified in Article V of the Constitution.
Another example is earmarks, by which federal politicians obtain political benefits by specifying local pet projects in appropriation bills. After public outrage over wasteful budget items like the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” Congress agreed to ban earmarks in 2011. Now, however, there is a movement afoot to bring them back. That is why earmarks must be eliminated by a constitutional amendment. Senator Tom Coborn, who is opposed to earmarks, says the pro-earmarks movement includes lawmakers on both sides of the isle.
Another much-needed amendment would require the dollar to be backed by gold. Obviously Congress would never pass such an amendment because it would drastically reduce government spending. So this, too, would have to be an amendment produced by a new constitutional convention.
The above amendments, along with several others, are discussed in my book The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold. I’m not going to recite all the others here, but I do want to mention one more. We need a constitutional amendment reaffirming that the federal government has no power for any purpose not specified in its enumerated powers in the Constitution. For instance, there is no mention of agriculture anywhere in the powers granted to the federal government; therefore, according to the Tenth Amendment, any such power was reserved to the states or the people. The fact that this plain language has not been honored by Congress, the Supreme Court or the executive branch makes it necessary to correct this situation with another constitutional amendment as I have described.
Jefferson observed that government always has a tendency to expand. Here’s how the unconstitutional assigning of federal authority to agriculture led to its expansion far beyond agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has about 93,000 employees in the U.S. (not counting USDA employees in foreign countries), but only about 25 percent of them are engaged in farm programs. The rest are involved in such far-ranging activities as electric power production, telecommunications businesses, commercial loans, rent subsidies for housing projects, forestry management, economic research, and subsidized food and nutrition programs, such as school lunches and food stamps. The food stamp program cost $550 million in 1979, $56 billion in 2009, and $80 billion in 2014.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court precedent for empowering government to intervene in agriculture was not limited to the USDA. Other federal agencies enjoyed the extension of the same power. According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government in 2009 had six different agencies operating “about” 26 separate food and nutrition programs in the U.S. As of October 20, 2011, the USDA even had more than 90 foreign offices covering 154 countries.
Is Congress or the USDA going to cut back the federal role in so-called “agriculture”? Of course not. The agency’s role has grown with every possible excuse that could even remotely be somehow connected to the word “agriculture.” The same thing has been happening in other fields outside the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution. William A. Niskanen, a former assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget and member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, has noted “most of [federal spending]was for programs for which there is no explicit constitutional authority.” (Italics added.)
Thus we need another constitutional convention. Article V of the Constitution provides that Congress “on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments,” which shall then require ratification by three-fourths of the states.
According to the Commerce Department, the economy based on its Gross domestic product–the value of its goods and services–fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter of this year. That was the largest recorded drop since the end of World War II in 1945!
The June 20 edition of The Wall Street Journal’s article, “Economy Shrank Rapidly in First Quarter” led off by reporting that “Weather disruptions at home and weak demand abroad caused a contraction in the U.S. economy in the first quarter, renewing doubts about the strength of the nation’s five-year-old recovery.”
What recovery? When the economy stays in the basement for five years you are looking at an on-going stagnation based on too much government interference with growth, the decline of the nation’s middle class, the lack of new start-up businesses, and the reluctance or inability of consumers to spend money, if they have any to spend.
In May, writing on his blog, Economic Collapse, Michael Synder pointed to “27 Hugh Red Flags for the U.S. Economy” noting, for example, that according to government numbers, “everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all American families.” The other indicators include:
# Sales for construction equipment were down 13% in April and have been down for 17 months in a row.
# During the first quarter of 2014, profits at the office supplies giant, Staples, fell by 43.5%
# Foot traffic at Wal-Mart stores fell by 1.4% during the first quarter of 2014.
# It is being projected that Sears will soon close hundreds more stores and may go out of business altogether.
# Existing home sales have fallen for seven of the last eight months and seem to repeating a pattern witnessed back in 2007 prior to the last financial crash.
# The home ownership rate in the U.S. has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.
You do not have to be an economist to understand that President Obama’s economic policies are flat-out failures that include a “stimulus” that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars without stimulating the economy, nor that having a $17 trillion debt means anything other than a nation teetering on a massive economic collapse.
In May, CNSnews reported that “A record 92,594,000 Americans were not in the labor force in April as the labor force participation rate matched a 36-year low of 62.8 percent, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
This is not my definition of a “recession” although we are told that it ended in 2009. This is a “depression” for millions of Americans. The labor force participation rate has gone from 63.5% to 63.3%, the lowest since 1979, but the Obama administration keeps telling us that it is “improving.”
Consumer spending is down. Exports are down. Employment is barely increasing. The only thing that is up is inflation.
Edward C. Prescott, a 2004 Nobel Laureate in Economics and Lee E. Ohanian, a professor of economics UCLA, writing in the June 26 edition of The Wall Street Journal, noted that the declining GDP rate was “the worst productivity statistic since 1990. And productivity since 2005 has declined by more than 8% relative to its long-run trend. This means that business output is nearly $1 trillion less today than what it would be had productivity continued to grow at its average rate of about 2.5% per year.”
“Lagging productivity growth is an enormous problem because virtually all of the increase in Americans’ standard of living is made possible by rising worker productivity.”
The Obama administration would have you believe that the economic decline in the first quarter was due to a harsh winter. They will be blaming it on a hot summer come autumn.
This is an administration whose main theme these days is the threat of “climate change”, but it has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with vast government spending and borrowing, an explosion of regulations that have slowed or stopped the creation of new businesses, a “war on coal” that is forcing a decline in the production of electricity, and a widespread perception that the President is the worst to have held office since the nation began.
There is no recovery. There is a return to the factors that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that bought up all the sub-prime mortgage loans and packaged them as assets are still in business. Credit card companies are reaching out to sub-prime users, signing them up. Nobody seems to learn anything from the past, even if it is the recent past.
If the control of the U.S. Senate cannot be wrested away from a Democratic Party led by Harry Reid and a GOP increase in the U.S. House that was led by Nancy Pelosi until the 2010 elections cannot be achieved in the forthcoming November elections, the President’s continued attack on the economy—which includes a massive increase in illegal immigration—the nation’s economy will remain tenuous.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Since October of last year 52,000 – 60,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at our border with Mexico with an expectation of being allowed into our country. They came mostly from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador, based on information they received promising America had relaxed their immigration laws and if they managed to reach our borders, they would be allowed entry, especially the children.
Among the hundreds of children apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol it is alarming that some were infants and toddlers, but also that the average age was about fourteen, and many of them were in the unaccompanied category. Shocking images have been captured of young faces pressed blankly up against thick glass panes and hundreds of children huddled under aluminum-foil blankets on concrete floors behind chain fences and barbed wire. Obviously, the pictures tear at our hearts, and cause us to think emotionally about the situation, rather than with rational logic. Could that be the intent of those who helped initiate the mass immigration we are seeing?
Few deny it has become a crisis of epic proportions, as immigration officials and their facilities have been overwhelmed with the flood of arrivals. They are taxed with finding equitable ways to manage the unprecedented invasion. But many questions remain as to how all this happened, why it happened, and what our government plans to do about the problem now, as well as long term solutions.
Resettlement rather that Deportation
It is perceived that the Obama administration’s plan is more about resettlement than deportation for the unaccompanied migrant children. Therefore, it is important for everyone to examine current laws that have been enacted on the subject. The current crisis involves a massive amount of children who are coming from Central America, rather than Mexico. That makes a difference in procedures. Central American children must be taken into US custody, while Mexicans of any age can be turned back at the border. This is the result of a series of laws passed by Congress and signed by President Obama that set in place a particular process for unaccompanied child migrants, as a way of fighting human trafficking. These laws reinforced a 1997 government lawsuit settlement that set certain standards for care.
Most of this process was codified by Congress under the Homeland Security Act of 2002; Congress added some additional protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, in 2008.
Under those laws, the Border Patrol is required to take child migrants who aren’t from Mexico into custody, screen them, and transfer them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (a part of the Department of Health and Human Services), which is tasked with either finding a suitable relative with whom the child can be released, or putting the child in long-term foster care. The current system was built for 8,000 kids — not 50,000. There are not beds in HHS facilities to handle the number of Central Americans. So this is unprecedented, and because the decisions now being made could set a precedence for the future, it is exceedingly important that citizens keep a close watch on the issue and hopefully offer their well-thought-out advice to elected officials, ICE, and Homeland Security.
Surge anticipated by Obama administration?
There are reports that the Obama Administration anticipated the surge of children that would be crossing the southern border illegally way back in January. It was then that the Obama administration placed an advertisement for contractors to “help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resettle 65 thousand illegal children”, months before the border crisis began. So, why is President Obama and other officials acting surprised by the thousands who made their way here?
In this video clip, documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch warns that the invasion is only beginning. As stated by Lynch, “It’s about to get worse. Entire villages are emptying and coming from Central America through Mexico to the United States. They’ll be hitting the border within the next few weeks. What you are seeing right now is the tip of the iceberg.”
In an act that speaks of desperation, on June 19, the federal government posted yet another help wanted advertisement as a solution to the explosive increase of children illegally crossing the southern border, namely:
The Department of Homeland Security is seeking “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children,” or UAC, as juveniles entering the United States are called.
How has the public responded to this Administration’s pleas for American citizens to “adopt” these immigrants into their communities?
Residents of Lawrenceville, Virginia succeeded in thwarting plans to shelter 500 of the children at a defunct college located in Lawrenceville, St. Paul’s College, which authorities saw acceptable as a refugee camp for junior illegal aliens. Concerns mentioned as to why the residents declined the immigrants included: fear of “communicable diseases, such as drug resistant tuberculosis, and potential gang violence from the “teenagers.” Known gang members, some sporting gang tattoos, are among the children storming the U.S. border. Of immediate concern is that a case of swine flu has been confirmed at a shelter for unaccompanied minors
Another site crossed off the list of potential sites by HHS (the same agency that botched the ObamaCare rollout) was a former monastery located in Olympia Fields, a south Chicago suburb, due to a strong social media outcry.
The White House official statement about the immigration crisis is that it is an “urgent humanitarian situation.” Recently Democrats have sought to re-frame the deepening crisis by identifying the immigrants as “refugees”, to coincide with the different rules and laws that apply to people with that label. That is one reason critics believe Obama’s intention is to find a way to keep all 60,000 plus immigrants here permanently. Be prepared for the possibility of our president suggesting a good-will gesture to bring the children’s families to the United States too. That would add another potential 200,000.
Will rule of law and nation’s well being trump the emotional factor?
Yes, Americans feel sorry for others’ misfortunes and lack of quality of life based on where they were born, most certainly when children are involved, but if we allow a flow of 60,000 minors to enter the U.S.A., with a steady stream to follow, that will adversely affect and impact our own citizens. That is wrong. A law should never injure one person’s life to make another one’s better. That simply is unfair! We may need to remind our government that USA citizens must be their top priority. We simply cannot rescue everyone all the time, especially when we currently have a 17 trillion dollar debt and a continuing job crisis problem.
How will keeping the 60,000 immigrants injure anyone? The immediate problem is that due to the huge numbers needing to be processed, the usual health checks, background checks, and investigating for potential criminal records, cannot always be completed on everyone. Many have already been shipped away to other areas of the country.
For decades, American officials, at the highest level of our government, have refused to enforce established immigration laws, causing our immigration system to become horrendously inefficient, overburdened and in desperate need of a correction. Yet is seems the new laws enacted tend to escalate rather than decrease problems. In 2002 a law was enacted to protect childrens’ welfare, so that thousands of immigrant minors crossing alone into the United States would be able to attend public schools and possibly work in America for years without consequences. This fact is known throughout Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and thus enticed even more children to make the dangerous trip, believing they can remain in the U.S for years, before facing even a moderate risk of deportation. And the longer the immigration process goes on, the less likely .a child will be returned home. In recent years as many as one-quarter of the immigrants ordered to report to courts have failed to appear. Because of the massive number of children involved, it will take years before the unaccompanied minors have their cases heard.
We, the taxpayers, are paying for the care of immigrants who illegally cross our borders. We have allowed ourselves to be responsible for the arriving 60,000 too. They currently need housing, care, and ways to transport these illegal aliens to parents, relatives, or warehouses in the United States. The White House has projected a staggering cost of $2.28 billion to care for and resettle child migrants from Central America; some say that figure is low. They are asking for another $1.4 billion to keep the children here. Incredibly, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced that the Obama administration would pay for 100 lawyers to help these underage illegal aliens remain in the United States, thus begging the question: “why”? Has our government become more concerned about foreigners rather than our own citizens?
Part 2 will discuss the surge as a politically opportune moment for the Obama administration in its use of the crisis to open the door to universal citizenship for illegal immigrants, which represents yet another application of the left’s long-championed Cloward Piven strategy.
[Originally published at Illinois Review]
Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”
Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”
Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.
One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.
Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.
Another widely cited source for the consensus view is a 2009 article in Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists. Mr. Doran and Ms. Zimmerman claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree” that global temperatures have risen and that humans are a significant contributing factor.
The survey’s questions don’t reveal much of interest. Most scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic global warming nevertheless would answer “yes” to both questions. The survey was silent on whether the human impact is large enough to constitute a problem. Nor did it include solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers, who are the scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.
The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.
In 2010, William R. Love Anderegg, then a student at Stanford University, used Google Scholar to identify the views of the most prolific writers on climate change. His findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Mr. Love Anderegg found that 97% to 98% of the 200 most prolific writers on climate change believe “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the ‘unequivocal’ warming.” There was no mention of how dangerous this climate change might be; and, of course, 200 researchers out of the thousands who have contributed to the climate science debate is not evidence of consensus.
In 2013, John Cook, an Australia-based blogger, and some of his friends reviewed abstracts of peer-reviewed papers published from 1991 to 2011. Mr. Cook reported that 97% of those who stated a position explicitly or implicitly suggest that human activity is responsible for some warming. His findings were published in Environmental Research Letters.
Mr. Cook’s work was quickly debunked. In Science and Education in August 2013, for example, David R. Legates (a professor of geography at the University of Delaware and former director of its Center for Climatic Research) and three coauthors reviewed the same papers as did Mr. Cook and found “only 41 papers—0.3 percent of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0 percent of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1 percent—had been found to endorse” the claim that human activity is causing most of the current warming. Elsewhere, climate scientists including Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir J. Shaviv and Nils- Axel Morner, whose research questions the alleged consensus, protested that Mr. Cook ignored or misrepresented their work.
Rigorous international surveys conducted by German scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch—most recently published in Environmental Science & Policy in 2010—have found that most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models. They do not believe that climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to predict future climate change.
Surveys of meteorologists repeatedly find a majority oppose the alleged consensus. Only 39.5% of 1,854 American Meteorological Society members who responded to a survey in 2012 said man-made global warming is dangerous.
Finally, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which claims to speak for more than 2,500 scientists—is probably the most frequently cited source for the consensus. Its latest report claims that “human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” Yet relatively few have either written on or reviewed research having to do with the key question: How much of the temperature increase and other climate changes observed in the 20th century was caused by man-made greenhouse-gas emissions? The IPCC lists only 41 authors and editors of the relevant chapter of the Fifth Assessment Report addressing “anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.”
Of the various petitions on global warming circulated for signatures by scientists, the one by the Petition Project, a group of physicists and physical chemists based in La Jolla, Calif., has by far the most signatures—more than 31,000 (more than 9,000 with a Ph.D.). It was most recently published in 2009, and most signers were added or reaffirmed since 2007. The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of . . . carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”
We could go on, but the larger point is plain. There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.
Mr. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute. Dr. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite.
[First published in the Wall Street Journal on May 27, 2014.]
I am grateful that Senator John Thune, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at the Free State Foundation’s June 25 seminar, “Reforming Communications Policy in the Digital Age: The Path Forward.” And because it is such a pivotal time for communications policymaking, I am especially grateful that each used the occasion to deliver such important, substantive addresses.
Among those engaged in the debate, there are divergent views concerning the proper path forward for communications policy – in essence, one view embodies a pro-regulatory vision and the other a free market-oriented one. At the Free State Foundation, we work hard, based on our research and analysis, to articulate, on a principled basis, the case for the less regulatory, free market-oriented vision.
Senator Thune’s and Commissioner Pai’s Free State Foundation addresses constitute important contributions to the ongoing discussion concerning reform of our nation’s communications laws and policies. I urge you to review the full texts of their speeches hereand here. But, in the meantime, please do take a few minutes right now to read the excerpts immediately below.
SENATOR JOHN THUNE – EXCERPTS
While some pro-regulatory advocates claim our communications sector is dominated by monopolies and duopolies, the evidence in the marketplace doesn’t support that view. Monopoly markets are typically characterized by a lack of investment, a lack of innovation, no new entrants, and excessive profits.
Since 1996, the private sector has invested $1.2 trillion into building and constantly upgrading our nation’s communications networks, including about $60 billion annually in capital investments over the last few years. Regarding market entry, we have already seen rampant intermodal competition in the telephone and video markets. Not to mention efforts by companies like Google and DISH Network who are committed to becoming serious new broadband players.
As for excessive profits for communications providers, again, there’s little evidence. Former Clinton Administration Official, Everett Ehrlich, found that Fortune 500 broadband companies had an average profit margin of just 3.7 percent. The average profit margin for Fortune 500 Internet companies who offer services on top of the broadband infrastructure? A whopping 24 percent. As Ehrlich points out, “this sizeable difference makes clear that providers of broadband connectivity are not extracting undue profits from broadband users.”
Why does this all matter? Because painting a picture of a dysfunctional communications and broadband marketplace is central to the efforts of pro-regulatory advocates who claim more government intervention into the online world is needed to fix a “broken system.” Many of those who seek to regulate the Internet are using mistruths and hyperbole to scare both the public and policymakers into restricting economic and individual liberty.
* * *
The last time Congress significantly updated our communications laws was in 1996. Back then, you had to pay for the Internet by the hour, and going online meant tying up your home’s telephone line. There were only 100 thousand websites in 1996, and Google and Wikipedia had not been created yet. Today there are nearly 900 million websites.
The bipartisan and deregulatory Telecommunications Act of 1996 encouraged intermodal competition and provided a light regulatory touch for information services. Bipartisan leadership at the FCC reinforced the light touch for the Internet when implementing the law. All of this fostered an era of convergence and innovation in the communications space. Cable companies started to compete with telcos, telcos got into the cable TV business, and everyone started offering Internet access.
The Telecom Act was far from perfect, but it got the job done. Even so, it is best to view the Telecom Act as a transitional law for a transitional time, rather than as a permanent statute that will last 62 years without major revision, like its predecessor, the Communications Act of 1934. The original Communications Act was designed for an era of actual communications monopolies; the Telecom Act was designed for the transitional era that took us from monopoly to competition; and now, we need a new policy framework for today’s converged, competitive, and Internet-powered world.
This, of course, is much easier said than done. Modernizing the laws governing the communications and technology sectors is no small task, which is why I am glad my colleagues in the House of Representatives have already begun examining the regulation of the communications industry.
* * *
Now, I’m not saying that the Internet should be a lawless frontier free from any government oversight. That is the sort of straw-man accusation leveled by those who want to avoid doing the hard work of justifying regulations for the Internet ecosystem. Even so, policymakers must be careful to preserve the light-touch regime, first implemented by the Clinton Administration, that has been so successful in making us the digital envy of the world.
Some people, however, want to completely upset that regime and instead want to see the Internet shackled with Title II of the Communications Act. Title II is certainly not a “light touch,” not with its burdensome rate regulation, property valuation, and discontinuance provisions, along with many others.
Traditional wireline telephony now makes up just 22 percent of the 443 million phone lines in America, and that rate continues to decline each year. When consumers are rapidly abandoning traditional Title II services, it makes little sense to apply Title II regulations to today’s new technologies and business models. Even Google seems keen on avoiding the morass of Title II-the Internet giant has specifically chosen not to offer telephone services with its Google Fiber broadband product because it wants to avoid the regulatory burdens that come along with it.
Another reason I oppose Title II reclassification is because regulating an industry as if it were a public utility monopoly is the surest way to guarantee the industry will become a monopoly. As I discussed earlier, the evidence in the marketplace makes it clear that our broadband market is dynamic and competitive-not at all like the early days of Ma Bell that Title II was intended for. Public utility regulation traditionally is intended to do two things-protect the public from the harms of a monopoly, while simultaneously protecting that monopoly. Since the broadband market is demonstrably not a monopoly, regulating it as a public utility would only make the industry less competitive and less innovative. Or, in other words, make it more like a monopoly.
COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI – EXCERPTS
I don’t mean to suggest that our nation’s broadband policy has been perfect. It hasn’t. There’s certainly more we should be doing to clear out the regulatory underbrush that deters infrastructure investment and broadband deployment. But when it comes to our fundamental choice of a regulatory model, the United States has gotten it right.
Of course, there are those who disagree, and their voices have become louder of late. Many are now claiming that the only way to protect the Internet from ruin is to reclassify broadband as a Title II service. In other words, they want to end the minimal regulatory environment for broadband and replace it with rules based on 19th century railroad regulation.
This makes no sense. The common-carriage rules of Title II were designed to control one company that had a monopoly on long-distance telephone service, not the 1,712 companies that now compete to provide broadband service to the American consumer.
And beyond the sloganeering, there are any number of complicated questions to which I have yet to hear an answer. How much would consumers’ broadband prices go up to pay for the universal service charges all carriers must contribute? Why should we apply anti-consumer rules like tariffing to the broadband world? How would the Part 36 separations process apply to apportion the various components of the network between the several states and the FCC for regulatory purposes? And why should we open the door to actual access charges, imposed on edge providers, content delivery networks, and transit operators without their consent?
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This means that uncertainty will hang over the marketplace for a long time. How many years would it take us to decide which parts of Title II merit forbearance? How many provisions must we even examine? When we still haven’t collected data in the special access proceeding, about a year-and-a-half after authorizing that collection, how could we possibly expect to timely gather data to handle the wider broadband market? And in a rapidly changing industry, how enduring would a particular FCC snapshot of the marketplace, upon which critical investment decisions would rely, really be?
But aside from the mechanics of implementing Title II, we need to ask a more basic question. Where would Title II regulation lead? One good indication is to compare the results produced by the American regulatory model to those of a more intrusive regulatory model: Europe’s. Rather than taking a light-touch regulatory approach to broadband, the European model treats broadband as a public utility, imposes telephone-style regulation, and purports to focus on promoting service-based (rather than facilities-based) competition.
The results of the public-utility model speak for themselves. Eighty-two percent of Americans (and 48 percent of rural Americans) have access to 25 Mbps broadband speeds. In Europe, those figures are only 54 percent and 12 percent, respectively. And these figures aren’t skewed by less developed countries; in France, the figures are 24 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Similarly, American broadband companies are investing more than twice as much as their European counterparts ($562 per household v. $244), and deploying fiber-to-the-premises about twice as often (23 percent v. 12 percent). Small wonder, then, that the European Commission itself has said that “Europe is losing the global race to build fast fixed broadband connections.”
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NOTE: There also was an excellent panel discussion at the event with John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge; Scott Cleland, Precursor LLC; and Adam Thierer, Mercatus Center at George Mason University. A transcript of that session will be published in due course.
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. … If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one. …
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. … The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.
Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. … There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
- James Madison
When people are asked to name the Founding Fathers of the nation, they usually reel off Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, the first, second and third Presidents in addition to their earlier role in guiding the Revolution to success.
Occasionally, someone who, like myself, loves history will add Madison, the fourth President, but Lynne Cheney’s new biography of Madison rightly identifies him as the man most responsible “for creating the United States of America in the form we know it today.” It was Madison who guided the process by which the Founders arrived at the Constitution, contributing the fundamental principles it incorporated and writing the Bill of Rights, amendments that ensured its ratification by the original states.
Cheney’s biography, “James Madison: A Life Considered” ($36.00, Viking) benefits not only from her scholarship, but from her facility with the written word, making it a continual pleasure to read for a book of 563 pages, including its notes, bibliography, and index. If you were to set aside the summer to read just one book, this would be the one I would recommend.
If Cheney’s name rings a bell, it is because she is the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, but she is also a Ph.D. who has been studying Madison since 1987 when she was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. These days she is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Cheney’s reside in Wilson, Wyoming. She is making the rounds of radio and television shows to promote her book and, most notably, interviewers tend to ignore her book in order to pry an opinion out of her about current events and politics. One gets the feeling that most did not read her book.
Those short in stature and, compared to the other Founders, quite young, all who came to know him swiftly developed a profound respect for his intellect and his knowledge of how governments were structured with some succeeding while others failed. When Madison spoke, they listened. There were in those days “factions” (which today we call political parties) that opposed his and the other Founder’s views.
“Jefferson,” wrote Cheney, “would later say that it was a wonder that Madison accomplished so much as he had, given that he faced ‘the endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations, and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers’” and Madison himself was often struck “by the way that ‘important bills prepared at leisure by skillful hands’ were treated to ‘crudeness and tedious discussion’, and he had seen legislative tricks of the most blatant sort.” So the politics of Madison’s time was not unlike much of today’s.
After the Constitution was written to replace the failed Articles of Confederation it needed to be vigorously defended. America benefited greatly from the fact that its population was highly literate and it was the Federalist papers, a series of essays mostly written by Madison was the way its principles and protections were explained to the public. Chaney notes that the Federalist essay that would eventually become most famous was the first one Madison wrote.
“In Federalist 10, published November 22,1787, he set forth the failures of ‘our governments’ (rather than ‘our states’ where, after all, the Constitution would be ratified), noting the instability and injustices that had caused good citizens across the country to increasingly distrust those governments and feel ‘alarm for private rights.’”
These alarms are reflected in our times by concerns that the President is bypassing Congress to govern by executive orders, is failing to enforce laws with which he disagrees, and that we have a Department of Justice and an IRS that cannot be trusted to apply laws fairly, acting against groups and individuals with whom they disagree such as the Tea Party movement and other conservative organizations. A rogue agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency is so out of control that Congress must at some point exert powerful restraints on it.
What is remarkable about Madison’s time was the fact that he, Jefferson is lifelong friend, and Adams, all lived long lives unlike the bulk of the population. Madison would devote his life to the creation of our extraordinary government and, throughout the early presidencies including his own, to ensuring the existence of the new nation, challenged as it was by Great Britain, first during the Revolution and then in the War of 1812.
On his last day as President, Madison vetoed an improvements bill, “arguing as he had since the days of The Federalist that the general government did not have general powers. It had specified powers, and recognizing its limits was essential to ‘the permanent success of the Constitution.’”
Cheney wrote that Madison understood that “if the limits the Constitution imposed on government were unrecognized, ‘the parchment had better be thrown into the fire at once.”, but Madison was all about protecting the Constitution and the new nation. For that he is owed the gratitude of all the generations that have followed him.
It is now our responsibility to protect it because freedom and liberty always have domestic and foreign enemies.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
A creative commons license is a kind of copyright license that gives people the right to use, share, and expand upon a creator’s work whether this is an art work, a piece of literature, or a scientific or academic material. It offers a significant protection against accusations of copyright infringement and is believed by some to offer artists a degree of flexibility they may desire. It is also in the interest of citizens to see that the artwork they pay for through government funding for the Arts is made available for their benefit in some fashion. Mandating creative commons licensing for all state-funded artwork would accomplish that goal.
Government Funding for the Arts
Work for government is almost by definition being carried out for the people in one form or another. So should all work done by government have a creative commons license making it open to those people?
The state engages in a lot of work that is licensed; it funds art, and culture (usually only in part), as well as scientific and academic research, the creation of significant amounts of software, and the creation of large data resources. Creative commons licensing could apply to all.
Some governments, such as the United States already go part way towards making work they fund available to the public. Any “government [that] work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties” is in the public domain. This means they are similarly open to reuse and reproduction as if they were in the creative commons. However it is notable that this does not apply to works produced by government contractors or by institutions that are largely or fully funded by government such as the Smithsonian
Taxpayers Should Own What they Pay for
Everyone benefits and is enriched by open access to resources that the government can provide. A work is the province of its creator in most respects, since it is from the mind and hand of its creator that it is born. But when the state opts to fund a project, it too becomes a part-owner of the ideas and creation that springs forth. The state should thus seek to make public the work it spends taxpayer money to create. This is in exactly the same way that when an employee of a company creates something, the rights to that work go to the company and not the employee.
The best way to get the most out of government-funded art, if it is going to exist at all, is through mandating that all such works be made publicly available. This allows the work to be redistributed, re-explored, and to be used as springboards for new, derivative works.
The right of the people to the fruits of their tax dollars is hampered by either the creator, or the government, retaining stricter forms of copyright, which effectively entitles the holder of the copyright to full control of the work; work that would not exist had it not been for the largesse of society. If state-funded work is to have meaning it must be in the public sphere and reusable by the public in whatever form they wish. Simply put, the taxpayers paid for it, so they own it.
Chicago faces a significant, and growing public pension problem. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago’s four pension plans (including for teachers and public safety workers) face a combined debt of around $20 billion, a number that, without reform, is likely to continue to grow. In order to fill this gap in pension funding, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed several new or expanded taxes to cover the growing debt.
After a proposed property tax hike was rejected by the Chicago City Council, Mayor Emanuel turned to another source of revenue, telephone bills. Emanuel’s proposed plan would increase the current taxes both wireless and land lines by 56 percent. The hike from $2.50 a month to $3.90 a month would be the maximum allowed by state law. 36 of Chicago’s 50 aldermen co-sponsored the tax hike. The Illinois Policy Institute criticized the tax hike and noted that the increase would place Chicago’s wireless tax rates higher than all of its regional neighbors.
“Illinois’ cell phone tax rate already is higher than all of the state’s neighbors. Residents in nearby states pay an average of 6 percent less in taxes on their phone bills.
On top of paying an effective federal tax rate of 5.82 percent and a 7 percent state of Illinois telecom excise tax, Chicago wireless consumers already pay a 7 percent municipal tax to the city and a $2.50 per line wireless 911 fee.”
John Nothdurft, Director of Government Relations at the Heartland Institute argues that the new tax hike is only the most recent in a series of tax hikes that has made Chicago one of the most overtaxed municipalities in the country.
“The City of Chicago is about to have another Number 1 ranking when it comes to high taxes. Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $50 million increase in the city’s phone tax would give Chicago the highest tax of its kind in the nation. The city already boasts the nation’s highest cigarette tax, which the city raised just last year, and is knocking on the doorstep of having the highest sales tax, property tax, and meal tax, to name a few,” commented Nothdurft. “Sure the city might not raise property taxes this year, but unless the cities spending and unfunded liabilities are addressed in a significant manner then it won’t be long before Mayor Emanuel comes back for more.”
Sam Karnick, Director of Research at the Heartland Institute agrees, and cautions Chicago taxpayers that these new taxes do not preclude significant tax hikes down the road.
“Mayor Emanuel is desperately looking for a solution to pension problems he didn’t create, but certainly would have, based on his record and party affiliation,” argues Karnick. “Given that any property tax hike is off the table for only one year, his and Gov. Quinn’s obvious goal is to get through the next state and local elections without raising property taxes or suffering further credit downgrades. If the mayor and governor have their way, Chicagoans will ultimately get two tax hikes out of this, and one-party rule will continue. It’s the very opposite of fiscal responsibility.”
Wireless taxes have quickly become the latest slush fund irresponsible governments are seeking to use to fund their out-of-control spending. In many states, wireless tax rates have already reached all-time highs. Almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent (the national average is more than 16.3 percent). Even as revenue earned per wireless phone falls, taxes and fees climb. Many of these taxes, like Mayor Emmanuel’s, are being used to fund programs and services that are in no way related to telecommunications.
Critics of the tax hike have argued that the city phone tax was designated for the 911 call center and should not be used for other purposes. Raiding 9-1-1 funds, vehicle taxes, or any dedicated revenues for reasons other than their intended purpose is bad public policy. Public safety groups have criticized states for using 9-1-1 funds for other purposes. The National Emergency Number Association, National Association of State 911 Administrators, and 9-1-1 Industry Alliance called these sweeps “less than honest” and stated the diversion of funds places the nation’s 9-1-1 systems at risk while breaking “the trust established with the public.”
In addition to the public safety problems these fund raids create, taxpayers also should be concerned about how their tax dollars are being managed. When states are allowed to raid dedicated funds and divert those taxes from their stated purpose, these dedicated revenues become de facto slush funds and additional phone taxes will likely be tacked onto phone users’ bills. If a dedicated 9-1-1 fund builds up “extra” revenue, lawmakers should reduce the tax to a more reasonable level and not raid the fund for other expenditures.
Steve Stanek, the Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News contends that the 911 fund as it currently exists has not been used properly.
“The phone tax was supposed to fund a 911 call center that should have been paid for years ago, but isn’t because of huge cost overruns,” argued Stanek. “The tax was never to be used for government pensions. What’s next? Phone taxes to pay patch potholes and plow snow?”
High wireless taxes are a drag on both consumers and the wireless market, deterring innovation and infrastructure improvements, while disproportionately affecting minority and low-income populations. Before these taxes spin out of control, making wireless services less accessible for everyone, measures to stop it need to happen. One possibility is the implementation of a moratorium on these discriminatory tax hikes like the Wireless Tax Fairness Act, which would benefit both the economy and consumers.