July 31st, 2014 at 2:46 pm
Federalism on the Firing Line
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

With so much attention on the turf war between Congress and the President, it’s easy to overlook another, equally disturbing separation-of-powers crisis – the swift erosion of federalism.

Just as the U.S. Constitution assigns certain powers and duties to the three coequal branches of the federal government (legislative, executive, and judicial), so too does it differentiate lines of responsibility between the federal and state governments. This latter idea is known as federalism, and it’s in pretty bad shape according to a thought-provoking essay by Richard Epstein and Mario Loyola.

In particular, the practice of conditioning receipt of federal money on capitulation to federal regulations is turning states into mere enforcement officers.

“Federal officials exert enormous influence over state budgets and state regulators, often behind the scenes,” write Epstein and Loyola. “The new federalism replaces the ‘laboratories of democracy’ with heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all solutions. Uniformity wins but diversity loses, along with innovation, local choice, and the Constitution’s necessary limits on government power.”

Both parties are guilty, but the Obama administration has accelerated the trend. Poison pill programs like Common Core, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the federal highway system and the Clean Air Act all condition money for popular programs on local officials committing their states to dependency status.

“Federal ‘assistance’ to the states currently accounts for 30 percent of state budgets, on average,” according to the authors. “Since the early 1980s, the federal government has transferred about 15 percent of its budget to the states, which is almost as much as the federal deficit in an average year.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Annual federal transfer payments to the states roughly equal the yearly federal budget deficit.

Of course, eliminating the deficit isn’t as simple as zeroing out all federal-state spending relationships. Much of the logic of federal transfer payments hangs on the idea that poor states are funneled the resources they need to close the gap on some quality of life indicators with rich states. Until relatively poor states like North Dakota are allowed to fully exploit their natural economic advantages – such as being able to extract and export its huge oil reserve – ending redistribution without removing wealth-inhibiting regulations doesn’t make sense.

However, seeing the connection between the deficit and transfer payments to states does highlight the unsustainable nature of our current federalism-destroying arrangement. If we as Americans want to have more financial flexibility at the national level, we first need to remove the barriers to economic opportunity at the state and local level.


July 31st, 2014 at 1:59 pm
Wisconsin Supreme Court Vindicates Scott Walker’s Reforms
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s campaign for reelection just got a whole lot easier.

Earlier today the state’s seven member Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Act 10 – the controversial union-busting law championed by Walker and the GOP-led legislature – is constitutional, reports NPR.

In upholding the law’s curtailment of certain state employees’ collective bargaining rights – in particular teachers’ unions – the majority reasoned that, “No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not a constitutional obligation. The First Amendment [right of association] cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.”

The decision vindicates Governor Walker’s goal to free Wisconsin taxpayers from being held hostage by public employee unions who demand ever increasing compensation, and threaten to strike if unsatisfied. Throughout the country, public employee unions have abused the privilege of collective bargaining to bring many states to the brink of insolvency. Armed with this decision, Walker can consolidate his policy victories and begin to tout Wisconsin as a model for other states to follow.


July 31st, 2014 at 1:10 pm
House Passes Bill to Sue Obama
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

The House of Representatives made history today when it passed a bill allowing Congress to sue the President of the United States for failing to implement a federal law, reports the L.A. Times.

The legislation authorizes House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file suit in federal court demanding that President Barack Obama enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to purchase ObamaCare-compliant health insurance or pay a penalty.

House Republicans have been critical of President Obama’s unilateral delays in enforcing the mandate – now scheduled to go into effect in 2016 – because it spares Democrats and the Obama administration substantial political pain. If the law is so great, Republicans reason, then it should go into full effect.

As with other anti-ObamaCare measures to pass the House, this bill has virtually no chance of clearing the Senate where Democrats are in the majority. Still, it’s very presence helps Republicans draw a clearer contrast over where each party stands on the rule of law; in particular the president’s ability to pick-and-choose which parts of a statute he will – as he swore upon taking office – to faithfully execute.


July 31st, 2014 at 11:06 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The U.S. Border Floodgate
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


July 30th, 2014 at 3:06 pm
Aetna CEO: ObamaCare “really not an affordable product”
Posted by Jeff Mazzella Print

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning, Mark Bertolini, the Chairman and CEO of Aetna, explained that ObamaCare is “really not an affordable product for a lot of people.” He goes on to say that we “have to have a more affordable system.”


July 28th, 2014 at 8:11 pm
A More ‘Proportional’ Response than Impeachment?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Add First Lady Michelle Obama and various members of the Democratic Party to the chorus of politicos discussing the possibility of impeaching President Barack Obama.

The First Lady warned a group of donors that, “If we lose these midterm elections, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we started because we’ll just see more of the same out in Washington – more obstructions, more lawsuits, and talk about impeachment.”

A series of fundraising email blasts was then sent on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee begging immediate donations to thwart a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate. “ALL GIFTS TODAY ARE TRIPLE-MATCHED!” blared the emails.

Despite all this, impeachment is still seen in most quarters as far-fetched. Simple math says the GOP needs at least 67 senators to ensure conviction (since the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote). For context, the GOP needs to pick up six seats just to get 51 members and control of the chamber.

Beyond counting noses, there’s a concern that impeaching the president at this stage would be disproportionate. Better, say thoughtful critics like Byron York, for Republicans to pass legislation that overturns the executive orders and policy directives they loathe – such as deferred action – and dare Democrats in Congress to vote to defend Obama.

Though York doesn’t think impeachment should be an option at all, his ‘proportionate’ thesis dovetails nicely with what Andrew McCarthy has written about in his book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment. McCarthy says that although pursuing impeachment is justified, it won’t work unless the groundwork has been laid with the public to show conclusively that Obama can’t be trusted to follow the law. It’s hard to imagine a better way to make that case than with a string of presidential vetoes usurping Congress’ constitutional power to legislate.

Should that come to pass, perhaps the only proportionate action left to take would be impeachment.


July 28th, 2014 at 9:28 am
Big Labor’s Latest Targets: Women and Student Athletes
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Aloysius Hogan, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, discusses the recent SCOTUS decision in Harris v. Quinn, labor unions’ targeting of women, and the latest on the proposed unionization of student athletes. 

Listen to the interview here.


July 25th, 2014 at 12:02 pm
Solar Subsidies: Crony Capitalism Amounting to Class Warfare
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Throughout solar technology’s checkered history, one thing has remained constant:  It’s not a cost-effective way to generate electricity.

Despite technological advance and even falling prices for solar panels, that unfortunate reality remains true.

For that reason, environmental activists and political liberals have succeeded in creating a complex array of local, state and federal subsidies to prop it up – funded by your hard-earned tax dollars.  Solar simply cannot compete as a power source without distorting the market through generous government subsidies.

To be clear, we at CFIF maintain no arbitrary animosity toward solar energy itself, or any form of energy for that matter.  We believe, however, that American consumers and taxpayers should remain aware that certain fashionable forms of energy  – conspicuously available to only some people – are subsidized in whole or in part by wasteful government spending.  By now we’re all well aware of the danger when government power is used to pick winners and losers in the market, but solar subsidies constitute a particularly bad example.  Artificial favoritism toward the solar sector has benefited rooftop solar users at the expense of taxpayers and consumers who don’t or can’t utilize solar.

Here’s how that distorted scheme works.

Favored homeowners exploit a generous 30% federal tax credit and other bureaucratic incentives to install rooftop solar systems.  Afterward, utility companies must then repurchase the excess power generated by the solar panels at full retail price under a policy known as “net metering.” That, in turn, allows rooftop solar users to enjoy the benefits of traditional electrical generation, and the grid that distributes electricity, without contributing to the broader costs associated with keeping the lights on, so to speak.  Meanwhile, consumers without solar remain on the hook for the maintenance of the electrical grid.

There’s an ugly irony that seems to have escaped most liberals who advocate that system of subsidies.  Namely, most consumers remain unable to exploit the system of handouts because they can’t afford solar in the first place.  Accordingly, liberals have created a government subsidy in which middle-income and lower-income consumers end up subsidizing wealthier homeowners.  How’s that for class warfare?

Just as unseemly, the solar industry and activist groups actually claim that solar subsidies promote “choice and competition.”  The reality is that the solar industry and its advocates simply seek favored economic status via crony capitalism.  Using bureaucracy to elevate the solar sector doesn’t promote choice or competition.  It’s simply government picking winners and losers – with everyday consumers paying the price.

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July 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

July 24th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
ObamaCare’s Eligibility Verification System Open to Abuse
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

The Government Accountability Office set up a sting operation to test whether ObamaCare’s eligibility verification system is open to abuse.

GAO discovered a resounding Yes.

“Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts,” reports National Journal.

Investigators had the most success when using ObamaCare’s online and telephone enrollment systems. These improper enrollments resulted in subsidies totaling $30,000 annually.

The findings of the sting operation bode ill for the controversial health reform law. The failure to correctly match applicants to subsidies indicates that ObamaCare’s expensive digital architecture is failing in one of its most basic tasks.

And the failure could be costly.

Assuming most ObamaCare applicants are not attempting to defraud taxpayers – but rather are just trying to comply with the law’s individual mandate – incorrectly receiving financial help this year could result in a heavier tax bill next year. That’s because the IRS is tasked with settling accounts on ObamaCare subsidies, with taxpayers required to pay back any subsidies they weren’t eligible for when calculating their income tax liability.

So far, the IRS hasn’t rewritten ObamaCare to cushion the blow from bad drafting – like it did when it made subsidies available to citizens in states without a state-based exchange.

Apparently, that kind of face-saving deference is only extended to government-growing ideologues; not every day Americans just trying to play by the rules.


July 24th, 2014 at 12:07 pm
For GOP, Successful 2014 Could Pave the Way for an Even Better 2016
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about a conservative ascendency on Capitol Hill this year.

Unless something unexpected happens, the House of Representatives looks safe to remain in Republican hands after the 2014 midterm elections.

The real question is whether the GOP can wrest control of the U.S. Senate. The party needs to pick up six seats – and defend all those it holds – to unite with the House against President Barack Obama’s liberal agenda.

How likely is it that Republicans can pull off the takeover?

“To win six or more Democratic seats, Republicans start with the best possible candidates in West Virginia (Rep. Sherry Moore Capito), South Dakota (former Gov. Mike Rounds), and Montana (Rep. Steve Daines),” writes Fred Barnes. “These open Democratic seats are regarded as near-certain GOP takeovers, but they wouldn’t be if Republicans were stuck with second-tier candidates or worse.”

In political jargon, first-tier candidates are people who can interact with the media well, raise money, avoid unnecessary errors and gaffes and generally present a likeable personality to voters.

In order to win control of the Senate, Republicans also need to compete in slightly more difficult races.

“Then there are the four red states with Democratic incumbents–Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska,” says Barnes. “Once again, Republicans are blessed with able, attractive candidates. As a result, all five races are tossups or lean Republican.”

Controlling both legislative chambers would give Republicans the ability to show Americans a sharper contrast with Obama’s policies. For the first time since the president took office, the GOP – and in particular the conservative intellectual leadership that drives the party’s policy agenda – would be in a position to pass alternative solutions for job growth, health care, etc. Having two years to work out the details would be an excellent test drive for ideas ahead of the 2016 presidential contest when contenders could adopt the most popular proposals.

Come Election Night, we’ll see whether that process of refinement begins or is once again put on hold.


July 22nd, 2014 at 10:51 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Most Transparent Administration Ever
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


July 21st, 2014 at 8:11 pm
Rick Perry to Send 1,000 National Guard Members to Border
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry announced today that he intends to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard members to the state’s southern border to reduce crime in areas teeming with illegal immigrants.

The decision came after several failed attempts to get similar assistance from the Obama administration.

If implemented, the decision will cost Texas taxpayers about $12 million a month. Though he could empower Guard members to arrest and detain illegal immigrants crossing into Texas, Perry has not committed to doing so.

Instead, the Guard is likely to play an assistance role to federal Border Patrol agents. “We think they’ll come to us and say, ‘Please take us to a Border Patrol station’ [for processing],” says the head of the Texas National Guard.

The move makes sense since Texas has absorbed many of the 57,000 unaccompanied minors that have crossed the border with Mexico since last October. The additional hands will, if nothing else, beef up the law enforcement presence in places where crime is on the rise, giving Border Patrol agents much needed assistance in steering and clearing the area.

Given the federal government’s duty to secure the border and the Obama administration’s failure to do so, this is probably the best Perry – or any other governor – can do for the time being.


July 18th, 2014 at 3:04 pm
Podcast: What Can and Should Be Done to Reign In Obama Admin’s Lawlessness?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF Contributing Editor Ashton Ellis discusses why critics agree that President Obama is failing to uphold his oath of office, Sarah Palin’s premise that Obama is acting lawlessly with respect to America’s unsecured border crisis, and what, if anything, can and should be done about it.

Listen to the interview here.


July 18th, 2014 at 12:57 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

July 18th, 2014 at 9:19 am
Video: The Media Grows a (Baby) Backbone
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the mainstream media’s treatment of the Obama administration and how important it is that the Fourth Estate begin to hold the administration accountable for its actions and policies.

 


July 17th, 2014 at 9:05 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Pawn
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.


July 15th, 2014 at 11:36 am
Judiciary Could Force Obama to Work with Congress
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

John Fund documents the Supreme Court’s growing impatience with the Obama administration’s refusal to adhere to the letter of the law in a piece out today with National Review.

Citing Jonathan Adler, a conservative legal expert, Fund highlights several recent Supreme Court decisions that slap down the executive branch’s significant regulatory overreach. Justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum – from the liberal Kagan to the conservative Scalia – refuse to grant President Barack Obama and his bureaucratic lieutenants the authority to change statutory requirements on a whim to suit policy goals the underlying law does not allow.

This backdrop is important as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hand down its decision in Halbig v. Burwell, a case that challenges an IRS interpretation of ObamaCare that, if overturned, could prohibit the subsidies most Americans need to pay for the law’s expensive insurance plans.

Weighing in the challengers’ favor are the 13 unanimous Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated moves by Obama executive agencies since he took office. In its reasoning the Court has consistently said that the president must adhere to the constitutional framework for making laws, which limits the executive to faithfully executing (i.e. carrying out) what Congress has actually passed as legislation.

In the ObamaCare context, that means striking down the IRS rule that explicitly ignores the prohibition on giving federal subsidies to users of the federal health insurance portal.

Making them available only on state exchanges was an enticement to get states to foot the bill for implementation. It has since backfired with 34 states declining the deal.

Does that complicate the Obama administration’s ability to call federal ObamaCare plans affordable? You betcha. But it also preserves the constitutional check on a president prone to act beyond his designated powers.

Though it might be unpleasant for the White House and its allies, the world will not end if Barack Obama is forced to negotiate with Congress. Another judicial reminder to respect the structure of the Constitution would be a public service by the D.C. Circuit – and the Supreme Court.


July 14th, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Illegal Immigration Cleanup Falls on Public Schools
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

“All politics is local,” goes the saying, and it looks like local public school districts will be the political entities dealing most directly with the surge in illegal immigration when classes begin.

“While politicians spend the summer fighting over how to turn back the tide, school leaders across the country are struggling to absorb a new student population the size of Newark, New Jersey,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “More than 40,000 children, many of them fresh from violent, harrowing journeys, have been released since October to stateside relatives as courts process their cases.”

The issues facing public school personnel include lack of immunizations, emotional distress caused by the trip north and an expected surge in non-English speaking students. The money and manpower required to meet these challenges is immense, but at least as far as local schools are concerned, also worthwhile. No one wants to perpetuate the trauma caused to the children who survive this experience.

It’s important to remember that each child is a person deserving of care and assistance, and one hopes that public officials will work with civil society organizations – including faith-based groups – to help each child heal.

That said, the fallout from the Obama administration’s deliberately poor management of the southern border is a profound object lesson in avoidable tragedy. As usual, the cleanup effort will be done by those that can least afford it.


July 14th, 2014 at 2:53 pm
“Operation Choke Point” – Rogue Obama Administration Program Faces House Scrutiny This Week
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Already mired in myriad scandals – the IRS, our southern border, Benghazi, etc. – one would presume the Obama Administration reluctant to run a legally and ethically dubious program named “Operation Choke Point.”  Yet that’s exactly what this tone-deaf administration has done.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives is paying close attention, and holding several important hearings on the matter this week.

For those still unfamiliar, Operation Choke Point is a program initiated by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice to interrupt – or “choke” – access to private financial resources by entirely legal industries such as firearms sales, ammunition sales, coin dealers and others.  If the administration can successfully pressure financial services like banks and third-party payment processors to refuse to do business with those industries, they obviously cannot survive for very long.  All the while, none of the targeted industries have even been shown to have violated any laws.  Accordingly, it’s a prototypical Obama Administration effort to demonize and target legal business that it happens to dislike.

This week, however, two House committees will bring cleansing public sunlight to this rogue operation.  On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Financial Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “The Department of Justice’s ‘Operation Choke Point,’” and at 2:00 p.m. the House Financial Services Financial Institution and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hole its hearing entitled, “Examining Regulatory Relief Proposals for Community Financial Institutions, Part II.”  Then, on Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the House Judiciary Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee will hold its hearing entitled “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?  A Study of the Proprietary & Legal Authority for the Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point.”

As with other Justice Department and IRS campaigns, Operation Choke Point is characterized by abuse of due process, secrecy and dishonesty.  Thankfully, this week’s battery of House hearings will provide some much-needed public scrutiny, and hopefully help end this rogue scheme.