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June 24th, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Brexit Highlights the Enduring Value of Federalism
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Regardless of other economic, political and social implications of Britain’s vote yesterday to depart the European Union, it highlights a value at the core of America’s governmental system:  federalism.

On this side of the Atlantic, decades of almost uninterrupted centralization of authority at the national level has necessarily come at the expense of more localized decisionmaking.  Our own unfortunate experience has been an increasingly homogenized, sterilized, conformist, bureaucratic, technocratic, remote, suffocating, uniform, top-down, one-size-fits-all leviathan.  Ironically, those on the political left who so often pretend to value “diversity” defend that erosion of federalism most enthusiastically.  They expose themselves as intolerant of true diversity, freedom and independence of people who don’t see the world as they do.

Despite forecasts of economic doom from “Remain” advocates, a surprising majority of British voters felt the same sense of suffocation and loss of sovereignty and voted “Leave.”  That sentiment isn’t limited to Britain, as fellow European populations in places like France and the Netherlands express the same dissatisfaction:

The popularity of the European Union is plummeting across some major European countries, according to new data published by Pew Research Centre.  The US-based, independent organisation found that the mound of people who feel enthusiastic about the 28-nation bloc is rapidly declining across 7 of the 10 polled nations.  In France, only 38% of people have a favourable view of the EU, according to Pew.  In 2004, this number was 69%.  The same trend was picking up in Spain, Italy, and Germany too.”

It remains to be seen whether and to what extent similar sentiment affects the U.S. elections this November.  But regardless, it’s encouraging to see that the concepts that led our Founding Fathers to create a system of federalism here in the U.S. survives in our parent nation of Britain.

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June 21st, 2016 at 12:20 pm
Global Misery Index: Socialist Venezuela Occupies High End, Free-Market Singapore Occupies Low End
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

How do socialism and free markets compare in the real world?

In our recent Liberty Update piece entitled “Socialist Paradises?  More Scandinavians Migrate to America than Vice-Versa” we show how Scandinavian countries aren’t the socialist paradises that Bernie Sanders fans seem to think.  This week brings just the latest illustration that free economies work, while socialist economies fail.

In the latest annual Index of Economic Freedom, Singapore ranks second-freest in the world, slightly below Hong Kong and ahead of New Zealand, Switzerland and then Australia.   Coming in nearly last at 176 of the 178 nations measured was socialist Venezuela.  And the real-world result?  A new Bloomberg piece notes that Singapore now enjoys the lowest (i.e., best) spot on the worldwide misery index.  Meanwhile, socialist paradise Venezuela holds the top (i.e., worst) spot:

Singapore has dropped below Thailand on the so-called Misery Index for the first time since December 2014, meaning the city-state has the lowest combination of consumer-price inflation and unemployment in the world.  Singapore’s most-recent CPI rate was negative 0.5 percent and its official jobless rate was 1.9 percent, ranking it 1.4 percent on the misery scale, compared with 1.5 percent in Thailand and 2.9 percent in Japan, based on the latest-available official figures.  Venezuela ranks as most miserable among more than 70 countries on which Bloomberg compiles data, as the South American country battles triple-digit inflation.”

As they would say in Latin, res ipsa loquitur – “the fact speaks for itself.”

June 20th, 2016 at 11:22 am
We Should Also Make the Affirmative Case for 2nd Amendment Rights
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our latest Liberty Update piece “Inconvenient Truths Undermine Gun-Controllers’ Myths,” we systematically dismantle the untruths offered by 2nd Amendment rights opponents, including their exaggerated claims regarding U.S. murder and mass shooting rates.

In addition to rightfully exposing the misconceptions and outright lies perpetuated by those seeking to deprive law-abiding Americans of their rights, however, it helps to highlight the affirmative benefits of Second Amendment rights, i.e., the value of what we’re protecting.

In that regard, National Review’s David French offers a brilliant piece entitled “Dear Anti-Gun Liberals, Don’t Tell Me Which Gun I ‘Need’ for Self-Defense.” French first explains why a law-abiding American would prefer something like an AR-15 for self-defense:

Any person who breaks into my house or who threatens my family on my property will very soon find themselves staring at the business end of an AR-15…  It’s light, maneuverable, accurate, and highly reliable.  While self-defense experts can and do disagree on the optimal weapon for home defense, large numbers choose AR-style rifles for exactly the reasons I do.  It provides more firepower – with greater accuracy – than the alternatives.

But now I’m told – largely by people who don’t know the first thing about firearms – that no American ‘needs’ an AR-style rifle.  But when your life is on the line, what do you want?  More accuracy or less?  More firepower or less?  More recoil or less?  More reliability or less?  It’s always interesting to take a relatively inexperienced shooter to a range, let them shoot a handgun (where bullets generally scatter all over the target), and then hand them an AR.  Even rookies will shoot far more accurately with far less recoil.  It’s just easier to use.”

Importantly, French then contrasts why an AR-style rifle is not an optimal weapon of choice for a burglar or violent criminal:

But not – in general – for criminals.  For the average criminal, concealment is the key.  So they use handguns.  Moreover, the average criminal isn’t spending $1,000 (or sometimes more) on their weapon.  Rarely (very rarely), extraordinary criminals will use AR-type rifles, but most mass shootings are committed with handguns.”

“Which weapon do I ‘need’ for self-defense?,” French asks in conclusion.  ”Why don’t you let me make that choice.”

As we concluded in our Liberty Update piece, anyone seeking to restrict others’ Constitutional rights bears the burden of proof to justify their desire.  In this debate, as illustrated by French, they don’t come anywhere close to satisfying that burden.

June 14th, 2016 at 6:13 pm
Divided Court Allows FCC to Use Law Intended to Reduce Internet Regulation to Increase Internet Regulation
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Like most Americans, you probably had no idea that the Internet was somehow broken and in need of an Obama Administration “fix” via a Depression-era federal statute enacted for copper wire telephone technology.

And with good reason.  For two decades, America’s tech and Internet sectors have remained among the depressingly few areas of our economy that continued to flourish amid an era characterized by stagnating growth, employment and incomes.

Throughout the Obama tenure, however, his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has attempted over and over to upend the “light touch” regulatory approach of both Democratic (Clinton) and Republican (Bush) administrations that allowed the Internet to flourish as it has.  Today, unfortunately, a sharply divided D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finally affirmed the FCC’s most recent attempt to impose so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations that essentially equate to ObamaCare for the Internet.

As aptly summarized by Senior Circuit Judge Williams’s dissent, today’s decision allows FCC “use of an Act intended to ‘reduce regulation’ to instead increase regulation.”

Judge Williams cogently captured not only the legal illogic of the majority’s holding, but its real-world unintended consequences as well:

“The ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shuns broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies.  Because that track provides  little economic space for new firms seeking market entry or relatively small firms seeking expansion through innovations in business models or in technology, the Commission’s decision has a decent chance of bringing about the conditions under which some (but by no means all) of its actions could be grounded – the prevalence of incurable monopoly.”

Fortunately, this doesn’t end the question.  The ruling will likely be appealed, and the FCC’s mismanagement can be corrected via Congressional action or new FCC leadership in a future presidential administration.

But beyond the specific issue in question, today’s unfortunate ruling illustrates again the importance of judicial branch appointments and composition as we approach the election of a president who will make those appointments.

use of an Act intended to “reduce regulation” to
instead increase regulation
June 13th, 2016 at 2:58 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Anthony Hennen, Staff Writer at Red Alert Politics – Millennials in America;

4:15 CDT/5:15 pm EDT:  James Capretta, Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – America’s Entitlement Programs;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Peter Roff, Contributing Editor with US News & World Report – Congress’ Proposed Bailout of Puerto Rico;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Bob Dorigo Jones, Senior Fellow at Center for America – 2016 Wacky Warning Labels Contest; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Peter Brooks, Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at The Heritage Foundation – Lone Wolf Terrorism and the Nightclub Shoot in Orlando.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

June 9th, 2016 at 9:13 am
Puerto Rico Bailout Bill Allows “Gifts, Bequests, or Devises of Services or Property” to Control Board Members
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As reported by Bloomberg yesterday, the PROMESA bailout bill for Puerto Rico includes a provision that would allow members of the control board to “accept, use, and dispose of gifts, bequests, or devises of services or property, both real and personal” for the purpose of “aiding or facilitating” the board’s work.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the House Natural Resources Committee claimed that such language is “fairly commonplace in ensuring statutory objectives are met in circumstances where non-federal sources of funding will be necessary.” Accordingly, the rationalization for the provision in this case is that the board will be able to “fulfill its purpose” in the event that Puerto Rico’s government can’t (or rather chooses not to) provide “sufficient funding” for it.

Will the Puerto Rican government actually fund the control board knowing its existence is widely opposed by the Puerto Rican people?  And, of course, there’s the little matter of Puerto Rico allegedly being “out of money,” as their governor has so stridently claimed for months. According to the CBO, the board will cost $370 million over its lifetime.  So it appears that these gifts will come in handy.

So who will be in the giving spirit?

The provision is crafted in such a way that any stakeholder looking to buy influence on the board will be able to do so.  Perhaps labor unions (SEIU, in particular), which already have generously given their time and resources to help Puerto Rico’s government produce a report claiming that billions of dollars of its debt is invalid, will take center stage in the gift-giving war, hoping to ensure that the Commonwealth’s underfunded public pension system is provided preference over bondholders.  Or what about certain hedge funds looking to convince the board that their claims should be prioritized over the claims of other bondholders, including those afforded first priority in Puerto Rico’s Constitution?

Indeed, rather than actually weighing Puerto Rico’s competing claims, and clarifying where they stand in the context of Puerto Rico’s Constitution, some in Congress have decided to invite a contest between who can out-bribe the others.  When people say that Washington is broken, revelations like this help explain why.

June 8th, 2016 at 12:13 pm
Dangerous Idea: Senator Proposes Extension of U.S. Reliance on Russian Rockets
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As we at CFIF have recently detailed, the U.S. simply must end military and space program purchases of Russian rocket engines.

As America’s military leaders confirm, Russia remains perhaps our foremost global threat, and continuing to subsidize its defense industry with U.S. taxpayer dollars only undermines global security by rewarding its aggressive behavior.  Additionally, rogue nations like Iran remain prime beneficiaries of Russian rocketry and its ongoing technological advances, and continuing support for Russian rocketry comes at the expense of our own domestic rocket industry.

With those concerns in mind, and following Russian aggression against Ukraine, Congress rightly imposed a phaseout of future U.S. purchase of Russian rocket engines in two consecutive National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs).  Unfortunately, some in Congress seek to reverse that phaseout and hope to to spend $540 million or more on at least 18 new Russian RD-180 engines.

And now, Senator Bill Nelson (D – Florida) has introduced an amendment to extend U.S. reliance upon Russian rocketry to 2023.

Although CFIF has had its well-known disagreements with Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) over the years, he is the last person whose devotion to national security or fiscal responsibility can be questioned.  And on this issue, Sen. McCain remains unequivocal:

Today, we have two space launch providers – ULA and SpaceX – that, no matter what happens with the Russian RD-180, will be able to provide fully redundant capabilities with ULS’s Delta IV and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and eventually, the Falcon heavy space launch vehicles.  There will be no credibility gap.  The Atlas V is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

And in response to Sen. Nelson’s proposed amendment, Sen. McCain was equally cogent:

This amendment, which is the largest subsidy of the Russian military industrial base proposed since the invasion of Ukraine, is the worst proposal yet from ULA and its Congressional allies.  In an apparent effort to further dependence on Russia for access to space, this amendment exceeds the Administration’s request for 18 Russian rocket engines and provides taxpayer subsidy for the purchase of an unlimited number of Russian engines.”

We cannot afford to neglect our own thriving space industry to the benefit of Russia, particularly on the backs of U.S.  taxpayers.  Senator Nelson’s misguided proposed amendment exceeds any request from the U.S. Department of Defense, and would only extend reliance upon Russia’s RD-180 well into the 2020s (if not longer).   CFIF therefore urges Senators to oppose any reversal of the current phaseout of U.S. future purchase of Russian rocket engines in the NDAA, including Sen. Nelson’s amendment.

June 3rd, 2016 at 9:48 am
Survey: Americans Still Support Police
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this week’s Liberty Update commentary “Don’t Go Wobbly on Criminal Justice,” we sound the alarm on rising violent crime in America’s largest cities while too many across the political spectrum nevertheless seek to relax our criminal laws and reverse the measures that so drastically reduced crime rates in the U.S. over the past 20 years.

On that subject, Rasmussen Reports offers some encouraging news.  In one survey, a majority of respondents favor “Blue Lives Matter” state laws that would classify assaults on police, firefighters or other emergency responders as “hate crimes.”  In another, a 58% to 27% majority believes that a “war on police” exists in America today.

Those results suggest that American voters have a good handle on present criminal justice realities.  Here’s hoping that they maintain it in the face of politically fashionable attempts by media and political figures to resurrect soft-on-crime policies that created an awful state of affairs from the 1960s to the 1990s.

May 31st, 2016 at 1:04 pm
Net “Neutrality”: Google Says Nondiscrimination for Me, But Not for Thee
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Surprise, surprise.  So Google, perhaps the leading proponent of so-called “Net Neutrality,” predictably doesn’t consider itself constrained by the same rules of nondiscrimination from which it seeks to benefit via government intervention:

Progressives have long argued that the federal government must protect the Internet from discrimination by treating service providers like Comcast as public utilities.  Now we learn that the Net doesn’t have to be neutral, as long as Google is the company targeting legal businesses that are politically unpopular.  Google recently announced in a blog post that the search engine would no longer run advertisements for payday loans with high interest rates and a 60-day repayment period.  ’Ads for financial services are a particular area of vigilance given how core they are to people’s livelihood and well being,’ the company wrote.”

Moreover, Google’s hypocrisy is compounded by its crony capitalist angle:

Google’s timing is also curious, given that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is finishing up a rule to wipe out the payday industry by cutting a lender’s ability to collect.  This political assault includes Justice Department investigations into banks that do business with payday lenders, which are also lawful outfits.  You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder if Google isn’t providing some cover for this political campaign:  the Obama Administration has certainly done a lot for Google.  The company’s top lobbyist visited the Obama White House 128 times as of October 2015 – more than counterparts at Comcast, Facebook, Amazon and Verizon combined.”

And then there’s its assault on intellectual property rights angle:

Last month the White House endorsed a Federal Communications Commission proposal that would allow Google to pirate television content, and last year the FCC exempted Google from its net-neutrality regulatory scheme.”

It’s just another illustration of the public policy, crony capitalist monstrosity that Net “Neutrality” is.  Whether by the judicial system or the political system, it must be put to an end.

May 27th, 2016 at 12:52 pm
“Reset” Fail: Russian Approval of U.S. Leadership at Record Low 1%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this week’s Liberty Update commentary “Captain America, Barack Obama and Surrender of U.S. Internet Authority” we highlight the Obama Administration’s uninterrupted pattern of foreign policy failure to illustrate one reason its plan to surrender oversight of the open Internet to the “international community” is a toxic idea.

Perhaps nothing better represents Obama’s record of failure better than Russia, where he and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bungled their infamous “Reset” attempt.  For all of its efforts to placate Vladimir Putin to the detriment of U.S. allies like Poland and Ukraine, a new Gallup survey shows that Russians’ approval of U.S. leadership has fallen to a record low of 1%:

Just 1% of Russians approved of U.S. leadership in 2015 – the worst rating in the world last year, and the lowest approval Gallup  has measured for the U.S. in the past decade.  Remarkably, this is even worse than their previous record low 4% approval in 2014.”

It’s as if Obama and Clinton should receive commemorative shirts reading, “I Caved to Russian Dictators and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”   Regardless, neither Obama nor Clinton can claim a single substantive foreign policy success during their tenures.  It’s again something to keep in mind as the administration pursues its inexplicable goal of surrendering U.S. Internet oversight before he coasts into retirement and leaves the rest of us to deal with the consequences.

May 25th, 2016 at 12:22 pm
Former Clinton Administration Official Rips FCC’s Set-Top Box Proposal as “Massive New Federal Regulation”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Alongside nearly every other conservative and libertarian organization of which we’re aware, CFIF opposes a toxic and wholly unnecessary new proposal from the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate cable television set-top boxes before the clock runs out on the Obama presidency.

But opposition extends across the political spectrum.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Clinton Administration Undersecretary of Commerce Ev Ehrlich excoriates the FCC’s proposed set-top box regulation for what it is — a crony capitalist, purloining, invasive, already-obsolete, anti-competitive, “massive new federal regulation”:

The Federal Communications Commission wants you, the consumer, to allow a new set-top box into your home that rearranges the programs you buy and inserts new advertising while tracking what you watch.  Movie studios, labor unions and civil rights groups all oppose it.  Why?  Because this ‘All-Vid’ proposal isn’t about the box fees the senators-turned-lobbyists decry.  Instead, it’s all about appropriating content.  Google and Amazon want to capture, repackage and profit from TV programming in their own competing services without having to pay for it…

If Google, Amazon or anyone else wants to build a better set-top box, they can do so the way these services have – in a way that respects federal privacy laws and negotiated licensing agreements with program producers.  Or they can actually license the content from creators, the way everybody else does, as opposed to demanding a gift from a captive FCC.”

Mr. Ehrlich gets it exactly right.

As we have stated, there is simply no realm of American life today that manifests badly-needed innovation, consumer choice, quality, affordability and sheer enjoyment than the video entertainment sector.  The variety and excellence of today’s video choices continues to expand at breakneck speed on (literally) a daily basis.  We therefore ask officials at all levels of government, as well as our 250,000 supporters and activists across the country, to oppose what Mr. Ehrlich rightly describes as a looming federal atrocity.

May 23rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm
In Frightening and Extraordinary Order, Federal Judge Sanctions Obama DOJ’s “Calculated Plan of Unethical Conduct” in Immigration Case
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The Court does not have the power to disbar the counsel in this case, but it does have the power to revoke the pro hac vice status of out-of-state lawyers who act unethically in court.”

During my years of legal practice, if I received anything close to that official rebuke from a federal judge, the only question in my mind would’ve been whether to bother stopping by the managing partner’s office to receive a formal termination notice before packing up my belongings.

But that’s exactly the rebuke that federal Judge Andrew Hanen just issued against Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.  The occasion for this extraordinary and frightening order was the Administration’s bald misconduct in litigating the immigration executive order case now before the U.S. Supreme Court:

The United States Department of Justice (”DOJ” or “Justice Department”) has now admitted making statements that clearly did not match the facts.  It has admitted that the lawyers who made these statements had knowledge of the truth when they made these misstatements…

To say that the government acted contrary to its multiple assurances to this Court is, at best, an understatement.  The Government knowingly acted contrary to its representations to this Court on over 100,000 occasions.  This Court finds that the misrepresentations detailed above:  (1) were false;  (2)  were made in bad faith;  and (3) misled both the Court and the Plaintiff States.  The misconduct in this case was intentional, serious and material.  In fact, it is hard to imagine a more serious, more calculated plan of unethical conduct.  There were over 100,000 instances of conduct contrary to counsel’s representations;  such a sizable omission cannot be classified as immaterial.”

Lest anyone attempt to dismiss this outrage as limited to a few attorneys, Judge Hanen’s order extended to the DOJ itself:

[W]hatever it is that the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility has been doing, it has not been effective.  The Office of Professional Responsibility purports to have as its mission, according to the Department of Justice’s website, the duty to ensure that Department of Justice attorneys ‘perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards expected of the Nation’s principal law enforcement agency.’”


Among other remedies, Judge Hanen ruled that any DOJ lawyer based in Washington, D.C. who “appears or seeks to appear” in any state or federal court among those 26 states involved in the immigration case attend remedial ethics courses.  Additionally, current Attorney General Loretta Lynch was specifically ordered to come up with a program to prevent future misconduct of this sort.

Anyone still curious regarding the origins of the political and social turmoil this nation is suffering after two terms under Obama, look no further.  When a president and his administration cannot even be trusted to tell the truth in pleadings and statements to a federal court, we approach a disintegration of the rule of law.  The potential repercussions, both near-term and long-term, are terrifying to contemplate.

May 23rd, 2016 at 1:29 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Show Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT –  Justin Johnson, Senior Policy Analyst for Defense Budgeting Policy at The Heritage Foundation:  Military Readiness;

4:15 CDT/5:15 pm EDT – Trey Kovacs: Policy Analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute:  Obama’s New Overtime Rule;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT – Ari Cohn, Legal and Advocacy Officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:  Free Speech on College Campuses;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT – Tzvi Kahn, Senior Policy Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative:  Iran, Syria, and the Egyptian Air Crash;

5:15 CDT/6:15 pm EDT – Ike Brannon, Visiting Fellow at the Cato Institute and Former Treasury Department Official:  Biggest Flaws in the Latest Version of Puerto Rico Debt Legislation; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT – Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute:  Medicare — The Times They are a Changing.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

May 17th, 2016 at 11:04 am
Welcome to the Age of Asymmetrical Regulation
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We are fortunate to live in what many have called the “Golden Age of Television,” a time when an explosion of creativity and innovation have collided to create more audience choice than ever before.

In light of that, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent decision to “Unlock the Box” with their “AllVid” proposal seems especially puzzling.  Upon further reflection and considering the bigger picture, however, the misguided AllVid proposal regarding technology that is already antiquated and will soon  be entirely irrelevant is merely the most recent in a string of illogical and counterproductive proposals from the current FCC.

From the so called AllVid proposal to the FCC’s Privacy proposal, it is evident that we live not only in the “Golden Age of Television,” but also in the “Age of Asymmetrical Regulation.” Current regulations impose one set of rules upon incumbents in the telecommunications industry and another set of rules entirely for so-called  “edge” providers like Google. In fact, regulation under this FCC seems to deliberately create a crony capitalist environment where incumbents can’t compete and the edge providers alone can thrive.

Equally troubling is the abnormally notoriously close relationship between Google and the White House, a partnership that was extensively detailed in a recent piece in The Intercept. Not only did Google’s top lobbyist visit the White House 128 times, but during the company’s annual State of the Union YouTube interviews with the President, Google is reported to have planted questions on policy issues important to Google on at least 3 occasions. That conspicuous degree of access and flagrant favoritism suggests that it has contributed to the severely asymmetrical regulation that we continue to witness from this FCC.

Again and again we have seen examples of this type of successful rent-seeking behavior from Google, and their ilk, and the remedy is clear: the FCC must stop its transparent favoritism and heavy-handed regulation of the telecommunication incumbents.  Instead, it should focus on maintaining a level playing field. Regulating based on crony capitalist bias and personal friendship is not only wildly inappropriate, but also a recipe for interventionist disaster. Continuing to disproportionately impose destructive regulations on the telecommunications for the benefit of other favored sectors not only violates the rights of disfavored enterprises, it ultimately serves to stifle competition and innovation for years to come in same the way that all government interventions into the free market tend to do.

May 16th, 2016 at 11:52 am
Congressional Reform Legislation Targeting IRS Abuse Deserves Our Support
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In the Mario Lopez interview immediately below and a recent Liberty Update piece noting a welcome federal court victory, CFIF continues to emphasize and oppose ongoing official governmental efforts to intimidate and silence conservative donors:

[P]ublic officials and vindictive private citizens persist in demanding access to membership records and donor lists of conservative and libertarian organizations whose missions they deem unacceptable.  Anyone requiring confirmation need only look to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) harassment of pro-Israel and conservative nonprofit groups, or California citizens driven from their jobs simply for advocating a position on marriage that even a majority of state voters at the ballot box.

A recent federal court ruling in California vindicates donor privacy and the logic underlying [the Supreme Court ruling in] NAACP v. Alabama.”

On the same note, it’s worth highlighting Congressional legislation led primarily by Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R – Illinois) targeting Internal Revenue Service (IRS) abuses that deserves our support.  Specifically, the House of Representatives recently passed a set of reforms to stop IRS abuses, improve protections for everyday American taxpayers and finally hold IRS officials accountable for official misconduct.  Here’s what the package of reforms would accomplish:

  1. Force the IRS to implement the Taxpayer Bill of Rights;
  2. Prevent the IRS from targeting donors to nonprofit organizations;
  3. Prohibit IRS officials from using private email accounts to conduct official government business;
  4. End IRS abuses of taxpayer privacy protections;
  5. Allow social welfare nonprofit organizations to self-declare their tax-exempt status rather than subject themselves to politicized IRS stalling tactics;
  6. Allow organizations to appeal IRS denials of their tax-exempt status applications;  and
  7. Immediately terminate IRS employees found guilty of targeting Americans on the basis of political bias.

It’s a good sign that IRS abuses and other governmental efforts at the federal, state and local levels targeting Americans – especially conservative and libertarian Americans – who simply wish to exercise their First Amendment rights have been exposed.

But that’s not enough.  We can’t let the opportunity to actually change the atmosphere in which these abuses occurred, and prevent similar abuses going forward.  Americans of every political persuasion should therefore contact their elected representatives and the White House to demand their support for these common-sense reforms.

May 6th, 2016 at 11:23 am
Good News: Free Enterprise Remains Far More Popular Than Socialism
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Don’t give up on American culture and run off to some deserted island or desolate wilderness hut just yet.  There’s still some good news to report.

According to a new Gallup survey, free enterprise, small businesses and capitalism remain far more popular among Americans than socialism or the federal government.  Despite the media kid-gloves treatment of admitted socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, only 35% of respondents say they maintain a positive view of socialism.  That is actually down from 2010 and 2012, when 36% and 39% reported positive feelings.  As for the federal government, which too many candidates from all parties continue to offer as some sort of elixir for what ails us, only 44% report positive feelings.  That is also down from 2010 and 2012, when 46% and 51% held it in high esteem.

So congratulations, Obama.  Not exactly the transformative presidency in the mold of Ronald Reagan to which you aspired.

Meanwhile, 85% of Americans report positive feelings toward free enterprise, 60% hold capitalism favorably despite constant sloganeering from the political left and an astonishing 96% hold small business in high esteem.

Now it’s just a matter of all of us doing a better job of putting those ideals into practice.

April 29th, 2016 at 11:42 am
GDP Report Confirms Our Commentary on Obama’s Economic Record
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this week’s Liberty Update, we highlight the falsity of the persistent claim that Barack Obama somehow prevented a great depression:

[T]he federal government’s own economic data shows that Obama actually inherited an emerging recovery.  The American economy was already rebounding before he even officially became president.  What he has done is impose policies that have resulted in the slowest decade of economic growth in recorded U.S. history.”

Yesterday’s official report on first-quarter 2016 economic performance provided same-day confirmation.  More specifically, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that gross domestic product (GDP), the basic metric by which the economy is measured and by which recessions and recoveries are defined, grew at a disturbing 0.5%.  Not only is that number alarmingly low, it amounts to the worst mark in two years.  Echoing our own commentary, The Wall Street Journal emphasizes how this places Obama’s legacy in perspective:

The reality is that the first quarter is further evidence of what has been the weakest economic expansion in the postwar era.  The 0.5% growth is subject to revision but it follows 1.4% in the fourth quarter.  Growth over the last six months has averaged about 1%, and under 2% over the last 12 months…  The American economy hasn’t grown by more than 3% since 2005 (3.3%), the longest such stretch of malaise that we can find in the Bureau of Economic Analysis tables going back to 1930.  Even the Great Depression saw a snapback to rapid growth from 1934-1936.”

The explanation for that is simple.  Obama has pursued the most hyper-regulatory, big-government, wasteful-spending economic policy in U.S. history.   That’s illustrated among other things by his horrific deficit record, which saw four consecutive deficits in excess of $1 trillion dollars, and more accumulated debt than all previous presidents combined.  Until America has a president and Congress that pursue the proven supply-side policies that result in economic prosperity (see, e.g., Ronald Reagan), this will likely remain the new normal.

April 27th, 2016 at 6:45 pm
TechNotes: Market Continues to Work Without FCC Meddling
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Throughout the Obama Era, his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has destructively imposed regulation after regulation upon a tech and telecommunications market that was not broken.  Indeed, that sector has thrived like no other in the modern American economy.

An announcement today from Comcast provided just the latest evidence of that thriving market.

Specifically, Executive Vice President of Consumer Services Marcien Jenckes announced an Internet data trial that will introduce a terabyte data plan to its offerings.  Beginning June 1, data plans in trial markets will upgrade from 300 gigabytes to one terabyte, regardless of speed.

To place that in perspective, their average customer reportedly uses only 60 gigabytes per month – 940 gigabytes short of a terabyte.  A terabyte allows streaming of 700 hours of high-definition video, 12,000 hours of online gaming and 60,000 high-resolution photo downloads in a month.  Fewer than 1% of its customers even approach a terabyte in monthly usage, and even they will be free under the new plan to receive unlimited data for merely $50 more per month or individual increments of 50 gigabytes for $10.

In other words, the market is working without FCC “solutions” to non-existent problems.  This announcement offers merely the latest proof.

April 26th, 2016 at 4:01 pm
CFIF Celebrates World Intellectual Property (IP) Day
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Please join CFIF in celebrating World IP Day!

Over more than two centuries, the U.S. has become the most innovative, prosperous and powerful nation in human history, without even remote competition.  What nation in all of recorded history rivals our array of patented advancements, from the light bulb to powered flight to computer technology to lifesaving pharmaceutical and medical advancements?  What nation has so dominated the world in terms of copyrighted content, from blockbuster films to popular music to literature to television entertainment?  What nation has ever maintained such disproportionately high levels of valuable trademarks recognized instantaneously throughout the world, from soft drink logos to technological products that have revolutionized our lives?

The simple answer is that no society rivals the U.S. in any one of those categories, let alone all of them simultaneously.

And that is the direct result of America’s tradition of strong IP protections, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s annual International IP Index makes clear.  Our Founding Fathers specifically protected IP rights in the text of the Constitution, and the U.S. has consistently led the world in protecting IP rights.  The relationship between America’s IP protections and our unrivaled innovation and prosperity therefore isn’t coincidental, it’s causal.

So today let us celebrate IP, which accounts for over 40 million American jobs, rewards innovation, incentivizes inventiveness and helps ensure safe and genuine products for consumers.

April 26th, 2016 at 3:30 pm
Congress: Don’t Reward Russian Aggression by Purchasing Their Rockets
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney presciently identified Russia as America’s foremost global threat.  Barack Obama and his apologists immediately heaped scorn upon Romney, including Obama’s sophomoric “the 1980s called” remark during one debate.

History, however, has vindicated Romney’s pronouncement.

Reflecting upon events since that date, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stated in July 2015, “I do consider Russia to be the biggest threat.”  And none other than Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford proclaimed that same month, “If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I would have to point to Russia, and if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

To its credit, Congress acted accordingly.  Following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its broader pattern of malfeasance across the globe, Congress, as part of two consecutive National Defense Authorization Acts, overwhelmingly supported a gradual phase out of purchases of Russian rocket engines through no sooner than 2020. The law could not have been any more accommodating without allowing indefinite purchases of these engines.

Sadly, today some seek to reverse that prudent Congressional action by sending some $540 million more to the Russian government for at least 18 new Russian RD-180 engines. Despite the law unambiguously allowing engines through at least 2020, they claim that they’re needed until a new domestically-manufactured engine arrives in 2019.  Those claims, however, do not accord with reality.  Senator John McCain (R – Arizona) summarized that reality cogently:

Today, we have two space launch providers – ULA and SpaceX – that, no matter what happens with the Russian RD-180, will be able to provide fully redundant capabilities with ULA’s Delta IV and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and eventually, the Falcon Heavy space launch vehicles.  There will be no capability gap.  The Atlas V is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

He further noted that ending reliance would not result in increased costs to the taxpayer.

In fact, according to [the Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation], the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today.”

Reversing America’s existing prohibition would merely reward Russian behavior and thereby undermine global and national security.  As evidence, consider the words of Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin:

The sale of engines benefits our engine making enterprises, in that they use the money for their own modernization…  We need the most modern engines that produce more thrust.  In order to design them, we need free money.”

Notably, rogue nations like Iran remain prime beneficiaries of Russian rocket technological advances.

The Obama Administration’s infamous “reset” attempt with Russia several years ago stands among its most costly foreign policy misjudgments.  We cannot afford to repeat that mistake by failing to learn from our mistakes and rewarding Russia’s worldwide menace.