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February 16th, 2018 at 12:21 pm
Image of the Day: SpaceX Also Means Lower Cost to U.S. Taxpayers
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Earlier this week, we continued our efforts to highlight how Elon Musk and SpaceX have propelled American space exploration from the private sector.  In that vein, UnbiasedAmerica illustrates vividly how this month’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch also means significant savings for U.S. taxpayers over equivalent predecessors:

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SpaceX Success

SpaceX Success

February 12th, 2018 at 3:34 pm
SpaceX: Private Sector Propels Space Exploration
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Quick:  Name some areas in which government outperforms its private sector counterpart.

Give up?  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  It’s difficult, even impossible to recall any.

That includes space technology.

Last week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the most powerful rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy, as reported by The Wall Street Journal:

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday on its initial test flight, marking another coup for founder Elon Musk…   With throngs of spectators on hand, the closely held Southern California company defied industry critics by flying the world’s most powerful rocket since U.S. astronauts landed on the moon almost five decades ago.  The 230-foot rocket, which featured 27 engines with the combined thrust of some 18 Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jets, climbed into clear skies at 3:45 p.m. local time.  It carried a Tesla roadster as a dummy payload and publicity stunt.”

Importantly, the article notes that cost-efficiency stands among the Falcon Heavy’s paramount accomplishments:

Large, reusable rockets such as the Falcon Heavy are ideal for deep-space transport from a cost perspective, according to Howard McCurdy, a space historian who teaches at American University.  ‘That’s where the heavy-lift design truly shines,’ he said before the launch.  Given President Donald Trump’s official policy of combining federal and private assets to explore the Moon, Mr. McCurdy called the SpaceX rocket ‘a very important step in that direction…  SpaceX has revolutionized the launch business by vertically integrating operations, slashing prices and reusing the main engines and lower stage of its existing workhorse rockets, the Falcon 9 fleet.”

Additionally, SpaceX’s success marks further progress in remedying a problem that we at CFIF have highlighted for some time:  the dangerous and embarrassing U.S. reliance upon Russian rocketry to continue our space program.

So congratulations to Mr. Musk and SpaceX.  Going forward, it offers cause for optimism and yet another example of private sector success and superior efficiency.

February 5th, 2018 at 1:47 pm
Music Industry Fairness – 2018 Offers a Perfect Opportunity for Reform
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We at CFIF have long advocated greater fairness for musical performers in securing fairness for their performance rights.

Under byzantine laws, artists receive just compensation whenever their post-1972 recordings are played, but in many cases not for their pre-1972 recordings.  That’s an indefensible and arbitrary artifact that has persisted far too long.  Why should Neil Diamond receive payment whenever “America” is played, but not classics like “Solitary Man?”

Fortunately, the opportunity to correct that unfairness has arrived.  Even better, legislation to correct the existing flawed system arrives alongside other music legislation that galvanizes the coalition to finally correct the situation.  As a result, a broad coalition of music organizations representing everyone from songwriters, composers, performers, publishers and labels support three new pieces of legislation, as summarized cogently by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA):

The Music Modernization Act would be the most significant update to music copyright law in over a generation, and represents unprecedented compromise across all aspects of the music industry.  The bill reforms Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act to create a single licensing entity that administers the mechanical reproduction rights for all digital uses of musical compositions – like those used in interactive streaming models offered by Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, Google and others.  It also repeals Section 114(i) and, consistent with most federal litigation, utilizes random assignment of judges to decide ASCAP and BMI rate-setting cases – two provisions that will enable fairer outcomes for songwriters and composers.

The CLASSICS Act (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society Act) would benefit artists and music creators who recorded music before 1972 by establishing royalty payments whenever their music is played on digital radio.  SoundExchange would distribute royalties for pre-1972 recordings played by Internet, cable and satellite radio services just as it does for post-1972 recordings.  Currently, only sound recordings made after 1972 receive payments from digital radio services under federal law.

The AMP Act (Allocation for Music Producers Act) for the first time adds producers and engineers, who play an indispensable role in the creation of sound recordings, to U.S. copyright law.  The bill codifies into law the producer’s right to collect digital royalties and provides a consistent, permanent process for studio professionals to receive royalties for their contributions to the creation of music.”

Unfairness has persisted too long in America’s system of compensating musicians for performance of their songs.  The emerging coalition coalescing around these key pieces of legislation, which CFIF strongly urges all members of the House and Senate to support, and the White House to sign, allow a unified effort to finally bring reform in 2018.

February 1st, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Image of the Day: Good News on Middle-Class Shrinkage
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We often hear lamentations regarding the shrinking U.S. middle class, and toxic prescriptions from people like Senator Bernie Sanders on how to “save” it.  Courtesy of American Enterprise Institute, using U.S. Census data, that shrinkage has actually been a largely positive thing:

Middle Class Moves Up

Middle Class Moves Up

It’s another testament to how America remains the Land of Opportunity, and that Ronald Reagan’s famed optimism remains applicable today.

January 23rd, 2018 at 11:42 am
Myth Versus Fact: Paying “Fair Share” of Taxes
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Are wealthier Americans paying their “fair share” of taxes?

No.  Assuming that one measures “fair share” as a rough equivalency between income earned and income taxes paid, wealthy Americans pay far more than their fair share, as helpfully illustrated by the Tax Foundation:

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Fair Share?

"Fair Share?"

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January 17th, 2018 at 1:07 pm
Image of the Day: Myth Versus Fact Regarding Corporate Profits
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

An instructive myth-versus-fact visual when it comes to public assumptions regarding corporate profits, courtesy of AEI:

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Myth Versus Fact:  Corporate Profits

Myth Versus Fact: Corporate Profits

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January 12th, 2018 at 8:16 am
Image of the Day: Obama Apologists Seek Credit for Roaring Trump Economy
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Since World War II, the U.S. economy has averaged 3.3% growth per year.  Under Barack Obama, we never even hit 3%, instead averaging below 2%.  His apologists rationalized that “secular stagnation” had made 3% an unattainable goal, but both quarters under President Trump have already averaged over 3%.  So like clockwork, leftists attempt to credit Obama for something they claimed was no longer possible:

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January 9th, 2018 at 11:05 am
NY Times Continues Its Surrender March to Trump Economic Bump
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In last week’s Liberty Update, we highlighted how when even The New York Times acknowledges how Trump Administration policies have turbocharged the sluggish economy he inherited, the debate  over whether the economy benefits from more federal regulation or less federal regulation is won.  This is the same Times that features far-left economist Paul Krugman, who predicted upon Trump’s election that markets would crash and “never” recover.

Well, we’re happy to highlight how the slow surrender march at the Times continues under the headline “Companies Are Handing Out Bonuses Thanks to the Tax Law.  Is It a Publicity Stunt?” Their snarky addendum is understandable coming from them, but their introduction acknowledges reality:

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The big corporate tax break that became law last month is great news for companies and their investors.  But what about employees?  How much of the corporate windfall will go to workers via higher wages?

Since President Trump signed the $1.5 trillion tax cut into law on Dec. 22, nearly 20 large companies have announced some form of bonus or wage hike for their employees.”

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It proceeds to list some of those companies, including AT&T, Comcast, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and others.

In last week’s Liberty Update feature we noted how their January 1 story admitted that  the good economic news it detailed occurred before the tax reform legislation had even passed.  Now that it has, we’re glad to see that the Times at least continues its sudden trend of acknowledging reality.

January 4th, 2018 at 9:42 am
Image of the Day: Gallup Illustrates Trump Economic Bump
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our weekly Liberty Update, we highlight how in just one year, the deregulatory Trump economic bump is now so inescapable that even The New York Times acknowledged it in its January 1, 2018 edition.  Given that consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy, Gallup’s annual average U.S. economic confidence index is similarly illustrative.  For 2016, despite years of supposed prosperity under Barack Obama, the index stagnated at -10.  In just one year since Trump’s deregulatory and lower-tax administration began?  Already +6 for the year, the first time in over a decade:

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Instant Trump Bump

Instant Trump Bump

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December 5th, 2017 at 12:26 pm
Image of the Day: Leftist Net Neutrality Illogic
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This actually captures the illogic among those who advocate tighter federal government control over the internet fairly well:

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Net Neut Illogic

Net Neut Illogic

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November 16th, 2017 at 11:21 am
FCC Should Preempt Individual State Attempts to Regulate the Internet
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Among the many positive changes within the federal government since the end of the Obama Administration and the arrival of the Trump Administration, perhaps none surpass those brought by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under new Chairman Ajit Pai.

And the most welcome and beneficial change undertaken by the new FCC is its action to rescind Obama FCC decisions to begin regulating the internet as a “public utility” under statutes passed in the 1930s for old-fashioned, copper-wire telephone service.  The Obama FCC’s action instantly began to stifle new broadband investment, and was subject to legal reversal.  The internet thrived for two decades under both the Clinton and Bush administrations precisely due to the federal government’s “light touch” regulatory policy, and there was simply no rational justification for reversing twenty years of success in the name of even more federal government regulation and crony capitalism.

As the new FCC approaches completion on restoring regulatory sanity to internet service, it’s important that it include a preemption against future state efforts to regulate the internet in the same way that the Obama FCC hoped to make permanent.  We at CFIF take a backseat to no one in terms of valuing America’s federalist system, and the ability of individual states to serve as “laboratories of democracy.”  But there’s an important limit, one that is specifically included in the text of the Constitution.  Namely, matters of interstate commerce.  Our Founding Fathers recognized, based upon  economic warfare that they’d witnessed under the Articles of Confederation, that individual states cannot act in ways that disrupt truly interstate commerce in ways that contravene federal policy.  Accordingly, the Constitution specifically and rightfully empowers the federal government to protect interstate commerce against destructive state interference.

And there are few, if any, sectors of our economy more “interstate” than the internet.  Indeed, the internet is interstate by its very nature.  Doug Brake of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation summarized the logic well in a commentary this month:

National and regional networks should be subject to uniform rules to keep compliance costs low and reduce complexity.  To the extent the upcoming changes to net neutrality regulation see any changes in business practices, which would be more minor than many expect, a uniform policy that allows for broad scale would be an important benefit…   Network applications now depend on economies of scale independent of the individual state in which they are consumed.  Technological advances are simply erasing the importance of state and local boundaries.  It is in the national interest to give these technologies room to grow unimpeded by artificial borders.

As such, beyond simply declaring broadband an information service, the FCC should make clear that broadband policy is made at the national, not state, level.  Former Chairman Kennard put it well in a 1999 speech titled ‘The Unregulation of the Internet:  Laying a Competitive Course for the Future.’   There he laid out why it was ‘in the national interest that we have a national broadband policy … a de-regulatory approach, an approach that will let this nascent industry flourish.’”

That’s exactly right, and it’s no less true today than it was in 1999.  The internet needed room to grow then, and it needs room and regulatory predictability to continue growing as it plays a progressively important role in  our lives and globally competitive economy.

We cannot allow a spaghetti bowl of individual state regulations to inhibit future internet expansion and innovation, and the FCC should act to preempt that destructive possibility.

October 31st, 2017 at 6:15 pm
Concerns Over Air Traffic “Privatization” Continue to Accumulate
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Alongside numerous other conservative and libertarian organizations, CFIF has repeatedly voiced concerns regarding an effort underway in Congress to “privatize” our nation’s air traffic control system (H.R. 2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act”), which doesn’t appear to constitute true privatization at all.  In fact, it may actually make the situation worse.

Among other concerns, the proposed legislation would:

-  Increase the power air traffic controllers’ unions by not only maintaining current centralized monopoly power over air traffic control, but actually expanding their authority over such matters as personnel changes, salary caps and mandatory retirement age (currently 56, compared to 65 for pilots), thus explaining unions’ support for the bill;

-  Increase the federal budget deficit by $20 billion between now and 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO);

-  Upend U.S. Department of Defense practices.  According to the Defense Department, “The establishment of a new entity separate from the FA raises serious concerns regarding the disposition of certain unique National Defense procedures, programs and policy,” adding that, “it is significant to note that the DoD relies on FAA ‘command and control’ capabilities in the execution of the national defense mission”;

-  Create an air traffic control entity that would possess authority to impose new taxes and user fees without Congressional oversight, meaning higher costs for American consumers, which is far from the sort of market competition that true ‘privatization’ would offer.

And now, the concerns have grown.  As noted by The Hill, according to the Congressional Research Service, the proposal would trigger automatic cuts from other programs due to its impact in raising the deficit, including Medicare, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Fund and the Military Retirement Fund, among others:

A memo from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), released Monday by Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Rick Larsen (Wash.), found that legislation to hand over the country’s air navigation system to a private entity would trigger budget sequestration, which automatically cuts some mandatory spending programs if a piece of legislation exceeds certain budget caps.

In the case of the air traffic control (ATC) spinoff plan, it would result in across-the-board spending cuts of $49 billion over the next 10 years.  That would include cuts to Medicare, the Military Retirement Fund, the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Fund and other critical programs, DeFazio and Larsen warned.”

As stated by our friends at the American Conservative Union Foundation, we “would gladly stand in support of true policy efforts to privatize our air traffic control system that better reflect the ideals of privatization – those that align with a more robust free market and exhibit a true transfer of power from public to private hands.”

Until all of these defects are resolved, however, Congress mustn’t act in a way that would make matters worse.

October 30th, 2017 at 11:52 am
Image of the Day: More Freedom, More Growth
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We’ve often highlighted the direct statistical relationship between economic freedom and prosperity, but typically the comparison is between countries.  Courtesy of Adam Millsap of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, however, we can visualize the same freedom/prosperity relationship among individual U.S. states.

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More Freedom, More Growth

More Freedom, More Growth

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To paraphrase Dr. John Lott, more freedom, more growth.

October 20th, 2017 at 11:57 am
Stat of the Day: Everywhere Guns Are Banned, Murder Rates Increase
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

John Lott, our favorite economist at least in the arena of criminology and Second Amendment scholarship, cogently summarizes the actual, real-world, data-based sociological effect of “gun control” laws:

While gun bans (either a ban on all guns or on all handguns) have been imposed in many places, every time guns have been banned, murder rates have gone up.

One would think that one time, just out of simple randomness, murder rates would have gone down or at least stayed the same.  Yet in every single case for which we have crime data both before and after the ban, murder rates have gone up, often by huge amounts.”

It’s almost as if more guns mean less crime.

October 13th, 2017 at 11:43 am
Stat of the Day: Trump & McConnell Quickly Reshaping Judiciary
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Whatever one’s opinion of Donald Trump, his tweets or his legislative accomplishments to date, he has unmistakably achieved great progress on the issue perhaps foremost among his supporters’ minds.  Along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky), whose efforts began while Barack Obama was still president after Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing, Trump is already reshaping the nation’s judicial branch, as The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel details:

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Mr. Trump has now nominated nearly 60 judges, filling more vacancies than Barack Obama did in his entire first year.  There are another 160 court openings, allowing Mr. Trump to flip or further consolidate conservative majorities on the circuit courts that have the final say on 99% of federal legal disputes.  This project is the work of Mr. Trump, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Every new president cares about the judiciary, but no administration in memory has approached appointments with more purpose than this team.”

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October 6th, 2017 at 11:58 am
Image of the Day: More Guns, Less Crime in the U.S.
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In this week’s Liberty Update, we shatter three noxious myths that underlie Second Amendment restrictionists’ agenda.  This helpful map illustrates one of them: their claim that the prevalence of firearms in the U.S. has resulted in a a high murder rate compared with the rest of the world.

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Gun Controllers Myth Shattered

Gun Controllers' Myth Shattered

October 2nd, 2017 at 12:10 pm
Image of the Day: Why High-Tax Blue State Liberals Hate Tax Reform
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Leftists constantly claim to support higher taxes, but then whine the loudest when they can put their money where their collective mouth is.

Under President Trump’s proposed framework, taxpayers in blue high-tax states would lose the writeoff for high state and local taxes that they currently enjoy.  No wonder Chuck Schumer hates the idea of tax reform so much:

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Blue State Tax Writeoffs

Blue State Tax Writeoffs

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September 25th, 2017 at 2:46 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:  Craig Shirley, Bestselling Author and Presidential Historian – “Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative”;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Glenn Spencer, Vice President, Workforce Freedom Initiative, a campaign of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey – Ranking the States;

4:45 CDT/5:45 pm EDT:  Bob Dorigo-Jones, Senior Fellow for the Center for America – How U.S. Labor Rules Negatively Impact Jobs;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment: —Why the new Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Senate Health Care bill should be passed by Congress immediately;

5:15 CDT/6:15 pm EDT:  Steve Bucci, Visiting Fellow, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation – Nuclear Problems with Iran and North Korea; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Donor Privacy, Ending IRS Abuse, College Faculties, Air Traffic Control, and Internet Sales Tax.

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

September 22nd, 2017 at 1:55 pm
Air Traffic Control Proposal: Making Airlines Tax Collectors?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Beware policy proposals waving the “privatization” banner that don’t constitute true privatization at all, and threaten to actually worsen the situation.

The latest example:  Efforts to restructure the U.S. air traffic control system, which would likely repeat the mistakes of such federal boondoggles as Amtrak and the U.S. Post Office.

Alongside numerous other conservative and libertarian organizations, CFIF has maintained serious concerns over H.R. 2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act.”  Those concerns include, among other flaws:

  • Greater empowerment of air traffic controller unions, by maintaining centralized monopoly power over air traffic control while expanding their authority over such matters as personnel changes, salary caps and mandatory retirement age (currently at age 56, compared to 65 for pilots), which explains why the unions favor the proposal;
  • It would increase the U.S. budget deficit by $20 billion between 2017 and 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) itself;
  • The U.S. Department of Defense recently weighed in to say, “The establishment of a new entity separate from the FAA raises serious concerns regarding the disposition of certain unique National Defense procedures, programs and policy,” adding that, “it is significant to note that the DoD relies on FAA ‘command and control’ capabilities in the execution of the national defense mission”;
  • The proposed replacement air traffic control entity would possess authority to impose new taxes and user fees without Congressional oversight, meaning higher costs for American consumers, which is far from the sort of market competition that true “privatization” would offer.

On that latter point, Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty raises an ominous concern in his recent commentary in The Washington Times:

[W]e’ve been told that the new entity will be self-funded, in this case by a user fee.  As always, I’m skeptical taxpayers won’t ultimately have to bail out a GSE, but with the ATC proposal, it’s really about control.  Proponents have made clear that their real motivation is to shift the tax burden to other segments of the industry.  Ian Adams, a proponent of separating ATC, recently argued that it would reallocate the tax burden among the ‘fees its users pay,’ including general aviation.

The only privatization will be that the authorization and taxing authority of Congress will be supplanted by authority of one segment of an industry to tax another with no oversight.  If the airlines were granted more monopoly power and gained taxing authority from Congress, they have shown time and again that they would abuse that power.  They have increased their fees on passengers by over $7 billion.  Now they want to phase out their fuel and excise tax for a flat user-fee tax that would get levied disproportionately at economy class passengers.  I’m always in favor of getting rid of taxes, but this is a tax by another name, without the political accountability to keep it from rising in perpetuity.

And, since there would be no accountability from anyone to stop it or make sure this entity is being managed properly, it’s a safe bet that ultimately all taxpayers will pay more in the form of a bailout.”

That is among the reasons the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) last week announced its opposition to the proposed restructuring, saying that it, “would gladly stand in support of true policy efforts to privatize our air traffic control system that better reflect the ideals of privatization – those that align with a more robust free market and exhibit a true transfer of power from public to private hands.”

Well said.  At this point, the proposal simply doesn’t amount to the type of true privatization that merits support from conservatives and libertarians across America.

September 18th, 2017 at 12:19 pm
Great News: Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Internet Sales Tax 66% to 21%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

For a long list of reasons that we’ve consistently highlighted, an internet sales tax allowing state authorities to tax people and businesses far beyond their borders is a destructive, indefensible idea.

On that front, there’s great news to report.  According to a fresh Rasmussen survey, this is one of those encouraging areas where fairness, policy wisdom and public opinion are in accord:

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A majority of Americans do at least some shopping online, and they are not fans of taxing those purchases.  A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 66% of American adults oppose a sales tax in their state on items purchased online, even if the store they buy from is not in their state.  Just 21% favor an internet sales tax, while 13% are not sure.”

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As much-needed comprehensive tax reform negotiations begin in Washington, some are advocating allowing an internet sales tax under the false banner “Marketplace Fairness Act” as part of the deal.  It’s encouraging to see that American voters aren’t buying it, no pun intended.