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Archive for May, 2012
May 31st, 2012 at 5:53 pm
First Commercial Flight to Space Successfully Completed Today

ABC News reports that the SpaceX Dragon, the first private spacecraft to service the International Space Station, successfully returned to Earth this morning at 8:42am Pacific Daylight Time, off the coast of San Diego.

The mission wasn’t glamorous.  The unmanned Dragon “carried extra supplies, experiments and garbage that the space station astronauts had loaded on board.”  However, the success of the flight indicates that May 31, 2012 might become a milestone in commercialized space travel.

Until now, all flights to the space station have been made by the U.S., Russian or European space agencies. NASA hopes SpaceX and other commercial firms will take over space jobs previously done only by governments.

[Space entrepreneurs] say space could be a bit like the old West: Governments sent explorers, such as Columbus or Lewis and Clark, to open the frontier, and then private settlers followed.

PayPal founder Elon Musk started SpaceX in 2002 and is moving his company closer to becoming the private sector alternative to ferry U.S. astronauts to the ISS.  (With the shuttle fleet mothballed, the Russians are doing the job now at price-gouging levels.)  Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com started Blue Origin to build, test, and deploy reusable spacecraft.  Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic wants to make orbits around Earth the high-flying equivalent of a five-star cruise.

With the economy in the tank and NASA failing to find an extraterrestrial mission Congress will fund, it’s time to let these and other capitalistic cowboys take their shot at taming the final frontier.

May 31st, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Romney Dings Obama on Solyndra

Standing across the street from Solyndra’s Fremont, CA headquarters today Mitt Romney articulated well just about everything that’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Solyndra fiasco.

From CNN:

“This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team. It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

CFIF readers are no strangers to the Obama administration’s crony capitalism vis-à-vis Solyndra.

The fast-track loan approvals that benefited a major 2008 campaign bundler, the renegotiated terms that leapfrogged private investors in front of taxpayers in the event of a default, and the unnecessary risk of $535 million in taxpayer money on an unproven solar technology that ultimately flamed out are permanent reminders of how this White House’s corrupt politics and bad policies result in debt-exploding outcomes.

Americans can’t afford another day of this fiscal irresponsibility; let alone another four years.

May 31st, 2012 at 4:50 pm
More on Economic Uncertainty

In my column here today, both Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Jeff Sessions talked about the deleterious effect that policy uncertainty imposes on the overall economy. Now comes Gary Palmer of the Alabama Policy Institute to reinforce that point:

Members of Congress surely know that uncertainty has a negative effect on the economy. If businesses can’t predict next year’s tax rate, they are unlikely to invest in new equipment or expansion or to hire more workers. Individuals and families are less likely to spend as much for the same reasons.

Adding to the uncertainty is the explosion of new federal regulations on American businesses. Since January 2009, federal agencies have issued 106 major regulations that cost $46 billion per year. In 2009 and 2010 alone, federal agencies issued 7,076 rules…..

This is an important message for conservatives to stress.

May 31st, 2012 at 3:22 pm
Podcast: Do Jobs, Hope and a Brighter Future Await?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Todd Young, Chief Operating Officer for Center for America, discusses the crisis behind the skilled worker shortage, a new campaign to match National Guard and other military veterans with companies looking for workers, and recent unemployment figures.

Listen to the interview here.

May 31st, 2012 at 12:07 pm
On Evil and Limitations: The Situation in Syria
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Throughout the year, I’ve repeatedly been critical here at CFIF of the atrocities occuring in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and the feckless Western response they’ve engendered. What I haven’t done, however, is called for regime change.

There’s a reason for that. In the hornet’s nest that is the Middle East, even regimes seemingly superlative in outright evil (such as Assad’s Syria and Gaddafi’s Libya) can’t be displaced with any certainty that the successor regime will be better. Writing for the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor (of which he is and founder and CEO), George Friedman gives an excellent summary of why that is, using Egypt and Syria as examples:

What was misunderstood [in the West] was that while there was in fact a democratic movement in Egypt, the liberal democrats who wanted a Western-style regime were not the ones exciting popular sentiment. What was exciting it was the vision of a popularly elected Islamist coalition moving to create a regime that institutionalized Islamic religious values.

Westerners looked at Egypt and saw what they wanted and expected to see. They looked at Egyptians and saw themselves. They saw a military regime operating solely on brute force without any public support. They saw a mass movement calling for the overthrow of the regime and assumed that the bulk of the movement was driven by the spirit of Western liberalism. The result is that we have a showdown not between the liberal democratic mass and a crumbling military regime but between a representative of the still-powerful regime (Shafiq) and the Muslim Brotherhood.

If we understand how the Egyptian revolution was misunderstood, we can begin to make sense of the misunderstanding about Syria. There seemed to be a crumbling, hated regime in Syria as well. And there seemed to be a democratic uprising that represented much of the population and that wanted to replace the al Assad regime with one that respected human rights and democratic values in the Western sense. The regime was expected to crumble any day under the assaults of its opponents. As in Egypt, the regime has not collapsed and the story is much more complex.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad operates a brutal dictatorship that he inherited from his father, a regime that has been in power since 1970. The regime is probably unpopular with most Syrians. But it also has substantial support. This support doesn’t simply come from the al Assads’ Alawite sect but extends to other minorities and many middle-class Sunnis as well. They have done well under the regime and, while unhappy with many things, they are not eager to face a new regime, again likely dominated by Islamists whose intentions toward them are unclear. They may not be enthusiastic supporters of the regime, but they are supporters.

It’s long past time that those of us in the West allow the Jeffersonian reveries that accompanied the genesis of the Arab Spring to fade. In most nations in the region, we are faced with one of two choices: secular dictatorships or Islamist totalitarianism. In general, the former will be preferable to the latter, though only marginally less despicable. In Syria, the brutality of the Assad regime — combined with its alliance with Iran — makes the situation virtually unnavigable.

These are loathsome choices. But that fact shouldn’t lead us to the delusion that they are false ones.

May 31st, 2012 at 11:36 am
Obama Still Blocks Gulf’s Oil

This study should put to rest the idea that the Obama administration actually has helped to boost domestic supplies of energy (not that anyone really believed it anyway. See here.

It continues the sorry tale I wrote about at this site a year ago, here.

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May 30th, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Got a License to Work?

In a recent report and video, the Institute for Justice gives an excellent summary of how government licensing requirements to enter occupations like interior design, massage therapy, or shampooing are raising time and cost barriers to people who just want to work.

In this video IJ research director Dick Carpenter shares the results of a study of 102 low to middle income jobs (i.e. not doctors and lawyers) that impose on average require would-be workers to: (1) pay $209 in fees, (2) pass an exam, and (3) endure 275 days of training, or the equivalent of about 9 months.  All this before earning a paycheck!

IJ also notes that burdensome licensing requirements have not been shown to protect public health and safety.  Rather, they increase costs to consumers and keep would-be competitors out of legally protected (i.e. licensed) industries.

As the IJ video and study show, not every regulatory problem is a federal creation.  State lawmakers have an easy method for spurring job growth and entrepreneurial activity – reduce or eliminate licensing requirements so that citizens can get working.

May 30th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
State Governments Not Limiting Their Hunger for Drone Dollars

Salon highlights the combination of state-based interests lining-up to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to award it one of six licenses to operate a domestic drone test site.

The deal is this: Prove that drones – unmanned surveillance aircraft – can be operated safely in civilian airspace, and the FAA will remove regulatory barriers restricting where drones can fly.

By extension, locations with test sites will be positioned to become hubs for drone-related activity.

Salon notes that while states like Florida, Ohio, and Colorado have already pitched plans to the FAA to land a test site…

…the most fully developed proposals for running the test sites are likely to come from state consortiums of industry, government and universities, which will put up the money to run the sites. The FAA is not providing any funding for the sites.

According to the article, the parties most interested in promoting drone usage domestically are defense industry contractors, state research universities, and municipalities adjacent to military bases.

If you’re having trouble seeing the private sector in any of this, you’re not alone.  Commentators across the ideological spectrum are deeply disturbed by the near certainty that introducing drone surveillance into domestic airspace will do little more than empower government at every level.

Of course, there is one benefit promised for greater drone use: jobs.  As one retired Air Force colonel involved in Colorado’s plan told Salon, “The more freedom of movement the FAA allows, the greater the private business will be.  If unmanned vehicles have access similar to that enjoyed by manned aircraft, I think the commercial business will be ten times larger than the Department of Defense business.”

That’s an amazing forecast considering that military spending is 98.6 percent of the $7 billion-plus drone industry.  Until then, why not let government agencies up and down the food chain grow their budgets testing unmanned surveillance vehicles?  What could go wrong?

What we’re seeing with the rollout of the domestic drone issue is an example of one of the greatest threats to liberty and fiscal sanity today – a network of government actors negotiating among themselves over public resources.

If the system keeps mutating this way, privacy won’t be the only casualty.  We’ll also redefine what it means to create jobs.  Gone will be the idea that lower taxes and less regulations spur hiring and expansion.  In will be the notion that transfer payments between government entities are the best way forward.

And I think we all know how long that system is sustainable.

May 30th, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Greek Liberals’ Economic Recovery Plan: Lie to the Rest of Europe
Posted by Troy Senik Print

It’s almost hackneyed at this point to evoke Greece as a warning sign to the rest of the Western World; as a promise of what’s in store should the artificial decadence of the welfare state completely strangle individual initiative in developed nations. Yet there’s a reason that California on the Aegean is always the cautionary tale of choice: when it comes to outright political absurdity, the birthplace of democracy is constantly outdoing itself. The most recent example — which has to be read to believed — comes courtesy of James Angelos reporting in the Wall Street Journal:

Greece’s radical left party has upended the country’s politics with an idea as simple as it is seductive: Athens can renege on the deals it made in exchange for a bailout, and still remain in the euro.

Greece’s future, and possibly that of Europe’s monetary union, may depend on how many Greeks buy into the idea.

The Coalition of the Radical Left, known as Syriza, is competing with Greece’s conservative New Democracy to become the biggest party in Parliament in June 17 elections that could send further shock waves through Europe …

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, a 37-year-old former Communist youth activist, promises that despite its dire financial straits, Greece can halt austerity programs, restore social spending and nevertheless continue to receive the payments from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund that keep it from bankruptcy.

The repeated warnings to the contrary from Europe and the IMF are simply efforts to blackmail Greece into doing what they want it to do, Mr. Tsipras says.

A few facts about Greece to consider in light of Mr. Tsipras’s demagoguery. This is a nation where public employees have no compunction about taking monthly paychecks 14 times a year (yes, you read that right: 14) and where tax evasion is so widespread that it’s estimated that 30 percent of the national economy is in the black market. And now the proposed solution from one of the nation’s two major political parties is to welch on a deal with the rest of the continent?

Greece is experiencing an economic crisis, to be certain. But it looks increasingly like that is only a symptom of a deeper moral crisis.

May 29th, 2012 at 12:53 pm
The New Math of Alternative Energy
Posted by Troy Senik Print

In a recent commentary piece here at CFIF, I noted how the green energy initiatives that President Obama has repeatedly sold as the cure for the nation’s economic ailments have been shown to lead to economic ruin in places like Spain. For those who still doubt that a similar outcome will result stateside, this piece of representative math, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation’s David Kreutzer, should give pause:

In a speech at a wind-turbine blade manufacturer in Iowa, President Obama called for extending two sets of subsidies that turn energy economics upside down and force higher costs on consumers and taxpayers.

The first extension is for the production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year. It provides wind-energy producers with a subsidy of about 40 percent of the wholesale cost of electricity. So, when a wind-energy producer sells $50 worth of electricity, Uncle Sam adds another $20 for a total revenue of $70 to the producer.

The second extension is for the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit—originally funded in President Obama’s “stimulus” bill. This 30 percent credit cuts the cost of $100 worth of equipment to just $70.

So there you have it. Fifty dollars of actual revenue is bumped up to $70 with the PTC and $100 of costs are cut to $70 after the special tax credit. That is, $50 = $100 after taxpayers make up the difference.

Imagine for a moment if the federal government was proposing to use taxpayer dollars to double the incoming revenue of major Wall Street investment firms. It would rightly be denounced as the worst kind of crony capitalism. So why should the reaction be any different when that money is going into windmills?

May 29th, 2012 at 9:38 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Who is More Qualified to be President?
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.

May 24th, 2012 at 7:51 pm
Exposed: Senate Dem Hypocrisy on Gender-Pay-Gap

A Washington Free Beacon analysis of salaries paid to staff members of Democratic Senators discovered that 37 of the 50 members in the Democratic caucus paid their female staffers less than male counterparts.

Two of the worst offenders are Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Chuck Schumer of New York.  The gender-pay-gap in Murray’s office is 35.2 percent.  Schumer pays men 36 percent more than women.

The Free Beacon’s report highlights two aspects of the so-called gender-pay-gap.  First, those like Murray and Schumer who’ve used the issue to raise money and demonize conservatives are hypocrites.  Second, the likely defenses for Murray and Schumer – that disparities in pay are due to differences in job titles and responsibilities – are exactly the same defenses that private firms use when challenged by liberals.

Elsewhere in the Free Beacon report it explains why the percentages for Murray, Schumer, and company give the lie to their talking points about grossly disproportionate gender bias in pay rates:

[The percentages for Murray and Schumer are] well above the 23 percent gap that Democrats claim exists between male and female workers nationwide. The figure is based on a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, and is technically accurate. However, as CNN’s Lisa Sylvester has reported, when factors such as area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace are taken into account, the gap shrinks to about 5 percent.

As Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute has explained, “the famous gender-wage gap is to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap.”  Simply put, women, on average, work less hours than men because many women choose to either work part-time or leave and return to have children and raise families.  Working less hours over the course of a career means less seniority, less promotion, and yes, less pay.

Presumably, the women that make this choice prefer the trade-off.  The point here isn’t to argue in favor of working mothers or those whom stay at home.  Either depends on prudential factors unique to each woman.  Rather, it’s to point out that disparities in pay between women and men – contra liberals like Murray and Schumer – have several other reasonable explanations, all of which align with experience and common sense, than rank gender discrimination.

If Senate Democrats plow ahead as planned with a push to force more votes on legislation to address the so-called gender-pay-gap, then it’s practically the duty of their Republican colleagues to force a debate about the transparent hypocrisy underlying the scam.

May 24th, 2012 at 1:46 pm
Alan Simpson, Genius
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I don’t always agree with former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, who has a tendency to embody some of the worst traits of the GOP’s squishy center. That fact makes it doubly delightful when Simpson uses his always-unvarnished style in service of solid principles, as he did in a recent letter responding to a group protesting him in California (warning: there are a few bits of salty language). Here it is in all its glory:

SimpsonLetter

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May 24th, 2012 at 10:49 am
Obama Owns 30 Worst Months of Employment Over Last 25 Years

Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard shares an eye-popping chart on the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment-population ratio; i.e. the percentage of employed Americans relative to the number of Americans able to work.

Below are the worst 30 months of the employment-population ratio from the last 25 years.  Notice a trend?

1. (tie) July 2011, 58.2 percent, President Barack Obama
1. (tie) June 2011, 58.2 percent, Obama
1. (tie) November 2010, 58.2 percent, Obama
1. (tie) December 2009, 58.2 percent, Obama
5. (tie) August 2011, 58.3 percent, Obama
5. (tie) December 2010, 58.3 percent, Obama
5. (tie) October 2010, 58.3 percent, Obama
8. (tie) April 2012, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) October 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) September 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) May 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) April 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) February 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
8. (tie) January 2011, 58.4 percent, Obama
15. (tie) March 2012, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) January 2012, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) December 2011, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) November 2011, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) March 2011, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) September 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) August 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) July 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) June 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) March 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) February 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) January 2010, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) November 2009, 58.5 percent, Obama
15. (tie) October 2009, 58.5 percent, Obama
29. February 2012, 58.6 percent, Obama
30. (tie) May 2010, 58.7 percent, Obama
30. (tie) April 2010, 58.7 percent, Obama
30. (tie) September 2009, 58.7 percent, Obama

According to Last, “the 30 (or 32, including ties) worst months for employment in the past 25 year have all come after the most recent recession ended, in June 2009.  In other words, they’ve all come during the Obama ‘recovery.’”

Remember this the next time President Obama repeats his mantra that the American economy is “moving in the right direction.”

May 23rd, 2012 at 3:32 pm
Some Domestic Drones May Get Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas

Last week, I wrote in my column that “So far, consensus around the FAA’s thinking indicates that domestic drones would not be approved to fly with weapons.”

That was in reference to the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement that it will ease restrictions on civilian use of unmanned drones for use in surveillance and research.  The institutions most interested in using drones are law enforcement entities ranging from the FBI to local police departments.

Now, consider this:

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.

“Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle),” McDaniel told The Daily.

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer was criticized last week for saying, “I don’t want regulations, I don’t want restrictions, I want a ban on this.”  Call it a slippery slope or inevitable logic, but Krauthammer’s instinct was right.  Regulations and restrictions open the door for interpretations like the Texas sheriff’s office; i.e. that a drone – apparently unlike a police cruiser or helicopter – is a physical extension of a cop and should be equipped with rubber bullets and tear gas.  If this is allowed, there is no logical reason to prohibit other more lethal devices.

In his comments, Krauthammer said that “the first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that’s been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country.”

Not if the drone shoots him first.

May 23rd, 2012 at 1:34 pm
A Sign the End is Near
Posted by Troy Senik Print

I think we can all agree that this is probably the death rattle of American liberty. From the Washington Examiner:

President Obama’s eco-friendly EPA inked a green partnership deal with high-octane NASCAR Monday to promote recycling and environmentally-friendly products to the sport’s millions of fans.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, NASCAR will encourage fans to buy “sustainable concessions” at races, expand the use of “safer chemical products,” conserve water, reduce waste, promote recycling, push products approved by the EPA that have a small enviro footprint and encourage suppliers to get an “E3 tuneup” aimed at promoting sustainable manufacturing.

Yes, you read that right: NASCAR. Civic religion of the red states. Featuring cars that reach speeds around 200 MPH, with fuel economies as low as two miles per gallon.

We’ve gone ’round the bend, ladies and gentlemen. All we can hope is that someday this will be included in the chronicles of the last, delusional days of the Obama Administration.

May 23rd, 2012 at 10:07 am
Is America Headed Toward Bankruptcy? CFIF’s Quin Hillyer Discusses the Nation’s Debt Crisis on CBN News
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF’s Quin Hillyer discusses America’s debt crisis on CBN News.

 

May 22nd, 2012 at 12:28 pm
To Get More Federal Money, States Claiming Volunteer Organizations are a Form of Welfare Spending
Posted by Troy Senik Print

One of the great triumphs of the federal welfare reform legislation passed in the mid-1990s was an insistence that states lay down tough work requirements for welfare recipients as a condition of receiving federal assistance. Though the fact is little publicized, however, another provision of the law allows states to substitute increased welfare spending for the work requirements and still receive money from Washington. That, of course, is an invitation to mischief, as reported by CNSnews, quoting Congressman Geoff Davis

“Many States have scoured their budgets to find other current program spending–such as for Pre-K, child care, and after school programs–they could report as TANF [welfare] spending,” Davis said at a hearing on Thursday. ”Others began counting third-party spending–such as assistance offered by food banks and Boys and Girls clubs–as TANF spending.  One State even apparently found a way to count the value of volunteer hours by Girl Scout troop leaders as State TANF ’spending.’

This is, by the way, all entirely legal under the law as written.

This is a worthwhile reminder: even legislation as noble as federal welfare reform is only as strong as those charged with carrying it out. The right laws are deeply important. But so are the right lawmakers.

May 21st, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Monica Crowley on Obama vs. Catholics

In light of my earlier post just below on Obama’s assault on religious liberty and the American Way (along with on truth and justice!), Monica Crowley also has a terrific column on the subject. Here’s how it starts:

Team Obama has always acted like the Chicago mafia operation that it is: they intimidate, arm-twist, threaten, and punish just like an organized crime syndicate. When it comes to rolling like gangsters, the Clintons were pikers compared to Team Obama.

A few months ago, they bullied the Catholic Church and other religious organizations by mandating that they provide insurance coverage for birth control, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs—in violation of their most deeply held beliefs and of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

Thugocracy reigns… but, one can hope, not for long. The courts can still rein it in.

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May 21st, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Today We Are All Catholics

With today’s filing of lawsuits (against ObamaCare’s abortifacient mandate) in 12 federal districts by 40 different Catholic organizations, the issue is now squarely at hand: Are Americans allowed free consciences and free exercise of religion, or not? The Obama administration, its tyrannical impulses(and fundamental lawlessness alien to the American tradition) now available for all to see, says no. These 40 Catholic entitities — supported even before their suits by statements of support from many other denominations — say yes, we are free people with free consciences and the right to freely exercise our religion.

At NRO today, the great George Weigel explains it all better than I’ve seen anywhere else:

As the battle continues, it will be important, amidst the litigators’ argument and the administration’s attempts to reply, to remember that what is at stake here is nothing less than the future of civil society in the United States.

A victory in the lawsuits filed against the administration’s mandate will be more than a victory for religious freedom, important as that will be. It will be a victory in defense of the social architecture of American democracy. Government is not the only custodian of the common good. The institutions of civil society bear a significant and irreducible responsibility for the common good, a responsibility they must be able to fulfill freely, without unwarranted interference from an overweening state that is ignorant of the limits of its legitimate reach.

Hear, hear.