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Archive for October, 2012
October 31st, 2012 at 8:15 pm
TSA Exempts Itself from Cancer Screening

Remember this story from Richard Rahn of the Cato Institute the next time you’re looking for an example of how ours is turning into a government of men, not laws:

Use of X-ray body scanners is an example of regulatory deception. If you work in the private sector and spend substantial time around machines or substances that emit radiation, you normally are required to wear tags that measure radiation doses. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has exempted itself from that requirement with the argument that the doses of radiation passengers and TSA employees receive from the X-ray body scanners (backscatters) at airports is so low as to cause no more than a trivial amount of extra cancers. They may well be right, but without measuring what employees and passengers actually receive from frequent and sometimes miscalibrated machines, no one knows for sure. Besides, the effect of radiation on the body is cumulative.

The European Union has prohibited backscatters, as have many countries, because of concern about health and safety. TSA has come under great criticism for the use of these machines, particularly when a safer and better technology is available. TSA has not admitted the danger but quietly has been replacing some of the backscatters with millimeter-wave scanners. These machines rely on low-energy radio waves like those in cell phones and thus are believed potentially not to damage a person’s DNA, unlike the backscatters. These new machines are faster because a computer analyzes the image, rather than a guard as with the X-ray machines. They are better at detection and provide greater personal privacy. Still, the question remains, why is TSA phasing out the X-ray machines so slowly and not providing its employees with radiation-detection tags? Private employers probably would be sued over such behavior.

October 31st, 2012 at 1:39 pm
McCain Slams Obama on Benghazi Cover-Up
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Mark my words: if Barack Obama is reelected, he will be thrust into scandal perhaps before he even takes the oath of office for a second time. Though the media — with Fox as virtually the only exception — is studiously avoiding the scandal of Americans being abandoned during the terrorist attack in Benghazi, the implications are far too sweeping to be suppressed for long (particularly if, as Newt Gingrich has suggested, there is a damning paper trail floating around out there). The most concise reading of this development — and, in my judgment, the most accurate — is this one from John McCain:

This president is either engaged in a massive cover-up deceiving the American people or he is so grossly incompetent that he is not qualified to be the commander in chief of our armed forces. It’s either one of them.

Just so.

October 30th, 2012 at 8:54 pm
If Electoral Tie, Would Biden Pick Ryan as Replacement?

If the Electoral College deadlocks at 269-269, Vice President Biden, in his role as President of the U.S. Senate, would get to decide the rules for picking the VP.  (The House would pick the President.)

Roll Call paints the picture:

One of the foremost experts on Senate rules said he sees no evidence of expedited procedures to avert a filibuster of that process.

“I have read the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, and I don’t see anything that requires the Senate to vote without debate on choosing a vice president,” former Senate Parliamentarian Robert B. Dove said. “Therefore, I don’t see what would stop Senators from speaking about who is going to be the vice president and, in effect, forcing a cloture vote.”

While the parliamentarian advises the presiding officer on procedural questions, Dove said, the responsibility to rule rests with the occupant of the chair. In the event of an Electoral College tie, that would be Biden (in his capacity of president of the Senate, until Jan. 20). Dove notes that Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey disregarded the parliamentarian’s guidance with some regularity.

Something tells me Good Ole’ Joe isn’t the kind to let a little conflict of interest get in the way of his hold on power.

October 30th, 2012 at 10:42 am
No Growth Without Government
Posted by Troy Senik Print

GDP grew by two percent in the third quarter of this year. That’s not a particularly impressive number, but in this economy — with its now-ubiquitous diminished expectations — it falls under the category of “We’ll take what we can get.” The Mercatus Institute’s Veronique De Rugy and Keith Hall have scratched beneath the surface of those numbers, however, and what they’ve found is even more disheartening than the rate itself:

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy grew by a modest 2 percent in the third quarter of 2012. While this was stronger growth than the preceding quarter, all of the increase in GDP growth came from the biggest increase in federal government spending in over two years.  Federal government spending rose 9.6% at an annual rate in the third quarter…Growth in the private sector fell by 0.1 percent to 1.3 percent in the third quarter—down from 1.4 percent in the second quarter.

But the private sector, we remind you, “is doing just fine.”

October 29th, 2012 at 6:45 pm
Obama Is Lying to Swing State Seniors

Avik Roy, an outside health care policy advisor to the Romney campaign, reminds us why you should never trust a clever lawyer or accountant:

Obamacare was cleverly designed such that its most politically toxic provisions wouldn’t go into effect until after the election. In addition, the Obama administration spent billions of unauthorized taxpayer dollars this year and last so that the impact of its cuts wouldn’t be felt until after the election.

2013: Tax increases and Medicare cuts

Over the next ten years, Obamacare cuts $716 billion from the Medicare program in order to fund its $1.9 trillion in new health spending over the same period. $156 billion of those cuts come from the market-oriented Medicare Advantage program, and those Medicare Advantage cuts start to kick in in 2013. 27 percent of all seniors are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, including 32 percent in Wisconsin and 36 percent in Ohio.

I hope the Romney campaign has been hammering home the part about the Obama Administration hiding the true cost of Obamacare from voters in swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio through aggressive direct mail and ad buys in those states because people need to know that before they decide whether to renew the incumbent’s contract.

For my part, a White House that deliberately hides the truth behind unauthorized spending and delayed implementation timelines is one that can’t be trusted; now or in the future.

October 29th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Required Pre-Election Day Reading: Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Just in time for Election Day, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has released a report entitled “The Imperial Presidency,” which serves as an exhaustive chronicle of all the ways in which President Obama has undermined — or outright ignored — the rule of law. It covers everything from regulatory overreach to ignoring the traditional “advise and consent” process to abusing the waiver process, and it’s well worth a read.

As we approach November 6, it’s important to remember that these offenses aren’t just abstract violations of the constitutional order — they’re also ingredients for economic decline. As Conn Carroll notes today in the Washington Examiner:

Conservatives are not the only ones who have documented Obama’s assault on the rule of law and its impact on the U.S. economy. Every year, the World Economic Forum issues a Global Competitiveness Report, ranking more than 100 countries on a number of key economic indicators. When Obama was sworn into office, the United States was ranked as the best country in the world to do business. After just four years under Obama, the U.S. has dropped to seventh. The report specifically cites the collapse in the rule of law in explaining this decline.

Before Obama was president, the U.S. ranked 40th in “favoritism in decisions of government officials.” Today, the U.S. ranks 59th, a fall of 19 places. Before Obama was president, the U.S. ranked 50th for lowest “burden of government regulation.” Today, the U.S. ranks 76th, a fall of 26 places. Before Obama was president, the U.S. ranked 28th in “transparency of government policy making.” Today, the U.S. ranks 56th, a fall of 28 places.

Care to venture a guess as to where those rankings would be after another four years of Obama?

October 29th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
Lessons From Katrina for Sandy

Well worth a quick read, from the policy director for the long-term Katrina-relief efforts.

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October 29th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
USA Today Analysis: “Green” Certification Means Big Tax Breaks for Builders, But Little Environmental Benefit
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Last week, RealClearPolicy.com graciously ran our commentary “End the USGBC Green Certification Monopoly,” in which we asserted that adopting the proposed LEEDv4 standard in its current incarnation as the new government-approved rule is unacceptable, and called for the era of the USGBC’s taxpayer-subsidized monopoly to come to an end.

Now, a damning USA Today analysis concludes that the certification regime allows thousands of “green” builders win tax breaks, exceed local restrictions and win expedited permits with meaningless, easy and low-cost steps:

Across the United States, the Green Building Council has helped thousands of developers win tax breaks and grants, charge higher rents, exceed local building restrictions and get expedited permitting by certifying them as ‘green’ under a system that often rewards minor, low-cost steps that have little or no proven environmental benefit, a USA TODAY analysis has found.

The council has certified 13,500 commercial buildings in the U.S. as green and become one of the most influential forces in building design by helping persuade public officials and private builders to follow its rating system, known as LEED.  More than 200 states, cities and federal agencies now require LEED certification for new public buildings, even though they have done little independent and meaningful research into LEED’s effectiveness. LEED can add millions to construction costs while promising to cut utility bills and other expenses.”

Importantly, the analysis also highlights the self-interest that often underlies such LEED advocacy:

There are now LEED-certified breweries, stadiums, dormitories, bus depots, parking garages, shopping malls, libraries, fire stations, warehouses, boathouses, locker rooms and prison buildings.  LEED’s growth has been driven partly by the building council itself, a 13,000-member non-profit chiefly run by architects, builders and building suppliers. Many specialize in — and profit from — the type of design the council certifies and promotes. The council collects up to $35,000 in fees for each LEED certification.  Building council members have boosted their own LEED-related businesses by helping persuade officials to require or reward LEED certification.  LEED also helps developers market buildings to tenants and investors and collect higher rents and sales prices, University of California economist Nils Kok said.

‘A lot of the fuel for LEED, to be honest, is marketing advantage,’ said Bill Walsh, executive director of the Healthy Building Network, which promotes non-toxic building materials. ‘People are interested in how they get the (LEED) credits, not in thinking deeply about it.’”

As one illustration, the study notes, “The most popular LEED option – earned in 99.7% of the buildings – has no direct environmental benefit but generates millions of dollars for the building council by giving one point if a design team has a LEED expert.”

In other words, government-facilitated, make-work cronyism at its worst.

This report merely confirms CFIF’s point:  LEEDv4 is an unacceptable government-imposed standard, the USGBC’s monopoly must end, the core mission of LEED must be reformed and the federal government must allow greater flexibility and the use of alternative green building certification systems.

October 28th, 2012 at 11:12 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Free Contraceptives
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.

October 26th, 2012 at 6:24 pm
Latest Reason Biden Needs to Retire

Here’s what the Vice President of the United States said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin:

“But you can’t erase what you’ve already done, they’ve voted to extend tax cuts for the very wealthy, giving a $500 trillion dollar tax-cut to 120,000 families.”

Remember, America, if reelected, Good Ole’ Joe is a heartbeat away from saying things like this from the Oval Office!

H/T: Fox News

October 26th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
Obama and America’s Historic Poverty Rate

Byron York says when it comes to talking about America’s historically high poverty rate, “Barack Obama ignores the issue when it comes time to campaign. A sky-high poverty rate doesn’t fit his theme that things are getting better. So he doesn’t talk about it.”

“But the problem is still there. According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate has gone from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent in 2009 to 15.1 percent in 2010 to 15.0 percent in 2011. The last time it was higher than 15.1 percent was in 1965, when the nation’s anti-poverty programs were just taking effect.”

For all his pretensions about being the next FDR, it looks like President Obama’s tenure could signal the death knell for LBJ’s expensive and failed Great Society.

October 26th, 2012 at 1:45 pm
Environmentalists Push FSC Forest Certification Monopoly
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Understandably, “forest certification” remains a rather obscure issue to most Americans.  Its regulation, however, significantly impacts the price consumers pay for wood products, not to mention the struggling domestic timber industry.

So what is “forest certification?”  It simply refers to formal recognition from organizations like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the American Tree Farming System (ATFS) or the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) that a particular business responsibly manages its property in a way that promotes sustainability.  Those three certification groups set different benchmarks, some more achievable for various landowners than others.  A free and open certification market that allows businesses to choose the system that best fits their profile, and allows consumers to choose, has resulted in a larger amount of “green” products in consumer and building markets.  Additionally, the number of acres of certified land grows by millions of acres each year.

A vocal group of environmental activists, however, only endorses FSC certification and seeks to make it a monopoly while demonizing the competing forest certification systems.  Those activists successfully bullied Fortune 500 companies into accepting the exclusive use of FSC-certified products, and many government and rating agencies only recognize and award green “credits” to forest products recognized by FSC.  As a result, the market becomes distorted, with real costs for producers of wood and the environment, and fewer choices for consumers.  And in an unfortunate turn of events, recent government overreach prevents a majority of American businesses who took the time and invested their resources to achieve certification from entering green markets.  The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED rating system only recognizes FSC-certified wood as sustainable, which means SFI or ATFS timber cannot enter LEED projects.  Even though the USGBC is a nonprofit group, many government agencies now accept its word as gospel, and make its standards binding for receiving contracts.

That weakens the incentives for landowners to certify their land, because if they cannot market their goods in LEED markets, why bother to absorb the real costs (financial, time, compliance) associated with certification?  If SFI and ATFS goods are blocked from green markets, and the cost of FSC-certification is too steep, many businesses will opt out altogether.

The better policy is to encourage sustainable development of our nation’s forests by recognizing all credible forest certification program options.

Whether having arrived at these policies out of ignorance or simply succumbing to outside pressure, policymakers should accordingly reverse the policy that amounts to a de facto FSC monopoly in certain markets.  A recent study by the American Consumer Institute estimated the costs of carrying that policy to its endpoint.  Namely, if FSC-certification was made a binding requirement for American forests, consumer welfare losses would occur in a number of markets, totaling $10 billion for wood products and $24 billion for paper products markets each year.

It is therefore incumbent that the government stop picking certification monopoly winners and losers in this market.  The timber industry, small businesses and consumers deserve much better.

October 26th, 2012 at 1:03 pm
Fast & Furious Lawsuit Accelerates

Politico: “A House committee’s lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder over his refusal to turn over some documents related to the fallout from Operation Fast and Furious will move forward at a faster pace than the parties requested, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

“The Justice Department moved on Oct. 15 to throw out the lawsuit brought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and agreed with the House panel that it’s lawyers could have two months to respond to that motion. However, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected that proposal on Wednesday, saying that the House committee should file its response by Nov. 16.”

The quicker review means that the next step in the Fast and Furious scandal – whether President Obama can be compelled to hand over documents relating to the Mexican gun-running operation – won’t get buried in the last days of the lame duck session.

Good for Judge Berman.  America needs a timely resolution to this issue.

October 26th, 2012 at 11:58 am
Podcast: The Liberal War on Transparency
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Christopher Horner, New York Times bestselling author and Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow, discusses his latest book, “The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information ‘Criminal.’”

Listen to the interview here.

October 26th, 2012 at 11:23 am
Why Do So Many Blacks Support Obama?

If somebody ran a poll question like that, the crazies would be out yelling about “racism” at the top of their lungs. Today, though, CNN ran a viewer poll asking: Why do so many white voters oppose Obama? Really? Really? Yes, really.

So who is it, after all, who is playing the race card?

Look, is it more remarkable that about 59 percent of white voters oppose an incumbent president during a time of a lousy economy and several deathly scandals abroad (Libya, Mexico), or that 97 percent of black voters support the incumbent during such a time?

Why is the onus always on the white votes to explain why they “oppose” a president who happens to be black?

This is sickening. CNN should be ashamed.

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October 26th, 2012 at 8:38 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Second Term Plan
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.

October 25th, 2012 at 11:01 pm
Strassel: Long List of Obama’s Flip-Flops

Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal provides a terrific service with an entire column filled with Barack Obama’s bald-faced flip-flops.

A sampling:

“I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program”—Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, June 2003.

“I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter”—President Obama, August 2009.

“Leadership means that the buck stops here. . . . I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit”—Sen. Barack Obama, March 2006.

“It is not acceptable for us not to raise the debt ceiling and to allow the U.S. government to default”—President Obama, July 2011.

“We have an idea for the trigger. . . . Sequestration”—Obama Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew in 2011, as reported in Bob Woodward’s “The Price of Politics.”

“First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed”—President Obama, October 2012.

“Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times when America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive”—President Obama, April 2009, in France.

“We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms”—President Obama, April 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing”—Barack Obama, October 2012, on whether he went on a global apology tour.

“If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition”—President Obama, 2009.

“We’ve got a long way to go but . . . we’ve come too far to turn back now. . . . And that’s why I’m running for a second term”—President Obama, October 2012.

Read it all here.

October 25th, 2012 at 10:00 pm
Obama Second Term “A Cheesy Cheap Shot”

In case you haven’t read the Obama campaign’s 11-page brochure outlining the President’s (vague) agenda for a second term, A.B. Stoddard of The Hill saves you the trouble:

It’s not just that the plan is the first voters have heard of any Obama has for his second term — two weeks before Election Day — but that the brochure is about as cheesy a cheap shot as they come.

How, they asked the campaign, could the president possibly win a second term in such a tight race without having outlined an agenda for the next four years? And so an eleventh-hour glossy appeared to answer the charge that Obama had nothing in mind for 2013-2017, with pretty pictures and pabulum to prove it.

Paul Ryan couldn’t agree more.

October 25th, 2012 at 6:32 pm
Income Inequality: It’s Easy to be Poor When We Don’t Count the Safety Net
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur have an important (and devastating) piece in today’s Wall Street Journal breaking down the misleading facets of the left’s argument that the U.S. is currently suffering through a crisis of economic inequality. Here’s a particularly eye-opening excerpt:

In the first place, studies that measure income inequality largely focus on pretax incomes while ignoring the transfer payments and spending from unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid and other safety-net programs. Politicians who rest their demands for more redistribution on studies of income inequality but leave out the existing safety net are putting their thumb on the scale.

Second and more important, it is well known that people’s earnings in general rise over their working lifetime. And so, for example, a person who decides to invest more in education may experience a lengthy period of low income while studying, followed by significantly higher income later on. Snapshot measures of income inequality can be misleading.

Thomas Sowell frequently makes a point complimentary to Hassett and Mathur’s second observation above: that measuring income inequality over time tends to be deeply misleading because membership in any given income bracket is highly fluid, with people’s income often shifting dramatically over time. Thus, someone who’s in the bottom quintile of income in today’s measurements may be in the second quintile from the top in 15 years’ time. But we tend to analyze these groups as if their composition is static.

Hassett and Mathur’s first point, however, is the one that always bowls me over. If the point of a safety net is to remove people from the perils of indigence, yet the government refuses to factor those provisions into measurements of income, we end up with a perpetually imperiled underclass that only exists on paper. As Mark Twain said (supposedly quoting Disraeli), there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

October 25th, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Mitt the Nice

Columnist Deroy Murdock has been very, very tough on Mitt Romney for the past five years, but today he finds a slew of heartwarming stories about the former Massachusetts governor.

Well worth a read.