Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’
October 6th, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Obama’s Real Education Legacy
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute has a enlightening critical essay on Barack Obama’s “real education legacy” in the latest issue of National Affairs. The essay couldn’t be more timely, coming on the heels of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s announcement last week that he plans to leave his post at the end of the year.

Hess writes:

Despite the soaring rhetoric and heady promises . . .  education reform during Obama’s tenure has disappointed in practice. Oddly enough, some of the president’s critics on the right have missed this and have maintained that, on education, his policy has been uniquely sound. New York Times columnist David Brooks declared that “Obama has been the most determined education reformer in the modern presidency,” and suggested that Obama’s approach to education reform constituted a model for “health care, transportation, energy [and] environmental policy.”

In fact, Obama’s presidency has proven deeply divisive in nearly every area of policy, from health care to government spending to the environment. And those who have been disconcerted by the Obama administration’s faults in other areas — its abuse of executive discretion, its dramatic expansion of the federal government, and its exacerbation of identity politics and the culture wars — will find that education has not been spared. Despite all the promises of a “post-partisan” presidency, Obama has pursued a polarizing, bureaucratized, and Washington-centric education agenda while exploiting and then draining a substantial reservoir of bipartisan goodwill.

While it does little good to merely gripe about bad policies and squandered opportunities for reform, setting the record straight is crucial. Our understanding of the Obama era in education will color how we regard the promises of presidential candidates and inform our expectations for future Congressional and executive policymaking. Accounting for the lessons of the last seven years is especially vital given education’s substantive and symbolic import and its centrality for any national figure intent on promoting opportunity. Ultimately, the Obama years have illustrated that how presidents tackle education may matter as much as whether they do.

In particular, Hess looks at how the Education Department bungled Race to the Top and the ham-handed rollout of the Common Core standards. Do read the whole thing.

August 4th, 2015 at 11:08 pm
Obama’s Clean Coal Initiative: A Warning from California
Posted by Ben Boychuk Print

The Los Angeles Times‘ front-page headline Tuesday comes across as remarkably upbeat: “California is ahead of the game as Obama releases Clean Power Plan.”

But the story’s lead paragraph reads more like a threat than a promise: “President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants over the next 15 years will force states to address climate change by pushing them to act more like California.”

The president cited California’s example when he announced the plan on Monday, recalling the smog that hung over the Los Angeles basin in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “You fast-forward 30, 40 years later, and we solved those problems,” Obama said.

Well, yes, we did — and it’s a good thing, too. But the president is conflating those clean-air rules with policies of a more recent vintage.

California has led the way in pushing utilities to adopt renewable energy from sources such as windmills and solar panels in lieu of natural gas and coal-fired plants. According to the Times: “In 2013, the most recent year available, nearly 19% of California’s electricity came from renewable sources, while less than 8% came from coal, according to the California Energy Commission. In January, Brown proposed an ambitious target of 50% renewables by 2030.”

The story doesn’t mention, however, that the Golden State ranks close to the top in terms of energy prices. It’s no coincidence that the cost of renewable energy in California increased by 55 percent between 2003 and 2013, as the renewable portfolio standard was being phased in. And costs will continue to rise, in no small part because the state Public Utilities Commission earlier this year ordered changes in California’s tiered pricing for electricity, moving from four tiers to two. As a result, the first tier rate will increase significantly, and the second tier rate will rise marginally.

The Times also reports that California is on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 as required under AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act” of 2006. Gov. Jerry Brown in January issued an executive order that would accelerate the mandate’s requirements, with the goal of reducing emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030. Expect rates to go higher still.

Not surprisingly, Brown hailed Obama’s plan as “bold and absolutely necessary.”

But a new Manhattan Institute report by Jonathan A. Lesser of Continental Economics highlights the real consequences of California’s decarbonization efforts, some unintended, some not. Among Lesser’s key findings:

  • California households’ electricity prices have risen as a result of the state’s renewable-energy mandates and carbon cap-and-trade program—and will likely continue to rise at an even faster rate in coming years.
  • The aforementioned policies have created a regressive energy tax, imposing proportionally higher costs in certain counties, such as California’s inland and Central Valley regions, where summer electricity consumption is highest but household incomes are lowest.
  • In 2012, nearly 1 million California households faced “energy poverty”—defined as energy expenditures exceeding 10 percent of household income. In certain California counties, the rate of energy poverty was as high as 15 percent of all households.

This is the model that President Obama lauds and his EPA wants to emulate. The EPA’s new regulations would mandate that states cut carbon emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

A tough Wall Street Journal editorial notes that the EPA’s final rule “is 9 percent steeper than the draft the Environmental Protection Agency issued in June 2014,” and opines: “The damage to growth, consumer incomes and U.S. competitiveness will be immense—assuming the rule isn’t tossed by the courts or rescinded by the next Administration.”

Steven F. Hayward, a professor of politics at Pepperdine University and an expert in environmental policy, observed in a post at Power Line on Monday, “By [EPA's] own admission, full implementation of the emissions targets will avert only 0.018 degrees C of warming by the year 2100. I’m sure we’ll all notice that much change in temps!”

The final rule is nearly 1,600 pages long, and the regulatory impact analysis is nearly 400 pages, so needless to say it will take some time for the lawyers and wonks to sort everything out. But Hayward found an odd paragraph in near the middle of the impact analysis that led him to wonder if the government is putting us on:

As indicated in the RIA [Regulatory Impact Assessment] for this rule, we expect that the main impact of this rule on the nation’s mix of generation will be to reduce coal-fired generation, but in an amount and by a rate that is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation. Specifically, from approximately 2005 to 2014, coal-fired generation declined at a rate that was greater than the rate of reduced coal-fired generation that we expect from this rulemaking from 2015 to 2030. In addition, under this rule, the trends for all other types of generation, including natural gas-fired generation, nuclear generation, and renewable generation, will remain generally consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule. [Hayward's emphasis.]

Hayward poses a fascinating question: “if the electricity sector under this new regulation is going to unfold more or less along the lines of business as usual, why are we bothering with this regulation in the first place? Is the EPA seriously admitting that their regulation does nothing substantial at all, or that they’ve spotted a parade going down the street and decided to march at the head of it?”

The Wall Street Journal’s editors encourage a vigorous legal challenge to the new rules, noting:

The Supreme Court did give EPA the authority to regulate carbon emissions in Mass. v. EPA in 2007. But that was not a roving license to do anything the EPA wants. The High Court has rebuked the agency twice in the last two years for exceeding its statutory powers.

“When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate a significant portion of the American economy, we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism,” the Court warned last year. “We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign to an agency decisions of vast economic and political significance.”

Congress did no such thing with the Clean Power Plan, which is a new world balanced on a fragment of the Clear Air Act called Section 111(d). This passage runs a couple hundred words and was added to the law in 1977, well before the global warming stampede. Historically Section 111(d) has applied “inside the fence line,” meaning the EPA can set performance standards for individual plants, not for everything connected to those sources that either produces or uses electricity.

When the EPA rule does arrive before the Justices, maybe they’ll rethink their doctrine of “Chevron deference,” in which the judiciary hands the bureaucracy broad leeway to interpret ambiguous laws. An agency using a 38-year-old provision as pretext for the cap-and-tax plan that a Democratic Congress rejected in 2010 and couldn’t get 50 Senate votes now is the all-time nadir of administrative “interpretation.”

“This plan is essentially a tax on the livelihood of every American,” the Journal’s editorial concludes, “which makes it all the more extraordinary that it is essentially one man’s order.” As California goes, so goes the nation? Let’s hope not.

May 26th, 2015 at 8:25 pm
Fifth Circuit Maintains Roadblock to Obama Immigration Amnesty

Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift an injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing an executive amnesty program for millions of illegal immigrants.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas who is leading a 26 state lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s amnesty order, applauded the court for stopping “a drastic change in immigration policy” since the program bypassed congressional approval. Texas is alleging significant financial burdens on state taxpayers if the federal government is allowed to proceed.

The Obama administration is now considering whether to appeal the Fifth Circuit’s opinion to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move which could backfire and derail a policy goal long sought by immigration activists.

This much we know: the rule of law has been preserved, at least for today.

H/T: New York Times

May 14th, 2015 at 9:54 am
Bipartisan Support Growing to Repeal ObamaCare Medical Device Tax

A group of 18 House Democrats sent a letter recently to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requesting “timely passage” of a bill to repeal perhaps the most unpopular ObamaCare tax.

The medical device tax levies a 2.3 percent fee on medical devices, and is credited with causing increased prices and a decline in jobs within the manufacturing industry. Much of the Democratic support for repeal comes from members representing states with large device making companies in Minnesota and Indiana.

In a divided Congress, repealing the medical device tax may be the best way demonstrate bipartisan opposition to ObamaCare. Last year, 79 Senators voted to repeal this tax though then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to bring it to a floor vote. With Republicans in control of the chamber, a vote is likely to occur.

Even if President Barack Obama vetoes the measure – which the White House has promised he will do unless Congress imposes another tax to offset the revenue loss – the mounting pressure to get rid of the medical device tax indicates that there are political victories to be had, if congressional leaders will push for them.

April 23rd, 2015 at 3:19 pm
Obama Admin Also Pressuring Kansas, Tennessee to Expand Medicaid or Lose Funds

First Florida, then Texas, and now Kansas and Tennessee have been told by the Obama administration that unless they expand Medicaid under the rules laid out in ObamaCare the federal government will withhold payments from local hospitals.

Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott is so angry at the move he’s promised to sue the Obama administration for violating a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting the feds from conditioning Medicaid funding on ObamaCare expansion.

Yet this is precisely what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is doing. According to Kaiser Health News, CMS “confirmed Tuesday that it gave officials in [Kansas and Tennessee] the same message that had been delivered to Texas and Florida about the risk to funding for so-called ‘uncompensated care pools’ – Medicaid money that helps pay the cost of care for the uninsured.”

“Medicaid expansion would reduce uncompensated care in the state, and therefore have an impact on the [Low-Income Pool], which is why the state’s expansion status is an important consideration in our approach regarding extending the LIP beyond June,” a CMS official warned.

The reason states have resisted expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare is that it transforms a program currently helping discrete populations – e.g. pregnant women, the disabled, elderly, blind, and children from needy families – into a universal, taxpayer-funded health insurance program for every person earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That change translates into large amounts of new spending that will eventually lead to increased state taxes.

By making a state’s refusal to expand Medicaid a factor in deciding whether Medicaid dollars will continue to flow, the Obama administration is directly flouting a prohibition handed down by a 7-2 Supreme Court majority (liberal Justices Kagan and Breyer sided with their five more conservative colleagues). If the Supreme Court wants to ensure that its rulings will be taken seriously, it should fast-track Florida’s lawsuit and let the Obama administration know it must follow the law.

March 23rd, 2015 at 7:34 pm
Ted Cruz Jumps into the 2016 Presidential Race

Not one to wait his turn, today U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) became the first person to announce he is running for the presidency.

The first-term senator declared his ambition during a speech at Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian university and the symbolic epicenter for the conservative grassroots Cruz is trying to represent.

In the Age of Obama, Cruz’s red meat speech seems almost like a throwback to the days when conservatives were unabashed in their support for the three-legged stool of the movement’s issues: social, economic, and national security.

If you’re looking for a candidate to double-down on first principles, Cruz might be the one.

Though his pre-announcement polling numbers haven’t been stellar, Cruz will be working hard to move the needle higher now that he is officially in the race to replace Barack Obama.

Welcome to the job interview, Senator. We look forward to hearing more from you.

March 18th, 2015 at 7:44 pm
Prosecutorial Discretion Needed at the Interior Dept.

President Barack Obama has rooted most of his amnesty program on the idea that he and his bureaucrats can exercise immense amounts of prosecutorial discretion in refusing to deport millions of illegal immigrants. While this iteration of prosecutorial discretion is absurd, a more conventional application is badly needed at the Interior Department.

Recently, Interior lost a high-profile legal battle over whether a Native American pastor in Texas could legally possess eagle feathers. The feathers were given to Pastor Robert Soto as a gift for giving spiritual counsel to a dying woman in his tribe. They were confiscated in the middle of a subsequent religious ceremony by undercover federal agents in a sting operation called “Operation Powwow.”

You read that right.

At issue is a federal law that prohibits the possession of feathers from more than 800 different kinds of birds, including eagles. It doesn’t matter how the feathers are obtained. In Soto’s case, the feathers were picked up off the ground after the eagle molted. If the law were to be applied in every case like it was in Soto’s the results would be laughable.

“…any child who goes to a park and picks up a feather is in violation of federal law if he picks up a common goose or a duck feather and takes it home,” writes Kristina Arriaga of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “However, one does not see covert agents sneaking around neighborhoods in an “Operation Park Patrol” to investigate children collecting feathers, playing with them, or using them in school projects.”

At least not yet.

Memo to the federal bureaucracy: This is an example of the need for prosecutorial discretion. Refusing to police the border or take action against those who cross it illegally is not.

March 17th, 2015 at 1:40 pm
New House Budget Solidifies Ryan’s Legacy

New House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) is picking up right where his predecessor Paul Ryan (R-WI) left off.

Today, Price introduced his first federal budget proposal which borrows heavily from Ryan’s plans, “including a plan that would transform Medicare into a voucher-like ‘premium support’ program for seniors joining Medicare in 2024 or later,” reports Fox News. “They would receive a subsidy to purchase health insurance on the private market.”

Price would also keep Ryan’s idea to convert Medicaid and food stamps into federal block grants that states can spend with more freedom than they do now.

Though this budget stands little chance of passing because Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes to overcome a certain veto by President Barack Obama, retaining the core of Ryan’s reform package sends an important signal that these budget proposals are now the fundamental elements of any conservative spending reduction agenda. Every GOP presidential aspirant will have to weigh in on whether they support this approach and what, if any, changes they would make.

This is deliberative democracy at its best.

March 13th, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Obama’s Legacy: Pieces of Iraq Now Part of ‘Greater Iran’

It’s gotten so bad in Iraq that Iranian-backed militias are fighting ISIS soldiers for control of large swaths of territory. And while these two factions redraw the map of the Middle East, American military advisors and the Iraqi army have been rendered largely irrelevant.

That prompted Richard Haas, president of the Council of Foreign Relations, to give this grim analysis: “I think [Iran] will win this battle, but… I think we have to understand, Baghdad and the south are now part of Greater Iran. This is what it is… ‘Iraq’ is over. Rest in peace. The era where you had an intact Iraq and an intact Syria is over. So what you’re looking at is an Iraq where part of it is an extension of Iran…”

Maybe this is why President Barack Obama is so repulsed by Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran: It threatens our dependence on a known sponsor of terror.

March 12th, 2015 at 3:53 pm
Tom Cotton’s Letter Echoes Jesse Helms’ Defense of the Constitution

If the Obama administration thinks U.S. Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) letter is a threat to their negotiations with Iran, they should consider the actions of the late Jesse Helms.

Helms (R-NC) was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the latter part of the Clinton presidency and made no bones about attempts to circumvent Congress so the White House could claim a big foreign policy headline.

In an op-ed published the day Clinton was to engage in talks with Vladimir Putin about reducing missile defense capabilities, Helms declared, “After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted, in his final months in office, to tie the hands of the next President.”

Helms would have none of it. “Well I, for one, have a message for the President: Not on my watch. Let’s be clear, to avoid any misunderstandings: Any modified ABM treaty negotiated by this administration will be dead-on-arrival at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee… The Russian government should not be under any illusions whatsoever that any commitments made by this lame-duck Administration, will be binding on the next administration.”

And with that, the talks dissolved.

In this context, Cotton’s letter is tame by comparison. Which isn’t to say that it lacks verve and importance. Cotton and the forty-six other Senators who educated the Iranian leadership on the limitations of Obama’s go-it-alone strategy are guarding against the misimpression that Obama’s dealmaking lasts any longer than his hold on office.

What Helms and Cotton have in common is a clear-eyed view of constitutional procedure, and the difference it makes when shunted aside. If Obama wants a legacy pact with Iran, he can’t do it on the cheap. Congress – and specifically the Senate – needs to be consulted, the sooner the better.

March 5th, 2015 at 4:58 pm
Congress Would Rather Write Letters than Pass Laws

Reuters is reporting that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week urging him to send weapons to the Ukrainian government in order to send a message to Russia.

“In the face of Russian aggression, the lack of clarity on our overall strategy thus far has done little to reassure our friends and allies in the region who, understandably, feel vulnerable. This needs to change,” wrote the lawmakers.

But here’s the irony. According to Reuters, “The House and U.S. Senate voted unanimously late last year for a bill authorizing Obama to provide weapons to Kiev but he has yet to decide whether to send any.”

That is, Congress voted to give Obama the discretion whether or not to send weapons to Ukraine. Now, some members are upset that he won’t enact their preferred strategy.

Just like immigration policy, Congress has the ability to limit the president’s options by passing laws that spell out exactly what he can and cannot do. Unlike immigration – where Obama’s amnesty programs are deliberately in conflict with federal law – in the case of Ukraine the president appears to be clearly within his power not to act.

It’s a sad commentary when leading members of Congress are reduced to relying on third-party lawsuits and strongly-worded letters instead of their inherent, constitutional power to create the laws of the land.

No wonder this president ignores them.

March 4th, 2015 at 12:49 pm
GOP Congress Caves on Obama Amnesty

After weeks of failing to pass a bill blocking implementation of President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, Republican leaders in Congress called it quits.

A so-called “clean” bill – one without the amnesty prohibition – passed the House of Representatives 257 – 167 yesterday, with all of the no votes coming from Republicans. The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate quickly.

Though much of the blame is being focused on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), it seems the media is conveniently forgetting that new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let a presidential attack on constitutional separation-of-powers supersede a Senate debating procedure known as the filibuster. If the roles were reversed it is inconceivable that Harry Reid would let a procedural rule he controls thwart his sense of constitutional propriety.

By elevating a Senate tradition above Congress’ constitutional duty to make the laws, McConnell has effectively neutered his 54 member majority since it lacks the 60 votes it needs to actually govern.

Welcome to the Republican Senate. Its work product looks an awful lot like its Democratic predecessor.

February 26th, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Boehner Stands Firm on Tying DHS Funding to Amnesty Ban

Kudos to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for declining the Senate GOP’s offer to cave to Democrats’ demand for a so-called “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

As I discuss in my column this week, some Senate Republican leaders are getting gun shy about following through with the party’s promise to condition funding for DHS on new legislative language that specifically prohibits immigration agencies from implementing President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty program. They warn that Republicans will be blamed for the shutdown that would start on Sunday when the DHS budget ends, if no new bill is passed. Better, they argue, to appropriate the money now and hope the federal judiciary holds Obama accountable in the future.

At a press conference today, Boehner reminded everyone that – at least publicly – “All Republicans agree that we need to fund the Department of Homeland Security and we want to stop the president’s actions in response to immigration.”

Ever the politician, Boehner “would not say whether he would back a Senate funding bill without provisions that would defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration,” reports National Journal.

Still, it’s encouraging to hear the Speaker of the House sound resolute in defense of the rule of law when so much of the political class is aching to cut a deal.

February 24th, 2015 at 2:26 pm
Is Obama’s Diva Status a Reason to Accelerate Amnesty Lawsuit?

Consider the following as an example of how much President Barack Obama and his administration think the rule of law should bend to suit their political calculations.

The Justice Department asked a federal court on Monday to reverse its decision to halt the president’s unilateral amnesty directive within 48 hours so that Obama could assure activists attending a town hall in Miami on Wednesday that deportation waivers and work permits would be in the mail.

The expedited timeline is being objected to by Texas and the 20+ other states suing to require the Obama administration to follow federal law and give advance notice and a comment period to the public, reports the LA Times.

Fairness suggests that if the Justice Department took a week to file its request to reverse, Texas and its fellow challengers should get at least as much time to defend their position.

The Justice Department’s self-serving request highlights the central problem driving this litigation – Obama is a diva whose political calculations trump the rule of law.

The federal courts should slap down that dangerous misconception, early and often.

February 23rd, 2015 at 6:36 pm
Gov. Abbott: 20,000 Crossed Texas Border Since January 1

It looks like the surge of illegal immigration across the southern border isn’t getting any better.

“Already this calendar year, since January 1, we have had more than 20,000 people come across the border, apprehended, unauthorized. And so we have an ongoing problem on the border that Congress must step up and solve,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said while appearing on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday.

Abbott said that to stem the tide he is posting an additional 500 Texas Rangers near the border. The cost for the expanded presence will come from the state’s budget, even though responsibility for securing the border belongs to the federal government.

Abbott was on the show to discuss the Texas-led lawsuit he initiated challenging President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty program because it failed to follow federal law granting the public a notice and comment period before being implemented. Last week a federal district judge agreed with the challengers and granted a temporary injunction to halt Obama’s program.

Barely a month into office, Abbott is proving himself to be a conservative leader who knows how to get results in the courtroom and the court of public opinion.

February 18th, 2015 at 5:12 pm
Obama’s Amnesty Program Halted for Failure to Follow the Rules

President Barack Obama seemingly loves to invite controversy and criticism for using executive discretion to rewrite or ignore federal law. He and his allies apparently believe that when critics say his actions violate the Constitution, most people assume the dispute is too complex to understand or simply motivated by ideology.

So perhaps what’s needed to focus the public’s attention is a straightforward line of argument that shows Obama deliberately disregarding a bright line rule.

If so, Judge Andrew Hanen may have found it.

On Tuesday, Hanen granted a temporary injunction to Texas and more than twenty other states suing to stop Obama’s unilateral amnesty from going into effect. The reason is simple. By announcing the plan without any advance notice, Obama violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The APA is a very important but little known federal law that tries to rein in the administrative state by requiring agencies to give notice and accept comments before implementing changes in policy. Because Obama did not comply with this very simple rule, his amnesty plan is, in effect, illegal.

The Obama administration is already working on an appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and time will tell whether this very straightforward application of the law to the facts is undone somehow with lawyerly sleight-of-hand.

In the meantime, critics of the Obama administration’s disregard for the rule of law can enjoy the fact that, for the moment at least, the most activist president in modern times is being stymied by the very Act that makes governmental activism possible.

February 12th, 2015 at 7:35 pm
Obama Demagogues Staples Over Part-Time Worker Policy

Apparently, the president who has time to share his Final Four picks on national television can also squeeze in space on his schedule to erroneously charge Staples with oppressing its own workforce.

Earlier this week, Barack Obama was interviewed by BuzzFeed, an online news site. BuzzFeed claimed to have evidence that Staples, the office supply giant, threatens to fire part-time employees who work more than 25 hours a week. The reason – anything more could qualify the worker for employer-sponsored health insurance under ObamaCare. (30 hours per week is the threshold.)

Asked to respond, Obama unleashed his inner community organizer.

“I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security,” Obama replied. “…when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.”

On the contrary, shame on the President of the United States.

“Unfortunately, the president appears not to have all the facts,” a Staples spokesman told CNN Money. The cap on part-time work hours has been in place for a decade, and the company has many opportunities for hourly employees to move into full-time positions.

It’s striking that a man who doesn’t blink at proposing a federal budget more than $472 billion in the red next year thinks himself capable of lecturing a private business on how it should spend its profits.

Maybe he should stick with basketball brackets, and let the professionals manage the books.

February 11th, 2015 at 12:48 pm
Gallup: Obama on Track to be Most Polarizing President Ever

President Barack Obama is on pace to have the most polarized approval ratings in history, according to a new Gallup poll.

Polarized approval ratings mean the gap between those in a president’s party that approve of him compared to those in the opposition party that don’t. “So far in his presidency, there has been an average party gap of 70 points in Obama’s approval ratings, which, if it continues, would be easily the highest for a president to date,” says the Gallup summary.

For context, former President George W. Bush “is second with a 61-point gap throughout his presidency, followed by Clinton (56) and Reagan (52). The other presidents [going back to Eisenhower] had party gaps of no more than 41 points.”

As Tim explained in his column last week, it’s no surprise that people concerned about the country’s fiscal future disapprove of Obama’s job performance. Economic growth is in a nine-year rut, the percentage of the U.S. population with jobs is as low as when Jimmy Carter was in office, and the median income has actually declined since Obama’s economic “recovery” was announced.

The real question after reading through the Gallup results isn’t, What’s the matter with Republicans? It’s, How in the world can Democrats see the current president as worthy of such lofty praise?

February 4th, 2015 at 1:11 pm
IRS Delays Enforcement of ObamaCare “Clawback”

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome another politically-motivated ObamaCare delay to the stage!

Megan McArdle sums up the IRS’ decision to let those who received too much in ObamaCare subsidies last year get extra time to pay back the difference (called the law’s “clawback” provision).

“It’s not relieving you of the obligation to repay; it’s just saying that you won’t be liable for a penalty if you don’t repay by the deadline,” explains McArdle. “Interest will continue to accrue, but the interest rates that the IRS charges are actually pretty reasonable (and probably much better than what your credit card company charges). It’s the failure-to-pay penalties it layers on top – half a percentage point a month, with even stiffer penalties for failing to file – that really make your tax bill add up fast.”

That is, if the Obama IRS ever gets around to enforcing the parts of laws it doesn’t like. McArdle writes, “The IRS emphasizes that this is a one-time deal, just for 2014. But I’m not sure if you should believe it. This emphasizes one of the problems we’ve spoken about a lot in this space: The political will to impose the costs of the Affordable Care Act is a lot less strong than the will to distribute the benefits.”

The Republican establishment was once derided as the tax collector for the welfare state. If Obama and the Democratic Party can’t be bothered to administer both the costs and the benefits of their so-called health reform law, the GOP shouldn’t shoulder the burden of balancing its books.

Every politically-motivated delay in enforcing an aspect of ObamaCare is a tacit admission by its supporters that the law is unworkable in practice. Republicans should acknowledge the obvious and start afresh.

February 3rd, 2015 at 7:36 pm
Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats Vote to Shut Down DHS; Time for GOP to Play Hardball

Harry Reid (D-NV) and his Senate Democrats voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security today.

The piece of legislation they voted down was a Republican bill to fund DHS for the rest of the fiscal year with the caveat that no funds could be spent implementing President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration amnesty. Currently, the DHS budget is set to expire at the end of February.

The decision probably didn’t involve too much deliberation or anguish since Reid & Co. can count on a sympathetic media to frame the result as Republican obstruction, i.e. not letting Obama and the Democratic Party run roughshod over federal law to curry favor with millions of potential future voters.

If anything Reid and his allies probably think they helped Obama save face by shielding him from having to veto common sense legislation for naked political reasons. Now, Obama can blame Congress for not working, even though it’s the members of his own party that are throwing up roadblocks.

One thing that is clear is that Reid never would have whipped his entire caucus in opposition unless Obama had authorized it. So, call this an indirect veto of Republicans’ immigration funding maneuver and we’re right where we would have been had the bill passed and been rejected.

Obama and Reid play on the same team, so Republicans can’t let the media portray this as anything other than what it is – a high stakes dispute over whether policy gets decided according to the rule of law or the whim of one.

If the president wants to start the negotiating process earlier than expected, so be it. Republicans in Congress shouldn’t use this an excuse to cave.

There had to be a strategy to overcome the veto, at least in the court of public opinion. After today’s vote, it’s time to accelerate the time line.