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June 9th, 2024 at 10:40 pm
Image of the Day: Minorities Prospered Far More Under Trump
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In our latest Liberty Update, we highlight how Americans have soured on “Bidenomics” despite Biden supporters’ ongoing insistence that voters trust them rather than over three years of actual, real-life experience and hardship.  Well, our friends at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity have highlighted another point that merits emphasis as minorities turn against Biden in his reelection effort.  Namely, they prospered far more under President Trump than President Biden:

Minorities Prospered Far More Under Trump Than Biden

Minorities Prospered Far More Under Trump Than Biden

 

May 29th, 2024 at 11:26 am
Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse
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At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we’ve chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how federal law allows victimized taxpayers to sue the government for at least $1,000 and attorneys’ fees.  His broader point, however, is that crimes like those perpetrated against him could be avoided if the IRS simply collected and retained less confidential information, much of which it doesn’t even need for legitimate operational purposes:

 

The problem transcends the Littlejohn leak.  A 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office documented 462 unauthorized accesses or disclosures of tax information between 2012 and 2021, ‘of which 24 resulted in guilty outcomes’ after referrals to the Justice Department.  Much of this could be solved if the government simply collected and stored less confidential data.”

 

We agree wholeheartedly, and applaud Mr. Stoll for speaking out even though ProPublica retains his data and could vindictively release it at any time.

May 19th, 2024 at 11:04 pm
Image of the Day: Americans’ Shrinking Earnings Under Joe Biden
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Joe Biden tells Americans that he’s helping them by building “from the bottom up and the middle out.”  But the numbers don’t lie, and the ugly reality is that he’s only dragging us all toward the bottom.  Throughout his presidency, wage gains (green) have been consistently exceeded by inflation (blue), meaning loss in real earnings (red):

Bidenomcs Means Lost Earnings

Bidenomics Means Lost Earnings

May 8th, 2024 at 12:39 pm
Image of the Day: “Bidenomics” Crushes Consumer Confidence
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Consumer spending accounts for approximately two-thirds of the U.S. economy, so Joe Biden’s crushing impact on consumer confidence helps resolve his apologists’ confusion over Biden’s economic disapproval.  After inheriting an economy rebounding from the Covid shock, Biden’s policies quickly drove consumer confidence back downward, where it continues to stagnate.  No wonder he finds himself in such electoral hot water.

Bidenomics Crushing Consumer Confidence

Bidenomics Crushes Consumer Confidence

 

April 18th, 2024 at 11:47 am
Image of the Day: U.S. Internet Speeds Skyrocketed After Ending Failed Title II “Net Neutrality” Experiment
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CFIF often highlights how the Biden Administration’s bizarre decision to resurrect failed Title II “Net Neutrality” internet regulation, which caused private broadband investment to decline for the first time ever outside of a recession during its brief experiment at the end of the Obama Administration, is a terrible idea that will only punish consumers if allowed to take effect.

Here’s what happened after that brief experiment was repealed under the Trump Administration and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai – internet speeds skyrocketed despite late-night comedians’ and left-wing activists’ warnings that the internet was doomed:

Internet Speeds Post-

Internet Speeds Post-“Net Neutrality”

 

April 5th, 2024 at 5:09 pm
April Fools’ Day Four Days Late? Google Objects to OpenAI Using YouTube to Train Its Own Generator
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File under “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.”

Somehow, it actually seems like a farcical April Fools’ Day headline, in fact.  Google, with its deep history of scraping and scanning other sources’ substantive content for its own uses, now objects to OpenAI using YouTube content to train its text-to-video generator:

The use of YouTube videos to train OpenAI’s text-to-video generator would be an infraction of the platform’s terms of service, YouTube Chief Executive Officer Neal Mohan said.”

Optimists might hope that Google is finally recognizing and preparing to correct its wayward course, while realists and cynics will roll their eyes at what they’ll label naivete.  As the old adage goes, however, “every saint has a past, every sinner has a future,” so we’ll maintain hope.

March 16th, 2024 at 12:56 pm
More Legal Shenanigans from the Biden Administration’s Department of Education
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Among the foremost threats to individual freedom in America is the abusive and oftentimes lawless behavior of federal administrative agencies, whose vast armies of overpaid bureaucrats remain unaccountable for their excesses.

Among the most familiar examples of that bureaucratic abuse is the Department of Education (DOE).  Recall, for instance, the United States Supreme Court’s humiliating rebuke last year of the Biden DOE’s effort to shift hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt from the people who actually owed them onto the backs of American taxpayers.

Even now, despite that rebuke, the Biden DOE launched an alternative scheme last month in an end-around effort to achieve that same result.

Well, the Biden DOE is now attempting to shift tens of millions of dollars of student debt held by thousands of students onto the University of Arizona after the fact following U of A’s acquisition of the for-profit online university that it originally targeted.  In other words, the Biden DOE is compounding its habit of forgiving student debt by shifting the cost ex post facto onto the backs of Arizona taxpayers.

Not exactly the best way to flatter citizens of a swing state whose votes it desperately seeks amid sinking electoral prospects.

Here’s the background.

Amid a rapidly evolving educational environment, in August of 2020 the U of A announced its intent to acquire private online Ashford University in an attempt to extend its global reach, a pursuit shared by numerous other traditional universities.  The new entity was named the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC).

Well, years prior to the acquisition California and federal bureaucrats had accused Ashford of “deceptive” tactics, and last year the Biden DOE announced that it would discharge $72 million dollars in debt held by 2,300 of Ashford’s former students.

Lo and behold, this month the Biden DOE announced that it would seek to extract that amount from the U of A, which obviously had nothing to do with the conduct alleged by the DOE and California.

It all adds yet another questionable element to the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to boost its popularity among younger voters by shifting college student debt to anyone and everyone other than the legal borrowers themselves.  Whether that will please taxpayers in the swing state of Arizona might have been a consideration that escaped the Biden folks.

March 8th, 2024 at 12:51 pm
Image of the Day: Top 1% Paid MORE Following Tax Cuts
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Among his parade of other outright untruths in his borderline unhinged State of the Union address, last night Joe Biden repeated his economically illiterate claim that “trickle down” tax cuts benefit wealthier Americans at the expense of federal revenues.  Our friends at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity once again provide an invaluable illustration of the falsity of that claim:

 

 

February 8th, 2024 at 12:35 pm
TikTok’s Latest Assault: Ripping Off American Artists and Songwriters
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Americans are by now broadly aware of the threat posed by Chinese-owned TikTok, including its threat to U.S. national security.

In recent days, we’ve witnessed in real time another emerging TikTok threat reaching the headlines:  The threat it poses to intellectual property protections, which undergird America’s status as the most artistically and musically productive and influential nation in human history.

Universal Music Group, however, has decided to stand up and fight back by removing its catalog of songs – including artists like Taylor Swift, Drake and Billie Eilish – from TikTok.

Tone-Deaf TikTok has built its aggressive worldwide empire largely on the backs of music created by American artists, as even its corporate leadership openly admits.  As TikTok’s very own “Year in TikTok 2021 Music Report” states in its opening sentence, “Music is at the heart of the TikTok experience.”

Those are its own words.  Indeed, TikTok content features music to a degree beyond other social media platforms.

As the contractual relationship between Universal and TikTok approached its end on January 31, TikTok decided to play hardball by proposing to compensate songwriters and artists a fraction of what other social media platforms pay, essentially disregarding its reliance on music-based content amid ascending advertising revenues and user base.

In other words, TikTok demands a right to build a music-reliant business without paying fair market value for that music on which it relies.

Songwriters and performing artists invest enormous amounts of time, talent and resources in creating their original works of art.  In so doing, those artists and songwriters obtain intellectual property rights in their creations.  By leveraging its massive and growing worldwide power, TikTok seeks to exploit those creative works for its own benefit without just compensation.  That violates the artists’ intellectual property rights, which have provided the fuel by which America became the world’s leader in music influence.  Artists deserve fair compensation for the use of their creations, and TikTok cannot be allowed to jeopardize America’s system of IP protections.

It also merits emphasis that TikTok’s behavior threatens emerging artists and songwriters most of all.  Whereas established artists often possess other potential revenue sources, emerging artists and songwriters rely more heavily upon royalties and fair compensation for their works.  Consequently, TikTok’s refusal to fairly compensate for use of music in expanding its platform will stifle growth of new musicians and restrict their ability to sustain careers in an already competitive industry.

TikTok has made many enemies, and its behavior in this instance helps illustrate why that’s the case.  It is inherently unfair and improper for TikTok to use its vast and growing control to exploit songwriters’ and musical artists’ creations to amass even more profits and expand its worldwide reach without offering fair compensation to those creative minds who play such an outsized role in its business model and growth.

Universal Music Group merits applause for standing up to TikTok, which may inspire others in positions of power to follow its lead.

 

January 24th, 2024 at 5:28 pm
Image of the Day: Wages Still Haven’t Even Caught Up to Inflation Under “Bidenomics”
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As Joe Biden attempts to paint a rosy picture despite Americans’ real-world experiences, the truth is that wages still haven’t caught up to inflation during his presidency:

Inflation Exceeds Wages Under Biden

Inflation Outpaces Wages Under Biden

January 2nd, 2024 at 11:32 am
Image of the New Year: Biden Brags About Job Gains, But They’ve Continually Slowed Under Him
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The Biden Administration and its advocates insist that the economy is flourishing, often citing the job market.  According to the federal government’s own numbers, however, job gains have slowed since Biden entered the White House:

Job Gains Have Slowed Under Biden

Job Gains Have Slowed Under Biden

 

December 19th, 2023 at 5:11 pm
Stat of the Day: Prescription Drug Prices Have ACCELERATED Since Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act”
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Following up on our latest Liberty Update commentary highlighting the deepening disaster that is the Biden Administration healthcare and pharmaceutical policy, The Wall Street Journal notes that prescription drug prices have actually ACCELERATED their price inflation since Biden’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act”:

Prescription drug prices increased by 2% during the Trump Presidency owing to greater generic competition, yet they’ve increased 5.5% so far under Mr. Biden. In November they rose at an annual rate of nearly 6%. Has the White House considered that the reason Americans don’t believe that the President’s policies have helped them is because they haven’t?”

The Biden Administration needs to correct course for the benefit of Americans, not double down.  But time is running out.

November 27th, 2023 at 3:51 pm
New Study Shows How Overregulating Short-Term Lenders Harms Consumers
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We at CFIF have consistently highlighted the peril of federal, state and local government efforts targeting the short-term consumer lending sector.

Less than two years ago, we specifically sounded the alarm on a New Mexico law artificially restricting interest rates on short-term consumer loans.

Well, a new study entitled “A New Mexico Consumer Survey:  Understanding the Impact of the 2023 Rate Cap on Consumers” that surveyed actual borrowers confirms our earlier warnings:

Key findings include:

•Short-term,small-dollar loans help borrowers manage their financial situations, irrespective of the borrower’s income.

•The rate cap has failed to improve the financial wellbeing of New Mexicans, specifically those who had previously relied on short-term, small-dollar loans.

•Most former short-term, small-dollar loan users struggled with paying their bills since the rate cap took effect on January 1, 2023. At the same time, a majority of borrowers indicated they were unable to access credit at some point following the rate cap.

•When unable to obtain credit, consumers said they were left with poor alternatives, including late bill payments, skipping urgent appointments or vital expenses, or pawning valuables.

•The vast majority of borrowers want the option to return to their previous lender, demonstrating support for the loan options available before the rate cap.”

The lesson is once again obvious:  Although bureaucrats claim to help struggling consumers through such overregulatory efforts as capping repayment rates, the real-world impact only eliminates a source of reliable, legal short-term loans to navigate temporary emergencies.

To illustrate, a 2018 Federal Reserve System Board of Governors study on the economic wellbeing of U.S. households found that almost 40% of U.S. families don’t couldn’t cover even $400 in emergency expenses.  Outrageously, 51% of military service members live paycheck-to-paycheck.  Unfortunately, credit cards aren’t always a viable option, and traditional bank loans are unavailable due to the small amounts needed.  Although higher-income Americans with stronger credit histories can borrow from banks, use assets they possess as leverage or use their savings amounts, people with lower credit scores and little in savings cannot.  According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, some 46% of consumers possess credit scores below 700, meaning that traditional bank loans aren’t possible for them.

Fortunately, short-term consumer finance loans can allow struggling Americans to access money needed to meet emergencies.

Under counterproductive laws like New Mexico’s, however, consumer finance lending becomes less available.  The unintended consequence of that is sadly foreseeable:  More people seek out illegal loansharks, suffer overdrafts, or simply fail to cover temporary costs.  As the World Bank found, such regulatory and legislative efforts as New Mexico’s lead to “increases in non-interest fees and commissions; reduced price transparency; lower number of institutions and reduced branch density; and adverse impacts on bank profitability, in addition to the lack of access for smaller and riskier borrowers.”

As expected, New Mexico’s H.B. 132 restrictions are already punishing the very people that it ostensibly claims to protect, making consumer finance lending more difficult, more expensive and less available.  It offers an ominous warning to other jurisdictions considering similar laws, and a quick lesson to New Mexico political leaders who can correct their mistake.

 

November 14th, 2023 at 11:36 am
Image of the Day: Israel Versus Hamas
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As pro-Israel marchers congregate in Washington, D.C., today and too much of the world swallows Hamas’s portrayal of itself as victim, an oldie but a goodie provides a helpful primer and corrective:

The Difference Between Israel and Hamas

The Difference Between Israel and Hamas

October 30th, 2023 at 11:21 am
Image of the Day: People Flee Blue States
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Credit to Axios, whose image again prompts the question:  If the political left possesses the superior governance model, then why do people flee places where it is put into effect?  Just asking.

People Flee Blue States for Red

People Flee Blue States for Red

October 16th, 2023 at 3:28 pm
Image of the Day: Consumer Satisfaction with Internet Service Jumped After Brief “Net Neutrality” Order Reversed
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We continue to highlight the potentially disastrous consequences if the Biden Administration FCC revives the “Net Neutrality” zombie briefly imposed by the Obama Administration, which caused private broadband investment to decline for the first time in history outside of a recession.

When the FCC under Ajit Pai reversed the Obama FCC’s order in 2017, the usual litany of partisan leftists and latenight comedians predicted disaster.   Instead, as we’ve often noted, investment and internet speeds proceeded to increase.

Well, something else increased:  American consumers’ satisfaction with their internet service.  Something to keep in mind as the needless “Net Neutrality” debate returns:

Ending

Ending “Net Neutrality” Boosted U.S. Consumer Satisfaction

October 1st, 2023 at 10:19 pm
Image of the Day: Internet Speeds INCREASED After Repeal of So-Called “Net Neutrality”
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In our latest Liberty Update, we highlight how the Biden Administration is inexplicably resurrecting the zombie “Net Neutrality” that caused demonstrable harm to internet service during its mercifully brief lifetime at the end of the Obama Administration.  Once again, our friend economist Steve Moore illustrates one of the critical points in this debate well.  Namely, internet speeds shot back sharply upward after the Trump Administration FCC under Ajit Pai repealed the Obama FCC’s Title II-Net Neutrality order:

Replealing

Repealing “Net Neutrality” Increased Speeds

 

September 26th, 2023 at 7:25 pm
Event Ticket Purchases: The Proposed BOSS Act Would Empower Biden’s Rogue FTC and Make Matters Worse, Not Better
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A summer whose entertainment headlines were dominated by Taylor Swift and her blowout concert tour just came to an end.  Unsurprisingly, a significant number of those headlines centered upon the ongoing public policy debate over the consumer ticket purchase experience, along with varying and differing calls for reform.

Unfortunately, some of that discussion served to introduce terribly ill-advised proposals that would only make the industry and American consumers’ enjoyment of it far worse.

To be sure, the genesis of the problem underlying various reform proposals is the issue of predatory ticket resellers who engage in harmful practices that hurt fans as well as the artists themselves.  As just one illustration, resale ticket prices at StubHub alone have increased over 100% since as recently as 2019, even while the face value of the tickets being resold have increased only 10%.  No wonder consumers desire reform.

Currently, a complex patchwork of state laws govern the industry, which logically invites Congress to streamline consumer protections while still protecting artists’ underlying rights by prohibiting predatory resellers, ticket brokers and ticketing platforms from disregarding the negotiated contractual terms and conditions between artists and venues in which they perform.  Such federal-level reform should include limitations on price-gougers who seek to resell tickets above their face value.

Unfortunately, some Congressional proposals would make today’s problems infinitely worse.

As an especially egregious example, the “BOSS Act” would impose a Biden Administration-style, heavy-handed, big-government regime that would simply empower federal bureaucrats.  Americans struggling under deepening economic and governmental dysfunction due to Biden Administration policies hardly need instruction on how that’s an unsettling idea.

Specifically, the BOSS Act would empower the rogue Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under activist chair Lina Khan would be granted unprecedented authority to micromanage the ticketing market, set prices despite its lack of expertise or skin in the game, substitute its authority for the freely negotiated agreements for events between artists and other parties, impose ticket inventory rules, dictate timelines and inhibit artists’ ability to keep ticket prices affordable for their actual fans over wealthy corporate purchasers.  Meanwhile, the BOSS Act would do nothing to stop websites from duping fans into believing that they’re officially affiliated with the concert venue or sports teams, nor would it prevent shady sellers from offering tickets they don’t even possess yet.

If nothing else, the FTC’s recent record of successive and embarrassing courtroom defeats for its overreach and extra-legal activities should inform American how bad an idea it would be to suddenly give it free reign to govern the market.

What’s more, the free market has already been coming up with solutions to the longstanding concerns over the ticket purchase experience.  For instance, entertainment promotion and ticket company Live Nation in recent months unveiled an “all-in pricing” idea that took effect this month.  Under that voluntary reform, all-in pricing allows fans to see up-front the full price of tickets, including fees.  That matters, because knowing the total cost of tickets from the beginning makes purchase easier and more in line with other types of online shopping.

Congress, however, can still play a helpful role beyond those free market improvements.  Better enforcement of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, for instance, would guarantee that real, actual fans, rather than “bots” used by predatory resellers, gain first opportunity to purchase tickets to performances.

What’s critical is that any Congressional reform must protect artists’ ability to choose how tickets to their own performances are sold, which in turn helps guarantee that their fans get to actually see their favorite artists perform.  The BOSS Act fails in that regard, whereas market forces and the BOTS Act offer improvement.

 

September 25th, 2023 at 12:07 pm
“It’s Working?”
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In our latest Liberty Update we highlight how replacing Joe Biden atop the Democrats’ 2024 ticket wouldn’t substantively change the left’s “Bidenomics” economic agenda that is the main voter concern driving his unpopularity.  In noting Biden’s strange and stubborn habit of whispering into the microphone that “It’s working” when promoting that failing agenda, we noted that poverty just surged at a record rate last year, according to the federal government itself.  From our friend Stephen Moore, here’s a helpful visual placing it in stark relief:

Bidenomics Is

Bidenomics Is “Working?”

September 13th, 2023 at 1:18 pm
Drug Price Controls: On 9/13, Let’s End the Indefensible 9-13 Small Molecule/Large Molecule Protection Disparity
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In recent days, we at CFIF have marked the ignominious one-year anniversary of the Biden Administration’s misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) by noting its particularly negative impact on pharmaceutical innovation and, in turn, the nation’s health and wellbeing.

As acknowledged by the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security  as well as groups like the American Cancer Society, Americans are already confronting alarming and unprecedented drug shortages in the wake of the IRA.

To mark today’s date of September 13 – or 9/13 – it’s appropriate to note a different but significant 9-13:  That refers to the indefensible distinction that the IRA makes between what are known as “small-molecule” and “large-molecule” drugs.

Specifically, the IRA imposes destructive price controls on small-molecule drugs merely 9 years following Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, while waiting 13 years to impose those price controls on large-molecule drugs.  Although price controls of any duration and of any type only serve to create shortages and discourage innovation, that baseless disparity in the IRA needlessly discourages investment in small-molecule pharmaceuticals.

As cogently stated by leading scientific and medical expert Daniel Skovronsky in STATReports, it’s imperative that Congress correct that unjustifiable 9-13 distinction:

[T]o researchers like me, a provision in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act is puzzling.  For no clear reason, it draws a distinction between large and small molecule medicines.  As part of the IRA’s Medicare price control provisions, price negotiation for small molecule medicines is allowed nine years after Food and Drug Administration approval compared with 13 years for large molecule biologics.  There is no scientific reason for this distinction, and it will have a real and detrimental impact on drug discovery and patient care.  Nine years is not enough time to recoup the deep investments into small molecule R&D before government price controls take effect.  As a result, companies will deprioritize small molecule programs, lowering the potential to create drugs using these technologies.  Congress should correct this imbalance by allowing negotiation after a full 13 years for both small-molecule medicines and their large-molecule counterparts.”

There’s simply no sound basis for that 9-13 small-molecule/large-molecule differential, and on 9/13 we urge Congress to correct this error.