Archive for June, 2010
June 17th, 2010 at 11:39 am
Taking a Hatch-et to ObamaCare

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) today introduced two new pieces of legislation to repeal the most troubling provisions of ObamaCare. 

“The first, The American Liberty Restoration Act (S. 3502), would repeal the individual mandate that Hatch has repeatedly called unconstitutional and has prompted lawsuits by over 20 states. The second, the American Job Protection Act (S.3501), would repeal the job-killing employer mandate that Hatch says would force more layoffs and increase taxes on businesses at a time of near 10 percent unemployment,” reads a press statement released by the Senator’s office.

On the individual mandate, Senator Hatch said:

Congress overstepped its authority by telling Americans that they have to buy health insurance or else.  The Constitution empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but does not tell Americans what they must buy. It’s time to repeal this unconstitutional Washington mandate that encroaches on the principle of federalism and Utahns’ personal liberty.”

On the employer mandate, Hatch noted:

The employer mandate would force businesses to let people go or raise the cost of doing business to such an extent that they don’t start hiring. This doesn’t make any sense at any time, but especially when our nation’s unemployment rate remains stuck around ten percent.  Let’s repeal this job-killing provision so businesses can back in the business of hiring.”

It’s time to light up the Capitol switchboard, folks.  Both S. 3502 and S.3501 are more than worthy and in need of your support!

June 17th, 2010 at 9:49 am
Ramirez Cartoon: We Need a Moratorium on … Politics
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

June 16th, 2010 at 4:59 pm
California Gives the Lie to Obama’s Clean Energy Promises
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Why bother editorializing when — as lawyers and Romans would say — Res ipsa loquitur.

From President Obama’s Oval Office address last night:

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

From an article in today’s Ventura County Star about California’s draconian greenhouse gas regulations:

Californians need to acknowledge the full consequences of the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accept the reality “that the net result of green policies may be negative for the economy,” says a report released today by the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting…

The report examines economic studies in Europe, where the movement toward green jobs began. It finds the government costs of subsidizing jobs in the renewable energy sector have been excessive.

“In Germany, as in Spain, there is considerable belief that the job creation afforded by investment in renewables has been more than offset by the impact of more expensive energy, which has slowed consumption and investment elsewhere in the economy,” the report says.

In the U.S., it says, “Even as energy prices have increased, the growth of green jobs has been slower than expected. The evidence shows that green jobs and the regulations needed to spur them are expensive and hurt the economy.”

So, Mr. President, how long-term were you thinking exactly?

More on the economic lunacy in my new column reviewing the President’s speech last night.

June 16th, 2010 at 10:30 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Obama’s Notes On the BP Oil Spill
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In response to President Obama’s televised speech from the Oval Office regarding the BP oil spill in the Gulf, below is Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez’s latest cartoon.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

June 15th, 2010 at 5:53 pm
Florida Tries “Federalism” at the County Level

Political science purists would quibble with using the term federalism to describe a county government’s ability to declare itself able to act against the wishes of federal and state government…but who cares?

Certainly not the take-the-bull-by-horns types running Florida’s Okaloosa County.  With the Gulf Oil Spill threatening to damage the county’s Choctawhatchee Bay, supervisors “voted unanimously to give their emergency management team the power to take whatever action it deems necessary to prevent” that from happening.

That means the team, led by Public Safety Director Dino Villani, can take whatever action it sees fit to protect the pass without having its plans approved by state or federal authorities.

Commission chairman Wayne Harris said he and his fellow commissioners made their unanimous decision knowing full well they could be prosecuted for it.

“We made the decision legislatively to break the laws if necessary. We will do whatever it takes to protect our county’s waterways and we’re prepared to go to jail to do it,” he said.

Isn’t it instructive to see the relationship between a politician’s decisiveness and his proximity to the people most affected by the spill?  Maybe there is something to the idea that any activity that can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be.  If anything, the Obama Administration’s hunger for more centralized power over health care, the financial sector, and even the oil spill is showing the limits of so-called “comprehensive” solutions.

June 15th, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Pakistani Police Detain Colorado Man for Hunting Bin Laden – Why?

Say what you will about Gary Brooks Faulkner’s quest to find and kill Osama bin Laden in the region between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at least the terminally ill man has a bucket list.

According to reporting by Fox News, Faulkner suffers from an incurable kidney ailment that left him wanting to go out with a bang before he died.  This from his brother:

“Now that he’s on dialysis he realized that this is going to be his last hurrah,” said Dr. Scott Faulkner, an internist in Fort Morgan, Colo. “One way or the other he knew — if his kidneys failed him, he could die on the mountain, he could take a bullet, or he could get bin Laden.”

Faulkner is trained in the Korean martial art of hapkido, was on his seventh trip to execute America’s #1 enemy, and was armed with a pistol, 40 inch sword and night vision equipment.  He’s also savvy enough to get dialysis treatment for his ailing kidneys in between scouting remote forests and mountain ranges.

It’s unclear whether Faulkner will be returned to America or stand trial in Pakistan.  Either way, that the Pakistani government would arrest him for doing what it’s failed to do since 2001 seems counterproductive.  After all, if a highly motivated foreigner wants to risk his life in Waziristan attempting to kill Pakistan’s – and America’s – most lethal enemy, why not let him die trying?  Let’s let Gary be a force multiplier and see if he can at least spook bin Laden out of hiding.

June 15th, 2010 at 11:26 am
“Net Neutrality” – Broadband Expansion Requires Regulatory Restraint, Not Regulatory Expansion
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Whom do you trust with the future of broadband?  The same federal government that brought us public education, the Post Office and Amtrak?

Or the innovative technology companies that have made the Internet the most vibrant and transformative sector of our modern economy in an atmosphere relatively free from federal overregulation?  Public opinion is unequivocal – we trust technology enterprises, not the federal government.

That question nevertheless remains an important one, because Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its far-left cheerleaders continue their effort to impose “Net Neutrality” and set us on a path toward a federal regulatory takeover of the Internet.  On Thursday, the FCC will hold an open meeting to”consider possible legal frameworks for broadband Internet services,” which is code for its “Net Neutrality” takeover attempt.  On the heels of a unanimous Court of Appeals decision ruling that the FCC doesn’t possess authority to impose “Net Neutrality,” Chairman Genachowski switched to Plan B – simply reclassify Internet service under Depression-era regulations created for 1930s landline telephone service.  That scheme contradicts bipartisan consensus spanning both the Clinton and Bush administrations, which is why Democrats and Republicans in Congress sent letters to the FCC objecting to this maneuver.

If successful, the FCC’s backdoor scheme to impose “Net Neutrality” (a dishonest name if there ever was one) will undermine the freedom of technology companies to innovate and invest, which has been the basis of the Internet’s success thus far.  Instead of triggering broadband expansion, “Net Neutrality” will only invite years of litigation and acrimony if the FCC presses this agenda.

We simply cannot allow the FCC and federal bureaucracy to do to the Internet what it has done for public education in this country.

June 14th, 2010 at 8:00 pm
We Are Doomed
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With apologies to John Derbyshire, that’s the conclusion it’s difficult to avoid reading the latest from Derb’s National Review colleague, Kevin Williamson. In a piece entitled “The Other National Debt“, Williamson looks at all of the extra liabilities that don’t make their way into the conventional tally of a $14 trillion national debt. His conclusions are hair-raising.

On state and local debt:

Beyond the official federal debt, there is another $2.5 trillion or so in state and local debt, according to Federal Reserve figures. Why so much? A lot of that debt comes from spending that is extraordinarily stupid and wasteful, even by government standards. Because state and local authorities can issue tax-free securities — municipal bonds — there’s a lot of appetite for their debt on the marketplace, and a whole platoon of local special-interest hustlers looking to get a piece. This results in a lot of misallocated capital: By shacking up with your local economic-development authority, you can build yourself a new major-league sports stadium with tax-free bonds, but you have to use old-fashioned financing, with no tax benefits, if you want to build a factory — which is to say, you can use tax-free municipal bonds to help create jobs, so long as those jobs are selling hot dogs to sports fans.

On exploding public pensions:

States aren’t going to be able to make up those pension shortfalls out of general tax revenue, at least not at current levels of taxation. In Ohio, for instance, the benefit payments in 2031 would total 55 percent of projected 2031 tax revenues. For most states, pension payments will total more than a quarter of all tax revenues in the years after they run out of money. Most of those pensions cannot be modified: Illinois, for instance, has a constitutional provision that prevents reducing them. Unless there is a radical restructuring of these programs, and soon, states will either have to subsidize their pension systems with onerous new taxes or seek a bailout from Washington.

And — the death shot — entitlements:

The debt numbers start to get really hairy when you add in liabilities under Social Security and Medicare— in other words, when you account for the present value of those future payments in the same way that businesses have to account for the obligations they incur. Start with the entitlements and those numbers get run-for-the-hills ugly in a hurry: a combined $106 trillion in liabilities for Social Security and Medicare, or more than five times the total federal, state, and local debt we’ve totaled up so far. In real terms, what that means is that we’d need $106 trillion in real, investable capital, earning 6 percent a year, on hand, today, to meet the obligations we have under those entitlement programs. For perspective, that’s about twice the total private net worth of the United States. (A little more, in fact.)

These numbers underscore the need for real change, quickly advanced. Keep your eyes fixed to CFIF, where we’ll soon be unveiling a campaign to corral the runaway spending.

June 14th, 2010 at 12:37 pm
Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium”?

According to U.S. geologists, Afghans soon may be able to build an economy of something other than narco-terrorism.  The world leader of supplying opium is also sitting on perhaps a huge deposit of lithium, a key mineral used in creating batteries for computers, watches, and other electronic devices.  The effects of such a find could dramatically improve the standard of living in the country by encouraging foreign capital investment as firms seek to mine and process the mineral for export.

But before we get carried away by this newfound, morally neutral revenue stream, let’s pause for a moment to consider the coming liberal backlash.

“See, we did invade because we wanted to exploit the natives and their resources; it just took almost a decade to find out how!”

“Mining for minerals is an environmentally and culturally unsatisfactory way to build an economy.  Afghanistan should be left in a state of nature so that future generations of Bedouins can continue their ancient way of life.”

“Substituting lithium for opium as Afghanistan’s primary export in no way minimizes America’s need to legalize drugs.”

And of course, “These people will never be able to share their resources.”

Now, if General David Petraeus could just find a way to clear out the Taliban and negotiate some fair treaties between Afghanistan and foreign firms he’ll be well positioned for a 2012 presidential run.

H/T: Fox News

June 14th, 2010 at 12:09 pm
The Hubris to Think Small

As a die-hard space enthusiast, I find it hard to believe that the Obama Administration can’t seem to come up with $3 billion a year to sustain America’s manned space program.  From the folks who continue to bring us trillion dollar deficits and hundreds of billions in new spending for feel-good policies like universal health insurance, combating climate change, and subsidized job creation, can it really be that the end of the budget line stops just short of funding NASA’s Constellation program?

Apparently so.  A commission created by President Obama concluded that NASA’s current strategy is too expensive, lacks innovation, and takes too long to achieve its goal of getting Americans back to the Moon, and then off to Mars by 2020.  The criticism reminds me of the adage about getting something fast, accurate, and cheap: you can have any two, but not all three.  Thus, it looks like Americans will get nothing now that Obama’s NASA chief is directing contractors to abort their work as the government prepares to terminate the program.

So, good riddance thousands of science and engineering jobs; hello make-work Recovery Act projects!

Though I’m sure the Obama White House doesn’t agree; killing the Constellation program is the latest example of an inner circle that can’t see the forest for the trees.  Afghanistan is the war that won’t (can’t?) end; no one seems to know how to “plug the damn hole” in the Gulf; and there is growing unease about the direction of the country from the Left and the Right.  Wouldn’t a presidential challenge to put an American on Mars by the end of this decade be the kind of national rallying point we need?

It would inspire the best and brightest to pursue astrophysics instead of exotic financial careers, spur public and private investments in aerospace (and by extension, defense) technology, and give Americans a reason to wave Old Glory together apart from a sporting event or wartime.  It would also make good on the president’s implied promise to be the heir of John F. Kennedy, the first chief executive to call for a national moon shot.

For that, though, this president would need a quality that has so far eluded him: the courage to lay down an unmistakable threshold of success.

June 14th, 2010 at 11:03 am
Ramirez Cartoon – Barack Obama: A Comparison to Past Presidents
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

June 14th, 2010 at 9:53 am
Data: Obamanomics Causing Consumers and Businesses to Batten Down the Hatches?
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Are Barack Obama’s economic policies sucking oxygen from our precarious economic recovery?  Economic numbers released at the end of last week provide the latest evidence of that troublesome possibility.

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve reported that American businesses were hoarding an all-time record $1.84 trillion in cash and other liquid assets at the end of March.  This inclination to sock away their accumulated dollars rather than spend on expansion or new hiring suggests trepidation regarding the prospects of near-term economic recovery.

Then, on Friday, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending – which constitutes over 2/3 of our economy – unexpectedly plummeted 1.2% from April to May.  This was the first month-on-month decline in seven months, and prompted The Wall Street Journal to report that, “the surprisingly poor sales cast fresh doubt on the durability of a rebound in consumer spending that had allowed economists to raise their forecasts for U.S. growth this year despite a moribund housing market, a dismal job market and tepid business investment.”

Obama and his allies continue to claim credit for the cyclical end of the 2008-2009 recession, but it appears more likely that their policies are stifling it.  Coming out of our most recent severe recession, the U.S. achieved rapid gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8%.  Now, in contrast, we’re witnessing lukewarm 3% growth and depressing employment numbers.

With Obama promising even more tax hikes, deficit spending and unpredictable new regulations, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that both businesses and consumers are bracing for an Obamanomics storm, not a spring bloom.

June 11th, 2010 at 5:28 pm
Poll: Technology Companies Highly Favored, Despite Most Institutions’ Unpopularity
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“Americans are not very satisfied with most prominent institutions.”  That’s the opening comment of a scientific poll released today by the Pew Research Center.

A striking exception?  Technology companies.

By an enormous 68% to 18% margin, Americans state that technology companies have a positive “effect on the way things are going in the country.”  This stands among the highest of thirteen institutions rated, including such entities as Congress, the federal government, religious institutions and the entertainment industry.  Small businesses also scored high in public esteem, by a 71% to 19% margin.

Yet Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and pro-regulation activists push “Net Neutrality” Internet regulation under the myth that we’re facing some alleged broadband or technological crisis?  This vivid poll result should open their eyes, especially following our observation yesterday that 91% are happy with their home broadband speed.

In contrast, the public rates the very federal government that would impose “Net Neutrality” negatively by a 65% to 25% margin.  Congress is also rated negatively by a 65% to 24% margin, and labor unions disfavored by a 49% to 32% margin.

The crisis isn’t in broadband or the state of our technology sector, Chairman Genachowski.  The crisis lies in public confidence in over-regulatory federal bureaucracies like yours.

June 11th, 2010 at 5:15 pm
The Best-Ever Description of President Obama …
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… comes from the Weekly Standard’s Noemie Emery writing in today’s DC Examiner:

He’s the sleek, splashy sports car that sits in the driveway, that looked so cool in the showroom, and handled so well on the test drive, but has a bad habit of stalling in traffic, and just doesn’t take to the road.

How fitting. The president Americans chose to get us out of an economic crisis fed by excessive consumption has turned out to be an impulse buy.

June 11th, 2010 at 4:51 pm
David Souter Speaks Truth Without Power

Retirement must be a wonderful thing for former Supreme Court Justice David Souter.  Unburdened by the consequences of deciding cases, the judicial version of a RINO (Republican In Nomination Only) is telling Americans what he wants them to hear.  In essence, judging isn’t easy.  Thus, demands to restrict a judge’s attention to the text of a statute or the Constitution itself when deciding a dispute are pointless because a written law can’t contemplate every situation.  Sometimes a judge has to be a gap-filler.

Souter’s recent commencement address at Harvard is worth the read to get a sense of a pointed critique of Justice Antonin Scalia’s countervailing view of textual interpretation (A Matter of Interpretation).  Ironically, the main gripe with Souter’s speech isn’t its substance, but its timing.  Even Dahlia Lithwick of Slate stammers to explain a reason for waiting until after serving 19 years on the Supreme Court to make a cogent counterpoint.

Are the Justices overworked?  They do, after all, get summers off.  Of the current crop, only Justices Steven Breyer (Active Liberty) and Scalia have written books explaining their methods of interpretation – and Scalia’s is an edited version of lectures he gave.  Since Souter didn’t take the time to write a systematic approach to judging while judging, perhaps he’ll use some of his self-imposed availability to give future judges a sense of how to wrestle with the complexities of the job.

Given Souter’s temperament, such a book may be published posthumously.

June 11th, 2010 at 4:19 pm
What’s Going On in South Carolina?!

While I don’t want any part of the mess surrounding the GOP run-off election for governor, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate is too intriguing to pass up.  Former Army and Air Force member Alvin Greene may be the most tragically comic major party nominee this election cycle.  Consider these opening paragraphs from a Washington Post profile:

Alvin M. Greene never gave a speech during his campaign to become this state’s Democratic nominee for Senate. He didn’t start a Web site or hire consultants or plant lawn signs. There’s only $114 in his campaign bank account, he says, and the only check he ever wrote from it was to cover his filing fee.

Indeed, in a three-hour interview, the unemployed military veteran could not name a single specific thing he’d done to campaign. Yet more than 100,000 South Carolinians voted for him on Tuesday, handing him nearly 60 percent of the vote and a resounding victory over Vic Rawl, a former judge who has served four terms in the state legislature.

Vic Rawl must be hating South Carolina voters today.  So too might Greene’s Republican opponent, conservative stalwart Senator Jim DeMint.  Imagine trying to run against a challenger with – to date – no position on anything other than, “We have to be pro-South Carolina.”

Things are getting awfully strange in the Palmetto State.  Thankfully, its other U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is about as non-controversial as an immigration friendly, climate change believing Southern Republican can be.

June 11th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
Video: The Obama Doctrine … Rejected
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the need for President Obama to shift gears and restore American foreign policy to what actually works:  treating our friends as friends and our enemies as enemies.


June 11th, 2010 at 12:11 pm
Obama Flip-Flops Again, Will Meet With BP CEO Now
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We don’t know whether this is positive news or depressing news, but Barack Obama has flip-flopped once again.  Now, he says he will meet with British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward after all, just days after stating that he was not interested in such a meeting.

We suppose this is good news in the sense that if Obama is willing to meet murderous dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without preconditions,” then he should at least be willing to meet the CEO of the company desperately attempting to stop the worst oil spill in American history.

On the other hand, it demonstrates once again that a pledge from Obama is about as dependable as a teleprompter during a rainstorm.  His broken promises include a solemn vow not to raise taxes on anyone earning over $250,000, to comply with public campaign finance restrictions, to exclude lobbyists from his administration and to close the Guantanamo detention facility.  Many of Obama’s promises were ill-advised when offered, but how can businesses, foreign allies or anyone else gain any certainty from a man who reverses pledges he made only days earlier?

It’s a terrible prospect for the economy, which relies upon expectation stability, and international security to have such an unreliable White House occupant.

June 11th, 2010 at 10:28 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  Below is a summary of its contents:

Senik:  Sailing Under a White Flag: The High Seas Expose the Weakness of Obama’s Foreign Policy
Lee:  Survey Says: Liberals Stingier, Stupider Than Conservatives
Ellis:  Obama’s Weatherization Assistance Program Yet Another Example of Fraud and Abuse
CFIF Staff:  Casualties of the Mexican Border War

Freedom Minute Video:  The Obama Doctrine … Rejected
Podcast:  The FCC’s Unprecedented Attempt to Regulate the Internet
Jester’s Courtroom:  Seinfeld’s Wife Did Not Cook the Books

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

June 11th, 2010 at 8:27 am
Podcast: The FCC’s Unprecedented Attempt to Regulate the Internet

In an interview with CFIF, Americans for Prosperity Vice President Phil Kerpen discusses the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to circumvent a federal appeals court ruling and public opinion as it seeks to impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations on the Internet. 

Listen to the interview here.