Archive for December, 2012
December 17th, 2012 at 11:52 am
The Good News on Tim Scott

With news reports saying that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley today will appoint U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint, it’s worth revisiting a column I wrote on Scott when he was first running for Congress back in 2010. I believe mine was only the second major piece on Scott in a non-S.C. publication (Fred Barnes beat me by a week with an excellent piece). I loved the story he told about how his odyssey toward success was launched at a Chick-fil-A:

Young Mr. Scott did, however, hold down a part-time job taking tickets at a movie theater. The Chick-fil-A was next door. He bought fries there regularly. The restaurant’s proprietor, a guy named John Moniz – a “Christian conservative white Republican, although I didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Scott said – “just started recognizing me, and one day he came up and sat down next to me and started talking.”

Moniz (now deceased) somehow struck a chord with the young customer. Moniz talked about the virtues of discipline and concentration. They talked often and built a cross-generational friendship.

And Scott is a solid conservative:

To listen to Mr. Scott himself is to hear the clear echoes of former Housing and Urban Development secretary and vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, whom Mr. Scott revered. “That’s what I want to model as a public official. If it has to be done, let it be done by me with my own sweat equity. … The War on Poverty was four decades, and the same people are living in the same neighborhoods and the same bad houses, in the same poverty. A person who is full of compassion who is a conservative has to say that small business in a neighborhood creates jobs, not government. Government intervention does not lead to a more promising future. Entrepreneurship changes lives for real.” Also: “As a small-business owner, I cannot pay higher taxes and hire more people.”

Mr. Scott, though, seems far more comfortable talking about limiting government than Mr. Kemp was…

Now some might argue that Scott’s single term in Congress makes him a less qualified person for the Senate than some others who might have been chosen. But that ignores his 13 years on the Charleston City Council (four as chairman), his term in the state legislature, and his record of from-the-bootstraps successful business development. This extensive background in entrepreneurship and in more local levels of government is, arguably, exactly what is needed in the Senate. It should make him more dedicated to principles of federalism, and keep him better grounded. And it provided him with great experience in down-home, practical politics. He’s not just a talking head; Tim Scott is someone who produces results.

December 17th, 2012 at 11:19 am
Obama’s Obnoxious Obstructionism

President Obama bargains in bad faith. Or, rather, he doesn’t bargain at all, but pretends to do so — so, technically, I guess his pretensions to bargaining are the proof of bad faith.

I cannot name a single important instance in which President Obama actually gave any substantive ground to Republicans, on anything. There wasn’t a single concession to anybody right of center in ObamaCare. There was no concession in the “debt limit” negotiations, but instead merely a postponement of the situation until he hoped political circumstances would be more favorable. And now, in these “Fiscal Cliff” talks occurring now, every time John Boehner makes an offer, Obama actually moves in the other direction.

Back in the last talks 18 months ago, Obama reportedly originally asked for $800 billion in new revenues. Then he demanded $1.2 trillion, but said it could all be accomplished without higher rates. Now he demands $1.6 trillion, and says he won’t even come to the table unless rates are raised (not just loopholes and deductions limited) on exactly those he always has targeted, those couples making over $200 annually. Plus, rather than limiting spending, he is demanding more “stimulus” largesse and an unlimited, automatic extension of the debt limit.

So, even with Boeher now offering higher rates for those actually making $1 million or more a year — a HUGE concession for Republicans — Obama has rejected that out of hand, and did so within an hour or so.

This man has no interest in keeping the government solvent. Just the opposite: He obviously wants it to spend, spend, spend, and grow, grow, grow, no matter what. He’s playing a long-term game, for total federal-government control, no matter what the short-term damage he does.

One can easily be forgiven, based on this record, for thinking he really is trying to enact the Cloward-Piven strategy of causing economic collapse so bad that the only institution left with any power is the central government, which then can reformulate the entire system under its own, all-powerful auspices. Hence, also, Obama’s assault on the intermediary institutions of society, including faith-affiliated social services.

Whatever his real goals — whether Cloward-Piven, or something else — there is not a single shred of evidence to suggest he has any intention at all of getting the problems of deficit and debt under control. And there is no evidence that he is even searching for common ground. Obama’s behavior certainly approaches the sinister; it is like nothing this country has ever seen before. “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” said his fish-mailing thug aide Rahm Emanuel — and, by extension, never fail to try to foment a crisis, as long as you think you can blame the other side for it.

December 14th, 2012 at 10:55 am
This Week’s Liberty Update
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Center For Individual Freedom - Liberty Update

This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out. Below is a summary of its contents:

Ellis:  Fiscal Gap Worse Than Fiscal Cliff
CFIF Publishes New Policy Paper:  The Constitutional and Historical Foundations of Copyright Protection
Lee:  Right to Work: If Unions Benefit Workers, Why Must They Compel Membership?
Hillyer:  Ben Franklin’s Conservative Economic Wisdom

Podcast:  Challenging Washington to Spend One Dollar Less
Jester’s Courtroom:  The 100 lb Lawsuit

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.

December 14th, 2012 at 8:37 am
Podcast: Challenging Washington to Spend One Dollar Less
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In an interview with CFIF, Alex Cortes, Executive Director of Let Freedom Ring, discusses his organization’s effort to influence the fiscal cliff negotiations, called “One Dollar Less,” and why it is important to move the debate from the imaginary spending cuts to actually spending less.

Listen to the interview here.

December 13th, 2012 at 8:22 pm
Study: Federal Workers Not Overpaid

Jason Richwine of Heritage and Andrew Biggs of AEI provide an interesting thought experiment about the disparities between public and private employee compensation:

If public employees are underpaid, they ought to get raises when they switch to the private sector. But they don’t, and that fact is telling.

According to the SIPP data, the average federal worker shifting to a private job actually accepts a small salary reduction of around 3 percent. Similarly, private sector workers who move to federal jobs don’t take a pay cut. They get a first-year raise averaging 9 percent, well above the raise other workers get when they switch jobs within the private sector.

SIPP stands for Survey of Income and Program Participation, a Census Bureau dataset that tracks tens of thousands of households over several years as they switch jobs.  Using it above, Richwine and Biggs turn their thought experiment into a cold hard fact: Compensation is better in the public sector.

Think that’s sustainable?

December 13th, 2012 at 5:01 pm
New Studies Show Need For LEED Reform
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Earlier this year, we examined how land management regulations for our forests significantly alter economic activity in timber markets.  Since that time, more recent reports and studies underscore the importance of maintaining a level regulatory playing field, and how policies based on faulty assumptions can have economic and environmental consequences.

Specifically, forest certification programs like the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) recognize when a landowner or business complies with benchmarks that signify responsible forest management.  Tree farmers and businesses seek “certification” from these groups to preserve their property and sell “green” goods in the market.  Numerous studies and testimony from land managers and conservationists support all three systems as beneficial to the environment.  However, environmental activists continue to pressure private companies and government officials nationwide to favor FSC over the other two programs, which themselves certify tens of millions more acres of forests in America than FSC.

Specifically, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED system only defines FSC-certified wood as sustainable.  As a result, SFI or ATFS timber cannot enter LEED projects, of which there are more than 13,000 nationwide.  The USGBC is nominally a nonprofit organization, but local, state and federal agencies accept its guidelines without question, and mandate them in building projects.

The National Legal Policy Center underscored the wrongheadedness of that framework in a recent white paper entitled “The Ethics of Forest Certification: When Unintended Consequences Result.” The paper explains the anti-competitive nature of the LEED system, and how it forces taxpayer dollars to finance projects to benefit a private organization – FSC – over its competitors.  Additionally, the paper questions whether consumers get a “bang for their buck” when they pay price premiums in excess of 15% for FSC wood.  These questions occur due to documentation of “clear-cuts” of forests on FSC-certified land overseas, and the fact that FSC recognizes 90% of its forests in countries outside the U.S. – many of them with lower environmental standards.

The American Consumer Institute published another study, “Comparing Forest Certification Standards in the U.S.,” which highlights how the actual practices of certification programs in the U.S. do not always match public perceptions.  The study shows auditors for FSC readily acknowledging discrepancies between FSC’s implementation on the ground, and how land managers and FSC differ on common definitions for forestry terms.   This confusion leads to companies “leaving clumps of unmerchantable trees in scattered areas, usually in riparian areas, draws and inaccessible corners” on FSC property in the southern U.S.”

Given the anti-competitive nature of the current LEED rating system, the negligible environmental benefits of an FSC-only regime and the misinformation resulting from these frameworks, the time is long overdue to support a level playing field that allows all certification programs to compete equally among consumers, businesses and foresters.

A freer market would be a better market.

December 12th, 2012 at 6:00 pm
NOW They Want No Device Tax

As readers here are probably aware from all the prior pieces I’ve written on this topic, I believe one of the worst items in ObamaCare is the medical device tax, and I believe one of the worst pieces of political malpractice committed by the Romney team was the failure to campaign against it. Well, here’s more proof  of just how potent a political issue it should have been and of how awful a tax it is: Sixteen Democratic U.S. Senators and two Senators elect have written to Harry Reid asking that the device tax be “delayed.” (Quoting from a piece by Byron York) :

“[The senators wrote that] The medical technology industry directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million skilled manufacturing jobs,” the senators wrote in a December 4 letter to Reid.  “We must do all we can to ensure that our country maintains its global leadership position in the medical technology industry and keeps good jobs here at home.”

Beyond that, the senators say, the medical device industry “has received little guidance about how to comply with the tax” — a reference to the apparently confused and halting nature of the Obama administration’s implementation of Obamacare.

Several of them have gone further, calling for full repeal of the tax. This should be an easy issue. It should be part of a stand-alone bill, not part of Fiscal Cliff negotiations. It enjoys a veto-proof majority. It’s time to kill this bad policy before it takes effect — or, at least, such seems to be the reasonable sentiment behind this letter from these oft-unreasonable senators.

December 11th, 2012 at 6:07 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Answers to the Debt Crisis
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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.

December 11th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
Michigan’s Snyder to Sign Paycheck Protection Laws

Now that the Michigan House has passed both paycheck protection measures, Republican Governor Rick Snyder will sign them into law, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Of course, Big Labor didn’t go down without an ugly fight.  Thousands of public school teachers protested by calling in sick, deliberately shutting down classrooms across the state with a taxpayer-funded temper tantrum.  A state Democratic representative threatened violence by declaring “There will be blood” once the laws go into effect.  And an assortment of union members tried to heckle and intimidate lawmakers into voting down laws that do little more than make union dues voluntary.

After Snyder makes the right-to-work victory final, unions public and private will have to engage in a form of advocacy that is long overdue: Justifying their cost to people who can say no.

Welcome to the free market.

December 11th, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Michigan Passes First of Two Right-to-Work Laws

Huffington Post has the summary:

The Michigan House approved the first of two right-to-work bills Tuesday that would weaken union power in the historical labor stronghold as hundreds of protesters rallied at the Capitol.

The Republican-dominated chamber passed a measure dealing with public-sector workers 58-51 as protesters shouted “shame on you” from the gallery and huge crowds of union backers massed in the state Capitol halls and on the grounds.

Democrats immediately sought to have the vote reconsidered but failed in that effort.

Still to come was a vote on a second bill focusing on private sector workers. The Senate approved both last week. If enacted, Gov. Rick Snyder says he will sign them into law as early as Wednesday.

Even with the outcome considered a foregone conclusion, the heated battle showed no sign of cooling as lawmakers prepared to cast final votes.

December 11th, 2012 at 8:46 am
The Morality of Right-to-Work Laws

Byron York on why the cradle of organized labor is poised to defund union leadership today:

While Washington obsesses about the “fiscal cliff,” there are potentially more consequential events taking place far from the halls of Congress. In a move that rivals and perhaps surpasses the decision to limit organized labor’s collective bargaining powers in Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers in Michigan are expected to pass final legislation Tuesday to end the requirement that workers pay union dues or fees as a condition of their employment.

If the GOP succeeds, Michigan, home of the nation’s heavily unionized auto industry, will become the 24th right-to-work state in the country — a development that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Republicans say the move would not only give current workers the freedom to choose whether to join a union and pay dues but would, more importantly, bring many, many new jobs to Michigan. Rep. Gov. Rick Snyder, who supports the bill, points out that Indiana enacted (after a long and bitter fight) the same kind of law earlier this year. “We’ve carefully watched what’s gone on in Indiana since they passed similar legislation back in February,” Snyder told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren last week, “and they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of companies talking about [bringing] thousands of jobs to their state.”

To be fair, reporting in the Christian Science Monitor surveys research from conservative and liberal think tanks to show, in the words of one expert, “Very little is actually known about the impact of right-to-work laws.  There [are] a lot of assumptions that [the laws] create or destroy jobs, but the correlation is not definite.”

In other words, like most public policy debates, the essential issue here isn’t financial, it’s moral.  It’s just wrong to force, as almost all unions do, members to sacrifice a portion of their paycheck to the union so that leadership can use the money to support political causes that may, or may not, improve the lives of members.  Paying dues should be voluntary.

Michigan voters agree.  With right-to-work and other issues, it’s important to remember that while social science studies and projected financial impacts can be persuasive, they are not conclusive reasons to support or oppose a position.  At bottom, people make a gut-level decision on an issue based on whether they think the proposal is right or wrong.  At this point in history, unions are squarely on the wrong side of this debate.

December 10th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Over the Cliff…
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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.

December 10th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
THIS WEEK’s RADIO SHOW LINEUP: CFIF’s Renee Giachino Hosts “Your Turn” on WEBY Radio 1330 AM
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Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 (CST)/5:00 pm (EST):  Alex Cortes, Director of Let Freedom Ring:  Spending Cuts and Ongoing Fiscal Cliff Discussions;

4:30 (CST)/5:30 pm (EST):  Brad Bailey, Founder, Texas Immigration Solution:  Immigration and Texas as the GOP model;

5:00 (CST)/6:00 pm (EST):  Robert Knight, Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union: ACLU’s war on Christmas and other religious observances;  and

5:30 (CST)/6:30 pm (EST):  Timothy Lee, Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs at CFIF:  Intellectual Property, counterfeit goods, and generics.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

December 10th, 2012 at 12:03 pm
Barone: Illegal Mexican Immigration to U.S. Over?

Michael Barone thinks illegal Mexican immigration into the United States might be a thing of the past for three reasons.  First, birthrates among Mexican-born, America-residing women are down 24 percent.  Second, up to one-third of the housing foreclosures in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida since 2007 are estimated to belong to low-income Latino households.  Since there is always a time-lag in getting these kinds of data points, they go a long way to explaining reason number three: Mexican migration north was reported to be zero earlier this year for the first since the boom began in 1982.

All of this adds up:

Beneath the cold statistics on foreclosures and births is a human story, a story of people whose personal lives have been deeply affected by economic developments over which they had no control and of which they had no warning.

Those events have prompted many to resort to, in Mitt Romney’s chilly words, “self-deportation.” And their experiences are likely to have reverberations for many others who have learned of their plight.

Still, I’m hesitant to adopt Barone’s conclusion of a complete end to illegal Mexican immigration.

If it’s true that the bursting of the housing bubble and the concurrent recession are causing illegal Mexican immigrants to voluntarily repatriate themselves, then it’s a mixed bag for conservative immigration reformers.  While it’s good that the number of illegal immigrants is dropping, it’s not because of any fealty to enforcement policy by government officials.  Instead, it’s because of terrible economic stewardship by President Barack Obama and his tax-and-spend allies in Congress.

In short, if the economy rebounds, so will illegal immigration.

But don’t think that liberal amnesty seekers won’t use Barone’s data points to deny that cause-and-effect relationship.

Moreover, if the rumors are true that comprehensive immigration reform is the next bipartisan agenda item after the fiscal cliff showdown, then conservative reformers shouldn’t give an inch on the need to secure the border.  Furthermore, in order to blunt calls for amnesty because the illegal immigration problem allegedly is under control, conservatives need a Paul Ryan-esque big think on how federal immigration serves the national interest.

Personally, I’m open to a lot of different conclusions.  However, I deplore the incoherence of the current federal regime of passing laws politicians don’t intend to fund, and political appointees don’t intend to enforce.  Like every big issue, the American people deserve a clear, coherent vision on immigration policy and how it serves the national interest.

December 9th, 2012 at 6:29 am
CNN International = Let’s Trash America Network

Basel, Switzerland: Abroad for the past eight days attending to family matters, I have had plenty of time to do various and sundry chores while CNN International aired in the background. It’s awful. It’s level of anti-U.S. bias is astonishing. Again and again its reports include small (and sometimes not-so-small) digs against the United States. Much of its coverage is of third-world horrors which, I guess, are indeed news, although the overall tone of lefty crusading is rather annoying. But almost any time the United States is mentioned, the tenor of the mention is negative. Christian Amanpour is particularly obnoxious, repeatedly portraying the U.S. as a thug or bully, or at least otherwise immoral and a “bad guy” on the world stage.

Look, apart from Candy Crowley’s debate moment on Libya and John King’s misguided debate handling of the Gingrich adultery question, CNN’s U.S. election coverage this year was almost uniformly excellent, as I noted in several blog posts. Frankly, I have found CNN’s domestic coverage in the past year (Piers Morgan excepted) to be a marked improvement from some prior years and often a credit to the trade of journalism. But this international version of the network is just disgusting.  And, considering that it is one of the world’s three major sources of international news (along with the BBC and al-Jazeera), and the only one basically headquartered in the United States, its anti-U.S. bias is a horrendous detriment to American interests and of course horrendously unfair. With this trash airing worldwide, no wonder the United States is disliked in so many places across this globe of ours.

The reality is that no nation in the history of mankind has given so much blood and treasure, without hope of conquest, to save the lives and liberties of so many other people, and/or to secure the peace or to serve humanitarian interests, as has the United States of America. It is shameful that CNN International so badly distorts that reality. Harsher language deserves to be addressed CNN’s way, but this is a family-friendly website.

December 7th, 2012 at 9:45 am
Video: Fiscal Cliff Myths
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino sifts through the rhetoric and exposes the myths being advanced by the White House in the debate over the “fiscal cliff.”

December 7th, 2012 at 8:56 am
Podcast: Post Election, What’s Next for Health Care?
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In an interview with CFIF, Sally Pipes, President of Pacific Research Institute, discusses the fate of ObamaCare, Medicare and health care, generally, in the aftermath of the elections.

Listen to the interview here.

December 6th, 2012 at 1:00 pm
TAG, We’re All “It” — And That’s Not Good

A good source reports this to me, in his own words which I have shamelessly appropriated:

Here’s the skinny, a part of TARP was the so called TAG program.  What it did was remove the cap on insured deposits without limit as long as there was no interest being paid on the account.  Now tell me who is paying interest bearing checking anymore?  So in other words, TAG now makes the federal taxpayers liable for another 1.4 trillion dollars in deposits.  Like TARP, it was supposed to be a temporary measure to calm bank depositors, but it was extended in Dodd Frank and now the bankers (who love it of course) are racing to get it extended.  The scary part is that a number of Republicans may help the Dems jam it through the Senate next week on a party line vote without amendment.  Pretty ironic that Reid and Schumer think taxes need to go up on people making 250k per year, but they are willing to lift the insurance cap on deposits of a similar size for their buddies in the banking industry and dump the liability of the Treasury.  It stinks.

See this WSJ editorial from August.  It was assumed this thing was dead but it looks very live according to sources in the GOP Senate leadership and Banking Committee.  BTW, worth noting as usual Shelby, who opposed TARP and is Ranking on Banking is opposing it.

Reid may file cloture and move to a vote as early next week.  Republicans, as if is possible, should be ashamed to let this happen and bless it in the midst of the beating they are taking on the Cliff issues and  all their moaning about spending and federal liabilities.

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December 6th, 2012 at 12:12 pm
DC Judge Says Constitution Trumps Precedent

The Washington Times captures a revealing back-and-forth between an Obama Justice Department lawyer and a conservative D.C. Circuit appeals judge over whether the text of the Constitution or court precedent should decide when the President can make recess appointments:

“Once you remove yourself from the principles set forth in the Constitution — inter-session versus intra-session — you are adrift,” said Judge Thomas B. Griffith.

He was joined in his pointed questioning by Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, who said the clause in the Constitution giving presidents recess appointment powers refers to “the recess,” which he said suggests the one at the end of each year, not the breaks Congress regularly takes for holidays, weekends or other reasons.

If the court were to rule that way, it would upset the balance that has been maintained over decades, and would conflict with another appeals court’s precedent — though that didn’t bother Judge Sentelle.

“Forget about a century of precedent — go back to the Constitution,” he told Beth Brinkmann, the Justice Department lawyer who argued the case for the Obama administration.

She warned that going that route would change the system of checks and balances fundamentally.

Sentelle sounds like my kind of judge.  Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend.

December 6th, 2012 at 4:55 am
Prisoners of Our Own Device Tax

The IRS has finalized rules for the medical device tax that goes into effect in just a few short weeks. Need a pacemaker? Pay a tax. Develop a life-saving device for a very small segment of the population, so there can be achieved no economies of scale? Tough toenails: The device tax on gross sales means you can’t afford to produce the devices — which means the would-be patients will die.

As I wrote here (I hereby acknowledge a mistake: prosthetic limbs are not covered by the tax), “what could be an easier campaign issue?” Yet, in perhaps the biggest example of campaign malpractice from an idiotic campaign guilty of many gross examples of malpractice, the Romney campaign never even tried to make a major issue of the device tax. Every time I think about it, I clench my teeth and want to start throwing heavy objects across the room. Failure to use issues like this has relegated this nation I  love to four more years of the most dangerous president in U.S. history. Mitt Romney and his top aides should slink away in shame.

But I digress. One way or another, people in both chambers in Congress ought to get serious and, no matter what else they do, repeal this dreadful tax. Lives depend on it.