ARRA News Service
News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & the USA. Upholding the rights granted by God & guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, "republican" principles / ideals, transparent & limited "smaller" government, free markets, lower taxes, due process of law, liberty & individual freedom. Content approval rests with the ARRA News Service Editor. Opinions are those of the authors. While varied positions are reported, beliefs & principles remain fixed. No revenue is generated for or by this site - no paid ads - no payments for articles. Fair Use doctrine is posted & used.
Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
Contact: (Pub. Since July, 2006)
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Comments by Candidates Attending The NFRA Preferential Convention

Two candidates, Ron Paul and Rick Santorium, attended the NFRA Preference Convention. Below are quotes from their speeches.

Ron Paul:
"Our government, instead of protecting our privacy and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights." Paul said, "they protect the secrecy of government and they invade on your privacy."

"50,000 SWAT break-ins without proper search warrants"

"We way overreacted – over my objection – right after 9/11." "I see no benefit and no purpose – it undermines liberty – the fact that Congress passed and placed on us the Patriot Act. It should be repealed."

"I fear the erosion of our liberties and our economy here at home more than I do any foreign adversary."

"If we don't want to incite radical Islamists, we need to stop these un-needed wars. It is high time we came to our senses, brought our troops home to defend our country and pursued a Constitutional, Pro-American foreign policy."

We are falling in the footsteps of what the Soviets were doing, spreading our sails too thin. It's time for us to come home and mind our own business."

Rick Santorium:
"I wrote in 2005 that the institution of marriage and the family were at risk, far before anyone thought this was going to be an issue.:

"One of the key battles we have in this country is the battle with our courts."

"Gov. Romney issued those marriage licenses, ordered people to issue marriage licenses in contravention to the constitution and the statutes of Massachusetts. Here you have a situation where you have a choice, you have a choice between the constitution and the will of the people or the rogue actions of a handful of justices, and Mitt Romney chose the rogue justices."

take back the Republican Party for the vast and disenfranchised majority of its members: Reagan conservatives, who believe in small government, lower taxes, free market capitalism, a strong defense, the right to life and a decent America."

There is no one doing more harm in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iranians," We're going to see that this withdrawal was, in more respects than not, a surrender to a growing power in the Middle East."

Tags: NFRA, convention, Ron Paul, Rick Santorium, quotes To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 9:40 PM - Post Link

NFRA Endorses Santorium in 2011 Preferential Convention

Bill Smith, Editor: At the National Federation of Republican Assemblies today, physical attendance by national presidential contenders made a difference. While some candiates sent videos and one candiadate sent his wife, two presidential contenters, Ron Paul and Rick Santorium actually attended. As a result, in the Iowa Straw Poll Ron Paul won the poll with 82.1% and Herman Cain Received 14.7%. The remaining candidates, including Rick Santorium received 1% or less. For non-Iowans who voted in the straw poll, Ron Paul and Herman Cain were statistically tied 37% each with Santorium and Perry taking the remining 26% of the non-Iowan Straw Poll votes.

Then during the afternoon NFRA Preferential Convention the attendance by Rick Santorium resulted in his winning the endorsement of the NFRA. Below is a detailed story by Drew Zahn of World Net Daily who took time to attend the the NFRA Convention events including the NFRA Preferential Endorsing Convention. Note the results of the NFRA Convention are not biding on the various state Republican Assemlies. Also, Mr. Zahn expressed aprpeciation if the ARRA News Service to run his WND reports.

By Drew Zahn: DES MOINES, Iowa – Delegates from a nationwide group of conservative Republicans determined to "take back" the GOP met today, defied an open-invitation straw poll taken earlier and endorsed former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania for president of the United States.

Their endorsement further defies many national polls, which have Santorum registering in single digits.

The National Federation of Republican Assemblies, or NFRA, held today's Presidential Preference Convention to advise "Reagan conservatives who believe in small government, lower taxes, free market capitalism, a strong defense, the right to life and a decent America" in the upcoming primaries.

"We endorse candidates in contested primaries, so rank-and-file Republicans can know who the true conservative candidates really are," the NFRA website explains. "We shuck the corn with highly competitive grassroots endorsing conventions at which candidates must secure two-thirds of our delegates' support to win. And when we're done, there's no question who is who."

Obama is definitely beatable – and this book shows how

After endorsing Santorum for president, the convention voted again to endorse Herman Cain for vice president.

The final endorsement of Santorum actually came in opposition to a straw
poll the NFRA held earlier, in which Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, won a
resounding victory.

The NFRA runs the straw poll as a fundraiser, requiring attendees to pay for the opportunity to vote. In the straw poll, Paul received over 82 percent of Iowans' votes, or 353 ballots. Herman Cain came in second with 14.7 percent of the vote, a total of 63 ballots. No other candidate received more than 10 votes.

Among voters from outside the state, Paul also prevailed, with 26 votes, to Cain's 25, Rick Perry's 16, Rick Santorum's 16, Newt Gingrich's 11, Michele Bachmann's 6 and Mitt Romney's 1.

In the endorsement convention that followed, however, only those delegates chosen by NFRA chapters from their respective states were allowed to vote in a multiple-ballot process designed to reach a two-thirds threshold for formal endorsement.

A total of 109 delegates from across the nation were eligible to vote, and 98 met today in Des Moines.

In the first ballot, Santorum, Cain and Perry were the top vote-getters.

After six ballots, however, the NFRA selected Santorum as their endorsement.

Mark Bergeron, a delegate from Massachusetts, was among those who supported Santorum on the first ballot: "Rick Santorum represents our values in right to life, fiscal conservativism, support for small business, and he understands the existential threat of radical Islam," Bergeron said.

Pat Wilcox, a delegate from Missouri argued, "We all say we believe in this solid social platform of family and marriage, and we have a man who has stood for these things over and over."

Tags: 2011, NFRA, Convention, endorsement, Rick Santorum, GOP 2012 To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Democracy Denied; Republic Lost

Bill Smith, Editor: Both Ralph Benko and I received advanced copies of Phil Kerpen's new book "Democracy Denied." We both commend it to you. It addresses, "How President Obama is ignoring you and by passing Congress to radically transform America and how to stop him." However, Ralph beat me to finishing and reviewing Kerpen's book. Ralph send me his article presented below and now I owe him a beverage of his choice next time we meet and discuss this book.

I admire the leadership and tactical applications by Tim Phillips, President of Americans For Prosperity (AFP). His enthusiasm and energy has helped motivate the lethargic to action. However, as a military officer, I also admire his Vice President for Policy at AFP,  Phil Kerpen.  I have seen many leaders and tacticians in my years but few strategic thinkers. I consider Kerpen a talented strategic thinker. I have observed him detail critical issues and then provide solid reasoning on ways and or actions to confront them.

While we need and appreciate grassroots activism, we also need those rare minded individuals that can marshal their minds and reason to sift through the trivial and to make sense out of the chaos and then detail their insights and plan for the varied alternatives to assure a strategic victory while we have tactical defeats. I am thankful that we have people like Phil Kerpen and Ralph Benko who "work their gray cells" and think strategically for the good of the Republic. They may not be appreciated by the masses, but without them we could not win. While the patriot masses (the mob) helped our nation gain its independence, it was the patriot thinkers who helped fashion for us a Republic. 

Image by jarnocan via Flickr
by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Does this government represent you?  78% of us say that America is on the wrong track.  Only 15%, near an historic low, feel America is headed in the right direction.  This implies that a supermajority says that their intention, their well being, and their very dignity are being violated.

The “ruling junta” governing the U.S. seems to have forgotten an axiom critical to its legitimacy: “the consent of the governed.” Americans of all parties and ideologies bitterly cling to a fundamental American principle, stated in the Declaration of Independence, that we “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” … and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Emphasis added)

Complaints about the unresponsiveness to popular will have been emerging with greater and greater clarity and force from the populace. They were called “uprisings” by progressive journalist David Sirota, and the “Middle America Rebellion” by conservative journalist Mark Tapscott. Citizen actions by disaffected people are crescendoing from their first (and still most effective) manifestation,, to the Tea Parties, to — worldwide — the still nascent Occupy movement. These outpourings might not agree on the solution, but all agree on the problem. The permanent government isn’t listening to the citizens.

Major figures on both the left and right are beginning to offer thoughtful approaches. Lawrence Lessig, of Harvard Law School, offers a populist “social democratic” position in his recently released Republic, Lost. Lessig’s book lays out some horrible distortions produced by the current campaign financing system and offers to introduce a non-coercive citizen voucher-based financing as an alternative option.

Thematically paired with Lessig is a new book by populist conservative Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy at Americans for Prosperity, Democracy Denied. (Note: Democracy Denied, with excessive generosity, acknowledges this writer as one of its author’s “professional mentors.”) Which one is right, Republic, Lost or Democracy Denied? It is reminiscent of the famous fable of the “blind men and the elephant,” with sages rightly discerning aspects of a much larger problem — the rogue elephant, as it were, in the capital.

Lessig focuses on the breakdown in the national legislature, the problems (both political and social), and offers a dignified solution. Kerpen focuses on the breakdown in the national executive branch, the problems this is causing (both political and moral), and offers a dignified solution.  Each writer implicitly echoes one of the enumerated complaints in the Bill of Particulars of the Declaration of Independence. Lessig echoes Jefferson’s complaint about “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny” (Oligarchy more currently apt than Tyranny).

Kerpen too offers a Jeffersonian critique, “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”  And “…declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”  Americans, from the very beginning, have never had an especially favorable attitude toward bureaucrats….  The left tends to lean more “small d” democratic — with more direct popular control, as evidenced by Lessig’s optimistic preference for citizen financing of Congressional elections.  The right tends to lean more “small r” republican — with a greater trust in elected officials, representative democracy Kerpen provides a compelling litany of unelected executive branch (and independent agencies) setting out to exercise “power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”  This ethic — the people be damned — seems to have metastasized. As this columnist has noted elsewhere:
An article in the March 15 [2010] New Yorker,“Obama’s Lost Year,” by George Packer, contains a telling detail about the White House decision-making process, noting that “… the surest way to win Obama over to your view is to tell him it’s the hard, unpopular, but correct decision.”
Key word? Unpopular.
Unpopular turns out to be an … understatement.  And nobody has pulled together and documented both the extremity of the executive branch’s abuses more thoroughly or forcefully than Kerpen. Kerpen is a power player, possibly the most potent force inside the left’s feared adversary, Americans for Prosperity.  It is quite clear that it was Kerpen who provided the evidence that generated the media frenzy that cost Van Jones his job as Green Jobs Czar and cost this  president’s proposed Internet Czar Susan Crawford her appointment.

Kerpen lays out a bill of particulars on his indictment that would have done Jefferson proud.  The EPA’s “extreme power abuse;”  The FCC’s Internet Takeover; the secret plan to force union membership (Note:  this writer is, voluntarily and with pride, a member of the AFL-CIO but believes that forced unionization is bad for us rank and file members and for unions who thereafter do not have to earn our loyalty… and dues); demonstrates chillingly how Obamacare threatens to worsen our health care crisis, thereby violating the first tenet of the Hippocratic Oath — first do no harm; and the explosion of regulations strangling our personal financial affairs, damaging our national ability to generate affordable energy; shocking land grabs.  This enumerates only the highlights.

But what is most compelling about Kerpen’s book is the fact that it lays out a practical, sensible, powerful solution:  The REINS Act.  The REINS Act, simply put, requires the Congress to affirmatively approve any executive branch or independent agency regulations that have a material effect on the national economy.  This restores accountability to our elected officials, rather than leaving the immense regulatory power in the hands of the iconic faceless bureaucrats conveniently  “invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”

Lessig, heroically, has the rogue elephant of our runaway federal government by the tail and Kerpen, intrepidly, has it by the … um, both ears. Lessig is outside Washington, inspiring (with this columnist’s active support) a joint insurgency by humanitarian populists against careerist elitists. Insiders report that Kerpen’s behind-the-scenes effort were critical to getting the REINS Act into the recent Republican Jobs Bill.

Bravo to each of them and to dozens of less prominent heroes.  But lost, denied, or otherwise, this remains a democracy, a republic.  And there is only so much that these commandos, however courageous and tenacious, can accomplish.  Thus, dear readers, whether you be Progressives inspired by Lessig’s prescription in Republic, Lost or conservatives engaged by Kerpen’s Democracy Denied, it is time for you to engage.  Your power, your opinion, your good opinion (of your elected officials!) and your vote is far more potent than you may yet understand.

Be heard, be relentless, and if you’d like to come into league with other reformers join Lessig’s or Kerpen’s Americans for Prosperity (to which this writer belongs). Indeed, our republic: lost! Our democracy? Denied! But you occupy the most noble office under either a democracy or a republic: the office of citizen. All depends upon your now engaging and exercising your supreme power.
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action’s Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, a lead participant in the Iowa Tea Party’s upcoming Bus Tour. He co-led the gold standard breakout session at the Tea Party Patriots’ American Summit and is the editor of the Lehrman Institute’s The Gold Standard Now This article which first appeared in Forbes was submitted to the ARRA News Service editor for reprint by contributing author Ralph Benko.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Phil Kerpen, Democracy Denied, Lawrence Lessig, Republic Lost, book review, Rootstrikers, Americans For Prosperity To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Simple Truth About Washington Regulations and Jobs

Do You Know How Many Hours it Takes to Comply with the Dodd-Frank Act?

The Empire State Building took 7 million man hours to build. 225,000 Toyota Camrys (just 63% of US production last year) take 6.3 million man hours to build. Every iPhone ever sold (146 million) took only 5.5 million man hours to build.

For perspective, the 2,300 pages of new rules and regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act will require 10.2 million man hours in compliance time on American job creators.

The simple truth is over-regulation steals time from American innovation, and equally as important, it steals jobs from American workers.

Learn more about how over-regulation is holding our economy back by visiting:

Tags: Washington, D.C., regulations, jos, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

"We Can't Wait" -- Oh, Yes We Can!

Gary Bauer
Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: I want to revisit Obama's "We Can't Wait" theme today. It is becoming more and more apparent that Obama plans on circumventing Congress with increasing frequency. And, of course, no one in big liberal media is speaking out against this obvious abuse of power.

Discussing immigration reform, Obama once said that he would like to "bypass Congress and change the laws on my own." At the time, the media thought he was joking. Maybe not. His administration seems to be making immigration policy on a whim now. And the New York Times reports that Obama may issue a new executive order "each week through the rest of the year."

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) defended Obama's bypassing of Congress saying, "It's necessary now because it's a gridlock between the president and the United States." Sorry, Charlie, but gridlock does not make it necessary. The president is not a dictator. He is not entitled to get whatever he wants. And while Obama is blaming congressional conservatives for blocking his demands, his fundamental problem is with the Constitution.

In their wisdom, our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances dispersing power throughout three branches of government. But Obama is increasingly usurping the powers of the other two branches. He is rewriting legislation with his executive orders, and refusing to defend established law. For example, he unilaterally declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Writing law and determining its constitutionality are functions reserved for Congress and the courts, respectively. You would think a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School would know that! But then again, we have never seen his law school grades. Maybe he flunked -- the same way he has failed as president.

The left and the media were apoplectic about George W. Bush's use of executive authority to try to win a war and defend this nation -- precisely the area where a president has the most authority and discretion. What exactly are the national security issues that required rewriting the laws on student loans?

Of course there weren't any. It was a purely political ploy that really won't help anyone, but it gave Obama a good campaign sound bite.

Obama also seems to have a problem with the process of governance. I realize people don't like the bickering in Washington. But there has always been political division and disagreement in Washington since the days of the Federalists and the Whigs.

Yet since his first days as president, Obama has demanded that Congress pass his bills "without delay." Remember how Obama has chided members of Congress asking "What are they waiting for?" Remember the chants of "Pass this bill!"?

That is not the way Congress works. There are subcommittees and full committees in each chamber. Both chambers must vote and then there is a conference committee to work out any differences. The process of governing a nation of 300 million may be slow and ugly, but it takes time to do it right.

Instead, Obama rushed through the stimulus bill, which was full of waste, and rammed through ObamaCare, which was so poorly written he has had to issue over 1,000 waivers and repeal certain sections.

But time is not a luxury Obama has. Each day he grows more desperate to revive an economy struggling under his socialist policies. And in his desperation to produce results he seems to be saying "We can't wait -- to violate the Constitution."

"Push The Envelope!" If you need more evidence of the kind of campaign we can expect from the Obama White House, consider this Politico interview with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daly.

Daly complained, "It's been a brutal three years. It's been a very, very difficult three years." But as I recently noted, Democrats had huge majorities in both the House and the Senate for Obama's first two years. He got virtually everything he wanted. The few things he didn't get were so radical -- like closing GITMO and cap and trade -- that he couldn't even convince some of his fellow Democrats to go along. But now, Daly reveals, they have a Plan B.

"Let's figure out what we can do [without Congress] and push the envelope on some of these things. On the foreign policy-military side, you can act pretty quickly. That is why the president, based upon frustration, is doing this 'we can't wait.' … Let's re-emphasize what powers we have! What we can do on our own! Push the envelope!"

When asked if Obama would be happy being a one-term president, as he has suggested in the past, Daly said, "Nope, no, absolutely not! I think he'd be angry! Pi**ed! Unhappy! Frustrated!"

Obama and his radical allies will either rule this country or they will wreck it!
Gary Bauer is is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families where his articles are also shared.

Tags: Barack Obama, immigration reform, Push The Envelope, Gary Bauer, Campaign for Working FamiliesTo share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Jobs Bills

Today in Washington, D.C. - Oct 28, 2010
The U.S. Senate is not in session this week' it is Senate constituent work week. When they return will the Senate democrat leadership push the bipartisan House-Passed Jobs Bill or Stimulus Bill which has bipartisan opposition?

The House Judiciary committee approved a  bipartisan bill to eliminate nation quotas for green cards and to provide more highly skilled workers for high-tech industry.  The House bill would amend current law and eliminate the cap entirely for employment-based green cards, which could alleviate a backlog of qualified workers in China and India sought by U.S. companies. Current law provides that family-sponsored and employment-based green cards cannot exceed 75vof the total number of green cards made available each year.  Because of the caps on green cards and some countries having more skilled workers that America wants, eligible workers must wait longer for visas from some countries. Question: With high unenployment in the United States, don't we have enough "skilled" workers looking for jobs?

Bloomberg News writes today, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will return to Washington next week under pressure to advance legislation repealing a requirement that governments withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors. The House of Representatives passed the repeal legislation yesterday, 405-16, and also passed a bill that would offset the repeal by changing provisions of the 2010 health-care law. President Barack Obama has said he would sign both measures. . . . Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the chamber should vote on the repeal with the House offset next week. ‘The Senate should take this up next week, without any poison pills, and send it to the president for his signature,’ McConnell said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. ‘Let’s vote on it and prove the skeptics wrong by acting in a bipartisan fashion.’”

Yet despite strong bipartisan support for this bill—it was one of the few bipartisan proposals in President Obama’s new economic plan—Senate Democrat leaders filibustered a bill to implement this proposal offered by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) that had several Democrat cosponsors last week. Politico noted, “Senate Republicans tried to push a similar repeal of the withholding rule last week but fell three votes short of overcoming a Democratic-led filibuster. The problem there was that Democrats opposed $30 billion in discretionary spending cuts that had been attached to the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called that move by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a ‘stunt,’ although Reid said he supports the repeal.”

Next week, majority Senate Democrats will have an opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation that can help job creators. But according to The Hill, “Senate Democrats will try to pass President Obama’s $60 billion infrastructure bill next week, despite the past opposition of a powerful Democratic chairwoman to a major component of the legislation. The bill includes $10 billion for a national infrastructure bank, even though Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said last year she would ‘never’ support such a proposal. . . . Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) opposed a similar infrastructure-heavy stimulus proposal last year when he was in the midst of one of the nation’s toughest Senate races.”

This begs the question" will Senate Democrat leaders push another stimulus bill that has bipartisan opposition, or will they instead join with Senate Republicans and a large bipartisan majority of the House and pass a bill to ease the regulatory burden on contactors that has bipartisan support?

Tags: Washington, D.C., US House, US Senate, jobs, job bills To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Executive Disorders

by A.F. Branco:

Tags: Executive Order, executive orders, Obama incompetence, Obama Spending, Obama's jobsspeech, Obamas Jobs tour, A.F. Branco, political cartoon To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Obama's Student Loan Plan

Today in Washington, D.C. - Oct 27, 2010
The US Senate is not in session this week' it is Senate constituent work week.

Yesterday,the House passed (405-16), repealing a requirement that governments withhold 3% of payments to contractors in the 2010 health-care law. The tax would have created an estimated $11 billion in windfall federal tax revenue. The House intended to close this revenue gap via another bill tightening eligibility requirements for Medicaid and other health programs. The Democrat controlled Senate did not agree on an offset to repealing this 3% before adjourning for this week's recess. If the Senate next week takes up the House bill and passes it as is, it is expected that President Obam would sign the repeal bill.

The New York Times writes, “President Obama on Wednesday ended a three-day Western trip that was heavier on politics than policy, rallying thousands of college students whose enthusiasm belied the struggle he will have to win this state again in 2012. Continuing his ‘we can’t wait’ theme against Republicans’ opposition to his legislative agenda, Mr. Obama promoted the latest in what will be a series of executive actions not requiring Congress’s approval — new rules to expedite and ease repayment terms for graduates burdened with federal student loans.”

But The Atlantic’s Daniel Indiviglio took a look at President Obama’s proposals and found them underwhelming, at best. He writes that the president’s plan would “clear the way for borrowers with direct government loans and government-backed private loans to consolidate their balances. The White House estimates that this will cut the effective interest rate on student loans by up to 0.5%. . . . How much would an interest rate reduction of up to 0.5% affect payments? For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done by, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade. Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn’t going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.”

Indiviglio concludes, “By calling for these measures, President Obama seeks to respond directly to young Americans stressed about their student loans. . . . But from a practical standpoint, these executive orders won’t have much of an impact.”

On Fox News last night, Charles Krauthammer was characteristically blunter: “It’s entirely incoherent. . . . What [President Obama] spoke about today was tweaking the student loan program, which he now controls. In a way, that’s rather astonishing. The numbers were run by an economics correspondent today in The Atlantic magazine. And it turns out what he is offering these students is between $4.50 and $7.70 a month of relief. . . . If his audience had known how miniscule is the benefit, he would have been laughed out of that auditorium.”

Tags: Washington, D.C. Obama, student loan plan, news To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Meeks: My Thoughts on the Arkansas Highway Bond Issue

Rep. David Meeks, On The Right Side: On November 8th, the voters in Arkansas will have an opportunity to vote on reauthorizing the Highway Commission to issue GARVEE bonds that will be used to maintain our highways. This is similar to a program that voters approved back in 1999.

At this time, I am planning on voting against this proposal and here are the reasons why:

1) Its debt. Instead of going into debt to pay for our roads, we need to transition to a pay as we go system.  This will force us to make some tough decisions, but I believe it will be best for our state in the long run.  At the end of this post, I have provided potential solutions that our state should look at.

2) Economic uncertainty. Because of the current and expected future state of the economy over the next several years, there is a chance that the current 4 cent sales tax and the amount that the Federal Government sends to the state will not be enough to cover the payment of the bond leaving the Arkansas taxpayers to come up with additional funds to repay the bond.

In addition, as far as I am aware there is no cap on the interest rate of the bonds.  While the current rate is around 3%, there is no guarantee that they will be this low when the bonds are issued over the next several years.  A higher rate will amount to the Arkansas taxpayers paying more in interest.

Please read this article: D.C. Gridlock Imperils Garvees
Garvee bond ratings are at risk from the increasingly unpredictable budget and policy process in Washington, Standard & Poor’s warned in a report released Friday.

The agency said it retained a stable outlook on all of the Garvees it rates. But in its report, it said, “We believe there are several potential risks that if realized alone or in combination, might cause us to reevaluate the ratings on some or all of our Garvee bonds.”
3) Timing. I believe that this is an issue that should be decided at a regularly scheduled election like the primary in May or the General in November of next year. By scheduling a special election in November of this year, there is an additional cost to hold the election.

For those who would like to see an opposite viewpoint, please read . . .
List updated by ARRA News Service editor:

So how do we fix our roads? There are two recommendations I would make as a starting point:

1) Transportation 2011 Summit Report: From the summit: Commissioner Jim Simpson, New Jersey DOT, and Secretary Sean Connaughton, Virginia DOT, shared what is happening in their respective states’ transportation systems during The Voice of Our State DOT Directors Special General Session. They addressed bold initiatives their states are taking to find innovative methods of improving, maintaining, and maximizing transportation systems by doing more with less in the best interest of the state.

I was able to listen in on this conversation and will be looking at some of the innovative ways these two states are using to tackle their transportation needs.

2) Summary of Recommendations, Murphy AHTD Report:

1. Re-direct more existing resources (on a fast-track basis) to Arkansas' Interstates and restore them to first class condition.
2. Redirect a greater portion of ED funds to upgrading major arteries and interstates.
3. Encourage public policy at the Federal level to accomplish the following:
    Require states to certify that they have adequate funds available to maintain a new road or highway over its useful life before allowing federal highway funds to be spent on its Construction.
  • Require states to certify that at least 90% of their existing urban and suburban highways are in good condition before allowing them to undertake new construction.

  • Support a joint state/federal effort, through Congress, toward the establishment of a national goal for improving the condition of our interstate Highway system, and provide incentives to states to meet these goals.

4. Repeal or significantly amend Amendment 42 (Mack-Blackwell). Reintegrate AHTD into the executive branch; give it cabinet level status as an essential government service ... a status it surely warrants.

5. Have the Director of AHTD report to the Governor and serve at the Governor's pleasure. Subject the hiring of the Director to the Highway Commission's consent, plus Senate confirmation.

6. Restructure the Highway Commission to provide for eight members, geographically chosen and serving four year terms appointed by the Governor. No more than five members may be from the same political party. (Another option worthy of discussion is providing for Commissioners to be elected. Either way--bi-partisan composition should be mandatory).

7. Concentrate highway priorities and resource allocations where the greatest needs and economic development potential occurs. To better affect this, move to a planning and resource system model aimed at greater objectivity in determination of priorities and distribution of resources. Sub-recommendations (#7)
  • AHTD should develop and use a dynamic computer model to assure a wholly objective determination of construction and maintenance priorities for the state. The model should embody a uniform system for allocation of projected costs to planned construction and maintenance of highways, roads and bridges and fully integrate with a system of performance-based budgeting and activities-based-cost accounting.
  • A public report on priorities should be shared regularly in periodicals and the media, as well as be made available on the internet (would include progress on construction underway).
  • The design of the model should be contracted out and overseen by both a reliable independent accounting firm and the state's audit committee (should one be put in place as recommended in other Murphy Reports)
  • The Governor should task an accountability and performance advisory group with conducting a nationwide search to retain the finest team of "cost conscience" transportation experts in the country to design the model planning and resource system for Arkansas. They should also design (outside of AHTD) the base inputs and outputs comprising the system. The goal should be to make this a "best practices" model that other states would want to consider using.
8. The planning, design, and cost-estimating of Arkansas transportation needs should not be predominantly an "in-house" function at AHTD. Instead, much of it should be contracted out on the basis of performance as well as cost-saving incentives built into contracts.

9. As a matter of control and oversight, the Governor, through an independent audit committee (such a body has been recommended in another Murphy study), should also contract for the periodic independent review by an independent accounting firm with the requisite expertise.  It would randomly review selected highway system job cost estimates, design specs, and jobs in progress.

10. AHTD should demonstrate to the public a "good faith effort" to substantially reduce operating costs.

Cost Saving Recommendations, AHTD
1. Restore control of 5000 miles currently in the state's 16,288 mile system to county or municipal government jurisdictions for maintenance and upkeep. Possible savings or efficiencies: $13-$16 million annually.

2. Eliminate 5 of the 10 existing AHTD District Offices and 54 of 82 field offices across the state. Possible savings or efficiencies: $5 million (An additional $4 million in maintenance expenditures and about $1 million in administrative and overhead costs).

3. Integrate the existing Arkansas Highway Police organization, currently an integral division of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, into the Arkansas' State Police organization. Possible savings or efficiencies: $2.5 million.

4. Offload a number of roadside parks, and explore opportunities under TEA 21 to privatize existing interstate rest areas. Possible savings or efficiencies: (including those acted already): $1.3 million per year plus an estimated one time savings of $11.7 million in rehab costs.

*The Murphy Commission would also have recommended not spending $19 million for roadside park electronic surveillance, which becomes unnecessary in light of 12 parks to be closed, as decided by AHTD.

5. Scale back AHTD's workforce by 5%. Possible savings or efficiencies: $8.8 million.

6. Explore the efficacy of outsourcing more in-house programs at AHTD: Possible savings or efficiencies: $1.8 million.

7. Integrate AHTD's stand-alone retirement system into the existing State Public Employees Retirement system. Possible savings or efficiencies: $2.1 million.

8. Discontinue redundant AHTD auditing of motor fuel suppliers. (Department of Finance and Administration audits them). Possible savings or efficiencies: $150,000 to $200,000.

9. Exempt AHTD (and other state agencies as well) from paying state and local sales taxes. Possible savings or efficiencies: $4.3 million.

10. Miscellaneous Recommendations: Sell AHTD 'twin engine aircraft: Projected Savings:$160,000 per year and $2.6 million from the sale of the aircraft.

Reduce by 400 the number of state-owned vehicles assigned to department employees. Projected Savings: $1 million per year.

End funding to the Good Roads Council, $20,000 per year in savings.

Summary of total savings: $39,160,000 to $42,160,000
One-time Savings: $14,300,000
Total Projected Savings: $53,460,000 to $56,460,000

As always, I am open to other ideas and solutions to any of the other issues we have here in Arkansas.
Arkansas State Representative David Meeks represent District 46, The Conway, Arkansas area.

Tags: Arkansas, Representative, David Meeks, Highway Bonds, vote on bonds To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obama Administration Uses Stimulus Money to Support Ads Attacking Soda

by Rob Bluey: As part of President Obama’s economic stimulus, the federal government has doled out $230 million for communities to combat obesity rather than create jobs or boost the economy. In many cases, the funds are being used to attack American-made products like Coke and Pepsi.

Advertisements undermining soft drinks can be found in cities from coast to coast. New York’s “Pouring on the Pounds” campaign used grotesque pictures and misleading information that even the city’s chief nutritionist called into question. The city received $15.5 million in federal funding for its anti-obesity efforts.

In Philadelphia, the city spent $2.4 million on ads attacking soda. That was enough money to add 52 police officers, 54 firemen, 57 paramedics, 58 teachers or 88 EMTs.

Similar anti-obesity campaigns have popped up in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle and evenTopeka, KS. In the case of Pima County, home to Tucson, AZ, media partners include taxpayer-supported PBS, the Arizona Public Media and NPR. In Hawaii, the theme is “Don’t Drink Yourself Fat.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has provided stimulus funding to 25 communities for a variety of anti-obesity measures, including advertisements. Several are major U.S. cities, collecting upwards of $15 million. The funding is part of a $230 million initiative called “Communities Putting Prevention to Work.”

The federal government doesn’t mandate how communities use the money to combat obesity, but the CDC does recommend a five-pronged approach that includes advertising, limiting availability of sugary beverages, menu labeling, higher prices and exercise. Information about the grants and guidelines are available online from the CDC.

The 2009 economic stimulus, of course, was sold to Congress as a $787 billion package to revive the economy by creating or saving millions of jobs. And while some of the money for these anti-obesity efforts could arguably create temporary jobs — such as construction of a bike path or walking trail — there’s growing concern about the use of the money for advertisements.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week expressed alarm that taxpayer money was being used for such a purpose:
These hard earned taxpayer dollars that were intended to stimulate the economy and create jobs are instead funding scare campaigns against perfectly safe and legal products, and the companies that make them. At a time when our nation faces an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent, I find it outrageous that federal and city agencies would aggressively advertise against American products made by American workers. Not only is this a gross misplacement of spending priorities, it is another example of a ‘government knows best’ mentality that often permeates Washington.
DesJarlais cited an effort called Smart Taxpayers Exposing Waste, an initiative launched on Facebook by the American Beverage Association. It ran the numbers on Philadelphia’s advertising campaign and has documented the cost of anti-obesity measures in other cities.

Tags: Boston, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, economic stimulus, Kansas, New York, Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pepsi, soda, Video, Rob Bluey, Heritage Foundation To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

United (OWS) - What the COWS Are Up To

The following cartoons also depicts what the COWS (Communists on Wall Street) and others are up to with Occupy Wall Street. The seek Statist America in which the Federal Government has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs.
A.F. Branco:

Tags: anarchy, statist, Bill Ayers, Communist, Obama, Obama incompetence, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Wall Street, OWS, COWS, A.F. Branco, political cartoon To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arkansas Manufacturing Jobs Fall - Jobless Rate Not Improving

AF Arkansas: Thanks to Talk Business and Michael Tilley of The City Wire for the following numbers and information.

Arkansas’ jobless rate during September was 8.3%, unchanged from August and up over 7.8% in September 2010. The number of unemployed in Arkansas increased an estimated 6,301 between September 2010 and September 2011.

The September rate marks the 31st consecutive month the Arkansas jobless rate has been above 7%. Prior to the August report, the 8.3% jobless rate had not been reached since March 1987.

Arkansas was one of 10 states to post an unemployment rate increase in September compared to September 2010, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Friday morning (Oct. 21). The report noted that 38 states posted jobless rate decreases compared to September 2010, and two states were unchanged.

The September report shows a gain of 3,256 in the number of employed in Arkansas, up 0.26% compared to August, but a decline of 0.65% compared to September 2010.

The number of unemployed in Arkansas during September was 112,393, up 0.3% from August, and up 5.9% compared to September 2010.

In the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector — Arkansas’ largest job sector — employment during September was an estimated 233,800, down from 235,700 during August and below the 234,400 during September 2010.

Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during September totaled an estimated 154,800, down from 155,900 in August and 5000 jobs lower than 159,800 in September 2010. The September jobs total is the lowest ever for manufacturing jobs in Arkansas since at least May 1968 when sector employment was 156,600.

Employment in government jobs during September was 220,400, higher than the 219,700 during August and above the 215,600 during September 2010.

One of the few bright spots was in Arkansas’ Education and Health Services sector. September jobs in the sector totaled 167,800, up over the 167,400 during August and above the 166,000 in September 2010.

The construction sector also saw a gain, with an estimated 48,600 employed during September. August employment was 46,800, and September 2010 employment was 47,700.

“Over the year, 28 states experienced statistically significant changes in employment, 27 of which were increases. The largest increase occurred in California (+250,700), followed by Texas (+248,500), New York (+98,100), and Florida (+93,500). The only state with an over-the-year statistically significant decrease in employment was Delaware (-6,100),” noted the BLS report.

Tags: Arkansas, jobless rates, manufacturing jobs, AFP Arkansas, Talk Business To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Student Loan Mess

‘Thousands Of Workers’ Lost Their Jobs When President Obama Took Over The Student Loan Industry Last Year

‘Lenders… Have Laid Off Thousands Of Workers’

“A year after President Obama signed a law eliminating bank-based student lending, the lenders and guarantors that formed the backbone of the old system have laid off thousands of workers, eliminated programs...” (“A Year After Bank-Based Lending's Demise, A Shrunken Industry Redefines Itself,” The Chronicle Of Higher Education, 3/29/11)

NATIONAL IMPACT: “A new law that cuts banks out of the federal student loan business is costing 2,500 workers at Sallie Mae their jobs. The nation's largest student lender has told 1,200 staffers in service centers in Killeen, Texas, and Panama City, Fla., they will lose their jobs by year-end. The remaining cuts will follow in 2011, resulting in nearly a third of the company's total work force of 8,000 losing their jobs.” (“2,500 Sallie Mae Jobs Fall To New Student Loan Law,” AP, 4/22/10)

FLORIDA: “The Sallie Mae office in Lynn Haven, which once was a second home to 700 local workers, will close Friday, Sallie Mae officials confirmed Wednesday night. … Although the doors will shut Friday, the real end for the plant came July 1 when private lenders such as Sallie Mae were forbidden from originating federally guaranteed student loans, officials said. The change was tucked into the health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.” (“Sallie Mae Office To Close Friday,” The News Herald [FL], 11/11/10)

MASSACHUSETTS: “American Student Assistance, which guaranteed loans in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, has laid off about 75 staff members as a result of the changes, says its chief operating officer, Michael Finn. But despite the reduction in funds, he says the company will shift its focus toward loan counseling.” (“A Year After Bank-Based Lending's Demise, A Shrunken Industry Redefines Itself,” The Chronicle Of Higher Education, 3/29/11)

TEXAS: “Aegis Ltd., a global business outsource company based in Irving, confirmed Thursday that it’s laying off 130 workers at its call center in Killeen… A call center employee said the workers affected by the layoff are those who service the Salle Mae client group.” (“Central Texas Call Center Announces Layoffs,” KWTX News, 1/13/11)

SOUTH DAKOTA: “In January 2011, Wells Fargo also announced to trim 120 workers in its student loan operations, including many in Sioux Falls...” (“Goldman To Reduce Cost By Layoffs,” Zacks Equity Research, 1/28/11)

PENNSYLVANIA: “In July, about 100 employees at Sallie Mae in Hanover Township [PA] lost their jobs.” (“Kanjorski Urges Sallie Mae To Add Jobs,” The Citizens' Voice [PA], 9/29/10)

INDIANA: “Although Indiana was spared the closure of entire Sallie Mae service centers, the state didn't escape the student-loan giant's restructuring. Sallie Mae laid off roughly 70 people, who mainly worked in IT, at its Fishers facility on Dec. 3…” (“Sallie Mae Restructuring Affects Indiana Jobs,” Indianapolis Business Journal, 12/8/10)

TENNESSEE: “While The Feds Gamble, Knoxville Pays… On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed a bill, and that same day a Knoxville businessman announced that several of his employees would lose their jobs as a result. This can't be a good thing. The legislation involves student loans. …The Knoxville companies absorbing the blow are lender Edamerica and loan-servicing company Edfinancial Services. Tony Hollin, chairman and CEO of both companies, says up to 10 of Edamerica's 26 employees will eventually lose their jobs…” (Editorial, “While The Feds Gamble, Knoxville Pays,” The Knoxville News-Sentinel [TN], 4/2/10)

Even Senate Democrats Warned It ‘Could Put Jobs At Risk’
Letter From Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL):

“We write to make you aware of our concern with provisions of contemplated student lending reform that could put jobs at risk.” (Letter To Sen. Reid, 3/9/10)

“…we must proceed toward this objective in a thoughtful manner that considers potential legislative alternatives…” Ibid

Tags: Federal Government, student loans, loan program, student debt, debt. lost jobs To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Obama Seeks Student Votes By Restructuring Student Loans - House Debates Land Swap

Update 7 PM: The House approved H.R. 1904 (235-186) vote. Despite creating critically needed jobs and access to mining copper in the U.S., the Obama administration and many Democratic lawmakers opposed the land swap and argued that an environmental review should be completed before the exchange is made.
Today in Washington, D.C. - Oct. 26, 2011
The US Senate is not in session this week' it is Senate constituent work week. A few Senators will reconvene for a pro-forma session on Thursday at 11 AM thus prevent President Obama from making recess appointments without the approval of the Senate.

Today the House is debating H.R. 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act which is a land swap bill in Arizona where 2,400 acres of federal forest land in southeastern Arizona would be swapped for 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout in Arizona. The company that owns the land is leveraging for land which contains high grade copper and if mined would provide nearly 4,000 mining-related jobs.

Tomorrow the House is expected to consider H.R. 674, to repeal the 3% withholding tax on private companies that do business with the federal government, and H.R. 2576, to fix an unintended consequence of ObamaCare that would make millions of middle income Americans eligible for Medicaid.

When the Senate returns for legislative business next Monday, it will vote on a district judge nominee. On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 2112, the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill, which combines the FY 2012 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills (also referred to as an Ag-CJS-THUD minibus).

The Wall Street Journal reports today, “President Barack Obama will announce a plan Wednesday that would allow Americans to consolidate and reduce interest rates on their student loans, the latest in a string of narrowly tailored moves designed to jolt the economy. . . . The switch would help borrowers because the U.S. would essentially be refinancing the private loan at the lower government rate. . . . Wednesday will be the third day in a row Mr. Obama has announced an executive action aimed at bypassing Congress, including a housing refinancing plan and a proposal to train and hire veterans.” But CNBC greets the announcement with a skeptical headline, “White House Student Loan Measures Will Barely Dent Soaring Costs.”

It’s instructive, though, to recall what happened the last time Democrats intervened in the student loan industry. In 2010, Democrats attached a government takeover of student loans to their unpopular health care reform bill, (partly so they could use the reconciliation procedure in the Senate, which requires only a majority vote to pass something, instead of 60 votes) and President Obama signed it into law. In March, The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote, “A year after President Obama signed a law eliminating bank-based student lending, the lenders and guarantors that formed the backbone of the old system have laid off thousands of workers, eliminated programs, and sought out new roles in the student-loan industry.” Barely a month after the health care spending bill was signed, the AP reported that 2,500 Sallie Mae employees across the country had lost their jobs. And thanks to the student loan takeover, layoffs were reported in Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Tennessee.

Amazingly even some Democrat senators warned of these potential consequences just weeks before the bill passed. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) wrote, “We write to make you aware of our concern with provisions of contemplated student lending reform that could put jobs at risk.”

Yet Democrats passed the bill anyway, with the predictable result described by The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The shift meant that the companies were significantly scaling back their student-lending programs, offering smaller loans to far fewer students. Sallie Mae, the largest lender under the FFEL program, is laying off 2,500 employees this year, a reduction of 30 percent of its work force. . . . At least two major national banks, Key Bank and Citibank, have stopped lending money for education altogether, with Key Bank's education division remaining in place only to service existing loans. Citibank sold its portfolio to Discover Bank last year.”

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Good Roads Are Essential To Good Business in Arkansas

In Support of the Arkansas Highway Bond Proposal
by Curtis Coleman, Contributing Author: Contrary to what Arkansans have been led to believe for decades, Arkansas should be the crowning jewel in this union of sovereign states called The United States of America. Arkansas has the resources, the abilities and the potential to be near the top if not on top in every desirable economic, social and educational ranking. It’s far past the time when Arkansas should lead the nation in something other than childhood poverty.

If Arkansas and Arkansans are to prosper as it and they should, bold new visionary leadership will be required. Many of these new leaders can be elected in November 2012 when Arkansans have the opportunity to put a majority of pro-growth, pro-success, smaller, smarter government conservatives in the Arkansas House and Senate. New leadership “at the top” can be completed in 2014.

Until then, we can take small steps in the right direction. Supporting the $575 million highway bond program proposed by Gov. Mike Beebe yesterday is one of those steps.

Good roads are essential to good business in the State, especially for Arkansas’s tourism and agriculture industries. In 2010, travel expenditures in Arkansas exceeded $5 billion and almost 23 million people visited the State. Arkansas agriculture provides more than 275,000 jobs (approx. one in six jobs in the State) and $10.7 billion in labor income (approx. 17% of the State’s total labor income). Bad roads will be unquestionably bad for Arkansas business – and the remedy cannot be quickly administered to the sick patient.

The $575 million bond program set for a November 8 special election replaces a 5-cent diesel tax increase approved for a special election by the Arkansas Legislature earlier this year. State Representative Jonathan Barnett (R-Siloam Springs) and House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) led the fight for a diesel tax increase that would have authorized the State to issue up to $1.1 billion in bonds. The two also gained legislative approval for a state-wide ½-cent sales tax increase that will appear on the ballot in November 2012.

The Arkansas Trucking Association backed out of an agreement to support the 5-cent diesel tax increase earlier this year. The 5-cent increase would have been added to the current 22.5 cents per gallon in state taxes already assessed on diesel fuel sold in the State.

In 1999, Arkansans approved a similar $575 million bond program “for the purposes of constructing and renovating roads and highways” in the State. Act 1027 included an increase of 4-cents per gallon on diesel to be used to pay off the bonds not otherwise paid by federal highway funds.

It appears that Act 1027 did not call for the elimination of the 4-cent/gallon tax increase when the bonds were paid off, in which case the Governor is right when he says that voting against the new proposal “doesn’t increase or decrease anybody’s taxes.”

The proposed bond program will support “grant anticipation revenue vehicles,” otherwise known as “GARVEEs.” These tax-free bonds are debt instruments (a method for borrowing money) that has a pledge of future federal-aid funding. If Gov. Beebe’s proposal is similar to the 1999 program, the bonds will be repaid first from (1) revenues from federal highway assistance funding allocated to the State, (2) revenue from the 4-cent/gallon tax on diesel fuel and (3) to the extent funds from these two revenues are insufficient to make timely payments on the debt service on the bonds, payments will be made from general revenues of the State.

It is important to understand that the State is borrowing money for this bond program – and is therefore borrowing from the future. But in this case, building and maintaining Arkansas’s roads and infrastructure is clearly an investment in the future. Failure to act now will cause severe harm to Arkansas’s vital tourism and agriculture industries, not to mention discouraging the new businesses and industries Arkansas must attract – harm from which it will take decades to recover. While interest on the bonds will make the construction and maintenance technically cost more, it will pale in comparison to the increased costs of construction delayed.

State government cannot create the private sector jobs that produce profit, wealth and prosperity. But it can act to create the economic atmosphere in which small businesses can prosper and create jobs and wealth for Arkansans. It can do that in two fundamental ways:
  1. It can get out of the way. We are in desperate need of a Governor who will call the heads of the State’s regulatory agencies together and explain that their top priority is to help businesses in Arkansas be successful.
  2. It can provide, figuratively and literally, roads on which success can travel. That’s a legitimate function of state government and why Arkansans should support this highway bond proposal on November 8

Curtis Coleman is the President of The Curtis Coleman Institute for Constitutional Policy and contributing author to the ARRA News Service.

Please also see: Bell: GARVEE Renewal is the Fiscally Conservative Option on November 8th

Tags: agriculture, Arkansas, Arkansas Highway Department, Arkansas highways, Arkansas Trucking Association, GARVEE, highway bond program, tourism, Arkansas, Government, Business, Curtis Coleman, The New South Conservative To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Two Days to NFRA Presidential Preferential Convention in Des Moines, Iowa

The Republican Wing of the Republican Party
Dr. Bill Smith, Editor: The ARRA News Service will be reporting on the ground at the 2011 National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA) Presidential Preferential Convention in Des Moines, Iowa.

A lot is happening ground in Iowa, and the NFRA is sharing the following highlights:
  • Confirmed Presidential Campaigns:  Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, New Gingrich, and Anita Perry - and there talking with the rest.
  • Other Speakers: Sharron Angle, Ken Blackwell, Mike Huckabee, Phyllis Schlafly, Rod Martin, Regina Risolio, Charlie Gruschow, and Steve Deace
  • National media is coming: NBC, C-SPAN, CNN, Human Events, WorldNetDaily, ARRA News Service - and these are just the ones we know about. Expecting Fox News to be watching over our shoulders.
  • Iowans are coming: If you have friends and family in Iowa (and we know you do) tell them about the Straw Poll, and make sure they come to support their candidate - or figure out who their candidate is if they aren't sure yet. This is why we chose Iowa for convention! $20 gets them in the door, to the candidates, and lunch to boot. It's a great deal! Straw Poll tickets are available on the convention website.
  • Sponsors include:
    Bott Radio Network
    Tea Party of America
    Aletheia Group LLC
    Buck CPA
    California Republican Assembly
    Fair Tax Nation
    Gravis Marketing
    Heritage Foundation
    Strong America Now
    The Martin Organization
  • The Leadership Institute will be providing grassroots training.
It isn't too late to register for convention, but it is getting close. Don't miss this once in a lifetime event! Register Here

Tags: National Federation of Republican Assemblies, NFRA, Convention, Des Moines Iowa, October, 2011 To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arkansas Insurance Exchanges and You

AFP Arkansas: Governor Beebe and Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford continue to try and implement a state version of Obamacare. This version is known as insurance or healthcare exchanges.

Tags: Insurance, Healthcare, Obamacare, Health Care, Governor Mike Beebe, Exchanges, Arkansas, AFP Arkansas, Teresa Oelke To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Food for Thought

A.F. "Tony" Branco:

Tags: Arab spring, Communist, economy, Glenn Beck, Greece bailouts, Italy. lobsters, food for thought, A.F. Branco, political cartoon To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Bell: GARVEE Renewal is the Fiscally Conservative Option on November 8th

Bill Smith, Editor: Besides considering the facts related to GARVEE bond renewal, I have read all of the stated positions by those who oppose the issue. I also understand the desire to be against the highway bond issue, to promote a pay as you go concept, and to express extreme disappointment with the past and proposed agendas of Gov. Mike Beebe. However, I do not believe that conservatives should be against something to prove that they are indeed fiscally conservative. If the bond renewal passes, it will be imperative that the process be monitored. I am glad that many have awakened to need to hold government accountable.

Having directed a $2 billion international production program and mega-millions in other production contracts, I understand the complexity associated with manufacturing and construction programs. Major road improvements and bridges cannot be done efficiently on small scale piece meal basis. The funding must be assured up front.

The below op-ed by Nate Bell presents the reasoning for the proposed GARVEE bond renewal. Arkansas has serious problems and these do need to be addressed on may fronts. However, it is easy when traveling out of Arkansas to note on crossing into another state the road improvement in those states. It is also easy for those who have good roads to oppose this issue. Indeed, the public should be demanding transparency and accountability from the Arkansas Highway Commission and many other government programs.

And while people are considering the issues of government, it would be appropriate to address why the annual surpluses have been given to the Governors and legislators to spend instead of being set aside in either a rainy day fund or even returned to the taxpayers from whom the money was collected.

It is healthy for conservatives to promote positions especially on tax and spend issues. However, it is a sad day when one group of conservatives claims to be more conservative than others based on their position on a bond issue. I commend Nate Bell for his commitment to Arkansas and for not backing down in sharing his position and the facts on this issue despite others claiming that this makes him less conservative. It is interesting that before there were TEA Party groups, I noted and have not forgotten that there was a young Nathan Bell boldly proclaiming his conservative positions.

Op-Ed by Nate Bell: I’m fiercely proud to be a hard core fiscal conservative. I voted against both of the proposed new highway taxes during the 2011 legislative session and I’m pleased to have done so. I’m certain that I easily have the most fiscally conservative voting record of any member of the Arkansas legislature.

Like many of you I’m upset that Gov. Beebe recently called for a special election to decide on the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) bond renewal. There are so many places where the million dollar cost of the election could make a huge difference in our state. The Governor’s decision to spend the money on an unnecessary election is justifiable reason for angst but that money will be spent regardless of the outcome of the election. The bond renewal election could easily have been held in conjunction with any other regularly scheduled election at a very low cost.

We also see tremendously expensive pedestrian bridges, bicycle paths and other projects being constructed that seem completely unreasonable when the need for better highways continues to grow all around us. We are offended that such unnecessary projects are funded while important needs languish.

Anger, no matter how justified, tends to have a blinding effect on us. I’m concerned that many of my conservative friends are allowing their anger at these abuses of taxpayer funds to blind them to the facts about the proposed GARVEE bond renewal. I’m disappointed that people I respect are using innuendo and misleading information to advance their political goals. This is exactly what so many of us have spent our lives working to end. We must make honest and factual arguments. In the end each of us will draw our own conclusions but we must be certain that we are doing so based on fact.

I’m not asking any of you to agree with my conclusions.  I am asking that you read with an open mind and carefully consider the facts presented before making up your mind.

President John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

I’m not going to devote a tremendous amount of time to explaining GARVEE bonds as most of you have hopefully taken time to understand the basics. For those who have not done so there is good general information on the bonds and their permissible uses at this link.

Arkansas first used the GARVEE option in 1999. The bonds were issued in three series, the first in 2000, the second in 2001, and the third and final issue was in 2002. The principal amount of the first series was $175 million and the interest rate was 5.273%. The principal on the second series was $185 million at an interest rate of 4.523%. The principal on the third and final issue was $215 million at an interest rate of 4.324%. All three series sold at a premium, meaning that we got more than face value for the bonds. The total premium for all three series amounted to $23.6 million. This additional money effectively reduces the amount of interest paid.

The outstanding balance on all three bond series was refinanced in 2010 at a rate of 1.404%. The amount refinanced was $253.2 million. The final maturity was not extended by doing this and it remains August 2014. The Highway Commission was able to save approximately $13 million in interest by doing this. The current outstanding balance is $206.5 million, and again, it will be retired in August 2014. All bonds were issued using the competitive issuance process.

The bottom line is that total interest for the ’99 program was scheduled to be $264.6 million, but this amount was reduced by $23.6 million from the premium paid, and reduced by another $13 million from the refinance, leaving a net interest expense of $228 million from the ’99 program. This was spread over a 14-year period, amounting to about $16 million per year in interest expense.

The first bond project in the ’99 program was awarded in 2000, and the last job was awarded in 2003. From 2000 to 2004, the Construction Cost Index was fairly flat, going from 140.9 in 2000, to 140.0 in 2004, a very slight decrease. In 2005, the CCI rose 29.9% to 181.9. It rose another 27.9% in 2006, to 232.7. It stayed fairly flat in 2007, but went up to 278.3 in 2008. In other words, in the four years following the awarding of the final contract, from 2004 to 2008, the CCI rose 98.8%.

That’s a general snapshot of the 1999 program. Now let’s examine the lessons learned. We paid an average interest rate of 4.67% on the 1999 program prior to the refinance. The construction period ran from 2000-2004. At the end of this period the CCI was 140.0. Had we used the revenue in a pay as you go program the earliest possible completion date for the same dollar value of work would have been 2008. During this period construction costs increased 98.8% meaning that we would have been able to complete only about half of the same amount of work that we actually did. Put another way the interest costs at 4.67% pale in comparison to the annual CCI increase that averaged 12.35% over the 8 year period. Taxpayers saved millions of dollars and had the use of twice as many miles of much improved interstate highways and were able to use them eight years sooner.

That is merely the financial side. Now let’s examine the practical side.  It costs approximately $2.8 million per mile to rehabilitate an existing interstate. This would include rubblizing (crushing the existing concrete pavement in place) and overlaying an existing concrete interstate with asphalt, or milling and overlaying an existing asphalt interstate with asphalt. It costs approximately $3.6 million per mile to patch and rehabilitate an existing concrete interstate, and it costs approximately $5.7 million per mile for a full reconstruction of an existing interstate highway. Keep in mind that bridge work can substantially increase some of these costs, as it costs anywhere from $63 to $106 per square foot for bridge work.

A highway not rehabilitated when it needs the work will soon require full reconstruction. This is just like your house and a roof leak. If you don't fix the roof when it first needs it you'll soon be replacing not only the roof but also the decking, rafters and ceilings. Highway repairs are very similar and the cost more than doubles when not completed in a timely manner. When the impact of delaying the work for “pay as you go” is taken into account it becomes clear that it would have taken nearly 40 years to complete the same work that was completed in just 4 years using GARVEE bond financing. It also becomes crystal clear that using GARVEE bonds responsibly saves taxpayers money while maintaining necessary infrastructure.

Now let’s examine the new proposal.  The AHTD is proposing to issue $575 million of new GARVEE bonds. Current 12 year bond rates are at 2.97%. This would be slightly less expensive for shorter term bonds. This is a much lower rate than the 1999 rate making the deal even more attractive than the 1999 proposal. Most conservatives believe that the exponential expansion of the money supply under the Obama administration will inevitably lead to runaway inflation. If this is true then any 2.97% fixed rate financing of capital projects becomes in effect a huge savings plan for the taxpayers of the state.

There are a variety of opposition groups who are misusing the facts and in some cases resorting to complete fabrication and innuendo to gin up opposition to the bond renewal.  I’m going to attempt to deal with some of the “issues” below.

1. There are some who claim that state highway funds are being diverted to bike paths and pedestrian bridges etc. This is completely untrue. The following is an excerpt from the AHTD response to my official request for information: “I can assure you no ‘highway’ funds for used for the pedestrian bridges. There is a category of federal funds known as Transportation Enhancement Funds. This category cannot be used for regular vehicular road and bridge projects.

Enhancement funds are for “non-typical or non-traditional transportation related projects.” Examples of enhancement projects would include sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, beautification projects, or historic preservation projects. We don’t have enhancement funds available every year, but when we do, they are distributed through an application process. Sponsoring organizations, often local governments, apply for these funds and the AHTD selects the projects to be funded. I’m not sure if the pedestrian bridges in the LR area received enhancement funds, but I am confident they didn’t receive any money that could have been spent on a state highway project.“

2. There are suggestions that bond proceeds will be invested and subject to misappropriation etc.  This shows a lack of understanding of our existing state laws. Bond series will be issued on an as needed basis using the competitive issuance protocol required by state law.  The proceeds will be held in trust during the construction process until paid to the contractors. This does involve investing the funds for very short periods of time and the entire process is very tightly regulated to insure that no taxpayer funds are lost.

3. There are claims that no map is available pinpointing the proposed construction.  This is also untrue.  The map is published on the internet at: Click Here

4. There are claims that if the federal revenue stream disappeared for some reason then a raid on general revenue or a tax increase would be required.  While the legislature could choose to do this, the pledged revenue stream is less than 5% of the AHTD budget and could be absorbed by slowing the pace of other work if the federal revenue was eliminated.

5. Some are suggesting that if the bonds aren’t issued then the diesel tax could be reduced.  This is also incorrect since the work still would need to be done and under “pay as you go” the net cost will be far higher eliminating any chance of reducing the tax and most likely requiring tax increases.

6. Much has been made of bond issuance costs and legal fees.  These costs amounted to about 0.16% on the 1999 program and are expected to be similar on the new series.

The bottom line is that the GARVEE bond renewal is the most fiscally responsible approach to interstate highway rehabilitation that is currently available to Arkansas taxpayers. I encourage you to join me in support of this excellent plan as we work together to Move Arkansas Forward.
Nate Bell is Arkansas State Representative for District 22, Mena, AR.  He is a farmer / small business owner. 

Tags: Nathan Bell, GARVEE, bond renewal, special election, Nov 8th, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

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