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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, May 25, 2013

Energy and Economic Growth: Interview with Economist Mark Thoma

If you want an objective view of energy, ask an economist, who can tell you what to expect to pay at the pump in the coming years, and why, as well as what to expect from medium - and long-term economic growth and what the real drivers will be. These are questions that are crucial to a pending decision by the US government over natural gas exports, and while we know where big oil stands versus its manufacturing rivals — it’s the economist who can set things straight.

Mark Thoma is a macroeconomist and time-series econometrician at the University of Oregon. His research focuses on how monetary policy affects the economy, and he has also worked on political business cycle models. Mark is currently a fellow at The Century Foundation, a columnist at The Fiscal Times, an analyst at CBS MoneyWatch, and he blogs daily at Economist’s View.

Thoma is also a progressive and identified as a former member of JournoList - an email group of approximately 400 "progressive" and socialist journalists, academics and "new media" activists. JournoList members reportedly coordinated their messages in favor of Barack Obama and the Democrats, and against Sarah Palin and the Republican Party. JournoList was founded in 2007 and was closed down in early 2010. In 2009, he also endorsed the pro-labor union Employee Free Choice Act. Therefore, readers of the below interview can expect Thoma's answers to lean left on  issues and to be  insightful of the left's continued agenda in energy and other matters.

In this exclusive interview with James Stafford, Editor, Oilprice.com, Thoma discusses:
•    What we can expect from gas prices this summer and beyond
•    Why clean energy won’t see an dramatic investment rival, for now
•    How political feasibility, not economic feasibility, drives the ethanol mandate
•    Why the ethanol mandate might eventually be nixed
•    How we weigh the free market against government intervention
•    Why there is little momentum for a US-wide carbon market
•    What we learned from the global financial crisis
•    Why our best hope for strong economic growth is in exports

Interview by James Stafford, Oilprice.com:
James Stafford: What every regular consumer wants to know is why the price of gas at the pump continues to rise in the midst of a much-lauded oil and gas boom?

Mark Thoma: In the short-run, of course, the price of gas is quite variable. Recent forecasts, for example, indicate that prices will decline a bit over the summer, but at some point they will undoubtedly head back up again. The real question is how the underlying trend for gas prices, which has been increasing over time, will be affected by increases in the supply of energy from shale and other sources. Will the upward trend in gas prices continue? The answer depends upon the relative growth in the supply and demand for energy. I believe the new energy sources and the corresponding increase in supply will temper the upward trend, but the trend will continue due in particular to growth in demand from developing economies.

James Stafford: According to first quarter 2013 figures, clean energy investment is at its lowest since 2009. What do you see happening in terms of clean energy investment over the rest of 2013 and then in the next 2-3 years?

Mark Thoma: With all of the budget pressures we have seen in recent years, I have a hard time imagining increased support for new investment from the government, so any increase will have to come from the private sector. The incentive for the private sector to undertake these investments depends upon the price of energy – as the price of energy rises alternatives become more attractive – but as noted in the answer to the previous question I see the price of energy continuing to rise, but do not expect the dramatic, permanent spikes in prices needed to spur a substantial increase in investment.

James Stafford: Is the ethanol mandate economically feasible?

Mark Thoma: I think the ethanol mandate is economically feasible in the sense that it could persist, but I don't think it's the best way to address our reliance on imported energy or the environmental issues associated with energy use. It's the political feasibility that seems to be most at issue, and the power struggle between states with grain interests and states with interests in traditional fossil fuels will determine the outcome. I expect the ethanol mandate will eventually be overcome, particularly since the discovery of new domestic energy supplies undermines one of the strongest arguments for it, energy independence.

James Stafford: On a broader level, is US energy policy missing the mark by interfering too much to boost renewable energy against fossil fuels? Should the free market reign?

Mark Thoma: When significant market failures are present, the free market does not produce the best possible allocation of resources and government intervention can help. Thus, the question for me is whether significant market failures exist in renewable energy research. I believe that they do, and that, if anything, we are not doing enough to promote new energy technology. This is not unique to renewable energy, such market failures are common and underlie government issued patents, research grants, and so on. However, let me be clear that I am not in favor of government “picking winners” by, say, favoring particular companies or products, but I am in favor of generous support for basic research in this area.

James Stafford: How do you see the US carbon trading market shaping up even though it is not on a national level, but remains the purview of states, most notably California?

Mark Thoma: Presently, there seems to be little momentum for a US carbon market, and I don't see that changing in the near future. The necessary public and political support simply isn't there. It will, sadly, probably take a natural disaster or extinction of an important species that can clearly be connected to climate change before any notable change occurs.

James Stafford: How are climate change and the climate change debate affecting the economy?

Mark Thoma:James Stafford: In general, what is your impression of the Fed's handling of the economy, and attempts to drive the recovery?

Mark Thoma: I believe the Fed was essential in preventing an even larger collapse, and I applaud the creativity the Fed demonstrated in creating special facilities and the like to deal with various problems. With that said, the Fed has not been perfect in its reaction to the crisis. It was too slow to recognize the depth of the downturn, there was too much fear of inflation causing the Fed to under react – and when they did react they were often behind the curve – and they were far too eager to see “green shoots” just around the corner rather than make tough policy decisions.

Lately, however, the Fed has done better and though it still hasn't been aggressive enough for my tastes, it has certainly helped to push the recovery along. The big problem presently is the lack of support from fiscal authorities, without such support there's only so much the Fed can do.

James Stafford: Generally speaking, due to the close links among world economies most crashed following the US subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. Does this tight relationship mean that no one country can truly see an economic recovery until all/most countries are ready? How do you think the 2008 crisis will affect the way economies rely on each other in the future?

Mark Thoma: One of the interesting features of the recession is that developing economies did better (in a relative sense) than developed economies. Thus, one lesson from the crisis is that developing countries are more “decoupled” from developing countries than we thought. That's not to say they weren't affected, international trade collapsed during the recession and that didn't help countries that rely upon export markets, but developing economies weren't affected anywhere near as much as many observers predicted. Within the developed world, it's a different story. Here, the linkages appear to be much stronger, both through the financial system and through the real economy, and a true recovery will require a general improvement in economic conditions. As for the future, I don't think we'll see much effort to reduce international trade as a way to reduce these linkages – that's counterproductive – but I do think we'll see much more concern about financial interconnectedness. However, turning that concern into effective regulation that can extend across national borders is a difficult problem and I'm not all that optimistic that we'll be able to do as much as needed on the regulatory front.

James Stafford: What are your views on exporting US natural gas? Do you believe it could provide a cornerstone for economic recovery?

Mark Thoma: Growth in the demand for our goods and services can be divided into four components, growth of consumption, growth of investment, growth in government spending, and growth in net exports (exports minus imports). Which of these components will drive future growth? It's hard to imagine consumption growth rising above where it was pre-recession when it was elevated by excessive credit growth, so this is an unlikely driver of higher future growth. Same for government spending, if anything this will be curtailed as we try to bring our long-run budget under control. Business investment might increase and drive future growth, but it is relatively high already and further increases seem unlikely. That means our best hope for strong growth in the future lies with increasing the growth in exports, and exporting natural gas could be an important component of growth in this area.

James Stafford: Oil is finite, and whilst many countries in the world have poorly developed economies, oil supplies already struggle to meet demand. Basically, not all countries can develop economically whilst the first world economies remain as large and demanding as they are. Do you think as more effort is made to develop third world countries, the first world countries must inevitably decline as a result?

Mark Thoma: I'm an optimist when it comes to world growth and I do not believe that developed countries must decline as developing countries rise. Technology – digital technology, the rise of robots, and advances in energy production in particular – will allow both the developed and developing world to prosper. My big worries lie with distribution, i.e. whether and how the problem of rising inequality can be solved.

James Stafford: What will Obama's economic legacy be? Has he helped or hindered economic development?

Mark Thoma: That's a tough question since we don't yet know what's ahead, but a big part of his legacy will certainly be connected to Obamacare, particularly if it eventually evolves into some type of single payer system with universal coverage. A second legacy is more uncertain, but I believe Obama would like to produce a Grand Bargain that will bring our long-run budget under control. Whether he'll be remembered fondly by liberals for this will depend upon the degree to which he protects important social insurance programs, Medicare and Social Security in particular. Then there's the legacy I hope he'll have, but doubt he will. This may be mostly wishful thinking, but if the deficit continues to decline as it has recently, if government spending as share of GDP is no higher post-recession than it was pre-recession, and if inflation remains subdued (as I believe it will), then perhaps his third legacy will be an important lesson. We worried far too much about debt and inflation, and far too little about the most important and most costly problem, the unemployed. We could have and should have done much more than we did to help the unemployed, and if we can somehow learn that lesson, that will be an important legacy of the Obama years.
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© 2013 - James Stafford is Editor of OilPrice.com, a leading online energy news site. Its news and analysis covers all energy sectors from crude oil and natural gas to solar energy and hydro. This interview was contributed by Stafford to the ARRA News Service. Those wishing to reprint the complete article should contact Mr. Stafford.

Tags: energy, economic growth, progressive, economist, Mark Thoma, interview, Oilprice.com, James Stafford To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Cruz: McCain out of touch with Senate GOP

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-AZ)
By United Press International, GOPUSA: Senators who John McCain, R-Ariz., once called "whacko birds" are the real Republican mainstream, said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, daring McCain to prove him wrong.

Cruz, a freshman senator endorsed by the Tea Party movement and the libertarian Republican Liberty Caucus, said on the Senate floor Thursday he and fellow deficit-hawk Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida were not a crackpot fringe for standing in the way of negotiations with the House to reconcile the two chambers' competing U.S. budget proposals.

Indeed, they represent the GOP majority philosophy, Cruz said.

Cruz, Paul, Lee, Rubio and other conservative lawmakers with close Tea Party ties say they adamantly object to the appointment of a House-Senate conference committee to bridge the vast gap between the House and Senate budget versions unless the lawmakers are guaranteed negotiators won't agree to link a budget deal to a debt-limit increase.

If that were to happen, such an agreement would let a debt-ceiling increase be approved in the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority, rather than the 60-vote supermajority usually needed for controversial measures.

McCain, a senator since 1987, called his upstart colleagues' defiance obstructionist and said their demand for a guarantee showed their ignorance of how the Senate works.

"It's not the regular order for a number senators -- a small number, a minority within a minority here -- to say they will not agree to go to conference," McCain said Thursday.

"We're here to vote, not here to block things," he said. "We're here to articulate our positions on the issues and do what we can for the good of the country and the let the process move forward."

He said the budget blockade was the latest example of the small senators group pursuing a strategy that will "paralyze" the Senate process. He said it could provoke Democratic leaders to take extreme steps to change Senate rules to crack down on delaying tactics.

McCain previously criticized Tea Party tactics on other issues, including efforts to block votes on Cabinet nominations and gun-control legislation.

Two months ago he told The Huffington Post he considered them "whacko birds" after they filibustered John O. Brennan as President Barack Obama's nominee to head the CIA until he guaranteed Washington wouldn't use aerial drones to kill Americans in the United States.

"I think it can be harmful if there is a belief among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans. They're not," McCain said in the Post interview, published March 7.

Cruz said Thursday McCain was "impugning all 45 Republicans in this body" by suggesting Cruz and his colleagues were a small troublemaking minority of the GOP for continuing to stand in the way of the House-Senate conference committee and pressing the debt-ceiling issue.

"There may be more wacko birds in the Senate than is suspected," Cruz said.

He challenged McCain to test the senatorial waters by seeing how many Republican senators are willing to sign a statement saying they supported letting the Senate raise the debt ceiling with a simple majority.

"I believe he will find that his representation to this body -- that it is only a minority of Republicans that oppose that -- is not accurate," Cruz said.

Cruz challenged McCain, saying if the Arizona Republican can produce a document showing a majority of the Senate GOP supported the McCain position, "I will offer here and now to go to a home game of my Houston Astros wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks hat."

Tags: U.S. Senators, Ted Cruz, John McCain, Arizona, McCain out of touch with Senate GOP To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

President Obama Is Tired of Fighting Terrorism

Polaris/Newscom
James Carafano, Heritage Foundation: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

These were words President Obama never used during his speech at the National Defense University yesterday. Rather, he said anything but anything that sounded like Winston Churchill’s immortal speech about defiance in the face of the march of tyranny.
In large part, there was nothing new in the counterterrorism strategy the President announced. Flash back to 2011—that was the real turning point. Before then, Obama really followed what was called “Bush-lite,” pretty much the same tactics as the previous Administration—just dropping all the rhetoric.

The war of ideas was completely banned from the Obama lexicon. Islamist terrorism became “violent extremism.” Terrorism became “senseless violence.” In 2011, however, Obama shifted course dramatically. More than dumping the war of words, the White House signed off on a new counterterrorism strategy that amounted to running away from Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible and limiting the offensive campaign to whacking top-level al-Qaeda with drone strikes.

The new strategy was bound to fail, fighting the last war while al-Qaeda evolved into a global insurgency that has spread from Pakistan to Nigeria.

Yet, even as the new fronts in the war on terrorism sprang up, the Administration continued to argue that it was winning. After Islamist terrorists murdered Americans and burned a U.S. consulate to the ground in Benghazi, the President claimed he was winning. As homegrown terrorists kill in Boston and London, he claims he is winning. As the Taliban mocks the U.S. standing down in Afghanistan, he claims he is winning.

Rather than admit failure and change course, faced with criticism here at home, the President has decided to declare victory, hoping this will reenergize support from the left. In his speech, he promised to do even less and make the less more transparent. This will no doubt please progressives who were unhappy that Obama carried over any vestige of the Bush policies.

While this speech may make the President more popular with the progressive caucus, it amounts to Maginot Line strategy: The U.S. won’t go after them if they don’t come after us. If they do come after us—we will treat them like any other criminal. If they do get through—it won’t be our fault; it will be the result of addled minds and “senseless” violence. Obama has warped backed to the Clinton counterterrorism strategy of the 1990s without remembering that was the strategy that led to 9/11.

Obama framed the challenges we face today as a false choice between sitting back and global, endless, borderless war. In reality, there is much that the U.S. can to defend itself: dismantle global terrorist networks; push back on political Islam; and champion freedom in the world. There are options between doing nothing and invading countries. President Obama has decided to ignore them. He is sick of fighting. Unfortunately, America’s enemies are not.
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James Carafano, one of the nation’s leading experts in defense and homeland security, directs The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Carafano is an accomplished historian and teacher as well as a prolific writer and researcher on a fundamental constitutional duty of the federal government: to provide for the common defense.

Tags: Afghanistan, Benghazi, Boston, Counterterrorism Strategy, extremism, Iraq, National Defense University, President Obama, progressives, terrorism, Terrorists, War on Terrorism, Winston Churchill, James Carafano, Morning Bell, Heritage Foundation To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Sen. Inhofe: Oklahoma Is Grieving And In Pain . . .

Moore, Oklahoma tornado - See 80 Photos
Credit: Getty Images
I can speak for all Oklahoma today when I thank you for your continued thoughts, your prayers, your support as we begin the recovery process. Oklahoma is grieving and in pain, but the devastation such as this tends to bring us closer together as a country.’

MOORE, OK – In the Weekly Republican Address, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) talks about the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma earlier this week. “Oklahoma has been hit hard, but we’re not knocked out,” says Oklahoma’s senior senator, who delivers the address on location in Moore. He continues, “The individuals who lived through these storms are volunteering in the recovery and the assisting efforts right now, and they’re America’s real heroes.”
A full transcript of Sen. Inhofe's address follows:“Hi, I’m Senator Jim Inhofe from the State of Oklahoma.

Let me begin by telling those who lost loved ones during the tragic tornadoes in our state how much we love you guys. My family and I continue to pray for you. We pray for you every day.

“I’ve been in constant contact, in communication, with the Oklahoma Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management officials, and the Leaders of the Oklahoma National Guard – you can see over here – that the direct needs of those affected on the ground are being met. Oklahoma has been hit hard, but we’re not knocked out.

“Fourteen years ago, on May 3, 1999, an eerily similar tornado struck the same area of Moore, Oklahoma, and again in 2003. The images and the stories from the storm earlier this week are nothing new. Oklahoma will persevere and overcome this tragedy as we have demonstrated in the past.

“After the Oklahoma City bombing -- we all remember that in 1995 -- people saw the many ways Oklahomans took care of each other, from running toward the bombing instead of running away, to donating their blood, and their time and their money.

“This daily display of neighbors helping neighbors became known as the Oklahoma Standard. After each disaster the people of Oklahoma face, the Standard is exhibited again and again. In the aftermath of the Moore tornado we are witnesses once again to the Oklahoma Standard.

“The accounts of two elementary schools that were wiped out by the winds of 200 miles an hour have struck a chord, I think with all Americans – with everyone watching us now -- all Americans across the country. It was the last day of school for most of the students -- you know how excited they get -- when the storm tore through the town of Moore, leaving little in its path. We’re beginning to hear about the selfless acts Oklahomans demonstrated to ensure the safety and protection of their fellow neighbors, and their friends, and their students. Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow kept praying with her students and reminding them how much she loved them as she and her students took cover in a school closet; We had Suzanna Haley, she was a first-grade special education teacher in Briarwood Elementary School, suffered a severe injury when part of a school desk was impaled in the back of her leg while protecting the students in her classroom. The most heart-wrenching testimony I’ve heard is from the person who was responsible for matching the missing kids with the missing parents.

The individuals who lived through these storms are volunteering in the recovery and assisting efforts right now, and they’re America’s real heroes.

“I have seen people from all corners of the state continuing to flock to the devastating areas to give their time, their money, and their energy to help meet the dire needs of those injured or displaced. The Oklahoma Standard has survived an act of terror in 1995 and devastating natural disasters in the past. This most recent storm will only embolden the standard, and encourage the rest of the country to follow our lead.

“But our victims desperately need your help right now, they need your money. If you are able, please visit the American Red Cross website at AmericanRedCross.com or the Salvation Army website at SalvationArmyUSA.com to volunteer.

“I can speak for all Oklahoma today when I thank you for your continued thoughts, your prayers, your support as we begin the recovery process. Oklahoma is grieving and in pain, but the devastation such as this tends to bring us closer together as a country.

“I thank you for listening and God bless those who are suffering today and God bless the United States of America.”


Tags: U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, Tornado, Moore, Oklahoma, Weekly Republican Address To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tripping Over Disappointing News

Gary Bauer, Contributing Author: As we head into this holiday weekend there are some important news items I want to comment on a few headlines.

Obama Declares War On Terror Over - May Stop "Drone"ing Civilians - Gitmo Must Go Again
Yesterday President Obama tried to change the subject away from all the scandals engulfing his administration by giving a major address on foreign policy. He effectively declared an end to the "global war on terror." Well, we weren't the ones who declared war, and one side doesn't get to unilaterally decide it is over unless they are surrendering.

Obama also announced that he plans to dramatically scale back drone attacks. Ironically, this administration has launched more drone attacks than any previous administration, and it is one of Obama's more popular policies. But Obama announced that future drone strikes would be limited to situations where "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured," meaning there will be far fewer drone strikes against suspected terrorists in the future.

Lastly, the president announced another all-out effort to close Gitmo and bring the terrorist thugs to a prison near you.

Oops Holder Really Did Order Seizures of Fox News' James Rosen
NBC News reported last night that Attorney General Eric Holder personally signed the orders to seize personal and work phones and email records of Fox News reporter James Rosen. What is so shocking in this case is that Holder cited the Espionage Act and considered Rosen a criminal co-conspirator and a flight risk!

In response to the growing media outrage, President Obama has ordered the Justice Department to review its guidelines on investigating journalists. In other words, Holder will be reviewing his own work.

Lerner - No Job But Retains Full Pay & Benefits
Lois Lerner, the director of IRS tax-exempt office at the center of the Tea Party targeting scandal, has been placed on administrative leave with pay after refusing to testify before Congress. Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel reportedly asked for her resignation, but she refused. So, her "punishment" is that she is not allowed to go to work, and your punishment is that you must still continue to pay her!

Boy Scouts Cave Gay Scouts But Activist Want Boys Under Gay Leadership
Despite strong opposition from parents and leaders, 1,400 delegates at the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting voted to reverse the BSA's current membership policy and permit homosexual scouts as members, while continuing to ban homosexual scout masters. With this decision the BSA has demoralized its strongest supporters and guaranteed that it will have fewer defenders in the future.

Meanwhile the left is not satisfied with this so-called "compromise." Homosexual rights groups are demanding a role in enforcing the new policy, and they are also vowing to keep pressuring the Scouts until they lift the ban on gay leaders.
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Gary Bauer is a conservative family values advocate and serves as president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families

Tags: headlines, review, Barack Obama, War on Terror, Eric Holder, ordered Fox News seizures, Lois Lerner, Boy ScoutsGary Bauer, Campaign for Working Families To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Slow Lerner - Pleads The 5th!

by AF "Tony" Branco
Update: Wire services reported yesterday that Lois Lerner was placed on administrative leave after  reportedly refusing to resign. Lerner came under fire this week when she chose to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself rather than testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. IRS acting commissioner Daniel Werfel announced that Ken Corbin, currently the Deputy Director, Submission Processing, Wage and Investment (W&I) Division, has been selected to be the acting Director, Exempt Organizations, Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division.

Will Lois Lerner continue to draw on taxpayer's dollars? Will she fall on her sword for others in the Obama administration? Or she guilty?

Tags: Lois Lerner, IRS, pleads the 5th, under the influence, power, editorial cartoon, AF Branco To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Unions: Obamacare ‘Could Be Catastrophic’

Labor Says ‘It’s Costing Us More,’ Leader ‘Calling For Repeal’

‘Union Leaders Say Many Of The Law’s Requirements Will Drive Up The Costs For Their Health-Care Plans’
“Labor unions are breaking with President Obama on ObamaCare. Months after the president’s reelection, a variety of unions are publicly balking at how the administration plans to implement the landmark law. They warn that unless there are changes, the results could be catastrophic.” (“Labor Unions Break Ranks With White House On Obamacare,” The Hill, 5/21/13)
“The union plans were already more costly to run than traditional single-employer health plans. The Affordable Care Act has added to that cost — for the unions’ and other plans — by requiring health plans to cover dependents up to age 26, eliminate annual or lifetime coverage limits and extend coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.” (“Some Unions Now Angry About Health Care Overhaul,” AP, 5/24/13)
KINSEY ROBINSON, President, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers: ‘I am … calling for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act’ “…our concerns over certain provisions in the ACA have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored. In the rush to achieve its passage, many of the Act’s provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer sponsored coverage could keep it. … I am therefore calling for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act to protect our employers, our industry, and our most important asset: our members and their families.” (United Union Of Roofers, Waterproofers And Allied Workers International, Press Release, 4/24/13)

JOSEPH HANSEN, President United Food and Commercial Workers International Union: “It makes an untruth out of what the president said, that if you like your insurance, you could keep it…That is not going to be true for millions of workers now.” (“Some Unions Now Angry About Health Care Overhaul,” AP, 5/24/13)
  • HANSEN: ‘[T]he president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true’ “‘If you already have health insurance through your job…nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change your coverage or your doctor…’ Those were the words spoken by President Obama at the AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh on Sept. 15, 2009. …what also has become increasingly clear with each passing day is that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true...” (“Treat Nonprofit Healthcare Fairly,” The Hill, 5/20/13)

Tags: Labor Unions, Obamacare, Could Be Catastrophic To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

IRS Scandal Shows Importance Of Privacy Protections

by AF Branco
by Phil Kerpen, Contributing Author: IRS apologists are furiously trying to change the subject from the outrageous targeting of political opponents by the IRS to a policy debate over forced disclosure of contributions to groups that engage in political speech. The story is that a deluge of applications forced the IRS to cut corners and the targeting scandal was an accidental result of mismanaging that flood. From there the apologists pivot to demanding a new crackdown on political speech, forced disclosure of donors, or both. But the story is a fairy tale and the “solutions” are unconstitutional.

The Inspector General’s report actually shows applications were down when the targeting began. It shows that 1,735 groups applied for 501(c)(4) status in fiscal 2010, down from 1,751 the prior year. The fiscal year was in its fifth month, February 2010, when targeting began; we don’t know what the standard was in February because it is redacted in the report. We do know the terms “tea party” and “patriot” were used starting in April 2010, more than halfway through the fiscal year. There is simply no way the IRS could have been flooded with applications that far into a year in which overall applications were down.

Still, the policy debate is an important one: Was the Supreme Court wrong when it found that the anonymity of group member s engaging in controversial speech is protected by the Constitution? Considering the revelation in the Inspector General’s report that the IRS looked for “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run” to subject groups to additional scrutiny, the privacy question is more vital than ever.

“Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Many liberals disagree. They believe privacy protections are simply an effort to avoid public scrutiny and responsibility, and the consequences of engaging in political speech should include suffering the potential reputational and business damage that could come from adverse public reaction.

The template here is the organized campaign against the corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is rare among public policy nonprofits — on the left or right —in that it generally discloses its donors, who openly participate in a transparent process of developing model free-market legislation for state legislators.

For being so forthcoming, liberals launched a brutal attack on ALEC, led by Common Cause and the racial-grievance group Color of Change, which was founded by self-described avowed communist and disgraced former Obama green jobs czar Anthony K. "Van" Jones. Through boycotts, negative advertising, and other tools of community organizing, they have bullied dozens of companies into pulling their support for ALEC.

Do other organizations have a right to shield their supporters from that type of retribution? The Supreme Court says yes: “It is not sufficient to answer… that whatever repressive effect compulsory disclosure of names of petitioner's members may have… follows not from state action but from private community pressures. The crucial factor is the interplay of governmental and private action, for it is only after the initial exertion of state power represented by the production order that private action takes hold.”

Does it surprise anyone that in the current environment conservative groups, in particular, would cherish the privacy of their members and bridle at intrusive information requests from the IRS? They’ve seen what happened to ALEC. They’ve seen what happened to supporters of National Organization for Marriage, whose membership list was illegally leaked by the IRS to their principal political opponents. They know professional protesters stands ready to attack and intimidate their supporters.

What might surprise some liberals is that the quotes I’ve included from the Supreme Court came not from the Roberts Court in Citizens United, but from the Warren Court in NAACP v. Alabama. In that landmark 1958 decision, the Court unanimously found that free association often depends on privacy protection from a government that could use forced disclosure for retribution by itself or by “private community pressures.” It’s still true.
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Phil Kerpen American Commitment  and the author of Democracy Denied: How Obama is Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him. Phil Kerpen is a contributing author for the ARRA News Service.

Tags: IRS, scandal, invasion of privacy, privacy protections, Phil Kerpen, American Commitment To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Does Rand Paul's Rise Signal A Broader Libertarian Moment?

Sen. / Dr. Rand Paul
by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Libertarianism, thanks, among other factors, to the emergence of leading presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, is coming to the fore. It is presenting itself in fresh, less eccentric, and increasingly attractive ways. Moderate libertarianism may be capturing the fancy of an overtaxed, fed-up-with-debt-fueled grandiose government, war-weary, live-and-let-live, Republican base and American people.

Time Magazine recently featured Sen. Rand Paul as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He was not just on the list. Time placed Paul on its cover for the first, though likely not for the last, time.) This may signal the emergence of the Libertarian Moment.

We didn’t arrive into this “Grandiose Government” pickle absolutely positively overnight. Sen. Paul and others seek to lead us on the path out and to safety. It will make their job easier if we better understood how we ended up in this gutter in the first place.

The road toward serfdom was a long and winding one. How did the American government transform from our servant to master? Where did it get the resources to move from a small, frugal, lighthouse-keeping cluster of agencies to its status of world-record “Hey Big Spender” which, with federal 2013 projected outlays of $3.8T, spends more than the entire GDPs of every nation other than the U.S. itself, China, and Japan?

To put federal government spending into its spectacularly vertiginous perspective, >this columnist elsewhere, about two years ago, noted:

The federal government spent $15 billion from 1789 – 1900. Not $15 billion a year. $15 billion cumulatively. [Ed. Note: by another source, it was $16.5B, an immaterial difference.] Uncle Sam will spend $10 billion a day in 2011. The federal government spends more every two days than it did altogether for more than America’s first century. Although these sums are not adjusted for inflation [or population growth] they give a correct impression of the magnitude of the change from what our Founders set forth and our early statesmen delivered.

How does Washington get its hands on so much money? Three ways. Taxing us, on which it is maxed out. Borrowing — deficits — to which there is a growing massive resistance. And there is a third and even more pernicious way: printing dollars. …

The power to print money at whim is wrong. It is toxic to our personal and national wellbeing. And it is unconstitutional.

From $16 billion cumulatively over a century to $10 billion a day? Unconstitutional? Therein hangs a tale.

Spoiler alert: it was a logically indefensible 1884 U.S. Supreme Court decision about federal monetary powers that imbued the federal government with sovereign attributes. This laid the doctrinal predicate for the metastasis of meta-statism. It will be easier to extricate America from its dispiriting predicament by knowing how we got here in the first place. Enter Cato Institute.

Cato promotes “a vision of society free from excessive government power.” Cato patiently has been taking the lead in disputing against the manifold rationalizations propounded by those lusting to become “corrupted absolutely” through the achievement of absolute power. Under new president John Allison, Cato, while maintaining its scholarly rigor, is beginning to pack an increasingly serious wallop inside the corridors of power.

Case in point. Cato has carved out a niche as thought leader on monetary policy in Washington. This is in large measure attributable to the work of its Vice President for Academic Affairs (and editor of the Cato Journal) Prof. James Dorn. For over thirty years, Cato has staged an extensive annual conference on what had been a mostly orphaned issue: monetary policy. This annual conference now approaches iconic status.

Cato now is upping the ante on monetary reform, dramatically. The Spring/Summer 2102 issue of The Cato Journal , drawing on the proceedings of its 29th annual monetary conference, was devoted to “Monetary Reform In the Wake of the Crisis.” So many prominent scholars, and many highly respected public intellectuals, were featured therein that it is impractical to list them all. Cato makes this publicly available .

More recently, moreover, Cato staged a panel, to an overflowing crowd, to celebrate the publication of Prof. Richard Timberlake’s latest “tour de force” (as it is described by the influential Prof. Kevin Dowd of the University of Durham): Constitutional Money, A Review of the Supreme Court’s Monetary Decisions. The fact that premier academic publisher Cambridge University Press brought out this Cato Institute Book itself is noteworthy.

Timberlake is the dean of classical monetary policy economists and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He likely is the only economist still productive who was born under a regime where one could present a $20 bill at any bank and receive a $20 one-ounce gold coin). Cato’s own description of this work concludes: “The final chapter describes the adjustments necessary to return to a gold standard and briefly examines other monetary arrangements that would be consistent with the Framers’ Constitution.”

Contained in Constitutional Money is a gripping exposé of the judicial coup d’etat inverting the constitutional structure of the United States from one of limited government to one of almost limitless government. Timberlake nails the infamous case of Julliard v. Greenman (1884) which, for the first time, imbued Congress with the attribute of “sovereignty.”

Timberlake: “(Mr. Justice) Gray then observed: ‘The people of the United States by the Constitution established a national government, with sovereign powers, legislative, executive, and judicial.’ He cited Marshall’s opinion on the scope of Congress’s enumerated powers, noting that the government, ‘…though limited in its powers is supreme within its sphere of action….’ Nowhere in Marshall’s decision, or in the Constitution, can one find the words ‘sovereign’ or ‘sovereignty.’ (p. 120) … Nothing in the written Constitution supports such a construction. No man who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 would have imagined it, or endorsed it for an instant, or even tolerated it as arguable. (p. 123)”

This columnist takes great personal pleasure at Prof. Timberlake’s decisive evisceration of Julliard. In 1981, this columnist was one of the 23 formal witnesses called (at the behest of Gold Commissioner Lewis E. Lehrman, with whose Institute he now has a professional relationship) to testify before the Reagan Gold Commission. That testimony was reflected in Commission executive director Anna Schwartz’s excellent Reflections on the Gold Commission Report (p. 326): “Two attorneys attacked the present monetary system as unconstitutional.”

Prof. Schwartz’s passing comment does not quite capture the argument contained in my testimony, “The Constitutional Requirements that U.S. Currency Be Backed By Precious Metals,” which was a critique, not an attack. That testimony concluded not that fiduciary currency is “unconstitutional,” rather that “The Founding Fathers, who had lived through periods of inflation and hyperinflation, intended to — and effectively did — remove the temptation of paper money from the hands of the state governments, and withheld it from the federal government. These men were intellectual giants. As the heirs to their good works, it is up to us to preserve their legacy, rather than subvert it.”

Prof. Timberlake has struck a real blow for liberty by exposing — and providing a devastating intellectual critique of — the “smoking gun” behind Ultragovernment, Julliard. By authoritatively prying it from its hiding place in the vaults of American jurisprudence Timberlake furnishes a potent tool with which authentic “small r” republican leaders better may begin to right the ship of state.

Timberlake’s Constitutional Money provides excellent scholarship. It also presents as an intellectual thriller, a page-turner, which those who care about classical liberalism will find impossible to put down. It is a great contribution to monetary, as well as classical liberal, discourse. Most of all in publishing this work Cato Institute provides a powerful intellectual tool to reformers such as Rand Paul. As principled officials like Sen. Paul expand the defense of our civil liberties into advancing an economic agenda built on those principles they could do no better than to begin with Timberlake’s Constitutional Money. Restoring money with constitutional integrity, and only by restoring money of constitutional integrity, will foster a climate of equitable prosperity, personal dignity, and true liberty.
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Ralph Benko is senior advisor in economics to American Principles in Action’s Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service.  His article first appeared in Forbes

Tags: Rand Paul, libertarian movement, Ralph Benko, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

Alan Caruba, Contributing Author: From its earliest days, even before the Revolution, Americans valued their newspapers and understood they played a crucial role in the issues and events of the times in which they lived. It would take a while, however, before newspapers evolved from highly partisan advocates of the early political factions to their role as watchdogs of government.

A literate population depended on them for news that revealed the increasing futility of dealing with a British monarchy and parliament that found new ways to tax the essentially independent colonies. Newspapers became the glue of the new nation, eagerly read in every state, providing news of Congress and the presidency.

By contrast, authoritarian governments understood the need to keep a tight control over the news and none more than the Third Reich of the Nazi Party and in the Soviet Union.

On May 21st, Kirsten Powers, writing in the Daily Beast.com, borrowed from words of pastor Martin Niemoller, a German who witnessed their rise to power and who framed the manner in which the Nazis targeted, jailed and killed all those they deemed enemies of the state.

His poem, “First they came” was echoed by Powers who wrote “First they came for Fox News, and they did not speak out—because they were not Fox News. Then they came for government whistleblowers, and they did not speak out—because they were not government whistleblowers. Then they came for the maker of a YouTube video, and—okay we know how this story ends. But how did we get here?” The “we” to whom she referred are the nation’s journalists.

“Turns out,” said Powers, “it’s a fairly swift sojourn from a president pushing to ‘delegitimize’ a news organization to threatening criminal prosecution for journalistic activity by a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, to spying on Associated Press reporters.”

“Where were the media when all this began happening?" asked Powers. “With a few exceptions, they were acting as quiet enablers.”

This is what I and many other conservative observers and analysts of the President and his administration have been saying since 2009 and earlier. “These series of ‘warnings’ to the Fourth Estate,” said Powers, “were what you might expect to hear from some third-rate dictator, not from the senior staff of Hope and Change, Inc.”

In his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler demonstrated his contempt for the public. “The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” Obama’s 2008 slogan was “hope and change.” He was vague about the change he had in mind, but we have been learning about it since his election.

Hitler and his minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, set up a department that dealt solely with newspapers. An instructive history of the press in the Third Reich can be found on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“When Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazis controlled less than three percent of Germany’s 4,700 newspapers.” The elimination of the German multi-party political system ended hundreds of newspapers that would offer any opposition to the Nazi Party. What followed in the first weeks of 1933 was the systematic use of radio, press, and newsreels to stoke fears of a pending “Communist uprising.” This occurred in a pre-television and, of course, pre-Internet era, but it was effective when backed up by the thuggish behavior of Hitler’s paramilitary units that were used to “brutalize or arrest political opponents and incarcerate them in hastily established detention centers and concentration camps.”

Not unlike the popularity and influence of Fox News, the well-known Berlin daily, the Vossische Zeitung, was targeted, along with the Berlin Tageblatt. The former employed 10,000 people, but in 1933, its owners, the Ullstein family, were forced to resign and, a year later, sell the company assets. The latter newspaper was owned by the Mosse family that published a number of major liberal papers “much hated by the Nazis.” When Hitler took power, the family fled Germany.

This is not to suggest that Fox News or the Associated Press will suffer a similar fate, but it is no accident that their reporters are being intimidated by an administration that has seized telephone records as a message to their owners and editors to curb any criticism, any investigation of what they are doing.

Asserting that James Rosen, a Fox reporter, engaged in criminal behavior for doing what any reporter would do, seek out information about the government, has outraged many in the press, but whether they will stand firm or buckle under remains the real question. In Germany, the press became an arm of the Nazi regime.

If history is any guide, we have real cause to fear the intent of the Obama administration—one now distinguished by its leadership for having no memory of any steps they have undertaken to oppress organizations that oppose its agenda, mobilizing the IRS and Department of Justice.

We are looking into a tyrannical abyss and it is time to be afraid, be very afraid.
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© 2013 Alan Caruba. Alan is a writer by profession; has authored several books, and writes a daily column, "Warning Signs" disseminated on many Internet news and opinion websites and blogs. He is a contributing author at ARRA News Service.

Tags: tyrannical abyss, Obama administration, attacks on freedom of the press, be afraid, very afraid, Alan Caruba, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Huizenga Blasts The Obama Administration's "Don't Tell Dad" Policy, Culture of Shading The Truth

Washington, DC – Yesterday on Michigan's Big Show with Michael Patrick Shiels, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI-02) excoriated the culture of shading the truth the Obama Administration has established in Washington.

  • On the Senior Staff of the White House Knowing About The IRS Scandal But Apparently Not Telling President Obama: I set the culture in my own office.  I can tell you, if my Chief of Staff, my Legislative Director, or my District Director knew some major details like this and I had to find about it in the news like everyone else, I would be looking for a new Chief of Staff and a new District Director. … What they are calling it in Washington is the "Don't Tell Dad" mentality that the Administration has. Either they (The White House Senior Staff) are all incompetent or it is definitely a questioning of their character.
  • On The Culture Being Created and Put Forward By The Obama Administration: It's the pattern of behavior. There are a lot of us that had these concerns and tried to talk about it this past election.  That, I think, is the frustration so many of us have.  It is just a pattern of not quite coming out with the truth and shading details.  It's all these things: Fast and Furious, whether it's Benghazi, certainly as we are seeing with the IRS scandal here - This Administration never wants to fess up.

Tags: Michigan's Big Show, Michael Patrick Shiels, Congressman Bill Huizenga, Michigan, Obama Administration. Don't Tell Dad Policy (MI-02) To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

McConnell Op-Ed: Disclose Act Designed To Enable Same Types Of Abuses As At IRS

by AF "Tony" Branco
Today in Washington, D.C. - May 23, 2013
The Senate voted 27-71 to reject an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Sanders (I-VT) that would have allowed states to require genetically modified food carry a label about it.

After an exchange about Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) threats to break Senate rules to change filibuster rules, senators agreed by unanimous consent to hold a vote on the nomination of Srikanth Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate will then resume consideration of S. 954 and vote on an amendment being offered by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) concerning tobacco crop insurance.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 99-0 to pass S. Res. 65, the Iran sanctions resolution, and 45-54 to reject an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Today, the House passed 221-198 H.R. 1911 — "To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish interest rates for new loans made on or after July 1, 2013."

The House Leadership also addressed the Senate Gang of 8 and Democrats pushing a new Immigration amnesty bill.  The following statement was issued today by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA):

“Our nation’s immigration system is broken – hurting families, our national security, and the economy, which is why reform is included in our plan for economic growth and job creation. While we applaud the progress made by our Senate colleagues, there are numerous ways in which the House will approach the issue differently.  The House remains committed to fixing our broken immigration system, but we will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes.  Rather, through regular order, the House will work its will and produce its own legislation.  Enacting policy as consequential and complex as immigration reform demands that both chambers of Congress engage in a robust debate and amendment process.  Our nation’s immigration processes, border security, and enforcement mechanisms remain dysfunctional.  The House goal is enactment of legislation that actually solves these problems and restores faith in our immigration system, and we are committed to continuing the work we’ve begun toward that goal in the weeks and months ahead.”

Yesterday, the House after numerous amendment votes passed 241-175 the Keystone XL Ppipeline -Northern Route Approval Act H.R. 3 — "To approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline, and for other purposes." It was surprising to see so many democrats voting to reject jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) applauded the passage of H.R. 3, “When American families hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, they’ll once again be paying the price for the Obama administration’s failed energy policy. Gas prices have nearly doubled on the president’s watch, draining family budgets and making it harder for small businesses to hire. The Northern Route Approval Act, part of Republicans’ plan for economic growth and jobs, will help families and small businesses by approving the Keystone pipeline and removing barriers that could keep it tied up in legal limbo for years.

The Keystone pipeline will create tens of thousands of American jobs and pump nearly a million barrels of oil to U.S. refineries each day, helping to lower gas prices, boost economic growth, enhance our energy security, and revitalize manufacturing. The project is backed by a majority of the American people, including members of the president’s own party. Labor unions have rallied for its approval, saying it’s ‘not just a pipeline, it’s a lifeline.’ Unfortunately, after nearly five years of blocking the project, it’s a lifeline President Obama is refusing to toss American workers.

“House Republicans will continue fighting for the Keystone pipeline as part of our jobs plan that cuts red tape and unlocks more of America’s resources. It is time for the president to put his political calculations aside, work with Republicans to approve the Keystone pipeline, and advance a growth and jobs agenda that will help our economy grow and put more Americans back to work.”

In an important op-ed for The Washington Post today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell writes, “Revelations about the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups have raised important questions about the Obama administration’s commitment to the First Amendment. Yet there is ample evidence to suggest that the culture of intimidation in which these tactics were allowed to flourish goes well beyond one agency or a few rogue employees. . . . When it comes to rewarding friends and punishing enemies, the IRS is not alone. In fact, recent efforts to revive the so-called Disclose Act suggest that these tactics are alive and well in Washington.”

Indeed, at a press conference last week, in the course of discussing what he called the “inappropriate behavior at the Internal Revenue Service” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also said that in light of the IRS scandal, “We should take another look at the Disclose Act.”

And at this week’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on the IRS abuses, Breitbart News’ Joel Pollak noted that Democrats kept looking to “turn the focus away from political targeting in the IRS and back towards campaign finance reform in general. . . . They want to make the issue about the Citizens United case and 501(c)4 groups in general.” Last week, David Freddoso wrote, “Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee focused like a laser on the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision as the true culprit for this targeting.”

For three years now, Democrats have pushed the Disclose Act as their answer to the Citizens United case.

Leader McConnell explains the real goal of the Disclose Act in his op-ed. “This bill, which would force grass-roots groups to make their member and donor lists public, may seem benign to some. But as a longtime defender of the First Amendment, I have always seen it for what it is: a backdoor effort to discourage those who disagree with the Obama administration from participating in the political process. The abuses at the IRS — which include selective sharing with left-wing journalists of confidential information about conservative groups — is just the kind of thing the Disclose Act was designed to enable.”

He goes on to detail some of the intimidation tactics used by Democrats and the Obama administration in recent years that would only be encouraged and aided by the Disclose Act: “The spread of the speech police under the Obama administration has long been apparent. We all saw the president’s reelection team using the politics of intimidation, with old-school enemies listsand explicit attacks on groups and other private citizens. At the same time, the administration has been extremely creative in employing throughout the federal government the sorts of intimidation tactics that were used at the IRS. Democratic commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, for instance, have pushed for more than two years for a rule that would compel third-party groups to reveal their donors. Democratic commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) support a similar rule for disclosing the donors to groups airing advertisements on issues of concern to the public. This is on the heels of the FCC approving a rule last year that requires broadcasters to list the names of groups that pay for, or want to pay for, ads online. And the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering requiring publicly held companies to disclose political activities. White House staffers have gotten in on the act. The president’s lawyers circulated a draft executive order in 2011 that would have required anyone bidding for a government contract to disclose political donations. The message was clear: If you want a government contract, be careful which causes or candidates you support because the White House will know.”

Leader McConnell concludes, “These tactics are straight out of the left-wing playbook: Expose your opponents to public view, release the liberal thugs and hope the public pressure or unwanted attention scares them from supporting causes you oppose. This is what the administration has done through federal agencies such as the FCC and the FEC, and it’s what proponents of the Disclose Act plan to do with donor and member lists. Oddly, some on the left are now arguing that the IRS scandal is reason to revive the Disclose Act. But if this scandal has taught us anything, it is that Washington’s ability to target individuals and groups is already too expansive. We should be looking at ways to limit, not expand, the government’s ability to target people because of their beliefs and the causes they support. And we should take a serious look at the culture that enabled this scandal. . . . The First Amendment was not written to protect popular speech. It was written to protect speech that was not popular. The moment we lose sight of that, we betray the principle of equal justice that lies at the heart of our system.

Tags: House, XL Pipeline Bill, Senate Intimidation, Disclose Act To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Boozman Calls for Accountability for IRS Abuses

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) took to the Senate floor this morning to express frustration over the inexcusable targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and called on the administration to work with Congress to hold those responsible for the abuses accountable.

“This scandal gives the already-maligned IRS a black eye. It reinforces people’s worst fears about Washington—that those in power will use any means necessary to maintain that power,” Boozman said in his speech.

Boozman’s speech came as the Oversight and Government Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives began a hearing where Lois Lerner, the IRS official who first admitted to these abuses, invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, continuing to hinder Congress’s investigation into the scandal.

The Internal Revenue Service admitted that it unfairly targeted conservative
groups. Biased treatment based on political beliefs will not be tolerated. There are
a lot of questions that need to be answered by top officials at the agency and there
will be consequences for those who carried out these unjust actions. Senator Boozman delivered this speech on the Senate floor about this scandal and how the agency must be accountable.

“Somebody has to be accountable. This is not a time for excuses. It is a time for leadership,” Boozman said.

Tags: U.S. Senator, John Boozman, calls for accountability, IRS abuses, Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gang of Eight Betrays Americans

by Phyllis Schlafly: The Gang of Eight immigration bill can be summed up as amnesty now, border closing never. The Department of Homeland Security is not required to build a fence (which was ordered by the Secure Fence Act signed by President George W. Bush). DHS is required only to submit a plan.

If the DHS Secretary decides she has not reached 90 percent of border security, a “trigger” kicks in: the creation of a Southern Border Security Commission empowered (horrors!) to make recommendations. After six months of pondering its mission, the Commission automatically self-liquidates, so there will never be border security.

The Gang of Eight bill will give legal residence to 11 million illegal aliens, which is the actual goal for which they undertook their journey and broke U.S. law. Their new U.S. legality will be concealed under the pompous bureaucratic title, Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.

This amnesty will cost the U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion over the lifetimes of the amnestied persons, mostly outside the 10-year window used for CBO calculations. This horrendous sum, which includes all forms of public benefits less the taxes they pay, was copiously documented by the Heritage Foundation.

The Gang of Eight authorizes the issuance of 33 million lifetime work permits (for 11 million amnesties plus accelerated chain migration) over the next ten years. This enormous influx of job seekers will flood our labor markets and communities, thus continuing the high unemployment of Americans, driving down the wages of those who do have jobs, and eliminating their hope of ever rising to the middle class and achieving the American dream.

Every amnestied person will become eligible for ObamaCare upon receiving a green card, and within five years will be able to cash in on our 79 means-tested welfare benefits. The timetable for these generous benefits will almost certainly be advanced because of Senator Chuck Schumer’s demands, Obama’s executive orders, or lawsuits brought before judges who believe in a “living” Constitution.

The promises made about E-Verify have a loophole for existing employees and even for those who steal American identities to get a job. Members of the Gang of Eight even included special provisions (earmarks) to import cheap labor to work in their own state’s industries.

The Gang of Eight’s so-called requirement that those amnestied will have to pay back taxes is a sham. They will be asked to pay only any taxes already computed and assessed by the Internal Revenue Service and, since the many years the illegals worked off the books never came to the attention of the IRS, those years will not be counted.

There are so many loopholes and exemptions to the so-called requirement that amnestied aliens speak English that it’s a total farce.

All 11 million amnestied immigrants are supposed to have a background check, but the mere recital of such a requirement sounds like a joke. Our FBI and CIA missed so many obvious clues that the Boston Marathon bomber Tamarlan was a potential terrorist that government background checks on 11 million persons should provoke an “are you kidding?” laugh.

IRS bureaucrats testified in the congressional hearing that the IRS was so overwhelmed by the copious paperwork involved in a few hundred Tea Party applications that the IRS had to perform “triage.” So how can the IRS cope with 11 million applications for RPI status from people whose paperwork is mostly forged or stolen?

Any government program managed by the liberals always includes a “follow the money” segment. The Gang of Eight’s claim to promote “immigrant integration” is a ruse to give taxpayers’ money to leftwing and Islamist activist groups such as CASA, La Raza, MALDEF, and CAIR.

The Gang of Eight bill defines these groups as “nonprofit organizations including those with legal advocacy experience working with immigrant countries.” They are actually Alinsky-style community organizers that focus on recruiting and politicizing immigrants.

Current U.S. law provides for the yearly admission of more than one million persons, more than any nation in the world, and the Gang of Eight’s bill will double that number. Because of our government’s failure to enforce so many existing laws, such as using a biometric entry-and-exit system to track visitors, we should have a pause in legal immigration until current laws are obeyed.

One big fraud in the current admission of legal immigrants is illustrated by the entry of the Boston bomber’s family as refugees. Remember, they were given welfare benefits worth $100,000.

The Gang of Eight bill will reduce Republicans and conservatives to a permanent minority status. For the last century, immigrants who came in big waves voted at least 2-to-1 Democratic, in recent years it was 3-to-1, and there is zero evidence that the amnestied persons believe in Republican principles such as limited government and balanced budgets.

STOP the Gang of Eight!

Eight Senators, Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey joined, behind closed doors, well-funded special interest groups and cobbled together an ObamaCare approach to immigration.

This bill, S. 744, grants immediate amnesty to the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country and only promises for future plans to secure the border. The bill also grants broad new powers to the scandal-ridden Obama Administration and will cost an estimated $6.3 trillion.

A broad coalition of activists, journalists and scholars throughout the country signed a letter objecting to S. 744. We invite you to join them by adding your name to express your dissent.

After registering your objection to S. 744. Please take a moment to call your Senators at 202-224-3121. Tell them you just signed this letter and that you expect them to vote NO on the Gang of 8 bill!
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Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since 1964. She founded and is president of Eagle Forum. She has testified before more than 50 Congressional and State Legislative committees on constitutional, national defense, and family issues.
Tags: Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum, Gang of Eight, Betrays America, Amnesty, Illegal aliens To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

Abuse of Power and Intimidation Not Limited To The Administration; Is Being Promoted By Senate Democrats.

Today in Washington, D.C. - May 22, 2013
Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who was over the department that targeted conservative groups, appeared this morning before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  After insisting that she did nothing wrong, she claimed her 5th Amendment rights not to answer any questions. Learner said, "I have not done anything wrong." She claimed, "I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I have been advised by my counsel not to."

The Senate reconvened and resumed consideration of S. 954, the farm bill. At noon, the Senate rejected an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), which would have converted the food stamp program into a block grant program for the states by a vote of 36-60.

At 4 PM, the Senate will take up S. Res. 65, the Iran sanctions resolution. At 5 PM, the Senate will vote on passage of S. Res. 65. Votes on other amendments to the farm bill are also possible today.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the nomination of Srikanth Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, setting up a Thursday cloture vote. When Republicans offered Reid an up-or-down vote on the nomination a few days from now to allow all senators to review his record, Reid objected.

Yesterday, the Senate voted for an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and voted down amendments from Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Today the House is considering:
HR 3 — Northern Route Approval Act
HR 271 — Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Contracts Act of 2013.
HR 1949 — Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.

Yesterday, The House passed the following five bills:
H.R. 570 (voice vote) — "To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for annual cost-of-living adjustments to be made automatically by law each year in the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans."
S. 982 (voice vote) — "To prohibit the Corps of Engineers from taking certain actions to establish a restricted area prohibiting public access to waters downstream of a dam, and for other purposes."
H.R. 1412 (416-0)— "To improve and increase the availability of on-job training and apprenticeship programs carried out by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes."
H.R. 324 (415-0)— "To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its superior service during World War II."
H.R. 1344 (413-0) — "To amend title 49, United States Code, to direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) to provide expedited air passenger screening to severely injured or disabled members of the Armed Forces and severely injured or disabled veterans, and for other purposes."

In the latest development on the IRS scandal today, The Washington Post reports, “The head of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations office, faced with allegations of improper targeting of conservative groups, told a House committee Wednesday that she has done nothing wrong but declined to answer questions, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Lois G. Lerner told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in an opening statement that members of the panel have already accused her of providing false information to Congress. . . . Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, asked her to reconsider, to no avail, then dismissed her and her attorney from the hearing room. . . . The House hearing was the latest in a series of Capitol Hill grillings of officials in connection with an audit by George’s office, which reported last week that it found inappropriate targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status based on terms such as ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their case files.”

The Post adds, “Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, [former IRS Commissioner Douglas] Shulman said he was ‘saddened’ by some of the agency’s actions regarding applications for tax-exempt status during his tenure. . . . Asked at one point by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) whether he would apologize to Cornyn’s constituents who were unfairly targeted by the IRS, Shulman said that he was not sure what occurred specifically with Texas-based groups and announced his regret that the wrongdoing occurred on his watch. ‘Well, I don’t think that qualifies as an apology,’ Cornyn said. . . . Shulman refused several times to take personal responsibility for the situation or to explicitly apologize.”

Meanwhile, Fox 19 in Cincinnati reports, “The claim that the ongoing IRS scandal is limited to low level employees is falling apart. . . . When an application for tax exempt status comes into the IRS, agents have 270 days to work through that application.  If the application is not processed within those 270 days it automatically triggers flags in the system.  When that happens, individual agents are required to input a status update on that individual case once a month, every month until the case is resolved. Keep in mind, at least 300 groups were targeted out of Cincinnati alone.  Those applications spent anywhere from 18 months to nearly 3 years in the system and some still don't have their non-profit status.  300 groups multiplied by at least 18 months for each group, means thousands of red flags would have been generated in the system. So who in the chain of command would have received all these flags?  The answer, according to the IRS directory, one woman in Cincinnati, Cindy Thomas, the Program Manager of the Tax Exempt Division.  Because all six of our IRS workers have different individual and territory managers, Cindy Thomas is one manager they all have common.”

Adding to the reported shenanigans by the administration, Senate Democrats are advancing intimidation in an effort to aid the White House. There is a possibility that Democrats in the Senate will deploy the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster in order to force through controversial Obama nominees.

During a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Tim Scott argued the “nuclear option” should be off the table. “The Democrats keep threatening us with the nuclear option…and you can’t keep threatening the entire body.” And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today listed the threat of the “nuclear option” as just one part in a culture of political intimidation in Washington along with, among other things, the blossoming IRS scandal.

The Washington Free Beacon reports, "Some Democrats fear that Republicans could block Obama’s appointees for secretary of labor and the National Labor Relations Board after Scott and his GOP colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) grilled the nominees during a hearing last week.

In the HELP hearing last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, proposed using the nuclear option if the Democrats were unable to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to confirm the nominees.

“We will not get 60 votes…[so] I think we should change the rules and take a majority vote to not only see that these people are seated so that they can do their job but that other nominees who have been clearly obstructed also have a chance to do their job,” he said to committee Republicans. 'You guys just happen to be in the way right now . . .'"

The Beacon also reports, "HELP Republicans twice delayed Tom Perez’s nomination to head the Department of Labor, citing his failure to cooperate with a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into allegations that he used a private email account to conduct government business on more than 1,000 occasions — a tactic associated with dodging disclosure laws. Perez is also being investigated for an alleged quid pro quo that cost taxpayers up to $200 million.

Perez passed through committee 12-10 on Thursday morning; no Republicans supported the nomination."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a press release titled Threat of Nuclear Option Is Really a Pretext for Dem Power Grab said, “Recently, we’ve seen troubling signs that there are some in the Executive Branch who would use the power of the federal government to intimidate political opponents. . . .  reports that the IRS targeted conservative citizens’ groups for harassing and discriminatory treatment simply because they sought to exercise their First Amendment rights of association and speech.

“Or during the debate on Obamacare, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a gag order on insurance plans in an attempt to prevent them from telling their customers about problems with the bill. Now, there are published reports that the same Department is trying to shake down some of those same companies for money so it can try to convince Americans to finally like Obamacare. And over at the FCC, the President’s allies are trying to shut down or make it difficult for people who want to buy advertising to exercise their First Amendment rights to criticize the Administration.

It all points to a culture of political intimidation. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the culture of intimidation is simply confined to the Executive Branch.

“The Administration’s allies in the Senate are trying to intimidate their political opponents as well. What I’m talking about, is the persistent threat by the Majority to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate — in other words, to use the nuclear option — if they don’t get their way.

“For example, Senate Democrats were incensed that Republicans had the temerity to exercise their Advice and Consent responsibility to block a grand total of one — that’s right, one — nominee to the D.C. Circuit. What did our Democrat colleagues do in response? They consulted with the White House and pledged to pack the D.C. Circuit with appointees, quote, ‘one way or the other’ — meaning using the nuclear option.

“They are not doing this because the D.C. Circuit is burdened with cases. Far from it. The D.C. Circuit is one of the least busy courts in the country. No, they want to use the nuclear option to pack the D.C. Circuit so it can rubberstamp the President’s big government agenda—the same big government we’ve seen at the IRS and elsewhere. But that’s not the limit of the culture of intimidation here in the Senate. Let’s look at the NLRB situation.

“Despite the story that the Administration and Senate Democrats want to spin, Senate Republicans did not block the President’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board; rather, it was the President who blocked the nominees to the Republican slots on the NLRB so he could—again—pack a powerful branch of government, in this case the NLRB.

“The Administration sat on one of two Democrat vacancies at the NLRB for four months. It then waited until the middle of December in 2011 to send up both nominees for the Democrat seats on the NLRB, while refusing to send up any of the nominees for the Republican seats. In fact, the Administration sat on the Republican nominees to the NLRB for nine months. Then, with no Republican nominees to the NLRB before the Senate, the President purported to ‘recess appoint’ the two Democrat nominees to the Board when their nominations had been before the Senate for less than three weeks. It was so fast, the Democrat Majority didn’t even have time to schedule a hearing.

Our Democrat colleagues did not defend the Senate from the President’s unprecedented and unconstitutional power grab; Republicans had to do that. And now that the D.C. Circuit has found these purported appointments to be unconstitutional (and other circuit courts are agreeing with its reasoning), what is the Democrat Majority threatening to do? It’s planning to double-down and aid the Administration with this power grab at the NRLB.

“Specifically,
as with their effort to pack the D.C. Circuit, the Majority is threatening to use the nuclear option so they can push through unlawfully appointed board members over the principled objections of Senate Republicans. It doesn’t seem that our Democrat colleagues want to respect the rules of the Senate, or that they want to respect the rulings of our federal courts. It appears they just want to enable the President and organized labor to exercise power at a powerful federal agency without anyone getting in the way. . . . These threats to use the nuclear option because of obstruction are just pretexts for a power grab.

“The Senate has confirmed 19 of the President’s judicial nominees so far this year. By this point in his second term, President Bush had a grand total of four judicial confirmations.

“Moreover, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee just voted unanimously to support the President’s current nomination to the D.C. Circuit. And the Senate Republican Conference agreed yesterday to hold an up and down vote on his nomination, which has only been on the Executive Calendar since Monday, to occur after the Memorial Day Recess. That way, Members who do not serve on the Judiciary Committee could have a week to evaluate this important nomination. Instead, the Majority Leader chose to jam the Minority — he rejected our offer for an up or down vote and filed cloture on the nomination just one day after it appeared on the Executive Calendar.

“This is another example of the Majority manufacturing a crisis to justify heavy-handed behavior. As for the NLRB, Republicans are willing to support nominees who were not unlawfully appointed, and who have not been unlawfully exercising governmental power. And regarding nominees generally, Senate Republicans have been willing to work with the President to get his team in place.

“The Secretary of Energy was confirmed 97 to 0.
“The Secretary of the Interior was confirmed 87 to 11.
“The Secretary of the Treasury was confirmed 71 to 26.
“The Director of the Office of Management and Budget was confirmed 96 to 0.
“And the Secretary of State was confirmed 94 to 3 - just 7 days after the Senate received his nomination.

“So these continued threats to use the nuclear option point to the Majority’s own culture of intimidation here in the Senate.


Tags: Washington, D.C., White House, Senate Democrats, intimidation, abuse of power, nuclear option, NLRB nominations To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!

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