Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers

Tobias Peter, senior research analyst at the AEI Center on Housing Markets and Finance, wrote the following blog post: Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers.

In it he explains how “another government housing policy intended to open “the door to home purchase mortgages for large numbers of new buyers” has failed.  Instead of bringing income-constrained borrowers into the market, it making housing less affordable by adding more fuel to a national house price boom that is pricing them out of the market, while providing a windfall to home sellers and real estate agents.”


Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers

Tobias Peter (Tobias.Peter@AEI.org), Senior Research Analyst

AEI’s Center on Housing Markets and Finance

January 16, 2018

The numbers are in and yet another government housing policy intended to open “the door to home purchase mortgages for large numbers of new buyers” has failed.  Instead of bringing income-constrained borrowers into the market, it is making housing less affordable by adding more fuel to a national house price boom that is pricing them out of the market, while providing a windfall to home sellers and real estate agents.

Let’s connect the dots.  As of the weekend of July 29, 2017, Fannie Mae, one of the two government sponsored housing enterprises (GSE), started buying and securitizing many more mortgages with a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of up to 50 percent.  The DTI measures the ratio of monthly payments to income.  The higher the ratio, the greater a borrower’s monthly debt payments and the greater a borrower’s likelihood to default.

Prior to the policy change, the large majority of Fannie borrowers were limited to a DTI of 45 percent, with only a few borrowers allowed to go as high as 50 percent with compensating factors such as a certain number of months of cash reserves or a higher down payment.  Fannie’s move thereby allowed borrowers to take on more debt relative to their income.  Freddie Mac, the other GSE, had been buying more mortgages with DTIs over 45 percent than Fannie, but it too ramped up its purchases after Fannie’s announcement as data from the AEI National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI) show.

Sensing an opening for income-constrained borrowers to now enter the housing market, housing advocates hailed Fannie’s move as a “win for expanding access to credit.”  Yet this line of reasoning was always flawed.  Access for income-constrained borrowers already existed.  The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), another government housing entity, already guarantees loans with a DTI up to 57 percent and with less stringent credit score and down payment requirements than Fannie or Freddie ever would.  By offering this service at a lower cost to certain borrowers, Fannie’s (and Freddie’s) move thereby pitted one government guaranteed insurer of mortgages against another.

The effect of the change has been stunning since it took effect.  First, the share of Fannie borrowers with a DTI above 45 jumped 11 percentage points to 17 percent within just three months after the program’s implementation.  Yet precious few of these borrowers were new market entrants while the large majority were Fannie borrowers taking on more debt.

This is problematic.  In today’s seller’s market, prices have been rising rapidly.  The measures from a variety of sources all show prices rising 6 to 7 percent over the past year, and as much as 10 percent for entry-level homes.  DTIs function as a friction slowing the increase of house prices through binding limits.  Remove the friction and house price increases will pick up.  This happens the following way: First, income-constrained borrowers take advantage of the higher limits, as they initially no longer have to settle for lower priced homes.  Then, because supply is limited, the extra debt ends up raising prices – either directly through more aggressive bidding for houses or indirectly through appraisals when inflated home sales become comparables for other sales as our research shows.  Soon, the cycle feeds on itself and everyone, not just income-constrained borrowers, has to take on more debt.  This is exactly what happened as the NMRI data also show (see chart).

What is driving up prices so rapidly today is the combination of a seller’s market, which is now in its 63rd month, and more liberal access to credit through, for example higher DTI limits, or generally looser lending standards as documented by the NMRI.  Since 2012, national house prices have risen by around 50 percent as shown by the Case-Shiller index, but in the bottom tier of the market, where supply is more constrained and credit more liberal, prices have doubled.

And so, what started as a policy change by Fannie Mae to close the growing affordability gap has added yet more fuel to the house price boom, especially at the lower end of the market.  Thereby this policy will benefit existing homeowners, realtors, and builders, but it will hurt first-time buyers and those with limited resources as they will have to stretch further to afford homeownership or be forced to remain on the sidelines.

Trump: Immigration Deal Has ‘Got to Include the Wall’

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would not sign an immigration bill without funding for a border wall—clarifying some doubt left over from a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress a day earlier about reaching a deal on the policy for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Asked during a joint White House press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg if he would sign a deal that didn’t include the wall, Trump responded, “No, no.”

“It’s got to include the wall. We need the wall for security,” the president said. “We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from pouring in. I would imagine that the people in the room — both Democrat and Republican —I really believe they’re going to come up with a solution to the DACA problems.”

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, proposed legislation Wednesday to allow illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors receive protection from deportation to get a three-year renewal; to provide $30 billion for construction of the wall, adding  5,000 Border Patrol agents, and another 5,000 Customs and Border Protection officers; defund sanctuary cities; and require employers to use E-Verify to ensure the legal status of workers. Co-authors of the legislation are Reps. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, and Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

When meeting with members of Congress Tuesday, the bipartisan group decided to address four issues: DACA, border security, chain migration, and the visa lottery system.

During the meeting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked the president about doing a “clean” DACA bill and saving the other issues for a second phase of a “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Trump, at first, seemed to be warm to the idea.

“We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive,” Trump said in response to Feinstein. “I think a lot of people would like to see that. But we need to do DACA first.”

After that, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., jumped into explain the need for border security.

Trump later said during the meeting: “To me, a ‘clean’ bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them, and we also take care of security, and the Democrats want border security, too. … Then we go to comprehensive later on.”

DACA stemmed from President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action that shielded an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation brought to the country as minors. Comprehensive immigration reform has in past proposals included providing legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Last fall, the Justice Department announced it was reversing DACA, under threat of a lawsuit from 10 state attorneys general, giving Congress a deadline of March for legislating a replacement. However, on the same day as the bipartisan meeting, a federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to maintain the program. The Justice Department announced it would appeal the ruling.

Trump also took questions about the possible interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, named to investigate possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

“There is collusion, but it is really with the Democrats and the Russians far more than it is with the Republicans and Russians,” Trump said.

Many legal experts said they believe Mueller if focused less on Russia and more on building an obstruction of justice case against Trump or associates.

“When they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump said.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump: Judge’s move to protect DACA shows court system is ‘broken and unfair’

RELATED VIDEO: President Trump and Prime Minister Solberg of Norway hold joint news conference

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of President Donald Trump answering questions from reporters during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway Wednesday in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Newscom)

New Offshore Drilling Plan Will Reverse Obama Restrictions, Unleash U.S. Energy Dominance

America is moving forward in its march toward energy dominance, and the Trump administration just took an important step forward in achieving that goal.

In unveiling its draft five-year Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan on Thursday, the Interior Department is reversing the Obama administration’s “Keep it in the Ground” anti-energy policy.

An abundance of untapped energy lies beneath America’s ground and off the coasts. For six years, America has been the world’s largest petroleum and natural gas producer, supporting more than 10 million jobs and contributing more than $1.3 trillion to the economy.

The increase in energy supplies has lowered prices for households and businesses. Families are saving hundreds, if not more than $1,000 each year on electricity bills and home-heating costs, and paying less at the gas pump.

It also means companies around the country devote less money to paying energy bills and more to investing in labor and capital.

All of these benefits have accrued to Americans, despite the fact that the Obama administration made a majority of America’s coastal waters off-limits to natural resources exploration and production.

In fact, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage is off-limits to development. The United States is the only country in the world that has placed a majority of its territorial waters off-limits to natural resources extraction.

Until now, that is.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s draft plan is the first part of a multiyear process that would make more than 90 percent of the total federal acreage available, which includes 98 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in the Outer Continental Shelf.

As highlighted by Interior’s press release:

The Draft Proposed Program … includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas—19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic region. This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National Outer Continental Shelf Program’s five-year lease schedule.

The 47 potential lease sales top the number of sales listed in President Ronald Reagan’s two submissions of 41 and 42.

At several points in time, offshore drilling was not such a partisan issue. When President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, made his 1979 energy speech, he said, “We will step up exploration and production of oil and gas on federal lands.”

As a result, the Carter administration’s Interior Department proposed 36 lease sales. As recently as 2013, both Democratic senators from Virginia offered legislation to open parts of the Atlantic to offshore development.

It’s understandable why.

Offshore drilling is a critical component of the Gulf of Mexico economy, one of the limited areas where offshore activity takes place in federal waters.

Recognizing that offshore resource exploration is systematically safe, the energy industry has a very strong relationship with the seafood and tourism industries. In fact, Louisiana hosts a Shrimp and Petroleum Festival each year.

Despite the Deepwater Horizon incident that adversely affected the Gulf environmentally and economically, there was a broad recognition among these three industries that the blanket drilling moratorium was bad policy and bad for the region as a whole.

The economic benefits of realizing America’s true energy potential could be significant. Opening the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves and the eastern Gulf of Mexico could create more than 800,000 jobs by 2035.

Increased supplies, which could equate to as much as 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, would lower prices for families.

Furthermore, federal and state governments would stand to benefit as well, since increased production would increase revenues from bonus bids (for new leases), royalties, rents, and increased economic activity.

By 2035, the federal government could collect more than $200 billion in revenue. With the country burdened with massive amounts of federal debt, policymakers should welcome the potential for revenue generation.

No one knows where oil prices will be once the Interior Department finalizes the plan. Therefore, it’s difficult to fully project where the industry will invest.

Nevertheless, the market will determine what areas the oil and gas companies will pursue. The federal government should not stand in its way.

It’s encouraging to see Interior take a hatchet to a long-standing barrier to energy dominance and improved economic well-being.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Nicolas Loris

Nicolas Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Read his research. Twitter: .

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

U.S. Has a National Mango Board With a $6.7 Million Budget

Even those who follow government closely may not know that the United States has a National Mango Board with a multi-million-dollar budget to help increase consumption of the juicy tropical fruit. This is a serious matter that is handled at the presidential cabinet level. The Mango board is a type of panel that was authorized by Congress decades ago and has 18 members who are appointed by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It operates under a USDA oversight body known as the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Based in Orlando, Florida, the National Mango Board has a generous $6.7 million annual budget, according to USDA figures. The board is composed of eight importers, two domestic producers, one first handler and seven foreign producers who serve three-year terms. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently appointed six members to the board, including a mango producer from Jalisco, Mexico and another from Piura, Peru. The others are importers from California and Texas and a producer from Hawaii. “I truly appreciate the time and expertise that these individuals have agreed to give guiding the National Mango Board in its mission to find ways to provide fresh mangos to U.S. consumers and help their industry thrive,” Perdue said in an agency statement.

Here’s why this obscure government entity exists; to increase the consumption of fresh mangos in the United States, unlikely to be a pressing issue for most Americans. The board accomplishes this with promotion and market development activities that naturally also support a thriving industry. “The board’s vision is to bring the world’s love of mangos to the U.S.,” according to the National Mango Board website, which describes itself as a “promotion and research organization.” The site includes all sorts of interesting information about mangos, including the unique texture and flavors of different varieties, how to ripen, cut and store the fruit and tips on choosing the perfect mango—don’t focus on color because it’s not the best indicator of ripeness. There are also recipes for just about any dish with mango, including tropical mango guacamole, shrimp and mango curry, mango Manchego stuffed with jalapeños and crusted pork with mango relish, among others. Six varieties of mangos are sold in the U.S.; Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt, Honey and Francis.

The board’s research portion is displayed in several sections that offer information on nutrition, history and “fun facts.” For instance, mangos were first grown in India over 5,000 years ago and mango seeds traveled with humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and South America beginning around 300 or 400 A.D. “Legend says that Buddha meditated under the cool shade of a mango tree,” according to the National Mango Board. More serious research includes academic studies on consumer attitudes, bioactive components of mangos and the effect of hot water treatment on a Mexican specie (Tommy Atkins) vulnerable to fruit flies. A separate study on this type of mango, which also comes from Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, focuses on sunken pits on the fruit’s peel caused by pitting or lenticel damage. This can deter consumers at the store level, according to researchers, and most packers do not have a clear understanding if the damage comes from the orchards or the packing process. Tommy Atkins mangos from Oaxaca, Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa are the focal point of that research.

One of the more recent studies sponsored by the board includes an in-depth analysis on the ideal temperature to deliver the highest quality mangos. The findings are delivered in an exhaustive 38-page report, but the nutshell is that the optimal transit temperature for mangos is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem however, is that mangos are often transported in refrigerated trailers with other food items that require colder temperatures and the mangos get compromised. The experts in“perishable food cold chain”  hired to research the matter were left with the objective of finding commercially available pallet covers for the thermal protection of mango pallets transported in a mixed load refrigerated trailer. It’s not clear how much this important research cost the Mango Board. For those wondering, Kent mangos were used in the study and pallet covers were tested with and without a base.

Analysis Finds 1 Million Americans So Far Getting Pay Raise From Tax Reform

One million Americans are getting pay increases because of the tax reform package signed into law in December.

“More than one million hardworking Americans have already received a ‘Trump Bonus’ or ‘Trump Pay Raise’ as a result of the historic tax reform package that President Donald J. Trump signed into law just before Christmas,” @PressSec says.

That’s according to Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that established a running list of companies that have announced bonuses, wage hikes, and charitable donations.

“Just five days into 2018 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has changed the nation for the better,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said in a statement. “American companies are raising wages, paying bonuses, expanding operations, and increasing 401(k) contributions.”

The website asks for people to provide information if they are aware of other companies providing pay raises because of tax reform.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress said the reform would grow the economy, while Democrats argued the corporate tax cuts would not benefit employees.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement Friday night, which said:

More than one million hardworking Americans have already received a “Trump Bonus” or “Trump Pay Raise” as a result of the historic tax reform package that President Donald J. Trump signed into law just before Christmas. President Trump said from the beginning that lowering tax rates, simplifying the complicated tax code, and making our companies more competitive would be the fuel that propels our economy to new heights. The preliminary results show that the president is right, and American workers and families are the big winners. And this is only the beginning. The president remains focused on empowering Americans to build more prosperous lives for themselves and brighter futures for their children.

The new law cut the corporate tax rate from 39.6 percent to 21 percent. It also lowered individual rates and closed loopholes.

Among the employers to give bonuses were AT&T, which gave $1,000 bonuses to its 200,000 employees; American Airlines, which gave $1,000 bonuses to 127,600 employees; BB&T Bank, which gave $1,200 bonuses to its 27,000 employees and raised the base wage from $12 to $15 per hour; Southwest Airlines, which gave $1,000 bonuses for 55,000 employees and $5 million in charitable donations; and Sinclair Broadcasting, which gave $1,000 bonuses for 9,000 employees.

For the full list of companies, click here.

This story was updated to include a comment from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Portrait of Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

How Tax Reform Is Keeping Promise ‘Fight for $15’ Couldn’t

We Hear You: Tax Cuts, the GOP Establishment, the Job Outlook, and the Trump Economy

Black Unemployment at Lowest Rate on Record

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

2017: Another Year Millions of Americans Bought Firearms

We, like many of our members, watched the NICS numbers all year. We read – and fact-checked – all of the claims about the “Trump Slump” and the imminent collapse of the entire firearms industry (see herehereherehere, and here). Month after month, the narrative around the NICS data framed gun sales as waning because a new record wasn’t set. Bloomberg headlined its latest entry, “Gun Sales in America Drop.” The Chicago Tribune reported that “Holiday gun sales dip after record Black Friday.” 

The FBI released the final NICS numbers for 2017. There were 25,235,215 total NICS checks in 2017 – making last year the second busiest year ever for the NICS office. Across all states, territories, and the District of Columbia, there were 7.2 million NICS checks related to handguns (not including private sales, rentals, returned, pre-pawn, or pawn redemption checks); 5.2 million for long guns; just under 400,000 for “other” firearms; and 236,167 checks for multiple purchases. More than 9.9 million Americans initiated a NICS check for a permit last year. 

In terms of individual categories of NICS checks, 2017 ranks third for handgun-related NICS checks and second for “other” checks. In terms of total sales-related checks (handgun, long gun, other, and multiple), 2017 was the fourth-busiest year ever. It was also the second busiest year for permit checks. 

Interest in defense and the shooting sports clearly remains strong; sure, NICS doesn’t provide a 1:1 proxy for gun sales but the FBI saw more than 13 million sales-related checks and almost 10 million permit checks. That equates to more than twenty-seven thousand permit checks and nearly thirty-six thousand sales-related checks every single day of the year. 

Hopefully, we can put the claims of “Trump Slump” and of the demise of the firearms industry to rest along with the year 2017. The continued strong NICS numbers all year indicate that Americans’ interest in defending themselves and their families, and their interest in the shooting sports, is not dependent on the occupant of the White House. We fully expect the firearms industry to continue to support the passions shared by millions of law-abiding Americans throughout 2018.

Why the Florida Congressional Delegation is Wrong on Drilling

At the start of March, 2017 U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke announced that 73 million acres in the Gulf would be open to drilling for five years starting in August.

It appears that some members of the Florida Congressional delegation, lead by Democrat Senator Bill Nelson, are against President Trump’s effort to open up the Sunshine State’s shorelines to oil and natural gas exploration. Included in this group are Republicans Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Vern Buchanan. Interestingly both Rubio and Buchanan voted for the H.R. 1 tax bill which included a provision to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). So they voted for off shore drilling but are now against it?

Some members of the Florida Congressional delegation, including Rubio and Buchanan, are are addicted to the precautionary principle (“better safe than sorry”). 

Rep. Buchanan stated, “Florida’s coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean and we shouldn’t jeopardize the state’s economy or environment by gambling on operations that lack adequate safeguards.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) released the following statement after the Interior Department released its draft 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing:

“I have long supported the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is not slated to expire until 2022, and introduced legislation to extend the moratorium until 2027. As the Department of Interior works to finalize their draft plan, I urge Secretary Zinke to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and remove this area for future planning purposes.”

What is interesting is that it is the U.S. Congress that has over site over the Interior Department which sets safeguards for oil and natural gas exploration. It is also important to note that Florida’s tourist, agricultural, transportation, healthcare based economy is dependent on cheap and reliable power.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

  1. Geologists believe there may be large oil and natural gas deposits in the federal Outer Continental Shelf off of Florida’s western coast.
  2. Florida was second only to Texas in 2014 in net electricity generation from natural gas, which accounted for 61% of Florida’s net generation; coal accounted for almost 23%, the state’s nuclear power plants accounted for 12%, and other resources, including renewable energy, supplied the remaining 4% of electricity generation.
  3. Renewable energy accounted for 2.3% of Florida’s total net electricity generation in 2014, and the state ranked 10th in the nation in net generation from utility-scale solar energy.
  4. In part because of high air conditioning use during the hot summer months and the widespread use of electricity for home heating during the winter months, Florida’s retail electricity sales to the residential sector were second in the nation after Texas in 2014.
  5. Electricity accounts for 90% of the site energy consumed by Florida households, and the annual electricity expenditures of $1,900 are 40% higher than the U.S. average, according to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

Even as the population of Florida has grown dramatically and increased its use of fossil fuels, the Sunshine State has become a much better place to live, work and play.

Alex Scott reported:

A new report from Westwood Global Energy Group has revealed that whilst fewer exploration wells were drilled in the first half of 2017 (compared to the same period a year ago), the commercial success rates of these wells is up.

Overall, commercial success rates jumped to 53% in the first half of 2017 from a 30% success rate in the first half of 2016.

According to Westwood’s Global’s Head of Research, Andrew Hughes, the report indicates, ‘green shoots for exploration drilling, however overall activity remains subdued.’ He also added that ‘the lower well count is translating into more success and lower finding costs, proving that the old exploration mantra of “quality through choice” continues to hold true’.

The American Petroleum Institute (AEI) notes that some of the richest energy reserves in the world are just off of U.S. shores waiting to be discovered in a government owned area lying just 3 – 200 miles out to sea. AEI published a video of an advanced exploration technique called seismic surveying, which is the first step to unlock oil and natural gas resources needed to ensure Florida’s energy security.

Florida politicians are addicted to the precautionary principle (“better safe than sorry”). It is a maxim embraced by government planners and regulators in the Sunshine state at every level. They do not even want to determine what organic fossil fuels lay off of Florida’s coastlines. The precautionary principle worked to stop the building of nuclear power plants in the United States after the 3 Mile Island incident. Today the same tactic is being used to stop off shore drilling using the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Fear is not good public policy.

What is good public policy is insuring that Floridians have access to cheap and reliable power in the foreseeable future. Now is the time to take action. Waiting is not an option.

If the Florida delegation are committed to creating jobs, then they must diversify the economy by promoting energy independence. Energy independence will lead to reduced costs for electricity, gasoline and diversify the economy.

That is good public policy. This is the moral thing to do.

VIDEO: Bernie Supporters Love the Republican Tax Plan

By and large, New York City Democrats seem to hate the Republican Tax Bill. But how do they feel about it when told it’s Bernie Sanders’ plan? Documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz took to the streets of New York’s East Village to find out.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of supporters of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) hold signs during the Independence Day Parade in Waukee, Iowa July 4, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan – RTSNRSX.

VIDEO: ABC Debate Covering President Trump’s Accomplishments

A live debate recapping President Trump’s 1st year of accomplishments on ABC. Debate featured Republican State Committeeman Christian Ziegler and prominent local Democrat Frank Alcock. The debate was heated at times, but covered a lot of the WINNING that has been going on.

Click on a topic below to jump to that portion of the debate:

1:15Discussing The Positive Effects Of Trump’s Tax Reform Bill  
4:07Defining Trump’s Legislative Accomplishments & The Media’s Bias 
5:54Russia, Russia, Russia, Democrats Can’t Stop Talking Russia
8:29“Purging” The Deep State 
12:13Trump Foreign Policy Successes 
14:10ISIS Being Exterminated By Trump, Mattis And Our Brave Armed Forces
15:47Jeff Flake & Establishment Grasping To Maintain Control & Power

Supporting Documents:

Download President Trump’s Top 10 Accomplishments Of 2017

Featuring:

  • Tax reform
  • Cutting regulations
  • Appointment of judges
  • Exterminating ISIS
  • Much, much more.

Download Your Copy Now

44 Page Comprehensive List of President Trump’s Accomplishments In 2017

Featuring President Trump’s Successes In:

  • Record economic growth
  • Cracking down on illegal immigration
  • Restoring law & order
  • Putting America First around the globe

Download Your Copy Now

RELATED ARTICLE: 138 things Trump did this year while you weren’t looking – Politico

VIDEO: What Happens When Democrats Run Your State?

Bode Lang published the below video on Oct 14, 2017. Bode wrote:

Here’s What Happens When Democrats Run Your State Government. Examining How the Left ruined California.

Video clips used from the below videos:

People are moving out of California

Stossel – Texas vs. California

Exit Interview: Another Middle Class Family Leaves California

California is Bankrupt – BBC News

Two dozen companies commit to leaving California

Toyota moves to Texas, another victim of California’s hostile business climate

Going For Broke: Another California City Files for Bankruptcy

WTF Is Going on in California?

White People are Leaving California Video

California cities going bankrupt

California as broke as Greece?

California Spends $25 Billion on Illegal Aliens but won’t maintain Oroville Dam

Governor Jerry Brown wants to raise car/gas taxes because illegal aliens are expensive

Tale Of Two Americas – Texas Vs. California – O’Reilly

Californians Fleeing Nanny State for Texas

INFOGRAPHIC: 1 of Every 5 Government Employees Has a 6-Figure Salary

KEY TAKEAWAY: Almost 30,000 rank-and-file government employees make over $190,823, more than any governor of the 50 states, according to a report from OpenTheBooks.com.

The U.S. government pays employees a total of about $1 million per minute, according to a watchdog group’s report on the sprawling federal bureaucracy.

Looking at 78 large agencies, the nonprofit organization OpenTheBooks.com found that the average salary of a federal employee exceeds $100,000 and that roughly 1 in 5 of those on the government payroll has a six-figure salary.

Almost 30,000 rank-and-file government employees make over $190,823, more than any governor of the 50 states.

“Our oversight report shows the size, scope, and power of the administrative state,” Adam Andrzejewski, Open the Books’ CEO and founder, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Two million federal bureaucrats have salaries, extraordinary perquisites, and lifetime pension benefits. This compensation package has never been seen in the private sector.”

The median wage for all American workers was $44,148 a year for a 40-hour work week in the final quarter of 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Andrzejewski said the Open the Books report, released Tuesday and including an interactive map of the 2 million federal bureaucrats by ZIP code, is meant to educate taxpayers on where their dollars are going.

So what about those perks?

When federal employees reach the third anniversary of their employment, he said, “they get eight and a half weeks’ paid time off” plus “10 holidays, 13 sick days, and 20 vacation days.”

“We estimate those perks alone cost the American taxpayer $22.6 billion a year,” Andrzejewski said.

With the government paying the disclosed workforce $1 million per minute, according to the report, every eight-hour workday costs taxpayers more than $500 million.

A total of 406,960 employees make a six-figure income, amounting to roughly 1 in 5 employees. From 2010 through 2016, the number of federal employees making more than $200,000 increased by 165 percent.

“People are really hungry for these hard facts, they are interested in searching their little piece of the swamp,” Andrzejewski told The Daily Signal.

An image from the report. (Photo: OpenTheBooks.com)

Among other findings of the report, called “Mapping the Swamp: A Study of the Administrative State”:

—A small federal agency in San Francisco, Presidio Trust, paid out three of the government’s four largest bonuses, including the largest in fiscal year 2016. The biggest bonus, $141,525, went to a personnel manager who did payroll.

—The Postal Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs employ over half of all disclosed federal workers, at 32 percent of and 19 percent, respectively.

—About 2 million “undisclosed” employees work for the Defense Department, including active military duty. Their compensation, including $1 billion in bonuses and $125 billion in pensions, amounts to $221 billion per year.

Federal workers are paid a “new minimum wage,” Open the Books argues, because the average employee at 78 of the 122 departments and independent agencies reviewed makes $100,000 or more.

“Congress should hold hearings to bring transparency to all the information we’re still missing, including performance bonuses and pension payouts,” Andrzejewski said in a prepared statement. “It’s time to squeeze out waste from compensation and stop abusive payroll practices.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Portrait of Rachel del Guidice

Rachel del Guidice

Rachel del Guidice is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel. Twitter: @LRacheldG.

Muslim Woman Who Laundered Bitcoin for ISIS Entered U.S. via Chain Migration

So did at least two other jihadis, Pennsylvania cop shooter Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty and New York City subway jihad bomber Akayed Ullah. How many is it going to take?

“Woman accused of laundering bitcoin for ISIS got U.S. visa thanks to family ties: officials,” Associated Press, December 23, 2017 (thanks to Blazing Cat Fur):

NEW YORK – Federal authorities say a Pakistani-born woman accused in a bitcoin scheme to help the Islamic State group got a visa allowing her into United States because of her family ties.

The Department of Homeland Security says Saturday that Zoobia Shahnaz, a naturalized U.S. citizen living on Long Island, benefited from a family-based immigration system Republican President Donald Trump says threatens national security.

Earlier this month, the 27-year-old Shahnaz was charged with laundering bitcoin and wiring money to the Islamic State group. After quitting her job, she was stopped at Kennedy Airport in July attempting to fly to Pakistan.

Shahnaz’s lawyer has said she was trying to help Syrian refugees….

RELATED ARTICLES: 

ISIS-linked group uses Bitcoin to raise funds for weapons

Hackers claim ISIS Militants linked to Paris Attacks had a Bitcoin Wallet worth $3 Million

VIDEO: Legal and Illegal Aliens in the U.S. Are Disproportionately Dangerous Criminals

Since taking office President Trump has made safety of the American people a top priority of his administration. On January 25, 2017 President Trump signed Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. Section 9 reads:

(b) To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.

There are four reports giving criminal data on aliens, both legal and illegal. Each report details how aliens, both legal and illegal, are in federal prisons for serious crimes including: murder, drug trafficking, smuggling and money laundering. These reports also give an indication of the cost to taxpayers to incarcerate criminal aliens at the federal and state level.

The four reports are:

  1. Government Accounting Office Report 05-337R
  2. Government Accounting Office Report 05-646R
  3. United States Sentencing Commission Reports
  4. Declined Detainer Outcome Report

NOTE: Aliens make up approximately 7% of the population. 

WARNING: The following statement by an illegal alien and convicted cop killer contains graphic language.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Aliens account for 22 percent, more than a fifth of all federal murder convictions.
  • Aliens account for 18 percent of fraud convictions.
  • Aliens account for 33 percent of money laundering convictions.
  • Aliens account for 29 percent of drug trafficking convictions.
  • Aliens account for 72 percent of convictions for drug possession.
  • Alien offenders were mostly Hispanic (93.6%), citizens of Mexico, and were sentenced in the districts along on the Southwest Border.

In a March 2017 column titled “What the Media Won’t Tell You About Illegal Immigration and Criminal Activity” Hans A. von Spakovsky and Grant Strobl from The Heritage Foundation reported:

For example, the Government Accountability Office released two unsettling reports in 2005 on criminal aliens who are in prison for committing crimes in the United States, and issued an updated report in 2011.

The first report (GAO-05-337R) found that criminal aliens (both legal and illegal) make up 27 percent of all federal prisoners. Yet according to the Center for Immigration Studies, non-citizens are only about nine percent of the nation’s adult population. Thus, judging by the numbers in federal prisons alone, non-citizens commit federal crimes at three times the rate of citizens.

The findings in the second report (GAO-05-646R) are even more disturbing. This report looked at the criminal histories of 55,322 aliens that “entered the country illegally and were still illegally in the country at the time of their incarceration in federal or state prison or local jail during fiscal year 2003.” Those 55,322 illegal aliens had been arrested 459,614 times, an average of 8.3 arrests per illegal alien, and had committed almost 700,000 criminal offenses, an average of roughly 12.7 offenses per illegal alien.

Out of all of the arrests, 12 percent were for violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assault and sex-related crimes; 15 percent were for burglary, larceny, theft and property damage; 24 percent were for drug offenses; and the remaining offenses were for DUI, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, weapons, immigration, and obstruction of justice.

The 2011 GAO report wasn’t much different. It looked at 251,000 criminal aliens in federal, state, and local prisons and jails. Those aliens were arrested nearly 1.7 million times for close to three million criminal offenses. Sixty-eight percent of those in federal prison and 66 percent of those in state prisons were from Mexico. Their offenses ranged from homicide and kidnapping to drugs, burglary, and larceny.

Once again, these statistics are not fully representative of crimes committed by illegal aliens: This report only reflects the criminal histories of aliens who were in prison. If there were a way to include all crimes committed by criminal aliens, the numbers would likely be higher because prosecutors often will agree to drop criminal charges against an illegal alien if they are assured that immigration authorities will deport the alien.

The GAO reports also highlight another important flaw in the study referenced by the Associated Press. It uses survey data from a nationally representative sample of people living in the United States. Thus, the study does not take into account some potentially key factors highlighted in the GAO reports: that criminal aliens from Mexico disproportionately make up incarcerations (GAO-05-337R) and that most arrests are made in the three border states of California, Texas, and Arizona (GAO-05-646R and GAO-11-187).

As immigration reform will be a top priority in 2018, perhaps these report will continue to tell the true story on alien criminal activity in America. Many believe we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg because these reports deal with federal data. State and local data on alien arrests and convictions will give the American people a better idea of what is happening in their communities.

The Trump administration has begun targeting criminal aliens, including members of gangs like MS 13. The President has drawn a line in the sand when it comes to aliens both in America and those attempting to enter America. Many believe Congress has failed to act to protect the American people for decades. Immigration will be a hot topic in 2018.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Pennsylvania: Muslim who shot police officer arrived in US via chain migration

Democrats’ Favored DACA Amnesty Bill Would Cost $26 Billion

In 1 Chart: What’s in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the most sweeping update to the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years. The recently released conference report would lower taxes on business and individuals, and unleash higher wages, more jobs, and untold opportunity through a larger and more dynamic economy.

The conference report is a serious effort to reform a complex and badly broken system that provides significant tax relief to the vast majority of taxpaying Americans.

Portrait of Adam Michel

Adam Michel

Adam Michel focuses on tax policy and the federal budget as a policy analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @adamnmichel.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump’s Tax Reform Will Benefit Middle Class More Than Wealthy

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U.S. Sends Al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula Headquarters $768 Mil in Humanitarian Aid

The U.S. government keeps sending an Islamic nation that serves as an Al Qaeda breeding ground hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid. The cash—$768 million since October 2016—flows through the famously corrupt U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), which has a monstrous budget and little oversight. The money is reportedly helping to counter a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the headquarters of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In its Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department reveals that AQAP militants carried out hundreds of attacks including suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations. The media has also documented this for years with one in-depth report confirming that “Yemen has emerged as the breeding grounds for some of the most high-profile plans to attack the U.S. homeland.”

Additionally, dozens of terrorists freed from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have joined Al Qaeda in Yemen. Among them is an Al Qaeda chief who masterminded a U.S. Embassy bombing after getting released, according to a mainstream newspaper. His name is Said Ali al-Shihri and after leaving Gitmo he became an Al Qaeda deputy chief in Yemen and he organized a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital. The former captive was also involved in car bombings outside the American Embassy that killed 16 people. Remember that the convicted terrorist who planned to blow up an American passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas in 2009 trained in Yemen and the plot was organized by Al Qaeda leaders in the Middle Eastern Arab country. A recent study published by the RAND Corporation concludes that the most significant threat to the United States comes from terrorist groups operating in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So why does the U.S. government continue giving Yemen huge chunks of taxpayer dollars? Because it is “gravely concerned about a worsening humanitarian situation” in the Islamic nation, according to a statement issued this month by USAID. The document was released to announce a recent $130 million in “emergency food assistance to Yemen.” The U.S. government has determined that “protracted conflict” has created the “world’s largest food security emergency” in Yemen as well as the “world’s worst cholera outbreak.” More than 17 million people are at risk of severe hunger or starvation, according to the agency. The U.S. is also using military force to crack down on Yemen’s Al Qaeda problem. Earlier this month U.S. airstrikes killed five Al Qaeda militants, including one of the group’s key leaders, Mujahid al-Adani.

USAID is well known for gushing out cash with no follow up or oversight to assure the money is spent appropriately and the Yemen allocations are probably no exception. A perfect example is that millions of dollars in malaria drugs provided to Africa are stolen each year and sold on the black market. The problem has gotten so out of control that USAID launched “malaria hotlines” to offer cash rewards for information about the illicit operations that have fleeced American taxpayers out of tens of millions of dollars. Through a variety of programs, the U.S. government has spent billions of dollars to combat malaria in Africa in the last few years. One USAID program alone has dedicated north of $72 million since 2011 to give 19 African countries free malaria drugs, $15 million in 2016 alone. The agency has long acknowledged that malaria drugs financed by American taxpayers are regularly stolen in Africa. “This is not the first report of theft or illegal diversion,” USAID admitted in a statement years ago.

USAID has committed other atrocities with public funds and Judicial Watch has launched investigations to uncover details. Earlier this year Judicial Watch obtained records showing that USAID spent millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros. The scheme was masterminded by Barack Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, who worked behind the scenes with Soros’ Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Judicial Watch’s ongoing probe has so far revealed that USAID earmarked at least $9.5 million to intervene in the Balkan nation’s governmental affairs, which deviates from its mission of providing humanitarian assistance.