Rep. Vern Buchanan Wrong on Sea Levels Rising, Wrong on the Paris Accord

Florida  Representative Vern Buchanan is running for reelection in 2018. He is now officially a career politician first elected in 2006. Buchanan has sadly learned how to pander to certain constituencies, like environmentalists, for political gain.

Recently Buchanan sent out the following in an email with an accompanying ABC Channel 7 video:

Climate change is a serious issue for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters. That’s why I am again calling on President Trump to reconsider his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accord.

Take a look at the video below and let me know what you think by replying to this email.

Vern

The greatest problem facing Florida is saltwater intrusion not rising sea levels.

Dr. Roger Bezdek has found that salt water intrusion is caused by land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal from subsurface shale and sandstone formations, and to “glacial isostatic adjustments” that have been ongoing since the last glaciers melted.

In a column titled “Sea level rise – or land subsidence? Excessive groundwater pumping is the real culprit” CFACT reports:

[T]he Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2007 that seas might rise up to only 2 feet by 2107. By comparison, oceans have risen nearly 400 feet since the last ice age ended, reflecting how much water was trapped in mile-thick glaciers that buried much of North America, Europe, and Asia. In recent decades, though, global sea level rise has averaged just 7 inches per century…

[ … ]

As a new report by Dr. Roger Bezdek explains, reality is much different. (His report awaits publication in a scientific journal.) At least for the Chesapeake region, Houston-Galveston, Texas, area, Santa Clara Valley, California, and other places around the globe, the primary cause of seawater intrusions is not rising oceans – but land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal from subsurface shale and sandstone formations, and to “glacial isostatic adjustments” that have been ongoing since the last glaciers melted.

The solution therefore is not to continue trying to control Earth’s climate – an impossible, economy-busting task that would further impede fossil fuel use, economic development, job creation, and human health and welfare. The solution requires reducing groundwater removal in these coastal areas. 

President Trump was right to leave the Paris Accord. It is nothing more than a massive $100 billion annual “climate finance” transfer of money from the United States to third world countries. Also understand that China, Russia and India are paying nothing.

Clearly Representative Buchanan needs to understand that mankind cannot control either the weather or sea levels. But Florida can control the removal of groundwater in our coastal areas.

The real issue with Buchanan is drilling off of Florida’s coastlines, not the Paris Accord. He is against drilling while President Trump is opening up vast areas to energy exploration and fast tracking environmental processes and removing regulatory hindrances to energy exploration and drilling.

Buchanan is anti-President Trump’s policies of economic growth via increased energy production. That’s the real issue facing Floridians. Cheap reliable power or sending billions in U.S. tax dollars to third world nations. You choose.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Another Obama Legacy: Americans Will Pay Billions for a Useless Climate Agreement

President Obama’s Climate-Change Agenda Costs American Lives

China caused a two percent surge in global CO2 emissions after joining the UN climate pact

Alarmists feverish over sea levels

BankThink: Mortgage deduction helps housing lobby, but not homeowner

The battle lines are drawn between those seeking to protect the mortgage interest deduction (MID) and a legislative effort to greatly reduce the use of the MID. Hopefully, this is a battle that taxpayers will win over the housing lobby — the loudest supporter of keeping the deduction intact.

The housing lobby’s effectiveness is measured by its success at garnering subsidies. But the proposed House bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would be a shot across the industry’s bow. The stage is now set for a crucial debate between two competing visions: the House plan — which would disincentivize the MID by raising the standard deduction and capping loans qualifying for the MID at $500,000 — and Senate tax reform legislation that effectively would leave the deduction intact.

From the perspective of taxpayer cost and federal budgeting, it’s no contest which plan is better. Since 1994, the cost of the MID, the separate real estate tax deduction (also downsized in the House plan), and other single-family tax subsidies has totaled over $2.5 trillion and in fiscal year 2017 were estimated to cost $141 billion. This does not include the many hundreds of billions in subsidies over the same period provided to or by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, Ginnie Mae and others, and the $6.7 trillion in taxpayer mortgage debt guaranteed by these same agencies.

What did the U.S. taxpayer get for this massive level of rent-seeking? First, the U.S. homeownership rate today is 63.9% — statistically no different than the average rate of 64.3% since 1964 (excluding the bubble years). Second, these policies directly caused the 2008 financial crisis — a catastrophe for the U.S. and world economies.

True to their past positions, both NAR and the NAHB are opposing the House tax reform plan, favoring the Senate version. NAR had previously released a study it commissioned that found that a doubling of the standard deduction, elimination of the state and local tax deduction, and lower marginal tax rates would cause home prices to fall by 10.2%. On the other side are supporters of tax reform and lower marginal rates. Gary Cohn, President Trump’s head of the National Economic Council, stated in September: “People don’t buy homes because of the mortgage deduction.”

Before getting to the merits of these positions, it is worth noting the “man bites dog” nature of NAR’s admission that the MID drives home prices up higher than they otherwise would be. While this certainly explains the NAR’s past and current support for the MID, it is a damning admission for a group that purports to promote homeownership and “affordable housing.”

In terms of the merits, federal subsidies for homeownership like the MID get capitalized into higher prices, encourage the taking out of more debt, promote the buying of larger, more expensive homes, and price homes out of reach of lower-income buyers. Recent research at the Federal Reserve confirmed these points and found “when house prices are allowed to adjust in response to the elimination of mortgage interest deductions, the homeownership rate actually increases.”

One could end the argument here. However, this would leave NAR’s claim about a 10.2% price reduction unaddressed. First, a common sense reading of “a fall in home prices” is that prices would actually drop from current levels. This conflates a drop in price level and a slowing of the rate of increase. High-end home prices in 16 large metropolitan areas were up about 5% in July compared to a year earlier. A slowing of the rate of increase for high-end homes to the inflation level of 2% would, over three years, result in high-end home prices ending up about 10% lower than they otherwise would have been, but without an actual drop in prices.

Why is a slowing in the rate of increase, not an outright drop, the likely result? According to NAR, existing home sales have been in a seller’s market for 61 straight months and there are no signs of this abating anytime soon. A seller’s market is commonplace even at the higher price end of the home market. This includes San Francisco, where homes selling for more than $4.6 million have less than 2.5 months inventory along with similar conditions for the highest price points for metro areas such as Seattle and Los Angeles. Areas like Boston, Denver, New York City and Washington D.C. have a seller’s market except for price points in excess of $1.5 million to $2 million.

Jerry Howard, chief executive of the homebuilder association, told The Wall Street Journal that the House legislation is “a bad bill for housing.” In reality, it’s a good bill for American taxpayers and homebuyers.

Democrats in Meltdown Mode as Obamacare Individual Mandate Moves Toward Extinction

Democrats, of course, oppose the tax cuts moving through Congress. They believe government knows how to spend your money better than you do.

But what has really got their goat is eliminating the Obamacare tax—known as the individual mandate—that Americans have to pay to the IRS for simply choosing not to buy health insurance. This has thrown them into a tailspin of despair.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said eliminating the individual mandate would amount to the “destruction of the Affordable Care Act.” She said it would create no less than a “life-or-death struggle for millions of American families.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor Thursday that “[t]he number of middle-class families who would lose money from this bill may be even higher now considering the 10 percent increase in premiums that will occur as a result of the Republican plan to repeal the individual mandate.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was asked by Anderson Cooper on CNN about cutting the individual mandate. “It’s a bad idea,” replied the former Democratic presidential candidate. “This is going to throw 13 million Americans off the health insurance they currently have.”

No doubt the talking points that flew around Democratic offices on Capitol Hill were written to scare people into thinking the tax cut forces people off all health care. But it’s a big stretch to state that as fact.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the individual mandate would decrease the number of people with health insurance by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027. It also predicted average premiums in the individual market would increase by about 10 percent per year.

However, the Congressional Budget Office was extremely careful to explain the inexact science of its analysis. A whole section of the report is titled “Uncertainty Surrounding the Estimates.” To put it simply, economists can’t predict human behavior.

I don’t even know what health insurance I will pick to get the best bang for my buck in 2019. How would bureaucrats in D.C. know?

Nevertheless, Democrats grabbed that report and ran with it, trying to put on a horror movie through the halls of Congress.

Pelosi threatened that as the bill moves toward final passage in the Senate and a reconciled bill through both chambers, “outside mobilization” will be activated to stop it. She said the Senate Finance Committee’s decision to include repeal of the individual mandate “really electrified, energized the base even further … .”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., tweeted on Tuesday: “RED ALERT: Senate GOP just added provision to their tax plan that would gut ACA & kick 13M ppl off insurance.”

(Yes, Franken tweets blatant falsehoods when he’s not groping women.)

Schumer took to Twitter to put the blame on the White House: “.@POTUS’s absurd idea to repeal the individual mandate as a part of the #GOPTaxPlan would boot 13M ppl from the health insurance rolls and cause premiums to skyrocket – all to pay for an even bigger tax cut for the very rich, those who pay the top rate. What a toxic idea!”

President Donald Trump, however, is quite enthusiastic about taking a big whack at Obamacare through the tax bill. Reportedly, Trump encouraged Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to get repeal into the committee bill text. This is what also infuriated the Democrats.

You can’t help but smile that Republicans are now using a 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court—which let the individual mandate stay in law, with the rationale that it was a tax and not a fine—as a way to ultimately kill the key provision that keeps Obamacare on life support.

Since the mandate is now considered a tax, its repeal will fit perfectly into the GOP tax reform plan.

Last week, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if the individual mandate repeal is a priority for the president. “That’s something the president obviously would love to see happen,” she responded.

The Obamacare mandate tax was always more of a “nanny tax” than a way to raise government funding. Democrats included it in the law in order to force the young and healthy to buy into the government-run health exchanges so as to offset the high cost of the old and very sick.

But the tax has ended up hitting lower-income and working-class families the hardest because it is much cheaper to pay the tax than to buy insurance on the Obamacare exchanges and pay the absurdly high insurance premiums and deductibles.

The hardest thing to do in Washington is to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. If the Obamacare tax can be repealed in the final bill that lands on Trump’s desk, Americans will get back a key individual liberty—the right to choose whether or not to buy government health insurance.

This would be the perfect early Christmas gift for hard-working families. Democrats should think twice before standing in the way of it.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Emily Miller

Emily Miller is an award-winning journalist and the author of the book “Emily Gets Her Gun” about gun control policies. Twitter: .

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Trump Administration’s 2 Priorities for Welfare Reform Executive Order

President Donald Trump is making welfare reform a major priority and will sign an executive order laying out the administration’s goals while also urging action by Congress, a White House official said Thursday.

Trump’s executive order will be twofold, said Paul Winfree, director of budget policy at the White House. The order will state the Trump administration’s principles for welfare reform of empowering individuals and learning from state and local initiatives, and then direct federal agencies to come back to the president with recommendations for implementing the principles.

“Welfare reform is something that is very important to the president,” Winfree said during a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation’s anti-poverty forum on Thursday. “It’s something that excites him. It’s something that he has a lot of energy about.”

The White House is also working with Congress on reform proposals, Winfree said, but in the short term is looking at what federal agencies can do unilaterally. The federal government has 89 different welfare programs spread across 14 departments and agencies.

Winfree explained the two priorities of Trump’s upcoming executive order.

The first thing it does, it sets out a series of principles for welfare reform that we would like to be a message to Capitol Hill and the direction we want to take. … We want to empower people. We want to learn from the states. We want to learn from local communities.

One of the messages is that I’ve been driving to essentially our staff and our agencies on welfare reform and the direction we are taking is this message that it’s people that help people. It’s not governments that help people.

So, how do we learn from people who are actually in the communities actually helping people and then ultimately empower them by either getting out of the way or redirecting the resources in their direction to essentially reward successes without a unilateral approach or without just kicking it to the states and transition [to] what is essentially a federal role into a state role.

The second half of the executive order, which is yet to be signed, essentially directs agencies to take a look at the principles and then figure out what they can do on their own to start meeting some of the objectives that are out there through changes in regulation and guidance and then to ultimately submit those recommendations to the president for an evaluation.

The last sweeping welfare reform package came more than two decades ago, passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton. However, Robert Rector, who helped shape some of the 1996 bill, said new improvements are needed.

“The current welfare system harms the very poor that it’s trying to help,” Rector, a senior research fellow for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said. “We need a reformed welfare system that promotes work and marriage, and rewards outcomes rather than simply greater spending.”

The Heritage Foundation is supportive of the principles in several proposals in Congress now.

A bill by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and companion House bill by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, would require all welfare programs to strengthen existing work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; and establish a real work requirement in food stamps. Separately, a bill by Rep. Garrett Graves would require work requirements for the food stamp program.

Other members of Congress have talked about saving $15 billion annually by eliminating fraud, waste, and excessive benefits in the earned income tax credit, while making the program more encouraging of work. Others call for removing the marriage penalty with regards to welfare programs.

Senate Tax Force Aims for Obamacare

“I don’t know if I can live on my income or not,” comic strip writer Bob Thaves joked. “The government won’t let me try it.” But Republicans might, if their twin tax plans can survive the twists and turns of a House and Senate debate. A good House plan got even better, thanks to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who heeded conservatives’ concerns and honed the language on the Johnson Amendment, adoption tax credit, and marriage penalties. After some thoughtful revisions, his bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is headed to the floor as early as tomorrow.If there’s trouble ahead, House leaders are confident it won’t be on their side of the Capitol. “It’s probably the most unified we’ve been in a while,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) told reporters about Thursday’s vote. “We all have our issues, and we know the Senate is going to do something different. But I think everyone is very focused, and we know we need to get this thing done.”

Collins was right about the Senate doing something different. Late yesterday, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that Republicans were tweaking their bill to take on an old foe: the Obamacare individual mandate. In a major departure from their first draft (and the House plan), GOP leaders decided this was the perfect time to attack the IRS’s punishment for Americans who refuse to buy insurance. In doing so, Hatch argued, “We not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to [middle-class] individuals.” The benefits are two-fold: taxpayers aren’t fined for making a personal decision about health care, and the Senate has more money to offset other tax reforms.

That’s key for Republicans, who unlike the House, are working under much stricter budget rules. Under the reconciliation process (which lets them pass the bill with a simple majority instead of the regular 60), GOP leaders have to find a way to “pay for” their plan, and zapping the individual mandate would free up about $338 billion over the next 10 years. Senator Hatch knows that if fewer people are forced to buy insurance, then fewer people will be applying for federal subsidies to pay for it. That saves GOP leaders a lot of money, which it’s decided to use for an even better causes: like the child tax credit.

Thanks to the persistence of Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the modified Senate bill doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 from the initial $1,650. FRC, along with other conservatives, had been pushing for this increase for months. Now, that work is paying off. “Good news for working families,” Rubio tweeted. “The Senate #TaxCut bill now has #ChildTaxCredit at 2K. We are making progress.” Hopefully, the GOP finds a way to make the change permanent, since the text, as it’s currently written under reconciliation rules, would expire in 2025.

The Left’s pro-abortion crowd has gone hysterical over an education tax deduction, the ability of expectant parents’ to contribute to their future children’s education. The Left insists that this is some radical new way of undermining abortion, which is interesting since it has nothing to do with it. Yet still, NARAL calls it “dangerous” to let families save for college early. Affirming this language, claims Ilyse Hogue would “lay the foundation for ‘personhood,’ the idea that life begins at conception thus granting a fetus in utero legal rights.” But guess what? That foundation was already laid in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which, Hogue may be interested to know, uses the same terminology.

As most people know, the real debate on these provisions will be in three weeks or so, when the two chambers conference together and hash out their differences. Until then, Americans will watch and wait — hoping, as we all do, that Republicans can finally offer families some much-needed relief from Uncle Sam.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


Also in the November 15 Washington Update:

U.S. Strayed by USAID

Bible Speeches Make the Week Strong

The Military May Soon Get a Long-Needed Boost. Why That’s Good News.

It’s not exactly “Man Bites Dog,” but “Congress Gets Defense Spending Right” is almost as surprising a headline.

For too long now, we’ve been cutting corners when it comes to the military. Years of underfunding have given us a weakened force that, despite the hard work of our brave troops, is ill-equipped to handle the missions we keep throwing at it.

Think the recent spate of ship collisions is a coincidence? Hardly. They’re a red flag—a warning sign we ignore at our peril. That’s what happens when you shortchange our armed forces, and fail to ensure that they have the best training and the best equipment possible.

So when House and Senate leaders released their proposal for a defense spending authorization for 2018, and it not only met but exceeded the amount that Heritage Foundation experts had been recommending, it marked a rare piece of good news from Capitol Hill.

A base funding amount of $634 billion sounds like a lot of money—and it is. But it’s money well spent. Indeed, notes defense expert Thomas Spoehr, it “will go a long way toward beginning the rebuilding of America’s deteriorated military.”

It will do that in large measure by providing increased numbers of aircraft, ships, and ground equipment—all of which, thanks to years of underfunding, is desperately needed.

House and Senate leaders are also calling for increases in the size of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Good thing, too. Each branch needs additional personnel and are at historic lows in terms of manpower.

How low? Consider what the Air Force recently did. It’s facing a shortage of fighter pilots. By year’s end, defense expert John Venable writes in the National Interest, “the service is projected to have fewer than 2,643 of the 3,643 active-duty fighter pilots it needs to execute its mission.”

So President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the secretary of defense to recall up to 1,000 retired Air Force pilots to make up for the shortfall. A good idea, but this is the sort of stopgap measure that the military has been forced to rely on for too long.

Sooner rather than later, Band-Aids won’t work.

In fact, such short-term solutions, however creative, can almost be dangerous. They help the various branches accomplish the mission at hand, and that’s certainly a good thing. But they can mask the serious problems underneath.

It’s like putting duct tape on a crack in a door. It covers up the crack, yes, and it makes things seem fine—for a while. But a problem that’s out of sight doesn’t magically go away. It continues to fester until some emergency down the road forces you to fix it properly.

But by then, it’s metastasized and become more expensive to fix.

By the same token, the underfunding problem that plagues our overworked, overstressed military should have been addressed long ago. But there are no time machines handy, so the only thing we can do is to start fixing it right now.

That’s what the congressional defense authorization bill does. It takes our collective head out of the sand and enables us to get to work.

Mind you, this is just the first step. And it’s not even a step per se—it’s a decision to take that step. But the mere fact that congressional leaders are owning up to the problem and vowing to do something about it is promising.

There is much to follow through on, and Heritage’s research papers have detailed recommendations for each branch. And if our elected leaders need some motivation to get it right, Heritage’s 2018 Index of U.S. Military Strength also outlines the growing threats around the globe.

There are many things we can afford to do cheaply. Defense isn’t one of them. Let’s make sure we get this right.

Originally published by The Washington Times.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Ed Feulner

Edwin J. Feulner’s 36 years of leadership as president of The Heritage Foundation transformed the think tank from a small policy shop into America’s powerhouse of conservative ideas. Read his research. Twitter: .

President Trump ends Obama’s illegal Central American Minors program

Do you remember the program the Obama State Department created out of whole cloth in 2014 when it took it upon itself to write refugee law without the Congress?

It was called Central American Minors or CAM for short and was supposed to help the minors escaping poverty and gangs in Central America get into the U.S. as refugees so they wouldn’t get hurt sneaking across the border as they had been doing by the tens of thousands.

Obama’s State Department created the program so that the invading “children” wouldn’t get hurt or exploited trying to get to America on the “Beast Train” or on foot.

The program had a couple of major flaws—first is that the kids were hard-pressed to show they were legitimate refugees fearing persecution and secondly, the parent filing the application in the US had to prove they were here legally (oopsy!).

The good news is that CAM has been canned at the Dept. of State as of November 9th!

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department will stop accepting new applications at midnight on Thursday for a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status in the United States before leaving home.

President Donald Trump’s administration told Congress in September it would phase out the Central American Minors (CAM) program during fiscal year 2018, which began on Oct. 1.

New applications will not be accepted after 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday (0459 GMT on Friday), the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday night.

The CAM program started at the end of 2014 under former President Barack Obama as a response to tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum in the United States.

Continue here where Reuters says that 1,500 kids got in out of 13,000 applications (imagine what that must have cost taxpayers to process 13,000 applications!).

For more, search RRW for ‘Unaccompanied minors’ or ‘Unaccompanied alien children.’

RELATED ARTICLES: 

EU officials: ISIS has been wiped out in Syria, time for refugees to go home

US Bishops lambast Trump over closure of Central American Minors program

Afghan refugee charged with murder not an “unaccompanied minor” as he claimed

German teacher says Islamist ideology making teaching Muslim refugees impossible

Why We’re So Lucky that Donald Trump is the Most Unreasonable President in U.S. History

In one of my recent columns, I talked about the value of being unreasonable.

The premise of that column was based on a quote from British playwright George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself; therefore, all progress is dependent upon the unreasonable man.”

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of organizing a small roundtable with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). She is the Chair of the House Republican Conference, which makes her the fourth ranking member in House leadership.

We invited about 25 very successful Black, Asian, and Hispanic business owners to have a private conversation with her about the soon-to-be written tax bill that President Trump wants to sign before the end of the year.

During this meeting, we highlighted three individual entrepreneurs: Kenya Pierce, the co-president and COO of Voulez Beaute (cosmetics), Gerald B. Boyd, Jr. the CEO of DB Consulting Group, Inc. (IT), and Robert L. Wallace, the president and CEO of Bithenergy, Inc. (energy).

VIDEO: Robert Wallace, President and CEO, Bithenergy, One of America’s Faces of Tax Reform Addresses Economic Empowerment.

Each of these business owners gave a very compelling story about their respective journeys into entrepreneurship and made the case for tax reform.

In the spirit of Shaw’s quote above, Rep. McMorris Rodgers was unreasonable enough to see value in creating a dialogue with the minority business community to get their input into a tax bill that had yet to be written.

The NNPA Newswire was one of the few Black-owned media outlets to cover this historic event. The NNPA Newswire operates BlackPressUSA.com, the public news website of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which consists of over 200 Black-owned media companies operating in the United States. The NNPA Newswire also syndicates my weekly newspaper column.

What I find amazing is that many Black journalists, especially the ones that work for Black media outlets, constantly complain about how the mainstream media only covers negative aspects of the Black community; yet, they are doing the same thing, by ignoring positive stories, especially when they come from Blacks in the Republican Party.

To my Black, liberal Democratic journalist friends, who refused to cover this event, because it didn’t fit into their partisan, political narratives: you are a bunch of hypocrites. Your job as a journalist is to report the news, even when it goes against your liberal biases. Quasi-journalists like Roland Martin (News One Now), Joy Reid (MSNBC), Don Lemon (CNN), Jason Johnson (The Root), Amy Barnett (The Grio), and Amber Payne (NBCBLK) do more damage to our community than anyone with a white sheet over their head could ever do.

Their hypocritical biases notwithstanding, we received a tremendous amount of press from our event.

Leading up to our event, we received so much buzz that the White House reached out to me and asked if they could participate in the event. They sent Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president and Jovita Carranza, the Treasurer of the United States, to represent President Donald J. Trump. I challenge anyone to recall a similar event, that President Barack Obama supported on Capitol Hill, that prominently featured minority business owners, especially Black entrepreneurs.

This is the first time in my memory that small and minority business-owners have been seen as so valuable that they have been invited to give input into a yet-to-be written tax bill. This is not only historic, but also a transformative, tectonic shift in the political landscape.

The mere fact that Rep. McMorris Rodgers and President Trump invited us to participate in the shaping of this proposed legislation makes them two of the most unreasonable people I have ever encountered.

For McMorris Rodgers to spend time with minority business owners on Capitol Hill was extremely unusual by any standard. Remember, she is No. 4 in House leadership and her time is very limited, but she was unreasonable enough to see value in listening to us.

President Trump couldn’t make our event himself, but he was so unreasonable that he sent two of his top aides, Conway, who is also a longtime friend of mine; and his U.S. Treasurer.

This is the type of unreasonable behavior that our president and our party need more of.

If President Trump continues to be unreasonable enough to see value in the minority business community, especially Black entrepreneurs, I can guarantee that they will be more than willing to work with the White House.

If Trump continues to be unreasonable enough to work with us on issues like access to capital, making sure we get our fair share of government contracts, and keeping open a pipeline of direct communications between us and the White House, we will not only work with the president, but we will advocate on behalf of the policies that we know will make America great again.

So, to President Trump and Rep. McMorris Rodgers: please continue to encourage those around you to be unreasonable knowing that only unreasonable people are able to make transformative change in our world.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Black Press USA.

VIDEO: A Taxing Week for Republicans

“Tax reform is a noble goal but an ugly process,” Howard Kurtz said, almost sympathetically. He won’t have to convince Republicans of that, as they slog through one of the biggest tax rewrites since Ronald Reagan. It’s a grueling process for the members and staff, who not only feel the weight of the task — but the weight of expectation. For a party who hasn’t delivered on its key promises to voters, this debate is the debate for changing that.

While the rest of the city was emptying out for Veterans Day, the light on the Capitol dome was still on, signaling the ongoing work of the chambers underneath. That work turned out to be incredibly good news for families, as the House Ways and Means Committee passed a much-improved version of the tax reform package Americans were introduced to last week. Heeding the chorus of conservatives’ concerns, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) made the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act even stronger — thanks to a 29-page amendment that addresses everything from the Johnson Amendment to marriage penalties and the adoption credit. Happy with the work of his committee, Brady told reporters that this proposal “reflects the consideration and thought we’ve heard on both sides of the aisle.”

It was a big win for families, who stand to keep a lot more of their hard-earned money, and it was a win for free speech. Unlike the earlier draft of the bill, churches aren’t the only ones that’ll have the opportunity to speak freely in the political process — so will nonprofit and faith-based groups. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) were able to expand the old language and incorporate their Free Speech Fairness Act into the bill, which stops the IRS from policing the speech of churches and other charitable organizations. That’s a huge relief for men and women of faith, who watched the Obama IRS breathe down the necks of nonprofits and religious entities, threatening to take away their tax exempt status if they dared to talk about moral or political issues.

Most importantly, the House plan recognizes that families are at the heart of our economy. By increasing the child tax credit (the most popular piece of the proposal, according to polling), moms and dads can provide better for their children. And with the changes to education savings accounts, that includes unborn children. Now, expectant parents will be able to put aside money for their babies’ future learning. Marriage tax penalty rates are significantly reduced — something that pro-family groups like FRC have been advocating for years.

Ivanka Trump, who flew back early from her dad’s Asian tour, was thrilled to see the tax relief for parents.

“The average American family,” she points out, “spends almost 30 percent of pre-tax income on the cost of childcare. So the cost of childcare has gone through the roof and families just can’t afford it… The GOP idea is not to have government become more involved in providing affordable childcare services but rather to deliver a tax plan that will empower parents to better care for their kids — which means leaving parents with more of the money they’ve earned rather than allowing the government to take it via taxation and reallocating it as it sees fit.”

Americans overwhelmingly agree, Politico shows in a new survey. While the liberal media is busy panning the plan, they may be the only ones. According to the poll, 45 percent of the country supports the GOP’s proposal, an almost 10-point gap from the 36 percent who don’t. Most Americans think it would have a positive impact on them (36 percent) than negative (25 percent). And with the greatest enthusiasm, most say it would benefit the economy (42 percent); only 22 percent disagreed.

That’s good news for House Republicans, who have plenty of hurdles to go before H.R. 1 is a reality. The Senate, with its own draft of tax reform, may be the biggest. But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is still confident the two chambers can work something out. “Yes, the Senate bill is going to be different than the House bill, because you know what? That’s the legislative process. But what’s encouraging in all of this is… we have a framework that we established with the White House and the Senate, and these bills are being written inside that framework.” Ironing out the differences won’t be easy, but it is doable. “The House will pass its bill, the Senate will pass its bill, and then we will get together and reconcile the differences, which is the legislative process, and that’s how this process will continue.”

In the meantime, we tip our hats to House Republicans for listening to voters and giving conservatives a plan they can be proud of. For more on the tax debate, check out FRC’s Ken Blackwell on Fox Business.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


Also in the November 10 Washington Update:

The Heart of a Warrior

Strategic Partners for the New Year!

Taxpayers Get a Win Over Sports Stadium Cronies

As the Houston Astros enjoy their World Series victory, taxpayers across the country have a reason of their own to celebrate this week.

Buried in the tax reform bill is a provision that fixes an egregious loophole that sends billions in tax preferences to private sports stadium construction.

The current tax code allows billion-dollar sports franchises—such as the (soon-to-be) Las Vegas Raiders—to use tax-exempt municipal bonds to build their stadiums.

Whereas interest generated by corporate bonds is taxable by the federal government, municipal bond interest is tax-exempt, allowing municipal bonds to command comparatively lower interest rates.

Tax-exempt municipal bonds are generally reserved for public-use infrastructure projects, such as roads, schools, and water systems. But due to a loophole in the tax code, sports franchises have been able to prolifically exploit this tax preference to construct their private stadiums.

Since 2000, at least 36 stadiums have been financed with tax-exempt bonds, amounting to a total tax subsidy of $3.2 billion due to lower financing costs.

Worse still, the foregone federal revenues from this carve-out are even greater—amounting to $3.7 billion. This is because the subsidy is inefficient, allowing high-income earners to capture some of the benefits.

While proponents of this tax break claim that sports stadiums create jobs and economic growth, studies detailing subsidies for sports stadiums repeatedly show no effect or even a drag on economic growth in the overall metropolitan area in which the stadium was constructed.

Building on a bipartisan effort to eliminate this handout to special interests, congressional leaders took the admirable step of eliminating the option of tax-exempt financing for any sports stadium in section 3604 of the tax reform bill.

While the provision eliminates just one of the many crony features of the current tax code, ending the tax preference for sports stadiums is a clear win for all federal taxpayers, regardless of which team they support.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Michael Sargent

Michael Sargent is a policy analyst for transportation and infrastructure in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: 

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Government Owned Land: How much do we need?

Conservation or Control?

Both the United States and the State of Florida were founded on the recognition, and consistent defense of, the concept of private property rights. It was no theoretical warning given by Founding Father Arthur Lee of Virginia when he said,

The right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.

The ideas of self-determination, individualism, and self-reliance fostered and demanded by this principle have shaped the settlement and prosperity of our country and state.  From such beginnings until today, these values remain an integral part of our culture and way of life.

However, across the country, government continues to pursue policies that erode this fundamental right. Among the most serious of these encroachments is the aggressive and continued acquisition and regulatory control of land.

A Policy of Failure in the West

Government land acquisition is most noticeable in states west of the Mississippi River, where approximately 50 percent of all land is owned by the federal government.  In states such as Utah, Idaho, Arkansas and, Nevada, federal ownership exceeds 70 percent.[1] For decades, western states have seen firsthand how this disproportionate amount of federal land ownership deprives them and their citizens of economic opportunities. This challenge is only growing worse as environmental interests and centralized government work to lock up the land and its resources.

A consequence of such a federal policy is many local governments in Western states have significantly less private property available to tax than their eastern counterparts.  Every acre taken over by the federal government is an acre off the tax rolls. Less tax revenue means budget constraints on vital services like police protection, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, firefighting, search and rescue operations and public education. Rather than return property to local ownership and control, the federal government has chosen to offset the loss of property taxes by establishing the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program.[2] States in the West must increasingly rely on those states in the East to fund land management and government services through subsidies.

In the West, excessive federal ownership and control of land prevents state and private interests from best-use and management of property. As a result, trillions of dollars of potential revenue that could go towards strengthening economies, funding land management, and meeting needs of citizens is left untapped.

A Lesson for Florida   

In Florida, policymakers should be vigilant to avoid the plight of states west of the Mississippi.  While federal ownership is not as acutely felt in Florida as in the West (although Florida helps pay for subsidies to the west), state government ownership and control is growing and potentially could have a significant impact.

According to a February 2017 summary published by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida contains 34.7 million non-submerged acres.  Of that total, more than 10.2 million acres (nearly 30 percent) are held in conservation.  Breaking down further, state government owns and manages 14.1 percent; the federal government owns and manages 11.6 percent; and, local governments account for 1.4 percent. This does not begin to consider the acreage used for state and local government office buildings, agency operations, maintenance, etc.  It also does not include acreage used to house state educational facilities.

The most aggressive government acquisition of property has come in the area of conservation.  The Florida Legislature passed several laws to expand conservation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, it was during the years 1999 to 2015 when the acquisition of conservation land intensified.  During this period, two programs were passed by the Florida Legislature that increased the amount of state-owned conservation lands by 30 percent[4].

Acquisition is Costly

From 1999 to 2005, the Preservation 2000 program acquired land for conservation. Since 2001, the Florida Forever program has acquired conservation lands and continues in effect today. As of June 30, 2015, via these two programs, the state has purchased approximately 2.5 million acres at a direct cost of $6.2 million to Florida’s taxpayers.[5] This direct cost does not account for the revenues lost from the property being removed from the tax rolls.

During the years of the Great Recession, conservation land purchases by the state were diminished due to decreased state revenues. However, as the economy has stabilized and rising revenue projections have returned, calls for land purchases and conservation easements (privately-owned lands dedicated in perpetuity for conservation in exchange for tax breaks) are increasing in volume.

In 2014, Florida voters passed the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment. This state constitutional amendment designates one-third of real estate documentary stamp revenues toward conservation land acquisition, maintenance of government owned property, renovation of historical sites, and restoration of the environment, especially the Everglades, etc. To some, this presented an opportunity to balance the aggressive acquisition of land with funding enabling the state to better steward its government-owned land and water. But to others, it was seen and promoted as an open checkbook for aggressive (and unnecessary) land acquisition.

Maintenance is Costly (and Recurring)

Easily overlooked by those advocating for more land purchases is the cost of property maintenance. Maintenance is critical to clear brush for preventing wildfires, fighting off invasive species and plants, and protecting the overall land aesthetic.  Unlike the one-time cost of property purchases, maintenance is an on-going, recurring expenditure. It requires employees (salaries, insurance and pensions), facilities, equipment, fuel, and other expenses.

The 2016 Annual Report of the Land Management Uniform Accounting Council [6] states that in FY 2015-2016, state agencies in Florida spent more than $173 million to manage 3.4 million acres of conservation lands.  Accounting for tourist revenues of approximately $79 million, the net cost to taxpayers for maintenance of conservation lands was $94.6 million or $28.23 per acre [7]. Such maintenance expenditures are sure to increase and, again, will be incurred every year.

Based on the 2016 Annual Report and assuming an acquisition cost of $2,500 per acre (the average price per acre in both the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs [8]), the acquisition of 20,000 acres for conservation would incur a one-time cost of $50 million.  In addition to this, an annual maintenance cost of approximately $565,000 would need to be added to an already stretched state budget.

Debt Service is Costly (and Recurring)

Another often overlooked stress on the state budget is the cost of debt service.  A 2017 report from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research reveals, “To date, the state has issued approximately $2.0 billion of Florida Forever bonds. The most recent year that new bonds were authorized was Fiscal Year 2008-09. As of September 2016, the aggregate principal amount of outstanding bonds is $1.0 billion, with debt service of approximately $145.2 million due in Fiscal Year 2016-2017. If no new bonds are sold, the estimated debt service is expected to decline each year through Fiscal Year 2028-29, at which time the Florida Forever bonds would be retired.”

Local Loss is Costly

In addition to the state budget, financial stress is also felt at the local level.  County and municipal budgets are funded primarily from property taxes. Property owners’ taxes fund local education, road maintenance, law enforcement, social workers, growth management, environmental protection, and flood control, just to name a few spending categories.

As government purchases take property off the tax rolls, less revenue is available to provide necessary services. This puts local governments in the difficult position to either reduce services or raise taxes on the remaining taxable private properties.  Increasing government land ownership inevitably creates a negative ripple effect impacting all levels of the public sector.

The inherent tension is a result of an economic concept called “opportunity cost.” State revenues are fixed by tax structure. Every dollar we spend on one service is a dollar not being used to support another service. We elect policymakers to make informed decisions on our behalf. Often, around election cycles, special interest groups will assert themselves for greater levels of taxpayer support. Government’s property acquisitions, maintenance, and debt service also compete for these funds.

Today, the impact of government land ownership is felt most acutely in the western states massive federal land ownership and its financial strains like states and their citizens in the west. Florida policymakers should take heed and work to curb the never-satisfied desire to control more and more land. Floridians already help pay for the subsidies western states receive due to massive government ownership and the costs incurred.

Florida’s policymakers should consider how much government owned conservation land we truly need and how we plan to afford to keep it.

Author

Dan Peterson Headshot - The James Madison Institute
DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR PROPERTY RIGHTS

  1. http://propertyrightsresearch.org/2004/articles6/state_by_state_government_land_o.htm
  2. https://www.doi.gov/pilt/
  3. http://fnai.org/PDF/Maacres_201702_FCL_plus_LTF.pdf
  4. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  5. Ibid
  6. http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/ARC/2016_LMUAC_Annual.pdf
  7. Ibid
  8. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Statistical Abstract, Land Conservation
  9. http://edr.state.fl.us/Content/special-research-projects/natural%20resources/LandandWaterAnnual%20Assessment_2017Edition.pdf

Will Highways Become Obsolete?

Technology’s rapidly changing landscape will transform the way we travel in the next decade, much less the next half century. Sure as the sun rises, private innovators like Elon Musk will ensure outmoded travel will be obsolete in the near term. So, toll roads and the long arm of government attempting to manage our morning commute through toll ‘managed’ lanes won’t be necessary.

blue_logo
By Terri Hall

New modes of transport could replace the need for cars, sooner rather than later.

You’d think it’s counterproductive for Elon Musk to support something that could eliminate the need for his own Tesla self-driving cars, but innovators tend to be on the cutting edge of new technologies and Hyperloop One is certainly worth watching.

Hyperloop is a new form of transportation that propels a pod (whether people or cargo) through a tube across an elevated track using magnetic levitation technology. The company claims it could take a passenger from Houston to Dallas in under 30 minutes — at airline speeds of 620 MPH without turbulence or drag — at a fraction of the cost. At least that’s how it’s being promoted.

That beats high speed rail systems, including the one being planned by Japan-based Texas Central Railway, whose speeds top out at 205 MPH. The advantage of a Hyperloop type of system over the traditional high speed rail is it would not require the massive taking of rural land, eliminating the ‘eminent domain for private gain’ problem, since it’s elevated and could potentially be built within existing highway real estate. Nor would a Hyperloop create the noise problems of high speed trains because it’s inside a tube without air drag.

Hyperloop One has announced the ten teams for its Global Challenge representing the U.S., UK, Mexico, India, and Canada along with winning routes it chose from a field of hundreds of applicants to move forward with prototypes and feasibility studies, with one route set for Dallas-Laredo-Houston.

The company conducted its first successful test in July 2017, and it will continue to test the technology for longer distances and at greater and greater speeds. It plans to have a system fully operational by 2020. The company has already raised $160 million for the task.

While Hyperloop technology could transform the future of transportation, it still has many of the challenges of traditional highspeed rail. How do you get passengers from the outskirts of urban centers to their final destinations inside city centers? So far, Uber and rideshare companies have solved the door-to-door problem just fine without the fancy-dancy, hi-tech Hyperloop track. But to some extent, ridesharing contributes to the road congestion. Hyperloop would bypass it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has already entered into an agreement with AECOM to explore Hyperloop’s feasibility to help address the state’s mobility issues. The open question remains, who’s going to pay for such a system? Will it be entirely private funding? Aren’t the Colorado taxpayers footing at least part of the bill by entering into a public-private partnership (P3), a controversial contracting method often considered corporate welfare?

Ready for the Jetsons?

Uber announced its plans to use Dallas as its test market for a new flying car.

Your read that right. It’s called Uber Elevate and it would create a fleet of cars that can do vertical takeoff and landing or VTOLs. One of the reasons the company chose Dallas as its testing ground is its high concentration of aviators, with Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Bell Helicopter based there.

Jeff Holden, Uber’s Chief Product Officer says it expects to begin testing as early as 2020. While many skeptics quickly emerged with the obvious concerns about commuters encountering the same potential for congestion while in the air along with safety concerns for those who have no experience in flying, the meteoric rise of drone users demonstrates the capacity for such new flying technologies to find a niche, if not a mass market in the future.

Out with the Old, In with the New

With the White House and state highway departments scurrying to enter into long-term P3 contracts for toll roads, it’s seems so yesterday when taking the vast possibilities of new technology and travel innovations into consideration. Just a few years ago, driverless cars were all the rage and many thought that would take driving into the 21st century — and it will, with the potential to use platooning vehicles and driver-to-driver communications to eliminate much of today’s urban congestion. While new technologies like the Hyperloop and flying cars seemed like outlandish futuristic pipe dreams even a decade ago, real companies and real investors are putting up serious cash to make the unthinkable a reality to help solve the endless scourge of road congestion.

So, note to policy makers. Before you rush into 50-99-year sweetheart deals with private, mostly foreign toll operators using today’s limited old school data and thinking, buyer beware.

Technology’s rapidly changing landscape will transform the way we travel in the next decade, much less the next half century. Sure as the sun rises, private innovators like Elon Musk will ensure outmoded travel will be obsolete in the near term. So, toll roads and the long arm of government attempting to manage our morning commute through toll ‘managed’ lanes won’t be necessary.

Bureaucrats need not apply.


TERRI HALL

Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of ten turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the Conservative-Online-Journalism Center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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Military at Ease after Trans Ban Survives

When Congress sets records, they aren’t always good ones! But yesterday, the Senate kept a good streak alive, passing the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 56th consecutive year. In a Capitol where regular order is rarer than a solar eclipse, the military’s spending bill is one of the few things Congress manages to approve on time. It hasn’t missed since West Side Story was in the theaters, and gas cost 27 cents a gallon.But if there was ever a year when the streak might have snapped, it was this one. Apart from the hike in spending, liberal senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) threatened to make a stink about the president’s transgender policy.

Despite being three of the most favorite tweets Donald Trump has ever posted, this pair was desperate to keep Obama’s dangerous social experiment alive. In comments to the press, they defended the gender confusion that’s been panned by the service chiefstroops, and American people.

Gillibrand argued that “Our military is strongest when it represents the nation it serves.”

In the end, that’s exactly who the president represented — a country who elected him to ignore the distractions of the last eight years and focus on the job at hand. And, as dozens of military leaders pointed out, that job was nearly impossible with Obama’s social engineering dogging their every move. Taxpayers didn’t escape the weight of it either, staring down a $3.7 billion tab for the next 10 years of transgender surgeries, treatments, and lost deployment time. In a force devastated by two terms of budget cuts, cultural shifts, suicide, sexual assaults, and recruitment woes, no one wanted to fling open the doors to more politically-correct chaos — least of all the men and women in uniform.

Asked point-blank, almost 60 percent of active-duty military held a negative opinion of the decision to allow transgender troops to serve openly. More telling, more than half of that group said the policy change was having a terrible effect on military morale. In other words, it was unpopular, unproductive, and unreasonably expensive. Is it any wonder that one year after Barack Obama changed the policy, Trump changed it back? Like most Americans, he understands that the military’s job is to fight and win wars – not pander to a political agenda that weakens national security.

Fortunately, the majority of GOP leaders arrived at the same conclusion, refusing to give the Gillibrand-Collins amendment a second glance. That’s in large part to the thousands of you who heeded our call and urged your senators to support the president’s guidance. As a result, the NDAA sailed through the Senate 89-8 — without even debating a return to the demoralizing policy of the last year. Instead they focused on the military’s real priorities: increased pay, missile defense, better equipment, and more troops. And while the bill isn’t entirely out of the woods — the House and Senate still have to agree on the final package in conference — this is a huge step in the right direction.

Our deepest thanks to the White House and all of you, who refused to stop fighting for the people fighting for us.

EDITORS NOTE: Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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