What’s Truly Remarkable about Bitcoin: It Exists by Jeffrey Tucker

It was the second week of February 2013 when I first ventured a public opinion that Bitcoin is the real deal. The dollar exchange rate was at $25, on its way toward another run-up and crash that had been the pattern for two years.

I had just returned from a conference where some Bitcoiners surrounded me and force-fed me the information I needed to know. It would take another two months before I wrapped my brain around it enough to be able to write an article. But in these early days, it was enough publicly to dispense with incredulity to cause the ceiling to fall in.

To this day, I’ve never faced such a barrage of criticism. Derision, ridicule, outrage, disgust – I saw it on my feed, all of it very personal and hugely inflammatory. It was my first experience with what it is like to feel like that whole world is against you (an illusion social media specializes in creating).

And yet I completely understood why. I had been reviewing submissions on Bitcoin since 2009, and I had not been a believer either.

Money for Nothing?

How can you create money out of computer code? That struck me as absurd, a techno version of alchemy. Money had to grow out of commodities used in barter – this is what Carl Menger had proven. If Bitcoin had a value, it had to be an error, a result of clever marketing, like any Ponzi scheme. Like many observers at the time (and there weren’t that many), I had no idea about the underlying payment system (the Blockchain) or the complex history of fits and starts that led to its creation in 2008. I had read the original “white paper” but could hardly understand the language.

So, yes, I dismissed it.

Bitcoin Didn’t Care About My Theory

Groucho Marx once said: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

After having acquired Bitcoin and used it, I had to deal with something that became profoundly important in my own intellectual life. I had to recognize the reality of something my mind could not explain. I had been writing about money, its history and theory, since college. I thought I knew it all. Now this thing came along that blew up all my understanding. Who was I going to believe, myself or my own eyes?

I finally decided in favor of my eyes. The market had outwitted my expertise. This was a very humbling experience for me, and it taught me a lesson I hope never to forget. Never become so wrapped up in the certainty of your own opinions that you fail to look out the window and walk the streets to discover something that challenges what you think you know. It’s a Hayekian point but one that intellectuals are prone to ignore.

First Public Writing

As Bitcoin reaches the age of 7 and is again floating around an exchange rate of 1BTC to $1,000, I decided to look back at my first public writing on the topic (April 1, 2013), just to re-experience the lesson. And by the way, all credit to Max Borders (then the editor of FEE) and Lawrence Read (president of FEE) for daring to publish this piece, which defied all conventional wisdom. They were willing to take the risk on this piece, which was probably the first major article in the established free-market opinion world to say: this is real and it matters.

As I look back, I put the most important point up front:

Understanding Bitcoin requires that we understand the limits of our ability to imagine the future that the market can create for us.

Thirty years ago, for example, if someone had said that electronic text—digits flying through the air and landing in personalized inboxes owned by us all that we check at will at any time of the day or night—would eventually displace first-class mail, you might have said it was impossible.

After all, not even the Jetsons had email. Elroy brought notes home from his teacher on pieces of paper. Still, email has largely displaced first-class mail, just as texting, social networking, private messaging, and even digital vmail via voice-over-Internet are replacing the traditional telephone.

It turns out that the future is really hard to imagine, especially when entrepreneurs specialize in surprising us with innovations. The markets are always outsmarting even the most wild-eyed dreamers, and they are certainly smarter than the intellectual who keeps saying: such and such cannot happen.

It’s the same today. What if I suggested that digital money could eventually come to replace government paper money?

I then marched through the reasons for my conversion to the cause. The main one was the realization that Bitcoin reproduced a key feature of money that no previous attempt at digital money had achieved: scarcity. The algorithm assigned property rights to the units in question. At that point, this was enough for me to see that it could become money. It would take another year before I discerned its intellectual origins, and another half-year before I could intelligently explain why Bitcoin gained value in the first place.

My first article concluded:

It’s possible that Bitcoin will flop. Maybe it is just the first generation. Maybe thousands of people will lose their shirts in this first go-round. But is the digitization of money coming? Absolutely. Will there always be skeptics out there? Absolutely. But in this case, they are not in charge. Markets will do what they do, building the future whether we approve or understand it fully or not. The future will not be stopped.

And Yet, the Price Doesn’t Matter

Like many observers, I became caught up in the exchange rate madness, thinking that a higher rate confirmed my embrace while a lower rate raised doubts. In my mind, I became a cheerleader for the Bitcoin boom and correctly predicted the first price break above $1,000 (December 2013) but failed to predict the bust that followed.

In retrospect, I should have stayed focussed on my main theme that started me off on this journey. The remarkable thing about Bitcoin is not its upward trajectory in valuation, the rate of its adoption, the pace which which it made its march to the mainstream. All that comes in time, and no one is in charge of the process or pace or direction of change. The main insight I had at the time is still the right one. What’s wonderful about Bitcoin is that it exists at all.

Money for the digital age, and without the state: the concept has been proven. That’s what matters. The technology is known. It works. It represents a path for reforming the world’s monetary and legal systems. It points to a bright future.

It is all the more wonderful to consider the glorious way in which Bitcoin has outsmarted the experts, including me. And this is precisely why I adore market forces so much. No one is in charge of them. No one can consistently outthink them. Markets keep us humble. They constantly remind us that even the most astute and prescient observer can be surprised, even shocked.

I like living in such a world, one where the future is not only unknown but unknowable. That will always be true, and this is also why no one will finally gain control of it.

That is the lesson that the astonishing experience with Bitcoin teaches us.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

Problem Solvers Caucus: Create 250,000 jobs, balance the budget, secure American energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — No Labels on Monday hosted its much-anticipated 1787 bipartisan leaders meeting focused on constructing the peace after a historically divisive election. Featuring panel discussions and private meetings, the event notably included a closed door gathering of almost 50 members of Congress along with over 100 No Labels supporters discussing the shape and focus of an emerging Problem Solver Caucus on Capitol Hill.

With extreme elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties reluctant to cooperate with each other, members said the Problem Solvers Caucus aims to be a vehicle for bipartisan cooperation—particularly on the issues of tax reform and infrastructure investment—in early 2017.

“After such a divisive election, it has never been more important for leaders to actually lead; to resist the pull of partisanship and start focusing on what is best for the country,” said No Labels co-chair Joe Lieberman. “That’s exactly what the Problem Solvers Caucus did today, when they visited No Labels and discussed their plans to create a new stabilizing center of influence in our Congress.”

Many members of the Problem Solvers Caucus had previously signed a resolution (H.R. 207) calling for both parties to come together to make progress on the four goals in No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda:

  • Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years
  • Secure Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years
  • Balance the Budget by 2030
  • Make America energy secure by 2024.

These goals set a vision for where the country needs to go. With a new president and Congress about to take office, members of the Problem Solvers Caucus will aim to play a pivotal role in enacting policies that advance these four goals.

“The message from the 2016 election was clear: People have had it with business-as-usual politics. They want real solutions reflective of Americans whose voices are too often lost in the noise of special interest partisanship,” said No Labels co-chair Jon Huntsman. “Today, the members of the Pro blem Solvers Caucus made a bold statement and a welcome commitment to do the people’s business and to work with both parties to deliver the durable, lasting solutions America so badly needs. They are to be commended as this is what leadership looks like.”

The No Labels 1787 meeting came on the heels of a significant pledge from supporters of No Labels to fund a $50 million Super PAC in the 2018 election cycle with the explicit purpose of supporting problem solvers and defeating obstructionists in congressional primaries. This will be far and away the most ambitious campaign effort ever to protect the political center.

1787 also featured:

  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, interviewed by the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett, on the rise of populist movements around the world and the global imperative to reclaim the center.
  • Trump Economic Transition Team Leader Anthony Scaramucci on what to expect from a Trump administration in the first 100 days, including perspectives on tax and trade issues.
  • Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Oklahoma City Mayor and Head of U.S. Conference of Mayors Mick Cornett and former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitmanon local and federal cooperation.
  • Senators Roy Blunt, Steve Daines and Joe Manchin along with Representatives Kurt Schrader, Ami Bera and Peter Welch and former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson on where President-elect Trump will need to work most closely with Congress.
  • No Labels co-chairs Gov. Jon Huntsman and Sen. Joe Lieberman on the shape of the New Center in American politics

ABOUT NO LABELS

No Labels exists to bring America’s political leaders together to solve our nation’s toughest problems. We are a citizens’ movement forging a New Center in American politics that fights for an inclusive political process and supports policies that advance No Labels’ four core values of Opportunity, Security, Ingenuity and Accountability. No Labels has inspired the creation of an emerging Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus—featuring House Democrats and Republicans—committed to working constructively across the aisle to get things done.

Inaccuracy of Polls send Gold and Silver Soaring predicting a Trump Presidency

LOS ANGELES, Calif. /PRNewswire/ — On June 25th 2015 an opinion piece entitled “What’s the Matter with Polling?” by Cliff Zukin was published in the New York Times. In it, Mr. Zukin detailed how the rapid adoption of cell phones and rapidly diminishing numbers of survey respondents has hindered the ability of public opinion researchers to conduct accurate polling.

Millennials, who represent 56% of America’s eligible voters, are one of the largest demographics in the U.S. who are slipping through the cracks with most public opinion polls. Since 85% of Millennials own a cell phone instead of a landline, Millennials cost twice as much to reach since regulatory restrictions prohibit calling cell phones – not landlines – with an autodialer.

The generational shift from landlines to cell phones, combined with the Millennials’ waning desire to take surveys, is rendering opinion polls worldwide unreliable and making it ever more difficult to predict outcomes in politics and financial markets. Just last week, when every poll in Colombia had predicted the passing of a referendum vote for peace with the rebel guerrilla army, FARC, 50.22% of Colombians rejected the peace deal and sent the Colombian peso plunging.

413518logoHere at home, most recent polls predict that Secretary of State Clinton will win the election and that belief has been priced into the markets in much the same way that ‘Bremain’ was priced into markets prior to the ‘Brexit’ vote. Jack Hanney, a senior partner with the nation’s leading gold IRA dealer, Patriot Gold Group, states that the “Associated Press and Reuters polls got the Brexit referendum wrong and they’re going to get the U.S. presidential election wrong too.” His logic is supported by recent political polls that incorrectly forecasted elections in Turkey, Scotland, Canada and Greece.

Jim Rickard, author of the book “Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis,” goes one step further than Hanney to say that “Trump will win, the Dow will drop over 1,000 points and gold will gain $100 overnight.” These sentiments are shared by many leading political and precious metal analysts who are hedging their bets as it’s widely believed that if Trump does pull a Brexit-style upset, gold and silver will move up as much as 20% within a week from today.

In a country whose government was founded 238 years ago to protect every citizen’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, who’d have predicted living in the constant state of fear created by terrorism, systemic corruption, rising inequality and economic recession? If nothing else, the sad state of affairs in America today demonstrates that any outcome is possible. And the polls are no different.

Take heed of the recent warnings from the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal: “the world will look so different six months from now” that Americans should “prepare themselves for the recession [and] hide in gold.”

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Obamacare Failure in Florida

“Healthcare costs are rising on everyday Floridians. This year’s premium hike of nearly 20 percent is a wake-up call to Hillary Clinton’s plans to double down on the failed experiment known as Obamacare. We must elect a President who will finally repeal this failed federal takeover of healthcare and replace it with commonsense reforms that put patients in control of their healthcare and focuses on lowering costs. That candidate is Donald Trump.” — Senior Trump Adviser and Florida Chief Strategist Susie Wiles

Florida The Florida Office Of Insurance Regulation Approved Average Statewide Premium Hikes Of 19.1 Percent For 2017.”The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced today that premiums for Florida individual major medical plans in compliance with the federal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will increase an average of 19% beginning January 1, 2017. Per federal guidelines, a total of 15 health insurance companies submitted rate filings for the Office’s review in May. These rate filings consisted of individual major medical plans to be sold both on and off the Exchange. Following the Office’s rate filing review, the average approved rate changes on the Exchange range from a low of -6% to a high of 65%.” (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),” ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

These Premium Requests Are Higher Than Last Year’s Approved Average Of 10 Percent. “Fifteen health insurers want an average 17.7 percent increase in premiums for Affordable Care Act individual plans, Florida officials said Thursday — higher than last year’s approved average of less than 10 percent.” (“Florida Health Insurers Seek Average 17.7% Rate Hike,” Insurance News Net, 5/13/16) Blue Cross Blue Shield Of Florida, Inc. Was Approved For A 19 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 14.5 Percent Premium Hike.(Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),” ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Celtic Insurance Company Was Approved For A 20 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 4.3 Percent Premium Hike. (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),”ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Florida Health Care Plan, Inc. Was Approved For A 15.4 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 12.3 Percent Premium Hike. (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),”ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Health First Commercial Plans, Inc. Was Approved For A 11.7 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 8.4 Percent Premium Hike. (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),”ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Health Options, Inc. Was Approved For A 18.9 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 13.8 Percent Premium Hike. (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),”ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Humana Medical Plan, Inc. Was Approved For A 36.8 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 43.6 Percent Premium Hike. (Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),”ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

Molina Healthcare Of Florida, Inc. Was Approved For A 17.4 Percent Premium Hike For Individual Plans In 2017, After Requesting A 10.6 Percent Premium Hike.(Charles Gaba, “Florida: *Approved* 2017 Indy Market Rate Hikes: 19.1% (Vs 17.7% Requested),” ACASignups.net, 9/5/16)

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Don’t become Distracted, this Election is All About Saving America

Don’t let media distractions cause you to miss your blessing – being an American citizen.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend about the presidential election. He repeated the often heard term of voting for the lesser of two evils. The idea is which is better, Hillary the known evil, or Trump an unknown. My take is that Americans must vote for America and the candidate who best can turn our nation around.

The media wants voters to focus on the unimportant rather than what is truly important, saving America from the elitist class that seeks power at the expense of ordinary citizens.

the-way-back-to-restoring-america-book-coverFrank Buckley, author of The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America in a speech given at Hillsdale college on July 11,2016 titled “Restoring America’s Economic Mobility” said:

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote that “the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.” Today the story of American politics is the story of class struggles. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We didn’t think we were divided into different classes. Neither did Marx.

America was an exception to Marx’s theory of social progress. By that theory, societies were supposed to move from feudalism to capitalism to communism. But the America of the 1850s, the most capitalist society around, was not turning communist. Marx had an explanation for that. “True enough, the classes already exist,” he wrote of the United States, but they “are in constant flux and reflux, constantly changing their elements and yielding them up to one another.”

In other words, when you have economic and social mobility, you don’t go communist. [Emphasis added]

Stop economic and social mobility and you kill America.

Buckley warned, “That is the country in which some imagine we still live, Horatio Alger’s America—a country defined by the promise that whoever you are, you have the same chance as anyone else to rise, with pluck, industry, and talent. But they imagine wrong. The U.S. today lags behind many of its First World rivals in terms of mobility.”

In his column “Aborting the Trump Revolution” Patrick J. Buchanan notes:

Five weeks before Election Day, Trump’s taxes have displaced the former Miss Universe as the critical issue, as determined by the anti-Trump media.

Their motivation is not difficult to discern. Their goals are two. First, make Trump unacceptable as an agent of change. Second, keep the people distracted from their determination to rid America of the incompetent and corrupt ruling class that controls this capital city.

Consider but a few of the disasters that establishment does not want discussed or debated, or the American people thinking about, when they head for the polls in November.

There is the great betrayal of the American working class, the deindustrialization of the country, and the loss of economic independence it took America a century to achieve.

Buckley echoes Buchanan’s “great betrayal of the American working class”, stating:

A complacent Republican establishment denies this change has occurred. If they don’t get it, however, American voters do. For the first time, Americans don’t believe their children will be as well off as they have been. They see an economy that’s stalled, one in which jobs are moving offshore. In the first decade of this century, U.S. multinationals shed 2.9 million U.S. jobs while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million. General Electric provides a striking example. Jeffrey Immelt became the company’s CEO in 2001, with a mission to advance stock price. He did this in part by reducing GE’s U.S. workforce by 34,000 jobs. During the same period, the company added 25,000 jobs overseas.

Buckley concludes, “Since 2012, establishment Republicans have continued to be less than concerned for the plight of ordinary Americans… There are even the ‘conservative’ pundits who offer the pious hope that drug-addicted Trump supporters will hurry up and die. That’s one way to ameliorate the class struggle, but it doesn’t exactly endear anyone to the establishment.”

Buckley drives home his point with, “[T]he principles held up as sacrosanct by establishment Republicans might be logically unassailable, derived like theorems from a set of axioms based on a pure theory of natural rights. But if I don’t see them making people better off, I say to Hell with them. What the establishment Republicans should ask themselves is Anton Chigurh’s question in No Country for Old Men: If you followed your principles, and your principles brought you to this, what good are your principles?”

To hell with them!

A review of Florida Constitutional Amendment 4 — Solar Devices by James Lampe

As you consider your vote remember this is a Constitutional Amendment, and once passed the chances of changing it are slim and none.  Before we change the Constitution, shouldn’t the Amendment be clearly beneficial to most Floridians?  Unfortunately, the vast majority of Floridians will be hurt if Amendment 4 is passed.  The Amendment will raise electric rates and ad valorem taxes.  Vote NO on this Amendment.

amendment 4 ballot language

Summary:  This Amendment will exempt solar devices installed on homes or businesses from ad valorem taxes, until 12-31-2037.

First of all, homeowners who install Solar-Electric systems already get a 30% federal tax break!

This financial assistance from the federal government, has been around for years.  Secondly, Florida state government has helped by exempting “solar energy systems or any component thereof” from sales tax.  And now we have this amendment, a third gilded gift to prop-up the failing solar industry.

Nonetheless, let’s see how many people this Amendment will help.  A review of the US Census Fact Finder data on the table below, shows that 30% (2,166,215) of all Floridians live in “Rental Occupied” units, and therefore, no-one in that group would invest in solar-electric systems.  As shown in the “Owner-occupied” category, that leaves 4,986,629 potential customers.

amendment 4 survey

In addition, even if you own a house you may not be able to afford to invest in a solar-electric system.  People who own lower valued housing units valued at $50,000-$150,000, are not likely to invest $30,000 (cost estimate to buy, install, and connect a solar-electric system to the electric grid) for solar system.  So of the 4,986,629 total housing units, we can subtract 1,593,957 for the lower valued houses.  That gives 3,392,697 as the remaining moderate to higher priced housing units that would be the target market for solar-electric systems.

However, there are about 1,000,000 condominiums in Florida, whose owners would also be prevented/impeded from modifying or otherwise changing their common roofs, so the total possible number of housing units for solar falls to 2,392,697, or ~34% of all housing units.

With only ~34% of housing units available for solar-electric systems, how can this Amendment be considered fair?  Worse yet, many snow-birds and residents have mobile homes that are included the housing units, but there is no itemized number for them.  So the 34%, would be even lower if mobile home units were subtracted from the total number of units.

florida solar amendment

In 2015, the Nevada PUC changed the rules for “net metering,” which allows homeowners to sell their excess solar generated electricity to their utility at retail rather than wholesale rates.  But because that arrangement was too costly, the PUC changed the rule.

The Nevada scenario seems like a no brainer, but apparently there was enough grant money to make up for the losses, until one day when the math didn’t work, and the people in Nevada realized that the more electric generated by solar, the less profits the utilities collect.  The utilities need profit to pay staff to restore power after storms, sustain street lighting, and maintain the electric grid, etc.  In addition, utilities work on economies of scale, and their efficiency is reduced when customers convert to solar, because it costs more to generate a KW of electricity.

This Amendment is an obvious attempt by state bureaucrats to boost the heavily subsidized, yet nearly bankrupt solar industry.  It’s not fair or prudent, to let the state pick winners and losers in a free market economy, and we should not let this cronyism go unnoticed.

Vote NO on Amendment 4.

Progressivism Kills Prosperity: Example — Cleveland, Ohio

Why knock a city down, when it is just getting off the map?  Throughout America, the progressives are feverishly at work trying to establish more and more draconian government policies that have already been proven throughout the world to bring nothing but disaster.  Venezuela quickly comes to mind on that score.

Throughout our republic turned mob rule democracy, the seeds of progressivism were sewn in earnest in 1913.  That year there was a pivotal meeting between world impacting government and corporate globalists who had a negative view of a nation of true personal responsibility based liberty, coupled with equal economic opportunity for all.  In addition, the concept of unalienable rights that come from God totally rankled them.

They also understood that government itself does not produce wealth.  But they were hankering to control economic outcomes.  Thus, the early 20th century globalists encouraged the formation of the Federal Reserve Monetary System.  It was designed to usurp U.S. congressional oversight of our nation’s money supply and economy.  As I understand it, congress had the authority to oppose the globalists efforts to rule over our economy.  Unfortunately, congress failed to stand up and alert the American people they represented of the impending doom of America’s economic independence.

As usual as with most endeavors, one thing leads to another.  But in the case of the Federal Reserve system that artificially stimulates and sometimes strangles our economy, there are numerous ways our economy is affected and sometimes infected.  One way of infecting our economy has been the practice of trying to force and guarantee economic outcomes. That is the opposite of allowing for an organic growth in economic opportunities based upon an incentivized economy that rewards work, innovation and invention.

In fact, the design and operation of today’s Federal Reserve fiat system will eventually implode our economy, if certain corrections are not soon made.  Among the needed changes would be changing course and backing the U.S. dollar with gold or silver to help it maintain real spending power.  Which brings me to the original reason for this column.

We are all familiar with the legions of silly clucks who are still demanding a $15 dollar per hour minimum wage for low skilled jobs like flipping burgers, wearing a thick costume to advertise a business, or washing dishes.  But the underlying major problem lies with the Federal Reserve continuing to print massive amounts of unbacked greenbacks.  That ridiculous practice is rapidly shriveling away the value of our money supply.  The American dollar probably has lost well over fifty percent of purchasing worth since the 1970s.

That is why I find the demand of $15 dollars per hour for no or low skilled workers totally futile.  Let’s take a look at the city of Cleveland. Like Detroit, for decades that city suffered from a massive shut down of the manufacturing base. Literally hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost due to harmful international trade agreements, high taxes, overly zealous union demands and burdensome regulations.  Both Cleveland and Detroit were economically on the ropes.  Oftentimes, people throughout America and the world wondered if either city would ever recover economically.

Things in Cleveland were dismal and even worse in Detroit.  But in recent years, Cleveland refused to remain a dark, dank, rundown shadow of it’s former glory.  At the 2016 Republican in Cleveland I saw a beautiful city that does not physically reflect the economic struggles still present there.  Downtown Cleveland is a showplace of beautifully restored iconic older buildings and stunning new structures.  Playhouse Square, Cleveland’s answer to New York City’s theater district is a stunning showplace of gloriously refurbished theater palaces the are more beautiful than any Broadway theater I have ventured into.  Cleveland is home to many world class restaurants as well as museums that rival the best America and Europe have to offer.  The Cleveland museum of art is utterly stunning, as well as the University Circle neighborhood where it is located.

Cleveland is now one of the top restaurant cities in the world, feeding the growing throngs of both millennials ­moving in and tourists going there to enjoy the city. As a result, thousands of restaurant and hotel jobs have come about offering opportunities that were at one time unavailable for low skilled citizens seeking to enter into the workforce and gain experience.  That is a great compliment to the biotech companies and burgeoning health industry opportunities that attracting many college graduates into the city.  Outside of downtown and University Circle are Little Italy, Tremont, Ohio City, Asia Town, Gordon Square and others that are filled with numerous restaurants and other attractions of their own.

But now thanks but no thanks to progressive activists and other haters of real economic growth, Cleveland’s unfinished business of rebirth could come to a screeching halt. 

They are pushing for a $15 dollar per hour minimum wage.  If that comes to fruition, Cleveland’s restaurant industry and other smaller businesses throughout the city will either move out of the city, reduce their staffs, or shut down altogether.  Many who started as hosts, dishwashers and delivery personnel are now successful chefs, servers and owners.  But now that ladder of success may be tipped over if Cleveland’s many eateries are suddenly forced to deplete their economic viability by being saddled with a $15 dollar per hour wage mandate.

Already, both grocery store owners and restaurateurs have pledged a moratorium on planned expansions until the issue is settled.  I find it down right evil of those progressive agitators to knowingly place in jeopardy the livelihood of both business owners and employees who desire to work their way up in life.  The city of Seattle has suffered the loss of numerous businesses do to that city’s $15 dollar demand. To kick Cleveland just as she has emerged off the mat of economic despair is very suspect and not helpful to anyone but those seeking to politically dismantle our free market economy of equal opportunity.

Wake up Cleveland and America and free yourself from the economic death of progressivism, before it is too late.

EDITORS NOTE: Please join Ron every Friday at 5:00 PM EST, 2:00 PM PST on AM 1180 KCKQ Reno, Nev. or at www.americamatters.us.

Concord Coalition: It’s the Federal Budget, Stupid!

WASHINGTON, D.C. /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Projections released today by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provide further evidence that candidates for federal office should address the nation’s worsening budget problems, according to The Concord Coalition.

“Voters are hearing a lot of expensive new proposals from candidates but not so much about how to keep the nation’s debt from growing on an unsustainable path,” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “Today’s CBO report, which projects a rising debt burden over the next 10 years and beyond, shows why voters should expect candidates to offer credible policies to put us on a better course.”

The new report updates the budget and economic projections that CBO made earlier this year for the coming decade. Its baseline budget projections are based on current law and do not take into account deficit-increasing policies that tend to get passed on a yearly basis, such as the extension of various tax breaks.

CBO projects that Fiscal Year 2016 will close in September with the first increase in the deficit as a share of the economy since 2009, when the country was struggling with the fiscal consequences of the Great Recession. At$590 billion, the annual deficit will be $152 billion larger than in 2015 and $56 billion higher than the agency estimated in March. However, the 10-year cumulative deficit estimate of $8.6 trillion is $700 billion lower than the March projection — primarily due to lower projections of interest rates.

The report shows growing pressure on the federal budget as the result of an aging population and rising health care costs. These factors increase the costs of Social Security and Medicare — just to provide the same services to more recipients.

“As in the past,” Bixby says, “CBO is pointing toward a structural mismatch between the federal government’s spending and tax policies. With a strengthening economy, elected officials should address this mismatch as soon as possible to put the budget on a more responsible course and avoid saddling future generations with massive government debt.”

Two reports earlier this summer also underscored the nation’s fiscal challenges. The CBO’s Long-Term Budget Outlook, released last month, makes clear that unless fundamental changes are made, federal finances will deteriorate even further after 2026. In June the Medicare and Social Security trustees issued their annual reports, calling for prompt reforms to put those critical programs on more sustainable paths.

concord_logo (1)ABOUT THE CONCORD COALITION

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility.

Since 1992, Concord has worked to educate the public about the causes and consequences of the federal deficit and debt, and to develop realistic solutions for sustainable budgets. For more fiscal news and analysis, visit ConcordCoalition.org and follow us on Twitter: @ConcordC

RELATED ARTICLE:  CBO Projects Return of Massive Federal Deficits

50,000 Children May Starve to Death Due to Boko Haram — Environmentalists Celebrate!

The Clarion Project reports:

Close to 50,000 children are in danger of starving to death in Nigeria due to a scorched-earth policy by the brutal Islamist group Boko Haram, according to UNICEF, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, close to 250,000 people are severely malnourished in Borno state. In total, 4.4 million people are affected by the terror inflicted on the population by the group, an affiliate of the Islamic State in West Africa. Half of those people live in areas inaccessible to relief agencies.

Northeastern Nigeria was once the breadbasket of the entire country, with its fertile ground, abundant water and climate suitable for growing crops all year long.  The region produced rice, maize, wheat, millet, sorghum, cowpeas, fruits, peppers, chilies and vegetables. Fish from Lake Chad was sold throughout the country’s marketplaces.

In a column titled NPR: ‘We should protect our kids from global warming — by not having kids!’ Marc Morano reports:

“Philosopher Travis Rieder asks how old they will be in 2036, and, if they are thinking of having kids, how old their kids will be. “Dangerous climate change is going to be happening by then,” he says. “Very, very soon.”

“Here’s a provocative thought: Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them,” Rieder says.

[ … ]

Bringing down global fertility by just half a child per woman “could be the thing that saves us,” he says.

In a joint press release the Sierra ClubNatural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace USA noted:

It is important that we reduce the native population in order to save the planet. Organizations such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State understand that we all must work together to reduce the overwhelming growth in the earth’s population. Africa is a good place to start.

Culling children is a much needed first step to save us all from the dangers of climate change. We will be partnering with the Black Lives Matter movement to send aid to Boko Haram so that they may carry on their important work to ‘save the planet’.

Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop said, “As Secretary of State, I built Boko Haram. They are doing much needed work in Nigeria to stem the population explosion. If elected I will fund Planned Parenthood facilities in Nigeria run by Boko Haram. That way we can end starvation by aborting the problem in the first place. Time to stop the haram to the planet. No pun intended.”

Al Gore stated,

I agree with Dr. Rieder that “Maybe we should protect our kids by not having them.” But what do we do with those who are already born? Boko Haram has the solution, starve them to death. This solution, while provocative, is needed. We must think outside the box or all will be lost.

We must act now to stop the population bomb and end climate change, formerly knows as global warming.

A great way to stop the population bomb is to not have children but if you have them then there is the Boko Haram model (BHM) to fight climate change.

I call upon all Democrats to stop having children and if you do have children send them to Nigeria. You kill two birds with one stone, no pun intended. You reduce the population and save on your food bill.

In 50 years we can together stop climate change and end the Democratic Party. I’m with Hillary and George Soros on this.

The George Soros Open Society Foundations in a short statement explained, “We have been funding efforts like this globally to save the planet from undesirables. We are glad that others are taking on this task. We are joining the food fight. Starvation is the new normal.”

The Trump-Pense campaign objected saying, “Killing babies by starvation is horrific and must end.  We will save the children from this evil.”

EDITORS NOTE: This political satire originally appeared in the Islamic State’s Inspire magazine and E–The Environmental Magazine.

The Regulatory Is Growing Faster than the Real Economy by James L. Gattuso

Want to work in a field that has more than quadrupled in size since 1960? Consider being a regulator for the federal government. Even during the last recession, the regulatory agencies were hiring.

In 2015, the U.S. government employed more than 277,000 regulators. To put that number in perspective, it’s 50,000 more workers than General Motors Co. employsthroughout the entire world.

The Fourth Branch of Government

We’ve all heard of the regulatory agencies that constitute the “fourth branch” of government. It has cost our economy over $100 billionduring the Obama administration.

But it wasn’t always like this. We haven’t always lived in a world where unelected bureaucrats could fine a man $55,000 for taking photos of his friend’s art project.

Thankfully, Susan Dudley from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Melinda Warren from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, have tracked the growth of federal regulatory agencies, allowing us to see how we got into the predicament we’re in now.

Using data from the annual federal budget, Dudley and Warren have recorded the number of federal regulators and the amount of taxpayer money given to them for each year since 1960. All monetary figures that they report are in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars.

Tip of the Iceberg

While their data show federal regulation has exploded since 1960, it’s important to realize that they included only regulatory agencies that explicitly restrict business transactions in the private sector.

That means the 277,000 regulators they recorded in 2015 didn’t include anyone from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Defense Department, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—even though these agencies account for roughly one-third of all final rulemaking actions in a typical year.

However, even without these agencies, it’s apparent that the size of federal regulation is massive compared to what it once was. From 1960 to 2015, the amount of taxpayer money allocated to federal regulators increased by more than 1,800 percent, from $3.06 billion to $57.05 billion.

The growth of federal regulatory agencies has not been limited to any particular field or industry.

From 1960 to 2015, the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration increased from $241 million to $1.36 billion, the budget of the Comptroller of the Currency increased from $63 million to $1.13 billion, and the budget of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission increased from $40 million to $286 million. Since its beginning in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency added over 10,000 employees to its payroll.

Even when the rest of the country is doing poorly, the regulators do well.

From 2014 to 2015, the economy grew by only 2.6 percent, while the regulatory business grew by 4.3 percent. So if you’re looking for work and the private sector isn’t hiring, you can always try finding work as a bureaucrat in the industry that never shrinks.

A version of this article was published by The Daily Signal.

Matthew Andrews

Matthew Andrews is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.

James L. Gattuso

James L. Gattuso

James Gattuso handles regulatory and telecommunications issues for The Heritage Foundation as a Senior Research Fellow in its Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Muslim Migrant who died fighting for the Islamic State got Federal Welfare and Food Stamps

That is the headline, but what has the Leftwing media done in Maine?  They are attacking the governor because he released the information thus not respecting the Islamic terrorist’s privacy in death!  Ahhhh!

Robyn Merrill

Robyn Merrill (left) speaking at the State House in support of continued state welfare for the many refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Maine.

By the way Governor LePage is one of only a few governors who have had the guts to criticize the UN/US State Department Refugee Admissions Program over the years.

Here is the news at Maine Public Radio:

Gov. Paul LePage has pounced on the recent unsealing of court documents showing an Iranian refugee who resettled in Maine and later joined the terror group ISIS.

But the governor’s eagerness to use Adnan Fazeli’s radicalization here to rail against welfare benefits for refugees may have led him to run afoul of a federal law designed to protect the identities of welfare recipients and their families.

State officials have not confirmed that Fazeli, or his family, received welfare benefits when he lived in Maine between 2009 and 2013. According to federal laws governing food stamps and cash assistance, they’re not supposed to.

“It’s concerning if that was indeed reported by Maine officials because federal law is clear that people’s confidentiality should be protected,” says Robyn Merrill, director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, an advocacy group for the poor.

Merrill’s concerns were raised by a report in the Boston Herald in which Maine state officials are quoted as saying that Fazeli, and his family, received cash and food stamp benefits. [Here is one of several stories about the terrorist on welfare in Maine—ed]

Those benefits, known also as SNAP and TANF, are federal programs, funded mostly with federal tax dollars.

According to federal rules, the identities of benefit recipients are confidential — only law enforcement, immigration officials and state administrators are allowed to know who receives the benefits.***

Those same officials, according to the law, “must adequately protect the information against unauthorized disclosure.”

The Herald story also contained an interview with LePage, who told the newspaper that the Fazeli case prompted him to order a review of all benefit programs for refugees.

More here.

***Now how does the claim by Maine Equal Justice Partners square with a law we told you about in the previous postwhere the federal ‘Work Opportunity Tax Credit’ is available to businesses that hire people (refugees!) who are on welfare, including food stamps.  If there is supposed to be secrecy surrounding one’s status as a welfare recipient, how is a company which wants to take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit know which welfare programs the refugee (the prospective employee) is receiving?
It seems everyone is allowed to know who is on welfare, but you! the taxpayer paying for it all!

For new readers, our Maine archive is here.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Iranian refugee who lived in Freeport fought, died for ISIS

Report: Illegal Migrants From Terror-Linked Countries Surging at Southern Border

“Anti-refugee rhetoric” fueling controversy in southern elections

Obama looking to ‘welcome’ 213,000 humanitarian arrivals in FY17 with $2.2 billion budget

…..and that $2.2  billion is only for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS) portion of the costs!  It does not include the US State Department funding or the cost of security screening. Nor does it cover the cost of most welfare, subsidized housing, medical care and most of the cost of educating the children.  They aren’t saying yet how many Syrians Obama will be requesting.

While I was on my 30 day ‘listening tour’ that took me to 13 mid-western and western states, the Obama Administration held a press conference call about the stepped-up Syrian Muslim refugee flow in to the US.  Thanks to Christine for sending the transcript which I decided to post below in full.

Just so you know, all of the officials on the call are Obama appointees.  Remember them! These are the people who are changing the demographics and the character of your home towns.

Anne Richard and Robert Carey both revolved in to their government perches from a refugee resettlement contracting agency (the International Rescue Committee). Shin Inouye is a former Washington, D.C. spokesman for the ACLU.  And, for my friends in Montgomery County, MD, León Rodríguez was once your county attorney.

These Obama appointees are all hard core open (NO!) borders advocates, and if Hillary is elected they will likely be able to stay on and continue their work of changing America by changing the people!

And, if you are wondering, Obama has one more shot in September to make a determination about how many refugees will be admitted to the US in the next fiscal year.

We know what Obama is going to do, but what will Paul Ryan do?

It will be up to Speaker Paul Ryan and the REPUBLICANS to decide if the numbers Obama is requesting will be acceptable because it is Congress that will fund (or not fund!) the President’s final request!

This (below) is from a press conference call on August 5th. Those of you doing research around the country on what is happening where you live will find this useful.

BTW, I am struck by how little the reporters know about the program and so they largely wasted their questions.

See phone numbers at the end for the public affairs office of each government agency responsible for the refugee program.  If you are reporting via alternative media about what is happening where you live, try calling those numbers!  Call and ask questions even if you already know the answers!

Coordinator: 

Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode until the Question and Answer session of today’s conference. At that time you may press Star 1 on your phone to ask a question.

I would like to inform all parties that today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to turn the conference over to Shin Inouye, USCIS. Thank you, you may begin.

inouyeshin

Shin Inouye

Shin Inouye:   

Thank you (Sheila) and thank you all for joining us today to discuss the current state of Syrian refugees security screening and admissions. As a reminder this call is on the record and without embargo. On the call we have Assistant Secretary of State, The Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration, Anne C. Richard, US Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez, and Health and Human Services Director of Refugee Resettlement, Robert “(Bob)” Carey.

We’ll have our speakers offer remarks about their agency’s respective roles in the refugee process and then open up the call to your questions. Let me first turn it over to Assistant Secretary Richard.

Anne Richard:  

anne-richard

Anne Richard

Thanks, this is Anne speaking. The United States has been a global leader in the resettlement of refugees. That’s why last year the President made a renewed commitment to help in some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world, pledging to increase the number of refugees we will accept from around the world to 85,000 from 70,000 per year over the last three years. As part of this commitment we also pledged to welcome at least 10,000 refugees fleeing the terrible conflict in Syria.

To that end early in the fiscal year we began working to adjust the capacity of our refugee admissions program, to bring many more refugees to the United States. To welcome more refugees from Syria we worked with the Department of Homeland Security, with our intelligence community and with other relevant agencies to upgrade our capacities to conduct security screening. DHS increased the number of the DHS offices available to interview applicants so that more security screening interviews could take place for more applicants, resulting in more refugees approved for travel.

In Jordan, for example, between February and April of this year we worked with DHS to surge additional staff to Jordan where DHS offices conducted interviews for about 12,000 UNHCR referred refugee applicants. In Beirut, Lebanon we restarted interviews of refugees in February. These had stopped for a year because of space limitations in the embassy compound. In Turkey we added staff to the resettlement support center in Istanbul that covers refugee processing in Turkey and Lebanon and DHS sent additional officers to conduct interviews.

In Iraq we began processing refugee resettlement cases in Erbil in December 2015. Thanks to these efforts and through the coordinated efforts of the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, we can now say that we have 8,000 Syrian refugees so far this year and that we are very confident that we will welcome at least 10,000 refugees from Syria by the end of this fiscal year. Monthly totals have climbed from low numbers of refugees admitted in the first half of the year to higher numbers recently.

In May, June and July the impact of our investments in and the enhancements to the process began to be realized. Our expectation from the beginning was that the rate of Syrian refugee admissions would increase over time as referrals from UNHCR — the Human Refugee Agency — UNHCR increased as we added to the capacity to process more cases referred to us and as DHS sent more DHS officers to the field to conduct the necessary rigorous and exhaustive security screening.

Briefly and in closing we want to reiterate that this is just one line of multiple lines of effort that the US government is undertaking to help the victims of terrible conflicts and crisis around the world. I want to remind you all that President Obama will convene the leader’s summit on refugees on the margins of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in September. This summit is about encouraging all countries to take action and do more now.

Wealthy governments are asked to make new and significant contributions relating to humanitarian financing and refugee resettlement or admissions – other forms of admission to their country. Countries that host refugees are asked to make new commitments related to refugee self-reliance and inclusion, with a specific focus on letting refugees work and allowing refugee children to go to school. The purpose of the summit is to recruit other countries to join with us and make a real difference in the world’s contributions towards helping refugees.

At this point I’d like to turn to my colleague, the head of USCIS, Leon Rodriguez.

Leon Rodriguez:  

Thank you Anne and thank you for your presentation. I too am gratified with the success that we’ve had in refugee admissions, particularly with respect to Syrian admissions. The process that we have applied to reach those admission levels is the same process that we have applied for many years – actually with a few enhancements that have further strengthened that process.

LeonRodriguez

Leon Rodriguez

There are basically two critical components to the process and adjudicating, whether an individual is admitted to the United States as a refugee after that individual has been referred to us by the United Nations high commissioner and refugees and by the State Department. The first is to determine – this is what our officers do to determine whether that individual actually qualifies as a refugee – whether they meet the legal definition.

The legal definition that we use is derived from the United Nation’s convention on refugees, and that definition is used by all of the signatory countries to the convention, although in many cases each country interprets the conventions slightly differently. The second aspect and probably particularly critical for this discussion is we determined if — notwithstanding the fact that the individual meets the legal definition of refugee — if there is still some basis to deny that individual admission to the United States.

That can occur in one of two ways. In some cases we have – we exercise our discretion. For example if we have concerns about that individual’s credibility. In other cases we may have evidence that that individual falls under a specific category of inadmissibility. For example, if there is evidence that they are a known or suspected terrorist. To do that we used a number of tools. From my perspective the most critical of those tools is the refugee officer – is our highly trained, highly experienced staff that we deployed throughout the world to screen refugees.

Before they get there they have been extensively trained both in the legal tenants surrounding refugee law — the grounds inadmissibility that I discussed before — but also very critically in fraud detection and prevention, security protocols, interviewing techniques, credibility analysis.

They’ve also been briefed in country conditions and in regional conditions and again that briefing is often extensive, and the depth of that briefing grows as we spend more time in a particular refugee environment, be that the Syrian environment, the Iraqi environment, the Somalian environment, or as the case may be, the central American environment. The interviews that are conducted by those officers are frequently extensive – pro-credibility issues and pro-particular basis of inadmissibility.

In the specific cases of Syrians there are additional steps that are also taken. All of those cases or the majority of those cases, rather, are subject to something we call Syrian enhanced review, which provides us specific in-depth support both from our Refugee Affairs division and our Fraud Detection and National Security directorate to provide enhanced view of those cases before the interviews even occur overseas. This is intelligence-driven support – for example it yields specific lines of questioning that our officers are prepared to ask.

It also includes social media review of certain Syrian refugee applicants. Additionally and during the course of the interview an officer identifies areas of national security concern about a candidate, and that case moves into what we call the controlled application review and resolution process – essentially a hold process where further investigation and inquiry into that case occurs.

At the same time we have a number of law enforcement and intelligence resources that our officers utilize in order to determine whether there is any derogatory — and that’s a critical term — derogatory information about that individual. Those sources can come from State Department databases, databases of customs and border protection, the Department of Defense, but most critically from both the United States law enforcement and intelligence communities, including the FBI as well as a number of intelligence community partners as well.

One particularly important aspect there is a process that we call the intra-agency check which involves queries of a series of intelligence community holdings. That occurs not only prior to the interview of the individual but actually occurs on the recurrent basis during the entire process of that individual’s adjudication, and in many cases actually beyond the period of that individual’s admissions. So that if new derogatory information arises about that individual we are able to act on that derogatory individual – derogatory information at any time that that information may arise.

We have on an ongoing basis the implementing improvements to these processes – much of that is law enforcement sensitive or intelligence community protected. But those improvements have been occurring on an ongoing basis. I believe that this information is very critical because it really rebuts what is a widely held view that in fact we do not have resources against which to vet these individuals.

In fact literally hundreds of individuals from different countries, including hundreds of individuals from Syria, have had their admissions to the United States denied because of information that was found in these databases. Additionally, a number of other individuals have been denied admissions or have been placed on hold because we have determined – we have accessed that there are credibility concerns that have arisen during the interview process.

And that process is the same one that we conducted a year ago, two years ago and last week, and we will continue as we move through the process of screening refugees to apply those methodologies. Thank you.

Shin Inouye:     

Thank you Director Rodriguez. Next we’ll hear from Director Carey.

Robert Carey: 

bob carey

Robert Carey

Okay thank you. (Bob) Carey here. We could go to the work of your Office of Refugee Resettlement, under the Refugee Act of 1980 Congress created within the Department of Health and Human Service and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and we are charged with providing refugees with resettlement assistance. This assistance includes employment training and placement, English language instruction, cash assistance and additional social services, all of which are designed to assist refugees in integrating into their new communities and to promote early self-sufficiency.

ORR carries out this work through an extensive public-private partnership network and funding to state governments and non-profit organizations across the US. In fiscal year 2016 ORR expects to serve upwards of 200,000 humanitarian migrants. So these humanitarian migrants include refugees, but also asylees, keeping Asian entrance on unaccompanied refugee minors, victims of torture and unaccompanied children.

Our work includes collaborations at the federal and state level with resettlement agencies, resettled refugees themselves and members of the communities that welcomed them. A central goal of the program is to ensure that states and municipalities have the best information available to help them prepare for incoming refugees. To this end each state has a state refugee coordinator, and often a state refugee health coordinator who oversees services and refugee benefits provisioned to eligible individuals in the given state.

The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests include $2.2 billion for ORR programs and that represents the cost of maintaining services for additional refugees and other entrance and unaccompanied children primarily from Central America. The President’s budget request would support a total of 213,000 humanitarian arrivals including 100,000 refugees in 2017. Once a refugee arrives in the US they are eligible to access the same benefits as American citizens who are here legally including temporary aide to newly families, Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP.

When refugees do not meet eligibility requirements for these programs ORR provides time-limited refugee cash assistance and refugee medical assistance. Social services and targeted assistance funds are allocated to states based on a formula tied to the prior two years of refugee arrivals, and that accounts for refugees and other entrance movements to other states after their initial resettlement on their path to legal permanent residence and citizenship.

ORR also supports additional programs to refugees and integrating which include migrant enterprise development assistance for ethnic community organizations, agricultural partnerships and services for survivors of torture. Another critical service we provide is school impact program funding which provides approximately $15 million for activities that assists children in adjusting to school after the trauma of war flight and all too often interrupted education.

As an alternative to access and cash assistance refugees may also enroll in what is known as the Matching Grant program – that’s Intensive Case Management program conducted by private non-profit organizations which assists refugees in finding employment and in economic self-sufficiency – self-sufficiency within four to six months after their arrival in the US and which is funded with a combination of private and government funds. And at the end of the program last year 82% were self-sufficient at the end of 180 days. [This is a joke, refugees can still be receiving most forms of welfare, such as food stamps and housing help and still be labeled “self-sufficient.”—-ed]

In summary, the Office of Refugee Resettlement stands committed to welcoming integrating newcomers into the fabric of our society. We believe this goal benefits not only refugees and their families, but strengthens communities and our nation as a whole and refugee resettlement is a reflection of our core value of who we are as a country, providing protection to individuals fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, political opinions or membership in a social group. So thank you.

Shin Inouye:   

Thank you Director Carey and thank you to all of our speakers. Operator if we can go ahead and open it up or if you could provide the instructions for how folks can ask questions.

Coordinator:

Thank you. We will now begin the Question and Answer session. If you would like to ask a question please press Star 1 to unmute your phone and record your name clearly. If you need to withdraw your question press Star 2. Again to ask a question please press Star 1.

Our first question comes from Julia Edwards with Reuters – your line is open.

Julia Edwards:      

Hi, thank you. I was wondering if you could quantify how many refugees or how refugees were not considered after the additional screening procedures that were put in place by Congress at the end of last year? Or was there anyone who was ruled out as a result of this additional screening measures being put in place?

Leon Rodriguez: 

I think that the screening measures were never actually voted into effect that you’re discussing, so when I talk about screening measures they’re basically the ones that we apply as our part of our ordinary process – that is joined between USCIS, State Department, the law enforcement intelligence community partners. And again what I would say is based on that screening – just speaking to the Syrian case, you know, hundreds – I wouldn’t be able to put a specific number on it now but hundreds have been denied.

There are even larger numbers of individuals who go on hold because concerns have been raised or – and also individuals who are denied on a credibility basis because our officers determined that there are concerns about the accounts that they’re given when we interview them.

Coordinator:       

Our next question comes from Julie Davis with the New York Times. Your line is open.

Julie Davis:  

Hi there. Well I was hoping you could be more specific about how many of the Syrian applicants had been denied because of the information that was found on the databases or put on hold because of credibility concerns. It sounds like you don’t have those numbers now. Would that be something you could get to us after the call potentially?

Leon Rodriguez:   

Yes we can see if we can get you those numbers. Again what I will share are those numbers are large. When we’re talking still about, you know, we’re talking about 8,000 who have been cleared for admission this year we’re still talking about a substantial number who have either been denied or held because of these types of concerns.

Julie Davis:      

Okay and also I’m wondering whether you can say, based on the up-ticks that you described, just in May, June, July – I assume August, you’re expecting will be the same if not larger in terms of refuge – Syrian refugees resettled. Do you expect that to continue rising into fiscal 2017, and do you have any estimate at all of how many Syrian refugees you may be looking at welcoming as a result of this surge in the next, you know, after the fiscal year ends?

Leon Rodriguez:

Actually I’m going to share a little bit more of an answer to your first question and I think I’m going to defer to my State Department colleagues. So our approval rates are 80%, denial rate is 7%, and the balance is hold – that kind of reflects the overall universe. So, you know, I can’t give you specific numbers that reflects about our clip of approvals denials and holds.

Julie Davis:     

Got it.

Leon Rodriguez:  

And Anne I’m wondering if you want to – I don’t know if you’re in a position to talk about next year or not…

Anne Richard:   

Well just to say the current pace of arrivals will continue through the end of this fiscal year so we may exceed 10,000 and for next year we will continue to welcome large numbers of Syrians, but it’s too soon to have a target figure established.

Coordinator:     

Thank you. And our next question comes from Jared Goyette with PRI. Your line is open.

Jared Goyette:  

Hi I was just wondering if you could provide any detail to the I-130 program and if that’s had any impact in terms of the numbers of, you know, the number of Syrian refugees coming in – that’s of course the family petition? Thank you.

Anne Richard:  

No we don’t have numbers for you for this call but we can follow-up on that after the call.

Jared Goyette:

Okay thanks.

Coordinator:   

The next question comes from Nick Ballasy with PJ Media News your line is open.

Nicholas Ballasy: 

Thanks for taking the question. My first – the first part of my question is among the applications for refugee status that have been denied, you said some of them were denied – was it because of national security or terrorism issues? And then the second part of my question is as you know, if you’re applying for legal status by marrying a US citizen or in a different category, you have to prove you have the financial support and you’re not a public charge and you also have to pay thousands of dollars in fees for those applications.

Why are refugees treated differently than people seeking legal status in the United States through the legal immigration process?

Leon Rodriguez:   

Sure, this is Leon Rodriguez and I’ll invite my colleagues to chime in as well. You know, the fact is that refugees are refugees because they’re often coming out of war-torn countries or countries devastated in some other way. Frequently individuals have been living away from their countries without any means of securing a livelihood, or in many cases when we’re talking about Syrians, of having their children educated. So more typically individuals do not have the economic wherewithal. It’s also – frankly it’s a statutory decision that was made. We do not have authority to charge any kind of fee for refugees – it’s not a legal authority that we have.

Nicholas Ballasy:  

And then the issue of the denied applications, was the reason for any of those denials national security or…

Leon Rodriguez: 

Yes.

Nicholas Ballasy:

…(test) and concerns?

Leon Rodriguez: 

Yes.

Shin Inouye:      

All right (Sheila) if you could move to the next question please?

Coordinator:   

Absolutely and as a reminder if you would like to ask a question you can press Star 1 on your phone and record your name when prompted. Our next question comes from Lauren Ashburn with EWTN. Your line is open.

Lauren Ashburn:   

Thank you very much and thank you for taking my call. The percentage of those Syrian refugees who have been let into the country – what percent are Muslims? Do you have that breakdown?

Anne Richard:     

Yes, most are Muslims over 99% are Muslims. [At least she is being honest! But, the reporter wasted her question because that information is readily available elsewhere.—ed]

Lauren Ashburn:  

And then what percent are of religious (execution) are fleeing (because they) say religious persecution?

Anne Richard:   

I don’t have that breakdown for you.

Lauren Ashburn:  

Okay and then you mentioned, Secretary Carey – you mentioned that 82% are self-sufficient at the end of 180 days and I was wondering how long do the rest of them stay on benefits? How long do you extend the benefits?

Robert Carey:    

The benefits access depends on the category. There are some individuals for whom, you know, refugee cash assistance can be extended for up to eight months for certain individuals, and then others may be eligible for mainstream benefits if they fit the qualifications.

Lauren Ashburn:   

Okay, thanks.

Coordinator:  

Our next question comes from (Esa Gomez) with ABC News. Your line is open.

(Esa Gomez):    

I was wondering out of the 8,000 of the admitted refugees how many of them were children?

Anne Richard:      

I should – we should have that number for you. Seventy eight percent were women and children and the number of children we’ll have to get you but let’s see  – nearly – let’s see, 4,576 were under 18 – just a little under half female and roughly half male of the children. [Does this really give us any comfort when we know it is the Somali “children” who grew up in America that have been the most radicalized of the Muslim migrants?—ed]

(Esa Gomez):   

Is that of the children or women and children?

Anne Richard:     

So the first number I gave you the 78% were women and children. And then the second that’s 78% out of 8,000. And then the number of children is – or under 18 year olds is 4,576 and they’re roughly half and half men and – girls and boys rather.

(Esa Gomez):       

Oh okay, thank you.

Coordinator: 

And again as a reminder you can press Star 1 on your phone and record your name if you have a question. One moment please for any additional questions. We are showing no further questions at this time. (Unintelligible)…

Shin Inouye: 

(Unintelligible) (a couple). All right, well thank you (Sheila). Thank you all for joining us. As a reminder this call is on the record and without embargo. If you have any additional questions here are the phone numbers for the respective public affairs offices for the participants on the call. The State Department is at 202-647-2492. Once again The State Department is 202-647-2492. USCIS is at 202-272-1200. Once again USCIS is at 202-272-1200. And HHS is at 202-401-9215. Once again HHS is at 202-401-9215. Thank you very much.

Coordinator:     

That does conclude today’s conference. Thank you for participating. You may disconnect at this time.

This post is filed in our ‘where to find information’ category, here.

Home Ownership Dips to Nearly the Level in 1960

The U.S. home ownership rate, as recently reported by the Census Bureau, dropped to 62.9% in the second quarter of 2016, a rate about equal to the rate of 61.9% reported over a half century ago for 1960. This stagnation compares unfavorably to 1900 to 1960 when the non-farm homeownership rate increased from 36.5% to 61%.-a period encompassing rampant urbanization, immigration, and population growth. For example, the non-farm population quadrupled from about 42 million to 166 million, yet the non-farm home ownership rate increased by 67%. Except for the interruption caused by the Great Depression, the rate of increase was moderate to strong throughout the period.

How can this be? Isn’t there an alphabet soup of federal agencies-FHA, HUD, FNMA, FHLMC, GNMA, RHS, FHLBs-all with the goal of increasing homeownership by making it more “affordable”? Don’t these agencies fund or insure countless trillions of dollars in home loan lending–most with very liberal loan terms? Could it be the federal government massive liberalization of mortgage terms creates demand pressure leading to higher prices? Could it be federal, state, and local governments’ implement land use policies that constrain supply and drive prices up even further? Could it be government housing policies have made homeownership less, not more affordable or accessible?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Since the mid-1950, liberalized federal lending policies have fueled a massive and dangerous increase in leverage-one that continues to this day. For example, in 1954 FHA loans had an average loan term of 22 years vs. 29.5 years today, an average loan-to-value of 80% vs. 97.5%, average housing debt-to-income ratio of 15% vs. 28%. Only the average borrowing cost in 1954 of 4.5% is the same as it is today. The result is today’s FHA borrower can purchase a home selling for twice as much as one with the underwriting standards in place in 1954-but without a dollar’s increase in income!

The result is that federal policies and a phalanx federal agencies have made the dream of home ownership, particularly for low-income and minority renters: less accessible, less affordable, less of a means to reliable wealth building, and more dangerous.

Home prices have risen substantially faster than incomes. Nationally, the median home price is 3.3 times median income, up from 2.9 times in 1979 and 2.0 (FHA only) in 1954. Today Los Angeles has a median home price 8.8 times median income, up from 4.2 times in 1979. Observers, including the FHA commissioner in 1963, noted: “Under conditions of limited supply, price changes tend to exceed [construction] cost changes.”

The size of new homes has nearly tripled–from 988 square feet in 1950 to 2687 square feet in 2015
. This wouldn’t be a problem if the demand for larger homes came from growing real incomes not growing leverage. This problem was recognized in President Clinton’s 1995 National Homeownership Strategy (NHS), which noted: “The new entry-level or starter home is fast becoming a thing of the past. … During the [1972-1992] period, the median new home size grew from 1,385 square feet to 1,920 square feet, and prices increased accordingly.” NHS’s goal was “to promote expanded production of starter homes … for all families who want and can afford to buy.” Unfortunately, the demand-side features of the NHS promoting higher leverage worked at cross-purposes and ended up financing even larger homes, so that by 2007 and 2015 respectively the average size had increased 31% and 40% since 1992.

The now standard 30-year loan condemns FHA’s and other low-income buyers to a life of debtorship. The 20-year loan term it replaced built wealth rapidly and reliably.

Finally, it has made foreclosures commonplace again. From 1934 to 1957, FHA had an estimated 13,500 insurance claims on defaulted loans (note: in 1957 the US homeownership rate was 60%). From 1958 to 2014 FHA had an estimated 3.5 million insurance claims. This is the direct result of liberalized credit standards. Government policies have become what they were intended to cure. The FHA itself described the problem it faced in 1936-“To many people, “Mortgage” became just another word for trouble-an epitaph on the tombstone of their aspirations for home ownership.”

The answer? Market-rate, economical housing, along with incentives to reduce leverage so as to reliably build wealth. This starts with bending the local and state government regulatory cost curve so as to increase the supply of market rate, economical housing. This is housing that largely serves service, light manufacturing and entry-level workers. Such housing is economical by design, making it naturally affordable, not expensive housing made affordable by government subsidy. Unleashing private enterprise will expand supply, thereby allowing supply and demand to reach equilibrium at lower and more sustainable price points. Undoubtedly the greatest beneficiaries will be low- and moderate-income and minority households.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on RealClearMarkets.com.

Infrastructure Unites Voters in Divisive Election Year — Advantage Trump

MILWAUKEE, Wis. /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — With 90 days left before Election Day, a national poll released Tuesday by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) found that half of registered voters say the nation’s infrastructure has gotten worse over the last five years, and a majority of voters said roads and bridges are in “extreme” need of repair.

Donald Trump at the Detroit Economic Club stated:

We will build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, sea ports and airports that our country deserves. American cars will travel the roads, American planes will connect our cities, and American ships will patrol the seas.

AEM notes that the findings were part of a new national poll to gauge voter perceptions and attitudes about the current and future state of U.S. infrastructure amid a high-profile election. The poll found that registered voters, regardless of political affiliation, recognize the declining state of the nation’s infrastructure as an issue that should be addressed and believe that the federal government should do more to improve infrastructure across the board.

“Americans across the political spectrum understand the dire state of U.S. infrastructure and believe that the federal government should do more to improve our infrastructure,” said Dennis Slater, president of AEM. “Voters recognized that increased federal funding for assets such as roads, bridges, and inland waterways will have a positive impact on the economy, and they are looking to the federal government to repair and modernize.”

The national poll identified a number of key findings, including:

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of registered voters believe that the state of the nation’s infrastructure has gotten worse in the last five years.
  • A significant majority (80 – 90 percent) of registered voters say that roads, bridges and energy grids are in some or extreme need of repairs.
  • Half (49 percent) of the surveyed population feel that the federal government is primarily responsible for funding repairs to the nation’s infrastructure.
  • Seven out of every 10 registered voters say increasing federal funding for infrastructure will have a positive impact on the economy.
  • More than eight out of every ten Americans consider water infrastructure (86 percent), solar powered homes (83 percent) and smart infrastructure (82 percent) as the top three important innovations for the future of infrastructure.
  • Voters across the political spectrum think that the federal government should do more to improve the nation’s overall infrastructure, with 68 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Independents and 76 percent of Democrats sharing this sentiment.

Registered voters also feel that government across the board should be doing more to improve the nation’s overall infrastructure, with 76 percent of individuals surveyed wanting more from state governments, 72 percent looking to the federal government to do more and 70 percent expecting more from local governments.

“Both presidential nominees have voiced their strong support for infrastructure investment,” said Ron De Feo, CEO of Kennametal and chairman of AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative. “The specific ideas and proposals they offer over the next 90 days will be critically important, and voters should consider them carefully on Election Day.”

The national poll was conducted as part of AEM’s ongoing efforts to develop a long-term national vision for U.S. infrastructure. An analysis of the national poll results is available here.

aem logoAbout the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) – www.aem.org

AEM is the North American-based international trade group providing innovative business development resources to advance the off-road equipment manufacturing industry in the global marketplace. AEM membership comprises more than 850 companies and more than 200 product lines in the agriculture, construction, forestry, mining and utility sectors worldwide. AEM is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with offices in the world capitals of Washington, D.C.; Ottawa, Canada; and Beijing, China.

Hawaii: Obama’s favorite Democrat run state ranks 50th in Cost of Doing Business

CNBC: America’s Top States for Business 2016

49. Hawaii

Quality of life in the Aloha State can’t be beat. But neither can costs, which are the highest in the nation.

Category
Score
2016 Rank
2015 Rank
Workforce 165 48 46
Cost of Doing Business 45 50 50
Infrastructure 116 46 49
Economy 181 25 42 (Tie)
Quality of Life 295 1 1
Technology & Innovation 90 38 36 (Tie)
Education 74 43 45
Business Friendliness 27 46 44
Cost of Living 2 50 50
Access to Capital 14 37 37
Overall 1009 49 50

Economic Profile

  • Governor: David Ige, Democrat
  • Population: 1,431,603
  • GDP growth: 1.7 percent
  • Unemployment rate (May 2016): 3.2 percent
  • Top corporate tax rate: 6.4 percent
  • Top individual income tax rate: 8.25 percent
  • Gasoline tax: 60.39 cents/gallon
  • Bond rating/outlook: Aa2, positive
  • Major private employers: Bank of Hawaii, Corp., Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.

Economic profile sources: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federation of Tax Administrators, American Petroleum Institute, Moody’s Investor Service, S&P