Anti-gun Democrats Press for Publicly Funded Gun Control Advocacy

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations held a hearing supposedly geared toward “Addressing the Public Health Emergency of Gun Violence.”

That hyperbolic title, however, betrayed the real agenda of the event, which was to create the false impression that an unprecedented wave of firearm-related violence urgently demands an infusion of federal research dollars.

In truth, rates of firearm-related violence are relatively stable and near historic lows in the U.S., while tens of millions of dollars are already being poured into firearm-related studies by a variety of funding sources

To understand why taxpayer funded “gun violence research” should concern gun owners, it’s necessary to revisit current law and the history of the issue.

Numerous provisions of federal law prohibit using congressionally appropriated money for lobbying

That makes sense, because Americans expect their tax dollars to fund (or at least hope they will fund) projects and services for the general welfare, not for self-serving ambitions of whoever happens to be in power at a given moment.

One of these provisions specifically bans using appropriations for America’s public health apparatus to lobby for limitations on Second Amendment rights. It states: “None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control” (see Title II, SEC. 210 of legislation at this link).

Versions of this limitation have been included in appropriations bills dating back to 1996, when congressional investigations revealed systemic anti-gun bias in certain components of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On March 6, 1996, a number of witnesses testified before a congressional appropriations subcommittee about how government researchers were misusing public funds to pursue a political agenda.

An Atlanta doctor noted that senior CDC staffers had for years been involved in an annual conference for organizations dedicated to using “a public health model to work toward changing society’s attitude toward guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have handguns.”

Theses annual gatherings allowed the government scientists to coordinate with political activists in the gun control movement on messaging strategies.

The CDC was also funding research to promote this effort that was low-quality and of questionable significance but that was uncritically portrayed by the media as “scientific proof” that firearm ownership is dangerous.

One of the most infamous studies, for example, is still referenced by gun control advocates to this day as supposedly establishing that residents of a home with a firearm in it are more likely to be killed by that firearm than to use it in self-defense. But, as Dr. John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center explained at Wednesday’s hearing, 86% of the homicides covered by the study were committed by means other than the residents’ own firearms. And, he said, researchers undercounted defensive firearm use by ignoring cases in which the assailant was not actually killed with the firearm.

The overarching goal of the CDC’s efforts in the 1990s was not the earnest quest for knowledge but helping to defraud the public into believing the gun control agenda had the imprimatur and mandate of “government scientists” whose only concern was “public health.”

Congress responded to this misuse of taxpayer dollars by enacting a specific prohibition against using funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services to “advocate or promote gun control.”

That provision, which is merely a more specific statement of the general rule against using appropriated funds for lobbying, has often been falsely portrayed by the mediaacademia, and gun control advocates as a federal ban on gun violence research.

It is true that researchers whose only interest is in pushing a predetermined agenda of gun control certainly have had a lower expectation of federal funding since this provision has been in effect. But as Dr. Lott testified to the panel, the overall volume of research into firearm-related violence actually increased in the years following the appropriations rider limiting gun control advocacy.

Moreover, pursuant to Obama-era executive actions, federal funding for research into firearm-related crime has recently been robust, with Dr. Lott testifying that over $42 million in grants were awarded for these types of projects from 2015 to 2018.

Meanwhile, generating “science” to justify gun laws continues to be a profitable industry apart from federal funding. Several state and private universities have their own well-funded efforts, and anti-gun states are increasingly using public funding for this purpose as well.

To be clear, the NRA is not opposed to using legitimate research methods for serious study into the dynamics of violent crime, including firearm-related crime.

Unfortunately, as with media reporting on firearm-related issues, there is little reason to believe that competence, professionalism, and the detached, rigorous search for knowledge are the primary drivers of these efforts.

In the end, you get what you pay for, and gun control advocates obviously see the veneer of scientific inquiry – especially when it emanates from the federal government – as providing a solid return on anti-gun propaganda investments.

Trump Has Secured Funding For More Than Half Of Border Wall

One hundred eleven miles of new or replacement wall is either being built or is in progress on the southern border after Trump’s first two years in office, an administration official tells The Daily Caller.

All told, the administration has secured funding for approximately 445 miles of the total 722 miles desired by the Trump administration, a Caller analysis finds. The analysis holds only if all national emergency and executive action funding is upheld in court challenges.

The administration official stressed that this figure constitutes only 18-foot bollard wall fencing or 32-foot levee wall fencing, which is the barrier that Trump has emphasized as necessary.

The wall accounting begins in Fiscal Year 2017 in which $341 million was obligated for replacement wall in California, New Mexico, and Texas. This money funds construction for 40 miles of new or replacement wall of which 37 miles is completed or in progress.

$1.375 billion was then appropriated in 2018 to build upwards of 82 miles of new or replacement border wall. The administration official noted that approximately 74 miles of new or replacement wall has been completed or is in progress with these dollars. This particular wall was built or replaced in the Rio Grande Valley Sector on the border in South Texas and other locations.

Fiscal Year 2019 saw a major fight between Trump and Congress over border wall funding, with the administration demanding $5.7 billion and Democrats offering up no more than $1.375 billion, not to be used for a wall. Ultimately, after a nearly 35-day partial government shutdown and three weeks of negotiation, Trump accepted $1.375 billion in congressionally appropriated funding and declared a national emergency at the southern border.

Trump’s national emergency declaration and other executive action allowed him to tap $600 million from the Treasury asset forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion of drug enforcement money, and $3.6 billion under his authority as commander in chief.

The national emergency declaration was quickly challenged in court by 16 states, organized by the State of California and filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, which appeals to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Officials could not provide a complete estimate of the wall that will be built with the 2019 funds, though they noted that it costs approximately $25 million per mile, putting an estimate at 323 miles of additional border wall. The administration official cautioned that wall funding costs can vary because of terrain but noted that Trump’s actions lack the restrictions of previous appropriations to build wall in much needed areas, like the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

COLUMN BY

Saagar Enjeti

Saagar Enjeti

White House Correspondent. Amber Athey contributed to this report.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump Will Sign Border Bill, Declare National Emergency

Minnesota Rep: We aren’t going to make Food Stamp recipients work!

Egads!  What is going on in Minnesota?  It’s not just MN Rep. Ilhan Omar making news, but now we see that Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson—the dean of the Minnesota delegation!—is making news by telling Trump:

“I’ll guarantee you it’s not going to happen.” 

He is referring to the Trump initiative to tell states they must enforce work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps!

Peterson’s district is considered the most Republican in the state, but obviously not Republican enough or they wouldn’t have re-elected him to represent them since 2007.

The district has a growing Somali population due to BIG MEAT/POULTRY wanting the cheap refugee labor.

See what he said as reported by Watchdog.org on Tuesday,

House Ag Chairman: Requiring SNAP recipients to work is ‘not going to happen’

The Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee says the Trump administration’s policy requiring states to enforce work-requirements for SNAP recipients “isn’t going anywhere.”

“I’ll guarantee you it’s not going to happen,” U.S. Rep Collin Peterson said.

Peterson’s comments came after U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testified last week before the House Agriculture Committee about the state of the rural economy. Committee members asked him about the impact of tariffs on farmers, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the effects of natural disasters, and the expansion of rural broadband access, among other questions.

The Trump administration is revising a 22-year-old federal regulation that has enabled states to acquire waivers exempting able-bodied adults without dependents (ABWDs) from having to work or undergo job training to receive taxpayer-funded food stamps.

Reforming the rule would reduce the taxpayer burden and enable more individuals to move from federal dependency to self-sufficiency, according to the administration.

Peterson’s remarks also came after a new Government and Accountability Office (GAO) report identified at least $1 billion in food stamp fraud. The extent of the fraud is uncertain, the GAO warns, estimating the abuse of the program could be as high as $4.7 billion.

Peterson’s position, according to Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability, isn’t helping SNAP recipients move from welfare to work or to find gainful employment. It’s also supporting an abuse of taxpayers’ money, the FGA argues.

[….]

Roughly 20 million lower-income households receive $64 billion in SNAP benefits. But the GAO*** found that instead of being used for food, many stores are defrauding the program by “selling” cash instead of food.

The fraud, known as “retailer trafficking,” costs taxpayers at least $1 billion. However, the real cost could be “anywhere from $960 million to $4.7 billion,” the GAO adds.

By the way, I’ve noticed that food stamp fraud busts have been happening less frequently then say 5-10 years ago when I first started tracking them and when almost all practitioners of this fraud were ‘new American’ followers of the ‘religion of peace.’

I don’t know if that is because food stamp use is down generally or whether the worst frauds have been caught.  It is also possible that the busts are not being reported by the media.

***I mentioned that GAO report here.

question markHave a convenience store or mom & pop gas station near you?  Keep an eye on the comings and goings!  I’m told it is pretty easy to spot the stores where food stamp trafficking is happening—shelves not well stocked, people going in and out all day and night, a new American behind the cash register!  Easiest thing to do is to take your suspicions to the local police and let them set up a sting operation.

House Democrats Unveil Plan to Bring Total Government Control Over American Health Care

Liberal House Democrats just unveiled the Medicare for All Act of 2019, a comprehensive bill to abolish virtually all private health plans—including employer-sponsored coverage—and impose total federal government control over Americans’ health care.

Despite its sweeping and detailed government control, as well as the imposition of huge but unknown costs, the 120-page bill has nonetheless initially attracted 106 Democrat co-sponsors, almost half of all Democrats in the House.

The legislation is profoundly authoritarian.

For example, Section 107 ensures that no American, regardless of their personal wants or medical needs, would be able to enroll in any alternative health plan that “duplicates” the government’s coverage. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the bill’s primary sponsor, is at least open about the bill’s intent: “The Medicare for All bill really makes it clear what we mean by ‘Medicare for All.’  We mean a system where there are no private insurance companies that provide these core comprehensive benefits.”

Under Section 201, Congress would decide the content of the health benefits package, what is and is not to be available in the new government health plan. The bill forbids cost sharing, a statutory prohibition guaranteed to induce demand and hike Americans’ overall health costs. 

Americans would not be able simply to spend their own money for medical care from a doctor of their choice. Personal contracts between doctors and patients outside of the government plan would be tightly restricted. Under Section 301, “ … no charge will be made to any individual for any covered items or services than for payment authorized by this Act.”  

Under Section 303, a provider “ … may not bill or enter into any private contract with any individual eligible for benefits under the Act for any item or service that is a benefit under this Act.”  

Even private contracts for “non-covered” medical services require the doctor to report them to the health and human services secretary. Section 303 also stipulates that a private contract between a doctor and a patient for “covered” services would be permissible if and only if the doctor signs and files the affidavit with the secretary of HHS and refrains from submitting any claim for any person “enrolled under this Act” for two full years.

Altogether, these restrictions, layered atop the prohibition on private insurance coverage, would virtually eliminate private agreements between doctors and patients.

In practice, Americans could spend their own money on their own terms with just the very few doctors who could afford to see cash-paying patients entirely outside the system.  

In most respects, the new House bill is broadly similar to Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., bill. Beyond creating a government monopoly of health insurance, it centralizes key health care decisions in the office of the secretary of HHS; establishes a national health budget; and it creates a temporary Medicare-style “public option” (along with subsidies for enrollees) in the moribund Obamacare exchanges. 

Like Sanders’ bill, the House bill would also eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Obamacare exchange plans, and Tricare, the health program for military dependents. All of these beneficiaries would be absorbed into the new government plan; it would not be a matter of personal choice.  

In striking contrast to the earlier version of the House “Medicare for All” bill, the new House bill contains no tax or funding provisions. This is a conspicuous omission. This is especially so because the House sponsors (under Section 204) also incorporate long-term care coverage, including nursing home and community-based care, into the basic benefit package. This coverage would likely be hugely expensive.

Recall that independent analysts from the Mercatus Center and the Urban Institute roughly agree that the true 10-year cost of Sanders’ similar plan would be approximately $32 trillion.

Ken Thorpe of Emory University, formerly an adviser to President Bill Clinton, estimates that the federal taxation needed to finance the Sanders’ plan would amount to an additional 20 percent tax on workers’ income, and more than 7 out of 10 working families would end up paying more for health care than they do today.

The federal spending and taxation needed to fund the new House bill would certainly be larger. Beyond the potential impact of the bill on the nation’s deficits and debt, independent analysts and economists will also focus laser-like on the size and impact of the new federal taxes on individuals and families at various income levels.

Simply taxing “the rich” will not cut it.    

The House co-sponsors of the Medicare for All Act intend a rapid transformation of American health care.

Under Section 106 of the bill, they authorize the completion of this massive disruption of today’s public and private health insurance arrangements within just two years.

In the meantime, analysts at the Congressional Budget Office have a very big job to do.

They need to get on it. Now.

Let the debate begin.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Robert Moffit

Robert Moffit

Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., a seasoned veteran of more than three decades in Washington policymaking, is a senior fellow in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pence: Democrats Embrace ‘Infanticide and a Culture of Death’

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Wikimedia Commons.

My Family Fled Communism When I Was 6. Now We Fear Our Nightmare Has Followed Us Here

Can my cow fat skin-creams make me a target here in the United States similar to my dad in communist Romania?

Following the State of the Union address, I found the state of the nation surreal. I kept skimming past articles about the Democratic Party’s proposed economic stimulus packages, collectively known as the Green New Deal.

They propose to fund unsustainable sectors like solar panels—which are already heavily government-backed—by targeting more self-sufficient industries, like meat production. In order to earmark raiding the cookie jar of productive businesses to fund those that aren’t paying for themselves, Democrats have to demonize the target in order to implement punitive measures such as meat taxes.

I know the Green New Deal is based on non-truths and artfully doled misinformation, like the deforestation myth, but most people believe we are losing forest land in this country to the meat industry. That’s one of the lies told to them by our leaders in order to take advantage of the public support and vote. They need a mob to rob. 

How did we get to this choke point of punishing meat consumption, as one NJ radical animal rights activist senator proposes, in the form of a tax? 

I think I recognize a pendulum swinging back at me. Mom and Dad left everything they had to bring me and my younger brother to the United States. In this country, I am able to experience freedoms such as shopping for food, owning material things, and starting my own business. But that independence comes with heavy financial costs due to already overzealous, arbitrary, and crippling rules and laws.

As a matter of recent personal developments, I started making my own beef tallow-based cosmetic creams and decided to turn my products into a small business. This process is an ancient form of cosmetic production, and part of the reason I did this was to connect people to the truth. I saw the threat to US food sovereignty—the safest, freest, most abundant, most reliable food producer in the world—coming in the form of untruthful propaganda planted by special interests. It comes in the form of false environmental claims like the threat of cow flatulence or pig feces.

Meanwhile, I work in NYC, and I see a different reality. Those urban-dwelling legislators blame cow and pig waste as they step over garbage on the street with plastic cups in hand. I see human waste in myriad forms coming from congested metropolises.

The waste is in plain view walking past storefronts. Constant construction to remodel commercial spaces after every tenant swap is in plain view. NYC takes at least 45,000 construction applications annually. Think of all the garbage from ripping out floors, walls, and ceilings and replacing them 45,000 times per year.

As city dwellers are packed in so tight in the street that they can’t traverse a sidewalk without bumping into one another like ants on an ant farm, we throw away more than 76 million pounds of garbage per day. Nine pounds per person per day of that waste is produced by people while at work. That’s a lot of to-go lunch boxes, cups, bags, and pulp from fresh juices. To what extent are the waste gases from discarded pulp considered agricultural waste?

I wonder about the environmental impact of a throw-away society. The throw-away society blames the ranchers: “We already pay for recycling and get fined when we don’t, so why shouldn’t they pay, too?”

So far, I haven’t sold one item, and God forbid I do before all levels of government have been duly compensated for ensuring the safety and well-being of the people from the threat of me and my hand cream. The local health department wants to inspect my kitchen “to make sure that your dog isn’t walking around getting hair onto the product or that you prepare your product on the same counter as your chicken.” 

They want me to state that I am a chemist because their fee system is based on the number of chemists on staff. 

They will refer me for registration with the FDA to have my products tested and my work facilities investigated some more. There are fees associated here, too. The government can’t provide free public services for free.

Naturally, the IRS will have to be notified and receive their dues. Now we may have a Green New Deal standing in line for my green, too.

With children in tow, my parents escaped oppression and a lack of human rights—the right to pursue happiness and the right to own property. They also escaped government-controlled death by not having to wait for health care under a communist regime.

Not for lack of resources, total government control in the name of the public interest—with no private business rights—kept everyone equally poor and longing for basic daily resources and comforts, like coffee, fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, dairy, cigarettes, clothes, fashion magazines, videos, and news.

The populace that hadn’t yet died on the inside existed with the frustration of simply not being allowed to live normal lives. They faced the threat of punitive repercussions if they displayed any personal initiative or resourcefulness. Those consequences included regular government raids and confiscation of personal property. 

The people waited in line for rations of flour and their monthly maximum of sugar and cooking oil; the political members—ruling elites—feasted on the produce and sheep they plundered from the farmers and ranchers. Then they exported the rest. Romania was the breadbasket of Europe. But it was the black market that supplied the nonconformists and enemy-of-the-state families with the forbidden goods the paternal government deemed unnecessary for the people—smuggled American cartoons and Nutella for the kids and Russian black caviar for a birthday party or gathering to impress connections.

They were the ones who risked getting shot at the border on their way out, for they wanted options for their children, who were considered the purview of the state—another resource to be plundered. Citizens were expected to remain and exist only to act as chattel for the benefit of the state. It was servitude for the good of the people. Socialism had already morphed into stage 4 cancer: communism. 

Fast forward 35 years plus 4,751.5 miles, and that nightmare hound is back to nip at the old couple’s heels, sending chills up their tired backs. It is certain that there is a power struggle over our American resources.

Certain special interests have taken it upon themselves to seize control of our abundantly rich, productive, efficient, and privately-owned agricultural sector by demonizing farmers and ranchers, all as a means of prying control from independently productive family businesses.

These nefarious wolves dressed in white are no gentle lambs. They aim to chip away at our personal freedoms in tiny increments until the entire foundation of the Constitution crumbles. The slobbering wolves in white are gaining ground by pulling the wool over our collective eyes with lies. They are salivating to plunder the world’s breadbasket.

Make no mistake: they may blame cow farts, but when you have given them the ranchers, they shall dine on the same meat they have deemed illegal for you and me. 

They buy us with empty promises to enact unconstitutional laws that entrap others into giving more and to tax the bad ones for the common good, ultimately entrapping all of us in that same net. As soon as we make more, we are taxed more for more social services that don’t ever solve the problems. Socialism is a crabs-in-a-barrel system where the political elites stand outside, watching some crabs pull the others down and the others give up at the bottom. 

As a former refugee from communism, a New Yorker, and someone who is intensely appreciative of the producers who make our world possible—the farmers and ranchers—my aim is to use a small business to connect urbanites with the natural perfection of the raw resources normally out of reach to them. But the Green New Deal would tell them I’m evil and shouldn’t be given the same free access to the market to compete.

Back under the Ceausescu regime, my father was under surveillance by the secret police. He had dual citizenship and traveled freely, which merited him heavy government monitoring. Thanks to the mainstream emergence of extremist environmentalism, militant activists, doxxing, and extremist legislators, I can’t help feeling the pending threat of that hungry hound. Can my nice cow fat skin-creams make me a target here in the United States similar to what my dad endured in communist Romania?

COLUMN BY

Andra Constantin

Andra Constantin

Andra Constantin is the enamored owner of an opinionated 20 year old gelding, who has opened her eyes to the differences between animal welfare and the extremist ideology of animal rights.

RELATED ARTICLE: Venezuela and the Myth of Kinder, Gentler Socialism

RELATED VIDEO: Democrats Allow Communists to Infiltrate Their Party Across the Nation.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Blue State Refugees Flock to Conservative Florida

While most attention has been focused on immigrants trying to enter the United States over America’s southern border, there is legal migration taking place that has been largely ignored, though it may have at least as much economic and political impact as the other.

People are moving out of high-tax states to Florida and other states with lower tax burdens.

Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, mentioned the movement in a speech to the Club for Growth, which describes itself as “a national network of over 250,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans who share in the belief that prosperity and opportunity come from economic freedom.”

DeSantis says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has accused him of stealing residents from his state. “I’m not stealing anybody,” said DeSantis, “they are driving people away.”

The data back him up. Chris Edwards of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, the first free-market organization in the United States, produced a research document for the Cato Institute that shows “of the 25 highest-tax states, 24 of them had net out-migration in 2016.” One of the states that gained from migration was Florida where “145 households moved in for every 100 that left.”

DeSantis says this influx has fueled economic growth of the state, leading to a $1.4 billion revenue surplus.

Economist Richard Rahn has created a chart that includes a comparison between the tax rates of New York and Florida. He writes that while New York imposes high taxes and conveys an anti-business attitude (the recent debacle with New York City losing a headquarters for Amazon is just the latest example), “Florida imposes no state and local income taxes in addition to the federal income tax—yet Florida is booming, with a budget surplus, while New York is mired in debt. Only 50 years ago, New York had four times the population of Florida, and now Florida is larger than New York.”

The sound economic state of Florida is not the only subject DeSantis is touting. He won applause from the dinner crowd when he mentioned his executive orders suspending Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and Brenda Snipes, Broward County supervisor of elections. Republicans have accused these two of manipulating votes, causing confusion and chaos over vote counting that dates back to Bush-Gore in 2000.

DeSantis has other victories in his short time in office. He has named three conservatives to the state Supreme Court, transforming it from a liberal to a solid conservative majority. He has also announced plans to sign an executive order scrapping the “Common Core” public school curriculum, replacing it with a “strong American civics” course.

As a new Florida resident, what amazes me is why high-tax states don’t get it? The facts are there for anyone to see, except for those who deliberately refuse to see them. And that’s the problem. In the case of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, and other Democrat-run states, ideology appears to have eclipsed reality.

If Cuomo thinks DeSantis is stealing residents from New York, maybe he should consider whether his policy of “stealing” taxpayer earnings and demanding that residents pay even more isn’t the real reason for the exodus.

It is not a difficult question to answer. In addition to the economic benefits associated with living in Florida, the weather is a lot nicer, if you discount the occasional hurricane. While people were freezing up North during the recent polar vortex, the sunny temperatures in South Florida ranged from the 70s to the low 80s.

So, keep coming, New Yorkers, and others from high-tax states. Down here, the policy seems to be that if you can earn it, you get to keep more of it. That is the best prescription for economic growth and personal satisfaction.

(c) 2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

COLUMN BY

Portrait of Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist, author, broadcaster, and speaker with access to world leaders, U.S. presidents, celebrities, educators, and countless other notables. He has authored 12 books, including his latest, “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America.” Readers can email him at tcaeditors@tribpub.com. Twitter: @CalThomas

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured photo is by David Masemore on Unsplash.

Taxpayers Deserve a Refund for California’s Rail Debacle

Nearly 10 years after Congress passed billions of dollars in funding with no expiration date for rail boondoggles, American taxpayers have received a fresh reminder of how their hard-earned money has gone to waste.

On Tuesday, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice of intent to end a grant agreement funding California’s high-speed rail project. This came a week after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would be massively scaling back construction, which was initially supposed to link San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The debacle dates back to 2009. With the economy in the throes of the Great Recession, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats pushed through massive amounts of spending.

Much of this took the form of a massive (and poorly designed) stimulus package, while hundreds of billions more were spent through the annual appropriations process.

Among the dubious decisions in the stimulus was $10 billion in grants to state and local governments for rail transportation, of which California ultimately received $2.5 billion. Following that, another $929 million was granted to California for the project as part of regular funding of the Department of Transportation.

Due to the way in which stimulus funds were time-limited, the $2.5 billion was distributed relatively quickly. In contrast, the other $929 million is still “obligated” for future stages of California’s high-speed rail project.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s notice on Tuesday sets the stage for clawing back that $929 million, since it has not yet been used.

California will likely sue the federal government to keep that money, but the Federal Railroad Administration has strong grounds for taking it back.

California’s high-speed rail construction was already running well behind the agreed-upon schedule before the governor announced the massive scale-back. His announcement meant that the original route will not be completed. Since California is unable to hold up its end of the agreement, it would seem reasonable for taxpayers from coast to coast to no longer be responsible for giving it the $929 million.

But the federal government is going even further. The Federal Railroad Administration’s notice also mentions that the administration is “exploring all available legal options,” including “the recovery of the federal funds expended,” meaning it would try to retrieve the initial $2.5 billion.

In a similar vein, President Donald Trump recently called on California to return the $2.5 billion it had received from federal taxpayers to date.

Clawing back the $2.5 billion in stimulus funds from California would be a much more ambitious undertaking than sticking to the $929 million. California already spent the $2.5 billion. Once funds for a grant are authorized by federal law and spent by the grantee (in this case, California), it’s hard to imagine a court ordering a return of that money after the fact.

Hence, the Federal Railroad Administration is merely “exploring” its options. It hasn’t yet made a decision.

Regardless of the final outcome, this ordeal is proving to have been a wasteful mess. Lawmakers should take it as an object lesson and begin to change the way it spends money on projects. Here are two things in particular that need to change.

First, the federal government should not be used as a piggybank for state and local politicians.

Even if the California high-speed rail project had gone smoothly, it still would have provided no benefits to taxpayers in the other 49 states.

Congress is an inefficient allocator of money for local projects. Instead, state and local governments should live up to their own responsibilities and allocate funds to meet their own needs. This would allow Congress to better focus on core constitutional duties like national defense.

Second, Congress should severely limit the practice of open-ended or “no year” funding, which puts no deadline on when allocated funds have to be spent.

The $929 million that will likely be clawed back by the Federal Railroad Administration comes from a spending package that was signed into law on Dec. 16, 2009.

If California loses the $929 million, that money will not be used to improve the nation’s shaky fiscal situation. Instead, because the funds have no time limit, they will be made available again for grants to rail or anti-congestion projects.

It is absurd that the final destination of such a large amount of money is still up for debate. In theory, California could even get the money back.

Funds left unspent after several years should be rescinded and used for deficit reduction. Congress should take steps to ensure that agencies make good-faith efforts to spend what is required by law, and then make sure excess funds are returned to the treasury upon reaching the spending deadline.

With America $22 trillion in debt, we need responsible leadership and leaner government right now.

COMMENTARY BY

David Ditch

David Ditch is a research assistant in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @davidaditch.

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image by dfsym on Pixabay.

“Restaurant Recession” Hits NYC Following $15 Minimum Wage

This will be a rough year for full-service NYC restaurants as they try to navigate a future with significant economic headwinds and significantly higher labor costs from the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage.

An article in the New York Eater (“Restaurateurs Are Scrambling to Cut Service and Raise Prices After Minimum Wage Hike“) highlights some of the suffering New York City’s full-service restaurants are experiencing following the December 31, 2018 hike in the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is 15.4% higher than the $13 minimum wage a year earlier and 36.4% higher than the $11 an hour two years ago. For example, Rosa Mexicana operates four restaurants in Manhattan and estimates the $15 mandated wage will increase their labor costs by $600,000 this year. Here’s a slice:

Now, across the city, restaurant owners and operators are reworking their budgets and operations to come up with those extra funds. Some restaurants, like Rosa Mexicano, are changing scheduling. Other restaurateurs are cutting hours and staffers, raising menu prices, and otherwise nixing costs wherever they can.

And though the new regulations are intended to benefit employees, some restaurateurs and staffers say that take home pay ends up being less due to fewer hours — or that employees face more work because there are fewer staffers per shift. “The bottom line is, we have to reduce the number of hours we spend,” says Chris Westcott, Rosa Mexicano’s president and CEO. “And unfortunately that means that, in many cases, employees are earning less even though they’re making more.”

In a survey conducted by New York City Hospitality Alliance late last year, about 75% of the more than 300 respondents operating full-service restaurants reported they’ll reduce employee hours this year because of the new wage increases, while 47% said they’ll eliminate jobs in 2019.

Note also that the survey also reported that “76.50% of respondents report reducing employee hours and 36.30% eliminated jobs in 2018 in response to mandated wage increases.” Those staff reductions are showing up in the NYC full-service restaurant employee series from the BLS, see chart above. December 2018 restaurant jobs were down by almost 3,000 (and by 1.64%) from the previous December, and the 2.5% annual decline in March 2018 was the worst annual decline since the sharp collapse in restaurant jobs following 9/11 in 2001.

As the chart shows, it usually takes an economic recession to cause year-over-year job losses at NYC’s full-service restaurants, so it’s likely that this is a “restaurant recession” tied to the annual series of minimum wage hikes that brought the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour at the end of last year. And the NYC restaurant recession is happening even as the national economy hums along in the 117th month of the second-longest economic expansion in history and just short of the 120-month record expansion from March 1991 to March 2001.

Here’s more of the article:

“There’s a lot of concern and anxiety happening within the city’s restaurant industry,” says Andrew Rigie, executive director of the restaurant advocacy group. Most restaurant owners want to pay employees more, he says, but are challenged by “the financial realities of running a restaurant in New York City.” Merelyn Bucio, a server at a restaurant in Soho that she declined to name, says her hours were cut and her workload increased when wage rates rose. Server assistants and bussers now work fewer shifts, so she and other servers take on side work like polishing silverware and glasses. “We have large sections, and there are large groups, so it’s more difficult,” she says. “You need your server assistant in order to give guests a better experience.”

At Lalito, a small restaurant in Chinatown, they used to roster two servers on the floor, but post wage increases, there’s only one, who is armed with a handheld POS (point of sale) system, according to co-owner Mateusz Lilpop. Having fewer people working was the only way for him to reduce costs, he says. Since the hike, labor costs at Lalito have risen about 10 percent — from 30 to 35 percent to 40 to 45 percent of sales, he says.

These changes get passed onto the diner, some restaurateurs argue. Service can suffer due to fewer people on the floor, or more and more restaurateurs will explore the fast-casual format over full-service ones. Some restaurants are also raising prices for customers. According to the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s survey, close to 90 percent of respondents expect to raise menu prices this year. Lalito’s menu prices have increased by 10 to 15 percent. Lilpop says, and it’s not just the cost of paying his staff driving prices up — it’s a ripple effect from New York-based food purveyors’ own labor cost increases.

“If you have a farmer that has employees that are picking fruit, he has to increase his labor costs, which means he has to increase his fruit prices,” Lilpop says. “I have to buy that fruit from him at a higher rate, and it goes down the chain.”

A few economic lessons here.

  1. A reduction in restaurant staffing that results in a decline in customer service (e.g., longer wait times, less attentive wait staff, etc.) is equivalent to a price increase for customers.
  2. The increases in the city minimum wage to $15 an hour, in addition to directly increasing labor costs for restaurants, also affects the labor costs of companies that supply food, liquor, restaurant supplies, menus, etc. and causes a ripple effect of indirect higher operational costs throughout the entire restaurant supply chain as described above.
  3. Even for workers who keep their jobs, a higher minimum wage per hour doesn’t necessarily translate into higher weekly earnings, if the reduction in hours is greater than the increase in hourly wages. For example, 40 hours per week at $13 an hour generates higher weekly pre-tax earnings ($520) than 33 hours per week at the higher $15 an hour ($495).

Prediction: This will be a rough year for full-service NYC restaurants as they try to navigate a future with significant economic headwinds and significantly higher labor costs from the city’s $15 an hour minimum wage.

This article was reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute.

COLUMN BY

Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

New Jersey Lawmakers Are Trying to Tax the Rain

This gives new life to the saying, “when it rains, it pours.”

Sometimes life mimics fiction. And sometimes life is so much stranger than fiction you have to double check the headlines to ensure they aren’t satire. The latest double take comes from New Jersey, where, under the guise of environmentalism, local legislators have passed a new tax on—wait for it— the rain.

Governments are known for a lack of creativity and an uncanny ability to think only inside the box. However, when it comes to getting creative with inventing new forms of taxation, they never disappoint. Chicago, for example, recently implemented a “PlayStation” tax on its residents as part of the city’s previously existing “amusement tax,” which, just as it sounds, taxes individuals on almost all forms of entertainment.

California, on the other hand, recently tried to get away with unprecedented levels of extortion when it tried to tax residents for their drinking water and text messages. The water tax is still on the table, but luckily, the Golden State did not succumb to the new ridiculous texting tax. New Jersey, though, might not be so lucky.

To be perfectly clear, while the new tax is being referred to as the “rain tax,” it doesn’t actually tax the rain itself, but that doesn’t make the context of the legislation any less absurd.

Bill S-1073 seeks to penalize businesses and homeowners whose property contains paved surfaces, like a driveway or a parking lot. When it rains, the rain acts as a medium, transporting any pollutants it picks up from paved surfaces, like brine and rock salt, and then depositing it into sewers and drains. And since the pollutants are thought to have originated from paved surfaces, the state has determined that property owners are responsible for any negative environmental impacts that result therein and should be penalized accordingly.

The legislation itself does not actually allow the state to collect any taxes, however. Instead, it allows each of its 565 different municipalities to create their own stormwater utility systems to minimize the runoff problem. Each locality will then charge each homeowner and business based on what the bill calls “a fair and equitable approximation” of how much runoff is generated from their property.

The legislation states:

Under the bill, a county, municipality, or authority (local unit) that establishes a stormwater utility is authorized to charge and collect reasonable fees and other charges to recover the stormwater utility’s costs for stormwater management.

As is the trend these days, supporters are praising the bill as a heroic move to protect the environment, though there is no real evidence that any significant harm is being done. Yet, legislators would have you believe there is a crisis at hand.

Senate President Steve Sweeney tried to convey the seriousness of the problem, saying, “With all the salt we’ve had on roads recently, that’s all running into the sewer systems, so you don’t ignore the problems because they don’t go away.” However, this winter has actually been mild for the state, with fewer snow falls than usual, meaning there has not been any sudden influx of rock salt pouring into the sewer systems this season.

A local writer, E.W. Boyle, highlighted the true idiocy of this proposed tax, writing:

Now, since our roads have been treated during winter storm events for over 80 years, with no apparent environmental impact, one wonders what took them so long to notice that there is salt runoff into creeks, streams and estuary rivers during subsequent rain events. No, rather what they noticed was the potential for yet another tax levy.

Boyle hits the nail on the head, and he is not alone in his opposition to the new tax. Republican state senator Tom Kean Jr. also criticized this proposal for the burden it places on New Jersey residents. Since each municipality is in charge of setting its own rules regarding the collection of this tax with very little oversight from any other governing entity, it is ripe for potential abuse. Keane said, “We all want to protect our environment. We all want to preserve it for future generations, but this is a weighted tax.” He continued, “The citizens of New Jersey…really [have] no way to defend themselves against tax increases at local levels.”

Since the bill gives local governments carte blanche to set the rates and collect the revenue, it makes it harder for residents to voice their concern if they believe they are being asked to pay too much. Keane later added:

…you shouldn’t create unfair authorities with uneven taxing practices…You’re creating a new layer of government that will not be regulated. The concern is uneven enforcement.

While uneven enforcement is certainly a concern, it is not the only problem the new rain tax inflicts on New Jersey residents. The legislation also comes with a hefty price tag that property owners will be responsible for footing.

New Jersey is currently one of the most heavily taxed states in the country. And yet, it is going to burden its residents even further with the passing of this bill. According to the EPA, it will cost the state of New Jersey $15.6 billion to upgrade its storm drain system. However, the cost to Garden State taxpayers could end up being significantly higher.

New Jersey’s Office of Legislative Services, which usually determines the fiscal impact of state policies, could not shed any light on what this might actually cost residents. Since each local municipality is in charge of setting its own rates for each property owner, there is really no way of estimating the projected costs at this time. And given the nature of government, it is highly probable that taxpayers will end up paying more than their “fair” share of the burden.

Chris Sturm, a supporter of the bill and a water policy “expert” at the nonprofit organization New Jersey Future, attempted to downplay the impact this will have on homeowners. Sturm commented, “This will be negligible for the vast majority of homeowners. This is for properties that have large impervious surfaces.” While no one, including state officials, is sure of the fiscal impact this will have on residents, there is something else quite disturbing about his statement.

These properties with “large impervious surfaces” are places of business. They are the very institutions responsible for creating jobs, wealth, and prosperity within the state. And yet, rather than celebrating these titans of industry for their contributions, state lawmakers are attempting to impose onerous taxes on them. This is yet another example of governments using their taxing powers to turn private businesses into their personal coffers.

To make matters worse, any individual or business who does not pay their “rain tax” will be charged interest and have a tax lien imposed on them by the state, the very same type of action taken against those who fail to pay their property taxes.

New Jersey is, unfortunately, not the first state to attempt to inflict this type of tax on its residents. In 2012, Maryland instituted its own version of the rain tax, but it was not received well by the taxpayers. In 2014, Republican Governor Larry Hogan altered the law and allowed nine counties and the city of Baltimore to opt out of the state’s rain tax, so long as each municipality promised to address the Chesapeake Bay runoff issue on their own.

Hogan commented, “Passing a state law that forces counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will is not the best way to address the issue.”

New Jersey does not feel the same way.

New Jersey legislators have done their constituents a great disservice by passing this bill. And now, the legislation is currently sitting on the desk of Governor Phil Murphy. It is expected that it will be signed any day now. This gives new life to the saying, “when it rains, it pours.”

COLUMN BY

Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter

Brittany is a senior writer for the Foundation for Economic Education. Additionally, she is a co-host of Beltway Banthas, a podcast that combines Star Wars and politics. Brittany believes that the most effective way to promote individual liberty and free-market economics is by telling timely stories that highlight timeless principles.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Ponzi Schemes and Socialism Rely on the Same Economic Snake Oil

Why Subsidizing Idleness Is a Losing Strategy for Everyone

How Cuba’s Infant Mortality Rank Fell from 13th to 49th in the World

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. The feature image by Pexels on Pixabay.

In America Today, We Plunder and Call It Good

Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and member of the French National Assembly, lived from 1801 to 1850. He had great admiration for our country, except for our two faults—slavery and tariffs.

He said: “Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property.”

If Bastiat were alive today, he would not have that same level of admiration. The U.S. has become what he fought against for most of his short life.

Bastiat observed that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

You might ask, “What did Bastiat mean by ‘plunder’?”

Plunder is when someone forcibly takes the property of another. That’s private plunder. What he truly railed against was legalized plunder, and he told us how to identify it.

He said: “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

That could describe today’s American laws. We enthusiastically demand that the Congress forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another American.

You say: “Williams, that’s insulting. It’s no less than saying that we Americans support a form of slavery!”

What then should we call it when two-thirds to three-quarters of a $4 trillion-plus federal budget can be described as Congress taking the property of one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong?

Where do you think Congress gets the billions upon billions of dollars for business and farmer handouts?

What about the billions handed out for Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, housing allowances, and thousands of other handouts?

There’s no Santa Claus or tooth fairy giving Congress the money, and members of Congress are not spending their own money. The only way Congress can give one American $1 is to first take it from another American.

What if I privately took the property of one American to give to another American to help him out? I’m guessing and hoping you’d call it theft and seek to jail me. When Congress does the same thing, it’s still theft. The only difference is that it’s legalized theft.

However, legality alone does not establish morality. Slavery was legal; was it moral? Nazi, Stalinist, and Maoist purges were legal, but were they moral?

Some argue that Congress gets its authority to bypass its enumerated powers from the general welfare clause. There are a host of proofs that the Framers had no such intention.

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” wrote, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our tenet ever was … that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated.”

Rep. William Drayton of South Carolina asked in 1828, “If Congress can determine what constitutes the general welfare and can appropriate money for its advancement, where is the limitation to carrying into execution whatever can be effected by money?”

What about our nation’s future?

Alexis de Tocqueville is said to have predicted, “The American republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

We long ago began ignoring Bastiat’s warning when the federal government was just a tiny fraction of gross domestic product—3 percent, as opposed to today’s 20 percent: “If you don’t take care, what begins by being an exception tends to become general, to multiply itself, and to develop into a veritable system.”

Moral Americans are increasingly confronted with Bastiat’s dilemma: “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Walter E. Williams

Walter E. Williams

Walter E. Williams is a columnist for The Daily Signal and a professor of economics at George Mason University. Twitter: @WE_Williams.

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Caller column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

Don’t Believe the Fake News. Tax Cuts for Everyday Americans Are Real.

The left-leaning media would have you believe that the 2017 tax cuts were nothing of the sort. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., recently tweeted that average refunds are down, calling the president’s tax cut a “middle-class tax hike.”

This is simply the latest episode in a long-running campaign to demagogue tax cuts that let the vast majority of Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.

Some of the biggest cuts are actually being enjoyed by the lowest-income Americans. A typical family of four got a $2,917 tax cut this year.

So what’s the complaint about?

In an early sample of tax returns, the IRS has reported that average refunds are down $170 from last year and that they hadn’t changed much from 2017, the year before.

But this is not relevant, for two reasons.

First, the sample of tax returns cited by the IRS is very small, and some analysts expect refunds will actually go up this year.

But second, and more importantly, tax refunds have nothing to do with the size of anyone’s tax cut. A refund is what you get back if you’ve paid too much in taxes throughout the year. Your tax cut is the drop in total taxes you owed to Uncle Sam last year. The two are not connected.

Employers across the country already gave us our tax cuts by withholding less money from our paychecks every pay period. Americans saw a bump to their paychecks in February 2018.

Of course, withholding is never perfectly accurate, so your refund or tax payment at the end of the year is simply a last-minute adjustment. But that refund does not cancel out the overall bump in take-home pay due to the tax cut.

Do you remember when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the tax cuts “monumental, brazen theft,” or when former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers predicted the tax cuts would kill 10,000 people every year? This most recent round of hysteria is just more of the same.

Last year, The Heritage Foundation calculated what Americans across the country can expect from the tax cuts. The average household can expect about $26,000 more in take-home pay over the next 10 years thanks to the tax reform.

Americans benefit twice from the tax cuts—first, by paying less in taxes, and a second time from higher wages generated by a faster-growing economy.

At the end of 2018, workers saw some of the largest wage gains in over 10 years, and unemployment rates remain historically low. Over the next 10 years, because of a larger economy, the typical American will benefit from over $26,000 more in take-home pay, or $44,697 for a family of four.

The average American household can expect to pay about $1,400 less in taxes in 2018. But depending on where you live and how many kids you have, the numbers can look different.

In communities that had high tax bills last year, such as Palo Alto, California’s district (CA-18) represented in the House by Anna Eshoo, or one of New York City’s Manhattan districts (NY-12) represented by Carolyn Maloney, the average tax cut could be as much as $3,000.

Lower-income communities, such as areas near Phoenix, Arizona (AZ-7), represented in the House by Ruben Gallego, as well as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA-2), will see much larger cuts in their tax bills. In these communities, tax reform brought an average income tax cut of 18 percent or more.

And the tax cuts are especially good news for parents. A married couple filing jointly with two children will see their tax bills fall by $2,917.

In the coming years, the tax cuts will continue to raise wages, increase investment, and expand economic opportunities. They will also continue through 2025. 

Don’t let the misinformation about refunds throw you off. Middle-class and lower-income Americans are the biggest beneficiaries from the tax cuts.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Adam Michel

Adam Michel

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

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

New Congress Members Support Green New Deal

This opinion originally appeared in the Detroit News on February 13, 2019. 

Right before Election Day a Gallup poll ranked voters’ top concerns: number one was healthcare (a major issue for 80 percent), followed by the economy and immigration (both at 78 percent). The rest of the list trickled down through sexism, guns, taxes, foreign policy, trade, Brett Kavanaugh, etc. Way down in 11th place out of 12 spots there was “climate change.”

The new Congress was elected by Americans whose biggest concerns (healthcare, economy, taxes) revolved around goosing a growing economy to thrive even more. But a radical agenda to rip up that economy and start over is guiding 73 members of Congress – including Michigan’s Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) – who co-sponsored the so-called “Green New Deal.”

Who got them thinking this way? Talking points released by the proposal’s sponsor declare its goals for just the next ten years to be upgrading or replacing “every building” in the United States, replacing “every combustion-engine vehicle,” and even beginning the process of eliminating air travel and “farting cows.”

The sticker price for what is described as a “massive transformation of the economy” is not provided, but there is an admission that to “pour all the resources” of “every billionaire and company” into this agenda still won’t pay for it.

It has more in common with Mao Zedong’s ruinous Great Leap Forward than FDR’s New Deal.

It is impossible to know what this “Green Leap Forward” will cost to accomplish the impossible, but we can we affix a price to what was paid to get an otherwise practical nation discussing a Maoist fantasy. The estimate starts at around $100 million—in campaign cash. And, we also know who paid the big bucks to turn this into a priority for Michigan.

Four left-wing political action committees plunked down a combined total of $99 million to get their candidates elected to Congress last year. For example, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a supporter of the Green New Deal. Michigan’s Levin and Tlaib are two of the 56 brand-new U.S. Representatives the LCV describes as its “environmental champions.” The Center for Responsive Politics reports the LCV Victory Fund spent $28.9 million on the 2018 midterm election. Those 56 freshmen are a potentially influential caucus promoting the Green New Deal in a chamber Democrats control by fewer than 20 seats.

NextGen Climate Action and the Sierra Club also support the Green New Deal. NextGen Climate Action Committee, run by leftist billionaire Tom Steyer, spent $63.8 million on federal politics last year, aimed at the same priorities LCV was promoting. Similarly, the Sierra Club’s political committee ponied up $1.5 million.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says the Green New Deal is an “important step forward.” EDF’s Environmental Defense Action Fund chipped in $4.8 million to win eleven House and two Senate seats for Democrats.

And this is just the political spending. EDF is also an educational non-profit that spends more than $100 million per year advocating for the same policies as the candidates explicitly boosted by its political action committee.

Similarly, the Sierra Club Foundation spends more than $50 million annually, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund $10 million per year, and Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America adds another $3 million annually. All together that’s likely another $300 million or more spent over the last two years.

A month into the new Congress they’re well on the way to getting what their $400 million-plus investment paid for.

But is this what Michigan voted for?

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for InfluenceWatch.org and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…+ MORE BY KEN BRAUN

RELATED ARTICLE: Tom Cotton Calls Out Media for Using ‘Stalin-Like’ Techniques To Help Green New Deal

Support Capital Research Center’s award-winning journalism

Donate today to assist in promoting the principles of individual liberty in America. 

EDITORS NOTE: This CRC column with images is republished with permission.

What’s Good, Bad, and OK in the Omnibus Bill

Congress is back at it with a last-minute, massive spending bill that no one will have time to read.

Late Wednesday night, House and Senate negotiators released text of a nearly 1,200-page omnibus spending bill that does nothing to reduce wasteful spending and is a letdown for America’s taxpayers.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill by Thursday evening, less than 24 hours after its release, leaving no time for a thorough debate and amendment process.

In total, the compromise agreement provides $333 billion to fund the nine remaining Cabinet agencies and related programs through Sept. 30.

As is the case with most compromises, the bill is far from perfect. It makes no effort to rein in wasteful spending and would limit funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide detention beds.

However, the agreement could have been even worse. Unlike past omnibus bills, this legislation does not include a laundry list of add-ons and does provide additional resources for border security.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the OK of the fiscal year 2019 omnibus bill.

The Good

Disaster Funding and Other Add-Ons Not Included

It was assumed that any compromise agreement would include billions of dollars in uncapped disaster spending. In the past month, the House and Senate both pursued disaster packages of $14.2 billion and $12.7 billion respectively.

While supplemental disaster funding is sometimes warranted, neither proposal directed any funding toward Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, the federal government’s primary lead in disaster response efforts. Instead, much of the money would have continued to abuse the disaster spending designation by sending funding to ineffective grant programs and subsidies that have no direct role in disaster response. 

Just because the omnibus didn’t include disaster funding doesn’t mean that Congress won’t pursue a package later. But the fact that Congress is separating disaster spending from a “must-pass” spending bill is a step in the right direction. It allows for a more thorough debate and alleviates the pressure for lawmakers to vote for something they may not agree with just because it is tied to a broader funding bill. 

The omnibus also didn’t attach reauthorization language for programs such as the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Violence Against Women Act programs. In the past, government shutdown threats have been exploited as an opportunity to stuff legislation full of unrelated provisions. Not doing so will allow these programs and other federal expenditures to be more fully and openly debated outside the context of a massive spending bill.

The Bad

Adheres to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 Spending Levels

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased the Budget Control Act of 2011 discretionary spending caps by $296 for fiscal year 2018-19. This omnibus adheres to the higher spending levels.

Instead of using this bill as an opportunity to exhibit fiscal restraint and roll back some of the $68 billion in fiscal year 2019 domestic spending increases, Congress has instead chosen the status quo.

With the national debt now over $22 trillion, that’s doesn’t cut it. Lawmakers must get serious about making spending reforms and putting the budget back on a path to balance. This bill should have been the time to start taking small steps toward that goal.

Uses Gimmicks to Increase Spending

Changes in Mandatory Programs are one of the most commonly used gimmicks in the appropriations process. On paper, mandatory spending is delayed, creating new savings that can be put toward unrelated discretionary spending.

In reality, the vast majority of the delayed funding would never have been spent in the first place and generated no real savings. Each year, billions of dollars in new spending is enabled through Changes in Mandatory Programs.

The largest change each year is delayed spending from the Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Fund. The bill would cap spending from the Crime Victims Fund at $3.35 billion dollars in fiscal year 2019. However, the fund would consistently carry a balance of around $13 billion, meaning that any unobligated balance above $3.35 billion can now be captured as savings and used to circumvent the Budget Control Act caps.

And the Crime Victims Fund is not the only Change in Mandatory Programs. In fiscal year 2018, changes with no real savings increased spending by nearly $18 billion.

This gimmick undermines fiscal accountability and transparency and wastes taxpayers’ money. Congress must take steps to end this practice once and for all.

$3.3 Billion Federal Pay Raise Ignores Performance While Increasing Pay Inequity

The omnibus includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, costing roughly $3.3 billion in 2019, and more than $40 billion over the next 10 years.

This would overturn a December 2018 executive order from President Donald Trump freezing federal pay. And, for more than half of federal workers, it will serve as their second pay raise in 2019 because federal workers receive both cost-of-living increases as well as step increases based on tenure.

On average, federal employees receive $121,000 in total compensation, compared to average private-sector total compensation of $69,000. Part of this differential stems from the fact that federal workers have more education and experience, on average, but studies consistently find that federal employees receive a significant compensation premium.

While a freeze in federal pay is not the most efficient way to address this gap (primarily because the government’s highest-level employees are actually undercompensated), it is one way of chipping away at the growing inequity.

Until Congress enacts comprehensive federal compensation reforms, lawmakers should not increase the compensation gap through automatic pay raises that ignore performance. A better solution would have been to provide funding for the president’s proposed $1 billion workforce fund to attract, retain, and reward the government’s highest performers.

Limits Funding For Immigrant Detention Beds and Fails to Close Loopholes

The area of the bill with the most potential for harm is in the critical areas of immigration enforcement, particularly detention beds.

As the number of caravans, children, families, and asylum seekers has drastically risen, the administration has been handcuffed by loopholes and prevented from quickly removing many illegal immigrants. The result is that many illegal border crossers or asylum seekers are “caught and released,” and many will disappear into the public and never be seen again.

The Trump administration has attempted to limit catch and release, both at the border but also in the interior, by expanding the number of detention beds.

In this bill, Democratic efforts to set a hard cap on immigration detention were stopped, but the bill does try to push the administration to reduce the number of detention beds by limiting funding. That said, administration is allowed to transfer or reprogram funds to expand detention, but does so at the expense of other homeland security programs.

In essence, the bill forces the Department of Homeland Security to steal from other important security and preparedness missions in order to fulfill the immigration enforcement mission.

Critically, the bill fails to address the key loopholes in U.S. immigration law that have encouraged the drastic increases in asylum claims and families and children coming to the border. Without fixes to these loopholes and other immigration enforcement tools, border security is only a superficial fix and detention beds will always be too few.

Overall, the bill may take some steps forward on immigration, but it falls short of providing the fixes we desperately need.

Continues Congress’ Dysfunctional Budget Process

Text of the 1,169-page compromise bill was released just before midnight on Wednesday. Within 24 hours, Congress will likely have voted on it and by Friday morning, the omnibus could already be law.

Once again, Congress is ignoring its own budget rules. The House requires that text of legislation be available for at least 72 hours before a vote is held.

This is not the way the process is supposed to work. It leaves no time for lawmakers to even read the bill, let alone have a chance to debate and offer amendments to improve the legislation.

That’s just a symptom of the larger problem. The fiscal year is already more than four months old and Congress still hasn’t finalized funding. If lawmakers were doing their job and passing budget and appropriations bills on time, continuing resolutions, omnibus bills, and government shutdowns could become obsolete, or at least the exception rather than the rule.

Congress should strengthen the budget process that it has in place and provide incentives to make the process function more smoothly.

One potential option would be a “no budget, no pay” provision, in which lawmakers’ salaries are withheld when budget deadlines are missed. This could motivate them to abide by budget deadlines. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Imd., recently introduced a bill that would implement this enforcement mechanism.

The OK

Provides New Border Wall and Technology Funding

The most controversial elements of the bill are the immigration provisions.

The bill includes $1.375 billion for new border wall funding—short of what the president has requested, but which will still be put to good use in high-traffic areas in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

It also included much-needed technology and tools that can support physical infrastructure and also support inspection of vehicles at ports of entry. Given that most dangerous drugs like Fentanyl and other opioids enter the U.S. through U.S. ports of entry, such tools are important additions.

These provisions strike a good balance between cost-effective border barriers, border security technology, and valuable infrastructure and tools at our ports of entry—yet they are unlikely to be enough to secure the border.

The bill also worryingly adds some limits on where border barriers can be placed, such as in various natural parks and some cities.

Taxpayers Deserve a Responsible and Transparent Spending Process

While the omnibus bill is not exactly what conservatives would have wanted, it could have been worse—for instance, spending even more money on wasteful programs and less money on border security.

But the process that led to this bill was a complete failure. Lawmakers must get serious about following the budget process that is already in place and stop this dysfunction. Taxpayers cannot afford year after year of bloated spending bills and budget uncertainty.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Justin Bogie

Justin Bogie

Justin Bogie is a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @JustinBogie

Portrait of David Inserra

David Inserra

David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Read his research. Twitter: @dr_inserra

Portrait of Rachel Greszler

Rachel Greszler

Rachel Greszler is research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, of the Institute for Economic Freedom, at The Heritage Foundation. Read her research.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Podcast: What You Need to Know About Spending Bill

Read Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James’ statement on border security funding.

This Bill Would Make Private Individuals, Businesses Pay the Price of Government Shutdowns

Trump Demands California Pay Back Federal Government for Canceled Bullet Train Project

Senate Panel May Probe Alleged Plot to Oust Trump

The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Donate now

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured Image by skeeze on Pixabay.

New York: Are “Vulnerable” Immigrants more Important to Catholic Charities than Vulnerable Babies?

I guess Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York was too busy cozying up to Governor Andrew Cuomo for money for its Pro Bono legal services in defense of illegal aliens to bother pushing too hard to save late term aborted babies!

From the Albany Times-Union,

New website connects pro-bono lawyers with immigrants in need of help

After relating stories about several illegal aliens (oops! “undocumented”)….

immigrant New York
New York’s “vulnerables!”

These undocumented immigrants are all in need of pro-bono legal help and their cases are being advertised on a new web portal run by the state’s Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities to connect them with volunteer immigration attorneys.

The new website funded by the state brings attention to Catholic Charities, which has placed 105 pro bono cases with more than 230 volunteer attorneys throughout New York. Every volunteer receives expert legal training to file applications for asylum-seekers, crime victims, juveniles or individuals trying to reunite with family members.

[….]

pregnancy-week-38-eye-color_4x3
In New York, no “liberty defense” for this new American!

The new website is funded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Liberty Defense Project, launched in 2017, which provides free legal help to immigrants across the state through Office for New Americans locations.

The program has provided more than 25,000 services to immigrants, according to a press release. A quarter of the immigrants in detention who received representation under the program have been released and reunited with their families.

More here.

Again, that new website that seeks to link free lawyers to illegal aliens (aka New Americans) in need of help to stay in the country is being funded by New York state taxpayers!  See Liberty Defense Project!

What can you do?  If you live in New York and especially if you are Catholic, you must let Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York know what you think!

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Truth About Border Walls’ Effectiveness

The ‘New Normal’: An Era of Bigger Migrant Caravans Has Begun

Minnesota again! Dangerous Mix: Drugs, Guns and New Americans

EDITORS NOTE: This Frauds, Crooks and Criminals column with images is republished with permission.

There’s Not A Damn Thing Mankind Can Do to Change The Climate!

I have learned three absolutes about the climate from former White House space program adviser, consultant to NASA, and space shuttle engineer John Casey, the author of Dark Winter,

  1. The climate changes.
  2. These changes in the climate follow naturally recurring cycles.
  3. There is noting mankind can do to change these naturally recurring cycles.

QUESTION: If mankind cannot control the weather, a subset of the climate, then why does anyone believe mankind can control the climate?

The New Green Deal


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Socialist Democrat-NY) Photo; Facebook.

Having said this, Democrat Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes that government can control the climate. Ocasio-Cortez is so sure that she has drafted a Green New Deal resolution to address the “impending disaster” of climate change.

Click here to see a screen shot of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal website (which she has since taken down).

This Green New Deal resolution includes:

  1. (C) meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including— (i) by dramatically expanding and up grading renewable power sources; and (ii) by deploying new capacity;
  2. (E) upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;
  3. (H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in— (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and (iii) high-speed rail;
  4. (G) ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition;
  5. (H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;
  6. (I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;
  7. (O) providing all people of the United States with— (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.

The Green New Deal is a massive government takeover of every aspect of the U.S. economy and individual choice: from wages and benefits, to healthcare, to unionizing all jobs, to housing, to controls on all water and food supplies, to transportation, to energy supplies. Each of these areas, and more, would be 100% under the control of the federal government should the New Green Deal become law.

The Green New Deal is Socialism on steroids.

A new Utopian society remade in the name of saving the planet.

Where Communists want to control the means of production, socialists, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, want to regulate the means of production.

Everything would be subject to government approval, government control, government regulation and government over site. Life itself would be at the whim of government bureaucrats. If you are deemed not productive then you become useless to society and harm the planet. Therefore, you must be eliminated.

All of the key features of the New Green Deal are already available via the free and open market system. What the New Green Deal does not allow is individuals to choose life, liberty and their own pursuit of happiness. Thinking is no longer tolerated, obeying is the new mantra.

Leon Trotsky wrote:

“In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

Under the New Green Deal all decisions about all aspects of human life and living would shift from individual choice to government mandates.

Under the New Green Deal the employer is the State!

Read the Green New Deal resolution.

RELATED ARTICLES:

There’s Nothing New About the Green New Deal

California’s High-Speed Rail Failure Shows the Insanity of Green New Deal

RELATED VIDEO: Climate Change: What’s So Alarming?

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash.