Jeb Bush: Willing to Emotionally Damage Your Child for a Higher Test Score

Former Florida Governor (and likely 2016 presidential hopeful) Jeb Bush made the following comment, recorded in The Miami Herald, on March 21, 2014. It’s Bush’s undeniably callous perspective on attempting to force American public education to fit a mold that benefits American education corporations such as Pearson (and here, and here):

Let me tell you something. In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful,” Bush said.

You tell me which society is going to be the winner in this 21st Century: The one that worries about how they feel, or the one that worries about making sure the next generation has the capacity to eat everybody’s lunch? [Emphasis added.]

Think about this, folks: Do we really want this guy in the White House? Do we want him (and the corporations in his pocket) pushing his damaging, perpetually failing education reforms from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Ahh, but Bush is in good company. Call it Common Core Callousness. Bush’s statement reeks of David Coleman’s sentiment regarding his vision of “Bringing the Common Core to Life.” From blogger Christel Swasey (Swasey’s entire article is worth a read):

The absolutely least lovely comment I’ve ever heard from any educator, ever, came from David Coleman:

As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”

There you have it, in case there was any doubt:

The Common Core Brought to Life.

Jeb Bush and David Coleman offer the same sociopathio-pedagogical vision for American education: Death to emotional health, joy of learning, empathy, and good will to man.

The country able to step on the faces of other countries via the highest test scores “wins.”

You can hear Coleman for yourself in this brief video clip (my thanks to Tim Furman). Keep in mind that Coleman believes he is selling the Common Core to his listeners:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Pu6lin88YXU[/youtube]

Coleman and Bush: Serrated Education Partners.

Back to Bush’s assertion that Asia does not care for the well being of its students. Bush is wrong:

Chinese educational experts are taking a more somber view in the face of the stellar achievements by their students, saying the results are at most partial and covering up shortcomings in creating well-rounded, critical thinking individuals.

“This should not be considered a pride for us, because overall it still measures one’s test-taking ability. You can have the best answer for a theoretical model, but can you build a factory on a test paper?” asked Xiong Bingqi, a Shanghai-based scholar on education.

“The biggest criticism is that China’s education has sacrificed everything else for test scores, such as life skills, character building, mental health, and physical health,” Xiong said.

Even the party-run People’s Daily noted the burden on Shanghai students. “While many countries have been urged to increase more study time and more homework for their students, Shanghai clearly needs some alleviation,” the editorial reads.

Japan’s education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, pointed to the test results as evidence of success in reforms aimed at reducing class sizes — despite continued criticism of the pressure-filled university entrance examination system. Many Japanese students also attend cram schools to get an extra edge.

“Asian countries do better than European and American schools because we are ‘examination hell’ countries,” said Koji Kato, a professor emeritus of education at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “There is more pressure to teach to the test. In my experience in working with teachers the situation is becoming worse and worse.” [Emphasis added.]

In his January 2014 address to a parents congress, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan lauded South Korean test scores.

Duncan failed to mention South Korea’s high unemployment for those with college degrees (in 2011, 40 percent of college grads were unemployed four months following graduation)– and the associated designation of South Korea as “the most suicidal society” despite a drop in South Korean suicides in 2013.

In order to curb the suicide rate, the government banned pesticides– a cheap and easily accessible means of suicide.

One Korean’s response to the pesticide ban:

But we still have bridges and charcoal briquettes.

What is driving South Koreans to kill themselves in unprecedented numbers?

They want their government to care about them:

Jang Chong-yoon, who almost committed suicide 12 years ago, agrees with the pesticide ban, but thinks more could be done to address the mental well-being of South Koreans:

“Old and young people have their own pain from either quick economic development or unemployment,” he said, adding: “I hope the government will care more about people’s health.” [Emphasis added.]

What a sobering realization to think that Presidential Hopeful Jeb Bush has no qualms about pushing America down this despairing path.

RELATED STORIES:

Is Common Core Intentionally Designed to Make America’s Children Mentally Ill?

Bush Foundation is stepping it up a notch through the media

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of Gage Skidmore. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Zoned Out: Why and how we should seek to restore a free market in land By Nathan Smith

I once knew a man who was finishing his basement so that his daughter and son-in-law could live there. I spent a lot of hours down there with a nail gun before the city planners nixed the project. My in-laws in Modesto, California had to move out of their house into a mobile home on their own farm, because their kids needed a place to live. The law, for some reason, allowed them to put a mobile home there if seniors would be living in it, but not to accommodate a young family.

In run-ins with zoning laws, ordinary people encounter the perversity of government first-hand in ways that should make them receptive to the message of freedom and property.

You see, modern American society does not have a free market in land. Government interference with land use causes many of society’s problems. For example, in recent decades, people have started moving out of richer states into poorer ones, as high-productivity metropolitan areas refuse to accommodate population growth, driving housing prices and rents sky-high. While expensive real estate reflects high demand, the distortions originating with urban planners have made it difficult for young people to get a start in life. Artificial limits on supply, including zoning laws, building height restrictions, parking requirements, rules on maximum occupancy and minimum lot size, drive prices higher.

Without restrictions like these, real estate developers could build more high-rises and townhomes. Housing supply would rise, prices and rents would fall, more affordable cities would attract more people, and metropolitan productivity would raise national GDP.

Exclusion Zones and Enviromental Harm

Zoning can be a form of class warfare. Government power is deployed on behalf of rich people, to keep poor people out of their field of vision. In the early twentieth century, some officials used zoning laws to exclude racial minorities from white neighborhoods. Today, class has replaced race as a main motivator for exclusion. Even when officials claim other intentions, zoning’s effects are the same. Government interference with land use blocks people from stretching scarce dollars by sleeping more people in a room, for example, or converting single-family homes into multi-family homes. High property taxes and onerous construction codes make housing less affordable for everyone, especially the poor.

Zoning also harms the environment by forcing people out of cities, where they live less environmentally friendly lifestyles. By segregating residential, industrial, and commercial land use, it forces people to live farther from the places where they work and shop, causing more automobile dependency, asphalt, and urban sprawl. A free market in land would not eliminate sprawl, of course. Some people want a house and a yard. But the rise of suburbia in post-WWII America was driven not only by preferences, but significantly by zoning laws.

This Land is Their Land

Zoning tends to have an anti-density bias, but it often frustrates lovers of the rural life, too. When I moved to central California two years ago, I took a liking to the orchards and vineyards that surround the city, and looked for places in the countryside. That should have been easy. Agriculture generates low value per acre compared to residential rents, so people like me, with city jobs but a taste for the rural life, could easily offer landowners more than the land’s agricultural opportunity cost.

Unfortunately, the Fresno County Division of Public Works and Planning has zoned most of the land here “exclusive agricultural” in order “to protect the general welfare of the agricultural community from encroachments of non-related agricultural uses which by their nature would be injurious”—how, pray tell?—“to the physical and economic well-being of the agricultural district.”

The name of this regrettable agency contains the telltale word planning. It is curious how often America fails to learn the lesson of its own victory in the Cold War: Markets are better than planning. Read a zoning ordinance and you will quickly get the strange sense of reading a Gosplan document. Why must non-agricultural operations be limited to ten percent of a plot of land and three employees? Why are riding academies permitted (subject to director review) but arts and crafts schools prohibited? Why not leave such decisions to the market?

Externalities and Other Canards

The only legitimate economic rationale for zoning is that land use often has positive and negative local externalities. What I do with my land can affect my neighbors’ quality of life. If I fill my front yard with flowers, the whole street benefits. If I fill it with trash, my neighbors’ street views and property values are spoiled. A factory next to a suburb is an eyesore. A cafe may enliven a neighborhood, but patrons compete with residents for scarce parking. In the face of local externalities, the usual theorems about the efficiency of the market cease to hold, and zoning laws can, in principle, raise social welfare by mitigating activities with negative externalities, and/or encouraging activities with positive ones. Possibly, though I doubt it, the Fresno County Division of Public Works and Planning could find some feeble argument from local externalities to justify allowing riding academies but not arts and crafts schools in “exclusive agricultural” districts.

But there’s a better way to deal with externalities, elucidated by Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase in his 1960 article “The Problem of Social Cost.”

Coase considered, as an example, the problem of a rancher whose cows sometimes stray into the neighboring farmer’s field and destroy his crops (a negative externality). Does the farmer have a claim against the rancher, or do the rancher’s cows have a right to roam where they will? Should fences be built? Should one of them halt operations? What is the efficient solution? What is the just solution? Coase claimed no insight about justice, but he showed why, if efficiency is our goal, it does not matter whose side the court takes, as long as (a) rights are defined clearly, and (b) they are made tradable.

Suppose the following monetary values:

Rancher’s profit: $10,000

Farmer’s profit: $20,000

Damage to crops: $15,000

Cost of fencing: $15,000

The socially efficient solution here is for the rancher to halt operations. Fencing is too expensive. The rancher’s profits are lower than the farmer’s, and too small to offset the damage to crops.

Now, suppose a judge sides with the farmer, making the rancher liable. The rancher will shut down because his profits do not suffice to buy out the farmer or pay for the costs of fencing. But if the judge sides with the rancher, he will still shut down, the farmer will pay him a little over $10,000 to shut down. Either way, we get the efficient solution.

If, instead, the values are…

Rancher’s profit: $50,000

Farmer’s profit: $10,000

Damage to crops: $15,000

Cost of fencing: $15,000

… then the farmer will shut down, either because—if a judge rules against him in his dispute with the rancher—crop damage is causing him to lose money, or because—if a judge rules in his favor—the rancher buys him out. Whatever the efficient solution is, Coasean bargaining will find it, once the law clearly defines property rights in causing, or in being free from, externalities.

Bargaining Our Way to Pleasantville

Zoning laws should be replaced by a free market in land, with Coasean bargaining to deal with local externalities. The solution would be imperfect, due to transactions costs. But the system would get better over time, as entrepreneurial developers wanting to gentrify or commercialize neighborhoods would learn the best ways to acquire, from residents, the appropriate rights–perhaps involving complicated option contracts or Elinor Ostrom-style solutions to commons problems. And all of these alternatives would be supported by common law approaches to dispute resolution and contract, which have been thoroughly crowded out by municipal codes.

By contrast, centrally planned systems tend to ossify over time, as they grow increasingly more starved for the market pricing information that could provide signals about the efficient use of resources. Of course, the local knowledge of people on the ground is the foundation of community. That too is lost when town planners purport to know more.

Market flexibility is especially important now because technology wants to reorganize cities. Already, in an age of smartphones and laptops, when one hardly needs bookshelves or desks, young people with large student loans who want to live in Manhattan might find six-in-a-room lifestyles quite tolerable for a few months or years. Let the market decide. On the other hand, solar power and mobile data could open up attractive lifestyles in the foothills of the Sierras if they weren’t zoned “exclusive agricultural.” Let the market decide. Let the people decide.

In the future, cheap driverless taxis will make acres of urban parking obsolete. Even the home kitchen might become optional when driverless cars offer cheap 24-7 delivery of hot restaurant meals. Let the market decide. We need to get the old zoning boards out of the way, and leave people and markets free to discover the lifestyles that best suit them in the 21st century.

ABOUT NATHAN SMITH

Nathan Smith is a professor of economics and finance at Fresno Pacific University and the author of Principles of a Free Society and Complexity, Competition, and Growth. He blogs at Open Borders: The Case (openborders.info).

NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

All Charges dropped for arrest at “Impeach Obama Rally” in Gainesville, FL

“I want to thank you for looking into the injustice that happened to me on the overpass in Gainesville, FL. This is an issue that is bigger than me. American citizens all over the U.S. are having their rights violated by Peace Officers every day for filming them or peacefully assembling and protesting. These are God given rights, not rights granted by the government. We have to assert our rights & fight back with the courts to show that this kind of behavior by all Law Enforcement Officers will NOT be tolerated by Americans anymore. We have to shame these acts publicly and shift things back toward Constitutional law & order. We need to unite around the Constitution & Bill of Rights, NOT around political parties,” wrote Kyle Young, Alachua County Oath Keeper Chapter Founder and Leader, in an email to supporters.

In his email Young laid out what actually happened. It is provided to our readers and Floridians for their information and protection against unlawful arrest in Florida. Young states, “I was also NEVER read my Miranda rights by ANY officer while in custody.”

FACTS:

A Florida Highway Patrol officer decided to arrest me on Sunday, March 9th, 2014 for exercising my First Amendment right on a public sidewalk in Gainesville, FL on the overpass over I-75 & HWY 222. The protest was organized around the premise of a peaceful assembly & a redress of grievances with the U.S. federal government for President Obama’s impeachment for usurping the Constitution countless times, which I summed up to the arresting officer. All three of us protesting were ordered to leave the public sidewalk on the overpass by the arresting officer. The signs posted on the highway were painted yellow, with black letters, which read in this order, “HONK 2 IMPEACH OBAMA” “2 END TYRANNY” “CALL CONGRESS NOW”

Most Important Part of Incident Video Transcript (from 0:00-2:24):

Kyle Young: How’s it going sir?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Alright. Ya’ll are gonna have to get off the overpass.
Kyle: Sorry, sir. What’s that? We’re exercising our First Amendment right.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir, you can protest (inaudible.)
Kyle: Here’s a notice. Here’s a public notice. We can protest using our First Amendment right.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir, you can.
Kyle: To hold a sign up on the overpass, a public sidewalk. Correct?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir. (Inaudible) overpass.
Kyle: Is this a public overpass?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes it is sir, a state bridge.
Kyle: Am I. I’m a Florida citizen.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir.
Kyle: So do I have a right to hold a sign up? That says…
Officer Michael J. Todd: (Inaudible.) [Officer radios in using codes.]
Kyle: Just to let you know this is being recorded live.
Officer Michael J. Todd: I understand that sir.
Kyle: It’s online right now. We are simply exercising our First Amendment right. Is this correct or is this incorrect?
Officer Michael J. Todd: (Inaudible.)
Kyle: I’m trying to express my First Amendment rights. To exercise holding a sign in a peaceful protest.
Officer Michael J. Todd: (Inaudible…) yes or no?
Kyle: No. I am not going to refuse to leave.
Officer Michael J. Todd: You are under arrest. You are under arrest.
Kyle: I am not, I am not. I am not doing anything illegal right now.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes you are. You are under arrest.
Kyle: I am not doing anything wrong sir.
Officer Michael J. Todd: He is under arrest.
Kyle: For what? What have I violated?
Officer Michael J. Todd: [Officer radios in using codes.]
Kyle: What have I violated?
Officer Michael J. Todd: I got several others up here. [Officer speaks into radio.]
Kyle: I have not violated anything wrong. Sir, I have not done anything wrong. What have I done wrong?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Okay.
Kyle: I’m not doing anything wrong. What am I doing wrong?
Officer Michael J. Todd: You are under arrest.
[Officer screams at Carolyn Smith]: Get back! Over there!
Carolyn: What has he done wrong?
Kyle: What have I done wrong sir? What am I being arrested for?
Officer Michael J. Todd: I told you to exit (inaudible) the overpass.
Kyle: I said that I am not going to refuse to cooperate. I’m leaving. I’m leaving the overpass.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Do you have any weapons on you?
Kyle: I do have a knife in my pocket. I have a wallet. Excuse me, you have no right to search me. Stop searching me. You have no right to search me. What am I being arrested for? What have I done wrong?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Failing to obey a lawful order.
Kyle: I said I would leave the overpass. Do not touch me. Quit touching me. This is all live right now.
Officer Michael J. Todd: I would hope so. Because mine is recorded also.
Kyle: Excellent. I will be getting that data & I will be personally suing you. So if you would stop, it would go a lot better.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir.
Carolyn Smith: What did he do?
Kyle: I have done nothing wrong.
Officer Michael J. Todd: (Inaudible.)
Kyle: Stop touching me. Stop touching me. Stop making me hurt. You are bruising my wrist. And its hurting my circulation right now.
Officer Michael J. Todd: Yes sir.
Kyle: Why are you doing that?
Officer Michael J. Todd: Because you are under arrest.
Kyle: For what? What have I done wrong?

In the end, I was charged with the following:
Charge #1
316.072.3
PUBLIC ORDER CRIMES: FAIL TO OBEY POLICE OR FIRE DEPARTMENT

Charge #2
810.11
TRESPASSING: PLACE SIGNS ADJACENT TO HIGHWAY

Charge #3
843.02
RESIST OFFICER: OBSTRUCT WO VIOLENCE

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Video documenting arrest linked below:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/z773IOcYlVU[/youtube]

 

Young asks, “If anyone thinks this officer acted illegally/violated Kyle Young’s God given rights protected under the Constitution, just as they are for all Americans, then you are urged to call the Florida Highway Patrol Troop B at (352) 955-1960 to express your thoughts. The arresting officers name is Michael J. Todd Badge #2171.”

CIVIL LAWSUIT FUND INFORMATION, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A DONATION IN SUPPORT OF KYLE YOUNG:

Go to PayPal.com, click “SEND” at the top left of page, enter my email (KyleYoung510@Gmail.com), enter donation amount, enter currency (i.e. USD), check the box for “This is to friends or family,” pick form of payment, finally submit payment. If there is an excess of donations that can’t be used for the case, then a partial or full refund will be issued when possible. Thank you for any contribution you can make in the fight for freedom!

New Study: Florida Medicaid expansion is unwise

jmi policy briefAlthough a Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) seems unlikely in the 2014 Legislative Session, Florida’s leaders will continue to grapple with the issue. A new policy brief from The James Madison Institute (JMI) explores the many problems with Medicaid and alternative solutions that can ensure those in need attain better access to timely medical care.

“Doubling down on the flaws of the current Medicaid program and its expansion are risky propositions for Florida,” said Dr. Bob McClure, JMI president and CEO. “We too want to see improved access to health care for the underinsured and the uninsured. However, simply expanding a program that is unreliable and filled with broken promises on the premise that the federal government is dangling money to the states is fool’s gold. Market reforms that put patients first instead of bureaucrats will provide better outcomes for Floridians such as quality care, lower costs and expansion of coverage.”

Alternatives to Expanding Florida’s Medicaid Program” reminds Floridians that:

  • Over the last 12 years, Medicaid in Florida has grown five times as fast as general revenue and currently accounts for 30 percent of the state budget.
  • There are flaws with the viewpoint that this is a “good deal” for Florida. The federal government’s promise to fund 100 percent of the cost is:

    – Temporary: There is no guarantee that a future Congress and administration will maintain this higher match for those added to the Medicaid program under the new eligibility guidelines (those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federally defined poverty level).
    – Only applicable to the newly eligible: The federal government’s promise does not cover the cost of patient additions to the current, state-funded Medicaid program (those that already qualify, but have not yet enrolled) Our current Medicaid program continues to grow and consume state funds that could otherwise be used for other important priorities such as education and public safety.
    – Funded by tax dollars
    : Taxpayers in Florida are still footing the bill for a Medicaid expansion; it’s not “free” money. The end result of the federal government providing funds for the program versus the state is the same for Floridians: increased costs, more taxes, slower growth and another step for the nation toward greater debt.

“The economics of the Medicaid expansion are bad, but the health care involved for the underserved is even worse,” said Jason Fodeman, M.D., JMI adjunct scholar and author of the policy brief. “Medicaid is beleaguered by bureaucracy, fraud, rising expenditures, restricted access, and compromised patient care. By applying further strain to an already strained system, expansion could very well worsen the quality of the care that current Medicaid patients receive.”
Fodeman explains that the current problems that plague the Medicaid program are deeply rooted at the core of the Medicaid statute and cannot be rectified without comprehensive Medicaid reform.  He lists several issues that leave state lawmakers with few options to constrain costs other than paying providers less. He points out that Florida Medicaid reimbursements are lower than the national averages.

“Medicaid’s business model is not a free lunch or an example of free-market economics. Rather it is centralized price controls – nothing more than the government bludgeoning prices down by fiat,” said Fodeman. “Ultimately, these price controls are passed along to Medicaid patients in the form of diminished access, long waits for appointments, and compromised care.”

The policy brief outlines health system reforms at the state and federal level that could provide an alternative to expanding the Medicaid program including:

  • Telemedicine: Implement and expand telemedicine, especially into the state’s Medicaid program. Florida could selectively incorporate telemedicine into high-cost areas where this new discipline can be used to enhance access, improve efficiency, and lower overall costs of the program.
  • Price Transparency: Pool and make public pricing data to give patients clearer insight into the costs of medical interventions, thereby giving them more tools to become smarter consumers of health care dollars. Increased public awareness would also put pressure on higher-cost suppliers to lower their prices to attract patients.
  • Pro Bono Care: Provide a malpractice haven under the Federal Tort Claims Act that would protect doctors who would like to provide “charity care.” The cost of malpractice insurance can be daunting, especially in certain specialties and in certain geographic regions of the state. Florida could consider substituting an administrative system akin to the workers’ compensation system used for patients who incur an injury or illness in the workplace. In addition, the state could arrange for forgiveness of the medical school loans for those providers who agree to “work off” the obligation by donating a stipulated amount of services during a given time period.
  • Provide Health Insurance: Provide a Health Savings Account (HSA) with a reasonable deductible. This could be considerably cheaper than placing these patients into Medicaid, and it would also be likely to provide them with better access to quality care. For those who could not pay the deductible, grants, donations, charity care and other means could be created at the local level to assist.

“Reasons abound as to why Florida and nearly half of the states in the nation have concluded that a Medicaid expansion under PPACA provisions is unwise,” said Fodeman. “Florida has an obligation to use the debate as an opportunity to reform its health care delivery system to ensure that the most financially fragile and medically vulnerable receive the care they need and deserve.”

Read the full policy brief, “Alternatives to Expanding Florida’s Medicaid Program” here.

Passenger Trains: A Cancer in Florida that Keeps Growing

I guess as children we all loved playing with trains. Why this has become a fascination as adult taxpayers is hard to understand. It’s probably because we don’t look behind the curtain to see what this habit is costing society. Once you do the investigation, it turns out that passenger trains are consistent in one area only, eating up taxpayer dollars.

All Aboard Florida (AAF) is the newest passenger line being presented as an investor backed privately funded entity. It is difficult to understand why a private company as big as Florida East Coast Industries, and with their knowledge of the business, would follow the public sector into this debt laden industry. Their plan is for a high-speed passenger train to service Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. We already have passenger trains that service this route, their names are AMTRAK and Tri-Rail. Let’s examine their profitability for the 2013 operating year.

AMTRAK has state supported routes and long distance routes, that service most of the major areas of the United States. Examining their FY 2013 Budget Statics by Route we note that they have fifteen (15) long distance routes. The one thing that is consistent with all of these long distance routes is that they all lose on average Forty-Million dollars ($40,000,000) per route each year. Just the long distance routes create a Six-Hundred Million dollar ($600,000,000) loss every year.

One of these passenger routes is the Auto Train, which is familiar to citizens in Florida. This route lost Forty-Eight Million dollars ($48,000,000) in 2013 an average of One-Hundred, Eighty dollars ($180.00) lost for every passenger who traveled on the Auto Train. This route does show employment of 34 core employees. That equals out to a loss of One Million, Four-Hundred, Twelve-Thousand ($1,412,000) per employee!

AMTRAK does better on its state supported routes. It only looses One-Hundred Million dollars ($100,000,000) per year on these operations. One of these state supported lines is the Silver Star that provides services to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. In 2013 they had revenue on this route of Thirty-Nine Million ($39,000,000) and expenses of Eighty-Six Million ($86,000,000) for a loss of Forty Seven Million dollars ($47,000,000).

Where does the money come from to support these heavy losses? According to their 2013-2017 projected operating summary, AMTRAK received Four-Hundred, Fifteen Million dollars ($415,000,000) from Federal Appropriation Support otherwise known as TAXPAYER SUPPORT. Look at the bright side, their projections are for a Two-Billion dollar ($2,000,000,000) loss over the next five years! At least they are leveling off at a consistent loss every year into the future.

The other train that services south Florida with passenger service is Tri-Rail. Tri-Rail does not go to Orlando but it will compete with All Aboard Florida for the passengers who travel Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. How well has Tri-Rail been doing? Let’s examine their 2013 revenue and expenses.

Tri-Rail had a 3% increase in revenue in 2013 bringing total operating revenue to Twelve-Million, Five-Hundred Seventy-Five Thousand, Six-Hundred Fifty-Two dollars ($12, 575,652). That’s the good news. The bad news is they had total operating expenses of One-Hundred Million, Two-Hundred Forty-Nine Thousand, Six-Hundred Fifty-Eight dollars ($100,249,658) for an operating loss of $87,674,006. To be fair it should be noted that $30,214,462 of this loss is attributed to depreciation of assets, so the true loss for Tri-Rail is only Fifty-Eight Million dollars ($58,000,000).

The good news about this statement is we can track where Tri-Rail balances its budget. Non-Operating Revenue allows Tri-Rail to continue to operate. Where does this non-operating revenue come from? THE TAXPAYER! Here is the breakdown:

  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA) $19,163,234
  • Federal Highway Administration 4,000,000
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) 30,613,700
  • Other Local Funding 184,795
  • Broward County 1,565,000
  • Miami-Dade County 1,565,000
  • Palm Beach County 1,565,000
  • Interest Income 139,080
  • Total Non-Operating Revenue $58,795,809

What a way to break even. It’s nice to know that you get the support of federal, state and local tax dollars to run your train. How much would just the Tri-Rail loss buy in better education, emergency services, medical advances or other areas that service our citizens.

By the way, did someone mention that a private investment group wants to get into the train business because they want to make a profit? I know I heard that somewhere. The only profit is in raiding the public coffers.

VA employees actually destroy veterans’ records to ease backlog

There can be no debate that the Obama administration has a disdain for our military and its veterans. Now it seems we’ll no longer see Obama attend VFW and American Legion conferences — not that anyone will miss him.

Remember the empty promises about easing the veterans’ claims backlog? As a matter of fact, when was the last time you saw the FLOTUS and Dr. Jill Biden on a military base talking about supporting military families? Yep, the true colors of Barack Hussein Obama are as brilliant as ever.

But I’m not sure anything can be more disgusting and heinous than what the Daily Caller reported: Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee said. Audio of an internal VA meeting obtained by The Daily Caller confirms that VA officials in Los Angeles intentionally canceled backlogged patient exam requests.”

Apparently this brilliant method of reducing the backlog was conceived in November 2008 and put into full implementation in March 2009 under the purview of the Obama administration.

As the Daily Caller reports: “We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant said. ”It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.” By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

So, rather than figure out a way to handle the requests, presto change-o! The VA Greater Los Angeles Officials simply decided to cancel them. You can hear the evidence.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/XnvhdV2DD0g[/youtube]

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said. Dr. El-Saden, according to Mitchell, was “the person who said destroy the records.”

Mitchell tried to blow the whistle on the scheme to destroy veterans’ records and ended up being transferred out of his department and eventually losing his job. “I filed the initial complaint with the IG. The IG instead of doing their own investigation just gave it to the facility and made them aware of my complaint.” Mitchell eventually wrote to Congress about the issue in January 2011. Two months later, in March 2011, he was fired.

In April 2013 Mitchell received a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel stating that OIG (Office of the Inspector General) found in November 2009 that “all imaging services across the country were instructed to mass purge all outstanding imaging orders for studies older than six months, where the procedure was no longer needed”. However, Mitchell contends that in Los Angeles, exam requests that were found to still be needed were “definitely” destroyed.

I believe this matter must be immediately investigated by the House Veterans Affairs Committee headed up by Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla). If a thorough hearing and investigation verifies this incident, the punishment should be heavy. It must send a message throughout the Veterans Administration that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. As well, there should be some sort of follow up investigation to ascertain if this is an isolated practice or promulgated elsewhere in the VA Hospital system.

Regardless, the fact that we are even discussing this issue is beyond believable. Veterans, if you have had any issue with your valid exam requests being delayed beyond a six-month point please let us know and contact the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee immediately. We owe our veterans a debt that cannot ever be fully repaid — but for goodness’ sake, we should at least try.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com. It is reposted with permission.

Integrity Florida calls for Investigation of Enterprise Florida

Dan Krassner, Co-Founder and Executive Director Integrity Florida, and Ben Wilcox, Research Director Integrity Florida, in an email state, “The lavish travel and wasteful government purchasing practices of Enterprise Florida, a taxpayer supported entity serving as the privatized commerce department for the State of Florida, was detailed in an investigative report by Michael Buczyner, WPEC/CBS 12 titled ‘State-run agency accused of abusing taxpayers dollars‘ on February 25.  The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is responsible for the state’s contract with Enterprise Florida, but it has clearly turned a blind eye to this waste and abuse of the taxpayers’ money.”

“Enterprise Florida travel guidelines do not comply with official state travel restrictions, even though the entity is using taxpayer funds allocated by the state legislature.  According to an internal audit prepared on March 15, 2012 by McGladrey, only three Enterprise Florida executives, Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope, Chief Operating Officer Griff Salmon and Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Medley, all former employees of the Mississippi Development Authority, gained ‘unlimited signing authority’ on February 7, 2012, to execute contracts and make significant purchases of non-economic development goods and services,” note Krassner and Wilcox.

Since the new authority was granted to these top three executives at Enterprise Florida, here is a sampling of the organization’s questionable expenses:

  • Nearly $22,000 spent on New York Yankee Luxury Suites and related purchases.
  • More than $13,000 spent at the San Diego Zoo.
  • $12,000 spent on Texas Rangers baseball.
  • More than $7,000 spent at Cowboys Stadium.
  • More than $4,000 spent on Atlanta Braves baseball.
  • More than $4,000 spent on limousine services.
  • Nearly $3,300 spent at Truluck’s Seafood Steak & Crab House in Austin, Texas.
  • More than $2,500 spent at the 21 Club.
  • More than $2,000 spent at 4Rivers Smokehouse.
  • More than $1,300 spent on a charter fishing boat.
  • Roughly another $30,000 per month spent on American Express credit cards for unknown expenditures.
  • Thousands more on airfare, luxury resorts and hotels, expensive meals and limousine services.

The people of Florida deserve accountability and transparency within every aspect of our government.  Given the appearance of impropriety, an inspector general report is needed to determine whether the taxpayer resources that support Enterprise Florida are properly protected and whether corrective action is needed.  A company this large, supported by hard-working Florida families, must be held to the highest ethical standards.

Additional Resources:

Integrity Florida letter to Governor Rick Scott “Eliminate government waste at Enterprise Florida, investigation needed” (read more)

“State-run agency accused of abusing taxpayer dollars” Story by Michael Buczyner / CBS 12 NEWS (read more) (watch video)

Enterprise Florida Internal Audit by McGladrey – March 15, 2012 (read more)

Enterprise Florida, Inc. Vendor Payments – January 1, 2012 to August 28, 2013 (read more)

Enterprise Florida receives more than 97% of its funding from taxpayers (read more on page 24) (watch video starting at 1:00:20 about an hour into the video)

  • $57.4 million total 2012-13 budget for Enterprise Florida
  • $56 million (97.6%) in government/public/taxpayer-funded sources
  • $1.4 million (2.4%) from the private sector

Bipartisan efforts to hold Enterprise Florida accountable with bills filed for the 2014 legislative session:

  • Applies state ethics code to Enterprise Florida staff – CS/SB 846: Governmental Ethics GENERAL BILL by Senate Ethics and Elections Commission; Senator Jack Latvala (read more)
  • Strengthening Enterprise Florida disclosure practices and fiscal accountability SB 1270: Economic Incentive Programs GENERAL BILL by Senator Eleanor Sobel (read more)
  • Strengthening Enterprise Florida disclosure practices and fiscal accountability HB 1103: Economic Incentive Programs GENERAL BILL by Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez (read more)

Dick Cheney: Obama would ‘much rather spend the money on food stamps’ than military

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday accused President Barack Obama of cutting the defense budget because “he would rather spend money on food stamps.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/QMev7cfceG4[/youtube]

The Pentagon announced on Monday plans to shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels, in addition to eliminating the Air Force’s A-10 fleet and retiring the Cold War-era U-2 spy plane program.

“Absolutely dangerous,” Cheney told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “I, obviously, have not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama but this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military.”

“They’re basically making the decision, the Obama administration, that they no longer want to be dominant on the seas and the skies and in space,” the former vice president added. “This notion that we no longer want to have a force that’s capable of any sustained occupation of a foreign territory, that’s a basic fundamental decision that drives — supposedly justifies this. But lots of times, you don’t get to make that choice. Circumstances will make that choice for you.”

Cheney said that his “old friends” in the Middle East had told him that they no longer trusted the United States to use military power when it was necessary.

“I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it’s driven by budget considerations,” he insisted. “He would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

“Pretty frightening,” Hannity agreed.

Questionable Investigative Practices by the Florida Department of Education: A Tale of two Schools

Akin to the disparity in disciplinary actions of two teachers, Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, due to Adobegate, there seems to be a disparity of actions undertaken by the Florida Department of Education concerning cheating in two Miami-Dade high schools: Miami Norland Senior High School and North Miami Senior High School.

In a recent Miami Herald article, state Rep. Daphne Campbell decried the treatment of North Miami Senior High School in that the school still has a grade of “Incomplete” though it was cleared of cheating by the school district.

On January 28, 2014, Rep. Campbell sent a letter to Florida’s Commissioner of Education urging the state to replace the high school’s “incomplete” status and issue a letter grade, which would have been given in December.

“This is ridiculous,” Campbell is quoted as saying in a press release. “There is no reason why a school should have to wait to receive a report for their institution.”

FLDOE maintains that the “Incomplete” was given and is still in place as a state contractor that highlights highly unusual test scores again zeroed in on the school.

A school district investigation found nothing wrong or unusual, but the FLDOE is still reviewing the latest round of test results and can’t comment until the investigation is over per state law.

What lingers is a question of fairness: How is it that Miami Norland Senior High School has had significant instances of cheating the past two school years but yet was awarded school grades of “A” and Florida School Recognition Program and federal (RTTT, SIG) funds with no impediment or controversy, but North Miami Senior High School was suspected of cheating the past two schools years, eventually cleared, but has had its grades and incentive funding delayed to the angst of the school community?

For whatever reasons, did the FLDOE give Norland a free pass and decided to stick it to North Miami the past two school years?

By examining the evidence, the answer seems to be an overwhelming “yes.”

With the assistance of cheating, undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, and perhaps other persons unknown, Miami Norland’s school grade went from a “C” for the 2010-11 school year to an “A” for the 2011-12 school year.

As a result, total federal funds (SIG, RTTT) given out due to a grade influenced by cheating was $100,560; the total state funds per FSRP was between $130,000- $140,000; the total overall combined federal and state incentive funds were $230,560- $240,560.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41 from all three payouts.

During the 2011-2012 school year at Miami Norland Senior High School, there was proven, not suspected cheating as in North Miami’s case, cheating per student and teacher testimony and evidence in the form of cheat sheets and confessions. The only questions were the size and the scope of the cheating and who were all the people involved.

The Auditor General of Florida and the Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General was in possession of this evidence as of early May 2012 and the Florida Department of Education knew soon thereafter as I confirmed with FLDOE personnel over the phone in September 2012, which was three months before the high schools grades were released in December 2012.

If the Florida Department of Education handled the case at Miami Norland Senior High School the same way that it did at North Miami Senior High School, the “A” grade would not have been awarded in December 2012 and the payouts would not have occurred; rather, Miami Norland Senior High School would have received an “I” in the summer of 2012 and when the investigation concluded on Monday, August 26, 2013, with the issuance of the Final Miami-Dade OIG Report, the “I” would have been changed to an “F” and none of the $230,000-$240,000 in combined federal and state incentive funds would have been disbursed.

Yet Norland got the grade and the money and North Miami had to wait almost nine agonizing months to get their school grade and incentive funds.

For the 2012-2013 school year, history repeated itself for both schools.

As stated by the Test Chairperson at a faculty meeting on October 22, 2013, Miami Norland Senior High School led the State of Florida in FCAT invalidations as 13 student exams were invalidated for the 2012-2013 school year, a year after Adobegate, yet the school has not been assigned an “I” for “Incomplete” for the 2012-13 school year per past state practices.

In late December 2013, Norland was given an “A” and state incentive funds are scheduled to be paid out whereas North Miami has an “Incomplete” and left to twist in the wind once again.

Why did the FLDOE not award Norland an “Incomplete” and/or invalidate the “A” as there was confirmed cheating?

One would think what befell North Miami, though the school was eventually cleared of cheating, the past two years from the FLDOE would be appropriate for Norland as cheating on grand scales has actually been confirmed the past two school years.

Perhaps the Legislature should examine these split decisions handed out by the FLDOE and pass a law setting clear and consistent guidelines for the FLDOE to follow concerning schools and suspected standardized test cheating to prevent other schools from suffering the injustices that North Miami has endured the past two school years while Norland, and perhaps other like schools, were awarded school grades and incentive funds with impunity.

BUSTED: Wendy Davis supporters caught red-handed trying to cheat and steal Texas election

James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas does it again. O’Keefe posted his latest investigative video showing supporters of Texas politician Wendy Davis trying to steal an election.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/gXKwQI_0kDI[/youtube]

The following is the full text from Project Veritas video post:

In one of our most recent videos a Battleground Texas volunteer talks about forging signatures on official voting documents (which is voter fraud) nonchalantly saying, “It happens all the time.”

She’s right it, it does. And Project Veritas has the proves it in this latest video.

Battleground Texas Field Organizer Jennifer Longoria was caught on camera multiple times making statements such as, “So every time we register someone to vote we keep their name and number.”

Doing so however, is illegal. According to the Secretary of State, it is unlawful to transcribe, copy, or otherwise record a telephone number furnished on a voter registration application.

And if they can get Texans to vote, Longoria says, they can “change the elections pretty drastically.”

The raw video can be found at http://Youtube.com/VeritasVisuals.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of LifeNews.com.

ABOUT PROJECT VERITAS

Project Veritas is non-partisan and does not advocate for political candidates or parties. The purpose of Project Veritas’ investigations is to expose waste, fraud, dishonesty and self-dealing. Stay up to date on who responds by following us on Facebook at http://Facebook.com/ProjectVeritas and on Twitter @Project_Veritas. Support Project Veritas’ investigations at http://ProjectVeritas.com/donate

Who are the top all-time political donors from 1989-2014? You will be surprised!

American voters are increasingly concerned about the growing influence of money in the electoral process. Politicians and candidates are increasingly addicted to raising money, and with it comes political influence from donors. With political influence comes government fraud, waste and abuse. The major political parties have sophisticated systems for raising funds. So who are the top all-time political donors? If you listen to Democrats it is the Koch brothers. Republicans mention George Soros. Neither came close to making the all-time top list.

Opensecrets.org has compiled a list of the top “all-time donors” from 1989 to 2014. The totals include reported contributions from PACs and individuals affiliated with Heavy Hitter organizations, which are defined as the top overall donors to candidates, parties, Leadership PACs and other committees.

Contributions to outside groups like super PACs do not factor into an organization’s designation as a Heavy Hitter, however the totals below do include contributions by Heavy Hitters to such groups, as well as contributions to candidates, parties, Leadership PACs and other committees. Furthermore, the totals do not include contributions to politically active nonprofits, which are not disclosed to the public. For a full list of top top overall donors by cycle, independent of Heavy Hitters status, go here.

LEGEND:   Republican    Democrat    On the fence


 
  
= Between 40% and 59% to both parties
= Leans Dem/Repub (60%-69%)
= Strongly Dem/Repub (70%-89%)
= Solidly Dem/Repub (over 90%)
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% as money can be given to third party
candidates or outside spending groups and PACs not affiliated with either party.
Rank Organization Total ’89-’12 Dem % Repub % Tilt
1 ActBlue $97,192,340 99% 0%     
2 American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees $60,667,379 81% 1%   
3 AT&T Inc $56,449,317 41% 57%
4 National Education Assn $53,594,488 61% 4%
5 National Assn of Realtors $51,207,902 44% 47%
6 Goldman Sachs $44,847,951 53% 44%
7 Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $44,478,789 92% 1%     
8 United Auto Workers $41,667,858 71% 0%   
9 Carpenters & Joiners Union $39,260,371 74% 9%   
10 Service Employees International Union $38,395,690 84% 2%   
11 Laborers Union $37,494,010 85% 7%   
12 American Federation of Teachers $36,713,325 89% 0%   
13 Communications Workers of America $36,188,135 86% 0%   
14 Teamsters Union $36,123,209 88% 5%   
15 JPMorgan Chase & Co $34,527,277 48% 51%
16 United Food & Commercial Workers Union $33,756,550 86% 0%   
17 United Parcel Service $32,214,128 35% 64%
18 Citigroup Inc $32,198,122 48% 50%
19 National Auto Dealers Assn $31,818,910 31% 68%
20 Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union $31,313,097 98% 1%     
21 EMILY’s List $31,267,654 98% 0%     
22 American Bankers Assn $31,135,202 36% 63%
23 AFL-CIO $30,938,977 61% 3%
24 American Medical Assn $29,990,879 40% 59%
25 Microsoft Corp $29,245,015 55% 43%
26 National Beer Wholesalers Assn $28,976,510 35% 64%
27 Blue Cross/Blue Shield $28,491,678 36% 63%
28 General Electric $27,741,628 47% 51%
29 National Assn of Home Builders $27,509,880 34% 65%
30 Lockheed Martin $27,246,173 42% 57%
31 Bank of America $26,822,749 41% 57%
32 National Assn of Letter Carriers $26,106,359 84% 9%   
33 Morgan Stanley $26,074,770 42% 56%
34 Verizon Communications $25,490,499 40% 59%
35 Deloitte LLP $24,979,333 35% 63%
36 Time Warner $24,463,922 72% 25%   
37 Newsweb Corp $24,387,371 41% 0%
38 Credit Union National Assn $24,056,155 47% 51%
39 Plumbers & Pipefitters Union $23,886,248 85% 4%   
40 Altria Group $23,750,298 28% 70%   
41 Ernst & Young $23,114,243 42% 57%
42 Operating Engineers Union $23,036,848 82% 14%   
43 International Assn of Fire Fighters $22,963,260 79% 16%   
44 American Hospital Assn $22,909,326 52% 46%
45 PricewaterhouseCoopers $22,461,596 35% 64%
46 Sheet Metal Workers Union $22,372,978 95% 2%     
47 American Dental Assn $21,791,508 44% 54%
48 Boeing Co $21,502,737 46% 52%
49 UBS AG $21,354,742 40% 58%
50 Comcast Corp $20,603,390 57% 42%
51 AFLAC Inc $19,822,809 43% 56%
52 National Rifle Assn $19,771,191 17% 82%   
53 Pfizer Inc $19,699,869 35% 64%
54 Northrop Grumman $19,633,964 42% 57%
55 Union Pacific Corp $19,617,968 27% 72%   
56 Air Line Pilots Assn $19,538,047 83% 16%   
57 Honeywell International $19,447,557 44% 54%
58 Natl Assn/Insurance & Financial Advisors $19,305,624 41% 58%
59 Koch Industries $18,083,948 8% 90%     
60 American Postal Workers Union $17,957,308 86% 2%   
61 American Assn for Justice $17,581,358 80% 3%   
62 FedEx Corp $17,506,083 39% 60%
63 Ironworkers Union $17,386,345 92% 6%     
64 Club for Growth $17,271,352 0% 95%     
65 Credit Suisse Group $17,191,340 41% 57%
66 United Transportation Union $17,096,750 87% 11%   
67 New York Life Insurance $16,898,487 49% 50%
68 Raytheon Co $16,864,289 44% 55%
69 National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn $16,552,363 47% 52%
70 General Dynamics $16,549,202 46% 53%
71 Akin, Gump et al $16,463,510 61% 37%
72 United Steelworkers $16,426,444 99% 0%     
73 American Institute of CPAs $15,952,635 41% 58%
74 National Air Traffic Controllers Assn $15,883,050 77% 20%   
75 Chevron $15,826,864 19% 64%
76 Anheuser-Busch $15,612,613 48% 51%
77 Reynolds American $15,574,198 22% 77%   
78 Exxon Mobil $15,220,537 13% 85%   
79 KPMG LLP $15,112,328 34% 65%
80 National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $15,048,560 47% 51%
81 DLA Piper $14,902,117 68% 31%
82 Merrill Lynch $14,865,217 37% 62%
83 Wal-Mart Stores $14,851,004 32% 67%
84 GlaxoSmithKline $14,625,493 30% 69%
85 CSX Corp $14,118,661 34% 65%
86 Walt Disney Co $14,104,107 68% 30%
87 News Corp $13,917,083 58% 41%
88 American Financial Group $13,910,355 15% 73%   
89 Indep Insurance Agents & Brokers/America $13,731,200 34% 64%
90 American Health Care Assn $13,727,858 51% 48%
91 Wells Fargo $13,639,116 36% 61%
92 Associated Builders & Contractors $13,577,082 1% 98%     
93 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance $13,565,554 38% 60%
94 University of California $13,552,056 89% 9%   
95 American Crystal Sugar $13,309,209 61% 37%
96 WPP Group $13,257,197 53% 45%
97 American Society of Anesthesiologists $13,166,537 41% 58%
98 Prudential Financial $13,051,316 49% 50%
99 Southern Co $12,973,439 29% 70%   
100 National Restaurant Assn $12,605,181 16% 83%   
101 Securities Industry & Financial Mkt Assn $12,438,248 40% 59%
102 Human Rights Campaign $12,148,422 89% 8%   
103 MetLife Inc $12,038,047 51% 47%
104 American Optometric Assn $12,034,433 57% 42%
105 Home Depot $11,900,495 25% 74%   
106 American Academy of Ophthalmology $11,895,708 50% 49%
107 Natl Active & Retired Fed Employees Assn $11,802,200 78% 21%   
108 Saban Capital Group $11,683,172 89% 0%   
109 Eli Lilly & Co $11,651,455 31% 67%
110 United Technologies $11,577,894 45% 52%
111 General Motors $11,281,497 38% 60%
112 Associated General Contractors $11,198,897 14% 85%   
113 Painters & Allied Trades Union $11,081,080 85% 12%   
114 National Assn of Broadcasters $11,051,822 44% 55%
115 American Maritime Officers $11,019,831 46% 53%
116 UST Inc $10,930,093 22% 77%   
117 Ford Motor Co $10,739,089 38% 60%
118 Skadden, Arps et al $10,700,094 77% 22%   
119 BellSouth Corp $10,680,784 43% 56%
120 AIG $10,548,621 49% 50%
121 Seafarers International Union $10,449,415 83% 15%   
122 Exelon Corp $10,448,670 43% 56%
123 National Cmte to Preserve Social Security & Medicare $10,391,306 82% 17%   
124 Independent Community Bankers of America $10,367,285 42% 57%
125 Amway/Alticor Inc $10,312,313 0% 97%     
126 Freddie Mac $10,294,709 43% 56%
127 MBNA Corp $10,282,913 16% 83%   
128 Patton Boggs LLP $10,134,606 71% 27%   
129 American Airlines $10,071,131 43% 55%
130 American Trucking Assns $9,975,648 27% 72%   
131 American Physical Therapy Assn $9,795,983 49% 50%
132 Lehman Brothers $9,729,764 52% 46%
133 Blackstone Group $9,658,975 46% 51%
134 National Fedn of Independent Business $9,616,283 6% 93%     
135 Greenberg Traurig LLP $9,546,903 62% 37%
136 Transport Workers Union $9,531,899 95% 4%     
137 American Council of Life Insurers $9,454,728 38% 61%
138 Amalgamated Transit Union $9,453,918 93% 6%     
139 Harvard University $9,436,590 87% 12%   
140 Archer Daniels Midland $9,394,067 42% 57%
141 Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn $9,337,413 43% 56%
142 Fannie Mae $9,140,977 53% 46%
143 National Rural Letter Carriers Assn $9,021,100 71% 28%   
144 Wachovia Corp $8,575,944 30% 69%
145 National Cmte for an Effective Congress $8,447,690 99% 0%     
146 Interpublic Group $8,286,183 66% 32%
147 Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn $8,155,379 73% 25%   
148 Bristol-Myers Squibb $7,926,699 23% 76%   
149 MCI Inc $7,659,226 45% 54%
150 Bear Stearns $7,280,973 55% 43%
151 BP $6,843,520 30% 69%
152 Enron Corp $6,544,528 28% 71%   
153 Andersen $6,267,045 37% 62%
154 Vivendi $6,037,717 60% 33%
155 MGM Resorts International $5,831,055 45% 47%
156 Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp $5,089,791 39% 60%

Based on data released by the FEC on December 16, 2013.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics. For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center. See something wrong or want to suggest an improvement? Contact us.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Svilen.milev. The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Obama Wants to Waste a Billion on “Climate Change”

Barack Obama will be remembered for many things during his two terms in office, but high on the list, right after lying to everyone about everything, will be his determination to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on every Green scheme from solar and wind energy to electric cars, and now on “climate change.”

He is calling for a billion-dollar climate change fund in his forthcoming budget, due out next month. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the fund “would be spent on researching the projected effects of climate change and helping Americans prepare for them, including with new technology and infrastructure, according to the White House.

We don’t need any research and we don’t need any new technology. The National Weather Service has hugely expensive computers that enable it to predict what the weather will be anywhere in the U.S. with some measure of accuracy for up to three or four days. After that, it gets fuzzy. What will the weather be next week? Well, maybe a bit warmer or a bit colder.

As for the effects of weather events, we have centuries of knowledge regarding this. We know what happens after a blizzard or a hurricane, a drought or a flood.

When a huge storm like Sandy hit the East Coast, we had FEMA that was supposed to come in and help the victims. The federal government also came up with a couple of million for the States most affected, but it is still a problem that local first responders and utilities have to address most directly.

Obama was out in California to show his concern for the drought-stricken farmers and the administration is speeding delivery of $100 million of aid to livestock farmers, $15 million for areas hit hardest, and $60 million for California food banks to help the poor. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pointed out that the drought has been “exacerbated by federal and state regulations” including an environmental rule that placed “the well-being of fish…ahead of the well-being” of communities.

Like Rep. McCarthy, those on the scene point out that the drought is in part the result of the failure to restore the water flow from California’s water-heavy north to farmers in the central and south. House Bill 3964 does that, but only if the Senate will stop holding it up. Rep. McCarthy is joined by Rep. Devin Nunes explaining that California’s system of aqueducts and storage tanks was designed long ago to take advantage of rain and mountain runoff from wet years and store it for use in dry years.

As Investors.com pointed out, “Environmental special interests managed to dismantle the system by diverting water meant for farms to pet projects, such as saving delta smelt, a baitfish. That move forced the flushing of three million acre-feet of water originally slated for the Central Valley into the ocean over the past five years.”

Obama made no mention of that, but it is an example of how, in the name of climate change billions are wasted or lost, such as when the outcry over Spotted Owls caused a vast portion of the Northwest’s timber industry was decimated by the false claim that they were “endangered.”

All this traces back to the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program. The IPCC was given a formal blessing by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 43/53.

And what has the IPCC done? It has championed the utterly false claim that carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for warming the Earth and that all the industries and other human activities that create CO2 emissions had to reduce them in order to save the Earth. In 2007 the IPCC and Al Gore would share a Nobel Peace Prize. As an organization and as an individual these two have proved to be the among the greatest liars on planet Earth.

Cover - Climate Change Reconsidered IIDr. Craig D. Idso, PhD, is the founder and chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. He is an advisor to The Heartland Institute and, with Dr. Robert M. Carter and Dr. S. Fred Singer, authored the 2011 study, “Climate Change Reconsidered”, for the entertainingly named NIPCC—Not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Published by The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank that has led the effort to expose the IPCC since 2009, sponsoring eight international conferences, the report was updated in 2013 and a new update is due in March.

Writing in The Hill on January 30, Dr. Idso said “the President’s concerns for the planet are based upon flawed and speculative science; and his policy prescription is a recipe for failure” noting that “literally thousands of scientific studies have produced findings that run counter to his view of future climate.”

“As just one example, and a damning one at that, all of the computer models upon which his vision is based failed to predict the current plateau (the cooling cycle) in global temperature that has continued for the past 16 years. That the Earth has not warmed significantly during this period, despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric CO2, is a major indictment of the model’s credibility in predicting future climate, as well as the President’s assertion that debate on this topic is ‘settled’.”

“The taxation or regulation of CO2 emissions is an unnecessary and detrimental policy option that should be shunned,” said Dr. Idso. Unfortunately for Americans, that is precisely the policy being driven by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Department of the Interior and other elements of the government.

So the trip to California with its promise of more million spent when, in fact, the Green policies of that State have caused the loss of the Central lands that produce a major portion of the nation’s food stocks, reveals how utterly corrupt Obama’s climate-related policies have been since he took office in 2009.

Billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered by the crony capitalism that is the driving force behind the IPCC’s and U.S. demands for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

There is climate change and it has been going on for 4.5 billion years on planet Earth. It has everything to do with the Sun, the oceans, volcanic activity and other natural factors. It has nothing to do with the planet’s human population.

What is profoundly disturbing is the deliberate political agenda behind the President’s lies and Secretary of State John Kerry’s irrational belief that climate change is the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

RELATED VIDEO: Charles Krauthammer on Climate Change, “All of this is driven by this ideology, which in and of itself is a matter of almost theology.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/g6Zswes9TsY[/youtube]

Yellen: I Helped Blow Up The World

The most-destructive terrorists do not use guns or bombs.  They use their power and influence to lie in public, backed by force of law, destroying people, industry and even entire nations and their governments.  They are found in the halls of finance, and the more-powerful they are the worse they are.  Today, the head of same is found in the Federal Reserve, seated before Congress in the form of ChairSatan Janet Yellen.

First, let me acknowledge the important contributions of Chairman Bernanke. His leadership helped make our economy and financial system stronger and ensured that the Federal Reserve is transparent and accountable. I pledge to continue that work.

Uh huh.  The man who first claimed subprime is contained, who in fact invented and promoted the policies that led to the housing bubble in the first place (people seem to forget that) and then who invented and promoted the policies that have now led to the largest global asset bubble in history (second only to the one he built first, and which exploded in his face.)

The unemployment rate has fallen nearly a percentage point since the middle of last year and 1-1/2 percentage points since the beginning of the current asset purchase program. Nevertheless, the recovery in the labor market is far from complete.

There has been no recovery in employment rate of the population.  At all.

Since anyone driven from the workforce by Fed policy doesn’t count as “unemployed” Yellen’s statement is akin to arguing that the natural death rate has not gotten worse over time which may well be true but if you’re shooting people by the busload there are still more people dying — and you’re responsible for their deaths.

Among the major components of GDP, household and business spending growth stepped up during the second half of last year.

Uh huh.  All of it borrowed, I might add.  Median household income adjusted for inflation is not rising.  Therefore all of this increased spending must be borrowed money, which is not an improvement in the common man’s situation.

The same is true with businesses; they never saw their indebtedness decrease — not even in the depths of the recession.

We have been watching closely the recent volatility in global financial markets. Our sense is that at this stage these developments do not pose a substantial risk to the U.S. economic outlook.

The Fed caused that volatility.

Our current program of asset purchases began in September 2012 amid signs that the recovery was weakening and progress in the labor market had slowed.

There has been no recovery.  Not in inflation-adjusted incomes nor in the employment rate of the population.  Neither has improved one iota since 2009.  Borrowing more money is not an “improvement” as incomes must rise net-net to service the new debt.  They haven’t.

The Committee has emphasized that a highly accommodative policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after asset purchases end.

Of course you have.  The government is blowing more money than it takes in too, and you know full well that this can’t continue forever either, but you won’t take the candy away from the baby – even when told, point-blank as Bernanke was on multiple occasions over the last few years, that Congress is incapable of rational fiscal management on its own without being forced to do so by market-based borrowing costs.

Regulatory and supervisory actions, including those that are leading to substantial increases in capital and liquidity in the banking sector, are making our financial system more resilient. Still, important tasks lie ahead. In the near term, we expect to finalize the rules implementing enhanced prudential standards mandated by section 165 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. We also are working to finalize the proposed rule strengthening the leverage ratio standards for U.S.-based, systemically important global banks. We expect to issue proposals for a risk-based capital surcharge for those banks as well as for a long-term debt requirement to help ensure that these organizations can be resolved. In addition, we are working to advance proposals on margins for noncleared derivatives, consistent with a new global framework, and are evaluating possible measures to address financial stability risks associated with short-term wholesale funding. We will continue to monitor for emerging risks, including watching carefully to see if the regulatory reforms work as intended.

This is the biggest lie of all.

Derivatives are nothing other than a scam intended to get around margin requirements that would otherwise be imposed by the market in the absence of government bailouts and guarantees.  The “financial system” has repeatedly demonstrated that it has both, with the most-outrageous example of same being when Paulson and Bernanke literally corralled Congresspeople into a room and threatened them with economic nuclear winter if they didn’t get a $700 billion blank check.

That “need” came about due to The Fed and Congressional willful blindness toward the outright fraudulent declarations of “adequate” margin supervision and reserves against said positions.  What 2008 laid bare on the table was that these claims were outright lies, that is, public frauds, and yet none were either prosecuted nor were the firms that had made such outrageous and false statements allowed to fail, with only a couple of exceptions.

The fundamental reality is that The Fed believes, despite decades of proof otherwise, that it can successfully “manage” the business cycle and continually pump up asset bubbles without consequence. The problem with such an assertion is that every time The Fed has done this to date throughout history the balloon has found a pin and popped with dramatic consequence, and what’s worse, the severity of those excursions in terms of real-world economic impact has risen with each successive attempt and failure.

The Market Ticker

In-depth Report: Following the political money in Florida

Whenever you find corruption and cronyism in government the first thing to do is follow the money. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10. Politicians are known for piercing themselves, repeatedly.

Two organizations are helping shine the light of day on how money is used in Florida campaigns.

Dan Krassner, Co-Founder and Executive Director Integrity Florida and Ben Wilcox, Research Director Integrity Florida, in an email state, “Florida is considering replacement of its outdated website for tracking money in politics with a statewide electronic filing system for all state and local campaign finance data.”

As this potential solution is reviewed by policymakers to help the public follow the money, the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University and Integrity Florida, today, released the latest installment in the Tough Choices report series:

Tough Choices: Best Practices in Campaign Finance and Public Access to Information. The report, an in-depth analysis of Florida’s campaign finance policies compared to other states in the U.S., found that Florida’s 2013 reform legislation set the right path, but more could be done to improve transparency.

“I am proud of our progress in making Florida’s campaign finance reporting system more transparent through stricter reporting requirements,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford. “We can always do more to increase transparency and accountability, and I appreciate the LeRoy Collins Institute’s and Integrity Florida’s thoughtful suggestions.”

The report found:

The 2013 Florida law on campaign finance is clearly moving the state toward more transparency, aligning with the state’s proud open government culture. The raising of campaign finance limits, while controversial, positions the state near the median of the country, and the call for a comprehensive state-local campaign finance data set will make it easier for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable. While the legislative call for an enhanced statewide campaign finance website that includes local data is an ambitious project, it has tremendous potential to provide valuable information to Floridians and strengthen the Sunshine State’s reputation for open government.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to review the Florida Division of Elections proposal.

U.S. is Going Bankrupt One City at a Time

Time to start watching U.S. cities go bankrupt. Prior to Detroit, there was Stockton, California, and, according to Stephen Moore, now the chief economist with the Heritage Foundation, there are more than sixty of the largest cities that “are plagued with the same kinds of retirement legacy costs that sent Detroit in Chapter 9 bankruptcy” last year.

“Keep an eye on ‘too big to fail’ cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York,” he warned. Among the twenty cities he listed in an August 2013 Newsmax article, he cited Compton and Oakland, CA, Harrisburg, PA, and Providence, RI. What these and other cities have in common is that “the vast majority are located in states with forced unions, non-right-to-work states.”

As Steve Stanek, a research fellow with the Heartland Institute, reported, when a federal judge, Stephen Rhodes, cleared the way for Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, in December, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFCCME) immediately filed a notice of appeal, but Detroit has more than 100,000 creditors. As its emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, said, “The reality is the city has no cash on hand to pay the magnitude of the debt we have, which is $12 billion–$5.7 billion of which has to do with health care obligations, $3.5 billion has to do with pensions, and $2 billion has to do with bondholders.”

At the time it declared bankruptcy, Detroit had 47 different public employee unions. The Detroit Water & Sewer Department had a farrier (a horse-shoer) who received $56,000 in pay and benefits every year even though the city had no horses in the department.

As Moore points out, “For at least the last 20 years major U.S. cities have been playgrounds for left-wing experiments—high taxes on the rich; sanctuaries for illegal immigrants; super-minimum wage rules; strict gun-control laws; regulations and paperwork that makes it onerous o open a business or develop on your own property; crony capitalism with contracts going to political donors and friends; and failing schools ruled by teacher unions, with little competition or productivity.”

The legacy costs of pensions and health benefits to retired teachers and municipal retirees force “city managers and mayors are forced to lay off firefighters, police and teachers. Detroit,” Moore noted, “has three retired city workers collecting a pension for every two currently working.”

Cover - The Great WithdrawalRecently published, “The Great Withdrawal” by Craig R. Smith with Lowell Ponte examines the damage that progressive programs and policies have done to cities and to the nation. A nation with a $17 trillion debt who’s President has only one answer, raise the debt limit, will encounter a financial Armageddon if the spending and borrowing is not sharply curtailed.

Craig and Ponte point to 1913 as the year progressive, collectivist ideas “took control of the United States government and began a ‘fundamental transformation’ of our economy, politics, culture and beliefs that continues today.”

Citing Detroit as an example of the result of liberal, progressive policies, Smith said that “by 2013 (it) had become a war zone of urban strife, poverty, decay and government profligacy.”

Recall that President Obama claimed he had “saved” General Motors and Chrysler with bailouts that cost taxpayers “at least $25 billion that will never be paid back. At least a billion of these tax dollars went to improve GM facilities in Brazil, and at least $550 million went to GM facilities in Mexico.” Chrysler is now owned by the Italian automaker, Fiat.

Bond holders are major investors in cities and corporations, but the GM bailout denied payment to secured bondholders and redistributed their rightful share to the United Auto Workers. “As a result, today’s bonds are viewed as an investment with uncertain risk,” says Smith. In 2013, investors withdrew $80 billion from bond funds.”

As Smith points out, “The progressive method of operation was, and is, that when the economy is good, they raise taxes and expand government. When the economic cycle turns negative, the politicians blame others, refuse to reduce government—and, increasingly, use the bad economy as a reason for expanding government and spending even more.”

This describes what President has been doing since first elected in 2008. For the entirety of his first term, he blamed everything on President George W. Bush.

“Put simply,” says Smith, “most progressive cities are welfare city-states in which a large percentage of the population lives on government money, either as government dependents or government employees.” This description fits the nation as well.

How bad are the present times? “27 percent of Americans have no savings at all, 46 percent have savings of less than $800, and 76% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.”

With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—the Congressional Budget Office released a report predicting that, over the next decade, it will cost the nation about 2.3 million jobs and contribute to a $1 trillion increase in projected deficits.

Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes that it contains massive marriage penalties that discriminate against married people, huge work disincentives for some older workers, has slashed hiring, cut economic growth, and induced employers to replace full-time workers with part-time employees. In the process, millions have seen their healthcare policies canceled or replaced with policies with higher premiums and deductibles.

There are already 92 million Americans who are unemployed or ceased looking for work. There are 47 million on food stamps.

The ultimate progressive, President Obama, is impoverishing millions of Americans. Unlike Detroit, America cannot declare bankruptcy. It can only collapse if voters do not replace those Senators and Representatives that voted for Obamacare and who refuse to take the steps to reduce government spending and borrowing. We have three years in which to survive Obama.

© Alan Caruba, 2014