Local Opposition Springs Up Against Federal Water Rule

Federal regulators have stirred up a hornets nest with their proposed expansion of federal power over bodies of water.

The proposed “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule would expand EPA’s and the Army Corps’ of Engineers authority over bodies of water beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). It would give federal officials more control over how farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, home builders, and local governments can use their property and subject it to new layers of costly reviews and permitting.

This threat has motivated resistance. For example, Nebraska farmers have organized in opposition:

In a show of solidarity, seven Nebraskan farm and ranch groups on Tuesday announced a coalition dubbed Common Sense Nebraska formed to fight the rule, which they called a power grab by the EPA.

“What the EPA is proposing would be very disruptive to farming and ranching,” Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation President Steve Nelson said. “What this proposal does goes well beyond what is necessary to control water quality, and it really begins to be a land control issue. It would affect every possible thing farmers and ranchers could do on the land.”

Nelson said the rule would erode local control and lead to federal regulation of everything from building fences to crop rotation to application of fertilizer and pesticides.

“We’re making a strong effort here to help people understand the best we can what the rule says and encouraging everyone to get involved here and comment on the rule,” he said.

An Arkansas county government is also resistant to the water rule:

The Baxter County Quorum Court passed a resolution Tuesday night expressing opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency and Corps of Engineers proposed rule to clarify, or according to others expand, the definition of navigable waters in the Clean Water Act.

The EPA has said that the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.

“What we’re reacting to is some of the summations they’ve come up with,” Pendergrass said. “Some of the definitions are not clear.”

According to the EPA, the purpose of the rule is to provide clarity as to what “navigable waters” are.

“It’s a play on words, it’s the legal jargon that they use, and it allows them to interpret it as to what navigable waters is under the Clean Water Act,” Pendergrass said.

Pendergrass said he has not spoken to the EPA. He said that the resolution is what voices his concern and he intends to ensure federal delegation understand his position. He said he thinks several counties are releasing similar resolutions and that it’s a statewide effort.

“Because our economy is based upon the waters we have in Baxter County and surrounding areas, we’re as sensitive to environmental damage to our water as anybody,” Pendergrass said.

Opposition like this has put EPA on the defensive. It’s arguing that the proposed rule is “not a sea change” and will not force farmers to apply for federal permits to work their land. In a blog post, Nancy Stoner, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, writes:

The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule does not regulate new types of ditches, does not regulate activities on land, and does not apply to groundwater. The proposal does not change the permitting exemption for stock ponds, does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle, and does not regulate puddles.

Instead, the proposed rule “will bring clarity and consistency to the process, cutting red tape and saving money.”

However, EPA’s ambiguous language appears to leave the door wide open for a massive expansion of its regulatory authority. In her blog post, Stoner writes that the Clean Water Act [emphasis mine]

didn’t just defend the mighty Mississippi or our Great Lakes; it also protected the smaller streams and wetlands that weave together a vast, interconnected system. It recognized that healthy families and farms downstream depend on healthy headwaters upstream.

WOTUS critics fear that EPA will use this interconnectedness argument to claim authority over ditches and fields that occasionally have standing water, as Sandy Bauers of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

The fields on Mark Scheetz’s 22-acre family farm in West Rockhill Township, Bucks County, have ditches, which prevent soil erosion during heavy rains. Ninety percent of the time, they’re dry. But what if the EPA came in and said he couldn’t farm within 150 feet? He’d still have to maintain land he couldn’t use and pay taxes on it.

“The real concern here is that farmers won’t find out which wet spot, which pond, which gully, which ditch is considered to be a water of the U.S. until the EPA or an environmental group brings a legal action against the farmer,” said John Bell, government affairs counsel for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “Farmers deserve a lot more clarity than that.”

A broad coalition of agricultural, construction, manufacturing, housing, real estate, mining, and energy, groups have united to oppose this expansion of federal regulatory power. Now we see that local opposition has sprouted. They all agree that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should “Ditch the Rule.”

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by photographer: Sam Beebe/Flickr. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Food Deserts or Just Deserts? by Stewart Dompe, Adam C. Smith

The regulatory consequences of the farm bill and other interventions.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 23 million Americans live in so-called food deserts. A food desert is defined as an urban neighborhood or rural town without access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. The argument goes that lack of access leads to poor dietary choices and a higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The proposed solution is a series of government grants (i.e., subsidies) that will be given to anyone, including residents, businesses, non-profits, colleges and universities, and community development corporations. There are at least 19 programs from three departments (Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture) that offer grants and other resources to combat food deserts. To the rescue!

The reality, however, is that this new policy is an attempt to redress the unintended consequences of existing policy. The stated problem of a food desert is that fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable at affordable prices in low-income areas. The issue here is not low prices but relative prices. Low-income consumers have a choice of how to spend their food budget and obviously want the most caloric bang for their buck. Even if fruits and vegetables were available at lower prices, they must compete against heavily subsidized processed foods containing carbohydrates and corn syrup.

Where do these subsidies come from? Meet America’s favorite barrel of pork, the farm bill. Whenever someone bemoans partisan gridlock, gently remind them that the farm bill always passes with bipartisan support and, in its 2014 iteration, has a price tag of nearly $1 trillion. For years the farm bill has heavily subsidized the production of wheat, corn, and soybeans with the intended consequence of lowering the prices of products containing those goods.

So it’s no surprise—at least for anyone who recalls from their principles of economics class that demand curves slope downward—that Americans’ consumption of carbohydrates has increased substantially over time. Indeed, we eat 25% more carbohydrates today as part of our daily diet than we did 30 years ago. All sweet treats and candy are cheaper because of corn subsidies, as are breads, cereals, crackers, and everything else containing wheat. A USDA program of farmers markets and community gardens will do little to offset the literal billions spent on corn and wheat subsidies.

Another important issue affecting food availability in rural areas is population density. Those living in far-flung rural communities have to drive many miles to reach a supermarket. Supermarkets compete by offering a wide selection of goods at low prices. Without the population to generate a high turnover, they cannot justify their business model. Supermarkets, however, are not the only source of food services. In several prominent studies, stores with fewer than 20 employees were not counted. This methodology was employed because smaller stores, typically bodegas operating in ethnic neighborhoods, are less likely to have the space for fresh produce or refrigeration. This is a strong bias against smaller, family-owned businesses that operate in areas not traditionally covered by so-called big-box retailers.

Lack of population might explain the problem in rural areas, but regulation is the blight of the urban poor. Cities like New York and Washington, D.C., have made it very hard for companies like Walmart to operate in their cities. They have even passed discriminatory legislation with the express purpose of making it harder for Walmart to do business in those communities. The standard claim against Walmart is that its prices are so low that other businesses can’t compete. But if we’re trying to offer affordable produce to large numbers of people, isn’t that sort of the point? Cities that make it hard for big-box stores to operate hurt their poorest residents. Affluent suburbanites can afford to drive to (and purchase from) Whole Foods and other high-end grocers. For everyone else, zoning laws hurt those that lack the mobility to travel outside the zone or otherwise fail to meet the sticker price of these privileged establishments.

Finally, there is already an existing technological solution to the problem of availability: frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. These goods are high in nutritional content, and their packaging means that stores don’t have to worry about spoilage the way they do for their fresh produce. Fresh food has desirable qualities when it comes to taste and presentation, but it comes at a cost. Consumer demand decides whether a store carries fresh produce or not. Intervening in the market on aesthetic grounds is unlikely to create a good result for those who must actually live with the results.

Food deserts are a result of market forces being channeled through bad regulation. If the government wishes to change how people eat, it would be better off ending farm subsidies and inviting supermarkets into the cities. More generally, we as food consumers should recognize that what’s on the shelf is not just a product of poor consumer choices, but of poor government policies as well.

ABOUT STEWART DOMPE

Stewart Dompe is an instructor of economics at Johnson & Wales University. He has published articles in Econ Journal Watch and is a contributor to the forthcoming Homer Economicus: Using The Simpsons to Teach Economics.

ABOUT ADAM C. SMITH

Adam C. Smith is an assistant professor of economics and director of the Center for Free Market Studies at Johnson & Wales University. He is also a visiting scholar with the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University and coauthor of the forthcoming Bootleggers and Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

True The Vote Files Suit Against Mississippi, State Republican Party

OXFORD, MS. — July 1, 2014: True the Vote (TTV), the nation’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization, today filed suit in federal court against the Mississippi Secretary of State and the State Republican Party, asking the Court to immediately order that election records be shared to inspect for illegal votes ahead of certification for the June 24 U.S. Senate Primary Runoff Election (True the Vote, et. al v. State of Mississippi, et. al. (3:14cv144-MPM-SAA)).

True the Vote and associated plaintiffs argue that the defendants failed to properly abide by federal election record maintenance and open records provisions codified in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Records made partially available to the plaintiffs indicated “double-voting” from Democratic to Republican primaries — potentially diluting votes in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

“All we are asking is that the MS State Republican Party follow the law; allow their designated county representatives to inspect the poll books and ballots, give them the review time they are permitted by law, and allow them to uphold their responsibility to MS voters,” True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said. “True the Vote has been inundated with reports from voters across Mississippi who are outraged to see the integrity of this election being undermined so that politicos can get back to business as usual. Enough is enough.”

“This isn’t about personality, party, or politics. Senators come and go,” Engelbrecht continued. “What must withstand the test of time is the integrity of the process by which we elect our representatives and establish our government. No candidate or party should ever be allowed to twist election laws or subvert voters’ rights in the interest of political ambition.”

True the Vote has closely followed developments surrounding the Mississippi Republican Primary Runoff from the beginning. On June 21, TTV released figures demonstrating unusual voter turnout patterns based on historic data. On June 25, the organization formally requestedthat MS Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef delay certification of the election and share voting records for independent review. Finding no assistance from the state party, TTV and the collected 13 plaintiffs were left no option but to pursue the matter in federal court.

True the Vote’s lawsuit consists of three counts:

Count One: Violation of NVRA’s Public Disclosure Provision. Shortly before the Republican Primary Runoff Election, True the Vote, via its volunteer base, made a valid and timely request to review voter rolls and poll books under the NVRA, but it was denied access to those records.

Count Two: Individual Plaintiffs Allege a Violation of NVRA Based on Conflict with State Laws.Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the NVRA preempts any state requirement calling for public election information to be redacted at the cost of the requestor.

Count Three: Individual Plaintiffs Allege an Equal Protection Violation. Discovering potential instances of “double-voting” between Democratic and Republican primaries are unlawful dilutions of individual votes.

True the Vote engaged legal representation with the firm of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons L.L.P. TTV’s complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Oxford Division.

A copy of the complaint has been made available here.

ABOUT TRUE THE VOTE

True the Vote (TTV) is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) voters’ rights organization, founded to inspire and equip volunteers for involvement at every stage of our electoral process. TTV empowers organizations and individuals across the nation to actively protect the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party affiliation. For more information, please visit www.truethevote.org.

IRS: “No Evidence Of Criminal Wrongdoing”

“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” – Sophocles

This week’s House Oversight Committee hearings on IRS targeting provided a unique visual spectacle at just how insular, defiant and confident the agency is in riding out the targeting scandal.

The agency’s star witness, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, smugly detailed how the agency “accidentally” lost two years of Lois Lerner and six other IRS employees’ emails.

fairtaxlostemails

Click on the image for a larger view.

The same emails that in March the Commissioner testified he would provide; emails sent by Lerner and team during the same period the political targeting of conservative non-profits and at least one U.S. Senator was well underway.

One particularly contentious exchange between Rep. Trey Gowdy and Commissioner Koskinen, highlighted what it is like for the American people when forced to deal with the IRS. After Commissioner Koskinen repeatedly states that he has found “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing” within the agency, Rep. Gowdy demands to know which criminal statutes he has examined to come to his conclusion. The Commissioner confidently answers none, yet boldly asserts that no criminal wrongdoing has taken place.

It is clear that as far as he is concerned, he and he alone has the final say as to what constitutes criminal wrongdoing within the IRS.   

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how an agency that Congress has allowed to operate with total and complete impunity condemns American taxpayers. If the IRS, for any reason, targets you they will act as your sole judge, jury and executioner as they met out their unchecked brand of enforcement justice.

Congress created this problem and Congress needs to now fix it. And fix it they can. There is a solution before them with 75 co-sponsors in the U.S. House – more than any other tax reform legislation. It is the FairTax® Plan. By replacing the current income tax system with the FairTax, the Congress can defund and eliminate the IRS and the systemic corruption that has plagued our nation and her people for 100 years.

The IRS cannot be fixed, repaired or rehabilitated. It is like a cancer upon this nation. Unless you eliminate every single cancer cell everywhere in the body, it will slowly destroy what it has invaded.

The FairTax is the only tax replacement plan that defunds, disbands and eliminates the IRS – in its entirety.

Now is the time for you to share the good news with the American people about the FairTax Plan. Recent polls show they are not buying what the IRS is saying about Lerner’s “lost” emails.

Don’t delay. Don’t loose this opportunity. Don’t wait another day to share this great news.

  • Contact everyone that you can think of – your friends, work associates, neighbors and social media contacts. Tell them how there is an alternative tax system before Congress that eliminates the IRS.
  • Contact your local newspaper. Share your thoughts on how the IRS failed to follow federal law in securing employee emails. Discuss what would happen if you did not secure your yearly filing documentation. Then tell them why you support the FairTax.
  • Bake a cake and invite 5 or 6 friends for dessert. Share the FairTax, Flat Tax, income taxcomparison sheet or give them a FairTax pocket card.  Invite them to join you in the greatest tax revolution of our lifetime.
  • Give a FairTax pocket card to everyone you meet, everywhere you go! Leave a few in the doctor’s office. You can order 1,000 pocket cards for $40 at the FairTax store.
  • Send your most generous donation of $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford. Please make sure that your grassroots leaders know that YOU are standing with them!

It is a great time for the FairTax movement! Just this week another member of Congress came out in support of the FairTax. Representative Scott DesJarlais (TN-4) became the record 75th co-sponsor of H.R. 25, tweeting @DesJarlaisTJN04, “Proud to co-sponsor FairTax legislation”.

He added in his announcement, “The Internal Revenue Service has shown itself to be corrupt, inept and unworthy of the responsibility the agency has been entrusted with….”

Finally, your new grassroots board of directors is hard at work defining a sweeping new strategic plan. Included in this plan is a new and commanding FairTax presence in Washington, D.C., expanded membership opportunities, enhanced fundraising capabilities and aggressive communication and marketing strategies.

Stay tuned, lots of good things are happening with the FairTax campaign.

Okaloosa County, FL Tourist Development Council: A Progressive Slush fund

Does your county or parish or borough have a TDC or Tourist Development Council?

The Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council (TDC) collects money in the form of a bed tax which is nothing more than another “progressive slush fund.” A redistribution hub for wealth taken from folks who stay at hotels. Its yet another tax burden on the local hotels, and another layer of regulation and control placed upon the hospitality services industry.

The time has come for the Okaloosa County Florida Commissioners to shut down and disband the TDC, which practices crony capitalism, and redistributes wealth. If you want to increase tourism then abolish the bed tax. Repealing the bed tax will make hotel rooms in Okaloosa County more competitive. Why does eliminating the the bed tax and with it the TDC make for good public policy? Well lets look at the 2013 audit of the Okaloosa County TDC. Here is what the audit found:

GENERAL FINDINGS

Finding No. 1: The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) did not establish annual budgets for expenditures from restricted resources at the level the resources were restricted, or project budgets for each advertising project and marketing campaign, to ensure that available resources were not overspent.

Finding No. 2: The Tourist Development Council (TDC) and TDC subcommittees performed duties that were not of an advisory nature, contrary to law.

Finding No. 3: The TDC did not continuously review all expenditures of tourist development taxes, contrary to law.

Finding No. 4: The County purchased goods and services from companies or organizations that were affiliated with members of the BCC, TDC, or a TDC subcommittee, contrary to law.

Finding No. 5: The BCC had not adopted a fraud response plan, and the County did not perform periodic fraud risk assessments or establish action plans to implement and monitor fraud controls.

Finding No. 6: The County did not perform and document periodic control risk assessments over the activities of collecting, accounting for, and disbursing restricted resources to identify and respond to identified control risks.

Finding No. 7: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the competitive procurement of goods and services, including the selection of two advertising and marketing firms.

Finding No. 8: The County negotiated and entered into contracts that did not contain adequate provisions to effectively protect the County’s interests.

Finding No. 9: The County did not perform an adequate review or pre-audit of invoices submitted by two advertising and marketing firms, including a comparison of payment requests to the provisions of contracts. As a result, the County paid two advertising and marketing firms $12.1 million without obtaining adequate documentation supporting the goods or services received, including payments of several invoices that incorrectly or inadequately described the actual goods or services purchased.

Finding No. 10: The County did not ensure that goods or services acquired through two advertising and marketing firms were competitively procured.

Finding No. 11: The County paid for certain goods and services in advance of their receipt, including certain goods and services acquired through two advertising and marketing firms, contrary to law and the State Constitution. Some services for which the County paid in advance were not subsequently provided.

Finding No. 12: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the approval of purchases, including purchases made through two advertising and marketing firms.

Finding No. 13: The County did not consistently follow prescribed policies and procedures relating to the use of purchasing cards (p-cards), document the receipt of goods and services purchased with p-cards that were not immediately provided to the purchaser, or document the public purpose served by the p-card expenditures.

TRAVEL

Finding No. 14: The County needed to enhance its policies and procedures to ensure that travel expenditures were preapproved and adequately documented.

SPECIAL EVENTS GRANTS AND SPONSORSHIPS

Finding No. 15: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures relating to special events grants, and the County did not document that the special events grants were used for allowable purposes or were effective in increasing tourism and the use of lodging facilities.

Finding No. 16: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures relating to sponsorships of organizations or events. In addition, the County did not consistently document the purpose for which the sponsorships were provided, that the sponsorships were used for allowable purposes, or that the sponsorships were effective in achieving the purposes for which they were provided.

Finding No. 17: The County paid $2.5 million from tourist development taxes for life-guarding, beach patrol, and beach shuttle services that were not expressly authorized by law.

Finding No. 18: The County paid $117,994 for various goods and services from British Petroleum (BP) grant funds that were, in the past, paid from tourist development taxes, contrary to grant provisions.

Finding No. 19: As part of the Emerald Coast Money Debit Card Program, the County used $207,730 of BP grant funds for purposes that County records did not evidence were allowed by grant provisions.

Finding No. 20: The County overcharged BP $27,063 in connection with medical support services provided, and County records did not adequately support the allow-ability of $385,185 in reimbursements received from BP.

MOTOR VEHICLES

Finding No. 21: The County had not established adequate controls over the use of fuel cards.

ACCOUNTING CONTROLS

Finding No. 22: The County incorrectly classified and recorded certain expenditures in the accounting records, contrary to guidance provided by the Florida Department of Financial Services.

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFERS

Finding No. 23: The BCC had not adopted written policies and procedures, and the County had not established adequate controls, over the authorization and processing of electronic funds transfers.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CONTROLS

Finding No. 24: The County had not established adequate controls over employee access privileges to data and information technology resources.

PUBLIC RECORDS

Finding No. 25: The County did not record minutes of a TDC and TDC subcommittee meeting, contrary to law. In addition, the minutes of the remaining meetings were not signed or otherwise designated to indicate the minutes were the official minutes approved by the TDC or TDC subcommittees. Who was running this redistribution of wealth slush fund when these problems were identified?

TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL EXPENDITURES

A review or test of 45 purchases, totaling $1.2 million and funded from tourist development taxes or BP grant funds, disclosed 3 purchases (6.7 percent), totaling $53,730, that were not approved by one or more required employees, contrary to County purchasing policies and procedures. These payments included a $49,500 payment for production services at beach concerts, a $2,430 payment for promotional golf caps, and an $1,800 payment for two tables of ten people at a dinner and silent auction for a charitable organization.

What we have is a government controlled slush fund used to redistribute the taxpayers hard earned cash. The above listed 25 reasons should be enough to abolish the TDC, which was created in 1986.

I moved to Florida in 1982 and I learned all I needed to know about Florida from friends and by word of mouth. I did not need a TDC to bring me to Florida.

Its time to disband the TDC, abolish the bed tax and get rid of these incredulous burden’s of paper work and wealth redistribution. Lets turn Florida into an example of lower taxes, less government and ever more growth. As for the TDC, it needs to take a long walk off a short turtle protected pier.

TOLD YOU SO!

On June 25, 2014, I spent an hour on the phone with our client and Medicare to get Medicare to correct its erroneous records about our client.  The client is from Valparaiso, Indiana.  We spoke to three Medicare representatives at three offices.

The client is a victim of the Obamacare law (a.k.a. “Affordable Care Act”).  Her employer cancelled the group health insurance plan for all the employees.  This forced them to obtain insurance through other Obamacare approved insurance plans.  Our client had another option.  The client worked past age 65.  So, she could go on Medicare and obtain a Medicare supplement insurance policy with a rather low monthly premium.

She (and all her co-workers) lost her employer’s group health plan coverage on February 28, 2014.  Her Medicare and Medicare supplement coverage started March 1, 2014.

But, when the client and I phoned Medicare on June 25, it had not yet updated the records.  Medicare records still showed that our client was on an employer provided group health insurance plan.  Medicare had not changed our client’s records for about four months.  During that time, the doctors who gave her service were not being paid anything by Medicare and Medicare was not forwarding claims information to the client’s Medicare supplement insurance company.  This tardiness by Medicare was a problem even before Obamacare.

During the Obamacare law debates, I repeatedly warned in my articles that there are problems with both Medicare and the Veterans Administration (VA) health systems.  I knew that because for years I had helped senior citizens who had problems with both of those federal health care systems.  I warned that if a national health care system was modeled on Medicare or the VA, then ALL AMERICANS WOULD START HAVING THE SAME KINDS OF PROBLEMS THAT SENIOR CITIZENS HAVE BEEN EXPERIENCING FOR YEARS UNDER MEDICARE AND THE VA.

Since then, Obamacare became law.  Now, we have learned that the VA was letting senior veterans DIE rather than give them medical service, that VA officials were keeping “off-record” books about the veterans who were not getting medical attention in order for some high level VA officials to claim and get bonuses that they did not deserve for good management.  Also, Medicare still does not have a system for quick changes to records so that medical claims are processed correctly for senior citizens who just start Medicare.

I told you so!  One of the reasons that the Obamacare law is bad is because it just increases and spreads problems that were already in the Medicare and VA health care systems.

If Obamacare remains the law, I expect that in the future the Obamacare law will be amended to allow the federal government to order seniors to die to save the federal government money rather than just recommend that seniors die as is the current law.

EDITORS NOTE: Note: Woodrow Wilcox is the senior medical bill case worker at a major insurance agency in northwest Indiana.  Wilcox has helped senior clients of that agency save over one million by correcting medical bill errors that were caused by mistakes in the Medicare system.  He wrote the book SOLVING MEDICARE PROBLEM$ (www.solvingmedicareproblems.com) to teach others how to help senior citizens with Medicare related medical bill problems.  To educate the public, Wilcox recently launched the website www.ObamacareHurtsSeniors.com.

© 2014 Woodrow Wilcox

A Heartbreaking Unspoken Consequence of Obama

Decades of socialist/progressive indoctrination in our schools, media and culture, plus six years of Obama, has yielded a devastating unspoken consequence. It is the loss of who we use to be as Americans.

In his 1961 Inaugural Address, President John F. Kennedy said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Democrats have perverted Kennedy’s inspiring challenge. Their dispiriting goal is to have as many Americans as possible controlled by and dependent on government, even for life itself, which is at the root of Obamacare.

I mourn the loss of the independent self-reliant mindset which made our parents great; and the pride and dignity it generated within them. Welfare (government assistance) was a last resort and for the truly needy.

Today, far too many Americans see no shame in living on government assistance or scamming the system. The Left’s campaign led by the Obama Administration to instill an entitlement mindset in many has proven successful. The Administration even campaigned targeting minorities, discouraging their instinct to be self-reliant. Even worse, the Administration portrays getting on welfare as the honorable thing to do. Dear Lord, what kind of nation are we becoming?

An unprecedented 47 million Americans are on food stamps which is riddled with fraud. The Obama Administration has added over 10,000 new oppressive job-killing regulations. Consequently, 90 million are unemployed and on unemployment which is also riddled with fraud. Here’s another first for America, over 11 million are receiving disability benefits; riddled with fraud. Clearly, many believe working is for suckers when the government is handing out freebies.

In his War on Achievers, Obama used his bully pulpit to deflate business owners by saying, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” Obama and his operatives use compassionate sounding terms such as “social justice” and “income inequality” to justify the government confiscating the earnings of achievers and redistributing it to non-achievers to win their votes. Despicable.

My heart aches for my America when character, excellence and hard work were rewarded, celebrated and respected.

At 9 or 10 years old, I worked part-time for my neighbor Mr Buddy Roy. I pulled the copper out of old motors for him to sell. I still remember the pride I felt making my own money.

In the early 1950s, blacks were allowed to take the entrance test for the Baltimore City Fire Dept. My dad applied and mom helped. My parents sought opportunity not handouts. Talk about a strong black woman, though compassionate and loving, mom could be a tough no nonsense person.

I remember my parents sitting at the kitchen table, a glass turned upside down between them with mom tapping on the glass with a spoon. She was simulating the different bell sounds which alerted the firefighters to various situations. She would yell at my dad, “No, that’s wrong, stupid! Listen and get it right!” Thanks to my drill sergeant mom, dad was among a hand full of blacks who became Baltimore City’s first black firefighters.

Being a pioneer is never easy. Dad endured humiliating work conditions and blatant racism. Still, dad relished the opportunity. Thanks to his Christian faith, dad won admiration and respect by fighting racism and hate with excellence. He won “Firefighter of the Year” two times.

That mindset of putting ones best foot forward and striving for loftier standards is what I fear we are rapidly losing as Americans. Apparently, character is no longer expected in our leaders. President Obama is caught repeatedly lying to the American people and the response is ho-hum, let’s move on.

The trend is to celebrate deadbeats, entitlement junkies, haters of achievers and assorted low life. For example. The Democrats and mainstream media loved the Occupy Wall Street mobs. People were assaulted and even raped at their angry mob gatherings. Severely infected with an entitlement mindset, Occupiers dumped feces in a public building demanding the government redistribute wealth to them.

Meanwhile, the Left continues their shameful relentless demonizing and slandering the Tea Party with unfounded allegations of racism. The Obama Administration has plotted to criminalize free speech (the Tea Party). Folks, we are talking decent hard-working Americans who are simply pushing back against Obama’s shock and awe assault on our freedoms, liberty and culture.

Tax cheat Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel compared the Tea Party to Hamas terrorists. Either Mr Rangel is a loudmouth clueless idiot or a despicable evil human being. Leftists like Rangel who throw unfounded irresponsible “hate” grenades at millions of Americans should be called on it. Inciting racial division is extremely serious.

Amidst the unbelievably long list of scandals, crimes and misdemeanors of the Obama regime, the damage that this evil man and his minions have done to the internal make-up of many Americans is extremely disturbing and heartbreaking.

Please view me performing my song, “We Are Americans” which I wrote to remind us of who we use to be and I believe a majority still are as Americans. I have faith that the liberal’s, socialist’s and progressive’s toxic disease of entitlement thinking has not reached critical mass.

My fellow Americans, we are exceptional, a chosen people. We are Americans!

James Madison: The Indispensable Founder

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. … 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. …

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. … The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.

Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. … There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

– James Madison

When people are asked to name the Founding Fathers of the nation, they usually reel off Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, the first, second and third Presidents in addition to their earlier role in guiding the Revolution to success.

Occasionally, someone who, like myself, loves history will add Madison, the fourth President, but Lynne Cheney’s new biography of Madison rightly identifies him as the man most responsible “for creating the United States of America in the form we know it today.” It was Madison who guided the process by which the Founders arrived at the Constitution, contributing the fundamental principles it incorporated and writing the Bill of Rights, amendments that ensured its ratification by the original states.

Cover - James MadisonCheney’s biography, “James Madison: A Life Considered” ($36.00, Viking) benefits not only from her scholarship, but from her facility with the written word, making it a continual pleasure to read for a book of 563 pages, including its notes, bibliography, and index. If you were to set aside the summer to read just one book, this would be the one I would recommend.

If Cheney’s name rings a bell, it is because she is the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, but she is also a Ph.D. who has been studying Madison since 1987 when she was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. These days she is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Cheney’s reside in Wilson, Wyoming. She is making the rounds of radio and television shows to promote her book and, most notably, interviewers tend to ignore her book in order to pry an opinion out of her about current events and politics. One gets the feeling that most did not read her book.

Those short in stature and, compared to the other Founders, quite young, all who came to know him swiftly developed a profound respect for his intellect and his knowledge of how governments were structured with some succeeding while others failed. When Madison spoke, they listened. There were in those days “factions” (which today we call political parties) that opposed his and the other Founder’s views.

“Jefferson,” wrote Cheney, “would later say that it was a wonder that Madison accomplished so much as he had, given that he faced ‘the endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations, and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers’” and Madison himself was often struck “by the way that ‘important bills prepared at leisure by skillful hands’ were treated to ‘crudeness and tedious discussion’, and he had seen legislative tricks of the most blatant sort.” So the politics of Madison’s time was not unlike much of today’s.

After the Constitution was written to replace the failed Articles of Confederation it needed to be vigorously defended. America benefited greatly from the fact that its population was highly literate and it was the Federalist papers, a series of essays mostly written by Madison was the way its principles and protections were explained to the public. Chaney notes that the Federalist essay that would eventually become most famous was the first one Madison wrote.

“In Federalist 10, published November 22,1787, he set forth the failures of ‘our governments’ (rather than ‘our states’ where, after all, the Constitution would be ratified), noting the instability and injustices that had caused good citizens across the country to increasingly distrust those governments and feel ‘alarm for private rights.’”

These alarms are reflected in our times by concerns that the President is bypassing Congress to govern by executive orders, is failing to enforce laws with which he disagrees, and that we have a Department of Justice and an IRS that cannot be trusted to apply laws fairly, acting against groups and individuals with whom they disagree such as the Tea Party movement and other conservative organizations. A rogue agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency is so out of control that Congress must at some point exert powerful restraints on it.

What is remarkable about Madison’s time was the fact that he, Jefferson is lifelong friend, and Adams, all lived long lives unlike the bulk of the population. Madison would devote his life to the creation of our extraordinary government and, throughout the early presidencies including his own, to ensuring the existence of the new nation, challenged as it was by Great Britain, first during the Revolution and then in the War of 1812.

On his last day as President, Madison vetoed an improvements bill, “arguing as he had since the days of The Federalist that the general government did not have general powers. It had specified powers, and recognizing its limits was essential to ‘the permanent success of the Constitution.’”

Chaney wrote that Madison understood that “if the limits the Constitution imposed on government were unrecognized, ‘the parchment had better be thrown into the fire at once.”, but Madison was all about protecting the Constitution and the new nation. For that he is owed the gratitude of all the generations that have followed him.

It is now our responsibility to protect it because freedom and liberty always have domestic and foreign enemies

© Alan Caruba, 2014

RELATED VIDEO:

[youtube]http://youtu.be/fpmdkvCe3cY[/youtube]

A Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From: A government agency gets creative with arts funding by Bruce Edward Walker

There’s a new patron in the arts world, one without a name as lofty as The American Arts Council or National Council on the Arts. In fact, it’s a one-word synonym for missed connections, interminable delays, stale candy bars, filthy restrooms, and stained seats. That’s right: Amtrak has decided it’s going to become a veritable Louvre.

Amtrak’s gameplan involves deftly blending individual donations and foundation grants with money from the National Endowment for the Arts and in-kind contributions of its own (tax-funded, for-profit) services.

True, trains are a significant part of the American culture, featuring prominently in ethnic folk songs, country music, and early rock; Buster Keaton, Western oaters, and Thin Man-franchise film classics; and even Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. However, the trains were one subject of the art created rather than the progenitor. In other words, Woody Guthrie, Junior Parker, and Hank Williams wrote songs and Jack Kerouac authored a novel (partially) about riding the rails or hearing the “high, lonesome sound” of the train whistle as both metaphorical and real. In each instance, the train provided some unbidden inspiration for enduring art rather than seducing artists with handouts.

Aggression (modified by opulent sensuality)

Today, though, Amtrak provides something a lot closer to commissions than inspiration. It even shelled out for a painter to blast neon paint on buildngs alongside the tracks. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Amtrak, in tandem with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, commissioned German artist Katharina Grosse to subject her “psychylustro” form of art to 34,000 daily riders exposed to seven sites along the Philadelphia-New Jersey railway corridor.

Art in America described Grosse’s artistic abilities thusly:

Unlike the Action Painters or Expressionists, with their convulsive brushwork and gestures, Grosse never comes into direct contact with the surfaces. Her physical if not psychological detachment seems related to Conceptual art. However, her technique involves a machismo stance, with aggression modified by a kind of opulent sensuality.

The project is expected to cost just under $300,000. Funding comes from a variety of sources, several of them public. Regardless of what one thinks of Grosse’s art, an unprofitable transportation company reliant on public dollars is in no position to patronize something as subjective as artwork.

Training artists and bureaucrats

As I’ve argued in the past, no government or even quasi-government agencies governed by those employed in the arts can predict whether commissioned pieces may or may not present anything of merit. Nor should public monies be spent on exercises appealing to only a few, arbitrated by committees composed of a narrow cross-section of contemporary aesthetics. And what of the artists who toil incessantly without government largesse?

“I can’t remember the last time public art turned out to be a good idea,” Larry Kaufmann told me. Kaufmann is president of The Liberty21 Institute, a new think tank dedicated to promoting a culture of liberty.

“Artists seem inevitably to go for shock value and transgression, and these qualities were already in ample supply the last time I visited an Amtrak station,” Kaufmann said. “I suppose it would be nice if they commissioned something that captured the glory of train travel in the past—but even that would be romantic nostalgia, not anything that captures the reality of today’s Amtrak.”

Kaufmann continued: “Fundamentally, I don’t understand why we’re spending federal funds we don’t have to beautify a transportation service that no one uses outside the Acela corridor. The arts budget would clearly be put to better use elsewhere.”

Even if Grosse’s effort is of merit, it won’t last long. The WSJ reports the installation has a shelf life of only three weeks, as the work involves coloring the outdoors. “After that, the piece will be subject to elements, both human and natural—from erosion to possible gentrification. Its lifespan may vary from a matter of weeks to several months or, potentially, years.”

Not included in the $300,000 price tag are the salaries of the Amtrak engineers who “are overseeing the action at every site during the artwork’s installation.” Further: “For the next six months, the Mural Arts Program and the City of Philadelphia’s Graffiti Abatement Team have pledged to maintain ‘psychylustro’ and protect it from defacement.”

“Fuel your sense of adventure!”

Writers can also get into the act with the Amtrak Residency. The program, according to the website,

Will allow for up to 24 writers to take long-distance trains to work on their projects. Each writer’s round-trip journey will include accommodations on board a sleeper car equipped with a bed, a desk and outlets. We hope this experience will inspire creativity and most importantly fuel your sense of adventure!

Oh, goodie. The New Republic’s Adam Kirsch writes:

As it happens, right around now is the time poets across America are wrestling with the unbelievably complicated online application process for NEA grants. By contrast, the ease and speed with which Amtrak decided to dispense its largesse feels positively humane. There is a certain PR benefit for the railroad company, of course—this is probably the first time in ages that Amtrak has made the news without the words “accident,” “delay,” or “cost overruns” in the headline. But there is also a sense that the people running the railroad actually responded to the idea that, somewhere in America, there are passengers for whom the idea of riding Amtrak is a dream, not a chore.

But, of course: Solipsism is the artist’s stock-in-trade, is it not? Or, at least it is at Amtrak and The New Republic. And, it seems, at The Paris Review, which published an essay from the program’s first free rider, Jessica Gross, featuring the following bout of navel-gazing:

I’ve always been a claustrophile, and I think that explains some of the appeal—the train is bounded, compartmentalized, and cozily small, like a carrel in a college library. Everything has its place. The towel goes on the ledge beneath the mirror; the sink goes into its hole in the wall; during the day, the bed, which slides down from overhead, slides up into a high pocket of space. There is comfort in the certainty of these arrangements. The journey is bounded, too: I know when it will end. Train time is found time. My main job is to be transported; any reading or writing is extracurricular. The looming pressure of expectation dissolves. And the movement of a train conjures the ultimate sense of protection—being a baby, rocked in a bassinet.

All in all, not bad, and, in fact, close to the woolgathering works I commissioned from authors as editor of several high-minded, small-circulation magazines back in the day. Keep in mind the magazines I edited relied on subscriptions and advertising revenue to stay afloat, and my small stable of writers and their expenses were paid from those proceeds rather than from government handouts. Remarkably, these magazines recognized a profit for their shareholders, to whom I was accountable.

Amtrak, seemingly, is accountable to no one.

So what will taxpayers get for their $300,000? For three weeks, a few Amtrak riders will soak in all the color, verve, and perplexity that comes with Grosse’s pink pigments on old fences and rail yard walls. Then it’ll all be washed away in an ocean of red ink.

ABOUT BRUCE EDWARD WALKER

Bruce Edward Walker writes on the arts and other topics from his home in Midland, Mich.

The EPA: A Pattern of Waste, Fraud and Abuse

epa-abuse-thmb1bA new website EPAAbuse.com has launched dedicated to exposing the “dictatorial” mandates of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has morphed from a small government agency established by President Richard M. Nixon on December 4, 1970 designed to reduce air, water and solid waste pollution into a powerful tool used by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to impose draconian political agendas in a the “quixotic” mission to control the earth’s climate.

The preferred tools are EPA rules and regulations. The EPA now can control entire industries including agriculture, energy, automotive, manufacturing and even public education in its efforts to control mankind in the name of saving the planet. It’s attempts have become so pervasive so as to impact every level of government, every business and the life of every American.

Every level of the federal government has been negatively impacted by the EPA’s effort to “go green”. From the US Navy’s requirement to purchase bio-diesel at a cost of $26 a gallon versus $3 for regular diesel fuel, to the US Army’s 15-year and $100 million dollar effort to take the lead out of bullets, making the bullets less accurate and lethal, to the Veterans Administration putting greater emphasis on “going green” than taking care of America’s wounded warriors and veterans.

The pattern is clear: “going green” has a higher priority than protecting this nation’s economy, individual property rights and American workers.

According to Paul Driessen from CFACT, “Last year [2013], Congress enacted 72 new laws; and federal agencies promulgated 3,659 new rules, imposing $1.86 trillion in annual regulatory compliance costs on American businesses and families. It’s hardly surprising that America’s economy shrank by 1% the first quarter of 2014, our labor participation rate is a miserable 63%, and real unemployment stands at 12-23% (and even worse for blacks and Hispanics).”

“Even worse, in the case of climate change, this process is buttressed by secrecy, highly questionable research, contrived peer reviews, outright dishonesty, and an absence of accountability… Mr. Obama and EPA chief Gina McCarthy are nevertheless determined to slash reliance on coal, even in 20 states that rely on this fuel for half to 95% of their electricity, potentially crippling their economies… The EPA also channels vast sums to its ‘independent’ Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which likewise rubberstamps the agency’s pollution claims and regulations: $180.8 million  to 15 CASAC members since 2000. Imagine the outrage and credibility gap if Big Oil gave that kind of money to scientists who question the ‘dangerous manmade climate change’ mantra,” notes Driessen.

Today EPA regulations directly impact every family, primarily in their pocket books. From filling up the family car’s gas tanks (ethanol), to their electric bill (war on coal) to purchasing commodities (restrictive land and water usage), every American family is increasingly feeling the pinch.

This short video of one family feeling the EPA pain, with little gain, is provided by EPAAbuse.com:

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

 

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RELATED VIDEO: Remember when the president said that under his plan, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket?” Well, that could soon become a reality.  Not only do we need to stop his scheme, we also need to maximize America’s energy abundance to help deliver more jobs, lower costs, and long-term stability.

Enough! They MUST Be Stopped!

It has become a daily frightening occurrence, hearing politicians, commentators, pundits and stunned Americans say, “That’s outrageous!” “He can’t do that!” “No way!” “It’s against federal law!” “They have no legal authority to force us to do that!” These comments are in response to the daily unprecedented out-of-control tyranny handed down by Obama and his operatives. We are talking arrogance with a capital “A” coming out of the Obama Administration.

For example. The GOP was moving too slow in caving to Obama’s amnesty scheme, so Obama said, screw it, I’ll bypass everyone and make it happen. Obama sent a clarion call interpreted around the world to mean if you can get your kids to the U.S., the kids can stay. In essence, Obama has made illegal aliens winners of his Open Borders Lottery; free food, health care, legal assistance and education – winning more free goodies than are available to American kids. Like a game show announcer, I expect an Administration official to enthusiastically say to illegals, “But wait, there’s more….A NEW CARRRR!!!”

Around one thousand illegals arrive daily. Over 47 thousand have arrived thus far, an estimated 90 thousand to arrive by September 30th. Everyone and anyone (gang members, drug dealers and other criminals) are illegally moving to America greeted with open arms by the Obama Administration. Americans who are paying attention are well aware of the impending devastatingly negative impact Obama’s “y’all come” policy will have on our structure as a nation, economy and national security.

Like every other extremely arrogant action by Obama from blatantly lying about Obamacare to releasing the Taliban five, while everyone expresses disbelief, outrage and concern, nothing happens. The same is the case concerning the disaster happening at our border. Despite bipartisan outrage, the tsunami of illegals continues.

Then, there is the absurd lie from the IRS that Lerner’s emails related to the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups were lost due to a computer crash. Does this Administration believe they can say and do anything they please and get away with it? The answer is yes. As I stated, the remarkable arrogance of this Administration is becoming legendary.

However, what I find most extraordinarily arrogant and insidious is this Administration’s relentlessly focused efforts to mandate political correctness and implement their socialist/progressive agenda via government overreach. The feds have stepped in to try to force the Washington Redskins to change their name; talk about focusing on the minor while ignoring the major.

Think about that folks. Iraq is falling apart. A gazillion illegals are invading our country. Terrorism is back on the rise. Food prizes are through the roof. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Ninety million Americans are unemployed. Obamacare is a job killing and health care disaster. And what does the Obama Administration focus on; taking extraordinary measures to force the Redskins to change their name. Unbelievable.

My fellow Americans, when is enough enough from this horrifyingly deceitful, conniving, anti-American and evil bunch in DC who are holding our great nation hostage? The mainstream media will never place the best interest of America above Obama. The first black president is their best hope for ramming their dreamed socialist/progressive agenda down the throats of the American people. I get that.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the GOP, Democrats and the MSM are in solidarity with the concept of an ever-increasing big government America.

Obama and his operatives are so emboldened to lie and do whatever they please because there has been no major push back or effective effort to politically stop them.

Therefore, the last hope for America as founded is us; you, me, the Tea Party. We MUST vote out GOP traitors and Obama operatives and replace them with conservatives. Period!

And another thing — along with supporting conservatives such as Chris McDaniel in his June 24th runoff in Mississippi, we MUST continue rallying around, supporting and encouraging our hand full of fighters in DC, Sen Ted Cruz, Sen Mike Lee, Congressman Trey Gowdy and others.

Mary and I are driving from Florida to Biloxi Mississippi to meet up with our Conservative Campaign Committee team. We will help push Chris McDaniel over the top.

Folks, together, we can do this.

Obama Talks Climate Change While Iraq Implodes

Photo of armed Iraqi boy courtesy of  AFP and Atlas Shrugs.

It is depressing beyond words that we will have to endure two and a half more years of an endless stream of lies about climate change from President Obama.

On June 14 he gave a commencement speech to graduates of the University of California at Irvine, using it to tell Big Fat Lies, not the least of which was that the Earth’s temperatures were rising when in fact they have been falling for nearly eighteen years.

It is an endless source of wonder to me that no part of the mainstream media disputes him when he says things like this. For years now they have been reporting the evidence of increasingly cold weather worldwide.

On the same day the President was lying about warming, eight inches of snow fell in Rize, Turkey. It has fallen as well in South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia while closer to home snow fell on several cities in Idaho with cold freezes extending into Oregon. In June!

Cartoon - Climate Change Red LineObama used the speech to demand that politicians take steps to acknowledge climate change which used to be called global warming until it became undeniable to everyone except the charlatans lining their pockets with utterly bogus “research” that underwrites the source of the lies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Obama continues to listen to his White House advisor, Dr. John Holdren, whose contempt for the human race is such he would happily see large parts of it disappear. In February, Holdren told reporters that all weather is impacted by climate change, but that is what climate change has done for 4.5 billion years. Not mentioned was that climate cycles are measured in centuries while weather is a short-term event. The most recent mini-ice age lasted from 1300 to 1850.

Holdren alluded to droughts affecting parts of the nation, claiming they were getting longer and drying. Two leading climate scientists, former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer and University of Colorado climate scientists, Roger Pielke, Jr, called Holdren’s assertions “pseudo-science rambling.” “The idea that any of the weather we are seeing is in any significant way due to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions verges on irrationality,” said Spencer. Pielke called Holdren’s assertions “zombie science.”

While Holdren is warning about droughts that could cause famines, James M. Taylor, the managing editor of the Heartland Institute’s monthly, Environment & Climate News, took aim at the IPCC claims, noting that U.S. and global crop production, especially the most important staple food crops, corn, rice, and wheat, “have more than tripled since 1970. During the past few years, the United States has set crop production records for alfalfa, cotton, beans, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, canola, corn, flaxseed, hops, rice sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, peanuts and wheat, to name just a few.”

The worst part of Obama’s lies about the so-called “greenhouse gases” that we’ve been told for decades are warming the Earth is the way those lies are translated into government policies. The Obama administration, via the Environmental Protection Agency, has launched a war on coal-fired plants that produce 40% of the nation’s electricity claiming that their emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing a warming that is not happening. What is happening is a deliberate effort to drive up the cost of electricity for everyone.

America runs on electricity and 68% of it is generated by fossil fuels, 20% by nuclear, and 7% by hydropower. So called “clean energy”, wind and solar, provides about 4% at far higher costs than the others and exists largely due to government subsidies and mandates.

Claims about increased severe storms, heat waves, and hurricanes simply have no basis in fact. In recent years there has been a record low in the numbers of tornadoes, hurricanes, no change in the rise of sea levels, but record gains in Arctic and Antarctic ice. None of this is reported by the mainstream media.

Yet Obama told graduates that rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as intensifying storm patterns represent “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet face.” He said this even though his administration’s recent National Climate Assessment acknowledged that “There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the continental U.S. since 1900.” The report, however, is being used to justify carbon-related regulations.

While the world’s attention is on one of the greatest threats facing it, the takeover of northern Iraq by a barbaric Islamist group—one from which even al Qaeda disassociated itself—Obama is talking about non-existent climate threats to further policies that kill jobs in the U.S. and harm its struggling recovery of our economy.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seeks to expand its control of a major portion of the Middle East, Obama thought it was more important to lie about the climate to college graduates.

How much more damage Obama can inflict on the economy between now and the end of his second term in office is unknown, but what we do know is that his priorities, based on scare-mongering speeches about the climate will continue until he leaves office.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

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EPA Pumps Up Benefits of Proposed Carbon Regulation

EPA argues that its proposed carbon regulations on existing power plants will offer $30 billion in climate benefits by 2030 with only $7.3 billion in costs. Sounds like a great deal, right? Not so fast.

Brookings Institution white paper finds that EPA pumped up that number by including global climate benefits. If the agency took the standard approach and only examined the costs and benefits to those in the United States—who will feel its full brunt —then the climate benefits from the proposed rule would fall to as little as 7% of what EPA estimates, much less than the proposed regulation’s costs.

Authors Ted Gayer, Vice President and Director, Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution and Kip Viscusi, law professor at Vanderbilt University, explain that a basic component to cost-benefit analysis is looking at the appropriate population:

The pertinent populations that are attributed standing in a benefit-cost analysis should correspond to the political jurisdiction that is bearing the cost.

For example, when analyzing a new Wisconsin milk regulation, one should include the regulation’s effects on Wisconsin farmers and milk drinkers and not on those living in Florida.

Likewise, the cost-benefit analysis of EPA’s proposed carbon should be limited to the United States, but that’s not what EPA is doing. Gayer and Viscusi write [emphasis mine]:

The recent governmental analyses of the benefits associated with reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions represent a rare instance in which U.S. regulatory impact analyses have used a worldwide benefits reference point rather than a U.S. reference point.

The only other time the authors could find an instance of this was in 1980 involving a uranium regulation.

Why is EPA doing this? Because it’ll make the proposed rule more politically palatable, write Gayer and Viscusi:

[I]mposing a global perspective on benefits will increase the apparent desirability of the policy but will overstate the actual benefits to the American people.

However, EPA’s use of global benefits as the justification for the proposed carbon rule crosses Presidential Executive Orders that state that cost-benefit analyses should be limited to the effects on the American public. For instance, President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866 reads: [emphasis mine]

The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society…

President Obama’s Executive Order 13563 is along those same lines: [emphasis mine]:

Federal agencies should promulgate only such regulations as are required by law, are necessary to interpret the law, or are made necessary by compelling public need, such as material failures of private markets to protect or improve the health and safety of the public, the environment, or the well-being of the American people.

In addition, guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) advises regulators that

Your analysis should focus on benefits and costs that accrue to citizens and residents of the United States. Where you choose to evaluate a regulation that is likely to have effects beyond the borders of the United States, these effects should be reported separately.

The U.S. Chamber and several other trade associations have been arguing this exact point. “Consistent with OMB guidance, the costs of a rule for entities in the United States should be presented in comparison with the benefits occurring in the United States,” states a comment to OMB on the administration’s social cost of carbon estimates.

Gayer and Viscusi go on to write, “If one were to focus on the domestic benefits rather than the worldwide benefits, the [greenhouse gas] benefit component would sometimes be extremely small.”

How small? The Obama Administration estimates that most of the climate benefits of reducing carbon emissions would be outside the United States. “Only 7 to 23 percent of these benefits would be domestic benefits,” write Gayer and Viscusi. This means that “the domestic benefits amount [of the proposed carbon rule] is only $2.1 billion-$6.9 billion, which is less than the estimated compliance costs for the rule of $7.3 billion.”

EPA should be honest with the American people. Based on its own estimates, the costs of the proposed carbon rule–job losses, higher electricity costs, and a less-reliable electrical grid–outweigh its domestic climate benefits. The proposed rule is bad enough, but the misleading way EPA is justifying it is just as bad.

UPDATE: Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller News Foundation pulled out a few more interesting quotes from the paper:

“If global consequences are permitted to govern the terms of the benefit-cost analysis, then the selection of policy initiatives likewise should be governed by global considerations, subject to compliance with U.S. law,” argue Gayer and Viscusi.

“Whether it makes sense to routinely expand the scope of the assessed policy impacts beyond the citizenry of the nation bearing the costs is highly problematic,” the authors write. “What is clear at this juncture is that the recent expansion of [greenhouse gas] benefit assessments to include global impacts merits much more scrutiny and justification than it has received to date.”

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/CpJhJW0rvbg[/youtube]

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is courtesy of photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Senator Rubio not all aboard with All Aboard Florida rail system

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, today raised constituent concerns regarding the ongoing All Aboard Florida project and SunRail, Central Florida’s new commuter rail system. During the subcommittee hearing, Rubio questioned the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Joseph Szabo, on the FRA’s role in both responding to these concerns and overseeing the safety of these projects.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/fYwrCWunYg8[/youtube]

 

Excerpts from the exchange are available below:

Senator Marco Rubio: “[…] I’ve also heard from constituents, including many in the Treasure Coast, which is just north of West Palm Beach, expressing concerns about the impact this could have on their community. The issues they’re concerned about are safety at the gate crossings and noise pollution. And I’ve passed these comments along to the FRA as we’ve gotten them, and I hope the agency has reviewed them. Can you share with us whether you are taking these concerns into consideration when you’re making assessments and conducting oversights over these projects?”

Rubio: “Let me ask specifically about safety. There’s already been an EIS conducted on the West Palm Beach to Miami segment, and you issued a finding of no significant impact. In that finding, the FRA lists over 120 locations for proposed crossing upgrades. Is the FRA proposing that those crossings be upgraded? Or are those upgrades that are being recommended by All Aboard Florida?”

Rubio: “I have one last question and it has to do with SunRail, a different project.”

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo: “Ok, we’ll go to Orlando.”

Rubio: “Yeah, exactly. And it’s a new commuter rail system, for those not familiar with it. It just started operations last month. There was an incident in which a car stalled on the tracks and was struck by a SunRail train. Luckily, there was no one injured, but the collision, along with other close calls on the rail lines, has prompted calls for additional safety measures on the system.

“In fact, yesterday the Florida Highway Patrol announced that it’s going to be patrolling SunRail intersections to make sure drivers are following the law. So, as the agency with safety jurisdiction over SunRail, is FRA looking at these incidents? And what role does it play in recommending safety precautions or improvements?”

Rubio: “Ok, just to close up. Just back to the All Aboard Florida for a moment, as you work through the EIS process and the public hearings, and so forth, […]. How can my constituents best know where and when these hearings are going to take place and how they can best input?”

BREAKING: Homeland Security Police Caught Harassing Sick Veterans

The below listed BREAKING news press release was drafted in response to my column and related email titled, “OIG & FOIA REQUEST: Homeland Security Police Harassing and Intimidating Veterans at Mission Valley VA Clinic.

It is our position that the unannounced exercises conducted by the Federal Protective Services (FPS) at the VA Medical Facilities in Mission Valley, CA while Veteran patients were seeking medical support from doctors, was “oppressive” and was being conducted in violation of standard law enforcement practices and procedures (armed individuals wearing black, carrying weapons, wearing bullet proof vests, with leased guard dogs, helmets, dark glasses, while refusing to identify themselves,  threatened Veterans with arrest when they tried to take photos & asked the FPS Officers to identify themselves; there actions patrolling up and own corridors in the VA Medical Center frightened elderly patients & their wives).

The major concern is for the health of sick and elderly Veterans.  Heart patients could have suffered severe stress or could have had a heart attack from freight, PTSD patients may have been spurred to react in a self-destructive manner later on, very elderly & infirmed patients of WWII or Korean eras may with serious medical conditions were frightened by strange armed men in black walking in the corridors, some of the patients may have been affected mentally by so many armed men in black with dogs, and a certain number of patients arriving at the VA Medical facility in Mission Valley elected to avoid going to their medical appointments because of the overwhelming show of force and their vehicles blocking the parking lot.

Unannounced exercises should “never” be held at any facility by any law enforcement agency, management at the facility should have been alerted in advance so they could alert Veterans seeking medical care.  The media should have been alerted in advance to prevent confusion, and a Public Relations Officer from the FPS should have arrived with the team to respond to questions.   Badge numbers and IDs should have been provided to “any” US Citizens upon request, but it was reported that FPS Officers threatened and intimidates Veterans when they asked for IDs or tried to take photos.  Black cammies worn by FPS Officers may have been an attempt to emulate FBI SWAT Teams and their leaders may be watching too many macho Hollywood movies  (OD Greens would be more effective in all seasons and times of day).  Since it was an exercise and there was no threat of gunfire, there was no need for body armor, facial cover, helmets, and rifles.  There shouldn’t have been any interference with Veterans trying to enter & park to make their medical appointments  (FPS Officers did block the parking lot, interfering with Veterans trying to make their appointments on time).

Unannounced and announced exercises held at VA Medical facilities should “cease immediately”; Congress should prevent them from being conducted at any VA Medical facility anywhere in the nation. There are hundreds of thousands of government buildings throughout the nation where these type of exercises can be easily conducted without threatening the health and well-being of Veterans.  Congress should determine why the Obama administration has been targeting the relatively few VA Medical facilities in San Diego County, when there are thousands of other government building where those exercises can be conducted.  The management at DHS giving FPS Officers orders to conduct those exercises should be replaced, like the leadership at the VA is being replaced.  Veterans should not be bothered  while they are seeking medical treatment for injuries they may have sustained in the defense of the Republic.

Please review the below listed BREAKING news release that has more detailed information and was distributed to 15,000 recipients last night.

hls at vaBREAKING: Homeland Security Police Caught Harassing Sick Veterans

By Investigative Journalist, Benjamin Krause of DisabledVeterans.org

SAN DIEGO – Veterans were horrified while seeking VA health care on Wednesday when approached by Homeland Security police in an Operation Shield exercise. The exercise was for the purpose of “presence deterrence” at a VA health care facility in San Diego. Many veterans’ legal advocates are concerned about what this “presence deterrence” actually means and what is seeks to accomplish for veterans needing care.

According to reports, 20 officers from the DHS Federal Protective Service (FPS) dressed in full black combat gear crowded at the entrance of VA Mission Valley Health Care Clinic on Wednesday. These officers were not wearing any nametags and refused to identify themselves. Four bomb-sniffing dogs accompanied the secretive police group that arrived at the facility in 8 white SUVs, which then blocked all access to parking for disabled veterans. Veterans arriving for care were alarmed and some frightened away…

VA Mission Valley Health Care Clinic houses numerous service centers including a general practice clinic, psychiatric clinic, PTSD treatment clinic, and the disability compensation evaluation clinic. The impact of this event on veterans is disturbing.

The advocacy group, Honoring Our Troops (HRT), promptly wrote a formal complaint to VA OIG in Washington, DC after fielding numerous communications from veterans who were shocked by these recent federal secret police actions. OIG has yet to formally acknowledge receipt of their complaint since it was filed several days ago.

According to HRT’s OIG complaint, veterans on site were harassed and threatened when they took pictures and asked questions about this bizarre behavior. One veteran was threatened with a fine of $10,000 and arrest if he did not delete a photo he had taken. Another elderly veteran refused to enter the clinic with his wife. When the veteran’s wife asked a VA doctor about the action, she was told it was a “familiarization exercise.” Is this the new normal at VA facilities that veterans must become familiarized with and used to? And why? What justifies this kind of action by the Feds?

Captain Joseph John, USN (Ret), Chairman of Combat Veterans For Congress PAC, was not surprised when the report crossed his desk. After a cursory investigation, Capt. John concluded, “Due to [confidentiality] concerns, we can only get personnel in the office of Honoring Our Troops to tell us that the parties who witnessed the exercise [saw, which included] a retired Navy Chief, employees of the VA Medical Center, patients inside the building, etc., who witnessed armed FPS officers in SWAT gear with dogs on leash walking up and down the corridors inside the VA Medical Clinic in Mission Valley.”

Capt. John opposes unannounced police actions at VA Medical facilities that resemble “para-military exercises.” His deepest concerns are for elderly veterans with “heart conditions, suffering from PTSD, or elderly Veterans from the WWII or Korean era could be frightened and negatively affected by these [secret police] exercises in the middle of [their medical treatments].” For these reasons, Capt. John believes DHS and its FPS division “should be prevented from holding these para-military exercises at any VA Medical Center,” especially during patient treatment and service times during the day.

Since the OIG complaint, HRT received numerous threatening calls to their organization’s volunteers by individuals whom they believed were VA or DHS employees. Callers blasted the organization saying, “VA does not need this type of exposure right now; bringing this up will not help veterans.” Other harassing calls threatened the staff with stalking and investigations into their own personal conduct. According to HRT, the calls were all blocked to hide the caller’s phone number.

A spokesman for the San Diego VA Regional Office, Alejandro Mendio la Flores, verified this FPS police action and stated it was part of Operation Shield for “presence deterrence.” VA claims the official count of FPS officers was only 8, and that the FPS does not owe VA any explanation for its actions or training exercises — even if it affects a VA medical facility or its patients. Nor does DHS-FPS have to give VA any advance notice that these exercises will occur or get VA’s permission to conduct them. Just what is going on here?

VA already has in place a “patient security flag” procedure under VHA Directive 2010-053. Even though this procedure is completely illegal and occurs in secret VAMC staff councils behind closed doors, it is nevertheless the main device VA has created to deal with security issues with any veterans who give them reason to be concerned for potential violent incidents. The VA-OIG made a rather shocking report about this illegal procedure just last year — and any lawyer or judge who reads it would be horrified at the blatant “due process” violations, since veterans cannot know who made the complaints about them or in any way have a chance to refute or defend against false allegations by VA staff. See OIG Report No. 11-02585-129, March 7, 2013.

The questions that beg to be answered are: Why does DHS-FPS and VA think these preemptive “presence deterrence” exercises are needed to enhance or maintain security at VA medical and other facilities? What evidence does DHS-FPS and VA have to think this para-military behavior is even necessary and put the health of veterans at risk when arriving for a wide range of treatments? None of this makes any sense or seems to be well thought out. So what is the meaning of all of this?

Does DHS and VA have such callous disregard that they never considered the harmful impact such presence would have on veterans with serious physical and mental health disabilities for which they are coming to VA to get treatment?

VA constantly asserts they are striving to give veterans the best in health care. If that is true, why did they leave these questions out of their thinking? Is this the new veteran-centric care Secretary Sloan Gibson recently promised to the American public and veterans?

Mr. Mendio la Flores refused to answer additional questions on the concerns relating to whether or not any veterans were in fact harmed by these recent incidents. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs was asked for comment but was not able to reply to this writer prior to publication.