Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Democrats ram largest-ever tax bill through House

The House of Representatives passed the 1,200-plus page Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade tax bill by a narrow margin as the last piece of business on Friday before heading home for the Fourth of July recess. Once again House members had to vote on a bill they hadn’t read, since co-sponsor Henry Waxman (D-CA) added a 300-page amendment just after 3 o’clock Friday morning.

Fearing the vote on the controversial American Clean Energy and Security Act – the largest tax increase in American history – would not go their way, Democrats called one lawmaker in from rehab to help out. According to The Hill, “In a clear sign that Democrats need every vote they can get on climate change legislation, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) has returned from medical treatment for alcoholism to vote on the bill. Kennedy, who has missed every vote since going into rehab on June 12, was seen on the House floor talking to his Democratic colleagues.”

Among the 219 “Aye” votes were Mr. Kennedy and eight Republicans, all of whom did a disservice to their constituents. Among the 212 “No” votes were 44 Democrats who deserve recognition for seeing this measure as the disaster-in-waiting that it is.

With the final margin a very thin seven votes, the eight Republicans essentially passed the bill that The Heritage Foundation called “nothing more than an energy tax in disguise” that will raise the cost of electricity.

Even President Barack Obama acknowledges that the $65 billion tax will cause electricity costs to rise: “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket,” the President told the San Francisco Chronicle in January. Electric utilities, he said, “will have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will have to pass that money on to consumers.”

In addition to electricity costs cap-and trade will also increase the cost of everything that electricity and fossil fuels are used for, and those higher costs will produce job losses, an increase in the federal debt, and a weaker economy. “The reality is when all the tax impacts have been added up, the average per-family-of-four costs rise by $2,979 per year,” Heritage estimates. “In the year 2035 alone, the cost is $4,609. And the costs per family for the whole energy tax aggregated from 2012 to 2035 are $71,493.”

Democrats counter that according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Waxman-Markey would cost the average household only $175 a year by 2020. But critics point out that the CBO analysis looked only at the day-to-day costs of the program, and not at the entire set of economic consequences of energy restriction. A CBO footnote acknowledges as much: "The resource cost does not indicate the potential decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) that could result from the cap.”

Prior to the vote Friday, Michigan Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter told the House that “passing this abominable energy tax on working families in a recession shows this job-killing, budget-busting government doesn’t understand how much real Americans are hurting for work. This is the hubris of big government: the delusion that our families’ economic future rests in the manicured hands of Congress rather than in the hard-working hands of the American people. I disagree and I urge the rejection of this bill.”

Undaunted by the dire predictions of analysts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blundered forward with the vote, and won, if you can call heaping monumental additional costs on your constituents and other Americans “winning.” Some Democrats aren’t happy about this bill and even environmental groups are opposed to it because, despite all of the additional costs and other harm the amended version will heap on Americans, organizations like Greenpeace believe the form of the bill that was passed is too weak.

The good news is that the bill will have a much harder time in the Senate, and may not even be brought up for a vote.

Cap-and-trade is a scheme to push the U.S. toward “green,” renewable energy despite compelling evidence against mankind contributing significantly to global warming, or global cooling, whichever it is this week. As time passes, the manmade climate change theory is increasingly out of favor with both scientists and regular Americans.

Hardly anyone supports continuing to pour pollutants into the air when there are clean alternatives. The problem is that green alternatives are not viable alternatives; wind, solar and the other clean technologies aren’t well enough developed yet to replace coal, oil and natural gas as major energy sources, and they are more expensive than conventional energy. Trying to force their development by making conventional energy so expensive that no one can afford it is cruel, and trying to put green energy in place before it is ready is foolish.

July 4th is a few days away. There is no better time to look at over-reaching government efforts like cap-and-trade and healthcare reform and consider them in the context of why we celebrate the 4th of July. Everyone who understands the fundamental concepts of freedom that are behind the Declaration of Independence will reject both ideas.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

API survey shows Americans don’t have
a clear picture on energy issues

The American Petroleum Institute has just released the results of its third annual “Energy IQ” survey, and it reflects that Americans’ knowledge about energy issues is lacking. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, comes as President Obama and Congress are pursuing aggressive energy and climate policies that threaten the nation’s economy, and which will determine America’s economic competitiveness for years to come.

Some high points from the survey:

• When asked about the role fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal will play in meeting global energy demand, only 10 percent of respondents answered correctly that fossil fuels will meet 85 percent of this demand. This is the second consecutive year this number has dropped even though EIA figures for future U.S. reliance on fossil fuels have risen by five percent since 2008.

• According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 12 percent of the oil consumed last year in the U.S. came from the Persian Gulf countries. Only 7 percent of respondents chose correctly, while more than 40 percent believed that over 30 percent of our oil supply came from the Persian Gulf.

• Fifty-three percent of respondents believed that Saudi Arabia was the largest U.S. supplier of imported crude oil. In fact, according to the DOE, Canada is our largest supplier.

The survey showed that Americans have a poor understanding about the financial implications of the oil and natural gas industry:

• Only 15 percent of respondents knew that six million Americans are employed directly or indirectly by the oil and natural gas industry.

• Only 9 percent of respondents knew that oil companies pay more than 40 percent in income taxes as a share of their income. The majority thought that it was less than 30 percent, and one-third of all respondents believed companies pay less than 15 percent.

• Similarly, when asked how much the oil and natural gas industry paid in taxes over the past three years, only 10 percent of respondents answered correctly—$242 billion. One quarter of respondents believed that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry contributed less than $100 billion.

• More than 40 percent of respondents believed that the oil and natural gas industry earn more than 20 cents per every dollar of sales. In fact, the industry earns just below 6 cents on every dollar.

The survey also found that other misconceptions exist about U.S. oil company stock ownership and industry investment in alternative fuels.

Take the survey and see how much you know.

See the results of the survey.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Economy improving? Not according to
these indicators

If you’ve been following the news closely you will have seen a wide variety of comments on the economy. Some paint a rosy picture, telling us that things are getting better and the recession will end in a few months, while others tell us we are headed for a depression to make the 30s look like a boom time.

To help you evaluate the true condition of our economy, here are the top twelve indicators that the economy is bad:

12. CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

11. I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

10. I went to buy a toaster oven and they gave me a bank.

9. Hotwheels and Matchbox car companies are now trading higher than GM in the stock market.

8. Obama met with small businesses - GE, Pfizer, Chrysler, Citigroup and GM, to discuss the Stimulus Package.

7. McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

6 People in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and are learning their children's names.

5. The most highly-paid job is now jury duty.

4. People in Africa are donating money to Americans. Mothers in Ethiopia are telling their kids, "finish your plate; do you know how many kids are starving in America?"

3. Motel Six won't leave the light on.

2. The Mafia is laying-off judges.

And the most dependable indicator of all ...

1. If the bank returns your check marked as "insufficient funds," you have to call them and ask if they meant you, or them.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Government healthcare is a cure that is
worse than the disease

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey shows that 72 percent of those questioned recently say they favor increasing the federal government’s influence over the country’s health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans. Other recent polls show six in 10 think the government should provide health insurance or take responsibility for providing health care to all Americans.

It defies understanding that so many Americans want even more government in their lives than they already have, and make no mistake — there is a lot of government in our lives. This is particularly puzzling in view of certain specific information indicating that Americans really don’t trust their government. For example, Congress’ approval rating fell to 9 percent year last, the lowest in history, and a Rasmussen Reports survey showed that nearly one in three Americans believe congressmen are corrupt.

Yet, when a serious problem arises Americans almost instinctively say, “Government should do something about this,” as if the government actually can fix things. But, evidence to support that point is thin, indeed.

Let’s look at a few government efforts. Under the guiding hand of Congress Social Security and Medicare have accumulated an unfunded liability of $101 trillion, and Medicare routinely pays health care providers far less than they charge, putting financial stress on providers and encouraging many physicians to stop treating Medicare patients. Not a success.

Congressional efforts to create “affordable housing” created today’s financial calamity. It was Congress that enacted the Community Reinvestment Act that “encouraged” banks to make home loans to people who couldn’t afford them; it was Congress that established Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and it was Congress that pushed for even more irresponsible lending practices. Congressman Barney Frank, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee in 2003, said the following: “I believe that we ... have probably done too little rather than too much to push [banks] to meet the goals of affordable housing and to set reasonable goals ... I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.” Success?

How about Amtrak? Forty years and billions of dollars after taxpayers bought Amtrak, supposedly for just three years, the government is still operating Amtrak, and at a loss, despite the fact that Amtrak is a monopoly. No success there, either.

How about the Department of Energy? President Jimmy Carter — the guy who signed the Community Reinvestment Act into law, the first step down the crooked path to today’s mortgage bank crisis — declared in 1977 that achieving energy independence was the “moral equivalent of war,” and in August President Carter created the United States Department of Energy, intended to manage America’s energy crisis and end our dependence on foreign oil.

Through the years the size and cost of the DOE has grown substantially. In 2008 the Energy Department budget grew to $24 billion, and it had 115,000 employees. You’d think that over the 32 years of its existence a department with that many people spending that much money could figure out how to make us energy independent by now, wouldn’t you? But then Congress prevents American energy companies from drilling for our own oil and gas supplies, unless they spend a fortune on crap-shoot leases, and run an expensive regulatory obstacle course.

Despite this impressive list of dismal government failures our young president proposes further reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and wants the federal government to become even more involved in the delivery of your health care.

In 2006 Medicare spent $2.1 trillion paying doctors and hospitals. The trouble is that they paid only about 80 percent of what the doctors and hospitals billed. Who pays the rest? Private insurance and self-pay patients.

If Medicare paid 100 percent of charges that would have put $525 billion into the system that private insurance and self-pays now have to pay, would that bring the price of health care down?

According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, the Kennedy reform bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act, creates a “Medical Advisory Council” that would determine “essential health benefits” to be included in “qualified health plans.”

Which benefits will the Council consider “essential” and which ones will it not? Will those “qualified health plans” that meet the government’s demands be anything like the one you have now?

The government would decide what benefits insurance providers offer, not the insurance companies, and not you. And just like Medicare decides how much it pays for its patients’ care by ignoring the true costs, the government will set its insurance rates so low that private companies cannot compete, ultimately leaving only one insurance company: the federal government.

They tell us that they won’t replace our insurance coverage if we want to keep it, and won’t interfere between us and our doctor, but it doesn’t work that way anywhere else that has government health care. Long waits to see doctors and get care are the results of government health care, and rationing care is the mechanism for cutting costs.

When you consider supporting nationalized health care, remember the lessons of Amtrak, the DOE, easy home loans, and the experience of other countries.

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Obama's numbers slipping; Americans waking up

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 1,008 adults, conducted from Friday to Monday finds that President Barack Obama’s personal popularity is slipping, as Americans see real problems that have overshadowed Mr. Obama’s slick persona.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican Bill McINturff, commented that "the public is really moving from evaluating him as a charismatic and charming leader to his specific handling of the challenges facing the country," and that from now on Mr. Obama and his team "are going to have to navigate in pretty choppy waters."

Among those issues about which people are increasingly concerned are government spending, the bailout of auto companies, and a majority also disapprove of the decision to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Better than six in ten respondents said they had concerns about federal interventions into the economy, such as the auto bailout and the healthcare system.

While a large majority concedes Mr. Obama inherited a budget deficit from George Bush, a solid 58 percent majority says the president and Congress should work to keep the deficit down, rather than quadruple it, as the President’s spending spree would do. The Democrats headlong rush to reform a healthcare system that satisfies 70 percent of Americans is not so important to them. Twenty-four percent of those questioned identified the deficit and the most important economic issue, while only 11 percent mentioned healthcare.

While still high, Mr. Obama's job approval rating has dropped five points since April, from 61 percent to 56 percent, and independents now see the President as only 50 percent positive, down from about a 60-30 margin a couple of months ago.

The President’s comments about the lack of enthusiasm for healthcare reform and his energy policy may belie some frustration on his part. "I suppose we could just stand pat and not do anything on either of those fronts...That's been tried for four or five decades. And in both energy and health care, the problems have gotten worse, not better," he said. But more than one in three respondents believe the President is trying to do too much, and perhaps they realize that so much of the problems in both energy and healthcare are government induced.

Mr. Obama’s attempt to take advantage of an economic crisis and enact the most liberal set of proposals in the nation’s history may be running out of steam. As the American people shake themselves out of the state of shock they were in over the economy, they are increasingly realizing what the Democrats were trying to put over on them, and are shifting blame for the continuing economic problems to President Obama and the Congress.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Obamacare Horror Story

It's not hard to find reasons to avoid Barack Obama's healthcare reform like the plague, but Michelle Malkin tells us something we haven't heard much about that makes you wonder what lies ahead.

From Michelle Malkin:

The White House, Democrats and MoveOn liberals are spreading healthcare sob stories to sell a government takeover. But there's one healthcare policy nightmare you won't hear the Obamas hyping. It's a tale of poor minority patient-dumping in Chicago -- with first lady Michelle Obama's fingerprints all over it.

Both Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois have raised red flags about the outsourcing program run by the University of Chicago Medical Center. The hospital has nonprofit status and receives lucrative tax breaks in exchange for providing charity care. Read the rest ...

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gingrich talks common sense

Once again Newt Gingrich identifies practical, workable solutions to a crisis. To get the country’s economy back on track the former House Speaker and present general chairman of American Solutions for Winning the Future, suggests 12 sensible things America should do:

  • Create a payroll tax credit to help workers and small businesses.
  • Cut the 25 percent marginal tax rate to 15 percent.
  • Reduce the business tax rate.
  • Stabilize housing prices by providing tax credits so responsible home buyers can avoid foreclosures.
  • Control federal spending and move to a balanced budget.
  • End Medicare fraud by requiring states to adopt anti-theft and anti-fraud measures.
  • Develop more American energy.
  • Abolish taxes on capital gains.
  • Protect workers' right to vote in a secret ballot before being forced to join a union.
  • Replace the Sarbanes-Oxley law regulating corporations' accounting practices.
  • Abolish the death tax.
  • Invest in infrastructure, including a new electric grid.

An ad in USA Today outlining these 12 ideas criticized the "failed Washington model of bailouts, deficit spending and a bloated federal bureaucracy."

Newt Gingrich is probably the most perceptive and credible voice on the scene today. We have to hope more people will start listening to him.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Supreme Court nomination among a list
of interesting issues this summer

This summer will be very interesting. General Motors has a new president who says he doesn't know anything about making cars. Barack Obama wants the government to decide how much executives should be paid. The president's crazy-uncle pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is claiming the Jews are keeping him from meeting with the president.

Mr. Obama is proposing cuts in Medicare reimbursement, a system that already doesn’t pay its fair share, and the Democrats are trying to nationalize healthcare. North Korea’s Dear Leader is working overtime to develop nuclear weapons and a rocket to deliver them. Iran’s election has created violence in the streets.

And there is the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, which deserves very careful study.

The justice system of the United States operates under the theory that the law should be viewed objectively with the determination of innocence, guilt, liability or whatever made without bias or prejudice: Blind Justice, symbolized by the blindfolded statue of Lady Justice. It is the idea behind the United States Supreme Court motto “Equal Justice Under Law” which is the symbol of the judiciary.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is President Obama’s first nominee for the United States Supreme Court. She has been on the federal Circuit Court bench for a long time, and much has been made of the fact that if confirmed she will be the first Hispanic to serve on the nation’s highest court. Administration officials and supporters say Judge Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

However, some colleagues and law clerks who have worked with her have reservations about her, raising questions about her temperament, judicial craftsmanship, and her intellectual ability, issues which should not be ignored. But the far more serious questions arise over whether she can fairly and dispassionately apply blind justice.

Judge Sotomayor has raised eyebrows with some public comments, one of which was an admission that higher level courts have become the place where policy is made, a concept at odds with the idea of a judiciary that interprets the law and leaves policy making to the Congress and the administration. This is troublesome because of another comment: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” she said.

Are wise Latina women with a richness of experience somehow better at impartially applying the law than white males whose experiences are different, and presumably less rich?

It’s true that policy is formed as a by-product of the process; when laws are applied to a real world situation, guidelines for future situations are created. But creating policy is not a primary purpose of the process. In other words, impartial application of the law creates policy, de facto, but ruling a certain way in order to create a particular policy is improper.

The United States Supreme Court is a venue for applying laws neutrally to reach a just conclusion, not a place to manipulate the law to correct some social imbalance, real or imagined.

This is a point our Founders understood, even if many judges and politicians do not. Thomas Jefferson said "the instability of our laws is really an immense evil." Alexander Hamilton and James Madison warned of the evils of laws that "undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow."

In many ways judges are not so different from baseball umpires. Umpires have rules that direct them in their work, judges have the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the land, and it is not within the authority of either to change the rules in the middle of the game, based upon who is at bat or in front of the court.

Imagine if when calling balls and strikes the home plate umpire empathized with the batter instead of objectively calling pitches, or took into consideration the race or economic circumstances of the batter, and decided that since ol’ Vinny was a good guy who rose up from a bad home life, maybe he’d give him a walk instead of a strikeout? Or that Team A really needs a run worse than Team B needs an out, since Team A hasn’t won a game all season? Is this what the rule of law and the concept of justice are all about?

Unlike baseball, the law is not a game. It is a deadly serious matter that affects the lives and property of citizens of the United States, and that’s why the law must be stable and free from the vagaries of judges’ social philosophies. There are places where social inequalities can be addressed and rectified. The courtroom is not one of them.

Judge Sotomayor has said publicly and openly that factors other than legal ones should enter into the judicial process, indicating that she will remove the blindfold from Lady Justice and substitute her own personal biased views for the neutral consideration of the law. That is not acceptable.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The humiliation of Gitmo

“A group of dozens of leading human rights groups has called on President Obama to release photos depicting the alleged abuse of detainees by U.S. personnel overseas.” So reads a story on a Website called Personal Liberty Digest.

“The letter signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch states that in an open society even embarrassing information is disclosed so that those responsible for wrongdoing can be brought to justice,” the story continued. “As disturbing as [the photos] may be, it is critical that the American people know the full truth about the abuse that occurred in their name,” a staff attorney with the ACLU named Amrit Singh said.

Indeed, the information is embarrassing, and the American people must be told the cold, nasty, discomforting truth. At Guantanamo Bay detainees were treated in a manner foreign to the way a truly sensible and civilized people treat enemy combatants, or even common criminals. And the truth must be told. We are, after all, a transparently moral and compassionate society.

At Gitmo these poor misunderstood people are subjected to such horrors as satellite TV complete with an Al Jazeera channel, compelled to work Sudoku puzzles, and run endlessly back and forth on the soccer field and basketball court. They are tortured with English classes and beaten with the harsh content of Arabic newspapers. And because they are Muslims, they are forced to eat Islamically correct meals and endure Muslim prayer periods five times daily.

Folks, this type of barbaric treatment of enemy combatants is a blight on the good name of America.

For God’s sake, please don’t tell the world how stupidly the United States treats war criminals. We must maintain some modicum of our self-respect.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Rahall proposal and Waxman-Markey bill
aim to increase energy costs

West Virginia Democrat Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has proposed a plan to sharply increase the cost of drilling leases that the federal government sells to oil and gas companies who want to search federal lands for oil and gas supplies. His plan would increase royalty rates by 50 percent and would cut the lease periods to five years from the current 10 years or more.

Mr. Rahall’s plan comes as crude oil prices rose from a recent low of $43 to nearly $70 a barrel as the summer vacation season approaches, and foreign sources raise prices in anticipation of increased demand for crude oil.

His recommendation would be part of a massive overhaul of the Interior Department’s $22 billion oil and gas drilling program, and appears to fit in with the thinking of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is currently reviewing the Department’s leasing program. And, according to Sharon Buccino, director of land and wildlife programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Rahall proposal fits into the efforts of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats to drive energy production toward “green” sources and away from conventional sources. "This is a key part of moving that agenda forward," she said.

In combination with the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that is working its way through the House, the Rahall proposal will cause substantial harm to domestic oil and natural gas production at a time when production of domestic sources should be increased to reduce dependence on foreign countries who really don’t like us much, and also to save Americans from the higher energy costs these measures will cause.

An analysis by the Heritage Foundation notes that “the impact of Waxman-Markey on the next generation of families is $1,500 per year in higher energy costs, over $100,000 of additional federal debt, … a weaker economy, and more unemployment.”

Oil producers object, as well. American Petroleum Institute (API) spokesperson Jane Van Ryan said, “We’re particularly concerned about the way the emissions allowances are being handled. Waxman-Markey provides only two percent of emissions allowances to refiners, but it holds them responsible for 44 percent of carbon emissions. Under the bill, U.S. refiners would have to pay for the carbon emissions from their own facilities as well as all of the cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, etc. that operate in the United States. Utilities get nearly 44 percent of all allowances, select ‘energy-intensive’ industries get 15 percent, and local natural gas distributors receive nine percent,” she said. “This isn’t an equitable way to parcel out the emissions allowances.”

Ms. Van Ryan went on to say that under Waxman-Markey overseas refiners will have a competitive advantage “making the U.S. less energy secure and more reliant on imports.”

API President Jack Gerard said in a statement that an “independent study projects … up to 2.7 million net jobs lost annually, even with new green jobs created. According to one of these reports, an average family will pay … 74 percent more for gasoline. Today, that would mean gasoline prices above $4.00 a gallon, an increase nearly equivalent to a ten-fold rise in the federal gasoline tax.”

The Heritage analysis asks if all of this economic pain is “justified by gains against global warming? Waxman-Markey raises energy prices by 55-90 percent. These higher energy prices push unemployment up by 1,105,000 jobs on average, with peaks over 2,479,000. In aggregate, GDP drops by over $9.6 trillion. The next generation will inherit a federal debt pumped up by $29,150 per person. All of these costs accrue in the first 25 years of a 90-year program that, as calculated by climatologists, will lower temperatures by only hundredths of a degree in 2050 and no more than two-tenths of a degree at the end of the century.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to see these measures as efforts to force our economy out of dependable, abundant and relatively inexpensive energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas, not through a process of natural development and gradual implementation of “green,” renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels, but prematurely and unnaturally through ill-conceived environmental legislation.

And, apparently neither the Obama administration, the Congress nor the environmentalists give two hoots how much it will cost average Americans, or how much damage is done to the nation’s economy in the process.

They follow this course despite the desire of most Americans to increase domestic energy exploration, not reduce it. A poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that 61 percent of Americans who voted in the 2008 presidential election support access to offshore oil and natural gas resources, while only 26 percent opposed it.

Furthermore, one wonders why Mr. Rahall, who represents a state whose economy relies heavily on the coal industry which, like oil and natural gas, is under attack from the environmental lobby and the “climate change” scaremongers, appears to be more interested in responding to the over-wrought cries of the environmentalists than in trying to protect his state from the negative economic effects of the environmental bills that will hurt the coal industry and his state’s economy.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

For Gitmo, change we can believe in

Barack Obama campaigned on the over-broad theme of “hope” and “change,” and one of the changes was to close the terrorist detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where currently some 240 enemy combatants are housed.

Obama had no idea at the time what closing the facility meant, a characteristic common to so many of his campaign ideas. This is a result of his lack of experience in virtually any meaningful endeavor that would prepare someone to serve his country as its president. Fortunately for Mr. Obama, and unfortunately for the nation, far too many people don’t seem to notice his failings, or don’t care about them.

He is learning, ever so slowly, ever so painfully, that being president is a vastly more complex and daunting job than running for the office, and he is discovering that his predecessor knew not only a lot more about what he was doing than Mr. Obama imagined, but a lot more than Mr. Obama himself actually knows.

Columnist Deroy Murdock has written a column appearing in Saturday’s local paper about this dilemma, suggesting what many of us knew and said before the election: It makes no sense to close Gitmo.

Mr. Murdock correctly points out that Gitmo is anything but the hell-hole it has been made out to be by those whose understanding of war and the necessary handling of enemy combatants can fit on the head of a pin, and shows us that it is a far more desirable place than an actual American prison, were we to consider that option for these scum. At Gitmo the terrorists are treated to such horrors as satellite TV complete with an Al Jazeera channel, Sudoku puzzles, soccer, basketball, English classes, Arabic newspapers, Islamically correct meals and Muslim prayer periods five times daily.

Americans overwhelmingly do not want these terrorists housed in prisons in the U.S., or brought into the U.S. justice system, and most countries are reluctant to accept even one of them. Other countries are not asked to take the terrorists, because they would likely torture and/or kill them, and heaven knows we can’t allow that to happen. Besides, a significant number of the terrorist combatants who have been released, 14 percent, have gone back to their terrorist ways, killing innocent people in cafes or schools, or training new recruits how to do it.

So what can the president do? He may have no other choice than to leave them at Gitmo, now that he understands why George Bush created the facility and understands how sensible it was for him to have done so.

So, if it’s “change” you want, Mr. Obama, why not change the way things are done at Gitmo. Do away with the pampering and the pandering, and treat these animals the way they deserve to be treated.

That’s change we can believe in.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

California Dreamin’: Nation can’t afford
to follow California’s example

Ah, California. That magical land that is the nation’s trend-setter, home of Disneyland and the Hollywood film industry, and so many other things, good and bad, beautiful and ugly.

California is in big trouble. Its tax revenues were down $1.9 billion in April, normally the largest month for collections, and its budget deficit could swell to $24 billion by the end of the fiscal year in June.

The state’s government has spent itself into a hole.

According to the San Jose Mercury News website, the programs “that received most of that money are priorities that Californians broadly support or have demanded at the ballot box: tougher prison sentences for criminals, health care for uninsured children and an aging population, and a cut in the ‘car tax’ that they pay every year to register their vehicles.” All those are worthy things, but except for the car tax, they aren’t free; they cost money.

The state auditor blames both political parties for shirking their responsibility for the last 10 years. “Like homeowners paying off one credit card with another,” the Mercury News said, “they used accounting gimmicks and more debt, rather than raising taxes or cutting spending, to balance the books.”

But having high enough taxes doesn’t seem to be the problem: California has the eighth highest corporate income taxes in the U.S., as well as the nation’s most progressive income tax scheme, and the 13th highest state and local sales tax burden in the nation. The Tax Foundation says that Californians face the nation’s 6th highest tax burden.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, said the problem is that the bureaucracy has grown too large and powerful, pays workers too much, and it is difficult to fire government workers when needed. He said many government functions should be outsourced to private firms. “We’ve got to put our wardens back in charge of prisons, and principals back in charge of teachers, and introduce competitive pressures back into those systems,” he said.

Californians have earned much of the misery their state now experiences, by electing a liberal legislature that has created a system of high taxes and high spending. It is a heavily one-party state, voting for Barack Obama 61 to 37 percent. Things are just as lopsided in the state Legislature, with the State Senate 62.5 percent Democrat, and the State Assembly 63.75 percent Democrat. Its Congressional delegation is also heavily Democrat, with that party holding 62.26 percent of the state’s seats in the House of Representatives, and both seats in the U.S. Senate.

Democrats love high taxes, high spending, and big government, but the last three governors, two of them Republicans, have contributed to the out-of-control spending. According to Adam Summers of the Reason Foundation, California’s government spending explosion began “when Gov. Pete Wilson [R] took office in 1991, and the state budget was $51.4 billion. When he left eight years later, it was $75.3 billion. After five years of Gov. [Gray] Davis’s [D] administration, the budget had jumped to $104.2, and after another five years under the stewardship of Gov. [Arnold] Schwarzenegger [R], it has continued to increase significantly to its present level of $144.5 billion. In just the last 10 years state spending has nearly doubled, increasing approximately 92 percent.”

California now is forced to do what it ought to voluntarily have done years ago: cut spending and reduce government.

An Associated Press story reported that Gov. Schwarzenegger plans cutbacks to counter the budget deficit that could include ending the state’s main welfare program for the poor, eliminating health coverage for about 1.5 million poor children, halting cash grants for about 77,000 college students, shortening the school year by seven days, laying off thousands of state workers and teachers, slashing money for state parks and releasing thousands of prisoners before their sentences are finished.

“I understand that these cuts are very painful and they affect real lives,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said. “This is the harsh reality and the reality that we face. Sacramento is not Washington — we cannot print our own money. We can only spend what we have.” He also has advocated selling state assets to raise cash, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and San Quentin State Prison.

The Democrats who control the Legislature do not want major spending cuts, but so far they don’t have another plan for narrowing the deficit. And if their solution is higher taxes and more borrowing, they will only compound the situation.

The message everyone ought to take from this sad story is that high taxes, high spending and a large bureaucracy are a prescription for disaster. And we also had better take note of the similarity to what our federal government is doing.

Philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” California’s self-imposed predicament is a graphic illustration of what happens when politicians put political goals ahead of sound fiscal policy. We must not fail to take note.

The federal government has been doing this for years, but until now its political excesses and fiscal irresponsibility haven’t threatened the nation with disaster.

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