January 30, 2015

Export-Import Bank fuels fight between pro-business and free-enterprise GOP

The Republican Congressman on Wednesday introduced his first piece of legislation for the 114th Congress: a bill to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank. On the same day, Boeing — easily the biggest beneficiary the agency’s taxpayer-backed financing — announced $1.47 billion in fourth-quarter profits, 19 percent higher than last year, along with a record backlog of airplane orders that stretches eight years.

Fincher got 57 co-sponsors for his Ex-Im bill, all of them Republicans.

In this way, Fincher neatly laid out the mindset of half of the Republican Party: The GOP is the pro-business party.

You see, all that talk of lower taxes, less regulation, and less federal spending could fit sensibly in a framework of free enterprise and limited government. But support for Ex-Im — a federal agency that uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize American exporters and their banks — doesn’t fit in such a free-enterprise frame. The mindset that can simultaneously advocate deregulation and export subsidies is the one that simply says, "listen to the business lobby."

The mindset of the other half of the GOP is different: Republicans are the party of free-enterprise, not because it serves the big and wealthy, but because it puts competitive pressure on the big guys, creates opportunity for little guys, and empowers consumers.

Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, articulates that view often. His committee has control over Ex-Im, whose charter expires this summer. Hensarling sees Ex-Im's activity as cronyism and corporate welfare, and he would just as soon let it die.

Hensarling’s Senate counterpart, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala. also has a free-market populist streak to him. Shelby opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailout, and he’s the only current GOP Senator who voted in 2010 to break up the big banks. But Shelby voted to renew Ex-Im’s charter in 2012. On the other hand, he also supported a failed measure by Sen. Pat Toomey to try to curb the agency and wind it down.

On Thursday, Shelby had mixed remarks on Ex-Im: “I have some real problems with the way the Export-Import Bank has been administered,” CQ Roll Call quoted Shelby. “It’s corporate welfare, and we’ll address that at the proper time.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against Ex-Im in 2012, and in recent months has reaffirmed his opposition to renewing the agency.

And so resistance to Ex-Im has momentum, even as Fincher and the industry lobby behind him ramp up their push for renewal. But the numbers, frankly, are grim for conservatives.

While the GOP is divided in half on the matter, the Democratic Party (you know, the one that inveighs against big business and corporate lobbyists) is nearly uniform in its support for Ex-Im. After all, the more government funds big business, the more government controls industry.

Add the two parties together, and you’ve got two-thirds to three-fourths of both chambers likely to support the agency. So, what can the free-enterprise half of the party hope for?

First: Republican leaders could use the party’s majority status to simply kill the agency. The free-market populists don’t need a floor vote to kill Ex-Im, they just need to prevent a vote to save it. Conservatives are hoping that Republicans can vote as a caucus whether or not to extend Ex-Im. If a majority of the GOP majority says no, then House Speaker could simply refuse to bring the bill to the floor.

This would involve GOP leadership going to war with their close allies on K Street and Wall Street — wishful thinking, perhaps.

The second option is to reform Ex-Im. Fincher’s bill demands all sorts of studies and reports from the agency, but these are empty gestures. The Heritage Foundation’s Diane Katz, after reading Fincher’s bill, laughs at the notion that there are any true reforms in there.

If Shelby wants a real reform, he’d have to start from scratch. He could begin by shrinking the agency dramatically — bringing the maximum amount of authorizations down from about $25 billion in 2014 to half that in 2015, with further cuts the following year.

Next, a reform bill would prohibit loans and guarantees to state-owned businesses and banks. The Export-Import Bank of China, for example, has received Ex-Im guarantees, as has Saudi Arabia's state-owned airline.

Finally, a real reform bill might limit the larger loan guarantees to those cases where a U.S. manufacturer faces competition from a foreign manufacturer receiving export subsidies, with real punishments if Ex-Im breaks this rule.

Majority Leader McConnell could make sure these rules are enforced, because he gets to name two new appointees to Ex-Im’s board. If he picks conservatives who are sticklers, he can make sure Ex-Im is truly chastened and its sails are truly trimmed.

Alternatively, the GOP could opt to be the party of business, as usual.


January 29, 2015

Gun Control Group Wants Reporter Fired For Speaking At A Pro-Gun Rally

The gun control group the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) wants Fox News affiliate WTTF to fire its investigative reporter, Emily Miller, claiming that she violated journalistic ethics by criticizing Washington D.C.’s strict gun laws at a recent event.

In its attempt to get Miller fired, CSGV pointed to a Jan. 19 speech she gave at an event held by the Virginia Citizens Defense League — which CSGV claims is “a radical pro-gun group that embraces the use of political violence.”

During the rally, Miller said that Washington D.C. “is not part of America, because they don’t recognize the Second Amendment.”

Miller also told the audience that she was “part of this fight that we’re all in.”

Citing the Society of Professional Journalists, CSGV asserts that Miller should be fired from her job on the grounds that journalists should “act independently” by avoiding “conflicts of interest, real or perceived.”

“By this standard, Emily Miller has no business being the Chief Investigative Reporter for WTTG, the Fox affiliate for Washington D.C.,” CSGV’s call to arms states.

CSGV also takes issue with Miller’s book, “Emily Gets Her Gun…But Obama Wants to Take Yours.

CSGV describes it as “a book in which she rails against D.C.’s democratically-enacted licensing and registration laws, which have been deemed constitutional by a federal court on two separate occasions.”

In her reporting, which spans other issues besides guns, Miller has covered the Washington D.C. city government’s relatively strict gun policies. The city only recently began granting concealed carry permits after a court ordered it to do so.

To receive a concealed carry permit, applicants must demonstrate “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol.”

It was reported on Tuesday that only eight applicants have been granted a concealed carry permit in the city. Eleven have been denied.

“This is the behavior of an activist and pundit, not a journalist,” CSGV asserts. “Given her record, D.C. residents can’t trust that Miller will provide objective coverage on matters of concern to their city. If WTTG is at all concerned with journalistic integrity, it is time for them part ways with her.”

The group then encourages followers to email Miller’s boss, WTTG general manager Patrick Paolini, demanding that he “fire her immediately.”

Reached by The Daily Caller, a spokeswoman for WTTG said “no comment.”

CSGV’s claims of journalistic conflicts of interest are somewhat ironic.

During the 2012 tax year, CSGV received a $187,000 “general support” grant from the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

The group gave CSGV $210,000 in 2011, and $122,000 in 2010.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns was co-founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is also the predecessor to the pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Everytown for Gun Safety recently announced that it was partnering with the Columbia Journalism School’s Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma to host a two-day workshop “for journalists on covering guns and gun violence.”

Critics of the workshop have argued that it will be biased in favor of stronger gun control measures.

Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp wrote, “On what planet is it ethical to allow controversial activists — ones with a partisan point of view — to fund an educational forum meant to teach journalists ‘facts’ about guns and gun violence?”

Cupp denounced Everytown as “a group that purports to respect the Second Amendment, but actively works against it by endorsing political candidates who want gun bans and pressuring retailers to force law-abiding, licensed gun owners to check their rights at the door.”

The workshop’s announcement was also cited by pro-gun rights advocates as evidence that the event will have a pro-gun control bias.

“Nearly 100 school shootings have occurred since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary only two years ago,” the advertisement reads, citing a statistic first published by Everytown.

But critics of Everytown have argued that the school shootings referenced there were not similar in nature to the one that occurred at Sandy Hook, in which 26 elementary school students and teachers were murdered by a lone gunman.

Many of the shootings included in that statistic did not have schools as their targets. Most of the shootings involved gang violence, drug-related violence, or domestic issues.

CSGV did not immediately respond to TheDC’s request for comment.


January 28, 2015

Mike Pence Walks Back State-Run ‘News’ Site as ‘Misunderstanding’

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, is walking back Monday’s report in the Indianapolis Star that he is launching a taxpayer-funded, state-run “news” site.

On Tuesday, the Star reported that Pence said he is “clarifying” the nature of his site known as “Just IN,” and has referred to the report about it as an “understandable misunderstanding.”

As Breitbart News reported Monday, the Star indicated that Pence’s Just IN site would “offer pre-written articles to Indiana news outlets, as well as sometimes break news stories about his administration.”

“We expect reporters to find the site useful, and some features are designed specifically for media professionals,” the documents obtained by the Star state. “Just IN, however, will function as a news outlet in its own right for thousands of Hoosiers — transparent in functioning as a voice of the State of Indiana’s executive branch.”
Now Pence is saying:
Reports that this was intended to be a news agency, I think just represent an understandable misunderstanding based on some internal communications that I read about in the press… 
My understanding is that the website that has become a source of controversy was simply to have a one-stop shopping website for press releases and information. It’s meant to be a resource, not a news source, and we’ll be clarifying that in the days ahead.
Pence reportedly addressed questions about the Just IN site as he also announced that he had won an alternative expansion of Medicaid from the federal government.

Documents pertaining to Just IN can be seen at the Star and include references to a “managing editor,” an “editorial board,” and a “governance board,” roles that are typically found at news companies or publication sites. The document shows a graphically designed logo for Just IN, followed by a subtitle: “The State of Indiana News Service.”

A section of the document titled “Editor’s Role” provides the following job description:
The Managing Editor will serve as the curator and content administrator of Just IN. The position will work with agency communications directors to identify story opportunities and to ensure agencies are generating high quality contents. He/she also will work closely with the Just IN Editorial Board and Just IN Governance Committee. The Managing Editor will determine content placement and make decisions affecting the production and presentation of Just IN. He/she also will assist in building a photo library and determining graphic needs of the news site. As needed, the position will handle production and write news pieces.
The documents also indicate that Pence has already hired former Indianapolis Star reporter Bill McCleery to be the “managing editor.” The Governor’s communications director Christy Denault and press secretary Kara Brooks are slated, according to the Star, to evaluate stories for inclusion on Just IN that are submitted by agency press secretaries.

Reports of Pence’s state news site sparked considerable alarm and criticism, as Breitbart News reported. Dave Read of the Central Indiana Coalition of Tea Parties referred to the report of the state news site as “a shocking development.”

“To think it will be anything but a well crafted PR machine for the Governor’s presidential aspirations is naïve,” Read told Breitbart News. “Instead of naming it ‘Just In’ he might as well call it ‘Pravda’ and call it a day.”

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, McCleery reportedly said, “posting press releases” was “nothing new in state government.”

According to the Star, Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D) said he was disappointed that the controversy over Pence’s Just IN news service had distracted from the news of the state’s having won a Medicaid expansion from the federal government.

“It just blows everything off the headlines. And that’s unfortunate,” Pelath said, suggesting that Pence “pull the plug on the whole thing. In public service, it’s OK to be the object of scorn, but not of ridicule. And this has become the object of ridicule."


January 27, 2015

CBO: Obamacare to cost $2 trillion over the next decade

President Obama's healthcare law will spend about $2 trillion over the next decade on expanding insurance coverage but still leave 31 million Americans uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

When Obama pitched the healthcare law to Congress, he said it would cost "around $900 billion" over 10 years. But his statement was misleading because the way the law was designed, the major spending provisions didn't kick in until 2014. This meant that 10-year estimates at the time the law was passed in 2010 were artificially low, because they included four years (2010 through 2013) in which spending was negligible.

The new CBO analysis finds that between fiscal years 2016 and 2025, spending on the law's expansion of Medicaid will cost $920 billion and insurance exchange subsidies will cost nearly $1.1 trillion. The major spending provisions, taken together, will total $1.993 trillion.

Obamacare does include tax increases and Medicare cuts that previous CBO reports have found would offset the new spending, but CBO is no longer providing a full budgetary analysis of the law.

The CBO also said it expected the law's exchanges to cover 21 million by the end of the 2016 fiscal year and for Medicaid to cover an additional 13 million — gains that it projects will be partially offset by a reduction of 11 million people in employer or other existing coverage.

By 2025, the end of the projection period, the CBO projects that Obamacare will increase insurance coverage by a net of 27 million, while 31 million will remain uninsured.


January 26, 2015

Homeland Security watchdog protests TSA censorship of airport security report

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth is protesting the censorship by Transportation Security Administration officials of portions of a report by his investigators on airport security that is critical of the censors.

Roth's staff reviewed the security controls for the federal government's information technology systems at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Their report was censored in multiple places by TSA officials who classified the offending material as Sensitive Security Information. The SSI classification puts the affected passages off-limits to the public.

Roth protested the censorship to then-TSA chief John Pistole in November and December last year but reluctantly published a redacted version of the report earlier this month that contained numerous recommendations for improved technology security at the airport.

In an extremely unusual move by an IG, Roth made his protests public Friday by issuing a statement to the media.

“Over-classification is the enemy of good government. SSI markings should be used only to protect transportation security, rather than, as I fear occurred here, to allow government program officials to conceal negative information within a report,” said Roth. “I believe — and the computer experts on my staff confirm — that this report should be released in its entirety in the public domain.”

In his protests to Pistole, Roth noted that TSA officials were slow to complete their review of the report, which they received in draft form last July.

Previous IG reports had included materials on the same issues and were not censored by TSA, Roth said. A complete un-redacted version of the report was provided to the congressional committees with oversight authority for TSA.

“Our mission is to inform the public, Congress, and the DHS leadership about fraud, waste, and mismanagement in DHS programs and operations. Issuing full reports without redactions is key to accomplishing that mission,” Roth said in his protests to Pistole.

A TSA spokesman has been asked for a comment today.

The inspectors general are appointed by the president but report to Congress. They were established by Congress in 1978 as the government's first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse in federal programs.

The SSI label was created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
Roth was one of 47 inspectors general who signed a letter to Congress last year protesting multiple examples in which executive branch officials have obstructed their access to important government documents and witnesses. The letter also cited excessive classification as an obstacle to fulfilling their duties.


January 23, 2015

Congress Looking Into Why IRS Has BIG MONEY Contract With Botched Healthcare.gov Company

Congress may conduct an investigation into the surprising report that the Internal Revenue Service awarded a $4.5 million IT contract to CGI Federal, the discredited designer of the botched Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov.

In response to The Daily Caller’s disclosure Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), the new incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has instructed his staff to examine the reasons why the IRS awarded the contract to CGI.

“Committee staff is looking into the matter,” Chaffetz said in an email to The Daily Caller.

An official probe into the IRS decision could embarrass President Obama, who in the wake of the CGI-Obamacare fiasco, issued a high profile pledge to reform federal IT procurement.

A new IT procurement survey released Thursday, however, shows the Obama administration has made little progress in forcing accountability into the largely hidden world of government IT contracting. 

Rep. Chaffetz told TheDC he suspected the same mismanagement problems that plagued Obamacare exist at the IRS.

“I am concerned that this type of mismanagement will be repeated by the current administration under the new IRS contract,” he said.

Chaffetz, who succeeds outgoing chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) is expected to continue to aggressively pursue government wrongdoing and mismanagement in the administration. He chairs a committee that enjoys wide jurisdiction over many federal programs.

Grover Norquist, the president of the influential Americans for Tax Reform, a tax advocacy group, agreed there should be an investigation into the IRS contract awarded to CGI.
“This calls for serious investigation and people should be brought in under oath about how this could happen,” he told TheDC.

Norquist also said it seemed clear to him that the administration had learned little from the Obamacare debacle.

“This is proof that the administration learned nothing from the failure of the rollout of the Obamacare website,” he concluded. “It means nothing has changed.”

Dave Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group told TheDC, “This is absolutely incredible. How does the federal government contract with the same firm that messed up the Obamacare site? It boggles the mind.”

Williams said the revelation breeds cynicism among citizen views of Washington. “All citizens are just dumbfounded when they see these kind of decisions coming out of Washington, D.C.”

Speaking at a November 2013 fundraising dinner for top Democratic donors shortly after the Obamacare website failed, President Obama publicly vowed to fix federal IT procurement.

“There are a whole range of things we’re going to need to do once we get this fixed, to talk about federal procurement when it comes to IT and how that’s organized,” Obama said then.

However, a 2014 Acquisition Policy Survey of IT executives issued Thursday by the Professional Services Council and the Grant Thornton consulting firm suggests that despite the rhetoric, the administration has done very little to reform IT government procurement.

The survey concluded, “A solid majority indicated that things have not improved overall or not improved sufficiently to ‘move the needle.’”

The IRS contract awarded to CGI was issued under a competitive bidding process.

Former IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, who served under President Bush’s administration, said based on the “professionalism” of the IRS procurement division, the tax agency was merely following federal guidelines.

“My experience with their procurement group at the IRS was positive. I think that is very different than what happened at HHS where the design of that website was abysmal,” he told TheDC.

Stan Soloway, the president of the Professional Services Council (which counts CGI as one of its members), also defended the IRS.

“I have faith the Internal Revenue Service was well aware of the challenges of Healthcare.gov and took a very close look at their capabilities CGI,” Soloway said. “If anything, they would have been biased against making that judgment.”

However, A.R. Trey Hodgkins, a senior vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council says there are many barriers that prevent innovative IT companies from entering the government procurement process.

In a January 2014 blog, he wrote, “it is important to keep in mind that troubled IT program rollouts, like Healthcare.gov, are symptomatic of broader systemic failures in federal acquisition,” adding, “In order to encourage more competition in the federal public sector, we need to find ways to reduce barriers to entering and staying in the market.”

A spokesman for CGI would comment to TheDC that, “CGI has successfully supported the IRS for more than a decade, and continues to do so.”


January 22, 2015

Congress rankled over proposal to route 911 location calls though Russian satellites

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a plan to route U.S. emergency 911 location calls through a Russian satellite system, raising national security alarms inside a Congress dubious of Moscow’s intentions.

In a proposal before the FCC, the 911 emergency system would rely on the Russian Federation’s GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones.

If the plan is enacted, Russia may have the ability to impair America’s 911 emergency capabilities and could use it as a tool to spy on the whereabouts of first responders among other things, legislators warn.

“In view of the threat posed to the world by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, it cannot be seriously considered that the U.S. would rely on a system in that dictator’s control for its wireless 911 location capability,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, wrote in a letter to the secretary of defense and director of national intelligence.

“Our response to Russia’s hybrid warfare, arms control cheating, illegal invasions of sovereign nations, and energy-based extortion must be broad-based isolation and counter-leverage,” Mr. Rogers said in the letter, which was obtained exclusively by The Washington Times.

Wireless carriers AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon crafted the plan along with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the National Emergency Number Association in hopes of improving the ability of police, firefighters and medics to locate people who use their mobile phones to call for help.

The Russian satellite system would be required because U.S. systems don’t cover enough territory, said Trey Forgety, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association.
“Our view is that we ought to be leveraging anything that is available to find someone in an emergency,” he said.

Cellphone users who dial 911 from inside a building in urban areas are more difficult for first responders to find because the GPS technology on cellphones does not work as well indoors as it does outdoors, according to published reports.

In defense of the industry’s plans, Sprint said it would keep the use of the Russian satellites to a minimum, thus reducing the national security threat.

“The roadmap does not envision that carriers will rely exclusively on the GLONASS system,” Ray Rothermel, Sprint’s director of government affairs, said in a Dec. 24 letter to FCC officials. “Rather, the roadmap advocates taking advantage of a tool that is available now to allow carriers to improve location information.”

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss concerns raised in the congressional letter but said the Defense Department would be sure to address them.

“Secretary Hagel places a high priority on working closely with Congress and will answer as quickly as possible,” he said. “As a matter of policy, we do not release the secretary’s congressional correspondence.”

Nikolay Liashenko, a counselor for the Russian Embassy in Washington, had no comment Wednesday evening.

Mr. Rogers asked the Department of Defense and DNI to detail the extent to which they would rely on the 911 system for communications and the effect on national security users and first responders if Russia provides the satellite communications.

The FCC, which regulates national and international electronic transmissions, is reviewing 911 location proposals and has not decided the best way forward, said retired Rear Adm. David Simpson, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

“We are committed to protecting both public safety and national security as we continue to examine the input and issues in the proceeding, and will coordinate with our colleagues across the government to ensure that national security needs are addressed,” Mr. Simpson said.

This would not mark the first time that the FCC has tried to expand communications at the expense of national security, nor is this the first time the Pentagon has been caught off guard by those efforts.

A Department of Defense official urged his colleagues in 2010 to “synch up” with the GPS industry in order to defeat LightSquared’s plans to build the nation’s first wholesale broadband network, according to a document obtained by Politico at the time.

The concern was that LightSquared’s plan to build a wholesale broadband network would jam the military’s GPS receivers. LightSquared’s proposal was scrapped eventually, and the company filed for bankruptcy.

Two years ago, the Pentagon was blind-sided when the State Department contemplated giving Russian space agency Roscosmos permission to build a half-dozen buildings housed with antennas and electronics across the U.S.

Lawmakers were flabbergasted by the lack of communication by the two agencies and responded by inserting legislative language into the 2014 defense bill that blocks the Pentagon from entering into contracts for commercial satellite services with foreign entities.

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials has described Mr. Rogers‘ national security concerns as baseless.

Fears over the use of Russian satellites have been fueled by “plainly false statements that stretch the imagination to try to make a case that the roadmap’s inclusion of GLONASS for location determination presents a security threat,” Jeffrey Cohen, the association’s government relations director, said in a Dec. 24 letter to the FCC.

The FCC will decide whether to approve of the proposal during a Jan. 29 public meeting.


January 21, 2015

15 State of the Union quotes that require more government spending or mandates

Fifteen proposals in President Obama’s State of the Union address would require more taxpayer dollars or burden businesses (and ultimately workers) with mandates. The proposals would cost tens of billions of dollars that would have to be paid for by taxpayers. Job creators would have to deal with higher costs and more legal complications, which will reduce wages and available jobs. Here is a list of 15 ways Obama would increase costs to taxpayers, businesses, and workers.

1. Childcare

“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America — by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.”

“More slots” will require more government funding for childcare.

2. Paid sick leave

“I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”

Employers are primarily concerned with controlling their overall compensation costs, so the only thing that mandating paid sick leave would do is cause businesses to reduce workers' cash wages.

3. Gender pay gap

“That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”

Discrimination lawsuits will flood an already-packed legal system, requiring more government funding for judges and support staff. Businesses would have to adopt stricter legal policies to keep themselves safe from costly lawsuits.

4. Minimum wage

“To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

A higher minimum wage might raise a few people above eligibility for welfare programs, but it will increase unemployment and make even more people eligible. Government would also have to start paying employees higher wages. Businesses would have to cut costs elsewhere to pay for the increased wages, making layoffs likely.

5. Unions

“We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions.”

Stronger unions mean higher wages for government workers, who need taxpayer funding for their salaries and benefits. Businesses would likely be strong-armed into costlier benefits for employees without any increased productivity.

6. Community college

“I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero. ... I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

Obama’s “free” community college program will cost taxpayers $80 billion over 10 years.

7. Student loan debt

“I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”

The administration of this program — as well as any increase in government loan guarantees — would require more government spending.

8. Infrastructure

“Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

More infrastructure, and construction jobs, would require plenty of taxpayer dollars.

9. Medicine

“Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes — and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

The research will require taxpayer funding.

10. Internet

“I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

Extending the Internet to every classroom will require more government funding or subsidies of Internet provision.

11. Islamic State

“Tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria].”

Force against the Islamic State will require more taxpayer funding for military action.

12. Cybersecurity

“Tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”

To better defend the country from cyberattacks, defense agencies will need more funding to protect Americans from new threats.

13. Global health

“The world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.”
This proposal would send more taxpayer dollars to global agencies such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and others.

14. Climate change

“Over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history. And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.”

More international action on climate change will ask business to restrict their emissions and energy use. Government will have to invest in cleaner, but more expensive, energy-efficient buildings.

15. Guantanamo Bay

“Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GITMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down.”
Closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay will require more funding for federal prisons across the country, as the prisons look to take on more prisoners and update their security systems.


January 20, 2015

Five things to watch in Obama's State of the Union address

President Obama will deliver his penultimate State of the Union address Tuesday night, with the White House envisioning the annual speech as an opportunity to parlay promising economic news into momentum for a populist agenda.

In an unusual move, the White House unveiled most of the major new proposals ahead of time, in an effort to win headlines as the new Republican Congress took control. 

The president is expected to unveil legislation that would overhaul the tax code, providing credits to middle class families funded by hikes on the rich and big banks. And Obama will highlight or propose plans to expand broadband Internet access, offer free community college tuition and provide guaranteed paid sick and family leave.

"Over the next two years, we have the opportunity to not simply continue the momentum that was built last year but really capitalize on some of the long-term trends," Obama said in a preview video posted Monday by the White House.

But while the speech might lack some of the suspense of past years, there will still be plenty to watch for when the president takes the podium before the joint session of Congress. Here are five things to keep an eye on:

What tone does Obama take?

The White House knows Republicans aren’t likely to embrace his plans for overhauling the tax code or funding expansive new government programs.

But there’s an open question of how aggressively Obama will highlight those differences. Will the president cast his opposition in an unflattering light and challenge them to continue sending up legislation for him to veto on hot-button issues like ObamaCare or the Keystone pipeline?

Alternatively, Obama could talk up possible areas of agreement, like trade authority and cyber security. And he could emphasize a willingness to work with Republicans — and congratulate them for their sweeping electoral victories last fall.

Pay close attention to how Obama talks about funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which Republicans are blocking in hopes of rolling back Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Democrats see DHS as issue where they have popular support, especially in light of the Paris terror attacks earlier this month, and Obama could be tempted to hammer the GOP. 

How does he address race?

Race relations have become an increasingly salient and divisive issue in the aftermath of controversial police shootings last year.

The subsequent assassination of two New York City police officers only deepened difficult national divides and prompted more difficult questions about how to bridge the gap between law enforcement and minority communities.

Obama, who has faced tough questions about his handling of the issue, has invited a Los Angeles Police Department captain who pioneered a program to improve relations with the residents of Watts to sit with the first lady.

But it’s a high wire act for a president who has sought to offer support to both demonstrations over racial disparities in the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers as well.

What does he say about terrorism?

Polls show the nation is skittish about the risk of a terrorist attack in the wake of the targeting of a French satirical newspaper earlier this month, with 57 percent of respondents in a recent CBS News poll calling such an attack at least somewhat likely.

And Obama himself came under fire after opting not to attend a unity march in Paris.

Meanwhile, the persistence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has led to new questions about the White House’s plan to combat the international terrorist network.

The president agreed in a meeting earlier this month with congressional leaders to offer legislation authorizing his military campaign against the terror group, although White House aides stressed it would be written with congressional consultation.

Tuesday’s address will be an opportunity for the president to both signal solidarity with France and provide more guidance on what tools he hopes Congress will provide him to fight radicals.

Does he embrace triangulation?

The president is certain to call on Congress to provide him greater authority to negotiate a pair of trade deals with Europe and Asia over the opposition of some prominent Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Republicans support such a deal, while labor unions and many on the left do not.

Similarly, the president could cite last year’s budget agreement — which passed over the opposition of prominent Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — as a precedent for bipartisan deal-making.

It will be worth watching to see how congressional Democrats react to his trade pitch. Outward grumbling could suggest that Obama will struggle to keep his party in line, while more quiet disagreement would suggest Democrats are feeling more willing to bargain.

How vigorously does he defend the Iran talks?

The president made headlines for declaring his intention to veto any legislation imposing additional sanctions on Iran during last year’s address. 

But with Republicans now controlling the Senate, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are again offering language that would set new penalties if Tehran walks away from ongoing nuclear negotiations.

During a press conference last week, Obama asked for patience.

“Congress should be aware that if this diplomatic solution fails, then the risks and likelihood that this ends up being at some point a military confrontation is heightened, and Congress will have to own that as well, and that will have to be debated by the American people,” he said.

Tuesday night’s address is an opportunity for the president to begin making that case to a national audience, even though it could prompt bipartisan jeers in the chamber.


January 19, 2015

VA Inspector General: We Do Lots Of Reports That We Don’t Publish Or Tell Congress About

The inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) knew that a VA medical center was giving out disconcertingly high amounts of morphine to patients, but did not disclose that information to Congress.

VA’s inspector general’s office, which is supposed to serve as an independent oversight body within the VA, admitted in a contentious conversation with The Daily Caller that its internal report on the notorious “Candy Land” facility was not published. The office also admitted that it routinely produces reports that it does not publish or send to Congress.

The inspector general’s office compiled a report in March 2014 which showed that the VA medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin, doled out high amounts of morphine to patients, causing area veterans to refer to the center as “Candy Land.” The inspector general’s report was first noted in a Jan. 8 article by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs chairman Rep. Jeff Miller never got a copy of the internal report and did not even know that it existed until the Center for Investigative Reporting article.

“At this time, the Committee is provided electronic copies of all published reports at the time of publication,” Acting VA Inspector General Richard J. Griffin told the committee in a December 30 letter. “These reports can also be found on the Office of Inspector General [OIG] public website. If a report contains information that is protected from disclosure, we provide an unredacted copy for Committee oversight purposes upon the written request of the Chairman.”

But as a VA spokeswoman explained to The Daily Caller, there is a difference between “published reports” and un-published reports.

“We did not hide any reports from Congress,” Catherine Gromek, a congressional relations officer at the inspector general’s office, told TheDC over the phone.

“The [Office of the Inspector General] does many types of reports. Some are administrative,” while “some are published reports.”

“We had some conversations up on the Hill with congressmen about why we did what we did.”

Gromek told this reporter that “it gets under my skin” when she sees a question in her inbox asking why her office concealed a report instead of simply asking for a statement.

“It’s too long,” Gromek said, explaining that her answer to my question was complicated and that she expected TheDC was “just going to take the blurb” that “we did not hide any reports from Congress.” Gromek said she could type out a statement that would “make it seem like I went to college.”

That collegiate statement eventually came in.

“We have 10 public reports on the underlying issue of the use of opioid including a national report that the House Committee on Veterans Affairs received copies of and in some cases briefings on,” Gromek wrote to TheDC.

But Gromek did not answer our question: why did the House committee not receive a copy of the non-public March 2014 report?


January 16, 2015

Mexican Government To Issue Birth Certificates In The US, A Boon To Obama’s Executive Amnesty

On Thursday, the Mexican government began issuing birth certificates to its citizens at its 50 U.S.-based consulates, a move that will make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and work permits and to stay in the U.S. under President Obama’s executive amnesty decision.

In the past, Mexican citizens had to obtain their birth certificates from offices in Mexico. Individuals would often have relatives and friends obtain the documents and send them into the U.S.

But with the Mexican government’s help, its U.S.-based citizens will receive documents more quickly, which will help them apply for amnesty under Obama’s plan, which is expected to provide relief from deportation to approximately five million illegal immigrants.

According to the Associated Press, roughly half of the 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. are from Mexico. Of those, up to three million could be eligible for relief under Obama’s amnesty effort.

“It is a huge help. It helps individuals really begin to formulate their formal identity in this country,” said Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told The Associated Press.

The move comes as Republicans in Congress are trying to strip funding in the Department of Homeland Security budget for Obama’s amnesty initiative.

Jessica Vaughan, policy director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group which advocates for limited immigration, believes that the Mexican government is more than happy to issue birth certificates to its U.S.-based citizens because it will allow them to send money more back across the border to their families.

According to the AP, Mexican nationals sent $21.6 billion back to their families in Mexico in 2013.


January 15, 2015

Obama deeply unpopular with the military, as are the political parties

The Military Times has a long article out today which comes to the startling conclusion that a deeply conservative institution like the military may find a Commander-in-Chief like Obama to be very unpopular among most of its members.

That should really come as no surprise. And the reasons are pretty well known.
However, I found this to be more revealing than what I assumed was a given.
The loss of faith in lawmakers comes at a time when troops are less likely to identify with either major political party. 
In the last nine years of the Military Times Poll, the percentage of respondents who consider themselves Republican has slowly dropped, from nearly half of those surveyed in the late 2000s to just 32 percent this year. Increasingly, readers are more likely to describe themselves as libertarian (9 percent) or independent (28 percent). 
Likewise, readers who described themselves as “very conservative” have remained steady over the years, but “conservative” respondents have dwindled as well — down to 29 percent from a high of 41 percent in 2011. 
Democrats and liberal readers make up about 8 percent of the poll respondents.
The fact is they’re less and less enthralled with the political class and political parties in general, not just the President (although I think a special sort of unpopularity that transcends party is his). And for the most part they reflect a growing trend in America. It’s ironic that one of Obama’s goals was to make government popular and cool again when he took office. Instead, what is happening in the military is a good snapshot of what is also going on within the country.  People have lost faith in government and see it as a problem for the most part, not a solution.

Obviously Democrats and liberals are underrepresented in the Military Times poll and that again is no surprise. It is, however, a good indicator of why the Democrats and liberals don’t “get” the military. They, for the most part, don’t serve or know many that do. It is one among many reasons why Obama suffers his unpopularity.

But the shift from “Republican” to libertarian or independent should have the GOP worried. This is mirrored among many on the right who call themselves conservative but are just as likely not to claim to be a Republican. While the GOP may not like that and are certainly resisting it, the “mushy middle” is losing out and the conservatives are demanding change if Republicans want their vote (they are just as likely, btw, not to want to see a Bush or Romney on the next ticket either).

Certainly the military is a special institution in and of itself. Much of the dissatisfaction with political leaders has to do with sequestration cuts, which apparently only the military had to suffer. That on top of the unilateral 10% cut imposed on the military by Obama while in the middle of two wars helps explain some of the President’s unpopularity. Social engineering of a force whose whole sole purpose is to fight wars and protect the country is another.

But there’s plenty to worry about for the political parties contained in that poll as well.


January 14, 2015

Cato Amnesty Analysts Attack Jeff Sessions’ Plan to Battle Amnesty

At least two senior analysts for the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute are attacking Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) 25-page roadmap forward for the new Republican majority in Congress on the crucial issue of immigration.

“Want a laugh? Read Sen. Sessions on creating GOP majority. His 1/2 nativism + 1/2 UK labor party mix is disastrous,” Cato’s immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh tweeted regarding Sessions’ roadmap document, along with a link to the Breitbart News story about the Sessions document.

His colleague Bill Watson, Cato’s trade policy analyst, joined him in mocking the senator’s roadmap document, calling it “nativist” by tweeting an add-on to Nowrasteh’s comments: “In short: Promise to get rid of the Mexicans #DeyTerkErJerbs.” Watson’s disparaging remarks about Sessions plan—specifically the hash tag “DeyTerkErJerbs”—is a reference to Comedy Central’s animated television show South Park’s mocking of people concerned about immigration’s effects on the economy. The show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have made episodes where the citizens of the town of South Park face problems getting work after an influx of immigrants from the future come back in time to take jobs from people.

Cato Institute vice president for communications Khristine Brookes declined to comment on Nowrasteh’s and Watson’s disparaging Tweets. Instead of responding to a detailed press request from Breitbart News on Tuesday asking whether the organization supports Nowrasteh’s or Watson’s comments, and whether it stands by the two analysts in the wake of their Tweets, Brookes simply replied: “I look forward to reading your story.”

These attacks from Cato analysts against Sessions’ plan come as pro-amnesty elements of the GOP consultant class are gearing up for another push alongside Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s group FWD.us for amnesty. Nowrasteh was a major player in the failed push for amnesty in the last Congress, supporting the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill and other amnesty measures alongside Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.

On Tuesday, Nowrasheh tweeted his support for a bill from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would increase the number of visas in the tech community. He called Hatch’s bill a series of “good moderate reforms toward a more functional skills-based immigration system.” In his roadmap document, Sessions writes there is no tech worker shortage in America.

Hatch’s bill, which has the buy-in of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would expand the H-1B visa program. Sessions calls it a boon to special interests.

“The false claim that has gained the most acceptance is the notion that there is a shortage of qualified Americans with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” Sessions wrote in a subsection of the 25-page roadmap titled the “Silicon Valley STEM Hoax.”
Therefore, the fallacious reasoning goes, the United States must expand the already-substantial annual influx of foreign guest workers to fill these jobs. But the evidence proves the opposite: not only is there no shortage of qualified Americans ready, able, and eager to fill these jobs, there is a huge surplus of Americans trained in these fields who are unable to find employment. It is understandable why large technology firms push the discredited STEM myth—a loose labor market for IT and STEM jobs keeps pay low, allows for substantial turnover without having to retain older employees with increased compensation, and provides a PR basis for the industry’s immigration lobbying campaign. What is not understandable is why they have gotten away with it for so long.
Sessions uses U.S. Census Bureau data to debunk claims from the political establishment that the high-tech community needs more foreign workers imported into the U.S. because there aren’t enough Americans to do those jobs.

Even so, Zuckerberg’s lobbying firm FWD.us, according to an advisory obtained by Breitbart News, compiled a group of pro-amnesty advocates in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. They reportedly including Norquist, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s Vice President for Public Policy and Research Barrett Duke, National Immigration Forum board chair Laura Foote Reiff, and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

“We all know the struggles our broken immigration system causes our nation. Under Republican leadership, the 114th Congress has an incredible opportunity to right these wrongs,” the advisory for the pro-amnesty gathering, which was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday in room 200 of the House Visitors Center in the U.S. Capitol, reads. “Please join conservative faith, law enforcement and business leaders for a briefing on issues of immigration enforcement and reform.”

FWD.us’s Jen Martin—a Democratic operative who has worked for former Rep. Kathy Hochul, now the Democratic Lt. Governor of New York, and for former Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy of New York, according to her LinkedIn page—organized the presumably “conservative” event for “Republicans,” authoring the advisory sent around Capitol Hill.

“The object of this briefing is to provide Republican Members of Congress information from trusted conservatives as to how changes to our immigration system should be approached,” Martin wrote in the email, acting in her capacity as a FWD.us employee, not a Democratic Party operative. “From a faith, law enforcement and business perspective, speakers will provide the data and research necessary to craft a constructive legislative approach.”

It’s interesting that Zuckerberg is choosing to again make Norquist one of the faces of his campaign for amnesty. Norquist’s staff, including ATR director of Tax Policy Ryan Ellis and ATR Director of State Affairs Patrick Gleason, in November engaged in disparaging behavior against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) similar to what Nowrasteh at Cato is doing to Sessions. And they did so alongside a key aide to former George W. Bush White House political director Karl Rove.

Specifically, Ellis posted on Facebook an article from the American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord that detailed how Cruz’s efforts to defund Obamacare in October 2013 actually ended up helping Republicans in the midterm elections, as they took the U.S. Senate majority and added to their House majority.

While posting Lord’s article, Ellis described Cruz and Lord as “from the ‘delusionally insane’ wing of the for-profit Right.”

A running argument ensued among Ellis, ATR’s director of state affairs Patrick Gleason, Sarah Culling—the wife of former ATR staffer Joshua Culling—and Karl Rove operative Jonathan Collegio, the communications director for Rove’s American Crossroads group.

“Surely the GOP won elections in spite of the disastrous shut down, not because of it,” Culling wrote, to which Ellis joked in response referencing the movie Airplane: “Yes, and don’t call me Shirley.”

“I thought you got over your fixation with Sen. Cruz. Evidently not,” Martin Gillespie, another right-of-center political world figure, challenged Ellis.

“I’ll get over Cruz when Cruz gets over McConnell,” Ellis responded to Gillespie.

Also in response to Gillespie, Norquist’s other ATR staffer Gleason further disparaged Cruz.

“Are you serious?” Gleason wrote to Gillespie. “The problem is Sen. Cruz won’t get over his fixation w/ Sen. Cruz. The shutdown was one of the biggest political disasters ever for the GOP. They won last week in spite of it. Obamacare was at the height of it’s popularity during and because of the shutdown. The only good thing to come out of the shutdown is that previously beholden to Cruz members now don’t trust him. Rightfully so.”

At that point, Rove’s operative Collegio jumped in to discuss what he thinks is the “delusionally insane” conservatives in politics—referencing a situation where he had spoken negatively about Media Research Center head Brent Bozell, which prompted calls for Collegio’s resignation or firing from many high-profile conservative leaders—which forced Collegio to apologize to Bozell on live radio.

“Jeff Lord was literally the first guy to call for me to be fired after I had that dust-up with Bozell,” Collegio wrote. “If you want the official list of the ‘delusionally insane’ right, look at the folks who tried to get me fired. They are literally all on there.”

The list of conservative leaders who demanded Collegio’s resignation, according to a February 2013 article from CNS News, includes: Nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, RedState’s Erick Erickson, Citizens United’s David Bossie, Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, ISI’s Alfred Regnery, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Morton Blackwell, former Reagan administration officials Frank Gaffney and T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., Liberty Consulting’s Ginni Thomas and Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin.

This Facebook exchange happened on Nov. 11, 2014, and remained published and posted online—accessible to the public—for at least two months until Tuesday this week. But after Breitbart News reached out to both Collegio and ATR communications director John Kartch for comment on it—and specifically whether Rove and Norquist themselves endorse what their staffers wrote about Sen. Cruz and conservative activists and media figures such as Lord and the above list—the Facebook post was deleted. Nonetheless, neither Kartch nor Collegio responded to the requests for comment and wouldn’t answer questions about what this behavior does for their reputations among Republican members of Congress.

Previously, Zuckerberg’s personal ally, Facebook board member Marc Andreesen, called Sessions an “odious hack” and “clinically insane” in a series of negative Tweets directed at the conservative statesman from Alabama.

Rove, Norquist and their organizations, alongside Zuckerberg’s lobbyists, are expected to continue pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens and what they deem to be “immigration reform.”

“Conservatives backing immigration reform aren’t quite done trying to lobby Hill Republicans on an overhaul,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim wrote on Tuesday morning, noting that Norquist is leading the way to push for amnesty. Kim also reports Norquist is travelling to Lincoln, Nebraska, in early February “to tout the economic impacts of immigration reform.”

But Sessions and Cruz say they’ll keep fighting and laying out their vision for the Republican Party.

“For all the Republicans intoning we must get things done, if we simply settle into business as usual in this town and keep growing and growing and growing the leviathan and keep shrinking and shrinking and shrinking that sphere of individual liberty, we will demoralize the millions of men and women who came out in November and gave Republicans the biggest majority in the house since the 1920s. Not only will we not win elections, we’ll get walloped, and we’ll deserve to get walloped,” Cruz said in a speech to Heritage Action’s 2015 Conservative Policy Summit on Monday, a speech where among other things he emphasized the need to block Obama’s amnesty.

Sessions adds:
‘Immigration reform’ may be the single most abused phrase in the English language. It has become a legislative honorific almost exclusively reserved for proposals which benefit everyone but actual American citizens. Consider the recent Obama-backed “immigration reform” bill rejected by Congress. That bill—the culmination of a $1.5 billion lobbying effort—doubled the influx of foreign workers to benefit corporate lobbyists, offered sweeping amnesty to benefit illegal immigrants, and collapsed enforcement to benefit groups in the Democrat political machine that advocate open borders. But for American citizens, the legislation offered nothing except lower wages, higher unemployment, and a heavier tax burden.