September 30, 2013

House votes to fund government, delay Obamacare, repeal medical device tax

With less than two days left to avoid a government shutdown, the House voted late Saturday night to fund the government — while delaying Obamacare for one year and repealing the medical device tax.

The bill is the House’s second attempt to avert a government shutdown. The Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the House’s original version of the bill, stripping out a provision that defunded Obamacare. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, the government will shut down on Tuesday.

Voting late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, the House voted 231-192 in favor of a one year delay of Obamacare. They voted to repeal the medical device tax by a vote of 248-174, with 17 Democrats voting yes.

The House also voted unanimously for a bill that would ensure that military personnel continue to get paid in the event of a government shutdown.

“The House has again passed a plan that reflects the American people’s desire to keep the government running and stop the president’s health care law,” said House Speaker John Boehner in a statement after the vote.

“Now that the House has again acted, it’s up to the Senate to pass this bill without delay to stop a government shutdown,” he said. “Let’s get this done.”

But the Senate is not going to pass the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Saturday.
“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless,” Reid said in a statement before the vote Saturday night.
House Democrats slammed the vote, accusing Republicans of forcing a government shutdown by passing something that could not pass the Senate.

“Americans have gone from deep disappointment to outrage at House Republicans’ antics,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair and New York Rep. Steve Israel in a statement. “This has been the Congress of chronic chaos since day one, and Republicans have turned governing into an old episode of the Road Runner cartoon – another day, another cliff.”

Senators might be more willing to accept the repeal of the medical device tax. Earlier this year, the Senate voted 79-20 in favor of repealing the tax in a symbolic vote. But Reid made clear that he had no intention of accepting either amendment.

“To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown,” he said.

The Senate is not set to come back into session until 2 p.m. on Monday, when there will be just 10 hours remaining to avert a shutdown. A Democratic Senate aide told The Daily Caller that they were unlikely to change that schedule, as Reid had made their position quite clear.

“There’s no point,” the aide said.


September 27, 2013

Obama energy nominee becomes climate change battleground

President Obama’s nominee to head an obscure but powerful energy panel is in deep trouble on Capitol Hill, but the White House said Thursday it is standing by Ron Binz in what is shaping up to be a major battle over Mr. Obama’s climate agenda.

The Senate Energy Committee said it has been informed that there is a search for other names that could be sent over in lieu of Mr. Binz, whom Mr. Obama nominated in June to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“The committee is aware that other candidates are being considered to lead FERC,” said Keith Chu, a spokesman for the Senate Energy Committee, where Mr. Binz’s nomination has stalled amid questions of his truthfulness and whether he is open to the continued use of fossil fuels in American energy production.

But hours later, the White House said Mr. Binz is still their man and should be confirmed.

Ron Binz is a very qualified candidate for the position he’s been nominated for. He’s qualified and the Senate ought to act on his nomination,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the White House.

The back-and-forth suggests the high stakes on Mr. Binz’s nomination, which some on Capitol Hill see as one of the battlegrounds in the fight against Mr. Obama’s plans to try to limit greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels.

Mr. Binz didn’t answer an email asking about his situation. He has declined requests since he was nominated in late June, when Mr. Obama picked him to lead FERC, which controls interstate energy transmission.

At a rocky confirmation hearing earlier this month, Mr. Binz tried to discount previous statements calling natural gas a “dead-end” fuel, and argued that as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission he approved the largest coal-fired power plant in state history.

But that claim turned out to be wrong, further damaging Mr. Binz’s credibility. He had already run into trouble with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, who said Mr. Binz appeared to have misled her when he said he wasn’t working with an outside team to try to promote his nomination.

The Washington Times obtained emails that showed Mr. Binz was working with a group of lobbyists and strategists he called his “team,” and also asked employees for BP, a multinational oil and gas company, to lobby the Energy Committee on his behalf.

“We do think there are qualified candidates out there who would be less controversial than Mr. Binz,” said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Ms. Murkowski. “The committee’s role is to advise and consent and Sen. Murkowski and the other Republican members will consider each nominee on an individual basis.”

Green technology companies had rallied around Mr. Binz’s nomination and one political action committee even hired a public relations firm to defend Mr. Binz.

Emails showed Mr. Binz initially worked with that firm, VennSquared, as part of his team of lobbyists, but he told the Energy Committee he eventually asked VennSquared founder Michael Meehan not to contact him anymore.

VennSquared didn’t respond to an email Thursday.

Mr. Binz suffered another blow when Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, decided this week he would oppose the nomination. That put all Republicans on the Energy Committee on record as prepared to vote against Mr. Binz, along with Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat who also said he would oppose Mr. Binz.

That means at best Mr. Binz would face a tie vote in the committee — though analysts said one option available to Democrats would be to try to clear Mr. Binz with an “unfavorable” recommendation from the committee.

That would still send the nomination to the full Senate floor, where the GOP would then have to decide whether Mr. Binz rose to the level that would warrant a filibuster.


September 26, 2013

Bank lobbyists want to raise taxes on 96 million Americans

As Congress debates an overhaul of the tax code, it is considering implementing new taxes that will have a dramatic impact on the middle class and effectively raise taxes on about 96 million people. This blanket-style review of the tax code would end the tax-exempt status for nonprofit credit unions, which would jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs and stifle economic growth.

New taxes on credit unions will also eliminate needed competition between banks and credit unions. The result: higher fees and higher loan and mortgage rates for many in the middle class, and for small businesses.

The proposal to place new taxes on credit unions is being pushed on Capitol Hill by the banking industry’s K Street lobbyists, who tell politicians that credit unions’ nonprofit tax status gives them an unfair advantage, while at the same time letting credit unions off the hook in the effort to balance the budget.

But banks have private investors and stockholders, and are taxed on their profits. Credit unions make no profits and return their surplus back to their members through lower interest rates on loans and higher rates on deposits – so taxes are paid at the individual member level. According to an Americans for Tax Reform review of current tax policy, “the net effect for federal coffers is pretty close to a wash.

The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the tax exemption for credit unions amounted to $0.5 billion last year. But $0.5 billion is only a tiny fraction of the annual deficit. And worse, Steve Pociask of the American Consumer Institute writes, “…eliminating the nonprofit status of credit unions would cost consumers $16 for every $1 of taxes saved. That would be a really bad deal for consumers.”

As for the supposed unfair advantage claimed by Big Banking’s lobbyists, a look at the market share of credit unions does not bear their argument out: Banks hold 93 percent of financial assets in the United States, while credit unions hold roughly six percent.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is working to prevent new taxes from being foisted upon credit unions. CUNA partners with state leagues and credit unions to track and have an impact on laws affecting operations and members. CUNA engages credit unions at the grassroots level, facilitates discussion and provides credit union input to regulators to build knowledge for compliance staff. CUNA is helping credit union members voice their opposition to new taxes on these member-directed and member-owned institutions in an effort to preserve an essential piece of our financial system and a vital tool for the middle class and our communities.


September 25, 2013

JPMorgan Chase offers Justice Department a $3 billion settlement

JPMorgan Chase has offered to pay about $3 billion to settle an array of pending Justice Department probes, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing a person familiar with the discussions.

The Justice Department argued JPMorgan would need to pay billions above the $3 billion offer to settle the cases, according to the person.

The newspaper, citing people familiar with the matter, said that JPMorgan, the biggest US bank by assets, and the Justice Department had expanded the settlement talks to include an array of cases.

It said it was unclear which of the more than half a dozen open Justice Department investigations into JPMorgan’s conduct would be resolved by such an agreement.

The talks are “very fluid” and an agreement “far from certain,” people close to the situation told the Journal.

A spokesman for JPMorgan declined comment. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

JPMorgan faces a range of pending civil and criminal probes, including on its sale of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis and its hiring of the relatives of top Chinese officials.

Federal prosecutors in New York have launched criminal probes of JPMorgan’s handling of the “London whale” trading debacle and its trading activity in the US electricity market. These two criminal probes would not be covered by the current deal being discussed, the Journal said.

Last week, JPMorgan agreed to pay $920 million in fines to US and British regulators over the “London whale” debacle.

The bank in July agreed to pay $410 million to settle US civil charges that it manipulated power prices in California and the Midwest.


September 24, 2013

Senate Republican leaders won't back Tea Party's Obamacare defund strategy

The top Senate Republicans will not vote with their Tea Party faction in the effort to block the health care reform law in a government spending measure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, both signaled on Monday they will not vote to block a short-term government spending bill, even though Democrats plan to later strip it of a GOP provision that would defund Obamacare.

The move by McConnell and Cornyn all but guarantees that the Democratically controlled Senate will pass a short-term government funding bill this week that leaves the health care law intact.

Reid has scheduled a vote to proceed to the resolution on Wednesday that will require 60 votes for passage.

A McConnell aide explained the minority leader's reasoning, saying McConnell will vote in favor of proceeding to the debate and will later vote against an amendment to take out the defunding provision that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is likely to introduce.

"If and when the Majority Leader goes down that path, Washington Democrats will have to decide — without hiding behind a procedural vote — whether or not to split with their leadership and join Republicans and their constituents in opposing the re-insertion of Obamacare funding into the House-passed bill," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.

A group of Republicans headed by Sens. Mike Lee, of Utah and Ted Cruz, of Texas, have pledged to vote against moving to debate the resolution because of Reid's plan to strip out the defunding provision.

"Voting…to end debate on the bill allows Reid to gut the House bill and strip the defunding language," a Lee aide told the Washington Examiner. "Any Republican who truly opposes Obamacare should oppose cloture."

Lee's group will likely fall far short of the 41 votes that would be needed to mount a filibuster, in part because Republicans fear the politically disastrous effects of a government shutdown.

McConnell and Cornyn are both up for reelection next year and McConnell is facing a formidable Republican primary challenger as well as a tough Democratic opponent.

With Republicans unwilling to block the spending resolution, Reid will be able pass the amendment stripping out the Obamacare defunding language with just 51 votes.

Republicans are hoping public opposition to the law will sway red-state Democrats including Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, and Mark Begich, of Alaska, who are up for re-election next year, to vote against the amendment and deprive Reid of the 51 votes needed to pass it. Democrats control 55 votes.

Read the entire article

September 23, 2013

Who's Pushing the GOP's Obamacare Strategy?

80 lawmakers signed the letter now driving Boehner's approach. A National Journal analysis finds it's not just right-wingers out to kill this program.

When House Republicans line up to vote on the appropriations bill they have crafted to keep the federal government running, there won't be much suspense about the result. The real intrigue lay in the story of how we got here, in which the 80 House Republicans who signed onto a letter urging GOP leadership to adopt this strategy played an outsized role.

The narrative goes something like this: Those members, and the constituents and advocacy groups that pressured them during the August recess, launched a right-wing rebellion that forced their colleagues to adopt defunding Obamacare as their central budgetary goal. But in truth, a look at just who signed GOP Rep. Mark Meadows's letter shows that this pressure came not from the House Republican conference's right wing, but from its core. Those members hail from districts all over the country that, overall, look a lot like the average constituency represented by Republicans in Congress.

Time and time again, when House legislation draws controversy, some question, or lament, or gloat, that the GOP conference is "held hostage" by an unreasonable few. But these members are an accurate representation of their colleagues -- which is why this legislative push, like others in the past, has become the party position.

There are some important differences between the letter-signers and their colleagues, especially at the vulnerable end of the political spectrum, according to figures compiled by Polidata for the Cook Political Report and the Almanac of American Politics. None of the 17 Republicans who represent districts President Obama carried in 2012 signed the letter. About one-third of GOP members are from turf where Romney got less than 55 percent of the vote, but their signatures appear at half that rate on Meadows's letter. But those members fit into a broader pattern in the Republican House, where representatives toward the more vulnerable end of the spectrum have gladly signed onto some of their party's more daring legislative moves over the last three years, especially as compared to Blue Dog Democrats who helped moderate their party's legislative efforts during Obama's first two years in office and often abandoned them outright. That pattern will soon play itself out again, when House Republicans' continuing resolution comes up for a vote.

As far as the letter goes, a look at the overall political situation across those 80 members' districts is particularly instructive. In the 234 House districts controlled by Republicans, their 2012 presidential nominee won a little over 58 percent of the vote. Romney carried the letter-signers' seats by only a little more (under 61 percent). Looking at either the mean or median, the average Republican who signed the letter isn't from a district that's meaningfully more conservative than that of the average House Republican overall.

The group of letter-signers is dominated by Southerners and new members -- but so is the Republican conference as a whole. Nearly half of House Republicans are from the South, a ratio that just ticks over 50 percent on the letter. And although 58 percent of the names on the letter were first elected to Congress in 2010 or 2012, including members who returned after previous service, so were nearly half of House Republicans as a whole.

One central group is heavily over-represented on Meadows's letter: members of the Republican Study Committee, the Hill's club for card-carrying conservatives. Seventy-six of the 80 letter-signers are RSC members. But so is a majority of the House Republican majority. The group of representatives that made the latest Obamacare vote happen live up to their titles -- representative -- as far as the GOP conference goes.


September 20, 2013

Google’s wind power bluff

Google has announced it is purchasing the entire energy output of a 240 megawatt Texas wind farm as part of the company’s quest to power its operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

There’s just one problem. None of that wind power will actually be used by Google because wind energy is not reliable enough to power their servers, reports Forbes.

“Due to the current structure of the market, we can’t consume the renewable energy produced by the wind farm directly, but the impact on our overall carbon footprint and the amount of renewable energy on the grid is the same as if we could consume it,” according to Google. “After purchasing the renewable energy, we’ll retire the renewable energy credits (RECs) and sell the energy itself to the wholesale market. We’ll apply any additional RECs produced under this agreement to reduce our carbon footprint elsewhere.”

Google has contracted with companies to get more than 570 megawatts of wind energy, however, this doesn’t mean much in terms of the power they will actually be using to power their servers, writes Tim Worstall in Forbes.

“Google’s server farm is powered by whatever the mix is on the local grid: some coal, some gas, a bit of wind powered no doubt, possibly some nuclear,” writes Worstall. “And the reason that Google has to sell the renewable power to the grid and then buy back the standard mix is because wind power is hugely variable.”

It’s hard to run a wind farm using an energy source that varies throughout the day, when power demands are nonstop. This makes some renewable energy sources a poor choice for powering a server farm.

“Hydro is fine because that is controllable. Solar not so much but at least that’s reasonably predictable… but wind really is something of a problem. It’s variable in output in minutes: your system can be humming along and then there’s a drop in wind speed and you’ve not enough to keep the network going,” Worstall added.

Google’s purchasing of renewable energy credits to offset their carbon footprint is similar to what Apple does — a move which has both companies being hailed as leaders in environmental responsibility.
“You can buy carbon credits from planting trees in Jakarta but when you fly, the aircraft still burns oil,” according to Energy Facts Weekly. “You can buy green credits from waste dumps, wind farms, and solar arrays, but most of the energy actually flowing into data centers and powering everything to do with iPhones, iPads and their increasingly dominant imitators, comes from burning natural gas or uranium, and coal.”

However, it’s not clear that using wind power really lowers carbon dioxide emissions when all things are considered.

“It actually not even certain that the German windmills reduce carbon emissions at all,” Worstall continued. “The combination of having to have spinning reserve and also dumping surplus electricity at times means that it’s a close run thing at least.”


September 19, 2013

IRS spied on tea party after granting tax-exempt status

Republicans investigating the IRS targeting scandal said Wednesday that the agency continued to conduct secret surveillance on tea party groups even after approving them for tax-exempt status.

Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said he shut down the monitoring program after he found out about it, and said he has halted all audits of tax-exempt organizations based on political activity as he tries to get a handle on the embattled agency.

Mr. Werfel, who was tapped four months ago to clean up the Internal Revenue Service after the targeting came to light, also told Congress he is troubled by emails sent by Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the targeting scandal, that raise questions about her behavior. He said he has asked internal investigators to follow up on those emails.

“There are certain documents that raise questions, and when I looked at them I thought they raised questions,” Mr. Werfel said. “The ones that I thought raised questions I provided directly to [the inspector general], and I also provided them to the accountability review board within the IRS, which is set up to review this matter to see what actions may warrant personnel action or discipline.”

In one of those emails Ms. Lerner wrote that dealing with tea party applications was “very dangerous,” and in another she seemed to indicate that she was looking for ways to deny the charitable organization label to groups without having to accuse them of political activity.

In both cases, Mr. Werfel said, it wasn’t fully clear what Ms. Lerner was intending, which is why he asked for the reviews.

Several congressional committees also are investigating the IRS, and the House Ways and Means Committee said scrutiny has expanded to the surveillance program, in which dozens of organizations — most of them conservative-leaning — were monitored even after they were approved.

“Four months after Lois Lerner’s apology for targeting, there are many questions that are still outstanding. And frankly, we still don’t have all the answers that we need,” said Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., Louisiana Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.

In May, the IRS acknowledged subjecting conservative groups to intrusive scrutiny and delaying applications for far too long before approving them. Some applications are still awaiting approval after three years.

The newly revealed surveillance, however, applied to applications that had been approved, but where the IRS apparently wanted to determine whether the groups strayed too far into political activity to keep their tax-exempt status.

Mr. Werfel quibbled with calling the continued “surveillance” and said he didn’t see any evidence that groups on the list for scrutiny was improperly influenced by any IRS employees.

But he said the program was troubling enough that he shut it down two weeks ago.

After months of investigating, Republicans have found no evidence that IRS officials were ordered to give special scrutiny to tea party applications for tax-exempt status, though a report this week shows that agency employees were well aware of top White House and Democratic lawmakers’ concerns over the groups’ participation in the political process.

Democrats said Republicans are erring by continuing to pursue a political angle to the scandal.

“My friends on the other side of the aisle continue to frame this issue as a partisan one as only affecting conservative groups,” said Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat. “Time and time again, the facts have shown that both Republican-leaning and Democrat-leaning groups were singled out during the application process.”

The numbers show, however, that more conservative groups were subject to scrutiny, both in initial applications and in the ongoing surveillance program.

Investigators said they still have to look through hundreds of thousands of pages of email and documents, though at this point Ms. Lerner, who ran the exempt organizations division, remains a chief focus of the inquiries.

She is on paid administrative leave but has not resigned. Her attorney didn’t return a message seeking comment on the latest questions.

Ms. Lerner declined to testify to Congress this year, citing her right against self-incrimination, though she did give a brief statement declaring her innocence.

Some congressional Republicans said that statement amounts to a waiver of her Fifth Amendment rights and want to call her back and compel her to testify.

On Wednesday, members of the subcommittee peppered Mr. Werfel with questions about Ms. Lerner.

Rep. Tom Reed, New York Republican, said Ms. Lerner has few friends left on Capitol Hill and prodded Mr. Werfel for answers about her emails, which some Republicans say show clear bias against tea party groups that sought tax-exempt status.

Mr. Werfel said he has not had any recent conversations with Ms. Lerner and did not know what Ms. Lerner meant in some of the more controversial emails — though they did concern him enough that he flagged them for the inspector general.

Mr. Reed lashed out at Mr. Werfel after he refused to say whether he asked Ms. Lerner to resign. “I will hold you accountable!” Mr. Reed shouted.

Mr. Werfel said that he would consult with his staff and his legal counsel about privacy laws and get back to Mr. Reed with an answer if possible.


September 18, 2013

Obamacare mandate is whatever Obama -- or any future president -- says it is

“If Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case,” President Obama told the New York Times about Republican objections to his decision earlier this year to delay Obamacare’s employer mandate for a year.

“But ultimately, I’m not concerned about their opinions,” Obama continued, “very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers.”

Actually, there are 128 lawyers in the House of Representatives and another 45 in the Senate, spanning both major political parties and making law the top profession among members of Congress.

Set aside Obama’s gratuitous and false dig at his opponents in Congress, however, and look at what the Obamacare law says, compared to the justification used by the president and his appointees for the mandate delay.

Section 1513 of the Affordable Care Act, titled “Shared responsibility for employers regarding health coverage,” levies a $2,000-per-employee fine on all employers employing more than 50 people who do not offer health insurance to their employees.

That fine goes up to $3,000 for every employee who obtains insurance through Obamacare exchanges and who receives a subsidy from the government while doing so.

This provision is an integral part of Obamacare. Without it, many more businesses would stop paying expensive health insurance premiums for their employees, and instead let taxpayers pick up the tab through the Obamacare exchanges.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that delaying the employer mandate for one year would add $12 billion in costs to Obamacare’s price tag. The CBO also warned that making the delay permanent would further drive up Obamacare’s cost.

Delaying the provision will force an estimated 1 million Americans out of their current employer-sponsored health plans. Half of those people will get less desirable health insurance through Medicaid, and the other half will get no insurance at all. CBO predicted those numbers would increase dramatically with a permanent delay.

Section 1513(d) of Obamacare also clearly states, “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after Dec. 31, 2013.”

Nothing in the employer mandate section says the president, the secretary of Health and Human Services, or any other government official can change the effective date.

So what section of Obamacare did Obama cite to justify his employer mandate delay? None.

Instead, the Treasury Department asserted, in both a letter and testimony to Congress, that Section 7805(a) of the Internal Revenue Code authorizes Obama to grant “transition relief” to as many parties as he sees fit for as long as he wants.

But here is what Section 7805(a) actually says:

“Except where such authority is expressly given by this title to any person other than an officer or employee of the Treasury Department, the Secretary shall prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement of this title, including all rules and regulations as may be necessary by reason of any alteration of law in relation to internal revenue.”

That’s it. That was Obama’s entire legal justification for the Obamacare mandate delay.

Treasury said the IRS has previously used the section to delay a penalty under the 2007 Small Business and Work Opportunity Act and a tax hike in the 2011 Airport and Airway Extension Act.

But both of those delays were for less than a year (six months and one month, respectively), only applied to minor portions of much broader legislation, and were issued the same year the original legislation passed.

By contrast, the Obamacare employer-mandate delay was issued more than three years after the original law passed, will be in effect at least a year (possibly longer), and involves a major cost saving feature of the underlying legislation.

Furthermore, there is simply no limiting principle to Obama’s chosen legal justification for the employer-mandate delay. If one year, why not two? If two years, why not four? If the employer mandate can be delayed, why not the individual mandate.

Nothing in 7805(a) in any way limits the president’s discretion, so, by using that as his sole legal justification, Obama is enabling himself and any future president to rewrite the law at will with no input from Congress.

As any honest constitutional lawyer would tell you, that is not right.


September 17, 2013

Obama uses Naval Yard shooting to stoke fear, push anti-gun agenda

Scaring the American public is one of President Obama’s favorite political tactics to get gun control. Just hours after the terrible shooting at the Naval Yard on Monday, Mr. Obama said that even though he didn’t have the facts, “We’re confronting — yet another — mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital.”

Yet another?

The last mass shooting was over nine months ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. While we mourn every one of those children and educators lost that day — and today in Washington, D.C. — these events are not a cause for increased alarm.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Study (CRS) released in April showed there have been 78 public mass shootings in the last 30 years that claimed 547 lives. That averages to 18 victims a year.

To put that number in context, there were 8,583 murders by firearm in the U.S. in 2011, the most recent year for which we have figures from the FBI. And, there were 851 people accidentally killed by firearms in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The congressional report concluded that,  “While tragic and shocking, public mass shootings account for few of the murders related to firearms that occur annually in the United States.”

The president also added as the press conference that the horrific crime at the naval building will “be investigating thoroughly what happened — as we do so many of these shootings sadly that have happened and do everything we can to try to prevent them.”

As I wrote in my new book, “Emily Gets Her Gun,” every life is precious. But Mr. Obama never has much to say about the thousands of people murdered every year in individual shootings. You never hear Mr. Obama talk about investigating those killed every day in our cities.
(Well, except for Trayvon Martin, who the president said looked like the son he never had — before the trial of George Zimmerman even started.)

Instead, Mr. Obama focuses on the rare mass shootings because the uncontrollable and random nature of them are more frightening to the public, which is politically helpful for him to push his gun-control agenda.

We don’t yet know know how the shooter or shooters got into the military installation, but if it was a random mass shooting and not terrorism, Mr. Obama is off base talking about prevention.

The CRS reported that because of the rarity of the events, “potential perpetrators cannot be identified accurately, and no systematic means of intervening are known to be effective.”

Mass shootings are extremely rare and should not be described by the president as if this is a common occurrence. He does this to frighten people into believing that they are in more danger in order to get support for more gun control.

The reality is gun crimes have decreased every year for 20 years. We cannot stop every single evil person from using a firearm to murder, but we can use facts when talking about these crimes. The president of the United States should be reassuring the public of their safety, not blatantly trying to scare them for his own agenda.


September 16, 2013

Larry Summers gives up sad campaign to become Fed chairman

Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard University president whose reputation as an economic genius proved useless when his work for the first Obama economic team produced the longest period of stagnation in the postwar era, has quit his campaign to become Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.

Summers was ostensibly a favorite of the right, and his withdrawal clears the way for Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Fed’s Board of Governors. Yellen is an open inflationist whose candidacy is supported by loose monetarists convinced that increased inflation will result in the creation of more jobs. Summers and Yellen have been the most discussed candidates for the Fed chair throughout the summer.

“Earlier today, I spoke with Larry Summers and accepted his decision to withdraw his name from consideration for Chairman of the Federal Reserve,” President Obama announced this afternoon. “Larry was a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom, and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth and made the kind of progress we are seeing today. I will always be grateful to Larry for his tireless work and service on behalf of his country, and I look forward to continuing to seek his guidance and counsel in the future.”

In fact, Summers’ tenure as the director of Obama’s National Economic Council was notably free of success. Summers antagonized high-spending enemies on the left by opposing any proposal for a stimulus package of more than a trillion dollars.

Summers also failed to calm critics on the debt-hawk right. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act still came in at more than $800 billion. The ARRA stimulus is now seen as an expensive failure, with even its diehard defenders unable to muster arguments stronger than claims that America’s suffering would have been worse without it. The U-3 unemployment rate, which was 7.8 percent when Summers’ tenure began in January 2009, had jumped to 9.8 percent by the time he left in November 2010. Labor force participation also plummeted during Summers’ tenure.

Summers’ abrasive personality and high self-estimate have also earned him many opponents, a point he obliquely referred to in a resignation letter to Obama.

“I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interests of the Federal Reserve, the administration or ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery,” Summers wrote.

Yellen is expected to follow a looser monetary policy as part of a crusade for job creation. The Federal Reserve is tasked by Congress with a “dual mandate” based on a discredited economic notion called the “Phillips Curve,” which posited that inflation and unemployment are inversely related. Although the Phillips Curve’s reputation has faded after repeated failures to pan out in the real economy, it remains the lone intellectual pillar for the Fed’s two-part job description: to maintain a steady rate of inflation and to maintain maximum possible employment.

Yellen’s supporters hope she will print money more aggressively than Summers would have, and possibly more aggressively than current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has already done. Although the monetary base has increased more than fourfold since 2008, believers in economic planning say even more dollars need to be created.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Fed’s creation.


September 13, 2013

Greens, lobbyists and partisans helping Obama’s FERC pick move through Senate

President Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is coordinating his campaign with two lobbyists for energy companies, a Democratic strategy firm and several other green-technology strategists, according to emails that show an unprecedented effort to gain a position on the obscure board.

Ron Binz, the former head of Colorado's Public Utilities Commission, has become an unlikely nomination battleground in the Senate, where commissioners for FERC, a regulatory agency that oversees the interstate transmission of electricity, oil and gas, are usually accepted without any problems.

Mr. Binz’s opponents say the lobbying effort is evidence that environmentalists are trying to expand Mr. Obama’s global-warming agenda to FERC, a quasi-judicial independent agency that had until recently had shied away from the contentious debate.

The new emails, which The Washington Times obtained from a pressure group that requested them under federal open-records laws, indicte that FERC employees worked closely with lobbyists, strategists and an employee of the Energy Foundation, a non-profit that is supposed to be limited in what lobbying it is allowed to do.

The coordination has become an issue because it raises questions about who, exactly, is backing Mr. Binz and why lobbyists are involved.

“At their minimum, FERC’s own records show that he is burdened by the appearance of a very difficult to explain away conflict of interest,” said Chris Horner, who requested the emails for the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic. “Who were the clients, and why? What do they want?”

Senate hurdles

Mr. Binz’s nomination will go through the Senate Energy Committee, and has already proved to be contentious, with Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, saying he is concerned, and a number of Republicans are saying they are not sold.

All of that signals a potentially bruising fight, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the panel’s ranking Republican, said in a statement to The Times that the new emails add to troubling questions.

“We just learned about the emails now. They are concerning and must be taken seriously,” she said. “FERC has said there will be another release of emails next week. We need to see what are in those emails.”
Mr. Binz’s backers say he’ll be a fair-minded regulator in line with previous commissioner, while his opponents say he will bring a “radical” agenda and a prickly personality to the agency.

Mr. Binz declined to comment to The Times, saying in a brief email that he has turned down all interviews since being nominated in June.

Soon after that nomination, the emails show he began to coordinate with what he called his “team”: Michael Meehan, a longtime Democratic operative who now runs VennSquared public relations firm; Kai Anderson and Chris Miller, lobbyists at different firms who used to be staffers for Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, now the top Democrat in the chamber; and Carrie Doyle, a former Obama campaign operative who is now vice president of public engagement for the Energy Foundation.

According to the emails, Mr. Binz had the lobbyists and Mr. Meehan vet his official biography that he submitted to the Senate, and the emails show Mr. Binz coordinated with his team, with a White House staffer, and with a number of FERC employees on strategy meetings.

“Please look this over quickly TODAY and give me any feedback,” Mr. Binz tells the lobbyists and Mr. Meehan in one email. A number of the other emails deal with coordinating meetings with staffers on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Binz's association with Mr. Meehan is noteworthy because two media outlets, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and E&E, an environment and energy publication, both have said Mr. Binz and VennSquared denied coordinating with each other.

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