Friday, July 13, 2012

The Final Five: July 13, 2012



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Tonight's Crazy Story:
Spider Causes House Fire...Sort Of
A homeowner who was using a blowtorch to remove cobwebs accidentally lit some dry plants on fire, causing $25,000 of damage to his home.


Topic One: Very Well-fare
Our handout society is our largest problem: "When Washington intervenes, we abjure these necessities, no longer leaving an inheritance, but sprinting onto the dole. Many Americans maintain minuscule savings and are ill-prepared for retirement. Why save for rainy days or the future? Why assist distressed neighbors, or even support your aging parents if the state will take care of all three? The family is the basic social building block. Instead of families rallying together, or neighbors helping neighbors, we affix to the state apparatus like spokes on a wheel as Washington becomes preeminent. Thomas Sowell warns, safety nets quickly become hammocks undermining communities by shifting burdens onto others."

Food stamp growth is not totally due to the recession: "A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report in April 2012 said spending on food stamps from 2000 to 2011 went from $18 billion to $78 billion. Much of that growth came from 2007 to 2011, when SNAP benefit totals increased from approximately $38 billion to $78 billion. According to CBO, 65% of this latter growth was due to the weak economy, 20% was due to increased assistance in the 2009 stimulus, and 15% is related to “other factors,” including higher food prices. Using CBO’s numbers, approximately $26 billion in SNAP increases since 2007 can be directly attributed to the recession. This $26 billion equals about 43% of the growth since 2000, meaning 57% of growth is attributed to factors not directly associated with the recession. RJ Caster, a former district case worker for a Maryland Congressman, talked about his experience in conducting oversight on various federal assistance programs for the Congressman, including food stamps. According to Caster, “There really is no way to make sure the programs are being used effectively. Some people really are trying to help themselves, and some people are going to come back again and again because they have mental deficiencies. But there are many times where there have been people who go and get help, and they are definitely taking advantage of the system."

AEI has a new graph, showing the value of welfare benefits at various income levels. As the graph points out, a $29,000 salary plus the associate welfare benefits gives a single mom a greater net income level than a $69,000 salary.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Final Five: July 12, 2012



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Tonight's Crazy Story:
Strange Addiction: Woman Drinks 6 Gallons of Water a Day
A 26-year-old mother is speaking out about her strange addiction...to drinking water.


Topic One: Welcome to California
California ranks worst in business climate: "Indeed, with its malfunctioning economy, California is fast becoming an American version of Greece. It has an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, the highest of all states save Rhode Island and Nevada. (April figures, the most recent available at press time.) Because of its generous benefit structures for the poor, California has a third of all welfare recipients in the country, even though it’s home to less than an eighth of the U.S. population. The Golden State’s environmental extremism results in electricity rates 50 percent higher than the national average. Then there are taxes. Even middle-class families earning $48,000 a year pay a state tax rate of 9.3 percent, a higher rate than millionaires pay in 47 other states. A ballot measure backed by liberal legislators will ask state voters this fall if they want to raise the top rate on high earners to a staggering 13.3 percent."

San Bernardino files for bankruptcy: "The report said the city had exhausted its reserves and projected that spending would exceed revenue by $45 million in the current fiscal year which started on July 1. According to media reports, the city attorney general James Penman said San Bernardino's city officials had been submitting false accounting documents for 13 of the last 16 years in an effort to hide the real financial situation of the city. Chapter 9 bankruptcy would give San Bernardino an opportunity to restructure its battered finances, city staff said during a webcast of the city council meeting."

Police and fire pensions sunk Stockton: "In Stockton, California, public safety workers earn on average 126 percent of the maximum salary and at least 200 percent of the minimum wage for their respective wage categories. The California State Controller’s Office has all the data, and it’s not pretty. Stockton’s median household income was $50,011 in 2010. In contrast, the average total wage paid to a city police worker was $93,111. For employees of the fire department, it was $110,303. Admittedly, these are dangerous professions, but surely they are not so dangerous as to require pay of double the median household income of the entire community."

LA teachers contributed nothing toward insurance: "In the latest in a series of reports issued by EAGnews.org focused on labor spending in metropolitan school districts across the country, it’s revealed that members of United Teachers Los Angeles (the local teachers union) didn’t pay one thin dime toward health insurance premiums in 2010-11. That cost fell to taxpayers, who parted with a whopping $416 million. How could this be? The school district’s budget deficit entering the 2010-11 fiscal year was $640 million. Employees were laid off by the thousands and five instructional days were cancelled, yet union employees were allowed to maintain their free and very costly health coverage."

It's Not Romney vs. Roberts

It has been two weeks since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in NFIB v. Sibelius. During these fourteen days, I have seen countless articles offering a myriad of thoughts on why John Roberts decided to cast the deciding vote to uphold the law. Numerous theories have been discussed: perhaps Roberts was concerned about the court's image, perhaps he caved to pressure from Obama, perhaps he was trying to help Romney win the election in order to maintain the court's conservative edge, or perhaps he could just not find a legitimate argument to strike down the mandate as a tax. Furthermore, leaks supposedly coming from inside the Court have indicated that Roberts may have changed his vote during the decision-writing process. However, we are now fourteen days removed from the release of the Court's decision, yet many conservative authors are still trying to figure out what was going through the mind of the Chief Justice as he prepared his decision.

By focusing our attention on John Roberts, we are distracting ourselves from the main issue: Obamacare still stands, and we have one more chance to eliminate it before it takes effect. The opinion of the Chief Justice has been released, and it will not change. Despite what appeared to be great success during oral arguments, overturning this law was never the "slam dunk" that conservatives have portrayed after the decision. The only surprise when the decision was released was who actually cast the deciding vote. People from all sides of the spectrum assumed that Kennedy would ultimately cast the deciding vote, and when Kennedy appeared to be strongly opposed to the law during argument, many assumed that the mandate would be struck down. However, despite his hard questioning during the oral arguments, there were also some who said that Kennedy seemed too opposed to the mandate, and they wondered if he might be a supporter who was playing devil's advocate with the attorneys. In the end, the biggest surprise was not that the court upheld the mandate, but that it was John Roberts who cast the deciding vote that upheld it.

While I am disappointed in the Court's decision, I refuse to allow myself to be distracted by it. From the time the law passed, we knew that the Supreme Court was only one of many possible ways to overturn this law. Now that we know the Court will not do this, we must focus on taking full control of Washington in November, and the Court's decision only makes the stakes of that day greater. Debating what was in the mind of John Roberts will not help us win the House, Senate, and Presidency in November. Debating the merits of this law, which remains widely unpopular, will help us win. Mitt Romney is not running against John Roberts; he is running against Barack Obama. It is time for us to stop looking back to what happened at the Supreme Court on June 28th and start looking forward to getting the job done on November 6th.

D.C. Daily: July 12, 2012


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Senate
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the Senate took the following actions:
  • Passed H.R. 3001, the "Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act".
  • Passed H.R. 4155, the "Veteran Skills to Jobs Act".
  • Began consideration of S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act".
  • Began consideration of the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 3364, the "Bring Jobs Home Act".

Today's Schedule:
The Senate will meet today at 9:30 AM. The Senate is expected to continue consideration of S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act".


House of Representatives
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the House took the following actions:
  • Passed H.R. 6079, the "Repeal of Obamacare Act", by a vote of 244 ayes to 185 noes.
  • Agreed to the rule providing for consideration of H.R. 4402, the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012".

Today's Schedule:
The House will meet today at 9:00 AM. The House will begin consideration of H.R. 4402, the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012", subject to the rule passed yesterday.

Executive Agencies
(You can view the entire Federal Register here.)

Significant Proposed Rules:
  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission: proposed interpretive guidance and policy statement regarding the cross-border application of the swaps provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”).

Significant Final Rules:

Presidential Documents:
There were no presidential documents printed today.


Supreme Court
The Court has now completed its work for the October 2011 term. The Court will hold the first oral arguments of the October 2012 term on Monday, October 1.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Final Five: July 11, 2012



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Tonight's Crazy Story:
$3.2 Million Yacht Sinks in Marina
A $3.2 Million yacht which rented for $2,000 per night sank in a Lake Tahoe marina Sunday night. Witnesses say they heard the sound of screeching metal and passengers yelling prior to the yacht's sinking. There is no word on exactly what caused the boat to sink.


Topic One: Voter ID
How do you get over 100% turnout in Philadelphia? "But his recitation of statistics about those who don’t already have proof of identity leaves out a far more significant number that influenced the Pennsylvania legislature to pass the bill: 100 percent. That’s the percentage of registered voters who voted at a number of Philadelphia voter precincts in the last several elections. Indeed, as Republicans in the state capital pointed out during the debate about the voter ID law, in many parts of Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, voter turnout in contested elections routinely exceeds 100 percent of registered voters. But because the Democrats control the local elections board that supervises voting in the city, there is no accountability for this obvious fraud. If it is enforced, the voter ID law may make this rather flagrant method of cheating a bit more difficult this year."

Eric Holder compares Voter ID laws to poll taxes: "In a speech at the annual NAACP conference, in Houston, Holder said many voters would have to travel “great distances” to get a government-issued photo ID and that some would “struggle” to pay for the requisite paperwork. “We call these poll taxes,” Holder said."

However, the NAACP did not have a problem keeping that same group of people from hearing Holder speak. In order to gain access to the convention, you have to show your ID. John Hinderaker at PowerLine explains exactly what this means: "The bottom line is that liberals require identification to get access to anything they think is important. Where they part company with us is that they don’t think preventing voter fraud is important. On the contrary, they are in favor of it. In that sense, their conduct is perfectly consistent."

D.C. Daily: July 11, 2012


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Highlights
Yesterday, the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act passed the first hurdle in the Senate, with cloture invoked on the motion to proceed to consideration. The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the bill today. The House began debate on the Repeal of Obamacare Act, and they should finish their debate and vote on the bill today. The Federal Register contains a new Executive Order dealing with emergency communications and the rights of the executive branch.


Senate
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the Senate took the following actions:
  • Passed S. Res. 429, supporting the goals and ideals of World Malaria Day.
  • Agreed to the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act", by a vote of 80 yeas to 14 nays.
  • Confirmed the nomination of John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr. to be District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee by a vote of 94 yeas to 2 nays.

Today's Schedule:
The Senate will meet today at 9:30 AM. The Senate is expected to begin consideration of S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act".


House of Representatives
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the House took the following actions:
  • Began consideration of H.R. 6079, the "Repeal of Obamacare Act", after agreeing to H.Res. 724, the rule providing for consideration of the bill.

Today's Schedule:
The House will meet today at 10:00 AM. The House will complete consideration of H.R. 6079, the "Repeal of Obamacare Act", subject to the rule passed yesterday, and then it will begin consideration of H.R. 4402, the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012", subject to a rule.

Executive Agencies
(You can view the entire Federal Register here.)

Significant Proposed Rules:

Significant Final Rules:
  • Education Department: correcting the Federal Pell Grant Program interim final rule published in the Federal Register on May 2, 2012 (77 FR 25893).
  • Federal Aviation Administration: notifying the public of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) approval of the information collection requirement contained in the FAA's final rule, “Flightcrew Member Duty and Rest Requirements.”

Presidential Documents:


Supreme Court
The Court has now completed its work for the October 2011 term. The Court will hold the first oral arguments of the October 2012 term on Monday, October 1.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Final Five: July 10, 2012



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Tonight's Crazy Story:
Would-be Burglar Gets Tangled in Window Blinds
Police responded to a call about a break-in to find the criminal stuck in a set of window blinds.


Topic One: The Struggling Economy
Chuck Norris on government's role in the economy: "The national debt is not merely the result of excessive spending; it is also the result of revenues not being high enough to pay for government outlays. In other words, while the feds have spent trillions of dollars bailing out everyone from automotive businesses to zebra-loving environmental companies, they have done virtually nothing to build up Main Street business productivity. (Tragically, just a few days ago Vice President Joe Biden again called for more government spending.) When the receipts don’t cover the outlays, it should be a sign the U.S. government is in trouble, but that’s just another typical day of federal government operation. When government wastes tens of millions every year on minting pennies that cost 2.41 cents each and nickels that costs 11.18 cents each to make, the federal government should be the first to recognize that it runs the worst business in the world; but it is the last to admit it."

How the 1960s affect today: "Political leaders and average Americans noticed that continuous deficits did no great economic harm. Neither, of course, did they do much good, but their charm was "something for nothing." Politicians could spend more and tax less. This appealed to both parties and the public. Since 1961, the federal government has balanced its budget only five times. Arguably, only one of these (1969) resulted from policy; the other four (1998-2001) stemmed heavily from the surging tax revenues of the then-economic boom. We are now facing the consequences of all these permissive deficits. The recovery is lackluster. Economic growth creeps along at 2 percent annually or less. Unemployment has exceeded 8 percent for 41 months. But economic policy seems ineffective. Since late 2008, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low. And budget deficits are enormous, about $5.5 trillion since 2008."

In Praise of Susan Collins

There are probably very few issues on which I would agree with Maine's junior Senator, Susan Collins. In the past, she has voted in favor of the TARP bailouts, Obama's stimulus package, and the Dodd-Frank financial reform. She opposed the earmark ban and the extension of the Bush tax cuts. She voted in favor of the nominations of both Obama Supreme Court appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. There are probably very few issues on which Senator Collins and I would agree.

However, a Huffington Post article this weekend gives me reason to praise Senator Collins. Sometime this week, she will cast her 5000th consecutive vote on the Senate floor, and she has not missed a single vote since coming to the Senate in January 1997.

We do not send people to Washington to sit in meetings, hold committee hearings, or travel around the world; we send them to Washington to be voice in the government. Every time my representative or senator misses a vote, my voice is not heard (or diminished by half in the Senate). I realize that our representatives do have other responsibilities and that these might occasionally interfere with a vote. However, a true representative of the people will strive to make the voice of his or her representatives heard at every vote.

While I have many disagreements with the political beliefs of Senator Collins, I appreciate the fact that she takes her job as a representative seriously.

D.C. Daily: July 10, 2012


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Highlights
Today, the Senate will consider one district court nomination and a cloture motion on the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, introduced by Senator Reid. Meanwhile, the House will begin consideration of the Repeal of Obamacare Act, introduced by Representative Cantor. There were five significant items printed in the Federal Register today.


Senate
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the Senate took the following actions:
  • Passed S. 1379, the "D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act".
  • Resumed consideration of the motion to proceed to consideration of S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act".

Today's Schedule:
The Senate will meet today at 10:00 AM. Following morning business, the Senate will move to consider the nomination of John Thomas Fowlkes, Jr. to be District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee, with a vote on the nomination to occur at approximately 12:00 PM. At approximately 2:25 PM, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on S. 2237, the "Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act".


House of Representatives
Yesterday's Action
During business yesterday, the House took the following actions:
  • Suspended the rules and passed H.R. 4155, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act, by a unanimous vote of 369 yeas.
  • Suspended the rules and passed H.R. 4114, the "Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012".
  • Suspended the rules and passed H.R. 4367, to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to limit the fee disclosure requirement for an automatic teller machine to the screen of that machine, by a unanimous vote of 371 yeas.
  • Suspended the rules and passed H.R. 5892, the "Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012", by a unanimous vote of 372 yeas.
  • Suspended the rules and passed S. 2061, the "Former Charleston Naval Base Land Exchange Act of 2012".

Today's Schedule:
The House will meet today at 10:00 AM. The House will begin consideration of H.R. 6079, the "Repeal of Obamacare Act", subject to a rule.

Executive Agencies
(You can view the entire Federal Register here.)

Significant Proposed Rules:
  • Energy Department: holding a public meeting to discuss and receive comments on the product classes that DOE plans to analyze for purposes of establishing energy conservation standards for residential furnace fans.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: setting forth identification and certificationprocedures established by the Shark Conservation Act to address shark conservation in areas beyond any national jurisdiction.
  • Food and Drug Administration: proposing to establish a unique device identification system to implement the requirement added to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)

Significant Final Rules:
  • Federal Aviation Administration: notifying the public of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB's) approval of the information collection requirement contained in the FAA's final rule, “Operations Specifications.”
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration: governing the employee protection (whistleblower) provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).

Presidential Documents:
There were no Presidential documents printed today.


Supreme Court
The Court has now completed its work for the October 2011 term. The Court will hold the first oral arguments of the October 2012 term on Monday, October 1.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Final Five: July 9, 2012



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Tonight's Crazy Story:
Mass. Man Pays off Mortgage With 800 Pounds of Pennies
35 years ago, Thomas Daigle started a joke with his wife about paying off their mortgage with pennies. In April, Daigle's joke became reality when he delivered 800 pounds of pennies in order to pay off the mortgage.


Topic One: The ObamaCare Mess
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot withhold all Medicaid funding if a state refuses to participate in the expansion, state lawmakers have a dilemma. Michael Tanner explains: "If they agree to expand their Medicaid programs anyway, they'll be choosing to pile new costs on their state budgets and new taxes on their constituents. And if a state doesn't expand its Medicaid program, most of those who would've been eligible for Medicaid will now become eligible for subsidies through ObamaCare's health-insurance exchanges. And those subsidies are paid in full by the feds. Thus, New York, for example, would shift most of that $52 billion in new costs back to the federal government.

The Obama lie on health insurance: you might not be able to keep your doctor. "Obamacare puts employers with grandfathered plans in a box. If they make changes to their plans to control increasing costs, they will lose their grandfathered status. Alternatively, if they keep grandfathered status by not making changes, their plans will eventually become unaffordable, forcing them to give them up. Either way, their employees will eventually lose their current coverage. As more Americans lose their existing insurance, their new plan will be subjected to Obamacare’s overreaching regulations, mandates, and violations of religious liberty. This is just one of Obamacare’s many broken promises."

And another ObamaCare tax could hit you if you try to sell your house: "One of the latest results of the ACA biopsy is the news that your home, should you decided to sell it after the New Year could well be taxed to finance Obamacare. When the last stroke of midnight dies away on January 1st of 2013, a 3.8% tax on unearned income goes into effect courtesy of the Nancy Pelosi and the ACA. And that tax could be applied to the sale of family homes, townhouses, condos, co-ops and even rental properties. And...there goes your equity."

D.C. Daily: July 9, 2012


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Highlights
Today will be a relatively inactive day in Washington. The House and Senate return from their Independence Day recess today at 2:00 PM. The Senate will meet but will not take any votes today. The House has seven bills for consideration under suspension.


Senate
The Senate will return from recess at 2:00 PM today. The Majority Leader will be recognized, but no votes will be taken until Tuesday.


House of Representatives
The House will return from recess at 2:00 PM today. The House is expected to consider seven measures under suspension:
  1. H.R. 4155, the "Veteran Skills to Jobs Act".
  2. H.R. 4114, the "Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012".
  3. H.R. 4367, to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to limit the fee disclosure requirement for an automatic teller machine to the screen of that machine.
  4. H.R. 5892, the "Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012".
  5. H.R. 6019, the "Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization and the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2012".
  6. S. 1959, the "Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2011".
  7. S. 2061, the "Former Charleston Naval Base Land Exchange Act of 2012".


Executive Agencies
(You can view the entire Federal Register here.)

Significant Proposed Rules:
There were no significant proposed rules printed today.

Significant Final Rules:
There were no significant final ruled printed today.

Presidential Documents:
There were no Presidential documents printed today.


Supreme Court
The Court has now completed its work for the October 2011 term. The Court will hold the first oral arguments of the October 2012 term on Monday, October 1.