July 23, 2016

So Much for Bipartisanship

CNS News' Terry Jeffrey reported on Wednesday that the prveious day -- Tuesday, July 19, 2016 -- "The federal debt moved above $19,400,000,000,000 for the first time as of the close of business on Tuesday, according to the data released today by the U.S. Treasury."

Jeffrey explains what happened (embedded links in the original):

"At the close of business on Monday, July 18, the total federal debt was $19,391,094,247,028.26, according to the Treasury. By the close of business on Tuesday, July 19, it had risen to $19,402,361,890,929.46.

"On Friday, Oct. 30, 2015, Congress passed the “Bipartisan Budget Act,” which suspended the legal debt limit until March 15, 2017. President Obama signed that bill into law on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015.

"At the close of business on Oct. 30, the federal debt stood at $18,152,981,685,747.52.

"In the less than nine months since then, the federal debt has increased by $1,249,380,205,181.94."

He then explains the bipartisanship aspect:

"Title IX of the Bipartisan Budget Act is entitled “Temporary Extension of Public Debt Limit.” The Congressional Research Service summary explains that part of the law this way: “The public debt limit is suspended through March 15, 2017. On March 16, 2017, the limit is increased to accommodate obligations issued during the suspension period.”

"Prior to President Obama signing the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Treasury had been in a "debt issuance suspension period" that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had declared on March 16, 2015. During that "debt issuance suspension period" the Treasury took what it calls "extraordinary measures" to prevent the debt from exceeding what was then the legal limit."

Today's narrative, according to the mainstream media, is that the two major political parties should get along, i.e., do things in a bipartisan manner. So, rather than Congress having the backbone to force the executive branch to start a process to "make America sustainable again," as Veronique de Rugy suggests Republicans call one of the four-days of the Republican National Convention. Her phrase would channel such themes as the first day's "make America safe again." As she described in her most recent Investor's Business Daily op-ed, she was hoping to hear more than "the vague policy options" that had been de rigeur on the campaign trails.

So because Congress did not have the backbone to stand-up to the executive branch, Americans are burdened with an additional $1.249 trillion in debt, or about $3,800 for every American man, woman and child. Although some of the $1.249 trillion would have still been added, the country's fiscal affairs would be on a path to achieving sustainability. For more information on federal government shutdowns, click-here to visit Wikipedia.

Take a few minutes to write your members of Congress to find out what they are doing to ensure the budgets of the United States are sustainable. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

July 22, 2016

Time to Let the Sun Set on Solar Energy Tax Credits

In a recent 14-page study,"The Sun Should Set on Solar Socialism," Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) argues that Congress should "lower the boom on an up-front subsidy like the" investment tax credit (ITC).

But let's start with an introduction to the solar tax credits, though. According to CAGW:

"To the extent that taxpayers pay attention to renewable energy policy, they are likely to be most familiar with the infamous solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, which received $535 million from the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) before the company went bankrupt in 2011. This well-publicized boondoggle opened the door for greater scrutiny of all renewable energy programs and subsidies, which include loan guarantees, grants, tax incentives, and tax credits. Although various parts of these programs are available for biofuels, fuel cells, geothermal, hydrogen, hydropower, solar, and wind, solar is now drawing the most scrutiny because of the amount of federal and state government support it needs to maintain viability.

"Energy subsidies have been around since the 1970s, but really took off after Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The legislation dramatically changed U.S. energy policy by creating commercial and residential tax incentives and loan guarantees for energy production of several types. The Act implemented or extended tax reductions for various forms of energy, including nuclear power, fossil fuels, biofuels, and “clean coal.” It also extended existing subsidies, such as the renewable electricity production credit. Funding for many of these programs was significantly expanded in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), better known as the stimulus bill.

"Despite the best efforts of experts to determine how much taxpayers are paying for renewable energy subsidies, there is no comprehensive estimate of their cost. A May 5, 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative report, “The Future of Solar Energy,” found that “there is no authoritative compilation of total spending to support the deployment of solar technologies – at the national level or for any particular state – let alone a breakdown of total spending across subsidy programs.” A July 2015 University of California at Berkeley Energy Institute at Haas Business School study stated that the total tax expenditures for the four largest federal “clean energy” tax credits, which include the weatherization of homes, the installation of solar panels, and the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles, had cost more than $18 billion since 2006.

"Tax expenditures for alternative electricity generation cost $13.7 billion from 2004-2015, with the investment tax credit (ITC) and production tax credit (PTC) accounting for $11.5 billion of that total, according to the IRS. However, the agency is not required to collect project-level data for either tax credit, so the total generating capacity supported by these tax expenditures is unknown. The LGP has more than $40 billion available for loans, and the Section 1603 tax credits for renewable energy that were created in the ARRA cost taxpayers $24.5 billion for 101,364 projects, as of July 30, 2015."

CAGW notes that section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) provides a 30% "credit for qualifying 'energy property'" while section 25D allows for a 30% residential energy efficient property credit.

According to the study, there are "problems with the policy itself." For example:

"Publications and public remarks by renewable energy industry proponents are replete with allusions to the ITC as essential for these energy sources to vie effectively with fossil fuels, create jobs, and provide a fantastic return on “investment.” In other words, the tax credits are all things to all people."

They also note, "One of the largest solar companies, SolarCity, "has been sending a mixed message on solar subsidies and especially the ITC . . . . On June 1, 2015, the company’s chairman of the board, Elon Musk, told CNBC that “none of the (solar) incentives are necessary, but they are all helpful.” In fairness to Musk, he also went on to split a hair in the same interview, arguing that the real value of tax breaks is to accelerate the adoption of solar power rather than to prop it up – a point somewhat in sync with the energy finance partnership study."

In addition, the study says, "the efforts to subsidize solar have not just failed to lower its cost, they have also led to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. Perhaps these results were inevitable when the government created a new, lucrative program and provided little accountability." The study also says, "A 2012 GAO audit found program overlap among some 65 different federally-funded and- managed initiatives to support solar energy. More than half supported only solar projects while the remaining initiatives funded solar and other renewable technologies." (emphasis added)

The study is certainly well-researched with 62 footnotes.

The study concludes by saying:

"Although subsidies doled out by Congress can become as ensconced as Washington’s monuments, there is an encouraging precedent for ending the ITC. The other icon of tax support for renewable energy, the windmill, was set free from the federal dole and sent out to seek its fortune when Congress allowed the wind production tax credit to expire at the end of 2014. A bid to restart the credit in the spring of 2015 was shot down in the Senate after even wind-state senators agreed to let wind power sink or swim on its own.

"The least Congress can do is lower the boom on an up-front subsidy like the ITC. Like the wind PTC, it has yet to deliver on promises that it will help to foster a sustainable, reliable, credible component of the U.S. energy portfolio. Indeed, it will not be clear that the power of the sun is viable in helping to power America’s homes and businesses until its federal purse strings are severed, setting free the solar industry and taxpayers."

Take a few minutes to write your members of Congress to urge them to end these wasteful energy tax credits since they have failed to foster a sustainable and reliable renewable energy portfolio. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

Kudos to CAGW for this well-researched and well-written study on two renewable energy tax credits. For more information about Citizens Against Government Waste, visit their website.

July 21, 2016

A Thought about Ideologues

"In general, politicians are rank opportunists, but at least most of them are malleable and attuned to public opinion.

“Ideologues are far more anti-empirical — and thus dangerous.”

~ Victor Davis Hanson

Source: his June 23, 2016 column, posted in the Washington Times.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

July 20, 2016

A Thought on Public Opinion

"Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one."

~ James Madison, 1791

Source: Founders' Quotes Database, The Patriot Post.

July 19, 2016

A Thought about Censorship

"In the modern world, those who have power, but not the ability to convince others, often resort to censorship, or attempt to legally or forcibly ban ideas, products, like guns and sugary drinks, or practices that they disapprove of. A couple a months ago, a number of Democratic attorneys general initiated an effort to go after certain corporations, advocacy organizations and think tanks for allegedly disseminating “false” information about global warming. In fact, the information in question has been open to considerable scientific debate and, even if it was not, dissent from the views of the power elite is protected by the First Amendment. Even more disturbing is a quote from the Reason Foundation’s Shikha Dalmia that the Democrats, as part of their party platform, have pledged to use the “Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.” This is nothing more than an attempt to use government force to quash dissenting views.

"In the past, some religious fundamentalists were advocates of censorship and book burnings. Perhaps the most famous in America was Anthony Comstock, who created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1873. He and his followers destroyed books and other materials they considered “lewd.” Congress even passed the Comstock Law to make such destruction and repression legal. Thus, it is most ironic that many of those who were part of the free speech movement in the 1960s and 1970s, fighting such laws, have now become a real threat to freedom in their insistence on political correctness and willingness to prosecute those who do not conform."

~ Richard W. Rahn

Source: his 7/19/16 column, "Book burners and gun banners," posted at the Washington Times.

Richard W. Rahn is on the board of the American Council for Capital Formation and is chairman of Improbable Success Productions. Also see his Wikipedia entry.

July 18, 2016

More "Government is the Problem." A Regulatory Example.

An article last Friday, by Elizabeth Harrington, in the Washington Free Beacon (HT Potemkin) says a new energy efficiency regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Energy to regulate wine refrigerators will "cost small businesses $12,500 each."

Harrington writes, in part:

"The Department of Energy now has a specific regulation for wine refrigerators.

"The agency released a final rule Friday requiring manufacturers to test the energy efficiency of refrigerators used for wine. It estimated the rule would cost the average small business $12,500 to test whether their equipment meets specifications.

“This final rule classifies a variety of refrigeration products that are collectively described as ‘miscellaneous refrigeration products’–i.e., ‘MREFs,’ as a covered product under Part A of Title III of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (‘EPCA’), as amended,” the agency said. “These products include different types of refrigeration devices that include one or more compartments that maintain higher temperatures than typical refrigerator compartments, such as wine chillers and beverage coolers.”

"The agency said the $12,500 testing cost is “unlikely to represent a significant economic impact for small businesses.”

"The rule goes into effect in 30 days. Wine refrigerators will now be tested for temperature settings and energy use."

The final regulation "spans 159 pages," she adds, and notes, ”There was much discussion about the exact definition of the term "cooler" in the final reg.

As President Reagan said in his first inaugural address, "government is the problem."

We've growled several times recently about the regulatory state. On May 2, 2016, we growled that Uncle Sam, Esq., has a legal army of 25,060, larger than the combined TOP 7 private sector law firms (24,411). A week later, on May 10, 2016, we growled that regulatory costs were making so-called affordable housing unaffordable. Later in May -- on May 24, 2016 -- we growled that individuals and business were drowning in red tape.

Speaker Paul Ryan has announced several task forces, including one to reduce regulatory burdens. The regulation of wine coolers should be one item on its plate.

What are your members of Congress doing to reduce the regulatory burden? Growls readers are encouraged to write their representatives in Congress to find out. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas website (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

July 17, 2016

Aggressive Panhandling Clouds Metrorail's Future

The headline of a Washington Post online story, posted Thursday, July 14, 2016, says, "Metro board chairman warns of asking jurisdictions for up to $100 million each"

The story, reported by the Post's Martine Powers, begins this way:

"With a looming budget deficit and no clear solution in sight, the Metro board chairman, Jack Evans, is pushing to nail down a fiscal 2018 spending plan by November — months earlier than usual.

"The move by Evans is a signal that the transit agency is preparing to ask the District, Maryland and Virginia for additional money if fares are not raised or the federal government does not come forward with more funding.

"The budget for the coming fiscal year is usually finalized by January, but Evans wants Metro finance officials to make haste so the board can pass a budget before state legislatures swing into session, Evans said at Thursday’s board meeting.

“We need to move quicker than usual,” he said.

"If Metro does not find a new source of revenue, Evans warned, the agency could end up needing to request as much as $75 million to $100 million per jurisdiction so that the system can continue to function — a heavy burden for lawmakers who already believe they are spending far too much for substandard service."

She reports the WMATA chairman's panhandling "came at the end of a board meeting where independent consultants outlined a laundry list of Metro’s problems and recommendations for improvement: retooling workers’ compensation and pensions, increasing revenue from parking, finding a way to perform rail-car and bus maintenance more cheaply, and identifying a more efficient model to provide paratransit services."

She describes some of those problems this way:

"One of the board’s biggest concerns: Metro’s full-time staff has increased by an average of 5 percent a year since 2011 — a particular consideration given the subway’s steady slide in ridership in recent years.

"Buoyed by dozens of graphs and charts depicting Metro’s financial woes, consultant Tyler Duvall of McKinsey & Company indicated that Metro was paying significantly more for expenses than comparable transit agencies.

"If fringe benefits had grown at the same rate as they did at the New York City Transit Authority between 2011 and 2015, Metro would have saved $25 million, according to the McKinsey report."

To fully understand WMATA's problems, Ms. Powers article is worth reading in its entirety since the problems described above are just a few of the problems described.

It's worth noting that Arlington County taxpayers contributed almost $30 million to WMATA in FY 2015 out of the county's general fund. That's in addition to fares paid by Arlington residents and employer subsidies. Moreover, those contributions grew at a rate of 8.3% from 2001 through 2015 while total county spending "only" grew at 5.1% over the same 15 period.

Perhaps it's also time to have our own version of a Brexit vote. Would the Metro board chairman wake-up to the need for better governance if Arlington County held a successful ARLexit referendum?

We also growled about Metro spending on May 15, 2016, after Metro reported that it is facing an $18 million budget shortfall in the next decade.

Growls readers are urged to write to members of the Arlington County Board to express their opinion on the WMATA board chairman's efforts to squeeze $100 million from every Metro jurisdiction. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

July 2016
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            

The ACTA Watchdog

Latest Issue of The ACTA Watchdog

Join ACTA

Links

Archives

July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister