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June 30, 2017

A Thought about Politicians as Santa Claus

"The big question that seldom— if ever— gets asked in the mainstream media is whether these are a net increase in jobs. Since the only resources that the government has are the resources it takes from the private sector, using those resources to create jobs means reducing the resources available to create jobs in the private sector.

"So long as most people do not look beyond superficial appearances, politicians can get away with playing Santa Claus on all sorts of issues, while leaving havoc in their wake— such as growing unemployment, despite all the jobs being ‘created.'”

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: Mark J. Perry, Carpe Diem blog, American Enterprise Institute.

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In his Carpe Diem post, Mark Perry offered an 87th birthday (today) wish to Dr. Thomas Sowell, writing, "In my opinion, there is no economist alive today who has done more to eloquently, articulately, and persuasively advance the principles of economic freedom, limited government, individual liberty, and a free society than Thomas Sowell." Perry also presents his 15 favorite quotations from Dr. Sowell plus a bonus video." The quotation above is number 6 of the 15.

June 29, 2017

Medicaid Remimbursements & the Arlington Public Schools

On Wednesday, June 21, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) released a "district-by-district report" showing how Virginia's public school "received nearly $33 million in Medicaid reimbursements in the most recent reporting years." (HT Blue Virginia).

According to Senator Kaine's press release, "schools use Medicaid dollars to cover health-related services for eligible children and for services provided in a child's special education plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)." Sen. Kaine's report included a "list of school districts across Virginia that received federal Medicaid funding for services to students." The complete list is available here. Northern Virginia school districts receiving Medicaid reimbursements for school year 2015-2016 included:

  • Alexandria City Public Schools -- $1,966,076.28
  • Fairfax County Public Schools -- $2,996,045.12
  • Loudoun County Public Schools -- $622,883.58
  • Manassas City Public Schools -- $578,414.79
  • Manassas Park City Public Schools -- $4,186.16
  • Prince William County Public Schools-- $1,382,231.06
  • Stafford County Public Schools -- $814,879.66

Although every Virginia school district has its own unique demographic make-up, we were surprised that Arlington Public Schools was not listed on Sen. Kaine's report. According to the FY 2017 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide, enrollment data for FY 2016 included Alexanderia (14,729), Arlington (25,302), and Fairfax County (185,929). Consequently, we would expect the Arlington Public Schools could possibly receive several hundred thousands of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government.

Consequently, on Monday, June 26, ACTA sent the following letter to the Arlington Public Schools (APS):

"Dear Arlington School Board,

"According to the list provided by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the Arlington Public Schools received no federal Medicaid reimbursements for the 2015-2016 school year. However, the Alexandria City Public Schools received $1.966 million and the Fairfax County Public Schools received $2.996 million in such payments. Since APS is approximately 1/5th the size of FCPS, it seems APS may be foregoing between perhaps $600,000 and $2 million.

"I know the three school districts are not homogenous, but I find it extremely difficult to understand why APS received no federal reimbursements for Medicaid spending. A footnote at the list says APS "may have filed for federal reimbursements in other school years or students were provided services by out-of-school Medicaid providers." True?

"Can you tell me why APS did not receive any Federal Medicaid reimbursements in 2015-2016? Is that a one-year occurrence? Or, hasn't APS been filing for such reimbursements? Is it a function that the county's DHS could be doing for APS?

"I look forward to learning whether Senator Kaine's office has erred in omitting APS from the report, or whether APS has failed the taxpayers of Arlington County."

Earlier today, your humble scribe received the following letter from Dr. Brenda Wilks, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Special Education:

"Dear Mr. Wise,

"Thank you for your inquiry about Medicaid in  APS.  APS initiated efforts to participate in the Medicaid reimbursement program in 2015-16, and its application was approved in January 2016.

"In Spring 2016, APS participated in the Medicaid program for Administrative Claiming (a process by which some reimbursement is received based on algorithms and statistics), resulting in approximately $25,000 in reimbursement.  In 2016-17, APS began submitting for reimbursement for specific disability-related services and anticipates receiving approximately $200,000 for services rendered to students. Although APS has taken a conservative approach to participation in Medicaid, it is expected that the program will expand to include additional services and expenses. The amount of reimbursement APS will be able to seek in the future will depend on the willingness of our families to participate in this program.  Your support is much appreciated as we move forward."

Although we wish the APS response had fully explained why their application was not approved until January 2016, we're happy to know that APS is now participating in the "Medicaid program for Administrative Claiming."

Growls readers who are concerned the Arlington Public Schools dawdled in applying for Medicaid reimbursement, received reimbursements in years prior to 2015, or have other comments, should direct them to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (7/2/17) The Roanoke (Virginia) Times' Sara Gregory explained on Saturday some of the concerns about the future of Medicaid reimbursements, explaining in part:

"Trail and other parents of special-needs children are anxious over the prospect of losing services under the proposed Senate Republican health care bill. School districts, which provide many of the services their children receive and get reimbursed through Medicaid, are worried, too.

“We’re all pretty concerned,” said Trail, who helps other parents of special-needs children navigate schools as an advocate. “It’s not even just going to impact our households. Our entire community as a whole is going to get hit pretty hard if this goes through.”

"Between 2016 and 2026, the Senate bill cuts Medicaid spending by 26 percent, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. About 69 million Americans receive Medicaid; the bill is estimated to cut enrollment by 16 percent by 2026.

"Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner both oppose the legislation, which was scheduled for a vote last week that ended up being postponed until after the Senate’s July 4 recess.

"The bill would have a disproportionate effect on children, who make up about 60 percent of Medicaid enrollment in Virginia, Kaine said in a conference call with reporters last week.

"During the 2014-15 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, Virginia school districts received $33 million in Medicaid reimbursements, according to data compiled by his office. A little more than $1.6 million of that went to school districts in the Roanoke and New River valleys."

June 28, 2017

A Thought about Welfare Programs

"It might help if Americans called welfare programs -- current benefits for select populations paid for by current taxes -- by their proper name, rather than by the soothing (and misleading)  labels of "entitlements" and "social insurance." That way, we might ask ourselves who deserves welfare and why."

~ Robert J. Samuelson

Source: page 58, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

June 27, 2017

Bernie Sanders Earns June 2017 Porker of the Month

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

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Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced today that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was named as the June 2017 Porker of the Month "for his foolish quest to impose a single-payer healthcare system on the United States."

Here is CAGW's justification for naming Sen. Bernie Sanders as its June 2017 Porker of the Month (see original for embedded links to source materials):

"Sen. Sanders has been a proponent of socialized medicine for more than two decades. In a floor speech in the House of Representatives on March 4, 1993, Sen. Sanders announced his support for a single-payer proposal. His advocacy for such a system was the centerpiece of his quixotic 2016 presidential campaign and continues to the present day.  He introduced another single-payer bill on March 26, 2017, and told NBC’s Meet the Press on June 25, 2017 that he believes single-payer is “the direction long-term that we should be going.”

"Sen. Sanders tweeted on March 27, 2017, “Somehow in Canada, they've managed to provide healthcare to everyone in their country.”  He neglects to mention the 2014 Commonwealth Fund report which ranked Canada tenth out of eleven prosperous nations in healthcare quality, as well as last in terms of timeliness of care.  Perhaps that is why 52,000 Canadians flee to the United States every year for medical treatment.

"Sen. Sanders has also expressed support for the British National Health Service (NHS). However, Sen. Sanders omits the ghastly conclusion of the British Red Cross earlier this year, which dubbed the NHS a “humanitarian crisis,” in need of major reform. As of last year, “3.4 million Brits were stuck on waiting lists — a 36 percent uptick since 2010. Last year, about a million people had to wait more than four months to get treatment. Almost 300,000 waited at least six months.”

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said in a statement: “Sen. Sanders’ vision is one where the federal government controls every aspect of a citizens’ healthcare, from a doctor’s salary, to the medicines he or she can prescribe, to decisions about how much care a loved one is allowed to receive at a given point in their life. Sen. Sanders never details the enormous pitfalls inherent in a socialized health care system, which entails robbing citizens of quality care by taking decision-making power away from them and placing their lives in the hands of government bureaucrats.  If Sen. Sanders wants to find a starting point for achieving quality healthcare, he need look no further than improving on the American system by increasing private competition, fostering pharmaceutical innovation, and giving patients and doctors the final say on what type of care they need.”

For more information about Citizens Against Government Waste, click here.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them to describe the actions they have taken to further America's competitive, free market systems. 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

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

June 26, 2017

$15 Minimum Wage in Seattle Killed Jobs

 At the Washington Free Beacon this afternoon, Bill McMorris writes, "Seattle's groundbreaking minimum wage hike hurt the low-income people that it was meant to help, according to a report prepared for the city council."

Here is part of how McMorris explains his lede:

"Seattle became one of the largest cities to embrace the $15 minimum wage—double the federal minimum of $7.25—in 2014, adopting an ordinance that would achieve the hike by 2017 for major employers and 2019 for small businesses. The new base rate pleased labor activists and the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, but it has dealt a blow to the take-home pay of workers even before the hike has been completed.

"Researchers from the University of Washington found that low-income workers saw their pay fall drastically when the city moved to the $13 mark in 2015. Companies reduced the number of hours that employees worked to cope with the increased labor costs.

"The lost income associated with the hours reductions exceeds the gain [in hourly rates]," the report says. "The average low-wage employee was paid $1,897 per month. The reduction in hours would cost the average employee $179 per month, while the wage increase would recoup only $54 of this loss, leaving a net loss of $125 per month (6.6%), which is sizable for a low-wage worker."

"The study also found that the baseline wage did not help as many low-wage workers as bill supporters expected it to because "most affected low-wage workers were already earning more than the statutory minimum at baseline."

"The minimum wage hike has been the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's economic agenda over the last several years.  Democrats put the $15 minimum wage on its 2016 party platform, despite the fact that nominee Hillary Clinton had misgivings about the drastic hike's effect on hiring; she initially backed a $12 rate during the primary.

"Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty.  We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union," the platform said."

His report included the following observations about the study:

"This important study ought to be a big wake-up call that the ‘Fight for $15' minimum wage effort is actually hurting those they say they want to help—reducing incomes and eliminating economic opportunities for low-income Americans who need them most," America Rising Squared spokesman Jeremy Adler said in a statement.

"Michael Saltsman, research director for the pro-free-market Employment Policies Institute, said that the results of the study were not surprising and fell in line with previous research that has linked drastic minimum wage hikes to jobs and earnings losses. He said that the report shows that the push for the wage hike is "colliding with economic reality" and that policymakers should approach future bills with caution.

"Similar to members of the flat earth society, some true believers in the labor movement may be unmoved by this body of evidence, but sensible policymakers on the left and the right should feel very comfortable opposing $15 knowing that it hurts employees rather than helps them," Saltsman said."

We frequently growl about the minimum wage, e.g., on June 18, 2017, we quoted Rich Lowry, National Review editor, who said, "Rarely do liberals truly grapple with the possibility -- supported by some, but not all research -- that it suppresses employment. If they did, they would be more cautious about advocating a higher minimum wage in a soft job market, and less scornful of opponents." Earlier, on May 30, 2017. we growled about a Harvard Business School study that showed the harm done by hikes in the minimum wage. And on September 23, 2015, we quoted George Mason University economics professor, Walter E. Williams, on the minimum wage and the laws of economics. Finally, a Congressional Budget Office study, dated February 18, 2014, concluded:

"Raising the minimum wage would increase family income for many low-wage workers, moving some of them out of poverty. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated and the income of those workers would fall substantially."

Sonny Burch, the Free Beacon's executive editor, blogged about the University of Washington minimum wage study, citing reports from both Five Thirty Eight and the Washington Post. He also chided the left and their climate scientists, writing:

"So yeah, on the one hand, you have science showing that minimum wage increases hurt those they're trying to help; on the other, Keanu Reeves-mimicking science deniers. Seems like an easy choice, to me. You shouldn't support these disastrous minimum wage increases.

"Unless … no.

"You don't … deny science.

"Do you?"

Arlington County comes under the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour. However, Arlington County mandates its contractors pay a socialistic 'living wage' -- aka the minimum wage on steroids. It is currently $14.50 per hour. We growled about it on April 16, 2016.

So while the political poohbahs try to help some people on the one hand, they end up hurting another group of people on the other hand, forever forgetting the economic lesson about the free lunch. So, just who are the science deniers?

UPDATE (6/28/19) At Forbes magazine today, the headline of Tim Worstall's article pretty much says it all, "These People are Shameless -- Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage is Worse than you Think."

June 25, 2017

A Thought about Taxes and Paying a 'Fair Share'

 "Liberals love to say things like, "We're just asking everyone to pay their fair share." But government is not about asking. It is about telling. The difference is fundamental.  It is the difference between making love and being raped, between working for a living and being a slave."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: page 186, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

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For other Thomas Sowell quotes, see the results of this this search. And visit his website, too.

June 24, 2017

Can Anyone on the Arlngton School Board Do Arithmatic?

A front-page story in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette reports "It's Decision for High-School Seats." Scott McCaffrey begins the report, writing:

"With the deadline for a decision looming large, top Arlington Public Schools staff say they can bring 1,300 new high-school seats online by 2022 within a budgeted $103.5 million in all but one scenario they have laid out to School Board members.

"Those staff, led by Superintendent Patrick Murphy, on June 15 affirmed their previous recommendation that the seats be split between a renovated Arlington Education Center and new construction on the Arlington Career Center campus.

"That proposal would require an estimated $24 million to develop 500 to 600 classroom seats at the five-story Education Center (now serving as the school system’s administrative headquarters) and $79 million for 700 to 800 additional seats at the Career Center.

"They are dollar figures school officials aim to reduce, if possible.

“We need to look very carefully at how we are using our [financial] resources . . . be very conscious about how we use our funds,” Murphy told School Board members. “My goal . . . is to keep our costs low.”

"But there already may be a budget hitch; the so-called hybrid proposal recommended to School Board members does not include, or even estimate the cost of, structured parking in garages, either above-ground or underground.

“Where do we get the money?” asked School Board member Reid Goldstein. It was a question that had no ready answer at the June 15 meeting, and if the funds are not available, the school system may have to resort to surface parking, which could reduce open space or athletic fields."

McCaffrey reports much more in the article, but the above contains the information I'd like to focus on. Specifically, the Arlington Public Schools plan to add 1,300 high-school seats at a cost to taxpayers of $103.5 million, or $79,615 per seat. That includes:

  • At the Education Center, APS would add 500 to 600 seats at a cost of $24 million, or $43,636 per seat.
  • At the Career Center, APS would add 700 to 800 sears at a cost of $79 million, or $105,333 per seat.
Compare those to the cost of the most recent high school in Virginia. The 2016-2017 Annual Cost Data Report of the Virginia Department of Education shows the contract for High School No. 11 was awarded March 17 by the Loudoun County Public Schools, and will have a maximum capacity of 1,956 students and have a total cost per pupil of $46,945. Background on school construction costs can be found here. Construction cost data by fiscal year can be found here.

Take a few minutes to absorb the above numbers that are bolded for easier reading. To say the Arlington School Board should have some questions for the Superintendent and his staff would be an understatement.

Growls readers with questions or comments about the Arlington Public Schools proposal to add additional high school seats at the Education Center and Career Center should direct them to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 23, 2017

County Continues Struggling with Office Vacancy Rate

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey reported today that "Arlington (is) still grappling with vacancy rate, economic incentives."

McCaffrey reported on a presentation to the Arlington County Board by a director in the county's economic development department at Tuesday's recessed Board meeting. He began, writing:

"Despite the efforts of Arlington officials to cut the county’s office-vacancy rate below 20 percent, it again could bump up over that figure when the National Science Foundation decamps to Alexandria at the end of the year.

"And even without that looming departure, the county faces “other considerable headwinds that we’re still dealing with on a daily basis,” said Christina Winn, director of Arlington Economic Development’s Business Investment Group, in a June 20 presentation to the County Board.

"Winn was on hand to explain the rationale behind giving $800,000 in local funds – on top of $500,000 in state funds – to Bloomberg BNA, a firm focused on legal, tax and regulatory issues, to support the firm’s expansion in Arlington.

"To get the cash, BNA aims to relocate 250 jobs to Arlington and occupy an additional 78,000 square feet of office space.

"Economic-incentive grants are a relatively new tool for the Arlington government, where county officials long have used the community’s strategic location as its main selling point. But since 2015, 12 such agreements have been inked between the county government and businesses."

He also wrote about the economic-incentive grants, noting:

"Economic-incentive grants are a relatively new tool for the Arlington government, where county officials long have used the community’s strategic location as its main selling point. But since 2015, 12 such agreements have been inked between the county government and businesses.

"Winn said the total payout from county coffers so far has been about $500,000, although more will be pushed through the pipeline if the various firms meet incentive targets." (emphasis added)

McCaffrey points out Arlington once had the lowest vacancy rate in the region, but starting in 2014, it topped out above 20%. It's now down to 18.9%. he writes, adding "the departure of the National Science Foundation is expected to add 1.5 percent to the countywide rate . . ."

Here's another link to McCaffrey's complete report.

You can find the county's latest economic statistics in their monthly newsletter, Economic Update.

Our last Growls about the county's efforts to fill that vacant commercial space was October 20, 2016, which includes links to related information. The importance of a vibrant commercial sector was emphasized in the post when we growled that "a 10% increase in office occupancy should result in a $34 million increase in real estate taxes."

If you are concerned about the Arlington County economy, and its real estate tax base, take a few minutes and write to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you!

June 22, 2017

A Thought about the Constitution

"The Constitution is the bedrock on which a living, evolving nation was built.  It is -- and must be -- a timeless and durable foundation that individuals can count on in a changing world. It is not perfect but the Framers made it more perfectible through the amendment process."

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: page 38, "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto."

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Mark Levin is a conservative talk radio host. He currently practices law in the private sector, and is head of the Landmark Legal Foundation. (About the Mark Levin Show)

June 21, 2017

Arlington County Auditor to Put Citizens First

According to a report today by the Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey, "As he embarks on his first full fiscal year on the job, the Arlington County Board’s auditor said he aims to put the needs of the public first as he reviews county-government spending processes."

McCaffrey continued, writing:

"In remarks at the June 20 County Board meeting, Chris Horton told board members he would be “citizen-centric – looking at things from the perspective of community members, not just from the perspective of managers.”

"Horton last November was hired as the auditor, after the first occupant of that position left after six months to move to California. The position is just one of four staff slots reporting directly to County Board members, rather than through the county manager.

"Horton, who came from a similar position with Fairfax County Public Schools, said his role would be one of an honest broker.

“I’ve got to be someone who is collaborative in working with people to strive to get mutually beneficial solutions,” he said. 'We’re all on the same team.'"

The County Auditor's remarks to the Arlington County Board were made in conjunction with two items on the Board's recessed meeting yesterday. The first was approval of the 8-page Annual Audit Work Plan for FY 2018. In addition, the Board made changes to the charge for the Independent County Auditor (both original and revised available from the recessed meeting's agenda).

McCaffrey also wrote, "County Board member John Vihstadt, who pressed for the position, said (the auditor's hiring) has proved a net positive despite a somewhat rocky first 18 months," e.g., the previous auditor left after six months for a job in California.

Kudos to the County Auditor's taxpayer-focused attitude!

Growls readers who have questions about the County Auditor's FY 2018 work plan are urged to write  to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 20, 2017

A Thought about Political Correctness

"Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates."

~ Camille Paglia

Source: her June 15, 2017 interview by Jonathan V. Last, posted at the Weekly Standard.

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Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities & Media Studies at the University of the Arts. She has authored seven books, and has written numerous articles on art, literature, popular culture, feminism, politics and religion for publications around the world. (Profile, The University of the Arts)

June 19, 2017

EPA Administrator Ends $1 Million Gym Membership Program

At the Washington Free Beacon today, Elizabeth Harrington writes, "The Environmental Protection Agency has ended a nearly $1 million program that provided gym memberships for employees.

Harrington went on to explain:

"The new administration under EPA administrator Scott Pruitt identified the gym memberships as an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Examples of the program's misuse included $15,000 for gym memberships for 37 EPA scientists in Las Vegas last year.

""We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. "Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment."

"Pruitt vowed an end to taxpayer-funded programs after the Washington Free Beacon report on the agency spending $15,000 on gym memberships in Las Vegas, earlier this year. Employees in the U.S. Environmental Science Division billed taxpayers $399 each for gym memberships, even though employees had access to a "state-of-the-art" gym on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus.

"The campus gym includes a relaxation room with massage chairs, fitness assessments, personal trainers for hire, a registered dietician, a spa and leisure pool, indoor jogging, and a "gender neutral bathroom."

While the cancellation of this $1 million boondoggle is more symbolic than real, given the federal government's $4 trillion budget, the action does send the message the White House is serious about eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them about the steps they have taken to hold the federal government accountable for the tax dollars they receive. 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

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

June 18, 2017

A Thought about the Minimum Wage

"Every side in a political argument tends to gild the lily, but the acknowledgment of any downside is particularly devastating to liberal presumptions. Liberals are inherently activists on domestic policy, and to make the strongest possible case for action, you need certainty, not nuance; cost-free benefits, not painful trade-offs; blissful promises, not unintended consequences.

"Consider the minimum wage. Rarely do liberals truly grapple with the possibility -- supported by some, but not all research -- that it suppresses employment. If they did, they would be more cautious about advocating a higher minimum wage in a soft job market, and less scornful of opponents."

~ Rich Lowry

Source: his December 13, 2013 column, "The Left's Reality Problem," published by The Oregonian.

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Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

June 17, 2017

Should Legislatures be Able to Override Bad Court Decisions?

In a March 2017 article at The Federalist, Dr. Julio Gonzalez, physician and lawyer in Florida, explains why legislatures should be able to "override bad court rulings." He introduces the article this way:

"We regularly witness the increasingly aggressive and activist posture of our nation’s judiciary. The issue recently came to a head with Judge James Robart’s extra-constitutional act of staying a significant portion of the president of the United States’ foreign policy initiative and the subsequent affirmation of that stay by the unabashedly activist Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Those of us who value the restrictions the Constitution places on government cannot help but worry over the implications of these unprecedented confrontational actions and the effects they will have upon our republic. Indeed, we are left with the troubling question of whether there is any solution to this latest assault upon the fabric of our Constitution. But perhaps there is.

"In January, I filed a bill in the Florida House of Representatives that proposes a legislative override provision to Florida’s Constitution. I also filed an accompanying memorial suggesting that Congress consider a similar addition to the United States Constitution."

Gonzalez continues with a bit of Constitutional history:

"Article III of the U.S. Constitution gave the courts “Judicial Power” over all cases and controversies arising out of the laws of the United States and the Constitution, but it did not assign to the Supreme Court final (plenary) authority regarding the constitutionality of laws. The Supreme Court actually seized this power in its seminal Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803. In it, Chief Justice John Marshall singlehandedly declared, “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Consequently, any law the court determines is repugnant to the Constitution will be void.

"Although the Congress of the day did not react to this, by 1820, the consequences of the resulting change in the relationship between the three branches of government caught the attention of Thomas Jefferson, who warned in a letter to Jarvis Williams, “to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [would be] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

"The Civil War and its associated amendments set the stage for the fulfillment of Jefferson’s prognostications. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution included Due Process and Equal Protection clauses that federal judges would subsequently employ to force their will and power upon the states. With the appointment of progressive judges during the twentieth century, the Supreme Court engaged in the laborious work of redefining the various passages of the Constitution in manners neither foreseen nor intended by the Framers."

He also notes that "if a Canadian legislative body should find the opinion of the court inconsistent with the views of the electorate, the legislature could override or nullify the court's ruling," and adds that Australia, Israel, and England have similar provisions.

"In short," Gonzalez said, "a legislative override provision to our Constitution would represent the clearest and most effective correction to the unchecked actions of an overzealous activist court. Indeed, a legislative override provision would place our nation closest to the vision President Washington shared in his Farewell Address."

Read the entire article; here's a second link.

A Constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to override court decisions is just one of several proposed by talk radio host Marc R. Levin in his book, The Liberty Amendments. For more information about a Convention of States to propose amendments to the Constitution, you can read this interview at CNS News on August 12, 2013.

Learn more about the Convention of States by visiting the Convention of States website. And get involved. Start by signing the petition to call for a Convention of States.

June 16, 2017

"Green Deathtraps" Blamed for Greenfell Tower Fire in London

At American Thinker today, Tom Lifson  writes, "In the wake of the ghastly conflagration that engulfed a recently renovated 24-story apartment tower in London, the world is waking up to the dire threat created by energy-saving green zealots.  It turns out that nobody much worried about the fire hazard involved when flammable materials were used to add an outer "skin" of cladding to the building, creating heat insulation thanks to the air pocket between the new cladding and the old exterior wall, but also providing an ideal space for fire to race up the building."

Lifson links to a UK Telegraph report that says:

"Fears were raised that green energy concerns were prioritised ahead of safety as it emerged that cladding used to make the building more sustainable could have accelerated the fire."

The Telegraph story also points out:

"Government ministers were warned about the fire risk of cladding as far back as 1999, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.

"It was installed on the council-owned Grenfell block in 2015 as part of a £10 million refurbishment by a company which was later liquidated after a firm they were working with refused to pay out in a dispute over their work.

"Tens of thousands of buildings in the UK have been fitted with cladding, it is estimated, leading to calls for an immediate review of safety.

"Experts said that the cladding - which is used to insulate the building - had acted like a "chimney" for the flames by allowing the fire to spread upwards through the gaps between the cladding and the building walls."

Lifson reminds us, ''Council-owned' is the British descriptor for public housing."

Finally, the Telegraph provides the following information about the materials in the so-called cladding:

"Dr Jim Glockling, Technical Director of the Fire Protection Association, said that they had been lobbying the Government to review the safety of combustible materials used on the outside of buildings since 2014.

"All fire safety regulations are focused on containing a fire within a building, but this cannot happen if it is spreading along the outside.

"There has been an emerging body of evidence surrounding some of the materials being used and now we have an appalling demonstration of what can happen," he said.

"Alongside the cosmetic appeal of cladding, it is used as an insulation to make buildings more sustainable to meet green energy requirements.

"It could be that this is the quest for sustainability trumping other concerns," Dr Glockling warned."

Ah yes, sustainability. As Peter Woods, president of the National Association of Scholars, wrote in an article two years ago, "'Sustainability' is like a religion. Or, sustainability is a religion."

Here, Lifson asks:

"Did green fever cause the obvious fire hazard to be ignored?  We simply do not know.  But the zealotry of those who are convinced that CO2 increases are dooming us could well prioritize energy savings above safety.  As seems to have been done in London.

"How many more green death traps are out there?  Tens of thousands in the U.K., but how many in the USA?

"The EPA sponsors the Energy Star certification for buildings.  A quick look at the site does not reveal any emphasis on fire safety.  But there certainly are a lot of properties signing up . . . ."

He answers the question this way: ". . . Saving energy is fine, but there are tradeoffs, and human lives did not weigh heavily enough when that flammable cladding was used." Makes you wonder about the  tradeoffs in Arlington County's Community Energy Plan (CEP). For background on the CEP, see our June 13. 2017 Growls.

UPDATE (6/18/17) In an article posted yesterday at Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch quotes "Robert Solomon, who heads the building fire protection division at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)," who says, “I don’t see this happening in the U.S.,” Solomon told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We actually apply a very constrictive and restrictive test protocol to those types of systems on buildings.” Read the entire article at Daily Caller.

UPDATE (6/19/17). At Townhall.com today, Katie Kieffer begins her reporting:

"Blue flames are products of extreme heat but “green” flames are products of extreme environmentalism, as we saw last week when fire engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower.

"From London to California’s Sun Valley, so-called green policies that disregard basic principles of fire safety are sparking deadly infernos. This issue deserves our immediate attention far more than Russian hacking myths and fairytales.

"The odor of burning plastic filled the air as 250 firefighters rushed to the scene of Grenfell Tower on June 14. But the flames spread too quickly and intensely for even this army of professional flame-stoppers. At least 30 people died, some 74 were injured and many more remain unaccounted for—meaning that the true death toll is closer to 60.

"For years, the 24-story public housing tower’s residents had complained via the Grenfell Action Group that the building—originally constructed in 1974—was a fire hazard. Instead of heeding the warnings, London Mayors like Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson aggressively pressured local councils to reduce carbon dioxide by refurbishing older buildings. (The 2008 Climate Change Act obligates the UK to slash greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 in comparison to emissions in 1990.) Unfortunately, safety was sacrificed for the sake of reducing emissions.

"No one knows what first started the Grenfell Tower fire. We do know that major experts are tying the “eco-friendly” exterior insulation or “cladding” to the fire’s uncommon force and rapidity."

June 15, 2017

A Thought about the American Polity

"Red America and Blue America are spiraling into divisions approaching those of 1860, or of the nihilistic hippie/straight divide of 1968."

~ Victor Davis Hanson

Source: his June 15, 2017 column, "Can a Divided America Survve?", posted at Townhall.com.

June 14, 2017

A Thought about the State

"The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."

~ Claude-Frederic Bastiat

Source: page 122, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

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"Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) merits a hallowed place in the annals of political economy. A member of the French Liberal, or laissez-faire, school of economists that included the great J. B. Say, Bastiat marshaled logic, clarity, and exuberant wit in the cause of understanding society, prosperity, and liberty. In a series of brief essays and pamphlets, and a treatise on political economy, Bastiat taught, contra Rousseau, that there is a natural harmonious order to the social world, an order that emanates from the free exchange between human beings driven to satisfy unlimited wants with limited resources. The result is a steady progress in the material well-being of all. Interference with that freedom, and with its corollaries, property and competition, he wrote, leaves people poorer as well as oppressed. This is so because interference bars individuals from the creative action they otherwise would have engaged in. The fruits of the creativity thus forgone are "what is not seen" in any act of intervention," according to his Annotated Bibliography, Libary of Economics and Liberty.

June 13, 2017

Do 97% of Climate Scientists Really Agree on Global Warming?

By way of an introduction, and balance, it's worth noting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) climate website, not surprisingly, says, "Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position." The NASA website then goes on to list statements "on climate change from 18 scientific associations." In addition, the first reference on the NASA climate webpage includes the studies that Neil Frank critiques in his commentary cited below.

But let's do a little fact-checking. At the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day meeting -- held this year on January 3, 2017 -- County Board chairman Jay Fisette said, "Arlington must strengthen our efforts to protect the environment. We DO accept the reality of climate change. In the absence of federal leadership and assistance, cities and urban counties across America are taking the lead."

Then in a press release last week, Arlington County "reaffirmed" its "commitment to climate action. The news release made three key points:

  • Supports Mayors National Climate Action Agenda
  • Signs “WE ARE STILL IN” open letter to international community
  • Board to consider climate action resolution later this month

In reaffirming the commitment, the news release noted:

“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”

"On Monday, June 5, Arlington joined mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses and investors in signing “WE ARE STILL IN,” an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement saying these entities – already primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, will multiply and accelerate their actions, whatever policies the federal government may pursue."

Consequently, it was with extreme interest to read the comments of Neil Frank on the purportedly overwhelming consensus among climate scientists on global warming. Frank holds a Ph.D. in Meteorology, was the longest-serving Director of the National Hurricane Center (1974-1987), and continues research on global climate change.

In a Commentary for CNS News last Friday, he points out that most of the studies which purport this consensus "rarely specify what it is to which the scientists agree. Usually it is nothing more than that the earth has warmed since 1800 and that human activity has contributed significantly to the warming—something almost no skeptics would deny." Rather, Frank says:

"No study—whether a survey of published articles or a survey directly of scientists—has found anything remotely near a 97 percent consensus not only that the earth has warmed and that human activity has contributed significantly but also that human activity has been the primary driver, that the warming caused by it is dangerous, and that attempting to prevent future warming by reducing CO2 emissions would do more good than harm—and those are the issues debated."

Frank critiques several studies including one published by historian Naomi Oreskes by Science in 2004. He found that "an attempt at replicating the study both found that she had made serious mistakes in handling data and, after re-examining the data, reached contrary conclusions." Frank looked at two other studies -- one by Peter Doran and Maggie Zimmerman and a second by William Anderegg et al -- but found problems with their methodology.

Finally, he looked at a John Cook et al's study, "Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature," which he says is "(p)robably the most widely cited study claiming to find such consensus." This study Frank says, "purported to find that 'Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.'" He points out, though:

"Of course, “Humans are causing global warming” is something that nearly every skeptic—including myself—could affirm. The question is not whether we’re causing global warming, but whether we’re causing most of the recent warming, whether it’s dangerous, and whether we should abandon abundant, affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels in exchange for sparse, expensive, intermittent energy from “renewables” in an effort to stop it. Cook et al.’s paper was critiqued in another paper by David Legates et al., who reviewed the same papers Cook et al. had reviewed and concluded that the actual consensus supportable by their abstracts was only 0.3%."

Frank found several other problems with the Cook et al study. He also links to a Wall Street Journal op-ed about "The Myth of the Climate Change 97% (Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2014, but behind their paywall).

At National Review Online (NRO), October 8, 2015, Ian Tuttle wrote about the 97% consensus, writing "The myth of an almost-unanimous climate-change consensus is pervasive. Last May, the White House tweeted: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” A few days later, Secretary of State John Kerry announced, “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent.” But, she writes, "'Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists' say no such thing."

Tuttle also reports on a 2012 poll of the American Meteorological Society, which "reported a diversity of opinion," as well as "a study of 1,868 scientists working in climate-related fields, conducted just this year by the PBL Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, three in ten respondents said that less than half of global warming since 1951 could be attributed to human activity, or that they did not know."

Finally, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine collected 31,000 signatures of scientists who "reject global warming and say 'no convincing evidence' that humans can or will cause global warming?" The entry notes, however, "The majority of signatures are engineers (10,102). 3,046 are in medicine. 2,965 are in biology, biochemistry and agriculture. 4,822 in chemistry and chemical engineering . . . Without formal training in climate science the level of understanding remains unknown among those that signed the petition. A key question is not how many of those that signed the petition know climate exists, but rather how many of those that signed work directly in the field of climate science."

If you prefer a video version of the argument against the 97% consensus of climate change scientists, click here for a 4+ minute video, narrated by Alex Epstein, from Prager University. Over 2.3 million people have viewed it. For five additional short PragerU videos on climate change, click here.

In another video, posted just last week at You Tube, Dr. Don Easterbrook, a geologist, questions the 97% consensus before a State of Washington legislative committee.

So who are we to believe? A fair and balanced consideration of Neil Frank's analysis or Ian Tuttle's report in NRO tells me there is no way  there can be a "97% consensus." Yet the federal government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars on so-called climate change while Arlington County has spent who knows how many taxpayer dollars for its Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) or to create its 26-page Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013. And remember, Frank served as Director of the National Hurricane Center for 13 years, someone who should fully understand global warming.

Do you think the county should have reaffirmed its commitment to climate action? Do you think the county should be following the climate lemmings? If you remain skeptical about global warming, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

June 12, 2017

Cost and Burden of Federal Regulations = $1.9 Trillion

Two weeks ago, on May 31, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released their 2017 edition of "Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State that estimates the size, scope, and burden of federal regulations based on the best government and private information available."

According to CEI, "the burden of federal regulations on the American public reached a record $1.9 trillion last year. That amounts to a hidden tax of nearly $15,000 per household." CEI Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews authored the report.

Here are the highlights from the 2017 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments (emphasis in  the original):

  • Federal regulations and intervention cost American consumers and businesses $1.9 trillion in 2016. When you add the taxpayer dollars government agencies spent administering these regulations, the total cost of the regulatory state reached $1.963 trillion last year.
  • In 2016, 214 laws were enacted by Congress during the calendar year, while 3,853 rules were issued by agencies. That means, 18 rules were issued for every law enacted last year.
  • Many Americans complain about taxes, but in 2016 the total regulatory costs exceeded the $1.92 trillion the IRS collected in both individual and corporate income taxes.
  • If U.S. federal regulation was a country, it would be the world’s seventh-largest economy, ranking behind India and ahead of Italy.
  • Some 60 federal departments, agencies, and commissions have 3,318 regulations in development at various stages in the pipeline. The five most active rulemaking entities–the Departments of the Treasury, Interior, Transportation, Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency–account for 1,428 rules, or 43 percent of all federal regulations being considered.
  • The 2016 Federal Register contains 95,894 pages, the highest level in its history and 19 percent higher than the previous year’s 80,260 pages.

A one-page fact sheet of the report is available here.

The report has numerous and helpful tables and figures. For example, Table 3 provides the regulatory costs for small, medium, and large firms in 2012. While the cost for all federal regulations per employee for all firms was $9,991, the cost for firms with fewer than 50 employees was $11,724, for firms with 50-99 employees was $10,664, but dropped to $9,083 for firms with more than 100 employees.

The entire 85-page report can be found here. You can download the entire report or the executive summary, introduction, or any one of the eight chapters.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Tell them what you think about the cost burden of federal regulations. 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

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

June 11, 2017

104 Years of the Federal Income Tax: Then and Now

Back in April while many Americans were filing their federal income taxes, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) released information that enables American taxpayers to compare the 104-year history of the income tax. In addition to the chart below, here are the bullets from the ATR information release:

  • In 1913 the top marginal income tax bracket was 7% -- today it is 39.6%.
  • In 1913 the marginal income tax bracket range was 1% - 7%. Today the range is 10% - 39.6%.
  • In 1913 there were 400 pages in the tax code. Today there are 74,608 pages in the code.
  • In 1913 the family standard deduction was $98,425.45 in today’s dollars. The family standard deduction now is just $12,600.
  • When the income tax started in 1913, only 358,000 Americans had to file a 1040. Today 148,606,578 Americans file 1040s.

Putting the comparable numbers into context, Grover Norquist, president of ATR said:

"The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty,"

And here's the ATR chart comparing the federal income tax in 1913 when it became law, thanks to the 16th Amendment, and today"


Take a second look at ATR's chart. The income tax may have started out as a plan to "tax the rich," but even at a top tax rate of 7%, it wasn't even much at "taxing the rich." So listen carefully when mostly liberal politicians say they only want to tax the rich.

For more information about Americans for Tax Reform, click here.

June 10, 2017

A Thought about Taxes

 "Why are the people starving? Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes."

~ Lao Tzu

Source: page 100, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

June 09, 2017

A Thought about "Free Stuff" from Government

"(T)here are always numerous desirable things that government officials can offer to provide to voters who want them -- either free of charge or at reduced, government-subsidized prices -- even when these voters do not want these increments enough to sacrifice their own money to pay for them. Ultimately, of course, the public ends up paying as taxpayers for things that they would not have chosen to pay for as consumers."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: page 82, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

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Thomas Sowell (born 1930) "is an American economist turned social theorist, political philosopher, and author (Wikipedia). He is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Visit his personal website here for information about his books, articles and more.

June 08, 2017

Year-to-Year Wages Drop in Most NoVa Jurisdictions

According to the Northern Virginia Sun today, "Major jurisdictions across Northern Virginia saw the average weekly wage of those working in their confines decline in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to a year before, part of a national trend downward that historically is rare but, federal officials say, not unprecedented."

Arlington's weekly newspaper explains:

"Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties all saw their average weekly wage dip from a year before, though none saw a drop as large as the national decline of 1.5 percent.

"Nationally, the average weekly wage in the fourth quarter stood at $1,067, falling $16 from a year before, according to figures reported June 7 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"A year-over-year drop has occurred in only eight quarters since the survey began in 1978, federal officials said. The survey looks at employment in the nation’s 345 largest counties, which account for a significant majority of overall civilian employment."

The Arlington Sun Gazette added weekly wage information for some Northern Virginia and national counties:

"According to fourth-quarter figures, average weekly wages stood at $1,677 in Arlington, down 1.4 percent; $1,610 in Fairfax County, down 0.6 percent; $1,497 in Alexandria, down 0.8 percent; and $931 in Prince William County, down 0.5 percent.

"Nationally, Arlington ranked seventh and Fairfax County ninth in highest average weekly wage. Leading the list were Santa Clara County, Calif., at $2,365 and New York County (Manhattan), N.Y., at $2,212. Two other counties – San Mateo and San Francisco, each in California – had average weekly wages above $2,000."

Certainly not comforting information after the recent Arlington County Board action to increase the real estate tax increase during adoption of the FY 2018 budget. Something Arlington County taxpayers should remember when they go to the polls in November 2017? As a reminder, see our April 23, 2017 Growls!

The entire set of Bureau of Labor Statistics release for country employment and wages is available here, and includes a summary, technical note, and several tables.

June 07, 2017

A Thought about Tax Rates

"It is not too much to hope that some day we may get back on a tax basis of 10 percent, the old Hebrew tithe, which was always considered a fairly heavy tax."

~ Andrew Mellon

Source: page 137, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on the first of the unnumbered pages; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

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According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Andrew Mellon )1855--1937) was an "American financier, philanthropist, and secretary of the treasury (1921–32) who reformed the tax structure of the U.S. government in the 1920s. His benefactions made possible the building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C."

June 06, 2017

Unlikely Allies Offer Billions in Possible Deficit Reduction

There may not be two more unlike groups than the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). NTU was founded in 1969, and sees itself as the "Voice of America's Taxpayers" while U.S. PIRG emerged in the 1970s on college campuses based on a model proposed in a book co-authored by Ralph Nader.

So it was a surprise to see their identical press releases yesterday -- NTU here and U.S. PIRG here.

According to the NTU press release:

"In the midst of the federal budget process, lawmakers remain divided along partisan lines on how to prioritize taxpayer dollars and how to address the fiscal gap between revenues and expenditures. A new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) provides our elected leaders with some much-needed common ground for progress. Suggesting over $260 billion of deficit reduction recommendations with appeal from across the political spectrum, “Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress” should act as a roadmap for lowering the deficit without compromising our national priorities.

“The suggestions made in this report are the low-hanging fruit that should be plucked out of our budget before we start cutting public priorities. Special interest giveaways, redundant spending, and government inefficiencies bloat our debt and divert funding from useful programs, and these recommendations represent some of the worst of the worst,” said Michelle Surka, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate.

"The two groups who worked on the report have long had divergent policy views on the government’s role in regulation, on what smart tax reform would look like, and on how to handle our national debt. But U.S. PIRG and NTUF have joined forces to identify federal programs that both Republican and Democratic lawmakers should recognize as wasteful and inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars. When the budget is reformed to cut out wasteful spending, we can better work to fund the programs that do work for the public and start to cut down our ballooning debt.

"“Enacting the bipartisan recommendations detailed in this report would be an important step toward reining in wasteful, duplicative, and cronyistic federal spending. Taxpayers want to see leaders establish sound fiscal policy that works towards a balanced budget and reduces the debt. It is time to confront the debt and stop passing it on to the next generation,” said Spencer Woody, NTUF Associate Policy Analyst."

The two groups identified more than 50 "specific cuts." including:

  • $124 billion in savings from eliminating wasteful subsidies to agribusiness and other corporations
  • $78 billion in savings from ending low-priority or unnecessary military programs
  • $25 billion in savings from improvements to program execution and government operations
  • $36 billion in savings from reforms to major entitlement programs

A copy of the 21-page report, "Toward Common Ground 2017: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress," is available here.

Now if NTU and U.S. PIRG can find common ground, there is no reason why Congressional partisans cannot work together for the benefit of all Americans to reduce the federal deficit, and, in a few years, begin to make significant dents in the national debt.

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Tell them about the common ground developed by NTU and U.S. PIRG, and ask them to go the extra mile in working across the aisle to begin reducing the federal deficit. 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

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

June 05, 2017

A Thought about Tax Complexit

"Complex laws spawn many inadvertent errors as well as opportunities for intentional noncompliance. Complex laws also contribute to taxpayer confusion and real or perceived unfairness in the tax system. Studies have shown that taxpayers are less likely to be compliant if they perceive the tax system to be inequitable."

~ George K. Yin

Source: page 59, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com (this is a new link for the collection, but publisher's identify shown on first page; the link I had been using produced a 'page not found' message).

June 03, 2017

More of Your Tax Dollalrs Down the Proverbial Rathole

At CNS News on Thursday, June 1, Gage Cohen reports the "Department of Education IG Reveals $6 billion in improper payments in 2016." Specifically, the lede paragraph said:

"Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe revealed to Congress last week that the Federal Student Aid office (FSA) had made over $6 billion in improper payments last year in federal student aid programs."

He continued, writing:

"These improper payments included sending money in the wrong amount, making unnecessary disbursements, and sending payments to the wrong recipients entirely, reported the government watchdog group Judicial Watch.

"There were $2.21 billion in improper Pell Grant payments and $3.86 billion in the Direct Loan program, according to Inspector General Tighe in her May 25 testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations.

"Furthermore, Tighe testified that the Education Department had not yet begun to consider the logistics of how it would “address the root causes of the identified improper payments.”

"James Runcie, the chief operating officer of the FSA and an Obama political appointee, was scheduled to testify at the same hearing but he resigned his position and did not appear at the hearing."

Judicial Watch's May 31, 2017 Corruption Chronicles, which Cohen cites, has additional details. For example, it says Mr. Runcie "got hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses despite his well-documented failures, sources inside the agency tell Judicial Watch. The extra cash was kept off the books, away from the public, and doesn’t appear on his official government salary record but Judicial Watch has obtained the figures with yearly breakdowns." The Corruption Chronicles article ends by saying:

". . . What the public record omits is that, despite his office’s many failures, Runcie got “insane” bonuses, according to one government source who had to dig the figures out of Runcie’s FSA personnel file. Here is the annual breakdown: 2010—$33,535; 2011—$38,350; 2012—$60,000; 2013—$75,000; 2014—$75,000; 2015—$75,000; 2016—$76,000. That means that, while his office was an out-of-control cash cow losing billions of taxpayer dollars to fraud and corruption, Runcie was secretly rewarded with cash bonuses. No wonder he doesn’t want to testify before Congress."

Growls readers are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Ask them about the steps they have taken to hold the U.S. Department of Education accountable for the tax dollars they receive. 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

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

June 02, 2017

A Thought About Opinions

"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions."

~ Leonardo da Vinci

Source: the April 8, 2017 newsletter, The Week That Was, Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP.org).

June 01, 2017

President Trump Withdraws U.S. from Paris Climate Accord

The headline at the United Kingdom's Daily Mail this evening (HT Drudge) pretty much says it all, "'I represent the people of Pittsburgh NOT Paris': (President) Trump pulls U.S. out of climate accord saying it is a foreign attempt to seize American jobs and American wealth - and is immediately attacked by Obama."

Fox News carried a baker's dozen separate stories under the banner headline, "'A SAD DAY': World reacts to US pullout from climate agreement," which said in the story's lede paragraph, "World leaders reacted with dismay Thursday to President Trump's announcement that he was pulling out of the Paris climate accord, while three prominent European heads of state rejected his suggestion that the deal could be renegotiated."

The other 12 stories from the Fox News homepage were:

The two opinion pieces are by, first, Doug Schoen (view from the left) and then by Erick Erickson (view from the right).

Tucker Carlson devoted his first segment (11:21 minutes) to President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. It's classic Tucker Carlson , and includes a montage of leftist commentary on President Trump's decision. His guest is Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, and the exchange is worth watching since once again, Tucker's guest dodges the questions.

At ARLnow.com this afternoon, Arlington County's state and national political elite obsess over the President's decision, including:

"Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, highlighted how Trump’s decision to withdraw will negatively impact the United States’ foreign relationships.

“Trump’s decision will be a self-inflicted wound on our allies’ trust in American leadership,” Beyer wrote in a statement alongside fellow members of the House Safe Climate Caucus. “The Paris Agreement was a vision reflecting decisive action, hope, ingenuity, and the ideals with which we would define our country’s place in the world. Withdrawal from that agreement represents a triumph of ignorance, nativism and political pandering, and the message it sends to other countries will be disastrous for the relationships which have built and sustained our prosperity.”

"Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) released a statement condemning the president’s decision. He wrote that despite the withdrawal, Virginia will continue to do its part to fight climate change.

“The President’s dangerous action today will have a devastating impact on our environment, our economy, and our health,” McAuliffe said. “The United States economy is dependent on leadership in the world, yet the President seems inclined to sit back and let other nations pass us by. Climate change is a threat to our way of life. If President Trump refuses to lead the response, Virginia will.”

"McAuliffe also detailed how his own actions have differed from Trump’s. He wrote how in early May, he signed an order to reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth."

See the ARLnow.com story for comments by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).

Finally, Mark Levin's "Daily Recap" today noted, "The President’s speech on the Paris climate accord was magnificent, simple and directed straight at the American people, who now understand the devastating effect the Paris agreement would have had on their livelihoods." There is also a link to a NY Times story on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

Unfortunately, no one bothered to talk about the science underlying global warming. Advocates of climate change talk obsessively about the " 97% consensus" among climate scientists. Take a few minutes to read Climate Depot's new 9-page 'Talking Points' Memo, "a complete skeptics’ guide for elected officials, media and the public on how to discuss global warming backed up by dozens of citations to peer-reviewed research." You'll learn the 97% so-called consensus has been "pulled from thin air."

And if Climate Depot's 'Talking Points Memo," doesn't provide you enough information, click-over to the website of the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), "founded in 1990 by atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer." (from SEPP's Wikipedia entry). Take a look, especially, at their (mostly) weekly newsletters, The Week That Was (TWTW).

An October 2016 poll by Pew Research showed "The Politics of Climate," saying, "Polarized views about climate issues stretch from the causes and cures for climate change to trust in climate scientists and their research. But most Americans support a role for scientists in climate policy, and there is bipartisan support for expanding solar, wind energy." According to Pew:

"This survey extensively explores how peoples’ divergent views over climate issues tie with people’s views about climate scientists and their work. Democrats are especially likely to see scientists and their research in a positive light. Republicans are considerably more skeptical of climate scientists’ information, understanding and research findings on climate matters. A few examples:
  • Seven-in-ten liberal Democrats (70%) trust climate scientists a lot to give full and accurate information about the causes of climate change, compared with just 15% of conservative Republicans.
  • Some 54% of liberal Democrats say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change very well. This compares with only 11% among conservative Republicans and 19% among moderate/liberal Republicans.
  • Liberal Democrats, more than any other party/ideology group, perceive widespread consensus among climate scientists about the causes of warming. Only 16% of conservative Republicans say almost all scientists agree on this, compared with 55% of liberal Democrats."

Other polls have shown that global warming ranks far down the list of the concerns of most Americans. For example, see our December 7, 2016 Growls.

So, take a few minutes to write or call your Congressional representatives. Tell them whether whether you agree or disagree with President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. 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

Or just click-on and write to President Trump at the White House!

Or click-on to write to Governor Terry McAuliffe.

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