Odds and ends number 98

I promised this a few weeks ago, but here it is in all its glory or whatever. As always, it’s little items which interest me and take up a few sentences.

So what does my e-mail have for me to share? In a monent I will look, but first allow me to reintroduce you to a classic concept.

Sunday evening reading

Many years ago, back in the days even before Salisbury had its blog wars – or had monoblogue – there was a website called Duvafiles. Its purveyor was a local attorney by the name of Bill Duvall, who has since passed away.

Aside from the sometimes-hilarious skewering of various local political figures and other prominent citizens, one of his regular features was indeed called Sunday evening reading – generally a short list of links Bill found interesting or useful.

In this case, there are many times I bookmark Erick Erickson because of how he intersects religion and politics. Unfortunately, having moved to Substack I can’t just link to his pieces but he does keep a limited free archive. (I’m just not quite willing to pull the trigger on $70 a year.)

Another frequent writer whose work sometimes gets buried behind a paywall is former Louisiana governor and 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. He’s not really being mentioned as a 2024 contender but with commentary like this, I think he should be.

I’ve known Michigan-based writer Jen Kuznicki online for several years, but I didn’t know she had a more primary gig as a bartender. It gave her an up-close and personal view of a serious effect from the pandemic.

So since today is Sunday, I happened to see it as a perfect time to bring back the old concept. I think I have replicated it a time or two over the years, so it’s back again like the McRib.

Backing the blue

Another blast from my past came onto my radar screen recently. I’ve known Melody Clarke for several years, dating back to her previous moniker Melody Scalley and her unfortunately unsuccessful runs for office on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She may have a sweeter gig now as a Regional Coordinator of the Heritage Foundation.

Melody alerted me to a new Heritage initiative called the Police Pledge, which simply states that the signatory will “pledge to oppose any bill, resolution, or movement to ‘Defund the Police.'” Most notable among local signers thus far is Congressman Andy Harris, but there are two notables in Delaware as well: my District 21 state Senator (and candidate for Governor) Bryant Richardson, who signed it in his Senate capacity, and District 32 House challenger Cheryl Precourt from Kent County. Both are Republicans, although that’s no shock since all current federal officeholders who have signed are also members of the GOP. Nearly 80,000 private citizens have also signed, insuring the Heritage Foundation maintains a healthy e-mail list.

By comparison, it’s interesting to know just what the Left considers “defunding the police.” According to the Indivisible group, it’s where funding intended for police is diverted to “crisis intervention specialists, social workers, behavioral and mental health experts, food assistance and clean water, housing assistance, (and) school budgets.” But don’t we already pay for a welfare state?

By the way, that group of leftists had its “week of action” recently and touted “over 300 events across 37 states.” There was only one event in Delaware, so I guess they must figure they have this state sewn up. Got to work on that.

On the energy front

I already knew wind power was less reliable, more inconvenient, and more expensive, so this piece just reinforces what I already knew. On the other hand, API’s Mark Green describes some of the issues with getting necessary infrastructure in place.

While Delaware seems to be in decent shape with its natural gas supply pipelines, there is still the matter of trying to get an extended route to supply Maryland’s Eastern Shore constructed. As is often the case, short-sighted “progressives” are against real progress but cheer on pie-in-the-sky boondoggles that do nothing but drive up electric bills and ruin viewsheds.

Party over principle?

It’s an argument that dogged the TEA Party – do you work within the existing two-party system or try an alternative? Unfortunately, the Republican Party did not bend to the right nearly as readily as the Democrats have kowtowed to the radical left-wing flank of its numbers over the last two years, which is one reason why we have the predicament we are in now.

But radio host Andy Hooser, a.k.a. the “Voice of Reason”, begs to reignite an argument that seemed to fade away when the TEA Party morphed into the backing for Donald Trump. He writes:

(After the GOP nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney) I considered leaving the Republican party and going independent or Libertarian. I wanted my conservative voice to be accepted, not shunned in a party that is supposed to advocate for the views and ideas I have…not for me to conform to the party…

I then began my radio career by joining the broadcasting school, and interning for one of the great radio legends Mike Rosen of 850 KOA in Denver, CO. During my tenure with Mike, I had heard him advocate for the “Party over Person” argument, explaining third parties do nothing more than ruin any chance of getting someone close to your ideology…but help elect the person farthest from your views.

It hit home with me.

“The Voice of Reason” newsletter, August 2020

But we tried all this, and it didn’t work. I am living proof: is the Maryland Republican Party any more conservative now then when I began with them in 2006? No, they are even more spineless and have an impotent titular head to boot.

We actually now have an opportunity to open things up on both sides as the Democrats are eating their own and Republicans are trying to be more like Trump. There are openings for the progressives, centrists, and conservatives if they can just figure out a way to break up the R-and-D duopoly that saddles us with too many “lesser of two evils” elections. In Delaware I have six ballot-qualified parties to choose from, and while the system could use a little more work it’s an improvement from what Maryland and many other states are saddled with, like the Maryland Libertarians finally getting ballot access after a grueling ordeal.

“I want to thank everyone who helped petition to get back on the ballot, especially under such circumstances where the state of Maryland insisted we had to collect signatures while making it illegal or very difficult to petition in public for much of 2020,” said Maryland LP chair Bob Johnston in a release. But they are only there through 2022 unless they get 1% of the vote for Governor or 1% of the state’s registered voters. (That works out to about 40,000.)

Meanwhile, Delaware Libertarians break their 0.1% of RV hurdle with ease. I just wish they would focus more on candidate recruitment.

Getting to follow up

I didn’t realize that it had been over 18 months since I wrote a piece for The Patriot Post on civil asset forfeiture, but it proved to be a handy precursor to a lengthier treatise on the subject from Robert Stilson of the Capital Research Center on that very topic.

We still need to work on the principle that gains considered ill-gotten by the standard of suspicion are ripe for the taking. Believe it or not, there are legitimate reasons for individuals to carry large sums of cash and it’s none of the government’s business why they do so unless they want to press criminal charges and prove illegal intent in court. It’s not intended to be a slush fund for local law enforcement.

The long march to the left

One other noteworthy item from the CRC is this profile of the Walmart Foundation. Apparently Sam Walton had little use for charity or politics, but his heirs have gone completely overboard from the port side.

I don’t mind companies giving to charity, but it seems to me that many of today’s corporate conglomerates are operating under the “last to be eaten by the alligator” principle. How about just starving the alligator instead?

Uniquely Delaware

When I first moved to this area in 2004, one thing I quickly noticed was the all-number Delaware license plates. (Meanwhile, my Maryland plate was one of the first to have the old 1AA A11 pattern they used for about eight years before adopting the current 1AA1111 pattern.) Being a small state, Delaware is one of the last holdouts that has such numeric tags. (Many do have a standard prefix, though, as I note below.)

Now my car has a regular old random six-digit number beginning way up in the 9’s as its plate, but if I had a lot of coin I could buy the rights to have a number as low as 4 on my car. (I have to be elected governor, lieutenant governor, or secretary of state to get 1, 2, or 3 respectively. But I have seen #4. On the other hand, I also know someone who has a plate in the 9998xx series. Wonder if there’s a market for high number plates, too?)

The plate PC8 (PC, or “passenger carrier,” is a prefix often found on SUVs) just sold for $175,000. This creates an interesting question for me: do you insure the car or the license plate?

Speaking of Delaware, I wonder how this turned out? If for no other reason, the added traffic snarl of our prospective President having a beach house here is a good reason to keep Donald Trump in office.

And last…

Since I got this done in time, tomorrow night I will try my hand at pre-primary wild guesses and analysis for the Delaware primary. We’ll see if my expertise gained over often winning the (ladies and) gentlemen’s bet over Maryland primary and general election results among my fellow Central Committee members transfers across state lines.

A different sort of accountability

The other day I received a reminder that Heritage Action had updated its Congressional scorecard. And for those who believe that our Congressman Andy Harris isn’t as conservative as he makes himself out to be, it should be noted that his 90% rating puts him in the top 20 on Congress overall, or the 95th percentile if you will.  It’s a score that Harris currently shares with some of the more libertarian heroes of Congress, such as Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, as well as Presidential candidate Marco Rubio. (Ted Cruz was among the top 3 at 100%, along with Mike Lee and Ken Buck of Colorado.)

But one weakness I’m finding with the Heritage Action scorecard is just what issues they consider important – there’s no easy way to determine what bills and votes they deemed important enough to include. Certainly I trust the Heritage Foundation to be a conservative watchdog as they have been for many years, but it would be nice to have their scorecard reflect what the scores are based upon.

On the other hand, I present no such problem with my monoblogue Accountability Project because I explain just why I vote as I would. (By and large, it’s opposition to the lunacy Democrats put out on an annual basis, although I am also far more of a budget hawk than most as well.) In this year’s roster of legislation, there were anywhere from five to fifty-odd votes per bill on my side in the House and two to twenty per bill in the Senate. None of those I sided with this year became law, unlike last year where I won a couple.

If you follow monoblogue on social media (and you should) you’ll notice I’m making steady progress on this year’s edition, which I am slating to release June 6. Actually, what pushes this into June is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Back when Martin O’Malley was governor, I never had to worry about vetoed bills and pretty much everything that was placed in front of him by the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly was signed in short order. But with Larry Hogan in office, I have to pay attention to what’s called the “date of presentment.” This tripped me up last year in discussing the post-session because I thought Hogan had 30 days after session to sign/veto bills, not realizing there was a date of presentment involved. (O’Malley always seemed to sign things as quickly as possible.) This year the date of presentment was May 1 (20 days after session) so the drop-dead date for a Hogan veto is May 31, or 30 days after presentment.

Where this affects me is what I call the “disposition” of each bill. Not only do I tally the votes, but I make sure readers know the fate of each bill. It was easy (if depressing) when MOM was in office because I could simply write something along the lines of “Governor O’Malley signed this bill May 5.” Now I have bills that are allowed to become law without Hogan’s signature and actual vetoes to deal with, so it makes me wait until the coast is clear June 1 to figure out final disposition. Hence, I have to wait to put it out. In truth, the compiling is easier than ever because I’ve done it so long and can fill out the spreadsheet I use rather quickly.

So you are two weeks away from getting your hands on this hot little item, which so far has been a great horse race as I compile votes and find multiple members still have a chance at a perfect score. Now if we could only get that number of perfect scorers up to 188, or at least a good working majority in each chamber, this state may be getting somewhere.

Earth Day’s anti-fossil fuel focus could plunge millions into green energy poverty

Commentary by Marita Noon

Friday, April 22, will mark the 47th Earth Day. You may think it is all about planting trees and cleaning up neighborhoods. But this year’s anniversary will be closer to its radical roots than, perhaps, any other since its founding in 1970. Considered the birth of the environmental movement, the first Earth Day took place during the height of America’s counterculture era. According to EarthDay.org, it gave voice to an “emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.”

We did need to clean up our act. At that time “littering” wasn’t part of our vocabulary, The air in the Southern California valley where I grew up was often so thick with smog we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains.

Thankfully, that has changed.

Look around your community. You’ll likely see green trees, blue skies, and bodies of water sparkling in the sunshine. With the success of the environmental movement, its supporters, and the nonprofit groups it spawned, had to become ever more radical to stay relevant.

Environmentalism has changed.

The morphing of the movement may be most evident in Earth Day 2016 – which some are calling “the most important Earth Day in history.”

This year, on April 22, in a high-level celebration at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Paris Climate Agreement will officially be signed. Thirty days after its signing by at least 55 countries that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the agreement will take effect – committing countries to establishing individual targets for emission reductions with the expectation that they will be reviewed and updated every five years.

While news reports of Earth Day 2016 will likely depict dancing in the streets, those who can look past the headlines will see a dire picture – one in which more than 10 percent of a household’s income is spent on energy costs; one of “green energy poverty.”

To meet the non-binding commitments President Obama made last December in Paris, he is counting on, among many domestic regulations, the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Last week, on the Senate floor, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered remarks in advance of Earth Day on the unattainability of the U.S. climate commitments. He said: “The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the president’s promise to the international community that the U.S. will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent.” It would “cause double digit electricity price increases in 40 states” and “would prevent struggling communities from accessing reliable and affordable fuel sources, which could eventually lead to poor families choosing between putting healthy food on the table or turning their heater on in the winter.”

The Heritage Foundation has just released a report on the devastating economic costs of the Paris Climate Agreement, which it calls “a push for un-development for the industrialized world and a major obstacle for growth for the developing world.” Because global warming regulations “stifle the use of the most efficient and inexpensive forms of electricity, businesses as well as households will incur higher electricity costs.” The report concludes: “restricting energy production to meet targets like those of the Paris agreement will significantly harm the U.S. economy. Bureaucratically administered mandates, taxes, and special interest subsidies will drive family incomes down by thousands of dollars per year, drive up energy costs, and eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. All of these costs would be incurred to achieve only trivial and theoretical impacts on global warming.”

Real world experience bears out the both Inhofe’s observations and the Heritage Foundation’s conclusions.

Germany is one of the best examples of green energy poverty as the country has some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction programs that offer generous subsidies for any company producing green energy. Based on an extensive study done by green energy believers in 2014, I addressed the program’s overall result: raised costs and raised emissions. I stated: “After reading the entire 80-page white paper, I was struck with three distinct observations. The German experiment has raised energy costs to households and business, the subsidies are unsustainable, and, as a result, without intervention, the energy supply is unstable.” At that time, I concluded: “The high prices disproportionately hurt the poor, giving birth to the new phrase: ‘energy poverty.'”

More recently, others have come to the same conclusion (read here and here). On April 13, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opined: “Germany’s 16-year-old Energiewende, or energy transformation, already has wrecked the country’s energy market in its quest to wean the economy off fossil fuels and nuclear power. Traditional power plants, including those that burn cleaner gas, have been closing left and right while soaring electricity prices push industries overseas and bankrupt households. Job losses run to the tens of thousands.” Meanwhile, emissions over the past seven years have increased. Last month, Mike Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress and Time magazine “Hero of the Environment,” tweeted: “people really want to believe good things about Germany’s energy shift, but … its emissions rose.” WSJ concludes: “The market distortions caused by overreliance on expensive but undependable power already have pushed German utilities to rely more on cheap and dirty coal-fired power plants to make up the shortfall when renewable sources can’t meet demand.”

Germany is not alone.

The U.K., according to Reuters, is facing “fuel poverty.” The report states: “The government is also under pressure to curb rising energy bills with 2.3 million of Britain’s 27 million households deemed fuel poor, meaning the cost of heating their homes leaves them with income below the poverty line.” Another account covers the U.K.’s cuts to solar subsidies, saying: “The government says the changes were necessary to protect bill payers, as the solar incentives are levied on household energy bills.”

The Netherlands, which is already behind in meeting its green energy targets, has, according to the Washington Post, had to build three new coal-fueled power plants – in part, at least, to power the high percentage of electric cars. Additionally, the country has hundreds of wind turbines that are operating at a loss and are in danger of being demolished. A report states: “Subsidies for generating wind energy are in many cases no longer cost-effective. Smaller, older windmills in particular are running at a loss, but even newer mills are struggling to be profitable with insufficient subsidies.”

Bringing it closer to home, there is über-green California – where billionaire activist Tom Steyer aggressively pushes green energy policies. Headlines tout California has the most expensive market for retail gasoline nationwide. But, according to the Institute for Energy Research, it also has some of the highest electricity prices in the country – “about 40 percent higher than the national average.” A 2012 report from the Manhattan Institute, states that about one million California households were living in “energy poverty”- with Latinos and African Americans being the hardest hit. With the Golden State’s headlong rush toward lower carbon-dioxide emissions and greater use of renewables, the energy poverty figure is surely much higher today.

This week, as you hear commentators celebrate “the most important Earth Day in history” and the global significance of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, remember the result of policies similar to CPP: green energy poverty. Use these stories (there are many more) to talk to your friends. Make this “Green Energy Poverty Week” and share it: #GEPW.

We, however, do not need to be doomed to green energy poverty. There is some good news.

First, the Paris Climate Agreement is non-binding. Even Todd Stern, U.S. climate envoy, acknowledged in the Huffington Post: “What Paris does is put in place a structure that will encourage countries to increase their targets every five years.” While the requisite number of countries will likely sign it before the election of the next president, the only enforcement mechanism is political shaming. Even if it was legally binding, as was the Koyto Protocol, Reason Magazine points out what happened to countries, like Canada and Japan, which “violated their solemn treaty obligations” – NOTHING. The Heritage report adds: “History, however, gives little confidence that such compliance will even occur. For instance, China is building 350 coal-fired power plants, and has plans for another 800.”

Then there is the legal delay to the implementation of the CPP – which, thanks to a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, will be tied up in courts for at least the next two years. Inhofe stated: “Without the central component of (Obama’s) international climate agenda, achieving the promises made in Paris are mere pipe dreams.”

“President Obama’s climate pledge is unobtainable and it stands no chance of succeeding in the United States,” Inhofe said. “For the sake of the economic well-being of America, that’s a good thing.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Identification of a problem

It may be one of the best lectures given this year, and thanks to the Daily Signal I got to read it.

Back in November, businessman and entrepreneur Bill Walton spoke at Hillsdale College on the subject “The Problem of Crony Capitalism Today.” It’s an excellent read, with definite length and gravitas within. But there was one passage I wanted to speak to in particular:

I don’t believe that American politicians, bureaucrats and businesses today are more venal or dishonest than politicians or businessmen of the past. There has forever and always been cronyism and people seeking special favors from the government. What’s changed is that the scope and reach of the federal government has dramatically expanded.

Before the 1930s, Court interpretations and the general consensus in America was that the Constitution severely restricted the power and scope of the federal government. Then a constitutional revolution occurred from 1937 through 1943 that dramatically expanded its powers. There is not enough time to get into the details but three Supreme Court rulings changed everything.

The first allowed Congress to delegate its powers to federal agencies.

The second gutted the Commerce Clause giving the federal government power over regulating virtually all manufacturing and agriculture in United States. Federal Judge Alex Kozinski calls this the “Hey-you-can-do-anything-you-feel-like” clause.

The third ruling, declaring Social Security constitutional, reinterpreted the “general welfare” clause to allow Congress to spend money on virtually anything.

Fast-forward to today. There is little chance that these rulings can be reversed. Charles Murray believes that there is no chance and observes, “To reverse any of these rulings would mean that about 90 percent of everything the federal government does is unconstitutional. That’s not going to happen.”

90 percent of everything the federal government does is unconstitutional? Sounds about right in this entitlement-addled era.

But the point Walton makes is that businesses of a certain size have figured out the money is in a perverse sort of innovation, one of figuring out unique ways of gaming the system through heavy lobbying and the right mixture of political contributions. Granted, interest groups representing small business also try and set a place at the table but these groups are themselves a big business.

Simply put, certain entities have figured out a way to tap into the rich pipeline of tax dollars constantly flowing into Washington, D.C. It’s a little like hitting the lottery day after day, while the rest of us poor suckers pay for the tickets that never win. Rigging the government’s lottery can get you sent to prison, but scamming the taxpayer lottery through favorable regulations and rent-seeking is just another day at the office for some.

While the rulings Walton cites are further proof that SCOTUS is far from infallible, I don’t quite think all is lost. As I said yesterday, though, being the adult in the room isn’t always popular. If a true reformer was ever elected the system would indeed act like a cornered bear, scratching and clawing back through an all-out assault by the media, interest groups, lobbyists, and members of Congress who also are enriched by the current system. It’s a process that could take decades; unfortunately, we don’t have years to waste. Even if a reform-minded president was elected, he or she only can serve a maximum of eight years – that’s nowhere near long enough to unwind the entitlement regime we have in place.

But the regulations and tax code can be addressed in a term or two, and addressing those problems may cushion the mistakes we’ve made with adopting all the government-dependence programs we have. It’s not to say those shouldn’t have a sunset date assigned to them, but we can go a long way toward fixing our economy with an aggressive approach at limiting the aspects of government that can be addressed in the relatively short window of time that a presidential term affords.

It’s reflected in the palette of solutions Walton gives:

So are their solutions to the pervasive and growing problem of cronyism? If so, they need to be big ones. Radical ones. Tinkering with things like term limits, revolving door government, campaign finance reform are not likely to change much in Washington so long as trillions of dollars are at stake.

Mancur Olson believed there is only one way to cure “advanced institutional sclerosis.” Be utterly defeated in a world war like Japan and Germany. They had to start over from scratch.

Charles Murray advocates “massive civil disobedience” underwritten by privately funded multibillion-dollar defense funds to sue government and cronyists.

George Gilder believes that one solution is to “zero base budget” every agency on a three-year budget cycle. Zero out their budget and make them show that they are doing something worthwhile. He would also sunset all regulations after 10 years.

I’d start with getting rid of the income tax code and replacing it with a flat tax or fair tax. This would eliminate tax code cronyism and ignite the economy.

Of the four, “lawfare” has a certain appeal, and I like Gilder’s idea because it sounds vaguely familiar – sort of like something in Chapter 7 here. But each of the three latter items are reasonably attainable in a short time window, beginning with the dawn of 2017. (That is if the first possibility doesn’t come to pass prior to that time.) Whoever we elect as President now has some agenda items for his or her to-do list – let’s see who has the intestinal fortitude to put the plans into action.

Companies run for the tall grass on Planned Parenthood

Follow the money. Someone did and a whole slew of America’s corporate giants had some ‘splainin to do.

Over the past few days, the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal website has followed a story where a website called Second Vote tracked corporate donations to Planned Parenthood, notorious alleged purveyor of aborted baby parts. Three of the 41 immediately denied they donated to the organization nor did they match employee contributions, while others downplayed their role by protesting Planned Parenthood was a 501 (c)(3) like any other eligible group and it was up to employees to contribute. By week’s end, Planned Parenthood eliminated this lightning rod for criticism by pulling the entire corporate donor list.

It would be an interesting study, though, to figure out whether these companies have any restrictions at all on giving to pro-life groups – that is, when they can actually receive 501(c)(3) status the IRS is reticent to give out. Perhaps pro-lifers should adopt the tactic of this group, which is more politically correct and has both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) status as two “separate” entities. Or maybe they can be “engaged in education, training, organizing, action, and coalition building” as this 501(c)(3) is. Somehow I doubt the IRS gave them any issues.

Maybe the biggest objection on this whole front is that our tax dollars help Planned Parenthood carry out its mission – even if they can’t legally spend the money on providing abortions, surely they are using it to pay the staff who does the service and they can use the medical equipment in a number of other procedures. If they just happen to be abortions where they avoid doing things in a “crunchy” manner, so be it.

What it all comes down to is that Planned Parenthood would come to a lot less grief if they just got out of the abortion business. After all, its defenders say that only about 3% of its procedures are abortions, so it would be like a 3% budget cut, wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t miss three measly percent and the staff would have plenty to do to keep them busy, right?

Obviously I don’t see this occurring, despite the fact its founder has been associated with the 20th century eugenics movement. Margaret Sanger was in favor of contraception “to be used in poverty stricken slums, jungles and among the most ignorant people.” Considering the outsized proportion of minority abortions to their overall numbers, she may be attaining her wish.

Body parts, though, don’t reflect poverty, upbringing, or ignorance. They seem to have a value regardless of source, so why can’t we give a value to the lives snuffed out for their ghoulish harvest? Obviously corporations concerned about their image already have, if only to avoid the bad optics of being associated with abortion these days.

Odds and ends number 53

One could almost call this a feature I used to do once upon a time that I allocated from an old Eastern Shore blog called Duvafiles. The late Bill Duvall used to do “Sunday Evening Reading,” and for the most part this post will have quite a bit of that element in it. But my e-mail box is brimming full of interesting items that I think at least deserve a mention, if not a couple paragraphs.

Saying it’s costing these funds $1.5 billion a year, the folks at the Center for Immigration Studies decry the shortfall they claim is being created in entitlement trust funds by foreign workers exempt from certain taxes. Obviously the Ocean City tourist economy is one fueled by those who take advantage of student visas to come to the United States and work for the summer. But employers also save by not having to pay the 8.45% payroll tax on these workers, pocketing the difference.

Next is a Friday the 13th horror story from the Heritage Foundation, which revealed that “welfare as we know it” isn’t going to be dead after all. While the actual language of the directive itself doesn’t seem so bad, there is one sentence which should give us pause:

As described below, however, HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.

And, while the states can posit any approach they wish, authority on implementation is left up to the HHS Secretary, not Congress:

The Secretary will not approve a waiver for an initiative that appears substantially likely to reduce access to assistance or employment for needy families.

In other words, let’s place more people on the dole!

You might also notice that this is an internal HHS directive because, unlike the 1996 law President Clinton reluctantly signed in the heat of a re-election campaign, Congress didn’t approve these new regulations. Perhaps because Friday afternoon document dumps of politically unpopular news and directives have become de rigueur these days, maybe Thursday is the new Friday around the Obama administration.

Executive abuse of regulatory authority isn’t just for the federal government, though. Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin called out Governor O’Malley for making his own changes, stating, “The Governor, using the MDE regulatory authority as a front, has decided to circumvent legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by his own hand.”

The changes have to do with legislation passed in 2009 to regulate septic systems, which was originally intended only for certain areas lying in the Coastal Bay and critical areas around waterways. But recent Maryland Department of the Environment regulatory changes expand the regulations statewide, according to Pipkin.

“Once again the Governor displays a breathtaking arrogance to change the law.  He has an environmental agenda.  And he is not about to let a mere 188 elected lawmakers get in his way,” Pipkin said.

It’s interesting to see as well that Pipkin has revamped his website. Perhaps it’s being primed for a statewide run?

In the national run, while Barack Obama has been whining about being outraised and outspent by Mitt Romney, the Republican is running a contest to meet him and his vice-presidential candidate (for a $3 donation, of course.)

But while Obama’s whining about a lack of funding, as blogger Bob McCarty notes the president’s seen over 400 banks fail under his watch, including the recent closure of the Bank of the Eastern Shore in Cambridge. Obviously most of these weren’t too big to fail, although most of the failed thrifts were acquired by other institutions.

And of course, there’s the people who claim they saw all this coming. Sometime this fall a documentary film will come out detailing the transgressions performed by the federal government in creating our hard economic times. The film will be called “The Bubble” and this is the trailer.

Now I don’t go in for grand conspiracy theories, but as long as the players stick to the basic issues and – more importantly – explain a little bit about the ideas they think can reverse the trend, they may have a winner on their hands just in time for the election. Not saying it will be a help to Mitt Romney or necessarily hurt Barack Obama, but it could make people think.

The film is based on the book Meltdown by Dr. Tom Woods, who contends that:

Americans have been fed a cartoon version of what has happened to the economy over the past several years. They believe the government was merely an innocent bystander, while the real culprits, egged on by so-called deregulation, are to be found in the private sector.

Guess what? He’s right. And his film will argue we may be blowing up yet another one, which will likely implode in 2013 or 2014.

The bubble on this edition of odds and ends bursts now, though. Yes, my e-mail inbox is nice and cleaned out once again.

1,000 days…and counting

There are certain things Congress is supposed to do, and creating a budget is one of them. But on the very day President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, we “celebrated” an ominous milestone:

It didn’t take the House long to do its job, but the title of the “do-nothing” Congress belongs to the Senate. While gridlock can be a good thing in a lot of instances, not performing their Constitutional duty is inexcusable.

The House did their job, so tell the Senate to do theirs. We’re always being asked to compromise so now it’s their turn.

And if they don’t, perhaps it’s time to elect some new Senators who would work more closely with a Republican house. A few good candidates come to mind, none of them named Ben Cardin.

The first of many, I’m sure

Today Sarah Kliff at Politico reports that a small Virginia-based health insurer will be closing its doors, effective December 31. The reason nHealth is shutting down?

“The uncertainties in the regulatory climate coupled with new demands imposed by national health care reforms have made it challenging to sustain the level of sales required to remain viable over the long run,” according to a letter given to company employees.

Cynics and critics of Obamacare pointed out the regulations would indeed drive private insurance companies out of business and it appears that the Richmond-based company will be the first.

What’s most sad about this particular closing is that the company, “specializes in high-deductible insurance plans, meant to cover larger medical emergencies, that are paired with health savings accounts, the tax-deductible accounts used to pay for medical expenses” – exactly the sort of plan which would be most beneficial to the large percentage of the uninsured who are relatively young and healthy.

Part of the problem with the future outlook of companies which specialize in HSAs is that the regulations (which haven’t been written yet) may leave insurers in limbo.

According to Heritage Foundation blogger Kathryn Nix,

“the worst news for those using HSAs is the provision requiring all policies to cover at least 60 percent of the actuarial value of the benefits offered.  What’s the actual value?  No one really knows—not until the Health and Human Services Department issues regulations on how to calculate it.”

Obviously if the saved portion is counted toward the value those who are just starting out or have little in their HSA wouldn’t qualify. It will be up to career bureaucrats and lobbyists to make this decision and chances are good Fedzilla will want to exert maximum control over consumers.

It’s areas like this where defunding may not have the desired effect and all-out repeal of Obamacare is the only solution.