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Fiscal Cliff Threatens America’s Economic Freedom

Anthony B. Kim
December 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm

The clock is ticking. Massive tax hikes are threatening to push America’s already declining economic freedom over the “fiscal cliff,” a politician-made economic catastrophe.

President Obama’s proposal to avert the fiscal cliff is a $1.6 trillion tax hike plus new stimulus spending, along with expanded power for himself to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. The House Republican leadership has offered a counter to the President’s frivolous proposal, but the counterproposal appears to cave on tax increases and punt on entitlements. Heritage’s Alison Fraser and J. D. Foster point out that “the Republican counteroffer, to the extent it can be interpreted from the hazy details now available, is a dud. It is utterly unacceptable. It is bad policy, bad economics.”

Such bad policies and economics will have a drastic impact on our economic freedom, which is already in trouble after four years of the “Yes, We Can” Administration’s programs and spending. Since 2008, America’s economic freedom has been declining at alarming rates: America has fallen from fifth freest economy in the world to 10th freest. (continues below chart)

As the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom demonstrates, economic freedom is the path to prosperity. The decline of America’s economic freedom means that our economy is losing its capacity to achieve dynamic and sustained economic growth. That’s bad news for American individuals, families, and entrepreneurs, who will reap fewer rewards for their hard work in the future.

Waning economic freedom means lost opportunities for average Americans. The opportunity cost of bigger government is paid for in the loss of economic vitality. A future with fewer jobs and lower incomes can wait at the bottom of the fiscal cliff, or it can follow just as surely from ill-designed policies to avoid it.

There is a better way. The Heritage Foundation has proposed Saving the American Dream, a sweeping pro-growth tax and spending reform roadmap designed to grow the economy and restructure entitlement programs to provide real economic freedom and long-term security for the American people.

As Heritage’s Kim Holmes noted in Understanding American Prosperity, “All of us—not just our politicians—must be vigilant, determined to safeguard liberty and the American Dream. And that means understanding that the foundation of American prosperity rests in economic freedom.”

Posted in Enterprise and Free Markets

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Fear, Everywhere, Fear

By Alan Caruba

If my emails and the headlines I am reading indicate anything, there is widespread fear among Americans that something terrible has occurred with the reelection of President Obama. Not all Americans, though. Those who voted for Obama appear to remain oblivious despite the threat of a “fiscal cliff” or the new taxes in Obamacare that will kick in on January 2nd.

We have a Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy, Geithner, calling for an end to debt ceilings, apparently believing that America can continue to borrow money to pay for the interest on its escalating debt, now pegged at $16 trillion and growing daily. The U.S. borrows $4 billion a day. Anyone with a credit card knows that their payments increase as they struggle to deal with their personal debt. Eventually they either declare bankruptcy or turn to companies that negotiate a payment to release them.

If America was to default on its debt, the dollar, already in free fall, would be worth nothing. We would be bartering shiny beads and anything else to buy food and other necessaries. We would become Zimbabwe where you need a million of their dollars to buy a loaf of bread.

Writing recently on her Fox Business blog, Gerri Willis spelled out the huge rise in taxes Americans are facing. “All told, next year, total taxes will go to almost 50% for the middle class; the very group that the president says he wants to protect. That means 50 cents out of every dollar earned has to go to the government. Half of everything will go to an entity that didn’t earn that money, and shouldn’t be entitled to all that dough.”

What kind of madness is it that the Teamsters union would impose such senseless rules that it would weaken Hostess to the point of bankruptcy, preferring to let the company die rather than to protect the jobs of 18,500 bakers? Other unions are engaged in attacks on a weakened economy. What kind of nation is it that its government employees are lobbying Congress to not only increase their pay, but to exempt them from the impact of the spending cuts scheduled to kick in?

There is a full-scale attack on the privacy Americans have taken for granted, protected by the fourth Amendment that says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

On November 14th, the Heritage Foundation asked “Do you trust the government with your computer?” The government has had “13 breaches and failures of its own cybersecurity just in the last six months.” Even so, “the President and his allies in the Senate are pushing forward to regulate America’s cyber-doings, without any clues about how much this will cost or how it will work.”

“It has become the norm with this President—if Congress fails to accomplish his objectives, he goes around it with executive orders and federal regulations. He’s doing it again. Congress did not pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 before the election, so the President has issued a draft of an executive order to put much of that legislation in place without lawmakers voting.”

This is the very essence of tyranny and the President has had four years to perfect it. Are conservative think tanks the only ones paying any attention? It would appear so.

A new proposed law in the Senate would strip Americans of any privacy as they communicate with one another by email. A vote for the law would allow warrantless access to American’s email and is scheduled for a vote shortly. It would allow 22 federal agencies as well as state and local law enforcement to access one’s emails with nothing more than a subpoena. This is totally unconstitutional.

Already $16 trillion in debt, the government is looking for ways to take over the $3 trillion that is held in private retirement plans such as 401(k) plans and IRA’s. A recent hearing by the Treasury and Labor Departments addressed the nationalization of the nation’s pension system. The director of the National Senior’s Council, Robert Crone, warns “It is clear that this is the first step towards a government takeover. It feels just like the beginning of the debate over health care and we all know how that ended up.”

As we move closer to an Electoral College vote confirming Obama’s reelection, whistleblowers are coming forth in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere to reveal that significant voter fraud was a contributing factor, but it receives little or no media coverage. One must ask how 99% of votes in Philadelphia districts went to Obama and ask why nothing is being done to investigate this and other offenses such as the 141.1% of the vote recorded in Florida’s St. Lucie County. That is statistically impossible, but it robbed Rep. Allen West (R) of his seat in Congress.

This isn’t government. It is gangsterism. It is “the Chicago way.”

The monster Homeland Security Agency just graduated its first class of FEMA Corps, kids aged 18-24, recruited from the President’s Americorps volunteers, that will become a full time, paid standing army. Fears of FEMA camps abound and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people seeking shelter and food were herded into one that resembled a concentration camp of the Nazi regime and told not to use various means of communication to contact the media or outside community. They went from hurricane victims to prisoners of the government.

In so many ways, the freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution are in danger of disappearing along with the separation of powers it requires.

Little wonder that citizen’s petitions from a growing number of states are called for secession. Or that governors are refusing to set up the Obamacare exchanges required by a law that has taken control of twenty percent of the nation’s economy; their budgets held hostage to Medicaid.

On an individual level, people who have jobs are fearful of losing them. College graduates are fearful of the huge debt they carry for the loans they received. People wonder if they can afford to get married. Married couples fear the cost of having another child. Homeowners fear not being able to pay their mortgages. Seniors fear that their savings won’t last as they live longer.

There is ample reason to fear not only the collapse of the nation’s economy, but the loss of liberty in America.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

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No, Obama does not have a jobs plan

By: David Harsanyi
10/24/2012 09:05 PM

Fear not, Barack Obama has an economic plan for America, and it’s all in a glossy brochure, called “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security” — an antidote, we’re told, to the vagueness of Mitt Romney’s agenda.

This is what the president, according to a campaign official, believes will ensure that “every voter knows what a second term of an Obama presidency would mean for middle-class Americans.” So, in other words, a shiny substance-free pamphlet is a metaphor for the Obama presidency — because these 11 pages of fluff make Romney’s tax proposal look like an annotated edition of the Talmud.

Even if we accepted that this is a “jobs plan” at all — and one would have to stretch the imagination — there are perhaps two items even tangentially connected to the issue at hand. Members of the middle class will be pleased to learn that their children’s future will feature marginally smaller class sizes and work as a midlevel functionary in a green-energy factory. According to the president, the best way to grow the middle class outward (whatever that means) is to strive for more menial labor work in an unproductive manufacturing sector. Forward.

Obama supported cap-and-trade legislation, the sole purpose of which is to make fossil fuel more expensive, so let’s dismiss his contention that the administration would concern itself with expanding oil and gas work in a second term. Let’s focus instead on the green energy sector, which cannot sustain itself today — just look at the slew of clean-energy bankruptcies we’ve involuntarily invested in — or in the future. As The New York Times recently reported, “stimulus money is almost all gone, leaving many of these projects without a government benefactor and making them orphans in a competitive marketplace dominated by the deep-pocketed fossil fuel industries.” (Deep-pocketed industries will remain deep-pocketed if they continue to offer Americans things we value — you know, like energy.)

Another foundational element of Obama’s wholly unserious proposal is hiring more teachers — even though this isn’t a function of the federal government to begin with and even though, according to Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation, since 1970 the number of students in public schools has increased by 8 percent while the number of teachers has increased 60 percent and even though hiring more teachers would, at best, have a marginal impact on economic growth.

But we love teachers. Check the brochure.

Another component featured in the Obama plan is tax cuts for small business with a side order of fairness. This would impel the wealthiest among us to chip in just a little itty bit more to bring down the deficit. Here we are faced with two problems:

If you believe that Obama would use the extra $80 billion in revenue extracted from the rich to reduce the deficit, I have an 11-page glossy jobs pamphlet for you. And Obama’s tax on the rich would hit more than 1 million small businesses, according to the Internal Revenue Service, which would make his tepid supply-side policy item — the kind of policy he regularly mocks, incidentally — useless.

Still, according to a Bloomberg survey of selected economists, under Obama’s plan, “13,000 jobs would be created in 2013, bringing the total to 288,000 over two years.” That’s hundreds of billion in spending — deficit spending — aimed at creating a few unsustainable jobs without the benefit of any real private-sector growth.

Do the math, as they say.

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Obama’s Real Second Term Plan

You won’t recognize this country after his second term — the obvious reason he’s not telling you what he has in mind for it.

By Ned Ryun on 10.26.12 @ 6:08AM

Mitt Romney said it best in the last debate when he informed the President that, “attacking me isn’t an agenda,” which prompted the Obama campaign to immediately release what they call a plan for the second term. This 20-page repackaging of speeches notwithstanding, President Obama remains perhaps the only president in history to run for reelection who not only can’t talk about his record but also can’t discuss his real agenda for a second term.

Now it’s not that he can’t because he doesn’t have any ideas about what he wants to do. He does have big plans, but his vision of the future is profoundly different from that of most Americans. The America that Obama sees when he sits on the Truman Balcony at night and dreams about the next four years is radically altered reality for everyone. It should scare every American — unless you happen to be getting Obama’s free cell phone service.

Obama would like everyone to believe that his second-term policies will address what he sees as the great inequalities and unfairness inherent in the American system. He wants to level the playing field. What he can’t tell you — and what most Americans are realizing — is that leveling out America will reduce freedom, opportunity, income, innovation, and upward mobility in favor of a government-driven economy. With a government-driven society will come statism, and collectivism follows right on the heels of statism, which will destroy America.

Here’s the stark proof, keeping in mind that this is a mere snapshot of the “remaking” Obama has in store that will affect millions of American families and businesses. The President’s proposed budget projects will have federal spending soaring to $5.820 trillion per year, making Obama the biggest government spender in the history of the world. With all the talk from the President about spending cuts to satisfy independent voters, the sum of all of Obama’s spending over the next ten years could total more than $40 trillion that we simply don’t have.

We can’t afford Washington’s spending now. Do we really think only the wealthy will foot the bill for such dramatic increases in government expenditures? The President’s proposals will drive $100 billion in tax hikes next year and more than $2 trillion in tax increases over the next 10 years hitting every American.

With more than 40 million Americans on food stamps, welfare is the fastest-growing portion of the budget under Obama. Food stamp usage is up a staggering 46% and the cost of the program has increased by 72%. Over the next four years, the President is preparing to increase spending on these programs to enable the government to increase benefits and provide for an increasing share of the population.

The slow creep of dependency will see a smaller middle class and a larger dependent class of not just the poor but individuals and families who once could afford to live without the government’s help, but due to inflation, lower wages, fewer jobs, and higher taxes must turn to the government for some form of assistance.

When it comes to crippling regulations to burden private enterprise, the Obama Administration is leading the charge to squash industry in favor of increasing government’s power and reach.

New greenhouse gas regulations will cost $300 to $400 billion per year and increase gas prices. The President’s insane “cow tax” will hit more than 37,000 farms and ranches and 90% of American livestock production. Obama’s attempt to stop hydraulic fracking for natural gas has more than a dozen federal agencies developing new, expensive regulations to prevent energy companies from drilling. His war on the coal industry will continue, costing as much as $110 billion over the next two decades and killing more than 300,000 jobs in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. So much for energy independence, and so much for job creation.

Despite the President’s assurance that costs won’t go up and jobs won’t be lost over Obamacare, the 16,000 IRS workers who will administer the tax provisions of the program will be very busy hitting millions where it hurts. According to the Heritage Foundation, the Congressional Budget Office analysis found that nearly 80 percent of those who’ll face tax penalties would be making between $55,850 and $115,250. They will all see their taxes go up starting next year.

Obama will add a $123 billion surtax on investment income, and new taxes on dividends despite the fact that more than half of all Americans invest in the market in one fashion or another. The $86 billion increase in the Medicare Payroll Tax is also coming down the pike, along with a $60 billion tax increase for health insurance companies.

In another uniquely-Obama effort to allegedly reduce healthcare costs, the President is also going to increase taxes by $32 billion on people who already have comprehensive healthcare coverage — because they have coverage. Of course, people who have coverage now that’s not up to the government’s standards will find their plans eliminated and forced to purchase more expensive coverage. He’s even going to tax medical device manufacturers to the tune of $20 billion because apparently that will help make Americans healthier.

In Obama’s America, religious schools, hospitals and charities will be labeled as non-religious employers specifically because they serve the common good of society. Churches and other faith-based institutions will be forced to provide services and even hire employees based on government mandates rather than their own, deeply-held values and beliefs. If they don’t, Obama’s government will gladly step in with an expensive government backfill for the services.

Here’s the good news — we can prevent Obama’s America from becoming a reality. We can stop statism and collectivism from taking us from “one out of many” to one of the many nations whose governments’ thirst for power and control led to the decline of great societies and nations. The choice is ours November 6, and the results of the election, whichever way they go, will resonate for generations to come.

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Sink the Law of the Sea Treaty

By Ed Feulner
The Washington Times
Monday, May 21, 2012

Want the United States to gain legal access to the vast amount of oil and natural gas in the underwater extended continental shelf? Get LOST – specifically, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

The Obama administration wants the Senate to act on the treaty, which has been around since 1982. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, will be holding a series of hearings, beginning Wednesday, to make the case for LOST.

According to its advocates, we need LOST for a variety of reasons. One of them concerns the oil and gas resources located in the outer limits of our continental shelf. The treaty’s proponents say we can obtain legal title to it only by signing on to the treaty.

“If the United States does not ratify this treaty, our ability to claim the vast extended continental shelf off Alaska will be seriously impeded,” said Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican.

Without LOST, we are told, we will not be able to develop the hydrocarbon resources beneath the extended continental shelf in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean.

Sounds pretty dire and, at a time of fluctuating prices for gasoline and other forms of energy, alarming. Fortunately, it’s not true.

Under international law and long-standing U.S. policy, we already have access to these areas. Presidents dating back to Harry Truman have issued proclamations – and Congress has passed laws – establishing America’s maritime laws and boundaries. And no one has challenged them.

Perhaps LOST’s proponents would like this to change. They tend to be fans of superfluous international agreements and frequently back policies that would tie the hands of the U.S. and prevent us from acting in our own interests. But the fact remains that their claim about LOST being necessary to obtain legal title to the oil and gas under the extended continental shelf is pure fiction.

A big part of the reason this matters is that a lot of money is at stake. It is hard to say exactly how much hydrocarbon deposits there are beneath the extended continental shelf, but according to the ECS Task Force, “Given the size of the U.S. continental shelf, the resources we find there may be worth many billions, if not trillions, of dollars.”

Forgoing such a treasure is not the only way that the United States could lose out financially under LOST. Environmental activists are high on the treaty, too. That is because they anticipate suing the U.S., if it joins LOST, to force America to adopt the radical climate-change agenda they have been unsuccessful at imposing. So far, at least.

Climate-change alarmists have tried again and again in recent years to secure an international agreement. In Denmark, Mexico and South Africa, they have tried to come up with a legally binding climate-change pact. Considering what an economic wrecking ball such an agreement would represent to the U.S. and its allies, we can be glad they failed. But now they think they have found a solution: LOST.

Groups such as Greenpeace would love a chance to make the U.S. pay in international court. And that is just what we would do under the U.S. Convention on the Law of the Sea – pay.

“In addition to needlessly exposing itself to baseless environmental lawsuits,” writes The Heritage Foundation’s Steve Groves, an expert on LOST, “the United States would be required to transfer billions of dollars in oil and gas royalties … to the International Seabed Authority for redistribution to the developing world.”

What does this mean? In short, it means that the United Nations will have an independent source of income, courtesy of the United States.

So who has Sen. Kerry invited to testify at his hearings? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All of them are proponents of the treaty. So do not expect to hear a word about any of its many drawbacks.

LOST amounts to little more than an expensive power grab by America’s detractors worldwide. President Reagan was right to reject it 30 years ago. The U.S. Senate should do the same thing today.

Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).

Source

FEULNER: Sink the Law of the Sea Treaty – Washington Times.

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