Tag Archives: United States Congress

Using the visualization.

Club for Growth scorecards

United States Capitol, July 2011

United States Capitol, July 2011

Organizations like Club for Growth produce scorecards of legislators. I’ve gathered results from Club for Growth for all years available and present them in an interactive visualization.

You may select which members to show. By clicking on a member’s name in the legend, their line will be highlighted from the others.

Scorecards such as these and others, including the ones that I’ve personally constructed, have caveats. For example, some members have not been in office very long. Issues in which you have an interest may not have been voted on during the member of interest’s tenure. Or, the vote may not have been a recorded vote, which is common. Also, the mere fact of a vote for or against a bill does not measure or account for leadership on the issue, or intensity of interest and involvement. I’ve not seen scorecards that incorporate work and votes in committees, which is an important part of legislating.

Using the visualization.

Using the visualization.

Further, the selection of votes to be included is an issue. Organizations that create scorecards generally have issues that are important to them, and may focus on a subset of issues to the exclusion of all others.

To use the visualization I created, click here to open it in a new window. A nearby illustration shows how to use it.

Harry Reid takes money from companies under investigation for bribery law violations

The Washington Examiner reports “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has received campaign contributions from people and political action committees linked to multiple companies suspected of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

This comes as the Senate Majority Leader has used the Senate floor to criticize Charles and David Koch for doing things that Reid doesn’t like … such as advocating for and supporting free markets, economic freedom, and limited government.

Near the end of February Reid said from the Senate floor this about ObamaCare: “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”

On advertisements from Americans for Prosperity, an organization linked to Charles and David Koch, Reid said: “We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it’s ruining in Republicans’ stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers. But in those tales, turned out to be just that: tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.”

Many may be surprised to learn that when members of Congress are speaking on the floor, they are immune from standards of behavior that the rest of us — including Charles and David Koch and Americans for Prosperity — must observe. That is, members can’t be sued for libel and slander while speaking as did Reid. Constitutional Law For Dummies explains Article I of the United States Constitution: “Among other consequences, the clause gives members of Congress a right, unique among American citizens and other officials, to basically libel or slander others in statements on the floor of Congress.”

More about this issue may be found at Koch representatives respond to U.S. Senate majority leader’s recent attacks.

Pompeo responds to Washington’s attacks on Koch Industries

From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo.

Statement from Congressman Mike Pompeo on Washington’s Attacks on Koch Industries

WASHINGTON — Congressman Mike Pompeo issued the following statement on the unwarranted attacks on Koch Industries in light of the efforts to reform the Internal Revenue Service:

“The IRS’s targeting of individuals demonstrates the administration’s lawlessness at its worst. Public officials have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and use their office to protect the rights of Americans, rather than attack them for their political advocacy. Silencing critics through government muscle, as the IRS has done, runs counter to every founding principle of the United States of America.

“Yet opponents of the House’s effort to hold the IRS accountable have doubled down and continued to attack two private citizens, Charles and David Koch, as deserving of such government abuse. Senator Reid’s attacks today from the Senate floor are reprehensible.  This cannot be tolerated — not for these two great men or for any individual who disagrees with those in power.

“The Kochs’ Wichita-based company employs close to 60,000 people in manufacturing jobs. These predominantly middle-class employees live in nearly all 50 states and are a benefit to the communities they work and live in. They are good people and good neighbors, my neighbors, and deserve protection under the law that is equal to those lawmakers who seek to marginalize them.

“The jobs created by this company are a far greater benefit to the middle class than any wasteful Washington program. We should be taking lessons from hardworking Americans in the private sector instead of continuing to play politics with people’s lives.”

Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused the Kochs of funding ads critical of the Affordable Care Act’s disastrous implementation that he claims are “completely untrue,” a claim that contradicts the thrust of most news coverage of the rollout.

For more information, contact:
JP Freire | Director of Communications and Speechwriter
Office of Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas)
107 Cannon HOB| Washington, D.C. 20515
Office (202) 225-6216 | Fax (202) 225-3489
JP.Freire@mail.house.gov

WichitaLiberty.TV.05

WichitaLiberty.TV February 16, 2014

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The controversy surrounding the residence of a long-time senator from Kansas raises issues of term limits and the ability of citizens to exercise the power of initiative and referendum. Then, the seen and the unseen applied to economic development in Wichita, and why do we rely on certain experts. Episode 31, broadcast February 16, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Voice for Liberty radio logo for featured posts 01

Voice for Liberty Radio: Mike Pompeo

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas spoke at a meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Some of the topics and questions Pompeo answered included:

The size of the defense budget, the threats to our nation, and the importance of the National Security Agency in keeping the country safe. He addressed privacy concerns.

What about tension between the Speaker of the House and tea party and conservatives?

What’s wrong the the just-passed farm bill, and how did it pass?

Attitudes towards and respect for Congress and the President.

The arrest of a suspect in an attack on the Wichita Airport.

The presentation started with a video of Rep. Pompeo questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

This recording contains Pompeo’s prepared remarks in full and selected responses to questions at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on February 7, 2014.

Shownotes

Mike Pompeo Congressional office.
Campaign website: pompeoforcongress.com
Twitter at @RepMikePompeo
Wichita Pachyderm Club

Voice for Liberty Radio: Tim Huelskamp

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp recently spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Congressman Huelskamp was born near and raised on the family farm in Fowler, Kansas. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science with a specialization in agriculture policy from The American University in Washington, D.C. He was first elected to the Kansas Senate in 1996, and then re-elected three times. In 2010 when Jerry Moran stepped down to run for the United States Senate, Huelskamp ran for the United States House of Representatives for the first district. That’s commonly called the “Big First” district, not because of its population, but because of its large land area. Some of the principle cities in the first district are Liberal, Garden City, Dodge City, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Emporia, and Manhattan. Congressman Huelskamp appears frequently on national news media as an advocate for conservative causes, and he recently appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV, which you can find here. He and his wife Angela are the parents of four children.

This is podcast episode number 7, released on January 26, 2014. Here is a portion of United States Representative Tim Huelskamp at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 24, 2014.

Shownotes

Congressman Tim Huelskamp
Tim Huelskamp for Congress campaign site
Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets

Voice for Liberty Radio: Milton Wolf

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150

In this episode of WichitaLiberty Radio: Dr. Milton Wolf is a candidate for United States Senate from Kansas and will face incumbent Pat Roberts in the August Republican primary election. We spoke by telephone on January 23, 2014. As Wolf is a physician, it should be no surprise that health care was a major topic. Also, he answers the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Shockers? This is podcast episode number 6, released on January 23, 2014.

Shownotes

Milton Wolf campaign website
Pat Roberts campaign website
Columns by Milton Wolf at Washington Times
Kansas Republican Party and convention information

WichitaLiberty.TV December 22, 2013

WichitaLiberty.TV.34In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: United States Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas appears to explain the recent budget bill, Obamacare, the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, government spending, and whether he is optimistic or pessimistic about the country’s future. Episode 25, broadcast December 22, 2013. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Rep. Huelskamp’s Congressional website is huelskamp.house.gov.

Kansans vote for and against Ryan-Murray budget

U.S. Representatives from Kansas split on voting for the budget bill produced by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder voted in favor, while Mike Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp voted against the bill. It passed 332 to 94.

In a statement from his office, Pompeo said:

Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, voted today against adopting a budget that would increase spending in 2014 and 2015 over the hard-fought Budget Control Act’s (BCA) limit.

“Despite opposition at the time, I supported the Budget Control Act because it was a compromise that represented the first real cut in discretionary spending in over a generation. While I agree Congress should replace cuts to national security with reforms of mandatory spending, we cannot abandon the progress we’ve already made in cutting spending. I greatly respect Chairman Ryan’s efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement to fix our spending problems, and agree with many of its provisions, including protecting doctors’ payments against needless reductions, ensuring hospitals are paid fairly in Medicare, and requiring federal employees to contribute more to their pension plans. But this new budget would stymie the progress we’ve made in reducing spending through sequestration. Kansans understand the need to budget fairly and live within our means. Washington must be held to the same standard.”

(@RepMikePompeo, pompeo.house.gov)

Huelskamp issued this statement:

“Just two years ago, Congress and the President made a promise to cut spending through the sequester. With this bill, they are abandoning this promise with a massive $63 billion in new deficit spending. So much for ‘if you like your spending cut, you can keep your spending cut.’ But no worries, after the 2022 election, a future Congress and President are certain to do what Washington refuses to do today. Sure.

In addition to this bipartisan agreement to raise spending for all sides and violating their own sequester, it would also assist Senator Harry Reid in passing tax increases through the Senate. It further also divides the House Republican Conference by abandoning our agreement reached in Williamsburg last January, rejects nearly all of the provisions passed by the House in three successive Ryan budgets, and does nothing to oppose ObamaCare.

Washington insiders are fond about saying, ‘this must be a good deal if I didn’t get everything I wanted.’ The real solution would be — the American people getting what they want.”

(@CongHuelskamp, huelskamp.house.gov)

Pompeo votes against debt ceiling increase

From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district.

Pompeo Votes Against Unlimited Government Spending
“We can’t keep raising the debt ceiling without addressing the drivers of our debt.”

Washington — Congressman Mike Pompeo released the following statement following his vote on the debt ceiling:

Washington has once more kicked the can down the road by raising the limit on the government credit card without dealing with the drivers our national debt. This means fewer jobs, higher taxes, and ordinary Kansans suffering under the ever-increasing, costly burden of Obamacare that will achieve few, if any, of its goals. We cannot afford this new entitlement and the President is now on track to double the national debt. Every American family has to live within its means, and Washington should do the same. Today’s legislation may well have averted the “crisis of the moment,” but it did nothing to avert the much greater crisis that is inevitable with our current rate of spending that we must fix immediately.

A letter to the U.S. Senate regarding the federal government shutdown

From KochFacts.com.

Dear Senator,

A great deal of what you read and hear about Koch Industries is erroneous or misleading. Indeed, there was false information presented about Koch on the Senate floor by Senate Majority Leader Reid, who claimed yesterday that Koch was behind the shutdown of the federal government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” Because several of you have asked what our position is on this issue, we want to set the record straight and correct this misinformation.

Koch believes that Obamacare will increase deficits, lead to an overall lowering of standards of health care in America, and raise taxes. However, Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.

Instead, Koch has focused on educating the public about reducing our nation’s debt and controlling runaway government spending. We believe that Congress should, at a minimum, keep to sequester-level spending guidelines, and develop a plan for more significant and widespread spending reductions in the future. We also believe that Congress should work to rein-in rampant government spending so that it becomes no longer necessary to continually raise the debt ceiling.

Congress should focus on these efforts: balancing the budget, tightening and cutting government spending, curbing cronyism, and eliminating market-distorting subsidies and mandates.

We are hopeful this sets the record straight and that in the future Senator Reid and other politicians will stop misrepresenting and distorting Koch’s positions.

Sincerely,
Philip Ellender
President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

Pompeo addresses ObamaCare, debt ceiling, government accountability

Today U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district addressed the Wichita Rotary Club.

He told the audience that despite is not just about what we’ll do next week or even in 2014. The challenge, he said, is changing the nation’s long-term financial trajectory.

On the rollout of ObamaCare, he said that he tried to enroll but failed. He said he was sympathetic with the challenges in rolling out the information technology that implements ObamaCare, but it’s a challenge that should never have been undertaken.

Mike Pompeo, October 7, 2013.

He said he recognizes the risks to the economy that the debt ceiling issue poses. He said we have to take on the obligations of the next 10 to 15 years and we have to do it now.

Pompeo also spoke about government accountability. “It is so easy to spend your money,” he said. “You can be a hero, you can go to ribbon cuttings, … but I have to tell you that when politicians do that in today’s financial situation, they are doing nothing short of lying to you. I use that term intentionally, and with malice aforethought. Because to say they’re misleading you would imply there’s some chance they don’t know that. And they do. This is not politics. This is math.”

On Syria, Pompeo said he’s heard Republicans say we should stay out of the Middle East. But Pompeo said there are from 10,000 to 30,000 soldiers there today. When politicians imply that if we don’t launch some missiles into Syria we’ll be “out” of the Middle East, that is untrue, he said, and “perpetrated with malice aforethought.”

Milton Wolf announces an announcement

It’s been rumored that he’s been thinking about it, and it now looks like Dr. Milton Wolf will join the race for the Republican Party nomination for United States Senate. The other declared candidate is the incumbent, Pat Roberts. At least I don’t think Wolf would have an event like you’re invited to (see below) just to say no, he’s not running.

Exchange Place still not good for Wichita, others

Wichita city hall logo

Tomorrow the Wichita City Council will consider a redevelopment plan for the Exchange Place project in downtown Wichita. Despite having shed the problems with the former owners, the project has become an even worse deal for the taxpayers of Wichita, Kansas, and the nation. Those looking for jobs and for investment capital to meet consumer demands are worse off, too.

Here’s what the city council agenda packet gives as the sources of financing for this project.

HUD Loan Amount         $29,087,700
Private Equity            5,652,254
Tax Credit Equity        19,370,395
TIF Proceeds             12,500,000
Total Sources of Funds  $66,610,349

Consider each of these sources of funding. TIF, or tax increment financing, diverts future increased tax revenues away from their normal uses and diverts them back to the project. In this case, the city will borrow $12,500,000 by selling bonds. It will give this money to the developer. Then, TIF proceeds will be used to repay these bonds.

It sounds innocent, even beneficient and desirable. But if this project was not built within a TIF district, it would add $12,500,000 in tax revenues to the city, county, and school district. This is called “building up the tax base,” something politicians and bureaucrats say is an important goal. Downtown Wichita, however, has not done well in this regard, despite the claim of hundreds of millions in investment.

City leaders will tell us that tax increment financing is needed for economic development. Regarding the effect of tax increment financing districts on economic development, economists Richard F. Dye and David F. Merriman have studied tax increment financing extensively. Their paper The Effects of Tax Increment Financing on Economic Development bluntly states the overall impact of TIF: “We find clear and consistent evidence that municipalities that adopt TIF grow more slowly after adoption than those that do not.”

Later in the same paper the authors conclude: “These findings suggest that TIF trades off higher growth in the TIF district for lower growth elsewhere. This hypothesis is bolstered by other empirical findings.”

What about the effect of tax increment financing on job creation, that being another goal mentioned by politicians and bureaucrats? One person who has looked at the effect of TIF on jobs is Paul F. Byrne of Washburn University. He authored a recent report titled Does Tax Increment Financing Deliver on Its Promise of Jobs? The Impact of Tax Increment Financing on Municipal Employment Growth. In its abstract we find this conclusion regarding the impact of TIF on jobs: “Results find no general impact of TIF use on employment. However, findings suggest that TIF districts supporting industrial development may have a positive effect on municipal employment, whereas TIF districts supporting retail development have a negative effect on municipal employment.” This project is a retail project, and can be expected to have a negative effect on employment.

Another bad aspect of this project for citizens is what city documents describe as “tax credit equity.” The amount is $19,370,395. This is understatement at its finest. Tax credits are a direct transfer from taxpayers to the project developers, with very few strings attached.

A tax credit is an appropriation of money made through the tax system and economically equivalent to a direct grant of money. Recently some have started to use the word “tax appropriations” or “tax expenditures” to describe tax credits in recognition of this. These expenditures don’t go through the normal legislative process as do most appropriations. If the Kansas Legislature and United States Congress are not comfortable with writing this developer a check for over $19,000,000, they should not make a roundabout contribution through the tax system that has the same economic impact on the state’s and nation’s finances.

Citizens will be told that the tax credits are needed because rehabbing historic buildings is expensive. We should let politicians and bureaucrats know that living or working in a historic building is a premium amenity that one chooses, just like one might choose granite counter tops in their kitchen. We shouldn’t expect others to pay for these voluntary choices.

Then, there’s a “HUD Loan Amount,” which is actually a loan guarantee of $29,087,700. U.S. taxpayers are liable for this amount of money should the project not meet its projections.

The subsides to this project have real costs. This development will require services from the city, county, and school district, yet it won’t be contributing its full share of property taxes. So someone else has to pay.

The tax credits represent money that has to be made up by taxpayers across Kansas and the nation. Again, someone else has to pay. Since Kansas applies sales tax to food, even poor people buying groceries will be contributing to the cost of the grants given to this project through state tax credits.

We’ll be told that there’s a “funding gap” that taxpayers must step forward to fill. Why does that gap exist? It’s simple: Markets have decided that this project is not worth what it costs. If it was worth what it’s going to cost, and if the developer is reputable (as we’ve been promised), markets would be willing to fund the project. This happens every day all across the country, even during recessions.

What the city is proposing to do is to take risks with the taxpayers’ money that no one is willing to take with their own. Further, the spending and credit that is diverted from markets to this project wastes capital. There is less capital available for projects that people value, because it is diverted to projects that politicians and bureaucrats value.

The difficulty is that it’s easy to see the new project. The groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies that commemorate government intervention will be covered by television and newspapers. Politicians and bureaucrats are drawn to these events and will spend taxpayer funds to make sure you’re aware of them.

It’s more difficult to see that the harm that government intervention causes. That harm is dispersed and more difficult to spot. But the harm is real. If it is not, then we need to ask why our governments don’t do more of this type of development.

Driving by a development in a TIF district and noticing a building or people working at jobs does not tell the entire story. Recognizing the existence of a building, or the payment of taxes, or jobs created, is “stage one” thinking, and no more than that.

It’s hard to think beyond stage one. It requires considering not only the seen, but also the unseen, as Frederic Bastiat taught us in his famous parable of the broken window. It also requires thinking of the long term effects of a policy, not just the immediate. But over and over again we see how politicians at all levels of government stop thinking at stage one. This is one of the many reasons why we need to return as much decision-making as possible to the private sector, and drastically limit the powers of politicians and governments.

Pompeo votes to delay Obamacare, keep government open

From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo:

Pompeo Votes To Delay Obamacare, Keep Government Open

Washington –- Congressman Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, is voting tonight to delay Obamacare for ordinary citizens, pay the armed services, ensure that the government continues running. He released the following statement:

“Well-connected friends of President Obama shouldn’t be the only Americans spared from the looming health care law — delaying Obamacare for businesses and not for individuals is irresponsible and reckless. This continuing resolution would also provide the hard-earned funding for our amazing armed forces and that the government is still providing services to the American people.

“The President has shown his willingness to delay Obamacare unilaterally in some instances, we are simply urging him to do so on a broader scale. I hope that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will also vote to keep the government open.”

ObamaCare chart updated

obamacare-chart

Republicans of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress have released an update of a chart to help us navigate ObamaCare. (Click on it for a larger version.) From the July 2010 press release accompanying the original chart: “Four months after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared ‘We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it,’ a congressional panel has released the first chart illustrating the 2,801 page health care law President Obama signed into law in March. Developed by the Joint Economic Committee minority, led by U.S Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the detailed organization chart displays a bewildering array of new government agencies, regulations and mandates.”

Read all about it at Health Care Chart — Updated Chart Shows Obamacare’s Bewildering Complexity.

Pompeo on Syria intervention

This morning U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News Network to talk about Syria. Video follows.


Also, KFDI reported this today:

Kansas Fourth District Representative Mike Pompeo has just returned from a week in the Middle East in which he met with national security figures from the United States and its allies.

Pompeo said there is a broad concensus that American foreign policy in the Middle East has been weak and feckless.

The congressman called for a strong response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who Pompeo called a war criminal.

“We’ve got to make sure that those who control Syria and big pockets of the Middle East are not beholden to the Ayatollahs in Iran and to Hezbollah and to Russia,” he said.

Pompeo said if the U.S. does nothing in response to Syrian actions, we will ultimately have risk to the American homeland.

“We don’t need 20,000 soldiers on the ground,” Pompeo said. “But we need an enormous effort to make sure that, in a post-Assad world, we do not have Iran in control.”

Pompeo said he hopes the president will do more than he has outlined so far, adding that a “shot across the bow” is not enough.

Pompeo: Systems are needed, and risk of abuse is low

Recently U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita appeared on Stossel to defend the programs the National Security Agency uses to gather data on Americans and others. I wondered about these questions: If it’s true that the information leaked by Edward Snowden has harmed the security of the United States, how is it that this was able to happen? Aren’t there many thousands of people with knowledge and information similar to, or greater than, what Snowden had access to? Is the security of our country dependent on all of them keeping their secrets?

In a telephone conversation, Pompeo told me there are thousands of people who have access to classified material. Each one of these persons represents some risk.

How did the Snowden situation develop? We don’t yet know the answer, Pompeo said. It was a mistake, he said, for the NSA to permit Snowden to have access to, and be able to take from the facility, the breadth of information he has released. But Snowden did not leak actual intelligence data; only an informational presentation about the programs being used.

Snowden has harmed our security, and he may not be finished releasing information. Appearing on Stossel, Pompeo told the host that already Al-Qaeda is behaving differently. “They might well have suspected that some of this was going on. But they learned a couple things. They learned not only what was going on, but they’ve also learned the legal limits of these programs. Having shared that is very dangerous, and allows the enemy to have insights into the things we’re doing, to go catch the really bad guys — the terrorists who still want to kill us.”

Addressing privacy concerns, on Stossel Pompeo emphasized the “tremendous oversight” of intelligence services. Actual telephone calls are not being listened to. Further, the data that’s collected is not “mined” continuously, he said. It’s only for specific purposes, and then with FISA court approval, that the data is used.

An important distinction, Pompeo told me, is that it is data about telephone calls that is being collected, not the actual content of the calls. He emphasized the process and layers of oversight, by both agencies and courts. Even with a president and attorney general who have shown themselves not always worth of public trust, Pompeo says that the depth and scope of oversight gives him confidence that the risk of abuse is low.

Interestingly, the perception of the breadth of data that’s being collected may be overstated. In a June 18 hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Pompeo asked these questions of the Director of the NSA (video follows):

Pompeo: Gen. Alexander, from the data under Section 215 that’s collected, can you figure out the location of the person who made a particular phone call?

General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency: Not beyond the area code.

Pompeo: Do you have any information about signal strength or tower direction? I’ve seen articles that talked about you having this information. I want to make sure for the record we’re got that right.

Alexander: We don’t have that in the database.

Questioning Pat Roberts

One of the small news items emerging from the Kansas Republican Party Convention last weekend is that Pat Roberts will run for reelection to the U.S. Senate next year.

So is this a good thing, or not? Gidget of Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe) offers one opinion in her post on the topic:

Look, I like Sen. Roberts. He’s a nice enough guy, but he will not make any waves. He will not rock any boats. I do not understand it. Most 76 year olds are willing to wear purple suits and red hats in public as some sort of matter of pride. It’s their way of saying, I’ve lived long enough I’ll do as I damn well please.

But not Sen. Roberts.

Where every member of the Kansas delegation in the House voted against the plan to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff — there was Roberts being a “statesman” by raising your taxes without the agreement of any cuts.

This is a regularly repeated occurrence for those in the U.S. Senate. They are absolutely willing to sell the people down the river in return for being called “statesman” and getting re-elected.

The truly disgusting part is that we’re all going to vote for Sen. Roberts again.

If he draws a primary opponent, it will be a miracle. And even if he does draw a primary opponent, everyone will tip toe around for fear of upsetting Roberts and the many people who owe him their careers.

The Wall Street Journal noticed a vote made by Senator Roberts in committee that lead to the fiscal cliff bill. The newspaper explained the harm of this bill in its editorial:

The great joke here is that Washington pretends to want to pass “comprehensive tax reform,” even as each year it adds more tax giveaways that distort the tax code and keep tax rates higher than they have to be. Even as he praised the bill full of this stuff, Mr. Obama called Tuesday night for “further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans.”

One of Mr. Obama’s political gifts is that he can sound so plausible describing the opposite of his real intentions.

The costs of all this are far greater than the estimates conjured by the Joint Tax Committee. They include slower economic growth from misallocated capital, lower revenues for the Treasury and thus more pressure to raise rates on everyone, and greater public cynicism that government mainly serves the powerful.

Republicans who are looking for a new populist message have one waiting here, and they could start by repudiating the corporate welfare in this New Year disgrace.

The Journal took the rare measure of calling out the senators who voted for this bill in committee, as shown in its nearby graphic. There it is: Pat Roberts voting in concert with the likes of John Kerry, Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Stabenow.

If Tom Coburn of Oklahoma could vote against this bill in committee, then so could have Pat Roberts. But he didn’t.

Huelskamp not deterred

At a time that conservatives are concerned with the direction Speaker John Boehner is taking in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, he gives conservatives another reason to worry.

Heritage Foundation writes that Boehner’s counteroffer to President Obama is “little more than categorical, pre-emptive capitulation.”

The Washington Times reports: “Republican leaders struggled Tuesday to contain the backlash from conservatives over the GOP’s offer of $800 billion in tax increases to head off the ‘fiscal cliff’ — a move that didn’t impress the White House, even as it spawned a rebellion on the right. Conservative lawmakers and interest groups said House Speaker John A. Boehner’s offer abandoned core Republican principles and earned no credit from a White House that has insisted on even bigger tax increases and balked at major spending cuts.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that Boehner has taken steps to discipline a handful of members, including Tim Huelskamp, who was just re-elected to a second term representing the Kansas first district. Three of the four are notable for their votes on fiscal issues, voting for limited government rather than expansion.

In a press release, the watchdog group Club for Growth reported: “The Club for Growth today praised the conservative voting records of Congressmen David Schweikert (R-AZ), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS). All three members of Congress were removed from their committee assignments as a consequence of their principled stands on behalf of pro-growth policies, often bringing them in conflict with the leadership of their own party. … Congressmen Schweikert, Huelskamp, and Amash are now free of the last remnants of establishment leverage against them. We expect that these three defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties. The dirty little secret in Congress is that while refusing to kowtow to the wishes of party leaders can sometimes cost you some perks in Washington, the taxpayers back home are grateful.”

Huelskamp said “No good deed goes unpunished. We were not notified about what might occur but it confirms in my mind the deepest suspicions that most Americans have about Washington D.C: it’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have conservative principles you will be punished.”

In a statement on his Congressional website, Huelskamp explained “It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return. The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement. I am not at all ashamed of any of the principled, conservative stances I took in the past two years.”

Obama’s regulatory extremism

In the introduction to his book Democracy Denied, Phil Kerpen gives us a history lesson on the grab for executive power by presidents through the use of “signing statements.”

Elizabeth Drew made the case against Bush’s abuse of executive power in a lengthy New York Review of Books piece called “Power Grab.” She specifically highlighted Bush’s use of signing statements (a technique to object to elements of a law while signing it, and refusing to enforce those elements), the detention of foreign combatants at Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretaps. She concluded that Bush was a tyrant.

Kerpen explains how the view from the oval office can make one forget campaign promises:

Even the Bush practice that raised the most ire — the use of signing statements — was embraced by Obama just weeks after he took office, when he said: “it is a legitimate constitutional function, and one that promotes the value of transparency, to indicate when a bill that is presented for presidential signature includes provisions that are subject to well-founded constitutional objections.” Contrast that with what Obama had said about signing statements on the campaign trail: “This is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he is going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We are not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.”

Not that Obama alone takes criticism for exercising presidential power contrary to the actions of Congress, as he describes the auto industry bailout in the last days of the presidency of George W. Bush. A bill didn’t make it through Congress, but Bush “repurposed” TARP funds — intended for banks — and used them for an auto bailout in the amount of $17.4 billion.

It is this use of executive power and agencies to bypass the will of people — as expressed through Congress — that is detailed in a book authored by Phil Kerpen and published at this time last year: Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — and How to Stop Him.

Kerpen’s website is philkerpen.com, and it features excerpts from the book along with a theatrical trailer.

Kerpen explains the problem by describing a solution: The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS Act. This proposed law would require any major regulatory action to be approved by Congress and receive the president’s signature. Kerpen writes: “We have regulators who are effectively writing and executing their own laws. The major policy decisions that affect every aspect of our economic lives are moving forward without consent of the people’s legitimately elected legislative branch.”

The problem is that often Congress passes generic laws and leaves it to regulatory agencies to write the rules that implement the law. By requiring Congressional and Presidential approval of major regulations, agencies will be accountable to the current Congress, and lawmakers will have a chance to ensure that actual regulations are consistent with the intent of enabling legislation.

Cap-and-trade energy legislation provides an example of Kerpen’s thesis, which is “how the Obama administration was disregarding Congress and the American people to accomplish its objectives through regulatory backdoors.” The legislation passed the House, but couldn’t pass the Senate. So what happened next? Kerpen explains Obama’s detour around Congress:

Just to show you how unfazed the Obama administration was by the political defeat of cap-and-trade, consider what’s on page 146 of Obama’s 2012 budget: “The administration continues to support greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the United States in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% percent by 2050.” Those just happen to be the same levels required by the failed Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. Obama is telling the EPA to just pretend that the bill passed and regulate away.

In fact Obama’s EPA was already moving full steam ahead to implement a global warming regulatory scheme that could even be more costly than cap and trade — without the approval of the American people and without so much as a vote in Congress.

The remainder of the chapter details some of the ways EPA is accomplishing this backdoor regulation.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, is another topic Kerpen covers where regulation is replacing lawmaking by Congress:

Nancy Pelosi was right in more ways then she realized when she infamously said “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Not only was the more than 2,000-page bill negotiated in secret and so densely complex that few humans could understand it, it also deferred most of the really difficult and important decisions to the regulators, including dozens of brand-new boards, committees, councils, and working groups. So even after ObamaCare had been passed there was no way to know what was really in it until the bureaucracy was assembled and began issuing regulations.

Kerpen describes the bill that passed as not “finished legislation,” and is now being interpreted by bureaucrats, the most powerful being HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Her office is now, according to Kerpen, “issuing a whole string of official guidelines and regulations that attempt to ‘correct’ the draft law, often by asserting things that the law doesn’t actually say.”

Other chapters describe regulation of the internet (net neutrality), card check, the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and energy regulation. All of these represent the Obama administration either ignoring Congress or creating vast new powers for itself. The chart Kerpen created shows the plays being made.

Obama regulatory extremismKerpen’s chart of Obama regulatory extremism. Click for larger version.

What about regulatory reform? Obama’s doing that. In January he wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “We’re looking at the system as a whole to make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation. And finally, today I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for — and reduce — the burdens regulations may place on small businesses.”

In a chapter titled “The Back Door to the Back Door: Phony Regulation Reform” Kerpen explains that this promise or regulatory reform by the president is a sham. Kerpen describes the executive order that implements regulatory review this way: “The new executive order is the regulatory parallel to the Obama administration’s strategy on federal spending, which is to spend at astonishing, record rates and rack up trillions of dollars in deficits while paying lip service to fiscal responsibility by establishing a fiscal commission.”

And in a gesture of true public service, Kerpen introduces us to Cass Sunstein, the man who is heading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the agency that will be conducting the purported review of regulations. A quote from Sunstein: “In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live?”

Kerpen sums up Sunstein’s political philosophy of central planning:

The idea of Sunstein’s “nudge” philosophy is that the fatal conceit of central economic planning can somehow succeed if it is subtly hidden from view. Sunstein thinks that if he imposes regulations that steer our choices instead of outright forcing them, he can achieve desirable social objectives. … Given Suinstein’s views and the central role he will have in reshaping federal regulation to be “more effective,” we need to be deeply concerned that any changes that come out of the process may make regulation less apparent, but no less costly — and more effective at crushing genuine individual choice and responsibility and substituting the judgment (even if by a nudge instead of a shove) of a central planner.

The challenge, Kerpen writes in his conclusion to the book, “is to change the political calculus to elevate regulatory fights to the appropriate level in the public consciousness. We must make sure the American people understand that a disastrously bad idea becomes even worse when it’s implemented by backdoor, unaccountable, illegitimate means.”

Kerpen recommends passage of the REINS Act as a way to restore accountability over regulatory agencies to Congress. The two messages Congress needs, he writes, are: “You can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility,” and “If you fail to stop out-of-control regulators, voters will hold you accountable.”

Chambers to host Congressional Summit

On September 7 the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce will host the 2012 Congressional Summit in Wichita, presented by Black & Veatch. All six members of the Kansas federal delegation have committed to attend this event.

The event will be from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm at Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview in Wichita. Individual tickets are $20, which includes lunch. To register, click on 2012 Congressional Summit.

Pompeo: Impending tax increases threaten economic growth and jobs

Following is an article from U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, which includes the Wichita metropolitan area.

This week the House of Representatives will vote to stop the largest tax hike in American history, which, absent legislative action, is set to occur on January 1, 2013. I hope the Senate and President Obama will join us. Last week’s report of the economy growing at an anemic 1.5 percent is further evidence that tax increases are not what our nation needs.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this impending tax hike is “on the other guy” or “only on the rich.” President Obama is demanding that federal taxes go up on nearly every single American and nearly every single business. Whether you make more or less than $250,000, whether you own a business or work at one, whether you are retired and receiving dividend income or whether you are a Kansas school teacher who is provided health care under your employer’s plan — your taxes will go up. It will even become far more expensive for many people to die, with a major increase in the estate tax taking effect. All of this will occur as a direct result of the President’s deep and open desire to raise taxes and spread the wealth.

This pending federal tax increase would be on top of several tax increases the Democrats have already given each of us. President Obama’s health care takeover increases taxes by $800 billion over the next ten years alone. More than a dozen of those tax increases — including the individual mandate — hit the middle class squarely. These increases violate his oft-repeated promise not to raise taxes on those making less than $200,000. They also lower incomes as the threat of tax increases has caused the economy to remain stagnant with unemployment above 8 percent for 41 consecutive months.

The anticipated economic consequence of such an enormous tax hike is so devastating that the media has coined the term “Taxmageddon” to describe it and suggested that a failure to stop it would be equivalent to driving our economic car off a “fiscal cliff.”

How big is the impending tax increase? In 2013, every taxpayer in Kansas will be charged with paying an additional $2,984 in federal income taxes. The increased tax payments of all the families in Kansas’ Fourth District put together totals a staggering $1 billion, $4.2 billion from all Kansans, and $494 billion nationwide. The tax increase would target Kansas families, low-income workers, and retirees — and it would be the largest tax hike our state has ever had to endure.

The President has it backwards. We don’t have a problem with too few taxes. Our problem, rather, is that we have too much federal spending. The federal government is already 20% bigger than when President Obama took over. We have more people on food stamps and more people drawing federal disability benefits than ever before in our nation’s history. A tax increase will just make these problems worse by further stunting economic growth.

I firmly believe that the first thing Congress must do to provide economic certainty is to stop the tax hike now. Until American families and job creators are certain their federal taxes will not be increased, we cannot get the economy back on track. This week I will vote in the House of Representatives to approve a bill that would provide that certainty by halting Taxmageddon in its tracks. If President Obama and Senate Democrats follow suit, the result will be relief and certainty for small businesses and families that would propel economic growth and create a job for every American who wants one.

Three years, no budget

From Bankrupting America: “After operating for three years without a budget, it is time that the Senate stop pointing fingers and do their job! In the past three years the national debt has skyrocketed to more than $15.5 Trillion dollars, deficits top $1 trillion dollars annually and the Senate has no plan when it comes to spending. While some in the Senate insist they can cut spending and operate without passing a budget resolution, history would say otherwise.”

Pompeo: Compromise has meant increased spending

At the recent economic development conference produced by Kansas Policy Institute, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita explained how the process of political compromise has worked to increase spending. Political compromise of the type Pompeo explained is also called logrolling.

Pompeo told the audience that in his first 15 months in office, over 260 people came to his office to ask for something, a particular request. 85 percent of those requests came from Fortune 500 companies, our largest companies. Sometimes, he said, they brought along one of his constituents to help make the argument.

These companies were asking for money from the federal treasury or some other form of special treatment, which Pompeo referred to as crony capitalism.

Pompeo said he’s urged to compromise, to go along and get along. But he described how compromise has worked in Congress over the past 60 years, no matter which party is in charge of Congress or the presidency, and no matter the combination: “Congressman ‘A’ needed a bridge in his district, Congressmen ‘B’ wanted a flood control project in hers, and the president wanted more money for education. And the compromise was ‘Let’s do all three.’”

The compromise for 60 years has been not to meet in the middle, but to increase spending. The real party of interest — people whose money is being spent — wasn’t in the room.

Later, he explained the difficulty that elected officials face. Citing his proposed legislation to end federal tax credits for all forms of energy production, Pompeo said that the beneficiaries of these credits will come to his office and point out jobs created by — for example — a wind power equipment plant in Hutchinson. These people working are easy to see. They’re concentrated in one place at one company.

But the costs of these credits and programs are being borne elsewhere, he said, and their effects are difficult to see.

Cronyism in the tax code

Why is so much money spent on lobbying government? In a short video, Professor Randall G. Holcombe explains: “The reason you have so much lobbying and so much special interest activity in Congress is because government is so big. Government taxes a lot, government spends a lot, and so as a result there’s a lot of reward to people from going to Congress trying to get a piece of the action. Whether the piece of the action is a tax cut or a subsidy, I don’t think there’s any real solution to those special interest benefits outside of cutting the size of government.”

Holcombe also explained how tax law is formed: “If you really want to understand the nature of our tax code, don’t ask yourself ‘Why are these provisions in the public interest?’ That’s not how taxes are passed. Ask yourself ‘Who benefits from these taxes, and how much political power do they have?’”

This is not only a problem at the federal level. In Kansas last week special interest groups were able to extend using the Kansas tax code to funnel millions to special interests at the expense of the general public by extending the STAR bonds program.

In Wichita, a special interest group recently persuaded the city council to manipulate property tax law in their favor by forgiving property taxes to new home buyers, again at the expense of the general public.

I do have one disagreement with Holcombe when he says there are not groups that lobby Congress on behalf of the general public for tax reform. There are groups like Americans for Prosperity, Cato Institute, Tax Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, Heritage Foundation, and many others that advocate for tax simplification and lower rates that benefit everyone. Not all these groups explicitly engage in lobbying, but they produce research and spread the message.

Who has the economic power?

Though there is often much focus on the richest private individuals in the United States, the U.S. Congress actually has far more economic power.

In this video, economist Robert Lawson compares the economic power of the 535 most wealthy private citizens with the spending power of the 535 members of Congress. You might be surprised by what you find out.

As Congress continues to spend and government continues to increase in size, our economic freedom will continue to decrease. And as our economic freedom decreases, our economic opportunities and quality of life are threatened.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

The following article by U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, including the Wichita metropolitan area, explains — yet again — how ridiculous it is for President Barack Obama and others to attack Wichita-based Koch Industries on the Keystone XL pipeline issue. Pompeo explains that Koch has no financial interest in the pipeline, what “intervenor” status means, and who really stands to benefit if the pipeline is not built. Pompeo hints at who it is, but I’ll be more direct: Warren Buffet. A news article that explains how Warren will personally benefit from blocking the Keystone XL pipeline is Buffett’s Burlington Northern Among Pipeline Winners.

The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo

The President and his allies, including those in Congress, have shown what a nasty, personal, and abusive re-election campaign we are about to experience. A recent sideshow in my committee in Congress provides yet another clear and shocking example.

A recent letter from Representatives Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush, both Democrats, demanded a live witness and testimony from “a representative of Koch Industries” at a hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline, scheduled to be held just two days later. The frivolous nature of the request is proven by that plainly unreasonable deadline. But the partisan tactics go far beyond that.

Even if Koch Industries had a financial interest in the Keystone XL pipeline, what possibly could be wrong with that? Perhaps more importantly, under what circumstances would such an interest be worthy of a congressional inquisition? Charles Koch and David Koch, co-owners of Koch Industries, are citizens, taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and employers. Their companies employ nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. alone. The company maintains its headquarters in the district I represent, employing 2,600 great Kansans. The company and its employees are among the most hard-working and generous in our community. The company has never been bailed out by the American taxpayers. And given that Americans are desperate for jobs, we should be begging entrepreneurs to look for new opportunities, not attacking them simply because their companies might make a profit.

The facts are clear: Koch Industries does not have a financial stake in the pipeline — why, therefore, should its officials become part of the all-too-familiar congressional committee circus? The facts are straightforward and a matter of public record. Koch Industries has repeatedly stated that it does not have a financial stake in the pipeline: It does not own the pipeline, it has no role in the pipeline’s design, it is not one of the shippers who have signed contracts to use the pipeline, and it will not build the pipeline.

Democrats dug deep for some excuse to attempt to haul Koch officials in for a public flogging. What did they find? A 2009 attempt by a Koch subsidiary to obtain “intervenor” status in a Canadian legal proceeding, in order to track the approval process for the pipeline. Wishing to know the fate of the pipeline, and having an interest in whether or not the pipeline is built — as thousands of frustrated American workers and consumers do — obviously does not amount to a financial interest in the pipeline’s construction. Indeed, the Sierra Club of Canada applied to “intervene” in the same proceeding. Notably, no one has alleged that Congress should investigate the Sierra Club’s interest in the pipeline project. So the “intervenor” ploy is a patent sham, and provides no basis for harassing Koch Industries.

It is also difficult to believe that Members of Congress really think that a particular company’s asserted financial interest in a project is, or should be, relevant to the merits of that project. It becomes still harder to believe, given the decision to target only Koch Industries and the Kochs — and no other company or individual. Doubtless many companies and individuals stand to benefit, or to be harmed, depending on whether President Obama’s decision to delay the pipeline is allowed to stand. News accounts have mentioned a number of those who might reap financial windfalls from the pipeline’s demise, including at least one of President Obama’s most prominent supporters and donors. (Hint: His secretary was the President’s highly visible prop at the State of the Union address.) But two congressmen directed their attention exclusively toward the Kochs, who — as successful businessmen and outspoken critics of the President’s job-killing, statist programs — have been targets for the Administration and its allies for many months.

Indeed, the very first line of President Obama’s very first campaign advertisement for the 2012 election attacks the Koch brothers. And liberal blogs and publications have published countless slanted pieces on Koch Industries, heavy on innuendo and light on facts. The Obama Administration has long been criticized for maintaining a de facto “enemies list” of its perceived political opponents, whether they are respected Supreme Court Justices, disfavored reporters, or private citizens who just want to keep their own doctors. The Democrats’ obsession with the Kochs as a political target is, indeed, additional evidence of a truly Nixonian approach to politics. That the Obama Administration and its allies use private citizens as symbols to be attacked and vilified is both unfair and deeply threatening to our civic life and the rule of law.

America deserves better from its elected officials. To be sure, the serious challenges facing the country often generate heated discussion and disagreement. But there is no justification for Democrats who want to haul American citizens before Congress for the exclusive purpose of political abuse. Congressional hearings should not be hijacked by naked political opportunism; legitimate business creators should not be vilified; and Congress should focus on the many policy questions before it, rather than wasting time in an illegitimate pursuit of the Administration’s perceived “enemies.”

Mr. Pompeo represents the Fourth Congressional District of Kansas. He serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Subcommittee on Energy and Power. A version of this article appeared at Politico.

Congress should reserve the right to protect our wireless future

From Erik Telford
Wireless technology is great. Only a few years ago, most Kansans were using their phones to call, and perhaps even text, now mobile devices are essentially small computers in the palms of our hands — capable of almost anything.

According to Nielsen research, about 44 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones.[i] In Kansas, there are more than 2.4 million wireless subscribers[ii] and nearly 450,000 of those subscribers have data plans with full Internet access for more than 1 million high-speed mobile devices as of December 2009.[iii]

With mobile devices capable of almost anything, Kansans are finding more ways to use them — from uploading pictures during a concert at the Sprint Center to updating their Facebook status about K-State’s football team to checking into their favorite Wichita restaurant on Foursquare.

However, in what is becoming an all too familiar occurrence, some of these efforts are unsuccessful because we just can’t seem to connect online in a stadium or arena full of people. This is just one localized example of how the looming spectrum crisis could become a widespread reality — crippling innovation and investment in one of our country’s most vibrant sectors.

Thankfully, Congress is currently considering legislation that would help avoid the looming crisis by freeing up more spectrum through an auction process. Spectrum auctions are widely supported by both Republicans and Democrats; however, as with most things — the devil is in the details.

As the agency in charge of spectrum auctions, the FCC is pressuring Congress to give the FCC complete control over the auction design process. While the FCC’s request seems somewhat innocuous, if allowed, it could have dangerous consequences.

Recent actions by the FCC suggest it would use its power to limit which companies will get to participate in the auction, effectively determining the winners and losers.

Some members of Congress, support the FCC’s request and argue that proposals that would restrict the FCC from imposing eligibility conditions on auction participants “could have a deterring effect on fostering competition and maximizing auction proceeds to pay for a public safety network and deficit reduction.”[iv] The argument that fewer auction participants would result in more competition and more revenue, however, just doesn’t make sense.

The FCC’s desire to impose conditions to increase competition and encourage innovation is not only counterintuitive; it is unnecessary. As the FCC’s own data demonstrates, the wireless market is already fiercely competitive. Nearly 90 percent of Americans have a choice of five or more wireless providers.[v]

In, Kansas, consumers in communities both large and small have a number of options for wireless services. Consumers in Salina and in Wichita can choose from six or more wireless providers.[vi] In Garden City, subscribers can choose from seven or more wireless companies.[vii]

Furthermore, eligibility restrictions could prevent companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T from acquiring more spectrum, which could prevent them from deploying 4G service to other communities outside the Kansas City market due to spectrum constraints.

As the expert agency, the FCC is right to ask for some flexibility with the auction design process. Congress, however, should reserve its right to protect our wireless future by preventing FCC overreach and ensure that all companies can participate in the auction process. It’s only the fair choice to make.

Notes:
[i] Nielsen Wire, “Android and iPhones Dominating App Downloads in the U.S.” November 29, 2011
[ii] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, Table C-2: FCC’s Semi-Annual Local Telephone Competition Data Collection: Mobile Telephone Subscribership, in Thousands,” p. 248, June 27, 2011
[iii] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, Table C-5: Mobile Wireless Devices Capable of Sending or Receiving Data at Speeds Above 200 kbps and Subscribers with Data Plans for Full Internet Access as of December 31, 2009, in Thousands,” p. 260, June 27, 2011
[iv] Sen. John Kerry, Press Release, “Democratic and Republican Senators Urge Smart, Inclusive Spectrum Reform,” January 9, 2012
[v] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, “Estimated Mobile Wireless Voice Coverage by Census Block, 2010,” p. 6, June 27, 2011
[vi] Cell phone provider coverage as found by zip code on http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/
[vii] Cell phone provider coverage as found by zip code on http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/

Era of energy subsidies is over

By U.S. Representatives Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Raul Labrador of Idaho, both Republicans. This is the original editorial. A version appeared in the Washington Times.

I’m afraid that the title of this op-ed is optimistic. As the authors note, “handouts are hard to give up.” But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t try to eliminate this type of harmful government spending. Pompeo has also introduced H.R. 3090: EDA Elimination Act of 2011 to shut down the Economic Development Administration, another source of wasteful government spending on economic development and business.

The Era of Energy Subsidies is Over

By Mike Pompeo and Raul Labrador

Bill Clinton famously said that “the era of big government is over.” Well, it didn’t work out that way. But something truly remarkable is happening in our national conversation about energy subsidies: outrage, mounting opposition, and, we hope, a swift end. This would be great news for taxpayers and for consumers.

Subsidy folly has been bipartisan and commonplace. For the past three decades, both parties have intervened in the energy industry. In 1978, a Democrat-controlled Congress and President Jimmy Carter created an Investment Tax Credit for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. In 1992, a Democrat-controlled Congress and Republican President George H.W. Bush passed the Production Tax Credit for electricity produced from wind and biomass. Then in 2005, a Republican-controlled Congress and President George W. Bush passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which included massive tax subsidies for seemingly every energy source under the sun, including alternative vehicles, advanced nuclear power, and of course solar. The latter legislation created the infamous Department of Energy loan guarantee programs that have produced the ongoing Solyndra scandal.

After three decades, what have we learned? 1) Energy subsidies distort the free market by funneling billions in taxpayer dollars to politically favored energy sources and technologies, preventing market prices from signaling the optimal source for particular energy uses, 2) Subsidizing energy sectors drains the federal fisc and forces the consumption of higher-cost energy sources, 3) Politically allocated capital typically flows to politically connected companies or to large companies that could develop innovative technologies on their own dime. The $535 million Solyndra scandal has reinforced all of these lessons and helped shine a light on the energy subsidy debate, exposing those who maintain government is the solution to our energy needs.

The good news is, with the support of the American people, politicians are now speaking the truth. At a recent Republican presidential forum, the candidates were in near-unanimous agreement that it is time to end the federal government’s role and allow the free market to bring our nation the next great energy source. Governor Rick Perry said, “I do not think it is the federal government’s business to be picking winners and losers, frankly, in any of our energy sources.” Congresswoman Michelle Bachman had similar remarks: “I want to see a [level] federal playing field. We’ve seen what a disaster it is when the federal government picks winners and losers.” In his economic plan, Governor Mitt Romney said that government “should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches.” This is progress. Just four years ago almost every candidate in Iowa was afraid to say that subsidizing politically favored energy technologies has been an enormous policy failure.

Given the shift in the debate, the time is now to end subsidies. This month we introduced the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act, H.R. 3308, which has garnered support from such conservative organizations as Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, The Club for Growth, The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Freedom Action, Heritage Action for America, National Taxpayers Union, and Taxpayers for Common Sense. H.R. 3308 eliminates all energy tax credits, each of which is nothing more than a taxpayer handout to politically favored industries or companies. From solar to wind, from geothermal to biomass and from ethanol to hydrogen, they must all go. It is equal opportunity — not one single solitary tax credit survives this bill. The proposal will then use the savings realized from the repeal of these tax credits to lower the corporate tax rate. This is a perfect model for tax reform — close out politically allocated tax favors and loopholes and lower taxes on every business that competes in America.

While we are gaining broad public support to end these energy tax credits, the takers of government largesse seldom go quietly. The pro-subsidy lobby pushes to extend its giveaway from Uncle Sam — seeking to extend the production tax credit subsidies for wind, biomass and geothermal every four years. This is the umpteenth-and-never-final request for “just four more years.” But a few more years will just lead to a few more years after that. Even before we introduced the legislation that for the first time provides zero tax credits to any energy source, the American Wind Energy Association howled that Congressman Pompeo “seems to misunderstand how a key federal tax incentive has built a thriving American wind manufacturing sector and tens of thousands of American jobs.” Well, we both understand perfectly — handouts are hard to give up.

After three decades, the tide on energy subsidies has turned. Our nation has squandered hundreds of billions of dollars with these tax credits and has little to show for it. We hold no ill will to any of these energy sources that currently receive tax credits — some or all of them may well become the next great American energy technology. But having dozens of energy handouts leads companies to spend resources lobbying Washington, D.C. rather than tinkering in their garages and labs. Indeed, we are counting on one of these alternatives to succeed. We just know that we have no idea — nor do any of our peers in Congress — which one consumers will ultimately demand. The winner must be determined the old-fashioned way: hard work, innovation, American moxie and superior skills engaged in competition.

Let’s put a different twist on the old saying “not invented here” by acknowledging that energy technology never has been invented here, on the Potomac, and do away with energy subsidies once and for all.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday November 23, 2011

Standing up for fundamental liberties. A particularly troubling objection that those who advocate for liberty face is that we want to deny freedom and liberty to others — as if the quantity of liberty is fixed, and I can have more only if you have less. This is the type of false accusation that leftists make against Wichita-based Koch Industries. In this excerpt from the company’s Koch Facts page, the work that Koch does to advance liberty for everyone is explained: “Throughout Koch’s long-standing record of public advocacy, we have been strong and steadfast supporters of individual liberties and freedoms. These values permeate all that we do as a company and every part of our public outreach. We help fund public and school-based educational programs across the country in an effort to increase citizens’ understanding of the relationship between economic liberty and democracy. We support voter registration efforts in the communities where we live and work, and for our tens of thousands of employees. We support civil rights programs through numerous organizations. We also help build entrepreneurial initiatives that foster the fundamental reality that economic freedom creates prosperity for everyone, especially the poor, in our society. … For many years, we have directly contributed to Urban League, Andrew Young Foundation, Martin Luther King Center, Latin American Association, 100 Black Men, Morehouse College, United Negro College Fund, and dozens of other worthy organizations pursuing similar civic missions. We founded and continue to support Youth Entrepreneurs in schools throughout Kansas, Missouri and Atlanta. This year-long course teaches high school students from all walks of life the business and entrepreneurial skills needed to help them prosper and become contributing members of society. … Many of the attacks against Koch in recent months are cynical posturing at best and deliberate falsehoods divorced from reality at worst. For proof, look no further than the false claim from groups like SEIU that we are somehow trying to suppress the right to vote. … Our freedom as individual Americans relies on the ability to hold the government accountable through the direct exercise of voting rights and the exercise of other individual liberties. We are unwavering in our commitment to these rights and we stand firmly behind our track record in defending them.”

Private property saved the Pilgrims. At Thanksgiving time, the Economic Freedom Project reminds us how an early American experiment with socialism failed miserably, and how private property rights and free enterprise saved the day. See So, Is That My Corn or Yours?

Did Grover Norquist derail the Supercommittee? To hear some analysts, you’d think that Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is responsible for no deal emerging from the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Supercommittee”). It’s ATR’s pledge to not increase taxes that is blamed, so they say. All members of the Kansas Congressional Delegation except Kevin Yoder signed the pledge. Paul Jacob is thankful for Norquist and that a tax increase was averted.

Drive-through petition signing. From Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: The Wichita area chapter of the free-market grassroots group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and other local groups have been working to collect signatures for a petition to put the hotel guest tax ordinance to a public vote. Volunteers will be collecting signatures this weekend during a “drive-thru” petition signing Friday, Saturday and Sunday at two Wichita hotels. Wichita activists are continuing their efforts to collect signatures for a petition to put the hotel guest tax ordinance to a public vote. Registered voters simply drive up to the listed locations and volunteers will bring a petition out to them. The times are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday and Saturday (Nov. 25 and 26), and 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm Sunday (Nov. 27). The locations are Wichita Inn East (8220 E. Kellogg Dr.) and Best Western Airport Inn (6815 W. Kellogg/US-54).

Job creation. Governments often fall prey to the job creation trap — that the goal of economic development is to create jobs. We say this today in Wichita where several labor union leaders appeared before the Sedgwick County Commission to encourage the county to grant a subsidy to Bombardier Learjet. The labor leaders, naturally, pleaded for jobs. To them, and to most of our political and bureaucratic leaders, the more jobs created, the better. Our business leaders don’t do any better understanding the difference between capitalism and business. In his introduction to the recently-published book The Morality of Capitalism, Tom G. Palmer writes: “Capitalism is not just about building stuff , in the way that socialist dictators used to exhort their slaves to ‘Build the Future!’ Capitalism is about creating value, not merely working hard or making sacrifices or being busy. Those who fail to understand capitalism are quick to support ‘job creation’ programs to create work. They have misunderstood the point of work, much less the point of capitalism. In a much-quoted story, the economist Milton Friedman was shown the construction on a massive new canal in Asia. When he noted that it was odd that the workers were moving huge amounts of earth and rock with small shovels, rather than earth moving equipment, he was told ‘You don’t understand; this is a jobs program.’ His response: ‘Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If you’re seeking to create jobs, why didn’t you issue them spoons, rather than shovels?” … After describing crony capitalism — the type practiced in Wichita, Sedgwick County, and Kansas, with deals like the complete funding by taxpayers of the Bombardier LearJet facility, Palmer explains: “Such corrupt cronyism shouldn’t be confused with ‘free-market capitalism,’ which refers to a system of production and exchange that is based on the rule of law, on equality of rights for all, on the freedom to choose, on the freedom to trade, on the freedom to innovate, on the guiding discipline of profits and losses, and on the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, of one’s savings, of one’s investments, without fearing confiscation or restriction from those who have invested, not in production of wealth, but in political power.”

Experts. David Freedman and John Stossel discuss experts, our reliance on them, the political advocacy that’s often involved, and how often experts are wrong.

Supercommittee fails at tiny goal

With it apparent that the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Supercommittee”) has failed to reach an agreement, we need to step back a moment and realize just what a tiny task the committee was given.

The committee’s goal was to achieve $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. That’s $120 billion per year, on average.

For context, in fiscal year 2011, which ended on September 30th, 2011, federal government expenditures were $3.6 trillion, and deficit was $1.3 trillion.

This means that the committee’s annual goal of $120 billion is 3.3 percent of last year’s spending, and 9.2 percent of the last year’s deficit.

This is why the supercommittee’s goal must be described as very small and modest. Yet it could not be achieved. Congress could not agree to reduce spending by 3.3 percent, when the real goal we need to meet is 36 percent, if we ever wanted a balanced budget. This failure has large implications on our future. If we can’t achieve such a modest goal, how will we solve the real problems?

Since the committee failed, an automatic sequestration, or cutting, process will go into effect. But that won’t happen until 2013 — if it happens at all.

Spending cuts, or not?

Besides the failure of the supercommittee to meet such a small goal, we must realize that spending, even if the sequestration takes place, will continue to rise. The cuts that sequestration would impose are cuts not from previous year spending, but cuts from budgeted spending, and that spending is always rising. Veronique de Rugy explains in her article Federal Spending Without & With Sequester Cuts: “When the public hears ‘cut,’ it thinks that spending has been significantly reduced below current levels, not that spending has increased. Thus, calling a reduced growth rate of projected spending a ‘cut’ leads to confusion, a growing deficit, and an ever-larger burden for future generations.”

Her article contains a chart, presented below, of future federal spending with and without sequestration. There’s not much difference.

Huelskamp on spending, health information database, and Buffett

Addressing members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club last Friday, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district updated the audience on national spending and debt, a health information database that poses privacy risks, and Warren Buffett’s taxes.

On being a new member of Congress, Huelskamp said people ask me “is Washington everything you thought it would be?” And I answer yes — and much worse.

He told the audience that the Washington Post newspaper has identified him as a member of the “Apocalypse Caucus,” a group of twenty lawmakers that have voted no for almost everything, including raising the debt ceiling. The Post says these lawmakers would be willing to shut down the government simply to make a point. Huelskamp told the audience “The point we need to remember is there is an apocalypse ahead unless we rein in spending, unless we rein in this president, unless we rein in the regulations.”

Huelskamp said that for every dollar spent in Washington, 41 cents is borrowed money. And while some in Washington say that there is a plan to get things under control, he said this is not happening yet.

He described a budget committee hearing in which four economists testified. He asked how long do we have until we reach the point of no return such as Greece is at presently, where they can’t pay back their debt? The first economist, a conservative, said “act as if you have no time left.” The other three economists — moderates and liberals — said they agreed with the first economist’s assessment.

During a series of budget negotiations in the spring, Huelskamp said that initially House leadership had started with the idea of cutting $100 billion. But that number was thought to be too much, and eventually Congress and the president settled on cuts of $25 billion. But the actual spending that was cut was only $350 million, or just about one-third of a billion dollars.

Huelskamp described the debt ceiling negotiations in the summer as a situation where the president had to have Congress’s permission to raise the debt ceiling. But he said Congress agreed to no cuts at all, despite having this power. He didn’t want to vote to just “kick the can down the road,” and that’s why he voted against raising the debt ceiling in August.

He also told of hearing from a high-ranking Chinese official at a budget committee hearing. The official — Huelskamp reminded the audience that China is a communist country — told the committee members the things they would have to do with the budget. While Huelskamp agreed with the official’s assessment of what the U.S. needed to do with its budget, he wondered how do we get in this position, where we turn over, often, our sovereignty to foreign nations.

Huelskamp cited a national poll that found that 48 percent believe the American dream is dead. In his town hall meetings — he’s held about 70 so far — he estimates 90 percent believe the American dream is gone, or soon to be gone. “Most Americans, including Kansans, as optimistic as we are, are worried about what’s going on in Washington. And they don’t know who to blame, and they’re going to start blaming everybody. I’m one of the few who believe the American dream is still alive and well.”

Switching topics, Huelskamp described former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the third-most powerful person in Washington, due to her position implementing national health care.

Regarding health care, Huelskamp is troubled by a database HHS is proposing that will be used to regulate insurance companies. If insurance companies sign up healthy people, they will be taxed, and they will receive subsidies for insuring sick people. Huelskamp said the only way to determine this behavior by insurance companies — are they insuring the healthy or sick? — is by looking at the health insurance histories of the individual people each company insures. He views this as a threat to patient privacy.

According to Wichita Eagle reporting, HHS will collect only information that is not personally identifiable.

But in a Washington Examiner op-ed on this topic, Huelskamp wrote: “The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.” He provided several examples of data being lost.

As ObamaCare is evolving in the rule-making process overseen by Sebelius, we can’t be sure what requirements, regulations, or uses might be found for this patient health history data.

On Warren Buffett, Huelskamp said that Buffett sheltered $24 million from taxation on his most recent tax return. “Mr. Buffett doesn’t want Mr. Obama to have his money, either. It’s called hypocrisy. He doesn’t trust him with his money. Which is why — you’ve got to give him credit — he’s planning to give every single last dime to charity.”

Obama’s executive orders

Americans for Limited Government has commented on President Barack Obama’s recent use of executive orders to step around the will of Congress:

“These unilateral executive orders, whether on government-backed student loans and mortgages or FDA oversight, are intended to sidestep the consent of the governed, and as a result they overstep the President’s constitutional boundaries. Obama can rhetorically dress this up however he likes, but his actions are not predicated on the consent of the governed, they are fueled by his desire to maintain and expand power. This is not the rule of law, but the rule of man.

“Obama is just following the playbook of the Center for American Progress, which had argued for the White House to use executive orders and other regulations to advance its agenda after Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the November elections. This is all designed to get around the political process, and has occurred repeatedly under Obama’s watch, whether with the EPA’s carbon endangerment finding or the unilateral implementation of management-labor forums for the federal civil service.”

The full press release is at Obama’s executive orders overstep.

Phil Kerpen’s recent book Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — and How to Stop Him holds other lessons of how presidents — from both political parties — overstep. In the introduction Kerpen gives us a history lesson on a topic that doesn’t receive much discussion in public: the grab for executive power by presidents through the use of “signing statements.”

Elizabeth Drew made the case against Bush’s abuse of executive power in a lengthy New York Review of Books piece called “Power Grab.” She specifically highlighted Bush’s use of signing statements (a technique to object to elements of a law while signing it, and refusing to enforce those elements), the detention of foreign combatants at Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretaps. She concluded that Bush was a tyrant.

Kerpen explains how the view from the oval office can make one forget campaign promises:

Even the Bush practice that raised the most ire — the use of signing statements — was embraced by Obama just weeks after he took office, when he said: “it is a legitimate constitutional function, and one that promotes the value of transparency, to indicate when a bill that is presented for presidential signature includes provisions that are subject to well-founded constitutional objections.” Contrast that with what Obama had said about signing statements on the campaign trail: “This is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he is going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We are not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.”

Later in the chapter Kerpen describes another critic of Bush’s use of executive power and how things would change with the election of Obama:

One of the harshest critics of executive power under Bush, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, dismissed the overly simple view of many on the left regarding Obama ending abuse of power. After a warning about an authoritarian takeover, he says:

This grim prognosis depends on structures, not personalities, permitting us to move beyond knee-jerk reactions to the politics of the day. Most obviously, the election of President Obama has, for many, sufficed to dispatch any serious doubts about the system: Good-bye, imperial presidency; hello, Americas first black president, and the nation’s remarkable capacity for constitutional renewal!

But a paragraph later he falls into the very trap he warned against, absurdly writing of Obama:

He may be charismatic, but he is no extremist: there is little chance of his running roughshod over congressional prerogative, even those as indefensible as the filibuster. But the next insurgent president may not possess the same sense of constitutional restraint.

Sadly, contrary to the ideologically blinded analysis of most observers from the left, all of the elements of excessive executive power that they feared from Bush have continued — or worsened — under Obama. On top of which he has used the financial crisis as an excuse to seize control — without Congress’s approval — of the energy supply, industrial activities, the Internet, and labor policy.

Some of the loudest voices opposing Bush’s use of executive power are now cheering for Obama to push things much further. It’s different when its your guy in charge.

Or: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Kerpen on Obama’s regulatory extremism

In the introduction to his book Democracy Denied, Phil Kerpen gives us a history lesson on a topic that doesn’t receive much discussion in public: the grab for executive power by presidents through the use of “signing statements.”

Elizabeth Drew made the case against Bush’s abuse of executive power in a lengthy New York Review of Books piece called “Power Grab.” She specifically highlighted Bush’s use of signing statements (a technique to object to elements of a law while signing it, and refusing to enforce those elements), the detention of foreign combatants at Guantanamo, and warrantless wiretaps. She concluded that Bush was a tyrant.

Kerpen explains how the view from the oval office can make one forget campaign promises:

Even the Bush practice that raised the most ire — the use of signing statements — was embraced by Obama just weeks after he took office, when he said: “it is a legitimate constitutional function, and one that promotes the value of transparency, to indicate when a bill that is presented for presidential signature includes provisions that are subject to well-founded constitutional objections.” Contrast that with what Obama had said about signing statements on the campaign trail: “This is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he is going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We are not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.”

Not that Obama alone takes criticism for exercising presidential power contrary to the actions of Congress, as he describes the auto industry bailout in the last days of the presidency of George W. Bush. A bill didn’t make it through Congress, but Bush “repurposed” TARP funds — intended for banks — and used them for an auto bailout in the amount of $17.4 billion.

It is this use of executive power and agencies to bypass the will of people — as expressed through Congress — that is detailed in a book authored by Phil Kerpen and published this week: Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — and How to Stop Him.

Kerpen is Vice President for Policy at Americans for Prosperity, a national group that advocates for free markets and limited government at all levels. His website is philkerpen.com, and it features excerpts from the book along with a theatrical trailer.

Kerpen explains the problem by describing a solution: The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS Act. This proposed law would require any major regulatory action to be approved by Congress and receive the president’s signature. Kerpen writes: “We have regulators who are effectively writing and executing their own laws. The major policy decisions that affect every aspect of our economic lives are moving forward without consent of the people’s legitimately elected legislative branch.”

The problem is that often Congress passes generic laws and leaves it to regulatory agencies to write the rules that implement the law. By requiring Congressional and Presidential approval of major regulations, agencies will be accountable to the current Congress, and lawmakers will have a chance to ensure that actual regulations are consistent with the intent of enabling legislation.

Cap-and-trade energy legislation provides an example of Kerpen’s thesis, which is “how the Obama administration was disregarding Congress and the American people to accomplish its objectives through regulatory backdoors.” The legislation passed the House, but couldn’t pass the Senate. So what happened next? Kerpen explains Obama’s detour around Congress:

Just to show you how unfazed the Obama administration was by the political defeat of cap-and-trade, consider what’s on page 146 of Obama’s 2012 budget: “The administration continues to support greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the United States in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% percent by 2050.” Those just happen to be the same levels required by the failed Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. Obama is telling the EPA to just pretend that the bill passed and regulate away.

In fact Obama’s EPA was already moving full steam ahead to implement a global warming regulatory scheme that could even be more costly than cap and trade — without the approval of the American people and without so much as a vote in Congress.

The remainder of the chapter details some of the ways EPA is accomplishing this backdoor regulation.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, is another topic Kerpen covers where regulation is replacing lawmaking by Congress:

Nancy Pelosi was right in more ways then she realized when she infamously said “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Not only was the more than 2,000-page bill negotiated in secret and so densely complex that few humans could understand it, it also deferred most of the really difficult and important decisions to the regulators, including dozens of brand-new boards, committees, councils, and working groups. So even after ObamaCare had been passed there was no way to know what was really in it until the bureaucracy was assembled and began issuing regulations.

Kerpen describes the bill that passed as not “finished legislation,” and is now being interpreted by bureaucrats, the most powerful being HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Her office is now, according to Kerpen, “issuing a whole string of official guidelines and regulations that attempt to ‘correct’ the draft law, often by asserting things that the law doesn’t actually say.”

Other chapters describe regulation of the internet (net neutrality), card check, the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and energy regulation. All of these represent the Obama administration either ignoring Congress or creating vast new powers for itself. The chart Kerpen created shows the plays being made.

Obama regulatory extremismKerpen’s chart of Obama regulatory extremism. Click for larger version.

What about regulatory reform? Obama’s doing that. In January he wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “We’re looking at the system as a whole to make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation. And finally, today I am directing federal agencies to do more to account for — and reduce — the burdens regulations may place on small businesses.”

In a chapter titled “The Back Door to the Back Door: Phony Regulation Reform” Kerpen explains that this promise or regulatory reform by the president is a sham. Kerpen describes the executive order that implements regulatory review this way: “The new executive order is the regulatory parallel to the Obama administration’s strategy on federal spending, which is to spend at astonishing, record rates and rack up trillions of dollars in deficits while paying lip service to fiscal responsibility by establishing a fiscal commission.”

And in a gesture of true public service, Kerpen introduces us to Cass Sunstein, the man who is heading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the agency that will be conducting the purported review of regulations. A quote from Sunstein: “In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live?”

Kerpen sums up Sunstein’s political philosophy of central planning:

The idea of Sunstein’s “nudge” philosophy is that the fatal conceit of central economic planning can somehow succeed if it is subtly hidden from view. Sunstein thinks that if he imposes regulations that steer our choices instead of outright forcing them, he can achieve desirable social objectives. … Given Suinstein’s views and the central role he will have in reshaping federal regulation to be “more effective,” we need to be deeply concerned that any changes that come out of the process may make regulation less apparent, but no less costly — and more effective at crushing genuine individual choice and responsibility and substituting the judgment (even if by a nudge instead of a shove) of a central planner.

The challenge, Kerpen writes in his conclusion to the book, “is to change the political calculus to elevate regulatory fights to the appropriate level in the public consciousness. We must make sure the American people understand that a disastrously bad idea becomes even worse when it’s implemented by backdoor, unaccountable, illegitimate means.”

Kerpen recommends passage of the REINS Act as a way to restore accountability over regulatory agencies to Congress. The two messages Congress needs, he writes, are: “You can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility,” and “If you fail to stop out-of-control regulators, voters will hold you accountable.”

Pompeo at Pachyderm on economy, budget

Last week U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita addressed members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club. As might be expected, major topics that members were interested in were the economy and budget issues.

As an introduction, club vice-president John Todd played a video of a recent meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight where Pompeo interrogated a Department of Energy official concerning the loan guarantee made on behalf of Solyndra, a company that has ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. That video may be viewed here.

In his brief opening remarks, Pompeo described the Solyndra matter as just one example of the problems inherent when government — of either party, he added — tries to allocate capital. He described this problem as pervasive, existing throughout all areas of government.

Pompeo said that President Obama’s policies are simply wrong and have been a disaster. He said the current Congress has made progress in stopping the worst of what the president wants to do.

In response to a question, Pompeo said that while the House has been busy passing legislation, the Senate has not. The Senate has not passed a budget for three years.

I asked a question about federal grants: If local governments refuse federal grants, could legislation already introduced by Pompeo be expanded so that all returned grant funds would be used for deficit reduction, rather than being spent by someone else? This is an important issue, as many officeholders rationalize the acceptance of grants by arguing that someone else will spend the money, and it’s our tax money.

Pompeo said that anytime money from Kansas is returned to Washington, he will move to make sure it is used for deficit reduction, and not to go someplace else. He said these decisions are difficult ones for local officials.

Pompeo said that citizens would “fall off their chair” to learn of the huge magnitude of grant monies that flow from Washington. Each grant comes with restrictions on the use of the funds. He mentioned the Economic Development Administration, an agency which has a budget of over $400 million per year in earmarks.

On federal spending, Pompeo said that we think we’ve done good when we reduce the rate of growth of spending by an agency from eight percent to three percent. While it is possible to gain support for cutting grants and spending on projects in other Congressional districts, Congressmen soon find out that their constituents have benefited from federal spending programs. Support for cutting programs then fades.

But he said that the idea of giving back grant funds for deficit reduction is an idea that might catch on. It’s an idea that is discussed everywhere, he said. The problem lies in Washington, in that the programs exist.

On the need for tax reform, Pompeo said there is broad consensus that it is necessary. But it may not happen very quickly, especially under the current president. Tax reform under Obama, he said, would likely result in higher taxes. But when we tackle tax reform, he said everything will be impacted.

On energy policy, he reiterated his position that government should not be trying to select which form of energy will succeed. He also repeated his opposition to the NAT GAS Act, formally known as H.R. 1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, which would provide subsidies to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. If natural gas is destined to be a transportation fuel, the industry will be able to figure out how to make it work, he added.

He declined to name who he favors among the Republican presidential candidates, but he implored the audience to work hard for the eventual nominee, saying we can’t tolerate four more years of the current president.

On foreign trade, Pompeo said we need more trade, not less. On jobs lost to foreign producers, he said it is the federal government that has created policies that make investment more effective in foreign countries, and we should not fault companies for responding these policies and the realities of the global marketplace. He said that the Kansas fourth congressional district is the third most trade-dependent district in the country, with airplanes and agricultural products being the reason. “We are enormous beneficiaries of foreign trade,” he said.

Pompeo explained his vote for raising the debt ceiling as realizing the necessity to pay the bills for money we had already spent. Once that was realized, the goal was to get the best deal possible. The two best things that emerged, he said, was the fact that there was no tax increase, and that there will be a vote on a balanced budget amendment in both the House and Senate before the end of the year.

He mentioned that the budget plan developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will take 20 years to balance the budget, and will require raising the debt ceiling seven times by then. Ryan also voted to raise the debt ceiling.

The votes this summer affected discretionary spending, when it is entitlements that are the “true elephant in the room.” Pompeo said we must tackle the problems of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Pompeo announces reelection bid

In what he described as an informal setting before a small group of supporters on Tuesday, U. S. Representative Mike Pompeo announced his bid for reelection to represent the fourth district of Kansas. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback appeared beside Pompeo and offered his endorsement.

In his endorsement, Brownback praised Pompeo’s work on sensible federal regulations and controlling federal spending. Brownback said the upcoming election is very important, with the budget and the economy being the most important issues.

In his remarks, Pompeo said that top-down direction of the economy from Washington hasn’t worked, citing high unemployment numbers specifically. He said that the good ideas he’s seen have come from governors. The requirements of states to have balanced budgets — a constraint not in effect at the federal level — is a factor, he said.

Pompeo said he’s been doing the things that he promised to do when he campaigned for office — working for small government and controlling regulation, mentioning the Environmental Protection Agency specifically.

Pompeo has been critical of President Barack Obama for his criticism of corporate jet owners not paying their fair share of taxes. Asked if Obama is getting the message, Pompeo said no, the president’s not getting the message. “I don’t think this president understands that just his rhetoric alone is doing tremendous damage to the aviation industry and its suppliers.”

On the tone in Washington, Pompeo said the dialogue in Washington has changed. In the past, he said the thought was: “Can we take this agency, and instead of growing it by eight percent, grow it by three. That talk is gone. It is now about does this agency have any usefulness? Is there a functionality that remains? Should we keep it, keep it at a smaller level, can we make it more efficient, or is it something that we ought to get rid of? We have truly changed the discourse. We are now talking, for the first time in a very long time, about the proper role of our federal government, and what Americans can afford.”

He said this change in attitude was not just his own, but that the large incoming class of new conservative representatives elected last year has shifted the conversation in this way.

Pompeo said it it is important for voters to elect people who are willing to be specific in their plans for shrinking government. Too often candidates run on a platform of smaller government, but won’t specify the methods they will use to cut government, he said, adding that changes in the role of the federal government will affect us all.

On Governor Brownback returning the grant for the formation of a Kansas health insurance exchange, Pompeo said that he voted to overturn Obamacare in its entirety, so he’s not in favor of spending money to implement it. He also said he’d like to see the returned money used for deficit reduction, and that he has introduced legislation that would require this.

Pompeo’s announcement was not unexpected — photos of organizational meetings for 2012 campaign volunteers have been spotted on Facebook and he’s been successful in fundraising — so the real news will be the announcement (or rumors) of opponents. The filing deadline is in June, with the primary election in August followed by the general election in November.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday July 20, 2011

Kansas budget director to be in Wichita. This Friday’s meeting (July 22) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Steve Anderson, Director of the Budget for Kansas. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On July 29, Dennis Taylor, Secretary, Kansas Department of Administration and “The Repealer” on “An Overview of the Office of the Repealer.” … On August 5, the three newest members of the Wichita City Council will appear: Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita), James Clendenin (district 3, south and southeast Wichita), and Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita). Their topic will be “What it’s like to be a new member of the Wichita City Council?” … On August 12 Kansas Representative Marc Rhoades, Chair of the Kansas House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, will speak on “The impact of the freshman legislators on the 2011 House budgetary process.” … On August 19, Jay M. Price, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the public history program at Wichita State University, speaking on “Clashes of Values in Kansas History.” His recent Wichita Eagle op-ed was Kansas a stage for “values showdowns.” … On August 26, Kansas State Representatives Jim Howell and Joseph Scapa speaking on “Our freshmen year in the Kansas Legislature.” … On September 2 the Petroleum Club is closed for the holiday, so there will be no meeting. … On September 9, Mark Masterson, Director, Sedgwick County Department of Corrections, on the topic “Juvenile Justice System in Sedgwick County.” Following, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Pachyderm Club members and guests are invited to tour the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center located at 700 South Hydraulic, Wichita, Kansas. … On September 16, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, great grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, will present a program with the topic to be determined. … On September 23, Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute, speaking on the topic Why Not Kansas,” an initiative to provide information about school choice. … On September 30, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita on “An update from Washington.”

All Kansans voted for “Cut, Cap, and Balance.” From Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: “Americans for Prosperity Kansas applauds Representatives Lynn Jenkins, Tim Huelskamp, Kevin Yoder, and Mike Pompeo for standing up to solve America’s debt crisis by voting ‘Yes’ on H.R. 2560, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. The Cut, Cap, Balance Act directly addresses the nation’s staggering $14.3 trillion debt by immediately cutting spending, capping the federal budget and sending a strong balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification. … ‘Runaway spending has buried the United States Government in debt, causing us to hit our statutory ceiling at $14.3 trillion,’ said James Valvo, Americans for Prosperity Director of Government Affairs. ‘It is time for Washington to rein it its out-of-control spending and implement real spending reforms. The Cut, Cap, Balance Act provides necessary fiscal restraint that would get America back on the path to prosperity.’ … ‘Families and businesses alike in Kansas are tightening their belts and making tough choices to make ends meet, while Washington has continued to spend with no end in sight as if there are no limits,’ said Derrick Sontag, Americans For Prosperity Kansas State Director. ‘I thank the Kansas Representatives for safeguarding the future of America and demanding Washington tighten its belt.’”

Foreclosed homes: the maps. We hear about the large number of foreclosed homes, but until you see them on a map, it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend the scope of the problem. For a tour of satellite photographs with indications of foreclosed homes, click on Satellite view of U.S. Foreclosures.

Kansas certificates of indebtedness. Kansas Watchdog: “Without the state’s most recent internal borrowing, a $600 million certificate of indebtedness (COI) issued June 30, the state general fund (SGF) would have been out of money on July 5, just five days into the new fiscal year, and wouldn’t have a positive balance again until June 21, 2012.” Reporter Paul Soutar goes on to explain how these certificates — a loan to the state to be repaid with funds collected later in the fiscal year — are commonly used year after year. But this is just the start of the state’s problems, writes Soutar: “That’s just the tip of an off-balance iceberg according to the Institute for Truth in Accounting, an advocate for more open and honest accounting for government finance. If all financial obligations, including promised pension payments and health care benefits for retirees, are added up the Kansas state budget was actually $5.2 billion out of balance by FY2011 according to Truth in Accounting.” State accounting practices mask the true magnitude of the problem, too: “Accountants familiar with government and private accounting standards told KansasWatchdog the practice is called double counting and would not be allowed in a private business because it represents a fraud intended to deceive whoever reads the financial report. The double counting approved by the Legislature and Sebelius in 2003 continues in Kansas.” … The full article, well worth reading and understanding, is Certificates of Indebtedness Symptom of Bad Budget Choices.

Why more regulation is not the answer. Brad Raple of the adverse possessor explains: “Many people associate pure free-market capitalism with a complete lack of regulation. This is not the case. Regulation is the primary reason free-market capitalism works so well. But in a capitalist system, the regulations are market-based instead of based on politically motivated bureaucrats telling people what they can and can’t do. … Bailouts, government guarantees, subsidies, and all other methods of socializing private risk undermine the regulation imposed by free-market forces. … The FDIC is even a huge example of moral hazard. For example, people pay practically no attention to the financial condition or solvency of their banks. After all, why would they? They’re FDIC insured! In other words, no one cares if their deposits are in a bank that is over-leveraged because if it fails, the FDIC will bail out the depositors. Without the FDIC, people might pay a little more attention to the financial condition of their banks. Banks would probably compete based on financial security, as opposed to free toasters, interest rates, and how quickly they can rubber stamp a home equity loan to finance a boat.” … More at Why more regulation is not the answer.

Myths of the Great Depression. “Historian Stephen Davies names three persistent myths about the Great Depression. Myth #1: Herbert Hoover was a laissez-faire president, and it was his lack of action that lead to an economic collapse. Davies argues that in fact, Hoover was a very interventionist president, and it was his intervening in the economy that made matters worse. Myth #2: The New Deal ended the Great Depression. Davies argues that the New Deal actually made matters worse. In other countries, the Great Depression ended much sooner and more quickly than it did in the United States. Myth #3: World War II ended the Great Depression. Davies explains that military production is not real wealth; wars destroy wealth, they do not create wealth. In fact, examination of the historical data reveals that the U.S. economy did not really start to recover until after WWII was over.” This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Pompeo: No debt ceiling hike without structural changes

In a press conference held yesterday, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican, said the country can’t risk continuing to spend at the present rate. There should be no agreement to raise the debt ceiling absent structural changes, he added.

He called for “real short term savings” in 2012 and spending limitations. He also said he supported an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.

On federal spending, Pompeo said “I’ve been here six months now. If there’s one thing that’s become very clear, this town is a place that is addicted to spending.” He described the direction of spending as a “one-way ratchet,” saying the trend has accelerated in the last 24 months. The federal government should do what every state must do, which is to live on a balanced budget. The balanced budget amendment, Pompeo said, would require this.

He criticized President Barack Obama for his “class warfare argument” against the corporate jet industry. Pompeo said the airplanes built in Wichita are business tools used by businesses all over the world. Two-thirds are sold outside of North America, he added.

Pompeo characterized the president’s criticisms as a political statement. The tax provisions Obama criticizes have a cost of two to three billion dollars over ten years. Pompeo compared this to the current deficit for this year and for future years according to the president’s budget, which he said is $1.5 trillion each year.

Pompeo said he sent the president a letter (text of the letter is here) inviting him to Kansas to see our aircraft manufacturing industry, noting that many of the workers are union workers. He added that if the president continues to talk down the industry, “making it politically incorrect to fly in a Kansas-built airplane, we’ll sell fewer all over the world, and we’ll build fewer in America.”

On the possibility of Social Security checks not being sent if the debt ceiling is not raised, Pompeo said that there is money to pay the benefits, and the president has authority to pay. Obama is trying to scare seniors and Americans as a tactic to get the debt ceiling raised, he said.

On the failure of H.R. 2417: Better Use of Light Bulbs Act to pass, Pompeo said he hopes this measure will come back in a form that requires only a simple majority to pass. This bill, which would overturn legislation that essentially outlaws ordinary incandescent light bulbs, was brought to the floor under suspension of the rules, and therefore required a two-thirds majority to pass. The bill received a simple majority, but failed to reach the two-thirds level.