Archives: 06/2012

Republicans Join Democrats to Save Corporate Welfare (Again)

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced three amendments to the recently passed Energy & Water appropriations bill that would have eliminated a slew of business subsidies at the Department of Energy. Unfortunately, House Republicans once again teamed up with their Democratic colleagues to keep the corporate welfare spigot flowing.

From The Hill:

The largest spending cut proposal came from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), which would have eliminated the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account at the Department of Energy and used the $1.45 billion in savings toward deficit reduction. Like other Republicans, McClintock argued that this account needlessly spends money on questionable private investments that have not led to any measurable returns. But the House rejected McClintock’s amendment in a 113-275 vote, in which 113 Republicans voted for it but 107 Republicans joined every Democrat in opposition.

From a second article from The Hill:

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) proposed ending all nuclear energy research subsidies to private companies, which would have saved $514 million and used that money to lower the deficit. But the House rejected that amendment in a 106-281 vote that divided Republicans 91-134. McClintock also proposed language cutting fossil energy research subsidies, which would have saved $554 million. But the House killed that amendment 138-249, as Republicans split again 102-123.

A few comments:

First, Democrats voted overwhelmingly to continue to subsidize commercial interests. And here I thought Democrats were concerned about the have and have-nots.

Second, Rep. McClintock deserves a round of applause for his efforts. These votes speak volumes about a member’s beliefs about the proper role of the federal government. A lot of members—especially Republicans—talk a good game when it comes to spending, limited government, free markets, etc. However, when the time comes to put their money where their mouths are, many choose to instead put other people’s money in the mouths of special interests.

For those taxpayers who are interested in seeing how their member voted, the following are the roll call tallies for McClintock’s amendments:

[See here for more on why energy subsidies should be eliminated.]

Update: Steve Ellis from Taxpayers for Common Sense alerted me to an amendment introduced by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and McClintock that would have shut down the Department of Energy’s Title 17 loan guarantee program. That’s the program that gave us Solyndra. The amendment failed 136-282 with 127 Republicans joining 155 Democrats to defeat the amendment. That the Republican-led House couldn’t get rid of the program that begot Solyndra is about as low as it gets.

Homeless to Harvard

When high school student Dawn Loggins was abandoned by her parents, the people in her North Carolina community moved in to take care of her.  They didn’t want her to be turned over to the state child welfare agencies.  For her part, Dawn performed janitorial work before and after school, while getting top grades.  She is now on her way to study at Harvard.  CNN has the story.   It’s a remarkable example of what Charles Murray calls the “tendrils of community.”


Obamacare’s Unconstitutional—-Let’s Implement! No Wait, We’re Not Implementing—-Yes We Are!

The Washington Post reports:

For 14 months, a bipartisan group of 17 states has been quietly collaborating with the Obama administration to help build a foundation for the health-care reform law’s success.

The group includes some of the law’s staunchest supporters working alongside a handful of its bigger detractors. They are backed by $3 million in funding from eight nonprofit organizations that hope to see the Affordable Care Act succeed.

Together, they have come up with a tool to help consumers navigate the health insurance exchanges—the marketplaces that each state is required to have by 2014.

In other words, at the same time Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas are suing to overturn Obamacare as unconstitutional, officials in those states are helping to implement the same unconstitutional law.

The Post reports, without rebuttal, several myths about the states’ role under Obamacare. It refers three times to the “tight deadlines” states face under the law. (There are no deadlines. HHS has said that if states decline to create exchanges, they can change their minds later.) It claims, “If a state does not have a framework in place by 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services will come in and do the job itself.” (That’s highly questionable. Obamacare appropriates zero funds for federal exchanges and HHS has admitted it doesn’t have the money.) It quotes Kansas insurance regulator Linda Shepphard as saying, “There is no work being done to build an exchange in Kansas at this point.” (Well, which is it? Is Kansas doing “no work,” or is it “collaborating with the Obama administration”?) I’d say certain state officials got some ‘splaining to do.

In the video below the jump, I explain to state officials why flatly refusing to create an Obamacare exchange is the best thing they can do for their states.

Don’t Pop That Champagne Yet

 With its 40th birthday coming on June 23rd, we’ll likely be hearing more and more plaudits for Title IX, the federal law banning gender discrimination in federally funded education activities. But it is hardly clear that the law was either necessary, or beneficial.

It’s certainly not an open-and-shut case, for instance, that Title IX broke open lots of opportunities in higher education that wouldn’t otherwise have existed – yet been in demand – for women. A quick look at women’s percentage of total college enrollment shows that females were gaining classroom seats at a big clip well before 1972. According to federal data, between 1947 and 1972 women’s share of total enrollment was growing at a pace of 0.56 percentage points per year, rising from 29.0 percent to 43.1 percent. From 1972 until 2010, in contrast, the growth was only 0.37 percentage points per year, hitting 57.0 percent in 2010.

Those figures don’t prove, of course, that there was and is no discrimination against women in higher education. They do, however, show that women were moving headlong into college well before Title IX, and today are so much larger a percentage of total enrollees than men that most colleges would be in serious jeopardy were they to deny them things they want. It also suggests that cultural acceptance of women in college and other new roles was changing well before the law was passed, and cultural evolution has probably had a lot more to do with new opportunities opening for women than Title IX.

There are many other powerful arguments to be made against Title IX – the strange preoccupation with sports opens up a slew of them all by itself – but also potent points to be made in its favor. That’s why on June 20th Cato will be hosting a lively debate on the law with both pro- and anti-Title IX speakers. You can register to attend here, or follow the debate online.

It might be Title IX’s birthday, but one of its presents should not be an absence of tough, fair scrutiny.

C/P from the National Journal‘s “Education Experts” blog.

Fiddling at the Republican Duty-Suspensions-as-Earmarks Hoedown while Economic Growth Burns

I could be writing in this space about the merits of across-the-board, permanent elimination of U.S. tariffs as a catalyst for U.S. business investment, hiring, and economic growth.  However, I am forced to devote time and energy to argue that temporary import duty suspensions are not earmarks.

The same goes for our beloved legislators.  Because congressional Republicans are mired in a debate about whether temporary suspensions of import duties that benefit fewer than 10 entities are earmarks under House rules, there is no room for a substantive discussion about why we even have import duties in the first place.

Hey Capitol Hill: Duties, not duty suspensions, are the earmarks you should eradicate.


How Loser-Pays Helped Launch Abe Lincoln’s Political Career

Rockford, Ill. inventor John Manny and his partner Wait Talcott hired the future 16th President to help fend off a patent infringement suit filed by the celebrated Cyrus McCormick, who manufactured a competitive reaper. After venue in the case was moved from Illinois to Ohio Lincoln subsequently took little role, and the main defense at trial was handled by Edwin Stanton, later to serve in Lincoln’s Cabinet as Secretary of War. Even so, loser-pays proved a boon. Quoting Kyle Graham’s account:

Good news finally came in April [1857] when the Court dismissed the appeal by McCormick – who was ordered to pay Talcott’s $75,000 in legal fees. Lincoln received only a small fraction of that, but it was enough to give him the financial freedom that year to mount his historic campaign for US Senator against Stephen Douglas, his last stepping-stone to the Presidency.

The litigious McCormick, of course, was to go down in history as one of his century’s leading industrialists, while Manny (who died before the case was resolved) and Talcott are known today only to history buffs. Critics of loser-pays like to portray it as favoring moneyed interests against the unoffending little guy. But they should save their fire for the wider process of litigation itself, which does pose exactly that danger: giant market incumbents and cynical “patent trolls” alike regularly employ questionable patents to harass and extract money from competitors. Where courts are allowed to recognize it, a right to loser-pays tends to curb the abuse by providing some measure of justice, however belated, for litigants in Manny’s and Talcott’s position.

That’s aside from its attractions as a campaign finance technique.

Farm Subsidies and Reverse Robin Hood

Liberals love to complain about Republican support for supposedly ”reverse Robin Hood” fiscal policies. Here’s Alan Blinder and Rachel Maddow, for example, pointing the finger at Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, respectively.

However, I don’t see much liberal concern about big government spending programs that really do redistribute income upwards. What do Blinder and Maddow think about Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who are eager to extend billions of dollars worth of unaffordable payments to farm businesses and landowners? Robert Samuelson recently described these corporate welfare recipients as ”immensely profitable” because of high crop prices.

Tad DeHaven and I looked at data on farm household incomes for testimony to the House last week. Here is what we found:

Farm subsidies redistribute wealth from taxpayers to often well-off farm businesses and landowners. Farm income stabilization payments have recently fluctuated between about $13 billion and $33 billion annually.  This is a welfare hand-out like food stamps, yet it goes to higher-income households. In 2010, the average income of farm households was $84,400, or 25 percent above the $67,530 average of all U.S. households. Moreover, the great bulk of farm subsidies go to the largest farms.

I’m not in favor of Robin Hood or reverse Robin Hood programs, but it would be nice to see more liberals focusing on spending programs that are unfair to the nation’s taxpayers.