By Star Beacon•
To you and me, the meaning of the word “temporary” is generally clear. But not when the folks in Washington use the word.
Consider the “temporary” telephone tax Congress imposed to help fund the Spanish-American War. If you check your history books, you’ll see that the war lasted from April to August of 1893. The tax, on the other hand, survived into the second Bush Administration.
Another “temporary” law, one intended to speed the commercialization, expansion, and consumer adoption of new technology is set to expire at the end of 2019. The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) should be allowed to fade away, but political pressure being applied by the parties who benefit from it most may unhelpfully keep it alive.
No only have growth in the satellite television industry and advancements in technology made the continuation of STELAR unnecessary, it may never have been needed in the first. It was enacted just about 30 years ago to provide a significantly discounted compulsory copyright license to give satellite companies the right to import out-of-market network television signals into a local market. The alternative, forcing their retransmission to local broadcast stations over the air, was financial prohibitively and technologically challenging.
These rules were supposed to give satellite television a boost in their push to compete with the cable giants. It worked. Today, DirectTV is worth $235 billion, Dish is worth $17 billion, and both networks offer just about every programming option available.
Letting the STELAR Act expire wouldn’t be the end of the world. No one would have missed the final episode of “The Big Bang Theory” or the “Game of Thrones” finale.
What would go away are:
• The discounted compulsory copyright license for satellite retransmission of distant (or imported) broadcast signals to “unserved households.”
• A corresponding exemption from retransmission consent requirements for the carriage of these out-of-market network signals by satellite TV providers.
• The requirement broadcast TV stations and satellite and cable TV companies both negotiate carriage of local broadcast signals in good faith.
According to the broadcasters, the number of satellite television subscribers who’d be impacted if the law expires as intended is now down to just about half a million. And there’s every reason to believe consumers in those markets could find other ways to pick up network signals, either by taking them down over the air or as the beneficiaries of private arrangements between providers and broadcasters.
This corporate to corporate stuff shouldn’t have any impact on what almost every viewer in America can watch. In fact, without STELAR, it might give individual communities a lift since the incentive for satellite carries to offer network affiliates from outside the coverage area instead of local news goes away. The playing field, as it were, becomes level.
Mature, multibillion-dollar satellite companies don’t need crony capitalist legislation protecting their interests, especially when those interests include denying consumers local news, weather, sports, and emergency information. It’s time to let it go.
Under our current law, federal charges can be brought for arson when a person willfully and maliciously sets fire to a building, structure or vessel. Federal bank robbery charges must include evidence that a person, by force or intimidation, takes or attempts to take something of value belonging to a bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association. And if a new bipartisan bill from two senators were to be enacted, a prima facie case for “unfair or deceptive” conduct would require the government to show that a person…filed for a patent.
Yes, we’ve somehow reached the point where inventing something is only OK if you don’t plan to protect that invention with a patent. Maybe the next step will be to outlaw invention altogether, but I suppose we can be thankful we’re not there yet. For now, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have proposed a new law where if you have discovered a way to help some sick patients and then invest capital in new research that may have the effect of helping additional sick patients, you are presumed liable under the antitrust laws if that new investment leads to a patentable invention.
To ground us in reality — sometimes you have a medicine that helps a group of people get better. In those cases, it should not only be legal, it should be encouraged to pursue additional research to see if that medicine can be improved further, or help people fight other diseases.
After making such an investment, can you hope to argue your way out against the government antitrust enforcers? Good luck with that, since you are starting with presumed guilt. But perhaps it would be wiser, before you undertake resource-intensive research, to check in with the newly installed innovation czars at the Federal Trade Commission. In this way, the FTC will decide who lives and who dies. It’s a reincarnation of the Obamacare death panels, only with FTC bureaucrats instead of bureaucrats appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Companies would also be well advised to study what disease areas are most likely to elicit the sympathy or personal interest of FTC commissioners or their immediate family members and tailor their R&D budgets accordingly. If your research turns out to be insufficient to meet the FTC standards for a substantial benefit, you may not only have wasted your money, you may have committed an antitrust violation.
But what about the Constitution? Well you see, our nation’s founding fathers clearly were unaware of the all-knowing powers of the Federal Trade Commission when they specified a right to one’s own inventions (your Intellectual Property) as the only individual right described in the text of the Constitution. And the icing on this big-government cake is that the FTC can bring this new charge in their kangaroo court of FTC administrative litigation, where the FTC acts as prosecutor, judge and jury.
This bill claims to be about prescription affordability (it is titled the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act, or APP Act), but nothing in it makes prescriptions more affordable. The most likely direct effect on pricing will be the cost of parking near the FTC, while diminishing the property rights of American innovators. Antitrust lawyers will certainly derive some benefit, but that could increase their hourly rates if demand for their services goes up. So maybe the APP acronym is really for the Antitrust Practitioners Paradise created by this legislation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want to cap consumer interest ratesin an effort to curb “sky high” credit card charges and other forms of predatory lending.
While that sounds nice in principle, in practice their plan would hurt some of the people it’s intended to help by killing off an industry that’s vital to struggling households: short-term, small-dollar lending.
The history of small-dollar loans and their regulation – which I explore in a recently published book – shows why Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez should rethink their proposal or risk emboldening the type of lending they hope to stamp out. In part this is because their plan relies on an oversimplified history of the rules that limit usury, or how much interest lenders can charge.
Laws against usury are an ancient idea. Religious texts such as the Bible and Quran prohibited all forms of usury, while the Romans barred charging compound interest.
And when the early American colonists began settling up and down the Eastern Seaboard, they brought with them England’s usury law. By the 1970s all but three states still had general usury laws on the book. Annual rate caps ranged from as little as 4% in North Dakota to as high as 30% in Rhode Island.
These caps became less effective in 1978 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws don’t apply to loans from out-of-state banks. This allowed credit card-issuing banks to avoid more stringent usury laws by locating in states with higher caps or none at all. Some states, such as South Dakota and Delaware, repealed their laws after the ruling to attract banks.
So while usury laws still generally restricted rates on some types of loans, the sky became the limit for bank-issued credit cards, with some charging subprime rates as high as 79.9% per year.
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez would like to return to the world as it existed before what they call that “disastrous” Supreme Court ruling. Their Loan Shark Prevention Act would impose a 15% annual interest rate cap on all consumer loans while allowing states to set even lower rates.
But their understanding of history isn’t quite right. That’s because starting in the early 20th century, states began making exceptions to their usury laws to allow for small loans.
In the early 20th century, state usury laws applied to almost all types of loans. As a result, small-dollar lending was effectively outlawed nearly everywhere because lenders could not operate profitably at the legal rates of charge.
Usury laws fixed maximum charges as a percentage of the amount borrowed on an annual basis, which yielded a tiny dollar fee for small, short-term loans. For example, in a state with a 6% cap, a lender offering a US$200 three-month loan would be able to charge only $3 in total interest – the monthly rate would be just 0.5%. At such low rates, small-sum lenders could not cover the costs of running their business.
But working-class households still needed access to credit so strict usury laws didn’t diminish the demand for these loans. Rate caps simply discouraged legitimate enterprises from entering the marketplace. That left borrowers to deal with loan sharks willing to break the law.
The philanthropic Russell Sage Foundation, which studied the problem in the 1910s, urged states to exempt licensed small-sum lenders from their general usury laws. The foundation drafted a model law, which became known as the Uniform Small Loan Law, that allowed these lenders to charge up to 3% per month, or 36% on an annualized basis, on cash loans of a few hundred dollars.
Today, all 50 states continue to allow small-sum lenders to charge more than 15% per year.
Just days after President Trump called out House Republicans for supporting legislation promoted by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Democrat leaders are scrambling to determine whether they can ram the bill or one of similar profile through the House this week.
Warren has been promoting legislation that would grant a Massachusetts-based Indian-tribe, called the Mashpee Wampanoags, recognition of land over 40 miles away from its tribal headquarters to build a $1 billion casino.
The political show heated up on May 8, when the president tweeted, “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” This denouncement caused Democrats, who recognized that the bill would now never receive two-thirds majority approval as required, to scramble and pull the scheduled vote from the House floor.
Nevertheless, bad ideas never seem to die in Washington, and the special interests seldom give up. This case is no exception, and with the news of Trump’s twitter opposition fading, members of the Massachusetts delegation are now back at work pushing H.R. 312, as well as H.R. 375 – a bill that makes H.R. 312 look like the epitome of ethical D.C. governance by comparison. As such, allow me to take a step back and walk you through the current state-of-play.
Aside from the fact that the Massachusetts senator pushing this bill is the same one that once said, “gambling can be a real problem economically for a lot of people,” there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the intentions of those pushing the legislation.
The first among them is that both the Supreme Court and Department of Interior agree “the Tribe does not satisfy the ‘under Federal jurisdiction’ requirement of the…definition of ‘Indian’,” which it would need to receive any handouts of land from the federal government.
In accordance with the Indian Reservation Act, that would require the tribe to have received recognition from the federal government before 1935. Michael Graham at The Boston Herald noted that not only did they miss this deadline but, “The Mashpees weren’t federally recognized until 2007. And that only happened because of the money they poured on notoriously corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”
In addition to H.R. 312, which would specifically grant the well-heeled Massachusetts tribe a casino away from their reservation, another bill being pushed in the House, H.R. 375 would not only grease through the casino long sought after by Warren and the Mashpees; it would also allow for the same to occur for every tribe in the country – creating an endless cycle of lobbying victories in place of Supreme Court precedent, the rule of law, and states’ rights.
Should H.R. 375 pass, all that the roughly 600 recognized tribes in the country would have to do to strong-arm the federal government into recognizing their land is demonstrate that their tribe has received acknowledgement from the Department of Interior. And as we’ve seen from the Mashpee’s lobbying efforts, often all that will require is having enough lobbying connections and sums of cash to influence the right bureaucrats and representatives with key committee assignments.
The Native Americans that have sharply called out the Mashpee’s land claims would ostensibly agree that by advancing the interests of crony capitalists, this bill is a raw deal for the Native American people. Should the legislation go into effect, the rich and powerful will succeed at the expense of everyone else, and that’s simply not fair.
Republicans should not be fooled. Elizabeth Warren is just trying to provide crony favors for groups with strategic political value to her and Republicans should reject both bills outright.
(George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.)
Puzzled by the glaring differences between the well organized and prosperous neighboring new republic, the United States of America, and the chaos as well as the impoverishment of the just emerging states of Central and South America, Simon Bolivar remarked in his “Letter to a gentleman showing great interest in South America’s republican cause”, in 1815:
“As long as our compatriots do not acquire the talents and political virtues that have characterized our northern brothers, I greatly fear that our completely traditionalist systems, far from being favorable for us, will be our demise. Unfortunately, the requisite level of these characteristics seems to be far from us; and, to the contrary, we are dominated by the vices acquired under the direction of a nation like Spain, which has excelled only in cruelty, ambition, revenge and greed.”
In addition to being prophetic, Simon Bolivar’s words still point to the enduring political tragedy of Spanish- Hispanic America, namely that history have not just repeated itself in regular intervals throughout the 19th, the 20th, and in the first nineteen years of the 21st centuries across Central and South America, but that it has run in ruthless as well as inhuman circles around their curious colonial heritage.
Simon Bolivar was one of those personalities who played a crucial role in initiating and then leading the independence movements across the southern part of the American continent. Yet, in the independence struggles of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, Bolivar’s vision of a multitude of independent republics unified under a pan-American umbrella with a single strong ruler ultimately failed to materialize. Born into the Caracas aristocracy, who lived and studied for an extended period of time in Europe, he embraced the philosophy of the French Enlightenment, especially the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Accordingly, Simon Bolivar subscribed to the idea of “general will”, and to the principle of the rule of the majority.
When he was elected the President of Venezuela on December 6, 1998, the late Hugo Chavez Frias turned Simon Bolivar’s vision to its head and established under the deceptive idea of “Bolivarian Revolution” an authoritarian form of government with a populist overtone. Moreover, influenced by Fidel Castro’s distributive socialism, he focused on using Venezuela’s considerable oil resources to buy up the good will of the poor. Finally, to oppress the upper and middle classes, Chavez integrated the military and the intelligence services into his authoritarian domestic rule.
Under the strange slogan of “Motherland, Socialism, or Death”, which he changed before his death to an even more macabre one “Motherland and Socialism. We will live, and we will come out victorious”, Chavez succeeded to transform Venezuela from a rich nation to a dirt poor country. In addition to running Venezuela to the ground, Chavez’s autocracy produced a Stalinist constitution, a subservient legislature, a supreme court completely beholden to his command, and a laughable electoral law. All this was neatly subsumed into the Marxist myth of class struggle. Everything that happened before Hugo Chavez, such as slavery, feudalism, colonialism, and capitalism, were necessary evils on the prescribed Marxist road to socialism, where the truly egalitarian society will be erected without poverty and backwardness. The blood sucking bourgeoisie and their equally despicable imperialist masters will be left on the ash heap of history. Naturally, these ideas of historical materialism called for a singular foreign policy direction, namely an unequivocal anti-USA strategy.
Allow me to begin this article with a rather extensive personal note from my earliest professional life. I was born and initially educated in what commonly, yet imprecisely, used the be called Communist Hungary. Highly unprecedentedly, I never joined the Alliance of Young Communists (Hungarian acronyms: KISZ). As a matter of fact, one of the reasons that I defected was that individuals in high government positions wanted to recruit me into the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (Hungarian acronyms: MSZMP). Upon finishing my studies at the Faculty of Political and Legal Sciences of the Eotvos Lorand Scientific University I was assigned to the Chief Prosecutorial branch of the Hungarian government. To protest would have been futile, since under the dictatorship most persons did not have the luxury to freely choose their employment. Thus, first I became an assistant prosecutor. After eighteen months, I took successfully the Hungarian bar exam and was sworn in as a prosecutor. After eight months on the job in the capital city of Budapest, I defected with my wife and three year old son to the Federal Republic of Germany. Setting aside my political views which were totally detrimental to the prevailing political direction in Hungary, I can state unequivocally that I was never instructed by my superiors to single out innocent individuals for persecution or prosecution in the absence of a well-founded suspicion that a criminal act was committed. Even more unequivocally, I was never instructed to create a crime where there was none.
Now, this introduction leads me naturally to the infamous Mueller investigation of the so-called “Russia Collusion.” Born out of the pathological hatred of the defeated Democrat Party and the Republican Party establishment of President Donald J. Trump, fueled by the misplaced conviction of their sickly entitlement, and driven by the insatiable and arrogant appetite for absolute power, they collectively decided that the voters are not mature enough to know what is the best political future for them. Illegally utilizing the anti-Trump sentiments of then President Barack Hussein Obama’s Department of Justice, the FBI leadership, and the highly politicized intelligence agencies, they put in motion a process which was designed to cause the paralysis of the federal government and the eventual overthrow of the duly elected President. The Mueller investigation is the bastard child of this criminally treasonous attempt to destroy the constitutional order of the United States of America by useless idiots masquerading as patriotic and politically impartial bureaucrats.
Washington D.C. – Frontiers of Freedom President expressed alarm about the U.S. Postal Service’s latest quarterly loss of $1.5 billion to start the 2019 fiscal year. The latest losses underscore the USPS’ failure to fulfill proper cost controls, accuracy in pricing, and neglect in meeting its long-term obligations to the federal government and the agency’s thousands of employees.
On the USPS financials, George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom, stated:
“The latest massive loss detailed by the Postal Service demonstrates that there is still much work left to be done to meaningfully change the USPS business model. In 2018, the Administration had success in helping the USPS to better crack down on drug transports through the mail, and to ensure better deals for American businesses on international shipments.”
Landrith continued, observing that, “the Postal Service wants to be treated like a private business, but nearly every “business decision” has made its finances and service quality increasingly worse. Fortunately, the Administration’s Postal Task Force report provides a promising roadmap for reform with an emphasis on critical structural separation changes. In truth, there needs to be clear distinctions between USPS’ monopoly service and its underpriced competitive services, like subsidized parcel shipments.”
Landrith concluded: “Analyzing the viability of all USPS services based on proper cost and revenue analyses will be an essential step for Postal leaders. The understaffed oversight bodies must be outfitted with financially astute professionals who are commitment to transparency and accountable practices. Installing experienced regulators and leaders must be a priority to get the Postal Service on a sustainable path.”
The USPS Board of Governors is currently seven members short of its full complement. Nominees announced by the President last month have yet to be confirmed: Ron A. Bloom, Robert M. Duncan, Roman Martinez IV, and Calvin R. Tucker. The Postal Regulatory Commission, which recently added Michael Kubayanda, will soon be two members short as the terms for Nanci Langley and Tony Hammond are expiring this year.
By George Landrith • Houston Chronicle
The Trump administration is working to slow down the implementation of a major international environmental regulation that’s set to take effect in 2020. The administration hopes that the effort will ease the compliance burden on businesses by phasing in the rules gradually, rather than all at once.
Counterintuitively, phasing in the regulation could raise costs on American consumers, rather than reduce costs as the administration intends. It’s smarter to let the rules go into effect as scheduled.
The regulation was issued years ago by the International Maritime Organization, which regulates global shipping. The rules will require ships to use fuel containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur — a compound which causes acid rain and exacerbates people’s breathing problems. That’s a steep drop from the current global limit of 3.5 percent sulfur. Continue reading
“There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin!”
That was June 1963 in West Berlin where President John F. Kennedy gave one of his most memorable addresses. The speech was a stirring defense of liberty and a pointed critique of communism.
Whether you agree with Kennedy broadly or narrowly, I’ve rediscovered that speech and find it to relate now more than ever to the unfolding drama in the country of my birth, Venezuela. My family and I left Venezuela when I was 10. We had every intention of returning. Then Hugo Chavez took power, promising to usher in shared prosperity for all with his “21st century socialism.” We never went back. Continue reading
In Treasury Secretary Mnunchin’s report released today, the U.S. Postal Service’s future as a sustainable organization was appropriately and undeniably called into question. The Trump Administration has worked diligently this year to fashion positive USPS management changes and this report follows the President’s move to commission a Task Force review in April.
“The Task Force’s findings detail inexplicable financial malpractice on the part of the U.S. Postal Service,” said George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom. “Clearly there are many new directives that the USPS must advance to create meaningful change for the sake of American taxpayers, consumers, and postal workers. For years, the Postal Service has asked to be treated like a private business, however, every action it takes has resulted in greater losses and worse service overall.”
“For an agency of the Federal Government, full accounting transparency of the costs and revenues of each individual product is essential. Members of Congress and USPS regulators and its board of governors must have the ability scrutinize services, like parcels and others, where the agency is unable to cover the costs of delivery.”
As a limited government advocate focused on constitutional principles, Frontiers of Freedom believes that the preservation of affordable and timely mail delivery is essential. Furthermore in 2019, the Postal Service must be subject to reforms to ensure its solvency and decrease the risk of a potentially massive taxpayer bailout.
President Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the 144-year-old postal treaty through the Universal Postal Union that has preserved international shipping imbalances to greatly favor companies from foreign nations and undercut American businesses who deliver to consumers in the U.S.
Frontiers of Freedom lauded President Trump’s ongoing attention to this issue and the new strategy to get fair rates for American shippers. Frontiers of Freedom president George Landrith said:
“President Trump deserves huge recognition for the effort to achieve substantive changes to an ill-considered international postal pricing system. For far too long Americans have been forced to compete with sellers from abroad who have access to majorly reduced rates from the U.S. Postal Service. This new plan will be critical to help fix the USPS’ approach to facilitate the exchange of goods among individuals within the country, and stem the flow of counterfeit goods and other illicit substances that have permeated the mail system and endangered our communities.
“Under the treaty that Trump plans to withdraw from, Chinese firms could ship things like computer cables to consumers in the United States for about one dollar for shipping. That same package to be mailed from an American small business on Main Street to a home just 30 minutes away, would cost $8 to $15. That makes no sense. There is no way it only costs a dollar to send a box from China to a consumer anywhere in America. And yet, it helps China businesses undermine and undercut American businesses. Chinese businesses should pay the reasonable price of their shipping. It is not right that the American taxpayer and postal rate payers have been forced to subsidize them. Donald Trump got this 100% right!”
As a result of terminal dues rates set by the UPU, domestic businesses often face much higher rates for sending items within the country than what shippers from countries like China pay to deliver to destinations in the United States. Furthermore, current terminal dues rates have produced in a loss of $410 million for the Postal Service since 2015.
The U.S. State Department will now inform the UPU of U.S. intention to withdraw and adopt self-declared rates for terminal dues as soon as practical, and no later than January 1, 2020.
If the 1986 Challenger disaster taught us anything it was – “Don’t put all your Space Launch eggs in one basket.” After that accident and the other ones that grounded all of America’s older space launch vehicles for about two years, NASA and the Air Force decided to build two sets of rockets under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.
The EELV program has been a success. Both Atlas V and the various Delta rockets, especially Delta Heavy, have been putting America’s important science and military payloads into space for roughly a quarter of a century. Continue reading
Liberal activists are once again contradicting themselves on environmental policy but for once, it has nothing to do with climate change.
Instead it involves the cleanup of a Superfund site known as the West Lake Landfill. An old quarry outside of St. Louis that for several decades acted as a landfill, it was contaminated with radioactive material in the 1970s when a contractor illegally dumped left over Manhattan project waste. Subsequently named a Superfund site in 1990, federal bureaucrats have been struggling ever since to come up with a plan to clean it up. Continue reading
By Terry Jones • Investor’s Business Daily
Cutting Rules: Baseball season is winding down and, as it does, so is another grueling annual event: The U.S. government’s fiscal year. But this year, with just two months to go, something remarkable is happening: Regulations are being slashed at a record rate.
A new report by the American Action Forum (AAF) says that not only is President Trump meeting his deregulation goals, he’s exceeding them — in some cases, by a large amount.
“Collectively, executive agencies subject to regulatory budget remain on pace to double the administration’s overall saving goal,” wrote the AAF’s Dan Bosch. “On an individual basis, 12 of 22 agencies have already met or surpassed their savings target.”
“The Department of Labor enjoys the largest total savings of covered agencies with $417.2 million,” Bosch wrote. “The Department of Health and Human Services comes in second in savings … at Continue reading