Regulations 'will help projects get built faster,' says head of environmental agency that can't finish its own projects on time
The White House on Tuesday restored environmental regulations on infrastructure construction that the Trump administration struck down in the name of cutting bureaucratic red tape. The Biden administration said reimposing the stringent review process will speed up the construction of infrastructure projects.
The rule change will require federal agencies to assess the “direct,” “indirect,” and “cumulative” climate and environmental effects of infrastructure projects before approving the projects. Former president Donald Trump in 2020 made certain projects, such as pipelines and highways, exempt from those regulations in an effort to clear up “mountains and mountains of bureaucratic red tape in Washington, D.C.”
Chairwoman Brenda Mallory of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, which issued the rule change, said in a statement that the restoration of red tape will actually expedite the construction of infrastructure.
“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” Mallory said. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”
When the White House last year proposed reimposing the regulations, though, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed it, saying the rule change would bog down infrastructure projects.
“By rolling back some of the most important updates to our antiquated permitting process, the Biden administration’s new proposed [National Environmental Policy Act] rule will only serve to slow down building the infrastructure of the future,” Chad Whiteman, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for environment and regulatory affairs, said in October. “Important projects … are languishing due to continued delays and that must change.”
On Monday, the day before the Council on Environmental Quality argued its policy changes would speed up the construction of federal projects, Politico subsidiary E&E News revealed that the agency has failed to complete its own projects on time. The agency was tasked with achieving a number of the Biden administration’s climate priorities, including tracking the White House’s “climate-related investments to disadvantaged communities” with a scorecard.
The Council on Environmental Quality “has already fallen behind on multiple key goals, including the scorecard, which was supposed to be released two months ago, and the climate and economic screening tool, which was released in February in draft form after a six-month delay,” E&E News reported.
One of the keys to America’s growth from 1776 to becoming the world’s strongest, most robust and innovative economy within a little more than 100 years is that our Constitution placed importance on both traditional land property rights and intellectual property rights.
Early in America’s history, land-oriented property rights caused our vast nation to be developed productively and efficiently. That fueled economic growth and helped “ordinary” Americas provide for themselves and accumulate some measure of wealth.
But as ideas, inventions and innovation became the primary engine to drive the economy, our nation’s focus on protecting intellectual property helped “ordinary” Americans not only provide for themselves, but also created a vibrant economy where “ordinary” Americans could aspire to and achieve the American dream.
Our Nation’s Founders were wise to include protecting intellectual property rights as one of Congress’ enumerated powers. And the First Congress was wise to create a system for copyright, patents, and the protection of intellectual property rights. That laid the groundwork for America to become the world’s greatest economic power.
The United States has been a leader in innovation since the early 19th century. This is because as a nation, we have respected intellectual property rights and thus incentivized and encouraged innovation. When there is economic and regulatory freedom and when property rights are respected, private enterprise will invest billions of dollars to innovate and create new technologies to solve real-world problems and provide valuable goods and services to the public.
But even something clearly good, useful, and productive can be misused and distorted and become a negative. Such is the case in the intellectual property rights arena. For example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — combined with judicial activism — has created an untenable situation where design patents have morphed into a situation that does more to prevent innovation and stop competition than to protect or encourage real innovation.
Design patents have historically covered the design of an entire patented product. But now, unelected bureaucrats and some unelected judges have changed the concept of a design patent to mean that individualized parts of the larger patented product are also covered. One area where this causes consumers real problems and imposes real costs is with automobiles.
The morphing of the actual meaning of a design patent has allowed automobile design patents to mean that even parts like headlights, taillights, fenders and bumpers are covered by the patent. This means that consumers cannot buy alternative or competing parts. That means repairs cost more and consumers have fewer choices.
This problem was highlighted by the Consumer Federation of America’s Jack Gillis who testified before Congress:
“[C]ar companies are now using design patents, not for the important and legitimate protection of the overall design of their vehicles, but to prevent competition when it comes to getting the parts we need to repair our vehicles.”
Our patent system has traditionally served America well. In fact, it has served the entire world well. It fueled tremendous innovation and creativity and it provided tremendous competition which provided Americans with jobs, economic security, helpful products and medicines.
But the world has also benefited. The medical cures that were innovated in America under our system of intellectual property rights now cure diseases all over the globe.
But when unelected bureaucrats distort the law and the system and unelected judges stop adjudicating the law, but instead undertake to rewrite it, America’s system of constitutional government is subverted. Congress has the sole power to create our patent laws.
The Patent and Trademark Office has the power to implement those laws, but not to rewrite them. And judges have the power to apply the law and facts to disputes and to adjudicate them. But judges do not have the power to rewrite laws and essentially act as a super-Congress.
When the Patent and Trademark Office and judges act outside their authority, it is the American consumer who suffers. But those who have the resources to lobby bureaucrats and to fund endless litigation stand to benefit when our laws are bent and morphed to benefit them.
If your car needs a repair or if the hard drive on your computer needs to be replaced, the question is: Should the government be working to make it so that you cannot get the part you need except from one source? Being forced into one option means that option will be more costly and over time the quality will decline.
Competition forces all competitors to offer as much as they reasonably can for the best possible price. A lack of competition means that a single-source provider can provide whatever quality it likes and charge whatever it can get away with.
Unless Congress does something to stop the abuse of design patents and prevent partial-product or fragmented design patents from essentially eliminating aftermarket parts, consumers will face a shrinking set of options and costs will rise and even insurance premiums will rise. Congress needs to exercise its constitutional power to fix our patent laws.
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, June 10 — The 60 Plus Association issued the following letter:
To: President Donald J. Trump, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500; The Honorable Alex M. Azar, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20201; Vice President Michael R. Pence, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500; The Honorable Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244; Brooke Rollins, Assistant to the President, Director, Domestic Policy Council, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20500
President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Azar, Administrator Verma, Mrs. Rollins:
On behalf of millions of taxpayers and consumers across the United States, the Coalition Against Rate-Setting (CARS) urges you to oppose price controls on the healthcare system. For the past year, some members of Congress and some individuals in the Trump administration have repeatedly floated the idea of “fixing” the pressing problem of surprise medical billing through a “rate-setting” system. These fatally flawed proposals would have Washington, D.C.bureaucrats dictating to doctors the prices they should charge patients. Recently, Politico reported that the administration is considering a plan that would, “outlaw health care providers from putting patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses — but without mandating how doctors and hospitals would recover their costs from insurers.”
While such reporting gives cause for cautious optimism, we recognize that much remains to be negotiated. As such, the Coalition would like to reiterate that any mandates or price controls would make surprise billing problems worse and disrupt care for millions of patients across the country. These effects would be particularly devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim far too many lives. We therefore urge you to reject rate-setting and embrace market-oriented solutions to solve the pressing problem of surprise medical billing.
During the worst public health emergency in our lifetimes, millions of patients across the country have found themselves in emergency rooms and healthcare clinics. Many of them reasonably assumed their troubles would be over after being discharged, only to receive a surprise medical bill in the mail days or even weeks after being discharged.
Each year, 1 in 7 patients in the U.S. receive these unwanted, unexpected expenses after being sent home by their doctors. This devastating problem stems from increasingly narrow health insurance networks which increasingly refuse to compensate attending doctors at in-network medical facilities. Far-reaching pieces of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare; signed into law in 2010) have simply made the problem worse, and now, an estimated three-quarters of Obamacare plans feature narrow insurance networks.
Yet, despite federal interventions and regulations making the problem worse, some government officials want to double-down on bureaucratic control over the healthcare system. Members of Congress such as Sen. Lamar Alexander(R-Tenn.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) have proposed rate-setting for doctors and repeatedly tried to insert this “fix” in Coronavirus-related relief legislation. Officials in the Trump administration have worked hard to get a thorough understanding of this issue and deliberate on their own plan to end unwanted medical expenses. But rate-setting would only make the problem worse, and lead to the widespread consolidation of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices across the country. California has already tried this failed approach, implementing healthcare price controls in 2017. According to a 2019 American Journal of Managed Care study examining the law, rate-setting has led to healthcare facilities closing their doors and merging with other, larger practices. Doctors are even contemplating leaving California altogether.
On January 22, 14 advocacy groups and think-tanks formed CARS to warn lawmakers and the Trump administration about the myriad unintended consequences of rate-setting. CARS is now 34 groups strong, and its work has been cited extensively by national and state media. On April 28, CARS released a letter signed by more than 160 economists urging officials to reject healthcare price-controls.
CARS urges you to take these scholars’ arguments into account, and remain vigilant against federal overreach in the healthcare system. Millions of doctors are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic treating patients, and now would be the worst possible time to impose onerous price controls on them. Thank you for your time and consideration of this pressing issue.
Tim Andrews, Executive Director Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Christopher Sheeron, President, Action For Health
Bob Carlstrom, President, AMAC Action
Brent Wm. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity
Norman Singleton, President, Campaign 4 Liberty
Ryan Ellis, President, Center for a Free Economy
Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity
Jeffrey L. Mazzella, President, Center for Individual Freedom
Thomas Schatz, President, Citizens Against Government Waste
Twila Brase, RN, PHN, President & Co-Founder Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom
Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association
Mario H. Lopez, President, Hispanic Leadership Fund
Andrew Langer, President, Institute For Liberty
Harry C. Alford, Co-Founder, President/CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce
Pete Sepp, President, National Taxpayers Union
Robert Fellner, Vice President & Policy Director, Nevada Policy Research Institute
Wayne Winegarden, Ph.D, Senior Fellow & Director, Center for Medical Economics and Innovation Pacific Research Institute
Joshua H. Crawford, Interim Executive Director, Pegasus Institute
Renee Amar, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, Pelican Institute for Public Policy
Paul Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation
Robert Alt, President & CEO, The Buckeye Institute
David McIntosh, President, The Club For Growth
James Taylor, President, The Heartland Institute
James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Jessica Anderson, President, Heritage Action For America
By Vicki Alger • The Federalist
A new report raises questions about how the U.S. Department of Education monitors the performance of its wide-ranging elementary and secondary education programs.
The department currently receives $38 billion for its major K-12 education programs. Yet the assessment says those programs are plagued by “complex and persistent” challenges, many of which have been identified previously, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the official “congressional watchdog” charged with ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.
Specifically, the GAO identified four key shortcomings in the department: oversight and monitoring, data quality, capacity, and evaluation methodologies. As the GAO makes clear, it is not the only oversight agency raising concerns about the department’s program management. What’s more, such problems have plagued our federal education departments since the first one took form back in 1867. Continue reading
In their constant search for shutdown-related disasters, the media are now fixated on airport screeners. The shutdown is wreaking havoc on airports, they say. Except that it isn’t. The shutdown does, however, present an opportunity to re-privatize the troublesome TSA.
News reports focus on the fact that TSA worker no-shows are up from a year ago. But the TSA’s own data show that wait times haven’t changed. Its latest report finds that “99.9% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes and 95.4% of passengers waited less than 15 minutes.”
That’s in line with normal operations. TSA reported in 2017, for example, that 99.9% of passengers waited less than 30 minutes during summer months. Continue reading
Twelve conservative leaders, including former Attorney General Ed Meese, CHQ Editor George Rasley, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Representative Bob McEwen and Tea Party Patriots Action Honorary Chairman Jenny Beth Martin are in favor of Congress passing the MERIT Act during the lame duck session.
The group, led by Americans for Limited Government, issued the following statement urging the GOP not to Drain the swampwaste their final weeks in the majority:
“The December spending bill is the last chance for the 115th Congress to do something to limit the size and scope of government. After disappointing decisions to significantly increase government spending levels over the past two years, it is imperative that Congress pass language which expedites the prompt and appropriate firing of federal employees who are either incompetent or don’t perform their assigned duties. Continue reading
By Inez Feltscher Stepman • The Federalist
Most Americans are still under the illusion that when they elect a president, he takes control over the executive branch and proceeds to implement his agenda by working with Congress. Sadly, “School House Rock” is out of date.
An enormous amount of policymaking these days goes through the administrative state – the alphabet soup of agencies that have been proliferating like weeds since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. The outsourcing of legislative and adjudicatory powers to agencies is bad enough, and cannot square with the separation of powers between legislation, judiciary, and executive that is delineated in the Constitution. To make matters worse, these agencies and the employees who staff them are also politically unaccountable to the elected representatives of the people, violating not just the wise guardrails of our Constitution, but also the very idea of self-government.
Today, it is nearly impossible to fire the 2.8 million federal bureaucrats who staff the executive agencies, from which they issue regulations and policy guidance that directly affect the lives of Americans every day. Continue reading
By Ned Ryun • The Federalist
If there is to be real change in our form of government, the Trump administration needs to avoid the fatal flaw of previous Republican administrations: choosing to play the game by the Left’s rules.
Nearly every Republican administration makes some changes, but mostly lightly exfoliates the elephant of the State. These are temporary gains at best, small pauses in the seemingly inevitable march of government dominance. Most Republicans don’t seem to understand what we are up against, that the game is rigged against smaller government.
We have to view our government through system dynamics, the study of understanding nonlinear behavior in complex systems. Such systems, like vast government bureaucracy, include loops that reinforce certain actions and results. These loops act similarly to compounding interest, starting slowly, over time accelerating, then finally exploding in size, all the while strengthening themselves. Continue reading
By Iain Murray • National Review Online
Anyone who studies the power bureaucrats have over ordinary Americans’ lives swiftly comes to the realization that the courts, which are meant to redress grievances, will be of little help. That’s because of a doctrine the Supreme Court adopted in the 1984 case Chevron USA Inc v. NRDC. The doctrine, known as Chevron Deference to those in the know, states that courts should usually defer to executive agencies when it comes to the interpretation of ambiguous statutes, of which there are many. A further doctrine, known as Auer after the case Auer v. Robbins, holds that courts should defer to agencies in how they interpret their own regulations.
The rationale behind these decisions is well explained by Harvard’s Adrian Vermeule in a law review article published today on the subject of deference and due process. He points to the argument that “on grounds of both expertise and accountability, agencies are better positioned than courts to interpret governing statutes.” He also points to a growing body of case law incorporating Chevron principles and to the “Court’s recent emphatic pronouncement that Chevron may actually grant agencies the power to determine the scope of their own jurisdiction.” Continue reading
Audit finds increasing problems with customer service and tax fraud
by Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
The IRS has answered only 15.6 percent of customer service calls during the 2016 tax-filing season so far, according to testimony from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
As of Feb. 27, 2016, there were 40.5 million attempted calls on toll-free assistance lines to contact the IRS. Agents answered only 6.3 million calls, or 15.6 percent of the total. After the call was routed to the call center, customers waited on the phone for 9.6 minutes before they were able to speak with an agent.
“For the IRS toll-free lines, there have been long customer wait times, resulting in abandoned calls, and customers redialing,” states the inspector general. “Despite other available options most taxpayers continue to use the telephone as the primary method to contact the IRS.” Continue reading
by Senator Mike Lee • Washington Examiner
This Thursday, after months of hard work, a bipartisan group of senators and I introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015.
Most people, including many conservatives, might think criminal justice reform is a progressive cause, not a conservative one.
But, like many pearls of conventional wisdom, this is simply untrue.
Just look at the history of criminal justice in the 20th century. The most successful reformers — whether they be academics or evangelists, policymakers or community leaders — have advocated for conservative goals: law and order built on tight-knit communities, a vibrant civil society, strong, intact families and personal responsibility. Continue reading
by Carly Fiorina • USAToday
Last week, we learned that that 1 in 15 Americans was personally affected by the federal Office of Personnel Management’s egregious failure to protect our most personal information. It is now clear that their security breach compromised the personal information of every U.S. citizen who has undergone a government background check in the last 15 years. That is nearly 22 million people — more than the population of the state of New York and nearly 7% of the entire U.S. population.
Social Security numbers, health information, fingerprint records and information about family or foreign contacts were compromised. This breach violated not only our right to privacy – but also the very safety and security of our nation. Continue reading
by Sabrina L. Schaeffer • Forbes
It finally arrived – the letter from my health insurance company announcing that my family will be moved to a new plan beginning January 1, that “meets all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act” . . . for a mere $500 more a month.
I knew this was coming. Golden Rule has been sending me “warning” letters for months now. But really I’ve known this was coming for much longer – ever since Congress created the government-run, one-size-fits-all system known as ObamaCare. And I’ve watched as millions of others – like those on MyCancellation.com – have gone through the same ordeal of losing plans they liked and could afford. Continue reading
by Michael Barone • Washington Examiner
Earlier this week, I was thinking of writing a column about the lying and duplicity of Obamacare backers who argued that the difference between provisions providing subsidies in states with state-run health exchanges and providing no subsidies in states with federal exchanges resulted from inadvertence or a typographical error.
Typical among them was MIT health care expert Jonathan Gruber. The folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute found video of him in 2012 arguing that all or most states would create their own exchanges because they wouldn’t get subsidies if they let the federal government run their exchanges. That was just a “speako” (the oral equivalent of a typo), Gruber replied. Continue reading
I recently had a conversation with an intensely conservative businessman whose first foray into politics was fighting for a tax hike on his business and others like it. The little town where he lived as a young man had no paved roads, waterworks, or sewage facilities, and the men who had the most invested in the town knew that it needed these to grow, which of course it did. That’s part of what Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren are referring to with their “you didn’t build that” rhetoric, though they draw the wrong conclusions. They are also sometimes wrong in the specifics, too: The gentleman I was speaking with organized a few other businessmen to install streetlights at their own expense, with the understanding that the town fathers would pay them back when they could afford it. If you’re looking for an example of how small government is good government, a handshake deal to put in streetlights is a pretty good one. That is government at a scale that people can control, manage — and keep an eye on. Continue reading