By Ramesh Ponnuru • National Review
Gorsuch confirmed, ISIS defeated, taxes cut: The Trump administration has compiled a solid record of accomplishment in its first year, one that compares well with the records of many of its predecessors.
Two of the biggest accomplishments came late in the year. The prime minister of Iraq declared victory over ISIS on December 9. Republicans reached a deal that seemed to secure passage of a tax bill on December 15. Until then, it appeared possible that 2017 would end without an all-Republican government enacting any major legislation.
Now the Republicans’ policy record looks better, at least as most conservatives see it. The tax bill advances several longstanding conservative objectives. It cuts tax rates for most Americans, slashes the corporate-tax rate for the first time in decades, expands the tax credit for children, limits the reach of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and scales back the tax break for expensive homes. By scaling back the deduction for state and local taxes, it may encourage a more conservative fiscal politics in the states. And it allows drilling to proceed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is taking the lead on this, but expect it to spread to other agencies, including the DOJ. It’s a good start, but there are other problems in the lawfare arena that need to be addressed to ease tensions and restore order to the legal system.
Consider the attacks on Big Oil, which started with a novel legal theory that presupposed the U.S. oil and gas industry deliberately conspired for several decades to deceive the public about climate change.
That theory became an allegation which, when backed by several of the attorneys general of more than a dozen states, turned into litigation that threatens to set a number of dangerous legal precedents while undermining the nation’s economic vitality.
Elon Musk’s business model is a travesty.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been in recent headlines with a recent launch of a spy satellite. In fact, SpaceX is better at well managed and scripted messaging than it is at actually launching cargo into space in a timely and successful fashion. Always the public relations maestro, Musk announced that he plans to reuse every major component of the rocket by 2018. One of the themes SpaceX has carefully crafted is that it represents the future of “free-market” space flight.
The problem with this public relations hype is that it bears little resemblance to reality. Whether it is SpaceX or Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, the business model is based on lining up billions in taxpayer-provided subsidies and obtaining exclusive regulatory benefits and exceptions. Then, they engage in slick marketing to convince everyone how free-market and innovative they are.
Tesla survives on the back of hefty subsidies paid for by hard-working Americans just barely getting by so that a select few can drive flashy, expensive electric sports cars. These subsidies were originally scheduled to expire later this year, and Tesla is lobbying hard to make sure that taxpayers continue to pay $7,500 per car or more to fund their business model. Tesla even tried to force taxpayers to pay for charging stations that would primarily benefit their business. That is not what Musk’s high priced image managers will tell you, but it’s the truth. Continue reading
New burdensome regulation issued every 3 days
The federal government has imposed a new major regulation every three days since President Barack Obama took office, as the administration has shattered the record for implementing regulations costing the economy $100 million or more.
The Obama administration has now issued 600 major regulations, the center-right policy institute the American Action Forum noted in a recent report.
“One year ago, the American Action Forum (AAF) celebrated a regulatory milestone, of sorts: 500 major regulations,” wrote Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy. “A major regulation has an economic impact of $100 million or more and can significantly affect prices for consumers.” Continue reading
By Rich Lowry • RealClearPolitics
The ride-sharing service is synonymous with the new efficiency and convenience enabled by information technology, and is anathema to regulators and entrenched interests everywhere. Add to the list of its critics the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Hillary Clinton didn’t mention Uber by name but warned about the disruption caused by it and other companies in the so-called sharing economy. Her husband wanted to build a bridge to the 21st century; Hillary worries about the downsides of “advances in technology and expanding global trade.” Continue reading
The law’s perverse incentives will have the nation working fewer hours, and working those hours less productively.
By Casey B. Mulligan • Wall Street Journal
Millions of people pay a significant portion of their income for health insurance so they and their families can get good health care when they need it. The magnitude of their sacrifices demonstrates the importance that people ascribe to health care.
The Affordable Care Act attempts to help low- and middle-income families avoid some of the tough sacrifices that would be necessary to purchase health insurance without assistance. But no program can change the fundamental reality that society itself has to make sacrifices in order to deliver health care to more people. Continue reading
“Clerisy” class does the bidding of tech oligarchs to detriment of the middle class.
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds • USAToday
We’ve heard a lot of election-year class warfare talk, from makers vs. takers to the 1% vs. the 99%. But Joel Kotkin’s important new book, The New Class Conflict, suggests that America’s real class problems are deeper, and more damaging, than election rhetoric.
Traditionally, America has been thought of as a place of great mobility — one where anyone can conceivably grow up to be president, regardless of background. This has never been entirely true, of course. Most of our presidents have come from reasonably well-off backgrounds, and even Barack Obama, a barrier-breaker in some ways, came from an affluent background and enjoyed an expensive private-school upbringing. But the problem Kotkin describes goes beyond shots at the White House. Continue reading
Ride-share services benefit consumers, but the taxi commission doesn’t want to give us a good deal.
The regulatory knives are out for Uber and Lyft, two ride-sharing services that make life easier for consumers and provide employment opportunities in a stagnant economy. Why are regulators unhappy? Basically, because these new services offer insufficient opportunity for graft.
Services like Uber and Lyft disrupt the current regulatory environment. I have the Uber app on my phone. If I need a car in areas where Uber operates, it looks up where I am using GPS, matches me with participating drivers nearby, and in my experience gets me a Town Car in just a few minutes. It’s the comfort of a limo service, with the convenience of a taxicab. I get a better service, the driver gets a job, but now there’s competition for those entrenched companies. Continue reading
by Ramesh Ponnuru
This isn’t a case where the executive branch has simply gone beyond its authority. It’s a case where officials in all three branches of government have found a way to achieve their policy goals while shielding themselves from accountability.
Congress sends bills to the president and the president signs them: That’s how major policy changes are supposed to work. But Congress has never passed large-scale regulations to combat global warming. It has never even voted to authorize such regulations. Continue reading
How often have you heard a Democrat prattle on and on about how well Barack Obama has done with the economy, given the mess he inherited? Usually, it’s some version of, “Things are getting better, but the economy the President started with was so awful, so he’s done as well as anyone could expect.”
When Ronald Reagan took over from Jimmy Carter in ’81, things were actually worse economically compared to when Obama took over from George W. Bush in ’08. Continue reading
by Richard A. Epstein
The latest government labor report indicates that job growth has slowed once again. It is now at a three-year low, with only an estimated 74,000 new jobs added this past month. To be sure, the nominal unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent, but as experts on both the left and the right have noted, the only reason for this “improvement” is the decline of labor force participation, which is at the lowest level since 1978, with little prospect of any short-term improvement.
The Economic Logic of Supply and Demand
One might think that these figures would be taken as evidence that a radical change in course is needed to boost labor market participation. The grounds for that revision rest on a straightforward application of the fundamental economic law of demand: As the cost of labor increases, the demand for labor will decrease. There are, of course, empirical disputes as to just how rapidly wage increases will reduce that demand for labor. Continue reading
The website Regulations.gov lists 141 regulations that have been posted by federal agencies in the last three days alone. Of these regulations, 119 are “rulemaking,” meaning they establish a new rule. Twenty-three are “non-rulemaking,” meaning the regulations does not establish a new rule.
The largest group of regulations have to do with energy and environmental issues, many of them issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. Continue reading
To avoid adversely impacting the economy before the 2012 election, Obama delayed new rules and regulations on everything from ObamaCare to new environmental and workplace regulations.
by Juliet Eilperin • The Washington Post
The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.
Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.
The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection. Continue reading
With the recent news that the Obama Administration will postpone the healthcare mandate on employers (but not on individuals) until after the mid-term elections, a new Gallup poll of 603 small business owners sheds some very interesting light on the Administration’s political calculations. The Gallup poll revealed that Obamacare is having a dramatic negative effect on the economy and on the ability of Americans to find jobs.
The Gallup poll reveals that more than 40 percent of small-business owners say that Obamacare has caused them to institute a hiring freeze. Nearly one in five small business employers say that Obamacare has caused them to fire existing employees. Almost one in five small-business owners said they have already cut back their workers’ hours to avoid adverse impacts of Obamacare. About one in four employers “are weighing whether to drop insurance coverage.” Continue reading
In “Democracy in America,” published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. “The inhabitant of the United States,” he wrote, “has only a defiant and restive regard for social authority and he appeals to it . . . only when he cannot do without it.”
Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. “In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals.” Continue reading