The hidden agenda behind the new president’s busy week
No one can accuse President Biden of easing into office. His first days have been a blizzard of executive orders, presidential memorandums, and official proclamations. He says he wants to overturn the worst policies of the previous administration, and to restore a sense of national unity and institutional integrity. What gets lost in the details of all these initiatives is Biden’s partisan goal.
It’s not just that the new president wants to resume the trajectory America was on when Barack Obama left office in 2017. He also wants to claw back the gains red states made over blue states during the last four years. He wants to shift federal resources to Democratic constituencies, and to save the blue states from the true cost of their misguided policies. And if red America has to pay a price in lost jobs and tax revenue, well, that’s too bad.
Leave aside, for the purposes of this discussion, the relative merits of Biden’s executive actions. (I disagree with almost all of them.) Focus instead on their distributional effects, not on individuals but on sectors of the economy, on regions of the country, and on the donor bases of the two parties. The image that comes to mind is of swarms of dollars changing course midflight: a mass migration of subsidies, spending, and incentives from the GOP coalition to the Democratic one.
Start with energy. Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline at a cost of 1,000 jobs and diplomatic goodwill with Canada. He banned fracking on federal lands and paused oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. According to a White House fact sheet, he told federal agencies to “accelerate clean energy and transmission projects.” He is sure to bestow federal largesse on the sons of Solyndra.
The alternative energy sector overwhelmingly favors Democrats. Its political investments have paid off. The old-style extractive industries, mainly based in GOP strongholds, will suffer. In some cases they are targeted for extinction. The knock-on effects are serious. “Wyoming state superintendent Jillian Balow notes that her state depends on some $150 million a year in oil and gas federal royalties to fund K-12 schools,” says the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
Other Biden measures resumed the flow of government aid to the special interests behind his campaign. The second Catholic president has jumpstartedfederal funding of Planned Parenthood almost two years after President Trump cut off the nation’s largest abortion provider. Biden also reversed President Trump’s ban on money for “sanctuary cities” that choose not to enforce federal immigration law. That decision will help boost the budgets of progressive municipalities eager to pass off the costs of illegal immigration. Biden’s codification of the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision, which made gender identity protected under civil rights law, and his lifting of the ban on trans soldiers is sure to please a class of donors essential to Democratic Party finances.
Biden’s proposed American Rescue Plan best captures the new administration’s intermingling of public policy and greasy-pole gamesmanship. Take, for example, the $130 billion that Biden wants to spend on K-12 schools. That number is on top of the $67 billion Congress already has committed to reopening elementary and secondary schools.
The additional cash is a handout to the teachers’ unions, who have opposed a return to in-person instruction at every opportunity, and who are among Biden’s closest allies. Biden has adopted the unions’ rhetoric, saying that schools cannot open until they have been renovated. He’s wrong, of course—measures such as masks, hygiene, and social distancing are enough to stop the spread, especially among the elementary schoolers who need in-person classes the most and whose transmission rates are low. But science doesn’t matter. The unions must get paid.
One year after COVID-19 appeared in America, it is more than evident that arbitrary, statewide lockdowns are a disaster for small businesses, which happen to be a key part of the Republican coalition. The states that have done the most to reopen have best weathered the economic storm. And these same states tend to be low-tax, low-minimum-wage, and have a business-friendly regulatory environment, as well as a warmer climate. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South is leading America’s recovery. But, in the heavily Democratic northeast, “The recovery of jobs has lagged behind.”
What does Biden want? His solution is to make Florida and Texas more like New York and California. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Paul H. Kupiec, calculates that the nationwide $15 minimum wage contained in the American Rescue Plan would “shift business formation, growth, and employment from red states to blue, as the higher minimum wage erodes red states’ labor cost advantage in many job categories.” What’s best for Cuomo, however, is not what’s best for the country.
A steep minimum wage hike in the middle of an economic crisis that disproportionately affects small business is the exact opposite of what you want to do to spur full employment. But it does make sense if you are using the crisis to gain leverage for unions and government over free labor and the private sector.
Blue America began to claw back red America’s earnings last week. And the next four years (at least) will see the Biden coalition press its advantage.
The Keystone XL pipeline is our best bet for a secure energy future.
By Peter Roff • U.S. News
It’s long overdue. The pipeline is a needed addition to the U.S. energy infrastructure that will do much to help America reduce its dependence on energy sources produced in politically volatile regions of the world. In the interim, its construction will lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in vital industries, the kind some politicians like to call “good jobs and good wages.” Continue reading
by Phil Kerpen
The decision to yet again delay the final permit for the popular Keystone XL pipeline was made not in the White House or at the State Department, but in a posh private residence in the Sea Cliff neighborhood in northwestern San Francisco. It was there on February 19 that former vice president Al Gore and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the pilgrimage to Tom Steyer’s home to kiss the ring of the hedge fund-billionaire turned super-donor, in exchange for $400,000 that night and a promise of $100 million more to come. Steyer’s sole demand? Stop the pipeline.
There were six Senate Democrats present: Reid, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Mark Udall of Colorado. All had voted against the pipeline in a test vote offered as a budget amendment last year, although 17 Democrats voted for the bipartisan measure. Continue reading
It appears increasingly clear that the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline project is being studied to death as President Obama dithers over whether to approve it. The massive project to move Canadian oil to American refineries should already be under construction, but the president can’t decide whether to pander to Big Green environmentalists who rabidly oppose it or to the trade unions who want to build it and benefit from the thousands of jobs that it would create. So he keeps moving the goal posts, from one study to the next, desperate to avoid responsibility for the final decision.
The latest study, released Jan. 31 by the State Department, found that the pipeline would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, confirming the results of a draft version that was released in March 2013. That conclusion should put to rest Obama’s professed concern that the pipeline would add to the problem of greenhouse gases. Other studies have concluded that not approving Keystone XL could do more environmental damage because Canada will sell its oil to China. The Asian giant’s environmental standards fall far short of America’s. Continue reading
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough discussed with NBC News’ David Gregory the administration’s foot-dragging on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Sunday interview came in the wake of the State Department’s latest report on the project, which again found no good reason to block construction of an oil pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Neb.
The chat produced this rich quote from Mr. McDonough on President Barack Obama’s refusal to approve the privately funded project thus far: “He’s been very clear that he’s going to insulate this process from politics.”
But politics are indeed driving the president’s Keystone inaction, thanks largely to climate change and environmental alarmists. How else to explain the more than five-year wait for approval of the Keystone pipeline, a project that requires no tax money, is shovel ready and loaded with good-paying jobs? The State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, released Jan. 31, concludes: “During construction, proposed Project spending would support approximately 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced), and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the United States.” Continue reading
Fixated as we Americans are on Canada’s three most attention-getting exports — polar vortexes, Alberta clippers, and the antics of Toronto’s addled mayor — we’ve somewhat overlooked a major feature of Canada’s current relations with the United States: extreme annoyance.
Last week, speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s foreign minister calmly but pointedly complained that the U.S. owes Canada a response on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We can’t continue in this state of limbo,” he sort of complained, in what for a placid, imperturbable Canadian passes for an explosion of volcanic rage.
Canadians may be preternaturally measured and polite, but they simply can’t believe how they’ve been treated by President Obama — left hanging humiliatingly on an issue whose merits were settled years ago. Continue reading
“When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done,” senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said, “he will not wait for Congress.” Other members of Obama’s camp used similar language during appearances on Sunday’s talk shows.
By “Congress,” the president means Republicans, particularly in the House, who have not been keen on his progressive agenda. Obama laid out big plans during this speech a year ago, following his re-election, but things like stricter gun control and immigration reform ended up on high center. Continue reading
At the rate President Obama is going, he may claim that building the Keystone XL pipeline will actually cost jobs. In an interview with the New York Times last Saturday, he argued that the best estimate is 2,000 initial construction jobs followed by no more than an additional 100 jobs, a mere “blip.”
The newspaper’s transcript of the interview showed Obama chuckling dismissively as he made his point.
Then on Tuesday, in a jobs speech in Chattanooga, the president ratcheted that number downward. “They keep on talking about this — an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs. That’s not a jobs plan.” Continue reading
by the Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
President Obama’s new envirocratic and anti-growth “climate action plan” ignores genuine science, tramples representative government, spells economic ruin and — like so much federal grandiosity — clearly wasn’t subjected to proper cost-benefit analysis. Continue reading