Hans Bader

Post image for Obama Thwarts Debt-Ceiling Deal by Clinging to Wasteful Green-Jobs and Stimulus Spending

President Obama is refusing accept deals that would raise the federal debt ceiling because they would require him to accept cuts in wasteful green-jobs and rail boondoggles and stimulus spending:   “The president has made a bipartisan agreement even more difficult by declaring certain spending off-limits to cuts. Mr. Obama’s ‘untouchable’ list includes his $1 trillion health-care reform, $128 billion in unspent stimulus funds, education and training outlays, his $53 billion high-speed rail proposal, spending on ‘green’ jobs and student loans, and virtually any structural changes to entitlements except further squeezing payments to doctors, hospitals and health-care professionals.”  If the debt ceiling is not raised, America’s credit rating may be downgraded, leading to higher interest payments on the debt in the future.

Obama’s refusal to reconsider green-jobs spending is unfortunate given how such spending has backfired, effectively outsourcing thousands of American jobs at taxpayer expense.  ABC News reports on the subsidies for Chinese wind turbines contained in the stimulus package:

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Post image for EPA Gives Millions to Green Groups That Sue It; Massive Funding Advantage for Enviro Groups and Green Welfare

The EPA gives millions to the environmental groups that sue it.  “When the EPA settles or loses those suits, it then awards the groups millions more in attorneys’ fees,” notes legal commentator Walter Olson.  “‘The EPA isn’t harmed by these suits,’ said Jeffrey Holmstead, who was an EPA official during the Bush administration. ‘Often the suits involve things the EPA wants to do anyway. By inviting a lawsuit and then signing a consent decree, the agency gets legal cover from political heat.’ Holmstead called this kind of litigation ‘sweetheart suits.'”

The EPA gave millions to groups that sued it to get it to regulate greenhouse gases, like the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.  Those groups brought a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), which vastly expanded the EPA’s jurisdiction.  More recently, they sued to compel the EPA to issue greenhouse gas “performance standards” for power plants and refineries. In a recent settlement, the EPA agreed to do just that.  Critics “said the costly settlement was ‘concocted in secret’” and that other lawsuits by EPA grantees resulted in collusive settlements that cost the economy billions, increased the EPA’s powers, and gave environmental groups things that they were unlikely to win in any court ruling.

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Post image for Recently-Released Documents Reveal Obama Administration’s Complicity in Deception about Auto Bailout

Obama Administration officials had advance notice that General Motors would run deceptive ads claiming to have paid taxpayers back for its bailout, and did not veto or object to those ads despite the opportunity to do so.  Only later did Administration officials distance themselves from those deceptive claims, and they did so only after the falsity of those claims became so obvious to the public that they could no longer be parroted.  Treasury Secretary Geithner had parroted those deceptive claims, which then drew criticism from the TARP inspector general, members of Congress, and financial reporters.  Geithner publicly repeated GM’s deceptive claims, even though the Treasury Department had weeks in which to review GM’s claims and discover their inaccuracy.

Treasury Department Documents released last week in response to a think-tank’s Freedom of Information Act request make this clear.  Those documents illustrate that GM and the Obama Administration coordinated GM’s PR strategy regarding the company’s controversial TV and print ad campaign in 2010, in which the car maker misleadingly claimed to have repaid what it received from taxpayers.  In those ads, GM’s then-CEO, Ed Whitacre, claimed GM had already repaid its government bailout loan “in full, with interest, five years ahead of schedule.

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A global food crisis is “forecast as prices reach record highs [1].”  “Rising food prices and shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years.”  “Global wheat and maize prices recently jumped nearly 30% in a few weeks while meat prices are at 20-year highs.” “Meanwhile, the price of tomatoes in Egypt, garlic in China and bread in Pakistan are at near-record levels.”

Drought is one factor in the price spikes.  Biofuels and ethanol subsidies and mandates are another major factor.  According to the UN, “large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors for biofuels is squeezing land suitable for agriculture [1].”

Ethanol subsidies have resulted in forests being destroyed [2] in the Third World, and caused famines [3] that have killed [4] countless people in the world’s poorest countries [4].

These subsidies are expanded in the global warming legislation backed by the Obama administration.  Its ethanol subsidies will result [5] in “damage to water supplies, soil health and air quality.”  The Washington Examiner earlier explained how the global warming bill backed by President Obama would cause deforestation by expanding ethanol subsidies, and thus increase greenhouse gas emissions [6] in the long run.   It was larded up with corporate welfare: 85 percent [7] of its carbon allowances were given away to special interests free of charge, thanks to lobbying that turned the bill into an orgy of corporate welfare.

Earlier, Ron Bailey wrote in Reason magazine about the “global food crisis” that has resulted in food riots across the world [8], in countries like Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Haiti, and Egypt.   The crisis, he notes, is caused by “stupid energy policies” in the form of ethanol “mandates” and subsidies, which result in the world’s breadbaskets producing less food and more ethanol.

In 2008, two prominent environmentalists, Lester Pearson and Jonathan Lewis, published a Washington Post editorial, “Ethanol’s Failed Promise [9],” which explained how ethanol subsidies and mandates are destroying the environment and fueling hunger and violence worldwide [9].

Turning one-fourth of our corn into fuel is affecting global food prices. U.S. food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation, hitting the pocketbooks of lower-income Americans and people living on fixed incomes. … Deadly food riots have broken out in dozens of nations in the past few months, most recently in Haiti and Egypt. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warns of a global food emergency.

Moreover, they noted,

food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy – most of which comes from coal. Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.  Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm. Here in the United States, farmers are pulling land out of the federal conservation program, threatening fragile habitats. … Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time Magazine reported [10] this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world’s largest ‘carbon sink.’ And when the forests are cleared and the land plowed for farming, the carbon that had been sequestered in the plants and soil is released. Princeton scholar Tim Searchinger has modeled this impact and reports [11] in Science magazine that the net impact of the food-to-fuel push will be an increase in global carbon emissions – and thus a catalyst for climate change.

In Human Events, Deroy Murdock explained how rising food prices resulting from ethanol forced Haitians to literally eat dirt [12] (dirt cookies made of vegetable oil, salt, and dirt), caused tortilla riots in Mexico, and fueled violent protests in unstable “powder kegs” like Pakistan and Egypt.

In 2008, finance ministers and central bankers called for end to ethanol subsidies and biofuel mandates [13]. South African finance minister Trevor Manuel called such subsidies “criminal [14].” Earlier, the Indian Finance Minister Chidambaram noted that [14] “in a world where there is hunger and poverty, there is no policy justification for diverting food crops towards bio-fuels. Converting food into fuel is neither good policy for the poor nor for the environment.”

The EPA is now ratcheting up [15] ethanol use, heedless of the fact that ethanol makes gasoline costlier and dirtier [16], increases ozone pollution [17], and increases the death toll from smog [18] and air pollution.  Ethanol production also results in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution [19].

The Obama administration initially downplayed the seriousness of the Gulf oil spill, “slowing response efforts and keeping the American people in the dark for weeks about the size of the disaster, according to preliminary reports from the presidential commission investigating the accident.”

The government also used red-tape to slow the response to the BP oil spill and thwart foreign offers of assistance.

Then, when the seriousness of the oil spill became impossible to downplay, the Obama administration tried to use it to push its failed energy policies and enormously-costly cap-and-trade global warming legislation (which would result in a massive loss of steel, paper, aluminum, chemical, and cement manufacturing jobs. Recent EPA rules aimed at global warming will wipe out at least 800,000 jobs).

As noted earlier, in his speech about the oil spill, Obama advocated expanding “green jobs” funding, 79 percent of which has gone to foreign firms, replacing American jobs with foreign green jobs.  He also advocated passing the pork-filled House energy bill. It would have expanded ethanol subsidies, which cause famine, starvation, and food riots in poor countries by shrinking the food supply. Ethanol makes gasoline costlier and dirtier, increases ozone pollution, and increases the death toll from smog and air pollution. Ethanol production also results in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. Subsidies for biofuels like ethanol are a big source of corporate welfare: “BP has lobbied for and profited from subsidies for biofuels . . . that cannot break even without government support.”

The private sector shed 39,000 jobs in September.  Liberal journalists claim this was “unexpected.”  This reveals their shaky grasp of economics.

If you were an employer, why would you hire somebody in an economy that’s barely growing, when you could be hit by all sorts of employee-related expenses in the future, the way employers have already been hit by increased costs due to Obamacare?  Employers are worried about additional costs that could force them to lay off newly hired workers if Congress passes cap-and-trade global warming legislation (which would impose massive costs on many industries, requiring cutbacks in production).  Recent EPA rules aimed at global warming will wipe out at least 800,000 jobs, with a blizzard of additional new rules expected to follow.  And the stimulus package, despite its $800 billion cost, did little for employers, wiping out export-sector jobs, and funneling green-jobs money to foreign firms.  (The current weak “recovery” actually began in June 2009, before the stimulus package even began being spent.)

Thanks to steadily-expanding government red tape, every time you set a worker’s pay, or have to fire a lazy or incompetent employee, you now face the risk of being sued  (You are less likely to hire someone if you can’t fire them later if they turn out to be lazy or incompetent).  Employees who are fired for even good reasons often turn around and sue the employer for age, race,  sex, or disability discrimination, or for the “hostile work environment” they claim existed during their employment due to things like overheard remarks.  Getting meritless lawsuits tossed out is expensive — years ago, it was typically $25,000 on legal bills if the employer succeeded in getting rid of the lawsuit at the earliest possible stage (on a pre-trial motion to dismiss), $75,000 at the next stage (”summary judgment”), and $250,000 if the employer won at trial.  Under a legal double-standard called the Christiansburg Garment Rule, if the employer wins, the worker seldom has to pay the employer’s legal bills; but if the worker wins, the employer has to pay the worker’s legal bills as a matter of course (or even a multiple of the employee’s legal bills if the lawsuit is brought in some liberal states like New Jersey (see  Rendine v. Panzer (1995)).

You are much less likely to hire someone if you can’t avoid being sued by them later over the pay package you negotiated with them when they were hired.  That’s now a real possibility for employers.  Setting employee pay has gotten harder under the Obama administration due to the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first law signed by President Obama, which essentially eliminates the deadline for bringing pay discrimination claims against employers, meaning that employees can wait many years after their pay is set, and sometimes even after they are fired, before bringing a lawsuit against their employer. (Some courts have even allowed employees to use the new law to challenge demotions many years after they occur, under the theory that their demotion indirectly affected their pay.) The Ledbetter Act was named after Lilly Ledbetter, who waited until she was about to retire before suing over alleged pay discrimination, meaning that the supervisor who allegedly discriminated against her was dead and unable to defend himself against discrimination charges by the time the jury decided her case.  (Ledbetter testified in her deposition that she knew of the pay disparity by 1992, but didn’t file a complaint with the EEOC until 1998).  The Ledbetter Act overturned the deadline applied by the Supreme Court in its 5-to-4 ruling against Ledbetter.

The Obama administration wants to make it even easier to sue for discrimination through bills like the Civil Rights Restoration Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would require equal pay for some employees who do unequal work, and allow them to seek unlimited punitive damages against their employers.  Right now, most pay discrimination claims require a showing of unequal treatment (that is, intentional discrimination), although, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, big employers can be ordered to pay very limited amounts (back pay, not emotional distress or punitive damages) for certain practices or pay scales that have an unintentional “disparate impact” on women or minorities (like paying people more because they have a high-school diploma, if the job supposedly doesn’t really require a high-school diploma).  The Paycheck Fairness Act would import such standards into the Equal Pay Act, which covers even tiny employers (unlike Title VII), and subject them not merely to back-pay claims, but to uncapped punitive damages and claims for “emotional distress” over pay disparities.

It would require the employer to prove in court things that no tiny employer could ever afford the legal-fees to demonstrate.  Under the Paycheck Fairness Act, an employer would have to show an overriding “business necessity” and lack of any alternative to justify the use of certain factors “other than sex” in setting pay scales.  This is worrisome, because even under existing laws that allow lawsuits over “unintentional” discrimination, employers have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on expert witnesses to show that a challenged practice was reasonable, only to have the courts say that that was not enough, that the practice had to be more essential (and more closely-related to technical requirements like “content validity” and “construct validity”).

New EPA rules will cost more than 800,000 jobs, probably far more, according to a newly released congressional report.  That includes the EPA’s first set of rules “for Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” and “new standards for commercial and industrial boilers.”  Indeed, the boiler rules alone could cost close to 800,000 jobs.

This shouldn’t be a surprise.  In 2008, President Obama admitted that under his greenhouse gas regulations, people’s utility bills would “skyrocket,” and coal-fired power plants would go “bankrupt.”  The EPA’s own internal documents show that the administration’s global warming regulations will result in a massive “loss of steel, paper, aluminum, chemical, and cement manufacturing jobs.”

It’s not just the administration’s global warming regulations that will wipe out jobs. The stimulus package contained so-called “green jobs” funding, 79 percent of which went to foreign firms, replacing American jobs with foreign green jobs.  A recent biofuel program actually wiped out jobs rather than creating them as intended, while costing taxpayers a lot of money.

The administration’s energy policies presume that central planners know better than private citizens and companies about how to create jobs and allocate capital.  But government officials, unlike private companies, have little incentive to make economically wise decisions, since they don’t pay the cost of their own mistakes, but rather pass them on to taxpayers.  The Justice Department, for example, often ignores the misconduct and constitutional violations committed by its own employees, while the federal Energy Department is one of the biggest violators of America’s environmental laws.

Unemployment went back up to 9.6%, as the nation shed 54,000 jobs in August.  Yet Obama calls this “Recovery Summer.”  This is the same Obama who complained about the economic recovery in 2004 being jobless because unemployment was at 6 percent.  If you include discouraged workers, unemployment may be as high as 17 percent.

Earlier, governors warned that ObamaCare will increase unemployment.  Indiana’s governor said it will wipe out thousands of jobs in his state by raising taxes on medical device manufacturers.  It will also kill jobs by imposing huge record-keeping burdens on small businesses, requiring them to file IRS forms over even small purchases.

Employers are afraid to hire new employees because of looming new burdens, such as the global-warming regulations being drafted by the EPA, which could wipe out at least 800,000 jobs in the short run, and far more in the long run.  They also worry about costly new Congressional mandates, such as global-warming legislation backed by liberal Senators, which would provide corporate welfare for some businesses, but impose heavy burdens on many others.  Capping greenhouse gas emissions isn’t cheap — Obama himself told the San Francisco Chronicle that under his cap-and-trade plan to fight global warming, Americans’ electricity bills would “skyrocket,” and coal power plants that now provide much of the nation’s energy would go “bankrupt.” Although Obama and other backers of this “cap-and-trade” concept claim it will cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may perversely increase them by driving industry overseas to places with fewer environmental regulations, resulting in dirtier air, and damage to forests and water supplies.

The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly admitted that Obama’s $862 billion stimulus package will shrink the economy “in the long run.”  The stimulus contained welfare and repealed welfare reform.  Unemployment is higher now than if Congress had voted it down.  Countries that refused to adopt big stimulus packages have fared better than those that imitated President Obama.  The biggest-spending countries have suffered worst in the recession. The stimulus package wiped out jobs in America’s export sector, while giving “green jobs” funding to foreign firms.

Our government spent as much money bailing out foreign firms as some countries spent on stabilizing their entire financial system.  Much of the money in the $140 billion AIG bailout actually went to mismanaged foreign firms that dealt with AIG.  The government also used that bailout to give billions to the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs, an immensely rich and profitable company that didn’t even need the money.  (While harming most banks, and the productive  sectors of the economy, the recent financial reform bill will benefit politically-connected Goldman Sachs, which endorsed it.  Goldman Sachs is one of the biggest donors to liberal politicians.)

Earlier, the Obama administration devoted $6 billion in taxpayer money to bailing out Greece, which ran into trouble because of generous pensions that let many occupations like hairdressers retire at age 50.

American workers are also suffering due to the stimulus package.  It is using taxpayer subsidies to replace U.S. jobs with foreign green jobs. It also destroyed thousands of jobs in America’s export sector.

Even more jobs will end up overseas if the Obama administration’s poorly conceived global warming legislation passes.

Reason magazine has an insightful article called “Five Lies About the American Economy.”

A TV station in New Orleans reports that “the federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.”   Louisiana planned to create the sand berms to prevent the massive BP oil spill from polluting its coastline.

Earlier, a federal judge blocked Obama’s drilling ban on offshore drilling, citing deception by Obama administration officials.  The ban applied mostly to oil companies with radically better safety records than BP.  (BP’s executives gave lots of money to Obama and lobbied for his legislation.)

Obama delayed the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico by blocking foreign crews from operating sophisticated clean-up vessels.  The Jones Act bans foreign vessels and crews from working in U.S. waters, but it gives the President the authority to completely waive that ban if he wishes.  Obama refused to lift the ban, even though American shippers who generally support the ban said they wouldn’t object to lifting it to fight the spill.  As a result of the ban, the U.S. rejected a lot of foreign aid from counties with expertise in fighting oil spills, and accepted only a small amount of foreign equipment to fight the spill.

The federal government has routinely been a thorn in the side of Louisiana as it seeks to fight the huge oil spill.  It recently used red tape to force Louisiana to stop using 16 barges that were cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico by sucking thousands of gallons of oil out of Louisiana’s oil-soaked waters.  Earlier, four oil skimmers needed to clean the Gulf were blocked by EPA officials.

The oil spill has been called “Obama’s Katrina,” but Gulf Coast resident Paul Rubin says this is unfair to George Bush, who was not nearly as incompetent as Obama has been in dealing with the spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon.  In the Wall Street Journal, Rubin notes that the oil spill occurred in federal waters and thus was a federal responsibility, while Hurricane Katrina occurred mostly on state land and thus was largely a state, not federal, responsibility, enabling incompetent local officials in cities like New Orleans to “interfere” with federal relief efforts:

In many respects, the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Katrina are mirror images of each other. The harm from Katrina was on state land—mainly Louisiana, but also Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. As a result, President George W. Bush and the federal government were limited in what they could do. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wanted to take command of disaster relief on the day before landfall, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused. Federal response was hindered because the law gave first authority to state and local authorities.  State and local efforts—particularly in New Orleans, and Louisiana more broadly—interfered with what actions the federal government could actually take. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was late in ordering an evacuation and did not allow the use of school buses for evacuation, which could have saved hundreds of lives. President Bush had no power to change that decision.  The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on federal offshore territory. The federal government has primary responsibility for handling the situation, while state and local governments remain limited in what they can do. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly changed its mind regarding the chemical dispersants that Louisiana is allowed to use. . . .As opposed to Katrina, state and local attempts to address the oil spill have been hindered by an ineffectual and chaotic federal response.

Obama is now using the BP oil spill to push a corporate-welfare-filled global-warming bill crafted partly by BP’s lobbyists.  Obama’s global warming legislation expands ethanol subsidies, which cause famine, starvation, and food riots in poor countries by shrinking the food supply, and also result in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. Subsidies for biofuels like ethanol are a big source of corporate welfare: “BP has lobbied for and profited from subsidies for biofuels . . . that cannot break even without government support.”

The $800 billion stimulus package is using taxpayer subsidies to replace U.S. jobs with foreign green jobs. It is also destroying jobs in America’s export sector.