American Elephants

A $300,000 Climate Change Museum? by The Elephant's Child

In the final days of his administration, the former president oversaw the creation of a $300,000 “climate museum” in a government building in Washington D.C. (Paid for with taxpayer dollars), dedicated to the proposition that man-made climate change is a dire threat, and the wonderful work done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its voluminous files of regulation are absolutely necessary to keep us safe from disaster, or the Statue of Liberty sinking beneath the waves again.

The $300,000 price tag represented $211,111 for the Smithsonian Institution to create the materials shown in the museum and $134,000 to renovate the space. The content was created by the EPA Alumni Association, which compiled it and presented a timeline detailing the milestones of the regulatory agency since it was founded in 1970. Gosh. Do all federal agencies get a museum to extol their legacy? Seems a bit pricey for self-glorification.

According to the Washington Post, I find that it was a “pet project” of former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, and is “tucked into” the lobby of the EPA Credit Union in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. It not only documents all the countless regulations that affect our daily lives, like the ethanol-enhanced gas we put in our cars, our useless new twisty light bulbs, to how we heat and cool our homes. And affects as well the design of our cars and their price, as well as the design and cost of our household appliances. They have not yet succeeded in getting centralized control of our  household energy. but they are working on it. The “museum” embodies the ideology of Obama and his EPA.  President Trump is using executive orders to undo many of the most toxic regulations, with more to come.

I would be surprised if the “museum” contains information on many of the regulations that the courts threw out, or for example, the massive yellow toxic spill of mine waste from the Gold King mine into the Animas River in Colorado which flowed into the San Juan River in New Mexico, and then the Colorado River in Utah, the Grand Canyon and became the water supply for drought-stricken California. The Navajo Nation sued the EPA, but the last I read indicated that the EPA had not paid up. I’d bet this picture is not included in the exhibit either.

Here’s an excellent example of the EPA and how they worked under administrator Gina McCarthy. The Sacketts case went to the Supreme Court, where it was overturned unanimously by the court. Andy Johnson, a welder in Wyoming built a small livestock pond on his property that was approved by the state authorities. That one was an EPA attempt to claim jurisdiction over all the “navigable waters” of the United States—or anything that eventually flows into the ocean that originally comes from a drip from your downspouts.

But I’ll bet there’s lots about how the EPA protected America’s children from the ravages of asthma. Asthma was a favorite cause of Ms. McCarthy, because doctors don’t know what causes asthma which makes it a convenient cause. The goal of the Left is not saving the environment, but control, and the  EPA was just one more tool in their crusade.  Just as the Left’s crusade for Sanctuary Cities, and open borders is another reach for control by increasing the numbers of people in the states that Democrats control or are close to controlling. Illegals are counted in the census, and thus affect the numbers of representatives in Congress that the state gets. The Left may not be well-informed about history or the inestimable worth of our Constitution (which they would love to amend significantly) but they are fully aware of all opportunities for advancing their statist cause.

Administrator Scott Pruitt is on the case, and working steadily to limit the EPA to its basic task of clean air and clean water, and he has the full approval of President Trump, who by executive order is undoing the things that Pruitt can’t do himself.


Regulation, Red Tape, and the Heavy Hand of Government. by The Elephant's Child

The health of small business may be the most important indicator of long term growth in our economy. But this spring has been a hard time for small business. Only 119,000 jobs were added in March, and although April and May saw the jobs market perform better, small businesses who make up the bulk of payroll services firm Paychex Inc.’s customers said the measure of small business hiring was off by half a percentage point by the end of May. Not a good sign.

In today’s world,  when the shift from a manufacturing economy to the information economy is the major trend in American business, the health of small business may be the most important indicator of long term growth. We need hundreds of thousands of creative new small businesses led by entrepreneurs who are attempting to take advantage of the riches of the information sector to provide new products and services.

The Left’s push for a higher minimum wage, and Obama’s new order to force businesses to pay overtime to anyone making less than $50,000 a year will simply encourage the proliferation of robots, electronic cashiers, and more part-time workers. Over time the creativity of entrepreneurs could provide the new jobs that will replace the ones being automated or outsourced. Cheap money and relatively cheap labor should be helping, but a number of factors are at work. We have an administration that deeply believes that more regulations makes life better, which is clearly part of the problem.

Big businesses can cope. When the minimum wage jumps to $15 an hour, a chain of drugstores can afford to install automatic checkout machines that won’t get $15 and hour plus overtime, plus healthcare, plus sick leave, plus being late for work. It’s not so easy for small business.

Control and Regulation and the heavy hand of government  have a cost. The Left is basically clueless. This time it’s affecting us all.

The American Economy Shrank by 0.7 Percent in The First Quarter. by The Elephant's Child
May 29, 2015, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , , ,

The revised figures for the first quarter show that the American economy shrank by 0.7 percent — January through March. The administration did not, however try to blame it on Bush, they blamed it on the harsh winter. It was a brutal winter on the east coast and in the Midwest. It is the third quarter in which the economy has actually contracted (the other two were the first quarters of 2011 and 2014).

This has been the slowest, most sluggish recovery since World War II. The strong dollar has meant that American exports are down. but other economies are not healthy either, including China’s. The Obama administration’s big-government, big-deficit, big waste and big-regulation policies are not a recipe for growth or recovery.

A new study finds that overhead costs are exploding under ObamaCare. Another promise up in smoke. The Health Affairs Blog published a study based on numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that runs ObamaCare and found that ObamaCare increased health care costs by $17 billion last year, and by 2020 will add a total of more than $270 billion.Twenty-two percent of all new spending is going to overhead, paperwork, not patient care.

The United States spends more on regulation than ever before. The amount spent has increased significantly as has the number of people who are employed to write and enforce the increasing number of government regulations. In 1990, total spending on regulatory activity was $20.6 billion. This year it will clock in at $60.1 billion, a 192% increase. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that in 2012 the total cost of federal regulations was just over $2 trillion — 13 5 of that year’s GDP.

Is this unruly Americans who need more careful control? Not likely. It is an administration that sees power and control as a goal. Not a climate in which free enterprise can prosper.

Forty-three Catholic Institutions File Lawsuits over HHS Mandate. by The Elephant's Child

Twelve legal challenges have been filed today by 43 plaintiffs against the ObamaCare regulation that requires health care plans to include abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization procedures. The University of Notre Dame was prominent among the  challengers. Many religious institutions object on religious or moral grounds to providing, paying for and facilitating coverage for such procedures.

In addition there are several other institutions that have already filed lawsuits, with the Becket Fund for religious Liberty: Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Eternal Word Television Network and Ave Maria University. Hercules Industries has filed suit as a family owned business that would be forced to violate its religious beliefs in February in Newland v. Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for Colorado.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has called the ObamaCare mandate an “unprecedented” violation of religious freedom by the federal government.

The case seems very strong  that the mandate is in direct conflict with the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Aside from that ObamaCare does grant religious exemptions to the mandate to Muslims, the Amish, American Indians and Christian Scientists. Then there is the famous Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel &Tube v. Sawyer in 1952.  The Court held that “the president may not rule by decree, conscripting private industry to carry out his commands.  The chief executive may only execute laws passed by Congress, according to their terms.  He may not make up laws of his own and then enforce them.” That would seem to squash  this particular mandate, and Obama’s personal revision of it, quite thoroughly.

The plaintiffs have a lot to complain about.  Freedom to practice one’s own religion is one of America’s most cherished freedoms. It is not about contraception, abortion-inducing drugs , or sterilization. These services are widely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the government from making them available. But Barack Obama may not decree that religious institutions must violate their beliefs. The first phrase of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” And only Congress gets to make laws. That is not a power of the Executive Branch.

The administration clearly thought that this fit right into their silly “War on Women” theme. They assumed that the Catholics would fall in line, and claims that conservatives were trying to deny women the right to contraceptives because they objected to taxpayers being forced to pay for something that women should pay for themselves at $9 a month or less, would emphasize how conservatives were against women’s health.

Notre Dame’s president Fr. John Jenkins stated firmly:

Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.  And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.  We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.  For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.  For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.  If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name.

If this case winds up before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli will have his hands full trying to defend this governmental usurpation of powers.

Random Notes on Rampant Hypocrisy by The Elephant's Child

• Obama has claimed credit for advocating and signing the Lilly Ledbetter Law, which mandates equal pay for women when they are doing the same job as a man: Women in the White House are paid 18% less than the men.

The federal government has been fighting a “War on Poverty” since the 1960s: The result is that today one in six Americans live in poverty—the highest rate for a generation.

Obama says that we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil: yet shutting down drilling in the Gulf, banning drilling on both coasts and in Alaska makes us more dependent on foreign oil.

Obama says he wants to bring down the price of gas at the pump: yet he is trying to get a standard deduction for the oil companies that is available to all manufacturers eliminated as a “subsidy,” which will raise the price of gas.

Obama claims that he wants to reduce partisanship in D.C. : then he resolutely refuses to meet with Republicans, and insults Republicans in public.

• The president has said several times that he favors redistribution in income: the redistribution he practices delivers taxpayer money to union supporters, campaign bundlers, and environmentalist supporters.

Obama praised the troops coming home from Iraq, and invited soldiers and their wives to dinner at the White House to say thanks: as he is attempting to cut military pay and raise the cost of military healthcare.

“I believe the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history” Obama said: yet he is resolutely increasing the size of government, government control and government regulation.

Obama claims the gap between those at the very top, the 1%, and everybody else is growing wider and wider: the top 1% have a smaller share of total household income than they did in 1920, and the bottom 40% pay no taxes.

Obama blames “the rich” for not paying their “fair share”of revenue: the rich did not create our debt, the government did with bad ideas, poor oversight, misguided laws and over-regulation.

• The president excoriates Republicans for being “against regulation”and thus wanting polluted air and water, and sick kids: businesses of both parties, in business organizations, corporate CEOs and small businesses have publicly told government that over-regulation and micro-management area problem that is keeping business from hiring.

The Bush tax cuts meant 52 straight weeks of job growth, 8 million new jobs over 6 years. The unemployment rate averaged 5.3%, after-tax income per person rose more than 11%, and real GDP from 2000-2007 grew $2.1 trillion or 17%.  The Bush recession ended in June of 2009. The Recession became Obama’s to deal with, but he has continued to blame it on Bush, and never accepted any responsibility except for admitting that there weren’t as many shovel-ready jobs as he thought.

• Obama has promised thousands of “green jobs”in solar cell factories, wind farms, insulating homes: Most of the jobs turned out to be overseas, nonexistent, only ‘green’ by redefinition, or simply temporary. When thousands of jobs were promised, and were ‘shovel ready’ (Keystone XL) Obama refused to authorize them. Canada will sell oil to China.

• CO2, carbon dioxide, is a colorless, harmless gas that we breathe out, and plants take in as natural fertilizer, and release oxygen. CO2 is one of the building blocks of life, without it there would be no life: Obama’s EPA is attempting to regulate it as pollution, and eliminate it as a ‘greenhouse gas,’ even though the amount in the atmosphere is unusually low.To eliminate CO2 would be to eliminate life itself.

 • The Occupy Wall Street people, to protest the lack of economic opportunity and jobs, demanded that everyone skip work to protest  in the streets, thereby damaging the economic opportunity they claim to want.

The Law? Nevermind! We Will Create Waivers. by The Elephant's Child

In its quest to implement stealth amnesty, the Obama administration is working behind the scenes to stop the deportation of certain illegal immigrants by granting them “unlawful presence waivers.” Don’t you love the names liberals dream up to hide, confuse, and disguise what they are actually doing.

Their aim is always more Democrat voters at the polls. But they want to disguise that by something that demonstrates how nice Democrats are. Here is how it would work., according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement posted in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government.  The agency will grant “unlawful presence waivers” to illegal aliens who can prove they have a relative who is a U.S. citizen.

According to the law, such aliens must return to their native country, and request a waiver of inadmissibility in an existing overseas immigrant visa process.  In other words, they have to enter the U.S. legally as thousands of foreigners do on a yearly basis. Aside from the obvious security issues, changing the rules in this case is rewarding bad behavior.  It makes no sense.

According to DHS, the system often causes U.S. citizens to be separated for extended periods from their immediate relations.  They didn’t quite say “ripped from the arms of their loved ones.” The proposed changes, first announced in January, will significantly reduce the length of time U.S. Citizens are separated from their loved ones while required to remain outside the United States during the current visa processing system.

DHS also claims that relaxing this rule will “create efficiencies for both the government and most applicants.” What makes this more “efficient” is unknown.

This is obviously a part of the Obama Administration’s plan to go around Congress and accomplish what Congress would not pass, by regulation and rule changes. Obama has things he wants to accomplish and he does not see why he should be constrained by annoyances like the separation of powers, or an understanding that the three branches of government are equal branches.

The Department of Homeland Security only takes action against a “small portion” of foreigners who overstay their visa —like the 9/11 terrorists—em  and allows hundreds of thousands to enter the U.S. without proper authorization from them under a provision that already relaxes scrutiny for 36 countries with whom we have special visa waiver agreements.

It’s as if nothing was learned from the 9/11 attacks nor from terrorist attacks in other countries. Most visitors comply with the rules, but an estimated 2% don’t, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). But that 2% translates into 364,000 travelers. Only half the countries that have visa waiver agreements with the U.S. are fully compliant. Last year a federal audit reveals that nearly half of the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants actually entered the U.S. legally but never left after their visa expired.

It is my impression that many liberals, secure in comfortable lives, do not take terrorism seriously. And once we got Osama bin Laden, wasn’t that the end of it? It is on the left that you find disarmament, gun control, peace studies, and efforts to slash military spending. In their Utopia, after redistribution of income when everybody is more equal, there won’t be any more wars and we don’t need all those armaments. If we just get rid of all our weapons, won’t everyone else follow our lead?

The Homeland Department has a lot to answer for, since they’re not doing Security any more.

Obama Administration Seals Records of Murdered Border Patrol Agent. by The Elephant's Child

Amid Congressional calls for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder in connection with the Fast and Furious scandal that allowed firearms to be smuggled into Mexico, the Obama administration abruptly sealed court records containing alarming details about how Mexican drug smugglers murdered a U.S. Border Patrol agent with a gun connected to the failed federal experiment.

Information will now be kept from the public as well as the media.  The rifle used to kill federal agent Brian Terry last December is part of the scandalous Operation Fast and Furious. It was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), an agency of the Justice Department, that forced gun dealers to sell thousands of weapons to known gun runners so they could eventually be traced to Mexican drug cartels.

Questions abound about this strange operation, and the associated Project Gunrunner.  The “most transparent” administration in history again is attempting to skirt the law.  If they can’t get what they want from Congress, they’ll just do it by executive order, or sealing the records, or some other way. This administration seems to have no respect for the Constitutional separation of powers.

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