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Billy Gribbin

The New York Times: All the News that Fits the Tint


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, February 24th, 2011, 2:15 PM PERMALINK


There is no conservative cause, however eminently justified, that the mainstream media can’t instantly besmirch by playing a game of “six degrees of separation” from the Koch brothers.

As ATR has previously reported, libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch are the Left’s favorite scapegoats: if an activist happens to work for an organization which receives funding, all or in part, from the Kochs, it earns a flurry of yellow-journalism smears: “murky,” “well-financed,” “secretive,” etc.  Last Monday’s article by New York Times reporter Eric Lipton did nothing to buck the trend.  Prompted by the recent controversy over Wisconsin public-sector collective bargaining, Mr. Lipton’s piece exhibited a spectacularly thin raison d’être other than anti-conservative propaganda.

Mr. Lipton’s main target was Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity:

“The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits. “We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said. What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch.”

Hey presto! Instant skepticism. While liberal philanthropists such as George Soros get nothing but a benevolent smile, Lipton and his peers see wealthy libertarians as carte blanche to discredit troublesome arguments while playing pretend impartial newsmen. This is about as journalistically honest as implying that Mr. Lipton is a Red because he writes for the same newspaper that hired Walter Duranty (not that we would dream of doing such a thing).

Lipton manages to stretch his insinuations for another thousand words or so.  He includes scattered arguments from the Right, to be sure, but their content is obviated by this constant undertone: it’s those corporate rich guys, man, secretly trying to take away your rights because they’re shady and stuff.

For the record: collective bargaining for public employees should be forbidden in Wisconsin—and everywhere else—because the practice has bankrupted our country; it has created a self-interested monopoly with one hand around the government’s neck and the other extended to politicians, full of taxpayer cash.  This should be the news, Mr. Lipton, not half-baked conspiracy theories.

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Washington Post Sides Against Wisconsin Gov. Unions


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 1:16 PM PERMALINK


Originally posted at workerfreedom.org:

A word of advice to the public-sector unions in Wisconsin: when the Washington Post comes across as centrist and reasonable in opposition to your leftist howling, you know you’ve lost more than middle America.  

As Americans for Tax Reform has reported for several days, the fight over revoking Wisconsin public-sector unions of the right to collectively bargain is in full swing.  In order to force the absence of a “quorum,” and thus delay an inevitable Republican victory, senate Democrats have fled Wisconsin, holding their votes hostage “Dog Day Afternoon” style in motels across Illinois.  In the mean-time union members, government employees, and teachers—some with students in tow—have been playing hooky to mau-mau the remaining members of the state senate.

Enter Monday's lead editorial in the Washington Post.  Choosing the side of moderate reform rather than rabid collectivism, the Post cautioned that “abolishing contract negotiations between unions and management is not necessarily a panacea for state and local governments - or a nightmare for their workers.”  We agree. In fact, the Alliance for Worker Freedom is so honored to share this position with the esteemed newspaper that we couldn’t help but notice all of our other ideological overlaps; AWF hopes that, when the next divisive political issue rolls along, the Washington Post will be a bit faster in jumping on the wagon.

“The point is that, whatever happens in Wisconsin, states and local governments across the country are faced with chronic fiscal problems rooted partly in unsustainable employee compensation systems.”                             ~ Washington Post, 2/22/11

“The rise of public sector unions—SEIU, AFSCME, and NEA are all big players—is partly responsible for the fiscal crises confronting many states today.  While job security, gold-plated retirement packages, and good benefits attract employees, they’ve been bankrupting state and local treasuries across the nation.”                                                         ~ AWF, 1/20/11

“One way or another, they will have to be addressed, and there is only so much that can be achieved through raising revenue, since many of the most troubled states - California, New York and New Jersey - are already high-tax jurisdictions. Much of the issue is rooted in health-care costs, especially benefits for public-sector retirees. States face a combined $555 billion in unfunded retiree health coverage liabilities.”                                   ~ Washington Post, 2/22/11

"The studies, the statistics, and the specialists agree: cut the costs, cut the rot, cut the pensions.  That is to say, teachers must start contributing toward their own retirement funds.  If the pension plans are kept unchanged, the financial burden on taxpayers will only grow worse.  And it’s pretty bad as it is.  According to Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, public-employee pension plans are underfunded by over $3 trillion nationwide."
~ AWF, 9/8/10

"Yet in 14 states, taxpayers pick up 100 percent of the premium tab for retirees, who often collect benefits for a decade or more before going on Medicare. This is not only unfair to taxpayers, for whom free health care is usually a remote dream. It also encourages overconsumption of medical goods and services, thus raising the cost for everyone."                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Washington Post, 2/22/11

“Pension plans for public employees, particularly teachers, are growing liabilities nationwide.  In an economy where many families are being forced to tighten their belts, states are bleeding money due these ill-funded defined benefit plans.”                                                                                                                                                                                            ~AWF 9/27/10

…And so on. Better late than never. Keep up the good work, Governor Walker!

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EPA Moves Ahead with Boiler-MACT Rules


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011, 2:28 PM PERMALINK


It’s not often that you’ll see the Environmental Protection Agency fighting for American businesses against the encroachment of Big Government.  Despite a recent tendency to disregard the economic impact of its most noxious regulations, the unwilling Agency is being dragged, by court order, to release its long awaited boiler-MACT rules.

The Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards in question were first announced in spring of last year. Intended to replace the previous rules, which were vacated by a D.C. circuit court in 2007, these new MACT regulations would impose exacting emissions standards upon thousands of fossil fuel and biomass-fired boilers nationwide.  The current proposal has prompted significant outcry from the business community on the grounds that the new standards are expensive and unachievable.  The Council of Industrial Boiler Owners released a study last year claiming that “every billion dollars spent on MACT upgrade and compliance costs will put 16,000 jobs at risk and reduce US GDP by as much as $1.2 billion.”

During the rules’ mandatory comment period, the EPA received a wealth of studies and expert opinions explaining the harm boiler-MACT would cause.  The Agency intentionally delayed the rulemaking process on multiple occasions to find some way of ameliorating the regulation’s worst effects.  Big Green, however, would have none of it.  The EPA’s most recent attempt to push back the due date for boiler-MACT was rebuffed by a court order in favor of the Sierra Club; if EPA administrator Lisa Jackson complies, the regulations will be released today, warts and all.

Fortunately, this particular battle has not gone unnoticed. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have expressed their concern over the effects of the proposed rules; on the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has offered to introduce legislation to extend the EPA’s deadline.  Here’s hoping that this issue will become a “teachable moment” for our lawmakers and regulators: don’t trust organizations that would rather have these rulings now, to the detriment of American industry, than wait for more sensible ones to come along.

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NMB Takes Note of Congressional Rebuke


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 4:15 PM PERMALINK


Even facing an impending congressional rebuke of its policies, the National Mediation Board (NMB) is working overtime to guide American workers towards inescapable union representation.

Quick recap: reversing over 75 years of regulatory precedent last spring, the NMB announced a ruling unilaterally amending the Railway Labor Act (a law that provides for special regulation of transportation workers).  Under the old rules, rail and air travel employees wanting to unionize had to garner a majority of votes amongst the total body of workers.  The new NMB decision mandated that a union could receive a majority only of voting employees in order to be certified, raising the possibility that a tiny minority of workers could compel an entire workforce to unionize against the will of its greater part. As the Alliance for Worker Freedom has previously reported, this policy change came about due to the efforts of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), a collective bargaining organization which tried and failed—multiple times—to unionize Delta Airlines employees. The AFA then petitioned the NMB to tilt the playing field, and the Board was only too happy to oblige.

Fortunately, these shenanigans by unelected bureaucrats haven’t completely escaped the public eye. According to Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), “the rule imposed by the NMB is nothing short of a political gimmick to circumvent the legislative process and enact meritless, big labor priorities through an unelected three person panel. Their move to radically alter these rules without any necessary reason for doing so is clearly arbitrary and motivated by the demands of big labor.” There are others who agree: yesterday the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, led by Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) cleared corrective legislation in the form of a provision within the FAA reauthorization bill.  The bill now includes a title which would undo the NMB’s so-called “minority rule.”

On the same day that the FAA bill cleared committee, the NMB issued updated guidelines for unionization votes.  Surprisingly, one of the alterations made was helpful: the Board deigned to deprive unions of the right to interpret an employee’s vote for “Any Other Organization or Individual” as an endorsement for the union.  That this state of affairs was only just reversed is indicative of the disconcerting priorities the Board exhibits.  Despite promising advances such as these, the NMB is hemorrhaging bad regulations faster than congress can reverse them.

The NMB, NLRB, and other overgrown government agencies are driven, at their core, by an ideology which holds that the American worker is incapable of choosing the best for himself.  A democratic reckoning against this radical collectivism is long overdue.

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Sen. Vitter Blocks Obama Nominees Over Drilling Ban


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011, 4:47 PM PERMALINK


Senator David Vitter (R-La.) has added another front to the already lengthy list of battles between the White House and the 112th Congress. In protest to the Interior Department's foot-dragging in issuing new oil drilling permits, Sen. Vitter has started to put "holds" upon the President's nominees to various Departmental and sub-agency positions.
 
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill in May of 2010, the Obama administration extended a moratorium on new deepwater offshore drilling permits. One month later, a New Orleans federal judge struck down the moratorium as baseless and in violation of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; the judge further agreed with the plaintiffs that such a moratorium would inflict undo harm upon the oil industry and its infrastructure. 
 
President Obama's administration has essentially ignored this decision ever since, even to the point of being declared "in contempt" by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman earlier this month.   Judge Feldman wrote that "each step the government took following the court’s imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance."  The detrimental effects of this defiance are already manifest: Seahawk Drilling, a major Texas-based oil company active in the Gulf, has been sold under Chapter 11.  The company suffered enormously from the administration's current anti-oil crusade.
 
Sen. Vitter has been forced to respond by throwing a wrench into the President's nomination process.  So far, he has blocked Scott Doney's nomination as head scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and plans to do the same for Dan Ashe, the White House pick to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Such delays are unfortunate but necessary: Sen. Vitter is correct in saying that "the Interior Department has destroyed jobs in Louisiana, contributing to the bankruptcy of at least one major employer, and is breaching contracts with other employers and putting taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars."

We can only hope that Sen. Vitter's efforts will remind President Obama and his Interior Department allies that there are consequences to ignoring the law and scuttling American energy.

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ATR Energy Tax Hike Series: Obama 2012 Budget Analysis


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 5:35 PM PERMALINK


Download the full paper here

Obama Energy Tax Proposals:
The President’s FY 2012 budget contains hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new taxes on energy production and consumption. These taxes will result in higher prices at the pump, increased utility bills and fewer American energy jobs as companies flee the U.S. to avoid these industry-crippling taxes. Click on each subject for a complete breakdown of some of the energy taxes Obama supports:

Tax Increase FY 2012 FY 2012-2021 Industry Impact
Increase Amortization Period $59 million $1.4 billion $1.4 billion
Dual Capacity $535 million $10.8 billion $10.8 billion

Repeal Percentage Depletion:

          ~Oil and Natural Gas

          ~Hard Minerals

 

$607 million

$78 million

 

$11.2 billion

$1.35 billion

 

$11 billion

$1.35 billion

Repeal Intangible Drilling

and Expensing of Exploration Costs:

           ~Oil and Natural Gas

           ~Hard Minerals

 

 

$1.9 billion

$78 million

 

 

$12.4 billion

$1.35 billion

 

 

$12.4 billion

$1.35 billion

IRS Section. 199 Repeal

           ~Oil and Natural Gas

           ~Hard Minerals

 

$902 million

$20 million

 

$18 billion

$410 million

 

$18 billion

$410 million

Repeal Tertiary Injectants $6 million $92 million $92 million
Superfund $1.4 billion $20.8 million $10 billion
LIFO $2.6 billion* $52.9 billion $22.5 billion
Passive Loss $23 million $203 million $200 million
Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund $35 million $451 million $451 million          
(*) indicates data for FY 2013 where 2012 calculations are not applicable.

Include repeal of the Marginal Well and Enhanced Oil Recovery tax credits, and you have an energy tax increase of over $90,000,000,000 by 2021!

ATR Recommendations:
Congress should fight these new tax increases, and move to rapidly increase access to domestic energy resources in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, part of the Rocky Mountains, the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, and ANWR. Among the results of increased access would be:

• The immediate creation of 50,000 direct and 120,000 indirect jobs by 2014
• The addition of 150,000 direct and 380,000 indirect jobs by 2025
• An additional 4 million barrels of oil equivalents per day brought online by 2025
• An increase in government revenues of $20 billion by 2020, and $150 billion by 2025

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AWF Calls for President to Rescind Becker Nomination


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011, 3:07 PM PERMALINK


Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, has written a letter to President Obama advising him to rescind the nomination of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker, who was originally seated via recess appointment in March of 2010, now stands before the Senate to achieve a full term.  Thus far, he has been instrumental in advancing a radical Big-Labor agenda through recent NLRB rulings.

In his letter to the President, Mr. Prandoni said:

"For over 75 years, the NLRB has been tasked with non-partisan oversight of unionization elections and related labor activities.  Mr. Becker’s past career should call into question his dedication to preserve this impartiality, as he has served as Associate General Counsel for both the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.  Mr. Becker has publicly affirmed his dedication to Big Labor multiple times:

“Just as U.S. Citizens cannot opt against having a congressman, workers should not be able to choose against having a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent.”

He has expressed a gross disdain for employers and businesses, which runs contrary to the proper mission of the NLRB:

“On these latter issues employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case, even though Board rulings might indirectly affect their duty to bargain.”

In his short time on the board, the NLRB has proposed sweeping and harmful labor rules. Allowing union organizers access to public property, giving them the names and addresses of employees, and obliging employers to promote unionization are just a few of these deliberate attempts to throw the door wide to union intimidation and harassment. As such, these initiatives seem to be in direct conflict with your call for practicality and leniency in regulation."

Click here for the full letter.

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Congress Should Reject Becker for NLRB


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011, 3:15 PM PERMALINK


Craig Becker, a controversial member of the National Labor Relations Board, took his seat by recess appointment in April 2010.  President Obama has sent a renewed nomination to the Senate in hopes of giving Becker a full term through 2014.  There is a litany of reasons, from his past work for Big Labor to his votes on the NLRB, that the Senate should reject his nomination and demand a candidate who is not beholden to union interests.

Mr. Becker’s long history of union involvement should be enough to give the Senate pause.  Before his appointment, he was Associate General Counsel to the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, both notorious for their efforts to restrict non-unionized labor and punish independent employers.  As Americans for Tax Reform has previously reported, Becker has been outspoken in his radical views:

“Just as U.S. Citizens cannot opt against having a congressman, workers should not be able to choose against having a union as their monopoly-bargaining agent.”

In addition, Becker has explicitly advocated a gross pro-labor partisanship on the part of the NLRB, which he will undoubtedly implement if confirmed:

“On these latter issues employers should have no right to be heard in either a representation case or an unfair labor practice case, even though Board rulings might indirectly affect their duty to bargain.”

As a board member, Becker will likely support initiatives to give union organizers access to private property, force employers to promote unionization, and require the names and addresses of employees to be provided to an involved union. He and others on the NLRB have threatened various states with lawsuits for passing anti-Card Check legislation. All of these moves throw the door wide open to union monopolies and worker intimidation. 

With control of the House and Senate split, the Left has resorted to pushing noxious rulings through federal agencies. There is no reason to expect this to cease without direct congressional action.  An easy first step in correcting these injustices will be to vote down Craig Becker’s nomination.  

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Sen. Barrasso Introduces Climate Change Pre-emption Bill


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Monday, January 31st, 2011, 2:26 PM PERMALINK


Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is introducing his Climate Change Pre-emption bill, an initiative that would prevent the EPA and other such agencies from unilaterally regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions without explicit Congressional Authorization.

The Supreme Court’s ill-advised decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (2007) gave the EPA a mandate to issue an “endangerment finding” on CO2 and related GHG.  Since this finding was issued in December 2009, the EPA has expanded its influence by leaps and bounds, regulating everything from hospitals to cars based on their tenuous relation to man-made global warming. (Click here for ATR’s previous reports on this EPA power-grab.)  The agency’s actions are both economically disastrous and a usurpation of congressional authority.

Sen. Barrasso’s legislation looks to put an end to runaway regulation dictating the nation’s energy and industry policy. It has four main goals:

1)      To prevent the federal government from applying outdated environmental laws to climate-change issues.

2)      To restore and preserve the role of the Congress as the most important body in determining U.S. climate and energy policy.

3)       To forbid, in absence of explicit Congressional Authorization, federal regulation of GHG under the rubric of climate change.  It would pre-empt possible applications of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, etc.

4)      To preclude legal action against emitters of GHG based simply on their supposed contribution to climate change.

ATR supports Sen. Barrasso’s initiative, as it will rein in an area of federal expansion that has been too long left to its own devices to the detriment of the American economy and congressional prerogative. 

Unfortunately, there are some lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are more than happy ceding their power to unelected bureaucrats: Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is dead-set on giving the government to them through the creation of yet another federal agency, the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA).  He has also supported the imposition of Clean/Renewable Energy Standards, which would constitute another massive interference with American industry.  Bingaman’s proposed Energy Efficiency Enhancement Act seeks to dictate standards for common light-bulbs and appliances; as with all of these proposals, it smacks of more spending, bigger government, and an outdated, unscientific attachment to a radical “green” ideology. Each of these policies would put undo strain on an already fragile economy, while stretching the effects of the federal nanny-state into every American home.  As far as Bingaman and his allies in the Senate are concerned, there is no appliance too small to warrant bigger government.        

As ATR has covered, this attitude permeates the current administration.  Given that control of congress will remain split for the next two years, neither Barrasso nor Bingaman are going to have an easy time getting their respective bills through; in the meantime, however, the Left will continue its dangerous regulatory game through its stranglehold on the executive branch. 

Click here to view Sen. Barrasso's bill.

Click here to view our letter of support.

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Shocking Electric Bills for Federal Buildings


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011, 4:50 PM PERMALINK


Intrigued by the sight of entire vacant federal buildings illuminated at night, Andrea McCarren, a reporter for WUSA-TV, has spent the last several months monitoring the amount of money spent on electric bills for various departmental HQ's in Washington, DC. 

Hundreds of nights and many Freedom of Information Act requests later, McCarren has announced her astounding findings.

Electric bill per month:

Department of Labor = $1,000,000 (July 2010)

Department Health and Human Services = $799,000 (August 2010)

Department of Commerce = $794,000 (June 2010)

Department of Energy = $260,000 (average)

These and other buildings McCarren tracked average $200,000 to $1,000,000 each in monthly electricity bills. It makes sense that the folks at the Department of Energy should have a lower bill than their counterparts; after all, it’s their business.  Perhaps other agencies should follow their example: Department of Energy employees have a continuing intramural competition to see which offices can most decrease their energy usage.  Even so, a quarter of a million in taxpayer dollars every month—just for electricity—is shocking.    

A lot of these expenses seem to result from carelessness: according to McCarren, the Department of Transportation appears to “have the majority of their lights on” at night, despite being locked up after hours.  DoT records show additional “late fees” for delayed payment of its light bill.  The Department of Education always leaves a few floors glowing in the dark.

Finally, our personal favorite: the Environmental Protection Agency is lit up after hours like the Fourth of July.

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