Chris Prandoni

Fact Checking Cenk Uygur's "Rigged Game: Subsidies for Oil Companies"


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, April 11th, 2011, 2:27 PM PERMALINK


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Unwilling to reign in Washington’s overspending problem, Democrats and their allies are stuck arguing for higher taxes. Raising the corporate income tax rate—already the highest in the world—or increasing the personal income rate are untenable, leaving Democrats no choice except to advocate for the repeal of tax credits and deductions.

In this vein, MSNBC Anchor Cenk Uygur has launched a miseducation campaign on the tax policies employed by the oil and natural gas industry.

Uygur: “It’s estimated that every year the United States Government gives approximately 4 billion dollars in tax subsidies to oil and gas companies.”

Fact: Unlike other sources of energy—wind, solar, ethanol, etc—the government does not give oil and natural gas producers any grants or loan guarantees, nor does it impose any consumption mandates. Since oil and natural gas companies receive none of the above actual subsidies, Uygur targets deductions these companies can write off on their income statement:

Subsidy?: Allowing a company to keep its own money is not a subsidy. The government taking money from Mr. Uygur and giving it to me is a subsidy, I have no claim on that money. Allowing Uygur to keep his own money, by employing a tax credit or deduction, is not a subsidy.

Uygur: “If I got $4 billion a year in subsidies, I’d be pretty good in that sport to. I wouldn’t have to work very hard at all.”

Fact: Since 2008 Congress has spent $65 billion funding renewable projects. Even after receiving enormous taxpayer subsidizes; these forms of energy are anything but ubiquitous. Again, the $4 billion Ugyur calls a subsidy is anything but—the government doesn’t spend a single dollar facilitating oil and natural gas production.

Uygur: “Meanwhile, we all know that these companies are pulling in absurd profits. Last year alone, the top five oil and gas companies earned a total of $77.4 billion in profits.”

Fact: Implicit in this statement is the sentiment that oil and natural gas companies are not “paying their fair share,” and gaming the system to achieve profits. This could not be farther from the truth: paying nearly $100 million a day in income taxes—and $300 billion in total income taxes between 2004-2008—the oil and natural gas industry tax expenses averages 48 percent, compared to 28 percent for other S&P Industrial companies. This number does not include an additional $60 billion in non-income taxes or $350 in excise taxes paid on petroleum products.

Supporting more than 9.2 million domestic jobs, America’s oil and natural gas producers are a pivotal part of the American economy. Repealing this industry’s tax policies won’t put a dent in the deficit but will kill thousands of jobs, and encourage Washington’s reckless spending habits.

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Why NMB Union Elections are Different than Congressional Elections


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, March 28th, 2011, 11:24 AM PERMALINK


Originally posted at WorkerFreedom.org.

Click here for a PDF copy.

With the imminent FAA Reauthorization bill containing a provision to annul the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) Minority Rule decision, it is imperative that Members understand what exactly Title IX in the FAA bill does. In short, it reflects the principle that Congress should determine and legislate significant changes in labor law, not unelected agency appointees.

The three-member NMB—two of whom are former union officials—ruled in 2010 that a majority of voting members were required to certify a union at airlines and railroads, not a majority of all members of a workforce. This move to facilitate unionization and overturn seventy-five years of labor law, supported by both parties, encapsulates concerns about federal overreach.

In response to these concerns, unions and their political allies have claimed that the “The NMB is applying the same rules to union elections that are used for congressional elections.” This is profoundly misleading. Union elections and Congressional elections are fundamentally different in numerous ways:
 
Tenure- Unlike Congresspersons or Senators who must stand for re-election every two or six years, transportation unions may never again be subject to another election. Due to the NMB’s arcane, pro-union rules, union certifications continue indefinitely, and while one union can replace another, no large airline or rail workgroup (with more than 400 members) has ever been able to vote to eliminate union representation. That is why, even under the traditional voting rules, the percentage of employees subject to union representation at airlines (60%) and railroads (84%), has been so much higher than the average in the private sector (7%). With no imminent election, it becomes impossibly difficult for workers to hold their union accountable
 
Voting- Unlike elections for government officials, union elections at airlines and railroads typically last for four to six weeks giving workers ample time to vote—workers can vote from any computer or telephone they choose to use, from their home or anywhere else! Claims by unions that workers who have a family emergency or fall ill will be silenced are intentionally misleading.
 
Electoral Mulligan- In a recent Delta election where workers voted against unionization, unions have run to the NMB claiming foul play—thereby necessitating another election. Some of the unions’ more ridiculous claims are that Delta encouraged too many people to vote and that union polling showed they should win. Imagine having to hold another election because your get-out-the-vote drive was too successful or because your opponent’s poll showed they would win. Furthermore, what if the people who get to determine whether to overturn the election results are three politically appointed board members—two of which are from your opponent’s party.
 
Forced Support- Once elected, transportation unions force their “members” to pay monthly dues. If a worker refuses to pay the union, well, they are fired—membership is not optional. State right-to-work laws do not apply under the Railway Labor Act. Even if I disagree with my Representative, I am not forced to cut him monthly checks simply because he is my Representative.
 
AWF urges Members to oppose all measures to strip Title IX out of
the FAA Reauthorization Bill

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Union v House Republican Showdown Scheduled for Next Week


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, March 25th, 2011, 10:03 AM PERMALINK


Orginally posted at BigGovernment.com

Ever since Obama was sworn in, obscure federal agencies have been churning out pro-labor, anti-worker rulemakings in an attempt to reverse declining unionization numbers. Indicative of this unionization through regulation strategy is the National Mediation Board’s (NMB) minority rule decision promulgated in 2009.

The NMB is a three-member board comprised of one Bush holdover and two Obama appointees—both of which are former union officials—tasked with overseeing union-employer relations in the transportation industry. The makeup of the board effectively gives the pro-union board members fiat to enact whatever policies or regulations they see fit. Unsurprisingly, the NMB’s first major decision was a move to facilitate unionization in the transportation industry.

Overturning seventy-five years of precedent and two Supreme Court rulings, the NMB ruled that a majority of voting members were required to certify a union, not a majority of all members of a workforce. For two years now, conservative activists and Members of Congress have written letters and introduced legislation attempting to annul this blatant federal overreach. These efforts have finally culminated in tangible legislation, Title IX of the FAA Reauthorization bill, which would overturn the NMB’s minority rule decision.

Click here to read more.

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After Long Fight, Republicans Reprimand EPA


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, March 15th, 2011, 10:31 AM PERMALINK


Originally posted at The Washington Examiner

Yesterday, the Energy and Power Subcommittee passed the highly anticipated, much debated Energy Tax Prevention Act, legislation which returns the obligation of setting America’s climate policy to Congress from the Environmental Protection Agency. Yesterday’s vote is the culmination of two years of doggedness by Republicans who have been fighting an uphill battle against well-funded Democrats, environmentalists, and unions.

More substantively, the Energy Tax Prevention Act prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Since losing the Cap-and-Trade debate, Democrats have relied on the EPA to impose their preferred energy policy on the country. The impetus behind Cap-and-Trade was to force Americans to move towards less efficient, more expensive sources of energy. Likewise, the EPA is attempting to achieve this end through the regulation of greenhouse gases.

 The Republican message that resonated so well in the fall of 2010 is still ringing true—it is Congress’ job to determine this country’s energy and climate policy, not the EPA’s. While a majority of Americans certainly would prefer to have their elected official dictating policy over federal bureaucrats, they also want a job to wake for everyday. The EPA’s regulations would have exacerbated our frustratingly high unemployment rate and unnecessarily inflated Americans’ utility and gasoline bills. In what would amount to a deathblow for America’s manufacturers and many of its coal producers, it is hard to exaggerate how destructive the EPA’s regulations would be—literally hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost over the coming years.

If the Energy Tax Prevention Act is not signed into law, oil, natural gas and coal refiners will have to invest tens of millions of dollars arbitrarily upgrading facilities. Energy producers that cannot afford these upgrades will be forced to close their doors. These regulations effectively choke off the supply of energy, thereby, increasing its price. America’s manufacturers, who are hanging on by a thread due to onerous federal regulations and increased competition abroad, would be forced to ship jobs overseas. New energy companies looking to meet the country’s energy demands will have to apply for permits from the EPA—a process no one, not even the EPA, thinks the agency has the capacity to handle.

Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) should be applauded for their job creating legislation. Expected to pass out of the Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday and the House soon thereafter, the real fight will be in the Senate. Senator Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has proposed a toothless EPA bill in an attempt to scuttle the Energy Tax Prevention Act and give Democrats cover in 2012. This will not work, their secret is out.

Yesterday’s vote shows how far we have come in the past two years. Americans are looking for jobs, economic growth, and lower energy bills—not a backdoor Cap-and-Trade scheme from the EPA.

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Obama Drags Out Democrats' Geriatric Energy Policy During State of the Union


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011, 2:00 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Version]

President Obama doubled down on his party’s energy policy during the State of the Union. Typical of Democrats, he demonized America’s oil and natural gas producers and looked to subsidize inefficient, alternative sources of energy.

Obama: With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015

If Obama’s endgame is energy independence, it is impossible to accomplish this goal without increased access to America’s outer continental shelf and vast natural gas deposits. America currently imports around 60 percent of its oil and is yet to find a viable domestic biofuel that could supplement this import/export disparity.

The President’s second goal, a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, is achievable only through the extension of massive taxpayer subsidies. The stimulus package allocated $2.4 billion in grants for advanced battery and vehicle manufacturing. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act guaranteed a $25 billion direct loan program aimed at electric vehicles. Furthermore, the $2,500–$7,500 tax credit available to electric car purchasers should be repealed and replaced in a revenue neutral way.

Obama: I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.

President Obama is referring to is Section 199 and dual-capacity deductions, two tax rules employed by nearly every domestic manufacturer. If the president wants to eliminate these policies, he should do so for all industries in a revenue neutral way. Raising taxes means higher energy bills and fewer jobs.

Obama: So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

A Clean Electricity Standard is not a novel idea and is nothing more than a mandate for Democrat’s preferred sources of energy. Forcing utilities to purchase energy from less efficient sources will raise Americans’ energy bills and further disadvantage American companies.

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After Consistently Losing Elections, Unions Ask Feds for Help


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 3:10 PM PERMALINK


This article was originally posted at BigGovernment.com

With public sentiment turning against organized labor, unions have enlisted obscure federal bureaucrats to help bolster their ranks. The Department of Labor has been busy rolling back transparency initiatives put in place during the last decade; the National Labor Relations Board is considering rules which would guarantee union organizers access to private property; the National Mediation Board (NMB) is easing union election rules for unions.

Of the three agencies charged with administering different facets of labor-employer relations, none has been more blatantly pro-union than the NMB over the past two years. Founded in 1934, the National Mediation Board is charged with overseeing labor-management disputes in the railroad and airline industries. The three member board—currently comprised of two former union officials and a Bush holdover—showed its true colors soon after its members were assembled. In its first major decision, the NMB ruled that transportation unions only needed to receive a majority of votes cast as oppose to a majority of all workers votes for the union to be certified.

From the union’s perspective, transportation workers are ideal union members. Workers are required to pay union dues if they want to keep their job—right to work laws are not applicable to this industry. Compounding workers’ problems, once a transportation union is elected it is virtually impossible to get rid of union representation. It is so difficult under the NMB’s rules that it has never been done in a group with more than 1000 employees. Coupled together, these policies make transportation workers a golden goose for unions—workers have to pony up hard earned cash, indefinitely.

The NMB’s move to facilitate union organizing was thought to have huge implications in looming union elections. One such showdown is between Delta’s flight attendants and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). 

When AFA called for an election, more then 94 percent of Delta flight attendants—nearly 19,000 employees—cast votes in what was sure to be a highly contested election. Of the 18,760 ballots cast, the National Mediation Board certified that 9,544 workers cast ballots for no representation, while 8,760 votes cast for AFA. But the NMB also counted 430 write-in votes – including 189 blank votes – as votes for union representation, so the AFA officially fell short of a majority by 300 votes.    

This was no anomaly; unions have lost seven of the seven Delta employee elections they’ve called for. Delta's below-wing airport customer service workers, cargo warehouse employees, simulator technicians, meteorologists, passenger service employees, stock clerks and flight attendants all rejected unions at the ballot box. The simulator technicians rejected unionization twice.

In two other groups, the unions voluntarily decertified without an election after it became apparent they couldn’t get majority support.  Thus, among nine groups, involving 56,000 employees, none has chosen to have union representation.

Unable to persuade Delta employees on the merits of their argument, unions have run to the NMB crying foul play. Unions are hoping that a sympathetic board will invalidate the democratically conducted elections, arbitrarily penalize Delta, and then call for another election. Revealing how baseless the union’s case before the NMB is, unions have challenged Delta for encouraging voter participation.

Senator Johnny Issakson (R-Ga.) and a group of 37 senators sent a letter to the National Mediation Board expressing similar concerns:

“While the Board Majority’s past actions with regard to the Delta-Northwest merger makes us question its impartiality in this case...a clear majority of voting flight attendants had to vote for no union representation for the AFA not to represent Delta flight attendants following the representation election. That is precisely the choice Delta flight attendants made.”

A similar letter from Americans for Tax Reform and nineteen other conservative groups and activists concludes:

“Despite the threats and bullying of the unions, it is the will of the people – the will of these employees democratically expressed through these elections – that should be honored.”
Initially unable to unionize Delta’s workers, the National Mediation Board eased election rules moving the goal posts at the behest of Big Labor. Now, after every union couldn’t persuade Delta’s workers to elect them, unions are yet again knocking on the NMB’s doors looking to avail themselves by superseding democratic elections. This is special interest politics at its worst—selling out workers for politically connected groups.

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Obama Administration Regulates Bad Times, Mandates Unemployment


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010, 1:13 PM PERMALINK


Two years into the Obama administration, one of its recurring themes has been regulatory overreach. The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to implement cap-and-trade after Congress failed to do so. The Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board and National Mediation Board—the three bodies which oversee union-employer relations—have overturned legislation, rescinded rulemakings, and reinterpreted eighty-year-old statues in order to facilitate unionization for Big Labor.

The latest iteration of this unfortunate narrative is the appointment of trial lawyer J. Dudley Butler to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the subsequent self-serving regulations he implemented. If you missed our previous posts (here, here, and here) about Butler, this should catch you up to speed:

Mr. Butler is now serving as the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), an agency of the USDA tasked with regulating the trade of poultry, livestock, and other agricultural products.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Butler worked as a trial lawyer in the Canton, Mississippi “Butler Farms and Ranch Law Group.” His specialty was suing the poultry industry for alleged violations of USDA regulations; these suits met with limited success. In May of 2009, he was picked by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to head the very same agency responsible for those regulations: GIPSA. In a move that should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Butler has taken his new position as a mandate to make his once and future profession a far more lucrative one.

While Mr. Butler’s appointment raises all kinds of ethical issues—ATR called for him to resign—more important is the impact of his regulations on Middle America. The American Meat Institute calculated that the Mr. Butler’s new regulations will result in 104,000 people losing their jobs and would reduce national GDP by $14.0 billion. The majority of these layoffs will be in the Midwest and rural communities where unemployment is disproportionately high.

It should come as no surprise that 115 Congressional Representatives from rural districts signed a letter to the USDA saying that new regulations were onerous and went too far. Similar measures were taken to prevent regulatory overreach when earlier this year Senator Murkowski proposed SJ Res 26 to reprimand the EPA. Legislators have spent unprecedented amounts of time and effort this year pushing back against unaccountable federal regulators.

Given our current economic stagnation, the last thing the American economy needs is to be handcuffed by regulators beholden to special interests. Given Mr. Butler’s history and the weight of his decisions, he is thoroughly unfit to serve the USDA.

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Koch Brothers Targets for Leftist Paranoia


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010, 5:13 PM PERMALINK


In the dark annals of conspiracy theories, a few names are instantly recognizable. The Knights Templar. Freemasons. Illuminati. The Koch brothers.

Wait, what?

If recent media hype is to be believed, libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch are the prime architects of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.  From Tea Parties to TSA protests, it seems that there is no political cause that cannot be tainted by the hint of financial or ideological association with the Kochs, however tenuous it may be.  The thinking among liberal pundits seems to be that popular conservative initiatives are rendered illegitimate if one can conjure up an image of the Koch brothers stroking Persian cats and using their evil corporate funds to buy the allegiance of the duped masses.

For example, take a recent article from The Nation written Yasha Levine and Mark Ames (the former has called Tea Partiers “big government whores,” the latter thinks that school shootings like Columbine are forms of political protest), who attempt to discredit the recent movement against “enhanced” airport screening techniques.  Their piece begins by admitting that the issue is “certainly important—and offensive—to Americans,” and then proceeds to smear anyone who has come to prominence in opposing and exposing the TSA.  The authors accomplish this by heavily implying that individuals such as John Tyner III of “don’t touch my junk” fame are nothing more that Koch-funded pawns.  These claims are so unsubstantiated that Ames and Levine have to rely so heavily on innuendo that they border on bald-faced lies.  

Their oft used formula is this: suspect is libertarian/knows libertarians, the Koch brothers are also libertarians, thus the suspect and the entire “grassroots” movement he represents must be controlled by those dark puppet masters.  Someone should tell these guys how a syllogism works.

While Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel penned an apology to Tyner, she tacitly defended the Left’s new axiom that the Kochs compel all critics of liberalism.

Along the same lines, a blog post for The Nation by Leslie Savan reveals that ordinary Americans wouldn't be opposed to food and beverage taxes without the influence of Big Bad Food Inc.  Savan’s main argument is to note conservative positions (consumer freedom is good, the nanny state is bad) and grunt derisively in a style reminiscent of Kristen Wigg’s “Aunt Linda” character from Saturday Night Live.  Toward the end she slips in the required jibe:

“In fact, AAFT might be nicknamed Coke and Koch: while it bills itself as "a coalition of concerned citizens—responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses," those businesses include the Tea Party–supporting front groups Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform, both of which are funded by the rightwing Koch brothers.”

This information is supposedly meant to prompt the invalid conclusion that “front groups” like Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform are merely acting on the behest of the Koch family.  After all, it couldn’t possibly be that Americans for Tax Reform was abiding by a mandate it has followed since the 1980’s, namely, opposition to all net tax hikes.  Normal Americans couldn’t have a problem with giving away money to a government that thinks it knows better than they do.  No, this must all be the work of that nefarious duo, Charles and David Koch.

The truth is that the Left operates on a double standard when it comes to political activism of the wealthy.  The Koch brothers are demonized along with like-minded organizations, while George Soros and his ilk get a free pass.  With all the howling about this season’s campaign contributions by American Crossroads and the Chamber of Commerce, massive public-sector union financing remains sacrosanct.  It’s time for the liberal establishment to stop these ad hominem attacks on conservative benefactors and start defending their own positions.  Perhaps they are unable to.   

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Response to Bob Barr's Characterization of the ATR Pledge and Ethanol Tax Credit


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 1:48 PM PERMALINK


Yesterday, Bob Barr ran a piece in the Hill outlining the politics surrounding the proposed extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (“VEETEC”). In his piece, Mr. Barr misinterprets the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge writing:

"The highly influential taxpayer watchdog group, Americans for Tax Reform, has advised the more than 200 members of Congress who are signatories to its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” that voting against extending VEETC could be considered a violation of their pledge."

The pledge has two components, both are important in this VEETC case study. The pledge reads: 

"....I will ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."

The misunderstanding of the pledge usually has to do with the second clause calling signers to oppose any net reductions or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates. In the past, calls to eliminate the ethanol tax credit without offsetting the increased revenue were clear violations of the pledge. However, the current debate is not whether to eliminate a tax credit (which is a clear violation) but whether or not to renew an expiring tax credit. This is an important distinction.

With the VEETC set to expire, baseline projections assume that the government will garner additional revenue in 2010. In essence, the VEETC’s expiration is expected and creates a new benchmark by which to judge legislation. Using the expected 2010 baseline as our metric to determine whether or not a piece of legislation (in this case the extension of the VEETC, or said another way, the reissuing of a tax credit) is in violation of the pledge, we can see that reauthorizing the VEETC would be a tax cut. Thus, if legislators choose not to reauthorize the tax credit, they are not in violation of the pledge as they are keeping revenue consistent with current 2010 projections.

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