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Chris Prandoni

Happy Earth Day, A Look at Obama's Failed Anti-Growth Energy Policies


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, April 22nd, 2010, 9:28 AM PERMALINK


This Earth Day, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) takes a look at what this Administration has done for the earth – called for higher taxes, supported job killing legislation, and attempted to increase the cost every American family pays for energy. 

The President’s own budget calls for direct increases in energy taxes of over $220,000,000,000 by 2020, and there’s more: 
  • The Administration supports cap-and-trade
    • A family of four can expect its per-year energy costs to rise by $1,241
    • Including taxes, a family of four will pay an additional $4,609 per year
    • Net job losses approach 1.9 million in 2012 and could approach 2.5 million by 2035
    • Gasoline prices will rise by 58 percent ($1.38 more per gallon) and average household electric rates will increase by 90 percent 
  • Backs the Environmental Protection Agency’s Endangerment Finding
    • Findings concluded that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
  • Supports Senator’s Kerry (D-Mass), Graham (R-S.C.), and Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) Energy Bill:
    • Gasoline prices rising an average of 27 cents a gallon from 2013 to 2020
    • Sets emissions reduction targets of 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 
“Rather than continue to harm our economy and support tax increases, this Administration should seek to expand American production of energy, in all forms, to create jobs and increase economic productivity,” said ATR President Grover Norquist.
 
Click here for PDF Version  

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Florida Would Gain $2.52 billion From Offshore Drilling


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, April 19th, 2010, 1:40 PM PERMALINK


WASHINGTON, D.C. –With Florida facing a predicted $6.0 billion shortfall and 12.2 percent unemployment, Americans for Tax Reform continues to urge President Obama, Congress, and state elected officials to look toward energy exploration and production to create jobs, decrease the cost of energy and increase our domestic supply.

  • Allowing for full development of Florida’s offshore resources would bring necessary commerce to Florida, increasing its economic output (GSP) by 2.52 billion annually. 
  • While the private sector continues to shed jobs, offshore drilling would bring 20,454 long-term, well paying jobs to the state of Florida over the next seven years – every job associated with offshore drilling earns above average wages, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
  • Investment in oil exploration would bring in $242 million in additional tax revenue annually, without raising taxes, and could be used to pay down Florida’s $6.0 billion deficit.

The current plan proposed by President Obama restricts or prohibits states from complete oil exploration, substantially reducing the economic gains readily available to struggling states.

“All of the benefits associated with offshore drilling, increased economic output, well-paying jobs, new tax revenue, remain locked up in America’s oil reserves. Although a majority of Americans support offshore development, the Obama administration has put forth a plan that inhibits Florida’s economic recovery and ability to grow over the coming years,” said Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform.

Click here for the PDF Version of this release and click here for source.

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Connecticut Would Gain $213 million From Offshore Drilling


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, April 15th, 2010, 10:01 AM PERMALINK


With Connecticut facing a predicted $4.7 billion shortfall and 9.1 percent unemployment, Americans for Tax Reform continues to urge President Obama, Congress, and state elected officials to look toward energy exploration and production to create jobs, decrease the cost of energy and increase our domestic supply.

  • Allowing for full development of Connecticut’s offshore resources would bring necessary commerce to Connecticut, increasing its economic output (GSP) by $213 million annually. 
  • While the private sector continues to shed jobs, offshore drilling would bring 812 long-term, well paying jobs to the state of Connecticut over the next seven years – every job associated with offshore drilling earns above average wages, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
  • Investment in oil exploration would bring in $21 million in additional tax revenue annually, without raising taxes, and could be used to pay down Connecticut’s $4.7 billion deficit.

The current plan proposed by President Obama restricts or prohibits states from complete oil exploration, substantially reducing the economic gains readily available to struggling states.

“All of the benefits associated with offshore drilling, increased economic output, well-paying jobs, new tax revenue, remain locked up in America’s oil reserves. Although a majority of Americans support offshore development, the Obama administration has put forth a plan that inhibits Connecticut’s economic recovery and ability to grow over the coming years,” said Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform.

Click here for the PDF version  of this release and click here for the source.

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ATR Asks Obama to Clarify Administration's Position on a VAT Tax


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010, 4:12 PM PERMALINK


Given the enormous deficit facing America and the Administration’s calls for additional revenue, Grover Norquist sent the following letter to President Obama asking him to clarify his position on the VAT tax.  

[PDF Document]

Dear President Obama:

During your campaign for President and up until the present day, you have consistently reiterated a promise to the American people: you will not raise “any form” of taxes on families and small businesses making less than $250,000 per year.

You broke this promise by signing your healthcare reform legislation.  Seven of the nineteen new taxes or tax hikes in that law fall directly on working families.  The rest will be passed along to middle-income households in the form of higher prices and lower wages.

Now, it seems that administration surrogates have been laying the groundwork for a European-style value-added tax (VAT).  Just this month, your tax commission chairman, Paul Volcker, said that the VAT is “not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past.  Deficit reduction commission member Alice Rivlin (a longtime VAT sympathizer) said, “we have to take action on the revenue side as well.”

Since a VAT is a type of sales tax, it would clearly be imposed on all Americans—not just those making more than $250,000. 

You need to make it clear to taxpayers if you believe in your promise not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000.  You clearly didn’t follow through with this promise when it came to healthcare reform.  Will you again break it by imposing a VAT, or will you rule out a VAT as inconsistent with your campaign pledge?

Sincerely,
Grover Norquist

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SEIU President Andy Stern Set to Retire


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010, 5:23 PM PERMALINK


Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andrew Stern, labor’s most outspoken leader, will retire, according to an SEIU local president based in Seattle, Diane Sosne. During Andy Stern’s tenure as president, SEIU rose to prominence disaffiliating with AFL-CIO in 2005 and going on to collectively bargain for 2.2 million workers.

In a press release issued by AWF (PDF Document), they stated:

“This year, more than any in recent history, Andy Stern has been the voice of Big Labor – a voice that pushed for less worker freedom and more union control while skirting the law. Stern continued to lobby year after year, even after he terminated his registered status as a lobbyist, possibly violating federal law. I guess now we will never know exactly what happened behind the scenes of Stern’s labor empire,” said Brian Johnson, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom.

The past twelve months have been tumultuous for the SEIU and Andy Stern. Currently under investigation by the US State Attorney for potentially violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act, Stern has been the subject of criticism by transparency advocates. In California, SEIU was accused of changing ballots and threatening to report a worker to immigration officials.

“Stern did whatever it took to build his empire. Aggressively pursuing organized labor’s agenda, he often used precarious tactics and utilized contentious relationships, like ACORN, to get what he wanted,” Johnson added. “Stern defined the modern labor movement. It will be interesting to see who picks up the reins and what Stern does to occupy his time. Regardless, I am certain Washington has not seen the last of Andrew Stern.”

Anna Burger, SEIU secretary-treasurer, second-highest executive and head of Change to Win will be challenged by an executive vice president, Mary Kay Henry.

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Live Vicariously Through Rep.Garrett's Forceful Letter to Rep. Frank


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010, 3:46 PM PERMALINK


If one were to pass by my house on a weekday from 8:00-9:00 and hear a flurry of obscenities strung together in unprecedented ways, chances are I’m watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Thankfully, I’m not alone. Countdown elicits the same feverous rants from most conservatives and, apparently, even some Members of Congress. After watching Barney Frank’s appearance on Countdown, Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) wrote a vehement, but tasteful, letter to Rep. Frank looking to discredit Rep. Frank’s freight train of disinformation (Q&A with Olbermann).

Rep. Garrett’s letter systematically dismantles Rep. Frank’s mischaracterization of the Republican Party’s financial reform plans. Rep. Garrett has an axe to grind:

“Summarizing your remarks, you stated that Republicans are standing up for the big banks, don’t want any financial regulatory reform, and health care was the reason that every House Republican, as well as 27 members in the Democratic Caucus, voted against your financial regulatory reform bill passed by the House in December.

I believe these comments to be either an early April Fool’s Day joke or politically motivated posturing that is just plain wrong.”

Rep. Garrett keeps on grinding...

“You attempt to categorize opposition to your bill as a defense of big banks, opposition which I might add, includes 27 member of your own caucus in the House. However, you participated in a robust debate we had in the House Financial Services Committee as well as on the floor of the House of Representatives. I know you heard arguments the Members that opposed your legislation, and you must know they did so because it codifies the bailout policy employed during the financial crisis...”

The letter is short and best read in its entirety.
Hats off to Congressman Garrett for confronting Rep. Frank and reaffirming why MSNBC’s ratings continue to plummet.

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Consequences of Ever-growing Public Sector Unionization


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010, 2:27 PM PERMALINK


A recent short paper by the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards examines the growth of public sector unions over the past 50 years and this trend's implications for the future of American government. Although unions dominate the public sector today, it wasn’t always this way. It was the reinterpretation of the 1935 Wagner Act, legislation that allowed for collective bargaining of workers, in the 1960s and 1970s that allowed for the collective bargaining of public employees, thus beginning a wave of public sector unionization.

Today, public sector workers are unionized at a rate five times that of private sector workers. While the first half of Mr. Edwards' paper is dedicated to the describing the rise of public sector unions and collective bargaining agreements, the second half focuses on the repercussions of such policy. As AWF has previously noted, public sector workers are compensated more generously than private sector workers raising the tax burden for American taxpayers. Annually, public sector workers earn an average of $11,000 more in wages and receive $30,000 more in retirement benefits than their private sector counterparts. Shifting money from taxpayers to politically connected unions hardly seems fair.

Edwards goes on to describe other ways unions foster a non-productive workforce:

Unions tend to protect poorly performing workers, they often push for larger staffing levels than required, and they discourage the use of volunteers in government activities. Further, they tend to resist the introduction of new technologies and they create a more rule-laden workplace.

In the private sector, businesses can mitigate such union-caused inefficiencies. In response to union demands for higher pay, for example, businesses can substitute capital for labor. Unfortunately, public-sector managers have little incentive or flexibility to make such changes.

Teachers unions have been some of the most heavily criticized public sector workers in the country. Earning tenure after two or three years, teachers secure lifetime jobs before proving they are competent. The New Yorker ran an excellent expose last year documenting the lengths at which teachers unions went to protect their own. The story below is a personal account of a troubled teacher, her union, and the New York school system:

On November 23, 2005, according to a report prepared by the Education Department’s Special Commissioner of Investigation, Adams was found “in an unconscious state” in her classroom. “There were 34 students present in [Adams’s] classroom,” the report said. When the principal “attempted to awaken [Adams], he was unable to.” When a teacher “stood next to [Adams], he detected a smell of alcohol emanating from her.

Adams’s return to teaching, more than two years later, had come about because she and the Department of Education had signed a sealed agreement whereby she would teach for one more semester, then be assigned to non-teaching duties in a school office, if she hadn’t found a teaching position elsewhere. The agreement also required that she “submit to random alcohol testing” and be fired if she again tested positive. In February, 2009, Adams passed out in the office where she had to report every day. A drug-and-alcohol-testing-services technician called to the scene wrote in his report that she was unable even to “blow into breathalyzer,” and that her water bottle contained alcohol. As the stipulation required, she was fired.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the U.F.T. until this month (she is now the president of the union’s national parent organization), said in July that the Web site “should have been updated,” adding, “Mea culpa.” The Web site’s story saying that Adams believed she was the “victim of an effort to move senior teachers out” was still there as of mid-August. Ron Davis, a spokesman for the U.F.T., told me that he was unable to contact Adams, after what he said were repeated attempts, to ask if she would be available for comment.

In late August, I reached Adams, and she told me that no one from the union had tried to contact her for me, and that she was “shocked” by the account of her story on the U.F.T. Web site. “My case had nothing to do with seniority,” she said. “It was about a medical issue, and I sabotaged the whole thing by relapsing.” Adams, whose case was handled by a union lawyer, said that, last year, when a U.F.T. newsletter described her as the victim of a seniority purge, she was embarrassed and demanded that the union correct it. She added, “But I never knew about this Web-site article, and certainly never authorized it. The union has its own agenda.” The next morning, Adams told me she had insisted that the union remove the article immediately; it was removed later that day. Adams, who says that she is now sober and starting a school for recovering teen-age substance abusers, asked that her real name not be used.”

Although teachers unions elicit the strongest emotions in commentators—and they should, the thought of children being taught by drunk teachers is disturbing—the U.F.T’s tactics in this short excerpt exemplifies how unions protect poor, unproductive workers. One way to combat public sector unionization is to ban public sector collective bargaining agreements, Virginia already has. Chris Edwards' concludes by writing:

"Like other private groups, unions have free speech rights to voice their opinions about public policy. But collective bargaining gives unions the exclusive right to speak for covered workers, many of whom may disagree with the views of the monopoly union. Furthermore, collective bargaining is inconsistent with the right to freedom of association.17 Individuals are prevented from dealing directly with their employer and they can’t choose to be represented by another organization.

Collective bargaining gives a privileged position in our democracy to government insiders who focus on expanding the public sector to their personal benefit. The special position of unions is strengthened in states that have mandatory union dues and fees. Workers can opt out of paying the portion of dues going toward union politicking, but they have to leave the union and actively solicit to get back a portion of their payments.

Monopolies in business usually create higher cost and lower quality services. Monopoly unions create similar problems in labor markets. State governments should ban collective bargaining in the public sector, following the successful policies of Virginia and North Carolina. With the many large fiscal challenges facing governments—such as huge pension funding gaps—policymakers need flexibility to make tough budget decisions. But powerful unions make budget reforms very difficult, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for example, is finding out.

To put citizens and taxpayers back in control of their governments, collective bargaining and forced union dues should be outlawed in the public sector. Public employees should be free to join worker associations, but they should not be given a special legal status and handed extra power to block desperately needed fiscal reforms."

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OHSA Creeps Towards Ergonomics Regulations


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, March 25th, 2010, 3:34 PM PERMALINK


Ergonomics, another form of government imposed work standards, has been a long sought-after goal of Democrats. Most recently, Congress rejected Occupation Health and Safety Administration’s (OHSA) proposed workplace ergonomics standards in 2001. With Democrats controlling the executive and legislative branches, the current makeup of Capitol Hill represents ergonomics supporters' best chance at implementing their policy.

During the last go around, in 2001, ergonomics advocates’ legislation failed because they overreached. To the objective observer OHSA’s attempt to overhaul workforce standards seemed unnecessary; they failed to build their case. OHSA is not making the same mistake again and has amended OHSA 300 logs to require employers to record “work-related” musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The proposal also contains an overly broad definition of recordable “MSDs” which significantly expands which conditions must be captured on employer logs.
 
To illustrate the haziness surrounding MSDs, let us consider this likely scenario:

My friend Sara just bought a new apartment and asked me to help her move in this Sunday, painstaking work-- Sara isn’t very strong. I wake up Monday and my back is killing me. I need the money though and decide its best I go to work today. I’m a delivery man and bend down to pick up a large package. When I pick up the package I throw my back out. Normally, I would have easily moved this amount of weight, but I spent all Sunday lifting couches for my friend.  

Under OHSA’s proposals, nearly any MSD that occurred at work, although it may not have been caused by work related activities, will be tabulated and sent to OHSA. The recorded numbers will be inflated due to the ambiguity about what constitutes an MSD; employers are punished if they fail to report MSDs further incentivizing them to report any and all “injuries.” Although simply recording this data is harmless in itself, the inflated numbers will be used by OHSA to build a case to justify ergonomics implementation. Ergonomics advocates will now go to congress with huge numbers and say “look at this data. We need to act now.”

While OHSA claims that changing its OHSA 300 logs is nothing more than “checking a box,” the impetus behind such measures is to rationalize ergonomics.
 

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AWF Urges Obama to Respect the Will of the Senate: Do Not Recess Appoint Craig Becker


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, March 25th, 2010, 12:50 PM PERMALINK


Following the intense debate surrounding Craig Becker’s failed confirmation to the National Labor Relations Board, the Alliance for Worker Freedom sent out the following letter to President Obama asking him not to recess appoint Becker.

[PDF Document]

Dear President Obama:

On behalf of the Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF), an organization established in 2003 to combat anti-worker legislation and promote free and open labor markets, I would like to urge you to not make any recess appointments, specifically your National Labor Relations Board nominee Craig Becker.

Mr. Becker’s nomination pended for months during which time Senators weighed and debated the ramifications of his confirmation. Thousands of questions were submitted to Mr. Becker asking him to clarify controversial statements, writings, and acquaintances.  

In a bipartisan effort on Feb. 9, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on a vote for Craig Becker. Both Democrat and Republican Senators found Mr. Becker’s view of unions, employers, and the NLRB too problematic to warrant confirmation. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voices this opinion:

 “Mr. Becker’s previous statements strongly indicate that he would take an aggressive personal agenda to the NLRB, and that he would pursue a personal agenda there.”

The Congressional conformation process is one of our country’s oldest checks and balances, enacted to limit the power of the executive branch. It is by submission to this tried and true process that the United States has retained its evenhanded governance. Your reverence to these principals in this instance is admirable.

Mr. Becker’s unsuccessful confirmation was the result of hours upon hours of research and debate, not fickle politics as some are suggesting. To appoint Mr. Becker after such deliberation would be to blatantly disregard the will of the Senate and the people it represents. It is for these reasons that you should not recess appoint Mr. Becker. 

Sincerely,
Brian M. Johnson, MPA
Executive Director

cc:    All Members of Congress

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Democrats Attempt to Subvert Congress in Hopes of Carbon Regulation


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, March 11th, 2010, 5:09 PM PERMALINK


What a difference a year makes. A year into Obama’s presidency we were suppose to have universal government-run health care, an energy tax (Cap-and-Trade), and a slew of other  intrusive programs, mandates, and decrees. The thing is, Americans don’t want their lives turned upside-down at the whim of Washington politicians. But Democrats refuse to listen. They talk themselves into thinking that they know better than thou; that the American people don’t know what they really want. It is this tragic example of groupthink that is the impetus for all of the Democrats' political tactics.

Instead of passing healthcare reform through conventional means, Democrats have dragged the country through a convoluted sausage packing that may manifest itself in a reconciliation vote. Cap-and-Trade passed the House last June by the slimmest of margins, 219-212, only to stall in the Senate – Harry Reid never had the votes. During simpler times Cap-and-Trade would be dead, but no. Unable to pass cap-and-trade through traditional legislative measures, the Obama administration has called upon the EPA to do its dirty work, to unilaterally instate a national energy tax. In a February 22, 2010 letter to Senator Rockefeller, EPA Director Lisa Jackson wrote:

“I expect that EPA will phase-in permit requirements and regulation of greenhouse gases for large stationary sources beginning in calendar year 2011... In any event, EPA does not intend to subject the smallest sources to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse-gas emissions any sooner than 2016.” –EPA Director Lisa Jackson

Subverting the will of Congress and the American people, the EPA has decided that it will dictate America’s energy policy. Luckily, this move has received substantial scrutiny. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas), in their respective chambers, each introduced legislation that would bar the EPA from regulating (taxing) greenhouse gases. Americans for Tax reform sent out the following letters urging Members to sign on to Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Barton’s resolutions of disapproval. Americans for Tax Reform also sent out this letter to the White House asking for President Obama and Lisa Jackson to yield to the will of Congress. This is an important fight. If the EPA is allowed to enact what Congress couldn’t, it would open the floodgates to a new era of governance, one dictated not by Representatives of Congress but by bureaucratic appointees.

Below is the letter Grover Norquist sent to the Senate:
 

Dear Senator

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I am writing to urge you to support Senator Murkowski’s submission of disapproval regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon dioxide endangerment finding. Senator Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval is an attempt to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.   

Unable to pass greenhouse gas regulations through Congress, members of the current administration have attempted to shape American energy policy via the EPA. In a February 22, 2010 letter sent by EPA Director Lisa Jackson to Senator Rockefeller, she wrote:

“I expect that EPA will phase-in permit requirements and regulation of greenhouse gases for large stationary sources beginning in calendar year 2011... In any event, EPA does not intend to subject the smallest sources to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse-gas emissions any sooner than 2016.”

Unabashedly stating her intentions to begin issuing carbon permits next year, Lisa Jackson looks to enact controversial cap-and-trade like legislation on her own. This administrations attempt to subvert Congress, and the will of the American people, by enacting backdoor carbon regulations is reprehensible. The EPA should not act as chief regulator of America’s economy, it was never intended to.

Acting as a safeguard for the American people, Senator Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval would ensure that the EPA could not overhaul America’s energy industry, and subsequently the American economy. With the American economy still sluggish and unemployment hovering around 10 percent, any carbon regulation would be disastrous.

Facing carbon regulations, energy producers would have no choice but to raise energy prices, passing the cost of EPA’s regulations to consumers. Undoubtedly, higher energy prices would result in lost productivity and jobs while reducing America’s global competitiveness. Energy taxes divert money from the most productive sectors of the American economy to less efficient energy sources. Companies considering investing in the U.S. already must weigh America’s inexplicably high corporate tax rate. Compounding an energy tax to an already high business taxes would certainly deter foreign investment -- further prolonging the current downturn. 

Action against the EPA’s imminent carbon regulation is necessary. I urge you to proactively fight this measure and support Senator Murkowski’s resolution of disapproval. 

Onward,
 
Grover G. Norquist

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