Justin Sykes

Obama's Birthday Wish List: Job Losses and Increased Poverty Rates

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, July 30th, 2015, 3:24 PM PERMALINK

Next week the Obama Administration and EPA will release the final version of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). In support of the rule, the President and EPA routinely cite to the benefits the CPP’s carbon emissions regulations will have on the American public and environment.

Yet such “benefits” are tenuous at best, largely based on questionable science and seldom founded in reality. The EPA’s own projections show the rule would amount to a 0.02 degrees Celsius difference in world temperatures by 2100 and sea level reduction equivalent to the thickness of three sheets of paper. 

However in stark contrast, the impact the President’s carbon regulations will have on Americans, especially the country’s most vulnerable are all too real. Consensus shows and the EPA has even agreed that the carbon regulations will lead to higher energy rates across the nation. Indeed double-digit increases are expected in over 40 states. 

While the President and his Capitol Hill cronies may not be impacted by rate increases, many of the countries most vulnerable will not be so lucky. A recent report by the National Black Chamber of Commerce found that the President’s carbon regulations could prove devastating for minority communities.

The Chamber’s report looked at job losses, decreased household income and increased poverty rates due to the carbon rule. The report showed that 200,000 African-American jobs would be lost just in 2020. During that same period over 300,000 jobs would be lost in Hispanic communities. The cumulative impact by 2035 would be almost 7 million African-American jobs lost and over 12 million for Hispanics. 

Additionally, the report projected that the carbon regulations would reduce median household income for African-Americans by more than $5,000 within the next 20 years. For Hispanics the impacts would be even worse, with reductions over $7,000.

However the most troubling finding of the report was the impact on poverty rates resulting from reduced income and job losses. For African Americans the poverty rate is slated to jump by 23 percent and Hispanic poverty would grow by 26 percent.       

It appears that the Obama Administration and the EPA are more than willing to ignore such devastating impacts, all in the name of preserving the President’s legacy. In fact it is rumored the final rule may be released on President Obama’s birthday, August 4th.

Sadly, while the President is blowing out his candles next week, many of the country’s most vulnerable will be preparing for the worst. Thus on behalf of the millions of Americans soon to be teetering on the brink of poverty as a result of the Clean Power Plan…Happy Birthday Mr. President.  


Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson

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Speaker Boehner Endorses Lifting the Crude Export Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, July 30th, 2015, 9:18 AM PERMALINK

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week came out in support of lifting the decades old ban on the export of U.S. crude oil. 

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Speaker Boehner stated, “Lifting the ban would create an estimated 1 million jobs here at home, jobs that would frankly get created in every state. It would help bring down prices at the pump for consumers, and it will be good for our allies.” 

Since the 1970's the U.S. has had a ban in place on the export of crude oil. The ban was originally enacted to protect U.S. supplies in response to decades of declining domestic production and issues in the international oil market. 

Yet in recent years the U.S. has experienced a renaissance in energy production, thanks in part to improvements in extraction and exploration methods, and it is increasingly evident the ban is no longer justified. As Speaker Boehner alluded, the economic benefits of lifting the ban would ripple throughout the economy and extend to all states, not just producers.

An overwhelming number of studies project lifting the export ban would create hundreds of thousands of jobs annually, increase household income for millions of Americans and lower domestic fuel prices. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that lifting the ban would increase the “size of the economy…employment, investment, public revenue and trade.”

The Speaker’s support finds widespread, bipartisan company with a growing number of those in Congress. On the House side Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) has introduced legislation to lift the ban and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are leading a similar effort in the Senate.

Speaker Boehner’s endorsement for lifting the ban is a productive step forward. Americans for Tax Reform encourages members of Congress to follow the Speaker’s lead in supporting an end to this outdated relic of 1970’s era policy.


Photo credit: USDA

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Obama Carbon Regulations could leave Manatees out in the cold

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

President Obama and the EPA are expected to unveil the final version of their Clean Power Plan (CPP) next week. While criticism of the rule has centered on the economically disastrous impact the CPP’s carbon emissions regulations will have, some in Washington are crying foul for a different reason – that the regulations could leave hundreds of Florida manatees out in the cold…literally. 

It’s no secret the President’s carbon regulations will force the premature retirement of coal-fired power plants across the U.S. In fact the President seems wholly indifferent to the thousands of jobs and livelihoods he’s destroying. However what the President and EPA did not count on is that some of the power plants that will be shuttered are integral to the survival of hundreds of Florida manatees.              

The issue stems from the fact that the warm-water discharge from some Florida coal-fired power plants, such as Florida’s Big Bend Power Station, has become home to hundreds of West Indian manatees. The manatees are drawn to the warm-water discharge for a nearly six-month period in the winter.

In fact, as reported by the Washington Times, the Big Bend Power Station actually created a “Manatee Viewing Center” in 1986 with nature walks and observation platforms for visiting tourists. Thus the likely closure of such plants under the Clean Power Plan would have a profound impact on the manatee populations that rely on such sanctuaries to survive during the winter months. 

However in drafting the soon to be released Clean Power Plan, the President nor EPA took these impacts into consideration as would otherwise be required under the Endangered Species Act.

“This is troubling for the manatee, but even more disturbing is the possibility that the Obama administration would strategically disregard the law when it serves their interests or the President’s legacy,” said Julia Bell, press secretary for the House Natural Resources Committee.

The EPA has deflected charges the Agency failed to take into account the impact on certain endangered species like the Florida manatee, instead arguing the choice to close such power plants will be left to the states. However this argument holds little water given the Clean Power Plan’s compliance standards leave states with almost no “choice” but to shutter the plants.

While the outcome of this dilemma is still unclear, what is overwhelmingly clear is that nothing, not the destruction of thousands of people’s livelihoods or even the Endangered Species Act, will prevent the President from doing what he has to do to preserve his legacy.     


Photo Credit: Psyberartist

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Blumenthal Amendment Destroys Trade-in Value and Consumer Choice

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015, 1:06 PM PERMALINK

This week the Senate will likely vote on an amendment being offered by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would make it illegal for dealers to sell a car with an open recall. While at first this sounds reasonable, the reality is this amendment would apply to any and all recalls, some as insignificant as a misprinted owner’s manual.

The consequences of Blumenthal’s amendment would be a blanket restriction leaving not just dealerships holding the bag but American consumers. In fact the most burdensome impact would be on millions of average Americans who suddenly find their cars with zero trade-in value. It would also prevent consumers from buying some models even though the recall is extremely trivial. 

The truth is while safety recalls receive the most attention, the majority are unrelated to safety. For example some KIA models were subject to recall because the tire pressure sticker was misprinted. General Motors also saw a recall of Camaros because “the air bag warning label on the sun visor may peel off.”

Although it is good for consumers to be well informed, enacting overzealous restrictions that blanket the automobile industry and consumer trade-ins is not an approach founded in logic.

For instance a more common sense approach would be to have dealers disclose open recalls at the point of the sale. This would allow consumers to decide whether something as trivial as a misprinted label is important enough to deter purchase. This is exactly how the free market is supposed to work.

Senator Blumenthal’s amendment assumes to little of consumers and market forces. The Senator’s amendment would limit consumer choice and destroy the trade-in value for millions of Americans. Lawmakers in Congress should take action and oppose this illogical and economically detrimental amendment. 


Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

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ATR Urges Congress to let the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Expire

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, July 20th, 2015, 2:43 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to allow the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy to expire. 

Originally enacted in 2006, this 30 percent commercial and residential credit was intended to facilitate a fledgling solar industry. Yet in recent years solar has sufficiently matured and the time has come for  these taxpayer backed handouts to end.  

Congress now has a great opportunity to clean up America's tax code and begin peeling back government policies that unfairly pick winners and losers - simply by taking no action. Below is the full text of the letter: 

Dear Senators:

 On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to allow the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy to expire. 

The ITC was never intended to be permanent but has received repeated extensions over the years. Congress is under no obligation to continue to extend temporary tax policy; simply because the ITC is law in 2015 does not justify the tax credit’s existence indefinitely. 

ATR supports allowing the ITC to expire and also urges lawmakers to oppose the inclusion of “Commence Construction” language that some are advocating for, which is a thinly veiled attempt for a backdoor extension of the credit. Allowing the ITC to continue disadvantages energy consumers by skewing America’s energy market, unfairly picking winners and losers and distorting our tax code. 

Originally introduced in 2006, the 30 percent credit for commercial and residential solar was intended to facilitate a fledging industry. Since then, the solar industry has sufficiently matured and its power generation is even mandated in a number of states.

Relying so heavily on the ITC, the solar industry has put Congress in the awkward and ill-suited position of deciding whether Americans will consume more or less solar energy. America’s energy markets are enormously complex systems, which function most efficiently without government’s distortive policies.

Burdened with political considerations, the federal government is ill-equipped to determine what source of energy Americans should use. With the federal ITC set to expire at the end of 2016, Congress has a great opportunity to cleanup America’s tax code and begin peeling back government’s distortive policies – simply by taking no action.


Grover G. Norquist                                                    



Photo Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory 

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ATR Supports Lifting the Crude Export Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, July 15th, 2015, 10:12 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to support H.R. 702, a bill introduced by Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), which would repeal the outdated federal ban on crude oil exports. 

The current ban on the export of crude oil is a relic of 1970's policy, enacted in response to fears of a domestic energy shortage. Yet today this outdated ban is no longer justified with domestic production at an all time high and the U.S. now one of the world's leading producers.

H.R. 702 would repeal this outdated ban and allow the U.S. to fully realize the economic benefits of the ongoing renaissance in domestic energy production. Below is the full text of the letter:

Dear Congressman:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform I urge you to support H.R. 702, a bill introduced by Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), which would repeal the outdated federal ban on crude oil exports.

The current ban on the export of crude oil is a relic of 1970’s policy, enacted in response to fears of a domestic energy shortage. Nearly four decades later domestic production is at an all time high and the U.S. is now one of the world’s leading producers of oil and natural gas. In fact, production in a number of individual states is outpacing some of the world’s top energy-producing nations. 

This renaissance in domestic production has led to a decline in U.S. dependence on foreign imports and an increasing domestic supply. As a result the U.S. has shifted from a nation concerned over energy scarcity in the 1970’s to a nation of energy abundance today.

Allowing the export of U.S. crude would lead to growth in the energy sector, the benefits of which would ripple throughout the economy. Studies show lifting the ban would add hundreds of thousands of jobs annually and billions to GDP while also reducing domestic gas prices. Allowing crude exports is also projected to have far-reaching impacts in virtually every state, not just producers, as a result of the sprawling production supply chain.

H.R. 702 would allow the U.S. to fully realize the benefits of increased domestic energy production. Specifically, H.R. 702 would prohibit federal officials from imposing or enforcing any restriction on the export of crude oil and would require the Secretary of Energy to study and make recommendations on the appropriate size and composition of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  

H.R. 702 also comes at an extremely important time with the U.S. moving to lift sanctions on Iran that would allow for increased exports of Iranian crude, a move that would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

It is for these reasons that I urge you to support H.R. 702 to lift the ban on crude oil exports.



Grover G. Norquist                                                     


Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond

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ATR Supports Sen. Lee's ESA Amendment

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 8th, 2015, 1:00 PM PERMALINK

The U.S. Senate will soon consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As part of NDAA considerations, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is offering a common sense amendment to improve Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, one that balances state and local conservation concerns with property rights and military interests.

Senator Lee’s amendment would address concerns over the impacts that a potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse (GSG) would have on military operations and property rights. Recent reports from the Army, Air Force and Navy have highlighted that a potential listing could impact training operations, increase land management costs and prohibit military modernization.

In order to address these concerns, this amendment builds on recent conservation successes western states have had and highlights that states, not the federal government, are better suited to handle local conservation efforts. For instance Utah’s State Conservation Plan for the GSG has successfully increased the state’s GSG population almost 40% in recent years. ATR supports this amendment and urges all members of the Senate to do the same.   

Senator Lee’s amendment contains a number of necessary provisions that balance conservation with property rights and military considerations.

The amendment delays the GSG listing in order to allow Governors to effectively implement their state recovery plans. Senator Lee’s amendment would also delist the American Burying Beetle (ABB) which has seen a population surge in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The ABB has also met the Service’s own recovery objectives for the Midwest region and thus should be delisted.

Senator Lee's amendment is also consistent with the legislative language of the HASC-passed NDAA, which prohibits the listing of the GSG in an effort to encourage state-initiated plans that have proved overwhelmingly more successful than federal efforts.

With the potential listing of the Greater Sage-Grouser coming soon, lawmakers should act now to encourage effective state conservation plans as well as to protect the property rights of their constituents and the U.S. military. Senator Lee’s amendment not only supports more efficient methods of species conservation but also does so while providing for military and property rights concerns. ATR urges all Senators to support this common sense solution.


Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie 

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TSCA Modernization Act Would Benefit Consumers and the Economy

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, June 1st, 2015, 2:19 PM PERMALINK

This week the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee vote on H.R. 2576, the TSCA Modernization Act. This bipartisan Act, sponsored by Representative Shimkus (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Representatives Upton (R-MI), Pallone (D-NJ) and Tonko (D-NY), would offer much needed reforms to chemical regulation in the U.S. that would benefit consumers and the nation’s economy.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976 to regulate the production and use of chemicals in American commerce. However industry innovations in product development and chemical safety have far outpaced the Act’s provisions leaving it outdated and untouched by lawmakers for almost 40 years.

This has led to criticism of TSCA over the years from industry, environmental and consumer groups that all point to inefficiencies in the Act’s chemical evaluation process, as well as a patch work of state regulations that can stymie interstate commerce and increase compliance issues for businesses.

Both of these concerns have far reaching impacts on the economy and consumer confidence, further making the case for reforms. As such, the TSCA Modernization Act or H.R. 2576 would alleviate these longstanding issues surrounding TSCA by offering common sense reforms.

First, H.R. 2576 puts in place measures to improve the chemical review process in order to increase consumer protections. The Act establishes hard and fast deadlines for EPA decisions on risk evaluations and requires such decisions be based on health and environmental considerations as opposed to costs. It also requires full consideration of vulnerable subpopulations and ensures each review is based on the best available science.

Additionally, products that fall within TSCA’s purview often move in and out of interstate commerce, being used as part of manufactured goods or as intermediaries in industrial processes. Due to inefficiencies in TSCA on the federal level, this has led to a patchwork of state laws that has contributed to burdensome compliance issues and uncertainty for businesses.

H.R. 2576 would remedy such compliance issues by providing for a more cohesive national chemical regulatory program that gives businesses and states a new level of certainty with regards to interstate commerce. The Act would also provide for state interests by allowing states to act if the EPA does not.   

The time has come for lawmakers in Congress to act to update and improve the Toxic Substances Control Act. For too long TSCA provisions have gone wanting, however the TSCA Modernization Act (H.R. 2576) now offers a bipartisan solution to reforming this outdated legislation.      


Photo Credit: Arend

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Post Office Continues Long History of Hemorrhaging Money

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, May 29th, 2015, 3:45 PM PERMALINK

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” can keep Postal Service bureaucrats from continuing to lose billions.  This month the United States Postal Service (USPS) posted it’s second quarter finances for 2015, suffering a net loss of $1.5 billion in just three months. Yet losses aside, what is most concerning is how a government-backed monopoly receiving $18 billion annually in taxpayer-backed subsidies continues to flounder financially and why it has been allowed to do so for so long.

Sadly the $1.5 billion lost from January to March is just the tip of the financial iceberg. During the same period last year net losses were actually higher at $1.9 billion. While this change could appear to some as an improvement, it is actually an incremental part of a much larger trend of financial despair that has plagued the Post Office for years.

The most recent second quarter losses mean the Post Office has now consecutively posted revenue losses 24 out of the last 26 quarters. Such an economically dismal start also puts the USPS on schedule to make 2015 the 9th consecutive year in which they have suffered multi-billion dollar losses.

In 2014 USPS found that “its total liabilities were $67.16 billion…compared with $23.16 billion in assets.” Thus it is no surprise analysts estimate the Post Office has seen over $47 billion in losses over the last decade. However, as outrageous as the losses themselves are, the USPS’s suggestions for reducing the revenue gap are even more ridiculous.

For instance, since last year USPS has actually been beta testing an amazingly illogical grocery delivery scheme in San Francisco. Additionally, just last week the USPS’s Office of Inspector General published a white paper suggesting that the Post Office could raise needed revenue by expanding it’s services to banking. Admittedly the last institution any rational consumer would want handling their finances is an institution that can’t handle it’s own finances.   

The ironic aspect of these revenue schemes is that a government entity is trying to raise revenue by expanding non-core related services (groceries and banking) in order to make up revenue losses from its core services (mail delivery). This is the literal equivalent of trying to put out a fire with gasoline.        

A more logical approach to improving the Post Office’s financial failures would be common sense reforms such as increasing spending transparency and accounting as well as simply focusing on the primary service it was created to provide – mail delivery.

Yet until action is taken on Capitol Hill to examine the financial shortcomings of the Postal Service, the only thing Americans can expect to be on time each year is increased waste and billions more being lost.  


Photo Credit: Brian Hefele  

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USPS Delivers Dubious Grocery and Banking Proposals to Taxpayers

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, May 28th, 2015, 4:47 PM PERMALINK

According to a white paper released last week by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), USPS is now considering expanding its services to banking in a last ditch effort to raise revenue. This announcement follows close on the heels of the USPS’s recent illogical efforts to expand services into grocery delivery.

For years the Postal Service’s finances have been in dire straights. The USPS reported second quarter losses this year of $1.5 billion marking the 24th quarter out of the past 26 they have posted massive revenue losses. They have additionally posted multi-billion dollar losses the last 8 years, signaling an inherent inability to efficiently manage the finances of the primary service it is charged with – delivering the mail.

Logically, one would think choosing to expand services to banking and grocery delivery could be a financial nail in the coffin given the USPS’s inability to keep their core mail delivery service out of the red. However the bureaucratic mindset seldom finds itself in the company of logic.

Thus instead of working to increase financial efficiency and decrease waste in existing services, the Postal Service is proposing to gamble taxpayer dollars away on revenue schemes well outside the purview of delivering mail.

For instance in the recently released white paper titled The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services, the OIG suggests possibly expanding services to handing out loans, check cashing and even creating its own “full-fledged post bank.”

The USPS has also started beta testing a grocery delivery service in San Francisco meaning they are now competing against actual hard working entrepreneurs and businesses. However, unlike their competitors USPS is not susceptible to free market forces thanks to government backing, essentially making them “too bureaucratic to fail.”  

Not only do such practices disrupt the market and disregard the basic free market principles America was founded on but will also leave taxpayers holding the bag for the Postal Service’s future failures. 

Until lawmakers take action to reign in and reform the financial recklessness with which the USPS operates taxpayers can only expect billions more of their hard earned dollars to be wasted.     

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