This article originally appeared on Townhall.com on July 24, 2014
You can’t help but hand it to them – rooftop solar companies have quite cleverly found their way onto the government’s gravy train. For years Washington has subsidized rooftop solar installations for customersin the form of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which allows homeowners who install rooftop solar panels to receive a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost. The subsidy has been one of the many ongoing ways in which the feds insert themselves into the energy marketplace. And while it has hampered efforts to achieve real energy independence in the U.S., and has therefore caused real harm to our economy, it nevertheless has met a legitimate need for homeowners desperate for some relief from high energy costs. But rooftop solar companies – most of which, like SolarCity, Corp., are political connected and favored – have created a scheme to claim the tax credit for themselves. These companies discovered that if they lease the rooftop solar systems to homeowners, the companies themselves can claim the federal tax credit as well as all state and local incentives.
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been dogged in its fight against forms of cronyism that aim to give preferential treatment to certain groups or interests when it comes to issues including energy, defense, and telecom. One area in telecom where this has been blatant is in the upcoming spectrum auction (read previous TPA blogs on spectrum here and here) being handled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is sitting on approximately $20 billion worth of spectrum (see TPA infographic here) that should be sold. But, instead of keeping the sale process open and transparent, it appears the FCC is continuing their preferred policy of picking winners and losers in terms of who will get to bid for the valuable spectrum. The latest spectrum and crony capitalism news comes from Todd Shields and Jonathan D. Salant in a Bloomberg story earlier this week.
This article originally appeared in Townhall.com on July 11, 2014
The American people are continuing to struggle with economic uncertainty and are perplexed as to what it’s going to take to turn the economy around. Recent Department of Commerce (DOC) figures are depressing and don’t help for optimism as consumer spending suffered a 0.1 percent decrease in May, adjusting for inflation. This comes on the heels of a 0.2 percent drop in April. It’s no wonder that Americans are reluctant to part with their hard-earned money given the state of the economy at large. Last week, we were treated to yet another grim reminder that our so-called “recovery” is more like anything but. According to DOC’s most recent review of the data, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014. GDP is critically important because it measures the market value of the goods and services produced by a nation. And while 2.9 percent may not seem like a massive drop, it happens to be the worst such contraction in five years.
Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” That saying is as relevant to Washington today as it was during Churchill’s time. Back in 2009, with the country still in turmoil from the financial crisis, then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel echoed the notion that when the country is in crisis politicians should use that crisis to do things they may not normally be able to do. This type of cynical and opportunistic approach to politics is probably just one of the many reasons why so many people have so little faith in our political institutions. The problems on the border are shaping up to be another opportunity for the President and Congress to turn a humanitarian crisis on the border into a fiscal crisis. President Obama submitted a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill for measures that would (according to the Administration) constitute an aggressive approach to this problem. The White House released a statement calling on Congress to approve the spending with the President saying, "I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request."
Members of Congress are particularly adept at two things: business as usual and over-reaching in response to scandal. If the past is an accurate indicator of things to come, the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide an excellent example of Congressional over-reach. Most Americans were outraged more than a month ago when it was alleged that up to 40 Veterans died while waiting for months to see a doctor at a VA facility in Phoenix, AZ. The Department generally requires that its hospitals see patients within two to four weeks of the time an appointment is requested. Many of the 40 Veterans who died, were placed on a secret waiting list in a scheme to cover up the actual time it took to get an appointment for medical care. Over time, more reports about waiting times and secret lists came to light, and it became clear that the situation in Phoenix was not an isolated incident. As is typical, soon after the initial reports, the finger pointing began. The left insists the problem was President Bush’s fault. The right says that President Obama has known about the problems since 2008 and allowed the condition to fester. Senate Republicans said that the Veterans Affairs Committee did not hold enough oversight hearings. And, for his part, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, blamed it all on the Koch brothers.
Today the Obama Administration proposed a new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about greenhouse gases from existing power plants. Taxpayers and consumers should be concerned that these new, intrusive regulations would serve only to hinder the production of energy here in the United States and weaken an already vulnerable economy. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance warned about the harmful impact of new regulations last month in an op-ed when we wrote, “President Obama has broken many promises during his first and second terms in office. But, in a sad twist of irony for taxpayers and energy production, the president is intent on keeping one of his 2008 campaign promises, to bankrupt coal plants and force electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” After legislative attempts to pass cap-and-trade failed in the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2009, the president made clear that “cap-and-trade was just one way to skin the cat.” The other way: have unelected bureaucrats and attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate coal out of business. The EPA has since taken measures to stop coal plant production by requiring new plants to use cost-prohibitive carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – tech that is only affordable with large taxpayer subsidies. The only plant currently under construction with CCS will receive $400 million in grants and federal tax credits to offset the more than $1 billion price tag for what is unproven technology. That model is unsustainable.”
This article originally appeared in Inside Sources on May 15, 2014
The latest data continues to indicate that the U.S. economy is still struggling to get back on its feet. Though the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics told us that the unemployment rate has decreased, the reason behind this is hardly cause for optimism. The labor force participation rate (LFPR) has dropped to its lowest levels since the 1970s, which means that many Americans have simply given up looking for work. More than 800,000 Americans left the labor force last month, a troubling sign for any economy. Even more intriguing is the recently-released data on international trade. U.S. exports and imports both increased in March, a late surge that could be encouraging. Total exports for March came to $193.9 billion, up 2.1 percent from February. Imports jumped 1.1 percent to $234.3 billion, the highest level seen since 2012. All told, the U.S. trade deficit fell 3.6 percent and now hovers at $40.4 billion. More trade means more economic activity which benefits taxpayers and consumers.
This article originally appeared in Townhall.com on April 30, 2014
As President Obama concludes his tour of Asia, one of the most pressing issues he discussed with his counterparts is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement currently under negotiation between the United States and eleven other nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Two of these countries – Japan and Malaysia – are stops on the President’s tour, and his visit to the region is a sign of how important the Trans-Pacific Partnership is to American trade policy and our overall foreign policy. TPP is also critical to jump-start a lagging U.S. economy. The Asia-Pacific region is already home to some of our biggest trading partners, including President Obama’s first stop in Japan, our fourth-largest partner. On the other side of the Pacific, Canada and Mexico are first and third respectively. While the United States already holds individual Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with several countries that would become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, signing the agreement would open up exciting new markets like Japan, Malaysia and Brunei to the top-notch goods and services provided by American workers.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on April 30, 2014
President Obama has broken many promises during his first and second terms in office. But, in a sad twist of irony for taxpayers and energy production, the president is intent on keeping one of his 2008 campaign promises, to bankrupt coal plants and force electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” After legislative attempts to pass cap-and-trade failed in the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2009, the president made clear that “cap-and-trade was just one way to skin the cat.” The other way: have unelected bureaucrats and attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate coal out of business.The EPA has since taken measures to stop coal plant production by requiring new plants to use cost-prohibitive carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – tech that is only affordable with large taxpayer subsidies. The only plant currently under construction with CCS will receive $400 million in grants and federal tax credits to offset the more than $1 billion price tag for what is unproven technology. That model is unsustainable. Now, the EPA is working on round two of its regulatory assault, which “would put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.” Already, the Department of Energy estimates that EPA’s earlier power plant rule could force several hundred coal-powered electricity plants to close. The result: 32 million households would find themselves without a reliable source of energy production. By 2025, the situation will become more dire as nearly all coal plants will be forced out of business, robbing 33 states of 44,000 megawatts of electricity.
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One of the most important things to remember about the growing advancement of technology in this day and age is that with each improvement, comes greater risk. There is no question that Americans value their privacy, but there is also no question that the privacy of individuals is compromised when we see the abuses of government overreach and actions by federal agencies that violate the very civil liberties that are a core part of American values. Keeping all of that in mind, TPA was proud to sign on to a coalition letter that was sent to President Barack Obama yesterday. Spearhead by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and co-signed by more than 70 organizations; the letter calls for support from the President on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) so that there can be clarity for every American regarding full constitutional and statutory protections for the emails, photos, text messages, and other documents that they send and share over the Internet. The law was originally enacted in 1986 and is dire need of an update, when you consider the way technology has evolved in the last few decades with the Internet being such an important part of the daily lives of every American. With a report from the President's "Big Data Review Group," due out this week, support from him on this issue would be paramount.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter