August 27, 2015

Think Voter Fraud is Rare? Not so Fast!

A letter-writer to the editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, yesterday, wrote, "The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law notes that one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to encounter an actual case of voter fraud." And in a July 23, 2015 story in the Winston-Salem Journal, "Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said that voter fraud is rare nationally and in North Carolina."

Finally, the DesMoines Register posted an Associated Press story on August 5, 2015 from Fairfield, Iowa, which noted, "After 2½ years of delays, a prosecutor has dropped an election misconduct charge against an ex-felon accused of illegally voting in the 2012 presidential election." According to the AP:

"The dismissal is another setback for a state effort to criminally punish ineligible voters who participated — or tried to participate — in elections. Under a two-year investigation involving former Secretary of State Matt Schultz and the Division of Criminal Investigation, about two dozen people, including ex-felons and non-U.S. citizens, were charged with registering and/or voting illegally.

"Schultz, a Republican, defended the program as ensuring election integrity. He was a proponent of a plan requiring voters to show identification, which has been blocked by Democrats who say it would disproportionately disenfranchise voters who tend to support them.

"Democrats and civil libertarians, who note in-person voter fraud is extremely rare, called the investigation a waste of money that targeted some who were confused about their voting rights and lacked criminal intent. Five others charged as part of the crackdown are still awaiting trial." (emphasis added)

That said, in a story earlier today at PJ Media, David Steinberg writes, "As a prerequisite to lawsuits, a legal foundation has put all 141 counties on notice that their voter rolls are in violation of federal law, not to mention a national embarrassment" because those 141 counties "have more registered voters than people alive." Steinberg added, "The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), of which PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams is president, has done admirable work in convincing the country that voter fraud is a widespread problem and an embarrassment to the country. We need clean voter rolls and Voter ID now, and an end to this cavalier attitude towards securing our fundamental right."

Here is a portion of PILF's press release(see PJ Media story for link):

"The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has put 141 counties on notice across the United States that they have more registered voters than people alive. PILF has sent 141 statutory notice letters to county election officials in 21 states. The letters are a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit against those counties under Section 8 of the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

"The letters inform the target counties that it appears they are violating the NVRA because they are not properly maintaining the voter rolls. The NVRA (also known as Motor Voter) requires state and local election officials to properly maintain voter rolls and ensure that only eligible voters are registered to vote. Having more registrants than eligible citizens alive indicates that election officials have failed to properly maintain voter rolls.

"States with counties which received a notice letter are (# of counties): Michigan (24), Kentucky (18), Illinois (17), Indiana (11), Alabama (10), Colorado (10), Texas (9), Nebraska (7), New Mexico (5), South Dakota (5), Kansas (4), Mississippi (4), Louisiana (3), West Virginia (3), Georgia (2), Iowa (2), Montana (2), North Carolina (2), Arizona, Missouri, New York (1 each). Federally produced data show the letter recipients have more registrants than living eligible citizens alive. (A sample letter is can be found here.)

"Lawyers for PILF have previously brought lawsuits against other counties that failed to clean up voter rolls after receiving a notice letter. The notice letters also seek access to public information about voter roll maintenance efforts. The United States Justice Department also can bring lawsuits to fix corrupted voter rolls but has failed to do so during the Obama administration.

“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of PILF. “Close elections tainted by voter fraud turned control of the United States Senate in 2009. Too much is at stake in 2016 to allow that to happen again.”

"The Public Interest Legal Foundation will monitor responses by the 141 counties and remedial clean-up efforts. Federal law requires that a party sending a notice letter wait 90 days before filing a lawsuit.  The entire list of counties who received the notice letter can be found here."

The Washington Free Beacon today also carried news about the 141 counties with "more voters than people," including:

"Data provided by the group also shows that some counties have voter registration rates that exceed 150 percent.

"Franklin County, located in Illinois, contains the highest voter registration rate of any county on the list at 190 percent. Franklin is followed by Pulaski County, also located in Illinois. Pulaski boasts a 176 percent voter registration rate, according to the group.

"Adams said former Attorney General Eric Holder and current AG Loretta Lynch refused to enforce the law because they don’t have a problem with corrupted voter rolls.

“Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch have deliberately refused to enforce this law because they have no problem with corrupted voter rolls,” Christian Adams told the Washington Free Beacon in an email statement. “They don’t like the law, so they don’t enforce it. It’s a pattern that has come to characterize this Justice Department.”

Consequently, a story today from the Center for Public Integrity is not surprising. According to Public Integrity, "old equipment and partisan battles threaten election integrity, in Ohio and nationwide." As a result, they write, "Fourteen months prior to presidential contest, key questions remain: who will be able to vote, and will their votes be counted accurately?" It's surprising, therefore, that there is so much blow-back about voter ID laws.

The good news, obviously, is that Virginia has no counties where there are "more registrants than living eligible citizens alive." That should not, however, keep local and state voter registration offices from reviewing, and re-reviewing, voting procedures.

August 26, 2015

A Thought on Taxes, Politicians, and Redistribution

"Despite an old saying that taxes are the price we pay for civilization, an absolute majority of the record-breaking tax money collected by the federal government today is simply transferred by politicians from people who are not likely to vote for them to people who are likelier to vote for them."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: His August 17, 2015 "Random Thoughts" column, posted at Investor's Business Daily.

August 25, 2015

Federal Government Will Collect a Lot of Taxes, Spend More

This morning, the Congressional Budget Office(CBO) released their semi-annual Budget and Economic Outlook report for the years 2015 to 20125. According to Scott Greenberg, at the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy blog, the report "forecasts the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, as well as several other economic indicators. An important part of this forecast is CBO’s projection of federal revenues, which determine whether the federal government will bring in enough money in taxes to pay for its spending programs."

Greenberg identifies his  "four tax takeaways" from the CBO report, explaining each:

  • Tax collections have grown significantly in 2015.
  • This year’s growth in federal tax revenue was largely unexpected, and is the main reason why the deficit has fallen.
  • In the next ten years, the individual income tax will become an increasingly important source of federal revenue.
  • Over the next ten years, federal revenues will be higher than the historical average.

The CBO's 2015-2025 Budget and Economic Forecast can be accessed here. Their overall conclusion from the summary says:

"According to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates, this year’s deficit will be noticeably smaller than what the agency projected in March, and fiscal year 2015 will mark the sixth consecutive year in which the deficit has declined as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) since it peaked in 2009. Over the next 10 years, however, the budget outlook remains much the same as CBO described earlier this year: If current laws generally remain unchanged, within a few years the deficit will begin to rise again relative to GDP, and by 2025, debt held by the public will be higher relative to the size of the economy than it is now.

"CBO’s economic forecast, which serves as the basis for its budget projections, anticipates that the economy will expand modestly this year, at a solid pace in calendar years 2016 and 2017, and at a more moderate pace in subsequent years. The pace of growth over the next few years is expected to reduce the quantity of underused resources, or “slack,” in the economy, lowering the unemployment rate and putting upward pressure on compensation as well as on inflation and interest rates."

In addition, CBO's report summary makes three important points:
  1. The Budget Deficit for 2015 Will Be Smaller Than Last Year’s
  2. Rising Deficits After 2018 Are Projected to Gradually Boost Debt Relative to GDP
  3. The Economy Is Expected to Grow Modestly This Year and at a Solid Pace for the Next Few Years

Not surprisingly, the report is filled with numbers, tables, charts, and figures, which begin on the report cover. For example, the cover shows total revenues in 2015 will be 18.2% of GDP in 2015 and 18.3% in 2025. However, total outlays are expected to grow from 20.6% in 2015 to 22.0% in 2025. As a result, the annual deficit would grow from 2.4% of GDP in 2015 to 3.7% by 2025. All of that growth in outlays, unfortunately, results from the growth of the two large, so-called entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security.

This morning, Keith Hall, CBO director, briefed the press on the CBO's budget and economic analyses. The C-SPAN video lasts 43 minutes. His briefing slides are available at the CBO blog.

In news coverage on the CBO report this evening, the headline on MCClatchy's report, which says "short term good, long term blah," pretty much says it all.

The Washington Examiner's Joseph Lawler includes this quote in his report on the CBO's latest release of their budget and economic outlook:

"Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, attributed the falling deficit to spending caps put in place as part of negotiations over the federal debt ceiling.

"Today's report from CBO demonstrates the tremendous impact the budget caps approved as part of the Budget Control Act have had on our overspending as the nation's annual deficit forecast for 2015 will be at the lowest level in years," Enzi said in a statement. "Our nation's long-term debt outlook, however, is not so rosy. I would caution those who would use this report as an opportunity to take these short term-savings and push for more spending."

So, while the federal government is set to collect more taxes, it's also set to spend an ever larger share of GDP on the largest of the so-called entitlement programs. Unfortunately, in an ever more dangerous world, spending on defense is expected to decrease from 3.3% of GDP to 2.6% of GDP.

Do you know what your Congress Critters on Capitol Hill are doing to bring the federal budget under control? We urge Growls readers to communicate with their members of Congress, and find out. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (8/26/15): At their blog, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) concludes their analysis of the CBO's updated outlook by writing:

"CBO shows an unsustainable fiscal outlook under current law, and an even more dangerous one if policymakers continue to act irresponsibly. Lawmakers will therefore need to strictly abide by pay-as-you-go rules and take steps to control the growth of entitlement spending, while enacting other tax and spending reforms to put debt on a downward path over the long run."

UPDATE (8/26/15): In writing about the CBO's new report, the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan writes:

“The growth in debt is not sustainable,” CBO Director Keith Hall said in presenting the estimates. “At some point, it’s going to get to a very high level. Obviously, you can’t predict tipping points, but at some point this becomes a problem.”

"Democrats saw the short-term outlook as progress and said it’s time to close tax breaks and bring in more revenue for spending on investments such as infrastructure.

"Republicans kept their focus on the longer-term warnings in the CBO report. They noted that taxes will remain higher than their historic average over the past five decades but deficits will persist because spending will still outpace revenue.

"Budget watchdogs pleaded with all sides to go beyond the numbers and talk about solutions to persistent debt.

“I don’t know how anyone can declare victory when trillion-dollar deficits are just on the horizon,” said Judd Gregg, a former senator and a co-chairman of the advocacy group Fix the Debt. “While deficits are down this year, the real story is that they are on the rise and that our national debt is at record-high levels and growing."

"Watchdogs pleaded with presidential candidates to start talking about the national debt in their campaigns."

UPDATE (8/27/15): The headline of an editorial, posted last night for today's Investor's Business Daily, says, "The nation's budget outlook is worse than you think." Here are the first and last paragraphs:

"The bad news is that the country is headed toward $1 trillion deficits in 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The worse news is that, if history is any guide, this forecast is probably way too optimistic.

< , , , >

"The CBO's latest grim 10-year forecast can be avoided. But only if lawmakers take it as a best-case scenario and act accordingly."

(UPDATE (8/27/15): Yesterday, at the American Thinker blog, Rick Moran quotes the Washington Times article, above, and then concludes:

"As a political issue, the debt is not very sexy.  At the moment, it is only remotely connected to people's everyday lives.  But once the deficits begin rising toward a trillion dollars again, people are going to have to sit up and take notice.

"A lot of that increase in the deficit will come from a massive increase in servicing the debt.  With interest rates at zero, debt servicing is less than $250 billion.  But once the Fed starts to bring interest rates back to historic norms, debt servicing will skyrocket, perhaps as high as $800 billion.  It's easy to imagine the impact on defense spending and other vital government programs that the increase in debt servicing will have.

"Sadly, it appears that nothing will be done about the structural deficit caused by rapidly increasing payments to Social Security and Medicare recipients.  In fact, not much will happen until the crisis is already upon us, and the solution then will be far more wrenching than if we began today to address the problem."

August 24, 2015

The August Porker of the Month is . . .(Drumroll, Please)

Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has nominated their Porker of the Month, and the selection should bring a glow to taxpayers who have struggled over the years to prepare their tax returns by the dreaded April 15 deadline. Consequently, taxpayers are likely to be pleased that CAGW has "named Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen its August Porker of the Month for his long litany of incompetence and obstruction as head of the reviled agency."

Here's the justification behind CAGW's nomination of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to be the August 2015 Porker of the Month:

"Commissioner Koskinen’s resumé includes five years as the non-executive Chairman of Freddie Mac and Chair of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, which was tasked with saving America from Y2K.  He was confirmed as commissioner on December 20, 2013, shortly after the exposure of the Lois Lerner political targeting scandal.  At the time, expectations for both the agency and his performance were quite low.  But he has repeatedly found ways to stoop lower.

"During the targeting investigation, Commissioner Koskinen repeatedly stonewalled members of Congress in the search for Lois Lerner’s emails.  According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Koskinen’s IRS did not bother performing an in-depth search for the emails.  In the face of a congressional subpoena, the IRS erased backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails from Lerner.  Koskinen’s ambivalence to seek the truth may stem from his statement during a March 26, 2014 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that he believes the IRS never engaged in targeting in the first place, even though that fact is no longer in dispute.  As stated in a July 23, 2015 Government Accountability Office report, “targeting is indeed possible in the audit process,” and more than two years after the scandal gained national attention, “the IRS has not taken sufficient steps to prevent targeting Americans based on their personal beliefs.”

"Beyond the scandal, the IRS is not able to discharge basic functions with Koskinen at the helm.  IRS officials hung up on 8.8 million Americans who called their help line during the 2014 tax filing season, and local assistance centers did not receive updated paperwork until February 28, 2015, nearly halfway through the filing season.

"The ceaseless refrain from Commissioner Koskinen when criticized is to blame congressional budget cuts for IRS failures.  This response rings hollow in the face of the IRS spending $4.3 million on public opinion polling in 2014 and nearly $4 million on office furniture.  On May 5, 2015, TIGTA investigators found that the IRS issued $5.6 billion in potentially phony education tax credits in 2014 alone.  The growing epidemic of Stolen Identity Refund Fraud allowed $5.8 billion to be paid out to fraudulent filers in 2013.  A TIGTA report on April 14, 2015 found 1,580 IRS employees willfully did not pay taxes, and 18,300 who unintentionally did not pay.  Even worse, 108 of those employees received bonuses totaling nearly $145,000.  Despite all of this evidence that his agency is inept or worse, Commissioner Koskinen refused to allow bonuses in the IRS to be cut from 2014 to 2015.

"The last straw came when the The Washington Post reported on August 17, 2015 that a cyber-attack on the agency that occurred earlier this year exposed the tax return information of an estimated 610,000 Americans and was “far more widespread than the Internal Revenue Service first disclosed.”

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “Commissioner Koskinen has an extensive and dubious track record of evasive, incompetent, and hostile behavior to taxpayers and their representatives.  I concur with House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that it is long past time for him to leave and be replaced with an individual who holds taxpayers and their interests in higher esteem.”

CAGW's justification is fully documented with links provided in CAGW's announcement.

And kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for their continuing efforts to ferret out waste, fraud, and abuse.

August 23, 2015

Climate Crisis, Inc.: The New Military-Industrial Complex?

In his televised farewell address on January 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower ended "his presidential term by warning the nation about the increasing power of the military-industrial complex." According to History.com:

"His remarks . . . were particularly significant since Ike had famously served the nation as military commander of the Allied forces during WWII. Eisenhower urged his successors to strike a balance between a strong national defense and diplomacy in dealing with the Soviet Union. He did not suggest arms reduction and in fact acknowledged that the bomb was an effective deterrent to nuclear war. However, cognizant that America’s peacetime defense policy had changed drastically since his military career, Eisenhower expressed concerns about the growing influence of what he termed the military-industrial complex."

Fast-forward 54 years. Paul Driessen, senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), reviewed professor Larry Bell's (Forbes bio here) new book, "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (available here at Barnes & Noble).

According to Driessen, "$1.5 trillion and Larry Bell book explain how profiteers of climate doom keep the money flowing." Here is a portion of Driessen's book review, posted yesterday at Townhall.com:

"No warming in 18 years, no category 3-5 hurricane hitting the USA in ten years, seas rising at barely six inches a century: computer models and hysteria are consistently contradicted by Real World experiences.

"So how do White House, EPA, UN, EU, Big Green, Big Wind, liberal media, and even Google, GE and Defense Department officials justify their fixation on climate change as the greatest crisis facing humanity? How do they excuse saying government must control our energy system, our economy and nearly every aspect of our lives – deciding which jobs will be protected and which ones destroyed, even who will live and who will die – in the name of saving the planet? What drives their intense ideology?

"The answer is simple. The Climate Crisis & Renewable Energy Industry has become a $1.5-trillion-a-year business! That’s equal to the annual economic activity generated by the entire US nonprofit sector, or all savings over the past ten years from consumers switching to generic drugs. By comparison, annual revenues for much-vilified Koch Industries are about $115 billion, for ExxonMobil around $365 billion.

"According to a 200-page analysis by the Climate Change Business Journal, this Climate Industrial Complex can be divided into nine segments: low carbon and renewable power; carbon capture and storage; energy storage, like batteries; energy efficiency; green buildings; transportation; carbon trading; climate change adaptation; and consulting and research. Consulting alone is a $27-billion-per-year industry that handles “reputation management” for companies and tries to link weather events, food shortages and other problems to climate change. Research includes engineering R&D and climate studies.

"The $1.5-trillion price tag appears to exclude most of the Big Green environmentalism industry, a $13.4-billion-per-year business in the USA alone. The MacArthur Foundation just gave another $50 million to global warming alarmist groups. Ex-NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chesapeake Energy gave the Sierra Club $105 million to wage war on coal (shortly before the Club began waging war on natural gas and Chesapeake Energy, in what some see as poetic justice). Warren Buffett, numerous “progressive” foundations, Vladimir Putin cronies and countless companies also give endless millions to Big Green."

Later in the book review, Driessen writes:

"Scared Witless also lays bare the real reasons for climate fanaticism, aside from lining pockets. As one prominent politician and UN or EPA bureaucrat after another has proudly and openly said, their “true ambition” is to institute “a new global order” … “ global governance” … “redistribution of the world’s resources” … an end to “hegemonic” capitalism … and “a profound transformation” of “attitudes and lifestyles,” energy systems and “the global economic development model.”

In other words, these unelected, unaccountable US, EU and UN bureaucrats want complete control over our industries; over everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do; and over every aspect of our lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties. And they intend to “ride the global warming issue” all the way to this complete control, “even if the theory of global warming is wrong” … “even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect” … “even if the science of global warming is all phony.”

"If millions of people lose their jobs in the process, if millions of retirees die from hypothermia because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly, if millions of Africans and Asians die because they are denied access to reliable, affordable carbon-based electricity – so be it. Climate Crisis, Inc. doesn’t care.

"This global warming industry survives and thrives only because of secretive, fraudulent climate science; constant collusion between regulators and pressure groups; and a steady stream of government policies, regulations, preferences, subsidies and mandates – and taxes and penalties on its competitors. CCI gives lavishly to politicians who keep the gravy train on track, while its well-funded attack dogs respond quickly, aggressively and viciously to anyone who dares to challenge its orthodoxies or funding."

You may want to bookmark Paul Driessen's review of Larry Bell's book since I'm guessing that you'll frequently be providing copies to your friends. And note his advice:

"Climate Crisis, Inc. is a wealthy, nasty behemoth. But it is a house of cards. Become informed. Get involved. Fight back. And elect representatives – and a president – who also have the backbone to do so."

While questioning the orthodoxy, take a few minutes to read Barbara Hollingsworth's article, posted on Thursday at CNSNews.com, in which she writes about recent comments by Dr. John Christy, climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama/Huntsville. Hollingsworth's lede:

"We have a “moral imperative” to burn carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels because the energy they provide is a “liberator” of humanity, says Dr. John Christy, a climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

“We are not morally bad people for taking carbon and turning it into the energy that offers life to humanity in a world that would otherwise be brutal,” Christy wrote in a recent oped. "On the contrary, we are good people for doing so."

Also worth noting in Hollingsworth's article is what Dr. Christy has to say about so-called renewable sources of energy:

“Cost and reliability – both of those are factors in renewables. They’re just not able to produce the amount of energy a modern economy needs,” he told CNSNews.com. “And they have demonstrated that over and over. The only renewables you see out there, by and large, are those that are heavily subsidized, so their cost is very high. They’re just not as affordable.

"And the poorest people on the planet aren’t going to pay the highest price for energy. That’s just a fact,” he stated.

"Christy added that during the next year or so, there will likely be “a bump in global temperatures from the huge El Nino that’s occurring out in the Pacific. So be ready for a bunch of press about ‘warmest month, warmest year’ and so on due to this El Nino.

“It will be couched in terms of human-caused global warming, but no one can prove how much warming is due to humans and how much is due to Mother Nature. And [global temperatures] will come down off that when that El Nino is spent,” he told CNSNews.com."

The CNS News article is also worth bookmarking. In a related  article from September 2013, Barbara Hollingsworth discusses Dr. Christy's analysis of the climate "predictions made by 73 computer models cited in the United Nation’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (5AR)."

Take a few minutes, and find out what your member(s) of Congress believe(s) about global warming. In growling on Thursday, August 20, 2015, we provided contact information for Senators' Warner and Kaine, and Representative Beyer. And remember to tell them that ACTA sent you.

August 22, 2015

Arlington County's Budget Woes are Over?

An ARLnow.com news story, posted at WTOP Radio on Thursday, says, "Arlington County’s public art program is seeking a new 'Public Art Project Manager.'"

According to Arlington County's job posting, the salary ranges from almost $49,000 to over $90,000. The minimum requirent is a "Bachelor's degree majoring in an art or a design-related discipline (e.g., Fine Arts, Art History, Arts Administration, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning or Urban Design), plus two years experience in arts administration, public arts or design-related discipline."

The story notes:

"Project managers work under Angela Adams, the public art administrator.

"The position became available after one of the former project managers moved to a different department to take a part-time job, said Jim Byers, marketing director for Arlington Cultural Affairs. Byers could not say who moved from the department because it’s a personnel matter, he said.

"The public art department website currently lists Deirdre Ehlen and Aliza Schiff as project managers."

In addition, the story points out, "Arlington’s public art program recently celebrated its 30th anniversary."

Remember back four months ago when the Arlington County Board proudly crowed that it balanced the FY 2016 budget with no increase in the real estate tax rate? The press release also said the Board fully-funded the schools, funded an internal auditor position, and increased funding for both public safety and economic development. The bottom line, though, was that the the average homeowner would "see their tax and fee burden rise from $7,286 to $7,567 – a four percent increase. That translates to about $23 a month or $281 a year."

Well, if the county can still afford to hire a public arts project manager, perhaps the FY 2016 budget wasn't as fiscally responsible as the County Board would want you to believe.

Growls readers who haven't communicated with the Arlington County Board recently are urged to tell them what you think about the county's decision to spend $100,000 or so to hire a public art project manager. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

August 21, 2015

Another Tale of Federal Incompetence

Liberals are fond of arguing for the end "to tax breaks for fossil fuels," as recently reported by Devin Henry in The Hill.

It seems, however, that taxpayers have to argue for a "fair return on taxpayer coal." At least that's how Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) frames the issue in today's Weekly Wastebasket (Volume XX, No. 34). TCS writes, in part:

"Taxpayers have been losing big on the sale of coal mined from federal land for decades. But hopefully that’s about to change. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the feds’ land manager within the Department of the Interior, says they are finally considering doing something about it. We took them at their word and gave them some words of our own.

"On Tuesday, the BLM hosted its fourth “listening session” on how it can best ensure that American taxpayers receive a fair return on federal coal. These sessions have been taking place across the country and Taxpayers for Common Sense has been on the move. Recently TCS spoke at the Washington, D.C.; Billings, MT; and Denver, CO sessions to deliver the taxpayer view. Based on the public input they receive during these sessions, BLM will likely propose new policies for the coal program, including potentially raising the royalty rate, in addition to the changes it has already proposed. As we have said before, there are a lot of problems with the federal coal program that BLM needs to fix.

"TCS told officials at BLM that they should take this opportunity to make some dramatic changes. Many of the industry spokespeople complained that the sky is falling, wincing at any prospect of reform. But the fact is taxpayers have not been getting a fair return for the development of all natural resources for several decades and it’s not just about coal. One of our core principles is that the federal government shouldn’t be giving away public assets. And development of federal coal has been among the worst – if not the worst – in terms of shortchanging taxpayers.

"Our testimony focused on the changes that have occurred in the marketplace for coal since BLM last updated the federal coal program more than 25 years ago. One of the biggest shifts is that coal companies are increasingly mining coal from federal land to export to foreign markets where prices are much higher. The program has to adapt to this new dynamic. BLM determines the Fair Market Value of the coal before it sells the rights to mine it, but it has been using the domestic price which undervalues the coal and fails to deliver taxpayers a fair return. What’s more, BLM uses existing leases for reference when it calculates fair market value for subsequent sales, so undervaluing one lease can create a domino effect where future leases are also undervalued.

"The other problem we focused on in our testimony is the lack of competition for federal coal leases. In 2013, the Interior Department Inspector General (IG) documented that more than 80 percent of the sales for coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin had only one bid in the past 20 years, and none had more than two bidders. The IG attributed this lack of competition to BLM’s decision in 1990 to discontinue large-scale regional lease sales and use smaller scale lease sales, known as Lease by Application (LBA), to continue or extend the life of existing mines. Under this system, BLM allows coal companies to effectively draw the tracts they want to lease, a process that typically results in tracts that do not generate competitive bids because the location and configuration limit their appeal to other companies."

Read the remaining portion of TCS's weekly wastebasket here.

BLM officials need "listening tours" and to be told about the benefits of market competition? Sheesh! Sounds like time to sell-off feederal lands containing coal fields.

If you agree, go to yesterday's Growls, and take a minute and write or call your member(s)of Congress. They may not do what you want them to do very often, but their offices efficiently track incoming communications.

 

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