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New York Times Writer Wants to ‘Ruthlessly’ Stamp Out ‘Anti-LGBT’ Attitudes

July 25, 2014 - 5:47pm

Josh Barro, a writer for The New York Times, wants to stamp out what he considers to be “anti-LGBT” attitudes from communities “ruthlessly.” Barro was writing in response to a speech Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, gave where he mentioned he was in support of marriage as union of a man and woman.

In a tweet sent Wednesday, Barro wrote:

Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 24, 2014

Barro is a domestic correspondent for The New York Times, where he writes on economic issues including fiscal policy and labor markets. In May 2013, he was coined “the Loneliest Republican” by the Atlantic and regularly comments on LGBT issues.

As a gay man, I find it so touching to hear how difficult it is to be part of a disliked minority, subject to negative social attitudes.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 25, 2014

His tweet, calling to “ruthlessly” stamp out pro-traditional marriage attitudes, sparked backlash from conservative commentators, including The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, who wrote:

If you are the sort of person who thinks traditional Christians are ‘obsessed’ with sex, you need to think about how it would feel to you to you to read a tweet that said, Pro-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.’

Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and co-author of the book cited twice by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, also expressed dismay over Barro’s tweet:

Josh Barro is rightly looked to as a thought leader in American politics, so it is disconcerting that he fails to recognize that reasonable people of good will are on both sides of the marriage debate. That, as President Obama said, supporters of marriage ‘are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective.’

Anderson, who has written extensively on marriage, argued “it is intellectually dishonest” for Barro to compare the debate over marriage to the debate over segregation and to compare supporters of marriage to racists.

In another tweet, Barro said:

Did the segregationists go through a period, like in the 1970s, where they whined that people were mean to them for being segregationists?

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 24, 2014

“Race has nothing to do with marriage, and laws that kept the races apart were wrong,” said Anderson. “Marriage has everything to do with uniting the two halves of humanity—men and women, as husbands and wives and as mothers and fathers—so that any children that their union produces will be united by the man and woman who gave them life. This is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

“Bans on interracial marriage and Jim Crow laws, by contrast,” Anderson added, “were aspects of a much larger insidious movement that denied the fundamental equality and dignity.”

Josh Barro and The New York Times could not be reached for comment.

 

The post New York Times Writer Wants to ‘Ruthlessly’ Stamp Out ‘Anti-LGBT’ Attitudes appeared first on Daily Signal.

Paul Ryan’s New Anti-Poverty Plan Should Take Work and Marriage Seriously

July 25, 2014 - 5:37pm

On Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., outlined plans to reform welfare and fight poverty. Ryan’s policies are well intentioned but not crafted in a way that will achieve reduced dependency. Ryan focuses on giving state governments greater flexibility in spending federal funds. While paying tribute to the principles of welfare reform that significantly reduced welfare dependence in the late 1990s, his plan does not draw the right lessons from that reform.

The 1996 welfare reform was successful because for the first time the federal government mandated that state welfare bureaucracies impose work requirements on recipients of federal welfare funds. The federal work requirements led a sharp reduction in welfare dependence and child poverty in the late 1990s. The reform also cut federal welfare spending and insisted that state governments bear a greater share of the welfare costs. These fiscal changes further incentivized states to reduce welfare caseloads. The reform did give states greater flexibility in spending federal money but this aspect was peripheral to the success the reform achieved.

Ryan is correct in asserting that the 1996 welfare reform is a rare example of a  policy that actually reduced welfare dependence and poverty while cutting welfare costs.  It is, therefore, worthwhile to examine the actual policy carefully.  The 1996 reform transformed the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Within about five years, welfare rolls dropped by half, child poverty plummeted, and employment among low-income individuals jumped. This was an important first step in decreasing poverty and dependence, and one that should be replicated in other programs like food stamps and public housing.

What was at the heart of the progress made by the TANF reform? Its carefully crafted federal work requirement. The 1996 reform focused on work and self-sufficiency, clearly specifying requirements for able-bodied adults to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving welfare assistance. This held the state bureaucracies administering welfare programs accountable for ensuring that assistance provided with federal dollars provided a hand up not a handout.

In addition, the 1996 reform also capped the amount of welfare assistance states received. Prior to the reform, AFDC was an open-ended entitlement: states received more funding from the federal government if they grew their rolls. After the reform states received a fixed amount of funding. This reform incentivized states to reduce dependence rather than rewarding them for increasing welfare rolls.

The 1996 welfare reform also had formal goals of strengthening marriage and reducing unwed childbearing. Regrettably, these pro-marriage aspects of the law lacked teeth.  In contrast, to the federal work requirements, the pro-marriage elements of the law merely suggested rather than mandated state action. In consequence, state welfare bureaucracies simply ignored the pro-marriage elements of the law. Today, only one state runs a pro-marriage program and every state continues to operate a welfare system that actively penalizes low income parents who do marry.

The non-marital birth rate has grown from about 32 percent of children born in 1996 to nearly 41 percent of children today. The growth of non-marital childbearing and single parenthood is the predominant cause of child poverty in the nation today. Children in single-parent homes are more than five times as likely to be poor compared to their peers in married-parent homes. They are also at higher risk for numerous negative outcomes.

Ironically, although Ryan’s welfare plan is intended to reduce poverty, his 80-page report barely mentions the profound link between poverty and single parenthood. Increasing marriage is not a goal of the Ryan block grant strategy. In fact, Ryan’s policy would actually increase penalties on low-income parents who do marry.  This occurs because Ryan plans to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for single adults without children. Low-income fathers who were unmarried would receive this credit; if they did marry they would lose it. Rather than piling on to the already substantial marriage penalties in the welfare system, policy-makers should look for ways to reduce them.

Ryan’s efforts to focus on fighting poverty and reforming welfare are commendable. That focus should be on replicating the elements of reform that have helped to reduce dependency and controlled spending in TANF. Taking work seriously, capping welfare spending, and strengthening marriage will be the elements of success to continue the on-going work of welfare reform.

 

The post Paul Ryan’s New Anti-Poverty Plan Should Take Work and Marriage Seriously appeared first on Daily Signal.

Reform, Not Ex-Im, Is the Key to American Nuclear Competitiveness

July 25, 2014 - 5:12pm

While the Export-Import Bank struggles to find reasons to justify its reauthorization, some have begun claiming that the U.S. nuclear industry needs Ex-Im to compete internationally. According to Westinghouse’s president Danny Roderick, “For us to get a share of [the international market] in a competitive way, we have to have something that negates the Russians, the French, the Koreans, who are offering financing on these packages.”

But the biggest threat to the competitiveness of the American nuclear industry isn’t the disappearance of the Export-Import Bank, the Russians, the French, or the Koreans, but the American government.

Drawn out permitting timetables, ill-conceived regulations, and other government-imposed market distortions create so much risk and price inflation that some believe the industry needs subsidies to compete internationally and to offset the negative impacts of these policies. There is indeed a problem, but subsidies and Ex-Im aren’t the solution.

As it is, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission operates under an outdated regulatory system that isn’t adaptable to new technology and designs and over regulates existing nuclear plants and technologies. And the federal government’s total mismanagement of nuclear waste has played a significant role in choking new growth in domestic use of commercial nuclear energy by adding political inefficiency and uncertainty to the process.

Because navigating this expensive and onerous regulatory gauntlet is nearly impossible for any private company to do alone, they rely on taxpayer help. The Department of Energy, for example, picks up the tab for some projects and provides loans and loan guarantees to a lucky few to test out technology or to build plants that the government finds promising. The problem is that these subsidies do not work. They give industry enough money to partially offset the cost of bad policy, feed the Washington bureaucracy and allow politicians to claim that they are helping nuclear power. In the end, commercially relevant nuclear technology stagnates because the incentive to reform the broken system is removed.

Commercial nuclear exports are suffering the same fate as government costs are reducing the competitiveness of American nuclear power. The commercial nuclear export regime is convoluted and burdensome, spread between three different federal departments and agencies.

While Roderick’s concerns may be legitimate, the way to decrease credit risks and costs is not to patch them with more government subsidies but to fix the policies that create undue risk in the first place. The U.S. government could do far more for the American nuclear industry by developing a modern regulatory system, fixing nuclear waste, ending market distorting technology programs, and creating an efficient system for peaceful nuclear trade than by reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank.

By itself, it is a matter of good economic policy to eliminate arbitrary barriers and enable American companies to compete. But it is also a matter of foreign policy – preventing American companies to compete closes off important opportunities to integrate America’s safety, transparency, and nonproliferation standards in the programs of partnering nations through nuclear trade agreements.

Perpetuating the current broken system by mitigating bad government policy through subsidies simply further embeds this flawed approach.  Instead, Roderick’s comments and others like his should draw policymakers’ attention to the many government erected barriers thwarting a competitive American nuclear industry. Getting rid of the subsidies will finally force Washington to fix these underlying problems.

The post Reform, Not Ex-Im, Is the Key to American Nuclear Competitiveness appeared first on Daily Signal.

Why Are U.S. Interest Rates Falling? Thank the Chinese

July 25, 2014 - 4:09pm

U.S. employment growth has recently accelerated, and the Federal Reserve is winding down its program of buying U.S. Treasuries with expectations of raising interest rates as soon as early next year. Yet the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has fallen from 3 percent at the end of 2013 to approximately 2.5 percent today. Where is the source of this conundrum? You can thank the Chinese.

Just when it seemed the Chinese were determined to diversify their foreign-exchange holdings away from U.S. government bonds, they have returned to the U.S. Treasury market and are buying with a vengeance. According to the U.S. Treasury, during the first five months of 2014, China boosted its holdings of Treasury debt by $107 billion. This represents the fastest pace of Chinese buying since records began more than three decades ago and easily surpasses the $81 billion of debt purchased by China for all of 2013.

Why the reemergence of China in the U.S. debt market on such a scale? First and foremost, the Chinese have little choice but to keep purchasing U.S. Treasuries given the dearth of investment choices elsewhere. Nothing can come close to matching the size and liquidity of the U.S. sovereign debt market. And with the Chinese bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. running at record levels in the first five months of the year, the authorities need a secure place to invest all those dollars. Secondly, with economic growth slowing recently—particularly from a deceleration in Chinese net exports—a weaker yuan contributes to the competitiveness of their exports.

The benefits of lower bond yields for the U.S. are obvious. Interest rates on everything from mortgages, corporate debt, and credit cards are reduced (or are lower than they otherwise would be), motoring up the domestic economy. The benefit for the Chinese is having a relatively safe and highly liquid place to park their roughly $1.3 trillion of U.S. debt, or about 11 percent of the $12 trillion U.S. Treasury market.

But many of the costs from lower yields are hidden or difficult to predict. For example, lower bonds yields translate into lower income for bondholders (the current yield on the five-year Treasury is only 1.66 percent). This forces investors to search the globe for higher yielding assets, possibly fueling asset bubbles. (U.S. equities and junk bonds, for example, look historically pricey.)

The Chinese, in turn, are constantly purchasing U.S. dollars in exchange for yuan (to keep their exchange rate from appreciating). This results in a rapid growth in their monetary base which can eventually translate into higher domestic inflation as it did before the global economic crisis.

Looking longer term, the costs of this relationship will eventually exceed the benefits. Loose money and low interest rates are never sustainable. For now, however, both sides seem content with the current arrangement.

The post Why Are U.S. Interest Rates Falling? Thank the Chinese appeared first on Daily Signal.

Dodd-Frank Overregulation Prolongs Conflict in Eastern Congo

July 25, 2014 - 4:03pm

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (known as Dodd-Frank) is not just damaging the U.S. economy through excessive and ill-designed regulations. It’s also contributing to a conflict halfway around the world.

Under Dodd-Frank, countries registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and neighboring countries are subject to enhanced regulatory scrutiny to combat “conflict minerals” (raw materials that finance armed violence) that have helped fund rebel groups in the eastern region. The problem is serious, but rather than helping, the clumsy and expensive regulations of Dodd-Frank are ultimately forcing the closure of artisanal mines and pushing former miners into dangerous militias.

The scope of regulations is onerous. The SEC estimated regulatory costs associated with the law at $3 billion to $4 billion in the first year of implementation and $200 million per year afterward. These compliance costs are absurdly high considering regional trade volumes. In 2012, recorded exports from the 10 affected countries in the three target minerals (tin, tantalum, and tungsten) reached only $283 million total—meaning compliance costs will be over 70 percent of the total value of the minerals.

According to reports, these stringent regulations (which in addition require companies to verify that minerals are not “conflict minerals” along the entirety of the value chain) are simply locking the poorest miners in the region out of the market. In some cases, buyers have backed away from the market entirely, leaving miners unemployed. Without economic opportunity, these unemployed miners are then drawn to local militias that ravage the region. Other miners, seeking to avoid regulation in the formal sector, have turned to smugglers, who pay the militias for protection. This entrenches the militias—the very actors the law sought to hinder—within the illicit mineral market.

Ultimately, the law failed to recognize the detrimental affect it would have on the very people Washington lawmakers sought to help. By simply reducing the conflict in the eastern DRC to mineral extraction, conflict-mineral advocates and Dodd-Frank supporters intervened in a way that is more harmful than helpful.

The post Dodd-Frank Overregulation Prolongs Conflict in Eastern Congo appeared first on Daily Signal.

Boeing In Talks for Deal with Iran, Seeks Ex-Im Financing for China

July 25, 2014 - 3:58pm

One of the Export-Import Bank’s biggest beneficiaries is working to solidify a deal to sell airplanes to Iran. Unrelatedly, Boeing is also asking for more than $200 million in financing from the bank for exports to China.

“These two deals reflect the problematic nature of so many of Ex-Im’s deals,” said Diane Katz, a research fellow on regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation. “Not only are some of America’s largest corporations the biggest beneficiaries of the bank’s taxpayer subsidies, but so, too, are some of the worst political regimes in the world. Both deals strengthen the case for simply allowing the Ex-Im charter to expire.”

As first reported by CQ, Boeing “entered into an agreement and engaged in related discussions with Iran Air pursuant to a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (‘OFAC’).” The potential agreement, which is with Iran’s national airline, was disclosed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

According to the filing, Boeing’s deal with Air Iran defines terms and conditions “with respect to the potential sale of certain goods and services related to the safety of flight, including airplane parts, manuals, drawings, service bulletins, and navigation charts and data.” The plane manufacturing company also held discussions with Iran Air Tours, a subsidiary of Iran Air.

Boeing’s deal with Iran is the first between U.S. aerospace companies and Iran since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Reuters reported. Sanctions were put in place after the hostage crisis and were strengthened as countries like the United States became concerned with Iran’s nuclear program.

In November, Iran agreed to stop its nuclear program for six months starting Jan. 20. In exchange, six world powers including the United States and Russia offered relief from the sanctions. This month, Iran and the six countries agreed to an extension of sanctions relief. Because the sanctions against Iran are still lifted, Boeing’s dealings are allowed.

Tim Neale, a spokesman for Boeing, told CQ the deal with Iran does not involve financing from the Export-Import Bank, which provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign companies and countries. “There would not be any Ex-Im involvement in any transactions we might do with Iran’s commercial airlines under the terms of the OFAC license,” Neale said.

Boeing is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Export-Import financing, and critics have referred to the agency as the “Bank of Boeing.”

From 2009 to 2013, Ex-Im authorized more than $95 billion in loans and loan guarantees for Boeing. Approximately $16.1 billion of that financing went to foreign state-owned airlines from around the world, including Air China, Air India and Emirates Airlines.

According to a notice filed with the Federal Register from Ex-Im, the bank received an application this week for a loan guarantee to export Boeing airplanes to China. The specific airline, amount of the loan guarantee and value of the transaction are not included.

The notice does state that the transaction is, however, worth more than $200 million.

“The aircraft in this transaction will enable passenger route service within China and from China to various regional and international destinations, potentially including the United States,” it says.

The 80-year-old bank has been the center of much debate on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. Ex-Im’s charter expires Sept. 30, and Republicans and Democrats are sparring over whether to reauthorize the bank or allow its life to end.

Opponents of Ex-Im, led by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, argue the bank furthers corporate welfare and cronyism. However, its supporters, led by President Obama, say it helps small businesses and creates jobs.

The post Boeing In Talks for Deal with Iran, Seeks Ex-Im Financing for China appeared first on Daily Signal.

Obamacare Here to Stay? Ha!

July 25, 2014 - 3:39pm

This has not been a good week for President Obama: Obamacare is back on the front burners and back in trouble.

This week, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that another aspect of Obamacare is unconstitutional. In this case, an IRS rule (one of over 20 such executive orders related to Obamacare whereby the administration created a new rule/law without legal authority) called for subsidies to flow through both state and federal exchanges.

The problem? The law clearly states only plans obtained through state exchanges qualified for subsidies. And the problem with this? When Obamacare took effect, over 30 states said “no thanks” to creating their own exchanges. That means many Americans will have to get a plan through the federal exchange and, if this ruling holds, they won’t qualify for a subsidy —which likely means their premiums will be much more expensive.

>>> The Obamacare Employer Mandate Could Die in Some States

The bottom line is that with so few states participating, and many of the exchanges of the ones who are participating in serious financial trouble, this ruling makes much of the “Affordable Health Care Act” completely the opposite.

Earlier this month, another court delivered Obamacare a major blow. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of two family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, who claimed Obamacare’s Department of Health and Human Services mandate was forcing them to provide abortion inducing drugs against their will and that violated their religious freedom rights. Over 100 similar cases are making their way through the courts now and there is good reason to believe they too will be successful.

But the courts are not the only place producing bad news for the president’s signature piece of legislation. The latest numbers from the Congressional Budget Office project that 31 million Americans will remain uninsured in 2024, a full 10 years after Obamacare has been at work.

And, according to Heritage research associate Alyene Senger:

“…half of Obamacare’s reduction in the uninsured is projected to come from adding 13 million people into the poor-performing, government-run health program, Medicaid. Obamacare expands the program despite its well-documented history of poorer health outcomes and limited access for beneficiaries.”

Recent events only pile on the over 40 changes and counting that have been made to the law since its passage – a clear indicator the law is unaffordable, unworkable and unfair.

To those who maintain, “Obamacare is here to stay,” I say, not so fast.

The post Obamacare Here to Stay? Ha! appeared first on Daily Signal.

How Ryan T. Anderson Responded to a Gay Man Who Wants to Redefine Marriage

July 25, 2014 - 2:54pm

“Why should I, as a gay man, be denied the same right to file a joint tax return with my potential husband that a straight couple has?”

Anderson also talked about the differences between the law’s interest in contracts and in marriage:

Curious in hearing more? Here are the highlights from Anderson’s remarks, his full speech, and the full Q&A.

The post How Ryan T. Anderson Responded to a Gay Man Who Wants to Redefine Marriage appeared first on Daily Signal.

Democrat Introduces Bill to Eliminate Obamacare Subsidies for Congress

July 25, 2014 - 2:34pm

Looking to require U.S. lawmakers to “play by the same rules” with Obamacare, this week U.S. Rep. Daniel Maffei, D-N.Y.,  introduced legislation that would eliminate taxpayer-funded subsidies for members and their staffs to buy insurance on the health law’s insurance exchanges.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., and John Barrow, D-Ga., would prohibit congressional members from receiving a federal contribution to pay for health premiums bought on Obamacare exchanges. It also would require lawmakers to buy health insurance through their home state’s exchange if they buy a plan through an Obamacare exchange.

“Member of Congress should play by the same rules as the people they represent,” Maffei said in a statement. “That means no taxpayer-funded subsidy to cover the cost of their health insurance and no exemption for Members to get insurance through an exchange that is not available to their constituents.”

Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, moved lawmakers and their staff from getting health coverage through the Federal Employees Benefits Program to health plans available through the health law’s state and federal-run online insurance exchanges.

To help defray expected high costs for premiums, the Office of Personnel Management last year issued a rule that the agency would give members and their staffs premium support. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., argued that move was unlawful and brought a lawsuit against OPM.

A federal judge earlier this week tossed Johnson’s lawsuit, saying he could not challenge the Obamacare provision, citing Article III of the Constitution, according to Politico.

Robert Moffit, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said the new legislation shows opposition to the Obamacare exemption for lawmakers is truly bipartisan.

“All of these efforts have one principle in common: No health insurance subsidy or tax credit should be available to House or Senate members that would not be available to regular Americans,” said Moffit, who serves in Heritage’s center for health policy studies.

The post Democrat Introduces Bill to Eliminate Obamacare Subsidies for Congress appeared first on Daily Signal.

Hillary Clinton: Russian Reset ‘Worked’

July 25, 2014 - 11:49am

Hillary Clinton has no regrets about the Russian reset.

Clinton told NPR’s John Harwood in an interview Thursday that she believes “that the reset worked.”

The former secretary of state argued that she designed the strategy with specifically then-president Dmitry Medvedev in mind. With Vladimir Putin’s return to power, however, Clinton explained that the policy had effectively expired and that she told President Barack Obama, “We were going to have to change our thinking and approach.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Nile Gardiner finds Clinton’s defense of the reset “laughable” and representative of the “highest order of delusional thinking.”

Gardiner, director of the Margret Thatcher Center, dismisses Clinton’s leadership caveat to the reset, explaining that Putin controlled power in Russia even during the Medvedev presidency.

Gardiner maintains that the policy is one “of appeasement towards Moscow that has blown up in Washington’s face.”

The scholar says that what Clinton heralds as a success, represents a “staggering embarrassment” to the West, and has allowed the Russians to “become emboldened, more aggressive, and more hostile.”

Gardiner warns that policies like Clinton’s reset are tantamount to appeasement and indicative of weakness. He says Americans should be “very nervous about any continuation of any kind of this failure.”

“Hillary Clinton has held up the white flag to Moscow,” he says, “and that is a recipe for long term American decline.”

The post Hillary Clinton: Russian Reset ‘Worked’ appeared first on Daily Signal.

Government Wants to Regulate Cigar Company ‘Out of Existence,’ Says Marco Rubio

July 25, 2014 - 11:43am

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, is blasting the Food and Drug Administration for its “job-killing” regulations on the premium cigar industry.

Rubio cited the J.C. Newman Cigar Co., a 119-year-old family-owned cigar business based in Tampa, as a primary loser of the FDA’s regulations.

“A government agency that is now more known for its excruciatingly slow approval process for life-saving medicines, sunscreens and medical devices is instead writing rules that would regulate a company out of existence on the basis of what tobacco leaves are being used to wrap their cigars,” Rubio wrote in the Tampa Bay Times.

The company, known for its superior hand-rolled cigars, is the last business of its kind still standing in Tampa. But because of the FDA’s restrictions this feat may soon be over.

>>> Government Regulation Threatens 119-Year-Old Family Cigar Business

The FDA is targeting premium cigar companies through expensive regulations on hand-rolled cigars, such as those produced by Newman. These regulations could cost the Newman brothers their century-old family businesses.

“We have gone through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban trade embargo, smoking bans, excessive taxation and competition from low-wage countries,” co-owner Eric Newman told the New York Times. “The toughest challenge of all these is the FDA regulations.”

Rubio along with Bill Nelson, D-Florida, is co-sponsoring the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2013 to amend the FDA’s jurisdiction over premium cigar products in hopes of saving the company.

Rubio said his bill halts “the devastating job-killing effect these new regulations would have on this traditional industry.” He alluded to the FDA’s regulations as crossing the “fine line” between regulations that “protect” Americans and regulations that hurt people by “destroying jobs.”

The post Government Wants to Regulate Cigar Company ‘Out of Existence,’ Says Marco Rubio appeared first on Daily Signal.

China: Oil in Iraq Exposes Dilemma

July 25, 2014 - 11:32am

As the civil-war-stricken Iraqi government continues to battle the Islamic State, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been closely watching its substantial oil holdings in the region. Watching, however, is all it can do.

China has long emphasized its Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, emphasizing respect for sovereignty and non-aggression. Though these principles are neglected in disputes with its neighbors, with increasing global investments and dependence on foreign oil, China’s non-interventionist diplomacy has been challenged in recent years.

The dramatic 2011 evacuation of Libya and political turmoil in oil-rich Sudan served as tests to China’s non-intervention, but the recent violence in Iraq is particularly challenging. China is the largest importer of Iraqi oil, and over 10,000 Chinese nationals staff Iraqi refineries. These investments make up 10 percent of China’s imported oil, imports that are only growing. Imported energy is the main fuel of China’s continued economic rise, and securing consistent supply is paramount.

Oil, therefore, may be one asset important enough to bring China out of its non-interventionist shell. If the U.S. is unwilling or unable to provide global stability, there will be more and more pressure within the PRC to start filling the gap to ensure its own energy security. If the South China Sea is any indication, increasing Chinese intervention may well impact the interests of the U.S. and its allies. While their power projection capabilities are nowhere near America’s, the Chinese are increasing their defense budget and acquiring such capabilities as an aircraft carrier and more amphibious ships.

Increasing Chinese influence abroad, however, is not necessarily at odds with U.S. interests. Indeed, it was Bush-era diplomat Robert Zoellick who first urged China to become a “responsible stakeholder” in international aid and multi-national cooperation. Yet the United States should remember that while altruistic efforts lead to cooperation, resource-driven initiatives lead to friction. China’s interests appear to be far more the latter than the former.

The Chinese don’t currently have the capabilities to project influence much farther than their own periphery, but in Iraq, the costs and risks of undefended investments are getting higher. Increasing oil needs mean that China can’t stay neutral forever.

D. Gerard Gayou is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, pleaseclick here.

The post China: Oil in Iraq Exposes Dilemma appeared first on Daily Signal.

Q&A: What Are These Tunnels Hamas Is Using to Attack Israel?

July 25, 2014 - 11:05am

As part of the ongoing military campaign in Gaza, the Israeli military says it is now focused on destroying underground tunnels that Hamas is using to infiltrate Israeli soil.

Q: How sophisticated are these tunnels?

Many of the tunnels are extremely sophisticated, with concrete linings, electricity, telephone lines and electric lights. They are dug as deep as 90 feet below the surface and can contain offshoots that extend in many directions with multiple exits and entry points. Some of the command bunkers that protect Hamas leaders from Israeli retaliation for their rocket terrorism are equipped with water, toilets and sewage lines.

Q: How many are there?

The total number is unknown, probably even to Hamas, because other terrorist organizations and smuggling rings independently dig tunnels. The Israelis have found at least 36 tunnels running into Israel – and even this may be an underestimation. Hundreds more are believed to have been built underneath Gaza’s border with Egypt.

Q: How does Hamas use them?

The “offensive tunnels” are used to move Hamas commandos under the border to launch terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and military attacks against Israeli soldiers. In 2006, Hamas militants used a tunnel to launch a surprise attack that captured an Israel soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held as a hostage for five years before being exchanged for over one thousand Palestinian prisoners. Some of the Palestinians killed after exiting tunnels were found to be carrying handcuffs and tranquilizers, indicating that they hope to seize another Israeli hostage.

Tunnels also are used to store weapons and ammunition, protect Hamas personnel and provide fortified underground launching pads for firing rockets at Israel.

Hamas also uses tunnels to smuggle arms, including sophisticated Iranian rockets, into Gaza from Egypt. Tunnels also are used to smuggle people, contraband and consumer goods into Gaza. Hamas owns many of these smuggling tunnels, from which it makes tremendous profits, and also runs a protection racket in which it “taxes” goods smuggled through tunnels owned by other Palestinian groups.

Q: How long has Hamas been using them?

Hamas has been building tunnels for many years but the pace of building really accelerated after it seized power in Gaza a bloody 2007 coup.

Q: How are they built?

They are built with construction materials imported into Gaza, which is one reason that Israel has restricted the movement of materials across the border. Many Palestinians have had trouble building or repairing private homes because Hamas has diverted concrete, steel and other construction materials to make the tunnels. One tunnel discovered by the Israelis was a mile and a half long, contained an estimated 800 tons of concrete and cost approximately $10 million to build. Hamas puts a higher priority on building tunnels to kill Israelis than it does on building a Palestinian state or even protecting its own people by building bomb shelters.

Q: What is Israel doing about it?

Israel launched a ground offensive along the periphery of the Gaza strip in order to find and destroy the tunnel network, which is difficult to do from the air. The Israelis have discovered at least 36 tunnels and have advanced into the Shijaiyah neighborhood, where many tunnels reportedly converge.

Q: Does Israel use similar tunnels for attacks?

As far as I know, Israel does not use tunnels for offensive purposes.

Q: Do other countries use tunnels for strategic attacks?

Tunnel warfare has a long history, particularly in wars in which one side seeks to neutralize the air superiority of its adversary. During the Vietnam War, North Vietnam constructed a huge tunnel network to transport supplies southward and stage attacks on South Vietnam’s cities. North Korea has built an elaborate tunnel system, including one underneath the Demilitarized Zone that was big enough to disgorge 30,000 soldiers in an hour and another big enough for tanks to move through.

North Korea, which has developed world-class tunneling techniques, reportedly has helped Iran build underground facilities for use in its nuclear program. North Korea also helped Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy, build underground bunkers in Lebanon that Hezbollah used to bombard Israel with rockets. Just yesterday, North Korea was found liable by an American court for Hezbollah rocket attacks because of the advanced arms and construction assistance it provided to Hezbollah. It is likely that Hamas has received Iranian assistance in replicating the Hezbollah underground bunker strategy in Gaza.

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The post Q&A: What Are These Tunnels Hamas Is Using to Attack Israel? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Federal Agency Faces Backlash After Wind Farms Get Exemption for Killing Eagles

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

Wind industry insiders call it a “turbine collision,” though the feds prefer “non-purposeful take.”

But critics such as Sharon Klemm get real on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: “Why don’t you call it what it is? Shooting eagles. Killing Eagles. Murdering Eagles.”

The backlash over a controversial 2013 government rule exempting wind farms from prosecution for the unintentional deaths of bald and golden eagles—for up to three decades—continues to play out in emotional online comments.

“Eagles along with other birds are being chopped out of the air and suffer horrible injuries and death by the blades of high-speed wind turbines,” wrote Patricia Lewko. “This practice has been given a green light by this administration in the name the name of Clean or Green Energy. … What is so clean about chopping up birds to either lie in agony or be mutilated?”

Bald eagles were removed from the endangered species list in 2007, yet killing bald and golden eagles remains a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and prison time.

“As the nation seeks to increase its production of domestic energy, wind energy developers and wildlife agencies have recognized a need for specific guidance to help make wind energy facilities compatible with eagle conservation and the laws and regulations that protect eagles,” according to the wind energy development section on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website.

In 2009, the agency first instituted a permit system to allow exemptions from prosecution—for five years—for wind farms and certain other projects that inadvertently harm or kill eagles. Last year, it extended the duration of permits for “non-purposeful take of eagles” to 30 years, responding to pressure from the wind industry to provide more certainty for investors.

“The industry suffers a lot from uncertainty about policy of all sorts, environmental as well as tax policy, and a variety of things like that,” said Dan Turner, an analyst with Windustry, a Minneapolis renewable energy advocacy group. “It’s very hard to plan, especially these major projects that take multi-years, if you don’t know what the policy is going to be. It might just close you down.”

There’s no requirement to obtain the permit, but wind farms and other potential threats to eagles risk prosecution without one. Opponents will get the chance to discuss their concerns during five public meetings across the country to reconsider eagle-kill permits.

Estimates vary widely on the collateral damage to eagles, bats and birds that tangle with wind turbines. A recent Wildlife Society survey estimated 1.4 million bat and bird fatalities annually, including 83,000 raptors. In the past five years, wind farms have destroyed at least 67 eagles, mostly golden eagles, according to a 2013 government report.

But the American Wind Energy Association claims turbines account for less than 2 percent of reported golden eagle deaths, and even fewer deaths of bald eagles. The group calls lead poisoning, vehicles and power lines greater threats.

Read more on Watchdog.org.

The post Federal Agency Faces Backlash After Wind Farms Get Exemption for Killing Eagles appeared first on Daily Signal.

Gunmaker Relocates U.S. Headquarters in Response to State’s New Firearms Restrictions

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

Italian gunmaker Beretta announced this week the company is relocating its U.S. headquarters from Maryland to Tennessee in response to gun restrictions passed last year.

The company has been producing firearms in Maryland since 1977 but the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, which bans a range of firearms and places restrictions on gun owners, solidified Beretta’s move out of state.

“We tend to be a company that has deep roots,” board member Jeff Reh told the Baltimore Sun. “We didn’t want to leave Maryland or even consider it but we decided it was the most prudent course of action. We could have been happy staying in Maryland for hundreds of years.”

>>> Cuomo’s Anti-Gun Law Blamed for Job Losses at N.Y. Firearms Factory

General Manager Jeff Cooper cited an earlier version of the statute introduced by the state Senate that would have prevented the company from producing or storing firearms in Maryland as a key reason for the move.

“While we were able in the Maryland House of Delegates to reverse some of those obstructive provisions, the possibility that such restrictions might be reinstated in the future leaves us very worried about the wisdom of maintaining a firearm manufacturing factory in the state,” Cooper told the Washington Times.

Beretta’s move will strip 300 jobs out of Maryland, according to Forbes.

>>> New York Gun Manufacturer Opts to Open New Facility in Alabama

The company began building a factory in Tennessee after the bill was passed, though this facility was solely going to be used for new equipment and the manufacture of new product lines. The threat of the further restrictions ultimately pushed the company out of Maryland.

“The chance we would go through that next legislative session or the one after that was just too great a risk for us to accept,” Reh said.

Beretta’s Tennessee branch is scheduled to open mid-2015.

The post Gunmaker Relocates U.S. Headquarters in Response to State’s New Firearms Restrictions appeared first on Daily Signal.

Biden: Voter ID Laws Designed to Keep People From Voting, Not Stop Fraud

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

Vice President Joe Biden warned members of the NAACP that Republicans are trying to stifle their ability to vote. Addressing the group’s annual convention on this week in Las Vegas, Biden demonized voter ID laws as nothing more than attempts “to keep people from voting.”

The post Biden: Voter ID Laws Designed to Keep People From Voting, Not Stop Fraud appeared first on Daily Signal.

Animated U.S. Maps Show Unemployment Changes Under Last 6 Presidents

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

The latest unemployment report released this month revealed rare “good news” about the U.S. labor market. The 6.1 percent unemployment rate marked an all-time low since the 2008 recession.

Although June’s report indicates an encouraging sign for the job market, that hasn’t always been the case under President Obama. A series of interactive maps—from Jimmy Carter’s presidency through Obama’s—illustrate the ever-changing unemployment rates under the past six presidents.

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

George W. Bush (2001-2009)

Barack Obama (2009-present)

Maps courtesy of Movoto.

The post Animated U.S. Maps Show Unemployment Changes Under Last 6 Presidents appeared first on Daily Signal.

Rep. Cory Gardner Explains How U.S. Energy Expansion Can Thwart Russia

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

According to Rep. Cory Gardner, natural gas production isn’t just beneficial to Americans back home.

The Colorado congressman’s home state is the fourth largest natural gas producer in the United States. Not only has the industry provided more than 90,000 jobs, but Gardner also argues that energy expansion has the opportunity to have a “real impact” on global security.

“Ukraine is reliant on Russia for their energy right now,” Gardner told The Daily Signal after speaking at The Heritage Foundation on energy exports and free trade. “The fact that we can send [liquefied natural gas] exports out of the United States and to Ukraine gives them another viable alternative for energy security, breaking the monopoly of Russian energy.”

To export natural gas, a company must first liquefy the gas at a liquefaction plant. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) is then shipped from an export terminal and delivered to a re-gasification import terminal to be stored or distributed by pipeline at the recipient location.

Even though domestic energy production over the past few years has provided a boost to the U.S. economy, critics of the Obama administration claim the federal government has constrained the economic benefits by significantly limiting companies’ ability to trade energy by delaying decisions on export licenses.

Those opposed to energy expansion argue domestic prices will increase and adversely affect American consumers.

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Gardner has lead the conservative charge to allow companies to trade energy freely around the world. He’s now entwined in one of the most highly contested Senate races in the country against Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, and using his stance on energy production as a key policy issue.

This June,in a major boost for Gardner, the House passed a bill that would expedite the permit approval process for LNG exports.

Although the Senate announced it wouldn’t move forward with the legislation until after the August recess, Gardner said at Heritage, “The mere passage out of the House of Representatives sends a signal to the market—sends a signal to the world—that we are serious about energy security and energy opportunity.”

This fall, Gardner added, if the Senate and President Obama choose to ignore the opportunity to expand domestic energy production, “it will be the equivalent of hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies for help.”

The post Rep. Cory Gardner Explains How U.S. Energy Expansion Can Thwart Russia appeared first on Daily Signal.

Debate: Are Obama’s Climate Change Actions Helping or Hurting?

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

President Obama promised he wouldn’t wait for Congress to combat climate change, vowing to use executive action wherever possible. One year later, are Obama’s actions helping or hurting?

That was among the topics debated by David Kreutzer, research fellow in energy economics and climate change at The Heritage Foundation, and Daniel Weiss, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, during a recent appearance on C-SPAN.

Obama has made some progress on his efforts. The EPA has proposed a rule that would effectively ban the construction of new carbon plants in the United States and is preparing a rule that would reduce the pollutants allowed from existing sources.

Kreutzer said these policies do little to combat climate change but raise energy prices, which hurts the poor the most. He questioned spending and government preferences on renewable energy sources as well.

“When the government gets involved, we see money going to the wrong place,” Kreutzer said. “When we see people making decisions and husbanding their own money trying to get a return from their own investments that they make … that’s when we see progress.”

Weiss said Obama’s Climate Action Plan is “not the last step, it’s the first step. It’s like having cancer. Just like removing a tumor isn’t going to remove cancer, removing a power plant isn’t going to fix climate change.”

Weiss said the United States should emulate Germany, where 75 percent of the electricity comes from renewables. He said renewable energy “is here and we need to continue those investments and shift away from dirty coal.”

Kreutzer said these sources are not ready to provide the amount of energy needed in places such as China, India and Brazil, which “don’t like being poor, and I don’t blame them.”

>>> Watch the full hour-long debate:

The post Debate: Are Obama’s Climate Change Actions Helping or Hurting? appeared first on Daily Signal.

Massachusetts Lawmakers Kill Charter School Expansion

July 25, 2014 - 3:01am

Those 45,000 Massachusetts students on waiting lists to attend charter schools will continue to wait.

The state Senate has killed a bill that would have allowed more charter schools to open and expanded the reach of a program that has effectively turned around some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

A similar bill could return after lawmakers reconvene in January, lobbyists and advocates say, but the result of this November’s gubernatorial election probably will affect its chances.

Massachusetts, home to some of the top-performing charter schools in the country, caps the total number of charter schools that can open in the state and caps the amount of money each district can spend on charter schools. The bill would have exempted the state’s lowest performing districts, enabling them to open additional charter schools without cap restrictions.

Two versions of the bill failed in the Senate—26-13 and 30-9.

“The way it was treated in the Senate is a pretty resounding ‘Don’t send us this type of legislation,’” said Kate Apfelbaum, Peters Fellow in education for the Pioneer Institute. “There was not much support for it, and even those that did support it had all kinds of strings attached that made it very difficult for charters to succeed.”

A little less than a quarter of the wait list—or about 10,000 students—could have had access to a charter school if the legislation had passed, Apfelbaum said.

That doesn’t necessarily indicate the fate of future similar bills, said Dominic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, in part because the charter movement in the state is healthy.

“There’s incredible demand for charters in Massachusetts and widespread support for lifting the cap,” he said. “Put those two together, and combined with a trend of performances that’s recognized as the best in the country, I’d say we’re headed in the right direction.”

Read more on Watchdog.org.

The post Massachusetts Lawmakers Kill Charter School Expansion appeared first on Daily Signal.

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