Speaking truth to old-stream media bias.
Wolf's campaign motto was "a fresh start." Mission not accomplished.
How bad is it? Pennsylvania already is among the top 10 states with the highest tax burden. Apparently Wolf wants us in the top five. That won't be easy to accomplish, primarily because we already are so overtaxed in the first place. There just aren't many more things left to tax. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranks 46th out of the 50 states for favorable corporate taxes and 42nd for favorable property taxes. The only bright spot is that the commonwealth is the 17th most favorable state for individual income taxes. Any guess as to what tax Wolf wants to increase?
And those rankings only are for business and individual income taxes. The grim tax news doesn't end there:
• Pennsylvania's sales tax is 16th highest in the country.
• Wolf would like to expand it to apply to even more consumer goods.
• At 14 percent, we're even among the worst 10 states for cellphone taxes.
• At more than 50 cents per gallon, our gasoline tax is the highest in the country — almost double the national average.
• Of the 50 states, we have the highest unemployment insurance taxes. Perversely, this might actually be good news. Given the onerous business tax climate, Pennsylvania workers will need all the unemployment insurance they can get.
If you add up all the business taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, fees, licensing, tolls and other revenues collected by the state and local governments, the average Pennsylvanian pays more than $8,000 per year to keep our political behemoth moving. That's about 20 percent of the average Pennsylvanian's income. And Tom Wolf thinks that isn't enough.
Governments, of course, have no business spending more money than they take in. Deficits simply are taxes on the unborn. It is time, instead, to apply some common sense to the matter. There are only two possible solutions. One is to try to squeeze more money out of the people. The other is to spend more frugally. We all know that the governor is (perhaps congenitally) inclined toward the former. It is high time for the latter.
Pennsylvania has been taxed to the point of near ruin. Our business climate already is among the worst in the nation; there is nothing on the horizon that will make it any better. This virtually guarantees that we will continue walking down our anemic economic road, even as Wolf asks for more and more of our money.
Twenty percent is enough, Governor. If you can't do your job with that much, maybe it is time for Pennsylvania to have a fresh start without you.
Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan is director of academic programs at Strata in Logan, Utah.
Middle class is screwed again. Only winners are inside the beltway.
While you were sleeping - the Senate sent President Obama a bipartisan 2 year budget deal https://t.co/GEXbc2SUmX
As in the House, there was a majority of Republicans who voted against the deal, led this time by some of those running for President, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) rushed back from this week's debate to denounce the plan on the floor of the Senate.
Cruz, meanwhile, launched another blistering attack on his party's leadership in the Congress, attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, and accusing him of being the leader of the other party.
"The Majority Leader disputes the characterization that he is the most effective Democratic leader modern times have seen," Cruz said.
As he did after a Cruz attack earlier this year, where Cruz called McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate, the GOP Leader did not respond.
The budget deal now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The plan would funnel $80 billion more into the federal budget over the next two years, divided evenly between the military and domestic spending.
The Congressional Budget Office found the extra spending would be fully offset through a series of savings and entitlement reforms; opponents say it's nothing but budget gimmicks.
Charlie Rose defended Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in an interview this morning with Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Rose seemed after Rubio said Clinton lied about the Benghazi terror attack.
Watch the exchange here:
"You called Hillary Clinton a liar, senator," said Rose. "You called Hillary Clinton a liar."
"Well," Rubio responded, "I said Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi. There's no doubt about that, Charlie. I mean, there are emails in which she was talking to her family and she was telling them that there was an attack on that consulate that was due to a terrorist attack by al Qaeda elements, and then she was going around the country, talking to the families of the victims and to the American people, saying, No, no, this is because [of a video]."
Rose stood up for Clinton by blaming the CIA. But Rubio insisted that the intelligence had been clear all along -- and that Clinton had not been telling the truth.
There are few political hacks in Washington more deserving of everlasting ignominy than retiring speaker John Boehner. So here's a vehement good riddance to the man who has single-handedly destroyed whatever pathetic semblance of fiscal responsibility that remained in Washington.
The so-called bipartisan budget deal he confected as a parting gesture doesn't even deserve to be called a farce. It's actually just an extension of Washington's pathological lying to the American public about the monumental fiscal calamity now brewing.
The chart below shows the patented formula—– employed for the second time since the sequester mechanism was put in place during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011.
It will increase spending by $85 billion in the here and now by busting the FY 2016 and 2017 caps. This new red ink will then, purportedly, be off-set way down the road with gimmicks, imaginary IRS audit revenues and hazy disability benefit reforms which will never materialize. Never.
Indeed, these people are beyond shame. The big bulge of $33 billion of savings shown for the never never land of 2025 is due to a sharp increase in assumed discretionary spending cuts and Medicare benefit reductions. That is, the very same programs that are being pumped up during the next three years!
And that's the same thing the Ryan-Murray budget did two years ago with respect to FY2014-15. In combination these 11th hour bipartisan shams have thus added $143 billion of real money to the national debt for the years before 2021, "paying" for them with imaginary savings to be realized after 2021. That is, until we get there—– at which time anything which bites into the gravy train will be predictably deferred.
So in a nutshell here's Johnny Lawnchair's odorous record of fiscal betrayal since 2011. First he broke the will of fiscal conservatives just when they had Washington over the debt ceiling barrel in August 2011 with the promise of $1.5 trillion of entitlement savings via the Super Committee.
The latter didn't even try and hardly even met——–defaulting instead to an allegedly equivalent savings from the automatic sequester mechanism. But when those caps started to bite in 2013, Boehner sent out his budget lapdog, pedigreed fiscal phony and now designated successor, Paul Ryan, to negotiate relief for the military-industrial complex and to insure plentiful pork for GOP candidates in the 2014 election.
Apparently there is another election coming up in 2016. So, predictably, Boehner folded so fast on the looming debt ceiling crisis that the mainstream media barely knew he had gone to the White House.
Yet on a lickety split basis Johnny Lawnchair not only jettisoned two more years of the sequester, but also blew any other inconvenient fiscal restraint lurking between now and 2017. That includes a perfectly reasonable and long scheduled increase in Medicare Part B premiums for the better off elderly and the impending action-forcing exhaustion of funding for the runaway social security disability program.
In the best kick-the-can style, however, the latter will be funded by raiding $150 billion from the retirement trust fund, while pretending that Washington bureaucrats at the Social Security Administration will write new rules to prevent abuse of a program that is totally out of control.
Really? The program's budget cost has tripled in real terms just since 1990, mainly due to an explosion of "back pain" and "mental illness" cases. Those dubious diagnoses now account for fully 55% of recipients compared to less than 15% in 1961.
So here is an entitlement crying out for sweeping statutory reform and faced with a complete cessation of benefits before the 2016 election due to the impending exhaustion of the DI trust fund. But what's the point of exercising that kind of rare fiscal leverage when you have Johnny Lawnchair doing the negotiating?
In any event, sooner or later workers will get socked with another round of payroll tax increases to bailout the entirety of the OASDI trust fund, which I demonstrated a few months ago will be totally exhausted by 2026 anyway. But in the interim the military-industrial complex is surely tickled pink by Boehner's parting betrayal of US taxpayers.
It turns out that discretionary spending authority will be increased by $112 billion over the next two years. This includes the $80 billion increase in the discretionary spending caps plus another $32 billion increase for war contingencies and other national security programs not subject to the sequester.
Not surprisingly, $72 billion or nearly two-thirds of that goes to the war contingency and state department security programs. Apparently that's all needed to contain the Russian bugaboo, especially now that Putin has shown how you actually fight terrorists in Syria, and not by spending $500 million on 50 trainees—-all of whom were captured, shot or deserted within weeks of being placed in the field.
But the military-industrial complex always needs more. With this further largesse, total US national security spending will touch nearly $800 billion next year, including military and foreign aid, veterans and related spending. That's two-thirds of Russia's entire current GDP of $1.2 trillion!
Of course, we don't have a real industrial state enemy in the world that could actually threaten the security and safety of citizens in Lincoln NE and Boston MA. But that has not stopped Johnny Lawnchair from folding on the fiscal issue time after time in order to make a deal with liberal big spenders to get more funding for the military-industrial complex.
Can you say post-retirement lobbying, consulting and speaking gigs? Don't bother. Boehner has been working on that for years.
At the end of the day, however, the Speaker's most egregious sin has been to run out the clock on the possibility of fiscal retrenchment. With this agreement, there is no possibility of a true budget deal until the summer of 2017. That means no real impact on the budget numbers until FY 2020—-since its takes several quarters to crank-up any meaningful revenue measure or entitlement reform.
So lets see. That point in time (October 2019) would be exactly 123 months since the so-called Great Recession ended. Have we ever had an economic expansion that long—-even during the years when the American economy was riding high and when the Fed had not yet exhausted its ability to goose credit and spending with easy money?
No we haven't. Johnny Lawnchair has compromised the nation's fiscal plight right into the next recession and the renewed outbreak of trillion dollar annual deficits. That is, to a point when Washington will once again be paralyzed with fear that actually paying our bills would drive the stumbling US economy further into the drink.
And what possible excuse did Johnny Lawnchair have for delivering the nation into this absolutely certain fiscal catastrophe?
He didn't wish to demand that the President employ his constitutional powers to allocate and prioritize spending in the event Uncle Sam had exhausted his legal authority to borrow.
Folks, a crisis driven resort to prioritized spending cutbacks is the only mechanism left to prevent a rapidly aging society and failing economy from drifting into fiscal calamity; and during the Obama era it was always in the power of the House Speaker to force that procedure.
That's why Johnny Lawnchair deserves everlasting infamy—–or at least until Paul Ryan comes up with new excuses for burying future generations in terminal debt.
Just ten days ago we described the latest unintended (we hope) consequence of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, when Colorado's largest nonprofit co-op health insurer and participant in that state's insurance exchange, Colorado HealthOP, announcing it was abruptly shutting down ahead of the November 1 start of enrollment for 2016, forcing 80,000 Coloradans to find a new insurer for 2016.
It wasn't the first: the Colorado co-op was at least the fifth in the nation to collapse. Similar nonprofit insurers have already failed in Louisiana, Iowa/Nebraska, Nevada and New York. A health insurance cooperative in Tennessee announced this week that it would stop offering new policies.
The insurer failed because it would fail to be profitable, in the process burning through $23 million in taxpayer-funded loss that would not be repaid. "Taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars in loans given out to the CO-OP, money that will likely never be repaid," U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement after the announcement.
And while many had anticipated from the beginning that the Obamacare tax was merely a subsidy for the large insurance companies (or rather, their public shareholders), few had expected a far more sinister consequence of the "Affordable" care plan: that the employer mandate would turn out to be unaffordable for a vast majority of low-income workers - the very people who were supposed to benefit from it.
But before we unveil this latest depressing, if also anticipated, outcome of socialized healthcare, let's remember that much of the U.S. has press has touted the success of Obamacare. To be sure, nationwide, the Affordable Care Act has significantly reduced the number of Americans without health insurance. Around 10.7% of the country's under-65 population was uninsured in the first three months of this year, down from 17.5% five years earlier, according to the National Health Interview Survey, a long-running federal study. Some 14 million previously uninsured adults have gained coverage in the last two years, the Obama administration estimates.
However, what is left unsaid is that most of those gains have come from a vast expansion of Medicaid and from the subsidies that help lower-income people buy insurance through federal and state exchanges. Workers who are offered affordable individual coverage through their employers — a group that the employer mandate was intended to expand — are not eligible for government-subsidized insurance through the exchanges, even if their income would otherwise have qualified them.
It is the failing of Obamacare to address the needs of America's struggling lower-middle class, those women and men who work long, hard hours, often at minimum wage, scrambling to make ends meet. It is them, that the NYT writes about in its recent scathing critique of Obamacare (traditionally, it has been the WSJ that gives scathing reports on the disaster that is Obamacare, usually involving soaring monthly premiums for those who were dragged into the Scotus-enabled tax beyond their will).
Take the case of Billy Sewell who began offering health insurance this year to 600 service workers at the Golden Corral restaurants that he owns. He wondered nervously how many would buy it. Adding hundreds of employees to his plan would cost him more than $1 million — a hit he wasn't sure his low-margin business could afford. His actual costs, though, turned out to be far smaller than he had feared. So far, only two people have signed up.
"We offered, and they didn't take it," he said.
But isn't that against the stated primary objective of Obamacare: to make affordable health insurance more accessible and affordable to everyone? The answer, according to the NYT, is no.
The Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, which requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer most of their employees insurance or face financial penalties, was one of the law's most controversial provisions. Business owners and industry groups fiercely protested the change, and some companies cut workers' hours to reduce the number of employees who would be eligible.
But 10 months after the first phase of the mandate took effect, covering companies with 100 or more workers, many business owners say they are finding very few employees willing to buy the health insurance that they are now compelled to offer. The trend is especially pronounced among smaller and midsize businesses in fields filled with low-wage hourly workers,like restaurants, retailing and hospitality. (Companies with 50 to 99 workers are not required to comply with the mandate until next year.)
Hold on, aren't those some of the "best" performing job categories in the past year? Why yes they are, in fact, with 11.1 million workers, those employed by "food service and drinking places" are the single largest job subcategory tracked by the BLS. It is almost as if the bulk of the jobs growth went to fields that would be mostly disadvantaged by Obamacare.
Well, there may be millions of waiters and bartenders in the US, but contrary to what Obamacare promised the vast majority are and will remain uninsured:
"Based on what we've seen in the marketplace, we're advising some of our clients to expect single-digit take rates," said Michael A. Bodack, an insurance broker in Harrison, N.Y. "One to 2 percent isn't unusual."
The reason? What was supposed to be affordable remains painfully unaffordable for the lowest rung of the employment pyramid.
Here is the actual math as experienced by both the abovementioned Mr. Sewell of Golden Corral restaurants, and his mostly minimum-wage employees.
He employs 1,800 people at the 26 Golden Corral franchises he owns in six Southern and Midwestern states, and previously offered insurance only to his salaried management staff. In January, when the employer mandate took effect, he made the same insurance plan, with a bigger employer contribution, available to all employees working an average of 30 or more hours a week.
Running the math on his plan — a typical one for the restaurant industry — illustrates why a number of low-wage workers are falling through gaps in the Affordable Care Act.
The annual premium for individual coverage through the Golden Corral Blue Cross Blue Shield plan is $4,800. Mr. Sewell pays 65 percent for service workers, leaving them with a monthly cost of $140.
The health care law defines affordable employer-sponsored insurance as that priced at 9.5 percent or less of an employee's annual household income for individual coverage. (Because employers do not know how much money their workers' relatives make, there are several "safe harbors" they can use for compliance, including basing their calculation on only their own employees' wages.) Mr. Sewell's insurance meets the test, but $65 per biweekly paycheck is more than most of his workers are willing — or able — to pay for insurance that still carries steep out-of-pocket costs, including a $2,500 deductible.
And this is where Obamacare's employee mandate fails for a vast majority of US workers.
Clarissa Morris, 47, has been a server at the Golden Corral here for five years, earning $2.13 an hour plus tips. On a typical day, she leaves the restaurant with about $70 in tips. Her husband makes $9 an hour at Walmart but has been offered only a part-time schedule there, without benefits. Their combined paychecks barely cover their rent and daily essentials.
"It's either buy insurance or put food in the house," she said. On the rare occasions that she gets sick, she visits a local clinic with sliding-scale fees. It costs her $25 for a visit, and $4 to fill prescriptions at Walmart.
Other business owners find the same paradox:
Brad Mete, the managing partner of Affinity Resources, a staffing agency in Dania Beach, Fla., began offering insurance this year to most of his workers only because the law required it. He said the alternative, paying a penalty of about $2,000 per full-time employee, was unthinkable, "That would put us out of business, in one swoop."
Trying to persuade his hourly workers to buy the insurance is "like pulling teeth," he said. His company's plan costs $120 a month, but workers making about $300 a week are reluctant to spend $30 of it on insurance.
That's ok - if you beleive the Obama administration, wages are about to soar.
Or maybe not.
What is truly tragic, however, that just like in the case of "punishing work" when Earned Income Tax benefits for those living around the poverty line, see their after tax pay rise above what comparable workers who make up to $50k per year, Obamacare seems to have been designed only for those making above the median US wage and above:
A study by ADP, the payroll processing giant, found an income tipping point at which most employees who are eligible for health insurance will buy it: $45,000 a year.
Workers making $15,000 to $20,000 a year buy employer-sponsored individual insurance when it is offered only 37 percent of the time. That rate rises at every income increment ADP studied until $45,000, when it reaches 82 percent and levels off. Further income gains have virtually no effect on the rate, ADP found.
And so the wheels slowly fall off the socialized healthcare train:
Low-income, full-time workers like Ms. Morris may prove to be some of the hardest people to bring into the ranks of the insured, said Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts an annual study on employer health benefits.
"This is one of the outcomes of trying to keep employer-based coverage in place," Mr. Claxton said. "These are folks that didn't have coverage before, and they're not being given much help to get coverage now."
Then, now that the disastrous law has been observed in practice, the result is nothing short of a bureaucratic nightmare, and everyone is scrambling to find loopholes:
Mario K. Castillo, a lawyer in Houston who has extensively studied the new law, said it was poorly understood in the industry, and a bureaucratic nightmare.
"They have to issue you a policy, but dropping it after one year is perfectly legal," he said. "If you're in this space, you essentially have to shop for insurance every year."
But the biggest slap in Obama's care comes from those who were supposed to be the direct beneficiaries.
For employees, forgoing coverage can mean facing tax penalties. Ms. Morris said she was surprised by the $95 fee she had to pay this year for being uninsured in 2014. "I had kind of heard about it, but I didn't think it was going to kick in until later," she said.
Around 7.5 million taxpayers paid the fine, according to a preliminary report by the Internal Revenue Service. That is significantly more than the three million to six million the government had forecast.
Actually, considering central planning and government takeover of private industries always leads to disaster, it is more surprising that the number isn't far, far greater.
As for those tens of millions of minimum wage workers, who thought they had a right to "hope" for "change", and instead ended up even worse off - as well as unisnured and paying a penalty - our apologies, especially since it is all downhill from here. What you should have done is buy the stock of health insurance companies: because their shareholders' gain (and your loss) is what the "Affordable" Care Act is truly all about.
1) "We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning."
2) "Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so! ...If someone made a nasty or controversial statement about me to the president, do you really think he would come to my rescue? No chance!"
3) "When someone crosses you, my advice is 'Get Even!' That is not typical advice, but it is real life advice. If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck! When people wrong you, go after those people because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even. I get screwed all the time. I go after people, and you know what? People do not play around with me as much as they do with others. They know that if they do, they are in for a big fight."
4) "What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. ...Many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally, and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally."
5) "Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself.....I happen to be very conservative in business. I always go into a deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst -- if you can live with the worst -- the good will always take care of itself."
6) "People who think achieving success is a linear A-to-Z process, a straight shot to the top, simply aren't in touch with reality. There are very few bona fide overnight success stories. It just doesn't work that way. Success appears to happen overnight because we all see stories in newspapers and on TV about previously unknown people who have suddenly become famous. But consider a sequoia tree that has been growing for several hundred years. Just because a television crew one day decides to do a story about that tree doesn't mean it didn't exist before."
7) "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either."
8) "Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you're generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make."
9) "I really am convinced we're in danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the bombing of the Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers. No sensible analyst rejects this possibility, and plenty of them, like me, are not wondering if but when it will happen. ...One day we're told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jet fighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it's on to a new enemy and new crisis." -- Donald Trump in 2000
10) "In the make-believe world you will automatically get paid what you are worth. The real world doesn't work that way. You get paid what you are worth only when the person you are dealing with has no other choice."
11) "The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts."
12) "Criticism is easier to take when you realize that the only people who aren't criticized are those who don't take risks."
13) "I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
14) "The more government takes in taxes, the less incentive people have to work. What coal miner or assembly-line worker jumps at the offer of overtime when he knows Uncle Sam is going to take sixty percent or more of his extra pay? . . . Any system that penalizes success and accomplishment is wrong. Any system that discourages work, discourages productivity, discourages economic progress, is wrong. If, on the other hand, you reduce tax rates and allow people to spend or save more of what they earn, they'll be more industrious; they'll have more incentive to work hard, and money they earn will add fuel to the great economic machine that energizes our national progress. The result: more prosperity for all—and more revenue for government."
15) "The world is a horrible place. Lions kill for food, but people kill for sport. People try to kill you mentally, especially if you are on top. We all have friends that want everything we have. They want our money, our business, house, car, wife and dog. Those are our friends. Our enemies are even worse! You have to protect yourself in life."
16) "Think how boring it would be to just sail into things and have everything be perfect. You can't prove your merit on quiet waters, whether you're a businessman or a mariner."
17) "Your brother's administration gave us Barack Obama because it was such a disaster those last 3 months that Abraham Lincoln couldn't get elected." – To Jeb Bush
18) "Rich people are rich because they solve difficult problems. You must learn to thrive on problems."
19) "If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
20) "A nation WITHOUT BORDERS is not a nation at all. We must have a wall. The rule of law matters."
21) "Luck does not come around often. So when it does, be sure to take full advantage of it, even if it means working very hard. When luck is on your side it is not the time to be modest or timid. It is the time to go for the biggest success you can possibly achieve. That is the true meaning of thinking big."
22) "Well, I think that when you get right down to it, we're a nation that speaks English. I think that, while we're in this nation, we should be speaking English. Whether people like it or not, that's how we assimilate."
23) "Back in 1991 the markets were terrible, and everyone was going out of business. I was in deep, deep trouble. I owed billions of dollars. Sure, I could tell you all I want about how to handle pressure well, but I owed many banks billions of dollars. It was not exactly fun. Believe me, it is not cool to be Donald Trump when you owe billions of dollars."
24) "One of the problems when you become successful is that jealousy and envy inevitably follow. There are people -- I categorize them as life's losers -- who get their sense of accomplishment and achievement from trying to stop others. As far as I'm concerned, if they had any real ability, they wouldn't be fighting me, they'd be doing something constructive themselves."
Yale University have concluded that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, doesn't contaminate drinking water!
"[There is] no evidence of association with deeper brines or long-range migration of these compounds to the shallow aquifers" concludes the new study, which was published in the highly prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study, the largest of its kind, sampled 64 private water wells near fracking sites to determine if they could be contaminated by fracking fluids.
"[The chemicals] are likely not a threat to human health," said Brian Drollette, the study's first author who is a chemical and environmental engineering graduate student.
The Yale researchers found essentially no contamination in well water, and the amounts they did detect were hundreds or thousands of times smaller than can be detected by commercial labs.
Environmentalists have long opposed fracking. One of fracking's most vocal opponents, the Sierra Club, has claimed that "fracking has contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans" despite contradictory research done by regulatory bodies, academics and even the EPA. This new Yale study only adds to the body of evidence contracting the fracking opponents.
The Yale study also bolsters findings made by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year that "did not find that [fracking techniques] have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States" from fracking.
Environmentalists with the blog Ecowatch criticized the EPA's findings by saying that "millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates ground water and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government."
Yet, with fracking environmentalists are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Fracking has made natural gas much cheaper, allowing it to displace coal as a major source of electricity generation. So not only can fracking proponents say the well-stimulation technique is environmentally friendly, they can claim fracking can be used to fight global warming.
Increasing use of natural gas "has probably been the single largest contributor to the … largely unexpected decline in U.S. CO2 emissions" according both to Berkley Earth and the Department of Energy. This means that more fracking for natural gas will likely cause a significant drop in carbon dioxide emissions.
According to Donald Trump, Janet Yellen's decision to delay hiking interest rates is motivated by politics.
"This is a political thing, keeping these interest rates at this level," Trump, the billionaire Republican presidential candidate, said in a Wednesday interview with Bloomberg Television's Stephanie Ruhle. "Janet Yellen for political reasons is keeping interest rates so low that the next guy or person who takes over as president could have a real problem."
Trump faulted the Federal Reserve. "Yellen is keeping rates too low, too long," Trump said.
The Republican front-runner also took aim at corporate inversions, which he cited as a major factor contributing to what he sees as a stagnating U.S. economy. Inversions will accelerate as more companies leave the U.S. for lower taxes and because "they can't get the money" back into the U.S., Trump said.
Trump's tax plan includes a lower business income rate of 15 percent, which is aimed at making "corporate inversions unnecessary," according to his website. His plan would also impose a lower tax rate to encourage corporations to bring cash held overseas back to the U.S.
Businesses "don't have the loyalty to the United States that they used to have," said Trump, who himself owns a golf course in Scotland.
Trump also said Wall Street banks are criticized for paying executives too much because "they're very bad at public relations." Instead of settling lawsuits with regulators, they should prolong the legal fight, he said.
By Howard Kurtz
There was an unmistakable moment when Steve Kroft took control of his interview with President 0bama. And the president never got it back.
It was pretty obvious that 0bama did not have a good outing on "60 Minutes." And perhaps there is a larger lesson about the media and the 44th president, coming as even the Democrat candidates to succeed him are trying to distance themselves from what would otherwise be viewed as a third 0bama term.
Kroft has been 0bama's go-to guy since he was a candidate, and some of those interviews have been a bit on the soft side. I have great respect for Kroft as an aggressive journalist, and here he was at his finest.
The veteran CBS correspondent was pressing 0bama about the fiasco in Syria in the wake of Russia's military intervention. He turned to the administration's $500-million program to train and equip 5,000 of the so-called moderate Syrian rebels—which, according to a top commander, did so for only 50. With most of them now dead or having deserted, 0bama has just ended the effort.
0bama replied that he had been "skeptical" of the program. Why, then, Kroft asked, did he go through with it?
The president said he had to "try different things."
"I know you don't want to talk about this," Kroft said, drawing a presidential denial.
It was a "serious miscalculation," Kroft said. A moment later, he interrupted 0bama: "It's an embarrassment."
That was the moment, prompting this presidential admission: "Look, there's no doubt that it did not work." And after a long answer, Kroft complained: "I feel like I'm being filibustered, Mr. President."
At another point, when 0bama argued that Vladimir Putin was bombing in Syria out of weakness, Kroft shot back: "He's challenging your leadership."
And in a second segment, Kroft got 0bama to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton had made a mistake using private email, even as the president deflected other questions and said he didn't believe national security had been breached.
All this is quite a contrast to that all-smiles session that Kroft did with 0bama and Clinton when she was stepping down as secretary of State and they sung each other's praises.
Now obviously it's easier to be tough on a president at the end of his seventh year because there aren't many more exclusive interviews to be gotten. And it's easier to push back on a president who's not popular and is presiding over an unmitigated mess in the Middle East.
One reason we haven't seen more of this, in my view, is that the president hasn't exposed himself to many television interviews with journalists like Kroft. He mainly talks to liberal sympathizers and amusing characters. So 0bama has sat down with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, with Chris Matthews, with Jon Stewart, with Vice, with YouTube cereal bather Glozell Green, with Zak Galifinakis, and with Marc Maron, who does his "WTF" podcast out of his garage.
That's his privilege, and a sign of not having to run again.
The CBS sitdown comes at a time when the media and political debate has shifted to his successor. When Kroft asked about Donald Trump, 0bama called him a "great publicity-seeker" who will not be the next president (Trump responded on Fox, calling the interview "terrible.")
The president's lame-duck status will be evident at tonight's Democratic debate, when Hillary and Bernie Sanders will be competing to show that they are not 0bama—and in fact are to the left of 0bama.
"Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders promise different approaches from Mr. 0bama's, as much in style as in substance," the New York Times says. "Both have suggested they could get more accomplished, though Mrs. Clinton does so in more oblique terms."
As we get into 2016, 0bama may decide to use selected interviews to defend and define his legacy as it comes under frontal attack from Republican candidates, and more implicitly by Democratic candidates.
There's also a media shift late in an administration from what an incumbent plans to do to what he has actually accomplished.
If Steve Kroft's interview is any indication, the president may face some rougher questioning than he has in the past.
As the old adage goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and as the recent bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz clearly shows, the US military presence in Afghanistan is doing wonders for stability and security which is presumably why the 0bama administration has just done a 180 on troop deployment in the country.
Under 0bama's previous plan, Washington would withdraw most of the 9,800 troops operating in the country by the end of next year, leaving a force of just 1,000.
Now, all 9,800 troops will remain for "most" of next year and 5,500 troops will remain in 2017.
Here's more from WSJ:
President Barack 0bama will say Thursday that he has ordered a significant slowdown in the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, senior administration officials said, a decision that marks a major reversal in his war plan and effectively hands the conflict over to his successor.
Under pressure at home and abroad, Mr. 0bama decided—following a strategy review—to maintain the current American force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, and to leave a force of 5,500 U.S. troops in the country in 2017, when he leaves office, the senior administration officials said.
The announcement will mark a dramatic shift in strategy by scrapping Mr. 0bama's previous plan, in place since last year, to steadily withdraw the 9,800 U.S. troops through 2016 and to leave only about 1,000 at the U.S. embassy by the time he leaves office.
But a spike in insurgent violence and uneven performance by Afghan forces led top U.S. commanders to openly question the president's strategy and brought exhortations from U.S. allies to change course. This left Mr. 0bama little choice but to scuttle his plan to wind down U.S. involvement, marking another setback for his efforts to untangle the U.S. from more than a decade of war.
In a further strategy change, the 5,500 remaining troops will be stationed at points far beyond the Afghan capital of Kabul, officials said, serving in Jalalabad in the east, Kandahar in the south, and at Bagram Air Field.
The shift follows a sharp rise in violence, including an assault by Taliban militants who temporarily seized control last month of the northern city of Kunduz. The policy reversal also comes amid growing concerns that a drawdown of U.S. forces in the country could create an opening for Islamic State militants who have gained control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.
And from The New York Times:
Some of the troops will continue to train and advise Afghan forces, while others will carry on the search for Qaeda fighters and militants from the Islamic State and other groups who have found a haven in Afghanistan, they said.
In abandoning his ambition to bring home almost all American troops before leaving office, Mr. 0bama appears to be acknowledging that Afghan security forces are still not near ready to hold off the Taliban on their own.
The insurgents are now spread through more parts of the country than at any point since 2001, according to the United Nations, and last month the Taliban scored their biggest victory of the war, seizing the northern city of Kunduz and holding it for more than two weeks before pulling back on Tuesday.
(Taliban presence in Afghanistan)
So we suppose when 0bama warns Putin that Russia risks getting itself into a "quagmire" in Syria, at least the US President is speaking from experience.
This means the US has now failed to extricate itself from not one, but two Mid-East wars. Note the amusing thing about this: ISIS has now been cited as a reason to keep troops in Afghanistan, meaning that thanks to the activities of a group whose fighters received assistance from the West and its allies, America is forced to remain mired in the same two wars it's been mired in for over a decade and those two wars were themselves triggered by the largest terrorist attack on US soil in history which was perpetrated by a group that got its start with funding and support from the US when Osama bin Laden was fighting the Soviets in ... Afghanistan.
In short, The White House's decision to keep troops on the ground is just the latest example of constantly compounding Mid-East foreign policy blunders. One misstep begets another, begets another, and on, and on.
.. Whatever the case, this means that there will be 10,000 US troops on the ground in Afghanistan for the duration of Russia and Iran's operations in Syria and Iraq and seen in that light, the timing of this announcement doesn't seem like a coincidence.
Oh, and by the way, the additional cost to the US taxpayer of keeping the "extra" troops on the ground: about $5 billion per year.
CBS and the rest of the media are really trying to trip up Ben Carson. If the tables were turned, they'd be crying racism on themselves for this technique. Watch the interview and see what I mean.
Bottom line: big banks, be they commercial or investment, the Wall Street financial apparatus, is tied to the Democrat Party today; regardless what Bernie Sanders says or what Hillary Clinton says. Campaign donations from big banks mostly go to Democrats.
Explaining O'Malley on Glass-Steagall
During the Dummycrat debate Martin O'Malley brought up the Glass-Steagall bank deregulation law. Glass-Steagall was originally passed after the Depression. It goes back all the way to 1932. It was intended to prevent banks from wheeling and dealing. It limited banks on the kind of banking they could do. Bill Clinton repealed it in 1998, which meant banks could do anything. They could be investment banks. They could be your standard, ordinary everyday neighborhood bank. They could combine all these different activities under one roof, if you will.
Now, in a nutshell, O'Malley was saying, that we need to go back to it. Well, he must have been doing that as a way of hitting Hillary because her husband is the one that repealed it. People have said that Clinton repealing Glass-Steagall in 1998 led to the subprime crisis. But that's to excuse Clinton for his real role in the subprime crisis. Glass-Steagall has very little to do with it. I mean, repealing Glass-Steagall enabled them to do what they really then set out to do.
That's when Clinton sent Janet Reno to all the banks and threaten to prosecute and investigate them if they didn't lend money to people that could never pay it back. That's what got the whole thing going. Jimmy Carter actually started the subprime mortgage thing, and Clinton picked it up, gave it energy. It didn't go very far under Carter. But it was nothing more than Black Lives Matter. It was affirmative action. It was a so-called... It was a PR effort to make it look like the Democrat Party cared about the American dream and the Republican Party didn't.
"The American dream" defined as "home ownership."
Well, who was it unable to afford homes? Middle class African-Americans, poor Americans, poor blacks. And that was the focus. It was to extend the benefits of home ownership to people that couldn't afford it, 'cause it wasn't fair some couldn't afford it. And so the banks were forced to make these loans. I'm not defending banks here, but I'm telling you they are not the original guilty party in this. Once they were told that they had to engage in practices guaranteed to lose them money, they did what any responsible institution would.
They tried to turn it around and figure out how to make money out of it. So they collected all of this paper (i.e., fraudulent income streams) and all these mortgages that they had made, all this money they had lent to people that would never, ever otherwise be qualified -- would never, ever be able to pay it back. But nobody knew that. They package all these mortgages together, and the packaging of the mortgages had a mortgage-backed securities. And what it represented was an income stream.
"Look at all of these loans that people are making monthly payments on! And you can buy a package of these. I'm selling these 'cause I want to move into other areas." So number of banks bought 'em and then they found out it was worthless. They repackaged it as something else and sold it to somebody else who found out it was worthless. Until finally, it all crashed on itself. The subprime mortgage crisis. During all of that period, regulators knew it was going on.
They tried to bring it to a halt during the Bush administration. That's when people like Barney Frank threatened the investigators during congressional hearings to leave it alone. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got involved. People started getting rich in the process of moving these worthless pieces of paper, these worthless loans that nobody was ever going to pay back. And it mentioned the banks had to foreclose on these properties. You know the drill. Now, the role that Glass-Steagall had in this...
I don't even know why O'Malley brought it up, what he thought he could benefit by doing it. But, in a nutshell, Glass-Steagall was to differentiate between commercial banks and investment banks. Under Glass-Steagall, commercial banks like Citibank were not allowed to get into the securities investing business. But once Steagall was repealed, Citibank, for instance, big time went into the investment banking business, in addition to this commercial banking.
Remember they had bad trouble. They had to get Bob Rubin in there to try to save them and bail them out. Citibank got very well involved with Salomon Smith Barney, which left them very exposed when the mortgage meltdown hit. Under Glass-Steagall, banks had to be either commercial or investment. They could not be both. And after it was ignored and eventually repealed by Clinton, banks did both. So really risky securities investments ended up being underwritten by commercial banks, like Citibank.
And it turned out investment banking on paper looks much more profitable than just being a commercial bank with Ma and Pa Citizen coming in with their weekly deposits and wanting their passbook interest. You know, what fun is that when you can be over there playing with the big boys at Goldman Sachs? So basically Goldman Sachs was able to become a commercial bank, and Citibank and Wells Fargo were able to become Goldman Sachs if they wanted to.
There are a lot of people who think that that repeal of Glass-Steagall allowing these banks to start trafficking any kind of activity that they want to, is what led to the big corruption and the subprime mortgage. Here's the bottom line, though. You know, I don't care what anybody said on that stage last night about banks. The simple fact of the matter is that the big banks, be they commercial or investment, the Wall Street financial apparatus is tied to the Democrat Party today.
And that's why I'm sitting up there laughing at Bernie Sanders going on and on and all these other people going on and on about closing the banks or regulating the banks and make this the banks play fair and so forth. The banks are donating to Obama left and right! They donated to Hillary; they continue to donate to Hillary, and they will continue to. They're run now by, for the most part, your average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, everyday liberal Democrat.
And yet the image persists that "Wall Street = Big Business = Republican," and it just isn't true anymore. The Democrat Party has become the party of the rich. By the time you add the Hollywood rich, the entertainment rich, the union rich (and believe me, there are tons of 'em), it's overwhelming, the transformation that's taken place, to the point now the Republican Party cannot be said to be the party of the rich. It is the Democrats.
And yet nobody knows it, particularly people that vote Democrat. So Bernie Sanders can sit up there all night and start talking about the banks are evil here and evil there and get standing ovations. Now, what O'Malley said about Glass-Steagall. He said, "But there's another piece that Senator Sanders left out tonight, but he's been excellent about underscoring that. And that is that we need to separate the casino, speculative, mega-bank gambling that we have to insure with our money, from the commercial banking -- namely, reinstating Glass-Steagall.
"Secretary Clinton mentioned my support eight years ago. And Secretary, I was proud to support you eight years ago, but something happened in between, and that is, Anderson, a Wall Street crash that wiped out millions of jobs and millions of savings for families. And we are still just as vulnerable Paul Volcker says today. We need to reinstate Glass-Steagall and that's a huge difference on this stage among us as candidates." So O'Malley wanted to reinstate Glass-Steagall.
And I guarantee you that 99.9% of the studio audience and 99.99% of the television audience was saying, "What? Glass what? Come on, Martin, take your shirt off! That's why we want to see you. We couldn't care less about that."
See that, even Democrat legislators agree with Republicans that Governor Wolf shouldn't be pushing income tax increases.
Pennsylvania budget talks are set to resume Wednesday
Pennsylvania state Capitol (The Patriot-News)
By Charles Thompson | email@example.com
The next chance to break the state budget impasse is upon us.
One week after the state House of Representatives defeated Gov. Tom Wolf's $1.8 billion tax increase package on a mostly party-line vote, legislative leaders expect to reconvene on-again, off-again state budget talks Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said he is hopeful that with the House's strong rejection of Wolf's proposed personal income tax increase as a backdrop, the new talks will have a better chance of gaining quick momentum.
"Now that almost everyone has agreed that we're not going to have an across-the-board tax increase," Corman said Tuesday, in a reference to the House vote, "we're a lot closer together than we were.
"We think there's a real chance to have some sort of agreement fairly quickly."
The key words there are "almost everyone."
Corman can be sure about the Republicans who have majority control of both the House and Senate. Last week's 127-73 vote was built on a wall of resistance from the 118 GOP members present, along with nine western Pennsylvania Democrats.
But Wolf went on a Pittsburgh radio station earlier in the day and said he will not "cave" on the issue of higher taxes, which he believes are needed to fix the gap between revenues and expenses and increase state aid to public schools.
"I can't cave on this," Wolf said. "We've got to have our state on a sound financial basis. That's all I want."
House and Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are clearly open to a budget package that doesn't raise state income or sales taxes, though they also stressed Tuesday that they haven't taken the more broad-based taxes off the table.
"We need to get a budget done. However we get there, as long as we have the appropriate levels of recurring revenues," Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County, said about the new round of talks.
"That's what we need so we're not faced in 2016-17 with a multi-billion dollar structural budget deficit. That's our objective."
It was not clear Tuesday evening if the Wolf Administration will be directly participating in Wednesday's talks, or if they will let the legislative leaders speak for them for the moment.
There are a lot of alternative revenue sources available to budget negotiators short of changing the income or sales tax: the two revenue measures in the state's arsenal that are guaranteed to hit just about everybody.
Among the streams that at least some - if not all - members of both parties are open to discussion on include: reforms to the state's monopoly on liquor sales; further expansion of legalized gambling; the much-discussed tax on gas production from the Marcellus Shale; higher taxes on cigarettes; and a change in the state's bank shares tax.
Pennsylvania's state government has been operating without a state budget since June 30.
As each week goes by, more lawmakers in both parties are starting to feel the pressures from local school districts running out of cash, and temporary suspensions of certain social service programs.
When the last round of direct talks was suspended two weeks ago for failed stopgap financing efforts, the two sides had narrowed their spending differences to about $600 million, with the Wolf Administration at $31.2 billion and GOP leaders at $30.6 billion.
The private email server running in Hillary Rodham Clinton's home basement when she was secretary of state was connected to the Internet in ways that made it more vulnerable to hackers, according to data and documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Clinton's server, which handled her personal and State Department correspondence, appeared to allow users to connect openly over the Internet to control it remotely, according to detailed records compiled in 2012. Experts said the Microsoft remote desktop service wasn't intended for such use without additional protective measures, and was the subject of U.S. government and industry warnings at the time over attacks from even low-skilled intruders.
Records show that Clinton additionally operated two more devices on her home network in Chappaqua, New York, that also were directly accessible from the Internet. One contained similar remote-control software that also has suffered from security vulnerabilities, known as Virtual Network Computing, and the other appeared to be configured to run websites.
The new details provide the first clues about how Clinton's computer, running Microsoft's server software, was set up and protected when she used it exclusively over four years as secretary of state for all work messages. Clinton's privately paid technology adviser, Bryan Pagliano, has declined to answer questions about his work from congressional investigators, citing the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Some emails on Clinton's server were later deemed top secret, and scores of others included confidential or sensitive information. Clinton has said that her server featured "numerous safeguards," but she has yet to explain how well her system was secured and whether, or how frequently, security updates were applied.
Clinton has apologized for running her homebrew server, and President Barack Obama said during a "60 Minutes" interview Sunday it was "a mistake." Obama said national security wasn't endangered, although the FBI still has yet to complete its review of Clinton's server for evidence of hacking.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said late Monday that "this report, like others before it, lacks any evidence of an actual breach, let alone one specifically targeting Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department is conducting a review of the security of the server, and we are cooperating in full."
The AP exclusively reviewed numerous records from an Internet "census" by an anonymous hacker-researcher, who three years ago used unsecured devices to scan hundreds of millions of Internet Protocol addresses for accessible doors, called "ports." Using a computer in Serbia, the hacker scanned Clinton's basement server in Chappaqua at least twice, in August and December 2012. It was unclear whether the hacker was aware the server belonged to Clinton, although it identified itself as providing email services for clintonemail.com. The results are widely available online.
Remote-access software allows users to control another computer from afar. The programs are usually operated through an encrypted connection — called a virtual private network, or VPN. But Clinton's system appeared to accept commands directly from the Internet without such protections.
"That's total amateur hour," said Marc Maiffret, who has founded two cyber security companies. He said permitting remote-access connections directly over the Internet would be the result of someone choosing convenience over security or failing to understand the risks. "Real enterprise-class security, with teams dedicated to these things, would not do this," he said.
The government and security firms have published warnings about allowing this kind of remote access to Clinton's server. The same software was targeted by an infectious Internet worm, known as Morta, which exploited weak passwords to break into servers. The software also was known to be vulnerable to brute-force attacks that tried password combinations until hackers broke in, and in some cases it could be tricked into revealing sensitive details about a server to help hackers formulate attacks.
"An attacker with a low skill level would be able to exploit this vulnerability," said the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team in 2012, the same year Clinton's server was scanned.
Also in 2012, the State Department had outlawed use of remote-access software for its technology officials to maintain unclassified servers without a waiver. It had banned all instances of remotely connecting to classified servers or servers located overseas.
The findings suggest Clinton's server "violates the most basic network-perimeter security tenets: Don't expose insecure services to the Internet," said Justin Harvey, the chief security officer for Fidelis Cybersecurity.
Clinton's email server at one point also was operating software necessary to publish websites, although it was not believed to have been used for this purpose. Traditional security practices dictate shutting off all a server's unnecessary functions to prevent hackers from exploiting design flaws in them.
In Clinton's case, Internet addresses the AP traced to her home in Chappaqua revealed open ports on three devices, including her email system. Each numbered port is commonly, but not always uniquely, associated with specific features or functions. The AP in March was first to discover Clinton's use of a private email server and trace it to her home.
Mikko Hypponen, the chief research officer at F-Secure, a top global computer security firm, said it was unclear how Clinton's server was configured, but an out-of-the-box installation of remote desktop would have been vulnerable. Those risks — such as giving hackers a chance to run malicious software on her machine — were "clearly serious" and could have allowed snoops to deploy so-called "back doors."
The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal government's guiding agency on computer technology, warned in 2008 that exposed server ports were security risks. It said remote-control programs should only be used in conjunction with encryption tunnels, such as secure VPN connections.
Federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246."
TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT !
FEDERAL WORKERS EARN 78% MORE THAN PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES, STUDY SHOWS
by JOHN HAYWARD
8 Oct 2015
Are we allowed to talk about the "income inequality" gap between employees of the federal government and the private sector? Because it's huge, it's been huge for a long time, and it's and getting worse.
According to a study of data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, conducted by the Cato Institute, compensation for federal workers is 78% higher on average than compensation for private sector employees.
"Federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,153 in 2014, compared to an average in the private sector of $56,350," according to the Cato review. "The federal advantage in overall compensation (wages plus benefits) is even greater. Federal compensation averaged $119,934 in 2014, which was 78 percent higher than the private-sector average of $67,246."
To put this in perspective, the federal government has "the fourth highest paid workers in the United States, after utilities, mining, and the management of companies." The government pays better than information services, the financial sector, the insurance industry, and scientific industries. Federal compensation is more than double what the education industry receives, and over three times what retail workers make.
This would seem problematic in light of left-wing class warfare rhetoric. Compensation for the education industry is supposed to be the veritable benchmark of fairness. We are constantly told it's outrageous that various professions are paid more than teachers. How, then, can statists justify federal workers making over twice what the education industry pays?
In a similar vein, we're always lectured about the profound unfairness of highly-compensated private-sector employees making many times what the entry level workers are paid. How does that square with the federal government's employees making triple what retail workers earn?
How about the "self-interest" canard used to shut down so many valid arguments from people in the private sector? Liberals are always claiming the first dollar of private-sector financial interest taints every bit of testimony from their adversaries, a refrain that has been particularly loud in the "climate change" debate lately. What about the obvious self-interest of government employees in securing more money and influence for the titanic employer who rewards them so handsomely?
The income inequality between private-sector workers and government employees is getting worse, after merely "slowing" during the much-ballyhooed "federal pay freeze" from 2011 to 2013. The data shows that "wages rose 2.9 percent in the federal government in 2014, on average, compared to 1.7 percent in the private sector." The disparity became 2.8 percent to 1.3 percent when total benefits such as pension and health care were included.
Cato's deep dive into the numbers found rising federal compensation resulted from "legislated increases in general pay, increases in locality pay, expansions in benefits, and growth in the number of high-paid jobs as bureaucracies become more top-heavy," as well as automatic compensation adjustments that tended to "move federal workers into higher salary brackets regardless of performance."
Of course, the politics of unionized federal workers lobbying their own government machine for higher wages and benefits was an important factor as well. The government's vast army of workers provide a great deal of muscle for the government's efforts to grow richer and more powerful. The Cato Institute observes that "members of Congress who have large numbers of federal workers in their districts often lead the efforts to expand pay and benefits."
Although the Cato study doesn't delve into it, another interesting subject would be the immense value of the connections developed by top-level federal employees. There are some departments where the revolving door between government employee and lobbyist spins madly, day after day. The value of the connections enjoyed by elected representatives is legendary, but they're not the only ones who depart Washington with Rolodexes worth big bucks to subsequent employers.
The study also anticipated the common objection that Uncle Sam must pay handsomely to attract the best and brightest by noting the federal budget is littered with "mundane bureaus where workers are paid highly for normal bureaucratic jobs." No one can claim with a straight face that the U.S. taxpayer should be billed for six-figure salaries to keep a labyrinth of redundant departments staffed with paper-pushers… but of course, when talk of budget restraint begins, that's never how the government workforce is presented to us. To hear Big Government acolytes talk, one would think federal bureaus are staffed with nothing but cops, soldiers, teachers, and firefighters.
Not only does government work have a level of job security almost unheard-of in the private sector, but the extremely low "quit rate" suggests federal employees are very well aware of how good they have it. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "the quit rate in the federal government is just one-quarter the quit rate in the private sector."
The Cato study raises an interesting point by asking if the notion of paying big federal salaries to attract the best and brightest would be a good idea, even if that did explain the stunning discrepancy between government and private compensation. Do we really want people passing up on productive private-sector careers to seek the high wages, amazing benefits, and incomparable job security of government employment?
Naturally, we do want good people working for the federal government. The gap between their compensation and the private sector has grown too large to politely ignore, especially in a time of private-sector wage stagnation, workforce collapse, and unsustainable public debt. Cato has a few suggestions for reversing the trend, including the end of defined-benefit pension plans, privatizing as many federal jobs as possible, and reforms to federal pay packages.
The end of public-employee unions would be another positive step; unfortunately, the most ambitious such plan presented in the current political season was offered by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who dropped out of the presidential race. Perhaps other candidates will take up the flag of public union reform.
Conservatives should labor to teach the public that the government is a "special interest," as surely as any corporation that lobbies it, and it is very much capable of "greed." Government employees are not uniquely greedy, mind you – they're mostly just people trying to do their jobs every day, and even with a 78% compensation advantage, they would naturally resist cutbacks as much as any private-sector employee. No one in Washington thought the feelings of private-sector employees about wage stagnation, job loss, and the conversion of full-time jobs into part-time work was relevant to the ambitious agenda of left-wing politicians. Let us be done with the mythology of "selfless public service," and deal as squarely with the bureaucracy as we would with any of the corporations it regulates.