Gas Pains: Taxpayers Are Running Low on Fuel

Pumping Gas

At a Gasman station just outside of Middletown, Connecticut, Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy’s constituents can fill up their tanks for $1.99 a gallon.

Drivers 966 miles away in Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s state of Tennessee can fill up their tanks at the old Pilot on Interstate-40 for less even less: $1.69 a gallon.

In 39 other states across the nation, drivers can find at least one station selling gas for less than two dollars while Americans enjoy the lowest gas prices in decades – and a couple extra Benjamins in their wallets from paying less at the pump.

Unfortunately, it appears that, for every step forward, taxpayers get shoved two steps back.

Recent proposals from a handful of Washington insiders, including Sens. Corker and Murphy, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), James Inhofe (R-Ok.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) have included gas tax hikes to fix the crumbling 59-year-old Highway Trust Fund (HTF), a source of revenue for the interstate highway fund that will expire in May.

Here’s how Republicans can fix their terrible State of the Union responses

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This author will not waste time explaining how useless and obscene the annual State of the Union royal pageant is, nor how full of untruths, crushing debt, inviable proposals, and unfunded liabilities President Obama’s most recent iteration of the speech was this week. Instead, I’ll focus on the official Republican response given this year by newly elected US Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst. If you can call it that.

As Shep Smith and Chris Wallace noted on the Fox News broadcast syndicated to their local affiliates, Obama spent several minutes than previous years after his delivery shaking hands in the chamber. This meant that the GOP response, officially scheduled for 5 minutes after the president leaves the room, would be pushed into local news broadcasts and therefore probably cut off in most television viewing markets. Intentional or not, that didn’t even give Republicans a chance to have their message heard, regardless of how good it may have been.

Obama Lied: Broadband speeds aren’t faster or cheaper in Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls, Iowa

The President’s claim that Cedar Falls residents can get a gig for less than many Americans pay for premium cable is untrue. His statement that the Cedar Falls Utility network is 100 times faster than the average American Internet connection is, at best, a misleading and contradictory exaggeration, and at worst, absolutely false.

Last week, President Obama said “we’re going to change” — i.e., preempt through federal fiat — state laws that prohibit their municipalities from owning broadband networks. (See embedded YouTube video at 14:00.) The White House supported his preemption plan with this “fact sheet” and a blog post listing “five things you need to know” about the President’s announcement. The problem is, several of the “facts” and other things the White House wants you to know are false, misleading, or contradictory.

U.S. use of unilateral “weaponization of finance” makes top ten geopolitical risks of 2015

Economic Sanctions

As much as I really wanted to write today about how confusing it is to be angry about American Sniper, especially from someone like Seth Rogen, who just had his right to freely make bad films defended by the same country Chris Kyle loved enough to protect, I might be too emotionally invested to be objective and, as this guy points out, it’s kind of a waste of breath or thought. But after I actually see it, maybe I’ll write a review…

So, instead, even though it’s less sexy, here’s the topic du jour, because I just recently came across the terminology, had no idea what it meant, and now am fascinated by the concept. Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group’s founder and president, has chosen as one of his top concerns for the coming year something he calls the “weaponization of finance”:

The U.S. is focusing largely on what Bremmer calls the weaponization of finance, one of his Top Risks for 2015. “The U.S. is becoming much more unilateral in the expression of its foreign policy and its national security. We see that with drones, we see that with surveillance. We also see it with the willingness to use the dollar and access to the American markets and the U.S. financial institutions as both a carrot and a stick.”…

Obama to welcome new Congress by proposing billions in new taxes

Obama's $320 tax hike SOTU

President Obama will propose $320 billion in new tax increases over ten years during his seventh State of the Union address on Tuesday night. After historic Republican victories during the 2014 midterm elections, which gave Republicans the largest majority in the House in decades and a majority in the Senate for the first time since Obama became president, Obama is set to reject those results and charge full steam ahead with his one-sided liberal agenda.

Americans for Tax Reform, an organization which pressures elected officials not to raise taxes, highlights the five major tax hikes Obama will propose tomorrow night:

1. Capital Gains Rate Hike: raises capital gains and dividends tax rate from 23.8% today (20% plus 3.8% Obamacare surtax) to 28% (including the Obamacare surtax).

The capital gains tax has not been that high since President Clinton signed a rate cut in 1997.

It would represent a massive hike in the rate since Obama took office. When he was sworn in, the rate was 15%. He proposes to nearly double it to 28% in the twilight of his administration.

2. Stealth increase in the death tax rate from 40% to nearly 60%.

Under current law, when you inherit an asset your basis in the asset is the higher of the fair market value at the time of death or the decedent’s original basis. Almost always, the fair market value is higher.

Under the Obama proposal, when you inherit an asset your basis will simply be the decedent’s original basis.

Hayek’s path to victory may not run through practical politics

F. A. Hayek

How do we inspire people to become passionate about liberty?

In his famous essay Intellectuals and Socialism, F.A. Hayek identified a serious problem with classical liberals. They were too practical. Their strategy was to try to work within the existing political order. They devised practical solutions which they hoped would be adopted by practical statesmen. They avoided broad speculations about a fundamentally different world. They were afraid to be marginalized, to be seen as too radical.

The socialists at the time had no such reservations. They were marginalized to begin with. They ran with it. Unlike the liberals, they painted a vision of a fundamentally transformed world. They sold a utopia. They acknowledged that they were in for a long fight, which might last many years, but one day, they insisted, their vision would become real. They were true believers.

At the time of Hayek’s essay, the socialists were winning. Their vision of a better world had captured the imagination of the intellectuals. These same intellectuals had transmitted the socialistic ideas to the broader public. Hayek lamented that the classical liberals had nothing comparable. He ends his essay:

EA Games seeks to raise up another generation of central planning-loving socialists

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If you were lucky enough to be a kid in the 1990s, you’re probably familiar with the urban planning megahit computer game series SimCity. It was first released in 1989 and spawned several sequels and spin-offs of varying popularity over the last two and a half decades, including the street-level, person-oriented, blockbuster Sims series.

If you were even luckier, you didn’t emerge from playing these games as a flaming utopian. The point of the games, after all, is to make the citizens of your electronic town happy by providing them with adequately zoned neighborhoods, utilities, parks, a modest tax rate, entertainment, and safety from occasional disaster scenarios.

The original SimCity did have a marginal laissez-faire premise, though. As mayor, you zoned specific areas for residential, commercial, or industrial construction, but the computer programming filled in the blanks with whatever kind of buildings your citizens might want.

However, a new version of the series for Android and Apple phones and tablets, SimCity BuildIt, removes all hints of spontaneous order and substitutes a Marxist paradise of master planning in its place. The new mobile game is rendered in smooth, stunning 3D graphics, so it’s a pleasure to play visually. But once you start to get into the weeds of the new mayor’s office, it becomes more of an annoyance than fun, especially as a lesson in economic theory.

House GOP “exporting the Issa model” in holding Obama accountable

Issa subpoena power

House Republicans are set to expand the subpoena power of a number of Committee Chairman in an effort to put more pressure on the Obama Administration and the various departments under investigation, a move one Democrat staffer said was tantamount to “exporting the Issa model to the rest of the House.” That comment refers to the power California Republican Darrell Issa wielded as Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during investigations into “Operation: Fast and Furious” and the IRS scandal.

POLITICO reports:

The change means that, in a break from years of tradition, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) wouldn’t need to consult with his panel’s top Democrat before subpoenaing documents or witnesses about issues like Obamacare or the Environmental Protection Agency. The GOP is also proposing similar boosts in authority for Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), whose panel’s jurisdiction includes the Dodd-Frank financial regulations law, and for Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who will oversee any probes into immigration.

Two other panels — Agriculture and Science, Space and Technology — are considering making the same change. And in a similar move, the House passed a rules package last week that gave the energy, science, finance and Ways and Means committees the power to let their counsels hold depositions in private.

President Obama’s subtle trick to sell “free” nationalized community college

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On Thursday, President Obama announced from Air Force One an unprecedented plan to extend federally-funded universal public education up through community college for everyone. Students would have to maintain a certain grade point average and choose plans and colleges that have proven career success. The plan will be fully articulated in the President’s annual budget proposal, which will be dead on arrival in the newly Republican-controlled Congress, and Obama will provide more details in his upcoming State of the Union address. The estimated cost has not been revealed, but the idea is for the federal government to fund 75% of the program with states picking up the rest.

However, it’s not the details of the program that are so distressing as the subtle, disingenuous way the President has chosen to sell it. Obama made the announcement from his sleak office aboard Air Force One, dressed in a tie but no jacket, leaning back casually on his angled desk. Whoever choreographs these things is a master in marketing.

The recorded, scripted, teleprompter-read nearly two-minute statement was billed as a preview of the State of the Union. The community college initiative is introduced thusly:

Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it. That’s right, free for everyone who’s willing to work for it. It’s something we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.

Fantastic! What’s another few billion dollars a year when you’re already $18 trillion in debt? YOLO, amirite?

Fighting Terror with Laughter

Jon Stewart isn’t the usual go-to for reasoned analysis of politically tinged events, primarily because his general bias makes him nearly incoherent sometimes. But he got the events in Paris right when he said “there is no sense to be made of this”:

It takes a lot for an apologist to acknowledge that, for some things, there simply is no apology. Things like not being able to take a joke to the point that 12 people had to die. Perhaps that assessment will offend some who see more to the fanaticism of the Islamist wing of Islam. But ultimately, that’s what the massacre of the 12 in Paris yesterday was all about. There is no satirizing the sacred and profane for these guys. But we’ve known that for a while. As Jeffrey Goldberg writing in The Atlantic notes:

 


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