Economy

Cruz, Paul lead charge to block Ukraine aid package over IMF expansion

International Monetary Fund

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have gotten the band back together after a brief squabble over foreign policy, and they’ve been joined by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

The five Republican senators have informed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that they plan to object to the Ukrainian aide measure unless he allows a vote to strip language that would expand both the amount of money the International Monetary Fund can loan and the United States’ contribution to the fund.

“We are deeply concerned that the Ukraine aid legislation reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contains ‘reform’ provisions that would unnecessarily double the United States contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), part of the largest proportional increase ever, yet ultimately undermine our influence in that body in a manner that provides no actual relief to Ukraine,” the five Senate Republicans wrote in a letter to Reid.

The letter was dated on March 13, but was not released to the public until March 21.

“As we understand it, this reform would double the funds the IMF can loan, involving a doubling of the United States’ contribution from its current level of $63 billion, while simultaneously reducing U.S. influence over how these funds are directed—and increasing that of Russia,” the letter continues. “Regardless of the magnitude of this change, this idea is antithetical to the driving purpose of the underlying legislation.”

Survey finds businesses would reduce hiring, raise prices to offset minimum wage hike

Though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already warned that proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage could cost the economy at least 500,000 jobs over the next two years, President Barack Obama and Democrats are still trying to push the increase through Congress, mostly because they believe it plays to their favor in an election year.

The issue may be an easy way to score political points, but the Wall Street Journal makes note of new survey which found that most businesses would adjust to an increase in the minimum wage by reducing hiring and increasing prices for goods and services, and some would even layoff workers:

Just over half of U.S. businesses that pay the minimum wage would hire fewer workers if the federal standard is raised to $10.10 per hour, according to a survey by a large staffing firm to be released Wednesday. But the same poll found a majority of those companies would not cut their current workforce.

White House official: Obama will be an asset to Democrats

Dan Pfeiffer

The White House is desperately trying to spin numerous reports and poll numbers showing that President Barack Obama will be a drag on Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections. In fact, Dan Pfeiffer, a White House advisor, appeared on Meet the Press last weekend and did his best Baghdad Bob impression, declaring that President Obama would be an asset.

“There’s no question that it’s a tough map for Democrats. That’s what happens when you win a lot of elections like we did in 2008,” Pfeiffer told host David Gregory. “But the good news is we have a lot of good candidates and, most importantly, we’re on the right side of the issue that matters most to the public — jobs and the economy.”

Actually, that’s not true, if you consider job approval ratings to a measure of what is or isn’t the “right side.” President Obama’s job approval rating on the economy is underwater by 15 points (41/56), according to the recent WSJ/NBC poll.

“Here’s what the President is going to do. He’s going to lay out the terms of the debate in this election as a choice between Democrats who support an agenda of opportunity for all [and] Republicans [who] support an agenda of opportunity for a few,” he said. “And let’s not forget this President wrote the book on running and winning modern campaigns. So we’re going to take all of our resources and help Democrats up and down the ballots.”

Economists speak out against minimum wage increase

More than 500 economists, including three Nobel laureates, have signed a letter warning lawmakers of the “serious consequences” of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a policy being pushed by President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats.

“One of the serious consequences of raising the minimum wage is that business owners saddled with a higher cost of labor will need to cut costs, or pass the increase to their consumers in order to make ends meet,” the letter states (PDF). “Many of the businesses that pay their workers minimum wage operate on extremely tight profit margins, with any increase in the cost of labor threatening this delicate balance.”

The economists point to the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the $10.10 minimum wage proposal. The CBO estimated that such a significant increase in the minimum wage would cost the economy 500,000 jobs, perhaps as many as 1 million, over the next two years. “Many of these jobs,” the letter notes, “are held by entry-level workers with limited experience or vocational skills, the very employees meant to be helped.”

The economists explain that the minimum wage is “a poorly targeted anti-poverty measure,” noting that [e]xtra earnings generated by such an increase in the minimum wage would not substantially help the poor,” again pointing to the findings of the CBO report.

AK Senate: Club for Growth endorses Dan Sullivan, hopes for “fiscal conservative majority”

Dan Sullivan

The Club for Growth PAC has endorsed Dan Sullivan in his bid to unseat Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), one of the four Red State Democrats seeking reelection in the 2014 mid-term election. The endorsement is a rare instance of a conservative group backing the same candidate as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

“Dan Sullivan is a fiscal conservative with a stellar track record in Alaska and we strongly endorse him for the United States Senate,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement on Wednesday. “Dan has fought for pro-growth tax reform, taken on ObamaCare in court, and beaten back federal overreach by Obama’s EPA.”

“In the Senate,” he continued, “Dan Sullivan will continue the fight for economic freedom and we can’t wait to see him help deliver for America the kinds of pro-growth policies he’s already delivered for Alaska.”

Sullivan, a former Alaska Attorney General and state Department of Natural Resources commissioner, is one of five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and is considered the favorite in the August 19 primary.

The most recent poll out of Alaska found Sullivan was the most competitive Republican against Begich, though he trailed by 4 points, just outside the margin of error. A separate poll paid for by American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC, showed Sullivan leading the Democratic senator by 6 points.

Americans not concerned about climate change

#Up4Climate

Like a Baptist preacher delivering a “hellfire and brimstone” sermon from the pulpit, a number of Senate Democrats pulled an all-nighter on Monday into the wee hours of Tuesday, pushing alarmist climate change rhetoric from the chamber floor.

The effort is, apparently, the first of many by these Senate Democrats to raise awareness to climate change, hoping to put in the issue back on the public’s radar and, by extension, place pressure on Congress to take action on global warming.

The planned stunt hasn’t received great deal of attention. The media did cover it, but other stories since Monday evening have dominated the news cycle. In short, the 15-hour sermon from Senate Democrats fell flat.

When it comes down to it, Americans are much more worried about the economy, federal spending, and healthcare, according to a new survey from Gallup. Climate change ranks near the bottom on the list of issues with which the public is concerned.

Breaking down the WSJ/NBC poll (hint: it’s terrible news for Democrats)

Not only did Democrats got to bed on Tuesday night after a frustrating loss in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, they woke up Wednesday morning to reports of the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which shows a trainwreck ahead for their party.

A special election doesn’t necessarily mean electoral victory for any party, and neither do polls released more than seven months away from election day. But the WSJ/NBC News poll shows that Democrats’ problems don’t end at a special election, no matter how hard they try to spin it.

— Obama’s approval at a new low: Just 41% of Americans approve of President Obama’s job performance, down from 43% in January. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove, which is up from 51% at the beginning of the year and matches his previous high in December. President Obama’s approval rating has not been above water since June (48/47).

— We’re headed in the wrong direction: Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say that the United States is headed in the wrong direction, while 26% believe we’re “off the wrong track.” Compare that to 41/53 in October 2012, the month before President Obama won reelection, and 32/58 in November 2010, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. Needless to say, that’s not a position in which Democrats want to be.

Senate Democrats’ “talkathon” more about cronyism than climate change

Senate Democrats will begin an all-night “talkathon” later today and into Tuesday morning to try to raise congressional awareness to climate change, what USA Today describes as the first of many steps to put the issue on the radar before the 2014 mid-term election.

This charade really is more of a nod to big Democratic Party donors who would benefit from policies aimed at combating climate change, as Byron York explains. In short, it’s is another example of cronyism:

Obama produces another tax and spend budget

President Barack Obama unveiled his $3.9 trillion budget for FY 2015, just days after Senate Democrats announced that they have no intention of trying to push through a budget in a what’s expected to be a contentious election year.

The proposal doesn’t offer anything in terms of new ideas or policy changes, though it does respect the budget framework agreed upon by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairs of the respective congressional budget committees, for FY 2015 before blowing past it in later years.

President Obama’s budget is more a nod to the leftist Democratic base than an actual blueprint for governing the country. It’s not passable, and the White House knows it. The proposal is so toxic that no vulnerable Democrat could support it and win reelection.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the budget would impose $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years. Including new taxes and fees and rather rosy economic projections, the White House anticipates $3.15 trillion in new revenue through 2024, according to Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner.

Crazy talk: Environmentalists want economic “de-growth”

radical environmentalists to everyone else

Not too long ago, Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, gained some notoriety after praising China’s communist government for its efforts to combat climate change. She didn’t mention the 94 million deaths for which communists regimes are responsible, nor China’s ongoing human rights abuses.

The crazy from the radical environmental left, however, doesn’t end with Figueres’ fawning over communism. Nope. Believe it or not, a couple of environmental groups are actually arguing that the United States needs to “de-grow” the economy:

Environmentalists at the New Economics Foundation in London and the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. argue that cutting the 40-hour work week and using less electricity is necessary. This includes a living wage requirement and a more progressive tax code.

“There’s no such thing as sustainable growth, not in a country like the U.S.,” Worldwatch senior fellow Erik Assadourian told Sierra Magazine.

“We have to de-grow our economy, which is obviously not a popular stance to take in a culture that celebrates growth in all forms,” he said. “But as the saying goes, if everyone consumed like Americans, we’d need four planets.”


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