infrastructure

Despite Outcry, Our Infrastructure is Not Crumbling

Skagit Bridge

In the aftermath of last week’s bridge collapse in Washington state, there have been a number of news reports and editorials on the need to address “America’s crumbling infrastructure” and they’ve declared that Congress needs to take action.

“It’s almost as if Washington has seen this movie before: a bridge collapses, groups decry the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and Congress does nothing,” lamented Abby Phillip at ABC News. John Nichols of the leftist publication The Nation carried the water of labor unions, and asked, “Is Washington ready to listen to the people who have been saying for years that we can’t afford to keep neglecting and shortchanging our nation’s infrastructure?”

Brian Levin of the Huffington Post was even more direct. He declared a state of emergency, writing that [w]e should treat our decaying infrastructure as the national security threat that it is and dispatch troops to the ground.”

“And by troops, I mean the million-man strong regiment of unemployed construction workers — 13.2 percent of people in the industry,” he added. “There is no logical reason why anyone from any party or persuasion would oppose the president’s plan, except to say that it should go even further.”

Hyperbole, much?

Soviet Cybersecurity, Part II

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

A year ago, almost to the day, I blogged about a legislative package on cybersecurity being proposed in the Senate. “Soviet-Style Cybersecurity,” I called it, because of the “centralizing and deadening effect” it would have on the many and varied efforts to respond to the many problems lumped together as “cybersecurity.” President Obama’s new executive order, titled “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” has similar, if slightly more sinister, qualities.

To understand my thinking in this area, you must first understand the concepts in a superlative law review article I first read when I was doing oversight of the regulatory process as a congressional staffer. “Administrative Arm-Twisting in the Shadows of Congressional Delegations of Authority” is by University of Flordia law professor Lars Noah. In it, he described the administrative practice of imposing sanctions or withholding benefits in order to elicit “voluntary compliance” from regulated entities. The upshot? There is no “voluntary” when businesses are repeat players or under ongoing supervision of an agency.

The cybersecurity executive order has arm-twisting all over it.

America, the Banana Republic

In Vanity Fair last month, Christopher Hitchens made the case that the United States has become not a frightening idelogical state as some have said, but a banana republic of the sort we usually associate with Latin America and Africa. One paragraph was the most striking:

Failed $831 billion stimulus bill signed five years ago today

Believe it or not, folks, it’s been five years since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 stimulus measure spent $831 billion on infrastructure, tax credits, and other policies that largely served as taxpayer-funded giveaways to core leftist constituencies

Passed in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the stimulus bill was based on the Keynesian notion that the government, through spending on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects and other purported economic multipliers, could drive aggregate demand and create jobs.

Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, the economic advisors who developed the stimulus plan, argued that these policies would help bring the United States back from the brink of economic depression. In their January 2009 policy paper, the two economists claimed that the unemployment rate would not exceed 7.9% with the stimulus bill, while it would reach 8.8% without it. Because, you know, counterfactual.

They were wrong.

Even with the $831 billion stimulus bill, the unemployment rate rose from 7.8% in January 2009 to 10% in October of that same year, at which point Romer declared that the measure had already had its greatest impact. In fact, unemployment didn’t fall below 9% until October 2011.

The infamous Romer-Bernstein chart shows the unemployment rate falling to 5% in December 2013. In reality, the December 2013 unemployment rate was 6.7%, nearly 2 points higher.

Americans Opposed to Higher Gas Tax

gas pump

In his latest budget, President Barack Obama called for the elimination of tax deductions for oil and gas companies. This industry has been a constant target of the administration over the last four-plus years, so it’s not surprising that the White House would, once again, resort to the same old attacks.

While Americans may not understand the economics of this particular proposal and the impact it would have on them at the gas pump, showing how susceptible they are to the rhetoric of President Obama, they are clearly opposed to raising the gas tax at the state-level.

Maryland recently passed an increase in its gas tax, which will hit drivers with anywhere from a 13- to 20-cent increase in gas prices over the next three years. Other state legislatures may eventually try to pass increases of their own.

But according to a new Gallup poll, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to gas tax increases in their states that could be used to finance road projects and expand mass transit options:

Two-thirds of Americans would oppose a law in their state that would increase the gas tax to help pay for road and bridge repairs, according to a new national poll.

Obama set to bring back CISPA via executive fiat

cyber security

Don’t look now, folks, but the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is making a comeback thanks to President Barack Obama.

Between the end of 2011 and early 2012, online activists were able to raise a firestorm over legislation — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and CISPA — that would have severely diminished Internet privacy. Thanks to the outcry, all three bills eventually died.

According to a report yesterday from The Hill, President Obama will on Wednesday sign an executive order — completely bypassing Congress, which is becoming an all too familar pattern with this White House — that will implement cybersecurity measures from against attack on the United States:

The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill.

The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cybersecurity policy.

The executive order would establish a voluntary program in which companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government.

How Much Power Will the Obama Administration Seize in the Name of “Cybersecurity”?

cyber security

Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

That aphorism about Washington, D.C. power games certainly applies to the “cybersecurity council” that a draft Obama Administration executive order would create.

The failure of cybersecurity legislation in Congress was regarded as “a blow to the White House“—heaven knows why—so the plan appears to be to go ahead and regulate without congressional approval. Under the draft EO, a Department of Homeland Security-led cybersecurity council will develop a report to determine which agencies should regulate which parts of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”

White House predicits $1.33 trillion budget deficit

Nearly two weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report on the budget outlook for this year, noting that taxpayers can expect yet another trillion dollar deficit — $1.08 trillion, to be exact, under President Barack Obama. But a new estimate from the White House from the yet to be released budget proposal shows a slightly higher deficit — $1.33 trillion — than the CBO, showing that the Obama Administration has no intention of reducing the red ink flowing out of Washington:

President Obama’s Monday budget request to Congress will forecast a fiscal year 2012 deficit of $1.33 trillion and will include hundreds of billions of dollars in proposed infrastructure spending, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The projected deficit is higher than 2011’s $1.296 trillion deficit and slightly higher than the Congressional Budget Office’s roughly $1.15 trillion projection released last week. The budget, according to draft documents viewed by Dow Jones Newswires and The Journal, will forecast a $901 billion deficit for fiscal 2013, which would be equivalent to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product. That is up from the White House’s September forecast of a deficit of $833 billion, or 5.1 percent of GDP, the newspaper said.

According to The Journal, the White House’s projected 2012 deficit would be about 8.5 percent of GDP.

Obama to send his stimulus proposal to Congress today

President Barack Obama will send his latest gimmick - the $447 billion stimulus plan - to Congress today in hopes that they will quickly take it up and pass it:

President Obama will again press Congress to pass his American Jobs Act during a Rose Garden event on Monday morning.

A White House official said that the president will send his legislation to Capitol Hill on Monday evening when Congress comes back in session.
[…]
On Monday, Obama will hold an event in the Rose Garden, an official said, where he “will call on Congress to pass the bill, which contains the kinds of proposals to grow the economy and create jobs that have been supported by both parties in the past.”

Republicans will at least consider the bill, but have asked the White House to split the proposals up instead of a single piece of legislation; perhaps a sign that they may like at least some parts of it, including much needed free trade agreements.

However, Republicans are skeptical of more infrastructure spending since the 2009 stimulus bill was such a failure and they are unconvinced that the payroll tax cut and tax breaks for employers are going to do much to boost the economy. The concerns on infrustructure are well-founded, as Veronique de Rugy noted last week. And it may sound unorthodox for the GOP to oppose a tax cut, but an editorial at USA Today explains why it’s a reasoned approach:

Obama rehashes failed policies in speech to Congress

If you we’re expecting something different out of Barack Obama than the same talking points and misguided economic policies that have kept the economy limping along these past couple years, you were no doubt disappointed with his campaign speech address to Congress last night.

Despite the failure of the stimulus bill passed in 2009, Obama, whose poll numbers have declined on the economy, is now demanding for Congress to pass a $447 billion spending package of rehashed policies, which he believes will somehow create jobs when they didn’t before:

Addressing a Congress partially controlled by Republicans highly skeptical of much of his program, and a nation weary of waiting for recovery, Obama did not say how many jobs would be created if lawmakers were to pass all elements of his plan. But he cast speedy congressional action as critical to injecting jobs into what has thus far been a jobless recovery.

“This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed.  It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief for small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class,” Obama told lawmakers. “And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know:  the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit.  It will be paid for.”

 
 


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