The White House is eventually going to have to make a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline. There have been mixed signals sent by President Obama. He’s told Republicans in Congress that he’s considering it, but his tough talk on combating climate change could pose a perilous future for the project.
While President Obama is still making up his mind on what should be a no-brainer, Pew Research released a new poll yesterday finding overwhelming support from Americans for Keystone XL:
As the Obama administration approaches a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a national survey finds broad public support for the project. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor building the pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands region through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. Just 23% oppose construction of the pipeline.
Support for the pipeline spans most demographic and partisan groups. Substantial majorities of Republicans (82%) and independents (70%) favor building the Keystone XL pipeline, as do 54% of Democrats. But there is a division among Democrats: 60% of the party’s conservatives and moderates support building the pipeline, compared with just 42% of liberal Democrats.
President Barack Obama, who has overseen four consecutive years of $1 trillion budget deficits and $6 trillion added to the national debt in a little more than four years, issued a proclamation last week designating April as “National Financial Capability Month”:
President Barack Obama, who has increased the national debt by $53,377 per household, has proclaimed April “National Financial Capability Month,” during which his administration will do things such as teach young people “how to budget responsibly.”
“I call upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices,” Obama said in an official proclamation released Friday.
“Together, we can prepare young people to tackle financial challenges—from learning how to budget responsibly to saving for college, starting a business, or opening a retirement account,” he said.
The 2012 election dealt a blow to the country, not just because it guaranteed the same failed economic policies of the last four years, but because it also means that any push to repeal ObamaCare in Congress is a non-starter. Despite that, there will still be ways to significantly diminish the impact of the law.
While the decision last year to uphold the individual mandate was certainly disappointing, the Supreme Court did provide lattitude for states to refuse to implement expensive insurance exchanges and even more costly Medicare expansion. This was a silver-lining in an otherwise terrible decision that set a very troubling precendent for future expansions of government.
In a new whitepaper, “50 Vetoes: How States Can Stop the Obama Health Care Law,” Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, explains that this gives states the chance to effectively veto these provisions and thus save taxpayers and business money.
“To date, 34 states, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, have refused to create Exchanges,” writes Cannon in the summary of the whitepaper. “Under the statute, this shields employers in those states from a $2,000 per worker tax that will apply in states that are creating Exchanges (e.g., California, Colorado, New York).”
“Those 34 states have exempted at least 8 million residents from taxes as high as $2,085 on families of four earning as little as $24,000,” he continues. “They have also reduced federal deficits by hundreds of billions of dollars.”
During testimony before the House Budget Committee in February 2011, Doug Elemendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, told Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) that ObamaCare would reduce employment by some 800,000 by 2021. The effects of the law on the job market was a point that many policy analysts were making before its passage.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress weren’t listening. And now, the Federal Reserve has released a report noting that ObamaCare is leading many businesses to layoff workers:
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released an edition of its so-called “beige book,” that said the 2010 healthcare law is being cited as a reason for layoffs and a slowdown in hiring.
“Employers in several Districts cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff,” said the March 6 beige book, which examines economic conditions across various Federal Reserve districts across the country.
That line was found in a section of the Fed’s report on employment, wages and prices. That same section also said the Atlanta district noted that healthcare regulations are so burdensome there is a shortage of compliance specialists.
“Atlanta noted a lack of compliance specialists due to heavier regulations in the healthcare industry,” it said.
On Friday, the State Department issued a draft environmental impact statement on Keystone XL, the controversial oil pipeline proposed by TransCanada, which finds that the project would not have a significant impact on the environment:
The State Department issued a revised environmental impact statement for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline on Friday that makes no recommendation about whether the project should be built but presents no conclusive environmental reason it should not be.
[I]t says that alternate means of transporting the oil — rail, truck and barge — also have significant environmental and economic impacts, including higher costs, noise, traffic, air pollution and the possibility of spills. The study does not say that one method is better for the environment than another. It does say that a spill is more likely for rail transport, although the report says that the volume of oil spilled from a pipeline is likely to be greater.
Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, said the report was careful not to pre-empt policy decisions that Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will make on the pipeline. She said the report was designed to analyze technical issues and serve as the basis for public debate.
During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Not to be out done, however, leftists in Washington have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) argues President Obama “missed the mark” in calling to raise the minimum wage to $9 in his State of the Union address, and his staff met with White House staff last week to argue for a higher number.
The veteran senator, who will retire at the end of this Congress, is working with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) on legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and then index future increases to inflation.
“Well, we’re going to introduce our own bill on it,” Harkin told The Hill on Tuesday. “I’m going to be in discussions with them because I think they missed the mark, but people make mistakes.”
While this proposal may make some people feel warm and fuzzy, it comes with real world consequences for those who it’s intended to help, including teens, entry-level, and unskilled workers. Veronique de Rugy recently pointed to a couple of different studies showing that the minimum wage the various effects the policy has on these workers. According to a study by three economists — David Neumark, William Wascher, and Mark Schweitzer — the minimum wage actually has the adverse effect of increasing poverty.
Imagine that in 2012 you quit your job and poured all your savings into opening a restaurant that had 18 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees. The restaurant was a success. In 2013, you opened a second restaurant based on the same model and with the same number of employees. Another success. Your restaurants were profitable enough for you to take a salary of $60,000 in 2013. You decide to open a third restaurant in 2014.
Your third restaurant opens January 1, 2014 with the same number of employees as the first two. Based on your track record of success, you expect to be able to take a salary of $90,000 in 2014. But that was before you realized how ObamaCare can swallow your profits.
You’ve read and heard industry rumblings that ObamaCare’s employer “shared responsibility” rules require employers to provide coverage to full-time employees if you employed at least 50 full-time employees in the prior year. You had only 36 full-time employees in 2013. Regardless, you already offer coverage to your full-time employees, so you don’t worry about it. You instead work long hours with very few days off to establish your new third restaurant.
You receive notice from the IRS that you are subject to an ObamaCare penalty excise tax of $5,000 for January. Why? You failed to account for your part-time employees in 2013 when determining whether you are an “applicable large employer” subject to the new employer mandate. The rules require employers to aggregate all part-time employees into “full-time equivalents.”
President Barack Obama will soon have a decision to make the Keystone XL pipeline. Given that this project would have a tremendous economic benefit to the country in terms of both job creation and taking a step toward energy independence, the decision shouldn’t be a tough one to make. Unfortunately, President has shot down Keystone once before to appease his radical environmentalist base, a decision that left even the Washington Post questioning his motives.
While environmentalists are firmly against the project, some labor unions spoke out in support of Keystone XL during a press conference yesterday at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM):
Matt Koch, Vice President for Oil Sands and Arctic Issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, pointed out that he heard from local chambers of commerce and small business owners who “understand the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline to American jobs and economic security.” Jobs will be created, tax revenue will increase, and energy supplies will be made more secure.
Jay Timmons, NAM President and CEO said approving Keystone XL is the action that would meet President Obama’s promise of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
In what was probably the most unsurprising story from last week, Reuters noted on Wednesday that retail sales had slowed in January. Why? Because of President Barack Obama’s tax hikes and rising gas prices:
Retail sales barely rose in January as tax increases and higher gasoline prices restrained spending, setting up the economy for only modest growth in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent rise in December.
The small increase suggested the expiration of a 2 percent payroll tax cut on January 1 and higher tax rates for wealthier Americans were hurting the economy.
While some economists were encouraged that consumers had maintained purchases despite a reduction in their disposable incomes, they cautioned sales could remain weak over the next months.
“By no means are we completely out of the woods when it comes to the impact of higher taxes,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “Evidence from past episodes suggests it could take up to two quarters for spending to fully adjust to new tax realities.”
“[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy,” claimed then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi just before Congress passed ObamaCare. Since that time Americans have come to realize that what’s in the bill is causing their premiums to skyrocket and putting their current coverage at risk.
Congress has also had to repeal different parts of ObamaCare. In 2011, Congress repealed the 1099 reporting requirement, which would have bogged down small businesses with paperwork. More recently, Congress was able to push through repeal of the costly CLASS Act as part of the “fiscal cliff deal.”
Another part of the law, the medical device tax, is now being targeted for repeal. Back in December, a group of 18 Democrats urged Senate Majority Leader to support a delay in the implementation of the tax, which could lead to the loss of 43,000 jobs.