Elizabeth Warren and the Internet “Regulators”

Because her name’s been seriously bandied about as a potential contender in the 2016 presidential election, anything Elizabeth Warren has to say about policy, because she’s a progressive team player, is what we can reasonably expect from Democratic platforms over the next few years. Today’s trial balloon is on the continuing push for some version of net neutrality:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) blasted the Federal Communication Commission’s recent proposal to let internet service providers charge for access to their customers, saying it would “gut” the principle of net neutrality.

“We don’t know who is going to have the next big idea in this country, but we’re pretty sure they’re going to need to get online to do it,” Warren wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday. “Reports that the FCC may gut net neutrality are disturbing, and would be just one more way the playing field is tilted for the rich and powerful who have already made it.”

Last week the FCC announced that it was essentially backing down on plans to force big internet providers to treat everybody alike in their access to internet users. Under the FCC’s new position, big data sources like Netflix could be forced to pay for access to customers of ISPs like Verizon.

The net neutrality issue is a complicated one, not the least because the term “net neutrality” keeps shifting and tends to mean different things depending on what point in the timeline of the debate one starts researching.

Today in Liberty: NAACP praises Rand Paul, GOP winning the Twitter war

“There is an ongoing national discussion about marijuana sentencing reform, and I want to make sure the Republicans are leading the charge. It’s an issue that can unite members of our community, regardless of party, race or gender.”Matthew Hurtt

— NAACP leader praises Rand Paul: The Kentucky Republican’s message on civil rights has won praise from the NAACP, a group not usually sympathetic to Republicans. “It is such a pervasive issue in our community,” NAACP President and CEO Lorraine Miller told NPR, “and, quite honestly, if we can get the ear of someone like Rand Paul, that helps us in trying to find solutions that make sense.” Paul has pushed issues like mandatory minimum reform, school choice, and restoring felon voting rights in various speeches around the country. The NAACP has contacted Paul about speaking to the organization.

Today in Liberty: IRS tracking license plates, Amash outraises primary opponent

“People acting in their own self-interest is the fuel for all the discovery, innovation, and prosperity that powers the world.” — John Stossel

— IRS among agencies using license plate-tracking: Several federal agencies, including the IRS, have contracted with vendors to use license plate-tracking technology. “Bloomberg News reported that the IRS and other government agencies awarded about $415,000 in contracts to Livermore, Calif.-based Vigilant Solutions before the Department of Homeland Security dropped a plan for similar work after privacy concerns were raised,” Fox News reports. “The Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, DHS and U.S. Marshals Service have also awarded contracts to Vigilant for access to its records or tracking tools, according to the report.” There are obviously some big issues with this. “These systems treat every single person in an area as if they’re under investigation for a crime,” said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with EFF, “that is not the way our criminal justice system was set up or the way things work in a democratic society.”

Today in Liberty: Cantor unwilling to fight for Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, Obama’s 442 tax hike proposals

“It is impossible to enumerate a priori all the rights we have; we usually go to the trouble of identifying them only when someone proposes to limit one or another. Treating rights as tangible claims that must be limited in number gets the whole concept wrong.” — David Boaz (Politics of Freedom: Taking on The Left, The Right and Threats to Our Liberties)

— Cantor backing away from cronyism: The Hill notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor isn’t going to spend political capital over the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, a government-backed entity known for rampant cronyism. (They also read websites which mention them, at least that’s what our Google Analytics reports tell us.) “Cantor…has privately told members he does not intend to get involved this time around,” The Hill reports, “a message that some see as an indication that he is wary of battling conservatives angered by a number of his recent legislative moves.” It looks like House conservatives are going to make Ex-Im reauthorization their big issue this spring, part of a push to end corporate welfare and change the narrative about the Republican Party.

In Bid to Buy T-Mobile, Sprint Chairman Slams US Wireless Policies that Sprint Helped Create

Masayoshi Son

Sprint’s Chairman, Masayoshi Son, is coming to Washington to explain how wireless competition in the US would be improved if only there were less of it.

After buying Sprint last year for $21.6 billion, he has floated plans to buy T-Mobile. When antitrust officials voiced their concerns about the proposed plan’s potential impact on wireless competition, Son decided to respond with an unusual strategy that goes something like this: The US wireless market isn’t competitive enough, so policymakers need to approve the merger of the third and fourth largest wireless companies in order to improve competition, because going from four nationwide wireless companies to three will make things even more competitive. Got it? Me neither.

An argument like that takes nerve, especially now. When AT&T attempted to buy T-Mobile a few years ago, Sprint led the charge against it, arguing vociferously that permitting the market to consolidate from four to only three nationwide wireless companies would harm innovation and wireless competition. After the Administration blocked the merger, T-Mobile rebounded in the marketplace, which immediately made it the poster child for the Administration’s antitrust policies.

Today in Liberty: House raises debt ceiling, Bachmann channels Ron Paul

“I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand, and villainy on the other, as this writ of assistance is.” — James Otis

Rand Paul v. Barack Obama: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will file a class-action lawsuit against President Barack Obama and intelligence officials over the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs this morning at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Paul will be joined by Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks, and Ken Cuccinelli, lead counsel in the case. Stay tuned. We’ll have a full write up on this a little later.

Rand Paul

— House passes “clean” debt ceiling hike: House leaders gave up on the trying to get policy riders attached to a debt ceiling bill, The House of Representatives passed a “clean” debt ceiling early yesterday evening by a vote 221 to 201. The measure extends the nation’s borrowing limit to March 16, 2015. The Senate is expected to take up the measure as soon as tomorrow.

Today in Liberty: Americans believe Obama will fail, final stage set for $1 trillion farm bill

“I have a question, a question for the president: Do you hate all rich people, or just rich people who don’t contribute to your campaign? Do you hate poor people or do you just hate poor people with jobs?” — Ron Paul

— Most Americans believe Obama’s policies will fail: Just 37% of Americans believe that President Obama’s polices will be a success, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll via the Washington Examiner, while 56% say that they will fail. The Examiner notes that those figures “were almost reversed” from last year.

— FreedomWorks to endorse in North Carolina Senate race: The Hill reports that FreedomWorks PAC will endorse Dr. Greg Brannon, a Republican looking to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), today at a rally in Raleigh. Brannon has already been endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). A Rasmussen poll released last week found Brannon holding a 4-point lead over the vulnerable Democrat. NC House Speaker Thom Tillis leads Hagan by 7 points.

— C’mon and take a free ride: Members of Congress and staffers took some 1,900 privately-sponsored trips in 2013, according to a report from Legistorm. In all, the trips cost $6 million, the most since 2007.

Federal Reserve report: Obamacare’s negative impact on employment

In mid-January, the Federal Reserve released its monthly Beige Book, which offers a wide-ranging look at commentary on economic conditions in each of the central bank’s 12 regions. While it’s mostly mundane, the Heritage Foundation found some key details buried in the report that relate to Obamacare and its affect on employment:

The Beige Book finds businesses repeatedly stating that Obamacare and rising health care costs have held back the labor market:

LA Senate: Reid lends a hand to Landrieu

Mary Landrieu and Harry Reid

With Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) facing a tough bid for reelection, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is hoping that appointing her to the chairmanship of a key committee will give her a boost with Louisiana voters:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will do just about anything to help Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu.

He arranged the chamber’s floor agenda this week so Landrieu could lead debate on a flood insurance rate reprieve for homeowners in her hurricane-prone state.

He is set to promote her to be chairman of the Senate energy committee, where Landrieu can mind her state’s oil and gas interests.
Why all the fuss? Landrieu, 58, is one of Reid’s most vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections and he’s using his power to see that every one of them wins in November so Democrats can maintain control of the U.S. Senate.

Landrieu, who raised almost $1.4 million in the last quarter of 2013, will no doubt tout her accent in this committee to prove to Louisiana voters that she’s “indispensable,” which is a line that she has previously used as a justification for her reelection. But voters in the state may not be so easily fooled by what is a clearly a ploy by Reid to keep Senate Democrats in control of the Senate.

Imperial presidency: Obama threatens executive action on economy

As part of his ongoing effort to change the narrative in the media, President Barack Obama told reporters yesterday that his administration will resort to executive action to enact parts of his economic agenda if Republicans won’t play along:

With two weeks left before delivering an economy-focused State of the Union address to Congress, Obama is picking up the pace of his jobs message and demonstrating how he can advance his economic agenda administratively and through his ability to coax action from important interest groups.

“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need,” Obama said Tuesday as he convened his first Cabinet meeting of the year. He said he would instruct his department heads to “use all the tools available to us” to assist the middle class.
Obama’s reliance on his executive powers and his bully pulpit — at the White House it’s called his “pen-and-phone” strategy — illustrates the means at his disposal to drive policy but also highlights the limits of his ability to work with Congress.

Only through legislation can Obama obtain some of the most ambitious items on his economic agenda — from a higher minimum wage to universal preschool to an overhaul of immigration laws, three items in his 2013 State of the Union that will make a return appearance in this year’s address.

As long as Republicans in Congress are unreceptive to his legislative priorities, he will have to settle for more incremental and narrower solutions that don’t necessarily have the staying power and the force of law.

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