More than five years after the recession officially ended, there are some signs of life in the economy. There have been a couple months solid job growth and the stock market is surging. But the vast majority of Americans are still pessimistic about the economy as they head into 2014, according to a new CNN poll:
A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.
Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.
And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.
Those people aren’t buying big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, and some were cutting back on essentials. Thirty-six percent said they were cutting back spending on food or medicine, up from 31% in late 2008, the year the housing market collapsed.
It hard to blame people for feeling this way about the economy and for doubting that there will be any improvement in the next year. They’ve been told time after time by President Obama that the economy was improving. How many times were we told that the 2009 stimulus saved the economy or hear the phrase “summer of recovery”?
I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence. The Oscar-winning actress is both beautiful and down to Earth, something I rarely get from most in Hollywood. However, many conservatives and libertarians are justifiably upset about comments Lawrence recently made to Barbara Walters.
“The word ‘fat’ I think should be illegal,” the Oscar winner told Walters. “If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words, because of the effect they have on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”
Now, I’m not going to excuse Lawrence’s desire to outlaw a word. However, I am going to point out the rest of her comments, in bold above.
Many libertarians - and yes, a fair number of conservatives - argue that a simple regulation can lead to more and more intrusive regulations. Lawrence, a product of her times and her society, is simply manifesting the innate desire to build upon previous works to move society in a direction more to her liking.
Is she right? No, she’s not. Banning a word like “fat” would make me criminal on a daily basis. Am I some bully who’s shaming my son or daughter into developing an unreasonable body image? No, I’m usually talking about my fat ass. However, the act of banning the word - a word which is also used for a necessary macronutrient found in food, I might add - would make my own self-deprecation illegal.
Republican members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have filed an amicus brief in a pending case at the Supreme Court which could have big implications on the Commonwealth’s coal industry and, by extension, its economy.
The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, deals with regulations enacted by the Obama Administration in 2010 that would impose stricter limits on emissions from “stationary sources,” such as coal-fired plants. The EPA claims this authority through a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the agency to regulate vehicle emissions.
The problem is that the EPA essentially re-wrote provisions of the Clean Air Act to raise the emissions threshold to 75,000 tons per year from 100 tons, which, as the Wall Street Journal recently noted, “would require some six million buildings to get environmental permits, including such grand polluters as churches and farms.”
“Recognizing that such a rule would create ‘absurd results’ like shuttering the entire economy, the EPA rewrote Congress’s numbers and adjusted the threshold to 75,000 tons from 100 tons,” the Journal explained. “EPA’s clear political purpose was to escape a large political backlash to its new rules by unilaterally limiting their reach.”
Kentucky Republicans argue that the EPA has overstepped its bounds by trying to re-write the law, thus usurping power from the legislative branch, and promulgate new rules that would hurt the coal industry.
Government agencies were told to delay enacting environmental and healthcare rules, among others, according to a report from Washington Post, for fear of the role the regulations could play in the 2012 presidential election:
The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.
Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.
The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.
The Obama Administration is taking the study of behavioral economics and government paternalism to a new level by setting up a task force to come up with ways to determine how best to influence or nudge Americans to make decisions of which it approves, via Richard Williams at Politico Magazine:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plans to introduce legislation that would empower impoverished cities to break the chains of big government tax and regulatory policies that have prevented economic opportunities.
In a speech in the heart of Detroit, arguably the most financially troubled city in the country, Paul detailed the principles behind the legislation — The Economic Freedom Zone Act — and explained that the resilience and optimism of its residents and economic freedom are a way to break the stagnation in which they currently find themselves.
“Detroit’s future…will not come from Washington. The magic of Motown is here in the city,” Paul said on Friday at the Detroit Economic Club. “It’s not in some central planner’s notebook. What Detroit needs to thrive is not Washington’s domineering hand — but freedom from big government’s mastery.”
“To thrive, Detroit needs less government and more freedom — less red-tape, less punitive taxes, more money left in Detroit,” he said. “The answer to poverty and unemployment is not another government stimulus, it’s simply leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it.”
“These ‘freedom zones’ will dramatically reduce taxes and red-tape so that Detroit businesses can grow and thrive,” he explained, noting that the idea is similar to one proposed by the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-KY). “This bill will lower personal and corporate income taxes in Detroit to 5%. My bill will also lower the payroll tax — 2% for the employees, 2% for the employers.”
Nanny State regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced late last week that it will require restaurants and other food makers to phase out the use of trans fats in their recipes, claiming that such a move will prevent heart attacks and deaths:
Heart-clogging trans fats were once a staple of the American diet, plentiful in baked goods, microwave popcorn and fried foods. Now, mindful of the health risks, the Food and Drug Administration is getting rid of what’s left of them for good.
Condemning artificial trans fats as a threat to public health, the FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to phase them out.
It won’t happen right away. The agency will collect comments for two months before determining a phase-out timetable. Different foods may have different schedules, depending how easy it is to find substitutes.
“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food “industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do.”
This ban managed to fly under the radar with all of the public focus on other stories, like the government shutdown and Obamacare, over the last month. There has been a public campaign for years to try to raise awareness to trans fats, which can be, if consumed often enough, hazardous to people’s health.
That apparently wasn’t enough for busybody regulators. The FDA contends that banning trans fats, thus eliminating public choice and personal responsibility, will prevent some 20,000 heart attacks each year and 7,000 deaths.
During his speech last week in Boston, President Barack Obama tried to sell his healthcare reform law by slamming “bad-apple” insurance companies that, in his opinion, sold health plans that weren’t up to par.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy,” he said. “So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.”
After sitting on the Internet sales tax since in passed the Senate in May, House Republicans may be ready to move forward on the issue in the coming weeks, despite public opposition, as they will draft their own measure to enact what is unquestionably a tax increase:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) is expected to release his own set of principles on the issue in the next week or two, according to sources who are closely watching the legislation.
The principles are a sign of fresh momentum for online sales tax legislation after Goodlatte and other top Republicans in the House — including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — voiced deep skepticism about the Senate-passed Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).
Goodlatte could have chosen to bury the bill, but his decision to craft the principles shows he is serious about moving some version of the legislation forward.
The principles are expected to be broad policy statements with positions such as maintaining a simple system and not burdening businesses.
The Senate version of the Internet sales tax — the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act” — would have impose an enormous regulatory burden on small businesses, making them tax collectors for more than 9,600 jurisdictions. The measure would also lead to higher prices for consumers.
The push in Congress for the Internet sales tax may have died down some since the measure cleared the Senate back in May, but a new poll shows bipartisan opposition to the proposed measure currently stalled in the House.
The poll, commissioned by the R Street Institute and the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), found that 57% of likely voters oppose the Internet sales tax, known in Congress as the “Marketplace Fairness Act.” Only 35% support the measure. Those numbers are mostly inline with a Gallup poll released on the issue in June.
Opponents of the legislation, which is being pushed by brick-and-mortar retailers and revenue hungry state governments, point out that the tax isn’t fair at all to online retailers. They note that the measure will impose an enormous regulatory burden on small businesses, making them a tax collector for more than 9,600 jurisdictions, and lead to higher prices for consumers.
The R Street/NTU survey also shows that nearly 66% of Republicans, 56% of independents and a plurality of Democrats oppose the Internet sales tax. Among ideologies, 65% of conservatives and 55% of moderates oppose the measure. A plurality of liberal also opposed the measure, at 47/45, though that was in the polls margin of error.