Regulation

Obama considers cybersecurity executive order

Internet

On Thursday, the United States Senate shot down so-called “cybersecurity” legislation in a mostly party line vote. Many Senate Democrats tried to hype up the bill as something that could prevent a worst-case scenario, but Republicans were concerned that it would put too much on businesses.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) noted that the bill was a trojan horse, explaining that “In its current form, the Cybersecurity Act does not sufficiently safeguard Internet users’ privacy and civil liberties, nor would it create the correct incentives to adequately protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber threats.” Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, also explained that all the cybersecurity legislation would have done is create a headache for business and, as Wyden noted, put privacy at risk through data sharing with the federal government:

Trillions of dollars sit overseas as Congress debates tax hikes

cash

With President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats eager to raise income taxes on higher-income earners — despite the fact that they already shoulder a substantial sum of the tax income burden, a new report shows that wealthy individuals may have as much as $32 trillion put away in off-shore accounts:

Wealthy individuals may have been hiding as much as $32 trillion offshore at the end of 2010, according to Tax Justice Network, a U.K.-based organization that campaigns for transparency in the financial system.

The estimate is almost three times the organization’s last estimate of $11.5 trillion in 2005. Fewer than 100,000 people own $9.8 trillion of offshore assets, according to the research, carried out by former McKinsey & Co. economist James Henry.

There is a “huge black hole in the world economy” of untaxed private wealth, Henry said in a statement. “The lost tax revenue implied by our estimates is huge.”

The amount held offshore means that 139 countries with external debts of $4.1 trillion at the end of 2010 would be creditors to the world, if as much as $9.3 trillion of cross- border holdings of their wealthiest citizens were taken into account, according to the research.

Employers post fewer job openings

Remember that time when President Barack Obama said the “private-sector is doing fine”? Apparently, the private-sector hasn’t received that memo. According to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers posted the fewest number of job openings in five months:

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell to a seasonally adjusted 3.4 million in April, down from 3.7 million in March. The March figure was the highest in nearly four years.

The decline could mean employers are growing more cautious about adding workers in the face of financial turmoil in Europe and slower growth in the United States. Job openings can take one to three months to fill.

There were 12.5 million unemployed people in April. That means there was an average of 3.7 people competing for each open job. In a healthy job market, the ratio is usually around 2 to 1.

Openings have risen by almost a third since the recession ended in June 2009. But they are still below pre-recession levels of about 5 million per month.

April’s decline in openings has coincided with a sharp slowdown in hiring. Employers added an average of only 73,000 jobs in April and May. That’s down from an average of 226,000 in the first three months of this year.

Honesty in politics?

I was sitting at home Saturday night and Stossel was on Fox Business Channel.  I watched.  What a shock!  A libertarian watched Stossel!

However, I witnessed something I never would have thought I would see, and that was honesty from a pro-regulation lobbyist.

The segment in question was about a proposal which would require taxis in Washington D.C. to have a medallion system like New York.  For the record, per Stossel’s segment, a NYC medallion costs around $1 million per pop. A lobbyist in favor of medallions in D.C. said on Stossel’s show that it was in fact about squeezing out the little guy.

Many of us who are anti-regulation cite how more regulations make it more difficult for the small operator to function.  As a small business owner myself, I can tell you that more and more government regulations only make life more difficult.  I am currently seeking two full time employees, but only because of a profound need.  I would seek out four or five employees if it weren’t for the spectre of ObamaCare - to say nothing of other regulations out there - that could make my life even more difficult and thereby override the benefit of more employees.

The lobbyist’s candor, that the measure he proposed and that a D.C. councilman actually introduced was really about squeezing out the small businessman was unique.  However, it’s not really a shock for many of the pro-liberty movement.  It was a shock for me though.

While I will often cite the problems of regulations and how they impact the small businessman, I never really thought there was as much of a concerted effort to break the small businessman as there apparently is.  Oh sure, I figured Walmart supported an employer mandate because it would hurt Target, but I didn’t really think they gave a damn about the mom and pop store.

Now, I have to step back and rethink that.

EPA official suggests crucifying oil industry

We’ve often wondered why President Barack Obama and his administration have had such a hostile view of oil companies. He insists that drilling up during his term, but Obama is taking credit for policies enacted by his predecessor. But much like his attacks on higher-income earners, Obama has targeted the oil industry and speculators with harsh rhetoric in attempt to distract Americans from his own failed energy policies.

We know that Obama’s own Energy Secretary is on record supporting higher gas prices. Obama has said himself that he didn’t have a problem with the cost of gas, rather that they rose too quickly. So we know where the rhetoric and proposed regulations are coming from. But there is something deeper here?

Via the Heritage Foundation, a video has surfaced where a regional administrator from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that the treatment of oil companies in the regulatory agency is “kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean: they’d go into little Turkish towns somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they’d run into, and they’d crucify them and then, you know, that town was really easy to manage over the next few years”:

Labor Department targets family farms

Growing up in the South, you’d often hear stories about how kids in rural areas had to get up in the morning and help around the family farm before heading off to school and hitting the books. While those stories aren’t as frequent now that the agriculture industry has declined, this is still somewhat the case in many places in the United States.

But due to child labor laws, the Department of Labor is weighing a ban on kids working on their family farms:

A proposal from the Obama administration to prevent children from doing farm chores has drawn plenty of criticism from rural-district members of Congress. But now it’s attracting barbs from farm kids themselves.

The Department of Labor is poised to put the finishing touches on a rule that would apply child-labor laws to children working on family farms, prohibiting them from performing a list of jobs on their own families’ land.

Under the rules, children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”
[…]
Rossie Blinson, a 21-year-old college student from Buis Creek, N.C., told The Daily Caller that the federal government’s plan will do far more harm than good.

“The main concern I have is that it would prevent kids from doing 4-H and FFA projects if they’re not at their parents’ house,” said Blinson.

“I started showing sheep when I was four years old. I started with cattle around 8. It’s been very important. I learned a lot of responsibility being a farm kid.”

Supreme Court rules in favor of property rights over EPA

While it’s not a thorough victory for property rights, the Supreme Court did beat back overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a unanimous decision issued on Wednesday that will give property owners recourse when they are threatened with fines for alleged environmental damage:

The Supreme Court has sided with an Idaho couple in a property rights case, ruling they can go to court to challenge an Environmental Protection Agency order that blocked construction of their new home and threatened fines of more than $30,000 a day.

Wednesday’s decision is a victory for Mike and Chantell Sackett, whose property near a scenic lake has sat undisturbed since the EPA ordered a halt in work in 2007. The agency said part of the property was a wetlands that could not disturbed without a permit.

In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court rejected EPA’s argument that allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders like the one issued to the Sacketts would compromise the agency’s ability to deal with water pollution.

“Compliance orders will remain an effective means of securing prompt voluntary compliance in those many cases where there is no substantial basis to question their validity,” Scalia said.

In this case, the couple objected to the determination that their small lot contained wetlands that are regulated by the Clean Water Act, and they complained there was no reasonable way to challenge the order without risking fines that can mount quickly.

FDA: Orange juice from Brazil is safe but still illegal

The Food and Drug Administration is one of those departments that will be virtually impossible to ever remove.  After all, they’re supposedly responsible for keeping our food supply safe.  History tells us that prior to the FDA, food companies were putting all kinds of dangerous crap in foods and drinks…hence the FDA sprang into existence.

However, things are getting kind of silly when it comes to orange juice from Brazil.  You see, down there, they use a fungicide called carbendazim.  Carbendazim isn’t used here anymore, so no one has bothered to write a regulation on tolerances for the chemical.  As such, Brazilian frozen, concentrated orange juice is currently illegal since it has traces of a chemical that we just don’t use anymore.

Obviously, this is because carbendazim is unsafe in any dosage, right? Wrong.

If you happen to notice sometime later this year that you’re suddenly paying a lot more for orange juice, you can blame America’s food safety authorities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after several weeks of deliberation, has blocked imports of frozen, concentrated orange juice from Brazil, probably for the next 18 months or so, even though the agency says the juice is perfectly safe.

The FDA’s explanation is that its hands are legally tied. Its tests show that practically all concentrated juice from Brazil currently contains traces of the fungicide carbendazim, first detected in December by Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid juices. The amounts are small — so small that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says no consumers should be concerned.

John Stossel on the real state of our Union

As you can imagine, there wasn’t much in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address that would please libertarians. John Stossel notes that much of what the president said is in fact anathema to those of us that believe in limited government, and offers some of what he would have said if he were in Obama’s shoes:

Our debt has passed $15 trillion. It will reach Greek levels in just 10 years.

But if we make reasonable cuts to what government spends, our economy can grow us out of our debt. Cutting doesn’t just make economic sense, it is also the moral thing to do. Government is best which governs least.

We’ll start by closing the Department of Education, which saves $100 billion a year. It’s insane to take money from states only to launder it through Washington and then return it to states.

Next, we’ll close the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That saves $41 billion. We had plenty of housing in America before a department was created.

Then we eliminate the Commerce Department: $9 billion. A government that can’t count votes accurately should not try to negotiate trade. We will eliminate all corporate welfare and all subsidies. That means agriculture subsidies, green energy subsidies, ethanol subsidies and so on. None of it is needed.

I propose selling Amtrak. Why is government in the transportation business? Let private companies compete to run the trains.

And we must finally stop one of the biggest assaults on freedom and our pocketbook: the war on drugs. I used drugs. It’s immoral to imprison people who do what I did and now laugh about.

Still, all these cuts combined will only dent our deficit. We must cut Medicare, Social Security and the military.

Cato Institute responds to Obama’s State of the Union speech

Last night, President Barack Obama was supposed to speak on the State of the Nation, but in usual fashion, he turned it into a campaign speech. In case you missed it, you can watch it here or read the transcript. Don’t forget to watch or read the Republican response offered by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

There was nothing in the speech that was ground-breaking. It was more of the same tired themes, such as his divisive class warfare rhetoric (much of it was inaccurate) and tearing down businesses. No substantive defense was offered for the failed economic policies that he continues to push.

Some of the policy experts from the Cato Institute, the Washington-based libetarian think thank, parsed the themes that Obama relayed and found much to be disappointed in:

 
 


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