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  • America's Energy Advantage Dodges the Question

    Ben Mertens
    July 22, 2014 2:21 PM

    America’s Energy Advantage has responded to my July 1 post criticizing its stance on the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. That bill would liberalize liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, while AEA opposes such exports because they would supposedly raise the raise the price of the LNG used by AEA’s members. 


    As CEI has pointed out in the past, AEA is trying to use bureaucratic obstacles to restrict what companies can do with their products—an approach antithetical to free markets


    What’s ironic is that, in its response to my post, AEA relies on a study that actually demonstrates the broad beneficial effects of exports. This study is the NERA’s Macroeconomic Impacts of LNG Exports from the United States. AEA claims that, despite being a pro-export study, the NERA study actually enforces their view, that LNG exports should be limited. According to AEA, “Once one looks beyond the surface-level conclusion “exports provide net benefits to the U.S. economy,” at winners and losers…the NERA report shows that the “losers” in this scenario are ALL other sectors of the U.S. economy and consumers, while the “winners” are producers and exporters of LNG.”

  • Happy There’s-No-Such-Thing-as-Junk-Food Day!

    Michelle Minton
    July 21, 2014 1:54 PM

    Whomever it is that decides the dates for the ever multiplying obscure holidays apparently designated today, July 21, as “Junk Food Day.” While the origin and intended purpose of the day is a mystery, it’s a good opportunity to address the myth of junk food. I say myth because junk food is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. There is food that is less nutritious or perhaps higher in calories than what people normally think of as “health foods,” but calling food “junk” implies that is without value. As Professors Stanley Feldman (of London University and the Imperial College School of Medicine) Vincent Marks of the University of Surrey, put it in their book Panic Nation,“[e]ither something is a food, in which case it is not junk, or it has no nutritional value, in which case it cannot be called a food.”


    Over the last year, the news about the so-called obesity epidemic in the US gives one reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Headlines have declared that abdominal obesity rates among kids are “levelling off” and studies show that folks with higher BMIs may not necessarily be at greater risk of dying from heart disease than those with “normal” BMIs. But that hasn’t stopped self-styled health advocates from declaring that we’re “losing the war” on obesity and calling for greater restrictions on what, where, and how food can be sold or advertised. 


    Whether it’s warning letters on sodajunk food taxes, pressuring food makers to reduce ingredients like salt or caffeine, or restricting sales and increasing prices on alcohol, proposals by public health advocates have one thing in common: people are not smart enough or strong enough to consume in moderation foods and ingredients that can make up an unhealthy diet when over-consumed. Which foods they consider “junk” are based on “accepted wisdom” about what constitutes an unhealthy food. However, the track record for these advocates as well as government agencies in implementing “accepted wisdom,” about nutrition is less than stellar.


  • Red Tapeworm 2014: Federal Regulatory Agenda Consistently Tops 3,000 Rules

    Wayne Crews
    July 21, 2014 1:22 PM

    This is Part 19 of a series taking a walk through some sections of Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State (2014 Edition)


    In the recently released Spring 2014 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations, published twice a year by the Office of Management and Budget, federal departments and agencies reported 3,348 rules in the pipeline.


    These were composed of 2,389 Active (proposed and final) rules: 518 Completed ones and 441 Long-term rules.


    At year-end 2013, the situation was similar. The Fall Agenda found federal agencies, departments, and commissions recognizing 3,305 regulations overall. As is true every year, many of these rules have been in the pipeline for quite some time.


    President Obama declared during his 2012 State of the Union address that he had issued fewer rules in his first three years than his predecessor had. This was technically true with respect to total rules finalized per the Federal Register up to that point (but Obama’s proposed rules are mounting).  


    The president’s claim also held together somewhat with respect to the overall number of rules in the Unified Agenda pipeline at that time, as can be seen nearby But note that Obama referred to first terms: while Obama issued fewer rules than Bush did in his first term, Obama’s first term (2009-12) brought more rules than Bush issued in his second term (2005-08).


    Let’s step back a bit. The all time high count for rules in the Agenda was 5,119, twenty years ago in 1994. Bill Clinton was president.


  • Did Former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Violate the Hatch Act?

    Alex Bolt
    July 21, 2014 12:17 PM

    Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it appears that former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis may have violated the Hatch Act—which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty—by soliciting funds for President Obama’s reelection campaign during work hours.  


    The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darell Issa (R-Calif.), broke the story when it released a voicemail of Solis calling a Department of Labor subordinate “off the record” to get help for Obama’s 2012 campaign. The release of the voicemail came as a result of a larger investigation into the Obama administration’s political activity during the 2012 election cycle.


  • CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    Ryan Young
    July 21, 2014 6:46 AM

    In addition to 100 final regulations, 62 proposed regulations made their way to the Federal Register last week.


  • The Future of the Internet in America

    Anonymous
    July 18, 2014 5:10 PM

    In January 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the core provisions of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order, vacating rules that required broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Since then, the FCC has published a notice of proposed rulemaking, while many have called for the agency to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under the Communications Act.  Two of the main purported justifications for this reclassification are that U.S. Internet speeds are lagging behind those in other developed countries and that U.S. broadband providers have spent too little on upgrading and expanding their existing networks. 


    But according to data from Akamai – which operates a content distribution network responsible for serving between 15 and 30 percent of the world’s Internet traffic – neither of these claims hold true.


  • Red Tapeworm 2014: Federal Regulatory Disclosure Becomes More Confused

    Wayne Crews
    July 17, 2014 8:12 AM

    The Regulatory Plan and Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions” normally appears in the Federal Register each fall and (minus the Regulatory Plan) each spring.


    In normal circumstances, the agenda helps give the researcher a vague sense of the flow in the regulatory pipeline, by detailing rules recently completed, plus those anticipated within the upcoming 12 months by federal departments, agencies, and commissions. (There are 60 in the newest edition). As a cross-sectional snapshot of rules moving through the regulatory pipeline, the agenda compiles agency-reported federal regulatory actions at several stages:


    • Prerule actions;

    • Proposed and final rules;

    • Actions completed during the previous few months; and

    • Anticipated longer-term rulemakings beyond a 12-month horizon.

    The rules it contains may often carry over at the same stage from one year to the next, or they may reappear in subsequent agendas at different stages. The agenda’s rules primarily affect the private sector, but many also affect state and local governments and the federal government itself.


  • Labor and Employment Scorecard: Pension Smoothing as a “Pay-For” in Highway and Transportation Funding Act

    Aloysius Hogan
    July 16, 2014 4:57 PM

    On July 15, 2014, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) scored U.S. House of Representatives Roll Call Vote #414 on final passage of the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 5021), a bailout of the Highway Trust Fund and extension of the current federal transpiration law, MAP-21. 


    Critically, funding for this bill involved “pension smoothing,” a pernicious accounting gimmick that encourages deficit spending and increases the risk of pension insolvency.


    The vote is included in CEI’s Congressional Labor and Employment Scorecard, which can be found at CEI’s labor and employment policy project, WorkplaceChoice.org.


    The Competitive Enterprise Institute opposed final passage of the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (H.R.5021):

  • Your Tax Dollars at Work: Justice Department Investigates Anti-Obama Parade Float

    Hans Bader
    July 15, 2014 5:00 PM

    The Justice Department has responded to an anti-Obama float in a parade by treating it as a “discrimination dispute” necessitating federal intervention. One more example of your tax dollars being wasted:


    The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a float that appeared at the annual Fourth of July parade in the small town of Norfolk, Neb. because the float featured a blue flatbed truck carrying a zombie-looking mannequin in overalls on the door of an outhouse labeled “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”


    The Justice Department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team to Norfolk (pronounced “Norfork” by many locals), reports the Omaha World-Herald.


    The Community Relations Service team investigates disputes concerning discrimination.


    To a lawyer like me, the Justice Department’s notion of “discrimination” seems strange. The float’s creator denies any racial animus, and says it is meant as a criticism of the Obama administration over the Veteran’s Administration scandal:


    The man behind the controversial float, Dale Remmich, has explained that the overalls-clad mannequin in front of the outhouse represented himself — not President Barack Obama. The point he was trying to make concerned his frustration with Obama’s mismanagement of the Veterans Affairs Department.

  • Ten Reasons to Abolish the Export-Import Bank

    Ryan Young
    July 15, 2014 3:23 PM

    A new CEI study released today compiles ten reasons to abolish the Export-Import Bank. The bank subsidizes companies that export goods abroad, and foreign companies that buy those goods. Whatever the intentions behind the bank, the result is one of the federal government’s largest corporate welfare programs. Ex-Im did $37 billion of business in 2013, and has a total portfolio of nearly $140 billion.


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