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OpenMarket: January 2015

  • Main Street Fights Dodd-Frank's Chipping Away at the Constitution

    January 30, 2015

    “Wall Street Chips Away at Dodd-Frank,” blared a recent front-page headline in The New York Times about bipartisan measures that have passed the U.S. House of Representatives and/or been signed into law that ever-so-slightly lighten the burden of the so-called financial reform rammed through Congress in 2010. “GOP Pushes More Perks For Wall Street...” reads the home page of The Huffington Post under the picture of establishment pillar, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

    Yet, what these articles don’t say is that the firms putting their resources on the line to challenge Dodd-Frank in court are the furthest thing from Wall Street high rollers. They are decades-old firms selling stable, time-tested financial products to everyday consumers.

    At first glance...

  • Invest in Transportation Act of 2015 Violates Fiscally Conservative Transportation Principles

    January 29, 2015

    It was just announced that Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would introduce the Invest in Transportation Act of 2015. The bill aims to offer an incentive to U.S. companies that are currently keeping $2 trillion in foreign earnings overseas to return some of these earnings. The repatriated earnings would then be subject to a favorable tax rate of 6.5 percent. While tax repatriation may be a good idea, it has nothing to do with infrastructure. Any tax revenue collected on returned overseas earnings should flow into the general treasury, not used to bail out the Highway Trust Fund.

    This huge violation of the user-pays/user-benefits principle is surprising given Sen. Paul's reputation as a libertarian-leaning fiscal conservative. The user-pays...

  • Don't Reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank

    January 29, 2015

    Here’s a letter I wrote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that appears in today’s paper:

    The Post-Gazette’s editorial board calls on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank because the agency supposedly nets the government a profit (“Save the Ex-Im Bank: A Frugal Congress Must Keep a Revenue Generator”). 

    This is misleading for two reasons.

    First, Ex-Im’s self-reported profits are largely the result of creative accounting practices. A recent...

  • FDIC Retreats from Operation Choke Point

    January 28, 2015

    In a partial victory for all those campaigning against the abuse of power known as Operation Choke Point (see our comprehensive study here), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has issued guidance to its supervisory staff that restricts some of the methods used to advance Choke Point.

    Operation Choke Point is a Department of Justice initiative aimed at “choking off” the financial oxygen of businesses the administration disapproves of, with a special focus on payday lending. It threatens banks that do business with these industries with burdensome investigations and subpoenas, which has led to banks closing accounts with legal businesses that have had a perfect banking record.

    One of the ways...

  • Study Shows Health Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Consumption

    January 27, 2015

    Alcohol is a favorite target for health nannies and politicians looking to boost revenue. Excessive drinkers, they say, cost society millions or billions of dollars! Because society incurs the costs of the irresponsible minority, they assert, society has the right to try and curtail this voluntary behavior. Of course, whenever campaigners quote figures about the exact dollar-amount alcohol consumption “costs” society, they rarely include estimates of the benefits of alcohol consumption for both individuals and societies. That may have to change in the wake of a new study.

    Teetotalers like those over at Alcohol Justice (formerly the Marin Institute) promote the idea of “charging for harm.” That is, they think we should increase the taxes on alcohol—...

  • National Labor Policy Increasingly Grants Big Labor Privileges as Union Membership Declines

    January 26, 2015
    A recent press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the percentage of American workers in labor unions dropped again. In 2014, only 11.1 percent of all workers belonged to a union, a slight decline from 2013.
  • Gas Tax Mission Creep: From User-Pays to Carbon Tax?

    January 26, 2015

    The Niskanen Center is a new libertarian think tank that we at CEI look forward to working with on a number of issues. However, one where we are unlikely to agree is on the virtues of a real-world tax on carbon emissions. Sarah E. Hunt had a post last week over at the Niskanen Center's Climate Unplugged blog arguing that Senate EPW chairman Jim Inhofe's recent defense of the federal gas tax as an infrastructure user tax is at odds with his antipathy to a carbon tax.

    Now, I have criticized Sen. Inhofe's blindspot on infrastructure spending in the past, as he has long admitted he is "...

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

    January 26, 2015

    Even in a shortened work week due to Martin Luther King Day, federal agencies still put out 40 final regulations and more than 50 proposed regulations, covering everything from pet stores to drywall.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 40 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, the same number as the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every four hours and 12 minutes.
    • So far in 2015, 118 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 1,967 new regulations this year, which would be far less than the usual total.
    • Last week, 1,271 new pages were added to the Federal Register.
    • Currently at 3,857 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 64,284 pages, which would be the lowest page count since 1992...
  • Did Slanted NPR Story Lead to Hasty, Illegal Education Department Sexual Harassment Rules?

    January 26, 2015

    Bad things can happen when an agency (like the Education Department) throws caution to the wind and regulates based on slanted media coverage from National Public Radio, rather than facts and evidence.

    Checks and balances exist for a reason. When agencies impose new obligations on the institutions they regulate, they are supposed to first give the public notice of their proposed rule, and an opportunity to comment on it. This requirement, mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act, enables members of the public to point to legal or factual mistakes that may have precipitated the agency’s proposed rules.

    But under the Obama administration, the Education Department has ...

  • Oregon Blueberry Farmers Prevail over Department of Labor Overreach

    January 23, 2015
    A majority of attention paid to federal agency overreach in the labor policy arena during the Obama administration has focused on National Labor Relations Board actions, and for good reason. But the Department of Labor also has a penchant for excessive enforcement and overstepping its authority.


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