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  • Republicans Should Support Rep. King's Amendment to Prohibit Davis-Bacon Requirements

    November 4, 2015 2:16 PM

    The House of Representatives is voting on the Highway Trust Fund this week. Numerous amendments have been added to the bill. One that should garner support from fiscal conservatives is Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment that makes sure tax dollars spent on federal construction are used efficiently by repealing Davis-Bacon Act price-fixing requirements for projects funded by the bill.

    The Davis-Bacon Act increases government construction costs by requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages on federally funded projects instead of market wages. Without having to pay inflated Davis-Bacon wages, the federal government could undertake more construction projects—build more bridges and buildings, employ more workers—or save the government money.

    Tax dollars should always be used wisely and there is no reason the federal government should use more of the taxpayers’ money than necessary to perform construction.

    On average, the Davis-Bacon Act forces the government to pay up to 22 percent above market rates on construction projects. Unions, always a proponent of distorting markets and wages, benefit from the inflated wage requirement because it protects them from competition on federal construction projects. With the fixed wage required by Davis-Bacon, a non-union construction firm cannot underbid a union firm on a job.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Davis-Bacon Act could end up “saving $13 billion in discretionary outlays from 2015 through 2023.”

  • Don't Spare the ROD: An Inventory of Resolutions of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act

    November 4, 2015 10:36 AM

    Before Thanksgiving Day, both chambers of Congress are likely to consider so-called “Resolutions of Disapproval to attempt to reject major, cripplingly expensive Environmental Protection Agency regulations targeting electric power plants.

    There’s also the potential for the Senate to consider a Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) Resolution of Disapproval on the so called Waters of the United States rule, better referred to by a colleague of mine as the Moistures of the United States, since that’s what it actually regulates.

    Earlier this year, a Resolution of Disapproval rejecting the National Labor Relations Board’s “ambush election rule” passed in both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by President Obama, and no override attempt was made.

    So that’s three active ROD attempts (yeah we’ll call them RODs) in 2015 (and others on the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules that have yet to get traction). This got me thinking about how many RODs have been introduced over the years.  

  • Freddie Mac's Loss Shows Need to Protect Taxpayers from GSE Raids

    November 4, 2015 8:34 AM

    I wish baseball great Yogi Berra were still here—upon the release of Freddie Mac’s new quarterly report showing a sudden Q3 loss—so he could offer his famous Yogism “it’s déjà vu all over again.” After seemingly smooth sailing under which Freddie and its sister Fannie Mae turned profits over the last couple years, this net loss of $475 million raises the specter of yet another government bailout.

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that many observers—from American Enterprise Institute scholar Peter Wallison to New York Times business columnist Gretchen Morgenson—say were the main cause of the financial crisis still face no requirement for any type of capital cushion. A coalition letter CEI helped put together just weeks ago warned that this lack of capital leave Fannie and Freddie vulnerable to sudden changes in the housing market.

    Fannie and Freddie were chartered by Congress around 45 years ago as companies with private shareholders but lines of credit with the government. In 2008, Fannie and Freddie were taken into conservatorship by the federal government to prevent them from collapsing. Pursuant to the Obama administration’s 2012 “Third Amendment” to the conservatorship, all of Fannie and Freddie’s net profits have been swept back into government coffers, leaving them with virtually no capital.

  • Federal Menu Laws Need Some Common Sense

    November 2, 2015 4:36 PM

    This week, the House Energy and Commerce committee will hold a mark-up hearing on the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 2017), a bipartisan bill intended to deal with a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act that could increase the burden on small businesses and unintentionally increase the price families pay when they eat at restaurants.  

    Provision 4205 of the ACA requires that retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to list calories for regular menu items it serves on all signs and printed menus. The rule, which was named “third-most-onerous regulation of 2013” by Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget, is set to go into effect December 1, 2016, and covers restaurants, grocery stores, pizza shops, convenience stores, and vending machines. While the one-size-fits-all rule is intended to downsize America’s obesity problem, research shows that it’s unlikely to work. Brian Elbel, a population-health expert at the New York University School of Medicine looked at the effects of New York City and Philadelphia’s calorie menu labeling requirement and found no significant change in the customers’ orders after the calorie-rules went into effect.

    What the rule will do is supersize restaurants’ expenses, requiring an estimated 14.5 million hours to comply with the rule—costs which restaurants will almost certainly pass along to their customers. Franchises will be hit particularly hard. As Jason Stverak at Forbes noted, “Although the law is designed to target corporate fast-food giants, in practice it will largely affect individual franchises that effectively operate as independent small businesses…Each of these franchisees will now be tasked with complying with the mandate–paying for new signage, removing profit-generating advertisements to make room for the calorie data, updating menus every time recipies (sic) change, and accommodating inspectors.”

  • Sell a Kidney, Save a Life

    November 2, 2015 4:14 PM

    Last week I blogged about the idea that some things should not be part of a market economy, and highlighted one rather silly example of a particular item being outlawed: in that case, futures contracts in onions. But there are far more serious examples of policymakers forbidding commerce in specific goods with disastrous results, in particular human organs like kidneys.

    The same day I wrote about onions, Shmuly Yanklowitz wrote in The Atlantic about the advantages we could see from allowing a market in “compensated donation” of kidneys. Yanklowitz has an unusual perspective, being the founder of a social welfare nonprofit organization as well as someone who has recently given an undirected kidney donation. Most of us will never possess the selflessness that is required to donate a major organ to someone we’ve never met, but, as he and others have pointed out, thanks to market incentives, we don’t have to.

    Thousands of people die every year waiting for kidneys to become available, and the usual treatment for people on the list, dialysis, is expensive and inconvenient. And, as journalist Tina Rosenberg wrote earlier this year in the New York Times, it’s not that money isn’t already a big part of the transplant process.

  • RealClear Radio Hour: Modern Environmentalists

    November 2, 2015 11:36 AM

    From EPA’s new ozone rule to local city halls “going green,” modern environmentalism has become an omnipresent force in America. This week I sit down with two individuals that have personal experiences with the destructive side of the modern environmentalist movement. We go in depth to listen to their stories, and discuss where they expect environmentalism to go from here.

    In the first half of the show, I’m joined by Greenpeace co-founder and author of “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout” Dr. Patrick Moore, who shares his radical past fighting atmospheric nuclear testing and indiscriminate whaling. He argues today’s global warming activists are truly anti-development alarmists doing more harm than good. Patrick makes the case that poverty is the biggest threat to our environment, advocating for pro-development and sustainable environmentalism that helps people lift themselves up to the point where they value and can pay for a clean environment.


    Following Dr. Moore, Nancy Cline joins me during the second half of our show. Nancy, along with her husband Fred, are co-owners of Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. They are also award winning conservationists. Nancy reveals how she and her husband were forced to battle the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the FBI to keep their property from being claimed as federal jurisdictional wetlands.

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

    November 2, 2015 9:16 AM

    The pace of new rules has picked up recently, with 80 or more final regulations and more than 2,000 Federal Register pages for the second straight week. New rules cover everything from bricks to housekeepers.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 83 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 80 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and one minute.
    • So far in 2015, 2,837 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 3,378 new regulations this year, far fewer than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
    • Last week, 2,137 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 2,048 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 67,526 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 80,067 pages.
    • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. 28 such rules have been published so far this year, five in the past week, which is a high for the year.
    • The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $3.15 billion to $4.40 billion for the current year.
    • 242 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
    • So far in 2015, 461 new rules affect small businesses; 65 of them are classified as significant. 
  • Congressional Resolutions To Block EPA’s Climate Rules and DC Circuit Decision on Stay of Power Plant Rule

    November 1, 2015 10:33 AM

    Congressional Resolutions To Block EPA’s Climate Rules Are Introduced and Set To Move Quickly

    Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy subcommittee, introduced resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing its greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants on 26th October.  The subcommittee announced on Friday that it would mark up House Joint Resolutions 71 and 72 on Tuesday, 3rd November. Action by the full committee should quickly follow.  Votes on the House floor could then be held soon after the House returns on 16th November from its Veterans Day week-long recess.

    On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) along with 47 co-sponsors introduced Senate Joint Resolution 23 to block the new power plant rule on 27th October.  On the same day, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and 48 co-sponsors introduced S. J. Res. 24 to block the rule for existing power plants.  CRA resolutions can go to the Senate floor without going through committee, so it is likely that the Senate will vote on the resolutions before the House does.  Under the CRA, resolutions of disapproval are not subject to cloture votes and thus only require a majority of those voting to pass.

    DC Circuit Won’t Decide on Stay of EPA’s Power Plant Rule until after Paris Climate Conference

  • Halloween Not So Scary for Parents

    October 30, 2015 1:21 PM

    When it comes to Halloween these days, it seems that parents scare more easily than their children. For the past 15 years, I have checked the news as Halloween approaches. It is always full of warnings from health and safety officialdom that parents should check their children’s collected candy for signs of tampering with nefarious intent. Here are just three examples I found with a 30 second Google search today. It’s just as much hogwash as it was when I started.

    The best data we have on such Halloween sadism is compiled each year by University of Delaware professor Joel Best. His conclusion is simple:

    In my own research, I have been unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating.

  • The 5 Most Horrifying Halloween Monsters from Washington

    October 30, 2015 12:06 PM

    If the current federal regulatory state doesn't scare you, then nothing will. So for Halloween, we decided to make our own list of the top 5 most horrifying monsters from Washington, D.C. It just so happens that vampires and federal regulators have many haunting similarities.


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