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Author Topic: Bureaucracy and Regulations in action: The Fourth Branch of the US Govt.  (Read 7976 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« on: August 18, 2011, 09:25:57 AM »

SEC destroyed files?

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/mikeshedlock/2011/08/18/sec_destroys_9000_fraud_files
« Last Edit: August 31, 2011, 08:16:55 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2011, 11:04:47 AM »



The Federal Trade Commission is ready to formally declare war against Google, reports the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—The Federal Trade Commission is poised to serve Google Inc. with civil subpoenas, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling the start of a wide-ranging, formal investigation into whether the Internet-search giant has abused its dominance on the Web.

The agency’s five-member panel of commissioners is preparing to send its formal demands for information to Google within days, these people said. They said other companies are likely to receive official requests for information about their dealings with Google at a later stage.

Representatives for Google and the FTC declined to comment.

[...]

The [FTC's] inquiry…will examine fundamental issues relating to Google’s core search-advertising business, said people familiar with the matter. The business is the source of most of Google’s revenue. The issues include whether Google—which accounts for around two-thirds of Internet searches in the U.S. and more abroad—unfairly channels users to its own growing network of services at the expense of rival providers.

In November, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, opened its own formal investigation into allegations by several companies that Google had violated European competition laws. Google denies the allegations.
==========
a friend comments:
A key player in the FTC’s investigation will be the Bureau of Economics antitrust unit — which is now headed by a British government official with extensive ties to European Union authorities. I suspected something was up yesterday, but now I think it’s clear: Jon Leibowitz brought in a foreign economist to help oversee the Google investigation because he couldn’t trust any American economist to validate his insane obsession with destroying one of America’s most successful companies.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2011, 08:17:23 AM »



Among the core assumptions of modern liberalism is that future regulations have no more effect on the economy than future taxes, as if expectations don't matter and businesses don't prepare now for their costs tomorrow. President Obama's letter to John Boehner yesterday is a classic of the genre.

Last week the Speaker asked the White House to disclose any federal rules in the works with economic costs of $1 billion or more. Proposed or final rule-makings are defined as "major" when their estimated annual costs exceed $100 million. The Obama regulatory agenda for 2011 contains 219 such items. Last year, that figure was 191, versus the combined total for the first two years of the Bush Administration of 103. Amid this surge, Mr. Boehner's underlying point was that the regulatory ambitions of the Obamanauts are redefining "major," much in the way trillion is the new billion for government spending.

Mr. Obama responded by identifying seven pending major rules topping $1 billion, like the Department of Transportation's federal motor vehicle safety standard No. 111 for rearview mirrors ($3 billion) and the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone regulations (as much as $90 billion). But even that understates the costs, as Mr. Obama explains at length. The regulatory agenda is "merely a list of rules that are under general contemplation" and "merely proposed" and "includes a large number of rules that are in a highly preliminary state, with no reliable cost estimate."

In other words, regulations that the Administration plans to issue don't count. The President's health-care plan doesn't affect hiring because it doesn't really kick in until 2014, and the Dodd-Frank financial reregulation isn't a drag on lending because no one knows what dozens of agencies may do, except that it will be very expensive.

Mr. Obama adds that "it is extremely important to minimize regulatory burdens and to avoid unjustified regulatory costs." That "unjustified" is doing a lot of work in that sentence, but we'll merely note that you can't minimize or avoid them if you pretend they don't exist until they formally enter the Federal Register.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2011, 07:30:03 AM »

D-F boggles even the mind of Pravda on the Hudson:
================================
The amount billed by Debevoise & Plimpton to write a 17-page letter on a new rule intended to rein in risky banking — around $100,000 — would make most authors jealous.


That’s the fee just for parsing the proper definition of a bank-owned hedge fund. Longer and more complex regulatory missives, weighing in on who should be deemed too big to fail or how derivatives are traded, can easily cost twice as much.
These comment letters could save Wall Street banks billions of dollars if they help persuade policy makers to adopt a more lenient interpretation of the coming rules. And white-shoe law firms like Debevoise & Plimpton are cranking them out by the dozen.

Call it Dodd-Frank Inc. A year after Congress passed the broadest financial overhaul since the Great Depression, the law has spawned a host of new businesses to help Wall Street comply — and capitalize — on the hundreds of new regulations.

Besides the lawyers, there are legions of corporate accountants, financial consultants, risk management advisers, turnaround artists and technology vendors all vying for their cut.

 “It is a full-employment act,” said Gregory J. Lyons, a partner at Debevoise, where a team of a half-dozen lawyers has drafted 30-plus comment letters in the last six months.

“The law is passed, but we are still reasonably early in the process,” Mr. Lyons said. “There is still a lot to be written.”

New regulation has long been one of Washington’s unofficial job creation tools. After the enactment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the late 1970s, hundreds of lawyers and accountants were hired by companies to strengthen their internal controls. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 became a boon for the Big Four accounting firms as public corporations were forced to tighten compliance in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

Now, the Dodd-Frank Act is quickly becoming such a gold mine that even Wall Street bankers, never ones to undercharge, are complaining that the costs are running amok.   

“It’s basically lawyers, hired guns and money,” said the chief financial officer of a major Wall Street firm, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “Everyone has an angle.”

No one yet is tracking all the money being spent to deal with Dodd-Frank (which in itself could be an entrepreneurial venture), but a back-of-the-envelope calculation puts it in the billions of dollars.

And that’s not even counting the roughly $1.9 billion spent by companies lobbying on financial issues since the regulatory overhaul was first proposed in early 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The bulk of the lobbying tab was spent in the two years before Dodd-Frank took effect. Now firms are spending similarly eye-popping sums to comply with or battle against the rules emerging from the law. They are turning to existing companies that have started dedicated teams like the one at Debevoise & Plimpton, as well as start-ups like the Invictus Consulting Group.

When Kamal Mustafa founded Invictus in early 2008, few banks underwent routine stress tests to assess their financial health. Now, the new law requires the nation’s largest banks to conduct annual stress tests, while regulators are leaning hard on smaller lenders to take similar measures. As a result, Invictus’s business — dispensing advice on how to properly administer those exams — has taken off.

“You can stress-test all you want, but somebody has to validate the results,” Mr. Mustafa said. “That’s a massive opportunity.”

Regulators from seven states — including California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have hired his firm, Mr. Mustafa said, and he is selectively signing up two to four new bank clients a month. Annual advisory fees start at $20,000 and can reach $100,000 or more.

With business booming, Mr. Mustafa said he planned to hire 40 to 50 former bankers in the coming months, almost quadrupling his current staff. And in May, Invictus established its first European outpost: a London office focused on overseas banks and regulators.

=============

 



Technology vendors, including I.B.M. and SunGard Consulting Services, are expecting huge windfalls from the new systems that banks will need to churn out vast amounts of data for regulators, or to lower the cost of processing a derivatives trade. Wall Street banks and asset managers are expected to spend more than $3.8 billion from this year to 2013 on technology to cope with all the new financial rules, according to the TowerGroup, a technology research firm.

Retail banking consultants are racking up new assignments advising banks on how to make up missing revenue from lost debit card fees, while governance advisers are helping firms assess whether executive pay packages will pass muster with shareholders, who are now entitled to a nonbinding say-on-pay vote.
Some law firms have even become small-scale publishing houses. Davis Polk & Wardwell, for example, is offering a $7,500-a-month subscription to a Web site that tracks the progress of every Dodd-Frank requirement. So far, more than 30 large financial companies have signed up.

As Congress started drafting the legislation in the spring of 2010, Davis Polk & Wardwell began compiling a spreadsheet to keep its lawyers updated on hundreds of regulations. Then, Gabriel D. Rosenberg, a young associate, proposed turning the firm’s database of legal summaries and rule-making deadlines into an interactive site — and spent a weekend building a prototype. 

By late July, clients started logging on to the “regulatory tracker” — and have steered more business to the firm as a result, said Randall D. Guynn, the head of Davis Polk’s financial institutions group. “There were a lot of new relationships because people want this,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest new business established by Dodd-Frank stems from the requirement that large financial institutions establish living wills, or emergency plans to wind themselves down in the event of a collapse. Firms are hiring small armies of outside advisers to develop the plans and handle the mountains of paperwork, according to people involved in the process.

As a result, global law firms like Clifford Chance and Sullivan & Cromwell; accounting firms like Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers; and financial consultancies like Oliver Wyman and the Promontory Financial Group, are all working overtime to land assignments. Even restructuring boutiques, like Alvarez & Marsal and Houlihan Lokey, are elbowing their way in.   

Armed with a 60-slide visual presentation, Houlihan Lokey executives approached about a dozen Wall Street firms this spring with an offer to help draft their living wills.

Their sales pitch: we mapped out funeral plans for Lehman Brothers and the CIT Group during the throes of the crisis; we can help with your final arrangements, too.

“When we do a restructuring, we advise our clients and then execute on it,” said Michael McMahon, the head of Houlihan’s financial institutions group. “We are doing the exact same thing here — but we just have to document it.”

It is lucrative work. Barclays said earlier this summer that it has spent more than £30 million, or $48 million, on outside advisers and in-house staff to draft its living will. Each of the five biggest Wall Street banks and several other large financial companies could easily spend just as much.

What is more, most global firms will need to have several versions of their living wills to satisfy the requirements of the different national regulators. That should keep the billable hours coming.

Lawyers and consultants are salivating at the prospect of even more business opportunities. Some envision that many of the banks’ largest creditors will hire them to figure out how they might fare if the living wills were actually to take effect.

“They are going to ask, ‘What is going to happen to me?’ ” said Chip MacDonald, a lawyer at Jones Day. “We are only getting started.”
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ccp
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« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2011, 12:16:01 PM »

If this does not illustrate the total incompetence of government than nothing will.  They cannot even secure the *mint* from their own employees.
How can someone sneak out 2.4 million one dollar gold coins before being caught?  Did he have help?

And the guy is an ex Fed cop.  Surprise surprise surpirse:

***A former federal cop assigned to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia admitted stealing $2.4 million in "error" coins.

William Gray, 64, of North Wildwood, N.J., admitted in federal court that he took the $1 presidential coins, all missing edge lettering, and sold them to a California coin dealer. Gray pleaded guilty to theft of government property and income tax evasion, said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

Gray had worked at the U.S. Mint since 1996. He said he took the coins knowing they would be considered more valuable to collectors because they were considered "mint errors." He mailed them from New Jersey.

He was freed on $50,000 bail and will be sentenced on Dec. 20.

Posted Friday, Sep 9, 2011 - 7:09 AM EDT**** 
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DougMacG
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2011, 01:14:33 PM »

I am caught wondering how big a one dollar gold coin can be, at roughly 1/32000th of a pound.   sad   Does it have Obama or Bernancke's mug on it?
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G M
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« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2011, 01:18:34 PM »

I am caught wondering how big a one dollar gold coin can be, at roughly 1/32000th of a pound.   sad   Does it have Obama or Bernancke's mug on it?

Rev. Wright with "God damn America" on one side and Bill Ayers on the other.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2011, 01:26:41 PM »

Very funny GM!  Which side is heads and which is considered the side symbolizing where the excrement comes out.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2011, 02:52:29 PM by DougMacG » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2011, 02:59:00 PM »

Like that animal in Dr. Doolittle that had a head at each end (Pushme-pullyou?) both of these guys are mouth.  Lacking an anus explains why they are full of excrement.
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ccp
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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2011, 03:17:13 PM »

Actually the coins would not have been gold; maybe silver or non precious metal and may have been dollars or halves?

Like US paper money the metal coins are hardly even worth the metal they are made out of.

Don't pennies cost more to make than they are valued?

Come to think of it aren't we murdering too many trees by printing so much money?  Think of the carbon dioxide not soaked up and the oxygen not produced.

Its a good thing we print $20 ,50 100 bills lest we wipe out the enitre Amazon forest if the 14 trillion in debt were dollars.



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DougMacG
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« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2011, 03:42:14 PM »

Yes, they are only gold in coloring.   That is a little deceptive, the cartoon look would be more honest.  With the full faith and credit gone, you go with what you have.  They are not commonly used, it would be a little hard to slip a couple of million of them into circulation unnoticed.  Imagine the size though - on a microscope - if they were gold.  Ron Paul had a funny line that gas still is 10 cents - a silver dime is worth about a gallon.

Yes, who knows how much CO2 is emitted in the excess printing of devalued dollars.  Innocent trees with their lives cut short, for no good reason.  Maybe we can get the federal regulators to cap them. 

Most money really of course exists only as an electronic accounting entry.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2011, 11:17:47 AM »

What is the cost of overregulation? Bank of America appears to have provided part of the answer by announcing yesterday that the nation's largest bank will cut 30,000 jobs between now and 2014. CEO Brian Moynihan said the bank's plan is to slash $5 billion in annual expenses from its consumer businesses.

Mr. Moynihan didn't say this, but we will: These layoffs are part of the bill for the last two years of Washington's financial rule-writing. After loose monetary policy had combined with insane housing policy to create a financial crisis, the Democrats who ran Washington in 2009 and 2010 enacted myriad new rules that had nothing to do with easy money or housing.

Take the amendment that Illinois Democrat and Senator Dick Durbin (with the help of 17 Senate Republicans) attached to last year's Dodd-Frank financial law. Mr. Durbin's amendment instructed the Federal Reserve to limit the amount of "swipe fees" that banks can charge merchants when customers use debit cards.

How exactly does forcing banks to charge Wal-Mart less money for operating an electronic payment system prevent the next financial crisis? Readers may wait a long time for a satisfactory answer, but the cost of this Dodd-Frank directive is straightforward.

The Fed dutifully ordered banks to cut their fees almost in half. Bank of America disclosed in its most recent quarterly report that this change will reduce the bank's debit-card revenues by $475 million in just the fourth quarter of this year. The new rules take effect on October 1, so BofA seems to have sensible timing as it begins to shed workers from a consumer business that has become suddenly less profitable by federal edict.

Make that the latest federal edict. In 2009, when a comprehensive overhaul of financial regulation was still a gleam in Barney Frank's eye, President Obama signed the CARD Act into law. It limited the ability of banks to increase rates on delinquent borrowers and to charge fees on unprofitable customers. As Washington encouraged card issuers to be more selective in advancing credit and to demand higher rates when they do, interest rates on card customers predictably increased relative to other types of lending in the months after the law took effect.

Restricting bank profits on a particular product may have obvious populist appeal, but politicians shouldn't be surprised if banks decide that such consumer credit operations aren't good businesses and can function with fewer employees. Add in the various federal programs aimed at extracting penalties for this or that mortgage-foreclosure error and it's understandable that a bank would have trouble forecasting growth to justify its current work force.

To be sure, Bank of America is also suffering from its own mistake in deciding to buy Countrywide Financial in 2008. As for the financial industry generally, it had become distended and needed to shrink after the bubble years of easy money.

But given the real-world results for bank employees, politicians should not be allowed to pretend that there are no consequences when they deliberately reduce the profitability of employers. Mr. Obama proposed last week to spend some $450 billion more in outlays or tax credits to create more jobs, but it would have cost a lot less to save these 30,000.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2011, 01:56:26 PM »

The Environmental Protection Agency's political agenda hasn't gotten any less reckless, but the news is that the rest of the government is beginning to notice—including a majority of the states and even other regulators. And now they are pushing back. This turn comes in the nick of time, since one of the EPA's more destructive rules is due to be finalized next month.

At issue is the so-called utility rule that would impose new limits on mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The regulation is the most costly in the EPA's history in return for marginal benefits. It was rushed out to force a large portion of the country's coal-fired power plants to shut down. On top of other such de facto anticarbon rules, this could compromise the reliability of the electric system if as much as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—which is charged with protecting reliability—admitted as much last year in a preliminary analysis, only to withdraw the document and refuse to update it. But now one of FERC's five commissioners is calling out his own boss for this abdication.

In a recent letter to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has been probing FERC, Commissioner Phillip Moeller admits, "I can't affirm that EPA actions will not materially degrade reliability, nor can I speak for the entire Commission and how it will carry out its statutory obligations." He added that FERC "should be involved in the rulemaking process of a federal agency if such involvement helps reduce threats to reliability."

That's precisely what FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff is refusing to do, perhaps as a favor to his political patron Harry Reid. The Chairman has broad powers over FERC's work, much like a CEO, even if other commissioners dissent. The technical experts in the reliability office itself are also worried, as internal documents show. Mr. Moeller has repeatedly said he is "fuel neutral" but that as a Commissioner, "I cannot be neutral on the subject of reliability," as he put it at a September hearing.

Mr. Moeller also dismisses Mr. Wellinghoff's endorsement of a "safety valve" that would give FERC the power to overrule the EPA if it thinks its rules might lead to blackouts—but only after the fact. "I do not know what exemption process would work best for administering what may become a complex task of determining which set of power plants will need to operate for reliability purposes," Mr. Moeller writes. In other words, no regulator has the omniscience to decide which plants are "must run" and therefore deserving of a safety-valve exemption. The only way we'll know is after there's a disaster.

This week FERC said it would convene a reliability conference, but by the time it arrives in November it will be too late to convince the EPA to publish a more reasonable rule. The Texas utility Luminant has already shuttered two coal plants (farewell, 500 jobs) in response to the regulatory cascade, and many more closures are on the way.

Meanwhile, 11 Governors last week wrote to the EPA to protest the utility rule, warning that "full-time power availability could be at risk." And earlier this week 25 state Attorneys General—including four Democrats—filed suit to lift a legal document known as a consent decree that the EPA is using as a fig leaf for its political goals.

This 2008 court order says the utility rule must be issued by November, which is how the EPA justifies its aggressive political schedule. But the EPA wrote the consent decree and explicitly says, "If EPA needs more time to get it right, it can seek more time." EPA, naturally, hasn't done so—despite major errors in the proposal including one that confused "megawatts" with "gigawatts" and thereby set emissions standards that were incorrect by a factor of 1,000.

Between the Governors and AGs, some 27 states are merely asking the EPA to delay the final rule until the risks can be properly quantified, which is also Senator Murkowski's request. Despite the poor quality of its work, EPA has refused to slow down. While the new protests are welcome, at this point the only thing that will pull back the throttle is a White House intervention.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2011, 07:48:47 AM »



If you tried to write a parody of the uncertainty and confusion triggered by federal rule-making, it would be hard to top the latest proposal from Washington's financial regulators. So here's an ironic hat tip to the bureaucrats who wrote the draft Volcker Rule, which will allegedly limit risk-taking at financial firms backed by taxpayers.

In 298 pages, rather than sketching out simple, clear rules for banks to follow, regulators essentially wonder out loud how they can possibly write this rule. Officially there are 383 questions posed in the document, but many of these questions have multiple parts. Our colleagues at the Deal Journal blog counted 1,347 queries, covering everything from how "trading accounts" should be defined to what a "loan" is.

The regulators admit that "the delineation of what constitutes a prohibited or permitted activity . . . involves subtle distinctions that are difficult both to describe comprehensively within regulation and to evaluate in practice." Think of this as a cry for help from bureaucrats seeking an understanding of the markets they are nonetheless going to restructure come what may.

***
Bank lobbyists are certainly eager to provide some hand-holding. We wouldn't be surprised to see thousands of pages of suggestions roll in between now and January 13, when the public comment period ends. Many of these comments will no doubt offer compelling reasons why a particular type of transaction should be exempt from the principle that nobody should be gambling with a taxpayer backstop. The regulators will then have about six months to consider all of these suggestions, ponder the thousands of answers to their 1,347 questions, and then write a final rule. At least that's what the 2010 fiasco known as Dodd-Frank demands.

Dodd-Frank demands all this from regulators because for the life of them former Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank couldn't figure out how to write a Volcker Rule themselves. Like nearly every other tough call in financial regulation, Messrs. Dodd and Frank punted this one to the executive branch, invested federal agencies with new authority, and expected the same regulators who failed to prevent the last crisis to somehow avert the next one.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Chairman.
.We supported former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker's concept of a ban on proprietary trading as a good-faith effort to protect taxpayers from having to rescue too-big-to-fail banks again. Democrats in Congress weren't going to prevent future bailouts, so whenever an institution is playing with taxpayer money (via insured deposits or access to the Fed's discount window) it should be allowed to serve clients but should not be permitted to make trades for its own proprietary account. But drafting such a law isn't easy and the details are crucial.

When America's esteemed legislators couldn't figure out how to write a Volcker Rule, they forwarded it to the bureaucracy as a kind of Volcker Suggestion. But before the lawmakers enacted this remarkable delegation of authority, they gutted even the Volcker Suggestion by exempting certain instruments from consideration.

Lawmakers made clear that whatever the shape of the final rule, it would not interfere with the liquidity of the U.S. Treasury market or debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So even if bureaucrats spend most of the next year crafting the perfect rule, it will still allow Wall Street giants to make enormous bets on the direction of U.S. government bonds and debt issued by government-sponsored enterprises. There are also built-in exemptions in the commodities market. There will likely be limits on trading derivatives of commodities, but if traders are buying actual physical assets they can still swing for the fences.

Even outside of these exempted zones of politically favored speculation, the recent proposal suggests that we're not going to get anything close to perfection. And some of the regulators may already have figured this out. Readers will recall that Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council so that the chiefs of the various regulatory agencies could coordinate their actions to identify and attack risks to the financial system. But one of the knights of this regulatory round table was missing when they decided to saddle up on this quest to tilt at Goldman's risk book.

The draft rule carries the names of various Beltway departments but not the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Since the CFTC now oversees much of the derivatives market, which in Beltway lore is the principal cause of systemic risk, it's an odd omission. A cynic might even wonder if CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler is checking the political winds before endorsing this turkey. A source at the commission says that the agency is backed up fulfilling other Dodd-Frank mandates but will get to Volcker eventually.

***
They shouldn't bother. Reasonable people have seen enough to say that Washington is incapable of drawing bright lines and applying clear rules fairly across all securities markets. The result is all but certain to be a final rule that different people will interpret different ways, leading to loopholes for traders and arbitrary enforcement. Under this Beltway rendering of Volcker, trading will continue but with a much higher bureaucratic cost and with the illusion of safety that only regulation can create.

Until the government is willing to create a durable financial system that allows failure, the best policy response is to make the rules so simple that even Washington can enforce them. That means higher, even very high, bank capital standards and margin requirements on risky trades between banks. Those aren't panaceas, but they offer more hope for taxpayers than the bureaucratic and bank-lobbyist jump ball that is now the Volcker Rule.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2011, 11:32:05 AM »



WASHINGTON — President Obama will issue an executive order on Monday that the administration hopes will help resolve a growing number of critical shortages of vital medicines used to treat life-threatening illnesses, among them several forms of cancer and bacterial infections.

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U.S. Scrambling to Ease Shortage of Vital Medicine (August 20, 2011)
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The order offers drug manufacturers and wholesalers both a helping hand and a gloved fist in efforts to prevent or resolve shortages that have worsened greatly in recent years, endangering thousands of lives.

It instructs the F.D.A. to do three things: broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.

Such efforts are included in proposed legislation that has been pending in Congress since February despite bipartisan support for its provisions.

The order, the first since 1985 by a president to affect the functions of the Food and Drug Administration, is part of a series of recent executive orders involving such disparate issues as mortgage relief and jobs for veterans. They are intended to show that the president, plagued by low approval ratings, is working to resolve the nation’s problems despite a Congress largely paralyzed by partisan disagreements.

“The president’s action is a recognition of the fact that this is a serious problem, and we can and should do more to help solve it,” said an administration official who asked to remain anonymous to avoid upstaging the official announcement on Monday. “We can’t wait anymore.”

So far this year, at least 180 drugs that are crucial for treating childhood leukemia, breast and colon cancer, infections and other diseases have been declared in short supply — a record number. Prices for some have risen as much as eightyfold, and clinical trials for some experimental cures have been delayed because the studies must also offer older medicines that cannot be reliably provided.

Patients with entirely curable diseases have been forced to take medicines that may not be as effective, adding anxiety to an already terrible ordeal.

The president’s order is a modest effort that, while possibly helpful, is unlikely to resolve the problem soon or entirely. Administration officials characterized it as one step in a long and complicated effort. Indeed, Mr. Obama eschewed more ambitious proposals — like government drug stockpiling or manufacturing — that would have injected the government more directly into the nation’s drug market and cost more but that might have been more effective.

Still, Mr. Obama’s order and others he has issued recently reflect his belief in the power of government to improve people’s lives. By contrast, top Republican legislators and presidential candidates have almost uniformly argued that resolving the nation’s economic and other problems depends mostly on scaling back or ending government regulations to allow the free market to function more effectively. No regulatory agency touches people’s lives more thoroughly than the F.D.A., which regulates 25 cents of every dollar spent by consumers.

Along with Mr. Obama’s order, on Monday the administration will release two government reports that mostly blame a dysfunctional marketplace for drug shortages, directly contradicting assertions by some commentators that government rules are to blame. The analyses found that 74 percent of the medicines in short supply in 2010 were sterile injectibles, the kind of drugs delivered in hospitals or clinics to treat cancer or anesthetize patients before surgery.

The economic and technical hurdles to participating in this market have made it exceedingly inflexible, the analyses found. Just five large hospital buying groups purchase nearly 90 percent of the needed medicines, and only seven companies manufacture the vast majority of supply. In most cases, one company produces at least 90 percent of a drug’s supply, and crucial ingredients — many of them made in mammoth plants in India and China — are often difficult to find, verify and approve, so years are needed to create new capacity. While demand has grown steadily in recent years, supply capacity has remained largely unchanged.

With so much supply dependent on so few companies and facilities, safety problems that arise anywhere in the system can result in enormous disruptions. Nearly half of the shortages followed inspections that found serious quality problems, including injectibles that had glass shards, metal filings and bacterial and fungal contamination, the reports found.

Even the generic drug industry is calling for more regulation. The industry recently agreed to provide the F.D.A. with nearly $300 million annually to bolster inspections and speed drug applications. That amounts to about 1 percent of the industry’s revenues and about 5 percent of its profits in the United States, an extraordinary vote of confidence in the government’s ability to improve the situation.

This money and an industry campaign to build more capacity may eventually resolve much of the supply disruptions. In the meantime, Mr. Obama will promise Monday to strengthen the staff of the drug agency’s shortages team to deal with what are expected to be far more and detailed communications with manufacturers about events that could affect drug supplies, officials said.

The administration will also send letters to manufacturers reminding them of their legal responsibility to report pending supply disruptions of certain drugs and to encourage them to notify the drug agency of events that could possibly lead to disruptions even when not required to do so.

The rules needed to expand required notifications will take time to finalize, but the president’s order will speed that process, administration officials said. The president will also announce his support of legislation proposed in both the House and Senate to expand even further reporting requirements from manufacturers.

Mr. Obama’s order that the F.D.A. report to the Justice Department possible instances of price gouging or collusion is largely directed at the shadowy and fading world of small wholesalers that buy drugs from one set of users and in times of shortage sell them at huge markups to another. In one case, a leukemia drug that normally sold for $12 per vial was being sold for $990 per vial — 80 times higher. A survey found that small wholesalers typically increased prices by 650 percent during shortages.

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« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2011, 02:30:52 PM »

On a sweltering day in August, federal agents raided the Tennessee factories of the storied Gibson Guitar Corp. The suggestion was that Gibson had violated the Lacey Act—a federal law designed to protect wildlife—by importing certain India ebony. The company has vehemently denied that suggestion and has yet to be charged. It is instead living in a state of harassed legal limbo.

Which, let's be clear, is exactly what its persecutors had planned all along. The untold story of Gibson is this: It was set up.

Most of the press coverage has implied that the company is the unfortunate victim of a well-meaning, if complicated, law. Stories note, in passing, that the Lacey Act was "expanded" in 2008, and that this has had "unintended consequences." Given Washington's reputation for ill-considered bills, this might make sense.

Only not in this case. The story here is about how a toxic alliance of ideological activists and trade protectionists deliberately set about creating a vague law, one designed to make an example out of companies (like Gibson) and thus chill imports—even legal ones.

The Lacey Act was passed in 1900 to stop trade in illegal wild game. Over the years it has expanded, and today it encompasses a range of endangered species. It requires American businesses to follow both U.S. and foreign law, though with most Lacey goods, this has been relatively clear. Think elephant tusks, tiger pelts or tropical birds.

That changed in 2007, when an alliance of environmentalists, labor unions and industry groups began pushing for Lacey to cover "plant and plant products" and related items. Congress had previously resisted such a broad definition for the simple reason that it would encompass timber products. Trees are ubiquitous, are transformed into thousands of byproducts, and pass through dozens of countries. Whereas even a small U.S. importer would know not to import a tiger skin, tracking a sliver of wood (now transformed into a toy, or an umbrella) through this maze of countries and manufacturing laws back to the tree it came from, would be impossible.

Furniture maker Ikea noted that even if it could comply with the change, the "administrative costs and record-keeping requirements" would cause furniture prices to "skyrocket." The wood chips that go into its particleboard alone could require tracking back and reporting on more than 100 different tree species.

Enlarge Image

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Painted guitars hang to dry after being lacquered at the Gibson Guitar Corp. factory in Nashville, Tenn.
.Which is exactly what the Lacey expanders wanted. The drive was headed up by a murky British green outfit called the Environmental Investigation Agency. The EIA is anti-logging, and, like most environmental groups, understands that the best way to force developing countries to "preserve" their natural resources is to dry up the market for their products. They would prefer that wood be sourced from the U.S. and Europe, where green groups have more influence over rules.

The EIA was joined by labor unions such as the Teamsters and industry groups such as the American Forest and Paper Association. As Mark Barford of the Memphis-based National Hardwood Lumber Association told one news outlet: "We need the protection of the Lacey Act. . . . Our small, little companies cannot compete with artificially low prices from wood that comes in illegally. . . . This is our Jobs Act."

While everyone can be against "illegal" wood, what this crew understood was that the complexity of complying with an expanded Lacey Act would discourage companies from importing even legal wood. They went to Sen. Ron Wyden, of the well-timbered Oregon, who dutifully introduced legislation.

Mr. Wyden cleverly attached it to the wildly popular 2008 farm bill, guaranteeing its passage. Even then, some lawmakers sought to ensure that companies weren't unfairly ensnared. In October 2008, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter sent a letter to the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division (whose career staff is notorious for pursuing a green agenda), asking it to clarify whether any companies acting in good faith would be granted some protection from the law. The division has never clarified.

And so Gibson has been trapped, as intended. The company, after all, is not accused of importing banned wood (say, Brazilian mahogany). The ebony it bought is legal and documented. The issue is whether Gibson ran afoul of a technical Indian law governing the export of finished wood products. The U.S. government's interpretation of Indian law suggests the wood Gibson imported wasn't finished enough. Got that?

The EIA, which helped author the Wyden legislation, happens to have spent years publicly targeting Gibson for buying foreign wood. Oh, to see the Justice Department's communications with outside groups.

Gibson was picked because it is famous and, sure enough, its travails have scared importers away from an array of foreign wood products. Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Jim Cooper are now working to give companies some protection and reduce paperwork. On cue, the EIA is howling that Congress is "gutting" Lacey.

Congress would be better off doing just that—repealing the expansion in its entirety. The provision does nothing to stamp out illegal logging—the products from which were already clearly no-nos. This isn't environmental protection; it's hostage-taking.

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« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2012, 02:39:13 AM »

Obama takes on big government: 'It has to change'
 
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on government reform, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo - Haraz N. Ghanbari)
BEN FELLER
From Associated Press
January 14, 2012 1:36 AM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking more power to shrink the government, President Barack Obama on Friday suggested smashing six economic agencies into one, an election-year idea intended to halt bureaucratic nightmares and force Republicans to back him on one of their own favorite issues.

"The government we have is not the government we need," Obama told business owners he'd gathered at the White House. Lawmakers seemed willing to at least consider his ideas.

Sounding like a manager of a disorganized company, and looking like one by pointing to slides as he spoke, Obama asked Congress to give him a kind of reorganization power no president has had since Ronald Reagan. It would guarantee Obama a vote, within 90 days, on any idea he offers to consolidate agencies, provided it saves money and cuts the government.


His first potential target: Merging six major trade and commerce agencies into a one-stop-shopping department for American businesses. The Commerce Department would be among those that would cease to exist.

Attacking senseless duplication across the executive branch he runs, Obama said: "Why is it OK for our government? It's not. It has to change."

Politically, Obama is seeking advantage on the turf often owned by Republicans: Smaller government.

He is attempting to directly counter Republican arguments that he has presided over the kind of regulation, spending and debt that can undermine the economy — a dominant theme of this year's debate and one often cited by his potential re-election rival, Republican Mitt Romney.

Obama said he would use his expanded authority to recommend the collapsing of other agencies across the government, not just in the business field, without getting specific. Congress would keep the final say over any proposal. But fast-track power would give Obama a stronger hand to skip much of the outside lobbying and turf battles and get right to a vote.

Congressional reaction was mixed, but generally followed a pattern from both parties — support for making government more efficient, and wariness about how Obama's plan could upend the trade American trade agenda or undermine the prerogatives of Congress.

Republicans skeptically pointed to Obama's past promises as the size of the nation's debt keeps growing.

"It's not often that we see real proposals from this administration to make government smaller," said Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "I look forward to reviewing the proposal and hope that it will be the first of many to unravel the red tape."

Indeed, Obama promised more plans to shrink things if given more power, citing inefficiencies all across the government.

In an unusual united front that underscored some bipartisan skepticism, the chairmen of two of Congress' most powerful committees joined in a statement that questioned the president's desire to wrap the U.S. Trade Representative office into a new agency. The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont, said government cannot be reduced "at the expense of programs that are helping businesses, ranchers and farmers create jobs."

For Obama, it was all about common sense.

He spoke of business people who deal with the government as part of their daily life and are exasperated by a maze of agencies, permits and websites.

"We can do this better," he told them. "So much of the argument out there all the time is up in 40,000 feet, these abstract arguments about who's conservative or who's liberal. ...You guys are just trying to figure out, how do we make things work? How do we apply common sense? And that's what this is about."

Obama had an imperative to deliver. He made the promise to come up with a smart reorganization of the government in his State of the Union speech last January.

Not in decades has the government undergone a sustained reorganization of itself. Presidents have tried from time to time, but each part of the bureaucracy has its own defenders inside and outside the government, which can make merger ideas politically impossible. That's particularly true because "efficiency" is often another way of saying people will lose their jobs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she hoped Congress would quickly approve Obama's proposal, which she said tracked with worries Democrats have been hearing from small business owners.

Beyond the politics, the merger Obama offered would have big implications for trade and commerce in America.

Presidents held a fast-track reorganizational authority for about 50 years until it ran out during Reagan's presidency in 1984, the White House argued.

Obama wants to merge: the Commerce Department's core business and trade functions; the Small Business Administration; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development Agency.

The White House says 1,000 to 2,000 jobs would be cut, but the administration would do so through attrition. The administration says the consolidation would save $3 billion over 10 years by getting rid of duplicative overhead and programs, although it has yet to spell out any plan in detail.


Obama's announcement treads on ground that Romney, the Republican front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, frequently stakes out on the campaign trail. Romney often says he would try to shrink government by eliminating offices that duplicate functions performed somewhere else, citing as examples more than 80 different workforce training programs.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said streamlining government was always a potentially good idea but expressed suspicion about whether the plan by Obama would really help business. Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, pledged Obama's plan would get a careful review.

But he added: "It's interesting to see the president finally acknowledge that Washington is out of control."
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« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2012, 01:44:43 PM »

Clinton made this an art form.  huh

It is interesting to note the agencies are all in the commerce department.

Of all the agencies this is the one he will "streamline".  rolleyes

I dare not use the "L" word.  wink

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« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2012, 09:30:05 AM »

Needed: A New Laffer Curve  - by Steven Hayward

The Laffer Curve—the conceptual device illustrating how high marginal tax rates reduced revenue and economic growth—helped revolutionize tax policy around the world thirty five years ago.  Every advanced nation followed the United States in lowering tax rates on income (both personal and corporate) and capital investment in the 1980s; many did so more vigorously than we did.  (The definitive treatment of the subject is Brian Domitrovic’s Econoclasts.  Belongs on everyone’s economics bookshelf.)  While the Left kvetches against the Laffer Curve, I note that not even the most leftist governments in the industrialized world propose restoring pre-Laffer Curve income and capital gains tax rates.  Game over.

Today we need a new Laffer Curve—for regulation.  The thought comes to mind in contemplating George Will’s column this morning discussing the impending difficulties in deepening the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina by five feet in order to accommodate a new generation of larger container ships soon to be sailing the ocean blue:

    Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done. . .

    The Empire State Building was built in 14 months during the Depression, the Pentagon in 16 in wartime. The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which earned 11 battle stars in the Pacific and now is anchored here, was built in less than 17 months, back when America was serious about moving forward. Is it necessary to take eight years — just two years less than it took to build the Panama Canal with yellow fever and without computers — to deepen this harbor five feet?

It is one thing to argue that the economic benefits of health and safety regulations, such as air and water pollution, etc., outweigh the costs, though the EPA’s methodology for making these calculations is highly convenient.  But we can leave that head-splitting methodological argument for another time.  How can the economic benefits possibly outweigh the massive delays which amount to outright prevention of projects from being built (see: Keystone XL pipeline, or see the Project/NoProject? website for a cumulative rundown of projects currently held up in the environmental review process)?  More to the point, does the long, litigation-heavy environmental review process we currently use actually deliver environmental benefits? More often it is simply used as an obstructionist measure.  (I noted in watching a Keystone pipeline hearing that most of the complaints were simply blanket opposition to building the pipelines at all, not specific complaints about a harm that needed to be avoided somehow.)

Here’s where we need the regulatory equivalent of the Laffer Curve.  Take the Keystone pipeline as an example. The pipeline is likely to be approved eventually, but only after more years of review and litigation.  Certainly measures will need to be taken to reduce the environmental risks of the pipeline, but is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process?  It’s not like we’ve never built a pipeline before, or learned from previous pipeline accidents (like the one in Montana last summer).  Are there really any potential environmental impacts of deepening a harbor in South Carolina by five feet that require six to ten years of review and litigation, and a three-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement?

Clearly the review process we have now is largely deadweight loss, just as high marginal tax rates discouraged capital formation, investment, and productivity improvements in the high-inflation 1970s.  We can arguably afford the extravagance of regulatory suffocation when the economy is booming at 4 percent growth a year or better (as in the late 1990s) and unemployment is 5 percent. We cannot afford it under the current stagnant circumstances.  A Laffer Curve for regulation will explore just how much economic growth and how many jobs were are sacrificing for this artificial punctiliousness.

What needs to be done?  The regulatory review process ought to have a short deadline.  Agency review should be completed within six or nine months, with a presumption in favor of granting permission unless an agency can delineate a substantively new problem based on precedents from previous similar projects (that is, no speculative objections based on what global warming might do 75 years from now, as actually happened to a proposed project in California a few years back where regulators denied a building permit on the theory that rising sea levels would make the land habitat for an endangered species that would want to move upland).  Standing to sue to block projects should be tightened, and the threshold for hearing such suits made much more restrictive.  And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages?  I’m sure all the environmental lawyers and consultants who charge by the hour and make a bundle doing these multi-volume EIRs that no one reads will howl, but if the Supreme Court can limit briefs to 50 pages on matters of high constitutional importance, why can’t our regulatory process not emulate a standard of brevity that emphasizes the essential over the frivolous and tedious?

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/01/needed-a-new-laffer-curve.php
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2012, 10:46:33 AM »

For the latest example of regulatory overreach, look no further than the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is pushing through a rule to support racial loan quotas a few months before the Supreme Court will rule on whether that's legal. The Obama Administration's "fair housing" agenda, apparently, just can't wait.

At issue is the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination "because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin" (our italics). The language clearly implies an intent to discriminate. But courts have brushed the pesky text aside over the years, citing language in other 1960s-era statutes that allows the use of "disparate impact" analysis, which doesn't require intent and relies instead on statistical data about lending outcomes over larger populations of borrowers.

The Obama Administration's Department of Justice has taken full advantage of this loophole, accusing banks big and small of racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. Most CEOs have decided to settle rather than risk PR damage and litigation costs that could cost banks millions of dollars.

The Supreme Court decided to weigh in on November 7 when it agreed to hear Magner v. Gallagher, a case that will address whether disparate-impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act is legal or not. On November 16, HUD issued its proposed rule and concluded it is. HUD general counsel Helen Kanovsky says the rule was "on the agenda" since the Obama Administration took office and she hoped the Court would "wait" for HUD's rule-making. Well, that's a strange view of the judiciary's role to interpret the constitutionality of laws versus a regulator's role to implement them.

HUD closed the comment period on the proposed rule last week and the letters are instructive. A George Washington University sociologist wants HUD to hurry up and issue the final rule, "given the Court's deference to agency interpretation of statutory language in regulations." The ever-politicized Attorneys General of New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and other states think "discrimination and segregation in housing remain pervasive and intractable problems" but present no evidence to prove those claims.

Forcing banks to lend to minorities has a dangerous cascading effect. Banks will often make credit available to borrowers who shouldn't get a mortgage, merely to meet their quotas and avoid lawsuits. When those loans go belly up, banks and their shareholders have to pick up the tab—and that raises the price of loans for everyone. Some lenders will conclude they don't want the litigation risk and exit the market, reducing competition and choice.

All lending in a capitalist system requires some form of discrimination to determine who can afford a loan, and some kind of bargaining to strike a deal. HUD seems to want to eliminate both and deem who can get what loan, at what cost. As the Justices consider Magner, we trust they have noticed HUD's unseemly rush to issue a rule in a bid to sway their decision.

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« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2012, 04:48:27 PM »

WSJ
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304636404577299993426004550.html?mod=opinion_newsreel
By JASON L. RILEY
Perhaps no one on Capitol Hill was more pleased than Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with the Supreme Court's decision this week to side with an Idaho couple who is fighting the Environmental Protection Agency.

When the couple, Mike and Chantell Sackett, decided in 2007 to build a vacation home on land that they owned near a lake, the EPA ordered them to stop. The agency told the couple that they were building on wetlands without a permit. But in a unanimous ruling Wednesday, the court held that landowners can sue to challenge EPA compliance orders that are issued under the Clean Water Act.

"From this point forward, citizens like the Sacketts will be able to challenge the EPA in court before huge fines and other actions are levied against them," said Mr. Paul, a Republican, in a statement after the ruling. "I will continue to fight to rein in the EPA, and today's decision is heartening that we will succeed."

To that end, Mr. Paul has authored a bill -- the Defense of Environment and Property Act -- that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act, which Justice Samuel Alito helpfully identified as the real problem.

"The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the act," wrote Justice Alito in his concurrence. "The court's decision provides a modest measure of relief," he added. "Real relief requires Congress to do what it should have done in the first place: provide a reasonably clear rule regarding the reach of the Clean Water Act."

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« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2012, 11:50:24 AM »

Not quite sure where this comes from but it appeared in my mailbox.  Not sure why the poster has a problem with gas, which apart from the global warming hoo ha, is certainly quite a bit cleaner than coal-- but the point about rule by bureaucracy certainly resonates with me.
====================================

Obama Administration Outlaws Coal-Fired Power Plants
Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.
 
Posted by streiff (Diary)

Tuesday, March 27th at 12:00PM EDT

Yesterday the Obama Administration effectively outlawed coal as a fuel source and it underscores the importance of Congress severely circumscribing the authority of regulatory agencies.
The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.
The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

By outlawing new coal-fired electric generation plants and ignoring nuclear power, the Administration has set in motion a plan to make the nation dependent upon natural gas and a mishmash of politically correct but non-viable sources such as solar and wind as older plants are decommissioned. Essentially, Obama has done via regulatory means what it could not accomplish in Congress: to set the trajectory for exorbitant electricity prices in the service of reducing “greenhouse gasses.”
This is not a new problem. Indeed, last year Speaker Boehner wrote to Obama to complain that the Administration was not being forthcoming in disclosing its regulatory agenda and, as far as I can discern, was roundly ignored.
Whether it be in the form of directing you to purchase a product you don’t wish to buy, telling religious organizations what they have to allow, or making electricity unaffordable, the cancerous growth of regulations presents the greatest danger to our liberty. Until the Congress decides to man up and take back the power that it has relinquished we are in a death spiral as a free people.
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« Reply #22 on: April 02, 2012, 05:04:10 PM »

http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/us-employs-vinne-the-kneecapper-to-collect-student-debt.html
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« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2012, 07:39:23 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/us/politics/gsa-las-vegas-trip-is-the-talk-of-washington.html

"When a vast but little-known government agency spent $822,000 in taxpayer money to fly 300 bureaucrats to a luxurious spa and casino outside Las Vegas for a conference in October 2010, its leaders had a goal: to make it “over the top,” according to a government report that has set Washington abuzz."
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« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2012, 08:38:22 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/us/politics/gsa-las-vegas-trip-is-the-talk-of-washington.html

"When a vast but little-known government agency spent $822,000 in taxpayer money to fly 300 bureaucrats to a luxurious spa and casino outside Las Vegas for a conference in October 2010, its leaders had a goal: to make it “over the top,” according to a government report that has set Washington abuzz."

What? Do they think they're Michelle Obama or something?
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« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2012, 02:16:59 AM »



http://paracom.paramountcommunication.com/hostedemail/email.htm?CID=11780704875&ch=06E47C48B6AC9E6CF5AD6751F8504E3C&h=03d5e2ce32d076abe327bd581dc28ba3&ei=WF258H8nN
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« Reply #26 on: May 11, 2012, 01:19:56 PM »

Do Barbers Really Need a License?

By DICK CARPENTER
AND LISA KNEPPER

As Ohio natives, we aren't eager to extol the virtues of Michigan, but credit should be given where it is due—particularly for a proposal that would expand economic freedom and opportunity.

In April, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder proposed abolishing 18 occupational licenses and eliminating nine occupational licensing boards. It is a reform long overdue, and not just in Michigan.

Since the 1950s, the number of U.S. workers needing an occupational license—effectively a government permission slip to work—has grown from one in 20 to nearly one in three, according to a 2010 study by Morris Kleiner (University of Minnesota) and Alan Krueger (Princeton). The burdens these licenses impose on would-be workers and entrepreneurs are substantial, as a study released this week by the Institute for Justice documents. "License to Work" collected licensure requirements for 102 low- and middle-income occupations—barber, massage therapist, auctioneer and interior designer, for instance—in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

All 102 occupations are licensed in at least one state. These licenses force aspiring workers to spend an average of nine months in education or training, pass one exam, and pay more than $200 in fees. One third of the licenses take more than a year to get. These barriers make it harder for people—particularly minorities and those of lesser means and with less education—to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs.

Every state needs reform, but some stand out. Louisiana licenses 71 of the 102 lower-income occupations, more than any other state. Hawaii's licensing requirements are the nation's most burdensome.

Arizona, however, imposes the heaviest combination of the number of licensed occupations (64) and the regulatory burdens (in time and money) required to secure them. Arizona is followed by California, Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida and Louisiana. In those eight states it takes, on average, one-and-a-half years of training, one exam and more than $300 to get a license.

Are all these regulatory barriers to entry really necessary to protect public safety or prevent consumers from shoddy work, as defenders of occupational licensure claim? Regulatory inconsistencies from state to state undermine this argument.

The vast majority of jobs we studied are done in one state or another by people without any government-issued license. Interior designers are licensed in just three states and the District of Columbia, for example, funeral attendants in only nine states, and shampooers in a mere five states. We know of no evidence that consumers in the remaining states demanded occupational licenses to protect them from an epidemic of dangerous shampooing.

License requirements often vary greatly. In five states, aspiring auctioneers must complete about a year or more of training—but only about nine days in Vermont and four days in Pennsylvania.

Is it plausible that cosmetologists need, on average, 10 times as many days to fulfill their educational and training requirements (372) than emergency medical technicians (33), who literally hold lives in their hands? That is the reality in most states. In fact, 66 occupations face greater average licensing burdens than EMTs.

The occupational licenses Mr. Snyder has slated for the chopping block are a diverse lot, including those for auctioneer, interior designer, community planner, security alarm contractor, and private security guard—several of which were included in our study. Reform will not be easy, as defenders of the status quo will undoubtedly play the safety card.

Take the response of the director of a barbering school in Michigan to a different proposal by a state legislator (not included in Mr. Snyder's proposal) to repeal barber licenses: "I'm not saying we are as important as doctors, but we are the closest you can get. We are turning this into the Wild, Wild West. . . . I'd like to see them get a haircut in a barber shop five years from now. It will be like rolling the dice."

The risk of a few bad haircuts seems worth a roll of the dice if the upside is more economic opportunities. But the truth is that consumers are capable of judging the quality of many services for themselves. If lawmakers in Michigan and elsewhere want to help more Americans find jobs, they should start by reducing or removing burdens that do little more than protect some people from competition by keeping others out of work.

Mr. Carpenter and Ms. Knepper are directors of strategic research at the Institute for Justice. For more information on their report, visit www.ij.org/LicenseToWork
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« Reply #27 on: July 13, 2012, 04:22:48 PM »

http://innovationandgrowth.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/federal-regulatory-jobs-outpace-private-sector/
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« Reply #28 on: July 20, 2012, 09:36:59 AM »

Obama Kills Welfare Reform
By DICK MORRIS
Published on TheHill.com on July 17, 2012

Printer-Friendly Version
Determined to destroy Bill Clinton's signature achievement, President Obama's administration has opened a loophole in the 1996 welfare reform legislation big enough to make the law ineffective. Its work requirement -- the central feature of the legislation -- has been diluted beyond recognition by the bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

On Thursday of last week, HHS issued regulations that modified -- gutted -- the work requirement. Its new regulations allow the states to substitute education programs for work to get welfare benefits. The regs say that "vocational educational training or job search/readiness programs" "count as well" in meeting the basic condition that recipients work in order to receive welfare benefits.
 
The Congress specifically prohibited the use of education or training to fulfill the requirement. When it passed welfare reform, Congress expressly limited the authority of the secretary of HHS to waive the work requirement.

The Heritage Foundation explains that:

"Section 415(a)(2)(B) of the welfare reform act, now codified at 42 U.S.C. § 615(a)(2)(B), expressly states that 'a waiver granted under section 1315 of this title [the one that HHS now claims it is acting under] or otherwise which relates to the provision of assistance under a State program funded under this part (as in effect on Sept. 30, 1996) shall not affect the applicability of section 607 of this title [which applies the work requirements] to the State.' In short, whatever else might be said of the scope of the waiver authority, the Secretary has no lawful authority to waive the work requirements of section 607, which is what HHS is contemplating in its Memorandum."

In the negotiations that preceded the passage of this landmark legislation -- in which I participated heavily -- then-Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) was particularly suspicious that future HHS secretaries might dilute the work requirement, just as the administration has done. He worked overtime with counsel to make sure that education and training would not be used to substitute for the work provision. "I don't want anyone going to a truck drivers school that advertises on a matchbook cover and avoiding work," he told me. Now the administration has done just what Lott feared and the act prohibited.

Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee Jim Jordan (Ohio) rightly protested that the action is a "blatant violation of the law," and Mitt Romney has attacked it, saying "the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life."

Heritage noted that "in the past, state bureaucrats have attempted to define activities such as hula dancing, attending Weight Watchers, and bed rest as 'work.' These dodges were blocked by the federal work standards. Now that the Obama administration has abolished those standards, we can expect 'work' in the TANF [welfare] program to mean anything but work."

And, of course, welfare reform has been one of the most successful programs enacted in recent decades. Under its provisions, the welfare population has been cut in half while child poverty -- until the current recession -- dropped by one-third.

The loosened requirements on what constitutes work are of a piece with Obama's strategy of expanding his political base by widening the dependency on government handouts. In 1980, 30 percent of all Americans received a payment from the government. In 2008, 44 percent did. Now the figure is 49 percent. At the same time, the number of working-age Americans who are out of work -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- has risen from 70 million in 2008 to 100 million today. Only 139 million are employed. We are rapidly becoming a nation that doesn't work, doesn't pay income taxes and gets entitlement checks.
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« Reply #29 on: July 20, 2012, 11:36:04 AM »

second post of the morning

Taking the King's Shilling
"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." --Benjamin Franklin
 
In yet another under-the-cover-of-darkness move, Hope-'n'-Changelings at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) abetted the Obama administration in pushing the limits of unconstitutional, executive-fiat government even further. This time, they quietly waived welfare work requirements for able-bodied individuals under a twisted reading of the Social Security Act. Ignoring both the letter and spirit of the original 1996 welfare-reform law while effectively establishing "new" law from the Oval Office, the move is entirely in keeping with the administration's selective enforcement of federal statutes and the imperial diktats of the Chosen One, who sponsored the policy change through his HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This latest maneuver is simply one in an extended series that shows blatant disregard for Rule of Law and the Separation of Powers doctrine under the Constitution.
Recall that the Republican-led, Clinton-era welfare reform of the mid-1990s freed almost four million adults and three million children from the welfare plantation, halving welfare caseloads and childhood hunger while slowing out-of-wedlock childbirths. With this most recent welfare policy change, however, those days are effectively over. Witness now the return of the "Good Old Days," where virtually anyone is eligible for welfare handouts from an unlimited funding source, the U.S. Treasury (read: your tax dollars).
Why would the president do this? To make more people dependent on government, of course. Those dependents are thereby more likely to elect those who see government as the solution to every problem and who eschew individual freedom and initiative. Practically, this new edict means virtually anything amounts to "work" for the purposes of meeting able-bodied-work prerequisites under the program -- including bed rest and hula dancing (we wish we were kidding) -- thus entitling the qualifying recipient to endless welfare largesse.
Never mind the fact that Congress specifically proscribed waiver authority from the work prerequisite, because Congress didn't want no-load deadbeats on the government dole. While the rest of Planet Earth would consider these Executive Branch end-runs clear violations of the law, Barack Obama calls this "working with Congress." Congress says "no," and the Imperial Leader says, "We can't wait" -- "we" meaning him, of course -- and does it anyway, without a law authorizing his action. His acts are literally law-less.
But no matter. The important thing is that this new "law" reflects what Obama would have it reflect: free money for those who want it and are willing to not work to "earn" it. Also, pay no attention to the fact that growth in welfare spending has eclipsed growth in all other spending, including Social Security, Medicare, education and defense. Nothing to see here -- move along. The "good" news is that with a current debt of $16 trillion, the Obamanites wish to add "only" $13 trillion in new debt through welfare spending over the next decade.
Meanwhile, November looms, and along with it a fundamental question: What kind of country will America be? Are we to be like our European brethren, collectivist-minded and state-dependent? Or are we to be a people more like the Framers envisioned: independent-minded, respecting of Rule of Law and jealously protective of our fundamental freedoms? As the saying goes, "If you take the king's shilling, you become the king's servant." In November, we as a nation will decide whether we want to keep making it easier to take the king's shilling. We should choose wisely: Our liberty and our way of life depend on it.
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« Reply #30 on: July 21, 2012, 11:24:53 AM »

smaller Larger 
By STEPHEN MOORE
Republicans have charged that the decision last week by the Department of Health and Human Services to grant waivers to states from the work-for-welfare requirement is not just terrible public policy but also illegal.

Last week Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking her to cite where the agency has this authority. Legal experts at the Heritage Foundation and inside Congress believe that the work requirement is not waivable under the 1996 welfare law.

The HHS letter responding to the lawmakers simply asserted the waiver power without any concrete evidence. As one Senate staffer explains, "it was pretty pathetic." Mr. Camp says that "if this administration wants to have the authority to waive work requirements, they should submit a legislative proposal to Congress to change the law, and not attempt to do so by administrative fiat." Mr. Hatch was equally agitated, ridiculing the HHS letter as "a dodge and a deflection."

Newt Gingrich, who was House speaker when welfare reform passed, told me that "we wrote this law so that states could not avoid the work requirements for welfare."

The White House maintains that a number of Republican states wanted the waivers for flexibility and isn't backing down. But this could be a political loser for the White House since polls show strong support for the work requirements. If this legal fight remains unresolved in the weeks ahead, the GOP may challenge the White House in court. Stay tuned.

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« Reply #31 on: July 21, 2012, 01:48:00 PM »

For all the negotiations and struggles with welfare reform that went with getting a Dem President and an R congress to finally agree on specifics after two vetoes and many re-writes (http://nwcitizen.us/oldsite/usa/welfare-reform.html), now one side can unilaterally change the law?  Because of what, our the new government by Czar?  Which article authorizes that?
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« Reply #32 on: July 21, 2012, 10:50:07 PM »

Allow me to suggest that it is not "one side" but rather "one branch".
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« Reply #33 on: August 01, 2012, 03:54:56 PM »

It's not every day that a federal regulator worries about American taxpayers, so let's hear it for the Federal Housing Finance Agency's Edward DeMarco. On Tuesday the man who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac again refused to let the toxic twins forgive more housing debt.

For months, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials have leaned on Mr. DeMarco to let Fan and Fred write down mortgages for troubled borrowers, many of whose homes are "underwater," or worth less than what they owe. The House Financial Services Committee requested a financial analysis of the proposal, and Mr. DeMarco revealed the results Tuesday.

Enlarge Image

CloseBloomberg
 
Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Edward DeMarco
.He estimates that 74,000 to 248,000 borrowers could be eligible for such a writedown under an expanded Home Affordable Modification Program. The problem is that once government helps a few homeowners, others may "claim a hardship or actually become delinquent to capture the benefits of principal forgiveness." A few thousand such borrowers could wipe out any benefits the program might offer. The regulatory agency also worries about the cost and time involved in implementing the program and notes that 80% of the underwater borrowers are still current on mortgage payments.

Fan and Fred have already modified 1.1 million loans since 2008 and completed another million "foreclosure prevention" actions, using short sales, deeds-in-lieu and more. The policy problem isn't Mr. DeMarco's agency. The slow pace of economic recovery and the stream of housing bailouts the Obama Administration has rolled out have prevented the market from finding a bottom.

The political pressure to conform in Washington can be extreme, especially for a career civil servant who wants to keep doing important work. Which is all the more reason to salute Mr. DeMarco's fortitude.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page 11
A version of this article appeared August 1, 2012, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Model Bureaucrat.

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« Reply #34 on: September 04, 2012, 10:00:09 AM »

http://www.officer.com/news/10773132/ice-chief-of-staff-resigns-amid-misconduct-claims?utm_source=Officer.com+Newsday+E-Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS120828004
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« Reply #35 on: September 12, 2012, 06:48:53 PM »

Speech of the Year
A regulator, of all people, shows how complex regulations contributed to the financial crisis..

While Americans were listening to the bloviators in Tampa and Charlotte, the speech of the year was delivered at the Federal Reserve's annual policy conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 31. And not by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. The orator of note was a regulator from the Bank of England, and his subject was "The dog and the frisbee."

In a presentation that deserves more attention, BoE Director of Financial Stability Andrew Haldane and colleague Vasileios Madouros point the way toward the real financial reform that Washington has never enacted. The authors marshal compelling evidence that as regulation has become more complex, it has also become less effective. They point out that much of the reason large banks are so difficult for regulators to comprehend is because regulators themselves have created complicated metrics that can't provide accurate measurements of a bank's health.

The paper's title refers to the fact that border collies can often catch frisbees better than people, because the dogs by necessity have to keep it simple. But the impulse of regulators, if asked to catch a frisbee, would be to encourage the construction of long equations related to wind speed and frisbee rotation that they likely wouldn't even understand.

Readers will recall how ineffective the Basel II international banking standards were at ensuring the health of investment banks like Bear Stearns. The inspector general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which adopted the Basel standards in 2004, would report in 2008 that Bear remained compliant with these rules even as it was about to be rescued.

Messrs. Haldane and Madouros looked broadly at the pre-crisis financial industry, and specifically at a sample of 100 large global banks at the end of 2006. What they found was that a firm's leverage ratio—the amount of equity capital it held relative to its assets—was a fairly good predictor of which banks ended up sailing into the rocks in 2008. Banks with more capital tended to be sturdier.

But the definition of what constitutes capital was also critical, and here simpler is also better. Basel's "Tier 1" regulatory capital ratio was thought to be more precise because it assigned "risk weights" to each category of assets and required banks to perform millions of complex calculations. Yet it was hardly of any use in predicting disasters at too-big-to-fail banks.

We've argued that Basel II relied far too much on the judgments of government-anointed credit-rating agencies, plus a catastrophic bias in favor of mortgages as "safe." Instead of learning from that mistake, the gnomes have written into the new Basel III rules a dangerous bias in favor of sovereign debt. The growing complexity of the rules leaves more room for banks to pursue regulatory arbitrage, identifying assets that can be classified as safe, at least for compliance purposes.

Messrs. Haldane and Madouros also describe the larger problem: a belief among regulators that models can capture all necessary information and then accurately predict future risk. This belief is new, and not helpful. As the authors note, "Many of the dominant figures in 20th century economics—from Keynes to Hayek, from Simon to Friedman—placed imperfections in information and knowledge centre-stage. Uncertainty was for them the normal state of decision-making affairs."

A deadly flaw in financial regulation is the assumption that a few years or even a few decades of market data can allow models to accurately predict worst-case scenarios. The authors suggest that hundreds or even a thousand years of data might be needed before we could trust the Basel machinery.

Despite its failures, that machinery becomes larger and larger. As Messrs. Haldane and Madouros note, "Einstein wrote that: 'The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.' Yet the regulatory response to the crisis has largely been based on the level of thinking that created it. The Tower of Basel, like its near-namesake the Tower of Babel, continues to rise."

Exploding the myth that regulatory agencies are underfunded, they note that in both the U.K. and U.S. the number of regulators has for decades risen faster than the number of people employed in finance.

Complexity grows still faster. The authors report that in the 12 months after the passage of Dodd-Frank, rule-making that represents a mere 10% of the expected total will impose more than 2.2 million hours of annual compliance work on private business. Recent history suggests that if anything this will make another crisis more likely.

Here's a better idea: Raise genuine capital standards at banks and slash regulatory budgets in Washington. Abandon the Basel rules on "risk-weighting" and other fantasies of regulatory omniscience. In financial regulation, as in so many other areas of life, simpler is better.
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« Reply #36 on: December 27, 2012, 10:29:02 AM »

Obama’s Regulatory Cliff Draws Near

Posted By Arnold Ahlert On December 27, 2012 @ www.frontpagemag.com

Many Americans believe the biggest problem the nation currently faces is the so-called fiscal cliff. Unfortunately, the fiscal cliff is nothing compared to the avalanche of new regulations that will be coming in 2013. That Americans remain unaware of this ominous development is understandable. The most transparent administration in history ignored the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and a subsequent series of executive orders that require the semi-annual release of all regulations under development or review by some 60 departments, agencies, and commissions. Thus, the April 2012 and October 2012 deadlines came and went without compliance. Now that the election is over, Americans will discover just how all-encompassing Obama and his big-government zealots intend to be.
The scope is staggering. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the overall regulatory burden has reached $1.8 trillion annually, and $215.4 billion in compliance costs have been added in 2012 alone. The OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website reveals that 4,100 new regulations are in the pipeline, with more than 400 aimed at small businesses, whose compliance costs will exceed those of their larger competitors by 36 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be taking the lead role in flexing the administration’s regulatory muscles. Proposals to significantly expand the Clean Water Act will give the EPA power over virtually every body of water in the nation, including farm ponds, streams, and even storm water runoff, all of which could seriously impact family farmers and small businesses. More restrictive requirements for controlling ozone emissions could cost $90 billion annually and trigger the potential loss of millions of jobs. The designation of coal ash as a “hazardous substance” will substantially increase energy costs, adding another $79 billion to $110 billion to the regulatory tab, and eliminating thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio. A new rule that tightens allowable levels of so-called fine particulate matter will be added to the mix as well, making it far harder for local governments to issue new manufacturing permits.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who had demanded the Obama administration comply with the law regarding the release of regulations and was ignored, released a list of ominous new rules compiled by his Senate committee on Environment and Public Works, including Greenhouse Gas Regulations that “will cost more than $300 to $400 billion a year, and significantly raise the price of gas at the pump and energy in the home” and affect “not just coal plants” but “churches, schools, restaurants, hospitals and farms [that] will eventually be regulated.” Inhofe further reveals these requirements are “so strict they virtually eliminate coal as a fuel option for future electric power generation.”

Adding to Americans’ misery is a large number of proposed regulations that were piling up at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) before the election as well. 78 percent of the 151 regulations awaiting review had been pending for more than 90 days, once again exceeding the maximum time allowed by law. Several of the most costly include a Department of Transportation rule requiring rear-view camera and video displays for all new cars and trucks, at an estimated cost of up to $2.7 billion; stricter limits on industrial and commercial boilers and incinerators that could run as high as $20 billion in costs; energy conservation standards for walk-in coolers, freezers and commercial refrigeration, applying to virtually all equipment used in retail food stores, increasing manufacturing costs by $500 million over four years; and Department of Labor restrictions on worker exposure to crystalline silica common in mining, manufacturing and construction jobs, costing $5.5 billion, as well as inducing a loss of $3.1 billion of economic output on an annual basis. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also joining the frenzy, aiming to implement long-delayed regulations requiring automakers to include event data recorders, aka “black boxes,” in all new cars and light trucks beginning in 2014.

Then there is the Frank-Dodd financial reform law. Although it was written almost two-and-a-half years ago, the 2300 page behemoth, with at least 400 separate rules affecting virtually the entire financial sector, had failed to meet 63 percent of its own deadlines as of July 2, 2012. As a result, thousands of businesses, already reeling from the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff, are dealing with more uncertainty here as well, having no idea what they must do to be in compliance. Despite the idea that the law was ostensibly written to address the financial crisis of 2007-2008, many of its provisions are completely unrelated to it.

Yet in keeping with this administration’s “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality, Dodd-Frank offered the administration yet another opportunity to expand the size and scope of government. These include vast new powers granted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the regulatory authority for credit and debit cards, mortgages, student loans, savings and checking accounts, and most other consumer financial products and services. The CFPB’s power is further enhanced by the reality that it is immune to congressional control, because its funding is now a fixed portion of the Federal Reserve’s budget.

Dodd-Frank also expands government authority to seize control of firms that regulators designate as failing and, unlike bankruptcy proceedings, the process is not supervised by a court and grants only limited judicial review, raising the possibility that government can illegally seize property in violation of the Constitution. Other regulations will impact consumer credit, result in higher service fees and, as financial institutions are forced to pay for regulatory compliance officers and attorneys, money that would otherwise be loaned for mortgages and new businesses will be tied up.

Other parts of Dodd-Frank yet to be finalized are rules for such items as living wills, capital requirements and proprietary trading restriction for banks and other financial institutions, along with possible court challenges that would most likely hinge on whether a rule can withstand a cost-benefit analysis. In short, businesses and financial institutions expected to lead the nation in growth and job creation will be flying blind–meaning they will most likely wait and see what Congress does before expanding, or adding new employees.

The other 800-pound gorilla with loads of uncertainty attached to it, even as it begins to affect Americans in 2013, is Obamacare. It wasn’t until right after the election that Americans learned they will be paying a $63 fee to offset what the administration concedes will be a massive disruption in the insurance markets, courtesy of new healthcare requirements. Yet this is nothing compared to the 13,000 pages of federal ObamaCare regulations that still don’t fully address how the maze of new programs will operate. Many Americans are already aware that several companies are cutting back on employees and/or employee hours to avoid the mandate that requires companies with 50 full-time employees to pay their healthcare, or pay a fine. Yet the law is so confusing it took a whopping 18 pages of gov-speak to define a full-time employee. Equally vague are the regulations states must follow to set up health care exchanges, so much so that even those that support the process don’t know how to proceed. Health insurance companies also remain in the dark regarding what benefits must be covered and at what price so they can design and price their policies, develop marketing materials that meet yet-to-be-announced government specifications, and deal with a seeming endless maze of other calculations.

Once again, many of the new regulations were approved as early as last May by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), yet kept from the public until after the election. Such surreptitiousness produced an embarrassing moment for 18 Democratic senators and senators-elect, who “discovered” the bill they had voted for or supported contained a job-killing $28 billion tax on medical device sales.

Yet the most ominous aspect of Obamacare is the power it confers on the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a position currently held by Kathleen Sebelius. The American Spectator’s Philip Klein gave Americans a hint in 2010. The new healthcare law “finds that there are more than 700 instances in which the Secretary is instructed that she ‘shall’ do something, and more than 200 cases in which she ‘may’ take some form of regulatory action if she chooses. On 139 occasions, the law mentions decisions that the ‘Secretary determines,’” he writes. As a result Sebelius can “determine what type of insurance coverage every American is required to have. She can influence what hospitals can participate in certain plans, can set up health insurance exchanges within states against their will, and even regulate McDonald’s Happy Meals. She’ll run pilot programs that Democrats have set up in an effort to control costs, and be in a position to dole out billions of dollars in grant money.”

In short, one could make a reasonable argument that a healthcare bureaucrat is the most powerful woman in the nation.

Other than the details of the regulations themselves, none of this should surprise anyone. This president and his party have made it very clear they will spare no effort to insert government into the lives of Americans wherever possible, even testing the limits of the Constitution to do so. The avalanche of new regulations, piled on top the hundreds of thousands of those that already exist, is further testament to a progressive ideology that has taken the concept of government by, for and of the people and turned it on its head. Now more than ever Americans are expected to serve government, not the other way around.

Sadly, a substantial number of Americans don’t mind, having bought into a devil’s bargain of entitlements and handouts aimed at convincing them such an odious tradeoff is reasonable. Yet the words of former President Gerald Ford ring truer than ever: “A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”
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"You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #37 on: January 01, 2013, 12:47:11 PM »



http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/31/epas-illegal-human-experiments-could-break-nurembe/
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« Reply #38 on: January 04, 2013, 10:16:24 AM »

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/03/virginia-judge-rules-epa-overstepped-authority-trying-to-regulate-water-as/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/01/03/obama-administration-delivers-delayed-regulatory-agenda-could-cost-billions/#ixzz2GyjMvN00
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« Reply #39 on: January 07, 2013, 01:08:47 PM »

http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/01/07/ny-post-investigation-finds-welfare-recipients-taking-out-cash-at-bars-liquor-stores-and-strip-clubs/
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« Reply #40 on: January 07, 2013, 01:24:40 PM »

True and perfectly legal within our misguided programs.  They send buses to the neighborhoods around welfare payday with free transportation to the casinos.  Also the drug trade and weapons to support it as well expressed recently.  In-kind payments like food stamps are converted to cash everyday in places like North Minneapolis and Southside Chicago for 50 cents on the dollar for things like booze, cigarettes and lottery or gambling.  The loser is the American taxpayer.  Everyone else is a willing participant.

Money should only be given out within the confines of a written and monitored plan - for all spending and getting off of assistance if possible.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #41 on: January 09, 2013, 09:25:52 AM »

Seems like a strange idea until you admit it is all political already.  Replace a sole administrator with a commission that argues policy, rulings and regulations openly and registers the minority dissent publicly.  I love the ending, if you think this is a small change, try proposing it and watch the uproar.

In today's WSJ, excerpt from Powerline:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2013/01/politicize-the-epa.php

    There is a reason Congress has adopted the commission model. While a bipartisan consensus exists for regulating some parts of the economy by independent agencies that harness specialized expertise, there remains an underlying partisan disagreement about the means and ends of policy. The commission model recognizes and accommodates these disagreements, with a process that emphasizes public debate and is more transparent and accountable.

    The EPA’s single-administrator model, on the other hand, is based on what amounts to a conceit that some policy matters are beyond politics or meaningful controversy. This is the apotheosis of the Progressive Era ideal, or rather myth, of enlightened administration by neutral experts. It is also a tactic to deny that what are deeply political administrative decisions are in fact political. The single-administrator model makes it much easier for an ideologue like Ms. Jackson to use the regulatory process as a steamroller to achieve policy goals.

    A bipartisan commission would change this dynamic. The president would, as is customary, still appoint a majority of the commissioners, including the chairman. But the minority would have their dissent on policy matters on the record.
...
    If you think reforming the EPA into a five-member commission is a modest reform of little consequence, here’s a suggestion. Have House Republicans introduce a bill to do this, and watch how ferociously the environmental establishment fights it.
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« Reply #42 on: January 09, 2013, 10:40:57 AM »

That is a very interesting idea.
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« Reply #43 on: January 09, 2013, 11:38:07 AM »

I wonder how it would affect this?

====================

"Georgia Power ... announced this week that it is asking state regulators for permission to shut down 15 electrical generating units -- the closure of four power plants in all. The utility company says new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency -- known as the Utility MACT rule -- will simply make the plants too expensive to run. The regulations in question are intended to reduce the amount of mercury released into the air. But in fact, they have every appearance of being a back-door attempt to regulate carbon emissions -- precisely the kind of scheme that then-Sen. Barack Obama had in mind when he acknowledged in 2008 that 'electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket' under his energy plan. The 15 units that Georgia Power wants to shutter -- all but two of which are fired by coal or oil -- have a combined capacity of 2,061 megawatts, or enough to provide power for roughly 1.5 million homes. The company plans to close 11 of them on April 16, 2015, the exact day the EPA's new mercury regulations are scheduled to take effect. ... The EPA has claimed that its new mercury regulation will produce $140 billion in annual economic benefits. Apparently, those benefits will not be going to the 480 power plant workers in Georgia who now stand to lose their jobs. Then there are the millions of Georgia energy consumers who will soon see higher rates and higher bills. More broadly, the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that this single rule will kill 1.65 million jobs nationwide through 2020.... Even taken at face value, the EPA's claims of economic benefits are highly doubtful. In fact, the reductions to mercury are expected to produce only a tiny sliver of that $140 billion benefit -- just $6 million of it, in fact. But it will cost so much money to comply with these rules and produce this minuscule benefit that many plants will simply be closed instead. ... Obama also said in 2008 that 'if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it'll bankrupt them.' He seems to be making this come true, even without the carbon cap-and-trade system he once envisioned." --The Washington Examiner
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« Reply #44 on: January 15, 2013, 05:11:19 PM »

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324081704578237722576889786.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Roger Kimball: This Metamorphosis Will Require a Permit
Sandy wrecked our house, but bureaucrats are keeping it broken.
Article

By ROGER KIMBALL

"What sort of people were these? What were they talking about? What office did they belong to? K. was living in a free country, after all, everywhere was at peace, all laws were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost him in his own home?"

—Franz Kafka, "The Trial"

Like many people whose houses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, my family and I have been living in a rented house since the storm. Unlike some whose houses were totalled, we could have repaired things and been home toasting our tootsies by our own fireplace by now. What happened?

Two things: zoning (as in "Twilight Zone") and FEMA.

Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We'd met with insurance adjusters, contractors and "remediation experts." We'd had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything—wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases—touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.

Yet it wasn't until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase "building permit" first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. "What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?"

Of course.

Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house "up to code," which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.

s
Austrian writer Franz Kafka in 1910.

Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can't raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?

There were other surprises. A woman in our neighborhood has two adjoining properties, with a house and a cottage. She rents the house and lives in the cottage. For 29 years she has paid taxes on both. The cottage was severely damaged but she can't tear it down and rebuild because Zoning says the plots are not zoned for two structures, never mind that for 29 years two property-tax payments were gladly accepted.

Kafka would have liked FEMA, too. We've met plenty of its agents. Every one we've encountered has been polite and oozing with sympathy. Even the lady who reduced my wife to tears was nice. The issue was my wife's proof of income. We sent our tax return to FEMA, but that wasn't good enough. They wanted pay stubs. My wife works as a freelance writer and editor. She doesn't get a pay stub. Which apparently makes her a nonperson to this government agency.

In "The Road to Serfdom," Friedrich Hayek noted that "the power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionnaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work."

And how. But what makes the phenomenon so insidious is that many of the functionaries are as friendly as can be. It's just that they're cogs in a machine whose overriding purpose is not service but self-perpetuation and control.

It is, as Alexis de Tocqueville saw, a recipe for a form of despotism peculiar to modern democracies. It does this, wrote Tocqueville, by enforcing "a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules" that reduces citizens "to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd." The sobering thought is that we're all complicit in that infantilization. After all, we keep voting for the politicians who put this leviathan in place.

Just before Christmas, our 5-year-old daughter had an encounter with Santa. What did she want for Christmas? "My house back."

It's not only us, of course. Thousands upon thousands have been displaced, but the bullying pedantry of the zoning establishment never wavers. While our house stands empty, the city authorities even showed a sense of humor by sending us a bill for property taxes. For a house they won't let us repair.

We've spent a few thousand dollars on a lawyer to appeal to Zoning, many thousands in rent, and hundreds getting a fresh appraisal of our house. The latest from our lawyer: Because of our new appraisal, we may be able to "apply for a zoning permit." "Apply," mind you.

I used to think that our house was, you know, our house. The bureaucrats have taught me otherwise. But then I also used to think that Franz Kafka wrote a species of dark fantasy. I know now that he was turning out nonfiction.

Mr. Kimball is the author, most recently, of "The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia" (St. Augustine's, 2012).
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #45 on: February 02, 2013, 11:42:27 AM »


http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/great-moments-in-state-govt-bureaucrats-threaten-family-for-rescuing-bambi/

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #46 on: February 10, 2013, 09:40:36 AM »

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/09/handicapped-woman-refuses-smart-meter-has-power-cut-in-the-dead-of-winter/

Good work by Gov. Kasich here.

Also, I gather there are some snooping issues with the smart meters.  Can anyone here bring us up to speed?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #47 on: March 13, 2013, 01:50:26 AM »

Economic Fascism in action.  For intellectual clarity, do note that this changes the inferences to be drawn from the gasoline price rise with regard to inflation.

The Ethanol Gas-Pump Surcharge

A 2007 mandate is needlessly raising U.S. Gasoline prices.

With gas prices above $4 a gallon in many parts of the U.S., consumers have a right to know why. Crude oil prices have fallen by 1% since the end of February even as gas prices are up 12%, according to an analysis by Reuters. So higher oil prices aren't the answer. Blame this one, at least in part, on Washington and ethanol.
This story dates to 2007 when the Bush Administration joined Democratic greens and corn-state Republicans to pass an energy bill mandating renewable fuel standards. The law required a 10% ethanol blend in all gasoline and established annual mandates for how much ethanol the oil and gas industry must purchase each year through 2022.

This year refiners and importers are required to blend 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation's gasoline, rising to 14.4 billion next year. The EPA allocates a share of this mandate to oil and gas companies, and to monitor compliance each gallon of ethanol is assigned a 38 digit Renewable Identification Number, or RIN.

The problem is that Washington's seers were wildly wrong about how much gas Americans would keep putting in their tanks. In 2007 annual gasoline consumption was about 140 billion gallons per year, with forecasts of rising demand. But the 2008-09 recession and better fuel economy have lowered consumption to an estimated 135 billion gallons.

Refiners are now crashing into what is called a "blend wall," meaning the feds have forced them to purchase more ethanol than they can safely put in their gasoline. Refiners are reluctant to blend more than 10% ethanol into gasoline because consumers don't want it, and because a higher blend can damage the engines of older cars, boats and electrical equipment.

Refiners must therefore purchase RIN credits from companies that have used more ethanol than required. But the credits are running out, and so the price of RINs has soared to nearly $1 a gallon, up from about seven cents at the start of the year. According to Darrel Good, a University of Illinois agriculture economist, the RIN price "could continue to rise as we approach the higher ethanol mandate for 2014" as credits run out. These costs are mostly passed on to motorists.

Refiners are also getting around the renewable fuels mandate by shipping refined gasoline abroad, because exported gasoline is exempt from the ethanol requirement. So even as domestic gasoline prices have soared, refiners are increasing their exports, and that too has contributed to higher prices.

The fix here is obvious. The EPA has the authority to revise the ethanol requirements, and if it did so tomorrow the price of gas would quickly fall by about five to 10 cents a gallon. If EPA won't act, Congress can and should suspend the ethanol blending mandate to give motorists a break.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page 16
A version of this article appeared March 12, 2013, on page A16 in the U.S. Edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Ethanol Gas-Pump Surcharge.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #48 on: April 14, 2013, 11:21:11 AM »

Go Simple
By CASS R. SUNSTEIN
Published: April 13, 2013 85 Comments
 
HOW many millions of hours do you think Americans spend on government paperwork every year?

The answer is staggering. It is measured not in the millions of hours, but in the billions — 9.14 of them, to be exact. Suppose that we value one hour at $20 (a conservative estimate). If so, the government imposes an annual reporting cost of more than $180 billion on the American people.  That figure is more than 20 times last year’s budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, more than seven times that of the Department of Agriculture, and more than six times that of the Department of State.

Large as they are, the numbers do not capture the frustration experienced by countless individuals and small businesses, which are required to grapple with long, complex and sometimes barely comprehensible forms.   Dozens of government agencies impose significant paperwork burdens, but one stands above all others: the Department of the Treasury. That department accounts for 6.7 billon annual hours, which is nearly 75 percent of the total. No other agency accounts for more than 6 percent. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency impose big reporting burdens, but in each of these cases, we are speaking of millions of hours, not billions.

The Treasury Department is the national paperwork champion for one reason: It houses the Internal Revenue Service. As Congress starts to explore tax reform, it should begin with a project that ought to attract bipartisan support: a focused effort to slash the immense paperwork burden imposed by government in general and the tax system in particular.

There is reason to be hopeful. From 2009 to 2012, I led the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the Paperwork Reduction Act. (Yes, there is such a thing.)   As part of President Obama’s continuing effort to streamline regulatory requirements, we took a series of quiet but aggressive steps to cut pointless red tape. In the last decade, the estimated paperwork burden peaked between 2007 and 2009, and while it remains far too high, we were able to chip away at it.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not exactly famous for eliminating regulatory costs, but in 2011 it removed 1.9 million annual hours of unnecessary burdens imposed on employers. In 2012, the Department of Transportation saved truck drivers 1.6 million annual hours by eliminating a requirement to file redundant inspection reports. The Department of Education has undertaken a series of efforts to simplify the process for filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, removing 5.4 million annual hours of burdens imposed on students and their families.

More ambitiously still, government agencies recently identified more than 100 new paperwork-reduction initiatives, which are anticipated to eliminate some 100 million hours in annual burdens.

IN the area of taxation, Congress has imposed a lot of reporting requirements, sharply reducing the ability of the I.R.S. to streamline the system. And yet the I.R.S. has taken important steps to simplify the annual tax process. Its form 1040EZ allows people earning less than $100,000 to file their taxes with a straightforward one-page form.

The I.R.S. has also announced a far simpler way to assess the popular home-office deduction. More than three million taxpayers claim this deduction, which has long been time-consuming to calculate. The new approach is eliminating 1.6 million hours in annual burdens.  Moreover, the I.R.S.’s ambitious initiative to simplify reporting for capital gains and losses, recently announced though not yet implemented, will allow taxpayers to report summary information without providing unnecessary line-by-line details for each transaction — saving 19 million hours in annual reporting burdens.

Still, the I.R.S. could do far more. It could encourage many more taxpayers to take advantage of its current efforts to allow them to substitute electronic filings for paper ones. It could increase the use of shorter, streamlined forms (some of these are already available), and it could coordinate and consolidate redundant or overlapping requirements.

Some economists, including Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, have proposed a more ambitious plan: Tax authorities should allow automatic tax returns. They would use the information they already have to send eligible taxpayers fully filled out returns, asking for only a signature and the correction of any errors. California is already using such an approach with a program called Ready Return.

For all the talk about tax simplification, Congress has paid disappointingly little attention to paperwork burdens. But Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that nine billion hours are far too many. Let’s do something about it.


Cass R. Sunstein is a former head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the author, most recently, of “Simpler: The Future of Government.”
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objectivist1
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« Reply #49 on: April 14, 2013, 11:25:26 AM »

Yeah - pretty shocking he would write such a thing.  But then again - notice he isn't even discussing scrapping the present tax code and replacing it, which is what has to be done.  There is no "fixing" the present system.
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