Thursday, September 29, 2011
Two cheers for Obama’s review of regulations

By Gretchen Hamel

Talk to any backyard gardener and they’ll tell you about the importance of weed control for a healthy garden. Weeds, allowed to grow unchecked, will soak up nutrients from the soil and block much needed sunlight from reaching your plants—choking off the bountiful growth of produce and flowers you hope to achieve.

 The U.S. economy is a lot like a garden. Unfortunately, the explosive growth of harmful federal regulations and red tape over the last few decades has had the same effect on our economy that weeds have on your garden—they’re choking off the growth we need to increase productivity and create jobs for working Americans.

 That’s why I was encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement last month that, following an eight-month review, hundreds of existing federal regulations that weigh as a burden on business and drag down economic growth would be eliminated or revised. The estimated savings for business is around $10 billion, according to the administration.

 In the August 23 Wall Street Journal, the president’s “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein pointed to more than 500 reforms in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, among others. These reforms would have the salutary effect of reducing paperwork, simplifying reporting processes and eliminating redundancy.

 Importantly, Sunstein also emphasized that we could expect more changes to come, stating that “the regulatory look-back is not a one-time endeavor.” He writes that the government “will continue to revisit existing rules, asking whether they should be updated, streamlined or repealed.” That’s welcome news, and long overdue.

 Regulations may seem like an abstraction, but they have real consequences: higher compliance costs for business result in higher prices for consumers in virtually every area. Americans instinctively understand this: In our recent poll, 74 percent of Americans—almost three-quarters—said they believe that U.S. business and consumers are too heavily regulated, and that more regulations drive up costs.

 It’s important to note that we didn’t get here overnight. Today’s jungle of red tape and regulations has flourished under successive presidencies and Congresses, under both Democratic and Republican leadership. President Obama should be commended for opening up an approach to clearing a path through that jungle.

 Many business leaders and Republican elected officials dismissed the announcement, arguing that the $10 billion in savings is just a drop in the bucket (which is true) and that the scope of the review is too limited, leaving countless equally harmful regulations untouched while new regulations continue to be enacted (also true.)

 But the fact is, every journey starts with a single step, so if you support American business and free enterprise, you should cheer this development as a step in the right direction. A reassuring follow-up to Sunstein’s announcement was the administration’s decision to halt planned regulations aimed at tightening ozone standards, which business and labor leaders warned would result in up to 250,000 lost jobs.

 I’ve been critical of the president and both parties in Congress for their lack of leadership on the national debt (now at $14.7 trillion) and their addiction to deficit spending (estimated this year at $1.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office). That’s because I know that debt and runaway spending are hampering economic growth and destroying our nation’s fiscal future.

 So when the president takes steps to open up greater possibilities for job creation and economic growth, we should applaud that development—and make it clear that we expect him to deliver more of the same.

 Key to that effort will be holding the Obama administration accountable for building upon this initial progress. Too often in Washington, efforts at reform are announced with a flourish and then quietly fade away. Let’s not let that happen: we should hold the president to account and encourage him to follow through on this worthy beginning by delivering further reforms to ease the regulatory burden on job creators.

 Here’s hoping this $10 billion in savings through regulatory reform will get the ball rolling so that in another eight months we might see additional reforms leading to, say, $100 billion or even more.

 Is that too much to hope for? Perhaps. Ensuring that the administration follows through on this early promise will be the key thing. But for now, let’s give credit where credit is due, and encourage President Obama and his team to keep going. More regulatory reform will serve to cut business costs, spur entrepreneurship and create American jobs—the “healthy garden” that we want our economy to be.

 So keep pulling those weeds, Mr. President. You’re on the right track. 

Gretchen Hamel is Executive Director of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well being.

Posted at 13:41 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011
GOP Debate Watch: Hold candidates to account on spending question
By Gretchen Hamel

If you’re still not over the 2010 election, it may be hard to believe the next presidential race is already in gear. In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen President Obama embark on a bus tour to promote his economic policies, and Republicans sparring it out in the Iowa Straw Poll. The next benchmark is September 7, when the GOP hopefuls debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California.
When these candidates take the stage, two questions should dominate: First, how do you plan to get the economy moving again? And second, what are you going to do to get federal spending under control?
These are related questions, because the nation’s debt and deficit spending are feeding into a climate of serious uncertainty about the economy. And the sad fact is that our political class has let us down when it comes to managing both the economy and the federal budget. Our gargantuan national debt ($14.7 trillion and counting) and runaway deficit spending (estimated at $1.3 trillion for this year alone by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) stand as monuments to the fecklessness of our nation’s leadership.
The good news is that things may be changing, as both Democrats and Republicans have begun talking up the merits of getting the budget under control, in the aftermath of the impasse over raising the debt ceiling that almost led our nation into default.
Though it’s early in the campaign, a consistent theme has emerged as all the candidates emphasize the need for fiscal responsibility and reining in the growth of the federal government. Based on the tone the candidates are striking when speaking of the national debt and the deficit, you might be encouraged. “At last!” you might think. “The Republicans get it!”
But not so fast—let’s not let them off the hook quite so easily. While Republican candidates might sound the right notes in their talk about cutting spending, we need to consider the facts of how elected Republicans have managed the federal budget in recent years.
And the facts aren’t pretty:
  • While Republicans have been aggressive in challenging President Obama and Congressional Democrats on earmarks and discretionary spending, they’ve been slow to tackle cuts to defense spending and Social Security, which are drivers behind federal spending, and all of which are in desperate need of reform.
Simply put, both parties have a lot to answer for when it comes to our nation’s current budget troubles. And GOP primary voters, 80 percent of whom say they “worry ‘a great deal’ about federal spending” according to a recent Gallup poll, should keep that in mind as presidential candidates talk up their commitment to fiscal responsibility. Taxpayers need to make sure they hold to that commitment if they should get elected.

It’s a sad truth that many Republican officeholders are as addicted to spending taxpayer dollars as their Democratic counterparts. These spendthrifts are simply mouthing their devotion to fiscal responsibility.

When the Republican presidential hopefuls debate on September 7, pay close attention to their answers about how they intend to tackle federal spending, reduce the national debt and get the economy moving again. We intend to hold all officeholders—Democrats and Republicans— accountable when it comes to getting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Candidates from every party, whatever office they’re running for, should get that message.

Gretchen Hamel is Executive Director of Public Notice, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit dedicated to providing facts and insight on the economy and how government policy affects Americans’ financial well being.
Posted at 11:41 AM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Sacramento Liberals Releasing cold blooded killers back in your neighborhood


By Assemblyman Dan Logue

Liberal Democrats are just one vote away in the State Assembly from passing one of the most misguided public safety measures in California’s history – Senate Bill 9 authored by San Francisco Democrat Leland Yee.

This bill would allow murderers who were juveniles at the time they committed their crime and who were sentenced to life without parole to ask the court for re-sentencing up to three times. Given the language of the bill and the long history of Democrats supporting efforts to weaken California’s tough-on-crime laws, SB 9 is just the latest attempt by them to prioritize criminal rights.
That is why I joined a number of public safety officials and organizations such as the California Police Chiefs Association and Crime Victims United to oppose this bill because it could give a slap on the wrist to dangerous criminals like Jimmy Siackasorn.
Siackasorn, who was 16 at the time, shot Sacramento County detective Vu Nguyen three times and killed him while being chased on foot. He later told officers that he knew the detective was a police officer, and shot him because “he deserved it.” Under SB 9, cold-blooded murderers like Siackasorn could petition the court for re-sentencing under the right conditions and not prove he has shown genuine remorse. By just reading a self-help book and saying “I’m sorry,” he could have the opportunity to receive a lighter sentence.
The supporters of SB 9 would have you believe that it is about providing misguided people a chance at redeeming themselves. While I believe in the power of redemption, it has to be accompanied by repentance, which cannot be guaranteed by SB 9.
That is because if you look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that the bill establishes weak criteria where many inmates would be entitled to a court hearing to reconsider their original sentence. This criterion includes availing themselves of education programs in prison such as self-study – which is a ridiculously low standard to meet. A prisoner meeting these guidelines does not have to prove that he has truly recognized the error of his ways.
Even worse, SB 9 could reopen the painful wounds of many crime victim families on up to three separate occasions. If an inmate’s request for re-sentencing is denied the first time, he can try two more times, an agonizing ordeal for any family to go through. Instead of showing compassion to criminals, I suggest showing some compassion to their victims and families, who deserve justice and who expect the state to uphold the people’s will.
SB 9 is not about ensuring fairness, but rather undermining the strong public safety laws that have kept the worst of the worst behind bars. Keep in mind we are not talking about kids who broke into someone’s car qualifying for a reduced sentence, but potentially giving dangerous criminals a break who brutally murdered their victims. That makes no sense.
Finally, the state already has a system in place to ensure that those who showed genuine rehabilitation in prison can have a shot at a lighter sentence. Prisoners and their families can petition the Governor for a commutation, and previous Governors have granted commutations when the circumstances warranted it.
Although SB 9 fell one vote short of passage in the Assembly, it could come back for a vote in the near future if liberal Democrats can find one other moderate Democrat to vote for it. I will continue to work with the public safety community and crime victim families to ensure that SB 9 does not get that one additional vote.  Keeping our communities safe must always remain our top priority.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, represents the 3rd Assembly District in the California Legislature.
Posted at 09:53 AM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

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