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Statement from Senators McConnell and Paul and Congressman Whitfield on Future of Paducah DOE site

July 10, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressman Ed Whitfield made the following comments following a meeting with Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler, McCracken County Judge Executive Van Newberry, and other local leaders regarding the future of the Paducah DOE site:
‘We want to thank Mayor Kaler, Judge Newberry and other leaders from Paducah for traveling to Washington, D.C., to highlight the importance of cleanup and reindustrialization of the DOE site to the community. It was a productive meeting, and the community and delegation are committed to working together to pressure DOE to fulfill its commitment to clean up the site and honor its timetable to finalize their contract for reindustrialization before the end of the year to provide certainty to the community.’

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Debunking Governments’ “Lying Statistics” About Inflation

July 10, 2013 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

Steve Hanke is a maverick free-market economist who for decades has tirelessly advised de-socializing and developing countries against following the disastrous monetary and fiscal policies foisted on them in exchange for bailouts by international bureaucracies like the IMF and World Bank. Hanke’s latest efforts have been directed toward debunking inflation statistics fabricated by governments of developing countries that are trying to cover up the consequences of their highly inflationary or even hyper-inflationary monetary policies. Such official statistics, of course, are accepted and parroted by the media and the aforementioned international bureaucracies. Hanke gives the following example:

In many cases, governments fabricate inflation statistics to hide their economic problems. In the extreme, countries simply stop reporting inflation data. This was the case in Zimbabwe, a country that recorded the world’s second-highest hyperinflation. Results of research determined that Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation peaked in mid-November 2008, at a monthly rate of 7.96 × 1010% — roughly 8 followed by 10 zeros.

But, the Mugabe government stopped reporting inflation data in July 2008, when the peak monthly inflation rate was “only” 2,600%. Unfortunately, these official July 2008 data are still used in press reports and by venerable institutions like the International Monetary Fund. There is, of course, a “little” problem. The hyperinflation actually peaked at monthly rate 30 million times higher than the official peak inflation rate. The true peak of Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation occurred 3.5 months after the government’s last release of official inflation data.

Many countries have followed this course — failing to report any usable monetary data and neglecting to report inflation data in a timely and replicable manner. Those data that are reported are often deceptive, if not completely fabricated. Yes, official economic data from countries with troubled currencies often amount to nothing more than “lying statistics” and should be treated as such.

To address this problem Hanke has started The Troubled Currencies Project under the joint auspices of the Cato Institute and Johns Hopkins University. The project collects data on black market exchange rates and then applies the purchasing power parity theory, which links exchange rates with price levels, to more accurately estimate rates of inflation for troubled currencies. The project currently includes Argentina, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela and will update the data and estimates on a regular basis. In the current chart that appears on its site, Syria reports an official annual inflation rate of 36.43% while …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Congress Rises to Protect Separation of Powers

July 10, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

At long last, enough members of Congress have rediscovered their primary reason for being there at this defining time in U.S. history — to rescue the disappearing Constitution.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who is a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, is joining with Colorado Democrat Sen. Mark Udall to “introduce legislation that would limit the federal government’s ability to collect data on Americans without a demonstrated link to terrorism or espionage” (“Udall, Wyden Propose Limiting the Federal Government’s Ability to Collect Vast Amounts of Data on Americans,” wyden.senate.gov, June 14).

No doubt stirred by the recent revelations of Edward Snowden, Wyden and Udall are moving to fully awaken Americans and others of the U.S. government’s limitless spying on us.

Furthermore, Wyden is insisting on public hearings because, as he said last month, “the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives” (“Sen. Wyden: Clapper didn’t give ‘straight answer’ on NSA programs,” Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, June 11).

But why stop there? Barack Obama should be in the witness chair as well.

And there is also a strong bipartisan drive to reopen the Patriot Act, which was passed in a panic by Congress soon after 9/11. The law became a primary source of the subsequent dismembering of the Constitution through its approval of secret surveillance.

Udall gets to the American Revolutionary core of his and Wyden’s legislative mission: “The NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone call records is the type of overreach I have warned about for years …

“We need to protect our national security, but we cannot lose sight of our constitutional liberties and the privacy rights of Americans” (“Support Builds for Udall, Wyden Proposal to Limit the Federal Government’s Ability to Collect Vast Amounts of Data on Americans,” wyden.senate.gov, June 18).

Also aiming at the Patriot Act is a multi-dimensional lawsuit by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union attacking the shadowy Obama administration’s omnivorous surveillance program as violating “the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment” (“ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of NSA Phone Spying Program,” aclu.org, June 11).

Exposing the dictatorial side of Obama is Alex Abdo, a staff attorney in the ACLU’s National Security Project: “The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Dodd-Frank’s Third Anniversary: Has It All Been Worth It?

July 10, 2013 in Economics

Signed into law on July 21, 2010, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) has turned out to be more costly, lengthy, and complex than most proponents anticipated. To mark the Act’s third anniversary, the Cato Institute is presenting a special half-day conference on July 22, with national experts examining whether Dodd-Frank really addressed the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis, the implementation progress to date, and the way forward.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Drafting a Free-Trade Constitution

July 10, 2013 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

This week, trade negotiators from the United States and EU are meeting in Washington to begin discussions on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Even before negotiations have begun, issues such as protection for French films from well-financed Hollywood competition have generated significant controversy. There is little doubt that liberalizing trade between these economic powers, with all of their various interest groups, presents some challenges.

Beyond the traditional free trade versus protectionism debate, however, there is a larger issue. These talks are not just about free trade as it is traditionally understood. They are also about international rules that guide domestic policy making in a wide range of areas. In effect, the two sides are negotiating a “free-trade constitution,” and that raises important issues that have not yet been fully addressed.

To get a free-trade constitution that works, everyone should take advantage of this opportunity to participate and to engage fully in the debate.”

In fact, the U.S. government is in the process of drafting not one, but two, free-trade constitutions. Along with the TTIP, it is also working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being negotiated with a number of nations in the Pacific region. (And for good measure, there is already a global trade constitution in form of the World Trade Organization.) These competing existing and potential constitutions provide an opportunity to debate the issue of what should be in trade agreements and shape the future of global trade governance. Over the next several years, this aspect of trade talks should be just as prominent as the traditional issue of protection for domestic industries.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the actual debate has mostly emphasized the “yes or no” question of whether or not to support free-trade agreements in the abstract. The question is presented simply as whether one is for or against whatever trade rules are being proposed, with the details often obscured. This ignores important differences in the concept of what constitutes free trade.

Let’s take some examples. Lower tariffs, removal of import quotas and a general principle of nondiscrimination in relation to foreign goods and services should be included in any trade rules. Without this, there would not be any free trade and thus no real free-trade agreement.

More controversially, however, there are various other issues that have been included in trade talks and agreements over the years. One example is intellectual …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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U.S. Aid Does a Disservice to the Egyptian People

July 10, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is entirely justified in his call for a suspension of military aid to Egypt. The only problem is that the call comes a wee bit late. Since 1948, the aid provided by the United States to Egypt — which was overwhelmingly military in nature — totaled some $70 billion. Only a few weeks prior to the coup, in a remarkable display of lack of prescience, the Obama administration approved $1.3 billion in military aid, waiving the democracy- and human rights-related conditions earlier imposed on the aid package by Congress.

A continuation of military aid to Egypt is nothing short of foolishness.”

The effects of propping up Egypt’s military are immediately visible. The military is the largest on the African continent and controls a large fraction of the economy, between 15 and 40 percent of GDP, according to some estimates. The military runs hotels and resorts, as well as manufacturing businesses producing anything from kitchen appliances to olive oil and bottled water.

Current events in the country make it very difficult to argue that military aid to Egypt has advanced American interests in any measurable way. If anything, aid has contributed to the creation of a bloated, opaque and extremely powerful organization, which now seems to be the single biggest obstacle in Egypt’s transition to a representative government that could be a reliable partner for the United States.

As the future of Egypt hinges on the wisdom and benevolence of the country’s generals, one needs to stress that U.S. military aid has also done a great disservice to the Egyptian people. Even if one chooses to ignore the excesses of the past week — such as the carnage which occurred on Monday and in which 51 supporters of Muslim Brotherhood died — the coup has set a terrible precedent for the country’s transition, as it suggests that a future elected government might be ultimately accountable to Egyptian generals and not the electorate. While much of the damage that has occurred in the past days is irreparable, it should be exceedingly clear that a continuation of military aid to Egypt is nothing short of foolishness.

Dalibor Rohac is a policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute in Washington.

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Source: OP-EDS

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Excuses, Excuses

July 10, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

The Obama administration and its various apologists in the media have long since elevated excuse making to something of an art form. This is, after all, an administration that once blamed high unemployment rates on ATM machines. Even by those standards, however, the excuses surrounding the administration’s decision to delay implementation of Obamacare’s employer mandate rise to imaginative new heights.

Among them:

It really wasn’t important anyway. Obamacare supporters were quick to suggest that the employer mandate was such a minor part of the law that delaying it was all but meaningless. White House spokesman Jay Carney explained it this way: “Numerous experts agree on this matter that the decision to postpone this provision of the Affordable Care Act will have no significant impact on implementation overall of the Affordable Care Act.”

Those experts included Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who insisted that “the employer mandate that the Obama administration is delaying is not a central part of the law.” Likewise, Noam Levey wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “the so-called employer mandate is not as central to the law as other provisions.” And the Washington Post editorialized that delaying the mandate “is no policy disaster, and it certainly doesn’t indict the whole law.”

If the provision is so unimportant, one might wonder why it was included in the law in the first place, given its potential for reducing employment. Then again, the Congressional Budget Office expects this provision to generate $140 billion in fines by 2023, so perhaps it’s not as negligible as is being portrayed.

Those claiming that the employer mandate’s impact is minor point out that 94 percent of American companies currently have fewer than 50 employees and therefore would not have fallen under the mandate anyway. And the remaining 6 percent of businesses, which employ the vast majority of American workers, generally provide health insurance already.

However, it is more than misleading to pretend that the mandate only impacts businesses with 50 employees or more. Most small companies aspire to become bigger ones. A company with 45 workers may not be affected by the mandate today, but they may hope to have 50 employees in the future. The employer mandate will significantly increase the cost of achieving that goal. And for companies with slightly more than 50 employees, many will consider the potential advantages of reducing the number of full-time employees below 50 in order to avoid the mandate. Therefore the mandate is likely …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Any Idiot Who Thinks Jack Hunter a Racist, Is a Racist

July 10, 2013 in Blogs

By Political Zach Foster