Category: Political Spending

Donald-Trump-Americas-Debt-900If President-elect Donald Trump wants to make America great again, he needs to find a way to reduce the federal debt.  Samuel Gregg, in a new article at the Stream,  explains why this is so important. There’s much at stake if no action is taken to reduce the federal debt:

On December 30, 2016, the United States’ official public debt was $19.97 trillion. It’s almost doubled since 2008. It also exceeds the size of America’s economy in nominal GDP in 2016 ($18.56 trillion).

Put another way, America’s public debt is approximately 107% of nominal GDP. To make matters worse, these numbers don’t include state and local government debt or the unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs like Social Security.

The reasons for this rise in public debt aren’t hard to grasp. At its most basic level, it reflects a failure of Congress and the Executive Branch to match spending and revenue since 2000. The gap has narrowed over the past 5 years. Nonetheless, spending continues to exceed revenue. In terms of what’s driving federal expenditures, it is social programs such as healthcare, income security, education, and housing. Spending on activities such as national defense has remained static.

So why should we care? What’s another trillion here or there?

Americans should worry because there’s plenty of evidence that this level of public debt can have grave effects on economic growth.

Once a country’s debt/GDP ratio reaches a particular threshold, one consequence appears to be slower economic growth. Economists argue about the exact threshold at which debt starts to impact growth. Some cite the figure of 85% of GDP. Others say 90%. Economists also debate how fast high debt negatively impacts growth. Yet there’s considerable consensus that, at some point, high debt-to-GDP ratios do have this impact.

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shutterstock/cnnmoney

shutterstock/cnnmoney

Vox recently published an article claiming that Charles Koch is right and Bernie Sanders is wrong about how the economy is rigged. Both agree that there are laws that unfairly favor some financially over others. Sanders often claimed during his campaign that the rich have used their money to lobby for laws that favor their interests over those of everyone else.  Meanwhile, Charles Koch has condemned excessive regulation and restrictions on economic freedom that allow the few to bend laws in their financial favor against the many. In looking at the real problem in the economy, Charles Koch’s analysis of the problem comes closer to the truth.

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CEI
By now, readers should be aware of the campaign waged against the Competitive Enterprise Institute led by Al Gore and a cadre of attorneys generals with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the top of the rogues’ gallery. The subpoena goes so far as to demand CEI produce “all documents or communications concerning research, advocacy, strategy, reports, studies, reviews or public opinions regarding Climate Change sent or received from” such specifically named think tanks as the Acton Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as industry organizations the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s the latest volley from the left – including religious shareholder activists’ often successful efforts to force corporations withdraw financial support and cede membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council – to stifle any whiff of opposition when it comes to the hypothetical, manmade catastrophic climate-change theory. ALEC, in fact, joins Acton and many other groups named in the subpoena, and leaders from these organizations have joined CEI in a strongly worded full-page advertisement that appeared in the New York Times last week:

This abuse of power is unacceptable. It is unlawful. And it is un-American.

Regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions. This intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position – whether it’s vaccines, GMOs, or any other politically charged issue. Law enforcement officials should never use their powers to silence participants in political debates.

For those who haven’t been shocked out of complacency by this latest, blatant abuse of politically empowered legal authority marshaled in an effort to shut down free speech and exchange of scientific public policy, allow your writer to recap briefly. U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker – one member of Gore and Schneiderman’s lawyerly goon squad, which also includes AGs from California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State – issued a subpoena to CEI in late March. (more…)

BCAM-logo2Boston Common Asset Management bills itself as “a leader in global sustainability initiatives.” Why would an investment portfolio management company label itself with the appellation “Common” when it carries such negative baggage? As it turns out, BCAM embraces “common” as something positive.

From the BCAM website:

Beginning in 1634, the Boston Common served as a common pasture for cattle grazing. As a public good, the Common was a space owned by no one but essential to all. We chose the name Boston Common because, like the Common of old, our work stands at the intersection of the economic and social lives of the community.

Never mind all that John Locke hootie-hoot about private property being the cornerstone of a free society. Please ignore all the papal encyclicals from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum onward that champion private property. Oh, yes, and completely disregard the U.S. Constitution, which codifies private-property rights, and pay no attention to the “tragedy of the commons” which inexplicably is ignored here.

One has to give BCAM credit, however, for consistency. They really, really despise privacy whether it’s property, political donations or corporate lobbying (although it’s also assumed they have no issue with the “penumbra of privacy” suddenly discovered in the U.S. Constitution by members of the Supreme Court after somehow every other legal mind overlooked it for nearly two centuries). Privacy for everything else apparently is subject to eradication in BCAM’s book. (more…)

Allergan_LogoOn its website, Trinity Health trumpets its shareholder activism. Based in Livonia, Mich., the Catholic health care provider boasts operations in 21 states, which includes 90 hospitals and 120 long-term care facilities. For this last, Trinity should be lauded.

For the first, however, your writer is left shaking his head.

Among Trinity’s list of five shareholder advocacy priorities, two stand out:

• uphold the dignity of the human person.
• enable access to health care.

In other words, issues any reasonable Catholic could get behind. However, Trinity is the lead filer on a proxy resolution that will be voted on next month at the Allergan, Inc., annual shareholders meeting. The cause? Read for yourself:

*RESOLVED*, the stockholders of Allergan request the preparation of a report, updated annually, disclosing:

1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.

2. Payments by Allergan used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.

3. Allergan’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

Your writer fails to understand how any of the above reconciles with Trinity’s five priorities listed above, and Trinity’s rationale doesn’t get any less murky: (more…)

Religious shareholder activist group As You Sow released its 2016 Proxy Preview last week, and it’s a doozy. Tellingly, AYS has dropped religious faith as a rationale for its climate-change and anti-lobbying efforts. From the accompanying press release:

More 2016 shareholder proposals than ever before address climate change — 94 compared with 82 in 2015. Of the resolutions, 22 ask energy extractors and suppliers to detail how the warming planet will affect their operations and how they will respond if governments follow through with commitments made in the Paris climate treaty in December to keep fossil fuel assets in the ground to prevent damaging temperature increases. A further 18 resolutions focus on the risks from using hydraulic fracturing to extract energy from shale deposits, including 12 seeking methane reduction targets. Nineteen resolutions ask companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The climate slate is rounded out by another 11 proposals that include a push to change energy reserves accounting at two companies and one suggesting executive bonuses should be linked to fossil fuel reserves accounting changes.

Political activity accounts for another 99 resolutions, including some drawing connections between government inaction on climate change and corporations’ lobbying and election spending. Proposals on lobbying (55) exceed those about election spending (40). Nine companies face resolutions seeking oversight and disclosure of both election and lobbying expenditures.

Hoo boy. Where to begin unpacking all the mischief hinted at above? Suffice it to write that the proxy resolutions in the 2016 Proxy Preview demand individual scrutiny in order to identify the wrongheadedness of it all. This despite the self-congratulatory back-patting and progressive smugness displayed above and below: (more…)

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

Jeb Bush spent $100 million, and still missed it by this much!

What can $100 million buy a fella these days? Trick question, of course, because $100 million can buy a whole heck of a lot. However, it can’t buy a Republican presidential nomination. Despite recent developments, the religious shareholder investors over at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility continue their crusade to force the companies in which they invest to disclose publicly their donations to political causes and candidates.

ICCR’s fears are unfounded. If you don’t believe your writer, just ask Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor amassed an extraordinary campaign war chest reported at $100 million – but to no avail. His campaign never gained any traction this primary season despite receiving and spending millions of dollars, including $70 million on broadcast advertising spent by his Right to Rise super PAC, according to the New York Times. The Washington Post claims Right to Rise spent $87 million on advertising.

After two dismal primary and one caucus finishes, Mr. Bush pulled the plug on his campaign.

The Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating summed it up neatly after Saturday’s primary results:

“Money can’t buy love, or votes…. Has there ever been a better example than Jeb Bush of the fact that voters decide the outcome of elections, not money? From Blair Hull and John Corzine to Linda McMahon and Meg Whitman, Jeb Bush joins the litany of failed candidates with big campaign warchests who ultimately lost or dropped out. While money is critical for getting a message out, it can’t convince people to cast a vote, make Americans like a candidate, or fix systemic issues within a campaign.”

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