Conservative leaders attack Browner, Administration and Upton on climate science and clean energy

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Senior Fellow Daniel J. Weiss is CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy.

The incoming House Republican majority includes many climate science deniers.  They have already begun their attacks on promoters of policies to reduce energy use, save families money, and cut global warming pollution.  This includes an attack on Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a leading candidate to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He is under fire for his efforts to require more energy efficient light bulbs.  But he has also joined the global warming witch hunt by hurling misleading charges about Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner in an attempt to discredit her long record of basing energy policies on sound science.  This attack is the beginning of efforts to undo the Obama Administration’s successes at creating clean energy jobs, saving families money, and reducing oil use and pollution.

The attack on Upton sprung from the effort by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C).  House Republican term limit rules restrict their members to three Congresses (six years) as chair and/or ranking minority member of a committee.   Barton seeks a waiver to allow him to become Chair of E&C in 2011 even though he already served as chair for two years and ranking member for four years.  Without a waiver, the next most senior Republican – Upton – should become chair.

Despite Upton’s life time American Conservative Union record of 72 percent, many on the far right believe he is not conservative enoughto oversee federal energy, communications, and health care policy.  Politico reported on this anti-Upton campaign.

They’re pointing to Upton’s support for phasing out some incandescent light bulbs in favor of greener alternatives.

Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh cited Upton’s promotion of eco-friendly light bulbs evidence that he shouldn’t take the Energy and Commerce gavel.

“This would be a tone-deaf disaster if the Republican leadership lets Fred Upton ascend to the chairmanship of the House energy committee,” Limbaugh said this week. “This is exactly the kind of nannyism, statism, what have you, that was voted against and was defeated last week. No Republican complicit in nannyism, statism, can be rewarded this way.”

Upton (R-Mich.) teamed up with California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman on 2007 legislation aimed at phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs. That language eventually became law as part of a larger energy bill.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy notes that incandescent bulbs that use only 10 percent of their energy for light – the rest is waste heat.  More efficient compact fluorescent bulbs

use less energy and last longer, [so consumers] will save up to several times their purchase price each year through reduced electricity bills and fewer replacement bulbs.

Upton’s light bulb efficiency provision was part of the Energy Independence and Security Act that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007.

The bill sets lamp efficiency standards for common light bulbs, requiring them to use about 20-30% less energy than present incandescent bulbs by 2012-2014 (phasing in over several years) and requiring a DOE rulemaking to set standards that will reduce energy use to no more than about 65% of current lamp use by 2020.

The attack on Upton’s leadership to require light bulbs to waste less energy and save more money is an example of the right’s broad attack on science and clean energy technology.

After the assault he promptly dimmed his support for energy efficiency and consumer savings.  Politico reports

Hoping to counter attacks from his right, Rep. Fred Upton is promising to reexamine a controversial ban on incandescent light bulbs if he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

After the right’s attack on Upton, he followed in their footsteps by launching a similar misplaced attack on Carol Browner.  On November 15, he sent a letter questioning her actions on the Department of Interior moratorium on deep water drilling in the wake of the nation’s worst oil disaster.  It focuses on the disproved charge that her office modified the DOI report so that it appeared that the moratorium decision was peer reviewed by scientists when it was not.

This question was fully examined by the Inspector General at the Department of Interior, and it found no wrong doing.

While the 30-Day Report’s Executive Summary could have been more clearly worded, the Department has not definitively violated the IQA [Information Quality Act, which guides the federal government’s use of information]. For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations. The Department also appears to have adequately remedied the IQA concerns by communicating directly with the experts, offering a formal apology, and publicly clarifying the nature of the peer review.

Upton’s letter is like issuing a speeding ticket to a car traveling at 25.1 miles per hour in a 25 MPH zone, even after the radar gun demonstrated there was no violation.

Interestingly, we could find no record of Upton raising similar concerns about the Bush administration’s frequent editing of documents to remove descriptions of climate science.  The New York Times revealed that

A White House official who once led the oil industry’s fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

Upton’s misleading attack on Browner is his attempt to demonstrate his right wing, anti-science bona fides during the mud wrestling to win the coveted E&C chair.  However, this false attack is not an isolated incident, but instead part of the incoming House majority’s effort to attack climate science and scientists, as well as the administration’s successful clean energy policies.

As chair, Upton plans to conduct hearings designed to undermine EPA rules to protect public health and the environment from toxic coal ash, smog, mercury and other toxic chemicals, and global warming pollution.  All of these safeguards will be based upon the best medical and scientific evidence available in order to protect children, seniors, and others from these harmful, controllable contaminants.

Upton’s attacks are the rule, rather than the exception, among the new majority.  His colleagues plan a host of similar efforts to conduct witch hunts in the name of oversight.  This could include efforts to overturn or delay the implementation of President Obama’s new fuel economy standards that would reduce oil use by 1.8 billion barrels, save consumers $ 3000 or more over the life of their car, and cut nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution.  Bloomberg reports,

Tea Party-backed candidates who won seats in the House by campaigning against federal regulation and spending, including the GM and Chrysler bailouts, may lead opposition to increasing fuel-economy standards, said Russ Harding, senior environmental policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from 1995 to 2002 [under Republican Governor John Engler, now head of the National Association of Manufacturers].

Incoming Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) plans to interrogate the administration over some of its other successes.

With their new majority in the House, Republicans are expected to waste no time in flexing their oversight authority. The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government reform panel confirmed that the GOP-led committee will investigate polices like the stimulus, the health care bill, and the bank bailout.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the “stimulus”) has had a real success creating clean energy jobs, investing in renewable technologies, and reducing families’ energy bills via efficiency.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the likely chair of the House Science Committee, has already announced his future assault on climate science.

The likely next chairman of the House Science Committee says “reasonable people have serious questions” about the science connecting manmade greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) on Wednesday vowed to investigate the Obama administration’s climate policies if he becomes chairman.

Fred Upton is on the receiving end of the kind of assault that he has levied on Carol Browner.  Many more similar attacks are likely after his colleagues take control of the House of Representatives on January 5, 2011.  The objective of these attacks is to defeat or delay health and science based policies that protect and benefit society as whole even if they reduce profits for big oil, dirty coal or other special interests.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), defeated by a Tea Party candidate in his primary, alerted his Republican colleagues that their assault on science and clean energy policies would harm Americans.  At a House Science Committee hearing on global warming science he warned,

I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues — especially conservatives here — whether you think it’s all a bunch of hooey, what we’ve talked about in this committee, the Chinese don’t. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that’ll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.

What we’ll find is we’re way behind those Chinese folks…They plan on leading the future. So whether you — if you’re a free enterprise conservative here — just think: it’s a bunch of hooey, this science is a bunch of hooey. But if you miss the commercial opportunity, you’ve really missed something.

Former House Science Committee Chair Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) also counseled his compatriots against this attack on science.

The new Congress should have a policy debate to address facts rather than a debate featuring unsubstantiated attacks on science. We shouldn’t stand by while the reputations of scientists are dragged through the mud in order to win a political argument. And no member of any party should look the other way when the basic operating parameters of scientific inquiry — the need to question, express doubt, replicate research and encourage curiosity — are exploited for the sake of political expediency. My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it’s also bad politics.

Inglis and Boehlert are urging Republican leaders to reject the unfair, anti-science attacks aimed at Fred Upton and his common sense light bulb efficiency legislation.  Hopefully, he and his colleagues will refrain from hurling such false, destructive charges at Carol Browner, scientists or other administration officials.  If not, they will demonstrate the same ignorance, selfishness, and economic obliviousness shown by Upton’s attackers.

- Daniel J. Weiss is Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Climate Progress

Golden Rule: Browner Should Have Treated Gulf Jobs As Her Own

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The President of the United States was swept into office two years ago promising to bring change to Washington, starting with a more transparent and ethical government. In fact, Obama declared, “transparency and the rule of law would be the touchstones of this presidency.” Apparently, not everybody in the White House read the interoffice memorandum.

Following the BP tragedy, the White House commissioned the Secretary of the Interior to provide a safety report on offshore drilling. Secretary Salazar pulled in a panel of seven outside advisors to assist in his analysis of the safety of offshore drilling, and provide recommendations for going forward. A final draft of this report was sent to White House Climate Czar Carol Browner’s office before being forwarded to the president. Last week, it was reported that Browner’s staff edited the document to imply that the outside advisors recommended a drilling moratorium, when in fact this was not true. The tailored draft was given to the president, and the policy was made.

Whether or not the recommendation of outside advisors would have changed minds regarding the drilling ban is debatable. What isn’t debatable is the resulting economic destruction in the Gulf from President Obama’s decision based – in part – on information from a falsified document.

Drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico provide employment for over 150,000 Americans. As a result of the halting of this activity, the region stands to lose19,500lost jobs, $ 5 billion in unrealized economic activity, and nearly $ 240 million in uncollected state and local tax revenue, according to a conservative estimate using government modeling by noted LSU economist Dr. Joseph Mason. This was a harsh blow during what the President himself has described as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Make no mistake: these job losses lie solely on President Obama’s shoulders. And for the thousands of Americans impacted by this decision, nothing the President says or does will make it right. But the President can still prove that he is being true to his promise of transparency in government by holding Czar Browner accountable for her reckless disregard for the livelihoods of thousands of Gulf families whose only crime, it seems, was their employment in the oil and gas industry.

Big Government

Throw Carol Browner under the bus

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Throw Carol Browner under the bus
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

Energy czar Carol Browner needs to go the way of disgraced green jobs czar Van Jones: under the bus and stripped of her unbridled power to destroy jobs and lives in the name of saving the planet. ASAP.

One of the Beltway’s most influential, entrenched and unaccountable left-wing radicals, Browner has now been called out twice by President Obama’s own federal BP oil spill commission and Interior Department inspector general. How many strikes should a woman who circumvented the Senate confirmation process and boasts a sordid history of abusing public office get?

Pushing the question — and shining a bright, hot spotlight on Browner’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering — should be a top priority of the new House GOP majority. Not least of all because Washington insiders are still buzzing about possible White House plans to increase her policy role and elevate her status with Team Obama.

First, the BP oil spill panel dinged her for disseminating misleading information to the public about the scope of the disaster. In the aftermath of the spill, she falsely claimed that 75 percent of the spill was “now completely gone from the system” and falsely claimed that the administration’s August report on the disaster was “peer-reviewed.” The false claim “contributed to public perception” of Browner’s calculation as “more exact and complete” than it was ever designed to be, the oil spill commission concluded in October.

This week, the Interior Department inspector general singled out Browner’s office for butchering peer-reviewed scientists’ conclusions in a key report about the administration’s preordained deepwater drilling moratorium. The scientists first blew the whistle on the administration’s monkey business this summer. A federal judge sided with the misrepresented scientists and blasted the Interior Department’s big green lie that its moratorium was “peer-reviewed” and endorsed by “seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.”

As the court concluded: “Although the experts agreed with the safety recommendations contained in the body of the main Report, five of the National Academy experts and three of the other experts have publicly stated that they ‘do not agree with the six month blanket moratorium’ on floating drilling.”

It was Browner’s office behind the hatchet job. After cutting, pasting and tweaking the drilling moratorium report, one of Browner’s staff members sent a 2 a.m. e-mail back to the Interior Department on May 27 with edited versions that implied that the outside scientists endorsed the moratorium. The Interior Department inspector general tip-toed around Browner’s responsibility for fudging the truth, using passive language to describe how the edited versions “caused the distinction” between what the administration wanted and what the scientists believed “to become effectively lost.”

Nonsense. The distinction didn’t “become” lost. Browner’s office disappeared it, doctored it and obliterated it. Browner’s wordsmiths played Mad Libs with the report until it fit their agenda. There was “no intent to mislead the public,” Browner’s office claims. But this eco-data doctoring fits a long pattern of politicized science over which Browner has presided.

While head of the Clinton administration’s EPA, she ordered a staffer to purge and delete her computer files to evade a public disclosure lawsuit. Lambasted by the judge for “contumacious” behavior and contempt of court, Browner claimed it was all an innocent mistake — and blamed her young son for downloading games on her work computer that she was trying to erase.

During her tenure as EPA chief, she was also caught by a congressional subcommittee using taxpayer funds to create and send out illegal lobbying material to more than 100 grassroots environmental lobbying organizations. Browner exploited her office to orchestrate a political campaign by left-wing groups, who turned around and attacked Republican lawmakers for supporting regulatory reform.

According to the left-leaning Atlantic, Obama has increasingly relied on Browner’s counsel on issues beyond her environmental portfolio. Which means he’s listening to her advice and strategizing on how to apply her truth-fudging, transparency-evading tactics to the rest of the economy and domestic policy.

Browner, a darling of left-wing billionaire George Soros’ environmental justice circles and the wife of a top energy lobbyist, is a dangerous woman whose ideological zeal has helped power the Democrats’ war on prosperity. Sunlight, as always, is the best disinfectant — and a much-needed monkey wrench in the Obama job-killing machine.

Michelle Malkin

Confirmed: Obama job-killlers Salazar, Browner lied about drilling ban rationale

November 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

I’ve been covering Loathsome Cowboy/job-killer Ken Salazar’s ongoing corruption of science and environmental policy at the Interior Department for you extensively here. He has largely escaped mainstream scrutiny. But with a new House GOP majority and independent watch dogs on his tail, he may finally get the lasting ass-kicking he deserves.

As you’ll recall, Salazar and his minions were roasted by federal courts in June and July for fudging data and misrepresenting and contradicting what Obama-appointed scientists recommended regarding the administration’s deepwater drilling ban. In September, the courts again rejected the drilling ban before the White House finally relented in an election-season feint.

He refused to acknowledge his deception and instead strolled into a federal oil spill commish meeting and did this:

Undaunted, Salazar conjured up a “revised” moratorium rubber-stamped by oil spill czar Michael Bromwich, who sheepishly admitted that the new ban was “roughly congruent with the original moratorium.”

The sham changes would permit some drilling rigs to re-start operations – but only under onerous, fantasyland testing conditions that industry leaders say would be virtually impossible to meet. In short, Salazar’s “new” moratorium is a lot like Salazar himself: All hat, no cattle.

The Interior Secretary then strode into the first hearing of the presidential oil spill commission this week to tell the panelists that he wanted their work to “inform” his book-cooked deepwater drilling ban. It was, essentially, Salazar guiding the dog-and-pony show participants to bark and neigh on command. The panelists were “stunned” by Salazar’s explicit expectation of policy support, according to hearing observers, because weighing in on the moratorium had not been a part of their original mandate.

None of the panelists, conveniently enough, has actual technical expertise in deepwater drilling. So on what, exactly, can they “inform” Salazar? No doubt Salazar and his superiors at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have soaked up the online anti-drilling rants of prominent oil spill panelist Frances Beinecke. She’s a leading official at the rabidly anti-corporate Natural Resources Defense Council, where she publicly called for offshore drilling bans five times over the past two months before snagging a seat on Obama’s “expert” panel. NRDC was one of the leading environmental lobbying voices pushing for the commission in the first placde. The eco-tail is wagging Team Obama’s dog.

Now, the Interior Department inspector general has officially confirmed what whistle-blowing scientists exposed this summer. Salazar and the Obama eco-radicals doctored their moratorium report to mislead the public. Whose fingerprints were all over the lies?

Carol Browner, again.

The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO…

…Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said the changes were part of the normal editing and consulting process.

“There was no intent to mislead the public,” Barkoff said in a statement to POLITICO. “The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House.”

Longtime readers of this blog know about Browner’s sordid history of doctoring evidence, evading transparency, and abusing public office in pursuit of her radical environmental agenda. I wrote in December 2008:

If fiscal conservatives, sound science advocates, and businesses don’t raise a stink about Browner’s crooked background, they deserve everything that’s coming to them.

Unfortunately, American workers whose jobs have been destroyed by these green power-grabbers didn’t deserve the punishment they’ve suffered.

Let’s hope the House GOP majority turns up the heat and holds Salazar/Browner responsible.


Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

The White House claimed some vindication, saying that the IG had stopped short of accusing the administration of a deliberate deception, and called it “a misunderstanding.” That seems like a bit of a stretch, especially since the supposed mistake didn’t exactly occur in a vacuum. Opponents of oil drilling, usually among Obama’s allies on the Left, had demanded an end to drilling in the region at least until the investigation into the disaster was completed. The White House version of the report gave Obama political cover to order the six-month moratorium — at least until those involved in its peer review cried foul after the White House publicly used them to defend the action.

But even if it was just a “misunderstanding,” an artifact of some guileless editorial tweaking that inadvertently put a paragraph ahead of or behind an important qualifier, it was at the very least incompetence. Why was the staff of energy “adviser” Carol Browner allowed to edit a report issued by the Department of Interior’s blue-ribbon panel in the first place? Why did no one review those changes at Interior to determine whether the edits were justified, especially since the IG report indicates that the edits took place because the staffer or Browner didn’t think it summarized the findings properly? Why not just ask the report’s authors to rewrite it themselves?

Michelle Malkin

Wonkbook: Dems to lose votes in lame duck; Senate looks at outsourcing; Carol Browner out

September 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

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The Senate is taking up a bill that seeks to deter businesses from sending jobs abroad. Meanwhile, the Senate’s makeup could alter during the lame duck session, throwing a wrench in Democrats’ plans to pass a tax cut extension then. And a new whistleblower says rating agencies spent the ’00s giving high marks to mortgage packages they knew were risky.

You probably know that Senate Democrats are delaying a vote on the Bush tax cuts until after the election. In its place, they’ll be voting on a mostly symbolic bill to discourage companies from outsourcing jobs. What you may not know, however, is that this means Senate Democrats will have fewer votes when they actually do vote on the Bush tax cuts. Three Democrats — Roland Burris from Illinois, Ted Kaufman from Delaware, and Carte Goodwin from West Virginia — are filling vacancies on a temporary basis. Their terms end on November 2nd, and their replacements, who must be seated immediately, may well be Republicans.

So when the Senate returns for its lame duck session, Democrats will be, well, that much lamer, and that much less able to hold the line against a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. Add in that they won’t have the political pressure of an election behind them, and the decision to delay the vote may, in the end, be the reason the Democrats lose it.

Last night’s Mad Men seemed a bit crowded, no? Comparatively, today’s Wonkbook is easy and straightforward. Welcome.

Top Stories

The Senate is considering a bill to discourage companies from outsourcing jobs, reports Michael Phillips: “Democrats admit they don’t have enough votes to defeat a possible attempt by Republicans to block the bill. But they hope that bringing the issue to the Senate floor will underscore their concern about unemployment, now at 9.6%. ‘This is another in a series of bills designed to try and provide jobs here at home for the American people,’ a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday. ‘Just because the Republicans say ‘No,’ doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.’”

Democrats could lose votes during the lame duck session, reports Danny Yadron: “Lawmakers are typically seated in January. But deaths, a resignation and a series of Democrats taking jobs in the Obama administration forced six states to fill Senate vacancies through appointment since 2008, including those created by the president and vice president. Terms for three of those appointed senators-from Illinois, West Virginia and Delaware-expire after elections Nov. 2. State laws require replacements to be seated immediately, and Republicans are seen as having a shot at winning in Illinois and West Virginia.”

Much of the opposition to the health-care law comes from Americans who wish it went further: “A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1…Those numbers are no endorsement for President Obama’s plan, but the survey also found a deep-seated desire for change that could pose a problem for Republicans. Only 25 percent in the poll said minimal tinkering would suffice for the health care system.”

The House may hold a vote on the Bush tax cuts even if the Senate delays, reports David Herszenhorn: “Democrats who are lobbying for a vote say it could draw a stark contrast between the two parties by highlighting the potential willingness of Republicans to block tax relief for most Americans while insisting tax breaks for the rich. ‘We will retain the right to proceed as we choose and would take it one day at a time,’ Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference at the Capitol. ‘But let me be very clear, as we have all been clear in the House Democratic leadership. America’s middle class will have a tax cut. It will be done in this Congress. There is no question about that.’”

Carol Browner might leave the White House, report Glenn Thrush and Darren Samuelsohn: “The collapse of the administration’s comprehensive climate change effort — a career-long goal for Browner — has stoked rumors that she’ll head for the exit rather than settle for an incremental, vastly scaled-back energy agenda. And some environmental advocates, deeply disappointed that Browner didn’t have enough clout to push climate change to the top of Obama’s agenda, blame her for the debacle. ‘The real challenge at the top is, Carol Browner is not a strategic thinker,’ griped one environmental advocate with close ties to the administration.”

College rock interlude: Michelle Shocked performs “Anchorage”.

Still to come: Why liberals need to fight harder for the health-care law; how a change in corporate taxes could bring in hundreds of billions in revenue; the economic benefits of increased immigration; a new study indicts lax gun laws; Howard Kurtz profiles Paul Krugman; and the world’s best competitive eater challenges a bear.


Reducing corporate taxes could boost revenue and fund stimulus spending, report Michael Fletcher and Jia Lynn Yang: “Congress enacted a tax holiday for corporate profits held overseas in 2004, lowering the rate for returned money to 5.25 percent. The measure raised the amount of repatriated foreign profits five-fold to nearly $ 300 billion. But rather than supporting job creation, a study found, much of the money went directly to shareholders - through increased dividends or expanded share buybacks.”

Congress is investigating Fannie Mae’s involvement with faulty foreclosure documents:

The Postal Service’s budget woes may come from an over-reliance on contractors:

“Short sales” on homes are increasing, report Dina ElBoghdady and Dan Keating: “That kind of deal is called a short sale, and it’s sweeping the country. In these deals, a lender allows a troubled borrower to sell a home for less than what’s owed on the mortgage. Completed short sales have more than tripled since 2008, and 400,000 of these deals are projected to close this year, according to mortgage research firm CoreLogic. The giant mortgage financier Fannie Mae approved short sales on 36,534 home loans it owned in the first half of the year, nearly triple the number in 2007 and 2008 combined. Freddie Mac, its sister company, approved 22,117 in the first half of 2010, up from a mere 94 in the first half of 2007.”

Howard Kurtz profiles Paul Krugman:

“Structural unemployment” is a fake problem, writes Paul Krugman: “Job openings have plunged in every major sector, while the number of workers forced into part-time employment in almost all industries has soared. Unemployment has surged in every major occupational category…Oh, and where are these firms that ‘can’t find appropriate workers’? The National Federation of Independent Business has been surveying small businesses for many years, asking them to name their most important problem; the percentage citing problems with labor quality is now at an all-time low, reflecting the reality that these days even highly skilled workers are desperate for employment.”

Obama shouldn’t try to satisfy business, write Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson:

We can grow our way out of the deficit, writes Edward Lazear: “Congress should begin limiting future spending according to an inflation-minus-one rule. That rule would hold that in any year when the ratio of government expenditures to GDP exceeds 18% (the 30-year average of tax revenues), Congress could increase spending only by the last three years’ inflation rate, minus one percentage point. This would reduce the ratio of spending to GDP, because GDP growth would almost always exceed budget growth. There would be wrangling over what gets funded, but the amount of budget growth would be constrained.”

Animated talk interlude: Steven Johnson explains where good ideas come from.

Domestic Policy

Liberals should go to war to defend health care reform, writes Matt Yglesias: “There’s no country on earth that’s moved to national health insurance and then moved back. And the U.S.A. will be no exception. But only if the move actually happens. And for that to happen, progressives need to recognize the stakes. It’s completely true that the Obama administration hasn’t given the left’s activist base the care and feeding it needs and deserves. But at the end of the day, it has in fact given health care to sick kids. Its opponents want to take that away. A little less whining and a little more cheerleading from the left would make that less likely. Under the circumstances, more enthusiasm and a less self-pity and self-indulgence would be very welcome, not least by families hoping to be able to pay the bills next time someone falls ill.”

Immigration helps American-born workers, writes Ezra Klein: “The mistake we make when thinking about the effect immigrants have on our wages, says Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California at Davis who has studied the issue extensively, is that we imagine an economy where the number of jobs is fixed. Then, if one immigrant comes in, he takes one of those jobs or forces a worker to accept a lower wage. But that’s not how our economy works.”

“With more labor - particularly more labor of different kinds - the economy grows larger. It produces more stuff. There are more workers buying things, creating demand. That increases the total number of jobs. We understand perfectly well that Europe is in trouble because its low birth rates mean fewer workers - and that means less economic growth. We ourselves worry that we’re not graduating enough scientists and engineers. But the economy doesn’t care if it gets workers through birth rates or green cards. In fact, there’s a sense in which green cards are superior.”

Lax gun control in some states spurs crime in others, reports Eric Lichtblau: “The study also seeks to draw a link between gun trafficking and gun control laws by analyzing gun restrictions in all 50 states in areas like background checks for gun purchases, policies on concealed weapons permits and state inspections of gun dealers. It finds that, across the board, those states with less restrictive gun laws exported guns used in crimes at significantly higher rates than states with more stringent laws.”

The American Bar Association is becoming more openly left-leaning:

The Department of Health and Human Services is targeting insurers discontinuing kids-only plan, reports Jennifer Haberkorn: “HHS also issued new regulatory guidance that could make it easier for insurers to sell the policies. The agency said insurers could raise rates based on health condition — though doing so will be illegal beginning in 2014; issue different rates for child-only policies and dependent children; impose a surcharge for dropping coverage and subsequently reapplying; and instituting rules to preventing ‘dumping’ the policies. The moves are likely to drive premiums up, if insurers choose to start selling the policies again.”

Volunteers providing water to illegal immigrants are legally vulnerable:

A new book from Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer fears for the Court’s legitimacy, writes Lincoln Caplan: “The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin points to the judicial activism of Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservative majority as a major source of apprehension for Justice Breyer. In a profile this week, Mr. Toobin describes Justice Breyer as ‘unskilled in the art of the poker face’ and says that he used last January’s Citizens United decision ‘to take a shot at Roberts’ in the book. In that ruling, the conservatives gave corporations an unlimited right to spend money in politics. Justice Breyer said they disregarded ‘a traditional legal view that stretched back as far as 1907,’ and had recently been affirmed.”

Uwe Reinhardt outlines steps for reducing health care costs:

Man versus nature interlude: Takeru Kobayashi challenges an Alaskan kodiak bear to a hot dog eating contest.


Engineering experts are skeptical of BP’s report on the oil spill:

Alabama businesses resent the BP oil spill payment process, reports Mike Esterl: “Despite a sharp acceleration in payments in recent days, many tourism-dependent businesses said the oil-spill claims process hasn’t improved and some said it has worsened since independent administrator Kenneth Feinberg took the reins of a $ 20 billion BP-financed fund. Before that, the oil giant directly handled private-sector claims for lost income. Boat-repair companies, beach-umbrella rental outfits and retailers along Alabama’s 30-mile coast said they have been short-changed or not paid at all since filing claims after the April 20 spill sent revenue plunging.”

The nation’s gas pipelines suffer from a lack of oversight:

Investigators have a new theory of how the BP cap blew, reports Siobhan Hughes: “‘I’d like to just maintain the possibility that one reason that the cement job may have failed was because of fracking at the time of cementing,’ said Mark Zoback, a Stanford University geophysicist who serves on the National Academy of Engineering panel investigating the causes of the April 20 disaster. The remarks, at a meeting convened at the National Academy of Engineering, undercut BP’s effort to assign blame for the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion to its contractors instead of its own well design.”

A new book indicts polluters for evading regulators:

Solar power is spreading in Asia, writes Bettina Wassener: “May, the Asian Development Bank started a major drive to promote solar power across the region. Last year, the Indian government approved an ambitious National Solar Mission, which seeks a huge increase in the country’s solar-energy capabilities. Bangladesh, with the support of the World Bank, is aiming to have one million remote rural homes supplied with solar panels by the end of 2012. And in India, where nearly 40 percent of households have no access to electricity, companies like Selco Solar and Orb Energy have helped tens of thousands of families and small entrepreneurs purchase solar panels.”

Closing credits: Wonkbook compiled with help from Dylan Matthews and Mike Shepard.

Harry Reid - United States - Roland Burris - Barack Obama - Democratic Party (United States)
Ezra Klein

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