Fed Nominee Whom Sen. Shelby Deemed Too Unqualified To Confirm Wins Nobel Prize

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Earlier today, Federal Reserve Board nominee Peter Diamond won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with two of his colleagues. Yet, despite the fact that President Obama nominated this Nobel laureate to the Fed nearly six months ago, his nomination is currently being blocked by just one senator. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) believes that this year’s winner of the highest honor in the economics profession is unqualified to actually set economic policy:

[U]nder an arcane procedural rule, the Senate sent Mr. Diamond’s nomination back to the White House on Thursday night before starting its summer recess. A leading Republican senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, said that Mr. Diamond did not have sufficiently broad macroeconomic experience to help run the central bank. [...]

As Mr. Shelby noted, Mr. Diamond is not a specialist in monetary economics — the control of the supply of credit and the setting of interest rates — which is the Fed’s traditional purview. But of the five current governors of the Fed, only two, Mr. Bernanke and the vice chairman, Donald L. Kohn, are academic economists who specialize in monetary economics. The other three include a former community banker, a former Wall Street executive and a legal scholar.

Shelby, of course, has a history of this kind of abuse of the Senate Rules to prevent eminently qualified nominees from being confirmed. Earlier this year, Shelby briefly took over 70 nominees hostage in an attempt to strongarm the administration into awarding a $ 35 billion defense contract to his state — although he later lifted these holds once they became politically embarrassing.

But Shelby, of course, is only able to get away with these kinds of shenanigans because the Senate’s rules are shockingly easy to abuse. Indeed, while it is common wisdom that 60 senators are required to get virtually anything done, the reality is much bleaker — most Senate business now requires all 100 senators to consent.

The reason for this is because dissenting senators can force the Senate to waste hours or even days effectively doing nothing in order to pass a single bill or confirm a single nominee. Indeed, as a recent Center for American Progress white paper explains, there isn’t enough time in two entire presidential terms to confirm all of a new president’s nominees by the time that president leaves office:

TyrannyofTime_webcharts-01

In other words, the entire government can be hollowed out by a tiny group of senators with a vendetta. Today, Sen. Shelby thinks that a Nobel laureate doesn’t know enough about economics, so that nominee must languish without an up or down vote.  Tomorrow, another senator could disapprove of a nominee’s haircut, and that alone may be sufficient to spike the nomination.

Think Progress

Obamacare Chart Redux: Proposed EPA Car Labels Deemed ‘Confusing’

October 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

At the height of debate surrounding Democrats’ proposed overhaul of the American health care system, a chart purporting to explain the complex web of regulations created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act infamously made its way around the Internet and through congressional offices, inducing mockery of the legislation.

obama_chart

Now, as the Obama administration looks to overhaul labels affixed to new cars and aimed at pushing consumers to “go green,” both proposed label designs are being critiqued by prospective car buyers as “confusing”—with some opponents of the labeling scheme joking that one of them looks a bit like a dumbed-down version of that Obamacare “structure chart.”

According to a poll of 456 Americans over the age of 18 looking to purchase a car in the next three years conducted by branding firm Siegel+Gale, nearly 40 percent of those surveyed found this label proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be confusing:

Screen shot 2010-09-28 at 3.14.53 PM

Even worse, 66 percent of respondents trashed the “simpler” label option, which prominently features a letter grade denoting the car’s “green-ness.”

Screen shot 2010-09-28 at 3.41.50 PM

Both labels purported to illustrate data applicable to a gas/electric hybrid vehicle, one of the types of car that the administration is reportedly most keen on pushing consumers to purchase.  But both failed to take appropriate account of the factors car buyers consider most important when shopping for a new vehicle: miles per gallon, and cost-per-year to run.

Siegel+Gale’s survey demonstrates that even among Democrats, environmental considerations are a factor in determining which car to purchase for just 25 percent of consumers.  A full 38 percent of respondents said that they would buy a car graded less than a C—a damning result that draws into question the ability of EPA’s plans to influence consumer behavior at all.

Despite survey results like these and a wave of criticism from automakers, auto dealers, environmentalists, and others, the administration appears intent on pursuing the new labels.  EPA will be holding hearings to discuss the proposed labels jointly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Chicago on October 14, 2010, and in Los Angeles on October 21, 2010.

In addition, the administration is soliciting comments on the labels via email at [email protected].  There’s no word yet on what survey respondents may care to share with the regulators beyond what Siegel+Gale have already identified, though EPA staffers are likely bracing themselves for some angry emails.


Big Government

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