Why Would Anyone Vote For Hillary? Because She’s A Girl, That’s Why

Among likely voters in the 2016 Presidential election, those who say they would vote for Hillary Clinton indicate their choice is based not on her qualifications or statesmanship, but on the fact she could make history as the first female U.S. President.

Being a girl trumped all other reasons those polled in a Gallup survey, released today, gave for favoring Clinton if she were to run for President.

From the summary:

Clearly Clinton’s “unique selling proposition” is that she would be the first woman president. Nearly one in five Americans mention this historic possibility as a positive, including 22% of women, 27% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 30% of Democrats. A Gallup analysis of a similar question, asked of a representative Gallup Panel sample in 2007, also found that Americans were more likely to mention her being the first woman president than any other positive factor.

To Gallup’s open-ended poll question – “In your view, what would be the best or most positive thing about a Hillary Clinton presidency?” – 18 percent of respondents indicated the fact that she “would be [the] first woman president,” followed by nine percent who said they value her foreign policy expertise or other experience.

Predictably, the party-line breakdown reflects a very different set of responses. Among Democrats, 30 percent said electing America’s first female President formed the basis of their support, followed by 16 percent who attributed their support to Clinton’s experience.

Republicans responded to the same question in lower numbers across the board (because few Republicans have any inclination to vote for Clinton for any reason), but 11 percent said they’d vote for her just to accomplish a change in leadership, followed by seven percent who said electing a female President was the deciding factor.

Like Republicans, independent voters didn’t answer that poll question in great numbers, either. But 17 percent put the girl thing at the top of their list of reasons to vote for Clinton, while eight percent cited her experience.

Issa Challenges Treasury Department Over Obamacare Politics

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is calling on the Treasury Department to explain its Constitutional role in delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate. Issa alleges the Treasury Department is caught up in President Barack Obama’s political strategy to put off as many harmful Obamacare provisions as possible until after the 2014 Congressional midterm elections.

Issa and other Republican Congressmen wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Thursday, asking the Treasury Department to provide all of its correspondence with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services over the employer delay, which the Obama Administration pushed forward in February.

The Treasury Department’s final rule included Obama’s proposed delay for companies that employ 50 to 99 employees, even though Congress has never amended the Affordable Care Act to accommodate a change to its standing stipulation that businesses must choose between offering healthcare coverage or paying a fine.

The only reason, said Issa, is that the White House is attempting to slow the rollout of the most damaging portions of Obamacare by instructing HHS and the Treasury Department to change the law through behind-the-scenes policy tweaks.

“Information obtained by the Committee suggests that last year’s decision to delay the employer mandate was made by the White House and not the Treasury Department,” Issa wrote. “We were surprised to learn that the White House Chief of Staff knew about the employer mandate delay prior to the head of the department implementing the program. This finding raises serious questions about whether the White House directed the delay of the employer mandate for political reasons.”

According to The Hill, which reported on the Oversight Committee’s challenge Thursday, one Treasury staffer admitted to the Committee that “he couldn’t recall” any conversations about whether the Treasury Department can legally implement changes to the law:

Issa cited testimony from Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur, who in an interview with Oversight said repeatedly he couldn’t recall if anyone at Treasury discussed whether the agency had the legal authority to delay the mandate.

“These admissions are stunning: there are more than two thousand attorneys in the Department of Treasury, and the official responsible for tax policy cannot recall a single one inquiring into the legal authority for the employer mandate delay,” the letter says. “Furthermore, Mr. Mazur’s responses are inconsistent with the Department’s claim that it relied upon an asserted authority under § 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code.

“While we believe that Obamacare, including its penalties on employers, is bad policy and should be repealed, it is clear that by law the Administration cannot act unilaterally to delay unpopular aspects of Obamacare until after the next November election.”

Study: Mandatory Minimum Wage Increase Will Lead To Layoffs, Hiring Freeze

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. employers will lay off workers to offset operational costs if President Barack Obama is successful in persuading Congress to raise the Federal mandatory minimum wage, according to the Nation’s largest private staffing service.

A study released Wednesday by Express Employment Professionals indicates 38 percent of businesses that hire minimum-wage workers will scale back their existing workforce if they have to accommodate a Federally mandated hike in the minimum wage. An additional 54 percent said they would cease or reduce hiring, while 65 percent said a minimum wage hike would force them to pass along the cost of the added payroll by raising the prices of the products and services they offer.

Employers that Pay Minimum WageAmong all businesses, including those that do not pay minimum wage, 19 percent responded that they would lay off some employees, while 39 percent said they would scale back hiring. And 51 percent said they would pass along the cost of doing business — even though they hire no minimum wage workers — by raising prices.

“When the minimum wage is increased, it puts pressure on all companies to increase pay for their entry level employees, even for companies that presently pay above the current minimum wage of $7.25/hour,” Express Employment Professionals explained in its survey summary. “In effect, entry level pay will rise to $10.10 an hour and workers at or slightly above that level will also seek pay raises since they previously made more than the minimum wage. Therefore, costs can increase even for companies that don’t currently pay the minimum wage.”

Obama has focused on a nationwide minimum wage increase as one part of his overall agenda to close the gap between the Nation’s wealthiest and poorest working residents. “Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t just raise their wages — its effect would lift wages for about 28 million Americans,” the President said in February. “It would lift millions of Americans out of poverty and help millions more work their way out of poverty without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending.”

He has also described a forced minimum wage increase as a catalyst for a “virtuous cycle” of government-led altruism that can be carried out in the private sector.

CFPB Hit With FOIA Lawsuit After Refusing To Disclose Cost Of Luxe Building Makeover

After eight months of trying to get an affirmative response from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Washington Examiner has filed a lawsuit against the agency for refusing to release financial records relating to the lavish remodel of its Washington, D.C. offices.

The Examiner filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday with help from nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch. According to Examiner Executive Editor Mark Tapscott, the paper filed the suit because withholding information about how the public’s money is being spent is “exactly the kind of information the FOIA is meant to make available to taxpayers.”

Documents to explain why a government bureau is spending so lavishly on renovations to its headquarters are exactly the kind of information the FOIA is meant to make available to taxpayers.

…We shouldn’t have to go to court to get them, but it’s important to make the point that the American people have just as much of a right to know what CFPB is doing with their tax dollars as they do their local dogcatchers.

The renovation project at CFPB headquarters has more than doubled since it was first announced, ballooning from an estimate of $55 million to $139 million. The Examiner had filed a FOIA last July to request not only financial information relating to the project, but also design documents created by star project architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merill, in hopes of reconciling the scope of the renovation with its escalating cost.

Formed in 2011, the CFPB was created out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but the agency has been the target of conservative criticism almost from the beginning for its wide-ranging powers and aloofness from the citizens it was tasked with protecting.

“[F]rom its inception, the CFPB has been placed dangerously out of reach of the American people,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton Wednesday. “And it has acted with arrogant indifference to attempts to pierce its veil of obdurate secrecy. This lawsuit could help shed some much-needed light on what is otherwise an essentially covert operation with oppressive control over consumer finances.”

How Much Influence Did Phony, Convicted EPA Leader Have Over Environmental Policy?

Senate Republicans issued a report Wednesday targeting the influence convicted fraud John Beale, who stole $900,000 from the government and lied to EPA coworkers about having a fantasy dual life as a CIA agent, had over the agency’s far-ranging clean air regulations – regulations that affected millions of lives and billions of private-sector dollars.

The report alleges that Beale, the highest-paid employee working at the EPA before his staged retirement in 2011 (he continued receiving pay and benefits well into 2012), played a lead role in shaping government emissions standards during his stint as senior policy advisor in the Office of Air and Radiation.

Beale helped to write the Clean Air Act in 1990 and began directing the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate emissions policy efforts in 1995. In that role, he oversaw the writing of policy that, according to Senate Republicans, forced the closure of coal plants and put a lot of people out of work.

“Today’s report connects the dots between John Beale and the numerous air regulations that he’s responsible for, regulations with a lasting impact that are costing many Americans their jobs and hard-earned wages,” said Senator David Vitter (R-La.), the ranking Republican in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Despite having no scientific or policy credentials, Beale was recruited into the EPA in the 1980s by a friend from his college days, Robert Brenner, who worked at the agency.

“Rather than recruit someone with the requisite experience, Brenner sought out Beale in what appears to be a decision based solely on their personal friendship rather than any experience or credentials,” the Senate report observes.

Responding to the report, EPA officials defended the environmental policies written under Beale’s guidance. Beale “was just one of a large number of people from a number of disciplines across the Agency who provided input on those rules,” EPA spokeswoman Elisha Johnson told The Washington Times. “The standards followed the routine open, transparent and public process, providing opportunities for public and interagency review and comment prior to their finalization.”

Beale was sentenced to two years in prison in December of 2013. He admitted to investigators that he had, while working at the EPA, successfully taken off work for months at a time by relying on a fabricated story about his important work as a CIA operative to deceive his peers at the EPA. He announced his retirement in 2011 and was feted at a lavish yacht party, but somehow remained on the payroll months after he stopped coming to work.

McConnell Campaign Slammed For Using Cops To Control The Press

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was excoriated by the paper of record in his old Kentucky home Wednesday after his re-election campaign used the cops to obstruct a member of the media from covering a campaign press conference earlier in the week.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, staffers banned reporter Joe Sonka of the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) , a local alt-weekly newspaper often critical of the Senator, from a McConnell campaign press conference Monday at a Louisville hotel.

Campaign staffers called the Louisville Metro Police on Sonka, after McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told the press that Sonka had been banned from the event because at least one other reporter in attendance didn’t want him there.

In an editorial Wednesday, The Courier-Journal said that’s nonsense, and came to Sonka’s defense as fellow member of the press.

When Joe Sonka, LEO news editor, attempted to enter the room at Louisville’s Hilton Garden Inn with other reporters gathered for a news conference, an LMPD officer blocked his access, according to Courier-Journal political writer Joseph Gerth.

No one with the campaign offered any plausible answers why.

The most implausible came from Mr. McConnell. Asked at the press conference by reporters who managed to get in why Mr. Sonka was excluded, Mr. McConnell said he didn’t know, giving some credibility to critics who accuse him of being out of touch.

Jesse Benton, Mr. McConnell’s campaign manager, initially claimed Mr. Sonka was barred because other reporters objected to his presence.

But he refused to identify them and the notion of reporters having veto power over other reporters is absurd.

Mr. Benton changed his story for Politico, saying that Mr. Sonka simply wasn’t wanted at a “private event” where “select members of the media were invited to attend for an intimate question and answer session.”

For a rundown of Sonka’s previous encounters with the McConnell camp, check out Sonka’s own account of their rocky past. It’s clear from Sonka’s description that McConnell doesn’t like to be asked about Federal pork.

According to Sonka, Benton told him at one point he would indeed be allowed into the room where the conference was scheduled — on the unacceptable condition that he not ask any questions. When Sonka took a seat in the lobby outside the event, with the door to the press conference fully closed, he said an unidentified person evidently attached to the McConnell camp walked up to a nearby officer and whispered in the officer’s ear.

Then, “the officer told me that I couldn’t even sit alone in the empty lobby — with the door to the conference room closed — or else I would be arrested. I laughed and went 20 yards down the hall to another seat that they said was acceptable.”

With continued PR missteps like this one, or the gun stunt at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or the one in which McConnell threatened to punch conservatives “in the nose,” one wonders just how steep a hill Matt Bevin, McConnell’s challenger from the right, must climb to defeat him in Kentucky’s GOP primary this November.

“Perhaps McConnell’s terrible poll numbers are getting to the campaign?” wrote Sonka. “Despite spending millions of dollars on ads — along with pro-McConnell Super PACs spending millions as well — McConnell’s approvals have only gotten worse, with the Bluegrass Poll showing him with a 32 percent approval rating, 27 percent favorable rating and a 4 percent deficit to Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

The takeaway: If your bid to become the next Senate Majority Leader is in the tank, you can always shore up your image by handpicking the media reps who’ll be “covering” your campaign. And, if some muckraker shows up wanting to ask substantive questions — well, you can always call the cops.

Video: Texas Cops Struggle With High School Kid, Subdue Him, Then Snap His Arm

A fight broke out earlier this month at a Texas high school, and campus police responded at the scene. Video from the fracas looks pretty heated, although the brief clip makes it difficult to determine the role one unfortunate participant, in particular, may have played.

But whatever his role was, he got a rapid dose of reality, thanks to the actions of one violently zealous campus cop. It isn’t an easy video to watch if brute force and breaking bones make you squeamish.

Note: It appears that the YouTube version of this video has become unavailable since this story was first posted. We’re keeping the link active, just in case it reappears. In the meantime, here is another link to the KBMT News story, which also includes portions of the video.

http://youtu.be/-I81hB4jseg

Whatever the kid in this video was doing, it appears he wasn’t willing to simply comply with the police. The female officer attempting to detain him certainly has her hands full.

But then the cops get him on the ground. He’s apprehended. Cuff him and sort out the story.

Instead, campus police officer Steve Rivers of the Beaumont Independent School District drops down beside the unnamed juvenile to administer his own on-the-spot punishment. Moments later, as the young man’s left arm continues to climb further and further up his back in an unnatural contortion, there’s a snap and a scream. Rivers has broken the kid’s arm. The cops keep his head shoved into the ground.

Each person can decide for himself if the act appears accidental or intentional.

The incident took place March 7 at West Brook High School in Beaumont, and it was captured by a bystander holding a cellphone. The video was published to YouTube on March 17. Rivers has since been placed on administrative leave without pay, according to KBMT News, while the school district and police investigate.

James Carville’s Pep Talk For Mid-Term Democrats Sounds A Lot Like A Eulogy

Former Clinton strategist and Democratic pundit James Carville wrote a strange, self-deceiving piece of empty optimism for The Hill this week, calling on Democrats to look on the bright side of their political plight as the 2014 midterm elections approach.

The piece is, evidently, part of an ongoing relationship between Carville and the Washington, D.C. media outfit. And if the column is any indication of what he’ll bring to the table for the rest of the year, all we can say is…more, please.

Normally an incomparable firebrand, Carville defied his own nature by cherishing every sorry nugget of hypothetical political advantage he could dig up to explain why Democrats should be happy about their chances at the polls this year. Stepping far outside his character as an aggressive, no-apologies liberal who dismisses the opposition by relegating the other guys’ talking points to archaic irrelevancy, Carville found some pauper’s measure of rainy-day cheer in the blind faith that somehow, between now and November, voters’ attitude toward incumbent Democrats might just change for no reason.

The fundamental consideration is this: if the election were held in the current climate, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that the Democrats might have a bad, perhaps even awful, election ahead of them. However, the one thing we know is that it is not going to be held now — it is going to be held in November. This is a case where we don’t know if there is going to be a political climate change or not. Suffice to say, I am pulling for some political climate change.

This is like telling a cop who pulled you over for speeding that everyone else is speeding too. All it does is demonstrate just how busted you really are, while setting the cop up for the classic retort: “But you’re the one I pulled over.” Carville offers no substantive recommendation on how the Democrats can turn things around; he’s simply wishing in the wind. The Democrats are caught in a maelstrom of their own making, and their brightest point of optimism is that they have no idea which way the capricious winds will blow them next.

That’s not optimism; that’s a foxhole prayer to the God you thought you didn’t believe in.

Carville says something similar about the public’s negative reception of Obamacare before helpfully concluding that, by November, “[i]f we continue on this trajectory the climate might be more favorable.”

That level of strategizing is what guides people flying kites. It’s not what guides a superfunded political party planning to win a multi-tiered National election.

Summing up with a timely basketball analogy, Carville sends ‘em out with a bang:

“My advice is to assume improved conditions and to throw the lead pass.”

Yeah, Democrats – go ahead and take that advice.

Insurance Premiums Have Skyrocketed Under Obamacare

A major nationwide health insurance exchange has revealed that the Affordable Care Act is costing people, on average, a whole lot more than they would have paid for health insurance premiums in the pre-Obamacare market. And these kinds of increases aren’t reflective of incremental annual adjustments; they’re massive.

A cost report from online insurance exchange eHealthInsurance supplied to the Washington Examiner shows Obamacare has increased premiums by anywhere from 39 percent to 56 percent, depending on the customer’s situation.

Here’s a rundown of the cost summary eHealthInsurance provided the Examiner’s Patrick Bedard:

– Premiums have increased by 39 percent to 56 percent, compared to pre-Obamacare coverage. As of Feb. 24, the average premium for an individual health plan selected through eHealth without a subsidy was $274 per month, a 39 percent increase over the average individual premium for pre-Obamacare coverage.

— The most recent average premium for plans without a subsidy chosen by families was $663 per month, a 56 percent increase over the average family premium in Feb. 2013, which was $426 per month.

— For both individual and family applicants, bronze plans have been the most popular plan type chosen since the beginning of open enrollment.

— Shoppers chose less expensive plans as open enrollment progressed.

The company’s report comes just as the Obama Administration issued another meaningless update this week to its tabulation of the number of people who have “enrolled” in Obamacare.

The White House now puts the total at 5 million, although that proclamation — still short of the anticipated 7 million first-year goal — comes with the usual bevy of caveats, all unmentioned by the White House. Up to 20 percent probably haven’t paid for insurance and, therefore, aren’t enrolled in anything. And, of those who have enrolled (and paid), there’s no determination of how many already were covered under a separate health plan the previous year.

That means the number of previously uninsured people who are getting insurance for the first time, thanks to Obamacare, is still far lower than the Administration’s optimistic tally. But no one knows, yet, how small that number truly is.

Note from the Editor: As you’ve just read, the Obamacare abomination doesn’t bode well for anyone. But if you know how to navigate the system you can still control your own healthcare—as every American should! My trusted friend and medical insider, Dr. Michael Cutler, and I have written a concise guide to help you do just that. I urge you… Click here for your free copies.

Nearly Half Of Americans Think Press Exaggerates Urgency Of Global Warming

As the United Nations readies another urgent report that inevitably will call on governments to step up their spending and regulatory powers to thwart anthropogenic climate change, average Americans appear poised to embrace more global warming gloom and doom with a collective shrug.

Gallup reported Monday that 42 percent of Americans believe that news reporting portraying global warming as a serious issue is generally exaggerated, compared with 23 percent who believe the coverage is generally correct. An additional 33 percent believe the press gets it right most of the time.

The 42 percent isn’t even the highest proportion of media skeptics Gallup has recorded. In 2010, the polling service found 48 percent of Americans questioned the validity of the dire coverage global warming received in the mainstream press.

Meanwhile, the percentage of people believing that media reports underestimate the significance of global warming has fluctuated since 2000, but has trended downward, overall, from a high of 34 percent to a present low of 23 percent — the lowest point in the tracking poll’s 16-year history.

“Since 2011, attitudes about the perceived seriousness of global warming have been steady, but public opinion has changed notably since Gallup first asked the question in 1997,” the survey summary observes. “Fewer Americans now say the seriousness of global warming is generally correct; at the same time, the percentage finding the threat generally exaggerated has increased, and since 2009 has consistently been at or above 40%, a mark it never reached in the years before.”

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global driver for government regulatory expansion to address climate-related issues, is due to release the latest in an ongoing series of reports on the impacts of anthropogenic climate change by the end of March. British newspaper The Independent previewed a draft copy, and the result is predictable: more dire warnings from the IPCC’s panel of scientists.

The IPCC report pins nearly every conceivable kind of forthcoming social and environmental problem on man-made global warming, including threats to sea-level zones, food supply, global gross domestic product, public health, regime stability and human security, and “cultural heritage” landscapes.

Obama White House Secretly Rewrote Freedom Of Information Act To Ensure Political Advantage; Damage Control

Apparently, President Barack Obama got away with a subtle, but fundamentally expansive, act of furtive self-protection in 2009 by positioning the White House, for the first time in the Nation’s history, to intercept any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that involve not only the Executive Branch, but any other government activity that the Executive Branch could fabricate a reason for caring about.

According to a report issued today by government watchdog Cause of Action,  an unpublicized memorandum from Gregory Craig – who served at the time as White House Counsel – instructed all executive agencies to “consult with the White House Counsel’s Office on all document requests that may involve documents with White House equities… This need to consult with the White House arises with respect to all types of document requests, including Congressional committee requests, GAO requests, judicial subpoenas, and FOIA requests.”

As the Washington Examiner observed Tuesday, the Freedom of Information Act has, throughout its long history, never been modified to accommodate this new, expansive language. A proposal currently before Congress, if it becomes law, would actually amend the FOIA to favor the curious public, streamlining the application process and expediting responses from government agencies.

That’s a far cry from the secretive 2009 memorandum that effectively altered the law to benefit the sitting President.

Although the memo illegally (but successfully) broadened the White House’s prerogative in obstructing FOIA requests, the most damaging phrase is “White House equities.” Evidently, no one but the White House is gifted with the authority to interpret what it means.

“An instructive example of how ‘White House equities’ is construed – and ultimately abused – is the White House’s review of FOIA requests concerning the well-publicized conference spending scandal at the General Services Administration (GSA),” Cause of Action explains. “E-mails between GSA and the White House Counsel’s Office show that the Administration affirmatively sought to review document requests related to politically-sensitive issues.

“…All the more egregious is the fact that the President has used White House equities to reverse the FOIA process: FOIA is designed to inform the public on government behavior; White House equities allow the government to withhold information from the media, and therefore the public, by having media requests forwarded for review. This not only politicizes federal agencies, it impairs fundamental First Amendment liberties.”

That’s as sinister as it is illegal. Rewriting the Freedom of Information Act by any means other than Congressional amendment is illegal, and taking extraordinary, unConstitutional action to rewrite the law expressly to gain a political advantage – including the possible eradication or falsification of evidence of wrongdoing – is a wilful criminal subversion of public service.

High Taxes Increasingly A Reason To Flee The Garden State

A decade of sky-high personal income tax on wealthy residents, coupled with a series of regressive taxes that find other ways to bilk money out of the lower income brackets, threatens to propel an unprecedented rate of emigration out of New Jersey, as residents seek other places to shelter from State government more of the wealth they’ve earned.

That’s the finding of a recent study by Regent Atlantic, a New Jersey-based investment advising firm, which concludes that “the belief that New Jersey has some of the highest income taxes in the nation adds to the growing desire to move out of the state.”

Since 2004, New Jersey has taxed its wealthiest residents — those earning $500,000 or more per year — at a base rate of 8.97 percent, up from a previous base of 6.37 percent. A 2010 study by two Princeton sociologists maintained that the so-called “millionaire’s tax” instituted in 2004 had no detrimental effect on New Jersey’s wealthy population, a finding the Regent study does not explicitly dispute.

Those whom the State forces to pay the “millionaire’s tax” account for only 1 percent of New Jersey’s population — yet that small demographic pays 42 percent of all personal income tax statewide. And 39 percent of New Jersey’s State-collected tax revenues (as opposed to Federal apportionments, etc.) come from the personal income tax.

The new study finds that the income tax, along with onerous estate taxes, property taxes and multiple layers of fees and taxes that predominate at both the municipal and State levels, are driving wealth out of New Jersey as residents find ways to set down legal roots elsewhere — primarily in the less-choking tax environments of neighboring Pennsylvania, and Florida.

And the study cautions that New Jersey will reach a population tipping point, particularly among its wealthiest residents, if the Legislature doesn’t attempt to reform its tax and spending matrix across the board:

While tax migration may currently be more of a threat than an actual problem, it could represent a growing challenge for New Jersey’s future. Several professionals we interviewed believe it is already a major problem for the state. Sam Weiner, a tax attorney with Cole Schotz, says, “New Jersey income and estate taxes have become such a prominent issue that residency has become a prime topic in every other meeting that I have.” Michael Grohman, a tax attorney with Duane Morris, LLP, claims that his wealthy clients are “leaving [New Jersey] as fast as they can.”

…The belief that New Jersey has some of the highest income taxes in the nation adds to the growing desire to move out of the state. The combination of these factors could cause businesses and wealth to leave the state, with New Jersey’s already weak economy continuing to struggle.

Population trends won’t tell the whole story — the study makes no claim that high taxes alone are causing a net population loss. But there are some interesting observations to note about New Jersey’s population and demographic trends since 2000.

Between the 2000 and 2010 census, New Jersey experienced a net population gain of 4.5 percent, less than half the national average of 9.7 percent over the same period. That drop-off came after the State had gained 8.9 percent in the decade between 1990 and 2000. Since 2010, the State’s overall population growth has continued to wane, increasing only .7 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Since 2010, the rate of emigration out of New Jersey has accelerated faster than the influx of immigration — much of it illegal — into the State, and aging baby boomers comprise the fastest-growing native population demographic.

Rural Wyoming Landowner Fights Back Against EPA Push To Fine Him For Building A Stock Pond

You may already know that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to implement a draft rule that would empower the agency to micromanage what private property owners can do with their land. But the EPA isn’t waiting for new rules to make one Wyoming farmer’s life miserable for daring to dig a stock pond on his rural property.

The agency is attempting to fine Andy Johnson, a welder who owns an 8-acre Wyoming farm, up to $75,000 per day for allegedly failing to seek clearance from the Federal government before he dug a pond to stock with fish, attract waterfowl and serve as a recreational stomping ground for his three children. The EPA is claiming that Johnson dammed a small creek to create the pond, but even Wyoming’s Congressional delegates question that claim.

Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both Republicans, learned of Johnson’s struggle with the EPA after Johnson took his case before his State Legislative delegation, and have since criticized the agency for attempting to test the limits of its regulatory muscle by fixating on a small property owner who simply dug a small recreational pond.

“Rather than a sober administration of the Clean Water Act, the [EPA’s] Compliance Order reads like a draconian edict of a heavy-handed bureaucracy,” the Senators wrote in a March 12 letter demanding the EPA withdraw a compliance order it sent to Johnson. That order instructs Johnson to hire a consultant to assess the environmental impact of any runoff from the pond, and to provide the agency a schedule that outlines his plan to have any compliance changes made at the site within a 60-day time limit.

Johnson told FOX News he sought the State’s permission before embarking on the small project. And, like Senators Barasso and Enzi, he maintains that only an expansive interpretation of the Clean Water Act would give the EPA any reason to believe it had enforcement powers over the construction of a small pond on rural family land.

He also said there’s no way in hell he’s giving in to the EPA.

“I have not paid them a dime nor will I. I will go bankrupt if I have to fighting it. My wife and I built [the pond] together. We put our blood, sweat and tears into it. It was our dream,” he said. “This goes a lot further than a pond. It’s about a person’s rights. I have three little kids. I am not going to roll over and let [the government] tell me what I can do on my land. I followed the rules.”

It appears that he did. Stock ponds are exempt from the Clean Water Act, and Johnson sought and received clearance from the Wyoming State Engineer’s office before starting the project in 2012.

Johnson’s case my represent a test to determine how easily the EPA would be able to enforce an expanded interpretation of the Clean Water Act under a new draft rule proposal. Under new guidelines the agency is pursuing, the EPA would be authorized to oversee or block any private land-management project, no matter how rural, that it deems to be located within a “significant nexus” (whatever that means) of protected waterways and watersheds.

If the new rule is approved, environmental groups with no prior knowledge of a landowner or his land-use practices would gain standing, under the law, to sue over small-scale projects that share any portion of a water table or watershed with Federally protected areas — regardless of their distance from the site.

Bogus Numbers Behind Michelle Obama’s Claim ‘Let’s Move’ Has Reduced Child Obesity By Nearly Half

First lady Michelle Obama has been taking a page from her husband’s rulebook recently, talking up a failed policy initiative to make it appear successful. In commemorating the 4th anniversary of the “Let’s Move” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, she’s been touting a study that claims a 43 percent reduction in only four short years.

But the study itself is bogus.

After the first lady repeatedly cited a February study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that seemed to indicate childhood obesity rates had plummeted, scientific peers took notice of the remarkable findings and began to scrutinize the study’s methods. That led them to strongly question its results, according to Reuters:

Anti-obesity campaigners credited everything from changes to the federal nutrition program for low-income women and children to the elimination of trans-fats from fast food, more physical activity in child-care programs and declining consumption of sugary drinks.

First Lady Michelle Obama and others seized on the finding as a sign that efforts to combat the national obesity epidemic were paying off.

But as obesity specialists take a closer look at the data, some are questioning the 43 percent claim, suggesting that it may be a statistical fluke and pointing out that similar studies find no such decrease in obesity among preschoolers.

In fact, based on the researchers’ own data, the obesity rate may have even risen rather than declined.

“You need to have a healthy degree of skepticism about the validity of this finding,” said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the weight center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Researchers said the sample size of the group under CDC observation (871 children) is simply too low to shore up such a dramatic decrease in obesity rates, and they point out that the study stands alone among a sea of other concurrent research that doesn’t reflect the same results. A much broader study encompassing 200,000 children whose mothers receive WIC nutrition assistance from the government during the same period observed “virtually no change in obesity rates,” according to The Weekly Standard.

Ted Cruz Embraces Poster Of Himself As A Tattoo-Covered Outlaw

A California artist got hold of an image of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in time to digitally alter it and plaster the result all over the Beverly Wilshire Hotel Saturday, where Cruz himself was scheduled to speak. The new creation is something that may be lacking in figurative accuracy, but it’s drenched in symbolism.

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Upon discovering the posters, Cruz’ reaction was as cool as the image itself: he let himself be photographed signing one, while appending his own personal touch:

“The Fight For Liberty Never Ends,” he wrote beside his new rebellious portrait.

Twin revolvers, a Winston Churchill tat, and a pastiche of American iconography cover the shirtless figure while a cigarette dangles from Cruz’ lips. That seemed to be the only part Cruz disavowed.

The guy behind the image goes by the handle “SABO.” He’s a self-described conservative living within the progressive Los Angeles artists’ subculture, and he explains on his (or her?) website that, at some point, he realized he had just as much power to manipulate the media as all of his left-leaning peers:

“There was no place I could go where I wasn’t punched in the face by some sort of art defining who I was for being a Republican. Evil, Bigotted [sic], Homophobic, Out of Touch, Rich, Greedy, on and on. And then I snapped. Why was the Left allowed to define me and where are the dissenting voices from the Right setting the record straight? Creatively speaking there was no one,” he wrote.

“My aim as an artist is to be as dirty, ground level, and mean as any Liberal artist out there, more so if I can. Use their tactics, their methods, appeal to their audience, the young, urban, street urchins with a message they never hear in a style they own.

“My name is SABO and I am an UNSAVORYAGENT.”

Now the posters are up for sale (SABO calls it a donation, but it’s still an exchange of money for art.) But the Cruz poster may not be his most effective message. He’s also got a series of “Obama Drone” posters featuring the likenesses of celebrities like Samuel Jackson and Alec Baldwin superimposed over an airborne military drone, and another of Barack Obama made up as the Joker. And check this out:

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Reid And Co. Get ‘Four Pinocchios’ For Koch Brothers Lie

Last week, we touched on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) growing fixation on the Koch brothers as the Democratic Party’s anointed “Bad Guys”: faces that Democratic voters can pair with their party leaders’ rhetoric to damage the evil Republican agenda during the 2014 Congressional election season.

By the time you read this, Reid will likely have gotten around to blaming the Koch brothers for everything from rigging conservative media to propagating the bubonic plague. His Twitter campaign to itemize his righteous grievances with the Koch influence is part of a calculated, if ill-conceived, general strategy to set Democrats everywhere on a months-long talkathon of Koch-bashing. It’s supposed to help them keep the Senate, or something.

One of the Koch-haters’ latest gripes stems from Democrats’ insistence that the Kochs are backing GOP candidates who seek new tax breaks for companies that move U.S. jobs offshore. Campaign ads for at-risk Democratic incumbents in the Senate, like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, have alleged exactly that — despite the unmentioned fact that Landrieu has received a lot of money in past election cycles from a Koch-funded political action committee.

On Friday, The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” blog entered the fray — and gave the Reid camp’s sinister claim its dubious Four Pinocchios award for setting a high standard for deceptive speech.

The pro-GOP group Americans for Prosperity has relentlessly attacked Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), so the pro-Democratic group Senate Majority PAC has made AFP’s main backers, the Koch brothers, the subject of a new attack ad. This is all part of a larger Democratic strategy of tying GOP candidates to the conservative billionaires, as witnessed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s near-daily attacks on them.

…For the purpose of this fact check, we will examine the claim that the Koch brothers have an agenda of protecting “tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.” That’s a new one.

…Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The [Landrieu] ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.

The Post admits it has found Americans for Prosperity’s conservative agenda distasteful in the past, but concludes that Democrats are reaching blindly: “[I]f you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks,” the paper chides.

It’s The Economy, Stupid — We’ve Got Plenty Of Labor

A report released last week indicates there is an abundance of legal, able-bodied, employment-age people who aren’t participating in the American workforce, continuing a trend of decline dating back at least to the turn of the century.

According to the report, issued by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), there are presently 50 million people who could be — but aren’t — working or seeking a job, a figure that’s climbed from roughly 40 million in 2000.

The far-ranging immigration and employment survey, titled “Still No Evidence of a Labor Shortage,” drew heavily on data from the Census Bureau’s most recent Current Population Survey, which asks residents about their employment status, education level, housing situation and a host of other demographic markers.

From that information, CIS made several key determinations about whether the American labor pool would benefit, either in terms of supply or of income, if the government permits an even greater infusion of cheap labor into the country through amnesty and more lenient immigration policy:

In the fourth quarter of 2013, the standard unemployment rate (referred to as U-3) for native-born adults who have not completed high school was 16.6 percent, while for those with only a high school education it was 8.5. The U-3 unemployed are people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks.

The broader U-6 measure of unemployment — which includes those want to work, but have not looked recently, and those forced to work part-time — was 28.7 percent for native-born adults who have not completed high school and 16.5 percent for those with only a high school education.

The total number of native-born, working-age adults (18 to 65) of any education level not working (unemployed or out the labor force) was 50.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 — 8.8 million more than in the fourth quarter of 2007, and 14.7 million more than in the same quarter of 2000.

The share of working-age (18 to 65) natives holding a job has not recovered from the Great Recession. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 31 percent were not working, something that has barely improved in the last five years.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, there were only two working-age natives holding a job for every one that was not employed. This represents a huge deterioration. As recently as 2000, there were three working-age adults holding a job for every one not working.

The report finds that the domestic supply of dormant labor for low-skilled jobs — precisely those that an opening of the border would help to fill — is particularly large, if Americans fitting the demographic were offered sufficient economic incentive to choose working over not working.

“Congress is currently considering immigration reform packages that include work permits for those in the country illegally, as well as substantial increases in future legal immigration,” the study concludes. “Yet the latest employment data continue to show an enormous number of working-age Americans not working, particularly those with modest levels of education.”

The Articulate Argument Against ‘Immigration Reform’

The Republican Party is obviously at war with itself over whether, and to what extent, to close ranks with Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration to address the myriad problems stemming from the presence of millions of illegal aliens who now reside in the United States.

The progressive left bolsters its pro-legalization, pro-amnesty position with ad hominem attacks on conservatives that portray them, too successfully and too often, as closet racists and apologists for the big-business status quo.

So if you happen to have a principled reason for believing it’s not a good idea for the GOP to go anywhere near an immigration deal proffered by a Democrat-led consortium of Congressmen – and yet, somehow, you’re not a racist or a fat cat – it can sometimes be tough to offer a cogent, well-articulated argument that’s nearly bulletproof against all but the most obvious of ad hominem attacks from the left.

Enter Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who penned a column this week for National Review.  He’s got it all down in one place. It’s a long read, but anyone who finishes it should have no doubt that being against amnesty isn’t about racism or poor-bashing: it’s about the American economy and the dignity of every able-bodied American who wishes to achieve a better life through hard work and free-market opportunity.

Here are some snippets:

Republicans have a clear path to building a conservative majority if they free themselves from the corporate consultants and demonstrate to the American public that the GOP is the only party aligned with the core interests, concerns, and beliefs of everyday hardworking citizens.

But the immigration “principles” offered by House GOP leaders imply that record immigration levels must be increased further to meet “the needs of employers.” One such GOP proposal — to provide the food industry with half a million low-skilled workers each year — was polled by Rasmussen. Nearly 70 percent of independent voters opposed it.

“Most business leaders have long favored more open immigration. Different businesses want different kinds of people,” a prominent GOP fundraiser declared on TV. “A restaurant may want waiters and cooks; a hospital wants nurses and doctors; a university wants physicists; a business like Exelon needs more engineers.” Asked by the interviewer about hiring U.S. workers for open jobs, he replied that many of those now unemployed are “unable to compete for them.”

Is that the message of a winning party? It might win a majority of votes at a dinner party in a gated community in Bel Air, but it is an act of profound delusion to think that plan can form the basis of a nationwide Republican resurgence.

Good so far? Here’s more:

…Republicans have a choice. They can either join the Democrats as the second political party in Washington advocating uncontrolled immigration, or they can offer the public a principled alternative and represent the American workers Democrats have jettisoned. Republicans can either help the White House enact an immigration plan that will hollow out the American middle class, or they can finally expose the truth about the White House plan and detail the enormous harm it will inflict.

Republicans could then illustrate how, on every policy front, the Left embraces an agenda that benefits only the fortunate few.

…Wherever the policies of the Left have been faithfully implemented, as in Detroit, human tragedy has followed. The future offered by the Left — a shrinking work force struggling to fund a growing welfare state — is not only unsustainable but uncompassionate. Compassion demands that we spare no effort in helping millions now jobless to realize the dream of financial independence. This is the urgent economic task of the 21st century.

Too often, Republicans have offered a passive reply to the Left’s refrain that the GOP does not care for those in need. The usual GOP responses — that the Left is engaged in “class warfare,” or is not presenting “credible solutions,” or is “kicking the can down the road” — fail to rebut the underlying slander. Instead, Republicans should hold the Left accountable for the social and moral harm its policies have inflicted on every community that has suffered for decades under its disastrous policy regime.

Now we’re almost home:

Currently, the federal government administers roughly 80 means-tested poverty-assistance and welfare programs, on which it spends $750 billion a year — that’s a larger cost than defense, Medicare, or Social Security. It is a sprawling, growing bureaucracy with almost no meaningful oversight or guiding vision.

…If these myriad programs were combined into a single manageable credit, with clear job-training and work requirements, not only would it cut down drastically on fraud but it would help struggling Americans rise out of poverty and into good-paying jobs — uplifting the worker while reducing costs for the taxpayer.

What if, instead of applying for guest workers, companies applied to hire workers receiving job training at a local welfare office? Able-bodied adults, in turn, would be required to accept employment or lose benefits. In other words: instead of a guest-worker program, a welfare-to-work program.

Would that not be in the national interest? Would that not improve the quality of life in struggling families, schools, and communities?

Such a plan should be combined with a series of conservative policies all united by that common theme: shrinking the welfare rolls and growing the employment rolls. This pro-worker conservative agenda would create millions of good-paying jobs without adding a dime to our dangerous debt[.]

Sessions goes on to outline at least eight specific policy points that shore up that overall goal – but there’s much more to his argument.

We’ve bookmarked this one. Check out Senator Sessions’ full column at National Review.

What He Said And What He Means: Obama Has Obamacare Where He Wants It Now

President Obama continued his linear march from fuzzy credibility toward brash deception today, telling an Internet audience that Obamacare has achieved the critical enrollment mass necessary to sustain itself.

“At this point, enough people are signing up that the Affordable Care Act is going to work,” Obama said during an interview at WebMD. “The insurance companies will continue to offer these plans. We already have 4 million people, over 4 million people, signed up…The pool is already large enough, the number of people who have signed up is large enough; I’m confident the program will be stable.”

Oh really? There’s no way that is true – or that it will be true anytime soon.

What he must really mean is that enough people have signed up – even if he’s not telling the truth with his “4 million” claim – to make repeal or sweeping alterations to the law a monumentally uphill struggle against a government program that’s deeply entrenched. If nothing else, Obamacare may have already built a small base of government dependents whose expectation is to now rely on free insurance, courtesy of an expanded Medicaid program, that conservative politicians won’t want to alienate. Who cares if the majority begrudges Obamacare? The few who stand to lose free stuff will hate that prospect far more, and GOP cruelty is great political fodder for tender-hearted progressives.

But Obamacare hasn’t built a financially solvent, self-sustaining base of paying customers – and Obama knows it. Every piece of evidence suggests the opposite, and the Administration’s own evasive behavior when confronted with questions about hard enrollment demographics only confirms it. Both insurance companies and the White House know that the Obamacare customer matrix is an inverted pyramid comprised mostly of free-care beneficiaries, followed by paying customers with ongoing medical issues and, comprising the very tiny tip, a few healthy young people whose insurance premiums are expensively out of proportion with their modest health care needs.

But Obama has the confidence that “enough” people have now signed up. That’s a disturbing tell, because it means he believes it will be hard to get rid of, even after the Congress turns against him or after he leaves office.

Government programs are a campaign tool of the left, and only a massively disruptive change in the progressive cycle of dependency will end that sinister truth.

Confiscating Camera Phone Costs Cops $250,000

It goes without saying that the only policy that’s needed to ensure citizens have a right to document the actions of their public servants is the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But the Baltimore Police Department, fresh off an embarrassing encounter with a bystander who sued the agency after officers confiscated and altered his camera phone in a 2010 incident, has reformed its internal policy in an evident attempt to reassure the public that the police won’t be allowed to fabricate a pretense for abusing that right again.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore PD has agreed to a $250,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by Christopher Sharp after the police confiscated his phone and deleted video he’d recorded of Baltimore officers making an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010.

From the story:

The case centered on officers’ actions on May 15, 2010, at the Pimlico Race Course. There, Christopher Sharp said, officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when they took his phone after the “arrest and beating” of his female friend.

Sharp, who was represented by the ACLU, sued the city, saying officers deleted videos on his phone.

“It took a long time, but … the Baltimore Police Department became very serious about resolving this case,” Sharp said. “What happened was wrong, but the Police Department is not my enemy. They have made great strides to correct this.”

Sharp originally wanted nothing more than an apology. But once the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, Sharp agreed to file a lawsuit against the department. A Federal judge lent the case momentum in 2012, ordering the police department to pay $1,000 in damages for attempting to assassinate Stephens’ character through follow-up intimidation tactics the judge described as a “witch hunt.”

That same year, the department attempted some damage control by codifying its policy on filing police officers in the line of duty. But the ACLU pushed back, saying the department hadn’t gone far enough. The revised policy reaffirms the public’s 1st Amendment right to film and record audio of police in the field, “unless such recordings interfere with police activity.” Maybe that wording invites some wiggle room for bad cops to interpret the rules as they see fit. Time will tell.

The department isn’t in the clear in complying with the 1st Amendment, or with its own revised rules.  The Sun story relates two other recent incidents in which police have attempted to stop people from filming what they were doing — one involved a Sun photographer snapping pictures at a crime scene.

The most encouraging takeaway from the department’s attempt at reform is its recognition of citizen journalism as an inherent right indistinguishable from that of organized news-gathering agencies. The new policy states that police “shall allow all persons the same access for photography and recording as is given to the news media.”

Did Sebelius Lie To Congress About How Many People Have Enrolled In Obamacare?

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius played ignorant when Congressional Republicans asked her, point blank, how many alleged Obamacare enrollees have actually paid for the insurance plans they browsed through an online marketplace. “I can’t tell you because I don’t know that,” she replied.

Nah, she knows — or she’s intentionally sequestering herself from solid enrollment statistics the insurances companies have indeed provided to the government, one insurance industry source told POLITICO Thursday.

“They have a lot more information than they’re letting on,” the unnamed source said of President Barack Obama’ HHS Secretary’s feigned ignorance. “They have real hard data about the percent [of shoppers] that have paid … If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.”

The Obama Administration is touting an Obamacare enrollment figure of 4.2 million, a number that it grudgingly admits reflects shoppers who made it all the way to an online shopping cart — but not those who actually bought anything.

But insurance officials “at four of the big national plans tell POLITICO that about 15 to 20 percent of people who have signed up have not yet paid their first monthly premium — the final step to get coverage,” according to Thursday’s report. “And they’ve told the White House the same.”

It’s obvious that Obama Administration officials tasked with enacting whichever parts of the law the President feels like enacting are being forced, by election-season political expediency, to conceal the fact they’re having to hold their noses even as they carry out the President’s dirty work of rolling out the government-managed insurance scheme.

Despite her ostensible cluelessness about how many people have truly enrolled, Sebelius nonetheless was armed with sufficient data Wednesday to predict an increase in Obamacare premiums for 2015.

That, of course, comes as belated news to anyone who heard candidate Obama’s repeated, repeated, repeated pledge to drop premiums “by up to $2,500 per family, per year” in the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election.