Mainstream media downplays voter outrage as midterm elections approach

Ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, the major television news outlets are covering the anticipated anti-Obama voter backlash with far less fervor than in 2006, when a public disgruntled with President George W. Bush handed control of Congress over to Democrats.

According to an analysis by the conservative Media Research Center (MRC), the three U.S. broadcast news networks are covering this year’s elections — widely anticipated to be a net loss for Democratic incumbents — with a frequency that pales in comparison to the incessant anti-GOP coverage they offered ahead of the 2006 midterms.

According to the MRC, the Big Three networks are “all but ignoring” the possible shift in Congressional control:

In less than two weeks, voters head to the polls in midterm elections that seem certain to yield strong Republican gains, if not outright control of the U.S. Senate. Such a political sea change is big news, but a new Media Research Center study finds that, in contrast to their enthusiastic coverage of the 2006 midterms when Democrats made big gains, the Big Three broadcast evening newscasts are all but ignoring this year’s political contests.

MRC analysts studied every election story on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through October 20 in both 2006 (the midterm election in George W. Bush’s second term) and 2014 (the equivalent election under President Barack Obama). Even in a changing media landscape, Big Three evening newscasts are a principal news source for more than 23 million viewers, beating all of their broadcast and cable competition.

Our analysts found that, when Democrats were feeling good about their election prospects eight years ago, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s World News aired a combined 159 campaign stories (91 full reports and another 68 stories that mentioned the campaign). But during the same time period this year, those same newscasts have offered a paltry 25 stories (16 full reports and 9 mentions), a six-to-one disparity.

In addition, ABC’s “World News Tonight” has neglected to offer even a single story on the midterms. “[T]his year, a regular viewer of ABC’s evening newscast would have no indication that any [elections] were even taking place,” MRC observes.

NBC even launched an in-depth series of stories in the run-up to the 2006 midterms, featuring individual Congressional races that promised to flip party control from the GOP to the Democrats.

“It wasn’t biased for the networks to sift through polls and predict bad news for Republicans eight years ago,” MRC concludes.

“But now that the party labels are reversed, those same networks are showing their bias by giving so much less airtime to the bad political news for Democrats this year.”

Pennsylvania opens path to lawsuits over local gun ordinances that supersede state law

The Pennsylvania legislature approved a bill Monday that provides a pathway for “membership organizations” to sue cities in the Keystone State for passing any local ordinances that go beyond state law in regulating the possession and use of firearms. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign it into law.

Democratic leaders are predictably outraged.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday:

“If you are a resident of Forest County and you don’t like the Norristown gun law,” said Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), “you could hire Johnnie Cochran and bill a township $100,000 an hour or whatever he charges to win the case.”

…Former Gov. Ed Rendell, a gun control advocate who has worked with the advocacy group CeasefirePA, has vowed to target in the Nov. 4 election Southeastern Pennsylvania lawmakers who voted for the measure.

“This bill is outrageous,” Rendell said last week. “People all over the commonwealth support the basic notion that someone who loses their firearm should report it.”

According to the Inquirer, 28 mostly urban municipalities have local ordinances that require owners to report missing firearms.

The mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — both Democrats — united in their opposition to the law, issuing a joint statement decrying its potential to encourage “gun violence.”

“Gun violence represents a particularly tragic epidemic in poorer communities in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Parents, family members, and community leaders are naturally compelled by concern for their loved ones to do everything in their power to combat the shootings that destroy lives,” they wrote.

The law, which goes into effect 60 days after the governor signs it, not only will give member organizations like the National Rifle Association legal standing to sue municipalities over local gun laws, but also to recover legal fees and court costs from the cities if they prevail.

All the outrage from the left begs an obvious question: Why would Democrats oppose this law unless they already knew what the outcome would be for any lawsuit that arises from it?

Obama throws embattled Democrats under the bus

President Obama is increasingly the target of critics who maintain his decisions are motivated by optics instead of principle. But it’s not always clear whether Obama harbors a desire to influence the public’s perception of the Democratic Party in general or of himself in particular.

Obama did his critics a favor this week, throwing fellow Democrats under the bus just as they head into the final two-week stretch of the midterm election season.

Appearing on Al Sharpton’s radio show Monday, Obama said that many Democratic incumbents in Congress who’ve shunned his support during their midterm re-election campaigns are the very same people who have supported his ideas.

“The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress; they are on the right side of minimum wage; they are on the right side of fair pay; they are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure; they’re on the right side of early childhood education,” he told Sharpton.

Those comments come even as incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), as well as newcomers like Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky all hedge on their support for the same policies Obama continues to insist are party consensus-builders.

“These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me, and I tell them: I said, ‘You know what? You do what you need to do to win. I will be responsible for making sure our voters turn out,'” he said.

The president appears to be doubling down on his now-infamous Oct. 2 remark that signaled the midterms are nothing less than a nationwide voter referendum on his policies.

“[M]ake no mistake: These policies are on the ballot, every single one of them,” Obama told an audience at Northwestern University.

That comment had been repeatedly deployed in GOP campaign advertisements — a phenomenon that will likely be duplicated using his latest comments to Sharpton.

“The president’s remarks appear tailor-made for Republican attack ads in states like Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska, where GOP candidates have painted their Democratic opponents as rubber stamps for the administration’s policies,” The Hill wrote Tuesday. “Democrats in those races have worked hard to distance themselves from Obama, with polls showing his approval ratings mired in the low 40s.”

It’s good to be friends with Sen. Kay Hagan, as long as she can get re-elected

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is among the vulnerable Senate incumbents in this year’s midterm elections, so it’s probably vital to everyone who’s allegedly benefited from her back-scratching government largesse that she stay firmly planted in office for another six years.

That appears to apply particularly to Randall Gore, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development office in Hagan’s home state. Hagan recommended Gore to President Obama after she took office in 2009, and the Senate confirmed him.

Now the USDA’s representatives in North Carolina are in a position to return the favor — something Carolina Journal insinuated last week in a fascinating article about a possible conflict of interest involving a USDA energy grant to a business co-owned by Hagan’s family.

From Carolina Journal:

Earlier this week, CJ reported on the $50,000 grant from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. The grant paid for the second phase of a solar energy installation at a building in Reidsville owned by JDC Manufacturing, a company co-owned by Kay Hagan’s husband Charles “Chip” Hagan and Chip’s brothers John and David. Another Hagan family-owned company, Plastic Revolutions, leases space at the JDC building.

The first phase of the solar project — along with other energy upgrades at the site — was underwritten in part by a stimulus grant to JDC of $250,644. As part of the application for the stimulus grant, JDC said it would provide “leveraged funds” amounting to $187,983, or 43 percent of the total project cost of $438,627. As the project neared completion, JDC reported the project ended up costing $114,519 less than projected. But JDC passed on none of the savings to taxpayers, and kept the entire $250,644 in stimulus funding.

Less than a year after pocketing the $114,519 in savings from phase one, JDC went back to taxpayers asking for an additional $50,000 to fund phase two. Both phases of the solar project were installed by another Hagan family business, Solardyne/Green State Power, a solar energy company owned and managed by Chip Hagan, the Hagans’ son Tilden, and their son-in-law William Stewart.

If true, this resembles the sort of secret-handshake dealing that routinely unfolds whenever some pipe-laying company’s owner’s brother gets elected as chairman of the local county commission. Local-bid contracts have a way of going to those guys, and often there’s a government grant subsidizing part of the cost.

Like many improvement grants, from ARRA to CDBGs, this case appears to carry on the proud tradition of pouring a significant chunk of the free money not into the community, but into the pockets either of political cronies or necessary-evil special interest groups.

Carolina Journal reports it’s had trouble getting information about the USDA grant from the state office.

“After first agreeing to allow Carolina Journal to inspect the documents relating to a taxpayer-funded U.S. Department of Agriculture energy grant to a company owned by family members of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, the USDA Rural Development office in Raleigh later said the matter was being handled in Washington — implying the USDA’s headquarters in the nation’s capital.”

What are the odds the Journal gets its response after the midterm elections are in Hagan’s rearview mirror?

More people loathe Harry Reid than Koch brothers

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may hate the Koch brothers, but there are a lot of people — evidently living everywhere except Nevada — who hate Harry Reid.

In fact, more people despise Reid than the villainous Koch brothers, whom Reid himself so despises.

According to last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the Kochs have a lot of catching up to do if they want to be as reviled as Reid. The majority leader races past them in negative polling, with 28 percent of voters saying they hold a “very negative” opinion Reid, compared with only 19 percent who harbor the same antipathy for the Koch brothers.

Similarly, 11 percent said they hold a “somewhat negative” view of Reid, compared with only 8 percent who feel the same way of the Koch brothers.

Not that the conservative Kochs aren’t getting a lot of help in the race to the bottom of public opinion polling.

If the goal is to get people to hate you, then Reid has been the Kochs’ biggest ally. He spent much of the early half of 2014 hyperbolically slamming the duo from the Senate floor and on Twitter, even going so far as to support a failed Constitutional amendment aimed at curbing the Kochs’ ability to donate to federal election campaigns.

It’s probably a good thing for Reid that the campaign finance amendment failed, anyway.

“Reid has often ranted about the Koch brothers’ evil plan to ‘buy our democracy,’” The Washington Free Beacon wrote last week. “But as it turns out, the single largest donor — by far — to outside spending groups this cycle is Reid’s good friend Tom Steyer, an environmentalist billionaire.”

Which gets more mainstream coverage: NFL scandals or Obama scandals? (Hint: It’s not even close)

If you have a hunch that the mainstream media selectively edits out stale political content and shields the Obama administration from the sight of its own spilled milk, you probably could guess correctly that more vapid fare gets the lion’s share of news coverage.

You’d be right. Compare and contrast the frequency of the major TV networks’ “news” coverage of the myriad NFL scandals with its coverage of the Obama administration’s (even more myriad) scandals. According to NewsBusters:

Since September 4 (the start of the NFL regular season) through October 15 the networks, on their evening and morning shows, devoted a total of 171 (NBC 71, CBS 55, ABC 45) stories or briefs to five NFL players (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Dwyer, Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy) embroiled in domestic abuse cases. Number of stories on Obama scandals over that same time period? Just three. And while no one would dispute the seriousness of the charges underlying the NFL cases, the question has to be asked doesn’t the state of the body politic deserve at least the same amount of coverage as the state of the NFL?

To be fair to the mainstream press, the TV news divisions have a gift for giving airtime to  the Obama administration’s problems without framing them as scandals. Nearly every talking head who’s been consulted to discuss the administration’s handling of the ongoing Ebola scare has trotted out the same discredited talking points handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And the CDC has been loath to affirm anything that the president hasn’t explicitly authorized. Hence, CDC Director Tom Frieden’s comically evasive remarks on the reasons why banning travel to and from West Africa won’t slow the spread of the virus here on this continent.

NewsBusters offers detailed accounts of how the TV networks’ anchors have earnestly portrayed the gravity of the NFL’s many problems. But that same gravity has been missing whenever the topic turns to the Obama administration’s bumblings and missteps.

“[T]the same kind of urgency expressed in the language used and in the amount of stories (171) devoted to the NFL’s scandal was not utilized in covering the latest developments in the following Obama scandals,” NewsBusters remarked.

Minimum wage group offers pay that undercuts the wage they’re demanding

In another case of reality trumping idealism, a progressive group advocating for a dramatic bump in the federal mandatory minimum wage has inadvertently revealed a bit on unintentional hypocrisy.

The Seattle-based Freedom Socialist Party needed a Web developer, so it put out an online job posting. It describes the necessary qualifications and job responsibilities, and it even clearly states the hourly wage.

Problem is the Freedom Socialist Party isn’t offering its future Web developer nearly as much as the minimum wage it’s demanding from the government. The party wants a $20 mandatory minimum wage, but it’s willing to pay a Web developer only $13 per hour.

From the party’s Web page describing its policy platform:

Restore funds and programs that aid seniors, the poor, children, single mothers and the homeless. No cuts to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare. Raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour. Provide a guaranteed annual income. Free medical care for all, including reproductive services and abortion. End foreclosures and expand low-cost public housing.

This clearly isn’t a case of leading by example.

Pundit Press took a screen capture of the party’s online job posting. Sure enough, the group offers “$13.00/hour or negotiable depending on experience.”

The ad was posted recently; here’s a link to its Craigslist post — if you’re interested in putting your Web dev skills to use for $13 per hour.

Obama administration has prosecuted media leakers more than all other presidential administrations combined

The American Civil Liberties Union is among the many advocates for putting a halt to the federal government’s ongoing prosecution of Pulitzer-winning reporter James Risen. In researching facts pertaining to the Risen case, the ACLU discovered an interesting fact: The Obama administration beats all of recorded history in its rate of jailing accused media leakers.

“Partially because of press freedom concerns, sentencing in media leak cases has historically been relatively light,” the ACLU’s Gabe Rothman wrote this week. “Not so under President Obama. When it comes to sending these folks to jail, the Obama administration blows every other presidency combined out of the water — by a lot.”

Here’s Rothman on the contrast between the Obama administration and everybody else:

By my count, the Obama administration has secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution. It’s important — and telling — to note that the bulk of that time is the 35 years in Fort Leavenworth handed down to Chelsea Manning.

Rothman lists eight separate cases under Obama that have either already produced jail sentences or for which the case disposition is still pending. By far, the longest sentence was handed down to Manning, who was given 420 months for his role in delivering intelligence documents about the Afghan and Iraqi wars to WikiLeaks.

For his part, Risen is still waiting for the federal government to decide whether it will continue its attempts to compel him to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA employee suspected of informing Risen about the government’s alleged sabotage of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Risen published a 2006 book, “State of War,” which discussed the covert program but did not reveal the source of the information. He won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting that same year for stories about U.S. spying.

Risen also won the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for journalism earlier this month. In accepting the award, he told an audience he believes Obama “hates the press.”

The Obama administration’s only West African travel ban applies to U.S. soldiers in the hot zone

The Obama administration has authorized U.S. military commanders of troops deployed to Ebola-afflicted West African countries to exercise their own discretion in instituting quarantines for soldiers and support personnel whom they suspect of coming into contact with the virus.

That’s a harsher stance than the administration has taken on restricting air travel to and from countries like Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

So far, Obama has not instructed the State Department to issue any travel bans involving Ebola-stricken populations, despite the United States’ first-ever case of Ebola having been introduced by a man who boarded a U.S.-bound plane from Liberia.

American soldiers, whom Obama ordered to Africa to play supporting roles in securing treatment centers in Ebola zones, will be more closely guarded. There are about 500 soldiers there now, but the administration has authorized the deployment of up to 4,000.

“In an unprecedented move to protect U.S. troops that might be exposed to Ebola, U.S. military commanders are being given the authority to quarantine troops for 21 days at a Defense Department facility where they will be monitored for signs of the disease and treated if they do contract the virus, a Defense Department memo explained,” CNN reported Wednesday.

In July, Obama moved quickly to institute a travel ban to Israel in the midst of a foreign policy skirmish with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama described that short-lived restriction as a “prudent action” that had nothing to do with his difference of opinion with Israel over its defensive stance against Hamas rocket attacks originating from the Gaza Strip.

Ben Carson bootstrap PAC claims more than $10 million in fundraising

The political action committee behind a grass-roots effort to “draft” Dr. Ben Carson into a presidential campaign has reportedly raised more than $10 million in mostly small donations, outstripping a similar effort staged by supporters of presumed Democratic contender Hillary Clinton for the most recent fundraising period.

The Draft Ben Carson for President Committee announced Tuesday it had added $3.3 million to its war chest in the third quarter of 2014, far more than the $2 million raised in Q3 by the pro-Clinton Ready for Hillary PAC. Both camps have surpassed the $10 million mark in total donations.

On the heels of this week’s fundraising reports, Bloomberg is speculating Carson is “on the verge of running” for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

He has expressed reluctance every step along the path to such an endeavor, though, appearing deferential to the will of those who beg him to seek the presidency. “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would. It’s not my intention,” he told FOX News shortly after his speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast strongly endeared him to political conservatives.

“He was set to retire on a golf course,” Bloomberg observes. “He bought an organ and was determined to learn to play (‘I just love Bach organ music, it just inspires me,’ he says.) He was going to learn a few languages.” But his famous speech, which criticized President Obama’s policies even as Obama himself sat two chairs away, set Carson on a more ambitious course.

“Honestly, after the prayer breakfast things began to happen that I wasn’t anticipating,” he told Bloomberg. “Then the question became can you just walk away and do what you want to do and just leave all of those people who were just clamoring and saying you’ve gotta do this.”

Houston subpoenas sermons of pastors who oppose homosexuality from the pulpit

The 1st Amendment is coming up against local discrimination laws in Houston, where the city council has subpoenaed sermons from several pastors who’ve allegedly referenced the city’s lesbian mayor or portrayed homosexuality as immoral before their congregations.

Houston passed an anti-discrimination ordinance in May, approving a piece of local legislation pushed by mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian who described the measure as “the most personally satisfying and most personally meaningful thing that I will do as mayor.” Several religious leaders in Houston have remained vocal in their opposition since that time. A petition to hold a referendum on the law drew far more than the required number of signatures, but was declared “invalid” by the city attorney. A voter lawsuit challenging that decision is now pending.

Equal rights is one thing; forcing pastors into court over the convictions they share with willing churchgoers is another. To mount its defense in the lawsuit, the city has subpoenaed the sermons and “other communications,” according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), in an effort to demonstrate the law’s opponents are violating the ordinance if they are telling congregants that homosexuality is a sin.

ADF, which is representing five Houston pastors in the case, posted a release to its website Monday criticizing city leaders for conducting what ADF’s Erik Stanley described as a “witch hunt.”

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge. In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it,” Stanley said.

An Oct. 9 legal brief filed by ADF on the pastors’ behalf questions the constitutionality of the city’s subpoena.

“[T]he discovery requests demand materials that are protected by the First Amendment privilege governing discovery of nonpublic documents and communications relating to a political campaign and political strategy,” ADF wrote.

ADF also condemned the city’s handling of the petition to hold a referendum on the ordinance.

“In June, the Houston City Council passed its ‘bathroom bill,’ which sparked a citizen initiative to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide,” the group’s online statement reads. “The public submitted more than three times the legally required number of valid signatures, which the city secretary, who is entrusted by law to examine and certify petitions, certified as sufficient. The mayor and city attorney defied the law and rejected the certification.”

Update: On Friday, attorneys for the city of Houston filed a preliminary response to an amended motion filed by the pastors who were served subpoenas demanding their sermons. The response read:

In order to reduce the issues that will need to be decided by the court, however, Defendants revise Request No. 12.

Request No. 12 originally read:

All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuals, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.

Defendants hereby revise Request No. 12 as follows:

All speeches or presentations related to HERO or the Petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.

Another reason people don’t trust the government: Census uses legal threats to force survey response

If you’re among the Americans who’ve received the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental American Community Survey (ACS) in the mail, you may have noticed that your response to the lengthy questionnaire is, uh, mandatory.

That’s because the Census Bureau is having trouble convincing people to trust the government with answers to personal questions about how much money they make and what their property is worth.

Instead of employing positive reinforcement to entice people to respond to the 30-page document, the Census Bureau opts to “favor the ‘stick’ above [the] ‘carrot’ when mailing out questionnaires,” as Reason’s J.D. Tucille puts it.

The Bureau’s Tasha Boone, the survey’s assistant division chief, outlined some of the challenges ACS faces in a recent presentation to the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations. She lamented in the accompanying document that the public’s “[p]erception of ‘irrelevant’ or unnecessary questions raises concerns about privacy” and that “[d]istrust of government is pervasive.”

“Just a thought, but a bit of self-awareness might be lacking in the preference she expressed,” wrote Tucille, “…for the existing [survey mailout] that threatens in bold, capital letters, ‘YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.’

“That should settle those privacy and trust issues.”

The ACS survey goes far beyond the basic decennial census, probing U.S. residents for information about their jobs, their healthcare, their property, their transportation and even their marital history.

The ACS survey has encountered strong opposition from constitutionalists who maintain the government simply has no business collecting highly personal information about people who reside in the U.S.

The Rutherford Institute slammed the survey in a 2012 letter to the Commerce Department, demanding that the questionnaire be overhauled so that it asks “only questions on subjects covered by the census itself.”

The group also urged Commerce to stop threatening people with $5,000 fines for neglecting to comply.

Civil forfeiture shouldn’t be this funny

We almost hate sharing this video clip, because while it absolutely condemns the police practice of civil forfeiture — a practice we’ve written about before — it does so with such hilarity that it’s easy to lose sight of just how serious, unjust and unconstitutional a practice it is.

Nevertheless, HBO’s John Oliver provides a remarkably informative and incisive takedown of civil forfeiture, sussing out the obvious conflict of interest inherent in state laws allowing police to seize and keep the property of people who are never charged with a crime.

Oliver also does a great job emphasizing the absurdity of levying charges against property — instead of innocent people — as a police workaround whenever law enforcement wants to steal the property of citizens whom it knows have violated no law.

It’s more than 15 minutes long, but we’re betting you’ll end up watching every second.

Enjoy and share.

H/T: Daily Signal

Obama’s empty deficit-reduction boast

President Obama is propping up any little victory he can massage a narrative out of in order to rally the troops ahead of the November midterms. Usually, there’s little substance underlying the braggadocio.

So it is with his self-congratulation over the much-touted reduction in the federal deficit. The president has repeatedly boasted that the deficit has fallen from a steep $1.4 trillion a few short years ago to $486 billion in 2014. “The tea party is going to have to find something else to complain about,” one Forbes contributor recently intoned.

Yes, that’s a much smaller number. But what’s the context? “Smaller” relative to what?

“[I]t’s it’s worth putting the declining deficit in context, and remembering that, as a Senator, Obama probably would have been appalled by his current deficits,” Reason’s Peter Suderman observes:

The [2014] year’s deficit total, just shy of half a trillion dollars, represents a big drop from the $1.4 trillion peak it hit in Obama’s first term. (More than 40 percent of that reduction came as a result of tax hikes.) But the reduction only came following a massive 800 percent increase in annual deficits.

Notably, it’s still much higher than the typical deficits during the Bush years, which, you may recall, were worrisomely large — indeed, they were large enough that Obama, as a Senator in 2005, declared that “you don’t have to be a deficit hawk to be disturbed by the growing gap between revenues and expenses.” Between the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years, the deficit dropped from $248 billion to $160 billion.

So we started from a bad place, went to a far worse place, and then receded (for the moment) to a place that’s still worse than where we started. Great.

“Simply citing the 66 percent fall in deficits over the past five years without context is misleading, since it follows an almost 800 percent increase that brought deficits to their highest levels in post-war history,” remarked the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).

And the federal deficit is probably at the lowest point it’s likely to reach under Obama and the 113th Congress — and probably long after that.

“[T]he deficit remains more than three times as high as in 2007 (1.7 percentage points higher as a percent of GDP) and is projected to grow over time,” commented CRFB. “Under CBO’s current law baseline, annual deficits will return to trillion-dollar levels by 2025. Under their more pessimistic Alternative Fiscal Scenario, the deficit will reach $1.5 trillion in 2025, exceeding the nominal-dollar record set in 2009.”

Finally, the ratio of debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) is growing — an indicator that places any deficit number, however low it may appear, into a context that’s both quantitative and qualitative.

And it’s the qualitative context that looks especially bad.

“[O]ver the same period that deficits fell by 66 percent, nominal debt held by the public grew by 69 percent — from $7.5 trillion to $12.8 trillion,” wrote CRFB. “As a percent of GDP, debt has grown extremely rapidly, from 35 percent of GDP in 2007 to 52 percent of in 2009 and to over 74 percent in 2014.

“… While the deficit has indeed dropped significantly, this drop followed a massive increase, was largely expected, and does not suggest the country is on a sustainable fiscal path. Currently, debt levels are at historic highs and projected to grow unsustainably over the long run.”

For more information on CRFB’s number-crunching, as well as illustrative charts and graphs, check out the nonprofit organization’s Oct. 8 report.

We won’t know how much Obamacare will cost for 2015 until after the November elections

Because every policy decision the Obama administration makes is motivated primarily by politics, the president has ordered the department of Health of Human Services (HHS) not to release pricing for health coverage purchased through Healthcare.gov until after the November midterm elections are over.

The Obama administration told the media last week that HHS plans to unveil a revised pricing structure for 2015 no earlier than the second week of November. The midterm election will be held on Nov. 4.

According to The Associated Press, Healthcare.gov will not include 2015 pricing numbers until mid-November. The open enrollment period for 2015 runs from Nov. 15 until Feb. 15 of 2015.

The delay may have something to do with the likelihood that Obamacare rates will increase. “In some cases, these increases are going to be huge,” Downtrend’s Joseph R. Carducci wrote:

Even slight changes [in 2015 policies] can have big repercussions in terms of the types of premiums and plans available. Those who received raises or otherwise had their income go up this year might find themselves losing their ObamaCare subsidies entirely (or they may be significantly reduced), negating a good part of the effect of that income increase. Those with less income might even no longer qualify for private insurance and be forced into Medicaid.

Believe it or not, there are also a number of reports indicating the most popular low cost plans within ObamaCare have seen the sharpest rate increases. And we haven’t even discussed the impact of the employer mandate which will also have some significant effects.

HHS is casting the delayed pricing as a boon for customers because it ostensibly gives them more time to shop for healthcare coverage. That would make sense if customers could, you know, see the cost of the products they’re comparing. Without that crucial feature, though, people could shop for an infinity — and they still wouldn’t be able to tell whether they’d be getting adequate insurance value for their money.

“Despite claiming this move is about [giving] consumers ‘more time’ to make a decision about a health plan, this delay in sign up is purely to further protect vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election in 2014,” Townhall commented.

Late poll shows GOP candidates with an edge in states with close races

Tight Senate races in a few key battleground states appear to be leaning in favor of Republicans, with less than a month left before a general election that will determine the big-picture political climate on Capitol Hill that ushers President Obama out of office.

A Fox News poll out Wednesday shows GOP candidates with slight leads in five close races, although none falls outside the poll’s margin of error.

“New Fox News battleground polls show a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate. The GOP candidates — helped by anti-Barack Obama sentiment and strong support from male voters — lead in all five states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky,” reported Fox.

While the margins may be close across the board, the scant GOP lead nevertheless reflects a shift in momentum in Kansas, where incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts has regained a lead over his Independent and Libertarian opponents.

“The Senate race clearly remains competitive, as 44 percent of likely voters in Kansas back Roberts, with 39 percent for independent Greg Orman and 3 percent for libertarian Randall Batson,” Fox observes. “Yet Orman was up by six points in a two-way matchup three weeks ago (48-42 percent).”

Perhaps most discouraging for Senate Democrats is the Arkansas race, where Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor trails Republican candidate Tom Cotton by seven points in the Fox poll. Polling numbers in the Pryor race often have been cited as among the most significant indicators of Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the Senate.

If the race in Arkansas, as elsewhere, boils down to a referendum on Obama’s policies — something the president himself infamously declared last week — then Cotton may stand to benefit far more than Pryor.

“Voters in Arkansas disapprove of Obama’s job performance by nearly two-to-one. Thirty-two percent approve, while 61 percent disapprove,” wrote Fox.

“Meanwhile, by a 50-41 percent margin, likely voters in Arkansas oppose creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. Those opposed favor Cotton by nearly 40 points.”

See the full results of the Fox News poll here.

Obama deploys emojis to wordlessly narrate agenda to low-information youth

Images have a power to convey ideas in a way that words don’t. And when you’re trying to convey ideas to a demographic that you perceive to be functionally illiterate (because that’s the demographic whose help you sorely need), images can do the trick — especially if they’re dumb ones.

The White House is deploying a new social media campaign meant to draw the interest of the millennial generation, and it’s using emojis — those graphical permutations of the ubiquitous yellow smiley face — to get its message across. Emojis, you probably know, were birthed from the use of ASCII-based text messaging in the early days of email and cellular phones. What was once a simple text-smiley face became a graphic, as device and networking technology grew more sophisticated.

It’s the graphical emojis the Obama Administration is planning to wield in its PR campaign. According to BuzzFeed, the campaign is intended to sell Democrats’ ideas, by way of the Obama administration, in the final month heading into the November election:

Starting Thursday, White House social media accounts will blast out charts, graphs, and yes, emojis, aimed at catching the eye of young voters weeks before the November elections.

…Younger Americans have traditionally been a Democratic base group, and Obama’s team has done a masterful job of turning them out in his presidential campaigns. But college aged voters have much lower turn out rates in non-presidential election years, and the White House is hoping to prop up those numbers during next month’s crucial election that will determine control of the Senate.

The White House isn’t just trotting out emojis for the campaign; it’s also attempting to appeal to the (allegedly) ignorant young masses with quick-hit factoids and itemized lists that emulate youth-appeal pop culture sites like… well, like BuzzFeed.

“Even the staid administration report illustrating administration efforts to reduce student loan costs and boost enrollment in the Affordable Care Act…has a youthful flavor,” the site reports. “’15 ECONOMIC FACTS ABOUT MILLENNIALS,’” reads the cover of the White House Council Of Economic Advisors report.”

Reporter restricted from another Wisconsin Democratic rally headlined by Michelle Obama

A reporter affiliated with Watchdog.org was banned from covering a Democratic Party event headlined by first lady Michelle Obama in Wisconsin Tuesday, just more than a week after another reporter was forbidden from speaking with crowd members attending another Democratic event in the same state.

Adam Tobias, a writer for Wisconsin Reporter — Watchdog.org’s state-level newsgathering outlet — had planned to cover a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, but he was told by a media representative from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that he could not attend because Watchdog.org isn’t a real news outlet.

Here’s a link to Watchdog.org’s main website.

Tobias wrote about his experience Tuesday for Watchdog:

Melissa Baldauff, communications director for the state Democratic Party, informed Wisconsin Reporter on Monday it wasn’t allowed to attend the event at the Overture Center because the online publication isn’t a legitimate news source.

…Baldauff, who agreed to speak to Wisconsin Reporter on Monday outside the offices of the Democratic Party and Burke for Wisconsin, initially attributed the denial to a lack of space — even though a request for media credentials was submitted Saturday, shortly after the Burke campaign sent a news release outlining the logistics.

But that answer changed when Baldauff, who repeatedly declined to explain the process for selecting which media outlets can participate, was told Wisconsin Reporter would be doing a story on press being turned away from the political fundraiser.

“Well, you’re not the press though, so, thanks,” Baldauff said as she left the hallway and closed an office door.

Tobias notes that Wisconsin Reporter is indeed “credentialed by the Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Board to cover legislative sessions at the statehouse, and has been for years.”

The news outlet attempted to contact Obama’s press office in order to ask whether the first lady and her handlers had anything to do with the muzzle treatment, but received no response.

Another reporter for a different news outlet had a similar experience at an Obama/Burke event late last month.

On Sept. 29, Meg Kissinger, a reporter for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, tweeted that she and other media representatives had been instructed not to speak to audience members at a Burke rally headlined by the first lady. In her Journal Sentinel report, she simply observed: “Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event.”

Study: Obamacare incentivizes a massive shift to part-time working hours

Obamacare will erode full-time employment and bolster the ranks of America’s part-time employees, thanks to “implicit” and “explicit” taxes that entice both workers and their employers to follow or avoid the government’s path of least resistance to qualifying for healthcare coverage.

That’s the conclusion of a 47-page study released Tuesday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a nonprofit that researches and advocates for free-market policy.

Titled “The Affordable Care Act and the New Economics of Part-Time Work,” the study identifies several Obamacare features likely to drive a fundamental shift in labor demographics, as more people and businesses begin complying with the law:

“Starting this year, the United States’ working population will face three major employment disincentives resulting from the very benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides: (1) an explicit tax on full-time work, (2) an implicit tax on full-time work for those who are ineligible for the ACA’s health insurance subsidies, and (3) an implicit tax that links the amount of available subsidies to workers’ incomes.

“The ACA’s overall impact on employment… will arguably be larger than that of any single piece of legislation since World War II,” the authors assert. Mercatus expects nearly half of the U.S. labor force to experience “significant changes,” under Obamacare’s regressive incentives, to work less.

“The ACA may put millions of Americans in a position in which working part time yields more disposable income than working full time,” the summary states. “This occurs when the ACA’s generous assistance to part-time workers for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses offsets much of the income they forgo by working fewer hours. The lack of this insurance assistance for full-time workers amounts to a tax on full-time work.”

In addition, the study forecasts a twofold increase over previously reported estimates of how dramatically Obamacare will affect U.S. productivity in terms of total hours worked.

“This analysis, combined with lessons from labor market history, leads to an estimate that the ACA will reduce employment and aggregate hours by slightly more than 3 percent, or about 4 million full-time-equivalent workers,” the authors predict.

“This is nearly double the contraction indicated in prior studies, mainly because some previous work underestimated the size of the ACA’s employer penalty and did not consider the full range of tax effects.”

The full results of the Mercatus Center study can be viewed here. A synopsis of its findings is here.

DEA takes a real person, makes a fake Facebook page out of her identity and starts trolling the Internet for drug perps

The DEA stole — or, rather, fabricated — the online identity of a woman arrested and sentenced to probation on drug charges. As her trial date neared, a DEA agent used her real name, along with photos taken off of her confiscated cellphone, to create a Facebook account representing her without her knowledge or consent.

“The government said he had the right to do that,” BuzzFeed reported Monday.

One day in 2010, a friend asked Sondra Prince (her last name has since changed) about some pictures of Prince she’d seen on Facebook. One involved Prince sitting on the hood of a BMW wearing shorts and a tank top; another photo shows her splayed, face down, across the hood with her heels kicked up.

“At least I still have this car!” the caption read.

But Prince hadn’t posted that photo or written those words. In fact, according to BuzzFeed, she didn’t even have a Facebook account — at least, not one she knew about.

“She was surprised; she hadn’t even set up a Facebook page,” the story reports.

“But while she was awaiting trial, [DEA agent Timothy] Sinnigen created the fake Facebook page using Arquiett’s real name, posted photos from her seized cell phone, and communicated with at least one wanted fugitive — all without her knowledge.”

Prince, a resident of Watertown, N.Y., has now filed a federal civil suit in New York against the DEA and Sinnigen.

According to The Washington Post, the government is arguing Sinnigen received implied consent from Prince for law enforcement to do whatever it wanted with the contents of her cellphone — including falsely representing Prince online.

From The Post:

“Sinnigen posted photographs from [Prince's] phone, to which he had been granted access, to the undercover Facebook page,” an August court filing by the government states. “… Defendants admit [Prince] did not give express permission for the use of the photographs contained on her phone on an undercover Facebook page, but state [that Prince] implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her phone.”

Sinnigen is invoking qualified immunity in the lawsuit.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

Washington school district bans playground swings over safety concerns

In the ongoing effort to remove any semblance of self-imposed risk from civilized society, a school district in the state of Washington has banned swing sets from all of its playgrounds.

The Richland School District has decided to phase out the kinetic playground equipment, citing “pressure from insurance companies over the liability,” according to KEPR-TV News.

“As schools get modernized or renovated or as we’re doing work on the playground equipment, we’ll take out the swings, it’s just really a safety issue, swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground,” Richland School District’s communications director, Steve Aagard, told KEPR.

For many observers, abolishing a time-honored fixture of childhood play represents a dramatic step backward in the losing battle to preserve and grow a young person’s sense of individual freedom in America’s increasingly effete and passive culture.

“Of course some kids get hit by swings and of course there are some injuries — even awful ones — but that does not automatically mean we must ban swings,” Lenore Skenazy wrote at Reason Tuesday. “If it did, we would have to ban all solid food because some kids choke. We would have to ban all bikes because some kids wipe out and hurt themselves. We would have to chop down all of America’s trees as well — at least in parks and playgrounds — because some children climb them and fall off.”

While some parents oppose the school district’s decision, not everyone views banning playground swings as a bad thing.

“I actually witnessed an accident with my own eyes one time,” parent Muge Kaineoz, who agrees with the ban, told KEPR. “By the time you could do something about it she [a small child] was knocked out.”

There’s that passive culture thing, pervading public thought.

Regulating things to death — even activities that bear risks — won’t stop unless people make it stop, Skenazy urged.

“The school district says ‘pressure from insurance companies over the liability is part of the issue,’” She wrote.

“The only sane thing to do is push back. Heck, most insurance companies would like to keep children seatbelted to their chairs and strapped to blood pressure cuffs, just in case of any heart conditions.”