Monthly Archives: June 2009

Socialism, the new czars and government “gone wild”……..

Obama has gone czar crazy! The new administration is appointing Czars at a rate that would put Russia to shame. It has gotten so out of hand that even senior democrats are starting to complain. 

(CBS News) Robert Byrd, the longest serving senator in history, criticized President Obama’s appointment of numerous White House advisors, also called “czars,” saying the presence of the czars gives the president too much power. In a letter to Obama, Byrd, a Democrat, said that the czar system “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances,” Byrd added that oversight of federal agencies is the responsibility of officials approved by the Senate. “As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, or to virtually anyone but the president,” Byrd wrote. “They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.” 

So here is a list of several high profile Czar positions currently in place under the new administration: 

Nancy Ann Deparle, Health Reform Czar – DeParle will be charged with helping to craft and sell the administration’s ambitious effort to revamp the nation’s health care system to both extend access and rein in runaway costs. A veteran of the Bill Clinton health-reform wars, DeParle brings institutional memory to the job as well as an understanding of the arcane nooks of government-funded health insurance plans. She’s an expert on Medicare and Medicaid, and could help the Obama administration expand those programs while in pursuit of universal coverage.  DeParle was previously commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee, and during the Clinton administration she oversaw Medicare and Medicaid as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration. Source: whorunsgov.com 

Adolfo Carrion, Jr., Urban Affairs Policy Czar – The man who is President Obama’s newly minted urban czar pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers’ money, a Daily News probe found. He often received contributions just before or after he sponsored money for projects or approved important zoning changes, records show. Source: N.Y. Daily News

Read more: “Buildings sprang up as donations rained down on Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion” – http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2009/02/28/2009-02-28_buildings_sprang_up_as_donations_rained_.html#ixzz0HUAsRfZy&A 

Carol Browner, Energy and Global Warming Czar  Global Warming Czar Carol Browner was — until last week — listed as one of 14 leaders of a socialist group that advocates what’s called “global governance” and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change. The Washington Times reports Browner’s name and biography were listed on the Web page for Socialist International. Source: Fox News

John Brennan, Terrorism Czar – Brennan boasts a 25-year intelligence career and an expertise in counter-terrorism, skills that will make him an asset to President Barack Obama as deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism. A fluent Arabic speaker, Brennan is known for being smart and tough-as-nails – according to George W. Bush CIA director George J. Tenet, Brennan once confronted a top Iranian spy in the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But his connections in the intelligence community have also gotten him in trouble. Brennan was Obama’s top pick for CIA director, but he withdrew his name in November 2008 after he was attacked for his earlier statements in support of the Bush administration’s advanced interrogation techniques. Instead, Obama appointed Brennan to a White House job that does not require Senate confirmation. Source: whorunsgov.com 

Daniel Fried, Guantanamo Closure Czar – Of the czars, few will face as much pressure as Fried, who has been tasked with turning into a reality the President’s promise to close Guantanamo Bay prison within a year of taking office. As a State Department Special Envoy, Fried must convince America’s European allies to accept as residents in their countries about 60 of the detainees still imprisoned in Guantanamo. That concept faces significant pushback from some foreign leaders, who worry about potential threats posed by the inmates. Fried comes to this job with more than three decades of experience with Europe. A career Foreign Service officer, he has served throughout Eastern Europe, on the National Security Council, and most recently as Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department.  Source: whorunsgov.com 

Gary Samore, Non Proliferation Czar – His official title is Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction & Proliferation. He leads a team of ten staff members and sits on the National Security Council. Though the position is new, Samore will be addressing issues that he worked on for years as a State Department official. Samore said Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were some of the biggest challenges facing President Obama. Just a few weeks later, he was tapped to join a team of White House officials, national security experts and State Department leaders entrusted with developing U.S. nuclear non-proliferation strategy, a top priority for the administration. 

Alan Bersin, Border Czar – Bersin was the leader of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, a major border crackdown in the San Diego border area. His job will be to try to slow down the drug and gun trade around the border.

Steve Rattner, Car Czar – Previously, an investment banker and N. Y. Times journalist, Rattner was picked to lead the recovery of the auto industry. Many believe he was the architect behind the firing of GM chairman Rick Waggoner.

Vivek Kundra, Aneesh Chopra, and Jeffrey Zients, Tech Czars – According to the administration the tech czars will be in charge of “setting technology policy across the government and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency, and lower costs.” 

Herb Allison and Earl Devaney, Bailout Czars – Allison is the former CEO of Fannie Mae so he was the perfect choice to be the TARP Czar. Devaney is the new stimulus accountability czar. He is a former Secret Service agent who investigated infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 

Joshua DuBois, God Czar – According to Time magazine, he will lead a group that will seek to generate policy recommendations on four issues: “domestic poverty, responsible fatherhood, reducing the need for abortion and preventing unintended pregnancy, and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.” 

Gil Kerlikowske, Drug Czar – He is the new drug czar. He previously served as the chief of police in Seattle. 

Cass Sunstein, Regulatory Czar – Harvard Law School professor and intellectual has been tapped to be the regulatory czar. 

Kenneth Feinberg, Pay Czar – The Obama administration plans to appoint a “Special Master for Compensation” to ensure that companies receiving federal bailout funds are abiding by executive-pay guidelines. The administration is expected to name Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the federal government’s compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to act as a pay czar for the Treasury Department. Mr. Feinberg’s appointment could be announced as early as next week, when the administration is expected to release executive-compensation guidelines for firms receiving aid from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Those companies, which include banks, insurers and auto makers, are subject to a host of compensation restrictions imposed by the Bush and Obama administrations and by Congress. Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting more details on how the rules will be applied. “The law is confusing and a bit ambiguous, and so we’re looking for certainty as to how to structure pay incentives,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade association. Source: Wall Street Journal

Cyber Czar – President Obama announced on Friday the creation of a “cyber czar” to oversee an enhanced security system for U.S. computer networks. Obama said he will pick the person he wants to head up a new White House office of cyber security soon, and that person will report to the National Security Council as well as to the National Economic Council, in a nod to the importance of computers to the economy. Source: Fox News 5/29

This is not the complete list but you get the point. The Obama Administration is certainly not the first to create or appoint these positions but they have taken it to a new level. I have listed 15 and there maybe as many as 20 of these positions in his administration. 

However, there have been so many of these positions being added to the Executive Branch of the government that it has resulted in an increased level of discomfort in the other branches of the government as well as the private sector. 

March 17 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama’s decision to place czars above Cabinet-level agencies presents dangers beyond confusion over who’s in charge and an organizational chart that looks like pasta carbonara. There’s also the potential for a constitutional crisis.

Obama’s czars, the most ever appointed by an administration, are likely to have the authority to influence or make decisions for Cabinet-level agencies. Yet they aren’t confirmed by Congress and don’t have to respond to pesky requests to testify before oversight committees.

“What you are having here is a supplementing of the power vested in agency heads with someone in the White House you can’t talk to,” said Morton Rosenberg, a former Congressional Research Service regulatory analyst. “It troubles me.”

This scenario lends credence to the concern that czars will add a layer of opaqueness and unaccountability to a rule-making system that’s largely incomprehensible to the outside world and a puzzle even to seasoned pros representing industry groups, companies and the public.

“Every time you add another variable, you will have trouble sorting out what had influence on a rulemaking,” said Cornelius Kerwin, president of American University in Washington who wrote the book, “Rulemaking: How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy.” “It’s not like legislative or judicial decisions.”

The Chamber of Commerce plans to tell the Obama administration it should disclose oral and written communications among executive branch employees, including those operating under the radar.

“The czars’ enormous ability to influence rulemakings without accountability to the public is, at best, problematic and should be rectified through any new executive order,” said the chamber’s draft comments.

The part that I find most concerning is that these appointees are not properly and publicly vetted. In some cases, they also appear to have sweeping authority granted by the president’s proxy over legitimate cabinet posts.

Of course, the businessman in me has other questions like:

Are these positions budgeted? (This is a rhetorical question)     

How much do these people earn?  

What kind of benefits do they get?    

What’s the process to justify the positions?                                      

What’s the pay back?

In any well run business these are the questions that are asked before personnel requisitions are approved.

Of course, the government is not a well run business. In fact it is not supposed to be a business at all. But maybe with the process of nationalizing so many industries – cars, energy, banks, healthcare, insurance companies, etc. the administration decided they needed more of a pseudo business structure. You know a bunch of high paid executives each with their own “area” of expertise managing that area so the big boss can fly around and look for new acquisition targets. Oh wait, this is supposed to be an article about government posts, the government doesn’t make acquisitions – do they? Or maybe when you have such an inexperienced leader you need to surround him with a lot of help.

By the way, can we at least start referring to them differently, you know like “pseudo V.P. of Energy” for example? I know that the administration did not coin the term “Czar” but I am sick of it, especially given the word’s Russian roots. It’s just kind of offensive since I still identify with my American heritage and don’t believe that there is a place for “Czars” in a democracy.

In any case, this is not how our government is supposed to operate. It is supposed to be mostly managed by our elected representatives. However, it is getting harder and harder to tell who is in charge and how we can hold them accountable. The fact that we “need” all these positions is the first sign that government has gotten too large. The only positive in the whole mess is it might make it harder for the lobbyists to figure out who to bribe.

The Waxman Markey Climate Change Bill (Part 4)…… The Potential Impact

In the final installment of this series, I will pull together the factors of this bill that will ultimately impact all Americans if signed into law. A bill like this comes with a price tag that is not inconsequential. 

“The answer to global warming is in the abolition of private property and production for human need. A socialist world would place an enormous priority on alternative energy sources. This is what ecologically-minded socialists have been exploring for quite some time now.” – Louis Proyect, Columbia University 

So here is a list highlighting a number of things that will be impacted. 

The Economy at Large:  

Job Loss: There will be fall out in the form of lost jobs as a result of this bill being passed into law. American companies will be faced with significantly higher energy costs as a result of the cap-and-tax plan and other provisions in the bill. This will put U.S. based manufacturing facilities at a competitive disadvantage with plants in other parts of the world not forced to play on the same field of “environmental stewardship”. 

This could result in millions of American jobs going overseas. The bill also mandates conceptual, unproven technologies for coal-fired plants which could result in plant closings if they are not able to comply with the new federal regulations. This could increase dependence on natural gas causing an increase in prices. 

Proponents of the bill claim the opposite; this will result in millions of new “green” jobs. Reality check – the new industries and jobs will require significant capital investment, research and can not be launched quickly enough to offset the losses. In other words, the ramp up is longer than the ramp down. Considering the current state of our national economy the timing of such an initiative seems potentially disastrous. 

Higher Energy Costs: The proposed regulations in the bill require a new Federal Renewable Energy Standard. The standard starts at a minimum of 6% in 2012 and escalates to 25% by 2025. The Department of Energy will issue utilities “credits” for renewable energy they generate which can be sold, transferred, or exchanged.  If a utility cannot meet the RES it would be required to purchase credits to make up the difference. In effect this becomes a hidden tax and a new source of revenue for the government. To offset these costs the utility companies will pass them on to their customers, ultimately resulting in higher energy prices for everyone. The problem here is that currently renewable energy technology is neither efficient nor cost competitive which is why it is not being implemented in a wide spread manner yet. Forcing the market to adopt this technology before it is ready will cause prices to increase rapidly. This mandate in effect put the Dept. of Energy in charge of the energy market. There are also concerns that a RES would impose a uniform federal standard on States despite varying sources of renewable resources.  Southeastern states would be especially hard hit.  

There are many other requirements that also will drive up energy costs up in this bill. Here are a few examples:

Cap and Tax – This issue requires a blog of its’ own. Please see my April 25th blog titled “Cap and Trade” or “Bait and Switch”  

Carbon capture and sequestration – This is the term used to describe a technology that captures carbon at its source and stores it before it is released into the atmosphere.  Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is designed to be a method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere.  In general, any CCS system would have the following components: (1) capturing and separating CO2 from other byproducts; (2) compressing and transporting the captured CO2 to the sequestration site; and (3) sequestering CO2 in geological reservoirs or in the oceans. This is not only as ridiculous as it sounds but it creates yet another expense that will need to be passed on to the end user. How much do you suppose it will cost to “dispose” of carbon dioxide? We better hope they never apply this logic to methane or nobody will be able to afford hamburger! 

Smart Grid – This is a distribution system that allows information to flow from a customer’s electric meter in two directions: both inside the house to thermostats, appliances and other devices then back to the utility. The bill facilitates the deployment of a Smart Grid, including measures to use it to reduce utility peak loads and promote capabilities in new home appliances.  States and utilities would determine and publish peak demand reduction goals. The goals would specify a reduction to a lower peak demand by 2012.  The bill also directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reform the regional planning process to modernize the electric grid plus provide new transmission lines to carry electricity generated from renewable sources. 

New Transmission Lines – The bill does not adequately address the need for new transmission lines the RES will require. These transmission lines would likely be subject to not-in-my-backyard opposition that impedes permitting. How the states and utilities will work through these issues remains to be seen but it will likely be expensive and challenging. Also additional costs for renewable energy transmitted from far away resources across longer transmission lines to states without such resources could further impact prices. 

Nationalizing the Grid – Under this bill the Federal Power Act is amended to require the FERC to adopt grid planning principles to achieve national policy goals. These goals include energy efficiency, a Smart Grid, and underground transmission technologies. Although better transmission infrastructure is the key to reliability, nationalizing the development of the grid might nationalize costs and raise questions on eminent domain. Again any program that the government is in charge of planning is going to drive up costs not efficiencies. 

Industrial Energy Efficiency – Under this plan the Dept. of Energy would develop industrial energy efficiency certification standards.  It also establishes a financial award program for electric or thermal energy generation facilities, which currently use fossil or nuclear fuel. Theoretically, this would encourage additional types of thermal energy production.  The legislation authorizes “such sums” for these awards. 

Building Energy Efficiency – The bill also contains several “energy efficiency programs” for commercial and residential buildings.  The legislation sets targets for national building codes to make a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency within three years, and a 50 percent improvement starting with building codes released in 2016 and beyond using 2004 or 2006 codes as a baseline.  The Federal government will provide funding to States to implement these requirements. 

Lighting and Appliance Energy Efficiency – There will be several new federal standards for lighting and household appliances.  The bill would create a new standard for outdoor lighting fixtures effective in 2011, with progressively tougher standards by 2015.  The legislation would place new energy standards on appliances and would even make it a federal offense to sell appliances that do not meet the new requirements. 

International Reserve Allowance Program – Border tax adjustments or border tax assessments, are import fees levied by carbon-capping countries on goods manufactured in non-carbon-capping countries. We used to call these tariffs. The bill establishes a program to set up binding agreements committing all major greenhouse gas emitting nations to contribute equitably to the reduction of global GHG emissions.  Since we can not require foreign nations to cap their own emissions, the bill establishes a border adjustment program to require foreign manufacturers and importers to purchase emission allowances to “cover” the carbon emitted in the production of products being sold in the United States. The idea is to provide U.S. manufacturers competitive relief against their foreign counterparts. Any cost to foreign producers will be passed on to U.S. consumers.  Not only will domestic products be more expensive, but so will foreign goods. This will likely have devastating effects on free trade and foreign relationships.  

We, as Americans, have a duty to be good stewards of the planet. We have a responsibility to improve the way we generate energy and manage the earth’s resources. However, living up to these responsibilities does not require us to abandon the principles of government that made our nation strong and powerful. We have a responsibility to future generations of Americans which in addition to a healthy environment includes leaving them a free, sovereign and prosperous nation like the one our parents and grandparents left us. We do not have to choose between the American Dream and a healthy planet – we can have both. We certainly do not need a bunch of politicians and left wing scientists with an agenda manufacturing a crisis to do their own experiment in social re-engineering. 

“I think if we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have an ecological society under socialism. I don’t think it’s possible under capitalism.” – Judi Barri, Earth First

General Electric (NYSE:GE) is the parent company of the major media conglomerate NBC Universal, which owns media outlets NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. At times that has led to the lines between corporate advocacy and journalism being blurred. GE C.E.O. Immelt used his platform at CNBC to make the case for a cap-and-trade program to curb emissions – something Obama has called for and one Congressional committee is debating this week. “There’s going to have to be a price for carbon,” Immelt said. “In some way, shape of form, you’re going to have to create some certainty. You have to make technology your friend in this debate. ….. I think about things like global warming. We’ve been on this for four or five years.” Immelt contended he wasn’t an environmentalist, despite criticism that his networks’ have patterns of promoting the green agenda. Immelt told “Squawk Box” the science surrounding man-caused global warming was “compelling” and that it was only a matter of time before something will be done about carbon emissions. The General Electric CEO said he favored a cap-and-trade system to regulate carbon emissions versus a carbon tax. – source: Business and Media Institute 5/20/09

More government intervention is not the answer to improving the environment. Besides, the science does not support the claims the U.N., Al Gore, the media and other fear mongers are making. We do not need to redistribute our wealth as the socialist environmentalists are demanding. We also do not need to make elite multi-national corporations any richer. GE is an example of just such a company. They have used their media empire (NBC, CNBC & MSNBC) to promote fear with heavy handed marketing of the “green” agenda and climate change issues. Meanwhile, they have heavily invested in alternative energy establishing a huge footprint in wind power, solar power as well as smart grids and those high efficiency appliances I mentioned earlier. GE also spent an estimated $20 million on lobbying efforts in support of their “green” business plan. Also just for good measure, GE recently announced the launch of a new subsidiary called Greenhouse Gas Services, which will facilitate the trading of carbon tax credits. There is your answer on why Mr. Immelt prefers carbon credits to carbon taxes! Do you suppose they have a motive that goes beyond their corporate concern for a healthy planet? 

The net result of this unfathomable bill will be higher energy prices, reduced global competitiveness, continued job loss, more government regulation, a stifling of free markets and a reduction of the standard of living for all Americans. This bill has the potential to effectively kill what remains of capitalism in our country. We must block this legislation. We can improve our environmental stewardship without killing our economic system. Write your Congressional and Senatorial representatives and tell them to vote for America by voting against this bill. Our country’s future as a sovereign world leader depends on it. 

“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States: We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the U.S. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are. And it is important to the rest of the world to make sure that they don’t suffer economically by virtue of our stopping them.”—Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund