Peter Flaherty's blog

Is Secretary Salazar Above the Law?

Ken SalazarInterior Secretary Ken Salazar appears today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He will hopefully answer questions about his refusal to allow deepwater drilling to resume in the Gulf of Mexico, despite a federal judge twice ruling that the moratorium is illegal.

The BP oil spill was a disaster, but not as big of a disaster as the moratorium that followed. The granting of exactly one drilling permit to Noble Energy this week underscores just how cynical and politicized Salazar's response has been. Last week, Salazar said that he would not bow to "political pressure" to restart drilling, standing reality on its head.

Rangel Says Abolishing Collective Bargaining is Like 'Slavery'

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) yesterday claimed at a Congressional Black Caucus event:

Collective bargaining is something that is so close to slavery in terms of abolishing it, that it is not an American concept to tell people that they cannot discuss their economic position.

Rangel is apparently oblivious to other forms of servitude, like paying your taxes while he doesn't pay his, and then have to listen to him express indignation when he is caught.

Legislative Nullification is an Assault on Democracy

The Wisconsin and Indiana union protests, and the disappearance of union-allied legislators, is an assault on democracy. An election was held in November. There is no Constitutional or legal basis for the union bosses to substitute their decisions for those of elected officials.

We must do more than renegotiate contracts. We must end collective bargaining for public employees, which has warped the democratic system in the states. Right now, when the two sides sit down, it's the union negotiating with the union-backed politicians. Taxpayers are not at the table. It's the old story of a concentrated interest of the unions vs. the diffused interests of taxpayers at large.

We need paycheck protection for public employees, allowing them to opt out of paying union dues. My father was a public school teacher in Massachusetts for forty years. Not only did he not wish to be represented by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, he was forced to bankroll causes that violated his political and religious beliefs.

Soros Should Stop Making 'Nazi' Accusation

On Sunday, billionaire George Soros seemed to accuse Fox News Channel of Nazi tactics. In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, Soros said:

BP Oil Spill Commission Chief Counsel Blames BP Instead of Entire Industry

Deepwater HorizonOn Thursday, Fred Bartlit, Chief Counsel of the BP Oil Spill Commission, issued a report in which he put blame squarely on BP for the disaster, including a failure to adequately supervise its Halliburton and Transocean subcontractors.

The seven-member Commission, appointed by President Obama before the well had even been capped, issued its "final" report on January 11. Although it cited many of the same BP-specific problems detailed by Bartlit, it implicated the entire oil and gas exploration and production industry, and called for "systemic reforms."

House Defeats Amendment to Eliminate Legal Services Corporation

The House of Representatives on Wednesday defeated an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would have eliminated the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), the amendment should not have been necessary. Appropriations Committee Hall Rogers (R-KY) protected LSC by inserting only a modest cut of $70 million in the Continuing Resolution. He should have zeroed it out. In fiscal year 2010, LSC received $420 million.

Hal Rogers Again Spares Legal Services Corporation; Controversial Program Must Be Completely Defunded

LSC logoIn response to criticism that his first round of cuts did not go far enough, House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-KY) has now produced a continuing resolution with $100 billion in cuts. Amazingly, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) again survived relatively intact.

Instead of a modest $75 million cut, Rogers has now increased the cut to a modest $85 million. Even the size of these cuts is illusory because they are off of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget figure of $435 million. When applied against the $420 million that LSC actually received in 2010, the latest cut is only $70 million.

Why Won't Rep. Meeks Talk About Vegas Trip?

Meeks photoRep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) held what looks like a fundraiser in Las Vegas but he reported no donations from the event. Talk about a bad bet. According to Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein in today's New York Post:

Meeks purported to hold a fund-raiser in Sin City for his Build America Political Action Committee, but his office refused to say when it took place or who attended. The financial disclosures for the Queens Democrat were similarly vague.

The latest disclosure for the PAC -- covering Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, 2010 -- shows the group spent $8,063 at the posh Aria resort in Las Vegas for "catering, site rental and lodging."

Hal Rogers Spares LSC; Is GOP Serious About Spending Cuts?

Hal Rogers photoIn the budget cuts announced today by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is slated for a token $75 million reduction. This is a genuine outrage. LSC should have been zeroed out completely.

In a statement today titled "CR Spending Cuts Go Deep," Rogers says, "Make no mistake, these cuts are not low hanging fruit." This is nonsense. Defunding the politicized and scandal-ridden LSC should have been easy. If the Republican Congress can't even cut off LSC, how will it ever make the tough choices necessary to reduce the deficit?

Obama's Chamber Speech a Tangle of Contradictions

In a speech today to the Chamber of Commerce, Barack Obama called for a reduction in corporate tax rates and simplification of the tax code, but he then pitched alternative energy, which is based wholly on tax breaks and subsidies. He said spending must be reduced and then again plugged the boondoggle of high-speed rail, which only benefits politically-connected contractors and unions, and bond traders. He said he favored free trade and then claimed that inventing something here and manufacturing it abroad "breaks the social compact."

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