FCC Seeks to Expand ‘Obamaphone’ Boondoggle to the Internet

Access to reliable, high-speed Internet is almost given in today’s America. But should it be subsidized? The Federal Communications Commission thinks it should, now more than ever. On May 28, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal to expand the agency’s Lifeline program to include broadband Internet. Costing about $2 billion annually in recent years, Lifeline defrays the cost of landline or mobile phone service for low-income subscribers. Carriers and consumers share in the cost; Internet service providers soon may join them. Funding has risen so much under Obama that the program often is called ‘Obamaphone.’ Given the rampant fraud, the main issue would seem less the proper funding level than the program’s very existence.

Obamaphone, or whatever one wishes to call it, long predated the Obama presidency. The FCC created Lifeline in 1984 during the Reagan years as a means of enabling telecom companies to offer monthly service … Read More ➡

Chrysler/GM Merger Proposal Confirms Folly of Auto Bailout

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO, Sergio Marchionne, has been pressing for a merger with General Motors. Marchionne has been appealing to hedge funds and activist investors in a move that seems to verge on desperation. The main takeaways from the appeal are that the government bailouts of GM and Chrysler were not a long-term fix for the industry and that Mr. Marchionne is one of the few experts on the industry who is honest enough to admit it.

Marchionne has had a history of speaking his mind on topics that are not politically palatable to other auto industry executives, such as GM CEO Mary Barra. In 2014 Marchionne asked consumers not to purchase Fiat’s entry into the money-losing electric car segment, the Fiat 500e. Unlike Barra and GM, who refuse to admit to the struggles of electric cars like the Cadillac ELR and Chevy … Read More ➡

Elon Musk Defends His Companies’ Subsidies

Elon MuskAlt-energy/transport-tech CEO Elon Musk and his trio of companies (Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX) didn’t cooperate with the Los Angeles Times on its article that tabulated his businesses’ whopping sum of corporate welfare ($4.9 billion), and he was predictably miffed by the (accurate) portrayal.

So he went about trying to fix things on CNBC and with the Times on Monday, but not by denying the conclusions reached by reporter Jerry Hirsch, but instead by essentially pointing at fossil fuel industries and saying “they do it more.”

“If I cared about subsidies,” Musk told Hirsch in a follow-up to his Sunday expose’, “I would have entered the oil and gas industry.” He added that the financial help he receives is a “pittance” compared to government backing of fossil fuels.

Musk’s resentment (envy?) of oil and gas subsidies is amusing. Would you like to shoot your rockets into space … Read More ➡

Taxpayer Subsidies Keep Elon Musk’s Companies Afloat

Well, somebody did it, and it was the mainstream media. Congratulations to the Los Angeles Times for taking the time to research and estimate the total amount of U.S. public (local, state, and federal) subsidies for companies owned or run by South African-born Canadian-American Elon Musk.

The total amount calculated by reporter Jerry Hirsch for taxpayer-backed incentives – of many different forms, including tax credits and rebates provided to customers – was $4.9 billion. The corporate beneficiaries have been Tesla Motors and SpaceX, where Musk is CEO, and SolarCity Corp., where he is chairman. The sum does not include SpaceX’s contracts with the government to carry out programs for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

“Government support is a theme of all three of these companies, and without it none of them would be around,” said Mark Spiegel, a hedge fund manager for Stanphyl Capital Partners, to the TimesRead More ➡

Can Gov. Rauner Put Illinois Pension Funds in the Black?

If any one state stands out in the race to the bottom of public employee pension insolvency, Illinois would be it. And GOP Governor Bruce Rauner is steeling himself to prevent a collapse. Rauner, a former private equity fund manager, was elected last November over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn. He faces $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, or about $8,500 per resident. The years of greed, corruption and bad luck having taken a toll, the governor and his top fiscal policy adviser, Donna Arduin, have proposed tough measures to reverse course. So far, they haven’t won any friends among public-sector unions – or the Illinois Supreme Court, which on May 8 sided with the unions in invalidating reforms enacted in late 2013.

State-sponsored pension systems across the nation are facing a solvency crisis despite the recovery of the stock market since the 2008 crash. Numerous studies have indicated as … Read More ➡

Will Criminal Charges Bring Justice for GM Victims?

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has concluded that there was criminal wrongdoing by General Motors as the company covered-up a deadly ignition switch defect for years. That defect has now been blamed for causing the deaths of at least 107 motorists. While many observers may have been able to come to the conclusion that GM was guilty long before the Justice Department’s recent epiphany, the bigger question now is, what’s next?

GM still faces litigation risks as ongoing lawsuits seek justice for the victims’ families that suffered as a result of GM’s criminal actions. Full justice may never be served for those who suffered their losses prior to GM’s Obama-orchestrated 2009 bankruptcy process as the bankruptcy judge in that case, Robert Gerber, has given GM a free pass on any losses that occurred prior to the government bailout in a recent ruling.

There is one major … Read More ➡

Corrupt Congressman Claims Congress Needs a Raise

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), former federal judge who was impeached in 1988 for perjury and accepting bribes, on Monday asserted that members of Congress are not paid enough. He told the House Rules Committee:

Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution.

Reaction was immediate. From an article by Lachlan Markay in the Washington Free Beacon:

Aside from access to subsidized travel, gym memberships, haircuts, and the like, congressmen have a retirement plan which averages about $40,000 a year for retired members,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog.

The argument that Congress in underpaid was made last year by another corrupt Congressman, Jim Moran, of Virginia. Despite a string of Complaints to the House Ethics Committee and … Read More ➡

Sharpton Daughter Sues NYC for $5 Million over Sprained Ankle

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” goes the adage. In Al Sharpton’s family, the words are doubly true. This past weekend, Dominique Sharpton, the eldest of Reverend Al’s two adult daughters, announced she has sued the City of New York for $5 million over a sprained ankle she sustained last October while tripping over uneven pavement in the middle of a Lower Manhattan street. She claims that she was “severely injured, bruised and wounded” and “still suffers and will continue to suffer for some time physical pain and bodily injuries.” Yet given the outsized award sought, and her seemingly healthy condition only a couple months later, this may be an attempt to game our liability system; i.e., a hoax. And there is another issue: Is dad looking for a cut?

The Reverend Al Sharpton is a master of the shakedown of white-run organizations under the guise of “civil … Read More ➡

WSJ Editorial Wrong About Menendez Indictment

It’s been almost a month since the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled “The Menendez Indictment.”  We responded in a letter to the editor that has not been published. It’s a safe bet it never will be, so we post it here.

The Journal got to the point in its opening paragraph:

Ill-defined federal laws now reach into virtually every sphere of human behavior, and thus prosecutors can destroy almost anyone they choose. The recent indictment of Senator Robert Menendez on 14 counts of corruption and “honest services” fraud is a troubling case in point that deserves more than a little skepticism.

Here’s our response:

To the Editor:

The Journal argues that prosecutors have “no evidence” of crimes by Senator Robert Menendez (“The Menendez Indictment,” op-ed, April 16) and points out that the large donations from his chief benefactor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, were “legal and disclosed.”

You

Read More ➡

Azerbaijan Junket Broke House Rules

According to a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that was leaked to the Washington Post, ten House members broke House Rules when they took an all-expenses paid trip in 2013 to a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, courtesy of an oil company known as SOCAR. Also enjoying free trips were 32 staff members.

Azerbaijan is a country in Central Asia ruled by strongman Ilham Aliyev. In 2012, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project named him its “Person of the Year” for doing “the most to promote organized criminal activity or advance corruption.”

OCE apparently acted in response to a July 2014 story in the Houston Chronicle by Lise Olsen and Will Tucker describing the trip. In addition to SOCAR, BP, ConocoPhillips and KBR also helped to pay the costs of the event, estimated at $1.5 million. Those costs included $100,000 for hotels, $75,000 for food and entertainment, and … Read More ➡