If there is an issue that has united popular indignation, Left and Right alike, executive compensation surely ranks near or at the top. But the bipartisan opposition to recent pay increases for the CEOs of mortgage conduits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while highly understandable, misses the larger point. Several months ago, these companies, which account for nearly half the outstanding home mortgage debt in the U.S. and which since 2008 have been wards of the government, announced plans to raise annual CEO pay from $600,000 to $4 million. Their overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, approved the hikes. In response, Congress overwhelmingly has passed (or is on the verge of passing) bills to roll them back. Lawmakers would do better to allow the firms to operate freely and without subsidies.
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.
In the construction industry, nothing exemplifies union monopoly, and its costs, quite like a Project Labor Agreement. A new proposal before Congress, the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act, would protect contractors from intrusion by organized labor upon contractual liberty. Sponsored by Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La. (H.R. 1671, S. 71), the measure would bar the use of these agreements on federally-sponsored or subsidized public works. In promoting open competition in bidding, hiring and other aspects of project labor, it effectively would overturn President Obama’s Executive Order 13502. Issued in February 2009, that order “encouraged” federal agencies to require such pacts on a case-by-case basis on projects of $25 million or more.
Friday’s announcement by the Obama administration that it will allow wind energy companies to kill certain bird species for 30 years without legal ramifications shows that its $1 million paltry fine of Duke Energy for avian slayings a week earlier was just for show.
Slamming the president for the application of double standards, not enforcing laws it doesn’t like, and acting unilaterally without Congressional authority is nothing new. It’s not often, though, you see such an obvious policy contradiction appear within such a short period of time. And now, without need to worry about re-election, he can pit his environmental constituencies against each other (wildlife protection vs. green energy promotion).
Last week’s punishment/settlement between the Department of Justice and Duke Energy over bird deaths caused by its wind turbines gives evidence that the Obama administration needed a scapegoat, to defuse accusations that it applies a double-standard in enforcement of wildlife laws.
The Friday before Thanksgiving both parties announced that Duke would pay $1 million for the deaths of more than 160 birds that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The incidents occurred over the last four years at two Wyoming sites operated by the utility’s Duke Energy Renewables subsidiary.
In a sign her troubles have undergone a significant expansion, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week that former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has hired a lawyer as new details of her use of private email accounts to conduct official government business were revealed.
The agency and its previous head have still breathed easy despite months of inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests from Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Tradition Institute. Jackson and enviro-crats have been shielded by colleagues’ efforts to block access to records, delay their delivery, or conceal damning information with redactions. Nevertheless the indefatigable Horner has continued to pepper the agency with new requests from new angles almost every time he discovers a new hint of malfeasance revealed from previous requests.
Two weeks ago, we asked whether Interior Secretary Ken Salazar considered himself above the law by ignoring court orders to resume the permitting process for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Now we learn that Salazar may have misled Congress and the public on the number of drilling permit applications he is ignoring.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, lately has earned a bad reputation among a wide range of benefactors. Given the New Orleans-based radical nonprofit network's involvement in a wide range of confirmed and suspected crimes, that's no surprise. The IRS and the Census Bureau each recently terminated their relationship with ACORN, while the House and Senate voted to cut off funds. Yet prior to these actions, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known by its acronym, FEMA, had announced plans to issue a $997,402 grant to an ACORN affiliate, the ACORN Institute of New Orleans, Louisiana. Subsequent revelations of this award triggered requests among certain Republican members of Congress to rescind the grant. FEMA soon obliged them, freezing not simply this grant, but all others to the group as well.