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06/16/2015 - 08:35

Duke EdwardsportThe monument to former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers’s boondogglery – a “clean coal and carbon capture” power plant in Edwardsport, Ind. – has become the rate-busting gift that keeps on giving.

Over the weekend the Indianapolis Star reported that the facility that Duke Energy’s Indiana president called “state-of-the-art” continues to have premature breakdown and decay problems. Repair costs are likely to be passed on to customers, who have already seen their electric bills increase by up to 16 percent because of construction estimate overruns.

06/15/2015 - 13:03

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.

06/09/2015 - 09:56

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.

06/05/2015 - 07:47

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.”

06/02/2015 - 09:46

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.

06/01/2015 - 18:30

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. 

05/27/2015 - 08:35

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?

05/20/2015 - 12:25

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:

05/20/2015 - 12:21

“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? 

05/15/2015 - 10:21

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.

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