Personal Libert Digest New

 

unemployed woman

by Ben Bullard

Most mainstream news outlets and Wall Street watchers hailed Friday’s release of the latest jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with optimism and enthusiasm. “Good news: Unemployment at lowest in 7 years,” a CNN headline read. NPR hailed the new information as “a sign that the nation’s economy is finally picking up steam.”

Maybe. But there’s a massive chunk of the nation that isn’t presently involved in the labor market or in contributing anything to the economy. In the past two years, there have been 13 months when the non-participation rate in the U.S. labor force matched or exceeded lows previously seen nearly four decades ago.

“The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months between April 2014 and this February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013,” reported CNS News.

“Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent.”

If you like low unemployment percentage figures, then non-participation in the labor force is your friend. The national unemployment rate in the February jobs report sank to an impressive-looking 5.5 percent. Meanwhile, the labor force’s high non-participation rate barely budged.

“The numbers of those not in the labor force, seasonally adjusted, continued to grow,” Ed Morrissey wrote Friday. “… In February it hit 92.9 million people, up 1.5 million people from a year earlier and 3.45 million from February 2013. It rose 354,000 just in the past month, outstripping the 295,000 jobs added. This tends to grow anyway, but the rate at which it’s growing shows why the U-3 and even U-6 [different metrics the BLS uses to measure unemployment] may not be capturing the real scope of the labor problem in the U.S.”

There were a reported 92,898,000 people who weren’t part of the labor force in February; 56 million of them were women. The BLS considers people not to be participating in the labor force if they have not actively sought, held or obtained employment during the most recent four-week period.

 

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By TOM GANTERT

More Jobs, Higher Pay Since Right-to-Work Passed in Michigan

Since its right-to-work law took effect, Michigan has experienced the nation’s sixth-largest growth in the number of people working, adding 141,990 jobs from March 2013 through December 2014, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

California saw the largest increase during that span, adding 603,174 jobs.

On a percentage basis, Michigan employment grew 3.3 percent, ranking 15th overall in the nation. North Dakota held the top spot, growing its workforce by 5.4 percent.

Michigan had 4,294,532 jobs in March of 2013, a number that increased to 4,436,522 in December of 2014.

The data on jobs comes from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey.

Unions and their allies have criticized Gov. Rick Snyder for signing right-to-work into law, claiming it has not helped the state.

“Gov. Snyder can’t point to a single job that has been created by right-to-work since it’s been implemented,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a press release.

However, James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said not only has there been an increase in employment since right-to-work was passed in Michigan, but incomes in the state have grown.

Since right-to-work became effective, average weekly earnings increased 5.4 percent, faster than the national increase of 3.7 percent. Weekly wages were $773.60 in Michigan in March 2013 and rose to $815.71 in December 2014.

“Michigan’s economy is moving in the right direction and right-to-work continues to be a positive for the state,” Hohman said. “The extreme warnings from union partisans about the law have fallen by the wayside as Michigan adds more good-paying jobs.”

 

Personal Libert Digest New

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by Chip Wood

No wonder Barack Obama and his team of sycophants didn’t want Israel’s prime minister to address a joint session of Congress. They were afraid that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s powerful, passionate presentation would make Obama’s own stumbling, apologetic efforts look pathetic by comparison.

If that was their concern, boy, were they right. On Tuesday, Netanyahu delivered what has been described as “a speech for the ages.” It left a lot of viewers, including this one, wishing that our own president were half as eloquent about defending our country and promoting our interests.

The Israeli leader made it unmistakably clear exactly what is at stake in the current negotiations with Iran. “The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” he declared. “To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle but lose the war.”

When he added, “We can’t let that happen,” the audience lept to his feet and gave him another of more than two dozen standing ovations.

Netanyahu pointed out that both ISIS and Iran are the enemies of freedom. “Don’t be fooled,” he warned. “Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.”

Have we ever heard such unmistakable moral clarity from our own president? Of course not. All we get from Obama are apologies for our past behavior, combined with a mushy-headed defense of Islam and Muslims.

Netanyahu sees things differently. “When it comes to Iran and ISIS,” he proclaimed, “the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” That will surely be one of the most quoted phrases from the Israeli leader’s remarks. And it deserves to be.

From the time John Boehner, the speaker of the House, announced he had invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, the Obama administration made it clear it wanted nothing to do with the prime minister’s visit. No one from the administration attended the speech. Some 48 representatives and at least eight senators boycotted it. Several of them issued some petty and divisive critiques afterward.

Obama said he didn’t bother to watch the speech, but when he looked at a transcript, he didn’t see anything new in it. Such a childish dismissal did nothing to enhance his image as a leader; instead, it merely made him look churlish.

It didn’t have to be this way. Obama would have demonstrated some magnanimous leadership if he had welcomed Netanyahu to Washington and agreed to meet with him. But his spokesman said the visit was too close to elections in Israel later this month. What a bunch of baloney!

And what a contrast with Netanyahu, who began his speech with effusive thanks to Obama, as well as to Congress and the American people, for their past support of Israel. It was another lesson in how a real leader should conduct himself.

Let’s face it. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the region and around the world. It has repeatedly said it is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It has proven over and over again that it will break any promise and violate any treaty whenever it wishes.

No wonder the Israeli leader said, “If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.”

After urging his audience to insist that what he called “a very, very bad deal” be changed, Netanyahu concluded with a solemn and sober warning:

I can guarantee you this, the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. … For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves. This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.

As I said at the beginning of this column, Netanyahu delivered a passionate and powerful speech to Congress. It had a fervor and moral clarity we have never heard from our president — with the possible exception of his attacks on the rich.

No wonder that Netanyahu has more respect among the American people than our own president. He deserves it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Personal Libert Digest New

green-tipped ammo

ATF’s ammo ban a slippery slope to useless guns

by Sam Rolley

American 2nd Amendment supporters are doubling down on criticism of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to reclassify certain types of 5.56mm/.223 caliber ammunition as armor-piercing. If the plan moves forward, critics say it could amount to the de facto completion of the Obama administration’s plan to enact an extrajudicial ban on AR style rifles.

The ATF has released its proposal (available here) and opened a public comment period on the matter lasting until March 16.

The agency’s ban would affect specifically SS109/M855 ammunition — one of the most common ammo options for 5.56 NATO chambered AR-15 rifles.

For years, the ammo has been exempt from ATF ammo bans because of its popularity among target shooters and outdoorsmen. But the agency is now claiming that the “green-tipped” ammo poses a threat to law enforcement officers because it can be used in certain types of semi-automatic handguns.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation last week urged “all industry employees, target shooters and gun owners” to contact lawmakers and ATF officials to express opposition to the plan.

“ATF’s proposed ‘framework’ for applying the ‘sporting purpose’ exemption test rewrites the law passed by Congress to disregard the manufacturer’s intention that a projectile or cartridge is ‘primarily intended for a supporting purpose,’” the group said. “ATF inappropriately places the focus on how criminals might misuse sporting ammunition in a handgun.”

In other words, ATF officials are ignoring the fact that the ammunition has a widely used and perfectly legal purpose and effectively suggesting that ammo manufacturers produce the round solely for sale to criminals.

Other critics of the ATF plan note that the agency has failed to provide any evidence to back its claim that the “green-tipped” rounds are sought out by criminals.

That’s the gist of a recent Guns.com column penned by Jeffery Denning, a shooting expert and law enforcement officer.

“Viewing the ATF proposal through cop glasses, I understand law enforcement’s need and desire to keep armored-piercing ammo out of the hands of dangerous people,” he wrote. “I don’t want to get shot with armor-piercing rounds. I don’t want my buddies to get shot either.

“But the truth of the matter is that all my friends in law enforcement that have been shot were NOT shot by armor-piercing rounds,” Denning continued. “They were shot — and unfortunately one of them was killed — by everyday ammo, so singling out green-tip ammo simply makes no sense to me.”

Other 2nd Amendment supporters with law enforcement backgrounds have expressed similar sentiments.

“Criminals aren’t going to go out and buy a $1,000 AR pistol,” a Missouri gun store owner and former police officer told the Springfield News-Leader. “And as a police officer I’m not worried about AR pistols because you can see them. It’s the small gun in a guy’s hand you can’t see that kills you.”

That the ATF wants to ban a class of ammo based on conjecture has many critics worried about a slippery slope to bans on other ammo.

“Manufacturers will face serious limitations in their ability to develop and market alternative ammunition in other popular hunting rounds, such as .308 rifle hunting ammunition, if ATF’s so-called ‘framework’ is adopted,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation predicts.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, meanwhile, is telling supporters that the ATF effort is clearly the result of the Obama administration’s desire to “suppress the acquisition, ownership and use of AR-15s and other .223 caliber general purpose rifle.”

The NRA is working with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to produce a congressional plan to halt the proposed ammo ban.

In a letter to ATF officials, Goodlatte is asking for clarification on what authority the agency believes it has to usurp federal law and the 2nd Amendment by reclassifying the popular ammunition option.

“[T]his round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged — much less offered evidence — that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer,” the lawmaker wrote. “The idea that Congress intended [the ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition law] to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous.”

Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has also weighed in on the proposed ammo ban, saying supporters should call it what it is rather than pushing it as an officer safety issue.

“Banning ammo is the same as banning guns,” Jindal said via Twitter, adding, “Except it’s less honest.”

 

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By Norbert Michel /

People who believe in the power of individual liberty and free enterprise have had a rough time lately. And with so many recent examples of government intrusion, it’s hard to feel good about the future of capitalism.

In the case of financial markets, the tide has never really turned in favor of free markets. At the federal level, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act effectively enshrines as law the progressive movement’s paternalistic view of regulation. Under this view, it’s not enough to merely deter and punish fraud; the government also has to protect everyone from virtually everything that could go wrong.

Thankfully, there’s a ray of hope for everyone’s inner capitalist – a spirited defense of capitalism from Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Keating argued it’s not the federal government’s business to dictate private companies’ salaries. According to Keating:

[I]f it’s private money, if it’s not FDIC-insured money, for example, if it’s private capital, private stockholders, whatever they pay or don’t pay is their business. This is a free enterprise capitalist system after all.

Now, if you’d like to remain in a state of capitalistic bliss, read no further in that interview. Please. Because the rest of Keating’s interview displays symptoms far more in keeping with the paternalistic approach to regulating financial markets.

This approach goes well beyond simply providing legal protections for property rights and against fraud. Instead, it defines exactly what people must consider high risk versus low risk, and it dictates which risky activities are acceptable for which people.

As a result, we end up with exactly what we have: a giant mess that hinders the formation and use of capital and subjects it to political whims.

The last part of Keating’s defense is dead wrong because we really don’t have a free enterprise capitalist system. We haven’t had one for decades.

To paraphrase financial journalist Jim Grant, what we have is much closer to some sort of smiley-faced socialism. Government doesn’t fully own the means of production, but it directs the daylights out of them. Especially in financial markets.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act is a great example of the ills that come with smiley-faced socialism.

By the end of 2014, federal financial regulators had finalized more than 11,000 pages of rules and regulations. But they had also missed more than 36 percent of the Act’s rule-making deadlines, and they hadn’t even bothered to propose more than 20 percent of the required rules.

Anyone paying attention to this rule-making process over the last few years can see that the process spawns crony capitalism. Regulators work with industry employees to craft the rules because they have to.

Employees have expertise regulators need to do their job, and vice versa. In a social sense, they end up working together. Nobody should be surprised that some of these people build symbiotic social relationships rather than antagonistic ones.

Our paternalistic system also lends itself nicely to cronyism because financial executives are very good at making basic economic calculations. They understand, for instance, that it is often more profitable to make a deal with the government rather than to outright oppose new regulations.

We shouldn’t be surprised that people with big money at risk are often happy to accept a bit more regulation for good press and more taxpayer backing.

For a great example, we can go right back to Keating’s interview.

Keating suggests it’s appropriate for regulators to focus on “the responsibilities” of corporate compensation committees and of employees that make financial decisions. He also argues that it is “reasonable for regulators to determine just how much of a banker’s pay can be deducted on taxes.”

Reasonable to whom? Reasonable to executives willing to give up a tiny share of earnings in return for looking reasonable to populists politicians?

This sort of rule dictates that shareholders’ after tax return, all else equal, must be lower.

This dangerous way of thinking opens up a slimy can of worms because it literally means that legitimate business expenses are no longer tax deductible.

How long before a whole industry – oil drilling, perhaps – finds that its business expenses are no longer deductible? Too far-fetched? Turns out that some policymakers have already proposed this idea for insurance and advertising expenses. Over time, this policy would make the statutory tax rate meaningless.

But beyond this short-term apparent victory, the free market suffers. As it has for years, especially in the financial sector. (Banks are a case-study unto themselves, but the problem goes well past the banking segment.)

Here’s a tiny handful of the countless ways the federal government directs financial resources – the capital that’s supposed to fuel capitalism.

The list goes onand nearly all of these regulations are instituted in the name of protecting people from themselves even though this paternalistic approach has repeatedly failed in the past.

It condescendingly assumes a group of elites should tell everyone else what to do; it breeds cronyism, limits competition thus putting upward pressure on consumer prices, and it hinders capital formation.

If we want a free enterprise capitalist system, we need to go back to the drawing board. Let the government deter and punish fraud, but don’t let it dictate the size and structure of financial markets. Let investors invest and accept their own risks.

To his credit, Keating wants policies that “make sure the taxpayers are not burned even though your stockholders may be burned.” That’s a capital idea.

Originally published in Forbes. 

Portrait of Norbert Michel

Norbert Michel

Norbert Michel studies and writes about housing finance, including the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as The Heritage Foundation’s research fellow in financial regulations. Read his research.

 

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by Rob Bluey /

The Daily Signal made its CPAC debut this year, closely following the 2016 contenders and hot policy debates at America’s largest conservative conference. We’ve pulled together a quick take on the highlights of the first day.

1) Scott Walker Casts Himself as Champion of ‘Hard-Working Taxpayers’

The Wisconsin governor arrived at CPAC as the early 2016 frontrunner in Iowa, home to the much-anticipated Republican caucus next year. His speech, which came at the end of day one, drove home an economic message, touching on issues such as taxes and jobs that have played a big role in his three electoral victories in the Badger State.

During his speech, Walker found himself heckled by a member of the audience—an experience he’s endured on more than one occasion in Wisconsin. Winning applause from the crowd, he declared, “those voices can’t drown out the voices of hard-working taxpayers.”

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., at CPAC. (Photo: Mike Theiler/EPA/Newscom)

2) Ted Cruz Criticizes GOP Leadership for ‘Cutting a Deal’ with Democrats on Immigration

With a deadline fast approaching to fund the Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, showed no signs of compromising with Democrats. Conservatives, including Cruz, want to undo President Obama’s executive actions on immigration as part of the funding bill, which the Senate will vote on again Friday.

Before his speech, The Daily Signal joined a handful of journalists for a sit-down interview with Cruz. Here’s what he told us about the state of play:

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PHOTO: Byron Allen, Twitter

By PATRICK HOWLEY

Byron Allen Goes To War With Sharpton, Obama, Comcast For Future of Black Media

Legendary TV talk show host Byron Allen is taking on Al Sharpton, President Obama, and the most powerful media corporations in the world in a battle to spotlight the crisis at the heart of American race relations. It’s a daunting mission. But for some reason he doesn’t sound scared.

Allen told The Daily Caller that top media interests are actively freezing out and in some cases destroying black-owned media companies — and they’re paying Reverend-turned-MSNBC host Al Sharpton to give them racial cover to do it.

As for Washington politicians like Obama? According to Allen, they’re bought out by the very same interests, and they’re playing a part.

Allen, 53, is the chairman and CEO of the production company Entertainment Studios, which joined with the National Association of African-American Owned Media to file a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit this week against Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the Urban League, and former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. Allen and his fellow plaintiff also filed a $10 billion suit against AT&T and DirectTV.

“It’s cheaper to give Al Sharpton money than it is to do business with real African-American owned media,” Allen told TheDC. “What Comcast does is they give Al Sharpton money so he doesn’t call them racist. That is the issue here.”

It’s an issue that Allen, the cool longtime host of shows like “Real People” and “Entertainers,” talks about with off-the-air passion.

Comcast’s more than $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable is waiting on approval at the FCC, with a decision expected soon. If approved, the merger would make Comcast the most powerful media corporation in the world. But as Allen, who owns seven upstart cable networks, points out: Comcast pays out $11 billion in licensing fees to networks that it carries on its platform. How much of that money goes to 100 percent African-American owned media companies? $3 million. A fraction of one percent.

Sharpton’s curious takeover of the 6 pm timeslot on Comcast-owned MSNBC in late 2010 was predicated on the Reverend signing off on Comcast’s last merger: its historic acquisition of NBCUniversal, which the FCC and Department of Justice approved in January 2011 after a tough regulatory fight from California Rep. Maxine Waters on racial discrimination grounds. Comcast lavished donations upon Sharpton’s National Action Network and other civil rights groups to get them to sign off on the deal, according to Allen’s suit.

“Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.”

“Al Sharpton is nothing more than a black pawn in a very sophisticated white economic chess game,” Allen continued. “He’s not even bright enough to know he’s on the chess board and he’s being used by his white masters at Comcast, specifically [executive vice president] David Cohen and [chairman and CEO] Brian Roberts.”

AT&T, which is looking to acquire DirectTV for $67 billion including assumption of debt, also pays off Sharpton for racial cover, Allen said.

“I find it outstanding that AT&T is the biggest sponsor of Sharpton’s 60th birthday party,” Allen said. “AT&T spent more money on Al Sharpton’s birthday party than they have on 100 percent African-American owned media combined. [Sharpton] should return the money because AT&T doesn’t even celebrate Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday. The employees there take it as a sick day.”

“Reverend Jesse Jackson, you were on the balcony when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Why are you taking money from AT&T? Why is Al Sharpton getting more money from AT&T than Ebony Magazine, which has been around for 70 years?”

“[Corporations] trick people like, ‘I got the diversity award.’ Well, diversity is defined as women and white women.”

“My wife happens to be white and I ask her who is the white guy who speaks for all white people? You can’t even think that. That idea is racist. That’s wrong. So why do I have some black guy who speaks for me? Why is he cutting deals that somehow I don’t benefit from but somehow he’s on television every night?”

Sharpton’s power, including his informal adviser role at the White House, is just part of the game.

“I think that Obama uses him to control the Negroes,” Allen said of Sharpton.

READ MORE…

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By Kelsey Harkness /

Portrait of Kelsey Harkness

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on an ambitious rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most far-reaching K-12 federal education law ever created.

Under consideration is a 620-page proposal called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which Republican leadership says will scale back Washington’s involvement in local education.

But conservatives say the measure doesn’t go far enough in doing that.

“This proposal spends nearly as much as No Child Left Behind, is nearly as long in page length, and fails to give states an option to opt out of the law,” saidLindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation’s Will Skillman Fellow in Education. “As it stands, it’s a huge missed opportunity to restore state and local control of education.”

The Obama administration also opposes the legislation, fearing that it would be detrimental to schools nationwide. If the bill were to reach his desk, the president’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, suggested that Obama would issue a veto.

“As of today, this isn’t something we could support,” he told a group of reporters on Monday.

The Student Success Act would consolidate dozens of programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as No Child Left Behind) and grant states more flexibility in how they use roughly $2.3 billion federal education dollars.

The problem, conservatives say, is that the legislation only gives states flexibility within a limited range of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and more importantly, it does not allow states to completely opt out of the law, which has long been their goal.

In an effort to fix that, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the Student Success Act that would allow states to withdraw completely from almost every aspect of No Child Left Behind—if they so choose.

A-PLUS

“Innovation starts locally—not in Washington,” said Walker of the conservative amendment, called Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS).

Teachers and parents know best how to meet the unique needs of their children and students, and we have seen time and time again that Washington’s top-down approach does not work.

A-PLUS has been introduced in various Congresses and was intended to provide an alternative to states that did not want to participate in No Child Left Behind. For years, states have pushed back against No Child Left Behind due to its mandates and unworkable policies.

DeSantis said the amendment “liberates states from burdensome and ineffective regulations, providing local communities with the flexibility to use federal education funding for programs that they believe will best increase the success of students in the classroom.”

Now, with Republican control of both the House and Senate, conservatives argue that Congress has an opportunity to gives states a way out from federal control of K-12 education.

Infographic: Kelsey Harris

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