Category: National (Page 1 of 15)

GYEKENYES- OCTOBER 6 : War refugees at the Gyekenyes Zakany Railway Station on 6 October 2015 in Gyekenyes, Hungary. Refugees are arriving constantly to Hungary on the way to Germany.

Column | Inslee’s case for Syrian refugees is based on a seriously flawed reading of history

GYEKENYES- OCTOBER 6 : War refugees at the Gyekenyes Zakany Railway Station on 6 October 2015 in Gyekenyes, Hungary. Refugees are arriving constantly to Hungary on the way to Germany.

GYEKENYES- OCTOBER 6 : War refugees at the Gyekenyes Zakany Railway Station on 6 October 2015 in Gyekenyes, Hungary. Refugees are arriving constantly to Hungary on the way to Germany.

When a Republican politician steps out to take a minority position on the issue of the day, they can expect to be portrayed by the media as an outlier, ranging from simply being out-of-step to an enemy of freedom. When a Democrat swims against strong public opposition, they are labeled a champion.

Today, the Washington Post ran this headline on The Fix political blog: “This governor just made the most powerful argument yet for accepting Syrian refugees.” Building from that grabber, journalist Amber Phillips shined a warm spotlight on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, one of 10 governors still voicing support for the Obama administration’s plan to bring at least 10,000 refugees into the U.S. And as is so often the case, the media’s effort to lionize another Democratic champion leads with a lie.

Phillips writes with careful intent:

There’s a saying I recall hearing as a child… : “Don’t make decisions when you’re upset.”

If you do, the saying goes, you risk making a decision guided by the same fear and anger that caused you to be upset in the first place instead of making a decision guided by reason.

Having set the scene, Phillips introduces the public to its hero:

That’s essentially the argument Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) made in a succinct but powerful interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Wednesday morning about why America should accept 10,000 Syrian refugees who need a home. America is understandably afraid after the terror in Paris and its roots on the migrant trail from Syria, he said, but if we close the door on Syrian refugees, we are doing so out of fear, not any reality-based rationale — and that would be a mistake.

Then, for those who might still hold on to their concerns, Phillips and Inslee shove a mirror in front of Joe and Jane America, and imply that fear is only a manifestation of darker blemishes on our nation’s soul:

To emphasize his point, Inslee recalled a moment in American history when the nation collectively did just that: Made a mistake because it was afraid.

“I live on Bainbridge Island, this little island just west of Seattle. And it was the first place where we succumbed to fear, in 1941 after Pearl Harbor,” he said. “And we locked up Washington and American citizens, and we sent them to camps for years while their sons fought in the Army in Italy and were decorated fighting for democracy.”

Inslee’s reference of course, is to Japanese internment camps.

Phillips ends her piece by concluding that “reason is a better guide than fear.” Yet, Inslee’s position is not based on reason. His case for welcoming Syrian refugees into the U.S. and Washington state is based on emotion and a very flawed reading of history.

Only two days ago, Inslee made a shaky linkage to compare the Syrian exodus to the Vietnamese refugee crisis of the 1970s. (There had never been serious threats to the homeland stemming from the Vietnam War aside from those committed by homegrown terrorists.) As he skimmed further back in his world history notes to the mid-20th century, the governor’s ability to interpret the lessons of the past is even less steady.

Inslee’s thinly veiled analogy between the forced internment of American citizens who were ethnically Japanese during World War II and the present-day decision to allow Syrian citizens to be settled into the U.S. is ludicrous in the extreme. Depriving U.S. citizens of their rights on the basis of race was an ugly process, but one that bears no similarity to the current case of Syrians.

The governor’s approach is a mix of shame and emotion intended to produce compliance, not consensus. It follows the president’s slanderous line of attack on opponents of the refugee plan. Most disappointing, it further polarizes this important discussion making it harder, if not impossible, to find common ground.

This is the game into which our political discourse has devolved — a rhetorical three-card Monte game in which facts, emotions and half-truths are swapped quickly through the dialogue to produce “truthiness,” a warm feeling that gives us more comfort and social acceptance than reality ever can.

If Inslee was just a professor teaching bad history, the damage from his erroneous lesson would be measured only in dozens of minds wasted. But the concerns of citizens and experts about security risks and whether adequate safeguards can be put in place are legitimate; because the stakes are high we should demand intellectual rigor from those who wish to influence the debate.

[Image credit: iStock]
Drought-ravaged landscape

Holding Washington and other Western states hostage over water | Op-Ed

A dominant theme washing over Capitol Hill in the waning days of the session centers on how Congress can effectively address the diverse and legitimate needs of the many Western States confronting historic drought and water issues. There are nearly two-dozen legislative proposals from both Democrats and Republicans tackling everything from the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S” regulations and carbon-reduction rules to drought relief for farmers and ranchers affecting many Western states.

Drought in Washington and across the West have caused billions of dollars in impacts and are predicted to cost billions more in the coming years.

Our elected officials have taken notice.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) is making it his priority to facilitate the construction of new dams and reservoirs to increase Washington’s water storage capacity by introducing the Bureau of Reclamation Surface Water Storage Streamlining Act of 2015.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is pushing the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, which provides an integrated approach to addressing water management in Washington’s Yakima Basin. As the Yakima Basin faces continued drought and climate impacts, the federal government has a responsibility to act now to prevent future impacts and costs in meeting its legal responsibilities in the basin.

This summer California Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-21) and 25 bipartisan co-sponsors — including Newhouse and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) — introduced HR 2898, a drought relief bill that would benefit Washington, as well as California and our other Western states. It passed in the House, but was coldly received by the Senate, even though many knew that California senator Dianne Feinstein contributed to its provisions.

California Senators Feinstein and Barbara Boxer responded with an alternative, a bill that would grab $1.3 billion in federal funds for California; 12 environmental activist groups helped Feinstein and Boxer draft their measure. While these senators command respect, their bill would do little for Washington and other Western states. Rather, it would simply help expand California’s environmental mandates to our state and many others.

We need much more than that.

By some estimates more than 93 million Americans are now impacted by the Western drought. At least twelve western states are falling victim to drought conditions and receiving USDA drought relief: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. The impact of the drought ripples across the nation, which has a vested interest in food prices, the security of our food supply and the economy at large.

With over 92% of all federally owned lands located in the West, Americans are growing concerned about impacts on national parks and national forests. After all, issues concerning water, air and other natural resources cross state lines from coast to coast.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ response was to sensibly bundle its Western States package of measures into a comprehensive regional plan to address drought rather than dedicate federal funds to a single state’s crisis. A comprehensive package solves many states’ problems rather than dealing with them piecemeal.

As important as California is, and despite its historic drought crisis, a California-centric approach is myopic and unfair. The federal government must take ownership and responsibility for untangling the unwieldy web of local, state and federal government regulations that control the West’s water.

The drought is regional; it’s bigger than California and any fix should address the needs of the West, not just one state. Senators Feinstein and Boxer know that. The sooner congressional delegations across the West all band together and start treating the water crisis as an American issue of national importance, it helps our state of Washington, the West, and the nation — and that includes California.

Stagnation road sign

Repeal of Section 1031 Tax-Deferred Capital Gains Exchanges Would Only Choke Economic Growth | Op-Ed

If you were asked to design a tax code from scratch, you’d want to make sure that the rules would encourage things like investment and economic growth. After all, the more you do to enlarge the economic pie, the less pain we feel when the government takes out its slice to do the work it needs to do.

Since 1921, the federal tax code has contained a provision — Section 1031 — that does exactly that. It allows taxpayers to roll over their capital gains and defer the taxes on investments in things like real estate, equipment, and vehicles, so long as the savings are rolled directly back into like-kind investments.

It’s important to note that the taxes are deferred, not eliminated. But the deferral helps businesses like farms and construction companies to reinvest and grow, ultimately driving job creation and economic expansion. And that, in turn, generates even more tax revenue in the process.

Repealing Section 1031 would be a short-sighted way to collect more taxes today while choking off economic growth in the future. The government estimates it could collect a little over $40 billion in taxes over ten years by repealing Section 1031, but Ernst and Young estimates that a repeal could cost the economy as much as $3.20 in growth for every $1 in tax revenues raised.

A farmer would dismiss that as “eating the seed corn.” You’d have to be pretty bad at math to give up $3.20 to get $1 in return. Keeping Section 1031 in place ensures investment and economic growth, which we need now more than ever.


Centralized, Government-Controlled Price Fixing of Healthcare Does Not Work | Op-Ed

Depositphotos_30765241_s_editedIn the wake of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthy, hard-working Americans are facing higher health care costs and a sea of broken promises. Higher premiums, lost providers and plans, as well as increased prescription drug costs are among the negative side effects stemming from ACA implementation.

Amid the ACA fallout, efficient and already successful health care programs are at risk from interference. Medicare Part D, a prescription drug coverage program for seniors and disabled individuals, is the all too rare example of a successful government program. What makes this program work is the market-driven principles and competition built into its design. As a result, program subscribers have access to prescription drug benefits that are offered at substantial savings while simultaneously saving taxpayer money. Over 30 million are enrolled in Medicare Part D, chances are you know someone who is.

From a fiscal perspective, Part D should be viewed as a windfall for our national budget. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), from 2004-2013, government spending on the program was 45 percent, or $348 billion less than originally projected. Unfortunately, myopic Beltway bureaucrats annually target Part D during the budget process and will again attempt to strip the market-driven components that make it efficient and widely popular among seniors and disabled veterans.

This is the real head-scratcher:  Why then would the Obama administration undercut Part D when it is working efficiently and coming in under budget?  It is dumbfounding. Yet, the federal government continues to look for ways to undercut Part D reducing the number of available plans, asserting price controls and instituting a rebate program that would reduce pharmaceutical research and development of new products.

Centralized, government-controlled price fixing is not the answer, and it would only drive prices higher. Furthermore, this is inconsistent with market-based reforms that promote competition and consumer choice. With Part D, prescription cost increases have held steady with the rate of inflation, and seniors have options from a variety of plans to select one that best suits their individual needs. So, rather than undermine Part D, the market-driven approach should be championed as an example of what is working in federal government.

The benefits of Part D extend beyond the fiscal savings. By improving access to prescription drugs, the overall health condition of beneficiaries is improved, decreasing hospitalization rates is realized. According to a Harvard study, Medicare Part D significantly reduced the likelihood of hospitalization for eight conditions, leading to nearly 4 percent fewer hospital admissions, or an estimated 77,000 fewer annual admissions.

While mounting evidence exists to save Part D, it is far from safe. It will likely be on lawmakers’ and regulators’ radars yet again. It is critical that we continue to defend and maintain Medicare Part D. Instead of derailing its success, the federal government should model other programs after Medicare Part D. As the numbers show, the security of Part D is not merely a concern for seniors and the disabled population. It impacts us all. The bottom line is that centralized, government-controlled price fixing is not the answer. All taxpayers benefit from Part D, and Washington, D.C., should stop its pattern of fixing something that is not broken.

[Image manipulated under license:]

President’s Exec Order Should Not Stop Republicans from Leading on Immigration | Op-Ed

You would have to be living under a rock to not notice all of the attention being given to the issue of immigration reform right now.  Conservatives have sometimes appeared to want the issue to go away entirely – yet it will not.  And it should not.  Republicans will now control both houses of Congress and this is our chance to lead on this issue.  We can fix the broken system our way.  Our conservative values should mean that we are stronger on immigration and we need a system that strengthens America.

The President’s recent executive order won’t address the root causes of our broken system, and so there is still an enormous opportunity for Republicans to enact real improvements and address the structural problems he is choosing to ignore.  We need a modern immigration system that drives our economy rather than ignores it.  We need to attract and retain the workers our farms, our laboratories, and industries across the economy need to compete and grow.  That requires an immigration system that responds to bull markets and bear markets by adjusting the number of visas we allocate according to the needs of our economy.  To address these needs we need the Republican-led congress to pass comprehensive legislation.

The President’s executive order won’t change anything.  The economic imperative for Congress to enact immigration reform still exists.

Reforming our immigration laws will help promote new business growth – a goal that many immigrants and conservatives share.   A Partnership for a New American Economy report shows that in 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new U.S. businesses and contributed more than $775 billion dollars in revenue to our Gross Domestic Product.  Foreign-born researchers and students at our nation’s colleges also help spark business innovation with new products and ideas.  This reports shows that more than 75 percent of all patents awarded at our top universities had at least one immigrant inventor involved in their production.  Foreign-born investors also help bolster the economy, accounting for over 80 percent of investments in cutting-edge industries like information technology and digital communications.

Republicans must act now to create a more streamlined immigration policy based on market-driven principles.  A market-based approach will drive new job creation and increase economic growth nationwide.

In addition to very powerful economic reasons for reform – there are also political ones as well that we cannot ignore.

Many people hold the mistaken belief that immigrant voters in the United States are predominantly liberal.  However, another recent PNAE study found that notion is simply not true.  In fact, more than 50 percent of immigrants do not identify with either the Republican or Democratic Party. These votes are up for grabs.  And, it is imperative that Republicans thoughtfully consider issues important to this growing and politically unaffiliated group of voters.

This study also found that immigrants and conservatives often hold many of the same moral and religious values.  In fact, 73 percent of Hispanics who identify as Evangelical Christians were opposed to abortion, compared to only 43 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.  Fifty-three percent of black immigrants oppose gay marriage, which is nine percentage points higher than the national average.  And, 22 percent of immigrant voters cited “moral values” as the most influential factor in determining their votes in the 2004 election.

Younger immigrants also tend to be more religious and conservative than their U.S.-born counterparts.  41 percent of immigrants aged 18-29, rank religion as being “very important.”  Due their strong religious faith and personal commitment to family, many immigrants indicate they would respond favorably to a conservative message if Republicans would act on the issue of immigration reform.

Conservatives must recognize the profound impact that immigrants have on America’s economic, cultural and political life. By implementing meaningful immigration reforms, Republicans can help fix the ineffective and broken system we have in place today.  The result will not only create jobs and build businesses, but also help Republicans gain support from this important group of voters.

[Featured image: Donkey Hotey]
McM Official Photo 3-8-11 (small)

McMorris Rodgers: House Republicans Moving to Use ‘Purse Strings’ to Rein in IRS

On Wednesday, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) announced that Republicans will introduce an appropriations bill next week that couples continued funding for the Internal Revenue Service with key accountability measures designed to rein in abuses within the scandal-ridden federal tax collection agency.

“As you know, the House holds the purse strings,” the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress said Wednesday afternoon on a conference call with reporters from new media along with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.).

McMorris Rodgers revealed that next week House Republicans will move forward the appropriations bill containing appropriations for IRS, and that the measure will also place some restrictions on how the IRS can use its funds.

Among the accountability provisions mentioned were a prohibition on the IRS’ implementation of proposed regulation changes for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. The bill would also ban the IRS from using funds for activities that curb first amendment-protected activities, as well as restrain the agency from ever again spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in the production of truly awful employee training videos.

Both representatives expressed that the failure of the IRS and the Obama administration to address the agency’s problems has necessitated congressional action.

McMorris Rodgers remarked that the IRS is able to “demand compliance from moms, dads and small businesses, and [their failure to comply with the congressional investigation] is just wrong.”

“There’s still a huge amount of concern among the American people that we are not getting all of the answers,” said Gerlach.

Gerlach added that because of the absence of cooperation from the IRS and a lack of action from the Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Justice, the Obama administration has “left the American people in a position where they simply don’t believe the President on this issue.”

It is very likely that such a measure will pass the House. It is just as probable that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reflex will be to drop it into a deep, dark desk drawer, never to be seen again.

Ironically, the frustrating Democratic strategy of forcing continuing resolutions for funding the government may ultimately give Republicans the leverage they need.

If Republicans can isolate appropriations for the most-hated federal agency, Democrats could be forced in September to argue against making a rogue agency accountable.

Unlike in the last shutdown standoff, threatening to have the IRS go dark is unlikely to generate much public sympathy to elevate the Democratic position in negotiations.

And all just in time for critical midterm elections in which Democrats are desperately hoping to hang on to Senate.


Reports of the Internet’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated | Op-Ed

Recently there have been a handful of news stories lamenting the end of the Internet as we know it.  The truth is that the Internet is stronger than ever, the stalwart principles that protect it are firmly in place and the ecosystem comprised of innovators, engineers, policy-makers, investors and users is working to assure its health and growth for the future.

It must be one of our most basic instincts, to protect what we love, including the lifeline of resources and economic security and prosperity that is the Internet.  We all want to access the information, products, and services that we need, and we want to do that from wherever we are and as quickly as possible. Increased choices for how we access the Internet – wired and wireless broadband – coupled with the principle of the Open Internet, mean we have a growing number of opportunities to get online and that all online traffic is treated equally once we’re there.

In a fortuitous collision of critical topics that impact the Internet and access to the Internet, there was an FCC meeting last month that included the Open Internet on the agenda, as well as the upcoming spectrum auction.  At stake: getting online as well as your experience once you’re there.  The FCC will be formalizing rules that are imagined to impact what happens once a person is online: Internet content, and access to that content.  At the same meeting, the FCC voted on bidding rules for the spectrum auction scheduled for mid-2015, destined to impact the ability of a person to get online (wirelessly) at all.

Despite the sturm und drang, the values of the Open Internet are widely respected and valued.  Formally preserving rules that would ensure that no one could restrict innovation, regulate content or applications or create so-called fast or slow lanes is a good thing for the Internet.

The irony is that the values of the Open Internet, which aren’t controversial, were on the agenda with bidding rules for the spectrum auction, which for tech-followers and insiders, has been a little more spicy.  At the pending auction, companies that provide wireless service will have a chance to obtain more of the essential airwaves needed to strengthen and expand mobile networks – a popular service for a rapidly growing number of consumers.  This issue didn’t get nearly the same amount of attention or press as the Open Internet, which is unfortunate, because of the topics on the agenda that day that have impact on your daily use of the Internet – the wireless spectrum and its distribution is far more impactful.

Washington State has shown consistent leadership in the wireless economy and I think we have a clearer sense than many about the necessity of spectrum to feed our wireless habits.  Outdated, overloaded wireless network infrastructure means that many consumers contend with dropped calls, poor coverage, slow speeds, and stalled applications.  And consider this: Consumer demand is growing in leaps and bounds, and new innovations are developed nearly every day.  We’re all hungry for spectrum, and the auctions are vital for everyone.

It’s the spirit of freedom and innovation that empowers new choices for consumers in the marketplace and allows us to customize and create our Internet experience – wired or wireless.  There are no tolls when you are online. Under a regime of openness and innovation, the Internet delivers immeasurable benefits to consumers and enables forward-thinking scientists and entrepreneurs to launch often-revolutionary advancements.

It’s why the anticipation not only of what we do now, but what we will do in the future is so critical when it comes to Internet policy.  Whether it’s rules that codify the Open Internet or rules that ensure a fair spectrum auction, the lens through which all regulation that impacts technology should be viewed is one that modernizes what is already in place to ensure innovation and progress. In fact, the only real threat to the Internet is from a regulatory approach that is heavy-handed, ignorant of marketplace realities or obsolete.  Modern public policy should meet the needs of everyone who is so dependent on the Internet – and at this point, by my count, that’s most of us.

Closed America

It’s Time for Immigration Reform | Op-Ed

Closed AmericaSimply stated, immigration reform is about economic growth. In Washington state alone, if undocumented immigrants followed a path to legal citizenship it would generate more than 12,700 jobs and more than $1.1 billion for the state, according to Regional Economic Models, Inc. Vital industries are facing substantial labor shortages, which could be filled by immigrant workers and ultimately drive job creation across the state.

Our broken immigration system is tying the hands of business owners and farmers from hiring necessary workers to operate their businesses. Additionally, our outdated system makes it highly challenging for foreign-born, Washington University educated, high skilled workers and innovators from having a chance to remain in the state. Meaningful immigration reform is critical to address these important issues facing our state’s economy.

Large and small companies in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) fields are facing significant labor shortages of high-skilled workers across the country, and Washington is no exception. A 2011 study by McKinsey and Company found that one in every four science and engineering firms reported hiring difficulties.

Unfortunately, American students pursuing careers in STEM fields is growing at less than one percent per year, yet according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, 47.3 percent of Engineering PhD graduates in Washington’s research-intensive universities are temporary residents. Although these students want to remain in the state and companies want to hire them, our fragmented immigration system imposes arbitrary limits to the number of high-skilled visas allowed each year. This forces a significant number of immigrants educated in our taxpayer funded universities to leave the country, while creating an unnecessarily problematic structure for our businesses to recruit essential workers.

The loss of educated and motivated immigrants has a substantial impact on job creation. In the STEM industry, an additional 4.3 jobs are created for every high skilled technology job filled. Moreover, new businesses are essential to drive job creation, and the rate at which immigrants start new businesses grew by more than 50 percent between 1996 and 2011. In fact, immigrant-owned businesses employ one out of every ten American workers at privately owned-companies and add more than $775 billion dollars of revenue to the Gross Domestic Product.

It is not acceptable to allow the loss of taxpayer dollars invested in the education of foreign-born students and then make it virtually impossible for them to remain in the United States to return our investment by driving job creation, and stimulating economic growth. The passage of meaningful immigration reform is long overdue, and I am calling on Congress to pass substantive reform legislation this year for Washington’s economy, and for our country as a whole.

[Image used under license:]

In One Minute, George Will Explains Dangers of Common Core

As we’ve seen, Common Core is meeting increasing resistance from parents and educators across the country.  George Will explains why.

[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog.]
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Republicans Want Young Americans to Share Their Obamacare Stories | VIDEO

Are you a millennial? Are you troubled by the realities of Obamacare? If so, the Republicans in the U.S. House want to hear from you.

Oh, and they also want support for a bill known as the SIMPLE Fairness Act, a measure that would set aside the individual mandate penalty tax through the 2014 calendar year.

A video released Wednesday by House Republicans is one effort to start a direct dialogue with the millions of American young adults who may be confused, frustrated or simply grappling with the reality of Obamacare’s mandate. Younger people are encouraged to share their angst about the health care upheaval by visiting the GOP’s “Your Story” website, an ever-growing repository for tales of Obamacare-imposed hardship.

Using simple white-board animation, Republicans introduce young people to the new stalker in their life – a federal government that won’t take no for an answer when it comes to forcing them to buy something they might not want or need. Rough sketches and voice-over dialogue make the terms of Obamacare clear – either buy insurance for $300-400 a month or pay a minimum $95 tax.

Unfortunately, the video could be taken by some as a how-to instructional piece than a call to action. The reaction of many 18-25s to this video might be, “Is that true? I only have to pay $95 to make this go away and avoiding spending thousands of dollars a year more than I need to for health care? Done.”

Republican communicators will need to tinker with and improve ways of communicating with millennials on Obamacare, largely because they’re competing with a taxpayer-financed snake oil pitch that does the job of playing offense and defense for Democrats if no other source of information exists.

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