Solar industry will work with Congress to clarify state feed-in tariff authority
Solar industry will work with Congress to clarify state feed-in tariff authority
"Members who voted for the Dodd-Frank financial takeover have signed off on an unlimited bailout-takeover authority, unconstrained bank taxes, financial privacy violations, and have ignored the root, government causes of the financial crisis. They must be held accountable."—ALG President Bill Wilson.
July 1st, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today condemned the House of Representatives for approving Dodd-Frank conference legislation "that will institutionalize government bailouts and takeovers for all time."
"House members have voted to not address the real causes of the financial crisis that government was responsible for," Wilson said. "Instead, they have created a new, radical regime to seize disfavored financial firms, bail out favored ones, monitor finances, and levy unlimited taxes on the American people, all without any vote in Congress or the opportunity to object in court," Wilson said.
Wilson warned that "bailouts and takeovers under the so-called 'orderly liquidation fund' will never end, and the American people have 237 members of the House to thank."
The "orderly liquidation fund" would be financed by "risk-based" assessments levied by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on institutions totaling $50 billion or more in assets, proceeds from securities issued by the FDIC of seized firms, interest and other earnings from investments owned by the fund, and "repayments to the Corporation by covered financial companies."
According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of a similar bank tax proposal by the Obama Administration, "the ultimate cost of a tax or fee is not necessarily borne by the entity that writes the check to the government. The cost of the proposed fee would ultimately be borne to varying degrees by an institution's customers, employees, and investors, but the precise incidence among those groups is uncertain."
Wilson noted that the bill still includes a controversial Office of Financial Research that empowers the office, according to the legislation, to "collect, validate, and maintain all data necessary" to maintain financial stability "obtained from member agencies, commercial data providers, publicly available data sources, and financial entities."
"Members voted to create the Office of Financial Research, which will have the ability to know about every transaction in the country it deems it necessary for the sake of financial stability. That's the power to monitor everyone's finances, if it wants," Wilson said.
According to the bill, the OFR would "require the submission of periodic and other reports from any financial company for the purpose of assessing the extent to which a financial activity or financial market in which the financial company participates, or the financial company itself, poses a threat to the financial stability of the United States."
The legislation also outlines that the Director of the OFR would be given subpoena power to require "the production of the data requested … upon a written finding by the Director that such data is required" to maintain financial stability.
Wilson also condemned the Dodd-Frank conference bill for what he said was "its inherent failure to address the root, government causes of the crisis. For example, the bill does not audit the Federal Reserve, whose easy money, low interest lending policies fueled the housing bubble," citing research by Stanford economic professor John Taylor stating that "the Fed's target for the federal-funds interest rate was well below what the Taylor rule would call for in 2002-2005. By this measure the interest rate was too low for too long, reducing borrowing costs and accelerating the housing boom."
Wilson also cited research by former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae, Ed Pinto, demonstrating that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac weakened mortgage underwriting standards and mislabeled high-risk mortgage-backed securities, defrauding investors; that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) lowered down payments on mortgages; and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Community Reinvestment Act regulations and "affordable housing goals" reduced lending standards and forced banks to give loans to lower-income Americans that could not be repaid. "None of these root causes are addressed, either," Wilson said.
"The Dodd-Frank bill even prohibits the liquidation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under the 'orderly liquidation' authority, a provision that was only added in conference," Wilson noted.
Wilson concluded, "Members who voted for the Dodd-Frank financial takeover have signed off on an unlimited bailout-takeover authority, unconstrained bank taxes, financial privacy violations, and have ignored the root, government causes of the financial crisis. They must be held accountable."
"'Down a Rabbit Hole:' The Threat Posed by the Dodd Bill to the Private Sector," Updated June 28th, 2010, Americans for Limited Government.
"Big Brother is Watching You: The Threat Posed by the Dodd Bill to Privacy," Updated June 28th, 2010.
Letter to the U.S. Senate, ALG President Bill Wilson, April 26th, 2010.
NH's Shea-Porter Targets Hefty Cell Phone Fees
The Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) ― Cell phone customers would be protected from unreasonable penalties when they end their contracts early under legislation proposed by New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Shea-Porter says the bill would require wireless carriers to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures of their early termination fees when someone buys a phone. It also would prevent carriers from charging a termination fee that is higher than the discount it offers for entering a multi-year contract and would require carriers to pro-rate their early termination fees.
Carriers would have to provide monthly billing statements that clearly state the pro-rated fees.
The following article recently appeared in USA Today. It mentions Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s work to limit the use of open-air burn pits.
Military Veterans Worry About Exposure to Toxic Waste
Some argue burn pits on military bases overseas pose a risk to soldiers
By Anna Mulrine
Anthony Roles recalls flying into Balad Air Base in the middle of the night to begin his deployment as an active-duty Air Force weather forecaster. His first morning on the ground in Iraq, "there was a haze and a smell—and you could see smoke coming up," Roles remembers. It was rising from a pit of waste where plumes—brown one morning, green the next—would climb two or three stories high as jet fuel kept some 240 tons of trash a day burning. When soldiers cleared their throats and blew their noses, out came what they called "the Balad crud."
Three or four times a week, Roles, then a 26-year-old tech sergeant, took his unit's garbage to the burn pit, driving past tens of thousands of smoldering plastic water bottles and Styrofoam cups. There was more eyebrow-raising refuse as well. "I saw some pretty disturbing stuff," Roles says, including "arms and feet and legs and hands from amputees." There were syringes, too, and toxic chemical waste. The prevailing air currents, he adds, acted "like Saran Wrap that didn't allow anything to rise above it."
Not long after he arrived, Roles came down with bronchitis and sinus problems. He'd never had such maladies before, but it wasn't "too bad" and he shrugged it off. A month after he returned from Iraq in March 2004, however, he began getting severe headaches. "I couldn't figure out what in the world was going on." Tests showed that Roles's blood platelet levels were low, which indicated his body might be destroying them—a symptom of leukemia. The Air Force flew Roles to the Mayo Clinic, where a physician specializing in blood diseases immediately asked if he had been to Iraq and had been exposed to toxic chemicals there. "He told me that's a good chance that's where I got it from," says Roles, who had not suspected that the burn pits might be playing a role in his poor health. He was diagnosed with thrombocythemia, a rare condition often associated with exposure to toxins. His treatment required him to take a chemotherapy pill daily, which carries with it risk of strokes and heart attacks. At age 30, Roles had a heart attack. Shortly afterward, the Air Force medically retired him, ending 12 years of service.
Air study. Burn pits like the one at Balad are a source of controversy for the U.S. military. Growing numbers of soldiers are reporting health conditions that they attribute to the smoke they inhaled during their deployments, particularly early in the war, when the military torched everything from toxic materials to human and medical waste in open-air fields. But the Pentagon and military health review boards have been slow to acknowledge that the burn pits have any long-term health effects on troops, veterans groups say. An Army study of the air quality released last summer concluded that while the levels of particulate matter that the pits generate are "extraordinarily high" by U.S. standards, no "statistically significant" associations between this fact and cardiovascular or respiratory health conditions were found. The Pentagon's acting director for force health protection and readiness, R. Craig Postlewaite, told lawmakers at an October hearing, "In the vast majority of cases, these samples indicate U.S. personnel are not experiencing any exposures that would put their long-term health at risk."
These findings were not greeted warmly by groups like the Disabled American Veterans, which represents some 400 troops who have reported leukemia, brain tumors, and respiratory problems—and have filed a classaction lawsuit against KBR, the defense contractor that administered the burn pits. Democratic Reps. Tim Bishop of New York and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire then asked the Government Accountability Office to review the Army study's findings for "significant methodological problems."
And the GAO found them. The Army study, congressional critics point out, did not test for the presence of smaller particulate matter, which is more likely to cause health problems. In addition, the samples were collected during the rainy season in Iraq, when such matter is less prevalent. And the study tested in only one location, even though burn pits remain widespread at bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congress passed legislation in October prohibiting the burning of hazardous materials and medical waste in the pits, unless the secretary of defense grants a special exemption. The law mandates that the Pentagon create a plan for alternative waste disposal and test soldiers who may have been exposed. "We need to own up if we've made a mistake," says Shea-Porter. The measure also requires monitoring of burn pit health risks, including a study of the effects of smoldering plastics.
Combat waste. The Pentagon points out that there are considerable constraints on a military at war, particularly in the early stages of an invasion and at small outposts. "This is really the first major deployment that we've had in recent memory to a location that doesn't have some sort of infrastructure to take care of the waste," says Postlewaite. "The engineers really scratched their heads when all of this started—the only feasible and viable option to get rid of this when it started was to burn it. If you allow trash to stand, it creates its own health risks." There are also security risks that come with disposing of waste off-base. "You're in the middle of a serious conflict, and the environment really takes a back seat to making sure your soldiers are safe from bullets and bombs," says David Mosher, a senior policy analyst with the Rand Corp. who cowrote a 2008 report for the Army on wartime environmental considerations.
That said, the military could have done more to mitigate the environmental impact of wartime operations, Mosher adds. Although the Army has produced "lessons learned" reports after previous conflicts, commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan didn't make use of them, he says. "They invented as they went along."
Roles says that there was no reason why the burn pit at Balad, upwind of most of the base, could not have been placed downwind. "That would have made a lot more sense," he says. "There was a lot of room on the other side of the base." Instead, prevailing easterly winds "would push all of that smoke right over top of where everyone was living."
As a result of the Rand study, the Army launched the Green Warrior Initiative to investigate the role of environmental considerations in counterinsurgency operations. And on the heels of the new law, Postlewaite's office has re-evaluated its stance, allowing that it is "plausible that some people may be affected in a longer-term way than we had acknowledged," he says. "Breathing the smoke is not ideal, either from a quality of life standpoint or from a longer-term health standpoint." Postlewaite adds, "We certainly acknowledge that breathing smoke can be responsible for acute health effects—irritation of the eyes, sore throats, coughing. And some of those coughs we know tend to last a while." But "whether any of these effects are chronic and long-lasting," he says, remains to be seen. "We've left the book open and continue to leave it open in terms of whether there are health impacts on our people."
Postlewaite is more inclined to emphasize the possible link between exposure to burn pits and pre-existing conditions. There is a "fairly high prevalence" of tobacco smoking by soldiers in theater. "Would that increase the risk?" he asks. That question, he says, raises "enough uncertainty" for the Pentagon to continue to investigate.
In the meantime, the military is replacing burn pits with incinerators, which are safer for the troops as well as for the Iraqi and Afghan civilians who live around the bases. There are four incinerators now at Balad and 23 throughout Iraq. In Afghanistan, there are 10, with 74 planned for installation, including some that will be transferred from Iraq.
Roles, who has never smoked, remains convinced that his exposure to the Balad burn pit brought on his condition. "I was perfectly healthy before," he says. "Now I have a hard time breathing all the time." With his reduced respiratory capacity, "It's like trying to put 800 pounds of water pressure down a water hose." In his current job at the Department of Veterans Affairs,, Roles says he is encountering growing numbers of war veterans with ailments like his. Even as he tries to provide them with help and information, he and his wife struggle with how to break the news of his deteriorating health to his three children, ages 3 to 12. "The thought of what's going to happen to me," Roles says, his voice trailing off. "We don't discuss it with the kids."
"If the CPB cannot survive in the real world like everyone else, because there is not a market for its programming, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for a luxury."—ALG President Bill Wilson.
June 17th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today called on members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor legislation being introduced by Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-CD5) that would cut the $420 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
"It's time for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to stand on its own two feet without taxpayer backing," said Wilson. "In these troubled economic times, with a $13 trillion national debt spiraling out of control, it's time for Congress to cut non-essential programs like public broadcasting."
"With over 500 channels available on cable and satellite television, and thousands of radio stations nationwide, the rationale for funding television and radio programs with taxes is no longer even valid," Wilson added, noting that the CPB's original mission was to make "telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States".
Currently, for FY 2010, the CPB has $420 million appropriated, and has requested some $608 million for its next funding cycle beginning in FY 2013. The CPB is the parent company for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the National Public Radio (NPR) networks.
In an exclusive interview with ALG News, Congressman Lamborn stated, "If we don't take the low-hanging fruit then where else will we save the money?"
Wilson agreed, saying, "Congressman Lamborn has a point. Congress refuses to cut spending anywhere ever — it has not been able to reduce the debt for over fifty years. If Congress can't cut public broadcasting, which is absolutely non-essential, it won't be able to cut anything ever."
Lamborn indicated that it may not be easy: "There is a constituency for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, especially the people who would rather get the money on a silver platter than have to go out and work to sell advertising and bring it in the way everyone else has to perhaps. We have to make hard choices."
Lamborn added, "If we don't do that, we are going to go the way of Greece and we are going to lose our greatness here in America."
Wilson concluded, "Giving the CPB the benefit of the doubt that there is demand for its programming, it should be able to get by without taxpayer assistance since it only gets 13 percent of its funding from federal tax dollars. But if the CPB cannot survive in the real world like everyone else, because there is not a market for its programming, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for a luxury."
"Video: Congressman Doug Lamborn Introduce Legislation Defunding Public Broadcasting," Americans for Limited Government, June 16th, 2010 (download).
"Time to Stop Funding Luxuries, Like Public Broadcasting," by Rebekah Rast, ALG News Contributing Editor, June 14th, 2010.
"Is Public Broadcasting Hurting the Arts?" by Robert Romano, ALG News Senior Editor, June 15th, 2010.