Phil Kerpen on August 3, 2018 | End Regulatory Tyranny

By Phil Kerpen

Obama's astonishing takeover of the automobile industry was accomplished through a process even more corrupt than his takeover of the health care sector.  While both involved backroom deals, the auto takeover was sealed in a backroom from which both the American people and our elected officials were completely shut out. 

Worse, it transferred power over a huge swath of our economy – and the basic choice of what cars and trucks Americans can buy – not to Washington, DC but to Sacramento, California.  Sacramento was empowered, contrary to federal law, to set fuel economy standards and to implement a credit scheme that raises the prices of vehicles all over the country to lavish subsidies on rich buyers of electric hobby cars in California.

Obama climate czar Carol Browner oversaw the secret negotiations in 2010.  Mary Nichols, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, was the other key player in a game of bad cop and really bad cop; basically, industry was told that if they didn’t acquiesce to the new rules, California – waiver in hand – would even more severely kneecap them.

Nichols told the New York Times that Browner "quietly orchestrated" the secret negotiations between the White House, regulators, and auto industry officials. "We put nothing in writing, ever," Nichols bragged.

In 2012 – with Sacramento firmly in control – they reprised the same tactics to ratchet up the mandate to 54.5 miles per gallon, which of course guarantees cars will be smaller, lighter, less crash-worthy, less powerful, and less comfortable than you can even imagine.  A nice-sized family-vehicle?  Good luck.

The political calculation by Obama was that putting Sacramento in the driver's seat would lock in place the scheme because the regulatory, legal, public relations, and political effort required to unwind it would be too daunting for a future Republican administration.

They did not count on President Donald Trump or his intrepid lead on this issue, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Secretary Chao, jointly with EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, have issued a brilliantly crafted proposed rulemaking that revises the core of the Obama fuel economy rules to reach a sweet spot that balances environmental, safety, and cost considerations – backed by thousands of pages of detailed legal, scientific, and economic analysis.

Their proposal would keep the model year 2020 standards in place through model year 2026, rather than allow a sharp increase in fuel economy requirements that would occur under the Obama/California plan.  The Trump plan would save more than $500 billion in societal costs and reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives – because more expensive new cars price people out on the margin, forcing them to drive older, less safe cars longer.

Against the half-trillion in benefits you can weigh the global warming impact – or non-impact.  Model runs based on mainstream, consensus climate models show the Trump proposal would impact the global climate by 3/1000th of one degree Celsius by 2100.  You can round that to zero.

Most importantly,...

Phil Kerpen on July 26, 2018 | End Regulatory Tyranny, Unlock American Energy

By Phil Kerpen

Two House Republicans have chosen to capitulate on major agenda items on the liberal left – and are learning a familiar lesson the hard way.  One, Colorado's Mike Coffman has signed onto Democratic efforts to reimpose President Obama's FCC order to tax and regulate the Internet under the banner of net neutrality.  The other, Florida's Carlos Curbelo, broke with his party by leading a tiny group of Republicans who voted against a resolution rejecting a carbon tax, and then went further by actually introducing his own carbon tax legislation.  But rather than welcoming them as heroes, the left still wants to replace them with real Democrats.

Let's start with Coffman.  For months, he indicated that he would oppose the Democratic efforts to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reimpose the Obama FCC's public utility Internet order.

In February, Coffman expressly stated his opposition to the CRA: "The CRA is a non-starter for me as it defers again to agency rulemaking.  This is Congress's job!"

At stake is whether the FCC will be allowed to manufacture for itself vast authority to regulate the Internet and to establish the legal predicate for federal, state, and local taxes and fees to be applied to Internet bills.  Supporting the efforts of the current FCC to reverse that and go back to the successful free market approach that was in place until 2015 should be a no-brainer for Republicans.

Nonetheless, Coffman caved in to the PR efforts from the left completely when he came out on July 17 and announced that he had signed onto a discharge petition to bring the Democratic CRA he had previously called a "non-starter" to the House floor.

The main liberal advocacy group that pushed the Obama order, Free Press, responded with an immediate email alert to its members attacking Coffman, saying "bills like the one Coffman introduced won’t cut it."

Carlos Curbelo's carbon tax apostasy is a similar story.  Last Congress, Curbelo voted for Republican Whip Steve Scalise's resolution condemning a carbon tax for being economically destructive; this Congress, Curbelo not only flipped his vote on the Scalise resolution but has introduced his own carbon tax act.

The Curbelo carbon tax would raise energy bills an average of $275 for every man, woman, and child -- $1,100 for a family of four – and that's according to the lowball estimate included with the bill's press release.  Anyone who fails to comply would face a 300 percent penalty.  The EPA would be given the power to expand the tax to new products and industries as a kind of Super IRS.  And a new national climate commission would be established and authorized to lavish spending on "experts and consultants."

And for his own back-breaking flip-flop, Curbelo has received responses from the environmental left ranging from the NRDC's release saying the plan "still falls short" to Food and Water Watch's hyperbolic "New Carbon Tax Bill Shields Polluters, Pours Gasoline on Climate 'Fire.'"

While Coffman and Curbelo were...

Phil Kerpen on June 25, 2018 | End Regulatory Tyranny, Fix the Tax Code

By Phil Kerpen

While erstwhile Republican mayor Mike Bloomberg's pledge to spend $80 million this year to elect Democrats has garnered headlines, another paternalistic effort of his is less noticed but likely more consequential: fresh off an embarrassing defeat in Chicagoland, where Cook County repealed a Bloomberg-backed soda tax just weeks after it took effect, he is going global with his push for regressive soda taxes, with a full-court press aimed at an upcoming September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

On June 1, the World Health Organization's High-Level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases called for higher alcohol and tobacco taxes, but not soda taxes.  Bloomberg, who won't take “No Tax” for an answer, reacted by creating his own private panel led by former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers and stacked with politicians from around the world who have taxed or heavily regulated soda.  Bloomberg's  panel will issue its own report supporting soda taxes to compete with the official UN report when the General Assembly meets to discuss the issue in the fall.

Bloomberg recently made his case for steep, regressive soda taxes in an interview with IMF president Christine Lagarde at the IMF's spring meetings.

"Some people say, well, taxes are regressive," Bloomberg said. "Yes they are. That's the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don't have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior."

"So it’s regressive; it is good," Lagarde responded. "There are lots of tax experts in the room. And fiscal experts, and I’m very pleased that they hear you say that."

Bloomberg is so convinced that he knows what's best for middle and lower income people that he wants to put a painful, punitive tax on soda to, supposedly, save us from obesity.  But the actual facts suggest soda is much less responsible for rising obesity than Nanny Mike thinks.

Calories in the average American diet from added sugars in soda are down 39 percent since 2000, and sales of non-diet soda are down 17 percent.  Total soft drink calories shipped to schools dropped 90 percent from 2004 to 2010.  But obesity rates continued to rise.                   

On a longer timescale, the USDA found that as the average American increased calorie consumption from 2,024 in 1970 to 2,481 in 2010, 88 percent of the increase came from fat and starch while increased sugar consumption – from all sources – accounted for just 40 calories.

And of course, even though Bloomberg rationalizes that he is taxing the little people for their own good, the economic consequences are no less painful.  The tax hits those who can least afford it the hardest, cripples neighborhood stores, and might actually push people to less healthy choices – in Philadelphia, the soda tax made soda more expensive than beer.

Moreover, while the pitch to the public is that soda taxes are a public health measure,...

Phil Kerpen on June 13, 2018 | Protect the Free-Market Internet

By Phil Kerpen

The 2015 Obama FCC order reducing the Internet to a regulated public utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act was marketed as protecting net neutrality – even though the DC Circuit Court of Appeals expressly held that any ISP that blocked or filtered web traffic would be completely exempt from the rules.  The apocalyptic claims from the left that the repeal of Title II – which took effect on June 11 – would herald the end of net neutrality and the destruction of the Internet are therefore obviously absurd hyperbole.  Especially considering that we have simply returned to the same regulatory framework that applied while the Internet grew and thrived for decades until 2015.

So what are the real stakes as Congress considers a partisan Democratic effort to re-impose the Obama public utility order?   Taxes and fees.  A lot of them.  Internet services are protected by federal law from state, local, and federal taxes, but the Title II order reclassified broadband Internet as a phone service which enjoys no such protection.  And there is overwhelming evidence that Democrats were waiting until Hillary Clinton won the election (oops) to spring the Title II tax trap.

Now-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained it in testimony to the Senate back in 2016, when he was a dissenting member of a Democrat-controlled FCC.

"The FCC has already decided to boost E-Rate spending by $1.5 billion per year (conveniently, right after the November 2014 elections)," Pai said.  "And it will soon dramatically expand the Lifeline program to subsidize broadband."

"The money to fund this spending spree will come from a broadband tax.  The only question is when," he continued. "One might reasonably suspect that this decision is conveniently being put off until after the November elections.  After all, making people pay more to access the Internet isn’t going to be popular."

How much would Democratic broadband taxes cost if Title II were restored and a future Democratic FCC moved forward with this plan?

The current universal service fund assessment – which only applies to phone bills – sits at 18.4 percent.  It would start as somewhat less than that if the assessment were spread over broadband bills, but over time it would creep up as demands for spending increased – perhaps sharply as public utility regulation would depress private investment, increasing pressure for taxpayer dollars to pick up the slack.

And that's just the federal component.  As a legal matter, the Title II reclassification could also trigger major increases in taxes and fees for cash hungry state and local governments too.  The center-left think tank Progressive Policy Institute estimated that reimposing the Obama order would hit wired Internet users with an average annual state and local charge of $67 and wireless users with $72 – and of course most people have both home and wireless Internet, so they would pay both.

Republicans, led by South Dakota Senator John Thune and Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, have offered Democrats what...