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Phil Kerpen on May 17, 2012 | Restore Fiscal Sanity

The interest rate on federal Stafford Loans is a phony political issue. Yet the legislation proposed in Congress to address this non-issue is still hugely consequential, because the Republican version would end a particularly destructive big government spending program and the Democratic alternative would raise taxes on small businesses. It's a fight that epitomizes the choice voters will face when they head to the polls this fall.

Phony Student Loan Issue Obscures Real Fight Over Spending
By Phil KerpenAC President Phil Kerpen

The interest rate on federal Stafford Loans is a phony political issue. The 6.8 percent interest rate was slashed — at taxpayer expense — to 3.4 percent last year. Now Obama and Democrats in Congress are acting as if the rate returning to its usual level is an economic catastrophe for students. It isn't. We're talking about a difference of $6 per month on new loans. Existing loans are unaffected. The student debt problem is real, but the Stafford Loan interest rate issue is not.

Yet the legislation proposed in Congress to address this non-issue is still hugely consequential, because the Republican version would end a particularly destructive big government spending program and the Democratic alternative would raise taxes on small businesses. It's a fight that epitomizes the choice voters will face when they head to the polls this fall.

The House has already passed legislation, H R 4628, that extends the current Stafford Loan interest rate for another year, averting that $6 per month disaster that Obama has been focusing on out on the stump. The bill also does something much more significant: it repeals the so-called Prevention Fund, a multi-billion-dollar slush fund created by Obama's stimulus bill and then expanded and funded even more lavishly — and automatically, without annual appropriations—by the president's health care law.

The Prevention Fund is the most egregious type of federal spending because it uses our federal tax dollars to raise our taxes and limit our freedoms at the state and local levels. Specifically, it provides taxpayer-funded grants for television advertising, lobbying campaigns, and other activities aimed at raising taxes on soft drinks, imposing zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants, imposing smoking bans, and other such nanny-state favorites.

In Philadelphia, the city spent millions of federal taxpayer dollars on advertising to promote a tax hike on soft drinks. The tax was defeated by a remarkable coalition of tea party and union activists, but Mayor Nutter has vowed to continue to pursue it. And why not, with federal taxpayers picking up the tab?

In California, federal taxpayers paid for an effort that resulted in a ban on fast food restaurants in West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Lemert, South Los Angeles, and Southeast Los Angeles. That's right; a state with 11 percent unemployment is using taxpayer dollars to intentionally prevent restaurants from opening that could employ thousands.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg — enemy of trans fats, sugar, salt, and pretty much anything else...

Phil Kerpen on May 16, 2012 | Restore Fiscal Sanity

AC President Phil Kerpen released the following statement on the failure of Obama's 2013 budget proposal:

President Obama has brought Democrats and Republicans together -- in opposition to his unserious, reckless budget, which was rejected 0-99 in the Senate today after failing 0-414 in the House.  Call him President Zero.

Federal spending is spiraling out of control, yet Democrats in the Senate continue to refuse to propose a budget or support their president's budget.  The American people deserve better.

Phil Kerpen on May 11, 2012 | End Regulatory Tyranny, Unlock American Energy

With the increasingly likelihood that Obama's health care law will be struck down in court or repealed next Congress, the administration has been working hard to cement another dubious legacy: the destruction of the coal industry.

By Phil Kerpen

With the increasingly likelihood that Obama's health care law will be struck down in court or repealed next Congress, the administration has been working hard to cement another dubious legacy: the destruction of the coal industry.

Obama's war on coal is stirring a lot of anger in parts of the country like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that have long relied on coal as an engine of prosperity. But little of that anger has been directed at the biggest funder of the War on Coal: the natural gas industry, which stands to reap big rewards from the destruction of coal-fired power plants — given the regulatory barriers to nuclear power and the lack of any other real, commercially viable alternatives.

The lynchpin of the War on Coal is the so-called Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology (UMACT) rule. The rule was a product of Sierra Club litigation and requires expensive control technology retrofits at coal-fired power plants, raising electricity prices nearly 20 percent.

The cost, according to EPA's own low-ball estimate, is $10 billion per year. A more realistic analysis from National Economic Research Associates found compliance costs of $21 billion per year, with 183,000 lost jobs per year.

It's all pain and no gain; except for the natural gas industry, which stands to reap enormous rewards from the forced conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas. That's probably why between 2007 and 2010, Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon donated more than $25 million to the Sierra Club for its "Beyond Coal" campaign, which included the lawsuit resulting in the UMACT rule.

A more recent EPA rule following on the heels of UMACT is explicit in forcing power-plant fuel switching from coal to natural gas. It's the Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), the latest installment in the Obama administration's effort to act as if cap-and-trade had passed by transforming the 1970 Clean Air Act into a global warming law. (This is despite the fact that in 1970 Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet yet, let alone global warming.)

Under the proposed NSPS, coal-fired power plants are instructed that in order to comply with the new emissions standard of 1000 tons of CO2 per megawatt of power generated, they must convert to natural gas. Not nuclear. Not even wind and solar that Obama claims to love. Natural gas.

The rule supposedly applies only to new plants and plants undergoing major modification, but the latter means that it operates as a one-two punch with UMACT to destroy coal-fired electricity: UMACT requires major modifications to control mercury emissions, which triggers carbon dioxide regulations, which forces fuel-switching to natural gas. The costs of mass forced-retirement of coal plants would run into the hundreds of billions of dollars — and electricity rates...

Phil Kerpen on May 9, 2012 | Restore Fiscal Sanity

American Commitment joined with other leading free-market groups to urge the House to hold firm against a budget-busting Senate bill. The letter also opposes the creation of a new "shallow losses" entitlement and calls for the House to reject Senate attempts to increase funding for biofuels subsidies, a critical issue given the devastating economic impact ethanol subsidies have had.

Here is the letter:

Joint Farm Bill Letter

Phil Kerpen on May 9, 2012 | Restore Fiscal Sanity

Mourdock's victory is proof that the tea party is alive and well and intends to hold both political parties accountable. The old politics of the pork-barrel are over, which is why Lugar's recent insertion of $800 million in biofuels subsidies in the Senate Farm Bill did nothing to boost his political fortunes.

Mourdock will win the general election. In 2010 Mourdock carried 88 of Indiana's 92 counties and outperformed Senator Dan Coats (who himself won in a romp) by over 100,000 votes.

Mourdock will be a fine senator - and a reminder to Republicans considering betraying free-market principle to remember their friend Dick Lugar.

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