A Common Thread


With 24-hour cable news and an ever-present stream of information over the Internet it is sometimes difficult to discern trends or common threads due to the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us. But sometimes seemingly unrelated events or actions actually come together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, to form a bigger picture.

So what then do the “cattle battle” in Nevada, IRS persecution of conservative groups, NSA collection of so-called “meta-data,” and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act all have in common? They are all examples of growing, pervasive, out-of-control government over-reach. And there is sub-text: in each case the over-reach has been perpetrated by non-elected bureaucrats all operating under the purview of the executive branch.

The case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy threatens to become the most explosive of these issues. The root of the problem extends back generations as the federal government has taken control of over 84% of the land mass of the state of Nevada. Similar land grabs have occurred in most other non-Pacific western states. As bureaucracies tend to do, the Bureau of Land Management has steadily expanded its control and placed more and more rules and regulations on federal lands.

Bundy claims the land grab is unconstitutional and that the territory belongs to the state. His refusal to pay grazing fees to the federal government stem from this state’s rights issue. He claims he will pay the back fees to the state of Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management nearly triggered armed confrontation by attempting to forcibly take Mr. Bundy’s cattle. This resulted in armed militia types rushing to defend Mr. Bundy. Wisely, the feds stood down.

This occurred against a backdrop of cooler heads, many state officials, meeting in nearby Utah to discuss ways to address the issue of federal land control. Clearly this is a problem that extends well beyond Mr. Bundy. While officials attempt to deal with the issue, a militia 50,000 strong in Oklahoma is vowing to take up arms, if necessary, to assist Mr. Bundy. Rational voices from media mogul Glenn Beck to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have spoken up against violent action. But it is clear that the age old issue of property rights remains a raw nerve for many mid-western Americans.

While the Bureau of Land Management oppresses ranchers, the watchdog group Judicial Watch this past week obtained e-mails showing the Internal Revenue Service’s jihad against conservative groups was more widespread than initially reported. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told the media “These new e-mails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner (then head of the IRS) was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations the IRS had already improperly targeted.” In other words, Lerner was set to move from persecution to prosecution.

Less explosive, but more wide-ranging is the continued implementation of the flawed and deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While the president touted contested numbers purporting to have reached enrollment goals, his Secretary of Health was being dispatched back to the private sector transparently for the disastrous roll-out of the program.

Perhaps no example of government over-reach has been more glaring than Obamacare. From the passage of the act along strictly partisan lines, to the Obama Administration’s continual rewriting of the rules, granting of exemptions, and extending of deadlines, the program has been mismanaged by bureaucrats who apparently weren’t able to understand what was in the law even after congress passed the law.

Finally, the issue of the National Security Administration (NSA) snooping into the private lives of Americans continues to gain traction as whistle-blower Edward Snowden joined Russian President Vladimir Putin on a talk show to discuss how oppressive U.S. intelligence agencies have become. You know it’s bad when a former KGB agent claims the moral high ground. Again, as with the other agencies, the NSA operates with little effective oversight from elected officials.

Out-of-control federal bureaucracies are nothing new, and in fact have vexed both congress and presidents since the founding of the Republic. But the pendulum has now swung way too far. The president, who views himself as more of a dictator than a chief executive, fosters this swing to bureaucratic control. Democrats in congress follow their leader like sheep, and congressional Republican leaders are inept and ineffective.

As America enters a crucial two-year period where control of both the congress and the White House are up for grabs, reigning in the size and scope of the federal government is an issue that should be at the top of most voters’ list of concerns.

 

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Steve Bloom Touts Business Bills


Radio Program Schedule for the week of April 19, 2014 – April 25, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Kyle Pomerleau of the Tax Foundation about Tax Freedom Day
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on “tax extender” tax breaks
  • Eric Boehm and Katie Watson have a Watchdog Radio report on Big Brother watching you through traffic cameras
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on the 100 year history of the progressive income tax

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Maura Pennington have news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry talks with State Representative Steve Bloom (R-Cumberland) about new efforts to make Pennsylvania more attractive to small business
  • Joe Geiger from the First Nonprofit Foundation has Eric Saunders of New Hope Ministries in the Community Benefit Spotlight
  • Anna McCauslin has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on Tax Freedom Day
Representative Steve Bloom touts business bills this week on Lincoln Radio Journal!

Representative Steve Bloom touts business bills this week on Lincoln Radio Journal!

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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No Turn-around Yet for PA: Businesses Business Climate Survey finds conditions continue to worsen


sad faceWeighed down by concerns over a possible increase in the minimum wage, uncertainty over health care; and excessive regulations, Pennsylvania’s business climate continued to get worse over the past six months. That is the key finding of the Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey, conducted by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research semi-annually for the past 20 years.  The survey asks the owners and chief executive officers of business in the state – the people who actually make our economy run – their opinion on the condition of the state’s business climate and key issues confronting the commonwealth.

On the issue of raising the state’s minimum wage, 78% stood in opposition with 17% favoring a minimum wage increase; 5% offered no opinion.  Sixty-three percent said the minimum wage has no impact on their business, largely because their employees already earn above that standard.  Of those who would be affected, 21% said they would cut employee hours if a minimum wage increase were enacted; 18% indicated they would reduce the number of people they employ, 3% said an increase in the minimum wage would cause them to go out of business.  Less than one percent said they would expand their business if the minimum wage is raised while one percent said they would hire more employees.

Business Climate

Twenty-six percent of the business leaders responding to the Lincoln Institute survey said business conditions in Pennsylvania have gotten worse over the past six months, while 14% said business conditions have improved; 59% said they remain about the same.  To the degree there is any good news, the number of respondents indicating business conditions have gotten worse has decreased over a year ago when 35% said business conditions had worsened.

Looking ahead, 24% expect the state’s economy to continue to decline, while 19% predict an improvement and 55% say they expect the state’s business climate to remain about the same.  That is a slightly more optimistic outlook than six months ago when the Fall 2013 Keystone Business Climate Survey found 30% predicting worsening business conditions.

Employment levels are down at 18% of those businesses polled, and up at 15%.  That is a substantial improvement from one year ago when 27% reported lower employee rosters and only 8% had increased their number of employees.  Looking ahead, 18% project increasing their workforce, while 10% plan to cut the number of people employed.

Sales are up at 24% of the companies responding and down at 36%.  A year ago only 17% reported increasing sales while 46% posted a drop in sales.  Over the coming six months, 36% say they expect sales to increase; 12% expect sales to decline.

Job Performance

President Barack Obama continues to post the worst job approval ratings in the 20-year history of the Keystone Business Climate Survey.  Eighty-nine percent of the CEOs and business owners responding have a negative view of the president’s job performance, 8% offered a positive view.  U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey scored the highest job approval rating from the business leaders with 51% offering a positive assessment of his performance in office and 25% with a negative view.  Conversely, sixty percent disapprove of the job performance of U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., while 15% approve.  Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen is relatively new to the post, so about half the respondents have yet to form an opinion on her job performance. Of those who have, 15% offered a positive assessment, 37% negative.  U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew has a 7% job approval rating against a 43% negative view.

Governor Tom Corbett’s job approval rating improved six percent from last fall as 49% now give him a positive rating and 35% disapprove of his performance in office.  Attorney General Kathleen Kane is viewed negatively by 47% of the business leaders surveyed with 12% offering a positive view.  Sixty-six percent offered no opinion on the job performance of State Treasurer Rob McCord, 14% held a positive view and 20% view him negatively.  Likewise a majority, 72% have no opinion on state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.  Ten percent have a positive view of his performance in office; 18% a negative view.

Legislative bodies fared poorly in the view of the business executives participating in the Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey.  Ninety-two percent hold a negative view of the U.S. Senate with just 2% approving of the senate’s job performance.  The U.S. House of Representatives garnered a 19% positive rating against a 74% negative rating.   Closer to home, 56% disapprove of the job being done by the Senate of Pennsylvania, 23% approve.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives posted the relatively best number of 27% approving and 54% disapproving of the job they are doing.

Issues

Current state law allows governmental entities such as the state, counties, school districts and municipalities to deduct labor union dues and PAC (Political Action Committee) donations from employee paychecks and turn the proceeds over to labor unions.  A “paycheck protection” bill currently before the General Assembly would end that practice. Eighty-nine percent of the CEOs and business owners participating in the survey said they support such a bill and that unions should collect their own dues.  Five percent think the practice should continue.

There is a carve out in current state law that permits labor unions and business to stalk, harass, or threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction during a labor dispute.  Eighty-nine percent disapprove of those carve outs, 85% strongly disapprove.  Two percent voiced their approval.

Seventy percent of the businesses participating in the spring survey say they currently provide health insurance to their employees. Four percent said they provided health insurance in the past, but have discontinued the benefit.  Forty-six percent say the cost of employee health insurance is split between the employer and the employee with the employer paying the major portion; another 2% split the cost with the employee paying the larger share.  At 27% of the businesses the employer pays the full premium.  Fifteen percent said they did not and will not offer employee health insurance.

Looking ahead, 46% of the business owners and CEOs taking part in the survey said they will continue providing health care coverage to their employees, six percent said they plan to discontinue the benefit, another 32% were uncertain.

Legalization of marijuana for medical purposes has become a major issue in the 2014 Democratic primary for governor.  Fifty-seven percent of the business leaders say the drug should be legalized for medical purposes.  An additional 24% support legalization also for recreational use.  Thirty-seven percent want marijuana to continue remaining totally illegal.

In that Democratic primary, 42% of the CEOs and owners polled by the Lincoln Institute say they expect Tom Wolf to emerge as the party’s nominee for governor.  Eight percent predict a win for Rob McCord; while three percent say Allyson Schwartz will prevail and 3% expect a Katy McGinty victory.   A majority, 51% say they believe Governor Tom Corbett should be re-elected in November, while 34% suggest it is time for a new person to hold that office.

Methodology

The Lincoln Institute’s Spring 2014 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically from March 21, 2014 through April 7, 2014.  A total of 378 business leaders responded.  Of those 80% are the owner of their business; 13% are the CEO/COO or CFO; 3% are a local manager and 1% a state manager.  Complete numeric results are posted at www.lincolninstitute.org.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Bags of Cash


Radio Program Schedule for the week of April 12, 2014 – April 18, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation about a recent Supreme Court of the United States Ruling affirming campaign contributions as protected free speech
  • Andy Roth has the Real Story behind House passage of the 2014-15 budget
  • Benjamin Yount and Eric Boehm have a Watchdog Radio look at two recent rulings by the National Labor Relations Board
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal commentary on a North Korean threat to the United States

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor from the PA Manufacturers Association joins Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation for a Capitol Watch look at the latest outbreak of corruption and ethical problems in Harrisburg
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on whether or not Marcellus Shale drillers are paying their fair share of taxes

bagsofcash

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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A Taxing Tale


President Obama’s claim that “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan” was dubbed by pundits as the 2013 lie of the year. Fast forward to this year’s gubernatorial campaign and two lies are competing for top honors.  Take your choice between: Governor Tom Corbett has slashed spending on public education; and Marcellus Shale gas drillers, unlike other states, are not paying high enough taxes.

Pollsters for the four remaining Democratic candidates for governor seem to have all discovered that education funding has surpassed unemployment and the melting polar ice caps as the main issue concerning likely voters in the upcoming primary.  Thus a happy convergence of the two lies has occurred.  The candidates can promise voters their cake – more education spending – and they can eat it too because they will tax the robber baron gas drillers to pay for it.

Setting aside the fact more state dollars are being spent on public education than at any time in the history of the commonwealth, let’s focus on whether or not companies drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reserve are paying their fair share.  One candidate claims on his website that we are giving “. . . away our state’s valuable resources without generating revenue for critical investments like schools . . . ”  His television ads point out that gas drillers in Penn’s Woods do not pay a severance tax as do companies operating in every other state in the union.

That is a true, but misleading statement.  Pennsylvania does not levy a severance tax, which is a tax applied on gas as it leaves the well, but the commonwealth does charge gas companies – as it does all other businesses – both a Corporate Net Income Tax and a Capital Stock & Franchise Tax.  We are the only state in the nation that levies both of those taxes.  That alone would place Marcellus shale drillers on an equal footing with the 49 other states.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  Act 13 of 2012 imposed an impact fee on natural gas wells in Penn’s Woods.  It is called a fee because Republicans supporting the measure did not want to be accused of raising taxes.  A rose by any other name, however, is still a rose.  The dictionary defines the word tax as “a sum of money demanded by a government for its support, or for specific facilities or services.” Thus, the Marcellus Shale impact fee is, by definition, a tax.

The impact tax is levied based upon the price of natural gas traded on the market and on the age of the wells.  Thus the amount of revenue generated each year fluctuates depending on market performance and number of wells drilled.  According to the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh, the impact tax generated $204.2 million in revenue in 2011 and $202.5 million in revenue in 2012.  Less was generated in 2012 because the market price of the gas had decreased.

So, to put this into perspective, an industry that supposedly is not paying its fair share over the past two years paid every tax every other business in the state paid plus an additional $406.2 million.  What sort of outrage would there be if, for example, we asked farmers to pay an impact tax? They use natural resources – soil and water – to produce their product.  Or, perhaps to make it fair we should enact a “success tax” – in addition to Corporate Net and Capital Stock & Franchise taxes – on any business in Pennsylvania that expands rapidly and reaps higher profits?

The current political debate focused on adding another layer of tax on Marcellus Shale drillers implies, and in some cases outright states, that the gas companies are taking a natural resources and we are left with no benefit.  But the Allegheny Institute’s analysis of where dollars from the impact tax have gone shows that a wide range of state agencies, county and local governments have received revenue from the tax.  These funds have gone to repair and replace local bridges, improve water and sewer projects, clean up acid mine drainage, pay for green space initiatives and watershed projects. Money has been set aside in the Environmental Stewardship Fund to pay for any future problems which may arise, and into community and economic development.  Counties – all 67 of them – have shared in over $21 million in revenue.

As in most political campaigns truth is the first casualty.  Candidates can certainly propose higher taxes, but they should at least not mislead voters. Instead they should tell the whole story and not just those parts of it that fit their campaign narrative.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Paul Kengor Talks About Reagan Conservatism


Radio Program Schedule for the week of  April 5, 2014 – April 11, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works about ways to restore individual rights
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the recent retirement of two powerful congressional committee chairmen
  • Benjamin Yount talks with Ben Domenech of the Heartland Institute about Obamacare sign-ups
  • Jennifer Stefano from Americans for Prosperity has an American Radio Journal commentary on the Left’s war against conservative women

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm and Maura Pennington have news headlines fromwww.paindependent.com
  • Lowman Henry talks with Dr. Paul Kengor of Grove City College about his new book The 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative
  • Eric Boehm and Frank Gamrat have an Allegheny Institute Report on revenue flowing from the Marcellus Shale impact fee
  • Anna McCauslin has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on energy standards

d-reagan-old-school

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Minimum Wage Job Losses


Radio Program Schedule for the week of March 29, 2014 – April 4, 2014

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Erik Telford of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity about FDA foot-dragging in approving a new vaccine against Meningitis type B
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on voters ousting career politicians
  • Eric Boehm and Andrew Staub have a Watchdog Radio Report on an outburst of corruption in Pennsylvania
  • Dr. Paul Kengor from the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College has an American Radio Journal commentary on how Ronald Reagan would handle the Russian annexation of Crimea

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor of the PA Manufacturers Association, Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, and Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation have a Capitol Watch roundtable discussion on job losses which would result from an increase in the state minimum wage
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on official repression

Minimum-Wage-101

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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