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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Perhaps Last Night Will Be Hickenlooper’s Second-Toughest Night of 2014



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Tough Night, Colorado. Tough Night.

Cue a million Colorado-legalizes-marijuana-and-the-Denver-Broncos-lose-the-Super-Bowl-in-a-rout jokes.

Everybody’s telling those jokes this morning. You know what they’re not telling you?

A guy named Harry Hempy is running for governor of Colorado this year. As a member of the Green Party.

So how many votes does he get just for the “Dude, I’m voting for Hemp-y!” factor?

The incumbent is Democrat John Hickenlooper.

The crowded Republican field includes state Senator Greg Brophy, Secretary of State Scott E. Gessler, Steve House, former state senator Mike Kopp, Jim Rundberg, and former congressman Tom Tancredo.

Here’s what PPP found at the end of 2013 — feel free to take these results with enough salt to melt any snow on the ground in your area — but the general sense that Hickenlooper and Udall are vulnerable Democratic incumbents in a purple state, up against the right GOP opponent, seems accurate:

Voters are pretty split in their opinions about Hickenlooper with 45% approving of him to 48% who disapprove. But in a head to head match up with Tancredo he still leads by 8 points at 48/40. He has similar margins against Mike Kopp (45/37) and Scott Gessler (47/40). The Republican who comes closest, despite having minimal name recognition, is actually Greg Brophy at 44/43.

We’re seeing a similar story in the Colorado Senate race. Ken Buck proved to be a very poor candidate against Michael Bennet in 2010 and lost a contest Republicans were generally expected to win all year long. And now GOP voters are ready to run him again — 45% say he’s their choice for Senate candidate to just 8% for Randy Baumgardner, 7% for Amy Stephens, and 2% or less for the others.

Voters have mixed feelings about Mark Udall — 40% approve of him and 41% disapprove. But thanks to the weak field opposing him he still leads by anywhere from 4 to 7 points against his potential Republican foes. It’s 46/42 over Buck, 47/40 over Baumgardner, and 44/37 over both Hill and Stephens.

Well, it’s not like the governor tried to tie himself to the Broncos in their suddenly interrupted magical year . . . 

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is taking Super Bowl hoopla to new heights.

He announced Wednesday he’s temporarily renaming Colorado’s highest mountains for each member of the Denver Broncos. The state is home to more than 50 mountains over 14,000 feet, called “14-ers” by locals.

Finally, your tax dollars at work, Coloradans:

Two high-profile fans will be in the crowd watching the Super Bowl this Sunday — Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, The Denver Post reports. Hickenlooper is paying for the trip east with his son, Teddy, while two staffers [his chief of staff and senior media adviser] will have their airfare covered by the state.

Tags: John Hickenlooper , Colorado , Greg Brophy , Scott Gessler , Mike Kopp , Jim Rundberg , Tom Tancredo

Tax Hike, Hike, Hike



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If a lamp has been broken in the White House recently, I think I know who did it.

Above: the one guy you don’t want calling an audible. 

Tags: Something Lighter

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Save the Owls! Shoot the Owls! Save the Owls and Shoot the Owls!



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A big, busy Morning Jolt to close out the week, featuring this easily overlooked environmental story:

Save the Owls! Shoot the Owls! Save the Owls and Shoot the Owls!

Remember the spotted owl?

That little critter had a big impact on U.S. environmental law in the Pacific Northwest:

. . . In the historical context of looking back sixteen years, it seems obvious that the victors in the spotted owl war were those environmentalists who turned a seemingly absurd proposal into a national cause, a matter of presidential debate and finally a fait accompli. By the time the sawdust cleared, national forest harvesting west of the Cascades and the Sierra had declined by more than 80 percent—and more than 90 percent in key forests near the urbanized Puget Sound basin.

By the recent accounting of the Associated Press, nearly 7 million acres, or 28 percent of the national forest in western Washington, Oregon and northern California, were protected from logging by the Clinton administration’s 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. In addition, 4.6 million acres were open to logging, and of that, only 1.1 million acres were classified as old growth.

The impact on jobs and the economy were, if not catastrophic, serious:

Between 1988 and 1998, the number of lumber and plywood mills in Oregon declined by nearly half, from 252 to 127. Twenty mills closed in Douglas County alone, according to timber consultant Paul Ehinger of Eugene. Some 2,800 jobs in the wood-products industry in Douglas County vanished within two years of the owl being listed.

More than half of the 60,000 Oregon workers who held jobs in the wood-products industry at the beginning of the 1990s no longer had them by 1998, according to a report published in the Journal of Forestry in 2003.

By the end of the decade, nearly half of those who left the timber industry disappeared from state employment records. The missing workers were likely either retired, unemployed or living in another state.

Jim Geisinger, the (Douglas Timber Operators) executive director from 1976 to 1981 and now the executive vice president of Associated Oregon Loggers, said that in the early ’80s, the Umpqua National Forest sold 360 million board feet a year.

“Today, Umpqua National Forest is selling only about 10 percent of that,” he said.

A study by economists from the Portland-based consulting firm ECONorthwest, Oregon State University and the Oregon Employment Department tracked 18,000 former timber workers between 1990 and 1998 who found another job in Oregon. Nearly half found work in the service and retail sectors. One-third were employed in the manufacturing and construction industries.

It turns out that despite all the regulations, the population of the spotted owl kept declining, year by year, even after all the new restrictions and regulations on the timber industry.

Yesterday, Phil Kerpen called my attention to this development:

An experiment to see if killing invasive barred owls will help the threatened northern spotted owl reverse its decline toward extinction is underway in the forests of Northern California.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday that specially trained biologists have shot 26 barred owls in a study area on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation northeast of Arcata, Calif.

They plan to remove as many as 118 barred owls from the area, keeping the 55 known barred owl nesting sites open over the next five years to see if spotted owls increase, said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Robin Bown. Contractors go to an area that barred owls are known to be in, play a digital caller to attract them, and shoot the birds with a shotgun.

The service is spending $3.5 million over six years to remove 3,600 barred owls from sites in Oregon, Washington and California.

That terminology is a bit Orwellian, isn’t it? We “removed” the owls by tracking them, attracting them, and then blasting them full of birdshot until they were dead. Remember that next time the Fish and Wildlife Service ask you to “remove” your trash.

So the environmentalists’ plan to save the owlsis to shoot other owls.

Now, come on. We’re conservatives. We know that this isn’t a real solution. Put aside the concerns that this constitutes big government meddling in Charles Darwin’s biological free market.

This is a territorial dispute between two species, and one is aggressive and invasive. The only thing that stops a barred owl . . . with a gun . . . is a spotted owl with a gun. It’s time to arm the spotted owls and enact a “stand your ground” law that guarantees the spotted owl’s right to use deadly force to defend themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.

You will get the spotted owls’ guns when you take them . . . from their cold, dead talons.

Tags: Environmentalism

Exposing the Shameful in a Shameless Political Culture



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The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features cheery news for Scott Brown in New Hampshire, how a statement can shift from inspiring to trite when applied to modern politics, what the White House petitions can tell us about America, and . . . 

The Frustration of Exposing the Shameful in a Shameless Political Culture

The good folks at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity are having a conference today and Friday. After having gatherings of usually right-of-center and government-watchdog bloggers and writers from all across the country in locales such as Scottsdale, Arizona and Charlotte, North Carolina, the Franklin Center is gathering us all . . . in Alexandria, Virginia. So much for getting away from this winter cold. Seriously, if they held this conference any closer, they would be in my living room.

We get together at these gatherings to figure out how to be better and more effective at what we do, and I suspect one topic we’ll be grappling with is what to do when you’ve got what you’re convinced is a terrific story, some mind-boggling expose of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement within our government at any level . . . and the public yawns. The Franklin Center was founded in part to fill the gap left by disappearing local coverage of state capitols, and their mission in a nutshell is to uncover, investigate, and expose shameful behavior in government. Unfortunately, they’re trying to do this in an increasingly shameless political culture.

There’s an outdated complaint that the Right has too many commentators and columnists and not enough reporters. Perhaps that was once true, but the ranks of those doing original reporting have expanded greatly once you add up everybody at NR/NRO, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Free Beacon, Townhall, Reason, James O’Keefe’s videos, the Daily Caller, Breitbart, and a host of others I’m forgetting. We’re getting better at amplification and linking and promoting and tweeting each others’ work.

But for some reason, there are a lot of days when it feels like we’re not quite there in terms of actual real-world impact. I know everybody’s had at least one story that they feel was like nitroglycerin, and should have made a big, lasting impact, that just hit the web or print pages and … pppppht. Nothing. The world reads it, shakes their head and goes tsk-tsk, and goes on. We have a surplus of things to be outraged about and a dearth of attention and energy to focus upon it, and the public’s attention span seems to be shrinking every year. Obamacare’s messes, ludicrous contracts, Benghazi, embarrassing wastes of money, embarrassing wastes of space in Congress . . . they all just pile up without much of a consequence.

At one of our last gatherings, we noted how quickly everyone was able to turn a Post reporter’s dismissal of the horrific abortionist/ghoul Kermit Gosnell as a “local crime story” into a rallying cry; the media was dragged, kicking and screaming, into covering Gosnell nationally. We scrappy little Pajamahedeen can really get a story out to a wider audience when we’re all pulling in the same direction. Of course, it’s tough to get us all pulling in the same direction, and it’s got to be organic.

The Left has Journo-List; we have our mailing lists where a grassroots activist will dismiss all congressional staffers as useless selfish parasites sucking on the public teat . . . the congressional staffers for conservative lawmakers will take offense at the comment and call the activist an ill-informed rabble-rouser, and before we know it, it’s turned into a flame war. It’s fascinating to see how often the liberals describe the “right-wing noise machine” as a well-oiled, engine-revving, unified, self-reinforcing, powerful megaphone, a drone clone army, snapping to attention and coordinating its messages, activism and actions for maximum effectiveness.

To paraphrase Will Rogers, I’m not a member of an organized political movement; I’m a conservative.

Rereading the fine print on my invitation from Franklin, I see I’m supposed to come to this meeting with some solutions to these problems. Drat.

Like I said, our efforts as individual writers, reporters, bloggers, activists, and other politically active types have to grow organically; they can’t be directed on high. I can’t make somebody else care about a topic, issue, controversy that they don’t, and vice versa. There are few forms of criticism more tiresome than “Why are you writing about X? Why aren’t you writing about Y?” as if the world weren’t large enough for both.

Having said all that . . . maybe it’s time we on the Right stopped getting sucked into every penny-ante pie-throwing fight over every mook who comes along and says something stupid, controversial, or incendiary on cable news or Twitter.

Tags: Politics , Journalism , Franklin Center

Tune in Today!



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At 2 p.m., I’ll be participating in a “Google Hangout” at the Heritage Foundation, discussing last night’s State of the Union address.

Today should be particularly interesting, since I’m not sure Kurt watched the State of the Union, and he may very well try to steer the conversation onto more important, relevant, and enjoyable topics, such as the FX show Justified. Should be fun!

UPDATE: And here it is:

Tags: Something Lighter

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‘The number of jobs in the economy still is about 1.2 million lower than December 2007.’



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This point, from the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker column, seems rather important:

Obama: “The more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.”

The president is cherry-picking a number that puts the improvement in the economy in the best possible light. The low point in jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has indeed been a gain of about 8 million jobs since then, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But the data also show that since the start of his presidency, about 3.2 million jobs have been created — and the number of jobs in the economy still is about 1.2 million lower than when the recession began in December 2007.

You can argue that the employment number of December 2007 was artificially inflated by the housing bubble. And the unemployment rate is down because of a steep drop in the labor-force participation rate, driven partially by the retirement of the Baby Boomers. But it’s still a pretty “meh” economy at best.

This is how Obama can be bragging about an economic recovery one moment . . . 

The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world — the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits — cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

. . . and lamenting the state of the economy the next:

Average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Tags: Economy , Barack Obama

Forget the SOTU Laundry List. Let’s Try Setting Up Three Accounts.



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Urgh. An interminable State of the Union Address. So let’s forget that, and focus on a completely different approach, laid out in today’s Morning Jolt . . . 

The Three-Accounts Plan for a Real American Recovery

We’re stuck with this guy until January 2017. We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but the outlook on the horizon isn’t good. The economy sputtering along, unemployment still high by historical standards, low workforce-participation rate, a complicated mess in health care, annual deficits that are merely ludicrously high instead of incredibly ludicrously high, chaos overseas, hoping our numbskull big campaign-donor ambassadors manage to avoid exacerbating a crisis . . . 

Imagine somebody comes along and says, “Okay, America. We’ve tried that approach and we’ve seen what it gets us. Let’s try a different approach. Let’s try an approach that sets you up with the future with three accounts.”

Those three accounts are a 401(k) or IRA, a 529 plan for education, and a Health Savings Account.

Each of those accounts operates on the same basic concept: you put money in, sometimes your employer kicks some money in, and the government gives both of you some big tax incentives. Unlike a bank savings account paying one tenth of 1 percent to 1 percent (annual percentage yield), money put in these accounts gets invested in a fund that you choose and most years increase in value by several percentage points. These funds can go down in value, but most years will go up in value, and some years will go up a lot, depending on how the market and broader economy perform and the judgment of the folks managing the fund.

The 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account: These types of accounts accumulate retirement savings; 401(k)s are set up by employers, IRAs are, as their name suggests, set up by individuals.

The 529: This is an education-savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. Your contributions are not deductible when you make them, but your investment grows tax-deferred, and when you withdraw to pay for the college costs, you pay no federal tax on that. Plan assets are professionally managed either by the state treasurer’s office or by an outside investment company hired as the program manager.

The Health Savings Account:

Health savings accounts, the investment account that typically accompanies high-deductible health plans, are enjoying a boost: In 2013, some 7.2 million people had HSAs, up from 6.6 million in 2012, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. During that period, assets also leapt, reaching $16.6 billion in 2013, up from $11.3 billion in the previous year.

HSAs typically run in tandem with a high-deductible health care plan, with the intention that insured people tap the HSA itself to cover qualified medical expenses. Employers and insurers generally like HSAs because insured people are using the account to foot the bill for services until they hit their deductible. In theory, if employees are aware of the real cost of medical services because they are shelling out for those expenses, they’ll become more educated consumers, according to Paul Fronstin, senior research associate at EBRI.

Employers and employees can contribute to HSAs, and the chief benefit is that the funds contributed won’t be subject to federal income taxes when deposited. Any distributions made for qualified medical expenses can be made without incurring taxes.

Many successful, secure Americans have these accounts. If everyone in America had these three accounts, their worries about paying for their retirement, paying for their children’s education, and paying for their health care would be greatly ameliorated. Not completely erased, but everyone in America would have one, two, or three little nest eggs, each enjoying the fruits of compounding returns. As time goes by, your accounts would grow and your worries would shrink.

We could either mandate these accounts for every American . . . 

(sounds of conservatives drawing swords from sheaths)

. . . or we could make it unbelievably easy to set up these accounts. (My aim, of course, is to turn every American into an investor, from birth to death.)

You’ve just had a child? Congratulations, mom and dad, here’s the setup form for your 529 plan with your child’s new Social Security card. Plug a bit in every year over 18 years, and you’ll have a nice pile of money to put towards college, trade school, etc. If anything, we should expand it so that your 529 never goes away, and you can put money in at any time to use on a graduate degree, certification programs, or any other instructional course.

You’ve just turned 18? Congratulations. As you pick up your driver’s license, here’s the setup form for your IRA and Health Savings Account.

Instead of fining people 1 percent of their income for not having health insurance — up to 2 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016 — let’s make it easy to put 1 percent of your pre-tax paycheck into any or all of these accounts. Let’s let Americans pay one less percentage point of their current 6.2 percent Social Security tax into their IRA or 401(k). Let’s let Americans pay a half a percentage point of their current 1.45 percent Medicare tax payment into their Health Savings Account!

(Sound of Democrats drawing swords from sheaths)

We can fiddle with the tax code to give employers huge incentives to match donations to these accounts. (Democrats: “Hey, you’re reducing revenue!” Me: “Yes, and ameliorating three big problems that all of this federal spending has tried to address and largely failed: anxiety over paying for health care, education, and retirement.”)

You know who once supported one piece of this proposal? Hillary Clinton, back in 2007, who wanted a universal 401(k). One wrinkle was that she had the federal government matching the first $1,000 in savings for married couples who earn up to $60,000 a year and would match the first $500 for married couples who earn $60,000 to $100,000 a year. These matching donations from Uncle Sam would cost $20 billion to $25 billion per year. Not her worst idea ever, but I’d prefer to give an employer a tax incentive to the employer or give the individual an expanded tax deduction — deduct 105 percent of your annual contribution? 110 percent? — than the U.S. Treasury matching your contribution.

Last night, Obama took a baby step in the right direction with this idea:

And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can.

As I understand it, the MyRA would have no minimum deposit or balance, and is designed to help low-income earners sock away enough money until they can get a regular IRA.

A “Three Accounts” approach to Americans’ economic security would be big, it would be bold, and it would tap into Americans’ distrust of Washington, now reaching Deepwater Horizon–level depths. We can tweak the details, but the idea is to give all Americans the tools to build their own prosperity and restore their confidence that tomorrow will be better than today.

Tags: Barack Obama , Social Security , Education , Health Savings Accounts , Retiirement

Can We Dispel the Notion of Celebrities as Life Role Models?



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Alyssa Rosenberg, with perhaps the most intriguing/non-snarky/thought-provoking/tolerable argument you may ever see on the liberal blog ThinkProgress, prompted by the performance of Jay-Z and Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards:

If conservatives want to sell Americans on marriage, maybe they have to talk more about the bliss half of wedded bliss, to think about the desire part of making marriage desirable. And maybe the entertainment industry that [Ross] Douthat’s singled out as the enemy of marriage has something to add to the case for marital happiness. If marriage is a product that conservatives desperately want to sell, the smartest thing they could do right now is to hire Beyoncé and Jay-Z as a product spokescouple.

The wonderful Ericka Anderson largely agrees:

Beyonce’s lyrics to “Drunk in Love” are very risqué and sexual, her performance pretty much the same, but hello?! She’s singing with and about her husband — the one she married and had a baby with after they were married.

I’ve heard it time and again — it’s the CULTURE and much of the Right (not all — and it’s getting better) has a hard time getting a handle on it. Well, embrace it people — embrace it in the sexuality within hip, healthy marriages and highlight to good things Hollywood does do to promote the principles we already support. Maybe they are a little buried but unpack them, notice them and pat Hollywood on the back for delivering.

The problem with Douthat’s column isn’t that he’s wrong — it’s that like most on the Right, he relies solely on numbers, polls, research and policy talk. Where are the real life examples that everyday people are interested in and can relate to their own lives? Non-existent.

Our Reihan Salam notes that the argument skips a step — proving that people are wary about marriage because they don’t see enough high-profile examples of happy ones:

The problem, however, is that Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas famously observe in Promises I Can Keep, one of the chief barriers to marriage in high-poverty communities is not the notion that marriage isn’t desirable or fun. Rather, it is that because Americans hold the notion of marriage as a mutually supportive partnership in such high regard, many have come to see it as an unattainable ideal. And by putting the cultural spotlight in marriages in which “various parts of female experience don’t trade off with each other,” or for that matter various parts of male experience, we might be exacerbating this problem. As Rosenberg states, we can safely assume that Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z have little difficulty arranging child care and meeting various other challenges that prove overwhelming for parents in even the most generous social democracies.

Ericka Anderson is probably right that spotlighting celebrities is a good way to bring a message to communities that usually tune conservatives out . . . but I reserve the right to gripe that it’s frustrating and stupid that any idea, value, or argument requires a celebrity endorsement before some Americans will pay attention to it. If you take your behavioral cues from people who are (A) exponentially wealthier than you, (B) held to a completely different standard of behavior because of (A), (C) able to afford personal assistants to handle all of the chores, errands, details, and headaches of life because of (A), and (D) surrounded by sycophants, providing no useful check on their judgment, which has been deteriorating because of factors (A), (B), and (C) . . . you’re going to have serious problems. Your life will be a “Behind the Music” special without that opening rise to the top.

As mentioned in today’s Jolt:

The piece is entitled, “At The Grammys, Beyoncé and Jay-Z Made the Case for Marriage that Conservatives Can’t.” The argument is wiser than the headline, because you can translate that as, “Two Immensely Well-Known Celebrities Made the Case for Marriage that a Political Philosophy Can’t.”
It’s more than a little unfair to ask why non-celebrities can’t command the public’s attention or win over hearts and minds as well as pop stars can, in a celebrity-obsessed culture such as this. Most of us married folk don’t wake up in the morning and explicitly set out to “make the case for marriage.” Hopefully we set a good example, and unmarried folks say, “Boy, I’d like to have a marriage like that someday.”
In other words, if a celebration of the institution of marriage requires both partners to be immensely successful and famous, with buckets of glamor, reams of positive press, and throngs of adoring fans, then our only other option is . . . Brangelina.

A reader reminded me that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not yet married, presuming the seasonal rumors of a secret wedding aren’t true.

Remember my wariness about conservatives citing quotes from Ashton Kutcher and Bono to bolster their arguments? Here we see the suggestion that marriage, an institution that has existed roughly as long as humanity has, and that has largely thrived in various forms in just about every culture around the globe, has suddenly become reinvigorated with coolness and desirability because a couple of glamorous celebrities tied the knot and appear to be making it work. I mean, good for them, but having your view of marriage shaped by these two doesn’t strike me as all that different from taking health-insurance advice from Harold and Kumar.
Cracked had an amusing article, “Five Reasons Why You Should Never Take Advice from Celebrities,” and it’s pretty darn funny (and very off-color) — and it’s unnerving that it might be necessary.

Tags: Culture

What’s Really Driving the Push to Hike the Minimum Wage: Union Dues



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This morning, President Obama is announcing that by executive order, he’s raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts.

The two-page “fact sheet” for the move fails to mention how many workers would be getting better wages. Note that the executive order only sets the minimum wage level for new contracts, as the White House cannot change the terms of existing contracts.

Representatives Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.), co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pushed for the change, and contended the raise would affect 2 million workers, which seems astonishingly high, considering that the high estimates of number of federal contractors is about 4.4 million.

These comments from the Government Executive site indicate a federal contractor making minimum wage is rarer than hen’s teeth:

Can only speak from experience of contracting out logistics functions; never seen one contract where a single employee was paid “just the minimum wage” . . . 

I am Contracting Officer and haven’t seen any contract that pays minimum wages. Most of the contractors make more than their counterparts in the private sector. Then you have administrative cost to manage the contract, so it already cost more to contract it out . . . 

If they raise the lower wage for non-skilled labor people, will that mean that OPM will have to adjust all the pay scales all the way up the line? I know that the WG [worker grade] scales are based on the local market but GS [general schedule] is only offset by local. Will4567 is right about contractors paying higher than minimum wage. Here at this location, the contractors pay on average $.50 to $1.25 higher than the local economy.

But that little talking point really hinges on how broadly you define “affect.”

Richard Berman:

The Center for Union Facts analyzed collective-bargaining agreements obtained from the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. The data indicate that a number of unions in the service, retail and hospitality industries peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage. . . . The two most popular formulas were setting baseline union wages as a percentage above the state or federal minimum wage or mandating a flat wage premium above the minimum wage.

And now you see why raising the minimum wage is such an intense priority for Democrats. A higher minimum wage means higher wages for union workers, which means higher union dues, which gives unions more money to spend during campaign season.

Tags: Minimum Wage , Barack Obama

The State of Our Union Is Dependent Upon the State of Our Families



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From Tuesday’s Morning Jolt:

The State of Our Union Is Entirely Dependent Upon the State of Our Families and Communities

So the big theme of tonight’s State of the Union address is going to be income inequality.

One of President Obama’s big ideas is getting a bunch of large corporations to “sign a White House pledge agreeing not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed when making hiring decisions.”

Shrug. That’s nice. I guess we’ll see whether the CEOs’ pledge to the White House filters down to the human-resources departments, and whether those corporate recruiters will give those long-term unemployed folks a call, or find some other reason to not call.

You can lay the problems of the unemployed, underemployed, poor and struggling at the feet of corporate America’s HR office, but we all know there’s more to it than that.

Mr. President, meet Joe. (Not his real name.)

Joe’s a friend of mine. He grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances, in one of the blue-collar corners of the Northeast. His dad wasn’t around. Money was tight.

Joe studied hard, went to a good school, and got both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He moved to the D.C. area, where he works in education. I don’t know how much money he makes, but from what I see, he’s doing okay. He married a great girl, and they’re raising two kids in the suburbs. The guy’s one of the most devoted fathers I know.

The rest of Joe’s family back home . . . is still having a tough time. Kids without fathers around. Cops getting called over domestic disturbances. Real concerns about whether the children are being raised in the kind of environment that every kid deserves.

From where I sit, Joe’s a role model, a spectacular example of rising above hardship and living the American dream. As I understand it, the rest of Joe’s family back home doesn’t appreciate him that way, and a good portion of their interactions are marked by a tone of resentment towards him.

Sometimes we on the Right can be a bit insufficiently empathetic to those stuck in bad situations. It’s hard for a kid to grow up with his values and priories in the right place without any role models. It’s hard to function when you’re surrounded by dysfunction. There’s a lot less room for error at those poorer communities, those with more violence, fewer stable families, fewer “little platoons” to help a family through tough times.

But I get really steamed when I hear about Joe’s family, and the way they resent the success he’s had in life, his rock-solid bond with his family, the money he makes, the fact that he moved away from their dysfunctional environment. Dang it, he did what you’re supposed to do, and the fruits of his labor and good judgment are obvious. He’s the one they should be emulating. Instead, they seek out ways to convince themselves that he’s the bad guy, that somehow he did something wrong by pursuing a different, and ultimately happier and more successful, path than they did.

We can argue about how representative this individual situation is, but I suspect it’s not that unusual. Yes, poverty is partially driven by a lack of opportunities and sometimes misfortune. But judgment and habit and values are big factors as well. This isn’t to say that the poor deserve to be poor, only that they cannot rise above their problems until they take responsibility for their own situation in life and resolve to make better choices: to stay in school; to stick around and take responsibility when they get a girl pregnant; to avoid drugs; to avoid excessive drinking, to not resolve every dispute with fists through doors, windows, or faces; to put a little money away for a rainy day; to put their children’s interest first. Those aren’t always easy choices, particularly when life gets tough, but they pay off in the long run.

Of course, there’s no Federal Department of Instilling a Sense of Individual Responsibility. So we probably won’t hear much about that in tonight’s State of the Union.

Tags: State of the Union , Barack Obama , Poverty

Post-Radel Florida GOP Primary Heating Up Already



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The special election in Florida’s 19th congressional district hasn’t even been officially announced yet, but campaign events are heating up fast. Curt Clawson, one of the candidates who had already declared a primary challenge to soon-to-resign Representative Trey Radel, is announcing an open event this weekend:

Today Curt Clawson announced that he is inviting the public to a free Super Sunday event featuring legendary Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady.

“I am The Outsider running for Congress as a former business leader and basketball player,” said Curt Clawson. “It is important to demonstrate support from outside the career politicians and special interests who have been the problem rather than the solution.”

“I invite residents from across Southwest Florida to come to our event, meet Coach Keady, and hear more about why we need an outsider with business experience representing us in Washington, D.C.”

“There are three steps to changing the direction of the country. First, we need to implement policies that allow the economy to flourish and create jobs. Second, we must clean up the political process and limit the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups who use our tax dollars for their personal benefit. Third, we need to implement a plan to limit the negative consequences of Obamacare until Republicans get the votes to repeal it.”

Curt Clawson was the Chief Executive Officer of Hayes Lemmerz International, Inc. a global company that has approximately $2 billion in annual sales and thousands of employees. He also served as the Chief Operating Officer of American National Can. He was a senior captain of the Purdue University basketball team that won the Big Ten Championship in 1984 under Coach of the Year, Gene Keady.

The Super Bowl Party is free and open to the public and will be held:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

5:00 pm – until the Super Bowl is over.

Doc’s Beach House

27908 Hickory Blvd.

Bonita Springs, FL 34134

“Free Super Bowl Party” sounds like a better way to attract a crowd than “candidate to speak at rally.”

Tags: Curt Clawson , Trey Radel

Moran: ‘I Don’t Think We’re Going to Get Enough Young People’ Signing Up



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Man, Representative Jim Moran (D., Virginia) is offering some blunt truths Democrats don’t want to hear, now that he’s announced his retirement.

What’s striking is that Moran isn’t offering the usual, “well, we don’t have enough young people signing up for insurance, but we still have time.” He’s saying, “I don’t think we’re going to get enough.” He’s not clinging to hope anymore.

Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) is voicing concern that the entirety Affordable Care Act could unravel because not enough young people are signing up . . . 

“I’m afraid that the millennials, if you will, are less likely to sign up. I think they feel more independent, I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations,” Moran says. “But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.”

If Moran’s prediction is correct, the whole law could unravel. He says there just isn’t enough incentive for healthy young people to sign up for insurance.

“And, frankly, there’s some legitimacy to their concern because the government spends about $7 for the elderly for every $1 it spends on the young,” Moran says.

Moran supported covering everyone under Medicare, which would have been expensive but have avoided this problem. Now Moran is running short on solutions.

“I just don’t know how we’re going to do it frankly,” he says. “If we had a solution I’d be telling the president right now.”

The article closes with,

Democrats say another part of the problem is that Republicans remain bent on repealing the law and aren’t working with them to reform some of the glaring flaws in it.

First, why is it outrageous for Republicans to attempt to repeal a law that even its supporters are now saying isn’t working, as Moran says, or that has “glaring flaws”?

Secondly, what Democratic bill to reform some of the “glaring flaws” are Republicans blocking?

Thirdly, what “reform” would get millennials to sign up for a product that they already must purchase, or else pay a special tax of 1 percent of their income?

Perhaps Moran could try grabbing an eight-year-old boy and carrying him to a computer and making him sign up.

Tags: Jim Moran , Obamacare

Representative Trey Radel to Resign; Special Election Expected



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Politico reports Representative Trey Radel (R., Fla.) is resigning. Once one of the GOP’s rising stars, Radel was arrested for possession of cocaine on October 29 and convicted in November. He announced he would take a leave of absence from Congress for addiction treatment.

Florida law appears to require a special election, with the dates to be set up by Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Nominees of political parties shall be chosen under the primary laws of this state in the special primary election to become candidates in the special election. Prior to setting the special election dates, the Governor shall consider any upcoming elections in the jurisdiction where the special election will be held.

Florida’s congressional primary is not until August 26.

Florida’s 19th congressional district scores an R+12 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index, so Radel’s resignation doesn’t really give Democrats that much of a pickup opportunity. The district, on Florida’s west coast south of Tampa, includes Cape Coral and Naples.

One Democrat, April Freeman, has already declared a bid; the odds would probably be better against a post-scandal Radel than any other Republican. A quartet of Republicans had begun primary challenges to Radel: Curtis J. “Curt” Clawson, Mike Giallombardo, Brian Wayne Gibens, and former state Representative Paige Vanier Kreegel. In the 2012 five-way Republican primary, Radel won 30 percent; Kreegel won 17.7 percent.

Tags: Trey Radel

Meet the Worst Governor You’ve Probably Never Heard Of



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The first Morning Jolt of a full and busy week notes the president’s human props guests for the State of the Union address, an embarrassing confession from a White House speechwriter, the National Republican Senatorial Committee emphasizing their stance in the Nebraska primary, and then this dramatically undercovered story . . . 

Meet Earl Ray Tomblin, the Worst Governor You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

On Howard Kurtz’s MediaBuzz this weekend, we discussed the disparate levels of coverage for controversies and scandals involving New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

Ana Marie Cox — less reliably liberal than some on the Right think — pointed out there was another governor embroiled in a supremely consequential crisis recently who’s gotten almost no national coverage: West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat.

In case you’ve forgotten, Freedom Industries Inc. accidentally spilled thousands of gallons of a chemical used to clean coal into the Elk River

Roughly 300,000 people across nine counties near Charleston, the state capital, had to live with a “do not use” tap water ban for five days, give or take — meaning they could not drink, cook, wash or bathe that whole time, even after boiling the water. At times, the water coming out of the taps was flammable.

No matter how much you disdain the Environmental Protection Agency, it seems pretty clear that this corner of West Virginia could use some more actual, you know, environmental protection:

Even before last week’s chemical spill fouled tap water in nine counties in West Virginia, where more than 200,000 people still cannot use their water after seven long days, it was not unusual to find black water running from kitchen faucets in homes outside Charleston.

Or to see children with chronic skin rashes. Or bathtub enamel eaten away, leaving locals to wonder what the same water was doing to their teeth.

“Welcome to our world,” says Vivian Stockman, 52, a longtime resident of rural Roane County, north of Charleston, the state capital, and an activist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

(Maybe keeping an eye on this was one of the duties of that EPA employee who managed to take years off from work by claiming to secretly be working for the CIA.)

Tomblin’s office would insist that he’s not responsible for the spill. But the governor, has been in office since 2010, and was president of the state senate before that for 17 years. He’s been one of the most powerful men in the state for two decades, and he’s had ample opportunity to shape the state’s environmental laws and as governor, how they’re enforced.

Apparently they’re not enforced so well. And in an approach reminiscent of the gun-control debate, Tomblin seems to be suggesting the problem is a lack of laws:

Last Monday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stood behind a podium in the West Virginia Capitol and announced his plan for a new program to prevent chemical spills from what he called “unregulated” above-ground storage tanks.

Tomblin said his proposal would give the state Department of Environmental Protection “the tools necessary” to prevent another chemical leak like the one from the Freedom Industries tank farm, which contaminated the Elk River and the drinking water supply for 300,000 West Virginians.

“It was not regulated, and this bill will address that,” the governor said later to a small group of reporters . . . 

However, in several interviews with the Sunday Gazette-Mail, [Secretary Randy] Huffman and other DEP officials have made it clear — as Huffman did in his appearance with the governor — that Freedom Industries was absolutely not unregulated.

“I don’t think of them as being unregulated, but as being under-regulated,” Huffman said in one discussion.

As debates over future actions move through the Statehouse, the distinction is important. Environmental groups and regulatory experts say that no matter what rules govern Freedom Industries or any other company, those rules mean little unless the DEP becomes more aggressive with inspections and enforcement actions.

But even the best law in the world won’t do you much good if you have crappy enforcement:

In the days immediately after the Elk River leak, DEP officials said an initial review showed that they had not inspected the Elk River tank farm since at least 1991, when it was owned by a different company and was used for a different purpose.

After a more comprehensive review of their records, DEP officials have revealed a series of site visits by inspectors from the agency’s Division of Air Quality. Air inspectors were responding to odor complaints from residents — some of whom reported the now-familiar black-licorice smell of Crude MCHM — and examined if the site needed a state air-pollution permit. So far, DEP records indicate the agency concluded that the odor complaints were unfounded, and that no new permits were necessary.

This is spurring a bit of Democrat vs. Democrat criticism:

A West Virginia Senate leader thinks the governor’s proposal to prevent chemical spills caters to industry interests.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger says Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s bill doesn’t do enough to register and inspect above-ground storage tanks.

Unger took issue with Tomblin’s bill on Tuesday because it regulates just above-ground tanks deemed too close to a water supply. It also would only regulate sites holding chemicals above a certain risk level.

Unger is proposing regulation of all above-ground tanks.

And, of course:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he was unaware he received campaign checks from top executives at the company at the center of West Virginia’s chemical spill.

Tags: West Virginia , Earl Ray Tomblin

The First Votes of the Next GOP Presidential Primary Will Be Cast in February 2016



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The Republican National Committee adopted new rules for the 2016 presidential primary today:

o The carve outs (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) remain in February

o Other states can start their contests on or after March 1

o The proportional window is reinstated but for a shorter duration. Any contest between March 1st and March 14th will be proportional

(This means that the early states cannot allocate their delegates in a winner-take-all format.)

o Any contest after March 14th can go proportional or winner take all

o The window for selection of alternates and delegates moved from 35 days before the convention to 45 days before the convention. There is a waiver process for states that are required by law to hold a primary but are not in compliance with the 45 day window and aren’t under Republican control.

o New penalties: “If any state or state Republican Party violates Rule No. 16(c)(1) of The Rules of the Republican Party, the number of delegates to the national convention shall be reduced for those states with 30 or more total delegates to nine (9) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state, and for those states with 29 or fewer total delegates to six (6) plus the members of the Republican National Committee from that state. The corresponding alternate delegates shall also be reduced accordingly.

March 1 is a Tuesday, so look for that to become the new Super Tuesday.

If the first four states space themselves out, the Iowa caucus will be February 2, 2016 (Groundhog Day!), the New Hampshire primary will be February 9, the South Carolina primary will be February 16, and the Nevada caucus will be February 23. (UPDATE: University of Iowa professor Tim Hagle tweets that the Iowa caucuses are usually held on a Monday, so he thinks it’s more likely that the caucus will be February 1.)

The RNC also named twelve members to its 2016 Convention Site Selection Committee. The RNC has not specified the date of the convention, but chairman Reince Priebus said he wants a “late June, early July” convention. In recent cycles, the parties have held their conventions in late August or early September, trying to get their post-convention bump as close to the fall campaign as possible.

Cities competing to host the 2016 Republican convention include Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City, and Columbus, Ohio.

Tags: Iowa , New Hampshire , 2016 , RNC

Young People’s Health-Plan Options Are Fine, as Long as You Ignore the Deductibles!



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Actor Kal Penn, touting Obamacare for Organizing for Action:

The old health insurance system was not awesome. The new one, as we’ve all heard, has faced its share of hurdles and surprises getting up and running, but it’s thankfully on track to be much better than the old system. Young people have started enrolling. So far, about 30% of all the people choosing a plan are under the age of 35, and that number is expected to climb, as young Americans often sign up for things closer to deadlines rather than slowly over time (yes, I’m calling you out on the all-nighter you pulled before your last paper was due . . . similar concept).

First, “the old system” did not require you to buy its products or face the penalty of a special tax if you didn’t.

Second, the number of enrollees between the ages of 18 and 35 is 24 percent, which isn’t quite “about 30 percent.” You only reach 30 percent if you include those 0 to 18 years old — the kids included on their parents’ plans.

Sure, procrastination is a reason young people haven’t signed up for Obamacare, but I doubt it’s the primary reason.

The administration insists most uninsured young people will be able to buy plans for less than $50 per month. Sounds great, right? The GAO offered statistics that show the catch. A non-smoking woman, age 30, buying the plan with the lowest possible premium in the state of Virginia would pay $564 per year, or $47 per month. Affordable! . . . Until you realize the deductible is $7,500. That’s how much she has to pay out of pocket before her insurance pays anything. Maybe in a terrible year, full of ailments, she’ll hit it in autumn.

And that’s a bargain compared to some other states. In Vermont, a 30-year-old non-smoking woman can find a plan with a monthly premium of just $56 per month! Except that the deductible is $100,000, according to the GAO report. Sure, you can get a plan with a $3,500 deductible . . . for $292 per month.

Lots of young people, beginning their careers in this oh-so-swell economy, just don’t have a lot of extra income lying around. That’s what’s really holding them back from purchasing health insurance.

As I noted on Greta the other night, if you buy an insurance plan based on what Harold and Kumar tell you, you deserve every bit of misfortune that will befall you.

UPDATE: People seem to enjoy this. In Oregon, land of the music-video promotional campaign . . . that 30-year-old, non-smoking woman can get an insurance plan with a premium of just $52 per month! Of course, the deductible is $10,000. In Washington, D.C., it’s $53.50 for a plan with the same $10,000 deductible. In Maryland, she can pay $65 per month for that deductible. In Illinois, $68 per month. In Connecticut, $99 per month.

In Maine, that same woman can pay $127 per month to enjoy a $12,000 deductible!

In Minnesota, that same woman can pay a monthly premium of just $56.92 with a $15,000 deductible. What a bargain!

Tags: Obamacare

Cue Rockwell’s ‘I Always Feel Like . . . Somebody’s Watching Me!’



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Today’s Morning Jolt, the last of the week, features an unexpected Republican speaker at the Davos World Economic Forum, the problem with the mostly enjoyable new action film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and a feeling somebody’s watching Marco Rubio.

Pretty cool picture, sent by Marco Rubio’s office, from his overseas trip that included a visit to South Korea and the DMZ:

A North Korean soldier takes a picture of Senator Marco Rubio through the window as Rubio stands in a conference room in the De-militarized Zone between North and South Korea.

Yeah, that photo’s going in some intelligence file somewhere.

UPDATE: I hang my 80’s music-fan head in shame; the headline originally said, “I gotta feeling . . . somebody’s watching me” when the lyric is “I always feel like . . . somebody’s watching me.” I guess I’m not as astute on this as I thought I was; apparently I’m just an average man . . . with an average life.

Tags: Marco Rubio , North Korea

We’re Divided Because One Half of Us Won’t Leave the Other Half Alone.



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Did Glenn Beck ‘Tear the Country Apart’? Did Anybody?

You won’t believe who’s accusing Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News and currently running The Blaze, of “helping tear the country apart”!

Well, maybe you will believe, but I’m not sure you’ll agree:

Later in the segment, [Megyn] Kelly asked Beck to reflect on his time as a TV host at Fox News. His answer may surprise some people.

Though he remembers the job being a lot of fun, Beck also revealed that he has some regrets about the way he handled himself on the air.

“I remember it as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language,” he said. “I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart.”

First, has the country been “torn apart”?

I think you can set the bar for “torn apart” pretty high, considering how we’ve had an actual civil war in this country. We’ve had unsuccessful secession movements pretty regularly. Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears built a map to depict what the country would look like if every local secession movement had succeeded, a country of 124 states:

If Beck really means America is deeply politically divided, indeed, it is, but I’m not so sure our divisions would look that much better or different if Glenn Beck had remained a wacky “Morning Zoo” radio DJ his entire life. I’m glad Beck developed his interest and passion for politics, and developed The Blaze; he and his folks have been kind enough to have me on several times, including on Election Night 2012. Beck articulated a viewpoint, and built a devoted following, but he didn’t create the division in this country, he just reflected it.

We’re a divided country because we have 317 million people, and at least two major strands of thought and philosophy about the role of the government.

It’s a broad generalization, but we have red states and blue states. Ideally, we would have let each part of the country live the way it wants, as long as its laws didn’t violate the Constitution. You want high taxes and generous public benefits? Go ahead and have them; we’ll see if your voters vote with their feet. Let Illinois be Illinois, and let South Carolina be South Carolina.

Last fall I took a trip to Seattle, Washington, and the surrounding area. It seemed like every menu, store display, and sign emphasized that the offered products were entirely organic, biodegradable, free range, pesticide-free, fair trade, cruelty-free, and every other environmentally conscious label you can imagine. (The television show Portlandia did a pretty funny sketch about the ever-increasing, ever-more-specific variety of recycling bins, with separate bins for the coffee cup, the coffee-cup lid, the coffee-cup sleeve, and the coffee-cup stirrer; there’s a separate bin if the lid has lipstick on it.) Maybe it’s just a natural consequence that when you have Mount Rainier and Puget Sound outside your window, you become a crunchy tree-hugging environmentalist. If that’s the way they want to live up there, that’s fine. The food was mostly excellent. Let the Seattle-ites elect a Socialist to their city council. Let Sea-Tac try a $15/hour minimum wage and see if the airport Starbucks starts charging 20 bucks for a small latte.

As long as other parts of the country are allowed to pursue their own paths, that’s fine.

But a big part of the problem is that we have an administration in Washington that is determined to stomp out the state policies it doesn’t like. The president doesn’t want there to be any right-to-work states. His Department of Justice is doing everything possible to obstruct Louisiana’s school-choice laws. They’re fighting state voter-ID laws in court, insisting that it violates the Constitution, even though the Supreme Court ruled, 6 to 3, that requiring the showing of an ID does not represent an undue burden on voters.

This you-must-comply attitude can be found in the states as well, of course. Hell, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to drive pro-lifers, Second Amendment supporters, and what he labels “anti-gay” out of his state. Mayors decree that they won’t allow Chick-fil-A in their cities because of the opinions of the owners. In Oregon, state officials decreed that a baker must make a wedding cake for a gay wedding; the state decrees you are not permitted to turn down a work request that you believe violates your conscience or religious beliefs.

The country would be “torn apart” less if we were allowed to address more of our public-policy problems on a local or state basis. But anti-federalism is in the cellular structure of liberalism. All of their solutions are “universal,” “comprehensive,” or “sweeping.” Everything must be changed at once, for everyone, with no exceptions. Perhaps it’s a good approach for some other species, but not human beings.

That’s not Glenn Beck’s fault.

Tags: Glenn Beck , Politics , Federalism , Barack Obama

Toughen Up, Beltway!



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Can you stand a bit more complaining about the weather?

A friend in Fairfax County points out that between Christmas break, Martin Luther King Day, and snow days, kids in Fairfax County public schools have attended 22 days of school in the last 39 weekdays. Schools are closed entirely today because of snow that fell Tuesday. As noted in a Morning Jolt earlier this week, the Washington region takes risk-averse decision-making to new heights.

Toughen Up, Beltway

By 11 p.m. Monday night, most of the school districts in the Washington, D.C., area had announced they were closed in anticipation of an approaching “Alberta Clipper” snowstorm.

Tuesday morning, the federal Office of Personnel Management announced that federal-government offices in the D.C. region would be closed. Emergency employees and telework-ready employees were expected to work.

The first snowflakes didn’t fall until about 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., most of the major roadways remained clear, with the salt trucks having had plenty of time to prepare the roads. The Clipper did amount to a genuine snowstorm by the standards of the mid-Atlantic region, dumping three to seven inches.

My suspicion is that the Washington, D.C., area is a lot more capable of toughing its way through a few inches of snow. We would like to try, but nervous-Nelly school administrators won’t let us. Either that, or those administrators are terrified of nervous-Nelly parents.

Jake Tapper:

When I was a kid they waited for snow to accumulate before they called snow days. Then we had to walk home in it barefoot with bags of rocks.

The AP wrote that the U.S. is becoming a nation of “weather wimps,” attributing it to . . . global warming, contending that the warmer globe means we’re less used to cold weather, so we have a harder time coping with it. That article featured a Rutgers University climate scientist positing that melting Arctic sea ice is generating “more weirdness” in our weather. That darn indecipherable, precise scientific jargon!

But this isn’t really about the actual temperatures or precipitation; it’s about how we react to them. Winter’s always going to be cold, ranging from pretty cold to bitterly cold. Some years we won’t get much snow, some years we’ll get a blizzard or two. What’s stupefying is how this region always seems shocked by it.

Washington, D.C.,’s snow accumulation this year, now including Tuesday’s Alberta Clipper is . . . 7.2 inches. Yuppie Acres, Northern Virginia has already had five snow days and two delayed openings. The annual usual total snowfall in the Washington, D.C., area is . . . 5.4 inches. So we’re getting a bit more snow than usual, but not much.

(You can check out snowfall totals and averages for 57 cities here.)

The Washington Post’s Petra Dvorak spoke for exasperated parents a few weeks ago when there was talk that some school districts would close school because of the “Polar Vortex.” No actual precipitation, snow, sleet, or ice, just a blast of really cold air.

A cold day has no resemblance to the glory of an actual snow day — where the rinse-and-repeat cycle of getting all the snow pants, hats, mittens on, then going outside to play, then fighting and screaming because snow went down someone’s back and someone else got smacked with an iceball, then going home for hot chocolate — makes the day feel Sysiphean, but makes it go by faster.

A bitterly cold day?

Let’s crack an egg on the sidewalk and watch it freeze? Test that “Christmas Story” tongue scene?

Nah. This is our big chance to show the rest of the country that flintiness that President Obama longed for when he moved here from Chicago and learned his daughters’ school had closed because of a dusting of snow.

It’s time for the folks of Our Town to show the government how to keep functioning despite a deep freeze, how to hunker down, wear an extra layer and get it done.

Please? For the sake of parents?

. . . Human beings are capable of walking, driving, and functioning in snow; otherwise places like Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Minneapolis (and Canada) would be abandoned throughout winter. But not only does Washington, D.C., fail to do that . . . it seems afraid to even try.

Tags: Weather , Global Warming , Washington D.C.

One Year Ago: ‘What Difference, at This Point, Does It Make?’



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Citizens United wants you to check out their new video, marking the one-year anniversary of Hillary’s Benghazi testimony. I asked them, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

In other news, the 2016 Democratic presidential primary ended today, when Priorities USA, the liberal Super PAC that spent on $67 million on attack ads against Mitt Romney in 2012, announced it will support Hillary Clinton.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Citizens United

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