Big government

Trump signs new defense policy bill that rebuilds military, boosts troop pay

Capping a major victory, President Trump signed a $716 billion defense bill Monday that authorizes hundreds of new planes, ships and tanks, increases troop strength and raises military pay, modernizes the U.S. nuclear arsenal and tightens control of government contracts with Chinese technology companies. Speaking to troops at Fort Drum, N.Y., Mr. Trump said the new National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019 is “the most significant investment in our military, and in our warfighters, in a generation.” “After years of devastating cuts, we’re now rebuilding our military like never before,” Mr. Trump said. “Every day our military was fighting for us, and now we’re fighting for you.” The signing ceremony also fulfilled Mr. Trump’s promise to provide more certainty for military funding, after years of budget “sequestration” caps under President Obama. It’s the earliest in the year that Congress has completed an NDAA in more than 20 years. The White House said the NDAA helps to develop “a more lethal and resilient force,” and will increase the size of U.S. forces by authorizing 15,600 more troops across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The new recruits will bring the total strength of the Army to 487,500 soldiers; Navy, 335,400 sailors; 186,100 in the Marine Corps; and 329,100 in the Air Force. Mr. Trump also got what he wanted in the measure with controls on U.S. government contracts with China’s ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies because of national-security concerns; the restrictions are nevertheless weaker than earlier versions of the bill.

🙂

Suckers beware: Your $10 reusable steel drinking straw may be counterfeit

As several cities take aim at reducing their carbon footprint by banning plastic straws, one company says there’s a new problem that could soon plague the U.S.: counterfeit reusable straws. FinalStraw sought to create a collapsible, stainless steel straw that consumers could reuse. The straw even comes with a carrying case. However, Emma Cohen, the company’s co-founder, told BuzzFeed News on Monday that counterfeiters flooding websites like Amazon and eBay are creating an issue. “The whole purpose was to reduce waste,” Cohen said, adding the counterfeit straws created a “bigger waste problem.” Searches across Amazon and eBay found that knockoff stainless steel straws were prevalent, according to BuzzFeed News. While FinalStraw intends to sell its item for $20 apiece, other places were selling theirs for $10. Cohen and co-founder Miles Pepper reported more than 200 listings on Amazon, eBay and Alibaba were using FinalStraw’s promotional photos to advertise the knockoffs. FinalStraw doesn’t have a listing on these websites because its final product won’t be ready until November, according to BuzzFeed News. Those who have bought the counterfeit straws have complained to FinalStraw about their purchases falling apart. “People are just genuinely confused,” Cohen told BuzzFeed News. “Some are angry and upset.” Pepper said the company plans to go after the straw sellers after its trademark and patent applications go through. The race for an alternative straw version was kicked off when cities like San Francisco and Seattle announced plans to reduce the use of plastic straws at restaurants. San Francisco became the largest U.S. city last month to ban restaurants and retailers from providing customers with plastic straws. Businesses in the city will have to meet the new guidelines by January 1, 2020. Disney and Starbucks have also announced plans to ban plastic straws.

If FinalStraw and other similar companies want to market such a product, then we’re all for it!  The free market is the place to address this issue; NOT by the fascist Democrat politicians telling us what we can and cannot use to drink a beverage with.  That said…  This is the insanity that happens when we allow political correctness to take over our lives.  Thankfully, I live in a city that still allows plastic straws.  Unreal..

Opinion: ‘Hate speech’ is sneaky leftist censorship, not law

Leftists have been particularly crafty about clamping down and chilling conservative thought lately, boldly going where milder-mannered censors have previously feared to tread and managing to make several righteous-sounding cases, at least among their circles of progressive types, for the booting of deemed hate speakers from social media. But their censorship argument dangles precariously on the meaningless claim that in America there’s no room for hate speech. And I say meaningless because first off, nobody can define what constitutes hate speech and second off, even if they could, there are no criminal laws against speaking one’s mind in this country — except in cases of inciting riots or falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, the latter of which is not really speech at all. Yet the shrill accusations of hate speech continue. There are political strategies behind all this screeching. This whole anti-hate speech call has been a tremendous boon for the left’s successes in shuttering conservative rhetoric, whether online, on college campuses or in the media world. The best lies and deceptions, after all, are the ones that ring of truth. The truth: In America, morally speaking, philosophically speaking, sensibly speaking — of course there’s no room in America for hate speech. Only a radical nut would see or say otherwise. But speaking of morality is not the same as speaking of legality. Morally speaking, no citizen should spew vicious, racist, misogynistic, ugly, hateful words. Legally? For the most part, have at it. Also the truth: The First Amendment was penned in part to protect primarily political speech — to preserve as a God-given right the ability of citizens to say as they will, to petition as they want, to seek redress for grievances as they ought. Some of these pursuits can get pretty rancorous. Sometimes, people get offended. The Founders knew that. That’s the beauty of the First Amendment — to protect those who would offend. But the left, unable to withstand fact-based scrutiny of its ridiculously anti-American progressive policies, and unable to legislatively advance anti-American progressive policies without the wings of emotionally charged discourse, has been trying to circumvent the spirit of free speech for some time. Why? To shut down the fact-finders and truth-tellers. The left would like nothing more than to see hate speech etched into law as a punishable offense because that would make the job of censoring conservative thought and statements so much the easier. The First Amendment and America’s long and cherished history of allowing for the lively exchange of ideas gets in the way of this goal, however. So the desperate left has advanced a public relations campaign that sees hate speech being talked about with rising frequency — as if it’s a thing. As if it’s an American concept. As if it’s a real crime, like stealing somebody’s car or punching somebody in the face in a bar. The left’s hope is to talk it up enough so it doesn’t sound odd or out of place — so people stop wondering every time they hear it, “what? What is that?” Then come the actual hate speech laws. Then go the conservatives, too chilled to speak. It’s like this: The Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panther Party, Louis Farrakhan, David Duke and a long list of others may all speak in ways that strike a large portion of the public as offensive. But fact is, they pretty much have the legal and natural right to speak as they will. The discomfort of either the few or the many does not justify the stripping of their God-given rights — or of anyone’s God-given right to speak freely. It’s a pretty good system of governance that allows both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, haters and do-gooders alike, equality of expression. Here in America, let’s keep it that way. All discussions of hate speech should include mention of the fact no such laws in this country exist.

Agreed!  Thanks to Cheryl Chumley for that spot-on op/ed.     🙂

Stossel: The absurd hysteria around plastic straws

Want to sip a refreshing beverage this summer? If environmental zealots and sycophants get their way, you won’t be allowed to sip it through a plastic straw. Actress Nina Nelson and other celebrities made a video claiming that plastic straws kill sea life: “In the USA alone, over 500 million straws are being used every single day, most of which are going into our oceans.” “I will stop sucking,” vowed the celebrities. In obedient response, Seattle banned plastic straws, and other places plan to follow. Starbucks, Hyatt and Hilton are all abandoning straws. Katy Tang, of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, says, “We are no longer going to allow for plastic straws here.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agrees: “Their time has come and gone.” But before politicians ban things in the name of saving the world, I wish they’d take the trouble to actually study what good the ban would do. Plastic garbage in oceans is a genuine problem. But most of the pollution comes from Asia. A small amount does come from America, but only a tiny fraction of that is plastic straws. Banning straws “might make some politicians feel good,” says the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Angela Logomasini in this week’s Stossel TV video, “but it won’t actually accomplish anything good.” But what about that scary “500 million” figure that celebrities, politicians and news anchors constantly cite? It turns out that number came from a 10-year-old who, for a school project, telephoned some straw makers. Because the boy is cute, the media put him on TV. Now the media, environmental activists and politicians (Is there a difference?) repeat “500 million straws used daily … many end up in oceans,” as if it were just fact. The real number is much lower. Still, activists like talk show host Ethan Bearman tell us, “If we can reduce something that easy — something that gets stuck in turtles’ noses and damages the environment — let’s do that. Sometimes, we do need a little gentle guiding hand from government.” But government’s guiding hand is neither “little” nor “gentle.” Government action is force. In this case, the politicians will either ban straws or order us to replace plastic straws with more expensive ones made of paper or bamboo. Bearman calls that an advantage, telling us, “Plastic doesn’t actually biodegrade, unlike paper, which breaks down into other components.” But that’s exactly the problem. Paper straws don’t only break down in dumps, they also break down while you’re using them. They get soggy. They leak. “That’s the beauty of plastic. It’s enduring,” says Logomasini. She also points out that paper and bamboo straws aren’t environmentally pristine. “Paper products take more energy and effort to produce. And paper doesn’t degrade in a landfill, either. Everything (in landfills) is essentially mummified.” Also, paper straws cost eight times more to make than plastic straws.

Exactly!!   For more of this outstanding op/ed by veteran libertarian journalist John Stossel, and to see a video, click on the text above.

2.8 Million People Drop Off Food Stamps Under Trump

More than 2.8 million people dropped off food stamps since President Trump’s first full month in office, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The latest USDA data shows that since Trump served his first full month in office in February 2017—when food stamp enrollment was at 42,134,301— participation in the federal government’s food stamp program decreased by 2,804,945 to 39,329,356. During Trump’s first year and a half as president, many people discontinued their SNAP benefits due to the Trump administration’s attempts to reform SNAP at both the federal and state levels of government. Trump released an executive order on welfare reform in April that would require the USDA to issue updated rules for those receiving benefits such as food stamps, and invest in workforce development programs. The USDA also hired an “integrity officer” in March to bolster the administration’s efforts to prevent SNAP fraud, and announced in February the rollout of its “Harvest Box” program to give food stamp recipients a box of shelf-stable food as part of their monthly benefits package. The continued decline in the number of individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the federal government program in charge of administering food stamps—during Trump’s year and a half as president is consistent with the downward trend in SNAP enrollment since 2013. In 2013, when the Obama administration was in power, enrollment in the program reached its highest levels in the nation’s history. After 2013, SNAP enrollment declined when state legislatures passed laws requiring food stamp recipients to work, attend school, volunteer, or participate in job training for a set number of hours per week to receive benefits. The improving economy also contributed to the continuing decline in food stamp usage. Enrollment in the nation’s food stamp program might plunge even further if work requirements are included in the latest Farm Bill going through Congress. Trump tweeted Thursday that he wanted to get work requirements for food stamps implemented at the federal level when the House and Senate meet to work on the latest Farm Bill. The House passed a version of the bill in June with a provision requiring able-bodied adults without dependents ages 18 to 59 work, enroll in job training, or look for work under the supervision of a case manager to receive food stamps. The Senate version of the bill did not include the work requirement provision.

And it should. Hopefully it’ll be included when it goes to conference…  We’ll, of course, keep an eye on it.

Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for all’ bill estimated to cost $32.6T, new study says

The “Medicare for All” plan pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and endorsed by a host of Democratic congressional and presidential hopefuls would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to a new study. The Vermont senator has avoided conducting his own cost analysis, and those supporting the plan have at times struggled to explain how they could pay for it. The study, released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, showed the plan would require historic tax increases. The hikes would allow the government to replace what employers and consumers currently pay for health care — delivering significant savings on administration and drug costs, but increased demand for care that would drive up spending, according to the report. According to the report, the legislation’s federal health care commitments would reach approximately 10.7 of GDP by 2022, and rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP by 2031. But the study, conducted by senior research strategist Charles Blahous, said that those estimates were on the “conservative” side. Sanders’ plan builds on Medicare, the insurance program for seniors. The proposal would require all U.S. residents be covered with no copays and deductibles for medical services. The insurance industry would be regulated to play a minor role in the system. Sanders is far from the only liberal lawmaker pushing the program. 2020 hopefuls like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed a “Medicare for all” program last year. Political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in a recent upset primary and instantly became a prominent face of the democratic socialist movement, also is promoting a “Medicare for all” platform. “Enacting something like ‘Medicare for all’ would be a transformative change in the size of the federal government,” Blahous, who was a senior economic adviser to former President George W. Bush and a public trustee of Social Security and Medicare during the Obama administration, said. Blahous’ study also found that “a doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”

Opinion/Analysis: Mr. Trump, the GDP number looks great! Now, let’s do this for Trumponomics’ next act

This week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 50 percent of those surveyed back President Trump’s handling of the economy. That number may rise with Friday’s news that U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) soared in the second quarter of this year by 4.1 percent. That kind of growth makes it almost certain the country will see more than a 3 percent rate economic growth this year – the first time that’s happened since before the financial crisis of 2008. That will prompt President Trump and other supporters of the 2017 tax cut bill to claim that the tax cut the president signed into law ushered in a new era of prosperity. The growth being produced by the tax cut is bringing in more revenues. Dan Clifton of Strategas Research Partners calculates using estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that the tax cut has already paid for about 30 percent of its static revenue losses. Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, told reporters Thursday that “the “pullback of regulations – the energy work that we did, the tax work and the Dodd-Frank” reforms of financial regulations have all helped propel economic growth. Kevin Hassett, the chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, says the contrast with pre-Trump economic results is clear. The country is in the midst of a building boom, with investment in structures up 16 percent from 2017. Total business fixed investment has increased 10 percent, up from 6 percent last year. Most importantly, real disposable income has increased by 3 percent this year following last year’s gain of 2.3 percent. Many American families are seeing the first real increases in take-home pay in over a decade. Democrats are likely to gather around tubs of sour grapes with the release of the good economic good news. After all, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stood on the Senate floor last January before President Trump’s State of the Union message to declare: “Here are two words we will not hear President Trump say tonight about the economy – ‘Thanks, Obama!’ – because much of the growth in 2017 was created by President Obama’s policies and, by many measures, the growth under President Obama was better than under President Trump.” Expect Schumer and his allies to point to rising gasoline and health-care costs to put a damper on the economic growth numbers. Supporters of Trump economic policies acknowledge the economy faces challenges, including higher interest rates that will boost federal debt payments and runaway entitlement programs. But they say the way to address those is to push for more tax and regulatory reform to further boost growth. “After the JFK tax cuts we routinely saw 6 percent growth in the 1960s, with a stable dollar and low inflation. In the 1980s, Reagan delivered quarters with 8 percent growth, even as inflation fell,” says Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. “Trump’s policies have produced the best of all economic worlds – surging growth and employment, with little inflation and a rising dollar.” Moore added. “The sports truism applies here: Never, ever change a winning strategy.” So what should be the Second Act of Trumponomics to keep the economic expansion going? First, Congress should make the 2017 tax cuts permanent, giving even more assurance to businesses that economic policy will be stable. Congress should also revisit efforts to reshape ObamaCare to help rein in rising health care costs. But an even bolder approach would be for the White House to initiate a capital gains tax cut that wouldn’t require endless wrangling with a polarized Congress. Using an executive order to eliminate the tax on inflationary capital gains makes sense on the grounds of both growth and fairness.

Agreed!!  To read more of this outstanding op/ed by John Fund over at the Wall Street Journal, click on the text above.  Excellent!!    🙂