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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Top Eight Winners of Obamanomics

Today is launch day for Obamanomics, and on Clusterstock, I've posted with my brother a slideshow of the Elite Eight -- the biggest winners in the world of taxes, regulations, mandates, handouts, and bailouts that is Obamanomics. If you're interested, please buy a book today.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The first review of Obamanomics

David J. Sanders, a columnist in Arkansas, wins the gold medal by publishing the first review of Obamanomics:
Obamanomics, of course, cuts against Washington’s most compelling narrative (which started during the campaign): Obama, the agent of hope and change vs. the powerful interests. But Carney reveals a president who on the one hand professes to protect the little guy, but on the other supports policies that punish innovation, hurt small business and run up trillions of dollars of government debt, while rewarding his friends at Goldman Sachs, GE (a company that earned its own chapter), Pfizer and the United Auto Workers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama’s revolving door and agri-chemical giants

The agri-chemical industry is one big winner in Obama's America. My column reports on recent developments on this front:

Most recently, Obama showed his agri-chemical colors with his nomination of Isi Siddiqui as the chief agricultural negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. If confirmed, this would be Siddiqui’s second spin through the revolving door.

After 28 years at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, he entered the Clinton Administration. There he served in the Agricultural Marketing Service before spending four years as the senior trade advisor to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

Then Siddiqui cashed out. In 2002, he became a lobbyist for CropLife America, the lobbying group for pesticide and herbicide manufacturers.

Siddiqui avoids any clash with the executive order restricting lobbyists in Obama administration posts because he last registered as a lobbyist in 2004. Currently, however, he serves as CropLife’s “vice president for science and regulatory affairs.”

So, Siddiqui works for a lobbying organization as the VP in charge of “regulatory affairs,” but he isn’t registered as a lobbyist (meaning he supposedly spends less than 20 percent of his time talking to government officials), so he’s cool by Obama’s standards.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Global warming industry becomes too big to fail

My K Street column looks at the flap over the leaked/stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit:
"I'm in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measur[e]ments here in the UK -- looking promising," wrote Andrew Manning, a climate-science research fellow at the University of East Anglia, "so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases."
Manning's e-mail, written in October to a colleague at East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit, was one of the thousands of private communiques exposed to public view by a whistleblower or a hacker. The note and others like it reveal the intriguing relationship between industry giants like Siemens and the scientists driving climate change fears. More importantly, though, Manning's e-mail shows the incentives of climate scientists: Convince people there is a climate disaster coming, get more money.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No neutrality in Google-funded net neutrality studies

My column today looks at the slurry of business, government, and academia, as regards net neutrality:
Obama's FCC announced in July it had chosen Harvard University's Berman Center for Internet and Society to "conduct an independent expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment and usage throughout the world." The study, led by professor Yochai Benkler, has provided fodder for advocates of net neutrality regulations, such as the Obama administration.
Unreported so far is the fact that on the center's Web page naming donors is a section called "Support for Current Activities" thanking corporate and foundation donors. The list includes Google and Microsoft.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Subsidies on trial in Caribbean rum rumble

I got my hands on the on contract between Diageo and the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands in which the USVI offers the liquor company a flotilla of subsidies to lure Captain Morgan away from Puerto Rico. My column examines the subsidies, and the Capitol Hill war over them:

The Virgin Islands courtship of Captain Morgan has angered Puerto Rican officials, who have started to push back. The territory's congressional representative, Pedro Pierluisi, introduced a bill in April prohibiting territories from using more than 10 percent of their cover-over for subsidies (a consultant for Puerto Rico tells me it turns about 6 percent of the cover-over into liquor subsidies)....

Puerto Rico's play here is something like bilateral disarmament: We won't bribe companies with hyper-subsidies if the Virgin Islands doesn't. But the predicament points out a hole in a standard free-market argument. It turns out that municipalities competing for business aren't in a race to roll back regulations and lower taxes, but in a race to provide more taxpayer subsidies.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feeling pushed, the Catholic Church pushes back

To complement the reports by my colleagues over on the news side (Michael Neibauer on the Washington Archdiocese-vs-the City Council on gay marriage, and Susan Ferrechio on the U.S. Bishops-vs-Congress on abortion subsidies), I have a special column today:
Typically averse to direct involvement in the political fray, the Catholic Church in the United States now finds itself fighting in Washington's policy trenches both on Capitol Hill and at City Hall....

The church's newfound political assertiveness likely results from changes in both the nature of the issues at hand and the makeup of the American clergy.

The battles in which the church finds itself embroiled today are not simply about the underlying moral issues -- abortion and gay marriage -- but about more aggressive policies that might restrict the ability of the church and of individual Catholics to act according to Catholic teachings.

A mining giant in bed with Boxer, Kerry

Adding to the gallery of climate bandits, my column today explores why mining giant Rio Tinto is lobbying for climate-change legislation:

Rio Tinto stands to profit in many ways from Boxer-Kerry, often in ways that provide no real benefit to consumers or the environment, while increasing costs for everyone.

In 2008, Rio Tinto mined more uranium than any company in the world, according to Chiaro. Uranium is the feedstock for nuclear power plants. Litigation and regulation have for decades blocked the expansion of nuclear power, and many companies see robust climate legislation as the way to knock down the regulatory barriers....

But Rio Tinto also sees profit in Boxer-Kerry in ways that harm the consumer. Boxer-Kerry would add to the cost of gasoline, heating oil, and electricity, and also force less efficient energy sources on American families and manufacturers, while imposing new costs on taxpayers. This would drive business to Rio Tinto's other ventures.

Rio Tinto and BP, for instance, have formed a joint venture called Hydrogen Energy, which is building plants in California, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere that aim to combine the technologies of fueling a power plant by hydrogen and pumping carbon dioxide underground in order to keep the gas out of the atmosphere. These projects are already subsidized by taxpayers, and Rio Tinto is lobbying for the additional subsidies Boxer-Kerry would provide.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pfizer deserts its monument to corporate welfare

Remember Kelo v. New London? That was the case in which the liberal majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cities, towns, and states had the right to seize properties by eminent domain and give the land to private developers.

Well, my column today reports on how that great redevelopment plan hasn't worked out so well:

Susette Kelo's little, pink house in New London, Conn. -- like the houses of all her neighbors -- is now a pile of rubble, overgrown with weeds. But Pfizer, the company that called for the demolition in order to build a new research and development plant, announced Monday it is packing up and leaving town in order to cut costs after its merger with fellow drug-giant Wyeth.

New London now has a wasteland where a neighborhood once stood, and no jobs or business to show for it. It's another travesty of central planning.

Friday, November 6, 2009

McDonnell should let the market, not developers, guide transportation policy

Governor-elect Bob McDonnell won well-deserved praise for his transportation plan, but I argue, in my column today, that he didn't go far enough in promoting the role of market forces.
More roads and more lanes spurs more homes and more developments -- and that doesn't alleviate traffic....

Traffic affects people's home-buying decisions and job-seeking decisions. If Route 29 and Interstate 66 are nightmares, many people will decide either to live closer in or work further out. When politicians decide to pave more roads or add more lanes, they aren't alleviating traffic -- they are subsidizing the cost of living in Loudoun and working downtown.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obama's revolving door always open to Podestas

I spent Friday evening studying the White House visitor logs, and my K Street column today reports my findings:

Lobbyist Tony Podesta and his lobbyist wife, Heather Podesta, separately visited the White House eight times in Obama's first six months, according to the White House data dump. On 17 occasions, Obama's White House welcomed Tony's brother John, who co-founded the Podesta Group lobbying firm with Tony.

The Podestas are precisely the sort of wealthy, well-connected, revolving door, corporate lobbyists whom candidate Obama assailed for having "turned government into a game only they can play."