State Department: Keystone XL would have little environmental impact

The Keystone XL pipeline would have little environmental impact, according to a final analysis released this afternoon by the State Department, because the extraction of oil from Canada is likely to continue with or without its construction:

An Obama administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline application shows the project wouldn’t likely change the amount of oil ultimately removed from Canadian oil sands, suggesting that building the pipeline would have little impact on global climate change.

The report found that the “approval or denial of any single project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction of the oil in the oil sands, or the refining of heavy crude on the U.S. gulf coast,” a State Department official told reporters Friday.

The conclusion that the heavy crude would be extracted and delivered anyway—by rail if not pipeline—left environmentalists disappointed. But the report isn’t the last word on the matter. Now begins a final State Department study to determine whether the pipeline project is in the nation’s broader interests. A total of eight separate agencies have up to three months to weigh in, potentially injecting the pipeline issue into the midterm election season.

House GOP hits Obama on jobs, healthcare in SOTU prebuttal

 Obamacare's False Promises

The House Republican Conference released a couple videos, — sort of prebuttals to the State of the Union address — that takes aim at some of the statements President Barack Obama has made about the economy and healthcare over the last few years.

In past State of the Union address, President Obama has told Americans that the economy is growing and more Americans are going back to work in the aftermath of the “Great Recession.” But the video fuses takes the flashbacks to these address and fuses them with new reports of over the years, including most recent, disappointing jobs report in December.

The second video focuses on lines from the 2009 State of the Union address dealing with the cost of healthcare and its impact Americans and employers. After each statement, the video offers truths about how Obamacare is increasing insurance premiums, forcing Americans out of their health plans, and causing many small businesses to freeze hiring:

Obama’s minimum wage hike could kill 1 million jobs

No matter how many times President Obama says we’re in a recovery, we just don’t have a lot to make us really feel like we’re rebounding from the world economy since the Great Depression.  Recent unemployment numbers were less than expected, with a staggering number of Americans who just pulled themselves out of the job market entirely.  It just doesn’t feel like an economy on the rebound, does it.

In a down economy, combating poverty always seems to become a priority.  President Obama’s answer seems to be not just extending unemployment benefits — a measure that Republicans don’t actually oppose, they just want to identify cuts to pay for the extension — but also raising the minimum wage.

Of course, that’s not a problem if you don’t mind killing around 1 million jobs in the process:

The Obama administration’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could result in as many 1,084,000 jobs eliminated from the work force, according to a new study conducted by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI)

Jobs report far below expectations, labor participation rate back at 35-year low


Though the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7% in December 2013, the lowest point since in more than five years, the economy added an unimpressive 74,000 jobs, according to the jobs report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Coming off consecutive months of solid gains, economists expected the economy would add 200,000 jobs in December. The ADP survey released earlier this week estimated that 238,000 jobs were added to private payrolls. Unfortunately, the BLS report comes in well below those expectations, adding the fewest number of jobs since October 2008.

The disappointment isn’t limited to the total number of jobs added, but also that 347,000 people left the workforce in December. That brings the labor force participation rate to 62.8%, where it was in October 2013 and, also, its lowest point since 1978.

Here’s the chart via Zero Hedge (click to enlarge):

Labor Force Participation Rate

Ted Cruz knocks Obama’s proposed “promise zones”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) isn’t too fond of President Barack Obama’s proposed “promise zones,” the latest gimmick from the White House in its latest push to focus on economic inequality. In fact, the Texas senator says that the economic policies pushed by the administration have led to inequality.

“It’s altogether fitting that President Obama is today talking about income inequality because income inequality has increased dramatically as a direct result of his economic policies,” said Cruz yesterday in a statement. “Out-of-control government spending, debt, taxes, and regulations have killed millions of jobs. Unfortunately, rather than stop Washington’s job-killing policies, President Obama proposes yet more government spending and debt.”

The so-called “promise zones” purport to “create jobs, increase economic security, expand access to educational opportunities and quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.” The cost of the proposal hasn’t been released, but The Detroit News points to an administration memo from last month which stated that designated areas “will not receive direct funding, but will benefit from technical assistance, federal staff support, and more extensive preference points and access to other federal grant programs.”

Economist: Eliminating corporate income tax would help American workers

Staring down what could be a tough year, President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are focusing their message on the tired theme of “income inequality,” focusing state-based measures to raise the minimum wage and extend jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed.

But the focus on heavy-handed and expensive government programs is misguided. In an op-ed yesterday at The New York Times, Laurence Kotlikoff explained that the best way to help American workers is to eliminate the corporate income tax.

“That might sound like a giveaway to the rich. It’s not,” wrote Kotlikoff, an economic professor at Boston University. “The rich, including Boeing’s stockholders, can take their companies and run — and not just from Washington State to, say, North Carolina.”

“To avoid our federal corporate tax, they can, and often do, move their operations and jobs abroad,” he noted. “Apple’s tax return says it all: The company, according to one calculation, paid only 8.2 percent of its worldwide profits in United States corporate income taxes, thanks to piling up most of its profits and locating far too many of its operations overseas.”

Democrats, Big Labor plan state-based minimum wage initiatives in 2014

Well, this is entirely unsurprising. With Obamacare looking like a political liability for Democrats in the 2014 mid-term election, the White House and its Leftist allies are looking to launch initiatives to raise the minimum wage in states where vulnerable incumbents face tough bids for re-election:

Democratic Party leaders, bruised by months of attacks on the new health care program, have found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014: an increase in the minimum wage.

The effort to take advantage of growing populism among voters in both parties is being coordinated by officials from the White House, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups.
“It puts Republicans on the wrong side of an important value issue when it comes to fairness,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser. “You can make a very strong case that this will be a helpful issue for Democrats in 2014. But the goal here is to actually get it done. That’s why the president put it on the agenda.”
At the same time, Democratic campaign officials and liberal activists — conceding that Democrats face tough prospects in some Senate races — are working to put minimum-wage increases on the ballot next year in places like Arkansas, Alaska and South Dakota. The hope is to stoke Democratic turnout in conservative-leaning states where the party’s Senate candidates have been put on the defensive by the mishandled rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Poll: Americans pessimistic about the economy

More than five years after the recession officially ended, there are some signs of life in the economy. There have been a couple months solid job growth and the stock market is surging. But the vast majority of Americans are still pessimistic about the economy as they head into 2014, according to a new CNN poll:

A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.

Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.

And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.
Those people aren’t buying big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, and some were cutting back on essentials. Thirty-six percent said they were cutting back spending on food or medicine, up from 31% in late 2008, the year the housing market collapsed.

It hard to blame people for feeling this way about the economy and for doubting that there will be any improvement in the next year. They’ve been told time after time by President Obama that the economy was improving. How many times were we told that the 2009 stimulus saved the economy or hear the phrase “summer of recovery”?

Paul, McConnell introduce Economic Freedom Zones Act in Senate

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) formally introduced a measure on Wednesday to empower impoverished cities by giving them and their residents a break from the onerous federal tax and regulatory burdens which keep them from prosperity in tough economic times.

The Economic Freedom Zones Act of 2013 would lower personal and corporate income tax rates in cities, counties or zip codes that meets certain criteria, such as those that have either filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy and an unemployment rate of 1.5 times the national average. The measure would also provide federal regulatory relief, including exemptions from onerous EPA rules that result in the loss of federal highway and transit funds and Davis-Bacon prevailing wage work requirements.

“In order to change our course, we must reverse the trend toward more Big Government by ending the corporate welfare and crony capitalism that limits choice and stifles competition,” said Paul in a statement. “We must encourage policies that will lift up the individual, allow for the creation of new jobs, improve the school system and get these communities back to work.”

“The answer to poverty and unemployment is not another government bailout; it is simply leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it. The Economic Freedom Zones Act of 2013 will do just that,” he added.

Why we’ll see a minimum wage increase, whether we need it or not

Folks, there is going to be a minimum wage increase.  Despite the fact that only a fraction of workers actually draw minimum wage, and despite the fact that folks are actually living better on minimum wage than they did 20 years ago, we are going to see the minimum wage increase.

One of the problems with democracy is that the rule by the masses means that those who feel they have a tough spot in life will automatically vote with anyone who offers to make it better, while those who feel sorrow for such people will often vote along the same lines out of either guilt or pity.  This is why we have entitlement programs that, while having done absolutely nothing in the war on poverty, are here to stay.

Support for increasing the minimum wage is high.  In a recent report from the Wall Street Journal:

Americans strongly favor boosting the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour but oppose raising it above that, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. In the survey, 63% supported a rise to $10.10 from the current $7.25 rate. Senate Democrats have proposed an increase of that size and it is supported by President Barack Obama.

In the poll, 43% said they backed an increase to $12.50 an hour. Only 28% backed a $15 wage—the rate sought by union-linked demonstrators at fast-food restaurants across the country.

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