Reports by industry groups have warned of dire consequences from pending EPA limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants. In recent weeks, conservative media have promoted and in some cases even overstated these predictions of a "regulatory train wreck." But according to a detailed analysis by the Congressional Research Service, many of these claims rely on unrealistic assumptions.
CRS assessed reports by the Edison Electric Institute, which concluded that new EPA regulations "would cause the unplanned retirement of" up to 18.8 percent of coal fired electric capacity by 2015, and by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which "concluded that the implementation of four EPA rules could result in a loss of up to 19% of fossil-fuel-fired steam capacity" by 2018. CRS concluded (emphasis added):
The EEI and other analyses discussed here generally predate EPA's actual proposals and reflect assumptions about stringency and timing (especially for implementation) that differ significantly from what EPA actually may propose or has promulgated. Some of the rules are expected to be expensive; costs of others are likely to be moderate or limited, or they are unknown at this point because a rule has not yet been proposed. Rules when actually proposed or issued may well differ enough that a plant operator's decision about investing in pollution controls or facility retirement will look entirely different from what these analyses project.
The primary impacts of many of the rules will largely be on coal-fired plants more than 40 years old that have not, until now, installed state-of-the-art pollution controls. Many of these plants are inefficient and are being replaced by more efficient combined cycle natural gas plants, a development likely to be encouraged in the price of competing fuel--natural gas--continues to be low, almost regardless of EPA rules.
From the July 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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When the New York Times reported that General Electric paid no federal taxes -- and in fact claimed a $3 million tax benefit -- on $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, $5.1 billion of which came from operations in the U.S., I figured some conservatives would defend GE's ability to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in profits. But I must confess some surprise at one response to the story: Mona Charen's argument that GE's tax-free billions somehow demonstrate that corporate taxes in the U.S. are too high.
a responsible company will seek to minimize costs and maximize profits. That's how companies are able to provide jobs. The corporate rate in the U.S. is 35 percent, among the highest in the industrialized world. Even "spread the wealth around" Barack Obama has recommended reducing it so that some of those dollars (and jobs) currently hiding out abroad can be repatriated.
It takes an impressive amount of audacity to use a column about GE paying no federal income taxes as an opportunity to complain that the corporate tax rate is too high. A more honest column would have noted that the effective corporate tax rate in America is much lower -- after all, Charen was writing about a company that paid no taxes on more than $5 billion in US profits.
Even when Charen grudgingly concedes that there may be reason to be dismayed at GE's ability to avoid taxes, she doesn't seem to think there's any problem, in and of itself, with GE not paying taxes:
The Times is clearly scandalized -- and perhaps it should be. After all, at least some of the tax breaks GE has been able to take advantage of were the result of aggressive lobbying.
This is like complaining that burglars pried open a window, rather than that they stole everything in the house.
Townhall Finance Editor John Ransom is the latest right-wing media figure to compare labor unions to terrorists:
That wasn't merely an overheated headline: Ransom reiterated the comparison in the body of his post:
If they can't get what they want at the negotiating table, the UAW will now try the economic equivalent of a suicide bombing of the economy. Never mind that they already destroyed the US automakers and their employees.
Townhall columnist and talk radio host Andrew Tallman finds a rather inflammatory way to emphasize his dislike of the government:
[T]he government itself is made up of people: real, morally flawed people. Since bad people with power are capable of far greater evil than bad people without it, our country is predicated on the belief that we have more to fear from sinners in government than we do from sinners with personal freedom.
Remember, the government has guns, too. And their misuse of them in history has been exponentially worse than anything private individuals have done. But because Gail Collins has unshakeable faith in the inherent goodness of Government, she doesn't mind trusting its guns. As for me, I'd rather take my chances with the Jared Loughners of the world.
Anti-government right-wingers usually stick to denouncing Department of Education bureaucrats; Tallman goes further and suggests he sees the U.S. military and law enforcement personnel as a greater threat than Jared Loughner. Good to know.
Until the last few paragraphs, Phyllis Schlafly's latest Townhall column is a fairly typical right-wing assault on education spending, filled with angry denunciations of "the notoriously useless program called Head Start." Again: Fairly typical stuff -- for some reason, conservatives hate spending money to help kids learn. But then things take an interesting twist -- Schlafly comes up with something worth spending money on:
Children should be taught to read in the first grade by an authentic phonics system in which they learn the sounds and syllables of the English language and how to put them together to read words of more than one syllable. There is nothing expensive or mysterious about this basic task.
Instead of wasting more federal money on grant-writers and grant-readers, tell local districts to award a bonus to first-grade teachers based on how many kids they actually teach to read. Let the teacher select the phonics system she thinks will help her win the bonus.
And then this note:
Phyllis Schlafly is the author of a phonics system for first-graders called "First Reader," which sells for only $29.95 with an accompanying Workbook for $9.95 (free shipping).
Well, that certainly works out nicely.
According to Schlafly's Eagle Forum website, the "First Reader" workbook has been around since 1994. So I couldn't help wondering if Schlafly has used her various columns to tout the efficacy of phonics systems without disclosing her financial interest in doing so. And, as it turns out, she has.
Last September, Creators Syndicate distributed a Schlafly column that denounced "non-phonics in reading instruction" as an approach that "parents find offensive." That column did not include a disclaimer noting Schlafly's authorship of a phonics program. But that's only the most recent of several examples of Schlafly touting phonics without disclosing her interest in doing so, which include a July 2003 Schlafly column and another from August 27, 2007:
Public schools should teach all first-graders to read by the time-tested phonics system, and teach all schoolchildren to know and use the fundamentals of arithmetic by the end of the third grade. This would end the shocking epidemic of illiteracy that now permits students to get into high school and even graduate without being able to read, write or calculate change at the grocery store.
And in October of 1999, Schlafly wrote an entire column denouncing a textbook that criticized phonics, somehow managing to write "The textbook includes a chapter warning teachers against a 'Far Right' conspiracy of 'laypersons' to teach phonics … The textbook identifies yours truly as a co-conspirator" without ever getting around to mentioning that she sells a phonics system.
Remember: If it seems like conservative media figures are trying to sell you something, they probably are.
work to install a Bible curriculum into your public school district. Yes, it's legal, constitutional and being placed right now in thousands of schools across the country. A brand-new electronic version of the curriculum is available this week. The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools' curriculum has been voted into 572 school districts (2,086 high schools) in 38 states, from Alaska and California to Pennsylvania and Florida. Ninety-three percent of school boards that have been approached to date with the curriculum have voted to implement it because the course helps students understand the Bible's influence and impact on history, literature, our legal and educational systems, art, archaeology and other parts of civilization. In this elective class, students are required to read through their textbook -- the Bible.
According to a 2008 Austin American-Statesman article, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has been criticized by religious scholars for "sloppy work," factual errors, and for portraying conservative protestant Christianity as the "only true religion":
Legal issues aside, [University of Texas biblical studies professor Steven] Friesen said the National Council curriculum is "sloppy work" with factual, historical mistakes; dubious sources; and a shallow understanding of the academic discipline.
A review of the curriculum published in an academic journal last year found that it assumes that conservative Protestant Christianity is the "only true religion" and that the Bible is "infallible and thus historically accurate."
"As a whole, it does little to describe the Bible in literature, and it presents a particular view of biblical history that may push the bounds of what is acceptable in a public-school setting," wrote the authors, one of whom is Kent Richards, director of the Society of Biblical Literature.
And Chuck Norris claims this curriculum is a corrective to schools functioning as as "indoctrination camps."
Is there a better example of how hilariously out of touch conservative pundits are than their belief that Americans hate teachers? Here's Townhall columnist Bill Murchison:
[O]nce public education lost in great degree the robust support of the middle class, there was nowhere for things to go but downhill.
Education made for a stronger, wiser America. That is what we believed -- and why we supported teachers and principals.
You say I am generalizing. I am. Every assertion regarding the human experience is a generalization. The point is, we used to like teachers and support them. What happened?
Parents, I tell you, used to like teachers. Teachers liked parents in return. There was a kind of compact between them. Back us up, the teachers said, and we'll deliver the goods. The parents nodded their heads. OK.
That was until the compact came apart and society as a whole withdrew its support from the teacher: the teacher as authority figure anyway.
I look forward to Bill Murchison's next column, in which he will presumably address America's growing hatred of puppies and ice cream.
Last week, Townhall columnist Chuck Norris compared teachers unions to the mafia. Now he's expanding his attacks on public education, complaining about "scientific paradigms" and calling public schools "indoctrination camps":
On Dec. 27, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote about his vision for the University of Virginia (chartered in 1819): "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."
But what should happen 200 years later when our public schools and universities avoid the testing of truths? Or suppress alternative opinions because they are unpopular or politically incorrect? Or no longer tolerate opinions now considered errors or obsolete by the elite? What happens when socio-political agendas or scientific paradigms dominate academic views to the exclusion of a minority's even being mentioned?
What happens when the political and public educational pendulum swings from concern for the tyranny of sectarianism in Jefferson's day to secularism in ours? What happens when U.S. public schools become progressive indoctrination camps?
Townhall's David Stokes writes:
This brings us back around to public employee unions. President Kennedy signed an executive order in 1962 effectively lifting a long-standing ban against government employees organizing to bargain collectively. This, in fact, ushered in an era of unprecedented government growth at taxpayer expense.
Just one problem: That did not happen.
Here's a chart showing federal government spending as a share of GDP from 1900 to 2010, courtesy of the website USGovernmentSpending.com, which is maintained by right-wing writer Christopher Chantrill:
Notice what it doesn't show? That's right: it does not show an "era of unprecedented government growth" following Kennedy's 1962 decision to lift the ban on collective bargaining by government employees.
Obama is the "Girls Gone Wild" president: Stick a lens in front of him and he'll take off his shirt, mince about like a coed, and babble nonsensical nothings to an audience oddly fascinated by his antics.
Wow. That's pretty bad. The verb "mince" is often used as an anti-gay pejorative.
Shapiro then goes on to diagnose the president with what he claims is "clearly a psychological condition," presumably drawing on the extensive psychiatric expertise he developed by staying in a Holiday Inn Express last night:
Obama's desperate need for attention is clearly a psychological condition. He drinks in applause like a washed-up movie star. It is usual for neglected children to develop narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), typically characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a strong sense of entitlement, preoccupations with utopian fantasies, elitism, manipulative tendencies and pathological need for praise.
President Obama was abandoned by his parents during childhood. Now he exhibits the textbook symptoms of NPD. He thinks his powers are godlike in import; "I have a gift, Harry," Obama once told Sen. Harry Reid. He believes he is entitled to positions of power and prestige. He has never worked a real job in his life, yet deigns to tell the rest of us that he embodies our hopes and dreams.
Yeah, it's so weird that the President of the United States thinks he's "entitled to positions of power and prestige"! (Or maybe, as President, Obama simply holds a position of power and prestige?) Sadly, running the executive branch of government for the most powerful nation on earth isn't a "real job," according to Townhall columnist Ben Shapiro, whose bio notes he is also "a regular guest on dozens of radio shows around the United States and Canada."
Heritage Foundation president and Townhall columnist Ed Feulner hates government deficits and debt. We know this because he devoted a column last August to "a Tide of Red Ink." And because he declared last November that "the people … cried out against … soaring debt." And because in December, he complained that the "extension of unemployment insurance" would "add to our already disastrous long-term fiscal problem." And that "The debt problem … is real. And it's getting worse. The national debt is set to double over the next decade, due to out-of-control spending in Washington. The inevitable result, The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl assures us, is higher interest rates, slower economic growth, and rising tax rates."
So given Ed Feulner's principled and consistent opposition to government deficits and debts, I was excited when I saw the headline on his latest column: "Reagan's True Legacy." Finally, I hoped, a conservative columnist would take a break from the hagiography and acknowledge that Reagan was responsible for massive increases in both annual deficits and national debt, as these charts from Feulner's own Heritage Foundation show.
Alas, the word "deficit" does not appear in Feulner's examination of "Reagan's True Legacy." Nor does the word "debt." Perhaps it isn't deficits Feulner hates -- it's Barack Obama?
It's bad enough that he ignores inconvenient facts in a column purportedly about "Reagan's True Legacy" -- but Feulner actively misleads as well. "Reagan created a genuine economic miracle," Feulner tells us. "Americans of every class -- rich, middle-class and poor -- saw their wealth increase." In fact, the Reagan years were awfully good for the rich (as are most years) but did little for the rest of the country. Annual wages for the top one percent of earners soared, while wages for 90 percent of Americans stayed essentially flat through the 1980s. Don't hold your breath waiting for a conservative columnist to mention that.
It's hard to top Andrew Malcolm when it comes to hilarious Palin poll-spinning, but Townhall's Bruce Bialosky gives Malcolm a run for his money with this attempt to explain away Palin's declining poll numbers:
First, the MSM is comparing her current approval ratings to those of December, 2008, when she was the leading light of the Republican Party. As the losing presidential candidate, Senator McCain had fallen into some disfavor while Ms. Palin, the charismatic, young Vice-Presidential nominee, represented the party's future. Republicans in Congress had not yet started to assert themselves, and 2012 was a distant thought. Her sky-high 70% poll numbers from that time were bound to fall, as almost any politician's would.
Sarah Palin did not have "sky-high 70% poll numbers" in December of 2008. For the three months from November 1 2008 through the end of January, 2009, Palin's favorable rating* was stuck in the high 30s -- with more than half of Americans having an unfavorable impression of her. Bialosky's attempt to claim that Palin's poll numbers simply show natural erosion from an astronomical level is false: She had bad numbers in late 2008, and they've gotten worse.
Third, Ms. Palin had very little competition for the affections of the populace. That scenario ran for a long time – actually for about a year. Then America met Chris Christie, the new Governor of New Jersey, Bob McDonnell, the new Virginia Governor, and Scott Brown, who captured Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Each of these men, elected in the first post-Obama ballot, drew attention away from Ms. Palin and changed the overall perspective of the voters.
One little problem with the theory that Palin's popularity has suffered as Bob McDonnell's has soared: Nobody in America knows who the heck Bob McDonnell is. Other than that, though: Genius!
* Though Bialosky refers to Palin's "approval ratings," I'm going to assume he means "favorable ratings," as pollsters don't tend to assess job approval ratings for Facebook celebrities. (Pollster.com tracks Palin's favorable ratings but not approval ratings; PollingReport.com also lists favorable ratings for Palin but not approval ratings.) Bialosky didn't refer or link to any specific poll, probably because he made up his claims about Palin's December 2008 approval.
Townhall columnist Star Parker has an impressively unhinged reaction to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
Homosexual behavior is unacceptable by these moral standards.
President Obama said that repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell "will strengthen our national security."
I cannot think of anything more dangerous to our national security and the ongoing strength of our nation than the collapse of our sense that there are objective rights and wrongs.
Really? The single greatest threat to national security and the strength of the nation is the existence of some openly gay Marines? That's the best news I've heard all day.
Townhall columnist Tony Blankley, a top aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, completely misrepresents that era:
Bill Clinton, of course, is famous for triangulating between the Republicans and the Democrats, moving to the center/right, signing the Republican welfare reform bill (which he had twice vetoed before the election of 1994, when the GOP thumpingly took back the House and Senate), agreed to the Republican-proposed balanced budget (which he steadfastly opposed before the election), proclaimed that the era of big government was over and, in his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, bragged about signing into law 14 items that had been in the Republican "Contract with America."
Bill Clinton did not veto welfare reform before the 1994 election. Didn't happen. In fact, he didn't veto anything before the 1994 election: The first veto of his presidency came in June of 1995. Clinton vetoed GOP welfare reform proposals in late 1995 and early 1996, after which he built up a 20-point lead over Bob Dole before signing a welfare package in August 1996. The difference between Tony Blankley's completely false history and the reality of what happened is not a trivial matter of misremembered dates: It fundamentally undercuts Blankley's point.
Nor did Clinton oppose a Republican-proposed balanced budget prior to the 1994 election, as Blankely suggests -- in part because there was no such budget. (Republicans did produce alternative budgets in 1993 and 1994 but neither was balanced.) In fact, the Republicans -- every one of them -- opposed Clinton's deficit-reducing 1993 budget. In the winter of 1995-96, Clinton vetoed the Republican budget, again undermining Blankley's portrayal of Clinton as quickly caving to GOP demands after the 1994 election.
Finally, I have no idea what Blankley thinks is the basis for claiming that Clinton "bragged" in his 1996 convention speech about "signing into law 14 items that had been in the Republican 'Contract with America.'" That contract contained only 10 bills -- and wasn't mentioned in Clinton's speech. More broadly, the suggestion that the speech was some conservative capitulation to the Republicans is ludicrous. In it, Clinton bragged about the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban and a minimum-wage increase -- none of which was popular with Republicans. He excoriated Republicans for producing a budget that contained "cuts that devastate education for our children, that pollute our environment, that end the guarantee of health care for those who are served under Medicaid, that end our duty or violate our duty to our parents through Medicare." He blasted the GOP's "risky $550 billion tax scheme that will force them to ask for even bigger cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment than they passed and I vetoed last year." And so on.
I understand why conservatives like Blankley and Andrew Malcolm want to pretend that Bill Clinton governed like an arch-conservative: He had considerably more success than the most recent president who was actually conservative. But it would be nice if they used some examples that are, you know, true.