Too many federal government programs to list

Kathryn Watson of the Daily Caller reports skeptical reactions among congressional Republicans, including North Carolina’s Mark Meadows, to reports that the federal government needs years to compile a list of all of its programs.

It will take the government two years just to list all federal programs and that’s “not a way to run a government,” the Comptroller of the United States told Congress Wednesday.

A hint of why compiling such a list will be so time-consuming is seen in two of the seemingly unrelated subjects that came up during the hearing – voodoo dolls and federal data.

Office of Management and Budget officials were required by a law passed five years ago – the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act – but they opted instead to wait until Congress approved the Data Act. Congress did so in 2014. The Data Act requires the federal government to standardize and publish spending-related reports.

But there is still no standard definition or list of federal programs. That’s a problem, said Comptroller Gene Dodaro during the joint meeting of the information technology and government operations subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the Data Act.

“This is not a way to run a government,” Dodaro said. “You need to have that information.”

David Mader, the man President Obama appointed as OMB’s controller, told the committee that his office won’t even start defining federal programs until they’ve first defined all underlying federal activities, so his “sense is that that won’t be finished until after May of 2017.” Obama will no longer be president then. …

… Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N. Car., said the federal government’s study of hungry and angry spouses stabbing voodoo dolls, mentioned in former Sen. Tom Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ last year, illustrates why Congress needs to know exactly how federal agencies are spending money.

“To spend $331,000 to stick pens in a voodoo doll may be important to someone, but when we have so many unbelievable needs out there, to make an informed decision, we need data,” said Meadows, who is chairman of the oversight subcommittee.

Salam explores left-of-center critique of capitalism

Reihan Salam‘s latest column at National Review Online focuses on a recent complaint about the corporate world.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the recent push, from Hillary Clinton and others on the left, against what’s been dubbed “quarterly capitalism,” or the alleged tendency of publicly held companies to act in the short-term interests of speculators rather than in the long-term interests of more patient investors, and indeed the broader economy. The basic concern, as I understand it, is that in the age of activist shareholders, publicly held companies are not investing enough in increasing their productivity or in developing innovative new products. Rather, they are seeking to extract as much value out of the enterprise as they can through stock buybacks and other measures that enrich shareholders, including senior managers. But is this really a problem? Is Corporate America letting us all down by slavishly chasing returns when managers should be investing for the long term?

I should say that I don’t find the notion that quarterly capitalism is a problem absurd on its face. A number of thoughtful people, like the Harvard management theorist Clayton Christensen, have lamented the short-termism of U.S. corporate executives and the shareholders they serve. One irony of the fact that the Left is embracing a critique of quarterly capitalism is that private-equity firms — which, among other things, buy publicly held companies outright to restructure them, with an eye toward making them more valuable — represent one antidote to short-termism. As you’ll no doubt remember from the 2012 presidential campaign, it wasn’t so long ago that private-equity firms were the villain of the day. …

… Essentially, Clinton believes that the way to fix short-termism is to drastically raise taxes on capital gains from investments that last for less than six years, at which point the rate would fall to its current 20 percent. Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center offers a detailed critique of Clinton’s proposal, warning that it might lead investors to decide that intermediate-term investments, of five years or less, no longer make sense. Victor Fleischer, writing for Dealbook, has also made the case against Clinton’s approach, and he offers a clever alternative centered on how managers are compensated that I can see getting behind.

If our goal is to encourage firms to invest more and hoard less, there is a fairly straightforward option available to us: We could cut the corporate-income tax. As it stands, the very high U.S. corporate-income tax drives investment from the U.S. to other advanced economies. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that higher corporate tax rates suppress wage growth. Cutting corporate taxes might not be the kind of policy critics of quarterly capitalism have in mind. But it would go a long way toward addressing their underlying gripes about Corporate America.

This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Some of the loudest proponents for North Carolina’s renewable energy tax credits represent big businesses that take advantage of the credits. Rick Henderson discusses this underreported aspect of the renewable energy debate during the latest edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

Katherine Restrepo analyzes the Federal Trade Commission’s recent endorsement of a state House bill to scale back North Carolina’s certificate-of-need restrictions. Jenna Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy explains key ways in which the modern-day higher education establishment attacks key pillars of Western civilization.

You’ll also hear from some north Mecklenburg County business interests challenging state plans to add toll lanes to Interstate 77. Plus the program features highlights from recent N.C. Supreme Court oral arguments in a lawsuit pitting Gov. Pat McCrory against top legislative leaders over appointments to state boards.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal Online on the N.C. congressional delegation’s reaction to Rep. Mark Meadows’ move to replace U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

Barry Smith reports on an audit that critiques a state program to teach blind people to run snack bars.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett’s Daily Journal argues against new toll lanes for Interstate 77.

North Carolina Lawmakers Don’t Like Obamacare’s Mandates, But They Like Their Own

…And they can even exempt themselves from these laws that they pass.

Throughout North Carolina’s present legislative session, a number of bills have been filed calling for health insurers to expand coverage to include benefits such as oral cancer drugs, autism therapy, and chiropractic care. The Associated Press reports that the introduced bills could amount to an additional 16 percent rate increase if passed.

Keep in mind this doesn’t factor in the average double digit premium increases for 2016 non-group ACA plans proposed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Coventry, and United.

But could it be that coverage mandates aren’t necessary to access decent health benefits?

Read more from my latest Forbes piece here.

C-SPAN2’s Book TV highlights recent JLF speech again Saturday afternoon

If you missed Raleigh author Garland Tucker’s recent John Locke Foundation speech about his new book, Conservative Heroes, you have another chance to watch the lecture Saturday afternoon on C-SPAN2.

Book TV is scheduled to show Tucker’s lecture at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Click play below to watch an excerpt from the speech. Tucker discusses five key concepts that motivated the 14 leaders he labels American “conservative heroes.”

NC transportation bonds as reaction to Feds inability to pay promised Transportation $

McCrory was a quoted governor on the transportation funding problem in Washington D.C. and how it will effect the states.

“Once you start reacting to growth as opposed to preparing for growth, you’ve waited too long,” said North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican who is proposing a $2.8 billion bond package for the November ballot. “Plus, it’s going to cost more.”

Other states have decided to increase their state gas tax to fill the hole,

States including Republican-led Iowa and South Dakota have also increased gas taxes or borrowed to compensate for federal inaction.

And some states have decided not to go forward with much needed construction projects.

Amid the uncertainty, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming have delayed construction projects totaling about $2 billion, according to the Transportation Department.

“It’s had a dramatic impact,” said Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, which has delayed contracts slated to start this year for 75 projects totaling $335 million.

Virginia’s McAuliffe said if there’s no deal by Friday it will affect about 400 projects totaling $1.2 billion in his state.

The real story is, what happens if the Federal Government doesn’t give states the transportation money they have been promised.  Here is what a few Governor’s said about that….

U.S. governors don’t really care whether it’s the Senate or House plan to pay for the nation’s roads and bridges that advances. They just want a long-term deal.

Frustrated by 33 short-term funding extensions during the past five years that left them unable to plan, attendees at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend in West Virginia said it’s past time for action.

“I’ll take whatever they’re willing to give me,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and incoming vice-chairman of the association. “Make a decision. Give us long-term funding. America needs this.”

“Whatever mechanism they use, we’d like to see stability and something that’s sustainable for a long period of time,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a six-term Republican.

Congress must strike a deal, said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who is outgoing chairman of the association.

Will Glass-Steagall come back?

An article from The Hill:

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) said Wednesday that re-implementing Glass-Steagall, a law designed to break up big banks is “probably not realistic.”

The head of the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington and a 2012 presidential contender’s comments made his comments in response to former Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-Texas) seeming support for implementing Glass-Steagall.

“Look, let’s agree — no more too big to fail, no more bailouts, no more subsidies, no more too big to jail, and if you don’t think Dodd-Frank did it — then what’s your proposal?
“Let’s see what [Perry] has to say in specifics. Going back to Glass-Steagall probably isn’t realistic at this point,” Pawlenty said on Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto Coast to Coast.”

Glass-Steagall is a Depression-era law that then-President Bill Clinton repealed in 1999. It would require banks to split their commercial and investment banking operations. It’s popular amongst progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but has also been championed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Perry, who is running for the 2016 GOP nomination, said in New York earlier Wednesday that “we could once again require banks to separate their traditional commercial lending and investment banking and related practices.”