For This City, Immigrant Surge Proves ‘More Than It Can Handle’

Josh Siegel /

Just 10 miles north of Boston is Lynn, Mass., an industrial city once was known for its shoe-making. In fact, a colonial boot graces the official city seal.

Lynn’s blue collar base made it a logical place for affordable housing, which has attracted a large immigrant population.

“Lynn has always been an immigrant community and we have always been welcoming to all of the immigrants that call Lynn home,” Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy told The Daily Signal.

Last month, though, Kennedy began speaking out against a new strand of immigration: an influx of immigrant children from Central America who settle in her city and — the mayor says — drain its resources.

“I have been called a racist and a hater,” Kennedy said. “That’s not true.”

Lynn, Mass.

Lynn, Mass.

Kennedy, a Republican, said of her town:

We have never questioned where people come from [or] what their immigration status is. We’ve simply absorbed them and welcomed them into our community. But lately, because of the numbers, we have had to sit up and take notice and ask the [federal] government to help us out.

Late last month, demonstrators stood outside Lynn City Hall to protest comments Kennedy made on television news about the costs attributable to immigrant children, many of them in the United States illegally.

Kennedy told the local Fox affiliate that because of the surge of immigrants, “it’s gotten to the point where the school system is overwhelmed, our Health Department is overwhelmed, the city’s budget is being … altered in order to accommodate all of these [public school] admissions.”

The tension on view in Lynn is similar to that in communities across the country that have become home to unaccompanied immigrant children, here illegally, while they await federal court proceedings.

When an unaccompanied child enters the U.S. illegally and is taken into custody by immigration authorities, federal law requires that the child initially be sheltered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS cares for such children in shelters until it can reunite them with family or other sponsors already living in the United States.

According to HHS data, as of July 31, a total of 989 unaccompanied children had been released to sponsors in Massachusetts.

None of the more than 60,000 Central American minors detained this year has been deported after crossing the Mexican border and into the U.S.

Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the mayor of Lynn, Mass., spoke Wednesday at the National Press Center.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy talks about her city’s newcomers at the National Press Club. (Photo: Josh Siegel/Daily Signal)

Reluctantly in Spotlight

Kennedy spoke at the National Press Club during a Wednesday event sponsored by the Center for Immigration Studies as a way to magnify the Lynn story. Afterward, she had meetings with congressional staffers to talk about federal assistance.

“I’m not really comfortable being the spokesperson, but I will if I have to,” Kennedy told The Daily Signal after the CIS event. “A community as far north as little old Lynn, Mass., is housing more kids than it can handle.”

The second-term mayor said she has had to divert more money this year to the city’s school district, which under federal law must educate any eligible student, regardless of immigration status.

For the 2015 fiscal year, Kennedy said, she had to increase the school department’s budget 9.3 percent and cut all other city budgets between 2 percent and 5 percent. She said:

 We have had hire more [teacher] aides, you have to increase class space and you have to spend a certain amount of money per student. We built a new middle school [to open in 2016] even though Lynn has very little land left to develop.



To compensate for added school costs, the mayor said, the city cut a police program in which officers patrolled neighborhoods on bicycles. The program had decreased gang activity in Lynn, which has had a reputation for high crime rates.

Residential apartment units also are scarce. The city hired more nurses and extended hours at its health clinic to serve an increase in students who require vaccinations.

“These are quality-of-life issues that have been affected,” the mayor said.

An Immigrant Community

Lynn long has had a large Latino population. As of the 2010 census, 32 percent of the total population was Latino, including 6 percent Guatemalans.

For the purposes of public education, the city cannot differentiate illegal immigrants from legal immigrants or refugees.


In the 2010-11 school year, 54 newly enrolled students were from outside the U.S. In the 2013-14 school year, that number jumped to 538.

Incomes tend to be relatively low in Lynn, and 81 percent of students in the school district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Kennedy began seeing a significant increase in unaccompanied children from Guatemala, one of the three Central American countries contributing to the border surge, along with El Salvador and Honduras.

Between September 2012 and June 2013, Lynn Public Schools — the fifth-largest school district in the state — enrolled 56 new ninth-graders from Guatemala.The next school year, that number nearly doubled, to 101.

For the new school year, which begins after Labor Day, only 10 new Guatemalan students are enrolled so far.

Looking for Help

Kennedy said she didn’t plan to ask congressional staffers for a specific solution to slow the border surge. The mayor said  it’s not her place to debate federal immigration policies.

But, she said, she is hopeful that federal officials can assist communities such as Lynn in some way, whether it be providing financial aid or setting up a regional school to serve more students.

“I have been called a racist and a hater,” Kennedy said. “That’s not true. I am just looking at the impact on my community.” She added:

Lynn is a very diverse community and I love that it’s diverse. I am not here to speak about broad immigration policy. I am just looking for a more equitable solution from the federal government.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)

‘Equitable solution’: Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Photo: Josh Siegel/The Daily Signal)




IRS Struggling to Figure Out Which Companies Owe This Obamacare Tax - Daily Signal

IRS Struggling to Figure Out Which Companies Owe This Obamacare Tax

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler /

NASHVILLE — Internal Revenue Service officials must enforce a new Obamacare tax designed to collect money from medical device manufacturers, but they’re losing money because they don’t know which companies even qualify for the tax, a new audit shows.

On top of that, the IRS wrongly penalized more than 200 of these companies for not paying their taxes when, in fact, they did pay, the audit from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports.

Why doesn’t the IRS know whom to tax?

Medical device manufacturers have to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration.

But the FDA’s registration requirements for medical device manufacturers never quite matched that of the IRS.

Because of the ensuing confusion, tax revenues are far lower than expected, by as much as $117.8 million for one period alone last year.

Members of the Washington, D.C.-based Advanced Medical Technology, a trade association that opposes the tax and wants full repeal, say the findings don’t surprise them.

“We’ve expressed concerns from the outset that the device tax is poorly conceived, applying an excise tax — usually reserved for rubber tires, alcohol and tobacco — to an extremely diverse high-technology manufacturing industry,” said AdvaMed’s Vice President J.C. Scott, in an email to Tennessee Watchdog.

The organization, Scott added, warned the IRS of these potential problems before the law’s implementation.

“The device tax remains a drag on medical innovation and has resulted in the loss or deferral of more than 33,000 industry jobs.”

11 Reasons Why ISIS Might Be More Dangerous Than al-Qaeda - Daily Signal

11 Reasons Why ISIS Might Be More Dangerous Than al-Qaeda

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes /

ISIS is not just the terror group de jour. They are a hugely successful movement with an apocalyptic, nihilistic philosophy. When they say “convert, join us, or die”, they not only mean it, but they follow through with horrific effect.

But let’s look deeper. What else makes them such a real security threat, to Iraq, to the region, to the world, and to the U.S.? Here are 11 reasons.

1. ISIS is more media sophisticated than al-Qaeda and excels in using social media as a tool of terrorism. The group’s twitter and YouTube postings in English show that the West is often their target audience.

2. ISIS is flush with cash. ISIS’ territorial control allows for consistent stream of funding, and they‘ve developed an extensive extortion racket, as well as selling electricity and exporting oil and gas.

3. Because of ISIS rise to prominence, many al-Qaeda-linked groups are now pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi’s ISIS, including elements of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Dine (Tunisia) Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), giving ISIS access to a global network of terrorists.

4. ISIS controls territory the size of Maryland in the heart of the arab world, which is important for a predominantly Arab revolutionary terrorist group. The al-Qaeda core group along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border controls no territory and is dependent on Afghan and Pakistani Islamist militants who act as hosts.

5. ISIS has evolved into a proto-state, with its own army, civil administration, judiciary and a sophisticated propaganda operation. Al-Qaeda core leaders are fugitives who are forced to live a clandestine existence under the constant threat of drone strikes or commando assaults.

A Peshmerga soldier watches ISIS lines in the distance at a military outpost located at the entrance of Gwer, Iraq. (Photo: Vianney Le Caer/Newscom)

A Peshmerga soldier watches ISIS lines in the distance at a military outpost located at the entrance of Gwer, Iraq. (Photo: Vianney Le Caer/Newscom)

6. ISIS is the most heavily-armed Islamist extremist group in history, having captured huge amounts of military weapons and equipment in Iraq and Syria.

7. ISIS is out-recruiting Al-Qaeda. It is estimated that 80 percent of the foreign militants that flock to Syria join ISIS, rather than al-Qaeda’s franchise, the Al-Nusra Front. ISIS appears to have success with recruitment of Westerners as well.

8. The leader of ISIS, who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a charismatic leader who claims descent from the Prophet Mohammed. This will help recruit young, impressionable Muslims. He has much more personal appeal for young Muslim militants than Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a dour and didactic theoretician.

9. ISIS is better placed to not only attract recruits from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the United States, but get them into the fight. It is much easier to travel across the dissolving borders of Iraq and Syria than it is to travel to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

10. ISIS has declared the rebirth of the Caliphate and the leader of ISIS has proclaimed himself to be Caliph Ibrahim.

11. ISIS is the richest terrorist group in history. It looted at least five banks in Iraq, including Mosul’s central bank, which yielded more than $400 million dollars in gold and Iraqi currency. It controls oil fields in Syria and Iraq that generate income and it has pocketed millions of dollars in ransoms for hostages.

In summary, ISIS is an army, not just a terror group. ISIS is the biggest terror group ever. ISIS is actually established as a state, a caliphate at that, and it’s richer than al-Qaeda. It holds more territory than al-Qaeda, it’s drawing more recruits than al-Qaeda, and it’s more brutal than al-Qaeda.

This group must be forcefully addressed and stopped.


Who Was Missing From Acceptance Speeches at the Emmys and VMAs - Daily Signal

Who Was Missing From Acceptance Speeches at the Emmys and VMAs

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn /

The MTV Video Music Awards and Emmy Awards this week offered pop culture fans a foretaste of awards season, which — say those who notice such things — kicks off in November.

As the winners took the stage and clutched their trophies, they voiced immense gratitude to fans, producers, writers, agents, directors and so on.

Few, however, thanked God.

Back in the day, it was almost commonplace for acceptance speeches in the televised awards shows to include thanks to God; arguably the practice waned but then was renewed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, along with thanks to the first-responders and troops.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Pat Fagan, senior fellow and director of the  Marriage and Religion Research Institute  at the Family Research Council, said it’s a “pattern of human nature” to forget and remember God depending on the circumstance. Fagan said:

When things get better, people forget God. When things get bad, they turn back to Him again. It’s repeated throughout history. … It’s the way the human heart is made.

Today, movie stars, singers, and athletes tend to make headlines for expressing gratitude to God.

Of 17 awards presented Sunday night during the VMAs, nine speeches — including Beyonce’s acceptance of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award — were available for review online.

Only three — Beyonce; rapper Drake, who won for Best Hip Hop Video; and the group Fifth Harmony, who won for Artist to Watch — thanked God in their acceptance speeches. (Drake accepted his award during a concert Monday.)

After husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy presented her with the Video Vanguard Award, Beyonce told the audience:

I have nothing to say, but I’m filled with so much gratitude. I just thank God for this moment.

Monday night at the Emmys, more than 30 awards were handed out to actors, producers, writers and directors across a variety of television genres.

Of the 21 acceptance speeches published online, none contained thanks to God.

Those who do thank God in their speeches often make headlines for doing so.

In March, accepting the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club,”  McConaughey began his speech like this:

First off, I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to. He’s graced my life with opportunities that are not of my hand or any other human hand.

The media pounced, and outlets from The Huffington Post to Fox News wrote about the affirmation.

Two months later, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant accepted the MVP award from the National Basketball Association. Durant wowed fans when he thanked both his mother and God for “changing my life.”

Both McConaughey and Durant also faced criticism for expressing gratitude toward God.

On Twitter, detractors called on McConaughey to stop the “stupid God talk.”  During an interview with ESPN in January, a reporter chuckled as Durant said he thanked God for a standout game.

Fagan, though, said it’s natural for folks of many faiths — or no faith at all — to express gratitude when a blessing occurs:

It has its place after people win something they’ve striven for. They’ve needed the help of other people, and it’s not uncommon to thank God for a blessing. Gratitude for a blessing is known as a natural thing for a man or a woman to do.

Seriously? IRS Says Lois Lerner’s Blackberry Was ‘Wiped Clean’ - Daily Signal

Seriously? IRS Says Lois Lerner’s Blackberry Was ‘Wiped Clean’

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky /

August is supposed to be a quiet time in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area when Congress takes its traditional recess and everyone else who makes a living off Congress from lobbyists to journalists take advantage of the members’ absence and go on vacation. But events keep happening in the IRS scandal that are upsetting the usual norm, and the latest is more news about the destruction by the IRS of possible evidence in the case.

In addition to the investigation of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Judicial Watch has been dogged in pursuing litigation under the Freedom of Information Act against the Obama administration over its refusal to turn over documents in the IRS targeting scandal. Judicial Watch convinced the federal judge assigned to its case, Emmet G. Sullivan, that the IRS needed to explain how a significant chunk of Lois Lerner’s emails could have gone missing and why the agency did not bother to inform Judicial Watch or the court. As a result, various IRS officials have been forced to file sworn affidavits with the court explaining the circumstances surrounding the hard drive on Lerner’s laptop going bad and their inability to recover any emails from that hard drive.

But in the midst of those affidavits was another stunning admission: that Lerner’s Blackberry had also been destroyed. Thomas J. Kane, the deputy associate chief counsel of the IRS, said in an affidavit that Lerner’s Blackberry, which had been issued to her on Nov. 12, 2009, had been “wiped clean” and “removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” There is no explanation given in Kane’s affidavit as to why this was done – in contrast to the detailed affidavits filed in the Judicial Watch case that describe the problems with Lerner’s hard drive on her laptop.

By June 2012, Lerner knew that the jig was up on the IRS’s targeting of conservative organizations applying for tax exempt status. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio,told Fox News that by June, his staff and that of the Oversight Committee “had sat down with Ms. Lerner and confronted her about information we were getting from conservative groups in the state of Ohio and around the country.”

Since, as one of the affidavits says, “the Blackberry device displays and stores” all of the emails contained in the Microsoft Outlook mailbox on a user’s office computer, Lerner’s Blackberry would have contained all of the emails that have conveniently gone missing due to the destruction of the laptop she used in her office. Yet the Blackberry was suddenly “wiped clean” in June right after Lerner realized that Congress was becoming aware of what her office was doing.

On top of that, Judicial Watch claims that a Justice Department lawyer admitted in a telephone call on August 22 that “Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.” But the Department of Justice lawyers said that “this back-up system would be too onerous to search.” This is in complete conflict with the statements by IRS officials, including Commissioner John Koskinen, that there are no back-up versions of the missing Lerner emails. DOJ says that Judicial Watch is misinterpreting the telephone call.

Judge Sullivan seems determined to find out what the real story is here since he has not only assigned a federal magistrate judge to oversee the issue but he has encouraged Judicial Watch to submit a request for further discovery into the missing IRS records after Sept. 10.

Cleta Mitchell, who represents True the Vote in its lawsuit against the IRS, says that she has been told about the back-up system by various government officials. And yet there is nothing in any of the affidavits filed by DOJ lawyers in the Judicial Watch case discussing this back-up system. If one does exist and DOJ lawyers have failed to inform Sullivan about it, they – and the administration – will be in deep trouble when they appear before Sullivan again.

America’s Allies in Thailand Require Insistent Patience - Daily Signal

America’s Allies in Thailand Require Insistent Patience

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky / Olivia Enos /

General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, leader of the May 2014 coup in Thailand, has capped off his rise to power by essentially appointing himself prime minister. His real accomplishment, however, will come in maintaining his pledge to return Thailand to democracy by October 2015.

Since leading the coup, General Prayuth declared martial law, instituted a temporary curfew, and significantly curtailed freedom of the press, association, and freedom of speech. His leadership has been representative of the military’s interest in tightening its grip on power.

In addition to being prime minister, Prayuth retains his positions as head of the National Council of Peace and Order and the head of the military. While Prayuth plans to resign from his position as head of the military in mid-September, the interim constitution gives the military a degree of “absolutist powers.” Reports indicate that Prayuth will appoint military officers, perhaps retired, to key cabinet posts.

The U.S. and Thailand have historically enjoyed robust military-to-military relations. The U.S. has long provided training and education to the Thai military and partnered with it on several prominent military exercises, including Cobra Gold, the largest multinational exercise in the Asia–Pacific.

Since the coup, the U.S. has suspended at least $3.5 million in foreign military financing assistance and $85,000 in international military education and training assistance. The U.S. also canceled military exercises and high-level exchanges between the two nations. The State Department has not officially revoked additional aid to Thailand, but assistance cannot legally be restored until democracy is restored.

The coup happened. That can’t be changed. But what can be changed is how the coup is handled.

Thailand is approaching a situation unknown to the vast majority of its people—a royal succession. And this on top of an extended period of upheaval surrounding the ambitions and political future of former (now fugitive) Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra. The U.S. should be patient with Thailand as it tries to work through this extraordinarily complex situation.

At the same time, for the sake of the alliance, it should persist in calling for a return to democracy and keep its friends in the military government to their word. While relations between the U.S. and Thailand may not get worse, they can’t get better until a democratically elected government takes office.

Q&A: Should the U.S. Bomb ISIS Targets in Syria? - Daily Signal

Q&A: Should the U.S. Bomb ISIS Targets in Syria?

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky / Olivia Enos / James Carafano /

1. Should the U.S. bomb ISIS targets in Syria?

It depends. Never take the decision to put U.S. troops in harm’s way lightly. First, there ought to be clear U.S .vital interest at stake. America has an interest in seeing ISIS driven out of Iraq. Attacking targets in Syria only make sense if they would be materially contribute to that end. Simply bombing targets alone rarely proves decisive in military operations. Striking targets has to be paired with other activities to take advantage of the effects of an attack. Military operations must also be proportional: they must have a suitable military purpose and take due care to minimize the danger to innocents on the battlefield.  All these issues have to be adequately addressed in order to determine whether attacking ISIS targets in Syria is a suitable, feasible and acceptable course of action.

2. Is it legal?

The administration will have to state the legal basis for any action. ISIS is a trans-national terrorist organization whose leadership was formerly aligned with and part of al-Qaeda. By engaging military action against U.S. persons and allies, and by announcing its intention to continue to attack the United States, our personnel, interests and allies, ISIS is a lawful target for U.S. military action. The administration may rely on the 2001 Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), the president’s Art II powers given in the U.S. Constitution, or both, or it may decide to seek additional authority from Congress.

3. Should the president consult Congress before extending combat operations into Syria?

Yes. It would be prudent for President Obama to seek a resolution from Congress before acting. This initiative would demonstrate that the president was acting with the strong support of the nation through the voice of its elected representatives—and that the president had explained the purpose and scope of the mission.

4. Should the administration work with the Syrian, Iranian and Russian governments to defeat ISIS in Syria?

No.  The Assad regime is despicable and as grave a threat to the people of Syria and peace and security in the region as ISIS. The Iranian government for its part has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism and has one of the world’s worst human rights records. Iran foreign policy has fomented sectarian conflict throughout the Middle East. Russia has been an unrelenting support of both the Iranian and Syrian regimes perpetuating the civil war and propping-up Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to cling to power.

5.  Can ISIS be defeated?

Yes. If the U.S. makes a concerted effort to work with other countries to shut down the pipeline funneling “foreign fighters” and support into Iraq, adequately supports a counteroffensive by Iraqi security forces to take back their country and works with the Iraqi government and friendly and allied nations to overcome the sectarian divide that has crippled the Iraqi political leadership, the Iraqi people have every prospect of winning back their country and their future.

Tuition Tax Credit Scholarships: Advancing School Choice Through Charitable Contributions - Daily Signal

Tuition Tax Credit Scholarships: Advancing School Choice Through Charitable Contributions

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky / Olivia Enos / James Carafano / Brittany Corona /

Nineteen-year-old Jorge Perez will attend Columbia University this fall to study philosophy and economics—something his single mother, Sophia Flores, never dreamed for her son. But when Sophia discovered Florida’s tuition tax credit scholarship program in 2003, the doors of opportunity opened for Jorge.

Sophia was able to use Jorge’s tax credit scholarship toward tuition at Academy Prep Center of Tampa. Jorge left the academy as eighth-grade valedictorian, earning an academic scholarship to attend an elite boarding school in New Hampshire, where he completed his studies last spring.

Florida’s tuition tax credit scholarship is just one of 17 tax credit programs in 14 states around the country. As of 2013, nearly 200,000 students were benefitting from this form of school choice—making tax credits the largest form of school choice in the country.

The K–12 education tax credit scholarship is unique because its funding is made up of private contributions to nonprofits that provide scholarships.

Education tax credits take two forms: donation tax credit scholarships and personal-use tax credits.

With tax credit scholarships, businesses or individuals who donate to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations can receive tax credits for their contributions. Some state tax credit options allow for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to 100 percent of the business or individual’s state income tax liability.

The ultimate beneficiary, however, is the student. Most tuition tax credit scholarships are geared toward assisting children from low-income families by empowering parents to send their children to private schools of choice.

Personal-use tax credits, on the other hand, enable families to receive tax relief for their own children’s education-related expenses, such as private school tuition.

According to Education Next’s 2014 opinion poll, 60 percent of the public supports tax credit scholarships. This is the highest public support of any school choice measure.

Tuition tax credits can be constructed to reduce costs to taxpayers while also increasing educational opportunity for children. Education analysts Ken Ardon and Jason Bedrick further explain in their report Giving Kids Credit: Using Scholarship Tax Credits to Increase Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts:

The overwhelming consensus of high-quality research is that educational choice programs increase student achievement, graduation rates, and college matriculation, and parents of students in such programs report very high levels of satisfaction with their chosen schools. Educational choice also benefits students who remain in the public schools because of increased competition.… A scholarship tax credit program would help provide low-income families with a level of opportunity that is more like their higher-income peers who already have a plethora of educational options. Low-income families often have no choice but their assigned public school. A scholarship tax credit program would allow these families to choose the school that best meets the individual needs of their children.

Tuition tax credit scholarships create school choice options that empower families while decreasing the size and scope of government in education.

New Report Shows U.S. Deficit for Just This Year Is Huge - Daily Signal

New Report Shows U.S. Deficit for Just This Year Is Huge

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky / Olivia Enos / James Carafano / Brittany Corona / Romina Boccia /

While many reports will focus on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 2014 deficit and economic forecast released today, a less-told story is what’s driving the growth in government spending over the next decade. Beyond current reporting on the federal government’s balance sheet, CBO reports also serve the important purpose of informing Congressional decision-making.

Today’s report unequivocally communicates: reform entitlement programs or watch government grow.

The Congressional Budget Office’s “Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024reports a federal deficit of $506 billion for fiscal year 2014 (which ends on September 30), slightly above its April projection of $492 billion. Spending in 2014 will be about $3.5 trillion, growing by about 2 percent compared to the previous year. The debt will rise slightly as a percentage of GDP to 74 percent, staying at a level not seen since World War II.

Over the next decade, government spending is projected to grow annually on average by 5.2 percent. Eighty-five percent of this projected growth in spending will be due to three main budget components: Social Security (the largest federal program), health care (spending on which will overtake Social Security spending by 2015), and interest on the debt.

The three major federal entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid— are growing faster than any other budget component, except interest on the debt. Those who seek to limit the size of government need to first understand the drivers of the growth in government spending if they are to be effective.

All of the increase in spending in 2014—all of it— is due to the growth in entitlement spending and interest on the debt, as discretionary spending particularly on defense continues to fall. According to the CBO:

“Outlays for mandatory programs, which are governed by statutory criteria and not normally controlled by the annual appropriation process, are projected to rise by about 4 percent. That increase reflects growth in some of the largest programs—including a 15 percent increase in spending for Medicaid and a roughly 5 percent increase in spending for Social Security.

“Discretionary spending, which is controlled by annual appropriation acts, is anticipated to be 3 percent less in 2014 than it was in 2013. Nondefense discretionary spending is expected to be about the same this year as it was last year, but defense spending is likely to drop by about 5 percent.

“The government’s net interest costs will rise by nearly 5 percent this year, CBO estimates, the result of the continued accumulation of debt and higher inflation (which has boosted the cost of the Treasury’s inflation-protected securities).”

Conservatives who seek to limit government spending should advocate for entitlement reform. Government continues to overreach and harm economic growth with unnecessary and inappropriate federal regulations enforced with discretionary spending. Undoubtedly, many domestic federal programs should be eliminated, consolidated, or privatized. However, an almost singular focus on reducing discretionary spending misses the proverbial forest for the trees. Congress should reform entitlement programs and cut non-defense discretionary spending.

Without entitlement reform, America is heading for European-style spending and taxing levels—and that will be the end of limited government in America.

Obama May Be Bypassing Congress on Climate - Daily Signal

Obama May Be Bypassing Congress on Climate

Josh Siegel / Chris Butler / Steven Bucci / James Phillips / Charlotte Florance / Helle Dale / Peter Brookes / Melissa Quinn / Hans von Spakovsky / Olivia Enos / James Carafano / Brittany Corona / Romina Boccia / Nicolas Loris /

President Obama reportedly wants to go around our elected officials to implement climate change regulations that will drive up energy costs for Americans. The New York Times is reporting that the administration is looking for ways to sidestep the Constitution and the normal treaty ratification process to commit to an international agreement urging other countries to reduce carbon emissions.

The Constitution requires that any legally binding treaty must be ratified by two-thirds of Senate and signed by the president. If past experience is anything to go by, the Senate has no appetite for such a treaty. Before the American delegation headed to Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 to negotiate a global warming treaty, the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution 95-0 expressing that any climate change treaty should not leave out developing countries or impose harm to the U.S. economy. Since then, international climate negotiations have become more meaningless by the year.

But the Times reports, “To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a ‘politically binding’ deal that would ’name and shame‘ countries into cutting their emissions.”

Name and shame? The administration’s plan is to call out large carbon emitters like China and India who have hundreds of millions without access to electricity and shame them for developing their economies and giving their people a better standard of living? It’s to shame them into cutting their carbon dioxide emissions when these countries are striving to gain access to breathable air and drinkable water, neither of which have anything to do with carbon reductions?  The shameful part of the administration’s plan is that it will trap developing economies in poverty and pretend that transferring wealth to them will make us all feel altruistic.

In a response to the New York Times report, a State Department official said, “It is entirely premature to say whether it will or won’t require Senate approval. “ However, if the administration does bypass Congress, it certainly won’t be the first time – it won’t even be the first time on this issue. The Times also points out that “in seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy.”

With Congress unable to pass cap-and-trade legislation as the administration hoped, the EPA is moving forward with its own set of climate change regulations, primarily targeting new and existing power plants. Restricting carbon emissions would harm American families and businesses through higher energy costs and provide no environmental benefit. Families would pay more to use less electricity. The costs would reverberate throughout the economy as affected industries passed higher costs onto consumers. Incorporating America’s domestic climate plans into any international politically bind deal still fails the Byrd-Hagel test because these regulations will inflict serious harm to the American economy.

Furthermore, there is no need or appetite to restrict economic growth to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Americans often have a reputation for being out of step with the rest of the world, but on climate change they are in the global mainstream, according to the United Nations’ “My World” survey. As of August 27, there had been more than 3.86 million votes submitted to the survey from nearly every country and territory around the world. Individuals are presented with 16 issues and asked to select the six that “are most important for you and your family.” Dead last among the choices was “action taken on climate change.” Action taken on climate change was least important to individuals in the least developed countries. Much higher was reliable energy at home.

Americans and the rest of the world are right to be skeptical about taking action on climate change; the realities are that the planet is not headed toward catastrophic warming nor is it experiencing more frequent and violent extreme weather events.

It’s clear Obama wants his legacy to include action on climate change but in doing so he might end up bypassing democracy and the Constitution – and increase energy costs for American families.