Labrador on Homeland Security Funding: ‘We Lost Because’ Democrats, White House ‘Outsmarted Ineffective GOP Leadership’

Raul Labrador /

On Tuesday, 75 Republicans pressured by our leadership and a weak-kneed Senate joined 182 Democrats in abandoning a provision blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in the Fiscal 2015 Department of Homeland Security spending bill. Without a doubt, Congress ceded its constitutional authority when it gave up the fight to ensure the president faithfully executes the laws of the United States.

Unfortunately, the outcome was predictable. In December, I cautioned the Republican Conference that separating the Department of Homeland Security from the rest of the budget was a losing strategy. It is with some amusement that I read in the press that the Republicans who voted with leadership and the Democrats to fund Homeland Security are the grownups in the room. These same Republicans voted with leadership back in December for the funding bill that led to this disastrous outcome.

These so-called “adults” ignored my warnings and those of many of the most conservative members of the House that we could never win a fight that put Department of Homeland Security funding in jeopardy. We suggested in December that Congress pass a two-month funding bill to give House and Senate Republicans time to come up with a winning strategy.

Nonetheless, even when we didn’t agree with the strategy, House conservatives continued to fight to undo the president’s illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty. But we lost because the Democrats and the White House outsmarted ineffective GOP leadership.

This fight is not about differences over immigration policy, it’s about protecting the constitutional prerogative of Congress to make law.

Not only did our leaders rely on Democratic votes, they caved to Senate Democrats who refused to let the issue be debated. They rebuffed proposals from the newly formed House Freedom Caucus — of which I am a founding member — to temporarily extend the Department of Homeland Security  spending bill so the constitutional process of negotiations between the House and Senate could resolve our differences.

In the end, I was among 167 Republicans who voted against leadership’s capitulation. I did so because I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Our great country was founded on the principle that we need a government strong enough to protect our God-given rights but not so powerful as to encroach on individual liberties. At the heart of the genius of the Constitution are the checks and balances inherent in our three branches of government.

Article I, Section 1 is not open to interpretation: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

Presidents are charged with executing the law, not making it. Yet President Obama’s executive actions put 5 million people who came to the U.S. illegally ahead of those who play by the rules – a unilateral usurpation of congressional power.

Make no mistake; this fight is not about differences over immigration policy, it’s about protecting the constitutional prerogative of Congress to make law. Instead of standing up for the separation of powers and the rule of law, the House voted to cede its constitutional authority.

I fear this loss of nerve will embolden this president and future presidents of both parties to use executive action when they can’t get what they want from Congress.

Can’t persuade Congress to enact more environmental restrictions? Issue an executive order. Don’t like the capital gains tax? Quit collecting it. Sooner or later, every member of Congress, regardless of ideology or party, will live to regret this Congress’ failure to stop President Obama’s executive actions.

Despite this grave setback, the battle is not over. I promise to continue fighting for you.

Ukraine Showcases Captured Russian Military Hardware - Daily Signal

Ukraine Showcases Captured Russian Military Hardware

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson /

Normally the square outside St. Michael’s Cathedral in central Kiev is filled with sightseers taking photos of the famous golden-domed monastery while souvenir merchants hawk their goods.

But this past week one of Kiev’s most famous tourist spots was filled with evidence of the nearly year-old war in eastern Ukraine, including a Russian drone aircraft perched on wooden pallets, Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers peppered with shrapnel damage, and Russian Grad rocket launcher systems pockmarked with bullet holes.

Grad

A Russian BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher captured near Donetsk in June 2014. (Photo: Valentyn Onyshchenko)

According to the Ukrainian military, the Russian military hardware on display in St. Michael’s Square was captured from pro-Russia separatists during recent battles. The captured equipment is proof, Ukrainian officials claim, of the Kremlin’s complicity in the ongoing conflict.

“It was bizarre, the rebels started out with hunting rifles,” Ukraine National Guard Capt. Alexei Lebed said, speaking about the evolution of military hardware used by the pro-Russian separatists over the course of the 10-month-old conflict. “And then the next day they had artillery, and then the next day they had tanks, and then the next day they had helicopters and missiles.”

The display of captured Russian equipment in Kiev is part of a broader effort by Ukrainian officials to highlight Russia’s role in the conflict—a move meant to convince the United States and the European Union to continue sanctions against Russia and to secure additional military equipment and training for Ukraine’s armed forces.

Tank

A Russian T-64 tank captured near Slavyansk in June 2014. (Photo: Valentyn Onyshchenko)

The military hardware currently on display in Kiev includes a Russian T-64 tank captured on June 13, 2014, during a battle between Ukrainian government troops and separatist rebels outside the eastern Ukrainian town Slavyansk. According to a Ukrainian information placard accompanying the display, the tank was never a part of the Ukrainian military, underscoring its Russian provenance.

Also on display were several small, unarmed drone aircrafts that Ukrainian officials said were supplied by Russia for the separatists to scout Ukrainian positions in order to better target rocket and artillery attacks.

UAV3

A Russian drone that crash landed in a field near Kharkiv. (Photo: Valentyn Onyshchenko)

According to a Ukrainian placard on display with one of the drones, “Ukrainian State Security Units in Artemivsk, Donetsk region, shot down this unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying over the city of Dzerzhinsk, Dzerzhinsk district, Donetsk region, on February 19, 2015. The UAV belongs to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

Ukrainian officials have claimed for nearly a year that regular Russian soldiers have been fighting inside Ukraine, and that pro-Russian separatists are funded and equipped by Moscow.

The Kremlin denies providing material support for the separatists and has said that any Russian soldiers captured fighting in Ukraine were there on their own accord while on leave. Moscow has also said that convoys of trucks crossing from Russia into separatist-controlled areas have been transporting humanitarian supplies despite claims from Kiev that the convoys were a ruse meant to conceal arms shipments.

Drone1

A Russian drone discovered by Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine. (Photo: Valentyn Onyshchenko)

Although a cease-fire deal was reached last month in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, sporadic fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. And while major combat operations have eased off in the region, tensions still remain high.

On Friday, two people were injured in an explosion in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The blast destroyed a minivan, which according to Ukrainian media reports was transporting the leader of a local volunteer battalion.

While the White House has so far not approved sending lethal military aid to Ukraine, Kiev’s calls for help have resonated on Capitol Hill.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner and several top Democrats, called on the White House to send lethal aid to Ukraine to help defend against the Russian-backed separatists further escalating the conflict.

“We should not wait until Russian troops and their separatist proxies take Mariupol or Kharkiv before we act to bolster the Ukrainian government’s ability to deter and defend against further aggression,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Obama.

After Speaking Honestly About His Religious Views, Baseball Player Instructed to Only Talk Sports - Daily Signal

After Speaking Honestly About His Religious Views, Baseball Player Instructed to Only Talk Sports

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko /

Baseball player Daniel Murphy thinks it’s wrong to practice a gay “lifestyle.”

Now he’s no longer allowed to talk about his religious beliefs.

Why is the nation even discussing what Murphy, a second baseman for the New York Mets, thinks about gay and lesbians?

Well, because after Billy Bean, a gay former Major League Baseball player who now serves as the League’s Ambassador for Inclusion, visited the Mets, a reporter talked to Murphy.

According to the NJ Advance Media report, Murphy “is ready for a gay teammate, “ and “Murphy, a devout Christian, said he would embrace Bean despite a divergence in their beliefs.”

Murphy took pains to clarify that while he opposed Bean’s choices, he was open to getting to know Bean.

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said of Bean. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him.”

Murphy continued:

Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality … We love the people. We disagree [with] the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life.

And that’s the last we’re going to hear from Murphy on the subject.

On Wednesday, an ESPN story headlined “Murphy now to talk baseball only” appeared. The story’s first line was “New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy will no longer address his religious beliefs and will stick to baseball, a team spokesman said Wednesday.”

Where’s the tolerance?

True, Murphy got to keep his job, unlike former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich and Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, both of whom had to step down after their personal views on same-sex marriage received attention.

But why can’t Murphy be honest about his views? After all, he didn’t make his comments out of the blue. Bean’s visit was publicized. Murphy wasn’t just randomly talking, but was reacting to a specific event.

Inclusion is about everyone, even those who might disagree with the message: http://t.co/CY6EZ4eUmW pic.twitter.com/eITp5GK7uS

— Billy Bean (@billybeanball) March 4, 2015

Bean himself wrote in an MLB.com column he “appreciate[d] that Daniel spoke his truth.” Bean continued:

I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start. … Inclusion means everyone, plain and simple. Daniel is part of that group.

What we’re seeing here is a dialogue: Bean and Murphy are both being honest about their views. They’re also both clearly trying to be considerate and respectful of the other’s views.

That’s what our society needs.

Americans are divided on a host of controversial issues—from abortion to wars to vaccines to, yes, same-sex marriage. The way to work together and live in harmony isn’t to pretend we all agree. It isn’t to silence those who have controversial positions.

Instead, we need to keep having honest and genuine conversations about these matters, as awkward and painful and frustrating as those conversations can be.

Yes, it would be easier if we could all just get along. But we realize that most of us are motivated by what we think is true, by what we think is moral. Those urges are good and positive. They’re something we should fight to preserve.

We don’t want to live in an amoral society, where the only value is conformity. We want to be a nation that isn’t afraid of disagreements, particularly when both sides are striving to create a society that cherishes what is right and good.

Murphy and Bean were showing us the way forward. It’s too bad the Mets have made sure their dialogue can’t continue.

 

In February, Jobs Added and Unemployment Rate Dropped - Daily Signal

In February, Jobs Added and Unemployment Rate Dropped

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk /

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report found robust economic growth continued in February. Employers added 295,000 net new jobs while unemployment dropped to 5.5 percent. Employment expanded across many industries while wage growth remained moderate.

The household survey reported the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points. This largely happened because 354,000 Americans left the labor market. However, demographic changes – principally retiring Baby Boomers – explained most of the February drop in labor force participation.

The participation rate of 25-54 year olds remained unchanged, while their unemployment rate dropped 0.2 points to 4.6 percent. The job market continued to improve for Americans looking for work.

Employers added 295,000 net new jobs while unemployment dropped to 5.5 percent.

The payroll survey found robust job growth across many industries. Leisure and hospitality (+66,000), professional and business services (+51,000), retail trade (+32,000) and health care (+24,000) showed the largest gains. Government payrolls expanded slightly (+7,000). Employment in the mining sector dropped (-8,000) – largely driven by the drop in energy prices reducing demand for oil extraction workers.

Other figures in the payroll survey gave more muted cause for optimism. Revisions to the January survey showed employers created 18,000 fewer jobs than previously estimated. Average workweeks remained flat at 34.6 hours a week for the fifth straight month. Average hourly earnings rose just 3 cents to $24.78/hour. Over the past year nominal hourly earnings have risen 2.0 percent.

Many economic commentators have pointed out that wage growth has remained low over the past year, even though hiring has picked up and unemployment has fallen. They view this as a puzzling disconnect – greater demand for labor should raise wages as well as the number of workers hired. However, the hiring gains may in part reflect increased labor supply – not just increased demand. Increased labor supply increases employment while putting downward pressure on wages. Economists need to do more research to determine whether supply or demand changes have driven the recent hiring gains.

On the whole the economy continued to grow at a healthy pace in February.

Positive Response to Indian Leader Modi’s Speech on Religious Freedom - Daily Signal

Positive Response to Indian Leader Modi’s Speech on Religious Freedom

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis /

Indian Prime Minister Modi has received praise at home and abroad for a speech he gave on February 17 that took a firm stand against religious persecution and violence and pledged equal treatment for all religions in India. His remarks were made to an audience of 1,200 Christians who had gathered to mark the canonization of two Catholic figures.

The mainline Indian daily, The Hindu, ran an editorial on Tuesday highlighting the importance of Modi’s speech, which affirmed the sanctity of the Indian constitution and its promise of a secular and democratic India guaranteeing the rights of citizens to freely practice the religion of their choice. The editorial encouraged Modi to continue to speak out against controversial statements by Hindu hardliners or risk the credibility of his government.

President Obama, who had raised the issue of religious freedom during a recent visit to India, and again at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, in early February, also welcomed Modi’s speech.

The Indian prime minister’s remarks come in the wake of a series of church desecrations in New Delhi and controversial statements by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders asserting Hinduism’s dominance. Eighty percent of Indians are Hindu, while around 15 percent are Muslim, and most of the remainder are Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists.

Indian Cabinet Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti caused controversy in early December when she differentiated between Ramzadon (progeny of the Hindu god Ram) and Haramzadon (illegitimate offspring). According to Hudson Institute’s South Asia expert, Aparna Pande, Minister Jyoti was referring to a pamphlet published in the 1920s by Hindutva (Hindu cultural dominance) ideologue, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who argued that only those who followed religions that recognized India as the holy land (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) could be considered genuine Indian citizens.

Another issue that has raised concern among India’s religious minorities is the increased number of mass conversion ceremonies aimed at converting Christians and Muslims to Hinduism since the BJP took power last May. Hardline Hindu nationalists claim that non-Hindus (especially within tribal communities in northeast India) have been tricked or induced to convert from Hinduism and thus need to be brought back into the fold. The conversion ceremonies are referred to as Ghar Vapsi (homecomings).

Last December, the Indian parliament was sidetracked for several days following news of a BJP leader’s plan to host a mass conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism on Christmas Day. The planned ceremony sparked an enormous backlash among Indian opposition politicians, who demanded Modi make a statement on the issue. Eventually, the group organizing the event agreed to cancel it.

I noted in an opinion piece that ran in Newsweek in early February that previous BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken steps to rein in hardline Hindu elements when he led the government from 1998–2004.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Modi’s February 17 speech signals that he also is willing to speak up in defense of religious freedom in India and to keep in check those who are pushing a hardline agenda that seeks to divide the country along religious lines.

‘A Strategy Doomed to Failure’: Conservatives Fault GOP Leadership After Homeland Security Funding Fight - Daily Signal

‘A Strategy Doomed to Failure’: Conservatives Fault GOP Leadership After Homeland Security Funding Fight

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis / Rob Bluey /

Days after President Obama delivered his Nov. 20 speech outlining executive actions on immigration, conservatives pressed Republican leaders to wage a fight while the issue was fresh on the minds of voters.

“From the onset, we really believed it was a poor strategy,” says @RepMattSalmon

Republicans had just made historic electoral gains in the House and taken control of the Senate. Meanwhile, seven Senate Democrats were on the record voicing concerns about Obama’s unilateral move.

But when lawmakers had the opportunity in early December to stymie Obama’s moves by withholding funding, they punted. Congress approved the so-called “CRomnibus,” which funded the federal government for the full fiscal year and the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27.

“Come January, we’ll have a Republican House and a Republican Senate—and we’ll be in the stronger position to take actions,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a Dec. 4 press conference.

The strategy, proposed by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and embraced by Republican leadership, ultimately failed to undo Obama’s actions. This week, a majority of Republicans in the House (167 of 245) and Senate (31 of 54) opposed the Homeland Security bill, forcing GOP leaders to rely on Democrats to pass the measure.

“Unfortunately, leadership’s plan was never to win this fight,” said Sen. Ted Cruz. “Since December, the outcome has been baked in the cake. It was abundantly clear to anyone watching that leadership in both houses intended to capitulate on the fight against amnesty. It was a strategy doomed to failure.”

The Texas Republican was among the most vocal critics of Obama’s immigration actions, invoking Cicero’s warning to the Romans as he railed against the president’s “lawlessness.”

Even though a court case could still derail Obama’s actions, conservatives voiced disappointment with the outcome in Congress. Yet not everyone walked away surprised by how it played out.

The Daily Signal interviewed several of those lawmakers to better understand how events transpired after Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement through Tuesday’s vote.

Republicans United, Then Divided

Just weeks after Republicans swept the midterm elections, Obama outlined executive actions that he would take without congressional approval to defer deportations for up to 5 million illegal immigrants.

Obama’s move sparked a swift rebuke from Republican leaders. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the soon-to-be majority leader, and Boehner vowed to fight Obama using their new clout.

“We’re considering a variety of options,” McConnell said on Nov. 20. “But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”

Within a matter of weeks, however, Republicans found themselves divided over the strategy.

Republican leaders settled on a plan known as the “CRomnibus” to fund the federal government. As part of the package, the Department of Homeland Security would be funded through Feb. 27, giving Republicans an opportunity to fight Obama’s actions when they controlled both houses of Congress.

“We were the ones back on Dec. 7 telling leadership not to do this,” Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, told The Daily Signal. “We were the ones who told them this was doomed for failure and we warned them this was going to lead to capitulation at the end of the fight.”

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho (Photo: Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.com/Newscom)

Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho (Photo: Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.com/Newscom)

Conservatives weren’t united around a particular strategy but many of them had alternatives to the plan leadership ultimately pursued. Some wanted to have the fight in December, risking a government shutdown before Christmas, while others suggested a short-term funding plan for the whole government until early 2015.

Many conservatives didn’t like attaching the immigration fight to Homeland Security funding. Some, including Labrador, even took the rare step of opposing leadership on a Dec. 11 procedural vote that nearly failed when 16 Republicans broke ranks. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., later accused GOP leaders of misleading him into switching his decisive vote.

Had conservatives blocked the spending bill on that vote, it would have forced leadership to revise the strategy.

“From the onset, we really believed it was a poor strategy,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.

Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of The Heritage Foundation, expressed similar concerns at the time.

“The tactic in Washington, D.C., is what they call defer and delay,” says @RepMarkMeadows.

“Some have suggested the short-term funding for DHS will provide conservatives another opportunity to block President Obama’s actions in early 2015, but that approach is problematic,” the organization noted in a key vote alert.

Among the reasons: Republicans would be approving, at least temporarily, Obama’s executive actions, and waiting 100 days until Feb. 27 would allow the administration to get the program up and running.

“The tactic in Washington, D.C., is what they call defer and delay,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told The Daily Signal. “If they can defer the decision and delay the decision, then the passion and outcry of American people lessens. They’re able to capitulate and pass something that is certainly not as representative of the people’s will as it might be when the action initially takes place.”

Disagreement Over Strategy

Several of the lawmakers who spoke to The Daily Signal voiced concerns about leadership’s strategy.

“We’ve been through this time after time,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La. “We’ve heard the same promises and we’ve seen the same poor results. We’ve come to understand how it works. There are promises to fight but yet the process is created in a way that eventually there’s going to be a cave.”

Rep. John Fleming, R-La. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Rep. John Fleming, R-La. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom)

Fleming said conservatives’ frustration led to the creation of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-some members who have vowed to be united on these fights in the future.

This week’s vote was the group’s first test and members of the caucus were optimistic about their impact, even if the outcome wasn’t ideal.

Salmon noted that Republican leadership urged members to vote in favor of the “clean” Homeland Security funding bill, which included no language defunding Obama’s actions. A majority of Republicans ultimately voted against the measure Tuesday.

“When 167 Republicans ignore leadership’s recommendations, that’s got to be a big wake-up call,” Salmon told The Daily Signal. “They voted with us, not with them.”

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to find a strategy to put more pressure on Senate Democrats in the future,” says @michael_steel

The Freedom Caucus also put forward several ideas for GOP leaders to consider during the standoff. None of their ideas were embraced, prompting Labrador to rethink the group’s approach next time.

“We need to get our message out, not just to the media but also to the other conference members,” Labrador said. “Every time I told other Republicans about our offers, they were stunned our leadership didn’t accept them. And I’m talking across the spectrum—conservatives and moderates.”

A spokesman for Boehner said the speaker welcomed ideas from members.

“Our strategy was developed working with and listening to our members,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “This fight was won in the House. Ultimately, we’re going to have to find a strategy to put more pressure on Senate Democrats in the future.”

Will Anything Change?

“Why does our leadership always do the same thing and expect a different outcome?” asked Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. “They do the same thing knowing it’s going to be the same results.”

Huelskamp, who has been stripped of committee assignments for voting against leadership, was one of a dozen members attacked in ads from the pro-leadership American Action Network. A spokesman for the group, which supported the Homeland Security funding bill, did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

Meadows, the North Carolina conservative, was also targeted by the group’s ads.

“The American people have had enough,” Meadows said. “I’ve had dozens of emails since the vote saying, ‘Why should I vote for another Republican when the results are the same?’ That’s troubling for me.”

Salmon shared a similar sentiment.

“The American people are not going to continue to be patient,” he said. “If we have any chance at all of maintaining the Senate and winning the White House, we have got to prove that we are the real deal.”

Despite the frustration, Boehner and McConnell’s jobs appear safe, even if members are displeased with their handling of the immigration fight.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Newscom)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Newscom)

“The speaker said, I’m going to fight tooth and nail. What that means to me is no stone unturned. Every option on the table. And that’s certainly not what happened,” Salmon said.

Huelskamp said Republicans managed to give away the only leverage they had to stymie Obama. With no more spending fights until this fall, he fears the president will be emboldened to take unilateral action on other issues.

Meadows suggested the White House is already signaling its next move.

“It doesn’t stop here with amnesty. The same day we’re debating amnesty, the White House is talking about taking action to increase taxes,” Meadows said. “It’s just a total breakdown of a wall of separation of powers of the executive branch and legislative branch.”

While the fight over Obama’s immigration actions now plays out in court, Huelskamp predicted the party’s establishment will ultimately prevail this time.

“The biggest donors to the Republican establishment, they all are happy today. They got their amnesty,” Huelskamp said. “They just hope the issue goes away and somehow they think conservatives are still going to show up and vote for whoever the presidential nominee is.”

This story was updated to include additional details about the December debate over the GOP’s strategy.

Poll: Post-Recession Economic Policy Hasn’t Helped Poor, Middle Class - Daily Signal

Poll: Post-Recession Economic Policy Hasn’t Helped Poor, Middle Class

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis / Rob Bluey / Kate Scanlon /

A new poll shows that Americans don’t believe the economic policies put in place by the government in the wake of the recession have been helpful to the poor and the middle class.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans see government policies under the Obama administration as having mostly benefited wealthy people, large corporations and financial institutions.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said government policies have done little or nothing to help the middle class, and 65 percent said they have done nothing to help the poor. Sixty-eight percent said the policies have done nothing to help small businesses.

Meanwhile, 45 percent said the policies have done a “great deal” to help large banks and financial institutions, 38 percent say they have helped large corporations, and 36 percent say they have helped the wealthy.

Norbert Michel, a research fellow in financial regulations at The Heritage Foundation, said that Americans have a negative view of post-recession economic policies because “they’re paying attention.”

“The notion that financial markets were deregulated is laughable,” Michel said.

According to Michel, Americans feel that the government’s policies disproportionately benefit the powerful because they do.

“Americans feel that the big banks and financial institutions are the ones benefiting from the policies because they’re the ones who were bailed out,” Michel said.

Michel said that there are a host of rules and regulations that are still preventing growth.

“If you want to help more people, you need to get rid of that,” Michel said.

Here are the Issues That Will Win the Hearts of College Kids in 2016 - Daily Signal

Here are the Issues That Will Win the Hearts of College Kids in 2016

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis / Rob Bluey / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel /

Zachary Burns, a babyfaced redhead, has only been on this earth 19 years, yet he knows enough to want to go back to the good old days in America.

“I read in history textbooks that America was once expanding and booming,” said Burns, whose dress shirt and tie clashes with his American flag patterned pants. “Now all I see is gridlock.”

Burns, a student at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, was part of a predominantly college-aged crowd who recently attended the largest conservative conference of the year, eager to have a say in the political process.

In a totally unscientific method, The Daily Signal interviewed multiple college students at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, outside Washington D.C. to find out what issues they care about going into the 2016 presidential race.

The consensus? On the surface, it seems that few of the interviewees want the same things.

Some of the young people, the job seekers, simply want employment when they graduate college, and they hope their (often expensive) education provides them the tools to be competitive. Others, the innovators, crave an economy free of regulations so they can pursue their dreams unimpeded.

And still others, the world weary, just hope to be safe, to feel protected and to see their country use its power to overcome threats.

But though the college students see the world differently, they really want the same thing.

They want a leader who can carry out their vision for America, and they came here to find that person.

Create and Innovate

Burns is clear about what he would like in an ideal world.

“I like free enterprise,” said Burns, listing Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as potential Republican presidential candidates who impressed him at CPAC.

“I like innovation. I like straight-forward, to-the-point guys. I don’t care about age. I just want someone who can get the job done.”

“I just want someone who can get the job done,” says Zachary Burns, 19.

Omid Esmaili is only 21, but he’s achieving just fine in America.

Esmaili, a senior at Stony Brook University University in New York, created his own app, called Colltures, that shows students what’s happening on their college campus at any given moment.

Omid Esmaili, 21, opposes "Net Neutrality" for fear it will intrude on his ability to create things. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Omid Esmaili, 21, opposes “Net Neutrality” for fear it will intrude on his ability to create things. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

But Esmaili worries his creativity may be crunched by the Obama administration’s adoption of “Net Neutrality” regulations for the Internet, the concept that all online content should be treated equally.

“There shouldn’t be government involvement in how the Internet works,” Esmaili says. “The reason you can create such innovative products is because no one is hovering over you. Speed is such an important part of the experience. If you are messing with speed, and how quickly I can do the service, you are hindering my innovation, literally.”

Esmaili can’t hide his thoughts on which potential 2016 candidate can best keep government out of his life. He wears an “I Stand with Rand” button.

A libertarian, Esmaili supports Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and his father Ron before that, but not purely for selfish reasons. Esmaili thinks Paul is the only GOP candidate who can win — for all Republicans.

“Rand has created a new place to play,” Esmaili says. “Rand has a practical, middle-man approach. It’s a situational, reasonable approach. He connects with different groups. A lot of kids don’t know what libertarianism is. I never knew there was a word for how I felt: that there is social and economic freedom. Rand can explain this in an attractive way to people.”

In the next breath, Esmaili, backed in this opinion by his friend and fellow 21-year-old attendee Mike Battey, argues that Republicans should avoid talking about things that “don’t necessarily matter.”

Mike Battey, 21, cares most about ending the Federal Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Mike Battey, 21, cares most about ending the Federal Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Namely, the friends say, that means leaving alone the sensitive issue of same-sex marriage.

“The issue of same-sex marriage is not the most important thing in the universe,” Esmaili says. “The economy is so screwed up, people should be paying attention to that.”

Adds Battey: “Government should be out of marriage because it’s not a legislative function of government. Whoever someone else decides to marry doesn’t impact my life.”

Concerns: Home and Abroad:

Briana Jamshid, a 20-year-old student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is ready to fight for what she believes America’s role in the world should be.

Briana Jamshid, 20, pushes for smart foreign policy. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Briana Jamshid, 20, pushes for smart foreign policy. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Jamshid is enlisted in the Army National Guard. She’s honored to serve her country, but she hopes to do so in the right places.

“ISIS needs to be eliminated,” says Jamshid, who claims to be open-minded about which politician she would support in that mission. “We definitely should be boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria. But we should stay out of the Ukraine conflict.”

Aaron Hass, a 22-year-old student at State University of New York at Oneonta, is similarly concerned about the Middle East.

Aaron Hass, 22, worries most about the future of the Middle East. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Aaron Hass, 22, worries most about the future of the Middle East. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

“The Middle East is vital to our trade,” says Hass, who is a fan of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “It is vital to defend the nation of Israel. They are a minority in the world and they need to know they have a friend. America is the big dog in the world. If you pet the big dog it will be your friend. If not, it will bite.”

Before Audrey Rusnak, 21, can fret about taking on the world, she has a more top-of-mind concern.

“College is too expensive,” says Rusnak, who admirers Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s rags-to-riches story. “I just hope it pays off in landing me a job.”

Audrey Rusnak, 21, just wants a quality job. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Audrey Rusnak, 21, just wants a quality job. (Photo: Kelsey Harris)

Why We’re Still Talking about Obamacare - Daily Signal

Why We’re Still Talking about Obamacare

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis / Rob Bluey / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Genevieve Wood /

I’ll be on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday at 10 p.m. EST. One of the topics we will likely discuss is the Obamacare case King v. Burwell heard before the Supreme Court this week. One of the other panelists on the show is former Obama advisor David Axelrod. I have a feeling he won’t agree with my comments here…  If you have additional ideas on what I should say, please email me!

Why Republicans Are Calling for Higher Gas Taxes in This State - Daily Signal

Why Republicans Are Calling for Higher Gas Taxes in This State

Raul Labrador / Nolan Peterson / Katrina Trinko / James Sherk / Lisa Curtis / Rob Bluey / Kate Scanlon / Josh Siegel / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness /

Georgia residents could soon see prices surge at the pump, as lawmakers consider a bill that would significantly raise taxes on gas so the state can afford $1 billion in transportation needs.

Georgia’s Republican-led legislature generally agrees on two things: the need to raise a billion dollars to improve roads and bridges (which amounts to 1/20th of the state’s total budget), and the desire to do so without relying on Washington.

On principle, Republicans argue for lower taxes. But after a joint legislative study committee report on transportation concluded that Georgia’s roads and bridges were in dire need of repair, state lawmakers knew they had to raise money.

So increasing the gas tax seemed to be a logical solution. But how to do it is less clear.

The Divide

Georgia lawmakers are divided between those who argue the tax hike is a necessary evil, and those who warn the gas hike, as it is currently structured, is too high and will spur a whole range of tax increases in other sectors of the economy.

The proposed legislation, H.B. 170, would consolidate the state’s fixed gas tax of 7.5 cents per gallon and its variable sales tax of 8.8 cents per gallon into one fixed tax rate.

The result would be a tax of almost 30 cents per gallon of gas.

“It’s a big tax increase,” wrote Erick Erickson, a nationally-recognized political blogger who is from Georgia and lobbying against the measure. “Most amazingly, the House Republicans in Georgia are denying that it is an increase.”

Charlie Harper, a conservative who blogs at Peach Pundit and runs a nonprofit policy group that is advocating in favor of the tax hike, told The Daily Signal today via email that fixing Georgia’s roads and bridges “is not a want, it’s a need.” He said:

The backlog of maintenance alone requires $500 to $700 million additional spending per year. We almost quit deferred maintenance ten years ago and only expect to resurface less than one percent of our roads per year. We have literally thousands of bridges that need to be replaced and we did 60 last year.

The legislation, which is currently being debated in the House, would also transfer revenue from a separate gasoline sales tax that goes to localities — which normally funds a variety of non-transportation needs like education — to the state to strictly fund transportation needs.

While conservatives argue that gas taxes are efficient user fees and a sensible way to raise revenue to pay for infrastructure, some warn that in Georgia’s case, the legislation will force local counties to raise gas taxes even further to compensate for the loss.

Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, D.C., opposes H.B. 170 for that reason.

“The total tax on gasoline in Georgia could range as high as 53.6 cents per gallon, well above the U.S. average of 48.29 cents per gallon, wrote Paul Blair, the organization’s state manager. “If implemented, H.B. 170 could make gasoline sold in Georgia the 9th highest taxed gasoline in the nation. Indexing the gas tax to inflation would make it worse.”

But Harper argues that under the gas tax bill, “local governments are not deprived of any existing revenue.” He said:

They are required on new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOSTs) going forward to use any sales taxes collected on gasoline to be used for transportation purposes. Every SPLOST in Georgia is ‘special’ because they are individual taxes set for special purposes for a specific period of time, and are not to be used for general county obligations. As such, local governments that claim they may have to raise taxes because they can’t in the future tax gasoline for non-transportation purposes are being disingenuous.

Emily Goff, a policy analyst in Transportation and Infrastructure at The Heritage Foundation, said Georgia’s efforts to gain fiscal independence from Washington is a “win” for federalism and limited government, but warned that those paying the gas tax seemingly for roads and bridges could end up paying for services they might not necessarily use.

“States can and should handle transportation decisions for all non-federal activities such as local and state roads and bridges, bus and subway systems, and bicycle trails and sidewalks,” she said. “But, states should adhere to a system in which users pay for the system they use, and not squander gas taxes on non-road projects such as transit, for example.”

But Harper sees no other solution.

“Georgia can’t continue to be one of the country’s fastest growing states with the lowest highway spending per capita,” he said. “That’s just not sustainable.”