Legislative Lowdown: The joke’s on you

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Obama goes on comedy show, but joke is on American taxpayers

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” for some campaign rhetoric and some laughs.

The appearance started with a Fallon and Obama musical comedy segment titled “Slow Jam the News.” Fallon, Obama and a singer on the show blasted Republicans on the issue of keeping student loan rates low. Progressives probably found the mean-spirited skit funny, but it was un-presidential for Obama to take to a comedy show for a campaign stunt.

This may, in fact, have been the moment that President Obama officially “jumped the shark.”

Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office put the price of Obama’s student loan idea at $6 billion a year, so the real joke is on the taxpayer.

Law of the Sea Treaty back from the dead

The Senate has been buzzing about the possibility that the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) will come up for consideration later this year. For a treaty to be ratified, 67 senators have to vote for it. In other words, LOST can’t be ratified without Republican support.

LOST would force the United States to support a new, international organization and bureaucracy called the International Seabed Authority, or simply “the Authority.” The effect would be to cede power to an unaccountable body for seabed mining and expose the United States to a multitude of environmental lawsuits through LOST’s mandatory dispute-resolution processes.

The problems with this treaty are many. Steven Groves of The Heritage Foundation has been studying the impact of LOST on American sovereign rights. Groves tells The Daily Caller that LOST “will siphon off oil and gas royalties, expose us to baseless international environmental lawsuits and require permission from the Authority for American companies to engage in deep seabed mining.”

This idea would also grant other nations the power to force American taxpayers to pay the International Seabed Authority an unprecedented U.N. tax to mine.

Sen. Rand Paul defends private property

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced The Defense of Environment and Property Act, S. 2122. The bill would restrict the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to use the overbroad authority of the Clean Water Act to attack property owners. Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House is pushing the same idea with H.R. 4304.

The bill seeks to solve a real problem for property owners. In 2005, an Idaho couple purchased land to build a home. But after Mike and Chantell Sackett started building, federal officials ordered them to halt construction. If they didn’t, the officials explained, they’d be fined $75,000 a day. The Sacketts had to take their fight all the way to the Supreme Court in the case of Sackett v. EPA.

Paul’s legislation would exclude streams from federal jurisdiction and protect a state’s right to have primary authority over the land and water inside its borders. It would also prohibit federal agents from entering private property without the express consent of the landowner.

TARP will cost taxpayers $60 billion

According to the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the bailout of Wall Street will end up costing taxpayers a cool $60 billion. According to the report, taxpayers are still owed $118.5 billion. This new report flies in the face of the Department of Treasury’s claims that TARP made money for the taxpayer.

The report states that “a significant legacy of TARP is increased moral hazard and potentially disastrous consequences associated with institutions deemed ‘too big to fail.’” In addition to costing taxpayers money, this bailout has “encouraged high-risk behavior by insulating the risk-takers from the consequences of failure.”

Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner announced on March 30, 2011 that “while our overriding objective with TARP was to break the back of the financial crisis and save American jobs, the fact that our investment in banks has also delivered a significant profit for taxpayers is a welcome development.” That bold claim has turned out to be false; another joke on the taxpayer.

Brian Darling is a senior fellow for government studies at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianHDarling.