City of Stockton to Consider America’s First Basic Income Grant

StocktonThe city of Stockton, California, is planning to offer a basic income grant of $500 per month to poor residents, making it the first U.S. city to provide a guaranteed income.

Mayor Michael Tubbs announced the program on Wednesday, according to Capital Public Radio. “This is not a handout, it’s a hand up,” he reportedly said. The program is to be privately funded by the Economic Security Project, which Capital Public Radio describes as “a network of researchers, elected leaders, and organizers” and which is run by Facebook co-founder and Barack Obama campaign veteran Chris Hughes.

Stockton declared bankruptcy in 2012, a result of high pension costs, economic stagnation, and “a 15-year spending binge.” Though the city and its finances have recovered somewhat, and the city emerged from bankruptcy in 2015, poverty remains a problem.

The idea of a guaranteed basic income has been gaining traction lately, largely thanks to the advocacy of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has suggested it may become necessary in the future as technological innovation pushes more people out of traditional jobs.

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,” Zuckerberg said in May at the commencement ceremony at Harvard University.

In a Facebook post in July, Zuckerberg touted Alaska’s Permanent Fund — which pays dividends to residents every year from a portion of oil and gas revenues — as an example of a successful basic income grant. However, few states have Alaska’s vast resources and low population.

Others in Silicon Valley have also advocated for the idea. The Stockton pilot project will reportedly involve 25 to 75 families.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

A Fairer Tax Code Is a More Efficient Tax Code

Tax formThe last time we saw comprehensive tax reform in this country was also the last time UCLA won a Rose Bowl (1986), so we are talking about a long, long time. We know there have been several tax cuts, and tax increases, since then, but as for some legislative attempt to drive a change in the overall system of tax policy in this country, it has not happened in over 30 years. It would be easy to argue that partisan polarization is the cause of this legislative difficulty, but that would be inaccurate. Partisanship did not keep welfare reform or comprehensive trade agreements from being done in the 1990s. Partisanship did not keep significant national-security endeavors from passing in the 2000s. And President Obama’s reelection in 2012 coincided with the sunsetting of the George W. Bush tax cuts, creating one of the more bipartisan agreements in recent history, when Vice President Biden and Senate majority leader McConnell negotiated a permanent extension of the tax cuts that resulted in more favorable treatment for investment tax and estate tax and left the individual rates at the lower levels of the Bush plan, besides at the top rate. Bottom line: Partisans have done plenty of bipartisan work over the last 30 years; they just haven’t done it when it comes to reforming something that is broken.

The term tax reform is pivotal here. Tax cuts scream for people who pay too much in taxes wanting to pay less (fair enough). Tax reform implies something is structurally unfair, and therefore needing reformation. We do not need to reform that which is already good and right. Sure, we may turn a knob here and there on levels, but reform is more comprehensive, and more reactive. The catalyst to reforming something is admitting something needs to be reformed.

The catalyst for 2017/18 tax reform is a broken tax code, and that brokenness is most evident in two places: A brutally non-competitive business tax code that hasn’t come close to dealing with the global realities of the last 30 years; and a glut of tax brackets and deductions that are too confusing, too easy to manipulate, and too divorced from simplicity and fairness. Yes, the rates are too high, both individually and corporately, but beyond that, the system is not right. The efforts of the Trump administration, led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, and the GOP leadership of the House and Senate, seek to use a new tax-reform bill to attack the fundamentals of what is broken in the tax code (a non-competitive corporate code) and clean up around the edges as well (alternative minimum tax (AMT), pass-through entities, etc.).

The math of passing tax reform is difficult because of Senate rules on reconciliation. To attach it to a budget bill and thereby enable 51-vote passage, the impact the tax plan can have on overall revenue (and therefore deficits) is limited. “Dynamic scoring” — the reality of supply-side math that pro-growth tax cuts move us in the right direction on Laffer’s Curve — allows for some more liberal use of this parliamentary reconciliation reality. But at the end of the day, the White House is limited in how much it can reform the tax code without “pay-fors” — offsets and such that will enable the plan to be scored within budget-reconciliation math.

After the inevitable death of the ghastly “border adjustment tax” idea, the best “pay-for” available is eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes against federal tax liability. Should that tax deduction be eliminated, the comprehensive business tax reform needed (a 20 percent rate vs. a 35 percent rate, a territorial system, repatriation of foreign profits, and the elimination of nearly all special-interest deductions) can become reality. And yet the path to tax reform is being blocked by those who would hold on to the abysmal deductibility of state tax — a blockage being promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike (who says they never do anything on a bipartisan basis?).

Who would want to hold onto the deductibility of state taxation? Well, legislators in high-tax states, for one, who fear little consequence from the residents of low-tax states who end up footing the bill for their fiscal recklessness. In fact, the sole source of opposition to eliminating this deduction has come from blue state California, blue state New Jersey, blue state New York, and blue state Connecticut. Unfortunately, the fact that these states are all blue does not mean this is leftist partisanship, because the opposition is coming from Republican legislators and thought leaders in these states as well. That opposition underscores the fundamental need for reform — reform in our policy, but reform in our thinking as well.

There is never going to be reform that does not upset some people, somewhere in the tax food chain. If there could be such a thing, by definition, there would be no need for tax reform! The objective of a national tax-revenue system should be to fund the legitimate functions of government, and do so in a manner fair to the national self-interest, devoid of governmental favoritism or bias. The purpose of a tax system is not to implement social agendas, punish certain behaviors, reward certain behaviors, etc. The federal tax code is a funding matter, and it ought to be done in the least threatening way to growth and competitiveness possible. A 0 percent tax code is not a possibility, as competitive as it may be, as government has responsibilities, liabilities, and legitimate functions that require funding. But where funding can be achieved without compromising American economic growth, that must be the aim.

The business-investment tax code in our country is a disaster, and this is hardly denied by the other side of the aisle. The rate is too high, and the incentives for businesses to keep moneys offshore are gigantic. Additionally, the loopholes, deductions, and various ways in which certain privileged or selected companies benefit (while others do not) is a direct violation of the intent of the tax system. Simplification is the goal, and an even playing field that does not pick winners and losers is the aim. While I would prefer to get rid of the R&D credit (crony capitalism for pharma) and the low-income-housing credit (crony capitalism for real-estate developers), the proposed tax reform goes a long way towards equalizing the business code and creating a competitive scenario for our U.S. companies with large multinational presence.

So what is the hang-up? The aforementioned state-tax deductibility issue is being presented as a hang-up by Left and Right alike. Ironically, the concern the Left has always had with Republican tax maneuvering is that it unfairly assists those on the higher end of the wage spectrum. Here, the Democrats are supposedly upset about the loss of a tax deduction that, by definition, is used only by those on the higher end of the wage spectrum (those who itemize). But let’s look at the issue from the vantage point of Republican voters in high-tax blue states. Could it mean a higher overall net tax liability? That is very unlikely, since those most affected by this would be of such an income context that they have almost certainly been subject to the AMT anyways, a tax atrocity that was already disallowing the state-tax deduction. But for those who were not previously in AMT but are fearful of losing the state-tax deduction, two things must be said. First, no one knows whatsoever how their net picture would turn out in the new tax law, because the income levels receiving the new tax rates (12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent) have not been announced. Any attempt to model tax liability in the new system will be rank speculation.

Second, if a very small number of people end up paying more, not less, in the new system, it should have no bearing on what we believe about tax reform. I do not believe that will happen, and if it does, I think the net impact will be so small and affect so few, it will not even register. But even if it did, the fundamental question is whether or not residents of South Dakota and Texas should be footing the bill for a federal loss of revenue just because their states choose to run their affairs with a high degree of fiscal sensibility and wisdom. Tax reform is meant to reform what is broken, and the use of a state-tax deduction is discriminatory, unfair, and, worst of all, enabling. It enables high-tax states to make foolish decisions, to overly rely on highly cyclical income streams, to spend without regard to consequences, and to not factor in competitive realities across our cherished 50-state union.

The need of the hour is beneficiaries of the broken tax system to maintain advocacy for reform. The generation-long resistance to reform is a by-product of special interests and a mentality that replaces common-sense tax policy with gaming of the system. We can do better, and for those who know how badly this economy and our national fiscal situation need growth, we must.

David L. Bahnsen is a trustee at the National Review Institute, the managing partner of a bicoastal wealth management firm, and the author of forthcoming book, “Crisis of Responsibility.”

This article was originally published by the National Review

Secretary Zinke: Leave California’s National Monuments Alone

National monumentDuring his two terms in office, President Barack Obama designated or expanded more national monuments than any previous president, including several in California. One of the more unheralded aspects of his legacy is the millions of acres of protected public lands he left behind.

Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review all national monument designations going back to 1996, including those made not only by Obama, but also Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Late last month, Secretary Zinke delivered his recommendations to the White House. Unfortunately, this report has not been made public; only parts have leaked out. As the supporters and fans of dozens of monuments across America wait for potentially bad news, it is time that we Californians call on Secretary Zinke and President Trump to leave the Golden State’s monuments alone. There are several reasons for this.

First, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, originally signed by President Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, national monument designation is a “one-way street.” Presidents may unilaterally designate or enlarge a monument, but only Congress has the authority to rescind that decision. Secretary Zinke, facing near-certain lengthy and expensive litigation should follow the tenets and spirit of the law.

Next, hundreds of thousands of Americans and visitors from all over the world visit California’s vast and incredible open spaces every year. As an avid outdoorsman, I take seriously the responsibility we have to protect the treasures nature has bestowed upon us, and ensure they’re conserved for future generations. I, like many other Californians, regularly enjoy the unique beauty of our public lands – I hope Secretary Zinke will take the opportunity to come visit and see for himself.

Lastly, the process the administration has employed has lacked the transparency and collaborative nature our national monuments deserves. During the Trump Administration’s four-month review period, more than 2.8 million Americans weighed in with public comment. Of all the public comments received nationally during the review, 99-percent of comments were in favor of keeping national monuments protected.

In the two-page summary of Zinke’s report – which is all that has been so far made public – he claimed that the supportive public comments merely reflected a “well-organized national campaign.” In truth, the depth and breadth of the wide array of Americans who spoke out to support national monuments from coast to coast is a powerful demonstration of real, popular support for national monuments.

There are countless stakeholders – from hunters and environmentalists to native tribes and local residents who deserved to have their voices and views heard in a fully, open and public forum.

The Interior Department and Secretary Zinke chose not to provide this outlet or public discussion and that is disappointing.

As a former political appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush, I fully understand the pressures at work around this issue (in fact, two of the national monuments created by President Bush fell under the Trump Administration’s review). Secretary Zinke, too, is a westerner, from Montana, and understands the precious nature of America’s monuments. I hope that he will overlook partisan political considerations and do what is right: Leave California’s monuments as they are: a precious asset to be enjoyed today and for many years to come.

Tim Isgitt is a Managing Director at Humanity United, overseeing the Strategic Communications portfolio. He served in the State Department in the Administration of George W. Bush.

House GOP leader asks Jerry Brown: How would you replace Obamacare?

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has written to Gov. Jerry Brown and the leaders of other states soliciting their input for replacing Obamacare.

Dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation has been central to debate in Washington since voters in November handed Republicans control of the White House and Congress.

“As Obamacare continues to saddle patients with less choice, higher costs, and mountains of mandates, it is clear that major health care reforms must be made to strengthen and improve health care for all Americans,” McCarthy wrote in the letter last month, which was signed by five other House Republicans, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas.

“Lawmakers, governors, and state insurance commissioners have a tremendous opportunity to achieve our shared goal of enacting health care reforms that lower costs, improve quality, empower states and individuals, and bring our health care system into the 21st century,” they added. …

Click here to read the full article

What President Trump Will Mean for California’s Economy

donald-trump-3Since Trump’s election we’ve seen a national rebound in consumer, small business and large corporate confidence. The American business and worker class seem to be saying what Californians don’t want to hear: We want an economy not stifled by environmental and tax regulations. We want a president that understands, “It’s the economy, stupid!” California once had that type of mentality, but now with an economy that mostly produces temporary, low paying, service sector jobs where are the positives for the California economy?

The answer is everywhere. Progressive policies were a great idea over a hundred years ago when they were meant to curb female abuse at the hands of alcoholic husbands, child labor in Chicago meatpacking sweatshops epitomized in Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle, and breaking down corporate monopolies. Former President Theodore Roosevelt led that charge for the working man and woman.

That day has passed, and now gentrified environmental billionaires such as Tom Steyer and his legislative lackeys tow the global warming line for coastal elites. Unfortunately, most of California – and even wealthy Los Angeles – suffer the policies of leaders such as Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s job killer bill like SB32 and the boosting of AB32 into further restrictions on economic growth.

There isn’t a green economy that comes close to what Trump is proposing to do for energy exploration on public and private lands. Factually, there isn’t such a thing as the California green economy. It doesn’t exist. Nor does it produce anything resembling large-scale economic progress the way oil and gas exploration produces millions of jobs, and billions of tax revenues.

This is what President Trump will pursue when it comes fossil fuel extraction as a nationwide policy. And this will include California, especially if Trump does away with the moratoriums on deep water drilling for oil and natural gas off the California coastlines.

California has billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The tax revenue produced by this could turn California into an economy that could reach the second largest in the world. If California would turn their back on the fallacy of the green economy and embrace sensible exploration our public schools could be the envy of the U.S., our infrastructure needs taken care of without tax increases, and a true, thriving middle class. Not the progressive haves and have-nots currently seen in California.

This is what Trump has in mind for the U.S., and dare it seems California could be on his radar to expand American energy opportunities.

Trump’s cabinet picks have all indicated economic growth will be their number one priority, and re-establishing America’s preeminence in the world through a larger blue water navy. What this means for California is hard to understand, but one thing is certain, the tech sector will see growth supplying the U.S. Navy with state of the art software. But China’s recent belligerence could be a bellwether of things to come for California’s economy; if the Chinese begin to make their markets even tougher to enter, this doesn’t bode well for California exports.

Sanctuary cities in California could also see a hit with cheaper labor on the downturn if Trump keeps his campaign promises and begins deporting illegals that are criminals, and not allowing the DREAM Act to continue through executive action. The rush for asylum could see Trump’s Justice Department and I.C.E. taking on Gov. Brown and the California Legislature.

Does California have the stomach for federal funds being cut off? Trump doesn’t need California, more than California needs the president-elect, and the federal dollars he is soon to control. The politics of this issue could be a harbinger for the legal fights and strength of the federal government California will be dealing with in 2017. What happens when Trump appoints the next Supreme Court justice, and then could go after the special status of illegal aliens/undocumented immigrants. California will lose. It’s hard to imagine Brown and the Legislature along with the Congressional delegation negotiating sensibly with Trump and his administration.

Special status will be reserved for California’s fixation on global warming led by Gov. Brown and coastal elites in San Francisco and the west side of Los Angeles. When Trump and his cabinet increase energy, but not necessarily renewables, California laws – AB32 and SB32 – won’t have the ability to make much of a difference. Though they don’t really work as intended anyway.

And with economic growth taking precedence over Paris Climate Agreements and the Clean Power Plan the rest of the U.S. will need cheaper energy that oil, natural gas and coal provide. Further, California’s dream of electric vehicles, solar panels and windmills powering California will not grow and the bullet train will be dead on arrival for the incoming administration and Congress.

California will also not be able, or allowed, to stop shipments of coal that the Obama administration encouraged and certainly didn’t stop. Not to mention the legality of the issue. California again will run into a juggernaut of federal laws, regulations and a hostile federal government if coal shipments are not allowed through California ports to reach an energy hungry China, India and the rest of Asia. Those are American jobs, and votes for Trump’s re-election that he more than likely won’t allow California environmental policy to dictate how and where coal is shipped from our ports. Global warming won’t be high on Trump’s vision of American growth, and it was misguided policy by the Obama administration that hurt Americans of all economic stripes.

We’ve already seen how Trump has dictated new water policies to California that doesn’t involve climate change, or EPA policies curbing manufacturing, but instead showed how water enhancement can assist farmers and development in the Central Valley. Anything that grows the economy will be at the forefront of the Trump administration, and not the reduction of greenhouse gases. These were all economic harbingers shunned by California and the Obama administration’s Commerce, Interior and Energy Departments along with his EPA. That won’t be the case with President Trump.

Economic opportunity will rule the next four years, and because California supported President Obama’s use of executive orders, and his famous, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” form of governance, California can expect the same. The expansion of federal powers under Obama will be stretched to block California progressive laws that don’t coincide with Trump’s presidency.

A Republican House and Senate will thumb their nose at California’s economic and social gains seen under Obama that will be hard to stop if Trump decides he’s had enough of our voter’s malfeasance towards him. The problem with supporting Obama’s way he governed by executive fiat won’t be able to counter Trump is moving beyond the Constitution since that is what Obama has done for eight years with California supporters cheering his every step.

California was certain that Trump would lose and Clinton would expand every social whim most of America finds disdainful. Economic reality will be coming to California and our environmental laws, because Trump can ignore this state for his entire presidency. If you take away California’s bloated vote totals then he won the popular vote by over 1.6 million. We better understand a new dawn is arising, or our economy could be left behind in more ways than we can imagine.

CA’s Democratic Members of Congress Plead for Obama to Pardon “Dreamers”

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Led by members of the California delegation, dozens of House Democrats are again pleading with President Obama to pardon hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to whom he granted temporary deportation deferrals.

Last month, several members of Congress asked Obama to use his pardon authority to forgive the past and future civil immigration offenses of the nearly 750,000 people granted deportation deferrals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

The lawmakers say that even though the so-called Dreamers would be left in legal limbo without work permits or visas, they could more easily apply for legal status from within the U.S. without immigration offenses on their records.

A White House official immediately batted down the idea, saying a pardon wouldn’t give them legal status. …

Click here to read the full story

 

Californians Must Know What NSA Spies Know About Us

President Obama is going to Hiroshima.

When the president travels to Japan later this month for a G-7 summit meeting, he will visit a memorial site that honors the memory of those killed in 1945 when President Harry Truman made the decision to use the atomic bomb to end World War II in the Pacific.

It’s a reminder that the fearsome power of the United States government is under the control of elected civilians.

The atomic bomb was new in 1945, but the structure that controlled its use dates to the 18th century. The U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war — and to spend or withhold funds for it — not to military leaders or intelligence professionals but to Congress. The president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, outranking everyone in uniform even if he (or she) never served in the military personally.

The design was intended to ensure that the American people control the U.S. government, and not the other way around.

barack obama nsa phone verizonThat’s why the information that has come to light about the National Security Agency’s secret data collection programs is so troubling. In the name of keeping the American people safe from terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has been collecting and saving the email and Internet activity records of innocent Americans and allowing government agents to search the data without a warrant.

Congress is asking questions, and not getting answers.

Sometime next year, lawmakers will have to decide whether to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act, which is set to expire. The law has allowed the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence to intercept the communications of targeted foreign nationals, but it turns out that data from Americans has been swept up in the process.

How many Americans have had their emails and Internet activity records collected by this warrantless surveillance? The Obama administration won’t say. Last month 14 lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an answer, but Clapper would only say he’s looking at “several options” for providing the information, “none of which are optimal.”

In a recent hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, senators were told that the intelligence agencies are ignoring the required “minimization” procedures, which call for the communications of innocent Americans to be deleted when discovered.

But a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board found that the information is never deleted. “It sits in the databases for five years, or sometimes longer,” board chairman David Medine told the senators, and the program “does not just target terrorists” but anyone with “foreign intelligence value.”

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, expressed concern over the government’s “backdoor searches” of the collected data. Without a warrant, just by filing a “query,” government agents can read every private word.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, insisted that the surveillance program has helped U.S. authorities foil terrorist plots. She said the government should declassify more reports so the public can see the value of the law.

That’s really not enough. The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires the government to get warrants. That constitutional right can’t simply be erased by a couple of declassified reports declaring the usefulness of warrantless searches.

If Congress doesn’t get answers to all its questions, lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate to let Section 702 fade into the sunset.

The power of the U.S. government is too great to be uncontrolled.

Obama-Backed CA Solar Plant Literally Incinerates Itself

Ivanpah solar energyThe world’s largest solar energy plant known for incinerating birds just got a taste of its own medicine. A fire at the plant Thursday morning, which may have been caused by “misaligned” mirrors used to reflect sunlight at boiler towers, broke out in the facilities interior — literally scorching parts of the plant.

NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, was forced to shut down one of its generating towers and is investigating if mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched a boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers.

An NRG spokesman said it’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure, but it’s likely due to misaligned heliostats, according to Gizmodo. Whatever the cause, workers and firefighters literally went through hell to douse the flames.

Gizmodo reports:

A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.

Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.

The scorched tower is currently shut down, according to the Associated Press, and it’s not clear when it will come online again. It’s also unclear if this setback will affect California’s electricity supply.

This only adds to Ivanpah’s troubles. The plant was nearly shut down by California regulators for not producing nearly as much power as it was supposed to. Regulators have given the plant until the end of July to meet its power quotas, but this fire may make it hard for the plant to meet its goals.

Ivanpah only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.

It wasn’t long after the plant opened, its operators asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.

Environmentalists quickly attacked the project for killing thousands of birds since it opened. Many birds were incinerated by the intense heat reflected off Ivanpah’s heliostats.

The Associated Press cited statistics presented by environmentalists in 2014 that “about a thousand… to 28,000” birds are incinerated by Ivanpah’s heliostats every year.

“Forensic Lab staff observed a falcon or falcon-like bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through the flux field,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report from 2014.

Ivanpah — which is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google — uses more than 170,000 large mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect sunlight towards water boilers set atop 450-foot towers that create steam to turn giant turbines and generate electricity.

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This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

New Data Shows Obama Least Transparent President Ever

Sunshine Transparency CartoonPresident Barack Obama promised at the outset of his White House tenure that his would be the “most transparent administration in history,” but new data made public Friday suggests it has been the least transparent.

Federal officials said they couldn’t find any records for more than one in six, or nearly 130,000, Freedom of Information Act requests, setting a new record low, The Associated Press reported Friday.

“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do,” Vice News investigative journalist Jason Leopold told AP. “I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”

Leopold sat on a panel of journalists who shared FOIA horror stories with lawmakers in June and said reporters often need to sue agencies before getting any records.

AP similarly reported instances where the government released tens of thousands of records following a lawsuit, after previously telling FOIA requesters they couldn’t find any documents. The Department of State, for example, told Gawker they couldn’t find any correspondence between Hillary Clinton aide Phillipe Reines and journalists, but found 90,000 records after a lawsuit.

Leopold also recently reported the Department of Justice previously lobbied heavily against FOIA reform moving through Congress.

The Obama administration answered more record requests and reduced its backlog, Department of Justice spokeswoman Beverly Lumpkin told AP. Additionally, the administration completed a 769,903 requests – a 19 percent increase over 2014 and a new record, AP reported.

Also, 77 percent of requests were either redacted or denied. That includes those where the requester refused to pay for records or when the government said they couldn’t find documents or that a request was either unreasonable or improper.

But the White House reported 93 percent, in fact, were released in full or in part, since they don’t include such caveats in their calculations.

Meanwhile, the inability to pay isn’t necessarily a requester’s stinginess. The Department of Defense said one FOIA request would cost $660 million  – the price of an Australian island – the Center for Public Integrity recently reported.

Additionally, more than half of the federal agencies took longer to answer last year’s requests than in 2014.

“It’s incredibly unfortunate when someone waits months, or perhaps years, to get a response to their request – only to be told that the agency can’t find anything,” Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press attorney Adam Marshall told AP.

AP reviewed all 2015 requests to 100 federal agencies.

“It was impossible to know whether more requests last year involved non-existent files or whether federal workers were searching less than diligently before giving up to consider a case closed,” AP reported.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

The Problem With Trump-esk Type Candidates

Donald Trump SNLFor months, I’ve wondered why people are attracted to Donald Trump. Is it his celebrity status? Is it his business savvy? Or is it his pure crassness?

While his fans cite all of these as their reasoning for supporting him, one point has been excluded: most Americans feel doomed and hopeless. They want someone who is a Washington outsider. They want someone to be a beacon of hope.

Sound familiar?

We had that same problem in 2008. People, especially those who are politically apathetic, began flocking to Obama. They were dazzled by his desire for “hope” and “change.” Others wanted to make history by voting for someone who could become the first African American president. Not only did they want to watch history, but they wanted to be a part of it.

Obama gained momentum and followers who blindly supported him without knowing what policies he advocated for.

The same thing is happening on the right side of the aisle. People are flocking to Trump without knowing why. My guess? They like his tell-it-like-it-is attitude and his bold policy idea of building a wall along Mexico and making the Mexican government pay for it.

Americans favor someone who is willing to be bold and present new ideas. Americans want a president who is willing to do everything in his or her power to protect the American public. I can get behind those ideas. The problem I see in a Trump type candidates: the ability to appeal to the “ignorant masses” (a political science coined term), something both Trump and Obama have in common.

Both men made the average American feel as though they have a personal connection with each and every one of their supporters. I met a Trump supporter last month who told me Trump called her “darling,” something that had her grinning from ear-to-ear. The glow in her eye was similar to that of an expecting mother. She had no other care in the world at the moment, other than reminiscing on The Donald swooning her.

When the Trump type of candidate comes along, they smile, wink and they’ve solidified a vote. Look what that got us over the last 8 years.

Conservatives complain about the people who flocked to Obama without knowing what he stood for, yet those same people are doing the exact same thing, but with Trump.

Trump scares me just as much as Obama did in 2008. I believe he is just as likely to pick up his phone and pen when he doesn’t get his way. After all, he can’t fire the other 535 people he’ll have to work with to run this country.

Beth Baumann is a public relations professional in Southern California, a contributor at PolitiChicks and former Communications Assistant at the American Conservation Union, who sponsors CPAC.