Tags: Obama | Expands | Executive | Orders | Memoranda | UN Bum-Rushes Climate Skeptics | GOP Congress Planning 5 Changes on Taxes

Obama Quietly Expands Executive Orders Using Memoranda; UN Bum-Rushes Climate Skeptics

By    |   Sunday, 21 December 2014 05:18 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama Issues Most Presidential Memoranda in History
2. GOP Congress Planning 5 Changes on Taxes
3. Global Warming Skeptics Rushed From Stage at UN Conference
4. Terrorist Calls Pakistan School Attackers 'Enemies of Islam'
5. Ditching Pennies and Nickels Would Save $100 Million
6. Christmas Cheer Stronger This Year: Rasmussen Poll

1. Obama Issues Most Presidential Memoranda in History

President Barack Obama and the Democrats have touted the fact that that he has issued fewer executive orders than almost all of his predecessors.

But he has actually issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history.

And like executive orders, presidential memoranda don't require action by Congress, and they have the same force of law as executive orders.

Obama said in July: "I'm issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years."

Also in July, Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "While Republicans accuse President Obama of executive overreach, they neglect the fact that he has issued far fewer executive orders than any two-term president in the last 50 years."

Obama has issued 195 executive orders as of Tuesday, according to USA Today. But in addition, 198 of his presidential memoranda have been published alongside the orders in the Federal Registry. When the orders and memoranda are combined, Obama is on track to institute more high-level executive actions than any president since Harry Truman.

He has signed 33 percent more presidential memoranda in less than six years than George W. Bush did in eight years, and he is the first president to issue more memoranda than executive orders.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and George H.W. Bush all issued fewer than 50 presidential memoranda.

"The White House and its defenders can say, 'He can't be abusing his executive authority. He's hardly using any orders," Andrew Rudalevige, a presidential scholar at Bowdoin College, told USA Today. "But if you look at these other vehicles, he has been aggressive in his use of executive power."

Among his recent memoranda, Obama on Tuesday used one to declare Bristol Bay, Alaska, off-limits to oil and gas exploration.

In January, he issued a memorandum telling the Treasury Department to develop a pilot program for a new retirement savings account for low-income workers.

In April, an Obama memorandum directed the Department of Labor to collect salary data from federal contractors and subcontractors to determine if they are paying women and minorities fairly.

In June, he instructed the Department of Labor to allow certain borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of income.

In September, he used a memorandum to authorize military and other aid to the embattled government of Ukraine.

A controversial recent memorandum directed the administration to overhaul the country's immigration system, an action that Republicans claim exceeded his authority.

While presidential memoranda and executive orders have the same force of law, there is one significant distinction: Due to an executive order signed by President Kennedy in 1962, an executive order must contain a "citation of authority," saying what law it is based on.

Presidential memoranda have no such requirement.

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2. GOP Congress Planning 5 Changes on Taxes

Now that Republicans are poised to take control of the Senate as well as increasing their majority in the House in 2015, they are reportedly planning at least five major changes to the tax system that could have far-reaching effects for many Americans.

In the Senate, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch will become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — and he is a proponent, along with incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of revising the tax code.

President Obama could veto the GOP plans, but congressional Republicans "will advance some narrowly targeted bills they think can become law and set the stage for their next moves," the Washington Examiner observed.

The five plans include:

Repeal of the medical device tax: The tax was included in Obamacare to help pay for the expansion of healthcare coverage, and imposes a 2.3 percent sales tax on a range of medical devices, including CT scanners and even hypodermic needles.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he wants to eliminate the tax, which is estimated to bring in nearly $30 billion over 10 years — with most of that passed on to consumers in higher prices.

The repeal has enough broad support that it could overcome a presidential veto, according to the Examiner.

Lowering tax rates: Ryan's stated goal is to reduce the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, and the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

However, households could lose credits and deductions to pay for the rate reductions.

Limiting mortgage interest deductions: The mortgage interest deduction is the third largest tax break after employer healthcare expenditures and reduced tax rates on dividends and capital gains, according to a congressional report, and accounted for $93 billion in forgone tax revenue last year.

But as the Insider Report has noted earlier, the deduction primarily benefits upper-income earners and encourages excessive borrowing.

Current law allows deductions for loans up to $1 million. Tax reform could gradually reduce that cap for new loans to $500,000.

Increasing tax breaks for families with children: Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah have proposed boosting the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,500, applicable to income and payroll taxes.

To help low-income families, Rep. Ryan instead prefers boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit, which supplements earnings.

Simplifying tax returns: The Internal Revenue Service says the average American spends 13 hours managing and filing taxes. Republicans believe the tax code could be streamlined by eliminating a number of tax breaks and preferences, according to the Tax Policy Center, and by reducing the number of filers who need to itemize deductions.

House Speaker John Boehner said in October: "Americans should be able to do their taxes on two sheets of paper."

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3. Global Warming Skeptics Rushed From Stage at UN Conference

Former NASA astronaut Walt Cunningham and two other global warming skeptics were removed from the stage by United Nations officials while delivering a presentation at a U.N. conference on climate change.

Cunningham and two representatives of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) — executive director Craig Rucker and director of communications Marc Morano — were given 30 minutes for their talk at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, on December 11.

But they were abruptly told they had to "wrap up" their talk after 18 minutes to accommodate U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who wanted the stage for a photo op.

Kerry was attending the conference to promote a new U.N. climate treaty. He has declared that climate change "may be, in fact, the most serious challenge we face on the planet."

After the three skeptics left as requested, the room remained empty for at least 35 minutes, Climate Depot reported.

"This is an outrage," said Rucker. "We are one of the few skeptical voices of reason here at the conference. To interrupt our press conference and abruptly end our press conference smacks of a cheap form of censorship.

"This was particularly obnoxious as the room remained vacant for quite a while after we left."

Cunningham, who flew into space with the Apollo 7 mission in 1968, told the U.N. before his removal: "CO2 is not a pollutant. Earth's climate history indicates CO2 is not a major factor in climate change. The U.N. has twisted science in order to enrich itself and inflate its own importance."

Cunningham, author of a pamphlet titled "Global Warming: Facts Versus Faith," also stated that climate alarmism is "one of the biggest frauds in the field of science."

Rucker said: "It is mind-boggling that as the world rushes toward adopting a climate agreement, the alleged scientific 'consensus' behind global warming is being blown apart.

"With Antarctic sea ice at record high numbers, polar bears thriving, and no global warming for 18 years and two months, you would think there would be a need to pause and reconsider the evidence for a climate catastrophe."

Editor's Note:


4. Terrorist Calls Pakistan School Attackers 'Enemies of Islam'

A Pakistani radical considered the mastermind of several of the deadliest terrorist attacks in India has condemned the jihadist attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, saying that Islam is a "religion of peace."

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed posted a statement on the website of his Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization on Tuesday regarding the slaughter at the school, claiming the attack was carried out by "enemies of Islam" and the killing of women and children during jihad is forbidden.

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, a close ally of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's school attack, which killed more than 140 people, mostly children.

Saeed's condemnation of the school attack is curious given that he has been designated as a terrorist by the United States and the United Nations. The U.S. has placed a $10 million bounty on his head for allegedly masterminding "numerous attacks," including a 2008 assault in Mumbai, India, that left 166 people dead, six of them Americans, and wounded more than 300, CNS News reported.

Over a 60-hour period, gunmen in Mumbai attacked a railway station, two hospitals, a Jewish center, a movie theater, a café, a bank, and two hotels. The dead included children as young as five, a 13-year-old American girl, and the pregnant wife of an American rabbi.

India blamed the attack on the Pakistani jihadist organization Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which was founded by Saeed in the late 1980s, and gave Pakistan a list of 20 suspects, topped by Saeed.

Saeed was placed under house arrest but Pakistan refused to indict or extradite him.

In an earlier terrorist attack in 2006, seven blasts on trains in Mumbai left 209 dead and 700 injured. After the bombings, Saeed was arrested in Pakistan and kept under house arrest, but he was released shortly thereafter.

The U.S. State Department says Saeed's Jamaat-ud-Dawa is merely a front for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and brands both groups as a "foreign terrorist organization."

The U.S. also has accused Lashkar-e-Tayyiba of carrying out attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan, and a July 2008 suicide bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people.

Today Saeed is a free man living openly in Lahore, Pakistan, protected by Pakistani forces.

Editor's Note:


5. Ditching Pennies and Nickels Would Save $100 Million

It costs the United States almost twice as much to mint a penny than a penny is actually worth — nearly 1.7 cents per penny, according to the U.S. Mint's latest report to Congress.

Minting a nickel costs $8.09 cents.

So the Mint spends $1.66 to make a dollar's worth of pennies, and $1.62 to make a dollar's worth of nickels.

As recently as the early 2000s, the Mint was turning a small profit on the penny and nickel. But the cost of producing the coins began rising in 2006 due to an increase in metal prices and the Mint hasn't broken even on the coins since then, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The penny was originally 100 percent copper, but since 1983 it has been 97.5 percent zinc. The nickel is 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel.

As of 2013, taxpayers were losing $105 million a year producing pennies and nickels.

Other coins turn a profit. It costs 8.95 cents to make a quarter, and 3.91 cents to mint a dime. A dollar bill costs 5.4 cents.

President Obama included a provision in his 2015 budget to "assess the future of currency" and ultimately develop "alternative options for the penny and nickel," but those options are not specified.

One option is to change the metal composition of pennies and nickels. Canadian nickels, for example, are 95 percent steel and are cheaper to produce than their face value.

But that would require vending machine operators to upgrade their machines and would cost billions of dollars.

Another option is to simply get rid of the penny and the nickel, saving more than $100 million annually. Canada discontinued using pennies when their production cost approached 1.6 cents.

But ditching those coins is strenuously opposed by the metal alloy industries and by Coinstar, which operates the change-redeeming machines found in many American grocery stores.

Americans redeeming their coins pay Coinstar 10.9 cents on the dollar.

The Journal concludes: "In essence, we're paying $100 million a year to make coins that nobody wants, so that people can take them to a Coinstar kiosk and pay again to get rid of them."

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6. Christmas Cheer Stronger This Year: Rasmussen Poll

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be more joyous this holiday season than in several previous years, according to a new survey.

The Rasmussen Reports poll finds that 57 percent of Americans are having no trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year, up from a low of 49 percent in 2010 and the highest level of enthusiasm in several years of surveying.

This year 37 percent of American adults are having difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit, but that's down from 41 percent a year ago and from 43 percent in December 2009, at the end of the first full year after the Wall Street meltdown.

About half of poll respondents say they consider this holiday season joyous, up from the mid-40s back in 2007, but 41 percent find the season stressful.

Married adults find the season more joyous than unwed adults, but adults with children living with them find it more stressful than those without children at home.

Rasmussen also discloses that 78 percent of adults plan on doing at least some of their holiday shopping online this season, up from 60 percent as recently as 2012.

Other poll findings from Rasmussen Reports include:

  • 89 percent of adults celebrate Christmas with their family.
  • 61 percent plan on attending a Christmas party this year, with younger adults more likely to attend a party than older ones.
  • Only 47 percent say they are sending Christmas cards this year, down from 54 percent a year ago.
  • 18 percent are spending more money this holiday season than they did last year, 45 percent are spending less, and 35 percent are spending about the same amount.
  • 38 percent are making a contribution to a charity or nonprofit in a friend's name as a gift this holiday season.
  • 60 percent believe Christmas should be more about Jesus Christ than about Santa Claus.
  • 80 percent think Christmas is over-commercialized, and 72 percent think stores start the Christmas season too early.
  • Surprisingly, more than half of American adults, 52 percent, are actually making arrangements with friends or family not to exchange gifts, up from 45 percent last year.
  • Most Americans still prefer signs in stores that say "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays.

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Obama Issues Most Presidential Memoranda in History 2. GOP Congress Planning 5 Changes on Taxes 3. Global Warming Skeptics Rushed From Stage at UN Conference 4. Terrorist Calls Pakistan School Attackers 'Enemies...
Obama, Expands, Executive, Orders, Memoranda, UN Bum-Rushes Climate Skeptics, GOP Congress Planning 5 Changes on Taxes, Terrorist Calls Pakistan School Attackers Enemies of Islam, Ditching Pennies and Nickels Would Save 100 Million
Sunday, 21 December 2014 05:18 PM
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