Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gas Tax Hike: Dumber than Dumb

The Phyllis Schlafly Report
By John and Andy Schlafly

Still smarting from how President Trump crushed its phony free trade agenda, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has come up with something even dumber. Led by its anti-Trumper president Tom Donohue, the Chamber has proposed a 25-cent increase in the federal gas tax.

William Weld, who just announced his absurd challenge to Trump for the Republican nomination, presided over a gas tax increase when he was governor of Massachusetts in 1991. That state became known as Taxachusetts with a massive exodus of residents following Weld’s unhappy tenure.

Yet already some liberal Republicans are biting the bait of increasing the taxes on gas. If adopted, this would facilitate a Democratic landslide in 2020.

Gas taxes are immensely unpopular with President Trump’s middle-class supporters, many of whom drive long distances to support their families. They also tend to go on driving trips, such as family summer vacations, and a gas tax increase would disrupt their plans.

Limousine liberals and government workers would barely feel the pinch of a gas tax as they ride the taxpayer-funded D.C. Metro. They would be fine with higher gas taxes, while swing voters who decide elections are hit the hardest.

A large share of the gas tax is diverted to subways, trains and buses. Car drivers who already pay enormous state and federal taxes should not be forced to further subsidize public transportation.

The federal gas tax is currently 18.4 cents a gallon, and all the states tack on a whopping additional tax of their own. In Pennsylvania, its state gas tax is an additional 58.2 cents a gallon.

The “yellow vest” demonstrations that have turned Paris upside down were primarily a protest against high gas taxes in France. Even in liberal Washington State, its voters defeated a carbon tax by 56 to 44 percent last November, and by a wider margin in 2016.

The wasteful way that government fails to maintain roads is the real problem, and hiking gas taxes will not repair that. A familiar sight on interstate highways is the many construction sites that lack real work activity, diverting traffic longer than they should.

In this era of Uber and Lyft, electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as humongous tandem tractor trailers, the gasoline tax is no longer a fair way to pay for our highways. Roads should be funded by those who use them, with variable fees that depend on cost and time of day.

The Dulles Greenway in Virginia is an example of a successful private highway which connects Washington Dulles Airport to Leesburg, Virginia. It has an electronic system for collecting tolls from riders, who enjoy its convenient and efficient access.

In this 21st century, drivers can pay electronically with their smartphones based on their GPS-tracked travel. That efficiency would help deter the massive commuter traffic jams that currently plague our public highways.

The practice of some cities, such as Chicago, to enter into long-term leases of its roads to a foreign owner is not the right approach. A consortium of Canadian pension funds owns the Chicago Skyway toll road, which may be preferable to government ownership but raises questions as to why an American owner was not found for it.

Politicians who have suggested a national carbon tax are not popular either, and anti-Trump Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) was defeated for reelection after he endorsed that bad idea. A carbon tax is on the amount of carbon in energy sources, primarily fossil fuels.

A carbon tax would be imposed on the suppliers of the energy, particularly oil, coal, and natural gas. But this tax would then be passed on to consumers in the form of higher heating and air-conditioning costs, and higher gas prices at the pump.

The same concept of increasing the gas tax is already being pursued by liberal states such as California, Illinois, and New Jersey. Each of those states have enacted or are considering sharp increases in their own state gas tax, in addition to the federal tax.

In New Jersey, the gas tax was increased by 23 cents a gallon in 2016, and then an additional 4.3 cents last year. Yet another gas tax increase there is possible later this year, with little to show for it except angrier drivers.

In California, where prices already average an eye-popping $3.80 per gallon, a new state tax of 5.6 cents per gallon will hit this summer. Legislation in the Illinois state senate proposes doubling the gas tax there, to 38 cents a gallon.

When the price of a good goes up, demand for the good goes down and a smaller amount is sold. An increase in gas taxes means fewer car trips, less shopping, a decline in summer family vacations on the road, and millions of angry daily commuters who vote.

John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) and lead the continuing Phyllis Schlafly Eagles organizations with writing and policy work. These columns are also posted on pseagles.com.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Nuclear Option Needed to Confirm Judges

The Phyllis Schlafly Report
By John and Andy Schlafly

The vast majority of President Trump’s nominees to the federal district courts have been blocked by Democrats in the Senate. Some of them have languished for more than a year, without an up-or-down floor vote on their confirmation.

Tuesday afternoon Democrats rejected a fair compromise offered by Senate Republicans to break the logjam. On a nearly party-line vote, the Senate killed Senate Resolution 50 which would have established a new procedure to facilitate timely confirmation of nominees approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sixty votes were needed to advance S.Res. 50, and even though Republicans enjoy majority control of the Senate they cannot muster the super-majority to attain cloture on changing the rules for nominees. So this leaves Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with only the nuclear option to overcome Democrat obstructionism.

While the Senate has promptly confirmed Trump’s nominees to the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court, Democrats have blocked dozens of excellent nominees to the lower courts. There are an astounding 133 vacancies today in federal district courts and 13 more vacancies will arise soon.

But under current Senate rules, Democrats are forcing several days of delay in confirming each district court judge whenever any senator wants to stall it. At this rate, President Trump would be denied his ability to fill a significant percentage of the trial court vacancies and Democrats hope keep these vacancies unfilled until after the next presidential election.

District courts are the tribunals that conduct all federal trials and they are where the vast majority of federal judiciary decisions are made. These are the courts that have repeatedly issued injunctions against President Trump, which he then has to run up on appeal to get them overturned months later.

It is federal district courts which issue injunctions in favor of Planned Parenthood virtually any time it demands them. It can take years to overturn those injunctions on appeal and often the appellate court simply remands the case back to the same district court, which then rules for Planned Parenthood again.

This means that while the U.S. Courts of Appeal have the last say in many cases, the federal district courts are the place where most litigation occurs. As a practical matter, continued liberal control of the district courts means never-ending judicial activism.

So it is not surprising that Democrats have done everything they can to continue their grip on the district courts. By causing seemingly endless hours of debate on each and every district court nominee, Democrats have frustrated the ability of President Trump to obtain confirmation of his judges at the trial level.

Democrats have obstructed district court nominees to such an extent that it has taken an average of 133 days – more than a third of a year – for the Senate to vote on a nominee after approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service found that 37 district court nominees still await a floor vote after approval by the Judiciary Committee.

In some states, such as Missouri, not a single judicial nominee has been confirmed during the more than two years that Trump has been president. Indeed, since January both senators from Missouri are Republican and thus not even senatorial courtesy can be blamed, whereby a senator from the state can block a nominee by failing to return a blue slip.

Mississippi is another conservative state which has not had a single Trump judge appointed to a federal district court there. One vacancy has been pending for more than a year in its Southern District and another vacancy is expected there at the end of this month.

In Texas, another solidly Republican state, its Southern District, which includes Houston, has three vacancies. The Northern District of Texas, which includes Dallas, has five vacancies and five nominees by President Trump await confirmation by the Senate.

Senator Mitch McConnell expressed his justified frustration about this obstinance by the Democrats. He observed that their intransigence on these district court nominees “is unsustainable for the Senate and for the country,” and warned that it does not bode well for a future Democratic president either, because Republicans would return the favor in blocking his nominee.

If Democrats had supported Senate Resolution 50, then this gridlock on judges could have been amicably and sensible resolved. S.Res. 50 would have shortened the post-cloture time for a floor vote on presidential nominees, which means that Trump’s nominees could be brought to a vote without undue delay.

By rejecting this compromise, Democrats have made the nuclear option necessary to shut down the endless filibustering of these good Trump nominees. Majority Leader McConnell should next implement this option to proceed, with only a simple majority vote, to change the rules in order to hold timely floor votes on Trump’s district court nominees.

John and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016) and lead the continuing Phyllis Schlafly Eagles organizations with writing and policy work. These columns are also posted on pseagles.com.

The woman who shaped the modern GOP

A liberal online magazine, PS Mag, reports in a article about attempts to revive the ERA:
But an argument the anti-feminist firebrand Phyllis Schlafly — the woman who shaped the modern GOP — articulated on Good Morning America in 1976 has endured: Equality is actually bad for women. "When you make the laws apply equally to men and women, you end up taking away many of the rights that women now have," Schlafly said.
Really? She shaped the modern GOP? It is interesting that this magazine sees it that way.