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Stimulus Update: ***DO NOT*** Use Cars.gov (Unless You Don’t Care About Your Personal Files)

08/1/2009

I have a number of things that I need to post regarding eligibility, but when I received an email from a concerned citizen about what the federal government is doing via an end-user license agreement by virtue of accessing the Cars.gov site, and realized that FoxNews’ Glenn Beck was reporting on the story, I wanted to help pass on the word and devote an entire posting to the issue.

Many of you may have already been aware of the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program — that little piece of the so-called stimulus bill that authorized $1 billion to be used for approximately $4,500 towards trade-ins that was supposed to have lasted until October — and the sheer bureaucratic nightmare it has become.

If you haven’t, here’s a quick cut-and-paste from Drudge’s site on relevant links to bring you up to speed (you’ll notice that a by-product of the program is that car dealerships absolutely must completely disable the engine of the traded-in car — no matter how well it might otherwise drive — and then must contact or otherwise provide for a salvage yard to come pick up the vehicle to be otherwise incerated before they can be reimbursed by the federal government):

‘Clunkers’ Program Running Out of Cash…

‘If they can’t administer program like this, I’d be concerned about health insurance’…

UPDATE: HOUSE APPROVES $2B MORE…

GOV’T COMPUTERS CRASH IN RACE FOR ‘CLUNKER’ CASH…
SCHUMER SEEKS BILLIONS MORE…

But you haven’t seen anything yet. Check out the following YouTube video that explains the agreement to which you must consent before receiving full access to the site (I will admit to not having actually gone to cars.gov, but after seeing the following, I’m not sure what in the world would compell me or anyone else to do so, except for ignorance):

I’ll even spell it out for everyone:

“This applicationn provides access to the DoT CARS system. When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal government system and is the property of the U.S. Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorized CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign.” [emphases added]

For those of us in IT (Information Technology), end user license agreements are certainly nothing new (simply take a look at the virtual novel that, say, Microsoft throws at you every time you install Microsoft Office on your system) and will usually restrict you in your use of the software. Not only this, but it’s also true that if you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) at your workplace and you’re using your office computer, you know (or should have reason to know) that (1) transmissions on that network can be monitored and/or recorded and that (2) what’s on your work computer can be accessed by the company.

To me, it wouldn’t even be that big of a deal if the language were very specific that only the federal Department of Transportation had access to files and what not; after all, I’m using their site, so they would theoretically have the authority to access a user’s transactions on their site.

However, that’s not what concerns me about the above. What concerns me is that the language includes the underlined, emboldened and italicized part. The access isn’t just controlled and authorized by the DoT; it’s conceivably observed by any agency, both domestic and foreign.

I think Mr. Beck and Ms. Guilfoyle described exactly what this means about your computer system well enough for me to not have to belabor that most pernicious of a point.

Instead, I will conclude with the following:

Maybe next time our dear elected federal officials will actually read the bills that come before them. And, if the majority in power is putting up encumbrance after encumbrance to try to stymie the process of reading the bills, it is absolutely in the minority’s best interest to pull out every parliamentary tactic they can in order to make sure that all of the American people are better served. To me, this includes walking off the floor, en masse in order that a quorum is not present sufficient enough to hold a vote.

This has got to stop.

And they want to take over the health insurance industry?

Update: From the above HotAir.com reference, check out this perfectly usable (until the federal government got a hold of it) Volvo being purposefully destroyed because of this program (a warning to mechanics and other car lovers, especially Volvo lovers — this will make you cry). Imagine instead of a car purposefully being put to death its your grandmother or grandfather being put to death by the federal government:

-Phil

Update: Pamela Gellar at AtlasShrugs has more.

Update: HotAir.com has a posting on this as well. While they insinuate somewhat that the above may not be as big of a deal as individuals like myself are framing the issue, my question is why would you go about taking the risk of government snooping in your computer if you don’t absolutely have to, or if more information has yet to be provided for this situation?

Twitter: @trsol -=- Facebook (TRSoL) -=- Facebook (Rightside Phil)

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States’ Rights Update: More Fallout on GA Voter Eligibility Law; SC Gov May Soon Complete Stimulus Judicial Challenge

06/2/2009

While the Supreme Court will be considering in Conference this Thursday a law recently passed here in the great State of Georgia requiring voter pre-verification in order to determine citizen eligibility to vote, top conservative blogger Michelle Malkin pulls together further links on the subject as well as a press release from GA Secretary of State Karen Handel:

First, Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ protect the New Black Panther Party bullies who menaced a Philly voting station last fall.

Now, Holder and the DOJ are opening the voter fraud floodgates in Georgia. The Georgia secretary of state explains:

Obama Justice Department Decision Will Allow Non-Citizens to Register to Vote in Georgia
Decision Bars Georgia From Continuing Voter Verification Process

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel issued the following statement following the U.S. Department of Justice’s denial of preclearance of Georgia’s voter verification process:

Atlanta – “The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to deny preclearance of Georgia’s already implemented citizenship verification process shows a shocking disregard for the integrity of our elections. With this decision, DOJ has now barred Georgia from continuing the citizenship verification program that DOJ lawyers helped to craft. DOJ’s decision also nullifies the orders of two federal courts directing Georgia to implement the procedure for the 2008 general election. The decision comes seven months after Georgia requested an expedited review of the preclearance submission.

“DOJ has thrown open the door for activist organizations such as ACORN to register non-citizens to vote in Georgia’s elections, and the state has no ability to verify an applicant’s citizenship status or whether the individual even exists. DOJ completely disregarded Georgia’s obvious and direct interest in preventing non-citizens from voting, instead siding with the ACLU and MALDEF. Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy. … 

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Stimulus Update: Gov. Sanford Sues SC AG

05/26/2009

As you may recall, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford decided to reject some of the funds from the recently-passed stimulus bill, despite the fact that the bill has what many consider an unconstitutional provision that otherwise allows a State legislature to bypass a Governor to accept all funds.

Now, Jeff Schreiber at AmericasRight.com reports that Gov. Sanford is suing his State’s Attorney General for effectively supporting the Legislature in passing legislation requiring the Governor to accept all of the federal monies:

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has filed suit against South Carolina Attorney Gen. Henry McMaster over action taken by the state legislature which would have required the governor to accept federal stimulus money.

Sanford has been fighting a battle over the money for months now, taking heat from those in the Palmetto State who feel that the funds could help struggling schools and could assist in stemming the state’s above-average unemployment, while himself arguing that the money would handcuff the state into funding unsustainable programs itself after the federal money runs out.

Accepting the federal cash, Sanford stated in the court documents, “would require his agreement to these onerous federal educational mandates and unsustainable spending commitments, would further burden South Carolina’s economy and substantially increase the state’s debt in the future and therefore is contrary to the welfare of the people of South Carolina.”

I completely agree with Jeff’s take on Mr. Sanford’s petition:

It’s a nightmare. Just like the bank bailouts were more about control than anything else (otherwise, the federal government would allow the banks to repay the money), the stimulus money is driven by the same motives. For this administration, crisis lends itself to control.

This lawsuit is more than just a governor suing a state attorney general. This lawsuit is about federalism, about state sovereignty, about the balance of power not just in South Carolina, but from coast to coast.

-Phil

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AIG “Bonus Tax” Unconstitutional: Courts Unlikely to Strike; Sen. Kyl Blocks Bill in Senate

03/20/2009

The blogger at EstelPowell has an interesting viewpoint that could play a part in how Congress is able to deal with taxing bonuses for the sake of punishment:

What [Congress fails] to realize, is penalizing a company for an action through taxation is unconstitutional. In the case below Congress tried to make companies more taxes if they employed children in certain industries and broke certain regulations. This was passed in 1919, but in 1922 the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the united States) declared it unconstitutinal to penalize a business for it’s practices.

If you take this case and compare it now to AIG, then we cannot tax them legally. I’m upset like most Americans, but you have to keep in mind the Politicians thrive off of deception. The Democratic Congress formalized the 1st stimulus bill and Chris Dodd himself specifically gave the companies the rights to give bonuses on anything prior to February 11, 2009. So they left the door open for this to happen. Now they wanted this to happen I FEEL, because this creates controversy and they get to do the smoke and mirrors act. They look noble in your eyes. But if you look at the huge picture, they are only trying to get you to believe the government needs to intervene and take the extra step in taking more control of the economy in the uS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey_v._Drexel_Furniture_Co.

Update: EstelPowell goes on to point out the following from Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) in a recent posting on TownHall.com:

I firmly opposed and voted “no” on HR 1586. Let’s first understand exactly what the bill does. It imposes a 90% federal income tax on any bonus paid to any employee of any company that has received over $5 Billion in federal rescue funds. Such companies include, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Chase Bank, JP Morgan, CitiBank, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac amongst others. The tax would only apply to people with total joint incomes over $250,000 or single individuals with income of over $125,000. When combined with California Income taxes which now top out at 10.55%, this can be a tax just short of 101% of the income.

Under this law, a bank teller at Wells Fargo could receive a bonus of $1,000 for doing a great job. If that bank teller was married to a physician who made $175,000 and they had some additional investment income, that bank teller would pay a tax of $1,055 on the bonus of $1,000 that they received for doing a good job. This is horrible!

This is not raising revenues, this is punishment. It is a terrible precedent to use the tax laws for punishment. If we go down this road, the government can impose a 100% tax on anyone they don’t like, or anyone they believe is paid too much. Employees of other companies, doing the same thing for the same bonus, will not receive this tax. That probably makes it unconstitutional and I hope it does.

I understand the public outrage over these bonuses and I share much of it. But this is not the way to fix it. Sue them to get the money back. But don’t do this.

You may or may not realize it, but embezzlement income is taxable today, but at normal rates. So if you steal money, you will not have a tax higher than normal. You may be forced to give the money back because you stole it, but it will not be taxed away from you. This bill makes a bonus from Bank of America a more egregious offense under the tax laws than bank robbery.

All of this was caused because we nationalized companies that are created to make a profit. Throughout time, governments have shown themselves to be particularly inept at such an enterprise. This is another example of why.

Update: And now this from The New York Times:

The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 27 in Federal District Court in Manhattan, details, among other things, certain tax-related dealings of the financial products unit, the once high-flying division that has been singled out for its role in A.I.G.’s financial crisis last fall. Other deals involved A.I.G. offshore entities whose function centers on executive compensation and include C. V. Starr & Company, a closely held concern controlled by Maurice R. Greenberg, A.I.G.’s former chairman, and the Starr International Company, a privately held enterprise incorporated in Panama, and commonly known as SICO.

The lawsuit contends in part that the federal government owes A.I.G. nearly $62 million in foreign tax credits related to eight foreign entities, with names like Lumagrove, Laperouse and Foppingadreef, that were set up or controlled by financial products, often through a unit known as Pinestead Holdings.

United States tax law allows American companies to claim a credit for any taxes paid to a foreign government. But the I.R.S. denied A.I.G.’s refund claims in 2008, saying that it had improperly calculated the credits. The I.R.S. has identified so-called foreign tax-credit generators as an area of abuse that it is increasingly monitoring.

The remainder of A.I.G.’s claim, for $244 million, concerns net operating loss carry-backs, capital loss carry-backs, a general refund claim and claims for refunds of other tax-related payments that A.I.G. says it made to the I.R.S. but are now owed back. The claim also covers $119 million in penalties and interest that A.I.G. says it is due back from the government.

In part, A.I.G. says it overpaid its federal income taxes after a 2004 accounting scandal that caused it to restate its financial records. A.I.G. says in part that it is entitled to a refund of $33 million that SICO paid in 1997 as compensation to employees, which it now says should be characterized as a deductible expense.

A.I.G.’s lawyers in the case, at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, referred calls to the company. Asked about the lawsuit, Mark Herr, an A.I.G. spokesman, said Thursday that “A.I.G. is taking this action to ensure that it is not required to pay more than its fair share of taxes.”

Update: Bloomberg is reporting that legal experts say the Judiciary is unlikely to strike down the bill because the Dems have properly kept from getting too specific about taxing singular entities and allowing enough loopholes to get out of it.

However, as HotAir.com is reporting:

Sen. Jon Kyl, the Republicans’ vote counter, blocked Democratic efforts Thursday evening to bring up the Senate version of the tax bill to recoup most of the $165 million paid out by AIG last weekend and other bonuses in 2009. The House had swiftly approved its version of the bill earlier in the day.

By rushing, Kyl said, Democrats were letting populist outrage trump informed decision making in the Senate, which is supposed to be insulated from the pressures of public passion.

“I don’t believe that Congress should rush to pass yet another piece of hastily crafted legislation in this very toxic atmosphere, at least without understanding the facts and the potential unintended consequences,” Kyl said on the Senate floor. “Frankly, I think that’s how we got into the current mess.”…

How to impose those taxes without running afoul of the Constitution or the law is a dispute that has Republicans urging a go-slow approach. Doing so, of course, would drag out the Democratic discomfort over administration missteps and provide plenty of time for the GOP and others to question Geithner’s performance.

Of course, as I’ve previously reported, this wouldn’t be the first time that this Congress has allegedly overstepped the boundaries of the Constitution.

-Phil

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More AIG-Stimulus-Bailout After-Effects (Video Linkfest)

03/19/2009

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AIG-Stimulus-Bailout Roundup

03/19/2009

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Report: State Legislatures May Not Override Governors on Stimulus

03/18/2009

According to the Kansas City Star, the Congressional Research Service scheduled a report to be released today (3/18) that may cause some on Congress to re-think trying to “commandeer” State legislatures to be able to override Governors if that Governor chooses to reject some or all of the stimulus.

Currently, Govs. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Rick Perry of Texas have stated that they’re rejecting at least some of the monies potentially due their respective States. However:

The report by the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, casts doubt on a key provision of the $787 billion stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed into law last month, according to people familiar with the report, who couldn’t be named because they weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly.

The clause, aimed at bypassing governors who oppose using deficit spending to jolt the economy, authorizes a state’s legislature to apply for the stimulus funds if its governor fails to do so within 45 days of the stimulus measure’s Feb. 17 enactment – by April 3.

Exactly what is this clause? To date, Human Events did a great job covering this issue:

SEC. 1607. (a) CERTIFICATION BY GOVERNOR — Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act, for funds provided to any State or agency thereof, the Governor of the State shall certify that: 1) the State request and use funds provided by this Act , and; 2) funds be used to create jobs and promote economic growth.

(b) ACCEPTANCE BY STATE LEGISLATURE — If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.

As far as South Carolina’s legislature is concerned, here is their push-back:

The South Carolina Senate Finance Committee voted 18-3 on Tuesday to pass a measure authorizing the state General Assembly to seek the stimulus funds if Republican Gov. Mark Sanford fails to act.

The Congressional Research Service report raises concerns that such a move by the legislature could usurp Sanford’s executive power.

Unless a State’s constitution specifically states such (and what State in the Union is going to allow the Legislature to “go around” the Governor except in the case of an executive veto?), by what right does the federal government instigate a potential behavior? Apparently, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the originator of the provision, seems to think that Congress has this authority:

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, who crafted the controversial bypass clause of the stimulus bill, said that there’s no doubt about congressional intentions.

“It’s up to the courts to decide constitutionality,” Clyburn said. “The law is clear, and the South Carolina legislature has already begun the legislative process to draw down desperately needed stimulus funding if the governor doesn’t act.”

And while Gov. Sanford had contacted the White House over being able to use some of the funds towards State debt versus needs stated in the bill (which was subsequently rejected by the Administration, due to the fact that the federal government can put “strings” on said monies), the question is one concerning the Tenth Amendment:

The report doesn’t conclude that the stimulus provision is unconstitutional, but says there are legitimate concerns.

The report’s analysis focuses in part on the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, codifies the principle of federalism and delineates the separation of powers between states and the federal government.

Sanford said that he has discretion over $700 million of stimulus funds for South Carolina, which is slated to receive $8 billion overall, including $2.5 billion in tax cuts, $1 billion in extra Medicaid payments and $463 million extra to build and repair roads and bridges.

Should this issue be taken to the Judiciary (as the dear Representative effectively dares the States to do), and if Section 1607 is deemed to be unconstitutional, does that mean that the entire Act gets struck down? After all, this Section has a direct bearing on how the rest of the Act is implemented.

Could this be the first shot across the bow of this Administration with respect to States’ rights?

-Phil

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TX Governor Rejects Stimulus Money for Jobless Claims

03/14/2009

Right on the heels of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford having rejected some of the monies in the so-called stimulus bill, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has similarly signaled that he will be rejecting some of the monies as well:

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry, joining a handful of his fellow Southern Republican leaders, said Thursday that he was rejecting $556 million in federal stimulus money for unemployed Texans because it had too many strings attached.

He said the federal provisions would require unprecedented changes in state rules on who is eligible for unemployment payments. He also argued that the funds – which Democrats say would update benefits so that more women, elderly and student workers could qualify – would place additional burdens on businesses, leaving them to pay the added costs when the federal money ran out.

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Gov. Sanford to Reject $700 Million in Funds; State Legislature to Bypass Governor

03/12/2009

From the NewsObserver.com:

WASHINGTON — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is expected Wednesday to become the first governor to formally reject some of the federal stimulus money earmarked by Congress for his state.

The move will cement Sanford’s growing reputation as a political powerhouse among Republican party stalwarts nationwide — though how much of the estimated $8 billion in stimulus funds destined for South Carolina will be affected is unclear. The law allows state legislative leaders to accept funds the governor rejects [and something I think is clearly unconstitutional].

“Our objections to the so-called stimulus bill have been well-chronicled for the way it spends money that we don’t have and for the way this printing of money could ultimately devalue the American dollar,” Sanford said on Tuesday, even as he acknowledged that he’ll accept some.

“Those of us opposed to this package lost the debate on these merits, and I now think it is important we look for creative ways to apply and use these monies in accordance with the long-term interests of our state,” he said.

Still, Sanford’s formal rejection will enhance his standing as a Republican willing to challenge President Barack Obama, a position Sanford first took Dec. 1, when he traveled to Philadelphia to challenge the then president-elect directly at a meeting with the nation’s governors.

Since then, a handful of other governors — all Republicans, all talked about as possible 2012 presidential candidates — have joined Sanford in saying they’d reject at least some of their states’ stimulus shares. …

All the attention, plus Sanford’s increased travel to address Republicans in Washington, Texas and beyond, have sparked talk that he’s eyeing a 2012 presidential campaign. …

Sanford urged 1,000 activists, gathered in late February at the Ronald Reagan Banquet in a Washington hotel, to be prepared to lose, and to feel happy about it.

“Would you be willing to support a cause or a candidate that is likely to lose?” Sanford asked conventioneers at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual gathering.

As the diners leapt to their feet and applauded, Sanford declared:

“The name of the game is staying true to the principles that got you into politics in the first place _ and letting the chips fall where they may.” …

Sanford, 48, was elected to Congress in 1994 in a midterm election that gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in half a century.

While most of his colleagues abandoned their term-limit pledges, dropped plans to jettison the Department of Education and became less averse to federal spending, Sanford slept on a cot in his office, opposed most appropriations bills _ and left after six years.

In 2002, Sanford became the first South Carolina governor to rise to the state’s highest office without first serving in the state’s legislature.

I’ll remind my readers that the Supreme Court has already set precedent — such as in New York v. US – in that while the federal government has the power to appropriate funds for the States, it does not have the power to “commandeer” (to use Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s word) the States into accepting money, as if the States were merely administrative arms of the federal government.

Update: CNN reports further:

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) – The United States faces a Zimbabwe-style economic collapse if it keeps “spending a bunch of money we don’t have,” South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said Wednesday. …

“What you’re doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don’t have and send it to different states, we’ll create jobs,” he said. “If that’s the case, why isn’t Zimbabwe a rich place?”

Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an economic meltdown ever since the southern African nation embarked on a chaotic land reform program. Its official inflation rate topped 11 million percent in 2008, with its treasury printing banknotes in the trillion-dollar range to keep up with the plummeting value of its currency.

Update: From TheState, apparently the legislature is about to do an end-run around the Governor (like I said, I think this is unconstitutional, and I hope that a legal challenge comes out of it):

The governor said he will not accept $700 million in federal aid for state budgets unless South Carolina can use the money to pay off retirement, health care costs and other debts — making him the nations’ first governor to specifically reject portions of the federal aid. …

His critics, including Democratic Majority Whip Rep. JimClyburn, said the intent of the $787 billion stimulus package was to create or sustain jobs. Clyburn said he thinks President Barack Obama will reject Sanford’s request [as if the President has that kind of authority]. …

Clyburn urged state legislators to bypass Sanford and request the money, which lawmakers in both chambers said they intend to do.

Update: HumanEvents.com has posted Gov. Sanford’s official letter to the President.

-Phil

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Sen. Schumer to Governors on “Porkulus Maximus”: It’s Either All or None

02/24/2009

Erick over at RedState.com has an absolutely chilling posting based on a letter sent from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to the Office of Management and Budget Director Orszag:

Chuck Schumer wants the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to tell states they have no choice in the use of porkulus funds. … In effect, states will have zero discretion in how they spend the money and which parts they take.

This stems from Gov. Bobby Jindal and others saying they would not take the whole package because some parts would force state tax increases to comply with the terms of Porkulus.

Schumer says that’s tough. States will be forced to increase taxes and take 100% of the money if he has his way. And the states will have no discretion.

For instance, at least two governors have proposed rejecting a program to expand unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Economists consistently rank unemployment insurance among the most efficient and cost-effective fiscal stimulus measures; by one frequently cited estimate, it provides an economic return of as high as $1.73 for every dollar invested. Thus, by denying this provision for their residents, these governors are not just depriving some of the neediest Americans of relief in a dire economy; they are undermining the overall stimulative impact of the package.

No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice.

This is breathtaking. It, in effect, makes the states servants of the federal government. States rights, etc. are out the window. And never mind that the unemployment insurance provisions would force taxes on the small businesses that are currently the only thing propping up the American economy. [emphasis in original]

See below for the dear Senator’s letter…

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