Yesterday, the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee released a statement in which they announced their investigation into EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of an email alias and questionable tactics by other Administration departments to prevent disclosure under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Recent reports claimed that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an alias email address under the name “Richard Windsor” to conduct official Government business. This reported incident follows similarly secretive and highly questionable methods of communication by senior officials at science agencies within the White House, Department of Commerce (DOC), and Department of Energy (DOE).
Conducting official government business using private accounts is in direct contradiction to Federal law. The only purpose such actions could have is to prevent the tracking and archiving of email traffic that the administration does not want citizens or the press to uncover when they issue requests for email relating to topics.
Members of the committee sent a letter to Ms. Jackson as well as letters to the Inspectors General of the EPA, Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy asking for information and reviews of how each agency is complying with the federal law. Specifically the letter to Jackson asks for documents detailing the use of alias accounts.
Clearly, our federal government isn’t big enough. In a Monday morning interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, President Obama suggested that a new Secretary of Business be created. Of course the new Secretary will need a whole new government department of bureaucrats to go with his or her position.
“We should have one Secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to SBA or helping companies with exports” the President said in the interview. Oddly, the federal government already has a Commerce Department and Secretary to go with it. Perhaps instead of consolidating some of the tasks from department under a new one, the President should be considering re-focusing the existing departments at a time when the government must shrink to match revenues.
The Commerce department’s mission as stated on its own front page is “to help make American businesses more innovative at home and more competitive abroad.” The divisions of the Commerce Department don’t look as though they are all focused on those goals. The current offices within the department include:
The Interior Department already handles Native American affairs making an office in Commerce unnecessary. If there are specific business concerns of Native American businesses, the office of Business Liaison should be tasked with understanding those details.
The Department of Justice and Health and Human Services both have civil rights divisions. Perhaps Commerce doesn’t need one too. It is curious that the Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is in Commerce – why not Health and Human Services?
It would appear that the government doesn’t need an additional highly-paid bureaucrat with many other taxpayer funded staff running around doing what the Commerce Department should be doing. Instead, an organizational leader would recognize the confusing set of offices in Commerce and re-focusing that department on the needs of American business here and abroad.
The President created a jobs council in his first term – a group he met with zero times in almost four years. Will the Secretary get the same treatment or will Obama use an unlikely second term to push his agenda of higher taxes while continuing to ignore the business community? In an interview after a campaign rally in New Hampshire, the President cleared up any confusion when he told the “Morning Joe” hosts that if voters elect him to a second term he will have a clear mandate for raising taxes as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
From a different perspective, if another department were created to focus on .. commerce, why would the Commerce Department need to continue to exist?
Some propose that the myriad offices within and without Commerce are necessary to help businesses navigate the whole of regulations that affect their businesses. Perhaps the real answer is to simplify those regulations to reduce the need for businesses to need such guidance.
Seasonally adjusted U.S. Retail Sales rose in September by 1.1%, slightly slower than August’s 1.2% and largely fueled by iPhone 5 and automobile purchases.
The actual sales in autos dropped by $30 million when not seasonally adjusted, but with the adjustment, almost $4.5 million more was spent on cars in September than in August. Sales in electronics dropped from $8.1 milllion to $7.8 million un-adjusted, but rose nearly $.4 million when adjusted by the Department of Commerce for seasonal factors.
Without the seasonal adjustment, the retail sales figures dropped by almost $32 million dollars from August. When compared with last September, spending has risen a little more than $11 million dollars across the entire economy.
Year-over-year, automobiles are showing some weakness. An almost $5 million dollar drop in sales is evident from last September’s un-adjusted numbers to this year. Oddly, considering September is in the same part of the calendar each year, the seasonally adjusted numbers reverse the trend.
Seasonal adjustments also seem to be magnifying the uptick in electronics sales and re-stating the sudden downward movement in building supplies and gasoline sales – sectors that had been showing spending increases recently. Building supplies dropped more then $2million in the base numbers, but showed slight improvement in the seasonal adjustments. Auto fuel showed almost $3 million less in spending from August when not adjusted, but more than $1 million increase in spending when the Commerce Department does its magic.
The Department of Commerce released its National Income and Product Accounts report this morning which showed the economy declining much faster than analysts had expected.
Despite steady government spending, the second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came in much lower than Q1 and strongly down from analysts expectations. The first quarter GDP came in at 2.4% growth and the second quarter was forecast to slow slightly to 1.7%. Instead, the actual data shows the economy coming startlingly-close to recession at 1.3% for the second quarter.
Federal government consumption spending stayed nearly flat only decreasing .2% in Q2. The drop in economic activity is solely due to a decline in private sector output – the driver of any turnaround in the economic and jobs pictures.
Personal spending slowed almost 40% from the first quarter and durable goods reversed from growth to recession in today’s report. Durable goods orders crashed from 11.5% increase in Q1 to a decrease of .2% in Q2 – a decline of 11.7% quarter-over-quarter. Q2’s decline is the largest in 3 1/2 years and one not seen since the previous recession.
Nonresidential fixed investments also showed significant slowing in the second quarter. Losing almost 50% growth, the indicator slowed from 12.9% increase in Q1 to 7.5% in the second quarter. This indicates the business are not able to expand into larger or more numerous facilities.
Corporate profits before taxes decreased $16.3 billion in the second quarter with the financial industry being hit hardest. Domestic profits of financial corporations decreased $39.7 billion in Q2 after having dropped $12.7 billion in the first quarter.
The overall picture is one of a rapidly decelerating economy. If GDP drops another 1.1% in Q3, the economy will be in stagnation. Considering the rate of change, a continuation in the current trend could see the country in recession by the end of Q3.
High-speed mobile broadband hopeful, LightSquared released a video yesterday that proves, in fact, that their equipment does interfere with high precision GPS receivers. In the video, LightSquared shows off a work-around alternate GPS antenna which does appear to filter out the interference.
The alternative antenna begs the question, however, who would pay to retro-fit the millions of existing receivers. Moreover, why should owners of existing GPS equipment be expected to retro-fit or replace their equipment in order to benefit a company that stands to make billions of dollars from using radio spectrum which was never intended for terrestrial use, and for which the company paid nothing?
As of this writing, full results of the independent testing by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration which were expected today, have yet to be released.