Pro-Market, Pro-Modernity: Let’s All Adopt the EMV-Chip

By Jerry Rogers

I don’t shop on Black Friday, and I am home all day with my family on Thanksgiving; however, I understand too that a modern economy never really sleeps. Why should it? How can it? Frank Sinatra sang about how capitalism’s most important city – New York, New York – is a city that never sleeps.

“I want to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep and find I’m king of the hill Top of the heap.”

You don’t make it to the “top of the heap” by keeping your doors closed or by ignoring changing times and technologies. Entrepreneurship, innovation, disruption, and transformation are pillars of free enterprise. Sometimes this requires getting up earlier, staying open longer, welcoming modernity, and embracing new technology.

As Charles Murray has eloquently made clear, “everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn’t take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased.” Free enterprise is the only system in the history of humankind to lift people – billions of people – out of poverty.

So, for those of you celebrating capitalism this Thanksgiving or Black Friday, take a look at your credit and debit cards. I write this because just this week my bank sent me a new business card with chip technology. My bank is embracing new technology (and modernity) to help protect me from having my accounts hacked.

An astounding 48 percent of the world’s credit card fraud happens in the United States. In recent years, our credit card security has fallen behind most nations, making us the target of choice for fraudsters. Being the weakling in the room is not the proper place for American Entrepreneurship. It’s really kind of sad when Europe is the iPod to America’s Walkman when it comes to banking technology. This must be fixed.

The immediate answer lies in the thumbnail-sized computer chip found in my new bank card – an EMV chip. It stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, the three companies that originally created the standard. Perhaps your bank has already issued you a new EMV chip-enabled card. These chip cards, unlike the magnetic stripe cards we’re all used to, can’t be counterfeited. Though not a panacea to all card-related cybercrime, they are a huge step in the right direction. EMV cards have been the standard in Europe for a decade.

While we know how to make credit cards far more secure, the urgency to embrace this technology has been lacking. Resistance to making the switch to EMV technology in the United States has, not surprisingly, come down to cost. Banks have been slow to issue new cards and retailers have been reluctant to pay for new terminals to read chip cards. For businesses that have to buy multiple terminals, sometimes hundreds, the cost is considerable. But the cost of inaction is too great. Card fraud is expected to top $10 billion in the United States this year alone.

However, we are starting to turn a corner. On October 1, we saw a shift in liability that should provide increased market incentive for banks and retailers to pick up the pace of the EMV transition. For years, a card issuer absorbed the costs associated with counterfeit fraud transactions. Now, liability for fraudulent charges rests on the weakest link in the chain. That means, in case of counterfeit fraud, retailers are responsible if they haven’t upgraded to EMV-enabled terminals and banks are responsible if they haven’t issued consumers new chip cards.

Unfortunately, while banks are making significant progress in issuing new cards to consumers, retailers aren’t moving nearly as quickly to upgrade payment terminals. That’s a shortsighted mistake. While upfront costs of upgrading terminals may be considerable, liability from a major incident of counterfeit card fraud could be crippling.

Quickly adopting EMV technology is the first, critically important step to righting the ship. More work will be needed, but ignoring modernity and technological change is the antithesis to American Entrepreneurship. We are a country of innovators and entrepreneurs, and it is past time we fix this problem.

In the spirit of modernity, maybe I will venture out this Friday to do a little shopping? While out, I’ll finally replace my Walkman with one of these new-fangled iPod things. Happy Thanksgiving.

The Food Bullies of Maine

By Jerry Rogers

Just in time for Thanksgiving the Food Bullies are back looking to ban foods and monitor what we eat – all in the name of what they think is good for the rest of us.

Maine – through its Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – is renewing its push to ban certain foods and drinks purchased through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps). This time it’s trying to get the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow a ban as an addition to federal healthy-eating efforts.

According to the Portland Press Herald, “The state Department of Health and Human Services is once again seeking to ban food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase candy and soda. The department announced that it will seek a federal waiver to prohibit so-called junk food purchases within SNAP. The move by the department follows several failed efforts to seek the waiver through legislation, including a bill that died in the Legislature this year. This time DHHS will pursue the change through rulemaking.”

How will store clerks distinguish between food purchased through SNAP or with cash? Why should we trust that the surveillance will not spread to all food purchased by all Americans? Conservatives should reject proposals to leverage government agencies (like the USDA) to interfere so deeply in the personal choices of Americans. Monitoring what some Americans put in their grocery carts is decidedly bad policy and anathema to conservative values.

Food surveillance is a misguided, dysfunctional idea that will result in less freedom, bigger government, and more spending.

Whether it’s under the guise of entitlement reform or public health, some politicians may favor food monitoring and restrictions because it’s an easy way to show voters that they’re being good stewards of taxpayer money. On the contrary, if the precedent is set that state governments – on the basis of public health – have the authority to monitor the food choices of the poor, state-bureaucracies from coast to coast will set us down a slippery slope toward the food-police regulating and keeping watch over the diets of all Americans.

There are some politicians who believe that solving nutritional issues is the responsibility of the government. However, a food surveillance program will not make people healthier; it will not save taxpayer money; and it will not reform entitlements. Instead, the food-police will disrupt the free market and create massive state-based food bureaucracies. And if consuming less of an unhealthy food is good for poor people, consuming less of an unhealthy food is good for all people. Food surveillance will have its start in SNAP, but will end up impacting all Americans.

Public health advocates believe that all adults are unable to make responsible decisions about the food and beverages we consume. Conservative advocates and elected officials should stand against paternalistic policies aimed at our diets, and trust the American people to decide for ourselves what is healthy or unhealthy. Food surveillance violates individual liberty, and it creates a gateway for more government intrusion into our lives. Food surveillance is not entitlement reform, and it is not going to make Americans any healthier – as if that’s the government’s business anyway.

CFPB is a Rogue Agency

By Jerry Rogers, Vice President at the Institute for Liberty and Founder of Capitol Allies 

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) calls on his colleagues to reform the CFPB

Dodd-Frank effectively gave the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unlimited regulatory power with little congressional oversight. The bureau’s budget is not subject to congressional appropriations—no power of the purse—because the Federal Reserve, not Congress, funds the agency. Given its independence from congressional scrutiny, the CFPB’s power to regulate is essentially a government license to destroy.

Dodd-Frank, however, specifically exempts auto lenders from the grasp of the unaccountable CFPB, but bureaucrats are going around the law and using lenders as agents of government to regulate auto dealers.

It’s time for Congress to reign in this rogue agency.


Stop the Iran Nuke Deal

Andrew and Jerry were live from the Tea Party Patriots’ “Stop the Iran Deal” rally on Capitol Hill. They start off at the Hotel George, discussing the latest with Hillary’s email scandal and the latest “reboot” of her campaign. Then they break down the Iran deal, and discuss Democrat stalwart Leon Panetta’s op-ed voicing concerns with the deal–talking about the rule of law, and even tying it into the Kim Davis situation.

Then they go to the rally (where Andrew helped emcee) and interview… former Congressman Michele Bachmann, Matt Schlapp from the American Conserative Union, radio talk show host Mark Levin (interviewed, without introduction, by Jerry), Rep. Mo Brooks from Alabama, Rep. Lee Zeldin from New York, we get audio of Ted Cruz, and then Jerry and Andrew chat with a woman named Dierdre Flanagan, an Obama supporter, who tries to explain what the difference is between this “executive agreement” and a “treaty”.


The LangerCast … best political talk anywhere.

We’re back from vacation, telling tales of Texas and the Beach. Andrew breaks down the greatest brisket he’s ever had, and talks about his visit with Mike Black, one of the brothers who founded Terry Black’s Barbecue, facing a legal assault from their unfriendly neighborhood trial lawyer. We talk about the President’s visit to Alaska, and the science of climate. Martin O’Malley is facing scrutiny from the state of Maryland (and the Washington Post) over his “purchase” of furniture on his moving day. We talk about the latest in Clintonland in our weekly Hillary Watch segment. Then we talk about European migration–and Jerry puts a human face on the crisis.

Government Gone Rogue

 No place in our Constitution is the president granted supremacy to act legislatively without Congress. And no place in our laws is the president given authority to use executive branch agencies to criminalize whole segments of the economy it considers unworthy. However, we know from the public record that President Obama is using the Justice Department (DOJ), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in something called “Operation Choke Point” to target small businesses by smothering their access to financial services. Without the ability to process payments, the administration chokes off the oxygen (money) needed for these “Mom and Pop” shops to survive. It’s a form of political nihilism never before seen in our nation’s history.

Most Americans are familiar with the DOJ and the FDIC. However the CFPB, a federal agency established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, has been operating under the radar for far too long.

Dodd-Frank effectively gave the CFPB unlimited regulatory power with little congressional oversight. The bureau’s budget is not subject to congressional appropriations—no power of the purse—because the Federal Reserve, not Congress, funds the agency. Given its independence from congressional scrutiny, the CFPB’s power to regulate is essentially a government license to destroy. What’s more, the CFPB is building a massive database on the financial transactions of every American. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian think tank based in Washington D.C., has argued that the CFPB has “unaccountable power over the daily lives of the American people” that results “in a lack of public accountability, creating a power grab over every U.S. citizen.”

During most of our nation’s history, families, communities, churches, civic groups, and “Mom and Pop” businesses (i.e., civil society) have served as firewalls to restrain big government from flaming out of control. Americans with blemishes on their credit scores or short credit histories do not have the luxury of going to the big banks—SunTrust, Chase, Wells Fargo—for a small loan. These consumers depend upon payday lenders as credit and loan options. If the CFPB has its way, these lenders will be forced to permanently close their doors. Millions of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck will have no where to go for short-term loans. The CFPB will have cut off an important financial option for working-class, middle-income Americans. Resources needed for emergency car repairs or to replace an appliance will no longer be available.

Ideological bureaucrats with a disdain for anything—the rule of law, the American people, civil society—opposed to their agenda are wreaking havoc on our economy and our liberty. The expansion of federal power—and more specifically the expansion of the executive branch—is the modus operandi of President Barack Obama. Since his first day in office, this president has sought to accumulate power and centralize control.

There is no higher law for Obama than his own ideological self-interest. Obama acts more like a plutocrat or mafia boss than the leader of a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The CFPB is actively engaged in closing down businesses while at the same time collecting dossiers on American citizens’ personal, financial transactions. Congress should abolish the CFPB or, at the very least, put it under the appropriations process. It’s time for Congress to reign in this rogue agency.

Cronyism Spinn[er]ing Out of Control

Jerry Rogers

for TownHall

President Obama announced on June 26, 2015 that he was appointing Steven Spinner to the Commission on White House Fellowships. In his statement, Mr. Obama described Mr. Spinner as an experienced and committed individual, and the President went on to say that he is looking forward to working with him. At first glance, no big deal—another hanger-on appointed to one of Washington’s myriad patronage boards and panels.

Then again, on closer scrutiny, Spinner isn’t your typical-everyday D.C. flunky. Steven Spinner was an adviser for the Department of Energy (DOE) loans program responsible for the Solyndra debacle. He played a lead role in the most infamous case of crony capitalism of the Obama Presidency, which means—arguably—the most infamous episode of cronyism in our nation’s history. Solyndra—the failed solar panel company that filed for bankruptcy—was the first to receive a taxpayer-backed loan guarantee from the DOE in September 2009. Spinner helped steer millions of dollars of the controversial stimulus funding to Obama’s crony corporate friends at Solyndra.

Spinner raised political cash—over $500,000—for Obama during the 2008 campaign, and then Spinner was named to the White House transition team and later served as “chief strategic operations officer” at DOE. Spinner—while at DOE—helped deliver over $530 million to Solyndra. In 2011, Solyndra files for bankruptcy leaving taxpayers with the massive bill. Spinner raised more political cash for the President in the 2012 cycle, and he’s rewarded again with a post on a White House commission. You can’t make this stuff up. The whole sordid affair reads like a bad script from a B-level political melodrama.

And there’s more to the script. Spinner’s wife worked for a law firm that represented Solyndra and a dozen or so other green-energy interests that applied for federal funding. The public record shows that her firm received $2.4 million from the government in legal fees associated with Solyndra’s loan application. Washington has always been a place where deals are done and favors exchanged. However, President Obama has created a new normal of hyper-cronyism of rewarding his political friends with taxpayer dollars (Solyndra) and government posts (Spinner).

The Washington D.C. metro-area has become the wealthiest region in the country because the political class rewards those like Steven Spinner who deal, almost exclusively, in favors at the expense of the American people. While Washington’s political class gets richer, everyday Americans struggle to pay their mortgages, put their children through school, and keep groceries in their cupboards. The economy remains stalled and our nation is in the worst “economic recovery” in our history. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are nearly 94 million Americans out of the workforce, the lowest labor force participation since 1977. Also for the first time in our history, working-age people now make up the majority of American households that depend on food stamps, a dramatic change from a just a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients.

As National Review reported back in 2011, Steven Spinner was “intimately involved in the negotiation and was advocating on behalf of” Solyndra regarding the DOE loan. Spinner involved himself in these negotiations regarding Solyndra even though he had signed an ethics agreement not to do so. What a sad testament to Washington’s new normal of hyper-cronyism that Steven Spinner is once again being honored with a White House position, even one as innocuous as the Commission on White House Fellowships. It’s sadder still that no one in the media picked up on the story. No news here—just business as usual for President Obama and Washington’s political class. Cronyism is Spinn[er]ing out of control.

Puerto Rico Wants a Great Big Fat… Bailout

By Jerry Rogers

for TownHall

Puerto Rico’s massive welfare state and excessive spending has put it in an economic state worse than Greece. This small island has an enormous problem—$72 billion in bond debt and more than $50 billion in retiree obligations. What’s worse is that the Puerto Rican government doesn’t seem to be serious about reform. Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s nonvoting member of Congress, has sponsored legislation—H.R. 870—to extend Puerto Rico Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

The Associated Press reported that “the White House threw cold water Monday on the notion of bailing out Puerto Rico from its financial crisis, instead urging Congress to consider changing the law so the island can declare bankruptcy.” Of course, this is typical Washington doublespeak because bankruptcy protection—H.R. 870—would be a federal bailout by other means.

Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth, does not have the legal authority to file for bankruptcy. Some in Congress—mostly Democrats, but some Republicans, too—are seriously considering H.R. 870 as a backdoor bailout.

What happens when you run out of other people’s money? Well, if you’re the Democratic Governor of Puerto Rico, you demand a bailout, and for others to “share the sacrifice.” Governor Alejandro García Padilla told the New York Times earlier this week that Puerto Rico’s debt “is not payable. There is no other option.” Padilla would love to find “an easier option,” as he swears, “this is not politics, this is math.”

Not politics? Padilla is engaging in the worst kind of politics in which political elites insist that taxpayers pay for their failure. Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is the result of years of big government run amok. Over the past decade, liberal politicians in San Juan engaged in profligate spending and borrowing to cover the costs of everything from welfare to pensions to government services. Progressive policies that saw the public-sector debt grow as the economy shrank. Not politics, but math? Then why are public-sector salaries more than 90 percent higher than salaries in the private sector? Why not cut spending to pay your bills? Because Padilla has promised not to lay off government workers—two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s budget is payroll, and it’s off the table.

Puerto Rico’s political elites refuse to do what is necessary to create economic growth. Changing the nation’s bankruptcy laws to give them a special exemption is wrong. It’s a form of cronyism—politicians in Washington doing favors for politicians in San Juan. It’s letting them off the hook; absolving them of their responsibilities. The political elites in Puerto Rico have implemented anti-growth excise taxes on job creators while crippling the island’s economy with chronic spending on welfare subsidies and an ever-expanding public sector. The government employs more than a quarter of the island’s workforce, and its labor force participation rate—40.6 percent— is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. More than half the population is not working. Why work if welfare pays more than a job?

So Padilla, Pierluisi, and the island’s political establishment are asking their friends in Washington for a favor. Their plea for Chapter 9 bankruptcy is gaining momentum as the political class looks to protect itself.

The bailout bill—H.R. 870—does not require any meaningful, market-based reforms. It’s a “get out of jail free” card for Puerto Rico’s political elites and their failed statist policies. Chapter 9 is not a solution, but rather, at best, a temporary fix. And, Chapter 9 might not be a fix at all. Bankruptcy procedures can take months or years to work through the system. H.R. 870 is a bad bill. What’s needed is a radical change of less spending, regulating, and taxing.

Americans are tired of bailouts and boondoggles—TARP, Solyndra, General Motors, the ObamaCare rollout. Let’s not add failed governments and political elites to the list. Americans don’t want a “Great Big Fat” bailout for Puerto Rico. We don’t want our very own Greek island.

Cover Oregon: The “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” Healthcare Website

While President Obama was ridiculed for the failures of the rollout, botched state-operated exchanges did not prove to be much better. As sat useless for weeks and months, the few states that built their own ObamaCare exchanges struggled with countless failures and setbacks. A couple of state exchanges—Kentucky and California—worked relatively smoothly. However, in most states the insurance exchanges were, if you can believe it, even worse than Obama’s. The Oregon health exchange—Cover Oregon—stood out as the worst.

In 2014, then-Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s longest serving governor and full-on progressive Democrat—was in a high stakes reelection campaign. The ambitious Democrat needed to weather a storm of controversy around his campaign (he would win reelection with less than 50 percent of the vote in deep blue Oregon), and conceal the complete failings of his administration’s ObamaCare state-based health exchange Cover Oregon.

Kitzhaber hoped that his state’s health exchange would be a testament to activist government. Instead, Cover Oregon had become a laughingstock. The entire fiasco of mismanagement and missed deadlines posed a threat to Kitzhaber’s legacy as a progressive champion for healthcare reform. So, he surreptitiously handed over control of the Cover Oregon mess to a key campaign consultant—Patricia McCaig—who called herself the Princess of Darkness. Ms. McCaig knew nothing about healthcare policy, but that did not matter. Her job wasn’t to fix Cover Oregon; her job was to get Kitzhaber reelected.

Oregon’s ethics and election laws require a separation between political activity and official decisions. Regardless, the Princess of Darkness (you can’t make this stuff up) believed that the health site’s failure was so politically toxic that she decided to pull the plug. Kill it. Hit the eject button, and flush over $300 million in taxpayers’ dollars down the toilet. Government records and internal emails confirm that McCaig—not state officials—directed the decision to close down Cover Oregon rather than work with the state’s contractor, Oracle Corp., to repair the doomed site. Who cares? As long as Kitzhaber won his bid for a fourth term, the ends would justify whatever means.

Adding insult to injury, the Princess of Darkness then pushed to sue Oracle in a shady effort to deflect blame. The state is now embroiled in lawsuits and former Oregon officials are under myriad congressional and federal investigations.

Facing state and federal criminal investigations, Kitzhaber himself was forced to resign in disgrace earlier this year amid corruption charges and accusations of influence peddling. His handing off Cover Oregon to his chief political consultant and political hacks is but a piece of an overall environment where decisions were based on Kitzhaber’s political interests rather than what was best for the people of Oregon.

Like Alexander from the children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” perhaps it would have been better for John Kitzhaber to have just moved to Australia. Well, it’s too late for him. However, it’s not too late for other governors to learn from Oregon’s failure. The Supreme Court will issue its decision in King v. Burwell this month. It would be best for the states to work with Congress to craft post-King solutions that will provide market-based healthcare solutions to our nation’s healthcare woes.

Governor Kitzhaber and Cover Oregon is a cautionary yet familiar tale. Big government and corruption are inextricably intertwined. King v. Burwell might give us a rare opportunity to hit the reset button.