On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep45): Texas Public Policy Foundation, Article V, Privatization, and the Fourth of July

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 1:06 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in episode #45 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Cato Institute, and WalletHub.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of Better Know a Think Tank, Jess Fields, Article V project coordinator in the Center for Tenth Amendment Action at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joins the show to talk about his organization as well as updates in the Article V movement. Jess talks about the importance of independence and discusses Texas Gov. Abbott’s proposed constitutional amendments.

Featured Work of the Week

The featured work of the week comes from the Cato Institute. The report, titled “Options for Federal Privatization and Reform Lessons from Abroad,” gives a comprehensive look at the idea of privatization. The report starts off examining the history of privatization in the UK as well a some context in the US. The second portion of the report proposes 12 benefits supplied by privatization. The final part of the report gives a case-by-case analysis of several potential government-run businesses and assets including the U.S. Postal Service, Amtrak, and several others.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny and John talk about the fourth of July. Included in this segment is a discussion about two separate lists compiled by WalletHub titled “2016’s Most Patriotic States,” and “2016’s Best & Worst Cities for 4th of July Celebrations.” John and Donny run through how these rankings were determined and give their reactions.

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, in the tank, itt, donald kendal, donny kendal, john nothdurft, public policy, texas, foundation, brexit, education,  uk, cpp, texit, postal service, cato, institute, privatization, reform, fourth of july, independence day, fireworks,

Categories: On the Blog

Gateways to Liberty, Ecology and Prosperity – #2: From Indiana to Montana

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 8:41 AM
[Read essay #1 here.]

I attended Indiana University in the late 1960s. Like Columbia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and other major universities, IU was a cauldron of radical activities. Many grad students identified with Marxism. They joined or led Students for Democratic Society, the more radical Revolutionary Youth Movement, and a collage of other dissident groups who viewed America as a great evil.

I disagreed with most of my fellow students, arguing that even with its flaws, America was the most successful large-scale social experiment in history. It still is. No other nation has brought such vast numbers of poor, oft destitute people to liberty and prosperity.

My family fled Germany escaping the wars of 1848 and 1878 to become Midwest farmers and teachers. Many millions of immigrants did the same, the great majority, and especially their descendants, benefitting from their move.

The statist, collectivist perspective was especially pronounced among environmentalists, the “proto-Greens,” if you will, of the first Earth Day.  It was celebrated on the centennial of Lenin’s birth, April 22, 1970.  An accident perhaps?  I was there and think not.

In the Green’s view, capitalism and the wealth it needlessly produces are the primary causes of the ecological crisis.  Why?  Capitalism celebrates growth, the ideology of the cancer cell. Markets are evil and property is theft.  We need Green Platonic despots, the reasoning goes, to manage America’ society and economy.

It’s easy to recognize this mind-set as statist, which Merriam Webster defines as a person who favors the concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry.

All of these silly thoughts became common pronouncements among college students and opinion leaders.  They still are today.

This collage of silliness was incorporated within the emerging environmental culture by many of its adherents, but not all.  The exceptions were of two types. First were the old-line conservationists who focused on wildlife and its habitat. The Kohlers of Wisconsin exemplify the type. Second were economists who cared about nature and understood political pathologies.  Lin and Vincent Ostrom of Indiana University were among the best of these.

Here’s how I escaped that “progressive” environment. Remember the threat of global cooling, running out of energy (and everything else), and the population bomb that promised mass starvation by 1980? My training in economics and anthropology made me ask questions that others seemed to overlook. For example, when confronting scarcity, don’t people exercise creativity to find solutions? And as trade and markets generate ever-greater prosperity, don’t people have more resources with which to address possible environmental problems?

Real dangers loomed, I concluded, but the most serious ones arise from political capitalism, not actual or real capitalism. This occurs when political and economic elites rig the game to their advantage while harming others. Corn ethanol is one of today’s sorry examples: Watch Republicans in the Iowa primaries.

My understanding came from exposure to Public Choice economics, a field just emerging at IU, the University of Virginia, and a few other schools. One of my professors, Elinor Ostrom, became president of the Public Choice Society. She won a Nobel Prize for economics for this work in 2009. Combining this field of economics with anthropology gave me considerable analytical leverage.

Another source of inspiration was George Peter Murdock, an anthropologist at Yale, who created the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) in 1949. It supported comparative studies of culture, society, and behavior. The scope was both historic and current.

I used the HRAF material for course papers. Good stuff indeed. I happened to notice an announcement for HRAF summer fellowships for professors. Although I was only a grad student, I asked my major professor, William J. Siffin, to nominate me for a fellowship. Siffin, a specialist in international development and a Harvard Ph.D., did so, not expecting me to be accepted. But I was, and it changed my life.

One of the dozen professors at the HRAF program was John A. Hostetler, a leading scholar of Amish and Hutterite societies. John had studied Alberta and Montana Hutterite colonies. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest and went to a country school among Amish children, so I had a natural connection with Professor Hostetler. He told me that while there were several genetic and cultural studies of the Hutterites, no one had explained the success of their economy. This was enticing since I needed a topic for my Ph.D. thesis. Here it was!

I returned to Indiana University and proposed the topic to Professor Siffin. He agreed and I wrote a proposal for funding from the Ford Foundation. It would support my travel and research expenses for a year plus one semester. The amount was $17,800 in 1968. That was a lot of money for a grad student, $7,000 more than my initial salary at Montana State University. I got the grant.

OK, then what? At that time, there were 120 Hutterite colonies in the upper plains of the U.S. and Canada. I proposed to visit twenty of the communes, live on the welcoming ones, and interview their leaders to collect data. I also proposed to interview neighbors and business near the colonies I visited.

In addition to my thesis research, I had an additional agenda, to find a place to live. I wanted to become an academic but not part of the Marxist crowd at major universities. So I deliberately sought ought a smaller college in a place that seemed less hostile to my somewhat traditional American views.

The Hutterites lived in the region where I wanted to live. But specifically, where could I locate with high prospects of fulfillment? This was a challenge but the selection process was clear. I needed a town, not a city, with a four-year college or a university. It must be in an agricultural area, forestry was a huge plus for I enjoyed working in the woods (I had been a timber faller), and it should have excellent outdoor recreation. I knew this was a small but not a null set.

I took a map of the U.S. and Canada and drew lines west and north from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was Hutterite country. I then identified the towns in that region that had colleges or universities. While studying the Hutterite colonies, I arranged to visit every college town and rank each school and community. (Missoula was well below Bozeman. Still is.)

Traveling Montana Highway 200 from Great Falls to Missoula, I stopped in Lincoln and met Cecil Garland, owner of Garland’s Town and Country. Cecil’s store sold dry-goods, snowmobiles, Riteway stoves, and McCulloch chain saws. More importantly for my story, Cecil was leader of the Lincoln Backcountry Protective Association.

The Anaconda Company and leaders in the U.S. Forest Service were conspiring to log and road the 240,000 acre Lincoln Backcountry—and at great economic and ecological cost. Essentially, tax payers would subsidize the despoliation of wild lands they cherished. Cecil was looking for allies. I helped find them.

My family and I had long been involved in old school conservation, mainly involving fish and wildlife. While a grad student my cause was ecology, not radical politics. I found Cecil’s Lincoln Backcountry fight against political capitalism enticing.

Cecil had a small cabin between his store and his home. I found the Montana Hutterite colonies most interesting and hospitable and wanted a base from which to work. Cecil offered his cabin. I took it and became hooked on Montana. Still am. The Lincoln controversy was also my great awakening.

Categories: On the Blog

Dead Wrong™ with Johan Norberg – Global Warming

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 8:29 AM

In this Quick Take from the Free to Choose Network, Free to Media Executive Editor and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Johan Norberg explains how environmentalists are Dead Wrong™ about global warming. The premise:

“We are warming our planet with greenhouse gases, and this changes everything. We need drastic measures to dismantle industrial capitalism if we are to have any chance of survival.”

In reality, the largest environmental threats are much older than the very recent sensationalization of climate change; this includes dangers like access to clean water, sanitation, and indoor air pollution. While these issues may be solved by dismantling capitalism, as Norberg explains, the damage caused in the process outweighs any potential benefits. In allowing capitalism to foster economic growth, we expand our technological resources and ultimately gain the power to solve any environmental issue we choose.

[Find the original video at the Free to Choose Network]

Categories: On the Blog

Brexit’s Fine Line Between Committing and Correcting

Somewhat Reasonable - June 30, 2016, 3:23 PM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil

Donald Trump’s rise in political power seems to be America’s angry message to its leadership just as the Brits sent a blistering message in the form of “Brexit” to their leaders. The recent vote to leave the European Union sent shock waves throughout Europe and various parts of the World.  Political leaders and the media in both the United States and Europe expressed bewilderment, or perhaps an unwillingness to understand that Americans and the Brits have the following in common: both are disgusted with the inability of their leaders to resolve basic problems, such as a failed immigration system.

It is incumbent upon a government to be concerned about its own citizens first, not other countries or foreign immigrants, no matter how urgent the need may be. The majority of British citizens no longer had faith in their elected officials to protect their own country’s interests, and they retaliated through the ballot box with a referendum to sever ties with the now 27-member European Union.  Will what happened be a wake-up call to other EU countries? Germany has warned that five European countries may seek to follow Britain’s lead in leaving the EU in a Brexit domino effect.

Many, if not most, people in America are also concerned with problems with our own leaders. After electing a majority of Republicans in both the House and Senate without seeing any appreciative changes in the country’s direction, voters were primed for Donald Trump’s candidacy.  His nomination by Republican voters telegraphed to D.C. a clear and direct message that the majority was through talking and being ignored.   If our present officials aren’t interested in listening to us throughout the year, we will find those who are.  Britain wants to take back their independence, and we want to take back our country from a runaway congress and President.  Both of our countries want secure borders and immigration rules and regulations applied and honored.  We do not want the U.N.’s interference or any other country dictating our laws. 

Our government has gradually changed time-honored laws and practices to the degree they are no longer are in sync with the country our forefathers bequeathed  to us. Socialism has been forced upon us, even though history proves the system does not work; it never has for any significant period of time, making it a mystery as to why Bernie Sanders drew large, approving crowds. Has a large portion of Americans become so ill informed that they are unaware of how and why this nation became great while once thriving countries like Cuba and Argentina failed?  Certainly people are not so obtuse as to believe in a socialist/communist government when history has continually proven it cannot succeed. Certainly the hand that feeds them will one day come back to bite them! 

British citizens began realizing the European Union as a giant socialist program in which the strong countries ended up supporting failing ones.  This they tolerated, but when their neighbors also took in millions of refugees and expected them to do so as well, they began to see they were quickly losing their sovereignty and their very identify.  Taking in the masses of immigrants was an act of kindness, but it was largely unappreciated.  It drained the country’s finances and many of the refugees did not appreciate the sacrifices being made and instead broke laws and refused to assimilate.  Many also detested the culture and the people who had been charitable.  The Brits began to realize they were quickly losing more than their nation’s identify, they were losing their precious England as it had been for many centuries. The majority of Brits were eager to regain the sovereignty and freedoms they had lost. 

Eric Metaxas in his article “Is American Liberty Over” warned,  “We are being hollowed out silently from within by termites – and a hollow, brightly painted shell called “America” will soon exist where America once stood.”

Many U.S. citizens are as concerned as Metaxas about the liberal changes that have been creeping into our government and culture.   Trumps’ rallying cry “Make America Great Again” resonated with the public.  

What first attracted the American public to Trump?  Without a doubt, it was his promise to “Build that Wall”.  This promise may have lost the Hispanic vote, but it resonated with a nation of people who have grown weary and wary of our immigration laws being compromised and in some cases completely ignored.    We do not want the refugee problem Europe is enduring, and while we are compassionate and willing to help, we do not want our nation changed as we see it happening in England, France, Germany, Sweden, and other European nations.  Some nations are on the verge of losing their ethnic identify due to open borders, mass immigration, and the push toward globalism.  There was a reason our forefathers made and enforced immigration laws; they are there to protect a country’s citizens and its sovereignty.  

Prime Minister Cameron’s reaction was admirable, choosing to resign, realizing the vote was an indictment on his leadership. Cameron had staked his re-election on not allowing Brexit to happen.

It is doubtful Cameron was the initial cause, but Cameron was smart enough to realize that the game was up.  Leaders of any country cannot continue to allow the U.N. or anyone else to influence decisions that are contrary to what is best for their own countrymen.  Other solutions to correct the immigration problems must be sought.

Trump immediately called the Brexit results a “A great thing”.  He went on to say there was a “big parallel between “Brexit and the USA. Race.”  Will American voters think that as well?  Absolutely!  Trump’s popularity over seasoned political candidates is America’s message to D.C. that we know politicians are not listening.  Trump’s message promising to get the nation back to the values and principles that made us great resonates with people.  Trump has said it is not our role to resolve the problems of the World.  Many agree with him, stating “America First.”

Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley (advisor to Margaret Thatcher) made the following comment to England on his final broadcast to his fellow countrymen on the eve of Brexit:

We, the people, are the masters now. Our politicians will have to reacquire the habit of listening not to them but to us. Here, and in the rest of Europe, and eventually throughout the world, let freedom ring!  Thank you, America, and God Save the Queen!

May a majority of our own countrymen come to the realization that when laws no longer represent them or the intentions of our forefathers, that it is time to speak out, which can be done verbally and/or at the ballot box.  Our forefathers were brilliant, but more than anything else they had wisdom and a selfless nature rather than a self-serving one.  When arrogant leaders think they are above the law, voters must find new leadership.  The British just proved it can happen.

There is a fine line between keeping a commitment and knowing when to make a correction.  The advantage both American and British citizens have is they live in countries whose laws permit their citizens to decide when that line has been crossed.  Our voices will be heard via the ballot box on election day. 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Veronique de Rugy: The New “Overtime Rule” Regulations

Somewhat Reasonable - June 30, 2016, 2:49 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Mercatus Center senior research fellow Veronique de Rugy about the “Overtime Rule,” a regulation passed down by the U.S. Department of Labor revising federal overtime provisions contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule extends overtime pay rules to over 4 million workers, within the first year of implementation, increasing the costs of hiring and employing many individuals and hiking the costs of doing business for small businessmen all over the nation.

De Rugy explains the rule, and explains why she thinks the federal government is likely to continue a time-honored tradition: making itself immune to the rules it passes for other people. According to de Rugy, for decades, lawmakers declared themselves immune to regulations such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as if they considered themselves better than the people they were elected to represent in the nation’s capital.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Homeschool Monthly #1: Inaugural Edition

Somewhat Reasonable - June 30, 2016, 11:10 AM

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Homeschool Monthly. I want to thank you for keeping up-to-date on developments that could affect your efforts and right to homeschool. I enjoyed meeting each of you at recent homeschool conventions and learning why you choose to homeschool your children.

The infographic at right shows why homeschooling is so important. When homeschool students attend college, 66.7 percent of them graduate, a graduation rate 9.2 percentage points higher than the graduation rate for other students who attend college. Homeschool students outperform other students academically, with higher GPAs throughout their college tenure.

Stories included in this edition are from School Reform News, School Choice Weekly, and Somewhat Reasonable.


Homeschool News

Six homeschooling families in Massachusetts say they are being subjected to unnecessary inquiries by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (MDCF) for alleged educational neglect.

West Virginia has passed into law a bill easing homeschooling parents’ paperwork burden, reforming the way the state’s “notice of intent” process works.

As home schooling grows rapidly, resourceful parents are forming co-ops to share their knowledge and lend each other moral support.

Common Core News

Curriculum News


Thank you for subscribing and reading! If you need a quicker fix of news on homeschool or other education issues, you can find daily updates online at http://news.heartland.org/education.

Are you an elected official working on homeschool and education issues for the 2016 legislative session? Our education policy analysts are experienced at testifying before legislative caucuses and committee hearings! Contact Government Relations Manager John Nothdurft for more information.

Are you a talk show host or education journalist looking for an education policy expert? Contact Communications Director Jim Lakely if you’re looking for guests for your show or qualified experts to interview for stories.

Categories: On the Blog

Kansas Schools Don’t Need More Money

Somewhat Reasonable - June 29, 2016, 5:42 PM

The Legislature is preparing to embroil itself in a special session after the Kansas Supreme Court threatened to close public schools over a funding dispute amounting to less than 1 percent of the state’s education budget.

Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded state lawmakers are considered by many in the media to be the enemy here, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Have you ever heard of an elected official who is praised for cutting education spending?

For that matter, have you ever heard an education official say education spending at current levels is sufficient?

But has anyone paused to consider if the education system actually needs so much money and, if so, why?

The widely accepted belief that throwing money at schools will improve educational quality has been disproved time and time again, including during the federal takeover of the Kansas City, Mo., school district. In a 1981 study, researcher Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that “there is no relationship between expenditures and the achievement of students.” The Kansas Policy Institute used data from the National Center for Economic Statistics to show in its April 2016report that “graduation rates have steadily increased, regardless of funding levels.”

If more money is not a cure for America’s failing schools, what’s to be done?

First, let’s stop automatically demonizing elected officials for cutting education spending. Ask education departments specifically what they are spending taxpayers’ money on and whether they can show, using empirical evidence, such a strategy will lead to an improvement in students’ educational outcomes. Schools need money, but school districts also need to be held accountable.

Legislatures also need to be open to school choice. Kansas currently has only one school choice program available to parents in the state – the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program – and just 73 students participated in the program during the 2015-16 school year. School choice programs save taxpayers money.

What does the state really need to improve educational quality? It’s likely, despite all of the rhetoric claiming the contrary, that money is not really the problem. It’s certainly not a surefire solution.
[Originally published at the Wichita Eagle]

Categories: On the Blog

House Takes Stand against Carbon Tax

Somewhat Reasonable - June 29, 2016, 5:31 PM

The idea of a carbon dioxide tax fits in seamlessly with the romantic, often quixotic, worldview of the modern environmental movement. It’s a well-intentioned notion that’s untethered to reality, and which would produce few appreciable gains, while causing major damage.

Unfortunately, the idea is also gradually picking up momentum. While no state currently has a carbon dioxide tax on the books, voters in Washington State will decide whether they want to be the first to implement one when they go the polls in November. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District currently oversees a business carbon tax over a nine-county area in Northern California, and a county-wide tax is now in effect in Montgomery County, Maryland. In Canada, carbon dioxide tax legislation recently passed the Legislature of Alberta, making it the third province to enact one since 2007.

In response to this gradual mainstreaming, 237 members of Congress voted to pass a non-binding resolution on June 10, putting them on record in opposition to a federal carbon dioxide tax. The House members supporting the bill argue that such a tax would be “detrimental to American families and businesses” as well as to the economy as a whole. (The Heartland Institute, where I work as a policy analyst, was one of many organizations that co-signed a letter of support for the resolution.)

The purpose of the carbon tax is to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by levying a tax based on the amount of emissions produced. But the tax is a prime example of the recoil being more dangerous than the projectile.

The carbon dioxide tax is inherently regressive and disproportionally harms low-income families. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that a $28 per ton carbon dioxide tax would result in energy costs being 250 percent higher for the poorest one-fifth of households than the richest one-fifth of households.

The reason? According to the CBO:

A carbon tax would increase the prices of fossil fuels in direct proportion to their carbon content. Higher fuel prices, in turn, would raise production costs and ultimately drive up prices for goods and services throughout the economy…Low-income households spend a larger share of their income on goods and services whose prices would increase the most, such as electricity and transportation.

This is why most proposed carbon dioxide tax legislation comes with offsetting cuts to other taxes — known as “tax swaps” — or direct tax rebates to individuals and families. This is the case with the Washington ballot initiative — where even proponents of the carbon tax admit that it would increase gas prices by 25 cents per gallon statewide — as well as another proposed carbon dioxide tax introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives earlier this year.

Another problem with the federal carbon dioxide bill is that any environmental benefits that it might produce would be effectively meaningless without concomitant legislation enacted throughout the rest of the globe. As Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass puts it:

The effectiveness of a carbon tax…therefore depend[s] not only on how it would directly alter the trajectory of American emissions, but also on its ability to affect global emissions by driving globally applicable technological innovation or by influencing the behavior of foreign governments. On each of these dimensions, the carbon tax fails.

William F. Buckley was fond of saying that as idealism approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive. This is certainly the case with a carbon dioxide tax, which would make everything more expensive for working Americans, leaving them less to spend and save — and all for no guaranteed environmental benefit. There might be some room to absorb the damage of such rose-colored schemes in a healthy economy, but certainly not at a time when the economy is still limping along.

These congressmen should be applauded for taking a stand, however symbolic, against such an ill-conceived proposal. Let’s hope that, if and when the time comes, they remain resolute.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Here’s What The New York Times Completely Missed In Its Criticism Of Fracking

Somewhat Reasonable - June 29, 2016, 5:21 PM

Although the May 23 New York Times article on hydraulic fracturing, “The Sand Mines That Ruin Farmland,” is an interesting read, it is by no means an accurate one. Author Nancy Loeb relies on unsubstantiated claims in order to push forth her own liberal agenda. Hydraulic fracturing is not the monster that Loeb makes it out to be.

Having grown up on the same farm where my grandfather was born in 1930, nothing makes my heart sink faster than seeing quality farmland disappear. It’s important, however, to understand the reality of the situation: Frac sand, oil, and natural gas must be harvested to meet the needs of our society, and these needs are being met in an environmentally responsible way.

Many critics of fracking seem to think the world can run on solar and wind power alone, and that oil and natural gas are unnecessary to fuel our cars (and farm equipment), keep the lights on at our schools, and power lifesaving equipment at our hospitals. Those notions are simply untrue. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States generates just 0.4 percent of our total energy from solar power and 1.4 percent from wind energy. Together, these two forms of energy produce less energy than burning wood (2.2 percent).

Natural gas, by contrast, accounts for 28 percent of the nation’s total energy use, and oil accounts for another 35 percent. In order to produce oil and natural gas in the United States, we need to use hydraulic fracturing and, as a result, frac sand.

Hydraulic fracturing is used to extract 51 percent of the oil and 67 percentof the natural gas produced in the United States. Without this technology, it would be significantly more expensive to heat our homes, drive our cars, and power our hospitals. We would also be more dependent on foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela. It makes more sense to put Americans to work developing these resources at home than to import them from abroad.

Unfortunately, Loeb makes claims about the alleged dangers of silica sand mining without providing proper supporting evidence. However, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health conducted a health impact assessment of sand mining in Wisconsin and concluded that silica sand operations do not pose a threat to people living near these facilities. While it is true that small particles of silica dust are an occupational health hazard, there are already strict regulations in place to protect workers from ailments such as silicosis.

The facts on water consumption provide similarly good news. Statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources show sand mines used only 0.09 percent of all the water consumed in the state in 2013. Agricultural irrigation used 55 times more water than silica sand mining. In addition, many industrial sand facilities recycle up to 90 percent of the water used.

The berms of topsoil Loeb refers to in passing are used to store the soil for later use so it can be reapplied to the land during the reclamation process when mining is complete, which she fails to mention. This practice helps restore the productivity of agricultural land while greatly reducing the potential impact of these mines on neighboring property values.

Those concerned about disappearing farmland would have better luck protesting the construction of strip malls, subdivisions, and superstores because these developments pose a far greater threat to farmland than sand mining. In fact, from 2007 to 2013, more than three million acres of U.S. farmland were converted into developments, and sand mining accounted for only a tiny fraction of this conversion. In addition, once farmland is paved over for housing, it is essentially gone for good, but sand mines can be reclaimed for other purposes after mining has been completed.

Finally, agriculture simply cannot be conducted without oil and natural gas. Tractors, combines, and the other heavy machinery used on farms run on gasoline and diesel fuel. The nitrogen-based fertilizer used to increase farm yields is made from natural gas. These sources of energy, and the people who work to produce them, are just as vital in ensuring we all have enough to eat as tractors and the farmers who drive them. Far from ruining the nation’s farms, fracking is a boon to agriculture.

[Originally published at Independent Journal Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Sean Parnell: A Shamelessly Uninsured Self-Pay Patient Saving Thousands on Health Care

Somewhat Reasonable - June 29, 2016, 12:09 PM

Meet two self-pay patients who don’t have or want health insurance, don’t receive government assistance, and consistently score the best prices on health care money can buy.

The shamelessly uninsured: Michael Hamilton, host of the Health Care News Podcast and managing editor of Health Care News, and Sean Parnell, author of The Self-Pay Patient: Affordable Healthcare Choices in the Age of Obamacare and a former Health Care News managing editor.

Hamilton and Parnell extol the virtues of going uninsured in order to obtain the most cost-effective health care for oneself and one’s family.

Together they cover how to make sure self-pay patients get the best price from their doctors, how doing a little homework can save you thousands of dollars, and how to combine a savvy self-pay mentality with membership in a health care sharing ministry.

Most importantly, in contrast to some plans to repeal and replace Obamacare proposed at the federal level, Hamilton and Parnell help empower consumers to make free, informed about decisions about obtaining affordable, high-quality health care–as opposed to mere health insurance.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Coming Soon: Internet At The Speed Of Government

Somewhat Reasonable - June 29, 2016, 10:50 AM

When government “helps” run something – that something is terrible. The bigger a hand government has in running it – the more terrible it is. If it is exclusively government-run – the terrible-ness is ingrained and inherent. And the longer government runs the show – the worse the terrible-ness becomes.

But one example: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is full-on government medicine – and has been since 1930. A government-only monopoly. And its delivery…is terrible – when it isn’t non-existent.

Untold numbers of veterans are dying waiting for care. We don’t know how many – because government is placing tens of thousands of veterans on secret waiting lists. And government is leaving completely of these lists tens of thousands more.

And there is zero accountability. After this abomination was identified in 2014 – the government actually kept growing the wait lists. No one – NO ONE – has been fired.

Executed in the face of this top-to-bottom terrible-ness was the #1 DC defense – “We aren’t spending enough money.” As is nigh always the case – that is another DC lie.

In 2002, President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror – and the VA budget (in current coin) was $53.5 billion. In 2012, President Obama had mostly ended our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the VA budget was $125.3 billion. A roughly 250% increase over ten years.

The amount of money we give government – isn’t the problem. (We in fact now set new records every year in coin taken by the Feds.) Government’s incredibly incompetent and horrendously wasteful use of our money – is a huge problem.

Contrast this government VA track record of terrible-ness – with the World Wide Web.

The Web was born in the mid-1990s. At its inception, a bipartisan DC decision was made – to leave the Internet alone. As nigh always happens when the government leaves something alone – the Web exploded. Arguably nothing in human history has grown better, stronger, faster than has the Internet.

Flash forward two decades to 2014 – and the Internet is 6% of the entire U.S. economy. $966 billion in economic activity – and responsible for 3 million jobs.

That is an inconceivably huge growth path. An inconceivably huge private sector success story. So the question is – why on Earth would anyone mess with it? An even better (worse) question is – why on Earth would anyone want the Internet to look more like the VA?

But that’s exactly what the Barack Obama Administration wants. The Democrat-packed D.C. Circuit Court just ludicrously upheldthe Administration’s unilateral, incredibly huge Internet power grab.

The government will now apply to the Internet – 1934 monopoly landline telephone law. But if you apply law written for a monopoly, the regulations will strangle out competitors one by one – until you get down to a monopoly. (That’s from the Department of Duh.) And the proponents of this inanity – want that monopoly to be government:

“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

Well isn’t that special. Government as our sole Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Killed will be thousands of private providers – and untold tens of thousands of attending private companies. And the millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of investment and economic activity they provide.

Born will be a sister agency to the VA – the IA, the Internet Administration.

And we’ve all seen how that will go.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Julie Kelly: GMO Crops are Perfectly Safe

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 11:21 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Julie Kelly, one of the leading, non-scientist, voices in the contentious debate over America’s food system, joins the show to talk about Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs).

Through her research to improve the cooking classes she was teaching, she became a staunch defender of American agriculture and biotechnology to improve the world’s food supply. According to Julie, GMOs are perfectly safe to consume – a stance that is supported by numerous scientific organizations. She also talks about the myths surrounding “organic” food, explaining there is no evidence to suggest organic food is more nutritious, good for you, are better for the environment.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

The Heartland Institute hosted an event with Julie Kelly on June 29 at the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center. Watch it below:

Categories: On the Blog

British Say “No” to EU Power and Plunder

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 10:57 AM

The political and financial establishments of Europe and the United States were taken by almost total surprise and sent into apparent shock when 52 percent of the voters in the United Kingdom chose for their country to leave the European Union (EU). But it is not the end of the world as we know it, and can be a positive sign and example of opposition to unrepresentative and centralized bureaucratic control over people’s lives.

As the June 23, 2016 vote neared on the referendum as to whether or not the United Kingdom would retain its membership in the 28-nation European Union, public opinion polls suggested that the voting result would be very close but with an edge toward remaining within the EU. The financial and foreign exchange markets all were positive, and the political elites in both London and Brussels, the European Union headquarters, appeared to be taking a sigh of relief that the existing order of things would not be threatened by a major participating nation opting out.

Hysteria and bedlam are the only words to describe the initial reaction when the votes were being counted, with the clear outcome that a majority of the voters had, in fact, said, “No,” to staying under the rule of the Brussels bureaucracies.

What is the European Union, and how and why has it brought about such a reaction from not only the people of the British Isles, but sizeable numbers of people in other member countries from one end of the European continent to the other?

The EU: from Free Trade to Political Plunder

The EU grew out of attempts that began in the 1950s to establish a free-trade zone among a number of Western European countries, both to improve their mutual prosperity and to reduce the potential for conflict after the experiences of the two world wars of the twentieth century.

It formally became the European Economic Community (EEC) with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. But soon the free-trade idea was superseded by various interventionist programs for intergovernmental planning of agriculture and industry, and for a welfare-state social safety net. The EEC was transformed into the European Union in 1992, with additional plans for a single currency, which finally came to fruition with the establishment of the Euro as a circulating currency in 2002, and which is now used in nineteen of the EU member countries.

In 2000 a conference was held in Nice, France, to plan the expansion of the EU to incorporate many new member states in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Then in October 2004, at a conference in Rome, the EU member governments agreed to a draft constitution that was meant to lead to a more integrated political regime and eventually to a United States of Europe under which, many critics feared, the individual nations of Europe would be reduced to subservient provinces of a centralized political authority directing and controlling the fates of all the member citizens. But when referenda were taken in May 2005 in France and in June 2005 in Holland nearly 70 percent of the voters in France and over 60 percent of the voters in Holland rejected the threatened loss of national sovereignty.

Recent EU Crises: Greek Debt and Mass Migration

The most recent disturbances and internal conflicts affecting the EU have been, first, the Greek financial crisis, and, second, the massive influx of Middle Eastern and North African refugees in the face of the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

The Greek government, having lived far beyond it financial means for decades to feed a bloated bureaucracy, an unsustainable welfare state, and a corrupt crony capitalist economy was faced with fiscal bankruptcy and default on a national debt it could not sustain. The financially more stable EU members were expected to cough up the money to cover the Greek government’s budget needs and revalue downwards the Greek bonds held by creditors. Fiscal band-aids and smoke and mirror Greek government budgetary reforms have taken Greece’s continuing financial difficulties off the front page.

Last year’s migration of more than one million refugees into the EU, under the initial openness of the German government, has brought about the most recent crisis among the member countries. Many of these nations have resisted acceptance of many, or any, of this multitude attempting to escape from war and find a better life for their families. The recent terrorist attacks, especially in France and Belgium, have made many among the EU countries fearful and paranoid of the arrival of a vast influx of Muslims within their midst.

Some Valuable EU Pluses, But Far More Negatives

In assessing the European Union, it is certainly true that the EU has brought some desirable changes. Investments may be made relatively freely among the member nations, and this has made a more rational and efficient allocation of profitable use of capital within the member countries. And without a doubt, the establishment of virtual freedom of movement for member citizens within the administrative boundary of the European Union has been a great liberation. Though, of course, the latter liberty has been reduced due to the reestablishment of internal border restrictions in the face of the migration inflow in 2015.

But these advantages must be weighed against the fact that with EU membership comes a vast spider’s web of Brussels-imposed rules and regulations over practically every aspect and facet of manufacturing and market retail life, including labor markets and work conditions. Social regulations and rules impose increasingly one notion of “political correctness” and “social justice,” which member nations and their citizens have limited liberty to resist.

Furthermore, the European Union bureaucracy collects hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax revenues through EU-wide import duties on goods entering any of the member nations from other parts of the world, and receives a portion of the value-added tax (VAT) collected by member nations within their respective national boundaries, as well as tax revenues representing a percentage of the each member nation’s gross national income.

The largest special interest benefactor from European Union spending of these tax revenues is the farming community. In 2014, about 40 percent of all EU expenditures were on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Inefficient, high-cost and wasteful farmers from one end of Europe to the other receive vast sums of money at the expense of non-farm business and manufacturing, as well as the EU consumers who pay for this financial transfer through their taxes and end up paying far higher prices for food than would be the case if there was a free market in farming.

The next largest spending category is called “regional support,” and comes to over 35 percent of the EU budgetary outlays. This is a catchall of infrastructure and crony capitalist spending to favored parts of the European Union defined as less developed or economically poorer, but ends up lining the pockets of huge networks of special interest groups working hand-in-hand with the EU bureaucracies.

A good part of the rest of the EU budget goes for the funding of the fads and fashions of political correctness in the arts and sciences, or wasteful and misdirected subsidized work and training programs for young people in the form of imaginary jobs to nowhere.

The European Union, in other words, is a huge and intrusive system of interventionist, redistributive, and corrupt bureaus, agencies and departments run by over 40,000 staff members and regulators. They impose regulations and controls over the social, economic, cultural, and political affairs of over 500 million people who reside within the European Union. And they are, seemingly, answerable to almost no one, and certainly not to the citizens and voters of the countries over which they impose their centralized authority of social engineering and economic planning and political correctness.

British Voters Wanted Democratic Self-Determination

At the heart of most of the arguments for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has been the desire to return self-determination to the people of Great Britain and out of the unrepresentative hands of the EU commissions and bureaucracies in Brussels. The people of Great Britain should hold their political, economic and cultural destiny in their own hands, it was declared.

This is why the supporters of Britain’s departure from the EU have been called it a triumph of “democracy.” Firstly, in the sense that the holding of the referendum meant that the people being ruled by a political authority should have the freedom to decide whether it wished to remain under the control of that authority. And, secondly, now that the vote has been taken, that the people, especially in England within the United Kingdom, have stated that they want that political decision-making returned fully to the government within the boundaries of their nation island.

The advocates of the UK remaining within the European Union are playing Chicken Little, warning that the United Kingdom, the European Union and maybe the rest of the world might be facing an economic sky falling in the form of banking and market collapses.

There is no basis in fact for such dire predictions. First of all, there are potentially up to two years of negotiations about the UK’s withdrawal and the political and economic ties and relationship that will replace the existing ones between Great Britain and the European Union. And, secondly, there is no reason why the new relationship cannot be similar with the ones that the EU has with a number of non-member countries now, which allow for a wide arena of relatively free trade and movement of capital and people between these partners.

This will be a matter of the ideological dogma and political spite that enter into the negotiations, especially on the part of the EU power structure in Brussels, wanting to set an “example” for any other nations that attempt to withdraw from their tentacles of suffocating control.

The UK’s Future: Free Markets or Homegrown Control?

Will the United Kingdom come out of this departure, in the long run, politically and economically stronger or weaker? That depends upon what the citizens of the United Kingdom do with their reestablished democratic self-determination.

We need to remember that “democracy” is a political means and not an end. It is a way of removing those who hold political office and power without resort to revolutionary violence or destructive civil war. It is a way of changing those in government with the use of the peaceful ballot box rather than through applying the force of bullets.

But what democracy does not do, in and of itself, is determine what it is that those in high elected political office are expected to do, as a reflection of the “will” of the voters. That depends upon the general political and economic philosophy, and attitudes and ideas that govern and guide the thinking of a majority of the voting citizenry.

The real choice facing the people of the United Kingdom, once those tentacles of political, economic and cultural control emanating from Brussels are fully removed, is to decide what they want their own government to do. Will it be an underlying and implicit conception of human freedom, which sees government as the protector of citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, with human relationships based on freedom of association and voluntary exchange?

Or will it be a view of government as bestower of favors, privileges, subsidies, and anti-competitive protections from domestic and foreign market rivals, and which is also expected to redistribute wealth and establish societal constraints in the form of homegrown political correctness? In other words, will the UK’s democratically elected political leaders and domestic bureaucrats be expected to merely continue with most of the same type of policies that the political elite and bureaucrats in Brussels currently impose through the European Union structures of control and regulation, and which their own Labor and Conservative Party governments have been doing all along since the end of the Second World War, anyway?

There are friends of liberty in Great Britain who have participated in and even led the movement to leave the European Union. They want to return control of these political, economic and culture matters to direct British jurisdiction because they hope that will result in a more open and freer market society than the one currently lived under through the EU. If they are able to influence British politics in a more classical liberal, free market direction, with less regulation, lower taxes and reduced monetary and fiscal manipulation, the future can offer greater liberty and more prosperity for the British people.

But the fact is that the collectivist and interventionist mindset that dominates the European Union elites and power structures in Brussels have their long-established counterparts in the United Kingdom. The UK has plenty of its own domestic social engineers, crony capitalist special interest groups, and ideologically driven collectivists.

Which of these two intellectual and institutional alternatives – a more competitive capitalist system or more interventionist control and command – will determine the future of the British people. Exiting the European Union, therefore, is the beginning, and not the end.

If they chose the road leading to greater personal freedom, more free market competition, and less intrusive and taxing government, the British people will not only have redeemed themselves, but set an example for the rest of Europe and the world. History waits to see what happens.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Will the War Against Parental Choice Ever End?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 10:45 AM

No matter how many courts have rejected their pleadings, enemies of school choice appear committed to a 100-year-long judicial war in quest of some ultimate edict that will keep American students forever captive in government schools.

Consider that blunderbuss of a lawsuit in Florida that began in 2009 with an effort by activists led by the Southern Legal Counsel to persuade the state judiciary to declare the Sunshine State’s school system in violation of a state constitutional requirement “to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” (Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education.)

In 2014, as if to throw every possible allegation against the wall with the hope something would stick, the “adequacy” litigants added the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the McKay Scholarship for Pupils with Disabilities to their challenge, along with charter schools, teacher evaluation and even testing. Specifically, they sought to demonize the parental-choice programs as drains on The One True System: failing, traditional public education.

On May 24, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds rejected all charges in a 29-page opinion supplemented by 200 pages of documentation. The judge found private-choice innovations — far from being a fiscal diversion — have been an integral part of Florida’s educational progress in recent years.

Undeterred, lawyers for the litigants immediately vowed to appeal. Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now termed courtroom advocacy of governmental supremacy “a marathon, not a sprint” — in other words, a century-long war.

Does it seem odd the very litigants who deem Florida’s public schools “inadequate” would kill scholarship programs currently enabling more than 100,000 poor and/or disabled students to find workable alternatives — and thereby force them back into substandard institutions? Sure, their logic may be screwy, but bear in mind that to socialists and statists, “adequacy” means sucking all money possible out of productive society and funneling it directly into a monolithic, all-controlling system.

Ultimately, the blunderbuss may be less significant than a more precisely targeted second lawsuit the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, filed in 2014 against the state’s tax-credit scholarship.

Enacted in 2001, the Florida Tax Credit awards corporations a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations going toward scholarships enabling needy children to transfer to private schools.

The amount of good done the first 15 years has been impressive: The number of aided children has steadily risen to 78,120 students who were enrolled in 1,594 private schools during the 2015-2016 school year. Scholarships are limited to $5,886 per student or the cost of tuition, whichever is less. A little more than two-thirds of recipients are black or Hispanic. The average annual income of aided families is a modest $25,557. Several studies have documented that a majority of scholarship students had been struggling in their assigned public schools but are now doing better in their chosen private schools.

In McCall v. Scott, the Florida Education Association, in alliance with public-education interest groups and the state NAACP), complains this charitable money from the private sector rightfully should be taxed instead and funneled exclusively to the government schools.

A great many courts have shot down the preposterous argument private money never reaching the public treasury nevertheless belongs to Big Education interests such as the teachers unions masquerading as champions of the taxpayer. The list stretches from several states’ judiciaries to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 2011 in Winn v. Arizona tax-credit scholarships are funded entirely and legitimately by voluntary private donations, not state appropriations.

A local judge in Tallahassee rejected FEA’s case in 2015, and an appellate court now has it under review. If the union loses yet again, FEA president Joanne McCall, the lead plaintiff, is on record saying the fight will continue to the Florida Supreme Court.

If a judicial deathblow ever should befall this program, it is hard to see anything good happening to students — or to the public-school system for that matter. Nearly 80,000 pupils will stream back into public schools that already are overcrowded. The sudden added expense likely will result in a reduction of per-pupil spending. Worst of all, many underprivileged youngsters will be kicked out of schools that were working for them and be shipped back to schools that were not.

That last outcome has prompted many longtime supporters of the NAACP to plead with the Florida chapter to terminate its partnership with the education establishment and return to its historic mission of liberating black children from oppressive systems that call all the shots as to where and how students will be educated.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

New Study Finds Electronic Cigarettes Helped 15 Million Quit Smoking

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 4:37 PM


The journal Addiction published a study in late June, finding the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) have helped 15 million smokers quit smoking tobacco cigarettes and/or cut back, in the European Union (E.U.). Using data from the 2014 Eurobarometer survey, which recorded responses of 27,460 participants, the study concluded that 48.5 million E.U. citizens had tried e-cigarettes and 7.5 million were currently vapers. Of the group reporting regular e-cigarette usage, “35 percent reported that e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking, while 32 percent said they were smoking less thanks to e-cigarettes.”

This research comes on the heels of a study published by the British Medical Journal earlier in June, that measured the “effectiveness and safety of electronic cigarettes at 24 months” using data from respondents that used e-cigarettes and VNPs to quit smoking and those that remained on traditional tobacco cigarettes. The study concluded that 61 percent of respondents had remained “abstinent from tobacco” and that only 23.1 percent of tobacco users reported abstinence.

The study by Addiction is only the latest bit of research concerning the health implications of electronic cigarettes and VNPs. After U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in May to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, more studies have been finding greater evidence that e-cigarettes and VNPs may actually save more lives than endanger, and help ease the health burdens that are associated with tobacco.

Prior to the FDA’s ruling, there had been scant evidence, but there was evidence that indicated health benefits. Public Health England published a study in 2015 that found e-cigarettes being “95% less harmful … than normal cigarettes”. In April 2016, the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians published Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction and concluded that e-cigarettes produced a “relatively high quit rate” and furthered the health risks of e-cigarettes as “unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoke tobacco products.”

It is now time that the FDA reconsider the position to regulate e-cigarettes and VNPs as tobacco products. This new industry could save Medicaid billions according the advocacy group State Budget Solutions. The FDA needs to reign in their influence, as they are doing a disservice to their mission statement by not speeding up “innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable,” but hindering it, in the area of tobacco harm reduction.

Check out our E-cigarettes ideas page for more information.

Categories: On the Blog

Education Reform: One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:43 PM

Lately, education scholars at Washington, D.C.-based, nominally conservative think tanks have spun themselves into a tizzy about the education reform movement’s splintering into quarreling factions.

Who knew such a monolithic movement existed? Even among strong advocates of parental choice, lively arguments have raged for decades over vouchers versus tax-credit scholarships, with each side arguing its proposal is the most powerful and/or practical way to empower families. Debate is healthy in a democracy, is it not?

Thinking in terms of a single, cohesive agenda is perhaps more common in Washington, where think-tankers attend each other’s seminars and flock to government briefings. Why should any of this matter to the folks back in Grapevine or Grand Forks? Because advocacy from think-alike think tanks may influence policy in their school districts.

Within these inner sanctums, there is concern about contrary ideologies intruding. In a May 25 essay, Thomas B. Fordham Institute Fellow Robert Pondiscio controversially observed, “Like the proverbial frog in a pot, education reformers on the political right find themselves coming to a slow boil in the cauldron of social justice activism.”

As an example, Pondiscio reported conservative reformers “feeling unwelcome, uncomfortable, and cowed into silence” at a recent meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund in San Francisco. He fretted about leftists aggressively promoting a new orthodoxy on issues of race, class, and gender within the context of education reform while excluding conservative ideas. But what is wrong with having the gumption to debate the reform newcomers instead of acting as though your side owns this turf?

Speaking of taking ownership, the long-time CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen, issued a 22-page “manifesto” on June 15 — under her byline — seeking to reframe choice-based reform in terms of “innovation and opportunity,” as though those objectives are new. “This is a clarion call,” she announced in the opening sentence.

Much of the manifesto deals in great detail with the level of tolerance for semi-autonomous charter schools within government-controlled school systems over the years. There is nothing about the tremendous promise of the next-generation voucher, the education savings account, and there is little about a steady increase in states adopting private-choice programs and the phenomenal growth of homeschooling.

Allen’s manifesto expresses frustration that “our efforts to drive change have hit a wall. The reality is that more was accomplished in the first nine years of the education reform movement than in the past 16.”

That reference is to the pace of states adopting strong charter-school authorization laws since 1991. Some states and localities now seek to drag charters back under a regulatory umbrella, and that legitimately concerns advocates. (Of course, charter schools are far from constituting the entirety of the education reform movement.)

Charters have helped thousands of families find a tuition-free alternative to conventional public schools, and that is a good thing. However, because charter schools operate within the governmental system, the nature of the larger, controlling agenda becomes relevant.

In that connection, the manifesto actually laments the demise of the federal No Child Left Behind law because it helped set the bar for student proficiency and defined the terms of accountability. The manifesto goes further and hammers the debate over Common Core as a “distraction” that “has drained our collective energies and focus on students.”

Actually, the parents across the nation who have stood up against nationalized standards being imposed on their schools are entirely focused on students — their children and their neighbors’ children. And they see clearly that Common Core uniformity and true choice in education are incompatible. The manifesto is likely to deepen their suspicion that choice becomes problematic when linked to an agenda imposed from the top down.

So, what is the clear call for action, the clarion call? Its name is the New Opportunity Agenda, the tenets of which are to be “innovation, flexibility, opportunity, and transparency.” The ideas discussed include drawing on new educational technologies, starting new schools, allowing public funds to follow children to schools of choice, and reporting test data in ways that can show how schools and districts are performing.

The prospect of yet another agenda being developed by Washington insiders and passed down to the people may excite some who call themselves “education reformers,” but a different kind of reformer will argue for families having the freedom to pursue their own agendas for their children — with their individual decisions contributing to a vibrant marketplace that reshapes the face of U.S. education.

Even though there is not a single education reform movement, there are ideas on which agenda-driven and liberty-loving advocates may agree. They should be able to talk with each other — and even welcome social-justice warriors to the conversation.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Questioning “The Secret Dirty War to Stop Solar Power”

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:35 PM

“American taxpayers spent an average of $39 billion a year over the past five years financing grants, subsidizing tax credits, guaranteeing loans, bailing out failed solar energy boondoggles and otherwise underwriting every idea under the sun to make solar energy cheaper and more popular. But none of it has worked.”

In the United States, by mid-2016, the Big Three politically correct renewable energy sources wind power surpassed 75 Gigawatts, solar power surpassed 27 Gigawatts, and biofuels surpassed 16 billion gallons per year (mostly ethanol from corn).

In the article “Obama Legacy Will Be Power Blackouts” June 6, 2016, Professor Larry Bell wrote:

If you have heard some really exciting news that the Obama administration has already doubled the amount of total U.S. energy derived from ‘renewable alternative’ sources (solar, wind and biofuels), that would be true. Thanks largely to $150 billion in generous federal subsidies, combined total renewables grew from supplying slightly more than 2 percent of our ‘primary fuel’ (including electricity) to a whopping 4 percent today.

Solar Energy: Subsidies Required

There are many disadvantages to solar energy because it is unavailable most of the day—availability is expressed as capacity factor defined as the fraction of total annual solar energy produced compared to a facility operating 24-hours daily, 365 days per year. Capacity factors of solar plants in Southwest desert areas are 0.19 compared to capacity factors of 0.9 or greater for nuclear and fossil-fueled electricity plants.

Other disadvantages are solar plants require vast land areas when used for utility-scale power generation (6 acres per Megawatt) and have limited useful plant lifespans of about 25 years. Nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants have small land requirements (less than one square mile for 1000 Megawatts) and lifespans of 60 years or more.

Solar electricity is more expensive than conventional electricity from fossil fuels of coal and natural gas. Subsidies are required to promote its use in the form of payments or tax credits for construction of solar systems, rapid depreciation of solar systems, forcing power companies to pay above market prices for excessive electricity production called feed-in-tariffs, mandates for use of solar energy without regard to cost, and a host of other subsidies.

The vast array of subsidies is provided by the U. S. government, state governments, and municipalities.

Subsidies for individual states and municipalities are given by aDepartment of Energy website operated by North Carolina State University “Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency”.

A report from The Taxpayers Protection Alliance “Filling the Solar Sinkhole” said, “American taxpayers spent an average of $39 billion a year over the past 5 years financing grants, subsidizing tax credits, guaranteeing loans, bailing out failed solar energy boondoggles and otherwise underwriting every idea under the sun to make solar energy cheaper and more popular. But none of it has worked.”

‘Secret Dirty War’ to Stop Solar?

In spite of all the subsidies, promoters of solar energy complain they are treated unfairly in what they claim to be a competitive electricity production market. Author, radio broadcaster, and liberal jack-of-all-trades communicator Thom Hartmann produced two YouTube shows on solar energy carried on RT television. RT television, originally Russia Today, has been accused “of broadcasting ‘materially misleading’ content’”.

The first of the six-minute videos called “The Secret Dirty War To Stop Solar Power” is an interview between Thom Hartmann and Brendan Fischer, General Counsel, Center for Media and Democracy. They claimed the Koch brothers, Walton family, and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is trying to stop implementation of roof-top solar for residences.  ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservativestate legislators and private sector representatives that drafts and shares model state-level legislation.

The Koch brother’s opposition to solar energy is supposedly due to their owning oil interests. But oil is used for transportation and chemicals and less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated with oil—principally in Hawaii.

Further disparaging remarks about the Koch brothers are given by New York Times writer Paul Krugman, “Meanwhile, buying politicians is a pretty good business for fossil-fuel magnates like the Koch brothers.” It would be interesting to compare philanthropic activities of the Koch brothers with their liberal critics.

The Walton family is said to oppose roof-top solar because it competes with utility-scale solar energy. The Walton family owns First Solar, which makes solar panels for utility solar facilities and builds commercial solar facilities.

ALEC is claimed to oppose roof-top solar because it helps state legislators or Public Service Commission’s craft rules to insure fairness for electricity customers. ALEC opposes net metering—the feed-in-tariff that forces utilities to reimburse solar electricity producers the full utility-produced retail price for solar electricity returned to the grid.

A summation of the six-minute video is its total baloney. Net metering is having utilities pay solar customers the full retail price for excess solar electricity returned to the grid. Yet this price, a huge subsidy that the utility (really other customers) must pay to the generally more affluent solar early adopters.

The U.S. average residential price for electricity is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, it costs utilities about 4–5 cents per kilowatt-hour to produce electricity at their power stations. The rest of consumer’s costs are profit (maybe one cent per kilowatt-hour), cost of billing, and cost of constructing and maintaining distribution systems (transmission lines).

Hidden Subsidies

Utilities pay the costs of restoring power when wind, ice, and snow storms knock down utility lines. These costs are more than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Roof-top solar generates most of its electricity from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.with a maximum output around noon. These are times when residential use is smaller because residential occupants are at work or school. Thus the amount of solar electricity returned to the grid for net metering is large. In addition, utilities lose all the income from electricity produced by roof-top solar systems.

Therefore, net metering and residential solar use takes away needed operating income from utilities and forces non-solar customers to make up that loss through higher electric bills.

An analogy would be for states to reimburse bicycle riders with gas tax money used to build and maintain road structures for every mile they use their bicycles. Riding bicycles replaces driving cars that damage road surfaces. Due to loss of gas tax revenue given bicycle riders, states have to raise gas taxes for auto owners to make up lost revenue.

Net metering is totally unfair to electricity users. This is one of many subsidies by governments paying residential users of solar energy. Another subsidy is a 30 percent federal tax credit for the cost of building solar systems. The annual loss of income for the federal government is many billions per year. This is for a government going into debt at the rate of $1.5 billion per day.

Other subsidies are paid out by some states in the form of tax credits. Georgia used to have a pay back of 35 percent. Additional subsidies may be in the form of depreciation deductions on state and federal taxes. Another form of subsidy is mandates from states a certain fraction of electricity generation has to come from solar energy.

Solar Battle Royale

The Solar Power Battle Now Being Fought” features a discussion of solar power in Hawaii between Thom Hartmann and Adam Browning, Co-founder and Executive Director of Vote Solar. Hawaii has the highest solar electricity penetration in the U. S. with 12 percent of their residences having roof-top solar. The U. S. Energy Information Administration reports Hawaii produced 4.84 percent of their electricity from solar for March 2016; the highest in the nation.

Hawaii has the highest priced electricity in the U. S. with a residential rate for March 2016 of 27.35 cents per kilowatt-hour. This makes residential roof-top solar very attractive from an economic point of view; especially with net metering.

Note: Along with the highest electricity prices in the U. S.,Hawaii has high gasoline prices with Honolulu averaging $2.54 a gallon June 13, 2016 versus the national average of $2.38. These high prices are due to oil being Hawaii’s main source of energy. Natural gas can be substituted for oil in both electricity production and transportation with considerable savings in prices. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is shipped to Hawaii as a substitute for oil. Compressed natural gas (CNG) used for vehicles has an energy density about one-third gasoline which limits vehicle range to under 190 miles. For the small distances traveled in Hawaii, CNG poses no problem. Energy savings using LNG in Hawaii also apply to near bankrupt Puerto Rico.

Adam Browning claimed utilities in Hawaii are discouraging additional residential use of roof-top solar. Hawaii has net metering. Thom Hartmann responded high penetration of solar energy has taken place in Germany with no problems. (He forgot to mention Germany has residential electricity rates close to triple that in the U. S. and on occasion Germany has to unload excess electricity production on its neighboring countries.)

Hartmann then mentioned half the electricity in the U. S. is produced by for-profit utilities and the other half by non-profit municipal co-ops or electric membership corporations (EMC). Electricity in Hawaii is produced by for-profit utilities. He speculated non-profit utilities would be delighted to have additional roof-top solar implemented by the residential sector. Adam Browning thought this was a great idea and heartily agreed with him. They thought cities in Hawaii should form co-ops.

Neither speaker was astute enough to recognize net metering, as well as solar electricity used, takes away income for utility operating expenses that has to be produced in some fashion. The only way out of this problem is to increase electricity rates for all users. Once again non-solar users pay higher electricity rates to subsidize roof-top solar producers.

Final Comment

Solar energy exists only because of the multitude of subsidies produced by federal and state governments. It is essentially a new 21st century electricity source. The lifetime of solar panels is about 25 years and they become junk that will require disposal of toxic materials. This will be a future loss for tax payers.

[Originally published at Master Resource]

James H. Rust, professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. Since 1992, Prof. Rust has endowed over 50 scholarships for students studying engineering

Categories: On the Blog

Brexit’s Energy Lesson for California, et al

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:22 PM

“California’s largest utility and environmental groups announced a deal Tuesday [June 21] to shutter the last nuclear power plant in the state.” This statement from the Associated Press reporting about the announced closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant should startle you. The news about shutting down California’s last operating nuclear power plant, especially after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) had sought a 20-year extension of the operating licenses for the two reactors, is disappointing—not startling. What should pique your ire is that the “negotiated proposal,” as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called it, is between the utility company and environmental groups—with no mention of the regulators elected to insure that consumers have efficient, effective and economical electricity.

Who put the environmental groups in charge? Not the California voters. But unelected environmental groups—and their bureaucratic friends in various government agencies—have been dictating energy policy for the most of the past decade. Regarding the “negotiated proposal,” WSJ points out: “The agreement wades deeply into intricate energy procurement, environmental and rate-setting matters that are normally the exclusive jurisdiction of state agencies.”

California has a goal of generating half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and environmental groups are calling for the state officials to replace Diablo’s generating capacity with “renewable power sources.” Realize that this one nuclear power plant provides twice as much electricity as all of California’s solar panels combined.

Bloomberg Intelligence analysts’ research concluded that PG&E “would need 10,500 megawatts of new solar installations to replace all of Diablo Canyon’s output” and that, without including potential costs of new transmission lines or back-up resources for solar, will cost $15 billion—with totals, including decommissioning, estimated at $20 billion.

The Bloomberg report states: “PG&E will ask that customers make up any shortfall.”

Actual costs, Bloomberg says: “could be lower because the company expects to compensate for lower demand and replace only part of the production.” Why will there be lower demand? The WSJ explains: “the plan calls for new power sources to furnish only a portion of the electricity that Diablo Canyon generates, assuming that greater energy efficiency in the future will also curb some power demand.”

All of this is announced while California is experiencing, and expecting more, blackouts due to “a record demand for energy” and because “there just aren’t enough gas pipelines for what’s needed,” according to CNN Money. “Southern California,” reports WSJ, “is vulnerable to energy disruptions because it relies on a complex web of electric transmission lines, gas pipelines and gas storage facilities—all running like clockwork—to get enough electricity. If any piece is disabled, it can mean electricity shortages. Gas is the state’s chief fuel for power generation, not coal. But the pipelines can only bring in about 3 billion cubic feet of working gas a day into Southern California, below the daily demand, which gets as high as 5.7 billion cubic feet.”

California’s Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, therefore, has warned of “significant risk” that there may not be enough natural gas which could result in “outages for as many as 14 summer days.” CNN Money reports: “Natural gas has played a bigger role for California as the state has tried to phase out coal and nuclear power”—environmental groups oppose the use of all of these three power sources.

It is expected that Diablo Canyon’s generating capacity will, in part, be replaced with more natural gas—which is good news for fracking. Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations for the California Independent System Operator, said: “California needs more flexibility in how it generates power so it can balance fluctuating output from wind and solar projects. Gas plants can be turned off and on quickly.”

As coal-fueled electricity has been outlawed in California, and environmental groups have pushed to close nuclear power plants, and routinely block any new proposed natural gas pipelines, black outs will become frequent. California’s energy demand doesn’t match solar power’s production.

This dilemma makes “energy efficiency” a key component of the environmental groups’ decrees—which parallels the European Union’s (EU) policies that were a part of Britain’s “exit” decision (known as “Brexit”).

When the EU’s energy efficiency standards for small appliances were first proposed, then German EU energy commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, according to the Telegraph, said: “All EU countries agree energy efficiency is the most effective method to reduce energy consumption and dependence on imports and to improve the climate. Therefore there needs to be mandatory consumption limits for small electrical appliances.” In 2014, the EU, in the name of energy efficiency, sparked public outcry in Britain when it banned powerful vacuum cleaners with motors above 1600 watts. It then proposed to “ban high powered kettles and toasters” as part of the “Eco-design Directive” aimed at reducing the energy consumption of products.

The EU’s Eco-design Directive’s specific requirements are to be published as “Implementing Measures”—which, according to Conformance.co.uk, are made “as European Law Commission Regulations.” It explains that this process allows the directives to “enter into force in all the member states without requiring a transcription process in their National Law. Thus they can be issued much more quickly than the usual Directive Process.”

When the EU’s high-powered toaster/tea-kettle ban was announced, it became “a lightning rod for public anger at perceived meddling by Brussels”—which was seen as “intruding too much into citizens’ daily lives.” When the ban was announced, retailers reported a spike, as high as 95 percent, in toaster and electric tea-kettle sales. The European overreach became such ammunition in Britain’s Brexit referendum, that Brussels stalled the ban until after the election and engaged in a now-failed public relations exercise with “green campaigners” to speak out in favor of the toaster and tea-kettle regulations that were believed to have “considerable energy saving potential.”

The Brits didn’t buy it. It is reported that top of the list for “leave” voters were “EU Rules and Regulations.” Matthew Elliot, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign said: “If we vote remain we will be powerless to prevent an avalanche of EU regulations that Brussels is delaying until after the referendum.”

Brussels’ toaster and tea-kettle ban, which were perceived as an assault on the British staples, has been called “bonkers” and “too barmy to be true.” Specifically addressing the ban, Elliot said: “The EU now interferes with so many aspects of our lives, from our breakfast to our borders.” David Coburn, a UK Independence party MEP from Scotland, who recently bought a new toaster and tea kettle grumbled: “I think I must have bought a euro-toaster, I have to put bread in it five times and it’s still pale and pasty. Perhaps it’s powered by windmills. And the kettle? Watching a kettle boil has never been so boring.”

While energy efficiency directives banning Keurig coffee makers would be more likely to draw similar ridicule from Californians, there is a lesson to be learned from the Brexit decision: too much regulation results in referendums to overturn them. It is widely believed that, with Brexit and new leadership, many of the EU’s environmental regulations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, will be adjusted or abandoned.

More and more Americans are reaching the same conclusion as our British cousins about the overreach of rules and regulations. As Coburn concluded: “What we want is to let the free market reign, not this diktat by bureaucrat.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Michael Bowe: Greenpeace Under Fire in Court

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:01 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Michael Bowe, a partner with the New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, joins the show to talk about the interesting legal case involving the environmental terrorist organization, Greenpeace.

Greenpeace is being sued by Resolute Forest Products under federal and state racketeering laws for trademark violations, defamation and tortious interference claims under Georgia law.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

School Lunch Shouldn’t Be Middle-Class Welfare

Somewhat Reasonable - June 26, 2016, 12:02 PM

school lunch

First Lady Michelle Obama touted the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 as a way to make school meals more nutritious and accessible to reduce childhood obesity rates. But after more than five years, the program has few positive results: a recent study shows childhood obesity levels haven’t declined (and in some demographics, have increased), food waste at schools is way up, and kids from families that don’t need subsidized meals still get them, courtesy of federal taxpayers.

This month, Democratic leaders staged a rally on Capitol Hill to protest the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act after the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed it in May to address many problems with school-based meal programs. The bill targets the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which allows entire school districts rather than individual families to qualify for taxpayer-subsidized meals at school. The idea behind CEP was to eliminate the stigma of receiving free lunch and reduce “the burden of collecting funds and maintaining accounts for the students who pay for school meals.”

If Some People Need Others to Buy Their Food, Everyone Does

Here’s how CEP really works: School districts in which 40 percent of the students are directly certified because they are homeless, in foster care, or receive public aid like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) can receive federal funding to help pay for every child in the district to get a taxpayer-provided breakfast and lunch each day. The 40 percent threshold is then boosted by a “claiming factor” which assumes another 60 percent of the kids in the district qualify for the meals but are unaware of the benefit or too ashamed to apply.

So instead of giving “free” food to kids who need it, under CEP, 100 percent of the students get a taxpayer-funded breakfast and lunch, including many kids who don’t qualify or need the meals. Remember, too, that their families are already eligible for food stamps, and probably receiving them given that one in seven Americans still is. This sloppy approach created a massive federal entitlement program that many in Congress now want to correct. “Community eligibility allows federal dollars to subsidize students who are not otherwise eligible for assistance. When that happens, we have fewer resources for those who truly need help,” said committee chairman John Kline (R-MN).

So House Republicans propose raising the minimum threshold from 40 percent to 60 percent starting in 2017. This immediately triggered howls of protest from Democrats and special interest groups claiming the change would toss needy kids out of the program. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of wanting “to give tax credits to their rich friends and then say, ‘We have to balance the budget, so let’s take food out of the mouths of babies to do it.’ It’s just plain wrong.”

Lobbying groups also came out against the proposal. “This bill would result in countless low-income children no longer having access to the nutritious meals they need for their health and learning,” said the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group in Washington DC that lists major food companies as benefactors. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that administers child nutrition services, questioned any cost savings from the threshold increase, telling reporters that “kicking children out of the program is the only way to achieve this magnitude of savings.

We’re Only Trimming Middle-Class Welfare, People

Of course it never hurts to make Republicans look like they want kids to starve — especially during a presidential election year — but none of the desperate claims is true: “Every child who is eligible to receive assistance today will still be eligible for assistance under our child nutrition bill. The legislation simply enables us to more effectively use taxpayer dollars and provide more help to those who need it most,” said Todd Rokita (R-IN), chairman of the subcommittee responsible for child nutrition programs. Families would just have to apply the old-fashioned way to document eligibility.

Republicans are right to rein in this inefficient and costly program while there’s still time. The USDA concedes that CEP is the “main driver for the expected participation increase in school meals.” But the scheme doesn’t ensure increased participation comes from those it was meant for—the needy. CEP has led to a 9 percent increase in the school breakfast program and a 5 percent increase in the school lunch program in its first two years. The cost of these programs has jumped nearly 10 percent from 2015, with a projected budget of more than $23 billion in 2017.

Since the USDA acknowledges that only about 60 percent of eligible districts now participate in CEP, the program can continue to quickly grow in the coming years. You can be sure the administration in its final days will continue to push the program to increase participation among those who don’t need it. Even after the Obamas leave the White House, their allies on Capitol Hill will keep demanding that the federal government play a larger role in feeding everyone and having taxpayers pay for it.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act is just one example of how Congress will likely continue to tinker at the margins of the president’s most intrusive and expensive food policies. After eight years of mandatory calorie counting and food-shaming, there is little proof Americans are fitter or healthier. We do have meddlesome programs trying to force-feed kids food they don’t want—and in many cases don’t need—while taxpayers pick up the tab. Republicans should not cave to the special interests and self-proclaimed do-gooders who are using school meals as a way to expand government.

Julie Kelly is a food policy writer in Orland Park, Illinois. Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog
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