What does freedom mean? What is the purpose of government? And what should be the government’s relationship to each of us as individuals and as members of society as a whole? These issues recently came up during a dinner conversation with a new acquaintance with whom I’d not previously had such a discussion.
The views that I expressed in the calm and friendly and enjoyable exchange are those usually labeled as classical liberal or libertarian. My dinner companion reasoned from what is the “modern” liberal or “progressive” point-of-view. Like myself, he has been a professor in higher education, and he is widely read and very knowledgeable.
What became clear, both during the conversation and from reflecting on it afterwards, are some of the following conclusions.
Conflicting Meanings of Freedom
For a classical liberal, freedom means that each individual possesses as a human being certain inviolable rights, those being rights to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property. And that human relationships should be based on voluntary consent and mutual agreement.
For my interlocutor, freedom means “empowerment” or the ability to do or achieve certain things, without which “freedom” is not complete. These include a minimum or “decent” standard of living and the ability to attain certain potentials in life, which are everyone’s “right” as a member of society.
For my fellow conversationalist, society is a shared “community” of human beings each of whom owes certain things to the others, just as the others owe certain things to us. Society might be viewed as an extended family, from this perspective, all the members of which have certain required obligations to support and give assistance to their social “relatives.”
I suggested that society is a network of human relationships formed between individuals based upon opportunities for mutual betterment, including both the economic and the cultural in the widest sense, the fundamental foundation of which derives from those essential individual rights.
The “Social Contract”: Individualist or Collectivist?
My dinner companion raised the issue of “the social contract,” to which we are all participants and benefactors, he said. He referenced the famous French eighteenth century philosopher, Jean-Jacque Rousseau, who reasoned that man began as savages in the wild threatened by both beast and other men. Everyone entered into a social contract and formed society for mutual safety and betterment by giving up a portion of their complete and unrestrained “freedom” in that earlier setting of savagery for the order and security of shared community. The freedom given up is compensated by safety and the security of mutual aid, including the modern welfare state.
I suggested that if one was to refer to a “social contract” as a basis or rationale for organized society, the starting point should be the earlier British philosopher, John Locke, who argued that rights are not bestowed upon man by government or the community but belong to him by his nature as a human being. Government, in Locke’s social contract, is to provide individuals with a tool for the common defense against the violence of some of their fellow men. The role of government is the securer of liberty by protecting each individual’s rights to his life, liberty and property, and not as a guarantor of a certain standard of living or desired access to various material things.
The reason, I said, was that if the government undertook this latter responsibility of “social safety nets” and “positive” access to various other desired states of affairs, it can do so only by imposing through police power an obligation on others to provide the material means that some others are to be guaranteed. By doing so, government would be violating its original purpose for being brought into existence: the protecting of liberty (including people’s property rights to their own honestly earned income and wealth) rather than a violator that takes from some without their consent for the asserted benefits of others.
Private Benevolence or Political Paternalism
At this point my dining companion asked, did this mean that concern and support for those less well off than us was to be left to private charity and philanthropy? I answered in the affirmative; that such an approach was the only one consistent with the ethical principle of an individual having the right to live his life as he chooses for his own purposes, taking on those obligations and benevolent activities on his own or in consort with others that he considers worthy and deserving.
The response from my new acquaintance was to say that that is a primitive and simplistic approach that may have been minimally workable in an earlier age, but not in a time of such complexity as our own. “How will ‘Kenesha’ in a low income job and little educational background know how to manage a retirement account or select a healthcare insurance policy, or even afford to have them?” he asked.
I resisted mentioning what seemed to me to be an implicit “racial profiling” that a young black woman would not have the ability to manage aspects of her daily life without a governmental overseer taking her by the hand to take care of it for her.
Instead, I asked who supposedly is qualified to make these decisions for others through the government, if it is not to be the people themselves through the competitive options and information that would be offered and constantly improved upon in a truly free market?
He replied that is precisely the role and task of the qualified experts who man and manage the appropriate governmental agencies, bureau, and departments concerned with providing for the necessities and needs of the general public and especially those in the lower income brackets.
The Paternalistic Hubris of the Progressive
I pointed out the paternalistic attitude in his view of things that people are neither responsible nor informed nor interested enough in their own lives to take care of these matters. He said, “Yes, look at how many people are obese, who clearly do not know how to follow reasonable and healthy diet choices. They need to be educated and trained by qualified experts in the government to move the uninformed and irresponsible citizen in the better direction that they don’t always seem willing or able to do for themselves.”
I said that I considered such an attitude to reflect a high degree of arrogance and hubris, a view that humanity is made up of weak-minded simpletons who need guiding care-givers and wardens to watch over and confine their conduct into narrow corridors of behavior that the government officials — the “experts” – consider “good,” “right” and ‘just.”
Contempt and Disregard for the People’s Free Choices
I explained that while “progressives” often use the rhetoric of “democracy” and respect for the dignity and diversity of people, the reality is that that they wish to override the choices people make in their everyday affairs to fit the presumed “right” and “rational” and “socially conscious” courses of actions that the proponents of political paternalism are convinced are the only “enlightened” and “just” ones.
The world is to be reduced to and confined within a narrow corridor of forms of “good behavior” that people will be either penalized for violating or subsidized for doing through government regulation and spending.
I reminded my new friend of the words of the British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who declared that until people are ready for freedom they can only hope to be ruled by a wise and benevolent dictator. But that Mill’s contemporary, the noted British historian and political writer, Thomas Macaulay, replied by saying that Mill’s suggestion reminded him of the fool in the story who said he would not go into the water until he knew how to swim. Unless freedom is exercised, individuals will never learn the lessons that may lead them to make wiser and more intelligent decisions over time. Otherwise, we run the risk of maintaining large portions of the population in a form of permanent childhood, living off and dependent upon the commanding decisions of those in political power.
The Arrogance and Abuse of Power
I also explained the argument and insight of the Austrian economist, Friedrich A. Hayek, that the more complex the society the less it is in the capacity of any one person or any group of people, no matter how well trained as “experts” in the art of political paternalism, to know enough to successfully manage and direct the affairs of the society better than leaving such matters to the individuals themselves in their own circumstances as they see and understand it best.
I pointed out to him that leaving such vital and essential matters in the hands of those in political authority and to the presumed “experts” in the government bureaus, agencies and departments ignores what we all, pragmatically, know to be true: the misuse and abuse of power and position by those in government for their own self-interested purposes and for those who assistant them in remaining in power.
The Hope And Dream for a World of Political Altruists
My interlocutor seemed unmoved by any of these counter arguments. He merely pointed to the class of especially trained “experts” who man the interventionist-welfare state in France, who seem to be not susceptible to the same corruption and abuse of power as in America. There are special French universities that have the precise purpose of educating and graduating a selfless elite who enthusiastically wish only to manage society for the good of “the people.”
I responded by pointing out that there seemed to be plenty enough scandals concerning those in political positions of power and responsibility, and corruptions involving influential special interest groups in France, as reported in the American media from time-to-time; this suggests that the French have their equal “fair share” of human beings who take advantage of their political and regulatory authority just like everywhere else.
They are not a special political class of ethical eunuchs who are altruistically living for and serving “humanity” in a manner different from the rest of mankind. This was merely another instance of the socialist fairytale that, once we go beyond the self-interest and selfishness of capitalism into the “social justice” of collectivism, human nature will be transformed into a world of pure and simple other-orientedness in which human beings only think in terms of and act for the good of some imaginary “common good” and never just for themselves.
His response was to point to all that is provided and done through government for the good of the poor and less responsible, and for economic improvements in society through government-business partnerships in the area of innovation and transformative technology.
What is Seen and What is Not Seen
I observed that after spending trillions of taxpayers’ dollars over the last half-century “the poor are still with us” in America, with millions of people still locked out of market opportunities due to the burdens of the interventionist-welfare state. And there have been enough scandals and failures in the arena of government-business “partnerships” to suggest that the rhetoric surrounding them was “smoke and mirrors” to cover what they are really about: special interest groups picking the pockets of taxpayers because they cannot successfully market technologies and products that consumers value enough to buy at prices covering costs of production.
I pointed out that there was a nineteenth century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, who once penned a great essay called, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” Yes, when government taxes away people’s income and wealth to subsidize a solar power company, or to repair a bridge, or cover some people’s expenses to go to college, we more directly see the results. And the proponents of such programs can proudly point to what is created or made available that might not have if not for this government largess.
But Bastiat’s point was to remind us of what is not seen. If government had not taxed away those dollars and if they had remained the pockets of those who had honestly earned them, they would have been spent on many other things that the income earners themselves considered worthwhile and valuable. Instead of a government subsidized solar company, maybe some of those untaxed dollars would have been invested in a market-based profit-oriented pharmaceutical product that would alleviate the pain and suffering associated with some deadly disease.
Instead of repairing an existing bridge, maybe some of the money would have been invested in computer and software technologies that would make telecommuting for work easier so some roads and bridges would have to be less travelled. Or instead of covering one person’s college education, some of the untaxed dollars would have been given as a charitable contribution for cancer research or to help fund a private wildlife preserve, or simply to buy new better pair of shoes for a taxpayers’ own child’s feet.
The look on my dinner companion’s face hinted that that sounded all well and good, but those were just imaginary things in my trying to make a point. Private people do private things – therefore, non-“social” things – when they spend their own money. “Socially good” things only come primarily through governmental action serving the interests of all of us together, the community to which we all belong, and for which we all have the obligation and responsibility to contribute through tax dollars.
Progressives Cling to Collectivism
Here, in my opinion, are some of the essential issues and dilemmas facing the advocate of individual liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government. Too many of our fellow citizens do not believe that individuals have a right to live for themselves. They truly and honestly believe that “society,” “community,” the collective, is something independent of the distinct individuals who comprise it, and for which the individual is morally, politically and legally obligated to serve and sacrifice for. Police power is a legitimate and appropriate tool of enforcing these obligations and duties, if resistance or indifference is experienced among the citizens in the undertaking of these activities.
For the “progressive,” government is “society’s” agent to undertake the tasks of “social justice” and “entitlement” that are owed to each member and to which everyone is required to provide their contribution. Police power is the means by which everyone is made to contribute their “social dues” in the form of either obedience to government regulations or payment of taxes for redistributive purposes.
Liberty and the Meaning of Society and the “Social”
For the classical liberal or libertarian, on the other hand, government is considered an agency for the protection of each individual’s rights. “Society” is comprised of the networks of relationships and associations formed by individuals and in which they interact for various fulfillments of human happiness and well-being.
These are not only the market exchange relationships of peaceful cooperation through competition and the buy and selling of goods and services. They incorporate family, friends, professional associations, intellectual organizations and hobby groups. It includes faith and religious affiliations and participation, and all networks of charity and philanthropy at local community and wider levels. These networks of human association are what are often called “civil society.”
The purpose of government in the classical liberal or libertarian perspective is to assure the security and protection from private plunder and violence that would disrupt or disturb the peaceful pursuits that individuals find it useful and enjoyable and fulfilling to follow through various and diverse associations of civil society.
Through them people express and satisfy the sundry sides of life and human existence that make the earthly sojourn meaningful and joyful, and “lived.” Any intrusion of government, the political authority with its legitimized use of force, other than in the “negative” form of rights protection, weakens, undermines, and potentially destroys a person’s liberty and therefore his ability to make his life have meaning and have happiness for himself.
Furthermore, the interventionist-welfare state undermines people’s personal and financial ability to participate in those acts and associations of benevolence towards others that they are called by their conscience to pursue in the ways they consider best and most likely of success. The redistributive state arrogantly replaces each person’s personal judgment and decision with that of the self-appointing “experts” who claim to speak and know best for society through the coercive arm of government.
Matching these ethical issues of the rights of the individual to live and act peacefully for himself as he sees best, the “progressive” often demonstrates a blinding degree of ignorance and misinformation about the workings of a competitive market economy, the nature of the profit and loss system, and the “invisible hand” of competitive cooperation through the peaceful and the voluntarist pursuit of self-interest.
He suffers from a confused, garbled, and contradictory grab bag of ideas derived from Marxism, Fabian socialism, nationalism, fascism, and, though it would be radically and vehemently denied, often-subtle forms of racism, as well.
Through all the progressive’s rhetoric about “democracy” and “equality” and “social justice” and “diversity,” theirs is a political philosophy and public policy ideology of elitism, hubris, and authoritarianism dominated by the idea and ideal of remaking human beings, human relationships and the structure and order of society into redesigned patterns and shapes that reflect their notion of how people should live, work, associate and earn a living.
That is why the modern liberal or progressive represents the face of a contemporary political, economic and cultural “soft” tyranny – compared to the brutal and murdering totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century – against which the classical liberal and libertarian must continue their centuries-long fight for human liberty.
By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O’Neil –
John Dewey, known as “the father of modern education,” was an avowed socialist and the co-author of the “Humanist Manifesto.” The U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities discovered that he belonged to 15 Marxist front organizations. Dewey taught the professors who trained America’s teachers. Obsessed with “the group,” he said:
“You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”
Author Rosalie Gordon, writing about Dewey’s progressive (socialist) education in her book, What’s Happened To Our Schools, said:
“The progressive system has reached all the way down to the lowest grades to prepare the children of America for their role as the collectivists of the future. The group – not the individual child – is the quintessence of progressivism. The child must always be made to feel part of the group. He must indulge in group thinking and group activity.”
After visiting the Soviet Union, Dewey wrote six articles on the “wonders” of Soviet education. The School-To-Work program, now in our public schools in all 50 states, is modeled after the Soviet poly-technical system.
In 1936, the National Education Association stated the position from which it has never wavered: “We stand for socializing the individual.”
“The major problem of education in our times arises out of the fact that we live in a period of fundamental social change. In the new democracy [what happened to our republic?], education must share in the responsibility of giving purpose and direction to social change. The major function of the school is the social orientation of the individual . . . Education must operate according to a well-formulated social policy.”
An excerpt from the article states:
“As recently as the early 1950s, the typical American university professor held social and political views quite similar to those of the general population. Today — well, you’ve all heard the jokes that circulated after the collapse of central planning in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, how the only place in the world where Marxists were still thriving was the Harvard political science department.”
Higher education reflects inmates running the asylum
More generally, U.S. higher education often looks like a clear case of the inmates running the asylum. This condition can be traced to students who were radicalized in the 1960s who rose to positions of influence within colleges and universities.
One needs only to observe the aggressive pursuit of “diversity” in admissions and hiring, the abandonment of the traditional curriculum in favor of highly politicized “studies” based on group identity, the mandatory workshops on sensitivity training, and so on to fully comprehend the stranglehold the Left has managed to secure today within our schools, especially at the university level where instructors need not be as concerned with parental interference, but instead have a captive audience in which to indoctrinate our children to their Marxist philosophies.
Examining Chicago’s own Bill Ayers
An example of the Socialist infiltration in education can be seen in studying former terrorist, Bill Ayers, past leader of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960s. Ayers decided blowing up America’s federal buildings was not working out for him or his gang of like-minded extremists. He escaped going to prison due to the FBI illegally wire-tapping his conversations, probably helped by his father’s political clout in Chicago as head of ComEd. This lucky break most likely caused Ayes to contemplate another more effective approach to change America from within, rather than from outside the nation’s mainstream institutions.
In 1984 Ayers earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. Three years later, he received a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Columbia University. Had Bill Ayers and his friends just immigrated to a socialist state, it would have been much better for this nation, but instead Ayers became entrenched in the university system where he quietly began to invade college classrooms with his anti-American philosophies. This article documents the progression of Ayer’s radical educational network dating back to the 60s. Hired in 1987 as a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Ayers held that post until retirement in 2010, retiring with the title ofDistinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. As of October 2008, Ayer’s office door at the university was adorned with photographs of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X.
By 2008, Ayers was elected Vice President for Curriculum Studies by the American Educational Research Association. He worked with Chicago Mayor, Richard M. Daley, with the goal of creating changes in Chicago’s school reform program. Bill Ayers and wife Bernadine Dohrn continued to develop relationships and friendships with like-minded people, such as Barack Obama — even though Obama has denied knowing Ayers and Dohrn — and other Chicago politicians. It is documented that Ayers had a fundraiser in his home for Obama, and the Obamas were invited to at least one private party at the Ayers’ home.
Both men served on boards which Obama headed. One of those boards awarded $2 million for Bill Ayers/Klonsky Small Schools Workshop. Its goal, as Ayers repeatedly made clear, most prominently in a 2006 speech before Hugo Chavez at an education forum in Caracas, was to bring the same Leftist revolution that has always galvanized them into the classroom. Regarding Klonsky, an unabashed communist, Obama gave Klonsky a broad platform to broadcast his ideas through a “social justice” blog on the official Obama campaign website.
Ayers was also the key force behind obtaining wealthy Annenberg’s $387 million dollar donation to Chicago schools, which became known as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. What appeared odd is that if Annenberg’s purpose was to elevate the dismal test scores of Chicago schools, why did the grant not require the recipients of his donation to meet specific education benchmarks? Funds were not dispersed on the basis of the schools raising test score percentages in either reading or math. It should be noted that Barack Obama was on the founding Board of Directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and elected as the Board’s Chairman when Bill Ayers was awarded the money for his Small Schools Project.
One would hope the infusion of such major funding into the Chicago schools would have made a major difference in the quality of education. A recent 2014 report indicated students in grades two through six did not meet the national average in reading and no grades met the national averages for math.
Obama appoints Duncan to promote progressive Common Core standards
President Obama, upon being the newly elected President, quickly initiated a committee to develop a national education program, now known as the controversial Common Core. Bill Gates donated at least $200 million dollars to promote the education program to state governors and teacher organizations. Others, such as the Annenberg Foundation made significant donations, but the one that raised eyebrows was a $50 million grant from a Qatar Foundation International member, who gave it to Bill Ayers with the agreement it would be used to promote Muslims’ views and lead American children away from actual historical events, replacing them with specific propaganda.
This article, published in the Chicago Reader on November 8, 1990, by Ben Joravsky, tells of “The Long, Strange Trip of Bill Ayers.” It is a riveting interview account. The article is prefaced by:
“He [Ayers) wasn’t just any suburban-bred all-American boy; his father ran Commonwealth Edison. Ayers didn’t just rebel; he was a leader of the Weathermen, the group that bombed the Pentagon and sprung LSD guru Timothy Leary from jail.”
And Ayers hasn’t changed since Joravsky’s November 1990 published article. Having retired from the University of Illinois in 2010, radical left-wing activist, education expert, and domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, (wearing a Black Lives matter T-shirt) recently attended the huge Trump rally protest that resulted in the cancellation of Trump’s rally at the University of Illinois. Here is what Ayers had to say:
“I’ve never seen anything this big at the University of Illinois, Chicago. And it’s huge. It’s galvanized Latino students, black students, Muslim students and white students. And everybody feels like, ‘Look, this is a university’. We don’t need . . . organized hatred spilling into our center.”
President Obama wasted no time in appointing Arnie Duncan as his Secretary of Education who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009. Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a position he held from June 2001 through December 2008, when he resigned to join Obama in Washington, D.C. Duncan helped convince 42 states to adopt education goals based on Common Core, and 21 of them to use tests that directly align with those standards, which were created by a bi-partisan group and attempted to make U.S. schools more challenging and the curriculum more similar from state-to-state.
Universities resemble Marxist indoctrination centers
We cannot blame just Dewey, Ayers, and Obama. Much of the damage to our schools has been done by Teacher Unions that use mandatory teacher dues to support Leftist politicians, liberal organizations, and Left leaning school board candidates. It is a very cozy group, and they have way too much power. Parents would be wise to investigate their children’s curriculum with a practiced eye in order to catch the clever ways liberal political viewpoints are strategically woven into their books and study materials. Professors in colleges are not even subtle. They have captive audiences who depend upon them for good grades and rarely worry about parents.
As Abraham Lincoln wisely stated: “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
Dewey, Ayers, and many others of their ilk knew this to be true and thus manipulated our universities into resembling Marxist indoctrination centers rather than schools that provide a well-rounded education that prepares students for successful transitioning to the real world. Most of us had no idea what was going on behind the iron curtain classrooms which socialists created. Certainly this explains how socialist, Bernie Sanders, can run for president of the United States and draw large crowds applauding him. Not too long ago, he would have been booed off the stage by outraged American patriots who understood the dangers of the socialism he advocates.
Exposing Anti-American teaching tactics
The anti-American teaching tactics need to be exposed, but the media has also become largely liberal, thus begging the question “who will speak up for our children?” It must be those of us who remember the way it once was, who have read and honor our Constitution, and who know the history of how clever socialists ruined once great countries.
Each of us must contact our elected officials and demand tax-payer funds be yanked from any school with unfair hiring practices and/or that reflect an unequal number of conservatives verses liberal teachers/professors. Each classroom must be monitored for any curriculum that opposes our Constitution or our basic Founding Fathers’ principles, and there must be fairness in presenting diverse viewpoints. The future of America depends upon all of us demanding no less.
Heartland Daily Podcast – Rep. Cameron Sexton (TN): Government Regs Hurt Health Care Quality, Raise Costs
On today’s Health Care News Podcast, Tennessee state Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) joined Health Care News Managing Editor Michael Hamilton to explain why reforming Tennessee’s certificate of need (CON) laws will go far to improve health care quality, lower costs, and increase access for patients.
Currently hospitals and other health care providers must obtain a special certificate from a state board in order to add even a single bed, much less develop a new wing to accommodate more patients. Current law has removed incentives for existing providers to innovate, make improvements to services, and upgrade their equipment, by shutting potential competitors out of the market. A CON application fee (nonrefundable) alone can cost $45,000. The state’s CON law places rural communities at a medical disadvantage by effectively making it easier for providers in counties with more than 200,000 people to acquire MRI machines than providers in less populous counties.
House Bill 1730 will undergo committee markup this week and (Sexton hopes) head to the House floor for a favorable vote in the next two to three weeks. Read“Tennessee Lawmakers Pursue CON Reform” for the full story.
I recently found hope in an unexpected place: public schools.
A national survey of 1,500 public middle and high school science teachers, representing all 50 states, found just half of those who discuss climate change in the classroom have partaken of the climate alarmists’ Kool-Aid and are brainwashing students to believe humans are causing catastrophic climate change. The survey was conducted by the National Center for Science Education and published in the widely read academic journal Science.
Approximately 75 percent of science teachers in the survey reported they discuss global warming in the classroom, typically for less than an hour or two over the course of an academic year. Of those who do, just over half promote alarmists’ erroneous claim 97 percent of scientists have determined human fossil fuel use is causing catastrophic climate change. About 30 percent of science teachers who discuss climate change say humans may be partly to blame, but they also acknowledge natural factors have played a role. About 10 percent of science teachers deny humans play any role in climate change, and about 5 percent of those who discuss climate change in the classroom don’t discuss causes at all.
Refreshingly, while nearly 68 percent of those surveyed said they personally believe humans are causing global warming, many say they have left their personal opinions out of the classroom, choosing to advance the scientific method and present a balanced view of the evidence.
Based on the experiences I have had while working to keep partisanship on both sides of the climate change debate out of social studies textbooks Texas approved for adoption in 2014 and while battling to prevent sound climate science from being written out of West Virginia’s science curriculum standards in 2015, I have long feared the battle for the hearts and minds of America’s youth on climate issues had been lost. The recent national survey results should give new hope to climate change realists everywhere.
Climate change is occurring. In fact, Earth’s climate is always changing, but there is a significant scientific debate currently ongoing about whether human activities are responsible for all, some, or none of the recent changes to Earth’s climate. Despite claims to the contrary made by some global warming alarmists, scientists do not even agree on whether a warmer climate would be harmful or beneficial.
What’s taught about climate change in our nation’s classrooms should reflect the limited nature of what we can say with confidence concerning future climate and the causes driving any changes that do occur. Thankfully, it appears nearly half the science educators teaching climate change in the classroom agree the children under their care deserve being taught this truth.
If this survey provides an accurate picture of what’s really happening in U.S. classrooms, there is still time for proponents of a sound, balanced, nuanced understanding of climate science and public policy to make their case to public school science teachers.
A concerted outreach effort should be made by climate realists to engage teachers in the climate change debate. The effort should focus on persuading the 50 percent of teachers who deny any uncertainties exist concerning the human causes and catastrophic consequences of climate change to be more open-minded; to recognize natural factors contribute to climate change; that a changing climate will likely result in both benefits and costs; and that proposals currently being pushed by governments to combat global warming come at a high price and have almost no impact on rising temperatures or weather conditions.
Teachers who provide a balanced presentation of the climate change facts should be given high-quality teaching materials and access to classroom speakers who will present a realistic view of climate science and policy. Teachers who make an effort to teach sound, balanced science should be rewarded and supported.
Encouraging science teachers to cling to the scientific method, which demands the constant exercise of reasonable skepticism and testing theory against observed facts—all in the face of media hype and pressure from environmentalists to teach alarmist dogma in the classroom—might be the most long-lasting way to ensure misanthropic climate policies are not foisted upon an unaware, misinformed public now and in the future.
If your school-aged child is not asking you why you’re contributing to the destruction of Earth, thank his or her science teacher for sticking to a fair-and-balanced view of climate science. If your child is repeating frequently used false claims made by climate alarmists, kindly provide the child (and his or her teacher) with the scientific facts.
Heartland Daily Podcast – Charles Steele: How Increased Natural Gas Benefits the Environment and Economy
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Charles Steele, the Herman and Suzanne Dettwiler Chair in Economics at Hillsdale College in Michigan, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Steele joins Burnett to talk about research he conducted showing the benefits of increased natural gas supplies to the farm economy.
Steele explains how the environment and the economy would benefit from building new pipelines to deliver natural gas to the market.
The past couple of weeks have highlighted the folly of the energy policies favored by left-leaning advocacy agencies that, rather than allowing consumers and markets to choose, require government mandates and subsidies. Three major, but very different, solar entities—that would not exist without such political preference—are now facing demise. Even with the benefit of tax credits, low-interest loans, and cash grants that state and federal governments have bestowed on them, the solar industry is struggling.
Ivanpah, the world’s biggest solar power tower project in the California desert, is threatened with closure due to underperformance.
Then there is SunEdison, the biggest renewable energy developer in the world. It’s on the verge of bankruptcy as its stock price plunged from more than $30 to below $.50—a more than 90 percent drop in the past year.
All of these recent failures magnify the solar industry’s black eye that first swelled up nearly five years ago with the Solyndra bankruptcy.
Worried about self-preservation, and acting in its own best interest—rather than that of consumers specifically, and America in general—industry groups have sprung up to defend the favored-status energy policies and attack anyone who disagrees with the incentive-payment business model. Two such groups are TASC and TUSK—both of which are founded and funded by solar panel powerhouses SolarCity and SunRun with involvement from smaller solar companies (SolarCity recently parted ways with TASC).
The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is run by the lead lobbyists for the two big companies—both have obvious Democrat Party connections.
Bryan Miller is Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Power Markets at Sunrun (a position he took in January 2013) and is President and co-chair of TASC (May 2013). His LinkedIn page shows that he’s worked for the National Finance Committee for Obama for America and was Finance Coordinator/Field Organizer for Clinton Gore ’96. He’s also served as s senior political appointee in the Obama Administration and ran an unsuccessful 2008 bid for election to Florida’s House of Representatives, District 83.
Co-chair John Stanton is Executive Vice President, Policy & Markets at SolarCity. In that role, he, according to the company website, “oversees SolarCity’s work with international, federal, state and local government organizations on a wide range of policy issues.” Previously, Stanton was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)—the national trade association for industries that support the development of solar power—with which he oversaw legal and government affairs for the association. There he played a pivotal role in the 8-year extension of the solar investment tax credit. He was also legislative counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration.
A news report about the founding of TASC states: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules in the 43 states that have them.”
On March 25, the Wall Street Journal reported: “two dozen states are weighing changes to their incentives for rooftop solar…incentive payments have been the backbone of home solar firms’ business model.” In the past several months, Nevada and Hawaii have ended their NEM programs. TASC has responded with lawsuits. In Hawaii, TASC’s case has already been dismissed with a report stating: the judge’s “ruling in favor of the Defendants has eviscerated TASC’s claims.” Last year, Louisiana capped its “among the most generous in the country” solar tax credit. Arizona Public Service was the trailblazer in modifying generous solar policies when, in 2013, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a fixed charge for solar customers.
As one of the first states to challenge the generous NEM policies, Arizona is still a battleground. That’s where TASC formed another group: TUSK—which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. Lobbyist and former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. was brought in to give a Republican face to the industry’s advocacy. TUSK even has an elephant, the Republican mascot, as part of its logo. The TUSK home page states: “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice and the competition to drive down rates”—true, but a core value of the Republican Party is allowing the free markets to work rather than governments picking winners and losers.
While registered in Arizona, TUSK has recently been active in other states—including Nevada, Oklahoma, and Michigan.
The reoccurring theme in the TASC/TUSK campaign is to connect the word “kill” with “solar”—though the NEM modification efforts don’t intend to kill solar. Instead, they aim to adjust the “incentive payments” to make them more equitable. However, without the favors, as was seen in Nevada, rooftop solar isn’t economical on its own. Companies refuse to play when the game is not stacked in their favor.
TASC and TUSK are just two of the ways the rooftop solar industry—also known as a “coalition of rent seekers and welfare queens,” as Louisiana’s largest conservative blog, The Hayride, called them in the midst of that state’s solar wars—is trying to protect its preferential policies. It has other tricks in its playbook.
In addition to the specific industry groups like TASC, TUSK and SEIA, third party organizations like the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) are engaged to intimidate public officials and academics. EPI, run by Gabe Elsner, is considered a dark money group with no legal existence. It can be assumed to be an extension of what is known as the Checks & Balances Project (CB&P)—which was founded to investigate organizations and policymakers that do not support government programs and subsidies for renewable energy. CB&P has received funding from SolarCity. Elsner joined CB&P in 2011—where he served as Director—and then, two years later, left to found EPI—which C&BP calls: “a pro-clean energy website.” EPI produces material to attack established energy interests and discredit anyone who doesn’t support rooftop solar subsidies. I have been a target of Elsner’s efforts.
Then there is the Solar Foundation—closely allied with SEIA and government solar advocacy programs—which publishes a yearly report on solar employment trends across the country. Solar employers self-report the jobs numbers via phone/email surveys and the numbers are, then, extrapolated to estimate industry jobs nationwide. Though the reports achieve questionable results, threats of job loss have proven to be an effective way to pressure state and federal lawmakers to continue the industry’s favorable policies—such as NEM.
Together, these groups have a coordinated campaign to produce public opinion polling that is used to convince politicians of NEM’s public support. Such cases can be found in Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Kansas. They gather signatures from solar advocates and use them to influence legislators and commissioners. They engage in regulatory and rate proceedings—often creating, as I’ve experienced, an overwhelming presence with mob-like support from tee-shirt-wearing, sign-waving advocates. They run ads calling attempts to modify solar’s generous NEM policies a “tax” on solar and, as previously mentioned, attack utilities for trying to “kill solar.” If this combined campaign isn’t fruitful, and NEM policies are changed, lawsuits, such as those in Hawaii and Nevada, are filed.
This policy protection process may seem no different from those engaged by any industry—as most have trade associations and advocacy groups that promote their cause. Remember “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” and “Pork, the other white meat”? Few are truly independent and self-preservation is a natural instinct.
Yes, even the fossil fuel industry has, for example, the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the National Mining Association, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. And there are advocacy groups who support various limited-government, free-market positions, as Miller recently accused.
The difference is that fossil fuels provide, and has been providing, America with efficient, effective, and economical energy. Its abundance has lowered costs for consumers and increased America’s energy security. Advocates are not fighting for special favors that allow this natural resource to survive, but are rather attempting to push back on new rules and regulations aimed at driving it out of business.
By comparison, the solar advocacy efforts are, as acknowledged by TASC: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules,” as without them—and the other politically correct policies—rooftop solar energy doesn’t make economic sense. Because rooftop solar power isn’t efficient or effective, its major selling point is supposed savings that are achieved for a few, while costing all tax- and rate-payers.
With the potential of a change in political winds—remember the solar supporters all seem to be left-leaning, big government believers who want higher energy prices—the campaign for America’s energy future is embedded in the presidential election.
Will big government pick the winners and losers, or will free markets allow the survival of the best energy sources for individual circumstances.
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.
It’s been a rough stretch for Climate Armageddon religionists and totalitarians.
Real World science, climate and weather events just don’t support their manmade cataclysm narrative. The horrid consequences of anti-fossil fuel energy policies are increasingly in the news. And despite campaigns by the $1.5-trillion-per-year government-industry-activist-scientific Climate Crisis Consortium, Americans consistently rank global warming at the very bottom of their serious concerns.
But instead of debating their critics, or marshaling a more persuasive, evidence-based case that we really do face a manmade climate catastrophe, alarmists have ramped up their shrill rhetoric, imposed more anti-hydrocarbon edicts by executive fiat and unratified treaty – and launched RICO attacks on their critics.
Spurred on by Senator Sheldon “Torquemada” Whitehouse (D-RI), Jagadish Shukla and his RICO-20 agitators, and their comrades, 16 of the nation’s 18 Democratic attorneys general (the other 32 are Republican) announced on March 29 that they are going after those who commit the unpardonable offense of questioning “consensus” climate science.
If companies are “committing fraud,” by “knowingly deceiving” the public about the threat of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, New York AG Eric Schneiderman intoned, “we want to expose it and pursue them to the fullest extent of the law,” under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. “The First Amendment does not give you the right to commit fraud.”
Their initial target is ExxonMobil, but other companies, think tanks like CFACT and the Heartland Institute (with which I am affiliated), and even independent researchers and analysts (like myself) will be in their crosshairs – using a law intended for the Mafia. Incredibly, even United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch says her office has “discussed” similar actions and has “referred [the matter] to the FBI.”
These RICO investigations and prosecutions are chilling, unprecedented and blatantly un-American. They abuse our legal and judicial processes and obliterate the First Amendment freedom of speech rights of anyone who questions the catechism of climate cataclysm. The AGs’ actions are intended to browbeat skeptics into silence, and bankrupt them with monumental legal fees, fines and treble damages.
It is the campus “crime” of “unwelcome ideas” and “micro-aggression” on steroids. It is the inevitable result of President Obama’s determination to “fundamentally transform” the United States, ensure that electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket,” and carve his energy and climate policy legacy in granite.
Mr. O and his allies are on a mission: to rid the world of fossil fuels, replace them with “clean” biofuels (that are also carbon-based and also emit carbon dioxide when burned, but would require billions of acres of crop and habitat land) and “eco-friendly” bird-killing wind turbines and solar installations (that will require millions more acres) – and implement the goals of a dictatorial United Nations.
Former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres put it in the bluntest terms: “We are setting ourselves the task of intentionally to change [sic] the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years” – the free enterprise capitalist system. “The next world climate summit is actually an economic summit, during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated,” her UN climate crisis cohort Otmar Edendorfer added. “We will redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”
Thus, under the 2015 Paris climate treaty, developing nations will be under no obligation to reduce their fossil fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions. They will simply take voluntary steps, when doing so will not impair their efforts to drive economic growth and improve their people’s living standards. Meanwhile, they will be entitled to share $3 billion to $300 billion per year in “climate change adaptation, mitigation and reparation” money. In fact, Mr. Obama has already transferred $500 million in taxpayer money (illegally) from a State Department emergency fund to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.
No wonder developing nations were thrilled to sign the 2015 Paris not-a-treaty treaty.
Recent headlines portend what’s in store. EU electricity prices rise 63% over past decade. Rising energy costs, green policies threaten to kill steel industry and 4,000 to 40,000 jobs, as Tata Steel quits Britain. Thousands of Europeans lose jobs, as manufacturing moves to countries with lower energy prices. Unable to afford proper heat, 40,000 Europeans die of hypothermia during 2014 winter.
In Africa and other energy-deprived regions: Millions die in 2015 from lung and intestinal diseases – due to open cooking and heating fires, spoiled food and unsafe water, and absence of electricity.
Meanwhile, despite mandates, loan guarantees, feed-in tariffs, endangered species exemptions and other subsidies, renewable industries are barely surviving: SunEnergy, world’s largest green energy company, faces bankruptcy, as share prices fall 95% in one year. Solar company Abengoa US files for Chapter 15 bankruptcy. China stops building wind turbines, as grid is damaged and most electricity is wasted.
But Climate Crisis ruling elites pay little attention to this. They will be insulated, enriched, and protected from their decisions and deceptions – as they decide what energy, jobs, living standards and freedoms the poor, minority, blue-collar and middle classes will be permitted to have.
Equally disturbing, their drive for total control is based on a chaotic world that is totally at odds with what the rest of us see outside our windows. Even after “homogenizing” and massaging the raw data, climate alarmists can only show that global temperatures may have risen a few tenths of a degree (barely the margin of error) during the 2015 El Niño year, after 19 years of no temperature increase, following two decades of slight warming, following three decades of slight cooling and warming.
On the “extreme weather” front, tornadoes, snows, floods and droughts are no more frequent or intense than over the past century. No Category 3-5 hurricane has made US landfall in a record 125 months. Polar ice remains well within historic fluctuations, and sea levels are rising at barely seven inches per century.
Alarmists thus rely on computer models that predict even “worse catastrophes,” if global temperatures rise even 0.5 degrees C (0.8 F) more than they already have since the Little Ice Age ended and Industrial Era began. However, the models are hopelessly deficient, and totally unable to predict the climate.
They overstate the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide and methane, atmospheric gases chosen because they result from fossil fuel use (and from many natural sources). They assume these two gases have become the primary forces in climate change – and ignore or downplay changing solar energy, cosmic ray and geomagnetic output; major periodic fluctuations in Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean circulation; volcanic activity; regional and planetary temperature cycles that recur over multiple decades, centuries or millennia; and other natural forces that have always driven planetary warming, cooling and weather.
The models and modelers do this because these factors and their roles in climate change are not well understood, are difficult to measure, and do not fit the “humans are at fault” meme. They compound these errors by assuming that any warming will be dangerous, rather than beneficial for people and agriculture.
These oversights can be characterized as careless, recklessly negligent, or even “knowingly deceitful” and fraudulent. So can “nine inconvenient untruths” that a United Kingdom judge highlighted in Al Gore’s infamous fake-documentary movie – and Mr. Gore’s recent claim that atmospheric CO2 is fueling Zika outbreaks. Likewise for James Hansen’s repeated assertion that sea levels could rise “several meters” (117 inches) over the next century, and the bogus studies behind the phony “97% consensus” claims.
Can you picture the cabal of AGs filing RICO actions in these cases? If you want the facts, and a few chuckles about climate alarmism, see the Climate Hustle movie, coming May 2 to a theater near you.
If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.
Wikipedia: What the Liberals Want You to Think
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
In recent years, left-wing activists have rewritten hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia entries, adding their anti-technology, anti-corporation, and anti-free enterprise dogma and propaganda to the profiles of many individuals and organizations. The Heartland Institute’s profile has been the target of a major misinformation effort, with objective descriptions of our work removed and lies and unfounded leftist accusations put in their place. Can you help us fix Wikipedia? READ MORE
Update: ‘Article V 2.0′: The Compact for a Balanced Budget
Nick Dranias, Heartland Policy Study
As the national debt approaches a staggering $20 trillion, it is getting harder to continue kicking the can down the road. Something has to be done. Nick Dranias, a constitutional law expert, asks the question, “What if the states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in just 12 months?” The Compact for a Balanced Budget could do just that. This is an update of aHeartland Policy Study Dranias wrote in July 2014. READ MORE
Learning Lessons on the Road to Serfdom
The Austrian Economics Center’s 2016 international “Free Market Road Show” added The Heartland Institute to its list of stops. Four speakers from Argentina, Austria, Germany, and Iceland came to Arlington Heights to provide an international perspective on the state of the American dream and freedom and prosperity. If you missed the presentation, the entire event is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE
Featured Podcast: Reason’s Shikha Dalmia: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis
The Flint, Michigan water crisis is deeply unsettling to everyone affected. To help shed light on the situation and its causes, Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst with the Reason Foundation, joins Heartland Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett on this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast. She explains how the crisis was caused by the failure of government, not the market. LISTEN TO MORE
The Stars Come Out in Arlington Heights!
If you love discussions about liberty, you will not want to miss the great series of events Heartland has lined up through the spring. Upcoming events include several book talks, including Drilling Through the Core with the National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood and The Way Back with George Mason University’s Frank Buckley. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights – but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE
Climate Regulations for Show, Not Positive Impact
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
A stunning admission occurred recently before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Under questioning, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Obama administration’s climate efforts will do nothing to protect public or environmental health. These regulations are nothing more than a symbolic attempt to get other countries’ leaders to join the Paris climate agreement. READ MORE
Book Review: A Fresh Look at the Great Depression
Jay Lehr, Ph.D., The Heartlander
Heartland Senior Fellow Jay Lehr, Ph.D. reviews The Midas Paradox, a book that delves deep into the causes of the Great Depression and its effects on the economy. Author Scott Sumner, director of the Mercatus Center, has spent more than two decades researching this period of American history. He explains how prior post-mortems have failed to fully examine the root causes of the economic collapse. READ MORE
The Rise of Socialized Medicine
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
It is becoming more clear than ever that the United States is moving toward a European-style health care system. In August 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama explained how a “transition step” would be needed to usher in single-payer health care. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is that transitional step. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half the nation will likely rely on government for health care within the next decade. READ MORE
Bonus Podcast: Dr. Hal Scherz: The Best-Kept Secret in the Health Care Industry
The continuing and growing intrusion into the health care market should concern everyone. But there are some bright spots worth noting. Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs 4 Patient Care, joins Research Fellow Michael Hamilton to talk about one of the best-kept secrets in the health care industry: direct primary care. LISTEN TO MORE
Striking Back at Teacher Strikes
Timothy Benson, Crain’s Chicago Business
Yet another teachers strike took place in Chicago on April Fool’s Day. 22,000 union members walked off the job en masse, denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning. Because of the frequency of these events, The Heartland Institute is designing a plan that will make such strikes less likely. A “strike voucher” would allow any student to temporarily attend any charter, secular, private, or parochial school using a $50 per day stipend. READ MORE
Upstart College Exam Challenges ACT, SAT
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
A new organization, Vector ARC, is beta-testing a college entrance exam that will compete with ACT and SAT. Vector ARC says its exam will stand independent of the Common Core standards. Richard Innes, education policy analyst for the Bluegrass Institute, said, “because both the ACT and SAT now claim Common Core alignment, the creation of an alternative test should be of special interest to parents of students in many school choice programs.” READ MORE
The Chicago Teachers Union’s “Day of Action”—planned for April Fool’s Day, naturally—will see the union’s 22,000 members walk off the job en masse. Not content with only denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning, they will congregate downtown during rush hour, thus denying people the ability to get home and businesses the ability to conduct commerce.
Already of dubious legality, the union insists its Day of Action is necessary because CPS announced its plans to end experience- and education-based “step and lane” raises, which the union deems an unfair labor practice. This also comes after the union rejected a contract offer from CPS that would have seen a pay increase for teachers, a cap on privately run charter schools and the barring of any layoffs.
Lost in this turmoil are the students of Chicago.
While union representatives say all the right things, including how much they care for their students, any time the best interests of those students conflict with an opportunity for the union to make more money, it is always the children who the union tosses aside.
Chicago’s teachers are some of the most handsomely compensated of any group of public school teachers in the nation. The union teacher’s median salary of $73,000 is 64 percent higher than the median household income for the city as a whole. Union members’ average lifetime earnings are the highest in the country among major metropolitan school districts, and pension benefits have increased over 400 percent since 1987.
Meanwhile, standardized tests show roughly only one-fourth of Chicago‘s students are being educated to a level that allows them to transition comfortably to the next grade level and then, if they’re lucky, on to college.
The union continually paints its members as victims, but the real victims are the children the union members seem to have no qualms casually and flippantly walking out on. Parents should not have to fret over how they will keep their children cared for while the union forces them from their classrooms.
That is why the Heartland Institute will fully unveil its proposed “strike voucher” program in a Policy Brief in April.
Here’s the idea: The strike voucher would allow any student from a CPS school to leave temporarily for any school not run by the district. Any charter, secular, private, or parochial school in the district with the room to take in additional students would be given a stipend of $50 per day for each student it welcomes through its doors. Funding for the daily stipend would come out of strike makeup-day pay fund, which is compensation received by union teachers for any strike days made up later in the year.
Since seating at brick-and-mortar non-district schools will not be available for every child during a strike, parents would also be allowed to take their strike voucher stipend to tutoring facilities, online virtual schools, and, for very young students, daycare facilities. Strike voucher funds could also be used to reimburse organizations for extra costs incurred while accommodating CPS students. For example, the Chicago Children’s Museum, or any other city museum, could be reimbursed per head and per day for each admitted student. Any costs for extending hours and personnel organizations such as the YMCA would incur would also be covered in full, as long as they provide at least a half-day’s worth of educational activity.
The goal of the strike voucher is to ensure Chicago children have the opportunity to attend a safe and effective school and to free children from being caught in the middle of the continual tug-of-war between school districts and teachers unions. The tug-of-war begins again on April 1.
Big government tamps down all optimism associated with springtime. As if the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service wasn’t stressful enough, now comes the season of federally mandated K–12 standardized testing.
Not many citizens are bold enough to opt out of paying taxes, but many families once again are considering opting out of the worrisome student assessments linked to Common Core national standards. The parental blogosphere is buzzing with talk of how to submit refusal letters to school officials and whether it’s best to keep students at home on test days or to trust they won’t be forced to just “sit and stare” while their classmates take untimed examinations.
In 2015, 640,000 students in 14 states that reported their numbers sat out the standardized tests, according to FairTest, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that long has opposed abuses in testing. Most remarkably, the opt-out rate reached 20 percent in New York State.
Some things have changed this year. John King, the adamantly pro-Common Core state education commissioner who greatly riled New York parents and teachers, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education, having been nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, by a 49–40 vote.
Additional changes are related to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was advertised by its sponsors as restoring local control over many education-related matters, such as testing, that No Child Left Behind had stripped away. ESSA became the federal education law of the land in December.
Parents are already discovering the advertising was false and the pressures to conform to the federal design are more intense and personal than ever. That reality could increase resentment and lead to even more refusals.
ESSA not only continues the federal mandate for testing of students in grades 3–8 and once in high school, but also the required 95 percent participation rate. What’s new is the U.S. Department of Education will hold state departments of education responsible for squelching local test refusals. Thus, wrote standards expert Sandra Stotsky in the March 16 edition of NewBostonPost, an online newspaper, “ESSA turns state departments of education into school bullies.”
U.S. parents across the blogosphere have reported countless state and local educrats are warning that if parents refuse the assessments, they will face dire consequences, such as low-income children losing their ESSA funding; their own children being unable to graduate because they haven’t passed a “college readiness” test; and falling qualitative rankings of their children’s schools, which the educrats say would result from a low participation rate.
Most threats are nothing more than hot air. Stotsky says no state legislature has mandated such a so-called readiness test, and it is unlikely any will, and while former Education Secretary Arne Duncan did imply a year ago that states could be docked federal funding when participation rates fall below 95 percent, nothing ever came of that bluster. Does King aspire to be even more of an enemy of parental rights than Duncan?
As they consider taking a stand against experimental and time-consuming assessments, nothing worries parents more than the thought of their children being harshly and unfairly punished. The concern is not limited to public school patrons. On the Stop Common Core in New York Catholic Schools website, a participant quoted a principal saying a kid refusing the testing would be given a book and made to stay on the testing site for the duration without leaving.
Not all principals and superintendents are that belligerent. In fact, some are cooperating in setting up alternative learning opportunities for dissenters. Another site, Save Our Schools New Jersey, compiled “naughty or nice” lists of school districts. “Nice” are those that “treat parents who refuse and their children with respect,” while the “naughty” ones “bully parents and students to accommodate the [New Jersey Department of Education].”
If states really wanted to take charge, they could enact laws expressly recognizing the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing to which they have not consented. Eight belong on the honor roll for already having done so: California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
It was fitting for The Heartland Institute‘s President and CEO Joe Bast to feature Yaron Brook President of the Ayn Rand Institute, in a discussion of his new book, “Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.” Both organizations are fighting for the principles of freedom and liberty as set forth by our Founding Fathers.
The event was the third held in Heartland’s newly-named Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center at its Arlington Heights, Illinois, headquarters on Wednesday, March 23. The words “Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center” are emblazoned on the awning leading into the venue itself and is likewise printed predominately on the front wall of the gathering place.
During the afternoon discussion, Brook explored the question as to whether the American Dream is failing as the rich become richer and leave the rest to struggle just to keep their heads above water.
Born and raised in Israel, Brooks admitted he was a Socialist until age 16. In 1987, Dr. Brook moved to the United States where he received his MBA and PhD in finance from the University of Texas in Austin. He became an American citizen in 2003. Brook has been a columnist at Forbes.com, and his articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications.
Yaron Brook was introduced by Jim Lakely, Director of Communication at Heartland.
Preferring not to stand behind a podium, Dr. Brooks used the entire platform space from which to advance his thoughts and ideas. With microphone in hand, Brook’s initial comment was to reference inequality as the issue of our time, at least according to President Obama and the Pope. Accordingly, the claim is that inequality is responsible for almost all the ills of the day, specifically when it comes to the big gap between rich and poor. It was none other than Karl Marx who made the allegation that owners of capital just become more and more wealthy. A fallacy, because capital doesn’t grow automatically on its own, it must be invested in order for it to grow.
Yet there are those who say we must tax the wealthy at an income tax rate of 80%, with no loopholes. And what about the idea of a 10% Global Wealth Tax which would surely generate lots of money. The catch: the money realized would not be given to the poor. Instead, its stated purpose is to shrink income inequality — to penalize those who have in order to knock them down.
Tactics used by the Left
The American people generally don’t envy those who have more than they do. The Left, however, is trying to use inequality to stir up resentment by promoting inequality as a bad thing. To Bernie Sanders this nation has a millionaire and billionaire problem, and we must deal with it.
What about the assumption that wealth is a social issue. When referred to as a collective pie, the pie must be divided equally. But the pie is not a collective pie. You make the pie, and if you make it you expect fairness. Therefore the idea of an individual pie must be defended, in contrast to those who say you didn’t build it or make it so sharing must occur.
In order for society to grow and prosper there must first be an entrepreneur who initiates an idea. Next must come the money from a capitalist who is willing to invest in an idea that might not succeed. Workers must be hired, but they are not willing to work for ten years without pay, the time is might take for the business to succeed and become profitable.
To be remembered is that we don’t live in a zero sum world. Why then is the Left winning the battle? It is because the Right doesn’t fight back to refute what the Left is spewing forth as truth.
Cronyism is often cited as the way individuals become rich. In the economic context it’s through privilege reserved for those who fill their pocket by taking advantage of special favors from the government. But as widespread as cronyism is Mr. Brooks sees no evidence that it is the dominant cause of economic equality.
Often noted is that poor people don’t have many opportunities to advance economically as they work at low paying jobs, but raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and more would only limit the number of jobs available to them, thus many poor people would be denied even the first upward step on the ladder toward a better life.
Consider also how licensing laws and regulation loom as impediments for people to open small businesses. The process can take much time and money. Regulations therefore function as job killers.
Education is definitely an important criteria for advancement. Without an education job opportunities are definitely limited. Being handed a welfare check only destroys pride in self and the ability to engage in economic opportunity.
Given all the technological advances, the quality of life for the middle class is better today than it was in the 70’s, but slow economic growth is limiting the number of poor individuals who should be joining the middle class.
Philosophy Drives the Left
What spurs the Left to believe that inequity must be fought through tax hikes, wealth redistribution schemes, and a far higher minimum wage? It’s based on the Left’s philosophy where equality becomes the standard by which justice is determined. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge was cited as a glaring example of how the philosophy of equality was taken to an extreme. In the end pure evil resulted when brutality and violence were used to stamp out any hint of individualism. Over three years one and a half million people, out of a population of seven million, were sacrificed by Pol Pot as he attempted to create a Utopia where complete equality existed.
Today this nation faces a choice between two moral values. One view speaks of justice occurring when each individual has an equal right to pursue his own happiness and success and then is able to keep whatever wealth income and opportunities he earns because of his pursuit. This is in direct contrast to the social justice view of the Left, where government must restrict freedom to make individuals economically equal, and if a person produces too much, his hopes and dreams should be sacrificed for the sake of those who haven’t produced.
If the American Dream is to be saved so a more just and prosperous society can be created, the collectivist-egalitarian doctrine advanced by the Left must be rejected. Championed instead must be the individualist idea of moral justice that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability.
The threat facing the American dream is not one of economic quality. Instead, it’s a war that centers on political inequality in which two moral views of justice are competing for control. May the individualist idea that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability be victorious. This is a must if the American Dream is to be kept alive for future generations.
Following Dr. Brook’s presentation, questions were directed to him from the audience and also submitted by those listening to Heartland’s live-stream pod broadcast.
There was on Monday a quintessential example of the horrendously bad thinking of those opposed to all things intellectual property. An op-ed totally disconnected from Reality – and chock full of thought-free, pathetic anti-property platitudes.
It is sad that so many remain steadfastly impervious to facts. But they do, so we will address this latest bit of inanity – so that the many who remain receptive to Reality may be properly informed.
We speak now of Truthout’s Dean Baker extrusion Think Trump’s 45 Percent Tariffs Are Bad? Try Obama’s 10,000 Percent Tariffs. Which mangles much of the English language – in service of much muddled thinking. Baker begins:
“Lately the media have been going wild mocking Donald Trump’s plans to put 45 percent tariffs on imports from China. They are partly right. It’s not clever to indiscriminately impose large tariffs on major trading partners in violation of existing trade agreements….
“But what is even more striking is the selective concern over tariffs. While Trump wants to put large tariffs on imports from some of our major trading partners, President Obama is actively pushing to have far larger tariffs imposed on a wide range of goods in his trade deals, most importantly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Measures in the TPP pushed by US negotiators will raise the price of many items by several thousand percent above the free market price.”
Tariffs are, of course, taxes. We conservatives don’t like taxes – so this may be an attempted appeal to our sensibilities. A 10,000% tariff? That would be awful. Except to what Baker refers – isn’t any sort of tax at all.
“If you missed this discussion, it’s because these trade barriers are referred to as ‘intellectual property,’ which takes the form of patent and copyright protection.”
If we missed the discussion – it’s because this guy is misusing the terminology. Intellectual property protection is not a tax. It is a fundamental component of a free market economy. It is specifically afforded protections in our Constitution. President Abraham Lincoln “called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments ‘in the world’s history,’ along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing.”
Intellectual property protection is government protecting productive people – and their productions. A tax is unproductive government taking money from productive people to do unproductive things. See the difference?
“But markets don’t care what term politicians use to describe a government imposed barrier.”
Actually, markets care a great deal. If you kill tariffs and taxes – markets flourish. If you kill intellectual property protection – there will soon be no markets at all. Because for markets to have things to trade – there must first be the ideas for those things. If those ideas aren’t protected – those things will never come to market.
“If a price increase of 10,000 percent sounds high, you haven’t been paying attention to what the drug industry charges for its new drugs. For example, the list price for the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is $84,000 for a three-month course of treatment. A recent analysis found that Indian manufacturers can profitably produce the drug for just $200 per three-month course of treatment, suggesting a tariff equivalent of more than 40,000 percent.”
Spoken like a man who has obviously never actually produced anything. Yes, the second pill costs pennies. But the first one costs billions of dollars.
Because you don’t just magically, instantaneously arrive at an effective medication. You have lots of very smart, very expensive people doing lots and lots of development – and conducting lots and lots of very expensive tests. Much of which results in absolutely nothing – except failed attempts and ineffective products.
Finally, the magic concoction of effort, trial, error and perseverance – marinated by LOTS of money – eventually delivers a successful concoction. A success – on which the producers must recoup the billions they spent failing.
Lost on Baker is the Genesis of all of this effort and expenditure – the intellectual property protection that makes it all possible. If at the end these people can’t protect what they’ve produced – they will never begin.
Why go to all the time, trouble and inordinate expense – if you don’t get to keep what you create?
Mr. Baker goes on, and ON (and ON…) – but you by now get the idea that he has no idea of what he is speaking.
Taxes…are taxes. And are impediments to markets optimally functioning.
Intellectual property protection (patents, copyrights, trademarks)…is NOT taxes. And is crucial to markets even existing – let alone optimally functioning.
I’m sure you see the difference. Here’s hoping Mr. Baker now does.
In The Tank Podcast (ep32): Commonwealth Foundation, Regulation Impacts, and Chicago Teachers Strike
John Nothdurft and Donny Kendal bring you episode #32 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 Commonwealth Institute, the Mercatus Center, the Pelican Institute, and the Illinois Policy Institute.
Better Know a Think Tank
In this weeks segment, Donny and John welcome Elizabeth Stelle, Director of Policy Analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation. Elizabeth joins the show to talk about the Commonwealth Foundation as well as what’s going on in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has just ended a long budget battle that lasted over 250 days.
Featured Work of the Week
This week’s featured work is a report from the Mercatus Center titled “The Impact of Federal Regulation on the 50 States.” The report gives all-encompassing look into federal regulations. The report quantifies the cost of all the federal regulations have on the individual states. The report shows which states are impacted the most and least. Find out where your states ranks.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and John talk about an article published by the Pelican Institute titled “Governor Edwards, Please Don’t Make Me Regret Moving to Louisiana.” The article highlights the factors that should be considered when deciding to live in a state. The article also contains a map from the Tax Foundation that shows which states gained and lost wealth due to interstate migration.
Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.
Cato Institute (Monday, April 4) Screening of Poverty, Inc. @ the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.
Heartland Institue (Wednesday, April 6) Drilling Through the Core: w/ National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Property and Environment Research Center (Thursday, April 7) Community, Culture, and Conservation @ Colby College in Waterville, Maine
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In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Senior Fellow James Taylor takes part in a debate about global warming. The debate was hosted by WMNF radio’s Fairness Doctrine Show. Topics discussed during the debate include the 97% consensus, nuclear power, fossil fuels, fracking, and many other subjects.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Shikha Dalmia, a Senior Analyst with the Reason Foundation, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Dalmia, a resident of Michigan, joins Burnett to discuss the Flint water crisis.
As you would expect, Dalmia has followed closely the political shenanigan’s in the state including the ongoing political sideshow the water crisis has become. She explains how the situation was caused by the failure of government, not markets. Furthermore, she explains how markets serve to prevent such crises.
Net Neutrality is a really stupid, anti-capitalism policy – that the Barack Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally (and likely illegally) jammed down our throats in February 2015.
Uber-huge-bandwidth-hog online-video-streaming-company Netflix has long been a very vocal proponent of Network Neutrality. About which Netflix said: “The net neutrality debate is about who picks winners and losers online: Internet service providers or consumers. Today, the FCC settled it: Consumers win.”
Except consumers don’t win. They rarely do when government gets (exponentially) bigger. Of course uber-huge-bandwidth-hog-company Netflix likes Net Neutrality – because it outlaws their being charged for being an uber-huge-bandwidth-hog-company.
No matter how much data Netflix uses – and they use a ton – Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can not charge them a dime. Which leaves We the Consumers picking up Netflix’s tab – in the form of much higher monthly ISP charges. That’s consumers-augmenting-Netflix-profits – which is certainly a win for Netflix. For We the Consumers? Not so much.
And lest we forget: “Netflix…was one of the lead proponents of…a bright-line prohibition on throttling online traffic by broadband providers.”
With all of this Netflix Net Neutrality inanity in mind – this late last week was a bit of news.
Netflix Has Been Secretly Slowing Down Your Videos for the Past Five Years: “Netflix and its allies last year won the fight over Net Neutrality, arguing that without federal protections Internet service providers could throttle traffic to individuals and companies that didn’t pay for access to Internet fast lanes.”
Get that? Internet throttling by ISPs? Cataclysmic. But when non-ISP Netflix does it? No problem.
Not Neutrality: The Netflix Scandal That Isn’t: “(W)hatever it is, it’s not a Net Neutrality violation. Plain and simple. Anyone who tells you that it is — or that this practice undermines the case for Net Neutrality rules — is either in the business of misleading you, woefully ignorant of the law, or both.”
Sadly, that is correct. Because the FCC’s huge power grab – doesn’t apply to “edge providers” like Netflix. Only ISPs are subject to this heinous onerousness: “ISPs could receive a hefty fine under the net neutrality rules for similar practices, but Netflix faces no such danger, at least not for the throttling itself. The net neutrality rules only apply to ISPs…, not to companies…like Netflix or Google Inc.”
How’s that for un-equal protection before the law? Except this isn’t law – it’s agency regulatory fiat. We’re already WAY off the Constitutional map – here there be monsters.
Pro-Net Neutrality zealots have been pushing their terrible idea for more than a decade. Knowing what we now know about Netflix – much of those shoves along the way may require reexamination.
Verizon, Netflix Continue Net Neutrality War of Words (July 2014): “In a memo to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, said ‘Our focus on strong net neutrality, including interconnection, is about preventing large ISPs from holding our joint customers hostage with poor performance.…’”
Get that? Netflix’s accusation that Verizon was slowing down their videos – was likely a key component in the FCC’s Net Neutrality imposition decision seven months later. And it was all a lie. Verizon wasn’t “holding…joint customers hostage” – Netflix was.
But of course Netflix lied. Because Net Neutrality is a giant lie. So getting it rammed down upon us required a lot of additional lies all along the way.
These lies are slowly coming unraveled. Here’s hoping the FCC’s Net Neutrality power grab disintegrates along with it.
Hillary Clinton’s “trustworthiness” problem is fed by a long history of “varying credibility,” as a recent Politico story delineated, including cattle-futures trading, law firm billing records, muddled sniper fire recollections and e-mail use.
While providing pertinent points, the Politico list is just a sampling.
One missing item on the “mistrust” litany is a project she reportedly cooked up as Secretary of State, but that was shaped by her family foundation. State Department staff sent official emails to solicit funds from foreign governments.
The project sounds innocent enough: “to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change.” What miracle product can do all that? A cookstove. Yes, that is correct—a cookstove. This is not the product of “as seen on TV” wizardry, nor is it the latest in high-efficiency appliances.
There’s something fishy when governments throughout the world (including the U.S), corporations (including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Johnson & Johnson), and Ted Turner’s UN Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative are involved as they are with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance).
No one would begrudge corporations giving to a philanthropic effort, but we would probably feel differently about our own tax dollars going to the project Clinton is hawking—especially when the project is, by most accounts, an epic fail.
The Alliance claims to provide a solution to the “fourth worst overall health risk factor in developing countries.” Its website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” download states: “Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires—the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world—causes 1.9 million premature deaths annually with women and young children most affected.” Not only that, but “Reliance on biomass for cooking and heating increases pressure on local resources” as women and children “forage for fuel.” Additionally, “inefficient cookstoves contribute to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases.”
To remedy this problem, it would make sense for the well-funded public-private partnership to use its money and influence to help build natural-gas-fueled power plants and infrastructure to bring electricity to the developing world. But that was not Clinton’s idea.
On September 21, 2010, the world first became aware of Clinton’s brainchild—though she may have stolen the idea from India’s National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative that made headlines around the world in the summer of 2010. The Secretary of State announced the Alliance at the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (GCI)—with the Clinton Foundation being one of the “Strategic Partnerships and Alliances.” By November 2014, at the “Inaugural Cookstoves Futures Summit” it was announced that more than $400 million had been raised for the project. As co-host of the meeting, Clinton exclaimed: “We have to redouble our efforts to get more clean and efficient products in the hands and homes of families everywhere. … We can rededicate ourselves to doing everything we can to help more people in more places to breathe more easily, work more safely and live healthier lives.” In her memoir, Hard Choices, she brags about her role in the Alliance: “I was delighted by the scope and speed of the progress [the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves] made around the world.”
“Progress” in the Alliance can be attributed to her influence as Secretary of State. Before the announcement of the Alliance, Kris Balderston, who served as her special representative for global partnerships, on his state.gov account pressured Norway to join. They obliged with a commitment for a $600,000 “down payment.” Apparently, as emails revealed, the country wanted to be part of the launch: “They wanted to move quickly for the CGI announcement.” (Note: Norway is a major donor to the Clinton Foundation.) Once Norway signed on, France and Finland were expected to follow suit. While traveling the globe, on the taxpayers’ dime, Clinton recruited more partners.
All big charity programs have celebrity spokespersons—the Alliance has actress Julia Roberts and chef Jose Andres—but Clinton was much more. She is credited with the program’s birth. While Secretary of State, it was “on the top of her agenda.” Once retiring from her official duties, Clinton became the Chair of the Alliance’s Leadership Council—where she still serves.
If you don’t know the rules, this may seem like petty politics. However, as Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on ethics in government, in the Washington Times cites the Code of Federal Regulations on the use of public office for private gain: “an employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member.”
While at best, Clinton’s clean cookstove campaign seems slimy, and may be illegal, one might cast a blind eye if the program achieved its aggrandizing goals.
These so-called “clean cookstoves,” even by the Alliance’s own literature, “may last for several years”—yet only 20 percent, according to a survey cited in the Washington Post (WP), are still in use after two years. While the Alliance has reportedly “helped drive more that 28 million stoves into the field,” most do not meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for indoor emissions. The WP states: “The vast majority of the stoves burn wood, charcoal, animal dung or agricultural waste—and aren’t, therefore, nearly as healthy as promised.” While “some perform well in the lab,” others “crack or break under constant heat.”
In her book, A River Runs Again, journalist Meera Subramanian chronicled cookstove use in India. The WP reports: “She found that women had stopped using the stoves because they didn’t like the design or because the stoves broke, burned more wood (not less, as intended) or didn’t get foods hot enough.”
Defending the Alliance’s effort, Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Alliance, says: “There may not be the greatest health benefit, but there’s certainly a good environmental benefit, and it will save them more time” and create “livelihood and empowerment opportunities.”
Distributing stoves that “we know will kill people” has been called “unethical.” Rema Hanna, the Harvard economist who led “Up in Smoke”—which WP calls “the most extensive field study to date on this subject”—says: “it makes no sense to ‘push more stoves into the world that people are not going to use.’” According to a recent publication in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, David Kreutzer, Senior Research Fellow, Energy Economics and Climate Change at The Heritage Foundation, reports: “there were no long-term (after four years) health benefits from clean cook stoves. After two years, smoke inhalation was not at all different, and by the fourth year, nearly one-third of the households had so little use for the new stoves that they actually destroyed them.”
Rather than burning biomass, experts believe that gas, electricity, or both would be better at protecting health. Kreutzer agrees: “These cookstoves seem to be substitutes for efforts to provide affordable modern power to those in need”—which he says condemn so many of the poor to continuing energy poverty. Sadly, Alliance members oppose projects that would provide low-cost power to these poor households.
You have to wonder, if these cookstoves—which are more like a hibachi grill than a stove and cost about $25—don’t achieve the stated goals, why is Clinton such a proponent? As Christine Lakatos, whom I have worked with on dozens of green-energy, crony-corruption reports, and who alerted me to this dirty story, found in her Green Corruption File report, Alliance work was a high priority during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. The project spanned eleven federal agencies and, so far, totals more than $114 million.
Her involvement complicates her “trustworthiness” concerns and risks, as the Washington Times points out: “Raising questions about where she drew the line between official business and aiding the family charity run by her husband and daughter.”
The answer to Clinton’s involvement, and the conflict of interest with her role at the State Department and “aiding the family charity,” deserves further investigation by someone with better access, and a bigger budget, than Lakatos or I have. But a hint can be found on the Alliances’ own website: carbon credits. It states: “In addition to being one of the fastest growing offset types in the voluntary market, cookstoves credits are selling for some of the highest prices observed in the voluntary carbon market.”
If Clinton becomes president, her energy policies will likely enact a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax—which would suddenly make her cookstove project profitable. Rather than helping bring modern power to the world’s poor, she’s, as Kreutzer calls it, “prolonging energy poverty for millions upon millions in the developing world.” And that is the dirty story behind Clinton’s clean cookstove campaign.
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.
“Lip Service but Little Else”, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access holds hearing on the “Failure of the Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit”
The U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access held a hearing, appropriately titled, “Lip Service but Little Else: Failure of the Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit, to discuss the failures of the tax credit that Obamacare offered to small businesses.
Chairman Tim Heulskamp remarked that “the credit scheme is so cumbersome and poorly designed that it is largely ineffective.”
Testimony included remarks from persons representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
Harold Jackson, Executive Chairman of Buffalo Supply, Inc., a small business in Colorado with 20 employees who provided “a concrete real life example as to the shortfalls of this premium tax credit which is unfortunately illusive to most small businesses.”
Holly Wade, Director of Research and Policy Analysis, on behalf of NFIB, testified that “the tax credit was largely ineffective on both fronts as its design is exceedingly restrictive, complicated, and only offers limited and temporary relief to a larger small business cost problem.”
Michael Ricco, Quality Manager for AEEC, on behalf of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, attested that “it is the small businesses in middle – particularly those between 50-100 employees – that could benefit the most from this health care tax credit.”
Four main points were central to the testimonies the subcommittee heard. The first was that the eligibility requirements were not effective enough to impact all small businesses. Second, the complicated language deterred most small businesses from even determining if they were eligible for the credit. Third, the tax credit is temporary, and can only be claimed for two years, providing little relief for small business owners. The fourth concern was that, as of July 1, 2014, the tax credit is only available to small business owners through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP ) marketplaces, limiting the options for employers.
This subcommittee hearing only offers some insight into the future negative impact of Obamacare on small businesses, and is very telling. It is indicative that there is a major problem to be addressed, as Wade ended her testimony that the health insurance tax credit was a poor tool for cost effectiveness and that “more importantly, health insurance costs continue to increase, and small business owners continue to struggle with their ability to afford offering the benefit.”
You can find the more information on this hearing at http://smallbusiness.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398925.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs 4 Patient Care, joins Managing Editor for Health Care News Michael Hamilton. If you make a habit of reading the articles found at news.heartland.org/health, you’ll find a number of stories about one of the best kept secrets in the health care industry, a secret Dr. Scherz helps expose in today’s podcast: direct primary care.
Docs 4 Patient Care is a think tank run exclusively by practicing physicians, all of whom are committed not only to providing excellent patient care, but to promoting free-market health care solutions for ordinary patients like you and me.
The daily and unending bombardment of political campaign reporting and news, with its “drama” about who will be the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for the U.S. presidency, hides from view the continuing and real choice facing the American public: freedom or statism, individual liberty or government control.
This real underlying question is hidden from view because the media coverage emphasizes in what ways the competing candidates differ from each other in personality and policy prescriptions for America’s future. What is missed, however, are all the common premises that bind these candidates together.
Listen to either Republicans or Democrats, “liberals” or “conservatives,” and what one discovers with a little bit of reflection is the degree to which most of them accept and believe in the same type of “activist” role for government in human affairs. They merely differ on the type and degree of such government intervention, regulation, control and redistribution.
With the Democratic Party candidates for president, this is fairly clear and obvious. Watching or reading the campaign stump speeches of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it is easy to wonder if they have ever met a government interventionist program they did not like.
On the Republican side, the intensity of the support for or dislike of Donald Trump has made this a little less clear. The debate and disagreement has primarily focused on Trump’s abrasive personality, his evasion of detail about either domestic or foreign policy, his use of colorful “off-color” language, and his less than subtle support for “roughing up” and “punching out” anti-Trump demonstrators, and his threats of possible “riots” by his followers if he does not win the Republican nomination for the presidency, even if he has not won a majority of the convention delegates in the primaries.
The “Sacred Cow” of Social Security vs. Personal Liberty
But over a significant number of public policy issues, the differences in views among the candidates are often more a matter of degree than of kind. For instance, on Social Security, and not surprisingly, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are insistent on the preservation and perpetuation of the government mandated retirement program. Sanders has blindly presumed that nothing is fundamentally wrong with the funding and coverage of the Social Security system, other than guaranteeing that it stays and is reinforced and increased, while Clinton has admitted that demographics may require some tweaking of the system while basically leaving it intact.
On the Republican side, it is not that much different. Trump assures the voters that he will change nothing in terms of Social Security eligibility, coverage or payments. He will make sure that America “wins,” is “strong” and has the wealth to maintain the system. End of story. Just trust him. He knows how to “make deals.”
John Kasich also wants the U.S. government to keep its promises to the American people, with few changes to the Social Security system. He reminds us – unendingly over and over again – that as governor of Ohio he has grown jobs, increased production, balanced the budget and taken care of the needy, and known how to bring people together. Put him in the White House and he’ll do the same in Washington to save Social Security for the current and future generations. You can trust him, he’s the “fix-it man.”
Ted Cruz has emphasized that Social Security is in financial trouble because of the demographics of an aging population. But, he too, has insisted that a government Social Security system is an essential part of American society. He wants to partly privatize the funding of the system, while continuing to presume a guiding hand of the government in the retirement planning of the American people.
The friend of freedom would ask, what is government doing in the retirement business in the first place? There is nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government the responsibility or authority to mandate compulsory participation or funding of such a Social Security scheme. And it is worth recalling that before eighty years ago, it was not Uncle Sam’s job to oversee the financing of people’s “golden” post-work years.
Before 1935, this was considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families and private charities, along with some local community funding. It was argued that part of the meaning of freedom was the right of the individual to plan the affairs of his own life and that of his family. Just as the individual was expected, under liberty, to make his own choices on the allocation of his income among alternative uses in the present, the same applied on deciding on spending his income in the present versus setting aside a portion of it as savings for his and his family’s needs and desires in the future.
The fact is, any candidate who fully believed in and advocated individual liberty and constitutionally limited government would be attempting to explain and persuade the voting public that a government-funded pension plan through intergenerational redistribution is not only unconstitutional and inconsistent with the type of personal freedom promulgated by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, but is, pragmatically, rapidly reaching its financial end due to an aging population and a shrinking workforce to fund Social Security.
Such a candidate would be making the case for the end of Social Security and in some manner that would do justice to the older segment of the American population who have been compelled to pay into a system that made it, as a result, more difficult or impossible to plan for their own retirement years. But which closed the chapter on government and the pension business. (See my article, “There is No Social Security Santa Claus.”)
Freedom Means Ending Government-Funded Healthcare
The same applies to government involvement and responsibility for the health care and medical insurance of the American people. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sander merely argue over an immediate government single-payer system of socialized medicine versus an easing into it as budgetary revenues and costs permit an end to any predominantly privately provided health insurance and medical care.
Among the Republicans, there is a general insistence that ObamaCare should be repealed, but there is no call for the removal of government from the health care and insurance business, as a whole. Medicare and Medicaid are generally considered essential among Uncle Sam’s grab bag of duties and responsibilities.
The fact is virtually all the problems associated with people’s frustration with health care premiums and coverage has its origin with the extent to which government has intervened in and interfered with the health care industry in America. The problem has not been too little government in medical care, but far too much over the decades, which has stymied competition, fixed and manipulated prices for medical services, and narrowed the choices and options available to people compared to what a truly free market healthcare industry could have provided to the population.
A candidate interested in fostering a free market system in healthcare and insurance would be educating the voters on how and why eliminating government control and involvement is essential to moving America forward towards a vibrant, innovative and affordable totally private sector medical industry for the current generation and looking ahead for the rest of this century. Alas, none of the candidates for the presidency in the current election cycle have even come close to doing so. (See my article, “For Healthcare the Best Government Plan is No Plan.”)
Besides the Social Security system and government-funded health care and insurance being taken for granted to one degree of anther by all presidential candidates this year, there is also the acceptance that some form of the welfare state is compatible with and complementary to a free society.
The Welfare State Undermines Incentives and Balanced Production
But, in fact, the welfare state is an arrow in the heart of a truly free society that is respectful of individual choice and is based on the rights of individuals to manage their own lives as they freely decide in peaceful and mutually beneficial association with others.
The presumption is often made that a free society can successfully function with a market economy that “delivers the goods” while having the government siphon off large portions of the income and wealth generated through the production and productivity of that economy for purposes of redistributive largess guiding by some notion of “social justice.”
This reasoning presumes that the resulting production is independent of the incentives that make the members of society have a motive for work, saving and investment. All of us know that the higher (lower) the price of something the less (more) people are willing to buy of it, and the lower (higher) the price of something the less (more) people are willing to supply it. Why should we presume this is any different concerning goods and services that government supplies to people for “free” or below market price, or concerning people’s willingness to work to earn income the more they are taxed.
Make something relatively free or inexpensive compared to a market price that covers the actual costs of supplying it, and the demand will swell and overwhelm the available supply. Tax people more and more at higher and higher rates to pay for below market price “free” goods, and the incentive to keep producing and earning is increasingly undermined. Demand outruns supply and supply fails to grow to keep up with the demand.
But even beyond these important and crucial distortions and imbalances between supply and demand the more the government offers desired “goodies” for “free” and undermines the incentives and abilities for production to provide the required supplies, there is a wider moral dimension to a growing and encompassing welfare state.
The Paternalistic State Creates Childlike Citizens
The welfare state denies individuals the right to have the liberty to make such decisions for themselves. Every step further in this direction reduces people’s self-determination over their own lives, chips away at one more aspect and corner of the person’s life over which they have diminished responsibility and autonomy to be self-governing. They become, one step at a time, a bit more of the ward of the state.
This threatens another central element that is part of being a truly free person: the cultivation and exercise of moral choice. A child is one who is considered not sufficiently developed psychologically and morally to fully make its own choices and decisions. Parents serve as guardians to care for their young and educate them as they grow up in learning the meaning of responsible decision-making, to think before your leap, to consider tomorrow before you make a choice today, and to ask what is the ethical things to do concerning my own life and in my interactions with others?
The more government takes responsibility over these aspect of human life, and the more the political authority asserts the obligation to handle “social problems” that concern the mutual affairs of individuals in society, then the less people develop the experience, maturity or appreciation for what it means to think about and act upon such corners of life and human association. (See my article, “A World Without the Welfare State.”)
Political paternalism through the redistributive welfare state brings about a permanently infantilized population. Government protected or supported employments, government subsidized levels of income and revenues, and government guaranteed social “safety nets,” result in the creation of an increasingly childlike population.
More and more people want more and more things for “free,” and they want it “now.” They want to be sheltered from “hurtful” or “uncomfortable” situations or choices. They come to expect politically provided security and protection over all the everyday affairs of ordinary life. They lose the capacity to think and act as free men and women. They take for granted and long for the political shepherd who oversees and takes care of the human sheep.
“Fair Trade” is Politically Managed and Manipulated Trade
Also look at the policy positions taken by both Democrats and Republicans running for the presidency on America’s place and role in the world. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders rant about how international trade can be and has been detrimental to American jobs and industry, promising to redress the unfair trade practices of other nations.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump wails about how America is being robbed, beaten up and abused by the trade policies of other nations. And while the other Republicans who have been running in the primaries over the last half year have given lip service to free trade, they, too, to varying degrees have assured the voters that “free trade” must be tempered by “fair trade.”
The friend of freedom, since the time of Adam Smith, has emphasized that the benefits from trade do not come from what we export but from what the sale of our exports enable us to import. We trade with our immediate neighbors or with others half way around the world because it enables each of us to obtain from our exchange partners goods and services that we would not be able to produce for ourselves, or which we could not produce with as a high quality or at a similar low cost.
It is the division of labor and specialization of production that domestic and foreign trade facilitates and encourages that has given us and continues to provide the existing and continually rising standards and qualities of life that we take for granted.
Yet, listening to the rhetoric and policy proposals from both the Democratic and Republican competitors in the presidential primaries, we are being abused and misused by our trading partners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even when other governments subsidize the exports of their own nations goods to the U.S., they, in fact, give the American consumer more goods at lower prices than would be otherwise the case.
It should be the citizens of those foreign governments who should be complaining because it is their higher taxes that are making it possible for American consumers to buy desired goods at below cost prices. And it frees up American producers to manufacture and supply others goods that Americans could not, otherwise, afford to demand and buy if not for the lower-cost foreign imports. (See my article, ”Global Free Trade Makes for Mutual Prosperity and World Peace.”)
In addition, to the extent that government takes on the role of arbiter over the buying and selling of goods between the citizens of its own country and the rest of the world, the promised “fair trade” becomes the politically corrupted trade. Rather than global competitive forces of supply and demand determining the types and direction of production to satisfy the world’s consumers, it becomes influential special interest groups close to those in political authority who have it in their power to raise import taxes or impose regulations that hamper the market-determined patterns of production and sales to improve the lives of people in their own lands and in other corners of the world.
An Interventionist Mindset in Foreign Affairs
The interventionist mindset applies across the party lines in foreign affairs, in general. The friend of freedom has always argued that if government has any rationale it is to protect the life, liberty and honestly acquired property of the citizenry. For that reason the essential task of constitutionally limited government is to secure a country’s citizens from domestic threats through the use of the constabulary and the courts; and to protect the population from foreign threats of invasion and destruction from abroad through national defense.
But Hillary Clinton has been ready to intervention in foreign countries involving little or no threat to the United States both when she was a Senator from New York or Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. And while Bernie Sanders has been highly critical of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has demonstrated a love affair with Marxist and other socialist regimes around the world; a President Sanders most likely would be very willing to provide American diplomatic and economic support to radical regimes devoted to the demise of capitalism.
Among the Republicans, Donald Trump has criticized the invasion of Iraq, but has assured a rapid and devastating military attack on Islamic fundamentalists in Syria and Iraq, including thousands of American ground forces to do the job, as well as unleashing torture techniques on suspected terrorists and their families.
The other Republican hopefuls pursuing their party’s nomination for the presidency have also, to varying degrees, all called for a continuation and intensifying of such military intervention to set right parts of the Middle East.
Thus, across party lines, there is a common presumption that America must play an “active” and military hands-on presence in many parts of the world that can be very inconsistent with practicing a policy of liberty at home and abroad. (See my article, “Practicing the Principles of Non-Intervention – at Home and Abroad.”)
The task of the informed citizen and the friend of freedom is to cut through the political confusion and rhetorical combat in the current election cycle, and to realize that no matter what the outcome of this year’s election, there is little cause for confidence that liberty will be victorious or advancing, due to the all too common interventionist and statist premises that underlie the policy positions offered by all the candidates.