In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new “deeming regulations” for electronic cigarettes, which require e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their products through an arduous federal approval process.
Cynthia Cabrera, president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, the largest e-cigarette and smoke-free alternative trade association representing the interests of manufacturers, online retailers, small businesses, distributors, importers and wholesalers, and someone who the people in Big Tobacco probably find really annoying, joins Hathaway to talk about the new regulations, and how they will affect consumers, both non-smoking and smoking alike.
According to Cabrera, the new regulations effectively promote smoking traditional cigarettes, and how e-cigarettes do serve a purpose in the fight against preventable diseases like those caused by tobacco use.
Any comprehensive review of green energy and its politics and policies has to include the name of wealthy liberal Tom Steyer—who has been called the environmental movement’s new “Daddy Warbucks.” Having made his billions from his tenure atop Farallon Capital Management—much of it from coal projects around the world—Steyer apparently had an environmental epiphany and now wants to atone for his past sins by trying to save the planet from manmade climate change.
He is using his wallet to try to elect candidates who will promote policies and energy plans that agree with him. And that plan is “green.” As I’ve previously reported, he spent nearly $75 million in the 2014 midterms and intends to top that for the 2016 election cycle. Steyer–– a long-time donor to Democratic causes––was a 2008 Hillary Clinton supporter. After her campaign failed, he emerged as a bundler for Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Additionally, Steyer is a Clinton Foundation donor, and last year, at his San Francisco home, he held an expensive fundraiser for Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.
Along with researcher Christine Lakatos, whose Green Corruption File was recently praised on the Michael Savage Show, I’ve repeatedly addressed Steyer’s involvement through our work on President Obama’s Green-Energy Crony-Corruption Scandal. Anytime there is a pot of government money available for green energy, as Lakatos found, Steyer’s name seems to be attached to it. Some of the most noteworthy include: Sungevity, ElectraTherm, and Project Frog—all funded by Greener Capital (now EFW Capital), which is a venture firm that invests in renewable energy, with Steyer as a known financial backer.
Steyer claims to have “no self-interest” in his political activism. The Los Angeles Times quotes him as saying: “We’re doing something we think is good for everyone.” Yet, as Forbes columnist Loren Steffy points out, he is spending his fortune lobbying for “short term political gains” rather than into research and development “aimed at making renewables economically viable.”
While he may say what he is doing is good for everyone, the policies he’s pushing are good for him—not for “everyone.” The Washington Post called him: “The man who has Obama’s ear when it comes to energy and climate change.” In California, where he has been a generous supporter of green energy policies, he helped pass Senate Bill 350 that calls for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. California’s current mandate is 33 percent by 2020—which California’s three investor-owned utilities are, reportedly, “already well on their way to meeting.” It is no surprise that California already has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Analysis released last week found that states with policies supporting green energy have much higher power prices. In October, Steyer spent six figures for an ad campaign calling for the next president to adopt a national energy policy similar to California’s: “50 percent clean energy mix in the U.S. by 2030” —which will raise everyone’s rates.
With Steyer’s various green-energy investments, these rate-increasing plans are good for him but bad for everyone else—especially those who can least afford it. And, it is the less affluent, I recently learned, he’s targeting with predatory loans for solar panels through Kilowatt Financial, LLC, (KWF)—a company that listed him as “manager” on corporate documents. KWF recently merged with Clean Power Finance and became “Spruce.” The financing structure used, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), allows “homeowners to get solar systems at no upfront cost and then to pay monthly for the use of the power generated. Homeowners end up saving on their total electricity use, while financing companies get steady revenue over 20 years.” WSJ, points out, the KWF financing can be offered to “people who wouldn’t be approved otherwise.”
In the KWF model, contracted payments come from homeowners and “create a steady and reliable income stream, part of which is owned by its venture investors, including Kleiner Perkins.” About the arrangement, KWF chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Pillmer said: “Kleiner Perkins will make a lot of money.” Apparently, the money to be made is from selling the loans that are then securitized on Wall Street—much like the “sub-prime” mortgage crisis that offered loans to people who couldn’t qualify with “traditional lenders.” KWF’s website brags: “We support financing terms for almost every customer and provide ways for dealers to participate in the pricing process to generate even more approvals and create even lower consumer rates.” KWF offers “Instant Approvals, even for customers with lower credit scores” and “Same-as-Cash and Deferred Payment Offers.” In these types of payment plans, a low rate is usually offered in the beginning and increases retroactively if all the terms of the loan are not met.
In this model, the homeowners don’t actually own the solar systems—which means KWF receives the benefit of the federal tax incentives, such as the 30 percent federal “Investment Tax Credit,” designed to benefit the owner of the solar system.
It is practices like this that have drawn the ire of Congress. Several congressional Democrats sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that warned about the similarities between the solar industry and what led to the subprime mortgage crisis: “easy initial financial terms, increased demand and a rapidly expanding industry.” These factors create a high risk potential that could, ultimately, be harmful to consumers. Similarly, Republicans sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission that noted pressure from Wall Street is reportedly leading companies who use “potentially deceptive sales tactics”—which doesn’t sound like it is something that is “good for everyone.”
Yet, it is these very types of finance products, promoted by Steyer’s Kilowatt Financial that Greentech Media reports are “doing well.”
While Steyer claims to want to give everyone a “fair shake,” his pet policies increase costs for everyone, and offer a hand-shake for Wall Street. Steyer and his billionaire buddies win, “everyone” else loses—and that is a big part of the green-energy crony-corruption scandal.
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.
A recurring headline in the Age of President Barack Obama begins with things like “Obama Administration Issues New Rules…” and “Administration Targets…” and various variations on this theme. To wit:
The rolling tally – and the damage done – is devastating:
- The federal regulatory cost reached $1.885 trillion in 2015.
- Federal regulation is a hidden tax that amounts to nearly $15,000 per U.S. household each year.
- Many Americans complain about taxes, but regulatory compliance costs exceed the $1.82 trillion that the IRS is expected to collect in both individual and corporate income taxes from 2015.
And it is inordinately difficult to argue that Obama’s isn’t the Regulation Administration:
- Some 60 federal departments, agencies, and commissions have 3,297 regulations in development at various stages in the pipeline.
- The 2015 Federal Register contains 80,260 pages, the third highest page count in its history.
- Of the seven all-time-highest Federal Register total page counts, six occurred under President Obama.
- …(T)he Obama administration has averaged 81 major regulations annually over seven years.
- In 2015, 114 laws were enacted by Congress during the calendar year, while 3,410 rules were issued by agencies. Thus, 30 rules were issued for every law enacted last year.
That last point is vitally important. Many (most) of these new regulations – are unlawful and unconstitutional. The Obama Administration is the Executive Branch. It executes laws – it does not write them. That’s Congress’ (the Legislative Branch)’s job. Issuing regulations untethered to preceding legislation – is violating the rules. As per usual, the Republican-led Congress is doing far too little to defend its Constitutional turf and rein in the Administration. And far, far too infrequently, this happens:
Far, far too frequently – Obama’s myriad fiats stand. The rolling tally – and the damage done – is devastating.
Productivity Growth of U.S. Economy Collapses to Record Low: “U.S. productivity growth, the greatest determinant of living standards, has been lower for the past five years than any five-year period on record. New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that productivity growth has averaged 0.4% per year over the past half-decade. This is 82% below the average of the prior six decades, which is as far back as this data extends.”
Obama is First President Ever to Not See Single Year of 3% GDP Growth: “The rate of real economic growth is the single greatest determinate of both America’s strength as a nation and the well-being of the American people….Ronald Reagan brought forth an annual real GDP growth of 3.5%. Barack Obama will be lucky to average a 1.55% GDP growth rate.”
Ingrained decades of over-regulation lead to things like this:
Sounds great, right? Except:
“The euro zone’s dominant economy grew 0.7 percent, its strongest quarterly rate since an identical reading in the first quarter of 2014….”
Wow. 0.7% growth. Dominating all of the Euro Zone. Let us please not be (even) more like Europe, eh?
So when our domestic Sauron turns its Eye on the Technology Sector – we get worried. The guilty over-extended arm of the Leviathan here – is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
As per usual, the Republican-led Congress is doing far too little to defend its Constitutional turf and rein in the FCC. So that means the conga-line-to-the-courthouse will get even longer.
And what’s happening to the economics of the Tech Sector?
Capital Expenditures Declined Under FCC’s Network Neutrality Rules: “A casual reader of the Federal Communications Commission’s many documents on network neutrality would reasonably conclude that the network neutrality rules are necessary for robust investment in the broader information sector. The linkage between FCC rules and investments animates the FCC’s recent court brief in which the agency defends its latest rules in the D.C. Circuit Court.
“The empirical economics, however, are the opposite of the FCC storyline. Capital expenditures grew less rapidly when network neutrality rules were in place.”
So the government claimed their new regulations would help the economy. They then imposed them – and Reality rudely intervened. I believe this has happened before.
Reality is a harsh mistress – when you’re wedded to big government.
As we see in every other sector of our economy (and everyone else’s) – more government means less private sector economy. The former crowds out the latter. Each and every time it’s tried.
The Tech Sector has been Obama’s anemic economy’s one saving grace. So his Administration has in its last years dramatically ramped up its Tech Sector assault.
Because no inkling of positive economic activity can be allowed to stand. It makes everyone and everything else look bad.
With all of human history as a guide – sadly, big government will be just as squashing-ly successful here as it has been everywhere else.
“Climate refugee” claims reflect deliberate mendacity and belief that we and reporters are stupid
Employing his college degree in fiction writing, White House communications strategist Ben Rhodes wrote deceitful talking points on the Benghazi attack and one-sided Iran nuclear deal – and later bragged about manipulating “clueless reporters.” Perhaps he’s also orchestrating administration climate spin.
Rising ocean tides will bring “waves of climate refugees” to America and Europe, President Obama has declared. “Environmental migrants” are already fleeing shrinking islands in the Pacific, and it is a “dereliction of duty” for military officers to “deny the reality” of dangerous manmade climate change.
Even if we act in accord with the Paris climate “accords” (none dare call it a treaty) and “can stem the increase” in global temperatures, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell insists, “very rapid” climate changes “are expected to force the relocation of hundreds of Alaskans from their homes.”
Manmade climate change is a “threat multiplier,” a Pentagon report asserts. It will “exacerbate” many of the challenges the United States faces today, including infectious diseases and terrorism, destructive extreme weather events, disputes over who has rights to dwindling land areas and basic resources like water and food, and intense disagreements over how to absorb millions of climate refugees.
Echo-chamber journalists disagree only over the identity of America’s first climate refugees: Alaskan Natives in Newtok being inundated by rising seas and melting ice and tundra – or 25 Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw families whose little island in the Mississippi Delta has been eroding away since 1950?
Not to be outdone, ultra-liberal radio talk show host Thom Hartmann told me, “You’ve got five million climate change refugees fleeing into Europe right now because of droughts in Syria.” When I called this nonsense and said they are trying to escape war and ISIS butchers who are beheading little children, for the tenth time in a ten-minute interview, he railed that I “should be in jail” as a “climate denier.”
Unfortunately for Rhodes & Company, inconvenient truths eviscerate manmade climate chaos claims.
Throughout Earth and human history, climate change has ranged from regional to hemispheric, from beneficial to harmful to destructive. It has included Roman and medieval warm periods, little ice ages, and five “mammoth” glacial epochs that buried continents under mile-high walls of ice. Natural climate change inflicted a Dust Bowl that sent millions of Americans scurrying in search of better lives, and decades- or centuries-long droughts that brought entire civilizations to their knees.
Roman, Mayan, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Chinese and other cities and cultures prospered in warm periods and collapsed in cold and drought eras, climate historian Dennis Avery observes. This happened “over and over, in a centuries-long rhythm of affluence followed by long success, followed by long and utter failure.” Entire cities in the eastern Mediterranean were abandoned for centuries.
Storm activity rose by 85% in the second half of the 16th century, during the Maunder Sunspot Minimum, while the incidence of severe storms increased four-fold, writes historian Brian Fagan. British Navy logbooks show more than twice as many major land-falling Caribbean hurricanes during the cold decades of the 1700’s as during the warm years of 1950–2000.
Little ice ages and extended droughts brought crop failures and mass starvation, Avery notes. Rome shrank from a million inhabitants in its heyday to barely 30,000 a century later. The Mayan civilization plunged from perhaps 15 million to one million, as its cities were abandoned in a century-long drought.
Climate mood swings in the past 50 years have been far less dramatic than in previous millennia. Few people will have to flee the tiny portion of future climate change that might be attributable to humans.
The Climate Crisis Consortium ignores these eons, millennia and centuries of natural climate change. It wants us to believe Earth’s climate was stable and benign until the Industrial Age – and humans can now control climate and weather merely by controlling carbon dioxide levels. It’s all Hollywood nonsense.
Oceans have risen 400 feet since the last ice age glaciers melted. Pacific islands rose with them, as corals expanded their habitats with every new inch of sea water. Seas are now rising at seven inches per century – and EPA’s anti-coal Clean Power Plan would prevent barely 0.01 inches of rise over the next 100 years.
Greenland’s icecap is shrinking because of subterranean magmatic activity – not global warming. Arctic regions have long experienced warming and cooling cycles, as recorded by Francis McClintock and other whalers and explorers, dating back some 300 years. Polar bear populations are at an all-time high: 25,000.
Antarctic ice masses continue to grow, and the continent’s average annual temperature of minus-55 F means it would have to warm by 88 degrees year-round for that ice to melt. Even Al Gore in his wildest rants doesn’t say that is likely. So his beachfront home is safe from the 20-foot sea rise he has predicted.
Meteorologist Anthony Watts concludes that the only reliable long-term surface record comes from 400 official US rural thermometer stations that were never corrupted by location changes, airport heat or urban growth. Those stations show no significant warming for the past 80 years. The “record warming” we keep hearing about comes from data that have been “adjusted” or “homogenized” (ie, manipulated) upward to conform to computer model projections, IPCC proclamations and White House press releases.
Other studies have concluded there has been no increase in the severity or frequency of thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes or winter blizzards for decades. Indeed, no Category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States since October 2005 – a record lull that exceeds any hurricane hiatus since at least 1900.
Malaria was common in the USA, Europe and even Siberia until the 1950s, when window screens, DDT and better medical practices wiped it out. It has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. Its continued prevalence is due to incompetent health ministries that refuse to learn from past successes.
The notion that a warmer world with more atmospheric CO2 will bring crop failures and famines is sheer delusion. They are already “greening” the planet and making crops, forests and grasslands grow faster and better. New hybrid and biotech seeds, combined with modern fertilizers and farming practices, are yielding bigger harvests, even during droughts, as India is proving right now.
There is no manmade climate crisis. Solar, galactic and oceanic cycles rule – not carbon dioxide. The biggest threat to agriculture and humans would come from another little ice age, not moderate warming.
In reality, the enormous amounts of energy packed into coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear fuels create the wealth, and power the wondrous technologies, that give us the greatest advantages mankind has ever enjoyed – to survive, adapt to and deal with climate changes and weather events.
The worst thing we could do is lock up that reliable, affordable, compact energy – and switch to expensive, heavily subsidized, wildly unpredictable wind and solar energy … and to biofuels that require millions of acres of land and billions of gallons of precious water.
Those who control energy control lives, livelihoods and living standards. Allowing climate alarmists and anti-energy zealots to dictate what energy sources we can use, and how much each of us is “permitted” to have, would put all of us at the mercy of their unaccountable whims, ideologies and fraudulent science.
Their callous policies are already killing millions of people every year in impoverished nations, by depriving them of the energy and technologies that we take for granted. Shouldn’t we be helping the world’s poor take their rightful places among the healthy and prosperous? Do we want to be next?
The only “evidence” the alarmists have for a looming climate cataclysm are Al Gore movies, Mike Mann hockey sticks, garbage in-garbage out computer “scenarios” that bear no resemblance to Real World events, and more spin and scare stories from White House novelist Ben Rhodes.
We need a president who will send the Paris climate treaty to the US Senate, where it can be properly vetted and rejected … overturn EPA and other regulations that are based on manipulated data and falsified pseudo-science … and lead the world back from the precipice of climate lunacy.
Medicaid expansion is an expensive endeavor that many critics believe does not provide better or more affordable health care. Many of the expansion plans that states are now considering use federal dollars to expand their Medicaid programs to a larger portion of their state, creating new costs the federal government may not always be able to cover and leaving state taxpayers on the hook for the new liabilities.
Oklahoma legislators are now considering a Medicaid expansion proposal that has been pitched by its backers as an alternative to a full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The legislation, called the Medicaid Rebalancing Act, is similar to the expansion undertaken in Arkansas. It would shift about 175,000 pregnant women and children off of Medicaid and into private health insurance plans, which would be purchased with subsidies through the federal marketplace.
About 175,000 Oklahomans without health insurance would fill the vacated Medicaid spots through the Insure Oklahoma program, which requires co-pays and deductibles. This expansion could cost as much as $100 million, and it would be funded by a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax increase, which would make Oklahoma’s cigarette excise tax the highest in the region, raising the average cost of a pack of cigarettes to $7.44, according to an estimate by the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Emulating Arkansas’ model is problematic for several reasons. First, despite various private-market characteristics of the program, it still represents an expansion of a failed Medicaid system. The federal government would dictate multiple aspects of insurance plans, effectively reducing many of the benefits linked to real market competition. It’s true many of these programs attempt to include some limited free-market reforms, such as copays and employment requirements, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has largely rejected similar proposals.
A second significant problem is related to funding. Medicaid is one of the fastest-growing liabilities in state and federal budgets. Under the ACA, the federal government promises it will provide 90 percent of Medicaid expansion costs, but since the ACA was implemented and Medicaid expanded, spending on Medicaid has exploded to unsustainable heights.
Jonathan Small and Jonathan Ingram recently examined the question of whether the state can withstand any form of Medicaid expansion in an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs study. They found states will inevitably find the situation impossible to maintain without spending cuts, incurring massive debt, or tax hikes. Small and Ingram say Oklahoma’s share of Medicaid costs already swelled to $2.1 billion by the end of 2015, a 553 percent increase over the state’s share in 1995. Further spending increases are sure to push the state’s budget well beyond its limits.
The proposed $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax increase would also have many negative consequences. Tobacco taxes are an unreliable and have been proven to be a shrinking tax revenue stream. Using them to pay for a Medicaid program that is increasing in costs will likely create budget problems in the future. According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, state revenue from tobacco product sales taxes decreased in 2013 by 0.9 percent, to $17 billion. In 2012, revenue dropped by 0.5 percent. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation found tobacco tax collections failed to meet initial revenue targets in 72 out of 101 recent tax increases.
After Indiana and Pennsylvania moved to expand their Medicaid programs under the false promise of offering a “free-market alternative” to “Obamacare,” some Republican governors have started to reconsider their opposition to Medicaid expansion. But the so-called “private option” plans are merely machinations concocted by Medicaid expansion supporters to give conservative legislators political cover for expansion. This is done so that politicians on both sides of the aisle can grab what they incorrectly claim is “free money” from the federal government.
The Medicaid Rebalancing Act faces several hurdles, including federal approval for the expansion and a three-fourths vote for the tobacco tax increase, but it is important to recognize the real problems expansion create. Medicaid expansion should be opposed whenever it is considered—and under any form.
So where does Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton stand on Common Core? The answer is she’s squarely on the side of national standards and assessments, because she played a key role, along with other insiders, in getting this statist scheme rolling a quarter-century ago.
That is not to say she can’t take a few shots at pro-Common-Core educrats to please parents thoroughly fed up with the math and English prescriptions being imposed on their schools.
Meeting with Newsday’s editorial board on April 11, Clinton may have impressed some dissenters by slamming New York state’s rollout of Common Core directives as “disastrous.” Although she didn’t name names, her criticism was applicable to President Barack Obama’s new secretary of education, John King, who as state commissioner of education led New York’s hurried debut of Common Core.
King’s imperious leadership provoked so much ire that one of New York’s U.S. senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, wound up voting against his confirmation as U.S. education secretary. King’s tenure in New York, Gillibrand said, “was very adversarial, leaving families, students, and teachers without a voice on important issues.” If Newsday’s editors had wanted to put their guest on the spot, they could have asked Clinton how she would have voted if she were still serving in the Senate.
To their credit, the editors did elicit from Clinton a declaration that she has “always supported national standards.” That is the essence of Common Core, by whatever name: one-size-fits-all, government-imposed uniformity, or education redefined to meet national goals. Clinton believes any problems lie merely in the process of implementation, the “rollout.” The substance is just right.
Even before her husband’s election as president in 1992, Clinton worked closely on education reform geared to national workforce development in association with Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Tucker continues to be a prime mover with Common Core to this day.
In 1990, Clinton, an NCEE trustee, collaborated with industrial consultant Ira Magaziner to promote recommendations made by the U.S. Labor Department’s Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which issued a series of reports breaking down in minute detail every work-related, certifiable skill schools should teach all students. Later, the duo would team up again to devise what became Clinton’s failed national health care proposal.
In March 1992, Clinton and Magaziner argued in the education journal Educational Leadership that it was imperative for the United States to have a single system of performance-based standards that virtually all students would have to meet at age 16.
Without a “Certificate of Initial Mastery,” they argued, students should not be allowed to go on to work, college, or technical training. Dropouts would be shunted off to youth centers, which they termed “an essential component of the whole strategy for national human resource development.”
Forced early choice between work and college draws from the German model. The statist plotting of a new economic man is nothing if not Soviet.
When Bill Clinton was elected president in November 1992, Marc Tucker could not contain his ebullience. In an 18-page “Dear Hillary” letter, Tucker foresaw with the Clintons’ ascension a chance to create “a seamless web of opportunities, to develop one’s skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone.”
This statist’s dream world would consist of “a national system … in which curriculum, pedagogy, examinations, and teacher education and licensure systems are all linked to the national standards.” In other words, Common Core to the core.
Under Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Goals 2000 Act and the School-to-Work Act made a significant move toward establishing this system. When grassroots opposition slowed its advance, the collaborators did not despair. Their big-business allies organized as Achieve, Inc. and were ready to advance the agenda via Common Core when the Obama administration came to town. President George W. Bush had helped the cause by instituting federally mandated testing under No Child Left Behind.
Hillary’s recent pandering to New York parents who are opting out of Common Core testing in droves caused New York magazine to fret in its April 12 edition that she and Bill are deserting school reform. Given her long and extensive work for nationalization of education, it is extremely unlikely she is abandoning the agenda. Whether such a totalitarian scheme ever deserved to be called “reform” is another question.
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the efforts to ban gasoline and diesel vehicles in the state of Hawaii and more.
Dr. Akina says it is important to allow market forces determine which energy sources should be used. He says government action only serves to disrupt the free market system. He also discusses moves to ban GMO crops in the state and the need to repeal the Jones Act.
Whether it’s gun control, health care reform, climate change, or a host of other issues, President Barack Obama does not follow the law if it conflicts with his policy preferences. While Obama is not unique in this regard, he has taken ignoring the oath U.S. presidents take to uphold and faithfully execute the Constitution and the laws of the United States to a whole new level.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court set aside the Obama administration’s far-reaching Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations targeting mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants.
When EPA initially drafted the rule early in the Obama’s first term, it considered mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants as a “proxy” for limiting carbon dioxide. After it became clear Congress would not pass cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions, the White House decided to act administratively to limit greenhouse gases through the backdoor.
The Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. EPA the agency should have taken into account the cost to utilities, consumers, and others before deciding to implement the regulation. EPA’s failure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis violated the Clean Air Act, the court ruled.
Writing for the majority, the late Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars of economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”
Essentially giving the Court what amounts to the middle finger, in December 2015 the EPA decided to enforce the rule despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. It made this decision after a perfunctory review was released stating the benefits of the rule exceed the costs, a conclusion it came to by narrowly defining what counts as “costs” — ignoring the loss of human life, job losses, and lost income its own calculations indicate would occur.
More recently, contrary to the law, the U.S. State Department announced it had delivered $500 million to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF), a program intended to bribe the leaders of developing countries not to use fossil fuels.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were outraged by this announcement, since Congress had not approved funding for GCF.
Heather Higginbottom, deputy secretary of state for management and resources, said under questioning during a committee hearing that the GCF funds were diverted from the department’s Economic Support Fund. “Did Congress authorize the Green Climate Fund? No… We’ve reviewed the authority and the process under which we can do it, and our lawyers and we have determined that we have the ability to do it,” said Higginbottom.
There’s just one little problem: Congress alone is constitutionally delegated the power of the purse, not State Department lawyers or the president.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) called the GCF funding a “blatant misuse of taxpayers’ dollars” and alleged the Obama administration violated the 1982 Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits the use of funds for programs not authorized by Congress.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), also outraged by the State Department’s action, told Fox News, “Lawyers cannot replace the constitutional requirement that only Congress can appropriate money.”
In late April 2016, 27 Senate Republicans — citing a 1994 law that prohibits the United States from providing funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes as a member country a nation not recognized as a sovereign state by the United States — demanded the Obama administration cut off all funding for the GCF and the millions in annual funding given to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Senate Republicans argue because Palestine, which is not recognized as a sovereign country by the United States or the United Nations, recently joined the UNFCCC, the United States must stop funding the GCF.
In the letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Barrasso, who led the lawmakers to write the letter, said, “The administration needs to obey the law, and we’re going to do everything we can to enforce it.”
Citing the law, Obama cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 after it admitted Palestine as a member.
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, told the Hill the argument made in the Republican Senators’ letter puts the Obama administration in a difficult situation.
“The president is committed to climate change, and the president is also opposed to Palestinian unilateral statehood efforts at the UN, and the U.S. clearly does not regard Palestine as a state, per its official stated foreign policy,” said Kontorovich to the Hill. “It would be a step beyond anything that’s been done before for the administration to ignore this provision, because it’s the power of the purse.”
It’s time for Obama to do some soul searching and ask not what he can do in pursuit of his climate obsession, but rather what he should do under the existing laws he swore to uphold. If he’s honest about this, he will stop funding the UN’s climate boondoggle and rescind blatantly illegal regulations he has imposed on the power industry.
I’m not holding my breath.
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.
A Real Bet for the Tough Guy in a Bow Tie
Joe Bastardi, Patriot Post
Heartland Institute friend Joe Bastardi, a professional meteorologist and weather forecaster, is throwing down the gauntlet and challenging Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” to a wager on global warming. Nye has recently proposed similar bets to prominent climate change skeptics. Bastardi is now betting that 2017, based on sun and ocean cycles, will be cooler than 2016. UPDATE: Bill Nye has accepted the challenge. READ MORE
ELPC Left Exposed: Chicago’s Partisan Front Group for a Radical Environmental Agenda
Ron Arnold, Somewhat Reasonable
The Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest (ELPC), a left-leaning lobbying and litigating organization, fêted the regulatory victories of colleagues in the Obama administration with its “2016 Dinner and Celebration” at the Chicago Hilton on April 29, 2016. The group hosted two influential Democrat headliners, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). After the speakers left the dais and the dinner party had adjourned for chit-chat around the open bar, the celebration’s point had become crystal clear: “Regulatory statutes are the cornerstone of the progressive agenda.” READ MORE
Video: Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment – Ryan Yonk
What if what we think we know about ecology and environmental policy is wrong? What if environmental laws actually make things worse? What if the very idea of nature has been hijacked by politics? Ryan Yonk answered those questions, and more, at a Heartland Institute presentation of his book Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment. It’s long past time to rethink environmental objectives, align incentives with goals, and affirm the notion that human beings are an integral part of the natural order. If you missed the event, you can watch the presentation in full at Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE
Featured Podcast: Lennie Jarratt and Tim Benson: Strike Vouchers and SOS Accounts
As threats circulate about another possible Chicago Teachers Union strike, Lennie Jarratt, project manager for education at The Heartland Institute, and Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson responded with a Policy Brief proposing an innovative solution to keep students in a safe learning environment. Jarratt and Benson join the Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss “strike vouchers,” which would provide displaced students with funds to attend private schools or other learning institutions while the government’s teachers refuse to return to the classroom. LISTEN TO MORE
Join us and fellow lovers of liberty for this special series of Heartland Movie Nights, in which we’ll show each part of the trilogy on three Wednesdays in a row – May 18, May 25, and June 1. Based upon the enormously influential 1957 novel by Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 follows the struggles of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress trying to maintain her integrity and keep her family’s railroad alive in the midst of a rapidly decaying world. Doors to Heartland’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center open at 5:30 p.m. Film starts at 6:00 p.m.. Group discussion follows. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE
Virgin Islands AG Expanding Climate Witch Hunt
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands is targeting dozens of think tanks, businesses and consumer groups, and individual researchers in his widening probe of organizations that have written skeptically about purported human-caused climate change and policies proposed and implemented to fight it. His efforts are nothing less than a witch hunt – an assault on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech in an effort to silence political opponents. READ MORE
The Holy Grail of Health Insurance Alternatives
Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report
As health insurance costs continue to increase, a growing number of people are turning to a cost-effective alternative. Carved into Obamacare’s individual mandate is an exception for members of health care sharing ministries (HCSMs). While HCSMs operate similarly to insurers, they cost much less, accommodate members’ objections to Obamacare, and reduce health care inflation by placing patients directly in charge of their health care costs. READ MORE
Oh, the Places ESAs Can Go
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Technology seemingly advances by the day. When this technological innovation is used to enhance school choice options, the possibilities are endless. A recent study by Jonathan Butcher explores the potential of combining education savings accounts with mobile payment technologies. Parents could pay for individual lessons from multiple small businesses and tutors with a simple click of a button. READ MORE
Bonus Podcast: James Wanliss: Climate Models Still Failing to Project Temperatures Accurately
Every few months, we hear about the latest projections from people like Al Gore and Paul Ehrlich saying the global warming tipping point is only a few years away. And when these dates come and go, the alarmists just point to a new date a few years further down the line. James Wanliss, senior fellow with The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about how and why we still can not trust climate models. READ MORE
Don’t Let the FDA Kill Vaping
Matthew Glans, Real Clear Policy
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new regulations placing electronic cigarettes under an avalanche of new rules requiring they be approved as a new type of tobacco product. These new regulations will force the vast majority of these products to go through a lengthy and expensive approval process. The hurdles will likely stop most of these innovative products from ever making it back onto store shelves. READ MORE
Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies!
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE
Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain has over his decades in government built a reputation based largely on a few key tenets. As a genuine Vietnam War hero, and as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, he is one of the lead defenders and proponents of all things military. He relentlessly champions “good government” – i.e. spending government money more wisely and well. And he has engaged in a relentless pursuit of “campaign finance reform” so as to allegedly remove the undue influence of political donors on policy decisions.
What the Senator is currently doing calls all of these reputation-al tenets into serious question.
McCain, McCarthy Team Up to Ban Russian Rocket Engines: “Two Republican powerhouses (Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain [Ariz.] and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy [Calif.]) teamed up Wednesday to introduce a bill that would stop U.S. military reliance on Russian-made rocket engines (RD-180) for its national security space launches.”
Except you can’t actually end our reliance on Russian rockets – unless you have a viable alternative ready to go. The United States does not. As McCain’s Senate colleague Richard Shelby (R-AL) points out: “Given the current volatility of our relationship with Russia, our nation needs to develop a reliable, American alternative to the RD-180 as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that may not be for another four to five years at best.”
How important to what we do is the RD-180? “Today, approximately two-thirds of our military, intelligence community, scientific and weather satellites are launched into orbit on the Atlas 5, which uses the Russian RD-180 rocket engine.”
So Senator McCain wanting to immediately ban this vital rocket component is terrible for the military. And it isn’t just me saying it – again, Senator Shelby: “(R)ecklessly restricting the use of the RD-180 in the near-term will undermine both national security and the prospects for real competition in the military launch business.”
What does Senator McCain propose we purchase instead? “Sen. McCain pushed these restrictions in close coordination with SpaceX, which stands much to gain by eliminating competition. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was recently certified for some of these launches by the Air Force, albeit under intense political pressure from the Obama administration….SpaceX has…suffered numerous delays and anomalies. Shortly after the Air Force’s certification of the Falcon 9, a catastrophic failure in June led to the complete loss of both the vehicle and all of its taxpayer-funded cargo, thus grounding the vehicle. The company was already over two years late developing the Falcon 9 and now has a substantial backlog of its current launch schedule, which raises the question of what the launch priorities will be if it does resume flights.”
SpaceX doesn’t sound anywhere near ready for prime time. In fact, it’s actually worse than that: “SpaceX has yet to undertake any form of national security launch. Yet without changes to the restrictions pushed by Senator McCain, virtually all of America’s military space missions will depend on SpaceX’s grounded rocket and its problematic launch history.”
Why on Earth (and beyond) is Senator McCain joining with the Obama Administration in pushing completely inadequate SpaceX as the next thing – when it clearly yet isn’t?
John McCain Bought and Paid For by Elon Musk: “Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and businessman Elon Musk, creator of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and SolarCity, have enjoyed a long and close business and political relationship that have helped support the senator while enriching Musk at taxpayer expense. Musk and his companies have support McCain and his McCain Institute while the senator has consistently supported and advanced the legislative interests of Musk’s companies in the Senate.”
So Senator McCain is pushing an amendment that is terrible for the military and our national security. That will almost certainly cost us untold additional billions of dollars in failed launches and lost materials – because of unready rockets. All to reward with even more government coin – a man who has given McCain lots and LOTS of political coin.
All of which contradicts every tenet for which Senator McCain claims to stand. The biggest opponent of McCain’s amendment – should be McCain.
Here’s hoping everyone else in Congress will do the wise, prudent and fact-based thing – and oppose what McCain is proposing.
A study by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) finds little evidence purported human-caused climate change is increasing the number or intensity of droughts or heatwaves in the United Kingdom or worldwide.
Citing research in Nature Scientific Data from scientists at the University of California, the GWPF study notes, if anything, there has been a slowly declining trend in drought since 1982. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found it almost impossible to attribute changes in drought since the mid-twentieth century to anthropogenic warming.
Concerning heatwaves and climate-related deaths, IPCC concluded the number of heat-related deaths has likely increased due to climate change; the GWPF study finds that conclusion to be a “case of the IPCC inventing conclusions rather than taking them from the peer reviewed literature” that finds most people can adapt to modest changes in temperature with no ill effects. One study shows the number of cold-related deaths was 18 times higher than deaths related to heat, meaning a modest warming could result in fewer temperature-related deaths overall.
Finally, the GWPF study finds the notion that manmade climate change will cause an increase in global conflicts is based on extremely flimsy evidence. The Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted, “‘conflict researchers’ find it hard to understand how such bold claims [linking climate change to global conflicts] can be made on the basis of such thin evidence, perhaps not realizing that this is normal in climate-related fields,” with one conflict researcher calling the link between manmade warming and increasing conflicts a “myth,” noting, “History shows that ‘warm’ periods are more peaceful than ‘cold’ ones. In the modern era, the evolution of the climate is not an essential factor to explain collective violence. Nothing indicates that ‘waterwars’ or floods of ‘climate refugees’ are on the horizon.”
More good news comes from another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which finds climate change will not harm plankton, an important finding since plankton are the foundation for the ocean food chain.
Using a computer model of global ocean circulation to simulate how plankton follow the world’s ocean currents and the temperatures they are subjected to, the study found since plankton travel around the world on ocean currents, they have evolved to survive a wide range of conditions, enduring far more rapid and significantly larger temperature changes than those predicted by even the most dramatic models of global warming.
The study’s lead author, Martina Doblin, Ph.D. a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, said in a press statement, “[D]rifting plankton, that are invisible to the naked eye, are responsible for half the Earth’s oxygen and for global fisheries yields, and are therefore important in providing other essential ecosystem services. Previous exposure to fluctuating temperature can influence how planktonic populations fare under future temperature changes. Our results suggest that the effects of climate change on ocean plankton will need to be re-evaluated to take this into account.”
Why does the company that by far collects the most private information that the FCC claims it wants to protect, and that also has the worst consumer privacy protection record with the FTC, (Google), get 99% exempted from the telecom and cable privacy protections expected of telephone, broadband, cable and satellite providers?
Is it the same reason, that the edge platforms with much more gatekeeper power and private data collection opportunity than ISPs somehow warrant no FCC privacy regulation? (See info-graphic here; explanation here.)
How can the U.S. credibly demand a data safe harbor in the EU on the basis of promises that the U.S. has vigilant, robust and comprehensive privacy enforcement in the U.S., when the worst privacy offender in both Europe and the U.S., Google, de facto enjoys special lenient privacy treatment from both the current FTC and the current FCC?
Those are good questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask FCC and FTC leadership this week at its privacy oversight hearing, which in part is examining why the FCC and FTC appear more interested in protecting Google and other Big Internet companies from privacy regulation, than in protecting consumers’ expected communications and viewing habits privacy.
What are the facts?
Google collects and stores vastly more private information than any other entity – see the evidence here. Google also has the worst privacy record of any major American company – see the evidence here. Google’s dominant mobile operating system, Android, also has the worst data protection record of any major American company – see evidence here. To understand why Google is a uniquely problematic privacy problem, see the detailed analysis and evidence here.
Google collects vastly more private information than any ISP: IP addresses via Search, Analytics, Cookies, & Chrome; Email addresses via Gmail scanning & Postini filters; WiFi, SSID & MAC addresses via WiFi war-driving; Phone/mobile #s via Play, search, Android, Voice, Talk; Voiceprint recognition: via Hangouts, Translate, YouTube; Face-print recognition via Google+, Photos, YouTube; 103 Languages identified via Translate, Voice, Video; Home info: via Maps, Earth, StreetView, Android, Play; personal info via Account, apps, product, service registrations; Social Security, passport &license #s via Desktop Search; Credit card & bank info: Checkout, Shopping, & Wallet; Health identifiers by Search, Google+, Gmail, News, Books; and Click-print IDs via analysis of multiple web histories.
Where is the special treatment of Google?
Concerning the FCC’s Title II Section 222 privacy rules that apply to telecommunications, a week before the FCC voted on the Open Internet order, Google submitted an ex parte recommendation to the FCC, that the FCC adopted, that said both the FCC and the Verizon v. FCC court were wrong in their understanding of telecommunications. This last minute legal interpretation whipsaw, meant Google politically exempted itself not only from Title II Section 222 privacy rules, but also exempted itself from CALEA responsibilities to cooperate with law enforcement investigations.
Concerning the privacy rules for the AllVid set-top box proceeding, Google’s commentsclaimed special treatment in so far as they urge the FCC to not apply cable and satellite viewing-habit privacy regulations to over the top video like Google. Effectively Google is rejecting the overwhelming bipartisan votes in 1992 and again in 2004 for ensuring that consumers’ video viewing habits were private not public information.
Google’s AllVid comments to the FCC also glistened and wafted in “Goobris,” (defined as hubris to the Google power), in telling the FCC that it did not need to try and regulate Google because “the robust privacy and data security protections that already apply at the federal and state levels will continue to protect consumers.”
Some context is essential to grasp the full extent of Goobris here.
Concerning State law enforcement, let’s not forget that for over a year during 2015 and 2016, Google secured a Federal Court injunction that effectively prevented any state law enforcement authority from even investigating an alleged Google violation of any state consumer protection law, including state privacy laws. For those shaking their head in disbelief how such a perverse outcome could or did happen, here is the documentation and explanation of this dark period in state law enforcement vis-á-vis Google.
Concerning FTC law enforcement vis-á-vis Google, let’s not forget that since the FTC abruptly and suspiciously dropped all FTC antitrust charges against Google in January 2013, including its Android investigation without a peep, the FTC has not enforced privacy law against Google.
Making matters worse, since then, the FTC has ignored repeated charges and evidence that Google has further violated its FTC-Google-Buzz privacy order.
A December 2015 EFF petition and complaint to the FTC charged that Google violated its promise to protect students’ privacy in publicly signing the Student Privacy Pledge. To date the FTC has done nothing.
It gets worse.
The FTC has known of Google Apps for Education serious privacy problems for almost two years with no action.
In March 2014, Education Week reported that Google was exposed in a civil suit deposition to have secretly read all student-Gmail before it was received without any notice or “informed consent,” for the commercial purpose of creating a targeted advertising profile on the student for the future. In an April 2014 mea culpa blog post, Google effectively had to admit that for three years until April 29th 2014, Google secretly had been illegally collecting private student data for advertising purposes in violation of their public privacy representations and FERPA. The analysis here by world-leading privacy advocate Simon Davies explains why this three-years-late, Google privacy invasion disclosure affecting minors is especially serious, inadequate and misleading.
In short, Congressional overseers should question how the FTC and FCC can defend the least privacy regulation/enforcement of the worst consumer privacy violator?
And also ask why consumers’ privacy interests overall, have apparently been subordinated to Google’s corporate interests?
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.
A couple power points in the internet ecosystem were on display this week.
On Monday, a Gizmoda report charged that Facebook employees were biasing the “trending” bar by avoiding stories popular among conservatives, and even outright blocking conservative news outlets. Facebook responded in a statement that did not completely reject the report, “There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or on news outlet over another.” In not providing an outright rejection Facebook makes clear what we likely know about this accusation anyway, that something was awry likely because of people.
According to reports, at Facebook people play a role in choosing the words, people pay a role in what news sites and publications are searched, and even whether some news stories were injected in the list without actually “trending.” People being involved is not shocking. It is a good idea to have people involved so that algorithms do not return silly or unwanted results. No one is really interested in the consistently most searched item on the web, pornography, “trending” every day.
So were conservatives being left out? Were people biasing the results? Did Facebook do something, or did their independent contractors act outside of corporate policy? Honestly who cares? Market competition could arise to Facebook if in fact it were applying any sort of bias as part of actual operations. If this practice was disclosed then what difference does it make? If not, there is a problem. But Facebook has made the alleged bias, however it came to be, a problem given the company’s loud argument that strict net neutrality should be the standard for service providers while not including themselves in the new sticky web of government control. Taken together this is exactly the sort of hypocritical, inauthentic talk and action that voters are rejecting in droves this election.
Also this week, Google announced that they will ban advertisements from payday lenders. In this case that information was announced very publicly, including providing the reason that Google does not like that the pay day lenders charge high interest rates. Who knows who Google won’t like next.
In both cases it’s fair enough – their website, their rules, their power. And that is the important point to take from this week’s news.
These stories demonstrate that there is “power” in various parts of the Internet ecosystem. Market power is not a bad thing and consumers wield it as well. Contrary to the FCC’s bias as expressed in the current privacy rule-making, it is not the service providers alone who might have some ability to effect a user’s experience, and neither are the consumers powerless . This proven reality exposes that the FCC’s proposed privacy rules will do nothing to increase consumer protection, but instead will burden only one part of the ecosystem with intrusive regulation even while backing away from the so called consumer protections in other areas. In short, the FCC is merely acting politically, and recklessly.
The power of various players in the internet ecosystem has been made clear this week, in neither case were service providers involved and yet end results were altered. If the FCC insists in playing in the privacy field despite plenty of other government oversight, then rather than creating fantastical windmills of unproven marketplace power for a quixotic FCC to tilt, it should be seeking to create clear rules that consistently protect consumer data end to end while promoting competition and innovation in the online marketplace.
In The Tank Podcast (ep38): Beacon Center, School Choice Yearbook, Renewable Mandates, and Captain America
John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #38 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 Beacon Center of Tennessee, The American Federation for Children, the Manhattan Institute, and the Reason Foundation.
Better Know a Think Tank
This week, Donny and John welcome to the podcast Justin Owen, President and CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Justin talks about the Beacon Center and state of Tennessee. Among the topics Justin discusses the Beacon Center’s fight against the Hall Tax. Tennessee is a state that does not collect an income tax, however, this distinction comes with an asterisk because of the Hall Tax – a tax on income from bonds and dividends. He also talks about Tennessee’s fight against the Medicaid expansion and for School Choice.
Featured Work of the Week
This week’s featured work of the week is from The American Federation for Children – a community of people promoting educational choice and innovation. The piece highlighted is titled “2015-16 School Choice Yearbook.” This “yearbook” gives an all-encompassing look at the growth of school choice programs across the country. The report shows the successes voucher programs, tax credit programs, education savings account programs and others have had in the past year. Also, the report gives a state-by-state breakdown of school choice programs as well as individual success stories. The report is a great one-stop-shop for school choice issues.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and John talk about a new Policy Brief by the Manhattan Institute titled “What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?” The Policy Brief discusses the effects renewable energy mandates have had on European Union countries and why states should take note. According to the Brief, between 2005 and 2014, the EU experienced a 63% increase in residential electricity rates. Also, the EU countries that have intervened the most saw the fastest increase in these rates.
They also talk about the new blockbuster Marvel movie, Captain America: Civil War. This movie has been a topic of political discussion because of its plot focusing on whether or not the team of Superheroes should be reined in and controlled by the United Nations. Captain America, #TeamCap, resists this oversight while Ironman, #TeamIronman, embraces the plan. While this resistance to supranational government oversight has got some on the left upset, others like writers from Reason, support Captain America. Which team do you side with?
- Show-Me Institute – Policy Forum: Tax Policy and State Growth (Tuesday, May 17) @ the Country Club of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri
- The Heartland Institute – Heartland’s First Movie Night: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (Wednesday, May 18)@ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
- America’s Future Foundation – America’s Future Foundation Annual Gala (Thurday, May 26) @ the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C.
The Michael Parry Mazur Memorial Library at the Heartland Institute celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. A wine and cheese reception and library tours were offered before the main program began and continued after the formal program ended.
About the Michael Parry Mazur Library
The Michael Parry Mazur Memorial Library, referred to as “The Library of Liberty,” holds nearly 10,000 books on education, environment, healthcare, and other topics. This collection will be of special interest to students and scholars studying economics, public policy, and political science, elected officials and members of their staffs, and concerned citizens. Eight colleges are located within a 20-minute drive of the Heartland Institute, and 20 more are within an hour’s drive. The library contains some out-of-print books and journals unlikely to be found in public or university libraries. Featured authors include William F. Buckley, Whittaker Chambers, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and Richard Weaver. A wish list includes the complete works of Hayek, James Buchanan, and George Orwell
Welcoming words from Jim Lakely, director of communications, pointed out the nature of the The Heartland Institute as a national nonprofit public policy research organization, tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Founded in Chicago in 1984, The Heartland Institute is devoted to discovering, developing, and promoting free-market solutions to social and economic problems. According to Lakely, everyone at Heartland had a hand in getting the library ready to operate as a functioning one.
Heartland President Joe Bast: Why Build a Library Devoted to Liberty?
It was fitting that Joe Bast, president and co-author of 12 books, spoke on this topic. 7,000 of the nearly 10,000 books in Heartland’s Michael Parry Mazur Library were owned by Joe Bast before he donated them. As a student in the 1970s and ‘80s, Joe said he would go without eating so he could buy bargain books in a used book store. With such affection and desire for books – for the truth of them – Joe never thought he would give his books away … until he did.
Mr. Bast assured attendees that when books are donated to The Heartland Institute they will be put on shelves so people have the use of them and they will not disappear. It is true that the Internet can be searched for information, but on-line information can be deleted and altered to serve a purpose other than the truth. Also, there is so much information on-line that it is difficult to locate the good stuff, in contrast to a library where the complete works of an author can be immediately viewed. Printed books, unlike an online entry, cannot be edited, and a library becomes a physical place where people can come together without fear. Mr. Bast said he hopes to see a steady stream of people in and out of the building to review the books on site, and take them home when the library is ready for lending sometime in the near future. So let your friends know about it!
Presentations at the Grand Opening
Hon. Thomas Hayes, conservative mayor of Arlington Heights – who participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Heartland’s Arlington Heights headquarters in August – was on hand to dedicate the library. He had kind word to say about The Heartland Institute, noting that Arlington Heights had many attractions, but it didn’t have a think tank within its borders until last year. Hayes went on to say that the concepts of liberty and freedom, which convey Heartland’s values, are very important to area residents. Lastly, Mayor Hayes thanked Heartland for its invitation, and wished The Heartland Institute many years of success.
Dr. John Mazur was on hand to talk about his family and the donation that put the name of his brother on the library. The youngest of four boys, Dr. Mazur brought smiles to the audience by noting he is a bee keeper with “800,000 residents in his back yard.”
Dr. Mazur described his brother Michael as a talented libertarian economist. Very bright and academically minded – having even studied Arabic which, was almost unheard of decades ago – Michael Parry Mazur graduated from Northwestern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Ph.D. in economics. He was a staff economist at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., serving under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Michael Parry Mazur passed away in 1987 from cancer at age 39. Before his death, Dr. Mazur said, his brother confessed that the sadist part of his life was not getting cancer, but failing to win his group in the Boston Marathon. Michael had run it several times, and was considered a shoo-in to win, but was unable to compete when he was struck with cancer.
Joseph Davis, an ardent reader and a professional librarian, helped prepare Heartland’s Michael Parry Mazur Library over the last two months. Davis stressed how old books can be just as important today as when they were published. Davis compared books to individuals, much like private actors competing in the free market. Accordingly, reading a book is like having a talk with the author. Books that span the ages produce good citizens, so that free men and women do not perish from the earth.
Diane Carol Bast, executive editor and finance manager at Heartland, is the wife of Joe Bast and was instrumental in organizing the library. She recounted how she never helped Joe collect and organize his library at home because that was his space. So it was ironic she had such a hand in building this one – including an online database from which you can browse every book in the library. There are 16 categories organized by topic, including a Socialism and Soviet Studies section. It is not organized the way a public library is, but is laid out more like a research library. For instance, you’ll see Milton Friedman’s works in the economics section, but also separately in the education section.
The library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but it would be best to call ahead before arriving to make an appointment (312-377-4000). As noted above, the library does not yet lend books, but there is a wealth of material to explore and no admission fee. Further amenities include available study space, free wi-fi, and access to copiers and printers.
If you have books on economics, politics, public policy, philosophy, and other intellectual pursuits (including biographies of significant public figures), you can donate those books to the Michael Parry Mazur Library – even if you have notes written in the margins and sections highlighted or underlined. Duplicates of books already on the shelves are also accepted.
Watch below the video of the Grand Opening presentations, announcing the creation of the largest collection of books about free markets and liberty in the Midwest.
I’m not a lawyer, but I question the legal basis for the new methane rules. Methane is not a criteria pollutant under the clean air act, nor are the wells and pipelines traditional “major emitters,” so I’m not sure under what authority the administration can regulate methane emissions for new or modified wells or pipelines sited entirely on state or private lands. This is why no administration has ever tried to regulate methane emissions before in the more than 40 year history of the EPA.
Regardless of its authority to regulate methane it’s unnecessary, and in fact counterproductive, as a matter of policy, unless the true aim is not to protect human health but rather to further restrict fossil fuel use in the inane effort to control the climate. The U.S. natural gas industry is already the cleanest in the world. Even the EPA acknowledges natural sources, or other sources such as livestock or landfills account for the majority of methane emissions, not natural gas production or transport, so with this rule, the EPA is really majoring in minors. Despite a tremendous increase in natural gas production during since 1990 due to the fracking revolution, methane emissions have fallen 6 percent. That’s because natural gas is money so producers and pipeline operators already have the incentive to capture every bit of it they can and not lose it to leaks. As a result, less than 1 1/2 percent of all natural gas produced, is lost.
If these unnecessary rules are allowed to go forward and not struck down by the courts, the only result will be to inhibit future natural gas operations and to undermine incentives for existing well and pipeline operators to undertake modifications to make their wells more efficient, or cleaner because a such changes, will result in having to comply with the new rules.
The rules by increasing the regulatory costs on operations, will raise the price to explore, produce and deliver natural gas, increase the costs to consumers of electricity, reduce the nation’s energy security, and undermine an expanding bright spot in foreign trade while undermining our efforts to help Europe become free of Russia’s geopolitical machinations using natural gas as a bargaining chip.
Finally, if natural gas prices rise due to these rules, developing countries, rather than building Liquefied Natural Gas import terminals to access U.S. natural gas for electric power plants, will turn even more to cheap, abundant coal for their electric power needs — a result that should leave climate alarmists, even more alarmed since it will mean a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Nothing good comes from these new rules.
Heartland Daily Podcast – James Wanliss: Climate Models Still Failing to Project Temperatures Accurately
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, James Wanliss, professor of physics at Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC) and senior fellow with The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the climate change debate and how we still can not trust climate models.
Wanliss discusses how the extent to which computer models have failed to project accurately temperature and climate changes and why despite these failings numerous scientists, politicians and advocates still push the idea that the science is settled, humans are causing climate change — hint, its about power and money.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Certainty” as: “The quality or state of being certain especially on the basis of evidence.” As we know, evidence abounds that the world is inherently a very un-certain place.
Given all the naturally-occurring uncertainty that exists, the last thing we need is unnecessary, artificial uncertainty thrown on to the pile. Unfortunately, that is what our government incessantly insists on doing.
Which is a violation of its mission statement. Ensuring certainty is one of the main reasons our Founding Fathers set up our government the way they did. Laws are written by the Legislative Branch – by representatives elected by and directly accountable to us. And are, by design, systemically difficult to pass (the Senate as “cooling saucer”).
The Executive and Judicial Branches are only to execute and adjudicate laws written by the Legislative – they are not themselves to create law. Because Executive Branch bureaucrats are elected by – and thus accountable to – no one. And judges receive lifetime appointments – and are thus accountable only to the Grim Reaper. If bureaucrats or judges start writing law – it is unilateral tyranny, antithetical to our Constitutional system.
It is also the height of uncertainty. Artificial, government-created uncertainty.
If you own a business, or work for a business, or conduct business with business…if you in any way do any business – government-created uncertainty is likely the main bane of your existence. It is hard enough to get a business up and running and off the ground – let alone to then have it take flight. Government parachuting in to yank their rugs out from under you is, quite simply, devastating.
To wit: “In Immersion Corp. v. HTC Corp.,…a rogue trial court opinion broke from established Patent Office practice to deny priority where the ‘daughter’ application was filed on the exact date of the ‘parent’ patent grant.”
One need not get into the legal weeds here. Here we have a single “rogue” judge (that would be Delaware U.S. District Judge Richard Andrews) that “broke from established Patent Office practice.” THAT is the quintessential definition of government-created, artificial, unnecessary uncertainty.
Should His Rouge-ness’ unilateral fiat stand – the damage that will be done is enormous: “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says some 13,000 patents will be at risk of invalidity if its rule is upended. ‘That will surely come as a shock to the many inventors’ that relied on the PTO rules, the agency said.…”
That’s huge uncertainty – causing huge private sector harm. All the result of one unelected government official doing not his job – but someone else’s.
What the Patent Office said is vitally important. Inventors – and their investors – rely on these rules. They make multi-billion dollar decisions based on that certainty. And now one rogue judge – has eviscerated it.
For those of us who like new things – and the trillions-dollar economy based upon them – that’s really bad news. If people can’t protect what they invent or that in which they invest – they will stop inventing and investing.
And there goes everyone’s everything.
Unfortunately, far too often the right branch of government – does the wrong thing too. Congress is certainly capable of creating uncertainty where none need exist – with badly devised and crafted legislation. To wit:
‘Innovation Act’ Will Stifle Innovation: “For investors in technology start-ups, things are about to get much more complex and dangerous….(T)his bill actually will kill investment and innovation….The American patent, so indispensable to technology start-ups, is about to be rendered useless when faced with an infringer of disproportionate size….
The Innovation Act Would Hurt Inventors Like Me, And Thousands Of Others: “(T)he Innovation Act threatens American inventors, particularly individual inventors and those working at small businesses and startups….”
“Complex and dangerous” – certainly sounds uncertain to me.
More importantly, it sounds uncertain to inventors and investors – whom we all need to be inventing and investing.
So Congress should on the Innovation Act – do absolutely nothing. Let it lie and die – without a vote or any further consideration.
As is just about always the case, government doing nothing is the best and most certain thing it can do.
President Barack Obama is a Cronyism Machine. No Administration in our history has done more to punish its enemies and reward its friends. In fact, while engaging in rank identity politics – another Divider-Not-Uniter moment in seven-plus years full of them – the President his own self said exactly this: “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”
Cronyism candor from the Commander in Chief. And this promise – he has kept. On steroids.
But three more of the latest examples are some unequal-protection-before-the-law fiats from the President’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Except because they are fiats from three un-elected Democrat bureaucrats, it’s more like unequal-protection-before-the-Politburo.
Cronyism Part I: The FCC is about to legalize theft – not for everyone, of course, just for its Cronies. The Commission’s three Donkeys are on the verge of ramming through a mandate that opens tons of copyrighted content to Cronies – without the Cronies having to pay for the tons of copyrighted content.
That content – is television programming. Cable television providers spend a LOT of coin negotiating a LOT of deals with the people who make TV shows and movies. These are very intricate negotiations that include many vital agreements. Like the cable companies being legally obligated to protect the content. Like the cable companies agreeing to place the channels where on the dial the content creators want them. (For instance, ABC doesn’t want its Disney Channel right next door to the Spice Channel.)
The FCC is about to mandate that Crony companies (shocker: like Google) can now offer up these shows and movies – without having to pay for them. And without having to adhere to the carefully negotiated agreements – because they didn’t carefully negotiate them.
Amazingly, Google and their ilk won’t be on the hook should the copyrighted material they are reselling – again, without paying for it – be stolen. The cable companies – that they are in part fleecing – are. Encrypting content is an expensive, laborious process – think Google and their ilk will expend that coin and effort when they aren’t on the hook for the theft that will almost certainly ensue? Of course not. So a whole lot of copyrighted content will be walking right out the door. (China, Russia and others will be thrilled.)
Google and their ilk can reshuffle the channels any way they wish. Against the wishes of the content providers – who, again, express keen interest in channel placement by negotiating for it with the cable providers.
And now we get to the nitty gritty: Google and their ilk can run advertisements on this copyrighted content – again, for which they will not be paying. They will be profiting off of copyrighted content – for which they have not paid. Which is theft – made “legal” by Obama FCC fiat.
All of that’s fair, right?
Which brings us to Cronyism Part II – and it is related to Part I. Google and their ilk will be offering up copyrighted content for which they do not pay – and then collecting data out the wazoo on the people who watch it. And selling (for LOTS of money) that data to advertisers. (The copyrighted content creators don’t get any of that coin either.)
Meanwhile, the FCC is about to issue a mandate restricting cable companies’ use of the data they collect – on the copyrighted material for which they pay LOTS of money. But this mandate will leave completely alone Google and their ilk. They can without restriction sell the data they collect – again, on copyrighted content for which they do not pay.
All of that’s fair, right?
Which brings us to Cronyism Part III. Here’s some breaking news – people like free stuff. Some of the most obvious poll results in history bear this out.
“All adults were similar in their enthusiasm for free data:
- 84% were extremely/somewhat likely to try a new online service if it is a part of a free data offering.
- 93% were extremely/somewhat likely to stay with their current provider if it offered free data.
- 85% were extremely/somewhat likely to use more data if it didn’t count against their monthly data usage.
- 65% were extremely/somewhat likely to sign-up with a new wireless provider offering free data.”
“Free data” is your cell phone company letting you surf the Web and watch TV and videos – without paying to do so. See, the data is their stuff – so they can give it away if they wish. Catch the difference, FCC? Of course they don’t – the Commission is considering banning cell companies from giving their customers free data.
Meanwhile, the Commission has already banned cell companies from allowing customers to voluntarily reduce video quality – so as to reduce the amount of data used. But now Obama Crony Netflix is doing exactly the same thing. And Obama’s FCC couldn’t care less.
All of that’s fair, right?
“We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”
Obama promise made – Obama promise kept.
And all the Obama Cronies rejoice.
In November 2016, Colorado voters will decide on a new ballot measure, a state constitutional amendment that would create “ColoradoCare,” a new single-payer, government-run health care system in Colorado. Colorado would be the second state — Vermont was the first — to attempt the creation of a single-payer health care system. Single-payer systems face major obstacles that make implementation difficult, if not impossible.
ColoradoCare’s creators have greatly underestimated the costs of implementing and maintaining a single-payer health insurance system and the effects it would have on individual patients and the health care market as a whole. Under a single-payer health care system, the financing of health care services and health insurance coverage are governed by a single source: the government. Supporters of single-payer programs have long argued health care is a right belonging to all citizens and that a government-controlled system would successfully make health insurance available to everyone. The evidence shows these claims are not true. Coloradans should look to the experiences of nations that have implemented single-payer health care in the past. If they do, they’ll see the creation of a single-payer system often does not lead to better health care.
Funding has always been the central problem with any single-payer system. Even in Vermont, which has a very low population, the state funding required to pay for a single-payer program was virtually impossible to raise without serious and harmful spending cuts and tax increases. In a study commissioned by the Vermont General Assembly and conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, the authors found Vermont’s single-payer proposal would need an additional $1.6 billion in new revenues each year to support Green Mountain Care. In fiscal year 2012, Vermont collected only $2.7 billion in total tax revenues.
Altogether, ColoradoCare will increase the state income tax to 14.63 percent, the highest in the country. These new taxes would include a 6.67 percent tax on the total payroll of all employers and a 3.33 payroll tax on employees. These taxes would be exempt from Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights law, which requires voter approval for tax increases and a refund of tax revenues if a surplus is generated.
The new law would give the authority to increase taxes to ColoradoCare “members.” A member is defined as a person who is least 18 years of age and “whose residence must have been in Colorado for one continuous year.” This gives one group the ability to impose a tax increase on another, which is unfair tax policy.
Do Colorado residents really want to give the government the level of control over health care ColoradoCare prescribes? Linda Gorman of the Colorado-based Independence Institute argues ColoradoCare gives the state near-monopoly control over the health care system. Because the law makes it illegal for any provider to accept any payment from a state resident that is not the same as the payment allowed by ColoradoCare, it allows the program to control the cost of health care for everyone.
The amendment also raises privacy concerns. ColoradoCare would create and maintain a “central database of medical records for management and research purposes” and a medical records and billing system accessible to providers and beneficiaries. The program has no penalties if ColoradoCare fails to adequately protect personal data, and because ColoradoCare is classified as a “state health oversight agency,” it will be exempt from federal privacy requirements. Given the track record of health care expansion efforts in other states, it is fair to question why ColoradoCare is given carte blanche with patients’ private medical data.
Single-payer systems across the world have failed to provide needed care and have caused rationing and a deterioration of medical innovation. When government sets prices on health care products and services — limiting the profit incentive of providers — efficiency, quality, and innovation will always suffer. Instead of imposing a monolithic single-payer system on Coloradans, the government should pursue policies emphasizing consumer-driven health care, such as health savings accounts, which empower individuals by giving them more control over their hard-earned dollars.