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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Internet Power Point

May 14, 2016, 11:41 AM

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.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep38): Beacon Center, School Choice Yearbook, Renewable Mandates, and Captain America

May 13, 2016, 2:04 PM

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?


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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Library Devoted to Liberty Now a Reality at The Heartland Institute

May 13, 2016, 1:46 PM

A selection of books in the Libertarianism section of the Michael Parry Mazur Memorial Library at The Heartland Institute.

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.

Categories: On the Blog

New Methane Rules, Bad as Matter of Law? Maybe; Bad as a Matter of Policy? For Sure!

May 13, 2016, 12:19 PM

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.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – James Wanliss: Climate Models Still Failing to Project Temperatures Accurately

May 12, 2016, 4:34 PM

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.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Government Spontaneously, Dramatically Changing the Rules is Terrible for Business

May 12, 2016, 11:42 AM

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.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Oh Look – Three More Examples of Obama Administration Cronyism

May 11, 2016, 1:37 PM

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.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Single-Payer Health Care is Not Right for Colorado or Any State

May 11, 2016, 1:21 PM

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.

[Originally published at The Daily Sentinel]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Roger Beauchamp: Reforming Tax Code to Empower Employees’ Health Care Options

May 11, 2016, 12:36 PM


Should employees be allowed to pay for their health care with tax-excluded dollars? Dr. Roger Beauchamp, D.D.S., joined Michael Hamilton on the Health Care News Podcast to share his proposal for reforming the U.S. tax code to empower employees to spend their hard-earned wages on the health care solution of their choice.

Currently, people may deduct medical expenses in excess of (in most cases) 10 percent of their adjusted gross income. But this deduction recovers only a portion of their income tax, not money sent off to the IRS to pay for FICA or Medicare.

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

In Search of the Surest Common Core Exit Route

May 11, 2016, 11:41 AM

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has said flatly he would end Common Core, though he hasn’t yet said how.

The close-to-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has said she continues to be a fan of Common Core. And why wouldn’t she be, given that she is the grandmother of the national education standards movement that was born in the early 1990s?

Sponsors of this fall’s presidential debates ought to devote one debate entirely to education, with Common Core being the primary topic.
Trump should be pinned down on how he believes a president could quickly end a program that is not a freestanding federal enactment. Clinton should be made to walk Americans through her game plan for ensuring Common Core’s permanence using a similar strategy as the one utilized by the Bill Clinton administration through the School-to-Work Act of 1994. And by all means, the Libertarian Party candidate, who will be selected Memorial Day weekend, should be included as well and asked to explain how he or she plans to extract the federal government from education entirely, root and branch.

Millions of parents, students, and teachers have a stake in this issue. Many have been working hard in their states to alter or abolish the Common Core standards for math and English. On May 3, North Dakota became the latest to launch a statehouse-directed review and rewrite in response to public pressure.

The next president could make a difference with his or her appointment of a new secretary of education. President Barack Obama’s education chief for the first seven years, Arne Duncan, used Race to the Top bribes, selective regulatory enforcement, threats, and bluster to draw 45 states into the Common Core web—and mostly keep them there. His successor, John King, is no less fanatical about hawking nationalized standards.

How would a new education secretary under Trump or Clinton interpret the fine print of the mammoth Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which Obama signed December 10 as the successor to No Child Left Behind? As he was leaving office, Duncan basically gloated about his lawyers having snookered the Republican-led Congress into enshrining the Common Core agenda into federal law. One of the main congressional sponsors, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), argues instead ESSA is a triumph for local flexibility and has said he expects King to interpret it that way.

In an education debate, would Clinton argue for the feds using ESSA to make states toe the line on assessing all students, even on their dispositions, attitudes, and grit, and denying parents the right to refuse Common Core-linked testing? Would Trump say he would use his executive powers to impose a moratorium on all mandatory federal testing? Would the Libertarian candidate, which likely will be the former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, assert the real answer is to shut down the worthless U.S. Department of Education, which the Republicans once vowed to do?

As for Common Core, numerous states are gradually backing away from its strict requirements and dropping out of the federally financed testing consortia in search of more reasonable options. Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina were among the first, and battles now rage in such states as Massachusetts and Michigan.

Piecemeal dismantling of Common Core state by state is a long, slow slough. Writing in the January issue of School Reform News, Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, invoked the image of a house with an underwater mortgage. “The United States has invested so much in Common Core that it can’t easily get out,” said Wood. “The investments include very large amounts spent on textbooks, computers to support the Common Core tests, and teacher training.”

Sadly, Wood added, there is the harder-to-quantify harm being done to students subjected to a “discredited educational experiment.”

“Undoing some forms of bad policy can take years,” said Wood. “Build a road or a bridge in the wrong place and chances are it is a permanent mistake, but if the government builds the wrong curriculum, chances are it has robbed a generation.”

A presidential election is exciting because it inspires hope that big changes can be made for the better. Were a presidential debate to focus Americans’ attention on moving beyond Common Core in education, perhaps that could happen more quickly.

[Originally published at The Hill]

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Let FDA Kill Vaping

May 11, 2016, 11:34 AM

Legislators have long attempted to reduce the negative health impacts of smoking through taxes, bans, and regulations. Some have tried to extend these same policies to electronic cigarettes or “e-cigarettes,” even though they contain no tobacco and are substantially less harmful than traditional cigarettes. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled new regulations placing electronic cigarettes under an avalanche of new rules requiring that they be approved as a new type of tobacco product — effectively treating them like traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes have quickly become a popular tobacco-replacement product, with the total market expected to hit $50 billion by 2030. Evidence suggests that they are effective at helping smokers reduce their cigarette use or even quit altogether, which is why many experts — including, most recently, the Royal College of Physicians — argue that e-cigarette use will result in significant public health benefits, to say nothing of the economic advantages.

FDA’s deeming regulations extend the agency’s regulatory authority to include cigars and other tobacco-like products, in addition to e-cigarettes. The main issue posed by these regulations is the process these products will have to go through to receive FDA approval. Any new tobacco product that does not meet the standard of “substantial equivalence” to another product currently on the market is required to go through a lengthy and expensive process known as “premarket tobacco application” (PMTA).

The PMTA process is so arduous that only one product in the past six years has successfully made it over this large regulatory hurdle, according to the Tax Foundation. This is especially concerning for new vaping products such as e-cigarettes because few will be able to qualify as “substantially equivalent” to an existing tobacco product, meaning they will likely need to go through the PMTA process. PMTA is estimated to cost businesses $3 million to $20 million per application.

Linked to the approval issue is the problem of the predicate date, which is the grandfather date used by FDA as the starting point for tobacco products to receive enhanced review and regulation. The date used previously, February 15, 2007, was chosen for regulated products because it is the date the Tobacco Control Act was introduced. In effect, using this date for all tobacco and tobacco-like products will place nearly all vaping products, including e-cigarettes, under PMTA review. This could constrict or even eliminate the current market.

Protecting the vaping market from overregulation is important. According to many in the public health community, e-cigarettes are far safer than combustible cigarettes, and several studies show that they remain one of the most successful methods used by smokers to stop their consumption of tobacco. For instance, the American Association of Public Health Physicians concluded that e-cigarettes “could save the lives of 4 million of the 8 million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next 20 years.”

Many opponents of e-cigarette use say they act as a “gateway” product to cigarettes, especially for younger users. But the evidence suggests otherwise. According to Health Day, in 2013 researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center studied 1,300 college students with an average age of 19. Only 43 of the students told researchers their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette, and only one of those 43 later switched to traditional cigarettes. In a follow-up survey, most of the students were not using nicotine or tobacco at all.

Without changing the predicate date, most of these innovative products will never make their way to the marketplace, limiting the options of those who are looking for a less-harmful alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices have far fewer negative consequences than traditional tobacco products for both users and bystanders, and many smokers use e-cigarettes to stop smoking, thereby reducing the likelihood of suffering from serious tobacco-related illnesses such as lung cancer. Vaping is not the same as smoking tobacco products; they should not be treated in the same way.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

NAFTA and Perot’s Sucking Sound

May 11, 2016, 10:50 AM

For many people, Pittsburgh is defined by the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers, out of which is formed the Ohio River. Three Rivers. But, Pittsburgh was transformed from a disease-infested frontier town into a great city by a different kind of confluence: the combination of coal from West Virginia and iron from Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan. Out of these two natural resources was formed steel. From the mid 19th Century to the mid 20th Century, not only did Pittsburgh become the Steel City, but the surrounding region became the industrial heartland of our nation. During this period, we surpassed Europe in terms of economic development, and also in terms of power and influence in the world.

Eventually, the coal and the iron ore gave out or were made uneconomic by regulation. By the 1970s, the movie “Deer Hunter” spotlighted the tensions of that time in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. And, by the 1980s, Billy Joel, in his song “Allentown,” lamented the end of an era.

Come the 1990s, Ross Perot, a billionaire businessman who ran as an independent candidate for President, offered an explanation for the challenges faced by industry in America: the North American Free Trade Agreement. If the Congress ratified NAFTA, he said, there would be a big sucking sound, as industrial jobs would flow to Mexico. NAFTA was ratified, but there was no big sucking sound. Instead, the economy continued a long period of expansion. While the economy changed, and this change hurt many workers and businesses, the changes opened up new and better opportunities. While some people attempted to cling onto the old economy, most people took advantage of the new opportunities, and profited.

This year, another billionaire businessman is running for president, this time, as a candidate of one of the two major parties. And, he repeats the argument of Perot regarding international trade. Free trade, Donald Trump says, is destroying manufacturing in this country. He points to China and Japan, as well as to Mexico, apparently unaware that we don’t have free trade agreements with China or Japan, and that we have a surplus in manufactured goods within NAFTA.

But, these are not the 1990s. There is no bustling economy. People who lose their jobs and young people looking for their first job are having a very difficult time finding full-time work with benefits. Many of those who have jobs have not seen a pay increase in years. People are dropping out of the labor force, accepting part-time work supplemented by food stamps and other welfare benefits, postponing family formation, and committing suicide. These are deeply troubling times. Many people out there have never experienced a vibrant economy. If this is what capitalism is, many of them say, they would prefer socialism.

The fundamentals argue for a revival not only of the economy, but specifically of manufacturing. Advances in the production of energy, such as fracking, make oil and natural gas abundant and cheap. Analogous advances in iron mining means that iron fields once thought to be nearing exhaustion have been given new life. But, just as the potential of our people has been restrained by high taxes and excessive regulations, so too has the production of the enormous natural resources of our country.

Categories: On the Blog

Delaware Becomes First State since 2010 to Rescind an Article V Application

May 11, 2016, 9:42 AM

The Delaware General Assembly on May 3rd became the first state since 2010 to rescind an application for an Article V convention.

The state’s Senate approved House Concurrent Resolution 60 by a 16–4 vote, rescinding all previously enacted applications by the legislature. The state’s House of Representatives approved HCR 60 by a vote of 25–11 on April 19, before sending it to the Senate.

The rescission affects the state’s application for a convention limited to a balanced budget amendment, which was enacted in 1976. Delaware has long been a target of Article V opponents for rescission legislation because of the legislature’s liberal leanings. The next likely target for opponents to propose rescission legislation is in Maryland.

Delaware’s move to rescind its outstanding applications for an Article V convention was lauded by opponents on both the far-left and far-right. Claire Snyder-Hall, program director for Common Cause Delaware, said: “The General Assembly has made the right choice in rescinding Delaware’s call for an Article V constitutional convention. A convention could easily produce constitutional chaos, putting every American’s basic rights and civil liberties at risk.”

Kelly Holt, writer for The John Birch Society’s magazine The New American, stated: “In the minds of opponents however, the movement is revealed to be a false solution. Inherent in the process is the fact that the same congressional body that is currently ignoring its constitutional boundaries will likely continues ignoring the boundaries of future amendments. So, assuming an expensive, time-consuming, and flawed procedure is accomplished, we might be worse off than before—with the added risk that the current Constitution, as abused as it is, could be obliterated altogether.”

Delaware’s move to approve HCR 60 pales in comparison to the progress made in 2016 by supporters for a convention. West Virginia, on March 12, and Oklahoma, on April 26, became the two newest states to approve applications for an Article V convention for a balanced budget amendment.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force. Seven states have already enacted applications for the multiple-amendment application backed by the Convention of States Project. The application includes a balanced budget amendment, term limits on members of Congress, and reductions in federal regulations. Oklahoma became the seventh state to fully enact the application backed by Convention of States on April 26.  The BBATF and Convention of States Project have also enjoyed partial victories this year in states such as Arizona, Missouri, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Tennessee is the only other state to rescind an Article V application since 2010. However, Tennessee passed a new application in 2014.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt & Tim Benson: Strike Vouchers and SOS Accounts

May 10, 2016, 2:55 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Lennie Jarratt, Heartland Project Manager for Education, and Policy Analyst Tim Benson join host Donny Kendal to talk about a new Policy Brief titled “Saving Chicago Students: Strike Vouchers and SOS Accounts.”

In light of the new strike threat by the Chicago Teachers Union, Jarratt and Benson authored a Policy Brief proposing a new idea that would keep our students safe and in a learning environment. During a teachers strike, strike vouchers would provide a set amount of money per day, per student which they could use to gain access to private schools, YMCAs, or even museums. On day 10, the vouchers would then turn into a Student Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) account. They explain how this plan would not only provide educational opportunities to displaced students, but it may also serve to prevent teachers from striking in the first place.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Colorado Supreme Court Embraces the Rule of Law, not the Fear Mongering of the Anti-Fossil-Fuel Movement

May 10, 2016, 1:33 PM

On Monday, May 2 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on what the New York Times (NYT) called: “a lengthy battle for energy production.” The court’s unanimous decision to strike down two cities’ limits on fracking is a victory for oil-and-gas companies and a “disappointment” to anti-fossil-fuel activists. Several states, including Colorado’s neighbors, New Mexico and Texas, have faced similar anti-oil-and-gas initiatives that have also been shot down.

The Colorado Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as the lower court: the fracking bans put in place by Fort Collins and Longmont are “invalid and unenforceable” because state law trumps the local ordinances. A report from Colorado Public Radio states: “The ruling will have an impact on other Front Range communities—including Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder—that have approved restrictions on fracking. The court clearly said that these efforts are illegal.”

The consequences of the decision are “comparatively small,” according to NYT, as the land now opened up for exploration represents only a fraction of Colorado’s oil-and-gas development. “More significant, said experts on both sides of the conflict, is that the rulings shut down future efforts to stop fracking in local jurisdictions.” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that she fears the ruling will not end the divisive debate. “Instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues.”

The NYT points out: “Spurred by the rise of hydraulic fracturing, Colorado has become one of the nation’s largest producers of oil and gas. The state has more than 50,000 active oil and gas wells.”

According to a press release, the Colorado Petroleum Council “welcomed the decisions for upholding the state’s primacy in overseeing oil and natural gas permitting and curtailing ‘arbitrary bans’ on fracking that could cost local jobs, deprive state and local governments of tax revenue and limit access to energy resources.”

Upon hearing the news, I tweeted: “Great news! Colorado Supreme Court Strikes Down Local Fracking Bans.” Almost immediately, @AllNewSux responded: “@energyrabbit Hooray…now we can all drink poisoned water here in Colorado!”

What is @AllNewSux thinking? He is regurgitating outdated propaganda as study after study—though funders are disappointed with the results—determine, as did the three-year study by the University of Cincinnati released in February: “hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells … does not contaminate ground water.”

The University of Cincinnati study, reports the Free Press Standard: “aimed to measure methane and its sources in groundwater before, during and after the onset of fracking.” It concluded, “dissolved methane was detected in all sampled wells, however, no relationship was found between the methane concentration and proximity to natural gas wells.” The results of the study were released by Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, the lead researcher, during a February 4 meeting of the Carroll County Concerned Citizens in Carrollton, OH—part of a coalition of anti-fracking groups. Townsend-Small stated: “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.” Her revelations must have been a shock to the group whose pre-meeting promotion included this comment: “We saw the debate about fracking’s impact on groundwater methane in Pennsylvania and the results of failing to have predrilling or baseline data for comparisons. Dr. Townsend-Small’s study provides landowners with that baseline data and helps to differentiate shale sources from non-shale sources of methane.”

The Free Press Standard asked Townsend-Small about plans to “publicize the results.” She said there were “no plans to do so.” Why? “I am really sad to say this, but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping this data could lead to a reason to ban it.”

Just a few months earlier, October 2015, a Yale study, reported in Nature World News, came to the same conclusion: “Fracking does not contaminate drinking water.” The article, which ties in an earlier EPA report, states: “Yale researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing—also known as ‘fracking’—does not contaminate drinking water. The process of extracting natural gas from deep underground wells using water has been given a bad reputation when it comes to the impact it has on water resources but Yale researchers recently disproved this myth in a new study that confirms a previous report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted earlier this year.”

Then there is the 2014 research from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment that found: “(The) gas data appear to rule out gas contamination by upward migration from depth through overlying geological strata triggered by horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing.” Addressing the study, Hoppy Kercheval, in the West Virginia MetroNews, said: “Fracking opponents should be held accountable as well, and this new research illustrates some of their alarmist proclamations are just wrong.”

In 2013, the “highlights” of a study on the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas announced: “No relationship between methane and salinity in groundwater and shale-gas wells.”

A year earlier, an EPA study that sampled well water at 61 homes in the famed Dimock, PA area, and “found health concerns in only five of them.” According to the Washington Times, “drilling is not the root of the problems in Dimock” as “the substances found include arsenic, barium and manganese, all of which are naturally occurring.”

The aforementioned studies don’t include myriad comments from public officials stating the same thing.

Perhaps, this preponderance of evidence is what caused so-called expert Anthony Ingraffea to base his recent testimony at the federal trial regarding whether Cabot Oil & Gas was a “nuisance to two families” on “speculation.” In its coverage of the “sparsely attended” February 2016 trial, points out: the plaintiffs were “unable to establish that chemicals from hydraulic fracturing got into their water, or that the drilling caused illness.” Coverage at the conclusion of the trial added: the plaintiffs “maintained that the methane contamination disrupted their lives and deprived them of the enjoyment of their property.”

During the trial, the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, both known anti-drilling activists, each acknowledged that they had no direct proof of claims they were there to support. Under cross-examination, hydrogeologist Paul Rubin admitted that he had not identified a specific pathway from any of Cabot’s natural gas wells to the plaintiff’s water supply. Regarding his “theory” about causation of the plaintiff’s allegedly impacted water, Ingraffea, was asked: “In fact, you’re going to tell me I think or I’ll ask you that’s speculation on your part, it is not?” He responded: “You can call it that, sure.” The questioning continued: “You don’t have any direct proof of that, right?” Ingraffea agreed that he didn’t have direct proof and said his theory was “most likely” the cause.

Additionally, the trial discovered that the plaintiff’s water troubles actually began months before Cabot began drilling nearby. The judge repeatedly called out the plaintiff’s attorney for going “over the line.” U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson dismissed the property damage claim against Cabot, because as reports: “the plaintiffs introduced no evidence that their property values had been affected.” Additionally, one of the plaintiffs, Scott Ely, “spent $700,000 to build his 7,000-square-foot home—after the water went bad.” Carlson, however, ruled that the plaintiffs had “elicited enough evidence that Cabot had been a nuisance.” A jury awarded $4.24 million to the two families based on nuisance.

Anti-fracking activists, like @AllNewSux, likely point to the award (which is being appealed) and see it as proof that fracking contaminates ground water. Though, a careful read reveals that no such evidence was found—only the “most likely,” theory, and speculation common among anti-fossil fuel claims.

One has to wonder how many more studies and court cases have to be carried out before the fear mongering and activist community finally stop wasting public money to kill jobs and raise energy costs.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Celebrate Education Choice During National Charter Schools Week

May 10, 2016, 9:28 AM

The first week in May is National Charter Schools Week, a time to celebrate the advancements made in the charter school movement over the past 25 years. Because of the nation’s hundreds of new and developing charter schools, thousands of parents and their children now have the opportunity to enroll in a school that better meets children’s specific education needs.

Currently, there are 2.9 million students attending one of over 6,800 public charter schools across 42 states and Washington, DC.

The majority of public charters serve students in some of the United States’ most underprivileged areas. Fifty-six percent of students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program are now enrolled in a charter school, and a study published by Education Next revealed the long-term availability of education choice increased college enrollment for African Americans by 24 percent. Additionally, a recently published study in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management found, “Attending a charter high school is associated with higher levels of educational attainment.”

Charter schools don’t just help those living in impoverished communities; they are also especially beneficial for children dealing with any number of education-related problems, including those with learning disabilities and those students who only excel with specialized education plans. According to a report by The Boston Globe, a study published in 2013 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed what many charter school parents already know: “[T]hose most in need of educational improvement tended to benefit the most from charter schools.”

In addition to the direct positive effects on learning that have resulted from the creation of school choice programs, 22 of 23 studies show students who have chosen to remain in a local traditional public school in areas where school choice programs have been implemented also had higher test scores, which shows they received a better education. These increases are attributed to the innovation that comes when schools must compete with one another.

The evidence is clear: Providing students with an option to choose an alternative school benefits themselves and society as a whole, which is why millions of Americans say they support school choice programs. Seventy-eight percent of African American parents say they support school choice and charters, and 62 percent of Hispanics favor public charter school choice. Eighty-eight percent of all low-income parents support charter school choice.

But even with widespread support for school choice programs, one million students are still waiting for their chance to escape a failing school because of the lack of school choice options in the United States.

One reason for the lack of public charter school choice programs is state legislatures have been slow or outright hostile to expansion. One of the excuses used is public charters drain resources from already strapped traditional public school systems. But according to Education Next, this funding “crisis” is phony: “For the past hundred years, with rare and short exceptions and after controlling for inflation, public schools have had both more money and more employees per student in each succeeding year.”

Traditional public schools continue to increase salaries, benefits, and the number of public school employees hired to work outside of classrooms—all while children in many school districts fail to have access to a quality education. Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by public school bureaucrats, money is not being drained from traditional public schools at a meaningful rate in areas that use school choice.

But even if one does consider money following the child to a public charter school a significant problem for entrenched local schools, there ought to be a greater emphasis placed on a more important consideration: the importance of every child’s education. In many major cities, it is not uncommon for a public school to fail to educate a single student so he or she reaches a proficient level in reading, and research shows about three out of every four students heading to college are not prepared and must take remedial courses in one or more subjects.

The goal of education is to ensure every child is taught to read, write, and perform math at a level that allows them to pursue the career path they desire. Since educational achievement is the ultimate goal of education-related government funding, taxpayers’ money should follow the child to a school that actually educates children at a high level. It is inhumane to force students to remain in a school that is failing to educate its students adequately when there are 25 years of proof showing education choice works.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Justin Danhof: Fighting Back Against Anti-Capitalist Shareholder Resolutions

May 09, 2016, 4:35 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Justin Danhof, director of the Free Enterprise Project (FEP) at the National Center for Public Policy Research, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about FEP’s attempt to fight back against anti-capitist shareholder resolutions.

Danhof discussed how the FEP is working through investor resolutions to counter the “green,” liberty squashing shareholder resolutoins pushed by radical environmentalists and other progressive groups. He explains how the FEP is fighting corporate programs that, in an effort to be green, are actually anti-capitalists and often not even green.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Fears Losing Ground Among Investors and Congress

May 09, 2016, 2:37 PM

Stock information board

Julian Poulter, CEO of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, is not a happy man right now, telling anyone who’ll listen, major investors or investment funds are not taking climate change seriously. Indeed, despite increasing pressure from anti-fossil fuel climate activist groups, the number of the top 500 investors (or investor groups) tracking, disclosing, and running programs to reduce the risk climate change may pose to their portfolios fell in 2015. Of the top 500 investors, 246 scored zero concerning their response to climate change according to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), which surveys global companies on their climate change risk and management. This is up from 236 investors scoring zero in 2014. Just 20 percent of investors are actually taking steps to mitigate or hedge the risk of climate change to their investments.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Japan Post Insurance Co Ltd., Kuwait Investment Authority, and China’s SAFE Investment Company are the four biggest funds that scored zero in the survey.

The 246 investors identified as “laggards” for doing nothing to address climate risks account for $14 trillion in assets, the report said. “It is shocking that nearly half the world’s biggest investors are doing nothing at all to mitigate climate risk,” complained Poulter, warning pension funds, insurers, and other investors ignoring climate change “are gambling with the savings and financial security of hundreds of millions of people around the world and risking another financial crisis.”

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Congress is pushing another effort to rein in President Obama’s climate ambitions, or at least his continued funding of climate boondoggles. Twenty-seven Senate Republicans are citing a 1994 law prohibiting the United States from providing funds to any United Nations (UN) agency that recognizes as a member country any country not recognized as a sovereign state, to demand the Obama administration cut off hundreds of millions of dollars from the UN’s Green Climate Fund and the $10 million in annual funding given to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The law targeted the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian territories that are not recognized as a country by the United States or other major world powers and are not UN members. Palestine recently joined the UNFCCC, which Republicans say should result in an end to U.S. funding for that group.

In a letter written to Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who led the lawmakers writing the letter, noted, “The administration needs to obey the law, and we’re going to do everything we can to enforce it.”

In the past, President Barack Obama cut off funding to United Nations entities over the Palestine issue. For example, in 2011, Obama cited the 1994 law to cut off funding to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it admitted Palestine as a member.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of international law at Northwestern University School of Law, said the argument made in the letter puts the Obama administration in a tough spot. “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, ….” At the same time, Kontorovich noted while it’s well established that the executive branch has the sole authority to recognize a nation, laws like the 1994 one use the funding and appropriations power specifically delegated to Congress to enforce policies. “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,” Kontorovich said.

Here’s hoping more investors abandon the sinking ship that is climate hysteria and that the President decides to follow the law as opposed to continuing to pursue his costly climate obsession. Should either or both of these come to pass, the economy and peoples retirements funds and their freedom of choice will be better off.

Categories: On the Blog

ELPC: Chicago’s Partisan Front Group for a Radical Environmental Agenda

May 09, 2016, 1:39 PM

Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (IL) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) at the Environmental Law & Policy Center dinner on April 29. 2016. (Photo from ELPC Facebook page.)

The Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest (ELCP), 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 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.”

There were plenty of corporate listeners with survival at stake: The colorful logo-festooned event announcement in Crain’s Chicago Business weekly newspaper listed some of the host’s funders – nearly 40 wind and solar energy companies, a bank, a private foundation, a giant medical supply firm, three “clean energy” trade associations, and a railroad heavily invested in hauling coal.

ELPC’s top funder shown on Crain’s announcement is Baxter, a controversial conglomerate including Baxter Healthcare Corporation (BHC), a subsidiary of Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter International, Inc. BHC was an early joiner in the “green and greedy” movement to lessen environmental impacts of manufacturing in order to save the company money – and expert at sucking up taxpayer money.

Baxter has so far pocketed $119.4 million in federal contracts, according to the government’s USASpending database. Baxter International has been under fire since 1990 by the U.S. Justice Department for a catalog of trade and Medicare kickback violations, being placed on the “Arab blacklist,” joining a boycott of Israel to enter Arab markets with Nestle and other questionable practices, according to a Bloomberg report titled, The Case Against Baxter International.

Crain’s gave equal billing to BMO Harris Bank – which may be a funder because ELPC’s treasurer and secretary, Cameron S. Avery, is the former chairman of Harris Bank Winnetka. Avery is now General Counsel of pharmaceutical firm PathoGenesis Corporation. Crain’s identified itself as a second-rank funder without further comment.

Among the third rank of funders, Crain’s listed Daniel Levin, real estate developer of more than 20,000 rental and condominium units in 80 locations across six states with more than $2 billion in assets under management. Crain’s did not identify Levin, who is also vice chairman of the board  of ELPC.

The cash cows among the subsidy set included SolarReserve ($2,357,159 in Energy Department grants); Kyocera ($714,440 in federal contracts); E-ON (European-based electricity supplier and natural gas producer worth $133 billion dollars); Hecate Energy (large all-renewables firm; partner David Wilhelm was Democratic National Committee Chairman from 1993 to 1994); GE Transportation (Chicago-based General Electric Division building railroad locomotives, marine engines, mining equipment and, of interest, wind turbines); Union Pacific Railroad (America’s largest freight hauling railroad, has a coal hauling division serving coal-fired power plants nationwide).

How much did they give?

ELPC is a “public charity” under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code – organizations that are usually supported substantially by foundation grants. However, ELPC’s IRS Form 990 report for 2014 listed $6.5 million in contributions and grants, yet the Foundation Search databank shows only $1.2 million of that amount came from foundation grants. It appears that corporations and individuals provided $5.2 million, or 80 percent of ELPC’s total contributions for 2014. Why would corporations support their radical agenda? Fear? Greed? True belief?

The lawyer elite that runs ELPC (it commonly drops the “Midwest” from its registered name) gives corporations incentive to support its radical agenda by waging “lawfare” against natural resource development, manufacturing and industrial infrastructure. ELPC’s insider power to expand regulation is formidable but unadvertised. Its smiling goal “to improve environmental quality and protect our natural heritage” cloaks a double edged “join or die” warning, one to firms that need to keep Washington off of their backs, the other to firms that need to keep their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets for more government contracts and grants.

ELPC’s founder, incorporator, president & assistant treasurer, Howard A. Learner, was not only a senior energy and environmental adviser to the 2008 Obama for President Campaign, but is also now vice chair of the National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy. Learner is noted for blog posts such as Why Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, just went bankrupt, seemingly to gloat over the collapse of many coal companies he helped Obama’s EPA destroy.

Other board members have comparable legal and partisan qualifications to front for a radical agenda while wielding regulatory power over vulnerable funders, particularly co-founder Robert L Graham, Chair of ELPC’s Nominating Committee, who was cited in the lawyer-ranking publication, Chambers USA, as “a master of relating to the regulatory authorities.”

In sum, the truth about ELPC provokes the old question, “With friends like these … “. Corporate funders need to wake up to the other half of that question before they read their own gloating obituary by one of their friends.

Learn more about radical green groups and their supporters at

Categories: On the Blog

FDA Went Way Too Far on E-Cigarettes

May 08, 2016, 10:00 AM

The FDA wasn’t wrong to regulate e-cigarettes. It was wrong to effectively ban, by its own estimate, up to 98.5% of the e-cigarettes on the market today.

E-cigarettes, Public Health England says, are about 95% less harmful than smoking, are not a gateway to smoking, and could help smokers quit.Now, the FDA wants to put an end to this less harmful alternative to smoking.

It’s very simple: Cigarette smokers who switch to e-cigarettes dramatically reduce their risk, as the Royal College of Physicians put it in a landmark report last month, by using “nicotine without smoke.”

E-cigarette shouldn’t be sold to minors, and government should restrict advertising so they aren’t marketed to kids. But the FDA’s drastic overstep today will require e-cigarettes not already on the market by February 2007 to undergo a costly and onerous Premarket Tobacco Application process that holds e-cigarettes to a standard nearly impossible to prove, and one that well-established actual cigarettes don’t have to face.

In 2007, e-cigarettes were in their infancy and the first generation iPhone was introduced. Imagine being told that all new smartphones had to be just like the first generation iPhone or makers would have to jump through regulatory hoops not applied to competing products. Now imagine your life depended on it. You can understand why so many former smokers from across the political spectrum are dead set against this rule. They just want to keep their vapes so they can reduce their risk.

If the FDA can’t differentiate between responsible regulation and an effective ban, let me help: Reasonable rules institute vapor battery standards, marketing restrictions and a ban on sales to minors.

These are requirements in a bipartisan bill that would stop the FDA from subjecting e-cigarettes on the market to perhaps unprovable standards that would put small and innovative competitors to Big Tobacco out of business. Congress can undo some of FDA’s damage by including this provision in the final spending bill.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, which receives 1.4% of its support from the tobacco and e-cigarette industry.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog