In this episode of the Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis director and former U.S. ambassador Terry Miller, about a recent survey of economic freedom indicators all over the world.
Miller, The Heritage Foundation’s resident “data nerd,” explains how the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom was compiled, and what it means for people across the globe. Many countries have become more free, Miller says, but not the United States. Unfortunately, freedoms in the U.S. have declined over the years, due to government programs like the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of and the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Economic freedom is the root of all other freedoms, Miller says, and free trade and exchange is provably tied to the economic well-being of not only nations, but individuals, as well.
After months of delays, the office of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio released a long-awaited “impact study” examining the effect of Uber — a popular “peer-to-peer economy” business connecting drivers and riders — on the city’s traffic-flow patterns.
The study, conducted by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, found that Uber and other transportation-network companies “have not driven the decline in Central Business District speeds that the City has recently experienced.”
Instead, the impact study found traffic congestion to be primarily the result of factors such as “inadequate space at the curb for trucks and delivery vehicles” and “blocking lanes for construction of buildings, subways, underground utility infrastructure, or road repairs.”
The first shots in city lawmakers’ war on ride-sharing were fired in in January 2014, when the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission demanded to see Uber’s private data on consumers’ trip routes and other proprietary information. When Uber refused, the commission partially shut down the company’s operations. Uber appealed, and the commission suspended the ban later that month.
Over the summer, de Blasio, the recipient of more than $500,000 in campaign donations from the taxicab industry, fought publicly with Uber, penning an article proclaiming that “no company’s multi-billion-dollar political war chest gives it a blank check to skirt vital protections and oversight for New Yorkers.”
But the mayor retreated unexpectedly in August, dropping plans to restrict the number of new drivers Uber would be allowed to hire. In return, Uber agreed to provide the tracking data that city regulators wanted for their impact study.
De Blasio’s hypothesis was that Uber’s growth has added to the city’s traffic congestion, but the impact study found otherwise.
In addition, using data collected from Uber records, Manhattan Institute research fellow Jared Meyer discovered that the rise of the sharing economy actually improved the lives of New York City residents. Consumers in underserved or economically depressed boroughs — away from the city’s airports and downtown areas — had the highest increases in demand for UberX, the company’s basic service tier.
Not only do the benefits provided by Uber outweigh the costs imagined by the service’s opponents, but academic research suggests Uber may be a literal lifesaver for some consumers. A study published by Temple University, written by assistant professor Brad Greenwood and associate professor Sunil Wattal, studied how the availability of Uber affects alcohol-related vehicular homicide rates.
Studying two California cities over a five-year period, Greenwood and Wattal found a “significant drop in the rate of alcohol-related vehicular homicides after the introduction of Uber.” Scaling the data up to the national level, they estimated that making Uber available everywhere would save 500 lives and enhance public welfare by $1.3 billion annually.
Lawmakers in every city and state, not just New York City, should empower consumers and enterprising individuals to trade freely and voluntarily among themselves. By doing so, they would save huge amounts of money, preserve hundreds of lives, and spur economic development.
Instead of trying to hold back the wave of the future, lawmakers should allow consumers to reap the economic and societal benefits of the peer-to-peer economy’s rising tide.
We free marketeers repeatedly reassert the obvious – that government abusing the private sector hurts the private sector. Pro-government fetishists try mightily to deny Reality – claiming that bigger government doesn’t damage the sectors over which it lords.
We now have the entire nation of India, filled with nearly one billion mostly Internet-less people, as but the latest visual aide. When government rears its ugly head – private investment heads for the hills. Or, in this case, back to the Silicon Valley.
Just one nasty, hydra-headed regulation – Network Neutrality – has caused a raft of huge investors to bail on the subcontinent. Leaving stranded and unconnected hundreds of millions of poor Indians – who pre-government had hope of tapping into the Internet.
Facebook’s Free Internet App Banned by India’s New Net Neutrality Rule: Because the pro-government fetishists don’t like anyone getting anything free – unless it’s from government. So Facebook and their investing cohorts did what always happens when government grows – they understandably shrink away.
Facebook Pulls the Plug on Free Basics in India: “After month long consultations, triggered by the net neutrality debate, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India earlier this week barred operators from charging different rates for data access, dealing a blow to Free Basics and other such plans like Airtel Zero. While Facebook had promoted Free Basics as a programme aimed at providing basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators, critics slammed the service saying it violated the principle of net neutrality.”
So wedded are the fetishists to government regulation, they will sacrifice on its altar billions of dollars of Indian investment – dedicated to connecting (hundreds of) millions of poor, Web-less people.
Facebook Free Basic vs. Net Neutrality: India Chose Net Neutrality: Sadly, pathetically true. Are other nations similarly choosing government and continued poverty over private investment and connection to the future? Thankfully, no: “Launched in 2014, Facebook is running the programme across 17 countries.” It would appear their governments aren’t as absurdly anti-growth as is India’s government. And don’t view billions of outside dollars pouring in as a bad thing.
Human nature is immutable. Humans will always put their money where it is treated best. The more government abuses it – with taxes, laws and regulations – the less likely that government’s country, economy and citizenry will receive it. But we need not travel all the way to India to see that.
The United States has the world’s highest corporate tax rates – 39.1%. The annual cost of complying with the ridiculous array of just federal government regulations – is $1.9 trillion. That is a LOT of abuse of capital. Human nature – remains immutable.
U.S. Companies Are Stashing $2.1 Trillion Overseas to Avoid Taxes: “‘It just makes no sense to repatriate, pay a substantial tax on it,’ said Joseph Kennedy, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a policy-research group whose board of directors includes executives from Microsoft and Oracle Corp.”
Warren Buffett Knows Less Government Means More Economic Activity: “Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is expected to help finance Burger King’s pending acquisition of Canadian doughnut-chain Tim Hortons. The deal will allow Miami-based Burger King to claim Canada as its new legal home for tax purposes….”
Watch 1,400 US Workers Learn their Jobs are Moving to Mexico: “‘I want to be clear — this is strictly a business decision,’ (Carrier President Chris) Nelson continued.…”
Trump Shouldn’t Blame Oreos – It’s Government and Unions’ Fault: “Oreos have been for years made in Chicago, Illinois (and several other American cities). Mondelez International, Inc. – the company that delivers us the chocolatey, spherical goodness – announced they would make their next wave of Oreo manufacturing investment not in Chicago, but in Mexico.”
And oh look – Net Neutrality is a terrible idea here too.
Title II (and Net Neutrality) Has Depressed Broadband Investment: “As evidence, (FCC Commissioner Ajit) Pai pointed to research that showed a decline in capital expenditures by the major wireless companies of 12% in the first half of 2015 compared to the same time period in 2014—when the FCC was still expected to restore open Internet rules without reclassifying broadband.
“’Only twice before have broadband service providers’ capital expenditures fallen on a year-over-year basis,’ he said, ‘following the dot.com bust in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.
“‘In my statement dissenting from the Commission’s Title II decision, I warned that [b]roadband networks don’t have to be built. Capital doesn’t have to be invested here,’ Pai said. ‘Risks don’t have to be taken. The more difficult the FCC makes the business case for deployment—and micromanaging everything from interconnection to service plans makes it difficult indeed—the less likely it is that broadband providers big and small will connect Americans with digital opportunities.’ And that I fear is what we are now witnessing.’”
Water is wet. Snow is cold. And human nature is immutable.
If I invite you into my house – and then simultaneously pick your pockets and beat you about the head and shoulders with a bat – I should at least have the decency to not act surprised when you get up and leave.
The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has inadvertently done the country an invaluable service by allowing the rest of us to travel through the looking-glass into a universe where things are the opposite of real life: the world of far-left thought on education.
Strauss gave premium blogspace to a bitter article by a former education fellow for The Progressive magazine, Sarah Lahm. The piece, titled “What Passes for School Choice Rhetoric is Frightening,” is rife with errors and half-truths. It is hard to imagine a more factually bankrupt anti-school choice “argument” could be written, and by shining a gigantic spotlight on it, Strauss has unwittingly harmed her cause.
Lahm penned her bitter attack after attending a National School Choice Week event (one of more than 16,000 scheduled nationwide) hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The forum attendees and the panelists—a former Democratic state senator, a Republican state legislator, and Richard Komer, who is associated with the so-called “right-wing” Institute for Justice—drew Lahm’s ire immediately for being “all white … as far as [she] could see.”
The racial profile of the panel, of course, has nothing to do with the important ideas the panel members espoused about improving education, but even if it does matter to some, why would a supposedly all-white panel be shocking in Minnesota, a state whose population is roughly 85 percent white? (Pay no attention to the fact Lahm is also white.) Further, it should be noted George Parker, an African-American who is affiliated with the public school reform group StudentsFirst, was originally supposed to be a panel member, but he was unable to attend.
Not only were the attendees mostly white, they were also “formally dressed,” Lahm frets. Frightening, I know. Whenever formally dressed white people gather together, you know there is nefarious plotting afoot.
In addition to the attendees’ skin color, what particularly irked Lahm was the forum being held at the Humphrey School. That an event arguing for, in Lahm’s fevered imaginings, the “resegregation” and “deregulation” of the public school system should take place at an institution named after Hubert Humphrey—the former Democratic Minnesota senator, vice president, self-proclaimed “Happy Warrior,” and civil rights champion—she found especially appalling.
Lamenting Humphrey’s legacy being eclipsed by that of President Ronald Reagan, Lahm wonders “what our education policy discussions [would] be like today … if America had turned out ‘less Reaganite’ and ‘more Humphreyish?’”
“Reaganite” policies, according to Lahm, have “[propelled] America away from further investments in public schools” since the publication of the “hyped” A Nation at Risk report in 1983. Lahm says this has led to the creation of an educational environment where events that include panels who make “racist, elitist assumptions about what ‘poor minorities’ want” are held in schools named after civil rights champions. (How is a white liberal any more qualified to talk about the wants and needs of minorities than a white conservative?)
Lahm spent so much space in her blog post spewing vile contortions of the situation that she left herself no room to present a fact-based argument against school choice—proof positive she had no case to make in the first place.
Lahm’s charge school choice is leading to the “rapid resegregation” of public schools is categorically false. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has an entire page on its website highlighting “gold-standard” research showing school choice is actually better at promoting racial integration and tolerance of social differences than ZIP-code-assigned public schools are. The federal government’s own data do not even back up her assertion. If school choice advocates truly are nothing more than racists in disguise, it’s puzzling so many people from so many different demographics are clamoring for choice.
Why would Martin Luther King III, for instance, attend rallies for school voucher programs and give statements such as, “What [school] choice does is essentially to create options, particularly for poor and working families[,] that they would not necessarily normally have,” and why would black voters be so overwhelmingly supportive of choice programs? Are they racists too?
The allegation A Nation at Risk caused the United States to shy away from “further investments in public schools” is another claim not based in reality. The report, a product of the nonpartisan National Commission on Excellence in Education, sounded an alarm about the dismal state of public education in the United States and led to a doubling in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending over the following 30 years and an increased role in education by the federal government. The United States now spends 35 percent more per-pupil than the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) average.
Finally, Lahm is completely mistaken in claiming school choice is in opposition to everything Humphrey stood for. As my colleague Robert Holland writes, “Humphrey was among a group of Democratic senators … who strongly supported tax credits for families paying private tuition at private or parochial schools [and] … in 1968 [Humphrey ran for president] on a platform calling for tuition tax credits as a tool to help equalize educational opportunities for underprivileged kids.”
The unfortunate truth for the defenders of the abysmal status quo in public education is school choice offers families equal access to higher-quality schools that meet their widely diverse needs and desires. That’s the truth, regardless of whether proponents of anti-choice, bureaucratic-centric policies, such as Lahm and Strauss, choose to acknowledge it.
If governments truly believe that man’s production of carbon dioxide causes dangerous global warming, they would ban the use of motor cars, motor trucks, tractors, motor homes, motor bikes, motor mowers, motor launches and petrol-driven chain saws. These all pump out the two dreaded greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and water vapour. Horses, bullocks, wagons, bicycles, scythes, row-boats and axes are the true-green tools – all were good enough for our pioneers.
They would also close all coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, and cover the land and buildings with solar panels and windmills. (Smart people would also stock up on candles and fire-wood for those cold still nights and cloudy windless days.)
Fair dinkum climatists would also ban all tourism advertising. It just encourages people to jump into cars, buses, trains, aeroplanes and ships to go somewhere else, consume local resources, produce tonnes of CO2 and then come home again (passing in transit all the other people doing the same trips in reverse). We should surely be instructed to stay home and watch David Attenborough on battery-powered TV.
What about all the government-promoted fireworks displays, motor rallies, sport extravaganzas and never-ending world games and expos? These all require millions of people to go somewhere, consume things and then return home, producing heaps of carbon dioxide. With the modern magic of NBN, every Australian could have a ringside seat at every world circus without leaving the comfort of their own lounge chair.
And if governments were Fair Dinkum, they would have already nominated a region to pilot-test the costs/benefits of their true-green society. (I nominate Tasmania.)
Today’s politicians are not Fair Dinkum.
If they were Fair Dinkum, they would confess that carbon dioxide is innocent and all this has nothing to do with controlling climate, but everything to do with controlling people.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Ryan Yonk, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at Utah State University and Executive Director of Strata Policy, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about a study he and his colleagues at Strata and Utah State have produced – an in-depth analysis of the economic impact of renewable fuel mandates.
What many may find surprising, the study found that rural, “corn belt,” farm counties have actually faired worse than the rest of the nation during the recovery with the mandates themselves paying a role in farmer’s economic woes. This is despite the fact that these counties have historically chased renewable fuel subsidies.
Frustrated that nobody seems to care about climate change, “the country’s biggest individual political donor during the 2014 election cycle,” has pledged even more in 2016. Tom Steyer spent nearly $75 million in the 2014 midterms, reports Politico. He intends to “open his wallet even wider” now.
But just what do his millions get him in this “crucial election”? Based on history, not much.
In 2014, his NextGen Climate Action group specifically targeted seven races. Only three went his way—to Democrats.
In Iowa, the group “invested in billboards and television and radio, newspaper and web ads,” to target Republicans and “agitate for more conversation about the topic in debates.” According to Politico, NextGen “attempted to convince Iowans to caucus for a candidate based on that candidate’s energy plan.” They “identified over 42,000 voters in the state who tapped climate change as a voting priority”…“over 1,500 were registered Republicans.” With 357,983 people participating the Iowa caucus, Steyer’s efforts reflect just 11.7 percent of voters and less than 1 percent of Republicans.
Steyer’s millions were spent trying to get people to vote based on “energy plans.” Only one candidate’s energy policy got any real media coverage: Ted Cruz’s opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard, also known as the ethanol mandate. He won the Republican caucus, ahead of Donald Trump who pandered to the powerful lobbying group: America’s Renewable Future. (Since then, Archer Daniels Midland, the biggest proponent and producer of ethanol, may be scaling back, which according to the Financial Times, “suggests the reality for this industry has changed.”)
Perhaps Steyer needs to realize his reality has changed.
On February 11, Politico released survey results from “a bipartisan panel of respondents” who it claims are “Republican and Democratic insiders”…“activists, strategists and operatives in the four early nominating states” who answered the questions anonymously. The results? As one Republican respondent from South Carolina (SC) put it: “Climate change is simply not a front burner issue to most people.” A Nevada Democrat agreed: “I don’t believe this is a critical issue for many voters when compared to the economy and national security.”
One SC Republican said that no “blue-collar swing voter” ever said: “I really like their jobs plan, but, boy, I don’t know about their position on climate change.” Over all, the Republicans don’t think that opposing public policy to address the perceived threats of climate change will hurt their candidates. The topic never came up in the recent SC Republican debate.
Steyer sees that on the issue of climate change, “the two parties could not be further apart.” However, the “insider” survey found that Democrats were split on the issue. When asked if “disputing the notion of manmade climate change would be damaging in the general election,” some thought it would, but others “thought climate change isn’t a major issue for voters.” One SC Democrat pointed out: “the glut of cheap energy sources makes green technology less of an immediate priority for Congress, investors and the voting public.”
While we are far from the days, of “drill, baby drill,” when asked about increasing production, Republicans see that their pro-development policies are unaffected by “price fluctuations.” A SC Republican stated: “Most Republicans view this issue through a national security lens. Low prices might diminish the intensity, but GOP voters will still want America to be energy independent regardless of oil prices.”
On February 12, Politico held a gathering called “Caucus Energy South Carolina” that featured several of the SC “insiders” among whom the host said are “influential voices,” who offer “keen insight into what’s going on on the ground.”
There, Mike McKenna, who has consulted a wide variety of political and corporate clients with respect to government relations, opinion research, marketing, message development and communications strategies, and who has served as an external relations specialist at the U.S. Department of Energy, declared: “Energy is a second tier issue. Climate change is fifth tier. Nobody cares about it. It is always at the bottom.”
The climate change agenda has been the most expensive and extensive public relations campaign in the history of the world. Gallup has been polling on this issue for 25 years. Despite the herculean effort, fewer people are worried about climate change today than 25 years ago. Pew Research Center has repeatedly found that when given a list of concerns regarding the public’s policy priorities, respondents put jobs and economy at the top of the list, with climate change at the bottom. Polling done just before the UN climate conference in Paris, found that only 3% of Americans believe that climate change is the most important issue facing America.
Even Democrat Jane Kleeb, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone pipeline, acknowledged that climate change, as an issue, doesn’t move people to act.
David Wilkins, a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada who has worked on issues such as energy, national security, and the environment, said that voters are “not going to let the environment trump the economy.” He believes there will be a reapplication for the Keystone pipeline and that eventually it will be built. Another insider, Democrat Inez Tenenbaum, disagreed, saying: “people don’t want to be energy dependent.” To which Wilkins quipped: “All the more reason to get oil from our friends.”
When it comes to energy, there are clearly differences between the parties, but strangely both agree that climate change isn’t “a major issue for voters.”
But don’t tell Steyer—or Senator Bernie Sanders. Steyer has praised Sanders for his public stand on climate change saying that he’s brought it up “repeatedly,” calling it a “national security issue” and “the number one issue facing Americans”—despite the fact that polling indicates otherwise.
As if he were channeling Steyer, in his New Hampshire victory speech, Sanders declared: “We will not allow back into the White House a political party … that cannot even acknowledge the scientific reality of climate change.” He continued: “The debate is over. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems in this country and around the world. We have a moral responsibility to work with countries throughout the world to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”
Since nobody cares about climate change in the 2016 presidential campaign, except for Sanders and influential Democrat billionaire donor Steyer (who stands to gain financially from his advocacy), unfortunately one can easily guess where a chunk of his millions will go. Sanders will no longer be able to claim that all his donations are small.
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.
If you want more of something, mandate it, subsidize it and exempt it from regulations. If you want less of something, punish it with taxes and regulations. Put more bluntly, the power to tax and regulate is the power to destroy. This is the First Rule of Government.
No presidency has ever come close to the Obama Administration in employing the rule to advance its ideologies and agendas. No industry has been so favored as renewable energy over the past seven years. No sector has been so thoroughly vilified and subjugated as fossil fuels during that period.
Thankfully, Congress refused to impose a cap-tax-and-trade regime on carbon-based energy and U.S. jobs, families, economic growth and living standards. However, EPA and other Obama agencies simply replaced unsuccessful legislative initiatives with regulations, often employing highly innovative statutory interpretations to justify its actions – and courts too often bowed to this “agency discretion.”
Nowhere was this more heavy-handed and destructive than in the coal and climate change arena, where a regulatory tidal wave inundated mines, power plants, companies, families, communities and entire states. Other EPA and Interior Department rules blocked leasing, drilling, fracking and other energy activities on millions of acres of government-administered lands, onshore and off, and even on state and private land.
Thanks to determined efforts by state attorneys general and other parties, however, a number of these regulations were stymied in courts of law. Nowhere was this more important than this week’s Supreme Court decision to block implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan while lower courts consider some 30 lawsuits over its legality, state sovereignty, the scope of agency discretion in interpreting and rewriting federal laws, and the plan’s effects on energy, jobs, health and welfare.
That means this noxious regulation will be “vacated” for the remainder of Obama’s presidency.
The president, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and their allies are not happy. They promise to charge ahead with their “fundamental transformation” of the United States, via other tactics and edicts.
The oil patch is one of the few industries that kept the Obama economy (and presidency) afloat – primarily because of fracking, which slipped in under the EPA/environmentalist radar but is now under constant attack by Interior and Big Green. It created millions of jobs, channeled billions of dollars to local, state and federal treasuries, brought gasoline prices below $2 per gallon, and saved American families billions: every penny not spent on gasoline puts $1 billion a year back into our pockets.
So how does Obama intend to repay the industry, now that it has fallen on hard times? Amid a sluggish global economy and record oil and gas production, oil prices have plunged below $30 a barrel – forcing the oil patch to lay people off, many companies to retrench or ponder bankruptcy, and many communities to confront reduced employment, consumer spending, real estate values, and revenues.
But as part of his last-gasp, $4.1-trillion, $503-billion-deficit 2017 federal budget, the president wants Congress to slap a $10.25 tax on every barrel of domestically produced or imported oil. He says this will raise some $400 billion over the next ten years.
This will allow him to increase EPA’s budget to $8.3 billion, pour $1.7 billion a year into the “climate fund,” and channel hundreds of billions into high speed rail, wind, solar, biofuel, “eco-friendly” cars and other “green” energy schemes. It thus means more opportunities for unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to pick winners and losers, expand their fiefdoms, and pad their bonuses and pensions.
Thankfully, the proposal is “dead on arrival” in Congress. Enough members understand (even if the president does not) that this tax will not be “paid for by the oil companies.” It will only be collected by oil companies – and then passed along to every American family and business, in the form of higher gasoline prices and higher costs for everything produced or transported using petroleum: food, clothing, plastics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, housing, healthcare, and countless other products and services. Even ethanol and other biofuels require petroleum, as do organic food and electric cars.
Mr. Obama, however, sees additional advantages to a 35% oil tax. It lets him stigmatize Big Oil yet again.
It advances his goal of ending our “addiction” to fossil fuels that still provide 82% of US and 87% of global energy – because they are the most abundant, reliable, affordable energy sources available today; because they sustain modern economies and living standards, and help lift billions out of poverty and disease. Would Obama also have us end our “addiction” to food, shelter and human companionship?
An oil tax would also help him promote the climate treaty he signed in Paris. The Supreme Court’s slap-down of EPA’s plans to regulate fossil fuels into oblivion means the United States is far less likely to implement the president’s unilateral commitment to the accord’s emission reduction demands (and massive wealth transfers, via climate “adaptation and reparation” payments) – even assuming the Senate ultimately approves the treaty, under its “advice and consent” authority. That in turn means developed and developing nations alike are even less likely to slash their CO2 emissions, carbon-based energy use, economic growth and living standards, for no progress in controlling nature-driven climate change.
Finally, all that devoutly wished for tax revenue would enable Mr. Obama to repay his debts to crony corporatist friends like Elon Musk. His Tesla Motors company continues to hemorrhage investor money despite massive infusions of taxpayer cash in the form of CO2 rules, subsidies, loans, $7,500 tax credits per car purchased, and free charging stations, so that the wealthiest 1.0 or 0.1 percent will buy the pricey cars. In 2015 alone, Tesla lost another $889 million, on revenues of $4.05 billion.
We’ve come to expect this from President Obama. Equally depressing, we also expect it from Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, former DemoRepublican candidate-in-waiting Michael Bloomberg, most of today’s Democratic politicians, too many Republican pols, most government “public servants,” and certainly those who are “feeling the Bern” or think “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” by voting for a certain candidate. (Hint: Ms. Albright didn’t mean Carly or Sarah.)
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton wants to have a half billion more solar panels deployed during her first four years in office, “enough clean energy to power every home” in America, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $200 billion a year. Plus free education, free universal healthcare, and more. Senator Sanders doubtless agrees.
It is a sad, painful assessment of their economic literacy – and of our high schools, colleges, business communities and politicians’ ability to empower students and voters through economic literacy, a grasp of socialism’s abject failures and horrid excesses, and an appreciation of free enterprise capitalism’s incomparable record of improving the health, living standards and prospects of billions.
It’s also a sad commentary on liberal-progressive “climate justice” and “compassion” for coal mine, power plant and oil patch workers and families who have been pummeled by their policies – and for poor, minority and blue collar families that would be hit hardest by the Obama oil tax. Those families pay a far larger share of their incomes on energy, food, clothing and other necessities than do Barack, Hillary and Michael’s upper-crust friends, Bernie’s Wall Street benefactors, or even middle class families:
Families making less than $30,000 a year spend 26% of their after-tax income on energy, while families that make over $50,000 a year spend only 8% – and those in upper 1% spend only a fraction of 1 percent.
Were President Obama to succeed on his oil tax, “stop climate change” and “leave all fossil fuels in the ground” agenda, his “legacy” would be making tens of millions more Americans jobless, energy deprived and impoverished – and keeping billions beyond our borders mired in abject poverty, disease, malnutrition and despair. It’s up to informed citizen-voters to ensure this does not happen.
History shows Earth’s climate goes through cycles, long and short, tied to a variety of natural factors. In the latter part of the 20th century, some scientists began to wonder about the causes of a modest warming, then cooling, then warming, which had been occurring since the mid-1800s. They also began to worry about the possible implications of continued warming.
Unfortunately, before scientists had gotten very far along in their research, politicians became involved, virtually destroying any chance for unbiased research.
In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his now-famous farewell address warning of two dangers: the growing arms industry driven by the Cold War, which he referred to as the “military-industrial complex,” and the growing government influence over the development and use of science and technology. Eisenhower, noting scientific research was increasingly funded by governments, warned science’s aims might become corrupted. He believed science could eventually be used as a force for advancing the political aims of a scientific-technological elite. Eisenhower said, “We must also be alert to the … danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
The history of governments’ involvement in climate research proves Eisenhower’s skill for predicting the future.
When the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted by governments in 1992, the die was cast. The convention was established on the assumption that human carbon-dioxide emissions were causing temperatures to rise to what many said were dangerous levels. The UNFCCC was established to determine ways to limit temperature increases. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed, it was charged with understanding the human causes of climate change, not with determining the cause of warming. As the saying goes, “If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” and so it was with the IPCC. The leaders of the panel are political appointees, and each Assessment Report and Synthesis Report issued by the IPCC on the state of climate science is vetted, altered and approved by member governments.
Although the scientists working on the various IPCC reports generally do good work, when their findings conflict with the panel’s dogma about humans causing dangerous global warming, the findings are ignored, downplayed or, in the summary reports, even altered.
For instance, one section of Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change: Contribution of Working Group I to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change originally stated, “While some of the pattern-base studies discussed here have claimed detection of a significant climate change, no study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed] to [man-made] causes.” Political intervention led to the statement being altered to read, “The body of statistical evidence in Chapter 8, when examined in the context of our physical understanding of the climate system, now points to a discernible human influence on the global climate.”
Scientists are charged with studying the human causes of climate change, but the IPCC’s “physical understanding of the climate system” is rather limited. Its own reports admit it has “low” understanding of 75 percent of the factors impacting climate change, although this hasn’t stopped the panel from having a high degree of confidence human greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change.
More recently, political leaders at the IPCC have honestly admitted the push to limit carbon-dioxide emissions is not about protecting human health or the environment; it’s about giving governments control over the world’s economy. In February 2015, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said, “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”
Cutting carbon-dioxide emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels, as demanded by the convention, would bring per capita carbon-dioxide emissions down to levels not seen since the 19th century, because renewables can’t replace fossil fuels and carbon-dioxide emissions can’t be captured and sequestered underground for thousands of years. That means returning emission levels to a time before cars, trucks, airplanes, computers, cell phones, refrigerators, air conditioners, heating, electric lighting, electric tools, nighttime sporting events and concerts, and the long list of other modern technologies that make life longer, healthier and more fulfilling. In short, it means forgoing the vast majority of the technological innovations that have made Western societies wealthy.
The use of coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas make modern life possible. Where fossil fuels are in regular use, people are wealthy, and where they are not used, poverty, disease and hunger are rife. Repudiating the demands of governments behind the U.N. convention will allow fossil fuels to improve the lives of billions of people by providing low-cost energy for centuries to come.
• Donn Dears is a retired senior executive at General Electric. H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow on energy and the environment at the Heartland Institute.
A recent USA Today/Rock the Vote survey of millennials shows 80 percent of millennials support transitioning to “mostly clean” or renewable energy by 2030. Although their hearts may be in the right place, few millennials appear to realize how much energy their lifestyle actually consumes, where this energy comes from, and how much it would cost to transition to a nation that’s powered predominantly by renewables by 2030.
As a millennial myself, I’m quite familiar with this phenomenon. Many of my peers don’t understand electricity doesn’t just come from the wall; e-mail isn’t necessarily green because it isn’t printed on paper; and a lifestyle that revolves around binge-watching Netflix has a real impact on the environment.
One environmental group estimates U.S. data centers in 2013 consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, the same as the annual output of 34 large (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants, and estimates are these data centers will consume the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants by 2030.
It’s ironic the generation that will consume more energy in their lifetimes than any before them, one that uses energy-gobbling technology for virtually every aspect of their lives—including dating apps, social media, finding a taxi, and even ordering from Taco Bell—can be so oblivious of how much energy they consume and where it comes from.
Most of the millennials I’ve spoken to drastically overestimate the amount of energy generated from wind and solar power in the United States. I am often met with incredulous looks when I explain the United States generates only about 2 percent of its total energy consumption from wind and solar combined and that these two sources of power produce less energy for the nation than burning wood.
Just four sources of energy account for 89.5 percent of the total energy produced in the United States. Thirty-five percent comes from oil, 28 percent from natural gas, 18 percent from coal, and 8.5 percent from nuclear.
These forms of energy dominate the mix because they are the most affordable sources and because renewables simply aren’t ready to be used as the country’s primary power sources. Wind and solar are unreliable; they generate energy only when the wind blows or the sun shines, and we have no way of storing this energy. Think of an electric car with no battery, and you will have an idea of why our power system can’t rely on renewables.
For these reasons, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, estimates the world will still generate approximately 80 percent of its total energy from fossil fuels in 2040.
Germany and some other nations have aggressively pursued renewable energy, and they are paying a big price for it. Consumer electricity prices in Germany are approximately three times as high as prices in the United States, and wind and solar constitute only about 8.9 percent and 5.7 percent of Germany’s electricity generation, respectively.
Although renewables are unlikely to become staples for energy generation anytime soon, it’s not surprising millennials would want to transition to an economy powered mostly by clean or renewable energy; many of us grew up with our teachers telling us the world would soon run out of fossil fuels and we had to prepare for a switch to renewable energy. Those predictions were completely wrong. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, virtually guarantees decades, if not centuries, of oil and natural gas, and it has made theories of “peak oil” a thing of the past.
Surveys and polls are very susceptible to how the questions are worded. When questions offer people a presumed benefit, without discussing the costs or consequences of the policy in question, results are overwhelmingly positive. This was likely the case with this survey. If provided with all of the information, including the disadvantages, of renewables, millennials would likely be less enthusiastic about relying so heavily on renewable energy.
By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O’Neil –
Under President Obama’s leadership, America has witnessed unusual, rather unexpected, serious clashes between citizens and authority. Tension between Blacks and the police has escalated, creating a racial divide most Americans believed had been healing. It seemed particularly odd that after the country had elected their first Black President, racial tensions would increase rather than decrease.
The Ferguson situation, in August, 2014, was not the first indication of a growing divide, but certainly the most publicized. Media crews captured the shocking scenes of chaos: mass looting, buildings burning, and riot police trying to control mobs of angry protestors, some of whom had weapons they used against the police. Predictably, the media gave the issue enormous coverage, thus providing the World with a front row seat to the mayhem.
The end result was a tragedy: a once decent town was left thrashed and the majority of good citizens left wondering why and how the disaster happened, because they too became victims. Both White and Black people lost businesses, jobs, and income. One could only speculate how one very unfortunate incident, that turned out to be far from what it first appeared, had escalated into such a tragic conclusion. Questions and accusations emerged as to why and who stirred up what appeared to be organized protestors with weapons that were used to harm the police.
Not long after Ferguson, racial tensions and conflicts increased in other larger cities and were again highlighted by the media. Black leaders continued to make claims of police injustices. Protestors in various pockets of the country marched the streets chanting slogans: “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and “Black Lives Matter.” The crowd again became increasingly dangerous when protestors chanted: “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.” That resulted in a Black man executing two NYPD officers while they were sitting in their patrol car. Tension among Blacks and the police continues today in many cities throughout America.
The problem is not exclusive to ethnic concerns. Consider what happened in April, 2014. A serious clash occurred between ranchers and federal government agencies in the Western part of our country. In what reminded Americans of past western movie scenarios, a serious standoff occurred between armed ranchers and law enforcement. The problem was the result of a legal dispute between the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and cattle rancher, Cliven Bundy. Bundy was not the only rancher who resented decisions and contract changes by the BLM that negatively impacted ranchers, but Bundy was the first to finally take a visibly bold stand against government’s intrusion into his ability to use his land, which seriously impacted his family’s life. Once again, a situation between a group of citizens and authorities received national attention.
To best understand the conflict, it is necessary to know a little about the history and area of the Great Basin , as well as the people who live and work there. It is a high-desert region of 200,000 square miles between the Sierra Nevadas in California and the greater Rocky Mountains in Utah, running from Southern Oregon all the way to Northern Baja, Mexico. The area is sparsely populated as water is fickle and scarce in the area, rendering the landscape fragile. Ranchers are among the very few who find the area tolerable, and for over a century have chosen to make that place home and raise their families.
Sustainable Land Management Fuels Conflict
In more recent years the ranchers and authorities have been engaged in a series of disputes over the land and new requirements. This may be in part due to the input of environmentalists who have become more engaged in protecting the area. The recent conflicts likely have roots in what the U.N. calls Sustainable Land Management. The World Bank defines sustainable land management as a process in a charged environment between environmental protection and the guarantee claim of ecosystem services. It is also about productivity of agriculture and forestry with respect to demographic growth and increasing pressure in land use and is defined accordingly.
Sustainable land management is the process by which resources of land are put to good effect. It covers all activities concerned with the management of land as a resource both from an environmental and from an economic perspective. This article will focus on sustainable land management within the charged environment that presently exists among ranchers, environmentalists, and the government. All three have varying interests regarding the management of the land. Their inability to compromise has resulted in tense conflicts. The American government and the United Nations appear to have more sympathy with environmentalists about the land, because their interests regarding land use are more similar to theirs than to those of the ranchers.
Ranchers have had continuing issues with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for decades. Numerous ranchers have claimed BLM has been taking over private lands and are using unscrupulous methods to do so, but not until recently have those complaints been widely know or have garnered national news. A man by the name of Cliven Bundy changed all that.
BLM vs. Bundy in 2014
The media seems to prefer and therefore covers stories which have an emotional basis. That is understandable because personal interest stories sell newspapers. However, the media does not always provide all the facts, some of which can alter perceived judgements as to who is in the right or wrong. That is largely the case when dealing with government and the general public The media can be biased. They can have altruistic reasons for highlighting one argument over another. In the case of the ranchers, they did a relatively poor job of explaining the history of the area and what forced Clive Bundy and his son to make such a bold move that defied the government and all its massive power, thus risking the reality they could be killed. Many watching the story were unaware that the ranchers’ property line runs along that of unoccupied federal land, without any discernible fences that mark where private and federal land begins and ends. Little or nothing was mentioned about all the continuing disagreements between the BLM and most ranchers in the area, as to whether there was any substantial evidence that Bundy had deliberately allowed cattle to graze beyond what the government considers the ranchers’ borders. Was the public informed that environmentalists disliked what they perceived as ranchers violating the land and that the environmentalists had the ear of government officials?
The media likewise barely mentioned the fact ranchers believed the federal agency had been purposely targeting them for decades with a myriad of questionable actions, perceived as a way to pressure them into selling their land and/or leases to the government. For instance, according to ranchers such as Brian Cunningham, the BLM ignored the original grazing permits each rancher had originally signed. Starting in the 90s, the BLM began making increment changes as to what was permissible on the property, each one impacting ranchers by reducing the original rights granted them and thus hindering them from make a decent living.
According to Mr. Cunningham, the televised standoff between Bundy and the BLM was the result of complete exasperation over the continued negative government intervention of the ranchers. One can only imagine the jubilation Bundy experienced when other ranchers from all over the region ended up joining him in his stand to keep his property. That they came armed and ready to defend Bundy sent a message to the BLM and all watching: this was not just about one man and his family, it was about what the BLM had done and was continually doing to them all. With television crews in place filming the dramatic scene, the federal deputies prudently backed off and a disaster was averted.
That one battle forced other ranchers to realize that while their options to fight government were very few and weak, the only chance they had to keep their land was to draw attention to their plight in their on-going war among the federal government, long time ranchers, and the relative newcomer to the conflict, environmentalist.
On January 2, 2016 the stage was set for more national attention to be directed toward the ranchers’ dilemma when another ongoing problem between a rancher and the government developed. This specific problem involved father and son ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond.
To follow is an article that will provide information about the ranchers 21-day stand-off at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the resultant tragedy. Unlike the Ferguson story, which was televised day and night for weeks, the perceived problems encountered by the ranchers when facing the law received far less attention. Note: The four remaining occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuse surrendered yesterday morning, Thursday, 11, 2016, bringing an end to the standoff on its 41st day.
Article 2 will explain facts few individuals have seen in the national media about the ranchers’ last standoff. Unlike the Black vs.Police story of defying authority, the ranchers vs. the BLM is illustrative of quite a different story.
Supporters of education reform who advocate for government-funded choice mechanisms, such as vouchers, tend to argue the problems in K–12 schools in the United States are primarily economic matters, not pedagogical. This view is validated by much data, but the concept ought to be extended further to say the economic marketplace in which K–12 education operates needs more than vouchers to become as efficient as it needs to be to deliver a quality education to each and every child.
I recently reviewed trends in the performance levels of private and public schools, as reported by The Nation’s Report Card (NRC)—a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences—and found a modest but significant correlation between student achievement and the level of competition created by the availability of school choice in the form of vouchers and/or charter schools.
Where choice exists, student performance levels are improving faster than where it is absent, but the pace of student proficiency gains has been quite slow. This indicates many decades will be required for these schools to reach proficient academic performance levels. That’s not going to be good enough, so the United States must seek additional ways to energize the K–12 marketplace. An important missing ingredient is accurate consumer information that would enable parents and others to make wise choices in the selection of schools and other educational services.
Currently, most parents and other stakeholders operate in a sea of misinformation about school performance levels and other school characteristics. Public schools in every state I reviewed were found to have lied routinely and pervasively about student proficiency levels. Typically, twice as many students are deemed proficient, according to the NRC. Proficiency numbers are not usually available at the school or district level, leaving parents and others in the dark as to the performance levels of their local schools.
Private schools, in contrast, tend to hide behind their unearned reputation of being superior to their public school neighbors. It is rare to find a private school that publicizes its student performance levels, but the Nation’s Report Card tells us something about the national comparisons of public to private schools. When judged by how schools educate the same economically disadvantaged children, the surprising results revealed by NRC are public schools and private schools are tied in mathematics, with each only educating about 20 percent of 8th grade students to proficient levels. For reading, private schools are somewhat more effective.
I believe getting honest school performance information into the hands of parents will energize K–12 school reform and bring about the desired results. When parents are informed consumers, they will make better choices, and this will help invigorate the K–12 marketplace so the actual reforms will be nearly automatic. When this “informational choice” is combined with the power provided by vouchers, parents and other stakeholders will know how to hold schools accountable for poor results.
One significant problem is parents are not actively seeking such information about schools. Many parents are complacent and believe the propaganda school officials tell them. This suggests a need for additional remedies that will induce parents to want valid information about their local schools. Parents (and taxpayers) would surely be alarmed at the degradation of their schools if they knew the truth. There are several ways to induce them to seek out this information. One is to point out the many scandals that have occurred in K–12 education systems across the country. The education system is rife with conflicts-of-interest, corruption, and a lack of accountability. Reformers should identify these problems and publicize them. Bad schools can be sued, and the notoriety of the lawsuits can garner attention.
On the positive side, schools can advertise using honest and sobering statistics. Those who homeschool can play a role by providing information to their neighbors, on the Internet, and through the homeschooling grapevine. They can encourage other parents to be part-time homeschoolers by, at minimum, having their children tested independently of any school. Knowledge of those test results can spur competition as “word gets around.”
Reformers can publicize new methods and best practices, such as online self-paced instruction, in print and digital forums, spreading new educational developments to every part of the globe.
The beauty of informational choice is that it doesn’t cost much. Private organizations can do it. Responsible operators of schools and other educational services also have an interest in providing this valuable consumer information through the use of honest and aggressive marketing.
The only question that remains: Who will step forward to get this started?
When the stock market had its epic 2008 collapse, millions of Americans angrily questioned how something so outrageous could occur without the media giving it much notice. Yes, there had been some wise prognosticators prior to 2008 pointing out the existence of the housing market bubble, and free-market advocates have been arguing for decades the government’s heavy involvement in the mortgage market poses a significant risk to the market as a whole, but few in the media paid much attention. Then the crash happened.
In many ways, the current student loan debt crisis is very similar. American college graduates and students currently have over $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt, and every second, according to MarketWatch, “the outstanding balance of the nation’s student loans is growing by an estimated $2,726.27.” There are many factors that have contributed to the rising amount of student debt, not the least of which is the government’s increased involvement in the student loan market. Under President Obama’s administration, student loan debt and tuition rates have skyrocketed.
None of this, however, changes the importance of getting a college degree in today’s market. While it’s certainly possible to be successful without a college degree, the reality is many employers won’t hire an applicant for a quality job unless he or she has a college degree. What can prospective students do then? Well, one alternative to the traditional education model is to pursue an online degree. Online degrees are now being offered by an increasing number of quality educational institutions, and you simply cannot beat the value in terms of dollars and cents. They aren’t for everyone, to be sure, but they are an excellent option for lots of students who have no trouble learning online, who have families at home, or who are working through their college years.
To help students and prospective students find accurate information about online college degrees, SR Education Group created OnlineU.org, which recently released its updated list of the “2016 Most Affordable Online Colleges & Degrees,” available here: http://www.onlineu.org/most-affordable-colleges
If you or someone you know is interested in getting or finishing a degree online, I’d consider taking a look at that well-researched site. Also, check out OnlineU.org’s “Top Online Colleges” list to see online programs offered by Stanford University, Columbia (an Ivy League college), and other great schools.
Online education is an excellent way to obtain a college degree without the incredibly high amounts of debt that comes with the traditional model. As more top universities recognize the potential of offering an online degree, this market will expand, providing greater access to an affordable education for millions of Americans across the country.
NOTE: This author has not received any compensation from OnlineU.org or any online college or university. The author has no financial connection to any of the parties mentioned in the article.
The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia immediately began discussion of who President Obama will appoint to take his place, and whether the U.S. Senate should take up the nomination in an election year. I look back at Obama’s views on Supreme Court nominees seems appropriate.
On January 26, 2006, the junior senator from Illinois took to the floor of the United States Senate to explain why he was voting “no” to confirm Samuel Alito as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Young Sen. Obama’s reasoning was sound in a few sections of his quick, six-minute speech. I was especially struck by this bit about restraining executive power and respecting the Constitution’s checks and balances, views an older President Obama would certainly find to be nonsense.
When it comes to how checks and balances in our system are supposed to operate, the balance of power between the executive branch, Congress, and the judiciary, Judge Alito consistently sides with the notion that a president should not be constrained by either Congressional acts, or the check of the judiciary. He believes in the over-arching power of the president to engage in whatever policies the president deems to be appropriate.
I’m glad that, as usual, Obama was wrong — even the younger version. Alito was among the five justices (including the late Scalia) who stopped Obama’s illegal Clean Power Plan because (presumably) Alito does not believe “in the over-arching power of the president to engage in whatever policies the president deems to be appropriate.”
This bit from Young Obama also made sense — even though he was wrong to worry about Alito not being inclined to ensure that the president should be “constrained by the Constitution and our laws.”
In all of these cases, we believe that the president deserves our respect as commander-in-chief, but we also want to make sure that the president is bound by the law — that he remains accountable to the people who put him there, that we respect the office, and not just the man, and that office is bounded and constrained by our Constitution and our laws. And I don’t have confidence that Judge Alito shares that vision of our Constitution.
Full transcript below the video, which I clipped from CPAN-2.
Transcript picked up after some customary pleasantries:
“… There are some who believe that the president, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether or not the justice is intellectually capable, and an all-around good guy. That once you get beyond intellect, and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed.
“I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise AND consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of Samuel Alito, I am deeply troubled.
“I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. As has been already stated, he has received the highest rating from the ABA, he is an intelligent man, and an accomplished jurist. There’s no indication that he is not a man of fine character. But when you look at his record, when it comes to his understating of the constitution, I found that in almost every case he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless. On behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding Americans’ individual rights and liberties.
“If there is a case involving an employer and an employee, and the Supreme Court has not given clear direction, Judge Alito will rule in favor of the employer. If there is a claim between prosecutors and defendants, if the Supreme Court has not provided a clear rule or decision, then he’ll rule in favor of the state. He’s rejected countless claims of employer discrimination even refusing to give some plaintiffs a hearing for their case. He’s refused to hold corporations accountable numerous times for dumping toxic chemicals into water supplies, even against the decisions of the EPA. He’s overturned a jury verdict that found a company liable for being a monopoly when it had 90 percent marketshare in that industry at that time. It’s not just his decisions in individual cases that give me pause, though. It’s that decisions like these are the rule for Samuel Alito, rather than the exception.
“When it comes to how checks and balances in our system are supposed to operate, the balance of power between the executive branch, Congress, and the judiciary, Judge Alito consistently sides with the notion that a president should not be constrained by either Congressional acts, or the check of the judiciary. He believes in the over-arching power of the president to engage in whatever policies the president deems to be appropriate.
“As a consequence of this, I am extraordinary worried about how Judge Alito might approach the numerous issues that are going to arise as a consequence of the challenges we face with terrorism. There are issues like wiretapping, monitoring of emails, other privacy concerns that we have seen surface over the last several months. The Supreme Court may be called to judge as to whether a president can label an individual US citizen an enemy combatant, and thereby lock them up without the benefit of trial or due process. There may be considerations with respect to how the president can prosecute the war in Iraq, and issues related to torture.
“In all of these cases, we believe that the president deserves our respect as commander-in-chief, but we also want to make sure that the president is bound by the law — that he remains accountable to the people who put him there, that we respect the office, and not just the man, and that office is bounded and constrained by our Constitution and our laws. And I don’t have confidence that Judge Alito shares that vision of our Constitution.
“In sum, I’ve seen an extraordinarily consistent attitude on the part of Judge Alito that does not, I believe, uphold the traditional role of the Supreme Court as a bastion of equality and justice for United State citizens. Should he be confirmed, I hope that he proves me wrong. I hope that he shows the independence that I think is absolutely necessary in order for us to protect and preserve our liberties and our freedoms as citizens. But at this juncture, based on a careful review of his record, I do not have that confidence, and for that reason I will vote no and would urge my colleagues to vote no on this confirmation.”
In testimony before Congress, John Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explained the data used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to proclaim record temperatures is biased in a number of ways. The ground-based data come from thermometers located near sources of artificial heat, including concrete and air conditioner exhausts, and the ocean data come from ship engine water intake valves. By contrast, Christy notes, satellite-derived temperatures offer global coverage and are not affected by the heat island effect. Christy noted climate models show 2.5 times as much warming as has been observed by satellites and weather balloons.
Because the satellite measurements challenge the narrative of a discernable human impact on climate, Christy noted,[t]here have been several well-funded attacks on those of us who build and use such datasets and on the datasets themselves. … It is a bold strategy in my view to actively promote the output of theoretical climate models while attacking the multiple lines of evidence from observations. Note that none of the observational datasets are perfect and continued scrutiny is healthy, but when multiple, independent groups generate the datasets and then when the results for two completely independent systems (balloons and satellites) agree closely with each other and disagree with the model output, one is left scratching one’s head at the decision to launch an offensive against the data.
Christy also pointed out actual observations show the frequency and intensity of extreme events is not increasing, disproving claims based on climate models.
An article by Senja Post published in the journal Public Understanding of Science examined the “ideals and practices” of German scientists as they communicated climate change research findings to the public. Post surveyed German climate scientists holding the position of full professor and actively engaged in climate research, finding “the more climate scientists are engaged with the media the less they intend to point out uncertainties about climate change and the more unambiguously they confirm the publicly held convictions that it is man-made, historically unique, dangerous and calculable.”
In addition, the more convinced scientists were rising carbon dioxide levels are causing dangerous climate change, the more they worked with the media to spread that message. Post’s survey also revealed German climate scientists object to publishing results indicating climate change is happening more slowly than expected, which in her words “gives reason to assume that the German climate scientists are more inclined to communicate their results in public when they confirm rather than contradict that climate change is dramatic.”
A new study by the Rights and Resources Initiative shows implementation of the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement could displace up to 4.1 million people living in heavily inhabited forests and another 0.9 million who depend on such areas for their economic well-being. The agreement calls for those areas to be designated “ecologically protected” in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), two of the poorest countries on Earth. Western-backed programs to expand forests and limit their use, in order to reserve forests as carbon sinks dedicated to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could make millions homeless.
According to Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative, “Governments have targets to expand their protected areas, and now with new climate funding being available the risk is they will use this to expand in a way that doesn’t respect local rights. It could result in the displacement of millions of people.” Andrew Follett of the Daily Caller reports the DRC and Liberia, with the support of Western governments and environmental organizations, have already displaced millions of resident from their historic forest homelands. The DRC has removed 17 million people, almost a quarter of the country’s population, from existing protected areas.
Under new programs funded by Germany and environmental non-profit groups, the DRC is planning to set aside 12 to 15 percent of its forested land as ecologically protected areas. Liberia has committed to turning 30 percent of its forests into ecologically protected areas in exchange for $150 million in developmental aid from Norway.
Concerning the impact on people being removed from their forest homes, Follett quotes a Mbuti tribal leader in the DRC saying, “Our new masters … like the animals more than humans and do not mind that people suffer as long as the animals are happy.”
by Julie Kelly and Jeff Stier
In its endless attempt to turn the country into one giant Weight Watchers meeting, the Obama Administration tucked away a little-known provision in the health care law that authorizes the FDA to force certain businesses to post the calorie count for every menu item.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are unhappy with the new proposed rules on menu labeling (five years in the making) and this week, Congress will consider H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, to scale back some of the FDA’s most onerous rules set to take effect later this year.
As two culinary experts who have had a long career in both cooking and writing about food, we both agree this legislation can’t wait.
Last year, the FDA issued a set of inflexible rules that even suggests handcuffs and jail time for those restauranteurs who fail to comply. The proposed policy is a cassoulet of bureaucratic incursions – not to mention a violation of our right to eat in peace – that targets neighborhood restaurants, grocery stores and even vending machines. Convenience stores would be required to post calorie information wherever food is displayed, which could basically be every two feet if you think about how your local convenience store is configured.
Businesses would have to print multiple menus, going so far as to classify advertisements as a menu that need a calorie count. “In our business, we send out lots of advertising flyers, top boxes with flyers and put up posters in stores,” Domino’s executive vice president Lynn Liddle told a House committee last summer. “None of these were ever intended as menus.” The FDA won’t even allow a range of calories for items like pizza and sandwiches, creating an impossible demand that would be laughable if it didn’t turn your corner pizza joint owner into a felon (Domino’s Pizza offers 34 million ways to order a pizza).
And the costs are exorbitant: The White House’s Office of Management and Budget estimates the new law will cost $1 billion and require a staggering 14 million compliance hours which, in this administration’s parlance, makes it a job creator.
The FDA is largely following the Bloombergian approach to appetite control. In 2008, Mayor Bloomberg made New York City the first city in the nation to require restaurant chains with 15 or more stores to post the calorie count of all menu items. At the time, about 1/3rd of all the city’s restaurants fell under that category. The law was a flop and failed to achieve the mayor’s top goal of reducing obesity rates in the Big Apple and did nothing to stop diners from eating the same amount of calories as before. A survey released last year by NYU’s Langone Medical Center found no change in the eating habits of New Yorkers in the last six years: “Researchers found that the average number of calories bought by patrons at each sitting between January 2013 and June 2014 was statistically the same as those in a similar survey of 1,068 fast-food diners in 2008, when New York City initially imposed menu labeling. Diners were surveyed at major fast-food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy’s.”
The study actually found an uptick in calorie intake from 2008 to 2013-2014. Shortly after the policy was introduced in 2008, calories at labeled restaurants were 783 per meal; in 2013-14, the calorie range was 804-839 per meal.
“Our study suggests that menu labeling, in particular at fast-food restaurants, will not on its own lead to any lasting reductions in calories consumed,” says study senior investigator Brian Elbel, PhD, an associate professorat NYU Langone’s Department of Public Health.
H.R. 2017, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), which the House will consider this week, will try to blunt the same costly yet futile Bloobergian plan for the country. The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act decriminalizes any mistakes in menu-labeling; the sandwich shop employee won’t go to jail if he accidentally exceeds the stated calorie count with an extra piece of cheese. It would also exempt convenience and grocery stores from the law.
This could be a final rebuke to an administration that has tried in vain for seven years to stem obesity rates and make Americans “healthier.” From a well-intentioned “Let’s Move” campaign to harsher school lunch rules that will likely yield the opposite result of the stated goals, the Obama Administration’s food policies will have to be viewed as one of its biggest failures. And as more questions are raised about nutrition science – and we are now finding out that much of what we’ve been told by the federal government about how we should eat has been dead, flat wrong – the next administration would be well-advised to reverse course.
Julie Kelly is a cooking teacher and food policy writer. She’s been published in the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Forbes, The Hill and Huffington Post. Jeff Stier New York, NY Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, and you can reply to him on Twitter @JeffaStier.
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.300 Scientists Request Explanation for Temperature Shenanigans H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly In support of U.S. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s investigation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 300 scientists, engineers, economists, and other experts sent a letter requesting an explanation for what appears to be manipulated temperature data. The letter challenges NOAA’s findings that eliminated the 18-year “pause” in global temperature increase and demands the agency reveal its data and methodology for public examination. READ MORE Parents Lack Honest Data Necessary for School Choice Decisions David V. Anderson, The Hill For any market to work efficiently, there needs to be a free flow of information so consumers can make educated choices. This is a missing ingredient in America’s education system. Accurate consumer information would enable parents to make wise choices in the selection of schools and other educational services. Unfortunately, most parents today operate in a sea of misinformation about school performance levels and other characteristics. READ MORE Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander The U.S. Supreme Court did something remarkable on Tuesday: It respected the separation of powers and finally shouted “ENOUGH!” to the lawless rule of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Court stayed President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” a radical, law-by-decree scheme that would put this nation’s enormously complex energy-delivery system into the hands of central planners in Washington, DC. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep24) – Exploring the World of Think Tanks Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft have tweaked the format of their weekly podcast to highlight the work of think tanks across the country. Segments now include “Better Know a Think Tank,” in which a think tank spokesman talks about his or her organization’s mission, and “Featured Work of the Week,” which highlights recent research from a think tank. Donny and John kick off the feature by talking about (you guessed it) The Heartland Institute, as well as The Heritage Foundation’s “World Economic Freedom Ranking.” LISTEN TO MORE Never Lose a Debate with a Global Warming Alarmist! The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Heartland President Joseph Bast, who edited the book, will discuss his findings and bid a fond farewell to one of the coauthors, Robert Carter who passed away on January 19, at a free event at Heartland’s headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, on March 9. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! Ride-Sharing Saves Time, Money, and Lives Jesse Hathaway, Real Clear Policy The popular peer-to-peer ride-sharing service, Uber, enjoyed a recent victory in New York City’s “war on ride-sharing.” An impact study released by Mayor Bill de Blasio showed Uber had not contributed significantly to the traffic congestion that has worsened recently in the Big Apple. Perhaps this will convince lawmakers to give up their efforts to hold back the wave of the future, and instead reap the benefits of the refreshingly entrepreneurial sharing economy. READ MORE The Politics Behind the Anti-Fossil Fuels Campaign Donn Dears and H. Sterling Burnett,Washington Times Political leaders at the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year admitted their push to limit carbon dioxide emissions is not about protecting human health or the environment: It’s about giving governments control over the world’s economy. Said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.” This moment of accidental honesty must not be forgotten. READ MORE
NYC Public Schools Try to Keep Vouchers to Themselves Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly A little-known fact about public schools is that they have the ability to contract out special-needs children to private schools or tutors. A recent federal investigation found 83 percent of public schools are not “fully accessible” to children with disabilities. The decision to contract these students out lies only with public schools themselves. Parents who want to put their child in a different school do not have that right. READ MORE Medical School Costs Keep Young Doctors Out of Primary Care Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report Health care reform efforts over the past two decades have focused primarily on creating ways to help more Americans obtain health insurance. But little has been done to address the rapid increases in medical school costs plaguing hundreds of thousands of new doctors. Unless those costs come down – via market forces that are currently crowded out by government loans – America is going to see an accelerating drop in vital primary care physicians. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Kyle Maichle: Free Speech on College Campuses The hysteria at Yale University over “offensive” Halloween costumes supposedly threatening “safe” and “comfortable” spaces for students put free speech on campus into the national spotlight. Kyle Maichle, project manager for constitutional reform at The Heartland Institute, joins host Donald Kendal in a conversation about these basic free speech issues. Maichle discusses the history of speech codes on campus and gives an update on some of the more recent threats to freedom of expression at our institutions of higher learning. LISTEN TO MORE Surgeon Posts Prices Online to Improve Transparency, Competition Tony Corvo, The Heartlander One of the major contributing factors to the increasing costs of health care is the failure of hospitals and physicians to tell consumers the cost of procedures and treatments. One surgeon in Oklahoma City has found a simple way to help: He tells his patients the prices. His clinic’s website gives people the opportunity to research prices in advance and choose between the Surgery Center and other providers. How revolutionary! “I’m a free-market guy,” said Dr. Keith Smith. “We decided to put our money where our mouth was and post the prices online for everyone to see.” READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 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 email@example.com.
With less than a year left in office, President Barack Obama is upping the pressure on America’s fossil fuel industries with a slew of new regulations and tax proposals.
Last month, Obama ordered a moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands. Unlike oil and gas production, which occurs primarily on private land, 40 percent of U.S. coal mining takes place on federal lands.
Coal use has been declining in power generation for several years, in part because of abundant natural gas.
But it still accounts for 39 percent of our electricity, it remains the cheapest way to generate power and coal is a major export commodity.
Over time, the moratorium will drive up electricity costs for households and businesses, destroy jobs, diminish federal, state and local tax revenues and widen America’s trade deficit.
The administration also wants to put further limits on offshore drilling for oil and gas.
Under the 2012-2017 lease program, no sales were permitted on the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska.
Then last October, the Interior Department canceled two planned lease sales for Arctic drilling rights and denied two companies’ requests for lease extensions.
Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is putting together its 2017-2022 program for offshore lease sales.
A first draft of the plan, released last year, would allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic outer continental shelf, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and limited tracts of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.
But environmental groups are pushing for a total moratorium on offshore drilling. More than 100 East Coast communities have passed anti-drilling resolutions, while 100 members of Congress, as well as 650 state and local elected officials, have expressed opposition to Atlantic drilling.
In today’s low-price environment, it might seem counterintuitive that investors would want to bid on leases in fields that have no production history and limited seismic testing. But they’re thinking long term — perhaps 10 to 20 years out.
Should the final 2017-2022 lease plan be modified to prohibit drilling in the Atlantic, not only will imports increase but communities along the East Coast will be forfeiting high-wage jobs, income and tax revenue.
In its most recent attack on hydrocarbons, the Obama administration is proposing a $10-per-barrel tax on oil companies as part of its fiscal 2017 budget.
Ostensibly, the tax — which is equivalent to 30 percent at today’s prices — would help finance the Highway Trust Fund while providing money to invest in “sustainable transportation programs.”
In practice, it would further erode the earnings of an industry going through its greatest financial crisis in 25 years.
Oil imports would rise, because foreign producers would not be subject to the tax.
Today, with the world drowning in oil, and gasoline and diesel prices at their lowest levels in 15 years, the siren song of “keep it in the ground” (or keep it under the ocean floor) may be alluring.
But the American economy runs on energy, and oil, gas and coal will be providing the lion’s share of transportation and power generation fuel for decades to come.
It simply makes more economic and political sense to develop our own hydrocarbon resources, in an environmentally responsible manner, rather than increase our dependency on imported energy.[Originally published at the Star-Telegram]
Net neutrality absolutists are overreaching yet again in their push for a practical FCC ban of ISP zero rating offers under the FCC’s case-by-case “General Conduct Standard” review, by claiming violations of the “bright-line rules” in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.
The problem here is that net neutrality absolutists, in exploiting the political pejorative power of the word ‘discrimination,’ have politically oversold their Title II net neutrality policy as “bright-line” ‘non-discrimination’ bans, implying no discrimination allowed, when Title II actually only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”
This is a distinction here with a huge difference; and it apparently is giving the net neutrality absolutists fits. They want to imagine that Title II prohibits their absolutist ‘no discrimination’ frame when it clearly does not.
They want to find a technical “gotcha” in every zero-rating or sponsored data offering, no matter how unreasonable their conclusion, so they can politically ask it be banned by the FCC under their concept of what a ‘no discrimination’ principle should be.
With T-Mobile’s Binge On, Stanford Professor Van Schewick charges that Binge On violates net neutrality because it favors commercial content over Google-YouTube’s user-generated videos. How is it unreasonably discriminatory when most every other company can interface with T-Mobile’s non-discriminatory Binge On interface, but the world’s most dominant and most technically-advanced digital video distributor, Google-YouTube, somehow can’t figure out what everyone else has figured out?
EFF also tested T-Mobile’s Binge On offering and charges that it violates net neutrality because it throttles everyone the same way to provide more data for less cost. How is that unjust and unreasonable network management?
With the news that Verizon’s Go90 video service is now using Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 offering, some are insinuating sponsored data plans like this are somehow a net neutrality violation when offered as an “open, non-exclusive service available to other content providers on a non-discriminatory basis.” How is its unreasonably discriminatory when any content provider can enjoy the same thing Go90 does?
The problem here is that the net neutrality absolutists demanded the FCC adopt their politically correct, “bright-line” ‘no discrimination’ version of net neutrality, and not what Title II allows under the law and decades of FCC and court precedents.
The FCC’s Open Internet Order states: “Clear, Bright-Line Rules: Because the record overwhelmingly supports adopting rules and demonstrates that three specific practices invariably harm the open Internet—Blocking, Throttling, and Paid Prioritization—this Order bans each of them, applying the same rules to both fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service.” (Para 14) (Bold added for emphasis)
In promising not just net neutrality rules, but “bright line” (i.e. absolute) open Internet rules, and in claiming the three banned practices – blocking, throttling and no paid prioritization – “invariably” (i.e. absolutely always) harm the Open Internet, the FCC has created a real problem for itself.
How can the FCC reasonably rule under its ‘General Conduct Standard’ that any action that blocks or throttles Internet traffic can never be reasonable network management when the FCC itself is requiring ISPs to block robo-calls to users, or when ISPs are expected by the FCC to filter (i.e. block) viruses and malware, and to throttle the traffic of edge-driven denial-of-service-attacks that routinely assault ISP networks.
How can the FCC reasonably enforce absolute “bright-line” bans on blocking and throttling when the FCC Open Internet Order states: “The record broadly supports maintaining an exception for reasonable network management. We agree that a network management exception to the no-blocking rule, the no-throttling rule, and the no-unreasonable interference/disadvantage standard is necessary for broadband providers to optimize overall network performance and maintain a consistent quality experience for consumers while carrying a variety of traffic over their networks.” (para 215)
The FCC once again has got itself in a pickle in promising conflicting outcomes. On one hand it tells the public, industry and the reviewing court absolutely that blocking and throttling harm the Open Internet, but on the other hand it rules an exception is necessary for ‘reasonable network management.’
In conclusion, why FCC net neutrality policy is such a mess is that the absolutists are really not complaining about ISP “blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization.”
Their real beef is much less a Title II regulatory unreasonable discrimination problem, and much more akin to a lawsuit under antitrust law that alleges an ISP is a vertically-integrated monopoly that needs to be forever enjoined by a court from vertical integration.
And it is telling that the net neutrality absolutists effectively are trying to use Title II authority as antitrust law to preemptively ban a whole category of market participants from certain types of market behavior, with no investigation or finding of market power, and with no evidence that the targeted market participants actually did anything wrong, because no court would entertain such a baseless and senseless notion of antitrust law.
At bottom, net neutrality absolutists are demanding the FCC preemptively and absolutely ban market behaviors that no American law considers unreasonable on their face.
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, a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.