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Have the Feds Finally Gone Too Far?

February 18, 2016, 4:13 PM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil – 

There is a growing concern among citizens that some government officials have been and are continuing to abuse their authority.  There are many examples and evidence of this starting at the very top level of our government. Will there be further conflicts, and if so will it be the catalyst for further insurgency by citizens against government?  

Linking the Ferguson example in 2004 with that of rancher Clive Bundy’s Nevada dust-up within the same year (See Article 1 published at Illinois Review, Friday, February 12), and most recently the new conflict among more ranchers and government at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that resulted in police killing one of the ranchers, seems to point toward a developing pattern. One day after Thorner and O’Neil’s article was published at Illinois Review, news media information revealed the heavy hand of law once again struck at both the City of Ferguson and rancher Clive Bundy.

Ferguson was under pressure by the federal government (Attorney General Loretta Lynch) to submit to specific demands. Ferguson officials did not think it in their community’s  best interest to comply with the new procedures demanded of them, and Attorney General Lynch’s federal boots stomped down.  Ferguson has now become a political tool for a federal power grab.  The city may well end up with a federalized police department.

In an unexpected twist, federal authorities not only arrested the ranchers who had occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but they also arrested Cliven Bundy.  At 69, Bundy was charged with “conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, obstruction, having a weapon, and other offenses stemming from his role as the leader of an April 2014 clash with federal officials at his ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada. The 32-page criminal complaint cites Mr. Bundy’s role “in recruiting about 200 armed supporters to face off with federal agents who had come to remove his cattle from the Bureau of Land Management property in 2014 over a grazing dispute.  

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

As alluded to in the above paragraph, in early January of this year another explosive situation developed between ranchers and the government. This incident involved father and son ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond and resulted in the occupancy of the Malheur NationaI Wildlife Refuge.  It all began over a “controlled burn” on Hammond’s land, initiated as a “clearing” of dry grass land to protect their family’s property from a potential wildfire.  The federal government initiated charges claiming the Hammonds had burned federal land in the process.  The Hammonds acknowledged the fire accidentally strayed and burned grass on federal land. The Hammonds were arrested and a trial resulted.  The judge sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and his father Steven Hammond to one year in prison, even though there was no proof of deliberate arson. 

Both men completed their sentences, but after their release from prison, a federal judge stepped onto the scene claiming the punishment of the Hammonds was not enough.  The Ninth Court of Appeals stated: “Given the seriousness of arson, the ranchers should have been given a five-year sentence; the reduced sentence was grossly disproportionate to the offense.”  Dwight Hammond called the new ruling a “death sentence,” largely due to his advanced age. The Hammonds appealed to the Supreme Court, but it would not accept the case.  Currently, Dwight and Steven Hammond are appealing to President Obama for clemency.  

Ranchers support Dwight and Steven Hammond 

The new sentence was deemed exceedingly unfair by fellow ranchers, who believed the Hammonds’ rights had already been violated by the first sentence.  Ranchers knew an arson charge was inappropriate for what was actually a common occurrence by ranchers in the area. There is always a risk with controlled burns exceeding the intended limit, but there is a bigger risk to the land and property without the “burn.”  Ranchers had reached a limit to what they would endure from officials who appeared to them as enemies just looking for ways to discourage, discredit, and harm them. 

A group of ranchers joined together in a peaceful protest near the Hammonds’ home.  Brothers, Ryan and Ammon Bundy, driven by their growing anger of perceived injustices, broke away from what had been a peaceful protest and led a group of armed militiamen to take over the unoccupied headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, 2016.  It soon became obvious that the Refuge was being occupied by the renegade ranchers.

The following explanation was given by the ranchers occupying the Refuge:

“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds.  We’re planning on staying here for years. This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”  

Ryan Bundy further stated, “Many of the men at the refuge are willing to fight and die to protect the rights of states, counties, and individuals to manage local lands.”   Sadly, that proved to be true in the days ahead.  

FBI Challenges the Killing of a Rancher

The Malheur NationaI Wildlife Refuge occupation went viral in the media on January 26, 2016, when the mostly peaceful occupation turned violent.  Law enforcement officers shot and killed rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum as he drove on Highway 395, about fifty miles north of the occupied Malheur site. 

Not helpful was the conflict that developed in Harney County, Oregon over the nature of Finicum’s death.  In an interview the day before he died, Finicum claimed that the government appeared to be ramping up for action.  He voiced his concern saying:  “They’re doing all the things that show that they want to take some … action against us.”  

Kris Anne Hall, legal advisor for the Coalition of Western States and a defender of the armed Oregon take over, stated during an interview on The Joe Miller Show that no shots were fired by any of the protesters, but multiple shots were fired by federal agents at the protesters’ car.  Additionally, Ms. Hall claims LaVoy Finicum was “summarily executed” while on his knees with his hands in the air.  This claim was disputed by police, but there is no doubt Finicum was shot at least six times, while no shot originated from Finicum.  Further contradicting Ms. Hall are police claims that Finicum was going for his gun when shot. But there are witnesses who claim Finicum was shot multiple times, including in the face at close range after he was likely dead.

As of February 9, 2016, the autopsy report has not been released, which could prove helpful in determining whose version is most accurate. However, the FBI did release a video of the chase and the shooting on January 28, 2016, to the “Oregonian“ that carefully examined all in slow motion.  The detailed second by second account of the shooting can be viewed on this site.

In existence is another video of the police chasing Finicum’s car, taken from a helicopter overhead.  After the Finicum family viewed it, they called the shooting unjustified, even going so far as to accuse the authorities of a cover-up.  The new claims are bolstered by the account of Shawna Cox, who was riding in Finicum’s vehicle during the chase and shooting.  Another passenger, Victoria Sharp, provided confirmation that Finicum was fired upon before he left his truck.  

Conservation Plan negotiated as Beacon of Hope

What makes the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge flare-up so upsetting to stakeholders — including ranchers, environmentalists, and federal agents — was a conservation plan that had been agreed upon for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the Harney Basin. The plan took three years to negotiate.  An agreement was reached that considered ranchers’ livelihoods, ecological concerns, and local economic sustainability.  Accordingly, the plan had become a beacon of hope in the region, as well as in other rural communities faced with similar conflicts.

Joel Webster, Western Lands Director of TRCP (Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership), is credited with engineering the conservation agreement. In an interview Webster said:

“We try to sit down with people and develop a shared vision early on in the process or at least make sure our vision isn’t stepping on theirs. You do it in a way that minimizes conflict.  Collaborative planning processes such as the one worked out in the Harney Basin are the essence of good land management.” 

Nevertheless, conflicts do arise because the economic survival of some ranchers depend on access to water on public lands located in the high desert owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), especially during the critical spring and summer months.  Some ranchers even purchase grazing and water access to BLM owned high desert public land.  Furthermore, some landowners are not as amenable to that kind of collaboration with the federal government, claiming officials seek what is called state sovereignty over public lands: a transfer of rule making an administrative authority over taxpayer property: from federal agencies to state and county authorities.

It might come as a shock to many that the federal government owns 650 million acres of land or 1/4 of all the land in the U.S.  Most of the land is in the West.

Movement growing to seize land from Centralized Agencies

Webster is concerned over a growing movement to seize land management decisions away from centralized agencies.  His concern is based on how more and more ranchers and farmers — called “radicals” by Webster — are speaking up against public lands and oppose government control of any kind.  The result is a perception of injustice.  As in the Hammond case, there is a shrinking gap between those like Bundy and moderates who want to work with the government.  Concern also exists that the desire to wrest management authority away from public representatives at BLM and FWS could possibly become mainstream.  

Webster understands why ranchers are upset, but he does not see Bundy’s’ approach as a solution.  As Webster noted:

“It clearly seems unreasonable to put somebody in prison for five years for burning 139 acres of public land. There are some legitimate frustrations out there like that.”  Webster then added:  “But we have a system of laws put in place for reasons. You get engaged if you don’t like the laws and try to change them. You don’t hold a stand-off.”  Ranchers claim they tried the legal approach without success.

Impact of Standoff Unknown

It is difficult to ascertain the kind of impact the refuge standoff will have on the freshly-healed partnerships negotiated by Webster between ranchers and federal workers in the community prior to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

If the November 2014 Senate campaign is an indication, in which Cory Gardner (R) defeated Mark Udall (D) for U.S. Senate, the public seems to have sided with the ranchers,  The Gardner/Udall political contest was largely about the smothering effects of government regulation.  There does appears to be a growing sympathy for the ranchers as they are perceived as hard-working, honest people who are land rich and dollar poor, challenged by continual harassment inflicted by government agencies. The recent shooting of Finicum can only add to the community’s concern.

The standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge finally came to an end, when on Wednesday, February 10, 2016, forty-one days after the occupation of Malheur began, the last rancher surrendered to the FBI.

There are inevitable consequences when crisis situations are not successfully managed before tempers flare and situations become harder to control.  Most everyone ends up losing in the end.  

Granted, the conflict that created the situation in Oregon is far from over.  The ranchers involved have accomplished their primary goal of having their concerns made public, although not to the extent of those who rioted, thrashed, and burned Ferguson or those who marched on the streets of large cities chanting “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” 

Unfortunately in calling attention to their plight, one rancher paid the ultimate price, his life, for doing so.  Will the authorities now be more open to initiating productive discussions to hear ranchers’ concerns?  The fate of the protestors arrested and taken into custody might be an indicator of what the future might hold for the Great Basin region of this nation.

As for Ferguson, many now believe much of what transpired in Ferguson was a deliberate, orchestrated effort to federalize the police, to eliminate local independence through strong armed “consent,” and to send a message to other police departments around the country that the same thing can and will happen to them if they do not submit to federalization. It appears to be a first step to initiate the Obama “civilian national security force” that he called for in July, 2008. 

It seems prudent for all citizens to be alert to what is happening and realize this is not just about a few rare incidents; it is about protecting our Country, Constitution, and honest citizens from intrusive government actions.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt: Ted Cruz’s Education Bill and the Effects of Scalia’s Passing

February 18, 2016, 3:50 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Lennie Jarratt, project manager for education at The Heartland Institute joins host Donald Kendal to talk about a newly proposed bill that would treat homeschoolers like a private school, allowing them to receive federal money.

The bill, S. 306 – Enhancing Educational Opportunities for all Students Act, was proposed by Republican Senator Mike Lee and Co-sponsored by Senator and Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz. While the bill is generally well-received by advocates of school choice, some homeschoolers fear this access to federal money will inevitably usher in greater federal regulation.

Jarratt also talks about the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia and how it will effect the Supreme Court case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Union.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA Isn’t Handling Its Business – But Insists On Man-Handling Ours

February 18, 2016, 12:36 PM

I have a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) rule for federal government departments, agencies, commissions and boards: Barring a Constitutional amendment, if a bureaucracy was created after 1800 – it shouldn’t exist.

The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution – were by 1800 thoroughly implementing it. If they didn’t yet have the federal government doing something – the federal government wasn’t to be doing it.   So unless a subsequent amendment added an authority to the federal panoply – it’s been an unConstitutional addition.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970 – WAY past our sell-by date. Our nation got along just fine for nearly two centuries without this particular federal usurpation. Was the Constitution first amended to give the federal government the authority to override how fifty individual states each respectively decide how to handle environmental issues? Of course not.

Did Congress pretend to be a unilateral, illegal amendment process and pass legislation creating the EPA? Not even: “Pseudo-Republican Richard Nixon created the mess in 1970 in typical DC fashion. He pretended to be (a one-man Constitutional amendment process) – and signed an executive order. The Democrat-controlled Congress then pretended to be (two-thirds of the states) – and ‘ratified’ the EPA with committee hearings.…”

So the entirety of the EPA is Constitutionally illegitimate. It is through this prism that we should examine its actions. Which are unilateral, authoritarian, bullying and amateurish. Time and again they grab more and more power and authority over our lives – all while failing miserably at the things over which they already lord.

The latest example of their awfulness? “An EPA official was caught red-handed with full knowledge of the danger of an environmental spill at Colorado’s Gold King Mine in emails discovered by the Denver Post, but the agency downplayed any knowledge of the hazard to the public. As 3 million gallons of lead, cadmium and other chemicals polluted the Animas River, the EPA pretty well tried to downplay the severity of that, too.”

An EPA screwup of MASSIVE proportions. Followed by an equally huge attempted coverup. And yet literally no one in government was fired for the fiasco. And does their fiasco stop them from abusing a business accused of a MUCH smaller error? Of course not: “On the same day when the Denver Post printed the story above, the Department of Justice announced the latest criminal sentencing in connection with the Elk River spill.

“‘A former owner of Freedom Industries was sentenced today to 30 days in federal prison, six months of supervised release, and a $20,000 fine for environmental crimes connected to the 2014 Elk River chemical spill…. (Dennis P.) Farrell is one of six former officials of Freedom Industries, in addition to Freedom Industries itself as a corporation, to be prosecuted for federal crimes associated with the chemical spill.’

“Was this private company dealt with so harshly because the Elk River spill was larger than the EPA’s Animas River discharge? No: the Elk River spill was only 7,500 gallons, compared with three million gallons the EPA discharged into the Animas River.”

Get that? Six private sector employees and the company itself prosecuted – for spilling 0.0025% of what the EPA spilled. An EPA spill which resulted in zero bureaucrats prosecuted – or even canned.

The EPA can’t handle its business – but it sure as heck wants to man-handle ours.

And, of course, the EPA continues to unilaterally, illegally and omni-directionally expand its authority. But one such additional assault? “You want to kneecap farmers? And make food exorbitantly more expensive? Turn farmers’ water into a weapon against them.

“‘The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation. In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes….

“‘(T)he rules…(would) allow the government to dictate what farmers can and cannot do with their farmland, which often includes small streams, ponds and marshes.’”

Given all we know – who do you think knows better how to treat and handle farmland? The farmers – who live and earn their living on it? Or faceless bureaucrats far removed from the land – and the consequences of their heinous actions?

If farmers screw up their land – farmers don’t eat. If bureaucrats screw up farmers’ land – farmers don’t eat. And NOTHING happens to the bureaucrats.

Farmers are just like the rest of us. The less government there is – the better things are for them. Less government domestically – like the ridiculous EPA. And less government internationally – like eliminating all government meddling in farm markets.

We the People handle with care. Government man-handles with impunity.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Consumer Confusion over FCC’s Arbitrary Privacy Policymaking

February 18, 2016, 10:28 AM

What’s a consumer to think about what the FCC’s responsibility is for their privacy protection?

Let me try to explain to a consumer what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arbitrarily has done, and apparently intends to do, for consumer internet privacy protection going forward.

By way of background, for the first decade of the Internet when consumers used dial-up technology, the FCC was responsible for protecting consumers’ private network information from commercial use without their permission.

For the second decade of the Internet when consumers came to use broadband technology, the FCC ceded its dial-up-Internet privacy protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which became responsible for consumer privacy protection from unfair and deceptive practices consistently across the entire American Internet ecosystem, regardless of who interacted with consumers’ private information.

Last spring, in order to assert legal authority to enforce net neutrality to protect edge providers from potential traffic discrimination in the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the FCC incidentally clawed back some privacy authority over Internet communications — over the FTC’s strong objections.

To do so, the FCC had to re-imagine and declare that the broadband Internet was the same as the Public Switched Telephone Network for legal purposes, despite one being a predictable, closed-circuit, switched, network and the other being an unpredictable, open packet-switched, routed Internetwork.

At the last minute, and over the best judgment of the FCC’s legal team, the FCC ceded to a petition from Google, which wanted the FCC to legally split the Internet effectively into different two halves, upstream communications traffic and downstream communications traffic, where the FCC would be responsible for utility regulation of the upstream communications traffic half of Internet service coming from the consumer to “edge providers” (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), while the FTC apparently would be responsible for  the downstream communications traffic half coming from the edge providers to the consumer.

So consumers may need to remember that when they send something to someone on the Internet, their ISP Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI), which “means information that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, and amount of use of” telecommunications, may need to be kept private by their ISP in the future.

At the same time they also need to remember that the edge companies that receive that same upstream traffic which is naturally and inherently filled with CPNI in every communication, have no responsibility from the FCC, or the FTC, to protect the privacy of that CPNI private information.

Thus a helpful rule-of-thumb for consumers to remember about how the FCC’s new privacy policy will likely work, is this – whatever is the opposite of common sense.

On one hand the companies that consumers directly pay for their telephone, cellular, Internet access or cable service, whose economic interests are directly aligned with their paying customers, have FCC strict consumer privacy protection responsibilities, like they long have.

However, on the other hand, edge companies — who are not paid by the consumer, and who collect, track and mine as much private consumer information without their permission as digitally possible to fund their advertising businesses, and who are not economically-aligned with consumers’ interests because the consumer is not their customer, but the product they sell to advertisers – will likely have absolutely no FCC or FTC responsibility to protect the privacy of consumers’ CPNI.

In addition to having an arbitrary and nonsensical ISP privacy policy, the FCC has signaled that in its upcoming AllVid proceeding, it plans to be consistently arbitrary and nonsensical in also having an arbitrary and nonsensical cable privacy policy for sellers of cable set-top boxes, where on one hand it will protect consumers’ video viewing privacy if the consumer gets their cable set-top-box from a regulated cable service or DBS service provider, but not if a consumer buys a similar video-viewing cable set-top-box from Google or another edge provider.

In sum, how is an American consumer to make sense of the FCC’s privacy policy now and going forward?

They aren’t.

A consumer can discern from the apparent arbitrariness of the FCC’s actions to date that this FCC’s first purpose is not consumer protection, its first purposes are protecting the FCC’s relevance and picking edge business interests as winners over ISP, wireless, cable and DBS provider business interests.

As the old adage goes, watch what they do, not what they say.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

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.

Categories: On the Blog

The Follies and Fallacies of Keynesian Economics

February 17, 2016, 3:19 PM

Eighty years go, on February 4, 1936, one of the most influential books of the last one hundred years was published, British economist, John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. With it was born what has become known as Keynesian Economics.

Within less than a decade after its appearance, the ideas in The General Theory had practically conquered the economics profession and become a guidebook for government economic policy. Few books, in so short a time, have gained such wide influence and generated so destructive an impact on public policy. What Keynes succeeded in doing was to provide a rationale for what governments always like to do: spend other people’s money and pander to special interests.

In the process Keynes helped undermine what had been three of the essential institutional ingredients of a free-market economy: the gold standard, balanced government budgets, and open competitive markets. In their place Keynes’s legacy has given us paper-money inflation, government deficit spending, and more political intervention throughout the market.

It would, of course, be an exaggeration to claim that without Keynes and the Keynesian Revolution inflation, deficit spending, and interventionism would not have occurred. For decades before the appearance of Keynes’s book, the political and ideological climate had been shifting toward ever-greater government involvement in social and economic affairs, due to the growing influence of collectivist ideas among intellectuals and policy-makers in Europe and America.

Before Keynes: Wise Free Market Policies

But before the appearance of The General Theory, many of the advocates of such collectivist policies had to get around the main body of economic thinking which still argued that, in general, the best course was for government to keep its hands off the market, maintain a stable currency backed by gold, and restrain its own taxing and spending policies.

The free market economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had persuasively demonstrated that government intervention prevented the smooth functioning of the market. They were able to clearly show that governments have neither the knowledge nor the ability to direct economic affairs. Freedom and prosperity are best assured when government is, in general, limited to protecting people’s lives and property, with the competitive forces of supply and demand bringing about the necessary incentives and coordination of people’s activities.

Lessons Learned: Gold Money and Balanced Budgets

During the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century, many European countries experienced serious inflations as governments resorted to the money printing press to fund their war expenditures. The lesson the free market economists learned was that the hand of the government had to be removed from the handle of that printing press if monetary stability was to be maintained. The best way of doing this was to link a nation’s currency to a commodity like gold, require banks to redeem their notes for gold on demand at a fixed rate of exchange, and limit any increases in the amount of bank notes in circulation to additional deposits of gold left in the banks by their depositors.

They also concluded that deficit spending was a dangerous means of funding government programs. It enabled governments to create the illusion that they could spend without imposing a cost on society in the form of higher taxes; they could borrow and spend today, and defer the tax cost until some tomorrow when the loans would have to be repaid.

These free market economists called for annually balanced budgets, enabling the electorate to see more clearly the cost of government spending. If a national emergency, such as a war, were to force the government to borrow, then when the crisis passed, the government should run budget surpluses to pay off the debt.

Keynes’ Thinking on Markets, Wages and Government

These were considered the tried and true policies for a healthy society. And these were the policies that Keynes did his best to try to overthrow in the pages of his book, The General Theory. He argued that a market economy was inherently unstable, open to swings of irrational investor optimism and pessimism, which resulted in unpredictable and wide fluctuations in output, employment, and prices.

Only government, he believed, could take the long view and rationally keep the economy on an even keel by running deficits to stimulate the economy during depressions and surpluses to rein it in during inflationary booms. He therefore attacked the notion of annual balanced budgets; instead, government should balance its budget over the “business cycle,” that is, deficits during recessions and surpluses during full employment and economic growth years.

But to do this job, Keynes said, the “barbarous relic” of the gold standard should not hamstring governments. Wise politicians, guided by brilliant economists like himself, had to have the flexibility to increase the money supply, manipulate interest rates, and change the foreign-exchange rates at which currencies traded for each other. They required this power so they could generate any amount of spending needed to put people to work through public-works projects and government-stimulated private investments. Limiting increases in the money supply to the quantity of gold would only get in the way, Keynes insisted.

Keynes believed not only that the market economy could not keep itself on an even keel he also believed that it would be undesirable to allow the market to work. He once said that to have the market determine prices and wages to balance supply and demand was to submit society to a cruel and unjust “economic juggernaut.” Instead, he wanted wages and prices to be politically fixed on the basis of “what is ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ as between the [social] classes.”

During the Great Depression years of mass unemployment, he argued that the level of wages imposed by trade unions were to be viewed as sacrosanct, even if many workers were priced out of the market because the level was higher than potential employers thought those workers were worth. The government, instead, was to print money, run deficits, and push up prices to any level needed to make it again profitable for employers to hire workers. In other words, perpetual price inflation was to be the means to assure “full employment” in the face of aggressive trade unions demanding excessive wages.

The “Austrian” Alternative to Keynesian Economics

What Keynes completely discounted and, in fact, rejected was the alternative “Austrian” interpretation of the causes and cures for the Great Depression, as formulated by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. Hayek and others. For the Austrian Economists, monetary expansion and interest rate manipulation had set in motion serious and distorting imbalances between savings and investment that resulted in mal-investment of capital, and misdirection of resources and labor – even though this happened in the United States under the seeming non-inflationary circumstances of a relatively stable price level.

Keynes’s new “macroeconomics” of focusing primarily on economy-wide statistical averages and aggregates – such as “aggregate demand,” “aggregate supply,” output and employment “as a whole” – hide from view all the real “microeconomic” relationships and interconnections between numerous individual supplies and demands that were being thrown out of coordination and balance due to the monetary policies of central banks.

When the financial and economic crisis of 1929-1930 began to snowball into wider and wider circles of falling output and rising unemployment, the Austrians had emphasized that a rebalancing throughout many parts of the economy required price and wage adjustments, and labor, capital and resource reallocations to restore coordination between those interconnected supplies and demands.

But this was the explanation and solution to the Great Depression that John Maynard Keynes rejected and refused to understand.

Deficit Spending and Special Interest Politics

In addition, when the balanced-budget rule was overthrown there was no longer any check on government spending. As economists, James M. Buchanan, and Richard E. Wagner pointed out in Democracy in Deficit (1977), once government is freed from the restraint of making taxpayers directly and immediately pay for what it spends, every conceivable special-interest group can appeal to the politicians to feed their wants. The politicians, desiring votes and campaign contributions, happily offer to satisfy the gluttony of these favored groups. At the same time, the taxpayers easily fall prey to the delusion that government can give something for nothing to virtually everyone at no or little cost to them.

Indeed, politicians can now play the game of offering more and more dollars to special interests, while sometimes even lowering taxes. The government simply fills the gap by borrowing, imposing a greater debt burden on future generations. Either taxes will have to go up in the years ahead or the government will turn to the printing press to pay what it owes, all the while claiming that it’s being done to generate “national prosperity” and fund the “socially necessary” programs of the welfare state.

And no need to worry about all this in the present, Keynes assured us, after all “in the long run we are all dead,” as he famously once said. Our problem, of course, is that we are increasingly living through the long-run consequences of Keynes’ short-run policies.

Enduring Wisdom of the Free Market Economists

The free market economics that preceded Keynes had been founded on two insights about man and society. First, there is an invariant quality to man’s nature that makes him what he is; and if society is to be harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous, men must reform their social institutions in a way that directs the inevitable self-interests of individual men into those avenues of action that benefit not only themselves but others in society as well.

They therefore advocated the institutions of pri­vate property, voluntary exchange, and peaceful, open competition. Then, as Adam Smith had concisely expressed, men would live in a system of natural liberty in which each individual would be free to pursue his own ends, but would be guided as if by an invisible hand to serve the interests of others in society as the means to his own self-improvement.

Second, it is insufficient in any judgment concerning the desir­ability of a social or economic policy to focus only upon its seemingly short-run benefits. The laws of the market always bring about certain effects in the long run from any shift in supply and demand or from any government intervention in the market order. Thus, as French economist Frederic Bastiat emphasized, it behooves us always to try to determine not merely “what is seen” from a government policy in the short run, but also to discern as best we can “what is unseen,” that is, the longer-run consequences of our actions and policies.

The reason it is desirable to take the less immediate conse­quences into consideration is that longer-run effects may not only not improve the ill the policy was meant to cure, but can make the social situation even worse than had it been left alone. Even though the specific details of the future always remain beyond our ability to predict fully, one use of economics is to assist us to at least qual­itatively anticipate the likely contours and shape of that future aid­ed by an understanding of the laws of the market.

Keynes’s assumptions deny the wisdom and the insights of those free market economists. The biased em­phasis is toward the benefits and pleasures of the moment, the short run, with an almost total disregard of the longer run consequences.

Keynes’s economics of the short-run, led Austrian economist, F. A. Hayek, to lament in 1941:

“I cannot help regarding the increasing concentration on short-run effects . . . not only as a serious and dangerous intellectual error, but as a betrayal of the main duty of the economist and a grave menace to our civilization . . . It used, however, to be regarded as the duty and the privilege of the economist to study and to stress the long run effects which are apt to be hidden to the untrained eye, and to leave the concern about the more immediate effects to the practical man, who in any event would see only the latter and nothing else. . . .

“It is not surprising that Mr. Keynes finds his views anticipated by the mercantilist writers and gifted amateurs; concern with the surface phenomena has always marked the first stage of the scientific approach to our subject . . . Are we not even told that, “since in the long run we all are dead,” policy should be guided entirely by short-run considerations. I fear that these believers in the principle of ‘après nous le deluge’ [‘after us, the flood’] may get what they have bargained for sooner than they wish.”

Keynes’s Ideology of Ethical Nihilism

On what moral or philosophical basis, it is reasonable to ask, did Keynes believe that policy advocates such as himself had either the right or the ability to manage or direct the economic interactions of multitudes of peoples in the marketplace? Keynes explained his own moral foundations in Two Memoirs, published posthumously in 1949, three years after his death. One memoir, written in 1938, examined the formation of his “Early Beliefs” as a young man in his twenties at Cambridge University in the first decade of the twentieth-century.

He, and many other young intellectuals at Cambridge, had been influenced by the writings of philosopher G. E. Moore. Separate from Moore’s argument, what are of interest are the conclusions reached by Keynes from reading Moore’s work. Keynes said:

“Indeed, in our opinion, one of the greatest advantages of his [Moore’s] religion was that it made morals unnecessary . . . Nothing mattered except states of mind, our own and other people’s of course, but chiefly our own. These states of mind were not associated with action or achievement or consequences. They consisted of timeless, passionate states of contemplation and communion, largely unattached to ‘before’ and ‘after’.”

In this setting, traditional or established ethical or moral codes of conduct meant nothing. Said Keynes:

“We entirely repudiated a personal liability on us to obey general rules. We claimed the right to judge every individual case on its own merits, and the wisdom, experience and self-control to do so successfully. This was a very important part of our faith, violently and aggressively held . . . We repudiated entirely customary morals, conventions and traditional wis­doms. We were, that is to say, in the strict sense of the term immoralists . . . We recognized no moral obligation upon us, no inner sanction to conform or obey. Before heaven we claimed to be our own judge in our own case.”

Keynes declared that he and those like him were “left, from now onwards, to their own sensible devices, pure motives and reliable in­tuitions of the good.”

Then in his mid-fifties, Keynes declared in 1938, “Yet so far as I am concerned, it is too late to change. I remain, and always will remain, an immoralist.” As for the social order in which he still claimed the right to act in such unrestrained ways, Keynes said that “civilization was a thin and precarious crust erected by the per­sonality and the will of a very few, and only maintained by rules and conventions skillfully put across and guilely preserved.”

Thus, the decisions concerning the affairs of society are to be made on the basis of the self-centered “state of mind” of the policymakers, with total disregard of traditions, customs, mor­al codes, rules, or the long-run laws of the market. Their rightness or wrongness was not bound by any independent standard of “achievement and consequence.”

Instead it was to be guided by “timeless, passionate states of contemplation and communion, largely unattached to ‘before’ and ‘after’.” The decision-maker’s own “intuitions of the good,” for himself and for others, were to serve as his compass. And let no ordinary man claim to criticize such actions or their results. “Before heaven,” said Keynes, “we claimed to be our own judge in our own case.”

Here was an elitist ideology of nihilism. The members of this elite were self-appointed and shown to belong to this elect pre­cisely through mutual self-congratulations of having broken out of the straightjacket of conformity, custom, and law.

For Keynes in his fifties, civilization was this thin, precarious crust overlaying the animal spirits and irrationality of ordinary men. Its existence, for whatever it was worth, was the product of “the personality and the will of a very few,” like himself, naturally, and maintained through “rules and conventions skillfully put across and guilely preserved.”

Society’s shape and changing form were to be left in the hands of “the chosen” few who stood above the passive conventions of the masses. Here was the hubris of the social engineer, the self-selected philosopher-king, who through manipulative skill and guile direct­ed and experimented on society and its multitudes of individuals.

Keynes’s arrogance and self-confidence in his ability to manage and manipulate public opinion and public policy was expressed shortly before his death in 1946. Friedrich Hayek once recounted a conversation he had with Keynes in the immediate post-World War II period.

Hayek asked Keynes if he was not concerned that some of his own intellectual disciples were taking his ideas into dangerous and undesirable directions.

“After a not very complementary remark about the persons concerned he proceeded to reassure me: those ideas had been badly needed at the time he had launched them. But I need not be alarmed; if they should ever become dangerous I could rely upon him that he would again quickly swing round public opinion – indicating by a quick movement of his hand how rapidly that would be done. But three months later he was dead.”

Politicians Hear Keynes’ Defunct Voice in the Air

In one of the most famous passages in The General Theory, Keynes said,

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

Eighty years after the appearance of The General Theory, many practical men of affairs and politicians in authority remain the slaves of defunct economists and academic scribblers. The tragedy for our times is that among the voices they still hear in the air as they corruptly mismanage everything they touch is that of John Maynard Keynes.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Terry Miller: America Drops on the Economic Freedom Index

February 17, 2016, 2:53 PM

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. 

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

Categories: On the Blog

Ride-Sharing Saves Time, Money, and Lives

February 17, 2016, 11:18 AM

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.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Does Regulation Kill Private Sector Investment? Is Water Wet? Is Snow Cold?

February 17, 2016, 11:11 AM

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 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.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

What Passes for Anti-School Choice Rhetoric is Frightening

February 17, 2016, 8:54 AM

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.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Get Fair Dinkum

February 16, 2016, 3:28 PM

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.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Ryan Yonk: The Economic Impact of Renewable Fuel Mandates

February 16, 2016, 2:52 PM

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.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Campaign 2016: Nobody Cares About Climate Change

February 16, 2016, 1:42 PM

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.

Categories: On the Blog

Tax Oil to Subsidize Wind?

February 16, 2016, 11:27 AM

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.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. © February 2016

Categories: On the Blog

The Politics Behind the Anti-Fossil Fuels Campaign

February 16, 2016, 11:16 AM

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.

[Originally published at the Washington Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Millennials Are Well-Meaning but Misguided on Energy Policy

February 16, 2016, 9:45 AM

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.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

First Ferguson, then Great Basin. Tensions Mount Between Citizens and Authorities

February 16, 2016, 9:40 AM

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.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Honest School Information Crucial for School Choice

February 16, 2016, 8:54 AM

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?

[Originally published at The Hill]

Categories: On the Blog

How to Escape the Student Loan Debt Crisis: Online College Degrees

February 16, 2016, 6:52 AM

Stanford University. Photo by Robbie Shade.

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, which recently released its updated list of the “2016 Most Affordable Online Colleges & Degrees,” available here:

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’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 or any online college or university. The author has no financial connection to any of the parties mentioned in the article.

Photo: Stanford University. Photo by Robbie Shade.

Categories: On the Blog

Sen. Barack Obama on Why He Voted Against Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court

February 15, 2016, 5:40 PM

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.”

Categories: On the Blog

U.S. Climate Scientist Exposes Climate Errors, while German Scientists Suppress Dissent

February 15, 2016, 3:49 PM

happy family watching the sunset on the beach

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.”

Categories: On the Blog