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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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The “Establishment” is Slow to Learn; Senate Republicans Pushing for More #GreenPork

April 12, 2016, 3:08 PM

In this election cycle, we hear a lot about the “establishment.” Most people are not really sure who they are, but they are sure that they do not like them. The anger toward the establishment is not party specific and has propelled two unlikely candidates: Donald Trump on the Republican side and Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democrats.

The faithful following these outsiders may be more about “the grassroots trying to teach the establishment a lesson,” as Gary Bauer posited last month, than about affection for either man. In an InfoWars video, reporter Richard Reeves, at the University of Texas in Austin speaks to Wyatt, a young man who’d just voted for Sanders. Wyatt indicates that most of his fellow students likely voted for Sanders as well. The surprise is his comment about the students’ second choice: “Donald Trump.”  Why? He’s not “establishment.” Wyatt admits he didn’t consider voting for anyone else—just Sanders and Trump.

The establishment has been slow to grasp the public’s rejection of an increasingly distrusted political class.

However one might define the “establishment,” it certainly includes long-time Washington politicians like Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Thune (R-SD), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—who have just engaged in the exact tactics that have fed the voter frustration aimed at them. Avoiding a vigorous debate, they are using a must-pass bill to sneak through millions in totally unrelated taxpayer giveaways to special interests in the renewable energy industry—and they hope voters won’t notice.

The bill is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act. On April 6, using an unrelated House bill (H.R. 636) that will serve as the legislative shell for the Senate’s FAA measure (S. 2658), the Senate began consideration to reauthorize the FAA for 18 months. It is expected that the bill will be voted on this week, followed by the House—which will take it up when it is back in session.

Funding for the FAA expired in September and received a 6-month extension—which expired again on March 31. Avoiding a shutdown, Congress passed another extension that President Obama signed on March 30. This legislation authorized federal spending on aviation and related aviation taxes through mid-July 2016.

Both the House and Senate have been grappling with a multi-year aviation bill. Now, FAA reauthorization only has about two weeks to be debated and approved before it will be shoved aside to make way for budget proceedings. One major point of conflict is the renewable energy tax breaks. Because the Senate FAA bill includes a tax title, it is open to unrelated tax amendments.

Many renewable energy tax credits were extended in the omnibus spending package that was passed late last year, but Democrats claim that in the chaos of last minute negotiations, some were “unintentionally” left out. According to Morning Consult, Thune said: “This is what [Democrats] always viewed as the best opportunity to get some of these things that were left out of last year’s extender bill.” Senate Minority Leader Reid announced: “the inclusion of the provisions is a requirement for the legislation to move forward.”

While many Republicans opposed the addition of the renewable energy tax credits, provisions supporting investments in fuel cells, geothermal and biomass were included in the Senate negotiations. Addressing the Senate’s scramble to “settle on a cohesive strategy” regarding attaching the renewable energy tax breaks to the bill, Politico reports: “House Republicans have made it clear they’re not interested in renewing any of the expired tax provisions this year.” The bill’s coverage in Roter Daily states: “key Republicans have already warned fellow House members to oppose a deal on tax extenders if it comes out of the Senate, saying they have consistently failed to promote economic growth and create jobs.”

As we have seen with the recent demise of government-funded, green-energy projects, such tax credits and subsidies have repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises of long-term job creation and economic viability. It is for this reason that, on April 5, a coalition of more than 30 organizations sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee expressing our deep opposition to the proposal. The letter, of which I am a signatory, states: “Congress considered the matter of expiring tax provisions less than 4 months ago. … It should also be noted that Congress extended significantly favorable tax treatment to renewable energy in omnibus appropriation legislation that accompanied the aforementioned tax extender package.”

Andrew Langer, President of the Institute for Liberty, who also signed the letter, explains his position: “In December, Congress purposefully allowed a series of tax credits for so-called ‘green’ energies to expire. This was not some mere oversight as some have alleged, but a purposeful recognition that as the energy landscape has changed, the need to extend some two dozen of these credits was unwarranted. Others were allowed to continue—but roughly $1.5 billion were not.”

If you believe, as all the signatories to the letter do, that American taxpayers shouldn’t have to prop up large, well-connected special interests through tax handouts, carve outs, and loopholes using unsustainable Washington spending, please let your representatives know now. Please urge Senate offices to oppose keeping in the tax extenders, and encourage House offices to oppose adding in extenders.

With our national debt totaling more than $19 trillion, the last thing we need is more corporate welfare. But our legislators are slow to learn. Senate Republicans, like Thune, who is the lead negotiator for the Republicans, have worked with the Democrats to include the renewable energy tax credits. Thune stated: “We’re listening to them and we’re working for them.”

No wonder the electorate is angry. But Washington politicians don’t get it. While a battle rages over who will be the next president, unfazed, the establishment continues on.

Langer concludes: “the political ramifications are clear, as history has taught us. Republicans who give in to cronyism, who give in to profligate spending… they get nothing in the end. Worse, they do considerable damage to the concept that Republicans are the party of lower spending and less government. In a political cycle where the future is entirely uncertain for Republicans at all levels, those who are pushing for these tax breaks do their colleagues no great service.”

Join us in educating the “establishment” by calling them and telling them: “No more green pork!” #GreenPork

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

Radical Green and Government Agitators Slam Methane in Latest Bid to Terminate Fossil Fuel Use

April 12, 2016, 2:51 PM

Quick: What is 17 cents out of $100,000? If you said 0.00017 percent, you win the jackpot.

That number, by sheer coincidence, is also the percentage of methane in Earth’s atmosphere. That’s a trivial amount, you say: 1.7 parts per million. There’s three times more helium and 230 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You’re absolutely right, again.

Equally relevant, only 19% of that global methane comes from oil, natural gas and coal production and use. Fully 33% comes from agriculture: 12% from rice growing and 21% from meat production. Still more comes from landfills and sewage treatment (11%) and burning wood and animal dung (8%). The remaining 29% comes from natural sources: oceans, wetlands, termites, forest fires and volcanoes.

The manmade portions are different for the USA: 39% energy use, 36% livestock, 18% landfills, and 8% sewage treatment and other sources. But it’s still a piddling contribution to a trivial amount in the air.

Of course, the Obama EPA and Climate Cataclysm Industry ignore these inconvenient facts. They insist that methane is “a far more potent greenhouse gas” than carbon dioxide, and that its emissions must be drastically reduced if we are to avoid “runaway global warming.” So EPA and other federal agencies are preparing to unleash a tsunami of new regulations to block natural gas drilling, fracking, flaring and production, while radical environmentalists orchestrate new assaults on petrochemical plants that create plastics, paints, fabrics, computer and vehicle components and countless other products for modern life.

They want us to believe that government regulators can decree Earth’s climate simply by controlling methane and carbon dioxide – regardless of what the sun, ocean circulation, recurrent planetary temperature cycles and other powerful natural forces might do. They say it’s pure coincidence that these two trace gases (CH4 and CO2) are the only climate-affecting mechanisms that are associated with the fossil fuels and industrialized economies they despise.

They also want us to believe reducing United States methane emissions will make a huge difference. But even if US manmade methane emissions are 20% of the worldwide total, the 39% US fossil fuel portion of that US portion means even totally eliminating US methane emissions would reduce global manmade methane output by a minuscule 7.8 percent. Under a best-case scenario, that might keep atmospheric methane below a still irrelevant 0.00020% (2.0 ppm; 20 cents out of $100,000) for a few more years.

This smells like fraud. And as New York AG Eric Schneiderman so kindly reminded the climate skeptics he’s threatening with RICO, “The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to commit fraud.”

Perhaps EPA plans to go after America’s agricultural sector next. After all, as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan intoned last year, red meat is bad for us (cancer) and for the climate (animal flatulence and manure). Moreover, “insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat,” there are 1,900 species of edible insects on Planet Earth, and more than a billion people already make bugs part of their diet. Perhaps the IPCC and White House will serve roasted roaches at their next state dinners?

That would reduce US methane emissions a bit more. But it gets even more deceitful, more barking mad.

The un-ratified 2015 Paris climate treaty obligates the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe to continue reducing their fossil fuel use and emissions – even though they can hardly afford to kill more millions of jobs and further roll back living standards for all but their ruling elites.

Meanwhile, developing countries will not and cannot afford to lock up their fossil fuels, shut down their economic growth, and leave billions of people mired in poverty, malnutrition and disease. Indeed, under the Paris treaty, they are not required to reduce their fossil fuel use or “greenhouse gas” emissions; they need only take voluntary steps to reduce them, when it is convenient for them to do so.

That means slashing US methane (and carbon dioxide) emissions – and the jobs, living standards, health and welfare that fossil fuels bring – will have no effect whatsoever on atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

But that is irrelevant to Mr. Obama and his EPA. The fact is, this methane mendacity and madness has nothing to do with stabilizing Earth’s climate. It has everything to do with hogtying and bankrupting US fossil fuel companies, controlling industrial activities and people’s living standards – and mandating a costly transition to renewable energy, while rewarding the hordes of scientists, activists and industrialists who benefit from the $1.5-trillion-per-year Climate Crisis, Inc. money train.

That raises a critical question: Just where and how will we produce those “eco-friendly” biofuels?

US ethanol production alone requires all the corn grown on an area the size of Iowa (36 million acres), and it makes up only 10% of the country’s E10 gasoline blends. Replacing all gasoline with ethanol from corn, sorghum or still-illusory switchgrass would therefore require ten Iowas: 360 million acres. But there is one other critical factor: ethanol has one-third less energy per gallon than pure gasoline.

That means we would need to plant an additional 120 million acres, 480 million acres in all, just to replace gasoline. That’s equal to Alaska, California and West Virginia combined!

Replacing all the liquid petroleum we use annually (291 billion gallons) would require twice as much land – some 45% of all the land in the United States: six times more land than we currently have under cultivation for all cereal crops – plowing even marginal croplands, deserts, forests and grasslands.

We’d also need far more fuel to grow, harvest and convert those crops into “eco-friendly” fuel. That would likely mean turning southern Canada into a vast biofuel plantation – unless, of course, the ruling classes simply impose lower living standards and vehicle ownership restrictions on us commoners.

Growing biofuel crops also requires hundreds of times more water than is needed to conduct hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations to produce the same amount of energy from oil and gas, on a tiny fraction of the acreage. Where on this water-starved planet will that precious liquid come from?

Biofuel crops also require prodigious amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. And if organic and anti-GMO factions have their way, far more land would be needed, pest control would be minimal or done by hand, and fertilizer would come from human wastes and animal manure – raising even more complex issues.

To put it bluntly, a biofuel future would be totally and disastrously unsustainable.

There’s another deep, dark secret about biofuels. Somebody needs to tell Obama, McCarthy, Clinton, Sanders and their army of “green” supporters that biofuels are hydrocarbons! They are composed of carbon and hydrogen, though in less complex molecular structures than what we pull out of the ground – which means we get less energy per gallon. And when we burn them, they release carbon dioxide!

We have at least a century of untapped oil and natural gas (and of coal) right under our feet. To lock that up, based on unproven, illusory, fabricated, fraudulent climate chaos claims, is utter insanity.

Even crazier, most anti-fossil-fuel zealots also oppose nuclear and hydroelectric power – and want future electricity generated primarily or solely with wind turbines and solar panels. To blanket our scenic, crop and wildlife lands with wind farms, solar installations and biofuel plantations – and destroy economies, jobs, living standards, health and welfare in the process – is nothing short of criminal.

President Obama and presidential candidates Clinton and Sanders assure us we can have 30% renewables by 2030, 50% by 2050, 100% by 2100 – or some similar magic, catchy, sound bite concoction.

Voters should demand to know exactly how they will make this happen. If they cannot or will not answer satisfactorily, a strong case can be made for the proposition that they are too ignorant and dishonest to hold office – and that their supporters are too stupid and anti-environment to vote. J

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Yaron Brook: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality

April 12, 2016, 1:21 PM

What do Michelangelo, LeBron James, Steve Jobs, and Bernie Sanders have in common? In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Yaron Brook, the president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute to find out!

Equality is not fair, Brook says, and it’s not an achievable goal in the real world, because everyone has different abilities and skills. Instead of weighing down LeBron James so he’s no better at basketball or make Michelangelo paint left-handed so he’s no better at art than other people, we should embrace the fact that everyone has different talents than everyone else.

“Income equality alarmism,” as Brook calls it, is causing people to fear that some people might have different levels of success in life, leading them to conclude that big-government policies like higher taxes and protectionist trade policies are the only way to “make America great again.” Instead of turning to government to keep everyone equal, Brook says people should embrace their inner Steve Jobs and strive for success… and government should get out of the way of the people’s right to the pursuit of happiness.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Symbolism Carries High Costs

April 12, 2016, 11:05 AM

During March 22 hearings before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, under questioning by West Virginia Rep. David McKinley (R), EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted (once again) the Obama administration’s climate efforts will do nothing to protect public or environmental health. McCarthy instead acknowledged the efforts are merely a symbolic attempt to get other countries’ leaders to join the Paris climate agreement.

Concerning the Clean Power Plan (CPP), McKinley asked, “If it doesn’t have an impact on climate change around the world, why are we subjecting our hardworking taxpayers and men and women in the coal fields to something that has no benefit?”

“We see it as having had enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership, as well as garnering support around the country for the agreement we reached in Paris,” McCarthy responded.

There is nothing new in McCarthy’s admission. In September 2013, in response to questions from Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) concerning CPP, which was then under development, McCarthy said she couldn’t show it would have any impact on the 26 “climate indicators” being tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy said, “[The CPP was] part of an overall strategy … positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

In July 2015, McCarthy testified before the House Science Committee, where she said, “The value of [the CPP] is not measured [by the amount of warming it prevents]. … I’m not disagreeing that this action in and of itself will not make all the difference we need to address climate action, but what I’m saying is that if we don’t take action domestically we will never get started.”

The domestic costs of climate symbolism are high. Regulations imposed by the Obama administration have already shuttered 265 coal-fired power units between 2009 and 2014, which took enough power offline to electrify 12.6 million homes. These closures cost 39,684 jobs at coal-fired electric power plants and thousands of other jobs at coal mines; at companies who provide services or machinery to the coal-mining, transportation, or power-generation industries; and at retailers and restaurants where the newly unemployed used to shop and dine. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation warns CPP will likely result in the closure of nearly five times more coal-fired power plants, which means hundreds of thousands of additional jobs could be lost.

Consumers will also be directly harmed by CPP. A study produced by NERA Economic Consulting shows CPP could raise electricity by double digits, with ratepayers in the 28 states hardest hit by CPP possibly facing price spikes greater than 20 percent.

Poor and many middle-income families, which include many minorities and those on fixed incomes, spend a higher percentage of their money on energy and commodities that are heavily dependent upon energy consumption, such as food and transportation, compared to relatively wealthy families. This means CPP and other similar policies are essentially a tax on the poor.

To some extent, the Obama administration’s symbolic climate policies have worked. They helped convince 184 nations to agree to cut or cap their emissions at the Paris climate conference in December 2015, but even these commitments are only symbolic. The United Nations has acknowledged even if all the Paris-agreement nations keep their commitments, the impact on global temperature will be minimal—around one or two-tenths of a degree Celsius, virtually too small to measure.

The costs imposed by the Paris agreement would be the most detrimental for the poorest among us. The carbon dioxide reductions agreed to in Paris would virtually guarantee continued poverty and unnecessary premature death for the most impoverished 1.5 billion people in the world.

Think about how many lives would be saved by increased fossil-fuel use in the health care industry alone. Modern hospitals cannot function without fossil fuels. Gasoline fuels emergency vehicles and electricity keeps the lights, computers, climate controls, and refrigeration working properly. Fossil-fuel-powered electricity runs incubators that save the lives of premature babies, and respirators keep people breathing until they can breathe on their own. Electricity runs the machines sterilizing instruments, and MRIs, x-rays, CT scans and virtually all of the other tests and technologies enabling medical professionals to predict, diagnose, and treat the many diseases and injuries humans suffer each year need significant amounts of electric power.

Electricity also delivers safe drinking water, and fossil fuels are used to make the plastics that are used in hospital blood and medicine bags, tubes, wiring, and even furniture.

How long should the poor in developing countries be required to forego the fossil-fuel dependent, lifesaving medical technologies we in the modernized Western world take for granted? Symbolic climate policies carry an unjustifiable price tag, killing people and leaving millions of families without energy and unable to raise themselves out of poverty. Nothing could be more immoral.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

The De-Industrial Revolution Spreads

April 12, 2016, 9:19 AM

The industrial revolution started in Britain with inventors and entrepreneurs using coal to drive steam engines and make iron and steel. Generations have benefitted.

But Greens have started the DI (de-industrial) revolution. Their policies aim to have Britain producing no coal or steel and relying on expensive, subsidized, intermittent energy from windmills.

Consequently, heavy industry in Britain is in sharp decline, real jobs are scarce and some frosty night, lights will go out, trains will stop and “Earth Hour” will last until dawn.

The pampered green class will rejoice temporarily, but will soon join the modern pommy paupers forced back to candles, poaching and workhouses.

Read More:

Race to go Green is killing UK heavy Industry:
http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c920274f2a364603849bbb505&id=3eefe27c1a&e=e1638e04a2

Crippling Energy Costs cause layoffs at Tata Steel:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/tata-steel-points-finger-at-energy-taxes-as-it-cuts-720-jobs-10395335.html

Energy Policy threatens British Steel:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/11944107/Energy-policy-is-putting-the-British-steel-industry-at-risk.html

Closure of last British Deep Coal Mine:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/19/thousands-march-closure-uks-last-deep-coal-mine-kellingley-colliery

Greece, Spain and Italy are also infected with the DI disease. It has now spread to Australia where mining, energy and heavy industries are drowning in green ooze.

Categories: On the Blog

The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part Two

April 11, 2016, 4:27 PM

O’Sullivan’s Law, named after British journalist John O’Sullivan, holds that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.

Nowhere does that law hold more true than on American college and university campuses, where surveys and campaign donation records show that leftist faculty routinely outnumber conservative faculty, and that faculty and administrators tend to donate to Democratic candidates for office over Republican candidates by ratios of close to 100 to 1.

And where faculty and administrators lead, can students be far behind?

One need look no further than the current Democratic Presidential campaign, in which Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist whose campaign platform is indistinguishable from that of the Communist Party USA, draws much of his support from young college students lured by the unrealistic promise of “free” tuition for the education they largely aren’t receiving.

The reason college students no longer assuredly receive a genuine education is that, bowing to the political correctness of the day, true core curricula in the classics and Western civilization are largely anathema.  Stanford students who marched around in the 1980s chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has Got to Go!” largely got their wish.

When the Bass brothers of Texas donated $20 million to Yale College in 1991 with the express directive that the money be used to fund core courses in Western Civilization, the University refused to go along with the brothers’ directives and gave the money back – despite an ongoing fundraising drive.

Instead of teaching the classics, American universities are busy falling all over themselves to be politically correct, imperiling free speech and academic freedom in the process.  How did all this happen?  Mostly through federal government intervention.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended, prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.  Such discrimination also includes “harassment,” which the EEOC defines as “unwelcome conduct” directed against a person in one of these protected classes where “1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”

Title VII applies only to conditions of employment, which affects faculty and staff and, perhaps, graduate students and research assistant paid by the college or university, but not students themselves unless they also work for the institution.  That’s where Title IX comes in.

Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments forbids educational programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance from excluding any person from participation in, being denied the benefits of, or being the subject of discrimination under, any such program or activity on the basis of sex.  That sound simple enough:  What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  And because almost all colleges accept students who take out federal loans, even private institutions are subject to government oversight.

Back in 1972, with the rare exception of hermaphrodites, the law considered the existence of only two sexes:  male and female.  And even at colleges and universities that admitted both sexes (some Ivy League schools did, not for example, before 1969), students were largely segregated by sex, at least officially, in their living, sleeping, and bathroom arrangements.  Many state laws required that men and women use separate bathrooms, and some schools even enforced parietal rules that restricted the hours and locations in which students of the opposite sex could be in one another’s company.

This all sounds quaintly Victorian these days, but look at the result in today’s hyper-sexualized, hyper-liberal world:  fights over who gets to use which locker room and a disputed but widely-touted claim that, before she graduates, one out of every five female students will be the subject of a sexual assault.

Genuine sexual assault is a serious crime and should be reported and dealt with as such.  But the insistence of the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that “sexual harassment” means “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and includes “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature” can lead to some absurd results.

As of March 2016 the OCR has investigated over 100 colleges and universities for such alleged Title IX violations as failing to respond to allegations of sexual assault until a complaint had been filed (to what does one respond if no the filing of a complaint?) and failing to consider the need for “broadly addressing the issue of sexual harassment” even after complainants requested anonymity and confidentiality.

In December 2013, a female sociology professor’s popular class on “Deviance in US Society” (no classics here!) at the University of Colorado-Boulder led to her early retirement after administrators told her that, in a “post-Sandusky” environment, the class entailed too much risk.  Small loss, perhaps, but a Louisiana State University early childhood education associate professor also lost her job in 2015 for simply allegedly using “salty language” that same December.

More famously, Northwestern University students petitioned to have Professor Laura Kipnis investigated for “retaliation” under Title IX simply for writing a piece about the absurdity of it all for The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe.”  Bizarrely, the Faculty Senate President who accompanied Kipnis to sessions with investigators and the University President, who wrote a Wall Street Journal Op-ed defending academic freedom, were also targeted for alleged “retaliation.”

“For the record,” in the words of Kipnis, “this isn’t retaliation.  It’s intellectual disagreement … what’s the good of having a freedom you’re afraid to use?”

Exactly.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Mark Ellis: New OSHA Regulation Doesn’t Make Industry Any Safer

April 11, 2016, 3:59 PM

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently finalized a rule that would reduce the amount of respirable crystalline silica workers can be exposed to during an eight hour day. The rule, which would cut the permissible exposure limit (PEL) in half, will have broad implications for industries that use industrial sand, including hydraulic fracturing, glass making, foundries, and the construction industry.

In this episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Mark Ellis, the President of the National Industrial Sand Association and National Industrial Minerals Association of North America, and Isaac Orr discuss the specific changes being made to the current silica rules, and why the new changes may not be necessary in order to prevent new cases of silicosis, a serious but entirely preventable lung disease.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Suing into Submission

April 11, 2016, 2:05 PM

According to Mark Twain, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Now six state attorney generals (AG) have banded together to do something about it by initiating governmental legal prosecution. Can a modern “Reign of Terror” be far behind?

These AGs claim a climate conspiracy implying that investors are unaware that climate changes may impact corporate investments, and have committed to using the power of the state to solve it. In early November 2015, Exxon Mobil was targeted by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman pursuing a legal case based on claimed similarities to the way tobacco companies of the 1950s and 1960s were eventually found guilty of suppressing their own research showing tobacco being both harmful and addictive. Their advertising served to minimize such health risks, and they funded scientific studies to provide reassuring data. In 2006, the companies were found guilty of “a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public.”

Last month, Virginia AG Mark Herring joined five other AGs and former Vice President  in the goal of determining “whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses.” AG Herring is also a supporter of the EPA’s Clean Power Plant plan.

When valid scientific argument fails its cause, the heavy fist of governmental legal prosecution becomes Plan B. “Attorneys General and law enforcement officials around the country have long held a vital role in ensuring that the progress we have made…” according to Gore. That becomes the “inconvenient truth” of governmental dogma.

The Minoan (3440 YBP), the Roman (2400 YBP), and the Medieval (1000 YBP) warming periods occurred before the current uptick in atmospheric CO2 which commenced around 1850 AD with the advent of the modern industrial age and large scale use of fossil fuels. Global temperatures during these three earlier periods were warmer than present even though atmospheric CO2 was much lower, and fossil fuel use miniscule. Although global temperature is an imperfect metric of climate change, it is the measure that makes the alarmists’ headlines. The public is repeatedly subjected to a faux alarm over the fact that since 1850 global temperatures have risen about 0.8º C, which is less than the sunrise-to-sunset daily temperature swings mankind experiences worldwide.

Claiming disastrous climate change related to human activities, they disregard eons of natural climate variations before human existence. Climate change itself remains a vague term and undefined. No student of history denies that the climate changes. These legal determiners of scientific truth join the current vogue to label any variation in some idealized concept of an unchanging “normal” climate (the Goldilocks Climate) as a harbinger of impending disaster. The evidence is otherwise: sea level rate-of-rise remains about 7 inches per century, there is no long-term drought, tornadoes are less frequent and less deadly, there are fewer hurricanes hitting the U.S., even the polar bears are thriving in number, and global temperatures have not risen for 18 years even as CO2 levels have increased 10% (the recent El Nino caused an expected spike).

Droughts are cyclical on some time scale. From California: “Rain and snow returned in March (2016) to boost the state’s two largest reservoirs – Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville – to slightly above their historic levels for the date…”

In 2007 Georgia officials warned that Lake Lanier, a 38,000-acre reservoir that supplies more than 3 million residents (Atlanta, GA) with water, was less than 3 months from depletion. Smaller reservoirs were dropping even lower. This drought became a prime example for Gore’s inconvenient truth traveling show in which a gullible public is bombarded with the environmental panic de jour by a media which thrives on scare stories.

Unsurprisingly, a December 2015 report on Lake Lanier has not received the same attention of the media and/or environmentalists. “The Army Corps of Engineers canceled massive water releases planned for Lake Lanier Thursday because of downstream flooding. Lake Lanier is currently at 1075.3. That’s more than 4 feet above full pool. The lake is expected to peak at 1075.7 over the next week after rising more than 4 feet in the last several days.” Environmentalists fret not, there is an environmental crisis awaiting your discovery, out there, somewhere. Move on and never look back; never say you were wrong.

Virginia’s AG Herring is committed to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal even though it is estimated to offset only 0.01º  C of global warming. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, when asked if she considers 0.01º C to be a significant contribution to halting climate change said, “No…” It is the righteous feeling and thought that counts, not the actual change achieved. Progressives base their actions on emotional satisfaction, not scientific analysis.

The tidewater/Hampton Roads/Norfolk coastal areas of Virginia are a constant source of justification for climate control advocates, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Rising sea levels are targeted as the driving force for flooding concern. From there it is a short leap to global warming driving climate change and sea level rise.

Such dogmatic political posturing ignores the scientific findings of local scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, part of William and Mary College. Coastal marine scientist Dr. John Boon, reported that “the good news is that absolute sea level in Chesapeake Bay is rising only about half as fast as the global average rise rate. The bad news is that local subsidence more than makes up for it.” Coastal flooding is a disaster, but it is the result of the land sinking as a consequence of ongoing geological forces, not climate change.

According to folklore law strategy for the lawyers: “1. If the facts are against you, argue the law. 2. If the law is against you, argue the facts. 3. If the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.” To which one can now add forget the facts, forget the law, and “sue into submission.”

[Originally published at CFACT]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Attorney General Says She’s Considered Using An Old Law To Silence Global Warming Critics

April 11, 2016, 10:59 AM

President Barack Obama is downright hostile to the free flow of information, open debate, and research contradicting his opinions and the policies he uses to support them.

The most recent evidence for this is testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who seems just as political and beholden to Obama as her predecessor Eric Holder was.

Attorney General Lynch testified that the Department of Justice has discussed pursuing civil action against companies, nonprofits, associations, and scientists who debate whether humans are causing catastrophic climate change, referring the matter to the FBI to determine if it meets the criteria for prosecution, presumably under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a law passed in 1970 to battle organized crime.

The revelation the Obama administration has asked the FBI to investigate people involved in an ongoing scientific debate because they disagree with the president should shock the sensibilities of all Americans.

Obama closed the book on questions related to the theory of man-caused climate change even before he became president. For him, there is no debate; humans’ use of fossil fuels is creating dangerous warming, and the government must do whatever it can to restrict the consumption of oil, natural gas, and coal to prevent an allegedly impending climate disaster. Strange a lawyer should be so certain about a question of science, but there it is.

It was not Obama or Lynch who first broached the idea of prosecuting climate realists for exercising their free-speech rights; that dishonor falls to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who in a May 2015 op-ed, published in the Washington Post, argued the fossil fuel industry is collaborating with conservative think tanks to disseminate research contradicting the scientific consensus on man-made climate change in an effort to discredit climate science and attack environmentalists.

There are a few significant problems with Whitehouse’s argument and the subsequent efforts made by the Obama administration silence their critics in the global warming debate. First, there is the First Amendment. Obama, Lynch, and Whitehouse all swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment is pretty clear: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

As has been understood for hundreds of years of U.S. history, the First Amendment protects the rights of individuals, including those who work for universities, think tanks, and even energy companies, to speak freely on issues of public importance, including global climate change. It does not matter if politically connected renewable power interests, influential environmentalist funders, members of Congress, or even the President of the United States disagree with them.

The Obama administration’s attempt to use RICO against climate skeptics presents a number of difficulties for the Obama administration and radical environmentalists, including the fact the truth is an absolute defense against fraud. In order for Lynch to prove the “intent to defraud” required by RICO, the Justice Department would have to prove skeptical scientists and climate researchers are lying when they say the human impact on climate is small and not a crisis, an impossible feat for Lynch.

Evidence of scientific uncertainty is easy to find. In 2015 alone, as documented by the German climate science site No Tricks Zone, approximately 250 peer-reviewed academic articles were published that refute one or more of the many claims made by climate change alarmists. These papers show nature has played a significant role in ongoing global climate change, that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide are improving plant growth and agricultural yields, and, contrary to climate model projections, multiple papers indicate weather extremes are unlikely to increase due to climate change. These articles make clear, individually and collectively, the debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change is alive and well.

Debating an open scientific question cannot be considered fraud under any reasonable understanding of the term. Debate is the scientific method in action.

It’s not surprising the Obama administration is considering using the force of government to squelch debate on a matter of critical importance to the public. Despite promising to run the most transparent administration in history, secrecy has increased dramatically during Obama’s time in office. In 2014, the Associated Press reported the Obama administration has censored or denied more than 250,000, or about 39 percent, of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it had received since 2009. Obama’s FOIA rejection rate is the highest in U.S. history.

The Obama administration has also prosecuted more people who have leaked government information than all previous presidential administrations combined, securing 526 months of prison time for violators. A total of 24 months of jail time had been served for similar activities under every other presidential administration, going all the way back to the founding of the United States.

When government can dictate which questions are open or closed—in either the political sphere or the scientific sphere—the gulags can’t be far behind.

[Originally published at Independent Journal Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Peter Wood Comes to Heartland to Drill Through Common Core

April 11, 2016, 6:49 AM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Using RICO to Silence Global Warming Critics
H. Sterling Burnett, Independent Journal Review
Global warming alarmists such as Al Gore have been claiming for years that the debate over the causes and consequences of climate change is over, but the public is still not buying it. And for good reason: The best evidence says there is no scientific consensus. Now the alarmists are bringing out their big guns: Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified that the Department of Justice has discussed pursuing civil action against companies, nonprofit organizations, associations, and scientists who question whether humans are causing catastrophic climate change. Can you believe this? READ MORE

State AGs Launch “Climate Fraud” Investigations
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
Not to be outdone by the U.S. Justice Department, 16 Democratic state attorneys general appeared at a news conference hosted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to jointly threaten to investigate anyone who disagrees with alarmist dogma on the climate change issue. The AGs claim the investigations are to determine whether ExxonMobil knowingly hid or attempted to obfuscate data showing its products could cause climate change. In fact, the real goal is to harass and silence critics of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. READ MORE Why Does Wikipedia Lie About The Heartland Institute?
Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable
Friends and allies sometimes ask if we are aware that our profile on Wikipedia is full of accusations about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. They wonder why we haven’t “corrected it.” The answer is: We tried … and tried, and tried some more. So have our friends and even some of our critics. But Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. You can help! To see how, READ MORE Peter Wood Comes to Heartland to Drill Through Common Core
Common Core State Standards are ruining K–12 education in America, not because they were poorly written or implemented, but because this was their purpose all along. Dr. Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, spoke to an attentive and enthusiastic audience at The Heartland Institute earlier this week to get to the core of the matter. Wood explained the dangers of these standards and how they negatively affect our children’s ability to learn. If you missed the presentation, the event is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE Featured Podcast: Charles Steele: How Natural Gas Benefits the Environment and Economy
The production and use of natural gas has become a political football during the current presidential race. The left claims the popular method of natural gas extraction, fracking, is unsafe and threatens the environment. Charles Steele, chairman of the economics department at Hillsdale College, joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to help clear up the misconceptions. Steele explains how increasing production of natural gas benefits the economy as well as the environment. LISTEN TO MORE

Coming Next Week to Arlington Heights: Frank Buckley!
If you love discussions about liberty, you will not want to miss the great series of events Heartland has lined up through the spring. OnApril 14, George Mason University’s Frank Buckley will discuss his new book The Way Back; and on April 20, a discussion will take place about the “vaping wars” – the government’s war on e-cigarettes. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE Parents Judge Schools Better than Test Scores Do
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
The national debate over Common Core State Standards has helped expose the bias and inaccuracy of many existing tests of student academic achievement. Tests have changed over the years, lowering standards and introducing politically correct dogma and nonsense. New research published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management found charter schools increase students’ levels of college enrollment and later earnings, yet their students do not perform any better on standardized tests than do public school students. READ MORE

Colorado Should Reject Single-Payer Health Care
Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary
The next state to experiment with a single-payer health care system could be Colorado. Voters there will consider a ballot measure in November that would create “ColoradoCare,” a single-payer, government-run system. This comes after Vermont’s attempt at a similar plan derailed when the estimated costs far exceeded forecasts. The ColoradoCare plan is expected to cause economic havoc. For example, the plan could require increasing the state income tax to nearly 15 percent. READ MORE
Obamacare Fails to Meet Obama’s 2009 Promises
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
In 2009, the Executive Office of the President released a report outlining how increasing health insurance costs were going to devastate American families, leaving them unable to pay for coverage. The report was used to support passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now six years into Obamacare, we see insurance costs growing at rates similar to those experienced before the passage of ACA. This, coupled with slowed wage growth, is really straining American families. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Dan Ikenson: Criticism of Free Trade Misses the Mark
Criticism of free trade by presidential contenders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has once again made the “trade deficit” a popular buzzword. But what does it mean? Cato Institute policy analyst Dan Ikenson joins the Heartland Daily Podcast to explain why international trade is not a scoreboard to measure a nation’s economic success. He discusses why we should look at a high trade deficit as a sign that American goods are still in high demand. LISTEN TO MORE

The Supreme Court’s Three Big Mistakes on Obamacare
Robert Natelson, Washington Times
After passage of the Affordable Care Act, many looked to the Supreme Court to strike down some of the law’s key provisions, including the individual mandate. Many look at the Court’s confirmation of this controversial aspect of the law as its only mistake. Fewer realize this was but one of several mistakes by the Supreme Court regarding Obamacare. Constitutional scholar and Heartland Policy Advisor Robert Natelson dissects the Court’s decision and finds three big mistakes. READ MORE
Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Scientists Support States’ Clean Power Plan Challenge

April 08, 2016, 1:35 PM

Arctic glaciers

A group of noted scientists, filed a friend of the court brief supporting the position of the 27 states challenging the clean power plan as unlawful.

The scientists note the Clean Power Plan is premised on fundamentally flawed lines of evidence for manmade global warming to justify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) endangerment finding. They note each line of evidence “ha[s] been shown to be invalidated by highly credible empirical data.”

For instance, while EPA claims there has been an unusual amount of warming on a global scale in recent decades, temperatures recorded by satellites and weather balloons show limited or no warming. Ground-based measurements have undergone continual manipulation, making them unreliable. In addition, the global climate models EPA has relied on assuming a cause/effect relationship of increased carbon dioxide leading to rising temperatures do “not comport with the real world.”

The scientists conclude EPA’s endangerment finding violates “the single most fundamental principle of the scientific method, known to every high school student, namely that any hypothesis that is inconsistent with the empirical evidence of the real world must be rejected.” Since the endangerment finding is mistaken, the underlying motivation and justification for the Clean Power Plan is fatally flawed.

Categories: On the Blog

The Bogus EPA is Causing Everyone Real Problems

April 08, 2016, 11:20 AM

Let us conduct an overview just of what we have only recently learned about theunconstitutional, overreaching and abusive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Let us begin with Flint, Michigan – where toxic levels of lead were found to have been in the water for over a year.

Flint Was Not the First: A Look at the History of the EPA & Why We Should Have Predicted Flint: “(Virginia Tech professor Marc) Edwards…opened the case much wider, referring to disasters from nearly a decade ago in which the EPA engaged in willful negligence. He pointed specifically to the crisis in Washington, D.C. in 2004 in which the water conditions were drastically worse than that in Flint.

Wait – what about Washington, D.C.?

Health Impact Of DC Water 20-30 Times Worse Than Flint: “District of Columbia residents were exposed to higher levels of lead-tainted drinking water for a longer period of time than the Flint residents….”

That’s pretty terrible. And the EPA apparently blew it. How did they handle Flint?

EPA Memo: Officials Didn’t ‘Want To Go Out On A Limb’ For Flint: “…as it became apparent the city’s water supply had been contaminated with high levels of lead, according to an internal agency memo revealed at a Tuesday congressional hearing.”

EPA Stayed Silent on Flint’s Tainted Water: “An EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential problems with Flint’s drinking water in February, confirmed the suspicions in April and summarized the looming problem in a June internal memo….”

Newly-Released Email Details Complicity of Obama’s EPA in Flint Poisoning: “In an effort to dissuade him from pursuing the issue, (EPA Section Chief of Ground Water and Drinking Water Rita) Bair questioned Del Toral’s assertion that high lead levels were pervasive throughout the city….His superiors at the EPA quashed Del Toral’s interim report.”

How very competent and transparent of them.

And when the EPA isn’t ignoring problems – it’s creating them. And, again, lying their faces off.

EPA’s Gold King Mine Blowout Was No Accident: “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intentionally opened up the abandoned mine, which unleashed 3 million gallons of toxic waste into nearby rivers that residents of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo Nation depend upon for drinking water.”

Here Are EPA’s Mistakes That Poisoned Western Rivers: “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials missed key signs its intentional breach of Colorado’s Gold King Mine would cause a major blowout….”

EPA’s Gold King Mine Explanations Leave Gaping Holes: “(T)he agency has given shifting accounts of how three million gallons of mine waste was spilled into drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.”

The EPA — Caught Red-Handed Again: “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.”

EPA Chief Says There Was No ‘Negligence’ In The Gold King Mine Blowout: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy (said)…’We looked for and received an independent investigation by the Department of the Interior.’”

Independent, you say?

EPA Advisor Wrote ‘Independent’ Review Of Gold King Mine Spill: “(T)he report omitted critical details, possibly due to conflicts of interest. The Department of Interior was involved with numerous aspects of the work going on at Gold King Mine before and after the spill, and the mine engineering expert tasked with reviewing the department’s report had serious misgivings about the integrity of the investigation.”

Gold King Mine Investigators Secretly Ordered To ‘Stay Clear’ Of EPA’s Negligence: “‘The actual cause of failure is some combination of issues related to EPA internal communications, administrative authorities, and/or a break in the decision path,’ Richard Olsen, the Army Corps of Engineers official who peer reviewed the resulting report, wrote in an email. But (Olsen) was ordered to avoid such aspects in their investigation.”

More EPA competence and transparency.

So when the agency, for instance, goes on a regulatory jihad against the private sector in the name of “Global Warming” and/or “Climate Change” – you are certainly correct to question their intentions. And their motives.

EPA Chief: Climate Regs Meant To Show ‘Leadership’, Not Fight Global Warming: “‘I don’t understand,’ (Virginia Republican Congressman David) McKinley said in a Tuesday hearing. ‘If it doesn’t have an impact on climate change around the world, why are we subjecting our hard working taxpayers and men and women in the coal fields to something that has no benefit?’  ‘We see it as having had enormous benefit in showing sort of domestic leadership as well as garnering support around the country for the agreement we reached in Paris,’ McCarthy responded.”

Oh – that’s certainly worth trillions of dollars taken out of the economy.

And when the EPA says they are interested in protecting air and water – you are right to question that too. Especially if you are a farmer – and you like using your land to, you know, farm.

The EPA’s Lawless Land Grab: “Today there is no greater threat to the rule of law and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of property than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the course of prosecuting its ostensible mission to clean the air and the water.”

The EPA is Turning Water on Farms Into a Weapon Against Farmers: “The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) 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.”

The EPA’s Troubled Waters: “It claims jurisdiction over drainage ditches, farmland, and even backyards.

The EPA wants to regulate bodies of water all the way down to rain puddles – so as to render nigh useless the lands on which any water collects.

The EPA has repeatedly demonstrated they have manifest, all-encompassing, totalitarian objectives. That they are completely dishonest in the ways they go about imposing them. And that they have zero practical knowledge or skill in any of the many areas over which they seek to lord.

So when farmers, or miners, or anyone else actually involved in these areas register complaints about the EPA – perhaps we should take their perspective a little more seriously than that of the Green Leviathan.

And when the nation’s producers actually have a reasonable request of government – government should actually serve, rather than overrule.

To wit: Farmers want freer trade of their goods. Less government here – in exchange for less government from nations all over the world. Which helps them – and has the ancillary benefit of making food much cheaper, which helps all of us.

Government should get to it. As a part of being in its new full-time business – of getting out of our way.

Which means the EPA – the perma-impediment – should be added to to the ash heap of history.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep33): Cautionary Tales of Europe’s Energy Policy, Income Inequality, and Medicaid Expansion

April 08, 2016, 11:04 AM

With John Nothdurft missing in action, Heartland Editor Justin Haskins joins Donny Kendal in episode #33 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Manhattan Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis, and the Heartland Institute.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work is a report from the Manhattan Institute titled “Energy Policies and Electricity Prices: Cautionary Tales From The E.U.” The report takes a look at the energy policies that are being put in place in Europe. In the hopes of preventing future global warming, the E.U. is taking steps to phase in renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. As the report shows, these moves have led to skyrocketing energy prices, higher dependency on energy imports, and less competative energy-intensive industries.

In the World of Think Tankery

Today Donny and Justin talk about an policy brief published by the National Center for Policy Analysis titled “Income Inequality and the U.S. Tax System.” The article discusses some of the misconceptions about income inequality and the factors that serve to inflate claims of inequality. As the policy brief examines, reported income usually does not include the value of benefits received by lower-income individuals. When all is accounted for, the bottom 20 percent of households pay a -34.2 percent tax rate.

As Donny mentions, Heartland hosted an event featuring the Ayn Rand Institute’s Yaron Brook, author of Equal is Unfair. Watch this event here.

Justin and Donny also talk about a topic that is being discussed in many states – Medicaid expansion. Justin, author of the Consumer Power Report, explains why the expansion looks good on paper, but is actually a bad deal.

Events

Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Heartland Institute (Thursday, April 14) Frank Buckley – The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Manhattan Institute (Thursday, April 14) U.S. Welfare Policy: Past, Present, and Future @ The Manhattan Institute in New York City

National Center for Policy Analysis (Wednesday, April 27) Financial Crisis Conference: Can We Prevent the Next Credit Crisis? @ Dallas Marriott in Irving, Texas

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Carbon Delusions and Defective Models

April 07, 2016, 4:12 PM

The relentless war on carbon is justified by the false assumption that global temperature is controlled by human production of two carbon-bearing “Greenhouse Gases”. The scary forecasts of runaway heating are based on complicated but narrowly-focussed carbon-centric computerised Global Circulation Models built for the UN IPCC. These models omit many significant climate factors and rely heavily on dodgy temperature records and unproven assumptions about two trace natural gases in the atmosphere.

The models fail to explain Earth’s long history of changing climates and ignore the powerful role of interacting cycles in the solar system which determine how much solar energy is absorbed and reflected by Earth’s atmosphere, clouds and surface. Several ancient societies and some modern mavericks, without help from million dollar computers, recognised that the sun, moon and major planets produce cyclic changes in Earth’s climate.

The IPCC models also misread the positive and negative temperature feedbacks from water vapour (the main greenhouse gas) and their accounting for natural processes in the carbon cycle is based on very incomplete knowledge and numerous unproven assumptions.

See: Errors in the IPCC Global Circulation Models:
http://jo.nova.s3.amazonaws.com/guest/david-evans/media-release-evans-climate.pdf

http://sciencespeak.com/climate-basic.html

The dreaded “greenhouse gases” (carbon dioxide and methane) are natural gases. Man did not create them – they occur naturally in comets and planets, and have been far more plentiful in previous atmospheres on Earth. They are abundant in the oceans and the atmosphere, and are buried in deposits of gas, oil, coal, shale, methane clathrates and vast beds of limestones. Land and sea plants absorb CO2 and micro-organisms absorb methane in deep oceans.

Earth emits natural carbon-bearing gases in huge and largely unknown and unpredictable quantities. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and various hydrocarbons such as ethane, methane and propane bubble out of the ocean floor, seep out of swamps, bubble naturally out of rivers, are released in oil seeps, water wells and bores, and are sometimes delivered via water pipes into drinking water.  They are also released whenever carbon-bearing rocks such as coal and shale are eroded naturally, catch fire, or are disturbed by earthquakes, construction activities or mining. The vast offshore deposits of frozen methane are released naturally when geothermal heat or volcanic intrusions melt the ice containing the methane.

See: Widespread methane leakage from ocean floor off US coast:
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28898223

Earth also entombs carbon in sediments and organic matter transported from the land by rivers and buried in swamps and deltas, or swept from the land into the oceans by typhoons and tsunamis. These will eventually become limestone, shale and coal deposits probably containing fossil evidence of a long-gone human era.

Recent measurements of the distribution of carbon dioxide over the surface of the earth produced surprises – several of the heavy concentrations of carbon dioxide do not follow man’s heavy industry but occur over places like the Congo, Indonesia and the Amazon (possibly seasonal emanations from soil or forests).

See: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Distribution from the OCO2 Satellite:
https://www.google.com.au/search?q=oco-2+data&espv=2&biw=1920&bih=955&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwisnPqglu3LAhWGL6YKHcEmCoAQsAQIMg#imgrc=kRW3ayOOn1mbqM%3A

Earth’s crust is flexed daily by the gravity-driven Earth tide – this movement opens and shuts joints and pores in rocks and soil and allows earth gases to be squeezed towards the surface. The crust is also dragged, raised and lowered by sub-surface movements, which release more trapped gases.

Volcanic activity also produces large but variable emissions of carbon dioxide, particularly if igneous rocks intrude beds of coal, oil shale or limestone. The periodic massive outpourings of undersea basalts along the mid-ocean ridges cause large oceanic degassing.

Oceans and the biosphere are wild cards in the carbon cycle. Warming oceans, rotting vegetation, ruminants and termites all expel large and unmeasured quantities of carbon bearing gases. And cooling oceans and growing animals and plants take up carbon compounds. And if there is more CO2 in the atmosphere, oceans and plants will take up more, thus providing a natural stabilising effect. Eucalypt forests extract carbon dioxide for growth, but also emit hydrocarbons from leaves, producing the blue haze on distant hills on hot days. Soil carbon comes and goes depending on weather, biological activity and farm management practices.

Where are the measurements of the production and consumption of atmospheric carbon compounds by the vast herds of antelopes and reindeer, cattle and sheep or zebra and wildebeest? Who measures the effects of termites and locusts, droughts and floods, bushfires and biofuel plantations, bacteria and fungi, algae and krill, seaweeds and sardines, oceans and volcanoes, grasslands and forests, decomposing rocks, sedimentation and underground waters? And what about the heat, CO2 generated and waste products buried by huge cities?

Earth’s total supply of carbon does not change – it just moves continually around the great carbon cycle residing temporarily as gases, liquids or solids in the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and lithosphere.

Currently the supplies of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are recovering gently from record lows. No one knows exactly where it is all coming from but limited measurements and extrapolations indicate that about 96% of the CO2 added annually to the atmosphere is from nature. The only part of the carbon cycle that is measured with reasonable accuracy is the remaining 4% of atmospheric CO2 produced through man’s recycling of coal, oil and gas.

See: Most of CO2 rise comes from natural sources:
http://notrickszone.com/2013/03/02/most-of-the-rise-in-co2-likely-comes-from-natural-sources/#sthash.moKAPaHR.dpbs

We are asked to believe that we can use dubious estimates and forecasts of this one small component of the carbon cycle as the main input for computer models claimed to forecast future climate for decades ahead.

To use such dodgy forecasts to justify disruptive energy policies is a costly delusion.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dan Ikenson: High Trade Deficit Means American Goods are In-Demand

April 07, 2016, 1:38 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Cato Institute policy analyst Dan Ikenson about how international trade is not a scoreboard to measure a nation’s economic success against other countries, but the best way to improve the lives of everyday Americans, and everyday people all over the world.

Politicians and lawmakers, Ikenson says, may tell us that America is not “winning” the trade deficit, and that countries like China or India are “killing us” by selling American individuals and companies more goods than American companies sell to those respective countries, but he says they couldn’t be more wrong.

Instead of a debt to be repaid, the trade deficit is a measure of how many non-American people are spending their money to buy American things and services. The higher the trade deficit, he says, the more in-demand American goods and services are, and the more Americans of all walks of life benefit.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Washington, D.C. Bipartisanship, They Say? Someone Tell the FCC

April 07, 2016, 10:13 AM

Let us begin with the fact that this partisanship is largely the result of politicians’ own map-making. Decades of Congressional gerrymandering have carved and crafted ever more partisan districts – and then pols pretend to wonder why there are ever more partisan elected officials. The Tea Party and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders exist in large part because DC drew uber-partisan districts – and then ignored the voters they emplaced therein.

That said, there is in fact a lot of DC bipartisanship – and the results are nigh uniformly terrible. Because the Republicans are largely not conservative – and live to preemptively cringe in the face of the slightest Democrat feign. So they race to cave.

Sure, Republicans in the hopeless minority make a good show of standing strong – because they know it ultimately means nothing. To wit: their 2009 fight against Obamacare. Having not the numbers to alter the outcome – they were steadfast. When We the Electorate gave them a fortieth Senator to filibuster – they allowed Democrats to execute a highly dubious procedural move to end-run that impediment.

Republicans then campaigned saying “Give us the House majority – and the power of the purse – and we will stop Obamacare (and the over-spending, and…).” So We the Electorate did. And the Republicans then did…nothing.

Except campaign saying “Well, we really need a Senate majority – then we will stop Obamacare (and the over-spending, and…).” Prospective Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even promised to use the same maneuver that delivered Obamacare – to undo Obamacare. We the Electorate delivered them the Senate majority. And the Republicans then did…nothing. And Senator McConnell forgot all about hoisting Obamacare on its own procedural petard.

Republican invertebrate-ness has ceaselessly fed another cause of DC partisanship – Democrat obstinance. But can you blame the Donkeys? Why on Earth would they move off of their way-Left positions – when they know Republicans will soon be arriving right beside them?

To wit: President Barack Obama’s ridiculously partisan Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is supposed to be a non-political, expert agency that exists to execute law written by Congress for the highly sophisticated world of all things Tech.

Just like every other executive branch agency, the FCC is actually a creation and a creature of the legislative branch. Which means they must act within the strict bounds of the laws Congress passes – only executing what has been first legislated. In other words, the FCC can’t do anything unless and until Congress first says “Yo, FCC – do this.”

The FCC is made up of five voting Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman). Three are of the President’s party – two of the opposing party. They aren’t elected by us – they are named by the President (who usually takes suggestions on the opposing Party nominees) and approved by the Senate.

So it is right now a 3-2 unelected Democrat majority. And this FCC is pressing that slim, undemocratic advantage – to slam through many unlawful power grabs.

Again, the FCC is supposed to be a technically expert agency – far removed from politics so as to render sophisticated decisions based upon facts and figures. This FCC has been fraudulently creating facts and figures – to allegedly justify their subsequent uber-partisan usurpations.

How partisan has been this iteration of the FCC? “In the past, votes at the FCC tended to be unanimous—under both Democratic and Republican chairs….Under (past) Democrats, about eight percent of votes on major orders split along party lines. Under Republicans, only four percent split on party lines. Under (current Democrat) Chairman (Tom) Wheeler, 26 percent of votes (have split along party lines).”

That’s three or four times more partisan than past Commissions. “But wait,” you say – “that’s still only one in four.” First, the vast majority of FCC votes are pro forma – on things totally devoid of any political content. So this jump in partisanship represents just about every vote that can at all be construed as political.

Second, much like with President Obama’s executive orders, it’s not the number – it’s what they cover. Yes, this President is only slightly more active on his number of fiats. But when one single fiat all but shuts down the entire coal industry – we see it’s quality, not quantity.

So too is it with the FCC’s partisan votes. One single such vote – unilaterally rewrote law and placed the entirety of the World Wide Web under 1934 landline telephone law. Which has set the table for a slate of subsequent partisan votes – each grabbing ever more control of different facets of the Internet.

And when the FCC’s Republican Commissioners attempt bipartisanship – Chairman Wheeler actively squashes it. In a recently released statement on a recent partisan vote, GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai said:

“Yesterday, my office finalized a bipartisan compromise with (Democrat) Commissioner (Mignon) Clyburn and (Republican) Commissioner (Michael) O’Rielly on a way to modernize the Lifeline program while staying faithful to our core principles. It was not an easy agreement to reach.

“I had offered my proposal to all five commissioners last week. Our three offices began working on a compromise yesterday morning. My staff worked with theirs through the night revising the Order in order to implement that bipartisan agreement.

“At 9:49 a.m., all three offices formally agreed to a document that, to quote the official chain, ‘memorializes the exact contours’ of the compromise….At 12:00 p.m., when Commissioner O’Rielly and I came down for the meeting and were ready to vote, that agreement remained in place.

“Now, Commissioner Clyburn has backed out of the agreement.

“It turns out that since early this morning, perhaps even late last night, Chairman Wheeler and his staff have been actively working to unwind that bipartisan compromise. Those efforts started with leaking nonpublic information to the press. The Chairman’s Office then encouraged lawmakers and stakeholders, from left-wing special interests to former FCC Commissioners, to blast the deal before the votes could be cast—indeed, before they even knew what the deal was.

“It is one thing to refuse to work toward bipartisan compromise—something that, for some reason, the Chairman wears with a badge of honor that distinguishes him from every other Chairman, Republican and Democrat alike, who has ever held that seat. It is quite another thing to launch a political campaign to force a Democratic FCC Commissioner to renege on a bipartisan compromise on her signature issue.”

This is just one instance of a near-ceaseless flood of Democrat obstinance in their push for terrible, unilateral power grabs. Are any Republicans doing anything at all about any of it? In fact they are – and in bipartisan fashion:

Walden and Clarke Request Nonpartisan Government Watchdog to Examine FCC’s Set-Top Box Proposal. (Congressman Greg Walden is a Republican – his colleague Yvette D. Clarke a Democrat.)

This would be a fine thing. We need much more than more hearings. And we need even more than even more of these called-for independent counsels.

We need Congress to use their Constitutional power of the purse – and start docking the allowances of these out of control agencies.

We need far fewer Elephants acting like they keep seeing mice. If we got it – we might get a little less Donkey obstinance. And a little more actual, useful bipartisanship.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt: Common Core and its Effect on Homeschooling

April 06, 2016, 1:55 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Project Manager for Education Transformation Lennie Jarratt speaks in front of the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. He discusses Common Core and its effect on homeschooling.

Jarratt talks about his personal background with homeschooling and why education choice is so important. He also clears up some of the confusion as to what Common Core actually means. Jarratt explains the danger of ever-expanding government regulations and control over education and what you can do to stop the overreach.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part One

April 06, 2016, 11:33 AM

It’s generally taken as a given that the American left is in favor of individual freedoms, but when it comes to the First Amendment that seems hardly any longer to be the case.  A few examples should suffice.  Let’s start with one:  what can only be described as the Left’s irrational obsession with attempting to overturn the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which by now has become a virtual plank in the official Democratic Presidential Platform.

As a brief refresher, Citizens United arose against the background of a national battle against campaign spending on political speech that seems to date back at least to the Watergate scandal of the second Nixon Administration.  If only we could take money out of politics, reformers reasoned, we could elect honest politicians who would put the good of the whole above their own and have something approaching the constitutional republic that the Constitution’s Framers envisioned all those years ago in Philadelphia.  Right.

This fundamentally misreads the nature of politics, of people, of government, and of the Constitution itself.  Unless, like Bernie Sanders, you believe that “rich people” (defined as anyone who makes more money than you) are the root of all evil, then you should recognize that it is not money that corrupts:  as Lord Acton recognized, it’s power.

And the reason that government in general and the national government in particular invite so much corruption are that they have assumed so much power over American’s lives, livelihoods, educations, and – indeed – their very health.  No aspect of American life is too minute for the federal government to attempt to regulate, from who must pay for your birth control if you don’t want children to what kind of car seat your children have to ride in if the birth control doesn’t work.

But back to Citizens United.  The case arose from four private citizens who formed a not-for-profit corporation they called “Citizens United” to produce a film arguing against voting for Hillary Clinton for President.

Never mind that the CBS television network has for three seasons now run a continuing series called “Madame Secretary” about a brave and capable blond-haired Secretary of State whose passing resemblance to the former Secretary of State now running for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination is doubtless wholly coincidental.

Never mind also that the president of CBS News is David Rhodes, whose brother Benjamin is deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for U.S. President Barack Obama, who would love to see his former Secretary of State elected as his successor.  The idea of independent film-makers arguing directly against the Secretary’s election as President was more than the power structure could bear.  Only Michael Moore gets to do that kind of stuff.

So the government sued to block the film as violating campaign spending laws.  And – as is all too typical for government – the government over-reached.  It actually had the audacity to argue that, under campaign finance laws, it could even ban the sale of a book within a specified number of days of a Presidential election that said “don’t vote for candidate X.”

This was too much for the Supreme Court to bear, which accordingly ruled that corporations, labor unions, and political action committees could spend as much as they wanted, provided they didn’t coordinate with the candidates they support.  The effect of such spending, the Court reasoned, was neither pernicious nor profound.

But obviously the Supreme Court must have been wrong, because look how $118 million or so was able to buy the Republican nomination for Jeb! Bush.  And look at how poorly Donald Trump, whose major coverage comes from the media at no expense to him or any super-PAC, has done at the polls.

Oh.  Wait.

Reasoning not being the Left’s strong suit, the push to overturn Citizens United remains strong.  Whether a post-Scalia Supreme Court will indeed reconsider and overturn the opinion remains to be seen.

But if it does, don’t look on it as a victory for free speech.

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Anything but Affordable for Millennials

April 06, 2016, 11:14 AM

How affordable is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? One just needs to look at the state of Minnesota. The state’s health insurance marketplace illustrates some of the many pitfalls of the Affordable Care Act, which has been especially hard on millennials.

Under provisions contained in the act, nearly every American is required to have health care coverage. Minnesota established MNsure, the state’s health insurance marketplace; expanded Medicaid; and established the Medical Assistance program in an effort to ensure every Minnesotan has access to health care services under the federal law.

If the state of Minnesota’s goal was to improve health care, MNsure has been a disaster. But if the state’s mission was to get as many people as possible on the government rolls, its efforts have been a great success; 19 percent of all insured Minnesotans are receiving some form of government assistance, and enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program increased by 20 percent in just one month, from November to December 2015.

In February, the marketplace released data showing the number of enrollees 55 and older increased by 7 percent compared to 2015. The data also revealed the number of younger enrollees has decreased.

The “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act was based on the premise that younger, healthier enrollees would take on significantly more costs to offset expenses related to expanding the health insurance marketplace to better assist those with pre-existing conditions and those without the resources needed to pay for health insurance under a traditional market-based model. But younger people are not signing up at the rates many Obamacare supporters thought they would; and without significant growth in the number of younger, healthier enrollees, insurance premiums have risen at historic rates.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota increased its individual health insurance premiums by an average of 49 percent in 2016. Even with that increase, the health insurer is expected to endure significant financial losses through 2016. Blue Plus, another Minnesota health insurance company, increased its rates by 45 percent; and Group Health Inc. and HealthPartners Insurance Co. increased their rates by over 30 percent.

The millennial generation, composed of those Americans born between 1980 and 2000, is the first in the history of the United States to face the burden of compulsory health care insurance, and it is arguably the population that has been harmed most by the Affordable Care Act. For instance, one study found that, under the act, millennials pay greater out-of-pocket premiums than other demographics, despite having fewer health care expenditures.

Opting out of the state exchange is one way for millennials and others to avoid MNsure’s high costs, but doing so is not very affordable given the increases to Minnesota’s health insurance rates.

Making matters even worse for millennials in Minnesota, many younger people may now have to pay for a portion of the health care assistance a dead parent received in the past. When Minnesota agreed to expand its Medicaid program, required asset tests were eliminated. Prior to that change, assets such as real estate were accounted for when determining eligibility. Now assets are not used against the enrollee initially but can still be used to recover the costs the state incurs during the period of enrollment on Medical Assistance after a person dies. In February, the News Tribune reported that many Minnesotans are unaware that if they are 55 years old or older and are receiving Medical Assistance, the state has the power to place a claim on their estate to recover the costs of the Medical Assistance insurance after the enrollee and his or her spouse dies. While Minnesota lawmakers this session are considering measures to fix this, right now this means many children who inherit their parents’ assets will be saddled with health insurance bills belonging to their deceased parents.

Millennials already are facing stiff government fines and higher health insurance costs as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Now, thanks to Medicaid expansion, grieving young people in the state also may have to use their inheritance to cover additional health care costs under a provision very few people knew existed.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable.

[Originally published in the Duluth News Tribune]

Categories: On the Blog

Why Progressives Don’t Understand and are Enemies of Liberty

April 06, 2016, 11:12 AM

What does freedom mean? What is the purpose of government? And what should be the government’s relationship to each of us as individuals and as members of society as a whole? These issues recently came up during a dinner conversation with a new acquaintance with whom I’d not previously had such a discussion.

The views that I expressed in the calm and friendly and enjoyable exchange are those usually labeled as classical liberal or libertarian. My dinner companion reasoned from what is the “modern” liberal or “progressive” point-of-view. Like myself, he has been a professor in higher education, and he is widely read and very knowledgeable.

What became clear, both during the conversation and from reflecting on it afterwards, are some of the following conclusions.

Conflicting Meanings of Freedom

For a classical liberal, freedom means that each individual possesses as a human being certain inviolable rights, those being rights to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property. And that human relationships should be based on voluntary consent and mutual agreement.

For my interlocutor, freedom means “empowerment” or the ability to do or achieve certain things, without which “freedom” is not complete. These include a minimum or “decent” standard of living and the ability to attain certain potentials in life, which are everyone’s “right” as a member of society.

For my fellow conversationalist, society is a shared “community” of human beings each of whom owes certain things to the others, just as the others owe certain things to us. Society might be viewed as an extended family, from this perspective, all the members of which have certain required obligations to support and give assistance to their social “relatives.”

I suggested that society is a network of human relationships formed between individuals based upon opportunities for mutual betterment, including both the economic and the cultural in the widest sense, the fundamental foundation of which derives from those essential individual rights.

The “Social Contract”: Individualist or Collectivist?

My dinner companion raised the issue of “the social contract,” to which we are all participants and benefactors, he said. He referenced the famous French eighteenth century philosopher, Jean-Jacque Rousseau, who reasoned that man began as savages in the wild threatened by both beast and other men. Everyone entered into a social contract and formed society for mutual safety and betterment by giving up a portion of their complete and unrestrained “freedom” in that earlier setting of savagery for the order and security of shared community. The freedom given up is compensated by safety and the security of mutual aid, including the modern welfare state.

I suggested that if one was to refer to a “social contract” as a basis or rationale for organized society, the starting point should be the earlier British philosopher, John Locke, who argued that rights are not bestowed upon man by government or the community but belong to him by his nature as a human being. Government, in Locke’s social contract, is to provide individuals with a tool for the common defense against the violence of some of their fellow men. The role of government is the securer of liberty by protecting each individual’s rights to his life, liberty and property, and not as a guarantor of a certain standard of living or desired access to various material things.

The reason, I said, was that if the government undertook this latter responsibility of “social safety nets” and “positive” access to various other desired states of affairs, it can do so only by imposing through police power an obligation on others to provide the material means that some others are to be guaranteed. By doing so, government would be violating its original purpose for being brought into existence: the protecting of liberty (including people’s property rights to their own honestly earned income and wealth) rather than a violator that takes from some without their consent for the asserted benefits of others.

Private Benevolence or Political Paternalism

At this point my dining companion asked, did this mean that concern and support for those less well off than us was to be left to private charity and philanthropy? I answered in the affirmative; that such an approach was the only one consistent with the ethical principle of an individual having the right to live his life as he chooses for his own purposes, taking on those obligations and benevolent activities on his own or in consort with others that he considers worthy and deserving.

The response from my new acquaintance was to say that that is a primitive and simplistic approach that may have been minimally workable in an earlier age, but not in a time of such complexity as our own. “How will ‘Kenesha’ in a low income job and little educational background know how to manage a retirement account or select a healthcare insurance policy, or even afford to have them?” he asked.

I resisted mentioning what seemed to me to be an implicit “racial profiling” that a young black woman would not have the ability to manage aspects of her daily life without a governmental overseer taking her by the hand to take care of it for her.

Instead, I asked who supposedly is qualified to make these decisions for others through the government, if it is not to be the people themselves through the competitive options and information that would be offered and constantly improved upon in a truly free market?

He replied that is precisely the role and task of the qualified experts who man and manage the appropriate governmental agencies, bureau, and departments concerned with providing for the necessities and needs of the general public and especially those in the lower income brackets.

The Paternalistic Hubris of the Progressive

I pointed out the paternalistic attitude in his view of things that people are neither responsible nor informed nor interested enough in their own lives to take care of these matters. He said, “Yes, look at how many people are obese, who clearly do not know how to follow reasonable and healthy diet choices. They need to be educated and trained by qualified experts in the government to move the uninformed and irresponsible citizen in the better direction that they don’t always seem willing or able to do for themselves.”

I said that I considered such an attitude to reflect a high degree of arrogance and hubris, a view that humanity is made up of weak-minded simpletons who need guiding care-givers and wardens to watch over and confine their conduct into narrow corridors of behavior that the government officials  — the “experts” – consider “good,” “right” and ‘just.”

Contempt and Disregard for the People’s Free Choices

I explained that while “progressives” often use the rhetoric of “democracy” and respect for the dignity and diversity of people, the reality is that that they wish to override the choices people make in their everyday affairs to fit the presumed “right” and “rational” and “socially conscious” courses of actions that the proponents of political paternalism are convinced are the only “enlightened” and “just” ones.

The world is to be reduced to and confined within a narrow corridor of forms of “good behavior” that people will be either penalized for violating or subsidized for doing through government regulation and spending.

I reminded my new friend of the words of the British political philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who declared that until people are ready for freedom they can only hope to be ruled by a wise and benevolent dictator. But that Mill’s contemporary, the noted British historian and political writer, Thomas Macaulay, replied by saying that Mill’s suggestion reminded him of the fool in the story who said he would not go into the water until he knew how to swim.  Unless freedom is exercised, individuals will never learn the lessons that may lead them to make wiser and more intelligent decisions over time.  Otherwise, we run the risk of maintaining large portions of the population in a form of permanent childhood, living off and dependent upon the commanding decisions of those in political power.

The Arrogance and Abuse of Power

I also explained the argument and insight of the Austrian economist, Friedrich A. Hayek, that the more complex the society the less it is in the capacity of any one person or any group of people, no matter how well trained as “experts” in the art of political paternalism, to know enough to successfully manage and direct the affairs of the society better than leaving such matters to the individuals themselves in their own circumstances as they see and understand it best.

I pointed out to him that leaving such vital and essential matters in the hands of those in political authority and to the presumed “experts” in the government bureaus, agencies and departments ignores what we all, pragmatically, know to be true: the misuse and abuse of power and position by those in government for their own self-interested purposes and for those who assistant them in remaining in power.

The Hope And Dream for a World of Political Altruists

My interlocutor seemed unmoved by any of these counter arguments. He merely pointed to the class of especially trained “experts” who man the interventionist-welfare state in France, who seem to be not susceptible to the same corruption and abuse of power as in America. There are special French universities that have the precise purpose of educating and graduating a selfless elite who enthusiastically wish only to manage society for the good of “the people.”

I responded by pointing out that there seemed to be plenty enough scandals concerning those in political positions of power and responsibility, and corruptions involving influential special interest groups in France, as reported in the American media from time-to-time; this suggests that the French have their equal “fair share” of human beings who take advantage of their political and regulatory authority just like everywhere else.

They are not a special political class of ethical eunuchs who are altruistically living for and serving “humanity” in a manner different from the rest of mankind.  This was merely another instance of the socialist fairytale that, once we go beyond the self-interest and selfishness of capitalism into the “social justice” of collectivism, human nature will be transformed into a world of pure and simple other-orientedness in which human beings only think in terms of and act for the good of some imaginary “common good” and never just for themselves.

His response was to point to all that is provided and done through government for the good of the poor and less responsible, and for economic improvements in society through government-business partnerships in the area of innovation and transformative technology.

What is Seen and What is Not Seen

I observed that after spending trillions of taxpayers’ dollars over the last half-century “the poor are still with us” in America, with millions of people still locked out of market opportunities due to the burdens of the interventionist-welfare state. And there have been enough scandals and failures in the arena of government-business “partnerships” to suggest that the rhetoric surrounding them was “smoke and mirrors” to cover what they are really about: special interest groups picking the pockets of taxpayers because they cannot successfully market technologies and products that consumers value enough to buy at prices covering costs of production.

I pointed out that there was a nineteenth century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, who once penned a great essay called, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” Yes, when government taxes away people’s income and wealth to subsidize a solar power company, or to repair a bridge, or cover some people’s expenses to go to college, we more directly see the results. And the proponents of such programs can proudly point to what is created or made available that might not have if not for this government largess.

But Bastiat’s point was to remind us of what is not seen. If government had not taxed away those dollars and if they had remained the pockets of those who had honestly earned them, they would have been spent on many other things that the income earners themselves considered worthwhile and valuable. Instead of a government subsidized solar company, maybe some of those untaxed dollars would have been invested in a market-based profit-oriented pharmaceutical product that would alleviate the pain and suffering associated with some deadly disease.

Instead of repairing an existing bridge, maybe some of the money would have been invested in computer and software technologies that would make telecommuting for work easier so some roads and bridges would have to be less travelled.  Or instead of covering one person’s college education, some of the untaxed dollars would have been given as a charitable contribution for cancer research or to help fund a private wildlife preserve, or simply to buy new better pair of shoes for a taxpayers’ own child’s feet.

The look on my dinner companion’s face hinted that that sounded all well and good, but those were just imaginary things in my trying to make a point. Private people do private things – therefore, non-“social” things – when they spend their own money. “Socially good” things only come primarily through governmental action serving the interests of all of us together, the community to which we all belong, and for which we all have the obligation and responsibility to contribute through tax dollars.

Progressives Cling to Collectivism

Here, in my opinion, are some of the essential issues and dilemmas facing the advocate of individual liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government. Too many of our fellow citizens do not believe that individuals have a right to live for themselves. They truly and honestly believe that “society,” “community,” the collective, is something independent of the distinct individuals who comprise it, and for which the individual is morally, politically and legally obligated to serve and sacrifice for. Police power is a legitimate and appropriate tool of enforcing these obligations and duties, if resistance or indifference is experienced among the citizens in the undertaking of these activities.

For the “progressive,” government is “society’s” agent to undertake the tasks of “social justice” and “entitlement” that are owed to each member and to which everyone is required to provide their contribution.  Police power is the means by which everyone is made to contribute their “social dues” in the form of either obedience to government regulations or payment of taxes for redistributive purposes.

Liberty and the Meaning of Society and the “Social”

For the classical liberal or libertarian, on the other hand, government is considered an agency for the protection of each individual’s rights. “Society” is comprised of the networks of relationships and associations formed by individuals and in which they interact for various fulfillments of human happiness and well-being.

These are not only the market exchange relationships of peaceful cooperation through competition and the buy and selling of goods and services.  They incorporate family, friends, professional associations, intellectual organizations and hobby groups. It includes faith and religious affiliations and participation, and all networks of charity and philanthropy at local community and wider levels.  These networks of human association are what are often called “civil society.”

The purpose of government in the classical liberal or libertarian perspective is to assure the security and protection from private plunder and violence that would disrupt or disturb the peaceful pursuits that individuals find it useful and enjoyable and fulfilling to follow through various and diverse associations of civil society.

Through them people express and satisfy the sundry sides of life and human existence that make the earthly sojourn meaningful and joyful, and “lived.” Any intrusion of government, the political authority with its legitimized use of force, other than in the “negative” form of rights protection, weakens, undermines, and potentially destroys a person’s liberty and therefore his ability to make his life have meaning and have happiness for himself.

Furthermore, the interventionist-welfare state undermines people’s personal and financial ability to participate in those acts and associations of benevolence towards others that they are called by their conscience to pursue in the ways they consider best and most likely of success. The redistributive state arrogantly replaces each person’s personal judgment and decision with that of the self-appointing “experts” who claim to speak and know best for society through the coercive arm of government.

Matching these ethical issues of the rights of the individual to live and act peacefully for himself as he sees best, the “progressive” often demonstrates a blinding degree of ignorance and misinformation about the workings of a competitive market economy, the nature of the profit and loss system, and the “invisible hand” of competitive cooperation through the peaceful and the voluntarist pursuit of self-interest.

He suffers from a confused, garbled, and contradictory grab bag of ideas derived from Marxism, Fabian socialism, nationalism, fascism, and, though it would be radically and vehemently denied, often-subtle forms of racism, as well.

Through all the progressive’s rhetoric about “democracy” and “equality” and “social justice” and “diversity,” theirs is a political philosophy and public policy ideology of elitism, hubris, and authoritarianism dominated by the idea and ideal of remaking human beings, human relationships and the structure and order of society into redesigned patterns and shapes that reflect their notion of how people should live, work, associate and earn a living.

That is why the modern liberal or progressive represents the face of a contemporary political, economic and cultural “soft” tyranny – compared to the brutal and murdering totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century – against which the classical liberal and libertarian must continue their centuries-long fight for human liberty.

[Originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog