Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 47 min 56 sec ago

Bringing Education Freedom to Native Americans

May 06, 2016, 12:34 PM

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) recently proposed Senate Bill 2711, titled the Native American Education Opportunity Act. The bill would direct the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reimburse states that fund education savings account (ESA) programs that allow Native American students to attend a school of their choice. If passed, this legislation would open up a new array of education opportunities for Native American children and would give them access to a quality education, which, unfortunately, is often lacking on many American Indian reservations today.

McCain says the Native American graduation rate is around 50 percent, and according to Native American students’ ACT scores, there is a great disparity in college readiness compared to non-Native American students. In the English language arts category, less than 40 percent of Native American students scored high enough to be considered adequately ready for college. This is 25 percentage points lower than all students. In math, only one in five are college ready. Across all four traditional subject areas, data show barely 10 percent of Native Americans are college ready.

Native American students are being left behind in great numbers. This minority population is at the highest risk of any group in the nation of not receiving a proper education. Native American students deserve access to a quality education — just like every other student.

Arizona is one of only five states with an education savings account program. It is also home to the largest reservation in the country, the Navajo Nation, with a population of just under 175,000. The problem in Arizona is Native American students in schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) are not eligible for the state’s ESA program. The Native American Education Opportunity Act would correct this problem by allowing students on reservations to have access to these funds. If passed, American Indian students would no longer be trapped in the poorly run BEI schools in Arizona.

BEI operates 183 schools across 23 states and 64 reservations and has a student population of around 42,000. The largest reservation populations are in Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. Allowing ESAs to be utilized in states with large reservation populations would be one of the most significant education improvements for Native Americans in U.S. history. These students would be able to attend non-BIE schools, which could be private, virtual, tribal, a charter school, or a mix of learning facilities. The ESA would also allow the students to find tutors, pay for transportation to another school, pay for books, and pay for individualized instruction. The education opportunities would grow each year, allowing more and more students to escape failing government-run schools.

Some opponents of the legislation claim it would pull resources away from current BIE-run schools, leaving them worse off. While it is true BIE schools would not receive the same amount of funding as they have in recent years, their track record in educating students is dismal. Any private or charter school with a 50 percent graduation rate would be shut down as rapidly as possible. It is inhumane to force students to remain in a school that is failing to educate its students adequately. Opponents of ESAs are effectively saying they are more interested in keeping the failing money train moving in favor of government schools than they are of allowing students to find a quality education.

The lack of good educational opportunities on American Indian reservations has left many Native Americans in poverty. In the Navajo Nation, the unemployment rate is 42 percent, and 43 percent of the total population lives in poverty. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, unemployment is 80 percent, and 69 percent live in poverty.

While there are myriad reasons for the extreme unemployment and poverty rates, education plays a very important role in solving the problem. By providing a quality education, more students will be able to obtain a college degree. Currently, only 5 percent of Native Americans attend college immediately after graduating from high school, and only one in 10 of those who do attend college are able to graduate within four years. These numbers would dramatically rise over time if Native Americans are given the opportunity to utilize ESA programs, a move that would give every Native American student access to a much-needed quality education.

[Originally published at Deseret News]

Categories: On the Blog

FDA Essentially Bans E-Cigarettes with New Regulations

May 06, 2016, 12:26 PM

The FDA’s new vaping regulations in the name of protecting public health will actually achieve the opposite.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday that e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products will be now be subject to strict federal regulation. The new measure also puts cigars and hookah products under FDA’s regulatory regime, which previously applied only to cigarettes and cigarette-related products, including smokeless tobacco. The new rules include a prohibition of selling vaping products to minors, selling them in vending machines, distributing “free samples,” and marketing any vapor product as “light,” “low,” or “mild” unless authorized by the FDA.

[See The Heartland Institute’s press release reacting to this news here.] In 2014, the FDA began to focus on the e-cigarette and vaping industry, with a proposed rule that would require all products introduced after February 15, 2007 to “apply retroactively for approval.” This is a process, vaping companies claim, would wipe out the billion-dollar e-cigarette industry, including thousands of small businesses. The FDA apparently did not care, applying the retroactive date, which goes into effect in 90 days.

Products that were introduced on the market after the “predicate date” of February 15, 2007 “will have 12 months to submit an exemption request, 18 months to submit an application proving the product has a substantial equivalent already on the market and 24 months to submit an application for pre-market approval.” The FDA has also given itself the authority to regulate and “control the ‘parts’ and ‘components’ of tobacco.” This includes e-liquids, atomizers, batteries, flavors, and software. Manufacturers of tobacco and e-cigarette products will now have to register with the FDA and provide a list of products, ingredients, which the agency will review for approval in the market.

The complaince cost of this regulation is immense. As Michael B. Siegel points out in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The FDA itself has acknowledged that the premarket applications are a burdensome requirement that will take more than 5,000 hours to complete and will cost a minimum of $330,000 per product. Since few of the e-cigarette-product makers—most of which are small businesses—can afford to stay in business and pay for this level of resources or expertise, the majority of these companies will shut down. That will leave the market open only for e-cigarette products made by the largest of companies, some of which have already begun buying what once were small-company e-cigarette brands. For example, R.J. Reynolds now owns Vuse.

The reaction from proponents of e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products was immediate and strong. The Vapor Technology Association said the regulations a “will harm public health and devastate small vapor technology businesses.” The the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) said:

Our industry has a long history of supporting sensible science-based regulations, including license requirements, as well as banning sales to minors and adopting child-resistant packaging. Today’s final rule pulls the rug out from the nine million smokers who have switched to vaping, putting them in jeopardy of returning back to smoking, which kills 480,000 Americans each year and costs the U.S. more than $300 billion in annual health care expenses.

Jeff Stier, a policy advisor to Heartland and senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research said:

The FDA wasn’t wrong to regulate e-cigarettes. It was wrong to effectively ban, by its own estimate, up to 98.5% of the e-cigarettes on the market today.
E-cigarettes, Public Health England says, are about 95% less harmful than smoking, are not a gateway to smoking, and could help smokers quit.Now, the FDA wants to put an end to this less harmful alternative to smoking.

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

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

No serious study has ever been produced by the FDA to conclude anything but the positive health benefits of vaporized nicotine products compared to smoking cigarettes. So the FDA’s new regulations in the name of protecting public health will actually achieve the opposite … which is sadly typical for government work these days.

Read below some of Heartland’s research, commentary, and news stories on vaping, including our event in April titled “The Vaping Wars.”

Dearborn, Michigan City Council Passes Public E-Cig Restrictions, The Heartlander (April 19, 2016)

E-Cigarettes: A Better Way to Quit Smoking, Heartland Institute Panel Says, Somewhat Reasonable (April 29, 2016)

Vaping as a Public Policy ‘War’, Somewhat Reasonable (May 2, 2016)

Research & Commentary: How Do Electronic Cigarettes Affect Adolescent Smoking, Heartland Research & Commentary (March 28, 2016)

Stroud: Move to raise legal age won’t snuff out smoking, Boston Herald (April 29, 2016)

In The Tank Podcast (ep31): R Street Institute, E-Cig Taxes, Tax Cuts, and Obamacare Turns Six, Heartland Institute (March 25, 2016)

Categories: On the Blog

A Real Bet for the Tough Guy in a Bow Tie

May 06, 2016, 9:00 AM

BREAKING NEWS: Bill Nye issued a bet more than six years after my initial challenge to him in 2010 (which he would have lost) and four months into 2016 after reviewing the impact of El Niño on global temperatures. News flash, Bill: Midway through last year I said 2016 global temperatures would rise thanks to El Niño. I can forecast this because I don’t believe CO2 is a major player in determining global temperatures. I believe the sun, ocean cycles and stochastic events play a much more significant role.

Just so Bill and the rest of his brainwashed audience understand, I fully support our nation’s transition to clean and sustainable energy while using all sources of energy at our disposal now until a feasible economic transition can be accomplished. If you were really serious about it, we would be using more nuclear energy anyway.

However, I also believe the policies that Bill and the rest of the global warming political activists are pushing are detrimental to our economy and, in turn, our national security. How much money have we shipped to the Middle East because we did not use our own domestic fossil fuel resources? If not for the recent fossil fuel energy boom in the U.S., foreign countries would be making billions of dollars more at the expense of the U.S. consumer. I would argue that our failure to move more quickly and utilize our domestic fossil fuel resources has had catastrophic effects on our economy and national security.

Unlike Bill, I am a rational man, and I understand that while we must transition to clean energy we must do so in a way that is smart and economically viable.

Furthermore, we all know that Bill is not a forecaster. And since I am, I have a bet for the “science guy.” I believe 2017 will be colder than 2016. The bet is this: For 2017, every increment of .05 degrees Celsius (plus or minus compared to 2016) will be worth $10,000. If 2017 is 0.1 degrees Celsius warmer than 2016, I will pay you $20,000. If 2017 is 0.1 degrees Celsius colder, you owe me $20,000.

We do it with Dr. Roy Spencer’s satellite measurements.

The satellite data cannot be manipulated as we have seen in a culture among AGW scientists. (Remember “Climategate”?)

Furthermore, since you say global warming is proven science, how about we take all the money allocated for AGW research and use it to improve veterans health benefits. We wouldn’t be allocating all that research money to study whether the earth is flat/round, would we? Or we could stop that AGW gravy train and use the money allocated to professors around the world for improving fusion output. Make sense?

One more thing. I challenge Bill to lead by example and for one year use no fossil fuels, including products that use fossil fuels to be made. He can be like the DirecTV commercial in which a settler is settling in a world void of fossil fuels.

See you Dec. 31, 2017, Bill. One of us will pay up.

[Originally published at The Patriot Post]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – WI State Rep. Rob Hutton: Zero-Based Budgeting

May 05, 2016, 3:20 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Wisconsin state representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), the sponsor of a new law requiring state government agencies to submit a zero-based budget plan and a budget plan in which the agency becomes more efficient but uses less taxpayer money.

According to Hutton, zero-based budgeting helps ensure that government agencies are sticking to their core missions, and encourages government agencies to re-evaluate their priorities by incentivizing high-performing programs that actually work.

Hutton also gives a sneak peek at future reforms on which Wisconsin lawmakers are working, including “sunset reviews,” regular reviews of agency spending programs requiring placing a time limit on the enactment of those programs.

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


Categories: On the Blog

The Koch Brothers Don’t Want Government Cronyism – Google Does

May 05, 2016, 1:05 PM

It is an incessant refrain – from Leftists and the media (please pardon the redundancy). This annoying gaggle whines and moans that the quintessential, awful faces of corporate influence over government are those of Charles and David Koch.

Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid said of them on the Senate floor “These two brothers are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.” Uber-Leftist “green” billionaire (and MUCH larger political donor than both Kochs combined) Tom Steyer said of David Koch: “Just a famously evil person.”

Not at all over-the-top or vitriolic. Thanks for the substantive critique of these men and their political perspectives.

It is true – when the private-sector-uber-successful libertarian duo isn’t donating massive coin to people and things like criminal defense lawyers, hospitals, the arts and black colleges, they do contribute to people and political entities seeking to deliver us less government than the massive amounts with which we are currently afflicted.

(Full disclosure: Our joint, Less Government, has never, ever received a dime in Koch coin. Your humble author may have previously worked at joints that received some Koch coin, but if any of them did I wasn’t aware of it.)

Again, the Kochs aren’t looking for government favors. They don’t want government money for things like stupid, born-to-die “green energy” projects (Mister Steyer does). Because they are ideologically opposed to the government picking losers at the expense of winners (and likely because they realize “green energy” is neither green nor energy). They don’t want government regulatory favors for their businesses. They don’t want the government to hound their private sector competitors.

The Kochs want government to leave them – and everyone else – alone. Equally (as in equal protection before the law). For the Left – that is their original “sin.” That – and putting their money where their minds are.

Koch Derangement Syndrome is at its heart about ideology – not political influence. The Left doesn’t want less government – and doesn’t like those who do.

If it were bought government about which they were worried, we all would hear much more about Leftist donors of much greater coin than the Kochs – people like Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, Jim Simons and George Soros.

And Google. Whose net worth ($350 billion) is greater than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Denmark ($342 billion). But this private sector uber-success doesn’t share the Kochs’ affinity for equal-treatment-before-government. They want all the cronyism they can get. And the political contribution is by no means the only way to get it (though they were President Barack Obama’s second biggest donor).

Google’s Remarkably Close Relationship With the Obama White House, in Two Charts: “Google representatives attended White House meetings more than once a week, on average, from the beginning of Obama’s presidency through October 2015.”

Currently in Power – The Google Administration

Obama & Google (A Love Story)

Google’s Washington Influence Is Spreading, Some Say Too Much

Google is Very Tight with the Obama Administration

Google’s Incestuous Ties with the Obama Administration

And more and more and more, Google is getting whatever they want out of Obama’s government. Behold the Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

Before: Google…Push(es) for Strong Net Neutrality Rules As FCC Nears Vote

After: FCC Approves New Net Neutrality Rules

How New (FCC) Internet Privacy Rules Could Backfire: “‘The plan could play a meaningful role in cementing monopoly market power for companies like Google…by regulating potential competitors out of business altogether.’”

Everyone Loathes the Latest (FCC) Power Grab – Except Google, and That’s All That Matters: “Google loathes (TV) apps – because they can’t get at the data collected by them. So they want to muck up the apps (r)evolution – and prop-up the dying set-top-box. The Obama Administration is more than happy to oblige.”

And that’s just one government agency. The Leviathan has oh so much more to give Google.

The ancient government maxim is – personnel is policy. No one knows this better than Google: “Nearly 250 people have shuttled from government service to Google employment or vice versa over the course of (Obama’s) administration.”

To wit: Michelle Lee. She’s currently the head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Guess what her immediately preceding gig was? “Deputy General Counsel and Head of Patents and Patent Strategy for Google from 2003 to 2012.”

Google has made a global, multi-billion dollar business out of stealing. Including lots of intellectual property – like patents. Having one of theirs in charge of the government’s patent office can be quite helpful. But one example:

“And now we have Google’s foray into driverless cars. Cars that can drive themselves – and thus must detect all manner of things stationary and mobile around them. There are many components incorporated in making that a possibility. And each sliver of every component – requires a patent….

“More Obama Administration-delivered good news for Google: its U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just approved said patent. Bad news for Google? The Obama Administration approved said patent ‘not a week after its self-driving car failed to detect a bus and ultimately collided with it….’”

And the government just keeps on giving. Even Congressional Republicans aren’t immune to Google’s charms.

Google-Supported Innovation Act Passes Through the House

Thankfully never the Senate. And that was last Congress – when the anti-patent Innovation Act was far less anti-patent than it is now. Thus does Google probably now like it even more.

Thankfully, with the growth in anti-patent-ism came a growth in Congressional opposition to this awful legislation. It is currently back in committee – where it should permanently remain.

Let us please not hand Google yet another anti-free market, crony-government victory.

Hoping the Left-Media Complex will provide a little of this Google crony context when next lambasting the Kochs?

That’s probably asking just a bit too much.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Time to Dump Detroit Public Schools

May 05, 2016, 10:04 AM

From 2000 to 2015, Detroit Public Schools closed 195 schools, and student enrollment declined by 71 percent. Over the past four months, DPS’ problems have become even worse.

In January, 60 schools were shut down by a “sickout”—an organized protest in which all or nearly all teachers agree to call in sick on the same day. The stunt affected 31,000 students. In March, the Michigan Legislature approved nearly $50 million in emergency funds for DPS after the DPS emergency manager announced in January teachers should not expect to be paid beyond April 8. In Late March, federal officials charged 14 individuals — 12 former and current DPS principals, a vendor, and an administrator — for operating a bribery and kickback scheme that had been in operation for over 13 years.

What is DPS’ solution to these crises? More “emergency management.”

But emergency managers will not fix Detroit’s education system, and neither will firing existing teachers and hiring new ones. Detroit has been failing its students too long to waste time trying to fix the current system.

DPS has operated its school system using a top-down, bureaucrat-run model for decades. Under this structure, teachers are protected with outdated tenure rules and rewarded for the amount of time they work in the system, rather than for performance. Innovation is scarce, and administrators, who often enjoy exorbitant salaries, are not encouraged to make the sort of radical changes that are needed to turn the city’s schools around.

Tax dollars are currently dispersed using a per-pupil formula, with a set amount of federal, state, and local dollars matched to each student enrolled in public schools. In public school districts, the district administers the funding. This system is inefficient, costly, and prone to corruption.

Lawmakers should enact reforms that give parents the ability to choose the schools their children attend using existing state funding. This would best be accomplished by using an education savings account (ESA) program. An ESA program creates individual accounts that are funded with 80–90 percent of what the state spends on the cost of educating a single child. Parents are able to use the funds on approved educational expenses, such as tuition, books, tutors, enrollment fees, and computers. Currently, five states offer some form of ESAs.

Vouchers, sometimes called “choice scholarships,” also allow parents to choose the school their children will attend. Under this type of choice program, parents receive taxpayer-funded vouchers to cover the cost of tuition. The amount of money for the voucher, the participating schools, and applicable regulations vary from state to state.

Both vouchers and ESAs create an education marketplace in which money follows the child and competition increases. Under such a model, some schools would inevitably fail, because most parents would pull their children out of the city’s worst schools. But successful schools would expand, and innovative educators would start countless new schools in neighborhoods throughout the city to meet growing demand.

If parents are given the power to put their children in safe, successful schools — public or private — kids now suffering in a failing system would have much greater access to a quality education, and DPS would be forced to be more efficient, more accountable, and to create a better education system that better serves the needs of its students.

Why should parents, who pay for the education of their children and the children of their neighbors through taxes, be required to send their kids to dilapidated schools that have collectively wasted millions of their hard-earned dollars?

The city should get rid of DPS and create an education marketplace that will foster competition and make available a high-quality education to all the students of Detroit. If it fails to do this, Detroit will be failing its students, current and future, and everyone in the city will be worse off as a result.

[Originally published at Detroit News]

Categories: On the Blog

Everyone Loathes the Latest Obama Power Grab – Except Google, and That’s All That Matters

May 05, 2016, 9:59 AM

A key Barack Obama Administration legacy item is its wanton abuse of the Constitution’s separation and balance of powers. No Executive Branch in history has spent more time pretending to be the Legislative Branch – writing regulations where the requisite preceding law doesn’t exist.

As this Administration’s time runs down – its minions ramp up these unilateral power grabs. As the grabs get larger and more obnoxious – more and more people oppose them. President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has with its latest proposed heist created just this sort of nigh total opposition – their looming set-top-box mandate.

Does the FCC have the legal authority to do this? It’s pretty clear the answer is No. The law under which the FCC just about always operates is the 1996 Telecommunications Act– until very recently a law recognized by just about everyone to be a deregulatory document. Meaning its intent was to get and keep government out of the way of things like television and the Internet.

But this Administration has turned this mandate on its head – and bizarrely warps the law into bizarrely “justifying” power grab after power grab. So too it is with this set-top-box seizure.

So who exactly is opposed? Of course the usual, rational actors in these sorts of things. The people and organizations who understand the rule of law, economics and freedom generally. We at Less Government certainly are. So too are joints like Tech Freedom, the Center for Individual Freedom, the Free State Foundation and many, many more.

Then there are the companies. You know, the people who actually make a living doing this and thus know a little bit about how things work – and don’t. (For this trillion-dollar-contribution to our economy, these companies are this Administration’s perpetual whipping boys.)

Time Warner in understated fashion calls the grab “unnecessary.” Comcast proved the grab not only illegal but unnecessary by unveiling yet another iteration of the 21st Century’s replacement for the 20th Century set-top-box – the application (app). Dish Network and EchoStar filed joint comments in opposition.

National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) President Michael Powell rightly points out that this FCC ridiculousness will “require an enormous amount of time, effort, re-engineering and cost.” Time, effort and re-engineering all cost money. Lots and LOTS of money. Which means it will cost We the Consumers tons of money. Because that’s who pays for their services – and the government’s onerous, exhaustive regulations thereof. NCTA says they’ll sue the FCC should their mandate threat come to fruition. (As the government’s list of power grabs grows, the conga line to the courthouse gets longer and longer.)

Add to this list of technology creators and innovators (because lest we forget, companies like Comcast, Time Warner and the many NCTA members are in fact technology creators and innovators) – CALinnovates. Whose Executive Director Mike Montgomery astutely notes “It is apparent that with this set-top box proposal the FCC is missing the forest for the trees. Specifically, the Commission obsesses over the size of one ancient, crumbling tree – missing the thriving vegetation sprouting around it.”

Now we branch out to other opponents of the grab. Behold the people who create the content – which the FCC is about to make much more susceptible to theft. Collections of companies like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Companies like Walt Disney, CBS, 21st Century Fox, A&E Television Networks, Scripps Networks Interactive and Viacom. And joints like the Digital Citizens Alliance – likewise concerned with intellectual property protection.

Then there are content aggregators – the companies that make money re-selling this content. Companies like Roku. They get it: “Roku believes that, rather than accelerate the pace of change and innovation, the Commission’s proposed rules could actually inhibit the transition from traditional programming delivery models [cable] to OTT [internet / streaming] services.”

And then there are groups like The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership – who also get it: “We believe this approach will undermine diversity in the television industry, all to solve a ‘problem’ that does not currently exist…(I)nstead of acknowledging the unprecedented innovation sweeping the video marketplace today, this rule seeks to put its thumb on the scale and favor large tech companies at the expense of independent and diverse programmers.”

And to whom is the FCC giving the favorable thumb treatment? Yet again giving the favorable thumb treatment? Endlessly, ceaselessly giving the favorable thumb treatment? Why it’s Google, of course. Shocker:

“Set-top-boxes collect data. So of course Google wanted in – in 2014. But the marketplace is already passing them by: ‘The future (and increasingly the present) of television isn’t boxes, it’s apps (and alternate hardware like Apple TV and Amazon Firestick). Netflix, Amazon Prime, Roku, Hulu and a host of other companies deliver you (via their apps) unlimited streaming TV and movie content using only an Internet connection. No cable TV subscription (or box) required.’

“Google loathes apps – because they can’t get at the data collected by them. So they want to muck up the apps (r)evolution – and prop-up the dying set-top-box. The Obama Administration is more than happy to oblige.”

So nigh the entire Tech World – and beyond – is opposed to this next Obama Administration power grab.

But Google wants it.

So we’re all going to get it – good and hard.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kent Lassman: CEI Subpoenaed on Climate Change Dissent

May 04, 2016, 2:13 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Kent Lassman, President of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joins host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the subpoena CEI were served by the Virgin Islands Attorney General in an attempt to intimidate CEI into silence on climate issues.

As Lassman discusses, this is much bigger than climate, it is a challenge to progress in science and a threat to the successful continuation of a representative democracy and our constitutional republic founded on the active free exchange of differing ideas.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Do CON Laws Contribute to Suicide?

May 04, 2016, 10:01 AM

Photo credit EKG Technician Salary.

In an article published on May 3 in the Chicago Tribune, I laid out a controversial case for why Certificate of Need (CON) laws, state regulations of the health care industry, may contribute to higher suicide rates. The argument essentially this: CON laws deliberately restrict access to many health care services, including mental health services, and lower access to mental health services leads to higher suicide rates. Thus, CON laws contribute to higher suicide rates.

It has been proven by numerous studies CON laws do create environments in which there is reduced access to care. As I wrote in the Tribune piece:

Research published by Thomas Stratmann and Jacob Russ at the Mercatus Center shows CON regulations across the country make accessing health care services more difficult. According to their findings, CON law states, compared to states without them, have on average “99 fewer hospital beds per 100,000 people.”

It has also been proven by multiple studies that reduced access to mental health care is connected to suicide. In one such study, authored by Tondo, et al. and published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2006, the authors concluded, “In multivariate models of associations between suicide rates and indices of access to health care, the state rate of federal aid for mental health was the strongest indicator, followed by the rate of uninsured persons and population density of psychiatrists and physicians and by population density.”

Federal aid, health insurance rates, and population density of health care providers are all related to what I call “access” in my piece and elsewhere. The argument is logical and clear: When people have less access to mental health care, suicide rates go up.

In the Tribune article, I attempted to explain this problem in a number of ways, but one such way, looking back on it now, would have benefited from additional information. In the article, I wrote, “Of the 25 states with the highest suicide rates, 17 have CON laws or a variation on CON laws. Out of the 28 states with the largest number of health professional shortage areas related to mental health — as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — 20 states have CON laws.”

Sounds pretty convincing, right? But as one close friend of mine, who caught on to a fairly obvious point many other experts in the field missed, the correlation displayed above is not dramatic enough to show any sort of a real connection between suicide rates and CON laws. While it’s true many states with high suicide rates have CON laws, it’s also true many states have CON laws. So, when I wrote the piece, what exactly did I have in mind?

Of the 25 states with the highest suicide rates, 17 have CON laws. The remaining eight states are: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. If these states don’t have CON laws and have high suicide rates, doesn’t this undermine my primary argument?

If you haven’t noticed by now, all eight states have one characteristic in common: They all would be classified as exceptionally rural and have very low population densitities. In fact, of the eight states mentioned, only Colorado falls below 40th on rankings of state population densities, and it sits at 37th overall.

Why does this matter? If you go back to the original argument presented at the top of the page, you’ll notice the argument is not: “CON laws equate to more suicides.” The argument is actually: “Lower access to mental health care causes more suicides, and CON laws cause lower access than there would otherwise be. Thus, CON laws contribute to higher suicide rates.”

Research has proven over and over that rural populations have less access to mental health services compared to more urban populations. It’s also been a well-known fact that rural populations have higher suicide rates. Nothing here contradicts my argument. Less access to health care has proven to lead to higher suicide rates, regardless of the reason for the lower level of access. In the case of the eight states mentioned above, one of the primary reasons for high suicide rates is low access to care that results from low population density.

If you remove the exceptionally rural states from the top 25 states with the highest suicide rates, nearly all remaining states have CON laws. Rather than undermine my point, these data actually reinforce it: When there is less access to care, suicide rates go up, which is why every state on the list of the top 25 suicide rates are either very rural or have CON laws.

Some might argue that while this data doesn’t disprove the argument, it doesn’t prove it either. While I don’t think the data prove my point as well as I initially thought, there are some states with CON laws in the top 25 that don’t have extremely low population densities, and I think a strong case could be made CON laws play a significant role in at least several of them. Just some of those states are: Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

The thing to remember, however, is not that CON laws equate to high suicide rates, but rather that they contribute to higher suicide rates than would otherwise exist without them. By including the connection between higher suicide rates and CON laws into my article, I may have erred — not because what I said disproves my point, but because it’s a weaker argument than simply hammering home the idea statistics show lower access to mental health care leads to higher suicide rates, and statistics show CON laws lower access to care.

Photo Credit: EKG Technician Salary.

Categories: On the Blog

LeftExposed Profile: Seth Borenstein

May 03, 2016, 3:52 PM

Below is one of a series of profiles on, which is an investigative journalism project designed to seek out the foundations, organizations, key players, and individuals who spend their time, energy, and money trying to change the way you live your life. This so-called “dark money” is flowing to your elected officials, to government regulators, and to community organizations – and it’s limiting your choices in everything, from how you get your energy to how much you pay for goods and services to what you choose to serve your family for dinner.

In each profile, you’ll find an explanation of who these people are, why they do what they do, and how much money they spend doing it. We’ll document their contributions, tell you where their money goes, and explain how it affects you and those around you, so you can fight back against their special interests.

Seth Borenstein has worked with the Associated Press (AP) as a science writer since 2006. In 2012, he was appointed adjunct professor of journalism and society at New York University’s Washington, DC campus. Borenstein is said to cover national and international stories on science and climate news.

Background & History

Borenstein was born and raised in Ohio, graduated from Bexley (Ohio) High School in 1979, and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University in 1983, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to joining AP, he was editor of the Belmont Citizen (Massachusetts) from 1983 to 1985, a reporter for the Newburyport Daily News (Massachusetts) from 1985 to 1988, a specialty writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel from 1988 to 1994, a space writer for the Orlando Sentinel from 1994 to 1998, and a national correspondent for Knight-Ridder from 1998 to 2006. He has been an active member of the Society of Environmental Journalists since 1998.


Accusations of bias

In December 2005, Borenstein revealed what appeared to be a bias in favor of the theory of manmade global warming in an article published in Nieman Reports titled “Global Warming: What’s Known vs. What’s Told.” He is quoted talking about the method in which he reports after a “consensus” is reached on a subject: “Most of the people you talk to are legitimate, mainstream scientists. You put a paragraph in saying, ‘There are a minority of scientists skeptical, they say this, but the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists disregard them.’”

In May of 2008, Borenstein went a step further, completely disregarding the ongoing debate in an article published by Miller-McCune. “The nature of reporting is to get two sides to an issue,” wrote Borenstein. “But the nature of science reporting is to get what’s really happening.”

Borenstein, who claims to be an unbiased journalist, believes there are not two sides to every debate, especially when it comes to climate change. According to Borenstein himself, his own views “start and end with Ross Gelbspan’s The Heat Is On,” which condemns scientists who disagree with the theory of man-caused global warming, painting all those who disagree as being biased by pro-industry and conservative groups and businesses. Gelbspan implies that those who “dissent” should have limited rights to speech and should be excluded from the global warming debate.

A May 15, 2007, posting in the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) website featured an article titled, “Help Keep SEJ And The environment In The Spotlight,” lionizing Borenstein for his loyal service to the ideology espoused by Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Ross Gelbspan: “Sensational, sordid or even silly stories always seem to crowd out serious coverage of important issues like climate change, environmental health and sustainability. But at least on climate, perhaps, the scale has tipped a bit in the past year. SEJ stalwarts like Seth Borenstein of the AP and Andy Revkin of The New York Times have helped keep the issue in the news. There’s a new documentary, “Everything’s Cool,” taking up where Al Gore left off and featuring SEJers Heidi Cullen of The Weather Channel, Ross Gelbspan and Bill McKibben, among others.”

Accusations of inaccuracy, pre-2009

In June 2006, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) issued a press release revealing a series of factual inaccuracies in Borenstein’s article, “Scientists OK Gore’s Movie for Accuracy.” The release says the cited inaccuracies raise “serious questions about AP’s bias and methodology.” EPW challenged the article for suspected fabrications and non-existent sources. The release goes on to say:

“AP chose to ignore the scores of scientists who have harshly criticized the science presented in former Vice President Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.

“In the interest of full disclosure, the AP should release the names of the “more than 100 top climate researchers” they attempted to contact to review An Inconvenient Truth. AP should also name all 19 scientists who gave Gore “five stars for accuracy.” AP claims 19 scientists viewed Gore’s movie, but it only quotes five of them in its article. AP should also release the names of the so-called scientific “skeptics” they claim to have contacted.”

Borenstein ultimately refused to release the names.

In March 2007, Borenstein was again accused of deceptive reporting, this time by an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) member. Borenstein published an article titled “Warming Linked to Stronger Hurricanes“ that claimed the conclusions of the IPCC Working Group 1 blamed the increase in magnitude of cyclones on manmade global warming. The group’s conclusions, however, suggested no such connection. Borenstein’s claims led professor Neville Nicholls, the lead author of Working Group 1’s Chapter 9, to issue this response:

I was disappointed that after more than two years carefully analyzing the literature on possible links between tropical cyclones and global warming that even before the report was approved it was being misreported and misrepresented.

We concluded that the question of whether there was a greenhouse-cyclone link was pretty much a toss of a coin at the present state of the science, with just a slight leaning towards the likelihood of such a link. But the premature reports suggested that we were asserting the existence of much stronger evidence.

Nichols’ to Borenstein was scrubbed from academic records, however his response survives in an archived page of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Borenstien has also been criticized for a December 2008 USA Today article titled “Obama left with little time to curb global warming.” This article, published in the midst of the post-1998 warming “pause,” is full of dire warnings and calls for action on the subject of climate change. Borenstein writes global warming “is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can’t avoid.” He continues, “Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it.”

NewsBusters, a media watchdog group, compiled a list of critical responses to Borenstein’s article. Included are responses from David Deming, University of Oklahoma; Hans Schreudet; James A. Peden, atmospheric physicist; Dr. Brian G. Valentine, U.S. Department of Energy; Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., retired nuclear scientist; and several others. One particularly damning response comes from Richard S. Courtney, a U.K.-based climate and atmospheric science consultant:

Global warming is not “accelerating”: global warming has stopped. There has been no statistically significant rise in (mean global temperature: MGT) since 1995 and MGT has fallen since 1998. The Earth has been warming from the Little Ice Age (LIA) for 300 years so, of course, the warmest years happened recently. But that warming from the LIA peaked in the El Nino year of 1998.”

Those quoted insist Borenstein’s claims were baseless and “agenda-driven.”

Accusations of inaccuracy, 2009 – present

In July 2009, The Huffington Post ran a Borenstein article titled “White House Climate Change Report Issues Dire Warning On Worsening Situation.” The article paints a bleak picture for the future of our climate. “Rising sea levels, sweltering temperatures, deeper droughts, and heavier downpours – global warming’s serious effects are already here and getting worse,” wrote Borenstein.

The referenced White House report, however, contained “no new research,” on the topic of environmentalism.

Borenstein’s October 2011, Huffington Post story, “Richard Muller, Global Warming Skeptic, Now Agrees Climate Change Is Real,” contained factual inaccuracies on Dr. Muller’s history:  University of California at Berkeley professor Richard Muller was never a “skeptic” of global warming. He was a careful researcher and a believer in human-caused global warming since the early 1980s who called for the skepticism necessary to produce accurate and credible reports. Newsbusters identified Muller as part of the Koch Brothers-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) project team, and the funding was seen, wrongly by Borenstein, as the certification that it was a skeptic project.

Professor Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said it was “pretty clear that there was uncertainty in the data itself, but the bigger issues are to analyze the data and interpret it.” Muller’s team made its data publicly available, which indeed showed uncertainty, undermining a New York Times report that claimed the BEST study had “settled the climate change debate” and showed that anyone who remained a skeptic was committing a “cynical fraud,” as Borenstein claimed.

Another example of Borenstein’s bias occurred in October 2013. In an article titled “Study: Temperatures go off the charts around 2047,” Borenstein reported several examples of estimated years specific countries will become unlivable because of climate change. Even after numerous climate models failed to predict warming trends and a decade of flat temperatures, Borenstein suggests this study predicts impending doom down to the year.

“Starting in about a decade, Kingston, Jamaica will probably be off-the-charts hot – permanently,” wrote Borenstein. “Other places will soon follow. Singapore in 2028. Mexico City in 2031. Cairo in 2036. Phoenix and Honolulu in 2043.”

No alternative views were reported.

In January 2015, Borenstein penned an article for the Associated Press declaring that “2014 was Earth’s hottest year on record.” Throughout his AP article, Borenstein elaborates on the seemingly frail state of our climate. He wrote, “The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years.”

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt admitted NASA thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 percent. Borenstein was forced to issue a “clarification,” which did not mention the 38% possibility.

Involvement in “FakeGate”

In the aftermath of FakeGate, an incident where scientist Peter Gleick obtained a forged Heartland Institute document and stole e-mails, which he then released to online outlets, Borenstein was one of the first to attack the Heartland Institute.

After it was revealed that Gleick fraudulently obtained the e-mails, Borenstein appeared to defend Gleick’s actions, writing “The documents caused a stir, mirroring the hacking of climate scientists’ e-mails two years earlier from a British research center.”

Current considerations

In February 2015,  Climate Depot provided a thorough refutation to an article by Borenstein and Luis Andres Henao, titled “The big melt: Antarctic’s ice may re-shape Earth,” CD alleged that Borenstein and Heano recycled claims from 2014, 1990, 1979, 1922, and even 1901, detailing the article’s inaccuracies in point-by-point refutation.

Categories: On the Blog

Constitutionally Limited Gov’t: A Pragmatic Response to Gov’t Picking Winners and Losers

May 03, 2016, 3:27 PM

In a recent article published by Bloomberg View, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein discusses “an important but widely overlooked speech” made by Elizabeth Warren (D), in which the Massachusetts senator bemoans the influence of powerful industry groups on the regulatory process. To Warren, the problem is not overzealous administrative bodies, eager to impose unwanted, unnecessary new rules, but regulatory capture—the notion regulation is, in the words of economists Michael E. Levine and Jennifer L. Forrence, “simply an arena in which special interests contend for the right to use government power for narrow advantage.”

Libertarians have been touting the insights of regulatory capture theory for a long time, and its ideas are simple enough: Special-interest groups have a concrete incentive and the resources to engage in the convoluted minutiae of the regulatory process, whereas the citizenry at large has neither. The general population doesn’t have the time, money, or the inclination to engage in byzantine federal rulemaking affairs, which means well-organized pressure groups have a significant advantage and an opportunity to tailor rules not for the public good but in accordance with their own interests.

It is refreshing to see a prominent progressive acknowledge this conundrum, particularly because the modern administrative state, often called the fourth branch of government, is a distinctly progressive invention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Progressive Era, reformers began to see the Enlightenment principles of traditional or classical liberalism as outdated and obsolete, at odds with new scientific and political thinking. Guided by the objectivity of science, and therefore allegedly free of bias, federal experts in new executive branch agencies would work with academia, think tanks, and the private sector to chart the correct course to rescue society from the perceived precariousness and chaos of a laissez-faire system.

The problem is the one Warren highlights: Even if we assume sclerotic bureaucracies are able to identify the ever-elusive “public good,” what incentive do they have to serve it and not their own ends? Progressivism and its crusaders simply never bothered to answer this fundamental question; their solution is always to further concentrate power in the executive branch of the federal government by giving increasing amounts of authority to unaccountable, unelected “public servants.”

As is so often the case, there is a grain of truth in Warren’s speech, but it’s one that is quickly lost to basic misunderstandings about the interactions between the government and the economy. In all of her worries about the dangerous power of special interests, Warren seems not to realize that as the power of the administrative state has grown, so too has the list of perquisites available to it and the opportunities for corruption and collusion.

Today’s libertarians and conservatives believe limited government, individual rights, and robust private property never stopped being good ideas, that the progressive administrative state gives far too much power and discretion to supposed experts—power that ought to be vested in the free and voluntary spheres of civil society. Moreover, we challenge the legal bases of the administrative state as a constitutionally-suspect revival of, as legal scholar Philip Hamburger describes it, “the era of the prerogative,” a time of arbitrary class rule.

The administrative state and its “law” represent a return to a government of men rather than law. It’s based on the idea we need not worry about pesky notions of the separation of powers. Constitutionally limited government isn’t some aesthetic fetish of libertarians and conservatives; it is a pragmatic response to the problems associated with concentrated political power and an attempt to divide that power and prevent the kind of political economy that sadly rules today: government picking winners and losers.

Real regulatory reform—reform that actually addresses the fundamental problem—means retrenchment, diminishing the authority of the administrative state and dispensing with millions of its pernicious rules.

[Originally published at CNSnews]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Hans von Spakovsky: Nonprofit Organizations and Donor Privacy

May 03, 2016, 3:16 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with The Heritage Foundation’s senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky about the fallout from California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ (D) attempt to force Americans for Prosperity, a national nonprofit organization advocating for fiscal responsibility in government, to make the private information of contributors public information.

Von Spakovsky explains why registries detailing the private contributions of individuals to private organizations are not necessary for good governance. Instead, he explains, lawmakers often propose donor disclosure laws to reduce the ability of groups of people to criticize them. Liberal groups, he says, often advocate for donor disclosure laws because they seek to enable their members to harass and ostracize individuals contributing to causes with which those liberal groups disagree.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Schnare: State AGs Colluding with Radical Environmental Groups

May 02, 2016, 1:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, David Schnare, general counsel of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, joins H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the collusion between state attorney’s general and radical environmental groups.

Schnare talks about some of the work being done at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute finding state AGs investigating climate skeptics in an attempt to silence them have been trying to cover up the fact they have been collaborating with radical environmental groups.

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

Categories: On the Blog

What’s Up With Prices at the Pump and Why it Could Be a Good Sign

May 02, 2016, 11:19 AM

All of us loved paying less than $2 a gallon at the pump. AAA reports: “Americans paid cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years”—which resulted in savings of nearly $10 billion compared to the same period last year. However, oil (and, therefore gasoline) has been creeping upward since the February low—topping $45 a barrel, a high for the year. And that could be a good thing.

While low prices at the pump have been a boon to consumers, the plunge in oil prices has been a bust for American producers.

Throughout the past 20 months, crude oil prices have dropped almost 80 percent, nearly 300,000 people are out of work, and corporate valuations for oil and gas companies have plummeted—even Exxon Mobil’s credit rating has been downgraded. In this environment, bankruptcies are frequent, and stock portfolios and retirement funds are feeling the pinch.

You may not care about “big oil,” but there’s still reason to be positive about the rising prices.

There are several causes for uptick. First is the weaker U.S. dollar. As oil is traded in dollars, a weaker dollar means that it takes more of them to buy the same amount of oil.

Additionally, we are heading into a busy summer driving season and refineries are switching to the more expensive “summer blend.” The switch typically means a brief shut down for maintenance—which reduces the gasoline supply. Summer driving increases demand.

Globally, oil production is down due to a workers’ strike in Kuwait that took about 1.3 million barrels a day of production offline, and disruptions in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the North Sea. Former investment advisor and financial writer Tony Daltorio writes: “That brought the total to roughly 3 million barrels a day that were offline.” In the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “oil production has fallen below 9 million barrels a day in recent weeks, down from a peak of 9.7 million barrels a day last April.”

In addition to supply contractions, there is a “risk” factor in the calculations. Risk can mean disruptions from a geo-political situation, such as those threatening to erupt in the Middle East, or weather. Because of the now-constant volatility in the Gulf States, that risk is already factored into the global price of crude oil.

But risk can also come from weather disruptions. Energy economist Tim Snyder explains: “Last week’s hurricane prediction report from renowned Colorado State University Professor, Dr. Phil Klotzbach predicted that due to more of a La Niña pattern we should see a slightly more active hurricane season in 2016 than the last couple of years. He predicted 12 named storms with 6 hurricanes and 3 of them category 3 or higher. The fact that the first storm of the season was Alex, in January, has prognosticators worried and has added to the risk premium in the price of crude oil. The risk of a hurricane can—and most of the time does—cause supply disruptions and damage to a port and/or a refinery.”

These are all supply issues that can easily be eradicated with increased production—such as recently threatened by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, in the U.S., reports Bloomberg: “Drilled, uncompleted wells could return 500,000 barrels a day back to the market.” The potential for increased production has many, including Daltorio, predicting a fall in price from current levels.

Consumers like lower prices, but they signal economic concerns as the price of oil is directly connected to the global economy.

In February, a Citibank strategist warned that due to the extended oil price collapse, the global economy “appears to be trapped in a death spiral.” Eric Sharpe, Publisher atEnergy Ink Magazine, states: “Citi’s assessment is clear, and easy to understand: weak global growth results in continued depressed oil prices as demand weakens under over-supply.” Conversely, strong growth increases demand—which raises prices.

This is why I posit higher prices are a good thing for everyone, not just the oil industry.

Simple economics are based on a supply vs. demand formula. So far, I’ve mostly addressed the supply side. But a careful read of the forecasts indicates an increase in the demand side. Sharpe points out: “The single most important factor for the stabilization of oil prices is for demand to outpace growth which it has not done for over two years. Though demand growth is slow, it is still climbing.”

On April 23, the Financial Times reported that commodities, led by oil, rallied “on signs of stronger growth” that bolstered demand. It also referenced: “better housing and infrastructure demand after China’s economy rebounded in March.”

On April 27, in a story about the price of oil hitting “another 2016 high,” WSJ addressed the fact that the Federal Reserve officials “left interest rates unchanged.” The last time the same decision was made, the statement included language that indicated the global economic and financial conditions posed risks to their outlook. This time, that was removed—“signaling less concern about risks posed to the U.S. Economy by global financial conditions.” In WSJ, Robert Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA, is quoted as saying: “The elimination of international elements in the language may mean that the market feels that the international situation is improving, and we’ll get a bit of demand from emerging markets which wasn’t there.”

Additionally, Phil Flynn, Sr. Market Analyst at the PRICE Futures Group and a Fox Business Channel contributor, in his daily energy report, on April 22, wrote: “Demand is busting out all over.” He explains: “Low gas prices are causing a buying frenzy at the pump as gasoline demand in the month of March hit an all-time record high.” He continues: “But it’s not just gasoline demand, it is oil demand all over. Not just here in the United States but also in China. China reported that crude-oil imports in March were up a whopping 21.6% from last year coming in close to 7.7 million barrels a day. …China’s demand for imported oil is stronger than it has ever been.” He also addressed; “the strongest ever volume increase in Indian demand.”

So there is growing demand.

There is also decreased production and dramatic cuts in the spending on new exploration and development (Flynn reports: “In February, ExxonMobil cut capex [capital expenditures] by a quarter to 23.2 million”). Many are seeing the loss of billions and billions of barrels of oil in the future. In his daily Corn & Ethanol report, Phil’s brother, Daniel Flynn (also with the Price Futures Group), on April 29 wrote: “On the crude oil front the market is trading higher on fundamentals and the expected weaker earnings from the Big Three today that should fundamentally show that they cannot keep up capital spending to meet demand with the huge losses suffered—which should catapult oil futures even higher.”

Snyder analyzed the oil supplies on hand, how much we are going to need to meet refinery demand, and how much crude oil we are producing in the U.S.—Supply vs. demand vs. production. He concluded that we have about 33 days of demand in storage. He says: “All of a sudden, 33 days of oversupply doesn’t look like such a big number.”

“The market is coming in better balance,” Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies, stated, according to the WSJ. “We maintain the view that the current oversupply will flip into an undersupply in the second half of the year.”

Sharpe concludes: “Cautious optimism has finally begun to permeate the industry.”

While this is good news for the oil industry, it is also good for everyone—even though it means higher prices at the pump. If this optimistic view is correct, it means the global economy—despite the bad economic news on the American front—may be heading toward a net positive; that it is not “trapped in a death spiral.”

A growing economy needs energy. And strong growth means job security and higher wages. That is why higher demand—that equals higher prices—is good for everyone.

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

Heartland Institute Panel: Vaping as a Public Policy ‘War’

May 02, 2016, 10:48 AM

Public Health England in August of 2015 became the first national government agency to endorse e-cigarettes as safer options for current smokers. Its report also dispelled several bogus anti-tobacco claims. Why is it that e-cigarettes are seen as life-savers by the UK Government, but condemned by the US?  Find out why by checking this April 13 article.

Brian Fojtik, guest speaker at The Heartland Institute’s event about “The Vaping War” on April 20 (watch above and see Part 1 of this post), linked the “war” on vaping to 52 years ago when the Surgeon General recognized tobacco as a health hazard — and the avalanche of anti-smoking programs ever since. Even though many e-cig users begin vaping to wean themselves off tobacco products, why do e-cigarette smokers reap the same hatred from the non-smoking public as those who smoke tobacco cigarettes? Might it be because people are taught not only to hate cigarettes, but also to hate those who once smoked them? Does it not matter that tobacco smokers are transitioning to products that are safer for them and everyone around them? Apparently not.

Vaping as a Consumer-Driven Business

More and more individuals desire a safe and effective smoking cessation aid — so it is no wonder that the number of consumer driven vapor shops are growing to (currently) 15,000 vapor shops in the US.  These are all relatively new businesses; people are employed and property taxes are paid. When there are people who want something, products are offered as a solution to the problem. This is the free market at work. Regulations and taxes only inhibit innovation in a free market system — but regulations and taxes are coming fast.

Pharmaceutical companies continually come up with new products to help people stop smoking, but each new product must receive FDA approval, which requires an expensive and lengthy process to market a new product. This is no huge hurdle for Big Pharma. But the vaping industry is just getting started, and cannot afford to jump through FDA hoops and have each vaping product approved by the FDA — which is why it is important to limit the FDA’s authority in vaping. As the law kinda stands now, every different vaping flavor would require new FDA approval at a great cost and with considerable approval time.

Fortunately, the vaping industry enjoyed a bit of a victory on April 14 when the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment to the FY 2017 Agricultural Appropriations bill that would change the predicate date for “newly deemed” tobacco products. Under previous FDA regulations, vaping products on the market since 2007 would be essentially “newly deemed” — essentially making the entire vaping industry illegal. Thankfully, that is not the case — as long as President Obama signs the current Agriculture Appropriations Bill. 

Victoria Vasconcello, former long-time smoker and owner of Cignot Inc.

As already noted in Part 1, Ms. Vasconcello — who spoke at the Heartland vaping event — is a former long-time smoker who has been in the vaping business since 2009.  She considers vaping a consumer-driven solution to a problem, i.e. people who want to stop smoking cigarettes.

In response to a question from the audience about what what the vaping community can do to help, Vasconcello suggested vapers should join the 135,000 member CASAA, and contact local legislators to inform them about the issue. The science is out there to support the use of e-cigarettes, she said (paraphrasing). Help legislators know what the science is. Genuine fear develops from not knowing the truth. Finally, at long last, smokers have found something that helps them quit cigarettes, and they are standing up and fighting with truth on their side. Consumers do have power!

Concluding Thoughts

Support for the vaping community can be broadened by minimizing the arguments of center-left groups.  Unfortunately, PR hasn’t been on the side of e-cigarettes to enable them to become mainstream — unlike in England where the government backs e-cigarettes for smokers. There is limited money in the vaping community to get out the truth. This results in most of the studies being done by those who hold positions against e-cigarettes. The minds of the American people must be changed. A new poll finds that Americans’ Risk Perception of Vaping is All Wrong. There is work to do.

Working against the case of vaping is the fact that government is addicted to the money it receives from tobacco products. This money is decreasing as smoking decreases, so governments want to tax e-cigarettes to keep the “tobacco coffers” filled. The good news: 500 pieces of legislation have tried to tax or restrict vaping in recent years, but only a few  have passed. Writing letters to the editor of your local paper are an old-school way to go, but is a good way to educate the public about e-cigarettes.  

E-Cigs in Chicago

Below are three articles that show how Chicago is dealing with e-cigarettes. The e-cigarette tax referred to in the first article went into effect on January 1, 2016. 

Chicago’s Deadly E-Cigarette Tax Takes Effect Tomorrow

Chicago Vaping Tax is About Cigarette Tax Dollars, Not Health

Rahm Emanuel’s E-Cig Tax Will Kill Smokers & Small Businesses

The following are additional note-worthy e-cigarette articles:

Articles by Brad Radu, Heartland’s Senior Fellow who holds the Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville.

This Wall Street Journal article published on April 11, 2016

The article “Are E-Cigarettes a Healthy Way to Quit Smoking?” presents both sides of the vaping debate. Even though use e-cigarette sales have been growing, they remain dwarfed by the $100 billion tobacco market. 

See the full video of The Heartland Institute’s Vaping Event in the player above. And see Part 1 of my recap of the issues talked about at that event here.

Categories: On the Blog

States Should Not Increase Tobacco Use Age to 21

May 02, 2016, 10:41 AM

Some states, including California and Illinois, are now considering proposals that would increase the legal age limit required to consume tobacco and tobacco-like products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 years old to 21. Hawaii was the first state to enact such laws, which became effective January 1, 2016.

Health policy advocates argue an increase in age is necessary to protect the health of our youth, but does this type of policy actually help the general welfare of the population?

The National Institute on Drug abuse reports in its study Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs 58 percent of 12th graders reported consuming alcohol in the past year in 2015. Additionally, 35 percent of respondents reported having used marijuana in the past year, and over 21 percent had said they used the drug within a month of taking the survey. Alcohol and marijuana are both illegal substances for 18 year olds in every state, even in states where marijuana is legal, but that didn’t stop these teens from finding a way to obtain them. It is clear criminalizing the use of these substances has not been an efficient deterrent.

The age of first-time smokers does seem to be connected to adult tobacco consumption. The Surgeon General reports almost 90 percent of smokers began smoking before 18. According to some data, 99 percent of all cigarette smokers begin smoking by the age of 26. If the current age for legal consumption of cigarette products is not impacting the rates of smoking, how would increasing the age make a difference? Why not just increase the limit to 26 years old?

Another key point these age limits miss is the positive impact electronic cigarettes are having on smoking rates. Including e-cigarettes under legislation as “tobacco products” would likely have a negative effect in the fight against youth smoking. Recent evidence suggests e-cigarettes may actually deter teenagers from traditional cigarettes, and numerous studies show they are a much safer alternative to tobacco. If a state decides to ban a 19-year-old consumer from purchasing either traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the advantages linked to vaping and other tobacco alternatives will be significantly reduced.

Perhaps the strongest argument against these proposals is that they limit individual freedom and make the government the arbiter of what is moral. Bureaucrats have become the nation’s nannies, babying each one of us from our first moments on Earth until our very last breath. At the age of 18, a person enters new parameters of life. They are able to go to war, to vote, to be held legally responsible for contracts that can amass significant debt, such as credit cards and student loans, and at 18 years old, a person can and will be defined as an adult in a court of law. But despite all of the responsibilities the government heaps on young adults, many officials believe they simply can’t handle making tobacco-related—or even electronic cigarette-related—decisions.

The argument many use when advocating for such measures is that it’s comparable to the national alcohol consumption age limit of 21 years old, but such a comparison is completely unwarranted. When former President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, it collided against his own philosophical view of a limited role of government, but drunken driving, which Reagan referred to as “a national tragedy involving transit across state borders,” was a significant public health concern at the time and the key rationale behind the legislation. Cigarettes do not have the same dangers associated with them, so similar action is nothing less than a spectacular example of government overreach.

It’s time to let our adults be just that: adults. The evidence shows increasing the age limit required to consume tobacco and e-cigarettes will be a wasted effort that could actually lead to negative externalities, such as a loss of tax revenues, wasting police resources, and higher smoking rates. Even worse, it would send a false and dangerous message to an entire generation of Americans that it is proper for the government to tell adults how to live their lives.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

Elizabeth Warren Despises ‘Special Interests,’ But Supports Their Master: The Administrative State

May 02, 2016, 8:48 AM

In a recent article at Bloomberg View, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein discusses “an important but widely overlooked speech” by Elizabeth Warren, in which the Massachusetts senator bemoans the influence of powerful industry groups on the regulatory process. To Warren, the problem is not overzealous administrative bodies, eager to impose unwanted, unnecessary new rules, but regulatory capture — the notion that regulation is, in the words of economists Michael E. Levine and Jennifer L. Forrence, “simply an arena in which special interests contend for the right to use government power for narrow advantage.”

Libertarians have been touting the insights of regulatory capture theory for a long time, and its ideas are simple enough: Special interest groups have both a concrete incentive and the resources to engage in the convoluted minutiae of the regulatory process, whereas the citizenry at large has neither. The general population doesn’t have the time, money, or the inclination to engage in byzantine federal rulemaking affairs, which means that well-organized pressure groups have a significant advantage and, importantly, an opportunity to tailor rules not for the public good but in accordance with their own interests.

It is refreshing to see a prominent progressive acknowledge this conundrum, particularly because the modern administrative state, often called the fourth branch of government, is a distinctly progressive invention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Progressive Era, reformers began to see the Enlightenment principles of traditional or classical liberalism as outdated and obsolete, at odds with new scientific and political thinking. Guided by the objectivity of science and therefore free of bias, federal experts in new executive branch agencies would work with academia, think tanks, and the private sector to chart the correct course, to rescue society from the perceived precariousness and chaos of laissez-faire.

The problem, of course, is the one that Warren highlights: Even if we assume that sclerotic bureaucracies are able to identify the ever-elusive “public good,” what incentive do they have to serve it and not their own ends? Progressivism and its crusaders simply never bothered to answer this fundamental question; their solution is always to further concentrate power in the executive branch of the federal government, in unaccountable, unelected “public servants.” As is so often the case, there is a grain of truth of Warren’s speech, but one that is quickly lost to basic misunderstandings about the interactions between the government and the economy. In all of her worries about the dangerous power of special interests, Warren seems not to realize that as the power of the administrative state has grown, so too has the list of perquisites available to it and the opportunities for corruption and collusion.

Today’s libertarians and conservatives believe that limited government, individual rights, and robust private property never stopped being good ideas, that the progressive administrative state gives far too much power and discretion to supposed experts — power that is rightly vested in the free and voluntary spheres of civil society. Moreover, we challenge the legal bases of the administrative state as a constitutionally-suspect revival of, as legal scholar Philip Hamburger describes it, “the era of the prerogative,” a time of arbitrary class rule.

The administrative state and its “law” represent a return to a government of men rather than law, based on the idea that we need not worry about pesky notions of the separation of powers. Constitutionally limited government isn’t some aesthetic fetish of libertarians and conservatives; it is a pragmatic response to the problems associated with concentrated political power, an attempt to divide that power and prevent the kind of political economy that sadly obtains today, government picking winners and losers.

Real regulatory reform — that is, reform that actually addresses the fundamental problem — means retrenchment, diminishing the authority of the administrative state and dispensing with millions of its pernicious rules.

Categories: On the Blog

InsideClimate News = Inside Climate Propaganda

May 01, 2016, 5:06 PM

Have you ever wondered how the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel and your local media always seem to present similar one-sided stories on climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy and other environmental issues? How their assertions become “common knowledge,” like the following?

Global temperatures are the hottest ever recorded. Melting ice caps are raising seas to dangerous levels. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts have never been more frequent or destructive. Planet Earth is at a tipping point because of carbon dioxide emissions. Fracking is poisoning our air, water and climate. 97% of scientists agree. A clean renewable energy future is just around the corner.

It’s as if a chain of command, carefully coordinated process or alliance of ideological compatriots was operating behind the scenes to propagate these fables. This time, conspiracy theorists have gotten it right.

A major player in this process and alliance is one that most citizens and even businessmen and politicians have never heard of. InsideClimate News (ICN) has been called “highly influential,” a “pioneer of nonprofit advocacy journalism,” the recipient of “prestigious awards” for “high-impact investigative stories” on important environmental issues.

The Washington Free Beacon, National Review and Energy in Depth offer detailed and far less charitable assessments. Less friendly observers, they note, call ICN a “mouthpiece” for extreme environmentalist groups, because it is run by and out of a deep-green public relations consultancy (Science First) and is funded almost exclusively by wealthy foundations that share its and the PR firm’s anti-fossil fuel, pro-renewable energy, Bigger Government agenda. ICN was founded by David Sasoon, a true believer in catastrophic manmade climate change who wants to do all he can “to usher in the clean energy economy.”

Even praise from its supporters underscores the dark side of this “influential” force in eco-journalism. Its approach is “advocacy,” not fairness, accuracy or balance. Its goal is to drive a monolithic, hard-line, environmentalist narrative and political agenda, with little suggestion that other perspectives even exist.

Some of its awards come from an organization that has itself become politicized and too closely allied with Big Green views and organizations: the Society of Environmental Journalists. They increasingly operate too much as mutual admiration societies and support groups, say outside observers.

ICN and its Science First alter ego received their 2007 startup grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where Sasoon once served as a consultant. They now derive the bulk of their funding from the RBF, NEO Philanthropy (aka, Public Interest Projects), Marlisa Foundation and Park Foundation. These and other sugar daddies are covered in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staff report, which describes a “Billionaire’s Club” of “left-wing millionaires and billionaires [which] directs and controls the far-left [US] environmental movement.”

The same foundations also give major tax-exempt donations to the Sierra Club, Earthworks, NRDC, EarthJustice, the climate crisis coalition, and many other anti-coal, anti-drilling, anti-fracking, anti-Keystone pressure groups that together form the $10-billion-a-year US environmentalist industry.

ICN has active partnerships with the LA Times, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Bloomberg News and other media organizations that help coordinate and disperse stories. The Times promotes the “dangerous manmade climate change” meme and refuses to print letters that reflect skeptical views.

The Associated Press has likewise become a reliable purveyor of manmade climate chaos stories. The Weather Channel and ICN teamed up in 2014 on a series of “investigative reports” that claimed hydraulic fracturing was causing serious environmental and human health problems in Texas.

The partners team up and coordinate to “have one group write on an issue, another quote them or link to them, and so on,” Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor explains. “It keeps going until they create this perception that there’s real concern over an issue, and it bubbles up to top liberal sites like Huffington Post, and from there into the traditional media,” which itself is too predisposed to the green narrative.

The foundations “have incorporated ostensibly dispassionate news outlets into their grant-making portfolios,” says the Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay, “creating what some describe as self-sustaining environmentalist echo chambers.”

They make it look like widespread public concern and spontaneous grassroots action – when in reality it is loud but small Astroturf activism, orchestrated by the ICN brigade and the foundations behind it.

InsideClimate News now brags about its involvement in the extensive collusion among the leftist foundations, environmental pressure groups and state attorneys general that are devising, coordinating and advancing AG prosecutions of ExxonMobil, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other groups for alleged “racketeering” and “fraud,” to hold them “legally accountable for climate change denial.”

The efforts “stretch back at least to 2012,” ICN notes, when a meeting was held in California to develop legal strategies. In late 2015, letters from several Democrat members of Congress called for investigating and prosecuting climate skeptics; the letters cited independent journalism “investigations by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News” to back up their request.

However, the intrepid Times and ICN investigators had conducted no investigation. They simply parroted and amplified “research” from a group of activist professors and students at the Columbia School of Journalism – without disclosing who had funded the CSJ studies. Transparency for thee, but not for me.

It was George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Foundation, Energy Foundation, Lorana Sullivan Foundation and Tellus Mater Foundation – all of which virulently oppose hydrocarbon production and actively promote climate change alarmism.

Emails subpoenaed by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute later revealed that many of the same environmentalist groups and lawyers met again in January 2016 at a secret meeting in the Rockefeller Family Fund’s Manhattan offices. Yet another secret meeting was held in March 2016, between climate activists and state attorneys general – hours before the AGs announced that they were launching RICO and other prosecutions of “climate skeptic” companies and think tanks.

The success of this campaign thus far, says ICN, has persuaded the activists to “step up efforts to pressure more attorneys general to investigate [more climate crisis skeptics] and sway public opinion, using op-eds, social media and rope-line questioning of [Republican] presidential candidates at campaign stops.”

This collusion among activists, foundations and attorneys general seeks to silence, bankrupt and defund organizations that challenge their catechism of climate cataclysm. These conspirators want to deprive us of our constitutional rights to speak out on the exaggerated and fabricated science, the coordinated echo- chamber news stories, and the pressure group-driven policies that impair our livelihoods, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality. We will not be intimidated or silenced.

As CFACT’s new Climate Hustle film notes, manmade plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide has not replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s temperature, climate and weather.

The problem is not climate change. It is policies imposed in the name of preventing climate change.

That’s why Climate Crisis, Inc. wants to silence and jail us. Just imagine how much more they’ll be foaming at the mouth after throngs go to and buy tickets for its May 2 one-night-only showing in hundreds of theaters across the United States.

Categories: On the Blog

The Marketplace Delivers More Data

May 01, 2016, 8:55 AM

The Oxford Dictionary defines capitalism as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”  A new poll on the topic from Harvard received some attention yesterday, garnering headlines about millennial’s view of capitalism. The poll is challenging to interpret given that most people likely have a connotative sense of capitalism, but helpfully Harvard dug a little deeper by interviewing a group of people regarding their view of capitalism.  As it turns out  those who were wary of capitalism were not so much rejecting it but rather were concerned that today it seems unfair and leaves some people out.

One blog immediately opined in part, “It’s no surprise that a generation of people who grew up in the era of ‘everyone gets a trophy’ reject the idea of unequal rewards based on hard work. Millennials were educated largely by public schools obsessed with the idea of fairness and afraid in some cases to let children play the game of tag.”  In fact, the benefits of the marketplace are being returned in various ways, some of which were likely not considered by those polled.

Take just one example.  As announced yesterday Comcast will begin providing all of their customers in internet data trials a terabyte of data, more than triple what is offered now.  For extremely heavy users who want even more data, they will have options to increase the amount of data either in an unlimited way or in more discreet chunks.

Why the change?  The market reacted and Comcast responded.  Comcast listened to its customers and are exceeding their needs, given that most customers do not come close to using a terabyte of data in a month.  How much data is it in real terms?  Enough to watch more than 29 days straight, with no sleep, of HD video.  Enough for more 16 people to play online games for the entire month.

This follows a string of other announcements from Comcast including that subscribers will now be freed from having a “cable box,” but rather will be able to stream video to connected TV devices, such as a Roku box.  And last month Comcast announced the expansion of the Internet Essentials to include ConnectHome, a partnership with HUD to provide broadband for access for those with the greatest financial challenges.

The public is taking notice.  During earnings calls this week Comcast reported an increase of 53,000 new subscribers, a nine year record new subscribers during the first quarter of the year.

When examined individual by individual capitalism can be challenging if one thinks that regardless of one’s industry and talent that all should be monetarily equal.  However, if viewed appropriately,one can see that the marketplace works in delivering benefits to many when the marketplace has a demand.  Comcast has responded in offering data that is increasingly inexpensive and abundant, freeing consumers from the cost of a “cable box,” and still investing in our communities by providing the most needy with broadband.  This is the free market at work.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep36): Peer-to-Peer Economy, Corporate Welfare, and Splitting Up States

April 29, 2016, 3:43 PM

#36 of the In The Tank Podcast is a “Best-of” edition. It is all hands on deck to finish organizing the new Michael Parry Mazur Library before the grand opening on May 4th. This episode features clips from past podcasts, including work from R Street, the Commonwealth Foundation, and the James Madison Institute. John and Donny will be back with new content next week!

Better Know a Think Tank

In this weeks segment, Donny and John welcome Andrew Moylan, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute. Andrew joins the show to talk about his organization and what they are currently working on. Andrew also talks about a new study that examines how different cities regulate and tax sharing-economy companies like HomeAway and AirBnB.

Featured Work of the Week

This week’s featured work is a policy study from the Commonwealth Foundation titled “The Costs of Corporate Welfare.” The report talks about the danger of government favoritism, or corporate welfare. The Commonwealth Foundation is based out of Pennsylvania – a state that spends the largest amount on these corporate welfare spending programs. This paper is fantastic look into how wasteful these programs are and how they harm the state instead of helping.

In the World of Think Tankery

Donny and John talk about an article by the James Madison Institute titled “Would Florida be Better Off as Two States Rather than One?” Recently the South Miami City Commission proposed a plan to secede the bottom 24 counties into a new state. Donny and John give their opinions on the matter and examine other similar propositions in other states.

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

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

Categories: On the Blog