Meet Tom, Dick, and Harry. They are three brothers, with three different income levels, as well as three different sets of financial priorities. They are going to help explain the American progressive income tax system, and how all Americans are subject to different tax rates, regardless of the time spent working, and services received.
From Prager University, adapted from an article by investor and economist, Kip Hagopian, and narrated by actress Carolyn Hennesy, learn how Americans pay different amounts for the equal services provided for by the government.
How would you feel if you were Harry in this situation?
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, New Hampshire State Rep. Allen Cook joins Michael Hamilton, Managing Editor of Health Care News to talk about why medicaid expansion is a bad idea. Cook explains why he doesn’t support Medicaid expansion, stating that the price of this expansion is likely to far exceed the projected costs.
Monday, March 21, Nebraska’s Senate Revenue Committee defeated a bill that would have increased cigarette tax from 64 cents to $2.14 per pack. The bill also included language to increase the tax rate on other tobacco products from 21 percent to 31 percent.
The proposed legislation would have taxed cigarette smokers for the personal properties of other Nebraskan residents as an estimated $45 million would have been annual placed into the Personal Property Tax Relief Act which provides a tax exemption on personal property, up to the first $10,000. Another $45 million was slated to go into another property relief program, the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund which provides tax relief to property owners in the form of a tax credit.
Before dying in committee, an amendment was added to increase the Property Tax Credit fund to $71.7 million, an additional $8.3 million into the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, $10 million for grants to high-poverty schools, and $2.2 million to be used for tax credits to volunteer firefighters.
Of the $139 million in revenue expected from the tax increases, only $30 million was to be allotted to the Health Care Cash Fund, with and without the amendment.
Sen. Mike Gloor (N-Grand Alliance), who introduced the bill, stated in February of 2016 that “[Nebraska] must have more property tax relief. Specifically, [Nebraska] must become less dependent on property taxes to fund education.” It seems as if he wants 25% of the Nebraskan population to fund that relief.
This tax hike is a perfect example of how governments discriminate against a small group of people to fund everything from property tax to schools. The problem with such overreaching is the fact that there are more low income smokers than those who earn higher incomes. So, in Nebraska, this would have made low income earners literally pay for the personal property of the rich.
Network Neutrality is a really stupid, anti-capitalism policy – that outlaws on the Internet several basic, fundamental free market tenets that are in practice in every other sector of a functioning economy.
How anti-capitalism? College communications professor and avowed Marxist (please pardon the redundancy) Robert McChesney wrote: “(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” Which means get rid of every private sector Internet Service Provider (ISP) – and leave us with government being the only ones connecting us to the Web. How very Bernie Sanders of him. How very Hugo Chavez of him.
How really stupid? You’re familiar with free shipping on online purchases, right? Where the company pays the Post Office for delivery – so you don’t have to do so? You’re familiar with 800 phone numbers, right? Where a company pays the phone company for your call – so you don’t have to do so?
Net Neutrality outlaws on the Internet this mundane, commonplace practice. Which is why companies like Facebook and Google spent a decade-plus trying to have Washington, D.C. jam it into place. These companies use a LOT of Internet bandwidth – DC mandating that they can’t be charged for it would be a very good, inordinately crony thing for them.
Early last year, the uber-crony, Google-and-Facebook-friendly Barack Obama Administration – delivered them Net Neutrality. Ever since – and with increasing intensity – I’m betting Google and Facebook wish they hadn’t had their wish granted.
Net Neutrality is so terrible – it’s heinousness has gone global. Much to Facebook’s chagrin. Facebook was in India trying (via an offering called Free Basics) to deliver millions of destitute people free Internet access. But because it wasn’t free access to every single website on the planet – it violated Net Neutrality. So India killed it.
I’m sure the millions of Web-less Indians are thrilled they are still Web-less – but Net Neutrality remains intact. I’m sure Facebook is just as thrilled that the untold millions (billions?) of dollars they spent trying to connect these Indians – were instantaneously burnt to ash by the Indian government’s decision to enforce this ridiculous policy.
Net Neutrality is so absurd in large part because it is so anti-capitalism; it is nigh inapplicable to our free market Internet. And thus becomes an all-encompassing, full-on Internet shutdown (per Professor McChesney) – or a chaos-creating mess.
Returning stateside, we find T-Mobile Deal With (Google-Owned) YouTube Might Mean The End Of Net Neutrality: “(I)mplementing net neutrality and enforcing net neutrality seem to be two different things.”
T-Mobile (the cell phone company) is offering a program called Binge On. Which allows customers to view video and other offerings from participating websites – without that data counting against their caps. Which Google realizes is a very good thing – and thus wants its YouTube in on it. And it’s free stuff for consumers – so it would surely please our Leftist “consumer-interest-group” friends, right? Of course not.
Net Neutrality Expert: T-Mobile’s Binge On Will Lead Internet Down ‘A Slippery Slope’: “While T-Mobile says its unlimited streaming service Binge On offers value to consumers, a leading expert says it violates net neutrality—and threatens the very future of the Internet itself.”
Get that? The demise of a policy in place a little over a year threatens an Internet that’s exploded into an omni-directional, ever-expanding free speech-free market Xanadu over the course of a two decades – without that policy in place.
That is quite simply absurd. The kind of goofiness Facebook faced in India – and to which India’s government unfortunately, ultimately acquiesced.
As things currently stand here, Binge On is a government-approved private sector offering. (And how un-capitalism is it that a private sector offering has to be government-approved?) But under the new Net Neutrality regulatory nightmare mess, it can at any moment be declared a violation – and abolished, Facebook-Free-Basics-style.
Again, I’m quite sure Google and Facebook are still thrilled they received the Net Neutrality for which they asked.
Embers Elementary School in Niles, IL held rallies every morning during National School Choice Week (NSCW). Each day finished with the modified NSCW dance, shown in the video below. I had the privilege of sharing with the students why school choice is so important.
Since the students ranged from Pre-K through 5th grade, I used an ice cream analogy to help them understand: “Which is your favorite ice cream flavor: vanilla, chocolate, or pistachio?” I asked. Most liked chocolate; vanilla was second in popularity; and several chose pistachio.
I explained to the young students how choosing their favorite ice cream flavor is what parents do when choosing a school. Parents choose their favorite school to meet the needs of the students, and without school choice, parents are paying for the pistachio ice cream (public schools) and then paying again for the chocolate ice cream (Embers). Without school choice, everyone gets stuck with whatever ice cream flavor happens to be available nearby, even if it’s everyone’s least-favorite choice.
Before leaving, I made sure to ask the students to thank their parents for paying double for their “ice cream” (Embers), and I explained to them that the reason they do this is because their parents believe education is so important they are willing to pay for it twice.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Brent Mead, Executive Director of the Montana Policy Institute, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about how Montana’s regulation-related economic woes.
Mead explains that Montana’s troubles are in large part due to environmentalists and environmental regulation making it nearly impossible for people in the state to access and develop their natural resources. In particular, Burnett and Mead discuss how difficult it is becoming for mine operators to obtain permission to operate in the state.
Environmental issues were discussed in detail at a recent Democratic debate, held in in Flint Michigan on March 6. Sadly, when asked whether the candidates support hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” a technique that has greatly increased oil and natural gas production in the United States, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) showed they are both fracking clueless.
Fracking has nearly doubled the amount of oil produced in the United States since 2008, and it is largely responsible for the dramatic drop in gas prices the country is currently experiencing. It has also made the United States the largest producer of natural gas in the world, which has put thousands of people to work in high-paying jobs over the past decade.
Clinton delivered a measured response to the fracking question. She first voiced her modest support for fracking, but she also said she does not support fracking in areas where it is opposed by the local or state government; when methane or other water contamination occurs; and Clinton said she does not support fracking unless drillers are required to disclose the chemicals used in the process.
These conditions are not surprising. Even Clinton and Sanders pay lip service to protecting the rights of states and localities—so long as it agrees with their worldview—every once in a while.
Clinton’s next comments, however, were quite surprising: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”
Contrary to Clinton’s claims, these conditions are already in place around the country, which is why Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper—who has a master’s degree in geology and experience in the oil and gas industry—have supported fracking when it’s accompanied by strict environmental regulations.
Clinton’s comments were likely carefully designed to protect Clinton against claims that have been made by the Sanders campaign suggesting Clinton would not be a good protector of the environment. Sanders has been an outspoken critic of hydraulic fracturing for many years, and Clinton wants to appear tough on fracking to appeal to the many voters in her party who see environmental issues as a key concern.
Sanders’ response was blunt and without nuance. “My answer is a lot shorter,” said Sanders. “No, I do not support fracking.”
Sanders continued by stating his opposition to the practice is based on the idea fracking contaminates water quality, a charge that is unsubstantiated by the best available scientific data.
Despite concerns about the potential environmental impacts of fracking, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s extensive, five-year scientific study on fracking found no evidence hydraulic fracturing has led to a widespread, systemic impact on groundwater quality, and although there have been incidences where fracking has contaminated water, the number of incidences is very low compared to the number of wells drilled.
Whether Democrats like it or not, fracking is now a necessary part of the modern U.S. economy. The United States generates only .04 percent of our total energy from solar energy and only 1.4 percent of our total energy from wind power, for a combined total of 2.1 percent. By comparison, the United States generates 2.2 percent of its total energy from burning wood.
Oil represents 35 percent of the total energy we use, and natural gas accounts for 28 percent of our total energy consumption. In order to access these resources and their benefits, which include thousands of high-paying jobs and energy security, we must take advantage of hydraulic fracturing.
This is a serious issue, so it’s unfortunate neither candidate has taken the time to develop a fact-based position on it. Sanders’ view proves his energy policies are completely divorced from reality, and Clinton’s assertion that her stipulations would greatly restrict fracking is blatantly untrue. Rather than pander to the environmental wing of the Democratic Party, Sanders and Clinton should take a trip to Denver to learn a thing or two about fracking.
Plummeting oil prices, which are largely the result of the U.S. hydraulic fracturing revolution that has nearly doubled oil production in the United States since 2008, have left many oil-exporting nations around the world reeling. The price drops have been particularly hard on nations in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Myriad OPEC governments are now stuck relying on dwindling oil revenues to fund large portions of their important social welfare programs, many of which are essential to maintaining national stability.
The fracking revolution virtually guarantees OPEC’s pain is unlikely to let up anytime soon, and they deserve every bit of it.
Most OPEC nations have historically opposed allowing their citizens to have the same freedoms people in Western nations take for granted. Some OPEC governments have even been accused of violating human rights. This has led to calls from many, both in OPEC nations and in nations in other regions of the world, for social or political change. To keep their populations content and disinterested in serious political reform, some of these regimes have used oil money to fund extensive social welfare programs.
Before the rise of fracking, these oil-exporting nations often conspired together to deliberately keep oil production low, thereby artificially raising oil prices. This allowed them to use higher revenues to benefit their populations at the expense of people living in oil-importing nations, such as the United States. Americans have for decades paid higher oil prices than a truly free market would dictate, but with the rise in domestic oil production, the power of OPEC has been reduced markedly.
Fracking has fundamentally altered the way oil and natural gas are produced. Rather than investing billions of dollars and five to 10 years in large offshore oil projects or drilling in the Arctic, oil companies are beginning to flock to shale oil fields, which can typically be drilled within 20 days and cost a few million dollars per well. Fracking costs substantially less time and money compared to the larger drilling projects oil companies have been investing in for decades, and as a result, the wheels on many of these larger projects have already started to fall off. Foreign producers are now failing to complete 80 percent of their megaprojects on time and without going over budget, which bodes poorly for nations that are highly dependent upon oil revenues.
In an effort to drive many U.S. oil producers out of business, OPEC has chosen not to decrease its production, thereby allowing the market price of oil to continue to decline. OPEC hopes it can destroy its competition and then reinstitute its low-production policies to drive prices back up, but according to Daniel Yergin, a leading scholar on energy and geopolitics, this strategy will ultimately be unsuccessful.
According to Yergin, “It is impossible for OPEC to knock out the U.S. shale industry though a war of attrition even if it wants to, and even if large numbers of frackers fall by the wayside over coming months. Mr. Yergin said groups with deep pockets such as Blackstone and Carlyle will take over the infrastructure when the distressed assets are cheap enough, and bide their time until the oil cycle turns. The management may change and the companies may change but the resources will still be there.”
As oil prices begin to modestly recover and technological advancements continue to make shale oil less expensive to produce, oil prices will likely be tempered by shale drillers, who can bring new supplies to the market faster and cheaper than conventional oil producers. This is bad news for the many oil-exporting counties who would likely face the prospect of economic, financial, or social unrest if low oil prices persist, such as Algeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria, Russia, and Venezuela. The problem with OPEC’s brand of socialism is that oil money inevitably runs out; eventually, innovation always defeats despotism.
Because of fracking, OPEC’s strategy to keep oil prices artificially high by limiting oil production is no longer effective, and the current “price war” is destined to fail as a result. The tables have turned—or are in the process of turning—and the governments of oil-exporting nations that once purchased domestic peace at the expense of countries such as the United States may soon find themselves out of power.
Don’t feel too bad for these regimes, though; OPEC’s chickens are simply coming home to roost.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to a presentation given by Kyle Maichle – Project Manager of Constitutional Reform. Maichle is speaking to a tea party group based out of Princeton, Illinois, about an Article V Convention approach to reining in the national debt and the federal government.
Maichle explains why we are seeing such a strong push for constitutional reform. As Maichle states, we are facing an increasingly troubling financial situation. Currently, the federal debt stands at $19 trillion and we are projected to continue budget deficits averaging $500 billion per year. Many of these pushes center around a desire for a federal balanced budget amendment.
Maichle discusses the available options to put the brakes on this unsustainable spending and rein in the federal government. He gives a roadmap on how to bring about an Article V Convention and addresses the concerns that tend to prevent people from supporting this solution.
It seems nature and governments are conspiring to muck up the alarmist narrative that humans are causing climate disaster and governments have joined hands to work in unison to prevent disaster.
Nature’s contribution to this set back to the climate apocalypse comes in from the Himalayas. A new study challenges predictions the Tibetan Plateau glaciers, which feed Asia’s biggest rivers, will disappear by 2035 due to climate change. The findings are further evidence the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report forecasting Himalayan glaciers would vanish by 2035, threatening the water supply of millions of Asians, was wrong. IPCC was forced to admit it lacked evidence for the claim in 2010.
A study in Global and Planetary Change found in the coming decades, water flows in the rivers will be stable or increase compared to the 1971–2000 period. Although the study’s authors predict temperatures will rise between 1° and 4°C in the region, they claim any glacial melt caused by increasing temperatures will be offset by an increase in precipitation, primarily snowfall. Specifically, they project precipitation will increase by 5 to 10 percent between 2011 and 2040, and by an additional 10 to 20 percent from 2040 to 2070.
Deliang Chen, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of the study, said, “Evaporation increases when the temperature is higher, and this evaporation feeds the increase in precipitation.
“Glacial melt is certainly going to increase …” continued Chen, noting, however, increased precipitation in the form of snow, which will be stored as ice in the glaciers, will partially offset glacier shrinkage. Overall, the study anticipates seasonal runoff will remain unchanged in the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, and Salween basins while water availability in the Indus irrigation basin will increase in the spring growing season.
And while climate disaster seems still not to be in the offing, governments are doing their best to undermine their energy cut commitments.
South Korea announced in late February myriad climate policy changes, including abandoning its greenhouse gas emission target for 2020 and lifting a cap on Early Action Credits that observers say could boost the market’s supply by more than 40 million tons.
Former President Lee Myung-bak won international praise at the United Nations’ climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009 when he pledged to keep South Korea’s 2020 emissions at 20 percent below business-as-usual levels. But the current administration, led by President Park Geun-hye, has approved construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants and has made it clear South Korea would be unable to meet its 2020 emission reduction targets. Carbon Pulse quotes Joo-jin Kim, a lawyer with the ELPS consulting firm, saying, “The introduction of (planned) new coal plants after 2016 will represent a more than 65% increase in coal capacity, compared to Korea’s current levels.” Under the new plan, Korea’s emissions can continue to grow as more coal enters the energy mix without breaking any domestic laws.
And the Obama administration, who has fought to take the lead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to bring developing countries to the table to make firm commitments for greenhouse gas cuts has undermined India’s minimal climate commitments.
In a case brought by the United States against India, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled India’s “buy local” rules for solar panels illegally discriminate against foreign manufacturers of solar panels and must be withdrawn.
President Barack Obama views the WTO ruling as a victory for international trade law. Christian Science Monitor quotes Obama as saying, “One area where there should be no debate is that once we have set up trade rules, people have to abide by them.” A press statement issued by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman notes the implications of WTO’s decision go beyond the United States’ particular complaint against India. “This is an important outcome,” Froman said, “not just as it applies to this case, but for the message it sends to other countries considering discriminatory ‘localization’ policies.”
Ironically, the Obama administration, which had pushed India to commit to deeper emission reductions than it ultimately agreed to at the Paris climate talks in December 2015, has now undercut what India claims is an essential policy to meet the carbon dioxide reduction goals it did agree to.
Environmentalists see the ruling as a setback for effective domestic and international climate action. “Something very wrong is going on when again and again we are seeing trade rules hamper governments’ ability to [tackle] climate change,” Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, told Christian Science Monitor. “Climate policies are subservient to trade rules, and not the other way around.”
Sam Cossar-Gilbert, an organizer at Friends of the Earth International Economic Justice, said in a statement after WTO’s ruling, “The ink is barely dry on the UN Paris Climate agreement, but clearly trade still trumps real action on climate change.”
By now, most people probably know about one of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s biggest campaign gaffes to date: “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” As soon as I heard it, I tweeted: “Imagine a presidential candidate running for office based on putting people out of work?”
I wasn’t the only one shocked by the uncharacteristic clarity of her statement. Lacking the usual political-speak, her comments were all the more surprising in that they were not made at a fundraiser in billionaire environmental donor Tom Steyer’s posh San Francisco living room. They were made in Ohio—coal country, where coal production in 2015 was down 22 percent—at a nationally televised CNN town hall and just hours before the important state’s primary election.
In response, Christian Palich, President of the Ohio Coal Association sent this: “Hillary Clinton’s callous statements about coal miners, struggling under the weight of a hostile administration, are reprehensible and will not be forgotten. The way Secretary Clinton spoke so nonchalantly about destroying the way of life for America’s coal families was chilling. Come tomorrow, or next November, Ohioans in coal country will vote to keep their jobs and not for the unemployment line.”
US News reports that Democrats in the coal states of Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio have tried to “distance themselves from Clinton’s comments.” Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Clinton ally who handily won his party’s primary election for Senator, called her slip, “unartful.” Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who, last April, endorsed Clinton, took issue with her comments and contacted her campaign.
Facing the backlash, and in damage-control mode, Clinton sent a letter to Manchin: “Simply put, I was mistaken.”
But was she? I don’t think so.
Though her comments may have been “unartful” and, arguably, poorly timed, I believe they reflect private conversations and campaign strategy. It may be no coincidence that rumors of President Obama’s tepid support for Clinton—though the White House denies endorsing her—surfaced after her killing coal comments.
First, it is clear that Clinton needs President Obama’s endorsement. She needs him to generate excitement for her lackluster campaign—something Democrat voters are not feeling for her as they did for him. She needs his campaign machine to get out the votes.
But, he needs her just as much—his legacy hangs on her election. Because so much of what he’s done has been by executive action, his legacy can just as easily be undone—as every remaining Republican candidate would likely do. Obama is, reportedly, committed to “a hard campaign of legacy preservation.” He is ready to “raise money to fill Democratic coffers and target the key communities that would make up a winning coalition for the party, including blacks, Latinos, educated single women and young voters, to encourage them to go to the polls.”
Following the voluntary climate agreement in Paris, Politico stated: “Barack Obama wants to be remembered as the president who saved the world from climate change.” For this legacy to stick, all of his anti-fossil fuel policies must stay intact. To get his endorsement, a Democrat presidential candidate must embrace what he started and promise to “build upon President Obama’s legacy of environmental protections and climate action,” as Clinton has.
While Obama frequently claims to support an “all of the above” energy policy, actions speak louder than words. From his 2009 stimulus bill throwing billions at speculative green energy projects, his killing coal efforts, his stand that we can’t drill our way to low gas prices, his rejection of the Keystone pipeline, and his threat to veto a bill to lift the oil export ban—just to name a few—he obviously meant “none of the below.”
The White House denies a “war on coal.” In December, after the Paris climate agreement was signed, former Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Heather Zichal, defended Obama’s green platform: “Nobody’s screaming that their energy bills are on fire; jobs have not been lost.”
Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association called Zichal’s comments: “insulting and inaccurate.” He told me: “The Obama Administration and its allies have an intentional blind spot to the economic and social damage that their anti-coal policies are causing in the United States and especially in coal country. The top coal producing states in our nation not only benefit from the extraction of coal, but all of us benefit greatly from having low kilowatt-per-hour rates. But that economic advantage is eroding as Obama does everything in his power, and against the will of Congress, to move the United States away from coal production and use.” He added: “More than 8,000 Kentucky coal miners have lost their jobs since Obama took office and countless other Kentuckians have lost their livelihoods through indirect and induced job loss due to his anti-coal agenda. And, yes, our electricity rates are increasing in Kentucky as our country moves away from coal.”
“Ms. Zichal and the administration can spin it anyway they like but no one outside of their fringe enviro friends is clamoring for their energy policies,” said Mike Duncan, President of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
While much of the electricity price increases associated with the Obama Administration will only be seen later, the fact is, according to an Energy Information Agency data set, the increase in retail electricity prices since 2008 is 12.8 percent.
Clinton’s anti-coal comments got all the press. But she didn’t stop there. Almost under her breath, a few sentences later, she added: “We’ve got to move away from coal and all of the other fossil fuels”—more pandering for Obama’s much needed (and, so far, withheld) endorsement.
But how realistic is the Democrat’s goal of moving away from coal and all the other fossil fuels?
“Unlikely,” according to new research from the University of Chicago. The authors wanted a different answer. Like Clinton, and Obama, they believe fossil fuel use is driving “disruptive climate change” that will lead to “dramatic threats to human well-being” and a “dystopian future.” Reading the 22 pages of the report on their findings, one can almost feel their dismay.
Yet, after discussing “supply theory”—which posits the world will run out of inexpensive fossil fuels—they state: “If the past 35 years is (sic) any guide, not only should we not expect to run out of fossil fuels anytime soon, we should not expect to have less fossil fuels in the future than we do now. In short, the world is likely to be awash in fossil fuels for decades and perhaps even centuries to come.” Complicating matters, the authors acknowledge: “a substantial penetration of electric vehicles would reduce demand for oil. Provided that the supply curve for oil is upward sloping (as it is in almost all markets), this drop in demand would translate to lower oil prices, making gasoline vehicles more attractive.”
Then, on “demand theory”—the economy will stop demanding fossil fuels as alternatives become more cost competitive—they lament: “In the medium-run of the next few decades, none of these alternatives seem to have the potential based on their production costs (that is without the government policies to raise the costs of carbon emissions) to reduce the use of fossil fuels below these projections.” Additionally, they conclude: “Alternative sources of clean energy like solar and wind power, which can be used to both generate electricity and to fuel electric vehicles, have seen substantial progress in reducing costs, but at least in the short- and middle-term, they are unlikely to play a major role in base-load electrical capacity or in replacing petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines.”
While the authors support “activist and aggressive policy choices…to drive reductions in the consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions,” they reluctantly admit the proposed solutions are not apt to be the answer they seek. “Even if countries were to enact policies that raised the cost of fossil fuels, like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, history suggests that technology will work in the opposite direction by reducing costs of extracting fossil fuels and shifting their supply curves out.”
Perhaps, before Clinton—who accuses anyone who doesn’t agree with her climate alarmist view as ignoring the science—makes mistakes, like declaring that she’ll put coal miners and coal companies out of business, she should check the science behind her claims to “move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels.”
Making her March 13 comments seem even more foolish, the following days cast a shadow over the specter of funding more speculative solar power, as she’s proposed to do. Three stimulus-funded solar failures made big headlines.
On Wednesday, March 16, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) announced that the massive $2.2 billion ($1.5 billion in federal loans according to WSJ, but other research shows more) Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System may be forced to shut down because it has failed to produce the expected power. What it has produced: “fetched about $200 a mega-watt hour on average during summer months,” while “power from natural-gas plants went for $35 a mega-watt hour on average in California’s wholesale market.”
On the same day, SunEdison’s troubles worsened. After the company acquired stimulus-funded First Wind last year, it became “the leading renewable energy developer in the world.” Now, its “mounting financial woes” resulted in another delay to the filing of its annual reports. The company’s stock, according to WSJ, has “lost 67% over the past three months and 91% over the past year.” It “slid another 16% to $1.73 in premarket trading.”
The next day, March 17, the New York Times declared that Abengoa, the Spanish company hailed as “the world leader in a technology known as solar thermal, with operations from Algeria to Latin America” has gone from “industry darling to financial invalid.” I’ve written repeatedly on Abenoga—which is on the verge of becoming “the largest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history.” Note: Abengoa was the second largest recipient of U.S. taxpayer dollars—more than $3 billion—from the green energy portion of Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.
It appears Clinton’s energy policies are aimed at trying to make winners out of losers. How can she help it? That is what the Democrat Party is trying to do with her.
Hopefully, voters know better. But then, as the University of Chicago’s study’s closing words remind us: “hope is too infrequently a successful strategy.”
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.
We’ve had a “try and stop me” president. Now we need one who will invalidate those actions.
Washington is out of control. Legislators, judges and unelected bureaucrats want to control our lives, livelihoods and living standards, with no accountability even for major errors, calculated deception, or deliberate, often illegal assaults on our liberties and on citizens who resist the advancing Leviathan.
These themes animate Republican and conservative politics because they are happening – regularly.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is renowned for its annual Ten Thousand Commandments reports on federal rules. A scary but mesmerizing new analysis now maps how the Washington bureaucracy lawlessly imposes agendas that all too frequently contravene or disregard what We the People support, what is best for the nation, and even what Congress has enacted or refused to encode in legislation.
The studies’ author, CEI policy vice president Clyde Wayne Crews, analogizes the situation to the “dark matter and dark energy” that astrophysicists say makes up some 95% of the universe: the portion that we cannot observe directly, as opposed to the sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies and gas clouds we can see.
“Regulatory dark matter,” he concludes, forms an equal proportion of all the rules and edicts that govern our lives. But it is “hard to detect, much less measure.” Indeed, his “map” is akin to early explorers’ depictions of North America – incomplete, but the best cartography possible with information currently available.
No one even knows how many Executive Branch agencies there are – estimates range from 60 to 438 – much less how many new rules they implement and impose each year. Officially, Crews says, they issued a staggering 3,554 new rules in 2014, while President Obama signed “only” 226 new laws enacted by Congress. Worse, of the 53,838 (!) formal final regulations included in the Federal Register from 2001 through 2014, only 160 (0.3%) received a “cost-benefit” analysis; we have no idea how the rest affect us.
Infinitely worse, this tip of the iceberg does not include tens of thousands of decrees issued in the form of:
* notices, bulletins, proclamations, circulars, guidance memos, and new or revised interpretations, policy statements and procedures;
* investigations, inquiries, warning letters, negotiated settlements to legal actions (often involving collusion between agencies and activist groups), explicit or veiled threats of legal action, armed agents raiding homes and businesses, or adverse publicity, coordinated with activists and the media; as well as
* blog posts, news releases, and emails or telephone calls to citizens or company employees.
All these actions have the force and effect of law. But few or none are covered by Administrative Procedures Act “public notice and comment” requirements, so they often escape scrutiny by courts, watchdogs and Congress. Many are supported only by “homogenized,” manipulated data; elaborate, imaginative or imaginary regulatory benefits; cavalier dismissal of costs; and no mention of benefits from the activity, chemical, energy source, industry or jobs being regulated, sometimes into oblivion.
EPA’s Clean Power Plan assumes that shutting down America’s coal-fired power plants – a tiny fraction of such facilities worldwide – can somehow stop climate change that is actually governed by numerous powerful natural forces over which humans have absolutely no control. The plan also assumes any global warming will be dangerous and ignores the many thousands who will be rendered jobless.
A “social cost of carbon” scheme concocted by a multitude of federal agencies makes the same faulty assumptions. It then hypothesizes every imaginable and illusory “cost” of carbon dioxide emissions – to forests, agriculture, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. But it completely ignores every one of the obvious and enormous benefits of using fossil fuels … and of CO2’s immense fertilizing effects on forest and crop growth.
President Obama imposed both of these programs because Congress refused to enact almost 700 different cap-tax-and-trade and other climate bills. Rather than working with Congress to achieve at least some of what he wanted, Mr. Obama simply had his agencies issue decrees, as another way to “skin a cat.”
Where Congress has enacted legislation that the president dislikes – on illegal immigration or the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, for example – he simply tells his agencies not to enforce the “offensive” provisions. Meanwhile, Endangered Species Act rules are enforced with an iron fist against ranching, oil and mining operations, but ignored in the case of wind turbines and solar installations.
Under collusive sue-and-settle lawsuits, parties impacted by decisions never have an opportunity to speak or present evidence, or even be notified that a suit has been filed or adjudicated, until it is too late.
The entire system allows unelected, unaccountable government officials to decide winners and losers, and reward cronies and allies with taxpayer-funded grants and subsidies, while punishing critics and enemies. “Progressive” judges defer to “agency discretion” and give bureaucrats free rein to do as they please, even when the rules, decisions and decrees do not comply with legal, constitutional or scientific requirements.
No citizen, small business or even large corporation can possibly even know all these edicts exist, much less understand or comply with them. Moreover, at least 4,500 carry criminal penalties, many regardless of any intent to violate a rule or commit a crime – and “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Astrophysics explains the consequences. A black hole in the cosmos has squeezed so much matter into a small space that the unfathomable pull of gravity prevents even light from getting out.
The Washington, DC regulatory black hole exerts such centralized gravitational force that federalism, states’ rights, state and local laws and customs, and personal liberties increasingly cease to matter.
The federal Goliath now costs US families, businesses, hospitals and organizations over $1.9 trillion a year! That is twice the entire federal budget in 1981. It’s equal to the entire budget in 1986, nearly half the incomprehensible Obama budget for FY-2017, more than the budgets of all other countries except China.
“The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they [resist] every kind of improvement,” economist and political analyst Ludwig von Mises observed 72 years ago. “They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent.”
America’s “soft despotism” is light years from the atrocities and gulags of its infamous predecessors. But it is highly effective nonetheless. The same agencies write, impose, enforce and adjudicate the rules, and impose punishment for infractions. They work tirelessly and imperiously to “fundamentally transform” our nation’s legal, energy, economic and social systems – and keep our fossil fuels “in the ground.”
They impose edicts that would never be supported by the People or enacted by Congress, and that they rarely if ever apply to themselves. They lavish billions on allies, while denying funding and legitimacy to critics, siccing IRS dogs on opposition groups, and threatening civil and criminal “racketeering” actions against anyone who “denies” the alleged “reality” of dangerous manmade climate change.
They seek to ban fossil fuels, biotech crops and insecticides – even from Third World families suffering from abject poverty, rampant malnutrition and disease, and a near total absence of electricity. They do all they can to silence and punish alternative views, and even the notion that there can be alternative views.
For seven years, our “Try and stop me” president and administration have used and abused their powers to impose their agenda. What we need now is a “Try and make me” president, who will refuse to enforce their edicts. Who will use his pen, phone and power to review them, root out any fraud and abuse behind them, and defund and bury them. Who will work with Congress to restore the rule of law and our Constitution, economic growth, and the role of personal liberties, opportunities and responsibilities.
As home schooling grows rapidly, resourceful parents are forming co-ops to share their knowledge and lend each other moral support.
Judging from numerous reports in print and online, a home-school co-op consists of parents bringing kids together and sharing their strongest academic specialties once a week. Field trips, clubs or other social activities for the kids sometimes follow the classes.
“It is very much a trend,” said Michael Farris, founder of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association and home school-oriented Patrick Henry College. “An appreciable percentage of high school kids are acquiring a portion of their education in co-op programs.”
Farris, whose family began home schooling in 1983, said, “Our son, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in microbiology at Notre Dame, got his first serious science course in a home-school co-op. His teacher was a friend from our church who has a doctorate in physics.”
One way to appreciate the variety of opportunities is to surf the Internet for listings of home-school co-ops around the country. The site Homeschooling in Richmond, for instance, identifies in the Old Dominion’s capital city and in surrounding counties dozens of groups, both faith-based and secular.
Here are just a few examples: Richmond Secular (for folks home-schooling strictly for academics), Richmond Unschoolers (for those favoring child-led learning), Richmond WISH (Waldorf-inspired School at Home), and TEAACH (Training and Educating our African-American Children at Home). Growth in home schooling among minority families, including blacks, has been brisk over the past 10 years. Deeply religious parents continue to be a significant part of the home-schooling movement. From Chesterfield County in the Richmond metro area, Elizabeth Stanley Trail — mother of a third-grader, second-grader, and a preschooler — personifies the dynamism of faith-based co-ops.
A nurse by training, Trail said she and her husband, Brandon, are public school graduates who never envisioned home schooling. But when she began doing Premier Designs jewelry shows, she started meeting lots of home-schooling parents who were very happy with their experiences. “I started having mom after mom come into my life who home-schooled,” Trail said. “God put it in my heart that this is what I should do.”
When Trail found that her son’s birthday was just slightly beyond the government cutoff date and that he would be nearly 7 years old by the time he could start school, Trail decided to take her son’s education into her own hands.
“I thought, ‘Why not home-school?’ And we loved it!” said Trail. “It worked for our family. We loved the flexibility and the chance to have more field trips, for example. And I can control how fast they learn by filtering with Scriptures,” rather than letting them be immersed in “worldly ways” so quickly.
For two years, Trail has served as coordinator of a 70-family home-schooling co-op that meets every Tuesday at her family’s church, Swift Creek Baptist. The kids are able to explore their interests in elective classes, such as art, music and creative writing, and the day concludes with lunch, chapel and play.
This fall comes a leap of faith for the group: the start of a full-day, K–12 co-op, complete with nursery and preschool. On Tuesdays, Swift Creek Connect Academy (SCCA) will offer no fewer than 39 different elective classes, and the plan is for all to be taught by teachers with degrees in their academic specialties.
The purpose will be to support and supplement home schooling, not replace it with a private school. Trail says opportunities will abound for parents to use SCCA to reinforce the core curriculum they use at home and to help provide a stimulating elective, such as a hands-on science class.
Fewer than 2,000 children were home-schooled in 1970, so why do U.S. parents now invest so much energy in home schooling more than 2 million children a year? The woes of public education — the faddish curricula imposed without parental or teacher input, the bullying, the drugs and even the wearisome process that leaves children sleep-deprived — all factor into their decision-making. But the most positive explanation is that parents want to customize their kids’ education — making it something special.
Home schooling is the purest form of school choice, and it is working.
The mining of sand used for hydraulic fracking has become a controversial issue in communities throughout Western Wisconsin. While many discussions examine the environmental and economic impacts of industrial sand mining, a new paper by an anthropology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Stout attempts to take stock of the social impacts of mining. This paper investigates a phenomenon called “loss of place,” which refers to an emotion people have when they lose a sense of their own identity due to changing physical or societal landscapes.
Although the article does a commendable job detailing the feelings of some people living near sand mines, the only mention of an academic study investigating the potential impact of frac sand facilities on air quality is a flawed and widely discredited study that does not use equipment or sampling methods approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, the paper represents a missed opportunity to examine the social impacts of industrial sand mining in light of the best-available science. This could have provided a holistic and objective view of the potential impacts of frac sand mining on communities in Western Wisconsin.
People losing their sense of place are an important and often under-examined issue when it comes to discussing industrial sand mining. A recent Health Impact Assessment from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Inc. found although industrial sand mines are unlikely to pollute air and water resources, which could theoretically result in potentially negative health impacts for residents living near industrial sand mines, the stress and anxiety caused by people feeling they have lost their sense of place is likely the only aspect of industrial sand mining to have negative health impacts.
Feelings of stress can be amplified when people feel powerless to control their surroundings, and according to the paper, this feeling can compromise the ability of some people to enjoy their homes. Stress can also be amplified by “ambiguity of harm,” a concept that attempts to describe situations in which information about the potential harm people may incur is not clear, leading to competing interpretations of risk. Sadly, this paper may actually promote feelings of anxiety about frac sand mining, because it only cites discredited air quality research while omitting more credible research.
Air monitoring data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the University of Iowa, in addition to data collected by nationally respected experts in air monitoring, have used sampling equipment and methodologies approved by EPA, and the results show frac sand facilities pose no threat to public health. These are important results that should have been included in the author’s piece.
Stress and anxiety from feeling a “loss of place” are real. I grew up on a dairy farm my grandfather was born and raised on, so I have experienced this stress first-hand, as my aunts and uncles seem determined to auction off a lifetime’s worth of work to the highest bidder. It has resulted in anger, sleepless nights, and resentment toward family members. Loss of place can stem from any number of causes, but that doesn’t make these emotions any less real or less significant to those feeling them.
If read as a series of case studies, the University of Wisconsin-Stout article provides interesting insight into the lives of a select few individuals who oppose sand mining. The paper never claims to be a representative sample of the people living in frac sand communities, and it never claims to be scientific. Unfortunately, the fact the author only cited deeply flawed air-monitoring research, while omitting credible research, detracts from the article’s credibility, because it shows an unwillingness to objectively consider the costs and benefits of frac sand mining.
Controversy continues to rage over whether foods from plants modified with molecular genetic engineering techniques should have to be labeled as such. The battle has been fought for years in the media, Congress, state legislatures, federal courts and through referendum issues. Most mandatory-labeling proposals have failed, and none is currently in effect–for good reason: They fail every test–scientific, economic, legal and common sense. That hasn’t prevented the more ignorant and ideological legislators from continuing to try.
Last month, four members of what we might call the congressional Liberal Lesser Lights and Loonies for Labeling Caucus–Senators Merkley (D-Ore.), Tester (D-Mont.), Leahy (D-Vt) and Feinstein (D-Calif.)–introduced yet another bill that would require labeling. And just this week, the Senate will consider various options, the most pernicious of which would establish mandatory labeling in the guise of a “voluntary” scheme–voluntary, that is, only until impossible benchmarks for “substantial participation” by food producers fail to be met.
And not to be outshone by federal legislators in the Public Policy Stupid Sweepstakes, Linda S. Rosenthal, a member of the New York Assembly who represents Manhattan’s tony Upper West Side, has introduced a labeling bill (AB00617A) that, in effect, imposes a punitive tax on her constituents and tramples the constitutional right of food manufacturers and sellers not to provide such labeling. Her rationale– if it can be dignified with that term–illustrates all that is wrong with such initiatives.
The “justification” section of the bill claims that, “[g]enetic engineering is not the same as traditional breeding techniques in that it involves methodologies that transcend natural reproductive processes.” Wrong. Via ever more sophisticated techniques, genetic modification has been with us for millennia. Plant breeders routinely use radiation or chemicals on seeds to scramble a plant’s DNA to generate new traits. And here’s the punchline: “Wide cross” hybridization has given rise to plants that do not and cannot exist in nature; these plants include the varieties of corn, oats, pumpkin, wheat, tomatoes and potatoes we buy every day. (Yes, even “heirloom” varieties and the overpriced organic stuff at Whole Foods.) On average, every day we consume many servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains derived from wide crosses.
In any case, what’s critical is not the source of genetic material, but its function. But Rosenthal and more than 30 assembly co-sponsors want to label only foods made with the newest, most precise and predictable techniques.
Further illustrating the inconsistency and irrationality of Rosenthal’s bill, consider that corn, soybean or canola oil from genetically engineered plants–all of which we consume routinely now—would be required to have the label, although they contain no DNA, carbohydrate or protein at all. In other words, they are virtually pure oil and contain nothing that reveals their pedigree. Bottles of identical oil obtained from conventionally-modified crops would not be required to bear the label. This makes no sense.
Science and common sense aside, the labeling bill would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In Reed v. the Town of Gilbert, the Supreme Court ruled that labels like Rosenthal’s are “compelled commercial speech” and thus must conform to the speech requirements of the First Amendment. The essence of the case is that it expands the range of regulations subject to “strict scrutiny,” the strictest standard of review for constitutionality, to include special labeling laws. Without a compelling state interest (as opposed to just a preference), such as issues of safety or proper usage, a requirement to label foods that contain “genetically engineered” ingredients is unlikely to survive the strict scrutiny standard, and thus would be unconstitutional.
There are no compelling state interests, and the labeling requirement would be costly to New Yorkers: A 2014 analysis from Cornell University of mandatory labeling in New York predicted that labeling of genetically engineered foods could raise the cost of food by about $800 annually for a family of four.
Rosenthal’s bill (like the recent Senate legislation mentioned above) carries water for the organic food industry, and does so at the expense of free speech and her constituents’ best interests. Her liberal Upper West Side base may not be happy that First Amendment protections extend to commerce, but the courts are entrusted to respect them.
Whatever it proponents may say, mandatory labeling is a complex, pernicious and potentially costly undertaking. It is neither necessary nor advantageous to consumers, and benefits only the stakeholders in the organic sector.
Henry I. Miller, a physician, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution; he was the founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.
Jeff Stier is the director of the Risk Analysis Division at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
Anti-fracking activists have pointed the finger at fracking for the dramatic rise in earthquakes in Oklahoma over the last several years, however a new video featuring Dr. Mark Zoback, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University, explains fracking is not to blame for the quakes.
It goes further than that, though. As the science has shown fracking itself does not cause felt quakes, anti-fracking groups argued the wastewater produced during the fracking process was causing earthquakes when operators disposed of the water by injecting into underground rock formations. The Stanford study contradicts these claims as well.
In fact, as you’ll see, the earthquakes in Oklahoma have nothing to do with fracking at all.
Heartland Weekly – Joseph Bast Joins Unbiased America to Tell The Truth About Heartland and Climate Change
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.Don’t Trust Wikipedia! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable In recent years, left-wing activists have rewritten hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia entries, adding their anti-technology, anti-corporation, and anti-free enterprise dogma and propaganda to the profiles of many individuals and organizations. The Heartland Institute’s profile has been the target of a major misinformation effort, with objective descriptions of our work removed and lies and unfounded leftist accusations put in their place. Can you help us fix Wikipedia? READ MORE 2015 Was a Banner Year for Skeptical Peer-reviewed Publications H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly It appears the climate alarmism movement is finally coming off the rails. The German climate science site, No Tricks Zone, has assembled a list of approximately 250 peer-reviewed academic articles published in 2015 that contradict the official climate story – that man is causing catastrophic global warming. Among these articles is evidence that nature plays a larger role in the climate than previously thought. Also, a host of articles address the positive effect increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are having on plant growth and agricultural yields. READ MORE Joseph Bast Joins Unbiased America to Tell The Truth About Heartland and Climate Change This week, Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast joined the Unbiased Americashow to talk about the new book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. Bast dismantles the claim that 97 percent of scientists have arrived at a consensus that man is causing catastrophic global warming. Along with clearing up many of the false claims surrounding the climate change debate, Bast also addresses the frequently repeated accusations that The Heartland Institute is funded by the Koch brothers and works with Big Tobacco. WATCH IT HERE Featured Podcast: Sally Pipes: The Way Out of Obamacare Sally Pipes, executive director and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, joins Health Care News Managing Editor Michael Hamilton to talk about her plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Pipes says the Republicans’ problem is not a lack of a replacement plan, but an overabundance of plans. Pipes advocates an approach that would empower consumers and doctors rather than the federal government. LISTEN TO MORE The Stars Come Out in Arlington Heights! If you love discussions about liberty, you will not want to miss the great series of events Heartland has lined up through the spring. Upcoming events include several book talks:Equal Is Unfair with the Ayn Rand Institute’s Yaron Brook, Drilling Through the Core with the National Association of Scholars’ Peter Wood, and The Way Back with George Mason University’s Frank Buckley. 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 ‘Trumpcare’ Unfairly Blasted by Critics Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report Say what you will about the Republican presidential candidate front-runner’s attitude and hair, but Donald Trump’s health care plan deserves a closer look. A new study by the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget blasts Trump’s plan, saying it would cost $500 billion over ten years and leave millions without insurance. However, a fair look shows he offers many good reforms that would help lower costs and improve the health insurance marketplace. READ MORE Thanks to Fracking, OPEC’s Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost Isaac Orr, Independent Journal Review As oil prices plummet due to the fierce competition between the U.S. hydraulic fracturing industry and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, many oil-exporting nations have been left reeling. OPEC governments are now stuck relying on dwindling oil revenues to fund large portions of their social welfare programs, many of which are essential to maintaining national stability. READ MORE
John King Is New U.S. Education Secretary Despite Bipartisan Opposition Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly Former New York Education Commissioner John King’s disdain for free speech, support for Common Core, and advocacy of using tests to exercise federal control over schools was not enough to prevent him from becoming the new U.S. Education Secretary. The Home School Legal Defense Association warned, “King is one of Common Core’s staunchest advocates and a firm believer in the power of educational bureaucracy.” READ MORE Bonus Podcast: In The Tank Podcast (ep29): Canada’s Regulatory Budgeting, Coal-Free Oregon, and State Partitions Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft continue their exploration of the work of think tanks across the country in episode #29. In the Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny and John discuss an eye-opening policy study by the R Street Institute on how Canada uses the practice of “regulatory budgeting” to limit and even reduce the burden regulations have on individuals and business. They also discuss work from Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, Florida’s James Madison Institute, and of course The Heartland Institute. LISTEN TO MORE Homeschooling Parents Finding Extra Help in Cooperatives Robert Holland, Richmond Times-Dispatch As the popularity of home schooling continues to grow, new resources are forming to help parents successfully take a more active role in their children’s education. One of the newest support systems are cooperatives, or co-ops. These co-ops allow parents to come together and share the burden of teaching, resulting in more specialized learning and peer support. Homeschooling is one of the purest forms of school choice … and it is working. READ MORE Obama Unveils His Final Annual Budget Proposal Dustin Siggins, The Heartlander In his final annual budget proposal, President Barack Obama is throwing everything he can think of against the wall to see what will stick. Included in the budget are significant spending increases, higher crude oil production taxes, and other tax hikes on individuals and businesses. “Any budget that would spend more than $4 trillion, almost by definition, forgoes any reasonable semblance of fiscal responsibility,” said Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. 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 email@example.com.
In The Tank Podcast (ep30): Cascade Policy Institute, Corporate Welfare, Union Leave, and Beer Taxes
John Nothdurft and Donny Kendal bring you episode #30 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Cascade Policy Institute, the Commonwealth Foundation, and Yankee Institute, and the Tax Foundation.
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
Today Donny and John talk about a report from the Yankee Institute for Public Policy titled “Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime.” This report talks about the difference between public and private sector unions as well as a benefit called “union business leave.” This is paid time given to union members to conduct business, including political work that may be completely unrelated to their job responsibilities. The author explains how this unnecessary and fails to directly benefit the taxpayers.
They also discuss a study by the Tax Foundation on “How High Are Beer Taxes in Your State?” Using the map provided, you can see how heavily your state taxes beer. Donny and John also provide beer-centric facts you may be interested in knowing.
In the last part of this segment, John and Donny talk about March Madness and the gambling that is often related. A video by the Reason Foundation compares gambling, which is illegal in most places, to the lottery, which is legal in most places.
Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.
Hillsdale College – Speech, Freedom, and Academia: Toward a Restoration of Sanity (Tuesday, Mar 22) @ Hillsdale College in Washington D.C.
The Heartland Institute – Book talk with the Ayn Rand Institute’s Yaron Brook, Equal is Unfair (Wednesday, Mar 23) @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
John Locke Foundation – Right to Try: Movement to Protect Access To Life-Saving Treatments (Monday, Mar 28) @ the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina
Let us be clear. We are living, right now, in a time of emotional fear, hysterical anger, illogical demands, and dangerous temptations. In other words, liberty and prosperity are at risk. A decent and tolerant society is threatened. Common principles of humanity are being undermined.
All of this is concentrated and has been brought to a head in the rhetorical clamor and campaign conflagrations of a presidential election year. To try to understand what is going on, a mountain of words have been spoken by serious think tank scholars, by Sunday morning talk show pundits, or by evening television news 15-second “in-depth” interpreters, as well as miles of written commentaries that have been offered in hardcopy or on the online media and blog sites.
Pandering and Plundering Politicians, Left and Right
On the Democrat Party side, how can a corrupt, manipulative, lying, life-long power-lusting insider like Hillary Clinton be taken seriously and to be, seemingly, riding high to her party’s presidential candidate? How can a self-proclaimed “democratic” socialist, who has praised and apologized for communist dictatorships in Latin America and who chose to honeymoon with his bride in the former Soviet Union, arouse the mass enthusiasm of millions who see him as the deliverer of a transformative “political revolution” in America?
On the Republican Party side, how can a bombastic, rude and crude user of government privilege and favoritism for his business interests, like Donald Trump, who speaks most of the time in empty phrases and wrong-headed illogic on numerous economic and social issues, victoriously steamroll through state primaries and garner the support of millions merely because, many of those multitudes say, “he says it like it is”?
How can we explain the fate of the field of other Republican candidates, heralded in the summer of 2015 as the finest group of minds offered by the GOP for the office of the presidency in several decades? As the autumn began, one of them after another, first in the debates and the public opinion polls, and then in the primaries, failed to inspire or distinguish themselves. Each fell victim to voter indifference and then to Donald Trump’s meat grinder. Until, now, hardly any remain standing.
And what of the voters? Facing an uncertain employment future, experiencing seeming stagnant or low wage improvements, disoriented by a changing cultural environment; angered by political promises unfulfilled by those elected to high political office, as well as burdensome taxation and heavy-handed regulation; frustrated by crony “insiders” close to politicians and bureaucrats who “rig the game” for the benefit of special interests while leaving the costs and lost opportunities on the shoulders of ordinary citizens Sam and Sally, who have none of the “pull” to influence things their way, now insist: “We’ve had enough and we’re not going to take it any more.”
Broken Constitutions and Noses to Get What You Want
This is the sentiment and insistence of a sizable number of voters. And if it takes a socialist with utopian dreams dancing in his head, or a boorish billionaire who says he knows how to fix a broken system because he’s been playing it for decades for all its worth, then so be it. Put the “strongman” in charge to shake things up and give the ordinary guy an even break.
If it takes bending the Constitution or tearing down the wealth and position of some, well, those insiders and fat cats, those “establishment” types, have been rigging the rules for as long as can be remembered. So its time someone stuck it to them with some of the same political power, just in “the people’s” direction for a change.
And if some people have to be “roughed up,” if their words need to be shouted down or shut up, again, we’ve had enough of what they have had to say. Of course, who the “we” are and who the “they” are all depends upon who the “you” is.
Are you referring to the radical college professor who calls for some “muscle” to drive away a news reporter covering a campus demonstration against freedom of speech? Or a presidential candidate who gets cheers from his followers when he suggests that a physical altercation against protesters at their meeting is a lot more fun than listening to a boring campaign speech?
What we are witnessing are the latest episodes in the continuing bankruptcy of the modern American political system. These millions of voters all along the political spectrum wrap their frustrations and demands in rhetoric of either restoring or establishing “real” and “true” American values.
Long Down the Road of Lost Liberty
The fact is the original or traditional premises and values of the American system have been eroding away for almost a century, now. Several decades ago, the libertarian social analyst and critic, Garet Garrett, penned an essay with the title, “The Revolution Was.” He pointed out that too many people concerned with the preservation of the American constitutional system of government and a free society failed to appreciate how much of the ideas and institutions for a society of liberty had already been eroded away by forces opposed to its preservation.
We are a lot further along this path today from when Garet Garrett tried to point out how far away from a free society we had already moved. To appreciate this, we must first remind ourselves what are the premises and institutions upon which a free society ultimately stands or falls.
The philosophical foundations were expressed, of course, in the Declaration of Independence, when the authors in 1776 insisted that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that government is formed among men to secure these rights from their violation by private individuals and groups or from government itself.
To guard against such violations by government, the very political institution meant to secure liberty is formally restrained in how it may use and apply its legitimized use of force in human affairs by constitutional rules. The American Constitution was meant to clearly demarcate the limited and enumerated functions of the federal government, with the additional restraining device of “divided government” between the branches of the federal government and then between the federal government and the duties and responsibilities of the individual state governments.
The restraining of government was meant to assure that political power remained a servant of the citizenry and their individual rights, and not a threatening master taking away or reducing their liberty. Secondly, federal government in terms of divided responsibility among national, state and local political decision-making was meant to reflect functions needing to be performed at different horizons of importance to the citizens, and to keep government control and decision-making as close to those citizens as those different governmental tasks allowed.
Freedom Needs Habits of the Heart and Mind
But pieces of paper upon which are written the administrative duties and responsibilities of different levels and branches of government is not sufficient in itself to maintain a society of individuals secure and protected in their rights. As the famous French social philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, pointed out in his Democracy in America, written after his extended visit to the United States in the 1830s, the free society is more than elections, and legislative procedures, or a written constitution. It is based upon “habits of the heart” and “character of the mind.”
That is, it is dependent upon a wide network of “structures of shared meaning” and values among the members of a society. They must believe in human worth, that is, the dignity of each individual, and a respect for and tolerance of the diversity of men’s dreams, wishes, hopes and values. And most importantly, that each and every individual has a “natural” or inviolable right to their own life, to be lived peacefully and honestly in whatever manner and form that the individual considers most likely to bring him meaning, happiness and fulfillment of the goals and purposes that he sets for himself.
There must be a shared view that human relationships should be based on voluntary consent and mutual agreement. Coercion and physical threat or intimidation in any and all forms should form no part in the patterns of human association and relationship. And that government’s own use of force should be reserved and restricted to its “negative” application, that is, always and only in defensively protecting people’s rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property and not any types of violation or weakening of these rights.
There needs to be at least an implicit agreement among the members of such a free society that what a man has honestly and peacefully earned through his mental and physical labors and his voluntary exchanges with others is rightfully his. Accumulated wealth and income, as long as it has been honesty and peacefully acquired, is not a mark of injustice or unfairness or unethical conduct, but rather an indication of the industry, energy, and successful effort in improving an individual’s own circumstances through mutually beneficial production, trade and association with others.
And more broadly, there needs to be a spirit and sense that whatever differences may exist among individuals due to accident of birth or social and historical circumstances, the idea and ideal is that each person is looked at, judged and evaluated as an individual in terms of his distinct qualities, characteristics, talents, abilities and achievements as an human being and not as a member of a collective group. Political and economic individualism should be matched with ethical and social individualism as we look at, interact and treat others in the community of mankind.
These principles and ideals when shared in common, again to use de Tocqueville’s phrases, the “habits of the heart” and “character of the mind,” gives unity to the members of a free society, while at the same time providing the respect, tolerance and “space” for diversities of among men as expressed in their individual and social interactive goals, purposes, ends, values and meanings for life and happiness.
American History an Incomplete Reflection of Its Own Ideals
America, of course, has never fully lived up to this conception of man, society and government. Slavery deprived humanity to millions during the first half of the country’s history; this was followed by legally imposed discrimination laws and practices that contemptuously treated those who were equal citizens of the nation as less than fully human as peaceful associative relationships and economic opportunities were closed to them in the name of explicit and implicit racial inequality.
Government, even in the early days of the nation’s history, never confined itself within the constraint of protecting rights rather than plundering them. Corruption, political special interest pandering, and misuse of the fiscal purse strings resulted in state and federal regulations and favoritism benefiting some at the expense of many others. Tariffs, subsidies, land grants, monopolies, and financial contracts awarding government money to companies undertaking “internal improvements” (public works projects in the more modern language) assured that the peacefully and productively earned income and wealth of many were politically transferred into the hands of those close to and influential over those holding political office.
However Incomplete, American Practice Gave Liberty to Multitudes
But however imperfect and hypocritical in practice, it remained nonetheless the fact that the idea and ideal of political, economic and social individualism were more believed in and implemented in the United States in the nineteenth century and into the 20th century than anywhere else on the face of the globe.
It generated a spirit of optimism, hope and effort that fostered multitudes to live and experience the fruits of those ideas and ideals to a degree never known before in human history. It gave Americans – even with the contradictions, inconsistencies and corruptions – a higher standard of living and a greater degree of actual individual freedom and opportunity than in any other part of the world.
The older or “classical” liberalism of the nineteenth century had called for the end of these various political privileges and forms of favoritism, that is, to abolish these remaining governmental inconsistences and exceptions. And it called for the social spirit of individualism and free market competition to overcome those attitudes and actions by people in contradiction with a full respect and tolerance of the dignity of men as individuals.The Collectivist Counter-Revolution Against Liberty
But before these forces of liberal individualism could complete the liberation of humanity from plunder and prejudice, a counter-revolution emerged, a counter-revolution of new forms of collectivism, statism, and socialism. They rejected the individualist ideal and insisted that the group and the tribe came before the individual human being; that any person’s sense of identity and position in society was determined by and dependent upon into what “social class,” or racial group, or nation-state the individual was born and lived.
Any hardship, disappointment and sense of mistreatment or frustration experienced by an individual was the result of the exploitive, or oppressive, or “socially unjust” actions of those in some other social or racial group or nation-state other than the one to which he belonged.
Individual responsibility was replaced by group status and privilege. Rights were not something unalienable and belonging to individuals; instead, “rights” were “entitlements” belonging to members of a categorized group, and for the provision of which individuals in other groups were obligated to provide and supply.
The idea of a common humanity among all men as individuals was slowly but surely replaced with the notion of group “identities” based upon which the individual’s sense of self-esteem or social position and belonging was dependent.
Politics and the political process was not a restrained and limited institutional method for finding the most effective and efficient ways of delineating, protecting and enforcing the individual rights of each citizen to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property. Instead, politics and the political process was conceived as the arena in which the power of the government was captured and used to “redress grievances” by using legal force to redistribute wealth, reorder social and other status positions of privilege and favor for the benefit of “deserving” groups in place of “undeserving” groups.
Freedoms Curtailed for Controlled Entitlement
Freedom of speech and the press, the right of peaceful assembly and association were no longer considered the avenues through which each individual’s right to express, share, debate and manifest his ideas and ideals was guaranteed by limiting government’s ability to interfere with such peaceful acts and interactions.
Instead, freedom of speech and the press and freedom of association came to be considered tools of intellectual and ideological control and exploitation by the “powerful” against the social, racial or gender “under-privileged.” And as such, the spoken and written word and any forms and types of permitted association had to be modified, molded and controlled to assure collective social, racial and gender equity and balanced access and privilege through governmental regulation and planning.
Collectivist “Rights” Through Political Action
The individual was, now, portrayed as too weak and inconsequential to find his own way to betterment and happiness in such a setting of social, racial and gender oppression. Personal liberty and free association in the marketplace and other voluntary settings were declared to be “illusionary” notions of freedom.
“True” freedom and opportunity could only come through the advancement of the social, racial and gender group to which one belonged in a political competition for entitlement “rights.” In this circumstance, each group had to have leaders and leaderships that expressed and represented the “real” and “just” interests of the group for which they claimed the right, duty and responsibility to speak and act.
This road from political, economic and social individualism to collectivist identity and privilege through group competition for political power is what has brought us to our current political crisis as captured in this year’s presidential campaign.
Your job security is uncertain? Your income has not increased the way you had wished and desired? Your social status and acceptance by others has not matched your expectations and personal sense of deservedness? The ideas you want accepted by others and the actions and attitudes you want others to follow and express have not materialized?
Then the task is to use the government to give you what you want, and to force and compel others in society to conform to your vision of the good, right and just. If mouths have to be shut when you consider them to be speaking evil or “hurtful” words, if people must be coerced to act in the way you want them to, if wealth and opportunities of life must be redistributed by government’s police power so you and others in our group may have what you consider that which you rightful deserve, then so be it. That is the means and methods of “true” democracy, since if you and your group do not use government to get what you want, some other groups will do so at your expense.
This is the new America system: a democratic politics of power, plunder and privilege in a perpetual social conflict of social classes, racial groups and gender identities. It is a system in which the individual seems weak, small and powerless; and needing “leaders” who will use politics to bring them to the social, economic, racial and gender “promised lands” that are laid before the constituent-voters, if only this or that political candidate is elected to set the world right for the benefit of a coalition of collective groups who want certain things and to which they are told they are entitled.
This the outcome of the journey from liberal individualism to political collectivism that has placed before us Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and a cast of other remaining candidates who sometimes speak the language of liberty but do so interwoven with inconsistencies and contradictions that leave the message of freedom with no fully principled spokesman in this year’s race to the White House.
The path back to and forward towards liberty, therefore, will have to be journeyed far beyond the outcome of this November’s election.
There is fresh evidence indicating that attempts to prohibit youth access to e-cigarettes increase youth smoking rates.
Last November, I discussed a Yale research finding that smoking increased significantly among teens aged 12-17 in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors compared with states with no bans (here). Now this from researchers at Cornell University: “We document a concerning trend of cigarette smoking among adolescents increasing when [e-cigarettes] become more difficult to purchase.”
Michael Pesko and colleagues at the Cornell medical school compared adolescent smoking in states that implemented e-cigarette purchasing restrictions during the period 2007 to 2013, compared with states that had no restrictions. Using federal Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System surveys, they examined smoking rates over the past 30 days: recent (smoked at least 1 day), casual (1-19 days), regular (20+ days) and heavy (all 30 days). They also accounted for state differences in cigarette taxes and indoor use laws, and they included a fixed effects variable to account for additional unmeasured differences in states’ smoking norms and anti-smoking sentiments. The study was published in Preventive Medicine (abstract here).
Pesko et al. found “…that [e-cigarette] age purchasing restrictions are associated with a 3.1 percentage point (17.9% of the mean) increase in adolescent cigarette use (p < 0.05) in the period of implementation. Most of this effect is accounted for within casual cigarette using adolescents… Our results suggest that adolescents are willing to substitute [e-cigarettes] for cigarettes depending on legal purchasing opportunities of [e-cigarettes].”
The researchers’ finding that e-cigs had no effect on use of cigars, smokeless tobacco or marijuana provides confidence about the specificity of the e-cig effect.
While the Cornell researchers do not claim that the restrictions caused smoking to increase, they note that their results are consistent with those of the Yale study, and they add: “All policymaking bodies should be aware of a potential increase in cigarette use following [e-cigarette] age purchasing restrictions.” They recommend raising cigarette excise taxes and they endorse the Yale researchers’ support for setting the e-cig sales age lower than the cigarette age in order to take advantage of the substitution effect.
This is Pesko’s second notable paper this year. Earlier, he published an experimental study (abstract here) concluding that: “Increased taxes, a proposed US Food and Drug Administration warning label for [e-cigarettes] and a more severe warning label may discourage adult smokers from switching to [e-cigarettes]. Reducing the availability of flavours may reduce [e-cigarette] use by young adult smokers.”
It is important to note that none of these studies were funded by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH predominantly funds researchers who endorse the federal government’s vision of a tobacco-free society.