Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 43 min 26 sec ago

Climate Scientists Support States’ Clean Power Plan Challenge

April 08, 2016, 12:35 PM

Arctic glaciers

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Bogus EPA is Causing Everyone Real Problems

April 08, 2016, 10:20 AM

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

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

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

Wait – what about Washington, D.C.?

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

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

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

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

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

How very competent and transparent of them.

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

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

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

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

The EPA — Caught Red-Handed Again: “An EPA official was caught red-handed with full knowledge of the danger of an environmental spill at Colorado’s Gold King Mine in emails discovered by the Denver Post, but the agency downplayed any knowledge of the hazard to the public.”

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

Independent, you say?

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

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

More EPA competence and transparency.

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

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

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

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

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

The EPA is Turning Water on Farms Into a Weapon Against Farmers: “The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation. In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

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

April 08, 2016, 10:04 AM

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

Featured Work of the Week

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

In the World of Think Tankery

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

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

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

Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Carbon Delusions and Defective Models

April 07, 2016, 3:12 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

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

April 07, 2016, 12:38 PM

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

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

April 07, 2016, 9:13 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

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

April 06, 2016, 12:55 PM

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part One

April 06, 2016, 10:33 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh.  Wait.

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Anything but Affordable for Millennials

April 06, 2016, 10:14 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published in the Duluth News Tribune]

Categories: On the Blog

Why Progressives Don’t Understand and are Enemies of Liberty

April 06, 2016, 10:12 AM

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

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

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

Conflicting Meanings of Freedom

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

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

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

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

The “Social Contract”: Individualist or Collectivist?

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

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

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

Private Benevolence or Political Paternalism

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

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

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

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

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

The Paternalistic Hubris of the Progressive

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

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

Contempt and Disregard for the People’s Free Choices

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

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

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

The Arrogance and Abuse of Power

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

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

The Hope And Dream for a World of Political Altruists

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

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

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

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

What is Seen and What is Not Seen

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

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

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

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

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

Progressives Cling to Collectivism

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

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

Liberty and the Meaning of Society and the “Social”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Once Great School System Corrupted by Dewey, Ayers, and Obama

April 06, 2016, 10:04 AM

By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O’Neil – 

John Dewey, known as “the father of modern education,” was an avowed socialist and the co-author of the “Humanist Manifesto.” The U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities discovered that he belonged to 15 Marxist front organizations. Dewey taught the professors who trained America’s teachers. Obsessed with “the group,” he said:

“You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”

Author Rosalie Gordon, writing about Dewey’s progressive (socialist) education in her book, What’s Happened To Our Schools, said:

“The progressive system has reached all the way down to the lowest grades to prepare the children of America for their role as the collectivists of the future. The group – not the individual child – is the quintessence of progressivism. The child must always be made to feel part of the group. He must indulge in group thinking and group activity.”

After visiting the Soviet Union, Dewey wrote six articles on the “wonders” of Soviet education. The School-To-Work program, now in our public schools in all 50 states, is modeled after the Soviet poly-technical system.

In 1936, the National Education Association stated the position from which it has never wavered:  “We stand for socializing the individual.”

The NEA, in its Policy For American Education, opined

“The major problem of education in our times arises out of the fact that we live in a period of fundamental social change. In the new democracy [what happened to our republic?], education must share in the responsibility of giving purpose and direction to social change. The major function of the school is the social orientation of the individual . . . Education must operate according to a well-formulated social policy.” 

An excerpt from the article states:

“As recently as the early 1950s, the typical American university professor held social and political views quite similar to those of the general population. Today — well, you’ve all heard the jokes that circulated after the collapse of central planning in Eastern Europe and the former USSR, how the only place in the world where Marxists were still thriving was the Harvard political science department.”

Higher education reflects inmates running the asylum

More generally, U.S. higher education often looks like a clear case of the inmates running the asylum.  This condition can be traced to students who were radicalized in the 1960s who rose to positions of influence within colleges and universities.

One needs only to observe the aggressive pursuit of “diversity” in admissions and hiring, the abandonment of the traditional curriculum in favor of highly politicized “studies” based on group identity, the mandatory workshops on sensitivity training, and so on to fully comprehend the stranglehold the Left has managed to secure today within our schools, especially at the university level where instructors need not be as concerned with parental interference, but instead have a captive audience in which to indoctrinate our children to their Marxist philosophies.

Examining Chicago’s own Bill Ayers

An example of the Socialist infiltration in education can be seen in studying former terrorist, Bill Ayers, past leader of the radical Weather Underground in the 1960s.  Ayers decided blowing up America’s federal buildings was not working out for him or his gang of like-minded extremists.  He escaped going to prison due to the FBI illegally wire-tapping his conversations, probably helped by his father’s political clout in Chicago as head of ComEd.  This lucky break most likely caused Ayes to contemplate another more effective approach to change America from within, rather than from outside the nation’s mainstream institutions.

In 1984 Ayers earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. Three years later, he received a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Columbia University.  Had Bill Ayers and his friends just immigrated to a socialist state, it would have been much better for this nation, but instead Ayers became entrenched in the university system where he quietly began to invade college classrooms with his anti-American philosophies. This article documents the progression of Ayer’s radical educational network dating back to the 60s.  Hired in 1987 as a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Ayers held that post until retirement in 2010, retiring with the title ofDistinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar.  As of October 2008, Ayer’s office door at the university was adorned with photographs of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X.

By 2008, Ayers was elected Vice President for Curriculum Studies by the American Educational Research Association.  He worked with Chicago Mayor, Richard M. Daley, with the goal of creating changes in Chicago’s school reform program.  Bill Ayers and wife Bernadine Dohrn continued to develop relationships and friendships with like-minded people, such as Barack Obama — even though Obama has denied knowing Ayers and Dohrn — and other Chicago politicians. It is documented that Ayers had a fundraiser in his home for Obama, and the Obamas were invited to at least one private party at the Ayers’ home.

Both men served on boards which Obama headed.  One of those boards awarded $2 million for Bill Ayers/Klonsky Small Schools Workshop.  Its goal, as Ayers repeatedly made clear, most prominently in a 2006 speech before Hugo Chavez at an education forum in Caracas, was to bring the same Leftist revolution that has always galvanized them into the classroom.  Regarding Klonsky, an unabashed communist, Obama gave Klonsky a broad platform to broadcast his ideas through a “social justice” blog on the official Obama campaign website.

Ayers was also the key force behind obtaining wealthy Annenberg’s $387 million dollar donation to Chicago schools, which became known as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. What appeared odd is that if Annenberg’s purpose was to elevate the dismal test scores of Chicago schools, why did the grant not require the recipients of his donation to meet specific education benchmarks?  Funds were not dispersed on the basis of the schools raising test score percentages in either reading or math.  It should be noted that Barack Obama was on the founding Board of Directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and elected as the Board’s Chairman when Bill Ayers was awarded the money for his Small Schools Project.

One would hope the infusion of such major funding into the Chicago schools would have made a major difference in the quality of education.  A recent 2014 report indicated students in grades two through six did not meet the national average in reading and no grades met the national averages for math.

Obama appoints Duncan to promote progressive Common Core standards

President Obama, upon being the newly elected President, quickly initiated a committee to develop a national education program, now known as the controversial Common Core.  Bill Gates donated at least $200 million dollars to promote the education program to state governors and teacher organizations.  Others, such as the Annenberg Foundation made significant donations, but the one that raised eyebrows was a $50 million grant from a Qatar Foundation International member, who gave it to Bill Ayers with the agreement it would be used to promote Muslims’ views and lead American children away from actual historical events, replacing them with specific propaganda.

This article, published in the Chicago Reader on November 8, 1990, by Ben Joravsky, tells of “The Long, Strange Trip of Bill Ayers.” It is a riveting interview account.  The article is prefaced by:

“He [Ayers) wasn’t just any suburban-bred all-American boy; his father ran Commonwealth Edison.  Ayers didn’t just rebel; he was a leader of the Weathermen, the group that bombed the Pentagon and sprung LSD guru Timothy Leary from jail.”

And Ayers hasn’t changed since Joravsky’s November 1990 published article.  Having retired from the University of Illinois in 2010, radical left-wing activist, education expert, and domestic terrorist, Bill Ayers, (wearing a Black Lives matter T-shirt) recently attended the huge Trump rally protest that resulted in the cancellation of Trump’s rally at the University of Illinois. Here is what Ayers had to say:

“I’ve never seen anything this big at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  And it’s huge.  It’s galvanized Latino students, black students, Muslim students and white students. And everybody feels like, ‘Look, this is a university’.  We don’t need . . . organized hatred spilling into our center.”

President Obama wasted no time in appointing Arnie Duncan  as his Secretary of Education who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009.  Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), a position he held from June 2001 through December 2008, when he resigned to join Obama in Washington, D.C.  Duncan helped convince 42 states to adopt education goals based on Common Core, and 21 of them to use tests that directly align with those standards, which were created by a bi-partisan group and attempted to make U.S. schools more challenging and the curriculum more similar from state-to-state.

Universities resemble Marxist indoctrination centers

We cannot blame just Dewey, Ayers, and Obama.   Much of the damage to our schools has been done by Teacher Unions that use mandatory teacher dues to support Leftist politicians, liberal organizations, and Left leaning school board candidates.  It is a very cozy group, and they have way too much power. Parents would be wise to investigate their children’s curriculum with a practiced eye in order to catch the clever ways liberal political viewpoints are strategically woven into their books and study materials. Professors in colleges are not even subtle. They have captive audiences who depend upon them for good grades and rarely worry about parents.

As Abraham Lincoln wisely stated:  “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” 

Dewey, Ayers, and many others of their ilk knew this to be true and thus manipulated our universities into resembling Marxist indoctrination centers rather than schools that provide a well-rounded education that prepares students for successful transitioning to the real world. Most of us had no idea what was going on behind the iron curtain classrooms which socialists created.  Certainly this explains how socialist, Bernie Sanders, can run for president of the United States and draw large crowds applauding him.  Not too long ago, he would have been booed off the stage by outraged American patriots who understood the dangers of the socialism he advocates. 

Exposing Anti-American teaching tactics

The anti-American teaching tactics need to be exposed, but the media has also become largely liberal, thus begging the question “who will speak up for our children?”   It must be those of us who remember the way it once was, who have read and honor our Constitution, and who know the history of how clever socialists ruined once great countries.

Each of us must contact our elected officials and demand tax-payer funds be yanked from any school with unfair hiring practices and/or that reflect an unequal number of conservatives verses liberal teachers/professors.  Each classroom must be monitored for any curriculum that opposes our Constitution or our basic Founding Fathers’ principles, and there must be fairness in presenting diverse viewpoints.  The future of America depends upon all of us demanding no less.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rep. Cameron Sexton (TN): Government Regs Hurt Health Care Quality, Raise Costs

April 05, 2016, 2:25 PM

On today’s Health Care News Podcast, Tennessee state Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) joined Health Care News Managing Editor Michael Hamilton to explain why reforming Tennessee’s certificate of need (CON) laws will go far to improve health care quality, lower costs, and increase access for patients.

Currently hospitals and other health care providers must obtain a special certificate from a state board in order to add even a single bed, much less develop a new wing to accommodate more patients. Current law has removed incentives for existing providers to innovate, make improvements to services, and upgrade their equipment, by shutting potential competitors out of the market. A CON application fee (nonrefundable) alone can cost $45,000. The state’s CON law places rural communities at a medical disadvantage by effectively making it easier for providers in counties with more than 200,000 people to acquire MRI machines than providers in less populous counties.

House Bill 1730 will undergo committee markup this week and (Sexton hopes) head to the House floor for a favorable vote in the next two to three weeks. Read“Tennessee Lawmakers Pursue CON Reform” for the full story.

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

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Thankfully, Survey Shows Many Science Teachers Reject Climate Change Dogma

April 05, 2016, 12:03 PM

I recently found hope in an unexpected place: public schools.

A national survey of 1,500 public middle and high school science teachers, representing all 50 states, found just half of those who discuss climate change in the classroom have partaken of the climate alarmists’ Kool-Aid and are brainwashing students to believe humans are causing catastrophic climate change. The survey was conducted by the National Center for Science Education and published in the widely read academic journal Science.

Approximately 75 percent of science teachers in the survey reported they discuss global warming in the classroom, typically for less than an hour or two over the course of an academic year. Of those who do, just over half promote alarmists’ erroneous claim 97 percent of scientists have determined human fossil fuel use is causing catastrophic climate change. About 30 percent of science teachers who discuss climate change say humans may be partly to blame, but they also acknowledge natural factors have played a role. About 10 percent of science teachers deny humans play any role in climate change, and about 5 percent of those who discuss climate change in the classroom don’t discuss causes at all.

Refreshingly, while nearly 68 percent of those surveyed said they personally believe humans are causing global warming, many say they have left their personal opinions out of the classroom, choosing to advance the scientific method and present a balanced view of the evidence.

Based on the experiences I have had while working to keep partisanship on both sides of the climate change debate out of social studies textbooks Texas approved for adoption in 2014 and while battling to prevent sound climate science from being written out of West Virginia’s science curriculum standards in 2015, I have long feared the battle for the hearts and minds of America’s youth on climate issues had been lost. The recent national survey results should give new hope to climate change realists everywhere.

Climate change is occurring. In fact, Earth’s climate is always changing, but there is a significant scientific debate currently ongoing about whether human activities are responsible for all, some, or none of the recent changes to Earth’s climate. Despite claims to the contrary made by some global warming alarmists, scientists do not even agree on whether a warmer climate would be harmful or beneficial.

What’s taught about climate change in our nation’s classrooms should reflect the limited nature of what we can say with confidence concerning future climate and the causes driving any changes that do occur. Thankfully, it appears nearly half the science educators teaching climate change in the classroom agree the children under their care deserve being taught this truth.

If this survey provides an accurate picture of what’s really happening in U.S. classrooms, there is still time for proponents of a sound, balanced, nuanced understanding of climate science and public policy to make their case to public school science teachers.

A concerted outreach effort should be made by climate realists to engage teachers in the climate change debate. The effort should focus on persuading the 50 percent of teachers who deny any uncertainties exist concerning the human causes and catastrophic consequences of climate change to be more open-minded; to recognize natural factors contribute to climate change; that a changing climate will likely result in both benefits and costs; and that proposals currently being pushed by governments to combat global warming come at a high price and have almost no impact on rising temperatures or weather conditions.

Teachers who provide a balanced presentation of the climate change facts should be given high-quality teaching materials and access to classroom speakers who will present a realistic view of climate science and policy. Teachers who make an effort to teach sound, balanced science should be rewarded and supported.

Encouraging science teachers to cling to the scientific method, which demands the constant exercise of reasonable skepticism and testing theory against observed facts—all in the face of media hype and pressure from environmentalists to teach alarmist dogma in the classroom—might be the most long-lasting way to ensure misanthropic climate policies are not foisted upon an unaware, misinformed public now and in the future.

If your school-aged child is not asking you why you’re contributing to the destruction of Earth, thank his or her science teacher for sticking to a fair-and-balanced view of climate science. If your child is repeating frequently used false claims made by climate alarmists, kindly provide the child (and his or her teacher) with the scientific facts.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Charles Steele: How Increased Natural Gas Benefits the Environment and Economy

April 04, 2016, 3:28 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Charles Steele, the Herman and Suzanne Dettwiler Chair in Economics at Hillsdale College in Michigan, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Steele joins Burnett to talk about research he conducted showing the benefits of increased natural gas supplies to the farm economy.

Steele explains how the environment and the economy would benefit from building new pipelines to deliver natural gas to the market.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Rooftop Solar companies will only play if the game is stacked in their favor

April 04, 2016, 10:26 AM

The past couple of weeks have highlighted the folly of the energy policies favored by left-leaning advocacy agencies that, rather than allowing consumers and markets to choose, require government mandates and subsidies. Three major, but very different, solar entities—that would not exist without such political preference—are now facing demise.  Even with the benefit of tax credits, low-interest loans, and cash grants that state and federal governments have bestowed on them, the solar industry is struggling.

We’ve seen Abengoa—which I’ve followed for years—file for bankruptcy.

Ivanpah, the world’s biggest solar power tower project in the California desert, is threatened with closure due to underperformance.

Then there is SunEdison, the biggest renewable energy developer in the world. It’s on the verge of bankruptcy as its stock price plunged from more than $30 to below $.50—a more than 90 percent drop in the past year.

All of these recent failures magnify the solar industry’s black eye that first swelled up nearly five years ago with the Solyndra bankruptcy.

Worried about self-preservation, and acting in its own best interest—rather than that of consumers specifically, and America in general—industry groups have sprung up to defend the favored-status energy policies and attack anyone who disagrees with the incentive-payment business model. Two such groups are TASC and TUSK—both of which are founded and funded by solar panel powerhouses SolarCity and SunRun with involvement from smaller solar companies (SolarCity recently parted ways with TASC).

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is run by the lead lobbyists for the two big companies—both have obvious Democrat Party connections.

Bryan Miller is Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Power Markets at Sunrun (a position he took in January 2013) and is President and co-chair of TASC (May 2013). His LinkedIn page shows that he’s worked for the National Finance Committee for Obama for America and was Finance Coordinator/Field Organizer for Clinton Gore ’96. He’s also served as s senior political appointee in the Obama Administration and ran an unsuccessful 2008 bid for election to Florida’s House of Representatives, District 83.

Co-chair John Stanton is Executive Vice President, Policy & Markets at SolarCity. In that role, he, according to the company website, “oversees SolarCity’s work with international, federal, state and local government organizations on a wide range of policy issues.” Previously, Stanton was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)—the national trade association for industries that support the development of solar power—with which he oversaw legal and government affairs for the association. There he played a pivotal role in the 8-year extension of the solar investment tax credit. He was also legislative counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton administration.

A news report about the founding of TASC states: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules in the 43 states that have them.”

On March 25, the Wall Street Journal reported: “two dozen states are weighing changes to their incentives for rooftop solar…incentive payments have been the backbone of home solar firms’ business model.” In the past several months, Nevada and Hawaii have ended their NEM programs. TASC has responded with lawsuits. In Hawaii, TASC’s case has already been dismissed with a report stating: the judge’s “ruling in favor of the Defendants has eviscerated TASC’s claims.” Last year, Louisiana capped its “among the most generous in the country” solar tax credit. Arizona Public Service was the trailblazer in modifying generous solar policies when, in 2013, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a fixed charge for solar customers.

As one of the first states to challenge the generous NEM policies, Arizona is still a battleground. That’s where TASC formed another group: TUSK—which stands for Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed. Lobbyist and former U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. was brought in to give a Republican face to the industry’s advocacy. TUSK even has an elephant, the Republican mascot, as part of its logo. The TUSK home page states: “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice and the competition to drive down rates”—true, but a core value of the Republican Party is allowing the free markets to work rather than governments picking winners and losers.

While registered in Arizona, TUSK has recently been active in other states—including Nevada, Oklahoma, and Michigan.

The reoccurring theme in the TASC/TUSK campaign is to connect the word “kill” with “solar”—though the NEM modification efforts don’t intend to kill solar. Instead, they aim to adjust the “incentive payments” to make them more equitable. However, without the favors, as was seen in Nevada, rooftop solar isn’t economical on its own. Companies refuse to play when the game is not stacked in their favor.

TASC and TUSK are just two of the ways the rooftop solar industry—also known as a “coalition of rent seekers and welfare queens,” as Louisiana’s largest conservative blog, The Hayride, called them in the midst of that state’s solar wars—is trying to protect its preferential policies. It has other tricks in its playbook.

In addition to the specific industry groups like TASC, TUSK and SEIA, third party organizations like the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) are engaged to intimidate public officials and academics. EPI, run by Gabe Elsner, is considered a dark money group with no legal existence. It can be assumed to be an extension of what is known as the Checks & Balances Project (CB&P)—which was founded to investigate organizations and policymakers that do not support government programs and subsidies for renewable energy. CB&P has received funding from SolarCity. Elsner joined CB&P in 2011—where he served as Director—and then, two years later, left to found EPI—which C&BP calls: “a pro-clean energy website.” EPI produces material to attack established energy interests and discredit anyone who doesn’t support rooftop solar subsidies. I have been a target of Elsner’s efforts.

Then there is the Solar Foundation—closely allied with SEIA and government solar advocacy programs—which publishes a yearly report on solar employment trends across the country. Solar employers self-report the jobs numbers via phone/email surveys and the numbers are, then, extrapolated to estimate industry jobs nationwide. Though the reports achieve questionable results, threats of job loss have proven to be an effective way to pressure state and federal lawmakers to continue the industry’s favorable policies—such as NEM.

Together, these groups have a coordinated campaign to produce public opinion polling that is used to convince politicians of NEM’s public support. Such cases can be found in Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Kansas. They gather signatures from solar advocates and use them to influence legislators and commissioners. They engage in regulatory and rate proceedings—often creating, as I’ve experienced, an overwhelming presence with mob-like support from tee-shirt-wearing, sign-waving advocates. They run ads calling attempts to modify solar’s generous NEM policies a “tax” on solar and, as previously mentioned, attack utilities for trying to “kill solar.” If this combined campaign isn’t fruitful, and NEM policies are changed, lawsuits, such as those in Hawaii and Nevada, are filed.

This policy protection process may seem no different from those engaged by any industry—as most have trade associations and advocacy groups that promote their cause. Remember “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” and “Pork, the other white meat”? Few are truly independent and self-preservation is a natural instinct.

Yes, even the fossil fuel industry has, for example, the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the National Mining Association, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. And there are advocacy groups who support various limited-government, free-market positions, as Miller recently accused.

The difference is that fossil fuels provide, and has been providing, America with efficient, effective, and economical energy. Its abundance has lowered costs for consumers and increased America’s energy security. Advocates are not fighting for special favors that allow this natural resource to survive, but are rather attempting to push back on new rules and regulations aimed at driving it out of business.

By comparison, the solar advocacy efforts are, as acknowledged by TASC: “First and foremost, the group will work to protect net-energy metering (NEM) rules,” as without them—and the other politically correct policies—rooftop solar energy doesn’t make economic sense. Because rooftop solar power isn’t efficient or effective, its major selling point is supposed savings that are achieved for a few, while costing all tax- and rate-payers.

With the potential of a change in political winds—remember the solar supporters all seem to be left-leaning, big government believers who want higher energy prices—the campaign for America’s energy future is embedded in the presidential election.

Will big government pick the winners and losers, or will free markets allow the survival of the best energy sources for individual circumstances.

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

Prosecuting climate chaos skeptics with RICO

April 04, 2016, 9:58 AM

Global warning/drought scares have led to the rise of water informants in California.

It’s been a rough stretch for Climate Armageddon religionists and totalitarians.

Real World science, climate and weather events just don’t support their manmade cataclysm narrative. The horrid consequences of anti-fossil fuel energy policies are increasingly in the news. And despite campaigns by the $1.5-trillion-per-year government-industry-activist-scientific Climate Crisis Consortium, Americans consistently rank global warming at the very bottom of their serious concerns.

But instead of debating their critics, or marshaling a more persuasive, evidence-based case that we really do face a manmade climate catastrophe, alarmists have ramped up their shrill rhetoric, imposed more anti-hydrocarbon edicts by executive fiat and unratified treaty – and launched RICO attacks on their critics.

Spurred on by Senator Sheldon “Torquemada” Whitehouse (D-RI), Jagadish Shukla and his RICO-20 agitators, and their comrades, 16 of the nation’s 18 Democratic attorneys general (the other 32 are Republican) announced on March 29 that they are going after those who commit the unpardonable offense of questioning “consensus” climate science.

If companies are “committing fraud,” by “knowingly deceiving” the public about the threat of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and climate change, New York AG Eric Schneiderman intoned, “we want to expose it and pursue them to the fullest extent of the law,” under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. “The First Amendment does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

Their initial target is ExxonMobil, but other companies, think tanks like CFACT and the Heartland Institute (with which I am affiliated), and even independent researchers and analysts (like myself) will be in their crosshairs – using a law intended for the Mafia. Incredibly, even United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch says her office has “discussed” similar actions and has “referred [the matter] to the FBI.”

These RICO investigations and prosecutions are chilling, unprecedented and blatantly un-American. They abuse our legal and judicial processes and obliterate the First Amendment freedom of speech rights of anyone who questions the catechism of climate cataclysm. The AGs’ actions are intended to browbeat skeptics into silence, and bankrupt them with monumental legal fees, fines and treble damages.

It is the campus “crime” of “unwelcome ideas” and “micro-aggression” on steroids. It is the inevitable result of President Obama’s determination to “fundamentally transform” the United States, ensure that electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket,” and carve his energy and climate policy legacy in granite.

Mr. O and his allies are on a mission: to rid the world of fossil fuels, replace them with “clean” biofuels (that are also carbon-based and also emit carbon dioxide when burned, but would require billions of acres of crop and habitat land) and “eco-friendly” bird-killing wind turbines and solar installations (that will require millions more acres) – and implement the goals of a dictatorial United Nations.

Former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres put it in the bluntest terms: “We are setting ourselves the task of intentionally to change [sic] the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years” – the free enterprise capitalist system. “The next world climate summit is actually an economic summit, during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated,” her UN climate crisis cohort Otmar Edendorfer added. “We will redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

Thus, under the 2015 Paris climate treaty, developing nations will be under no obligation to reduce their fossil fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions. They will simply take voluntary steps, when doing so will not impair their efforts to drive economic growth and improve their people’s living standards. Meanwhile, they will be entitled to share $3 billion to $300 billion per year in “climate change adaptation, mitigation and reparation” money. In fact, Mr. Obama has already transferred $500 million in taxpayer money (illegally) from a State Department emergency fund to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

No wonder developing nations were thrilled to sign the 2015 Paris not-a-treaty treaty.

Recent headlines portend what’s in store. EU electricity prices rise 63% over past decade. Rising energy costs, green policies threaten to kill steel industry and 4,000 to 40,000 jobs, as Tata Steel quits Britain. Thousands of Europeans lose jobs, as manufacturing moves to countries with lower energy prices. Unable to afford proper heat, 40,000 Europeans die of hypothermia during 2014 winter.

In Africa and other energy-deprived regions: Millions die in 2015 from lung and intestinal diseases – due to open cooking and heating fires, spoiled food and unsafe water, and absence of electricity.

Meanwhile, despite mandates, loan guarantees, feed-in tariffs, endangered species exemptions and other subsidies, renewable industries are barely surviving: SunEnergy, world’s largest green energy company, faces bankruptcy, as share prices fall 95% in one year. Solar company Abengoa US files for Chapter 15 bankruptcy. China stops building wind turbines, as grid is damaged and most electricity is wasted.

But Climate Crisis ruling elites pay little attention to this. They will be insulated, enriched, and protected from their decisions and deceptions – as they decide what energy, jobs, living standards and freedoms the poor, minority, blue-collar and middle classes will be permitted to have.

Equally disturbing, their drive for total control is based on a chaotic world that is totally at odds with what the rest of us see outside our windows. Even after “homogenizing” and massaging the raw data, climate alarmists can only show that global temperatures may have risen a few tenths of a degree (barely the margin of error) during the 2015 El Niño year, after 19 years of no temperature increase, following two decades of slight warming, following three decades of slight cooling and warming.

On the “extreme weather” front, tornadoes, snows, floods and droughts are no more frequent or intense than over the past century. No Category 3-5 hurricane has made US landfall in a record 125 months. Polar ice remains well within historic fluctuations, and sea levels are rising at barely seven inches per century.

Alarmists thus rely on computer models that predict even “worse catastrophes,” if global temperatures rise even 0.5 degrees C (0.8 F) more than they already have since the Little Ice Age ended and Industrial Era began. However, the models are hopelessly deficient, and totally unable to predict the climate.

They overstate the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide and methane, atmospheric gases chosen because they result from fossil fuel use (and from many natural sources). They assume these two gases have become the primary forces in climate change – and ignore or downplay changing solar energy, cosmic ray and geomagnetic output; major periodic fluctuations in Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean circulation; volcanic activity; regional and planetary temperature cycles that recur over multiple decades, centuries or millennia; and other natural forces that have always driven planetary warming, cooling and weather.

The models and modelers do this because these factors and their roles in climate change are not well understood, are difficult to measure, and do not fit the “humans are at fault” meme. They compound these errors by assuming that any warming will be dangerous, rather than beneficial for people and agriculture.

These oversights can be characterized as careless, recklessly negligent, or even “knowingly deceitful” and fraudulent. So can “nine inconvenient untruths” that a United Kingdom judge highlighted in Al Gore’s infamous fake-documentary movie – and Mr. Gore’s recent claim that atmospheric CO2 is fueling Zika outbreaks. Likewise for James Hansen’s repeated assertion that sea levels could rise “several meters” (117 inches) over the next century, and the bogus studies behind the phony “97% consensus” claims.

Can you picture the cabal of AGs filing RICO actions in these cases? If you want the facts, and a few chuckles about climate alarmism, see the Climate Hustle movie, coming May 2 to a theater near you.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Austrian Economics Center’s International Road Show Comes to Heartland

April 04, 2016, 9:54 AM

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

Wikipedia: What the Liberals Want You to Think
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

Update: ‘Article V 2.0′: The Compact for a Balanced Budget
Nick Dranias, Heartland Policy Study
As the national debt approaches a staggering $20 trillion, it is getting harder to continue kicking the can down the road. Something has to be done. Nick Dranias, a constitutional law expert, asks the question, “What if the states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in just 12 months?” The Compact for a Balanced Budget could do just that. This is an update of aHeartland Policy Study Dranias wrote in July 2014. READ MORE

Learning Lessons on the Road to Serfdom
The Austrian Economics Center’s 2016 international “Free Market Road Show” added The Heartland Institute to its list of stops. Four speakers from Argentina, Austria, Germany, and Iceland came to Arlington Heights to provide an international perspective on the state of the American dream and freedom and prosperity. If you missed the presentation, the entire event is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page.  WATCH IT HERE

Featured Podcast: Reason’s Shikha Dalmia: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis
The Flint, Michigan water crisis is deeply unsettling to everyone affected. To help shed light on the situation and its causes, Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst with the Reason Foundation, joins Heartland Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett on this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast. She explains how the crisis was caused by the failure of government, not the market.  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, including 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

Climate Regulations for Show, Not Positive Impact
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
A stunning admission occurred recently before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Under questioning, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Obama administration’s climate efforts will do nothing to protect public or environmental health. These regulations are nothing more than a symbolic attempt to get other countries’ leaders to join the Paris climate agreement. READ MORE

Book Review: A Fresh Look at the Great Depression
Jay Lehr, Ph.D., The Heartlander
Heartland Senior Fellow Jay Lehr, Ph.D. reviews The Midas Paradox, a book that delves deep into the causes of the Great Depression and its effects on the economy. Author Scott Sumner, director of the Mercatus Center, has spent more than two decades researching this period of American history. He explains how prior post-mortems have failed to fully examine the root causes of the economic collapse. READ MORE

The Rise of Socialized Medicine
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
It is becoming more clear than ever that the United States is moving toward a European-style health care system. In August 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama explained how a “transition step” would be needed to usher in single-payer health care. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is that transitional step. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half the nation will likely rely on government for health care within the next decade.  READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Dr. Hal Scherz: The Best-Kept Secret in the Health Care Industry
The continuing and growing intrusion into the health care market should concern everyone. But there are some bright spots worth noting. Dr. Hal Scherz, founder of Docs 4 Patient Care, joins Research Fellow Michael Hamilton to talk about one of the best-kept secrets in the health care industry: direct primary care. LISTEN TO MORE

Striking Back at Teacher Strikes
Timothy Benson, Crain’s Chicago Business
Yet another teachers strike took place in Chicago on April Fool’s Day. 22,000 union members walked off the job en masse, denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning. Because of the frequency of these events, The Heartland Institute is designing a plan that will make such strikes less likely. A “strike voucher” would allow any student to temporarily attend any charter, secular, private, or parochial school using a $50 per day stipend. READ MORE

Upstart College Exam Challenges ACT, SAT
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
A new organization, Vector ARC, is beta-testing a college entrance exam that will compete with ACT and SAT. Vector ARC says its exam will stand independent of the Common Core standards. Richard Innes, education policy analyst for the Bluegrass Institute, said, “because both the ACT and SAT now claim Common Core alignment, the creation of an alternative test should be of special interest to parents of students in many school choice programs.” READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

Mad about the teacher strike? Let’s strike back

April 04, 2016, 9:45 AM

The Chicago Teachers Union’s “Day of Action”—planned for April Fool’s Day, naturally—will see the union’s 22,000 members walk off the job en masse. Not content with only denying Chicago Public Schools’ 400,000 students a day of learning, they will congregate downtown during rush hour, thus denying people the ability to get home and businesses the ability to conduct commerce.

Already of dubious legality, the union insists its Day of Action is necessary because CPS announced its plans to end experience- and education-based “step and lane” raises, which the union deems an unfair labor practice. This also comes after the union rejected a contract offer from CPS that would have seen a pay increase for teachers, a cap on privately run charter schools and the barring of any layoffs.

Lost in this turmoil are the students of Chicago.

While union representatives say all the right things, including how much they care for their students, any time the best interests of those students conflict with an opportunity for the union to make more money, it is always the children who the union tosses aside.

Chicago’s teachers are some of the most handsomely compensated of any group of public school teachers in the nation. The union teacher’s median salary of $73,000 is 64 percent higher than the median household income for the city as a whole. Union members’ average lifetime earnings are the highest in the country among major metropolitan school districts, and pension benefits have increased over 400 percent since 1987.

Meanwhile, standardized tests show roughly only one-fourth of Chicago‘s students are being educated to a level that allows them to transition comfortably to the next grade level and then, if they’re lucky, on to college.

The union continually paints its members as victims, but the real victims are the children the union members seem to have no qualms casually and flippantly walking out on. Parents should not have to fret over how they will keep their children cared for while the union forces them from their classrooms.

That is why the Heartland Institute will fully unveil its proposed “strike voucher” program in a Policy Brief in April.

Here’s the idea: The strike voucher would allow any student from a CPS school to leave temporarily for any school not run by the district. Any charter, secular, private, or parochial school in the district with the room to take in additional students would be given a stipend of $50 per day for each student it welcomes through its doors. Funding for the daily stipend would come out of strike makeup-day pay fund, which is compensation received by union teachers for any strike days made up later in the year.

Since seating at brick-and-mortar non-district schools will not be available for every child during a strike, parents would also be allowed to take their strike voucher stipend to tutoring facilities, online virtual schools, and, for very young students, daycare facilities. Strike voucher funds could also be used to reimburse organizations for extra costs incurred while accommodating CPS students. For example, the Chicago Children’s Museum, or any other city museum, could be reimbursed per head and per day for each admitted student. Any costs for extending hours and personnel organizations such as the YMCA would incur would also be covered in full, as long as they provide at least a half-day’s worth of educational activity.

The goal of the strike voucher is to ensure Chicago children have the opportunity to attend a safe and effective school and to free children from being caught in the middle of the continual tug-of-war between school districts and teachers unions. The tug-of-war begins again on April 1.

[Originally published at Crain’s Chicago Business]

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Want States To Quell Anti-Testing Uprising

April 04, 2016, 9:27 AM

Big government tamps down all optimism associated with springtime. As if the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service wasn’t stressful enough, now comes the season of federally mandated K–12 standardized testing.

Not many citizens are bold enough to opt out of paying taxes, but many families once again are considering opting out of the worrisome student assessments linked to Common Core national standards. The parental blogosphere is buzzing with talk of how to submit refusal letters to school officials and whether it’s best to keep students at home on test days or to trust they won’t be forced to just “sit and stare” while their classmates take untimed examinations.

In 2015, 640,000 students in 14 states that reported their numbers sat out the standardized tests, according to FairTest, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that long has opposed abuses in testing. Most remarkably, the opt-out rate reached 20 percent in New York State.

Some things have changed this year. John King, the adamantly pro-Common Core state education commissioner who greatly riled New York parents and teachers, is now the U.S. Secretary of Education, having been nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate, by a 49–40 vote.

Additional changes are related to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was advertised by its sponsors as restoring local control over many education-related matters, such as testing, that No Child Left Behind had stripped away. ESSA became the federal education law of the land in December.

Parents are already discovering the advertising was false and the pressures to conform to the federal design are more intense and personal than ever. That reality could increase resentment and lead to even more refusals.

ESSA not only continues the federal mandate for testing of students in grades 3–8 and once in high school, but also the required 95 percent participation rate. What’s new is the U.S. Department of Education will hold state departments of education responsible for squelching local test refusals. Thus, wrote standards expert Sandra Stotsky in the March 16 edition of NewBostonPost, an online newspaper, “ESSA turns state departments of education into school bullies.”

U.S. parents across the blogosphere have reported countless state and local educrats are warning that if parents refuse the assessments, they will face dire consequences, such as low-income children losing their ESSA funding; their own children being unable to graduate because they haven’t passed a “college readiness” test; and falling qualitative rankings of their children’s schools, which the educrats say would result from a low participation rate.

Most threats are nothing more than hot air. Stotsky says no state legislature has mandated such a so-called readiness test, and it is unlikely any will, and while former Education Secretary Arne Duncan did imply a year ago that states could be docked federal funding when participation rates fall below 95 percent, nothing ever came of that bluster. Does King aspire to be even more of an enemy of parental rights than Duncan?

As they consider taking a stand against experimental and time-consuming assessments, nothing worries parents more than the thought of their children being harshly and unfairly punished. The concern is not limited to public school patrons. On the Stop Common Core in New York Catholic Schools website, a participant quoted a principal saying a kid refusing the testing would be given a book and made to stay on the testing site for the duration without leaving.

Not all principals and superintendents are that belligerent. In fact, some are cooperating in setting up alternative learning opportunities for dissenters. Another site, Save Our Schools New Jersey, compiled “naughty or nice” lists of school districts. “Nice” are those that “treat parents who refuse and their children with respect,” while the “naughty” ones “bully parents and students to accommodate the [New Jersey Department of Education].”

If states really wanted to take charge, they could enact laws expressly recognizing the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing to which they have not consented. Eight belong on the honor roll for already having done so: California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Yaron Brook Says America’s Fight Against Income Inequality is Misguided

April 04, 2016, 8:57 AM

It was fitting for The Heartland Institute‘s President and CEO Joe Bast to feature Yaron Brook  President of the Ayn Rand Institute, in a discussion of his new book, “Equal Is Unfair:  America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality.” Both organizations are fighting for the principles of freedom and liberty as set forth by our Founding Fathers.

The event was the third held in Heartland’s newly-named Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center at its Arlington Heights, Illinois, headquarters on Wednesday, March 23.  The words “Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center” are emblazoned on the awning leading into the venue itself and is likewise printed predominately on the front wall of the gathering place.   

[Watch the whole event here]

During the afternoon discussion, Brook explored the question as to whether the American Dream is failing as the rich become richer and leave the rest to struggle just to keep their heads above water.  

Born and raised in Israel, Brooks admitted he was a Socialist until age 16. In 1987, Dr. Brook moved to the United States where he received his MBA and PhD in finance from the University of Texas in Austin. He became an American citizen in 2003.  Brook has been a columnist at Forbes.com, and his articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications. 

Yaron Brook was introduced by Jim Lakely, Director of Communication at Heartland.

Preferring not to stand behind a podium, Dr. Brooks used the entire platform space from which to advance his thoughts and ideas.  With microphone in hand, Brook’s initial comment was to reference inequality as the issue of our time, at least according to President Obama and the Pope.  Accordingly, the claim is that inequality is responsible for almost all the ills of the day, specifically when it comes to the big gap between rich and poor.  It was none other than Karl Marx who made the allegation that owners of capital just become more and more wealthy. A fallacy, because capital doesn’t grow automatically on its own, it must be invested in order for it to grow.

Yet there are those who say we must tax the wealthy at an income tax rate of 80%, with no loopholes.  And what about the idea of a 10% Global Wealth Tax which would surely generate lots of money.  The catch:  the money realized would not be given to the poor.  Instead, its stated purpose is to shrink income inequality — to penalize those who have in order to knock them down.

Tactics used by the Left

The American people generally don’t envy those who have more than they do.  The Left, however, is trying to use inequality to stir up resentment by promoting inequality as a bad thing.  To Bernie Sanders this nation has a millionaire and billionaire problem, and we must deal with it. 

What about the assumption that wealth is a social issue.  When referred to as a collective pie, the pie must be divided equally.  But the pie is not a collective pie.  You make the pie, and if you make it you expect fairness.  Therefore the idea of an individual pie must be defended, in contrast to those who say you didn’t build it or make it so sharing must occur.

In order for society to grow and prosper there must first be an entrepreneur who initiates an idea.  Next must come the money from a capitalist who is willing to invest in an idea that might not succeed. Workers must be hired, but they are not willing to work for ten years without pay, the time is might take for the business to succeed and become profitable.

To be remembered is that we don’t live in a zero sum world.  Why then is the Left winning the battle?  It is because the Right doesn’t fight back to refute what the Left is spewing forth as truth.

Existing Problems

Cronyism is often cited as the way individuals become rich.  In the economic context it’s through privilege reserved for those who fill their pocket by taking advantage of special favors from the government.  But as widespread as cronyism is Mr. Brooks sees no evidence that it is the dominant cause of economic equality.

Often noted is that poor people don’t have many opportunities to advance economically as they work at low paying jobs, but raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and more would only limit the number of jobs available to them, thus many poor people would be denied even the first upward step on the ladder toward a better life.

Consider also how licensing laws and regulation loom as impediments for people to open small businesses.  The process can take much time and money.  Regulations therefore function as job killers. 

Education is definitely an important criteria for advancement.  Without an education job opportunities are definitely limited.  Being handed a welfare check only destroys pride in self and the ability to engage in economic opportunity. 

Given all the technological advances, the quality of life for the middle class is better today than it was in the 70’s, but slow economic growth is limiting the number of poor individuals who should be joining the middle class. 

Philosophy Drives the Left

What spurs the Left to believe that inequity must be fought through tax hikes, wealth redistribution schemes, and a far higher minimum wage?  It’s based on the Left’s philosophy where equality becomes the standard by which justice is determined. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge was cited as a glaring example of how the philosophy of equality was taken to an extreme.  In the end pure evil resulted when brutality and violence were used to stamp out any hint of individualism.  Over three years one and a half million people, out of a population of seven million, were sacrificed by Pol Pot as he attempted to create a Utopia where complete equality existed.

Today this nation faces a choice between two moral values.  One view speaks of justice occurring when each individual has an equal right to pursue his own happiness and success and then is able to keep whatever wealth income and opportunities he earns because of his pursuit. This is in direct contrast to the social justice view of the Left, where government must restrict freedom to make individuals economically equal, and if a person produces too much, his hopes and dreams should be sacrificed for the sake of those who haven’t produced. 

If the American Dream is to be saved so a more just and prosperous society can be created, the collectivist-egalitarian doctrine advanced by the Left must be rejected.  Championed instead must be the individualist idea of moral justice that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability. 

In Conclusion

The threat facing the American dream is not one of economic quality.  Instead, it’s a war that centers on political inequality in which two moral views of justice are competing for control. May the individualist idea that celebrates human achievement and frees human ability be victorious. This is a must if the American Dream is to be kept alive for future generations.

Following Dr. Brook’s presentation, questions were directed to him from the audience and also submitted by those listening to Heartland’s live-stream pod broadcast.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog