In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast we welcome on Elizabeth Stelle, Director of Policy Analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives – a free-market think tank based out of Pennsylvania. Stelle comes on the show to talk about how Pennsylvania has prospered by allowing hydraulic fracturing.
Pennsylvania’s success is highlighted by neighboring states including New York who have instituted bans on fracking. Stelle comments on this as well as the potentially harmful impact taxes proposed by Gov. Wolf would have on energy production in the state.
On several occasions at different venues and events, President Obama has declared“there is no greater threat to U.S. security than climate change.” With China’s moves in the South China sea, Russia’s moves in Eastern Europe, and terrorists strikes killing Americans and others around the world, the President’s belief is idiotic. Climate change, if it poses a threat at all, is distant and the impacts can be adapted too without loss of life.
Still President Obama has forced the military to undertake expensive programs to fight climate change by going “green.” These efforts are drowning taxpayers in debt while is diverting scarce resources from the nation’s defense to the creation of expensive, and, as it turns out, greenhouse-gas-emitting green fuels.
For instance, driven by President Barack Obama’s directives, the Navy has undertaken the “Great Green Fleet” (GGF) initiative to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent in 2020 by switching to alternative energy sources, including advanced biofuels. Substituting advanced biofuels for petroleum marine fuels has proven very expensive and produced little if any environmental benefit.
At the outset of the GGF initiative, the Navy paid up to $400 per gallon for advanced biofuels at a time when the price of petroleum-based marine fuel was $2.82 per gallon. The initial algae-based advanced biofuels had large negative “net energy values,” meaning they consumed far more energy (in the form of fossil fuels) during their production-through-consumption lifecycle than the petroleum fuels they displaced, so net carbon dioxide emissions were many times greater than if the Navy had just used traditional fossil fuels.
Due to a combination of generous federal subsidies and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, the cost of marine biofuels has dropped to approximately 50 percent greater than the cost of petroleum-based marine diesel. Factoring in the carbon content of the biofuels’ feedstock and the final fuel itself, the energy used in refining and delivering the fuel outside of the normal supply chain means the environmental benefits of the fuel remain questionable.
In The Tank Podcast (ep48): #WebOfDenial, Cutting the Federal Budget, Renewable Mandates, and the Everglades
With John MIA, Donny is joined by Director of Communications Jim Lakely in this week’s exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #48 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 Cato Institute, the Rio Grande Foundation, and the James Madison Institute.
Jim and Donny start off the podcast talking about the latest attack on the freedom of speech by Democratic Senators with their #WebOfDenial campaign. The Heartland Institute was singled out more times than any other organization in the Senators’ name and shame stunt.
Featured Work of the Week
In this Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny and Jim discuss a research paper from the Cato Institute titled “Downsizing the Federal Government.” The report describes a course of action that could be taken to get government spending under control. Going far beyond the tried appeal to reducing waste, fraud, and abuse, this report proposes major cuts to dozens of federal departments and services. As Donny explains, these cuts will surely impact everyone in the country, but in the effort of solving the ongoing debt crisis, it is necessary.
In the World of Think Tankery
In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny and Jim look at a study by the Rio Grande Foundation titled “New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard: An Evaluation of its Impact on the State Economy.” The report takes a close look and the benefits and drawbacks of these mandates specifically in the state of New Mexico.
In the last part of this segment, Donny and Jim talk about a publication from the James Madison Institute titled “Solving the Everglades Riddle.” This issue of restoring the Everglades has been the subject of debate for decades. This report gives a detailed look at the current situation, what led to the current situation and what we can do to help. Never let anyone tell you that free-market, and limited-government advocates don’t care about the environment.
- John Locke Foundation (Monday, July 25) With All Due Respect, What Are You Thinking? @ the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina
- The Heartland Institute (Wednesday, July 27) The Use of State Power to Silence Patriots featuring Eric O’Keefe @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
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Congratulations to Google on Pokemon Go. Google’s parent company Alphabet incubated and spun out this latest highly successful data-collection-device – for sale to advertisers everywhere.
Pokemon Go is a phenomenon. Of course, if you are in any way involved in social media or popular culture – you already know this. The game’s app is drawing tens if not hundreds of thousands (millions?) of consumers out into the sunlight and the streets – chasing down augmented-reality Pikachus and Charizards.
Consumers are speaking – and they are roaring for Pokemon. And when consumers speak – companies listen.
T-Mobile Jumps on the Pokémon Go Bandwagon with Free Data Access for Players: “Pokémon GO players on the network won’t get dinged for any data…for the next year starting on Tuesday the 19th.”
And if Pokemon Go remains popular – you can bet T-Mobile will extend the free data offer way past a year. And you can bet that by then T-Mobile will not be the only provider giving people free Pokemon.
Consumers love Pokemon. Consumers love free stuff. Combining the two is yet another free market victory for consumers. And the party rolls on. Except – cue the anti-free market, pro-government fetishists.
Does T-Mobile’s ‘Pokemon’ Data Plan Poke at Net Neutrality?“(D)igital rights advocates question whether the deal amounts to favoritism that violates the spirit of Net Neutrality.”
If you asked the average consumer “You can have free, unlimited Pokemon Go – or Net Neutrality” – guess which he or she would choose? Net Neutrality is a Fantasy Land fetish about which the average consumer has never heard. Getting free stuff they love is a Reality-based boon to consumers. The vote wouldn’t even be close.
Except – cue the anti-free market, pro-government fetishists.
T-Mobile Gives Free Unlimited Data for Pokemon Go – Raising Net Neutrality Concerns: “To be clear: making Pokémon Go exempt from data caps is bad for net neutrality, for the same reasons making certain video and music apps exempt is a bad idea.”
Free Pokemon GO Data for T-Mobile Users, Is It Against Net Neutrality?: “Of course, this is against net neutrality and the carrier has been criticized several times.”
It’s almost as if “Net Neutrality” is a Leftist safe word – to be uttered when the free market growing freely causes them too much discomfort.
Few things demonstrate the insular Government Bubble better than this:
T-Mobile’s Cool New ‘Pokémon Go’ Deal is a Threat to the Open Internet: “T-Mobile is waiving the charges for data its customers are using to play ‘Pokémon Go’ — and people are furious about it.”
Which “people?” Certainly not consumers – who vastly, exponentially outnumber any Bubble contingent of pro-government Net Neutrality fetishists. The babble continues:
“On first glance, it seems like a weird thing to be angry about. Customers get to catch more pokémon, T-Mobile gets a publicity boost, everyone’s happy – right?”
Full stop – consumers do think it’s a weird thing about which to be angry. They are very happy. Except the fetishists don’t stop:
“Not quite. The carrier’s offer arguably violates a principle of the open internet that has caused huge debate in the past: Net Neutrality.”
Again, if consumers are happy with what they’re getting – who cares what happens to some faculty-lounge nonsense that the government has bizarrely, tyrannically imposed onto a magnificently functioning Internet ecosystem?
The anti-free market, pro-government fetishists do.
How about we let consumers decide if this – if anything – is “worthwhile.” If it’s a “good thing.” If it’s “good enough” for them.
Rather than the tiny contingent inside the Government Bubble deciding for them?
That’s how free markets work. Unless the government fetishists get their interloping, wealth-and-freedom-destroying way.
June 10, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) saying a carbon tax would harm the economy and should not be enacted. The 237–163 vote in favor of the resolution included only six Democrats, who joined the entire Republican caucus.
Although the legislative action was purely symbolic — there was no pending legislation attempting to impose a tax on carbon dioxide — I applaud the House’s vote. When carbon taxes or similar bills capping carbon emissions have been considered in the past, they have either been rejected or failed to get a vote.
Despite President Barack Obama’s inability to get legislation through Congress to raise the cost of burning fossil fuels, the Obama administration has enacted limits on carbon-dioxide emissions through various executive actions and regulations that ultimately have the same effect as a tax on carbon would. Thus, this resolution is important, because it highlights the high costs related to many of the Obama administration’s restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Because a carbon tax would apply to 85 percent of the United States’ energy, and energy is the lifeblood of the economy, the resolution notes a carbon tax “would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”
In the lead up to the resolution’s introduction, a group of 22 research institutes, legal foundations, and grassroots activist groups — including the Heartland Institute, my employer — submitted a letter to Scalise expressing their support for the resolution.
The letter says multiple independent analyses, including reports by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), have found carbon taxes and similar policies often bring with them significant unintended consequences.
“Such marketplace manipulation represents a recipe for unintended consequences and self-inflicted economic damage… [and would be]… regressive, imposing disproportionately high costs on middle- and lower-income families and thereby harming most those who can afford it least,” wrote the authors of the letter.
NAM says a carbon tax could eliminate the equivalent of 21 million jobs over the next 40 years and reduce workers’ wages by up to 8.5 percent. NAM also says a carbon tax would increase the cost of goods and services, as manufacturers and retailers would pass their higher energy costs on to consumers.
A carbon tax would damage America’s economic competitiveness, making U.S. goods more expensive than comparable goods from other countries. Relatively inexpensive energy is currently one of U.S. manufacturers’ main competitive advantages over international competitors. The American Energy Alliance notes in the second half of 2014, the average price of electricity for industrial consumers in the European Union was 12 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 7 cents per kilowatt hour in the United States.
CBO notes a carbon tax is highly regressive, costing the poorest one-fifth of American households 250 percent more than the richest one-fifth of households. Low-income communities, seniors, and those on fixed incomes spend a greater proportion of their budgets on energy and energy-related items compared to middle-income households and wealthy households.
Incredibly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits neither a carbon tax nor the regulations EPA has already imposed will do anything to prevent global climate change — even if humans’ carbon-dioxide emissions are contributing to it. These policies are truly all pain and no gain.
Ironically, carbon-dioxide limits and taxes — by raising the cost of using fossil fuels — will likely increase pollution. Facing higher energy costs for certain American companies means they will be forced to move overseas to remain profitable. Countries such as China and India — two places many businesses are likely to relocate to — have weaker environmental standards and less-efficient methods of production than those that exist in the United States. As companies fleeing the carbon tax and other onerous regulations shift more of their operations overseas, air pollution will likely increase as a result.
There is never a good time to enact bad policy, and a carbon tax is one of the worst policies I can imagine.
A months-long court battle challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to rewrite U.S. law has been brought to an end by federal judges. Unfortunately for consumers, the government courts sided with government lawyers.
On June 14, federal judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of FCC, determining—in agreement with government lawyers—the regulatory agency possesses the legal authority to rewrite federal law using the Telecommunications Act of 1934 to regulate internet services in the same manner a power company is regulated.
These regulations, using laws from the 1930s to address issues in 2016, put unelected government regulators between consumers and service providers, in stark contrast to FCC’s stated goal of “supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution.”
Treating the internet as though it is an electric company or a water company allows FCC to insert itself in the middle of every data transaction, between every recipient and sender of every bit and byte. It’s one of the most significant regulatory power grabs in history, and few people even realize it occurred.
The term net neutrality is itself a Trojan horse for control-hungry bureaucrats, and justifying the decision under Title II of the Telecommunications Act shows FCC is less interested in “ensuring an appropriate competitive framework” and more interested in banning prioritization on private networks.
Prioritization is a technical term referring to agreements made between content providers and a network owner that allows the provider’s data to travel on less-congested network routes in exchange for agreed-upon fees.
When networks are clogged with data during high-traffic times, these private agreements help consumers receive requested data faster, which benefits consumers.
All kinds of data—YouTube videos of epic fails, an e-mail to your boss, or that winning move in Overwatch—travel over the internet, but some kinds of data are more tolerant of delays or temporary congestion. For example, the order in which an e-mail’s data are sent doesn’t matter very much, but other kinds of data—such as data for streaming videos or playing video games—are less forgiving when jumbled around.
Receiving data bits in the wrong order or at the wrong time can cause distortions, stutters, lag, and other problems. Ideally, content companies can choose to pay a little bit extra—if it’s worth it to them—to have their content bits be delivered faster than data from competing services.
Similar to how many motor-vehicle drivers choose to pay slightly more to take well-maintained toll roads instead of clogged government-funded highways, paid prioritization allows you to be entertained in higher fidelity. By preventing paid prioritization, net neutrality forces internet service providers to treat all data alike, ignoring the different needs of the various kinds of data travelling over the internet.
Net neutrality permanently sticks commands to your favorite Overwatch hero in the same slow internet road as your least-favorite e-mail spam, preventing the data you want from getting to you when you want and need it.
Instead of pursuing more power through opaque regulations and months of court battles, ditching net neutralityand cutting deadweight regulations on internet providers and other telecommunications companies is the key to giving consumers a power-up in today’s fast-paced digital economy.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense joins the show to discuss agriculture policy and crop insurance.
Sewell explores the high costs related to crop insurance and other farm programs showing how taxpayers foot the bill for a program that could be provided more effectively through the free market. Most people don’t know, but taxpayers insure farmers not just against crop losses due to disaster but also against below expected crop prices.
The Constitution is an extraordinary document. Life for most humans for most of human history has been poor, nasty, brutish and short. The Constitution acknowledged this past (and present) – and transformed our future.
One of the many, many amazing things the document did was properly define the role between man (master) and government (servant). In part by codifying man’s natural rights. These rights are inherently ours – and government can not infringe upon them.
As we’ve oft reminded, Ben Franklin was asked as he departed the Constitutional Convention “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which Franklin responded “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
We haven’t kept it. Because government keeps serially, ever-more-blatantly exceeding its limits – and in the process eviscerating our rights. And the officials We the People elect either do nothing to stop it – or are complicit in it.
Our representatives have yet another opportunity to step up and stop yet another government encroachment. Under prospective assault this time – the Constitution’s Copyright Clause:
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
We have a right to property protection. This includes intellectual property – as identified just above. But nothing is safe anymore.
The agency about to undermine our intellectual property rights right this go round is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is considering a bizarre, back-to-the-future regulation – which will prop up the dying set-top-box market so as to allow cronies like Google to have free access to copyrighted television content.
In case you were wondering: The set-top-box is the thing that sits in close proximity to your television – that descrambles the encoded signal your cable company sends, translating it into viewable shows and movies. Why is the signal scrambled? Because it contains tons and tons of copyrighted material – the content created by ABC, NBC, CBS and the dozens of other creators of the programming we all enjoy.
Protecting that content is a huge deal for its creators – which is why they demand such stringent protections in the contracts they negotiate with cable companies. Thus the set-top-box isn’t some sort of add-on item – it is the final component in cable television’s secure-delivery-system.
The FCC is ignoring all of this Reality. And are about to force cable companies to descramble the content which they are obligated by contract to protect – and for which they pay most handsomely.
And then give that content for free to the likes of Google. Who will then sell their set-top-boxes (just what we need, another remote control) – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. Google and their ilk will sell advertising – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. All the while collecting all of our data – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. And then selling said data every which way they can.
Again, Google and their ilk make all of this omni-directional money – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay.And for which they have never signed any sort of contract promising to protect. Since they are not on the hook to do so – guess how much time, money and effort they will exert doing so?
This is more than a mite disconcerting for the content’s creators.
Showbiz Groups Say FCC Set-Top Box Proposal Could Have Harmful Impact: “The groups are filing comments with the (FCC) on Friday expressing concerns that the move would have an adverse impact on content creators’ ability to protect copyright and be compensated for their work, according to a joint announcement.”
Allowing companies like Google to have free access to content – with no promise made by them to protect it – would absolutely affect the creation of future content. As in – there won’t be any more creation of content. Why expend all the time, money and effort to create it – if the government is mandating you give it away?
You know who else is standing up for Reality? Congress – in bipartisan fashion. (I’ll pause while you get over your shock.…) A letter signed by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte and Michigan Democrat John Conyers reads in part:
“As members of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees our nation’s copyright laws, we recognize the harm to the American economy caused by the theft of copyrighted works….Creators are legitimately worried about the prospect that future set top boxes, or their functional equivalents, could…lead to the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works.”
Given the soon-to-be-government-mandated perverse-market-incentives for the likes of Google – these are very legitimate concerns.
We are very pleased Congressman Goodlatte recognizes the import of intellectual property and its protection. We hope he continues to stand against the FCC’s efforts to undermine it – up to and including using Congress’ power of the purse to curtail the Commission’s budget should it in insist on pushing forward with these anti-Reality regulations.
And we hope Congressman Goodlatte will apply his dedication to Constitutional intellectual property protection equally to all things – and once and for all shelve his anti-patent Innovation Act.
Intellectual property – is intellectual property. All of it is protected by the Constitution. None of it should be undermined by those who swear an oath to uphold and defend said Constitution.
It ain’t complicated.
The Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, a Missouri-based nonprofit organization at the forefront of supporting research on entrepreneurship and innovation in the United States, recently published a policy paper titled “A Fair Fight: Entrepreneurship and Competition Policy,” which included several policy recommendations for reinvigorating economic competition in America.
The first policy recommendation addresses entrepreneurial entry and focuses on labor markets. Kaufman recommends limiting the scope, duration, geography, and eligibility of non-compete agreements, which restrict fledging entrepreneurs from starting a business that competes with their former employer and often blocks or delays the opening of a competing business. Kaufman also argues that a service economy should have occupational licensing requirements that create appropriate consumer protections with only minimal regulatory burdens and licensure restrictions. Further, Kaufman recommends professional licensure boards should increase the number of non-licensed practitioners, or “public members,” and be directly accountable to elected officials.
Complementing the Kaufman recommendations, the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public policy organization, has recently updated (with this author’s assistance) its hierarchy of occupational regulatory options that includes an increased array of so-called “private governance” choices that should be evaluated by state policymakers before the traditional public regulatory responses of registration, certification, and licensure. Moreover, while Kaufman recommends a “greater number” of non-licensed practitioners on state licensing boards, I would recommend having a majority of qualified public interest members, as it would likely provide increased benefits to consumers (rather than to the regulated profession itself).
The second policy recommendation addresses tax incentives and public subsidies. Kaufman recommends reconsidering the targets and effectiveness of economic-development tax incentives, which are provided overwhelmingly to larger businesses, therefore reducing entrepreneurial competition. Moreover, Kaufman recommends allowing laws and regulations to evolve as entrepreneurs commercialize innovative products, services, and business models.
In addition to the Kaufman recommendations, this so-called “tilting of the playing field” of public subsidies needs far greater scrutiny from the “public” rather than simply remaining in the cloistered world of the public policy process. Calls for greater transparency in identifying which companies or industries are being targeted, as well as demanding periodic benefit-cost evaluations of the effectiveness of such tax incentives, as well as that of existing laws and regulations which may be impediments to innovation, are legitimate “good government” initiatives. The greater use of social media and other forms of non-traditional Internet media scrutiny can shed much needed “light” on public policies that are crucial to supporting a dynamic, competitive American business environment.
Thirdly, Kaufman recommends resisting “rent-seeking” behavior in the public policy process. By rent-seeking activities, Kaufman identifies legislative “carve-outs”, exemptions, or other special privileges that create a competitive advantage for a single company or an industry. One Kaufman recommended remedy to countering rent-seeking activities is to bolster congressional capacity by increasing institutional staffing and salary.
However, regardless of Kaufman’s noble intentions, twenty-first century “political capitalism” is now approaching an apex level, moving beyond the obvious recognition that organized political behavior influences the American economic system, to where political and economic elites are now designing and controlling political institutions and establishing the rules for their own benefit. While increasing staffing and salaries may attract more and better quality individuals, it will have little substantive impact on the existing tide of rent-seeking behavior and “crony capitalism.” The ascendancy of the “political” marketplace shows little sign of abatement, short of institutional reform re-focusing “competition” back to the economic marketplace.
Lastly, Kaufman believes that innovation is more likely to occur in a competitive market environment where opportunities and resources for developing new products and earning profits exist. Kaufman argues that abusive litigation by patent holders in industries where intellectual property plays an important role in competition negatively impacts entrepreneurial firms’ efforts at incremental innovation of the original technology.
There is no question that an overly broad interpretations of patent property rights has increased patent infringement litigation in recent years. This enforcement activity by so-called non-practicing entities in an industry is not driven not by a business model of employing these acquired patents in an industrial process, but a litigation strategy of threatening patent infringement enforcement resulting in financial settlements with the alleged infringers, thus dampening entrepreneurial innovation of the foundational technology. Fortunately, the likely results of pro-innovation provisions in the America Invents Act, passed by Congress in 2011, show a recent decline in the volume of patent enforcement litigation cases initiated annually, especially in the information technology sector.
In summary, like many lists of policy recommendations, Kaufman’s has a mix of those worth immediately pursuing (occupational licensing reform and evaluating economic tax incentives for effectiveness), a non-starter – at least for now (addressing egregious rent-seeking behavior), or in the process of being legislatively addressed (IP abuses threatening entrepreneurial innovation).
Thomas A. Hemphill is a professor of strategy, innovation, and public policy at the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint and a policy advisor at The Heartland Institute.
Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt: Illinois Board of Education Adopts Common-Core-Aligned SAT Testing
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to Terry James Radio Show where Heartland Project Manager for Education joins the show to talk about the Illinois State Board of Education’s decision to drop PARCC testing for high school.
Jarratt explains why this decision to replace PARCC testing with SAT tests is really a step sideways instead of a step forward due to the fact that SAT is fully aligned to Common Core. He also discusses how mandating a single test creates an environment of teaching to the test instead of truly focusing on education and testing knowledge.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s pick for vice president, is a long-time friend and admirer of The Heartland Institute. He was kind enough to record a brief tribute to Heartland for our 25th Anniversary Benefit Dinner in 2009 when he was a member of Congress.
We are honored that he took the time to publicly share his praise for us. Video and transcript below.
“I’m Mike Pence. I’m a congressman from Indiana, and I’m honored to be able to join you all, at least by video, at the 25th Anniversary Benefit Dinner for The Heartland Institute – an organization I have admired and followed for years.
“The Heartland Institute is the very picture of American innovation. The institute’s rapid growth in size and stature is a testament to its founder, David Padden, now chairman emeritus, and his first employee, my friend, Joseph Bast, now the president. They played an integral part in building one of the most important voices in the national public policy debate.
“So, to Joseph Bast and to all who are gathered tonight: heart-felt congratulations to The Heartland Institute. Here’s to many more years of helping to guide this nation’s debate, and those of us who have the privilege of serving here in Washington, DC.”
As Americans hit the road during summer driving season, one thing that’s probably not on their minds is how the maintenance of those roads gets funded.
Over the past century, when consumers stopped to fill up at gas stations, they also filled up state and federal government highway funds through excise taxes, consumption taxes (which are included in the price of goods), and motor-fuel taxes. Now, as technological advancements and changing consumer habits work hand-in-hand to reduce the volume of motor fuel purchased, government infrastructure budgets have become increasingly strained, prompting lawmakers to increase tax rates.
Instead of trying to retain the status quo by increasing taxes on declining motor-fuel sales, now is the perfect time for legislators to experiment with fairer funding ideas — using common-sense, free-market principles as a guide to road-funding success.
Step one — or, rather, step zero — is to make sure road money is actually spent on roads. Currently, 15 percent of all federal gas tax revenue — about 3 cents for every gallon of gas purchased — is diverted away from funding road construction and toward subsidizing passenger trains and other forms of government-provided transportation. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to roughly $5.6 billion in inefficient spending.
After patching the leaks in the pipeline between the taxes consumers pay and the benefits consumers receive, the next step is to simplify the pipeline itself. Taxes are payments, and the people paying should be the ones using the things that are being paid for. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to today’s government highway funding laws. Gas taxes are paid by everyone who purchases gasoline — not by everyone who uses the government roads.
One, very direct way to uphold this user-benefit principle — a key free-market idea — is to get rid of excise taxes and replace it with a mileage-based user fee (MBUF). The number of miles an individual travels is much more directly connected to the miles of roads “consumed.”
With MBUFs, the fee can vary with the congestion rate of particular highways — just as the price of a good in a free market increases as demand spikes — without violating consumers’ privacy.
In Oregon, the state government has been test-driving such a program, alleviating potential privacy concerns by simply keeping track of how much is owed, rather than when or where people drive. Marc Scribner, a research fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that Oregon’s program proves privacy and user-fee funding are not mutually exclusive:
“An on-board computer … assigned miles driven to various categories: public roads or private property, in-state or out-of-state roads. That mileage was then tallied and processed by a trusted third party, without ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] receiving any location data. Fuel tax rebates based on mileage data were then applied and charges were assessed — again, without the government obtaining individualized location data.”
Oregon provides just one model. The current patchwork of local, state, and federal gas excise taxes is so inefficient and wasteful that almost any alternative funding framework lawmakers rally around would be superior.
The time for experimenting is now. Lawmakers should seize the opportunity by thinking outside the gas-tax box and devising more consumer-friendly and cost-effective ways to fund the government roads on which we drive.
Online retail giant Amazon established itself more firmly in the education technology market this week by introducing Amazon Inspire, an online resource that will offer teachers and students free instructional materials. Amazon Inspire is set to launch in the fall, just in time for the upcoming school year.
The debate over whether the use of technology in U.S. classrooms advances student achievement or hinders it is a persistent one. Tech supporters contend the virtual world offers nearly limitless opportunities for students to learn in ways the physical world can’t. Proponents of “old-fashioned” learning, on the other hand, say there are advantages to the traditional system that technology can never replace.
Amazon’s online platform sounds promising. It’s a way for fellow teachers to share lesson plans, learning tools, and materials, which will be helpful considering, as TechCrunch reports, “Amazon estimates that teachers spend around 12 hours a week looking for course materials.”
Is it just me, or does 12 hours seem like a lot of time? Teachers put in long hours as it is preparing for classes, creating assessments, grading assignments, and often helping with extra-curricular activities as well.
With such an abundance of classical literature and brilliant human thought to explore, you’d think “looking for course materials” would be the least of a teacher’s worries in the modern, tech-savvy world. Many teachers probably spend as much time searching for online materials and learning how to use ever-evolving technology as they do using it to teach. Research by Virgin Media Business, released in 2015, found only 15 percent of teachers are confident using technology, despite a large majority using technology in most of their lessons. How much time is spent training and retraining qualified teachers to use a computer to do their job for them?
And let’s not forget the time and money spent to install, upgrade, and repair these technological tools. School districts feel pressured to supply students with the flashiest, most state-of-the-art equipment, because the more money you spend on students, the more you care about them, right? Tech companies — which, according to the New York Times, receive “more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content” — approve of this logic. But last time I checked, the $6.85 Penguin paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice didn’t require a complete system reboot.
My sister Rebecca, a teacher in New Jersey, experiences what many fellow teachers complain of: technology distracting students. According to CampusTechnology, a study published in the Journal of Media Education earlier in 2016 found research shows “students spend a fifth of their time in class doing things on their devices that have nothing to do with their school work.”
My sister outlawed her students’ laptops, because, as surprising as it sounds, teenage girls tend to be more interested in online shopping, checking social media, and instant messaging each other on their tech devices than they are in declining Latin nouns on a blackboard. Imagine!
Teachers aren’t the only ones burdened by a tech-heavy classroom. Students aren’t learning as well as they used to. Many studies have found traditional methods of learning — with pen, paper, and textbook — improve students’ cognitive abilities.
Scientific American reported on a 2014 study that found students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” The authors of the study, which is titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” found because students who are taking notes by hand can’t possibly write down every word of a lecture, they “instead … listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.” Taking notes by hand, the article says, “forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. Students who type their notes can do so very quickly, without processing what the words mean.”
Many other studies have also found “old-school” methods of learning, such as writing things down by hand and drilling kids in math facts, are better for retaining knowledge, memorization, and developing motor skills.
The allure of technology in teaching children is understandable. Technology is entertaining. Like a video game, there are moving pictures, interesting sounds, and fun colors. It gets a kid’s attention, but what holds it? A 2012 Pew Research study found 87 percent of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers thought the Internet and digital search tools created an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”
Let’s also consider students’ abilities, or lack thereof, to look outside of a screen and be stirred with a healthy curiosity about humanity and the world around them. A well-rounded education should encourage inquisitive minds to use their brains rather than rely on a personal digital assistant to find answers. There will be times when the GPS won’t work, “autocorrect” won’t know how to spell a word, and nothing but good, old-fashioned problem-solving skills will do.
Technology in itself is not bad. It’s an exciting and valuable instrument that allows us to do amazing things. But when it comes to educating young people, it should be considered a supplementary tool used to enhance the learning experience and reinforce traditional teaching, not replace it.
In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, research fellow and managing editor Jesse Hathaway is joined by Scott Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University. Hathaway and Lincicome talk about how both major political parties used to believe in free-market trade, how both parties have been hijacked by cronyist anti-trade sentiment, and what conservatives can do to make American economic policy great again.
Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University, joins the show, explaining why politicians find promoting protectionism easier than promoting real free-trade solutions, and explains how believers in free-market principles can “flip the script” and make free-market principles popular again.
There is a moral case to be made for free trade and people should be talking about freer international trade helps everyday people, Lincicome says, instead of treating international trade deals as scoreboards and worrying about export-import imbalances. By worrying about numerical equality on the ledgers and not worrying about getting the government out of the way of voluntary transactions and exchanges, Lincicome says lawmakers have failed to fight fallacies about how free trade works—ultimately failing the people they serve.
The Republicans are at it again: trying to tweak a bad idea, make it “bipartisan,” and set a flawed system more firmly in concrete. What we really need is a Republican reform – one that can restore the republic, along with medicine.
Yes, Obamacare needs to be repealed – every last syllable. But that’s not all. To make America and American medicine great again, we need to remember what made it great in the first place. It was, to quote Dinesh D’Souza’s great insight in his book “Stealing America,” the “anti-theft” society. That’s what attracted people like him from all over the world, including India, to come here and become great Americans. They certainly did not risk everything to come to America and turn it into what they had left behind.
To put what we need to do into a few words: Stop the lying and the stealing. Simple. But far from easy. Once a country has become addicted to theft – redistribution of wealth – it’s hard to stop it. Almost everybody has something to lose, and the benefits are hard to see.
The benefits of stopping the plunder could include:
- An immediate 15 percent raise for all working people;
- A big increase in job opportunities;
- An enormous drop in the price of medical care (50 percent or more);
- Timely access to a doctor who is happy to see you and has plenty of time for you.
Does that sound worthwhile?
To get there, we have to get to the root of the problem: the tax code and Medicare. During World War II, wage and price controls made it hard to find workers, so companies started paying in tax-free medical benefits. More and more medical care was paid for through third parties (“insurance companies”). Then came Medicare – for the people who needed the most care – which paid through government and its private partners, such as Blue Cross, which administered the system. Prices doubled or tripled overnight.
My first proposal is to stop the Big Lie of the Social Security/Medicare system and abolish the payroll tax. There’s the 15 percent pay raise. The employer’s “contribution” has to come out of the worker’s earnings, too. Without the added expense of payroll taxes, more employers could hire more people.
The payroll tax is a first-dollar tax. No one can (legally) earn a dollar to buy milk for the baby or bus fare to get to work without paying 15 cents to Social Security/Medicare. And no, it is not a contribution to an individual’s retirement, even though it is represented as such. It is just a tax, as the U.S. Supreme Court determined long ago. The worker has no legal, contractual claim on any return at all. He’ll get whatever Congress allots when he reaches retirement age. Minorities with a shorter life expectancy will end up getting less. When the government runs out of revenue – pyramid schemes always run out of enough new subscribers – that’s just too bad.
The worker’s “contribution” is immediately spent – on other people’s retirement or medical care (some of them very rich). And also on the well-compensated army of white-collar employees who shuffle the money around. Probably half or less of the revenue that comes into Medicare is spent on medical goods and services.
But what would we do without Medicare, or other “insurance”? How could we afford care? Well, if you can’t afford to pay for something, how can you afford to pay two to three times as much by passing the money through a third party?
Some people seem to think that enrolling in insurance is like the scene in “Laurel and Hardy” where Stan, faced with the lunch bill, puts his last nickel in the slot machine and hits the jackpot. Yet people know that slot machines aren’t a magic money-multiplying machine.
Insurance is a way to voluntarily share unpredictable but catastrophic risks. It is not a way to get other people to unwillingly pay your bills. Neither Obamacare nor Medicare is really insurance. In fact, they outlaw true insurance for medical care and force most people into a beggar-thy-neighbor prepayment scheme.
Of course, we cannot suddenly cut off payments to older people who relied on politicians’ promises. But they will be hurt more than anyone else if we allow the American system to collapse.
Obamacare loots Medicare to help fund the scheme. Some Republican proposals would impose Medicare risk-adjustment methods on the whole economy – without admitting that the system is insolvent.
We need an Operation: Restoring Honesty. Major surgery, not a tummy tuck. It should start with Medicare.
Pokémon Go, a game app for smartphone users, has become a worldwide phenomenon just days after being released. Pokémon Go allows players to virtually capture “wild,” fictional Pokémon creatures that appear in the app’s map, which is based on real-world locations. Using a form of “augmented reality,” users are able to see these mythical animals roaming the world around them, which has led to people, both young and old, frantically running around town on virtual quests.
Pokémon Go provides a revolutionary gaming experience to users by freeing them from normal virtual constraints. If unencumbered by government regulations, education savings accounts (ESAs) could, similar to Pokémon Go, unbind education from the physical classroom, allowing limitless education augmentation. ESAs are the Pokémon Go of education.
Similar to the way Pokémon Go provides users with an unbound variety of Pokémon to search and catch, an ESA provides parents and students access to an unbound selection of interactive, exploratory, and individualized education opportunities. How players explore the outside for their desired Pokémon is how parents and children can seek education options, or education Pokémon, in brick-and-mortar institutions, virtual classrooms, field trips to interesting and out-of-the-box sites, specialized therapies, or anywhere their imaginations and needs take them.
Education savings accounts enable parents to pay for myriad education needs, such as math tutors, English tutors, foreign-language instructors, and special-needs therapies. Parents can power up their ESAs by choosing to save money each year. This is similar to powering up your Pokémon from collecting enough “stardust” or enough Pokémon to evolve them. The powered up ESA will allow children to seek and capture more individualized materials and experiences to meet their learning needs. It’s like being able to search and find Charmander, Squirtle, Jigglypuff, or any other Pokémon—whenever, wherever, and how often you desire, while still being able to power your current Pokémon.
Arizona has the longest running ESA program in the country. The program was initially limited to students with special needs but has since expanded to students in failing schools and to other exceptions. The parents with ESAs love the program because it allows parents to choose to pay for a single class or multiple classes in their local public school, a private school, a virtual school or purchase curriculum for self-study. Being assigned to one single school is like only being allowed to find Pikachu and not the other, more valuable, Pokémon. Florida and Mississippi are the only two other states with an active ESA program that is limited to special-need students, and Tennessee’s will begin in fall 2017. Nevada passed a near-universal ESA program with 93 percent of students in the state eligible. Nevada’s ESA program is currently being challenged in court by two different groups. Until the court rules, the program cannot start.
The Pokémon universe expands over time adding new creatures, new battles, new competitions, and new badge collections. ESA options are expanding in the same way with the addition of new classes, new school opportunities, specialty tutoring, and specialized therapies.
The new technology that now allows augmented reality on your cell phone will allow the creation of new education Pokémon we can’t even dream of today. Examples of what technology can do today are eye exams via a cell phone or medical devices like wireless blood pressure, portable EKG, otoscope, glucometer, portable ultrasound, brain scanner, and even a microscope that can plug into your iPhone.
The future possibilities are limitless as more parents are free to search and choose the education Pokémon their child wants and needs. Education does not have to be bound to a classroom or limited by a bureaucrat any longer. It certainly should not be bound by your zipcode. To quote Mewtwo, “I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” Go choose your education Pokémon.
In April 2015, Nevada implemented the nation’s first universal education savings account (ESA) program, which is designed to allow parents to use some or all of the funding that would go toward their child’s traditional public education on things such as private school tuition, textbooks, and tutoring.
In August, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Nevada over its ESA program, alleging it violates the state’s Blaine Amendment, a state constitutional ban against using public money for “sectarian purposes.” Blaine amendments, which exist in many states across the country, were borne out of anti-Catholic bigotry in the 1800s.
In May, Nevada District Judge Eric Johnson dismissed the lawsuit, ruling, “The state has no influence or control over how any parent makes his or her genuine and independent choice to spend his or her ESA funds.”
Johnson also wrote in his decision, “Parents, if they choose to use the ESA program, must expend the ESA funds for secular education goods and services, even if they choose to obtain those services from religion affiliated schools.”
The ACLU is now appealing the ruling. The organization’s legal director in Nevada, Amy Rose, said in a statement the purpose of the appeal is “to cease private religious schools’ ability to use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate and discriminate against students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and other grounds.”
Despite the ACLU’s mission statement, which claims to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” this most recent appeal exposes the organization’s true goal of destroying the liberty granted to parents and their children by the ESA law. The only thing the ACLU cares about defending and preserving here are entrenched, traditional government schools.
After all, as Joy Pullmann, a senior education research fellow for The Heartland Institute, points out, Johnson’s decision “is in line with long-standing nationwide precedent in various federal and state courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The Nevada State Education Association is also — not surprisingly — opposed to the ESA program, namely because it “siphons money away from public schools,” an assertion not based on reality. And never mind that earlier this year, Nevada ranked dead-last in the nation for education quality. Even if ESAs do deplete public schools of their funding (they actually raise per-pupil funding in public schools), what’s the point of funding a public institution that has proven incapable of fulfilling its purpose? More money will not solve Nevada’s education problem. Empowering 96 percent of Nevada students to be eligible for ESAs, however, will.
Medicare or Medicaid recipients are free to use their taxpayer-funded benefits at religiously affiliated hospitals, and there are countless other ways taxpayer money is spent to fund organizations with philosophical or religious affiliations — Planned Parenthood comes to mind. Yet, the ACLU does not protest.
There’s just something about public schools that serves as a catalyst for leftists to do everything they can to ensure freedom of choice is halted at any cost. Their insistence that traditional public schools should be considered sacred and funded extravagantly without any questions is bewildering at best. The ACLU should be happy Nevada’s ESA program gives parents the liberty to educate their children in a way they, togetherwith the government (program funds must be authorized), see fit.
Why is the ACLU opposed to parental choice, opposed to parents giving their children a better education, and opposed to freeing kids from a failing system and giving them the flexibility to escape a detrimental environment? Because the American Civil Liberties Union has nothing to do with liberty.
State AG actions reveal double standard for scientists who promote alarmist climate claims
This past March, seventeen attorneys general launched a coordinated effort to investigate, pursue and prosecute companies, think tanks and other organizations who say there is little credible evidence that human “greenhouse gas” emissions are causing “dangerous” or “catastrophic” manmade climate change.
The AGs said their targets’ actions constitute “fraud” – which they described as using “polished public relations campaigns” to “muddle the truth,” “discredit prevailing climate science,” and “mislead” people about threats from higher temperatures, rising seas, floods and more severe weather. Their real goal is to intimidate and silence targeted groups, and bankrupt them with legal fees, court costs and lost funding.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, CFACT, ExxonMobil and other “climate denier” organizations fought back vigorously, refusing to surrender their constitutional rights to participate in this vital public policy debate. The AGs’ bravado and prosecutions began fraying at the edges.
But one wonders: How will these intrepid protectors of the public interest respond to Real Climate Fraud? To intentional misrepresentations of material facts, with knowledge of their falsity, and for the purpose of inducing persons or institutions to act, with resulting injury or damage.
Will those AGs – or other state AGs, Congress, state legislatures or the Justice Department – investigate the growing list of highly questionable actions by scientists and others who receive billions in taxpayer and consumer funds for renewable energy programs and research into manmade climate cataclysm scares … to justify policies, laws and regulations that raise energy costs, destroy fossil fuel companies and jobs, force layoffs in other industries, and harm poor, minority and working class families?
Or will they respond the way FBI Director Comey did to Hillary Clinton’s reckless disregard for national security secrets: ignore the bad conduct, and reward transgressors with more money, prestige and power?
The case for widespread misconduct by members of the $1.5-trillion-per-year Climate Change & Renewable Energy Complex grows more compelling, and disturbing, by the day. A complete listing and analysis would require books, but these few examples underscore the seriousness of the global problem.
Crisis fabrication. After warming 1910-1940, cooling 1940-1975, warming 1975-1998, not budging 1998-2015, Earth warmed slightly 2015-2016 amid a strong El Niño. No category 3-5 hurricane has hit the United States for a record 10-1/2 years. Seas are rising at 7 inches per century. Arctic ice is near normal; Antarctic ice at a record high. There are more polar bears than ever.
But the White House, EPA, UN and media falsely claim we face an unprecedented crisis – and must quickly replace reliable, affordable hydrocarbons with expensive, subsidized, unreliable renewable energy, and let unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats control our lives, livelihoods and living standards. Any warming, any weather event, is our fault – the result of using fossil fuels to power our economy.
Data manipulation. When actual measurements don’t support climate chaos claims, dishonest scientists “homogenize” and manipulate them to create imaginary warming trends. Phil Jones, his British team and their US counterparts eliminated centuries of Little Ice Age cooling and created new records showing planetary temperatures suddenly spiking in recent decades. They used ClimateGate emails to devise devious schemes preventing outside analysts from examining their data, computer algorithms and methodologies – and then “lost” information that peer reviewers wanted to examine.
NOAA’s clever climate consortium adjusted accurate sea-surface temperature data from scientific ocean buoys upward by a quarter-degree, to “homogenize” them with records from engine intake systems contaminated by shipboard heat – thereby creating a previously undetected warming trend.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology revised Rutherglen weather station data to convert 100 years of data showing a slight cooling trend into a warming of several degrees per century. As with other “adjustments” (by NASA, for instance) the revisions always create warming trends – never a slight cooling – and climate crisis scientists always say humans caused the warming, even though they are unable to separate natural forces, cycles and fluctuations from alleged human influences.
GIGO computer models. Climate models assume post-1975 warming is due to manmade carbon dioxide; exaggerate climate sensitivity to CO2 levels; and simplify or ignore vital natural forces like solar energy variations, cosmic ray fluxes, heat-reflecting clouds, and recurrent phenomena like El Niño and La Niña. They conjure up “scenarios” that alarmists treat as valid predictions of what will happen if we don’t slash fossil fuel use. Models replace actual evidence, and play an important role in climate battles.
It’s complete GIGO: faulty assumptions, data, algorithms, analytical methodologies and other garbage in – predictive garbage out. That’s why “hockey stick” and other models are so out of touch with reality. In fact, an official IPCC graph showed that every UN climate model between 1990 and 2012 predicted that average global temperatures would be as much as 0.9 degrees C (1.6 F) higher than they actually were! The inconvenient graph was revised for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 report.
Report manipulation. Activists and bureaucrats always finalize the Summary for Policymakers, the only IPCC climate document that most voters, elected officials and journalists ever read. They want to ensure that already politicized climate “science” does not undermine or contradict political themes and agendas.
A 1995 State Department document reveals the extent of this interference and manipulation. The 30-page document gave detailed instructions as to how the Clinton White House wanted the summary’s scientific explanations and conclusions revised, to make alleged climate and weather trends even more worrisome. Donna Laframboise and others document the bias, distortion and deception that dominate IPCC actions.
Consensus fabrication. Claims of a 97% consensus on climate cataclysm science are likewise slippery, and based on bait-and-switch tactics that look only at study abstracts of studies and then misrepresent what the abstracts say, ask one question but base their conclusions on a different one, or use other strategies and misrepresentations to hide the disagreements and debates that still dominate this topic.
Cost-benefit falsification. The US Government has mastered this fraudulent tactic, especially in its “social cost of carbon” calculations. EPA and other agencies blame methane and carbon dioxide emissions for every conceivable impact on agriculture, forests, water resources, “forced migration” of people and wildlife, human health and disease, rising sea levels, flooded coastal cities, too much or too little rain. They totally ignore the way more CO2 makes plants grow faster and better, with less water.
They also ignore the enormous benefits of fossil fuels for 80% of all the energy we use to transport people and products, generate reliable, affordable electricity, and manufacture fertilizers, plastics and thousands of other products. And they ignore the ways anti-energy regulations raise hospital, factory and small business costs, kill jobs, and reduce living standards, health and welfare for millions of people.
Why would they do these things? The US federal government alone spent $11.6 billion on “green” energy and climate “research” and “mitigation” programs in 2014. That money did not go to scientists who question “dangerous manmade climate change” doctrines.
Recipients and their parent institutions are determined to preserve this funding, protect their reputations and prestige, and maintain their influence and control over policies, laws, regulations, and wind, solar and biofuel mandates and subsidies. It is all inextricably tied to silencing inconvenient questions and, if needs be, engaging in systemic, systematic exaggeration, falsification and misrepresentation. And then they claim these Orwellian tactics are Best Practice standards, essential for quality control in climate science!
So, AGs, by all means let’s investigate. But let’s not criminalize differences of opinion. Let’s root out actual fraud, let real science prevail, and protect our livelihoods and living standards from unscrupulous people and organizations that are using fraudulent climate chaos claims to control energy use, transform the US and global economic systems, and redistribute the world’s wealth.
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.
For almost thirty years, I have taught climate science at three different universities. What I have observed is that students are increasingly being fed climate change advocacy as a surrogate for becoming climate science literate. This makes them easy targets for the climate alarmism that pervades America today.
Earth’s climate probably is the most complicated non-living system one can study because it naturally is an integration of chemistry, physics, biology, geology, hydrology, oceanography, and cryology and also includes human behavior by responding to and affecting human activities. Current concerns over climate change have further pushed climate science to the forefront of scientific inquiry.
What should we be teaching college students about it?
At the very least, a student should be able to identify and describe the basic processes that cause the climate of the Earth to vary from Pole to Equator, from the coast to the center of the continent, and from the Dead Sea Depression to the top of Mount Everest. A still more literate student would understand how the oceans, the biosphere, the cryosphere, the atmosphere, and the hydrosphere all integrate to produce our very complicated climate.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s definition of climate science literacy raises the question of whether climatology is even a science. It defines climate science literacy as “an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society.”
How can students understand and put into perspective their influence on the Earth’s climate if they don’t understand the myriad of processes that affect our climate—or understand the complexity of climate itself? And if they don’t understand these processes, how can they possibly comprehend how climate influences them and society in general?
Worse still, many of our colleges are working against scientific literacy for students.
At the University of Delaware, the Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) defines the distinction between weather and climate by stating that “climate is measured over hundreds or thousands of years” and defines climate as “average weather.” That presupposes that climate is static, or should be, and that climate change is unordinary in our lifetime and, by implication, undesirable.
Climate, however, is not static but highly variable on timescales from years to millennia—for reasons that include, but are not limited to, human activity.
This program identifies rising concentrations of greenhouse gases—most notably carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide—as the only reason why temperatures have risen about 2°C over the last decade and will supposedly continue to rise over the next century. Students are then instructed to save energy, calculate their carbon footprint, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Mastering these concepts leads to “climate science literacy.”
In the past, I have been invited to speak at three different universities during their semester-long and college-wide focus on climate science literacy. At all three, two movies were required viewing by all students to assist them in becoming climate science literate: Al Gore’s biased version of climate science, An Inconvenient Truth, and the 2004 climate science fiction disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow.
This past spring, the University of Delaware sponsored an Environmental Film Festival featuring six films. Among them only An Inconvenient Truth touched at all on the subject of climate science, albeit in such a highly flawed way that in Britain, students must be warned about its bias. The other films were activist-oriented and included movies that are admittedly science fiction or focused on “climate change solutions.”
For these films, faculty members were selected to moderate discussions. Scientifically based faculty could have been chosen from the university’s College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment. Instead, the discussion of An Inconvenient Truth was led by a professor of philosophy and one movie—a documentary on climate change solutions that argues solutions are pertinent irrespective of the science—was moderated by a civil engineer.
Discussion of the remaining four films was led by professors of history, English, and journalism. Clearly, there was little interest in the substance of climate science.
Many fundamentals of climate science are absent from university efforts at promoting climate science literacy. For example, students seldom learn that the most important chemical compound with respect to the Earth’s climate is not carbon dioxide, but water. Water influences almost every aspect of the Earth’s energy balance because it is so prevalent but also because it appears in solid, liquid, and gas form in substantial quantities and energy is transferred by the mobility of water and when it changes state. Since precipitation varies considerably from year-to-year, changes in water availability substantially affect our climate every year.
Hearing about water, however, doesn’t set off alarms like carbon dioxide does.
Contributing to the increased focus on climate change advocacy is the pressure placed on faculty members who do not sign on to the advocacy bandwagon. The University of Delaware has played the role of activist and used FOIA requests to attempt to intimidate me because I have spoken out about climate change alarmism. In my article published in Academic Questions,“The University vs. Academic Freedom,” I discussed my university’s willingness to go along with Greenpeace in its quest for documents and emails pertaining to my research.
Much grant money and fame is to be had for those who follow the environmental advocates’ game plan. Conversely, the penalty for not going along with the alarmist position is quite severe.
For example, one of the films shown at the University of Delaware’s film festival presents those who disagree with climate change extremism as mere pundits for hire who misrepresent themselves as a scientific authority. Young faculty members were thereby sent a pointed message: Adopt the advocacy position or you jeopardize your career.
Making matters worse, consider Senate Bill 3074, which was introduced into the U.S. Senate on June 16 of this year. It authorizes the establishment of a national climate change education program. Once again, the emphasis lies on teaching advocacy rather than teaching science and increasing scientific knowledge and comprehension.
The director of the National Center for Science Education commented that the bill was designed to “[equip] students with the knowledge and knowhow required for them to flourish in a warming world.” Unfortunately, it will do little to educate them regarding climate science.
I fear that our education of climate science has been co-opted to satisfy the climate change fearmongering agenda that pervades our society today. Instead of teaching the science behind the Earth’s climate, advocates have taken the initiative to convert it to a social agenda of environmental activism.
Climatology, unfortunately, has been transformed into a social science. While there is nothing wrong with the social sciences, the flaws underpinning climate science advocacy are masked by the ‘concern for the environment’ when climate is no longer treated as a physical science.
Climate science must return to being a real science and not simply a vehicle to promote advocacy talking points. When that happens, students will find that scientific facts are the real “inconvenient truth.”
Heartland Daily Podcast – Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH): Radical Environmentalists Preventing Solutions to Zika
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH) – chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, joins managing editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the Zika virus and potential solutions to dealing with this issue.
Representative Gibbs has been pushing legislation lately that would allow spraying to kill mosquitoes potentially carrying the Zika virus, as well as other tropical diseases. You would think this bill would be a slam dunk, but this is not the case. Radical environmentalists have opposed this life saving bill due to false fears raised about water pollution.