As a new year begins, it is easy to consider that the prospects for freedom in America and in many other parts of the world to seem dim. After all, government continues to grow bigger and more intrusive, along with tax burdens that siphon off vast amounts of private wealth.
Extrapolating these trends out for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the chances for winning liberty are highly unlikely. There is only one problem with this pessimistic forecast: the future is unpredictable and apparent trends do change.
Many years ago the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper pointed out, “If there is such a thing as growing human knowledge, then we cannot anticipate today what we shall only know tomorrow.” What does this mean?
When I was in high school in the 1960s, I came across an issue of Popular Science magazine published in the early 1950s that was devoted to predicting what life would be like for the average American family in the 1970s. It had a picture of a wife and child standing on an apartment building roof waving good-bye to dad as he went off to work—in his one-seat mini-helicopter!
As best as I can recall, the authors talked about such things as color televisions, various new household appliances, robots that would do much of our household work, and the use of jet planes for commercial travel. What was not mentioned, however, was the personal computer or the revolution in communication, knowledge, and work that it has brought about. When that issue of Popular Science was published, one essential element of the computer revolution had not yet been invented: the microchip.
We Cannot Predict Tomorrow’s Knowledge Today
Those authors could not imagine a worldwide technological revolution before the component that made it all possible was created by man. Our inescapably imperfect knowledge means we can never predict our own future. If we could predict tomorrow’s knowledge and its potentials, then we would already know everything today—and we would know we knew it!
This applies to social, political, and economic trends as well. Most people in 1900 expected the twentieth century to be an epoch of growing international peace and harmony. In 1911, the British free trader and peace advocate, Norman Angell (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933), argued in The Great Illusion that war had become so costly in terms of financial expense and wasteful destruction that it would be irrational for the “Great Powers” of Europe or America to be drawn down that path any longer.
But, instead, in 1914, there began the First World War, that went on for four years, took the lives of at least 20 million soldiers, and cost (in 2014 dollars) over $3 trillion. And the relatively classical liberal and free market world that prevailed before the “Great War,” was shattered.
The twentieth century, as a whole, was the bloodiest and most destructive in modern history due to the rise of political and economic collectivism, in the forms of socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism and the interventionist-welfare state. The conflicts that collectivism brought in its wake have cost possibly 250 million lives over the last one hundred years. No one anticipated this turn of events in 1900.
The Unpredictability of Future Political-Economic Trends
When I was an undergraduate in the late 1960s the book assigned in my first economics class was the seventh edition of Paul Samuelson’s Economics (1967), the leading Keynesian-oriented textbook at the time.
There was a graph that tracked U.S. and Soviet Gross National Product (GNP) from 1945 to 1965. Samuelson then projected American and Soviet GNP through the rest of the century. He anticipated that possibly by the early 1980s, but certainly by 2000, Soviet GNP would be equal to or even greater than that of the United States. Notice his implicit prediction that there would be a Soviet Union in 2000, which in fact disappeared from the map of the world in December 1991.
Which of us really expected to see the end of the U.S.S.R. in our lifetimes, without either a nuclear cataclysm or a devastating and bloody civil war? In the mid-1980s the often perceptive French social critic Jean-François Revel published How Democracies Perish, in which he expressed his fear that the loss of moral and ideological commitment to freedom by intellectuals and many other people in the West meant that the global triumph of communism under Soviet leadership was a strong possibility. Instead it was Soviet communism that disappeared from the map of the globe.
Who in January 1990 anticipated that Saddam Hussein would invade Kuwait in August of that year, setting in motion a chain of events that resulted in two American invasions and a ten-year occupation of Iraq?
Who in 2000 would have anticipated that Bill Clinton’s eight years in office would seem, in retrospect, an era of restrained government compared to the explosion in government spending and intervention during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations?
Historical Chronology Does Not Mean Future Causality
And who today knows what the whole twenty-first century holds for us? Let me suggest that the answer is: nobody.
As the late Robert Nisbet, one of America’s great social thinkers, once pointed out, “How easy it is, as we look back over the past – that is, of course, the ‘past’ that has been selected for us by historians and social scientists – to see in it trends and tendencies that appear to possess the iron necessity and clear directionality of growth in a plant or organism . . . But the relation between the past, present, and future is chronological, not causal.”
The decades of relative global peace and market-based prosperity that preceded 1914 did not mean that war and destruction were impossible for the rest of the twentieth century. The ascendancy of Soviet communism, Italian fascism, and German Nazism in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s did not mean that freedom and democracy had reached their end, though the books and articles of some of the most insightful advocates of individual liberty and limited government in the years between the two World Wars carried the despair and fear that totalitarianism was the inescapable wave of the future.
The persistent and current growth in government intervention and the welfare state does not mean that a return to the classical-liberal ideas of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government is a pipe dream of the past.
Human Events are the Result of Human Action
Human events are the result of human action. Our actions are an outgrowth of our ideas and our will and willingness to try to implement them. The stranglehold of Big Government will persist only for as long as we allow it, for as long as we accept the arguments of our ideological opponents that the interventionist welfare state is “inevitable” and “irreversible.”
That is, the present trend will continue only for as long as we accept that the chronologically observed increase in government power over the last decades is somehow causally determined and inescapable in the stream of human affairs.
This could have been equally said about human slavery. Few institutions were so imbedded in the human circumstance throughout recorded history as the ownership of some men by others. Surely it was a pipe dream to suggest that all men should be free and equal before the law.
Yet in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a new political ideal was born – that declared that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable individual rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property, which no other mortals could take away. So slavery, which Aristotle considered to be the natural condition of some men, was brought to an end before the close of the nineteenth century through the power of ideas and human purpose.
In the 1700s, mercantilism – the eighteenth-century version of central planning – was considered both necessary and desirable for national prosperity. Even Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations (1776), believed that its hold over men’s minds and actions was too powerful to ever permit the triumph of free trade. Yet in one lifetime following Adam Smith’s death in 1790, freedom of trade and enterprise was established in Great Britain and the United States, and then slowly but surely through much of the rest of the world.
This was all made possible because of the rise and partial triumph of a political philosophy of individual rights that argued for the banishment of violence and oppression in the relationships among men.
Liberty’s Winning Ideas are Out There
We cannot imagine, today, how freedom will successfully prevail over our current paternalistic governments, any more than many people could imagine in 1940 a world without German Nazism and Soviet communism, or FDR’s New Deal. But that does not mean it’s impossible.
Precisely because the future is unknown, we may be confident that trends can and will change, just as they have in the past. We cannot fully know today what arguments friends of freedom will imagine and successfully articulate tomorrow to end government control of our lives. But those arguments are out there, waiting to be better formulated and presented, just as earlier friends of freedom succeeded in making the cases against slavery and mercantilism.
In 1951, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out, “Now trends of [social] evolution can change, and hitherto they almost always have changed. But they changed only because they met firm opposition. The prevailing trend toward what Hilaire Belloc called the servile state will certainly not be reversed if nobody has the courage to attack its underlying dogmas.”
There is one thing, therefore, that we can predict: patience, persistence, and belief in the power of ideas and a well articulated defense of individual rights and free markets will provide the best chance we have to achieve the free society many of us so much desire.
[Originally published at EpicTimes]
Not content with regulating our toilets and light bulbs, the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission has decided to ban inexpensive outdoor and indoor Christmas lights and decorations.
In October, with little fanfare, the CPSC proposed new regulations to outlaw strings of bulbs, lighted lawn figures and similar items based on wire sizes, fuses, and tensile strength.
Only the most expensive decorations would meet the new standards with the ones within the price range of the middle class and poor being declared hazardous. Wave goodbye to lawn Santa’s, Rudolph, stars topping the trees, and even lights on the tree or house. The agency estimates that their proposed regulations will impact 100 million items per year with a market value of $500 million.
Each of these items are thoroughly tested and regulated by internal industry standards regulations set by the CPSC that has already been responsible for the recall of 3.6-million unsafe lights since 1974.
To justify the stricter regulations, regulations that treat the middle class and poor as if they were to incompetent to make their own decisions, the CPSC cites 250 deaths from fires or electrocutions by Christmas lights. That’s not 250 deaths per year however, it’s 250 deaths since 1980 (33 years) or 7.5 deaths a year. If that was that is the new standard for consumer products, wave goodbye to your pool and tub, baseball bats, stoves, cars, wash buckets and any other goods in common use since they all of them produce more deaths than that.
There seems to be no end to the nanny state’s meddling in peoples’ joy. The comment period ends December 30. Call humbug before then and hope the CPSC comes to its senses or future Christmas’s will be a lot less bright.
Paul Driessen Co-authored this article with Chris Skates.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio host Diane Rehm, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company “has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.”
While he didn’t vilify us by name, Mr. Schmidt was certainly targeting us, the climate scientists who collect and summarize thousands of articles for the NIPCC’s Climate Change Reconsidered reports, the hundreds who participate in Heartland Institute climate conferences, and the 31,487 US scientists who have signed theOregon Petition, attesting that there is no convincing scientific evidence that humans are causing catastrophic warming or climate disruption.
All of us are firm skeptics of claims that humans are causing catastrophic global warming and climate change. We are not climate change “deniers.” We know Earth’s climate and weather are constantly in flux, undergoing recurrent fluctuations that range from flood and drought cycles to periods of low or intense hurricane and tornado activity, to the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD) and Little Ice Age (1350-1850) – and even to Pleistocene glaciers that repeatedly buried continents under a mile of ice.
What we deny is the notion that humans can prevent these fluctuations, by ending fossil fuel use and emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide, which plays only an insignificant role in climate change.
The real deniers are people who think our climate was and should remain static and unchanging, such as 1900-1970, supposedly – during which time Earth actually warmed and then cooled, endured the Dust Bowl, and experienced periods of devastating hurricanes and tornadoes.
The real deniers refuse to recognize that natural forces dictate weather and climate events. They deny that computer model predictions are completely at odds with real world events, that there has been no warming since 1995, and that several recent winters have been among the coldest in centuries in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, despite steadily rising CO2 levels. They refuse to acknowledge that, as of December 25, it’s been 3,347 days since a Category 3-5 hurricane hit the US mainland; this is by far the longest such stretch since record-keeping began in 1900, if not since the American Civil War.
Worst of all, they deny that their “solutions” hurt our children and grandchildren, by driving up energy prices, threatening electricity reliability, thwarting job creation, and limiting economic growth in poor nations to what can be sustained via expensive wind, solar, biofuel and geothermal energy. Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.” From our perspective, perpetuating poverty, misery, disease and premature death in poor African and Asian countries – in the name or preventing climate change – is evil.
It is truly disturbing that Mr. Schmidt could make a statement so thoroughly flawed in its basic premise. He runs a multi-billion dollar company that uses vast quantities of electricity to disseminate information throughout the world. Perhaps he should speak out on issues he actually understands. Perhaps he would be willing to debate us or Roy Spencer, David Legates, Pat Michaels and other climate experts.
Setting aside the irrational loyalty of alarmists like Schmidt to a failed “dangerous manmade climate change” hypothesis, equally disturbing is the money wasted because of it. Consider an article written for the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers’ summit website by Google engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork, who worked on Google’s “RE<C” renewable energy initiative.
Beginning in 2007, they say, “Google committed significant resources to tackle the world’s climate and energy problems. A few of these efforts proved very successful: Google deployed some of the most energy efficient data centers in the world, purchased large amounts of renewable energy, and offset what remained of its carbon footprint.”
It’s wonderful that Google improved the energy efficiency of its power-hungry data centers. But the project spent countless dollars and man hours. To what other actual benefits? To address precisely what climate and energy problems? And how exactly did Google offset its carbon footprint? By buying “carbon credits” from outfits like the New Forests Company, which drove impoverished Ugandan villagers out of their homes, set fire to their houses and burned a young boy to death?
What if, as skeptics like us posit and actual evidence reflects, man-made climate change is not in fact occurring? That would mean there is no threat to humans or our planet, and lowering Google’s CO2 footprint would bring no benefits. In fact, it would keep poor nations poverty stricken and deprived of modern technologies – and thus unable to adapt to climate change. Imagine what Google could have accomplished if its resources had been channeled to solving actual problems with actual solutions!
In 2011, the company decided its RE<C project would not meet its goals. Google shut it down. In their article, Koningstein and Fork admit that the real result of all of their costly research was to reach the following conclusion: “green energy is simply not economically, viable and resources that we as a society waste in trying to make it so would be better used to improve the efficiencies in established energy technologies like coal.”
Skeptics like us reached that conclusion long ago. It is the primary reason for our impassioned pleas that that the United States and other developed nations stop making energy policy decisions based on the flawed climate change hypothesis. However, the article’s most breathtaking statement was this:
“Climate scientists have definitively shown that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a looming danger…. A 2008 paper by James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies… showed the true gravity of the situation. In it, Hansen set out to determine what level of atmospheric CO2 society should aim for ‘if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.’ His climate models showed that exceeding 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere would likely have catastrophic effects. We’ve already blown past that limit. Right now, environmental monitoring shows concentrations around 400 ppm.…”
We would never presume to question the sincerity, intellect, dedication or talent of these two authors. However, this statement presents a stunning failure in applying Aristotelian logic. Even a quick reading would make the following logical conclusions instantly obvious:
- Hansen theorized that 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2 would have catastrophic results.
- CO2 did indeed reach this level, and then exceeded it by a significant amount.
- There were noconsequences, much less catastrophic results, as our earlier points make clear.
- Therefore, real-world evidence clearly demonstrates that Hansen’s hypothesis is wrong.
This kind of reasoning (the scientific method) has served progress and civilization well since the Seventeenth Century. But the Google team has failed to apply it; instead it repeats the “slash fossil fuel use or Earth and humanity are doomed” tautology, without regard for logic or facts – while questioning CAGW skepticsintelligence, character and ethics. Such an approach would be disastrous in business.
We enthusiastically support Eric Schmidt’s admonition that our nation base its policy decisions on facts, even when those facts do not support an apocalyptic environmental worldview. We also support President Obama’s advice that people should not “engage in self-censorship,” because of bullying or “because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”
In fact, we will keep speaking out, regardless of what Messsrs. Schmidt, Hansen and Obama might say.
Reminiscent of the late Rodney Dangerfield’s lament, America’s network of school buses get “no respect.” The thousands “yellow buses” are buried without a mention in the most important tables of the US Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Statistics. Neither the terms “school” nor “school bus” appear in tables summarizing the number of vehicles (Table 1-11), vehicle travel (Table 1-35), passenger travel (Table 1-40) and others. At the same time, there is far more complete information on virtually every other transportation mode.
School Buses: A Large Transportation System
This would not be surprising if the school bus system was small or insignificant. It is anything but. This point was made in a National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) white paper:
“School bus carriers operate the largest mass transportation fleet in the country. Each day, 480,000 yellow school buses travel the nation’s roads. Compare that to transit, with 140,000 total vehicles, 96,000 of which are buses; to the motor coach industry, with 35,000 buses; to commercial airlines, with 7,400 airplanes; and to rail, with 1,200 passenger cars. In fact, our school bus fleet is 2.5 times the size of all other forms of mass transportation combined.”
By at least that measure, the school bus system is the largest mass transportation system in the nation.
Comparing School Bus and Transit
The NAPT white paper (above) indicates that there are many more school buses than transit vehicles. School buses compare favorably to transit in other measures as well.
According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC), school buses transported an average of 26 million elementary and secondary students daily in 2010 (see the ASBC summary of environmental benefits). This is 52 million one way trips. Approximately 55 percent of the nation’s enrollment travels to and from school on school buses.
By comparison, our analysis of Federal Transit Administration data for 2010 indicates that all transit services (subway, commuter rail, light rail, bus, paratransit, etc.) carried approximately 25 million one-way trips on the average weekday in 2010 (adjusted to eliminate transfers between vehicles on the same passenger trip, using an American Public Transportation Association estimate). On school days, it turns out that school buses carry more than twice as many passengers as transit passengers (Figure 1).
ASBC estimates the average one-way school bus trip at five miles. This means that every day, pupils travel approximately 260 million miles. The school bus advantage over transit is somewhat less in passenger miles than passengers, because transit trips are longer. School bus passengers travel approximately 50 percent more miles than transit weekday passengers travel (approximately 170 million miles).
The annual differences in school bus and transit use are much less. This is because school bus service is provided only an average of 180 days annually, approximately one-half the 365 days that transit service operates. Based on the American School Bus Council estimate, the annual number of one-way school bus trips by students is estimated at 9.4 billion in 2010. By comparison, annual transit passenger journeys (excluding transfers) were an estimated at under eight billion in 2010.
Transit, however, carries passengers farther than school buses each year. With its 365 day per year operation, transit carried 52 billion transit passenger miles in 2010, approximately 10 percent more than the 47 billion passenger miles traveled on school buses.
School Bus Data
Without a centralized digital data collection system, there is no readily available school bus data below the state level. Thus, unlike transit (with its National Transit Database), development of school bus information on a metropolitan area level would be time consuming and expensive and is not regularly done. Industry publications, such as School Bus Fleet and School Transportation Newsprovide detailed information but only at the state level.
State and Local School Bus Ridership
School bus services are provided nearly everywhere in the United States, in both urban and rural areas. Most school bus service is provided by local school authorities (school districts). According to NAPT, about two-thirds of the service is provided directly by school transportation departments, while the other one-third is provided by private contractors (“outsourced”).
Based on information in School Bus Fleet, all the top 10 states have school bus ridership of more than 1,000,000 one-way pupils every school day. New York has the highest ridership, at nearly 4,000,000. Texas has more than 3,000,000 daily riders, followed by Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia and Florida, all with more than 2 million daily riders (Figure 2).
The school districts with the highest pupil ridership are concentrated in the Northeast and South, which include nine of the 10 most patronized systems. The strong southern representation is largely due to the county level school districts, which are larger than the more local school districts typical in the rest of the nation.
Based on School Bus Fleet data, the New York City school district carries more passengers than any other, with nearly 310,000 daily trips. Fairfax County (Virginia), Gwinnett County (Georgia), Charlotte Mecklenburg (North Carolina), Clark County (Nevada) and Montgomery County (Maryland) also carry more than 200,000 daily passengers (Figure 3).
The Largest Transit System
With the national school bus fleet nearing 500,000 vehicles, the state of New York has the largest number, at nearly 45,000, according to School Bus Fleet. Texas ranks second with 40,000 school buses, while Illinois, California and Pennsylvania have between 20,000 and 30,000 buses. The combination of just a few states can exceed the national total of transit buses (60,000).
On any given school day, school buses are the largest transit system in the nation.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.
The Heritage Foundation Luncheon on Friday, December 12 spear headed Jim DeMint, President of The Heritage Foundation, as Master of Ceremonies. Prior to the luncheon a panel discussion had taken place during which time DeMint and Michael Needham, Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, discussed “A Bold Agenda for a Better America, Taking on the 114th Congress.” See Part 1 for write up.
John Stossel, Fox Business Network Host and Commentator, gave the keynote luncheon address. Prior to Stossel’s remarks, Governor-elect Rauner offered some special remarks of his own. Introduced by Illinois native Steven Moore, Rauner was described by Moore as not a criminal, as knowing economics, as not being owned by any one, and believing that Chicago could be a great city and the next Hong Kong if he succeeds.
Bruce Rauner spoke about restoring the American dream for Illinoisans. Said Rauner: “It’s not how much we spend, but how and why we are spending the money we do.” Rauner intends to take on the core elements of the spending process to eliminate waste and fraud. In speaking about his agenda, Rauner expressed high aspirations. Rauner’s agenda items include: 1) Ethics reform; 2) substantial tax reform; and 3) school choice. Noted by Rauner was that for years Illinoisans had elected individuals based on promises, only to discover later on that many had turned out to be unprincipled and even corrupt For success to happen Rauner needs a big team effort. An invitation was extended to attend Rauner’s inauguration in Springfield on January 12, 2015.
President Jim DeMint introduced John Stossel. DeMint, in explaining why John Stossel had been chosen to speak at The Chicago Heritage Foundation event, noted: Stossel is despised by Democrats who are suspicious of free market and capitalism, and not particularly popular with conservatives because he believes in personal freedom, but as an advocate of the Free Market System, Stossel is in step with The Heritage Foundation. Having started his career in viewing the marketplace as a cruel place where you need intervention by government and lawyers to protect people, after watching regulators work Stossel came to the realization that the free market provides the protectors of the consumer.
Agile and looking younger than his chronological age of 67, John Stossel bounded onto the stage, and positioning himself behind the podium, he quipped, unapologetic for being a Libertarian: “Born and raised in Illinois, I escaped Illinois, but you didn’t.” Born in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Stossel is a graduate of New Trier High School. Although a stutterer early in life, Stossel over time conquered this speech problem which could have derailed his career.
John Stossel spoke of being trained as a liberal consumer reporter. Believing rules were needed because life was complex, Stossel whole heartedly endorsed regulations, only to watch them fail. As to the The Department of Consumer Affairs, Stossel spoke about licensing requirement for repair shops. Licensing, however, didn’t protect customers. 30 years later repair shops, despite being licensed, were still fooling consumers and not giving consumers what they were promised to expect.
Stossel believes in invisible spontaneous order to help people organize their lives. Simply put, spontaneous order is what happens when you leave people alone, when entrepreneurs see the desires of people and then provide for them. Admittedly, many Americans believe central planning works best. To illustrate why competition works (free market) much better than government, and how it is better and more productive than relying on a handful of elites in some distant bureaucracy, Stossel spoke of communist-era automobile disasters. The East German Trabant, with its sputtering two-stroke engine and resinated paper-mache bodywork, barely deserved the devotion lavished on it by that country’s frustrated car-lovers, yet it was the best car a planned economy could produce and mediocre at best! Consider also the Yugo built in Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia, which earned the reputation of being the worst car in history.
And what about OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association), the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation. OSHA would make people safe. Trumpeted was how fatalities had dropped since the beginning of OSHA? “Not so,” said Stossel. Free people will make the adjustments needed when an accident happens, treating accidents as free market problems without government interference.
Consider also the “War of Poverty.” Poverty was decreasing even before the War on Poverty began. The programs established to decrease poverty only encouraged and taught people to be dependent and remain in poverty. And what about wars fought in other countries to protect this nation? In prior generations government would shrink after wars ended, but not anymore.
Stossel, in looking back over the years and the many issues he confronted as a consumer reporter, expressed embarrassment that it took him 15 years before he really woke up to the fact that almost everything government attempts to do makes it worse. As Stossel tells it: His work as a correspondent for 20/20 and a consumer reporter for “Good Morning America” stems back to 1981. Stossel was named co-anchor of 20/20 in May of 2003, where eight to 10 million people watched his program weekly. Stossel’s discovery ofReason while co-anchoring 20/20 — a libertarian monthly print magazine covering politics, culture, and ideas — was cited by Stossel as the impetus that channeled his movement toward embracing Libertarian beliefs. In October of 2009 Stossel left his long-time employment at ABC News to join the Fox Business Channel and Fox News Channel. He presently hosts a weekly news show on Fox Business and regularly provides analysis on various Fox News programs, including a weekly appearance on The O’Reilly Factor. Additionally, Stossel writes a Fox News Blog, “John Stossel’s Take,” and has been a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist since February of 2011. His article appear in online publications such as Newsmax, Reason, and Townhall. To Stossel’s credit, he has received 19 Emmy Awards and has been honored five times for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club.
John Stossel, as a believer in the free market system, is reaching out to high school and college students through his DVDs. His new Economics DVD, published this year, “The Power of Markets vs the failure of Regulation,” uses segments from recent shows to compare and contrast resource allocation based on market decisions with the actual effects of allocation caused by government regulation of the market. His first DVD, published in 2011 is titled “Making Economics Come Alive” with John Stossel. Both of the Economics DVDs are designed for high school and college students and sell for $19.95. Both can be ordered for a special price of $29.95.
In working with high school students, Stossel asks this question: There are 7 billion people in the world. 2 billion of them live on a buck or two a day. Why do we do well and others live in poverty? Responses from students: 1) Because we are a democracy, 2) Because we have lots of resources, and 3) Because of over population.
Stossel then inquires students to think about India noting, “While India is overpopulated, so is New Jersey. What about Hong Kong? It isn’t a democracy, and it has no natural resources, yet in 50 years it went from the third worst city to the first in the world. Why? Because Hong Kong honors a rule of law that dictates not to kill or steal from each other. Hong Kong also has economic freedom. It is free people left alone that made Hong Kong rich.”
In Hong Kong it’s possible to open a business in only one day. In India it would take a year to do so. Stossel then related about trying to open a lemonade stand in NYC. He gave up after 60 days. There is a teachable moral: If and when fewer people are unable to open businesses because of imposed restrictions and rules, more people will remain poor.
In closing, Stossel indicated there were two ways to do business: by force or voluntary. But for business to flourish both parties must win. It is economic freedom that brings prosperity. Big government makes us poor and makes us less (we become smaller). On a positive note Stossel added this thought: “Despite all the controls, this nation has continued to proper and grow despite government restrictions.”
The Question and Answer session offered several comments worth noting .
- How can big government be trusted when government can’t even count votes correctly?
- Stossel’s defined the EPA as standing for ENOUGH PROTECTION ALREADY.
- The first thing Stossel would like to see Rauner do is for Rauner to embarrass the stranglehold control of unions.
Stossel has written three books. His most recent book, “No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails – But individuals Succeed”, was published on April 10, 2012. Read here a review of the book. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com. Stossel’s first book, “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media”, published in 2005, is an autobiography that documents Stossel’s career and philosophical transition from liberalism to libertarianism.
DeMint’s closing remarks looked ahead to 2016. Of importance: 1) to preserve those things we know work, 2) to recognize the importance of informed and engaged citizens, 3) to look back at programs that lifted people out of poverty, and 4) to create an environment so people with wrong ideas will do the right things
[Originally published at Illinois Review]
We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines—fail to pay a ticket on time, and you may find a warrant out for your arrest. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can apparently miss deadlines with impunity.
For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the statutory deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s motor fuels.
In November 2013, the EPA attempted to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels, which by then came months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA surprised and pleased RFS opponents when it utilized its authority by taking market conditions into consideration to adjust levels. The agency set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013’s, even though the law requires increasing amounts. Ethanol producers, expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
Then, on November 21, the EPA announced it would make a decision next year on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline this year. Yet, if refiners don’t meet the unknown requirement, they get fined. That’s akin to handing out the class syllabus after the students have failed the final exam.
With the goal of reducing foreign oil imports, Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007—which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption. No doubt Congress believed it was saving American consumers from their addiction to oil.
Then the world changed. The U.S. economy plunged into a terrible recession, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply. Meanwhile, advanced drilling technologies, including the long-used hydraulic fracturing and newer horizontal drilling, began producing oil and natural gas from U.S. shale formations—previously uneconomic to develop—leading to America’s 21st-century energy boom.
Today the U.S. stands as the world’s largest natural-gas producer, projected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number-one oil producer. With crude-oil supplies flooding the market, prices have been cut in half. Although fears over foreign-oil dependence have abated, the U.S. remains stuck with an outdated, unworkable, and even harmful—to vehicles, engines, and the environment—ethanol mandate.
Consider just some of the RFS’s flaws.
The law requires refiners to cap their blending of corn ethanol and use more cellulosic biofuels. Never mind that very little cellulosic biofuel has ever been produced—even according to EPA’s own data. But that fact hasn’t prevented the EPA from levying millions of dollars in fines against refiners for failing to use the phantom fuel. It’s kind of like receiving a bill for something you cannot buy because it doesn’t exist, but you’re being charged anyway.
Then there is the “blend wall” problem. With less gasoline sold than Congress anticipated, refiners cannot add ever-rising amounts of ethanol to gasoline without exceeding E10—the fuel consisting of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline sold virtually everywhere in the country today. To get around the blend wall issue, the EPA granted a “partial waiver” allowing the sale of E15, a fuel blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol for model-year 2001 and newer vehicles.
The EPA’s quick fix made a bad situation much worse. Ethanol levels higher than 10 percent can damage or destroy vehicle engines, according to a study conducted by the well-respected Coordinating Research Council. Automakers are voiding warranties and refusing to be held responsible for mechanical problems caused by fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol.
Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, forcing motorists to fill up more often, thereby causing more consumer expenditures. Ethanol production has driven up food prices here and abroad. Additionally, some studies indicate ethanol usage increasesgreenhouse-gas emissions.
Then politics entered the scene. Rumors flew that the EPA delayed the announcement of the 2014 blend levels to help Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-D) in his Senate bid. Braley pushed for an increase in the proposed levels and hoped to influence the White House to raise the targets. Politico quoted Braley saying: “Voters in Iowa look at where I stand on this issue and where my opponent stands, who’s supporting me in this campaign and who’s supporting [Ernst].” The Politico story states: “Iowans say wavering on corn ethanol once would have been certain political suicide in a state where 90 percent of the land is farm acreage. So Braley sought to capitalize on Ernst’s expressed qualms about big government, portraying her as someone Iowans can’t trust to fight for them.” Yet, Ernst, a Republican, won the Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Tom Harkin.
The EPA’s unwillingness to do its job by setting ethanol volumes—along with ethanol’s loss of “political heft”— should provide the impetus for ending the complex and wasteful RFS program. Ethanol plays as a rare topic where environmentalists and energy advocates agree. As soon as the new Congress convenes in January, it should give the RFS an “F,” and reform, revise, or repeal it.
[Originally published at Breitbart]
Coggin is a frequent critic of radical activists who seek to take choices away from Americans, whether it’s affordable energy for families or food on the table. Will points out that global warming activism, anti-fracking protests, ports being closed to expansion for coal export terminals are all part of an anti-fossil fuel agenda; keeping energy from those who need it most both in the U.S. and around the world in an effort to create an idealistic green utopia with minimal impact by mankind.
The Big Green Radicals projects demonstrates that many environmental leaders and media personalities that promote anti-energy, anti-biotech food causes, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk as they use far more energy and live more environmentally destructive lifestyles, than the general public whose choices they are attempting to constrain. Contrary to popular belief, the causes promoted by environmentalists are not based on sound science, and the environmentalists themselves don’t have the moral high ground.
Read this Washington Post piece from November on the idea that global warming (what happened to climate change?) is driving “crazy” winters. It’s a testimony to a lot of nonsense going on in our nation today, where people have little ability to remember the past and understand that history is what got us where we are today.
Let’s look at last winter. As “crazy” as it was, the fact is that Weatherbell.com, my company, forecasted it well in advance by looking at the winters of 1917-191 and 1993-1994 – before global warming was “driving crazy winters.”
Here’s last winter:
And here’s the blend of analogs for 1917-1918 and 1993-1994 we used in July of 2013 to set up last winter’s outlook for clients – along with anyone who wanted to look – rather than stick our hand in the sand and blame global warming (which is what is actually crazy).
Not exactly the same, but similar.
But “crazy” winters now? The only thing “crazy” here is the idea you can claim that winters were going to be warm with less snow several years ago, but expect to have rational people of good will accept your “crazy”explanation.
Did global warming drive the winters of the late 1970s? The anomalies below are for three consecutive winters, not one.
By the way, November 1976 – which my company used to warn clients about how winter could get off to a fast start this year, and was a precursor to the severe winter of 1976-1977 that had Buffalo headlined due to the harsh conditions and had Time magazine among others speculating on a coming Ice Age – is being challenged for the coldest in 50 years by this November! How is it some private sector meteorologists were looking at this possibility several months beforehand (us), and now we see people claiming it’s global warming?
How much overkill do you need here? Should I pull out the “crazy” winters of ‘57-’58, ’65-’66 (DC was closed for a week to 10 days, depending on when you shoveled out), ’66-’67, ’68-’69, ’69-’70, et al, when CO2 was much lower?
You know what’s crazy to me? People refuse to acknowledge the past and then make statements like that of The Washington Post. And here’s something even more crazy: The media today refuse to challenge such things. We have adjustments being made to pre-satellite era temperatures, techniques referred to as normalization, which make previous warm periods look cooler or estimates colder Arctic temperatures that we had no way of measuring the way we do now. The media refuse to hold people accountable for past forecast busts, yet simply accept what alarmists say is going on now.
The “crazy” November we’ve had looks a heck of a lot like one of our big analogs – 1976.
November so far:
It may turn out colder than 1976, as we have a heck of a week of winter weather in front of us, including a major Thanksgiving snow event on the East Coast. There is a chance snow cover on Thanksgiving morning may be greater than the normal snow cover on Christmas day (33%).
Here’s November 1976:
How is it that utilizing techniques that line up past similar events and the overall climate cycles we are in – something that involves many hours of meticulous work, not just looking at a statistical average that leads to a value added forecast – is not the way to explain all this? Folks on the other side of the aisle claim that what we warned people about with the work we did is due to something else they had no idea of. Do they show the examples of how it could turn so cold beforehand? No; they wait until after the fact to explain something they had no idea would or could happen, then claim it’s because of what they said. You can label that technique a bunch of things, but “crazy” would come to mind. And you would be “crazy” to believe it.
The global warming argument is not “settled science.” The fact that the globe overall has leveled off and in the past 10 years cooled some, along with myriads of other indicators, show that.
Past 10 years:
What’s amazing is that we have seen winters become more like they were when the Pacific was colder in the ’60s and ’70s, and the actual global temps cool a slight bit, but then we find people that have the audacity to blame warming when it’s actually level, or cooling! We’ve had three cold winters out of the last five, one warm one, and one that turned very cold in the mid-winter and went through much of spring. Do you see what’s going on here? There’s been no guidance for cold weather from people pushing the “crazy” weather missive for the cold because of warmth. And because they don’t see it, they blame the agenda (man-made global warming)! Yet those of us whose livelihood depends on it use the techniques to see it, get called deniers, etc., even after our customers get value-added forecasts. What’s “crazy” is a media that trumpets “the warmest year ever” based on one set of data with major, subjective re-adjustments, which ignore more objective data that says prove otherwise. But a complicit and apparently non-curious media does not even question how alarmists could miss so badly a month out! 1976 has been one of Weatherbell.com’s chief analogs since April, and here we are, close to beating November of 1976 for coldest November in the last 50 years.
Settled science is the idea of gravity, or the freezing and boiling points of water. To argue climate is something akin to that is true denial of what scientific reality is and, dare I use the word of choice here (theirs, not mine), “crazy.”
I just don’t get it. How do you trust someone about what they say relative to the last hundred-plus years,when their track record over the past five years shows they can’t see cold when it’s coming? That’s what is truly crazy, not the natural occurrences caused by similar past situations.
Crazy is as crazy does.
[First published at Patriot Post.]
Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.
There are many dimensions to the hack of Sony that, by all accounts, now appears to be a North Korean cyberattack. Certainly, the attack ought to make us all aware that, regardless of debates about the niceties of the labels applied, the U.S. has entered a new era in which cyberwarfare (and response to cyberattacks) will constitute an important element of our national security strategy.
Here, I want to make just a couple of points – briefly.
It is easy, without having access to all the facts, to second-guess Sony’s decision to cancel the initial theater release of “The Interview.” For example, there is ongoing back-and-forth as to whether the theater owners (all or some large number of owners) made it clear that, in any event, they would not screen the film. For me, it is understandable enough that Sony (and/or the theater owners) would put threats to the safety of their patrons high in their calculations concerning whether to go ahead with the film’s release.
That said, I certainly hope Sony will find a way, and there seem to be several avenues, to get the film into the public realm without much further delay. Otherwise, an unfortunate precedent will be set. So, the film needs to be released, one way or the other.
Now, it must be said that it is unfortunate that some are taking pirated emails – emails that were seized through an illegal cybertattack – and are using them in an opportunistic fashion. And this goes beyond the mere gossip concerning Hollywood rivalries and personal sniping. I have in mind, for example, Google’s use of some pirated emails to and from film studio personnel and the studio’s trade association, MPAA, to raise fears that MPAA is trying to orchestrate a revival of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation that had been intended to help curb the very real – and very costly – ongoing problem of online piracy.
Here is a December 18 blog posted by Kent Walker, Google’s SVP and General Counsel, claiming that MPAA is engaged in some type of “coordinated campaign” to revive the SOPA legislation that a Google-led effort defeated back in 2012. A quick perusal of the emails cited by Google (the Google blog itself refers to an article posted on The Verge on December 12) does not appear to me to support the claim that the MPAA is seeking to revive the SOPA legislation. Instead, it appears that Google opportunistically may be trying to use the pirated emails to divert attention from probes by state and federal authorities into its own conduct.
There can be legitimate debates concerning the merits of the actual SOPA bill that was withdrawn in 2012 or similar SOPA-type legislation. In my view, the attacks on the legislation, and the frenzied claims made concerning the impact of the legislation on the working of the Internet, were exaggerated. Be that as it may, there shouldn’t be any debate that online piracy – that is, the unlawful theft of someone’s intellectual property – is a real societal problem. And you don’t need to wade into a battle of estimates concerning the precise dollar size of the economic losses resulting from pirated content to know that they amount to many hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year.
At the end of the day, what is most disappointing about Google’s blog is that there is no acknowledgment that online theft of intellectual property – whether films, music, or other creative content – is a real problem that needs to be addressed by many different participants in the Internet ecosystem, including by online purveyors of content like Google.
Perhaps SOPA or SOPA-type legislation is not the right answer. But “SOPA” should not now be invoked as a ghostly mantra in a way that is intended to impede what ought to be a collaborative search for the right answers to combat piracy of intellectual property.
PS – I should add that theft of intellectual property is a problem that requires addressing for more than reasons relating to economic losses. The reason our Founders included the IP Clause in the Constitution had as much to do – really more to do – with an understanding that creators are entitled to realize and control the fruits of their labors than anything else. In that regard, and for a deeper understanding and appreciation of foundational principles of intellectual property rights, I commend to you the Free State Foundation’s series of papers on foundational principles of intellectual property:The Constitutional Foundations of Intellectual Property – May 10, 2013 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/The_Constitutional_Foundations_of_Intellectual_Property_050813.pdf Reasserting the Property Rights Source of IP – June 13, 2013 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Reasserting_the_Property_Rights_Source_of_IP_061213.pdf
Literary Property: Copyright’s Constitutional History and Its Meaning for Today – July 25, 2013 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Literary_Property_Copyright_s_Constitutional_History_and_its_Meaning_for_Today_072413.pdf
The Constitution’s Approach to Copyright: Anti-Monopoly, Pro-Intellectual Property Rights – August 26, 2013 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/The_Constitution_s_Approach_to_Copyright_-_Anti-Monopoly,_Pro-Intellectual_Property_Rights_082313.pdf
The “Reason and Nature” of Intellectual Property: Copyright and Patent in The Federalist Papers – January 14, 2014 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/The_Reason_and_Nature_of_Intellectual_Property_011014.pdf
Constitutional Foundations of Copyright and Patent in the First Congress – May 8, 2014 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Constitutional_Foundations_of_Copyright_and_Patent_in_the_First_Congress_050714.pdf
Life, Liberty, and the Protection of Intellectual Property: Understanding IP in Light of Jeffersonian Principles – July 8, 2014 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Life,_Liberty,_and_the_Protection_of_Intellectual_Property_070714.pdf
Intellectual Property Rights Under the Constitution’s Rule of Law – September 26, 2014 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Intellectual_Property_Rights_Under_the_Constitution_s_Rule_of_Law_092514.pdf
Reaffirming the Foundations of IP Rights: Copyright and Patent in the Antebellum Era – November 20, 2014 http://www.freestatefoundation.org/images/Reaffirming_the_Foundations_of_IP_Rights_111914.pdf [Originally published at Free State Foundation]
Director of Communications, Jim Lakely, and Managing Editor of Energy and Environment News, H. Sterling Burnett, talk about the recently passed Cromnibus bill and how it effects environmental policy in today’s podcast.
Lakely and Burnett sift through the massive bill and discuss the sections that impact the EPA, renewable energy subsidies and other environment related issues. They also talk about the recently held U.N. climate conference in Lima, Peru.
It’s a dead certainty that the Left will denounce Harvard constitutional law professor Lawrence Tribe for accepting a retainer from coal giant Peabody Energy to write an analysis concluding that “the EPA acts as though it has the legislative authority to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. It does not.”
It’s more certain that Tribe had concluded that before Peabody came knocking at his door with buckets of money. It’s even more certain that the EPA was not the primary target of Tribe’s wrath, but that it was aimed directly at his 1989 research assistant at Harvard Law School, Barack Obama.
That won’t make sense unless you know the back-story, and only a handful do. Among the hundreds of in-depth profiles I’ve done to expose the Left, Laurence Tribe is my favorite, but one I decided not to make public. And then Heartland Institute’s Joe Bast told me about Tribe’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “The Clean Power Plan Is Unconstitutional.” It’s time.
Barack Obama got into Harvard Law School mostly because he was a “legacy,” the offspring of an alumnus: his father Barack Obama Sr., earned a master’s degree in economics from Harvard University. Harvard accepts 40 percent of all legacies that apply, but only 11 percent of all applicants.
In the spring of his first year at law school, Obama stopped by the office of Professor Laurence Tribe – recognized as the nation’s foremost liberal constitutional law scholar – about becoming a research assistant. Tribe rarely hired first-year students. An L1 – first year law student – doesn’t get a constitutional law class. But Tribe recalls “being struck by Obama’s unusual combination of intelligence, curiosity and maturity.”
He was so impressed in fact, that he hired Obama on the spot – and wrote his name and phone number on his calendar that day – March 31, 1989 – “for posterity.” (And no, he didn’t really know that posterity might be interested.)
Laurence Henry Tribe is not easily impressed. He literally wrote the book on constitutional law: he’s the author of American Constitutional Law, the most frequently cited treatise in that field, has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court at least 34 times, and is noted for his extensive support of liberal legal causes including environmental law.
Obama must have impressed Tribe with something more than his weird history of being born in Hawaii with an African father, his childhood in Jakarta with an Indonesian stepfather, and being raised by white grandparents who sent him to elite Punahou prep school in Honolulu and helped him through Occidental and Columbia universities.
Tribe had his own weird history. He was born in Shanghai, China, to Jewish immigrants from Europe. His father was Polish and had lived in the United States when very young, long enough to become a naturalized citizen in his early 20’s. Tribe’s mother was Russian, and considerably younger than his father. They met and married in her hometown in Soviet Russia in 1940.
Then Stalin’s massive 1941 deportation of ethnic groups including Jews forced them to Shanghai – luckily avoiding Siberia – where Laurance was born in October, just before Pearl Harbor and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. The father, who was proud of being an American, irritated the Japanese, who put him in a concentration camp as a noncombatant enemy alien, leaving his infant son trapped in Shanghai’s French Quarter with his mother, stateless persons.
Young Laurance and mother were allowed only two visits with the father during all of World War II. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Tribe’s father was released and reunited with his wife and child. As an American citizen, the father obtained transport to San Francisco. The three Tribes left Shanghai in March, 1947 on the steamship SS General Gordon.
Laurance spoke only Russian when he arrived in America a little before turning six – back in Shanghai, he had been a bratty kid who refused to learn English in kindergarten – but once in San Francisco, he refused to speak Russian any more, and quickly learned English. He later went to Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, became a naturalized United States citizen, graduated from Harvard College (1962, mathematics, summa cum laude), and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1966, magna cum laude, then worked for a while at the National Academy of Sciences, and finally became an assistant professor at Harvard Law School (1968), receiving tenure in 1972.
That beats Obama for weird by light years. And it proves anybody can become one of America’s preeminent constitutional legal scholars.
Tribe hired Obama for exactly the reasons he said: intelligence, curiosity, and maturity; because this icon of left-wing legal theories was preparing to write a fantastic paper that would require a diligent, observant, and daring researcher open to serendipity, the happy quality of finding more than you were looking for. Tribe was about to go out on a limb and wanted researchers who would go with him.
The paper would be titled The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn From Modern Physics – which is the zaniest title you’ll find anywhere in the pages of the Harvard Law Review. It would argue that strict constructionist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution were obsolete, being based on the rigid old Newtonian world-view, and needed to be replaced by more modern relativistic notions of curved space and quantum physics concepts of indeterminacy, which would release judges from the original intent of the Founders.
The paper compared Einstein’s theory that space is curved by large masses (such as the sun) to Tribe’s theory that courts shape the cultural “space” of institutions with “massive” rulings (such as segregation). The point was that major court rulings build social institutions, change perceptions of morality, and unjustly displace some people in the process, just as the sun makes starlight curve around its mass and displaces it from what Newtonian physics expected. Therefore, old wrongs done by courts, government, and the Constitution itself – such as allowing slavery – should be repaired by new broad constructionist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.
The paper also emphasized quantum theory’s discovery that the process of studying an object changes its behavior in unpredictable ways, and compared that to a court reaching into society with powerful rulings and creating unpredictable consequences – like post-Civil War Jim Crow laws that led to a century of black struggle for civil rights, replete with murders, riots, revolutionary movements, bombings, and assassinations. These, Tribe asserted, should be repaired by broad constructionist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.
When the article appeared in the November 1989 Harvard Law Review, Tribe’s mix of his mathematical expertise with his legal intellect was recognized by the cognoscenti as not so far-fetched as it seemed, but cleverly breathing new life into old liberal arguments – and it did: nearly 200 law reviews and periodicals subsequently cited the article, and four courts have cited it.
In Tribe’s acknowledgments stood the name of Barack Obama for “analytic and research assistance.” It guaranteed that Obama would graduate magna cum laude and got him selected in his first year at law school as an editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, of which he later became president.
The politically immature Obama learned more about the Constitution by helping Tribe research this sprawling 39-page, densely argued treatise – with its references to Supreme Court cases, court influences on society, the role of cultural anthropology, and the findings of physicists Stephen Hawking and Werner Heisenberg – than he would learn in his actual constitutional law class the next year.
He got to watch the mind of a brilliant left-wing legal icon at the height of his powers construct a sophisticated constitutional frame of reference that could be applied to government and achieve a Leftist revolution in the real world by legal means. The problem was that, when Obama gained the power to apply this knowledge, he didn’t use it to curve constitutional space, but to destroy the document in the fire of his dictatorial power lust. That, I assert, is something Laurence Tribe could not allow.
I cannot see Tribe’s reproachful headline as saying anything but this: “President Barack Obama, my prized student, acts now as though he has the legislative authority to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. He does not. Obama’s stolen authority – all of it – is unconstitutional.”
Perhaps I take Professor Tribe’s meaning too far. Perhaps he will enlighten us about my presumptions.
But until and unless he does, I stand by my story.
I don’t mean the Santa who comes down the chimney with toys for every girl and boy. This is the Santa who really is Mom or Dad, Grandparent or other family members or close friends who out of their own earned income choose to purchase, wrap and give gifts to those little ones on Christmas morning.
The small child may have been told the fairy story about an jolly, fat man in a red suit who lives in the far north, working with his elves all year long so the toys and other presents are ready to be miraculously delivered to every “good boy and girl” around the world in one night.
But we “adults” all know that is all just a story for the children at an early and gullible age when the fantasy of it all seems possibly real. And many of us cherish those early years of wonder and make-believe, before the reality breaks through that it just does not and cannot happen that way.
The Redistributing and Regulating Political Santa
I mean the Uncle Sam “Santa” that, not just at Christmas time, but year-round, is believed by many people to have the ability to bring them many of the good things they want from a mythical North Pole called Washington, D.C., or any governmental capital around the world.
This is the political Santa who delivers subsidies of various sorts to farmers or “alternative energy” manufacturers. The Santa who redistributes vast sums of money for educational expenditures, or public housing, welfare and food stamps, or government defense contracts, and even “bridges to nowhere.”
This is also the political Santa who can magically fill the global skies with unmanned drones for surveillance and death, or fund decade-long trillion-dollar wars in far-off lands, or bankroll “friendly” governments in other places around the world while punishing “bad” countries for what Uncle Sam defines as “misbehavior.”
This is the Santa who claims the power and ability remake human nature, control human thought, and redesign some or even all of human society into various preferred shapes and forms.
This political Santa works hard to create the illusion that prosperity and improvement in the human condition cannot happen if not for the guiding, regulating, and manipulating hand of “benevolent” government.
The Political Myth of Something for Nothing
But while almost all children grow out of their belief in a Santa Claus with his home at the North Pole who “somehow” succeeds in manufacturing all those “goodies” that he carries on his sleigh on Christmas Eve, many people go through their entire life convinced of the Santa-like abilities of a paternalistic government that can “somehow” assure many, if not all, of the desired good things of life.
However, just as “Santa” is really Mom and Dad who buy the presents, and wrap them to put under the Christmas tree, governmental “Santa” are those in political office who have no ability to bestow desired benefits on “all” without, in fact, first taking from some to give to others.
Mom and Dad work. They assist in producing goods or in performing services for others in the marketplace, which earns them a salary or nets them a profit. They have had to first produce to, then, through the income they earned, have the ability to consume, including on the goods that their children find on Christmas morning.
The governmental Santa must, first, tax away the income and wealth of some to, then, redistribute it in one form or another to others in the country over which those in political power assert fiscal and regulatory authority.
For the mythical Santa at the North Pole there are no costs for anything he does. The resources, raw materials and tools with which his Christmas goodies are made just appear. The elves work, apparently, for nothing and their food and clothes do not need to be produced, either.
For our political Santa Claus to rain redistributive “gifts” on those he considers deserving and “nice,” he must take from those found to be “naughty” and not nice.
Political Santa’s “Gifts” Carry High Costs
Our political Santa Claus imposes real and meaningful costs on many in society to do his magical “social work.” First, he must appropriate part of the material wealth produced by those productive members of society. People who, in a free market, only earn what they have by peacefully offering to others things those others desire and value enough to pay an agreed-upon price to acquire.
A portion of the intellectual and material effort of real men and women are seized from them through compulsory taxation. The government classifies these net taxpayers in society as having more than they “really” need, and usually don’t ethically “deserve.”
They get “sack of coal” for being “bad” in the form of being left with less than the full value of their creative and hardworking effort. They are denied the opportunity and the right to enjoy the complete fruits of their mental and physical labors. Their choices to spend what they have honestly earned are narrowed to what the political Santa decides they should have available to spend.
The “good” little political citizens who are given the redistributive benefits, therefore, are the net recipients of what others have produced, and which they have received due the ideological and pressure group power they can bring to bear in collaboration with the political Santa in the municipal, state, and national halls of governmental control.
But the costs of political Santa’s generosity do not come just in the form of direct redistributions. They also come in the form of regulations, restrictions, and licensing requirements that determine who may allowed to compete, work, and earn a living in a particular line of enterprise, production, and trade.
This “sack of coal” for the “bad” citizens also comes in the form in the inability to start a business or expand and successfully run an enterprise as the result of the regulatory hand of political Santa. The costs also take the form of closed opportunities for those with little or no skills to find work or be hired at a starting wage that would give them a chance at improving their own lives through honest employment in the free marketplace.
It also costs the consumers who find their choices and options are more limited or nonexistent than the free market would have provided, if only the government had not imposed these barriers, walls, and hurtles in the way of those who merely wish to be left alone to go about their private and personal affairs of life by offering new, better, and less expense goods and services to their fellow men through honest, peaceful, and mutually agreed terms of trade.
The “good little citizens” in this case are those on the supply-side of the market who are sheltered from the competition of real or potentially more efficient and productive rivals. Their larger market shares, greater profit margins, and costly inefficiencies are protected by the political Santa’s regulatory power; he, in turn, receives the campaign contributions and implicitly bought votes on election days that keep him in office.
The Myth of Needing a Political Santa for Life
For political Santa to pursue his mythical game in governmental plunderland, he must do all in his power to persuade and convince his citizen “children” that they do not have a right to their own life and to live it in their own chosen way. They must be indoctrinated to either passively accept the role of life-long dependent upon the political Santa, or to serve as the self-sacrificing elves who must do the work to produce all the goods and services in the world that will be redistributed out of the political Santa’s sack of taxed and regulated benefits.
Santa will educate you; he will see that you have a job and that you receive a “fair” wage. He will make sure that you are safe and satisfied by controlling what is produced, how it produced, and the terms under which the “bad” business children under his regulatory supervision market and sell many of those “goodies” to you.
When sick or disabled, political Santa will give you medical care; and he will guarantee you a retirement free from the need for planning for these things yourself.
All you need to do is accept your status as a lifetime adolescent needing supervision, care, and oversight in everything and in all things that you do. The spirit and psychology of being political Santa’s dependent was captured in that government website cartoon during the first Obama Administration called “The Life of Julia.”
“Julia” needed government to supply the hospital in which she was born; to provide the pre-school education with which her political indoctrination began; too see that Julia was given not only a government high school diploma, but got taxpayer subsidies and special quotas to make it into a preferred college or university; to see that gender affirmative action laws guaranteed a “fair chance” to a good paying job and career that she otherwise could never get on her own; and to see that in later years Julia has the safety-net of government Social Security, without having to bear the responsibility of carrying for this herself.
Self-Sacrificing “Elves” to Serve Political Santa
The other side of political Santa’s plunderland is the indoctrination of the productive and producer “elves” who are needed to do the work that supplies all that government can give away. This requires convincing everyone that “society” comes before the individual; that anything that the individual has is not due to his own effort and his peaceful and voluntary associations with others, or as President Obama asserted, “You did not built it.”
Instead, what you have is due to the collective efforts of all, so that you cannot claim a right to anything or any more than what the collective deems you to deserve. And it is political Santa who represents and acts for the social collective in determining what shall be expected from you and in what form, and what you shall be allowed to have from “society” (or that you are allowed to keep) as bestowed by the government’s redistributive and regulatory activities.
But just as there is no Santa at the North Pole, there is no political Santa in society. Political Santa is really those who run for political office to gain and retain governmental control and power over other people’s lives. Political Santa is really all the special interest groups who wish to use the halls of governmental power to obtain through regulation and taxation what they cannot honestly earn in the open competition of the free marketplace.
Ethical Benevolence vs. Political Immorality
Benevolence and voluntary charity, and a properly understood spirit of “giving” to those you value and love at Christmas time are right and virtuous sentiments of free people in the open society.
But belief in and actions based upon the idea of a “political Santa” only succeeds in weakening and finally destroying the spirit and ethical health of a free and prosperous society.
So, yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Neither a North Pole Santa who comes down the chimney in a red suit, nor a political Santa who can give people “something for nothing” in a world in which all that people want and desire must be creatively produced by someone before it may used to satisfy those wants and desires.
What makes the mythical belief in a political Santa far worse than the short-lived childhood belief in the North Pole Santa, is that the idea of a political Santa challenges and destroys the spirit of individualism upon which the good, free and prosperous society ultimately rests.
[Originally published at EpicTimes]
It is a sad day when a state chooses to listen to the fear, uncertainty, and doubts spread by anti-fossil fuel agitators rather than making a decision for economic strength that would benefit schools, communities, and many of its poorest citizens—especially when the vilified technology, hydraulic fracturing, has been used safely and successfully for more than 60 years and has brought prosperity to other formerly struggling regions.
— Marita Noon
Executive Director, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
Responding to the announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the state would ban fracking, Ms. Noon joined others, bringing their expertise to bear on a topic that remains a concern only because environmentalist enemies of energy in America continue to lie about it every chance they get.
In his book, “The Fracking Truth–America’s Energy Revolution: The Inside, Untold Story”. Chris Faulkner wrote “Furthermore, it’s been commonplace for decades. Worldwide, it’s estimated that more than 2.5 million wells have been fracked and the U.S. accounted for about half of those. Today, about 35,000 wells are fracked each year in all types of wells. And it’s impact on industry? It’s been estimated that 80% of production from unconventional sources such as shales would not be feasible without it.”
The Governor’s decision has everything to do with wooing the support of environmentalists in New York and nothing to do with the jobs and billions in tax revenue that fracking would have represented.
New York’s acting health commissioner, Howard Zucker, justified the decision saying that “cumulative concerns” about fracking “give me reason to pause.” Are we truly expected to believe that five years of study since the initial 2009 memorandum about fracking any provided reason to ban it? If the use of fracking technology dates back to 1947 without a single incident of pollution traced to it, what would it take to create “cumulative concerns” except ignorance or prejudice against the facts?
Even the Environmental Protection Agency has never found evidence of the chemicals used in fracking entering the nation’s groundwater. Moreover, fracking fluid is 99.5% water and sand. The rest is a mixture of chemicals similar to household products that could be found under the kitchen sink.
As Dr. Jay Lehr, Science Director of The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, points out, “Today we only fracture wells that are drilled horizontally and that requires 1,500 feet of vertical depth for the well” and thus “all such wells are way below local water wells.”
How idiotic, then, is it to seal off some twelve million acres of the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation with natural gas reserves that have helped create energy production booms in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio?
A December 19 Wall Street Journal editorial noted that just across New York’s border with neighboring Pennsylvania, “A 2011 Manhattan Institute study estimated that each Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania generates $5 million in economic benefits and $2 million in tax revenue.” Companies there have generated more than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes since the fracking boom began. As one observer noted, “The ban ignores New York’s “6% unemployment rate, a depressed upstate region, and the fourth highest electricity prices in the nation.”
I don’t know how long it will take for the vast majority of the U.S. population to conclude that everything the environmentalists and their propagandists in the nation’s schools and media have to say about energy is as vast a hoax as the now discredited “global warming”, since renamed “climate change.”
Energy is the master resource, the lifeblood of ours and the world’s economy, the basis for electricity, for the ability to travel vast distances, for machines that enable vast harvests of crops by barely 2% of the U.S. population, to power all manufacturing, and to heat or cool our living and workplaces.
Fracking is yet another technological miracle and, of course, the environmentalists oppose it.
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Many states are scrambling to identify low-emission power sources to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions, but Michigan is blessed with affordable, reliable, zero-emission hydro power to help meet the restrictions. Policymakers in the Great Lakes State would be wise to take advantage of these hydro power resources.
In 1880, Michigan demonstrated the potential for hydro power when a hydroelectric turbine in Grand Rapids provided the first public demonstration of hydro power in the United States. Continuing to harness the power of water and gravity, Michigan now has dozens of small hydroelectric dams producing power. Nevertheless, Michigan is underutilizing its available hydro resources, as hydro power currently contributes less than one percent of the state’s electricity generation.
Hydro power is the least expensive electricity source, with production costs substantially lower than wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas. Hydro power also tends to be less expensive than coal power, which has long been the backbone of U.S. electricity generation. Washington and Idaho are perfect examples of the economic benefits of hydro power, as the two states rely on it more than all other states, and as a result, the two states rank first and fifth in the nation, respectively, for lowest electricity prices. With less money required to purchase electricity, businesses have more money available to hire additional workers, and individual consumers have more money available to purchase food, clothing, housing, health care, and other consumer goods.
Hydro power provides significant environmental benefits in addition to cost advantages. Unlike wind and solar, hydro power is reliable and not dependent on when fickle winds blow and when darkness doesn’t obscure the sun. Also, hydro power is a totally clean energy source, producing no carbon dioxide or other emissions. To the extent hydroelectric dams impact the environment, by changing portions of streams and rivers into ponds and lakes, the impact is much smaller and more benign than the towering wind turbines that disfigure thousands of square miles of formerly pristine American lands and kill 1.5 million birds and bats in the United States each year.
Earlier this year, EPA announced plans to require a 30-percent reduction in nationwide power plant carbon dioxide emissions. EPA hit Michigan especially hard, requiring a 32 percent reduction. Many states have few hydro power resources and will have little choice but to turn to expensive, unreliable, environmentally destructive wind power to meet the EPA mandates. By contrast, Michigan officials can and should take advantage of available hydro power resources in the state. Doing so will produce environmental advantages over wind power, ensure a reliable supply of on-demand, zero-emissions electricity, and give Michigan businesses and consumers a competitive advantage over states forced to rely on more expensive means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Even without the new EPA mandates, hydro power is a good deal for Michigan. With EPA ramping up its carbon dioxide restrictions, adding more hydro power is a no-brainer.
Many readers most likely remember having classes in geography and civics when in middle (junior) or high school. Under Common Core these formerly stand-alone subjects are combined under the umbrella of Social Studies, if they are taught at all.
The new “framework” for the teaching of AP history, studied by thousands of America’s top-performing high-school students, emphasizes oppressors and exploiters while scant attention is given to liberators and pioneers. Such slanted teaching is certain to produce a new generation of left-leaning citizens.
As Mona Charen states in her recent article, Termites at work on American history:
“The Framework blatantly ignores such pivotal historic figures as Roger Williams and Benjamin Franklin and such key developments as the emergence of New England town meetings and the Virginia House of Burgesses as cradles of democracy.”
Times have changed. Unless children are taught the fundamentals of American history and government, preserving what made America great and special means little them.
A 2012 survey of college graduates commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that only 37 percent knew the terms of U.S. representatives and senators. Only 58 percent knew that the document establishing separation of powers is the U.S. Constitution; 25 percent chose the Articles of Confederation, and 7 percent thought it was the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. Less than half knew that the American general at Yorktown was George Washington — 48 percent.
It is the hope of the author that the general concerns about Common Core as expressed below by the fine panels of Common Core experts — Marsha Familaro Enright, Tim Slekar and Kristen Lombard – -who appeared at The Heartland Institute event in Palatine, IL on Thursday, December 11, will spur you on to take positive action in your local school system.
Salient Points Noted: Question and Answer Session
- It is evident that Common Core standards are not world class bench mark standards or even high standards. Standards lead to mass standardization of schools and take away the ability of teachers to be creative.
- There are no world class standards to bench mark against Common Core standards. Just who decides what the standards are or what standards are appropriate for children?
- Common Core is a cooperative agreement between large corporations and big government in which tax dollars are taken and directed to a small group of individuals who will control the country.
- Instead of students, corporations and government have become the customers for education, which is geared to foster homogenization, not choice.
- Common Core won’t solve the performance issue of failing schools, even though it was the purpose of Common Core to remedy the achievement gap. The best performing students in this nation, however, do measure up to those countries with the highest education achievement standards like Finland.
- Although the constitutional or legal right for the federal government to take over education has been questioned, we can’t sue our way out of Common Core. Needed is a mass resistance revolt. Citizens must stand up and become engaged.
- Common Core was introduced into states through “No Child Left Behind waivers” and “Race to the “money. The former acting as bribes, states signed up for Common Core in 2010, sight unseen.
- A Hippocratic Oath seems to be needed for teachers not to harm kids. There is a movement afoot to end corporate education reform. This site is the best resource as to how to opt out. Available here is an activist handbook.
- Common Core is not seeking excellence. Its purpose was noted as indoctrination for social development training to turn out workers of the future. Masses of children are being brainwashed to evolve into disposable workers (cogs) to fill jobs as adults, so compliant they won’t put their heads up to object.
- Common Core is much like a Trojan horse with its program aimed at indoctrinating children with Communist dogma. Children comprise a captive audience to absorb propaganda.
- Common Core is undermining parental rights and turning parents and teachers against each other. When children are told parents shouldn’t help with their homework, it allows children to think less of their parents other than the biologically birthing of them.
- Extensive data is being collected from children starting in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Just registering a child to attend school gives permission to have data mining done. All states opting into Common Core agreed to substantially expand their State Longitudinal Data Services program which allows schools to collect and store student data. In exchange for this enhanced data collection, states received federal grants from Race to the Top, essentially a cash prize for schools that do things the Department of Education wants them to do under the blanket terms “innovation,” “reform,” and “excellence.” FEPBA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was written to respect privacy, but it has been gutted. Under FERPA parents do have the right to access the data. The Department of Education, however, has acted unilaterally to allow other government agencies—or even third parties such as companies that make education products—access to student data without any parental notification requirement. When people hear about this invasion of student privacy, opposition to the practice is almost unanimous. For those students who are home schooled, FERPA does not protect their data privacy.
- Parents are asleep in Illinois. PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) will be given in April-May and May-June. Upwards of 70% of students will fail, as arbitrary out scores have been set to make parents and the pubic believe more standards are required to achieve better results. Students can opt out of test/ Talk first with the classroom teacher, then the principal, and finally the superintendent for the final say on opting out.
Editor Kristin Lombard hopes her book will be the clarion call to counter those advancing the false claim of Common Core by accomplishing what supporters fear most: 1) talk to and begin to understand one another, 2) find ways to partner with each other in rejecting factory-style education, and 3) work together to find alternative solutions.
Panelist members,Tim Slkar and Marsha Familaro Enright, each contributed an essay: Naysaying, Empty Discourse, and Talking to Your Neighbor and Liberating Education, respectively.
Resources to understand and help combat Common Core
The Heartland Institute is very interested in pairing up with others who are fighting Common Core. Recommended to view was this youtube presentation about Common Core, “Building the Machine – The Common Core Documentary.” It is a powerful commentary about Common Core, a must to view and share with others. Here is a review of the movie, which explains the problems with the Common Core State Standards that are causing a huge upheaval at all levels of education. This 40-minute movie has been produced by Home School Legal Defense Association, an organization that has been warning about the dangers of nationalized educational standards for years.
There is also an organization in Illinois whose purpose is to stop Common Core, “Stop Common Core Illinois.” Much information can be gleamed from this website.
A new booklet, “Common Core: A Bad Choice for America, has just been published by The Heartland Institute by Heartland’s expert on Common Core, Joy Pullman.
Another recent publication by Heartland is the booklet, “Replacing Common Core with Proven Standards of Excellence” by David V. Anderson, Ph.D of Asora Education Enterprises. Both booklets are excellent and can be ordered by contacting The Heartland Institute at 312/377/4000.
Teacher rebellion is taking place across the country. In the Osceola School District in Florida 20, teacher have either resigned or decided to retire in November of this year. A member of the teachers’ union cites standardized testing as the reason teachers are quitting. Teachers are required to do more and more in their classrooms in less time. As a result the quality of education children are receiving is not as it should be.
The debate about Common Core is over who gets to decide what’s good for children, parents or the government. Anyone who is concerned about educational freedom and parental rights needs to be aware of what is happening and do all within their power to resist this encroachment on our freedom.
Competitive Enterprise Institute Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the Marketplace Fairness Act, a proposed “Internet sales tax” receiving heated debate during the recently concluded past session of Congress.
Had the Marketplace Fairness Act been passed into law, Radia explains, consumers and small business owners would have been impacted greatly by the bill, as it would have enabled governments to collect taxes from citizens otherwise outside of their jurisdiction. Radia also explains what 2015 may hold for this “zombie idea,” cautioning that state governments may attempt to implement this tax scheme through other means.
I don’t know why this report isn’t receiving more coverage but a recent study of genetically engineered crops fed to livestock demonstrates that GMO feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed.
While thousands of studies have shown that bioengineered foods (at least those that have reached the market so far) are safe for human consumption, this is the first study examining the safety of such foods eaten by food producing animals.
The study was quite comprehensive, spanning 29 years (both before and after the introduction of GMO livestock feed) and more than 100 billion animals. The study found that there was no difference in the health outcomes of the livestock fed bioengineered foods versus those that ate only non-bioengineered foods, or for animals before and after they were fed GMO feed regularly. In addition, there was no difference in the safety or the nutritional quality of the products for human consumption that they ultimately produced.
One less phantom fear for anti-GMO fear-mongers to scare the public with.
It is common for health policy experts to argue that US health care spending is wasteful compared to its European counterparts because we are not getting better health for the larger amount of spending taking place here. There is limited evidence to support this claim, and existing evidence in the case of cancer care actually indicates Europeans under-spending rather than US over-spending. Arguments of waste in health care must be more nuanced and distinguish between waste in the public and private sectors.
The United States spends more on health care than other developed countries, about 18% of GDP, but some argue that US patients do not derive sufficient benefit from this extra spending. The high costs of cancer care in the United States are frequently cited as evidence of a poorly functioning health care system, compared to those of other developed countries, e.g. Europe. A common but misguided argument is that, since Americans are not healthier and do not live longer than Europeans, the additional spending in the US represents wasted resources. This assumes that health care is the main driver of health and longevity (which it is not) and that other factors such as genes, diet and exercise, accidents, violence, and harmful drug use are the same across countries.
Therefore, to better judge the relative productivity of health care in the US and Europe, it is necessary to examine the effects of spending in a specific disease area conditional on the same diagnosis. However, in the debate about whether higher US healthcare spending, compared to Europe, is wasteful, little reliable evidence of the comparative benefits of spending in specific disease areas has been generated.
Cancer is a good case to consider because it is a leading cause of death across many developed nations. Conditional on a cancer diagnosis, it is plausible that a relationship between spending and survival exists because of differences in cancer care rather than other factors leading to the diagnosis. Non–treatment-related investments by patients—in healthy behavior such as exercise and in other types of preventive activities—are likely to have a smaller impact on survival compared to actual treatment.
In a paper we published in Health Affairs,* we compared the value of US vs European cancer care in the 1980s and 1990s.** As shown in Figures 1 and 2, we examined survival and spending differences for cancer patients in the United States compared to a similar group of patients from ten European countries.
As the figures illustrate, our study found that US cancer patients both lived longer and spent more than European patients in every year. In addition, the absolute growth in survival gains and costs was larger in the US over the period considered from 1984 to 1999. We calculated the financial value of the additional years of survival in US in order to compare these gains to the costs of cancer care in these countries. The key finding was that, if one utilizes standard value measures for longevity, the value of survival gains in the US exceeded the higher cost growth compared to Europe.
In short, the extra spending for the extra living was worth it. In fact, US cancer care generated about $600 billion of additional value compared to Europe for patients who were diagnosed with cancer during this period. The value of that additional survival gain was highest for prostate cancer patients ($627 billion) and breast cancer patients ($173 billion), partly because of their larger prevalence.
Some criticized this study, without carefully reading it, for being driven by earlier diagnosis in the US. If longevity, measured as survival from time of diagnosis, rises faster simply because patients are diagnosed relatively earlier in US, this may create “lead-time bias.” However, in a companion study we found that the overall gain in survival of US cancer patients was only 20% due to detection of cancers in earlier stages, and 80% due to treatment once detected.*** Quantitatively, early detection does not negate our main conclusion: US cancer patients get more value than Europeans.
To exemplify these findings at the country level, consider Slovakia, which spent $39 per capita on cancer care and averaged 5.5 years’ life expectancy after cancer diagnosis. Compare this to Sweden, which spent $134 per capita on cancer care and averaged 9.9 years’ life expectancy after diagnosis. Now consider the US, which spent $207 per capita on cancer care and saw 10.8 years of life expectancy from the point of diagnosis.
These differences in US costs reflect—at least in part—more rapid uptake of new technologies that may lead to differences in survival. In prostate cancer treatment, several major changes were implemented in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, including higher rates of radical prostatectomy; improvements in radiation therapy; and use of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone agonists, a type of drug that causes testosterone levels to fall in men.
Compared with the United States, European countries typically treated prostate cancer less aggressively, with lower use of these technologies during this time period. In addition, new cancer drugs often reach US patients sooner than their European counterparts, in part because of delays or denials of reimbursement decisions within Europe. For example, the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin), a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1998 and was quickly incorporated into clinical practice guidelines.
In contrast, trastuzumab was not launched until after 2000 in many European countries, including Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom, which evaluates the cost-effectiveness of new therapies to inform coverage and reimbursement decisions, did not recommend reimbursement and use of trastuzumab for breast cancer until 2002.
Despite a lack of supporting evidence, the majority of the health policy community argues that US health care is plagued with waste, especially compared to Europe. In this debate, though, it is important to distinguish between public-sector versus private-sector waste. As I have argued in this column before,**** there is likely a large amount of waste in the public payer sector run by the Medicaid and Medicare programs, compared to the private sector.
Though well-intended and hard-working individuals run these public programs, the basic fact remains that, because government bureaucrats do not improve their own material well-being by eliminating health care waste, any waste reduction depends on their own sense of mission and desire to do what is right rather than a profit motive. The fact that the biggest dollar crime in the US is Medicare fraud, sometimes estimated to be 15% of spending, underscores the problem—a problem that does not have a corollary among private payers because of tighter controls to support shareholder earnings.
However, health policy analysts do not distinguish between the private and public sector in its claims about waste in US health care. In my opinion, academics’ efforts to teach private insurance executives how to run their businesses is in itself a waste—namely of time and journal pages. Some academics and think-tanks have even claimed that as much as one third of health care is “wasted.” Really? These individuals claim to know the recipe for cutting the costs of private payers by a third without sacrificing quality of care and customer satisfaction.
Put simply, if these health care policy wonks were right that one could eliminate one third of the 3 trillion dollar health care tab without impairing quality, their ideas would be worth close to a trillion dollars. If true, they could become multi-billionaires by starting a new plan and slashing prices by a third. More immediately, private payers should be willing to go to great lengths to acquire these policy wonks’ knowledge, as payers could return billions to shareholders.
Indeed, one would expect payers to quickly bid out these analysts from their academic jobs if they truly held the secret to profitable health insurance, like the financial sector did in response to “financial engineering” developed by academics in the 1980s. However, no such bidding wars for these academics and their cost-cutting insights exist. This is likely for good reason, as these ideas—although popular in academic and policy circles—would likely be unpopular in real-world health care markets.
In sum, before cries of US waste is believed and accepted, better evidence is needed to support the claim and implementable actions, rather than words, needed to eliminate it.
*Philipson, T., M. Eber, D. N. Lakdawalla, M. Corral, R. Conti and D. P. Goldman (2012). “An Analysis of Whether Higher Health Care Spending in the United States Versus Europe Is ‘Worth It’ in the Case of Cancer.” Health Affairs 31(4): 667-675.
**This paper was also discussed at length in the Obama Administration’s annual Economic Report of the President in 2012, available here.
***Sun, E.. A. B. Jena, D. N. Lakdawalla, C. Reyes, T. J. Philipson and D. P. Goldman (2010). ” The Contributions of Improved Therapy and Earlier Detection to Cancer Survival Gains, 1988-2000.” Forum for Health Economics and Policy 13(2).
****Forbes, Oct 20, 2013, “What’s Wrong With Private Insurance?”
[First pubilshed at Forbes.]
Ten thousand professional climate crusaders recently attended yet another Climate Carnival in Lima, Peru. Did they use green power to minimise their carbon footprint? No way; massive diesel generators were trucked in on diesel-powered lorries because the local hydro/solar power could not cope. The delegates were also moved between hotels and the venue in more than 300 diesel buses – few bothered to walk or ride bicycles.
In sunny Spain, the government solar subsidies were so generous that some entrepreneurs managed to produce solar energy for 24 hours per day. However, inspectors discovered that diesel generators were being operated at night, thus producing great profits in selling “solar” energy to the grid.
Then in “go-green, vote-blue” Britain, wind power is proving so erratic that thousands of reliable diesel generators are being installed by utilities and businesses to maintain power when the grid becomes unstable.
Finally we have people who disconnect from the grid, aiming to become independent by generating their own power from small solar and wind installations. After the first long spell of cloudy windless weather, most turn to a reliable on-demand diesel backup generator to keep the fridge running and the lights on.
It seems that diesel is the new “green” fuel. In some bitter winter, when real blackouts hit UK or Europe, maybe clean “green” coal will be re-discovered and cranked up again.
Chris Jacobs, policy director of America Next, discusses the think tank’s market-based proposal for what Congress should pass to replace Obamacare. The key elements of the America Next plan are simplified tax credits that can be used to purchase coverage, and elimination of federal mandated benefits that drive up health insurance premiums.
Jacobs also discusses the Obama administration’s poorly executed high-risk pools, and how the high-risk pools proposed in the America Next plan would avoid the problems of the Obamacare version, and the political and practical obstacles and opportunities for the America Next plan and others with similar ideas.