Teachers, school board members, moms, legislators, and concerned citizens attended an event hosted by The Heartland Institute on Thursday, December 11 at The Cotillion in Palatine, IL, to hear about Common Core State Standards. All had in common a desire to learn more about Common Core, not liking what they were hearing and observing in their local school systems. Heartland Institute’s president and CEO Joe Bast introduced the distinguished panel of Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, and Marsha Familaro Enright.
Kristin Lombard is editor and author of “Common Ground on Common Core.”She holds a Ph.D. in Historic Environmental Design: Interior and Landscape from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009) and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1988). As a grass roots activist, Kristin couldn’t get a single vote passed by Wisconsin legislators to address Common Core. Kristin finally realized that she would need critical mass for this to happen. Hearing about Tim Slekar, as the newly appointed Dean at Edgewood College of Education, Kristin arranged to meet Tim. As a liberal, Tim was very anti Common Core. Their personalities clicked immediately, proving that it is possible to identify with the left when common ground is established through verbal exchange.
Around the same time Kristin became acquainted with Tim Slekar (August of 2013), an idea for a book began to blossom. It would be a book with a collection of essays about Common Core. Lombard’s first book published under Resounding Books, founded by Ms. Lombard in early 2013, was in November of this year, Common Ground on Common Core, a must read. The book serves as a non-partisan exposé of the multiple problems posed by the controversial education reform initiative. It was edited specifically by Kristin Lombard to be a tool that individuals of whatever political stripe could use to educate themselves and others on this important topic.
Each of the 18 contributor essays in the book sheds lights on a different crucial aspect of the controversial reform package that encompasses Common Core. The authors hold widely varied political and ideological viewpoints, yet they stand firmly united against the Common Core. Standards expert Sandra Stotsky and prominent mathematician R. James Milgram are among the book’s authors. Both served on the national Common Core validation committee but refused to sign off on the standards. Former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul contributed to the foreword.
As both editor-in-chief and treasurer, Kirsten worked to secure each of the essays royalty-free, so a percentage of profits from the sale of the book could be directed toward state and local activism projects designed to fight Common Core. Ms. Lombard has recently devoted herself full time to Resounding Books, its publishing projects, and its activism initiatives. Hear Kirsten talk about “Common Ground on Common Core” on We The People Radio . To download the show, click here.
Tim Slekar, a liberal and Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin
Liberal in his ideology, Tim Slekar has been dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin since August, 2013. Slekar has been blogging about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform for years at atthechalkface.com. He is also the cohost of the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m., as well as the founder of United Opt Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.
Tim Slekar was initially a 2nd grade classroom teacher. Twenty years ago he could feel what was happening and knew that he couldn’t remain a classroom teacher. He subsequently returned to college to elevate his teaching credentials to continue earning a living in the educational field. According to Slekar, there are those in the reform movement who are giving money to entities that do not really represent reform. Mentioned were Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Both say they are against Common Core, but unless Walker and Jindal remove the mandatory assessments they are not really against Common Core. Mr. Slekar spoke of mathematics as being developmentally inappropriate in many aspects. Regarding language arts, classic literature is being replaced with informational texts.
Slekar believes that tests take more and more time away from real learning. According to Slekar the problem isn’t the tests .The problem is the high-stakes nature of the tests. Kids may not get much out of the tests, but their scores determine whether their schools are labeled “failing”, which determines the funding received by schools. Slekar pointed out a trio of foundations — the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation — who are pushing tests that produce data to prove public schools are failing. Parents and teachers are absolutely right to suspect that these tests don’t serve kids well and are instead designed to make schools fail. Failure, in turn, would give credence to increasing standards as a way to improve student performance. Slekar encourages students to opt out of the tests. Although this strategy may seem risky to parents and teachers who worry about their schools receiving a failing grade, Slaker dismisses the strategy as short-term thinking, firmly believing that the drive to label all public schools as failing must be stopped.
Slekar likewise believes there is no achievement gap. It is poverty and the lack of opportunity that are the major drivers of educational disparities. Poor kids need to get more of everything that rich kids get, that includes more music, more art, and rich literature.
Marsha Familaro Enright, Psychotherapist, President of Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, and President/Founder of Council Oak Montessori School
With an M.A. in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and as a Psychotherapist since 1976 still practicing part-time in Chicago, IL, Marsha Familaro Enright co-founded the Council Oak Montessori School of which she is the president and administrator. Additionally, Ms. Enright is currently the president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute and leads the development of the College of the United States and its wholly independent scholarship fund. Enright also writes for The New Individualist, a journal of opinion dedicated to reason, individualism and freedom. Other accomplishments of Marsha Familaro Enright can be found at this site.
To Marsha Familaro Enright, the education of the human child is of profound importance to anyone dedicated to achieving “the best within us.” It is especially important to those who have, or wish to have, children of their own, and to those who are or wish to become teachers. Enright is concerned about a child’s nature and needs; how they are different from those of an adult; and how to best foster the child’s development so as to help him maximize his potential for productivity and happiness in life. The emphasis on human nature, needs, and values is in keeping with the The New Intellectual Forum in Chicago, IL, founded by Marsha Familaro Enrightco in 1987.
Attributed to Aristotle: “All men, by nature, desire to know.” In other words, very little will stop the young child from exploring the world and trying to learn. Ms Enright views Aristotle’s words as the state of mind education should strive to achieve in order to create a vibrant, free society. Prior to the era of mass education, children were home- schooled. Even so, the American populace was fairly literate for the times. But having lived with tax-supported, government-provided education as a major supporter for 200 year, many people cannot imagine how most children could be educated otherwise. For Ms. Enright, the free market system is the answer.
Ms. Enright believes there is no way to give everyone equal advantages no matter how much money is spent. Why? Because human beings are individuals with hugely varying talents, abilities, and interests. Enright advocates that parents and students be treated more like customers of a service business, with private schools competing to do the best job possible for each child. Not only would schools be run more efficiently with little or no bureaucracy, but they would be responsive to their customers: parents and teachers. Schools could be of every shape, size, and location, tailored to fit each school’s outlook and purposes. With an emphasis on individualization, many students would be interested in non-academic areas such as crafts, trades, the arts, and business. Unlike with Common Core, there would be no generated push for everyone to attend college, which has resulted in an increase of unnecessary degrees and punishing debt for college graduates.
Part 2 will present disturbing facts about Common Core that not only call for, but which demand immediate action by parents and concerned Americans. Noted is how upwards of 70% of students will fail the PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) when administered here in IL in April-May of 2015, as arbitrary out test scores have been set as a ploy to convince parents and the pubic that even more standards are called for to raise student achievement. To help combat Common Core in your school system, resources will be provided as ammunition to fight Common Core with other like-minded citizens and friends.
On a side note, The Heartland Institute currently communicates with every national and state elected official in the U.S., and thousands of civic and business leaders, by sending out three of its monthly public policy newspapers. These newspapers contain small, informative articles that are not easy to read. A recent survey indicated that 50% of legislators read Heartland’s “School Reform News.” Subscribe here for your copy.
[First published at Illinois Review.]
Jim Lakely, communications director at The Heartland Institute and co-director of Heartland’s Center on the Digital Economy, talked with one of the best free-market tech experts in Washington: Less Government President Seton Motley, who also happens to be a policy advisor to Heartland.
Jim and Seton talked about the FCC’s attempt to reclassify the Internet under title II. This would, among other things, potentially open the door to a web version of the Universal Service Fund, which could mean Internet taxes are just around the corner.
The heat on Common Core was high this spring, but I predict it will be even higher come state legislative sessions this January. It’s the last year states can conceivably avoid joining the train wreck that will be Common Core tests, which are due to replace state tests in March and following. But the earnest moms and dads that comprise the Common Core grassroots have been largely burned by their representatives, who either have responded to serious arguments by relabeling Common Core or diverting blame for it. They’re politicians, man, not representatives.
Post-midterms, Sen. Rand Paul decided to up the ante on his potential 2016 competition, telling Breitbart that any Common Core-supporting presidential candidate is dead in the water: “I’m saying that that hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”
So it’s clearly incumbent on guys with eyes on 2016 to somehow placate voters. But they don’t actually want to do anything about Common Core. Nooo, that might make education bureaucrats, the Obama administration, and the business lobby angry, and these have money and leverage enough to make any politician see fuzzy instead of fuzzy math. So here’s what they’ll do instead of actually addressing the problem.1. Scott Walker: Let’s Create Another Educrat Committee
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made a reputation for standing up to education thugs. But it appears that works best when he can use the thugs for fundraising. In July, watching his re-election poll numbers dive, he issued a statement calling on the legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it with “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Now, there’s a huge difference between a governor issuing a statement and a governor putting muscle behind his statement. Anyone can say anything, and they usually do. The trick is to tell when a politician means something. Walker doesn’t appear to mean anything except “please don’t withhold votes from me as I continue to ignore you, GOP base.” Both state lawmakers and local GOP leaders in Wisconsin have told me Walker’s been essentially running away from Common Core ever since it became an issue. His statement hasn’t changed anything.
We can see that by what Common Core legislation Walker did support during this year’s legislative session. It would have merely had a commission review Common Core and suggest changes to state Superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat who signed Wisconsin into Common Core with the stroke of his pen months before Common Core was even published. Come to think of it, him signing Common Core before the public could see what was in it—that would qualify as Wisconsin having “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Right? So nothing needs to change to meet Walker’s criteria. But some people might believe things had changed. How convenient.
By the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another often mentioned for 2016, hastaken the same do-nothing tack. Not that that would surprise anyone.2. Mike Pence: But We Can’t Lose Our NCLB Waiver
Speaking of giving educrats free rein to pretend things have changed, consider the sleight-of-hand voters endured from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Common Core. He and other Republican leaders in the state demanded that any legislation to repeal Common Core (from the final language of the bill Pence signed into law) “[c]omply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver” from No Child Left Behind. Remember that? The law everyone hates that Pence refused to vote for while in Congress? Somehow, on the way from Congress to governor, he apparently reversed his opposition to what, as a U.S. representative, he criticized as “a complex regimen of curriculum subsidies and national testing.”
Here’s Pence’s statement on the waiver. The governor who insisted Congress “must undo” NCLB now piteously thanks Education Imperialist Arne Duncan for limitlessly expanding the law to exert his own arbitrary mandates over states and schools—which, by the way, upped the ante on national tests and enforced the mother of all curriculum mandates. Notice especially the doublespeak, in which administrative imperialism somehow becomes “local control.”
The approval of Indiana’s waiver request…gives us the ability to maintain local control of how federal education dollars are invested and to maintain the use of Indiana’s A-F school accountability system. The waiver also allows school districts and teachers to educate students in a manner determined by Hoosier educators and families in their local communities.
Since being elected Governor, I have consistently said that the Hoosier state needs to vigorously protect our commitment to high standards and to an accountability system that upholds those standards. I have also been clear that we need maximum flexibility under the law to develop our academic standards and accountability measures.
As Cato’s Neal McCluskey prophesied at the time, bowing to Washington ultimately forced Indiana to replace Common Core with…Common Core. Penceknew it, voted for it anyway, and proceeded to trot around the country telling people he’s the first governor to eliminate Common Core. This would be just politics as usual except that lots of innocent moms, dads, and kids who had trusted Pence to make good on his promise of something better than Common Core were in the process chucked under his campaign bus.3. Mike Huckabee: It’s Not Common Core, It’s the Name
In February, according to Fox News, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the people who created Common Core that
state education leaders should be urged to ditch the ‘Common Core’ name, because it had become ‘toxic.’ ‘Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,’ Huckabee said.
In other words, parents are stupid. They don’t hate Common Core because it’s an incomprehensible, academically mediocre, coercive, statist project. They hate it because they’re sheep and their talk-show shepherds have given them the secret “go-foaming-at-the-mouth-crazy” stimulus.
Also, the dozens of reputable think tanks, research institutions, and professors who have raised questions about Common Core or produced research showing it’s an inevitable failure, they’re all sheep, too. And if we lie to them and just repaint the crappy old barn, they’ll be too stupid to see through it and will cozy right up. Huckabee literally told people, “Don’t change what you’re doing, change what you’re calling it.” That confirms he’s considering a presidential run.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is among the many politicians taking Huckabee’s advice. He insists the term Common Core is “radioactive,” and that Iowa “need[s] to have Iowa standards,” but has only strengthened his state’s connections with Common Core.4. John Kasich: We Still Have Local Control
Apparently, Ohio Gov. John Kasich thinks Common Core was, and I quote, “written by local school districts” and he hasn’t seen that it “takes away from local control.”Oh, and, “Until somebody can show me we’re eroding local control, I see no reason to do anything.”
It’s a little alarming Kasich knows so little about an electoral priority of his constituents. Common Core and Medicaid expansion are the two top things Ohioans pester him about. It is really easy to prove school districts did not write Common Core. Even some supporters will acknowledge that two special-interest groups in D.C. convened a bunch of unelected bureaucrats to write Common Core.
The U.S. Department of Education’s former top lawyers have written a report showing both how imposing Common Core will lead inevitably to a national curriculum and that, in making this imposition, the Obama administration has likely broken several federal laws. And when Oklahoma rejected Common Core,the feds yanked funds and imposed extra restrictions. Oh, yeah. States are free as a bird.
I think that’s reason enough to at least consider Common Core ain’t freely chosen by duly elected representatives of the people, and certainly not by the people ourselves. Otherwise, there’d be no mass revolt brewing.5. Jeb Bush: I Will Never Support a National Curriculum
Here’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, perhaps Common Core’s biggest political backer, on the Hugh Hewitt Show:
In fact, standards are different than curriculum, and that where I think the biggest misnomer is where people legitimately get concerned. I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.
He’s technically right. The thing educrats call “standards” are actually mandates for what curriculum and lessons must contain and tests must measure. Common Core itself comprises 640 pages of such mandates. So it’s not technically the same thing teachers call “curriculum.” But Common Core does determine what curriculum contains. In other words, this is a distinction with very little difference, because when people such as Sen. Marco Rubio complain about federalizing education or nationalizing curriculum, what they’re criticizing is specifying at a national level exactly what books or lessons or concepts children must learn. And Common Core does this.6. Bobby Jindal: The Feds Ruined Common Core
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is perhaps the gutsiest prominent elected official who criticizes Common Core, and the most (or perhaps even the only) willing to put his money where his mouth is, but he’s telling an inaccurate story about these mandates. In that, he’s in company with other politicians who are trying to deceive themselves and everyone else about this issue, including Pence, Bush, and Huckabee.
“The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,”Jindal said, in announcing a lawsuit against the federal government for conditioning education funds and favors on adopting Common Core. Jindal’s nowhere near the only one. A House resolution decrying federal Common Core coercion insists on perpetuating the same technocrat CYA myth: “Whereas the development of the common education standards known as the Common Core State Standards was originally led by national organizations, but has transformed into an incentives-based mandate from the Federal Government…”
No, actually, the people who wrote Common Core asked the federal government to push states into it and to pay for national tests. When the Obama administration came to power, it obliged.7. Senators: I Can’t Do Anything Because It’s a State Issue
Sen. Lamar Alexander is the incoming chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor. He helped create one of the federal forerunners for Common Core, but under heavy pressure during the 2014 election started insisting the feds should “end the national school board and send all the decisions about Common Core back to Tennessee.”
It’s not clear there’s much difference between the America 2000 legislation Alexander shepherded and the structures the U.S. Department of Education used to push states into Common Core. And he’s still listed as a Common Core supporteron “Conservatives for Higher Standards.” But he is also sponsoring legislation to remove federal pressure from Common Core, which in this era of partisan gang-ups is notable for not receiving support from all the Republicans. It’s instructive how many GOP senators are simply saying and doing nothing about Common Core. No action equals supporting Common Core, given that it’s Obama administration policy.
Two downed Democrat senators, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, insisted that Common Core was bereft of federal involvement. That didn’t work out so well for them. But Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who moves from HELP chair to former senator, still considers Common Core a “state issue.”
Apparently Crapo didn’t know or didn’t think to have a staffer Google up the truth that the federal government has a) funded national Common Core tests, which are its crucial enforcement mechanism and b) required states to adopt Common Core if they want an NCLB waiver or a shot at a $4.35 billion slush fund Congress, in all its intelligence, handed to Czar Duncan.
Oh, and it’s also sending states millions to create identical student databases that plug directly into Common Core K-12 testing pipelines so everyone’s personal information can be collected in a government dossier. Are these senators saying they have no power to stop things they or their predecessors (mostly) authorized? Are they saying they can’t sign onto bills that prevent federal involvement with Common Core, testing, or curriculum? That once an executive decides to run all over Congress and the laws, no one can stop him?
If so, time to get someone else into their offices who thinks Congress is more than a bunch of bobble heads. At the very least, they could be honest like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who recently went from supporting Common Core to opposing it, and to prove his conversion has introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from mandating or incentivizing curriculum mandates, tests, or curriculum. It seems to be a strong bill, but here’s the problem: The U.S. Department of Education is already ignoring three laws that prohibit its Common Core-pushing. Adding another doesn’t seem likely to change its behavior. That means what really needs to happen is cutting USDOE off at the knees by slashing its budget and responsibilities.
Any takers? Rand Paul? Anyone?
[Originally published at The Federalist]
President Barack Obama’s recent call to the Federal Communications Commission to strictly regulate broadband networks could be the death knell for the open, free, and prosperous Internet that has become one of the key engines of the American economy. That engine is not broken, but bureaucratic meddling will surely do the trick.
In 1996, Congress classified broadband as an “information service” under Title I of the Telecommunications Act, a light regulatory touch that allowed the digital economy to bring us the marvels of the modern age. Unburdened by onerous regulation, telecommunications companies motivated by (gasp!) potential profits took risks and invested heavily in new technology. This is why in 2014 even the poor in America have the world in the palm of their hands, and have fast access to just about any form of media and information on-demand.
Title II, in contrast, is an anachronism; a strict and controlling “common carrier” regulatory regime designed for old style copper-wire telephone networks developed during the Great Depression. It has as much place in today’s vibrant, high-speed broadband world as a hand-crank telephone on the wall of a general store.
Title II classification would give a small, unelected bureaucratic body widespread power and control over the Internet economy – allowing the FCC to play traffic cop and paymaster by controlling rates, infrastructure, mandating levels of access, and interfering with how Internet service providers (ISPs) operate.
Scott Cleland, policy advisor at The Heartland Institute and chairman of NetCompetition, correctly refers to Title II as a “Mother may I?” regulatory regime. It would create a world in which ISPs would need to ask permission from FCC overlords to introduce new products, modify current products, or introduce and deploy new technologies. This would irreparably harm the Internet economy by slowing the pace of business and innovation to the snail’s pace of government.
Closely related to the push for Title II regulation is the debate over net neutrality: the concept that ISPs treat equally all the traffic moving through their broadband networks, not block access to any legal online content, and play no favorites by prioritizing one content provider over another.
For years, this has been a voluntary arrangement regulated by market pressures, and worked well in the dial-up and early broadband days. Having invested billions in their networks, ISPs want to please as many customers as possible. As broadband networks have gotten faster, the popularity of bandwidth-hogging services such as video streaming have skyrocketed – to the point that at peak hours of broadband use in North America, about half of all traffic on the Internet is consumed by just Netflix and YouTube. Half. In light of such unequal use of broadband, the concept of treating all traffic equally is not only impractical; it is a sure-fire way to degrade the digital experience for everyone.
Yet supporters of shoving the square peg of modern broadband into the round hole of Title II regulation would do so to ensure the FCC could strictly enforce net neutrality – replacing the flexible, efficient decisions of millions of people in a free market with the strict-yet-uninformed dictates of a handful of Washington bureaucrats. The user experience would suffer as investment would slow to a crawl, costing all of us the pace of innovation in the digital economy we have come to take for granted.
It is human nature to take for granted the status quo. It is dangerous to think government attempts to “improve” the status quo will do anything of the sort. The Internet is not broken. There is no problem for the FCC to fix. But it will create plenty if it heeds President Obama’s call to apply an early 20th century regulatory regime to the digital wonder of the 21st century.
God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies.
The late, inordinately great United States President Ronald Reagan believed it – and applied it directly to the worst “friend” of all:
The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’
Anytime government does anything, it costs We the People money – in (at least) two directions.
At the front end – because before government can do anything it must take from us the coin to do it.
And at the back end – because anything the government makes us do costs us more coin. What wise man Mark Steyn calls complying with the Department of Compliance.
The cost of just the federal government “helping” We the “Friends” is gi-normous.
Costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.863 trillion in 2013. That is more than the (Gross Domestic Product) GDPs of Canada or Australia.
Every good and service we purchase – or try to sell – is thus in the aggregate nearly $2 trillion more expensive. Thanks for the assistance, Uncle Sam.
Some economic sectors are more abused than others. This is most often due to regulatory attrition – and addition.
Government gets a little involved – and of course things get worse. So the government assails the damage its done – as a failing of the (now less) free market. Spinning it into justification for further government involvement. And of course things worsen further. Lather, rinse repeat.
As we should all know by now, the solution to government – isn’t more government.
One of the most abused parts of the economy is the Farm Sector. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) alone is way beyond control.When another arm of the Leviathan thinks you’ve gone light years too far – just how far from the path have you strayed?
Using 105,000 total USDA employees and the BLS figure of 1.2 million farmers and farm workers — you get a ratio of 1 employee for every 11.4 farmers.
Except it’s 1 for every 11.4 members of the sector – anyone involved in any way in farming. Not just farmers. That bureaucrat-to-useful-person ratio is absurd.
The tens of thousands of pages of regulations the USDA has issued these past 152 years to lord over the Farm Sector are cumulatively crushing.
But the USDA is a lightweight compared to the meteoric, merely 45-year-old Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA is ridiculously anti-free market – it’s its sole reason for being. And more and more, it is setting its sites on the Farm Sector.
You want to kneecap farmers? And make food exorbitantly more expensive? Turn farmers’ water into a weapon against them.
The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation. In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.
The EPA says 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands are not protected from pollution.
That actually means 60% of the nation’s streams and wetlands are protected from government. The EPA won’t stand for that. Except:
(T)wo U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited what waterways the government can regulate and the proposed rule is meant to clarify which smaller ones they include.
Why would that stop the EPA?
(T)he rules…(would) allow the government to dictate what farmers can and cannot do with their farmland, which often includes small streams, ponds and marshes.
How beyond-all-reason-and-reasonableness is this massive new EPA power grab?
On October 1, 2014, an unexpected ally from within the administration filed comments with EPA claiming that EPA and the Corps “have improperly certified the proposed rule [WOTUS] under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) because it (WOTUS) would have significant effects on small businesses.”
When another arm of the Leviathan thinks you’ve gone light years too far – just how far from the path have you strayed?
EPA, of course, said its rule would not have a significant effect on small businesses.
Of course it says that. And if you like your health care plan – you can keep it.
The RFA requires any federal agency to consider the impact of a proposed rule on a small business or small local government. Moreover if an agency determines there will be a significant economic impact, then less burdensome alternatives must be reviewed and in EPA’s case it is required to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel.
As you might guess EPA ignored SBA requirements.
Of course it did.
SBA says that EPA and the Corps mislead the public by claiming that using a 1986 definition of the scope of the waters of the U.S. EPA is actually narrowing its jurisdiction.
SBA points out correctly, as does the Office of Management and Budget, that EPA should not be using the 1986 definition but use its current method for determining jurisdiction. SBA claims “Using an obsolete baseline improperly diminishes the effects of this rule.”
Again, it appears EPA is attempting to mislead citizens and farmers.
Really? The EPA – dishonest and devious?
The SBA is right. We’re right. The EPA needs to back off its Farm-Sector-abusing Waters of the U.S. uber-overreach – and a whole lot of others.
Our food – and everything else – would be a whole lot cheaper.[This article first appeared on RedState]
The data may show Earth experienced its hottest year on record in 2014, but that would not be proof humans are causing global warming. It wouldn’t even prove the year was the hottest on record, or even particularly hot.
As early as September, global warming alarmists were claiming 2014 would set the record for highest average global temperature.
While cities and regions in the United States have been breaking record after record for cold temperatures and snowfall, most of the rest of the globe, including the oceans that make up most of Earth’s surface, has been warmer than average. Looking only at the badly flawed land-based temperature measurements, 2014 may be the “hottest year on record.”
But it may not be, since much more accurate satellite temperature measurements indicate 2014 will be a year with only slightly above average temperatures at best.
Assuming for the sake of argument the satellite measurements are wrong, record high temperatures in 2014 would be consistent with climate models, but any good scientist will point out a single record-setting year, just as a single climate catastrophe like a bad hurricane or an anomalous drought, cannot be definitively linked to human activities.
Indeed, when climate realists like myself point out Earth experienced below-average temperatures during the 1940s through the 1970s, alarmists regularly respond, “two or three decades is too short a time to make general claims about climate.” If three decades of records is too short a time period to leap to conclusions about human-caused climate change, a single year, even a record-setting year, provides far too little data to come to any firm conclusions.
To believe humans are causing global warming, one must blindly embrace admittedly incomplete climate models to the exclusion of all evidence to the contrary.
Climate model temperatures projections have consistently been much higher than actual temperatures, and each year the gap between model temperature predictions and actual measured temperatures grows. In addition, whereas climate models have projected steadily rising temperatures over the past two decades, global temperatures have in fact stagnated for 18 years despite a significant increase in greenhouse gases.
Some climate scientists, citing the models, claim we should be experiencing more severe hurricanes, but only one of the top ten deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history has occurred since 1957, with eight of the ten deadliest hurricanes having hit the United States before 1935. In fact, although greenhouse gas levels have risen dramatically since the 1950s, the average number of hurricanes and the number of strong hurricanes have declined substantially.
Biologists have predicted species will go extinct due to human-induced global warming, yet they can’t point to a single species that has. The iconic polar bear, the poster child for species endangered by a warming planet, is thriving. At more than 25,000 bears, the polar bear population increased substantially during the warming of the past half-century. In fact, polar bears numbers are growing in regions of their habitat experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-average sea ice thickness and extent.
Speaking of sea ice, the Arctic experienced dramatic declines in sea ice over the past decade, declines projected by climate models. In the past couple of years, however, Arctic ice has recovered to its average levels for the past decade; the decline has frozen (pardon the pun), as have global temperatures.
In addition, contrary to model projections, Antarctic sea ice has been growing to record levels year after year, setting new records multiple times in 2014 alone. Even climate modelers admit they can’t explain why Antarctica has been growing. Once again, the facts confound the models.
Climate models indicate global warming should be causing more and more-prolonged droughts and increased episodes of extreme rainfall, yet studies show recent droughts fall well within the historical average for frequency, length, and severity, and frequency of flooding events has not increased.
Despite the reported recent warming, deaths related to temperatures or extreme weather events have declined dramatically during the past century, a trend that shows no indication of abating.
The real bugaboo raised by environmental radicals is that sea levels are rising and will rise even more dramatically if global warming is not halted or at least slowed. Sea levels are rising, as they always do between ice ages, but the current rate of rise is well below the average for the past 18,000 years. The rate of rise has not increased over the past two centuries, and a recent study found the rate of sea-level rise has slowed 31 percent since 2002, and by 44 percent since 2004. At this pace, scientists expect sea-level rise of less than seven inches per century.
Whereas none of the climate disaster scenarios spun out by environmental alarmists and faithfully publicized by the mainstream media is being borne out in reality, one significant climate benefit is proving true. Globally, Earth is greening, as increased CO2 levels have proved to be a powerful steroid enhancing plant growth. Farmland and farm yields are both increasing.
How would climate alarmists have world leaders respond to all this good news? By killing fossil fuels.
As author Alex Epstein argues, instead of taking a safe climate and making it dangerous through the use of fossil fuels, we have been transforming a dangerous climate into a safer, more manageable one for human flourishing. This has particular benefits for people in developing countries, for whom additional fossil fuel energy is an economic godsend.
Humans have long fought a war with climate, and to the extent we’ve won, it has been through the use of technology, most recently including fossil fuels. I say let’s keep taking the battle to the climate on behalf of the millions of people still living in poverty.
For decades, the quality of life of the incoming generation of Americans has built on and improved on that of the previous generation. According to new data released by the United States Census Bureau, however, that is not the case for the current incoming generation, the Millennials. They have government to blame for their rotten economic conditions.
According to a new Census Bureau report based on its American Community Survey Five-Year Statistics, young adults today are faring worse than those of the 1980s, who are now entering middle age.
“One in five young adults lives in poverty,” the Census Bureau release explains, “up from one in seven in 1980.”
Census data show the U.S. young-adult poverty rate remained relatively unchanged for two decades but began climbing sharply in 2009. In 1980, 14.1 percent of individuals ages 18 to 34 lived on incomes meeting the federal government’s definition of poverty. In 2009, 19.7 percent of that demographic group lived in poverty.
Meanwhile, the age group’s employment rate has fallen from a high of 70.6 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2009. And median wages for those two out of three employed Millennials have declined. Fewer young adults are able to find employment, and those who are do are earning less money for their work.
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a similarly bleak picture for young adults beginning their careers. In November, the effective unemployment rate for young adults, including the 1.91 million people who have entirely given up on job searching, was 14.7 percent.
Each and every new rule and regulation issued by Washington regulators is accompanied by seen and unseen costs that discourage business owners from hiring new workers. Thousands of new planned industry rules were released just before Thanksgiving, including rules allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate small puddles on farms or businesses’ private property.
Surveys by regional Federal Reserve Banks show businesses are responding to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by cutting workers’ hours, from full-time to part-time, in response to ACA’s impact on labor costs. Other businesses are deliberately understaffing in order to avoid triggering ACA requirements.
As President John F. Kennedy noted, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Removing the millstone the national government places around job creators’ necks would allow economic prosperity to flourish and benefit all Americans, including the current generation of young adults who are currently among the hardest-hit.
The Sierra Club was founded in the hope that preserving the natural environment could coexist with the responsible development of the natural resources our society relies on everyday. However, despite the intentions of the groups founders, the Sierra Club has turned into an environmental activist group that is less concerned with conservation efforts than they are with promoting their agenda. This fact is made readily apparent by the recent video “Fracking 101″ released by the organization, which by many accounts is one of the most deceptive videos ever made on the topic.
Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Jessica Sena debunk the claims made by this video in a 30 minute podcast. Among the inaccurate claims debunked are: the world is running out of fossil fuels, fracking is more dangerous than traditional oil and natural gas production, hydraulic fracturing creates more greenhouse gasses than other forms of energy, fracking will contaminate our water, and that the world could be powered on 100 percent renewable energy.
Want a Balanced Budget Amendment that’s Flexible Enough to Handle Genuine Crises Without Loopholes? Join Compact for America
The Balanced Budget Amendment at the heart of the Compact for a Balanced Budget contains no exceptions for war or natural disaster, but it remains the only practical solution to our runaway federal debt. The reason is two-fold.
First of all, the Compact’s Balanced Budget Amendment is flexible enough to handle genuine crises. The initial debt limit it enforces can be lifted for any reason that can command the support and approval of 26 state legislatures–including war or natural disaster. The initial debt limit is set at 105% of the outstanding federal debt at ratification. This gives Congress upwards of $600 billion cushion of additional debt spending–enough for about a year of borrowing under current spending trajectories before the initial debt limit kicks in.
Keep in mind, cash flow from taxes will continue during all but the most devastating crises and it can be prioritized to address immediate exigencies (if a crisis were so devastating that tax revenue ceases, it is unlikely markets would exist to purchase public debt either, so an exception for borrowing during such crises would be meaningless). During that time, Congress has the power to seek state legislative approval to raise the debt limit either based on a persuasive budget or based on a clearly defined crisis contingency–like war or natural disaster.
If the states nevertheless refuse such approval, that would mean that a wide national consensus does not support additional federal debt under the circumstances proffered by Congress, which would be reason enough to disapprove the request. Military adventures and pork barrel spending disguised as crises will have a hard time getting financing. But the practical reality, as evidenced by Pearl Harbor and 9-11, is that our Nation has always risen to the occasion when challenged by a genuine crisis.
Secondly, the problem with writing in an exception to balancing the budget is that it will become a loophole when interpreted by Washington. Congress and the President clearly have an addiction to unsustainable debt spending. The temptation to interpret a crisis exception to allow needless borrowing is too great. It is like telling an alcoholic to avoid liquor except for medicinal purposes.
Giving Washington the opportunity to borrow through exceptions that Washington alone would interpret would defeat the purpose of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which is to divide the otherwise unlimited power of borrowing between Washington and state legislatures acting as a fiscal control board. State legislatures–not Washington–need to be the ultimate judge about the legitimacy of any request to lift the federal debt limit because an addict cannot be trusted.
[First posted at Compact for America]
Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power
Heartland Institute Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy Peter Ferrera joints The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Policy Brief published by the Heartland Institute, “Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power.”
Ferrera explains how repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with universal health insurance tax credits and state Medicaid block grants would give Americans more control over health care decisions, by allowing the power of the free market to deliver superior health care outcomes for people.
On December 11th 2014, Senator Tom Coburn gave an emotional farewell address on the Senate floor. In his speech, Coburn reflected on his time as a congressman, explained his worldview, gave advice to colleagues and gave thanks to those that helped and supported him.
Coburn, a three term Representative, was elected to the Senate in 2004 and then re-elected in 2010. However, at the beginning of 2014, he announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. His farewell address on Thursday would be his last speech on the Senate floor.
The speech started off with a sentimental thank you list to many of his staff members. Occasionally unable to hold back his emotion, Coburn thanked his staff members and his chief of staff saying, “We’re only able to function because of all the people who enable us to do it.”
He then began to reflect on his time in Congress. “To those of you, through the years, who I have offended,” Corburn said, “I truly apologize.” He mentioned that no offense was intended; it was merely the result of his worldview that placed liberty and the constitution above all else.
“I believe our founders were absolutely brilliant. Far smarter than us,” Coburn explained. He said we would not begin to solve our country’s problems until we once again accept the instruction of the constitution and restore individual liberty to everyone. “But I don’t believe we can if we continue to ignore the wisdom of our founding documents,” said Coburn.
Today, the state of the country is in bad shape, according to Coburn. He said the struggling economy and loss of freedom has created a country that his father would not recognize. Corburn attributes these problems to a centralized government that is too involved in decision-making instead of leaving it to the power of the free market.
He stops short of blaming his colleagues of opposition though when he said their intentions were not bad. “The intentions are great. The motivations of the people in this body are wonderful. But the perspective of how we do it, and what the long-term consequences of how we do it really do matter,” said Coburn. These intentions don’t prevent unintended consequences, however.
To prevent the occurrence of these unintended consequences, Coburn stands by specific principles. When reading legislation, Coburn determines if it may negatively impact life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He then makes sure the bill is consistent with the oath congressmen take when sworn into office.
While giving words of advice to his colleagues, the Senator took the time to read the oath in full. “Your state is not mentioned one time in that oath,” Coburn said to his fellow Senators. He told them their goal was to defend liberty and the constitution, not to pursue benefits for your individual state.
At the closing of his speech, Coburn began giving thanks again. He thanked his family for their sacrifice and he thanked his staff. He then gave thanks to his fellow Senators, who he said were “working for a better country for us all.” The Senator then yielded the floor to a standing ovation.
Perhaps when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was a child, she attended a party and was the only one who came without a present, or was wearing inappropriate attire—and the embarrassment she felt haunts her to this day. That’s how psychodynamic psychology (Freud) might explain her December 3 decision to spend more money on Germany’s failing energy experiment to avoid, as Reuters puts it: “the embarrassment of missing her government’s goal of a 40 percent reduction of emissions by 2020.”
As Europe’s biggest economy, Germany has also embraced the biggest carbon dioxide reductions through a program known as “Energiewende”—or, in English, also called energy change, shift, or transformation. Energiewende was launched in 2000 under Merkel’s predecessor, who offered subsidies for any company that produced green energy.
While the European Union (E.U.) has committed to carbon dioxide cuts of 40 percent by 2030, Germany’s national goal aims to get there a decade sooner—which may have seemed achievable early in the program. After the 1990 reunification of Germany, the modernization of East Germany brought rapidly reduced emissions. However, the program’s overall result has raised costs and the emissions the expensive programs were designed to cut.
A few months ago, Bloomberg reported that due to increased coal consumption: “Germany’s emissions rose even as its production of intermittent wind and solar power climbed fivefold in the past decade”—hence Merkel’s potential embarrassment on the global stage where she’s put herself in the spotlight as a leader in reducing emissions.
On December 3, while 190 governments were meeting for two weeks of climate change talks in Lima, Peru (which, after 30 hours of overtime, produced a compromise deal that environmental groups see “went from weak to weaker to weakest”), Merkel’s cabinet agreed to a package that continues Germany’s optimistic—though unrealistic—goal and increases subsidies for measures designed to cut emissions. Regarding Germany’s “climate protection package,” Barbara Hendricks, Environment Minister, admitted: “if no additional steps were taken, Germany … would miss its targets by between five to eight percentage points.”
The results of the German agreement will require operators of coal-fueled power plants to reduce emissions by at least 22 million tons—the equivalent of closing eight of them. The Financial Times (FT) believes the plan will “lead to brownouts in German homes.”
With the goal of generating 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, Germany has aggressively pursued a green dream with unsustainable subsidies that have produced an unstable system described by FT, on November 25, as: “a lesson in doing too much too quickly on energy policy.”
So, what are the lessons? What should the U.S., and other countries, learn from Germany’s generous subsidy programs and rapid, large-scale deployment and integration of renewable energy into the power system? These are the questions U.S. legislators should be asking themselves as they argue over a tax extender package that includes a retroactive extension for the now-expired Production Tax Credit for wind energy.
Fortunately, the answers are easy to determine. Finadvice, a Switzerland based advisor to the utility and renewable industry, did an exhaustive study: “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy—Lessons Learned from Germany.” The introductory comments of the resulting report, includes the following statement: “The authors of this white paper would like to state that they fully support renewables as a part of the power portfolio. …a couple [of the authors] have direct equity interests in renewable projects.” The authors’ viewpoint is an important consideration, especially in light of their findings. They wanted Germany’s experiment to work; yet they begin the Executive Summary with these words:
“Over the last decade, well-intentioned policymakers in Germany and other European countries created renewable energy policies with generous subsidies that have slowly revealed themselves to be unsustainable, resulting in profound, unintended consequences for all industry stakeholders. While these policies have created an impressive roll-out of renewable energy resources, they have also clearly generated disequilibrium in the power markets, resulting in significant increases in energy prices to most users, as well as value destruction for all stakeholders: consumers, renewable companies, electric utilities, financial institutions, and investors.”
After reading the entire 80-page white paper, I was struck with three distinct observations. The German experiment has raised energy costs to households and business, the subsidies are unsustainable, and, as a result, without intervention, the energy supply is unstable.
Anyone who reads “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy” will conclude that there is far more to providing energy that is efficient, effective and economical than the renewable fairytale storytellers want consumers to believe. Putting a solar panel on your roof is more involved than just installation. The German experiment proves that butterflies, rainbows and pixie dust won’t power the world after all—coal, natural gas, and nuclear power are all important parts of the power portfolio.
Why, then, did Merkel continue Germany commitment to an energy and economic suicide? It is all part of the global shaming that takes place at the climate change meetings like the one that just concluded in Lima, Peru.
If only U.S. legislators would read “Development and Integration of Renewable Energy” before they vote for more subsidies for renewable energy, but, heck, they don’t even read the bill—which is why calls from educated constituents are so important. I am optimistic. Maybe we could learn from Germany’s experience what they haven’t yet learned themselves.
They , whoever they is, say you’ve got to take the good with the bad. In my opinion, most laws are almost all bad despite the often good intentions of their authors and sponsors. They routinely violate the constitution and beyond that, after they go through the legislative meat-grinder, result more havoc and unintended harms than fixes for the problems they were meant to correct.
And end all, be all budget bills, where you’ve got to fund the entire government with one big package rather than examining the merits of each line item as an independent measure, are usually the worst kind of wrong, with present and future taxpayers paying billions in welfare to the well-to-do as industry after industry and special interest after special interest gets their own bit of graft.
The so-called Cromnibus passed last weekend was no exception. Still, while limiting myself to environmental provisions in the bill, rather than focusing entirely on the bad provisions, I want to also extoll the merits of the good parts of the final law.
First, on the negative side of the ledger, the Cromnibus resurrected the wind industry’s primary giveaway, the Production Tax Credit. This boondoggle gives billions of dollars away to wealthy wind developers each year. They are paid not for the electric power actually produced, but rather by the amount of power the wind farms could theoretically deliver in a year. Wind power wouldn’t survive without subsidies. Despite decades of federal largesse, wind has never been able to compete with coal or more recently natural gas on the basis of either reliability or price. House Republicans fought the PTC for years and were finally successful in preventing it from being renewed in the budget last year. I’m just flummoxed, as to why, they would pull the stake out and let this vampire rise from the grave to suck more blood from taxpayers. Especially when they will have an even larger majority in the house and control of the Senate next year.
In addition, most of the EPA’s recent regulatory actions and proposals were funded, including the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emission. This in itself is a huge blow to the economy since regulations of the EPA are a growing as a share of regulatory costs to the economy and studies show that, relative to other agencies, EPA regulations are more cost more per benefit delivered (e.g. lives saved, jobs created, illness prevented) than regulations from almost any other agency. And with the EPA’s carbon and ozone rules promise to be two of the most costly, least beneficial regulations of all time.
There are other provisions that merit thorough critiques, but frankly I’m getting depressed and want to point out some of the nice surprises found in the law.
First, idiotic biofuels programs, experienced a minor cut in funding — $18 million was cut from $694 million in mandatory spending in the 2014 budget bills. Every little bit helps! Better still, the EPA’s budget was cut by $60 million from its 2014 levels and staffing at the agency could reach a 25-year low next year. Budget and the staffing numbers are going in the right direction, at least if you subscribe to my view that fewer people and less funding means less mischief. Also, the law blocks President Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the UN climate fund. I can already see climate treaty’s unraveling. Going further on the climate front, one provision in the Cromnibus blocks the Export-Import bank from denying financing to coal-fired power plants in developing countries. The Obama administration had been denying such funding as a way to prevent poor countries from using greenhouse gas emitting, but life saving coal powered electricity.
In addition, the cromnibus has provisions that: prevent the the administration listing two types of sage grouse, that live smack dab in the middle of oil and gas country, as endangered species; delay the phase out of traditional incandescent light bulbs; block the EPA from regulation methane emissions from livestock and from farm manure management systems; prevent the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineer’s from issuing new Waters of the Untied States regulations that would have restricted certain agricultural practices and allowed the regulation farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.
In an attempt to end costly lawsuits filed by environmental and anti-gun extremists, the cromnibus blocks the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing lures – something the EPA has repeatedly and correctly asserted it had no power to do. Still that hasn’t stopped environmentalist from filing costly lawsuits; perhaps this provision will.
There is much to bemoan within the environmental portions of the bill and certainly in the more than 1,600 page monstrosity as a whole. Others will no doubt point out these flaws better than I in the coming days, still to prevent those who like me, care about both a healthy, biodiverse environment and individual freedom and economic prosperity, from pulling out all of their hair or opening a vein, I thought it important to point out at least some of the positive aspects of the bill.
I believe the (Federal Communications Commission) FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….
Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the FCC is supposed to be an independent agency – removed from the influence of politicians and political pressure. President Obama dropping this bomb is a nigh unprecedented overt effort to exert influence on the Commission’s allegedly non-partisan, fact-based deliberations.
Let’s ignore the fact that Congress passed law – signed by then-President Bill Clinton – that classified the Internet the way it is currently classified. Thus only Congress can Re-classify it. This would be yet another unilateral Obama Administration fiat.
Let’s ignore the fact that how Congress classified the Internet has already been adjudicated up to and through the Supreme Court – and the Court ruled it’s classified as it’s classified.
Let’s ignore the fact that the FCC has already twice imposed Net Neutrality – and twice been unanimously told by the D.C. Circuit Court that they don’t have the authority to do so.
Let’s ignore the fact that being twice with unanimity rebuked for overreaching on Net Neutrality and then going for Title II Reclassification is responding to being twice rebuked for a power grab – with an exponentially larger power grab. Like being twice told you can’t have a piece of pie – and your responding by taking the entire pie.
Let’s ignore the fact that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler – a President Obama campaign-coin-bundling appointee – is often developing policies, including his looming prospective Title II-Net Neutrality power grab, while completely cutting out of the process the two Commission Republicans (Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly). And that Commissioners Pai and O’Reilly are routinely delivered hundreds of pages on which they’re supposed to vote – just a scant few hours before they are supposed to vote. If all of this sounds like, well, most of Congress – it’s only because it should.
The FCC is made up of five voting Commissioners – one of whom also serves as Chairman. Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposition Party. So right now it’s 3-2 Democrat – and Democrat Chairman Wheeler is more and more pressing his partisan advantage.
Let’s ignore all of that. Let’s instead focus on this.
Should Chairman Wheeler and his two fellow unelected FCC Democrats behave like President Obama, their fellow Donkeys and their ideological brethren want them to and Reclassify the Internet – any three unelected FCC bureaucrats will from then on be able to raise taxes on the Internet whenever they want.
How do we know this? Phones are regulated under Title II – and this just happened.
Except the FCC didn’t. Three unelected Democrat FCC Commissioners did. By an additional 17.2%. Without their two Republican Commission-mates – and without Congress.
The FCC votes on these sorts of items every month. Which means they could raise taxes on phones every month. And – post-Reclassification – the Internet. This phone tax increase will also serve as a preemptive Net tax increase.
And all of this is on top of the gi-normous phone taxes baseline that will immediately apply to the post-Reclassification Web. This 17.2% hike is a Universal Service Fund (USF) tax increase. That tax was already absurdly high – a pre-hoist 16.1% of our phone bill. And even without an FCC vote it goes up every quarter – automatically.
Do we want three unelected FCC Democrat bureaucrats to unilaterally grant themselves the power to tax the Internet at this ridiculous level? And have these tax rates increase automatically – and whenever three unelected bureaucrats want besides?
I didn’t think so.
The International Monetary Fund recently released its calculations regarding the world’s economy and concluded that China is the number one economy, producing $17.6 trillion in terms of goods and services, as compared with the U.S. producing $17.4 trillion. It’s not an overwhelming gap, but it is a warning that our economy is going in the wrong direction and has been before and since the financial crisis of 2008.
Writing in Market Watch, Brett Arends, put it succinctly. “As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.”
As discomforting as the IMF news is, the worst news has been significantly under-reported in the nation’s media. The U.S. is now $18 TRILLION in debt.
In February of 2014, CNS News reported that “The debt of the U.S. government has increased $6,666 trillion since President Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009, according to the latest numbers released by the Treasury Department.”
President Obama has been responsible for more debt over the course of his two terms to date than all previous U.S. Presidents in the first 227 years combined.
Writing in the Daily Caller, Tracy Miller, an associate professor at Grove City College, noted that “Over the first five years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. economy grew more slowly than during any five-year period since just after the end of World War II, averaging less than 1.3 percent per year. If we leave out the sharp recession of 1945-46 following World War II, Obama looks even worse, ranking dead last among all Presidents since 1932.”
Why was this man reelected in 2012? One is inclined to find common ground with ObamaCare “architect”, Jonathan Gruber, who called voters “stupid.”
I prefer to believe, however, that the voters have been subjected to a non-stop campaign in the national media to get the first black American elected President and then to ignore some truly horrible facts about his two terms in office thus far.
The voters are not stupid, but they have been deliberately misled by the careful exclusion of news about the actual state of the economy.
Reality caught up with Obama in the two midterm elections of 2012 and 2014. The voters shifted power in Congress to the Republican Party. In the most recent midterms thirteen of the Senators who had voted for ObamaCare were defeated.
As December began, CNS News reported that “The labor force participation rate remained at a 36-year low of 62.8 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
The BLS measures the percentage of “non-institutional population” in the labor force, those 16 years or older who were not in the military or working in a governmental job, i.e. the private sector. In September, the rate was the lowest since February 1978!
To put this in perspective, by November, the number of beneficiaries on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—food stamps—had topped 46,000,000 for 36 straight months according to data released by the Department of Agriculture. The Census Bureau reports that there are 115,048,000 households in the nation as of August 2014. That means the number of households on food stamps equaled 19.75% of all the households in the nation; one out of five. Those on this program outnumber the entire populations of nations such as Poland or Argentina.
It doesn’t stop there. On December 3 CNS News reported “The total number of people in the United States now receiving federal disability benefits hit a record 10,982,920 in November, up from the previous record set in May, according to newly released data from the Social Security Administration.”
How bad is the U.S. economy? In August, CNS News’ Terence P. Jeffrey reported that “109,631,000 Americans lived in households that received benefits from one or more federally funded ‘means-tested programs’—also known as welfare—as of the fourth quarter of 2012.” The data came from the Census Bureau. That was the same year Obama was reelected and it represented 35.4% of the entire U.S. population at the time. By the end of 2012, it had increased to 49.5%!
Means-tested government programs include Social Security, Medicare, railroad retirement, unemployed compensation, worker’s compensation, Veteran’s compensation and Veteran’s educational assistance. The largest of these programs are Social Security and Medicare.
Why does the U.S. have an $18 TRILLION dollar debt?
Consider that, in fiscal year 2013, the federal government paid out more than $2 TRILLION in benefits and entitlements according to data from the Bureau of the Fiscal Services’ Monthly Treasury Statement. You don’t have to be a mathematician to conclude that, if more Americans were working, there would be less need for many of the benefits programs and the largest among them would be more financially sound.
News of new jobs is always welcome, but it hides the deeper problem of too many unemployed and while Congress continues to debate what to do about Obama’s effort to give work permits to illegal aliens and protect them from deportation, the Center for Immigration Studies announced in June that “Since the year 2000 all of the net increase in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal).” Should the U.S. make five million or more illegal aliens eligible to compete for jobs with its native-born and naturalized population?
The U.S. must pay billions in interest on its debt. The failure of Congress to address the need to reform the tax code, reduce the deluge of regulations negatively affecting the business and industrial sector, and get control over spending has dug the nation a very deep and dangerous hole.
Statistics can be daunting, but we all can feel that something is terribly wrong with the economy despite the news about a vigorous Wall Street. The fact remains that Main Street is in trouble. The nation requires an economy in which new businesses are created and existing ones can afford to expand. That is not happening.
That is why we are Number Two.
Sea levels are never still, but with global temperatures flat and snow cover and polar ice steady, sea levels are probably as stable today as they ever get.
However, we still have climatists creating computer models that predict dangerously rising seas to justify their goal to ban coastal development and to revive their failing war on carbon.
Alarmists should study earth history.
At the depth of our most recent ice age, just 16,000 years ago, a thick sheet of ice covered much of North America and Northern Europe. So much water was locked up in ice that humans could walk on dry land from London to Paris, from Siberia to Alaska and from New Guinea to Australia.
There was no Great Barrier Reef as Queensland’s continental shelf was part of the coastal plain, and rivers like the Burdekin met the ocean about 160 km east of its current mouth.
Then, about 13,000 years ago, with no help from man-made engines burning hydrocarbons, the Earth began warming. This was probably caused by natural cycles affecting our sun and the solar system, aided by volcanic heat along Earth’s Rings of Fire under the oceans.
The great ice sheets melted, sea levels rapidly rose some 130m and coastal settlements and ancient port cities were drowned. Without zoning laws to guide them, our smart ancestors moved ahead of the rising waters and adapted happily to the warmer climate with less snow, more rain, more carbon dioxide plant food and more ice-free land.
This warming phase peaked in the Medieval Warm Era about 1,000 years ago, when sea levels also peaked. They fell during the Little Ice Age, rose slightly during the Modern Warm Era, and are relatively stable now.
Rising seas are never a lethal threat to life on Earth. The danger sign is falling sea levels caused by return of the great ice sheets. This would quickly put high-latitude farming into the deep freezer, thus creating widespread starvation. Trying to grow crops on emerging salty mudflats in an icy climate will give future farmers a real climate concern.
And despite World Heritage listing, when the next ice age comes, the skeletons of the stranded Great Barrier Reef will become bleached limestone deposits on the coastal plain. The indestructible coral populations will abandon their marooned homes and build new reefs further out under the retreating seas.
Still More Politicized Pseudo-Science? The Neonics and Honeybees Saga Takes Interesting, Potentially Fraudulent Turn
Insisting that scientific evidence shows a clear link between neonics and honeybee population declines, EU anti-insecticide campaigners persuaded the European Union to impose a two-year ban on using the chemicals. Farm organizations and the Union’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department unsuccessfully opposed the ban, arguing that evidence for a link is not persuasive, and actual field studies in Canada and elsewhere have found little risk to bees from the pesticides.
Then this year’s canola (rapeseed) crop suffered serious losses of 30-50 percent, due to rampaging flea beetles. Over 44,000 acres (18,000 hectares) were declared a total loss. Euro farmers blamed the ban.
Now it appears that the campaign against these newer, safer pesticides – and the scientific papers that supposedly justify the ban – were all part of a rigged, carefully orchestrated environmentalist strategy.
A recently leaked memorandum, dated June 14, 2010, summarizes a discussion earlier that month among four European scientists who wanted to block neonic use. The memo says the four agreed to find prominent authors who could write scientific papers and coordinate their publication in respected journals, so as to “obtain the necessary policy change to have these pesticides banned.”
“If we are successful in getting these two papers published,” the memo continues, “there will be enormous impact, and a campaign led by WWF etc could be launched right away. It will be much harder for politicians to ignore a research paper and a policy forum paper” in a major scientific journal. Initial papers would demonstrate that neonics adversely affect bees, other insects, birds and other species; they would be written by a carefully selected primary author and a team of scientists from around the world. Additional papers would be posted online to support these documents – and a separate paper would simultaneously call for a ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids.
(The WWF is the activist group World Wildlife Fund or World Wide Fund for Nature.)
One meeting attendee was Piet Wit, chairman of the ecosystems management commission of the environmentalist organization International Union for Conservation of Nature. Another was Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, who became chairman of the IUCN’s Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which was inaugurated in March 2011, just after the European Union agreed to finance the Task Force to the tune of €431,337 ($540,000). Vouching for the Task Force as an “independent and unbiased” scientific “advisory” group was the same Dr. Maarten Bijleveld, who is also a founding member of the WWF’s Netherlands branch and an executive officer of the IUCN’s environmental committee.
Further underscoring the “independent” nature of these organizations, the EU awarded the IUCN €24,014,125 ($30,000,000) between 2007 and 2013. Moreover, IUCN task force membership is by invitation only – making it easier to implement the Systemic Pesticides Task Force’s stated purpose: to “bring together the scientific evidence needed to underpin action on neonicotinoid pesticides.”
The entire operation is odorously reminiscent of ClimateGate orchestration of alarmist research and banning of studies questioning “dangerous manmade climate change” assertions, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s 1972 DDT ban, regarding which then-EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus later admitted that he had not attended a single minute of his own task force’s lengthy hearings or read a single page of its findings, which concluded that the insecticide was not dangerous to humans or most wildlife.
The IUCN/WWF campaign also recalls the equally well coordinated effort by Fenton Communications, CBS “60 Minutes” and the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban Alar (a chemical used to keep apples ripening longer on trees), in a way that would channel millions of dollars to the NRDC. It reminds me of former Environmental Defense Fund senior scientist Charles Wurster’s assertion that, “If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they never had before.”
Never mind that the Alar scam sent many family apple orchards into bankruptcy – or that millions of African and Asian parents and children have died from malaria because radical greens have made DDT largely unavailable even for disease control. For them, humanitarian concerns rarely enter the discussion.
As science writer Hank Campbell observes, all these campaigns reflect proven strategies “to manipulate science to achieve a political goal.” They follow the Saul Alinsky/Big Green script summarized by Madeleine Cosman: Select and vilify a target. Devise a “scientific study” that predicts a public health disaster. Release it to the media, before legitimate scientists can analyze and criticize it. Generate emotional headlines and public reactions. Develop a government “solution,” and intimidate legislatures or government regulators to impose it. Coerce manufacturers to stop making and selling the product.
Environmental pressure groups have repeatedly and successfully employed these steps.
In a recent speech, Harvard School of Public Health Professor Chensheng Lu claimed that his “Harvard Study” clearly demonstrated that neonics “are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder.” However, pesticide expert and professional pest exterminator Rich Kozlovich says the vast majority of scientists who study bees for a living vigorously disagree. They cite multiple problems, including the fact that small bee populations were fed “astronomical” levels of insecticide-laced corn syrup, and the colonies examined for Lu’s paper did not even exhibit CCD symptoms.
President Obama has nevertheless relied heavily on all this pseudo-science, to support his June 2014 memorandum instructing relevant U.S. agencies “to develop a plan for protecting pollinators such as honey bees …in response to mounting concerns about [their] dwindling populations on American crops.” The “serious” problem, Mr. Obama insists, “requires immediate attention.”
He is playing his role in the Big Green script but, as my previous articles have noted (here, here and here), nothing in honest, actual science supports his call for yet another Executive Branch end-run around the Legislative Branch and a proper vetting of what we do know about neonics and honeybee problems.
Derived from a synthetic form of nicotine and often applied to seeds, “neonicotinoids” are incorporated into plants to defend them against pests. This allows growers to be much more targeted in killing crop-threatening insects: only those that actually feed on the plants are affected. This approach (or spraying) also means growers can successfully grow crops with far fewer large-scale insecticide applications, and dramatically reduce reliance on more toxic pesticides that do harm wildlife, including bees. Real-world field studies have shown that bees collecting pollen from plants treated with neonics are not harmed.
Other research has identified serious problems that truly are afflicting bees in Canada, the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Varroa mites carry at least 19 bee viruses and diseases – and parasitic phorid flies, Nosema intestinal fungi and the tobacco ringspot virus also cause significant colony losses. Beekeepers have accidentally killed entire hives, while trying to address such problems.
Colony Collapse Disorder has shown up from time to time for centuries. A hundred years ago it was called the “disappearing disease.” It now seems to be ebbing, and bee and beehive numbers are climbing.
We need to let real science do its job, and stop jumping to conclusions or short-circuiting the process with politicized papers, anti-neonic campaigns and presidential memorandums. We need answers, not scapegoats. Otherwise, bee mortality problems are likely to spread, go untreated and get even worse, while neonic bans cause widespread crop failures and huge financial losses for farmers.
Epstein points out the development and use of fossil fuels has benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods and services which even the rulers of old could hardly dream of. Fossil fuels grant freedom and free up time.
Chapter by chapter, through clear and concise analysis, Epstein demonstrates why fossil fuels are the greatest energy technology of all time; why renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are in no position to replace them; why concerns about global warming are overstated and largely misplaced; how fossil fuel use actually improves environmental quality; and why, with more than 1.3 billion people in the world today without access to electricity and the labor and life-saving bounty it makes available, it would be immoral to artificially restrict growth in the use of fossil fuels to prevent climate change.
Epstein’s key point is:
“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are “fighting” climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.”
At some point between Thanksgiving and December 1, the federal government made history, as the value of outstanding U.S. Treasury securities exceeded $18 trillion—that’s an 18 with 12 trailing zeroes. At some point, such numbers begin to lose their meaning because the amounts exceed most people’s ability to comprehend.
The abstraction of such numbers, in turn, makes it difficult to understand just how gigantic a problem the national debt is. However, using tangible objects to represent the magnitude of the debt can help solve that problem.
Divided equally, each American household’s share of the national debt is roughly $153,846—about enough money to buy a two-story house with four bedrooms in Jacksonville, Florida. Breaking it down further, each American adult’s share of the debt is about $74,074, or the price tag on a real, working, back-mounted personal jetpack.
However, imagining not having an additional Florida home or back-mounted jetpacks may still be a bit too abstract. So try this: Imagine a single 100 dollar bill. For most Americans, that is enough money to fund a really good night out on the town.
Now visualize a pallet of those Benjamins. An ISO-standard pallet of hundreds, wrapped in bundles and stacked on top of one another, is equivalent to $100 million.
Imagine having 10 of these pallets of money, which amounts to $1 billion. Assuming a daily spending rate of $10,000—over $400 per hour—the average individual would require nearly three centuries to spend it all.
On the other hand, the federal government spends at an average rate of roughly $399,315,459 per hour, every hour of every day. In other words, while our hypothetical individual billionaire needs multiple lifetimes to make it rain with such volume, our real-life government spends 10 pallets of one-hundred dollar bills in less than three hours.
As documented by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) this fall, the federal government is very adept at spending money it expects to collect from the taxpayers of tomorrow in order to fund the things it wants today.
For example, 11 federal agencies spent a combined $50 million, amounting to half a pallet of hundreds, on paid administrative leave—or, perhaps more accurately, paid vacations—for public servants accused of bad behavior such as viewing pornography at work or drunk driving.
The U.S. State Department spent nearly a full pallet, $90 million, to promote “cultural exchange programs,” including the rap stylings of Arkansas Bo and Big Piph. Bo and Piph’s message transcends national and cultural barriers, asking the eternal question of “y’all got some ass though … If you don’t want me looking, what the hell you wear ‘em for?”
Another example of the government’s aptitude for spending astronomical amounts of money is literally astronomical. The national government burned through 30 pallets of money, or $3 billion, testing the performance of golf clubs at the International Space Station in 2013. Since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) mothballed the American space program in 2011, every visit to space costs the taxpayers roughly a pallet and a half of c-notes, payable to the Russian government.
Frivolous spending in the federal government abounds, trading tomorrow’s expected wealth for today’s desires. To many people, the problem seems insurmountable, but the first step to take when stuck at the bottom of a hole is simple: stop digging![Originally published at the Washington Times]
In late October I wrote a commentary “Is America in Decline?” based on a book by James MacDonald, “When Globalism Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana”, due for sale in January from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Within days I received “The Accidental Super Power: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and The Coming Global Disorder” by Peter Zeihan. Both authors have good credentials, but the former concludes our position as a super power will recede in the decades ahead and the latter says we will be the only one left as the rest of the world runs into problems that the U.S. will be able to ignore.
Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst, offers the scenario of an America, blessed by its location and ability to provide its own energy and agriculture, that will be largely untouched by a future in which most other nations will suffer various unpleasant levels of decline.
Both Zeihan and MacDonald see the U.S. abandoning its role since the end of World War II in 1945 as the generator and protector of free trade. Our naval capability has kept the world’s sea lanes open and free of predators, a boon to all nations. A system for free trade set up at Breton Woods in 1944 has served the world well, including former enemies, Germany and Japan. Other nations, depending on their location, resources, and population, have had varying degrees of success.
“The conventional wisdom that the United States’ best days are behind it” says Zeihan, “isn’t simply wrong. It’s laughably so. In 2014 we’re not witnessing the beginning of the end of American power, but the end of the beginning. In fact, we’re on the cusp of a shift in the international order just as profound as those delegates back in 1944 experienced.”
While MacDonald sees the role of the U.S. as Pax Americana waning, Zeihan sees a national withdrawal from the international scene based on the wealth the shale oil and natural gas technology is generating and the productivity of our huge agricultural sector to keep us fed while other nations struggle to grow and find food sources.I disagree with Zeihan. Americans don’t like having to be involved in the problems that other nations create, but they also see themselves as the solution whether it is deterring rogue nations that threaten their neighbors or aiding when a natural disaster occurs.Zeihan focuses on the role of maritime power on the oceans that gave rise to Great Britain and other nations that could field a navy that could trade at great distances from their homelands. The history of colonization reflects that power. Internally, he points out how blessed the U.S. has been with a waterway system of numerous navigable rivers that made it possible, for example, to grow wheat in the midland but ship it anywhere. This ability to transport food crops as well as people opened America to fairly rapid expansion and growth.
Unlike other nations, its population came from everywhere and reproduced at rates to meet its need for labor, while its free market system, along with the industrial revolution, stimulated innovation and growth. The oldest constitutional government in the world generated confidence in an “idea” called freedom and liberty instead of relying on blind nationalism.
While I may disagree with some of Zeihan’s predictions about the future, his book provides a wealth of information about the individual advantages and disadvantages of the nations whom we regard as either friendly toward or threatening our nation. Their locations are critical to their future and always have been. Their ability to transport people and goods within and beyond those locations are also critical factors.
Overlaying that is demographics, the statistics of population, identifying which nations whose people are “getting older” and which have enough younger people to generate wealth while the older generation retires and lives off their own savings and/or government programs such as our Social Security and Medicare.
Zeihan points out that “The United States is far and away the world’s largest consumer market and has been since shortly after the Civil War. As of 2014, that consumer base amounts to roughly $1.5 trillion. That’s triple anyone else, larger than the consumer bases of the next six countries—Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, China and Italy—combined, and double that of the combined BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).”
Zeihan believes that “the free trade era is closing (and) demography tell us that the era of consumption-driven growth that has been the economic norm for seventy years is coming to an unceremonious end.” He believes that the “global financial wave will crest at some point between 2020 and 2024” and predicts that “Poland and Russia will be among the nations whose populations will not keep up with their need for labor.”
“Between 2020 and 2024, thirteen of the world’s top twenty-five economies will be in the ranks of the financially distressed. The new arrivals will include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and of course the United States. With 90 percent of the developed world in that unfortunate basket, the availability of capital and credit for all will plummet.”
That Ziehan’s scenario and he blames it on “aging demographies”, but he does not factor in the ability for various elements of the world’s population, the younger ones in particular, to move around the planet and respond to occupational opportunities. A current example is the exodus from Mexico and some Latin American nations to the United States for jobs and better lives. Can we absorb the current numbers of illegal aliens? I think yes and I also believe being able to impose “security” along a two thousand mile southern border is probably a fantasy. If we actually enforced our immigration laws this problem would be reduced.
Mexico is our third largest trading partner. To the north Canada ranks second. Together we make up a continent, as Zeihan predicts, that will not be negatively affected as other nations.
So, while we worry about Russia, Zeihan sees it in rapid decline. While pundits tell us of China’s rise to financial preeminence, he reminds us that we felt the same about Japan not that long ago. And China has massive demographic problems, not the least of which is an aging population. He doesn’t hold out much hope for the European Union. Et cetera.
I do not possess Zeihan’s or MacDonald’s credentials, but my instinct tells me that a sudden, rapid international decline is unlikely to occur. It’s a different world in which we all live and far more connected in many ways. Adjustments and changes will be made as they always have, but we are not likely to see a century like the last one that was dominated by wars. They are just too expensive.