On the Blog

The View from the Bottom

Somewhat Reasonable - May 07, 2014, 1:18 PM

It tells you everything you need to know about the utter contempt those in the White House and the circles of power that the announcement of 0.01% economic growth thus far this year was blamed on—wait for it—the weather! Specifically, a cold winter.

If you have been paying any attention of late, the weather and the climate have become the reason for everything in general and for tornadoes, floods and forest fires, in particular. The fact that these natural events have always been subject to whatever the weather is or the larger climate trends seems to have escaped the notice of too many people. If winter automatically drives down the economy to a point of invisibility, that is news to me.

I’m surprised some economist hasn’t blamed winter for the major decline in home ownership. It has hit its lowest level since the mid-1990s according to the Census Bureau. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “despite two years of recovery in the housing market there are still fewer homeowners than there were before the recession.”  Oh? The recession is over? You could have fooled me.

It is no surprise, however, that China is poised to pass the United States as the world’s leading economic power this year. The U.S. has been the global leader since 1872 when it replaced the United Kingdom and now “most economists previously thought China would pull ahead in 2019 according to the Financial Times.

Bear in mind that the U.S. has survived financial crises in the past, but the 2008 meltdown has persisted since around January 20, 2009 when a new President was sworn into office. It didn’t take him long to receive a Nobel Peace Prize that year and to preside over the first reduction in the nation’s top ranked credit rating in 2011.

Could the economic decline have something to do with the insane increase of federal government regulation? As John Merline asked inInvestor’s Business Daily, “After years of rapid growth during the Obama administration, the cost of federal regulations is now bigger than the entire economics of all but nine countries in the world.” He was reporting on the annual report. “Ten Thousands Commandments”, issued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Compiled by Clyde Wayne Crews, this year’s report found that the “regulation tax” imposed on the economy now tops $1.86 trillion. “By comparison, Canada’s entire GDP is $1.82 trillion and India’s is $1.84 trillion.”

“The problem, Crews notes, is that the combined cost of this ‘tax’ never shows up anywhere in the federal budget—or any other official report—even though it is now bigger than individual and corporate income taxes combined.” The CEI report noted that federal regulatory costs average $14,974 per household “which is more than the typical household spends on just about anything else.”

So you don’t have to have an economics degree to figure out what is wrong. “Last year,” Merline reported, “regulators issued 3,659 rules. That’s equal to one new rule every 2 l/2 hours of every day7 or nearly two federal rules issued every business hour.” Why is this happening? Because the 2013 Federal Register contains 79,311 pages, the fourth highest ever and the top two all-time totals were both under President Obama. Big government? No, TOO BIG Big Government.

A new poll surveying young Americans’ political attitudes was released at the end of April by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. As indoctrinated as those 18 to 29 have been in our public schools, they are not brain-dead. The survey found that the millennials have less trust in government than ever before in the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, the military, and federal government as a whole. There is a comparable lack of confidence in Wall Street and the United Nations. Unfortunately, less than one-in-four (25%) of Americans under 30 said they would definitely vote in the forthcoming midterm elections, a decrease since last autumn, though more Republican millennials will vote than Democrats.

It’s not just the youth who are unhappy. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken in late April revealed “a marked change from past decades” as “nearly half of those surveyed wanted the U.S. to be less active on the global state, with fewer than one-fifth call for more active engagement—and anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines.”

This is hardly a surprise as one looks back on the years since 9/11 in which engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq turned out to be failures. In this regard Obama has his finger on the pulse of Americans who are weary of military interventions, but it is equally true he has used this to impose vast reductions on the U.S. military. If they are needed, there will be far less of them and the arsenal they will need.

The poll showed that approval of Obama’s handling of foreign policy has sunk to the lowest level of his presidency with 38% approval. His overall job performance now pulls in 47% or so. Both are below half the population of likely voters. The poll also demonstrated how disenchanted they are with the economy “that many believe is stacked against them.” The views expressed correlated with income and education, rather than party affiliation.

The state of the economy reflects the factors noted; too much regulation, Obamacare’s attack on one sixth of the economy, replete with dozens of taxes within it, as well as the serious disruption of the healthcare system.  What it has also done is cause many businesses to put a cap on how many they employ, a dagger in the heart of those coming out of college with few real prospects, those seeking employment after having been laid off due to Obamacare and other factors—some 90 million still.

If the nation does survive Obama, historians will express wonder that he was reelected and that his approval ratings weren’t considerably lower. He is still being defended by the mainstream media, so that might account for the latter, but recent revelations about the Benghazi cover-up may have an impact.

The people I talk with are “hanging on”, struggling to get by on what money comes in. They are not happy and I suspect they reflect a general unhappiness from the millennials to the senior set.

They are observing the nation and the world from the bottom of the barrel.

We’re Americans. We don’t like being number two

[Originally published at factsnotfantasy.blogspot]
Categories: On the Blog

FCC’s Next Overreach of Authority: Preempting States on Muni-Broadband

Somewhat Reasonable - May 07, 2014, 10:56 AM

The FCC seems bent on overreaching their legal authority – yet again.

At the NCTA convention, Chairman Wheeler said: “I believe the FCC has the power – and I intend to exercise that power – to preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband.” And in an FCC blog post, Chairman Wheeler also said this preemption of states on muni-broadband “is an issue that remains high on my agenda, and we will be announcing more on this topic shortly.”

FCC lawyers appear to think this is the time for more overreach of FCC authority because the legal outcome may be different than in the past.

They appear to be basking in the real empowerment of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,Verizon v. FCC decision, which indeed does strongly affirm the FCC’s authority to regulate the Internet under Section 706. And they rightly are emboldened by the Supreme Court’s affirmation last year of Chevron Deference.

However, that oversimplifies.

The big legal miscalculation here is a heroic FCC legal assumption that this would be another broadband industry versus FCC legal challenge just like the Verizon v. FCC decision, where the Court already has decided the issue of the FCC’s authority largely in the FCC’s favor.

Wrong.

This would be less a legal challenge to the FCC’s statutory authority, but more of a Constitutional challenge of the FCC’s perceived supremacy over fundamental state sovereign functions.

If the FCC goes forward with this preemption of state authority, count on 20+ State Attorneys General to challenge constitutionally the FCC’s frontal assault on their core sovereign state functions of determining economic and fiscal policy.

More likely than not the FCC ultimately would lose that case because there is no Chevron deference or Section 706 authority empowering the FCC with an effective wholesale override of States’ constitutional rights.

It is ironic and surprising that when the FCC is arguing forcefully for following the D.C. Circuit Court’s specific roadmap for successfully asserting FCC legal authority to regulate the Internet, that the FCC would risk overreach yet again in trying to preempt fundamental state sovereign functions.

Simply, what the courts giveth, they can taketh away, especially if one overreacheth one’s constitutional authority.

The potentially fatal flaw in the FCC’s legal calculus here is trivializing the economic and fiscal predicate of the states.

Muni-broadband is a very big economic and fiscal state issue. Constructing and operating community broadband networks is a large, long-term financial endeavor. They require taking on public debt via bond offerings. More public debt and operating funds for muni-broadband mean less borrowing and funds for public safety, public pensions, roads, bridges, water mains, sewers, etc.

Unfunded liabilities are a huge economic and fiscal state issue. States are well aware that the vast majority of hundreds of muni-broadband efforts to date have failed and stuck taxpayers with the burden of paying off the bill for this incompetence, waste, fraud and abuse.

Simply, the states’ have a strong fiscal interest in preventing more community broadband boondoggles.

Why would this likely be an overreach of the FCC’s authority?

First, the Supreme Court already has decided this issue effectively in favor of state rights. InNixon v. Missouri Municipal League (2004) the Supreme Court rejected federal preemption of state prohibitions on telecom services. It specifically rejected the use of the FCC’s Title IIsection 253(a) authority to preempt state prohibitions of localities offering telecom services on constitutional federalism grounds. (For more please see FSF’s legal analysis here.)

If clear FCC Title II statutory language was insufficient to overcome states constitutional rights, it is hard to see how the FCC’s new-found, balsa Section 706 authority would be sufficient to trump the Supreme Court’s defense of state’s rights in the Constitution.

This Supreme Court precedent presents a high bar for the FCC to overcome because the core constitutional issue is largely-settled and because Chevron Deference does not apply to the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Second, municipalities are legal creations of the state, not the Federal government. States have clear sovereign economic and fiscal responsibilities to the citizens and taxpayers of their state. The construction and operation of broadband networks in a local community clearly is an in-state activity not an inter-state activity that generally can afford the FCC jurisdiction.

In sum, if the FCC preempts state prohibitions of community broadband capital projects, the FCC essentially would be asserting that it, not the states, is the ultimate approving authority for community broadband capital projects, by effectively pre-approving all potential community broadband projects in advance, by denying the state its right to prohibit them.

Through the narrow lens of its newfound, balsa Section 706 authority, the FCC may imagine it is promoting competition and picking a popular fight with the broadband industry.

However, the FCC really would be picking an unnecessary, unpopular, and ultimately losing fight with America’s state legislatures and Governors, and also the U.S. Congress. FCC foot meet state’s rights hornet’s nest.

Congress won’t like this FCC overreach either. This issue is an obvious political and legal loser for the FCC.

Lastly, what is hardest to fathom here is why the FCC would want to risk losing its newfound, balsa Section 706 authority, so soon after receiving it?

Will the FCC’s well-known history of overreach repeat itself – yet again?

[Originally published at Precursorblog.com]

Categories: On the Blog

SPECIAL REPORT: AMERICA’S EMERGING HOUSING CRISIS

Somewhat Reasonable - May 07, 2014, 9:01 AM

This is the executive summary from a new report, America’s Emerging Housing Crisis, published byNational Community Renaissance, and authored by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox. Download the report and the supplement report below.

From the earliest settlement of the country, Americans have looked at their homes and apartments as critical elements of their own aspirations for a better life. In good times, when construction is strong, the opportunities for better, more spacious and congenial housing—whether for buyers or renters—tends to increase. But in harsher conditions, when there has been less new construction, people have been forced to accept overcrowded, overpriced and less desirable accommodations.

Today, more than any time, arguably, since the Great Depression, the prospects for improved housing outcomes are dimming for both the American middle and working classes. Not only is ownership dropping to twenty-year lows, there is a growing gap between the amount of new housing being built and the growth of demand.

Our still-youthful demographics are catching up with us. After a recession generated drought, household formation is again on the rise, notes a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. In some markets, there isn’t an adequate supply of affordable housing for the working and middle classes. Overall, according to the research firm Zelman and Associates, the country is building barely one-third the number needed to meet the growth in households. Overall inventories of homes for sale are at the lowest level in eight years.

The groups most likely to be hurt by the shortfall in housing include young families, the poor and renters. These groups include a disproportionate share of minorities, who are more likely to have lower incomes than the population in general. This situation is particularly dire in those parts of the country, such as California, that have imposed strong restrictions on home construction. California’s elaborate regulatory framework and high fees imposed on both single- and multi-family `housing have made much of the state prohibitively expensive. Not surprisingly, the state leads the nation in people who` spend above 30 percent, as well as above 50 percent, of their income on rent.

Sadly, the nascent recovery in housing could make this situation even more dire. California housing prices are already climbing far faster than the national average, despite little in the way of income growth. This situation could also affect the market for residential housing in other parts of the country, where supply and demand are increasingly out of whack.

Ultimately, we need to develop a sense of urgency about the growing problem of providing adequate shelter. As a people we have done this many times — with the Homestead Act, and again, after the Second World War, with the creation of affordable “start-up” middle- and working class housing in places like Levittown (Long Island), Lakewood (Los Angeles), the Woodlands (Houston) and smaller subdivisions, as well as large scale cooperative apartment development in places like New York. Government policy should look at opportunities to create housing attractive to young families, which includes some intelligent planning around open space, parks and schools. It is important to ensure that a sufficient supply of affordable housing is allowed throughout metropolitan areas, for all income groups.

Nothing speaks to the nature of the American future more than housing. If we fail to adequately house the current and future generations, we will be shortchanging our people, and creating the basis for growing impoverishment and poor social outcomes across the country.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Gary Becker: Economic Imperialist

Somewhat Reasonable - May 06, 2014, 4:09 PM

Gary Becker (1930-2014), part of the vaunted Chicago School of economics of the late 20th Century, brought the paramount insight of economics to the entire spectrum of human behavior, including areas previously considered parts of sociology, psychology, criminology and education.

From his first great insight into racial discrimination, through subsequent insights into schooling, the family, crime, addictive behaviors and even suicide, Becker re-unified the social sciences, with economics as the King, mathematics as the Queen and statistics as the Jack. Much indeed was gained, but something too was lost.

The paramount insight of economics is that humans are rational, weighing cost and benefit in making decisions. This is not to say that humans are completely rational. On this point, I could go Chicago School and say that for most purposes it is useful to assume that humans are rational. But, instead, I will say that the great majority of humans are rational when due allowance is made for the cost, in real time, of acquiring and analyzing information.

In the traditional ordering of the social sciences, economics focused on decision-making in the marketplace where cost and benefit are relatively easy to quantify. Sociology, in contrast, focused on decision-making – if you wanted to use that term – in non-market settings, where cost and benefit are relatively difficult to quantify, where reciprocity unsupported by legal obligation is involved, and therefore where emotional ties, trust and loyalty are involved.

Game Theory might seem to describe situations where the decisions of those participating in a game are based on expectations of reciprocity. But, social institutions such as families, churches, charities and even business organizations and nation-states, by developing emotional ties, affect the probability of reciprocity and, so, can foster greater cooperation.

Becker’s imperialism consisted of interjecting the economic insight of rational decision-making into non-market settings. For example, criminal behavior. People commit crime, he said, because the expected benefit exceeds the expected cost. Thus, when a person’s prospect of finding a job is low, that person is more likely to consider going into the “occupation” of thief. Conversely, if society wants to deter crime, among its options are to increase the likelihood of convicting thieves and to increase the penalties for those who are convicted.

Becker’s imperialism also consisted of requiring that theories of human behavior be subject to test. Thus, statistical analysis became de rigueur throughout the social sciences. Only, statistical analysis has been discovered to be rife with difficulties. Rape statistics, for example. More reporting of rape might reflect increased confidence in law enforcement, rather than increased incidence of rape. Long prison sentences might lower crime only because more of the relatively few criminals among us are removed from the population, rather than because more would-be criminals are deterred from crime. And, the correlation between the death penalty and the rate of murder may be more due to low-murder rate jurisdictions ending the death penalty than by any deterrent effect of a death penalty, what we call reverse-causation.

Putting aside the problem of statistical analysis, what has been lost in the translation of human behavior into mathematics is the evolutionary characteristic of social institutions. For Becker, the institutional framework in which individuals make their decisions is a datum entering his models. But, in free societies, social institutions evolve. These social institutions include customs and the law, in addition to the family, the church and so forth. In a free society, these develop so as to better enable people to be successful by promoting what we come to recognize as virtuous behavior. Things like prudence, integrity, tolerance and compassion.

But, in a socialistic society, the nation-state increasingly atomizes us, destroying social institutions. Whether intended or not, the family, the church, and private charity are displaced by the state, and customs are coarsened. Initially, appeals for support of an expanded nation-state might be made on the basis of the bourgeois virtues of the formerly free society, but eventually the realities of socialism require usefulness to the nation-state.

As important as was Becker’s application of the economic paradigm of rational decision-making to all human behavior, and the requirement that theories of human behavior be subject to empirical analysis, it is even more important that we reverse the rise of the nation-state and the destruction of our social institutions.

Categories: On the Blog

The Rise of European Economic Nationalism

Somewhat Reasonable - May 06, 2014, 10:25 AM

The siren song of independence and national self-determination has sounded once again across Europe. It is a song that holds echoes of a century ago, when the internal force of nationalism convulsed the European empires into world war. Yet, while the song remains the same, the tune has changed.

One hundred years ago, many of the great countries of Europe were patchworks of cultures, ethnicities, and national identities. The most vulnerable of these states was the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was so vulnerable because of its gross economic mismanagement and its denial of any political say from nationalist movements, a policy that left many groups resentful. It is thus no surprise that the spark that ignited World War I was lit by Serbian nationalists in Austro-Hungary.

The war tore Austro-Hungary apart. When the conflict ended, the country was divided into many smaller states, most of which were formed along ethno-nationalist lines. While the political divisions created by the war were soon convulsed anew in the Second World War, the idea that nations should be allowed to self-determine was firmly established in the European, particularly Western European, mindset.

That right of self-determination is now being tested across Europe. In Spain and Italy, regions are moving toward political separation from their central governments. However, the reasons are somewhat different than they were in the last century. While the impetus then was a desire for political freedom, today’s nationalists are more concerned about economics.

Economics is certainly the main driver of the independence movements in Spain and Italy.

Catalan Nationalism

Catalonia has long had a strong cultural identity unique from the rest of Spain. Separatist parties have frequently had great influence in the regional parliament, and cultural elements, such as teaching in the Catalan language, are strongly supported. Yet the separatists have also found it hard to build sufficient support to declare full independence from Spain.

Since the global financial crisis and recession, however, things have begun to change in Catalonia. As one of the richest regions in all of Spain, Catalans have come to feel as if they are subsidizing the profligacy and irresponsibility of less prosperous regions. This resentment might have been containable during the decades of economic growth after the fall of the Franco regime in the 1970s, but in the wake of a massive debt and housing crisis, it has bubbled to the surface.

Today, 55% of Catalans support full independence, and a far larger majority supports holding a referendum on the place of Catalonia in Spain. In 2013, the Catalan parliament set a date to hold a referendum on independence for November 2014.

The Spanish government has not responded well to the threat of secession. The national parliament and courts have rejected the referendum as unconstitutional.

Despite the opposition of the central government, the separatist government of Catalonia has declared its decisions will not be made by the Spanish authorities. Now most Spain-watchers think the regional parliament will call an election to act as a proxy for an independence vote. If the separatist parties are returned to power, the march to independence may become unstoppable.

Venetian Nationalism

Venice has always been independent-minded. An independent republic for over a thousand years, Venice is a relatively recent addition to the also relatively young unified Italy. Rolled into Italy by conquest, the current state of things does not sit well with many Venetians.

The level of discontent only became clear in March 2014 when an unofficial referendum on Venetian independence was held by separatist activists. Independent sentiments were always high, as much as 65% in favor according to some polls, but no one anticipated the result of the referendum. Fully 89% voted in favor of secession from Italy.

The shocking degree of pro-independence sentiment has sparked a full-fledged movement to gain political independence. Activists are buoyant about their prospects and look forward to leaving the sclerotic Italian central government behind.

Like Catalonia, Venice is much wealthier than the majority of the mother country. Venetian taxpayers pay billions of dollars in net transfers to the central government. They have finally become sick of it and are ready for a change.

The Ties that Bind

The lesson the separatists of Catalonia and Venice offer collectively is that the ties that bind nations are not unbreakable, especially when they are confronted with economic strains. Whether these regions gain their independence, greater autonomy, or return to the status quo, the very fact that the question is being tested at all shows that government profligacy and economic distribution can only go on for so long. Eventually those who face the economic drain will revolt against the injustice.

Under such circumstances, maybe a peaceful secession is the best solution one can hope for.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Teachers, Parents, and a Comedian Want to “Can Common Core”

Somewhat Reasonable - May 06, 2014, 10:06 AM

[This article was co-authored by Bonnie O'Neil]

Common Core is appropriately named. It is indeed “common”, and not the exceptional education system its promoters promised. Digging into its core we find problems with its design, philosophy, tactics by which it was implemented, and specific ideology which is liberally peppered throughout the various subjects.

One might speculate how this unproven program was sold to the governors of 45 states, without their having actually seen any of the Common Core curriculum. Much like the Affordable Care Act, Common Core was approved based on lofty promises and without a shred of proof it was superior to the program it replaced.

We do know states accepting Common Core were “forgiven” their contract with “No Child Left Behind”, which was appealing, because many school districts had not met their commitments to that contract and were eager to be excused from their obligations. Also, there was a financial “carrot” via “No Child Left Behind” federal money.

Big money speaks

Bill Gates and other big business tycoons saw an opportunity to make millions from the new system and donated huge amounts to help launch and promote it.  However, that was only part of Gates reason and not his real passion. When interviewed on national television, all Gates offered as to why he supported the new education system was the tired standard Common Core talking point that American students needed to compete globally. Hey, our country is a World leader; we already are competitive. What Gates failed to mention is his close association with the United Nations and that he bought into their one-world globalist agenda, which is directly tied to U.N. Agenda 21, Chapter 36 under Education, Public Awareness, and Training”. Common Core is the surreptitious takeover of public education by a handful of liberals, with Bill Gates prominent among them.

Would governors have approved Common Core if they had known beforehand that it embraces the “three E’s of Agenda 21″ which will become evident in an article to follow when discussing Common Core standards for Math, Language Arts, History, and Science: 1) Equality, meaning Common good, not individual rights; 2) Economy, meaning redistribution of wealth; and Environment, meaning animals have equal rights or even more rights than humans. That certainly does not sound like the philosophy under which our nation has prospered for centuries

Government control over state violates Constitution

“The philosophy of the classroom of one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next” is a wise statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Our wise forefathers knew the potential problems of a federal government or any “elitist” group dictating what every school child learns in classrooms across America, which is why they gave the responsibility of education to each individual state. There is an inherent danger in one small body of people deciding what every student in America will be learning in our schools.

How can any reasonable person not be concerned when Common Core violates the very intent of our Constitution and forefathers warnings? What happens if Common Core proves its critics right and test scores in all 45 states are lower, not higher? We know states, such as New York, that have been using Common Core for a couple of years, have experienced plummeting test scores, unhappy children, and furious parents. A large N.Y. teachers union blamed Common Core for creating education chaos in their state. How do students get back those wasted years?  How will our country redeem the loss?

Little impact on student achievement

A study published last month by the Brookings Institution concluded that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will have “little to no impact on student achievement.” Two statistical analysis of states with math mandates like Common Core and those with mandates unlike Common Core found that states whose standards were less like Common Core performed better on national assessments. As to states never adopting the standards (Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia), the difference in test scores were not noticeable in comparison to those states considered strong implementers of Common Core standards.

Author and journalist Dean Kalahar writes:

“Common Core . . . may look delicious, but before you take a bite out of the apple, it might be a good idea to know a razor is inside; furthermore, the foundational philosophy of Common Core is to create students ready for social action so they can force a social-justice agenda.  Is that really what American citizens want for their children’s future? Have we not learned from the mistakes of other once prosperous countries that declined due to their experimenting with Socialism?”

Critical thinking emphasized, even if age inappropriate

A prominent claim of Common Core is that students are being taught to be critical thinkers. However, minds of children develop at different paces. Educators have understood that for centuries, which is why curriculum in the past was designed with an age appropriate concept that is lacking in the new program.

The inconvenient truth is our children are being used as guinea pigs. Teachers have not been given appropriate instructions for teaching the new system, and rather than wait until it was thoroughly tested and teachers provided the necessary tools they needed, the experimental program was inflicted on an entire generation of American students, the majority of whom may suffer for many years.

A major concern is the reduced emphasis on memorization skills. Students now have to connect the dots and apply critical thinking in what experts are calling higher-order thinking necessary for preparing students for life after high school. The concern is how much the curriculum actually leads students into forming the author’s pre-planned conclusion. Are they being carefully guided into a desired thought pattern?  Evidence to support those parental concerns will be discussed in a subsequent article.

Remembering the plot of a short story is no longer good enough for children in the elementary grades. Today’s students are being asked to apply critical thinking, even in Kindergarten and 1st Grade.  Consider the American classic “Charlotte’s Web”.  Common Core requires First and Second grade students to understand and explain how the characters see the “world differently.”  Why does Fern see Wilbur in a different way than the Narrator does?  Young students are asked to explain situations beyond their scope of understanding.

Consider a Common Core school assignment which asked children in the 6th grade to remove and replace two of the first ten amendments of the Constitution. The assignment stated that the Bill of Rights is outdated and may not remain in its current form any longer. This would be an impossible task for a 6th grader having no prior training as to how to amend the Constitution, further leading them to believe all that is needed to change the Constitution is a special committee.  In fact, why are young students being given the idea there needs to be changes in our Constitution in the first place?  We were taught that America’s Constitution was a remarkable document which provided us with the most amazing government in the history of our mankind? Curriculum should be planting seeds of national pride, not seeds suggesting a need for change.

Moral teachings questioned and compromised 

Comprehensive sexuality education often goes unchallenged, that is, until people discover what it teachers. A Kansas father was shocked after discovering his 13-year-old daughter’s health curriculum – part of her middle school’s approved curriculum — included a poster on which were references to vaginal intercourse, anal sex, and touching each other’s genitals, only later to discover that it was in line with what other schools around the country are also teaching.  Reporters dubbed this program “x-rated.”  Chicago, the third largest school district in the nation, is leaving no stone unturned. Within two years sex education will be coming to Chicago kindergartners as part of an overhaul of the Chicago public schools sexual health program.

Parents have been expressing concern that part of the critical thinking project is designed for young children to question the morals and teachings they have received at home and church.  One example occurred during a student independent reading time where kids were required to read a book that is “just right”, one girl’s choice was the Bible, but a teacher promptly took the Bible away. Parents encourage their children to respect and obey their teachers; what does an action like that suggest to a classroom of vulnerable minds?  It feels a lot more like what one would expect in Russia, China, or Afghanistan, not the United States of America. Why, what or who would encourage that extreme behavior from a teacher?

Dr. Terry Bratton testified before an Alabama State Education Committee that “the new education measure has a specific and radical agenda.”  He accused Common Core of promoting an acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration, and the redistribution of wealth. That certainly sounds like a liberal’s dream platform.  He went on say that“Alabama places a priority on family and Christian values. We don’t want our kids taught to be anti-Christian and anti-Catholic and anti-America,” said Bratton. “We don’t want our kids to lose their innocence, beginning in preschool and kindergarten, by being taught that homosexuality is okay and should be experienced at an early age.”  I think he speaks for most American parents!

Bratton also railed against what he called ideas of “social justice” woven into the Standards. He said such teachings are “contrary to traditional American notions of justice in the United States Constitution” and lamented that kids were told “America is an unjust and oppressive society that should be changed.” It is unclear if Dr. Bratton provided proof of all his claims.  However, we do know that there is a strong connection between the authors of Common Core and extreme radical education groups whose goal is to teach social justice to students in our schools. This website explains that connection in more detail.

What does history tell us?  (Need to find the link, Bonnie.)

Historian David Barton of Wallbuilders has also made some important points worth considering.  He suggested we look back in history and consider Americas’ first teaching principles. The primary goal was to “teach religion, morality and knowledge”. The second goal was the role of faith in teaching important thinking skills.  The historian noted that religion was so important that new states being admitted to the union were required to embrace “religion, morality and knowledge,” which is why these elements made it into many states’ constitutions.

Barton blamed the 1960s Supreme Court decision for changes that stripped religion out of schools and morality out of society. Soon after that decision, other laws were amended or enacted which allowed for more sexually implicit media opportunities. STDS, underage pregnancies, and violence skyrocketed. The unfortunate “cause and effect” of that specific court decision is obvious and remains evident today. We are all reminded that elections have serious consequences that reverberate through society for decades, causing us to more fully appreciate the importance of an educated voter. While morality is best taught at home, to be more effective, it should be reinforced at school and throughout every other avenue of learning opportunities. Common Core is another step down in our nation’s declining moral state.

Concluding thoughts

You know something is really wrong, when a comedian can no longer laugh or joke about an issue. Consider Louis C.K., who is also a father, and whose children have been adversely affected by Common Core. Check out his story in the New York Daily News.

In conclusion, there is little doubt in our minds that Common Core was developed by a determined group of liberals in accordance with a United Nations education agenda.  No wonder our state governors were not given any facts, examples of curriculum, or proof that this new education system matched their expectations.  But now that the facts are known, where is the massive outcry to stop this radical new education program? Oh, its out there in most every state and gaining momentum.  But there needs to be an even louder and stronger opposition. Will you dedicate some of your time to be a part of that essential movement to stop this liberal agenda?  Contact your state representatives and educate them on the facts, and ask for their help in closing the door to Common Core.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Depends on When You Were Born

Somewhat Reasonable - May 06, 2014, 9:53 AM

My Father was born in 1901 and was too young for World War One and too old to serve in World War Two. A gentle, quiet man, he would have been a terrible soldier. My older brother, however, was inducted in the U.S. Army and served during the Korean conflict. In the 1960s I served during a period of peace despite Cold War tensions.

In 1973, the U.S. ended military conscription, opting for an all-volunteer force. Those that chose to serve found themselves in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Earlier there were some minor engagements such as Panama in 1989. It was 9/11 that changed everything.

The thing about wars is that, if a nation wants to invade another one, all the laws and treaties mean nothing. One of the most useless international organizations, the United Nations, has a long record of not deterring all manner of wars, large and small, past and present. Then, too, wars are usually preceded by lies the aggressor puts forth to justify the action and much of what occurs is protected by a body of lies. The winner gets to write the history.

The last century had wars that killed millions, many of whom were civilians. A new generation is witnessing a Syrian war whose casualties now number 170,000. Two million Syrians are now refugees; a potential threat to the stability of Lebanon and Jordon. Both sides of the conflict have perpetrated horrors, but the use of poison gas by President Assad, a major crime against humanity, has not resulted in any loss of his power. Russia stepped in to give him cover. His other ally is Iran. Ukraine is likely to split between East and West.

The conflicts of the current century could escalate into even more massive loss of lives because nuclear weapons and poison gas have the capability of killing more people than the bombs of the last century.

Significantly, it took two atomic bombs to convince the Japanese leaders to surrender, but not until thousands died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The good news is that no atomic bombs have been used since. The bad news is that there a crazies like the Supreme Leader of Iran whose Islamic fanaticism cannot be counted upon to preclude his use of a nuclear weapon against Israel. Or us.

What is curious, foolish, and displays a huge ignorance of history is the way President Obama and his minions have been reducing America’s military. It has been American power that kept the Cold War with the former Soviet Union from turning into a hot war and it was that power that was instrumental in causing others to avoid military confrontations with us. Congress has to set aside the sequestration limits that affect our military strength and get busy rebuilding our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. It should do so tomorrow!

The generation that served in World War Two and in the Korean conflict is no longer represented by those serving in Congress. Older members have passed away or retired. The present Congress—particularly its Democratic Party members—are some of the dumbest and most duplicitous politicians to have ever served there.

Like the President, they do not hesitate to lie and to spin whatever occurs. In a nation almost evenly divided politically, it will take a shift by the moderates and independents in the center to transfer complete political power in Congress to the Republican Party. Then we have to hope the GOP will more strongly embrace its principles to undo the damage done by the two elections of Obama and thwart further damage in his remaining two years in office.

The newest generations of voters and those who have been around awhile have been living through a period in which they have been ill-served by a Congress that spent and borrowed too much. Congress did the same during the Great Depression through which my parents lived. It prolonged it from 1929 to 1941 when we entered WWII. One can only hope that those graduating from college with big loans and no job prospects will vote to put a stop to that. Joining them will be the Baby Boomers, many of whom also cannot find work or cannot retire.

We are living through our own Great Depression for the same reasons Franklin D. Roosevelt’s solutions did not work. It is the private sector, not the government that determines the health and growth of the economy. In our case, we have been a major economic power,  number one since 1872. On August 5, 2011, the nation’s top credit rating was downgraded. The lesson from that event was lost on too many people.

That too many do not learn from history or are simply ignorant of it explains a lot about our present times.

No discussion of our present times would be complete without a look at one of the greatest legislative catastrophes, Obamacare, ever imposed. It will likely prove to be the final nail in the Democratic Party coffin for a while. It is a classic example of the liberal desire to control the most intimate aspects of our lives, our health and the care it requires, combined with the insane need to fashion legislation so complex that it cannot work. Worse, it will likely kill off large numbers of its alleged beneficiaries, particularly the old; denied or delayed access to nearby hospitals, their personal physicians, et cetera.

Obamacare is doomed. It will be repealed. A return of healthcare to the private sector will do what no amount of government ever can. It is fundamentally unconstitutional to require people to purchase something they do not want.

America may be at a significant turning point. Having indulged every government program to their near extinction—Social Security and Medicare are closing in on insolvency—we may return to more self-reliance, fiscal prudence, and less reliance on a government grown too large to do anything well.

It depends on when you were born whether you will live to see this occur. I likely will not.

 

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality

Somewhat Reasonable - May 06, 2014, 9:44 AM

The net neutrality movement is positioning to influence the FCC, Congress, and candidates in the mid-term election cycle, to support their version of net neutrality — i.e. FCC reclassification of broadband Internet service as a telephone common carrier service.

It is instructive to look back at what happened in the last mid-term election cycle — in both the 2010 election, and in 2009-2010 Congress — when the net neutrality movement last tried this.

By way of background, this week the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) launchedNoSlowLane.com, a petition website to pressure the President and the FCC on their version of Net Neutrality.

The 2010 Election:

In the 2010 mid-term election cycle, this same PCCC got 95 congressional candidates to sign a pledge: “I believe in protecting net neutrality – the First Amendment of the Internet…” Tellingly, all 95 candidates pledging PCCC support for Title II net neutrality — lost.

That’s a 0-95 electoral record for the PCCC Title II net neutrality position.

The 2009-2010 Congress:

It is also instructive to look back at the bi-partisan majority of Congress that opposed the FCC’s 2010 consideration of reclassifying broadband Internet service as a telephone common carrier service.

In formal letters to the FCC, Members of Congress opposed Title II reclassification by a 6-1 margin (299-49).

Per national Journal reporting, a bipartisan majority of Congress 56% (299 of 535 members)wrote in opposition to Title II reclassification of broadband. For example see the: House Democrat letter, House Republican letter, & Senate letter. The FCC has all the relevant letters in their own archives.

A small minority of Congress 9% (49 of 535 members) wrote in support of Title II reclassification of broadband.

As much as the net neutrality movement tries to create the perception that they enjoy broad political support beyond their email lists of activist supporters, it is instructive to see how real politicians in the real world decided on this issue when in Congress and in congressional elections.

Even in the politics of perception, facts are an important reality check.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Registration Open for Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - May 05, 2014, 8:21 PM

Come to fabulous Las Vegas July 7 – 9 to meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether “man-made global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. Learn from top economists and policy experts about the real costs and futility of trying to stop global warming.

Meet the leaders of think tanks and grassroots organizations who are speaking out against global warming alarmism.

Don’t just wonder about global warming … understand it!

#ICCC9 takes place at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Rooms start at only $80 per night plus fees and taxes. Fly American or United and get a discount of up to 10%!

We are hosting the event in Las Vegas that week in partnership with our friends at FreedomFest, who are cosponsors of #ICCC9 and host their excellent annual conference July 9 – 12 at Planet Hollywood.

A preliminary schedule for the event is here. Speakers already confirmed include Fred Singer, Craig Idso, Willie, Soon, Roy Spencer, Marc Morano, Christopher Monckton, Patrick Moore, and Anthony Watts. For more speakers and their bios, click here.

Register for the event here, or call 312/377-4000 and ask for Ms. McElrath or reach her via email at zmcelrath@heartland.org.

Exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities are available starting at only $150! Contact Taylor Smith at tsmith@heartland.org for information about promotional opportunities and prices.

Several prizes will be awarded to scholars, elected officials, and activists for outstanding contributions to the debate over global warming. To nominate someone or to suggest a prize, contact Robin Knox at rknox@heartland.org.

To watch videos from the previous eight International Conferences on Climate Change, click hereRead testimonalsfrom previous attendees! For more information about The Heartland Institute, visit our website.

Categories: On the Blog

Paul Ryan’s Welfare Buzz

Somewhat Reasonable - May 05, 2014, 11:38 AM

 

 

A week ago, I was scrolling through Buzzfeed hoping to take the latest quiz or find a shockingly specific, but relevant list to post on Facebook. Instead, I came across one of the most interesting articles I have read in a while.

McKay Coppins wrote an in depth piece titled “Paul Ryan’s Inner City Education.” As I started reading the article, I was prepared to become defensive and argumentative, assuming it was just another effort to slam the Republican Party. Surprisingly, the article praised Paul Ryan and the work he is doing. This piece has the potential to impact conservatives, the Republican Party, and the future of our welfare system.

With Ryan leading the way, conservatives are addressing a topic often avoided: welfare and the American poor. These leaders continue to prove that the system of handouts and dependency needs to change. Ryan is developing his own proposal, but with a level of compassion and empathy that is surprising for any policy. By making an effort to actually understand the devastating conditions in some American cities, Ryan approaches welfare in a way that few politicians (Democrat or Republican) ever do.

He includes the voice of those people actually a part of our welfare system—a voice so often ignored. Congress repeatedly makes decisions without consulting the American’s who are directly affected. How can we keep reforming education without the help of teachers, healthcare without consulting doctors, and welfare without including actual poor people? Paul Ryan is a privileged, elite politician along with most of D.C., but unlike his colleagues, he is finally recognizing it.

Most importantly, Ryan brought up a tough conversation. He is confronting major institutional problems that bring about questions of racism, classism, and sexism in America. Like any politician, he has to tread carefully. He has and will continue to make mistakes and the American public should always hold him accountable for those. That being said, he is trying to address issues that most members of Congress avoid at all costs. To that, we should be thankful.

I don’t think Paul Ryan has the ability to solve America’s greatest problems, but I do think he started a productive conversation. He has the potential to pressure the Republican Party to defend its platforms and produce real welfare policies that can change lives. He can also push the debate and make the Democratic Party propose reforms to a system that was established 50 years ago.

Paul Ryan is neither a prophet nor genius. To some he is not even a well-intentioned politician. He is, however, starting a conversation that is long overdue.

Categories: On the Blog

Charter-ing the Way Forward

Somewhat Reasonable - May 05, 2014, 9:39 AM

Aside from whether you think the proposed Comcast – Time Warner Cable merger ultimately should be approved or not, it’s hard to suggest that Comcast’s announcement that it will divest 3.9 million subscribers does not advance the company’s pro-merger case by alleviating claimed competitive concerns. Without getting into the complexities of the proposed three-party subscriber divestiture transactions involving Comcast, TWC, and Charter Communications, the end result is that, as Comcast promised when the merger was announced in February, Comcast’s total number of subscribers, post-merger, will be less than 30% of the total number of U. S. cable subscribers.

Of course, “30%” is the figure that represented the FCC’s subscriber ownership cap that twice was held unlawful by the D.C. Circuit. Each time, first in 2001 and then in 2009, the appeals court ruled that the agency could not justify such an arbitrarily low national ownership limit in light of the increasing competition in the video marketplace. Since the cap was last invalidated in 2009, there is no doubt the video marketplace – with satellite operators, telephone and fiber companies, and wireless firms all vying for customers — has only become more competitive.

By all rights, you might think – or at least you would have good reason to think – that Comcast’s announcement concerning the planned subscriber divestitures to Charter would ease the concerns of those that claim the merger would give Comcast too much market power. After all, not only will the subscriber divestitures bring Comcast below the now defunct 30% ownership cap, they will also materially strengthen Charter’s own market position as the second largest cable operator.

You might think so. But you would be wrong.

According to the April 29 edition of TR Daily, here is what Free Press’s Matt Wood had to say in response to the subscriber divestiture announcement: “Cable barons have always been great at dividing up the country and refusing to compete with each other. Transforming three giant companies into two behemoths gives no comfort to content providers or consumers.”

The emphasis is mine – in case you might have missed the point that Mr. Wood considers the subject cable companies to be large. I do puzzle a bit over whether – had I been in the position of trying to make Mr. Wood’s argument – I might have rearranged the second sentence to read: “Transforming three behemoth companies into two giants gives no comfort to content providers or consumers.”

Are giants more easily divided into behemoths, or vice versa?

No matter, really. Because this is all semantics, and semantics has nothing at all to do with the merits of the question.

Anyone who knows anything about the realities of constructing and operating increasingly costly high-speed broadband networks knows that it takes scale – that is, large companies – to raise the enormous amount of private capital needed to undertake the job. Indeed, common estimates of capital investments by broadband operators are in the range of $60 – $70 billion per year for the past several years.

But I don’t want to argue the merits of the proposed merger here. And, after all, the review process is just getting underway. It just strikes me as a bit out of sorts to use the occasion of Comcast’s announcement of its promised subscriber divestitures as another opportunity to engage in overheated anti-merger rhetoric. It would seem more fitting to acknowledge that such subscriber divestitures at least lessen professed concerns about concentration.

Again, I don’t want to engage in a full discussion concerning the merits of the proposed merger here. But it’s worth pointing out that, in the midst of all his rhetoric concerning barons, giants, and behemoths, Mr. Wood says that the cable operators have “refused” to compete with each other. Regardless whether “refused” is the proper word, the reality is that the cable operators – in this case Comcast and TWC – do not presently compete directly against each other, so the proposed merger will not lessen competition, or reduce the number of competitors in the “cable” marketplace, one bit. In any event, Charter looks to emerge as a stronger cable competitor as a result of the proposed subscriber divestitures.

The more important reality is that the cable operators do compete in the broader broadband marketplace – the market in which they seek to provide customers with high-speed data, video, and voice services – against facilities-based telephone companies, wireless companies, fiber providers like Google, and satellite operators. It is the competitive impact of the proposed combination relative to this broad broadband marketplace that should be the primary focus of the merger review.

For now, I am happy to give Comcast credit for advancing its case early in the review process by announcing the details of its subscriber divestiture plan. You should have no problem with giving such credit as well.

[Originally published by the Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Gary Becker, R.I.P.

Somewhat Reasonable - May 05, 2014, 9:37 AM

Gary Becker, a leading proponent of free markets and limited government, passed away over the weekend. He was 83.

Prof. Becker was one of the main figures in the Chicago School of Economics, a group of scholars based mainly at the University of Chicago who helped economics avoid a take-over and take-down by the left that would have been similar to what occurred to nearly every other academic discipline beginning in the 1960s. He vigorously defended economics and its tools, in particular methodological individualism, from those who misrepresented it. He demonstrated how economics explains social phenomena seemingly far removed from marketplaces.

He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992 and another rather less prestigious prize, the Heartland Liberty Prize, in 2002. He graciously accepted our modest award and delighted the audience of our anniversary benefit dinner that year with a long and thoughtful acceptance speech. He was a long-time policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, participated in the peer review of our publications, and frequently spoke at our events.

A great teacher as well as thinker, he leaves behind thousands of former students who understand how to think like economists, a skill that immunizes whose who have it against all manner of wrong thinking on public policy.

He will be missed.

Categories: On the Blog

The Evolving Urban Form: Philadelphia

Somewhat Reasonable - May 05, 2014, 9:22 AM

Philadelphia was America’s first large city and served as the nation’s capital for all but nine months between the inauguration of George Washington as the first president in 1789 and the capital transfer to Washington, DC in 1800.

Before the early 1900s, the United States Census Bureau had not developed a metropolitan area (labor market area) concept. However, the website peakbagger.com has attempted to define earlier metropolitan areas based on concepts similar to those used today. In the case of Philadelphia, this is important because it was somewhat unique in having virtually adjacent, highly populated suburbs that make comparisons of municipal populations (the only population data available) misleading.

The Nation’s Largest City

According to municipal population data, New York had become the largest municipality in the United States by the time of the first census, in 1790. Philadelphia was ranked second. However, a list of the top 24 urban places in 1790 shows two Philadelphia suburbs, Northern Liberties and the Southwark district. When peakbagger.com includes these suburbs, Philadelphia rises as the largest city (metropolitan area) in the nation in the 1790 and 1800 censuses. The New York metropolitan area is shown as rising to number one in 1810, a position it is held for 200 years and may last for much longer in light of the much slower growth rate recently for Los Angeles.

Soon the Nation’s 9th Largest City?

Those were the glory days. In the years since 1800, Philadelphia has been falling in population rank. The Philadelphia metropolitan area was displaced first by Chicago in 1900, according to the metropolitan district estimates of the US Census Bureau. In 1940, Philadelphia was demoted to fourth place by Los Angeles. Philadelphia held fourth position until 2006, when Dallas-Fort Worth raced past it. Then just a few years later (2010), Houston knocked Philadelphia down to 6th place. The downward trend could accelerate rather quickly. At current growth rates (2010 to 2013), Philadelphia would be passed by Washington and Miami by the time of the 2020 census. The Atlanta metropolitan area would also pass Philadelphia if its population growth rate is restored to pre-Great Recession rates. Philadelphia should start the next decade as either the 9th or 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation.

Population Growth in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area

The Philadelphia metropolitan area is unusual in being divided between four states. The core city of Philadelphia is located in Pennsylvania. Directly across the Delaware River are the suburban counties of New Jersey. Wilmington, formerly the largest metropolitan area in Delaware has been incorporated into the Philadelphia metropolitan area (New Castle County). Maryland’s Cecil County is also included in the metropolitan area.

All of Philadelphia’s population growth since 1950 has been in the suburbs. In that year, the city of Philadelphia peaked at 2,072,000 residents. This was a healthy increase from the 1,930,000 in the 1940 census. However, this represented a decline from 1,951,000 in 1930 and shadowed massive population losses that would follow after 1950 (Cleveland and St. Louis also lost population between 1930 and 1940).

By 2000, the city’s population had dropped 27 percent to 1,518,000. This could prove its modern low, as the population recovered to 1,526,000 in the 2010 census and was estimated by the Census Bureau at 1,553,000 in 2013.

The suburbs of the metropolitan area as presently defined added nearly 2.6 million residents between 1950 and 2013. However, the metropolitan area only grew by 2.1 million residents because of the more than 500,000 loss in the city of Philadelphia. The inner ring suburbs, counties abutting Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania and New Jersey gained 1.8 million residents, while the outer suburbs gained nearly 800,000 residents (Figure 1).

Domestic Migration

Philadelphia has continued to lose domestic migrants to other areas of the country. Between 2010 and 2013, approximately 50,000 net domestic migrants left the Philadelphia area. Of this, 22,000 left the city of Philadelphia and 28,000 left the suburbs. The rate of domestic migration loss was 0.8 percent in the metropolitan area, 1.4 percent in the city of Philadelphia and 0.6 percent in the suburbs (Figure 2).

Employment

Within the metropolitan area, the commercial primacy of the core city of Philadelphia also has been reduced. Philadelphia has long been known for having one of the largest central business districts in the United States. The most recent census tract data from the CTPP indicates that Philadelphia has the sixth largest business district in the United States, with approximately 240,000 jobs. This represents only 8.7 percent of the metropolitan area employment, a figure slightly above the 8.4 percent average of the 52 major metropolitan areas (those with more than 1 million residents).

The development of Philadelphia’s “center city” business district may have been stunted by city regulations that prohibited buildings to exceed the height of City Hall, topped off by a statue of city founder William Penn. At nine floors and approximately 550 feet (165 meters), City Hall was briefly the tallest building in the world in the early 1900s. City Hall remained a dominant feature of the skyline until the late 1980s, when One Liberty Place, with its 61 floors rose to 945 feet (290 meters). There are now 8 buildings taller than City Hall. Construction will soon begin on a new office and hotel tower , which at 1,120 foot tall (340 meters), 59 floor building would be the tallest building in the United States outside New York and Chicago (and taller, by 20 feet than Wilshire Grand now under construction in Los Angeles).

Transportation

I have described the city of Philadelphia as a “transit legacy city,” which along with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington account for 55 percent of all the transit commuting destinations in the United States. This is nearly 10 times the share of jobs that are located in these six municipalities (not metropolitan areas).

Philadelphia, like the other five other transit legacy cities has an extensive urban rail system. Philadelphia has commuter rail lines extending outward to suburban locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. There are also two Metro lines (subway lines) and electric trolley lines. This transit system delivers 44 percent of commuters to “center city” jobs. This represents more than 40 percent of the transit commuting in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Transit’s market share to work locations outside downtown is relatively small at 6.0 percent.

The nation’s first long intercity tollway (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) passes through the Philadelphia metropolitan area. This route, in connection with the New Jersey Turnpike, the Ohio Turnpike, the Indiana Toll Road and the Chicago Skyway provided freeway equivalent access between the New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago metropolitan areas in the middle 1950s, before the interstate highway system was authorized.

Philadelphia’s stagnant population growth is typical for the Northeast, which continues to lose domestic migrants to the rest of the nation. It seems likely to continue. In the two decades following 2020, Phoenix and Riverside-San Bernardino are projected by the US Conference of Mayors to pass Philadelphia. This would push Philadelphia down to 12th place, compared to the 4th ranking it had at the beginning of the 21st century. Quite a ride down for the City of Brotherly Love, and its surrounding region.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court Helps the EPA Shut Off Electricity in America

Somewhat Reasonable - May 04, 2014, 10:40 AM

April seems to be the month in which the Supreme Court devotes itself to decisions that have no basis in real science and can do maximum damage to the economy. Invariably, the cases are brought against the Environmental Protection Agency and are decided in its favor.

In April 2007, the Court decided that carbon dioxide, the second most essential gas for all life on the planet was “a pollutant”, the definition the EPA had applied to it in order to regulate it. Now comes word that the Court had concluded that the EPA may regulate power-plant emissions that blow across state lines as per a 2011 regulation, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Not content having put nearly 150 or more coal-fired power plants out of commission, the Court’s rule now gives them the authority to do the same thing to about a thousand power plants in the eastern and western regions of the U.S. that will have to adopt new pollution controls or reduce operations.

In effect, the Court has just agreed to a regulation that represents a major increase in the cost of electricity in 28 states deemed to be polluting the air in those around them. The EPA’s claims that this will save lives they attribute to the alleged pollution is as bogus as all the rest of their claims, the purpose of which is to undermine the nation’s economy in every way it can.

James M. Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy said of Tuesday’s decision that “It is a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court continues to empower EPA to issue nonsensical interpretations of statutes with the primary goal of amassing more money and power.”

Every day the press is filled with reports of environmental groups suing to ensure that no new providers of electricity can be built. The Environmental Protection Agency has instituted all manner of regulations intended to shut down coal-fired plants and they are based on the total lie that carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” are causing the Earth to warm. The science cited is entirely without merit and the Earth is cooling, not warming, and has been for the past seventeen years.

As winters grow colder, it is putting a tremendous demand on the nation’s electrical grid. In a recent commentary, Steve Gorham, the author of “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania”, quoted Philip Moeller, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “the experience of this past winter indicates that the power grid is now already at the limit.”

“EPA policies,” said Gorham, “such as the Mercury and Air Toxics rule and the Section 316 Cooling Water Rule, are forcing the closure of many coal-fired plants, which provided 39 percent of U.S. electricity last year. American Electric Power, a provider of about ten percent of the electricity to eastern states, will close almost one quarter of the firm’s coal-fired generating plants in the next fourteen months. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of the power scheduled for closure was needed to meet electricity demand in January. Not all of this capacity has replacement plans.”

Before Obama was elected, coal-fired plants provided fifty percent (50%) of the nation’s electricity.

What is the Obama administration’s response to this? It is pouring billions into the wind and solar energy sector that provides barely one percent of all the electricity used in the nation and can never begin to replace traditional plants.

In an April 25 letter from the American Energy Alliance, joined by thirty other organizations, to the House Ways and Means Committee, opposition to the Wind Production Tax Credit was expressed: “The PTC has been a failure for taxpayers and ratepayers. In exchange for tens of billions of dollars in handouts to wind producers, the states with the highest wind production have seen their electricity rates increase nearly five times faster than the national average. In fact, states with at least 7 percent wind power have seen their electricity rates increase at an average of 17.4 percent over the last 5 years compared to an increase of only 3.5 percent for the U.S. as a whole” Why, indeed, are taxpayers being required to sustain providers of wind power that would not be able to stay in business otherwise?

In addition to the fact that you cannot manufacture anything without the use of electricity, a deliberate effort is being made to ensure that vast sections of the nation will not be able to receive electricity to warm homes and businesses in the winter and cool them in the summer. Simply put, people will die for lack of the warmth and coolness needed, not from the phony pollution the EPA cites.

This is the heart of an environmental agenda that views the human population as “a cancer” that needs to be vastly reduced. This agenda is directed from the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that falsely claims that humans have a vast impact on the climate. They do not. Human activity barely, if at all, affects the climate. What does? The Sun! Add in factors that include the Earth’s oceans and volcanic activity, and it should be obvious that everyone is being targeted for extinction.

In an article, “The EPA’s Science Problem”, Arnold Ahlert, noted in early April that “In a stunning admission, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy revealed to House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) that the agency neither possesses, nor can produce, all the scientific data used to justify the rules and regulations they have imposed on Americans via the Clean Air Act. In short, science has been trumped by the radical environmental agenda.”

The Obama administration has done everything in its power to restrict and slow down access and use of America’s huge energy reserves, enough to ensure all the electrical power we will need for hundreds of years to come. The same policy applies to transportation’s petroleum needs. Oil and gas production on federal lands is down 40% compared to ten years ago.

According to the Institute for Energy Research notes that “North America has enough oil to fuel every passenger car in the U.S. for 430 years, enough natural gas to provide the U.S. with electricity for 575 years, and enough coal to provide electricity for about 500 years.” And that’s based on known reserves. They are, however, of little use if the Obama administration continues its efforts to restrict access to them.

In an August 2013 Washington Times commentary, Ben Wolfgang warned that the EPA, the Energy Department, and other agencies’ “working group” quietly raised “their estimated social coast of carbon from $21 per ton of emissions to $35 per ton”, noting that “The dramatic increase greatly alters cost-benefit analyses offered by the EPA when floating rules, allowing the agency to claim that billions of dollars will be saved over a period of decades as a result of proposed limits on power plant emissions, tougher fuel economy standards and other steps.”

The “social cost” is a complete invention, a fiction without any basis in fact. It is a device to further restrict access and use of all fuel sources.

Americans had better wake up to the fact that their government—the Obama administration—is doing everything in its power to cut off the provision of electrical power and access to transportation fuel that it can. And the Democrats in Congress, particularly Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader, is doing everything to advance this agenda by blocking any legislation generated in the House to counter this agenda.

In November, the midterm elections offer an opportunity to elect enough Republicans to secure control of the Senate and increase its strength in the House.

Let me end with the good news. Despite what the enemies of energy are doing, the energy sector—coal, oil, and natural gas—in the decade ahead is going to grow, going to generate many new jobs, and is going to help dig us out of the huge government debt that too much borrowing and spending has generated.

 

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Political Psychopath Test: Paul Ryan vs. Barack Obama

Somewhat Reasonable - May 04, 2014, 9:50 AM

A recent article by Paul Rosenberg in Salon contends that Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin and erstwhile running mate of Mitt Romney, exhibits many of the hallmarks of a psychopath. Rosenberg claims that Ryan is “arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, and remorseless.” Whether Ryan is guilty of any or all of these sins or not, they seem to fit the bill of another prominent figure in Washington, DC: Barack Obama. Is the president a psychopath?

The president certainly has shown arrogant tendencies. In the days after his first inauguration he spurned the Republicans and tried to transform the healthcare industry from the White House. Heck, he didn’t even ask for all that much input from the congressional leadership of his own party!

Obama’s arrogant behavior hardly ended in 2009. In his last State of the Union, the president proudly declared that he had “a pen and a phone” and that he would go over the head of the Congress whenever it got in his way. If that isn’t arrogance, I don’t know what is!

Barack Obama has also proven to be a capable manipulator. He has a firmer control over his media image than most politicians in recent memory. As an article in Politico describes, “President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”

The president has likewise become known for deceit. We can hardly forget his promise that, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

For remorselessness we need go no further than that same promise. When confronted with his lie, the president tried to get out of it by saying, “What we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Apart from that second statement being a lie in itself, it shows a clear lack of remorse for his shameless misleading of the American people.

Does any of this prove Barack Obama is a psychopath? Rosenberg answers this question himself when he admits that “it’s impossible to clinically diagnose someone from a distance.” Yet Rosenberg is perfectly confident to assert in the very same breath that he believes, “a good case can be made that Ryan has exhibited classic signs of psychopathic traits.” Well, the same, if not a better, case can be made that Barack Obama has exhibited those same classic signs.

But there’s another name for a person who obfuscates issues, goes back on promises and positions, and behaves opportunistically and manipulatively: a politician. What Rosenberg describes isn’t psychopathy, it’s politics in action. All calling such people psychopaths accomplishes is giving one more dirty name to an already dirty business.

The problem Rosenberg suffers from is not uncommon among the torchbearers of the fire-breathing political left: he believes that the people who disagree with his political views are essentially, to use some of his own words, “racists” and “con artists.” He sees evil intention where there is, in fact, just honest disagreement of opinion.

Perhaps Rosenberg should ask real questions, rather than resort to name-calling. Who knows, people might even start to take him seriously.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Madhav Khandekar Talks Climate Change on the Progressive Radio Network

Somewhat Reasonable - May 03, 2014, 6:49 PM

On April 29, renowned climate scientist, Heartland Institute policy advisor, and external reviewer of the IPCC Madhav Khandekar appeared on “The Infectious Myth” show on the Progressive Radio Network. “The infectious Myth” focuses on addressing medical and scientific issues for which “the simple story we are told” is in fact untrue. Dr. Khandekar seeks to do just that for the issue of man-made climate change.

Dr. Khandekar discussed the findings of his decades-long research program into the effects of CO2 emissions on global climate and temperature. According to that research, the sun, not humans, is the primary driver of climate change:

“I think there was no change in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 during the Little Ice Age. So quite possibly, and quite definitely as most solar scientists feel, it has something to do with the low sun [activity] at the time, what is known as the Maunder Minimum.”

According to Dr. Khandekar, the world may in fact be moving in the coming decades toward another Little Ice Age thanks to an approaching decline in solar activity.

Dr. Khandekar acknowledges some amount of increased temperatures, but this he says is very limited and has largely been beneficial to humans:

“The small warming we have experienced is beneficial to world humanity. It has helped increase grain yields, especially in the developing world of South Asia and South America, as well as Africa.”

The evidence surrounding climate change and global warming remains hotly debated in scientific circles, despite the efforts of some to quash the discussion as violating a “consensus.” But scientists like Dr. Khandekar continue to fight for attention for their alternative views. The fact he was invited to speak on the Progressive News Network might well suggest that their calls for attention are starting to be heeded.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Debate: Heartland’s Joy Pullmann on Fox News

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 12:59 PM

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann told Fox News viewers on Tuesday why Common Core is a terrible idea and must be defeated state by state. Her opponent for the April 29 debate was Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation — who did his best, but Joy definitely got the better of him. Brickman spent a lot of time swinging and missing at Heartland and Joy instead of making a positive argument for his side.

Watch the video below, and for a lot of  information about Common Core, visit Heartland’s “Fight the Common Core” page and a search of Common Core at PolicyBot.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s College Rating Plan

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 11:18 AM

Last year, President Obama announced that he would create a plan to measure colleges based on access, affordability, and student outcome. On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the education budget. Mr. Duncan states the initiative will move forward with or without the requested 10 million dollars, although the money would be beneficial.

Ignoring that the administration is requesting 10 million dollars they do not need, Congress should not fund the college rating plan because it will not fix the problem of college affordability. A recent study done by the American Council on Education states the President’s plan is “well-intentioned but poorly devised.” The rating plan is intended to help low-income students, but they will likely be the most ill-served. Obama’s ratings are expected to be based off of data that will misrepresent community colleges and four-year comprehensive institutions. The efforts of institutions that largely serve low-income students will be ignored and students will have access to misleading information.

More so, college rankings do little good for institutions of higher education. Although the Obama administration has gone through exhaustive efforts to differentiate ranks and ratings, they are both numbers universities can manipulate. Over the past three years, I have watched my institution manufacture numbers and tout statistics in order to climb one rank in U.S. News and World Report. As my school brags about admission rates, diversity, and test scores, the students still experience a lack of commitment and investment by the university. The numbers look good, but students have reaped little benefit from manipulated numbers and a U.S. News and World Report ranking of 12 as opposed to 13. It is only a matter of time before universities find a way to manipulate their affordability, access, and outcome to help themselves and not the students they allegedly serve.

The rating plan also ignores that students, especially low-income, don’t actually care about college ratings/rankings. Low-income students are more likely to choose colleges close to home or based on financial aid packages. We need to be directly helping low income students access higher education—not giving money to institutions that achieve a good rank (based on inaccurate data) and hoping they will put the federal money towards improving affordability. The rating plan does not address the root of the actual problem we face.

Congress should not give the Department of Education the 10 million dollars it may or may not need. Obama’s college rating plan will not help low-income students, but instead, perpetuate universities to obsess over rates and rankings. College affordability is an amazingly important issue that greatly affects students. We need to change, but Obama’s plan is not the place to start.

Categories: On the Blog

Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Coughed, Wheezed in February

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 11:15 AM

After the global warming-battling Edwardsport coal gasification power plant used more power than it generated during the September-to-November time-frame, earlier this month information filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission showed the Duke Energy facility operated at less than 1 percent of capacity in February.

As Duke wants to recover $1.5 million in costs related to the plant, the state office that advocates for its customers – the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor – wants IURC to more closely scrutinize why Edwardsport’s operation has been such a miserable failure. The much-delayed and fought-over plant had a $1.4 billion cost overrun and as a result is adding an average 16 percent increase to Hoosier State customers’ electric bills.

“The ratepayers of Duke Energy should not be mandated to bear the risks and most of the costs of this boondoggle,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, to the Indianapolis Star. Olson’s organization has been a longtime critic of Duke Energy and the Edwardsport project specifically.

Duke has argued that it would need 15 months for the plant to become fully operational. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, after the three-month blunder late last year, power production “slowed to a crawl” in January due to mechanical problems. The company claimed it moved up planned routine maintenance to February, which extended its period of diminished activity.

“It’s a large, complex project, and it has taken time to work out technical issues,” said Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere to the IBJ.

For the customers there is a huge difference between attaching the cost of Edwardsport’s “issues” to its initial construction costs vs. charging for ongoing maintenance. A settlement limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are responsible for $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under ongoing upkeep.

Those representing the grassroots of Indiana don’t appear to want to cut Duke any slack. Olson has been unrelenting, and in early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor sharply criticized the utility as “a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” An OUCC official testified, “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.”

Another ugly aspect of Edwardsport/Indiana appears to be drawing to an end. As the saga played out over who would be responsible for cost overruns, David Hardy – the chairman of the IUCC appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels – was revealed to have been meeting with Duke secretly to discuss problems at the power plant. Daniels fired Hardy after it was also disclosed that he knew that an IURC administrative lawyer was discussing a job with Duke while he participated in cases regarding Edwardsport. Hardy was indicted in 2011, but last year a judge ruled his actions no longer amounted to a crime, and yesterday the state Court of Appeals confirmed his decision despite the fact that they applied a law to Hardy’s situation that wasn’t passed until a year after his actions,according to the Star.

The track record for holding Duke Energy and government officials accountable for carelessness, ethics breaches and outright performance failures is not inspiring – especially in Indiana. The same Court of Appeals dumped the bulk of the Edwardsport costs also on its blameless customers. Meanwhile government know-nothings and former Duke CEOJames Rogers pushed for an ill-conceived project all for the purpose of reducing life-giving carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming.

Undoubtedly such folly would not have happened – or at least have been tolerated – in a truly competitive free market. Instead we have a monopolistic industry that thrives as much on crony favoritism from government as it does from the actual sales of its product.

 

[Originally published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Renewable Energy in Decline, Less than 1% of Global Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - May 02, 2014, 10:24 AM

The global energy outlook has changed radically in just six years. President Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who believed we were running out of oil and gas, that climate change needed to be halted, and that renewables were the energy source of the near future.

But an unexpected transformation of energy markets and politics may instead make 2014 the year of peak renewables.

In December of 2007, former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on man-made climate change, leading an international crusade to halt global warming. In June, 2008 after securing a majority of primary delegates, candidate Barack Obama stated, “…this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Climate activists looked to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the next major step to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of crude oil hit $145 per barrel in June, 2008. The International Energy Agency and other organizations declared that we were at peak oil, forecasting a decline in global production. Many claimed that the world was running out of hydrocarbon energy.

Driven by the twin demons of global warming and peak oil, world governments clamored to support renewables. Twenty years of subsidies, tax-breaks, feed-in tariffs, and mandates resulted in an explosion of renewable energy installations. The Renewable Energy Index (RENIXX) of the world’s 30 top renewable energy companies soared to over 1,800.

Tens of thousands of wind turbine towers were installed, totaling more than 200,000 windmills worldwide by the end of 2012. Germany led the world with more than one million rooftop solar installations. Forty percent of the US corn crop was converted to ethanol vehicle fuel.

But at the same time, an unexpected energy revolution was underway. Using good old Yankee ingenuity, the US oil and gas industry discovered how to produce oil and natural gas from shale. With hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, vast quantities of hydrocarbon resources became available from shale fields in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

From 2008 to 2013, US petroleum production soared 50 percent. US natural gas production rose 34 percent from a 2005 low. Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey, and more than ten nations in Europe began issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. The dragon of peak oil and gas was slain.

In 2009, the ideology of Climatism, the belief that humans were causing dangerous global warming, came under serious attack. In November, emails were released from top climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, an incident christened Climategate. The communications showed bias, manipulation of data, avoidance of freedom of information requests, and efforts to subvert the peer-review process, all to further the cause of man-made climate change.

One month later, the Copenhagen Climate Conference failed to agree on a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Failures at United Nations conferences at Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), and Warsaw (2013) followed. Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States announced that they would not participate in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Major climate legislation faltered across the world. Cap and trade failed in Congress in 2009, with growing opposition from the Republican Party. The price of carbon permits in the European Emissions Trading System crashed in April 2013 when the European Union voted not to support the permit price. Australia elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the fall of 2013 on a platform of scrapping the nation’s carbon tax.

Europeans discovered that subsidy support for renewables was unsustainable. Subsidy obligations soared in Germany to over $140 billion and in Spain to over $34 billion by 2013. Renewable subsidies produced the world’s highest electricity rates in Denmark and Germany. Electricity and natural gas prices in Europe rose to double those of the United States.

Worried about bloated budgets, declining industrial competitiveness, and citizen backlash, European nations have been retreating from green energy for the last four years. Spain slashed solar subsidies in 2009 and photovoltaic sales fell 80 percent in a single year. Germany cut subsidies in 2011 and 2012 and the number of jobs in the German solar industry dropped by 50 percent. Renewable subsidy cuts in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom added to the cascade. The RENIXX Renewable Energy Index fell below 200 in 2012, down 90 percent from the 2008 peak.

Once a climate change leader, Germany turned to coal after the 2012 decision to close nuclear power plants. Coal now provides more than 50 percent of Germany’s electricity and 23 new coal-fired power plants are planned. Global energy from coal has grown by 4.4 percent per year over the last ten years.

Spending on renewables is in decline. From a record $318 billion in 2011, world renewable energy spending fell to $280 billion in 2012 and then fell again to $254 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. The biggest drop occurred in Europe, where investment plummeted 41 percent last year. The 2013 expiration of the US Production Tax Credit for wind energy will continue the downward momentum.

Today, wind and solar provide less than one percent of global energy. While these sources will continue to grow, it’s likely they will deliver only a tiny amount of the world’s energy for decades to come. Renewable energy output may have peaked, at least as a percentage of global energy production.


[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog
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