On the Blog

Republicans Will Run On An Obamacare Replacement in 2016 – Will Democrats?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 26, 2014, 9:00 AM

The decision in the Halbig v. Burwell case this week was an unexpected legal boon to opponents of Obamacare. Spearheaded by the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler, the case will almost certainly lead this debate about the text of the Affordable Care Act back to the Supreme Court. My colleague Sean Davis has written a comprehensive piece on the case, particularly on the nature of the supposed “drafting error” at its core.

But whatever the ultimate outcome for Halbig, the case serves as a reminder of the uneven ground on which Obama’s health care law is likely to be standing over the next two years. Whether facing challenges in the courts, or in implementation, as we saw in the GAO’s security report this week, or simply as a matter of political approval, Obamacare is going to be a subject of uncertainty in 2016, and its survival will depend on who wins the election, as I wrote here last month.

This raises an interesting question about how the presidential candidates will interact with the law. The law’s continued instability and problems will have to be answered – but the odd circumstance likely to result from the political frame of the issue is that Republicans will put forward a plan to replace Obamacare, but Democrats won’t.

One of the lazier memes of Democratic politicians and a few too many members of the media over the past several years has been the myth that Republicans have no alternative to Obamacare. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t pass even the most basic assessment of accuracy in reporting – here is a list of the health care reforms introduced by Republican House members in 2012, and here’s one for 2013. While their plans vary in scope, there are eight things Republicans generally agree about when it comes to health care reform:

They want to end the tax bias in favor of employer-sponsored health insurance to create full portability, either through a tax credit, deductibility, or another method;


  • They want to incentivize the reform of medical malpractice laws, likely through carrot incentives to the states;
  • They want to allow for insurance purchases across state lines;
  • They want to support state-level pre-existing condition pools;
  • They want to fully block grant Medicaid;
  • They want to shift Medicare to premium support;
  • They want to speed up the FDA device and drug approval process; and
  • They want to maximize the consumer driven health insurance model, making high deductible + health savings account plans larger and more attractive.

Now, some feel that none of these count as Obamacare replacements, because they aren’t aimed at doing the same things Obamacare does (namely, dramatically expanding the number of people on taxpayer-subsidized insurance or entitlement programs). But that’s how Republicans will present them. There have been a host of such plans introduced in the Congress and put forward by would-be Republican presidential nominees. And it stands to reason that in 2016, every serious candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party will put forward an alternate plan or endorse one that has already been introduced, if they haven’t already. The choice of nominee will also determine the choice of the replacement plan Republicans run on.

For the Democratic nominee, however, the challenge of running in defense of Obamacare could prove more difficult than might be anticipated. Obama’s law is sacrosanct for some factions of the Democratic Party. Many observers have cited a variety of poll data showing that Americans want to fix Obamacare as opposed to repealing it or keeping it as-is. But those “fixes” are largely vague at this juncture, thanks to the administration’s decision to enforce aspects of the law as it sees fit.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Hillary Clinton is the 2016 nominee, will she really be able to navigate the entire election without putting forward a plan on how she intends to fix Obama’s law? The likeliest scenario is that she will avoid saying anything that could cause her political difficulty – urging voters not to risk going back to a pre-Obamacare era, while acknowledging that certain aspects of the law need fixing in a general sense. But fixing Obamacare in the long term (particularly fixing the kind of problems that spawned the Halbig case) will almost certainly ultimately require legislative reform, not just administrative fixes.

If this is how the 2016 election plays out as it relates to health care policy, the amusing aspect is that – for all the talk of Republicans not having a plan to replace Obamacare – we will likely end up knowing a lot more about the plan Republicans intend to put forward after the election than the one Democrats have in mind.

Originally published at The Morning Consult. 

Categories: On the Blog

Ending the Costly Integration Ban

Somewhat Reasonable - July 26, 2014, 9:00 AM

This past Tuesday the House of Representatives, in a bipartisan voice vote, passed a bill reauthorizing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. STELA allows satellite providers, such as Dish Network and DirecTV, to import TV signals from other markets when their subscribers cannot pick up over-the-air local stations. The current STELA authorization expires at the end of this year, and the Senate is expected to act on an extension before then.

A provision in the STELA reauthorization bill would end the FCC’s set-top box “integration ban.” This outdated, costly FCC regulation bans cable operators from integrating the security and programming navigation functions in set-top boxes. The supposed rationale for the integration ban, which was implemented in 2007, was to promote the availability of an independent retail market in set-top boxes.

In short, from the very beginning, in light of the competition among multichannel video providers that already then existed, it was clear that the costs imposed by the mandated separation of security and program navigation functions outweighed the consumer benefits. Consumers never took to purchasing set-top boxes enabled with the “CableCard” technology. And all the while, robust competition among video service providers has been driving ongoing enhancements and new features in the video providers’ own set-top boxes, not to mention the various new innovative navigation devices used in conjunction with Internet video services.

Congressman Bob Latta, Vice Chair of the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, deserves much credit for leading the effort in the House to eliminate the integration ban. It is his bill, H.R. 3196, the “Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act,” co-sponsored by Texas Congressman Gene Greene, that is now incorporated into the STELA reauthorization. Indeed, shortly after Congressman Latta introduced H.R. 3196, he delivered a keynote address at a Free State Foundation event at which he explained that the integration ban already has resulted in over $1 billion in increased costs to consumers since it went into effect in 2007. The separation mandate imposed over $50 in additional costs on each leased set-top box. Moreover, as Congressman Latta said in introducing his bill: “In today’s ultra competitive video marketplace, cable operators have no incentive to make it more difficult for their customers to use their preferred devices to access their video programming services.”

I argued against adoption of the integration ban back in 2006 before the FCC implemented the mandated separation. Since then, I, along with other Free State Foundation scholars, have argued for its elimination on a regular, some might even say incessant, basis. Here is (it’s true!) just a small sampling of such Free State Foundation publications:

Free State Foundation Blogs:

The Integration Ban and Integrating DTV Transition Policy (2006); Integration Bans Then and Now (2007); National Broadband Plan: A Setback On Set-Top Box Regulation (2010); FCC Should Let the Sun Set on Its Set-Top Box Regulations (2011); It’s Time to Remove the Costly Integration Ban (2013); Switching Off an Outdated Cable Rule: End the Costly Integration Ban (2014); STELA Offers an Opportunity to Clean Out Old Cable Regulations (2014).

Perspectives from FSF Scholars:

Don’t Inflict Analog Era Equipment Rules On The Digital Age (2006); The FCC’s Continuing, Costly Video Navigation Device Regulation (2010); AllVid Regulation Risks Harm to Next Generation Video Innovation (2012);Consumers Would Benefit from Deregulating the Video Device Market (2013); It’s Time to Remove the Costly Integration Ban (2013); A Costly Affair: Retaining Outdated Set-top Box Mandates? (2014).

Normally, I wouldn’t string-cite so much of our previous work in one piece. In this instance, perhaps you can chalk it up to celebrating the adoption of the House bill that offers the prospect of ending the integration ban and pride in our own efforts to advance this reform cause.

Or perhaps you can chalk it up to wanting to provide plenty of readily available substantive educational material for the Senators who will now be considering a STELA authorization bill. There is no reason that the Senate should not follow the House’s lead in ending the costly integration ban. Indeed, for the benefit of consumers, there is every reason for it to do so.

PS – By focusing in this piece on ending the integration ban, regular readers know that, by no means, do I wish to imply that there is not a need to eliminate other outdated video regulations, many of which date back to the 1992 Cable Act or even before. Of course, twenty-two years ago the video marketplace was not nearly as competitive as it is today. Indeed, many of the Perspectives and blogs listed above, in addition to advocating an end to the integration ban, address the need for comprehensive reform of video regulations, such as, for example, eliminating or modifying retransmission/must carry, program carriage, channel placement, and basic tier “must buy” mandates.

Categories: On the Blog

Silicon Valley’s 6 Biggest Net Neutrality Fantasies Special Report

Somewhat Reasonable - July 25, 2014, 2:14 PM

If Silicon Valley folks are indeed the smartest of the smart, how could they be so easily fooled on net neutrality?

Normally smarts distinguish between what’s testable and real versus what is the pixie-dust of dreams.

So where’s the real data and sound scientific thinking behind Silicon Valley’s grandiose net neutrality presumptions?

Why isn’t Silicon Valley adhering to its own data-driven, scientific decision-making principles?

Summary of Silicon Valley’s 6 Biggest Net Neutrality Fantasies:
1.    The law and courts don’t matter.
2.    Congress doesn’t matter.
3.    Calling for maximal regulation of ISPs poses no regulatory risk to Silicon Valley.
4.    “Separations” of the transmission component of telecommunications from the computer processing component is easy.
5.    Having to make the case for Title II forbearance isn’t acknowledging that Title II would broadly.
6.    The FCC’s forbearance tool is precise, controllable, and predictable.

Silicon Valley’s 6 Biggest Net Neutrality Fantasies:

Fantasy #1: The law and courts don’t matter.

Silicon Valley interests are effectively urging the FCC to ignore two obvious and core data points everyone knows, i.e. the FCC’s claimed authority on net neutrality has been overturned twice in Comcast v. FCC and Verizon v. FCC.

On top of that they want the FCC to effectively ignore the obvious main thrust of the D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC that it is illegal for the FCC to compel an information service provider to furnish service to others at no cost (p. 53).

That’s exactly what Silicon Valley interests are calling for in asking the FCC to regulate Internet peering for the first time to ban “fast lanes” and to compel ISPs to carry all downstream traffic at no cost, i.e. “zero pricing” (p. 60).

In effect, Silicon Valley is saying we don’t care what the law or court says, or what authority the FCC may have or not have, we want what we want and three FCC commissioners should give us what we demand.

Why is no one in Silicon Valley objectively looking at this available court “data” like a scientist would?

Fantasy #2: Congress doesn’t matter.

Another data point that’s central to this equation is that the FCC is a creature of Congress. Translation: the FCC works for and is funded by the Congress under the Constitution.

Consider how Silicon Valley interests are ignoring this obvious Congressional data relevant to their net neutrality regulatory algorithm.

The last study with data relevant to this test was Congress’s reaction to the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. Then in letters to the FCC, Members of Congress opposed Title II reclassification by a 6-1 margin; 56% (299 of 535 members) wrote in opposition; see: House Democrat letter, House Republican letter, & Senate letter. A small minority of Congress 9% (49 of 535 members) wrote in support.

In the 2010 mid-term elections, >950 candidates ran for Senate or House seats, and only 95 or 10% took the PCCC/FreePress net neutrality pledge. All 95 lost. Simply the data on FreePress’ form of “real” net neutrality was 95-0 against.

In 2011, the House also passed a rare Resolution of Disapproval of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order 240-179.

The House also passed a bill 244-181 to defund any FCC implementation of the FCC Open Internet Order.

In July of 2014, consider new data on how Congress reacts when the FCC seeks to ignore the law and Constitution and overreach its statutory authority.

The House voted this month 223-200 to prevent the FCC Chairman’s stated goal of over-riding state legislatures on the issue of municipal broadband networks.

In addition, Congress is seriously preparing to update the Communications Act for the 21st century which would put all of the FCC’s obsolescing legal authority up in the air. Overstepping their authority and ignoring court rulings for a third time on net neutrality, could put the FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality long-term seriously at risk.

How is it smart scientific decision-making for Silicon Valley interests to wholesale exclude all of this “real” and relevant congressional data from their net neutrality advocacy algorithm?

Fantasy #3: Calling for maximal regulation of ISPs poses no regulatory risk to Silicon Valley.

Influential progressive and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren just spoke last week at NetRoots Nation, a convention for liberal bloggers and activists and laid out her vision for the 11 tenets of progressivism.

Her #3 was on net neutrality: “We believe that the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.” Note that she said “big corporations,” not big ISPs or big cable or telecom companies.

Consider the data that “big corporation” members of CCIA are calling for the “nuclear option” of Title II reclassification of broadband; and they are Google with a valuation of $400 billion making it is the third biggest corporation in America, Facebook with a very big valuation of $180 billion, eBay with a big valuation of $64 billion, and Yahoo with a big valuation of $34 billion.

Consider the data that Silicon Valley’s Big Corporations are the least taxed, least regulated, most protected, most immunized from liability, and least diverse of America’s big corporations, and that at the same time they are officially calling for maximal permanent price regulation of another industry in a way that conveniently would enrich them with the corporate welfare of crony capitalism, i.e. multi-billion dollar government price subsidies paid entirely by average consumer internet users.

In what tested Silicon Valley algorithm does the simple equation of tinder + spark not = combustion?

What engineer logically would think of building on top of such an unstable foundation?

Fantasy #4: “Separations” of the transmission component of telecommunications from the computer processing component is easy.

Reclassifying the transmission component of broadband access as a telecommunications service separate from the computer processing component may appear to be a binary sort to computer engineers, but to regulators whose operative definitions are not scientific definitions, but legal-regulatory definitions, it would be like trying to unscramble eggs all over the country all the time.

No one knows better than computer engineers and scientists that continuous, analog, circuit-switched, networks represent radically different engineering and science from discontinuous, digital, packet-switched networks.

They understand the inherent “transmission” predictability of traditional “telecommunications” is by design the antithesis of the inherent “transmission” un-predictability of today’s Internet packet “information services.”

If they think about this in the regulatory context, computer engineers and scientists will grasp the folly and fantasy of a non-engineering, non scientific FCC trying to look at today’s packet-switched Internet transmissions as if they were still the traditional circuit-switched “telecommunications” transmissions of yesteryear.

For example, is a best-efforts Internet transmission that can re-route or resend dropped packets via multiple routing points around the country and world, as easy to hive off, isolate, and track as continuous, circuit transmission “telecommunications” between two well-known points?

Classifying the “transmission” of data packets, as analog “telecommunications” also would destroy the purposeful distinction of regulated vs. unregulated services first established in the 1956 AT&T consent decree between telecommunications and data services. Treating today’s data transmissions like the voice “telecommunications” transmissions of yesteryear also would eviscerate the very important practical separation of legacy common-carrier-regulated voice service and today’s unregulated Internet information services.

Speaking of “separations” policy, most in Silicon Valley are joyfully ignorant about the FCC’s “jurisdictional separations” policy to apportion the inter-state versus intra-state costs of telecommunications to determine appropriate telecommunication subsidies.

FCC “separations” activities are arguably the most arcane, complex and difficult activities the FCC has been responsible for administering, and that is when the transmission paths at issue are well-known, highly-predictable and measurable.

Imagine the mind-boggling new FCC “separations” effort required for the FCC to separate the pure transmission of packets from the computer processing of packets when all sorts of reasonable network management computer processing is embedded throughout the Internet network of networks to prevent denial of service attacks, viruses, spam etc.

If geographic separations of telecommunications involved mind-numbing micro-monitoring of transmission flows, imagine then how beyond-mind-numbing, nano-monitoring of separations of “pure” transmissions from “processed” transmissions would be?

Devising rules to do this, putting them out for comment, and reply comments, then passing a rule to implement them, and then designing and testing the technology and human oversight processes to implement and monitor them would take many years, and likely encounter complexity management problems like the Obamacare website suffered through last year.

What computer engineer and scientist would want to wish that amount of abject inefficiency on anyone?

Fantasy #5: Having to make the case for Title II forbearance isn’t acknowledging that Title II would broadly.

Once again, CCIA, of which Big Internet corporations Google, Facebook, eBay, and Yahoo are members, formally acknowledges that reclassification of broadband as a Title II service demands forbearance to ensure that it is not more broadly applied than Silicon Valley wants.

If Silicon Valley acknowledges that Title II would apply more broadly than just to ISP services, on what objective data or basis, does Silicon Valley believe they would be perfectly exempt or immune?

If the FCC truly cared about preventing those with market power from discriminating, why wouldn’t the FCC consider applying potential Title II regulation to companies in addition to ISPs which exhibit market power on the edge and also have a commercial incentive to discriminate?

What data is there that only ISPs discriminate and no edge company discriminates?

What data is there that market power only exists around broadband access and not in other parts of the Internet ecosystem involving Internet transmissions?

What data is there that shows that the type of private information that the FCC protects under Title II privacy regulations is not like the private information that edge providers use for commercial purposes without a consumer’s reasonable consent?

Simply, what data gives Silicon Valley confidence no Title II regulation could affect them?

Fantasy #6: The FCC’s forbearance tool is precise, controllable, and predictable.

Washington is not the predictable mathematical world of engineering or computer programming.

Washington is the much more uncertain and shifting world of public policy, arcane legal interpretation, politics, and public relations.

Those that assume the FCC could easily and surgically apply Title II regulation to specific companies in specific services, in specific ways, in a specific certain process, and in a specific timeframe are in a fantasy world, not a data-driven, scientific one.

All the data available at the FCC — which chronicles every time the FCC has tried to officially apply forbearance — shows the process to be inherently slow; easily-contested, and unpredictable.

What data or scientific method is Silicon Valley relying on to presume that forbearance for net neutrality would be easy?

What engineer would imagine that they and their partner contractor (the FCC) would be the only one to determine if the forbearance structure was sound and legal, and not a building inspector (the courts)?


The data above indicate that the smartest of the smart people of Silicon Valley, have been fooled by their net neutrality movement allies. Much of what they have been assured is true, is in fact not, when one takes the time and effort to examine the actual available data.

Somehow Silicon Valley leaders have let themselves collectively go out on a franchise-endangering limb without any of the data-driven or scientific rigor that they normally require to make important strategic business decisions.

Maybe the Silicon Valley mono-culture and group-think assumed that someone in Silicon Valley must have checked the data or tested the many fundamental assumptions undergirding Silicon Valley’s net neutrality position, so they did not have to worry about it.

Silicon Valley has been conned into thinking that pressuring the FCC to consider maximal regulation of a key part of the Internet ecosystem is safe to do, and also is in their self-interest, when ultimately it is not.

As the old poker adage says, if you look around the table and can’t identify the sucker, it’s you.

Categories: On the Blog

Capitalists Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Pope Francis

Somewhat Reasonable - July 25, 2014, 9:00 AM

All over the world, advocates of the free market are looking askance at Pope Francis. Since succeeding Benedict XVI in 2013, Pope Francis has mounted a vocal challenge to what he sees as the now dominant global ideology of capitalism:

“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by the happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

The pope’s stance on capitalism and excessive acquisitiveness has earned substantial criticism from the conservative and pro-market media. Rush Limbaugh got a lot of publicity when he commented, “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.” Paul Ryan was slightly more charitable than Rush, arguing that Pope Francis was merely ignorant of capitalism. “The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Limbaugh represent a fairly accurate sample of the reactions of many leaders and commentators on the right. They either conclude the pope is a left-wing radical, or simply unaware of the world outside of Argentinian crony capitalism. Neither of these views is a fair or accurate representation of what the pope is talking about.

The Catholic Church and Capitalism

In reality, Pope Francis is not suggesting a radical alteration of traditional Catholic teaching. Indeed, even his immediate predecessors were critical of the “excesses” of the capitalist economic system. Pope Benedict XVI, in the wake of the Great Recession, was extremely critical of the financial institutions at the center of the crisis:

“In recent years, a new cosmopolitan class of managers has emerged, who are often answerable only to the shareholders generally consisting of anonymous funds which de facto determine their remuneration…Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.”

Even the pope most favorably disposed toward capitalism in recent decades, John Paul II, was not without reservations about unfettered capitalism. In a 1989 encyclical, John Paul wrote that, “The free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market.” John Paul argued that the countries that were then coming out of the shadow of Soviet Communism should adopt a free enterprise system, but that it would have to be constrained not just by legal boundaries, but also “ethical and religious” ones.

There is no doubt that throughout the Cold War ers, and in the two decades of American ascendancy after its conclusion, that the Catholic Church hierarchy has been, by and large, rather well disposed toward the capitalist world order led by the United States. From the perspective of self-preservation, this made perfect sense. Taken in that historical context, it is understandable that the Catholic Church now feels comfortable shedding its close attachment to the system of global capitalism. The threat of Communism has been vanquished and the Church’s long-term survival is largely secure thanks to large and growing congregations of adherents in Latin America and Africa. Ironically, the very success of capitalism and free trade in defeating its ideological rivals has made the world safe for a Catholic Church that can pursue an independent economic worldview.

Ethical Capitalism

Understanding that Pope Francis belongs to a long tradition of Church skepticism toward unregulated free markets (and is not a Latin American Marxist aberration) is an important step toward understanding where Catholic teaching is heading and what that means for the rest of world. What exactly is the pope proposing?

Basically, Pope Francis is arguing for a change in the culture of capitalism. According to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the pope is advocating a kind of “virtuous capitalism.” Dolan says Pope Francis desires to “remind us that free economic activity should indeed be pursued, but the human dignity of our needy brothers and sisters must always be at the center of our attention.”

Taken in this light, Pope Francis is not a radical, but simply an advocate for the welfare of the needy. Charity is one of the central tenets of Catholicism, so this should be of little surprise. The pope seems skeptical of the ability of unregulated capitalism to provide for those who are vulnerable. That may rub champions of the free market the wrong way, but what do they expect from the leader of an organization that is nominally committed to the welfare of all people and to providing for the needy and suffering. The world is unquestionably full of a great deal of suffering, so it is unsurprising that a man who has dedicated his life to service would be upset at the economic system he sees prevailing around the world.

Squaring the Circle

Rather than dismissing Pope Francis as an anti-free market socialist, supporters of free enterprise ought to pay more attention to what he is saying. Corporations, if the recent Supreme Court case concerning Hobby Lobby is to be accepted, are capable of holding ethical stances. Is it anti-capitalist to challenge firms, and their owners and managers, to think in terms of ethics and morality? It seems like corporations ought to be able to act in responsible ways.

The best way to defeat the proponents of statism and socialism is not to reject what Pope Francis is saying, but to consider carefully what he is saying. If the free market is to survive, the actors within it must behave in such a way as to not exploit the weakness of others. That can, and often does, happen in well-functioning free markets. We should pray that such moral capitalism will prevail all over the world.

Categories: On the Blog

Mismanagement, Not Global Warming, Caused Chicago Sewage Overflows

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2014, 10:55 AM

Global warming is not the reason why Chicago’s 1800s-era sewer system occasionally floods people’s basements, despite Washington Post propaganda to the contrary. Instead, the culprits are the age of Chicago’s sewer system and the city’s tremendous population growth since the 1800s.

Utilizing global warming alarmists’ same tired playbook of mischaracterized anecdotes, the Washington Post published an article this morning highlighting the story of a Chicago woman whose basement flooded when the city’s aging sewage system could not adequately discharge water during a strong rainstorm. According to the Post, because sewage overflow occurred and because global warming is also occurring, global warming must be to blame for such unwelcome sewage overflow.

The facts tell a completely different story. Chicago has the oldest sewage system among large American cities. As the Post acknowledged, Chicago’s sewage system is ancient and obsolete, “designed to absorb rain nearly 120 years ago.” Of course, 120 years ago, Chicago’s population barely topped 1 million people. Today, Chicago’s population is nearly 3 million people.

Chicago sits on a flat plain that makes effective water and sewage removal particularly problematic. The Chicago River used to be “little more than a creek” that swelled dramatically during rainfall or snowmelt events. Despite its small size, the river accomplished its natural purpose well, quickly discharging excess water into nearby Lake Michigan.

As the city grew, however, civil engineers in the 1800s devised a scheme that reversed the flow of the Chicago River and required the city’s sewage and water overflow to traverse a much longer route into the Mississippi River basin. Sewage overflows during rain events occurred almost from the start. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “With Chicago’s continued growth, this system could not maintain the reversal under adverse weather conditions.” These sewage systems failures, of course, began long before humans drove SUVs and derived electricity from coal-fired power plants.

Objective data and peer-reviewed studies show no increase in high-flow (flooding) events for streams and rivers still in a predominantly natural state. The only increase in flooding occurs in rivers and streams altered by human population growth and civil engineering, as is the case with the Chicago River. Unless one chooses to argue that global warming causes human population growth, especially in urban areas, there is absolutely no link between increased global warming and flooding events like those that occur in Chicago.

Indeed, Chicago’s sewage failures stand in stark contrast to those of other cities that more effectively upgrade their sewage systems and sewage capacities to keep pace with urban water demands. Even woefully managed Detroit has reduced its sewage overflow events by 80 percent since 1995. One cannot claim global warming is to blame for Chicago sewage overflow events unless one similarly claims global warming deserves credit for the dramatic decline in Detroit sewage overflow events.

Even in Chicago, sewage overflow events are poised to largely become a thing of the past. As the Post acknowledged, the city is in the process of expanding its sewage capacity, which should triple by the end of next year. By 2029, the city’s sewage capacity will be more than 600% of current capacity.

When Chicago’s sewage overflow events soon become a thing of the past, will the Washington Post credit global warming? Don’t bet on it.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Appeals Court Slightly Wounds Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2014, 10:48 AM

It’s too soon for champagne, but perhaps a beer is in order.

In a 2-1 decision in the case of Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled that the Internal Revenue Service cannot interpret the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as allowing subsidies for those Americans who purchase health insurance from the federal health insurance exchange known as Healthcare.gov. This is because the text of the law specifies that subsidies or tax credits are available for insurance purchased on state-created exchanges.

Later on Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled oppositely: that the subsidies are permissible for the federal exchange. More in this in a moment.

Should the D.C. Circuit’s ruling ever actually take effect, this would mean that those who purchased Obamacare insurance in a state that did not create its own exchange but instead relied on the federal exchange must cover the full cost of their insurance rather than have others pay for some share of it. (What a novel concept in Barack Obama’s America!)

A lower court had ruled that the intent of the law was to permit subsidies for insurance purchased on either a state or federal exchange, but the panel ruled otherwise: “Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges ‘established by the State,’ we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation.”

The ruling comes down to the permissibility of the IRS to interpret the law under a relatively lenient standard: “we will uphold an agency action unless we find it to be ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.’”

Despite language that clearly states that tax credits apply to insurance purchased on a state exchange, the IRS’s relevant regulation allowed them “regardless of whether the Exchange is established and operated by a State (including a regional Exchange or subsidiary Exchange) or by HHS.”

Standing for the case came not due primarily to the subsidy issue but rather the not entirely obvious fact that permitting subsidies on the federal exchange also “significantly increases the number of people who must purchase health insurance or face a penalty” through the individual mandate provisions of Obamacare.

According to the D.C. Circuit’s opinion, the impact on employers through the employer mandate is even more significant: “If credits were unavailable in states with federal Exchanges, employers there would face no penalties for failing to offer coverage. The IRS Rule has the opposite effect: by allowing credits in such states, it exposes employers there to penalties and thereby gives the employer mandate broader reach.”

The potential impact of the ruling cannot be overstated. About two-thirds of the 8 million Americans who (we are told) have purchased health insurance through an exchange did so through Healthcare.gov because only 14 states have functioning state-based exchanges.

The D.C. Circuit majority closes their opinion with a paragraph that is worth reading in its entirety:

We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance. At least until states that wish to can set up exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly. But, high as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still. Within constitutional limits, Congress is supreme in matters of policy, and the consequence of that supremacy is that our duty when interpreting a statute is to ascertain the meaning of the words of the statute duly enacted through the formal legislative process. This limited role serves democratic interests by ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed, life-tenured judges.

This is a fascinating bit of legal writing: On one hand, the judges suggest some sympathy for those Americans who are being put through uncertainty and perhaps even harmed financially by the panel’s obviously correct ruling. On the other hand, they issue a warning that doing anything other than what they did — standing up for the plain meaning of the law’s language — would be anti-democratic.

The warning has a very specific audience: the other judges of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A party to a case may request an en banc hearing where the entire court rules, rather than just the 3-judge panel. In a press conference on Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (one of the most ironically named public officials in memory) said that he anticipates that the Department of Justice “will ask for a ruling from the full D.C. Circuit.”

Late last year, anticipating this very moment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed Senate filibuster rules in order to permit the packing of this court with liberals. The court had been evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees and it was well known that the court did not have enough work to support even its existing judges. But the Obama administration knew that this day would come and that they would need an unbalanced court to defend the unconstitutional, poorly conceived, and poorly written law that is considered this president’s “signature achievement” — a dubious compliment at best.

An en banc hearing of a court with seven Democrat appointees and four Republican appointees is likely to overturn the panel because liberals, as constituted in 2014, simply do not believe in the rule of law. It is therefore unsurprising that Josh Earnest sounded unconcerned, even dismissive of Tuesday’s ruling: “For those who are keeping score, we’re still ahead two to one here.”

Earnest was referencing the fact that lower courts have ruled for the government in this case. There are other cases making their way through the appellate process now. If the D.C. Circuit en banc reverses its own panel and if the other circuits rule in favor of the government — which seems more likely than not — that would leave the possibility for the Supreme Court to refuse to hear the case.

Typically, the Supreme Court will “grant cert” when the circuits are divided, though it also takes many cases where an appeals court is simply wrong (in the opinion of a majority of the Justices). So while the Obama administration will work hard to get an en banc reversal of the panel to prevent a split among the circuits, the resolution of the question is most likely to hinge on whether Chief Justice John Roberts is looking for an opportunity to reverse his error in NFIB v. Sebelius in which he upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare — or whether he does not want to go through that morass again.

Should the Supreme Court take the case, it would suggest that Roberts has reconsidered and that a 5-4 opinion along the same lines as Tuesday’s D.C. Circuit ruling would eventually issue.

In that case, the entire structure of Obamacare will fall under its own cost and the enormous and impermissible differences between the operations of insurance exchanges in some states versus in other states. Unsubsidized millions will cancel their insurance. The resulting massive decline in revenue as well as actuarial changes in the composition of the insured (since the sickest will likely keep their insurance regardless of subsidy) will create a financially unsustainable system — or rather will hasten the recognition of socialized medicine as unsustainable. The political turmoil will also be enormous — but necessary and perhaps ultimately beneficial as long as the left is prevented from using another crisis to increase the size and scope of government.

The D.C. Circuit’s opinion, written by Judge Thomas Griffith, is obviously correct to anyone who believes that laws mean what they say and that, as concurring Judge A. Raymond Randolph notes, quoting Justice Brandeis, when a law omits something, it’s not a judge’s job to fix it: “What the government asks is not a construction of a statute, but, in effect, an enlargement of it by the court.… To supply omissions transcends the judicial function.”

Just try to tell that to the judges just appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Obama and permitted by Harry Reid’s changing generations of Senate protocol in order to protect Obamacare from this very occurrence.

And just try to tell that to the judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, which, just a few hours after the D.C. Circuit’s opinion was released, ruledunanimously that that tax credits for the federal exchange are in fact legal. Their ruling was based on a claim that “the applicable statutory language is ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations.” Clearly these people went to the Bill Clinton school of English and are unsure whether “state” means “state.”

While the dispute among the circuits would normally point to the Supreme Court taking the case, the near certain en banc hearing in the D.C. Circuit and the likely overturning of the panel means that the Supreme Court may not face divided circuit opinions pushing them to hear the cases. In that case, the chances of the case being heard hinge almost entirely on whether John Roberts wants to revisit Obamacare — something I very much doubt.

While today’s ruling is welcome, it is far from dispositive.

It’s too early for champagne — and there may well never be occasion for a bigger celebration if John Roberts is not looking for vindication. But for the welcome reminder that Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and that it’s not a judge’s job to fix a bad law, we can at least pop open your favorite beer or pour a nice glass of Pinot Noir (or, if you prefer, Amarone) and toast the fact that all is not yet lost.


[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Is Tax Inversion Really Unpatriotic?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2014, 10:27 AM

The subject of tax inversion, in which American firms avail of lower tax rates in foreign countries by merging companies in those countries, has become very topical in the last couple weeks thanks to a decision by Abbvie, a drug company, to merger with Shire, an Ireland-based firm and move its headquarters overseas. One of at least 47 tax inversions in the last decade, the Abbvie-Shire deal is the largest such action yet, worth $54 billion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Obama and Democrats in Congress have become apoplectic with rage at the audacity of a business making a prudent decision to escape bloodsucking taxes.

The president has spewed a load of bile at all tax inverters, saying that they “are essentially renouncing their American citizenship so that they can ship their profits overseas to avoid paying taxes—even as they benefit from all the advantages of being here in America.” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has echoed this sentiment, calling for businesses to not move abroad and to show “economic patriotism” (a terms that carries some unsettling notes of mercantilism). Obama and co. have decided that this subject is a major voter-winner in the run-up to the midterms, so be ready for more business-bashing in the months ahead.

What is so strange about the attitude of Obama and his cronies is that they seem dead set on blaming the businesses for “not playing fair” and running off to more business-friendly lands. But that is exactly what America has traditionally done to other countries. As a president set on making America a more “responsible” player on the world stage, he turns to threats of economic violence awfully quickly. He seems perfectly at home using America’s economic clout to aid American business abroad through entities like the Export-Import Bank. Apparently, businesses are only “patriotic” when they are friendly to his administration.

Also, whatever happened to Obama’s whole “corporations aren’t people” shtick? Are we to believe that a corporation has a duty of patriotic loyalty (economic or otherwise) but is not entitled to speech? Or is he referring to the managers and owners who took the dastardly action of defending their private interests against the anti-business, anti-market attitudes of the present administration? Whatever Obama means, he is totally off the mark.

The simple fact is that business is international. Corporations are frequently not solely of one country, and they certainly are not the exclusive property of one country. Moving to a friendlier climate is not reason to further restrict free trade, exact ruinous retroactive regulations, and to attack the businesses that are simply responding to economic pressures. Yet those are the exact responses the Obama administration is considering.

The problem with the way Obama and his friends in Congress are responding to tax inversion is that they are blaming the businesses for responding to pressures created by the government. America has prospered thanks to its open economy and the easy business environment it nurtured. Those advantages have been eroded by the twin forces of increasing taxes and regulations at home and their relative decline abroad.

Businesses leaving is a sign that something has to change. Obama should take the hint and start restoring free enterprise to America. If he continues down the path he’s treading, he will only succeed in driving more firms overseas.

Categories: On the Blog

Five Fatal Flaws of Solar Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2014, 9:21 AM

The sun is the most important energy source on Earth. It provides our daily warmth and light and the rotation and orbit of the earth turn its steady output into fluctuating day and night, summer and winter. Solar energy powers the growth of all trees, grasses, herbs, crops and algae; it creates the clouds and powers the storms; it is the source of all hydro, photo-voltaic (PV), solar-thermal, bio-mass and wind energy; and, over geological time, it also creates coal.

PV solar panels are useful in remote locations, for some portable applications and, with enough panels and batteries, stand-alone solar can even power homes.

But solar energy has five fatal flaws for supplying 24/7 grid power.

Firstly, sunshine at any spot is always intermittent and often unreliable. Solar panels can only deliver significant energy from 9am to 3pm – a maximum of 25% of each day. Solar can often help supply the hot afternoon demand for air conditioning, but demand for electricity generally peaks at about 6.30pm, when production from solar is usually zero.

Secondly, to be a stand-alone energy supplier, PV solar needs batteries to cover those times when solar is not producing – about 75% of the time under ideal cloudless skies. To charge the batteries for continuous power, while also supplying usable power, a solar plant can only deliver a theoretical maximum of 25% of its day-time capacity. The chance of cloudy days will greatly increase the battery storage needed, and the generating capacity absorbed in charging the batteries. Currently, only pumped hydro storage could possibly supply the storage capacity needed and then only at massive cost, in a few suitable locations.

Thirdly, solar energy is very dilute, so huge areas of land are needed to collect industrial quantities of energy.

If it were possible to anchor a solar collector one meter square at the top of the atmosphere, aligned continuously to face the sun, and never shadowed by the earth or the moon, it would receive solar energy at the rate of 1,366 Watts per square metre (W/m2) – that would power 13 light bulbs each using 100 watts.

If that panel were located on the surface, at the equator, under clear skies, aligned continuously to face the sun, and never shaded by the earth or the moon, solar energy dissipated by the atmosphere would reduce energy received to 1,000 watts.

In the real rotating world, where sunshine only reaches usable intensity for about 25% of the time, the best located panel would have a capacity factor of about 17% – it would receive 170 watts of energy – not quite 2 light bulbs.

PV solar panels convert solar energy to electrical energy at an efficiency factor of about 15%. Thus our panel, at the equator, year round, should deliver 25.5 watts of electrical energy – one very dim light bulb.

Away from the equator, solar energy hits the Earth’s surface at an angle, thus delivering less energy per panel. This useful site shows how solar intensity varies with latitude in Australia:

Shift that panel to Melbourne, add clouds, shading, urban air pollution and dirt on the panels, and fix it to a sloping roof often aligned poorly to collect sunshine, and it is time to start the diesel generator in the car port.

It is sensible to use unused space like roofs for solar collectors but such fragmented facilities will never match a compact well-designed solar plant in construction, maintenance and cleaning costs or go close in achieving the correct panel orientation.

People underestimate the land needed for significant solar collectors. In a learned paper published in 2013, Graham Palmer has produced a credible calculation that it would need a square with 31 km sides, completely filled with PV panels, to collect energy equivalent to Australia’s annual electricity requirements.
Source: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

To also charge batteries to maintain steady supply from a stand-alone solar facility would require at least four times this area – imagine 3,844 square kilometres of collectors, even if suitable battery technology was available.

In addition, PV panels start to degrade in rain, hail and sunshine from the day they are installed, some panels losing significant capacity in as little as three years. And unless washed regularly, dust and bird poop degrades their performance even quicker. All those sparkies checking panel performance and all those cleaning ladies with mops need access roads – this greatly increases the area needed for industrial solar installations.

The fourth fatal flaw of solar energy is the pernicious effect of the dramatic fluctuations in supply on the reliable and essential parts of the grid. When solar electricity floods the network around mid-day, the back-up stations have to throttle back, all the stations needed for stability and backup have their profits reduced, and some may be forced to close, making the network even more fragile and prone to blackouts. Then if a cloud floats across the sky, the backups have to re-start swiftly.

Fifthly, large-scale solar power will create environmental damage over large areas of land. Solar collectors may only manage to convert about 10% of the sun’s energy into electricity, the rest being reflected or turned into heat. But the whole solar spectrum is blocked, thus robbing 100% of the life-giving sunshine from the ground underneath, creating a man-made solar desert. For solar thermal, where mirrors focus intense solar heat to generate steam, birds that fly through the heat beams get fried. Why would true environmentalists support industrial-scale solar energy collection?

All consumers should be free to use solar energy in their own way at their own cost. But these five fatal flaws mean that collecting solar energy will never play more than a minor and very expensive role in supplying grid power.

Desertec, the utopian US$560 billion project designed to cover 16,800 square km of the Sahara Desert with solar panels, and then export electricity 1,600 km to Europe, has collapsed.

A similar fate awaits other attempts to extract 24/7 grid power from intermittent, unpredictable and dilute solar power.

The latest “Desertec Idea” is “solar roads” where highways are paved with solar panels. Imagine the construction and maintenance costs, the length of transmission lines, and the problems of shading and abrasion by traffic, the hazards of cleaning and the random non-ideal orientation of the panels.

Not with my money thanks.

Categories: On the Blog

Showing the Flag: The Transit Policy Failure

Somewhat Reasonable - July 24, 2014, 9:17 AM

David King has a point. In an article entitled “Why Public Transit Is Not Living Up to Its Social Contract: Too many agencies favor suburban commuters over inner-city riders,” King, an assistant professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University notes that transit spends an inordinate share of its resources on suburban riders, short changing the core city riders who cost transit agencies far less to serve and are also far more numerous. He rightly attributes this to reliance on regional (metropolitan area) funding initiatives. Many in transit think it is necessary to run near empty buses in the suburbs to justify the use of transit taxes to suburban voters (what I would refer to as “showing the transit flag”)

King asks: “So does public transit serve its social obligations?” He answers: “Increasingly the answer is no.” King is rightly concerned about the disproportionate growth in spending on commuter rail lines that carry transit’s most affluent riders from deep in the suburbs to downtown. Transit policy has long been skewed in favor of the more affluent suburban dwellers in the United States.

My Experience in Los Angeles

I saw this first-hand as a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC). When we placed what was to become the first regional transit tax on the ballot (Proposition A in 1980), the shortage of transit service was critical in the highest demand, largely low-income areas of Los Angeles such as Los Angeles and East Los Angeles. I described the situation in a presentation to the annual conference of the American Public Transportation Association: “Often waiting passengers are passed at bus stops by full buses” Approximately 40 percent of the local bus services between the Santa Monica Mountains, Inglewood, Compton, Montebello and Santa Monica reached peak loads of 70 passengers, well above seating capacity

At the same time, suburban area buses were usually less than half-full. In connection with this concern, I produced a policy paper, Distribution of Public Transit Subsidies in Los Angeles County, which was published in by the Transportation Research Board. The abstract follows:

“Public transit today is faced with the challenge of serving its clientele while subsidies are failing to keep pace with increasing operating costs. In Los Angeles County, there are service distribution inequalities–overcrowding and unmet demand in some areas and, at the same time, surplus capacity in other areas. To use subsidy resources efficiently requires that the effects of present subsidy allocation practices be understood–that is, how subsidies are translated into consumed service, both by type of service and by geographic sector within the urban area. An attempt is made to provide a preliminary understanding of that distribution in Los Angeles County. It is postulated that significantly more passengers are carried per dollar of subsidy in the central Los Angeles area than in other areas and local services require a lower subsidy per passenger than do express services. A number of policy issues are raised, the most important being the very purpose of public transit subsidies.”

Generally, transit operating subsidies per passenger were far higher in the suburbs than in the central area (where incomes are the lowest, and poverty rates the highest), and subsidies were much higher for commuter express services than for local bus services.

I attempted to address this problem by proposing a “Mobility Policy” that would have reallocated service based on customer needs, giving precedence to areas where mobility was restricted due to limited automobile availability and lower incomes. Some colleagues whose constituents were disadvantaged by this inequity objected,  feeling compelled, it appeared, to rally about the “transit flag”

On a Siding: Transit Policy in Recent Decades

Since that time, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas have built expensive rail and busway systems. Despite the promises of attracting people out of their cars (routinely invoked during election campaigns for higher taxes), the reality is that single occupant commuting has risen from 64 percent in  1980 to 76 percent in 2012. Over the same period, transit’s share of urban travel has fallen, though stabilized in recent years at very low levels in most metropolitan areas. Indeed, when New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and San Francisco are excluded (with their “transit legacy cities“), the 46 major metropolitan areas have a transit commute share of just three percent. Overall, more people work at home than commute by transit in 38 of these metropolitan areas and more people walk or cycle to work in 27, according to American Community Survey 2012 data.

Yet the politically driven inequality in transit spending continues. Transit subsidies continue to be far higher for services that are patronized by more affluent riders. For example, subsidies (operating and capital expenditures minus fares) are three times as high for the commuter rail services, with their higher income riders, than for buses, with their lower income riders (Figure).

The difference can be stark, as an example from the New York area indicates. A Fairfield County, Connecticut commuter rail rider with the median family income of $102,000 would be subsidized to the extent of $4,500 per year (assuming the national subsidy figure). By comparison a worker from the Bronx or Hudson County, New Jersey, with a poverty level family income of $18,500 per year (or less) would be subsidized only $1,500 per year. In fact, the bus subsidy would likely be even lower, because transit in lower income areas is much better patronized and thus less costly for the public. My Los Angeles research found inner city services to be subsidized approximately half below the average of all bus services (Note).

Where Transit Works

The functional urban cores contain the nation’s largest downtowns (central business districts). Their population densities are nearly five times that of the older suburbs and nine times that of the newer suburbs. The functional urban cores have transit market shares six times that of the older suburbs and 15 times that of the newer suburbs. Yet, it is in these poorer, denser areas where overcrowding is most acute and the need for more service is most acute. In Los Angeles, for example, the greatest potential for increasing transit ridership is where ridership is alreadyhighest.

The vast majority of suburban drivers are not plausible candidates for transit, simply because it cannot compete well with automobiles, except, for example, for some trips to the downtowns of the six transit legacy cities (which account only one of seven jobs in their respective metropolitan areas).

Where transit makes sense, people ride. Where it doesn’t, they don’t. Allocating resources inconsistent with this reality impairs the mobility of lower income residents, wastes resources and relegates transit to an inferior role in the city. Charging the affluent fares well below the cost of service compromises opportunities to serve more people in the community.

Better allocation of transit resources would likely improve core area unemployment rates by increasing the number of jobs that can be accessed by lower income workers. Further, because the better used services would require lower subsidies, there would be funding available for additional service expansions.

The principal fault is not that of transit management. It’s the politics.


Note: These data (expenditures per boarding) are estimated from Federal Transit Administration and American Public Transportation Association data for 2012. Commercial revenues other than fares are excluded (the most important such source is advertising). Debt service is also excluded because it is not reported in the annual reports of either organization. The subsidy ratios between lower income and more affluent riders would be changed by including transfers (though the subsidies would still be considerably higher for the more affluent). Some low income riders use more than one bus or rail vehicle for their trip, while some commuter rail riders transfer to bus or rail services at one or both ends of their trips. No readily available data is available to make such an adjustment. The New York area example assumes 225 round trips per year.


Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Originally published at www.newgeography.com
Categories: On the Blog

All Presidents Should be One-Termers

Somewhat Reasonable - July 23, 2014, 1:33 PM

The American presidency has grown in power almost continuously since the outbreak of World War II. The executive has risen from being simply the chief magistrate of the government to be being a quasi-legislative force, a leader who pushes an aggressive legislative agenda as well as enforcing the laws passed by the legislature. The president is frequently referred to as “the most powerful person in the world,” or “the leader of the free world.” Such appellations represent far more than good PR. They are statements of fact that the president of the United States has drastically more power and authority than any other individual on Earth.

For that reason certainly, presidents should be restricted to a single term of office. After the Second World War it became clear that a president with no term limits could accrue enormous personal power through networks of patronage in Congress and through a monopoly on judicial appointments. During his more than three terms in office, Franklin Roosevelt used the power of the presidency to significantly truncate the power of the other branches of government. No president in history had ever enjoyed such unrestricted power.

A Lack of Self-Restraint

The Constitution was framed with the expectation that the country’s leaders would behave justly in office and would not seek to build permanent bases of power. Presidential self-restraint was a tradition started by George Washington, the so-called Cincinnatus of the West, who led his nation through its early turbulent years and then returned to his fields as a private citizen. It was that example to which Washington’s successors looked for guidance. So long was his shadow that for 150 years those who came after him did not seek a third full term of office.

That changed with FDR, who decided that the country needed his leadership more than it needed the propriety of self-restraint. Opinion is fiercely divided on the wisdom and rectitude of Roosevelt’s decision, but what was certain to the leaders of Congress after his death and the accession of Harry Truman was that such a decision should not again be permitted. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1951, restricting presidents to serve a maximum of two terms in office. The amendment was meant to create an electoral environment in which a president could serve eight years, but not cling to power indefinitely.

One and Done

Certainly, the two-term limit is better than no limit. However, it is not enough. There are three crucial reasons that the president should be limited to a single term. The first reason was alluded to earlier in this article, that the president’s much increased power in the contemporary political landscape demands an even greater restriction on his ability to dominate the public arena. Whereas the legislature and judiciary are composed of many competing views, with members of various parties and outlooks represented, the executive speaks with a single voice. In Congress, even the party leaderships are not the sole centers of power, with factions and alternative nexuses of influence forming throughout that branch of government. Executive power, on the other hand, rests solely in the hands of the president. The president has full power over the policies of the executive branch of government. The cabinet, which is a critical part of the executive in practice, is directly answerable to the president, and can be dismissed if they are uncooperative or otherwise incur the president’s displeasure. Presidents should be elected to fulfill their constitutional duty, not to grow their power and the power of their office. Making the presidency a “one and done” business would act as a useful balancer to the tilting landscape of contemporary American politics.

The second reason is an outgrowth of the increased presidential authority, namely the increased power of incumbency. More than just the name recognition and patronage channels created by senators and congressmen, the sheer grandness of the office of president makes it one that is hard to assail from the outside. A challenger in an election necessarily has to go toe-to-toe with the most powerful person in the world. That is a daunting challenge. A sitting president has had years to lead the mightiest nation on Earth. It is hard to beat that, even if the president is unpopular in his own right. The problem this situation creates is that it makes it exceptionally hard to get rid of a sitting president. Sure, the president will still be gone for good after another four years, but a lot of damage can be done in that time. The very nature of the presidency skews the electoral field so far that elections to unseat a president are definitionally unfair.

What’s more, presidents probably should not be campaigning for office at all. That is the third reason to restrict presidents to one term. When a president takes office for the first time, he has a relatively brief window in which to enact his policy aims before he has to focus most of his energies on getting reelected. Once reelected, presidents frequently run out of steam. The result is a presidency that is, when at its most energetic, is focused myopically on the retention of power. A one-term limit would serve to galvanize presidents to be focused on issues, not on power. It would dispose of the lost years spent campaigning for reelection in which presidents are out to protect themselves, not serve the people.

A Hard Sell

Getting a constitutional amendment underway that would limit the president in this way would be an arduous endeavor. The Constitution is hard to change at the best of times, and an amendment that takes away powers from the president can never meet smooth sailing. The hope for such a policy must rest in people waking up to the inherent flaws in the system as it is. Certainly this past election threw a lot of the problems into stark relief. Now it is a matter of showing how things would be better if Obama, or any president, had to strut their hour upon the stage without hope of an encore.

Categories: On the Blog

To Protect (and Create) American Jobs, We Need Less Government

Somewhat Reasonable - July 23, 2014, 9:43 AM

Who says bipartisanship is dead?

We recently had 57 Senators and 152 House members – (obviously) culled from both Parties – sign letters to Barack Obama Administration Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  In which they expressed concern about inexpensive Korean steel being in mass quantities imported here.

Interestingly, they express this concern within the context of their appreciation of the greatness and import of…fracking.  The oil and gas extraction method that is hurtling us towards energy independence – in spite of the Left’s vociferous, irrational opposition.  Steel is, of course, a vital component of fracking.  This same sentence appears in both letters:

The discovery and production of shale gas in the United States is a strategic benefit for both America’s economic and energy security.

See – bipartisanship.  The environmentalist loons should take a flying leap.

Why is the bipartisan contingent concerned about the cheap Korean steel dumping?  American job loss.

U.S. steel producers employ 8,000 workers across the country making OCTG.  Each of these jobs supports seven additional jobs in the supply chain and the steel produced for the U.S. energy market accounts for approximately ten percent of domestic production. 

They are diagnosing a real problem – foreign countries dump all kinds of oft-subsidized products here.  But they are prescribing the wrong long term solution.  To truly fix this – for the world and forever – we need less government.  Both here and abroad.

In actual free markets – domestic and global – consumers benefit from the least expensive goods produced by the most efficient companies.  But we have nothing remotely resembling free markets – either domestically or globally.

This steel situation is a fabulous example of the high cost of terrible domestic government policy.  The damage being done by government to domestic manufacturing and production has been awful and increasing – for decades.  As government piled on ever higher taxes and more and more laws and regulations, more and more domestic production became internationally-manufactured imports.

We have the industrialized world’s absolute highest corporate income tax rate.  The cost of the regulations we dump on businesses is simply stunning – more than $1.8 trillion per year.  And then we wonder why less and less people want to do business here.

If I invite you into my house, and then beat you about the head and shoulders with a bat – I should at least have the decency to not act surprised when you get up and leave.

Korea can make steel – and then ship it half way round the world – and still price it below our domestic production in part because they are abusing trade laws.  But also because our domestic price of government is so incredibly huge.

Congress is responsible for the gi-normous tax and regulatory burdens on our businesses.  They should get their own House (and Senate) in order.

Cut and reform dramatically the tax code, cut way back the regulatory uber-thicket – and rein in the unelected regulatory agencies that are each and every day piling more and more burdens on business.

Our government is smothering us.  It needs to allow us up for air.

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner: Does Reaganomics or Obamanomics Create State Wealth?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2014, 1:25 PM

Author Steven Moore (center) and Travis Brown (right) discuss new book

By Nancy Thorner –

The Heartland Institute attracted an overflow crowd at its headquarters’s library at 1 S. Wacker Drive, #2740, Chicago, IL, for an event on Thursday, July 17th at 5:30 p.m.  The event was billed by The Heartland Institute as “An Evening with Stephen Moore and Travis H. Brown,” co-authors with Dr. Arthur B. Laffer and Rex A. Sinquefield, to discuss their new book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of StatesSteve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of “Forbes Media,” referred to the book as “a bible for state and local leaders who truly want rapid economic growth. It will profoundly, positively change politics and economics in America.”

The book makes a positive argument for tax reform through an analysis of the economic growth or malaise resulting from the tax policies employed by states over a fifty year period. These four policy variables are analyzed that can have enormous effects on the financial well-being of states and individual residents:

  • Personal and corporate income tax rates
  • Total tax burden as a percentage of personal income
  • Estate and inheritance taxes
  • Right-to-work laws

The book’s final chapter of “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States” deserves special attention, as it rebuts the criticism directed against the book and its authors for the ideas and analyses presented therein. The first of fourteen rebuttal arguments refutes those who believe that “Taxes and Other Supply-Side Policy-Variables Don’t Affect Population and Gross State Product Growth.”


About co-authors Moore and Brown

Co-author Stephen Moore founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. He was a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and frequently opines on the pages of their op-ed section. In 2014 the Heritage Foundation announced that Moore would become its chief economist.  Moore is known for advocating free-market policies and supply-side economics.  Having grown up in New Trier Township, Illinois , Moore graduated from New Trier High School in 1978.

This is the second visit by co-author Travis H. Brown to The Heartland Institute.  On Oct. 30, 2013, he gave a presentation at a Heartland Authors Series luncheon about his solo best-selling book How Money Walks, that explores how wealth and people move between the states.  Mr. Brown is the CEO and co-founder of Pelopidas, LLC, a St. Louis-based public affairs and advocacy firm, a frequent contributor to Forbes.com, and a nationally sought-after speaker who regularly appears on national media outlets, including CNBC and Fox New Business. 

Steven Moore’s thoughts

Just what was the impetus that inspired Stephen Moore to be on board as one of four co-authors of “An Inquiry into the nature and Causes of the Wealth of States?   When traveling around the country, Mr. Moore noticed that red states were getting redder and the blue states bluer.  Further observed was how different the blue states were from red states in their cultural views and economic policies. It was like being in two different countries.  Furthermore, Democrats were becoming an endangered species in red states, while Republicans were becoming the same in blue states.

When considering the four largest states population-wise, Texas, California, Florida, and New York, there are two red (Texas and Florida) and two blue (California and New York). The four states combined are of great importance to this nation, as one in every three Americans live in one of the four most populated states.  But why are Texas and Florida outpacing CA and New York in both population and economic growth?  Might it be because red states have adopted Reganomics while blue states are bogged down in Obamanomics?  Factors such as taxes, drilling for resources, Right to Work status, and how the economy is regulated in each state do matter. Consider the job growth in all four of the most populated states over the last twenty years:  Texas (58%); Florida (44%); New York (zero net growth); and California (12%).

Moore spoke about debating New York Times Paul Krugman over why people move from Point 1 to Point 2.  To Paul Krugman there is a simple explanation. It’s all about sunshine and weather.  But this doesn’t explain the surge of individuals from CA to Houston, Texas.  Three moving vans move to Houston from places in CA for every one van that travels from Houston to CA.  This didn’t happen by chance.  Accordingly, Texas has added one million jobs or 40% of the total job gains in the U.S., while CA has lost one-half million jobs.

Moore believes that if Illinois lowered its income tax rate and became a Right to Work state it would see tremendous economic growth. As Moore reflected, “Liberal states and cities must either change or die like Detroit.”  According to Moore, the governor’s race in IL is the most important race in the nation come November.  If Quinn is re-elected, Illinois will keep on its downward trajectory toward certain death.

Travis Brown’s thoughts

In evaluating research compiled over the last fifty years, Illinois has experienced a bleeding of state income with most of it occurring in Cook County.  It is easy to be fooled about Chicago.  How we love the amenities and the reasons for being here in Chicago, but facts convey another story.

Without the tremendous job growth in Texas, as already noted, things would likely be much worse now with possibly a flat rate of growth nationally, rather than the dismal 2.9% U.S. GDP realized in the first quarter of 2014. Temporary, urgent tax hikes are often used by many states — described by Brown as a “tax on work” — as a way to cure problems.  How then can it be explained that the nine states having a zero price on work (no state income tax) perform better than those having a state income tax?  Often forgotten is that throughout one-half of this nation’s history, there were no taxes.  The state of New Jersey once had no income tax.  Now New Jersey levies state taxes at rates ranging from 1.4 percent to 8.97 percent, assessed over progressive income brackets.

New Jersey’s current economic situation, as the one here in Illinois, gives validity to this statement that no state has ever taxed its way into prosperity. Instead, high state tax rates have resulted in mass migration from states having an income tax to those states without income taxes.  California’s income tax rates are the highest in America, reaching an astronomical 13.3 rate, which explains why people are moving out of California.  According to Brown, one out of every five individual employed in this nation resides in states with a zero income tax. They include:  Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.  States with nearly no income tax are Tennessee and New Hampshire New Hampshire.  A dichotomy:  Liberals love jobs but they dislike business!

As to what happens when taxes increase on work, Brown used the analogy of the cigarette tax, questioning what happens when cigarette taxes increase?  The outcome is that less cigarettes are sold, which results in less tax revenue.  But because of the competitive market people can buy cigarettes somewhere else like out of state.  The same happens when the price on work is raised.  There is less work due to the loss of jobs, which results in decreased tax revenue.

Regarding the presidential election of 2016, Travis Brown related how the most important thing is to beat HER in 2016.  The use of HER produced some perplexed looks until Brown explained that Hillary may not be the choice of all Democrats.  Elizabeth Warren is becoming the darling of many on the party’s far left wing.  Speaking on Friday, July 18, at Netroots Nation, a convention for liberal bloggers and activists, Warren got the crowd more fired up than Vice President Joe Biden was able to do the day before when she outlined the 11 tenets of progressive policies which should define the Democratic agenda. Those who doubt Elizabeth Warren can overtake Hillary Clinton in popularity must only look back to the big upset in 2008 when Obama, virtually an unknown, beat Hillary.

Question and Answer Period

A lively discussion followed the remarks by Stephen Moore and Travis H. Brown.   Of merit were the following responses given by Moore and Brown to questions entertained from those in attendance.

  • The mobility of tax payers is part of the American dream.  Individuals move up and down tax brackets as incomes change.  It is important to keep the price on work as low as possible to stem job losses.  In states where income tax rates are high, people are leaving for other states.  Unfortunately Colorado is becoming a blue state as CA residents migrate to Colorado and continue to vote Democratic. The same is happening to New Hampshire, which used to be a red state, as residents from Massachusetts flee to N.H. taking their Democratic allegiance with them.
  • With the highest corporate tax in the world at 35%, the U.S. is essentially putting a tariff on everything it produces.  This is resulting in companies moving abroad where tax rates are lower.  In essence, we are exporting American jobs abroad, an unpatriotic thing to do!  
  • Walgreen is being pressured to ditch its US headquarters in Deerfield, IL, for Europe.  The Drugstore chain Walgreen Co. (WAG +2.55%) has come under intensifying shareholder pressure to use its large ownership stake in the Swiss-based Alliance Boots as a justification to re-domicile in Europe and reduce its U.S. tax bill, according to a Financial Times report.  The company’s tax rate of 37.5% could drop to 20% overseas.
  • Chicago is even worse than Detroit in its overall debt level when it should be a world class city.   A major drawback is that the Democratic Party is owned by the Chicago Teachers Union.  Even some Republicans are guilty of the same.  It is thought that Mayor Rahm Emanuel should have stood up to CTU president, Karen Lewis, who might be a formidable candidate for mayor to unseat Mayor Emanual now that Toni Perwinkle has indicated her disinterest in running for the mayoral office.
  • Rick Snyder was cited as a governor who has turned around Michigan in his first term in office.  Even though Michigan has lost the car industry, cars are still produced in the U.S. but in other states, mostly southern “Right to Work” states.
  • On the whole Northeast states are being bleed to death as its residents migrate to other states because of the heavy tax burdens placed on citizens and businesses.  This has resulted in Northeast states losing political power (seats) in the U.S. House.  It was noted, however, that despite losing House seats, each state still has two senators.
  • Without hesitation, both Moore and Brown predicted that if Republicans take over the governorship here in Illinois, things will change for the better. Moore and Brown met with Republican candidate Bruce Rauner before their Heartland appearance and liked what Rauner had to say for turning the state around.  If Pat Quinn wins in November, Illinois will completely fail as a state and will bleed to death.
  • Not to be forgotten:  Government spending is taxation and consists of the spending of something that is yours!

It was nice to see Illinois Republican legislators Jeanne Ives (42nd Representative District) and Tom Morrison (54th Representative District) in attendance.

St. Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), author Travis Brown (c) and Nancy Thorner (r)

Coming events

Check out these coming events sponsored by The Heartland Institute:

Categories: On the Blog

The Climate Change Truth in Vegas

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2014, 11:53 AM


Ninety percent of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and lack light to study and work by, refrigeration to prevent food spoilage and power to operate equipment that could multiply their productivity.Having recently returned from The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change held in Las Vegas from July 7-9, “Just Don’t Wonder About Global Warming, Understand It,” I was privileged to hear some of the world’s hundreds of leading climate scientists and researcher discuss the latest state of global warming science, all who question whether manmade global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare.

Eight hundred participants were on hand to hear 64 speakers from 12 different countries (14 countries if counting the moon with Astronaut Walter Cunningham and Washington, D.C.) despite the fierce heat of Las Vegas in July. At one point 4,000 individuals were listening to the conference as it was streamed live from the conference website in Las Vegas.

This year’s delegates’ speeches showed how the myths of the climate alarmist are false, which shatters the often quoted 97% consensus figure given for those who believe most of the warming since 1959 was man-made. On the contrary, only 0.5 percent of the authors of 11,944 scientific papers on climate and related topics over the past 21 years have said they agreed that most of the warming since 1950 was man-made. Furthermore, according to the RSS satellite record (Remote Sensing Systems), there has been no global warming for 17 years and 10 months.

Obama’s statements conflict with scientific findings:

The above conclusions conflict with the statements made by President ObamaOn Tuesday, May 6, when he warned that “people’s lives are at risk” because of man-made climate change proclaimed during a series of interviews with National and Local television meteorologists. “Not only is climate change a problem in the future, it’s already effecting Americans,” Obama told CBS News, warning that the phenomenon was “increasing the likelihood” of floods, droughts, storms and hurricanes.

Even the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said in its last two reports that there has seen no particular change in the frequency or severity of floods worldwide. Neither are droughts getting worse (the fraction of the world’s land under drought has fallen for 30 years), nor are hurricanes getting worse (combined frequency, severity and duration has been at or near the lowest in the 35-year satellite record).

There was an element of truth, however, to be found in President Obama’s remarks on Tuesday, May 6, but as happens time and again, Obama’s spoken version of the truth amounted to fantasy. Instead of putting people “lives at risk” by failing to take drastic measures to curb CO2, millions of people are dying because Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life itself.

Such was the topic of the final panel discussion, “Panel 21: Global Warming as a Social Movement,” on Wednesday afternoon before adjournment of Heartland’s 9th Annual International Conference on Climate Change.

The distinguished panelists included E. Calvin Beisnert, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance; Paul Driessan, J.D. senior policy advisor with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise; and Peter Ferrara, J.D., general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union at the Heartland Institute. Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo was the Moderator, a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives representing District 588.

Panelists Beisnert, Driessan and Ferrara laid out a convincing message how climate alarmists, as environmentalists, view people primarily as polluters and consumers who use up Earth’s resources and poison the planet in the process, rather than being good stewards. It might even be said that environmentalism is the new face of the anti-human, “Pro-Death” agenda. Through the bogus “crises” of man-made global warming, affordable and reliable energy and other modern blessings are being denied to the developing world. This despite the $3.5 billion spent around the world to combat climate change. Worth reading is an opinion piece by Caleb S. Rossitger, updated May 4, 2014, “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change.” Change.”

Social Impacts of Reducing Carbon Emissions:

  • 90% of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and lack light to study and work by, refrigeration to prevent food spoilage and power to operate equipment that could multiply their productivity. Environmentalists’ oppose building large power plants and electric grids. Each American accounts for 20 times the emissions of each African. With 15% of the world’s population, Africa produces less than 5% of carbon-dioxide emissions. Shouldn’t real years added to real lives trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe?
  • Because of the lack of electricity, two to three million women and children die annually from lung disease around the world from burning wood and dried dung to cook their food or heat their huts.
  • Another one to two million people die annually from malaria since the banning of DDT.
  • Where energy is available, regulation of greenhouse gas and other environmental regulations drive up the cost of basic necessities such a food, fuel and electricity, stifling economic growth and costing jobs.
  • America’s ethanol policy alone is estimated to cause nearly 200,000 premature deaths every year in the developing world by limiting the amount of corn for human consumption, which, in turn, raises its purchase price.
  • Golden corn seeds could end Vitamin A deficiency in millions of children. Genetically produced rice with Vitamin E is also available. Even so, eight million children have died since the invention of this life-saving rice out of fear of using genetically enhanced food items.
  • Proposed caps on emissions, and so-called renewable energy mandates, would cost our nation millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Even though Americans are wealthy by world’s standards, poor and single-income families in the U.S. would be hardest hit, while much poorer people around the would suffer even more if required to restrain greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A carbon tax on Cap and Trade is a regressive tax which would hit hardest the poor among us. The poor already pay a higher proportion of their income for energy, plundering the poor, as would state mandates for wind and solar power, which would result in higher energy costs over what is currently being provided by power plant now under fire by the EPA for CO2 emissions linked to Global Warming.
  • Wealth increases more when the overall global temperature is warmer and furthermore correlates with happiness, better health, and longevity. The more we do to fight Global Warming, the less off the poor will be in poorer nations, with higher rates of disease and death.

For Reflection: 

If this nation really cared about the poor, our government would stay off the Global Warming bandwagon and use the billions currently being spent to combat EPA fuel emissions standard, which have no effect, and instead put the billions to where it would do the most good fighting disease and poverty. Building fossil fuel plants and a grid to provide electricity to all the houses around the globe where dung and wood are still burnt in the absence of electricity, would cost 1/2 billion a year less than compliance with EPA’s fuel emission standards.

Evident is that those who control carbon control our lives. Shutting down power plants could carry some health benefits by reducing the risk of asthma and heart attacks in areas near the plants, but will cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants by about 25% from 2012 levels by 2020 make the planet healthier? Greenhouse gasses would still escape into the atmosphere from around the world? Hence, cutting carbon emissions would be a drag on this nation’s economy. See this article by Sally Deneen for National Geographic,“One Key Question on Obama’s Push Against Climate Change: Will It Matter”, for further clarification.

Global Warming could rightly be called a social movement, a big green and government movement, not unlike the “Population Bomb” which warned of mass starvation of humans in 1970′s and 1980′s due to overpopulation, and which advocated immediate action to limit population growth.

The emphasis on Climate Change as a urgent threat, propagated by President Obama and being carried out through the EPA, is in actuality a weapon of mass destruction and a war on women and children. Alarmists use threats as a way to justify their power to decide how much energy is available for use by humanity throughout the world. As such, big green with its eco-friendly measures appears callous to human destruction.

In Conclusion: 

It is not being denied that global temperature have risen over the last 150 years or more, but it is mostly a natural occurrence, and certainly within the range of natural climate variability over the centuries; i.e. the Medieval Warm Period, an interval from approximately AD1000 to AD1300. During that time many places around the world exhibited conditions that seem warm compared to today. Heartland and the scientists it works with have never promoted “denial of a changing climate.” The climate is always changing. The question is whether man’s contribution to climate change rises above statistical noise and whether it is a crisis.

The issue of Climate Change is the greatest moral and ethical battle of our time. We must stand up for the tyranny resulting from the seizure of that which powers our civilization, sufficient energy production at an affordable cost. Without this availability, the global death toll will rise before is decreases due to the dark forces of a Climate Change fantasy.

View here videos of all Speakers and Panel Discussions at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change.


Categories: On the Blog

Will Medicare Become Like the VA?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2014, 11:11 AM

Most veterans get most of their medical care from private doctors through Medicare or private insurance. Just think what those secret waiting lists would be like if they didn’t!

Still, a VA-like system for all has been proposed as a replacement for our unsustainable current system—at least until the recent scandals broke.

One enormous difference between the VA and Medicare is that veterans are free to go elsewhere—if they pay privately. Some veterans use their VA doctor only to get free medications.

Medicare patients, on the other hand, are trapped. There is virtually no private coverage available to persons over 65 to replace Medicare—President Lyndon Johnson wiped it out to prevent competition with “his” beloved system. There are only policies to “supplement” Medicare. And Medicare patients can’t just pay out of pocket for a “covered” service they can’t get otherwise, say because the Medicare-allowed price is too low—unless they see a doctor who is opted out of Medicare or disenrolled. For doctors, Medicare is all or nothing, so most doctors are still enrolled.

Most people don’t care about that—not yet. Who would want to pay for something that is free?

So it’s a good idea to look at those “free” (taxpayer-paid) VA services.

In an online survey by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), less than two percent of 1,000 respondents said care at the VA was the equivalent of the care in the private sector or a model for the entire U.S. medical system. Only 4 percent said it was “generally good, but uneven.” A bare majority (52 percent) said that VA care was “good in some areas, but fraught with many serious problems,” and 22 percent responded that it was “ok if you can get it, but access is seriously limited.” Nearly 20% checked “other” and suggested a term equivalent to “poor.” One said “hard to tell how bad because they destroy or hide records.”

Only about 9 percent of respondents said the problems could be “fixed” by firing people, and less than 3 percent by large increases in funding. The main problems, elaborated on in the more than 200 comments, are a huge, rigid bureaucracy and the “VA way” at the “VA Spa.”

The bureaucracy interferes with care and punishes anyone who calls attention to problems. The main concern of the unionized workers appears to be to leave work on time. This means that surgery cannot be scheduled to start much later than 1:00 p.m. The response to a request to call a “code” for a patient who has had a cardiac arrest might be “I’m on break” or “it’s not my job.” Staff might record normal vital signs every 4 hours on a patient discovered to be dead and cold when physicians make morning rounds.

“No VA employee, however incompetent, could ever be fired,” stated one physician.  Another said, “Incompetence is accepted…, and keeping quiet about it is the accepted norm.”

There are many dedicated physicians and workers who truly care about the veterans, rather than seeing them as “something to be endured in order to receive a paycheck.” And some facilities, mostly associated with medical schools, are described as excellent. But they seem to be exceptions to the rule.

“Basically, patients need a doctor advocate in the private sector,” one respondent commented.

And what will happen to the private sector under ObamaCare? Reformers want to abolish fee-for-service payment (payment for doing work) and replace it with VA-style incentives: a steady paycheck with “bonuses” for making the numbers look good. The VA’s electronic medical record is said to be particularly good for tracking those metrics, though private doctors complain that they cannot get a useful, accurate record for a VA patient, if they can get any record at all.

ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board will soon be clamping down on total Medicare expenditures, and then private expenditures also. It is already “fraud” to provide a “medically unnecessary” service to a Medicare patient, and physicians can be excluded from all ObamaCare health plans for not “performing” as the bureaucrats think they should.

Doctors may be soon escaping to the VA, instead of the other way around. But patients will have nowhere in the U.S. to go.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute awards scientists that dared to challenge climate change

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2014, 1:53 PM









                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Heartland Institute CEO Joe Bast awards Dr. Arthur Robinson with “Voice of Reason” award

Ongoing today in this nation is a full court press to convince the public that everybody knows that a catastrophic global warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living.

The earth can be either warm or cool and has done both at one time or another for thousands of years, even before there were SUVs. Had there never been any global warming in the past, enjoying a visit to Yosemite Valley today would be impossible as it was once buried under thousands of feet of ice.

Forty-five years ago in the 1970′s, the environmental hysteria was all about the dangers of a new ice age. This hysteria was spread by many of the same individuals who are promoting today’s hysteria about global warming.

Today the far the political left’s favorite argument is that there is no argument, that science is settled, despite the cooling trend in the 70′s and now the absence of any warming for 17 years and 10 months.

Radical environmentalist Al Gore believes that disasters around the world can only be avoided by imposing a new form of authoritarian government.  Democracy is dismissed as a model that can sustain the world.  How then do climate alarmists like Al Gore explain the following discrepancy? Progress on the environmental front has been steady over the last half century without the transformative agenda now being proposed and enacted by President Obama to save the planet.

To President Obama climate change policies represent an important plank of his political agenda, one that Obama wants noted as an important presidential legacy achievement. Obama unequivocally accepts the claims made by climate change alarmists that are set forth by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is not at all hesitant to bash what he calls “climate deniers” and their obstruction by daring to debate science behind man-made global warming.  So it was on Friday, May 9, in a speech at a California Wal-Mart that Obama once again proclaimed “climate change as a fact” and that climate change skeptics are wasting everybody’s time on a settled debate.

In the mindset of President Obama, storms, floods and droughts have been made more severe by rising global temperatures.  This despite a report by IPCC that shows there “is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century” and current data shows “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century. … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

In keeping with the “science is settled” argument falsely being conveyed to gullible Americans by Al Gore, the Obama administration, other radical environmentalists, and the mainstream media, it was gratifying and most appropriate that nine individuals (with a surprise tenth award), were selected prior to Heartland’s recent 9th International Conference on Climate Change through a request process solicited by The Heartland Institute for ideas and nominations of individuals world-wide who were willing to speak out against global warming alarmism. Without shame, The Heartland Institute considers it a badge of honor to have been called by The Economist in a May 26, 2011 article “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

Heartland’s ten award recipients, all global warming skeptics accorded by President Obama as climate deniers, are but representative of countless of scientists who are routinely shunned by politically correct universities and scientific societies by simply speaking truth to power. Climate skeptics or deniers often take great risks regarding their personal safety and their professional careers, which have cost them the promotions and rewards they might have otherwise received from their peers. Government money falls on those who seek grants to study global warming and then produce solutions for it.  That money is not likely to fall on skeptic in the scientific community who refuse to join the global warming stamped.

The awards delivered at Heartland’s conference were sponsored by eight organizations. Their purpose was to give long-overdue recognition and encouragement to the recipients, increase public awareness of the global warming realism movement, and send a signal to the academy and other elite institutions saying if they won’t recognize our heroes, The Heartland Institute will.  All of the ICCC9 videos can be viewed at this site.

Following are the ten award winners — global warming heroes — individuals you should know about who are deserving of your praise and congratulations for their willingness to speak out about global warming alarmism:

  • “Speaks Truth to Power Award” to Dr. Patrick Moore, an internationally renowned ecologist and environmentalist who began his career as an activist/leader in the Greenpeace movement.
  • “Frederick Seitz Memorial Award” to Dr. Sherwood Idso, president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and the world’s leading authority on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants.
  • “Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science Award” to Dr. S. Fred Singer who was among the first and is still the most prominent scientist in the world speaking out against global warming alarmism.  In the August 2007 issue of Imprimis (a publication of Hillsdale College), Dr. Singer wrote this excellent article:  “Global Warming:  Man-Made or Natural?”
  • “Outstanding Spokesperson on Faith, Science, and Stewardship Award” to Dr. E. Cavin Beisner a theologian, historian and national spokesman for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and author or co-author of several major papers and articles on global warming produced by the Cornwall Alliance.
  • “Outstanding Evangelical Climate Scientist Award” to Dr. Roy W. Spencer, a former Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites.  Dr. Spencer has made no secret of his evangelical faith.
  • “Excellence in Climate Science Communication Award” to Tom Harris, the founder and executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, a non-partisan group of independent scientists, economists, and energy and policy experts who are working to promote better understanding of climate science and policy worldwide.
  • “Courage in Defense of Science Award” to Dr. Willie Soon, who as an astrophysicist and a geoscientist he is a leading authority on the relationship between solar phenomena and global climate.  His discoveries challenge computer modelers and advocates who consistently underestimate solar influences on cloud formation, ocean currents, and wind that cause climate change.
  • “Climate Science Whistleblower Award” to Dr. Alan  Carlin, now retired, who was a career environmental economist at EPA when the Competitive Enterprise Institute broke the story of his negative report on the agency’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases in June, 2009.  Dr. Carlin’s supervisor had ordered him to keep quiet about the report and to stop working on global warming issues.
  • Surprise Heartland Award: “Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award” to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley   (Lord Christopher Monckton) who has for years been crisscrossing the globe sharing the inconvenient truths about global warming.  Known as the high priest of climate skepticism, Lord Monckton advised Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  Monckton has attended United Nations conferences since the Rio Conference in 1991, during which time steps have been taken to create what is in effect a world government.  He urged conference attendees to write their congressmen and senators, telling them to press for the inclusion of an escape clause in the Treaty of Paris that will permit any State to resign from its obligations by giving a few months’ notice.  In that way, as the world continues to fail to warm anything like as fast as predicted, nations can break free from the regime of terror by stealth that has been furtively planned.
  • “Voice of Reason Award” to Dr. Arthur Robinson,  a distinguished chemist, co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, and editor of the newsletter “Access to Energy.”

It is worth noting that Dr. Art Robinson, as the internationally respected scientist that he is, is running in Oregon Congressional District 4 against Democrat Peter DeFazio, who cast one of the four deciding votes for Obamacare after telling Oregonians he would vote against it.  This is Art Robinson’s third attempt to defeat Democrat Peter DeFazio, the first attempt being in 2010. Robinson wants to restore sorely needed common sense in Washington, D.C.   He is not afraid to speak up publicly on behalf of sound science and common sense.  May he encourage others to follow the same course of action in the political arena.

Robinson’s book, Common Sense in 2012, although published and distributed in 2012, is just as relevant to the problems this nation is facing today as it was two years ago.

This is your chance to get behind candidate Art Robinson, Ph.D., one of the ten distinguished award winners at Heartland’s Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Send an outstanding scientist to Congress in November. His “Voice of Reason Award” should serve him well in his role as a U.S. Congressman on the Chamber floor.

More on Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Global Warming:

Article 1:  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/07/ready-thorner-a-climate-change-holocaust.html#more

Article 2:  http://blog.heartland.org/2014/07/heartlands-science-director-breaks-ground-to-rein-in-us-epa/

Categories: On the Blog

The Nemesis of Agenda21

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2014, 1:34 PM
Watching left-wing organizations lose their wits denouncing conservatives is always fun and particularly if you know one of their targets. In my case, that would be Tom DeWeese, the founder and president of the American Policy Center; the most expert and outspoken opponent of Agenda21 in the nation. In the early 1990s I sent him a commentary and he published it in The DeWeese Report, a publication of the Center, and thereafter I served as the Center’s communications director for a while. These days I am on its board of advisors. He is a patriot and he lives his love for America by devoting himself to educating people to the dangers of the United Nations Agenda 21 with its emphasis on “sustainable development” and a range of issues involving ill-conceived environmental policies and programs, the importance of private property rights, the threat of federal computer banks to individual privacy rights, as well as issues such as federal education policies in our nation’s schools. At the heart of Agenda21 is “sustainable development” which is justified by the global warming hoax that is based on reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. The Earth’s temperature and climate is determined by the sun. The gases of its atmosphere are in flux as oceans absorb and release CO2, and clouds come and go in a constant dynamic of change. What mankind does has virtually no impact on the weather short-term or the climate long-term. “Sustainable Development”, Tom wrote in “How Global Policy Becomes Local”, “is truly stunning in its magnitude to transform the world into feudal-like governance by make nature the central organizing principle for our economy and society. It is a scheme fueled by unsound science and discredited economics that can only lead modern society down the road to a new Dark Age.” “It is systematically implemented through the creation of non-elected visioning boards and planning commissions. There is no place in the Sustainable world for individual thought, private property or free enterprise. It is the exact opposite of the free society envisioned by this nation’s founders.” I told you he was a patriot, didn’t I? Because only patriots feel thqt passionately about individual freedom, property rights, free enterprise, and all those concepts that make Leftists break out in a cold sweat. Among the left-wing groups that do not like Tom is the Southern Poverty Law Center and it devotes a lot of time denouncing him. On their website, the SPLC reveals its own agenda and why Tom is the enemy. “For 20 years now, Tom DeWeese has been on a jihad against global plans for sustainable development.” The key word here is “global” as in U.N., not U.S. Imagine my surprise as I read the SPLC post that said, “Serving on the board of DeWeese’s American Policy Center (is) Alan Caruba” and noting that I blog for the Tea Party Nation. I contribute to their blog section, but I do not blog for the group.  It should come as no surprise that the SPLC identifies Tea Party Nation as “a hate group.” It’s a pretty good description of the SPLC! “DeWeese’s outfit,” says the SPLC denunciation, “is only one of several obsessed with what has become one of the main conspiracy theories of the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement.” What’s amusing is the backhanded way SPLC acknowledged his success. “The effect of the fear-mongering fairy tale offered up by DeWeese and other conspiracy theorists have been almost unbelievable. Not only have some counties passed resolutions opposing Agenda21” including the Republican National Committee” in 2012. DeWeese offers advice to those who visit the APC site on how to stop Agenda21. If “fear-mongering” includes pointing out that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for the last seventeen years and that wind and solar power is an illusion costing far more than the value of the electricity it produces, then the SPLC has plenty to worry about. America is fortunate to have patriots like Tom DeWeese who take its Constitution and its values so seriously that they devote their lives to protecting them.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

Australia shoots down climate lobby’s scare mongering

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2014, 1:17 PM

Thursday, July 17 was a big news day. The world was shocked to learn that a Russian-made missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet with 298 on board as it flew over Ukraine en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Though flight 17 eclipsed the news cycle, there was another thing shot down on July 17.

Almost a year ago, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott won a landslide election with a nearly single-issue campaign: repeal the carbon tax. On July 17, he made good on that promise, as the Australian Senate voted, 39 to 32, to abolish the “world’s biggest carbon tax”—a tax that was reported to “do nothing to address global warming, apart from imposing high costs on the local economy.”

Australia was one of the first major countries, outside of the European Union, to adopt a carbon price—first suggested in 2007 and passed under Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011. Gillard’s campaign promise was: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” While she attempted to brand it a carbon price, not a “tax,” Sinclair Davidson, a professor in the school of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University, said: “the electorate had a very specific understanding of her words” and perceived it as a broken promise.

Australia’s carbon tax, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was “recognized by the International Energy Agency as model legislation for developed countries.” WSJ reports that when Australia’s carbon tax was passed, the Brookings Institute “described Australia as an ‘Important laboratory and learning opportunity.’”

So, what do we learn from the “laboratory” the now-failed “model legislation” offered?

First, WSJ states: “The public hates it.” The (UK) Telegraph calls the tax: “one of the most unsuccessful in history” and points out that it is “unique in that it generated virtually no revenue for the Australian Treasury due to its negative impact on productivity; contributed to the rising costs that have taken the gloss off the country’s resources boom; and essentially helped to bring down Ms Gillard’s former Government.” The Telegraph, in an article titled: “Australia abandons disastrous green tax on emissions,” adds that the tax failed in “winning over voters who faced higher costs passed on by the companies that had to pay for it.” In Slate, Ariel Bogel claims the 2011 bill required “about 350 companies to pay a penalty for their greenhouse gas emissions.”

While Australia is, as WSJ put it: “the world’s first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions,” it is not the only one to back away from such policies. New Zealand has weakened its emissions trading scheme; Japan has retreated from its pledges to cut greenhouse emissions and instead committed to a rise in emissions;Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in 2011; England, where “the bill for green policies is rising,” has “so far resisted calls to expand tax on carbon emissions”; the European Union carbon emissions trading scheme­—the biggest in the world and the heart of Europe’s climate-change program—is in dire straits; and, just the day after Australia’s news was announced, South Korea—whose planned 2015 emissions trading market launch would make it the world’s second largest—hinted at an additional delay due to projected costs to businesses.

The Telegraph offers this summary: “carbon trading mechanisms and green taxes have largely been a failure elsewhere and especially so in Europe where they have dragged on investment and threatened long-term energy security.”

These are important lessons in light of the renewed push for a carbon tax in the U.S. as evidenced by the partnership of President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who are, together, calling for a climate tax.

According to the WSJ, the World Bank called Australia’s repeal, “one of the biggest international threats to the rollout of similar programs elsewhere.” The climate lobby is concerned as “Australia’s vote shows that the real obstacle to their dreams of controlling more of the world’s economy is democratic consent.”

In the U.S., similar efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by increasing costs to emitters, and therefore consumers—in our case, cap and trade—failed to achieve “democratic consent” even when Democrats had control. The people didn’t want it. So, the Obama administration now is trying to go around Congress with onerous rules and regulations on emissions.

As in the U.S., a carbon tax—or cap and trade—is not the only policy increasing energy costs to Australian consumers. In the U.S., we have the Renewable Portfolio Standard; in Australia the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Both require the addition of expensive wind-and-solar energy.

Jennifer Marohasy, PhD, who worked for twelve years as a scientist for the Queensland government, told me: “Of course while the carbon tax needed to be repealed, its abolition will go only some way to reducing pressures on Australian businesses and households. The so-called Clean Energy Act 2011 is part of a tsunami of regulation and legislation introduced over recent years that has seen the average electricity price in Australia increase by 70 percent in real terms. Next in line must be the mandatory RET, a government-legislated requirement on electricity retailers to source a specific proportion of total electricity sales from renewable energy sources including wind and solar, with the extraordinary costs serving as a hidden tax—paid by all electricity users.”

In the Australian Financial Review, Alan Moran, an economist specializing in regulatory matters, in particular covering energy, global warming, housing, transport, and competition issues, and Director of the Institute of Public Affair’s Deregulation Unit, agrees that the carbon tax is just one of the burdens holding down the Australian economy. He sees a cascade of programs for support of high-cost renewables and penalties for fossil-fuel use and “a bewildering array of subsidies and programs.”

Both see the RET as the bigger issue. Marohasy says: “In short, repeal of the carbon tax is a big symbolic win. But it’s mostly just window-dressing: to appease the masses. In the background, proponents of anthropogenic global warming who dominate our political class still very much control the levers of government and intend to continue to terrorize the population with claims of catastrophic global warming, while consolidating their rent-seeking through the RET.” She explained: “Money collected from the carbon tax went to government, money collected through the RET largely goes to the global warming industry.” Which is why some in the Australian Senate agreed to vote for the repeal—as long as the RET isn’t touched.

However, Abbott has stated: “All of us should want to see lower prices and plainly at the moment the renewable energy target is a very significant impact on higher power prices.” Time will tell how Abbott fares in the RET battle. But for now, he’s given the world a “learning opportunity” on climate change and energy policy.

Meanwhile, the climate lobby resorts to hyperbole to push its scare-mongering tactics. In closing her piece in Slate, Bogle whines: “As someone who has to live in the quickly cooking world Abbott leaves behind…” Perhaps she’s missed the data that the planet’s predicted warming hasn’t happened—despite ever-increasing CO2 emissions. According to satellite records, there has been no warming in almost 18 years.

May America learn from, as the Brookings Institute observed, the “important laboratory” of Australia’s foray into climate schemes.


The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Categories: On the Blog

Killing marine life with ethanol

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2014, 11:45 AM

Killing marine life with ethanol

Ethanol damages your cars, small engines, food budget – and kills Gulf of Mexico animals

Paul Driessen

Ethanol and other biofuel mandates and subsidies got started when politicians bought into claims that we are rapidly depleting our petroleum, and fossil-fuel-driven global warming is boiling the planet.

Hydraulic fracturing destroyed the depletion myth. It also reminds us that “peak oil” applies only if we wrongly assume that resource needs and technologies never change. The 18-year “hiatus” in planetary warming has forced alarmists to change their terminology to climate change, climate disruption and extreme weather mantras – which allow them to continue demanding that we stop using the hydrocarbons that provide 82% of the energy that makes our economy, jobs and living standards possible.

In recent years, people have discovered that ethanol harms lawn mowers and other small engines. The fuel additive also drives up gasoline prices, reduces automotive mileage and corrodes engine parts.

Corn-for-ethanol growers make a lot of money. But meat, egg and fish producers pay more for feed, driving up family food bills. Biofuel mandates also mean aid agencies pay more for corn and wheat, so more malnourished people go hungry longer. This is not what most would call “environmental justice.”

The 10% blends are bad enough. 15% ethanol is much worse, and truckers say a highly corrosive 20% blend will be needed to meet California’s looming low carbon fuel standards.

US law mandates that ethanol production must triple between 2007 and 2020 – even though motorists are driving less and thus using less gasoline, which then means refiners need less ethanol to produce 10% blends. That “blend wall” (between what’s needed and what’s produced) is driving the push to allow 15% ethanol blends, which would void most car engine warranties.

The guaranteed income incentivizes farmers to take land out of conservation easements, pasture land and wildlife habitat, and grow corn instead. Just to meet current ethanol quotas, US farmers are now growing corn on an area the size of Iowa. Growing and harvesting this corn and turning it into ethanol also requires massive quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels and water.

Corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of fresh water per million Btu of energy – compared to at most 6.0 gallons of fresh or brackish water per million Btu of energy produced via fracking. Across its life cycle, ethanol production and use also releases more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline.

Now we learn that ethanol is bad for the environment in another way. It kills marine life.

A large portion of the nitrogen fertilizers needed to grow all that corn gets washed off the land and into streams and rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, where they cause enormous summertime algae blooms. When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen in the water – creating enormous low-oxygen (hypoxic) and zero-oxygen (anoxic) regions.

Marine life cannot survive in those “dead zones.” Fish swim away, but shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers and other stationary or slow moving bottom dwellers cannot escape. They just die.

Thousands of square miles of water off the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as far southwest as Corpus Christi can remain blanketed by a dead zone until fall winds or tropical storms or hurricanes come through. These events cool the water down, churn up the anoxic zones, bring in new oxygen supplies, and restore livability.

In 2012, nearly 2,900 square miles (about the size of Delaware) turned into a dead zone. Last year, because of much greater water flow from the Corn Belt, the region of animal cadavers covered nearly 8,560 square miles (New Jersey). This year, the zone of death could cover a more average Connecticut-size 4,630 to 5,700 square miles, say Louisiana State University, Texas A&M and other researchers, due to lower water flows; strong eddy currents south of the Mississippi Delta could also be playing a role.

A friend of mine recently observed vast stretches of green algae blooms in the normally “blue water” areas beyond the 15-mile-wide region where fresh Mississippi River waters mix with Gulf of Mexico salt water, in the Mississippi Canyon area south of Louisiana. The green zone extended to some 40 miles from shore, he said. As the algae die, they will create huge new suffocation zones, rising up into the water column, invisible from the air and surface, but deadly to millions of creatures that cannot swim away.

The dead zones also mean fishermen, crabbers, shrimpers and other recreational and commercial boaters must travel much further from shore to find anything, putting them at greater risk in the event of storms.

“More nitrate comes off corn fields than it does from any other crop, by far,” says Louisiana State University zoologist Gene Turner. The nitrogen drives the formation of dead zones, and the “primary culprit” driving the entire process is corn-based ethanol, adds Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Center for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 153,000 metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer and other nutrients flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in May 2013. That was 16% more than the average amount over the previous three decades. The enormous nutrient runoff is primarily the result of feeding just one crop: corn for ethanol, the USGS affirms. The lost seafood is worth tens of millions of dollars.

Fertilizer and pesticide runoff is substantially higher in wet years. But in dry years much of the excess chemical application just builds up in the soil, waiting for the next big rainy season to unleash it. The more acreage we put in corn for ethanol – and soybeans for biodiesel – the worse the fertilizer and pesticide runoff, algae blooms, dead zones and eradicated marine life become in wet years.

Water use is also skyrocketing to grow these biofuel crops. And if it weren’t for biotechnology, the problems would be far worse. GMO corn is engineered to need less water, and to kill insects that feed on the crops with far lower pesticide use than for traditional, non-biotech varieties. However, the same greens who hate hydrocarbons and promote ethanol and biodiesel also detest biotechnology. Go figure.

Some biofuel advocates tout cellulosic ethanol as a partial solution – because switchgrass requires less fertilizer, and this perennial’s roots help stabilize the soil and reduce runoff. But no one has yet been able to turn this pipedream source into ethanol on a commercial scale. Another potential manmade fuel could be methanol from natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing, but greens continue to oppose fracking.

This algae boom, bust and dead zone phenomenon may not be an ecological crisis, and it’s been going on for decades. But why make it worse, with an expensive, engine-wrecking fuel that eco-activists, politicians and ethanol lobbyists pretend is better for the planet than fossil fuels? Why don’t biofuel boosters at least include this serious, recurring environmental damage in their cost-benefit analyses?

And why do we continue to tolerate the double standards? Environmentalists, politicians and bureaucrats come down with iron fists on any private sector damages involving fossil fuel or nuclear power. They have different standards for the “natural” and “eco-friendly” “alternatives” they advocate. Ethanol from corn is just one example. An even more grotesque double standard involves wind turbines.

Big Green activists and Big Government bureaucrats (especially Fish & Wildlife Service) let Big Wind companies kill eagles and other raptors, conduct deliberately insufficient and incompetent body counts, hide and bury carcasses, and even store hundreds of dead eagles in freezers, away from prying eyes. Using German and Swedish studies as a guide, Save the Eagles International experts calculate that the real US wind turbine death toll is probably 13 million or more birds and bats every year, slaughtered in the name of saving the planet from computer-concocted ravages of manmade global warming.

These policies are unsustainable and intolerable. The same environmental and endangered species standards must be applied to all our energy alternatives – and the ethanol quotas must be terminated.

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


Categories: On the Blog

Why Deregulation Is Essential To Restoring Booming Economic Growth, And The American Dream

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2014, 11:31 AM

Last week, I discussed tax reform as the first component of a comprehensive agenda to restore booming economic growth, and the American Dream. This week, I will discuss a second essential component of such a growth restoration agenda: deregulation.

Global Cooling

Last week, I attended and spoke at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, organized by the Heartland Institute, the world headquarters for skeptics of anthropogenic (human caused), catastrophic, global warming. The event was co-sponsored by 32 organizations, demonstrating broad support for the Resistance. Nearly 700 people attended (a record among all 9 such conferences), with climate scientists from all over the world. Those included 64 speakers from 12 countries.

The event was broadcast live by CSPAN, and online by Heartland, where 6,000 more viewers watched at least some of it. The presentations are all still available online at http://climateconference.heartland.org/, where another 40,000 unique visitors have also watched them.

I came away from the conference convinced that the climate alarmists are right in at least one respect. The debate over anthropogenic, catastrophic, global warming is over. But it is the alarmists who have lost it. This is further confirmed by Australia this week repealing its carbon tax, with popular, newly elected, Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbot calling the claim that humans are causing global warming “absolute crap.” Indeed, I as a lawyer and economist am intellectually fascinated by the subject, because the skeptics have by now so thoroughly trashed alarmist arguments.

Check it out for yourself. Read the latest Assessment Report of the establishment Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And read the three, thousand page volumes published this year of Climate Change Reconsidered II, written by the dozens of scientists in the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).

I see no science left after that for any argument that there is any real serious threat of catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming. The international scientists at the recent Heartland conference do not dispute the theory that “greenhouse gases” have some effect in heating the earth’s atmosphere. But there is no sound science showing that such heating would be so substantial as to threaten catastrophic results for humans, other animals, and plants.

Yes, sea levels are rising. But not any faster than they have for the last 12,000 years, since the end of the last ice age. The polar ice caps are not melting. The Antarctic is at record ice levels, and the Arctic polar ice cap has been restored. Some glaciers are receding, but others are still growing. The weather is not getting more extreme. The worst hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme weather are all in decline. Now that the alarmists have been exposed for these scare tactics, they have lost all credibility.

North Pole scenery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only argument for catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming now rests entirely on climate models, which not only have never been validated. They have been falsified now by the almost 18 years of no global warming, which more recently has trended towards global cooling. Spare me the comments by pop tarts, all of whom turn out to be on the government payroll, claiming oh no that cessation of any warming is not true. Too many alarmists have now admitted as much, and it is even being discussed now in the socialist party press.

The growing, yawning gap between the spiking temperature projections of these models and the flat reality not only discredits the models. It is now proving that the climate is not nearly as sensitive to carbon dioxide, or CO2, (a natural substance essential for the survival of all life on the planet, not “pollution”) as the alarmists have tried to claim. That has been proven as well by the up and down pattern of global temperatures going back to the start of the last century, and beyond, despite steadily rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere that entire time.

The NIPCC scientists and others at the Heartland conference argue that these climate patterns are more consistent with, and determined by, natural causes. Indeed, the most interesting and challenging scientists at the conference argued that these natural causes now portend a sustained period of global cooling.

Sebastian Luning, doctorate in geology/palaeontology, has been studying the history of solar cycles for 20 years at universities in London, Manchester, Wales, Vienna, and Bremen, Germany. He co-authored with Franz Vahrenholdt, long a leading environmentalist figure in Europe, the book The Neglected Sun, published in 2013. While the U.N.’s IPCC insists that variations in solar activity play no role in climate change, Luning emphasized at the conference that 99.98% of the total energy contribution to the earth’s climate comes from the sun. He postulated that slight changes in that huge force, as reflected in documented cycles of solar activity, would be the dominant factor in causing climate changes, rather than comparatively puny human activities.

Luning referenced a data set of reconstructed cycles of solar activity going back 9,000 years, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. That data set shows the most well-known recurring cycles of 11 years, plus cycles of 90 years, 210 years, 500 years, 1,000 years, and even 2,300 years. He argued that these cycles were the dominant causes of the up and down pattern of global temperatures shown in the historical temperature records, including over the last 150 years, when the industrial revolution began contributing to rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

Periods of high solar activity, such as sunspots and solar flares, correspond closely with historical warm periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period, running roughly from 950 AD to 1250 AD, and the Roman Warm Period, from roughly 250 BC to 400 AD. Periods of low solar activity correspond closely with historical cold periods, such as the Little Ice Age, running from roughly from 1300 AD to 1850 AD. The IPCC’s climate models, which purport to show catastrophe if we do not cease using the energy that fueled the industrial revolution (bitterly resisted by environmentalist reactionaries today), cannot reproduce the temperatures of the Little Ice Age, or these other historical climate variations. So climate hysterics have tried to deny these variations occurred in the past. But the variations proved too thoroughly evidenced in historic records for such ploys to prevail.

Luning concluded that taking the impact of these solar cycles into account would ultimately reduce the estimated climate sensitivity from an atmospheric doubling of CO2 to just 1 degree. That estimated sensitivity is already being forced downward from a previous high of as much as 3, or even 4, degrees, by the now sustained lack of global warming for almost two decades now.

Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov is head of space research at the Pulkovo Obervatory in St. Petersburg. He is author of Grand Minimum of the Total Solar Irradiance Leads to the Little Ice Age (2013) and The Sun Dictates the Climate of the Earth (2009). In 2013, the European Scientific-Industrial Chamber awarded him a gold medal for exceptional achievements.

The Little Ice Age from roughly 1300 AD to 1850 AD was accompanied by several cycles of dramatically reduced sunspots and other solar activity. The Wolf Minimum began in 1280 and persisted for 70 years until 1350. That was followed by a period of even lower sunspot and other solar activity that lasted 90 years from 1460 to 1550 known as the Sporer Minimum. During the period 1645 to 1715, the low point of the Little Ice Age, the number of sunspots declined to zero for the entire time. This is known as the Maunder Minimum, named after English astronomer Walter Maunder. That was followed by the Dalton Minimum from 1790 to 1830.

Abdussamatov argues that similar patterns of sunspots and other solar activity began in 1990, which he says was the start of another solar decline, caused by a quasi-bicentennial solar cycle. He says that all 18 periods of substantial climate change over the last 7,500 years have been caused by such cycles. Indeed, he has charted such effects going back 800,000 years.

That quasi-bicentennial phase has already shown up in sharp declines in the much smaller 11 year solar cycles. He argues that a new Little Ice Age resulting from this solar decline can be dated as starting this year, which he first predicted about 10 years ago. The solar decline will continue, he says, reaching a new solar Grand Minimum period starting in 2043+/-11 years. That will be the beginning of what he calls a “solar autumn,” passing from the recent period of “solar summer.”

The decline will continue, he says, passing into “solar winter” in 2060+/-11 years. That will be the equivalent of a new Maunder Minimum, which was the deepest cold period of the Little Ice Age. By then, global temperatures will have fallen about 1.5 degrees from current levels, he expects. The decline will then stabilize at that level for another 50 years or so. Abdussamatov argues that to prepare for this, governments need to be maximizing economic growth, so that countries will have the economic resources to best deal with the new frigid climate. Astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon also emphasized the role of the sun as the dominant factor in climate change.

Dr. Don Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University, emphasized instead the role of natural ocean cycles in causing climate change. He has collected data showing 20 periods of global warming and 20 periods of global cooling since 1480 AD, each lasting for roughly similar periods of 27 years on average. These were caused, he said, by the cycles known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadel Oscillation (AMO).

On the basis of these historical cycles, in 1999 Easterbrook predicted 25 to 30 years of global cooling, as he estimated that the PDO began phasing from warm to cold in that year. That is the primary reason there has been no warming for almost 18 years now, with a slight cooling trend over more recent years. He says the 20 years of global warming before that were due to a natural PDO warming cycle, not mankind’s CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

Overregulation Squelches Energy Production, Costs Necessarily Skyrocket

Politicians and “journalists” who insistently express fervent belief in catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming do so not because of any science they have read, but because they want to believe in it. That desire stems from the recognition that the theory provides the justification for wildly expanded government powers of taxation, spending and regulation that would displace markets and capitalism. This applies to President Obama and his Democrats, Federal, state and local, and major media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

This is why Obama and his Democrats have so overregulated energy production that output of traditional fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal, on federal lands and other federally controlled areas (primarily off-shore) has declined sharply under President Obama, while such production on private and state lands has soared to record smashing levels. Today, America now has the resources to be the world’s number one producer of each of these energy sources, plus nuclear energy, which America originally pioneered, but since has ceded to other, rival economies.

This deprives America of the full scope of increased jobs, wages, income, and tax and royalty revenue that would result directly from a fully liberated energy boom as America reaches its renewed potential as the world’s number oil producer, number natural gas producer, number one coal producer, even number one nuclear energy producer. Clumsy overregulation has now killed the Keystone Pipeline, as Canada has given up on Obama’s misleadership, and decided to build a pipeline to its west coast to export its energy bounty to America’s emerging top rival China, which will soon surpass America as the world’s number one economy.

Moreover, the resulting supply of reliable, low cost energy from such an energy boom would fuel a broader, economy wide, boom. The fracking boom in natural gas production quickly earned an echo in the developing return of manufacturing to America’s shores.

But stunting the supply of traditional fossil fuels, plus adding the costs of unnecessary overregulation, will spike the cost of energy in America, as Obama boasted behind closed doors to deluded supporters in 2008, saying that under his plans, “the cost of electricity will necessarily skyrocket.” Forcing in addition a shift by regulatory requirement to necessarily much more costly “renewable” fuels like solar, wind, and biofuels will further skyrocket America’s energy costs.

These added costs are like an additional tax burden squelching the economy, just like the carbon tax that Australia just so wisely jettisoned. The Liberal Establishment told us the awful stagflation of the 1970s was the result of oil price spikes caused by Arab oil embargoes. But now that same establishment is telling us we must now voluntarily do the same thing to our own economy, for our own good.

Restoring maximum, booming, economic growth requires deregulation to remove this counterproductive overregulation, which the discussion above of the science of catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming shows is not necessary. Restoring growth requires liberating energy producers to lead an historic energy boom directly creating millions of good paying jobs, spreading the 3% unemployment and booming wages of North Dakota across America. And producing burgeoning supplies of low cost, reliable energy that would spread the boom economy wide, through a renaissance of good paying jobs in manufacturing and other industries.

State governments should further contribute to the boom by repealing costly renewable energy mandates, and telling the EPA that if it wants states to adopt their own carbon taxes, or cap and trade, the states will see them in court.

Costs of Obamacare Regulatory Delusions

Both the Obamacare Individual Mandate and the Employer Mandate are regulatory disasters killing jobs and the economy in America. The Individual Mandate because exactly the opposite of what Obama promised it is sharply increasing health insurance costs by requiring the purchase of more extensive benefits than people want to pay for. That includes the costs of Democrat “fairness” in guaranteed issue and community rating, which are like requiring fire insurers to issue insurance policies at the same cost as for anyone else to those who call in to buy after their house is already on fire. And the Employer Mandate because it is adding these costs to employment, which is reducing jobs, at least full time jobs.

The Obama Administration was celebrating the labor report for last month reportedly showing an increase of 288,000 jobs. But those were all part time jobs, as the employer mandate does not apply to jobs of less than 30 hours a week, which is all that the economy is currently producing as a result. Full time jobs actually plunged by 523,000 last month. But part time jobs more suitable for teenagers skyrocketed by 800,000. As a result, overall, fewer than half of American adults are working full time. No wonder middle class incomes are falling so steadily, Obama’s misleading rhetoric notwithstanding.

Restoring booming economic growth requires removing all these costly, counterproductive, Obamacare regulatory burdens. More people would be covered through carefully constructed, free market incentives for health insurance, which free market economists have been advocating for 20 years. But the dishonest, so-called “mainstream” media won’t cover them, or tell anyone about it, because they will only support increased government power and control.

Dodd-Frank’s Regulatory Overkill

The Dodd-Frank legislation (Democrats thought it would be a great idea for those who caused the financial crisis to devise legislation to address it) imposes hundreds of new regulations on financial institutions that burden small and community banks the most. Instead of ending financial bailouts as advertised, the legislation actually institutionalizes them. The Justice Dept. is vigorously pursuing the same imaginary discrimination suits that led to the financial crisis in the first place, on the idea that denying loans to people who can’t pay them back is unfair and discriminatory.

This regulatory overkill has deprived the economy of the credit needed for a full recovery. Employers are constrained from gaining the necessary capital to start or expand businesses, killing the jobs and higher wages that would result. Consumers can’t get the credit necessary to support a booming economy. Restoring booming economic growth would require removing these unnecessary and counterproductive economic burdens.

Next week, we will discuss monetary policy reform, which may be the most important reform of all for restoring booming economic growth, and the American Dream.

Categories: On the Blog

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: A Frightening Proposal from Down Under

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2014, 8:27 PM

The Labour Party, the main opposition political party in New Zealand, made headlines last week when it announced its proposed policy for trying people accused of rape. According to the party’s justice spokesman, Andrew Little, the party is proposing that the burden of proof be reversed in rape trials. In other words, people accused of rape would have to prove their innocence.

It is quite astonishing that any mainstream party in a Western democracy could actually entertain the idea of eliminating, even in one instance, the presumption of innocence. That presumption, which demands that the government never treat a citizen as a criminal until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they have actually committed the crime, is the Golden Thread binding together the whole of the Anglo-American criminal justice tradition. It is enshrined across laws and constitutions, and is even recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The government’s first role is the upholding of the law and the protecting of its citizens. That is fundamentally impossible if the government can brand citizens as criminals unless they can directly prove otherwise. The policy of the Labour Party, should it be implemented, represents a death knell to the legal protections citizens have come to expect and fundamentally deserve.

The avowed justification for the change in the case of rape is the indisputable fact that it is very hard to convict anyone of rape. It is true that convictions are difficult to achieve on a forensic level. It is also hard for people who have been raped to come forward at all, due to very real social pressures not to speak out, and the frequent tendency of societies to engage in victim-blaming. These are truly tragic problems, ones that are probably not addressed nearly enough by governments around the world. Rape is a horrific crime, and the victims of it are frequently scarred for life. The violation of one’s self in that way is one of the most grotesque that can be experienced. Governments the world over have done too little to address the problem.

But the underlying problem does not call for simply lowering the bar of what it takes to convict someone of the crime, and it certainly does not call for reversing the burden of evidence that is instantiated across the laws of all countries with British common law traditions. The Labour Party is groping blindly for a solution that will paper over social factors currently hampering investigations. The advocates of this policy are seeking a blunt tool by which to redress a clear injustice. But answering injustice with another terrible injustice is not the way forward.

It would be naive to assume that a policy of reversing the burden of consent in cases of rape would stop there. When the fundamental relationship between citizen and state in the investigation and prosecution of transgressions is shifted, even in one instance, it changes the relationship across the board. If underlying difficulties in enforcement of rape prosecutions is justification to reverse the burden of proof, why not do the same for other difficult-to-prosecute crimes? Where would it end?

Some pundits say slippery slope arguments are invalid, but they are unquestionably wrong in this case. The policy proposal of the Labour Party would permanently and irrevocably transform the entirety of the legal system. It might just take a few years for the case-law to accrete before people notice.

The Labour Party is not currently in power to act on this policy, and it would likely face substantial legal challenges in the courts were it to do so. But it is reflective of a dangerous strain in left wing political ideology that seeks to outright reject many of the sacred institutions of personal liberty and limited government to serve their myopic conceptualization of justice. When a position attacking a venerated precept like the presumption of innocence as a tool of the “patriarchy” to oppress women is met with anything but instant ridicule, there is a problem.

Rape, and all non-consensual violence, is monstrous and unambiguously evil. But a government demanding that citizens prove their innocence of a crime is also unambiguously evil.

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