On the Blog

Yes, Eric Cantor, There is a Virginia

Somewhat Reasonable - June 13, 2014, 11:12 AM

It seems fitting that after such a momentous political evening, the Washington, D.C. area woke early this morning to the thundercrack of a summer storm, with a furious arrival and just as quickly faded and gone. The crushing and unexpected defeat of Eric Cantor – the first defeat of a sitting House Majority leader since 1899, which also happens to be the creation of the position – is sending ripples through a Republican Party which will have ramifications for this cycle and beyond.

In media terms, Cantor’s loss wrecks the established narrative about the nature of this cycle (the establishment either crushes or learns to live with the remnants of the Tea Party); in policy terms, it wrecks the likelihood of immigration reform as anything taken up by Republicans under the Obama presidency; and in political terms, it wrecks the longstanding work of many in the business and donor community who have spent years cultivating relationships with Cantor as the presumptive next Speaker of the House, opening up a new contest for leadership in the party which will serve as a proxy battle over the speakership and the most prominent role on Capitol Hill.

I wish that as a Virginian I could have shared some particular advance insight on the nature of this loss – and indeed, there had been rumblings late last week that Cantor’s challenger, Randolph-Macon economics professor and Princeton Seminary grad David Brat, was keeping things close – but you dismiss such things as noise when contemplating the possibilities of such an historic upset. He has since the beginning of his career been a man motivated by sheer ambition, and it is this double-edged sword which best explains his loss yesterday.

The narrative today was supposed to be amazement at how Lindsey Graham, one of the most patient political survivors in Washington – who worked hard to get where he is, and dedicated his days over the past several years to undermining or compromising his potential challengers – prevailed easily over weak opposition in South Carolina. Instead, Graham’s victory and Cantor’s loss provide a good contrast in the crippling danger of complacency in politics. And that’s becoming the real lesson of the 2014 primary season: good candidates win, bad candidates lose – and the difference is often as simple as recognizing who you represent is not the collection of interests inside the beltway but the people who actually pull the lever back at home.

While Cantor has been gunning for the speakership now for several years, his ladder-climbing ambition leading him to attempt to position himself as all things to all people, he lost sight of the frustrations back home in his “real Virginia” district. Rob Tracinski, who has lived in Virginia’s 7th for two decades, relates this story:

At the Republican Convention in 2008, I approached Cantor after an event, introduced myself as a constituent, and told him where I lived. It’s a tiny place, more of a wide spot in the road than an actual town, so this was partly a test to see how well Cantor knew his own district. I turns out that he did recognize the town, and to prove it, he started to tell me about how he had worked on getting us an earmark for a local Civil War battlefield park. An earmark, mind you, just after Republicans had officially renounced earmarks in an attempt to appease small-government types. Cantor suddenly realized this and literally stopped himself in mid-sentence. Then he hastily added: “But we don’t do that any more.”

The insulating power of money or incumbency is still significant – but Cantor outspent Brat to the tune of more than five million to less than 200k, and it still wasn’t enough. You can see why when you see what Cantor was doing with it – money for consultants, pollsters, travel, steakhouses, and ads like this:

Of course, most people inside the Beltway will view this outcome through the lens of the policy scrum over immigration, where advocates on both sides have done themselves no favors, even to the end:

In the room of downcast Cantor allies, a new energy suddenly erupted — but not the kind they wanted on election night. A group of immigration activists stormed the ballroom, screaming and waving a flag. “What do we want? Immigration reform! When do we want it? Now!” A few Cantor supporters tried to block the protesters’ entrance into the ballroom, and pushing and shoving ensued. And before they reached the microphone, one Cantor supporter threw his glass of wine at a female protester. She swore at him in return.

The more hackish journalists will deploy this as a harbinger of GOP doom in 2016. But I’m unconvinced that in a field without a single prominent immigration hardliner (Ted Cruz, perhaps?) that this is the case.

And immigration policy is just one aspect of this. For years, the impression has been forming in Virginia that Cantor’s priorities were with K Street and the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable – not with the people who actually elect him:

The central theme of Brat’s campaign is that Cantor is beholden to business — specifically the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

“If you’re in big business, Eric’s been very good to you, and he gets a lot of donations because of that, right?” Brat said at the meeting. “Very powerful. Very good at fundraising because he favors big business. But when you’re favoring artificially big business, someone’s paying the tab for that. Someone’s paying the price for that, and guess who that is? You.”

Cantor’s allies say that is exactly the type of rhetoric that has left the state party struggling for cash.

So immigration mattered, yes – but it was just one piece of that broader narrative, a narrative which painted Cantor as a two-faced power broker whose priorities were elsewhere:

It’s true that Cantor enjoyed a strong relationship with business, especially with Wall Street. The industry that gave him the most campaign contributions was the securities and investment sector. Individuals from the private equity firm Blackstone were his biggest financial supporters. Cantor went to bat for the industry repeatedly over politically unpopular issues, including the taxation of income at private equity firms at the lower capital gains rate.

That’s no surprise: for decades, the GOP and big business have worked closely together to build a political alliance that until recently appeared airtight. But now with Tea Party activist groups charging the traditional wing of the GOP with “crony capitalism”—and Cantor’s loss—the balance of power is creeping away from the pro-business faction of the Republican Party.

After spending so many years framing himself as the all things to all people future of the party, Cantor now serves as a walking cautionary tale for the dangers of ambition which becomes out of touch with the priorities of the people back home. Cantor has used his YG Network in recent months to recast himself as a reform conservative. Along with Mitch McConnell, he’s nodded in the right direction toward Main Street priorities and the like, but the sincerity of such interest was always a question among those who viewed Cantor as an unctuous faux conservative climber. Now it’s a moot point – you can’t chart an agenda if you can’t get re-elected – and Cantor risks becoming the American version of Michael Portillo.

This race was not about the Tea Party – Dave Brat may have been backed by voters sympathetic to the Tea Party, but not by any significant organization, money, or groups. It was instead about the question of whether a politician can serve two masters – big business and the people – and get away with it. The answer is yes, but only if you are very good at politics. Lindsey Graham is. Eric Cantor wasn’t. And that made all the difference.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Activists Try to Take the Joy out of Summer for Children and Adults

Somewhat Reasonable - June 13, 2014, 10:05 AM

 National Center for Public Policy Research Risk Analysis Director Jeff Stier is responding this week to a range of stories bubbling up in the news and in social media recently that have one common denominator, according to Stier: “ideologically-driven scares.”

Stier warns that as we begin the summer, “we should remember that it is important not only to stay safe while having fun, but to not let agenda-driven scares interfere with how we spend the warmer months.”

Stier believes that “narrow-interest activists are using the onset of summer to make former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg look like a libertarian by comparison.”

A school district in Texas won’t allow children to bring in sunscreen without a doctor’s note. ABC affiliate KSAT in Austin reports this month that North East Independent School District spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said that, “Typically, sunscreen is a toxic substance, and we can’t allow toxic things in to be in our schools.”

The news item continued, “Chancellor said if parents know their child may be outdoors, they should come to school fully covered in sunscreen. At this time, she said, sunscreen can’t be brought by students to school campuses.”

Of course, Stier reminds us, sunscreens should be reapplied at least every two hours, longer than the school day, according to the Food and Drug Administration, so rules of government-run schools are conflicting with the government’s own advice.

As children finish school for the summer, and they may again be allowed to use sunscreen, others warn parents about letting the kids have too much fun, at least in “bounce houses.” Time magazine says the inflatable activity-boosters are causing an “epidemic” of injuries. “‘Epidemics’” almost always precede another phenomenon,” says Stier, “regulations.”

“Activists aren’t only trying to regulate us to protect children,” says Stier. “Adults who consume beer are also the subject of consumer warnings.” Going Viral on Facebook is an article titled “8 Beers That You Should Stop Drinking Immediately.” Stier says, “The Buzzfeed-worthy headline shouldn’t cause you to put down your brew, but rather to raise your level of skepticism.”

“Indeed,” says Stier, “the story is a click-generating piece meant to advance big government agendas including anti- genetically modified food warning label campaigns, chemical bans (BPA), and ingredient restrictions (caramel colorings).

Stier has a warning of his own: “Buy into these warm-weather scares at the risk of helping the left expand the regulatory chokehold on not only businesses, but consumers.”

National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour, a mom, says some warnings do make sense; for example, advice to put purses or briefcases on the backseat with the baby so you don’t accidentally forget to drop the baby off at daycare on your way to work. “But unfortunately,” she said, “there are so many unnecessary warnings out there, the good advice parents can actually use gets drowned out by pointless warnings about everything from feeding kids genetically-modified foods or letting them bounce. Really. Kids are going to bounce.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

[Originally published at Jeffstier.org]

Categories: On the Blog

A Lawless Administration: Andrew McCarthy at the Heartland Institute

Somewhat Reasonable - June 12, 2014, 3:44 PM

Author and former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy joined the Heartland Institute on June 12th to talk about his new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, with a packed and lively crowd of Heartland supporters. McCarthy was incisive and exceptionally convincing.

McCarthy began his talk by bemoaning the fact that an author must eventually stop writing and submit a book for publication, which means that events occurring between the final draft’s submission and the actual publication cannot be included in the text. This fact means that his book is “two or three impeachable offenses behind.” Even still, the list he presents in Faithless Execution is enthralling and terrifying.

The talk then turned briefly to the subject of Bowe Bergdahl, whose release has stirred up tremendous controversy in Washington and across the nation. McCarthy explained that the focus in Congress was all wrong, and that the issue was not really about the violation of the statute requiring the president to talk to Congress 30 days before the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Rather, the issue of concern is the fact that releasing five Taliban leaders represents a clear case of replenishing an enemy that is still fighting the United States, which is an “irresponsible dereliction of duty of a commander-in-chief.”

McCarthy explained that, despite the focus going awry, the Bergdahl case has had two positive effects. First, it was perfectly timed to publicize his book. Second, it had finally led mainstream politicians to start using a word they have constantly avoided: impeachment.

Impeachment has ceased to be muttered behind closed doors alone and is now being spoken openly. “Even Lindsey Graham is comfortable uttering it,” McCarthy said.

The Obama administration has been, according to McCarthy, deliberately “overloading the system,” engaging in a cascade of scandals that takes advantage of ordinary people’s finite ability to deal with crises. McCarthy gave the example of how the new EPA regulations that may have profound impacts on the health of the economy have barely been discussed, sandwiched as they are between the Bergdahl and VA hospital scandals.

It is because of these scandals and persistent abrogation of duty that McCarthy proposes the process of impeachment. McCarthy explained to the audience that, “Impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one.” In other words, despite the trappings of the courtroom, impeachment proceedings are not about assessing criminal liability. Rather, the “high crimes and misdemeanors” to which the Constitution refers are concerned with breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of the public trust. McCarthy stated that he could identify many such breaches committed during Obama’s tenure.

Chief among the president’s impeachable offenses, McCarthy explained, is his failure to execute laws faithfully. The president is the only federal official under the Constitution required to take an oath to execute the laws faithfully and to defend the Constitution. McCarthy cited Obama’s unilateral amendments of Obamacare and his selective and arbitrary enforcement of certain laws to benefit his allies and harm his opponents as evidence of unfaithful execution.

Another offense McCarthy identified was Obama’s dereliction of duty. He identified the atrocities committed to Americans in Benghazi and the previous unauthorized military actions in Libya as clear examples of this offense.

After outlining these offenses, McCarthy turned the discussion to the political climate and the prospects for impeachment. McCarthy was adamant that impeachment must not be a frivolous exercise. After all, it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict, which is only possible if there is wide bipartisan support for the proceedings both among legislators and in the public.

McCarthy then pointed out that there is no appetite in the American people for impeachment. He pointed to Bill Clinton’s impeachment as a clear example of the dangers of impeachment when there is no popular will for it. When an impeachment fails, the media can paint it as an endorsement of the very actions under censure.

What McCarthy proposed, in his book and during the talk, is a concerted effort to change the political environment so that the issue of lawlessness is front-and-center in the public discourse. Changing that environment would likely push Obama to actually execute the laws faithfully and to act within the bounds of the Constitution.

Failure to change the discourse could have serious negative effects for the future of the American republic, as McCarthy deftly explained. He described how the accretion of presidential power erodes citizens’ liberty, and that this is “not a conservative issue, not a Republican issue, it is an American issue.” Unless something is done about it, the powers Obama takes for himself will belong to his successors, of whatever party.

McCarthy explained that he was still hopeful for the republic’s future, a hopefulness he expanded upon during the Q&A session after his talk. When asked about what people can do if impeachment is not yet possible, he said, “Let’s make a big issue out of lawlessness.”

It is that issue that must be won before the imperial presidency can be stopped. Andrew McCarthy’s magisterial book will go a long way to winning it.

Categories: On the Blog

Should the Government Define the American Dream?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 12, 2014, 10:27 AM

I have not written anything of significance about the YG Network’s Room to Grow agenda, but Ross Douthat writes a piece here about an aspect of it, the child tax credit expansion, which I have criticized in the past, along with Scott Lincicome. It also provides a glimpse of an interesting underlying question about the motivations of reform on the right.

The politics of dramatically expanding the child tax credit entitlement (and yes, it is an entitlement) just don’t make all that much sense to me. Consider the landscape of America today, where more people are staying single longer and having fewer kids of their own volition, as they pretty much always do all over the world as cultures become more highly educated. These are not recent developments:

“Between 1970 and 2012, the share of households that were married couples with children under 18 halved from 40 percent to 20 percent. The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent. Between 1970 and 2012, the average number of people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.6.”

I understand that the people behind this agenda think this is a bad thing, and I largely agree (from a more libertarian perspective, intact families are the greatest hedge we have against the expansion of government, as it rushes in to do the things that intact families do). But why is it conservative or even an example of limited government to use tax policy to essentially reject that steady decision-making over the course of decades? Is it because there are too many young people voting for Republicans? Isn’t there something better that could be offered to single people 18-34 – a disturbing portion of whom are still living with their parents – without suggesting that they’re pursuing the wrong American dream if they’re unmarried or don’t have children?

How about instead cutting taxes for working Americans broadly by getting rid of the payroll tax entirely? You could even create big tax advantaged savings accounts attractive for families and for single people who don’t have retirement accounts through work – like Canada did, but perhaps with a large HSA component. If you assume that people still want to get married and have children, but are simply too burdened financially to do it… shouldn’t the obvious limited government policy solution here be about removing government-imposed burdens, not expanding an entitlement that subsidizes one portion of society and alienating those outside of it?

What is good for society may be good for the soul, but government policy ought to set that aside and instead focus on the idea that what is good for your wallet is good for society. This is something that Wall Street recognizes, where smart people are increasingly concerned about the consumer expenditure side of stagnant wages and slow family formation:

“The problem is that new jobs often pay less than the ones destroyed in the recession, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which manages $66 billion in Chicago. “New jobs are coming through at lower wages. Collectively, people have fewer dollars in their wallets even though they have jobs again,” he said. That helps explain why consumer spending fell in April for the first time in a year, according to a May 30 Commerce Department report. Weak wage gains also are making it hard for the housing market to return to normal, Mr. Ablin said. He calculates that new single-family home construction is running at less than 500,000 a month. Demographics say it should be twice that, he said. “People are waiting longer to get married and they are having fewer kids,” Mr. Ablin said. That is making them delay home purchases. “It is certainly making us a little more cautious on the economy.”

The answer to this challenge is that we ought to reform the tax code just as we would seek to reform regulations and redistributive subsidies: to lower burdens on everyone so that they can make choices for themselves absent the market-warping force of government, not to merely reform to help people who live a certain way. Eliminate the ability to offer the carrot and the stick and just see what people do.

If you do this, people have the flexibility to pursue their own path – and many of these people who want families and homes but just can’t afford to go down that path (from their risk averse perspective) will start them and purchase them. Using the alternative approach amounts to slapping Band-aids over existing problems, and future administrations can always warp policies to help people who live the way they prefer (such as buying houses and college educations even if they can’t afford them or don’t need them). And back and forth and back and forth … and that’s how we got here in the first place.

This argument reminds me of a George Will quote cited in a little disagreement concerning Will’s evolution away from his book Statecraft As Soulcraft. Pete Wehner at the time wrote in defense of laws which more aggressively “shape the dispositions and habits of the polity”, which is just a nice way of saying it forced them to do or not do things that Wehner believes improved the country. By comparison, Will today is making the case for a different view, one which Jonah Goldberg found to be a positive development:

“And these [natural] rights are the foundation of limited government – government defined by the limited goal of securing those rights so that individuals may flourish in their free and responsible exercise of those rights. A government thus limited is not in the business of imposing its opinions about what happiness or excellence the citizens should choose to pursue. Having such opinions is the business of other institutions – private and voluntary ones, especially religious ones – that supply the conditions for liberty.”

Between the old Will and the newer, the latter seems like the better approach to reform in general, but particularly in the arena of taxation. And in the tug of war between those who favor an approach which “shapes the dispositions and habits of the polity” and one which does not impose its opinions about what happiness or excellence the citizens should choose to pursue, I suspect the limited side is winning the argument.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Evidence Trumps the Phony Consensus

Somewhat Reasonable - June 12, 2014, 9:27 AM

 

zpolitics.com

We are lectured monotonously about the “consensus” that carbon dioxide produced by human activities is “highly likely to cause dangerous global warming”. The alarmist computer models are all based on this assumption, with predicted warming multiplied by also assuming strong positive feedbacks.

A consensus of opinion never determines a scientific question – real proof depends on evidence and logic. Consensus is a tool of politics and a guidepost for lemmings.

The so-called “Greenhouse Effect” depends entirely on the known property of carbon dioxide gas to intercept radiant heat in certain wavelengths. This process starts operating as soon as the extra gas enters the atmosphere.

If this influence is strong enough to drive “dangerous global warming”, its effect should be noticeable even in the short term, with Earth’s surface temperature increasing in step with increasing carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing for over a century, but global temperatures have fluctuated in broad cycles decades long, and there has been no warming for the last 17 years.

This evidence suggests that increasing carbon dioxide is not a major driver for dangerous global warming, no matter what the consensus says – even if a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.

We may still get natural global warming, as the vast restless oceans roll over or the solar cycles change, but man-made carbon dioxide is not driving these processes. Moreover, a bit of warming is not our greatest risk – history shows that ice ages extinguish more species and habitats than warm eras.

The consensus of alarmists is trying to lynch an innocent party.

Categories: On the Blog

President Obama’s Plan To “De-develop” America Shifts Into High Gear

Somewhat Reasonable - June 12, 2014, 9:16 AM

President Obama’s own Administration officially reports that the U.S. economy DECLINED by 1% in the first quarter of this year. That follows 1.9% reported total annual growth for all of 2013.

The U.S. economy sustained a real rate of economic growth of 3.3% from 1945 to 1973, and achieved the same 3.3% sustained real growth from 1982 to 2007. Before President Obama, it was only during the stagflation decade of 1973 to 1982, reflecting the deeply misguided reigning intellectual leadership of the time, that real growth fell to only half long term trends.

This 3.3% long term economic growth trend line is the minimum standard by which to judge President Obama’s economic performance. That sustained 3.3% real economic growth was the foundation for America’s world leading, post World War II, economic and military dominance, not battlefield victories 70 years ago (ok, those did help for a while too). As Brian Domitrovic explained in Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity, “The unique ability of the United States to maintain a historic rate of economic growth over the long term is what has rendered this nation the world’s lone ‘hyperpower.’”

But President Obama should have done better than that, precisely because the economy was in recession when he entered office! That is because the American historical record is the deeper the recession the stronger the recovery, as the economy grows faster than average to catch back up to the long term trendline. That observation originally stemmed from Milton Friedman, the greatest economist of the 20th century. So it comes by way of a top pedigree.

It certainly worked that way under President Reagan. After the 1981-1982 recession that greeted him soon after entering office, the economy took off on a boom that lasted 92 months without a recession, until July, 1990, when the tax increases of the 1990 budget deal killed it. That set a new record for the longest peacetime expansion ever, the previous high in peacetime being 58 months.

During those 7 years, the economy grew by almost one-third, the equivalent of adding the entire economy of West Germany, the third largest in the world at the time, to the U.S. economy. In 1984 alone, real economic growth boomed by 6.8%, the highest in 50 years. President Obama has not had a year of economic growth even half that large.

Indeed, in the 11 post-Depression recessions before President Obama, the economy recovered all the GDP lost during the recession within an average of about a year (4.5 quarters) after the recession started. But it took Obama’s recovery 16 quarters, or 4 years, to reach that point. And the economy has bumbled along in slow growth stagnation since then. By sharp contrast, at this point in the Reagan recovery, the economy had boomed by over a fifth.

Great Depression Food Line (Photo credit: Kevin Burkett)

In fact, that Reagan recovery grew into a 25 year boom, from late 1982 until the end of 2007, with just slight interruptions by shallow, short recessions in 1990 and 2001. As Art Laffer and Steve Moore wrote in their book, The End of Prosperity,

“We call this period, 1982-2007, the twenty-five year boom – the greatest period of wealth creation in the history of the planet. In 1980, the net worth – assets minus liabilities – of all U.S. households and business…was $25 trillion in today’s dollars. By 2007.…net worth was just shy of $57 trillion. Adjusting for inflation, more wealth was created in America in the twenty-five year boom than in the previous two hundred years.”

Similarly, Steve Forbes wrote in Forbes in 2008,

“Between the early 1980s and 2007 we lived in an economic Golden Age. Never before have so many people advanced so far economically in so short a period of time as they have during the last 25 years. Until the credit crisis, 70 million people a year [worldwide] were joining the middle class. The U.S. kicked off this long boom with the economic reforms of Ronald Reagan, particularly his enormous income tax cuts. We burst from the economic stagnation of the 1970s into a dynamic, innovative, high tech-oriented economy. Even in recent years the much maligned U.S. did well. Between year-end 2002 and year-end 2007 U.S. growth exceeded the entire size of China’s economy.”

In other words, the growth in the U.S. economy from 2002 to 2007 was the equivalent of adding the entire economy of China at the time to the U.S. economy.

The Hopeless President

So what is President Obama doing to inspire a real, booming recovery for the American economy at long last, now in the sixth year of his Presidency? On June 2, the EPA unveiled a new blanket of regulations (645 pages) that will only further smother economic growth and opportunity in America. The regulations would require the states to adopt policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 30% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The states could each choose the policies to achieve that goal, such as a new tax on “carbon,” or “cap and trade” which means paying for limited permits for CO2 emissions, which come from burning fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal, and gasoline. This is what Obama meant when he privately told supporters at the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board in 2008, “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity costs would necessarily skyrocket.”

These regulatory burdens would be like a new tax further squelching the economy with additional, artificial costs. In the 1970s, the Washington Establishment told us the bad economy was due to the oil price spikes caused by Arab oil embargoes. Now the Washington Establishment, which wildly supports shutting down the American economy, because the vast riches it can produce morally embarrass them, is telling us we have to do the same thing to ourselves.

David Rothbard, President of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, correctly explained the ultimate results of such regulatory madness in his column on June 3, writing, “Millions of Americans will endure lower quality of life and be unable to heat or cool their homes properly, pay their rent or mortgage, or save for college and retirement….As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) points out, ‘A lot of people on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum are going to die.’” Manchin should be preparing to run for Senate Majority Leader next year, as a Republican.

The Wall Street Journal further explained on June 3, “Consumers may not realize how these regulations will affect their daily lives. Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Brookings Institution support a policy known as ‘direct load control’ that would manage when you are allowed to run the air conditioner or washing machine.” Big Brother is here, watching you. Check out Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism.

Rothbard cites President Obama saying, “the costly regulations are needed to reduce ‘carbon pollution’ that he claims is making ‘extreme weather events’ like Superstorm Sandy ‘more common and more devastating.” But no honest, educated person can use the term “pollution” to refer to carbon dioxide emissions. For the easily manipulated, low information voters out there, carbon dioxide is not some toxic industrial gas. It is a natural substance essential for the survival of all life on the planet. Plants need CO2 to grow and conduct photosynthesis, which is the natural process that creates food for animals and fish at the bottom of the food chain.

Moreover, there is no demonstrated connection anywhere in what passes for “science” these days between CO2 emissions and Super Storm Sandy. As Rothbard accurately explains in regard to this whole global warming scare behind the regulations,

“[A]verage global temperatures have not risen in almost 18 years. We have now gone over eight years without a category 3-5 hurricane hitting the United States – the longest such period in over a century. Tornadoes are at a multi-decade low. Droughts are no more frequent or intense than since 1900. There were fewer than half as many forest fires last year as during the 1960s and 1970s. Sea levels rose just eight inches over the last 130 years and are currently rising at barely seven inches per century. There’s still ice on Lake Superior – in June.”

Sea levels have been rising, in fact, since the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago! But there has been no acceleration in the rate of that sea level rise for at least 200 years. There also is exactly zero real science to back up wildly manipulative claims that CO2 emissions cause asthma attacks or even heart attacks.

The Journal also correctly explained, “The irony is that all this [economic] damage will do nothing for climate change. Based on the EPA’s own carbon accounting, shutting down every coal-fired plant tomorrow and replacing them with zero carbon sources would reduce the Earth’s temperature by about one-twentieth of a degree Fahrenheit in a hundred years.”

Green v. Blue

Politically, all of this involves an historic, dramatic change of course for the Democrat Party, as the Journal further observed on June 4: “The [EPA’s] mammoth rule is an important political moment because it shows that national Democrats have come down decisively on the side of modern environmentalists over the working class voters who were once their base. The richer coasts dominated by gentry liberals now trump the union jobs of the Midwest.” In other words, Democrats have chosen green over blue. This opens up the same huge opportunities Reagan so successfully exploited to win over millions of Reagan Democrats. As Reagan used to say so often, “I didn’t leave the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party left me.”

When I began studying the concern over potentially catastrophic global warming years ago, I was shocked at how weak the argument for it was. It is basically broad theory which does not specify how much warming and when. And it is 73 climate models collected by the U.N. projecting catastrophic warming on our current course long term. But these models, which have never been validated, meaning they cannot even predict the past, are diverging farther and farther from real world temperatures. Global temperature records do not remotely track anywhere near rising carbon dioxide emissions over time, especially throughout the 20th century to today. The cyclical up and down temperature patterns track much more closely instead with the natural cycles of ocean churning currents, as cold water from the deep cycles up to slightly cool the planet for a couple of decades at a time, and cycles of sunspots and other solar activity.

The argument for ultimately catastrophic, man caused global warming has been corrupted by political correctness, political ideology, the special interest of governments in expanded power and authority, and billions in overwhelming government money paying to get the results desired. Bottom line: there is zero chance that the possibility of ultimately catastrophic, man caused global warming is greater than zero. The real world cannot bear trillions in artificial costs to satisfy the scientific equivalent of Lysenkoism.

Yes, you can cite scientific societies that have disgracefully sold out to this Lysenkoism. But in not one instance have the politically correct bureaucracies running those societies reached that conclusion by canvassing their members. Instead, in at least one instance a rebellion among the rank and file has forced the leadership to reevaluate by appointing worthy competing rival committees of alarmists versus skeptics to conduct an investigation of the issue. Following the results of that real debate will be highly illuminating.

For decision-makers in government and business who need to be sure and make responsible decisions, the full truth of the issue is completely and thoroughly discussed in the thousands of pages of Climate Change Reconsidered II, authored by dozens of serious, top scientists serving on the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and published this year in ultimately 3 volumes of thousands of pages each by the Heartland Institute. Those volumes are “double peer reviewed,” in that they discusses thousands of peer reviewed articles published in scientific journals, and are themselves peer reviewed. Last year, the Cato Institute published a thorough, comprehensive refutation of the publicly released draft of the National Climate Assessment, The Missing Science from the Draft National Assessment on Climate Change, by Patrick J. Michaels, et. al. You can learn more by attending the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, to be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, July 7-9, with more than 1,000 scientists from around the world (where I will be speaking).

The scientific truth of the matter will be determined not by counting how many scientists or their professional societies take on side or another, but by counting the real world data on the issue, which intelligent laymen can judge by reading the sources above.

The bottom line is that when June, 2016 rolls around, when states are supposed to submit “compliance” plans to the EPA for approval, Governors should send letters explaining that they and their legislatures decided not to trash the economies of their states with unjustified “carbon taxes” or cap and trade burdens designed to ensure that their “electricity costs would necessarily skyrocket.” And if the EPA thinks that is not acceptable, the state will see them in court. Because under the Constitution, neither the EPA, nor the entire federal government, nor his majesty Barack Obama, have any authority to impose any penalty on any state if the state does not adopt some tax or costly, crippling regulatory burden.

This issue should be affecting now state political races between Democrats and Republicans for Governor, the legislature, and all other state offices. Let Democrats say vote for us and we will impose on you carbon taxes and cap and trade burdens under which your electricity costs will necessarily skyrocket. And let Republicans say vote for us and we will tell the Feds they can go to Hades.

Obamanomics: The De-development of America

It should be no surprise to anyone that President Obama’s economic policies have all but terminated any economic growth and opportunity in America. Because every one of those policies has been decisively anti- growth.

Obama has led increases in the top tax rates of virtually every major federal tax — income taxes, capital gains taxes, taxes on corporate dividends, death taxes, even payroll taxes. The only marginal tax rate he has not increased, the federal corporate tax rate, is already the highest in the world.

Obama has led massive increases in regulatory costs, burdens and barriers, from health care to finance to energy to see above.

Obama and his Administration have cheerled the Fed to pursue wild, zero interest rate monetary policies, buying up most national debt, for years now, laying the foundation for the future return of inflation.

The only pro-growth policy has been the sequester, and other cuts in spending, imposed on him, by the Republican House majority. But Obama is working mightily to reverse that, proposing to restore wild-eyed spending in every budget, and speech relating to the subject.

Some commenters have asserted that President Obama has failed to produce economic growth because Congressional Republicans refuse any compromise with him. But name any policy President Obama has proposed that would lead to more economic growth and jobs that Congressional Republicans have refused to support. You can’t, because there isn’t one. Some of you are so easy for professional politicians to fool.

The real explanation for what is going on here with Obamanomics was actually revealed years ago by the President’s Science advisor, John Holdren. Holdren said, “A massive campaign must be launched to…de-develop the United States…bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation….We must design a stable, low consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth.”

And that is what you have with the President’s economic policies, a massive campaign to de-develop the United States. Even I have to say, if that is what the President’s plan is, it’s working.

For any other President engaged in this, we would have to impeach him for pursuing such a war on his own people. But in this case, Obama just represents the true heart and soul of his own party, which protects and enables him in this foolish endeavor. So the conclusion to take away: don’t blame President Obama, blame the Democrat Party, which you have a clear chance to do this fall.

Categories: On the Blog

Why is the U.S. Government in the Mortgage Loan Business?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 11, 2014, 3:50 PM

It is often truly astonishing to me the harm done by the way the federal government was expanded well beyond its constitutional limits during the 1930’s New Deal era. One dramatic example is the government’s role in the housing mortgage loan marketplace.

I recently read a commentary by Steve Stanck, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, whose title was “Don’t Replace Fannie and Freddie; End Them.” He began by pointing out that “For every 100 mortgages being sold in the United States these days, at least 94% of them have government backing.”

Fannie is shorthand for the Federal National Mortgage Association and Freddie is short for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Both are referred to as “government sponsored enterprises” and Stanck points out that “The housing market was nearly ruined several years ago, and the government’s involvement is a big reason” because, before the 2008 financial crisis, both “were bundling mortgages into mortgage-backed securities and selling them to investors”, primarily banks.

Still largely unknown to the public, the financial crisis was triggered on September 15, 2008 when the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous drawdown of money market accounts in the U.S. amounting to $550 billion dollars in the matter of an hour or two. This was revealed in a 2008 congressional closed door session and later reported by Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania. Had the Federal Reserve not closed down the accounts by 2 PM that day, the entire economy would have collapsed, followed by the world economy a day later.

To this day, the identity of those who initiated the withdrawal has not been revealed, but the banks that were heavily invested in Fannie and Freddie’s bundled mortgage-backed securities were most at risk. Those securities were regarded as a safe investment precisely because both are, as noted, “government-sponsored enterprises”, implying that they were backed by the government—taxpayers.

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the federal government put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship “and handed them $188 billion to stay afloat. The actions of both entities had artificially lowered mortgage interest rates in order to increase home buying and required lenders—banks—to loan money to riskier borrowers.

As Brian M. Carney noted in a July 26, 2010 Wall Street Journal editorial opinion, “The official version of the housing boom and bust, and subsequent panic and recession, tells us that greedy bankers took unacceptable risks, assumed too much leverage, made irresponsible loans, and left the government to clean up the mess. The causes of the crisis, in this version, include banker bonuses, deregulation ideology and predatory lending. Most of this is nonsense.”

Carney noted that “There’s simply no room in this story for two giant government-sponsored enterprises that distorted the housing and credit markets…” Those would be Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Stanck notes that there is a bill in Congress to “wind down Fannie and Freddie. This is good. But they want to replace those organizations with private mortgage bond issuers who would each have government guarantees back by a new entity called the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation. This is bad.”

It is bad for the same reason that Fannie and Freddie are bad. The government needs to get out of the mortgage loan business. The bill barely squeaked through the Senate Banking Committee on May 15 with minimal support.

The new entity that the bill would create would charge fees to the private mortgage bond issuers—“fees that would be based on how many people in ‘underserved’ demographic groups receive mortgages” leading to “more of the subprime lending that played such a big role in the most recent housing mortgage collapse.” It is nothing more than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a new name.

Stanck sensibly says “Let borrowers and lenders strike their own deals without government meddling. In that way, mortgage interest rates would better reflect true risk, there’d be almost no way for legislators to inject corruption and cronyism into the system, and taxpayers would not be at risk of shelling out more hundreds of billions of dollars.”

You may read or hear that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are returning to solvency, able to turn a profit in the first quarter of 2014 and this is true. Those profits are going straight into the U.S. Treasury to resolve their debt incurred when they were bailed out. When they pay it back, they should, as Stanck says, be ended, not replaced.

So long as they exist, another housing boom and bust, and another financial collapse will repeat what occurred in 2008.

Categories: On the Blog

Jay Lehr on Fox News

Somewhat Reasonable - May 27, 2014, 4:46 PM

On May 16th, Jay Lehr, science director at The Heartland Institute went on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” to discuss the issue of living in high risk areas. Lehr argues that the current system requires serious change in order to more justly deal with individuals who choose to live in high risk areas. Lehr explains how the current system allows individuals to live in high risk areas like San Diego with minimal regulations or burdens. Considering the high activity of fire fighters in places like San Diego, Lehr believes that those who choose to live in such locations should pay an increased tax. Instead of placing the tax burden of compensating fire fighters and other public servants on everyone in the area, Lehr calls for a shift of that burden onto those who choose to live in particularly high risk areas.

Cavuto went on to ask Lehr about other risks, such as floods or hurricanes. While he adamantly defends the individual’s freedom to choose their place of residence, Lehr also advises caution. He argues that some regulation is necessary. For example, Lehr references Ohio’s policy that disallows the construction of permanent structures on 100 year flood plains. This regulation exists to combat the risk of serious flooding and avert any potential disaster. Lehr argues for vigilance and flexibility in these regulations as new information continues to come to light about high risk areas.

Lehr and Cavuto go on to discuss the issue of homeowners being grandfathered into new building codes and regulations. Lehr outlines the foolishness of such a system. He contends that all homeowners, regardless of when they move into an area, should be required to abide by the newest codes and regulations. Such a requirement comes at a small price and carries the potential for huge reward.

Categories: On the Blog

Transform The VA Into A Pro-Growth Model For First Rate Health Care

Somewhat Reasonable - May 27, 2014, 12:23 PM

The VA (Veterans Administration) scandals show why so many people have been so highly motivated for so long to fight against Obamacare. That is because of the perfectly rational fear that Obamacare will end up doing to the entire American health care system what the VA has done to health care for America’s veterans.

Many have already commented that the VA system is actually pure socialized medicine. The government doesn’t just pay for health care or health insurance under the system for our nation’s veterans. The government actually builds and owns the hospitals and their clinics, and hires the doctors and nurses, who serve as government employees. The government then finances the operation of these facilities, actually providing the health care directly itself. Those eligible for VA benefits then go to these government facilities to get their health care.

This is basically how the notorious British National Health Service (NHS) operates. I say notorious because the National Health Service is famous for running a strict rationing system, with the government determining who gets what health care and when, and deciding who gets told when its time to go home and die. In my 2011 book, I suggested that Britain’s National Health Service is probably responsible for the deaths of more British subjects than the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. But a thorough study would be necessary to document that.

The NHS does not do this out of malevolence. It does it because when the government is dispensing free health care, there must be some means to control costs. With no market prices, incentives, or competition to control costs, the only choice is for the government to decide when the money train stops at the station to let some off. Ironically, a system originally adopted supposedly so everyone could get health care becomes an institutionalized means for deciding when some shall be denied health care.

The British people accept the cold, calculating, health care rationing of the NHS because of a social belief that it is necessary for everyone to get health care. That is deluded because market competition and incentives will work in health care the same as for everything else. But when social mores prevent anyone from questioning the status quo, and alternatives from being considered, the people and the society suffer. That is essentially the same social process more generally which left many societies around the world stagnant with no economic growth for centuries going back to the Dark Ages. British health care could ultimately be liberated by starting social experiments with Health Savings Accounts, which would teach eye opening social lessons.

America’s VA, with all market prices, incentives and competition excluded from the system, operates with similar health care rationing. The VA is given a “global budget” each year that it can spend for health care for our nation’s veterans and no more. With no prices or competition for anyone in the system to weigh costs against benefits, the only way total costs for essentially free health care can be kept within that budget is for the VA bureaucracy to deny health care through some form of rationing. That is primarily accomplished within America’s social mores with long wait times for the free VA health care granted to veterans, effectively denying or at least stretching out health costs.

That is why Larry Kudlow is so right when he says in his May 23 column, “The VA problem is not Shinseki, it’s socialism.” That is why America’s VA operates like the socialized medicine systems of Great Britain, Canada, and continental Europe, with long delays for the sick to obtain necessary health care, and other bureaucratic means of reducing access to quality care to control costs (again without consumer choice and market competition to control costs, there must be some means to control costs). These problems are so serious that at dozens of veterans are now documented to have suffered premature deaths due to lack of health care, and the full scope of the problem may involve the same for many more.

The problem is not inadequate spending on the VA, which socialist Democrats are trying to argue. As John Merline reported in Investor’s Business Daily on May 20, from 2000 to 2013, VA spending nearly tripled while the population of veterans declined by 4.3 million. Moreover, as Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute reports, 344,000 veterans’ care claims are now backed up and waiting to be processed. But it takes 160 days, almost half a year, for health benefits approval. For those who have to appeal a decision, the wait is 1,598 days, or more than four years.

Forbes’ own Avik Roy in his thorough May 23 column explains how America fell into the VA experiment with socialized medicine. The roots of the VA go all the way back to 1827, before the modern American health care system had even developed. So the federal government itself had to establish homes for disabled military veterans, and facilities to provide the more rudimentary health care of the time.

By the end of World War II, the VA was responsible for a burgeoning veterans population including aging veterans from World War I as well. This population swamped the available health care at the time. So the VA undertook the burden of sharply expanding the supply of hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities. From 1930 to 1947, the number of VA hospitals more than doubled, from 54 to 120. Today, the VA maintains and operates 153 hospitals, and with 300,000 mostly medical employees, it is the second largest department of the federal government.

But America’s private health care system is all grown up now, and the best in the world, by far in my opinion, in providing critical health care to the sick. Just consider premature babies, and the miracles America’s health care system achieves with those born less than a foot long, and less than a pound in weight. No other country even really tries to save these most vulnerable newborns today. But in America they now almost routinely are saved to grow up and lead normal lives. Or compare the health care and survival and recovery rates of America’s seniors with those of the same age in any other country.

America’s veterans now would do far better participating in this same private health care system, along with everyone else. That can be achieved by dividing up the VA budget in equal shares for every veteran, and freeing them to use those sums to help purchase the private health insurance of their choice. That would include Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which maximize the freedom of control and choice by patients over their own health care, and their own health care dollars. Such HSAs are also the only health policy innovation that have proven to control health costs in the real world, without a third party empowered to deny health care to the patient.

Similar reforms can and should be extended to liberate the poor on Medicaid to obtain better health coverage and care of their own choice. Block grants of federal Medicaid funds back to the states, which were so successful in reforming the old New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in 1996, could be adopted while giving the states broad authority to reform Medicaid to best suit the poor in their state. Each state could then experiment with providing the poor with vouchers that could be used to help pay for the health insurance of their choice, including again HSAs. The voters of each state would then decide how much should be given in assistance at each income level to assure that the poor would be able to buy essential health insurance.

Some states might choose to reform their Medicaid programs primarily focusing on providing the poor on Medicaid with HSAs, like Indiana has recently done. Or they might focus more on covering the poor with managed care programs, like Rhode Island has recently done. Or they might leave the choice completely to each poor family. The important point is that broad opportunities exist for states to assure the poor much better access to essential health care than Medicaid currently does, like both Indiana and Rhode Island have done, even with more efficient control of Medicaid spending.

Such reforms should also be extended to replacing Obamacare, with much broader benefits. Because Obamacare is not only a serious threat to the quality and supply of American health care. It also is a major drag on the American economy, due primarily to the costly regulatory burdens imposed by the program, and the perverse, counterproductive incentives involved.

The employer mandate is the source of much of the problem. The mandate raises the cost of employment, and so results in less of it. This effect is exacerbated by the high cost of the health insurance the Obamacare law requires to satisfy the mandate. That is in the process of raising costs even for employers that already provide health insurance for their workers.

President Obama recognizes this, which is why he has unilaterally and without legal authority delayed implementation of the employer mandate required by the Obamacare law, for years now. He knows, in fact, that the high costs of the Obamacare employer mandate will perversely and counterproductively cause millions to lose the employer provided health insurance they already have.

Because employers and the labor market plan ahead, we have already seen real world effects of this problem. Since the employer mandate only applies to full time employment involving 30 hours a week or more, millions of workers have already seen their hours cut back to part time work below the 30 hours a week threshold. And millions of others have already dropped out of the work force, because they have given up on finding work. This is all documented in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The real world effects can also be seen in the badly lagging U.S. economic growth we have now long suffered under Obama, as the economy never has fully recovered from the recession, which is now years overdue based on the American historical record.

This means that Obamacare can be replaced with reforms that would have major pro-growth effects, spurring the economy to return to the world leading economic growth and prosperity deeply ingrained in America’s heritage. Such reforms are needed as well to prevent Obamacare from deteriorating into single payer, socialized medicine, similar to the VA, regardless of the foolish sentiments favoring precisely that we hear from Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other “Progressives.” That can be done while more assuredly achieving the original supposed goal of Obamacare of health care for all.

Even the Congressional Budget Office, which we too easily forget is a bastion of the Washington establishment, has always foreseen that Obamacare would not achieve anywhere near universal coverage, estimating that 30 million would still be uninsured 10 years after full implementation! For careful, reasoned observers, it is not even clear whether Obamacare so far is reducing rather than increasing the number of uninsured, as millions have already lost their health insurance, with millions more to come once the employer mandate is implemented, especially apart from just expanding Medicaid, which adds even more to unmanageable, long term entitlement costs.

By extending similar reforms to those proposed above for both the VA and Medicaid to the replacement of Obamacare, we can, in fact, assure health care for all, with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, sharply reduced regulatory burdens more broadly, and trillions in reduced federal spending and taxes over the years. John Goodman, President of the National Center for Policy Analysis, has long advocated a universal health insurance tax credit for all, which everyone could use to help purchase the private health insurance of their choice. That would involve broadening out the tax preference currently provided only for employer provided health insurance to everyone. He is now advocating a credit of $2,500 per person per year, which would not completely finance essential health insurance, but provide help and an incentive for it, just like the tax preference for employer provided health insurance does not completely finance, but does provide help and effective incentive for it.

That credit can be used by those on Medicaid to opt out of it for the private health insurance of their choice, including HSAs. Concomitantly, it can be used to opt into Medicaid, assuring coverage for any pre-existing condition is always available. Those with employer provided coverage can still use the credit for alternative private coverage of their choice if they prefer, again including HSAs. This provides working people with a critical check and balance on their employers, assuring access to the health care of their choice, even when their employer plan does not. For any worker who does not use the credit to purchase private coverage, the $2,500 for the year goes to indigent care facilities in the worker’s local area.

Along with Medicaid block grants to the states, which states could use in part to finance uninsurable risk pools for the uninsured, such reforms would feasibly assure health care for everyone. At the same time, these reforms would be more broadly pro-growth. With no employer mandate requiring the purchase of very costly health insurance for every employee, the cost of employment would be substantially reduced, encouraging more jobs, and higher wages. There would be no longer be any incentive to cut working people back to part time hours. Eliminating the costly Obamacare regulatory requirements on insurance, along with the broader availability of cost reducing HSAs, would reduce unnecessary health costs, further boosting the economy with an effective tax cut for everyone. Reducing taxes and federal spending due to Obamacare by trillions over future years would further enhance economic growth and general prosperity for all.  Republicans in Congress are presently drafting such an alternative to Obamacare.

All of this comprehensive health care liberation, from the VA, to Medicaid, to Obamacare, would mean ultimately better health care for all, along with helping to restore economic growth and prosperity, and the American Dream.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Scandal Exhaustion

Somewhat Reasonable - May 27, 2014, 9:25 AM

Listening to President Obama respond on May 21 to the latest scandal regarding something about which he knew and did nothing—the mess at the Veterans Administration—was such a familiar event that I have reached a point of exhaustion trying to keep up with everything that has been so wrong about his six years in office. As he always does, he said was really angry about it.

Writing in the May 20 Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin said, “Forget ideology for a moment. Whether you are liberal or conservative, the Obama presidency’s parade of miscues is jaw-dropping.”

Stacked against the list of Obama scandals and failures, Rubin could only cite the Bush administration’s 2005 handling of Hurricane Katrina, the seventh most intense ever, and, as anyone familiar with that event will tell you, the failure of FEMA’s response was matched by the failures of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. Bush had declared a national emergency two days before it hit the Gulf coast.

Rubin concluded that the Obama administration scandals “reflect the most widespread failure of executive leadership since the Harding administration”, adding “The presidency is an executive job. We hire neophytes at our peril. When there is an atmosphere in which accountability is not stressed you get more scandals and fiascos.”

Obama spent his entire first term blaming all such things on his predecessor, George W. Bush, until it became a joke.

One has to wonder about the effect of the endless succession of scandals and fiascos have had on Americans as individuals and the nation as a whole.

While it is easier to lay all the blame on Obama, the fact is that much of the blame is the result of a federal government that is so big no President could possibly know about the countless programs being undertaken within its departments and agencies, and all the Presidents dating back to Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive initiatives have played a role in growing the government.

It is, however, the President who selects the cabinet members responsible to manage the departments as well as those appointed to manage the various agencies. Kathleen Sebelius, the recently resigned former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for the implementation of Obamacare, comes to mind. She had solicited donations—against the law—from the companies HHS regulates to help her sign up uninsured Americans for Obamacare and signed off on the millions spent on HealthCare.gov and other expenses leading up to its start.

There are lists of the Obama scandals you can Google. One that continues to fester is the attack on September 11, 2012—the anniversary of 9/11—that killed an American ambassador and three security personnel in Benghazi, Libya. It has been and continues to be investigated, mostly because of the lies told by Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of “What difference at this point does it make?” fame. Clinton was asked what she had accomplished in her four years as Secretary and was unable to name anything.

Eric Holder, our Attorney General, continues in office despite having been held in contempt of Congress, professing that he knew nothing about “Fast and Furious”, the earliest scandal involving a gun-running scheme to Mexican drug cartels by the ATF presumably to track them, but they lost track and many were used in crimes including the killing of a Border Patrol agent.

Holder also told Congress that he was not associated with the “potential prosecution” of a journalist even though he had signed the affidavit that named Fox News reporter, James Rosen. as a potential criminal. Holder was also in charge when the Justice Department culled the phone records of Associated Press reporters to find out who they deemed was leaking information.

Keeping track of the solar power and other “renewable” and “Green” energy companies like Solyndra that received millions in grants and then rather swiftly went bankrupt became a fulltime effort and, of course, there was the “stimulus” that wasted billions without generating any “shovel ready jobs” qualifies as a fiasco.

In the midst of the recession that was triggered by the 2008 financial crisis various elements of the Obama administration continued to spend money in ways that suggested their indifference. In 2010 the General Services Administration held a $823,000 training conference in Las Vegas, complete with a clown and mind readers.

An Agriculture Department program to compensate black farmers who allegedly had been discriminated against by the agency turned into a gravy train that delivered several billion dollars to thousands of recipients, some of whom probably had not encountered discrimination.

The Veterans Affairs agency made news when it spent more than $6 million on two conferences in Orlando, Florida, and is back in the news for revelations about alleged falsified records concerning the waiting times veterans faced amidst assertions that many died while waiting for treatment surfaced. This was a problem of which the then-Senator Obama was already aware, but six years into his presidency it still existed despite his early promises to fix it.

Obama has been the biggest of Big Government Presidents since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, and Obamacare put the federal government in control of one sixth of the nation’s economy while putting the government in charge of the care Americans expect to receive. Obamacare will dwarf the problems associated with the Veterans agency.

Meanwhile, we have been living with a President who is so indifferent to working with Congress that he has gained fame for his use of executive orders such as the decision to not deport illegal immigrants. His aides have promised more executive orders.

All this over the course of the last six years has left Americans exhausted by the incompetence and wastefulness of an administration that now presides over the highest national debt in the history of the nation and the first ever downgrade of our credit rating.

It has also left them angry if they were conservatives and disillusioned if they were Obama supporters. The Veterans Administration scandal is likely a tipping point for the independent voters and even for longtime Democrats who will want a change.

It is increasingly likely that the November midterm elections give the Republican Party control over the Senate as well as the House and then to hope that it will begin to rein in the spending and save the nation from a financial collapse that will rival the one in 2008.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

Sorry, Jerry Brown, Global Warming Is Reducing Wildfires

Somewhat Reasonable - May 27, 2014, 9:18 AM

California Gov. Jerry Brown blames global warming and Republicans for recent wildfires in California, but objective scientific data show a decline in wildfires as our planet modestly warms.

2013 was one of the quietest wildfire years in U.S. history, according to objective data from the federal government’s National Interagency Fire Center. The 47,000 wildfires last year may seem like a very large number – and it certainly gives global warming alarmists like Brown plenty of fodder for misleading global warming claims – but the 47,000 wildfires was less than half the average number of wildfires that occurred each year in the 1960s and 1970s. Importantly, the Earth was in a cooling phase during the 1960s and 1970s when so many more wildfires occurred.

The unusually quiet 2013 fire season continued a long-term trend in declining wildfires. From 1962 through 1982, for example, at least 100,000 wildfires occurred in the United States every year. Since 1982, however, not a single year has registered 100,000 wildfires. During the past decade, an average of 73,000 wildfires occurred each year. During the 1970s, by contrast, an average of 155,000 wildfires occurred each year.

The 2014 wildfire season, moreover, has been relatively quiet so far. The total number of wildfires is well below the 1962-2013 average, and is even below the average for the past decade. Even so, the below-average 22,000 wildfires so far this year give global warming alarmists plenty of opportunities to mislead the public about the scientific facts.

The long-term decline in wildfires reflects an ongoing improvement in global soil moisture and an ongoing decline in global drought.

A scientific study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Hydrology reports, “Evidence indicates that summer soil moisture content has increased during the last several decades at almost all sites having long-term records in the Global Soil Moisture Data Bank.”

Similarly, a scientific study in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters reports, “An increasing trend is apparent in both model soil moisture and runoff over much of the U.S. … This wetting trend is consistent with the general increase in precipitation in the latter half of the 20th century. Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century.”

Droughts and wildfires have always occurred and will always occur. While global warming is reducing the frequency of droughts and wildfires, global warming will not completely eradicate droughts and wildfires. They will continue from time to time despite their long-term decline. This allows alarmists and political responsibility-shirkers like Jerry Brown to blame global warming and his political opponents for the relatively few droughts and wildfires that still do occur.

Jerry Brown can invent his own political narrative but he cannot invent his own scientific facts.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core and K-12 Science Education — Could This be a Start to Climate Youth?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 24, 2014, 1:54 PM

POLITICS AND CLIMATE SCIENCE

At a Chicago fundraiser May 29, 2013, President Obama  said “I don’t have much patience for people who deny climate change.”  At his swearing in ceremony May 21, 2013, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared he is “not interested in debating what is not debatable.”  These remarks echo long-standing pleas of climate alarmists the “science is settled” with regards to burning fossil fuels causing catastrophic global warming.

Would these statements come from true scientists interested in pursuing truth about whether carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel is a global threat?  The remarks are very clear about United States government policies with regard to education or research on climate science.  If proposed education materials or research don’t support abandoning fossil fuels, go somewhere else for financial support and airing your views.  Close the door on the way out.

UN REPORTS BIASED

From the preceding remarks it is apparent bias toward accepting as fact carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the driver for climate change the past century.  Support for carbon dioxide threats are a series of 5 Assessment Reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) released since 1990.  To counteract omissions, half-truths, and false statements in these reports, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in 2003.  Since 2009, the NIPCC has released 6 Reports that give authoritative, easily-read information about vast amount of experimental data showing negligible influence of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on climate, benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, financial losses from mitigation, and proper role of adapting to climate change.  The NIPCC is supported by three non-profit organizations—Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute.

COMMON CORE SCIENCE

The science portion of Common Core called “A Framework for K-12 Science Education:  Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas” is written from material provided by The National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  The report is 400 pages and I examined PART II: Dimension 7 dealing with Earth and Space Sciences from pages 169 to 201.  The coverage is cursory due to the shortness of material.  Part ESS3.D:  Global Climate Change covers global warming from pages 196-199.  The coverage mentions computer models are used for predicting future climate and weather conditions for the planet.  The report claimed, “However, it is clear not only that human activities play a major role in climate change but also that impacts of climate change—for example, increased frequency of severe storms due to ocean warming—have begun to influence human activities . The prospect of future impacts of climate change due to further increases in atmospheric carbon is prompting consideration of how to avoid or restrict such increases.”  There is insufficient coverage that computer models fail to replicate what happens in the future when data for comparisons are available.  In my opinion climate models should not be included in K-12 education because our understanding of forces influencing climate is incomplete and model’s failure to be validated.  Material in the book does not make this clear.

Four references are cited at the end of the discussion.  One is the 2009 Report “Climate Literacy:  The Essential Principles of Climate Change” by the United States Global Change Research Project (USGCRP) which contains scary predictions for the future of the world because of global warming.  One example is “C.  The impacts of climate change may affect the security of nations.  Reduced availability of water, food, and land can lead to competition and conflict among humans, potentially resulting in large groups of climate refugees.”  The material says carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is causing global warming which is a highly controversial topic.

No doubt numerous copies of the 2009 USGCRP Report will be sent to schools as reference material showing fossil fuel use should be abandoned in order to save the planet.  This report, and other U. S. government printed reports, provides numerous reference materials to indoctrinate students to accept catastrophic climate change is occurring unless fossil fuel use is abandoned.  This all confirms political bias on climate change shown by remarks of President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz.

The 32 pages of a 400-page report convinced me global warming science should not be used in education of students at the K-12 level.  More material of this nature could be in the NAS Report.  This is sufficient reason to abandon the science education portion of Common Core.

The official website for the PUBLIC BROADCAST SERVICE provides discussions of the following features of Common Core:  (1) Climate Literacy:  The Essential Principles of Climate Science, (2) National Science Education Standards,  (3) A Framework for K-12 Science Education, and (4) Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Properties.  The threat of catastrophic global warming due to carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is again emphasized in areas outside the science portion of Common Core.

More climate science education material is provided by the NAS, in conjunction with The Royal Society, with the February 27 release of Climate Change:  Evidence and Causes.  This booklet is highly criticized for inaccuracies and ethical lapses in a paper by James Rust “U.S. National Academy of Sciences: Doubling Down on Climate Alarmism (and taking science down a notch with it)”.

On April 15, NAS released an interactive version of Climate Change:  Evidence and Causes booklet with the following announcement:  “Attention teachers, NGOs, and other organizations with public interfaces. The National Academies has developed a new sharable, interactive version of “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes”, the booklet produced jointly with The Royal Society that was released in February 2014. Users can click on any one of the 20 questions in the document and jump to related information throughout the document. The interactive is embeddable on third party sites. Explore the interactive and find the embed code here.”

More reasons to assume NAS plans to be a major source of information for the science portion of Common Core.

On May 6, 2014, USGCRP issued its third National Climate Assessment that predicted a scary future for the United States broken down into regions.  No attention is given to history showing no increases in hurricanes, tornados, ocean level rise, wild fires, droughts, floods, etc. over the past century when atmospheric carbon dioxide increases were not taking place.  This report most likely will be additional reference material for Common Core.

 

UNITED KINGDOM AND AUSTRALIA EXPERIENCES

The United Kingdom’s Global Warming Policy Foundation issued a report“ Climate Control—Brainwashing In Schools “.  Statements in the Report’s Executive Summary are as follows:  “We find instances of eco-activism being given a free rein within schools and at the events schools encourage their pupils to attend.  In every case of concern, the slant is on scares, on raising fears, followed by the promotion of detailed guidance on how pupils should live, as well as on what they should think. In some instances, we find encouragement to create ‘little political activists’ in schools by creating a burden of responsibility for action on their part to ‘save the planet’, not least by putting pressure on their parents.…  Surveys show that many children are upset and frightened by what they are told is happening to the climate.”

In the main body of the report is the statement, “The chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri has suggested that a focus on children is the top priority for bringing about societal change, and that by ‘sensitizing’ children to climate change, it will be possible to them to ‘shame adults into taking the right steps’”.

An April 12, article in The Telegraph by Christopher Booker “No A-level for ‘climate change denier” criticizes climate science education in the United Kingdom being illegal because it makes a mockery of the 1996 Education Act that requires students be taught in a balanced way that allows them to form their own views on evidence.  Mr. Booker wrote, “So relentless is this brainwashing that it percolates throughout the curriculum, so that even exam papers in French, English or religious studies can ask students to explain why the world is dangerously warming up, or why we must build more wind turbines.”

Australia has a similar problem of climate science corrupting education in a paper titled “Schools places of indoctrination rather than learning”.  The report cited, “The current Australian Curriculum is full of references to “sustainability”, which is a concept without any intelligible meaning in most of the contexts in which it is used, apart from in the very short-term.”

PROPAGANDA AND EDUCATION FOR YOUTH

Another approach to outcomes of teaching climate science to young people is reported by Robert Bradley Jr. in his paper “Adults Reject Climate Catastrophe, Alarmists Bring In the Children (thoughts on Hansen’s latest)”.  Mr. Bradley protested the rhetoric of climate alarmist’s labeling those who disagree with carbon-dioxide-caused global warming as “deniers” implying they are in league with those who are “Holocaust deniers”.  The Holocaust is a tragedy occurring during the reign of terror from Hitler’s National Socialism.

After a meeting with children at a Plant-for-the-Planet meeting in Seattle, Dr. James Hansen wrote “Children and Adults on Climate Policy: Evidence that They ‘Get It’”.  The children wanted to put a “price on carbon pollution”, “pledge no new carbon pollution”, and “plant trees”.   Naturally Plant-for-the-Plant was founded in Munich, Germany.

Other exploitations of children are done by organizations like Our Children’s Trust and Kids vs. Global Warming that claim action is needed to force abandoning use of fossil fuels to save the future for children.  A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently denied oral arguments from these groups suit under the Public Trust Doctrine.

National Socialism used the Hitler Youth from 1922 to 1945 to train young men to be obedient to their goals, enforce their rulings, and provide fanatical defense of the Fatherland.  This use of propaganda and brainwashing to enlist support of the young is analogous to attempts to enlist young people in promoting climate change due to fossil fuel use is a threat to society.

A link between National Socialism and Conservation movements is reported by German historian Frank Uekoetter’s The Green and the Brown:  a History of Conservatism in Nazi Germany published by Cambridge Press in 2006.  A detailed review of this book is written by William Walter Kay.  The conservation movement started in Germany in the late nineteenth century and found easy mixing with National Socialism with conservationists having memberships in their local groups and the National Socialist Party.  Millions of trees were planted in the name of Adolf Hitler.

It is easy for teachers to be caught up in promoting teachings of the catastrophic climate change movement because of “warm feelings” from working to save the planet.  Over-zealous teachers, perhaps in concert with environmental groups, may wish to develop slogans, songs, T-shirts, and even arm bands for students to use to help spread the gospel of human-caused global warming.   An example of a song can be changes to the song “Tomorrow Belongs To Mefrom the 1972 musical Cabaret.  Who can resist the words, “But somewhere a glory awaits unseen.  Tomorrow belongs to me.”

Potentials for mischief to the country over teachings of perverted science are enormous.

Thus playing tit-for-tat, Mr. Bradley suggests we could label brainwashed youth from Common Core and other programs “Climate Youth”.  In fairness to Mr. Bradley, he correctly states this name-calling and comparisons with National Socialism should cease immediately.

DROP COMMON CORE SCIENCE

Even greater dangers from science portions of Common Core are teaching people to accept the political use of science and not follow fundamental principles of scientific inquiry–propose a theory about the behavior of Nature and continually test that theory by experiment.  Never accept propositions of “science is settled”.  Additional problems are painting the planet’s future in a dismal fashion with reduced living standards and poverty for many parts of the planet.  This may lead to psychological damage to students.

The United States has vast fossil fuel energy resources; an inventive, resourceful population; and one million square miles of farm land with the best farmers on the planet.  With correct policies exploiting our superior assets, the future of the United States is bright and the nation can be of great assistance leading the rest of the planet to an enhanced life.

Our science programs should stimulate students to be adept in analysis and have an inquiring mind.  Never be exposed to ideas of “the science is settled”.  It is my opinion the science portion of Common Core is dangerous for the country.  Damage from its implementation for a few decades could harm the country for many years.

The entire Common Core program provides opportunities to instill propaganda in our young people ages 5 to 18.  Common Core should be discarded from an intellectual point of view.  The program also provides opportunity for unbelievable amounts of “crony capitalism”.   States most likely will have increased financial burdens due to greater expenses from testing, which is another strong reason for Common Core’s rejection.

James H. Rust is a retired professor of nuclear engineering and a policy adviser for The Heartland Institute

Categories: On the Blog

The Tea Party’s Coming Rorschach Moment

Somewhat Reasonable - May 23, 2014, 9:41 PM

Best Rorschach line in Watchmen. And it’s not close.

With his renomination this week, prepare for a slew of “how Mitch McConnell crushed the Tea Party” pieces over the next few days. Here’s a good one from Peter Hamby. But the story reads less like a crushing than a co-opting: not just in tropes like coming out on stage brandishing a musket, but in McConnell’s hires, issue framing, and language.

McConnell won by carefully eliminating the ability of a Rand Paul-backed opponent within his state. For all the talk about Tea Party prowess in primaries, they really have not beaten many incumbents – and the combined power of incumbency and the Washington money machine can only be beaten by a really excellent candidate or a well-run grassroots campaign.

Over the past five years, the Tea Party’s agenda and efforts have been subsumed into the larger Republican mantras in a number of ways. Their movement is now effectively one more chunk of the Republican base – and just as different candidates appeal to different factions (social conservatives, defense hawks, small business), the Tea Party’s priorities are heeded or ignored to different degrees. McConnell’s approach has been to sound the gong on all sorts of Tea Party issues this election season, and this has been the approach adopted by several others as well – Thom Tillis was full-throated on the Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, Jack Kingston and David Perdue did their best to depict themselves as having an affinity to the more palatable aspects of the Tea Party agenda, and Monica Wehby made Obamacare issue number one for her campaign.

To a certain extent, McConnell, Eric Cantor, and other establishment figures are conceding a key premise of the Tea Party’s complaint: that the Republican status quo is unacceptable, that it’s damaged in a fundamental way, and needs a serious overhaul in order to win. The Tea Party wants that overhaul to look a certain way, and the establishment and the party’s corporate backers want it to look a certain way; but the majority of both factions seem to be arriving at the conclusion that in 2016, it won’t just amount to getting the band back together for the typical three-legged stool candidate. It’ll have to be someone who alters the Republican agenda in one direction or another, or takes pieces from each side and cobbles them together in an appeal which cuts across traditional lines.

John Hart, communications director for Tom Coburn, notes this accurately:

[T]he transformation of McConnell’s campaign from 2008 to 2014 shows the overwhelming persuasive and redemptive power of the Tea Party. In 2008, the Senate minority leader ran a series of ads touting his success at bringing home the bacon. In 2014, his campaign had lost that aroma. McConnell himself helped end earmarks in 2010 and recently said no to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s call to restore the disgraced practice. McConnell’s evolving message shows how the real Tea Party can co-opt and win over the GOP establishment when it sticks to its principles.

In fact, thanks to the Tea Party, the old-style “bring home the bacon” campaigns have largely been wiped off the electoral map. Even Democrats have joined the Tea Party’s anti-pork campaign. Mark Udall, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren have all vocally opposed earmarks, a rare challenge to Reid’s rigid party discipline. The Tea Party’s influence, of course, extends well beyond earmarks. In race after race, candidates are embracing its message of less government, less spending, less regulation and more freedom, particularly on Obamacare.

The problem, of course, is that if you win, this campaign season lip service has ramifications for the policy agenda you actually put forward. If a McConnell-led Senate majority makes battling Obamacare about insurance bailouts, it’s different than if they make it about repealing the medical device tax. The simple truth is that the establishment and the Tea Party need each other to win, just like McConnell needed Rand and Rand’s people to avoid a serious challenge.

There’s risk for the establishment in this, of course. Republicans who espouse a populist conservative agenda to get a job and then implement a K Street agenda will have to deal with the political fallout of a Rorschach moment. The view is that they’ve corralled the Tea Party, domesticated it without giving it a real seat at the table. But I still think they misunderstand who’s locked in with whom.

Follow Ben on Twitter. Subscribe to his daily newsletter, The Transom.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Editor: I can’t let this post pass without a clip of that line by Rorschach from the movie “Watchmen,” which Ben linked to above:

 

Categories: On the Blog

Joe Bast vs. Oxfam on CNBC

Somewhat Reasonable - May 23, 2014, 3:14 PM

In a discussion that took place on CNBC on Wednesday, President of Oxfam America Raymond Offenheiser and the President of the Heartland Institute Joe Bast squared off regarding a new Oxfam study. The study suggests that large food producing companies like Kellogg’s, Pepsico and Nestle create a large amount of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

Offenheiser, citing the study, challenged these companies to “fully disclose the carbon emissions in their agricultural supply chains.” He said that these companies have an enormous responsibility to take action.

Bast responded by saying that the study has an “overreliance on the IPCC” findings. He went on to say that the debate on global warming is not over and the evidence is not as clear as some suggest. Bast said that it “hurts the profitability of a company to do unnecessary reductions in its carbon dioxide emissions.”

Categories: On the Blog

The Coming Nine Months: Mud in the Eye of the So-Called ‘Permanent’ Drought?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 23, 2014, 9:00 AM

My last couple of posts have dealt with major weather/climate stories I think are lurking. The worry about the upcoming hurricane season is something I will have every year for the East Coast until we reverse the pattern we were in during the 1950s. I think we have another five to seven years, and I am very surprised it has not been worse. But it takes just one 1954 or a ‘54-’55 back-to-back season to get that score close fairly quickly.

I am on this “kick” to expose before the fact some of the nonsense being spewed and accepted by what I see as an increasingly desperate AGW crowd. It’s now or never for them, though to their credit, they have the political will backing their interests in the form of the EPA that could care less about the fact the department’s lines of evidence have nothing to do with reality.

My one month electricity bill in January was higher than the total of the seven months ending in November. And it’s going to get worse, as I discussed here.

There were places in the Northeast this past winter that were within a few days of running out of fuel for electricity. At the very least though, I give the president credit for keeping his word on what he was going to do. I believed him then when he said, “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket,” and I certainly believe him now. Here’s the video, so you can see I am not putting words in his mouth.

I was taught to respect the president, whether I agree with him or not, so his own words are what I judge him on in this matter, along with the results I see. He is keeping his word with the policies enacted, which are not nearly as draconian as some of his backers want. They are attacking him for not being even more aggressive. Believe me, if you saw some of the things I see, you would actually discover that, as bad as it’s getting, it could be – and will be – a lot worse compared to what is being advocated by his supporters. Do you realize North Korea is being lauded as a champion in the fight against “climate change”? Look at this headline out of the Guardian: “North Korea: an unlikely champion in the fight against climate change.”

Ever seen a picture of North Korea at night?

The driving force behind all this – the facts on what was said about the actual climate and what is happening – is what I am taking apart piece by piece. Consider Arctic ice. We showed how the ice cap may be run a positive anomaly this summer. The modeling is actually getting stronger in its forecast! The summer melt season has been the object of the so-called “Arctic Death Spiral,” and while one summer does not indicate it’s over, it means the cycles in the Atlantic are the cause for the increase and retreat. This is the first cold year in the north Atlantic since the AMO went into its warm phase. When it flips to cold for good, it’s over for that hysteria. But no one on their side will bring this up – that is, the direct cause and effect! It’s certainly not CO2.

Wildfires are below normal again this year. You wouldn’t know it given the hysteria. The wildfires chart shows no recent increase, and in fact the opposite!

Tornado activity is not at a record low like last year, but it’s still less than 25% of normal. AGAIN.

And now comes the latest: mud in the eye of those trying to say the U.S. is in some permanent Dust Bowl again.

First of all, major U.S. dry periods are a product of a cooling tropical Pacific. In the decades such as the 1950s through the 1970s, when the tropical Pacific is cooler overall, the U.S. is drier than normal in much of the nation. It is exactly opposite in the years the Pacific warms, which by the way correlates nicely to an increase in global temperatures until the atmosphere adjusts to the warming tropical ocean and temperatures level off. But the idea that global warming causes drought here in the U.S. is opposite of the facts! It’s when the Pacific starts to cool and global temperatures start to drop that we see it dry out. The chart below shows it all.

When the tropical Pacific is predominately cold as it was in the 1950s-1970s, as shown by the multivariate ENSO index, the U.S. is very dry during the growing seasons.

When warm, like it was between 1981-2005, it’s wet.

You can see more blue starting to show up again as of late, and the drying is starting anew – but so is the drop in the global temperature! So it’s not global warming causing the reaction that leads to the drying over the U.S., but the lessening of available moisture because the source region for so much U.S. moisture – the tropical Pacific – is cooling. The temperature chart for the last 10 years shows the slow, jagged cooling that has begun, after the adjustment to the warming that occurred when the Pacific went into the warm cycle in 1978.

You cannot draw it up better than this; it’s clear as to what is going on. What happened before, naturally, is happening again, as is to be expected given the cyclical nature of climate due to the design of the planet.

One can see clearly the reaction to the warming Pacific, the adaptation (leveling off of temperatures) and then the slow decrease starting as the tropical Pacific turns cooler overall. This is from the website http://woodfortrees.org/plot/.

I inserted the correlating periods.

The first period is the global warming that occurred in reaction to the Pacific flipping from its cold cycle to warmer. The second is the adaptation period and the third is the slow downfall we see close up in the graphic before.

As far as this permanent drought, here’s something funny. Thanks to the hard work of scientists (I am not anti-science, I am pro-fact), the results of their research is producing hardier plants. Look at corn yields.

One notices though, in the MEI chart above, that during the cold cycles, there are warm spikes, and these are the short lived El Ninos that develop in the overall colder periods. We think there is one on the way. There is a lot of talk about the so-called Super Nino coming, but we do not find the physical drivers present for that. Quite the contrary: The coming El Nino looks similar to 2002 and 2009, and that means that the winter is likely to be cold and stormy, and we are already warning our clients about that. However, the rain issue is huge. Weatherbell.com believes that the dust bowl will get mud in its eye the next nine months as much of the drought stricken plains from the Texas panhandle to Nebraska gets above normal rainfall June-March. We believe another great growing season is on the way for the nation’s breadbasket, and I believe we will get some relief for California in the fall and winter! Additionally, we are seeing the modeling getting wetter and wetter. Models are tools, and we set our forecast up and then see what modeling agrees with us to fine tune it. But I like the idea the modeling is seeing, which is what we have been seeing!

June/July/August precipitation.

September/October/November.

November/December/January.

Some may wonder, why do I agree with the models now, when so many times I am pointing out they are wrong? Because I believe they are right now, since this is what my partner Dr. Joe D’Aleo and I have been thinking is going to happen based on our research. Therefore, if the models come to us (most of them are) it is a good extra opinion that is backing us up. Models are tools for the answer, and when they can be used, you use them!

I think because overall we will go back to the colder signal next year, this is a one year event. But the fact is, it will show that it’s nature in control and we are forecasting it beforehand! The climate model sees it too. I might add that in the the middle of the 1950s, the drought across the U.S. was worse overall according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index.

It is true California is worse this year. The patterns are similar, but not exactly the same. However, no one in their right mind can say increased CO2 is the cause of more rain in one place and less in the other. Such events are products of natural variations in what is a similar cycle.

By the way, you can see a lot of rain being forecasted in California in the maps above,, which will give them a break. But again, this is not over yet; as you saw, this is a multi-decade event that was well forecasted by a lot of us, though no one would listen 10 years ago. I coined the phrase “time of climatic hardship” and was on the O’Reilly Factor with it around 2008 because of what we saw coming with the overall cycle, the similarity to the 50s drought and the worry about hurricanes which, so far, have not been as bad as I feared. Then again, five of the eight majors storms that ran the East Coast between ’54-’60 occurred in just two years, so we are not out of that woods by any means.

Now here is something interesting. In 1972, Albert Hammond observed how dry it is in southern California and the occasional major rains that occur, and made a hit record out of it with these lyrics:

Seems it never rains in Southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours, man, it pours

It was actually one of my favorite songs my junior year in high school. Perhaps Governor Brown, who is really ramping up the global warming talk in spite of some questionable policies that are cutting irrigation to protect a Smelt, listened to different music. Wasn’t the Jefferson Airplane big around that time? (Ha ha. Even they sang, “When the truth is found… to be lies…”)

When you have rock and roll artists observing nature, then you know it’s something obvious.

But here is the problem. We have many more people living in these areas and, unfortunately, this gullible population is ripe to be exploited by those with an agenda not based on facts. It’s easy to refute them; you are seeing me do it in the time it takes to write this. Every time something comes up, it takes me only the time to go to the maps I know from the past to counter it. It’s all there. So as I’ve previously opined, it’s the climate agenda (rather global warming – they said it, they own it), not the climate, that is the biggest threat to our freedoms. Then again, I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

As in so many things in life, we reap what we sow, and if you wish to simply follow along without verifying, you will go where you will no longer be able to decide for yourself. I never ask anyone to believe me. Go look for yourself … while you still can.

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Slow, Sure Death of “Climate Change” Lies

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2014, 2:20 PM

Even though President Obama continues to lie about “climate change” and employs the many elements of the federal government to repeat those lies, this huge hoax is dying.

Obama is on record saying that climate change “once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present” and is “affecting Americans right now.” Climate change as studied by climatologists is measured in terms of centuries whereas the weather is what is happening today. It has been happening before and since the rise of civilization. Obama’s claim that “climate-related changes are outside of recent experience” and “have become more frequent and/or intense” is a lie from start to finish.

The White House recently released its latest “National Climate Assessment.” It is 841 pages of outlandish claims that reflect the lies generated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When you consider that the federal government spends an estimated $2.6 billion annually in grants for climate research, about the only beneficiaries are those “scientists” employed to further the hoax.

The UN’s IPCC was created in 1983 and has issued a series of reports whose sole intention has been to frighten people around the world with claims of global warming that are scientifically baseless.

The Heartland Institute, a non-profit market-based think tank, responded by creating the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and by sponsoring a series of international conferences. The 9th conference will be July 7-9 in Las Vegas. That effort began in 2003 in cooperation with the Science & Environmental Project led by Dr. S. Fred Singer and was joined by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

I am an advisor to the Institute, having written about environmental and energy issues for several decades at this point.

Calling on thousands of scientists around the world, in 2013 the NIPCC published the first of a three-volume response to the IPCC’s fifth assessment. This year, it has published a volume of Climate Change Reconsidered devoted to biological impacts, a 1,062 page opus. The NIPCC is an international panel of scientists and scholars with no government affiliation or sponsorship, and it receives no corporate funding.

Writing in the Financial Post in October 2013, Lawrence Solomon, the executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group, noted that “solar activity is now falling more rapidly than at any time in the last 10,000 years.” The Earth’s climate is primarily a reflection of solar radiation or the lack of it. From 1300 to 1850, the Earth was subject to a mini-ice age. While the global warming hoax began in the late 1980s, Solomon noted that, in the 1960s and 1970s, the scientific consensus was that the Earth “was entering a period of global cooling. The media in those years was filled with stories about a pending new ice age.

It was only the intervention of the UN’s IPCC that changed the “consensus” to one of global warming. A cooling cycle that began around fourteen years ago could lead to another mini-ice age or the planet could be on the cusp of a full-fledged one. On average, the interglacial periods of the Earth have lasted about 11,500 years and we are at the end of such a period.

Climate Change Reconsidered II devoted to biological impact features scientific studies that conclude:

# “Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant.” Considering that all vegetation on Earth depends on it, it is not surprising that another conclusion was that the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content is causing a great greening of the Earth.

# As a result, “there is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels and that terrestrial ecosystems have thrived throughout the world as a result of warming temperatures and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. Multiple lines of evidence indicate animal species are adapting, and in some cases, evolving, to cope with climate change of the modern era.”

# In addition, “rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels to no pose a significant threat to aquatic life and that a modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperate-related events.”

The irony of the latest NIPCC report, of course, is that it responds to the claims of global warming and carbon dioxide’s role at a time when the Earth is cooling. It makes one wish that all the talk about “greenhouse gases” is true enough to help us escape from the present cooling.

One thing we do know for sure is that the Greens talk of climate change has lost its grip on the public imagination and attention. As the cooling cycle continues, people around the world will be far more focused on increased evidence of massive ice sheets at both poles, on frozen lakes and rivers, on shortened growing seasons, and on the desperate need for more fossil fuels to warm our homes and workplaces.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner: Shocking Far Reaching Tentacles of the Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2014, 1:00 PM

For most individuals, what is next revealed will be the most shocking aspect of Dr. Duke Peta’s revelations during his presentation titled, “Common Core: Dangers and Threats, as the featured speaker at a Northern Illinois Patriot’s meeting on Tuesday, May 13: “The National Sexuality Education Standards – Core Contents and Skills, K-12″, published January, 2012. These standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. As with the Math and Language Arts, the idea is to create a universal standard.

Does the federal government have any business teaching sex? Five and six year old students must be able to define different kinds of family structure. By seven, students must be able to define how boys and girls are supposed to act. Might this infer that a boy is a boy or a girl a girl simply because culture made them that way? The National Sexuality Education Standards won’t be introduced as a separate curriculum, but will be woven into the teaching of other Common Core subjects.
On page 12 of The National Sexuality Education Standards: By the end of 2nd grade, students should be able to: Use proper names for body parts, including male and female anatomy.

On page 14:  By the end of 5th grade, students should be able to: Describe male and female reproductive systems including body parts and their functions. Identify medically-accurate information about female and reproductive anatomy. Define sexual orientation as the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender.

On page 9 under “Guiding Values and Principles”: Students need opportunities to engage in cooperative and active learning strategies, and sufficient time must be allocated for students to practice skills relating to sexuality education.

A father was rightly upset with this sexual education poster hanging in the classroom of his 13-year old middle school student with this title: “How do people express their sexual feelings?”

Then there is the privacy invasion of Data Mining which was created as part of the nationalized Common Core standards scheme, funded with Obama stimulus money, with grants also coming from the liberal Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The feds want to use schools to catalog “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability,” all under the guise of education. Per agreement, every state signing on to receive 2009 stimulus funds were mandated to share student information with the federal government. Personally identifiable information will be extracted from each student, including parents’ names, address, Social Security Number, date of birth, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.

Under “Guidance for Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS),” a detailed plan for “data stewardship” in education, sensitive information will likewise be gathered which delves into the intimate details of students’ lives, such as 1) Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or parent, 2) Mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family, 3) Sex behavior or attitudes, and 4) Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent.

It gets creepier yet!  There have been reports of the use of student-monitoring techniques such as “functional magnetic resonance imaging” and “using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse, and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.”  These devices are not yet in use here in Illinois, but they are being employed in states where Common Core standards have been around for several years.

Many states are experiencing sticker shock at the cost of implementing Common Core. It is estimated that states will spend up to an estimated $10 billion up front, then as much as $800 million per year for the first seven years that Common Core is up and running. Much of the additional cost is for Common Core-aligned textbooks and curriculum, as well as teacher training, technology upgrades (computers are needed), testing and assessment. This additional expense comes at a time when many states and school districts are struggling to stay afloat. These massive, unfunded mandates will undoubtedly fall on the backs of taxpayers.

According to child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick, Common Core standards are developmentally and age inappropriate. You can watch the video here of Dr. Koschnick’s full presentation given at a conference held at the University of Notre Dame on September 9 by the American Principles Project (APP), in conjunction with thePioneer Institute and the Heartland Institute.

As related by Dr. Megan Koschnick during her presentation;

Instead of thinking about what’s developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners, they are thinking [college] is where we want this kindergartener to end up, so let’s back track down to kindergarten and have kindergarteners work on these skills from an early age. This can cause major stress for the child because they are not prepared for this level of education.

Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman had this to say:

Dr. Koschnick’s analysis makes it clear what other early childhood professionals have said: Common Core asks small children to behave like little adults, and they are not little adults. Anyone who cares for a small child could tell you this. This is a further consequence of the Common Core lead writers’ lack of experience and professional reputation, and of its committees excluding experts in early childhood.

Educators are under so much pressure to prepare students for the upcoming Common Core-aligned standardized tests – the PARCC exam to debut in 2015 – they are ramping up math and reading instruction and eliminating a number of other activities from the school day.  The result: Students in the early grades are feeling so “bogged down” that “during the last hour of the day, they’re unteachable.”

As to the stress students are experiencing, young elementary students are hiding out in school bathrooms as a way of coping with stress when faced with confusing math problems and other new learning approaches required by Common Core.  Chicago-area parents and a veteran educator aren’t surprised by the recent revelation that one of the city’s pre-K-8 schools is cracking down on kids’ bathroom breaks in order to “maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time.”  Students are also complaining of having headaches or stomach aches.

There are states who are now rethinking the Common Core State Standards they signed up for back in 2010.  But not so fast!  It will not be easy to opt out of Common Core.  As with Obamacare and the push for manmade Global Warming, the Left, and some on the Right, are not going to allow their long-held dreams to be terminated without fighting tooth and nail to keep the programs in place.  Too much time, effort and money has been invested to bring the programs to fruition.  The controversial programs also align with U.N. Agenda 21, which grew out of the Rio Conference of 1992.  G. H. Bush represented the U.S.A at the Conference.

With Common Core, the Gates Foundation has spent more than $170 million to develop and promote the Common Core Standards.   As its biggest nongovernmental backer, Bill Gates is worried about the “bumpy” implementation in some states and some of the political attacks that have been lobbed at the Common Core.  In an attempt to beat back “false claims” lobbed by critics, Bill Gates told several thousand educators gathered for the inaugural conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards — a nonprofit organization that runs a voluntary system to certify teachers — to help parents understand the new Common Core academic standards.  Gates suggested that critics were uninformed.

“We the People” still have a voice.  We cannot allow our children to become puppets of a socialist Leftist agenda without putting up a fight.  Our nation’s survival as a free and liberty-loving country depends on what we do today.  Talk with your neighbors and friends, especially those with children in public schools; speak out at school board meetings against Common Core; express your concerns to legislators, state and federal; and write Letters to the Editor to local newspapers about the chilling truth behind Common Core State Standards.
Article 1:  Thorner: Chilling Truth Behind Common Core State Standards, May 20, 2014

http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/05/ready-thorner-chilling-truth-behind-common-core-state-standards.html#more

Categories: On the Blog

China’s Ascent in World Transport

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2014, 9:00 AM

After years of closing the gap with the United States, China built enough freeways in 2013 to amass the greatest length of freeways in the world. Between 2003 and 2013, China expanded its national expressway system, with interstate (motorway in Europe) standard roadways from 30,000 to 105,000 kilometers (18,000 to 65,000 miles). This compares to the 101,000 kilometers (63,000 miles) in the United States in 2012. China’s freeway system is also longer than that of the European Union, which was 70,000 kilometers in 2010 (43,000 miles) and Japan (8,000 kilometers or 5,000 miles) as is indicated in Figure 1 (Note 1). The ascent of China is evident across the spectrum of transport data, both passenger and freight.

A review of transport statistics in the four largest world economies (nominal gross domestic product) shows considerable variation in both passenger and freight flows. It also reflects the rapid growth of China. Generally comparable and complete data is available for the European Union, the United States, China and Japan.

Passenger Travel

All four of the world’s largest economies rely principally on roads for their passenger transport. The United States continues to lead in road volume (in passenger kilometers, see Note 2) by a substantial margin, followed by the European Union. In the United States, automobiles account for 83 percent of domestic passenger travel, which compares to 76 percent in the European Union and 58 percent in Japan. China’s combines automobile and bus data, which makes it impossible to obtain automobile comparisons with the other three economies.

Road travel increased more than 150 percent between 2003 and 2013 in China. Yet roads have barely held their market share as China has built new world-class airports, such as Capital City in Beijing, Baiyun in Guangzhou and many others. Over the same 10 years air travel has increased 350 percent. Meanwhile, China has built the world’s most extensive high-speed rail system and has experienced healthy rail travel growth. Yet, despite this, passenger rail’s market share has dropped from 35 percent to 29 percent over the period (Figure 2).

 China is dominant among the four economies in passenger rail volumes, with its 1.05 trillion annual passenger kilometers (0.65 trillion passenger miles) accounting for more than 2.5 times the rail travel in both the European Union and Japan. US rail travel is no more than 1/20th that of China (equal to the road travel volume in the state of Arkansas).

The United States continues to lead in a domestic airline travel, with a volume approximately 60 percent greater than those of the European Union and China. China trails the European Union by only two percent and with its growth rate seems likely to assume the second position before long (Figure 3).

Passenger travel market shares are indicated in Figure 4.

Freight Transport

After having led the world in rail freight volumes in recent decades, the United States has recently yielded the title to China. In 2013, China moved nearly 3 trillion tonne kilometers (Note 3) of freight by rail, compared to the US total of 2.5 trillion (2012). It may be surprising to find out that Europe, with its extensive passenger train system moves so little of its freight by rail. However, the European Union moved approximately 60 percent less of its freight by rail. However, much of the capacity of the EU’s rail system is consumed by passenger trains, leaving little for freight.  This is despite a policy commitment in the EU to substantially increase the rail freight market share relative to trucks. As a result, in Europe, the freight trains are “on the highway” (see Photo below). China has been uniquely successful among the world’s economies in developing both a world class freight rail system and a world class passenger rail system. One of China’s early objectives in developing its high speed rail program was to free space for its large freight train volumes.

Caption: Trucks on the A7, north of Barcelona (by author)

Among other nations, only Russia can compete with China and the United States in rail freight, having moved approximately 2.2 trillion tonne kilometers in 2012.

Rail freight remains by far the most important in the United States compared to the other three largest economies. Rail freight continues to carry more tonne kilometers in the United States than trucks. The situation is much different in Europe, where trucks carried four times the volume of freight rail. Rail freight is even less significant in Japan, where trucks carry more than 15 times the volume of rail freight.

One possibly surprising fact lies with the substantial increase in China’s
truck volumes over the last decade. China now has a volume of truck traffic
that is four times that of trucks in either the European Union or the United States.

In 2003, trucks carried 60 percent less of the nation’s metric tonne mileage than freight rail. By 2013, that had been reversed with tracks carrying 130 percent more volume than freight rail.

However China’s dominance is even greater in water borne freight, at nearly 6 times the European Union
volume and more than 10 times the volume of the United States (Figure 5). Even so, China’s largest freight volumes are carried on waterways, such as the Yangtze River. Over the past 10 years waterway volumes tripled. It is even expected that there will be a significant increase in shipping on the ancient Grand Canal (Figure 6).

Freight market shares among the major modes are shown in Figure 7.

India

Another of the world’s largest economies, India, also relies heavily on roads. According to the World Bank 65 percent of the freight and nearly 90 percent of passengers are carried by roads in India, though late detailed data is not available. Yet India also has the largest passenger rail usage in the world. Only China is close, and the two nations have been near equal, at least over the last decade. In 2003, China trailed India by seven percent in passenger kilometers by train. Complete Indian Railway data for 2013 is not yet available. However, if the average trip length in 2013 was the same as in 2012, China will have moved to within two percent of India’s passenger rail volume. Both nations are far above Japan and the European Union, ranked third and fourth, and almost 90 percent above Russia, which has a reputation for high passenger rail volumes.

The Future

With economic growth in China slowing (though still at rates that would satisfy virtually any other nation) its transport growth of the past decade seems likely to moderate. On the other hand, the other large emerging economy, India, which has substantially trailed China, could assume a Chinese trajectory. The newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is committed to economic advance and infrastructure development. Market facilitating policies like those that have propelled China (see the late Noble Laureate Ronald Coase and Ning Wang, How China Became Capitalist), could lead to a similar story about India in a decade or two.

——

Note 1: The latest data on international transport varies by year, even within nations (such as the United States). This analysis compares the latest data, which is 2012 (Europe and Japan), 2013 (China) and the United States (2011, with some 2009). This latest years available permit comparing the general scale of differences and, particularly in the United States, changes from the earlier data are likely to have been modest, as a result of the Great Financial Crisis and the great economic malaise that has followed. The principal data sources are the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in the United States, the National Bureau of Statistics in China and Eurostat for the European Union and Japan.

Note 2: A passenger kilometer (or passenger mile) is the distance traveled times the number of passengers. Thus, a car going 5 kilometers with one passenger produces 5 passenger kilometers. With two passengers, there are 10 passenger kilometers.

Note 3: A tonne kilometer is a metric tonne (2.204 pounds or 1,000 kilograms) of freight times the number of kilometers traveled. The US ton (short ton) has 2,000 pounds or 907 kilograms.

—-

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.

Photograph: Grand Canal in Suzhou (by author)

Categories: On the Blog

Healthcare Fixed, on to Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2014, 11:56 AM

Now that 8 million or more have signed up on health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the President is deploying his phone and his pen to solve another urgent problem: climate change. This will require another transformational change that no previous President has been able to bring about, as they were unable to get around a recalcitrant Congress.

This problem is related to our health also. As some public health authorities have declared, global warming (now called “climate change”) will bring dengue fever, malaria, and other mosquito and tick-borne diseases across our borders.

We do of course already have mosquitoes here. In Tucson, we also have lots of kissing bugs and packrats, the intermediate host for Chagas disease. We are not yet reporting transmission of Chagas within the U.S., though we are screening blood donors. And bedbugs and head lice, once uncommon, are becoming rampant everywhere.

We are no longer screening most entrants to the U.S., like we once did at Ellis Island, to keep human carriers of infectious diseases out.

We used to have malaria in Alaska and Siberia, but it was mostly eradicated in the U.S. and Europe by mosquito control. That is, by DDT. In living memory, trucks used to go down the streets of Houston spraying DDT. And Mexican migrant workers were dusted with DDT when they crossed the Rio Grande. Half a billion human lives were saved by DDT—a remarkably safe compound. J. Gordon Edwards used to eat it by the tablespoon at his lectures.

Fortunately, the malaria problem was mostly solved here before William Ruckelshaus, head of Nixon’s Environmental Protection Agency, took it upon himself to ban DDT in 1974—despite a truckload of scientific evidence refuting Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring alarmism.

That’s where the EPA got its power, which has increased by leaps and bounds.

Malaria kills African babies by the millions, and international authorities work to prevent even indoor household spraying of DDT, far and away the best method we have. While the EPA and international health bureaucrats are mostly white guys, this is not racist or genocidal—unlike use of the “N” word now or in the remote past. It is good for population control, which is a high-priority public health goal, and reduces the potential “carbon footprint.”

Obama will use—is using—the massive power of the EPA to fight climate change. Besides dengue fever, he intends to decrease asthma attacks by reducing pollution and seasonal allergies by preventing higher temperatures (with more plant growth producing more pollen).

Although the predicted global warming has been stalled for about 16 years, and we had an exceptionally harsh winter, the warming (or “change,” which could even include “colding”) is in the “pipeline” (not the Keystone Pipeline). All the government-approved scientists say so, and any who rely on government grants dare not dispute them.

The Great Thermostat has been shown to be carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—specifically those released in human activities such as burning hydrocarbon fuels, as opposed to volcanic eruptions or outgassing from the oceans. Giving the EPA the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” gives it the power to control virtually everything.

Of course we can’t actually “decarbonize” everything because all living things are made out of organic (carbon-based) chemicals. But we can greatly suppress human-caused emissions. The first target is the coal industry. Obama’s promise to kill the coal industry, particularly coal-fired power plants, is one he is on track to keep. Oil and natural gas are next—restrictions on diesel-fueled trucks, stopping the Pipeline, denying drilling permits even in defiance of court orders, trying to kill fracking, and so on.

The actual effect on global temperature would be negligible even if we could shut down the 40 percent of our electrical generating capacity that depends on coal. But it would be a “good start.”

The public has become unenthusiastic, but Obama is cranking up the sales efforts that work so well for Obamacare. Electricity bills may skyrocket, but think of all the jobs we could have by replacing backhoes with shovels.

More exercise, less meat, fewer calories altogether. Yes, the fight against climate change is good for our health.

###

About the author/contributor:

Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has been in solo practice of general internal medicine since 1981 and is a clinical lecturer in medicine at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine. She received her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Arizona, and her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She is the author of Sapira’s Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis; the fourth edition has just been published by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. She also authored YOUR Doctor Is Not In: Healthy Skepticism about National Health Care, published by Crown. She is the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a voice for patients’ and physicians’ independence since 1943. Additional information on health-related issues: http://takebackmedicine.com/  Dr. Orient’s position on Obama’s healthcare reform: “The Obama plan will increase individual health insurance costs, and if the federal government puts price controls on the premiums, the companies will simply have to go out of business. The plan will deliver higher costs, more hassles, fewer choices, less innovation, and less patient care.”

[Originally published at AAPS]

Categories: On the Blog

Lessons from the Great French Inflation

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2014, 11:32 AM

Governments have an insatiable appetite for the wealth of their subjects. When governments find it impossible to continue raising taxes or borrowing funds, they have invariably turned to printing paper money to finance their growing expenditures. The resulting inflations have often undermined the social fabric, ruined the economy, and sometimes brought revolution and tyranny in their wake. The political economy of the French Revolution is a tragic example of this.

Before the revolution of 1789, royal France was a textbook example of mercantilism, the eighteenth century system of government control and planning. Nothing was produced or sold, imported or exported, without government approval and regulation.

Everywhere the Controlling Hand of Government Regulation

How extensive and pervasive were these regulations of economic activity? The famous French social philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, described it in detail in his book, “The French Revolution and the Old Regime” (1856):

“The government had a hand in the management of all the cities in the kingdom, great and small. It was consulted on all subjects, and gave decided opinions on all; it even regulated festivals. It was the government that gave orders for public rejoicing, fireworks, and illuminations . . .

“You have neither Parliament, nor estates, nor governors; nothing but thirty masters of requests [i.e., the heads of the bureaucratic planning agencies in Paris], on whom, so far as the provinces are concerned, welfare, misery, plenty or want entirely depend . . .

“Under the old regime, as in our own day, neither city, nor borough, nor village, nor hamlet, however small, nor hospital, nor church, nor convent, nor college could exercise a free will in its private affairs, or administer its property, as it thought best. Then, as now, the administration was the guardian of the whole French people . . .

“A very extensive machinery was requisite before the government could know everything and manage everything in Paris. The amounts of documents filed were enormous, and the slowness with which public business was transacted was such that I have been unable to discover any case in which a village obtained permission to raise its church steeple or repair its presbytery in less than a year. Generally speaking, two or three years lapsed before such petitions were granted . . .

“Ministers are overloaded with business details. Everything is done by them or through them, and if their information be not coextensive with their power, they are forced to let their clerks act as they please, and become the real masters of the country [i.e., authority was delegated to a permanent bureaucracy] . . .

“A marked characteristic of the French government, even in those days, was the hatred it bore to everyone, whether noble or not, who presumed to meddle with public affairs without its knowledge. It took fright at the organization of the least public body that ventured to exist without permission. It was disturbed by the formation of free society. It could brook no association but such as it had arbitrarily formed, and over which it presided. In a word, it objected to people looking over their own concerns, and preferred general inertia to rivalry . . .

“Government having assumed the place of Providence, people naturally invoked its aid for their private wants. Heaps of petitions were received from persons who wanted their petty private ends served, always for the public good . . .

“Nobody expected to succeed in any enterprise unless the state helped them. Farmers, who, as a class, are generally stubborn and indocile, were led to believe that the backwardness of agriculture was due to the lack of advice and aid from government . . .

“Sad reading, this: Farmers begging to be reimbursed the value of lost cattle or horses; men in easy circumstances begging for a loan to enable them to work their land to more advantage; manufacturers begging for monopolies to crush out competition; businessmen confiding their pecuniary embarrassments to the intendant [the local bureaucrat], and begging for assistance or a loan. It would appear that the public funds were liable to be used in this way . . .

“France is nothing but Paris and a few distant provinces that Paris has not yet had time to swallow up.”

The Costly Extravagance of the King

While the French king’s government regulated economic affairs, the royal court consumed the national wealth. Louis XVI’s personal military guard numbered 9,050 soldiers; his civilian household numbered around 4,000—30 servants were required to serve the king his dinner, four of whom had the task of filling his glass with water or wine. He also had at his service 128 musicians, 75 religious officials, 48 doctors, and 198 persons to care for his body.

The nobility and the clergy were mostly exempt from paying taxes, so the tax burden fell on the “lower classes.” When Louis XVI assumed the throne in 1774, government expenditures were 399.2 million livres, with tax receipts only about 372 million livres, leaving a deficit of 27.2 million livres, or about 7 percent of spending. Loans and monetary expansion that year and in future years made up the difference. The accumulated debt of the royal French government was 2.5 billion livres.

In an attempt to put the government’s finances in order, in July 1774 the king appointed a brilliant economist, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, to serve as finance minister. Turgot did all in his power to curb government spending and regulation. But every proposed reform increased the opposition from the privileged and the favored – politically connected business groups, power-lusting bureaucrats, the tax-exempt Church organization – and the king finally dismissed him in May 1776.

It was the chaos of the king’s finances that finally resulted in the calling into session of the Estates-General’s in early 1789, followed by the beginning of the French Revolution with the fall of the Bastille in Paris in July 1789. But the new revolutionary authorities were as extravagant in their spending as the king. Vast amounts were spent on public works to create jobs, and 17 million livres were given to the people of Paris in food subsidies.

French Revolutionary Paper Money Brings Disaster

On March 17, 1790, the revolutionary National Assembly voted to issue a new paper currency called the “assignat,” and in April, 400 million were put into circulation. Short of funds, the government issued another 800 million at the end of the summer. By late 1791, 1.5 billion assignats were circulating and its purchasing power had decreased 14 percent. In August 1793 the number of assignats had increased to almost 4.1 billion, with its value having depreciated 60 percent. In November 1795 the assignats numbered 19.7 billion, and by then its purchasing power had decreased 99 percent since first issued. In five years the money of revolutionary France had become worth less than the paper it was printed on.

The effects of this monetary collapse were fantastic. A huge debtor class was created with a vested interest in the inflation because depreciating assignats meant debtors repaid in increasingly worthless money. Others had speculated in land, often former Church properties the government had seized and sold off, and their fortunes were now tied to inflationary rises in land values. With money more worthless each day, pleasures of the moment took precedence over long-term planning and investment.

Heinrich von Sybel explained the social and psychological atmosphere of the time in his, “History of the French Revolution” (1882):

“None felt any confidence in the future in any respect; few dared to make business investment for any length of time, and it was accounted a folly to curtail the pleasures of the moment, to acquire or save for an uncertain future . . .

“Whoever possessed a handful of Assignats or silver coins, hastened to spend them in keen enjoyment, and the eager desire to catch at every passing pleasure filled each heart with pulsations, and were frequented with untiring zeal . . .

“The cabarets and cafes were no less filled that the theaters. Evening after evening every quarter of the city [Paris] resounded with music and dancing . . .

“The enjoyments, too, received a peculiar coloring – glaring lights and gloomy shadows – from the recollections and feelings of the Revolution . . .

“In other circles no one was received who had not lost a relative by the guillotine; the fashionable ball-dress imitated the cropped hair and the turned-back collar of those who were led to execution; gentlemen challenged their partners to the dance with a peculiar nod, intended to remind them of the fall of the severed head.”

Goods were hoarded—and thus became scarcer—because sellers expected higher prices tomorrow. Soap became so scarce that Parisian washerwomen demanded that any sellers who refused to sell their product for assignats should be put to death. In February 1793 mobs in Paris attacked more than 200 stores, looting everything from bread and coffee to sugar and clothing.

The first illusions of prosperity of rising prices from paper money creation soon turned to economic stagnation. As Andrew Dickson White explained in “Fiat Money Inflation in France” (1876):

“Under the universal doubt and discouragement, commerce and manufacturing were checked or destroyed. As a consequence, the demand for labor was stopped; laboring men were thrown out of employment, and under the operation of the simplest law of supply and demand, the price of labor – the daily wages of the laboring class – went down.”

Costs of Inflation Fall on the Weakest in Society

On who did the burden of the inflation mostly fall? The poorest. Financiers, merchants, and commodity speculators who normally participated in international trade often could protect themselves. They accumulated gold and silver and sent it abroad for safekeeping; they also invested in art and precious jewelry. Their speculative expertise enabled many of them to stay ahead of the inflation and to profit from currency fluctuations. The working class and the poor in general had neither the expertise nor the means to protect the little they had. They were the ones who ended up holding the billions of worthless assignats.

Finally, on December 22, 1795, the government decreed that the printing of the assignats should stop. Gold and silver transactions were permitted again after having been banned and were recognized as legally binding. On February 18, 1796, at 9 o’clock in the morning, the printing presses, plates, and paper used to make assignats were taken to the Place Vendôme and before a huge crowd of Parisians were broken and burned.

Price Controls Bring Even More Disaster to France

As the inflation grew worse, an outcry was heard from “the people” that prices must be prevented from rising. On May 4, 1793, the National Assembly imposed price controls on grain and specified that it could only be sold in public markets under the watchful eye of state inspectors, who were also given the authority to break into merchants’ private homes and confiscate hoarded grain and flour. Destruction of commodities under government regulation was made a capital offense.

In September 1793 the price controls were extended to all goods declared to be of “primary necessity.” Prices were prohibited from rising more than one-third from their level in 1790. And wages were placed under similar control in the spring of 1794. Nonetheless, commodities soon disappeared from the markets. Paris cafes found it impossible to obtain sugar; food supplies decreased as farmers refused to send their produce to the cities.

During the Jacobin Republic of 1792–1794 in revolutionary France, a swarm of regulators spread across France imposing price ceilings and intruding into every corner of people’s lives; they imposed death sentences, confiscated wealth and property, and sent men, women, and children to prison and slave labor. In the name of the war effort, after revolutionary France came into conflict with many of its neighbors, all industries in any way related to national defense or foreign trade were placed under the direct control of the state; prices, production, and distribution of all goods by private enterprises were under government command.

A huge bureaucracy emerged to manage all this, and that bureaucracy swallowed up increasing portions of the nation’s wealth.

The Collective Is Everything, the Individual Nothing

This all followed naturally from the premises of the Jacobin mind, which under the shadow of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s notion of the “general will” argued that the state had the duty to impose a common purpose on everyone. The individual was nothing; the state was everything. The individual became the abstraction, and the state the reality.

Not even the family had autonomous existence in the new French collectivist society. As one of the leading French revolutionaries declared: “The principles that ought to guide parents are that children belong to the general family, to the Republic, before they belong to particular families. The spirit of private families must disappear when the great family calls. You are born for the Republic and not for the pride or the despotism of families.”

Those who did not see the “general will” would be taught; those who resisted the teaching would be commanded; and those who resisted the commands would perish, because only “enemies of the people” would oppose the collectivist Truth.

The End to the Controls and the Freeing of Prices

In late 1794 were the anti-Jacobin Thermidorians gained the upper hand in the government and brought the infamous French reign of terror to an end. At the same time advocates of a freer market were able to make their case.

One of them, M. Eschasseriaux, declared, “A system of economy is good . . . when the farmer, the manufacturer, and the trader enjoy the full liberty of their property, their production, and their industry.”

And his colleague, M. Thibaudeau, insisted, “I regard the Maximum [the price controls] as disastrous, as the source of all the misfortunes we have experienced. It has opened a career for thieves, covered France with a hoard of smugglers, and ruined honest men who respect the law . . . I know that when you violate commercial liberty you are subjected to great inconveniences. I know that when the government attempts to regulate everything, all is lost.”

Finally, on December 27, 1794, the price and wage controls were lifted, and market-based terms of trade were once again allowed. And following the end of the assignats a year later, goods once more flowed to the market and a degree of prosperity was restored—until Napoleon’s experiments in government planning when he shortly came to power in France.

In our own time, democratic majorities have replaced the absolute monarchs of that earlier period. But the thirst for power and plunder through political means remains the same. When taxes or borrowing are insufficient to cover all that government wants to spend, the handle of the monetary printing press is still turn, even if today it involves the simple click of the “mouse” that magically creates tens of billions of dollars or Euros on the computer screen of a central bank.

And it still carries with it the potential destabilization and destruction of the economic and social fabrics of society when let loose without limit and not stopped in time.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog
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