Fossil fuel and insurance company executives “could face personal liability for funding climate denialism and opposing policies to fight climate change,” Greenpeace recently warned several corporations. In a letter co-signed by WWF International and the Center for International Environmental Law, the Rainbow Warriors ($155 million in 2013 global income) suggested that legal action might be possible.
Meanwhile, the WWF ($927 million in 2013 global income) filed a formal complaint against Peabody Energy for “misleading readers” in advertisements that say coal-based electricity can improve lives in developing countries. The ads are not “decent, honest and veracious,” as required by Belgian law, the World Wildlife ethicists sniffed. Other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make similar demands.
These are novel tactics. But the entire exercise might be little more than a clever attempt to distract people from developments that could create problems for thus far unaccountable Big Green organizations.
I don’t mean Greenpeace International’s $5.2 million loss a couple weeks ago, when a rogue employee (since fired) used company cash to conduct unauthorized trades on global currency markets. Other recent events portend far rougher legal and political waters ahead for radical eco-imperialists, especially if countries and companies take a few more pages out of the Big Green playbook.
India’s Intelligence Bureau recently identified Greenpeace as “a threat to national economic security,” noting that these and other groups have been “spawning” and funding internal protest movements and campaigns that have delayed or blocked numerous mines, electricity projects and other infrastructure programs vitally needed to create jobs and lift people out of poverty and disease. The anti-development NGOs are costing India’s economy 2-3% in lost GDP every year, the Bureau estimates.
The Indian government has now banned direct foreign funding of local campaign groups by foreign NGOs like Greenpeace, the WWF and US-based Center for Media and Democracy. India and other nations could do much more. Simply holding these über-wealthy nonprofit environmentalist corporations to the same ethical standards they demand of for-profit corporations could be a fascinating start.
Greenpeace, WWF and other Big Green campaigners constantly demand environmental and climate justice for poor families. They insist that for-profit corporations be socially responsible, honest, transparent, accountable, and liable for damages and injustices that the NGOs allege the companies have committed, by supposedly altering Earth’s climate and weather, for example.
Meanwhile, more than 300 million Indians (equal to the US population) still have no access to electricity, or only sporadic access. 700 million Africans likewise have no or only occasional access. Worldwide, almost 2.5 billion people (nearly a third of our Earth’s population) still lack electricity or must rely on little solar panels on their huts, a single wind turbine in their village or terribly unreliable networks, to charge a cell phone and power a few light bulbs or a tiny refrigerator.
These energy-deprived people do not merely suffer abject poverty. They must burn wood and dung for heating and cooking, which results in debilitating lung diseases that kill a million people every year. They lack refrigeration, safe water and decent hospitals, resulting in virulent intestinal diseases that send almost two million people to their graves annually. The vast majority of these victims are women and children.
The energy deprivation is due in large part to unrelenting, aggressive, deceitful eco-activist campaigns against coal-fired power plants, natural gas-fueled turbines, and nuclear and hydroelectric facilities in India, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and elsewhere. The Obama Administration joined Big Greeen in refusing to support loans for these critically needed projects, citing climate change and other claims.
As American University adjunct professor Caleb Rossiter asked in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a ‘global warming’ tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods?”
Where is the justice in Obama advisor John Holdren saying ultra-green elites in rich countries should define and dictate “ecologically feasible development” for poor countries? As the Indian government said in banning foreign NGO funding of anti-development groups, poor nations have “a right to grow.”
Imagine your life without abundant, reliable, affordable electricity and transportation fuels. Imagine living under conditions endured by impoverished, malnourished, diseased Indians and Africans whose life expectancy is 49 to 59 years. And then dare to object to their pleas and aspirations, especially on the basis of “dangerous manmade global warming” speculation and GIGO computer models. Real pollution from modern coal-fired power plants (particulates, sulfates, nitrates and so on) is a tiny fraction of what they emitted 40 years ago – and far less harmful than pollutants from zero-electricity wood fires.
Big Green activists say anything other than solar panels and bird-butchering wind turbines would not be “sustainable.” Like climate change, “sustainability” is infinitely elastic and malleable, making it a perfect weapon for anti-development activists. Whatever they support is sustainable. Whatever they oppose is unsustainable. To them, apparently, the diseases and death tolls are sustainable, just, ethical and moral.
Whatever they advocate also complies with the “precautionary principle.” Whatever they disdain violates it. Worse, their perverse guideline always focuses on the risks of using technologies – but never on the risks of not using them. It spotlights risks that a technology – coal-fired power plants, biotech foods or DDT, for example – might cause, but ignores risks the technology would reduce or prevent.
Genetically engineered Golden Rice incorporates a gene from corn (maize) to make it rich in beta-carotene, which humans can convert to Vitamin A, to prevent blindness and save lives. The rice would be made available at no cost to poor farmers. Just two ounces a day would virtually end the childhood malnutrition, blindness and deaths. But Greenpeace and its “ethical” collaborators have battled Golden Rice for years, while eight million children died from Vitamin A deficiency since the rice was invented.
In Uganda malnourished people depend as heavily on Vitamin A-deficient bananas, as their Asian counterparts do on minimally nutritious rice. A new banana incorporates genes from wild bananas, to boost the fruit’s Vitamin A levels tenfold. But anti-biotechnology activists repeatedly pressure legislators not to approve biotech crops for sale. Other crops are genetically engineered to resist insects, drought and diseases, reducing the need for pesticides and allowing farmers to grow more food on less land with less water. However, Big Green opposes them too, while millions die from malnutrition and starvation.
Sprayed in tiny amounts on walls of homes, DDT repels mosquitoes for six months or more. It kills any that land on the walls and irritates those it does not kill or repel, so they leave the house without biting anyone. No other chemical – at any price – can do all that. Where DDT and other insecticides are used, malaria cases and deaths plummet – by as much as 80 percent. Used this way, the chemical is safe for humans and animals, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes are far less likely to build immunities to DDT than to other pesticides, which are still used heavily in agriculture and do pose risks to humans.
But in another crime against humanity, Greenpeace, WWF and their ilk constantly battle DDT use – while half a billion people get malaria every year, making them unable to work for weeks on end, leaving millions with permanent brain damage, and killing a million people per year, mostly women and children.
India and other countries can fight back, by terminating the NGOs’ tax-exempt status, as Canada did with Greenpeace. They could hold the pressure groups to the same standards they demand of for-profit corporations: honesty, transparency, social responsibility, accountability and personal liability. They could excoriate the Big Green groups for their crimes against humanity – and penalize them for the malnutrition, disease, economic retractions and deaths they perpetrate or perpetuate.
Actions like these would improve billions of lives and bring some accountability to Big Green(backs).
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.
If you could not join the hundreds of scientists, policy experts, and interested citizens in Las Vegas this week for The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate change … you are still in luck.
The entire conference is being streamed live!
Visit the conference website to watch, starting at 7:45 p.m. PDT today, and through the close at 4 p.m. PDT Wednesday.
And CLICK HERE to watch the live stream.
I will be in Las Vegas for the 9th International Conference on Climate Change July 7-9. I enjoy attending these because everyone I come in contact with is someone I can learn from. My father and mother taught me to surround myself with people I could look up to. I adapted that attitude in my training, in my work, and in the person I married. And when I go to these events, I am in awe of the people I get to talk with. I bring some of them up quite often in these pages.
One has to be careful, given the situation today, to not let your reasons for doing what you do stray. I often feel bad for a lot of people in the anthropogenic global warming camp. How can they possibly walk back their position? It’s the reason why, no matter what metric goes the other way, they either ignore it or create a reason they never had before because they did not forecast it to happen. But what else can they do? Look at the people from their camp that have started to disagree. They are chastised and demeaned. There is a simple reason: Their goal, whatever it is – be it self-esteem, money, power, control, or all of the above – is their god. It’s what they are forever in pursuit of. And when it becomes your god, you can not defy it.
I constantly analyze anything that is important to me. (I drive my wife nuts. If I have a bad workout, or get a cold, or anything, I have to figure out why it happened.) And I always analyze my motives. For years I felt like Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire. This line hits me hard because I know exactly how he feels:
I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing.
I try to be more like Pastor Eric Liddle, the other character of prime importance in the movie. To paraphrase: God made me for a purpose, but he also gave me a love for the weather. And I see his majesty in it every day.
So what strikes me most about the Heartland Conference is that I am with people that are in love with weather, climate, and their country, and many of them have loved these longer and stronger than I have.
For me, above all, my stances on global warming are a product of my love for the weather. There is no goal for me. It’s about having another chance to do what I was made to do. And somehow, when I’m with people who I sense have the same ideas, it makes me stronger and more able to run toward what I was made for.
As one gets older, one can get tired. But only when your heart gives out does your strength give in. For me, all this is an affair of the heart.
Its for the love of the weather.
Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.
Originally published at The Patriot Post.
Opening Remarks by Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change
LAS VEGAS — Below are the prepared remarks by Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast to open the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change on the evening of July 7, 2014 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The conference runs from 7:45 p.m. PDT tonight until 4 p.m. PDT Wednesday, July 9. You can view the entire conference via the live-stream at the conference website. Click here for a full schedule, click here for a list of speakers, and click here for list of publicly announced award recipients.
For more information about the conference, or to schedule an interview with one of the speakers, contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at firstname.lastname@example.org or via cell phone at 312/731-9364.
OPENING REMARKS BY HEARTLAND INSTITUTE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BAST AT THE NINTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
MANDALAY BAY, LAS VEGAS, JULY 7, 2014
Good evening! Welcome to the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change.
Thank you for the introduction, James. James Taylor, a Heartland senior fellow and editor of Environment & Climate News, once again recruited most of the speakers for this conference, so a big round of applause, please, for him.
We will hear from some 64 speakers from 12 countries, 13 if you count the Moon as a country and figure Walter Cunningham can claim residence there, 14 if you think Washington DC is its own planet.
Scientists, economists, and policy experts from around the world are skeptical about the claims of global warming alarmists, not just those here in the U.S.
And it isn’t just The Heartland Institute in the U.S. that thinks the threat of man-made global warming is being over-blown. This year’s ICCC is cosponsored by 32 organizations – their names have been scrolling on these screens while you were eating. Many of them agreed to pay $150 and some even more to help us offset the cost of hosting the conference and sponsoring awards to some outstanding individuals.
In particular, I would like to recognize and thank the Media Research Center, Cornwall Alliance, Science and Environmental Policy Project, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, CFACT, and the George C. Marshall Institute, for their help.
Please give all the cosponsors a big round of applause.
Speaking of funding and for the record, except for $150 from the Illinois Coal Association and another $150 from Liberty Coin Service, a great little coin shop in Lansing, Michigan, owned by my old friend Pat Heller, no corporate money was raised for this conference. And no, not a nickel from the “Koch brothers.”
About the conference
This conference will have panels featuring prominent scientists discussing the latest physical science such as the Apause@ and the failure of models to predict it, the IPCC=s fifth assessment report and NIPCC=s Climate Change Reconsidered II, polar ice caps, and much more.
Also on the program are economists and policy experts explaining the social BENEFITS as well as the social COSTS of fossil fuels, the futility of spending trillions of dollars attempting to stop uncertain and perhaps unknowable climate changes a century from now, and the need to repeal the bad energy policies and other policies that were adopted at the peak of the global warming scare and are now understood to be unnecessary, costly, and counterproductive.
You will also hear from bloggers, meteorologists, elected officials, and some of the most effective public speakers on earth about how to communicate the truth about climate change in a world in which most people are content to believe in climate change, rather than understand it.
This is a scholarly conference that many professional scientists are attending, and the speakers are prepared to handle their tough questions. But it is also entertaining and a little provocative, because unlike many alarmists, skeptics can take a joke.
Some speakers can’t help themselves but make fun of such leading proponents of global warming alarmism as Al Gore, Prince Charles, John Kerry, and even our new climate-scientist-in-chief, President Obama.
We have an Austrian rapper who going to entertain us tonight with a remarkable song he wrote about global warming following dinner tonight. It’s not a full-fledged Broadway play, but then again, we didn’t get $700,000 from the National Science Foundation to pay for it.
Missing from the program this year are any prominent global warming alarmists. We wish to debate those who disagree with us, but once again none of the alarmists we invited to speak showed up to defend their faith. So tomorrow’s headline may read “Global Warming Skeptics Refuse to Debate Their Opponents.” It’s not our fault. It’s hard to have a debate, over even a civil conversation, when the other side refuses to show up.
The Heartland Institute
This conference is a project of The Heartland Institute’s Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, which produces an ambitious program of research and educational projects in defense of free-market environmentalism. The world needs voices devoted to sound science and market-based, rather than government-based, solutions to environmental problems. The Heartland Institute helps find and amplify those voices. The nation’s air and water quality, the safety of its food, and the health and productivity of its forests all depend on bringing the best-available science and economic research to bear on protecting the environment.
We have brought together a team of leading scientists and economic experts to participate in the production of books — including four volumes in the Climate Change Rconsidered series, produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change — plus policy studies, videos, a monthly public policy newspaper, events like this one, and other educational activities.
If you aren’t already a donor and supporter of The Heartland Institute, I hope you’ll decide to become one over the next three days. More information and donor forms are on your table.
Theme for ICCC-9
As some of you know, we devoted a lot of effort to coming up with a theme for this year’s conference. This conference is scholarly but also a little entertaining and provocative. It offers contributions by scientists, economists, public policy experts, and professional communicators, and the audience includes all of the above plus elected officials, grassroots activists, and (it seems) about 1,000 retired engineers.
How to capture all that in a few words? I solicited ideas from a network of interested folks, and got an amazing number of suggestions, not all of them appropriate. Some of my favorites, though, in alphabetical order, were:
A lie repeated is still a lie
Beyond the IPCC
Climate science vs. climate consensus
Climate change for dummies: A primer for Gore, Kerry, and Obama
Earth to Man: I barely notice you
Flogging a dead horse
And that was just some suggestions starting with the letters A through F!
We settled on “don’t just wonder about global warming, understand it!” I think that captures in just a few words the key difference between alarmists and skeptics in the global warming debate.
Alarmists see what they believe, while skeptics believe what they see. Alarmists think every change in the weather is evidence of a human impact on climate, and a human impact is necessarily bad. They believe only government can solve big problems, and man-made climate change would be the biggest problem ever discovered.
Skeptics believe what they see. They look at the data and see no warming for 17 years, no increase in storms, no increase in the rate of sea level rise, no new extinctions attributable to climate change, in short, no climate crisis. They ask how that could be, since humans obviously emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and affect climate in other ways, such as through agriculture, coastal development, and damming rivers.
They study the data – not the models, which just assume much of what is unknown – and come to understand climate They conclude – many of them, anyway — that climate is a chaotic system that makes reliable long-term forecasts impossible, that natural variability swamps whatever effect humans might have, and that trying to control the weather by controlling how much carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is folly, plain and simple.
That’s what I’ve come to understand to be the truth about climate change. One of the neat things about global warming skeptics is that they seldom agree on anything, so I dare not speak on behalf of anyone else. But I think most skeptics would say this is pretty close to it.
Climate Science Awards
Global warming has been called the most important public policy debate of our age. Those who believe in man-made global warming call for draconian reductions in the use of fossil fuels that would destroy millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of wealth, and impoverish millions of people. Rather than defend the science behind their cause, global warming alarmists typically claim “the debate is over” and demonize their critics.
Global warming “skeptics” question whether the scientific debate is truly settled and ask for real data to support the claims of the alarmists. For this, they have been viciously attacked in the press, by politicians (including President Barack Obama), and on countless blogs and Web sites.
Some of the world’s most distinguished scientists, such as S. Fred Singer, Frederick Seitz, Sherwood Idso, Richard Lindzen, and Freeman Dyson, are global warming skeptics. They have been accused of dishonesty, incompetence, and worse.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. federal government spent $22.5 billion on “global warming.” It spent $200 billion over the past 20 years. By one estimate, the world is spending $1 billion a DAY on projects that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for global warming alarmism.
All this spending has created a global warming industry that marginalizes, demonizes, and sometimes outright attacks the thousands of scholars and other professionals willing to speak out against a popular delusion. Scientists, economists, journalists, politicians, civic and business leaders – have had their careers ended or ruined by daring to speak truth to power.
The voices that ordinarily would speak out against crimes against free speech – we used to call them liberals, or free-thinkers — are silent, either because of ignorance, ideological bias, or financial conflicts of interest.
Seven organizations have stepped forward to nominate award recipients and organize the award ceremonies to honor the brave men and women willing to speak out against global warming alarmism. Two of these awards will be presented tonight.
These awards deliver long-overdue recognition and encouragement to their recipients.
They also increase public awareness of the global warming realism movement and send a signal to the academy and other elite institutions saying if they won’t recognize our heroes, we will.
END OF REMARKS
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) outlaws the testing of nuclear weapons. So far, 183 countries signed the treaty, but it cannot become a binding international law until it has been ratified by all states capable of developing nuclear weapons, of which there are 44 specified in the treaty. Of these states, three (India, Pakistan, and North Korea) have not signed the treaty, and a further six (China, Egypt, Israel, Iran, and the United States) are yet to ratify it.
The United States signed the treaty in 1996, as soon as the language was agreed upon, but the Senate rejected it by a tiny margin. While the idea of the CTBT is quite simple, implementation is immensely complex. One of the greatest concerns of the treaty, and of the international community, is with monitoring countries so as to verify their compliance with the ban. To this end the treaty sets up the International Monitoring System (IMS), a network of hundreds of scientific facilities spread across the globe that monitor seismic activity, radioactive fallout, atmospheric noise and oceanic waves to pick up evidence of a nuclear explosion. If the IMS detects a suspected nuclear test then an on-site inspection can follow.
The treaty does not detail the action that would be taken against a state that has broken the treaty, but the Charter of the United Nations does empower the Security Council to take “appropriate steps”. Although the treaty has not yet come into force, most of the IMS is now in place and working.
President Obama has consistently stated that he is in favor of reducing nuclear proliferation. He even received the Nobel Peace Prize for his speeches on the matter. Yet he has done little to materially change America’s position on nuclear weapons. In a dangerous world, nuclear weapons are a necessary component of the American defense. However, it is also in America’s interest that the world’s supply of nuclear weapons be kept within controllable bounds.
It is time for Obama to pursue the CTBT. It is time for the Senate to ratify the treaty.
Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons ever created and it is right that they should be limited; something that the test ban treaty will be a step towards. An internationally ratified treaty comprehensively banning the testing of nuclear weapons would serve to hamper attempts by countries currently not in possession of nuclear weapons from acquiring them. This is particularly important in the cases of Iran and North Korea. Iran is getting closer and closer to having a working weapon and North Korea already have simple nuclear weapons. These countries’ possession of such weapons can only serve to diminish security in the world and the security of the United States.
Of course, a country could just develop a nuclear weapon without testing, but little faith can be put in a weapon that is entirely untested; all countries that currently possess nuclear weapons conducted tests. A comprehensive and internationally ratified treaty against testing would serve as an important signaling device to countries considering developing nuclear weapons. Just as a taboo has formed around the use of nuclear weapons due to international accords denouncing their use, so too would a ban on testing generate a norm against it.
Countries rely on their reputations in international relations; states will fear loss of credibility should they be seen flouting the ban, either by testing weapons themselves or by supplying materials to countries seeking to perform tests. Some politicians and commentators say that rogue nations do not care at all about how they are perceived. But all countries rely to some extent on reputation to engage in international affairs. Most states do not like being pariahs, especially when that status carries with it heavy political and economic sanctions. The United States could leverage international law in such a way as to further deter nuclear testing in potentially hostile countries.
Trust, But Verify
Scanning and detection technology has become so advanced in recent years that it is virtually impossible for a country to detonate a nuclear device without it being detected. Compliance with the treaty can be monitored through the means of seismology, hydroacoustics, infrasound, and radionuclide monitoring. The technologies are used to monitor the underground, the waters and the atmosphere for any sign of a nuclear explosion. The monitoring network consists of 337 facilities located across the world. The system is so sensitive that it was able to detect the disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia. Furthermore, the treaty’s system of inspection will reveal any suspicious activity regarding testing.
Clearly, efficacy in terms of determining who might be testing weapons is not an issue. When countries are found to be violating the CTBT, heavy political and economic sanctions can be imposed that will serve to force countries back into compliance with the treaty. A ratified CTBT gives a greater power to the world’s democratic powers, the United States in particular, to take action against those states that would develop nuclear weapons. Ratification would give a much greater moral justification to a decision to take economic or political action against
Securing America’s Interests
Some countries have been reticent to sign the CTBT for fear it would limit their ability to either expand or to begin their nuclear arsenals. The United States stands as one of the only such non-ratifiers, in the company of such countries as Iran, China, and North Korea. The United States fears the limiting of the ability for it to defend itself with nuclear armament. However, in reality the United States will benefit politically and militarily by ratifying, and the world will be benefited by a greater chance for peace without nuclear proliferation.
American accession would benefit the United States politically by increasing its credibility as a responsible international player with a respect for international law. Often America is viewed by the rest of the world as a cowboy pursuing its own aims and only paying lip service to the international community’s opinion. If the United States were to show a degree of respect to international law, particularly through signing CTBT, it will be more able to gain support from other countries for its goals.
If the Senate ratifies the treaty, it will encourage other states to sign, such as China, which has said that its signature is contingent upon that of America. American involvement in the CTBT, and the Chinese involvement expected to follow from it, will give the treaty far greater weight, and will generate greater obedience to it, as countries recognize that it is binding on all states, not just the weak.
Nothing to Lose
From a military standpoint, the United States has nothing to lose from signing as it may still retain its present nuclear stockpiles, as well as to develop new delivery and guidance systems, provided they are not tested with live nuclear warheads. Also, it has much to gain, as the ratification of the treaty will prevent other states from developing nuclear weapons, keeping the club of nuclear powers small and influential. Clearly, it is in the interest of the United States to sign the treaty, in order to benefit not only itself, but also the international community.
As Barack Obama’s presidency approaches its final decline, he should be considering what he can call his legacy. Fulfilling the mission for which he was prematurely given the Nobel Prize might go some way to restoring him in the eyes of history. And maybe that gold medal could be placed on his mantelpiece without shame.
Yesterday’s narrow Hobby Lobby decision shows why the culture war isn’t over – it’s just getting started. The reality is that in the absence of the ability to compel employers to pay for things over their religious objections, and at a time when covering 16 forms of birth control out of 20 is culturally insufficient, the Obama administration will be more than happy to turn to the traditional method of the left: skipping the middle man of the employer and just handing people other people’s money.
So because some people cannot be compelled to pay for their employee’s IUDs, Plan B, and Ella, everyone will be compelled to pay for it. It renders the whole argument over deeply held religious beliefs a cute sideshow: if employers can’t be forced to pay for it, all taxpayers will. Congratulations on retaining your personal image of faithfulness while sticking the rest of us with the bill.
That’s one of the reasons why support for making birth control available over the counter is rising on the right and the left. There are a number of objections to this, but I find them to largely amount to unconvincing paternalism. The chief argument advanced is that standard oral contraceptives mess with hormones and have all sorts of side effects. This is, of course, true! But: dangerous side effects are rampant within all sorts of other over the counter drugs. Women can think for themselves and make decisions with their doctor and pharmacist about what drugs they want to take – and the evidence shows they are good at self-screening. In fact, it would actually increase the ability to mitigate and respond to unanticipated side effects, since changing tracks will no longer require a doctor’s visit and getting a new prescription. Assuming that women won’t or can’t take responsibility for themselves to consult with a doctor unless required to by arbitrary government policy is absurd.
It’s obvious why libertarians like the idea of OTC birth control. Conservatives should like it because it removes the responsibility for redistributive payment from themselves while demonstrating that yes, they really aren’t about banning things or preventing access to birth control. And liberals should like it because it will lower the drop-out rate, which is currently largely driven by the requirement to re-up the prescription as much as every few months. The American College of OB-GYNs supports it, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner support it, most of the world already has it, and making it official policy would lower prices, lower health care costs, and make consumers more cost conscious. All of these are good things.
Now, some liberals won’t be satisfied by this OTC solution in the absence of the overall contraception mandate, because it would only address the challenge with oral contraceptives, not IUDs. In her dissent, Justice Ginsberg pointed out the high cost of IUDs as reason why employers need to cover the cost. But I suspect that making a policy change which addresses concerns about contraception’s availability for the vast majority of people will really take the energy out of that push, just as an honest case against Hobby Lobby (that they just didn’t want to pay for things that can prevent the implantation of a living embryo – two morning after pills and two implants – versus preventing the creation of that embryo in the first place) would’ve aroused a far less aggressive opposition to their stance. I think those on the left who prioritize this issue know this, too.
Social conservatives who can see the writing on the wall with the over the counter availability of Plan B – a supercharged version of the low-dose contraceptive hormone, now available via vending machines on college campuses, and which sexually active teenagers (which is to say: teenagers) are already using as an abortifacient substitute for the daily pill – should know that they’re not going to get this horse back in the barn. The question becomes whether you will have to pay for other people’s choices in violation of your religious beliefs. Here, I think the OTC solution is not just viable, but leads people to the logical conclusion they ought to have about birth control policy: your body, your choice, your responsibility. People don’t naturally assume that over the counter drugs should be available for free: they think they should be able to buy them.
I’d encourage social conservatives who oppose this idea to rethink their opposition. Otherwise, birth control and abortifacients are simply going to become the name we give to the things we choose to buy together.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
This summer’s elections to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, marked a radical swing against the greater centralization of power in the hands of Eurocrats in Brussels. A great many of the Euroskeptic parties that had big wins were the French National Front and the British United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Other Euroskeptic parties on the continent, in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, and elsewhere, also made out quite well. It was a wake-up call to many European leaders who had been complacent and tried to label Euroskeptics as fringe or extremist. The performance of UKIP in particular, which beat all three mainstream parties in the election, made those labels ridiculous.
The victory was not, however, for any sort of universal ideology. Indeed, the far left and far right in Europe tend to converge when it comes to the issue of Europe. It is rare that an avowedly pro-free market party like UKIP would be making common cause with Syriza, the radical leftist party of Greece, yet they share a similar vision when it comes to the EU: it is undemocratic and thieves the political power from sovereign states.
It cannot be denied that there is a certain unsavory flavor in many of the resurgent Euroskeptic parties. This has as much to do with their histories as with their current policy prescriptions. The National Front of France, for example, has long had a deep animosity toward immigration, not just as an economic issue, but as a racial one. Marine Le Pen, the head of the party, has made an effort to alter the language of the party to be more appealing to a mainstream French audience, but many remain skeptical of the National Front’s intentions when it comes to the treatment of minorities.
UKIP has suffered from similar concerns. For years the party was tarred with the same brush as the British National Party, a quasi-fascist organization known for its quite overt racism. Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and a member of the European Parliament, has made a huge effort in the past few years to alter the party’s message to a more libertarian, free-market, anti-EU line. He has kept a largely anti-immigration platform, but his basis tends toward economic justification. He has even expelled members of the party who made racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
The association, whether real or imagined, between the more free-market and libertarian political movements in Europe with racist undertones has served to taint their message in the public sphere. UKIP and its ilk will only break into the real mainstream by cleansing themselves once and for all of those sentiments and that dark legacy.
UKIP represents a certain glimmer of hope in this regard. There remains a sentiment among many Britons that the rank-and-file UKIP members retain many of the racially charged sentiments that once made the party a political pariah. It will take more than the party leader repudiating such sentiments to truly convince Joe England. Yet the work has clearly begun. While much of the support UKIP saw in the EU election may have been the product of protest voting against the mainstream, it will take more to translate that public discontent into seats in the national Parliament. If that challenge can be met, there may be a bright future for free-market ideology in the UK, and in Europe.
The Declaration of Independence, proclaimed by members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is the founding document of the American experiment in free government. What is too often forgotten is that what the Founding Fathers argued against in the Declaration was the heavy and intrusive hand of big government.
Most Americans easily recall those eloquent words with which the Founding Fathers expressed the basis of their claim for independence from Great Britain in 1776:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The Grievances Against Intrusive Government
But what is usually not recalled is the long list of enumerated grievances that make up most of the text of the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers explained how intolerable an absolutist and highly centralized government in faraway London had become. This distant government violated the personal and civil liberties of the people living in the 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.
In addition, the king’s ministers imposed rigid and oppressive economic regulations and controls on the colonists that was part of the 18th-century system of government central planning known as mercantilism.
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” the signers declared.
Concentration of Power and Arbitrary Rule
At every turn, the British Crown had concentrated political power and decision-making in its own hands, leaving the American colonists with little ability to manage their own affairs through local and state governments. Laws and rules were imposed without the consent of the governed; local laws and procedures meant to limit abusive or arbitrary government were abrogated or ignored.
The king also had attempted to manipulate the legal system by arbitrarily appointing judges that shared his power-lusting purposes or were open to being influenced to serve the monarch’s policy goals. The king’s officials unjustly placed colonists under arrest in violation of writ of habeas corpus, and sentenced them to prison without trial by jury. Colonists often were violently conscripted to serve in the king’s armed forces and made to fight in foreign wars.
A financially burdensome standing army was imposed on the colonists without the consent of the local legislatures. Soldiers often were quartered in the homes of the colonists without their approval or permission.
In addition, the authors of the Declaration stated, the king fostered civil unrest by creating tensions and conflicts among the different ethnic groups in his colonial domain. (The English settlers and the Native American Indian tribes.)
Government Violation of Economic Liberty
But what was at the heart of many of their complaints and grievances against King George III were the economic controls that limited their freedom and the taxes imposed that confiscated their wealth and honestly earned income.
The fundamental premise behind the mercantilist planning system was the idea that it was the duty and responsibility of the government to manage and direct the economic affairs of society. The British Crown shackled the commercial activities of the colonists with a spider’s web of regulations and restrictions. The British government told them what they could produce, and dictated the resources and the technologies that could be employed.
The government prevented the free market from setting prices and wages, and manipulated what goods would be available to the colonial consumers. It dictated what goods might be imported or exported between the 13 colonies and the rest of the world, thus preventing the colonists from benefiting from the gains that could have been theirs under free trade.
Everywhere, the king appointed various “czars” who were to control and command much of the people’s daily affairs of earning a living. Layer after layer of new bureaucracies were imposed over every facet of life. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance,” the Founding Fathers explain.
In addition, the king and his government imposed taxes upon the colonists without their consent. Their income was taxed to finance expensive and growing projects that the king wanted and that he thought were good for the people, whether the people themselves wanted them or not.
Burdensome Taxes, Tax Evasion, and Violent Government
The 1760s and early 1770s saw a series of royal taxes that burdened the American colonists and aroused their ire: the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townsend Acts of 1767, the Tea Act of 1773 (which resulted in the Boston Tea Party), and a wide variety of other fiscal impositions.
The American colonists often were extremely creative at avoiding and evading the Crown’s regulations and taxes through smuggling and bribery (Paul Revere smuggled Boston pewter into the West Indies in exchange for contraband molasses.)
The British government’s response to the American colonists’ “civil disobedience” against its regulations and taxes was harsh. The king’s army and navy killed civilians and wantonly ruined people’s private property. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people,” the Declaration laments.
Opposing Oppressive Government to be Free
After enumerating these and other complaints, the Founding Fathers said in the Declaration:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Thus, the momentous step was taken to declare their independence from the British Crown. The signers of the Declaration then did “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” in their common cause of establishing a free government and the individual liberty of the, then, three million occupants of those original 13 colonies.
Never before in history had a people declared and then established a government based on the principles of the individual’s right to his life, liberty, and property.
Never before was a society founded on the ideal of economic freedom, under which free men were declared to have the right to live for themselves in their own individual interest, and peacefully produce and exchange with each other on the terms they find mutually beneficial without the stranglehold of regulating and planning government.
Never before had a people made clear that self-government meant not only the right of electing those who would hold political office and pass the laws of the land, but also meant that each human being had the right to be self-governing over his own life.
Indeed, in those inspiring words in the Declaration, the Founding Fathers were insisting that each man should be considered as owning himself, and not be viewed as the property of the state to be manipulated by either king or Parliament.
It is worth remembering, therefore, that what we are celebrating every July 4 is the idea and the ideal of each human being’s right to his life and liberty, and his freedom to pursue happiness in his own way, without paternalistic and plundering government getting in his way.
Overcoming the Chains of Political Tyranny Today
We should turn to the words of Thomas Jefferson, written to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826, the very day, in fact, that Jefferson died at the age of eighty-three:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.
“That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man . . . The palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
The “monkish ignorance and superstition” of today is the misplaced belief that the individual is to be sacrificed to the group, the collective, to the nation – as long as the banner under which it is done is called “democracy” or “social justice.”
Instead of the divine right of kings, America’s modern-day “progressives” speak of the secular divine right to “entitlements.” They call for an even greater fiscal and regulatory servitude of the productive and creative for the redistributive advantage of the less productive and more politically connected members in society.
Those who today believe that some have been “born with saddles on their back” to be ridden by “a favored few booted and spurred” are the ones who want to reinforce and extend a system of political favors and privileges for corrupt and corrupted businessmen – the “crony capitalists” – who are unwilling or unable to honestly acquire the income and wealth they want through the peaceful and voluntary trades of the free marketplace.
And it is we, who believe in the liberty for which the Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in that war of independence, who must do all in our power to restore that crucial understanding and appreciation of individual freedom and individual rights among our fellow citizens, without which that great American “experiment” in political and economic individualism may be lost beyond recovery.
[First published at Epic Times.]
As Americans pause to celebrate the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, it well may be one of the saddest Fourth’s in decades. The five and a half years of the Obama regime has failed to unleash the nation’s capacity to recover from the 2008 financial crisis and has left the nation saddled in debt and dependency.
This is not what freedom is about, nor did the Founding Fathers conceive of a President who ruled with “a pen and a phone.”
As The Wall Street Journal reported on January 13, “The year began with the news that “World economic freedom has reached record levels according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top ten most economically free countries.” What this means is that “those losing freedom risk economic stagnation, high unemployment, and deteriorating social conditions.”
That is a description of life in America today. It is a nation in which regard for Congress and the mainstream media has plunged to new lows.
In February, CNSnews reported that “The debt of the U.S. government has increased $6,666 trillion since President Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009, according to the latest numbers release by the Treasury Department.” When he was first inaugurated, the debt was $10,626,877,913.08 and as of January 31, 2014 the debt was $17,293,019,654,983.61.” Looking back in time, the total debt of the U.S. did not exceed $6,666 trillion until July 2003, meaning that the U.S. has accumulated as much debt as it did in its first 227 years.
As the year began, the unemployment figures cited by the government were in dispute. One influential Wall Street advisor, David John Marotta, calculated that those not working when the year began represented 37.2% of the labor force as defined by the portion of people who did not have a job, had given up looking for one, and those who had no intention of working for a living. The government calculated the unemployment rate at 6.7%.
Being a native-born American offered no advantage for those seeking work. The Center for Immigration Studies released a study that said that “Since the year 2000 all of the net increase in the number of working-age (16-65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal)” even though native-born Americans accounted to two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population.
Since 2000 more than 17 million immigrants arrived in the country, a time period in which native employment “has deteriorated significantly.” Given the wholesale invasion of illegal immigrants that is occurring, this calls for the enforcement of existing immigration laws and a secure southern border.
Since Obama took office, all manner of government benefit programs have been expanded. They include Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, public housing, and temporary Assistance for Needy Families. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Census Bureau calculated that there were 109,592,000 who lived in a household that included people “on one or more means-tested programs.”
Contrast that with 86,429,000 full-time private sector workers and it means that 14,802,00 non-veteran benefit takers outnumbered those whose taxes support them by a rate of 1.7 to 1.
There are more Americans, 10,982,920, receiving disability benefits than the individual populations of Greece, Portugal, Tunisia, and Burundi. November 2013 was the 202nd straight month that the number of disabled workers in the United States increased.
We live in a welfare state in which the federal government funds 126 separate programs targeted toward low-income people, 72 of which provide either cash or in-kind benefits to individuals. The Cato Institute said that “Congress and state legislatures should consider strengthening work requirements in welfare programs, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work.” Keep in mind that welfare benefits are not taxed while wages are.
This is not to say that people on welfare are lazy. Surveys consistently demonstrate their desire for a job. The reality in America on the Fourth of July 2014 is that jobs do not exist and the cause is Big Government and policies that thwart the creation of new businesses and add costs to those that do. In America, corporations are taxed at a rate higher than most other nations.
Over recent years, the U.S. government has given our taxpayer money to a long list of other nations and even to terrorist organizations such as Hamas, a Palestinian non-state entity, which annually receives $440 million. Others include Mexico which has received $662 million, Kenya which received $816 million, and Nigeria which received $816 million. Pakistan has received $2 billion and Iraq which received $1.08 billion.
As the Fourth of July arrives, we have learned that American veterans are dying for lack of care by the Veterans Administration, conservative groups seeking non-profit status have been targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and Obama immigration policies have deliberately triggered a wholesale invasion by illegal aliens. We have witnessed the failures associated with the introduction of Obamacare and are learning that it is filled with taxes while destroying what was regarded as the best healthcare system in the world.
As of late June, Gallup polls put the disapproval of the President at 52%. Confidence in the President was only 29% while Congress received only 7%.
It is not a happy Fourth of July in America and far too many Americans—nearly half—still believe the President is doing a good job despite ample evidence that his “transformation” of America has harmed the nation in countless ways.
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
As the 4th of July draws near, picnics, fireworks and parades will herald the day, but how many of us have forgotten the real meaning of the holiday, that July 4th is this nation’s birthday? Do we remember what this day represents, and why as a nation we have valued and celebrated the 4th? How many of us really value our liberties and freedoms, or have we begun to take them for granted? Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of those concepts, and they fought and died for them. What would they think of our current culture, when many think of the holiday as just a day off from work, an opportunity to party with family and friends? If the 4th of July no longer evokes patriotic pride, and if, as a nation, we lose the true meaning of the holiday, that is a sign Americans are in danger of losing much more.
There is an alarming trend of one-man rule in recent years. As said by F.H. Buckley in his book, The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America: “What we have today is ‘Crown government,’ the rule of an all-powerful president.” It is what founder George Mason called an “elective monarchy,” which Mason thought would be worse than the real thing.
It only took 10% of the colonists to spark the call for freedom from the tyranny of English rule and to set in motion the War for Independence. Fast forward to today, when many Americans have no idea what is happening to this nation, having not yet experienced the full effects of the unwise and lawless policies that have been initiated by a president who has usurped his Constitutional authority.
While political changes continue to occur, many of which are decided behind closed doors, it would be interesting to take a survey to discover how many 4th of July partiers are aware of how elected officials are watering down their very freedoms. Actually, it would be interesting to know how many people today even know the reason why we celebrate the 4th of July.
Why is there an apparent lack of patriotism today? One possibility is due to a group of world-wide leaders who have been advocating a “one-world government”. They have had an influence on our elected officials and population. They argue that national pride and respect for our nation’s sovereignty should not be emphasized. In preaching that opinion, they have gradually tempered some people’s enthusiasm for celebrating the birth of our nation as well as engaging in other patriotic practices, such as saluting our flag.
We know that colleges and universities throughout America are filled with liberal professors who also advocate less patriotism. In fact, the goal of many leaders, worldwide and here at home, is for a one-world government. Consider this quote from Robert Mueller, former Assistant Attorney General of the United Nation:
“We must move as quickly as possible to a one-world government, one-world religion, under a one-world leader.”
What about our American leaders, do they share that goal? Yes, many have bought into that agenda and have made similar statements. Unfortunately, many in the main stream media also support that philosophy President Obama alluded to it when he stated:
“All nations must come together to build a stronger global regime”.
Others have been more blatant, such as Henry Kissinger who proclaimed:
“Today America would be outraged if UN troops entered Los Angeles to restore order.Tomorrow they will be grateful. In such a scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government”.
Kissinger’s statement would be fiercely disputed by the brave men and women in 1776. But then, unlike Americans today, our forefathers had a taste of tyranny, and spit it out in disgust. Patriots like Patrick Henry proclaimed: “give me liberty or give me death”. That is the passion many of our forefathers demonstrated.
The notion of a one-world government can be inviting, as it might encourage everyone to live in peace: no wars; no more political fights. Very inviting indeed. However, that idea presumes there could be a government free of corruption, void of all self-interests, one that would reflect only altruistic purposes, and be led by someone with super human powers of fairness and wisdom. Human nature has rarely, if ever, produced such a person and certainly not a group of them.
Sir John Acton in the 1500’s was a wise man and discerning of human nature. You might remember Acton by this famous quote: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Gambling on the premise there could be an incorruptible world governing board or person is too dangerous of an experiment to seriously consider. Yet it is most definitely being seriously discussed at the United Nations. United Nations Agenda 21 is their plan to implement a world-wide system of governing. It has already been approved by most every nation. Our own presidents signed on to it, and its hand prints can already be found in most every city government in America.
Maybe it is time for all Americans to remember how we gained our independence, and most important to learn why our forefathers fought so hard for it. Everyone should reflect on the wisdom and courage of our forefathers and how we, as Americans, have benefited from their actions through the centuries. It is quite a magnificent and amazing story, and well worth remembering.
The colonists, having grown strong in their new land, began to advance ideas of how they would like to shape their new world. However, the English King was using his power and exercising total tyranny over the colonies. He would not entertain any requests from the colonists regarding changing or creating any laws specific to their circumstances, causing them to resent his majesty’s stubborn rule, and creating a serious erosion in any and all bonds they had with England. The colonists yearned for independence. As their resentment grew, so did the number of great men who began to step forth to form a committee that would soon lead to their famous “Declaration of Independence.” In that document they outlined the many grievances they had previously stated to King George III, grievances which went completely unheeded by the King. That document was their desire for freedom, something every man craves, and ultimately it led to the formal declaration of their independence from England on July 4, 1776.
The brave men who signed that document faced grave danger, and they knew their fellow men would as well. The following bold, selfless statement provides a glimpse into the hearts of those who were signaling the end of their tolerance for tyranny and the birth of a nation:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The war that followed the signing of the document was bloody and prolonged and would ultimately claim more than 27,000 American lives. Men, women, and children would die from horrific wounds, disease, or were declared forever “missing”. The leaders of the revolution were not immune to these hardships and disasters. Five were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons who were serving in the Army, another two had sons captured. Some had their properties looted and destroyed; one saw his wife jailed and watched her die within a few months. They all paid a heavy price for the freedom they sought and victory began to seem impossible. Yet, despite extraordinary odds, the American forces persevered. The British began suffering embarrassing defeats, and finally General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 19, 1781.
How could the small, rather rag-tag militia defeat the strong British army? The Brits were the best trained, fully equipped, and most professional army in the world at that time. Their Royal Navy was the undisputed ruler of the High Seas. In complete contrast, the Colonists were not adequately trained or equipped, and not even completely unified. What the Colonists did have was a strong determination. They were fighting for their very land and freedom. They fought against oppression. They were battling for more than themselves, it was also for their families and the future of their fledgling country. The majority of them were god-fearing people who depended upon and credited God with their victory. Few could deny at the time that what had been accomplished was truly miraculous. The account of Washington and his rag-tag Continental Army crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve speaks of great courage and determination in what seemed like insurmountable odds.
That was 238 years ago. Through the years American has had some high and lows, but the “Constitution” and “Bill of Rights” established by those brilliant and visionary men proved to be a profitable experiment beyond even their goals and imagination. However, there was a warning from Benjamin Franklin, as left the Constitutional Convention where he had been debating with other countrymen about what form of government would be best for their new country. Citizens had lined the streets anxiously waiting for the outcome of that secret meeting, when an excited woman in the crowd yelled to Franklin, asking him if the committee had yet decided whether their government would be a republic or a monarch. Franklin replied, “We have given you a Republic Madam, if you can keep it”. That warning must be heeded by all generations, because there will always be those who prefer another form of governing.
The warning from Franklin has stood the test of time. But, it would be a grave mistake for American citizens to take our Constitution for granted. Instead, it must be jealously guarded for any government leader or entity who might try to erode or change that magnificent document that has allowed freedom and prosperity for so long to so many.
The Fourth of July is a time we should all remind ourselves and others of the precious gift we all have been given. Being born in the United States has allowed its citizens freedom and the opportunity to prosper, and most have done just that. Our Constitution and form of government has propelled us into greatness. But, there is always that nagging question presented by Franklin: “Can we keep it?
The 4th of July is a perfect time to share the story of sacrifices of our forefathers throughout our history, and celebrate the unselfish altruism they exhibited. It would be appropriate to thank God for His protection upon our ancestors, and ask that His hand remain upon us. May our generation perpetuate the values and principles of all who went before us.
Make this 4th a special one. Celebrate it in a way that truly honors our forefathers and our country. Consider playing a game or engage your guests in conversations that allow all to learn our history and why we celebrate this important holiday. Let it be a time we all are reminded of why we enjoy our freedom and how we are able to pursue what has become known as “the American dream”. It is important because our children’s future depends upon our passion to keep it.
Many are now beginning to worry that America is broken. Hopefully there are enough true patriots who are willing to come forward and counter detractors in these unsettling times. A spark is definitely needed from today’s patriots to right the wrongs that plague this nation, not unlike those which aroused the colonists 238 years ago. The question is how many of us would be willing to take action today? Who among us would risk all to maintain our freedom and an independent nation. Hopefully, we will never need the answer to that question, but it is one we should look deep within ourselves for the answer. Just as men and women were forced to do July 4, 1776.
Originally published at Illinois Review.
NASA astronaut and policy advisor to Heartland Walter Cunningham appeared on MRCTV to discuss his take on climate change and the upcoming 9th International Conference on Climate Change. Cunningham declared the position that climate change is a man-made phenomenon to be “the biggest fraud in the field of science.”
According to Cunningham, the current mainstream opinion concerning anthropogenic climate change is motivated by politics and greed:
“You go out and take a look at it and you find out that a lot of it is pure nonsense and wishful thinking on the part of the alarmists who are looking for more and more money to fall into their hands.”
Cunningham is not convinced by the case for global warming and challenges everyone to look into the data. He admonishes people to learn the science for themselves and not to just take other people’s word for it.
There is certainly value in citizens informing themselves about the basics of science, particularly science that is having a major impact on public policy. When science is high on politicians’ agenda, it has to be high on citizens’ agenda too. That is often difficult in the realm of science, which often requires specialist knowledge and a large amount of time to dedicate to the pursuit. However, there are useful primers readily available and written for public consumption that can serve as a solid basis on which voters can develop learned opinions.
Cunningham’s interview alluded to issues with the way science is conducted in the modern world. It is certainly the case that there are major problems in the process of science. The public media has promoted a conception of the scientific process as being rigorous and unbiased. Yet this is not really the case. While experiments may be conducted rigorously, the basic theoretical premises of the various sciences are often politically protected by those who have made a career defending them. This can make it very difficult for challenges to prevailing understandings to get a fair hearing.
The problem is exacerbated by the peer-review process. Peer review of research is meant to produce up-to-date, rigorous science without bias, but it does not always do so. It can take a long time for a view to gain traction due to push-back from those with a vested interest in the status quo outlook. This problem is examined by many philosophers of science, such as Thomas Kuhn, who discussed the concept of “paradigm shift” in which sciences tend to experience revolutionary change in the wake of mounting opposition to a dominant worldview.
Another problem with the scientific process as it is conducted today is the degree of extreme specialization that scientists undertake. Gone are the days of the savant or tinkerer conducting valuable scientific enquiry from a home laboratory. Science is big business, and has developed so far in complexity that it can only be furthered with the aid of very specialized scientists.
The problem is not so much in the specialization itself (save for the lost romance of the old-timey gentleman scientist, of course) as in how that specialization affects the popular dissemination of science. Because researchers have become so specialized, unification of ideas for public consumption has fallen to other promoters and “popular scientists,” people with potentially far less noble agendas than to simply inform the masses. As the new gatekeepers of scientific research, these figures can wield great power, power that can be used to further ideologically charged aims.
Scientific inquiry conducted through the scientific method has generated the greatest and mostly lasting increase in human welfare in history. It is in many ways the pinnacle accomplishment of our civilization, yet it is a tool only. It is always important to remember that tools may have no ideology or agenda in themselves, but that those who wield or guide them may. It is important that a public that is more and more dependent upon science and technology in their daily lives be aware of what science is really about.
The Supreme Court has issued a narrow ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, exempting them from the requirement to provide coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives because of their religious objection.
Following oral arguments, I was not optimistic about this ruling. The Court could have bought into the argument that Hobby Lobby can’t really complain about this requirement when they have the capability to not offer coverage at all, instead shifting people under their employ to the taxpayer via Medicaid or the exchanges. The penalty for offering coverage which fails to meet essential benefits is clearly absurd and sizable, but the penalty for not offering coverage at all would actually cost them less than offering coverage in the first place (around $26 million per year). The “gun to your head” penalty was the one which moved the court on the Medicaid/federalism question before, in a ruling that unexpectedly led to half the states declining to expand Medicaid. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor stressed this in oral argument and the Court could have found that this factor removes the pressure of an actual requirement. You can understand the reasoning: Just like the requirement to purchase insurance, it’s not illegal, it’s just a tax!
Instead, the Court has issued a narrowly favorable ruling which, while protecting the religious liberty of corporations – and deeming corporate owners as persons under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, since indeed they are – could have a very similar effect for the rest of us as a decision which found against Hobby Lobby while allowing them to push the cost for some contraceptives onto the rest of the populace. (There’s some lack of clarity as to whether this ruling applies only to ‘closely held’ corporations – that’s one where at least fifty percent of the entity is owned by five or fewer people; if so, over 90 percent of companies in America are closely held.) As I wrote in The Transom back in March: “The likeliest scenario is that Hobby Lobby’s unwillingness to pay for four forms of birth control – Plan B, Ella, and two IUDs – for their employees leads to all of us having to pay for them, instead, either through subsidies or through Medicaid.” And that’s what’s probably going to happen: instead of effectively a tax on employers, the contraception mandate will become a tax on all of us.
The decision reads in part:
The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least- restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit [sic] employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it still serves HHS’s stated interests.
So because corporations with religious exemptions will not be required to provide coverage for all contraceptives – a requirement, if you recall,which was precipitated not by the passage of Obamacare but by bureaucratic fiat from HHS – all of us will have to take up the cause of payment instead. This position even undermines the argument advanced by The Little Sisters of the Poor and other non-profits who claim that the existing HHS accommodation for them still violates their conscience (for an alternate view on this, read Ed Whelan). The political drive will now shift to having all taxpayers pay for all forms of birth control, eliminating the middle man of the business or corporation.
There’s a wealth of existing precedent for this. Taxpayer dollars – and a not insignificant amount of them – are already going to pay directly for abortions and for birth control which prevents implantation of a living embryo (versus preventing formation of living embryo in the first place, which Hobby Lobby’s owners and other Christians are generally fine with). Americans are already paying for birth control via Medicaid and subsidizing it via Obamacare. And they’re doing the same for abortions, too.
While the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, state funding has no such prohibition. Medicaid is the primary payer for 41% of births nationwide, including 60% in New York City and 70% in Louisiana. It also pays for a sizable number of abortions. And this absolutely has an impact: the trendline for Medicaid funded abortions have only increased during the recession, and will only continue to increase under Obama’s Medicaid expansion. And funding has a dramatic impact—this survey of academic literature from Guttmacher notes: “Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.”
States which currently fund abortions under their Medicaid programs for virtually any health related reason include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. By themselves, California and New York spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year funding these non-rape/incest/life of the mother abortions – New York remains the abortion capital of America, per capita. There were 133,000 publicly funded abortions in just those two states in 2010, representing roughly 10% of total abortions in the country (taxpayers in those respective states paid for all of those). Christians who pay taxes in these states have their tax dollars used for this purpose already.
There has been all sorts of terrible reporting about this case from the beginning – a typical press release reacting to the decision from the left showed up in my inbox declaring “Your Boss’s Religion Trumps Your Health”, and that seems typical of the reporting on the issue. Here at The Federalist, we’ve run three separate pieces rebutting these idiotic ideas, but expect the narrow nature of this decision is absolutely going to lead to more.
This shoddy reporting obscures a more basic and important tension: Christians who are rendering unto Caesar in all of the above states and more are already subsidizing all sorts of life-destroying pills and implants, whether they like it or not. And thanks to the nature of the Hobby Lobby decision and the political priorities of the left, those with objections should prepare for subsidizing birth control, abortifacients, and abortion for even more people.
That’s one reason why the culture wars have only just begun. When the battleground shifts within a culture, moving from “my body, my choice” to a demand that others pay for and affirm those choices, the aggressors are incentivized to enshrine their perspective as broad mandatory policy, not just as a socially laudable practice. That’s why we’ve moved from a point where corporations providing benefits to employees was considered a good thing to a point where corporations which provide some benefits but not all must be made to suffer. You only pay for 16 out of 20 forms of birth control? Fascist.
Despite today’s decision, the left will continue to fight to mandate their preferred policy and force it on everyone, everywhere. The error they made here was in picking a battle that had a legally defensible position on the part of the individuals involved. Instead, they could’ve just used the sweeping authority of the purse to fund their preferences in aggregate – and if the arena of taxpayer-funded services is any guide, that is how they will ultimately prevail.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
In my last post I discussed the apparent inversion of the responsibility of the executive branch of government, namely that it has taken on a far greater role in domestic policy while turning its back in large part on its traditional responsibility for foreign affairs. The result has been an over-mighty presidency at home, a weakened and ineffectual Congress, and a rudderless foreign policy.
While I challenged the American public to rise against the tide of executive overreach, I did not thoroughly address what Congress itself can do to challenge the siphoning away of its traditional powers. There is in fact a great deal it can do.
The supreme legislative power of the United States is vested in the two houses of Congress. It is the only body with the authority to make laws. Yet that power has been furtively ignored by the Obama administration, which has taken to issuing executive orders with gusto. Executive orders are meant to be directives on how best to execute the laws made by Congress, not laws in themselves. Yet that is the character they have begun to take. One way for Congress to reassert its control over the legislative process would be to create far stricter guidelines in law as to what constitutes an appropriate executive order.
A reassertion of congressional eminence can only succeed if there is a culture change in its members. Senators and congressmen once jealously guarded the privileges and powers of their chambers and branch, even if it meant challenging a president of their own party. The culture in the legislature has to be restored to the belief that the branches of government are institutions in themselves that must be preserved, not just organs for exercising power for whatever party happens to hold them. The political culture in Washington has to change if the constitutional checks and balances are to hold.
It is one of the ironies of history that it is the executive branch that has grown over-mighty. Indeed, the framers of the Constitution feared far more that the Congress was the most likely institution of government to accrete power at the expense of the executive and judiciary. In their eyes the president was simply the chief magistrate of the republic, not an elective monarch.
We need more execution of the laws from the president and less kingly pronouncements. There is a great deal that can be done to restore the presidency to its rightful bounds, but it can only be accomplished if Congress also accepts its proper role as equal partner in the business of government.
In 1900, we had no airplanes, no computers, no cellphones, no internet. We had only rudimentary versions of cars, trucks, telephones, even cameras. As Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon report in their underappreciated work, It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years,
“It is hard for us to imagine, for example, that in 1900 less than one in five homes had running water, flush toilets, a vacuum cleaner, or gas or electric heat. As of 1950 fewer than 20 percent of homes had air conditioning, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven. Today between 80 and 100 percent of American homes have all of these modern conveniences.”
Indeed, in 1900 only 2% of U.S. homes enjoyed electricity.
Moore and Simon explain that the real difference between 1900 and today is that real per capita GDP in the U.S. grew by nearly 7 times during that period, meaning the American standard of living grew by that much as well. Such continued, sustained economic growth would solve every real problem America faces today.
An Often Overlooked Math Lesson
If total real compensation, wages and benefits, grow at just 2% a year, after just 20 years the real incomes and living standards of working people would be nearly 50% greater, and after 40 years they would be 120% greater, more than doubled. At sustained 3% growth in wages and benefits, after 20 years the living standards of working people will have almost doubled, and after 40 years they will have more than tripled.
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. (Note that this 3.3% growth rate for the entire economy includes population growth. Real wages and benefits discussed above is a per worker concept). It was only during the stagflation decade of 1973 to 1982, reflecting the same Keynesian economics that President Obama is pursuing today, that real growth fell to only half long term trends. And Obama is falling short of even that, now in our sixth year of his misleadership and misrule, way too long to wait for now long overdue true recovery.
If we could revive and sustain that same 3.3% real growth for 20 years, our total economic production (GDP) would double in that time. After 30 years, our economic output would grow by 2 and two-thirds. After 40 years, our prosperity bounty would grow by 3 and two-thirds. If we are truly following growth maximizing policies, we could conceivably do even better than we have in the past world dominant (though actually declining) 40 years. At sustained real growth of 4% per year, our economic production would more than double after 20 years. After 30 years, GDP would more than triple. After 40 years, a generation, total U.S. economic output would nearly quadruple. America would by then have leapfrogged further generations ahead of the rest of the world.
Such restored, sustained, economic growth would rebuild the rapidly rising living standards that today’s middle class so anxiously wants to see again. It is also the ultimate solution to poverty, as after a couple of decades or so of such growth, the poor would climb to the same living standards as the middle class of today.
Such renewed, booming growth would empower the middle class to the prosperous retirement to which they still aspire, or at least still dream about. It would greatly ease the way to assuring health care for all, and privately finance the rapid medical advances and breakthroughs that modern medical science now increasingly offers in prospect. Families could more readily fund and finance higher education, and new, expansive homes for growing children.
Booming economic growth would produce surging revenues that would make balancing the budget, while still maintaining funding for essential needs, so much more feasible. Surging GDP would reduce the national debt as a percent of GDP relatively quickly, particularly with balanced budgets not adding any further to the debt.
With sustained, robust, economic growth, maintaining the most powerful military in the world, and thereby ensuring our nation’s security and national defense, will require a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP over time. That security itself will promote capital investment and economic growth in America. The booming economy will produce new technological marvels that will make our defenses all the more advanced. With the economy rapidly advancing, there will be more than enough funds to clean up and maintain a healthy environment. America’s previous prosperity is what has enabled us to do so much to clean up the environment already.
As my colleague Louis Woodhill has observed, “There is nothing that the federal government could possibly do for the middle class (or any other class, for that matter) that having 30% more income would not do much, much better.” That is where we would be today if we had just kept the bipartisan economic growth of the Reagan and Clinton years going. But there is so much more that can be done now to spark a 21st Century economic breakout today. For all of the above reasons, this is the top policy priority of today, by far.
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
The short book Room to Grow, published on May 22 by an outfit calling itself the “Young Guns Network,” is a collection of essays by known, recognized, younger policy intellectuals, purporting to offer new ideas for the Republican Party. An untimely outgrowth of a project of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Tea Party wags used to call him “CantorWont”), the essays can remind readers of why there is such a strong feeling of unease about the current Republican leadership (counterproductively cautious and afraid of truly pathbreaking new ideas, without the courage of their convictions demanded by the times and circumstances).
The real problem with the book intellectually is that after the third word of the title, what should be Job 1 for the Republican opposition, restoring traditional, American, booming economic growth, and the American Dream, is basically entirely overlooked. Woodhill’s further commentary on it bears repeating here for emphasis,
“The Republican Party is either the party of economic growth, or it is nothing, and it loses elections. Not only does Room to Grow not emphasize economic growth, it scarcely mentions it….The phrase ‘economic growth’ appears only four times in total….Only twice…in the context of calling for increasing it, and in those cases, no specifics are given about how this might be accomplished.”
The first introduction by former Bush speech writer Peter Wehner reflects this problem. It says the aim of the book is “to offer a concrete, conservative, governing agenda that is equal to this moment.” But the book clearly fails to do that, offering not only no agenda for economic growth, but no inspiring, strategic, big ideas for liberating the American people from high taxes, excessive government spending, deficits and debt, runaway overregulation, and our debauched currency. In other words, there is no focus either on liberty or making government smaller. It ignores rather than draws upon the good work done by others and successful precedents and strategies. It is all air brushed, sharply circumscribed, overly cautious and complex, dull colors, rather than the bright flag of bold pastels that inspired a generation of conservative Republican governance. In other words, the book reflects the spirit of McCain and Romney, or Boehner and Cantor, rather than Reagan and Kemp.
Even some of the authors included in the book have written better elsewhere. Even Boehner has been more inspiring, canny and effective at times than this book. Woodhill again captures it when he writes, “The ideas that Room to Grow contains are not the ones upon which Republicans must campaign to win in 2014 and 2016. Room to Grow is largely irrelevant to solving America’s most important problems.”
Wehner’s chapter accurately reflects a country dominated by anxiety, insecurity, unease, and economic and social pessimism. But he fails to accurately tie that to the failed policies of the Obama Democrats who currently have the throat of the nation under their boots. He fails to identify how the spreading family breakup caused by the welfare state policies of the Left are at the root of the increasing inequality and declining social mobility that he echoes the Left in decrying. He cites statistics of longer term economic stagnation often cited by the Left, but fails to recognize the great work of Steve Moore and Alan Reynolds debunking those statistics and demonstrating much brighter longer term perspectives.
Worst of all, he fails to see that the exact answer to the anxiety, insecurity, stagnation, and economic and social pessimism he identifies is precisely a promising agenda for restoring traditional, booming, American economic growth and prosperity. Instead, he tells us, “There’s no simple answer to what ails America’s economy,” and then actually cites Obama’s excuses for his economic failures “as President Obama frequently reminds us,” he writes. The real truth that this intellectual abdication reveals is that Peter Wehner does not know what policies would restore traditional, booming, American economic growth and prosperity, and which lead to the stagnation, pessimism, and despair of today.
It is not a crime that he does not sufficiently understand economics to provide the necessary leadership in this regard. But it does mean he is better qualified to serve as a speech writer for the ideas of others than the intellectual leader with the vision and understanding conservatives and Republicans need right now.
Tax and Social Security Reform
The most troubling is the book’s chapter on tax reform, by Robert Stein, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury. Stein recognizes that Reagan’s dramatic marginal income tax rate cuts were enormously successful in promoting economic growth and prosperity. While marginal income tax rates are lower now, he doesn’t seem to recognize that with Obama’s rate increases, and high state rates, top marginal tax rates are near or even above 50% today. Moreover, the book’s authors show no recognition of the negative economic effects of the multiple taxation of capital.
Stein says that today, “Cutting marginal tax rates is not, however, an effective tool for delivering tax relief to the middle class. It does very little to lower their tax bills or improve their work incentives.” That is because Republicans, from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush II, already delivered dramatic tax relief to the middle class. The latest data shows that the middle 20% of income earners pay just 2.9% of federal income taxes, while earning 14.2% of before tax income. The book’s authors fail to show any recognition of that.
Moreover, economic studies and models show that tax reform reducing rates similarly to the proposal by the next Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, with a rate of 10% on family income up to $100,000 a year, and 25% above that, and a corporate rate of 25%, would strongly boost economic growth, jobs, and incomes, for everyone, including the middle class. That is why such tax reform is a crucial, central component of the economic growth policies so badly needed today.
But Stein says, “Instead, tax cuts for the middle class should be designed to offset the greatest fiscal-policy distortion that affects middle class Americans: the disincentive to raise children caused by Social Security and Medicare. Tax cuts should reduce the cost of raising children, making it easier for parents to pursue the family size they would desire in the absence of federal interference.” That is because Social Security and Medicare benefits “have crowded out the traditional incentive to raise children as a protection against poverty in old age.”
To correct for that supposed effect, Stein favors a tax reform proposal to raise the current $1,000 per child tax credit to $2,500 per child, which could be taken against both income tax and payroll taxes (recognizing that the actual middle class does not pay significant income taxes). To make that revenue neutral, Stein would actually favor raising the current 25% income tax rate to 35%. He says this is “a better pro-growth tax cut.”
But while that increase in the child tax credit may increase the number of children, the proposed tax reform would not be clearly pro-growth at all. Moreover, I dispute that in modern America today, without Social Security and Medicare, people would bear children because they think those children would support them in old-age. That is a rural 19th century notion. In today’s wealthy society, most Americans think they don’t want to be a burden to their children.
While Stein cites a couple of economic studies purporting to show that Social Security and Medicare does reduce fertility, much more evidence shows that Social Security and Medicare reduce savings and investment, as the programs displace the need for people to save for their retirement. That is decidedly anti-growth, and correcting for that distortion would be decidedly pro-growth, as increased savings and investment is the foundation of increased economic growth and prosperity, as long time Harvard Economics Professor, and Reagan’s former Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, Martin Feldstein has long argued.
But we can best resolve this argument with a market test. Similarly to what was so famously and successfully done in Chile over 30 years ago, allow people the freedom to choose to shift the employee share of the Social Security payroll tax to a personal savings and investment account. For every year they choose to do that, their retirement age would be delayed by 4 months, which Social Security actuaries estimate would be actuarially neutral. Doing that every year from age 22 to 67 would delay the normal Social Security retirement age for that worker by 15 years, to age 82. The personal account could then provide vastly better benefits than Social Security even promises, let alone what it could pay, during those years age 67 to 82. And Social Security benefits would then kick in at age 82, still providing a safety net against living too long. The same could be applied to the Medicare payroll tax as well. The resulting enormous influx of capital into the economy would be enormously pro-growth.
But also allow every worker with a child 21 or below the same freedom to choose to forego the employee share of payroll taxes every year, using the money to raise his or her children, with their retirement age delayed by 4 months for every year they chose this option. Then when they reach retirement, they would look to their children to support them, until the delayed Social Security benefits kick in. Then we could see which people would choose to provide for retirement, and how much. They could even choose some of each during their careers. Because ultimately, liberty and freedom of choice is the most fundamental.
Next week, I will discuss a complete policy reform strategy to achieve maximum economic growth (or maybe that will take a series of columns). That will include tax reform, regulatory reform, monetary reform, and thorough entitlement reform including every entitlement program, resulting in the largest reductions in government spending, taxes, deficits and debt in world history, resulting actually in better incomes and benefits for the poor and seniors, and better health care for the sick. These would all be positive, populist, win win reforms, all of which are currently in various stages of drafting in Congress, and all of which have already been tried and proven enormously successful in the real world. They are consequently all politically feasible, indeed, quite politically appealing and winning, not a wish list, dream agenda. I expect some leading GOP Presidential candidates to actually campaign on this entire agenda in 2016.
Indeed, I expect one of them to win. That would be the next generation advance of Reaganism, with the next President effectively serving politically as the free market conservative analogue of Franklin Roosevelt to Reagan’s Woodrow Wilson (in other words, fascism in reverse). The free market’s New New Deal would then have arrived (with the fall effectively of Progressivism’s “Berlin Wall”).
Call it the Tea Party War on Poverty (this time it actually works), or Swedish capitalism (the opposite of Swedish socialism), at long last ending the centuries old bitter conflict between labor and capital that has burdened western civilization, indeed, the entire world, since the industrial revolution.
FOIA request seeks hidden data and analyses that agency claims back up its climate rulings
Can you imagine telling the IRS you don’t need to complete all their forms or provide records to back up your claim for a tax refund? Or saying your company’s assurances that its medical products are safe and effective should satisfy the FDA? Especially if some of your data don’t actually support your claims – or you “can’t find” key data, research and other records, because your hard drive conveniently crashed? But, you tell them, people you paid to review your information said it’s accurate, so there’s no problem.
Do you suppose the government would accept your assurance that there’s “not a smidgen” of corruption, error or doubt – perhaps because 97% of your close colleagues agree with you? Or that your actions affect only a small amount of tax money, or a small number of customers – so the agencies shouldn’t worry?
If you were the Environmental Protection Agency, White House-operated US Global Change Research Program and their participating agencies (NOAA, NASA, NSF, etc.), you’d get away with all of that.
Using billions of our tax dollars, these government entities fund the research they use, select research that supports their regulatory agenda (while ignoring studies that do not), and handpick the “independent” experts who peer-review the research. As a recent analysis reveals, the agencies also give “significant financial support” to United Nations and other organizations that prepare computer models and other assessments. They then use the results to justify regulations that will cost countless billions of dollars and affect the lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, health, welfare and life spans of every American.
EPA utilized this clever maneuver to determine that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases “endanger” public health and welfare. It then devised devious reports, including national climate change assessments – and expensive, punitive regulations to control emissions of those gases from vehicles, electrical generating plants and countless other sources.
At the very least, you would expect that this supposedly “scientific” review process – and the data and studies involved in it – should be subject to rigorous, least-discretionary standards designed to ensure their quality, integrity, credibility and reliability, as well as truly independent expert review. Indeed they are.
The Information Quality Act of 2000 and subsequent Office of Management and Budget guidelines require that all federal agencies ensure and maximize “the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies.” The rules also call for proper peer review of all “influential scientific information” and “highly influential scientific assessments,” particularly if they could be used as the basis for regulatory action. Finally, they direct federal agencies to provide adequate administrative mechanisms enabling affected parties to review agency failures to respond to requests for correction or reconsideration of the scientific information.
EPA and other agencies apparently think these rules are burdensome, inconvenient, and a threat to their independence and regulatory agenda. They routinely ignore the rules, and resist attempts by outside experts to gain access to data and studies. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said she intends to “protect” them from people and organizations she decides “are not qualified to analyze” the materials.
Thus EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviews the agency’s CO2 and pollution data, studies and conclusions – for which EPA has paid CASAC’s 15 members $180.8 million since 2000. The American Lung Association has received $24.7 million in EPA grants over the past 15 years and $43 million overall via a total of 591 federal grants, for applauding and promoting government agency decisions. Big Green foundations bankrolled the ALA with an additional $76 million, under 2,806 grants.
These payoffs raise serious questions about EPA, CASAC and ALA integrity and credibility.
Meanwhile, real stakeholders – families and companies that will be severely impacted by the rules, and organizations and experts trying to protect their interests – are systematically denied access to data, studies, scientific assessments and other information. CASAC excludes from its ranks industry and other experts who might question EPA findings. EPA stonewalls and slow-walks FOIA requests and denies requests for correction and reconsideration. One lawyer who’s filed FOIA cases since 1978 says the Obama Administration is bar-none “the worst” in history on transparency. Even members of Congress get nowhere, resulting in testy confrontations with Ms. McCarthy and other EPA officials.
The stakes are high, particularly in view of the Obama EPA’s war on coal mining, coal-fired power plants, businesses and industries that require reliable, affordable electricity – and families, communities and entire states whose jobs, health and welfare will suffer under this anti-fossil fuel agenda. States that mine and use coal will be bludgeoned. Because they pay a larger portion of their incomes on energy and food, elderly, minority and poor families are especially vulnerable and will suffer greatly.
That is why the House of Representatives is moving forward on the Secret Science Reform Act. It is why the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development is again filing new FOIA requests with EPA and other agencies that are hiding their junk science, manipulating laws and strangling our economy.
The agencies’ benefit-cost analyses are equally deceptive. EPA claims its latest coal-fueled power plant rules (requiring an impossible 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030) would bring $30 billion in “climate benefits” versus $7.3 billion in costs. Even the left-leaning Brookings Institution has trashed the agency’s analysis – pointing out that the low-balled costs will be paid by American taxpayers, consumers, businesses and workers, whereas the highly conjectural benefits will be accrued globally.
That violates President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order 12688, which requires that agencies “assess both the costs and benefits” of a proposed regulation, and adopt it “only upon a reasoned determination that the benefits … justify its costs.” EO 12866 specifies that only benefits to US citizens be counted. Once that’s done, the EPA benefits plummet to between $2.1 billion and $6.9 billion. That means its kill-coal rules costAmericans $400 million to $4.8 billion more than the clearly inflated benefits, using EPA’s own numbers.
Moreover, the US Chamber of Commerce calculates that the regulations will actually penalize the United States $51 billion. Energy analyst Roger Bezdek estimates that the benefits of using carbon-based fuels outweigh any hypothesized “social costs of carbon” by orders of magnitude: 50-to-1 (using the inflated SCC of $36/ton of CO2 concocted by EPA and other federal agencies in 2013) – and 500-to-1 (using the equally arbitrary $22/ton estimate that they cooked up in 2010).
Even more intolerable, these punitive EPA rules will have virtually no effect on atmospheric CO2 levels, because China, India, Germany and other countries will continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels. They will likewise have no effect on global temperatures, even accepting the Obama/EPA/IPCC notion that carbon dioxide is now the primary cause of climate change. Even EPA models acknowledge that its rules will prevent an undetectable 0.018 degrees Celsius (0.032 deg F) of total global warming in 100 years!
Fortunately, the Supreme Court recently ruled that EPA does not have the authority to rewrite federal laws to serve its power-grabbing agendas. FOIA requests seeking disclosure of EPA records that could reveal a rigged climate science peer review process – and legal actions under the Information Quality Act seeking correction of resultant data corruption – could compel courts to reconsider their all-too-common practice of deferring to “agency discretion” on scientific and regulatory matters. That clearly scares these federales.
The feds have become accustomed to saying “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” The prospect of having to share their data, methodologies and research with experts outside their closed circle of regulators, collaborators and eco-activists almost makes them soil their shorts.
Bright sunlight has always been the best disinfectant for mold, slime and corruption. With America’s economy, international competitiveness, jobs, health and welfare at stake, we need that sunlight now.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.cfact.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. Lawrence Kogan is CEO of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (www.ITSSD.org).
“The difference between taking a part of my life,
and taking my whole life, is just a matter of degree.” -Anon
There was a time, before the baby-boom generation took over, when we took pride in the achievements of our builders, producers and innovators. There was always great celebration when settler families got a phone, a tractor, a bitumen road or electric power. An oil strike or a gold discovery made headlines, and people welcomed new businesses, new railways and new inventions. Science and engineering were revered and the wealth delivered by these human achievements enabled the builders and their children to live more rewarding lives, with more leisure, more time for culture and crusades, and greater interest in taking more care of their environment.
Then a green snake entered the Garden of Eden.
Many of the genuine conservationists from the original environmental societies were replaced by political extremists who felt lost after the Comrade Societies collapsed and China joined the trading world. These zealots were mainly interested in promoting environmental alarms in order to push a consistent agenda of world control of production, distribution and exchange – a new global utopia run by unelected all-knowing people just like them.
The old Reds became the new Greens.
They used every credible-sounding scare to recruit support – peak resources, acid rain, ozone holes, global cooling, species extinction, food security, Barrier Reef threats, global warming or extreme weather to justify global controls, no-go areas and international taxes to limit all human activities. However the public became disenchanted with their politics of denial, and their opposition to human progress, so they have adopted a new tactic – death by delay.
“We are not opposed to all development, but we want to ensure all environmental concerns are fully investigated before new developments get approval.”
In fact, their goal is to kill projects with costly regulations, investigations and delay. Their technique is to grab control of bureaucratic bodies like the US EPA which, since 2009, has issued 2,827 new regulations totalling 24,915,000 words. A current example of death by delay is the Keystone Oil pipeline proposal which would have taken crude oil from Alberta in Canada to refineries on the US Gulf Coast – far better than sending it by rail tankers. It was first proposed in 2005, and immediately opposed by the anti-industry, anti-carbon zealots who control the EPA and other arms of the US federal government. The proposal was studied to death by US officials and green busybodies for nine long years.
This week the Canadians lost patience and approved an alternative proposal to take a pipeline to the west coast of Canada, allowing more Albertan oil to be exported to Asia. Jobs and resources that would have benefitted Americans will now go to Asia. Naturally the Green delayers will also attempt to throttle this proposal. Over in Europe, shale gas exploration is also being subject to death by delay. In Britain, the pioneering company, Caudrilla, has been waiting for seven long years for approvals to explore. In France, all such exploration is banned.
No wonder India recently accused Greenpeace and other delayers of being “a threat to national economic security”.
It was long the case that American presidents held less power on domestic issues than did the Congress. The executive branch could only enact the laws of the legislature with a limited ability and proclivity to veto.
The president’s real power lay in setting foreign policy, as he had much more freedom of action in that arena than on the home front wherein the checks and balances of the Constitution were in full force.
That traditional balance has been overridden in the current political system, and the fault for this breakdown of traditional magisteria of influence lies with both the executive and the legislative branches.
In domestic politics, the legislature has ceded, both deliberately and under protest, a great deal of power to the executive. The so-called imperial presidency has been growing in power since the end of World War II, but it has become a monster since Barack Obama took office.
The Obama White House has sought to dominate the American political system, and has attempted to paint opposition forces in Congress as enemies of progress.Yet it has not been a mere rhetorical attack on checks and balances. Indeed, the president’s promise to use his “pen and phone” to enact executive orders so as to bypass Congress wherever possible has become a terrifying reality.
Perhaps what is most shocking about Obama’s stated aim of bypassing the constitutional checks on his power is the fact that much of the mainstream media has endorsed his actions. They seem to forget that the president is not the only elected official in the country and he is not the only person with a mandate to govern. The Congress has an electoral mandate to do as it was elected to do. The president cannot pretend he has a right to run roughshod over Congress and the Constitution.
Also disconcerting is the trend in the Congress itself to permit executive overreach. There was once a time when senators and congressmen viewed their office as taking precedence over party. That is no longer the case (in either party). During the administration of George W. Bush, the Republican-controlled Congress was more than willing to hand sweeping powers to the president. The Democratic Congress after 2009 gave even more powers to Obama. In both cases, Congress has been complicit in the erosion of the essential checks and balances that preserve the United States government and the liberty of all Americans.
The Obama administration is a particularly strange beast. At the same time that the White House has been hoovering up domestic powers from a Congress too divided and weak to fight back, it has also been entirely rudderless on foreign policy. Almost everything Obama has done on the world stage has weakened America. He has snubbed our allies in Israel and South Korea, ceded control of the Internet to even more statist (and sometimes authoritarian) interests, and has led a foreign policy in the Middle East so senseless as to render any observer speechless. What we are witnessing is a fundamental inversion of the proper power and role of the presidency.
Can the situation be saved? That is a matter up to the American public. They can stand by and continue to allow the gradual whittling away of their liberties at home and security abroad, or they can call on their elected leaders and candidates to uphold the Constitution. For the sake of the nation, they had best choose the latter.
In an effort to address growing budget problems, many states have attempted to draw on the as yet untapped revenue source of online sales taxes. Currently, these efforts have been stymied by legal precedent and a lack of public support. However in the last few years, Congress has attempted to accelerate these efforts with several pieces of legislation that expand the states’ ability of states to charge sales taxes on out of state retailers regardless of if the retailer has a physical presence in the state. The most prominent of these is the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which was first proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2011.
This week, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) and the R Street Institute launched a 20-state tour to announce new poll results that demonstrate the publics near complete lack of support for the MFA and the detrimental the tax plan would be. The first stop was in South Carolina, where R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan and NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp hosted a press conference annoying the results. Voters in South Carolina rejected Internet sales taxes by a significant margin of 51-36.
It should come as no surprise that the majority American public against attempts to impose taxes on internet purchases. Internet sales taxes have long been unpopular with everyday shoppers, for good reason. Imposing such a tax on online and mailer order sales would unfortunately have strong negative effects on the online economy, hinder tax competition amongst the states while raising far less revenue than legislators expect and worst of all open taxpayers up to a slew of new possible taxes.
A Gallup poll conducted in 2013 found that 57 percent of respondents opposed enacting a law that would allow states to collect sales taxes on online purchases, as the Marketplace Fairness Act does. Another 2013 poll commissioned to Mercury by the National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute found the same results, 57 percent of respondents were opposed to an Internet sales tax scheme like the MFA.
“New Internet sales tax laws are bad policy, but this polling proves that they’re terrible politics as well,” said R Street’s Andrew Moylan in a press statement. “It shows that strong majorities across the country seek an Internet that enriches their lives, not out-of-state revenue agents.”
NTU’s Pete Sepp pointed to a disconnect between Washington and the average taxpayer, “Special interests might convince some in Washington, but in the states, voters are not fooled by any attempts to unleash tax collectors from reckless states like New York and Illinois on their hometown businesses.”
The tour will continue over the upcoming months, with individual results being released for each state. More information on the fight against Internet sales taxes can be found online here: DontTaxtheInter.net.
While proponents of this measure and others have argued that efforts like it are needed to restore a balance between online and bricks-and-mortar retailers, the reality is quite the opposite. The Marketplace Fairness Act would give bricks-and-mortar retailers a distinct advantage over online retailers. Even with today’s technology, it is difficult and expensive for online merchants to accurately charge sales taxes for the products they sell to the 9,600 different taxing bodies in this country. In addition, local retailers benefit from services such as roads; police, fire, accident, and disaster protection; and utilities delivered over money-saving public rights of way. Out-of-state retailers get none of these.
One alternative state legislators could consider is an origin-based sales tax system for Internet sales taxes. It stays within the parameters of the physical presence standard and ensures that out-of-state consumers are not paying taxes for services they will never use. Preserving this standard is essential. Allowing it to be overridden would create a significant expansion of state taxing powers and would undermine tax competition, which helps keep taxes low.
Slowly but surely, Washington is waking up to the idea that the current surge in populism is not some flash in the pan, but a real and sustained trend in politics on the right and left. Distrust and frustration with an economic and political system that rewards, defends, and bails out the wealthy, powerful, and well-connected while leaving the middle and working class to get squeezed by stagnant wages and the higher costs of the basic staples of life, has made things which were once considered humdrum politics as usual suddenly controversial.
The most recent hot-button issue to attract populist frustration was highlighted in yesterday’s hearings on Capitol Hill concerning the Export-Import Bank, an institution not many in politics could even name a few months ago. As a test case for how both parties are responding to this issue, the arguments yesterday over ExIm served as an illuminating example of the political shifts taking place in response to the populist frustrations with corporate cronyism.
Republican Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling opened today’s hearing on the Export-Import Bank by excoriating corporate welfare and calling out big businesses by name in something of a populist speech: ‘Who benefits? Overwhelmingly — and indisputably — it’s some of the largest, richest, most politically-connected corporations in the world — like Boeing, General Electric, Bechtel and Caterpillar. … And big Wall Street banks apparently benefit as well. As reported in the press recently, one former JP Morgan and Citigroup banker said of Ex-Im’s credit guarantees, “it’s free money.” So if you’re a politically-connected bank or company that benefits from Ex-Im, no doubt you would like it to continue. After all, it’s a sweetheart deal for you. Taxpayers shoulder the risk and you get the reward.’ …
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats were singing hosannas to corporate America. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., warned darkly that if Ex-Im dies, we might “wake up in 20 years” in a world with no Boeing. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pointed to the Chamber-of-Commerce-led lobbying effort to save Ex-Im and declared, “865 businesses and associations can’t be wrong!”
It seems the Democrats are going to ignore calls to reconsider the defense of this corporatist entity, even as investigations into its corruption haveshifted the position of past defenders. Picking winners and losers is just that appealing. But the more interesting battle lines over ExIm are going to be on the right, where there really are people arguing that “Corporate welfare in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Did you know that the ExIm bank won the Cold War and is critical to the cause of human flourishing?Neither did I.
The populists have a challenge: as a practical matter, there are simply not enough Republicans who agree with and share their views to shift policy priorities on the big issues. So they have to pick fights like ExIm to highlight these problems in ways that are clear-cut. They can rely on members like Jeb Hensarling to speak their language, but they need something more: they need people who recognize where the political winds are blowing, and adapt to these priorities.
There’s an interesting contrast here between Thad Cochran and Kevin McCarthy. Cochran is headed back to Washington after surviving a runoff thanks to a deluge of political activity from Haley Barbour and his family, Mitch McConnell, the NRSC, and the Chamber of Commerce to turn out Democratic voters for their candidate. As a Senator, Cochran is little more than a puppet operated by traditional corporate and K Street interests - a life-long appropriator with no real ideology, and someone whose Coping With Senility process is going on in the public eye. If Republicans take the Senate, Cochran is in line to take over the Appropriations Committee, and with his re-election, his backers will stand to benefit enormously, where he is expected to bring back the old appropriations culture and “restore some of the spend-along-to-get-along spirit of bipartisan collegiality that drives insurgents on the right absolutely nuts.”
It’s no accident that the Barbour family’s role includes leading the lobbying effort to defend ExIm, and they and their clients stand to benefit enormously from this arrangement. That’s discouraging, but what do you expect – it’s politics as usual.
On the other side of the Hill, however, Kevin McCarthy’s new position on the Export-Import bank is an encouraging sign, particularly given its status as his first big shift post-election as Majority Leader. McCarthy is indicating that he’s happy to be swayed by conservatives when they’re on the same page as the WSJ editorial board, and he’s not going to go out and sacrifice himself over the plate on the first at bat to save some cronyist pocket change. This is another reason why ExIm was a smart play for a populist assault – Republicans don’t actually have to do anything in particular to kill ExIm, they just have to sit on your hands and let it die.
Here, we have a good test case for how Republican leadership will treat fiscal conservatives going forward. If McCarthy’s not even willing to let anti-cronyist policies happen that way, he’ll be a problem. But if McCarthy does keep his word, it could indicate why, on balance, it’s sometimes better for conservatives to have a pragmatic operator like McCarthy as a leader as opposed to the likes of Mitch McConnell (whose approach in the Senate has been to say the right things and vote the right way, but work behind the scenes to make sure K Street always wins and cronyist institutions like ExIm survive).
McCarthy’s not a dumb guy. He knows his position as leader isn’t very secure. With elections again after November, he’s basically an interim coach with a few months to win the permanent job. The chief difference between McCarthy’s and Cantor’s relationship with the conservative members is that McCarthy doesn’t think he’s a leader, either. And he seems to be okay with that: he’s a glad-hander, not an arm-twister. He just wants everybody to have a good time at the party, and if that takes an extra keg of Sierra Nevada, Kevin McCarthy will get those suds for you.
That’s why the new battle lines over cronyism are so interesting in charting the country’s political future. The always-too-simplified lines of establishment and conservative movement are already completely outdated. One of the important lessons for easily discouraged conservatives to remember about politics is that when political winds change, windsocks move too. And when the wind moves the GOP in this populist direction, it appears politicians like McCarthy will move with it, even as politicians like Cochran don’t.
It’s an intriguing possibility which indicates that maybe, just maybe, the Republican Party could reject some of its corporatist pro-business past and get serious about free market policies. We’ll see if McCarthy’s as good as his word on ExIm over the next few months, and particularly in the upcoming lame duck session, where – if candidates like Cochran prevail and the GOP as a whole underperforms in November – K Street will smell sweet, sweet taxpayer-funded blood.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
Despite a slight contraction during the first quarter of this year, the American economy has been expanding slowly but steadily since the end of the “Great Recession.”
And America’s newfound abundance of energy — especially oil and natural gas — has played a key role.
As a result of what’s sometimes called the “shale revolution” — the extraction of oil and gas from shale and other source rocks buried up to 10,000 feet below the surface — domestic oil production has jumped 40 percent since 2010 and is nearly back to its peak in the mid-1980s. What’s more, according to the International Energy Agency, America’s incremental production over the next four years is projected to be greater than the expected increase in total global demand; and by 2018 at the latest, the U.S. will have reclaimed its crown as the planet’s number one oil producer.
Natural gas output has also climbed dramatically, up 33 percent since 2010, pushing us ahead of Russia to become the world’s number one gas producing country.
Five years ago, the oil and gas industry accounted for only 3 percent of America’s economic output. Today, it’s more than 10 percent. Employment in the oil and gas industry is up nearly 30 percent since 2008 while total U.S. employment has just returned to its pre-recession level. In those states that have embraced energy development, output and jobs have grown faster than in most other states while unemployment rates are well below the U.S. average of 6.3 percent.
Because of greater domestic production, oil imports have dropped from 50 percent of consumption to 30 percent in just five years. Lower petroleum imports, combined with higher exports of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from America’s refineries, have had a positive impact on our trade deficit.
Growing use of natural gas for power generation, industrial boilers and heating has driven down utility costs for millions of households and thousands of businesses while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a 20-year low. To sustain this trend, new nuclear plants are being constructed in Georgia and South Carolina using an AP1000 reactor design, a technologically advanced system that will add stability to the power grid while producing no greenhouse gases.
Abundant and relatively inexpensive energy supplies are also helping to revive America’s manufacturing sector and attract foreign investment. As evidence, since 2010 the 15 states with the lowest electricity prices have all posted gains in industrial employment.
Importantly, America’s evolution as an energy colossus offers the promise of greater international political clout if we pursue sensible policies. Federal authorities could expedite the construction of export terminals for liquefied natural gas . By exporting LNG from the U.S. to Europe and Asia we can help break Russia’s hold on those markets.
Similarly, Congress could remove the current prohibition on crude oil exports, an action that would quickly produce 90,000 new jobs according to a recent analysis by the American Petroleum Institute.
A strong foreign policy requires a strong economy, and energy is America’s trump card. We’re number one in natural gas, number one in nuclear power, number one in renewables, number two in coal, and we’ll soon be number one in oil. By playing this card smartly, we can boost economic growth while reclaiming some of our lost global political leverage.
Bernard L. Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a fellow with the 4 Percent Growth Project of the George W. Bush Institute.