On the Blog

EPA Clean Power Plan: All Pain – No Gain for American Jobs and Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 10:48 AM

EPA Clean Power Plan: All pain – no gain for American jobs and energy

A diverse and growing coalition, has sprung up in opposition to the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Yet most people are unaware of the potential impacts or of the pending deadline for public comment.

I’ve written this week’s column with the specific intent of giving you verbiage that you can simply cut and paste into the comment form before October 16.

The CPP will radically alter the way electricity is generated in America. It is based on the discredited theory that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It aims to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The combination of the CPP and previous regulation will shut down more than 40 percent of coal-fueled generation—representing 10 percent of all electricity-generation capacity—within the next 6 years.

What will this forced, premature elimination of America’s electric capacity do?

The proposed EPA plan will seriously threaten America’s electric reliability

Unless the EPA backs down on its harsh regulations and coal-fueled power plants get a reprieve, blackouts are almost guaranteed—especially in light of the projected cold winter. About the 2014 “polar vortex” that crippled the U.S., Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, at an April Senate hearing on grid reliability, stated: “Eighty-nine percent of the coal electricity capacity that is due to go offline was utilized as that backup to meet the demand this winter.” Murkowski’s comments were referencing coal-fueled power plants that are already due to be shut down based on regulations from five years ago, before the proposed CPP additionally reduces supply. Affirming Murkowski’s comments, Nicholas Akins, president and CEO of Ohio-based American Electric Power Company Inc., sees the 2014 near crisis as a warning sign. At that same hearing he said: “The weather events experienced this winter provided an early warning about serious issues with electric supply and reliability. This country did not just dodge a bullet—we dodged a cannonball.” This is before the projected closure of an additional 75 megawatts of coal-fueled electricity generation due to the new regulations. If McCarthy was serious when, prior to the release of the proposed regulations, she stated: “Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” she’d withdraw this plan, as it will do just that.

The proposed EPA plan will chase away more American industry

While the CPP appears to be about forcing the power sector into reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, there are spillover impacts of higher electricity rates on overall economic activity—especially energy-intensive industries such as steel, manufacturing, and chemicals. America’s abundance of affordable, reliable energy provides businesses with a critical operating advantage in today’s intensely competitive global economy. The EPA’s proposal will reduce America’s advantage, as it’s acknowledged that the proposed regulations will raise electricity rates in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020. If industry continues to leave the U.S., the CPP results will be opposite of the planned effect. Emissions will increase as companies move to countries with lower labor costs, cheaper energy, and lax environmental regualtions. An additional unintended consequence will be more jobs lost in manufacturing.

The proposed EPA plan will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs

In late July, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International President Edwin D. Hill said: “If these rules are implemented as written, dozens of coal plants will shut down and with no plans to replace them, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and global carbon emissions will rise anyway.” Investor’s Business Daily reports: “The IBEW has now joined the United Mine Workers of America, the Boilermakers and several other unions opposed to the new anti-carbon rules.” The United Mine Workers of America has estimated that the rule will result in 187,000 direct and indirect job losses in the utility, rail, and coal industries in 2020 and cumulative wage and benefit losses from these sectors of $208 billion between 2015 and 2035. No wonder the economy is sluggish and the jobs picture continues to be bleak.

The proposed EPA plan will cause harsh economic consequences while having virtually no impact on the reported goal of stopping global climate change

From increased energy costs to job losses, the CPP will further damage the economy. Perhaps these economic consequences would be worth it, if they actually did anything to really reduce carbon-dioxide emissions—assuming what humans breathe out and plants breathe in is actually the cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions from non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries—such as China and India—are projected to grow by nine billion tons per year. The Partnership for a Better Energy Future reports: “for every ton of CO2 reduced in 2030 as a result of EPA’s rule, the rest of the world will have increased emissions by more than 16 tons.” Our reduction in 2030 would offset the equivalent of just 13.5 days of carbon-dioxide emissions from China alone. The CPP will become the definition of “all pain and no gain.”

The EPA’s October 16 deadline will be upon us before you know it. Take a few minutes now to send them your commentshttp://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.Pick any of the above suggestions, customize them as you please, and send them on to the EPA. For America to grow, we need energy that is effective, efficient, and economical, rather than that which is threatened by the EPA’s flood of excessive and burdensome regulations.

Categories: On the Blog

End the Costly Integration Ban – Part II

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 10:35 AM

For almost eight years, I have been urging, along with other Free State Foundation scholars, an end to the costly so-called “integration ban.”This outdated, costly FCC regulation bans cable operators from integrating the security and programming navigation functions in set-top boxes.

The supposed rationale for the integration ban, which was implemented in 2007, was to promote the availability of an independent retail market in set-top boxes. But, as I explained in my July 25 blog, “End the Costly Integration Ban,” from the very beginning, “in light of the competition among multichannel video providers that already then existed, it was clear that the costs imposed by the mandated separation of security and program navigation functions outweighed the consumer benefits.” The blog explains, at considerable length, and with links to several of FSF’s works on the subject, why it is time — indeed, way past time — to end the integration ban.

To its credit, the House of Representatives’ bill reauthorizing STELA included a provision ending the integration ban. Now, to my dismay, I have read that Senator Ed Markey plans to try to add a provision to the Senate STELA reauthorization that would reinstate the integration ban in some form. For all the reasons spelled out in “End the Costly Integration Ban,” I sure hope he doesn’t succeed.

The reality is that over his long career, Sen. Markey has always equated more regulation of the communications marketplace with more competition. There may have been some merit to that view, at least in particular instances where segments of the communications marketplace remained monopolistic,  when then-Rep. Markey first articulated this proposition 30 years ago. But there is no doubt, as explained in my blog and the other referenced Free State Foundation work, that the video services marketplace, including the market for all sorts of navigation devices and services, is now competitive.

Sen. Markey’s invariable view equating continued regulation with “protecting competition” is now woefully outdated, certainly including this instance. Sen. Markey’s position may, in fact, provide some help in propping up particular competitors in some situations for some amount of time. But in markets that are already subject to competitive forces, consumers almost always are the losers.

I hope the Senate Commerce Committee will see the wisdom in the House bill ending the costly integration ban — and, in doing so, put consumers’ interests first. 

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Apple’s New Security Policy Is Great News for iPhone, iPad Users

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 8:39 AM

Apple Corp. last night announced that it is implementing a new security protocol that will make it impossible for the firm to turn over users’ personal information to government agencies, or anyone else. This is great news for users of Apple products, and one hopes that the other major phone and tablet operating system providers—notably, Google and Microsoft—will quickly follow suit.

This is a real innovation that makes the electronic-device consumer experience much better and much safer.

The Washington Post reports:

The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said inthe new privacy policy.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

This action demonstrates once again that free-market choices make for innovation and consumer satisfaction, in contrast with government coercion and intrusion. Kudos to Apple for this smart and consumer-friendly action.

[Originally published at The American Culture]


Categories: On the Blog

Food Fight: Can Food Companies Help Battle Obesity?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 8:30 AM

This week may be a turning point in the food fight that has been taking place in this country for over a decade.

An analysis published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this week (Sept. 17) found that major food companies exceeded their pledge to Michelle Obama that they’ll reduce the calories they sell to consumers.

The pledge, according to the first lady, mattered. When it was announced in 2010, she made what turned out to be a controversial proclamation, arguing that “Solving the obesity epidemic requires far more than anything government can do alone and today’s announcement represents an important step forward to providing Americans with healthier choices so that they can choose to lead healthier lives.”

This didn’t sit well with NYU’s in-house nutrition activist Dr. Marion Nestle. Nestle, the author ofFood Politics, is one of the most widely quoted voices about nutrition and obesity policy.

For her and others who urgently demand more government intervention with how we eat, obesity seems less like a public health problem, and more like a news hook. To activists, every report about obesity is a justification to increase food and beverage taxes, lobby for more taxpayer-funded programs, and call for restrictions on advertising of foods they don’t want us to eat.

Regulation-hungry thought leaders like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa blame obesity on the failure of public health officials and lawmakers to “legislate change” – not enough statutes, regulations, public monies spent, or taxes on foods that he thinks are bad.

However if it were really just about solving a serious public health problem, these smart people would be able to come up with more narrowly-tailored and useful solutions than the one-size fits all big-government regulatory approaches they’ve been trying to shove down our throats. And instead of demonizing industry, they’d realize that companies that sell food aren’t the enemy, they are a necessary partner.

While a conciliatory approach is the sensible one, it isn’t a strategy that helps sell books, raise funds, motivate their base, get media attention, and cajole politicians.

Nestle reflected about the first lady’s ongoing anti-obesity campaign in an interview with The Nation’s Bridget Huber in 2012, “Looking back on it, it’s enough to make you weep. So little has been able to be achieved.”

To activist groups, partnering with industry is akin to signing a pact with the devil. Huber framed the underlying controversy accurately. “It also raises fundamental questions about whether the goals of public health and those of the food industry are at irreconcilable odds. Should those who seek to address the obesity crisis treat food companies as collaborators or as adversaries?”

The study published Wednesday suggests an answer to Huber’s question. And it puts the Marion Nestle’s of the world on the wrong side of history. This isn’t just my view, but it seems to be the take of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, no bastion of free-market policy advocacy.

In a commentary published alongside the report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, RWJF president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and colleagues wrote, “Through the HWCF and similar initiatives, industry is demonstrating that it can be part of the solution. So we both congratulate these companies and call upon them and other industry leaders to join together with the health community to go even further to help all children achieve a healthy weight.”

Those who care about public health, rather than scoring political body blows should agree. But the call should go further. We should urge public health groups to realize that the way towards progress for healthy eating is to encourage this type of voluntary dialogue backed up by results.

Activists in the public health community should latch onto this positive example of private-sector driven progress and put an end to divisive rhetoric that demonizes food companies rather than helps consumers be healthy. Think of it this way: When it comes to addressing obesity, carrots work better than sticks.

[Originally published at Pundicity]


Categories: On the Blog

The Miracle and Morality of the Market

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 8:17 AM

One of the great fallacies arrogantly believed in by those in political power is the notion that they can know enough to manage and command the lives of everyone in society with better results than if people are left to live their own lives as they freely choose.

The fact is, there is far more in the world that successfully manages and “regulates” itself without the controlling hand of the government than many of us pause to reflect on or understand.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much of the world around us we take for granted? How often do any of us reflect on the law of gravity that keeps the moon revolving around the earth or on the chemical workings of our internal organs after we have eaten a meal?

The Physical and Biological Worlds Don’t Need Government

Yet whether we think about or even understand the law of gravity or the processes of chemical reactions, the moon continues to travel around the earth and the food we normally eat continues to be digested. These physical and biological processes operate whether or not we think about or understand them.

If the wonders of the physical world and the complexities of our own biology often seem miraculous to us, we should be no less awestruck at the miracle of the marketplace.

Just as the forces of gravity and the internal chemistry of our bodies operate without conscious human intervention and control to direct or regulate them, so too the market brings together the actions of multitudes of producers with the desires and demands of an equivalent multitude of buyers with no central directing and commanding hand overseeing the processes at work. Just as most of nature and much of human biology are “self-regulating,” so too is the greater part of our economic activities in society.

Markets Use More Knowledge Than a Mind Can Master

Day in and day out we give little thought to the vast and complex array of economic processes, which if they were to stop or severely malfunction would mean hardship or even disaster for many of us. The supermarkets are daily replenished with wide varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, canned and packaged goods, dairy products, and many other items.

We crowd the shopping malls and find them filled with practically every conceivable commodity we can imagine, with each of them offered in attractive and diverse varieties. Just think of the wide spectrum of shoes and clothes placed at our disposal in those malls as an example of this. And if we do not want the inconveniences and irritations of crowded shopping areas, a growing number of us now do an increasing amount of our shopping over the Internet with the mere click of the “mouse.”

Even if we wanted to fully understand how all those goods are actually brought to the marketplace for our various wants and desires, virtually none of us would be able to trace through all the intricate ways by which our demands are satisfied.

Back in 1958, free market advocate, Leonard Read, wrote a famous essay titled “I, Pencil.” He outlined a history of manufacturing a simple old-fashioned wooden pencil, from a tree being cut down in a forest and the mining of the graphite in a faraway country to its assembly into its finished form so that it might be readily available for purchase by any of us in some neighborhood store. Read’s central insight was to remind us that no one individual or even wise and informed group of us possesses all the knowledge or information that has gone into that pencil’s manufacture.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for anyone to fully understand the processes involved in making that pencil for it to be available to us as a writing instrument. Indeed, if it were required for some mastermind to know all that is needed to know to make all of the goods offered to us everyday on the market, the variety of goods available to us would be both fewer in number and poorer in quality.

Market Competition and the Price System

How are the activities of an increasingly larger group of individuals successfully coordinated, so that all the multitudes of demands and supplies are brought into balance and harmony? The Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek showed how all of the knowledge and information in society is encapsulated in the price system of the free-market economy. In our roles as both consumers and producers we communicate to one another what we think goods, resources, capital, and labor services are worth to us in their various and competing uses through the prices we are willing to pay for them. These “price signals” serve as the means for all of us to decide and coordinate what we want and are willing to do together with other members of society.

Thus, and indeed quite miraculously, it is not necessary for an “economic czar” to rule over and command us in our everyday market activities to assure that a vast quantity of food gets to the supermarkets or that thousands of different varieties of goods are constantly available in the shopping malls or other stores and businesses throughout the land.

Each individual finds his own corner of specialization — guided by those opportunities, expressed in market prices, that seem to offer the greatest likelihood of earning an income that will enable him to buy from others all of the goods he himself desires.

Competition in these voluntary interactions of the market helps us to discover where each of us can best interact our fellow men for mutual betterment within the system of division of labor while pursuing our own personal interests.

The competitive process tests us through the reward of profits and the penalties of losses. Profits lure us into those production activities that our neighbors, as consumers, want us to do more of. Losses warn us that we have undertaken production actions that those same neighbors think are not worth the costs of our continuing to do them in the same way.

No overseer’s whip is needed to prod people to do more of some things and less of others. No paternalistic planner is needed to assure that everything that is wanted is produced and in the most economically cost-efficient way. No restraining regulations and controls are needed to hamper the free choices and actions of the multitudes of millions in society – other than the crucial and general legal rules against murder, theft, and fraud in our dealings with one another.

Mutual agreement and voluntary consent are the bases of these market relationships. It is not the police power of the government with its use or the threat of violence and force that compels the cooperation and collaboration of humanity.

The Morality of Market Relationships

There is also an important moral element in this functioning free-market economy. There are none who are only masters and others who are simply servants. In the market society we are all both servants and masters, but without either force or its threat.

In our roles as producers — be it as men who hire out our labor for wages, resource owners who rent out or sell our property for a price, or entrepreneurs who direct production for anticipated profits — we serve our fellow men in attempting to make the products and provide the services we think they may be willing and interested in buying from us.

“Service with a smile” and “the customer is always right” are hallmarks of the seller’s deference to those to whom they offer their supplies. What motivates such attitudes is the fact that in an open, competitive market no one can compel us to buy from a seller who offers something less attractive or more costly than what some rival of his is presenting to us for our consideration.

And why are we interested in not offending or driving away some potential customer into the arms of our rival suppliers? Because only by successfully making the better and less expensive product can we hope to earn the income that then enables us to re-enter the market, now in the role of consumer and demander of what our neighbors are offering to sell to us.

As consumers, we become the “masters” who those same neighbors attempt to satisfy with newer, better, and cheaper products. Now those whom we have served defer to us. We “command” them, not through the use of force but through the attraction of our demand and the money we offer for the goods they bring to the market.

By how much we can “command” the service of others in the market in our role as consumer is directly related to the extent to which we have been successful in our service to our neighbors as reflected in the money income we have earned from satisfying their wants and desires.

In a free society, no man is required to do work or supply any good he considers morally wrong and ethically questionable. He may earn less from choosing to supply something that is valued less highly in the market, but he cannot be forced to produce anything that his conscience may dictate to be wrong.

On the other hand, we cannot prevent others from supplying a good or service we find morally objectionable. The ethics of liberty and the free market require that we use only morally justifiable means to stop our neighbors from demanding and supplying something that offends us. We must use reason, persuasion, and example of a better and more right way to live.

Unfortunately, too many of our fellow men want to preserve or extend a return to a form of a slave society — regardless of the name under which it is presented. Too many want to dictate how others may make a living, or at what price and under what terms they may peacefully and voluntarily interact with their fellow human beings for purposes of mutual material, cultural, and spiritual betterment.

Moral Courage for Winning Freedom

Our task, for those of us who understand and care deeply about human liberty, is to reawaken in our fellow men an awareness of the miracle and morality of the market. The task, I know, seems daunting. But it must have seemed that way to our American Founding Fathers when they heralded the truth of the inalienable individual rights of man to life liberty and honestly acquired property for which they fought and then won a revolution, or when advocates of economic freedom first made the case for the free market against government control.

The world was transformed by these ideals of the morality of free men in free markets. What is most important is that each of us understands as best we can the miracle and the morality of the market economy. Too often the friends of freedom allow the advocates of various forms of government regulation, control, and redistribution to set the terms of the debate. Freedom will not win if we do not put those proponents of political paternalism on the defensive.

By what moral right do they claim to tell other men how to peacefully go about their private and market affairs — as long as those men do not use murder, theft, or fraud in their dealings with others? By what ethical norm do those political paternalists declare their right to take that which others have honestly acquired through production and trade, and redistribute it without the voluntary consent of those from whom it has been taken? By what assertion of superior wisdom and knowledge do they presume to know more than the individual minds of all the members of society about how the market should go about the business of manufacturing all the things we want, and matching the demands with the supplies?

Defenders of individual freedom and the market economy have nothing to be ashamed or fearful of in advocating the free society. The American system of limited government, personal liberty and free enterprise liberated the individual creativity and energies of many millions of people. It provided the greatest opportunity for individual betterment and the highest standard of living ever experienced in human history. It also generated the most benevolent and philanthropic society in the world. Therefore, it should be the critics and opponents of this system of individual rights and human freedom that should have to justify their continuing calls for reducing our liberty.

It was clear thinking and moral courage that won men liberty in the past. Liberty can triumph again, if each of us is willing but to try. We need to take to heart the words of the free-market Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises:

“Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction…. What is needed to stop the trend toward socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.”

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

With Global Conflict at the Door, World Leaders Pursue Futile Climate Efforts

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 8:06 AM

On September 23, representatives from 190 nations will gather at the Climate Summit 2014 at United Nations headquarters in New York City, including 125 heads of state. President Obama and other world leaders will attend to discuss the urgent problem of climate change, seeking common ground in preparation for a “meaningful global agreement in 2015.” At the same time, Europe is threatened by conflict in Eastern Ukraine and ISIS beheads US citizens in the Middle East.

With regard to ISIS, President Obama recently addressed the nation, but many have said that the President’s strategy is still unclear. However, the President does have a strategy for a global climate change agreement. It was reported last month that the Obama administration is pursuing a global accord to compel nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

On February 16, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, demonstrators set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, protesting ties between then President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia. Yanukovych was forced to step down four days later. Events in Ukraine have continued to deteriorate, with the Russian seizure of Crimea in March and today’s growing insurrection by Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

European leaders and President Obama appear to have no effective plan to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. But the Europeans do have a strategy to halt global warming. The European Union has proposed a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels and a 30 percent energy efficiency target by the year 2030 for member states.

The irony of the situation is that all human efforts to “fight” climate change are likely to be futile. The greenhouse effect, which is blamed for human-caused global warming, is overwhelmingly a natural effect. Earth’s dominant greenhouse gas is neither carbon dioxide nor methane. Water vapor is Earth’s most abundant greenhouse gas, accounting for between 75 and 90 percent of the greenhouse effect.

Of the remaining portion of the greenhouse effect that is due to carbon dioxide and methane, the vast majority is caused by natural emissions from oceans and the biosphere. Every day, 25 times as much CO2 enters the atmosphere from natural emissions as from all human industry. In sum, humans cause only about one percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect.

Alarming warnings from the UN are based on climate model projections, which diverge further from reality with each passing month. We are approaching 18 years of flat global temperatures, with no global warming since 1997. Most US high school students today have never lived during a period of rising global temperatures.

Global sea ice, long regarded as an indicator of man-made climate change, has rebounded. Data from the University of Illinois shows that global sea ice area has returned to the 30-year average. Last winter was the coldest winter in the United States since 1911-1912. Many scientists now predict two or three decades of cooler global temperatures.

Because the greenhouse effect is dominated by natural, not man-made factors, there is no accord that the United Nations can sponsor that will halt sea-level rise. There is no regulation that the EPA can enact that will make the hurricanes less frequent or less severe. There is no law that Congress can pass to curb droughts or floods. The sum of thousands of climate change laws across hundreds of nations will not have a measureable effect on global temperatures.

Today the world is spending over $250 billion per year on renewable energy and other programs to try to stop the planet from warming. In addition to the unresolved conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq, an estimated 20,000 people die each day from hunger-related causes. Two billion persons are trying to survive on less than two dollars per day, 1.8 billion do not have adequate sanitation, 1.4 billion do not have electricity, and almost one billion lack clean drinking water. Millions die each year from disease.

Suppose we forgo the foolish attempts to stop the planet from warming and return to solving the real problems of the world?

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

Bobby Jindal Pwns Other Governors On Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - September 19, 2014, 5:16 AM

In August, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the federal government over Common Core. He’s already embroiled in three Louisiana lawsuits over Common Core, and recently concluded another against the Obama administration, contesting its demand for intimate data about students enrolled in the state’s voucher program.

Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the national government from directing, supervising, or controlling curriculum and instruction. Common Core, as a system of curriculum mandates and tests to measure whether students have absorbed them, very obviously deals with curriculum and instruction. The CEO of one of the two national Common Core testing groups (PARCC) recently put it plainly:

High quality assessments go hand-in-hand with high quality instruction based on high quality standards. You cannot have one without the other. The PARCC states see quality assessments as a part of instruction, not a break from instruction.

Or, as teachers repeat, “What gets tested is what gets taught.”

Did I mention these national Common Core tests are exclusively funded by the federal government? And that the Obama administration set up a panel to regularly review these tests as they’ve been developed, right down to the very test questions? The Obama administration has repeatedly proved they don’t care for this trifling thing called “the rule of law,” but that was perhaps to be expected. Worse has been Congress and the nation’s governors letting it slide, and not only playing right along, but in education practically begging the feds to issue them more rules so they could keep their red lentil pots of federal cash.

A major extra-legal policy of the Obama administration has been its decision to let states ignore the nation’s largest federal education law, duly passed by elected representatives in Congress, in exchange for submitting themselves directly to the whims of unelected federal education officials. In order to get these No Child Left Behind waivers, states had to, among other things, adopt Common Core. This although the law itself contains no grant of power for the administration to let states ignore it in exchange for following administrative diktats.

So states that ostensibly repudiated Common Core, notably my home state of Indiana, in reality replaced it with essentially paraphrased Common Core because if they eschewed this academic swamp entirely they feared the loss of the NCLB waiver, and with it, federal silver. So while pretending to thumb their noses at the feds, in truth they’re still led around by them.

What This All Means

A herd of Republican governors has been taking former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s advice to rebrand Common Core, either by inaction or foreseeably ineffective action. These include Alabama’s Bob Bentley, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Florida’s Rick Scott, Georgia’s Nathan Deal, Idaho’s Butch Otter, Iowa’s Terry Branstad, Indiana’s Mike Pence, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Utah’s Gary Hebert, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. While making blustery statements about the rule of law, federalism, and local solutions for local problems, their actions in this respect have proved them complicit in subverting all three.

It’s actually been getting really depressing watching moms and dads flood their elected officials with phone calls, hearing attendance, emails, and townhall questions demanding an end to Common Core, only to have those same officials burn their grassroots. State action is necessary because citizens don’t have legal standing to sue the feds over its arm-twisting. So far, however, the threat of Obama administration displeasure (and the almighty dollars it represents) has been enough to scare GOP leaders from saying, “No.”

It’s not clear what got Bobby Jindal. It’s actually not even clear something got him. He’s term-limited, which means he’s done being governor in January 2016. That may be enough time to make something happen, but if it hangs for more than a year and the next governor doesn’t want to continue this lawsuit, it’s finished. Competitors for Jindal’s spot support Common Core. So it could be that only 2016 got Jindal’s attention. If so, at least it’s been effective. This will clearly distinguish him from other oft-named 2016 presidential contenders, particularly Pence and Walker, except for Texas’s Rick Perry (who has from its inception firmly and genuinely opposed Common Core).

But, as a visible former Common Core supporter, Jindal has also risked being called a flip-flopper on this issue. He switched sides anyway. He also has a compelling personal story about his switch, which mirrors one many parents who oppose Common Core share: His son brought home indecipherable math homework one day, and it was over.

Opposing federal meddling in curriculum is also much more than a legal and states-rights issue. It’s a common-sense issue. Our country has historically not been keen on centralization because it eviscerates our system of self government and creates bureaucratic, one-size-fits all programs that fit practically no one well. Devolving control over education to states, communities, and parents is far more likely to yield an eduction system that respects individual and local preferences and needs, thereby increasing student achievement and societal cooperation.

Plus, then parents can actually bring complaints to the people who have the power to fix them and vote those school boards out or financially vote those private schools out of existence if either doesn’t listen. While the public is incoherent on the federal role in education, as it is on the federal role in everything, polls show Americans are very clear about not wanting the feds deciding what kids learn. August’s annual Gallup poll on education repeated a frequent finding: Comfortable majorities of Americans agree local school boards should have far more control over what schools teach than state or federal governments.

Jindal has gone to war to oust the Common Core tests that not only represent but actually extend the hand of the federal government directly into classrooms. He sued Louisiana’s elected state board of education for ceding the state’s authority over curriculum and tests to Common Core’s constellation of unelected private and federal officials. A judge made a preliminary decision against him on that one, and it’s now on appeal. Going for the feds directly, as the entity gripping state education bureaucracies’ leashes, will hopefully be far more effective.

Given that the federal role in education has rewarded a lot of cronies and entrenched a lot of anti-freedom bureaucrats but produced no student achievement gains, and can constitutionally exist only because the feds bribe states with their own money, it’s about time someone with power and cojones took a stand.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Ryan Leads On Welfare Reform And Fighting Poverty

Somewhat Reasonable - September 18, 2014, 5:57 PM

No one in Washington is taking the lead in addressing poverty and welfare reform like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Almost alone, he has noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. So now is an appropriate time to take stock of what we have done, what we have accomplished, and what we have not.

After those 50 years, America’s welfare state today is not a principality. It is a vast empire itself bigger than the entire budget of almost every other country in the world. That empire involves nearly 200 joint federal/state means tested welfare programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, 27 low income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, another dozen food and nutrition programs, another 22 low income health programs, and 24 low income child care programs, among others.

Federal and state governments today spend close to a trillion dollars a year just on these means tested welfare programs, which do not include the big entitlement programs for retirees, Social Security and Medicare. That is roughly $17,000 per person in poverty, over $50,000 for a poor family of three. The Census Bureau estimates that our current welfare spending totals four times what would be necessary just to give all of the poor the cash needed to bring them up to the poverty line. Charles Murray wrote a whole book, In These Hands, documenting that we spend far more than enough to completely eliminate all poverty in America. This dramatic overspending leaves wide scope for reforms that would be far more effective in reducing poverty, while still saving taxpayers a fortune.

Over the 10 year period from 2009 to 2018, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion. That does not include Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid, or Obamacare’s massive new health insurance subsidies for families making close to $100,000 per year, and ultimately beyond. Even in 2005, government spending on these means tested welfare programs was 25% more than was spent on national defense, and that was at the height of the wars in the Middle East.

The War on Poverty was proclaimed in 1964, and initiated in 1965. From 1965 to 2008, the total spent only on means tested welfare for the poor in 2008 dollars has been nearly $16 trillion. Rector et al. report that has been well over twice all spending on all military conflicts from the American Revolution to today, at $6.39 trillion in 2008 dollars.

Yet, in November, 2012, the Census Bureau reported that more than 16% of Americans were in poverty, including nearly 20% of American children. Today, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty, an all-time record. In other words, we fought the War on Poverty, and poverty won.

Counterproductive Welfare Policies the Root Cause of Poverty Today

Poverty fell sharply after the Depression, before the War on Poverty. The poverty rate fell from 32% in 1950 to 22.4% in 1959 to 17.3% in 1965. The poverty rate continued to decline, to 12.1% in 1969, soon after the War on Poverty programs became effective. Progress against poverty as measured by the poverty rate then abruptly stopped.

Today, the poverty rate, as indicated above, has been well above that 1969 level for years, and the actual numbers in poverty are at an all time high record. Not a worthy payoff for $16 trillion spent over 50 years, about 4 times what it took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

One key reason that poverty stopped declining after the War on Poverty started is that the poor and lower income population stopped working. In 1960, nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest income one-fifth of the population were headed by persons who worked. But by 1991, this work effort had declined by about 50%, with only one-third of household heads in the bottom 20% in income working, and only 11% working full-time, year round.

This was not a matter of the poor not being able to find work. While the economy was chaotic during the 1970s, during the 1980s and 1990s America enjoyed an historic economic boom creating ultimately 50 million new jobs. The proof is in the pudding, or in how people actually voted with their feet. Millions of illegal aliens surged across the border to gain those jobs and participate in America’s economic golden age, with the unemployment rate collapsing to 4.4% under President Bush by 2006.

In his 50th Anniversary Report of the War on Poverty, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan observed that only 2.7% of Americans that work full time, year round, are in poverty. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation adds that the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year, which amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work in each poor family increased to 2,000 hours per year, which is the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year, nearly 75% of poor children would be lifted out of poverty.

With the government offering such generous and wide-ranging benefits, from housing to medical care to food stamps to outright cash, and many others, to those with low incomes or who are not working at all, naturally many choose to reduce or eliminate their work effort and take the free benefits. Incentivewise, it is as if the government is generously paying people not to work and to have low incomes.

The Poverty Trap

Consequently, under today’s welfare system, taxpayers are effectively paying the bottom 20% of the income ladder more than a trillion dollars a year basically not to work. This was confirmed by the famous Seattle/Denver Income Maintenance Experiment (“SIME/DIME”) conducted from 1971 to 1978, which demonstrated the impact of such substantial, unconditional, welfare subsidies on the incentive not to work. The dramatic bottom lime result of that experiment – for every $1 of extra welfare given to low income persons, they reduced their labor and earnings by 80 cents. No wonder the War on Poverty failed!

Even worse, when those in poverty try to go to work, they are effectively subject to extra, higher, marginal tax rates. Since welfare is phased out as income rises, the loss of welfare benefits is economically the same as a tax on the rising earnings. Take the example of someone suffering in poverty who receives $12,000 a year in welfare benefits. Suppose she gets the opportunity for a job earning $16,000 a year. But if she loses 50 cents in welfare benefits for every dollar earned, that is like a 50% tax taking away $8,000 of the earnings from work. The payroll tax will take another 7.65% of earnings, federal income taxes another 10% on the margin, and state income taxes roughly another 5% on the margin on average. That leaves an effective marginal tax rate of 72.65%, leaving little incentive for the poor to work.

The point is that the current welfare system counterproductively provides powerful incentives for the poor not to work, which too many intellectually lazy, knee-jerk defenders of the status quo have failed to understand, nearly as well as the poor themselves, who are only responding to those incentives rationally.

Family Breakup

But along with this collapse of work, the War on Poverty was also associated with the breakup of lower income families, and soaring out of wedlock births. Prior to the War on Poverty, black families remained intact, and the overwhelming majority of black babies were born to 2 parent families. But coinciding with the War on Poverty, the rate of black out of wedlock births soared from 28% in 1965, to 49% in 1975, to 65% in 1990, to about 70% in 1995, where it remains today. This effect has not been limited to blacks. Among whites, out-of-wedlock births soared from 4% in 1965, to 11% in 1980, 21% in 1990, and 25% in 1995, where it also remains today. Among white high school dropouts, the rate of out of wedlock births is 48%. Among Americans overall, the rate of out of wedlock births has soared from 7% when the War on Poverty began to 39% today.

Such out of wedlock births are the second key cause of poverty, in addition to non-work. The poverty rate for female headed households with children is 44.5%, compared to 7.8% for married couples with children. The poverty rate for married black Americans is only 11.4%, while the rate for black female headed households is 53.9%. As Rector again explains, “If poor women who give birth outside of marriage were married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds would immediately be lifted out of poverty. Roughly 80 percent of all long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes.”

Family break up and illegitimacy are again the natural result of the incentives created by our massive, overgrown welfare empire. Most welfare benefits are restricted to families with children. If you are a non-elderly adult in America without children, you are pretty much expected to support yourself. That is a sound principle. But it means that having a baby is the gateway to a generous package of government benefits.

Moreover, if the mother is married to a man who earns a significant income, then the benefits are lost. Indeed, if the mother is married to a man who is not working, but the government requires him to take available work before benefits are paid, then the benefits will be lost in any event, whether he refuses to work, or if he works and earns an income that eliminates benefits.

Once again, it is as if the government is paying women to have children out of wedlock. As Rector aptly puts it, “Welfare …converts the low-income working husband from a necessary breadwinner into a net financial handicap. It transformed marriage from a legal institution designed to protect and nurture children into an institution that financially penalizes nearly all low-income parents who enter into it.”

Opportunity Knocks

Ryan has become the leading source for new ideas in Washington to help the poor and address poverty. On July 24, 2014, his House Budget Committee released Expanding Opportunity in America, a discussion draft advancing a new agenda to liberate the poor from the binds of poverty.

In the publication, Ryan proposes a new Opportunity Grant program that would start as a pilot project in a select number of states. For the selected states, the reform would consolidate a number of means-tested, public assistance programs into a single Opportunity Grant for the state. The chosen states would get the same amount from the Opportunity Grant as they currently do from the consolidated programs. So the reform would be budget neutral.

But in the process, the states would each propose new strategies and innovations to pursue with the funds to address the problems of the current, costly, ineffective, counterproductive system discussed above. The consolidated programs would include SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Section 8 Voucher and Project-Based Housing Assistance, Public Housing Capital and Operating Funds, Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance Payments, Child Care and Development Fund, Community Development Block Grants, The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Weatherization Assistance Program, and WIA Dislocated Workers.

To obtain an Opportunity Grant, states would each write their own proposals regarding what they would do with the consolidated grant funds to help the poor in their state climb out of poverty and grow into financial independence. The federal government would choose which states won the Opportunity Grants.

The grant proposals all must include means to require the able bodied to engage in work or work related activities to receive public assistance. The proposals would include multiple, non-governmental, service-providers which the poor could individually choose from to receive their services and benefits. These services and benefits would be provided on a comprehensive, case management basis, enabling poor individuals to get all their services and benefits in one place with one cash payment, instead of on a fractured basis applying separately to and dealing with multiple bureaucracies.

Ryan’s proposal is inspired by the enormously successful 1996 block grant welfare reforms of the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Those 1996 reforms changed the matching federal financing for AFDC, paying states more federal funds the more they spent on AFDC, to fixed, finite, block grants of federal funds, that did not vary with the amount each state spent. That transformed the incentives for the states, as any additional state, AFDC spending would come 100% at the expense of the state. But any AFDC savings remained 100% with the state.

Under those transformed incentives, within a few years, two-thirds of those dependent on AFDC were led by state administrators to leave the program for work. They were documented to increase their incomes by an average of 25% as a result. But after 10 years of flat federal funding for AFDC, the program cost taxpayers 50% less than it would have otherwise, under prior trends.

Ryan’s proposal is effectively a means of beginning to extend these same reforms to all of the programs covered by the Opportunity Grant proposal. It gives some chosen and willing states broad authority and full incentives to remake those programs without welfare’s current counterproductive effects in actually creating poverty, rather than preventing it. Under these Opportunity Grants, the states can be expected to produce a new generation of inspired reform ideas to remake welfare assistance for the 21st century, leading to full block grants for all of these programs.

The Opportunity Grant proposal should be viewed in the context of Ryan’s budget proposals to block grant Medicaid to the states, which would also greatly benefit the poor, while saving taxpayers nearly a trillion dollars over 10 years from that one program alone, and Ryan’s proposals for block grants for federal job training programs as well. Together, these reforms overall involve enormous strides to what should be the ultimate goal, which would be federal, fixed, finite block grants to the states for all federal means tested welfare programs. That was the original dream of Ronald Reagan, and his top welfare advisor Robert Carleson, who I worked for directly in the Reagan White House.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Sorry, Steve Running, Wildfires Are Decreasing with Global Warming

Somewhat Reasonable - September 18, 2014, 1:48 PM

A Billings Gazette article last week quoted University of Montana global warming activist Steve Running claiming major wildfires have quadrupled since 1986, but the facts show wildfires are actually declining.

In the September 7 Gazette article, “Global warming makes firefighting more dangerous,” Running is quoted saying “Since 1986, longer, warmer summers have resulted in a fourfold increase of major wildfires and a sixfold increase in the area of forest burned, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.” Fortunately for scientific truth, the National Interagency Fire Center keeps detailed statistics on wildfires going back to 1960. The objective data show wildfires are decreasing, not increasing, as the planet modestly warms.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports 85,000 wildfires occurred in 1986, versus only 47,000 wildfires last year. Fewer wildfires occurred in 2013 than any year since 1984, and 2013 had the third-fewest wildfires since records began in 1960.

This year’s wildfire season may end up being even quieter than 2013. On the same day Running’s claim was quoted in the Billings Gazette article, the Washington Times reported only 38,000 wildfires have occurred so far this year. The 2014 wildfire season will almost certainly be one of the three quietest since 1984, and may well end up quietest of them all.

So how does Running justify his claim that global warming is making wildfires worse? Running cleverly slips in the term “major” wildfires, which allows him to blame global warming for recent forestry management policies that allow small wildfires to become large wildfires. During recent years, U.S. wildfire policy has emphasized allowing wildfires to burn without human suppression until and unless the wildfires threaten human population centers. This is a dramatic change of policy after decades of government policy to extinguish wildfires whenever and wherever they occur. Accordingly, even though there were approximately half as many wildfires in 2013 as in 1986, the total number of acres burned increased by more than 50 percent in 2013.

If one conveniently ignores the extremely quiet 2013 and 2014 wildfire seasons and compares 1986 to 2012, wildfires in 2012 burned nearly four times as much acreage in 1986, but there were fewer wildfires in 2012 than in 1986.

The National Interagency Fire Center data show an even more striking decline in wildfires when comparing the full 1970-1986 era versus the full 1986-2013 era. True, the number of acres burned each year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, was approximately 67 percent higher during 1987-2013 than during 1970-1986 (though substantially less than the 600 percent figure claimed by Running), but even this small increase in acres burned merely reflects changes in federal wildfire suppression policy. Barely half as many wildfires occurred each year from 1987-2013 than from 1970-1986.

Outlandish and misleading claims by global warming alarmists such as Running explain why the public increasingly tunes out the alarmists’ unending predictions of doom and gloom. If they want people to take them seriously, they must begin speaking truth rather than propaganda.

Categories: On the Blog

Leo vs. Science: Vanishing Evidence for Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - September 18, 2014, 1:19 PM

In the runup to the Sept. 23 UN Climate Summit in New York, Leonardo DiCaprio is releasing a series of films about the “climate crisis.”

The first is “Carbon,” which tells us the world is threatened by a “carbon monster.” Coal, oil, natural gas and other carbon-based forms of energy are causing dangerous climate change and must be turned off as soon as possible, DiCaprio says.

But he has identified the wrong monster. It is the climate scare itself that is the real threat to civilization.

DiCaprio is an actor, not a scientist; it’s no real surprise that his film is sensationalistic and error-riddled. Other climate-change fantasists, who do have a scientific background, have far less excuse.

Science is never settled, but the current state of “climate change” science is quite clear: There is essentially zero evidence that carbon dioxide from human activities is causing catastrophic climate change.

Yes, the “executive summary” of reports from the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change continues to sound the alarm — but the summary is written by the politicians. The scientific bulk of the report, while still tinged with improper advocacy, has all but thrown in the towel.

And the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change lists thousands of scientific papers that either debunk or cast serious doubt on the supposed “consensus” model.

Oregon-based physicist Gordon Fulks sums it up well: “CO2 is said to be responsible for global warming that is not occurring, for accelerated sea-level rise that is not occurring, for net glacial and sea ice melt that is not occurring . . . and for increasing extreme weather that is not occurring.”


  •  According to NASA satellites and all ground-based temperature measurements, global warming ceased in the late 1990s. This when CO2 levels have risen almost 10 percent since 1997. The post-1997 CO2 emissions represent an astonishing 30 percent of all human-related emissions since the Industrial Revolution began. That we’ve seen no warming contradicts all CO2-based climate models upon which global-warming concerns are founded.
  • Rates of sea-level rise remain small and are even slowing, over recent decades averaging about 1 millimeter per year as measured by tide gauges and 2 to 3 mm/year as inferred from “adjusted” satellite data. Again, this is far less than what the alarmists suggested.
  •  Satellites also show that a greater area of Antarctic sea ice exists now than any time since space-based measurements began in 1979. In other words, the ice caps aren’t melting.
  •  A 2012 IPCC report concluded that there has been no significant increase in either the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events in the modern era. The NIPCC 2013 report concluded the same. Yes, Hurricane Sandy was devastating — but it’s not part of any new trend.

The climate scare, Fulks sighs, has “become a sort of societal pathogen that virulently spreads misinformation in tiny packages like a virus.” He’s right — and DiCaprio’s film is just another vector for spreading the virus.

The costs of feeding the climate-change “monster” are staggering. According to the Congressional Research Service, from 2001 to 2014 the US government spent $131 billion on projects meant to combat human-caused climate change, plus $176 billion for breaks for anti-CO2 energy initiatives.

Federal anti-climate-change spending is now running at $11 billion a year, plus tax breaks of $20 billion a year. That adds up to more than double the $14.4 billion worth of wheat produced in the United States in 2013.

Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, calculates that the European Union’s goal of a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, currently the most severe target in the world, will cost almost $100 billion a year by 2020, or more than $7 trillion over the course of this century.

Lomborg, a supporter of the UN’s climate science, notes that this would buy imperceptible improvement: “After spending all that money, we would not even be able to tell the difference.”

Al Gore was right in one respect: Climate change is a moral issue — but that’s because there is nothing quite so immoral as well-fed, well-housed Westerners assuaging their consciences by wasting huge amounts of money on futile anti-global-warming policies, using money that could instead go to improve living standards in developing countries.

That is where the moral outrage should lie. Perhaps DiCaprio would like to make a film about it?

[First published in the New York Post.]

Categories: On the Blog

SHOCKER! Climate Alarmist Musical Finally Runs Out of Taxpayer Money, Quickly Closes

Somewhat Reasonable - September 18, 2014, 4:44 AM

A scene from “The Great Immensity.” The title didn’t refer to the immense amount of our tax dollars that funded this stinker of a play.

The asinine ambitions of our know-it-all federal bureaucrats know no bounds. Really. No. Bounds.

A collection of bureaucrats at the National Science Foundation (NSF) used $700,000 of taxpayer money this spring to play out their Broadway fantasies by funding what they surely thought was a sure-fire-hit play.

It would combine the prose of Al Gore with music that would elevate it above his usual drone that makes audiences want to stab their ears with pencils. And there would be dancing! Combine all that with actors who can make anything come alive, and audiences around the country will not only be entertained, but informed! We will change the world!

That’s the best pitch I can give this stinker — and probably close to the actual pitch the producers gave to the NSF. The actual result was a musical titled “The Great Immensity.” Shocker: It was an enormous flop. Via reporter Jessica Chasmar at one of my former employers, the Washington Times:

A taxpayer-funded musical on climate change is closing its curtains early amid a storm of criticism from reviewers and lawmakers.

“The Great Immensity,” produced by Brooklyn-based theater company The Civilians Inc. with a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), has ended its run after reaching just 5 percent of its anticipated audience, Fox News reported.

The play also opened a year late and failed to produce a buzz once it did.

“Despite fine performances, the musical mystery tour is an uneasy mix of fact and credulity-stretching fiction. It’s neither flora nor fauna,” New York Daily News reviewer Joe Dziemianowicz wrote in a review at the time, Fox News reported. “[The] songs — whether about a doomed passenger pigeon or storm-wrecked towns — feel shoehorned in and not, pardon the pun, organic.”

The play’s description describes the itself as “a thrilling and timely production” with “a highly theatrical look into one of the most vital questions of our time: How can we change ourselves and our society in time to solve the enormous environmental challenges that confront us?”

“Even the best adventurers can wander off course, and the Civilians do so on a global scale in ‘The Great Immensity,’ ” read a review from Time Out New York. “The inventive troupe’s latest effort is all over the map. … It’s not easy preaching green.”

The play opend late. The play reached only 5 percent of its expected audience. It was terrible — so terrible even theater critics eager to give a hipster-Brooklyn production sending the “correct message” about the need to act on climate change couldn’t give it positive reviews. Good enough for government work, right? Read on.

The play ran for three weeks in New York in April before going on a national tour. It stalled out after a single production in Kansas City, Fox News reported.

Golly. What a surprise. When your big New York production hits the road, and then grinds to a halt after a single perfomance in Kansas City … well, even people like me with a very low threshold for “good enough for government work” are disappointed. But if you think the bureaucrats at the NSF are disappointed in their investment of your money in this stinker, think again.

The NSF said it is too soon to tell if the grant funds were wasted.

“This particular project just concluded in August, and the final report has not yet been submitted to NSF,” it said in a statement, Fox News reported. “Final reports are due to NSF within 90 days following expiration of the grant. The final report will contain information about project outcomes, impacts and other data.”

This is the state of the modern adminstrative state. An obvious failure cannot be called a failure. Give us a few more weeks and we’ll produce the documents to prove an obvious failure needs to be funded at triple the previous level to ensure even greater success!

Fire 75 percent of the federal bureaucracy. Today. Figure out who needs to be re-hired next week.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Do Progressives Have An Archie Bunker View Of Globalization?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 10:14 PM

One of the underappreciated aspects of the current debate over corporate tax inversions is how it represents not just an opportunity for some progressive populism, but is just another aspect of the same view which motivates the left’s general disgust with Uber and other members of the sharing economy.

It’s the same motivation behind this push by tariff-loving New Balance to prevent soldiers from buying running shoes on the open market, and instead use pro-America rhetoric to rent-seek. And it’s a similar mindset to this BuyPartisan app, designed to turn marketplace decisions into a constant barrage of political influences and guilt riddance. Oh, you bought the Brawny? Fascist. But you did it at Costco, so maybe that’s okay. Just don’t go to Burger King after.

In practice, the pro-America rhetoric on the left on this score goes well beyond the caricature of the flag-waving xenophobic NASCAR fan toward true economic backwardness, in the form of an anti-market populism which refuses to recognize that we live in a global economy. No, no, no, it insists, like Archie Bunker ranting in his chair – America is great! America can do anything! Everything is better when it comes from America! We don’t need to compete with other countries or their tax burdens or their regulations – America’s the best! Only evil greedy corporations would ever leave America or move their businesses elsewhere for decisions based on their bottom lines and their shareholders and their ability to actually do business. Forget market competition or whether the shoes fit: America rules, and you’re unpatriotic if you think we have to do things to compete in a global economy.

Of course, progressives do have a justified reason to hate globalization for the same reason that federalism proves frustrating: because it puts their tax and regulatory theories to a real world test and exposes them to competition. This requires prohibitions on entry and escape – when companies want to leave, or imports want to enter, the progressives’ only response can be using government force to prevent that from happening lest it expose the destructive policies for what they are. This requires higher and higher levels of authority and centralization of decision making, giving the bureaucratic class more power to make society in the image they wish it to be, an economic Fortress America.

This is not a new motivation. Progressivism has, from its inception, used the manipulative power of populist arguments to achieve statist ends – in Woodrow Wilson’s framing, a belief that the industrial age and made people beholden to great corporate powers, and that government must adjust to meet these challenges. And what should that adjustment be? The evolution of an enlightened age which moved beyond the rights given by Nature’s God: the elimination of checks and balances of government, and the creation of a neutral, high-minded, enlightened Administrative State to manage the lives of the people and the business of the country. As he wrote in What is Progress?:

The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of “checks and balances.” The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent upon their quick co-operation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. Government is not a body of blind forces; it is a body of men, with highly differentiated functions, no doubt, in our modern day, of specialization, with a common task and purpose. Their co-operation is indispensable, their warfare fatal. There can be no successful government without the intimate, instinctive co-ordination of the organs of life and action.

Here’s what that looks like in practice. And that’s why this Archie Bunker view of the global economy is unable to deal with a circumstance where companies and individuals behave rationally and vote with their feet.

[First published at The Federalist.]

———– Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Subscribe to his daily newsletter, The Transom, one of the most widely read daily political newsletters in the country.
Categories: On the Blog

A Model for Innovation Protection: Section 1201

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 4:06 PM

Today the House Judiciary Committee is undertaking the next in its series of hearings discussing the Copyright Act. This time the hearing will focus on Title 17, Chapter 12 which discusses copyright protection and management systems, including section 1201 regarding the circumvention of copyright protection systems. The very design of the Chapter was to promote creation and innovation, imbuing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with flexibility.

By including section 1201, that is, by allowing for secure methods of distribution, artists have been provided some protection against theft of their property. This has resulted in a flood of content for multiple new and traditional platforms that otherwise would have been at high risk of theft. Just as society disallows breaking and entering, or the possession or sale of lock picking tools (except in very narrow circumstances) the section prohibits the circumvention of technological protection measures and disallows the trafficking in tools that are primarily designed for circumvention.

The provision was not without controversy when included in the legislation and remains controversial today. But the section has withstood the test of time. Consumers enjoy massive choice in delivery methods now. New and innovative licensing and distribution models for online content seem to emerge every day. Just in online music the variety of services via abundant business models is amazing including iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, satellite radio, AOL Radio, Slacker, Grooveshark, Jango, Last FM, Songza, Sony Music Unlimited, and many more. For video Ultraviolet, Disney Movies Anywhere, HBO Go, TV Everywhere, Epix HD, Hulu, and Crackle just begin the long list. Means of accessing books are many and highly competitive. Consider Amazon’s Lending Library, which allows Amazon Prime subscribers to borrow titles at no additional cost. This service uses digital rights management technology protected by section 1201. Entertainment software (video gaming) is available in more ways and more places than any boy playing on his Atari could have ever imagined

What does it all mean? It means that once property rights are protected a market will grow, and expand, innovating new products and services to meet the expectations and needs of consumers. The certainty and flexibility of section 1201 provides that property protection and legal certainty, providing a reasonable landscape for artists and creators to make more content available in more ways despite the increased risks of piracy inherent in a digital world.

Of course some have tried to use the law in ways it was never intended. This is not uncommon as lawyers seek to new and creative arguments to benefit their clients, yet the courts have rejected use of the section much beyond protecting copyrighted works which has preserved competition. Often cited as an abuse, is the assertion of section 1201 in an attempt to protect the garage door opener and third-party printer toner cartridge markets. Less often added is that the courts appropriately found that the use of 1201 to leverage sales, instead of merely protecting legitimate copyright interests, was inappropriate and those attempts failed. The system worked.

But no legislation is perfect, particularly as technology and times change. That understanding is an integral part of this law. Anticipating innovation in business models, technology and services the law requires the Library of Congress to update a list of exceptions every three years so that non-infringing uses of copyrighted works could continue even while appropriate safeguards were preserved for creators and distributors. Explicitly protected is free speech by including permanent exemptions, such as for libraries and educational institutions, encryption research, security testing, and reverse engineering.

In all, the law contemplated technological protection measures and made clear that they were allowable. The potential harms were also specifically contemplated with measures included to guarantee that non-infringing uses were allowed. The courts have similarly acted appropriately in constraining the reach of the law to little more than guaranteeing the protection of copy protected works. Erosion of section 1201 to allow the trafficking of tools primarily designed to enable digital theft seems silly on its face given that in the analog world such tools are per se illegal.

Ultimately, Section 1201 encourages self-help, that is, property owners benefit if they take action to protect their own property. This is entirely appropriate, ultimately conserving law enforcement resources for the most challenging issues. The law also encourages innovation by protecting the property of artists, inventors and creators. The result is that all consumers are able to enjoy content in ways not dreamed of even 15 years ago.

Categories: On the Blog

‘Freedom Triumphant’ Defines Heartland’s 30th Anniversary Gala Featuring Joe Walsh and Michelle Malkin

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 1:42 PM

Michelle Malkin speaking at The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Sept. 12, 2014.

“Freedom Triumphant” was the theme of The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Friday, Sept. 12, at The Cotillion in Palatine, Illinois. Some 500 people were in attendance.

Most fitting is that the evening began with a video reminding those in attendance of some of the events in politics, popular culture, and freedom that took place in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide, the same year Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album was released. The video ended with what has become a momentous event in history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

A featured keynote speaker was Michelle Malkin, a New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist, wildly successful digital entrepreneur, and Tea Party champion. Malkin was joined at Heartland’s 30th Anniversary Gala by Master of Ceremonies, former congressman Joe Walsh, the greatest champion the Tea Party ever had in Washington, when representing the 8th District of Illinois from 2011 – 2013. Walsh’s enthusiasm for liberty is shared every weekday from 5 to 8 p.m. in Chicago on his radio talk show on AM 560 The Answer.

The recipient of the 2014 Heartland Liberty Prize was M. Stanton Evans, a founder of the modern conservative movement along with Bill Buckley. As a proponent of “fusionism,” Evans believed that a love of freedom should unite conservatives and libertarians regardless of their disagreements. Because of poor health Evans was unable to attend. In his absence, Joseph A. Morris and Jameson Campaigne presented the tribute to the honoree. Morris and Campaigne told of the gift of wit displayed by Evans, and of his perception of “liberty as an organized outgrowth of civilization.”

Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast set the tone for the evening. In talking about Heartland and its purpose since its inception its founding in 1984 by Dave Padden, Bast stressed how ideas do matter in the history of nations. Regarding freedom, “Freedom wants for defenders who often end up as martyrs.” Moreover, “defenders are outnumbered by their foes.”

Freedom is what The Heartland Institute is all about. With a full time staff of 29 (21 working in the Chicago office), there are approximately 235 academics and professional economists participating in the peer-review process and more than 160 elected officials who serve on its Legislative Forum. The Heartland Institute only rarely lobbies for or against pending legislation, but through Heartland’s government relations staff more than 1.2 million contacts with elected officials were made in 2013. Through this education process, Joe Bast credits Heartland for why there is no carbon tax or cap-and-trade program in the U.S.

Walsh, calling himself a Tea Party conservative, wasted no time, nor did he disappoint his audience, employing his usual enthusiasm and energy when he shouted: WE HAVE A COUNTRY TO SAVE! Admitting that he was just a “warmup act for one of the top warriors we have for freedom in this country,” Walsh also revealed that he had worked at Heartland years ago “at the knees of Joe and Diane Bast.”

Freedom was uppermost in Walsh’s thoughts when he asked a series of three questions, all of which were greeted with a resounding “yes”.

 1. Do you believe the federal government is too big?

2. Do you believe the state and local governments should have more power than the federal government?

3. Do you believe in the benefits of the free market system?

 In explaining what drives Walsh, why he gets so worked up, he said: “We’re losing it.” And he was talking about the country. Walsh takes on both Democrats and Republicans when legislators on either side choose to ignore the type of government our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. When in Congress, Joe Walsh made lots of promises which he kept, a rarity among politicians. In promising a free and open government, Walsh held 334 town meetings open to the public, far exceeding any other legislator.

Using a dollar bill to address his point that no one can make the case that this is a free country, Walsh removed a dollar bill from his wallet.“When the government takes 40 cents of every dollar, and we no longer get to keep most of it,” he said, “we are no longer free.” When in Congress, most of the calls Walsh received were from small businessmen and -women who said they were done with Illinois.

Walsh’s relationship with House Speaker John Boehner wasn’t the greatest, he said. Boehner always addressed the congressman simply as “Walsh.” Once when Boehner was passing by Walsh’s desk, Boehner placed his hands on his shoulders asking him, “Why did you vote against my debt ceiling bill again?” To which Walsh replied, “I would never vote for anything that increased the size of government.”

Walsh said his role in life is to wake people up, and he implored the audience to make it their mission, too. But even if we start now, Walsh cautioned, we won’t be able to win back what this nation has lost during the course of our lifetime.

In introducing Malkin, Walsh spoke of her as “a hero to many patriot conservatives in Congress,” which, Walsh admitted, was a lonely place to be given his experience as a conservative and Tea Party Republican.

Malkin was greeted warmly and enthusiastically in keeping with her reputation and status as an undisputed hero of freedom. Recalling Walsh’s remark of what drives him, Malkin described her life as an open book, and said he she considered it a pleasure to help The Heartland Institute celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Malkin’s parents came to America from the Philippines in 1976 to pursue the American dream and to provide a better education for their two children. The rule of law was respected. A legal fee had to be paid and learning English was required. Accordingly, Malkin defines herself not as a hyphenated American but as simply an American. For over two decades Malkin has been a proud out-of-the-closet conservative. It was early on that she realized the need to fight back, understanding that freedom cannot be taken for granted. The Heartland Institute was summarily described by Michelle as an important think tank because it represents “a catalyst for action that encourages restoration, not transformation.”

Common Core was at the top of Malkin’s concerns, having two children of her own: a boy now 10, and a girl 14. “Not too many years ago eyes glazed over when Common Core was mentioned,” Malkin said. She went on to praise Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann, who was seated at the same table I was. Pullmann, Malkin said, is “a one-woman warrior against Common Core.” According to Malkin, whether called Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Outcome Ed, or Goals 2000, underlying all is “fed ed” – a way to obtain power and cash. All these programs make children into guinea pigs for the state.

Malkin described the teaching of math as an abomination, naming the University of Chicago Education Department as the center of many education fads. A Texas school board in 2007, she said, decided it would drop the way math was being taught when children were asked these questions on everyday math worksheets:

A. If math were a color, it would be ____, because ____,

B. If it were a food, it would be ____, because ____,

C. If it were weather, it would be ____, because ____.

Indicating that it’s not easy to be a squeaky wheel, Malkin related a situation she faced when her daughter was much younger. Malkin noticed that her daughter, when attending an all-girls school, was being taught the same thing over and over again, even when she advanced to the next grade. Malkin was told by her daughter’s teacher that this strategy was called spiraling, where leaning is spread out over time rather than being concentrated in shorter periods, a strategy devised by the University of Chicago Education Department. The teacher further informed Malkin that this strategy would help girls have more self esteem in math. To which she replied, “This is not a football game where strategy is important. It is math where getting the right answer is the important thing.”

The experience with her daughter prompted Malkin to write a column in 2007, “Everyday Math,” about the ineffectiveness of teaching math, where upon she was called into the office of her daughter’s principal. To Malkin’s surprise, with the principal was a legal counsel representative. Malkin was bluntly told that if she didn’t refrain from writing about the way math was being taught, her daughter would be kicked out of school.

Malkin stated that the common theme in educational policy is that of central planning and self-appointed experts who know better than we do. It is only the progressive Left that gets to decide who counts as an expert. If you are right-minded you are just a “blogger,” as Malkin said Fox News commentator Juan Williams once labeled her to dismiss her arguments in a debate. It is repulsive, Malkin said, that children are but cogs in the machine and some expert is deciding what their goals should be.

Malkin further expounded upon how radical leftist Bill Ayers, Barack Obama’s partner in education “reform” in the 1990s, traveled to Venezuela to praise the budding system of socialist education in that country. A further revelation by Ms. Malkin was how the National Education Association in 2009 made a glowing assessment of radical socialist community organizer Saul Alinksy, recommending that teachers read Alinsky’s 1971 book, “Rules for Radicals.”

Common Core is in keeping with the cradle-to-grave fantasy expressed in an Obama campaign via a propaganda slideshow called “The Life of Julia.” It was intended to illustrate how the Obama administration’s policies will give government help to a young woman as she is educated, works, starts a family and retires.

So many wealthy individuals and their foundations have been fooled by Common Core and are pushing it – Bill Gates and George Soros are two, but also on board are the National Chamber of Commerce, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee. All should know better and must wake up! Fed ed (Common Core), by design, gives students a liberal interpretation of this nation’s history – stressing that America is bad and doesn’t deserve to be ranked above any other nation. Malkin warned that even if children are sent to a Christian school or home schooled, they may not be immune from Common Core.

Malkin is so thankful she can make a living in America by running off her mouth. This keeps her a happy warrior – even if, she said, “we are living in a culture of corruption.” Whether talking about Democrats or Republicans, like barnacles they become stuck to the side of the U.S. government, where they pander to people who want to destroy the American Dream.

In closing, Malkin recounted how she had had the opportunity to go to Iraq in 2007, traveling with a male colleague to cover the surge in Baghdad. This experience was a jarring one for her. Her final words: “We are so lucky and should not take for granted that we live in the greatest country on the planet. Now we must fight to preserve it. May God Bless America!”

Categories: On the Blog

Why Might There Be No 15th Dalai Lama? Pure Politics

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 9:00 AM

Last week the Dalai Lama, the religious leader of the Tibetan people, announced that he might not reincarnate, a suggestion that has sparked a flurry of commentary and speculation about the future of the Tibetan independence movement.

All of this controversy over whether the Dalai Lama will or won’t reincarnate may seem surprising, given the dubious premise that reincarnation is a genuine possibility for any human being, however enlightened, to achieve. Yet it is a decision that will help shape the future of the Tibetan people for years to come.

According to Tibetan Buddhist theology, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, is the living incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion. As a Buddha, or enlightened being, the Dalai Lama is meant to have the power to reincarnate with full memory of his past lives in order to provide guidance to other seekers after enlightenment. He is technically free of the perpetual cycle of death and rebirth in which ordinary people are trapped, but he chooses to stay as a teacher rather than ascend permanently to a higher plane of existence.

When the Dalai Lama dies, senior figures within Tibetan Buddhism begin to search for his next incarnation. This process usually takes several years. When prospective candidates are discovered, they are tested with questions that, supposedly, only the Dalai Lama could answer. When a child passes the test, he is inducted into the priesthood and begins a lengthy term of study before being enthroned as the next spiritual leader of Tibet.

As a Buddha, the Dalai Lama can (according to Tibetan beliefs) decide at any time not to be reborn. It is that loophole the Dalai Lama is now seeking to exploit. It is something he has been making room to do for some time. In 2011 the Dalai Lama ceded all political power to an elected leader, ending the theocratic system of government that predominated in Tibet and in the government-in-exile since the Chinese invasion.

Why might there be no 15th Dalai Lama? The move is pure politics. The Dalai Lama rightly fears that the Chinese government will try to exploit the situation in the wake of his death, “discovering” their own candidate for Dalai Lama who will be firmly under the thumb of Beijing. This has happened with other senior lamas, with the exiled Tibetans recognizing a candidate and monks under the authority of Beijing choosing another. The Dalai Lama seems to have surmised that such a split over his own replacement could prove disastrous for the cause of Tibetan rights. By choosing to have no successor, he may be able to prevent China from undermining the future of the Tibetan independence movement.

The Tibetan people remain oppressed. They are denied true religious freedom and are economically exploited by the Han Chinese majority. The Dalai Lama has been instrumental in highlighting the continued abuses and has been a powerful spokesman for the rights of his countrymen and all oppressed people.

China clearly sees the Dalai Lama’s statement as a threat to their plans. The Chinese government responded to the Dalai Lama’s statement by urging him to “respect reincarnation.” That is a truly bizarre statement coming from a government that allegedly promotes an ideology of communistic materialism that is diametrically opposed to religion, faith, and the supernatural. Their dissatisfaction with the Dalai Lama’s suggestion has tipped their hand that they will not respect the process should it be allowed to proceed. Indeed, their attitude may only make the Dalai Lama’s decision not to have a successor easier for him.

Whether there is a 15th Dalai Lama or not, Tibet faces many challenges. The growth of the Chinese economy and Beijing’s increasing willingness to flex its political muscles abroad do not bode well for the future of Tibet as a nation or as a partially self-governing subject of China. The Dalai Lama may see not reincarnating as a final gift to his people for whom he has so longed striven.

[Originally published at IOnTheScene]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Most Transparent Ever?’ Behold the FCC’s Secret, Crony Socialist Meetings

Somewhat Reasonable - September 16, 2014, 8:26 AM

It is yet another Barack Obama Administration pledge now relegated to the ash heap of Mendacious History.

The Most Transparent Administration In History

The Most Transparent Administration in History

This is the Most Transparent Administration in History

This is the Most Transparent Administration in the History of our Country

We’re the Most Transparent and Ethical Administration in U.S. History

Get the trance-inducing mantra? And Administration members have continued to relentlessly chant it – even though it long ago became a patently absurd assertion.

Despite Boasts, Obama Team Shuns Transparency

Oh the Transparency: Obama Administration Officials Meet Lobbyists at Coffee Shop to Evade Disclosure Laws

‘Transparent’ Obama Cracks Down on Whistleblowers

The Obama Administration’s Transparency Website Fails to Report $619 Billion in Federal Spending

Senators Call On Obama For More Transparency in the Intelligence Community

Why Is Obama Only Transparent with Enemies?

So now that we are deep into the Administration’s fifth year, is this at all surprising?

(Federal Communications Commission) FCC Encourages Media Companies to Provide Confidential Complaints on (Comcast’s) Time Warner Cable Purchase

Sounds totally transparent to me.

This ain’t about Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner. It’s about the Obama Administration’s yet again squid ink-like “transparency.”

The FCC reviewing mergers isn’t duplicative – it’s triplicative. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department also conduct reviews. Any one of the three different arms of the Leviathan can unilaterally block.

However, unlike prospective denials by the FTC and Justice – the FCC’s can not be challenged in court. They say Nay – and it’s all over.

And the FCC has the most nebulous of review standards – does the merger serve the “public interest?”  The FCC their own selves get to define “public interest” on a rolling, a la carte basis. They simply proclaim something is not in the “public interest” – and that’s all she wrote.

Given how murky their standard is – their process should absolutely be crystal clear. Holding secret meetings? Not so crystalline.

Are secret meetings FCC business as usual? Ummm, no.

In my decades-long experience with FCC matters, it is fairly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the FCC to take the initiative in encouraging confidential complaints in the context of an on-the-record merger review proceeding.

Sounds totally transparent to me.

Again – it ain’t (just) about the merger. The FCC has pending before it several huge power grabs of its own taking. Including unilaterally imposing Network Neutrality – and even Title II Reclassification to do it.

And the companies getting Crony Socialist secret meetings – who are opposed to the merger – are in favor of the Title II-Net Neutrality power grab. Because it would allow them to use unlimited bandwidth without having to pay for it.

Will Title II Reclassification and/or Net Neutrality also be discussed? Will any other FCC pending actions? Will any new FCC actions be requested? We won’t know – the meetings are secret.

Meanwhile, the FCC has remained neutral throughout all these power grab processes, right? Not so much.

If you’re participating in #InternetSlowdown pls consider filing your comment via openinternet@FCC.gov. It’s faster & each will be counted

— Gigi Sohn (@GigiBSohnFCC) September 10, 2014

Who is Gigi Sohn? She is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s “Special Counsel for External Affairs.” “External Affairs” apparently includes requesting more pro-Title II Reclassification power grab Comments – and supporting the absurd “Internet Slowdown” Title II protest. Not so neutral.

Who was Gigi Sohn? She was since 2001 the President and CEO of Public Knowledge. A Media Marxist outfit that is pro-Title II Reclassification and supportive of the absurd “Internet Slowdown” protest. And where is Public Knowledge on the merger? Opposed, natch.

Not a whole lot of neutral going on.

So the FCC is telegraphing its desire to Title II power grab the entire Internet – while still receiving Comments they claim will help them make up their mind.

And have before them a merger they are allegedly neutrally reviewing – while offering up secret meetings with its opponents.

Yet another ongoing, fabulous example of Obama Administration transparency.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

The Business of Business is Business

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 3:00 PM

While captains of industry are seldom poetic, they have occasionally produced profound statements on the subject of their trade. My favorite is Calvin Coolidge’s aphorism, “the man who builds a factory builds a temple”. More than just a beautiful statement of reverence for commerce, it sums up a wonderfully American attitude toward the proper application of business.

Indeed, the business of business is business. But that does not mean a business should unconcerned with outcomes or the world around it. It is evident that business concerns form an integral part of every aspect of human interaction.

And there is almost invariably more than a mere material desire involved in the building of a business. Each time a new business is created it is a laying of foundations for a new temple. While they may not be gilded in the splendor of the titans of Wall Street, they share the same demiurgic significance, the effort to leave a permanent mark upon the world, not through force or imposition of will, but through the creation of a productive enterprise. The conduct of honest business represents the ultimate triumph of human reason and dignity over the barbarism of animal instinct. It demonstrates a respect between individuals, and an adherence to a higher order of justice than that of the sword.

Still, business, particularly big business, is accused of abuses of good faith and of promoting conflict. Activists recount the evils of business, citing examples like Enron and British Petroleum as abusers of privileged positions and of the public trust. The role of business in society is to do business, to provide productive development. The risk is when business is subverted to violence, be it political, economic, or physical. That is not business doing business; that is the adoption of the methods of force and coercion that free commerce decries.

There is a need to reflect on the special place of businessmen. After all, all businessmen are also citizens with the attendant responsibilities of citizenship. There is a need to differentiate between the responsibilities and values of businessmen in their jobs and those of businessmen to society. In truth, business performs its greatest boon to society by going about its own business, contributing both material value and a valuable example of the power of peaceful interaction.

This does not excuse citizens who are also businessmen from their responsibilities. In fact, they must be all the more aware of their competing responsibilities.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA is More Concerned with What Sounds Good Than What Actually Works

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 2:55 PM

In this hyper-partisan environment, it is good to know that a majority of Senators can still agree on an issue. When such a rare moment happens, the rest of us should pay attention, as it is probably something very important.

On September 11, 53 Senators (43 Republicans and 10 Democrats) signed a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), begging for a 60-day extension of the comment period for the “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units”—also known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The original 120-day comment period—which is already longer than the traditional 60-day comment period—is coming to a close within the next 30 days (October 16).

Regarding the EPA’s new plan, the letter calls the coordination needed between multiple state agencies, public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations, and transmission and reliability experts: “Unprecedented, extraordinary, and extremely time consuming.” The Senators ask for more time so that states and stakeholders can “fully analyze and assess the sweeping impacts that the proposal will have on our nation’s energy system.” It also points out: “The EPA proposal provides no mechanism for adjusting the state emission rate targets once they are adopted”—which makes it imperative that the states can fully “digest” the rule, review the 600 supporting documents, and collect the data and justification for the states’ responses.

It is not just the majority of Senators who have concerns about the EPA’s proposed rule, a diverse and growing coalition, including the Exotic Wildlife Association, the Foundry Association of Michigan, California Cotton Growers Association, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, The Fertilizer Institute, Georgia Railroad Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, electric utilities and co-ops, and city and state Chambers of Commerce from coast-to-coast, has sprung up in opposition to the plan. Yet most people are unaware of the potential impacts or of the pending deadline for public comment.

I have written on the CPP twice in the past few months—originally when it was first announced onJune 2 and then after I gave testimony in Atlanta at one of the EPA’s four scheduled “listening sessions.” Upon release, we didn’t really know much—after all, it is, as the Senators’ letter explains, complex and sweeping. But as more and more information is coming out, we see that the impact to the economy and U.S. energy security will be devastating.

Despite my efforts to spread the word—with my second column on the topic being one of my most popular ever, I find that the CPP isn’t even on the radar of the politically engaged (let alone the average person). Because this is an issue of utmost importance, I am, once again, bringing it to the attention of my readers with the hope that you will share it with everyone you know. At this point, we don’t know if the EPA will extend the comment period, so please take time now to get your comments in. The Hillreports: “Adding 60 days to the comment period could make it harder for the EPA to finalize the rule by June 2015, as President Obama has ordered.”

I’ve written this week’s column with the specific intent of giving you verbiage that you can simply cut and paste into the comment form.

The CPP will radically alter the way electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed and used in America—all with dramatic cost impacts to the consumer. It is based on the discredited theory that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It aims to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The combination of the CPP and previous regulation will shut down more than 40 percent of coal-fueled generation—representing 10 percent of all electricity-generation capacity—within the next 6 years.

What will this forced, premature elimination of America’s electric capacity do?

The proposed EPA plan will seriously threaten America’s electric reliability

Unless the EPA backs down on its harsh regulations and coal-fueled power plants get a reprieve, blackouts are almost guaranteed—especially in light of the projected cold winter. About the 2014 “polar vortex” that crippled the U.S., Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, at an April Senate hearing on grid reliability, stated: “Eighty-nine percent of the coal electricity capacity that is due to go offline was utilized as that backup to meet the demand this winter.” Murkowski’s comments were referencing coal-fueled power plants that are already due to be shut down based on regulations from five years ago, before the proposed CPP additionally reduces supply. Affirming Murkowski’s comments, Nicholas Akins, president and CEO of Ohio-based American Electric Power Company Inc., sees the 2014 near crisis as a warning sign. At that same hearing he said: “The weather events experienced this winter provided an early warning about serious issues with electric supply and reliability. This country did not just dodge a bullet—we dodged a cannonball.” And, Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller said: “the country is undergoing an unprecedented energy shift in a very short time frame.” And added: “grid operators in the Midwest are struggling to gauge whether they will have sufficient capacity to handle peak weather during the next five years.” While these comments are about the 2014 severe cold, Texas experienced a similar scare in 2011, when a protracted heat wave resulted in razor-thin reserve electric capacity margins. A Reuters report titled: “Heat waves pushes Texas power grid into red zone,” stated: “Texas has the most wind power in the country, but the wind does not blow during the summer.” Just a few months earlier, Texas ice storms forced rolling blackouts for hours because electric supplies dropped below demand.” All of these reports are before the projected closure of an additional 75 megawatts of coal-fueled electricity generation due to the new regulations. If McCarthy was serious when, prior to the release of the proposed regulations, she stated: “Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” she’d withdraw this plan, as it will do just that.

The proposed EPA plan will chase away more American industry

While the CPP appears to be about forcing the power sector into reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, there are spillover impacts of higher electricity rates on overall economic activity—especially energy-intensive industries such as steel, manufacturing, and chemicals. America’s abundance of affordable, reliable energy provides businesses with a critical operating advantage in today’s intensely competitive global economy. The EPA’s proposal will reduce America’s advantage, as it’s acknowledged that the proposed regulations will raise electricity rates in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020. Europe, and especially Germany, is threatened by an industry exodus due to its higher energy costs that have been created by its move to increase green energy. Germany’s pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer is already making significant investment in its Chinese manufacturing operations, with expansion also taking place in Brazil and India. If industry continues to leave the U.S., the CPP will have the opposite effect. Emissions will increase as companies move to countries with lower labor costs, cheaper energy, and lax environmental policies. An additional unintended consequence will be more jobs lost in manufacturing.

The proposed EPA plan will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs

In late July, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International President Edwin D. Hill said: “If these rules are implemented as written, dozens of coal plants will shut down and with no plans to replace them, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and global carbon emissions will rise anyway.” Investor’s Business Daily reports: “The IBEW has now joined the United Mine Workers of America, the Boilermakers and several other unions opposed to the new anti-carbon rules.” The United Mine Workers of America has estimated that the rule will result in 187,000 direct and indirect job losses in the utility, rail, and coal industries in 2020 and cumulative wage and benefit losses from these sectors of $208 billion between 2015 and 2035. The EPA rules hitting industry in rapid succession createuncertainty—and, as we’ve seen with Obamacare—uncertainty thwarts investment and hiring. The same industries that will be taking the regulatory hit from the CPP, are expecting additional impacts from the follow-on rules that are yet to be promulgated. No wonder the economy is sluggish and the jobs picture is bleak.

The proposed EPA plan will cause harsh economic consequences while having virtually no impact on the reported goal of stopping global climate change

From increased energy costs to job losses, the CPP will damage the economy. A statement from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on the EPA proposal, points out: “estimates regarding the damage to jobs and the economy created by poorly planned climate regulations have consistently been shown to be true in comparison to the overly optimistic predictions made by the EPA.” Perhaps these economic consequences would be worth it, if they actually did anything to really reduce carbon-dioxide emissions—assuming what humans breathe out and plants breathe in is actually the cause of global warming. But even the EPA acknowledges that the CPP is less about reductions and more about being a global leader to “prompt and leverage international decisions and action.” In Hillary Clinton’s September 4 speech at Senator Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit, she stated that the U.S. needs to lead other countries in green energy and that we need to show the world we are committed. Yet, the U.S., which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, is the first country to actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions and meet the Kyoto requirements. We are already a leader, but the other countries aren’t following—instead they are abandoning the sinking green ship and Germany, which claims to still be committed to the green ideology, is actually increasing its number of coal-fueled power plants and CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries—such as China and India—are projected to grow by nine billion tons per year. The Partnership for a Better Energy Future reports: “for every ton of CO2 reduced in 2030 as a result of EPA’s rule, the rest of the world will have increased emissions by more than 16 tons.” Our reduction in 2030 would offset the equivalent of just 13.5 days of carbon-dioxide emissions from China. The CPP will become the definition of “all pain and no gain.” Or, as economist Thomas Sowell calls it: “replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

The EPA’s October 16 deadline will be upon us before you know it. Take a few minutes now to send them your comments. Pick any of the above suggestions, customize them as you please, and send them on to the EPA. For America to grow, we need energy that is effective, efficient, and economical, rather than that which is threatened by the EPA’s flood of excessive and burdensome regulations.

Categories: On the Blog

Decompetition Decompetition Decompetition

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 2:47 PM

The FCC’s new professed mantra is “competition competition competition.”

However, the FCC appears to be pursuing a de facto policy of decompetition rather than competition.

Decompetition is regulation that undermines competition in order to justify more regulation.

How could this perverse outcome happen?

It’s what one gets when one combines an obsolete communications law and regulators nostalgic for the regulatory power of a bygone era.

The FCC is increasingly acting like a 20th century regulator searching for relevance in a 21st century marketplace.

The 1934 Communications Act created the FCC. The 1996 Telecom Act changed national communications policy from monopoly utility regulation to competition policy.

Communications competition policy has been wildly successful in the U.S., resulting in the most robust facilities-based broadband competition in the world and $1.2 trillion in private Internet infrastructure investment.

Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate broadband “information services” like a monopoly, common-carrier utility. However the court did recognize that the FCC does have some general regulatory authority under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act to promote advanced telecommunications capability.

Ironically, for many years the FCC legally assumed that this same Section 706 provision did not confer the regulatory authority that they have now been granted by the appeals court.

The perverse problem with the FCC’s current complete dependency on the 1996 Telecom Act’s Section 706 provision for its broadband authority is that it now always must find broadband deployment and competition insufficient in order for the authority to remain usable by the FCC to regulate.

The FCC now needs competition to fail for the FCC to succeed.

This outcome also directly contravenes Congress’ stated purpose of the 1996 Act: “To promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”

Consider the evidence of this perverse outcome.

To effectively extend its regulatory authority for years, the FCC is proposing to redefine broadband from a baseline speed threshold of 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps and potentially as much as 25 Mbps, which would have the result of ruling that there is dramatically less broadband competition than today, simply by deeming it so by unilaterally “moving the goalpost.”

This is the regulatory equivalent of changing the rules of a football game so that after competitors have marched 97 yards down the field quickly without any penalties, the referee mid-game moves the goal-line 150 yards further, or even potentially 525 yards further, before the referee may rule it a touchdown.

The FCC also has signaled that as competition referee it will not recognize America’s four national LTE wireless broadband providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — as real broadband competitors, because the FCC believes wireless broadband is not a “full substitute” to fixed broadband service.

To reach this self-serving and almost comical conclusion, the FCC has to ignore how 200 million Americans routinely use smartphones and tablets on the move to do essentially most every function that they can do on their fixed broadband at home.

This is the regulatory equivalent of the FCC referee of a football game arbitrarily ruling mid-game that the team that has fielded a smaller more mobile team doesn’t belong on the field competing with a larger less mobile team — even when 200 million consumer fans have long paid to watch this game.

What a perverse definition of competition when the FCC expects competitors to field the exact same type of players and strategy as their opponents. Isn’t the essence of being a competitor finding a different way, strategy or team with which to compete?

The FCC may be professing a mantra of “competition, competition, competition,” but their signaled decisions suggest a de facto FCC policy of “decompetition, decompetition, decompetition” — regulation that undermines competition in order to justify more regulation.

The best evidence that the Communications Act is obsolete, and in urgent need of modernization, is that the FCC has lost sight of Congress’ competition purpose in the 1996 Telecom Act — “to promote competition and reduce regulation” — and effectively reversed it to promote regulation and reduce competition.

American consumers deserve a competition policy aligned with their interests, not the FCC’s.

[Originally published at DailyCaller]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Accessible Cities

Somewhat Reasonable - September 12, 2014, 11:03 AM

Cities have been pivotal role to improved living standards, because of the opportunities they facilitate. This is particularly evident over the past two centuries, as world urbanization has risen from 3 percent to over 50 percent, and to more than 80 percent in the United States.

The prosperity of urban residents depends in large measure on their ability to reach the best available jobs in the city in a reasonable period of time. This requires access. University of Paris economists Remy Prud’homme and Chang Woon Lee and othershave shown that cities tend to perform better economically if the transport system permits more jobs to be reached in a fixed time, such as 30 minutes. Cities are defined as metropolitan areas, which include core municipalities and suburbs. As former World Bank planner Alain Bertaud has indicated, “large labor markets are the raison d’être of large cities.”

With frequent press attention on traffic congestion and “gridlock,” it may be surprising that work trip travel times in US cities are better than those of high income competitors in other nations (See Table). Indeed, the University of Minnesota’s David Levinson, found that the typical employee can reach two-thirds of jobs in major US metropolitan areas within 30 minutes.

Census Bureau data indicates that the average work trip travel time in US cities of more than 5 million population was approximately 29 minutes each way. Western European cities of more than 5 million population have an average travel time of 32 minutes. Toronto, Canada’s only city of this size, has a travel time of 33 minutes. East Asian cities with more than 5 million residents (Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto, Nagoya, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore) have far longer average travel times — at 42 minutes. Australia’s two largest cities (Sydney and Melbourne), which are yet to reach 5 million, have an average travel times of 35 minutes.

A number of examples can be cited. For all its well known traffic congestion, Los Angeles has the shortest travel time of any high income world megacity (cities over 10 million population), at just 27 minutes. Paris and New York are the strongest competitors, at 34 minutes, while Tokyo’s 50 minutes is nearly double that of Los Angeles (estimated from travel time distributions reported by the Japan Statistics Bureau).

Dallas-Fort Worth is the best performing US city between 5 million and 10 million population, at 26 minutes. Travel time in Houston, Miami and Philadelphia is almost as short, at 27 minutes. Only the Germany’s Ruhr Valley (Essen-Duisburg-Dortmund) does better than these cities, at 24 minutes. Hong Kong’s travel time is the longest in this population category, at 46 minutes. This may be surprising, since in many ways Hong Kong conforms to current urban planning ideals. It is the densest urban area in the high income world and the largest transit work trip market share.

The US travel time advantage extends to metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population. The average work trip travel time was 25 minutes in the US, compared to 27 minutes in Western Europe and 28 minutes in Canada. No data was found for the smaller metropolitan areas of East Asia or Australia.

Why are US cities so accessible? Despite the hostility of planners toward the automobile, the secret lies in automobile access. Generally, automobiles are faster than other modes, such as transit, walking and cycling for trips of the lengths required in modern metropolitan areas. The US also has more dispersed (decentralized) employment, which increases access and shortens travel times. Only 8 percent of major metropolitan area employment is in the downtown areas (central business districts) in US cities. Similar factors account for the Ruhr Valley’s quick travel times in Germany, with unusual employment dispersion and comprehensive freeway coverage (for Europe).

By contrast, nearly half the population and half of the jobs are in pre-1980 suburban areas (not the urban core), according to my analysis of zip code data. This makes more employment closer to people throughout the metropolitan area, on generally less congested roads.

Meanwhile, cars are getting cleaner. The Department of Energy forecasts the new US (and Canadian) fuel economy standards will reduce gross greenhouse gas emissions a quarter by 2040, despite a strong increase in driving and a conservative assumption of no progress in new car emissions after 2025. Yet things are likely to get much better, with groundbreaking advances by manufacturers, automated vehicle developers and government agencies. The California Air Resources Board is aiming for a statewide fleet that emits zero emissions by 2050, on the way to 100 percent.

Superior access is one reason that US cities dominate international income rankings. Access to greater employment choices is good for metropolitan economies. The result is a higher standard of living and less poverty than would otherwise be the case.


[Originally published at Huffington Post]

Categories: On the Blog
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