The debate on climate change is over. Anthropogenic (human) activity is increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing the global temperature to rise. Anyone who disagrees is a denier and an impediment to climate science.
A new book, Climate Change Reconsidered-II Volume One: The Physical Sciences (CCR-II), by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), published by The Heartland Institute, is sure to heat up the climate science debate, even if global temperatures are not responding in kind.
There are two important reasons to take issue with the no-debate position described above.
First, the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrates global warming has not occurred since 1997, despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels since that time. Furthermore, that 8 percent increase represents 34 percent of all of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. At this juncture, drawing causation between CO2 emissions and temperature would seem an over-simplification of global climate systems.
Second, and more importantly, when it comes to science, the debate is never over.
Despite what many people seem to think, science does not occur on a linear trajectory, and knowledge is not manufactured by people crunching numbers in clean white lab coats in ivory towers where they find definitive answers.
Science and the discovery of knowledge is an interactive messy process. In order for this process to work, a fundamental rule must be followed, as stated eloquently by Jonathan Rauch in his book Kindly Inquisitors:
“[Y]our knowledge is always tentative and subject to correction. At the bottom of this kind of skepticism is a simple proposition: we must all take seriously the idea that any and all of us might, at any time, be wrong.” [italics in original]
By accepting that we are not immune from error, we implicitly accept that no person, no matter who they are or how strongly they believe, is above possible correction. If anyone can be in error, no one can legitimately claim to have any unique or personal powers to decide who is right and who is wrong. Therefore, a statement may be claimed as established knowledge only if it can be debunked, in principle, and only insofar as it withstands attempts to debunk it (Rauch 1993 pp. 46–48).
This leads to two conclusions:
- No one (or organization) gets the final say on scientific matters.
- No one (or organization) has personal authority to decide a scientific question is “settled.”
These principles have important implications for the climate change debate because the rules of liberal science not only allow but require that those who claim anthropogenic origins for recent rises in global temperature allow their theory to be checked.
Therefore, the NIPCC’s critical review (checking) of IPCC reports is not an attempt to sabotage the advancement of knowledge but a necessary requirement for science, and any attempt to paint it as unscientific is itself unscientific.
Over the past 16 years, the models used by the IPCC to predict rising global temperatures driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions have been contradicted by the observed evidence. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen without a corresponding rise in temperature and Antarctic ice mass sits near balance.
Clearly, if the predictions made based on IPCC models are not supported by real-world observations, the models need improvement. Whether excess heat is being absorbed by the deep oceans, or increases in global temperatures near the end of the twentieth century were driven primarily by natural forces, it’s obvious there are additional factors affecting the global climate that must be taken into account.
This is certainly not to say that attempting to model and predict what will happen in the future is not a worthwhile pursuit. It does say, however, the IPCC models aren’t there yet. CCR-II explains why.
The debate on climate science is not over, and it never will be. Instead of stooping to name-calling and belittling of those who hold differing views, real scientists check each other’s work to produce the best science possible. CCR-II is a valuable resource for this pursuit.
Isaac Orr is a speaker, researcher, and freelance writer specializing in hydraulic fracturing, agricultural, and environmental policy issues. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with studies in political science and geology, winning awards for his undergraduate geology research before taking a position in the Wisconsin State Senate. He is the author of a Heartland Institute Policy Study on hydraulic fracturing.
They’re calling for a “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) tax because, darn it, cars and trucks are becoming more fuel-efficient. Drivers are getting more miles for each gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel they buy, which means fuel tax revenues have not been growing as much as government officials would like. Taxing us on each mile driven would get them more money.
The intrusiveness of such a scheme, especially in light of the continuing revelations about the U.S. government spying on Americans and even heads of state of some of this nation’s staunchest allies, should worry us all. Do we really want the federal or state governments knowing every mile we drive, and possibly every place we go? In Oregon, where several thousand drivers are participating in a tax-per-mile system test, GPS is included in some of the “black boxes” that record miles driven.
To the “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have no problem being tracked” crowd, let us ask: Do you put curtains, drapes, or blinds over the windows in your home? Following their logic, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should take down all your window coverings and let people peer inside whenever they want.
Some things are no one else’s business, even if those things are legal. If we don’t want our neighbors or even our close relatives watching us whenever they like, how could we possibly want government bureaucrats we don’t know—bureaucrats whose power is backed up by the threat of police violence and prisons—tracking every mile we drive?
There’s no disputing the federal Highway Trust Fund is broke. But this is partly because money has been diverted to things other than roads and bridges—public transit, sidewalks, bike paths, scenic trails, etc. A simple solution would be to end the diversions and spend money that is collected for highways on highways.
Motor fuel taxes also could be raised. The federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes have remained unchanged at 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents a gallon, respectively, for nearly 20 years. But raising gas taxes angers people. A VMT would be less transparent. To people in government, an easy-to-see tax is never as good as one that is easy to hide.
This is why there is nearly universal opposition among politicians to ending withholding of income taxes. If people had to regularly send Uncle Sam a check for income tax owed, there’d be much fiercer opposition to the tax. With the tax owed automatically withheld from paychecks, workers never see the money, and they’re less inclined to miss it. It would be a similar experience with the electronic tallies of a VMT tax.
VMT advocates complain that hybrid cars and electric vehicles burn little or no gasoline, so people drive them for free. But those vehicles are still just a tiny sliver of the nation’s rolling stock. Moreover, it would be easy to impose a special tax on them at time of purchase, or an annual tax, to make up the difference. This would be poetic justice, in fact, considering the thousands of dollars of subsidies the government showers on such vehicles and their buyers, who receive hefty tax credits for their purchases.
Another solution—one that many states have begun using—is to use “public-private partnerships” in which private companies put up their own funds to help fund transportation infrastructure projects.
“Our own recent survey identified 18 jurisdictions that are financing big-ticket highway and bridge ‘mega-projects’ without federal funding. Instead, they are using long-term credit (private and TIFIA [federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act money]), ‘availability payments,’ private equity risk capital, and concession agreements,” wrote transportation expert C. Kenneth Orski in a recent issue of his InnovationBriefs newsletter.
Raise fuel taxes. End diversions of highway funds. Charge a road fee for owners of hybrid and electric cars. Leverage existing federal programs to involve private companies to address highway needs. These all would be better solutions than the hidden and privacy-violating VMT.
Steve Stanek (email@example.com) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.
They should be 100% certain. Since the climate is the average of local weather, and weather is the sum of behavior of the surging gases around us, and mankind moves through, modifies, and changes these gases, as does every other animal and plant species, it is certain humanity influences the weather, hence climate.
The only real question is: How much?
The IPCC says it’s lots. Why? Well, because of theory. Theory insists the bulk of the observed temperature changes over the past several decades were mostly caused by people. There’s one thing seriously wrong with this. The temperature lately hasn’t been changing in the direction theory said it would. Temps have stayed still or bounced around with no preferred direction.
In olden days, when a theory made consistently poor predictions, people concluded it was wrong. They tossed these theories and marked them as historical curiosities. If the predictions weren’t too awful, as the IPCC’s are, people removed the bad bits and grafted on new, good pieces. Nobody claimed the flawed theories were “95% likely to be true.”
But we’re all postmodernists now. It’s not the truth of the theory or the accuracy of predictions based on it that count. It’s what in your heart that matters. Love and caring trump reality.
If the IPCC’s theory that mankind is viciously changing climate is false, then nothing need be done. But doing nothing seems uncaring. Doing nothing means we sit idly by and just watch the weather. That hardly seems caring.
Then there’s the love. The IPCC is like Pygmalion in having fallen in love with its computer-modeled creation. The IPCC scientist cherishes his work, has told the world of his ardor. He can’t very well publicly abandon his inamorata now. That would call his judgment into question.
There’s a bigger problem. Assume for the sake of politeness the IPCC’s 95% estimate is correct. The natural response is, “So what?” So the global average temperature is going to increase by a half degree over the next 50 years, or whatever. What of it?
Climate change is of no real interest to anyone except climatologists, because nobody experiences a climate. We experience weather and the phenomena it affects, such as crop yields. What’s important is what the changing climate does to weather and what changing weather does to everything else. The IPCC’s claims about all of these things have been thoroughly refuted by the recent 1,000-plus-page peer-reviewed report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, which cites nearly 4,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles that contradict the IPCC’s claims.
Now, no matter how certain the IPCC is that the climate will change, we must necessarily be less certain that the climate will change in any particular way, and further, that various things will change in predicted ways because the climate changed. On top of that, we must be even more unsure of the claims we won’t be able to adapt to the presumed changes that will be caused by the predicted changes in the climate. That’s a lot of uncertainty. You can work all that out mathematically, but translated into plain English it means the original 95% certainty has no application at all to complicated, real-world events.
Finally, there’s something odd about the research on the things that are supposed to change because of global warming.
I have reviewed an enormous number of papers which purport to show the evils that await when global warming finally strikes. There is a curious similarity in these works. If a species is warm, cuddly, cute, delicious, or photogenic, researchers have discovered global warming will strike it down without mercy.
But if the species stings, bites, pricks, stinks, or cannot secure an advocacy group, scientists have found global warming will cause it to flourish amazingly. Sharknadoes may become common.
Nobody has yet figured out why this asymmetry exists.
Article by William M. Briggs (firstname.lastname@example.org), a.k.a. “The Statistician to the Stars!” has a Ph.D. in statistics and a master’s degree in atmospheric science from an Ivy League university, so you know whatever he says is true.
I was in the Miami, Florida office of a human relations organization when someone burst in to say that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. The date was November 22, 1963, 50 years ago today.
I was age 26, had graduated from the University of Miami, served in the Army until my discharge in 1962. My first job took me back to Miami, but at the time Kennedy was killed, my enthusiasm for it had departed and I took the occasion to let my boss know that I too was departing. I returned home to New Jersey where I would pursue a career in journalism for several years.
There are moments that mark one’s progress through life. For anyone alive at the time, most can tell you where they were. The Kennedy assassination didn’t just come as a shock to the nation; the world felt the loss as well. He was handsome, articulate, married to a beautiful wife, Jacqueline or Jackie as she was more often called. He had two cute children.
It was a time of considerable turmoil at home and abroad. The civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The women’s rights movement began in earnest. Indeed, the entire decade left its mark on history. Just five years later in 1968 Kennedy’s brother, Robert, was assassinated during his campaign to become President. Two months earlier, in April, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis.
No one wants to live such turmoil, but the 1960s bequeathed its values to our culture—sex, drugs and rock’n roll—and our politics. Without that decade’s civil rights movement, it is unlikely Americans would have elected a black President in 2008. Two generations have been born since the 1960s.
For those of us in our twenties fifty years ago, the optimism we felt with Kennedy in office was replaced with a growing sense of pessimism as the Vietnam War lingered through Johnson’s administration and into Nixon’s. Watergate severed most feelings of confidence in whoever was the nation’s chief executive until Ronald Reagan came on the scene. I am known these days as a conservative commentator, but back then I was a Democrat and a liberal.
Countless books have been written about Kennedy’s life and death. There have been films and television programs devoted to him. He wasn’t in office long, serving from 1961 to 1963, but his youth, his personality, his love of the arts, and other pleasing attributes made him very different from his older predecessors.
America loves youth. It indulges the young, makes “idols” of some, and devotes most of its entertainment to them. They bring energy to the passing scene, but they are unwittingly and unknowingly the passing scene. Fifty years after the assassination is already “ancient” history to new generations.
Lost in the story of that fateful day is the fact that Kennedy was assassinated by a Communist.
That was my thought as I address the fact that fifty years have passed since JFK was killed. It is my generation who lived through the event. To think that a half-century has gone by since that day takes a moment to contemplate; to ask what I have done with my life since then. It is a question others of my generation will ask as well. In the past fifty years, with the exception of the 1980s, the nation has moved inexorably to the left.
History turns on such events. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 triggered World War One. The assassination of JFK led to the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson who dragged the nation into a distant civil war in Vietnam and included a fruitless domestic “war on poverty”, a liberal program that was doomed to failure in the same way Obamacare is.
As the French say, Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes—the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In retrospect many observers have concluded that Kennedy was in many respects a conservative. He was a religious man. He opposed Communism. He increased spending to the military. He cut taxes. One can go on, but it is obvious now that he was not the liberal many would have us believe. That is a myth.
As I think back, I realize how little I knew of the politics of the years in which I was attending university, serving in the Army, or working that first job in Miami. My political education began when I was a young journalist, but my political maturity did not begin until the 1980s when Ronald Reagan served his two terms.
It was nice being young when Kennedy was President. Being old as Barack Obama, a Marxist, uses the presidency to destroy the nation, is a nightmare.
[First published at Warning Signs.]
The Chicago Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society has a “Tavern Debate” every third Thursday of every odd-numbered month in the library of The Heartland Institute. We are honored to serve as the host for an evening of libations, sandwiches, and spirited debate in the style of 18th century patriots in pubs before the founding of this great country.
Tonight was the latest edition with the question on the table: “Resolved: Act! If not us, whom? If not now, when?”
Perhaps the wording of the question was too open-ended — as one speaker argued in the negative for the evening’s resolution — but I argued vigorously against that point, and very much in the positive on the question (which carried the vote in the end, by the way). Now is the time to act. And if not we few citizens who cherish our liberty, then whom?
Our liberties are under constant assault in ways big and small from a modern American Leviathan James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams would not recognize. They’d be horrified, as were most of the attendees at tonight’s Tavern Debate, that the federal government has usurped enough authority over the years to now consider itself the ultimate Masters of Our Universe. That our Masters are proving incompetent — especially with Obamacare — is not a bug in the plans of our supposed masters, but an inevitable feature. Tyranny, soft or hard, does not worry itself with the details. Control and forced obedience is what matters — and exactly what our Founders well understood and hoped to spare us from experiencing.
The Leviathan in the modern democratic state counts on us to simply throw up our hands and submit. Act to resist? How? We have elections and the people have spoken. Besides, who am I, as an individual, in the larger scheme of things? I can’t stop Obamacare by myself. I’ll just try to buck up and plug along. That’s the American Way!
No. I refuse to submit — especially when it comes to the Obamacare Disaster — and I pray that I won’t be alone.
My health insurance hasn’t been canceled yet, but I expect it will be next year under the current state of the law. When that happens, I will seek a doctor who will accept chickens as payment before I sign up at Heatlthcare.gov. I will seek “concierge medical service” — which will be the buzz words of 2014 — and pay what I can afford to escape the forced-choice of Obamacare before I enter all my personal information into the hacker’s paradise that is Healthcare.gov. I’ll pay what our Masters sometimes call “fines” and sometimes call “taxes” (as it suits them) in lieu of submitting my health care to their will for the “common good,” but not mine.
It is the duty of a free citizen to take all legal recourse to avoid submission to a government that passes laws to control your activity, but then decides to not follow them when it becomes inconvenient. What justice is there in a law that can be made up as it goes along by the president and his bureaucrats — with statutory deadlines arbitrarily postponed by the executive for the political expediency of his party, and waivers for unions that support him? If the chief executive can defy the law, why can’t I? Why can’t you?
Asking such questions is exactly what I did at the Tavern Debate, and what all citizens who want to restore the republic bestowed upon us must also ask themselves. What are you willing to do — in ways large and small — to preserve the rule of law, and not of men? I’m willing to go … Off. The. Grid.
Earlier today, the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate invoked the “nuclear option,” changing the rules of the “World’s Most Deliberative Body” to ensure less deliberation on the desires of the Masters, and more rules on the rest of us. But a still-free people also has a “nuclear option” available: Refuse to submit.
Baden is the founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) in Bozeman, Montana; a think tank dedicated to implementing an economic way of thinking consistent with a society of free and responsible individuals. FREE deals with a variety of policy arenas, most notably environmental policy.
Baden and his wife live in Bozeman; a place they describe as truly magical. Bozeman is now the epicenter for free market environmentalism, and logically so. The town has a unique balance of the conservative Western thought and a natural landscape that requires preserving. Baden explained that the “free market environmental dream team” came together in Bozeman- consisting of Baden himself, Richard L. Stroup, Senior Associate at the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, and P.J. Hill- Senior Fellow at PERC- to lead the way in the New Resource Economics (NRE).
Baden believes that it’s part of the natural order for a people to become “green” as they become more wealthy and educated. We shouldn’t resist this fact, but embrace it. As free market advocates, it’s important to show the environmentalist folks that government is not the answer to our environmental issues.
The recent government shutdown should serve as a wake-up lesson. What was one of the first government functions to go? The national park service. In an economic crisis- which we all know is looming- or a situation of limited resources, we cannot trust the government to manage the land and care for our resources. We must do it ourselves.
But Baden isn’t in favor of a massive privatization of national parks. No, he actually thinks national parks are good- but he believes that the government managing them is bad. He proposes instituting a public trust- no tax money, funded voluntarily by citizens- to manage the national parks. He believes that we should translate entrepreneurship into the national park arena, and he has no doubts that people will step up.
“People like this kind of stuff, and they like to fund it,” he said.
Join us on Thursday, December 12 for a luncheon with Michael J. Lotus, co-author of the book America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century.[Editor's note: The public is welcome to attend Heartland's Author Series events located at One East Wacker, in Chicago's Loop. Tickets and event information can be found on our website here.]
A new study released by the Small Business Administration funded with taxpayer money examines the effects of Internet sales taxes on small businesses. The study has drawn swift criticism from groups opposing the wide scale imposition of Internet sales taxes through legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act. The paper, “An Analysis of Internet Sales Taxation and the Small Seller Exemption,” was released by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy and written by Donald Bruce and William Fox of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research, who have written articles in the past downplaying the negative effects of taxes on different aspects on the Internet like Internet access.
Filled with arguments that have made dozens of times before by supporters of Internet sales taxes, the taxpayer funded report’s sole intention is to promote to taxpayers an unnecessary tax hike. In addition to the new paper, the SBA Office of Advocacy has begun a social media campaign to promote both the paper and Internet sales taxes. The Institute for Policy Innovation even found a list of suggested Twitter tweets that the Office of Advocacy wrote for supporters to use to promote the flawed report.
The authors of the SBA study concluded that online retailers have benefited from the lack of sales taxes at the expense of brick and mortar store. The SBA report covers a tired argument that is misleading while supporting a tax policy with many serious flaws. Imposing sales taxes on internet sales would slow the growth of the e-commerce industry, one of the few sectors of growth recently.
Critics of the Marketplace Fairness Act immediately called foul on the study. Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute quickly pointed out in an article responding to the study that that it was incredibly biased and written by authors who have already written articles favoring the MFA in the past, all on the taxpayer’s dime. “In service of the PR campaign for President Obama’s and Senator Dick Durbin’s favorite Internet sales tax law, the SBA decided to fork over $80,000 of taxpayer money to…(drumroll please)…the very people who have been writing studies in favor of the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA)! What a coincidence!”
Moylan also contends that the actual information contained in the study was not of any real importance, covering no new ground. “In fact, the most important passage essentially concedes that having a higher small seller exception in the bill ‘does not add measurably to the covered share of total online retail,’ wrote Moylan. “In other words, protecting a larger number of businesses from the onerous compliance obligations of MFA wouldn’t appreciably reduce revenues.”
Jessica Melugin, an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute argues that the provenance of the study erodes its credibility. “We spent $80,000 of tax money so long-time advocates of the legislation could cite ‘anecdotal evidence,’ cherry-pick data, change numbers to aid their arguments and cite themselves throughout the paper. This does not a credible study make.” wrote Melugin in a CEI article.
Melugin also criticized the many important issues the paper overlooked, including major legal issues, consumer privacy concerns and competitive interference. “The paper dismisses the MFA’s constitutional problems, all but ignores the threat out-of-state audits would pose to small businesses and makes no mention of both the consumer privacy concerns and detriment to healthy tax competition,” wrote Melguin. “Perhaps most amusing in light of recent events, the report repeatedly implies that government-supplied software will alleviate tax compliance burdens.”
Requiring online retailers to charge a sales tax in states where they do not have a physical presence would force consumers to pay a tax to a government with whom they have no political voice and from whom they receive no government benefits or services. It is bad tax policy that undercuts tax competition and would give states even more ways to tax you.
In early October, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) hosted a panel of Heartland Institute Scholars to discuss climate change in accordance with their book Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (CCR-II).
The panel was made up of Dr. Keith Lockitch- Fellow at ARI, Joe Bast- President and CEO of the Heartland Institute, Dr. Robert Carter- Co-editor and author of CCR-II, and S. Fred Singer- renowned atmospheric physicist.
Heartland began to address global warming back in 1994 with little attention from the outside world. Bast says that people were panicked and motivated by fear of the alleged dangers of global warming. But as time went on, Heartland’s influence strengthened, especially with the release of the first Climate Change Reconsidered, which was the first time that global warming skeptics got together to create an authoritative critique of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The panel discusses the outcomes expressed in CCR II, which shows that climate change is not necessarily caused by humans, and subsequently that there’s no justification for governments to attempt to reduce energy consumption and emissions. In fact, Dr. Carter explains that climate has never been stable and is constantly changing. Six million years ago, the planet’s temperatures were actually hotter than they are today.
Watch the video in the player above.
Taxes loom large in the minds of the American people. How much is too much in taxes to pay? Would those who pay no income tax be better off, having more skin in the game, if a different sort of tax required them to divvy up financially to help support running the government?
Author Dan Pilla’s booklet, Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy, as discussed at a Heartland Institute Author Event on Thursday, November 14th, was written by Pilla to pull back the covers to show how our present Federal Income Tax system falls far short of what should be the template for a federal tax policy that is fair, efficient, and easily understood.
See Part 1: Author says Federal Income tax unfair; ignores sound economic policies
Pilla’s ten principles can be applied to all tax systems at any level of government, but because income taxes collect by far the most revenue and affects the most people in the U.S., it is the income tax that most often violates what Pilla considers sound tax policy as set forth in his booklet, Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy. Download for free at www.heartland.org. Print copies are available at a cost and can be ordered online at heartland.org or call 312-377-4000.
Pilla’s comments, directed at seven of his ten principles of Federal tax policy, follow:
1. Simplicity - Citizens have a fundamental right to know what tax laws require, and compliance should be easy andinexpensive.
A tax code must be such so that people are able to understand the law. The scope of our present tax law contains four million words. It is so vast that not even the IRS knows what is going on. Being that the tax code is so broad, it’s impossible for the administration to do its job. There are 140 individual tax penalties in the current tax code. Difficulty in understanding the tax code breeds non-compliance by the public. Many individuals are subject to tax penalties (punished) based on lacking an understanding of the tax code.
2. Noninvasiveness - A minimally invasive tax code encourages voluntary compliance and reduces the need for enforcement. so many burdens.
3. Efficiency - The total cost of collecting taxes can be reduced by lowering the number of collection points
Some have called the IRS the most efficient agency funded by government. How could this be so? Operational costs in the federal budget total $2 billion a year. There are 93,000 employees, soon to be 100,000 with Obamacare. The IRS collects $2.4 to $2.5 trillion in taxes every year, but four out of every five dollars are not collected by the IRS. 98% of individuals “voluntarily” pay what they owe to the IRS, while only 2% of IRS revenue is received through IRS enforcement. A broad-based retail tax is needed to reduce the 250 million collection ports to 50 (number of states). It is not uncommon for businesses to be required to file 5 different tax forms.
4. Stability - The tax code should be stable and reliable from year to year and generation to generation.
Don’t individuals and businesses have the right to know that the language today is the same as the law will be tomorrow and will likewise serve us in the future? How is it that numerous tax preparers can arrive at different amounts owed by the same taxpayer and with such a variance of the amounts owed? From 2001 – 2008 over 3,250 tax change regulations were put in place. Changing laws with such frequency breeds confusion and results in the the assessment of penalties by the IRS, which leads to zero stability. The federal income tax affects every area of our lives and the most personal ones such as marriage, children, home ownership, personal investment, charitable giving, etc., giving rise to such questions as whether or not to save money or whether or not to get married.
5. Visibility - The cost of government should be readily apparent to taxpayers.
It is important for the American people to know what the tax is on a product or a service to foster understanding about the cost of government. Government costs money, but many times the taxes we pay are invisible. This results in the American people having no idea of what their tax liability is. For people not having skin in the game — and there are entire segments of the population who meet this qualification — it doesn’t matter what government costs. One example of this lack of understanding as noted by DanPilla: An individual, having received an income tax refund of $1,000, never realized that his W2 form showed he had paid $5,000 in wage withholding taxes. Not looking at the top line of his pay check, the individual didn’t see the hidden Social Security tax that had been taken directly out his pay check, having noted only the bottom line which showed his take home pay.
6. Neutrality - Taxes should not fall more heavily on one industry or class of individuals than on others.
7. Economic Growth - Taxes should not impede the investment and consumption decisions that make economic growth possible.
Any tax system must not burden the engine of growth. Although no tax system is a panacea and all taxes result in income distribution, to be considered is where the least amount of damage will be done so economic growth can be encouraged and not stymied. Our Founding Fathers expressly rejected the idea of imposing direct taxes as a means of funding the economy on income, savings, and investments, but instead favored an indirect tax on consumption. The following sound economic principles must be kept front and center in all discussions regarding taxation: 1) What you tax you get less of, and 2) what you subsidize you get more of. The economy can’t grow when the engine of growth is heavily taxed. For every dollar paid in taxes, businesses have a least one less dollar available for other things.
8. Broad-Based - Broad tax bases allow rates to be kept low, which in turn encourages voluntary compliance.
This nation is doing the opposite with its federal income tax system where fewer and fewer people are paying into the system. According to Treasury data: Tax payers in the top 20% of the income distribution pay 70.6% of all federal taxes, while taxpayers in the bottom 20% pay 0.4 percent. More than half of federal taxes are paid by taxpayers in the top 10 percent of the income distribution. Described by Pilla was the “Disney World Syndrome. This syndrome happens when people elect not to pay income taxes, or perhaps mortgage payments, but elect instead to have fun with the money.
9. Equality - The tax system should treat people equally and fairly.
There is a push for equality across the board except when it come to the federal income tax, but does government have the right to steal from people what they earn and distribute to someone else? This “stealing” is done on the basis of success standards, reflected by ones social and economic standing, through the fixed arbitrary income rates designated in the Internal Revenue Code.
10. Constitutionally - Taxes must be imposed solely to fund clearly defined constitutional functions.
Since the 1930′s Congress has used the federal tax laws for purposes other than raising revenue. According to Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution, it authorizes the federal government to 1) pay our debts, 2) provide a national defense, and 3) provide for the “general” welfare of the nation. General welfare has become the point of contention. The original intent of providing for the ”general welfare” was that the provision had to benefit the nation as a whole and not one business or industry over another. The Founders were adamant that the taxing authority granted in the Constitution be used only to benefit the nation as a whole, not individual inhabitants or individuals classes of citizens at the expense of others Our present tax system has evolved into a great transfer system of wealth. There is no legal or moral authority in a free society that justifies using the power of government to take from some what they have legally and peacefully acquired and give to others who have not earned it.
What might be the best tax model for this nation? Democrats are fond of saying that all elections are local. They are local, but they are also personal. Democrats are able to convey a message to voters that asks them individually to consider what’s in it for me when casting their ballot. By handing out free things to different classifications or groups of Americans, Democrat party loyalty is bought and thus established.
Republicans must convince the American people why liberty is a better idea than socialism? Republicans in the past have been inapt in presenting cogent explanations. To be explained by Republicans: Why the freedom to make personal decisions wins every time over government control? How doing for self enriches lives?
It is unrealistic to expect Congress to be up to the task of changing this nation’s tax system unless it is stumbled upon accidentally. Granted, changing the tax system would also have to depend on what is politically doable. All considered, little will happen unless this nation’s tax burden becomes so unbearable that a majority of the American people start to suffer.
Mr. Pilla presented the three tax policy options open to this nation, reminding those assembled how the luxury tax flopped:
1. Current Federal tax policy.
2. Flat tax option.
3. Sales Tax option.
According to Mr. Pilla, we have only one chance to get it right. Pilla considers the value added tax a bad idea, while regressive taxes fall more heavily on the poor than the rich. Regarding a sales tax, Pilla rates it as neither progressive or regressive but proportional to what people buy. As such all Americans would have some skin in the game, with a dawning realization that what government freely gives isn’t free.
There have been three presidential commissions on taxes — 1995, 1996, and in 2005 under President George W. Bush. Each report insisted that a sound tax system must be mindful of the profoundly negative consequences taxes can have on the economy, yet none went beyond the paper they were printed on.
The clock is ticking. Hopefully politics won’t impede the way forward until such a time when this nation can no longer be rescued from it self-imposed downfall, precipitated by an all-powerful, reckless government whose goal it is to please what has become a nation of greedy, government-dependent Americans.
The next Heartland Author Series will be held on Thursday, December 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Michael J. Lotus will speak on America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century–Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come. Call 312/377-4000 or visit heartland.org.
Published, November 19, 2013, Illinois Review
You may remember that when Health Savings Accounts were introduced there was almost universal outrage among liberals about the horrendous burden cost-sharing places on all but “the healthy and wealthy.” A press release issued by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) within a week of the Ways and Means committee approving an HSA bill in 2003 said:
This legislation would lead many employers to move away from providing low-deductible comprehensive insurance, noted Edwin Park, a senior health policy analyst at the Center and the report’s lead author. Policies with deductibles of $1,000 or more, higher co-payments for medical services, and coverage for a narrower array of health services could well become the norm for employer-sponsored coverage, with employers expecting their workers to pay uncovered costs out of their tax-favored Health Savings Security Accounts, Park stated.
Low- and moderate-income workers, who would benefit little from the tax breaks that the new accounts would provide, and older and sicker workers, who could face large increases in out-of-pocket health care costs as a result of the loss of comprehensive insurance, could be sharply affected, he added.
A few years later, after President Bush proposed expanding HSAs, Jason Furman, then at CBPP and today the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a similar slam on high deductibles in health insurance, especially if accompanied with a savings account.
So it comes as something as a shock that today these exact same people are raving about how wonderful the coverage is in ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. Organizing for Action, Barack Obama’s official grassroots operation emblazons on its website ― “Better Coverage, Lower Costs!”
Then there are two puzzling pieces in The New England Journal of Medicine. The first article “The ACA and High-Deductible Insurance — Strategies for Sharpening a Blunt Instrument,” is by J. Frank Wharam and others. The writers observe that 84% of the enrollees in Massachusetts chose a bronze or silver plan with family deductibles of $4,000 to $10,000 and significant cost sharing on top of that. They say that lower income people in the ObamaCare exchanges will have their out-of-pocket costs subsidized as well as their premiums, but, “the resulting protections may be robust only for persons with incomes below 200% of the poverty level.” They add:
Cover Oregon, for example, estimates that cost sharing for Oregon families with incomes between 200% and 399% of the poverty level will include $5,000 deductibles, 30% coinsurance for many services even after reaching the deductible, and out-of-pocket spending maximums of $8,500 to $12,700.
An accompanying chart lists the deductible for a family at 400% of poverty at $12,700. What happened to “better coverage, lower costs”?
The authors of the article, all associated with Harvard University, express none of the hysteria that went along with the roll-out of HSAs, even though HSA deductibles were quite modest compared to ObamaCare deductibles. But they are concerned about the possible consequences.
Unfortunately they are also woefully ignorant and lazy. They say, “Small employers newly required to purchase employees’ insurance may well choose HDHPs (High-Deductible Health Plans) as the least expensive coverage option.” But small employers are not required to purchase insurance and are not penalized for failing to do so.
The authors rue the lack of research on the effect of high deductibles on “vulnerable populations” –
Unfortunately, cost-sharing research over the past three decades has focused almost exclusively on low-level cost sharing (e.g., less than $50 per service). Few studies since the landmark RAND Health Insurance Experiment of the 1970s and 1980s have examined high cost sharing (e.g., deductibles above $1,000 per year) for expensive services, and fewer still have focused on vulnerable populations.
But the authors believe this because they looked at a total of two reports from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They completely missed a RAND report entitled, “How Do Consumer-Directed Health Plans Affect Vulnerable Populations?” written almost two years ago. One would have to be willfully ignorant to miss this report.
The authors also call on employers to “facilitate contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs), especially for vulnerable people,” but it is not clear these mandated plans are eligible for HSAs. If they require first dollar coverage for anything other than preventive services, they are not eligible for an HSA.
The more I read reports from people at Harvard, the less respect I have for the institution. Which brings us to the next article, “Full Disclosure — Out-of-Pocket Costs as Side Effects,” written by a team from Duke University.
These authors recommend that physicians learn how to talk about costs with their patients. They argue that the financial “side effects” of a treatment program can be just as important as the clinical side effects. They acknowledge that it is extremely difficult for a clinician to know what out-of-pocket costs a patient may be exposed to and very often doesn’t know what the charges will be for a given array of services.
Now, the authors rely too much on information about financial burdens from the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP is famous for including any discussion of costs or payment arrangements as a “burden.” CAP seems to think anything not paid in full at the time of service is a burden on patients (except, of course, for ObamaCare.)
I don’t expect physicians to double as financial advisers, but I agree that they should be more aware of the costs of the treatments they prescribe. In my own case, my doctor prescribed a blood pressure medication. When I went to fill the prescription I discovered it was enormously expensive. I went back to my Doc to see if there was something more affordable available. No one had ever asked him about that, but when he looked into it, by golly there was a list of 25 different meds with prices ranging 1,000 percent, all equally effective.
That is the effect of an empowered consumer. Ultimately physicians will respond to the demands of their patients and as more of us are paying cash for services, we will insist on cost considerations far beyond what any third party payer could do.
Unfortunately, the ObamaCare approach is far too clumsy to be effective in empowering consumers. The great advantage of funded HSAs is they give patients the means to pay the bill, but also get them to think twice about the costs. It is a carefully balanced approach to growing educated patients. ObamaCare just throws people in the deep end of the pool without any support.[Article originally posted on HealthWorksCollective.com]
Businesses must lobby governments to fight climate change, according to the United Nations. On November 14th, as part of the Warsaw climate conference, the UN issued a new report entitled, “Guide for Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy,” urging active business participation in the UN climate crusade. But is this the best course for business to serve customers and protect the environment?
Representatives from more than 190 nations are meeting in Poland, to lay the groundwork for a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. The tough issues include the size and timing of emissions cuts and contributions to the $100 billion climate fund, to be paid annually to developing nations in 2020. But negotiations are not going well.
China surpassed the United States in 2007 as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but it does not want to rein in emissions. India has 300 million people without access to electricity and wants other nations to make cuts. Developing nations demand that industrialized nations make deep emissions cuts and large contributions to the $100 billion climate fund, for past emissions sins, and industrialized nations are reluctant to pursue further emissions reductions without participation from developing nations.
Since the failure at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, global climate negotiations have been adrift. The Kyoto Protocol expired at the end of 2012 without a follow-on emissions treaty. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and other organizations blame corporate influence as “a major stumbling block to progress on global climate change initiatives.”
The new UN report on corporate engagement will be highlighted in a special session of the conference on November 19. The report calls for companies to lobby governments to support a “global legal agreement on climate change.” Firms must push for a “carbon price throughout the global economy.” But last week, new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott introduced a bill to repeal that nation’s hated carbon tax, a major setback for international efforts.
The report was produced for the UN by leading environmental groups, including the World Resources Institute, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Ceres, and The Climate Group. All of these organizations receive major funding from companies who strive to be responsible corporate citizens.
For example, for many years Coca-Cola has funded the environmental efforts of the WWF. The company runs the “Arctic Home” promotional campaign, featuring a white Coca-Cola can with an image of a mother polar bear and her cubs, raising over $3 million to date for the WWF. Children all over our nation are breaking piggy banks to send money to save the bears.
In 2007, the US Geological Survey published a 30-year detailed study of polar bear populations on the north coast of Alaska, using bear capture, tagging, and electronic collaring to track bear populations. The study concluded that, although ice had declined 30 percent in the region over the period, bear populations increased by 30 percent. So both the polar bears and the WWF are doing quite well.
To be good citizens, some companies are voluntarily buying electricity from expensive wind and solar sources. Shareholders accept this profit-reducing activity, believing this contributes to slowing man-made global warming. But according to the International Energy Agency, wind and solar supply less than 1 percent of global energy needs, and coal-fired energy is growing.
Last week, Japan announced that it was changing its national 2020 emissions target from a decrease to an increase from the year 1990. Both Japan and Germany replaced nuclear plants with coal-fired plants in the wake of the Fukishima nuclear disaster, so emissions for both nations are growing.
In 2011 UPS began using biodiesel at major US shipping hubs. The company stated, “This project helps us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels with the added benefit that it will also reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.” But mounting evidence shows that business use of biodiesel is negative for both people and the environment.
A recent study by the International Food Policy Institute concludes that current biofuel policies do not reduce CO2 emissions. United Kingdom’s Chatham House points out that biofuel efforts increase “the level and volatility of food prices, with detrimental impacts on the food security of low-income food-importing countries.” Rain forests are being destroyed in Malaysia and Indonesia to plant palm oil plantations for biofuel.
Since climate change is dominated by natural, not man-made factors, there is no United Nations agreement that will have a measurable effect on Earth’s climate. There is no corporate policy that will have a measurable effect on icecap size, sea level rise, the frequency or intensity of hurricanes or storms, droughts, or floods. No UN policy, however broadly endorsed by nations and companies, will have a measurable effect on global temperatures.
For a real difference and not just a public relations difference, companies should direct efforts toward measures that solve real problems. Innovative products and services for humankind, reduction of real pollutants (not carbon dioxide), and support for efforts to bring electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care, and prosperity to developing nations should be corporate goals, rather than futile efforts to halt climate change.
[Article originally posted on The Daily Caller]