U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “wants to let [cable and satellite TV] customers buy their pay channels on an a la carte basis,” The Wrap reports. That is certainly an option many customers would like to have, but McCain’s bad idea is to use the heavy hand of government to make it happen.
At present the market does not provide this option, the Wrap report notes, because the providers of popular content (such as ESPN, the Discovery Channel, and the like) force the cable and satellite distributors to take less-popular channels along with the more desirable ones. This raises prices for everybody. The Wrap’s wording implies that cable companies like this arrangement, though I greatly doubt that they do:
Under the current system, cable companies charge customers for bundles of channels. In turn, media companies package their content to cable providers so that they are forced to pay for less popular channels in order to get access to more desirable ones like ESPN or AMC.
Instead of letting the market sort this out—which technological change is making inevitable as people’s TV viewing increasingly is done via the Internet instead of or in addition to cable, satellite, and/or broadcast services—McCain wants to put the burden mainly on one party, the cable and satellite providers:
The Arizona Republican is preparing legislation that would let cable customers buy channels individually, according to a report in The Hill.
That phrase “would let cable customers buy channels individually” is both telling and inaccurate. It’s revealing in the use of attractive wording to describe a government mandate, and it’s false in the implication that government can “let” cable customers do this. It cannot; it can only force cable companies to let cable customers buy the channels individually. That is a very different thing altogether, and it will have additional consequences, as we shall see.
McCain’s bill would put some pressure on some programming providers. It would forbid broadcast networks from forcing cable operators to buy the broadcasters’ non-broadcast cable channels in order to get the broadcast channels, thus making it easier to sell them separately. It would also end the sports blackout rule and pull the licenses of broadcasters who remove their programming from broadcast airwaves in order to avoid it being picked up for free by Internet redistributors, which some are considering doing.
McCain’s plan is certainly well-intended, but it would just be more clumsy government intrusion in things that don’t respond well to brute force. Requiring cable operators to offer channels individually, without also requiring allcontent providers (not just broadcast networks) to unbundle their programs will at best have no effect on prices and at worst will drive up prices and reduce access to programming. In fact, forcing unbundling will almost certainly reduce cable consumers’ access to programming.
Consider the microeconomics of the matter: the cable operator will have to offer the channels individually, but it will still have to pay for many channels en bloc, which means that someone will still have to eat the cost of the unpopular channels. That unlucky party will be the consumer, because what the cable operator will have to do is price the individually offered channels and/or customized tiers at a level that will ensure a profit or go out of business.
That means the customers will still end up paying for the unpopular programs, or the cable companies will shut down, reducing availability of the services. And to the extent that the scheme is successful in forcing unbundling, it will certainly reduce access to programming because the less popular channels will have much less appeal for the cable provider. That consequence, you may be sure, will result in further government intervention to force cable operators to provide the less-popular channels. Prices will “necessarily skyrocket,” in then-Sen. Obama’s famous words, or cable operators will have to leave the business altogether.
A more sensible approach would be for Congress to remove broadcast exclusivity, must-carry, and other such market-distorting laws and regulations and allow the providers and customers to determine what is offered and at what price points. That would provide the best services, lowest prices, and broadest access to programming, but it would require lawmakers to acknowledge that they’re not smarter than the cumulative choices of nearly 300 million people. Hence, it’s exceedingly unlikely.
The Barack Obama Administration has nominated Tom Wheeler to replace Julius Genachowski as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman. (Wheeler awaits Senate approval.)
Wheeler has – Heaven forfend – actually held pertinent private sector gigs:
Wheeler served as president of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), and later as CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).
Many on the Left find Wheeler’s real-world experience and knowledge troubling:
Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent (umm, he’s a Socialist), (said)… “I…am troubled that President Obama would appoint the former head of two major industry lobbying associations to regulate the industry.”
Many on the Left find it very troubling:
(M)ore than two dozen public interest groups (umm, they’re government interest groups) wrote to Obama expressing alarm that the president was considering a candidate “who was the head of not one but two major industry lobbying groups.
“After decades of industry-backed chairmen, we need a strong consumer advocate and public interest representative at the helm….It’s time to end regulatory capture at the FCC and restore balance to government oversight.”
“Industry-backed chairmen?” Let’s take a brief look at how Genachowski has treated the industry.
Opposition from whom?
But wait…that’s the industry – suing to overturn the unilateral decision of “industry-backed” Chairman Genachowski. Hmmm…. How else has this Chairman “backed” the industry (into a corner)?
And how did the industry like that?
Never before have so many trial lawyers made so much money during the “regulatory capture” rule of an “industry-backed” Chairman.
Now comes Wheeler. Who will inherit amongst other terrible policies these oppressive Net Neutrality regulations – and the lawsuits pending to undo them. The FCC doesn’t have the authority to impose Net Neutrality – the D.C. Circuit Court has already once ruled they don’t.
And that same Court will likely rule that way again.
Chairman-to-be-Wheeler – why continue this unilateral regulatory and litigative folly? Why not move to withdraw these unlawful Net Neutrality rules? After all, We the People are paying for both sides of the lawsuit to undo this power grab.
As Taxpayers, we are paying for the government’s lawyers to defend the defenseless. And as Internet users, we are all paying again. All the time, money and effort the industry has to waste attempting to undo the FCC’s overreach could and would be much better spent improving for us their goods and services – and thus the Internet.
It’s always amusing to have Leftist power grabs force these uber-expensive lawsuits – while Leftists complain about industry’s allegedly high prices, inflated by the companies having to pass along to us the costs of these lawsuits and lawyers.
We already have a much better way to deal with Net Neutrality violations. On a case-by-case basis – rather than a top-down, all-encompassing regulatory approach. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has on its side what the FCC does not - existing law, authority and expertise.
(W)e (at the FTC) are up to the task of addressing competition and consumer protection issues arising in Internet markets generally, and more specifically, of applying our considerable experience and expertise in analyzing the vertical issues to the net neutrality context.
That is, when Net Neutrality violations actually occur – which Genachowski admits they aren’t.
And Chairman-to-be-Wheeler – would you please close your predecessor’s Internet reclassification order, which has now been open for nearly three years?
This is a terrible idea.
Title II is how the FCC over-regulates land line telephone lines – you know, that bastion of innovation lo these last seventy-plus years. Title II opens up the Pandora’s Box of uber-regulation of the Internet. But wait – there’s more.
Under Title II, President Obama can also begin to tax the Internet. Just as the Feds tax landlines. Just as they already tax the living daylights out of your wireless Internet - checked your cell phone bill lately? It’s 17.4% – and climbing, an $8 billion total take in 2010 – and hurtling ever upward.
Chairman-to-be-Wheeler, you could do immense good for the American people’s wallets and freedom – and the continued uber-advancement of the Internet – if you ended your predecessor’s existing and prospective power grabs, and kept the FCC within its legal authority limits.
It would be a welcome, refreshing change of the way Washington usually does business.
[First Published at Red State]
In 1965, almost no parents put their three-year-olds in nursery school. Now, two in five three-year-olds attend, and two-thirds of four-year-olds do. Government preschool enrollment has doubled in the past ten years, to nearly a third of the nation’s small children. This indicates two bad things: More tots getting pre-remediation and conservative lawmakers joining their liberal colleagues in addressing this at the fruit rather than the root.
As President Barack Obama runs about trying to engage states in another “the feds will tax and indebt your people more now so we can all tax them even more later” scheme with his Medicare-like preschool proposal, it’s time for Republicans to start thinking as much about small children as they are about illegal immigrants.
In short, Republicans have been capitulating to the idea that preschool is the next entitlement our country needs and getting nothing worthwhile in exchange for voting for such programs. The conversation has been “How big should the program be?” rather than “Why do we need this?”
It is well-known that children from middle- and upper-income families do not need preschool. Their parents teach them to recognize capital letters and count. Such families use preschool as essentially a luxury, a way for mommy or daddy to get some sanity time or work done, or so the little people can have super play time. But lifestyle preferences are not a valid reason for taxpayer subsidies.
More responsible governments sponsor preschool on the grounds that some children need it to compensate for families who cannot or do not help with reading and adding. This assumes, however, that the schools such children attend cannot fill in these deficiencies in the other 12 to 13 years they spend on education. In that case, why send poor kids to school at all?
This is the same point eminent literacy expert E.D. Hirsch made back in the 80s when debunking the myth that poverty determines children’s intellectual ability. Rags-to-riches powerhouses such as Thomas Sowell, Oprah Winfrey, and Frederick Douglass proved this a myth long before the research did. Thanks to Hirsch and prominent experimental charter schools like KIPP, though, we now know good schools can close achievement gaps in as little as three to four years.
This is very hard work, however, and it requires a very strong school support structure and real teaching talent, so it’s important to deal with the root cause of a rising need for remedial education at age three: those troubling distracted families.
Back in 1965, less than one in ten children were born to unwed mothers. Now, half of all U.S. children are born to a life with no committed father, and the divorce rate has doubled. The evidence is indisputable that children living in cohabiting, never-married, or divorced homes are far more likely to be poor and far more likely to have trouble learning. The reason is obvious: There’s one-half as many grown-ups at home to read to these kids and talk to them.
Family breakdown and school incompetence are traditional conservative drums. Both have coincided to rain all over the futures of needy children. Putting an expensive, ineffective patch on these kids’ gaping intellectual wounds just so lawmakers can claim they solved the problem is cowardly and shameful. Real problem-solvers will require, at least in trade for targeted preschool, measures that address the heartbreaking reasons demand for it is rising.
[First Published at Human Events]
And cats were chased into holes by the mouse …
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.
Once in a long while, an event evokes one of my favorite historical images: the British Army band, at Lord Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown which sealed the Americans’ revolutionary victory, playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”
In this case, the event is the dramatic change over the past two weeks in the “mainstream” media’s coverage of President Obama.
From reporters to opinion writers, from newspapers to television, after a mere four and a half years of economic fecklessness, foreign policy failure, unseemly narcissism, and a Nobel Prize for deeds to be named later, prominent liberal-leaning pundits and organizations may have finally realized that reality, if not journalistic ethics, demands a more clear-eyed look at the president they have been so deeply invested in.
Or maybe they’ve just noticed that their fawning and sycophancy has meant declining circulation and viewership.
But whatever the reason, the dominant establishment mass media’s turn is as remarkable as it is welcome.
The first major crack in the dike may have come from New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd in an April 20 piece entitled “No Bully in the Pulpit” in which she bemoans President Obama’s inability to pass restrictions on gun rights. It is not the liberal writer’s anger over the outcome that is surprising; it is that instead of the usual “it’s all the Republicans’ fault” meme, she lays the blame directly at the feet of the previously Teflon-coated president:
It’s unbelievable that with 90 percent of Americans on his side, he could get only 54 votes in the Senate. It was a glaring example of his weakness in using leverage to get what he wants. No one on Capitol Hill is scared of him. Even House Republicans who had no intention of voting for the gun bill marveled privately that the president could not muster 60 votes in a Senate that his party controls.”
Dowd’s criticism of Obama was, by N.Y. Times standards, withering:
- “President Obama thinks he can use emotion to bring pressure on Congress. But that’s not how adults with power respond to things.”
- “When you go into a fight saying you’re probably going to lose, you’re probably going to lose.”
- And most to the point, “Unfortunately, [Obama] still has not learned how to govern.”
Apparently, Maureen Dowd gave other reporters and columnists a “permission structure” to tell their cloistered liberal readers what much of the rest of the country has long understood. Over the ensuing two weeks, they’ve used that permission, raining down a deluge of criticism of Obama.
On April 30, Dana Milbank — a liberal columnist for the Washington Post who recently asked in writing “Is there nobody who can tell Ted Cruz to shut up?” (Dana, I suggest you walk over there and try it yourself) — called Barack Obama “A presidential bystander.”
This was in response to Obama’s press conference that morning in which “The president was out of sorts from the start.…He didn’t attempt to set the tone for the event.…And he often found himself remarking on the difficulty of his job.”
Milbank closed his note with this advice for Obama: “[L]ively leadership is the way to resuscitate a moribund presidency.”
Also in response to Obama’s disastrous press conference performance, another liberal columnist, Frida Ghitis, says that the president is “failing on moral leadership.”
Ms. Ghitis argues that “The president is smart and eloquent. But leadership, especially for someone who has achieved that level of power, requires three elements: It must communicate a clear vision and a commitment to its realization; it must mobilize and inspire others into action; and it must produce results.” On a wide range of issues, she seems to believe Obama is accomplishing none of those things — and, regardless of political viewpoint, who could disagree?
Her conclusion echoes those of Milbank and Dowd: “Of course, the problems he has to deal with are difficult and often offer choices between bad and worse. But the time is right for a new display of conviction, of effectiveness, of leadership.”
It’s not just opinion writers but also reporters who suddenly seem willing to criticize President Obama’s abilities or leadership or favored programs and policies.
The highlight (or for Obama, the lowlight) of the April 30 press conference was a question by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl: After laying out a list of Obama’s political failures including gun control and the sequester, Karl asked “So my question to you is do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?” No, that wasn’t Fox News’ Ed Henry, but the White House reporter for one of the three old-line broadcast networks who dared to ask such a question.
In typical Barack Obama style, the response was a 9-minute passionless sermon best described by Tom Lehrer’s description of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas: “Full of words…and signifying nothing.”
No doubt asking hard questions of a man so richly deserving of them was a liberating renewal for Mr. Karl and maybe part of a new permission structure for his Obama-adoring colleagues: “Oh, now I remember why I went to journalism school.” But perhaps I am too optimistic.
On April 25, N.Y. Times reporter Sharon LaFraniere published a remarkable piece of investigative journalism in criticism of a fraud-infested race-based scheme used by Democrats to buy elections. When I mentioned to Ms. LaFraniere how impressed I was to see this story in the Grey Lady, she responded “the NYT really wants to uncover the truth. There are no sacred cows.” Frankly, when it comes to Times management, I don’t believe it…though I believe LaFraniere does, and she can rightly point to the fact that she was allowed to publish a 5,300 word, front-page story which must have caused many Democrats, including Times editors and President Obama, to cringe.
A week later, a group of four Times reporters published another front page article — a dagger in the heart of what little foreign policy credibility President Obama has left, even among the left. In that story, readers learn that Obama’s infamous “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria was an unscripted ad-lib which came “to the surprise of some of his advisers” and which “defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.”
By putting his foot in his mouth, by implicitly committing to some substantive American response to a particular event that may now have happened, Obama may have cornered himself into taking an action that he doesn’t want to take, namely “providing lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels” — which is, despite Congressional chicken hawks’ pleas to go down that very road, a truly terrible idea.
In short, the article suggests that by not understanding the significance of his words, the president has narrowed his options, possibly forced his own hand, and impacted the already jaundiced eye that America’s allies and enemies alike turn toward any American foreign policy statements of this administration. Obama has through his egocentrism and naïveté added instability to an already dangerously unstable world. May I remind you: this was the New York Times.
And last week, following a “sunny speech in Mexico,” reporters at the Los Angeles Times penned an article stating that “audience members didn’t necessarily agree with [Obama’s] assessment” of Mexico’s current situation and likely future progress.
The article corrected several Obama claims on issues like immigration and an emerging Mexican middle class, noted that “many among the several hundred people in attendance said he seemed too upbeat about their country” and quoted audience members with reactions like “Obama is fantastic, but I believe that today he was talking about another country, not ours.”
Particularly when it comes to foreign affairs, Barack Obama is no longer the adoringly-fêted citizen-of-the-world who, on July 24, 2008 spoke in Berlin to 200,000 adoring, mindless fans, in a speech that German magazine Der Spiegel called “People of the World, Look at Me.”
To be sure, not all of the usual suspects in the liberal media have changed their tunes. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, still bitter over losing his job in an attempt to smear George W. Bush with a forged document, says that Obama’s Republican opponents “want to cut his heart out and throw his liver to the dogs.” (One wonders what they want to do with the heart.)
But when reporters and columnists from the N.Y. Times to the Washington Post, L.A. Times, CNN, ABC News, and others have suddenly come out of their Obama-critique group-laryngitis and are telling the world that the president is a reckless, feckless, spineless non-leader, the political world has indeed turned upside down.
[First published at the American Spectator]
We’ve heard it from the Left for years. Europe allegedly has much better, faster and cheaper Internet service than does the United States – because the European Union and individual governments are far more involved in regulating and even funding service providers.
New York Times Three-Part Series:
The Left’s “solution?” Get the U.S. government far more involved.
The Left constantly complains that there aren’t enough U.S. service providers – so they want the government to get in the service providing business.
And how’s that worked out?
The Left wants the Internet and cellular market much more heavily regulated – like they do in Europe. Again, the Barack Obama Administration is (in unilateral, Congress-free fashion) delivering.
As the Administration and the Left remake our Internet and cell phone landscape in the image of their sainted Europe – what is the Old World doing?
Realizing their model is an utter disaster, and looking to roll back the types of regulations the Obama Administration is piling on.
Are more regs and providers a good idea? Not so much.
When the bosses of global mobile operators meet in Barcelona this week, there will be an elephant in the room: the widening gap between fast-growing and richly-valued U.S. telecoms companies and their ailing European counterparts.
An overcrowded market, tough regulations and recession are hampering European telcos’ ability to invest in faster networks, increasing the risk that the region’s flagging economy falls further behind the United States and parts of Asia….
The gap reflects differences in the competitive landscape. Europe has about 100 mobile firms to the United States’ six, as well as harsher rules that have sapped profitability and contributed to four straight years of revenue decline.
Consumers could face arbitrarily high costs just to call a neighboring state or town. Businesses wanting to sell service nationally through mergers or network-sharing arrangements could be impeded by a patchwork of conflicting market rules….
(W)ith economic growth in the bloc near the top of policy makers’ agenda, the Continent’s balkanized telecommunications industry is coming under new scrutiny, which may create an opportunity to dismantle some of the structural obstacles to a single market.
Signs of those changes are beginning to appear.
So as the Administration and the Left continue to build here their Old World-esque uber-regulatory Internet fantasy, a newer Europe is seeing Reality set in – and heading in the opposite direction.
This Administration is, as usual, utterly impervious to Reality.
It’s going to be a very long second four years.
[First published at Red State]
Imagine that a panel discussion entitled “How to attack Kazakhstan to destroy their nuclear weapons” was held at a prestigious hotel in Canada’s capital. Coordinated by a hawkish right-wing think tank and chaired by an intellectual fellow traveler, the hypothetical panel consisted of five strategic experts who rigidly supported the notion that Kazakhstan still has nuclear weapons and are planning to use them against their neighbors. Discussion focused entirely on the best ways to attack Kazakhstan to disarm them ‘before it was too late’:
- Should we use air power or land forces?
- Should the attack be led by the UN or NATO?
- Should only conventional forces be used or would a nuclear strike be justified?
- How would Kazakhstan be ruled after the war?
No participant in the imaginary panel bothered to consider:
- The possibility that Kazakhstan may no longer have nuclear weapons*;
- Whether Kazakhstan had any intension of developing such weapons;
- Whether they had the technology and resources to develop them;
- The likelihood that Kazakhstan would attack anyone even if they did have nuclear weapons.
*Note: according the USAF Air University, “Kazakhstan had returned to Russia all the strategic nuclear warheads on its territory by April 1995. Kazakhstan does not possess, nor can it afford to acquire, the infrastructure needed to maintain and operate a nuclear force.”
And, of course, moderators of the imaginary Kazakhstan panel censored out questions from the audience that dared ask about any of these obvious, and exceptionally important, issues. This meeting was for true believers, only.
How would mainstream media cover such an event? Might they label speakers hot-headed and dangerous? Might the panel be dismissed as obvious propaganda based on beliefs that were clearly wrong? Might reporters point out that the meeting was hopelessly biased because it considered no alternative points of view or allowed questions about the underlying premise that Kazakhstan had nuclear weapons and were intent on acting belligerently?
Of course, they would. Presenters and the think tank organizers would be condemned by media who would, justifiably, dismiss the event as crazy.
Nevertheless, when an equally biased and unsubstantiated meeting was held yesterday in the real world, Canada’s “newspaper of record” gave them a free pass.
Here is what happened:
On Wednesday at Ottawa’s Château Laurier Hotel the group Canada 2020 hosted a panel discussion entitled “How to sell carbon pricing to Canadians”. With former CBC journalist Don Newman acting as host, the panelists included:
- The Hon. Jean Charest, former Premier of Quebec
- Kathryn Harrison, Professor of Political Science, University of British Columbia
- Elizabeth May, M.P., Leader of the Green Party of Canada
- Eric Newell, Chair of Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation
- Bob Inglis, former U.S. Republican Congressman and Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative of George Mason University
Much like our fictitious Kazakhstan panel, the speakers in the Canada 2020 event discussed various ‘weapons’—in this case economic, policy, technological and public relations—to compel Canadians to cut “carbon” to solve the supposed climate crisis. There was zero debate, or even discussion, about the actual evidence for a global climate crisis or whether humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are in any way responsible. Throughout the event, all participants, even Newman, wrongly labeled CO2 as “carbon”, at times even calling it “pollution”. The very existence of alternative science points of view about the causes of climate change was totally ignored.
Viewers got a preview of the biased nature of the event when they read in the advertisement on Canada 2020’s Webpage:
“The magnitude of the carbon crisis is such that every possible tool needs to be available to policy makers as they craft their response.”
For those in the alternative universe as represented by Wednesday’s panel:
- There has been no cessation in global warming for the past 17 years ago (even though there has).
- Global warming has caused a recent increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events in Canada and across the world (even though there has been no such rise–we are near a 30-year low in Accumulated Cyclone (hurricanes in the North Atlantic) Energy, for example).
- Forecasts of future climate change are reliable (even though no model forecast a 17-year pause in global warming and Environment Canada’s national seasonal forecasts are no more accurate than a throw of dice).
- All reputable scientists agree that we are causing a climate change crisis with our “carbon emissions” (even though, as demonstrated over the past two week by Reuters, The Economist and The Telegraph (London, UK) more and more climate scientists who used to believe in the climate scare are having second thoughts or changing sides entirely).
- It is better to spend billions of dollars retooling our energy infrastructure to quickly expand use of inadaquate wind power and other ‘green’ sources, thereby risking life-threatening electricity shortages, than to simply prepare for and adapt to future climate change.
Taken literally, the excited statement in the Canada 2020 ad was actually correct, but not for reasons organizers envisioned. If policy makers really want to spend massive amounts of money on CO2 reduction, even as the public come to understand that “The magnitude of the carbon crisis” is likely to be very small, then, yes, they will have to use “every possible tool” to “craft their response.” I don’t envy their speech writers.
Watching the two hour talkfest on line I wondered, how could panelists believe viewers would be swayed by their advocacy if they pretend that credible alternative points of view on the science do not even exist? Most of the public have seen and heard from at least some leading experts on the other side of the discussion and know about the intense debate concerning climate change causes. What else are they not telling us, the public would naturally wonder.
Since the organizers were taking questions via Twitter to be directed live to panelists, I tweeted my question:
“#can2020 – question: how can you expect the public to take your concerns seriously when you deny uncertainty in the climate science?”
The response was immediate. Ignoring May’s assertion that we need to “have a grown up conversation about climate change about the threats it imposes on Canada”, I was instantly labeled a dinosaur by fellow Tweeters, generally insulted and told to go away. My question was clearly beyond the pale for the august group of climate campaigners on stage and so was censored out by panel organizers.
Don’t expect mainstream media to point out the serious flaws in this event. Already, the Globe and Mail’s report is simply cheerleading, making no reference to the panel’s quasi-religious nature.
What Canada 2020 panelists and organizers seem to not understand is that all planning for the future involves sensible risk assessment. This includes considering, not just the possible impacts of climate change, but also the likelihood of them actually coming about. And that means dealing with uncertainties. Lecturing Canadians about fictional global warming certainty when future climate states are actually unknown, does us all a disservice and, in the long run will sway no one not already committed to the scare.
Seen in that light, perhaps the propagandic nature of Canada 2020’s “How to sell carbon pricing to Canadians” was a blessing in disguise. After all, the last thing we want is for anyone to take attack-Kazakhstan-like activists seriously.
[First published at New.Ideas@Frontier]
That’s why, Tom Wheeler, the President’s nominee for Chairman of the FCC, could become one of the most consequential FCC leaders in American history.
As a longtime communications industry leader and also an accomplished historian, he appreciates more than most anyone the hinge in time in which he now finds himself.
The FCC is in the throes of a seminal historical transition. Like the 1913 Kingsbury Commitment that created a national telephone monopoly. Like the 1934 Communications Act that created the FCC and mandated universal telephone service. And like the 1996 Telecom Act that mandated competition policy replace monopoly regulation.
Today, companies and consumers have adapted to, and enjoy the benefits of, the transition to the competitive Internet marketplace that we all live in today. In contrast the Government, particularly the FCC and Federal holders of radio spectrum, have not made the transition.
And to make matters worse, they are inherently hostile to transitioning their mission, methods and mindset to the new competitive Internet era.
Common carrier regulation ended for: railroads 37 years ago; trucking and bus-lines 33 years ago; and airlines 29 years ago. Why does the FCC still cling to 1887 common-carrier railroad regulation for communications when it became obsolete in every other industry?
Common carrier regulation of communications is unnecessary and irrelevant, given the Internet, robust facilities-based competition, and the mobile broadband revolution of smart-phones and tablets.
Why can’t the FCC make the transition to the modern reality where competition, consumer choice and innovation wildly out-perform regulation? Market forces have delivered universal availability of both wire line and wireless broadband in less than a decade when it took the FCC several decades longer to deliver universal availability of telephone service.
Under FCC regulation the telephone changed little for over a half century. In seventeen years of competition policy, consumers and businesses have enjoyed the vast choice of: hundreds of Internet- enabled devices and several broadband providers offering different technology options.
Still there are many inside and outside of the FCC that stubbornly deny market reality. They define “the public interest” to be what the few think is best for the many, rather than letting the many continue to choose what’s best for themselves from the panoply of choices in the competitive Internet marketplace.
As the Administration’s point person responsible for the DTV transition from analog to digital television four years ago, Mr. Wheeler understands big transitions and has successfully led one. His proven transition leadership skills and experience will be essential given the many strategically important transitions currently in train that need to be successfully led at the FCC.
First, the FCC transition must be led. The FCC can no longer ignore reality and torture obsolete statutes, precedents and regulations to procrastinate and avoid the needed FCC transition to the competitive Internet reality.
If the courts tell the FCC they do not have the statutory authority to do what they believe is necessary, the FCC should either appeal, or propose to Congress the legislative authority that they believe they need to operate as a modern FCC.
Continuing to ignore the courts, Congress, and the Constitution is not a sustainable or productive FCC policy. It is akin to holding one’s breath until one gets one’s way.
The FCC transition requires strategic leadership to navigate from a legacy-dependent, backward-looking, self-centered institution to a more modern, humble, nimble and externally-focused institution able to keep up with the times.
The FCC is in desperate need of a leader that understands that the FCC can’t be the only part of the communications ecosystem that is not modern. The American consumer and competitive, innovative industries deserve better.
Second, the IP transition must be led from the obsolescent monopoly telephone price regulation regime to an enforcement regime of consumer protection. This transition cannot be ignored as the number of subscribers to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has fallen by two thirds due to competition and wireless/Internet substitution.
And during Mr. Wheeler’s expected tenure that number of legacy subscribers to the PSTN is expected to drop to ~10% of Americans, similar to the number of legacy over-the-air broadcast consumers.
Continuing to operate a system designed for everyone, when only ~10% may still use it, makes no sense.
Third, the spectrum transition must be led from the Government controlling ~85% of the nation’s radio spectrum suitable for wireless broadband, to about 20% over the next decade or two.
Controlling ~85% of spectrum makes no sense when the Federal Government only uses 1% of the nation’s energy; provides 8% of the nation’s employment; produces 12% of the nation’s GDP; and gets by with 30% of the nation’s land.
Leadership is desperately needed to transition the Federal Government from wasting valuable radio spectrum to applying modern, good-government, management and accountability practices to spectrum.
Fourth, the public safety transition must be led to ensure that the 9-11 recommendation for an interoperable public safety network finally happens, and does not fall on its face again because of avoidable FCC implementation mistakes.
In sum, this is an exceptionally consequential hinge in time for the FCC. Mr. Wheeler has the opportunity and challenge to lead the FCC into the modern era, so the FCC can return to being part of the solution and not the problem for consumers.
Simply, the FCC can no longer kick the proverbial can down the road; that road is ending.
[First published at the Daily Caller]
Giving Everyone a Fair Shot (on BarackObama.com)
They have even in Orwellian fashion so-named a terribly unfair bill.
As with most things government, the more it does to make things fair, the more unfair things get.
Bad decisions like…the 2009 $819 billion “Stimulus.”
How is it “fair” to conscript into debt our great-grandchildren and beyond at all – let alone for a plan that failed so utterly (and predictably)?
Again, when the government gets involved, “fairness” begets unfairness. And failure – for everyone but government, which always succeeds in getting bigger in the unfair, failed process.
It is also unfair for the government to tax businesses – and use that money to create or fund competitors to said businesses. Of which the “Stimulus” did a whole lot – most expressly in the $7.2 billion broadband Internet “stimulus.”
Take what is happening in Hays, Kansas and its surrounding areas. Eagle Communications, a small broadband provider, had already invested its own considerable coin to build out broadband Internet access for and to their customers in these parts of the state.
Only now the government has given $101 million to another provider – which they are going to use to “overbuild” – on top of Eagle’s network. “Overbuild” meaning – build service with government money to Hays, Kansas – an area that already has access to service via Eagle.
Lake County (Minnesota also) wanted to get in on the government broadband gravy train… There are already four private broadband providers serving large swaths of these areas… So most of…Lake County…already ha(d) broadband service.
And all four private providers are doing it for less money than Lake County will charge.
Was this destroy-the-private-sector result the intent of government broadband money? Of course not.
(T)he purpose…(wa)s to deliver service to people who don’t already have it.
Shocker – government screwed up. Over, and over, and…. This is terrible – not just for the companies and areas directly affected, but the entire country.
(These companies are) now facing…newly government-dug ten-foot hole(s), and looking at possible bankruptc(ies)….
(And p)rivate broadband companies that were considering building out to un- or underserved areas will now most likely not do so – for fear of a government-funded competitor coming in and landing on their heads.
Is there a solution? Yes – get the government the heck out of the broadband business.
Sadly, that’s way too much to ask of Washington. What we are getting instead is a Farm Bill reauthorizing this ridiculous status quo – and an amendment from Virginia Democrat Senator Mark Warner, which he pathetically, proudly proclaims:
(P)rovides meaningful broadband access for unserved rural communities by requiring that at least 25 percent of households in a proposed project area qualify as unserved or underserved. The Secretary of Agriculture will have discretion to reduce the percentage to not less than 18 percent for project areas covering 7,500 or fewer people, and 15 percent for areas covering 5,000 or fewer.
So 75% of private-sector-broadband homes can get a government competitor any-and-everywhere the Leviathan wants. Unless the area is even harder and more expensive to serve – in which case the government can overbuild at an even greater level.
Meaning in the areas you most want and need private sector investment – the more the government can do to drive out the private sector.
This is government “reform.” And please save us from a government looking to legislate ‘fairness.’
[First Published at Red State]
In a feeble attempt to rebut my arguments as to why the EPA must be stopped in its pernicious efforts to over regulate and stifle what little economic growth our country currently exhibits, one of my critics recently pointed to the Stern Review as a definitive work linking the effects of purported man-made climate change to future global economic cataclysm.
On one level, one should first dispel the belief in the underlying premise that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is in fact occurring. By way of any number of studies from highly accredited scientists, the facts show that the causal linkage between CO2 and temperature change is tenuous at best (if anything, temperature increases precede increases in C02). In fact, given the last 16 years of continued growth in CO2 levels without a corresponding increase in global temperatures, the alarmist community is starting to become … well, I guess you could say, alarmed.
Their global circulation models held up as the consummate forecasting tools are currently being challenged as the current flat-lining trend in global temperatures threatens to pierce the lower end of the model-predicted temperature ranges. This issue was highlighted in a recent piece in The Economist [“A Sensitive Matter,” March 30, 2013] as the United Kingdom (and frankly much of Europe) emerged from a brutal winter that brought record cold and snowfall. Without going into a detailed discussion on the underlying science, it should suffice to say that other variables such as solar cycles, multi-year atmospheric oscillations and other factors in the climate equation should be given greater attention relative to the impact of the trace gas CO2.
Refocusing our attention on the Stern Review, one needs to first understand the backdrop for this study before assessing its legitimacy or lack thereof. In short, the 700-page study was commissioned by British government in July 2005 and released in October 2006. The study was, at the time, revered by many who worshipped at the altar of the IPCC (the United Nations’ backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Gaia-embracing environmentalists.
Unfortunately for this crowd, the flaws revealed in the study, even by many fellow AGW believers, largely undermine its credibility. Its author, Nicholas Stern, was an economist with solid academic credentials. Nonetheless, his study calling for significant and prompt spending for CO2 remediation to prevent the damaging effects (his opinion) of climate change did not hold up under scrutiny by his peers.
One fellow environmentalist, Robert Mendelsohn, noted several flaws within the study, most notable among these being: 1) the questionable use of a low 1.4% discount rate that inflated the present value of societal damages from climate change , 2) the ignorance of offsets to the costs of climate change through human adaptation, 3) the blind extrapolation of existing trends in weather and the forecast of increased extreme weather event occurrences and 4) the understatement of the negative impacts of remediation costs.
A number of other flaws have been cited in various studies critiquing the Stern Review, though one of the most glaring critiques came from environmental economist Richard Tol who stated the following: “If a student of mine were to hand in this report as a Masters thesis, perhaps if I were in a good mood I would give him a ‘D’ for diligence; but more likely I would give him an ‘F’ for fail. There is a whole range of very basic economics mistakes that somebody who claims to be a Professor of Economics simply should not make…”
Back in the post-Katrina period when the alarmist community had many believing that 2005 had established the new standard for hurricane occurrence (there were 28 named storms that year in the Atlantic Basin), the Stern Review seemed to carry great appeal. But in 2013, after sixteen years of flat trends in global temperatures, it has become increasingly apparent that other factors besides CO2 levels are at work in determining climate trends.
Perhaps it is time that the OECD countries, many drowning in debt with flagging economies and unemployment levels making new highs, reconsider the wasteful spending on carbon credits, uneconomic green technologies and other remediation measures. I would also like to recommend to my detractors that they spend a few years updating their understanding of climate change science, and then come back to the debate when they are better prepared.
Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid successfully pushed to the Senate floor a major online tax bill originally titled the Marketplace Fairness Act, bypassing the committee process. The proposal, which passed the Senate with a vote of 69 to 24, expands the ability of state governments to force out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes for online and mail-order sales, even if the seller has no physical presence in the state.
If the bill passes the House and is signed by President Obama, it would give states a vast new power over retailers outside their borders, including the imposition of auditing requirements. States would be allowed to create their own unique definitions of how and when items are taxed, increasing confusion for out-of-state sellers.
Proponents of the bill have recently begun an effort to sway Republican votes by distributing material outlining support of the bill from several conservative legislators and commentators. In fact, outside of a small group of conservative legislators, the majority of support for the Marketplace Fairness Act comes primarily from legislators seeking new tax revenue or interest groups using the government to undermine their competition by imposing a tax on their online competitors.
The Marketplace Fairness Act violates the key tax principle requiring a physical presence to impose a tax and is inconsistent with conservative tax values.
The Heartland Institute has compiled a list of legislators, journalists, and think tank leaders across the conservative and libertarian spectrum that strongly oppose the Marketplace Fairness Act. It is available online here: http://heartland.org/no-net-tax.
Solar scientist Willie Soon explains how the sun continues to be the primary driver of global temperatures. Dr. Soon also emphasizes he is more than happy to debate alarmists who have the courage to engage in open and honest public debate.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
Time and time again, businesses and industries looking for government handouts have produced studies that predict big paybacks. Roy Cordato of the John Locke Foundation says there’s a great reason to take these studies with a shaker or two of salt: They look only at benefits and ignore the high costs of such handouts.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
“I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”
During a nationally televised Vice-Presidential debate in St. Louis on Oct. 3, 2008, candidate Biden repeated the pledge:
“No one making less than $250,000 under Barack Obama’s plan will see one single penny of their tax raised whether it’s their capital gains tax, their income tax, investment tax, any tax.”
Once elected, in an address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, President Obama restated the promise yet again:
“If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.”
But now before the Senate is the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, which would authorize each state to force sellers in other states to collect and pay sales taxes on anything they sell over the Internet to anyone in any other state. The seller may operate exclusively in Hawaii, and not own or operate any property, or employ any workers, in any other state. But it would be liable for the sales taxes in every one of the other 49 states for anything it sells over the Internet in any of those states.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Quill Corporation v. North Dakota in 1992 that a state could not impose any sales tax obligations on sellers that did not own or operate any property or employ any workers within the state. Enacting taxes on out of state businesses would violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which was originally enacted precisely to prevent states from passing protectionist tax and regulatory burdens on out of state businesses. But the states can get around that ruling if the Congress passes authorization for them to impose sales taxes on out of state businesses, under the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.
The problem for Obama, Biden and the Democrats who ran on their platform is that folks in families who earn less than $250,000 a year buy stuff over the Internet too. And Obama, Biden and associated Democrats pledged that these families would not “see any form of tax increase,” nor “one single penny of their tax raised,” (not “any tax”), nor see any of their taxes increased “a single dime.” Voting for and signing a bill authorizing states to impose their sales taxes on internet sales would be the most brazen violation of the Obama/Biden/Democrat no tax increase pledges to the middle class, working people and the poor. And, no, that is not an existing tax that people already owe, because the Supreme Court ruled in Quill that they don’t already owe it.
I immediately knew that these promises were just “calculated deception” to fool gullible voters, as soon as I heard them. The Democrat Party is the party of taxes, as we have seen since 2008. And after they were elected, sure enough, Obama, Biden and Democrat associates happily began raising taxes on the middle class, working people, and the poor in violation of their pledge.
One of the first acts under the new Obama/Biden Administration, and its totally Democrat controlled Congress, was to raise the cigarette tax by 62 cents. Memo to Democrats: people who make less than $250,000 a year buy cigarettes too. They were promised that none of their taxes in any form would be raised a single dime, or even a single penny.
Then the hyperpartisan Obamacare bill imposed 7 new taxes that also applied to people making less than $250,000 a year, including new taxes on health insurance, health savings accounts, medical devices, and itemized health services. Indeed, the Obamacare Individual Mandate requiring all citizens to buy the expensive health insurance Obamacare requires is itself effectively a tax on the middle class, enforced by a tax penalty on the middle class, working people and the poor who do not comply. Obamacare is consequently another brazen violation of the Obama/Biden tax pledge.
Politicians break their promises all the time. But when their promise is so central to their election campaigns, brazenly violating it should be subject to serious consequences. When President George H.W. Bush violated his famous 1988 Republican Convention pledge, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” he was summarily voted out of office with just 38% of the vote, and quite rightly so. Personally, I would favor removing Obama/Biden from office for violating their tax pledge which was central both to their 2008 and 2012 campaigns. If we don’t hold politicians accountable for what they say to get elected, then we will not have a real democracy.
The original Quill decision was wise because state politicians would face no consequences for the tax burdens they place on out of state businesses. Neither the businesses nor their employees would be in any position to hold them democratically accountable. As famed anti-tax activist Grover Norquist told Stuart Varney of the Fox Business Network on April 25, “There are tremendous abuses that would flow from politicians taxing businesses that can’t even vote against them. That’s why the politicians at the state level love this! It’s ‘free money!’ they think. But by opening it up, the voters in their states will get mugged by 49 tax collectors in the other states.”
Internet sales taxes would consequently be a modern form of Taxation without Representation. Remember, the American people once fought a Revolution against that.
We don’t want the 50 states engaging in protectionist mercantilism against each other. The founders saw how unworkable that was under the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution. The free and open national market established by the Constitution has been central to world leading American prosperity ever since.
And once interstate taxation is opened up for sales taxes, the state and local governments will be back to Congress asking for authority to impose income taxes across state lines, where the real money is. New York City has its own city income tax, and it is jealous of the income earned by residents of New Jersey and Connecticut within the city that they take back home. New York state will join the city when it goes to Congress to ask for authority to impose income taxes on residents of the neighboring states.
We see the same in the District of Columbia, which long has lusted for income tax authority over residents of Virginia and Maryland that work within the District. And what about residents of New Hampshire that go to work in Boston, or the residents of any of the 9 no state income tax states that go to work in any of the surrounding states?
Currently, the states are subject to tax competition to keep their taxes competitive. But interstate state taxation would create a competition in taxing non-residents in other states more and more. Taxation without Representation would consequently grow and grow. This is literally un-American.
Moreover, subjecting the Internet to state and local sales taxes would impose the tax burdens of over 9,600 jurisdictions nationwide, with widely varying sales tax regimes. How can any business, especially small businesses, possibly comply with all of those varying requirements, definitions (particularly what is subject to the sales tax and what not in each jurisdiction), and interpretations, not to mention varying rates. Internet sellers all across America, including the smallest kitchen table operations, would also be subject to audits from each of these 9,600 jurisdictions. The days of mom and pop enterprises starting out on the Internet would be over.
The main argument for the Internet sales tax is supposed to be fairness. Not fair we hear for businesses that operate stores, warehouses, and offices within a state to be subject to the state sales tax, while their entirely out of state competitors that sell into the state over the Internet are not. Those out of state competitors would have an unfair competitive advantage.
But those out of state competitors do not use and enjoy the in state government services that in state stores, warehouses, and offices do. The physical in state businesses all benefit from the state and local police, jails, courts, fire departments, roads and highways for their customers to get to and from the stores, and all the other state and local government services that keep their geographic areas and neighborhoods up and running. That is why these physical in state businesses should be paying their taxes and cooperate in collecting them. Out of state businesses not only do not use these services, they cannot even participate in the state and local elections that determine tax burdens, and even the quality of those services. It is the Taxation Without Representation of Internet sales taxes what would be unfair.
Moreover, sales over the Internet are subject to another cost that sales at physical in state stores do not bear. Internet sales are subject to shipping costs that are usually higher than the sales tax that does not have to be paid. So there is really no unfair competitive advantage.
Ultimately, this fairness argument can backfire. While the federal government can authorize state and local sales taxes on interstate sales, it does not have the power to authorize that on international sales. So instead of equalizing sales taxation of physical in state companies with Internet companies, it may redistribute more sales to tax free, foreign, Internet sellers beyond the reach of Congress or the states.
The Internet has flourished as a generally tax free zone. Even the physical in state stores sell on the Internet too, both within the state, and across all 50 states, and even beyond. The booming Internet has consequently been an enormous boon to our entire economy. We should keep it that way.
[First published at Forbes]
Deepwater drilling, 3-dimension and 4-D seismic (the ability to visualize 3-D over many years), deep horizon horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and other technological marvels have obliterated environmentalist claims that the United States and the world are running out of oil and gas – and therefore we need to switch to subsidized, land-hungry, job-killing wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels.
Thanks to free enterprise innovation on state and public lands – and no thanks to President Obama, who has made nearly the entire federal onshore and offshore estate off limits to leasing and drilling – U.S. oil and natural gas production has set an all-time record. The world is on the verge of doing so, as well.
Long-running geopolitics have been turned upside down, as OPEC, Russia and other oil superpowers wonder what hit them. Plastic and chemical manufacturers, steel makers, bus and fleet vehicle operators, and now long-haul truckers are already cashing in on the natural gas bonanza. So are electric utilities, especially with EPA continuing its war on coal, with more unnecessary heavy-handed air and water rules.
Global warming/climate change hysteria is also foundering on the rocks of reality. Average global temperatures haven’t risen in 16 years, seas aren’t rising any faster than 100 years ago, and storms, floods and droughts are no more frequent or severe than over multi-decade trends during the past century.
Evidence and reality simply are not cooperating with IPCC and Mann-made climate models. “Trust the computer models!” the alarmists plead. “If reality doesn’t comport with our predictions, reality is wrong.”
The U.S. State Department has (yet again) said the Keystone XL pipeline poses few environmental problems and should be approved, to bring Canadian oil sands petroleum to Texas refineries – creating thousands of construction and permanent jobs, and billions in economic growth and government revenue.
Unacceptable! rants the Environmental Protection Agency. “State underestimated KXL’s potential impact on global warming and needs to do its studies all over again,” says EPA. Never mind that oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions and an undetectable 0.00001º C per year to computer-modeled global warming, according to the Congressional Research Service. Do it over, until you get the answers we want, demand EPA and environmentalist ideologues.
Some 70% of Americans and 60% of Canadians support Keystone – and energy security (and jobs) outrank greenhouse gas reduction as a national priority by a 2-1 margin among Americans – says Canadian pollster Nik Nanos.
However, haters of hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty are not ready to surrender. They’ve launched a blitzkrieg flanking attack. This time they are outraged that some Keystone oil could be refined into diesel and other products and exported! to Europe or Asia – while some frack-based natural gas might be converted to LNG and likewise exported! around the globe.
Well, yes. When U..S refiners transform crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes and petrochemicals, they ship some of these products overseas. Since Americans use less diesel than refineries manufacture (some parts of each barrel of crude can be converted only into diesel), refiners also export their excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to the USA, mostly to East Coast consumers. It’s a win-win arrangement that will be buttressed and safeguarded by Keystone pipeline transport of Canadian oil.
And yes, Cheniere Energy and other companies want to ship liquefied natural gas to foreign markets. It’s hardly surprising that anti-fracking activists would seize on this as yet another excuse for opposing this game-changing technology. It is hardly remarkable that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) and other far-Left legislators would sponsor bills to block LNG exports.
What is shocking is that Dow and Huntsman Chemical, Alcoa Aluminum, Nucor Steel and other companies are joining the no-export campaign. They have convinced themselves that such exports will hurt their own selfish economic interests – and for PR reasons have packaged that notion into assertions that exporting any U.S. natural gas is against America’s and the public’s economic interests. Nonsense.
America has barely begun to tap its vast shale gas and conventional natural gas deposits. It has not yet touched its methane hydrates. Together, these deposits will likely last a century or more. In addition, other countries are racing to develop their own conventional, shale and hydrate deposits – while still others will eventually recognize the folly of keeping their own deposits off limits. All this will gradually reduce demand for U.S. natural gas exports, slow and prolong extraction, and keep gas prices low.
This interplay will also help ensure that more factories and power plants in more countries burn natural gas, thereby replacing coal and providing the economic wherewithal to enable China, India and other nations to install modern pollution abatement technologies on their now dirty power plants. That will greatly improve air quality and human health in countless cities, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing consternation among steadily dwindling numbers of climate alarmists.
American oil and gas development – and exports – will also provide an opportunity for our nation to “give back” to the world community for all the petroleum that our anti-leasing, anti-drilling policies have caused us to take from the world’s petroleum supplies for decades. All this activity will also spur further innovation in technologies to unlock still more energy. It will spur job creation, economic growth and government tax and royalty revenue collection here in the United States … and abroad.
Some 23 million Americans are still unemployed or underemployed; 128 million are dependent on various government programs, including 47 million on food stamps; and the United States is more than $16 trillion in debt. Unemployment in the construction trades is 14.7 percent. Black unemployment was 12.7% when President Bush left office; it soared to 16.7% by September 2011 under President Obama, and remains stuck at 14% today for black adults – and an astronomical 43% for black teenagers!
Drilling, fracking and exports can reverse these horrendous, intolerable, unnecessary statistics.
Misguided industrialists should stop railing against exports. They would do themselves and our nation far more good by putting their lobbyists and public relations staffs to work demanding an end to leasing, drilling and fracking bans that continue to dominate eco-liberal thinking, U.S. energy policy (especially under the current administration).
Of 1.8 billion acres on our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, only 36 to 43 million acres are under lease. That’s barely 2% of the OCS. Offshore territory equal to 78% of the entire U.S. landmass (Alaska plus the Lower 48) is off limits! Even the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill cannot justify that.
Onshore, it’s just as bad. As of 1994, over 410 million federally controlled acres were effectively off limits to exploration and development. That’s 62% of the nation’s public lands – an area nearly equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined. The situation has gotten progressively worse, with millions more acres – and vast energy, mineral and economic bounties – locked up in wilderness, park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness study, Antiquities Act and other restrictive land use designations, or simply made unavailable by bureaucratic fiat or foot-dragging.
Drilling opponents claim to be protecting the environment. In reality, they simply detest hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty. Commonsense policies will rejuvenate our economy, put Americans back to work, and help fund government programs that Messrs. Obama and Reid profess to care so much about – while safeguarding ecological values we all cherish.
[First Published on CFACT.org]
Last month, Earth Day came and went. Perhaps you missed hearing about it. For 2013, the theme was “The Face of Climate Change.” Other than a change in the Post Office cancellation mark on your letters from the usual wavy lines, to the four stick-like wind turbines and a sun symbol, there was little note of what was once an event celebrated by 20 million Americans. Tim Wagner, Utah representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign, groused: “Media coverage of global warming has virtually disappeared.”
According to EarthDayCentral.com, one of the goals of Earth Day is to help you “Discover what you can do to save the environment.”
Perhaps, people no longer see the need for planetary salvation.
The Christian Science Monitor offered an Earth Day 2013 report card on global warming. The author starts with: “When Earth Day observances first began in 1970, Cleveland had recently doused a pollutant-fueled fire on a section of the Cuyahoga River. Cities were often shrouded in thick blankets of smog. And large portions of Lake Erie were so fouled by industrial, farm, and sewage runoff that sections of the 241-mile-long lake were pronounced dead.” And later, he reports: “Since that first Earth Day, the air over major cities is cleaner. Lake Erie is healthier. So is the Cuyahoga River, which groups in Cleveland would like to turn into a centerpiece of urban life. The improvements have come with ‘yes, but…’ as other environmental challenges have elbowed their way to the fore. But for the most part, tools are in place to deal with them.”
As Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, explains, the ‘80s ushered in the age of environmental extremism. The basic issues, for which he and Greenpeace fought, had largely been accomplished, and the general public was in agreement with the primary message. In order for the environmentalists to remain employed, they had to adopt ever more extreme positions. Moore says: “What happened is environmental extremism. They’ve abandoned science and logic altogether.” Their message today is “anti:” anti-human, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-trade and globalization, anti-business and capitalism, and ultimately, anti-civilization.
Moore’s view helps understand how the environmental movement has gone from trying to save the planet to killing the US economy.
The American economy has some basic problems. We need more well-paid jobs, increased revenue, and our trade balance is out of whack. Each of these issues could be easily addressed, but environmentalists are doing everything they can to kill potential solutions. Three such examples are coal mining and exporting; natural gas extraction and conversion to liquefied natural gas (LNG) that can then be exported; and the Keystone pipeline—all of which face extreme opposition from environmentalists.
The US has the world’s largest economically recoverable coal resources—with more than one-fourth of the world’s reserves. Unfortunately, our policies have stymied growth in the mining industry. Bill Bissett, President of Kentucky Coal Association, told me: “Our industry is accustomed to market fluctuations and competition with other fuel sources, but having a federal government place additional regulations on one geographic region (Eastern KY and WV) and one industry (coal mining) is absolutely unfair.”
Last month, environmental groups (including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace) sent a letter to newly-confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling for a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming—which accounts for about forty percent of US coal reserves. The results of a recent lease sale in Wyoming, offers insight regarding the economic importance of leasing these federal lands for coal mining. Peabody Coal paid nearly $800 million to the US Government for the rights to expand an existing coal mine and maintain their current workforce. The $800 million was a “bonus payment” and gives them the right to lease the coal and pay 12.5% of the sales price as a royalty. According to data from the Bureau of Land Management, 13 active coal mines in the Wyoming portion of the PRB alone, employ more than 6800 workers.
While, as Bissett addressed, policy under this administration has harshly singled out coal and the coal miners for punishment, coal’s low cost and abundance continues to make it a highly preferential fuel for power generation in developing countries like China and India. And, as I’ve previously written, even Europe is increasing its use of coal for electricity generation, as they’ve discovered the prohibitively high cost of renewables. In 2011, exports to European and Asian markets represented 76% of total US coal exports—up 31% compared to 2010.
Currently, US coal is easily shipped to Europe from ports on the east coast, but the US is missing out on the important Asian market—now being met by more expensive Australian competitors—due to infrastructure opposition from environmental groups. In the Los Angeles Times (LAT), Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and a legend in the world of climate activism, wrote: “Those exports can’t really take off, however, unless West Coast ports dramatically expand their deepwater loading capacity. … Environmentalists are trying desperately to block the port expansion.” Addressing the situation, the Wall Street Journal states: “there are now no major coal exporting facilities on the US West Coast. Washington State, with its proximity to coal-rich Wyoming and Montana, is seen as the best place to start.” PRB coal is being shipped to China and India through Vancouver. Additionally, the countries’ needs are being filled by Australian and Indonesian coal—so environmentalists’ fears that shipping US coal will undermine “everything we’ve accomplished,” as Sierra Club spokesman David Graham-Caso says, are wrong. The coal is being shipped and used—but the US is losing out on the jobs (which would be mostly union jobs), the revenue, and the benefit to the trade deficit. The LAT/McKibben piece cites KC Golden, policy director of Seattle’s Climate Solutions group: “Can you imagine standing at the mouth of the Columbia River, watching ships sail in from Asia carrying solar panels and electric car batteries and plasma TVs, passing ships from America carrying coal?” Worse, can you imagine all those goods coming in—manufactured using Australian coal-fueled electricity, and nothing going out? That’s what we have now.
A report from the Energy Policy Research Foundation states: “US production will merely replace higher cost production. … Neither net world coal combustion nor GHG emissions will change as a result of an expansion of US coal exports.” The report concludes: “The higher net value received is in effect a wealth transfer from foreign consumers to US producers and the national economy. This net gain to the national economy shows up in higher returns to invested capital, greater employment opportunities from expanded investment, higher revenues to state, local and federal governments, and higher lease values on coal reserves from federal and state lands.”
But environmental groups don’t want this “net economic gain to the national economy.” Apparently, they’d prefer that we continue to borrow from China’s Australian coal-fueled economy.
LNG faces a similar problem. Natural gas was once the favored choice of environmentalists—until privately funded hydraulic fracturing (or high pressure drilling) advancements made it plentiful and, consequently cheap. The low-cost fuel snatched away the fossil fuel-free dream that seemed to be almost within reach. Now environmentalists oppose natural gas as well. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas site claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy.”
Many countries want US natural gas. Unlike coal, natural gas cannot just be put on a ship and sent to the awaiting customer. It must first be liquefied—hence the term LNG. The liquefaction process requires costly facilities, which, for economic reasons, need a large customer base—many with which the US does not have free trade agreements (though the Energy Department can permit them, provided it determines that such ventures are consistent with the public interest). The International Business Times, on March 1, 2013, reports that: “As of this date, 17 applications for multibillion-dollar facilities to turn the commodity into liquefied natural gas, or LNG, for export are under review by the Energy Department.” Let’s hope they don’t take as many years and as many reviews as the Keystone pipeline.
LNG exports could have a tremendous positive impact on the US economy. A recent IHS global insight report concluded that LNG exports would “result in the creation of over 100,000 direct, indirect, and economy wide jobs and have an immediate economic impact resulting in $3.6 to $5.2 billion in potential annual revenues.”
And, LNG exporting would not only create jobs and increase revenue, it would also reduce trade deficits. A just-released report from the Rio Grande Foundation states: “The United States currently runs a $6 billion trade deficit with Japan. That nation is particularly eager to import LNG from the US due to the nuclear accident at Fukushima.”
Once again, environmentalists oppose jobs, revenue, and trade-deficit reduction. Earlier this year, more than 40 groups and individuals took out a half page ad in the New York Times that said: “Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to overseas markets will mean more drilling and fracking on US land, which are dirty and dangerous practices.”
Like coal mining and export, natural gas extraction, liquefaction, and export, the Keystone pipeline would create thousands of union jobs and increased service employment in supporting communities; benefit local and state economies, and provide additional revenues to the federal coffers; and help balance the trade deficit, as some of the refined product would be exported. But once again, environmental opposition has targeted the pipeline—causing delay after delay that has now postponed the economic benefit of the pipeline.
Last week, Russ Girling, TransCanada, CEO, said: “I believe that those that are fundamentally opposed to our pipeline are getting louder and more shrill as we move towards a decision.” He announced that the potential start date must be moved from the previously planned late 2014 or early 2015 to late 2015.
The Keystone pipeline saga is the same song, another verse.
These are just three current examples of how the influence of environmental organizations is driving policy in the name of planetary salvation that is, in reality, resulting in economic devastation that could lead to humanity’s ultimate starvation. Environmental motivations are less about saving the planet and more about killing the global economy—while enriching themselves taxpayers’ expense.
[First Published at TownHall.com]
I want to make just one observation based on Avik Roy’s outstanding write-up of the Oregon Medicaid project.
Most of the commentary has been shocked that there was no statistically significant improvement in health measures between people who were enrolled in Medicaid and those who were not.
I want to focus on a different issue, one that I have been hammering on in these pages ― that ObamaCare is unlikely to increase the number of people with insurance.
Before we even get to the outcomes question is the issue of whether very many people want to have insurance coverage, even when it is totally free.
Oregon had a limited amount of money with which to expand Medicaid, so it held a “lottery” for those who were potentially eligible. Roy writes −
Of the 35,169 Oregonians who “won” the lottery to gain enrollment in Medicaid, only about 30 percent actually enrolled. Indeed, only 60 percent of those who were selected bothered to fill out the forms necessary to sign up for the benefits — which tells you a bit about how uninsured Oregonians perceive the Medicaid program.
Yet the Oregon Medicaid program is far better than most –
In Oregon, Medicaid pays primary care physicians approximately 62 percent of what private insurers pay. That compares to the national average of 52 percent; a number of large blue states pay less than 40 percent. Because Oregon’s Medicaid program pays more, the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries have relatively better access to doctors. While 21 percent of Oregon physicians won’t take new Medicaid patients ― an unacceptably high number — the national average is even worse: 31 percent.
Importantly, Philip Klein reports that those who did enroll did not reduce their use of hospital emergency rooms –
Another interesting finding was that though medical spending increased among Medicaid enrollees due to more prescription drug usage and doctors’ visits, the study “did not find significant changes in visits to the emergency department or hospital admissions.” This undercuts another favorite talking point of liberals, which is that expanding insurance actually saves money by reducing costly emergency room visits.
So, first, people had to express some interest to be enrolled in the lottery. Then, if they made it through the lottery, they had to fill out enrollment forms. Then, they had to actually enroll. Yet only 30% of the lottery winners bothered to complete the process. And some of these numbers were undoubtedly people who had been getting coverage from their employers but decided that free coverage with no cost-sharing was a better deal than what they got on the job.
So, once again, even if ObamaCare is perfectly implemented on time and within budget, it is unlikely to have any positive effect on the numbers of uninsured ― the entire reason it was enacted.
Why is this? Because policy makers never actually listened to the uninsured to find out why they rejected what was available. Policy makers never treated them as an untapped market that did not care for the existing products. Policy makers decided that they should enroll whether they liked it or not. But these dogs just don’t like the dog food.
[First Posted on John Goodman's Health Policy Blog]
After recovering from my swelling of pride about our government’s concern for public welfare, I thought this was written by Dr. Joseph Goebbels–but he is dead.
Anyway, a contribution from NOAA to this Newsletter follows. They state Spring of 2013 will have above-average temperatures for most of the United States. I am sitting in Atlanta, Georgia May 4, still waiting the arrival of Spring. Most temperatures since March 21 have been temperature we would expect early March. Predictions for the next half-dozen days are more of the same.
How has your 2013 Spring been behaving? Lots of sun and warm temperatures? Billions are being spent annually by activities proudly described in this newsletter. It appears sequestration is none-existent when it comes to climate change advocacy propaganda pursued by the Thirteen agencies.
Maybe in times of a government approaching bankruptcy, we should eliminate climate change advocacy and concentrate on what really needs to be done like protecting our borders, stop terrorists from harassing our citizens, building and repairing roads, fix Social Security and Medicare, etc.
The spectacle of San Jose State climate science professors wanting to burn a book that questions their alarmist dogma is getting some traction. Steve Goreham, author of the “offending” book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism, was on the Sean Hannity Radio Show Thursday to talk about this book.
Steve, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, was also interviewed by Dennis Miller for a spot that will air soon.
Listen to the interview with Hannity in the player above.
Last May, when the Competition authorities announced they had a preliminary Statement of Objections for four monopoly abuses against Google, the EU competition authority trumpeted their preference for a settlement over enforcement action in this case, i.e. ruling Google a search monopoly guilty of monopoly abuse that warranted a material fine. In extending their public deadlines for Google three times, and then tentatively accepting the immaterial search concessions Google proposed, it is obvious the EU bent over backwards to avoid politically confronting Google.
The EU economy is still reeling from the financial crisis and the resultant austerity measures. The EU needs economic growth. And the proposed U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement offers the potential for more economic growth. Apparently the EU’s continuing economic weakness, has the EU competition authorities wary of facing Google’s potential political charges of EU protectionism and hostility to innovation, if the EU were to rule Google a monopoly guilty of monopoly abuses. Apparently the EU is also wary of getting the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement off on the wrong foot by angering one of the Administration’s closest corporate allies.
And evidently, Google has been throwing its exceptional political weight around behind-the-scenes to secure special treatment and exceptions from the EU.
Importantly, Google’s growing sovereign-like political power has serious implications for the EU decision-making well beyond competition policy.
So what are the problems with politically enabling Google?
Google is the world’s #1 antitrust offender. Google has been found to violate antitrust law in ten different ways in the last five years; and Google is, or has been, under antitrust investigation in nine different countries, in addition to the EU’s investigations of Google’s abuse of search/search advertising dominance, abuse of standards essential patents, and Google-Android’s anti-competitive practices.
Google is Europe’s #1 tax evader. Google is the most aggressive multi-national tax evader in the EU, paying only a 2.4% tax rate.
Google is Europe’s #1 corporate IP infringer. Germany and France formally opposed the Google Book Settlement as mass copyright infringement and anti-competitive. Google settled a Google News infringement suit against Belgian newspapers and another with French newspapers. Other EU nations continue to call for payment for Google News use of their newspaper content. Even one of the EU-Google antitrust remedies is for Google to stop scraping others content and monetizing it as their own, but it requires no restitution for this anti-competitive infringement.
Google Android is #1 in security vulnerability for malware. With a dominant share of the mobile operating system market Google has put gaining rapid share of Android above basic security protection for EU and other consumers. This obvious consumer harm should prompt the EU to formally open a Google-Android antitrust investigation.
Second, the EU decision leaves European consumers and businesses largely at the mercy of the most powerful and economically-pervasive predatory monopoly in EU history.
All other EU antitrust investigations involved primarily one industry or sector, usually technology. The Google case is unique in that the discriminatory problem of monopoly search/search-advertising self-dealing cuts across the consumer economy from shopping to news, maps, travel, restaurants, content, social, finance, video, mobile – most of the consumer online economy.
Remarkably Google, with its ingeniously-narrowing and self-serving remedy settlement, has tricked the EU into tacitly accepting and legitimizing a consumer-wide monopoly that abuses its dominance in contravention to EU law. Simply, the EU decision benefits Google greatly by locking in the Google monopoly status quo with no admission of any wrongdoing despite the EU’s findings.
By signaling its hostility to any changes from market testing in order to protect its political settlement with Google, the EU competition authorities do not appreciate the loud signals they are sending to consumers, competitors and Google: that Google’s ill-gotten monopoly is OK; that the EU views the Google dominated market as superior to a more competitive one; and that the EU has little interest in further investigating Google monopoly search abuse.
More remarkably, the Google proposed remedies that would end the EU’s ongoing investigation of this market would leave oversight of 90+% of the consumer online economy in the hands of one Google-recommended, Google-paid monitor.
It is especially ironic that a company accused of abusing its vertical-monopoly, conflicted-roles of online ad cop, prosecutor, judge and jury, is being allowed to pick the potential pool of Google monitor-cops that the EU will choose from.
Even more remarkably, the EU competition authorities have de facto delegated to the Google monopoly to: 1) fairly organize Europe’s culture(s), commerce, news, and political information going forward, and 2) to not pick online winners and losers by being an “honest” monopoly broker for Europe’s online economy.
This is a lot of blind trust to give a digital information monopoly, with a long antitrust rap sheet and that famously bragged “Google is the biggest kingmaker on this earth.” It is an especially great amount of special trust, given that EU competition law considers monopolies and abuse of dominance to be illegal.
Third, the EU will be proactively enabling Google’s well-known “culture of unaccountability,” by proactively preferring to allow Google to avoid admitting any wrongdoing or taking any public responsibility for breaking EU law.
Apparently, the EU politically decided to mimic the FTC’s no-fault, no-deterrent enforcement approach that allows Google to settle charges of law-breaking with no admission or acceptance of corporate responsibility for illegal behavior. For a brand-dependent firm like Google, the opportunity to skirt any real brand-accountability with the public for breaking the law is a huge gift to Google.
Making matters worse, the EU politically chose to accept Google’s “labeling” remedy so it would not suffer any political criticism for regulating Google’s ever-changing search ranking algorithm or stifling Google’s innovation. As a result, the EU is only entrenching Google’s monopoly not creating the opportunity for more competition.
The bad joke here that the EU competition authorities apparently don’t get is that Google does not consider its offered remedy of adjusting its presentation of search results to be “labeling” — they see the other side of the coin, that the adjustments are Google branding and marketing opportunities.
Google knows that its dominant brand, coupled with the natural propensity of ~a third of users to always click on the top result (usually taken by a Google-owned product) will mean that many users will view Google’s new “labels” as appealing Google branding. Google knows down to the micro-shade of blue and the exact positioning/font/display/framing of every result what presentation changes result in what change in consumer behavior.
Given the EU’s reluctance to require the Google search monopoly to treat competitors as they treat themselves, by requiring a normal monopoly non-discrimination obligation, it is hard to see how the Google’s proposed “labeling” ruse will have any material impact on Google’s dominant revenue model.
If the EU competition authorities accept the Google-proposed remedies to address narrow aspects of Google’s monopoly and abuses of dominance, and shut down the EU’s investigation, the settlement will de facto legalize and legitimize Google’s remaining untouched monopoly power, with only one Google-recommended/paid EU-outsourced policeman on the beat.
Is Google too powerful to prosecute? Apparently that is the current political conclusion of the EU competition authorities. Google is increasingly the de facto Internet sovereign by controlling: 87% of global search advertising; almost half of all global online advertising; nearly half of the Internet’s video viewers; and two-thirds of the world’s smart phone users.
Given Google’s 90+% market share in Europe, and given tough EU competition law, EU competition authorities could have issued a Statement of Objections, declared Google a monopoly that abused its dominance in four ways, fined Google up to 10% of revenues for monopoly abuses, and mandated much more effective sanctions to mitigate the anti-competitive effects of Google’s monopoly abuses.
The fact is that the EU made a political decision to work with Google and do what Google could accept and would not publicly criticize. Obviously EU competition authorities were much more worried about what Google would say than what anyone else would say.
Sadly, this expedient EU political decision to protect Google from EU law and the consequences of its own actions has ominous implications for future EU-Google enforcement decisions concerning: competition, data protection, property rights and consumer protection laws.
[First published at The Precursor Blog, as part of the Google Unaccountability Series]
The same is true of Oregon, except for Portland. Pennsylvania has been described as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between. But Philadelphia sometimes delivers more votes for the Democrats than the city’s population, and the entire state’s electoral votes for leftism as well. And where would California be politically without San Francisco and Los Angeles?
In fact, the result of the 2012 presidential election was changed by allowing urban areas with a 90% liberal/left vote to determine the electoral vote outcome for entire states, rather than just for their areas. But that can and should be changed.
Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the Electoral College for selecting Presidents, provides that the electors shall be chosen by each state “in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct …” The legislatures of Maine and Nebraska have used that clause to provide that the electors in their states shall be determined by majority vote in each congressional district, rather than by the majority vote statewide.
So if a state has three congressional districts, and the Democrat candidate for president wins the majority in two of them, and the Republican candidate wins the majority in one of them, then the state’s electoral votes go two for the Democrat and one for the Republican, rather than all for the Democrat as under the current statewide majority system. California has 53 congressional districts, 38 of them held by Democrats and 15 held by Republicans. Under congressional district majority voting for presidential electors, the Republican candidate for president would likely gain at least 15 electoral votes from California. Under the current statewide majority system, all of the state’s electoral votes would go to the Democrat. .
If congressional district majority voting were adopted in Washington state, the people of Seattle would determine the presidential electoral vote from Seattle, not from the entire state. In Oregon, the people of Portland would determine the presidential electoral vote only for Portland, not for the rest of the state as well. In Pennsylvania, the people of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would choose the presidential electoral from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, not from Alabama as well.
That would be true democracy. People should be able to vote for the presidential electors from their areas, not elsewhere throughout a state. Under the current system, millions and millions of Americans are disenfranchised by the current winner-take-all statewide electoral vote determination. For example, those in Maryland outside of Baltimore have no say at all in the presidential election, because the voters in Baltimore that almost uniformly vote Democrat and liberal/left will always determine the state majority. Under a congressional district selection method, by contrast, Maryland residents outside of Baltimore would be empowered to effectively vote for president too. The same is true for people in Illinois outside of Chicago. Or New York outside of New York City. Or California outside of San Francisco and Los Angeles. And elsewhere across the country.
Why should people in these politically and ideologically intolerant urban areas determine who the presidential electors are for people outside their urban areas? There is no good reason.
Each state currently has a number of electoral votes equal to the number of congressional districts in the state plus two more for the senators. All go today to the candidate who wins the majority vote in the state. But under congressional district majority elector selection, those two additional electoral votes for each state should go to whoever wins the majority of congressional districts in the state. Every citizen of every state would then have an equal say of who wins the state’s electoral votes.
If just the six states of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which now have Republican legislatures and governors, had switched for 2012 to choosing presidential electors by congressional district majorities, rather than by statewide majorities, Mitt Romney rather than Barack Obama would be president today. In California, the change can be made by public vote through the Initiative process. That would have produced more electoral votes for the Republican ticket in 2012 as well.
That change has a chance to win by public vote in California, and be adopted in other less Republican areas elsewhere as well, because the people there, and all across America, are tired of the presidential campaigns only being held in a handful of “battleground” states. If the presidential electors are chosen by congressional district majorities instead of statewide majorities, presidential campaigns would again be conducted nationwide, reopening our democracy to everyone.
There is no opportunity for Democrat-controlled states to retaliate by switching to congressional district majority voting as well. Democrat-controlled states would likely produce a Democrat statewide majority in presidential elections. But the electoral vote from any Republican congressional district in such states would probably go for the Republican presidential candidate under congressional district majority voting. That would produce some electoral votes for the Republican candidate in such Democrat-controlled states, while the Republican candidate would receive no electoral votes from those states under the current statewide majority voting system. The switch to determining presidential electoral votes by congressional district would always on net favor Republicans because it would take away the power of the more uniform Democrat vote concentrated in urban areas to determine the presidential vote for their entire states, rather than just for their own urban areas.
Another benefit of the change is that it would also mean the end of voter fraud, or at least a much more limited impact from such fraud. No point in pumping up the vote in Philadelphia if it can only affect the presidential electoral vote from Philadelphia, which is never in doubt any way. Chicago could no longer pull out the election for Kennedy over Nixon, by producing whatever votes are required for that at the last second. This too would greatly improve our democracy, with a truer vote.
Legislation providing for such reform more broadly has already begun to be introduced. Two years ago in Pennsylvania, the Republican state senate president, Robert Pileggi, introduced such a bill with the governor’s support. Progress stalled because Republicans were overconfident that they would take all of the state’s electoral votes from Obama in 2012.
Virginia state senator Charles W. Carrico, Sr., from southwest Virginia, has introduced similar legislation more recently, saying voters in his district were discouraged they had no say in presidential elections because of Northern Virginia’s growing dominance. Such grassroots reform efforts have also popped up in Florida and Michigan.
For all of the above reasons, switching to determination of presidential electoral votes by congressional district majorities rather than the current statewide majorities would be a good government reform that should be promoted by the grassroots across the entire country.
[First published at the American Spectator]