On the Blog

EPA’s Phony “Environmental Justice” Caper

Somewhat Reasonable - September 08, 2014, 11:06 AM

The agency’s real agenda: empire, control, and inverted justice for poor and minority families

When it comes to energy, climate change, justice and transparency, the Obama Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency want it every possible way. Their only consistency is their double standards and their determination to slash hydrocarbon use, ensure that electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket,” expand federal government command and control, and “fundamentally transform” America.

The president was thus eager to give away Seal Team secrets in bragging about “he” got Osama bin Laden. But in sharp contrast, there has been no transparency on Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal – or the data and analyses that supposedly support Environmental Protection Agency claims that “dangerous manmade climate change” is “not just a future threat; it is happening right now.”

That rhetoric made it sound like EPA’s Clean Power Plan was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, in July EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made it clear that her initiative “is not about pollution control.” Rather, it is an “investment strategy” designed to spur renewable energy.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) opined that the agency does not have “explicit statutory authority” to steer investments toward “green” energy. Perhaps so, McCarthy replied, but her actions are legal under the Clean Air Act and within the agency’s ever broadening purview – as are EPA’s attempts to expand its mission and oversight authority by emphasizing “sustainable development” and “environmental justice.”

The ironies abound. Wind, solar and ethanol power were intended to address “imminent oil and gas depletion” that ended with the hydraulic fracturing revolution, and prevent “global warming” that ended some 18 years ago. Now “investment” in these “alternative” energy technologies primarily involves greenback dollars taken from hard-working taxpayers and delivered to crony corporatists and campaign contributors who want to earn fat profits from climate scares, renewable energy mandates and subsidies.

A 2010 report suggested that EPA should begin to examine how it might “encourage the development of sustainable communities, biodiversity protection, clean energy, environmentally sustainable economic development and climate change.” Talk about an open-ended invitation to control our lives. A few weeks ago, EPA proclaimed “environmental justice” as yet another newcause celebre. The agency claims low-income groups are “disproportionately affected” by airborne pollution, and therefore it must tighten air quality standards yet again. The results will likely be a perverse opposite of true justice.

The agency’s own Urban Air Toxics report chronicles a 66% reduction in benzene levels, 84% in outdoor airborne lead, 84% in mercury from coal-fueled power plants, and huge reductions in particulates (soot). “But we know our work is not done yet,” McCarthy said. “At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice – striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

Most air quality and health experts say America’s air is completely safe. That’s why EPA pays its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the American Lung Association millions of dollars a year to say otherwise. It’s why the EPA, CASAC and ALA refuse to discuss the $353 billion in annual regulatory compliance costs that EPA alone imposes on U.S. businesses and families (out of a total federal regulatory bill of $1.9 trillion), according to Competitive Enterprise Institute studies.

Those costs mean too many people lose their jobs. Their hopes, dreams, pride and work ethic are replaced by despair and dependency. If they can find new work, they are forced to work multiple jobs, commute longer distances, and spend greater portions of their incomes on gasoline and electricity. They suffer greater sleep deprivation, stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, and poorer nutrition and medical care. More people have strokes and heart attacks; more die prematurely.

EPA’s new 54.5-mile-per-gallon standards mean cars are lighter and less safe in accidents. That means more people suffer severe injuries or get killed. Minority and other poor families are especially at risk.

Every one of these impacts is also a matter of environmental justice. But EPA chooses to ignore them.

Moreover, nothing in the law says EPA has a right to declare that it intends to seek “justice” by drawing a line between poor people and other Americans, all of whom have a stake in clean air. McCarthy’s language is more befitting a rabble-rouser than an agency administrator who is supposed make decisions based on science – not on emotions, politics, or racial and class divisiveness.

EPA’s climate and environmental policies appear destined to become even more insane. Just two months after calling climate change “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” – and amid radical Islamist chaos and conflagrations across the Arab world – on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry actually said “Muslim-majority countries are among the most vulnerable” to climate change. “Scriptures,” he claimed, make it clear that Americans have a “responsibility” to prevent this calamity.

McCarthy’s environmental justice claims also appear to be based on an ugly premise that undergirds many Obama Administration policies: that low-income people are victims and businesspeople are guilty of doing irreparable harm to their health and communities. (At least business people who are not aligned with Obama and don’t support liberal/Democrat agendas and candidates are guilty.)

Such sentiments pit low-income and working-class Americans against businesses. They are a divisive throwback to the 99% versus 1% protests. They ignore the fact that Mr. Kerry, climate politics bankroller Tom Steyer, and President Obama and his fundraiser dinner companions are all part of the 0.1 percent.

These sentiments also ignore the fact that businesspeople create jobs, give workers opportunities to earn a living for themselves and their families, and develop the employment and life skills to successfully climb the socio-economic ladder. Any company that violates environmental, health, safety, tax and other laws is penalized civilly or criminally – whereas all too often the regulators themselves escape any accountability or liability for accidental, incompetent and even deliberate actions that hurt their fellow citizens.

Ms. McCarthy’s statements also reflect the lengths to which EPA will go to continue expanding its reach and grow its bureaucracy. The agency cannot admit that it has nearly won the battle against dirty air, because thousands of government regulators could lose their jobs. (Never mind the millions of Americans who lose their jobs because of EPA regulators and regulations.) To protect its legions of workers, justify its massive taxpayer-provided budget, and expand it many times over, EPA continues to move the goal posts, by invoking environmental justice, climate change and sustainability – for which there can never be objective goals and achievements, but only political considerations and subjective “feelings.”

Apparently Ms. McCarthy embraces the ideology that ignores the benefits of affordable energy and of a robust economy that creates jobs and opportunities. In her view, government controls are paramount, even when they stifle self-reliance, creativity and entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, harm human health and welfare, and cast low-income Americans as perpetual victims.

As Congress of Racial Equality national chairman Roy Innis emphasizes in his book, Energy Keepers / Energy Killers: The new civil rights battle: access to abundant, reliable, affordable energy is essential for individuals, families and communities that want to improve their lives and living standards.

Jason Riley puts it just as forcefully in his new book, Please Stop Helping Us: How liberals make it harder for blacks to succeed. Blacks must “develop the habits and attitudes that other groups had to develop” to improve their lives, he writes. The real secret to rolling back black unemployment and poverty is to change a culture that has allowed too many black children to grow up without the benefit of a father in the home, and that scorns black intellectual achievement as “acting white.”

Environmental protection should never be an “us vs. them” mentality. Such attitudes divide us, rather than bringing us together to improve our nation and world for everyone’s benefit. Ms. McCarthy should base environmental policy on sound science – and check her phony justice rhetoric at the door.

Categories: On the Blog

Time to Stop Worrying About GMOs

Somewhat Reasonable - September 07, 2014, 3:36 PM

The organic food movement grows every year. Many people are attracted to its acclaimed health benefits and superior produce compared to more ordinary foods. Organically grown food is particularly favored over genetically modified foods (GMOs). Indeed, it is hard to find an upscale restaurant or grocery store that does not loudly proclaim its non-GMO status.

Yet, is there any real health benefit to organic and non-GMO foods? The answer (perhaps shockingly to foodies,) is no. The media and internet have been alive for years with the supposed horrific side effects of eating GMOs, with so-called experts claiming that they cause all kinds of disease, including cancer. But these “experts” rarely, if ever, have any data to back up their claims. In fact, the one major study that offered some credible evidence of negative health effects from GMOs was ultimately discreditedand has since been retracted.

If there is so little serious evidence of the negative side effects of GMOs, why is there so much news about it? The answer is simple: there is profit to be made. The individuals marketing organic and non-GMO items have a real financial incentive to keep the fear alive. Without it, their whole business collapses. Not many people would pay extra for food that offers no meaningful health benefits. A study by the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom has demonstrated this fact, showing that there is no meaningful health benefit accrued from the additional cost of organically grown food.

This is not to say that organic food promoters are charlatans, or in any way dishonest. No doubt the vast majority of them believe in what they are selling as much as consumers believe in what they are buying: better, healthier food. But good intentions are wasted when the actions rising from them do no good.

The problem really isn’t that people like to eat organic or non-GMO products. In the developed world, many people can easily afford such luxuries. The real problem is when unjustified prejudices toward GMOs spread into the public sphere and cause real harm in places where they are needed. In Africa and parts of Asia, food is a scarce resource. We have seven billion people on this planet, most of whom live in poverty. For many, GMOs are not a matter of choice, but of necessity. In India, a genetically modified strain of wheat called dwarf wheat, (which allowed for much higher crop yields) prevented a massive food crisis that would have killed millions of people. Another grain, golden wheat, has been enriched with nutrients that have reduced child mortality and improved public health in numerous countries.

When people in America start scares about GMOs, it does more than change what people buy. It can cost lives. A few African countries, responding to hysterical claims by faux experts, have banned GMOs. The result has been needless death and deprivation.

A court ruling this month in Hawaii has overturned a ban on GMO research passed earlier this year. This is a positive step, but it has done little to alter public perceptions about GMOs. That will require a much more concentrated push on the part of the agriculture industry and public health officials. More must be done to dispel irrational and erroneous beliefs.

It is easy to understand why people are susceptible to scares about GMOs. It is strange and Frankensteinesque for scientists to manipulate the genetic code of the things we eat. Of course we should be mindful of what we put in our bodies. But we should also be aware of (and act in accord with) the evidence, and the evidence continuously shows no meaningful harm from GMOs.

So don’t be too concerned about buying organic. It’s no better for the health of your body and whole lot worse for the health of your bank account!

 

[Originally published at IOnTheScene]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Joan Rivers, R.I.P.

Somewhat Reasonable - September 07, 2014, 12:52 AM

Comedienne Joan Rivers has passed away last week at the age of 81, shortly after going into cardiac and respiratory arrest during a procedure on her throat. The evening before the terrible event, Ms. Rivers joked about her age and that she could die “at any second.” State health officials are investigating the clinic at which the procedure took place.

Joan Rivers was basically “discovered” by Johnny Carson and was a frequent guest and guest-host of the Tonight Show in the early 1980s.

Recently, Ms. Rivers, never a stranger to controversy, made a bit of news when suggesting that Barack Obama was America’s first gay president and calling Michelle Obama a “tranny.” In typical Rivers style, no apology was forthcoming for the not-particularly-humorous comment.

OK, not every joke hits its target, but for decades of sometimes-shocking entertainment and breaking the glass ceiling for female comedians, Joan Rivers deserves our appreciation.

Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

[Editor: Here's a bit of Joan from Jimmy Fallon's first day hosting the Tonight Show. Let's just say that having Joan on that night was no accident]:

 

Categories: On the Blog

Quoth the Reagan, Nevermore

Somewhat Reasonable - September 04, 2014, 3:41 PM

Newt Gingrich’s recent article on CNN asks “What Would Reagan Do About ISIS?” Writing a “speech” from the perspective of Ronald Reagan as if he was still president, Gingrich seeks to show a more assertive, commanding response to the massive unrest in Iraq and Syria. The relative merits of Gingrich’s Reagan’s speech are not worth all that much consideration (In a nutshell, it calls for swift action against the militants, and generally damns the present policy). What is of interest is the strange phenomenon the article reveals about a large section of the American right wing today: dogmatic Ronald Reagan worship.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of Reagan and I believe he led America as well as anyone could from a time of fearful uncertainty into one of triumphal prosperity. But he was not a god and he did not have the right answer every time on every issue in his own time. It is really strange that conservative commentators trot out the “What would Reagan do?” line so regularly. Sure, we can reflect on the qualities of a president and the character they reveal through their actions. We can express our desires for more forceful and decisive leadership in the mold of Reagan. But to ask his opinion on how to address ISIS? That is a bit of a stretch.

Reagan left the White House in 1989, 25 years. That is a long time for things to change. The world is a radically different place from the one in which Reagan lived and governed. His whole political career was spent as a Cold Warrior. No doubt a man of his skills and leadership quality could make a mark on any era, but to try to envision his exact strategy, or even his general feelings, on specific issues facing us now is not particularly nourishing to intellect or beneficial to the formulation of policy.

This tendency to call up the ghost of Ronald Reagan at the drop of a hat has become a running joke in the liberal media. And if you think about it, it is rather funny. It is, after all, tough to make the case to the public that you have new solutions when you keep dredging up the image of a man who has not governed in two and half decades (and been dead for ten of those years). And that is a really serious problem facing the political right.

When Reagan rose to prominence and won the presidency, he did so by looking forward. He inspired people to believe in a future for America that was bright. He called on many of the timeless words and principles of the American political canon, but he was at his heart an independent animal. He never tried to be a mouthpiece for a preceding generation’s standard-bearer. Reagan’s message was his own, and that is why it resonated so thoroughly with the public.

Trying to be the heir to Reagan’s political legacy, as so many Republican contenders seem to be doing, misses the whole point of what made Reagan special. If the timeless message of individual liberty, of which Reagan was a true champion, is to be carried to another generation, it needs a new voice, not just an echo of an old one.

Categories: On the Blog

Shut Down MITFA and Demand ITFA Before November 1st, 2014

Somewhat Reasonable - September 03, 2014, 11:10 AM

public domain

Most of Congress agrees that the Internet access tax ban should continue, at least for now; even the House passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) with merely a voice vote. It seems like it would be almost unanimous in the Senate, too, but one hot topic attached to access taxes is causing controversy: the Internet sales tax. The four-page ITFA bill also contains a provision that protects against discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. While brick-and-mortar stores have a definitive sales tax they pay based on where they’re located, e-retailers do not. Without sales tax protection, e-retailers could have to pay up to 9,600 different state and local taxing bodies, an administrative expense that the average small business owner could not handle (24 million Americans, where 29% make less than $10,000/year in sales). On top of that, if a taxing body charges the wrong tax or makes a mistake and an e-retailer needs to take legal action, they would incur further costs for lawyers and litigation that would diminish the incentive to sell anything online in the first place.

A group of senators is planning to hold Internet access taxes hostage (the ban expires November 1st, 2014) in an attempt to force the Internet sales tax question. They created their own version of an Internet tax freedom act, but with many perversions that cater to the retail industry giants who could easily soak up the administrative costs and send their armies of lawyers to court for them. This new fourteen-page bill, the Marketplace and Internet Tax Freedom Act (MITFA), only extends the Internet access tax ban by 10 years instead of permanently, and it would open up the 9,600 different state and local tax collecting agencies—many of whom are in debt—to enforcing burdensome regulation and taxation on e-retailers.

Imagine someone who makes homemade trinkets and sells them online, perhaps something they started doing while on unemployment or just as a hobby. If they get orders from many people across the country, they would have to calculate each tax rate in each location of each customer. What if they fail to do so? Many state and local authorities charge high fines if a seller does not pay sales taxes, and you can even go to jail. Suppose they find a charge that shouldn’t be there, but the taxing body disputes it. Where would this person find the money to fight the legal battle this would cause? They might just settle, even if they were never in the wrong. This is what the legal language of the current law banning Internet sales tax means by discrimination.

There is even legal precedent set by the SCOTUS in the case Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota. In this case, North Dakota was trying to make Quill Corp., an office supplier based out of Delaware, pay taxes for advertising and selling its products in the state. The Supreme Court ruled that a business has to have a physical presence in a state in order to be subjected to its sales taxes. In 1992, Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court in which he said “…because the State had not shown that it had spent tax revenues for the benefit of the mail order business, there was no ‘nexus to allow the state to define retailer in the manner it chose.’”

Quill has three warehouses in three separate states, so it is paying sales taxes in those states that it runs its operations out of. States that foster poor business conditions should not be allowed to tax businesses in other states just because customers order items from them online. This would defeat basic competition between states and would be unfair to states that are responsible. States that have ruined their economies can’t be allowed to suck out money from successful companies in other states whose business conditions are better. Some states don’t even have general sales taxes, and their companies would be forced to pay an extra expense that they never needed to before.

E-retailers are not dodging taxes because they do have a physical location somewhere. If anything, banning Internet sales taxes would force states to rethink their economic policy. Challenges and tough times can often spark amazing motivation for real growth and change. Opening another source of revenue for states that have proven time and again mismanagement of funds would be a disaster for everyone involved. Successful companies that have harnessed the equalizing powers of technology would be penalized, and American consumers would be left with less choice and less in their wallets.

The ITFA bill that has passed the House is now in the Senate’s hands; the bill is concise at only four pages, and most people would be able to easily understand it. It would permanently ban Internet access taxes and multiple and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. The proposed MIFTA bill, masquerading as a better alternative, would only ban access taxes for 10 years, but allow almost 10,000 tax collecting agencies a chance at a massive money grab, convoluting competition and reducing economic freedom. Contact your senators today and tell them to take up a vote on IFTA, not MIFTA, before November 1st. We only have 59 days left.

Categories: On the Blog

Will Europe Pull Its Weight on Defense?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 02, 2014, 7:10 PM

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has laid bare the woeful state of European defense. For decades  Europe has been reliant on an American security blanket, one that has put Europe’s various defense departments to sleep. Putin’s recent belligerence has given them a loud wake-up call. What they will do about the aggression on their frontier remains to be seen.

Hopefully, Europe’s leaders will finally begin to pull their weight on providing for their own defense and fro the maintenance of NATO. Currently America makes up the lion’s share of NATO forces and spends a vastly disproportionate amount of its GDP on the task. The United Kingdom is the only major EU power that spends more than 2 percent of its GDP on defense. The rest have seemed happy to spend their cash on unaffordable social programs in the hope that America will always be there to protect them.

It’s about time that America made a stand on defense spending in Europe. It is ludicrous to expect the United States to spend more on defending Europe than the Europeans are willing to. Now that Putin has increased his warmongering, many of Europe’s leaders have finally started to agree. While it is still far too early to declare that Europe is definitely going to shoulder the task of ensuring its own security, we are now seeing positive steps, taken through the NATO alliance, to meaningfully increase the share of Europe’s burden on the maintenance of its defense. Member countries in Europe have agreed to increase their defense spending to more adequately address security concerns.

This is a good sign for America. We have spent a vast fortune trying to maintain peace and security in the world, to mixed success. We cannot afford to be the sole guarantor of international order forever. What we need is other responsible, democratic nations to shoulder a larger part of that burden. It will benefit the US taxpayer and add legitimacy to a global order that favors free markets and the rule of law. Europe, America’s partner in liberal-democratic values, must be ready to share in the effort of sustaining peace on its borders, and in the world.

Categories: On the Blog

How Repealing And Replacing Obamacare Would Help Restore Booming Economic Growth

Somewhat Reasonable - September 02, 2014, 8:01 AM

One of the biggest drags on economic growth under President Obama has been Obamacare, enacted on a strictly partisan basis in 2010. That drag has come primarily from the sweeping overregulation of Obamacare.

The biggest culprit has been the employer mandate, which requires all employers of 50 or more full time workers to buy them health insurance with the terms and benefits as specified by the federal government. That is effectively a tax on employment of well over $10,000 a year per worker for family coverage.

Even for employers that already provide health insurance, the employer mandate will likely be a big tax increase on employment.  That is because the mandated health insurance will most likely cost more than what the employer is already providing. That results first because the government responds to political pressure to require generous benefits most people will think the employer is paying for, to be include in the mandated health insurance. That drives up the cost of the mandatory health insurance.

Secondly, the mandated health insurance is subjected to costly overregulation involving guaranteed issue and community rating. Guaranteed issue requires insurers to sell their health insurance to everyone that applies, regardless of how sick and costly they are when they first apply, such as those who already have cancer or heart disease. That is like requiring fire insurance companies to sell their fire insurance to buyers who call up after their house has already caught on fire.

Community rating requires health insurers to sell that insurance at the same standard rates as for everyone else, regardless of how sick and costly the buyers are when they first apply for the insurance.   That is like requiring fire insurers to sell fire insurance at the same standard rates as for anyone else, to buyers after their houses have already caught on fire.

Of course, the standard rates for such fire insurance are going to be very high. The same will be true for health insurance subject to such regulation. There are better, far less costly ways of assuring that health insurance is available to everyone, including those with costly preconditions.

This employer mandate employment tax is reducing job and wage growth. Moreover, to further avoid that costly tax on employment, millions of workers across the country have been reduced to part time work of 29 hours a week or less, because the definition of a full time worker in the Obamacare legislation is 30 hours a week or more. That is driving down the net wages and incomes of middle class and working people, and increasing inequality as a result. Small companies around the 50 worker threshold are also restraining growth and employment for the same reasons. All of this has been killing economic growth, stunting the recovery, and greatly extending the misery of the recession well beyond previous recessions.

The individual mandate is increasing costs of health insurance in the individual health insurance market as well, for the same reasons. President Obama was quick to claim credit for Obamacare for supposedly restraining the growth of health costs. But that health cost slowdown he cited actually started back in 2003, when Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were adopted by the then GOP Congress, as I will explain below. Barack Obama was an Illinois State Senator back then, and Obamacare was just a gleam in his eye.

So both the employer mandate and the individual mandate are effective tax increases, which are a drag on economic growth. Obamacare is financed by another half trillion in tax increases, which are also anti-growth.

How to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

But Obamacare can be replaced by free market, Patient Power, health care reforms based on sharply expanding patient power, control and choice over their own health care, which would assure health care for all (unlike Obamacare), with no employer mandate, no individual mandate, and sharply reduced taxes, federal spending and regulation. That would reverse the above anti-growth effects of Obamacare, and contribute to booming economic growth and recovery. Such Patient Power reforms have long been advocated by John Goodman, long time President of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas.

The centerpiece of such Patient Power reforms would be to extend the same tax preference for employer provided health insurance to everyone, in the form of a refundable, universal, health insurance tax credit for all of roughly $2,500 per year ($8,000 for family coverage) for the purchase of private health insurance. The credit would not be meant to pay for the entire cost of such insurance, but only to help pay for it, just as the tax preference for employer provided insurance does not pay the entire cost of such insurance, but only helps pay for it.

There would be no government mandate of any sort to use the credit to buy any particular insurance with any particular terms or benefits. Each worker would be free to use the credit to buy the health insurance of the worker’s own choice, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), discussed further below.

Workers would even be free to choose to use the credit to buy into coverage through Medicaid if they desired. The credit amount is equal to the CBO estimated average cost of adding one additional person to Medicaid coverage. This one feature assures coverage for all those with any pre-existing condition, because they could always choose Medicaid coverage, which includes anyone regardless of any pre-existing condition. But few would be expected to choose Medicaid, because of the fundamental problems of Medicaid as discussed below. Indeed, people would also be free to choose to use the credit to leave Medicaid for the purchase of any private health insurance of their choice, including HSAs.

The $2,500 credit would effectively operate as a reverse penalty in terms of lost opportunity cost for failing to use it. The taxpayer would effectively then leave $2,500 on the table in terms of his personal finances.

But socially, the amount of any unused credits would be sent to local safety net hospitals and clinics serving the poor in the local area. For example, if 1000 people in Dallas did not use the credit to buy any health insurance, $2,500,000 would be sent to safety net hospitals and clinics in Dallas specializing in serving the poor.

The second component of the Patient Power reforms would be to transfer control over Medicaid to the states, with the federal financing of the program provided through fixed, finite, block grants to each state, as under the enormously successful 1996 welfare reforms of the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Currently, the federal financing for Medicaid is provided under a matching federal financing formula, paying more to each state the more the state spends on Medicaid. That is like the federal government paying the states to spend more on Medicaid.

Under the fixed, finite, block grant formula, the state knows that if its redesigned, state, Medicaid program costs more, it is going to pay 100% of the difference. But if the program costs less, it would keep 100% of the savings. These are ideal incentives for each state to weigh the costs against the benefits for Medicaid spending, and only pursue the spending that was worthwhile.

Preferably, each state would use its power under the Medicaid block grants to provide assistance to the poor through health insurance vouchers that could be used by the poor to supplement the universal health insurance tax credit to help the beneficiary to purchase the private health insurance of his or her choice, including HSAs. The voters of each state would then be free to determine how much assistance at what income levels would be necessary to assure that the state’s poor could buy essential health insurance, which would be very different for Mississippi and Louisiana than for New York and California, given their widely varying health cost structures, and income distributions.

Such Medicaid reform would be enormously beneficial for the poor. Medicaid currently pays so little to the doctors and hospitals to provide essential health care to the poor that they often face grave difficulties in finding timely, essential health care under the program. But with private health insurance purchased with the help of the universal health insurance tax credit, supplemented for the poor with Medicaid health insurance vouchers, the poor would enjoy the same health care as the middle class, because they would have the same health insurance as the middle class, which is forced by competitive market pressures to pay enough to the doctors and hospitals to ensure that those covered by the insurance can get timely, essential health care. This would mean an enormous gain for the poor as compared to the current Medicaid program.

As another safety net component of the Obamacare replacement plan, states would also be free to use a limited part of the Medicaid block grant funds to set up Uninsurable Risk Pools for those uninsured who had contracted costly preexisting conditions such as cancer or heart disease while uninsured. Any uninsured who could not obtain health insurance in the market for this reason would be able to obtain full coverage from the Uninsurable Risk Pool for an affordable fee based on the applicant’s ability to pay, which is necessary for the pool to serve as a safety net program. State taxpayers and part of the Medicaid block grant funds would subsidize the pool to cover all costs not covered by the fees charged to those covered by the pool.

Over 30 states have set up similar Uninsurable Risk Pools, and they have proven by experience to be a low cost means of covering those who could not obtain coverage in the market because of costly pre-existing conditions. That is because only a very small percentage of the population ever becomes truly uninsurable in the private market.

These reforms would assure universal health care for all. Everyone would have the universal health insurance tax credit, the poor would receive additional assistance to purchase private coverage, and everyone would continue to be backed up by Medicaid and the Uninsurable Risk Pools as safety nets. By contrast, Obamacare fails to achieve universal coverage, as CBO projects that even after 10 years, Obamacare would still leave 30 million Americans uninsured, and without any assured access to health care.

Health Savings Accounts

The health cost control functions of Obamacare would also be achieved far more effectively through HSAs and market competition. With an HSA, instead of all the money going to an insurance company, the insured pays only enough to purchase coverage with a high deductible, around the range of $5,000 to $6,000 a year or more. The health insurance then pays for all health care costs above that annual deductible.

The substantial cost savings from purchasing such high deductible insurance is then saved in the HSA to pay for health costs below the deductible. Whatever is not spent from the HSA can be withdrawn after a year and spent on anything, or saved tax free for health care in future years, and for retirement. Consequently, whatever the worker spends on health care from his HSA is effectively his own money.

That will leave him with full market incentives to control costs. He will question what health care is necessary, seek second opinions, and explore less costly alternatives. Moreover, since the patients now have full market incentives to control costs, doctors and hospitals will compete to control costs, the more patients in the marketplace have HSAs.

These HSA incentives have proven very effective in controlling costs in the real world. The Republican Congress passed modern HSAs in 2003. Since then, HSA coverage has been exploding, doubling year after year. Today, 30 million Americans have HSAs. And the slowdown in the growth of health costs first buds after HSAs were passed, and builds along with that growth in HSA coverage.

These HSAs are the classic Patient Power reform, because the patient has maximum power, choice and control over the HSA funds. The Patient Power alternative to Obamacare would expand the HSA option throughout the entire health care system. Workers even with employer provided coverage could use the universal health insurance tax credit to purchase preferred health insurance of their choice, which would include HSAs. This gives workers a market check on the power of employers over their health insurance, as the incentive of employers is to choose the coverage that works best for them rather than their employees. The universal credit could also be used to opt out of Medicaid for HSAs.

Also under the Medicaid block grants, the poor could use the health insurance vouchers to purchase HSAs if they prefer. Retirees should also be assured of the freedom to choose HSAs under Medicare Part C. Through these reforms, virtually everyone would enjoy the freedom to choose HSAs if they prefer. That, and the market competition between the alternative choices among the different insurers in all these markets would restrain the growth in health costs far more effectively than Obamacare, which only works to increase health costs.

Booming Economic Growth Through Health Care Reform

Repealing and replacing Obamacare with the above Patient Power reforms would further contribute to booming economic growth, in addition to previous reforms I have advocated in recent weeks in this column. Repealing Obamacare would automatically involve a tax cut of 16% in the capital gains tax, and in the taxation of corporate dividends. That would promote the capital investment that creates jobs and increases wages. It would also cut the top rate of the Medicare payroll tax by roughly one fourth, which would also create jobs and increase wages.

It would also end the effective taxation involved in the employer mandate and the individual mandate, again increasing jobs and wages. The millions of Americans now reduced to part time work would be liberated to find full time jobs again, restoring millions of middle class incomes. The restrained growth of health costs would also liberate businesses to invest more in job creation, and directly increase wages. That would result both from repealing the cost increasing effects of Obamacare, as well as from the cost restraining features of the replacement reforms.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Ten Things Homeschoolers Think During Back To School Season

Somewhat Reasonable - September 02, 2014, 1:20 AM

An anthropological look at this curious, intelligent, frededom-loving tribe.

1. But I’m not even done with last year’s math book!

Don’t worry. Public schoolers aren’t, either. And their books are four grades behind. 2. Like my back-to-school outfit?

3. Mom bought way too many school supplies to compensate for “not being a real teacher.”

You don’t need to compensate, mom. Research shows homeschoolers whose parents have just a high school diploma still do better than the average public schooler. 4. And the four-pack of pianos.

5. School? What school?

6. Goodbye, friends. See you next summer.

7. Here’s my school uniform, same as the summer uniform.

We know homeschoolers don’t ever work in pajamas. Just like telecommuters. 8. Ya’ll enjoy school. I’ll over here making robots, real log cabins, and probiotic-filled food. And playing Settlers of Catan.

9. Can I get a science credit for watching a home birth?

10. Maybe it’s time to get a bigger bus.

Photo By: Allan Henderson Photo By: Eric Gelinas Photo By: tony puyol Photo By: dr_tr Photo By: David Goodman Photo By: Ingo Bernhardt Photo By: Liz Photo By: M 93 Photo By: anthony kelly Photo By: ShelahD [First published at The Federalist.]
Categories: On the Blog

An Anti-Cronyism Solution to Dodd-Frank

Somewhat Reasonable - August 31, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), the unelected oversight group created by the Dodd-Frank Act to monitor and regulate firms deemed to pose systemic risk to the economy (ie. “too big too fail”), has decided begun to expand its remit beyond what even the law’s authors had imagined.

Conceived as a means of circumscribing the actions of the large financial institutions whose failures could crater the economy, the FSOC is now sticking its label on any financial services firm they can get away with. This week they finished their investigation of MetLife, an insurer. Even though MetLife poses no systemic risk to the economy by any empirical measurement, it is likely to be enveloped by the grubby hands of FSOC anyway.

The MetLife episode demonstrates the huge difficulties in administering an extremely complex regulatory mechanism. Rather than looking for actual systemic risks, FSOC just wants to control as much of the economy as it can. Barney Frank has feigned surprise at this turn of events and has apparently said he never envisioned such a wide scope for FSOC. Well, Mr. Frank, this is what happens when you hand a huge amount of nonspecific powers to a virtually unaccountable organization.

The whole idea behind Dodd-Frank is wrongheaded. It relies on the idea that systemic risks can be accurately calculated before a financial shock is experienced. The solution it prescribes is more red tape for the financial services industry to stumble over. It is unlikely to succeed in anything but choking off economic growth and expanding government power over the economy at the expense of the people.

There is an alternative solution to dealing with vulnerable, systemically important institutions: nationalize them.

The very idea of nationalization naturally raises the bile in the throats of any supporter of the free market, but bear with me on this one.

I propose a law that would require any large financial institution seeking emergency funds from the federal government, as happened during the financial crisis through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and government subsidized mergers, to instead be taken over by the government. The law would also stipulate a process by which the firm would be broken up into smaller pieces and sold back to the market as quickly as possible.

This radical proposal would be better than what has occurred for two reasons. First, in terms of the actions of the big banks, they would necessarily factor the prospect of being cracked open and sold off piecemeal into their future risk calculations. This would mean firms would take actions less likely to cause systemic shocks to the economy and removes the perverse incentive from banks like Goldman Sachs to deliberately make themselves systemically necessary as a sort of insurance policy. When a firm is too big too fail, that means it does not need to factor the true risk of failure into their calculations. My proposal allows for a mechanism to deal with firms that are systemically important in an orderly way that does not promote bad actions from the institutions in question.

Second, my proposal would prevent the sort of concentration that the government’s response to the financial crisis produced. The big banks were glutted with federal cash to keep them afloat while smaller banks were left largely in the lurch. The result has been that the big institutions that were at the center of the financial collapse have only gotten larger and more profitable, while the smaller institutions with no such blame getting sunk or, if they survive, playing on an even more unfair field.

There is nothing wrong with big banks. There is something wrong with those big banks using their political clout to skew the free market in their favor. My proposal is a means by which the people can reassert control over their economy without giving undue regulatory powers to the government.

My proposal could find support on both sides of the aisle in Congress. For the left, the policy is punitive against firms that take risks while being extremely important to the economy. For the right, it benefits Main Street and only takes effect when institutions are at risk of going under and taking everyone with them.

The government is not to be trusted when it comes to regulating the economy day-to-day. It’s ability to interfere should be strictly defined and the steps it may take clearly delineated. My proposal demands very specific actions in response to specific shocks. In the end, the economy benefits from fewer systemically risky firms, the taxpayers benefit from not writing a blank check to crony-capitalist bankers, and the industry benefits from a more level playing field.

Categories: On the Blog

Rational Thinking About Irrational Numbers

Somewhat Reasonable - August 30, 2014, 12:51 PM

I am drawing this reference from this article from someone who I look up to and admire – Dr. Roy Spencer.

In the last 100 years, the amount of CO2 in the air has increased from three molecules per 10,000 molecules of air, to four molecules out of 10,000 molecules of air.

Which means we are being asked to believe the increase of one molecule of CO2 out of 10,000 molecules of air in the last 100 years is causing catastrophic climate change that threatens mankind.

This is all fascinating to me, given Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments on the immense threat of a catastrophe based on out of control climate, when we have groups like ISIS and Hamas running around.

Seems to me that there is a lot of inconsistency here. The idea from John Kerry is that CO2-induced warming is an imminent national security threat. So he is saying the increase of one molecule of CO2 per 10,000 molecules of air in the last 100 years is a threat on par with what is going on in the Middle East? How can that even be close. The real threat when it comes to CO2 is the agenda that paints it as a threat. One, it makes us more reliant on an unstable area of the world. Two, the policies limiting its use starve the lifeline of our economy. As I have opined before, it’s the global warming agenda that is the major threat, not global warming.

I for one am much more concerned about Hamas, ISIS, etc., than CO2, except that it’s the focus of an agenda that is stopping our nation from progressing.

But think about what is going on here. Hamas fires untold amounts of rockets into Israel. Israel tries to protect itself. Hamas uses its citizens to protect its missiles. Israel uses its missiles to protect its citizens. But Israel is ripped up and down. How does that hook into CO2? Which is a bigger threat to global stability: an organization like Hamas or ISIS, or the increase of one molecule of CO2 out of 10,000 molecules of air in the last 100 years? Why would anyone be even thinking about the latter, given the example of the former, unless of course the absurdity of blaming Middle East problems on climate change is the goal? (Better tell that to Jacob and Ishmael, and everyone that followed.)

But let’s really put this whole CO2 scare (scam) in perspective, okay?

Here is the infamous hockey stick graphic, the last 50 years of warming based on the most reliable temperature measurements versus tree rings that decided to show cooling instead of warming. This, of course, has stirred up the angst of Dr. Michael Mann when people suggested there was something very wrong with switching the way one measured temperatures after 950 years when that way no longer agreed.

Now here is the real hockey stick, the increase in GDP per capita since the coming fossil fuel age really took off over the last 100 years.

That is a real correlation. No switching measurement horses midstream. During the time of the increase of one molecule of CO2 per 10,000, earth’s per capita income went up. And think about how many more people there are now against 1900.

But let’s look more closely at this in the U.S., since we naturally want to lead the world to a brighter tomorrow.

It is estimated that the U.S. has averaged 20% of the CO2 input from man over the last 100 years . Assuming all the increase of CO2 is man-made, that would mean in 50,000 molecules of air, the U.S. has added one molecule of CO2 in the last 100 years, while the global GDP skyrocketed.

How much is that a year? Well we have to divide the figure above. One molecule per 50,000 in the last 100 years means we have averaged one molecule of CO2 for every 5,000,000 molecules of air per year. So we are asked to believe that is changing the climate?

But wait, let’s think locally to act globally (I have a sweatshirt that says that).

300,000,000 people. How many molecules of CO2 does the average American add to the atmosphere every year?

One molecule of CO2 out of every 1,500,000,000,000,000 molecules of air each year.

Why you selfish capitalist pig. You are destroying the planet by your very existence (though the plants love you – I saw a tree hug a human the other day).

You may say, “Joe, this is an absurd exercise.” Exactly. You must fight the absurd by showing how absurd it truly is. And nothing in our national debate today comes even close to this agenda when put in proper perspective, yet we have people trying to say this threatens our way of life. It threatens theirs, given the gravy train of $165 billion spent on climate change in the past 20 years at the expense of the American people as a whole.

So here is the question to, let’s say, Leonardo DiCaprio, given he flies around the world and makes movies with untold amounts of energy use: Do you really believe the U.S. or the rest of the globe, given the absurdly small amount of CO2 that has been added to the air, is actually changing the climate in any measurable way? Do you understand how irrational that is given the actual numbers?

Another question: Given the major problems facing man today, one of which exemplified above, how can any rational person try to even address this issue as being remotely a problem?

Final questions for inquiring minds: Was the iceberg that sunk the Titanic caused by global warming? How long did you train to hold Kate Winslett so she didn’t fall off the boat? Are you going the way of Brando, and when can we expect you to tip 250, 300 lbs? You understand that weight gain means more of a carbon foot print.

Stellllllllllaaaaaa.

I figure he might have the answer to those last three, because he certainly doesn’t the others – nor do any of the people pushing this agenda.

[Originally published at The Patriot Post]

Categories: On the Blog

Warren Buffett Knows Less Government Means More Economic Activity

Somewhat Reasonable - August 29, 2014, 1:17 PM

Remember the “Buffet Rule?”

The Buffett Rule is part of a tax plan proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011.  The tax plan would apply a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on individuals making more than a million dollars a year.

Remember for whom it’s named?

The Buffett Rule is named after American investor Warren Buffett, who publicly stated in early 2011 that he believed it was wrong that rich people, like himself, could pay less in federal taxes, as a portion of income, than the middle class, and voiced support for increased income taxes on the wealthy.

Remember what Buffett 2012 said – in his New York Times editorial?

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.”

But he has to know that potential investors do exactly that all the time.

Untaxed US Corporate Profits Held Overseas Top $2.1 Trillion

Foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion, said a private research firm’s report….

Well, flash forward to Warren Buffett 2014.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is expected to help finance Burger King’s pending acquisition of Canadian doughnut-chain Tim Hortons.

The deal will allow Miami-based Burger King to claim Canada as its new legal home for tax purposes….

And why is Canada a more favorable tax locale than the U.S.?  Because everywhere on the planet is.

U.S. Corporate Tax Rates Are the Highest in the Developed World

Buffett’s corporate tax move is called an “inversion.”

Tax inversion, or corporate inversion, is the relocation of a corporation’s headquarters to a lower-tax nation, or corporate haven, usually whilst retaining its material operations in its higher-tax country of origin.

Does Buffett 2014 know this?  He’s not a dumb guy.  But here’s your Joke of the Day: He ludicrously claims:

…(T)he deal was not about taxes, saying that the combined company would be based in Canada because of Tim Hortons’ “strong roots” north of the border.

Of course in May Buffett said:

“I will not pay a dime more of individual taxes than I owe, and I won’t pay a dime more of corporate taxes than we owe. And that’s very simple.”

Indeed it is very simple.  And you can’t blame Buffett 2014 for the sentiment.  But you may certainly blame Buffett 2012 for his contradictory sentiment – and for wishing to impose its inanity upon us all.

So the Buffett Rule fails the Reality Test – per Buffett his own self.  Just as do all the Left’s attempts at reverse engineering the economy and human nature.

This is just and yet another example of (at least) a couple of empirical facts.

1) The greater the government involvement in the marketplace – the more warped and damaged the marketplace becomes.

2) The private sector’s wealthiest members will always outsmart, outpace and outdistance whatever the oft-talentless government hacks try to throw at them.

The government damage is instead done to those who can least afford to absorb it.

The Buffetts already have theirs.  But the tens of millions of Americans looking for work and new opportunities desperately need the Buffetts parking their $2.1 trillion overseas to bring it on home.

And until the government makes it more attractive to do so – those tens of millions of Americans will continue to suffer.

While the Buffetts jet set – and Buffett Rule champion President Obama golfs.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

America, Our Debt-Ridden Nation

Somewhat Reasonable - August 29, 2014, 9:36 AM

Let’s look at just some of the latest news about the U.S. economy:

# According to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Services, the federal government paid $2,007,358,200,000—over $2 trillion—in benefits and entitlements in the 2013 fiscal year, October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013. Most of the benefits, 69.7% came from non-means tested government programs that provide them to recipients who qualify regardless of income. That would include Medicare, Social Security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s compensation, and railroad retirement, to name a few.

# The total federal government spending in 2013 totaled $3,454,253,000,000—over $3.4 trillion—encompassing defense, highway and transportation costs, public education, immigration services, and government worker salaries, to name a few.

# An astonishing amount of that spending constitutes wasted taxpayer money. In July the Government Accountability Office (CAO) testified before Congress that federal agencies made more than $100 billion in improper payments in 2013. That is an amount comparable to the combined total budgets of the Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Border Patrol, Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Agency, et cetera. Improper payments result when people collect money from government programs for which they are ineligible.

# By August, the total U.S. federal debt had increased to more than $7 trillion during the five and a half years since Barack Obama has been President. That is more than the debt increased under all U.S. Presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton—combined! More debt than was accumulated in the first 227 years from 1776 through 2003.

# During the time President Obama has been in office the number of unemployed reached 37.2%, a 36-year high for those 16 or older who do not have a job and are not actively seeking one. From December 2013 through May of this year, the labor participation rate had been at 62.8%. The last time the labor participation rate was that low was February 1978 when Jimmy Carter was President.

# As the nation sank deeper into debt by the end of 2012 there were 109,631,000 Americans living in households that were receiving one or more federally funded “means-tested programs”, more generally referred to as welfare. Combined with those receiving non-means-tested benefits and it added up to 49.5% of the population.

It is always tempting to blame everything on the President and, despite the usual rebound from a recession that has occurred in the past, it has not occurred during his first term, nor into his second at this point. In fact, the latest data reveals that the U.S. economy shrank at a 2.9% annual rate during the first quarter of 2014. Its long-run average rate of growth has been 3.3%, but the highest since Obama took office was 2.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2013 the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the value of its goods and services, was $16,800,000,000,000. The federal, state and governments took their share via taxation on income and/or property. The rest was saved or spent by those either holding a job or receiving government benefits; very nearly half of the population old enough to be employed if there were jobs for them.

The problem that affects all of us is the imbalance of the U.S. budget where more money is going out than coming in. The difference is deemed the “deficit.” In order to pay bills, Congress has to agree to raise the limit on how much the nation can borrow.

Nick Dranias, the constitutional policy director for the Goldwater Institute, has come up with a proposal,“The Compact for a Balanced Budget”, and it was been published by The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, in July.

As Dranias points out, “The U.S. gross federal debt is approaching $18 trillion. That figure is more than twice what was owed ($8.6 trillion) in 2006, when Barack Obama was a junior U.S. Senator from Illinois and opposed lifting the federal debt limit.” It represents more than $150,000 per taxpayer.

“What if states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in only twelve months, asks Dranias. His proposal is “a new approach to state-originated amendments under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

Two states, Georgia and Alaska, are expected to establish a Balanced Budget Commission, an interstate agency dedicated to organizing a convention—before 2014 ends—to propose an amendment to achieve a balanced budget. The amendment would put “an initially fixed limit on the amount of federal debt.” It would ensure Washington cannot spend more than tax revenue brought in at any point in time, with the sole exception of borrowing under the fixed debt limit. It would force Washington to reduce spending long before borrowing reaches its debt limit, preventing any default on obligations; something threatening many other nations as well.

Suffice to say, the proposed amendment involves some complex elements and, if the Compact does not receive sufficient support from many more states than just the two that have signed on, it won’t see the light of day.

What the rest of us understand, however, is that federal spending is out of control at the same time as the amount of money it takes in is more than what it “redistributes.”  Add in a sluggish economy, not growing at its usual rate, and you have a recipe for a lot of trouble ahead.

Republicans are usually credited with being more financially prudent. If true, we need to elect a Congress controlled by the GOP in November and a Republican President in 2016. If we don’t, all bets are off.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

Illinois Forum Celebrates 25 Years Banding Together Freedom Lovers

Somewhat Reasonable - August 29, 2014, 9:28 AM

The Illinois Forum celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a banquet on Saturday, August 23rd, at the Round Barn Banquet Center in Champaign, Illinois. The Illinois Forum was founded by Robert S. Redfern and U.S. Congressman Dan Crane in 1989 as a statewide grassroots coalition of nonpartisan political activists.  Since 1989 Illinois Forum has become one of the largest citizen groups in the state working to promote a smaller state government, to restrain spending, and to encourage tax cuts.

Redfern continues to serve as Chairman of Illinois Forum, with Daniel Crane as its Board Chairman. Additionally there is a Board of Governors consisting of 19 additional individuals from various parts of Illinois. The Hon. Phil Crane (Wauconda) is a member of the Board of Governors.  Heading the the list of eleven pledges cited in the Illinois Forum Pledge for Better Government is “Term limits for Illinois constitutional offices.”

Illinois Forum, first group to issue a proposal for term limits in Illinois

Following the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the Invocation, Robert Redfern, as Chairman of the Illinois Forum, welcomed those gathered, with comments on the issue of term limit.  It was only the day before, Friday, August 22, that Bruce Rauner was dealt a blow when the IL Supreme Court rejected Rauner’s request.

It was in 1989 when Robert Redfern called together 60 individuals to create the Illinois Forum as a non-partisan group to get something done in Springfield.  The first project put together by the newly formed group, and the first group to do so in the state, was a term limits proposal limiting service in either the House or the Senate to 10 years.  The 10-year time limit was retroactive.  Anyone who had already served 10 year had to leave.

The term limits referendum Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wanted to appear on the November 4 ballot would not have been supported by Redfern, as it reduced Senate Districts from 59 to 41.  Furthermore, the initiative didn’t even kick in until January 1, 2023!   As such Rauner’s proposal was not good for the people of Illinois.  It would have been especially devastating for those living in downstate Illinois where constituents many times would have been 100 miles or more away from their state senator.

In speaking with Robert Redfern by telephone after the event, Thorner was informed that four years ago a petition initiated by Illinois Forum was to change the General Assembly from meeting every year to every two years, with a budget to reflect the two-year period. This would cut down immeasurably on the 7,000 bills now advanced in committees every session, and, most importantly, on the amount of taxpayer money spent.

Robert Redfern then invited Jim Tobin to join him at the podium.  Jim Tobin, president of Tax Payers United for America, presented outrageous facts about IL State Pensions.  Click on the link noted on the left side of this Tax Payers United of America website to hear Jim Tobin speak about IL State Pensions on a CBS Chicago WBBM News Radio program aired 4/30/14.  Per the annual April, 2014, report issued by the Taxpayers Unit For American, there are 78,000 state pensioners who receive more than 50,000 a year and 11,000 who receive more than 100,000.  Larry Flemming, a retired educator was noted as a pensioner who is projected to receive an 11 million lifetime payout.  Yearly payment amount to $258,163, yet Mr. Flemming paid in only $326,000 or 2.8% of his estimated lifetime pension payments.  Handed out by Jim Tobin was a sheet containing State of Illinois Top 200 Government Pension as of April 1, 20l4. Remarked by Tobin is how unfunded pensions in IL went from $100 billion to $200 billion even after the income tax hike by Quinn.

Fair.Tax Nation  was represented by Marilyn Rickert.  Although Ms. Rickert didn’t speak, literature was handed out.  Its mission is to Replace All Federal Taxes on Income with the Fair Tax Act , HR 25 and S 122. Visit this site for grass roots participation information

Comments were heard from three Illinois candidates, all who advanced conservative values and policies.  Unfortunately all three are unknowns outside of their own districts.

  • Dianne Harris is running for state legislator in Will County, 86th District.  As a staunch conservative, Dianne wants to serve but never be self-serving.
  • Julie Fox (Juliefox2014.com) is a candidate for state Comptroller as a Libertarian Party candidate. She’s both an accountant and a CPA, and believes that all elected Comptrollers should first be accountants.  Being a Libertarian, Ms. Fox would not be beholden to either major party.
  • Mark Smith is running for governor.  He is a Christian with a firm belief in God, who believes that God must be put back into government.  Mark will take God with him into office. Mark gave up his job in the U.S. Postal System to campaign for governor.

Introduction of Joe Walsh as Featured Speaker

Rick Biesada, co-founder of the Chicago Minuteman Project, introduced Joe Walsh as a Walsh supporter since Joe’s congressional campaign in 2010.  Biesada noted that the Republican establishment and the media were 100% against Joe. What prompted Biesada to throw his support enthusiastically behind Walsh was when the media reported that Walsh had his house foreclosed on him.  At this point Biesada knew that Walsh was his man, for this made Walsh just like an ordinary average person.  A prudent comment made by Rick Biesada is how the Republican and Democrat Party are but one party with two wings.  A bit of humor took place when Mr. Biesada, after finishing his remarks, forgot to extend a welcome for guest speaker Joe Walsh to advance to the podium.

Undaunted and in his usual spirited way, Joe Walsh, now a talk show radio host on AM560, didn’t miss a beat as he bounded to the front of the room to inform attendees with his booming voice that a podium or a microphone weren’t for him. Emphasized by Walsh is that he considers himself a Tea Party member, not a Republican. Elected in 2010, Walsh spoke of the promises he had made while campaigning and which he then honored when sent to Congress to represent the 8th District. Among them were:  He would never vote to increase the size of government; he would sleep on the floor of his office; he would not take his health care or pension benefits; he would face the pubic by holding open town hall meetings, and he would limit himself to six years in the U.S. House.

While campaigning, Walsh faced skepticism over his campaign promises, even from one of his most ardent supporters, Rick Biesada.  But what kept Joe in line with every vote when in Washington, D.C. was knowing that Rick Biesada would not be at all happy with him if pledges were broken.  As it was, Walsh held 363 town meeting, more than any other legislator in Congress. All were open to the public.  Walsh likewise voted against every single budget bill Congress tried to pass that raised taxes. Unfortunately, Walsh was sent home after two years.

Joe Walsh rips apart Common Core AP History course

Joe Walsh went on to explain that we have somewhere between four and five years remaining to change the direction of this nation, a nation that is fast progressing toward Socialism with atheism as the norm.  It doesn’t help that U.S. History will take a drastic left turn this fall.  The AP History course, which will be taken by the nation’s best and brightest high school students, rewrites America’s past, cutting out the Founding Fathers.  George Washington is only given a quick, passing nod; our founding document, the “Declaration of Independence”, merits only two brief mentions.  What is more, children are taught a hatred for their country.  Not surprising is that David Coleman, Common Core’s architect, is responsible for writing the new AP History standards.

As related by Walsh, it’s no longer a free country when the government takes 60 cents of every dollar; when its citizens  can’t carry a firearm wherever they go for protection; and when government can force a Catholic priest into jail if he doesn’t do what government wants him to do.

Regarding the Ferguson shooting, according to Walsh most of America just doesn’t get it.  The Ferguson shooting of a black teenager by a policeman had nothing to do with race or the victim Michael Brown.  Rather, it has only to do with one man’s innocence or guilt.  Eric Holder’s entrance onto the scene, served to stoke the already burning fire of the felt hostility of blacks against white cops.

While in Congress Joe Walsh was blunt and forceful in his rhetoric, not unlike the tone of his remarks before the Illinois Forum gathering.  There was, however, a difference.  The Republican Party didn’t wish to hear what Walsh had to say.  Joe Walsh went on to say that he considers House Speaker John Boehner clueless as to what to do and even in understanding what is presently going on in this country.

Joe Walsh on Republicans and Amnesty with hint of a third party threat 

Concerning amnesty, Walsh knows why Democrats want amnesty.  It is for the votes, 19 million of them.  But what about Republicans?  Congressional Republicans are scared to death if they don’t support amnesty.  Out of the 233 Republican representatives in Congress, only twenty-eight agree with Joe’s stance against amnesty.  All others want to pass an amnesty bill after November.  It Republicans do pass amnesty, warned Walsh, this will end the Republican Party.  It isn’t what Walsh wants to happen, but this would so rile the Republican conservative base that a new party would surely emerge.  It can truly be said that most Republicans are not adverse to big government, just as they are convinced amnesty would benefit this nation.  Is it any wonder why this nation is in the trouble it is in today?  Even with Obamacare, which represents 1/6 of this nation’s economy, and which passed in the dead of night with a purely partisan Democratic vote, little is heard from House Republicans about repealing it.  Much of the talk involves nibbling around the edges of a bill which is still evolving and which can’t be fixed.

Walsh believes we have not been so close to losing our nation since the Civil War, and that presently we are going through a revolutionary period of time. Many Americans have no clue as to what was created by our Founding Fathers as the foundation upon this nation was built, as embodied in the “Declaration of Independence” and the “Constitution.”  As a nation we are close to losing it if we don’t do what it will take to preserve it.  The Republican Party is our only chance to take this country back.  If the party refuses to fight in the next six years, it’s goodbye for America.  It took 100 years for this nation to get to the point she is now at: morally and financially bankrupt.  i.e.: While all seniors are taken care of under Medicare, only seniors who are really needy should be afforded this type of care.

Joe Walsh bemoans what has become a stupid country

Obama was an accidental president, as reflected by a nation which has morphed into a stupid country.  Inform your elected representatives in no uncertain terms, that if they don’t start straightening up to change what is happening, then you will go elsewhere.  Even should Republicans miraculously begin to understand the urgency to change policy, it might take an election or two to get government out of our lives.  Our Founding Fathers would be appalled to see what has happened to a nation conceived with such hope and promise. Yet today there is more government tension and control in our lives than what our Founding Fathers were escaping from in the Old World.

Here in Illinois and at the federal level a false belief exists that if Republicans are elected here and there all will be fine.    History tells us that most great nations last only 264 years.  We are now somewhere in the middle of the 4th quarter.  Time is of the essence.  There is no time to lose if we care about what succeeding generation of Americans will inherit from us.  Are you willing to allow what was once a proud and prosperous nation to slip into the dustbin of history?

An addendum to Joe’s remarks

A hand was raised after Joe Walsh finished his comments, comments that were received very warmly and with hearty applause.  The hand belonged to David Crane, a practicing Indianapolis lawyer and psychiatrist, and a brother of Dan and Phil Crane.  His comments were worth noting, as they were in line with the concerns of the writer.

  • American is doomed.  It took 100 years for the liberal take over to happen which started in 1910.  We have blown it during the past 100 years, doing nothing to stop the liberal advance. Why should it take less time to take our nation back?

Robert Redfern has the last say

Precincts must be filled to get the vote out.  Young people must be trained.  50% of precincts are empty in Illinois.  The Republican Party in Illinois has all sorts of excuses as to why it can’t win, but had Bill Brady obtained 2 or 3 more votes in each Illinois precinct, he would now be governor instead of Pat Quinn.

  • Illinois ranks 49th in the loss of personal rights.
  • In speaking about FDR, the only area of agreement is that organized labor shouldn’t have any place in government.  Other than that, FDR has helped place this nation in the shape it is in today.

 WE CAN’T AFFORD TO SIT OUT THIS ELECTION CYCLE!.  GET TO WORK TO SAVE THIS NATION!

Categories: On the Blog

NetCompetition’s FCC Comments – Don’t Preempt State Muni Broadband Laws

Somewhat Reasonable - August 29, 2014, 9:17 AM

There are two core reasons the FCC should not try to preempt State muni-broadband laws.

  1. The Supreme Court has already indicated it would be unconstitutional.
  2. It would be anti-competitive, the opposite of the FCC’s statutory purpose and legal mandate.

I.  Why FCC Preemption of States Rights would be Unconstitutional

First, the Supreme Court already has decided this issue effectively in favor of state rights. InNixon v. Missouri Municipal League (2004) the Supreme Court rejected federal preemption of state prohibitions on telecom services. It specifically rejected the use of the FCC’s Title IIsection 253(a) authority to preempt state prohibitions of localities offering telecom services on constitutional federalism grounds.

If clear FCC Title II statutory language was insufficient to overcome states constitutional rights, it is hard to see how the FCC’s new-found, balsa Section 706 authority would be sufficient to trump the Supreme Court’s defense of state’s rights in the Constitution.

This Supreme Court precedent presents a high bar for the FCC to overcome because the core constitutional issue is largely-settled and because Chevron Deference does not apply to the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Second, municipalities are legal creations of the state, not the Federal government. States have clear sovereign economic and fiscal responsibilities to the citizens and taxpayers of their state. The construction and operation of broadband networks in a local community clearly is an in-state activity not an inter-state activity that generally can afford the FCC jurisdiction.

In sum, if the FCC preempts state prohibitions of community broadband capital projects, the FCC essentially would be asserting that it, not the states, is the ultimate approving authority for community broadband capital projects, by effectively pre-approving all potential community broadband projects in advance, by denying the state its right to prohibit them.

II. Why FCC Preemption would be the Opposite of Promoting Competition

Governments do not “compete” with companies; Governments tax, limit, police and judge companies.

So when governments try and offer a similar service that private companies have long provided consumers, these governments effectively are opposing and undermining private companies in the marketplace — not “competing” with them.

Why is muni-broadband anti-competitive?

First, Congress in the 1996 Telecom Act made promoting communications competition the law of the land. To forward that goal the FCC ruled broadband was an interstate service under Federal regulatory jurisdiction.

Nowhere in that law did Congress define or conceive a government to be a potential “competitor.”

Second, everyone knows the old adage, “you can’t fight city hall.” Well a private company certainly cannot compete with their regulator who controls their business’ livelihood — access to public rights of way underground, on poles, or on wireless towers.

Moreover a company can’t compete with their tax assessor, permit-grantor, police force, etc. — no more than a citizen can “compete” with the powers of a policeman, prosecutor, and judge.

Third, a private company cannot compete with a municipality that can compel taxpayers to subsidize the municipality’s overbuild broadband network even if they don’t vote for it or sign up for it; or if they want to use a private company service. That’s not competition; that’s a rigged game.

Fourth, who thinks Government can deliver complex technology better than private companies?

Building and operating a broadband network is much more than digging trenches and laying fiber. It is a very complex and difficult systems integration and management endeavor to do competently, economically, and responsibly.

Moreover, Governments are well known to vastly underestimate the complexity and degree of difficulty in delivering successful systems integration.

Americans learned this lesson only too well last year when the HealthCare.gov website managers failed to anticipate that one needs to not only test individual systems, but also how all the different subsystems work or don’t work together – under most all circumstances.

Provisioning and operating advanced technology networks is a job for professional technologists and experienced systems integrators who have successfully done it before, not municipalities which have neither the core competency, nor the experience to do it.

Sadly, this is why so many municipalities have run up large broadband infrastructure debts that can’t be repaid. It is why they have failed in creating economically sustainable and operationally proficient broadband networks.

Fifth, municipalities building opposing networks create a predatory and hostile market environment that unnecessarily and unfairly chills much needed private capital investment to best serve consumers.

Lastly, what about all the obvious privacy and surveillance conflicts? Who thinks it is a good idea for the mayor or the police to have access to local voters’ emails and web surfing histories?

In short, municipalities building broadband networks are not “competition,” they effectively are Governmental opposition to the existence of private broadband networks.

In conclusion, the FCC should not attempt to preempt state muni-broadband laws because it would be both unconstitutional and anti-competitive.

Categories: On the Blog

Forget Economic Patriotism—It’s Time for Economic Freedom

Somewhat Reasonable - August 28, 2014, 12:12 PM

Political rhetoric in the United States, particularly on the right, has a strong tendency to focus on the incomparable economic freedom of Americans and American businesses. They portray the rest of the world as more socialistic and the American system as the closest thing to a free market economy operating in the world. Yet that is far from the truth. In fact, America is swiftly being supplanted as a preferred place of business by many other countries in the rich world.

The reason for America’s declining business attractiveness is a matter of simple economics: The US corporate tax rate is ruinously high, and the tax compliance system is mind-bogglingly byzantine. While the average corporate income tax in the OECD, a club of rich countries, is 25 percent, the US federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent. Add state corporate taxes on top of that and the average corporate tax rate in the United States comes out to a whopping 39.1 percent. Even the socialist playground of France has a tax rate of 34.4 percent. America’s bizarrely high corporate tax rates are largely the product of standing still in the face of changes in the global marketplace. European countries have long been skeptical of the free market, yet they have slowly adopted many market precepts over the past few decades. In order to maintain and expand high qualities of living, these countries had no choice but to embrace the market and make doing business easier. Their relatively small economies could not survive with high barriers to doing business in the face of growing emerging market competition.

America, on the other hand, has not faced those same pressures. Thanks to its size and centrality in the global economic system, the United States was able, throughout the Cold War and the two decades after its conclusion, to maintain a particular cachet that attracted businesses to its shores in spite of the erosion, and ultimate inversion, of its tax advantages. Business leaders were (and many still are) willing to pay the tax premium for being incorporated in America where they would be protected by its size, and would be able to trade principally in the dollar, which is still the world’s reserve currency (though for how much longer remains an open question). That willingness to put up with America’s tax regime is beginning to dissipate.

The American business climate is confronted with two market forces that threaten to tear it apart. On the one hand, the marketplace has become ever more choked with regulations which has made doing business harder every year. For example, American-based businesses could balance the relatively high taxes against a more fluid labor force. That advantage has been clogged up by red tape. On the other hand, the perks of being based in the United States have diminished in comparison to the rest of the world. As other countries have slashed corporate tax rates and made their labor forces more adaptable, America has marched resolutely in the opposite direction, toward greater state control of the economy.

America is finally starting to pay the price for its broken corporate tax regime. The recent increase in so-called tax inversions, in which American corporations seek lower tax rates via mergers with companies based in foreign countries. Tax inversions result in American firms effectively becoming foreign businesses, something many politicians on the left have come to fear and despise. At least 47 American tax inversions have occurred in the last decade, but it was not until this month that they started making serious headlines. When the American pharmaceutical firm Abbvie announced it would be taking over the Ireland-based Shire corporation in a $57 billion deal, major figures in the Obama administration and in Congress began to lash out at such corporate maneuvers. Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, wrote a letter to Congress arguing for “a new sense of economic patriotism, where we all rise and fall together.” Lew’s comments hold frightful echoes of the statists Ayn Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged, officials and bureaucrats who would shackle the productive power of individuals to what they perceive to be the “public good.”

Even Warren Buffett, erstwhile champion of Obama’s higher tax agenda, has gotten in on the inversion action. He is helping Burger King take over Canada’s Tim Horton’s, which will move the headquarters north of the border.

The answer to America’s problems is not more restrictions on businesses, or denying them the ability to leave the country. The answer is to transform the business environment so that companies want to come and stay in the United States. That is the only way to end the flight of firms from America’s shores. America is in dire need of economic freedom, not economic patriotism.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Comments on Gov. Jindal Suing Federal Government Over Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - August 27, 2014, 5:17 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit today in federal court that accuses the Obama administration of violating the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by illegally usurping state control over education policy. The federal government does this, the suit says, by awarding billions in federal grant money only to states that adopt Common Core education standards.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

“It’s about time a governor has stepped up to the plate to bat for his citizens instead of the federal government. It’s clear Gov. Jindal is looking at a presidential run in 2016, but it is also clear that his aspirations in that regard have keenly attuned his ears to what voters of all political persuasions are concerned about. And his lawsuit is right on the merits: In pushing, funding, and evaluating Common Core and its tests, the federal government has stepped right into nearly every American child’s classroom. This is both illegal and a bad idea, and polls show most Americans agree.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow,
Education
The Heartland Institute
jpullmann@heartland.org

“Like everything Gov. Jindal has said about Common Core since he began to oppose it, this is going to be viewed as a political ploy being used to win points in the event that he runs for president. But I’ve spoken to several parents in recent months who believe that Jindal’s change of heart regarding Common Core is genuine.

“The reason they believe that, and can accept that as a possibility, is because they have had the same change of heart themselves. Not all parents who are questioning Common Core started out against the standards. As time has gone on, some have come to learn what the standards will mean. They fear teachers being forced to teach students only one way of doing things under the guise of teaching better critical thinking skills – and, of course, not all children learn the same way. They have learned that not all their children’s teachers feel ready to teach these standards. They have learned that they can’t help their children with their homework because they do not understand it.

“Meanwhile, states are finding how hard it is to get out of Common Core once you sign up. Even states that leave are struggling to come up with replacement standards as quickly as they are required to, and the saga is going to continue in Louisiana. Everyone will continue to sue everyone regarding Common Core, and there is no way to tell whether the state education board and Jindal’s hand-picked education superintendent, John White, who continue to support the standards, or Jindal, who has changed his opinion on the matter, will prevail.

“That said, I do not think Jindal will win this lawsuit. Here’s why: Jindal is suing the U.S. Department of Education for violating federal law and the 10th Amendment of the Constitution by essentially forcing states into Common Core through the Race to the Top program. The suit alleges that states had to, ‘enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally-sponsored “consortia.” ’ But the federal Race to the Top program was voluntary. Forty states were awarded millions of dollars to make voluntary, not compulsory, changes to education policy, including adopting Common Core.

“Only a handful of states opted not to accept that federal money. The argument can be made that states and officials did not know what they were getting themselves into, and I think that is a fair point. I just don’t believe the courts will be convinced and compelled enough to care. It doesn’t matter how right Jindal may be about Common Core; this lawsuit does not seem to be the best tactic, though it seems to prove the point that he is willing to use any means necessary to win this fight.”

Heather Kays
Research Fellow,
The Heartland Institute Managing Editor,
School Reform News
hkays@heartland.org

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

Enter Here to Win School Choice Weekly’s Anniversary Prizes!

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2014, 8:48 PM

No, this isn’t a missive from Nigerian scam artist. Next week is School Choice Weekly’s first anniversary, and to celebrate, we’re handing out prizes for readers who share our free weekly education e-newsletter with friends you think would be interested in a weekly education news roundup from a pro-liberty perspective.

The prizes: A pair of tickets to Heartland’s benefit dinner on September 12, 2014, featuring columnist Michelle Malkin; and two copies of the new book, Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn (And Why Teachers Don’t Use Them Well), by Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg.

How to enter? We’re running the competition on the honor system. There are two ways to enter. For the first, email the SCW email or this entire post to five friends. They can subscribe, completely free, by entering their email address and checking the “School Choice Weekly” box at this link. After you forward, register that you’ve done so by commenting on this blog post. Just leave a comment. It can say anything (okay, keep it G-rated), but make sure to include your email address in the commenter box, or we cannot contact those who win.

In two weeks, SCW will use a random number generator to pick three numbers among the number of comments on the post. The three winning numbers will be matched to their corresponding comment numbers, and SCW will email the winners to get their mailing addresses for prize shipping.

Wait! It gets better. Here’s the second entry method, perhaps more appropriate to this blog post. If you post the subscribe link, with an explanatory message, on your Facebook profile, you may post two comments on the entry page, for two chances to win. Sample Facebook message: “Interested in liberty-loving education news, and having someone else sift and deliver it to your email each week, free? Join me in subscribing to School Choice Weekly.”

Okay, sales pitch out. Get forwarding and posting, then comment to enter our drawing!

Categories: On the Blog

Forbes/Ames Talk Monetary Wisdom and Common Sense

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2014, 3:20 PM

One-hundred-twenty fellow lovers of liberty signed up to attend an evening with Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames at the historic Union League Club in Chicago on Wednesday, August 13, for a special edition of The Heartland Institute’s Author Series to hear Forbes and Ames discuss their new book, “Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy, and What We Can Do About It.”

Steve Forbes is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller “Power Ambition Glory” and the Wall Street Journal bestseller “How Capitalism Will Save Us.” He is also Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. In 1998 Steve Forbes was a Republican candidate for president.

Elizabeth Ames is a communications executive, and has written two previous books with Steve Forbes, “How Capitalism Will Save Us” and “Freedom Manifesto.”

What prompted the Forbes/Ames book collaboration?

The intent of the authors is to covey that money is a simple, basic subject that all can understand.  Much education is needed on the subject, which becomes apparent when individuals respond in many different ways when questioned about money.  Even among intelligent, self-confident and very capable people, the subject of money is often beyond their comprehension.  Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames are counting on those who take the time to read their book to become better versed about money than most people are today in the highest government positions.

Introduction of Ames and Forbes  

Joe Bast, president and CEO of The Heartland Institute (visit Heartland’s Web site), described the purpose of Heartland for those in attendance who were unfamiliar with the Chicago-based free market think tank “as a 29-year-old Chicago based think tank promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, and free markets.”  In remarks prior to introducing Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames, Mr. Bast spoke of four public policy areas of utmost importance which pose immediate challenges to this nation’s prosperity:

1) Out-of-control government spending at the national, state, municipal, and local levels of government, with special emphasis on the City of Chicago;

2) Obamacare, with its extensive regulations and control over the healthcare system;

3)  Common Core, a curriculum not created by the states and which does not prepare students for college, but instead represents a politicized curriculum imposed upon the states, sight unseen, via Obama’s Race to the Top program, sight unseen, which shamefully teaches a distorted history of this nation. This article by Stanley Kurtz, published July 10, 2014, presents a shocking account of the new history standards under Common Core  “New War Over High School U.S. History” .

4) Global Warming, which 10 years ago became of prime interest to The Heartland Institute   For as mentioned by Joe Bast, the issue was too important for conservatives and libertarians not to touch just because they were not scientists. Since its involvement with Global Warming, The Heartland Institute has produced many reports that counter the reports put out by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change), which show the inaccuracies of climate models used by the IPCC, and further expose contradictions made through observation.  With China and India not willing to reduce their CO2 levels, might the U.S. be expected to reduce her CO2 levels by 120% so world standards can be met?  An unrealistic goal, indeed, and one that would raise the cost of all purchased goods, destroy this nation’s economy, and give the government power of control over everything.

Forbes and Ames in agreement over a stable monetary system and the gold standard

Both Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames agree that stable money is the only way to a true recovery and a stable and prosperous economy.  In shopping for groceries, noticeable is that the cost of meat, coffee, cocoa and other essentials are reaching record high.  For this Forbes and Ames lay blame at the feet of Federal Reserve Chairman, Janet Yellen, for believing that a little inflation is harmless and even a good thing.  Ms. Yellen, along with others of the Washington establishment, view price increases as mere background noise against an economy that is on the road to recovery.  As Forbes remarked, “The Fed hasn’t learned anything.”  According to Steve Forbes, Yellen seems not to recognize how reckless sending over decades have given way today to this nation’s unstable, ever-weakening dollar. Instead of experiencing a recovery that the American people can believe in, the Obama/Bernanke/Yellen Federal Reserve and its unstable dollar policies have resulted in what is a feeble recovery at best, and perhaps the start of hyperinflation brought on by the Fed’s historic money printing via quantitative easing. Regarding Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearing and her remark that more inflation is needed to stimulate the economy, Steve Forbe’s expressed astonishment that not one senator asked Yellen how asking taxpayers to pay $1,000 more or so a year for goods and services through inflated money would stimulate the economy!

An article written by Ralph Banko at the time the U. S. Senate was moving toward the confirmation of Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve System, reflects on what John Maynard Keynes and Nicolas Copernicus had to say about social order and government when money is debased. Further shared are Lenin’s view on the practice of debasing money(of lowering the value of currency.).

The best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, buy they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Another area of expressed agreement by Forbes and Ames is in their belief that a true recovery and a prosperous economy can only be achieved through the gold standard as a measure of value.  Why gold?  Because gold keeps its value better than anything else.  Nevertheless, Forbes recommends against investing more than 5% to 10% in gold and then only for the purpose of serving as monetary policy insurance.

This nation’s monetary system based on fixed exchange rates ended in the 1970s, when under Nixon this county went off the gold standard to today’s system of fluctuating “fiat” money. This move has proved disastrous for the U.S. and the global economy.

In the more than four decades since abandoning the gold standard, the U.S. dollar has dramatically declined in value. Furthermore, U.S. economic growth has been below historic standards.  According to Forbes the housing meltdown and the turmoil that followed would never have occurred with stable money.

Summary of Elizabeth Ames’ remarks

Ms. Ames based her remarks on Chapter 5 of her collaboration with Steve Forbes: Money and Morality: How Debasing Money Debases Society. According to Ames, the malaise created by unstable money afflicts not only the economy but all of society.  In addition to being a yardstick of value, money is a vital facilitator of social trust in that it expresses the priorities of a society.  When money is unstable it acts as a catalyst for disorder. Monetary debasement to the extreme happened under Hitler when money became almost worthless.  Ames attributes the destruction of money as a key reason for the recent rise of political polarization and unrest in this nation.

Ms. Ames compared unstable money to Carbon Dioxide.  Both are ordorless and colorless.  Weak money helped to create the foreclosure crisis (housing bubble) of 2010 and likewise triggered the depression of 2008.  Ames emphasized the importance of trust existing in a monetary system. When money is corrupted unrest develops from a lack of trust between effort put forth and just reward.  According to Elizabeth Ames, a loss of trust in the monetary system was a factor in destroying McCain’s 2008 candidacy for president. During the foreclosure crisis a definite shift in attitude was noted by Ames when instead of trying to make good on a debt, it was not considered immoral to simply walk away. With an unstable dollar, there is more of both corruption and crime. While the media is focusing on the social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, it is folly to ignore the community’s poor economic conditions as a contributing factor.  For without an education, a job, and a bleak future, individuals are prone to exploit situations and turn to criminal activities for personal gain.

Summary of Steve Forbes’ remarks

It was touch and go whether Steve Forbes would be able to arrive in time to fulfill his speaking engagement, having experienced a delay in his flight to O’Hare.  Fortunately for all, Forbes arrived at the Union League Club as Elizabeth Ames was finishing up with her remark.

Needing little introduction, Steve Forbes advanced to the podium and immediately plunged into the topic at hand, that of money, cautioning that if the money issue isn’t handled properly in an economy nothing else ultimately matters. The result will be an economy that is undermined.  As related by Forbes, wealth is created through conducting transactions with one another. It is money that makes transactions possible and easy to do, in contrast to when bartering was used to acquire goods and services.  But money in itself is not wealth.  Wealth is created by people engaging in transactions with one another. It is the use of money that enables individuals to figure out what something is worth.  Accordingly,money works best when it has a fixed value.  If the value of money is not known risk goes up, bringing with it economic chaos.  Consider what occurred in the 1970′s when people poured money into oil and farmland wrongly believing that increases in price must mean there was a shortage of both which necessitated increasing supply. When the price of oil and farmland crashed, however, prior investments made in farmland and oil went south.  Even though oil and farm land have both increased in value during the last decade, how much of the added value is real and how much is inflation?

As to why this nation must get back to pegging our currency to gold standard, Forbes used familiar measurements of time and distance to explain the devastating and disrupting consequences of a constantly declining in value of an inflationary “fiat” monetary system.  Currency to work is like having sixty minutes in an hour or 12 inches in a foot.  These are fixed value so when you make an exchange, do a trade, or buy and sell, it is known what each party is receiving.   Forbes further noted that nothing over thousands of years has kept its value as well as gold. Investors need to know that they are not going to be left with devalued dollars.

Asserted by Forbes is that had Nixon not completely unpegged the dollar from the price of gold in 1971, and had this nation maintained the growth rates that she had experienced for the previous 180 years before the dollar was unpegged — despite boom times, depressions, and everything else — the size of the economy today would be 50% larger than it now is

With tongue firmly implanted in cheek, Forbes remarked that if we returned to the gold standard, one-world socialist currency manipulator George Soros “would have to find another line of work.”

When questioned about the future of Bitcoin, Forbes described it as a high tech cry for help in response to the unstable dollar, further remarking that Bitcoin is still in its infancy and has not yet been able to achieve stability so it is trusted.

Past and Present

Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames were with Heartland at the Union League Club in November, 2012, to talk about their book collaboration “Freedom Manifesto.” Listen to Forbes’ talk about the book in this video.

Save the date of Friday, September 12, 2014, to attend The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner with Michelle Malkin as Keynote Speaker.  For more informationvisit Heartland’s Web site or call 312/377-4000.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Reveiw]

Categories: On the Blog

U.S. Government Releases Predators Against its Own People

Somewhat Reasonable - August 26, 2014, 11:57 AM

Many times the sound of howling and yelping coyotes awake me from a sound and cozy slumber. I sit bolt upright in my bed as my sleep-filled brain tries to calculate where my critters are and whether or not they are safe. The dogs on the floor beside me, the cat on the foot of the bed, I roll over and go back to sleep.

In the years that I’ve lived in the mountains outside Albuquerque, I’ve lost three cats and three ducks to coyotes. I know they are natural predators and if my pets are outside, there is a chance they’ll fall prey. I hear the coyotes, but I hardly see them. They don’t generally come close to humans. They are after the squirrels and rabbits—and an occasional cat or duck.

But that could all change due to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plan to expand the area for the Mexican grey wolf reintroduction. The current plan calls for virtually all the southern half of New Mexico to become wolf habitat—but wolf advocates at a hearing about the plan, held in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, on Wednesday, August 13, repeatedly declared that Southern New Mexico wasn’t enough. They want the wolf introduced north of I-40—which would include Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Some called for wolves to be released in the Grand Canyon and the Four Corners area.

Wolves are master predators—and they are enemies of coyotes. Wolves attack bigger prey: deer and elk, horses and cattle—but are known to carry off a dog or cat as well. The wolves that are a part of the reintroduction program are not afraid of people and will come right up to a house if they are hungry.

Supporters of the expanded plan, plead for people to “open their eyes and hearts to wolves, to remove boundaries.” One claimed: “The big bad wolf isn’t so bad after all,” and added, “there’s no proof a wolf has ever harmed a human.”  “Wolves are demonized” and “wolves don’t hurt humans” were reoccurring themes throughout the evening hearing—where 70 people spoke (48 for the expanded plan, 22 against). Not everyone who wanted to be heard was given the opportunity. The hearing was conducted with precision—cutting people off midsentence at the two-minute mark—and ended promptly at 9:00PM.

Most of the 22 against the plan live in the areas already impacted by the current wolf reintroduction—the Gila National Forest on the New Mexico/Arizona border.

One woman told of growing up on her family’s ranch. She remembers being able to play by the stream without fear. But now, with wolves around, it is a different story for her grandchildren. They came to visit one day. They brought their new puppy. As they bounded out of the car, toward the house, two wolves emerged from the creek and snatched the puppy as the shocked children helplessly watched. They are now afraid to go to grandma’s house. They have nightmares.

Another told how she felt when a wolf was spotted less than 35 feet from her children. Her husband was away. She grabbed the children and, along with the dogs, stayed locked in the house—only to see the wolf on the front porch with its nose pressed against the window pane. She has reported on the incident: “Throughout the evening my border collie whimpered at the front door, aggressively trying to get out. Both dogs paced on high alert all night.” The next day wolf tracks were found all around the house—including the children’s play yard. The wolf was euthanized on private property within 150 yards of the house. She concludes her story: “It’s difficult to describe the terror of a predator so fearless and eager to get into my home.”

Others told similar stories. Children, waiting for the school bus, have to be caged to be protected from the wolves. Nine ranches in the current habitat area along the New Mexico/Arizona border, have been sold due to wolf predation—too many cattle are killed and ranchers are forced off the land.

Had I been allowed to speak—and I did sign up, I would have addressed the lunacy of the plan. After huge amounts of effort and resources have been invested to save the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken in and around the oil patch of southeastern New Mexico, they now want to introduce a master predator that will gobble up the other endangered species? After all, as many proponents pointed out, “wolves don’t have maps.” They don’t stay within the boundaries on the FWS maps, they go where the food is—just ask the families living in the current range.

As I listened to the presenters, I wondered: “Why do they do this?” People and their property need to be protected. Instead, supporters whined that capturing wolves and moving them away from communities “traumatizes” them. What about the harm to humans; the traumatized children? Does human blood need to be shed to consider that they have been harmed?

Perhaps the answer to “why?” came from one wolf supporter who opened with this: “I am from New York. I don’t know anything about ranching or wolves.” And then added: “Ranching will be outdated in 10-15 years. We can’t keep eating meat.”

State Senator Bill Soules, from Las Cruces, supports the new, expanded plan. He said: “I’ve had many people contact me wanting wolves protected. I’ve had no one contact me with the opposing view”—perhaps that is because neither phone number listed on his New Mexico Legislature webpage takes you to a person or voicemail.

Calls to our elected officials do matter. Contact yours and tell him/her that you want people protected, that humans shouldn’t be harmed by an expanded wolf reintroduction territory.

I wrote a short version of my experience at the hearing for the Albuquerque Journal because I wanted people there to be aware of the plan to introduce wolves into close proximity to the Albuquerque area. Myop-ed in the local paper generated a vitriolic dialogue on the website—with more than 90 comments at the time of this writing. Many said things like this one, supposedly from a woman in Concord, New Hampshire: “If you don’t like it move to the city it is their home and you moved into it so either deal with it and stop your whining or move back to the city.” Yeah, that will work really well for the ranchers who earn their living and feed America by raising livestock.

This story is about New Mexico, Arizona and the Mexican grey wolf. But similar stories can easily be found in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana where the Canadian grey wolf was reintroduced nearly two decades ago. The wolf population has grown so rapidly that they have been known to aggressively kill livestock and cause millions of dollars of loss to ranching families—with the Idaho record being 176 sheep killed in one night. In Wyoming, the Wolf has been removed from the endangered species list and ranchers can now kill the wolf and protect their herds without fear of punishment from our government. Even the U.S. FWS is removing and euthanizing the wolves that were intentionally introduced into the region. As recently as August 21, 2014, wolves are wreaking havoc, killing sheep just 50 miles outside of Spokane, Washington—where the U.S. FWS has authorized a rancher to kill the wolves and, much to the dismay of environmental groups, state wildlife agents are killing wolves to protect people and property.

Environmental groups have been pushing to bring the wolf back to Colorado through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

While the public hearing regarding the expanded introduction of the Mexican Grey Wolf is over, the U.S. FWS is accepting written comments on the proposed revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf through September 23. Please add to the discussion—though they don’t make it easy as to be accepted, comments must be substantive, related to the proposed alternatives, or scientifically valid, and something not yet considered.

People shouldn’t lie awake in fear for their families and property because our own government introduces a predator amongst us.

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Taxpayers, Beware – of Big Wind’s Latest Deceitful Ad Campaign

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2014, 1:45 PM

If you watch much mainstream TV, you’ve probably seen Siemens’ new multi-million-dollaradvertising blitz  to sell the American public on industrial wind. Why the sudden ad onslaught?

The wind business abroad has taken a huge hit of late. European countries have begun slashing renewable mandates, due to the ever-broadening realization that renewables cost far more than industrial wind proponents have led people to believe: economicallyenvironmentallytechnically, and civilly.

Siemens’ energy business took a €48m hit in the second quarter due to a bearings issue with onshore turbines, and a €23m charge due to ongoing offshore grid issues in Germany – on top of subsidy and feed-in tariff cutbacks, recent articles have pointed out.

As Siemens’ tax-sheltering market dries up in Europe, its U.S. marketing efforts are clearly geared toward increasing its income and profits via wind’s tax sheltering schemes in the United States. The company stands to make millions, so Siemens ad campaign is obviously part of an overall pitch to persuade Congress to extend the hefty wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), more accurately called“Pork-To-Cronies.” As Warren Buffett recently admitted, “We get tax credits if we build lots of wind farms.  That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Taxpayers and ratepayers, beware!

President Obama often says he intends to “close corporate loopholes,” but his PTC and other policies continue funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to his wealthy corporate insiders and campaign contributors – while we continue to rack up unconscionable debt for our children and grandchildren.

Increasing public awareness of the wind energy scam has led to increased opposition to extendingany more corporate welfare to Big Wind via the PTC and energy investment tax credit (ITC). Enter another bureaucratic end-run around once clear statutory language by this Administration.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the increasingly politicized IRS recently relaxed the definition of “commence construction” to the point where the definition bears no resemblance to the actual words.  During a hearing by the House Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements subcommittee last October, Curtis G. Wilson of the IRS admitted that developers can now game the system to the point where projects built years in the future could still meet the eligibility requirement for “commence” now.

U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers are doomed when, instead of allowing the markets to work, crony-corruptocrats are picking the winners and losers in the energy marketplace, using such nefarious tactics.

Sadly, most people don’t even know the difference between energy and power. This reality has built the framework for the biggest swindle ever perpetrated on citizens worldwide.  Many have bought into the alarmist argument that “we have to do something” to stop “dangerous manmade global warming.” Enter the wind industry sales department, primed to capitalize on public fears and alarmist hype.

Siemens also needs to convince the 80% of U.S. citizens who live in suburbia that industrial wind factories are “environment-friendly,” and everyone loves them. Thus, as usual for these disingenuous ad campaigns, a sprawling wind facility is pictured among green fields, with no homes anywhere to be seen, no birds are being slaughtered, while a happy Iowa leaseholder smiles and says she loves wind.

A drive out Route 20A in Wyoming County, western New York State, however, tells a far different story. The western side of Wyoming County – which used to be some of the most beautiful countryside in New York State, has been industrialized with 308 giant, 430-foot-tall towers, and their 11-ton, bird-chopping blades spinning overhead, only hundreds of feet from peoples’ homes and roadways. There’s no doubt that Siemens won’t be showing you this reality in any of their TV ads!

Unfortunately for the residents of Orangeville in Wyoming County, greed at the top in Washington, DC determined their fate. The sole reason Invenergy went ahead with its plan to build its 58-turbine project was that, in the early morning hours of January 1, 2013, the PTC was added as pork for companies sucking at the wind welfare teat.

Ever appreciative of the handouts, Invenergy owner Ukrainian Michael Polsky rewarded President Obama by holding a $35,000 a plate fundraiser at his Chicago mansion. Mr. Obama is so committed to Big Wind that he’s even legalized 30-year eagle kill permits just for the wind industry. Anyone else harming an eagle, or even possessing a single bald eagle feather, is penalized with an iron fist.

There you have it – corporate cronyism in all its glory, with bird murder as its crowning achievement.

Word of impending lawsuits lingers in Orangeville. It remains to be seen if disenchanted leaseholders will end up suing Big Wind, as others have. In the meantime, we’re hoping we don’t have any 11-ton blade breaks that throw shrapnel for thousands of feet, or any airplanes crashing into wind turbines during fog, as occurred in South Dakota earlier this year, killing all four on board. (I’ll bet you won’t be seeing any of these facts in Siemens’ ads, either.)

Our elected officials need energy literacy. Even a small dose would help.

What’s most frustrating, when attempting any kind of correspondence regarding these energy issues with many elected officials, is the kind of response I received from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  when I wrote him a letter about ending the Wind PTC. Senator Schumer never even mentioned the PTC in his response. Instead, he rambled on about the need to “reduce foreign oil imports,” and increase “efficiency” – neither of which has a thing to do with wind-generated electricity.

Mr. Schumer recently feigned alarm following complaints by citizens about soaring electric rates – demanding answers about it, while simultaneously supporting yet another Wind PTC extension (plus other rate-increasing “renewable” projects). Senator Schumer’s hypocrisy is outrageous, and unacceptable.

Perhaps it’s time for U.S. ratepayers and taxpayers to demand that their elected officials first pass an energy literacy exam, before they pass such cost-exorbitant, “green” boondoggles on to consumers.

Congress is on vacation through Labor Day, which makes this the perfect time to approach your senators and representatives while they’re home.  Attend town hall meetings and in-district fundraisers. Remind your representatives that we put them in office, and that we can also vote them out!

Since energy plays a pivotal role in our national economy – impacting the cost of absolutely everything else – candidates should have “energy” listed on their “issues” webpage.

Good candidates will support an All of the Sensible” energy policy, as opposed to the “All of the Above” energy policy which President Obama has been pushing on behalf of the “green” movement. “Sensible” alternative energy options are those that are backed up by scientific and economic proof that they provide net societal benefits. Industrial wind fails this test miserably!

For more information, refer friends and elected officials to Robert Bryce’s excellent book, Power Hungry: The myths of “green” energy and the real fuels of the future.

Continue to call and write their offices, and encourage them to oppose any extension of the PTC and ITC! Write letters to your local newspapers, copy their district offices, and post information on their social media pages (e.g., Face Book & Twitter).

We must demand accountability from elected officials, or vote them out! Reliable, affordable energy is what has made America great. We need to keep it that way.

Categories: On the Blog
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