After three decades of being the nation’s leader in taxpayers’ rights defense and IRS abuse, prevention, and cure, Dan Pillas can rightly claim the mantle as one of this country’s premiere experts in IRS procedures. He has helped countless thousands of citizens solve personal and business tax problems they thought might never be solved.
Mr. Pilla is author of eleven books, dozens of research reports, and hundreds of articles. His work is regularly featured on radio and television as well as in major newspapers, leading magazines and trade publications nation-wide. The Wall Street Journal ranked Pilla’s book, The IRS Problem Solver, as the number one tax book in America. As a consultant to the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, Pillas presented testimony to Congress on several occasions and has been admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court.
Pilla’s association with The Heartland Institute began twenty years ago after writing How to Fire the IRS. Published in 1994, the book sets out the premise that despite a doubling of its budget over the past 10 years and a nearly 20 percent increase in enforcement personnel, the IRS is increasingly incapable of administering and enforcing the nations tax law. Pilla is listed under Heartland experts as a taxpayers’ rights advocate and head of TaxHelpOnline.com.
Standing by itself, Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy is one in a series of eight other brief guides in Heartland’s Legislative Principles Series, each having its own set of principles central to its topic of debate. Collectively they represent nine major public policy issues, i.e.: Chaper 1, 10 Principles of School Choice.
All nine booklets in Heartland’s Legislative Principles Series can be downloaded for free from the Heartland Institute’s Web site . Print copies are also available for a cost and can be ordered online at www.heartland.org or call 312-377-4000.
Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy has been rolled into Chapter 9 of The Patriot Tool Box, an indispensable guide to public policy for those concerned about the direction of their nation. Although published in 2010 by The Heartland Institute, it is just as relevant today. Its 10 chapters address important public policy issues not unlike those facing our nation today.
Although the ten principles outlined in Pilla’s federal tax policy booklet might be applied to any tax system and at all levels of government, it is income taxes that are more likely to violate the tax system as this tax collects by far the most revenue and affects the most people in the U.S.
Most fitting is this reference noted on Page 2 of Pilla’s Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy: Of all the powers conferred upon government that of taxation is most liable to abuse. Supreme Court of the United States, Citizens’ Savings & Loan Ass’n v. City of Topeka, 87 U.S. 655 (1874)
After being introduced by Joe Bast, President and CEO of Heartland, Dan Pilla, with energy and enthusiasm, elaborated on 7 of the 10 principle noted in his Ten Principles of Federal Tax Policy.
It was in 1992, upon realizing that the federal tax policy needed to be fixed which bespoke of an alternate tax system, that Dan Pilla’s thoughts turned to writing a book. How to Fire the IRS was published in 1993.
Contemplated by Pilla back in 1992 was how a new kind of tax policy was needed that embraced liberty. The present Federal Income Tax, a graduated income tax system, increases the tax rate as the taxable base amount increases. Historically, Congress enacted the nation’s first income tax law in 1862 in order to support the Civil War effort. it was the forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated (or progressive) taxation and on withholding income at the source
Continuing in his presentation, Mr. Pilla expounded upon the importance of why income taxes represent an important policy issue. Because, as Pilla indicated, its consequences affect every aspect of everybody’s life. The Founders never meant for the federal government to have so much control and presence in the lives of the American people, having rejected an income tax even though money was needed to sustain the fledgling republic.
Part 2: Daniel Pilla’s Principles of Federal Tax Policy are discussed, which point to his preferred tax, the Sales Tax, with a further discussion about changing the present tax code.
No, not Washington, D.C., or even Washington State (although the Seattle Seahawks did extend their NFL-best record to 10-1 with a 41-20 pasting of the Minnesota Vikings), but Washington, Illinois, a town of about 15,000 people, nestled just east of Peoria and a bit northeast of Pekin, Illinois, former home to the unfortunately-named “Chinks.”
Roughly mid-day on Sunday, November 17, an EF-4 tornado tore through the town of Washington, Illinois, killing one person, injuring another 120, and damaging or destroying between 250 and 500 homes and other buildings. Winds estimated at up to 170 to 190 miles per hour reportedly scattered identifiable paper debris as far as the southwest Chicago suburbs, roughly 130 miles away. While football fans in Chicago were forced to evacuate their Soldier Field seats for two hours in a storm-delayed game that the Bears eventually won in overtime over the defending Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, plenty of people in Washington have no homes to which to return.
Yet there was only limited looting and no rioting, and as of yet there have been no reported rapes, no murders, no defecating in the hallways of shelters, no leaving handicapped people to die unattended. Instead, unlike in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the City of New Orleans, citizens actually helped one another out. WLS-TV out of Chicago, for example, reported that a local grocery store helped keep customers and workers safe from harm by sheltering them in a freezer during the worst of the storm.
The Illinois National Guard has since dispatched 10 firefighters to Washington to search debris for any additional dead, and Illinois Governor Quinn has declared Tazewell and six surrounding counties disaster areas, but the President has yet to give a speech about it and FEMA (thankfully) does not appear to have moved in to start handing out trailer homes. (The White House did issue a statement saying that President Obama had been briefed about the damage and was in touch with federal, state, and local officials.)
Why the difference? Could it be that people who have learned to rely on themselves instead of their government are better equipped to deal with natural disasters and adversity when they occur? Isn’t there a lesson here somewhere?
In a Wall Street Journal commentary on November 11, Alan Blinder purports to tell us why, despite a “botched roll out,” Obamacare is still worth it. “America cannot be a humane society if we leave 15% of our population uninsured,” he explains.
I agree that America cannot be a humane society unless we have some means to assure health care for all. But in context, his quoted statement above could not be more silly, and intellectually embarrassing.
Alan, is Princeton so intellectually corrupt these days that no one there has noticed that the effect of Obamacare so far has been to increase the number of uninsured by millions and millions of Americans?
CBO estimates that Obamacare would still leave 30 million Americans uninsured 10 years after implementation! Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute estimates in a commentary published by Forbes that close to 100 million Americans will lose their health insurance under Obamacare. Roy explains that this is based on estimates published by the Obama Administration in the Federal Register in 2010.
Many more Americans than that heard President Obama promise the American people over and over that under Obamacare, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” It is no answer to say that millions and millions of Americans now losing their health insurance does not violate the President’s promise, because the President thinks their insurance was no damn good. That amends Obama’s promise to “If I like your health plan, you can keep it.”
Edie Littlefield Sundby had a health insurance plan that spent $1.2 million on health care for her stage 4 gall bladder cancer. That plan included first rate doctors from her hometown of San Diego, to Stanford University’s Cancer Institute, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, that kept her alive for 7 years. But that plan was cancelled under Obamacare, forcing her insurer United Healthcare out of California altogether. Was that plan no damn good?
Now Sundby and her health insurance consultants cannot find another plan in the highly touted California Obamacare Exchange that includes those same doctors, at any price. And down goes another Obamacare promise, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?”
What should be brutally obvious even to Princeton economics professors and “progressive” political activists is that Obamacare is not a way to achieve their goal of universal coverage. So down goes the central promise of Obamacare to the “progressive Left. Is the appropriate greeting to them today, “good morning, suckers?”
What Obamacare really does is massively increase government power and control over health care, sharply increasing government spending, taxes and regulation. Assuming that the Ivy League professors designing Obamacare knew what they were doing, that must have been what was really important to them after all. The real reason for that is they, along with the President, suffer the “progressive” fatal conceit that they know what is best for everyone. Or in Michelle Obama’s revealing words, how the world should be instead of how it is. So increasing government power and control is what is really important, so then they can remake the world as it should be, rather than as it is. Universal coverage is just the story they tell to the “useful idiots,” to provide the cover for what they are really after – more power.
Do you see now what I mean in calling President Obama’s rhetorical strategy “Calculated Deception?”
Of course, let us not forget that candidate Obama campaigned for years promising that Obamacare would reduce the cost of family health insurance by an average of $2,500 a year. But instead of going down, the cost of health insurance has shot up. More Calculated Deception? How could anyone think that mandating slews of additional benefits that health insurance would have to provide, in addition to requiring insurers to issue new coverage to everyone at standard rates no matter how sick and costly when they first applied, would do anything but raise the cost of health insurance sharply?
So we started with the individual mandate and the employer mandate, forcing both individuals and employers to buy the health insurance that the government says they must have (because after all, the “progressives” that run the government know best how the world should be”). Now as a solution to the problem of millions of Americans, like Edie Littlefield Sundby, losing the health care plan they like under Obamacare after all, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is promoting a bill gaining increasing favor in the Democrat controlled Senate to force the insurance companies to continue to sell those plans. And now circulating among Democrats in the states is a proposal toforce all doctors to serve all patients under Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare coverage, whether the doctors want to or not. After all, when you know better than anybody how the world should be, you should be entitled to rule, shouldn’t you? That is what the Communists thought, which they thought entitled them to impose compulsion on everybody, so the world would be as it should be.
None of this compulsion, increased costs, increased taxes, spending and regulation, is necessary to achieve the moral goal of assuring health care for all. Rather, that can be achieved instead through reduced taxes, spending, and regulation.
Here is the reform plan to repeal AND REPLACE Obamacare that the Republicans should have long ago drafted, introduced and passed through the House of Representatives. Expand the tax preference now provided to employer provided health insurance to everyone through a universal, refundable tax credit for the purchase of health insurance equal roughly to $2,500 per person, $8,000 per family. That would offer the same equal tax benefit to everyone.
The tax credit is not intended to pay for the entire cost of health insurance, just to help pay for it, just as the tax benefit for employer provided health insurance does not pay for the entire cost of that insurance, but just helps to pay for it. Employers would continue to be able to deduct the cost of health insurance, just as they deduct all other employee compensation. But employers who already provide health insurance today could choose between the current tax exclusion for their workers, or the new tax credits. (Those would be equivalent tax benefits to the worker either way). That would ease the transition to the new credits, and avoid the loss of any current coverage.
Workers would be free to use the credit to purchase the health insurance they each choose, including Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). There would be no mandate forcing the worker to buy the health insurance the government chooses for them. But if a worker did not use the credit to buy any health insurance at all, that would effectively be a penalty for failing to get insurance, in terms of the opportunity cost of foregoing the $2,500 offered by the credit. If a worker does not use credit to buy health insurance, the credit amount is provided through a block grant to local indigent care facilities that provide health care to the poor and uninsured in the local area where the worker resides.
The insurance purchased by the worker with the credit would belong to the worker, not the employer, and so would be fully portable, following the worker to any job he may choose. Each worker would be free to decide to use the tax credit to purchase another health insurance plan other than the one provided by their employer, if they preferred, including Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). Once a health insurance plan is purchased, it would be assured of guaranteed renewability, as long as the premiums continued to be paid (and no one’s premiums could be increased higher than for those in the same initial risk class). That has already long been required by current law, indeed going back to the common law, because guaranteed renewability protecting against the costs of getting sick is what health insurance contracts promise to do.
Workers would also be free to choose to use the tax credit to opt into Medicaid if they desired. But anyone on Medicaid would be free to choose the tax credit to opt out of Medicaid if they desired as well. That would enormously benefit the poor, who can’t get timely, adequate care on Medicaid, because it pays so little to the doctors and hospitals that provide the care.
This alone would assure universal health care for all (which again Obamacare fails to do), because everyone would get the credit, and anyone could use it to opt into Medicaid, which is how most of the uninsured that do get health coverage under Obamacare get that coverage. This alone would also fully address the issue of pre-existing conditions for the uninsured, because anyone with such a condition that could not get market health insurance as a result could get fully covered under Medicaid. Libertarians note, if the government offered everyone a tax credit they could use to opt of Social Security, we would embrace it in a heartbeat, even if they could also use it to opt into Social Security. Note also the value of fully winning the argument over Obamacare.
The reform plan includes as well providing the federal financing for Medicaid to the states through fixed, finite block grants every year, just as was done so successfully for the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the 1996 welfare reforms. The states would then be free to reform their respective Medicaid programs to best serve the poor in their state. The states would be urged to do that by providing vouchers to the poor that they could each use to buy the private health insurance of their choice, on top of the universal tax credit, including again Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). This would again enormously benefit the poor, because they would enjoy better access to health care with private health insurance than with Medicaid. States would also be free to use part of the Medicaid block grant funds for Uninsurable Risk Pools that would assure coverage to all the uninsured who could not buy health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Those covered would be charged a premium based on ability to pay, to assure that the risk pool could serve a safety net function. Remaining costs would then be covered by the public funds provided to the pools.
Consumer choice and competition would help to reduce costs. Health Savings Accounts, which have proven to reduce costs through market incentives, would be available to all, which would further assure reduced cost growth. The reform plan would include the interstate sale of health insurance, to further increase cost reducing competition. Medical malpractice reform would also help to reduce costs. So the plan would provide effective cost control, unlike Obamacare, which only works to increase costs.
But the health plan would also assure universal health care for all, again unlike Obamacare, through multiple layers of safety nets. Everyone gets the universal tax credit, and everyone would be free to use it to buy into Medicaid in any event. High Risk Pools would further assure coverage to the uninsured in any event. For those who do not exercise the tax credit, the credit amount is provided to local indigent care facilities to provide health care for the poor and uninsured.
The end net result is universal health care for all, with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, a net $1 trillion tax cut, $2 trillion dollar spending cut, and vastly reduced regulatory costs and burdens (because of the repeal of Obamacare, and the Medicaid block grants, which CBO scores as saving nearly a trillion or more over 10 years). Workers would each be choosing their own health insurance. No one would be telling the Catholic Church or Liberty University that they must pay for insurance covering abortion, or contraceptives.
Republicans can be rightly faulted for failing to provide the leadership to draft, introduce and pass this freedom of choice, Patient Power plan, at least through the House, as it has been circulating among the conservative think tanks for 20 years. The public would rightly embrace this plan as vastly preferable to Obamacare, for all of the reasons discussed above. But today’s Republicans are no longer the party of ideas, as they were under Reagan, when they won control of government at all levels, but the party of scared rabbits.
Why would any progressive Democrat not join in supporting such a plan with these results? Because again unlike Obamacare, instead of increasing government power and control, it reduces government power and control. And for today’s power mad, neo-Marxist Democrats, increased government power and control is what it is all about.[Originally posted on forbes.com]
America’s creation of the Internet, and the phenomenal innovation and benefits it has spawned, has changed the world. However, now that the Internet is maturing, the world is changing the Internet.
Many fear this natural evolution as the “balkanization” of the free and open Internet. Some warn it’s a “splinter net” caused by the NSA-Snowden effect. Others in Congress call it classic “protectionism” against American Internet companies.
Something big is going on. At core, it’s the de-Americanization of the Internet.
The rest of the world is vigorously asserting itself in most every aspect of the Internet: governance, oversight, operation, and benefits, in order to make the Internet more global and rest-of-world balanced, rather than American-dominated.
Consider some percentages to appreciate this very real dynamic. Americans make up ~4% of world population and ~10% of the world’s Internet users. America produces ~21% of the world’s GDP and spends ~39% of the world’s military expenditures.
American Internet companies dominate most all Internet market segments: search, online advertising, social media, apps, ecommerce, mobile, cloud computing, cloud storage, email, video streaming, video conferencing, maps, books, translation, etc.
An estimated ~50-70% of global Internet revenues and profits are American depending on the segment. 8 of the top 10 sites worldwide by traffic are American. Essentially the “cloud” means the rest-of-world largely stores and processes its private data on American soil.
Finally, the accumulative Snowden revelations have exposed America’s most dominant aspect of the Internet, that the NSA can inspect most all Internet traffic.
Simply, these Internet numbers are powerfully in America’s interests, but not necessarily in the interests of the rest-of-world.
In other words, the Internet largely has been an American one-way street for governing control, access to private information, and profitability. Now the ongoing waves of Snowden revelations have catalyzed the rest-of-world to seek a more two-way global Internet street.
Several high profile American actions have catalyzed and accelerated the de-Americanization of the Internet.
The biggest and most obvious has been the Snowden Effect. Repeated blockbuster Snowden revelations of the ubiquity, totality, and boundlessness of the NSA’s Internet surveillance have had the effect of largely isolating the U.S. on Internet matters, while largely uniting the rest-of-world.
Compounding the damage of the illegal NSA leaks, the Administration mishandled the public explanation by assuring just Americans that the NSA was not spying on them. Unfortunately, what the citizens of the rest-of-world heard was that the NSA was spying on them.
This is highly problematic for America because the vast majority of users of American Internet services are rest-of-world, and roughly half of America’s Internet companies’ profits come from rest-of-world.
Exacerbating this real and perceived Internet economic imbalance, has been the aggressive and effective avoidance of paying hardly any sovereign taxes on the high profits American Internet companies have earned outside of the U.S.
On privacy and data protection, American companies, led by Google and Facebook, have aggressively pushed the rest-of-world to acquiesce to their insatiable appetite for private information on their citizens, and to store that private data outside of their sovereign control in American data centers.
On intellectual property, some American Internet companies’ open disrespect for copyrights and patents have seriously undermined America’s moral case for generating indignation against China’s continuous, massive, and systematic theft of American intellectual property and trade secrets.
So how is the de-Americanization of the Internet manifesting itself?
For national reasons, China, Russia and South Korea have long fostered their own sovereign domestic industries for search, online advertising, and ecommerce.
Increasingly countries are requiring Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to route their traffic through the sovereign country’s domain extension, not their American dot.com addresses. That enables better sovereign control of that traffic and facilitates enforcement of their sovereign laws.
Last December in Dubai, the U.N.’s ITU overwhelming out-voted America’s free and open Internet governance position. That lop-sided vote presages a new long-term consensus to give the rest-of-world much more say going forward in how the Internet is operated and regulated.
Interestingly, that seminal ITU vote was orchestrated by China, Russia and the Arab states. So it should be no surprise that ICANN, the U.S.-created overseer of Internet top level domains, just built into the Internet new language character sets for Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
These and other coming language character sets will accelerate the de-Americanization of the America’s dot.com Internet to more sovereign-controlled, native language, sub-Internets.
Maybe the biggest precursor of increased Internet de-Americanization was a recent public statement to accelerate globalization of Internet governance, which all major Internet organizations endorsed.
In addition to ICANN, the groups effectively calling for the de-Americanization of the Internet included: the Internet Society; the World Wide Web Consortium; the Internet Engineering Task Force; and the Internet Architecture Board.
Sovereign groups and nations are piling on too.
The EU is pushing for a Euro cloud that would keep European data on European soil, and that could upend the longstanding US-EU data safe harbor. France is pushing for much stronger data protection. Germany wants to end EU-US data sharing. And Switzerland is building a Swiss cloud service.
Brazil plans to build fiber optic networks to bypass America and to store Brazilian data in Brazil. India plans to prohibit government officials from using American email services.
What does all this mean?
To better understand this big picture dynamic, think of America’s Internet as a clear bay window to the world, where one can freely and openly see through sovereign borders, because of the Internet’s largely unfettered free flow of information across most all sovereign borders.
Then think of how the world is changing the Internet as sovereign nations increasingly enforce respect for their sovereign borders.
Metaphorically they are putting sovereign window pane borders on America’s bay window and adding varying shades of opaqueness to their sovereign window pane to achieve their different desired sovereign goals.
The implications of this for trade agreements could be immense. Right now it practically is as good as it gets for America’s Internet. Data largely flows freely while America largely controls most of the data and its monetization.
It’s hard to imagine post Snowden, that the rest-of-world will memorialize in future trade agreements that most all control and value from the Internet always stays American.
Besides big upcoming trade fights, there will be another big Internet fight over ultimate control of the Internet’s operations.
Here America’s dominance is threatened but may be more secure because America effectively owns the most essential element to the operation of the Internet.
Few appreciate that ICANN is essentially the U.S. Department of Commerce’s contractor to manage the Internet’s Domain Name System.
Even fewer appreciate that America still indefinitely retains contractual rights to the Internet’s authoritative “root zone file,” the essential core addressing database that the Internet depends upon to ensure that any Internet addressed device can link to any other Internet-addressed device.
Ultimately how America and the world resolve control over the Internet’s authoritative “root zone file” could determine just how far the de-Americanization of the Internet goes.
Giving typically rambling and somnolent answers to simple questions, President Obama dodged and stink-faced while offering the occasional “it’s on me” — by which he meant “Please accept my half-hearted apology so that I can get back to blaming straw men and misleading voters.”
The president’s remarks highlight his disconnection with reality and his perception of Obamacare’s failure as primarily a political risk for himself rather than a policy disaster for millions.
After spending a few minutes talking about a new White House web page about helping victims of Typhoon Haiyan (a simple page which represents the limit of what the administration should attempt in web design), the president offered a litany of data points whose only real purpose must have been to make him feel better.
What ordinary American cares about “1 million Americans who successful made it through the website and now qualify to buy insurance but haven’t picked a plan yet”? Who gives a rat’s posterior that “more than a hundred thousand Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans” when fifty times as many have lost coverage they liked and could afford?
Obama made clear how little he understands the average American — and how in tune he is with rent-seekers, poverty pimps, union thugs, and special interests — with this assessment of the nation he has so little true connection with: “People look at what’s taking place in Washington and say ‘not enough is being done that helps me in my life.’” Perhaps the president should see a psychologist for his projection issues.
Obama continued whinging: “We always knew that (the operation of the exchanges) would be complicated.” The president used the word “complicated” six times during his remarks, leading one to believe that Michelle is in charge of buying insurance for the Obama family.
The federal government is not good at procuring or developing IT, Obama told us. And in case you forgot, “We’re also discovering that insurance is complicated to buy.”
So why, exactly, did he think it would be a good idea for the federal government to take control of the health insurance industry and force Americans into a website whose development was managed by unqualified Medicare and Medicaid bureaucrats? (Answer: Because his will conquers all. Just ask the planet and the oceans.)
Meanwhile, the number one company on the InformationWeek 500 list of companies making the best use of information technology, UPMC, is “one of the country’s largest integrated healthcare companies.” Online auto insurance company Esurance and life insurance company CUNA Mutual also made the top 30. In short, insurance is too complicated for the federal government and much too complicated for Barack Obama, but the private sector can handle it just fine when left alone to do so. Everyone sees this but the president.
The ostensible purpose of Thursday’s press conference was for Obama to announce a proposed “fix,” namely a doomed-to-fail CYA measure that would allow state insurance commissioners to allow insurance companies to continue, for one year, plans which would otherwise be prohibited by Obamacare.
In typical petty dictator style, the administration would also require insurers “to inform their customers about…what protections these renewed plans don’t include” and to suggest to people that they shop on the federal exchange. Imagine the federal government requiring McDonald’s to tell its customers they may want to consider Burger King.
The real purpose, however, was laid bare when Obama said, “the key point is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who received (cancelation) notices, ‘I, the president of the United States and the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act is [sic] not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.’”
In other words, the Obama fix is aimed primarily at shifting blame from government to the insurance companies — as has always been this administration’s strategy. Indeed, one of the notable aspects of the Obamacare melodrama is that the American public, no big fans of health insurers to begin with, are not being fooled by Obama’s misdirection.
The Obama fix can’t and won’t work — not that it was actually designed to, since a true fix would gut the mandatory nature of Obamacare required for its massive income redistribution to succeed.
Some states’ insurance regulators say they will try to comply with the administration’s wishes to allow a one-year extension for policy-holders who have already received cancelation notices, but other states say they will not — including states run by Democrats. So far, the majority seem to just be confused.
Because the administration’s goal with their “fix” is to be able to blame insurance companies for Obamacare-caused turmoil, it’s not surprising that the chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said that his group had not been asked for input on, nor warned about, the president’s proposal; they learned about it Thursday when the rest of the nation did. Now they know how President Obama feels, learning everything important from TV.
But since insurance is indeed complicated, Obama’s fix will have little or no impact: most insurance companies will not accept the extra cost of keeping people on plans that are already in the process of being canceled, particularly since those plans have only been given an extra year to live.
Additionally, the fix is, as Andy McCarthy put it, “insouciantly lawless.” The job of the president is to faithfully execute laws passed by Congress, not modify them on an ad hoc basis to save his own political skin.
The Obama proposal is almost worse than that: it does not actually change the law, but rather is a wink and a nod to insurance companies that if they break the law, they will not be prosecuted. Beyond the shameless despotism of such an approach, what corporate counsel would allow his organization to take such a risk? Who would rely on an unstable administration with a reputation for mafia-like efforts to punish its enemies — among whom health insurers definitely should consider themselves.
The fix is indeed in, but not the way Obama wants you to believe. His promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period” remains utterly and completely broken.
While no Republican will go to court to challenge this particular bit of presidential malfeasance, American voters (other than stubborn Democrats who still mindlessly give President Obama high approval ratings) are seeing ever more clearly that our president is better suited for political office in Venezuela than in the United States.
Indeed, what is the real difference between the mindset behind Obamacare and that of Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver — as qualified to run a country as a community organizer might be — confiscating the inventory of a chain of electronics stores as part of his “economic war,” and promising everybody a plasma television? No, I’m not making this up.
President Obama’s press conference and temporary Band-Aid on the gaping wound that is the Affordable Care Act mark the low point of this administration…so far.
The media (other than the New York Times) has turned on him. The public sees through him. In what the president’s cheerleaders at NBC called a “mild rebuke to Obama,” 39 House Democrats voted on Friday for legislation to allow a similar fix, though the measure will not see the light of day in the Senate (which is a good thing for a several reasons.)
The administration is in a hole too deep to climb out of, but they are petrified — not least by Bill “Much better than Barack” Clinton’s criticism — of appearing to do nothing, so they just keep digging. At this point, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
A cabal of climate change alarmists landed in Warsaw, Poland last weekend, to hammer out terms and rally support for a new binding global agreement to “save the planet” from “dangerous global warming.”
Not so fast, tens of thousands of Poles responded. The facts support their position.
Average global temperatures have not risen in 16 years, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased steadily, helping plants grow faster and better. Antarctic ice is at a record high, Arctic sea ice is back to normal, and at current rates Greenland would not melt for 13,000 years. A new research paper in Global and Planetary Change reveals that global sea level rise has decelerated by 44% since 2004, to barely 7 inches per century!
These realities were underscored during a climate policy conference in Warsaw, on the eve of the UN confab. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) keynoted the event, which was sponsored by Solidarity, the Institute for Globalization, and other Polish and European NGOs. Capping off the program, representatives from the United States, Italy, Sweden, Hungary and Poland formally signed the “Warsaw Declaration.”
The declaration calls on the United Nations to discontinue work on a new treaty until a genuine “scientific consensus is reached on the phenomenon of so-called global warming,” including both its natural and human causes.
The next day, more than 50,000 enthusiastic Poles gathered in downtown Warsaw to celebrate National Independence Day, which commemorates the restoration of Poland’s statehood in 1918, after 123 years of partition and occupation by Russia, Prussia and Austria.
As millions more watched on live television, I was honored to be invited to the stage, to deliver an address celebrating freedom and warning against the UN’s dangerous, oppressive climate agenda. It was undoubtedly the largest audiences ever to hear a speech denouncing UN global warming policies, and I was proud to stand next to a CFACT banner that read “No to UN Climate Hype” in Polish, and be surrounded by thousands of people wearing stickers bearing the same message.
It was clear that – after twelve decades of partition, six years of Nazi terror, and 44 years of Russian and Communist subjugation – few Poles are in any mood to have their lives, liberties and living standards dictated by the European Union and United Nations, under the guise of “protecting the planet” from the supposed “ravages” of “cataclysmic” global warming (or “climate change” or “climate disruption” or whatever the catch-phrase of the week might be).
This is “a new battle for freedom,” I emphasized, “against those who would use environmental and climate alarmism to steal away our liberties and give international bureaucrats control over our energy sources, our daily lives, our prosperity, and our national sovereignty.”
During last year’s climate meeting in Rio de Janeiro, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that what the UN intends is “a complete economic transformation of the world.” In 2000, former French President Jacques Chirac called the Kyoto climate treaty “the first component of authentic global governance.” And last year IPCC Working Group III co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer said international climate policy is not about environmental policy; it is about “how we redistribute the world’s wealth.”
These attitudes and agendas are bad news for those of us who love freedom. UN climate policy is bad news for the people of Poland, I stressed. The good news is that my address was carried live on Polish national television, covered by many international media outlets, and heartily endorsed by the throngs of independence celebrants, who gave a rousing chant in support of my message, following my address.
My talk was certainly noticed by the UN climate alarmists, who were kicking off their COP-19 climate conference, power grab and wealth redistribution schemes just a few kilometers away.
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion,” I continued, quoting from the Book of Proverbs. That is why environmentalists and climate bureaucrats don’t want to debate these issues or show anyone the assumptions, massaged temperature data and secret codes that they use in their misleading global warming computer models. “They know they are deceiving the world.”
Those of us gathered in Warsaw that day, I concluded, “stand for freedom. We stand for opportunity. We stand for our families. We stand for a strong and prosperous future. Together let us be bold as a lion.”
The UN made a big mistake in choosing Poland to host this global warming treaty summit. The Poles see right through the global warming hype and propaganda. Having to endure generations of Nazi and Communist oppression, pollution and economic deprivation has left them with a deep distaste for bureaucratic control and further curbs on freedom, opportunity and growth. Having to live according to grim ideologies enforced by threats of jail, or worse, has made them angry about new codes of ecologically correct speech.
Poland deserves freedom and prosperity. It knows it cannot move forward without energy – the Master Resource, the lifeblood of modern industrialized societies. The brave Poles are not about to cede their sovereignty to UN control – not about to let phony climate Armageddon alarms dictate their lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. They will not let the EU or UN control virtually everything they make, grow, ship, eat, drive and do.
They are fully aware that Poland is blessed with some of the biggest coal and shale gas reserves in all of Europe. They know Japan has reversed course, and will now allow a 3% increase in greenhouse gas emissions above 1990 levels, instead of mandating a 25% cut. They realize that “rich nations” (or more accurately, formerly rich nations) have rejected demands that they fork over $30 billion immediately, followed by $100 billion annually – in “compensation,” “adaptation” and “mitigation” money, to pay for “damages” from more frequent, more intense climate changes that aren’t happening, but are supposedly caused by industrialized nations.
They also know Germany is expanding its coal use to generate affordable electricity, and reverse the skyrocketing energy prices and job destruction that are sending shock waves through the German economy. Poland too needs all the coal, oil and natural gas power it can muster, to build an economy that was held back for decades by war and Communist misrule.
CFACT has been an officially recognized NGO at United Nations conferences for nearly two decades. It will be in Warsaw throughout the two-week-long COP-19 confab, with a delegation headlined by Apollo VII astronaut Colonel Walter Cunningham, who is highly critical of UN climate pseudo-science.
We will steadfastly present the facts about natural and manmade climate change, and the absolute requirement that environmental policies must reflect genuine science and the needs of human beings.
We will also support Polish feelings about the UN climate treaty – which boil down to what Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher told the Soviet Union: “Let Poland be Poland!”
[First published at CFACT.]
This year, 11 states qualify for the “Community Eligibility Option.” If more than 40 percent of their students are eligible for federal lunch subsidies called free and reduced-price lunch, they can put all the kids into the program. That’s right: Schools don’t even need most of their students to register in the “low-income” category to enroll every single one into food welfare.
This country just witnessed a 16-day government shutdown because we can’t afford to pay for existing entitlement programs. It’s insanity to create another entitlement for families that can afford to provide lunches for their children.
I joined Fox News recently to discuss this entitlement expansion. Besides many unprintable emailed responses, I received one from a Florida teacher:
“Supposedly hungry children would take a tray of breakfast food. They would open the pint of milk, take one sip. They would receive a beautiful piece of fruit (apple, banana, pear) and not touch it or maybe take one bite. … They did not eat 10 percent of what they received,” she wrote. “I began asking them why they weren’t eating. Many stated they’d already eaten at McDonalds that morning or ate cereal at home. When I asked, ‘Why are you getting free and reduced breakfast?’ They would shrug their shoulders. They didn’t know. Just expected it.”
When this teacher attempted to reduce the waste by collecting uneaten food and encouraging kids to share, the school cafeteria refused to serve it again because it was against government regulations. For the same reason, a homeless shelter wouldn’t accept the food as a donation. So teachers began taking home bags of fruit, unopened milk containers, and other items each day.
“Finally, after about three weeks, the principal came to me and told me to stop because they had a budget they had to spend. If they didn’t spend it, it would be reduced,” the teacher wrote. “If the kids aren’t eating it and it’s going in the trash, then you don’t need that much in your budget.”
Federal school lunch (and now breakfast and an afternoon snack) is a story of big government and big agribusiness colluding to create a program that benefits them at the expense of hungry children and working adults. Food welfare became national decades ago in an agreement between rural and urban lawmakers that ensured each would continue to vote for the other’s pet entitlements: welfare and agribusiness subsidies (which raise the price of food for everybody). There is no reason local communities and states cannot supply school lunches to the truly needy—except that would make it harder for lobbyists to influence the rules to fatten their wallets, regardless of whether the rules make any sense for all kids and schools.
Our nation must make choices regarding government spending, and this should be an easy case: Let’s get back to helping only the truly needy. No child will go hungry if this program is not expanded, or if it is scaled back to let those who see these kids each day judge their nutritional needs.
[Originally published on TownHall.com]
Inflation is a dangerous and devastating monetary policy to be followed by any government. Ninety years ago, on November 15, 1923, the Great German Inflation came to an end when the monetary printing presses were finally shut down, and the economic havoc came to an end. Its lessons are worth remembering.
The German people had gone through nine years of ever-greater monetary expansion, ever-more soaring prices, the financial destruction of much of the society’s middle class, a massive misdirection and squandering of the country’s productive capital in an illusionary economic boom, and the ruin of much of Germany’s social fabric. The inflationary madness ended in a virtual total collapse of the German mark.
The German inflation began—as many other inflations have begun throughout history— through the government’s turning to the printing press to finance its war expenditures. Almost immediately after the start of World War I, on July 29, 1914, the German government suspended all gold redemption for the mark.
Less than a week later, on August 4, the German Parliament passed a series of laws establishing the government’s ability to issue a variety of war bonds that the Reichsbank—the German central bank—would be obliged to finance by printing new money. A new set of Loan Banks was created to fund private-sector borrowing, as well as state and municipal government borrowing, with the funds for the loans simply being created by the Reichbank.
German Wartime Inflation – and Postwar Hyperinflation
During the four years of war, from 1914 to 1918, the total quantity of paper money created for German government and private sector spending went from 2.37 billion to 33.11 billion marks. By an index of wholesale prices (with 1913 equal to 100), prices had increased more than 245 percent (prices failed to increase far more due to wartime price controls).
In 1914, 4.21 marks traded for one dollar on the foreign exchange market. By the end of 1918, the mark had fallen to 8.28 to the dollar.
But the worst was to come in the five years following the end of the war. Between 1919 and the end of 1922 the supply of paper money in Germany increased from 50.15 billion to 1,310.69 billion marks. Then in 1923 alone the money supply increased to a total of 518,538,326,350.00 billion marks.
By the end of 1922 the wholesale price index had increased to 10,100 (still using 1913 as a base of 100). When the inflation ended in November 1923, this index had increased to 750,000,000,000,000.
The foreign-exchange rate of the mark had decreased to 191.93 to the dollar at the end of 1919, to 7,589.27 to the dollar in 1922, and then finally on November 15, 1923, to 4,200,000,000,000.00 marks for one dollar.
During the last months of the Great Inflation, according to German free market economist, Gustav Stolper, “more than 30 paper mills worked at top speed and capacity to deliver notepaper to the Reichsbank, and 150 printing firms had 2,000 presses running day and night to print the Reichsbank notes.”The Human Cost of Monetary Destruction
But these statistical figures do not tell the human impact of such a catastrophic collapse of a country’s monetary system. In his book, “Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s” (1972), Otto Friedrich writes that:
“By the middle of 1923, the whole of Germany had become delirious. Whoever had a job got paid every day, usually at noon, and then ran to the nearest store, with a sack full of banknotes, to buy anything that he could get, at any price. In their frenzy, people paid millions and even billions of marks for cuckoo clocks, shoes that didn’t fit, anything that could be traded for anything else.” The price of a cup of coffee would double in the time that a customer took to drink it in a Berlin café.
Food supplies became both an obsession and a currency. The breakdown of the medium of exchange meant that the rural farmers became increasingly reluctant to sell their agricultural goods for worthless paper money in the cities. Urban dwellers streamed back to the countryside to live with relatives in order to have something to eat. Anything and everything was offered and traded directly for food to stave off the pangs of hunger.Inflation-Caused Distortions and Imbalances
The inflation generated a vast and illusionary economic boom. In his classic study, “The Economics of Inflation” (1931), Constantino Bresciani-Turroni detailed how the inflation distorted the structure of prices and wages, generating paper profits that created a false conception of wealth and prosperity.
Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was the first one to emphasize this aspect of the inflationary process, and how it distorted the ability for the rational economic calculations of what was a profit and when there was a loss.
As the selling price of a manufactured good was pushed far above the cost of production, profits appeared huge. But when the manufacturer went back into the market to begin his production process again, he found that the costs of resources and labor had also dramatically increased. What had looked like a profit was not enough to replace the capital used up earlier.
The distorted relative-price signals during the inflation resulted in misallocations of capital and labor in various investment projects that were found to be unsustainable and unprofitable when the monetary debauchery finally came to an end.
Thus a “stabilization crisis” followed the inflation, as capital and investment projects were left uncompleted because of a lack of available real resources, and workers faced a period of unemployment as they discovered that the jobs the inflation had drawn them into had now disappeared.
The consumption of capital and the misuse of resources and labor during the years of inflation left the German people with a far lower real standard of living, which only years of work, savings, and sound new investment could make up for.A False Recovery as a Prelude to Hitler
Unfortunately, Germany’s economic recovery in the middle and late 1920s turned out to be an illusion as well. A game of financial musical chairs was played out, in which Germany borrowed money from the United States to pay off financial reparations to the victorious Allied powers, as well as to fund a vast array of municipal public-works projects and government-sponsored business investment activities.
These all came crashing down, too, when the boom of the 1920s turned into the Great Depression of the 1930s. It also set the political stage for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, with the consequences of Nazi dictatorship, fascist-style government economic planning, economy-wide imbalances and distortions created by “repressed inflation” (a huge monetary inflation to feed Nazi public works projects and military rearmament hidden from public view due to comprehensive wage and price controls), and finally a war in Europe that took that lives of tens of millions of people.The “Little Bit of Price Inflation” that Easily Gets Out of Control
Today in the United States and Europe, the monetary central planners in charge of the Federal Reserve System and the European Central Bank (as well as those running central banks in virtually all major countries in the world), are insisting that “a little bit of price inflation” is a good thing to “stimulate” their respective economies.
But once embarked upon, as the Federal Reserve has been doing already, the politics as well as the economics of inflation make it always threatening to develop into the reality of “a little more and more and more,” until finally the stability of the entire society is thrown into doubt as a result of monetary madness. The anniversary of the end of the Great German Inflation should be a reason to pause and think before we travel too far down a very dangerous road.
[Originally published on Epic Times]
In the latest iteration of the mainstream media fawning over left wing activists disguised as conservative or mainstream Christian leaders, Tuesday’s Washington Post published a bizarre Op-ed by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, identifying herself as the past president of the Chicago Theological Seminary, saying it is “morally evil” for skeptics to disagree with her on global warming. For people of faith who may take a quick glance at Thistlethwaite’s asserted credentials and assume that she speaks for conservative or mainstream Christians and a Biblical point of view, beware of Thistlethwaite in sheep’s clothing.
For those who haven’t read Thistlethwaite’s editorial, it defines the terms incendiary and bizarre. In an editorial titled, “ ‘Super’ Typhoon Haiyan: Suffering and the sin of climate change denial,” Thistlethwaite claims Typhoon Haiyan was “evil” and the typhoon was caused by the twin “moral evils” of fossil fuel consumption and global warming skepticism. Affixing the deliberately insulting word “denial” to skeptics of the asserted global warming crisis, Thistlethwaite says this “denial” is a sin against God that requires confession, repentance and penance.
Inquisition, meet the twenty-first century.
Thistlethwaite did not mention whether she has any scientific education, training or expertise regarding the earth’s climate. Based on her failure to present any meaningful scientific argument in support of her religious condemnation of the conclusions drawn by scientists at such institutions as NASA, NOAA, Harvard, Princeton, etc., I am guessing it is essentially nonexistent. This is an important point because any assertion of a religious duty to oppose the use of fossil fuels depends on the prerequisite scientific assertion that humans are causing a global warming crisis that is responsible for Typhoon Haiyan and other “evil” natural weather events.
Given the number of times I have presented in this column the objective data showing hurricanes are becoming less frequent and less severe as our planet warms, I will merely link to a summary of such scientific evidence here. The point is, the issue is one of science, not religion, and the scientific evidence is strong that global warming is having a neutral or beneficial impact on hurricanes. Thisthlethwaite’s attempt to force people in the Philippines and elsewhere to use expensive, non-fossil fuel energy sources – if any energy sources at all – merely impoverishes people, creating unnecessary human misery and leaving little wealth available to build storm-worthy houses and infrastructure that can save lives when typhoons occur.
If we accept Thistlethwaite’s dubious premise that it is morally evil and a sin against God to misunderstand science or to form the wrong conclusion about how to best reduce human misery, then Thistlethwaite better hope God is a very forgiving God.
Which brings us back to Thistlethwaite’s asserted theological credentials that apparently convinced the Post to publish her Op-ed. The mainstream media love to call attention to global warming activists who have some connection to religion and then falsely portray them as representing the Biblical interpretations of conservative or mainstream Christian leaders. Thistlethwaite and the Washington Post are no exception to the rule.
Thistlethwaite’s greatest claim to fame is authoring the book “Occupy the Bible,” in which she claims Jesus was anti-capitalist. She urges present-day anti-capitalists to “occupy” Christianity the way the socialist Occupy movement took over street intersections and public parks. For people of faith who witnessed the rapes, drug abuse and trashing of public property at the sites taken over by the Occupy movement, this is a frigthening thought.
Thistlethwaite’s revisionist theological assertions in “Occupy the Bible” are astounding. Mark 11:17 states, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” According to Thistlethwaite’s book promo, however, this was designed to be anti-capitalist political agitation: “Jesus occupied the Temple in Jerusalem—effectively the national bank of his time—and threw out those who were exploiting the poor.” In the gospel according to Thistlethwaite, Jesus was less concerned about preserving the religious purity of prayer at the Temple and more concerned about making a statement about the moneyed classes sticking it to the poor through capitalism. (And even if you believe that religious whopper, don’t socialist nations have money exchanges, too?)
Similarly, Thistlethwaite downplays the religious meaning of Jesus calling Andrew, Peter, John and James to be his disciples and invents an anti-capitalist agenda. According to her book promo, “Jesus organized fishermen whose industry had been wrecked by the Roman Empire .”
While Thistlethwaite directs so much attention to her revisionist interpretation of Jesus clearing the Temple courts and calling his apostles to be fishers of men, perhaps she might want to consider Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Thistlethwaite extends her revisionist theology in other columns for the Post, with such titles as, “We need a new Social Gospel: the moral imperative of collective bargaining,” “The right’s war on poor women” and “Does nuclear power usurp the power of God?”
Thistlethwaite can interpret – or misinterpret – scripture all she wants. However, people of faith should know upfront that Thistlethwaite does not represent conservative or mainstream Christian leaders when they read her column calling it morally evil to use fossil fuels and morally evil to subject alarmist global warming claims to the Scientific Method.
By the way, given how Thistlethwaite calls it a moral evil to use fossil fuels, I am wondering whether she owns a car, rides a bus, flies on airplanes or uses electricity in her home. Unless she rides a bicycle to work and writes her Op-eds by typewriter and candlelight, I think she might want to read Matthew 7:5 before calling the use of fossil fuels morally evil.
On a deeper plane, does Thistlethwaite really believe God is honored and pleased when she applies the “morally evil” label to sincere, God-worshipping Christians – many of whom have substantially more extensive scientific education and training than her – for merely disagreeing with her lay interpretation of climate science?
Not that Thistlethwaite’s Chicago Theological Seminary is any more representative of conservative or mainstream Christian thought. In the Seminary’s 564-word “Philosophy” webpage, there is not a single mention of spreading the good news about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Instead, the Seminary’s Philosophy webpage provides a long and detailed manifesto of leftist liberation theology, castigating our nation for being “a society riven by racism” and “threatened by new forces of division under the banner of homophobia.” Apparently division and name-calling under the banner of global warming activism is nevertheless desirable.
In short, Thistlethwaite may be a past president of a seminary that advocates leftist liberation theology, but this doesn’t give her any semblance of leadership or representation of conservative or mainstream Christian thought. Moreover, her condemnation and insulting rhetoric directed at skeptics of her asserted global warming crisis have no religious, scientific or moral weight.
[Originally published on Forbes]
Many are chronic. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are staring down $84 TRILLION in unfunded liabilities – simply staggering, nationally debilitating GOEs. And there is oh-so-much-more.
Many more GOEs are of the current Administration’s making. There is of course ObamaCare – a slow motion train wreck that continues its shamble off the tracks into oblivion. But that is not even close to all.
There is Benghazi, Libya. Fast and Furious. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) abuse of conservative and Tea Party groups. The National Security Administration (NSA) spying on just about everyone on the planet.
And oh so many more….
The Administration’s asserted defense on all of these? Incompetence. They themselves say that this endless parade of horribles is solely the result of Government Operator Error.
Let’s for the sake of this exercise take them at their word – that this is just boobery, not (also) malevolence. On one level, it certainly makes sense. A $3.9-trillion-a-year federal Leviathan has miles and miles of room for Government Operator Error.
David Axelrod was a chief Administration architect of its $900-billion-per-year growth of government. Who then said the government is “so vast” there was no way the President knew of any of his Administration’s myriad GOEs.
Sad, but maybe true.
True in part because of the Wallet Rule. Which is: Imagine you go out on a Friday night with your wallet. You then go out the following Friday night with my wallet. On which Friday night will you have more fun?
With my wallet, of course. It’s always a lot more fun to spend other people’s money. You don’t expend nearly as prudently, wisely or well as you do when it’s your coin. Government, of course, is always on other people’s money.
Another huge contributing factor is the Administration-admitted incompetence. Government is made up of less talented people bossing around more talented people – from afar.
If someone is really good at the stock market – they’ll be doing it, not voting for or imposing Dodd-Frank to lord over it. If someone is really good at health insurance – they’ll be doing it, not voting for or imposing ObamaCare. As President Barack Obama himself just said:
“What we’re discovering is that . . . insurance is complicated to buy.”
“We’re” not just discovering it, Mister President – YOU are. We’ve known all along – because we’ve been doing it.
Everything in the private sector is complicated. Our $16.6 trillion economy is a glorious, giant, intricate, complicated mess. Remade anew every day by the ideas, decisions, actions, successes and failures of 300+ million people.
To think that the perpetrators of perpetual, countless GOEs can manage this cacophony better than those of us doing it – with actual skin in the game – is…absurd.
Yet these self-avowed failures are looking to control even more of it than they already flailingly do. For instance, they are with great and growing intensity looking to GOE the Internet-Technology sector.
This Administration imposed Network Neutrality. Because they will manage the complex, intricate World Wide Web’s wired networks much better than the people who spend hundreds of billions of dollars building, developing and maintaining them.
This Administration imposed cell phone price caps. Because they will manage the complex, intricate wireless networks much better than the people who spend hundreds of billions of dollars building, developing and maintaining them.
This Administration asked Congress to insert it into what should be a private sector secondary wireless spectrum auction. And is now contemplating the imposition of anti-free market rules on said auction. Because they know how the spectrum should be bought and sold – and be used once it is purchased – better than the people buying and selling it.
How micro-manage ridiculous can government get? It is picking local television station lineups and placement – over and over again.
Our federal government is $4 trillion huge – and run by self-described Incompetents delivering avalanches of Government Operator Errors.
They need to be looking to do a whole lot less – not for other things to add to their To Undo lists.
[Originally published on the PJ Tatler]
In a Tuesday interview with OZY.com, former President Bill Clinton opined, “Even if it takes a change in the (Obamacare) law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what (health insurance) they’ve got.”
A few hours later, the Hill reported that “President Obama agrees with former President Clinton that people who like their insurance should be able to keep it under ObamaCare.”
As long as Barack “Judge, Jury, and Executioner” Obama has made it a (so far successful) tactic to try Republicans in the court of public opinion as hostage-takers, it’s time that the GOP at least collect some ransom.
At no point during the Obama reign have Republicans had the leverage they currently hold over the president and his Democratic congressional henchmen.
This makes the Republican debate over how — or whether — to ease the burden of Obamacare absolutely critical, not only for the 2014 elections but for the long-term relevancy of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
There are two leading Republican-sponsored bills that aim to allow people to keep their prior health insurance plans. A bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) would truly grandfather all health insurance plans (not just policy holders) that existed on January 1, 2013, so that not only could people who have them now (or had them until recently) keep them, but others could buy them as well. The relief would last only until the end of 2014.
This is in contrast to a Senate bill sponsored by Ron Johnson (R-WI) that would simply make true Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan you can keep it” — forever (unless the insurance company changes or cancels the plan). Relatives or employees of the plan holder may also be added to plans, if such addition would have been permitted prior to the enactment of Obamacare.
Johnson argues that he has crafted a simpler bill because it has a greater chance of passage than the House bill. And it certainly does.
But it is a terrible idea.
If those were all bad ideas, a bailout of the Obama administration is even worse. Much worse. Like the most transparently bad political idea of the past decade — and that was a decade that included Republicans nominating John McCain and Todd Akin, shutting down the government without any winning strategy in mind (while distracting from the unfolding Obamacare disaster), and going along with George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” — which my political dictionary defines as “liberalism; or a strategy to make the GOP irrelevant.”
As Jonah Goldberg put it, “One of the first rules of politics when your opponent is whacking himself in the face with a semi-frozen flounder, is to let them do it for as long as possible.” These Republican bills, especially the Senate bill, dramatically and unnecessarily soften the blows.
It’s true that Senator Johnson’s bill would tend to hurt the long-run sustainability of Obamacare by allowing people who might otherwise be forced into exchanges to keep their plans. But as Keynes noted, in the long run, we are all dead (even with the glory of Obamacare).
In order to save the country from Obamacare’s eventual intentional destruction of the private health insurance industry, Republicans must win elections — starting in less than a year. Simply delaying the inevitable results of the Affordable Care Act — which is what Sen. Johnson’s bill would accomplish — would be worse than doing nothing.
Not only does it allow the continuation of Obama’s fundamental assault on the health care industry, but it bails out vulnerable Democrats in 2014 and 2016, decreasing the likelihood of a GOP majority in the Senate and larger majority in the House, and — this being the reason that Bill Clinton opened his mouth to begin with — taking pressure off of eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton when she is asked “Do you support or oppose Obamacare?” — which a decent Republican strategy could turn into the political equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife yet?”
And it does all this while receiving not a penny in political ransom.
The House bill is slightly better in that it allows people to keep their plans and allows others to buy those grandfathered plans — but only through 2014.
While having plan availability for only a year may seem curious at first — why not allow people to keep their plans forever? — and while there are questions about whether insurance companies would keep plans in existence if the expectation is that they will vanish in a year anyway, the politics of it are admirable: Imagine Democratic panic going into the 2014 elections if what is happening now with millions of people losing health insurance coverage were happening all over again.
There’s a reason that White House Press Secretary Jay “Is My Nose Growing Yet?” Carney says that the Upton bill would “do more harm,” that the Washington Post says “the Upton bill is the biggest threat to Obamacare so far,” and that influential conservative PACs are supporting the measure.
But when you have a hostage as valuable as President Obama, or at least his legacy, even the Upton bill seems like too small a ransom demand.
Obama’s plummeting popularity and Clinton’s public thinly-veiled criticism of Obama will encourage many Democrats to vote for a Republican bill in order to save their own skins. Republicans should exact a painfully high price, not just because it’s good policy, but because revenge against these bullies and tyrants would be too sweet not to savor.
In the short term, even the Upton bill will be sold by Democrats and seen by many Americans as Congress simply fixing a mistake in the bill’s drafting so that Obama can keep his often-made lie-promise without even having to admit that his own Secretary of Health and Human Services set the grandfathering rules that caused this mess.
That always-intended-to-be-broken promise can and will, if Republicans don’t help him, turn Barack Obama into a lame duck with three years remaining in his petty dictatorship and create a Republican majority in the Senate for the final two years of Obama’s dreary anti-American melodrama.
Why would Republicans agree to bail out a president who is about to destroy what little political capital he has remaining, without getting a huge payoff in return? This is no time to play nice, no time to compromise for compromise’s sake. This is time to ask “What would Obama do?” and then do it right back to him, but harder.
Both the Johnson and Upton bills also assume, without good reason, that simply allowing insurance companies to keep plans in existence means that they will. With processes in place to terminate plans, with cancelation notices already sent, and with Obamacare-compliant plans perhaps more profitable, it is far from certain that any “keep your plan” modification to the ACA will actually result in most current individual market plan-holders actually keeping the plan they like. If Republicans try to fix something that is beyond fixing, they risk looking less capable of making a difference, thus damaging their anti-Obamacare narrative for 2014. After all, if “the damage is already done,” voters have a different calculation going forward than if damage can be prevented by repeal. This argues even further toward extreme caution in any bill which would appear to help Obama keep his false promise.
Republicans must be careful as they play this hand, knowing that if they call for substantial reform to Obamacare — reform so significant that it could be seen as nearly undoing the law, or at least making other changes worthy of GOP compromise — Democrats will say, “Yet again, the GOP is holding the country hostage, preventing your ability to keep your health insurance in order to get some extreme conservative policy wish.”
But the GOP should bravely go down that road anyway, demanding something important — something like tort reform, or interstate purchase of health insurance combined with other structural reforms — while trying to keep partial relief from the negative impact of Obamacare limited to one year so that repeal remains an issue — the issue — in 2014.
Keeping the issue alive — a standard trick of Democrats on issues such as gay rights and immigration — should be the top priority of Republicans, above being able to pat themselves on the back and say, “See, we helped you keep your policy (for now.)” And, yes, above actually helping some people in the short term. After all, as Bastiat reminded us, “it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence (of a law) is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal.”
This strategy is not suggested out of love for the GOP, but because anything less than full repeal of Obamacare will result in an inevitable Progressive “victory,” destroying private health insurance, turning health care itself into a regulated monopoly for everyone but the rich, and cementing government at the center of one of the largest sectors of the American economy and one of the most personal aspects of our daily lives.
Republicans need to channel Willie Sutton and recognize that as long as they’re going to be accused of political hostage taking, they should take the most valuable hostage possible and demand the largest ransom they can conceivably get, or at least conceivably sell as reasonable to an American public whose trust in “hope and change” is at an all-time low.
[First Published By American Spectator]
Last week I attended an Environmental Protection Agency “Public Listening Session” held here in Chicago. I had only been to one other such hearing in the past as a college student, when my professor took myself and the rest of the International Studies class to see a public hearing on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s famous Act 10 legislation.
Public hearings I would soon learn (before I would ironically go on to land my first job in government relations), are not the most thrilling experiences in the world. But in fairness, it’s not like I was expecting much: For basically a whole day, one speaker after another testifies to a panel of government officials about why they support or oppose a certain policy. Usually the speakers are an eclectic mix of industry representatives, activists, academics, students, and even religious leaders.
Although the EPA hearing yielded the same mix of speakers, this time I noticed they were all wearing Sierra Club “Climate Action Now” shirts.
The reason for this, I would later learn, was that the Sierra Club had mobilized hundreds of activists, transported them via bus (I presume of the fossil-fuel powered kind), prepped their testimonies the night before, and completely dominated the morning speaker slots. (There were several coal industry representatives in the morning, and a few other dissenters, including Heartland Policy Adviser Paul Driessen, who covered his experience here). By the afternoon, the Sierra Club had completely monopolized the speaking time (at least in the room I was in).
After the hearing, everyone was invited to a “Climate Social” held at the Sierra Club’s office with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, and Illinois state Sen. Michael Frerichs.
Now maybe it’s just me, but I felt a slight level of discomfort when I saw a single organization dominate a “public” hearing in the way that they did. I don’t care what the organization is or what they say they stand for, because if their 2011 listed revenue is over $97 million, then you know not all of it could have fallen in their laps from heaven.
For example, we know Chesapeake Energy, a large natural gas producer, contributed more than $25 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign— the same campaign whose organizers were at the hearing and bused several people down from around the Midwest and prepped their testimonies.
But going back to the policy discussion, two things struck me about the speeches I heard — from both the climate activists, and the few coal-affiliated dissenters:
1) Lots of talk about reducing carbon dioxide, hardly any on reducing temperature. As I wrote to the Baltimore Sun once, the question shouldn’t so much be “How much carbon dioxide can we possibly reduce?” But rather, “How much temperature can we realistically save?” The latter question provides a much clearer picture when assessing exactly how much CO2 reduction would be worth its economic cost. The former doesn’t attach any long-term value to CO2 reduction, as if any CO2 reduction were worth its economic cost. Handy for political expediency — which as anyone who works in government relations knows, is half the political battle.
So why is temperature discussion always ignored? One reason might have to do with Dr. Pat Michaels’ research, which found if U.S. CO2 emissions were to be reduced to zero, the resulting temperature decrease would not be scientifically detectable.
So it should be obvious why many climate activists don’t like discussing temperature reduction relative to reducing CO2. But many speakers from the coal industry also didn’t like discussing temperature, instead discussing how electricity prices will go up or how jobs will be lost. Those points are important. But unless a more concrete value is ascribed to the amount of CO2 that activists say needs to be reduced, it’s always going to be perceived as outweighing any economic cost.
2) Hardly any mention of China and India. This is important. Because according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth:
Other countries are increasing emissions. China, India, and Germany are expanding coal consumption, according to the International Energy Agency. Global coal use will rise by 1.2 billion tons in five years. “By 2017,” according to a December 2012 IEA report, “coal will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source.”2 Mr. Obama’s reductions in U.S. emissions, with their associated costs, will just be a drop in the global bucket.
Which leads to two additional key quotes:
Even if rising greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the climate, actions by the United States will not be helpful in the absence of changes by China and India.
To reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in a less costly manner, America could assist China and India develop shale gas from hydrofracturing and build natural-gas fired plants to reduce their reliance on coal. Or, America could ship coal to China, because U.S. coal burns cleaner than Chinese coal. The majority of China’s coal (54 percent) is bituminous, which has a carbon content ranging from 45 to 86 percent. On the other hand, 47 percent of the U.S.’s coal, a plurality, is subbituminous, which contains a carbon content of only 35 to 45 percent.
But many of the Sierra Club activists opposed both hydrofracturing and nuclear. So what exactly would they support? Short of a blackout?Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
Many moons ago I directed a conference on government regulation, out of which the book edited by me and the late M. Bruce Johnson, Rights and Regulation (Ballinger, 1983) was created. In this book some of those who supported government regulation–and most mainstream contributors did so–maintained that being opposed to government regulations is like being opposed to laws. And since laws are necessary for a just society, the inference was drawn that so are government regulations.
The logic is not impeccable but there is some plausibility to the argument until one considers just how different laws and government regulations really are.
The major difference is that most laws, especially those that comprise the criminal system, are prohibitions, bans on certain actions such as murder, robbery, assault, kidnapping and so forth. These are forbidden because they amount to the violation of people’s rights, intruding upon them and their realm, as when one trespasses on their private property. Government regulations are something else entirely.
When the government regulates our conduct, it sets certain standards for how the conduct must be carried out. Government regulations do just what they say, regulate — manipulate, regiment, nudge and so forth — mostly conduct that is peaceful, non-invasive, and non-aggressive, although sometimes quite risky. If one is a money manager or investment advisor or auto mechanic or TV repairer, government regulations amount to dictating how one should perform one’s professional responsibilities, how one should do one’s job based on the assumption that government has a superior understanding to which others must be made to conform. This is why regulators usually need to poke into people’s lives, send out inspectors, trap people, etc., because there need be no victims when government regulations are not followed.
One of the essays in Rights and Regulation, by J. C. Smith then of the University of British Columbia, titled “The Process of Adjudication and Regulation, A Comparison,” argued that instead of approaching the concerns that supposedly motivate advocates of government regulation by means of meddling pre-emptively with the conduct of the regulated, the way to handle it is to have a system of tort and similar law that strongly discourages people from any kind of malpractice. This avoids one of the central injustices of government regulation, namely prior restraint.
This legal concept is usually associated with slapping restrictions on those engaged in writing for newspapers before it has been shown that their writing will do violence to innocent people and is considered unjust. Similarly, government regulations impose controls on how people conduct themselves before anyone has been harmed, hurt, imposed upon or the like. Government regulations are, in other words, precautionary and escape the restraint of due process of law.
Because of this, such regulations assume that government regulators are in fact more skilled and have better moral character than the targets of the regulations, an assumption that is entirely unwarranted. Such an assumption belongs in the political era of monarchies in which the members of the royal court were deemed to be anointed, selected by God to care for the realm. Even today it is a relic of this viewpoint, the idea of the police power, that serves as one of the legal justifications of government regulation. The government is viewed as the keeper of the realm–the Nanny, in short, who knows everything better than the members of the citizenry and whose intent is always pure.
Yes, there are arguments against government regulations that are based on how notoriously inept regulators really are, how very often they are in bed with the very people whom they are supposed to regulate, and yet other features of regulations that make them fail throughout the system. But the most important objection, as far as I have been able to discern, is that government regulations assume that government is a superhuman institution and that when things are risky or could go wrong, let’s just call upon the regulators and it’s all going to be fine. Well, that’s total bunk.
There is nothing in principle wrong with a society of law and order provided no preemptive laws are deployed, ones that prejudicially assume that those carrying on with their occupations, jobs, careers and so forth in the marketplace just are not decent and skilled enough people and may not be left to their own resources to do their work. Yes, sometimes they are careless and too ambitious and produce some havoc. But certainly far less so than do agents of governments–any familiarity with human political history ought to make this very clear indeed. And when they do actually misbehave, the law should come down on them good and hard, but not beforehand.
The fight against hydraulic fracturing has recently ratcheted up. On November 5, one town in Ohio and three in Colorado, passed ballot measures designed to ban or temporarily halt hydraulic fracturing—the brief (3-5 day) phase, often referred to as “fracking”—that is essential to the advanced oil-and-gas extraction processes that have given America the lead in global energy production. A fourth Colorado town awaits a recount. Initial election results showed the moratorium in Broomfield, Co—failed by 13 votes. However, on November 13, after all the overseas, military, provisional and other outstanding ballots were counted, it hadpassed by 17 votes. A margin of less than 0.5 percent triggers an automatic recount—leaving the final outcome currently unknown. In Bowling Green and Youngstown, Ohio, the opposite happened. Similar proposed bans against fracking were defeated.
Of the four votes in Colorado, Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) calls the Boulder and Lafayette votes merely “symbolic,” and noted that “Lafayette’s last new well permit was in the early 1990s and Boulder’s last oil and gas well was plugged in 1999.”
However, Fort Collins, CO, is near the promising production of the Niobrara shale. The Fort Collins city council passed a resolution encouraging voters to reject the proposed moratorium. And, in Broomfield, the city council, in August, entered into a memorandum of understanding that would allow energy company Sovereign to drill 21 wells—as long as stringent standards are met. In these cities, these five-year bans will bite.
In Ohio, the Oberlin ban is, likewise, “symbolic,” as Oberlin, a college town, has no drilling plans. Bowling Green, which rejected the ban, also has no drilling plans. However, in the Mahoning Valley where Youngstown is located, there is current oil-and-gas activity. In Youngstown, which is a depressed former steel town, residents have twice voted down a fracking ban. The Akron Beacon Journal reports: “the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 spent more than $74,000 trying to defeat the amendment. The union called it a job-killer.” Supporters of the ban claim “the loss can be explained by voters who are hard up for the jobs energy development brings.” (Note: “energy development” does bring jobs.)
Within the past year, Longmont, CO, became the first town in the state to ban fracking and Mora County, NM, became the first county in New Mexico to ban the “extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons.”
National Geographic states: “the wins provide momentum for the national movement to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.” Former Colorado State House Representative, B.J. Nikkel, is quoted as saying: “This is round one in a much longer match.” Mora County Commissioner, John Olivas, declared: “We’re ready for this fight.” Fracking opponent, Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy, said: “The decision of whether or not hydraulic fracturing occurs in these Colorado communities may ultimately lie with the courts, where the city of Longmont is already being sued by COGA and the state of Colorado over its fracking ban.”
Because fracking is governed by the states, the bans put cities and counties at odds with state—and even federal—laws. According to a New York Times (NYT) article written at the time of Longmont’s fracking ban passage (November 2012), Colorado’s Democrat Governor, John W. Hickenlooper, warned residents of a lawsuit from the state and insisted that only the state has “the authority to regulate drilling.”
Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources also, according to RC 1509, has the “sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within the state …” A recent lawsuit in Ohio challenged the idea of “preemption.” The City of Munroe Falls argued “home-rule” authority to regulate gas-drilling operations and won the case in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, but was reversed by the Ninth District Court of Appeals in what has been described as a “knock-out punch.” The case will now go before the Ohio State Supreme Court with a decision expected this spring.
In July 2013, Hickenlooper’s administration joined COGA in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Longmont’s fracking ban.
Concerned about the lawsuits, Longmont’s Mayor Dennis L. Coombs said: “People really didn’t think through this too well.”
Stan Dempsey, President of the Colorado Petroleum Association, told me he “expects the Fort Collins and Broomfield bans will be fought in court.”
The NYT states that seven former mayors of Longmont fought the ban and cites Bill Swenson, who said the ban was “contrary to state laws.” Swenson believes: “We are, in effect, taking your property.”
In New Mexico, where a lawsuit was filed, on November 11, against the Mora County drilling ban, former State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons, agrees. Under his leadership, many tracts were leased for potential drilling in Mora County, which he said: “could be a big boon for the economy.” Lyons told me Mora’s drilling ban is a “private property takings.”
However, the lawsuit against Mora County, and its leaders, didn’t go the “takings” route. Instead, the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, along with one individual and two New Mexico land-owners, argue that Mora County’s ordinance violates their rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as corresponding rights under the New Mexico Constitution. The suit alleges that the Commission lacks authority to pass this unconstitutional ordinance that impacts property rights, due process and First Amendment rights.
In 1978, New Mexico passed the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act, which created the Oil Conservation Commission and Oil Conservation Division, which are vested with complete “jurisdiction, authority and control” regarding the development of oil or gas. The Division regulates oil-and-natural gas activity within the State so as to protect, among other things, fresh water, public health, safety and the environment, and issues rules for “safety procedures for drilling and production of oil and gas wells.”
Unlike the Colorado lawsuits, the suit against Mora Country, has not, to date, been joined by New Mexico government. Lyons believes New Mexico’s Land Commissioner, Ray Powell, “should be taking a strong stand for New Mexico’s children. He should be one of the lead participants in the fight for New Mexico.”
Lyons is referencing the fact that in New Mexico, revenues from oil-and-gas activity on state lands go directly into the Permanent Fund and each tract has a specific beneficiary assigned to it. Some of the beneficiaries that will be losing out of the millions of dollars that could be generated over the life of the Mora County leases include: NM School for the Visually Handicapped and NM School for hearing impaired; NM State Hospital and Carrie Tingley Hospital; the NM Boys School, NM Institute of Mining and Technology, and Eastern NM University; and K-12 schools throughout the state.
The New Mexico civil rights lawsuit was filed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, whose President, William Perry Pendley, sent me the following statement:
“The lawlessness we have seen emanating from Washington, DC, has spread like a wildfire across the country. When elected politicians, senior administration officials, and career bureaucrats proudly proclaim that the Constitution is irrelevant and the law is whatever they say it is, it is little wonder that officials across the country follow their bad example. From coast-to-coast, isolated units of local government have declared that, regardless of what the federal and state constitutions or federal and state laws provide, they will bar their residents from using their property, creating jobs, and generating revenue and if the locals do not like it, then they can sue. I am proud that landowners in Mora County and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico have the courage to demand adherence to constitutional liberties and the rule of law and have asked Mountain States Legal Foundation to represent them in that important battle.”
As Pendley indicates, all of these fracking and drilling bans and/or moratoria are part of an attempted national movement led by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has drafted model legislation for communities—such as Mora County, NM; Oberlin, OH; and Lafayette, CO—known as the Community Bill of Rights.
The “symbolic” votes in communities with no oil-and-gas development are part of a strategy to target left-leaning constituencies where ordinances can be passed and momentum can be built. Addressing the approach, Nikkel observed: “As the debate moves from places like Boulder and Lafayette—which come with highly Democratic constituencies—to purple Colorado, you’re going to see a different outcome.”
Because of efforts to ban fracking—which, along with horizontal drilling, has just allowed the U.S. to pass a milestone in the march toward energy self-sufficiency—the House of Representatives has drafted the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act (H.R. 2728), which would keep states in charge of hydraulic fracturing as they have always done and keep the EPA out of it. H.R. 2728 is scheduled to come up for a vote as early as November 18. Please contact your Representative to encourage support of H.R. 2728.
“When we talk about banning fracking, we’re talking about outlawing a process that is absolutely critical to developing our vast energy resources and intentionally forfeiting billions in economic activity and tax revenue.” Addressing the election results, Jon Haubert, Communications Director for Coloradoans for Responsible Energy Development, adds: “The need for education about one of our state’s—and nation’s—most important topics clearly won’t be going away. In Colorado especially, there are high standards and model regulations in place to ensure that the health and safety of our communities come first. As we discovered in these elections, not enough know that.” Haubert places some of the blame “squarely on the oil and natural gas industry for not properly educating the public.”
Russell Mendell, statewide director for Frack Free Colorado, has declared: “This is the point in history where communities need to decide if they want to stay addicted to hydrocarbons and fossil fuels or move toward sustainable energy.” In response, many have proposed that if communities with potential oil-and-gas development choose to ban it, they should truly break their so-called hydrocarbon addiction and quit using oil and gas.
The outcome of the fracking fight will be fought in the court of public opinion, as much as it will be in state and federal courtrooms. Though environmental groups have declared victory in this round, the fight is far from over. Earlier this year, Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown of California, signed a law in September that specifically allows fracking. Across the country, people—from Youngstown, OH, to California’s Governor Brown—understand that “energy development” brings jobs and economic growth. They understand that energy makes America great.
[Originally published on TownHall.com]
A recent Times of London article claimed new “research” demonstrates that a “chemical onslaught is destroying Britain’s amphibians.” A “toxic cocktail,” it stated, is killing UK frogs, toads and newts.
Manmade chemicals “can affect animals’ immune systems – leaving them vulnerable to attack by fungi, bacteria and other infections,” it continued, citing statements by two scientists. Laboratory experiments show that pesticides have a “powerful effect on amphibian immune systems, even at low concentrations,” causing diseases that have been around for decades to “suddenly become much more deadly.”
And not just for amphibians, the story added. “Some fear the same effects could extend to humans, who are exposed to numerous manmade chemicals, in food, drinks and the air.”
It concluded by quoting Elizabeth Salter Green, director of CHEM Trust, which theTimes said sponsored the so-called research. “There is mounting evidence that exposure to even tiny levels of these [agricultural pesticides and urban] chemicals can compromise the immune system. The European Union needs to take a lead on both identifying and controlling the risks,” she insisted.
The story certainly sounds plausible. However, as Baltimore journalist H. L. Mencken observed, “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” Indeed, there are ample reasons for skepticism. The Times “news story” underscores what happens when genuine science and objective journalism take a vacation, on chemicals, medicine, global warming and other topics.
CHEM Trust is financially supported by and promotes the work of Greenpeace, an organization that co-founder Patrick Moore says has become “anti-science, anti-technology and anti-human.” Greenpeace fabricated claims that Shell Oil’s Brent Spar production platform contained tons of oil, toxic wastes and radioactive materials, to attract donations and ensure that the platform was not sunk as an artificial reef.
The Rainbow Warriors spend tens of millions of dollars opposing pesticide spraying to prevent malaria that kills nearly a million people annually; Golden Rice, the genetically modified grain that contains a Vitamin A precursor that can save millions of developing world children from blindness and death; and fossil fuels that enhance and safeguard lives in countries everywhere. Canada refused to grantcharitable status to Greenpeace, due to its repeated falsehoods, politicized activities and lack of “public benefit.”
Had CHEM Trust been an industry-funded organization, the Times would almost certainly have noted that affiliation, regardless of how scrupulous and transparent the research might have been. Author Jonathan Leake’s failure to mention the Greenpeace connection reflects his (and the Times) tendency to promote environmentalist views and assertions as straightforward, unimpeachable science.
The CHEM Trust paper wasn’t even research. It was an advocacy brief – a summary of research papers and conclusions carefully selected to support claims that chemicals pose unacceptable risks to wildlife and humans. As the document itself suggests, its ultimate purpose is to secure even more draconian changes in EU chemicals policy and legislation, which already reflect the “precautionary principle.”
That vague and arbitrary “principle” focuses on the risks of using chemicals – but never on the risks of not using them. It spotlights risks that a chemical might theoretically cause, but ignores the risks that it would clearly reduce or prevent. It is another potent weapon for anti-technology activists: Whatever they support complies with the precautionary principle; whatever they oppose violates it.
Just as bad, the Times article was apparently based on exclusive access to the embargoed report. This shabby willingness to be used as an activist mouthpiece is reminiscent of the now-infamous 2012 Seralini “study.” Giles-Eric Seralini is a well-known anti-biotechnology activist associated with a lobbying group that released a paper purporting to prove that genetically modified foods cause cancer in rats.
Accompanied by gruesome photographs of lab rats with massive tumors, the study was released under an “embargo” to selected journalists, who signed an agreement not to show the paper to outside scientists before the story hit the newspapers and airwaves. That meant the journalists could not seek unbiased comments or provide any balance or corrections to the activist storyline.
New York Times blogger Carl Zimmer called the episode “a rancid, corrupt way to report about science.” Nevertheless, many “mainstream” publications took Seralini up on his offer, including Agence France Presse and Reuters. Within 24 hours after the embargo was lifted, independent scientists piled on, exposing almost every aspect of the “study” as flawed, and even dishonest and fraudulent. One said the story was “designed to frighten” people, and the author and editors “should be ashamed.”
But Seralini got the headlines he wanted. So did Greenpeace and CHEM Trust.
Making this latest debasement of science and journalism even more disturbing is that fact that the “toxic cocktail” of agricultural and urban chemicals is merely the latest in a long line of “studies” that activists have offered as “proof positive” that modern technologies are destroying amphibians and nature. Previous alleged perpetrators have included pesticides alone, acid rain, ozone depletion and global warming – whatever was fashionable at the time, and whatever activist groups calculated would attract donations, expand their political power, and help enact punitive laws and regulations.
Some species develop resistance to pesticides, but meanwhile the real causes of disappearing amphibians receive insufficient study and attention, to address the problem in time to prevent more extinctions.
For example, a year ago the Washington Post ran a dramatic story about scientists in the Panamanian rainforest desperately trying to save dwindling frog species. “Where there once was a crazy cacophony of frog song,” its reporters wrote, there is now only “a spooky quiet. The streams have gone silent.” The golden frog, Panama’s animal mascot, has not been seen since 2009.
However, these rainforests are as pristine as habitats can get. There are virtually no pesticides or other chemical pollutants. Disease is the real culprit, in this caseBatrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the “Bd fungus,” which has been decimating amphibians in Panama, the USA and elsewhere for years.
For several decades, African clawed frogs were imported into the United States and other countries as pets, for scientific research and as pregnancy tests (they ovulate when injected with a pregnant woman’s urine). Unfortunately, because these frogs are largely immune to the Bd fungus, they are effective carriers of this devastating non-native disease. (So are Pacific tree frogs.) As they escape or are released into the wild, and then migrate further, into other habitats, they spread the fungus; people hiking in those habitats pick the fungus up on their boots and shoes, spreading it even further. Clawed frogs have been implicated in the decline or extinction of some 200 frog species worldwide.
Native to eastern North America, American bullfrogs are raised as food and pets in factory farms in the US, China and other countries. They too are largely immune toBd and other chytrid skin fungus diseases, which cause amphibians’ skins to thicken and lead to cardiac arrest, and thus have been major carriers.
In high enough concentrations, pesticides can kill amphibians, fish and other wildlife. It is also possible that lower concentrations of pesticides and other chemicals mightreduce immunities to fungal and bacterial agents. But it’s dangerous to base conclusions on cherry-picked studies disseminated by CHEM Trust and Greenpeace. As to genetic deformities and other abnormalities, the same chemicals may be responsible – but so too might other ubiquitous chemicals that rarely get mentioned in activist press releases or media stories, because it wouldn’t be politically correct: namely, birth control medicines that are flushed down toilets or discharged in urine, especially around urban centers. The jury is still out.
Good science and journalism must make clear what is verifiable fact; what is simply hypothesis, conjecture or rank opinion; and what is outright, disingenuous activist advocacy. The Times of London writers were either snookered or willing dupes. Either way, its credibility has been seriously undermined.
Craig Idso, the former president and current chairman of the board of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and lead author of the reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) talked with Alex Epstein on his show, Power Hour.
Idso and Epstein discuss the benefits of CO2, something that Idso grew up studying, and still studies to this day. The issue of CO2 has been going on for decades, but society’s sentiments have changed. It used to be (back in the 1970′s) that excess CO2 was a good thing, but throughout the decades, it has come to be seen as a negative thing.
People now consider CO2 as a pollutant, in fact they call excess CO2 “carbon pollution”. But, Epstein and Idso are wondering why people believe this to be true. CO2 is considered the “elixir of life”, and throughout all of scientific history, excesses in CO2 has caused spurts of growth for the earth.
Idso battles the climate change alarmists, and seeks to present the world with scientific-based information about climate change.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.
You may remember that when Health Savings Accounts were introduced there was almost universal outrage among liberals about the horrendous burden cost-sharing places on all but “the healthy and wealthy.”
A press release issued by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) within a week of the Ways and Means committee approving an HSA bill in 2003 said -
This legislation would lead many employers to move away from providing low-deductible comprehensive insurance, noted Edwin Park, a senior health policy analyst at the Center and the report’s lead author. Policies with deductibles of $1,000 or more, higher co-payments for medical services, and coverage for a narrower array of health services could well become the norm for employer-sponsored coverage, with employers expecting their workers to pay uncovered costs out of their tax-favored Health Savings Security Accounts, Park stated.
Low- and moderate-income workers, who would benefit little from the tax breaks that the new accounts would provide, and older and sicker workers, who could face large increases in out-of-pocket health care costs as a result of the loss of comprehensive insurance, could be sharply affected, he added.
A few years later, after President Bush proposed expanding HSAs, Jason Furman, then at CBPP and today the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a similar slam on high deductibles in health insurance, especially if accompanied with a savings account.
So it comes as something as a shock that today these exact same people are raving about how wonderful the coverage is in ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. Organizing for Action, Barack Obama’s official grassroots operation emblazons on its website – - “Better Coverage, Lower Costs!”
Then there are two puzzling pieces in The New England Journal of Medicine. The first article “The ACA and High-Deductible Insurance — Strategies for Sharpening a Blunt Instrument,” is by J. Frank Wharam and others. The writers observe that 84% of the enrollees in Massachusetts chose a bronze or silver plan with family deductibles of $4,000 to $10,000 and significant cost sharing on top of that. They say that lower income people in the ObamaCare exchanges will have their out-of-pocket costs subsidized as well as their premiums, but, “the resulting protections may be robust only for persons with incomes below 200% of the poverty level.” They add
– Cover Oregon, for example, estimates that cost sharing for Oregon families with incomes between 200% and 399% of the poverty level will include $5,000 deductibles, 30% coinsurance for many services even after reaching the deductible, and out-of-pocket spending maximums of $8,500 to $12,700.
An accompanying chart lists the deductible for a family at 400% of poverty at $12,700. What happened to “better coverage, lower costs?”
The authors of the article, all associated with Harvard University, express none of the hysteria that went along with the roll-out of HSAs, even though HSA deductibles were quite modest compared to ObamaCare deductibles. But they are concerned about the possible consequences.
Unfortunately they are also woefully ignorant and lazy. They say, “Small employers newly required to purchase employees’ insurance may well choose HDHPs (High-Deductible Health Plans) as the least expensive coverage option.” But small employers are not required to purchase insurance and are not penalized for failing to do so.
The authors rue the lack of research on the effect of high deductibles on “vulnerable populations”
– Unfortunately, cost-sharing research over the past three decades has focused almost exclusively on low-level cost sharing (e.g., less than $50 per service). Few studies since the landmark RAND Health Insurance Experiment of the 1970s and 1980s have examined high cost sharing (e.g., deductibles above $1,000 per year) for expensive services, and fewer still have focused on vulnerable populations.
But the authors believe this because they looked at a total of two reports from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They completely missed a RAND report entitled, “How Do Consumer-Directed Health Plans Affect Vulnerable Populations?” written almost two years ago. One would have to be willfully ignorant to miss this report.
The authors also call on employers to “facilitate contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs), especially for vulnerable people,” but it is not clear these mandated plans are eligible for HSAs. If they require first dollar coverage for anything other than preventive services, they are not eligible for an HSA.
The more I read reports from people at Harvard, the less respect I have for the institution. Which brings us to the next article, “Full Disclosure — Out-of-Pocket Costs as Side Effects,” written by a team from Duke University.
These authors recommend that physicians learn how to talk about costs with their patients. They argue that the financial “side effects” of a treatment program can be just as important as the clinical side effects. They acknowledge that it is extremely difficult for a clinician to know what out-of-pocket costs a patient may be exposed to and very often doesn’t know what the charges will be for a given array of services.
Now, the authors rely too much on information about financial burdens from the Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP is famous for including any discussion of costs or payment arrangements as a “burden.” CAP seems to think anything not paid in full at the time of service is a burden on patients (except, of course, for ObamaCare.)
I don’t expect physicians to double as financial advisers, but I agree that they should be more aware of the costs of the treatments they prescribe. In my own case, my doctor prescribed a blood pressure medication. When I went to fill the prescription I discovered it was enormously expensive. I went back to my Doc to see if there was something more affordable available. No one had ever asked him about that, but when he looked into it, by golly there was a list of 25 different meds with prices ranging 1,000 percent, all equally effective.
That is the effect of an empowered consumer. Ultimately physicians will respond to the demands of their patients and as more of us are paying cash for services, we will insist on cost considerations far beyond what any third party payer could do. Unfortunately, the ObamaCare approach is far too clumsy to be effective in empowering consumers. The great advantage of funded HSAs is they give patients the means to pay the bill, but also get them to think twice about the costs. It is a carefully balanced approach to growing educated patients. ObamaCare just throws people in the deep end of the pool without any support. It is cruel and mean spirited — just what you might expect from the government. – See more at:
[First Published by NCPA]
Pilla is a taxpayer’s rights advocate and has defended countless tax payers against the IRS. He helps individuals and businesses who struggle with our tax problems, which are plentiful.
The national income tax is immoral and unconstitutional, according to Pilla, and we must design a new kind of tax system. Pilla proposes a national retail sales tax, which he believes will be the best model for America as a whole.
For Pilla, the central question is this: What kind of tax system is conducive to liberty? In his book, he outlines the ten principles that he believes should be present in our federal tax policy. They are:
7. Economic Growth
And he believes that a national retail tax fits with all of these principles.
Watch the video above to learn more about each principle and Pilla’s plan for a new tax system; or you can buy the book here.
Join us on Thursday, December 12 for a luncheon with Michael J. Lotus, co-author of the book America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century.[Editor's note: The public is welcome to attend Heartland's Author Series events located at One East Wacker, in Chicago's Loop. Tickets and event information can be found on our website here.]
President Obama’s signature domestic policy may have accomplished something previously unthinkable: taking an issue where one party had a dominant hold on public opinion, and reversing it in favor of the opposing party.
If the latest poll numbers and enrollment figures are to be believed, we could be witnessing a political achievement unequaled in modern political history: the complete demolition of one party’s long-term dominance on an issue area – the Democrats’ ownership of the health care issue – in the space of a few months. Quinnipiac finds that young people trust Republicans in Congress more on health policy than the president; that a plurality of Hispanics, long the most pro-Obamacare faction, are now opposed to the law; and that overwhelming majorities (70+ percent) of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are in favor of delaying the law. And that’s not all:
Only 19 percent of American voters say the quality of care they and their families receive will improve in the next year because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while 43 percent say it will get worse and 33 percent say ACA won’t affect their health care. Voters oppose the ACA 55 – 39 percent, with men opposed 59 – 37 percent and women opposed 51 – 41 percent. American voters are divided 46 – 47 percent on whether Obama “knowingly deceived” the public when he said people could keep their existing health insurance plans if they wished. Voters also support 73 – 20 percent extending the March 31, 2014 deadline for signing up for coverage without facing a penalty.
No wonder we’re seeing these kinds of numbers, when even die-hard supporters of the law are getting hit hard by its ramifications. And for what? The enrollment figures released today illustrate that the administration has failed thoroughly in managing Obamacare’s launch, with just 26,794 people having enrolled via Healthcare.gov (and even that definition is dubious, given that the federal site reportedly is unable to process payments at this time). Comparison to the four million or so people who have lost their existing plans is laughable.
All told, the federal exchange enrollment figures work out to just 23 people per day per state signing up via the site. The whole project now looks like the creation of a tiny high risk pool and a Medicaid expansion in half the states. As the American Action Forum outlines in this chart, the project is so far behind the expected and hoped-for pace, it seems unthinkable that it would ever approach estimates in the near future:
All this has led Ezra Klein to publicly voice the concerns that smart progressives have been whispering about for weeks now:
The Affordable Care Act’s political position has deteriorated dramatically over the last week. President Bill Clinton’s statement that the law should be reopened to ensure everyone who likes their health plans can keep them was a signal event. It gives congressional Democrats cover to begin breaking with the Obama administration. The most serious manifestation of that break is Sen. Mary Landrieu’s “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act.” It’s co-sponsored not just by the usual moderate Democrats — Landrieu and Dianne Feinstein and Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan — but also by Oregon liberal Jeff Merkley. It’s worth noting that Merkley is up for reelection in 2014. The argument Landrieu is making on behalf of the bill will appeal to many Senate Democrats. “When we passed the Affordable Care Act, we did so with the intention that if you liked your health plan, you could keep it,” she said on the Senate floor. “A promise was made and this legislation will ensure that this promise is kept.” It’s an underplayed dynamic of the current political storm that many congressional Democrats feel Obama broke a promise he made to them, as well. The bill Landrieu is offering could really harm the law. It would mean millions of people who would’ve left the individual insurance market and gone to the exchanges will stay right where they are. Assuming those people skew younger, healthier, and richer — and they do — Obamacare’s premiums will rise. Meanwhile, many people who could’ve gotten better insurance on the exchanges will stay in bad plans that will leave them bankrupt when they get sick… Put simply, the Landrieu bill solves one of Obamacare’s political problems at the cost of worsening its most serious policy problem: Adverse selection.
The reason for Bill Clinton’s remarks yesterday are obvious: he understands the political implications, for the party and for Hillary, if Obamacare fails, and this is a savvy bit of CYA in preparation for 2016. The problem is that what he’s proposing, and what Landrieu is trying to require, is very difficult to achieve (if not entirely impossible) given the requirements involved and the closing window on grandfathering or anything of the kind. Achieving that type of fix would require a broad bipartisan agreement in short order, one that seems impossible in today’s Washington. We’re going to continue to see stories like this: a million more Californians lose insurance, state officials try to exert pressure… and Feinstein flip-flops.
But all this is to no avail. Just because there’s massive political pressure for Senate Democrats to do something doesn’t mean the White House agrees with those Senate Democrats. If anything, they’re doubling down on the idea that nothing can be done and that the Senate just has to accept it:
After the president’s apology last week for wrongly assuring Americans that they could retain their health plans if they wanted, senior White House aides said the president wanted to ensure that people who were forced off older policies with less comprehensive coverage were not stuck with higher monthly premiums to replace their insurance. But administration officials declined to say how they might achieve that goal, how much it would cost or whether it would require congressional approval. At the same time, officials signaled the president’s strong opposition to calls from across the political spectrum — including one Tuesday from a key ally, former President Bill Clinton — to support bipartisan legislation that would allow people to keep their current insurance plans even after provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect next year. White House officials refused to discuss in detail what options Mr. Obama was considering. But they made clear that the president was skeptical of any solution that would allow insurance companies to continue selling what officials consider to be cheap and substandard policies.
Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman have more on the worst case scenarios. It never seemed like we would get to this point – after all, the whole effort behind Obamacare included multiple aspects designed to insulate insurers. But we may be about to see the death by a thousand cuts. As Bob Laszewski writes today:
The audacity of this administration to continue telling people to keep going back to the website and the call center when they knew full well that only 25 people per day per state were making it thorough the gauntlet that is Healthcare.gov is startling. This program is in grave danger of collapsing if the administration cannot dramatically grow the size of the risk pool and attract healthy people to it.
Had the administration admitted its management failure before the exchanges launched, or traded a delay of implementation in the course of negotiation, it could’ve taken a political hit, but avoided the policy failure. Perhaps it’s the curse of second-term hubris: Obama has no intention of dismantling the one significant domestic policy he’s pushed through for the sake of a few Democratic red state Senators. He thinks what he’s achieved with the law is too important to sacrifice – and in the end, that may make the law even more vulnerable.thefederalist.com]
Is wood the best fuel to generate electricity? Despite wood’s low energy density and high cost, utilities in the US and abroad are switching from coal to wood to produce electrical power. The switch to wood is driven by regulations from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other international organizations. These regulations are based on the false assumption that burning wood reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
Wood has never been a major fuel source for electrical power. In 1882, when Thomas Edison built the first power plant in New York at Pearl Street Station, he used coal to fire the plant. A switch to wood is not going back in time; it is adopting a fuel that was regarded as inferior at the dawn of the electrical age.
Pound for pound, wood contains less energy and is more expensive than other fuels. A 2008 study conducted at the Rapids Energy Center plant in Minnesota found that, compared to coal, more than twice the mass of wood was required to produce the same electrical output. A 2008 study by the UK House of Lords concluded that electricity from biomass was more than twice the cost of electricity from coal or natural gas. Nevertheless, an increasing number of electrical power plants are switching from coal to low-energy-density and high-cost wood fuel.
This irrational behavior is driven by the EPA, the US Department of Energy, the European Union, the California Air Resources Board, and other world organizations that assume that biomass fuel is “carbon neutral.” Biomass-fired plants receive carbon credits, tax exemptions, and subsidies from promoting governments.
When burned, biomass emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere like any other combustion. A 2012 paper by Synapse Energy Economics estimated that burning biomass emits 50 to 85 percent more CO2 than burning coal since the energy content of biomass is lower than coal relative to its carbon content.
The “carbon neutral” concept originated in a 1996 Greenhouse Gas Inventory paper from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations. The IPCC assumed that, as biofuel plants grow, they absorb CO2 equal to the amount released when burned. If correct, substitution of wood for coal would reduce net emissions.
But a 2011 opinion by the European Environment Agency pointed to a “serious error” in greenhouse gas accounting. The carbon neutral assumption does not account for CO2 that would be absorbed by the natural vegetation that grows on land not used for biofuel production. Substitution of wood for coal in electrical power plants is actually increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
Nevertheless, governments have adopted the “carbon neutral” assumption and continue to promote biomass as a substitute for coal. As a result, nations and utilities are not required to count their CO2 emissions from biomass combustion.
In July, Dominion Virginia Power completed conversion of its Altavista Power Station to biomass fuel, the first of three planned facility conversions at a total cost of $165 million. The change was lauded as a method to “help to meet Virginia’s renewable energy goal.” Virginia citizens paid for the conversion and will pay higher electricity bills in the future.
The Altavista station and other biomass plants claim to be using “waste” fuel that would otherwise be going into landfills. But according to the DOE, 65 percent of US biomass-generated electricity comes from wood and 35 percent from waste.
Finding sources of wood to feed ravenous power plants is not easy. The small wood-fired EJ Stoneman power plant in Cassville, Wisconsin is rated at 40 megawatts. Each day it burns 1,000 tons of wood delivered by 30 different suppliers. The 100-megawatt Picway power plant in southern Ohio considered a conversion to biomass, but could not secure a good wood supply. Picway will be shut down in 2015 when tougher EPA emission regulations take effect.
Following President Obama’s direction, the EPA plans to impose CO2 emission limits on existing power plants, requiring the shuttering of US coal-fired power stations. In 2012, 37 percent of US electricity was produced from coal, with only 1.4 percent produced from biomass. Without some common sense about CO2 emissions, look for expanded efforts to cut down US forests to feed a growing number of biomass plants.
The height of eco-madness is the conversion of the Drax Power Station in the United Kingdom from coal to wood fuel. Drax is the largest power plant in Europe, generating up to 3,960 megawatts of power from 36,000 tons of coal per day, delivered by 140 trains every week. In order to “reduce emissions” at Drax, more than 70,000 tons of wood will be harvested every day from forests in the US and shipped 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Britain.
Conversion of the Drax facility will cost British citizens £700 million ($1.1 Billion) and the new wood-fired electricity will cost double or triple the cost from coal. Drax Group plc will receive a subsidy of over £1 billion ($1.6 billion) per year for this green miracle.
[Originally published in The Washington Times]