Join us for a luncheon lecture with author and presidential scholar Tevi Troy, who will talk about his new book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.
Just $15 gets you a good lunch, a great speaker, and excellent networking opportunities!
From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said “I cannot live without books,” and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few episodes of HBO’s “The Wire.”
America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day.
In What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tevi Troy is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a writer and consultant on health care and domestic policy. He is a frequent television and radio analyst, and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC, and The Jim Lehrer Show, among other outlets.
Troy served as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. In that position, he oversaw all operations, including Medicare, Medicaid, public health, medical research, food and drug safety, welfare, child and family services, disease prevention, and mental health services.
Troy has extensive White House experience, having served in several high-level positions over a five-year period, culminating in his service as Deputy Assistant and then Acting Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. In the latter position, he ran the Domestic Policy Council and was the White House’s lead adviser on health care, labor, education, transportation, immigration, crime, veterans and welfare. At the White House, Troy also specialized in crisis management, creating intra-governmental consensus, and all aspects of policy development, including strategy, outreach and coalition building.
Troy has a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and an M.A and Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Texas at Austin. Troy lives in Maryland with his wife Kami and four children.
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office released a budget projection update which decimates Democrats’ claims that Obamacare does not hurt the American economy.
In Appendix C of the rather dense document, the CBO concludes that various provisions of Obamacare will “reduce the total number of hours worked,” “will cause a reduction…in aggregate labor compensation,” and most dramatically will result in “a decline in the number of full-time equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024” as compared to employment growth in the absence of the Affordable Care Act.
The White House responded by pointing out that the CBO’s estimates do not derive primarily from a reduced demand for labor by employers, as Republicans have argued. But it’s hardly consoling to read CBO’s prediction of “a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply…(which) will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked….”
The main cause of this trend is the work-discouraging combination of taxes and subsidies for lower-income Americans in Obamacare. In other words, the implied tax and subsidy penalties for success are so high that it won’t be worth a lower-income person’s effort to try to climb up the income ladder.
So much for the American dream.
And while the CBO does suggest that demand for labor will not decline substantially due to the costs imposed by Obamacare, they do say that costs “will be borne primarily by workers in the form of reduced wages or other compensation.” So even the White House’s good news is bad news for working Americans.
The CBO also suggests that part of the reason that Obamacare will not substantially reduce the demand for labor is because “the expansion of Medicaid subsidies and the provision of exchange subsidies will not only stimulate greater demand for health care services but also allow lower-income households that gain subsidized coverage to increase their spending on other goods and services.”
But the CBO’s static analysis ignores the fact that this effect – nothing more than massive wealth distribution – is just another version of Keynesian economic stimulus which has failed every place and every time it has been attempted. There is no free lunch, and the money which the CBO claims will benefit the economy through increased consumption will simply result in decreased consumption – and therefore decreased employment – in other sectors of the economy. It’s the healthcare version of Cash for Clunkers.
The non-partisan CBO, highly respected by the media despite (or perhaps because of) their reliance on static analysis that tends to bias results toward higher spending and higher taxes, has cut the legs out of Democrats’ claims that Obamacare is not harmful to the economy.
[First published at the American Spectator.]
President Obama said in his State of the Union last week, “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”
Thank you, Mr. President. But even without you, as already enacted in current law, for anyone who works full time in America, the minimum wage, plus the Earned Income Tax Credit, plus the Child Tax Credit, equals or exceeds the poverty level for every possible family combination, including single mothers with children.
Full time work at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 equals $15,080 a year. That exceed the federal poverty level for 2014 for one single person living alone, at $11,670. In addition, that single person still qualifies for an earned income tax credit of $496. Because that is “refundable,” the individual still gets that in cash even if he or she is not liable for any federal income taxes.
With one child, the single person gets an additional $1,000. Plus the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $3,305, for a grand total of $19,385. The poverty level for 2014 for a single mother with a child is $15,730.
With 2 children, the family gets $2,000 in child tax credits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $5,460. So with full time work, that comes to $22,540 in total income. The poverty level for 2014 for a single mother with two children is $19,790.
With 3 children, the family gets $3,000 in child tax credits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $6,143. With full time work, family income totals $24,223, compared to the federal poverty level for 2014 for a mother and 3 children of $23,850.
And so it goes. Your job, Mr. President, is not to give pretty sounding speeches proclaiming to everyone how you are more moral and caring than they are. Your job is to adopt policies that will foster the creation of jobs, so the poor can get full time work.
You can start with approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, and telling billionaire Tom Steyer who keeps threatening you if you do to report to the nearest poverty office in California and take personal responsibility for all the poor people there without full time work.
Then you can support Ted Cruz in his effort to repeal Obamacare, which is strongly discouraging employers from offering full time work. You can also repeal all the new taxes on capital investment you forced through at the start of last year, because capital investment is what creates jobs and increases wages in a capitalist economy.
I am sorry you never learned that from all your “progressive” parents, mentors, and teachers growing up, or through your inadequate education at Columbia and Harvard. I know, I got the same inadequate education at Harvard College and Harvard Law School myself. But I at least supplemented that with independent thinking and reading.
So I know, unlike you, that if you increase the legal minimum wage above what some workers can produce, employers will just not hire them at all. That is why after your thoughtless Democrat friends raised the minimum wage when they took over Congress in 2007, teenage unemployment soared to 25%, teenage Hispanic unemployment exploded to 30%, and black teenage unemployment skyrocketed to 45%.
Those numbers have come down a bit more recently. But now you want to raise them again.
The way jobs and wages are increased in a capitalist economy like ours is though capital investment. That creates jobs and increased demand for labor, which increases wages. It also gives workers the tools to be more productive, so employers can finance hiring them at higher wages.
It would help as well if fathers would stick around and work full time and contribute to the welfare of their children. That would add at least another $15,080 a year to the above family income levels. That is why there is no poverty among two parent families with both parents working. Zero, zip, nada.
But that would mean all of your social liberal friends would have to stop promoting family breakup and chaos. And that would mean a lot less fun for everyone. Except the children.
[First published at The American Spectator.]
Despite planning efforts to restrict it, the Bay Area continues to disperse. For decades, nearly all population and employment growth in the San Jose-San Francisco Combined Statistical Area has been in the suburbs, rather than in the core cities of San Francisco and Oakland. The CSA (Note) is composed of seven adjacent metropolitan areas (San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Napa, and Stockton). A similar expansion also occurred in the New York CSA.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to two of the three most dense built-up urban areas in the United States, the San Francisco urban area, (6,266 residents per square mile or 2,419 per square kilometer) with the core cities of San Francisco and Oakland and the all-suburban San Jose urban area (5,820 residents per square mile or 2,247 per square kilometer), according to US Census 2010 data. Only the Los Angeles urban area is denser (6,999 per square mile or 2.702 per square kilometer). The more spread out New York urban area trails at 5,319 per square mile (2,054 per square kilometer).
The San Francisco Bay & Central Valley Area
The continuing dispersion was reflected in commuting patterns that developed between 2000 and 2010, with the addition of the Stockton metropolitan area, which is composed of San Joaquin County, with more than 700,000 residents. San Joaquin County is located in the Central Valley and is so far removed from San Francisco Bay that it may be appropriate in the long run to think of the area as the “San Francisco Bay & Central Valley Area.” The distance from Stockton to the closest point shore of San Francisco Bay is 60 miles, and it is nearly another 25 miles to the city of San Francisco.
Ironically, this continued dispersion of jobs and residences is, at least in part, driven by the San Francisco Bay Area’s urban containment land use policies designed to prevent it. What the planners have ignored is the impact on house prices associated with highly restrictive land use planning. The San Francisco metropolitan area and the San Jose metropolitan area are the third and fourth most unaffordable major housing markets out of 85 rated in the recent 10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, trailing only Hong Kong and Vancouver.
Historical Core Cities: San Francisco and Oakland
The historical core municipalities (cities) of the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco and Oakland have held their population very well. Each essentially retains it 1950 borders. Among the 40 US cities with more than 250,000 residents in 1950, only San Francisco and Oakland managed population increases by 2000 without substantial annexations and substantial non-urban (rural) territory within their city limits. For example, New York and Los Angeles, both of which have grown, have nearly the same city limits as in 1950 and 2000, yet much of New York’s Staten Island was rural in 1950 as was much of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.
Yet both San Francisco and Oakland have had difficult times. Between 1950 and 1980, both San Francisco and Oakland suffered 12 percent population losses, which were followed by recoveries. The losses were modest compared to the emptying out of municipalities like St. Louis. Detroit, Chicago, Copenhagen, and Paris, which remain one quarter to nearly two-thirds below their 1950s figures. Further, population gains from annexations masked losses within the 1950 boundaries of many cities, such as Portland, Seattle, and Indianapolis, etc.
San Jose: Now the Largest City
San Jose is now the Bay Area’s largest city. San Jose has grown spectacularly, from a population of 95,000 in 1950 to nearly 1,000,000 today. San Jose passed San Francisco by the 1990 census and Oakland by the 1970 census (Figure 1). Virtually all of San Jose’s population growth has occurred during the postwar period of automobile suburbanization. The pre-automobile urban form familiar in San Francisco and central Oakland simply does not exist in San Jose. Even attempts to pretend the pre-war urban form has returned have been famously unsuccessful. Even after building an extensive light rail system, San Jose’s transit work trip market share is barely one quarter that of the adjacent San Francisco metropolitan area.
Nonetheless, suburban San Jose has become a dominant force in the “Silicon Valley”, which stretches through San Mateo County in the San Francisco metropolitan area and into Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose. The Silicon Valley has been the capital of the international information technology business for at least a half century. The highly suburbanized region has done more than its share to elevate the San Francisco Bay Area to its high standard of living (According to Brookings Institution data), a phenomenon that has spread also the urban core of San Francisco. At the same time, San Jose is the second most affluent major metropolitan in the world and San Francisco ranks seventh. The Silicon Valley, which includes much of San Mateo County (adjacent to Santa Clara County in the San Francisco metropolitan area), is clearly the economic engine of the region with twice as many jobs as San Francisco (which is both a city and a county).
Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area has grown approximately 180 percent since 1950, considerably more than the national average from 1950 to 2012 of 107 percent. The Bay Area’s growth was strong, but well behind the 280 percent growth achieved in the Los Angeles CSA (Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, and Oxnard MSAs).
However, growth has since moderated substantially. Between 1950 and 2000, the Bay Area grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent but since 2000, the annual growth rate has dropped to 0.7 percent annually. Even so, in recent years, the Bay Area has nearly equaled the much slowed growth of the Los Angeles CSA, adding 23.6 percent to its population since 1990, compared to 25.5 percent in Los Angeles. Both areas, however, grew at less than the national population increase rate (25.8 percent), and slowing, in the 2000s to the slowest growth rates since California became a state in 1850.
Despite the decent demographic performance of the cities of San Francisco and Oakland since 1950, nearly all Bay Area growth occurred in the suburbs. Between 1950 and 2012, only one percent of population growth in the CSA occurred in the two historical core municipalities and 99 percent in suburban areas. Things have been somewhat better for the two cities since 2000, with seven percent of the growth in the historical core municipalities and 93 percent of the growth in suburban areas (Figure 2).
Since 1950, the San Jose metropolitan area has grown by far the fastest in the CSA, with the more than 500 percent increase in population. The outer metropolitan areas (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Napa, and Stockton) have grown nearly 300 percent, while the parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area outside the two core cities grew more than 200 percent. San Francisco and Oakland grew approximately 5 percent (Figure 3).
As house prices increased before the subprime crisis, the Bay Area lost more than 600,000 domestic migrants, a rate of more than 85,000 per year. Since 2008, however, with substantially lower house prices, and a renewed tech boom, there has been an annual gain of approximately 4,000 to the Bay Area in domestic migration. However, if the substantial house price increases since 2012 continue, the area could again become a net exporter of people.
Future Urban Evolution
Like much of California, San Francisco Bay CSA exhibits much slower population growth than before. How much of this is tied to the regional and state policies constricting suburban housing remains an open question, but it seems much growth that might have occurred in the original San Francisco metropolitan area or the later developing San Jose metropolitan area will instead occur in the Vallejo or Stockton metropolitan areas, where housing prices tend to be much lower, particularly for larger homes that are increasingly unaffordable closer to the urban core. Indeed, it is not impossible that Modesto (Stanislaus County) could be added to the San Francisco Bay CSA by 2020, which is even farther away from the historical core than the Stockton metropolitan area.
At the same time, many potential new residents may find either the high prices near the core nor the long commutes associated with Central Valley residence unappealing. Many households may instead seek their aspirations in Utah, Colorado, Texas, and even Oklahoma, not least because the “California Dream” has been made affordable.
Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris and the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.
Note: Metropolitan areas are labor markets. Their building blocks in the United States are complete counties. Metropolitan statistical areas are organized around built up urban areas with counties reaching a threshold of the urban area population being considered central counties and included in the metropolitan area. In addition, any county with an employment interchange of 25 percent or more with the core counties is also included in the metropolitan area. Adjacent metropolitan areas are added together to form Combined Statistical Areas if there is a 15 percent or more employment interchange. This is a simplified definition. Complete details are available from the US Office of Management and the Budget.
Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the birth or Ronald Wilson Reagan, the nation’s 40th President. Fifty years earlier, at the age of 53, he made a prescient observation that remains true today. From his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech in 1964:
The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing. … You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right, there is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.
“Affordable care” … “Income equality” … “Common core” … these and other popular words and phrases of today are merely names for more schemes leading the nation down, not up.
It’s a good thing Ronald Reagan isn’t around to see it.
Watch Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech below:
Heartland Senior Fellow Benjamin Domenech was a guest Wednesday night on “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC. Chris was nice enough to call Ben “one of my favorite conservatives,” and you can see from his affable and fact-filled TV presence why that might be. Ben is also rare among people who go on TV to talk that he actually endeavors to answer the questions he’s asked.
Ben talked about the new Congressional Budget Office report stating Obamacare will end up removing millions of Americans from the full-time workforce. Chris seemed to think that’s a good thing. Ben disagreed.
Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert follows Ben. Media Matters, a lefty outfit few take seriously, has made a habit of attacking Heartland. Nonetheless, we’ve included it because Hayes referred again to the good, honest stuff Ben said.
On one hand, President Obama extoled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to “help America wean itself off foreign oil.” He touted the new reality of “more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years.” On the other hand, he promised to use his “authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations”—which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.
Electricity and extreme poverty
Concern was expressed for Americans who “are working more than ever just to get by.” He wants to help Africans “double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.” But his policies are limiting access to electricity in America and raising the cost (20% in the past 6 years). Higher-cost energy is the most punitive to those struggling “just to get by.”
The “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families, 2001-2013” report found: “Lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs than higher-income families because energy represents a larger portion of their household budgets, reducing the amount of income that can be spent on food, housing, health care, and other necessities. Nearly one-third of U.S. households had gross annual incomes less than $30,000 in 2011. Energy costs accounted for an average of 27% of their family budgets, before taking into account any energy assistance.” The report shows the 27% is an 11% increase over the 2001 energy cost impact. For households with an after-tax income higher than $50,000, the 2001 percentage was 5 and the 2013: 9—a 4% increase. For low- and middle-income families, energy costs are now consuming a portion of after-tax household income comparable to that traditionally spent on major categories such as housing, food, and health care—with black, Hispanic and senior households being hit especially hard.
All of the above
President Obama took credit for his “‘all of the above’ energy strategy” which, he claims has “moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.” And, regarding natural gas, he says that he’ll “cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.” POTUS proclaimed: “I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” The Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals: Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish Louisiana, created more than 2000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2000 jobs in 2014. President Obama, please act on your own here. Cut the red tape and slash the bureaucracy. Let’s get those permits issued.
A January 16, 2013, letter sent to the White House from 18 environmental groups, whose opinions seem to be held in such high regard by the Obama administration, challenged the president’s approach—calling “all of the above” a “compromise that future generations can’t afford.” The letter states: “We believe that continued reliance on an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption.” They claim: “an
‘all of the above’ approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future.” The groups see it as a threat to “our most sensitive lands.” Despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, they posit: “clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels” save Americans money. The letter concludes: “We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a ‘carbon-reducing clean energy’ strategy rather than an ‘all of the above’ strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.”
As if an executive decree could make it so, he announced: “the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” True, climate change is a fact—the climate changes, always has, always will. But the debate as to what causes it or what should be done about it is far from “settled.” “We have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods,” he announced. However, droughts and floods have been going on throughout history when CO2 emissions (which he calls “carbon pollution”) were much lower than today. His solution? “The shift to a cleaner economy,” which gobbles up taxpayer dollars in crony corruption (more than 30 such projects have gone bust since the 2009 stimulus bill released nearly $100 billion for “clean energy”).
A story in the January 25, 2013, Economist titled “European climate policy: worse than useless” starts: “Since climate change was identified as a serious threat to the planet, Europe has been in the vanguard of the effort to mitigate it.” Europe has been the global leader in climate change policies that are, according to The Economist: “dysfunctional.” The “worse than useless” piece states: “Had Europe’s policies worked better, other countries might have been more inclined to emulate the leaders in the field.” It points out that Europe’s “largest source of renewable energy” is wood.
A companion article in the same issue of The Economist, “Europe’s energy woes,” states: “Europeans are more concerned with the cost of climate-change policies than with their benefits. European industries pay three to four times more for gas, and over twice as much for electricity, as American ones.” Calling the EU “a lone front-runner without followers,” the article points out: “it is hard to sell the idea of higher energy prices, particularly when the rest of the world is doing too little to cut greenhouse gases.” Rather than learning from Europe, like a lemming, President Obama apparently wants to lead America off the same “useless” cliff.
He believes that the minimum wage needs to be increased to $10.10 an hour. He wants to “Give America a raise.” Yet, in North Dakota’s boom economy, workers at Walmart and McDonalds are paid in the teens—without government meddling. The best wages are paid with a fully employed workforce. The Keystone XL pipeline would provide thousands of good paying (often union) jobs, but, it was never mentioned in the 2014 SOTU. (By the way, the long-awaited report on Keystone was released on Friday. It found that “the project would have a minimal impact on the environment.” Politico calls the report: “a major disappointment to climate activists.”)
President Obama, you are correct when you say, “opportunity is who we are,” but your policies hurt the poor and block job creation. My question for you echoes what you asked early in the SOTU address: “The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress.” Are you going to help Americans or hinder our opportunities? This question should run through every decision you make in 2014.
On one hand, you say you want to help. On the other hand, everything you do hinders.
[Originally posted at Townhall]
One of Sunday’s most controversial Super Bowl ads came with the message “Friends don’t let friends smoke.” Bizarrely, it’s organized anti-smokers in the public-health establishment who want the commercial banned.
The line comes in an ad for the NJOY King, an electronic cigarette produced by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY. The commercial shows people helping each other in situations like moving a couch up a flight of stairs or helping a friend in a bar fight. Then one man starts to light up a cigarette, only for his friend to offer him an NJOY King.
For most people, the message is clear: If someone close to you smokes cigarettes, try recommending they switch to a smoke-free alternative.
Those who care about public health should be rejoicing that the private sector is not only placing anti-smoking ads on the country’s largest stage, but that the ad actually offers smokers an appealing alternative to smoking.
Many smokers complain that nicotine gum and patches, which are promoted by government-funded anti-smoking campaigns, aren’t satisfying; e-cigs give those trying to quit an experience closer to smoking. Many ex-smokers who’d failed to quit smoking with the government-endorsed solutions are now succeeding with e-cigarettes.
Yet the response from many of America’s most prominent anti-smoking groups is a call for a ban on all TV and radio advertising of e-cigs. Last year’s NJOY Super Bowl ad made activists furious. That ad, which also ran in select markets, focused on distinguishing between smoking and vaping (for the vapor emitted from e-cigs). Yet Bill Pfeifer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association’s Southwest chapter, fumed that the NJOY ads were “slick misinformation” that should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration, and that both CBS and the NFL should have benched the ads.
Why would the American Lung Association, whose purpose is to reduce lung disease, oppose letting smokers learn about smoke-free e-cigarettes, which even opponents acknowledge are dramatically less harmful than smoking? Because, they argue, some e-cigs look like the real thing.
No, really. E-cigarette opponents say the products should be demonized because they look like cigarettes, or as the World Health Organization claims, they “normalize” smoking.
That some e-cigs look, feel and taste somewhat like cigarettes is actually what makes them so appealing to people trying to quit smoking. Yet if it were up to activist groups, alternatives to cigarette smoking would be entirely unappealing — and therefore ineffective.
As Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health, the largest anti-smoking group in the United Kingdom, recently stated at an e-cig investors conference held in New York City, “If you’ve got a very, very low risk product that no one wants to use, you don’t get much harm reduction.”
Instead, Bates encourages a pragmatic view of harm reduction that recognizes that so long as a product is far less hazardous than smoking, it should be free to compete with deadly combustible tobacco cigarettes.
And public-health advocates should favor giving them competitive edges over cigarettes, such as the opportunity to advertise to adults on TV.
Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC, and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Gregory Conley is a Heartland Institute research fellow.
[Originally published in The Post]
The popular, middle-class-yet-upscale Trader Joe’s grocery store chain wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. And instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.
The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.
The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordly said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)
After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”
Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.
“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”
“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African American-owned construction company.
Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted:
This is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.
Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot:
I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.
Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.
But have no fear, Portland. You might not have a new Trader Joe’s, but PAALF promised to hold a “community visioning process” later this month. No word yet if that brainstorming session will offer jobs, affordable housing or Two-Buck Chuck.[First posted at Ricochet.]
President Obama’s State of the Union address on the night of January 28, 2014 was all about “micro-management.” It was micro-management at one level since he realizes that a divided Congress will not pass any “grand” legislation that he might try to submit.
Thus, he proposed a series of small changes that he hopes that either Congress would go along with, or that he can try to impose through “executive order” without Congressional approval (raising potential Constitutional issues).
Indeed, the president’s ambiguity in not stating in great detail all of the specific “executive orders” he might introduce if Congress did not go along with his policy demands highlighted that he was threatening to impose actions that clearly might potentially cross “red lines” separating presidential from congressional responsibilities under the Constitution.Constitutional Separation of Powers
The Founding Fathers constructed the Constitution in a way precisely to prevent abuse and concentration of power in any one branch of the government. They had had enough experience under a British king who asserted the “right” to arbitrarily impose taxes and regulations over the lives of the American colonists with neither their advice nor their consent.
President Obama has a “progressive” vision for America, but it is one that a large portion of the citizenry do not desire or agree with. Their elected representatives are supposed to reflect and defend their conception of what for many of them means a smaller and less intrusive government in people’s everyday life.
The president’s arrogance is shown by his assertion that he will use executive-imposed coercive methods to impose the policies that he wants, in place of persuasion and a wider legislative consent of the governed by winning more of the American people over to his view of a better country.Micro-Managing the People’s Lives
But the other level of his focus on micro-management highlights the inescapable political paternalistic mindset in which the president thinks. All the issues that he mentioned in his State of the Union address emphasized a hubris that he knows how Americans should live, act, and associate with each other.
He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;
He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;
He knows how businesses should organize their use of energy in their manufacturing of products;
He knows how long people should be financially able to be unemployed between jobs while looking for employment;
He knows how divergent income inequalities should or should not be in America;
He knows how to create career opportunities for young people and the type of education they should have available;
He knows the type and quality of health insurance and medical care people should receive.
This is why he has faced much of the Congressional opposition, over which he is clearly frustrated. Many people in the United States, and some of their elected representatives, believe that these are not matters for the government. They are matters that should be left up to the judgment, planning and decisions of individuals, families, and voluntary agreements among people themselves in their communities and in the workplace.
The president’s government-imposed “one-size-fits-all” solutions to what he considers to be America’s “problems” are in stark contrast to the diversity of America, and the more reasonable and common-sensical view that people in their own circumstances and with their own knowledge can far better handle their own problems than someone in a far-away national capital with none of the real micro-knowledge of people’s lives.
This partly explains the president’s low poll ratings. People come to resent the arrogant “do-gooder” who presumes to know better how people should live than those people themselves.Political Presence of Knowledge in Education
What he seems unable to understand – or does not want to understand – is that those in government do not have the knowledge, wisdom or ability to successfully plan the lives, actions, and outcomes of hundreds of millions of people in any way superior to what may result when each person is able to guide and direct his or her own life in their own corner of the society.
For example, how does President Obama know what type of pre-kindergarten education or training would be most effective in, maybe, giving a helping hand to the young? He probably might answer, the educational “experts.” But who are these “experts” other than university academics and government bureaucrats who self-appoint themselves and mutually congratulate each other as the “informed” specialists knowing how children should be raised and awakened to an interest in learning.
Self-confident in their own wisdom, these “experts” lobby and argue for their “scientific” concepts of pre-school education to be imposed on the young at taxpayers’ expense. Education for children of all ages is put into the straightjacket of what the “experts” agree upon or consider “best.”
The advantage of the market – including in education – is that it creates the competitive opportunity and the profit-driven incentive for many minds outside of government to innovate, experiment, and offer to others multiple methods of awakening that interest and ability to learn among the young.
We understand and take for granted that setting many minds to work in the competitive drive for market profits widens the process of discovery for improving the multitudes of products and services in our everyday lives. Better cell phones, improved flat-screen TVs, new stain removing clothing detergents, more convenient ways to read a book on an electronic tablet.
This would be no less true in education at all levels, if only the creative possibilities of many minds in the market were freed from the monopoly and controlling hand of government schooling and mandated teaching techniques.Arrogance of Dictating People’s Pay
Or on what basis does Obama declare that $10.10 is a “fair” and “living” minimum wage? He would no doubt reply that government bureaucrats have worked up statistical benchmarks of what is “needed” for a minimum standard of living, which every person should receive so as to have enough to satisfy those statistical benchmarks.
But merely saying that a person should be paid a certain amount does not mean that someone else will think they are worth that amount in terms of the wage they are willing and able to pay to have that person do a particular job. Perversely, minimum wages laws often end up harming some of the very people they are supposed to help.
Anyone that a prospective employer considers not to be worth $10.10 per hour will not be hired, or if currently employed may lose their job. No one will pay $10.10 for something, including someone’s labor services, if it is only considered to be worth, say, $9 or “$6.
All you end up doing is pricing out of the market some of the low or unskilled workers who are most in need for the entry level and lower paying job that offers them an opportunity to acquire, “on the job,” the experience, talent, and skills that over time may make them worth more to their existing or some other possible employer.
Take away this opportunity through imposing or further increasing a government-mandated minimum wage, and the government ends up guaranteeing that supposed minimum standard of living through welfare transfers in the form of cash or in-kind services that potentially lock many of these unfortunate people into prolonged or perpetual government dependency.
At the same time, the money to redistribute in this manner must come from increased taxes or more government borrowing, both of which have their negative effects. They undermine the incentives to work, save and invest on the part of those who are producing the wealth of the society, and thus, at a minimum, potentially slows down that rate at which the country’s “economic pie” of goods and services grows and improves over time. At its worst, it can bring a society to the point of stagnation or even economic decline.Reduced to Pawns on the Chess-Board of Society
More than 250 years ago, the great Scottish economist, Adam Smith, warned about such people who wish to be “social engineers” imposing their plan for a “good society” on the mass of the population.
Adam Smith called such a person the “man of system” who “is apt to be very wise in his own conceit . . . He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.”
The social engineer “does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the [social engineer] might choose to impress upon it.”
Each piece on that “great chess-board of human society” is an individual human being with his own hopes and dreams, goals and purposes, and ideas of how best to go about improving his own life in free association with others in the networks of social and market exchanges.
But, said Adam Smith, the social engineer’s insistence on imposing his idea of a better society through government power, “and in spite of all opposition . . . must often be of the highest degree of arrogance. And it is to erect his own judgment into the supreme standard of right and wrong. It is to fancy himself the only wise and worthy man in the commonwealth, and that his fellow-citizens should accommodate themselves to him and not he to them.”
The American tragedy right now is that the current occupant of the White House is a man suffering from that “highest degree of arrogance,” and who fancies “himself the only wise and worthy man” in the nation, to whom all the rest of us must conform.
[Originally posted at Epic Times]
One year ago today, Maureen Martin passed away in a house fire at her home in Green Lake, Wisconsin. She had served as Heartland’s senior fellow for legal affairs for ten years and was a good friend of many of us here. She was also a great lawyer, writer, and champion of liberty.
Reading again the remarks I prepared for Maureen’s memorial service, I’m struck by how quickly my memories of an old friend have dimmed. I guess it’s easy to forget people, even those who were wonderful and dear.
I hope all friends and supporters of Heartland will take a moment today to remember Maureen Martin and her many contributions to our freedom.
See our tribute page to Maureen’s life and work here.
February 1st was National Freedom Day. It commemorates Lincoln’s signing of the House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment. Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865.
Short of another Civil War, Americans have reached a point verging on the loss of their Constitutional freedoms as ever before. The issue then was slavery, but Americans are rapidly moving toward having their Bill of Rights annulled by a President intent on ruling as a despot, making them slaves of a regime that rules as he wishes, ignoring the Constitution and Congress.
His actions have been supported by the Democratic members of Congress and because Republicans only control the House they have seen their legislative efforts to oppose the regime blocked, often by one man, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. The nation’s media with few exceptions have supported or ignored the President’s actions.
Why is this happening? A brief review of the means put forth in Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals”, written by a “community organizer”, outlines what Obama is doing as he seeks to turn America into a socialist state. It is a process that progressives/liberals have been pursuing since early in the last century.
1) Healthcare – Control healthcare and you control the people.
2) Poverty – Increase the poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.
3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.
4) Gun Control – Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.
5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).
6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school.
7) Religion – Remove the belief in God from the Government and schools.
8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.
We are close to having everything we write and say known to the regime. As Andrew Napolitano asks, “What if the government spies on all of us all the time and recognizes no limits to its spying? What if its appetite for acquiring personal knowledge about all Americans is insatiable? What if the government uses the microchips in our cellphones to follow us and listen to us as we move about?”
And what if Congress, as World Net Daily’s Bob Unruh has written, has empowered the President to “arrest, kidnap, detain without trial and hold indefinitely American citizens thought to ‘represent an enduring security threat to the United States.’” That’s what the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) does!
“Some of the nation’s most respected legal teams are asking the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the indefinite-detention provisions” of the Act “charging that the law has created the framework for a police state.” That’s how far along we are toward the destruction of the U.S. Constitution.
“The 2014 NDAA was fast-tracked through the U.S. Senate, with no time for discussion or amendments, while most Americans were distracted by the scandal surrounding A&E’s troubles with ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson. Eighty-five of 100 senators voted in favor of the new version of the NDAA, which had already been quietly passed by the House of Representatives.”
Ostensibly a law to address terrorists, the NDAA is a blueprint for a nation in which its citizens have none of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights. All it will take is the declaration of martial law or a national emergency.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of Obamacare, writing in The Wall Street Journal, said, “Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the President’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat…the President’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology.”
Americans will soon have little recourse against a government intent on controlling every aspect of their lives, spying on them, and arresting them for criticizing it.
A May 16 march on Washington may cause the White House and the Congress to pause in its attacks on our freedom and liberty. One can only hope that millions participate.
Americans fought a war to end slavery. Will we have to fight to resist becoming slaves?
Congress is on the verge of extruding a new five-year farm bill. President Barack Obama says he will sign it.
As has each and every farm bill for coming up on eighty years:
Indeed it does.
Thank goodness we’re experiencing such stark global warming.
The fee would last for nearly 20 years…
Four times longer than the interminable farm bill.
…and would siphon the money to develop equipment that is cheaper, more efficient and safer….
Because the government is so excellent as a venture capital firm.
So they’re taxing our energy bills – for more of these fabulous “investments.”
…and to encourage consumers to update their equipment.
My monthly electric bill is currently the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Cuba – I’m already full-up on reasons to update my equipment. Yet another tax won’t “encourage” me – so much as infuriate me.
…(T)he bill taxpayers may foot for crop insurance subsidies—at least $89 billion over ten years—may outweigh what taxpayers would have contributed in direct (farm) subsidies. There are other many other costly bells and whistles to be found in the bill.
In short, what Congress has billed as a cost-cutting reform measure is nothing of the sort.
Heck, even the un-conservative Washington Post is opposed. And look at the uber-Leftist website Crooks and Liars:
The welfare queens in our Congress don’t want Americans knowing how much they are receiving in farm subsidies.
But this is Washington, D.C. – where reality goes to die. Soon – likely by the end of this week – the farm bill will be farm law.
So – what next?
This Colossus will be astride us for the next half decade. There will be nothing more to do about domestic farm policy except to sit here and take it. Oh – and pay for it. And borrow for it, so our progeny can also pay for it – with interest.
So let’s take all of this unified, righteous energy and channel it towards something with the potential to effect a far better future outcome.
Let’s make the global farm market safe for domestic reform the next go round.
(O)ur lather-rinse-repeat anti-free-market farm policy (has) warped the emerging global farm market. The world’s growers saw our bad moves – and matched them. Subsidy-for-subsidy, tax-for-tax, protectionism-for-protectionism.
Seven decades later, we have a worldwide Crony Socialist nightmare mess….
None of this has anything to do with a free exchange of goods.
The solution? Negotiate a global across-the-board reduction in government.
This is where the World Trade Organization, usually a colossal waste of space, can actually be of some good use….
The world’s sugar-producing nations need to sit down together, each with a copy of everyone else’s lists of protectionist sugar policies. And start horse trading.
“Brazil – how about if you get rid of this subsidy, we’ll each get rid of one.”
“Mexico – if you get rid of this tariff, we’ll each get rid of one.”
Let the subsequent discussions ensue. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Something good should come of this farm law heinousness. To set the stage for far less farm bill heinousness five years hence.
[Originally published on Human Events]
President Obama frequently says he wants to turn the economy around, put America back to work, produce more energy, improve public safety, and open new markets to goods stamped “Made in the USA.” In his State of the Union address he said, if congressional inaction continues, “I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”
Unfortunately, like Arafat, he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to do all these things.
Most Americans are no longer fooled by empty hope and change hype. In December only 74,000 jobs were created (many of them low-paying part-time seasonal positions), while 374,000 more people gave up looking for work. Not surprisingly, recent polls have found that three-quarters of Americans say the country still appears to be in a recession, two-thirds don’t trust the President to make the right decisions for the country, and barely 30% say the nation is “heading in the right direction.”
The President needs to use his pen and phone to free our energy, economy and entrepreneurial instincts. But ANWR, OCS, HF, KXL and other solutions were AWOL from the SOTU. They were sacrificed on the CO2 and CMGW altar, by the POTUS, EPA, DOI and DOE, in obeisance to the EDF, NRDC, other environmentalist pressure groups, and assorted unelected, unaccountable, unconstitutional autocrats.
(Don’t you love Washington-speak – from the land of acronyms, that pricey patch of real estate on the banks of the Potomac River, bordered by reality and places where people actually work to earn a living, despite presidents and hordes of legislators and regulators doing their level best to make that difficult. For those whose Wash-speak is as bad as their Spanish and German, translations are provided below.)*
Our nation is blessed with vast energy, metallic, mineral, forest and other resources, waiting to be tapped. But they are locked up in favor of crony-capitalist, eco-unfriendly, land-hungry, subsidy-dependent, nigh-useless pseudo-alternatives that are dearly beloved by utopian environmentalists – and by politicians hungry for campaign contributions from businesses that they repay with billions in other people’s money, taken from taxpayers at the point of an IRS gun to prop up renewable energy schemes.
Our hydrocarbon wealth especially offers amazing benefits: improved human safety, health, welfare and living standards, in a more stable world, with new sources of jobs, wealth and income equality. Not tapping these resources is contrary to Obama’s promises and our national interest. It is immoral.
Of all the opportunities arrayed before him, the 1,179-mile Alberta to Texas Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) is the most “shovel ready.” Indeed, it awaits merely a presidential phone call or signature, to slash bureaucratic red tape, streamline the permitting process, and create construction and manufacturing jobs. Some 40,000 jobs in fact – more than half as many as were created nationwide last December.
Jobs. KXL would create an estimated 20,000 construction jobs; another 10,000 in factories that make the steel, pipelines, valves, cement and equipment needed to build the pipeline; thousands more in hotel, restaurant and other support industries; and still more jobs in the Canadian, North Dakota and other oil fields whose output would be transported by the pipeline to refineries and petrochemical plants where still more workers would be employed. With Mr. Obama and his EPA waging war on communities and states that mine and use coal, these jobs are even more important to blue-collar workers in Middle America.
Revenue. States along the pipeline route would receive $5 billion in new property tax revenues, and still more in workers’ income tax payments. Federal coffers would also realize hefty gains.
Safety. Right now most of the oil from Canada’s oil sands and North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposits moves by railroad and truck fuel tanks, often through populated areas. Truck and rail accidents have forced towns to evacuate and even killed 50 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Corporate executives and federal regulators are working to improve tanker designs and reroute traffic. But even despite occasional accidents, pipelines have a much better safety record. KXL would be built with state-of-the-art pipe, valves and other components, to the latest design, manufacturing, construction and inspection specifications. It has been configured to avoid population centers, sensitive wildlife areas and the Ogallala Aquifer.
Resource conservation and energy needs. Building Keystone will help ensure that vast petroleum resources can be efficiently utilized to meet consumer needs. In conjunction with other pipelines, it will greatly reduce the need to flare (burn and waste) natural gas that is a byproduct of oil production in Bakken shale country. The pipelines will also help get propane and natural gas to places that need these fuels. Recent pipeline problems, plus unusually high demands for propane to convert corn to ethanol, created soaring prices and shortages amid one of the nastiest North American cold spells in decades.
KXL will also enable state and private lands to continue contributing to America’s hydrocarbon renaissance. That is especially important in the face of congressional and Obama Administration refusals to open more federal onshore and offshore oil and gas prospects in Alaska and the Lower 48 States.
US-Canadian relations. The endless dithering over KXL has frayed relations between Canada and the United States. It has compelled the Canadians to take decisive steps toward building new pipelines from the Alberta oil sands fields to Superior, Wisconsin … and to Canada’s west coast, for shipment to Asia’s growing economies. Further delays will not reduce oil sands development – only the oil’s destination.
Climate change. In his SOTU speech, President Obama informed us that “climate change is a fact.” Well, duh. It’s been a fact since Earth was formed. The only pertinent issues are these: Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented climate change disasters? And can we control Earth’s climate, by drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, slashing living standards and switching to renewables?
No evidence supports either proposition. Moreover, oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions, a tiny fraction of that amount to global carbon dioxide emissions, and an undetectable 0.00002 deg F (0.00001 C) per year to useless computer-model scenarios for global warming.
A January 24 letter spearheaded by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and signed by all 45 Republican Senators notes many of these points and requests that President Obama permit KXL pipeline construction “as soon as possible.” Several Democrats told Hoeven privately that they support his effort and Keystone, but are nervous about challenging the President or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly.
On January 31, the State Department reaffirmed its previous conclusions that KXL is unlikely to noticeably increase demand for Canadian oil sands or global emissions of carbon dioxide. With reelection behind him, the President has “greater flexibility” and doesn’t need to kowtow to his radical green base. By picking up his pen and phone, cutting off another year-long study of whether Keystone is “in the national interest,” and approving the pipeline, he could satisfy independents and his union base. He’d even reduce CO2 emissions, which State says would be 28-42% higher if Canada’s oil is shipped via train or truck, instead of through the pipeline.
Democrats are urging unemployed workers to lobby Republicans for extended benefits. They should instead lobby Democrats and the President to do what’s right for America: create the jobs they promised, by approving Keystone – along with drilling, fracking, mining, and reduced taxes and regulations.
America is waiting. Will there finally be real hope and change? Or just more hype and empty rhetoric?
* Acronym translator: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Continental Shelf, hydraulic fracturing, Keystone XL pipeline, absent without leave, State of the Union, carbon dioxide, catastrophic manmade global warming, President of the United States, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Heartland Institute is proud to announce Michelle Malkin as the keynote speaker at our 30th Anniversary Benefit on September 12, 2014. Save the date — and reserve your table or tickets now so you don’t miss out on this exciting evening for liberty!
Michelle is a New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist, wildly successful digital entrepreneur, and Tea Party champion. She was there at the beginning, amplifying what the mainstream media still doesn’t understand about the Tea Party — that it began and remains the most patriotic, bottom-up, truly grassroots movement to restore Constitutional principles our country has seen in generations.
She will be joined at Heartland’s 30th anniversary gala by our Master of Ceremonies, The Hon. Joe Walsh. Joe was the greatest champion the Tea Party ever had in Congress. He lived his small-government principles by refusing to accept his taxpayer-funded Congressional health benefits and sleeping in his office. Joe will bring to Heartland’s event the same energy and enthusiasm for liberty he displays every night on the radio in Chicago at AM 560 The Answer.
The Heartland Institute is most honored by the opportunity to award its 2014 Liberty Prize to M. Stanton Evans — the legendary conservative journalist and global champion of liberty. He studied under Ludwig von Mises at New York University, and went on to join the staff of William F. Buckley’s fledgling National Review (where he served as associate editor from 1960 to 1973). He later became managing editor of Human Events, where he is currently a contributing editor.
Evans was present at Great Elm, the Buckley family home, at the founding of Young Americans for Freedom — where on September 11, 1960, he drafted YAF’s charter, the Sharon Statement. Many conservatives still revere this document as a concise statement of their principles. He became a proponent of National Review co-editor Frank Meyer’s “fusionism,” a political philosophy reconciling the traditionalist and libertarian tendencies of the conservative movement.
You won’t want to miss this night of good food and drink, great speakers, and excellent fellowship and networking opportunities with fellow lovers of liberty — especially as the 2014 midterm elections draw near. Individual tickets are just $49, but it is best to purchase a table for your Tea Party or non-profit group at a an early-bird discount rate. Visit Heartland’s Benefit Site for more information.
See you there!
Barack Obama is fortunate to be president during the U.S. energy revolution. Extraction of oil and natural gas from dense shale is occurring with no help from the administration. It is occurring on private or state controlled lands and driven by private initiatives.
According to 2012 statistics compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the production of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids and coal from federal lands and waters all fell.
The difference between what is occurring on non-federal lands and federal lands demonstrates the economically punitive policies of this administration.
Mr. Obama correctly stated that climate change is a fact. It has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years and there is little governments can do to stop it. The great fear of global warming was artificially contrived. In its claim that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and welfare, the EPA claimed its findings are supported by science and cited three lines of evidence.
1.) EPA claims a distinct human fingerprint — a hot spot in the atmosphere centered over the tropics at about 33,000 feet. It does not exist. Satellites and weather balloons have failed to find it.
2.) EPA claims late 20th century surface global warming was unprecedented and dangerous. It was not. A similar warming occurred in the early 20th century, which was not associated with carbon dioxide. The late 20th century surface warming stopped 16 years ago.
3.) EPA claims climate models are reliable. Climate models failed to predict that global warming would stop and greatly exaggerate the warming over the past 30 plus years.
The EPA finding that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare is based on failing science and sub-prime climate models that are wrong.
For a president to declare that he will expand executive powers, without congressional approval, to fight this non-threat is a drastic step towards authoritarian government. Already, the administration has contrived an artificial concept called the social cost of carbon. All life on the planet is carbon based. Is life a pollutant? Does life have a social cost? The concept is an insult to logic, language, and science.
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has produced reports reviewing the appropriate scientific papers and concluded carbon dioxide emissions are not a major cause of global warming or climate change. Also, the reports cited thousands of studies in laboratories and in the field that demonstrate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations promote growth of virtually all forms of green plants and are a tremendous boon to agriculture and the environment. Three decades of satellite observations confirm these findings. The earth is greening. Though the greening is occurring everywhere, it is particularly noticeable in arid or semi-arid regions. This should not be a surprise, because carbon dioxide is the principal food for green plants.
In an October 2013, Craig Idso of CO2 Science published an independent analysis in which he estimated that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide would yield about $9.8 Trillion in total benefits to the global society over the period from 2012 to 2050.
In August 2013, the White House reported that in FY 2013 U.S. government climate change expenditures amounted to $22.6 billion. Based on previous reports by the GAO and the Congressional Research Service, this brings the total expenditures to over $165 billion since 1993. With all that money, we did invent some very good instruments to measure climate change, particularly from satellites; but those are largely ignored.
Where has most of the $165 billion gone? Much has been spent on failing science, failing climate models, failing alternative energy policies, and extreme exaggerations of the human influence on climate.
Western Europe has led the fight on global warming/climate change with dire economic results. Those industries that can are fleeing high electricity costs brought on by a big commitments on renewable energy. Countries such as Germany and the UK face unpleasant choices – subsidize electricity costs for industries or face enormous job losses. The promised green jobs are unsustainable without continued government subsidies and/or mandates.
Now, President Obama desires to lead the U.S. into adopting similar economically disastrous policies, without bothering to obtain congressional approval. There is no justification for ignoring the Constitution in a constitutional democracy. Global warming/climate change is not a dire emergency and should not be used to justify ignoring the Constitution.
Over at a place called The Patriot Post, writer Burt Prelutsky recently posted an amusing if profane piece called “The Dumbing & Numbing of America,” which addresses mostly the topics of legalizing marijuana, gender voting demographics, and political correctness and the Olympics, none of which we care to talk about today.
But if anything shows how dumb Americans can be, it’s a recent Pew Research/USA Today poll purporting to show that 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. economic system “unfairly favors the wealthy.” It would be more accurate to say that the U. S. economic system – if allowed to operate freely – creates more wealth than the alternatives.
Having done so before, we won’t waste time and energy pointing out once again the differences between wealth and income. Instead, we’ll make just a few simple points that may be easier to grasp.
First, any kind of economic system – mercantilism, unrestrained capitalism, a regulated market, socialism, communism – will “unfairly” favor “the wealthy” because – wait for it – “the wealthy” will by definition be the ones who wind up having the wealth. Regardless of how you start, once you earn it, steal it, inherit it, or have the government take it from somebody else and give it to you and your friends, then you have material wealth and you are “wealthy” – at least for the moment.
Chances are, if you didn’t earn it through hard work, thrift, and making better rather than worse choices about things like marriage, education, a socially useful career, the number of children you have, and whether to commit crimes and do drugs, you won’t keep it very long. But saying that the U. S. economic system unfairly favors the wealthy is simply oxymoronic, because whoever the system favors will – by definition – wind up with more wealth.
Second, the only way to permanently rid a society of a “gap” in either wealth or income is by making everybody equally poor. If nobody has any more wealth than anybody else, then nobody can be “wealthy.”
You want a new pair of hiking boots or a new car? Sorry, not unless you buy enough for the whole class. And in this case “class” means everyone – because otherwise you will be wealthier than someone else and things will be unequal. You want a 10% raise? Then everybody else must get one too. But the price of everything will suddenly go up 10% on average, too, because everyone who wants those things will have 10% more in bitcoins with which to buy them, so your raise won’t really be worth anything. So both absolutely and in relative terms you’ll still be as poor (or wealthy) as you used to be.
President Obama’s current lament that income inequality has “stalled” upward economic mobility therefore makes little sense, because without inequality there’s no higher place to go. Think about it: Most poor people want to move up the economic ladder, we presume. But as they move up, they become wealthier, which necessarily increases the amount of inequality between them and whoever is now below them. And if their moving up gives their children a better start in life, then their children may move even higher up the scale, which will again increase inequality compared to those who don’t.
The truth of the matter is that redistribution of wealth in the name of equality is just feel-good happy talk that benefits no one but professional politicians. Its premise is to buy votes based on envy and resentment while creating more of both. Redistribution of wealth makes no financial or economic sense for the people as a whole, but it lets members of the political class fly around in Air Force One and get ambassadorships to Norway.
In the end it always breaks down, but not before causing needless misery and loss of freedom. Just ask the survivors of the Soviet gulag or Pol Pot’s regime, or the starving people of North Korea.
Or someday soon, perhaps, your next door neighbor.
Last week was National School Choice Week. Negative vibes and views about school choice whether achieved through vouchers, charter schools, Educational Savings Accounts, or by other means are quite common. Three years ago a study by Greg Forster, PhD used available empirical studies to show that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools in A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.
It’s easy to understand how participants would benefit by giving them more options, but schools likewise benefit as vouchers introduce healthy incentives for public schools to improve. Forster’s 2011 report indicates how 11 out of the 12 gold-standard studies on school choice found that choice improves student outcomes; the other study found neither a negative nor positive impact (Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence, April 2013).
Chicago’s celebration of School Choice Week was commemorated at a joint venture held by The Heartland Institute and the Illinois Policy Institute at an evening event on Thursday, January 30, at the headquarters of The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive #2740. Joe Bast is President and CEO of The Heartland Institute. John Tillman heads the Illinois Policy Institute as its CEO. Moderator was Bruno Behrend, Senior fellow for education policy, The Heartland Institute. Members of the panel were Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president; Tom Morrison, Illinois State Representative (R-54); and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute. All were credited as having expertise in education policy.
The discussion centered on how to improve our schools and give children a chance at a better future. There was ample time provided for attendees to direct questions to the three panelists. Free school choice educational materials was on hand to help spread the reform message, as was the book “What American Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries,” which presents a wealth of information and insights into how parents in many other countries have more freedom of choice in education than Americans do and without the financial penalty.
In his opening statement moderator Burno Behrend spoke of the need to transform instead of reform, questioning why school districts and administrators even have to exist. The panelists were given a series of questions by Behrend for general response. At other times a specific question was directed to only one of the panelists for his consideration.
The following article is worthy of consideration prior to the responses of the three panelists when quizzed by Burno Behrend about the use of technology to advance education.
Frederick Hess and Bror Saxberg in their joint article published in the SPRING 2014/ VOL. 14. NO 2 of Education Next, “Schooling Rebooted: Turning educators into learning engineers”, advances the understanding of technology as a tool rather than some kind of secret sauce. . . The most important thing is the vision of what you’re going to do. Once you’ve got vision, there are various kinds of support that are needed in terms of curriculum and infrastructure. Trying to backfill technology into existing systems can be difficult.
All three panelists spoke favorably about the use of technology in education. Ted Dabrowski is convinced that technology will break down the status quo in education, allowing for more innovation. Tom Morrison spoke of the use of tablets enabling students to work at their own pace with a teacher available to check that students are doing their assignment, while Joe Bast believes that a technology revolution is already taking place outside of the school in virtual learning.
Selected statements made by Ted Dabrowski, Tom Morrison, and Joe Bast on a variety of subjects:
Ted Dabrowski -
- Children who are forced to remain in failing schools must be turned into heroes and not the victims they are perceived to be by those resisting vouchers or school choice.
- Four of 100 kids in Illinois’ worst schools won’t be college ready, meaning 96% aren’t going to make it.
- Make the case for vouchers by 1) doing a better job of promoting the money case, 2) having an action plan when the anti-choice side fights back with massive amounts of money, and 3) thinking more of being in a constant campaign mode as is the practice of unions.
- The pro school choice side is lousy at building coalitions. We miss opportunities by not partnering with parents who have children in the worst schools or who do want a choice. There are those even in suburban schools who would prefer to send their children to a private school. [Moderator Behrend raised the issue of how to overcome the stigma of poor kids attending mostly white suburban schools.]
Tom Morrison -
- Taxpayers are no longer willing to keep paying higher tax rates even if guaranteed a better educational outcome, in a realization that throwing more money at education is not the answer.
- The term “voucher” has gotten to be a bad word and doesn’t sell well with so-called soccer moms. Might be better to call them “opportunity scholarships” instead, where the money follows the child.
- In crafting a bill for Educational Savings Accounts, a family would receive the money and could choose how to spend it. Shopping around is possible as there is no need to spend the money all at one place. Any bill would need to stipulate non-means testing and a further requirement for qualification at 1-1/2 times the poverty level. Without these factors the legislation would be difficult to sell to legislators.
- Raised the question of whether it’s fair to force kids in Chicago to attend faulty schools?
Joe Bast -
- People in the front lines are the last ones to realize how much progress has taken place in school choice: 1.6 million children are attending charter schools. 250,000 are attending private school through vouchers.
- The other side has lots of money. We are outspent 100 to 1. We must win the political argument and the rest will fall into place.
- In answer to Ted Dabrowski who suggested that every child might be given the opportunity of school choice, Bast cited the lack of money and of political support for Ted’s universal proposal.
- Teacher burn out does happen. Burned out teachers who remain in the teaching profession, lured to stay by generous pension, do just as well as do younger and more enthusiastic teachers. How so? The really talented teacher leave the teaching profession to work in other fields, leaving in its wake the burned out teachers.
- Believes the next governor will sign on to vouchers or choice legislation. Illinois is way out of line with other states.
Question and Answer Highlights -
- Jeff Berkowitz of Chicago Now spoke about the importance of keeping the message simple. As related by Berkowitz, there are 15,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools. Unless we get 30 senators to vote for voucher legislation it won’t happen. At the end of the day it will be a pitchfork political battle with the fierce educational lobby. Whether school vouchers or pension reform, it’s all about money which is the driving force. When you can’t get the money, what do you do? Said Berkowitz: If the right message (public policy) is presented to get the people to move, the money will be found. Legislators must then be convinced to vote the right way. A better job of messaging is needed.
- Education doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution because the Founders didn’t want the government to manipulate schools.
- Common Core with its standards for each grade level might sound good to many. This presents the opportunity to show how ineffective Common Core actually is with government centralization. Common Core was referred to as “Obamacore.”
- Schools are to serve the children; children are their customers.
- The best schools in Chicago are charter schools. Even when located in areas with the same demographics, children fare better than in a traditional school setting.
- There is 60% support for school vouchers. The pubic gets it. It’s all about politics!
- All total there are 6.3 million individuals in public school education. Half of the system (3.2 million) is made up of pricy and often unnecessary administrators.
Moderator Behend’s closing thoughts:
The envelope must be pushed. Common Core was depicted as the “last gasp of centralized, top-down education.” And why doesn’t centralization work? Because one size fits all just doesn’t work.
Two dates to consider saving:
1. Tuesday, February 11 – Tevi Troy will present a lecture on his book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House. To register call 312/377-4000 or visit heartland.org.
2. Friday, September 12 – Michelle Malkin has been engaged to be the Keynote Speaker at The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner. Visit: benefit. Heartland.org or contact Gwendalyn Carver at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312/377-4000.
In a piece last month, I explained that President Obama’s presidency has been a complete failure by his own standards. He tells us that he is fighting for the middle class. But real middle class incomes have been declining steadily throughout his entire time in office, more since the recession than during the recession.
He tells us that countering increasing income inequality is the defining issue of our time. But income inequality has been accelerating throughout his entire presidency, with the real incomes of the top 20% rising, and the real incomes of everyone else, the bottom 80% — the middle class, the working class, and the poor – declining.
As a result, poverty has been soaring while he has been president, faster probably than even under Jimmy Carter, despite exploding welfare dependency. We need so-called liberals and so-called “progressives” for this?
President Obama has been promising us economic recovery, restored economic growth, and jobs, since before he was elected. He and his Democrats spent nearly a trillion dollars on so-called “stimulus” to deliver on those promises. But all that was stimulated was government spending, deficits and debt, with the worst recovery from a recession than under any other president since the Great Depression, and even before. Six years after the recession started, we still have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, while in all previous post Depression recessions all the jobs lost were recovered within 2 years on average. Obama’s strongest supporters, blacks, Hispanics, and the young, have been hurt the most, with the highest and longest unemployment
President Obama told us that Obamacare would provide universal health insurance for all. But after Obamacare was passed, CBO told us that 10 years after it was implemented, 30 million Americans would still be uninsured. Much worse, the only results so far have been to increase the number of uninsured, as more Americans have lost their health insurance than gained it under Obamacare.
The president told us that if you liked your health insurance, you could keep it. But it turned out that if he liked your health insurance, you could keep it, as millions of Americans found their health insurance cancelled by the new law, with probably tens of millions more to be cancelled once the delayed employer mandate becomes effective. He told us that if you liked your doctor, you could keep him, or her. But with your insurance probably goes your doctor, even for a deathly ill cancer patient being treated by the best in the world, keeping her alive beyond her life expectancy, as she explained in the Wall Street Journal.
President Obama told us that Obamacare would reduce health insurance costs by $2,500 per family. But health insurance costs have doubled or even tripled for millions of Americans under Obamacare.
So now let us judge President Obama’s State of the Union by his own standards as well. He told us near the start of his speech, “what I offer tonight is a set of concrete proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”
His first concrete proposal was corporate tax reform. He said:
Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.
Corporate tax reform that closed crony capitalist loopholes in return for lowering the rates would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But that is not what Obama and his Democrats are supporting. They want corporate tax reform that would impose a net tax increase from the current corporate tax code with the highest marginal tax rates in the developed world. That tax increase would then be used to finance increased government spending, which is what President Obama thinks is the real root cause of economic growth and prosperity, a concept reflecting miseducation in my opinion. That is what Obama meant when he said in the State of the Union:
Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first class jobs gravitate to first class infrastructure.
But increasing taxes still more on corporate employers, drawing still more funds out of private business and industry, to increase government spending still more, is not going to produce jobs, rising wages, and economic recovery and growth. Those still higher taxes are just going to cause still more capital flight from the United States, which is going to mean still fewer jobs and still lower wages for middle class, working class, and poor working people.
Higher taxes to finance increased government spending at best adds nothing to the economy on net. Increasing government spending on “infrastructure” was the central strategy behind all that spending in the 2009 stimulus, which again stimulated nothing except government spending, deficits and debt. Moreover, Congress is already preparing to spend hundreds of billions more on such infrastructure in this year’s Transportation bill, and what Obama called the “Waterways” bill. What Obama is proposing is not a new, progressive idea, but outdated ideology from the New Deal almost a century ago.
Enough Congressional Democrats are ready to join with Republicans to pass pro-growth tax reform with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Reagan, or President Kennedy, both strong growth titans, would be able to get such bipartisan reform done. But not President Obama, which exactly contrary to the rhetoric he used to get elected, is such a hostile partisan, he has never been able to get anything done on a bipartisan basis.
But that was not the only tax increase Obama called for in his SOTU to finance still more spending. Obama added:
Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
But oil and natural gas producers taking deductions for the same costs of doing business that any other manufacturer takes is not “giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries.” What Obama cannot understand is that the federal government does not subsidize oil and gas companies. Oil and gas companies subsidize the federal government. Check out the federal taxes they pay, as compared to other businesses.
What the president is proposing here is increasing taxes still more on oil and gas companies producing low cost, reliable energy, to give crony capitalist handouts (more spending) to high cost, unreliable energy producers. That is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. That is driving down the productive with higher taxes, to subsidize the unproductive, meaning less production, and more waste. Which translates into the economic stagnation of the Obama Democrat new normal.
The market chooses “fossil fuels” to power the world’s leading economy because the energy in “fossil fuels” is highly concentrated. So naturally by the laws of physics it costs less than solar power from sunlight, where the net usable energy is highly diffuse, and so naturally more expensive to collect and use.
President Obama’s next concrete proposal was to further increase regulatory burdens and barriers. He said:
But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The term “carbon pollution” further reflects miseducation, as the carbon dioxide targeted by the regulations is a natural substance in the environment essential to all life on the planet. The only documented effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so far is actually increased agricultural production, which greater atmospheric concentration of CO2 promotes. That increased production has been estimated by studies to be worth well over a trillion dollars.
But more directly pertinent, that increased regulation is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, as Obama promised at the start of his speech. Increasing regulatory burdens and barriers to production of low cost, reliable energy is just going to increase the cost of energy, which is a dagger to the heart of the economy.
Still more increased regulation is Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage. If increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 is a good idea with no harmful effects, then why not increase it to $110.10? The drawbacks of the lower increase are just a difference of degree.
To the extent that wages are raised by legal decree, without a concomitant increase in productivity, fewer workers will be employed, as employers will use less of any factor whose costs are increasing. But when the legal minimum wage is increased, the least skilled and productive simply do not get employed at all, and so are effectively banned from the labor force, reducing economic supply to match the reduced demand at the higher price. Even worse than economic Darwinism, this is economic cannibalism.
One of the first things the new Democratic Congress entering office in 2007 did was increase the minimum wage. That played out with teenage unemployment ultimately soaring to over 25%. Even in December, teenage unemployment under Obama was still 20%. Black teenage unemployment ultimately well over 40% was still 35.5% in December. Hispanic teenage unemployment was still 22.3%.
Wages can be raised to the sky without limit as long as productivity increases at the same pace. And how is productivity raised? By capital investment, providing workers with more productive tools. But capital investment has to come from the rich, as by definition it is the rich who have the most capital. If federal income taxes are going to be so heavily skewed against the rich, however, with the top 1% of income earners earning 14.9% of before tax income, but paying 39% of personal income taxes, and 49.5% of corporate income taxes, as the CBO reported in December, the result is going to be the capital flight we have suffered.
That means the capital of the rich is creating jobs and raising wages in Brazil, or the Far East, or Eastern Europe. Overregulation further increasing business costs, and loose dollar monetary policies threatening the decline of the dollar, will only increase that capital flight further.
Another concrete proposal President Obama raised in the SOTU was “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” Such expanded free trade would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But not if the trade legislation is burdened with poison pill requirements to increase environmental and labor regulatory costs on the economy.
Or with poison pill favors for Obama cronies, such as government authority to restrict access to the Internet by users merely accused of copyright infringements by copyright owners, with no right to judicial appeal, and even government authority to take down sites accused of repeated infringement. Hollywood has long been seeking such potentially abusive government power for the politically friendly Obama Administration. Last Fall, Wikileaks published a draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors for the public, but with access by Obama friendly corporate lobbyists. That draft agreement references precisely such potentially abusive government authority over the Internet.
That reflects growing Democrat partnership with Hollywood cronies. Congressional Democrats are supporting legislation that would impose so-called royalty taxes on radio stations for the free music they play on air, with half the funds going to the big record companies as an institutionalized corporate bailout. Those radio stations already pay the song authors or other copyright owners under long institutionalized arrangements. The record companies promote their songs to be played by the stations, like book or otherwise published authors seek interviews on free media, for which they are not paid. But the record companies, free to negotiate their own deals with radio stations, now want the government to force the stations to pay them.
But Obama and the Democrats don’t seem serious about these free trade deals. While Republicans embraced such pro-growth policy, if the deals are not vehicles for more costly regulation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly opposed any fast track trade authority. This was reminiscent of 2009-2010, when Obama posed publicly as a supporter of free trade, while hiding behind then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who killed any such deals, until Republicans took over the House in the 2010 elections.
So the pattern continues. President Obama paints pretty pictures with flowery pro-growth and populist rhetoric. But the results are consistently the opposite of his promises, whether due to duplicity or just incompetence.
[First published at Forbes.]
The federal government is paying to promote controversial testing and curriculum mandates called Common Core, and so are a collection of big-name private foundations and states. They are employing a number of strategies, but topping the list is training pro-Common Core teachers to multiply their support and hiring professional communications teams.
The federal government has provided all the operating funds—$330 million total—for two groups that will roll out national tests in spring 2015. These are the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC). Together, the groups’ proposed budgets submitted to the federal government indicated they would spend almost $5.5 million in taxpayer dollars to convince taxpayers their money has been well spent and should continue once the federal funds dry up in September 2014. Later documents show PARCC and SBAC have upped that amount to at least $9.9 million.
Convincing the Public with Their Own Money
PARCC planned to spend $400,000 “for a retainer with a communications firm” to provide “public and targeted outreach materials tailored to Partnership state needs.” Such materials includes “toolkits” and “policy briefs.” It also budgeted $3,453,719 to “develop a leadership cadre of content experts.”
That cadre is now known in PARCC states across the country as the “PARCC Educator Leader Cadre” (PELC). Between 16 and 35 people are in each such group in the sixteen PARCC member states across the country. Here’s a list of Ohio’s, Oklahoma’s (before it withdrew from PARCC), Florida’s, and Illinois’. More than 1,000 teachers and education staff participate in the cadres, according to a PowerPoint from Lynn Brabender, a PARCC program associate.
SBAC budgeted $1.5 million “to work with an outside communications firm” to reach “key stakeholders and legislatures about the assessment system and for building support for the system from the public and those stakeholders.” A December 2013 request for proposals (RFP) from SBAC allows up to $5.2 million for a communications contract.
Spending on these projects doesn’t include other public relations activities, such as paying for testing representatives to deliver essentially marketing presentations to state officials. In fall 2013, for example, both PARCC and Smarter Balanced sent employees to the Indiana legislature in an attempt to convince them to keep Common Core and its national tests.
The testing organizations have increased their federally sponsored public relations push just as parents and teachers across the country have begun objecting to the national initiative and pressuring their state representatives to withdraw. It’s a crucial moment for the consortia, as their federal money runs out soon and must be replaced by state-collected tax dollars if they are to survive. The consortia have been using federal tax dollars to convince taxpayers and their elected representatives to continue ponying up. Meanwhile, Alaska, Kansas, and Utah have dropped out of SBAC and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have dropped out of PARCC.
How It Works
PARCC spends federal funds on two in-person meetings of PELC members per year, consortium documents say: “PARCC will cover travel and lodging costs for all participants. This includes airfare, meals, ground transportation and hotel room costs.” PARCC contracted with the National Math and Science Initiative to create and lead the cadres nationally. NMSI is a nonprofit that has also received donations from Common Core supporters, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, College Board, and Exxon-Mobil. NMSI has also received federal funds from the Department of Defense Education Activity, U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Naval Research.
PARCC actually gave NMSI more than it had budgeted for the cadre: The contract is worth $4.3 million in redirected federal funds.
Teachers, curriculum directors, and other administrators who participate in the cadres perform a variety of duties, including reviewing test items for PARCC, attending meetings and webinars, helping PARCC write curriculum, and training other teachers how to teach according to Common Core. Illinois PELC members have given workshops on Common Core and PARCC “in many venues,” and some sent a newsletter on those topics to all teachers in the state’s southern region, said Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois board of education.
“They have also served as local liaisons for schools and districts for new standards and PARCC,” she said over email. A request for more information yielded this: “A liaison serves as a bridge, passing on the flow of information, resources, training opportunities around the standards and upcoming assessments. They may not always be the ones leading professional development but could be involved in the planning and support of PD sessions.”
School Reform News repeatedly contacted officials in five state departments of education for comment on PELCs. Some did not return calls, others promised to, but didn’t, and also ignored follow-up messages. SRN also contacted at least half a dozen cadre participants in several states. None would discuss the initiative.
For example: Char Shryock, a curriculum director and PELC member outside Cleveland, Ohio requested all SRN’s questions in writing, which were provided that afternoon and never answered, despite a follow-up phone call and email three weeks later. Most people contacted, however, simply didn’t respond.
PARCC’s spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment.
Getting to the Teachers
PELC members are also expected to promote Common Core to teachers and the public, say state and PARCC documents.
“The cadres are intended to be an integral part of each state’s strategy for engaging educators in the CCSS and PARCC,” state materials from Arizona’s education department.
Materials from Ohio’s education department describe PELC members as “Distributors/messengers/ambassadors” for Common Core and “strategists, editors, listeners, and messengers”: “Think of them as a focus group.”
“[C]adre members are in a great position to push out messages and materials and to ensure benefit from the widest possible circulation,” the document says. “At a minimum, they all have e-mail lists of colleagues and ideally are part of broader professional networks.”
PARCC recommended that states select cadre members “who have a broad professional network that can be leveraged to reach an ever expanding number of educators,” the Arizona document says.
Oklahoma has pulled out of PARCC, and state lawmakers are considering bills to repeal Common Core entirely. Meanwhile, the state department of education is still convening its former PARCC cadre, according to an employee there whose name is withheld because he was not cleared to speak on the topic.
“We’re still doing work with it here in Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re just doing it within our state, because we found it so beneficial.” Then he stopped talking and said he needed permission to speak with reporters and would call back if he got it. Two weeks later, he returned a follow-up call with a phone message, saying “I’m not really able to talk about the PARCC Educator Leader Cadres,” and directing questions to the department’s communications office. That office did not return repeated phone calls.
Leading from PARCC
State departments of education selected the PELC participants, but PARCC suggested how they should do so, its latest report to the federal government says: “The consortium provided recommendations indicating the qualifications states should look for in nominating individuals for Educator Leader Cadres, such as commitment to the work, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, team orientation, interest in pedagogical and curriculum development work, innovation and creativity, and facility with technology.”
That report says the cadres are a central component of PARCC’s communications strategy, which the consortium intends to expand in “scope and reach” in 2013-2014. The cadres “develop a group of educators who can serve as ambassadors for the consortium in their state. As… interest [in the Common Core tests] increases, the twice-annual convenings of the Cadre members and periodic webinars will be an important opportunity for these educators to become even more active in sharing information with their own communities.”
“A common characteristic among ELC members: They are passionate about the promise of the Common Core and PARCC and stand ready to help make the public case,” says a PARCC guide to PELCs for policymakers.
The guide highlights the cadres in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico, most of which have made dozens of presentations on Common Core to fellow teachers. It also says PELC members might be expected to advocate for Common Core to state lawmakers and local media, “Write op-ed columns for local newspapers and opinion blogs,” and “Present at informational briefings with community organizations and education-reform advocacy groups.”
What About SBAC?
It’s not just PARCC putting millions of federal dollars into public relations. In its latest report to the federal government, from May 2013, SBAC acknowledged “the consortium faced challenges” in communications.
“The Common Core State Standards, and the consortia building assessments aligned to those standards, have become objects of well-organized and effective political opposition,” SBAC’s December RFP says. It also expects “significant drops in proficiency rates” on the new tests and the difficulties of working with so many states on one project to be communications risks: “If not managed well, the public and political reaction to this change could endanger acceptance of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.”
It aims to remedy that with a full-court communications press as its tests roll out across the country this fall.
Its RFP seeks “a comprehensive Communication Plan to enable adoption and widespread acceptance of common college- and career-ready performance standards for the Smarter Balanced summative assessments across all member states.”
For $5.2 million, SBAC wants “compelling messages” aimed at education decision makers such as state superintendents, legislators, and state board of education members before key votes over SBAC’s cut scores, or the level kids are required to reach to pass the tests. It also wants materials aimed at “grasstop” people like the media and business leaders, and at “grassroots” people like parents and teachers. Other communications targets include governors, superintendents, teachers union leaders, college and university officials and faculty, and community leaders.
The organization that wins the contract must develop a communications plan that includes:
- “background meetings with reporters, press releases and media advisories, press teleconferences, and on-the-record interviews”
- “A rapid-response capacity to identify and respond to opposition when and where advantageous”
- “Web and social-media strategies”
- “Identification, training, and use of effective spokespeople”
- “Turnkey resources for state use (presentations, sample web pages, op-eds, etc.)
- And “Contingency planning for crisis communications.”
The many communications materials already available should be folded into SBAC’s messaging push, the RFP says. A plethora of private foundations and advocacy groups are continuing to prepare such materials, many of which focus, like PARCC, on raising the profile of supportive teachers.
“As educators, ELC members are credible voices in the reform conversation and can explain to key audiences—including teachers, parents, policymakers and the public—the rationale and value of new standards and assessments,” says PARCC’s policymaker guide. “Leveraging their leadership and expertise is critical to the success of the Common Core and PARCC.”
[First published at Human Events.]