On the Blog

Yes, Virginia, There is no Political Santa Claus

Somewhat Reasonable - December 23, 2014, 3:21 PM

At a time of the year when gift giving and charitable good spirit fills the air, please allow me to be the one who rains on the parade: “Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus!”

I don’t mean the Santa who comes down the chimney with toys for every girl and boy. This is the Santa who really is Mom or Dad, Grandparent or other family members or close friends who out of their own earned income choose to purchase, wrap and give gifts to those little ones on Christmas morning.

The small child may have been told the fairy story about an jolly, fat man in a red suit who lives in the far north, working with his elves all year long so the toys and other presents are ready to be miraculously delivered to every “good boy and girl” around the world in one night.

But we “adults” all know that is all just a story for the children at an early and gullible age when the fantasy of it all seems possibly real. And many of us cherish those early years of wonder and make-believe, before the reality breaks through that it just does not and cannot happen that way.

The Redistributing and Regulating Political Santa

I mean the Uncle Sam “Santa” that, not just at Christmas time, but year-round, is believed by many people to have the ability to bring them many of the good things they want from a mythical North Pole called Washington, D.C., or any governmental capital around the world.

This is the political Santa who delivers subsidies of various sorts to farmers or “alternative energy” manufacturers. The Santa who redistributes vast sums of money for educational expenditures, or public housing, welfare and food stamps, or government defense contracts, and even “bridges to nowhere.”

This is also the political Santa who can magically fill the global skies with unmanned drones for surveillance and death, or fund decade-long trillion-dollar wars in far-off lands, or bankroll “friendly” governments in other places around the world while punishing “bad” countries for what Uncle Sam defines as “misbehavior.”

This is the Santa who claims the power and ability remake human nature, control human thought, and redesign some or even all of human society into various preferred shapes and forms.

This political Santa works hard to create the illusion that prosperity and improvement in the human condition cannot happen if not for the guiding, regulating, and manipulating hand of “benevolent” government.

The Political Myth of Something for Nothing

But while almost all children grow out of their belief in a Santa Claus with his home at the North Pole who “somehow” succeeds in manufacturing all those “goodies” that he carries on his sleigh on Christmas Eve, many people go through their entire life convinced of the Santa-like abilities of a paternalistic government that can “somehow” assure many, if not all, of the desired good things of life.

However, just as “Santa” is really Mom and Dad who buy the presents, and wrap them to put under the Christmas tree, governmental “Santa” are those in political office who have no ability to bestow desired benefits on “all” without, in fact, first taking from some to give to others.

Mom and Dad work. They assist in producing goods or in performing services for others in the marketplace, which earns them a salary or nets them a profit. They have had to first produce to, then, through the income they earned, have the ability to consume, including on the goods that their children find on Christmas morning.

The governmental Santa must, first, tax away the income and wealth of some to, then, redistribute it in one form or another to others in the country over which those in political power assert fiscal and regulatory authority.

For the mythical Santa at the North Pole there are no costs for anything he does. The resources, raw materials and tools with which his Christmas goodies are made just appear. The elves work, apparently, for nothing and their food and clothes do not need to be produced, either.

For our political Santa Claus to rain redistributive “gifts” on those he considers deserving and “nice,” he must take from those found to be “naughty” and not nice.

Political Santa’s “Gifts” Carry High Costs

Our political Santa Claus imposes real and meaningful costs on many in society to do his magical “social work.” First, he must appropriate part of the material wealth produced by those productive members of society. People who, in a free market, only earn what they have by peacefully offering to others things those others desire and value enough to pay an agreed-upon price to acquire.

A portion of the intellectual and material effort of real men and women are seized from them through compulsory taxation. The government classifies these net taxpayers in society as having more than they “really” need, and usually don’t ethically “deserve.”

They get “sack of coal” for being “bad” in the form of being left with less than the full value of their creative and hardworking effort. They are denied the opportunity and the right to enjoy the complete fruits of their mental and physical labors. Their choices to spend what they have honestly earned are narrowed to what the political Santa decides they should have available to spend.

The “good” little political citizens who are given the redistributive benefits, therefore, are the net recipients of what others have produced, and which they have received due the ideological and pressure group power they can bring to bear in collaboration with the political Santa in the municipal, state, and national halls of governmental control.

But the costs of political Santa’s generosity do not come just in the form of direct redistributions. They also come in the form of regulations, restrictions, and licensing requirements that determine who may allowed to compete, work, and earn a living in a particular line of enterprise, production, and trade.

This “sack of coal” for the “bad” citizens also comes in the form in the inability to start a business or expand and successfully run an enterprise as the result of the regulatory hand of political Santa. The costs also take the form of closed opportunities for those with little or no skills to find work or be hired at a starting wage that would give them a chance at improving their own lives through honest employment in the free marketplace.

It also costs the consumers who find their choices and options are more limited or nonexistent than the free market would have provided, if only the government had not imposed these barriers, walls, and hurtles in the way of those who merely wish to be left alone to go about their private and personal affairs of life by offering new, better, and less expense goods and services to their fellow men through honest, peaceful, and mutually agreed terms of trade.

The “good little citizens” in this case are those on the supply-side of the market who are sheltered from the competition of real or potentially more efficient and productive rivals. Their larger market shares, greater profit margins, and costly inefficiencies are protected by the political Santa’s regulatory power; he, in turn, receives the campaign contributions and implicitly bought votes on election days that keep him in office.

The Myth of Needing a Political Santa for Life

For political Santa to pursue his mythical game in governmental plunderland, he must do all in his power to persuade and convince his citizen “children” that they do not have a right to their own life and to live it in their own chosen way. They must be indoctrinated to either passively accept the role of life-long dependent upon the political Santa, or to serve as the self-sacrificing elves who must do the work to produce all the goods and services in the world that will be redistributed out of the political Santa’s sack of taxed and regulated benefits.

Santa will educate you; he will see that you have a job and that you receive a “fair” wage. He will make sure that you are safe and satisfied by controlling what is produced, how it produced, and the terms under which the “bad” business children under his regulatory supervision market and sell many of those “goodies” to you.

When sick or disabled, political Santa will give you medical care; and he will guarantee you a retirement free from the need for planning for these things yourself.

All you need to do is accept your status as a lifetime adolescent needing supervision, care, and oversight in everything and in all things that you do. The spirit and psychology of being political Santa’s dependent was captured in that government website cartoon during the first Obama Administration called “The Life of Julia.”

“Julia” needed government to supply the hospital in which she was born; to provide the pre-school education with which her political indoctrination began; too see that Julia was given not only a government high school diploma, but got taxpayer subsidies and special quotas to make it into a preferred college or university; to see that gender affirmative action laws guaranteed a “fair chance” to a good paying job and career that she otherwise could never get on her own; and to see that in later years Julia has the safety-net of government Social Security, without having to bear the responsibility of carrying for this herself.


Self-Sacrificing “Elves” to Serve Political Santa

The other side of political Santa’s plunderland is the indoctrination of the productive and producer “elves” who are needed to do the work that supplies all that government can give away. This requires convincing everyone that “society” comes before the individual; that anything that the individual has is not due to his own effort and his peaceful and voluntary associations with others, or as President Obama asserted, “You did not built it.”

Instead, what you have is due to the collective efforts of all, so that you cannot claim a right to anything or any more than what the collective deems you to deserve. And it is political Santa who represents and acts for the social collective in determining what shall be expected from you and in what form, and what you shall be allowed to have from “society” (or that you are allowed to keep) as bestowed by the government’s redistributive and regulatory activities.

But just as there is no Santa at the North Pole, there is no political Santa in society. Political Santa is really those who run for political office to gain and retain governmental control and power over other people’s lives. Political Santa is really all the special interest groups who wish to use the halls of governmental power to obtain through regulation and taxation what they cannot honestly earn in the open competition of the free marketplace.

Ethical Benevolence vs. Political Immorality

Benevolence and voluntary charity, and a properly understood spirit of “giving” to those you value and love at Christmas time are right and virtuous sentiments of free people in the open society.

But belief in and actions based upon the idea of a “political Santa” only succeeds in weakening and finally destroying the spirit and ethical health of a free and prosperous society.

So, yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Neither a North Pole Santa who comes down the chimney in a red suit, nor a political Santa who can give people “something for nothing” in a world in which all that people want and desire must be creatively produced by someone before it may used to satisfy those wants and desires.

What makes the mythical belief in a political Santa far worse than the short-lived childhood belief in the North Pole Santa, is that the idea of a political Santa challenges and destroys the spirit of individualism upon which the good, free and prosperous society ultimately rests.


[Originally published at EpicTimes]


Categories: On the Blog

Fracking is Fundamental

Somewhat Reasonable - December 23, 2014, 11:50 AM

It is a sad day when a state chooses to listen to the fear, uncertainty, and doubts spread by anti-fossil fuel agitators rather than making a decision for economic strength that would benefit schools, communities, and many of its poorest citizens—especially when the vilified technology, hydraulic fracturing, has been used safely and successfully for more than 60 years and has brought prosperity to other formerly struggling regions.

— Marita Noon
Executive Director, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute

Responding to the announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the state would ban fracking, Ms. Noon joined others, bringing their expertise to bear on a topic that remains a concern only because environmentalist enemies of energy in America continue to lie about it every chance they get.

In his book, “The Fracking Truth–America’s Energy Revolution: The Inside, Untold Story”. Chris Faulkner wrote “Furthermore, it’s been commonplace for decades. Worldwide, it’s estimated that more than 2.5 million wells have been fracked and the U.S. accounted for about half of those. Today, about 35,000 wells are fracked each year in all types of wells. And it’s impact on industry? It’s been estimated that 80% of production from unconventional sources such as shales would not be feasible without it.”

The Governor’s decision has everything to do with wooing the support of environmentalists in New York and nothing to do with the jobs and billions in tax revenue that fracking would have represented.

New York’s acting health commissioner, Howard Zucker, justified the decision saying that “cumulative concerns” about fracking “give me reason to pause.” Are we truly expected to believe that five years of study since the initial 2009 memorandum about fracking any provided reason to ban it?  If the use of fracking technology dates back to 1947 without a single incident of pollution traced to it, what would it take to create “cumulative concerns” except ignorance or prejudice against the facts?

Even the Environmental Protection Agency has never found evidence of the chemicals used in fracking entering the nation’s groundwater. Moreover, fracking fluid is 99.5% water and sand. The rest is a mixture of chemicals similar to household products that could be found under the kitchen sink.

As Dr. Jay Lehr, Science Director of The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, points out, “Today we only fracture wells that are drilled horizontally and that requires 1,500 feet of vertical depth for the well” and thus “all such wells are way below local water wells.”

How idiotic, then, is it to seal off some twelve million acres of the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation with natural gas reserves that have helped create energy production booms in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio?

A December 19 Wall Street Journal editorial noted that just across New York’s border with neighboring Pennsylvania, “A 2011 Manhattan Institute study estimated that each Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania generates $5 million in economic benefits and $2 million in tax revenue.” Companies there have generated more than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes since the fracking boom began. As one observer noted, “The ban ignores New York’s “6% unemployment rate, a depressed upstate region, and the fourth highest electricity prices in the nation.”

I don’t know how long it will take for the vast majority of the U.S. population to conclude that everything the environmentalists and their propagandists in the nation’s schools and media have to say about energy is as vast a hoax as the now discredited “global warming”, since renamed “climate change.”

Energy is the master resource, the lifeblood of ours and the world’s economy, the basis for electricity, for the ability to travel vast distances, for machines that enable vast harvests of crops by barely 2% of the U.S. population, to power all manufacturing, and to heat or cool our living and workplaces.

Fracking is yet another technological miracle and, of course, the environmentalists oppose it.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Hydro Power Gives Michigan a Renewable Energy Advantage

Somewhat Reasonable - December 23, 2014, 11:07 AM

Many states are scrambling to identify low-emission power sources to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions, but Michigan is blessed with affordable, reliable, zero-emission hydro power to help meet the restrictions. Policymakers in the Great Lakes State would be wise to take advantage of these hydro power resources.

In 1880, Michigan demonstrated the potential for hydro power when a hydroelectric turbine in Grand Rapids provided the first public demonstration of hydro power in the United States. Continuing to harness the power of water and gravity, Michigan now has dozens of small hydroelectric dams producing power. Nevertheless, Michigan is underutilizing its available hydro resources, as hydro power currently contributes less than one percent of the state’s electricity generation.

Hydro power is the least expensive electricity source, with production costs substantially lower than wind, solar, nuclear, and natural gas. Hydro power also tends to be less expensive than coal power, which has long been the backbone of U.S. electricity generation. Washington and Idaho are perfect examples of the economic benefits of hydro power, as the two states rely on it more than all other states, and as a result, the two states rank first and fifth in the nation, respectively, for lowest electricity prices. With less money required to purchase electricity, businesses have more money available to hire additional workers, and individual consumers have more money available to purchase food, clothing, housing, health care, and other consumer goods.

Hydro power provides significant environmental benefits in addition to cost advantages. Unlike wind and solar, hydro power is reliable and not dependent on when fickle winds blow and when darkness doesn’t obscure the sun. Also, hydro power is a totally clean energy source, producing no carbon dioxide or other emissions. To the extent hydroelectric dams impact the environment, by changing portions of streams and rivers into ponds and lakes, the impact is much smaller and more benign than the towering wind turbines that disfigure thousands of square miles of formerly pristine American lands and kill 1.5 million birds and bats in the United States each year.

Earlier this year, EPA announced plans to require a 30-percent reduction in nationwide power plant carbon dioxide emissions. EPA hit Michigan especially hard, requiring a 32 percent reduction. Many states have few hydro power resources and will have little choice but to turn to expensive, unreliable, environmentally destructive wind power to meet the EPA mandates. By contrast, Michigan officials can and should take advantage of available hydro power resources in the state. Doing so will produce environmental advantages over wind power, ensure a reliable supply of on-demand, zero-emissions electricity, and give Michigan businesses and consumers a competitive advantage over states forced to rely on more expensive means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Even without the new EPA mandates, hydro power is a good deal for Michigan. With EPA ramping up its carbon dioxide restrictions, adding more hydro power is a no-brainer.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Slanted to Produce New Generation of Left-Leaning Citizens

Somewhat Reasonable - December 23, 2014, 10:33 AM

Many readers most likely remember having classes in geography and civics when in middle (junior) or high school. Under Common Core these formerly stand-alone subjects are combined under the umbrella of Social Studies, if they are taught at all.

The new “framework” for the teaching of AP history, studied by thousands of America’s top-performing high-school students, emphasizes oppressors and exploiters while scant attention is given to liberators and pioneers. Such slanted teaching is certain to produce a new generation of left-leaning citizens.

As Mona Charen states in her recent article, Termites at work on American history:

“The Framework blatantly ignores such pivotal historic figures as Roger Williams and Benjamin Franklin and such key developments as the emergence of New England town meetings and the Virginia House of Burgesses as cradles of democracy.”

Times have changed.  Unless children are taught the fundamentals of American history and government, preserving what made America great and special means little them.

A 2012 survey of college graduates commissioned by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni found that only 37 percent knew the terms of U.S. representatives and senators. Only 58 percent knew that the document establishing separation of powers is the U.S. Constitution; 25 percent chose the Articles of Confederation, and 7 percent thought it was the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.  Less than half knew that the American general at Yorktown was George Washington — 48 percent.

It is the hope of the author that the general concerns about Common Core as  expressed below by the fine panels of Common Core experts — Marsha Familaro Enright, Tim Slekar and Kristen Lombard – -who appeared at The Heartland Institute event in Palatine, IL on Thursday, December 11, will spur you on to take positive action in your local school system.

Salient Points Noted: Question and Answer Session

  • It is evident that Common Core standards are not world class bench mark standards or even high standards. Standards lead to mass standardization of schools and take away the ability of teachers to be creative.
  • There are no world class standards to bench mark against Common Core standards.  Just who decides what the standards are or what standards are appropriate for children?
  • Common Core is a cooperative agreement between large corporations and big government in which tax dollars are taken and directed to a small group of individuals who will control the country.
  • Instead of students, corporations and government have become the customers for education, which is geared to foster homogenization, not choice.
  • Common Core won’t solve the performance issue of failing schools, even though it was the purpose of Common Core to remedy the achievement gap. The best performing students in this nation, however, do measure up to those countries with the highest education achievement standards like Finland.
  • Although the constitutional or legal right for the federal government to take over education has been questioned, we can’t sue our way out of Common Core. Needed is a mass resistance revolt.  Citizens must stand up and become engaged.
  • Common Core was introduced into states through “No Child Left Behind waivers” and “Race to the “money.  The former acting as bribes, states signed up for Common Core in 2010, sight unseen.
  • A Hippocratic Oath seems to be needed for teachers not to harm kids. There is a movement afoot to end corporate education reform.  This site is the best resource as to how to opt out.  Available here is an activist handbook.
  • Common Core is not seeking excellence. Its purpose was noted as indoctrination for social development training to turn out workers of the future.  Masses of children are being brainwashed to evolve into disposable workers (cogs) to fill jobs as adults, so compliant they won’t put their heads up to object.
  • Common Core is much like a Trojan horse with its program aimed at indoctrinating children with Communist dogma. Children comprise a captive audience to absorb propaganda.
  • Common Core is undermining parental rights and turning parents and teachers against each other.  When children are told parents shouldn’t help with their homework, it allows children to think less of their parents other than the biologically birthing of them.
  • Extensive data is being collected from children starting in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Just registering a child to attend school gives permission to have data mining done. All states opting into Common Core agreed to substantially expand their State Longitudinal Data Services program which allows schools to collect and store student data. In exchange for this enhanced data collection, states received federal grants from Race to the Top, essentially a cash prize for schools that do things the Department of Education wants them to do under the blanket terms “innovation,” “reform,” and “excellence.”  FEPBA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was written to respect privacy, but it has been gutted. Under FERPA parents do have the right to access the data. The Department of Education, however, has acted unilaterally to allow other government agencies—or even third parties such as companies that make education products—access to student data without any parental notification requirement.  When people hear about this invasion of student privacy, opposition to the practice is almost unanimous.  For those students who are home schooled, FERPA does not protect their data privacy.
  • Parents are asleep in Illinois. PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) will be given in April-May and May-June.  Upwards of 70% of students will fail, as arbitrary out scores have been set to make parents and the pubic believe more standards are required to achieve better results. Students can opt out of test/ Talk first with the classroom teacher, then the principal, and finally the superintendent for the final say on opting out.

Editor Kristin Lombard hopes her book will be the clarion call to counter those advancing the false claim of Common Core by accomplishing what supporters fear most: 1) talk to and begin to understand one another, 2) find ways to partner with each other in rejecting factory-style education, and 3) work together to find alternative solutions.

Panelist members,Tim Slkar and Marsha Familaro Enright, each contributed an essay: Naysaying, Empty Discourse, and Talking to Your Neighbor and Liberating Education, respectively.

Resources to understand and help combat Common Core

The Heartland Institute is very interested in pairing up with others who are fighting Common Core.  Recommended to view was this youtube presentation about Common Core, “Building the Machine – The Common Core Documentary.” It is a powerful commentary about Common Core, a must to view and share with others.  Here is a review of the movie, which explains the problems with the Common Core State Standards that are causing a huge upheaval at all levels of education.  This 40-minute movie has been produced by Home School Legal Defense Association, an organization that has been warning about the dangers of nationalized educational standards for years.

There is also an organization in Illinois whose purpose is to stop Common Core, “Stop Common Core Illinois.” Much information can be gleamed from this website.

A new booklet, “Common Core: A Bad Choice for America, has just been published by The Heartland Institute by Heartland’s expert on Common Core, Joy Pullman.

Another recent publication by Heartland is the booklet, “Replacing Common Core with Proven Standards of Excellence” by David V. Anderson, Ph.D of Asora Education Enterprises.  Both booklets are excellent and can be ordered by contacting The Heartland Institute at 312/377/4000.

Teacher rebellion is taking place across the country.  In the Osceola School District in Florida 20, teacher have either resigned or decided to retire in November of this year.  A member of the teachers’ union cites standardized testing as the reason teachers are quitting.  Teachers are required to do more and more in their classrooms in less time.  As a result the quality of education children are receiving is not as it should be.

The debate about Common Core is over who gets to decide what’s good for children, parents or the government. Anyone who is concerned about educational freedom and parental rights needs to be aware of what is happening and do all within their power to resist this encroachment on our freedom.

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Ryan Radia: The Economic Impacts of the Marketplace Fairness Act

Somewhat Reasonable - December 23, 2014, 9:57 AM

Competitive Enterprise Institute  Associate Director of Technology Studies Ryan Radia joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the Marketplace Fairness Act, a proposed “Internet sales tax” receiving heated debate during the recently concluded past session of Congress.

Had the Marketplace Fairness Act been passed into law, Radia explains, consumers and small business owners would have been impacted greatly by the bill, as it would have enabled governments to collect taxes from citizens otherwise outside of their jurisdiction. Radia also explains what 2015 may hold for this “zombie idea,” cautioning that state governments may attempt to implement this tax scheme through other means.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Biotech Food Safe for Animals Too

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 6:03 PM

I don’t know why this report isn’t receiving more coverage but a recent study  of genetically engineered crops fed to livestock demonstrates that GMO feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed.

While thousands of studies have shown that bioengineered foods (at least those that have reached the market so far) are safe for human consumption, this is the first study examining the safety of such foods eaten by food producing animals.

The study was quite comprehensive, spanning 29 years (both before and after the introduction of GMO livestock feed) and more than 100 billion animals. The study found that there was no difference in the health outcomes of the livestock fed bioengineered foods versus those that ate only non-bioengineered foods, or for animals before and after they were fed GMO feed regularly.  In addition, there was no difference in the safety or the nutritional quality of the products for human consumption that they ultimately produced.

One less phantom fear for anti-GMO fear-mongers to scare the public with.

Categories: On the Blog

Are Europeans Spending Too Little On Health Care Compared To The U.S.?

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 4:59 PM

It is common for health policy experts to argue that US health care spending is wasteful compared to its European counterparts because we are not getting better health for the larger amount of spending taking place here. There is limited evidence to support this claim, and existing evidence in the case of cancer care actually indicates Europeans under-spending rather than US over-spending. Arguments of waste in health care must be more nuanced and distinguish between waste in the public and private sectors.

The United States spends more on health care than other developed countries, about 18% of GDP, but some argue that US patients do not derive sufficient benefit from this extra spending. The high costs of cancer care in the United States are frequently cited as evidence of a poorly functioning health care system, compared to those of other developed countries, e.g. Europe. A common but misguided argument is that, since Americans are not healthier and do not live longer than Europeans, the additional spending in the US represents wasted resources. This assumes that health care is the main driver of health and longevity (which it is not) and that other factors such as genes, diet and exercise, accidents, violence, and harmful drug use are the same across countries.

Therefore, to better judge the relative productivity of health care in the US and Europe, it is necessary to examine the effects of spending in a specific disease area conditional on the same diagnosis. However, in the debate about whether higher US healthcare spending, compared to Europe, is wasteful, little reliable evidence of the comparative benefits of spending in specific disease areas has been generated.

Cancer is a good case to consider because it is a leading cause of death across many developed nations. Conditional on a cancer diagnosis, it is plausible that a relationship between spending and survival exists because of differences in cancer care rather than other factors leading to the diagnosis. Non–treatment-related investments by patients—in healthy behavior such as exercise and in other types of preventive activities—are likely to have a smaller impact on survival compared to actual treatment.

In a paper we published in Health Affairs,* we compared the value of US vs European cancer care in the 1980s and 1990s.** As shown in Figures 1 and 2, we examined survival and spending differences for cancer patients in the United States compared to a similar group of patients from ten European countries.

As the figures illustrate, our study found that US cancer patients both lived longer and spent more than European patients in every year. In addition, the absolute growth in survival gains and costs was larger in the US over the period considered from 1984 to 1999. We calculated the financial value of the additional years of survival in US in order to compare these gains to the costs of cancer care in these countries. The key finding was that, if one utilizes standard value measures for longevity, the value of survival gains in the US exceeded the higher cost growth compared to Europe.

In short, the extra spending for the extra living was worth it. In fact, US cancer care generated about $600 billion of additional value compared to Europe for patients who were diagnosed with cancer during this period. The value of that additional survival gain was highest for prostate cancer patients ($627 billion) and breast cancer patients ($173 billion), partly because of their larger prevalence.

Some criticized this study, without carefully reading it, for being driven by earlier diagnosis in the US. If longevity, measured as survival from time of diagnosis, rises faster simply because patients are diagnosed relatively earlier in US, this may create “lead-time bias.” However, in a companion study we found that the overall gain in survival of US cancer patients was only 20% due to detection of cancers in earlier stages, and 80% due to treatment once detected.*** Quantitatively, early detection does not negate our main conclusion: US cancer patients get more value than Europeans.

To exemplify these findings at the country level, consider Slovakia, which spent $39 per capita on cancer care and averaged 5.5 years’ life expectancy after cancer diagnosis. Compare this to Sweden, which spent $134 per capita on cancer care and averaged 9.9 years’ life expectancy after diagnosis. Now consider the US, which spent $207 per capita on cancer care and saw 10.8 years of life expectancy from the point of diagnosis.

These differences in US costs reflect—at least in part—more rapid uptake of new technologies that may lead to differences in survival. In prostate cancer treatment, several major changes were implemented in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, including higher rates of radical prostatectomy; improvements in radiation therapy; and use of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone agonists, a type of drug that causes testosterone levels to fall in men.

Compared with the United States, European countries typically treated prostate cancer less aggressively, with lower use of these technologies during this time period. In addition, new cancer drugs often reach US patients sooner than their European counterparts, in part because of delays or denials of reimbursement decisions within Europe. For example, the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin), a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1998 and was quickly incorporated into clinical practice guidelines.

In contrast, trastuzumab was not launched until after 2000 in many European countries, including Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom, which evaluates the cost-effectiveness of new therapies to inform coverage and reimbursement decisions, did not recommend reimbursement and use of trastuzumab for breast cancer until 2002.

Despite a lack of supporting evidence, the majority of the health policy community argues that US health care is plagued with waste, especially compared to Europe. In this debate, though, it is important to distinguish between public-sector versus private-sector waste. As I have argued in this column before,**** there is likely a large amount of waste in the public payer sector run by the Medicaid and Medicare programs, compared to the private sector.

Though well-intended and hard-working individuals run these public programs, the basic fact remains that, because government bureaucrats do not improve their own material well-being by eliminating health care waste, any waste reduction depends on their own sense of mission and desire to do what is right rather than a profit motive. The fact that the biggest dollar crime in the US is Medicare fraud, sometimes estimated to be 15% of spending, underscores the problem—a problem that does not have a corollary among private payers because of tighter controls to support shareholder earnings.

However, health policy analysts do not distinguish between the private and public sector in its claims about waste in US health care. In my opinion, academics’ efforts to teach private insurance executives how to run their businesses is in itself a waste—namely of time and journal pages. Some academics and think-tanks have even claimed that as much as one third of health care is “wasted.” Really? These individuals claim to know the recipe for cutting the costs of private payers by a third without sacrificing quality of care and customer satisfaction.

Put simply, if these health care policy wonks were right that one could eliminate one third of the 3 trillion dollar health care tab without impairing quality, their ideas would be worth close to a trillion dollars. If true, they could become multi-billionaires by starting a new plan and slashing prices by a third. More immediately, private payers should be willing to go to great lengths to acquire these policy wonks’ knowledge, as payers could return billions to shareholders.

Indeed, one would expect payers to quickly bid out these analysts from their academic jobs if they truly held the secret to profitable health insurance, like the financial sector did in response to “financial engineering” developed by academics in the 1980s. However, no such bidding wars for these academics and their cost-cutting insights exist. This is likely for good reason, as these ideas—although popular in academic and policy circles—would likely be unpopular in real-world health care markets.

In sum, before cries of US waste is believed and accepted, better evidence is needed to support the claim and implementable actions, rather than words, needed to eliminate it.

*Philipson, T., M. Eber, D. N. Lakdawalla, M. Corral, R. Conti and D. P. Goldman (2012). “An Analysis of Whether Higher Health Care Spending in the United States Versus Europe Is ‘Worth It’ in the Case of Cancer.” Health Affairs 31(4): 667-675.

**This paper was also discussed at length in the Obama Administration’s annual Economic Report of the President in 2012, available here.

***Sun, E.. A. B. Jena, D. N. Lakdawalla, C. Reyes, T. J. Philipson and D. P. Goldman (2010). ” The Contributions of Improved Therapy and Earlier Detection to Cancer Survival Gains, 1988-2000.” Forum for Health Economics and Policy 13(2).

****Forbes, Oct 20, 2013, “What’s Wrong With Private Insurance?”

[First pubilshed at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is Diesel the New Green Fuel?

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 4:04 PM

Are Climatists giving a green tick to diesel power? (Photo: abadonian)

Ten thousand professional climate crusaders recently attended yet another Climate Carnival in Lima, Peru. Did they use green power to minimise their carbon footprint? No way; massive diesel generators were trucked in on diesel-powered lorries because the local hydro/solar power could not cope. The delegates were also moved between hotels and the venue in more than 300 diesel buses – few bothered to walk or ride bicycles.

In sunny Spain, the government solar subsidies were so generous that some entrepreneurs managed to produce solar energy for 24 hours per day. However, inspectors discovered that diesel generators were being operated at night, thus producing great profits in selling “solar” energy to the grid.

Then in “go-green, vote-blue” Britain, wind power is proving so erratic that thousands of reliable diesel generators are being installed by utilities and businesses to maintain power when the grid becomes unstable.

Finally we have people who disconnect from the grid, aiming to become independent by generating their own power from small solar and wind installations. After the first long spell of cloudy windless weather, most turn to a reliable on-demand diesel backup generator to keep the fridge running and the lights on.

It seems that diesel is the new “green” fuel. In some bitter winter, when real blackouts hit UK or Europe, maybe clean “green” coal will be re-discovered and cranked up again.

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Chris Jacobs: America Next’s plan to replace Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 3:24 PM

Chris Jacobs, policy director of America Next, discusses the think tank’s market-based proposal for what Congress should pass to replace Obamacare. The key elements of the America Next plan are simplified tax credits that can be used to purchase coverage, and elimination of federal mandated benefits that drive up health insurance premiums.

Jacobs also discusses the Obama administration’s poorly executed high-risk pools, and how the high-risk pools proposed in the America Next plan would avoid the problems of the Obamacare version, and the political and practical obstacles and opportunities for the America Next plan and others with similar ideas.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Embrace, Don’t Fight the Future of the Labor Market

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 2:31 PM

In 1811, British factory workers literally “fought the machine,” protesting against technology under the banner of mythical figurehead King Ludd. Upset about being replaced by more efficient machinery, cost-ineffective factory workers rebelled against the installation of threshing machines and other force-multipliers.

That same fear is common in the American psyche today, as unemployment rates remain stubbornly high in the wake of decades of government programs and market interventions. Some industry experts predict as many as one in three workers may be replaced by robots or software by 2025.

Like the Luddites who broke looms and burned factories, many Americans today see the contradiction between advancing technology and stagnant economic well-being as a failure of the free market. Instead of blaming the “invisible hand” of the marketplace, they should consider the regulatory shackles binding that hand.

Government policies such as minimum-wage hikes—theoretically compassionate moves which are really calculated to benefit organized labor bosses and those already holding entry-level jobs—make technological solutions more attractive to employers.

Consider, for example, the rise of the grocery store self-checkout lane. Before, a cashier manned each checkout lane, assisting a single customer at a time. Now, more customers can make purchases, with reduced waiting time and less labor overhead. That saves the store money, and those cost savings will be passed on to the customers through price cuts, invested in expanding the grocery store or opening new ones, saved in the store’s bank account for a rainy day, or paid out as dividends to the store’s owners. All of those actions result in greater economic activity, which is what creates jobs.

Naturally, politicians prefer to blame others for economic problems on their watch, as President Obama famously did in 2011. He told reporters the stubbornly high unemployment rates of his administration were caused by “structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.” The president said computers were causing unemployment: “When you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

The facts do not match this hypothesis, though. Instead of massive unemployment rates among bank tellers or bookkeepers, statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal there are actually more such employees in 2009 than there were in 1999.

Our neo-Luddites commonly claim the benefits of technological progress go exclusively to the owners of capital, not the workers. That’s obviously not true, as noted above. And that’s why the average American today lives more comfortably than Queen Victoria did during the height of the British Empire and is less likely to die from accident or plague than ever before.

Categories: On the Blog

High School Seniors’ Post Largest Ever Single-Year Decline in Smoking; E-Cigs May Have Played a Role

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 11:42 AM

The Monitoring the Future survey shows that past 30-day cigarette use among 12th graders dropped from 16.3% in 2013, to 13.6% in 2014, the largest single-year decline in the survey’s 39-year history (datahere).

The data show that 17% of 12th graders had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2014, the first year this information was collected.

Good news included a decline in the percentages of high school seniors reporting alcohol use, being drunk and marijuana use in the past 30 days.

Instead of focusing on the historic drop in smoking, the media emphasized that more students had used e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes.  However, Tim Worstall, a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, saw things differently, writing, “That vaping, at least so far as we know, is the most successful smoking cessation product any one has as yet invented (and do note that nothing else at all has halved teen [daily] smoking rates in only 5 years) means that we really shouldn’t be putting roadblocks in front of further adoption of the technology.” (here)

Smoking prevalence among high school seniors has declined every year since 2007, about the time that e-cigarettes were introduced in the U.S.  With numbers like this, claims that e-cigarettes cause children to smoke are completely unfounded.  In fact, the evidence is strongly suggestive that e-cigarettes have played a role in this unprecedented decline in teen smoking.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Jim Demint in Chicago, Proposes Bold Agenda for a Better America

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 10:21 AM

Last week, Heritage Foundation President, Jim DeMint and Heritage Action for America Chief Executive Officer, Michael Needham led a discussion at Chicago’s Ritz Carlton. Their topic was “A Bold Agenda for a Better America: Taking on the 114th Congress”, as a way to deliver opportunity to all, but favoritism to none.

Jim DeMInt, former South Carolina U.S. Senator, is entering his third year of running The Heritage Foundation. He painted conservatives as believers of the values and ideas that motivated our Founding Fathers, that these values and ideals are worth conserving, and that solutions must be consistent with those ideal and values.

A bold agenda must be put forth to keep America safe and secure, he said. One where there are choices in education and health care; where taxes are fair and flat to unleash growth; where all Americans have the opportunity to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them in pursuit of the American Dream; and where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits, and treats every one equally, showing favoritism to none.

Conservatives do have solutions for the challenges this nation faces, but they must explain them, fight for them, and then see them through.  Opposing Obama’s policies are not enough.  Government is already too powerful and burdensome for most Americans, even as it works well for the special interests who are protected in return for doing its bidding. Good alternatives must be presented to energize and excite the American people.

Reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, Jim DeMint asked “What kind of city do we want all Americans to wake up in?”  It must be full of opportunity to work, learn, volunteer, and worship, This includes school choice,w energy independence, an economy that will create millions of jobs, health care that the American people can afford and keep – all created in an atmosphere where government stays within its means.  Creating an America that works should not be a matter of partisan politics.  Instead it requires an understanding of those ideals that made this nation acceptable in the first place.

DeMint reminded his audience that good things are happening at the state level where Republican governors are doing bold things. Meanwhile, the Left is dividing this country into different groups by pitting one group against another in what was characterized as class warfare. wMost people want a better life and more opportunity.  For this to happen the American people must be educated to understand the mission of the Left and where it wants to take this nation. The Left revels in announcing what is wrong with America instead of why we should love America.  It is disturbing that politics follows culture, which has steadily declined since prayer was removed from the public schools. Candidates must be recruited who embrace the ideals that made this nation great, they must run on them, and then govern accordingly.  If they renege on their campaign promises, their feet must be held to the fire.

The Heritage Foundation is actively promoting its message within the environs of Washington, D.C. This is where the money and power is. But the agenda must also be set outside of Washington, D.C. To reach people across Americans Heritage Action for America was founded in 2010 as a sister organization to the 40-year-old Heritage Foundation. Together they offer a one-two punch of scholarly research and grassroots activism.

Mark Needham serves as Chief Executive of Heritage Action.  Heritage Action has more than 400,000 citizen activists nationwide to hold lawmakers accountable in their home districts and in Washington, D.C.  In the November mid-term elections, Heritage Action had more trained sentinels on the ground than did the Obama camp.  There are weekly strategy calls to alert Heritage Action Sentinels on the issues U.S. House and the Senate members will be dealing with on the floor of their respective chambers. Following the call, an e-mail summary of the call is shared with citizen activists with suggested recommendations on how to approach your legislator, along with taking points. Check Heritage Action for America is you wish to become active in this fine organization.

Mr.Needham related how the American people perceive their lives to be.  Four out of five Americans believe life is tough. It’s getting tougher and no one cares. Nor does the government care about the fears and concerns of the American people.  Americans subsequently believe that politics is a dirty game, such as portrayed in TV shows they watch like “House of Cards,” “Scandal” on ABC, and the “Daily Show.  Given what these shows portend, is it any wonder why Americans perceive politics to be all about lying and stealing and not about solving problems?  Concerns also exist over the medium income remaining at stagnant at $52,000, that beef is reaching $4.00 a pound, that our education system is failing, and that housing and the cost for everything has gone up.

People do have a right to feel unheard in Washington, D.C.  According to Needham, ideas must be presented that speak to the anxieties of the American people and likewise inspire.  There must be a tax code that works. Opportunities must be offered to all, with favoritism to none.  It was surprising to hear Needham say that 57% of Hispanics voted for Romney in 2012, in that Republicans are now telling us that unless we are nice to Hispanics Republicans will never again win the White House.

Question from audience members to DeMint and Needham addressed various concerns:

  • Upper most was the expressed disillusionment with members of the Republican Party over the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus bill” (passed by 219-206 in the House and a closure vote of 77-19 in the Senate), in spite of the mid-term election in which a majority of Americans voted to checkmate President Obama’s agenda.  The election outcome was basically dismissed by most U.S. House and Senate candidates, including all six Illinois Republican congressmen andSenator Mark Kirk. The Republican leadership didn’t want a spending bill fight for fear of getting blamed for a government shutdown.  The same Republicans also wanted to get the bill off the floor.  A continuing resolution would have allowed Republicans to deal with the bill when they had control of both houses in January. The bill, now signed by President Obama, hands over control of the budget to Democrats for almost half of their time in office (until Sept., 2015) funding most of the government, including Obamacare, while funding for amnesty, under the Department of Homeland Security, will run through February 27.
  •  Although it is Democrats who talk about helping the middle class, easy economics lesson can be taught to middle class working people.  Telling stories is a good way to reach the middle class.  Only look at North Dakota to see what is happening. Workers at McDonald’s start at $15.00 an hour!  People aren’t stupid, but they don’t have the time to check out details for making their lives better. It would be of immeasurable value to teach economics to high school students.
  • Stressed was that the solution to creating good government is in the states, not in Washington, D.C.  The Daily Signal, started this past May is The Heritage Foundation news site. It aims at reporting straight news (straight-down-the-middle journalism) with a conservative bent, as a means to force the mainstream media to stop slanting the news.  The Daily Signal shares stories of success with millions of Americans
  • This nation is still a Christian country, although the Left is intent on pushing Secularism.  Heritage is a big advocate of Religious Freedom.Hobby Lobby won its government battle with the help of The Heritage Foundation in June of this year.  The Left uses the force of government to push faith or religion. Conservatives must convince the American people that we are not trying to push our religious faith through government, but instead are fighting to protect and preserve religious freedom.
  •  Expressed was concern that despite the Republican establishment controlling both the U.S. Senate and the House, the establishment might continue with its “broken window strategy” of not fighting back. The problem is that many Republicans fall into the big spending category. The desire isn’t there to repeal Obamacare, despite campaign rhetoric to follow through with the repeal. They further view amnesty for Illegal immigrants as a good thing, beholden as they are to the Chamber of Commerce and to those Republicans who hold the big money bags. Unfortunately the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and the new House Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, are in this category.

Will this nation remain a viable one with standing?

We are still a center-right country.  The Left has had its way for 100 years trying to make the sale, but their product has failed. It is thought that conservatives have a better chance to get their message out than at any other time in history. The right person with the right ideas will win in 2016.  The Conservative agenda must be set down and fought for outside of Washington, D.C. It does not bode well that the Republican establishment is already in line behind Republicans holding the big money bags and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both of whom are excited over Jeb Bush’s facebook announcement several days ago to form a presidential committee. In the interim, Jeb Bush cites his firm endorsements of Common Core and citizenship for illegal aliens, two issues that do not play well with the conservative Republican base.

This nation’s present debt of $18 trillion cannot be allowed to grow even larger.  It must be reined in, lest it become a heavy burden upon future generations of Americans.  At what point does such a horrendous, unchecked debt become unsustainable for this nation to continue to exist, or even exist at all, as a viable nation with any standing?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]


Categories: On the Blog

What if Obama’s Climate Change Policies are Based on pHraud?

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 10:13 AM

“Ocean acidification” (OA) is claimed to be a phenomenon that will destroy ocean life—all due to mankind’s use of fossil fuels. The claim of OA is a critical scientific foundation to the full spectrum of climate change assertions.

Dr. Richard A. Feely is a senior scientist with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL)—part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His four-page report: Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy, offered on the NOAA website, contains a chart titled “Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2,” which shows a decline in seawater pH (making it more acidic) that appears to coincide with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mike Wallace is a hydrologist with nearly 30 years’ experience, who is now working on his Ph.D. in nanogeosciences at the University of New Mexico. In the course of his studies, he uncovered something that he told me: “eclipses even the so-called climategate event.”

Feely’s work is based on computer models that don’t line up with real-world data—which Feely acknowledged in email communications with Wallace. Feely, and his coauthor Dr. Christopher L. Sabine, PMEL Director, omitted 80 years of data, which incorporate more than 2 million records of ocean pH levels.

The Feely chart began in 1850, which caught Wallace’s attention since similar charts all began in 1988. Needing the historic pH data for a project, he went to the source. The NOAA paper with the chart lists Dave Bard, with Pew Charitable Trust, as the contact.

Wallace sent Bard an email: “I’m looking in fact for the source references for the red curve in their plot which was labeled ‘Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2.’ This plot is at the top of the second page. It covers the period of my interest.” Bard responded and suggested that Wallace communicate with Feely and Sabine—which he did over a period of several months. Wallace asked again for the “time series data (NOT MODELING) of ocean pH for 20th century.” Sabine responded by saying that it was inappropriate for Wallace to question their “motives or quality of our science,” adding that if he continued in this manner, “you will not last long in your career.” He then included a few links to websites that Wallace, after spending hours reviewing them, called “blind alleys.”  Sabine concludes the email with: “I hope you will refrain from contacting me again.” But communications did continue for several more exchanges.

In an effort to obtain access to the records Feely/Sabine didn’t want to provide, Wallace filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In a May 25, 2013 email, Wallace offers some statements, which he asks Feely/Sabine to confirm:

“…it is possible that Dr. Sabine WAS partially responsive to my request. That could only be possible however, if only data from 1989 and later was used to develop the 20th century portion of the subject curve.

“…it’s possible that Dr. Feely also WAS partially responsive to my request. Yet again, this could not be possible unless the measurement data used to define 20th century ocean pH for their curve, came exclusively from 1989 and later (thereby omitting 80 previous years of ocean pH 20th century measurement data, which is the very data I’m hoping to find).

Sabine writes: “Your statements in italics are essentially correct.” He adds: “The rest of the curve you are trying to reproduce is from a modeling study that Dr. Feely has already provided and referenced in the publication.”

In his last email exchange, Wallace offers to close out the FOIA because the email string “clarified that your subject paper (and especially the ‘History’ segment of the associated time series pH curve) did not rely upon either data or other contemporary representations for global ocean pH over the period of time between the first decade of 1900 (when the pH metric was first devised, and ocean pH values likely were first instrumentally measured and recorded) through and up to just before 1988.” Wallace received no reply, but the FOIA was closed in July 2013 with a “no document found” response.

Interestingly, in this same general timeframe, NOAA reissued its World Ocean Database. Wallace was then able to extract the instrumental records he sought and turned the glass electrode pH meter data into a meaningful time series chart, which reveals that the oceans are not acidifying.

Regarding the chart in question, Wallace concluded: “They replaced that (historical) part of their curve through the execution of an epic data omission—which was apparently the only way that ocean scientists have been able to assert that the oceans are acidifying.”

These taxpayer-funded scientists are leaders of the OA narrative. They participate in well-funded OA research programs and sit on advisory councils. “It all seems authentic and quite legitimate.” Yet their work is based on, as Wallace calls it, “a new history of ocean pH.” One that “is significantly different from the history suggested by actual measurements and other sources of peer review literature.”

Wallace authored a petition that he encourages my readers to sign.

Wallace concludes: “Ocean acidification may seem like a minor issue to some, but besides being wrong, it is a crucial leg to the entire narrative of ‘human-influenced climate change.’ By urging our leaders in science and policy to finally disclose and correct these omissions, you will be helping to bring honesty, transparency, and accountability back where it is most sorely needed.”

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin 3: International Cold Spell

Somewhat Reasonable - December 22, 2014, 1:23 AM

Weather Bulletin #3 December 23

Winter has only just officially begun but already cold weather has claimed the lives of five Marylander’s between mid-November and Mid-December.

Most of the U.S. is currently experiencing a break from record low temperatures, but the same can’t be said for other parts of the world.

The Japan Times reports that six people died during extremely heavy snow which blanketed much of Japan December 5-7. The blizzard left more than 1,200 people in the Tokushima Prefecture cut off from the rest of the nation as roads were blocked due to snow, falling trees and rocks. More than 45 inches of snow fell in the Sukayu area of Japan, and 38 inches of snow covered the village of Okura.

Just across the Sea of Japan, South Korea also suffered from bitterly cold weather and unusual amounts of snowfall with Seoul experiencing fall temperatures of 13 degrees below zero. Snow and strong winds knocked down power lines in eight towns across two districts leaving more than 37,000 families shivering in the cold.

Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) issued heavy snow warning for the South and North Jeolla regions. Mokpo in South Jeolla received nearly a foot of snow, the most snow that had fallen in nine years and Wando also in South Jeolla received 9 ½ inches of snow, the most that has fallen in the province since the KMA started keeping records in 1970. Halla Mountain received more than 51 inches of snow in the same time period.

Meanwhile parts of India are also experiencing unusually cold weather. Mountainous tribal areas were 15 to 20 degrees below freezing point while Keylong, Manali and Kalpa recorded a low of 19 degrees , 26 degrees and minus 29 degrees respectively. As a result, lakes and other natural sources of water like springs, creeks and tributaries of major rivers are frozen in high altitude areas.


Even the nation’s capital experienced temperatures seven degrees below average for this time of year. Four peoples deaths have been attributed to the cold weather.


Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Keystone Confusion

Somewhat Reasonable - December 21, 2014, 2:16 PM

In his appearance last week on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

Second, the usual climate alarmist assumptions, namely that humans are having a substantial impact on the climate and that a warming of the planet is likely to be harmful.

Third, and most important, the implicit assumption that climate change — even if you believe the alarmists’ claims — is the only risk worth considering.

Regarding ignoring the theoretical climate impacts of alternatives to Keystone: Opponents of Keystone (or more precisely of the section of Keystone that connects Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska) seem to believe that if we don’t allow a way to transport Canadian oil here, our neighbors to the north will then just leave it in the ground. This is, of course, preposterous. Since every potential alternative form of transportation, whether via truck, ship, train, or any combination likely creates more pollution than a pipeline, particularly if transported by people other than Americans or Canadians, and since any pipeline built by American and Canadian companies is likely to be constructed more environmentally sensitively than pipelines built overseas, a concern over carbon or pollution argues strongly for, not against, building Keystone XL.

As far as climate change overall: In short, depending on which data set you look at, planetary warming has either been much less than predicted or completely non-existent for at least the last 18 years. Since global carbon dioxide concentrations have increased steadily over the time period (even as U.S. CO2emissions slowed temporarily during the recession), it demonstrates that CO2 simply does not have the climate-controlling power that the alarmist industry wants us to believe. Additionally, climate fears are based on an unjustifiable assumption that a modest global warming would be a negative for humanity when it fact the opposite is true.

And then there is Obama’s implicit assumption that the overriding risk to be considered is the climate. Environmentalists who claim to care deeply about the planet should be far more concerned about real, demonstrable risk than about the unproven (and increasingly disproven) hypothesis of human-caused climate change. One such demonstrable risk is that of oil spills and terrible accidents within other forms of oil transportation, particularly the trucks and trains that will continue, in the absence of Keystone XL, to carry the oil through the United States.

Even the Obama administration’s State Department recognizes this: “The increased number of unit trains… would affect communities through elevated air emissions and noise from the trains, and increased risk of spills and collisions.”

This is not to say that one form of transportation is utterly unsafe while another is utterly safe: Spill statistics are a close call: pipelines spill at lower frequencies but higher volumes than rail transportation of oil. Similarly, trains have more accidents but fewer fires and explosions. (There are similar comparisons made for transporting the oil by ship: very few incidents but potentially many barrels may spill in an incident.)

One of the most important statistics should be rates of injury and death, and on this score pipelines fare very well compared to trains: Overall, State concludes that transporting the Canadian oil by rail would add 49 injuries and 6 fatalities each year as compared to one injury and no deaths if the oil goes through Keystone XL.

In fact, State says that “Annual baseline injuries and fatalities without an increase in transport volume from rail transport or pipeline are projected to be approximately 712 injuries and 94 fatalities compared to three injuries and two fatalities for petroleum pipeline.” This argues not only for using Keystone to transport the new Canadian oil production but also to use it, and other new pipelines, to substitute for current rail transportation of oil.

A final point: Some argue against Keystone because they say the oil will make its way to the Gulf Coast to be refined and then exported rather than being used in the United States. Radical environmentalists go so far as to conclude that Keystone is therefore a “scam being played on the American people.”

Exporting American oil would require Congress or the president to lift the current export ban. I expect the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress to send such a measure to the president’s desk in short order. Former Obama chief economic adviser Larry Summerssupports lifting the ban but one of the president’s closest current counselors, John Podesta, has not made clear his position. Podesta’s prior job was running the Center for American Progress whose energy “expert,” Dan Weiss (a card-carrying member of the Cult of Algore and a man who seems proud of his comprehensive economic ignorance), is against lifting the ban.

Not surprisingly, socialist senators and their friends in the environmental fear-mongering industry don’t understand even basic economics. Oil is traded worldwide with the two major benchmarks being the U.S.’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Europe’s Brent Crude. The prices track each other closely, though in recent years American oil has been less expensive because of large supply in the Midwest.

If we export Canada’s increased oil production to the rest of the world, we will lower oil prices in the aggregate, including here in the United States. Yes, there may be regional effects of pipelines and yes, it is possible that Midwestern oil and gas prices would lose their current discount relative to the rest of the United States, but overall the United States would have lower energy prices. And that’s what matters.

Domestically, the more we lower oil prices, the lower Americans’ cost of living is and the more money we have to spend on things we want to buy rather than things we have to buy, such as gasoline and heating oil. Internationally, the more we can lower world oil prices, the more we prevent our enemies like Vladimir Putin and the radicals running Venezuela from being able to fund adventurist, militaristic, and anti-Western foreign policies, and the more we prevent our so-called friends in the Middle East from being able to use American, European, and Chinese money to support Wahhabism, Hamas, ISIS, and CAIR, and others who want us dead or destroyed as a free society.

Given all these factors, President Obama’s suggested calculus — balancing “a couple thousand jobs” versus what he perceives as the risks involved in building and operating the Keystone XL pipeline — is preposterous: The jobs it creates are a nice bonus (and are what the many labor unions who support the project care about), but they are not the most important benefit of the project.

Keystone XL won’t increase pollution but it will save American lives and hurt our enemies. Those who oppose it should be forced to justify their opposition in that context.

[Originally published at the American Spectator


Categories: On the Blog

The FCC Is Unnecessarily Undermining its Legitimacy

Somewhat Reasonable - December 20, 2014, 11:59 AM

In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.

The FCC’s legitimacy comes from the authority of law written by a duly-elected Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and from the official votes from duly-appointed FCC commissioners, who in turn abide by: the powers vested in the Commission by the Communications Act; due process; and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Process matters.

Making rate regulation without an official vote of the Commission can create the public perception that a majority of the Commission may not support some, or all of the new rate regulation.

At this particular time in the FCC’s history, when the FCC is potentially poised to reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service to impose rate regulation for downstream Internet traffic, (which also could involve some forbearance from other rate regulations via the official forbearance process), the perception of the reliability of the FCC in respecting its own processes and procedures is especially important.

If FCC commissioners cannot predict or count on being included in rate regulation decisions by the FCC under normal expected processes and procedures, what confidence can affected parties have that the FCC will follow the law and the FCC’s process and procedures on other matters that affect their interests?

What confidence could affected parties have that the process and procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act will be legally respected in building the necessary record for the pending Open Internet Order, or for its complex implementation?

It does not advance the current or long-term legitimacy of the FCC, if Congress and the public have a perception that the FCC may be operating in an arbitrary or capricious manner, by unnecessarily bypassing normal expected process and procedures.

If the FCC wants affected parties to respect their rules, processes and procedures, shouldn’t the FCC lead by example and be extra careful to respect their own rules, processes, and procedures?

Simply, legitimate authority and process beget legitimate outcomes.

Categories: On the Blog

International Emissions Idiocy

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 1:50 PM

Most of the people of the world have concluded that the decades of warnings about “global warming” and its successor, “climate change”, is just idiotic nonsense. Few believe that humans ever had or ever will have any role in what the weather will be tomorrow or a thousand years from now. They are right.

One of the most distinguishing factors about the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory has been the way its advocates have always predicted major changes decades into the future. When the future arrived, as it has since the first doomsday predictions were made in the late 1980s, they simply push off the next arrival date for another couple of decades. A classic example is the prediction that that Arctic and Antarctic sea ice would have all melted by now. Instead the global cold weather have been making new records of late.

Delegates from two hundred nations attended the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol which took place from December 1 through 12. COP 20/CMP 10 was hosted by the Government of Peru in Lima. The event is part of the United Nations agenda that began with the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988.

The Kyoto Protocol dates back to 1997 and sets limits on how much “greenhouse gas” emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), nations could permit. The theory, now long since debunked, that CO2 was rising and would cause the Earth to warm too much was right in only one respect. There is more CO2, but the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for some 19 years at this point. The U.S. did not ratify, i.e. sign onto the Protocol. The Senate unanimously rejected it. Canada later withdrew from it. China and India were both exempted from it!

So what we have been witnessing have been a bunch of international officials wrangling over something that did not happen and will not happen.

The hard core “Warmists” wanted the climate change agreement to be legally binding under international law. They were led by those from the European Union. They and others wanted more money to be spent on renewable energy, wind and solar, and money given to poor countries to help them deal with climate change.

The COP20 conference was not about the climate. It was about funding wind and solar energy projects that have proven globally to be huge, expensive failures, and about providing money to poor countries that, as often as not, are poor because they are poorly governed. It’s a scheme based on totally false “science.”

As to the “science” proclaiming a warming Earth and that “greenhouse gas emissions” are responsible, the easiest and most entertaining way to learn the real science is to read Anthony Bright-Paul’s new book, “Climate for the Layman.”

Bright applies the known knowledge of the universe in which we live with the kind of logic you are not likely to hear from the likes of Al Gore or Bill Nye the “science guy.”  Add to them the blissfully ignorant legions of “leaders” of various nations who have signed off on “global warming” without a lick of knowledge with which to refute the lies and you get idiotic conferences and demands to end the beneficial use of fossil fuels which improved our lives long before and since the IPCC was created.

“So how does one measure the temperature of something that has a multiplicity of temperatures and is constantly on the move?” asks Bright. “It is clearly impossible.”  How difficult is that to understand?

“In my dictionary,” says Bright, “’Global’ is defined as ‘worldwide’. So let us ask ourselves the question—has there been a worldwide warming of 0.07 degrees Celsius? Has there been a uniform increase in temperatures worldwide? The answer is simple. It is utterly impossible to make such declaration”, adding that “It is completely impossible to measure the temperature of the atmosphere which is 100 kilometers high and which has a huge range of temperatures in a continuous state of flux.”

If it cannot be measured then years from now the climate cannot be predicted. The weather—what is happening where you live—can only be predicted in general terms for the next few days and that is largely thanks to modern satellites. Moreover, the weather is never exactly the same from day to day. Meteorologists focus on what’s happening now, but climatologists measure the climate in units of decades, the smallest of which is thirty years. The largest take in millions of years.

Carbon dioxide is such a minor “trace” gas—0.04% of the Earth’s atmosphere–that most people are astonished to learn that it is Nitrogen and Oxygen that make up 99% of the atmosphere. Both are transparent to incoming and outgoing radiation. It is the Earth that acts as a conductor of heat, affected as always by solar radiation. It is the Sun along with the actions of the oceans and volcanic activity that determines the weather and, long term, the climate.

Virtually everything you have heard or been told about “greenhouse gas emissions” is pure bunkum.

The Earth is not a greenhouse closed in by heat trapping gases. It is the mass of the Earth that absorbs the Sun’s radiation and reflects it into the atmosphere. The process is so dynamic that there is no way to accurately predict what the temperature anywhere on any day.

The IPCC and its idiotic “climate change” conference wants you to believe it can predict the climate of the entire world! And control it.

Not a single dime of U.S. taxpayer’s money should be devoted to either the U.N. or any bogus “global warming” claims. We could begin by defunding the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations to limit “greenhouse gas emissions”, the reason they give for closing coal-fired plants to produce electricity.

We should laugh Secretary of State John Kerry off the stage every time in claims that climate change is the greatest threat to life on Earth.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Exposed at Heartland Institute Event

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 12:38 PM

(L to R) Joe Bast, Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, Marsha Familaro Enright

Teachers, school board members, moms, legislators, and concerned citizens attended an event hosted by The Heartland Institute on Thursday, December 11 at The Cotillion in Palatine, IL, to hear about Common Core State Standards. All had in common a desire to learn more about Common Core, not liking what they were hearing and observing in their local school systems. Heartland Institute’s president and CEO Joe Bast introduced the distinguished panel of Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, and Marsha Familaro Enright.

Kristin Lombard is editor and author of “Common Ground on Common Core.”She holds a Ph.D. in Historic Environmental Design: Interior and Landscape from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009) and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1988). As a grass roots activist, Kristin couldn’t get a single vote passed by Wisconsin legislators to address Common Core.  Kristin finally realized that she would need critical mass for this to happen.  Hearing about Tim Slekar, as the newly appointed Dean at Edgewood College of Education, Kristin arranged to meet Tim. As a liberal, Tim was very anti Common Core. Their personalities clicked immediately, proving that it is possible to identify with the left when common ground is established through verbal exchange.

Around the same time Kristin became acquainted with Tim Slekar (August of 2013), an idea for a book began to blossom. It would be a book with a collection of essays about Common Core. Lombard’s first book published under Resounding Books, founded by Ms. Lombard in early 2013, was in November of this year, Common Ground on Common Core, a must read. The book serves as a non-partisan exposé of the multiple problems posed by the controversial education reform initiative.  It was edited specifically by Kristin Lombard to be a tool that individuals of whatever political stripe could use to educate themselves and others on this important topic.

Each of the 18 contributor essays in the book sheds lights on a different crucial aspect of the controversial reform package that encompasses Common Core. The authors hold widely varied political and ideological viewpoints, yet they stand firmly united against the Common Core.  Standards expert Sandra Stotsky and prominent mathematician R. James Milgram are among the book’s authors.  Both served on the national Common Core validation committee but refused to sign off on the standards.  Former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul contributed to the foreword.

As both editor-in-chief and treasurer, Kirsten worked to secure each of the essays royalty-free, so a percentage of profits from the sale of the book could be directed toward state and local activism projects designed to fight Common Core.  Ms. Lombard has recently devoted herself full time to Resounding Books, its publishing projects, and its activism initiatives. Hear Kirsten talk about “Common Ground on Common Core” on  We The People Radio . To download the show, click here.

Tim Slekar, a liberal and Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin

Liberal in his ideology, Tim Slekar has been dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin since August, 2013.  Slekar has been blogging about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform for years at atthechalkface.com. He is also the cohost of the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m., as well as the founder of United Opt Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.

Tim Slekar was initially a 2nd grade classroom teacher.  Twenty years ago he could feel what was happening and knew that he couldn’t remain a classroom teacher.  He subsequently returned to college to elevate his teaching credentials to continue earning a living in the educational field. According to Slekar, there are those in the reform movement who are giving money to entities that do not really represent reform.  Mentioned were Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Both say they are against Common Core, but unless Walker and Jindal remove the mandatory assessments they are not really against Common Core.  Mr. Slekar spoke of mathematics as being developmentally inappropriate in many aspects.  Regarding language arts, classic literature is being replaced with informational texts.

Slekar believes that tests take more and more time away from real learning.  According to Slekar the problem isn’t the tests .The problem is the high-stakes nature of the tests. Kids may not get much out of the tests, but their scores determine whether their schools are labeled “failing”, which determines the funding received by schools. Slekar pointed out a trio of foundations — the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation — who are pushing tests that produce data to prove public schools are failing.  Parents and teachers are absolutely right to suspect that these tests don’t serve kids well and are instead designed to make schools fail.  Failure, in turn, would  give credence to increasing standards as a way to improve student performance. Slekar encourages students to opt out of the tests. Although this strategy may seem risky to parents and teachers who worry about their schools receiving a failing grade, Slaker dismisses the strategy as short-term thinking, firmly believing that the drive to label all public schools as failing must be stopped.

Slekar likewise believes there is no achievement gap.  It is poverty and the lack of opportunity that are the major drivers of educational disparities. Poor kids need to get more of everything that rich kids get, that includes more music, more art, and rich literature.

Marsha Familaro Enright, Psychotherapist, President of Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, and President/Founder of Council Oak Montessori School

With an M.A. in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and as a Psychotherapist since 1976 still practicing part-time in Chicago, IL, Marsha Familaro Enright co-founded the Council Oak Montessori School of which she is the president and administrator.  Additionally, Ms. Enright is currently the president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute and leads the development of the College of the United States and its wholly independent scholarship fund. Enright also writes for The New Individualist, a journal of opinion dedicated to reason, individualism and freedom.  Other accomplishments of Marsha Familaro Enright can be found at this site.

To Marsha Familaro Enright, the education of the human child is of profound importance to anyone dedicated to achieving “the best within us.”  It is especially important to those who have, or wish to have, children of their own, and to those who are or wish to become teachers. Enright is concerned about a child’s nature and needs; how they are different from those of an adult; and how to best foster the child’s development so as to help him maximize his potential for productivity and happiness in life. The emphasis on human nature, needs, and values is in keeping with the The New Intellectual Forum in Chicago, IL, founded by Marsha Familaro Enrightco in 1987.

Attributed to Aristotle:  “All men, by nature, desire to know.”  In other words, very little will stop the young child from exploring the world and trying to learn.  Ms Enright views Aristotle’s words as the state of mind education should strive to achieve in order to create a vibrant, free society. Prior to the era of mass education, children were home- schooled.  Even so, the American populace was fairly literate for the times.  But having lived with tax-supported, government-provided education as a major supporter for 200 year, many people cannot imagine how most children could be educated otherwise.  For Ms. Enright, the free market system is the answer.

Ms. Enright  believes there is no way to give everyone equal advantages no matter how much money is spent.  Why?  Because human beings are individuals with hugely varying talents, abilities, and interests.  Enright advocates that parents and students be treated more like customers of a service business, with private schools competing to do the best job possible for each child.  Not only would schools be run more efficiently with little or no bureaucracy, but they would be responsive to their customers:  parents and teachers. Schools could be of every shape, size, and location, tailored to fit each school’s outlook and purposes.  With an emphasis on individualization, many students would be interested in non-academic areas such as crafts, trades, the arts, and business. Unlike with Common Core, there would be no generated push for everyone to attend college, which has  resulted in an increase of unnecessary degrees and punishing debt for college graduates.

Part 2 will present disturbing facts about Common Core that not only call for, but which demand immediate action by parents and concerned Americans.  Noted is how upwards of 70% of students will fail the PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) when administered here in IL in April-May of 2015, as arbitrary out test scores have been set as a ploy to convince parents and the pubic that even more standards are called for to raise student achievement.  To help combat Common Core in your school system, resources will be provided as ammunition to fight Common Core with other like-minded citizens and friends.

On a side note, The Heartland Institute currently communicates with every national and state elected official in the U.S., and thousands of civic and business leaders, by sending out three of its monthly public policy newspapers. These newspapers contain small, informative articles that are not easy to read.  A recent survey indicated that 50% of legislators read Heartland’s “School Reform News.”  Subscribe here for your copy.

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Seton Motley: How Title II Classification Could Lead to Internet Tax

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 10:25 AM

Jim Lakely, communications director at The Heartland Institute and co-director of Heartland’s Center on the Digital Economy, talked with one of the best free-market tech experts in Washington: Less Government President Seton Motley, who also happens to be a policy advisor to Heartland.

Jim and Seton talked about the FCC’s attempt to reclassify the Internet under title II. This would, among other things, potentially open the door to a web version of the Universal Service Fund, which could mean Internet taxes are just around the corner.


[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

7 Things Slick Politicians Will Say To Make You Think They Oppose Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 9:16 AM

The heat on Common Core was high this spring, but I predict it will be even higher come state legislative sessions this January. It’s the last year states can conceivably avoid joining the train wreck that will be Common Core tests, which are due to replace state tests in March and following. But the earnest moms and dads that comprise the Common Core grassroots have been largely burned by their representatives, who either have responded to serious arguments by relabeling Common Core or diverting blame for it. They’re politicians, man, not representatives.

Post-midterms, Sen. Rand Paul decided to up the ante on his potential 2016 competition, telling Breitbart that any Common Core-supporting presidential candidate is dead in the water: “I’m saying that that hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”

So it’s clearly incumbent on guys with eyes on 2016 to somehow placate voters. But they don’t actually want to do anything about Common Core. Nooo, that might make education bureaucrats, the Obama administration, and the business lobby angry, and these have money and leverage enough to make any politician see fuzzy instead of fuzzy math. So here’s what they’ll do instead of actually addressing the problem.

1. Scott Walker: Let’s Create Another Educrat Committee

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made a reputation for standing up to education thugs. But it appears that works best when he can use the thugs for fundraising. In July, watching his re-election poll numbers dive, he issued a statement calling on the legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it with “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Now, there’s a huge difference between a governor issuing a statement and a governor putting muscle behind his statement. Anyone can say anything, and they usually do. The trick is to tell when a politician means something. Walker doesn’t appear to mean anything except “please don’t withhold votes from me as I continue to ignore you, GOP base.” Both state lawmakers and local GOP leaders in Wisconsin have told me Walker’s been essentially running away from Common Core ever since it became an issue. His statement hasn’t changed anything.

We can see that by what Common Core legislation Walker did support during this year’s legislative session. It would have merely had a commission review Common Core and suggest changes to state Superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat who signed Wisconsin into Common Core with the stroke of his pen months before Common Core was even published. Come to think of it, him signing Common Core before the public could see what was in it—that would qualify as Wisconsin having “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Right? So nothing needs to change to meet Walker’s criteria. But some people might believe things had changed. How convenient.

By the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another often mentioned for 2016, hastaken the same do-nothing tack. Not that that would surprise anyone.

2. Mike Pence: But We Can’t Lose Our NCLB Waiver

Speaking of giving educrats free rein to pretend things have changed, consider the sleight-of-hand voters endured from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Common Core. He and other Republican leaders in the state demanded that any legislation to repeal Common Core (from the final language of the bill Pence signed into law) “[c]omply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver” from No Child Left Behind. Remember that? The law everyone hates that Pence refused to vote for while in Congress? Somehow, on the way from Congress to governor, he apparently reversed his opposition to what, as a U.S. representative, he criticized as “a complex regimen of curriculum subsidies and national testing.”

Here’s Pence’s statement on the waiver. The governor who insisted Congress “must undo” NCLB now piteously thanks Education Imperialist Arne Duncan for limitlessly expanding the law to exert his own arbitrary mandates over states and schools—which, by the way, upped the ante on national tests and enforced the mother of all curriculum mandates. Notice especially the doublespeak, in which administrative imperialism somehow becomes “local control.”

The approval of Indiana’s waiver request…gives us the ability to maintain local control of how federal education dollars are invested and to maintain the use of Indiana’s A-F school accountability system. The waiver also allows school districts and teachers to educate students in a manner determined by Hoosier educators and families in their local communities.

Since being elected Governor, I have consistently said that the Hoosier state needs to vigorously protect our commitment to high standards and to an accountability system that upholds those standards. I have also been clear that we need maximum flexibility under the law to develop our academic standards and accountability measures.

As Cato’s Neal McCluskey prophesied at the time, bowing to Washington ultimately forced Indiana to replace Common Core with…Common Core. Penceknew it, voted for it anyway, and proceeded to trot around the country telling people he’s the first governor to eliminate Common Core. This would be just politics as usual except that lots of innocent moms, dads, and kids who had trusted Pence to make good on his promise of something better than Common Core were in the process chucked under his campaign bus.

3. Mike Huckabee: It’s Not Common Core, It’s the Name

In February, according to Fox News, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the people who created Common Core that

state education leaders should be urged to ditch the ‘Common Core’ name, because it had become ‘toxic.’ ‘Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,’ Huckabee said.

In other words, parents are stupid. They don’t hate Common Core because it’s an incomprehensible, academically mediocre, coercive, statist project. They hate it because they’re sheep and their talk-show shepherds have given them the secret “go-foaming-at-the-mouth-crazy” stimulus.

Also, the dozens of reputable think tanks, research institutions, and professors who have raised questions about Common Core or produced research showing it’s an inevitable failure, they’re all sheep, too. And if we lie to them and just repaint the crappy old barn, they’ll be too stupid to see through it and will cozy right up. Huckabee literally told people, “Don’t change what you’re doing, change what you’re calling it.” That confirms he’s considering a presidential run.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is among the many politicians taking Huckabee’s advice. He insists the term Common Core is “radioactive,” and that Iowa “need[s] to have Iowa standards,” but has only strengthened his state’s connections with Common Core.

4. John Kasich: We Still Have Local Control

Apparently, Ohio Gov. John Kasich thinks Common Core was, and I quote, “written by local school districts” and he hasn’t seen that it “takes away from local control.”Oh, and, “Until somebody can show me we’re eroding local control, I see no reason to do anything.”

It’s a little alarming Kasich knows so little about an electoral priority of his constituents. Common Core and Medicaid expansion are the two top things Ohioans pester him about. It is really easy to prove school districts did not write Common Core. Even some supporters will acknowledge that two special-interest groups in D.C. convened a bunch of unelected bureaucrats to write Common Core.

The U.S. Department of Education’s former top lawyers have written a report showing both how imposing Common Core will lead inevitably to a national curriculum and that, in making this imposition, the Obama administration has likely broken several federal laws. And when Oklahoma rejected Common Core,the feds yanked funds and imposed extra restrictions. Oh, yeah. States are free as a bird.

I think that’s reason enough to at least consider Common Core ain’t freely chosen by duly elected representatives of the people, and certainly not by the people ourselves. Otherwise, there’d be no mass revolt brewing.

5. Jeb Bush: I Will Never Support a National Curriculum

Here’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, perhaps Common Core’s biggest political backer, on the Hugh Hewitt Show:

In fact, standards are different than curriculum, and that where I think the biggest misnomer is where people legitimately get concerned.  I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.

He’s technically right. The thing educrats call “standards” are actually mandates for what curriculum and lessons must contain and tests must measure. Common Core itself comprises 640 pages of such mandates. So it’s not technically the same thing teachers call “curriculum.” But Common Core does determine what curriculum contains. In other words, this is a distinction with very little difference, because when people such as Sen. Marco Rubio complain about federalizing education or nationalizing curriculum, what they’re criticizing is specifying at a national level exactly what books or lessons or concepts children must learn. And Common Core does this.

6. Bobby Jindal: The Feds Ruined Common Core

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is perhaps the gutsiest prominent elected official who criticizes Common Core, and the most (or perhaps even the only) willing to put his money where his mouth is, but he’s telling an inaccurate story about these mandates. In that, he’s in company with other politicians who are trying to deceive themselves and everyone else about this issue, including Pence, Bush, and Huckabee.

“The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,”Jindal said, in announcing a lawsuit against the federal government for conditioning education funds and favors on adopting Common Core. Jindal’s nowhere near the only one. A House resolution decrying federal Common Core coercion insists on perpetuating the same technocrat CYA myth: “Whereas the development of the common education standards known as the Common Core State Standards was originally led by national organizations, but has transformed into an incentives-based mandate from the Federal Government…”

No, actually, the people who wrote Common Core asked the federal government to push states into it and to pay for national tests. When the Obama administration came to power, it obliged.

7. Senators: I Can’t Do Anything Because It’s a State Issue

Sen. Lamar Alexander is the incoming chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor. He helped create one of the federal forerunners for Common Core, but under heavy pressure during the 2014 election started insisting the feds should “end the national school board and send all the decisions about Common Core back to Tennessee.”

It’s not clear there’s much difference between the America 2000 legislation Alexander shepherded and the structures the U.S. Department of Education used to push states into Common Core. And he’s still listed as a Common Core supporteron “Conservatives for Higher Standards.” But he is also sponsoring legislation to remove federal pressure from Common Core, which in this era of partisan gang-ups is notable for not receiving support from all the Republicans. It’s instructive how many GOP senators are simply saying and doing nothing about Common Core. No action equals supporting Common Core, given that it’s Obama administration policy.

Two downed Democrat senators, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, insisted that Common Core was bereft of federal involvement. That didn’t work out so well for them. But Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who moves from HELP chair to former senator, still considers Common Core a “state issue.”

Here’s a statement from Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s spokeswoman:

[Crapo] views it as a state issue already decided since the state accepted the standards and there is no need to interfere with the state’s wishes.

Apparently Crapo didn’t know or didn’t think to have a staffer Google up the truth that the federal government has a) funded national Common Core tests, which are its crucial enforcement mechanism and b) required states to adopt Common Core if they want an NCLB waiver or a shot at a $4.35 billion slush fund Congress, in all its intelligence, handed to Czar Duncan.

Oh, and it’s also sending states millions to create identical student databases that plug directly into Common Core K-12 testing pipelines so everyone’s personal information can be collected in a government dossier. Are these senators saying they have no power to stop things they or their predecessors (mostly) authorized? Are they saying they can’t sign onto bills that prevent federal involvement with Common Core, testing, or curriculum? That once an executive decides to run all over Congress and the laws, no one can stop him?

If so, time to get someone else into their offices who thinks Congress is more than a bunch of bobble heads. At the very least, they could be honest like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who recently went from supporting Common Core to opposing it, and to prove his conversion has introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from mandating or incentivizing curriculum mandates, tests, or curriculum. It seems to be a strong bill, but here’s the problem: The U.S. Department of Education is already ignoring three laws that prohibit its Common Core-pushing. Adding another doesn’t seem likely to change its behavior. That means what really needs to happen is cutting USDOE off at the knees by slashing its budget and responsibilities.

Any takers? Rand Paul? Anyone?

[Originally published at The Federalist]


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