Backers of the federal Marketplace Fairness Act estimate it would generate another $23 billion of annual revenue for states. Of course, another way to look at the law is to say it would take $23 billion away from consumers. That’s $23 billion less money consumers would be able to spend shopping.
The act, known as the Internet tax bill, would require online retailers to collect sales tax from each customer, based on where the customer is located. If Customer A lives where the state sales tax is 6 percent, the retailer would have to collect 6 percent tax on the sale. If Customer B lives where the sales tax is 8 percent, the retailer would have to collect 8 percent on the sale.
Proponents call it “marketplace fairness” because traditional retailers – the “brick-and-mortar” stores – must collect sales tax on every sale they make.
Currently, online retailers must collect sales tax only from customers in states where the retailer has a physical presence. The brick-and-mortar store people say this gives online retailers an unfair advantage, because online retailers’ customers come from all over the country, including states where the online retailers have no physical presence. Therefore, many of their sales are untaxed.
Defenders of the bill argue it imposes no new taxes because states already require persons who buy things out of state to pay tax on them. They say shoppers already owe the estimated $23 billion the act would take.
OK, let’s ignore the impact $23 billion fewer dollars to spend would have on all retailers, and accept the premise. The money is owed, and online retailers would merely be enforcing existing state laws.
This still isn’t marketplace fairness, because brick-and-mortar stores don’t collect out-of-state tax. The stores collect whatever the tax is where they are located. They couldn’t care less where their shoppers live.
All across this country, cities draw people from near and far. Many small towns also have major tourist industries.
So let’s have true marketplace fairness. We’ll require every retailer – online as well as brick-and-mortar – to determine where each shopper lives, collect the appropriate sales tax amount, and then send the money to the appropriate tax jurisdiction.
Just a few days ago, in a Daily Caller column, 60 Plus Association Chairman Jim Martin wrote in defense of the Marketplace Fairness Act: “Millions of Internet merchants collect taxes every day with professional accounting tools that are as reliable and technologically sound as the shopping cart software they use to sell their wares. Taxes at the time of sale can be calculated and collected with the ease and reliability of all other steps in the transaction based on the state and locality of the buyer.”
Surely the brick-and-mortar stores could install similar tools. Surely it would be no problem for cashiers to ask every customer’s address, verify it, and enter that information into the computer system, which would determine the correct sales tax. Surely the brick-and-mortar stores would have no problem using their computers to track this information and send the proper payments to the appropriate taxing jurisdiction for each customer. Surely they would have no problem submitting themselves to audits from tax jurisdictions across the country.
Fairness demands this. Surely brick-and-mortars retailers would have no problem with true marketplace fairness.
In those three pithy phrases, Ronald Reagan summarized the essence of government as envisioned by tax-and-spend liberals who these days prefer to call themselves “progressives” interested in “revenue enhancement” and “investment.”
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. By following the principles of limited government and separation of powers laid out by the Founders in the U. S. Constitution, U.S. citizens and their representatives could empower individual liberty; create opportunity; reward innovation, ambition, and hard work; and preserve freedom. In short, we could keep the republic that Benjamin Franklin and company bequeathed us and government of the people, by the people, and for the people would not perish from this earth.
But the ratchet of tyranny and oppression that work constantly in the other direction is on display again in Washington, as senior Illinois Senator and No. 2-ranking Democrat in the U. S. Senate, Dick Durbin, last month pushed for a national online sales tax designed to lift another $200 million from the pockets of Illinois residents alone.
Along with Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of California, the State of Illinois is in a race for the bottom as the most financially bankrupt state in the Union, with unfunded pension liabilities approaching $100 billion. The City of Chicago already has among the highest sales, gasoline, parking, restaurant, and hotel taxes in the country, and both the city and the state of Illinois have nearly exhausted such quick-fix money-raising schemes as gambling boats and selling off long-term streams of revenue like parking meters, toll way bridge fares, and – coming soon – Chicago Transit Authority public transportation fares.
As elsewhere, the problem in Illinois is largely one of legacy costs, resulting primarily from feckless mayors and governors constantly giving in to state and municipal employee unions rather than risk labor unrest. Rather than rein in costs or reform pensions, however, the State just keeps looking for more ways to pull money out of people’s pockets, with or without federal assistance. And that’s where an Internet sales tax may come in.
“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” wrote Judge Gideon J. Tucker in 1866, and federal lawmakers who lust after more power and control over their fellow citizens continue to prove him right. Like those who want to raise federal income taxes again insisting that they only want “the wealthy” to pay their “fair share,” Sen. Durbin and others who supported the general idea of a national online sales tax in a 75-23 Senate test vote last month insist that the new tax is solely about leveling the playing field between online merchants and their brick and mortar counterparts.
It’s “just a question of fundamental fairness,” insists Senator Durbin, who actually claims “We’re not talking about imposing a new tax. Not at all.” Not, that is, unless you consider a nearly 10% government-imposed financial penalty that did not previously exist a ”tax.” And even United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts was smart enough to see in his Obamacare opinion that the “individual responsibility” penalty that the “Affordable Care Act” imposes on those who choose to go uninsured is a “tax.”
“More and more,” the Chicago Tribune on Monday, April 1, 2013, quoted National Conference of State Legislatures “point person” Max Behlke as complaining, “people are going into stores, looking at products and then buying them with their iPhone, buying it on their BlackBerry, because it’s cheaper.”
But that’s exactly what consumers should be doing. Despite the increasing encroachment of the socialist welfare state, many Americans still work hard for their money and try to spend it wisely. That means buying goods and services at the lowest available price, whether shopping the sales at Macy’s, buying gasoline out of state, buying used clothing at thrift stores, or purchasing comparable goods on the Internet because they’re available at lower prices. Doing so is an integral part of the market system that is most consistent with individual liberty, freedom of choice, and – ultimately – efficient allocation of the world’s resources.
Local retailers complain that they must charge sales taxes while online retailers do not, but that’s not actually true. Online retailers with a physical presence in a state are already obliged to charge tax on sales to customers with shipping addresses within that state, as online auction sellers and out-of-state art galleries have been aware for years. It’s true that a potential buyer may walk into a local shop, find something she likes, and then buy it online at a lower price, but a local retailer can make tax-free sales to out-of-state customers by making online sales as well. And customers will often pay more to get something in person today rather than to wait for it to arrive later, especially after taking shipping costs into account.
The economic problem isn’t the sales price, which the merchant can always lower to compete with online retailers; the problem is the sales tax that drives a wedge between the price the buyer pays and the price the seller receives, which in Illinois can be at least as high as 9.25%.
But much like the older couple in which one or both partners doesn’t have a hearing problem so much as a listening problem, Illinois and similar states don’t really have revenue problems, they have spending problems. With all admiration for Grover Norquist’s efforts to keep taxes in check, his approach may ultimately be wrong: We don’t need to cut taxes as much as we need to stop spending.
Sadly, an Internet sales tax won’t help either.[See a related post by Heartland's Steve Stanek: "Internet Sales Tax Unfair."]
The March 22, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution featured a detailed, well-written article by reporter Ariel Hart titled “Rare bat stalls Ga. roadwork.” The article mentions in May 2012, a single Indiana bat was seen in a tree in North Georgia. This bat is an Endangered Species since 1967.
Consequently, federal regulations must be followed on land use regarding road projects in Northern Georgia. Projects must not “harm, kill, or harass” the bats. Currently $459 million in Georgia road projects are delayed up to one and one-half years. The cost of studies is between $80,000 and $120,000 per project and the total for the 104 projects in the next three years may be $8 million.
Indiana bats are named because a large proportion of them hibernate from early fall to early spring in Indiana caves. Thus habitat studies are only conducted in late spring and summer and obviously large numbers of Indiana bats are from Indiana.
The irony of Georgia’s pain from habitat studies is the Fowler Ridge wind farm in north-west Indiana with 355 gigantic wind turbines covering 50,000 acres built 2008-2010. An additional 150 wind turbines are planned for the site in the near future. Adjacent to this wind farm is the 2009 Meadow Lake Wind Farm with 121 wind turbines. This Benton County, Indiana location is one of the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world.
It is long known wind turbines are devastating to bat populations. A U. S. Geological Survey report, “Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences” mentions thousands of bats are killed annually at wind turbine sites around the world. More detailed descriptions of environmental problems of wind turbines is found a recent blog post by me: ”Violent Environmental Problems With Wind Turbine Operation“.
Besides being minced by turbine blade rotations, bats are subject to deaths by other means as explained by the August 26, 2008 Scientific American article “On a Wing and Low Air: The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats.” Bats are killed by pressure pulses causing burst blood vessels in their lungs. As nocturnal creatures, bats are particularly vulnerable to wind turbines because wind turbine operations are frequently late at night when demand for electricity is at its lowest.
Now questions arise about the U. S. Government having dual standards about safety of humans and bats. Road projects in Georgia are for purposes of improving traffic flow and safety and reducing air pollution by increasing automobile operation efficiency. There is no question lives are saved by improved traffic flow on four-lane roads versus two-lane roads with potential for head-on collisions. Using EPA standards for reduced air pollution due to more efficient automobile operations, the potential for lives saved may be in the hundreds. The delay of possibly one and one-half years for bat habitat studies will cost Georgians lives. These delays are to prevent the “harm, kill, or harass” of a few and maybe no bats.
In Indiana, the origin of Indiana bats, thousands of bats perish annually due to wind farms in Benton County where no standards to protect bat habitats are enforced. Additional wind farms are strewn all over the Midwest due to its favorable wind speeds. Consequently, millions of bats die yearly due to wind farm operations. Apparently the U. S. Government’s enthusiasm for promoting renewable energy resources allows ignoring the fate of animals listed by the Endangered Species Act.
In Georgia federal regulations super cede common sense and Georgia citizens are subject to “harm, kill, or harass” over interests of a few Indiana bats. Bats are more important than Georgia citizens. This may be the penalty for being a red state.
Premiering this week on Masterpiece Classic on PBS, Mr. Selfridge is an interesting and enjoyable ten-part drama series. It tells the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American businessman who brings a new kind of shopping experience to Great Britain and shakes up that staid nation’s economy.
Selfridge, played excellently by Jeremy Piven (Entourage), arrives in London in the first decade of the twentieth century and opens the nation’s first modern-style department store, called Selfridge’s. He has already had great success in transforming Chicago’s Marshall Field’s store into the world’s first department store, and is now taking that idea to England.
This establishment is even more ambitious, unlike anything else found in England at the time. Whereas other shops keep their goods hidden, and their staffs function as authoritarian figures deciding for the customer what the person should buy, Selfridge’s is consumer-oriented and a palace of entertainment. Gorgeous architecture and amenities greet the customers, and show-biz elements are common, such that the establishment is a spectacular entertainment medium in addition to being a shopping place.
Instead of hiding the wares in storage areas and closed cases, bringing them out only when the staff has decided what a customer should have, Selfridge’s puts all the wares on open display and invites the individual to browse and appreciate the astonishing array of goods available. (It also creates the new problem of shoplifting, which is alluded to in the first episode.) Selfridge is believed to have coined the phrase “The customer is always right,” and his staff are trained to take a servant’s mentality, seeking out what the customer wants, instead of deciding what the person should want.
Selfridge is something of a mass of contradictions, but his character is fully believable and true to life as played by Piven. The entrepreneur is a real promoter, openly in search of success and riches, but he is also something of an idealist, wanting to bring a better life to the masses. He is a family man who seems bound to succumb to temptations to break his marriage vows. He is a driven, self-made man who also really cares about the people who work for him. He is a huckster who truly cares for his customers. He is, in short a true businessman.
Selfridge’s big idea truly changed the world, but in part because it fit so well into a world that was already changing. With women enjoying new independence and more free time in the new century, and with prosperity rising thanks to the workings of the Industrial Revolution and market capitalism, the kind of democratic approach to merchant sales is both socially welcome and economically efficient. On the other hand, the efficiency of Selfridge’s, made possible by economies of scale, will ultimately make it and other stores like it much more efficient than their predecessors, which will end up driving the latter out of business.
This is a good thing overall for society, a classic example of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumepter‘s observation of “creative destruction” at the heart of market capitalism (a notion derived from Marx but embraced by free-market thinkers), but it is also, of course, a personal catastrophe for those businesses that are creatively destroyed by Selfridge’s and its imitators.
In addition, the social forces that make Selfridge’s such a brilliant idea also lead to a consumer mentality that affects everything—not just business but also entertainment and even politics—as the century wears on. This intense individualism apparently fostered by both the market and the culture would soon come to be a worry for both Left (under the Frankfurt School’s pervasive influence) and the traditionalist Right, with its opposition to rapid social change.
Yet although these two very different critiques of the social effects of market have some valid points to make, they tend to overlook the fact that on balance the changes were highly salutary indeed.
Traditionalists ought to acknowledge that the social and technological changes that unleashed the greater individualism also helped rid the world of much ignorance and prejudice (which statist forces on both the left and right have continually tried to replace with prejudices and superstitions of their own). Leftists, for their part, ought to do much better at acknowledging the astounding material and social benefits that market capitalism has brought to people such that what is considered poverty in the United States today was once great wealth here and is still an unattainable standard of living for most of the world.
By creating a smoother and more reliable bridge between producer and consumer, Selfridge and his imitators enabled producers to bring their wares to a vastly expanded market, thus expanding greatly the economies of scale throughout the economy. The expanding market led to many more and better jobs, which led in turn to further market expansion and so on, in a virtuous circle of economic growth. The only thing that could stand in the way of all of this truly wonderful progress was government, and it has done so with horribly impressive effectiveness in the decades since Marshall Field’s, Selfridge’s, and other institutions of consumer empowerment freed people from widespread want and ignorance.
The pilot episode of Mr. Selfridge does not dig into all of these implications, but this story of entrepreneurship and innovation set near the time of Downton Abbey does suggest such thoughts and themes quite clearly in the intelligent screenplay by the always skillful Andrew Davies. Instead of pushing particular conclusions on the viewer, Davies lets the events speak for themselves, and they are quite eloquent for those who are attuned to the implications. Piven’s performance conveys Selfridge’s virtues and vices with equal skill, and the result is a character whom we can like and respect without forgetting his all-too-human weaknesses.
The pilot episode of Mr. Selfridge clearly indicates an awareness of and respect for both the greatness and shortcomings of market capitalism. What is more impressive is that the show represents neither unbridled cheerleading nor unfair criticism of the market. In all, episode one of Mr. Selfridge is a balanced, sympathetic, and wise portrait of a capitalist. As such, it is a welcome example of thoughtfulness in our increasingly politicized and ignorant times.
[First posted at The American Culture.]
Since I am one-eighth Cherokee and my spouse is the daughter of immigrants from Italy, our marriage was interracial and presumably illegal in Virginia. We often entertained renting a hotel room in Virginia as a sexy way to protest the Virginia law. We never did. It was cheaper to go home to the District of Columbia and make love there. In our case, economics trumped making a political statement.
In 1967 the Supreme court ruled in the case of Loving & Loving versus the State of Virginia, that the 1924 ban on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. I do not remember that the ban interfered with medical, inheritance or other important decisions in Virginia. The main effect was the promotion of a slightly naughty amusement on the part of couples like us.
The lesson for the same-sex marriage cases now before the Supreme Court seems to me to be the current cases are not very important in terms of changing behavior. Nevertheless, public opinion is still sharply divided.
This suggests that a decision from the United States Supreme Court may be premature. There is a dictum from the legal literature that is on point in my opinion: Hard decisions make bad law.
The publicity surrounding President Obama’s failed strategy to stimulate the economy, by putting clueless manager Steven Chu in charge of the Department of Energy’s lending activities, has become so bad that few “green energy economy” entrepreneurs want to accept taxpayer money any more.
That’s according to a report published earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed DOE’s loan programs for a briefing to both the House and Senate’s Appropriations subcommittees on Energy. Amusingly though, the Web site of DOE’s Loan Programs Office still calls itself “The Financing Force Behind America’s Clean Energy Economy.” The minor blip that undermines that premise is that DOE is having trouble getting someone to borrow $55 billion.
GAO’s director for Natural Resources and Environment, Frank Rusco, undertook an audit/investigation that evaluated three types of DOE loans: the 1703, 1705, and Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing programs. The 1705 program backed alternative energy projects such as Solyndra and Abound Solar, and had a sunset date of Sept. 30, 2011. The 1703 program supports “innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks,” and is still active. The ATVM program’s funds are also still available, and backs manufacturers producing vehicles (or “qualifying” components) that meet the governments fuel economy standards – for the most part, electric vehicles.
According to Rusco’s findings, DOE issued approximately $15 billion of the $18 billion that was authorized for the now-expired 1705 program. Under 1703, DOE had $34 billion in loans it could guarantee. For the ATVM program, Congress approved $25 billion that DOE could back.
For 1703, DOE has not made any loan guarantees, although four nuclear projects have received conditional commitments for $10.33 billion. Nine other applications are said to be in the due diligence stage. Technologies that are to be considered under the program include biomass, hydrogen, solar, wind/hydropower, “advanced fossil energy coal,” and carbon sequestration practices/technologies.
But it’s the ATVM program that is really getting the cold shoulder from electric vehicle entrepreneurs and overall automakers. Of the $25 billion that was made available, DOE only issued $8.4 billion in guarantees to five companies – the remainder has been mostly left unused. Rusco reported that DOE has seven applications totaling nearly $1.5 billion that it considers inactive for various reasons, has no others under consideration, and its last ATVM loan was closed in March 2011. DOE officials told Rusco they are not likely to use all of the remaining ATVM loan program resources.
Why? To find out, Rusco and his staff interviewed nine applicants at various stages for the loan guarantee program. But because no applicants were actively in pursuit of ATVM loans, they interviewed representatives of companies and manufacturers “based on their eligibility to apply, ensuring that we included current, former, and prospective applicants.”
Those interviewed cited predictable reasons for their regret, hesitance or refusal to accept government funding, including bureaucratic red tape, reporting requirements, uncertainty about credit subsidy costs, lengthy review times, and the expenditure of time and resources for an uncertain outcome. But now – with the benefit of hindsight of so many that went before them into the tortured realm of government dependency – apparently many have been deterred by bad publicity surrounding previous loans.
“Some applicants noted that the Solyndra default and other problems have created a negative public image and political environment for the program,” Rusco reported to the committees, “which has made its future less certain and DOE more cautious about closing on loan guarantees.”
With the ATVM interviewees, Rusco noted a similar problem, explaining, “as the program is currently implemented by DOE, the costs of participating outweigh the benefits to their companies.” Respondents to his inquiries also say Solyndra-type problems tainted the ATVM program’s image.
“They believed the negative publicity makes DOE more risk-averse,” Rusco reported, “or makes companies wary of being associated with government support.”
Undoubtedly “Solyndra” is to the DOE stimulus scam what “Watergate” is to political scandals – you don’t even need to add “gate” – but the ATVM program publicity alone has been disastrous enough to ward off anyone in their right minds who may have considered them as lenders. NLPC has reported nearly ad nauseum on the four top recipients of loans under ATVM:
- Nissan received $1.45 billion to refurbish a plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to produce the all-electric Leaf model and its batteries. Despite all indicators and especially paltry sales, CEO Carlos Ghosn insisted for years that 1.5 million EVs would be sold by 2016, and that EVs would account for 10 percent of new car sales by 2020. But the Leaf never overcame its expensive cost (like all EVs, as well as the Chevy Volt) and inefficiencies, such as limited range and long charging times. Loss of battery life in vehicles based in extremely hot climates in the U.S. didn’t help either. The bad image finally took its toll to the point where Nissan cancelled its grand opening celebration of the Tennessee plant, after so much earlier build-up and fanfare. Finally last month Nissan admitted “we were a little bit arrogant” about prospects for the Leaf.
- Ford Motor Company received a $5.9 billion DOE loan guarantee to renovate its factories to produce vehicles (presumably) that are more fuel efficient, as the Loan Program Office boasted that 33,000 employees would suddenly be converted to “green manufacturing jobs.” While Ford hasn’t suffered as much bad publicity as others, there isn’t much to show for taxpayers’ “investment” in the company’s green efforts either. The biggest public rollout of any electric vehicle was the Focus Electric, whose sales are barely measurable, which an executive said the company wasn’t even trying very hard to sell. “The marketing of the Focus Electric is to people who buy electric vehicles, not to you and me,” said Jim Farley, Ford head of global marketing, to USA Today in April 2012. “We’re focused on the people who buy them.”
- Tesla, which received $465 million under ATVM, has been hit hard more recently in the media. Billionaire CEO Elon Musk runs the company, which spent $480,000 from 2007 to 2011 to lobby various arms of government in support of pro-green stimulus programs, and Musk also donated handsomely to political candidates and committees of both parties, but mostly to Democrats. But like another loan recipient, Fisker (more in a moment), Tesla produces an electric car (the Model S) that sells for $101,000 – thus taxpayers are backing rich entrepreneur’s business that caters to wealthy customers. And the crowning blow is that last month Musk got into a dispute with a New York Times reporter over a horrible review of the Model S, in which the car ended up being towed away. Musk has been trying to recover ever since.
- Finally there is Fisker Automotive, founder Henrik Fisker, and the $102,000 Fisker Karma. It’s hard to imagine how a vehicle company with so much attention on it could have had a worse debut. In brief (because NLPC has reported on it so much) the car has had recalls because of design flaws and a failed battery supplier (A123 Systems, which went bankrupt), saw its $529 million DOE loan guarantee cut off after $193 million, and had Consumer Reports call it the worst luxury sedan on the market. After three CEO changes in less than a year, management started shopping for a “partner” (some say a buyer) in China. That strategy reached a crisis point recently when, in a dispute with the controlling executives, Henrik Fisker quit the company, reportedly over a disagreement whether to continue to seek the remainder of the allocated DOE/ATVM money. It’s quite clear he couldn’t stomach it any more.
“What happened after Solyndra obviously has shifted unfortunately the discussions — rather than talking about … that everybody wants America to be the leader in new technology, it shifted to being more political focused,” Fisker told The Detroit News after he resigned. “That’s a situation everyone’s going to have to deal with.”
Everyone will have to deal with it, that is, except those who won’t accept loans from the Obama administration.
[First Posted at National Legal and Policy Center]
Cato’s Jonathan Adler, writing in Reason, gives a more eloquent version of the argument I’ve advanced in the past about the perils of tossing federalism aside on the marriage issue.
“The arguments for holding Proposition 8 unconstitutional do not seek to vindicate a “right to marry” so much as they seek to alter the definition of what constitutes a marriage in the first place. Marriage has been understood to constitute the union of one man and one woman through most of human history… Many of us find this to be an unpersuasive justification for denying state recognition of same-sex couples, but this is not a sufficient basis to render such policies unconstitutional. Federalism requires that state governments are allowed to adopt unsound policies. Indeed, it is only by allowing a diversity of policy choices to be made that we can discover the mix of policies that best protect individual liberty and facilitate the pursuit of happiness.”
Adler notes the historical precedence of state authority over the definitions of family law, and then moves on to the tactical problem:
“Advocates of same-sex marriage, myself included, believe it is proper to expand the traditional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Insofar as the state is in the business of licensing and recognizing marriages, it is prudent, wise, and just to recognize that two people of the same sex are just as capable of creating an enduring, committed relationship and providing for the care and nurturing of children as many heterosexual couples. But this does not mean a state’s refusal to take this step violates the Constitution. Not every policy that is unwise or even unjust is unconstitutional.”
This reminds me of Thomas’s position on Lawrence, which used to be on my wall in the Senate offices. The decision to stop the ongoing conversation of democracy and assert a nationwide standard is always tempting for those who view the courts as an avenue to getting the result they want ahead of the trendlines of culture, but I am in favor of trusting the people in these matters to decide these issues for themselves.
The larger danger is the inevitable clash between religious liberty and a newly required and nationally legitimized approach to same sex marriage. The Illinois proposal currently being considered by their state legislature is a perfect example: one which would require religious associations to essentially give up their daily activity of evangelism, retreat from public life, and sacrifice their property rights if they are viewed as holdouts on the wrong side of the cultural trend. It is a perfect encapsulation of the thorny religious liberty issues which will inevitably be litigated over the coming decade – namely, how much the state can demand of churches, synagogues, and mosques to bend to the new law likely imposed by the Supreme Court. Let me draw your attention to page 5.
“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a religious organization as defined in paragraph (1) of this subsection (a-10) to make available a parish hall or other religious facility on the premises of a church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or other house of worship for solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the religious organization’s religious beliefs, provided that: (A) the religious facility is primarily used by members of the parish or congregation for worship and other religious purposes; (B) for solemnization and celebration of marriages, the religious organization generally restricts use of the religious facility to its members and opens the facility only occasionally to non-members on an unpaid basis; and (C) the religious organization does not make the religious facility available to the general public for rental or use for which a rental fee or other compensation is required or for which public funding or other public benefit is received.”
There are a host of problems in this “provided that” section, nearly all of which are bent against the ability of religious institutions to evangelize – they must close their doors to outsiders entirely in order to abide by this rule. Regarding (A): how do we assess a facility’s role as “primarily” to serve members of the parish or congregation? Similar to the challenge in the contraception mandate situation, where there’s been concern federal representatives would have to survey students at Catholic schools to see how many were actually Catholic, this would essentially eliminate whole swathes of church activity. As for (B): the vast number of protestant institutions, where membership is often more nebulous, rent their facilities to non-members for use in weddings, a not insignificant source of income (and a not insignificant cost for the facility). The combination of (A) and (C) would simply eliminate the bulk of functional church activity. Non-churchgoers may think of a religious institution as a Sabbath-focused entity – in reality, the five days a week classes, day schools, counseling, fellowship hall scout meetings, soup kitchens and the like are the primary focus of most active denominations, featuring the prevalence of non-members and the active participation of many other non-profit groups, which will now have to choose between receiving public benefit (does this include tax treatment?) and their use of church facilities.
But remember, we’re not forcing the churches to do anything. They just need to understand that functionally, from the perspective of the state, they will eventually have to choose: either they are public facilities which can be used by all, or they can lose their tax status. Churches and other religious groups will have to resolve their willingness to engage legal protections and prepare to lose their tax status (as we’ve already seen in New Jersey) in anticipation of the inevitable lawsuits, and may wish to incorporate their schools and attendant organizations in a different manner so as to create legal firewalls. It is a libertarian pipe dream that such clashes with churches and religious institutions are in any way avoidable.
In a proper federalist system, states would work according to the laboratories of democracy model: they would see how this approach plays out in Maryland and Maine over the coming years, and alter their laws accordingly to protect religious organizations, businesses, mosques and churches, and prevent community clashes as best possible. State laws differ dramatically, and for a reason. I expect the Court to prevent such an approach: instead of allowing the people to decide a contentious issue of rights, love, and childrearing, they will almost certainly rip this away from the people.
They should trust the people more. If marriage is to be redefined, it ought to be by the American people, not unelected judges. We’ve seen the clashes already in California on this point, but by taking the issue national, the Court will sow social discord in significant ways with yet another enormous expansion of the Equal Protection standard, one which will inevitably set it up for future difficulties as plaintiffs take this new path to a logical conclusion. The reaction will not be as longterm as Roe, but it will be more divisive than the elites in media and politics expect, as any issue is where a decision is forced rather than allowing the citizenry to come around to the idea, where they view such matters as the working of legitimate democracy.
Ultimately, this debate is likely to do more damage to the public square than it ever should have in a system which understood the importance of balance, patience, and faith in the federalist approach which served this nation so well in the past. Trust in government is already at its nadir, and Supreme Court approval is near record low. Perhaps this is because the people understand they no longer direct the course of legitimate government which is supposed to serve their interests, and that on issues of life, death, and love, the will of a far-off power is now regularly imposed on them.
As Ronald Reagan noted, the Founders recognized the importance of “sovereign states, not mere administrative districts for the federal government”, and “regarded the central government’s responsibility as that of providing national security, protecting our democratic freedoms, and limiting the government’s intrusion in our lives — in sum, the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They never envisioned vast agencies in Washington telling our farmers what to plant, our teachers what to teach, our industries what to build… They believed in keeping government as close as possible to the people.” That principle is an inherently conservative one, a wise one, and should not be dismissed so quickly simple to achieve another political end.
[First Published at Ricochet]
No doubt a disturbing amount of these voters were unaware that Obama’s inauguration on January 21st was a ceremonial re-enactment of the constitutionally required one the day before, and certainly they accepted unquestioningly the line in his ceremonial speech in which he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change… Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
But that particular sentence only stays afloat when no one looks any deeper into it. The most damaging thing that can happen to a politicized thesis such as ”climate change” is for more people to actually question it and discover for themselves that it looks like indefensible misinformation. For President Obama and others promoting the idea of man-caused global warming, any kind of plausible opposition to this issue imperils it, so they avoid exploration of critical viewpoints and instead label them as “deniers”. Case closed.
That is the hallmark of far-left agendas. The global warming issue showcases how spectacularly this tactic fails.
Steve Goreham’s The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania — which will have a second print run in April — dives headlong into addressing those who promote the idea of man-caused global warming.
Mad, Mad, Mad World is very effective in revealing the three glaring errors in Obama’s climate change inaugural speech statement. Goreham uncovers the false premise of the “denier” label in his chapter about the funding disparity between wealthy green organizations and the significantly less-funded conservative think-tanks. He points out how the “overwhelming judgment of science” myth falls apart in his “Big Whoppers about Climate Change” chapter, and notions about the supposed ‘devastating impacts’ of global warming crumble apart in his “Wild Weather and Snow Follies” chapter.
The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism addresses all that and more in a very readable way, while placing fun fact tidbits in the page margins which further undermine the global warming crisis narrative from multiple angles. Goreham’s book has over thirty pages of chapter endnotes, most of them featuring web site links leading readers on an ever-widening path of discovery about the issue. A particularly inconvenient truth for those pushing the crisis narrative: neither the companion book for Al Gore’s film nor his 2010 Our Choice book has a single footnote or endnote. Our Choice has vague source references for a few of its charts. The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism has endnotes on all of the short glosses in its margins.
Informed as I already am on the global warming issue, I still found new information in the book that I can use in debates with people on Al Gore’s side. One in particular I hadn’t known about: ex-EPA administrator Carol Browner had suggested “an electric company will be able to hold back some of the power so that maybe your air conditioner won’t operate at its peak”. I did know about the way inquiries into the ClimateGate scandal ended up looking like whitewashes, but Goreham boils that down in a way that any reader can easily understand and use against those who say ClimateGate was an inconsequential matter. Goreham deftly reinforces how the IPCC scientists involved in that matter are still in deep trouble and how the inquiries that supposedly exonerated them have readily-seen faults. I found this refresher especially useful.
As I noted in my review of Goreham’s prior book, Climatism!, his label of “climatists” is quite appropriate, more so than the term “warmist.” My own earliest notice of the so-called global warming crisis movement was the result of being puzzled about what happened to big concerns over global cooling. Goreham brings up that very topic on page 2, an episode emblematic of the need to solve whatever we are perceived to be doing to the planet.
I strongly urge people to buy and read this book, and to keep it on hand for quick reference when those who unquestioningly follow President Obama’s call for action on global warming ratchet up the clamor for action. Allowing such rhetoric to go by without a hitting back is to let the handlers of low-information voters win the day. What these handlers can’t tolerate is their minions losing the debate to high-information voters. Such losses breed more high-information voters, an anathema to the so-called global warming fraternity.
Borrowing an Indy-500 witticism about race drivers: There are those “who have hit the wall and those who will hit the wall.” I apply it to the global warming issue by suggesting there are those who are skeptical of man-caused global warming, and those who will become skeptics after reading skeptic material. The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism is exactly the kind of book capable of accomplishing that transformation.
[First published at the American Thinker.]
The latest edition of The Heartland Institute’s Author Series featured Hester Peirce of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. One of the most-knowledgeable scholars in America on finance policy, Hester came to Chicago to talk about the book she co-wrote and edited titled Dodd-Frank: What it Does, and Why it’s Flawed. We were honored to host her appearance in the Midwest.
Blogger Nancy Thorner, a good friend of Heartland and contributor to Heartland’s public free-market blog Freedom Pub, attended the event and wrote it up. For that we’re grateful. Read it below — and if you don’t want to miss the next great Heartland Author Event, keep an eye on this link.
As part of the Heartland Institute Author luncheon series, Hester Peirce reviewed her book, “Dodd-Frank What It Does and Why It’s Flawed,” to a captive audience this past Thursday.
Hester Peirce is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and was on the staff of the Senate Banking Committee during the drafting of Dodd-Frank (Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act), which was signed into federal law by President Barack Obama on July 21, 2010.
Although Dodd Frank is heading toward its three-year anniversary the effects of the Act are still not know. It remains a work in progress, as many of the rules have not yet been finalized. To make matters worse, federal legislators, given broad discretion under the act, have missed deadlines for rules even through progress reports were ordered by law.
The Dodd-Frank Act was formulated as a solution to the devastating financial situation which rocked this nation in 2007 and 2008, a time when there was lots of pressure on Congress to do something as people were suffering. Dodd-Frank was meant to promote the financial stability of this nation by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end “too big to fail”, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, and to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices.
A Financial Inquiry Commission was appointed to work solo under the faulty assumption that regulators could determine what the problems were and come up with solutions, even before the existing financial problems had been ascertained. It is not surprising that a massive undertaking crafted in haste (only six months) would have given rise to a whole new set of problems. Many items were added at the last minute which would have received lots of scrutiny in other situations and during prior times.
Some of the provisions included in Dodd-Frank didn’t even relate to the crisis, such as the “Durbin amendment” that sets price controls on fees banks can charge merchants in connection with debit cards.
The Dodd-Frank Act that was signed into law in 2010. Many of the provisions (rules) in Dodd-Frank are rooted in “behavioral economics”, which enjoys great popularity within the Obama administration and among Democratic legislators. Government looks at the way people make decisions and doesn’t like what it sees. This results in a government that thinks it can do better as it knows what is best for the American people. Examples of behavioral economics in the Obama administration include its push for green energy to fight Global Warming; passing Obamacare to which rules and regulations are still being added; and its promotion of the Common Core curriculum for schools which most states have adopted. Illinois signed on without hesitation when first introduced in 2010, even before the Core programs were written to be evaluated.
Agencies set up to finalize, administer, and enforce Dodd-Frank include the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC); the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR). Instead of acting in the ways originally perceived, the agencies are shielded from accountability to Congress, the president, and the American people. Decision-making is left to the regulators; agencies many times are working at cross purposes, each agency going its own way, with no coordination between them in their rule-making; their is a lack of economic analysis being conducted in regard to writing rules with regulators deciding on their own the most effective way to proceed; and Congress is basically given a cold shoulder by regulators when information is requested.
The Dodd Frank Act assumes that the free market has not done a good job and that regulators must decide what people need and when firms should be shut down. In regard to Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac, which were at the heart of the housing crisis, proponents of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exclaimed at the time that both were too big to fail and needed to be bailed out to be kept afloat.
Despite Dodd-Frank, no attempt was made to reform either, instead, both were ignored. Today both Fannie and Freddie are no better off than they were after their bailouts. (Added by Thorner: An article in the Washington Guardian on March 21, 2013 by Phillip Swarts relates how despite billions of dollars through a federal bailout, Freddie Mac continues to ignore its customers when they lodge serious complaints about fraud or rule-breaking. – http://www.washingtonguardian.com/cant-hear-you-now)
In Ms. Pierce’s opinion, AIG was not too big to fail. It was a big insurance business, but other insurance companies would have picked up those insured by AIG, etc. The author did express some reservations as to the government deciding exactly what constituted a business that was considered too big to fail, as this would amount to an invasion of the free market.
Regarding bank bailouts and those bailouts received by large firms, situations were created that allowed a handful of big, favored firms to stay on the good side of regulators because of the “life blood” they received. This, in turn, fosters the possibility that more attention might be given to pleasing regulators than customers.
In response to a questioner who asked Heather Peirce what she thought about scraping Dodd-Frank, which has resulted in higher costs and fewer options for the consumer, and reinstating Glass-Steagall (Banking Act of 1933), Peirce’s answer was a definite “No.”
Instead, Ms. Peirce suggested the following remedies to bring stability to the financial markets and to improve accountability:
1. Remove government from decision making and standing there with a safety net.
2. Get government out of housing.
3. Strive for easier and simpler rules.
4. Embrace failure. Firms come and go. The Free Market will determine those that succeed or fail.
5. Make regulators accountable to Congress and the people.
6. Choice is necessary. Need to decide just what the role of government is.
The next Heartland Author Series presentation will take place on Tuesday, April 9, when Dr. Parth Shan, president of the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi, India, will discuss the work of CCS and its devotion to improving the quality of life for all citizens of India by reviving and reinvigorating civil society. Check out Heartland.com for further information.
Also check out Heartland’s podcast with podcast with Hester Peirce.
Republican governors are following the script of Obama and Clinton in their campaign strategy for the Medicaid expansion that is needed to implement ObamaCare: The cast of earnest white coats and tearful upstanding, hard-working patients with hard-luck stories. Statements that sound as though they were written by the same PR firm. The same dire consequences of inaction.
Children won’t get their shots, cancer patients won’t get their chemotherapy, hospitals will close, a victim of hepatitis C will die without benefit of treatment, people won’t go to the doctor and be made healthy, jobs will move to China, and on and on—unless we expand Medicaid to people at 133% (actually it turns out to be 138%) of the federal poverty level. But not 150%, 250%, or 500%.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” is a favorite concluding sentence.
What “it” basically means is to get the “free” federal money before somebody else does. Since it doesn’t cost “us” anything, at least not at first, it’s a “no brainer” to just grab it. It means billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs, for “us.”
But if we exercise our brains for a minute, we see that in reality the billions go to “them,” not “us.” They are the ones in the expensive suits lurking in the background and attending the closed-door meetings. They are the million-dollar-a-year executives of managed-care companies or administrators in big hospital chains. They get the billions and trickle a portion down to people in scrubs and white coats who do real work, for the care of approved patients. They are the real players; the visible ones are props, shills, or camouflage. They are the decision-makers, who decide who is eligible for what.
They don’t think like doctors. Doctors ask, “What is the best way to help this patient with hepatitis c?” Rather, they ask, “Is this person with a certain set of social characteristics worth spending some of ‘our’ resources?”
The case made by the hospital lobby does not compute. Big hospitals are expanding and renovating. They have opulent reception areas and building cranes in front. They claim to lose money on every Medicaid patient—yet they want more such patients? They bemoan the loss on uninsured patients—but their DSH payments (disproportionate share payments meant to compensate for this) will be cut more under ObamaCare if the state expands Medicaid than if it does not. Big CEOs are not dumb. They surely have a reason, with dollar signs on it, for wanting more Medicaid. I just don’t think they are telling us what it is.
Managed-care companies want Medicaid for an obvious reason. It is their cash cow. They have the process of covert rationing down to a science. No need to worry about not meeting executive payroll. If drugs are too expensive, they disappear from the formulary; cancer treatments that are too costly become “inappropriate,” “experimental,” or even “futile.”
Patients of course want care. But do they really want Medicaid? About one-third of eligibles do not enroll. Maybe it is just too difficult. Maybe they read the disclosure form explaining that if any money is spent on their behalf after age 54, whether for managed-care fees or actual services, it can be seized from their estate. Maybe they know that a lot of doctors won’t make an appointment for them if they have a Medicaid card.
Doctors representing organized medicine are on the dais with the governor. But they probably don’t want more Medicaid patients in their own practice. The pay is low, and administrative overhead is high. Worst may be the frustration in having to constantly fight to get patients what they need.
Medicaid was enacted in 1965 and has grown and grown to the point of threatening to bankrupt states. It covers about one in five Americans, but the number of uninsured keeps growing too.
One might think that it is time to do something different. Instead, when a government program fails, the no-brainer answer is to expand it further. We see it over and over again. It’s as predictable as the result of letting Lucy hold the football for Charlie Brown.
[First published at AAPS Online.]
Environmentalists mistakenly think that blocking the Keystone pipeline will prevent crude oil, derived from Canada’s oil sands, from being extracted and from being conveyed into the US to be refined into gasoline, asphalt, and other products that are important to the transportation and manufacturing sectors. Their ultimate goal is to stop all development of the Canadian resource.
The oil spilled, as a result of a train derailment on Tuesday, highlights their misguided efforts.
News flash: Canada is developing their abundant oil sands and the crude oil is already being shipped to the United States—albeit in a more costly and less safe mode.
Early Wednesday morning, 14 cars of a 94-car mixed-freight train, derailed near Parker Prairie, MN. The Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) train was carrying oil from Western Canada to Chicago—though CPR does ship to refiners along the Gulf of Mexico, the Northeastern US and Eastern Canada. Of the 14 cars, one ruptured and, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, spilled as much as 26,000 gallons of crude oil (a car can contain 550 barrels of oil and trains often carry 80-150 cars). Two other cars had some leakage—though due to the frozen ground, “there’s no threat to ground or surface water” and there were no injuries.
The CPR train carrying Canadian oil to the US is part of a growing trend, as producers and refiners have turned to railroads to make up for a lack of pipeline capacity. It is estimated that, as Canadian production rises, “rail shipments of western Canadian crude had leapt about 150% to roughly 150,000 barrels a day in the last eight months.” The Wall Street Journal recently stated: “Pipeline or not, lots of Canadian crude oil is headed to the US.” It reported that, this year, more than 200,000 barrels a day will be shipped to the Gulf Coast refining hub, and called the increased use of railroads “an end run around the much-delayed pipeline”—which would more than quadruple capacity to 830,000 barrels a day. The March 11 article says: “Some oil industry executives and analysts, meanwhile, have raised concerns about rail accidents involving carloads of crude oil.” Despite, a decade-long drop in accident rates, Tuesday’s derailment/spill highlights Keystone’s importance—though a Keystone approval could hurt Obama supporter Warren Buffet’s recent purchase of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that carries about 25% of the Bakken’s oil and “can ship higher volumes from North Dakota or Alberta in the future.”
The use of rail for Canada’s “stranded” crude oil is not new. Calling it a “pipeline on rails,” in February 2011, the Globe and Mail reported: “Although pipelines continue to carry the overwhelming majority of Canada’s oil production, both Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. have begun using their rail networks to deliver crude.” Rail does offer several advantages for transporting Canadian crude. As the National Post, in 2009, points out: “Geopolitically, the rail option opens up the world markets for producers but also allows Canadian oil producers to bypass protectionism as well as the fickleness of environmental politics south of the border.” Oil crossing the international border via rail doesn’t require State Department approval.
Pro-pipeline pressure on the Obama administration is mounting. During the weekend’s Senate budget votes, 17 “moderate and conservative Democrats sided with Republicans on the Keystone pipeline.” Addressing the vote, the Wall Street Journal states: “The Senate vote is symbolic since the budget outline lacks the force of law. Still, the vote reflects the growing bipartisan consensus that a private investment creating tens of thousands of jobs trumps the scare tactics of environmentalists.”
Worry over “contamination from spills” is one of the “scare tactics” used by environmentalists to oppose the Keystone pipeline—yet pipelines are universally accepted as safer than transport by rail or truck (trucks bring the crude oil from the drilling site to the rail terminals).
Another “scare tactic” is to debunk the law of supply and demand; the ability of more resource to lower prices at the pump. On my own Facebook page, a “friend” posted the following: “My question, which neither you nor anyone else has answered is: If producing more oil here lowers prices as Marita says it will, why are we exporting it and why are prices so high?” From Bloomberg Businessweek, here’s an explanation. In short, Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, predicts that due to increased supply “$90 will be the new ceiling for oil prices rather than the floor it’s been in recent years.” The North American supply, he says, will result in a steep drop in oil imports “from OPEC’s biggest West African members” and “those barrels will have to find another home. The surplus African oil could end up competing with Mideast suppliers for customers in India, China, Europe, and Korea. As the global competition heats up, oil prices the world over will probably drop.”
In a few weeks, the State Department will be holding a pipeline hearing, a “listening session,” in Grand Island, NE. News reports state: “The meeting will give the public a chance to weigh in on the environmental impact of the proposed project.” Four State Department reviews have given the pipeline environmental clearance and, most recently, acknowledged that Canada will continue to extract its rich resource as “the oil sands are absolutely essential to maintaining the future living standards of Canadians,” and “pipeline or not, lots of Canadian crude oil is headed to the US”—though now coming via a “pipeline on rails.” As Wednesday’s little spill spotlights, those who really care about the environment support the Keystone pipeline. (Those unable to attend the April 18 hearing, can submit comments by emailing: email@example.com.)
Apple, Inc. has grown into a widely admired and one of the most valuable companies in the world, producing terrific products that generate long waiting lines every time a new innovation is announced. You would think executive leadership would not feel the need to bow to environmental pressure groups to appear it is eco-friendly.
But apparently acceptance by the likes of Greenpeace, and a warm reception at Silicon Valley liberals’ cocktail parties, still ranks high in importance in the corner offices in Cupertino, Calif. – even though their boastful claims aren’t true.
The latest example surrounds Apple’s absurd assertion that its electricity-sucking data centers, which support services like cloud computing and iTunes, are powered completely by renewable energy. Why the Mac-makers would brag about a phony achievement that is so easily debunked makes you wonder how smart they really are.
“Our goal is to power every facility at Apple entirely with energy from renewable sources…,” the iCompany proclaims on its Web site. “So we’re investing in our own onsite energy production, establishing relationships with suppliers to procure renewable energy off the grid, and reducing our energy needs even as our employee base grows.
“Our investments are paying off. We’ve already achieved 100 percent renewable energy at all of our data centers, at our facilities in Austin, Elk Grove, Cork, and Munich, and at our Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino…. We won’t stop working until we achieve 100 percent throughout Apple.”
The iCompany is particularly proud of its new computer server farm in Maiden, N.C., where it has built what it calls “the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar photovoltaic array” on land that surrounds the facility. The supposedly eco-friendly project – which spurred the London Daily Mail to label it “Apple’s NC iSore” last year – killed 100 acres of trees, which the clear-cutters initially burned until the smoke and soot inhalation got to be too much for the neighbors. Apple has embarked on another round of forest cleansing to build a similar-sized array on adjacent property, to generate more erratic power (only when the sun shines) by the end of 2013.
Calling the Maiden solar swath “end-user owned” is about as far as you can stretch the truth without calling it the opposite. If Apple truly depended on the electricity generated from its solar farm, customers would be smashing their iPods and iPads in frustration over sporadic cloud computing services. Instead what Apple does is sell much of the sun power to Duke Energy, which puts it on the grid where dependable sources – coal, nuclear and natural gas – provide the consistent electricity that Apple actually needs.
The same kind of arrangement exists for Apple’s 10-megawatt fuel cell facility – also adjacent to the Maiden data center – the nation’s largest such project to generate electricity that doesn’t belong to an actual utility. Apple contracted with Bloom Energy, a start-up company with big investor friends (including Al Gore) in Silicon Valley, to build the power generation project. As The News & Observer of Raleigh reported last April, “According to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fuel cells are among the world’s most expensive forms of electricity, costing $6.7 million per megawatt….”
Fuel cells are considered “renewable” because they require natural gas, but can use “biogas,” which can be captured from landfills and animal waste. Only Apple won’t be using biogas in its cells, but instead will buy renewable credits for landfill gas that is injected into natural gas pipelines. Gigaom.com reported in December that the fuel cell electricity and the renewable credits Apple earns will also be sold to Duke Energy.
So what’s on the surface – and what Apple wants everyone to believe – is that these large renewable projects are powering its massive data center in the foothills of Western North Carolina. But in reality, Apple is generating the very expensive electricity and selling it to Duke Energy, which will then recapture the cost in the overall rates it charges Tar Heel State businesses and residents. Meanwhile the power that Apple is actually using – which must be uninterrupted, round-the-clock and cheap – is sold to them at a sharply discounted rate by Duke.
If there was any doubt about that, it evaporated when Wired.com discovered on Duke Energy’s Web site a four-page paper (since removed, but saved by Wired) from its business development team that explained how they were able to convince Apple to come to North Carolina. As Wired recounted:
“Data center operators such as Apple are ‘the type of customer where the meter spins and spins at an exponential pace,’ said Clark Gillespy, a Duke vice president of economic development, according to the paper. ‘It may be the most ideal customer we could have.’ Their top concerns include ‘power cost and reliability,’ Gillespy said. ‘We were able to convince Apple that we were capable of providing the low cost and reliability they needed for their operations.’”
Besides the attractively priced electricity rates, Apple also was granted $46 million in special tax breaks from state and local government for the Maiden facility, which added to the savings. But no aspect of the location could have been more important than the power cost, which represented the single greatest ongoing expense they’d need to control in perpetuity.
So Apple’s claims that its massive server projects are “100-percent renewable” can be attributed to rhetorical trickery and political appeasement rather than reality. Duke gets 98 percent of its grid powerfrom nuclear and coal plants, which is the real reason Apple was drawn to North Carolina and has been joined there by Google and Facebook, which also have been big cloud computing support facilities there. As Wired noted, Greenpeace in 2011 called the three tech giants the “dirty data triangle.”
The sale of solar and fuel cell power to Duke also helps the crony capitalism cause. As NLPC has reported, Apple worked with Bloom Energy to build the costly, otherwise unjustified fuel cell project. Al Gore, an Apple director, is a senior partner with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, which in 2002 helped launch Bloom on its independent mission to “make clean, reliable energy affordable.” Kleiner Perkins and its high-profile partner John Doerr – a friend of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs – are identified by Bloom as its first investors, and Bloom is also credited as Kleiner Perkins’s “first clean tech investment.” Thus Gore has a conflict of interest in his dual roles as an Apple director and as a beneficiary of a sales deal with Kleiner Perkins client Bloom Energy.
In a world without cronyism, renewable mandates, and utility monopolies, electricity-hungry Apple would have laughed at Bloom Energy after hearing its sales pitch about some of the most expensive power on the market. But this is America, where the rich and politically powerful can cut deals for their own benefit and shift the costs onto those less able to afford it.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]
Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s choice to replace Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency, has been chastised for having lied to Congress, in claiming that EPA did not use “dangerous manmade climate change” to justify new 54.5 mpg standards for cars and light trucks. She’s also been implicated in the agency’s practice of using fake emails to hide questionable dealings and activities.
These issues highlight attitudes toward ethics, law and public policy that prevail at EPA and too many other government agencies. However, that attention should not distract from other important matters.
Ms. McCarthy may be the worst of the new nominees. In addition to her dishonesty, she helped devise onerous mercury and soot rules that employed junk science to shutter coal-fired power plants and kill thousands of jobs – and those vehicle mileage standards, which will force people to drive less safe cars that will cause millions more serious injuries and thousands more needless deaths every year.
However, she, Ernest Moniz for Energy and Sally Jewell for Interior are all team players for the Obama White House; they all share ideologies and agendas that bode ill for America’s and the world’s energy, economic, health and environmental future. They represent a rapidly expanding, increasingly powerful government class that is determined to control what we eat, say, do and buy.
In the environmental arena, these would-be czars and czarinas want to regulate what kinds of energy we can produce and use, cars we can drive, and jobs and living standards we can have. They are the vanguard of a dangerous alliance of eco-imperialism and vulture environmentalism.
Driven by utopian, Deep Ecology and global governance ideologies, elected and unelected ruling elites pass laws, promulgate regulations and issue edicts, based on faulty to fraudulent science and unsupported proclamations about dangerous manmade global warming, resource depletion and sustainable development. They seek to radically and fundamentally transform the energy, economic and social fabric of our nation and world – in the name of “social justice” and “saving the planet.”
They operate with little or no transparency or debate, often with vague or minimal legislative or constitutional authority, and with virtually no accountability for the false pretexts they use to justify their intrusive actions, or the harm they cause to people and wildlife. Their attitudes and actions often reflect a callous disregard for environmental values and people’s property, civil rights, jobs, health and even lives.
Our courts give them almost limitless discretion to impose laws and regulations, select pseudo-scientific “facts” to justify them, and ignore both the imaginary benefits and substantive harm they cause. They allow and encourage sweetheart “sue and settle” legal actions between regulatory agencies and activist groups, capricious agency inaction on mineral leases and permits, and arbitrary bureaucratic waivers of endangered species and other environmental laws for gigantic wind and solar projects.
Nameless, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats effectively control the lands and resources of federal lands that constitute 30-86% of the acreage in Alaska and our eleven westernmost states. America’s federal, state and private lands are rich in energy, mineral, timber and other resources that offer vast job and revenue opportunities. We could easily have drilling, mining, forestry and ranching, along with recreation, wildlife, parks and wilderness – and for decades government regulators emphasized this “multiple use” approach. But today, environmentalists and bureaucrats block these uses and vigorously promote preservation.
Today their motto seems to be: If it creates real energy, jobs and revenues – pillory, ban, delay and regulate it out of existence. If it can be labeled “renewable” – mandate it, subsidize it, waive endangered species laws, and ignore the policies’ impacts on wildlife and on people’s health and well-being. Instead of ensuring that resource development activities are conducted properly, don’t permit them at all.
Under their agenda, US domestic oil and gas production climbed during Mr. Obama’s tenure – but the increase was all on state and private lands, mostly because of fracking and despite Team Obama, which is trying to limit and control this game-changing technology even there. On federal lands, oil production fell 23% and gas production plummeted 33% from fiscal-2010 to FY-2012 – dragging jobs, living standards, and federal bonus, royalty and tax revenues downward with them.
The eco-imperialists profess concern for human health and lives, wildlife and environmental quality. They demand pristine air quality to reduce risks that exist only in EPA computer models. But then they issue lethal vehicle mileage regulations, corn ethanol standards that increase global food prices and harm nutrition, and myriad rules that kill jobs and cause foreclosures, stress, and more heart attacks and strokes. They blame deadly wildfires on global warming, instead of on Deep Ecology policies that prohibit forest thinning, prevent treating insect infestations, and require substandard fire suppressants.
Nearly 700 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa rarely or never have electricity. As a result, pollution from open fires causes asthma and other lung infections that kill a million African women and children annually; countless more die from intestinal diseases due to eating spoiled, unrefrigerated food. And yet, during a speech in Ghana, President Obama said hungry Africa should rely on its “bountiful” wind, solar and biofuel energy, while his administration refused to provide or support loans for gas or coal-fired generating plants, because he believes Earth is “threatened” by global warming.
Eco-imperialist politicians, regulators and environmentalists demand heavy penalties for birds and other wildlife killed by petroleum-related accidents. They delay or ban drilling, fracking and mining because these activities might “disturb” sage grouse. But when millions of birds and bats are exterminated year after year by wind turbines, they turn a blind eye and actively help hide the horrific slaughter, while ignoring evidence that turbines impair the health of people living near them.
Vulture environmentalists hijack environmental laws to further the venal interests of eco-activists, bureaucrats and wealthy elites, who covet private property but don’t want to pay fair prices. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has joined celebrity fracking opponents, green pressure groups and blueblood vultures that are salivating over beautiful Catskill farmlands. Overtaxed, over-regulated owners could save their family farms through careful natural gas production – but the hovering vultures prefer to force them into foreclosure, and grab the prime properties at fire sale prices.
Radical greens used imagined threats to the western spotted owl to eliminate logging jobs and a way of life in western states, to create playgrounds for the green 1 percent. Now the feds plan to shoot formerly eastern barred owls, to keep them from breeding their spotted cousins out of existence – before their habitats are incinerated in fiery conflagrations brought on by other ignorant eco-imperialist policies.
In states and communities all over the USA, the Endangered Species Act, Agenda 21, critical habitat areas and buffer zones, endless regulation and litigation, advisory panels stacked with eco-activists but nearly devoid of private property owners, lowball appraisals of lands and water rights, climate change scare stories and other tactics are used repeatedly to seize title or control over property, without payment of just (or any) compensation. The abuses are endless, and are occurring over the planet.
In just one example, over 20,000 Ugandans were evicted, impoverished and left homeless by the New Forest Company and government authorities, to make way for foreign investors promoting “clean development mechanisms” and carbon-trading credits, as solutions to “runaway global warming.”
We went to war with England over far less than this, back in 1776. It’s high time that our environmental laws were again used to address real air, water and wildlife problems – instead advancing what Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore has called the “anti-science, anti-technology, anti-human” agenda of eco-imperialists and vulture environmentalists.
The New York Times told its readers on March 12 that Paul Ryan’s proposed 2014 budget involves “eliminating Medicare’s guarantee to retirees” and “dispensing with Medicaid and food stamps….” But Joe Farah, CEO of WND News, told his readers on March 15 that Ryan’s budget “fails to address unsustainable ‘entitlement’ programs.” They cannot both be right. But they can both be grievously wrong.
We hear a lot of talk about how Ryan’s proposed traditional budget is so “extreme.” But it is these two comments that represent the extremes on the issue. This kind of disconnected from reality rhetoric from both sides is what makes our democracy dysfunctional, unable to seriously discuss major issues.
A Better Medicaid for the Poor
Ryan’s proposals for Medicaid and food stamps would simply extend the proven, enormously successful, 1996 welfare reforms of the old AFDC program to those two programs. The 1996 AFDC reforms returned the share of federal spending on AFDC to each state in the form of a “block grant” to be used in a new welfare program redesigned by the state based on mandatory work for the able bodied. Like Medicaid, federal funding for AFDC previously was based on a matching formula, with the federal government giving more to each state the more it spent on the program, effectively paying the states to spend more. The key to the 1996 reforms was that the block grants to each state were finite, not matching, so the federal funding did not vary with the amount the state spent. If a state’s new program cost more, the state had to pay the extra costs itself. If the program cost less, the state could keep the savings. The reformed program was renamed Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
The reform was shockingly successful, exceeding even the predictions of its most ardent supporters. The old AFDC rolls were reduced by two-thirds nationwide, even more in states that pushed work most aggressively, as those formerly on the program went to work, or married someone who worked.
As a result, in real dollars total federal and state spending on TANF by 2006 was down 31% from AFDC spending in 1995, and down by more than half of what it would have been under prior trends. At the same time, because of the resulting increased work by former welfare dependents, the incomes of the families formerly on the program rose by 25%, and poverty among those families plummeted.
Medicaid currently pays doctors and hospitals only 60% or less of costs for their health services to the poor. Consequently, the poor on Medicaid face grave difficulties in finding doctors and hospitals that would serve them, and in obtaining timely and essential health care. They suffer worse health outcomes as a result, including premature death. Scott Gottlieb of the New York University School of Medicine writes in a March 10, 2011 commentary in the Wall Street Journal (“Medicaid Is Worse Than No Coverage at All”), “In some states, they’ve cut reimbursements to providers so low that beneficiaries can’t find doctors willing to accept Medicaid.”
What the states could do under Ryan’s proposed reforms is shown by the example of Rhode Island, which received a broad waiver from federal Medicaid requirements in return for a fixed cap on federal financing for 5 years. The state turned to managed care, competitive bidding by health care providers, and comprehensive case management by private insurers for those on Medicaid. It shifted more long term care out of nursing homes to home and community-based care.
The Lewin Group, a top health care consulting firm, studied the reforms and concluded that they were “highly effective in controlling Medicaid costs” while improving “access to more appropriate services.” Indeed, the state’s costs were reduced by nearly 30% in the first 18 months alone. Yet the poor enjoyed assigned health providers to ensure they received essential care.
Alternatively, states could serve the poor by using the program to provide premium assistance that would help the poor to pay for the private health insurance of their choice in the marketplace. Such premium support would free the poor from the Medicaid ghetto, enabling them to obtain the same health care as the middle class, because they would be able to buy the same health insurance in the market. Such market health insurance has to pay the doctors and hospitals sufficiently to enable those with that insurance to obtain timely, effective health care, or their insurance would have no customers.
This would be an enormous gain for the poor. Yet, CBO scores extending these same reforms to Medicaid as saving $750 billion over 10 years. That is why it involves win win entitlement reform.
The poor would similarly gain from extending these same reforms to food stamps, just as they gained from the reforms of AFDC, with similar savings for taxpayers. This cannot remotely be characterized as “dispensing with Medicaid and food stamps,” as the esteemed New York Times tells us. The Times these days reads like a college Marxist student newspaper.
A Better Medicare for Seniors
The Senate Democrat budget, which actually does fail to address unsustainable entitlement programs, says regarding Ryan’s budget, “House Republicans would dismantle Medicare….” But Ryan’s budget proposes to increase Medicare spending from 2014 to 2023 alone by 70%. That cannot be accurately characterized as dismantling Medicare.
The Democrats add, “the Republican plan would privatize Medicare by simply handing beneficiaries vouchers that are capped at growth levels below projected health care costs.” But this is not how the Republican proposal works at all. The Democrat Party is just abusing vulnerable seniors with dishonest, disconnected from reality rhetoric like this.
Ryan’s Medicare reforms would simply extend the more modern, popular, and successful policies of Medicare Parts C and D to the old fashioned Medicare Parts A and B. Medicare Part D is the prescription drug program. Just like Ryan’s proposed Medicare reforms, Part D provides premium support payments to seniors, which they use to purchase the private prescription drug coverage of their choice. Because of the private market competition, and incentives for seniors to choose lower cost plans, Part D costs have run 40% below projections. Compare that to Parts A and B, which by 1990 cost 10 times the original projections for that year when the program was adopted.
Medicare Part C is Medicare Advantage, under which nearly 30% of seniors have already chosen private insurance to provide all of their Medicare coverage. Seniors believe they get a better deal through this highly popular program due to choice and competition.
Ryan would empower workers under age 55 today with the choice of a private plan competing alongside traditional Medicare when they retire in the future. All those private plans must provide at least the same benefits as Medicare today to participate. Medicare would provide these future seniors with a premium support payment they could use to pay for or offset the premium of the private health insurance they chose. That premium support payment is set by competitive bidding under rules ensuring it will be enough to pay for at least two of the competing plans providing at least the same benefits as Medicare. Or seniors even in the future could choose to stay in Medicare just like it is today. These Medicare benefits under Ryan’s reforms are just as guaranteed as Medicare benefits are today.
Ryan includes extra assistance for lower income seniors empowering them with more choices, while means testing the assistance for higher income seniors like Medicare Parts B and D do today. Ryan’s Medicare would also provide higher payments to the insurers for sicker seniors. It would also assess a fine on insurers covering more low-risk seniors, and pay incentive payments to insurers covering more high-risk seniors. This would create special competition in the private market focused on serving the sickest most in need of first rate health care.
So Ryan’s reforms do not involve “simply handing beneficiaries vouchers that are capped at growth levels below projected health care costs.” Congressional Democrats have a responsibility to understand Republican proposals so they can truly determine if they support the reforms or not. But like little children, Congressional Democrats just close their eyes and stomp their feet “No!”
This Medicare reform plan was actually developed by President Clinton’s Medicare Commission, so it had bipartisan support at a time when the Democrat Party had grown ups in influential positions, rather than just adolescent, Marxist, revolutionaries posing in grown up drag. The legislation providing for these reforms was actually introduced in the Senate by liberal Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. It has been endorsed by long time liberal academic Alice Rivlin, the Godmother of the CBO, serving as its first director.
Indeed, the plan was developed from an initial proposal in 1995 by two lifelong liberal scholars, Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution, and former CBO Director Robert Reischauer. They were the first to propose a premium support system for Medicare in a 1995 article in the journal Health Affairs. The Reischauer/Aaron concept was later embodied in Medicare Parts C and D in the 2003 Medicare reforms, where they have already worked very effectively.
By contrast, President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” supported by all of these Senate Democrats, cut Medicare by $716 billion over the first 10 years alone. According to the Annual Report of the Medicare Board of Trustees for 2010, over the first 20 years of full implantation of the Affordable Care Act, 2014 to 2033, Obama’s Medicare cuts would add up to $5 trillion. According to the 2010 Financial Report of the United States Government, the present value of President Obama’s total future cuts to Medicare total $15 trillion.
These are all primarily cuts in payments to doctors and hospitals for health care services to seniors under Medicare. Medicare’s Chief Actuary Rick Foster reports that by the end of this decade, Medicare will be paying less to doctors and hospitals for health care for seniors than Medicaid pays for health care for the poor. And Medicare will be falling farther and farther behind Medicaid each year. Ultimately, Medicare payment rates will be one-third of what will be paid by private insurance, and only half of what is paid by Medicaid.
Under Obamacare, soon enough seniors will be lined up behind welfare mothers in trying to find doctors who will see them and hospitals that will admit them. These cuts affect seniors already retired today, not just those years into the future.
Foster reports that even before these cuts already two-thirds of hospitals were losing money on Medicare patients. In a few short years, hospitals that serve seniors in particular will begin closing, and retirees will have increasing difficulty obtaining access to care. As Harvard University health economist Joe Newhouse explains, seniors will likely have to seek care at community health centers and safety net hospitals.
And this does not even count any further cuts that may be adopted by Obamacare’s Medicare death panel, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). That Board will be composed of 15 unelected, appointed, Washington bureaucrats with the power to adopt still more Medicare cuts that would become effective even without the approval of Congress.
Ryan further explained the effect of the reforms in an Address at the AARP convention last September:
“Now in order to save Medicare for future generations, we propose putting 50 million seniors, not 15 unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of their own health-care decisions. Our plan empowers future seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same level of benefits as traditional Medicare. This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage – no exceptions. And if a senior wants to choose the traditional Medicare plan, then she will have that right. Our idea is to force insurance companies to compete against each other to better serve seniors, with more help for the poor and sick – and less help for the wealthy.”
These reforms are better for seniors than Obamacare’s Medicare most of all because they free seniors from the cuts and government health care rationing involved in Obamacare’s mangling of Medicare, by allowing them to choose private insurance paying market rates instead. Only through such private insurance will seniors be able to continue to enjoy the high quality, most advanced care they have come to expect from Medicare.
Ryan concluded in his address to AARP, “You see, Medicare is going bankrupt. Everyone understands this…So the disagreement isn’t about the problem. It’s about the solution. [The President’s] top down bureaucratic cuts to Medicare just don’t work. Providers stop providing care.” Ryan’s reforms reduce future Medicare spending by no more than President Obama does through Obamacare. The difference is that the Ryan spending savings are achieved through market incentives, senior choice, and marketplace competition that has been proven to work.
This is win win entitlement reform, because the result would be a better Medicare for seniors than Medicare under Obamacare, yet the taxpayers would enjoy major savings from the reforms.
Health Care for All Without Obamacare
Ryan’s budget also proposes to repeal Obamacare, with a CBO scored savings of nearly $2 trillion over the first 10 years alone. Several years after implementation, Obamacare would still leave 30 million uninsured, according to CBO. Yet, free market health policy economists, in particular those led by John Goodman at the National Center for Policy Analysis, have already long proposed a comprehensive health care safety net that would assure essential health care for all, with no individual mandate and no employer mandate. These reforms are fully consistent with Ryan’s proposed budget as well.
The first component of such reform would be the Medicaid block grant reforms that are already included in Ryan’s budget. Consequently, if you are too poor to buy health insurance, the government would give you the additional funds you need to buy it.
The second safety net component would be High Risk pools in each state. Those uninsured who become too sick to purchase health insurance in the market, perhaps because they have contracted cancer or heart disease, for example, would be assured of guaranteed coverage through the risk pool. They would be charged a premium for this coverage based on their ability to pay, ensuring that they will not be asked to pay more than they could afford. Federal and state funding would cover remaining costs, which could be financed through the Medicaid block grants as well. Similar risk pools already exist in over 30 states, and they work well at relatively little cost to taxpayers because few uninsured actually become uninsurable in the private market.
Consequently, if you are uninsured and become too sick to then get market insurance, you are assured of getting essential coverage.
The third safety net component would be guaranteed renewability, which means as long as you continue to pay your premiums, the insurer cannot cut you off because you get sick, nor can it impose discriminatory premium increases any greater than for anyone else in your original risk pool. Contrary to President Obama’s misleading rhetoric, insurance companies in America have never been allowed to cut off those covered after they get sick, which would be insurance fraud.
Consequently, if you have health insurance, you will be able to keep it, and so will be assured continued access to essential health care.
The fourth component would be for the government to offer every individual the same, uniform, fixed-dollar subsidy for health insurance, whether employer-provided or individually purchased, through a refundable tax credit for all replacing the current tax preference only for employer health insurance. The credit would be equal to what we expect to spend from public and private sources on free care for each person on average when he or she is uninsured. If an individual chooses to be uninsured, the subsidy would be sent to a safety net agency providing health care to the indigent in the community where the person lives, so he could get health care there as well.
Consequently, the uninsured as a group would effectively pay for their own care, eliminating any free rider problem, without any individual or employer mandate. That is because by turning down the tax credit for health insurance by choosing not to insure, the uninsured would pay extra taxes equal to the average amount of the free care given to the uninsured. The subsidies for health insurance would then effectively be funded by the reduction in expected free care the insured would have consumed if uninsured. This could be implemented through Ryan’s proposed tax reform.
This again would be win win entitlement reform, achieving universal health care for all, with enormous savings for taxpayers.
[First Published at Forbes]
Renewable energy wind turbines as electricity sources possess extreme environmental problems not found in its renewable energy rival–solar photovoltaic. These problems are due to rotation during operation of 130-foot or more long, thirteen-ton turbine blades with tip speeds of 200 miles per hour.
An unavoidable problem of wind turbines is killing flying creatures. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) has produced a video “Eagle lawsuit ruffles wind industry feathers.” The video records an eagle being killed by a wind turbine. It appears the eagle went back for a second look at the turbine and a blade struck the fatal blow. Possibly the eagle thought the turbine was a bigger bird.
A companion article by CFACT is “Wind turbines kill up to 39 million birds a year” by wildlife expert Jim Wiegand. Details of studies on bird fatalities caused by wind turbines are cited in this article.
It has been long known wind turbines are devastating to bat populations. A U. S. Geological Survey Report “Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences“ mentions thousands of bats are killed annually at wind turbine sites around the world. Besides being minced by turbine blade rotations, bats are subject to deaths by other means as explained by the August 26, 2008 Scientific American article “On a Wing and Low Air: The Surprising Way Wind Turbines Kill Bats.”
Bats are killed by pressure pulses causing burst blood vessels in their lungs. Due to these deaths being caused by remote features of wind turbine operations and bats very small body weights, bat carcasses may be located large distances from offending wind turbines and never found. As nocturnal creatures, bats are particularly vulnerable to wind turbines because their operations are frequently late at night when demand for electricity is at its lowest.
In another article by CFACT, “Greens work to still wind, darken solar power projects” by Professor Larry Bell is cited several examples where environmental groups like the Audubon Society and Sierra Club have stopped wind projects due to massive bird kills anticipated by wind turbines. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the United States had at the end of 2012 more than 60,000 Megawatts of wind turbine output supplied by 45,000 turbines.
The majority of wind turbines are located in vast agriculture areas of the United States stretching from Texas to Canada. The estimate of 39 million annual bird fatalities by Jim Wiegand may be a gross underestimate. Bats devour insects and their loss in agriculture areas may have devastating impacts on future agriculture production.
Other environmental problems of wind turbines are their influence on humans. Effects of long-term exposure to low-amplitude pressure pulses unnoticed by humans may be a future problem. In addition are sound pulses at about 20 cycles per minute matching turbine’s speed of rotation. Long term health effects from these disturbances can’t be known.
Other problems with wind turbines are they catch on fire and explode. In 2011, an upper New York state wind turbine exploded and spread debris for 1/4 mile. Pictures of wind turbine fires in Texas and other locations are found here. Additional problems are winter ice forming on blades. Spinning turbine blades have thrown refrigerator-size pieces of ice hundreds of yards.
Wind turbines should be subjected to the same Maximum Credible Accident (MCA) critera imposed on nuclear power plants. The MCA for a nuclear plant is a Loss-of Coolant-Accident (LOCA) in which reactor coolants stop flowing and reactor cores are subject to melting due overheating.
The MCA for a wind turbine is a 13-ton turbine blade snaps off during operation and the blade is hurtled possibly one-half mile. If the blade lands in a local high school football stadium during Homecoming, thousands could be killed before the 13-ton blade comes to rest. Exclusion zones surrounding wind turbines need to be established to protect the public from injury. A smaller scale injury is individuals being struck by decapitated eagles or similar flying creatures.
These are a few violent environmental problems with wind turbines unknown to solar photovoltaics. Like solar energy, additional environmental assessments need to be made about wind turbines energy requirements to build and install them in comparison to energy output during operating lifetimes. Environmental effects of acquiring rare earth metals for generator magnets, large quantities of fiberglass and other metals, and vast amounts of concrete for turbine bases need evaluated. Like solar energy, the intermittent operation of wind turbines require fast responding fossil fuel electricity sources to maintain continuity of electricity supply. Poor performance of backup electricity supply may reduce or even eliminate wind turbine’s savings of fossil fuel use.
Like solar photovoltaics, wind turbines are expected to have a practical operating lifetime of around 25 years. What happens to wind turbines no longer useable? Will the country be strewn by unsightly landscapes of tall towers with dangling turbine blades? This is a view of thousands of still wind turbines shown on I-10 west of Palm Springs, CA that I visited years ago. Whether they been torn down today I am unaware.
If you want to know what a carbon tax on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would do to America you need only look at the destruction of industry and business in Australia, along with the soaring costs for energy use it imposes on anyone there.“The carbon tax is contributing to a record number of firms going to the wall with thousands of employees being laid off and companies forced to close factories that have stood for generations,” Steve Lewis and Phil Jacob reported in a March 18 issue of The Daily Telegraph, a leading Australian newspaper. “Soaring energy bills caused by the government’s climate change scheme have been called ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ by company executives and corporate rescue doctors who are trying to save ailing firms.” The passage of a carbon tax in America would have the exact same results and it remains a top priority for the White House and Democrats in Congress who see it as a bonanza in new funding for the government. As Paul Driessen writes in a Townhall.com commentary: “More rational analysis reveals that dreams of growth are nothing more than dangerous tax revenue hallucinations. They would bring intense pain for no climate or economic gain.” Too many Americans still believe that CO2 is causing global warming, but CO2 plays no role in climate change and is barely 0.038 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. More to the point, there is no warming and hasn’t been for the last seventeen years as the Earth is in a natural cooling cycle that has prolonged the advent of spring with severe snow storms throughout the nation. There is no scientific justification for such a tax, but those advocating it don’t care about the science. They care about raising revenue for an ever-growing government to spend and waste. Driessen points out that “Hydrocarbons (coal, oil, and natural gas) provide over 83% of all the energy that powers America. A carbon tax would put a hefty surcharge on everything we make, grow, ship, eat, and do. It would put the federal government in control of, not just one-sixth of the economy, as under Obamacare, but 100% of our economy and lives. It would make the United States increasingly less productive, less competitive globally, less able to provide opportunities for our children.” The case for a carbon tax simply doesn’t exist, but there are powerful forces in Congress and the support of the White House to impose such a tax. The power of the environmental movement and its long history of lies about the climate, primarily the global warming hoax, cannot be dismissed or ignored. In Australia, “The Australian Securities & Investments Commissionreports there were 10,632 company collapses for the 12 months to March 1—averaging 886 a month—with the number of firms being placed in administration more than 12 percent higher than during the global financial crisis.” It represents “a record high…led by widespread failures in manufacturing and construction, which accounted for almost one-fifth of collapses.” Greg Evans, the chief economic economist for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that “It defies logic to adopt a policy which even the Treasury acknowledges will lower our standards of living and be harmful to national productivity.” Adding to Australia’s struggling companies, the carbon tax and one on mining were showing up as “sovereign issues” in discussions with foreign investors.” Who would want to invest in Australia if these two taxes were destroying the economic strength of the nation? Politics in Australia is no less a battleground than here in America. Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who introduced the carbon tax, just beat back a bid by her Labor Party’s dissidents to reinstall former leader Kevin Rudd who lost to her in 2010 and 2012. Much of the opposition to her comes from the harm being inflicted by the carbon and mining taxes. Marlo Lewis is a senior fellow in energy and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. During the 2012 campaign, he described a carbon tax as “political poison for the Republican Party.” Mitt Romney opposed it, but ‘the big attraction of carbon taxes these days is not as a global warming policy but as a revenue enhancer. In both parties, deficit hawks and big spenders (often the same individuals) are flailing for ways to boost federal revenue.” That is precisely the problem afflicting a nation whose Congress and President could not find a reason to cut anything from the federal budget. The result was the “sequestration” that imposed cuts neither party could agree upon. In a Fox News article, “Here comes Team Obama’s carbon tax”. Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment and author of “Democracy Denied” reported: “The Treasury Department’s Office of Environment and Energy has finally begun to turn over documents about its preparations for a carbon tax in response to transparency warrior Chris Horner’s Freedom of Information Act request. The documents provide solid evidence that the Obama administration and its allies in Congress have every intention of implementing a carbon tax if we fail to stop them.” President Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, is on record wanting to double or triple the cost of energy, much as his predecessor wanted.A carbon tax, if enacted, would totally undermine a nation that has a debt climbing toward $17 trillion and millions unemployed in an economy that is struggling to inch its way out of the depths of the financial crisis. If you wanted to destroy America, you could do it with a carbon tax. Australia is reeling from the cost to its economy and the higher energy costs its people are paying. We don’t want that here. [First posted at Warning Signs.]
For weeks now the buzz about Fisker Automotive, the latest Department of Energy-funded clunker, is that two China-based automotive companies – Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (which owns Volvo) and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (which is state-owned) – were in bidding negotiations to buy an ownership stake of an unknown size. The speculation was that Fisker was following a similar path as stimulus-financed A123 Systems, which supplied the batteries for Fisker and was recently bought by Sino-owned Wanxiang Group.
But what seemed like the inevitable has been halted if a Wall Street Journal report (subscription-only) from Tuesday is to be believed. Apparently Fisker’s management still thinks it can access the remainder of a $529-million DOE loan, which it had received a portion of ($193 million) before its shortcomings forced the feds to say “no mas.” According to one of the newspaper’s sources, Fisker negotiators proposed to the Chinese that they draw the remainder of the loan as part of a deal, which they say (at least in part) scuttled Geely’s and Dongfeng’s interest in the company.
Why? Because as a condition of the DOE loan, Fisker would be required to manufacturer its next model – the Atlantic – at a refurbished General Motors plant in The First State that had been closed for years.
“The Delaware plant is big, old and expensive,” the Journal reported, citing an unidentified source, “and the Chinese balked at the U.S. loan because they don’t want to be compelled to build cars there.”
And according to another report by Reuters, Geely totally withdrew its interest in Fisker because of the DOE’s Delaware requirements.
“Those obligations are too complicated to handle and seem too risky,” said a Reuters source. “The plan’s footprint was too big. It would take a long, long time to fill up the plant with products and restore employment there.”
Whoa! So the communist Chinese – who haven’t met a government-mandated “green” project they can’t subsidize and love – won’t do a deal with Fisker, even though the U.S. government has deemed the Delaware plant worthy of taxpayer “investment?” How are these Far East entrepreneurs missing the Obama administration’s keen vision and business acumen?
After all, this was the plant where Vice President Joe Biden made a personal appearance in October 2009 to announce how the future of electric cars – sparked by the know-how of founder Henrik Fisker and investment from the Recovery Act – was going to burst forth from the remnants of that shuttered GM factory on Boxwood Road in Wilmington.
“While some wanted to write off America’s auto industry, we said no,” Biden said at a ceremony that also featured Democrat Gov. Jack Markell, Democrat Sen. Tom Carper, and Republican Rep. Mike Castle. “We knew that we needed to do something different – in Delaware and all across the nation. We understood a new chapter had to be written, a new chapter in which we strengthen American manufacturing by investing in innovation. Thanks to a real commitment by this Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, the creativity of U.S. companies and the tenacity of great state partners like Delaware – we’re on our way to helping America’s auto industry reclaim its top position in the global market.”
Sounded like a can’t-miss plan, right? According to the 2009 White House press release, $359 million of the DOE loan was going to “revive manufacturing at the Boxwood Plant.”
“This is proof positive that our efforts to create new jobs, invest in a clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution are working,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the time. “We are putting Americans back to work and reigniting a new Industrial Revolution that is paramount for the economic success of this country.”
And yet somehow the Chinese are missing it. But Geely and Dongfeng may also have been put off by the internal dissent between Henrik Fisker and CEO Tony Posawatz. According to another Reuters report, the two executives disagreed over the continued pursuit of DOE funds, which is reportedly favored by Posawatz and understandably opposed by Mr. Fisker. After all, the initial $193 million in taxpayer support was a magnet for media scrutiny and resultant additional headaches. So because of what Mr. Fisker called “several major disagreements” with executive management over direction, he quit as chairman of his own company last week.
“What happened after Solyndra obviously has shifted unfortunately the discussions — rather than talking about … that everybody wants America to be the leader in new technology, it shifted to being more political focused,” Fisker told The Detroit News after he resigned. “That’s a situation everyone’s going to have to deal with.”
Everyone will except Geely and Dongfeng, who don’t need Fisker as much as Fisker needs them. Besides the financial considerations and the Delaware burden, the Anaheim automaker also has a trunk-load of excess baggage. Fisker has suffered a series of publicity blunders including recalls, a breakdown of its Karma model at Consumer Reports’ test facility, layoffs, a SEC investigation of its primary venture capital raisers and subsequent punishment of them by an arbitration board. Not surprisingly, Consumer Reports in September pegged the Karma as the worst luxury sedan on the market, and fourth-worst sedan overall. During the review process the publication reported it had to send its model back to the dealer for repeated problems such as frequent instrument, window and radio glitches, and recurring warning lights.
And the perception that the Delaware plant is too big and old isn’t the only problem there, either. The state made a $21.5 million incentive agreement with Fisker as well, and according to The Delaware News Journal, Gov. Markell says the state must continue to make payments under the deal he arranged. The state has paid at least $6 million for the company’s grant already, and as of last August Delaware taxpayers were stuck paying more than $400,000 (presumably more now) in utility bills, even though the factory is vacant.
Considering all these factors, maybe it is presumptuous to think China would bite on the “opportunity” to buy Fisker anyway, Delaware or no Delaware. And even if they did, it might be assuming too much to think the U.S. government would go along with Chinese ownership (although it didn’t raise much objection with the bankruptcy sale of Fisker’s battery maker, A123 Systems).
But then again, being in the electric vehicle business means never having to prove yourself. The Obama administration has taught us that you only have to presume you will succeed.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]
The March 26 edition of The Wall Street Journal has a special section titled “Environment” presenting excerpts and features from the Journal’s latest ECO:nomics conference. While the opening essay by John Bussey [subscription required] tells us the green bubble has burst, the rest of the section presents the usual pleas for more subsidies and regulations from the Baptists and bootleggers of the renewable energy movement.
According to Bussey’s opening essay, the annual ECO:nomics conference brings together “top entrepreneurs, thinkers, companies, investors, and environmentalists who define the intersection of business and the environment.” That’s only partly true. He left out the part about the “top entrepreneurs” being those who are most successful at winning government subsidies or benefiting from regulations that handicap their competitors.
The “top … thinkers” at ECO:nomics are only those who unquestioningly embrace the latest myths and hype from the environmental movement. Most corporate CEOs at the conference are just trying to paint themselves and their firms a fashionable shade of green to please the liberals in their public relations departments. And the environmentalists who show up are of the liberal/Democrat/alarmist stripe and rarely or never of the free-market variety.
Many years ago, economist Bruce Yandle (himself a pioneer of free-market environmentalism) coined the phrase “Baptists and bootleggers” to describe the unholy alliance of true-believers in an apparently noble cause and those out to make a buck off the laws and programs adopted in the cause’s name. The classic example is the Baptists’ campaign to ban alcohol and the huge profits delivered to bootleggers during Prohibition and later in “dry” counties and cities. Today, the best example of Baptists and bootleggers is the partnership between radical environmentalists trying to ban fossil fuels and the renewable energy industry eager to sell its over-priced, intermittent, and unreliable products.
Nowadays economists refer to bootleggers as “rent-seekers,” defined as individuals or parties who profit off rules and regulations that limit competition and consumer choice. And instead of referring to true believers as Baptists, who after all may be entirely right in their religious beliefs, we might follow the example provided by the Soviet Union’s KGB and call the true believers “useful idiots.”
Anyway, once a year The Wall Street Journal hosts a garden party for the useful idiots and rent seekers and then prints a series of puff pieces about the folks who attend. It isn’t good journalism or even entertainment, more like a very boring People Magazine feature about the speeches delivered at a PETA fundraising event in Beverly Hills. This year’s edition generated full-page ads from Shell Oil and FedEx and a few smaller ads, which one assumes is the main measurable output of the endeavor.
This year’s write-up, though, reported a skunk at the party. Bussey’s brief opening article contains these marvelous lines:
“Large parts of green-tech investment look like the torched and salted fields left behind by Roman conquerors; barren, lifeless – and bereft of a return on capital. Put another way: In some areas, if you aren’t already investor road kill, you’re likely the hedgehog in the headlights about to join your maker.”
After saying not all is lost, he returns to the story about the skunk:
“But it was undeniable that waning investment in the green side of the energy spectrum was the other dominant theme. A range of factors have [sic] scared off capital: poor returns on existing investments; the failure of big solar efforts like Solyndra; shrinking government budgets; the impact of state-subsidized Chinese competitors; and indeed, the advance of cleaner shale gas, which has undercut momentum toward some alternative energy sources.”
It’s a nice list, but he might have added that 16 years without any global warming, the collapse of foreign carbon trading markets, the Climategate 3.0 and Fakegate scandals, the rise of “energy poverty” as a major political issue in Europe, and growing skepticism about the ability of scientists to predict future climate conditions all have damaged the standing of the useful idiots at the conference, causing rent seekers to look for other targets to whom to attach themselves.
Might this be the last ECO:nomics event? One can only hope so. But human nature being what it is, another event will quickly take its place. The Wall Street Journal’s advertising department is surely making plans for the next big thing. A suggestion: How about something to do with investing in real businesses producing viable products?
“Man bites dog” is news, runs an old adage, but “Dog bites man” is not. Yet “Democrats pass 1st budget since ‘09” still made headlines over the weekend and it is hard to tell into which category it fits.
It should go without saying that in a two century-old republic the government passing a budget should not be news. Doing so should be the first duty of a financially responsible legislature; living within it should be the second. But this is the first time in the current administration that the United States Senate – the self-styled “world’s greatest deliberative body” – has taken the first step, and it will likely never take the second.
For the bad news about this “budget” is everywhere else: it passed with a bare 50-49 majority at 4:38 a.m. on a Saturday morning in March, with no Republicans in favor and five Democrats defecting; it will never be reconciled with the considerably different budget that a Republican House passed earlier this month; and even if enacted it would authorize higher taxes and a record $3.7 trillion in spending.
Yet even in a nation staggering under record debts and deficits, Senators somehow found the money to pay for carry-out in pizza (for the Democrats) and barbecue (for the Republicans) for their all-night session and to hire cars to drive them home.
So man bites dog, or dog bites man, and the era of irresponsible spending and continuing resolutions continues. One wonders: how long?
The redesign of The Heartland Institute’s Somewhat Reasonable blog is now live! Its designed to be prettier; faster; better-organized; easier to read, navigate and search; more visually dynamic, more fun to share with friends, and easy to find and visit other sites in Heartland’s digital presence. Keeping tabs on the commentary of Heartland’s staffers, fellows, and policy advisors is now a better experience than ever.
New features of the redesigned Somewhat Reasonable include:
- A “slider” at the top of the blog that features up to five posts of our choosing.
- Much faster load times on the “front end” for the reader, and the “back end” for the bloggers.
- Links in the menu bar below the masthead sorted by the same categories as at Heartland.org and at the Heartlander digital magazine for consistency and easy reference/research.
- A right sidebar that is a lot cleaner and more functional than on the old blog.
- A cleaner and more attractive “Heartland on YouTube” feature in that right sidebar.
- A search bar right where people look for it – top right of the page – that works quickly to find what you want via keywords.
- Social media buttons that are discreet, but noticeable and useful, embedded into the masthead.
- Links at the very top of the page that send people to Heartland.org and the Heartlander digital magazine – as well as a drop-down of “Reasonable People” to quickly find everything written by author. (One can also use the “Reasonable People” links prominently featured in the right column.)
- A “most popular this month” feature that lets you see the hottest posts at Somewhat Reasonable at a glance.
- A “tag cloud” at the bottom of the right sidebar so folks can see at a glance what keywords are used the most.
I hope you all like the new Somewhat Reasonable blog as much as we do.