On the Blog

Senator Charles Schumer Calls for Ban on Chemical Used in Bread that Obama’s FDA Says is Safe as Used

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 12:37 PM

 The following is the response of Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division, to the call of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) for a ban on azodicarbonamide after Subway restaurants removed the FDA-approved substance from its bread in response to an activist’s petition:

Subway’s move came as a result from pressure from Vani Hari, a blogger who calls herself “The Food Babe.”

The move had everything to do with public relations and nothing to do with food safety. Bread itself, by virtue of being a baked carbohydrate, has the carcinogen acrylamide in it. That doesn’t mean it is dangerous at the levels humans consume it.

While Subway is free to market itself however it wishes, the move sets a dangerous policy precedent.

Ms. Hari’s central argument against azodicarbonamide is that the chemical is also used in yoga mats. Ands shoes. Really.

If this is the new standard, obesity isn’t going to be a problem anymore – starvation is.

It was only a matter of days until Senator Schumer called for an FDA ban on azodicarbonamide. In a slap in the face to career scientists at the Obama FDA, which allows azodicarbonamide for the very purpose Subway and other chains use it. Schumer said, ‘The Subway chain has done it on its own. We’re asking other chains to do it on their own. But we’re asking the FDA to ban it so nobody uses it.

This is a classic example of governing by bullying. The government asks for voluntary compliance, but, just in case, it threatens to make that voluntary compliance mandatory.

What Senator Schumer fails to realize is that if we use his simplistic standard fairly, his approach would put a slew of his state’s businesses out of business. The Senator says, ‘When it comes to carcinogens, we can’t be too careful. Cancer’s on the rise. We’re never quite sure why. Why not be safe rather than sorry?’

We have an entire fields of science – toxicology-risk assessment – and Senator Schumer wants to throw it all out the window and demand that the FDA ignore the science and ban a chemical because activists have catchy but foolish slogans, such as ‘We shouldn’t eat foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce.’

Other chains that use the chemical include McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin Donuts.

I am concerned that the activists have set the standard so low, and Subway, for one, showed weakness by not defending the safety of their ingredients, that before you know it,we’ll have calls to disassemble modern food production, going after a different FDA approved ingredient each week

When activist bloggers who call themselves things like “Food Babes” and Senators like Chuck Schumer exhibit reckless disregard for science-based food policy, one has got to wonder why we even have an FDA in the first place. It appears that activists and headline-hungry political hacks are the ones who make food policy when industry fails to defend the safety of the ingredients they’d served their healthy customers for years.


[Originally posted on The National Center for Public Policy Research]

Categories: On the Blog

J. M. Keynes: The Damage Still Done by a Defunct Economist

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2014, 10:27 AM

Seventy-eight years ago, on February 4, 1936, the British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) published what soon became his most famous work, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.” Few books, in so short a time, have gained such wide influence and generated so destructive an impact on public policy. What Keynes succeeded in doing was to provide a rationale for what governments always like to do: spend other people’s money and pander to special interests.

In the process Keynes helped undermine what had been three of the essential institutional ingredients of a free-market economy: the gold standard, balanced government budgets, and open competitive markets. In their place Keynes’s legacy has given us paper-money inflation, government deficit spending, and more political intervention throughout the market.

It would, of course, be an exaggeration to claim that without Keynes and the Keynesian revolution inflation, deficit spending, and interventionism would not have occurred. For decades before the appearance of Keynes’s book, the political and ideological climate had been shifting toward ever-greater government involvement in social and economic affairs, due to the growing influence of collectivist ideas among intellectuals and policy-makers in Europe and America.

Before Keynes: Wise Free Market Policies

But before the appearance of “The General Theory,” many of the advocates of such collectivist policies had to get around the main body of economic thinking which still argued that in general the best course was for government to keep its hands off the market, maintain a stable currency backed by gold, and restrain its own taxing and spending policies.

The free market economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had persuasively demonstrated that government intervention prevented the smooth functioning of the market. They were able to clearly show that governments have neither the knowledge nor the ability to direct economic affairs. Freedom and prosperity are best assured when government is, in general, limited to protecting people’s lives and property, with the competitive forces of supply and demand bringing about the necessary incentives and coordination of people’s activities.

Lessons Learned: Gold Money and Balanced Budgets

During the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century, many European countries experienced serious inflations as governments resorted to the money printing press to fund their war expenditures. The lesson the free market economists learned was that the hand of the government had to be removed from the handle of that printing press if monetary stability was to be maintained. The best way of doing this was to link a nation’s currency to a commodity like gold, require banks to redeem their notes for gold on demand at a fixed rate of exchange, and limit any increases in the amount of such bank notes in circulation to additional deposits of gold left in the banks by their depositors.

They also concluded that deficit spending was a dangerous means of funding government programs. It enabled governments to create the illusion that they could spend without imposing a cost on society in the form of higher taxes; they could borrow and spend today, and defer the tax cost until some tomorrow when the loans would have to be repaid. These free market economists called for annually balanced budgets, enabling the electorate to see more clearly the cost of government spending. If a national emergency, such as a war, were to force the government to borrow, then when the crisis passed, the government should run budget surpluses to pay off the debt.

Keynes’ Thinking on Markets, Wages and Government

These were considered the tried and true policies for a healthy society. And these were the policies that Keynes did his best to try to overthrow in the pages of his book, “The General Theory.” He argued that a market economy was inherently unstable, open to swings of irrational investor optimism and pessimism, which resulted in unpredictable and wide fluctuations in output, employment, and prices. Only government, he believed, could take the long view and rationally keep the economy on an even keel by running deficits to stimulate the economy during depressions and surpluses to rein it in during inflationary booms. He therefore attacked the notion of annual balanced budgets; instead, government should balance its budget over the “business cycle.”

To do this job, Keynes said, governments should not be hamstrung by the “barbarous relic” of the gold standard. Wise politicians, guided by brilliant economists like himself, had to have the flexibility to increase the money supply, manipulate interest rates, and change the foreign-exchange rates at which currencies traded for each other. They required this power so they could generate any amount of spending needed to put people to work through public-works projects and government-stimulated private investments. Limiting increases in the money supply to the quantity of gold would only get in the way, Keynes insisted.

Keynes believed not only that the market economy could not keep itself on an even keel he also believed that it would be undesirable to allow the market to work. He once said that to have the market determine prices and wages to balance supply and demand was to submit society to a cruel and unjust “economic juggernaut.” Instead, he wanted wages and prices to be politically fixed on the basis of “what is ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ as between the [social] classes.”

The level of wages imposed by trade unions, for example, was to be viewed as sacrosanct, even if many workers were priced out of the market because the level was higher than potential employers thought those workers were worth. The government, instead, was to print money, run deficits, and push up prices to any level needed to make it again profitable for employers to hire workers. In other words, perpetual price inflation was to be the means to assure “full employment” in the face of aggressive trade unions demanding excessive wages.

Deficit Spending and Special Interest Politics

In addition, when the balanced-budget rule was over-thrown there was no longer any check on government spending. As economists, James M. Buchanan, and Richard E. Wagner pointed out in their book, “Democracy in Deficit” (1977), once government is freed from the restraint of making tax-payers directly and immediately pay for what it spends, every conceivable special-interest group can appeal to the politicians to feed their wants. The politicians, desiring votes and campaign contributions, happily offer to satisfy the gluttony of these favored groups. At the same time, the taxpayers easily fall prey to the delusion that government can give something for nothing to virtually everyone at no cost to them.

Indeed, politicians can now play the game of offering more and more dollars to special interests, while even lowering taxes. The government simply fills the gap by borrowing, imposing a greater debt burden on future generations. Either taxes will have to go up in the years ahead or the government will turn to the printing press to pay what it owes, all the while claiming that it’s being done to generate “national prosperity” and fund the “socially necessary” programs of the welfare state.

And no need to worry about all this in the present, Keynes assured us, after all “in the long run we are all dead.” Our problem is that we are increasingly living through the long-run consequences of Keynes’ short-run policies.

Politicians Hear Keynes’ Defunct Voice in the Air

In one of the most famous passages in “The General Theory,” Keynes said, “the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

Almost eighty years after the appearance of “The General Theory,” many practical men of affairs and politicians in authority remain the slaves of defunct economists and academic scribblers. The tragedy for our times is that among the voices they still hear in the air as they corruptly mismanage everything they touch is that of John Maynard Keynes.

 [Originally posted on epictimes.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Shoot, shovel and shut up!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2014, 3:30 PM

If you find oil or natural gas on your property, the value goes up. If you find an endangered species, your land becomes virtually worthless because the critter prevents productive use.

Most people would be excited to have a Jed-Clampet moment when, while hunting for dinner, the shot resulted in bubbling crude coming up from the ground. Like the Clampet family, your life would change dramatically. Your land would suddenly be worth more than you’d ever dreamed!

If, while hunting for dinner, you instead find an endangered species—the half-jest, half-serious advice would be “shoot, shovel and shut up.” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney whose work centers around endangered species issues, told me that he has seen many landowners lose significant value due to a listed species being found on their property.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. Though well intentioned at the start, the ESA has since been used as a tool to hinder or block economic activity from logging and farming to mining and oil-and-gas development—often to protect species that don’t truly need it.

In my book, Energy Freedom, I feature an entire chapter on the spotted owl because it gives us a beginning-to-end case history on the ESA. The spotted owl was listed as an endangered species on June 26, 1990, and has since shut down a substantial part of federal timber harvest and threatens logging on private lands. I start the chapter with these words: “It is hard to imagine a bigger failure—or a greater success—depending upon which side of the issue you stand. If you strive for open and honest government policy that is straightforward about its goals, this twenty-year experiment has failed. If you believe the end justifies the means, regardless of the cost in life or livelihood, then the spotted owl represents a great success.” I sum it up this way: “the spotted owl threatens private property rights, kills jobs, and puts the health of the forest in peril.” All that, and the owls have not “recovered.”

I’ve been very active in the fight to prevent the listing of the sand dune lizard in the oil patch of West Texas and New Mexico’s Permian Basin—which produces about 15 percent of U.S. oil. (Thanks to conservation agreements with private industry, the lizard was not listed.) I emceed the Roswell, New Mexico, rally to draw attention to the five-state lesser prairie chicken listing threat—which would, again, impact oil-and-gas development. (The Western Governors Association has been working with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop a similar range-wide plan to protect the chicken while allowing for economic development. The listing decision is due by March 30, 2014.)

Coming up is the greater sage grouse—“a chicken-sized bird that has been in decline across large portions of its 11-state Western range. A final decision on whether to protect sage grouse is due next year and could result in wide-ranging restrictions on oil and gas development, agriculture and other economic activity,” reports the Associated Press (AP).

The delta smelt—that most of us first heard of in 2009—is, once again, back in the news.

California is facing a severe drought that Governor Jerry Brown has called “an emergency.” A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article examines “How green politics has exacerbated the state’s growing shortages.” It lists water rationing, forbidden sprinkler use, and restaurants serving water by-request-only as some of the ramifications of California’s historic drought. But, the WSJ states: “Suffering the most are farmers south of the delta whose water allocations have plunged over the last two decades due to endangered-species protections.” It continues: “California’s biggest water hog is the three-inch smelt, which can divert up to one million acre-feet in a wet year. In 2008, federal regulators at the prodding of green groups restricted water exports south to protect the smelt.”

The Bakersfield Californian cites Larry Starrah, a local farmer, whose family has been “forced to let 1,000 acres of productive almond trees die this year for lack of water.” The January 22 article faults the “delta smelt and other fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.” (Note: if your property has lost value due to an endangered species finding or if the federal government suddenly decides it is a protected wetland in violation of the National Wetlands Act—which can happen even though it has never been wet—have the property reassessed. In such cases, others have successfully had their property taxes dramatically lowered due to the fact it can never developed and is therefore less valuable. Imagine how the attitude about ESA and restrictions on wetlands would change if county governments’ property tax collections and revenues plummeted due to such punitive designations.)

To help alleviate the California water crisis, House Speaker John Boehner was in Bakersfield, with lawmakers from California, to tout legislation that would, according to Reuters: “roll back environmental rules limiting how much water agencies can pump out of the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River delta in dry years.” At a press conference Boehner said: “It’s nonsense that a bureaucracy would favor fish over people.” But, that is what the ESA requires.

The WSJ reports: Senator Dianne Feinstein “and her fellow California Senator Barbara Boxer and Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno urged federal agencies to ‘exercise their discretion in regulatory decision-making within the confines of the law to deliver more water to those whose health and livelihoods depend on it’”—which indicates that even the most radical of liberal politicians realize the problems they have created.

No wonder, many people believe it is time for the ESA to be overhauled.

In a letter to the WSJ, Greg Schildwachter applauds environmentalist Timothy Male for acknowledging that the ESA has flaws, as he did in his January 16 op-ed: “A green olive branch on endangered species.” Schildwachter sums up the problem: “The ESA leaves rights to property and species up to anyone’s guess and, therefore, to no one’s satisfaction.” He also offers a solution: “Before ESA, starting in the 1930s, wildlife conservation produced results. Sportsmen and sporting-equipment industries joined with government to restore deer, elk and other then-depleted wildlife. This worked politically because it added—instead of taking—value. It worked in policy because money improved field work instead of sharpening legal briefs. Something like it can work today.” Within his letter, Schildwachter points out: “The Interior Department inspector general concluded that lawsuits ‘are driving nearly everything [FWS] does in the ESA arena.’”

In a second letter published in the January 31 WSJ, Kyle Donovan called the lawsuits brought by environmental groups: “nuisance litigation.”

In his op-ed, Male says: The “mixed record on wildlife restoration—and the real and perceived impact it has on business—has turned the ESA into a partisan playing field.”

The aforementioned AP piece states: “Throughout its history, the law has faced criticism from business interests, Republicans and others.” And continues: “Those complaints grew louder in recent months after federal wildlife officials agreed to consider protections for more than 250 additional species under settlement terms in lawsuits brought by environmental groups”—an arrangement frequently referred to as “sue and settle.” If federal officials can add hundreds more “endangered species” to their protected list, development can be easily halted almost everywhere in the country.

The ESA has few friends outside of environmental lobbyists and attorneys. It was last updated in 1988. Holsinger explained it to me this way: “When the ESA was last amended, the Soviet Union was a superpower and Def Leppard was on the pop charts. It is high time that Congress modernized and improved this law to reflect what we now know.”

As we’ve seen with the sand dune lizard—and hope to see with the lesser prairie chicken—there are ways to successfully assist species that are truly in danger without putting species in conflict with people.

This is the goal of a brand-new report released on February 4 by the ESA Congressional Working Group led by Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and eleven others. Formed on May 19, 2013, The Working Group, according to the mission and purpose statement, “sought to examine the ESA from a variety of viewpoints and angles; receive input on how the ESA was working and being implemented and how and whether it could be updated to be more effective for both people and species.”

The report reflects hundreds of comments from outside individuals and testimony from nearly 70 witnesses who appeared before a Working Group forum and House Natural Resources Committee hearings. It concludes: “After more than 40 years, sensible, targeted reforms would not only improve the eroding credibility of the Act, but would ensure it is implemented more effectively for species and people.”

Rep. Lummis points out the tremendous conservation advances that have been made since the ESA became law:

“The American people have grown by leaps and bounds in their understanding of conservation, their willingness to conserve species, and their ability to conserve species —the ESA needs to grow with them. The ESA is stuck in a litigation driven model. This outdated model hinders the boots on the ground conservation we should be harnessing to actually recover endangered species, not just spout flowery rhetoric about the law in courtrooms. Our report is an exciting opportunity to bring the ESA into the next millennia.”

The report recommends constructive changes to the ESA in the following four categories:

  • Ensuring greater transparency and prioritization of ESA with a focus on species recovery and delisting;
  • Reducing ESA litigation and encouraging settlement reform;
  • Empowering states, tribes, local governments and private landowners on ESA decisions affecting them and their property; and
  • Requiring more transparency and accountability of ESA data and science.

Regarding the proposed changes, the AP states: “experts say broad changes to one of the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, DC.” And: “Given the current level of rancor between Democrats and Republicans, academics who track the law were skeptical that the latest calls for change would succeed.”

Such statements highlight the importance of supporting the representatives behind the new report, encouragement of all other representatives and senators to sign on to the proposed reforms—and the importance of the 2014 election. As the AP points out: the ESA “enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.”

Instead of shoot, shovel and shut up, key domestic species that should be preserved, protected and recovered would be better served by targeted legislative changes that can truly benefit species and people.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


Categories: On the Blog

U.S. is Going Bankrupt One City at a Time

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2014, 12:15 PM

Time to start watching U.S. cities go bankrupt. Prior to Detroit, there was Stockton, California, and, according to Stephen Moore, now the chief economist with the Heritage Foundation, there are more than sixty of the largest cities that “are plagued with the same kinds of retirement legacy costs that sent Detroit in Ch

apter 9 bankruptcy” last year.

“Keep an eye on ‘too big to fail’ cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York,” he warned. Among the twenty cities he listed in an August 2013 Newsm

ax article, he cited Compton and Oakland, CA, Harrisburg, PA, and Providence, RI. What these and other cities have in common is that “the vast majority are located in states with forced unions, non-right-to-work states.”

As Steve Stanek, a research fellow with the Heartland Institute, reported, when a federal judge, Stephen Rhodes, cleared the way for Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, in December, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFCCME) immediately filed a notice of appeal, but Detroit has more than 100,000 creditors. As its emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, said, “The reality is the city has no cash on hand to pay the magnitude of the debt we have, which is $12 billion–$5.7 billion of which has to do with health care obligations, $3.5 billion has to do with pensions, and $2 billion has to do with bondholders.”

At the time it declared bankruptcy, Detroit had 47 different public employee unions. The Detroit Water & Sewer Department had a farrier (a hors

e-shoer) who received $56,000 in pay and benefits every year even though the city had no horses in the department.

As Moore points out, “For at least the last 20 years major U.S. cities have been playgrounds for left-wing experiments—high taxes on the rich; sanctuaries for illegal immigrants; super-minimum wage rules; strict gun-control laws; regulations and paperwork that makes it onerous o open a business or develop on your own property; crony capitalism with contracts going to political donors and friends; and failing schools ruled by teacher unions, with little competition or productivity.”

The legacy costs of pensions and health benefits to retired teachers and municipal retirees force “city managers and mayors are forced to lay off firefighters, police and teachers. Detroit,” Moore noted, “has three retired city workers collecting a pension for every two currently working.”

Recently published, “The Great Withdrawal” by Craig R. Smith with Lowell Ponte examines the damage that progressive programs and policies have done to cities and to the nation. A nation with a $17 trillion debt who’s President has only one answer, raise the debt limit, will encounter a financial Armageddon if the spending and borrowing is not sharply curtailed.

Craig and Ponte point to 1913 as the year progressive, collectivist ideas “took control of the United States government and began a ‘fundamental transformation’ of our economy, politics, culture and beliefs that continues today.”

Citing Detroit as an example of the result of liberal, progressive policies, Smith said that “by 2013 (it) had become a war zone of urban strife, poverty, decay and government profligacy.”

Recall that President Obama claimed he had “saved” General Motors and Chrysler with bailouts that cost taxpayers “at least $25 billion that will never be paid back. At least a billion of these tax dollars went to improve GM facilities in Brazil, and at least $550 million went to GM facilities in Mexico.” Chrysler is now owned by the Italian automaker, Fiat.

Bond holders are major investors in cities and corporations, but the GM bailout denied payment to secured bondholders and redistributed their rightful share to the United Auto Workers. “As a result, today’s bonds are viewed as an investment with uncertain risk,” says Smith. In 2013, investors withdrew $80 billion from bond funds.”

As Smith points out, “The progressive method of operation was, and is, that when the economy is good, they raise taxes and expand government. When the economic cycle turns negative, the politicians blame others, refuse to reduce government—and, increasingly, use the bad economy as a reason for expanding government and spending even more.”

This describes what President has been doing since first elected in 2008. For the entirety of his first term, he blamed everything on President George W. Bush.

“Put simply,” says Smith, “most progressive cities are welfare city-states in which a large percentage of the population lives on government money, either as government dependents or government employees.”  This description fits the nation as well.

How bad are the present times? “27 percent of Americans have no savings at all, 46 percent have savings of less than $800, and 76% of Americans now live paycheck to paycheck.”

With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—the Congressional Budget Office released a report predicting that, over the next decade, it will cost the nation about 2.3 million jobs and contribute to a $1 trillion increase in projected deficits.

Hans Bader, a senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes that it contains massive marriage penalties that discriminate against married people, huge work disincentives for some older workers, has slashed hiring, cut economic growth, and induced employers to replace full-time workers with part-time employees. In the process, millions have seen their healthcare policies canceled or replaced with policies with higher premiums and deductibles.

There are already 92 million Americans who are unemployed or ceased looking for work. There are 47 million on food stamps.

The ultimate progressive, President Obama, is impoverishing millions of Americans. Unlike Detroit, America cannot declare bankruptcy. It can only collapse if voters do not replace those Senators and Representatives that voted for Obamacare and who refuse to take the steps to reduce government spending and borrowing. We have three years in which to survive Obama.


Categories: On the Blog

Submit Comments Now to Support the Keystone XL Pipeline!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2014, 9:01 AM

On February 5, the Federal Register published a Notice that invited members of the public to comment on whether the Obama Administration should finally approve expansion of the Keystone Pipeline. This is your chance to cast a vote in favor of U.S. energy security, jobs, and affordable energy.

The 30-day public comment period will close on March 7, 2014.

There are two ways to submit comments: Online at regulations.gov or by mail sent to:

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Energy Resources, Room 4843
Attn: Keystone XL Public Comments
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Comments are not private and will be made public.

Read the Executive Summary of the Jan. 31, 2014 State Department report on the Keystone XL pipline that stated the project will have little negative environmental impact. Also read reaction to that report from Heartland Institute energy and environment experts.

Background on Keystone XL

The Heartland Institute has published extensive research and commentary on why building the Keystone XL Pipeline would be good for American consumers and workers. Some of our work includes the following:

February 5, 2014
Build the Keystone Pipeline, Already!
The Keystone XL pipeline was AWOL from Obama’s State of the Union address — along with real energy, job, economic, and revenue solutions.

February 1, 2014
State Dept: No Environmental Objection to Keystone XL Pipeline
The State Department concludes that since the oil which the pipeline would transport will be produced in any case and transported in any case, the pipeline will have no impact on carbon emissions or climate change.

January 10, 2014
The Very Green Keystone Pipeline Delay
On December 29, 2013, the Sierra Club was celebrating the shutdown of the 150th coal-fired plant that provided electricity. That’s nothing to celebrate.

August 26, 2013
Keystone XL: Not Just a Pipeline, a Life-line
The case for the Keystone XL pipeline is straight forward. Jobs will be created.

June 7, 2013
Heartland’s James M. Taylor on the Lars Larson Show talking Keystone XL
“They want to see this country being a nation that does not have affordable energy, that is getting away from carbon-based energy sources regardless of whether there is environmental impact or not.”

April 19, 2013
Keystone XL Opponents Hypocritically Talk Property Rights
Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline are increasingly trumpeting private property rights as a reason people should oppose the pipeline.

March 14, 2013
Nebraska Gov. Heineman Announces New Support for Keystone XL
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, whose opposition to the original Keystone XL pipeline proposal emboldened federal opposition to the plan, announced he now supports the proposal.

March 5, 2013
State Department Says Keystone XL Will Have Little Environmental Impact
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact” on global climate, the U.S. Department of State concluded in a 2,000-page draft review issued March 1.

March 5, 2013
Keystone Pipeline: Housecats Have Greater Emissions Impact
The Keystone XL pipeline battle has always been about the ideology of Climatism, the belief that man-made greenhouse gases are destroying Earth’s climate.

February 14, 2013
Rockefellers behind ‘scruffy little outfit’
Nothing influences President Barack Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline quite like the protests against it, led by Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist, and his organization, called 350.org.

January 23, 2013
Michael Whatley: Keystone XL Pipeline
Michael Whatley of the Consumer Energy Alliance talks with Ben Domenech about the Keystone XL pipeline and what to expect from the Obama administration on energy policy.

June 4, 2012
Nebraska Passes Legislation to Move Keystone XL Pipeline Forward
Nebraska’s unicameral legislature has passed a bill designed to keep alive the possible approval of the Keystone XL pipeline previously rejected by President Obama. In a bipartisan 44-5 vote, lawmakers endorsed legislation that will provide a mechanism for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to continue the Keystone evaluation independently and collaborate with the federal government on other pipeline projects. Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed the bill into law.

May 31, 2012
Ten Actions Congress Can Take to Lower Gas Prices
President Obama and his Administration have consistently applied practices that block oil production on federal lands, denying access to energy sources and economic activity. Nevertheless, success stories on non-federal lands demonstrate the power of the free market to apply human ingenuity to natural resources and create economic growth and jobs while protecting the environment.

March 28, 2012
EPA Triples Down on “None of the Above”
Anti-energy crusaders are in a celebratory mood this week as the EPA effectively banned the construction of coal-fired power plants, and thus completed the federal government’s trifecta beat-down on affordable energy.

January 20, 2012
The Map Doesn’t Lie: Keystone XL Pipeline Is Environmentally Safe
President Obama had more than enough information to make the right decision, but – sadly and all too predictably – he choose to appease the environmental fringe once more.

January 18, 2012
Map Shows Keystone XL Pipeline Would Be One of Many Over Aquifer
Note the extensive network of existing pipelines in the area deemed too “risky” for the Keystone XL pipeline (the colored lines; the Keystone XL is in dark blue).


Heartland Daily Podcasts on Keystone XL

James Taylor: Keystone Pipeline Developments

Michael Whatley: Keystone XL Pipeline

James Taylor: Keystone XL Pipeline was a win-win Proposition

Alan Caruba: Keystone XL pipeline


Map of the Keystone XL

Below is a map showing how the Keystone XL pipline (in dark blue) would be but one strand in a massive of a spider web of pipelines in the Midwest.

Categories: On the Blog

The Ignorance and Hypocrisy Behind Oil Export Bans

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2014, 1:22 AM

US oil and gas production was already declining, when the 1973 Arab oil embargo sent oil and gasoline prices skyrocketing and created block-long lines at gas stations. Increased domestic production could have eased the supply and price crunch, but the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill had resulted in congressional leasing and drilling moratoriums on federal offshore and onshore lands.

Though it voted 50-49 to build the Alaska pipeline, Congress refused to allow more drilling. Instead, it legislated a 55-mph speed limit, mileage standards for vehicles and a ban on exporting domestically produced crude oil. The speed limit was eventually lifted, but drilling bans expanded, the mileage rules tightened, the export ban remained, and the United States increasingly imported more oil at higher prices.

However, quietly and under the federal and environmentalist radar, America’s oil industry improved and expanded its horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (aka, fracking) technologies – on state and private lands, where DC regulators and pressure groups had little sway. The unprecedented boom that followed sent US oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (propane) production sharply upward for the first time in decades. America’s oil output rose 30% just between 2011 and 2013, to 7.4 million barrels per day. The Green mantra that we were depleting petroleum supplies was smashed on the fractured rocks of reality.

Suddenly, the United States was importing less oil than at any time since 1995; millions of oil patch and related jobs were created; frack state royalty and tax revenues skyrocketed; natural gas prices plummeted; and the cheaper fuels and feed stocks fostered a US petrochemical and manufacturing renaissance. The fracking revolution also enabled companies to export more gasoline, kerosene, lubricants, solvents, asphalt and other finished products (since the government never banned refined product exports). Those exports have greatly improved the nation’s balance of trade and gross domestic product.

Now many American producers want the misguided export ban sent to history’s dust bin, so that they can ship crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to foreign ports. Numerous other companies support their call for change. Asia needs the energy, they note, to fuel its growing economy and support its inadequate petroleum production infrastructure. Europe needs it because too much of its natural gas comes from Russia, which charges high prices and sometimes engages in energy blackmail, and because EU fracking bans and global warming/renewable energy policies have sent business and family energy prices into the stratosphere and killed millions of jobs. The United States as a whole would also benefit.

Congress should terminate the ban. (Or President Obama could void it with yet another unconstitutional executive diktat, to counter his job-killing mandates.) Proffered reasons for perpetuating the prohibition reflect a poor grasp of energy markets, misguided self interests and simple hypocrisy.

US oil production is expected to increase by some 780,000 barrels per day in 2014, rising to 9.6 million per day by 2019. The nation’s refining capacity is at record levels, for light, heavy, sweet and sour crude. Exports would provide and important outlet for some of this crude, encouraging further exploration, protecting jobs, further revitalizing our economy, and ensuring continued royalty and tax revenues.

Opening more publicly owned lands to leasing, drilling and fracking would magnify these benefits many times over. These resources belong to all Americans, not only to those who oppose energy development or want to use anti-hydrocarbon policies to undermine economic growth and job creation. Expanded fracking operations on all these lands would further expand supplies, by making otherwise marginal plays more economic to produce, reinvigorating old oil and gas fields, prolonging oil field life, and ensuring greater resource conservation, by leaving far fewer valuable resources behind in rock formations.

Concerns that ending the ban would hurt consumers are misplaced. Indeed, for reasons just given, the opposite would happen. Expanding domestic supplies will keep OPEC at bay, stabilize global supplies and prices, and make the United States less reliant on imports and less vulnerable to supply disruptions.

What’s truly ironic and hypocritical here is that this sudden concern about consumer prices comes from members of Congress and self-styled environmental and consumer groups who have led the wars on leasing, drilling, fracking and hydrocarbons – while supporting expensive, land-intensive, water-hungry ethanol and biofuel programs. All these policies hurt consumers, by driving up energy prices. And who can forget President Obama’s pledge that electricity prices will “necessarily skyrocket” under his policies, or former Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s wish that gasoline cost $8-10 per gallon, as it does in Europe.

Companies like Dow Chemical and Delta Airlines would thus be better advised to support expanded petroleum exploration and production (for which their voices have rarely been above a whisper), than to continue campaigning for an extended oil and gas export ban.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman (!) Ron Wyden (D-OR) also displayed woeful ignorance about energy matters when he recently expressed concern about proposed LNG exports worsening propane shortages that have left many families shivering this winter. Propane is naturally occurring natural gas liquids; it has nothing to do with exports. LNG is liquefied (compressed and super-cooled) natural gas. Moreover, the propane shortage is due to pipeline maintenance and repair problems in late 2013, coupled with unusual demand for propane last fall to dry corn for ethanol production.

(Mr. Wyden’s remark brings to mind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s famous comment: “I believe in natural gas as a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.” Memo to Ms. Pelosi: Natural gas is a fossil fuel. And these are the people who are dictating and running our energy and economic policies!)

Furthermore, these pseudo-converts to consumer protection are claiming concern that the current $9 per barrel difference between US and global oil prices could shrink if some oil is exported. They say Barclays Bank predicts that eliminating the export ban could add $10 billion a year to gasoline costs. However, US gasoline expenditures totaled $335 billion in 2012. So this potential increase works out to just 3% of an average household’s $2912 gasoline expenses. That’s $87 a year, $1.67 a week – half the price of one Starbucks Latte Grande. The consumer impact of America’s massive land lockups is much higher.

Even worse, increasingly tougher automobile mileage standards result in countless injuries and deaths.

One more ironic and hypocritical aspect of all this is that ban proponents want US oil and gas to remain in the USA, rather than letting some of it support our European allies. Let Europe produce its own oil and gas, or get it from the OPEC and Russian extortionists, they say. And yet these same “ethicists” have long demanded that the United States keep its own vast petroleum supplies locked up, while we deplete other countries’ assets and put their ecological treasures at risk from production-related accidents.

President Obama himself has said the Saudis should send us more oil, when global supplies tighten – rather than using his pen and phone to tell his energy overseers to produce more here at home. The US has also criticized China for restricting exports of rare earth metals – and selling only electronic, solar panel and wind turbine components made with rare earths – while we block US rare earth mining.

Manmade climate change alarmists should also remember that natural gas exports will reduce coal use overseas, which will in turn reduce those dastardly emissions of plant-fertilizing, life-giving carbon dioxide. (Not surprisingly, 350.org chief Bill McKibben claims that aggregate life-cycle CO2 emissions from gas production and use will “almost certainly” be worse than coal. This is utter nonsense. It’s also worth noting that life-cycle energy use, CO2 emissions and pollution associated with electric car rare earth metals, production, charging and use are almost certainly worse than coal or natural gas.)

The bottom line is simple. Exporting US oil and natural gas will benefit American workers, families, consumers, balance of trade and government revenues. We must not let provincial views, anti-hydrocarbon ideologies or misinformed policy positions perpetuate this antiquated ban.

Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality Neutered

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2014, 3:38 PM

In a victory for the future of the Internet and for property rights, last month the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned — we should all hope permanently — the heart of the Federal Communication Commission’s so-called “Net Neutrality” rules.

Net Neutrality, as with so many leftist proposals, is Orwellian in name: it represents little more than the theft of property rights of companies that have invested billions of dollars in Internet infrastructure.

It is “neutral” in the sense that the regulations would force providers of Internet bandwidth to treat all content providers the same way. That is no more reasonable than saying that a stadium can’t sell better seats for higher prices or limit access to the Club level or tell you that you can’t bring in your own beer. It is “neutral” in the same way that Chairman Mao was “neutral” about private property.

The FCC had passed three rules relating to disclosure, “anti-blocking,” and “anti-discrimination” on the ’Net. The court invalidated the last two, while permitting the disclosure rule that requires broadband providers to “publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of [their] broadband Internet access services.”

While the majority (two of the panel’s three judges) accepted the FCC’s claims of broad authority to regulate the Internet — an important part of the unfortunate precedent continued by the case — the court nonetheless unanimously ruled that the FCC could not prevent providers of Internet bandwidth from blocking content running through their “pipes,” such as access to certain websites or access by certain devices, or from charging different content providers different amounts, such as for bandwidth-intensive applications like video streaming.

Supporters of Net Neutrality worry that the result of the court’s ruling will be that broadband providers like Comcast or Verizon, which own other businesses that may compete with certain websites, may block out the competition.

For example, if one of those companies bought an online payment service, would they try to block PayPal? Or would they give their own streaming movies advantages over Netflix or Amazon or Hulu? Or might a broadband company that can provide cable TV service try to block Internet access to a box owned by DirecTV? But, especially in the world of wireless Internet, competition will undoubtedly rein in the worst impulses of some of the companies that Americans love to hate.

Tuesday’s ruling was narrow and legalistic: The FCC’s rules were struck down because they treat Internet providers like “common carriers” (an old designation that relates to everything from telephone companies to ferries) even though the FCC is expressly prohibited from regulating Internet companies as common carriers.

The judges were kinder to the FCC than they should have been in accepting so much of the Commission’s broader justification for rule-making: “The Commission… has reasonably interpreted section 706 to empower it to promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic, and its justification for the specific rules at issue here — that they will preserve and facilitate the ‘virtuous circle’ of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet — is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.”

The proper response — and perhaps explaining why I’m not a lawyer — is “Bull****!”

The reason the Internet is one of the most successful achievements in human history is that it’s been almost entirely unregulated (other than attempting to prevent already illegal acts like dealing drugs or distributing child pornography, etc.) The idea that anything the FCC would do is likely to increase innovation is ridiculous on its face.

Furthermore, telling Internet infrastructure (“backbone” or broadband) providers, who’ve spent billions of dollars of shareholders’ money building the physical structure of the Internet, how they must charge for the use of their assets is nothing more and nothing less than the theft of property. It’s as if someone builds a toll road only to have regulators say they must charge a big 18-wheeler, which does much more damage to the road than a car does, the same toll that the car pays. It is naked theft. It is destructive to the incentive to build more such roads. And you can bet the truck lobby would be for it.

In a partial dissent, Judge Laurence Silberman goes further in the right direction, questioning much of the FCC’s authority to regulate the Internet (and his colleagues’ acceptance of the FCC’s claims):

So much for the terms “promote competition in the local telecommunications market” or “remove barriers to infrastructure investment.” Presto, we have a new statute granting the FCC virtually unlimited power to regulate the Internet. This reading of § 706, as we said in Comcast Corp. v. FCC , “would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether.” The limiting principles the majority relies on are illusory.

Silberman is pointing us to a reason why our constitutional republic, our freedom, and our national self-reliant character is crumbling: Too many legislators, judges, and citizens are erroneously and unwisely accepting the ongoing encroachment of the regulatory state into aspects of our lives where they are not permitted, wanted, or helpful — except from the point of view of left-wingers and rent-seekers who push to use the power of government to effectively steal billions of dollars from unloved (and thus not politically easy to defend) corporations like Verizon and Comcast.

Google and other Internet companies that lobbied for Net Neutrality should be ashamed. They got big, successful, and fabulously wealthy due to the “wild west” nature of the Web. But now that they’re riding high they want to use the power of government to cement their advantages. I wonder how Google would feel if the government told them they could not charge different amounts for different advertisements, or Netflix that they couldn’t charge differently for different movies, TV shows, or their own original content… or that they must supply HBO’s original content at the same price as their own.

The companies have argued that they “have based decisions to embark on significant investments precisely upon the premise of non-discriminatory access to content.”

But imagine a high-end car company trying to use the government to tell gas stations that they must sell premium for the price of regular. Imagine Godiva getting a regulator to say that they must be sold the world’s best cocoa beans for the same price that Hershey’s pays for whatever quality they buy. It cannot be said strongly or often enough: any such approach, including Net Neutrality, is immoral, impractical, and in almost any other context illegal. Claiming that they have made business decisions based on an assumption of immoral and illegal government regulation is preposterous, but all too believable in 21st-century America.

The former FCC Chairman who pushed so hard for these rules, Julius Genachowski, is a very smart guy. He is also a partisan political hack who worked for Chuck Schumer and was a classmate of Barack Obama’s at Harvard Law School. In creating the now-dead rules, he was doing the bidding of President Obama’s big donors at Google while sucking up to George Soros-funded leftist organizations.

Genachowski’s replacement, Tom Wheeler, who now must decide whether to appeal Tuesday’s ruling, is a successful communications sector venture capitalist. Unfortunately, he is described byPolitico as “a longtime Obama loyalist… (who) raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s two presidential campaigns.”

So don’t look for the politicization of regulation under this administration to miss a step under new FCC leadership.

With Net Neutrality dead for the time being, I expect renewed focus by the partisan Wheeler on a new version of the “Fairness Doctrine” in which the FCC will work to weaken conservative dominance over talk radio and cable TV news. As of December, Fox News had more viewers than MSNBC, CNN, and HLN combined, while talk radio continues to see stations leaving the Progressive Talk format entirely. Democrats are furious.

Despite officially jettisoning Fairness Doctrine rules in 2011, a more recent makeover of this ugly mindset threatens to tell media organizations what, or at least what kind, of news stories they must cover and how they must cover them in order to “illuminate the diversity of views available.” Republicans are already calling early “studies” preparation for “Fairness Doctrine 2.0.

Tuesday’s victory, although in an important battle, must be seen in the context of a never-ending war against a patient and determined enemy.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Author Series Feb 11: Tevi Troy – What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2014, 1:02 AM

Join us for a luncheon lecture with author and presidential scholar Tevi Troy, who will talk about his new book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.


Just $15 gets you a good lunch, a great speaker, and excellent networking opportunities!

From Cicero to Snooki, the cultural influences on our American presidents are powerful and plentiful. Thomas Jefferson famously said “I cannot live without books,” and his library backed up the claim, later becoming the backbone of the new Library of Congress. Jimmy Carter watched hundreds of movies in his White House, while Ronald Reagan starred in a few in his own time. Lincoln was a theater-goer, while Obama kicked back at home to a few episodes of HBO’s “The Wire.”

America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day.

In What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.


Tevi Troy is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a writer and consultant on health care and domestic policy. He is a frequent television and radio analyst, and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC, and The Jim Lehrer Show, among other outlets.

Troy served as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. In that position, he oversaw all operations, including Medicare, Medicaid, public health, medical research, food and drug safety, welfare, child and family services, disease prevention, and mental health services.

Troy has extensive White House experience, having served in several high-level positions over a five-year period, culminating in his service as Deputy Assistant and then Acting Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. In the latter position, he ran the Domestic Policy Council and was the White House’s lead adviser on health care, labor, education, transportation, immigration, crime, veterans and welfare. At the White House, Troy also specialized in crisis management, creating intra-governmental consensus, and all aspects of policy development, including strategy, outreach and coalition building.

Troy has a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and an M.A and Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Texas at Austin. Troy lives in Maryland with his wife Kami and four children.

Categories: On the Blog

CBO Report Shows Obamacare’s Economic Damage

Somewhat Reasonable - February 07, 2014, 8:32 PM

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office released a budget projection update which decimates Democrats’ claims that Obamacare does not hurt the American economy.

In Appendix C of the rather dense document, the CBO concludes that various provisions of Obamacare will “reduce the total number of hours worked,”  “will cause a reduction…in aggregate labor compensation,” and most dramatically will result in “a decline in the number of full-time equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024” as compared to employment growth in the absence of the Affordable Care Act.

The White House responded by pointing out that the CBO’s estimates do not derive primarily from a reduced demand for labor by employers, as Republicans have argued. But it’s hardly consoling to read CBO’s prediction of “a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply…(which) will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked….”

The main cause of this trend is the work-discouraging combination of taxes and subsidies for lower-income Americans in Obamacare. In other words, the implied tax and subsidy penalties for success are so high that it won’t be worth a lower-income person’s effort to try to climb up the income ladder.

So much for the American dream.

And while the CBO does suggest that demand for labor will not decline substantially due to the costs imposed by Obamacare, they do say that costs “will be borne primarily by workers in the form of reduced wages or other compensation.” So even the White House’s good news is bad news for working Americans.

The CBO also suggests that part of the reason that Obamacare will not substantially reduce the demand for labor is because “the expansion of Medicaid subsidies and the provision of exchange subsidies will not only stimulate greater demand for health care services but also allow lower-income households that gain subsidized coverage to increase their spending on other goods and services.”

But the CBO’s static analysis ignores the fact that this effect – nothing more than massive wealth distribution – is just another version of Keynesian economic stimulus which has failed every place and every time it has been attempted. There is no free lunch, and the money which the CBO claims will benefit the economy through increased consumption will simply result in decreased consumption – and therefore decreased employment – in other sectors of the economy. It’s the healthcare version of Cash for Clunkers.

The non-partisan CBO, highly respected by the media despite (or perhaps because of) their reliance on static analysis that tends to bias results toward higher spending and higher taxes, has cut the legs out of Democrats’ claims that Obamacare is not harmful to the economy.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

If You Work Full Time, You Will Not Be Poor

Somewhat Reasonable - February 07, 2014, 8:22 PM

President Obama said in his State of the Union last week, “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

Thank you, Mr. President. But even without you, as already enacted in current law, for anyone who works full time in America, the minimum wage, plus the Earned Income Tax Credit, plus the Child Tax Credit, equals or exceeds the poverty level for every possible family combination, including single mothers with children.

Full time work at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 equals $15,080 a year. That exceed the federal poverty level for 2014 for one single person living alone, at $11,670. In addition, that single person still qualifies for an earned income tax credit of $496. Because that is “refundable,” the individual still gets that in cash even if he or she is not liable for any federal income taxes.

With one child, the single person gets an additional $1,000. Plus the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $3,305, for a grand total of $19,385. The poverty level for 2014 for a single mother with a child is $15,730.

With 2 children, the family gets $2,000 in child tax credits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $5,460. So with full time work, that comes to $22,540 in total income. The poverty level for 2014 for a single mother with two children is $19,790.

With 3 children, the family gets $3,000 in child tax credits, and the Earned Income Tax Credit increases to $6,143. With full time work, family income totals $24,223, compared to the federal poverty level for 2014 for a mother and 3 children of $23,850.

And so it goes. Your job, Mr. President, is not to give pretty sounding speeches proclaiming to everyone how you are more moral and caring than they are. Your job is to adopt policies that will foster the creation of jobs, so the poor can get full time work.

You can start with approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, and telling billionaire Tom Steyer who keeps threatening you if you do to report to the nearest poverty office in California and take personal responsibility for all the poor people there without full time work.

Then you can support Ted Cruz in his effort to repeal Obamacare, which is strongly discouraging employers from offering full time work. You can also repeal all the new taxes on capital investment you forced through at the start of last year, because capital investment is what creates jobs and increases wages in a capitalist economy.

I am sorry you never learned that from all your “progressive” parents, mentors, and teachers growing up, or through your inadequate education at Columbia and Harvard. I know, I got the same inadequate education at Harvard College and Harvard Law School myself. But I at least supplemented that with independent thinking and reading.

So I know, unlike you, that if you increase the legal minimum wage above what some workers can produce, employers will just not hire them at all. That is why after your thoughtless Democrat friends raised the minimum wage when they took over Congress in 2007, teenage unemployment soared to 25%, teenage Hispanic unemployment exploded to 30%, and black teenage unemployment skyrocketed to 45%.

Those numbers have come down a bit more recently. But now you want to raise them again.

The way jobs and wages are increased in a capitalist economy like ours is though capital investment. That creates jobs and increased demand for labor, which increases wages. It also gives workers the tools to be more productive, so employers can finance hiring them at higher wages.

It would help as well if fathers would stick around and work full time and contribute to the welfare of their children. That would add at least another $15,080 a year to the above family income levels. That is why there is no poverty among two parent families with both parents working. Zero, zip, nada.

But that would mean all of your social liberal friends would have to stop promoting family breakup and chaos. And that would mean a lot less fun for everyone. Except the children.

[First published at The American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Evolving Urban Form: The San Francisco Bay Area

Somewhat Reasonable - February 07, 2014, 1:44 PM

Despite planning efforts to restrict it, the Bay Area  continues to disperse. For decades, nearly all population and employment growth in the San Jose-San Francisco Combined Statistical Area has been in the suburbs, rather than in the core cities of San Francisco and Oakland. The CSA (Note) is composed of seven adjacent metropolitan areas (San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Napa, and Stockton). A similar expansion also occurred in the New York CSA.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to two of the three most dense built-up urban areas in the United States, the San Francisco urban area, (6,266 residents per square mile or 2,419 per square kilometer) with the core cities of San Francisco and Oakland and the all-suburban San Jose urban area (5,820 residents per square mile or 2,247 per square kilometer), according to US Census 2010 data. Only the Los Angeles urban area is denser (6,999 per square mile or 2.702 per square kilometer). The more spread out New York urban area trails at 5,319 per square mile (2,054 per square kilometer).

The San Francisco Bay & Central Valley Area

The continuing dispersion was reflected in commuting patterns that developed between 2000 and 2010, with the addition of the Stockton metropolitan area, which is composed of San Joaquin County, with more than 700,000 residents. San Joaquin County is located in the Central Valley and is so far removed from San Francisco Bay that it may be appropriate in the long run to think of the area as the “San Francisco Bay & Central Valley Area.” The distance from Stockton to the closest point shore of San Francisco Bay is 60 miles, and it is nearly another 25 miles to the city of San Francisco.

Ironically, this continued dispersion of jobs and residences is, at least in part, driven by the San Francisco Bay Area’s urban containment land use policies designed to prevent it. What the planners have ignored is the impact on house prices associated with highly restrictive land use planning. The San Francisco metropolitan area and the San Jose metropolitan area are the third and fourth most unaffordable major housing markets out of 85 rated in the recent 10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, trailing only Hong Kong and Vancouver.

Historical Core Cities: San Francisco and Oakland

The historical core municipalities (cities) of the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco and Oakland have held their population very well. Each essentially retains it 1950 borders. Among the 40 US cities with more than 250,000 residents in 1950, only San Francisco and Oakland managed population increases by 2000 without substantial annexations and substantial non-urban (rural) territory within their city limits. For example, New York and Los Angeles, both of which have grown, have nearly the same city limits as in 1950 and 2000, yet much of New York’s Staten Island was rural in 1950 as was much of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.

Yet both San Francisco and Oakland have had difficult times. Between 1950 and 1980, both San Francisco and Oakland suffered 12 percent population losses, which were followed by recoveries. The losses were modest compared to the emptying out of municipalities like St. Louis. Detroit, Chicago, Copenhagen, and Paris, which remain one quarter to nearly two-thirds below their 1950s figures. Further, population gains from annexations masked losses within the 1950 boundaries of many cities, such as Portland, Seattle, and Indianapolis, etc.

San Jose: Now the Largest City

San Jose is now the Bay Area’s largest city. San Jose has grown spectacularly, from a population of 95,000 in 1950 to nearly 1,000,000 today. San Jose passed San Francisco by the 1990 census and Oakland by the 1970 census (Figure 1). Virtually all of San Jose’s population growth has occurred during the postwar period of automobile suburbanization. The pre-automobile urban form familiar in San Francisco and central Oakland simply does not exist in San Jose. Even attempts to pretend the pre-war urban form has returned have been famously unsuccessful. Even after building an extensive light rail system, San Jose’s transit work trip market share is barely one quarter that of the adjacent San Francisco metropolitan area.

Nonetheless, suburban San Jose has become a dominant force in the “Silicon Valley”, which stretches through San Mateo County in the San Francisco metropolitan area and into Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose. The Silicon Valley has been the capital of the international information technology business for at least a half century. The highly suburbanized region has done more than its share to elevate the San Francisco Bay Area to its high standard of living (According to Brookings Institution data), a phenomenon that has spread also the urban core of San Francisco. At the same time, San Jose is the second most affluent major metropolitan in the world and San Francisco ranks seventh. The Silicon Valley, which includes much of San Mateo County (adjacent to Santa Clara County in the San Francisco metropolitan area), is clearly the economic engine of the region with twice as many jobs as San Francisco (which is both a city and a county).

Metropolitan Growth

Overall, the San Francisco Bay Area has grown approximately 180 percent since 1950, considerably more than the national average from 1950 to 2012 of 107 percent. The Bay Area’s growth was strong, but well behind the 280 percent growth achieved in the Los Angeles CSA (Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, and Oxnard MSAs).

However, growth has since moderated substantially. Between 1950 and 2000, the Bay Area grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent but since 2000, the annual growth rate has dropped to 0.7 percent annually. Even so, in recent years, the Bay Area has nearly equaled the much slowed growth of the Los Angeles CSA, adding 23.6 percent to its population since 1990, compared to 25.5 percent in Los Angeles. Both areas, however, grew at less than the national population increase rate (25.8 percent), and slowing, in the 2000s to the slowest growth rates since California became a state in 1850.

Suburban Growth

Despite the decent demographic performance of the cities of San Francisco and Oakland since 1950, nearly all Bay Area growth occurred in the suburbs. Between 1950 and 2012, only one percent of population growth in the CSA occurred in the two historical core municipalities and 99 percent in suburban areas. Things have been somewhat better for the two cities since 2000, with seven percent of the growth in the historical core municipalities and 93 percent of the growth in suburban areas (Figure 2).

Since 1950, the San Jose metropolitan area has grown by far the fastest in the CSA, with the more than 500 percent increase in population. The outer metropolitan areas (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Napa, and Stockton) have grown nearly 300 percent, while the parts of the San Francisco metropolitan area outside the two core cities grew more than 200 percent. San Francisco and Oakland grew approximately 5 percent (Figure 3).

Domestic Migration

As house prices increased before the subprime crisis, the Bay Area lost more than 600,000 domestic migrants, a rate of more than 85,000 per year. Since 2008, however, with substantially lower house prices, and a renewed tech boom, there has been an annual gain of approximately 4,000 to the Bay Area in domestic migration. However, if the substantial house price increases since 2012 continue, the area could again become a net exporter of people.

Future Urban Evolution

Like much of California, San Francisco Bay CSA exhibits much slower population growth than before. How much of this is tied to the regional and state policies constricting suburban housing remains an open question, but it seems much growth that might have occurred in the original San Francisco metropolitan area or the later developing San Jose metropolitan area will instead occur in the Vallejo or Stockton metropolitan areas, where housing prices  tend to be much lower, particularly for larger homes that are increasingly unaffordable closer to the urban core. Indeed, it is not impossible that Modesto (Stanislaus County) could be added  to the San Francisco Bay CSA by 2020, which is even farther away from the historical core than the Stockton metropolitan area.

At the same time, many potential new residents may find either the high prices near the core nor the long commutes associated with Central Valley residence unappealing. Many households may instead seek their aspirations in Utah, Colorado, Texas, and even Oklahoma, not least because the “California Dream” has been made affordable.

Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris and the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.


Note: Metropolitan areas are labor markets. Their building blocks in the United States are complete counties. Metropolitan statistical areas are organized around built up urban areas with counties reaching a threshold of the urban area population being considered central counties and included in the metropolitan area. In addition, any county with an employment interchange of 25 percent or more with the core counties is also included in the metropolitan area. Adjacent metropolitan areas are added together to form Combined Statistical Areas if there is a 15 percent or more employment interchange. This is a simplified definition. Complete details are available from the US Office of Management and the Budget.


Categories: On the Blog

Words Worth Remembering on Ronald Reagan’s Birthday

Somewhat Reasonable - February 06, 2014, 9:32 PM

Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the birth or Ronald Wilson Reagan, the nation’s 40th President. Fifty years earlier, at the age of 53, he made a prescient observation that remains true today. From his famous “A Time for Choosing” speech in 1964:

The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing. … You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right, there is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

“Affordable care” … “Income equality” … “Common core” … these and other popular words and phrases of today are merely names for more schemes leading the nation down, not up.

It’s a good thing Ronald Reagan isn’t around to see it.

Watch Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech below:


Categories: On the Blog

VID: Heartland’s Ben Domenech on MSNBC Talking Obamacare and Job Losses

Somewhat Reasonable - February 06, 2014, 6:05 PM

Heartland Senior Fellow Benjamin Domenech was a guest Wednesday night on “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC. Chris was nice enough to call Ben “one of my favorite conservatives,” and you can see from his affable and fact-filled TV presence why that might be. Ben is also rare among people who go on TV to talk that he actually endeavors to answer the questions he’s asked.

Ben talked about the new Congressional Budget Office report stating Obamacare will end up removing millions of Americans from the full-time workforce. Chris seemed to think that’s a good thing. Ben disagreed.

Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert follows Ben. Media Matters, a lefty outfit few take seriously, has made a habit of attacking Heartland. Nonetheless, we’ve included it because Hayes referred again to the good, honest stuff Ben said.



Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s SOTU: Where are the opportunities?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 06, 2014, 1:05 PM

The State of The Union Address (SOTU) reminded me of the idiom, “on one hand, on the other hand.”

On one hand, President Obama extoled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to “help America wean itself off foreign oil.” He touted the new reality of “more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years.” On the other hand, he promised to use his “authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations”—which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.

Electricity and extreme poverty

Concern was expressed for Americans who “are working more than ever just to get by.” He wants to help Africans “double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.” But his policies are limiting access to electricity in America and raising the cost (20% in the past 6 years). Higher-cost energy is the most punitive to those struggling “just to get by.”

The “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families, 2001-2013” report found: “Lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs than higher-income families because energy represents a larger portion of their household budgets, reducing the amount of income that can be spent on food, housing, health care, and other necessities. Nearly one-third of U.S. households had gross annual incomes less than $30,000 in 2011. Energy costs accounted for an average of 27% of their family budgets, before taking into account any energy assistance.” The report shows the 27% is an 11% increase over the 2001 energy cost impact. For households with an after-tax income higher than $50,000, the 2001 percentage was 5 and the 2013: 9—a 4% increase. For low- and middle-income families, energy costs are now consuming a portion of after-tax household income comparable to that traditionally spent on major categories such as housing, food, and health care—with black, Hispanic and senior households being hit especially hard.

All of the above

President Obama took credit for his “‘all of the above’ energy strategy” which, he claims has “moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.” And, regarding natural gas, he says that he’ll “cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.” POTUS proclaimed: “I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” The Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals: Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish Louisiana, created more than 2000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2000 jobs in 2014. President Obama, please act on your own here. Cut the red tape and slash the bureaucracy. Let’s get those permits issued.

A January 16, 2013, letter sent to the White House from 18 environmental groups, whose opinions seem to be held in such high regard by the Obama administration, challenged the president’s approach—calling “all of the above” a “compromise that future generations can’t afford.” The letter states: “We believe that continued reliance on an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption.” They claim: “an

‘all of the above’ approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future.” The groups see it as a threat to “our most sensitive lands.” Despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, they posit: “clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels” save Americans money. The letter concludes: “We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a ‘carbon-reducing clean energy’ strategy rather than an ‘all of the above’ strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.”

Climate Change

As if an executive decree could make it so, he announced: “the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” True, climate change is a fact—the climate changes, always has, always will. But the debate as to what causes it or what should be done about it is far from “settled.” “We have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods,” he announced. However, droughts and floods have been going on throughout history when CO2 emissions (which he calls “carbon pollution”) were much lower than today. His solution? “The shift to a cleaner economy,” which gobbles up taxpayer dollars in crony corruption (more than 30 such projects have gone bust since the 2009 stimulus bill released nearly $100 billion for “clean energy”).

A story in the January 25, 2013, Economist titled “European climate policy: worse than useless” starts: “Since climate change was identified as a serious threat to the planet, Europe has been in the vanguard of the effort to mitigate it.” Europe has been the global leader in climate change policies that are, according to The Economist: “dysfunctional.” The “worse than useless” piece states: “Had Europe’s policies worked better, other countries might have been more inclined to emulate the leaders in the field.” It points out that Europe’s “largest source of renewable energy” is wood.

A companion article in the same issue of The Economist, “Europe’s energy woes,” states: “Europeans are more concerned with the cost of climate-change policies than with their benefits. European industries pay three to four times more for gas, and over twice as much for electricity, as American ones.” Calling the EU “a lone front-runner without followers,” the article points out: “it is hard to sell the idea of higher energy prices, particularly when the rest of the world is doing too little to cut greenhouse gases.” Rather than learning from Europe, like a lemming, President Obama apparently wants to lead America off the same “useless” cliff.

Minimum wage

He believes that the minimum wage needs to be increased to $10.10 an hour. He wants to “Give America a raise.” Yet, in North Dakota’s boom economy, workers at Walmart and McDonalds are paid in the teens—without government meddling. The best wages are paid with a fully employed workforce. The Keystone XL pipeline would provide thousands of good paying (often union) jobs, but, it was never mentioned in the 2014 SOTU. (By the way, the long-awaited report on Keystone was released on Friday. It found that “the project would have a minimal impact on the environment.” Politico calls the report: “a major disappointment to climate activists.”)

President Obama, you are correct when you say, “opportunity is who we are,” but your policies hurt the poor and block job creation. My question for you echoes what you asked early in the SOTU address: “The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress.” Are you going to help Americans or hinder our opportunities? This question should run through every decision you make in 2014.

On one hand, you say you want to help. On the other hand, everything you do hinders.

[Originally posted at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Blowing smoke over e-cig ad

Somewhat Reasonable - February 06, 2014, 9:35 AM

One of Sunday’s most controversial Super Bowl ads came with the message “Friends don’t let friends smoke.” Bizarrely, it’s organized anti-smokers in the public-health establishment who want the commercial banned.

The line comes in an ad for the NJOY King, an electronic cigarette produced by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY. The commercial shows people helping each other in situations like moving a couch up a flight of stairs or helping a friend in a bar fight. Then one man starts to light up a cigarette, only for his friend to offer him an NJOY King.

For most people, the message is clear: If someone close to you smokes cigarettes, try recommending they switch to a smoke-free alternative.

Those who care about public health should be rejoicing that the private sector is not only placing anti-smoking ads on the country’s largest stage, but that the ad actually offers smokers an appealing alternative to smoking.

Many smokers complain that nicotine gum and patches, which are promoted by government-funded anti-smoking campaigns, aren’t satisfying; e-cigs give those trying to quit an experience closer to smoking. Many ex-smokers who’d failed to quit smoking with the government-endorsed solutions are now succeeding with e-cigarettes.

Yet the response from many of America’s most prominent anti-smoking groups is a call for a ban on all TV and radio advertising of e-cigs. Last year’s NJOY Super Bowl ad made activists furious. That ad, which also ran in select markets, focused on distinguishing between smoking and vaping (for the vapor emitted from e-cigs). Yet Bill Pfeifer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association’s Southwest chapter, fumed that the NJOY ads were “slick misinformation” that should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration, and that both CBS and the NFL should have benched the ads.

Why would the American Lung Association, whose purpose is to reduce lung disease, oppose letting smokers learn about smoke-free e-cigarettes, which even opponents acknowledge are dramatically less harmful than smoking? Because, they argue, some e-cigs look like the real thing.

No, really. E-cigarette opponents say the products should be demonized because they look like cigarettes, or as the World Health Organization claims, they “normalize” smoking.

That’s nonsense.

That some e-cigs look, feel and taste somewhat like cigarettes is actually what makes them so appealing to people trying to quit smoking. Yet if it were up to activist groups, alternatives to cigarette smoking would be entirely unappealing — and therefore ineffective.

As Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health, the largest anti-smoking group in the United Kingdom, recently stated at an e-cig investors conference held in New York City, “If you’ve got a very, very low risk product that no one wants to use, you don’t get much harm reduction.”

Instead, Bates encourages a pragmatic view of harm reduction that recognizes that so long as a product is far less hazardous than smoking, it should be free to compete with deadly combustible tobacco cigarettes.

And public-health advocates should favor giving them competitive edges over cigarettes, such as the opportunity to advertise to adults on TV.

Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC, and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Gregory Conley is a Heartland Institute research fellow.

[Originally published in The Post]


Categories: On the Blog

Community Organizers Chase Trader Joe’s Out of Portlandia

Somewhat Reasonable - February 06, 2014, 7:59 AM

The popular, middle-class-yet-upscale Trader Joe’s grocery store chain wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. And instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.

The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.

The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordly said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)

After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”

Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.

“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”

“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African American-owned construction company.

Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted:

This is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.

Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot:

I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.

Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.

But have no fear, Portland. You might not have a new Trader Joe’s, but PAALF promised to hold a “community visioning process” later this month. No word yet if that brainstorming session will offer jobs, affordable housing or Two-Buck Chuck.

[First posted at Ricochet.]
Categories: On the Blog

Presidential Hubris in the State of the Union Address

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 6:00 PM

President Obama’s State of the Union address on the night of January 28, 2014 was all about “micro-management.” It was micro-management at one level since he realizes that a divided Congress will not pass any “grand” legislation that he might try to submit.

Thus, he proposed a series of small changes that he hopes that either Congress would go along with, or that he can try to impose through “executive order” without Congressional approval (raising potential Constitutional issues).

Indeed, the president’s ambiguity in not stating in great detail all of the specific “executive orders” he might introduce if Congress did not go along with his policy demands highlighted that he was threatening to impose actions that clearly might potentially cross “red lines” separating presidential from congressional responsibilities under the Constitution.

Constitutional Separation of Powers

The Founding Fathers constructed the Constitution in a way precisely to prevent abuse and concentration of power in any one branch of the government. They had had enough experience under a British king who asserted the “right” to arbitrarily impose taxes and regulations over the lives of the American colonists with neither their advice nor their consent.

President Obama has a “progressive” vision for America, but it is one that a large portion of the citizenry do not desire or agree with. Their elected representatives are supposed to reflect and defend their conception of what for many of them means a smaller and less intrusive government in people’s everyday life.

The president’s arrogance is shown by his assertion that he will use executive-imposed coercive methods to impose the policies that he wants, in place of persuasion and a wider legislative consent of the governed by winning more of the American people over to his view of a better country.

Micro-Managing the People’s Lives

But the other level of his focus on micro-management highlights the inescapable political paternalistic mindset in which the president thinks. All the issues that he mentioned in his State of the Union address emphasized a hubris that he knows how Americans should live, act, and associate with each other.

He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;

He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;

He knows how businesses should organize their use of energy in their manufacturing of products;

He knows how long people should be financially able to be unemployed between jobs while looking for employment;

He knows how divergent income inequalities should or should not be in America;

He knows how to create career opportunities for young people and the type of education they should have available;

He knows the type and quality of health insurance and medical care people should receive.

This is why he has faced much of the Congressional opposition, over which he is clearly frustrated. Many people in the United States, and some of their elected representatives, believe that these are not matters for the government. They are matters that should be left up to the judgment, planning and decisions of individuals, families, and voluntary agreements among people themselves in their communities and in the workplace.

The president’s government-imposed “one-size-fits-all” solutions to what he considers to be America’s “problems” are in stark contrast to the diversity of America, and the more reasonable and common-sensical view that people in their own circumstances and with their own knowledge can far better handle their own problems than someone in a far-away national capital with none of the real micro-knowledge of people’s lives.

This partly explains the president’s low poll ratings. People come to resent the arrogant “do-gooder” who presumes to know better how people should live than those people themselves.

Political Presence of Knowledge in Education

What he seems unable to understand – or does not want to understand – is that those in government do not have the knowledge, wisdom or ability to successfully plan the lives, actions, and outcomes of hundreds of millions of people in any way superior to what may result when each person is able to guide and direct his or her own life in their own corner of the society.

For example, how does President Obama know what type of pre-kindergarten education or training would be most effective in, maybe, giving a helping hand to the young? He probably might answer, the educational “experts.” But who are these “experts” other than university academics and government bureaucrats who self-appoint themselves and mutually congratulate each other as the “informed” specialists knowing how children should be raised and awakened to an interest in learning.

Self-confident in their own wisdom, these “experts” lobby and argue for their “scientific” concepts of pre-school education to be imposed on the young at taxpayers’ expense. Education for children of all ages is put into the straightjacket of what the “experts” agree upon or consider “best.”

The advantage of the market – including in education – is that it creates the competitive opportunity and the profit-driven incentive for many minds outside of government to innovate, experiment, and offer to others multiple methods of awakening that interest and ability to learn among the young.

We understand and take for granted that setting many minds to work in the competitive drive for market profits widens the process of discovery for improving the multitudes of products and services in our everyday lives. Better cell phones, improved flat-screen TVs, new stain removing clothing detergents, more convenient ways to read a book on an electronic tablet.

This would be no less true in education at all levels, if only the creative possibilities of many minds in the market were freed from the monopoly and controlling hand of government schooling and mandated teaching techniques.

Arrogance of Dictating People’s Pay

Or on what basis does Obama declare that $10.10 is a “fair” and “living” minimum wage? He would no doubt reply that government bureaucrats have worked up statistical benchmarks of what is “needed” for a minimum standard of living, which every person should receive so as to have enough to satisfy those statistical benchmarks.

But merely saying that a person should be paid a certain amount does not mean that someone else will think they are worth that amount in terms of the wage they are willing and able to pay to have that person do a particular job. Perversely, minimum wages laws often end up harming some of the very people they are supposed to help.

Anyone that a prospective employer considers not to be worth $10.10 per hour will not be hired, or if currently employed may lose their job. No one will pay $10.10 for something, including someone’s labor services, if it is only considered to be worth, say, $9 or “$6.

All you end up doing is pricing out of the market some of the low or unskilled workers who are most in need for the entry level and lower paying job that offers them an opportunity to acquire, “on the job,” the experience, talent, and skills that over time may make them worth more to their existing or some other possible employer.

Take away this opportunity through imposing or further increasing a government-mandated minimum wage, and the government ends up guaranteeing that supposed minimum standard of living through welfare transfers in the form of cash or in-kind services that potentially lock many of these unfortunate people into prolonged or perpetual government dependency.

At the same time, the money to redistribute in this manner must come from increased taxes or more government borrowing, both of which have their negative effects. They undermine the incentives to work, save and invest on the part of those who are producing the wealth of the society, and thus, at a minimum, potentially slows down that rate at which the country’s “economic pie” of goods and services grows and improves over time. At its worst, it can bring a society to the point of stagnation or even economic decline.

Reduced to Pawns on the Chess-Board of Society

More than 250 years ago, the great Scottish economist, Adam Smith, warned about such people who wish to be “social engineers” imposing their plan for a “good society” on the mass of the population.

Adam Smith called such a person the “man of system” who “is apt to be very wise in his own conceit . . . He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board.”

The social engineer “does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the [social engineer] might choose to impress upon it.”

Each piece on that “great chess-board of human society” is an individual human being with his own hopes and dreams, goals and purposes, and ideas of how best to go about improving his own life in free association with others in the networks of social and market exchanges.

But, said Adam Smith, the social engineer’s insistence on imposing his idea of a better society through government power, “and in spite of all opposition . . . must often be of the highest degree of arrogance. And it is to erect his own judgment into the supreme standard of right and wrong. It is to fancy himself the only wise and worthy man in the commonwealth, and that his fellow-citizens should accommodate themselves to him and not he to them.”

The American tragedy right now is that the current occupant of the White House is a man suffering from that “highest degree of arrogance,” and who fancies “himself the only wise and worthy man” in the nation, to whom all the rest of us must conform.

[Originally posted at Epic Times

Categories: On the Blog

Remembering Maureen Martin

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 5:03 PM

One year ago today, Maureen Martin passed away in a house fire at her home in Green Lake, Wisconsin. She had served as Heartland’s senior fellow for legal affairs for ten years and was a good friend of many of us here. She was also a great lawyer, writer, and champion of liberty.

Reading again the remarks I prepared for Maureen’s memorial service, I’m struck by how quickly my memories of an old friend have dimmed. I guess it’s easy to forget people, even those who were wonderful and dear.

I hope all friends and supporters of Heartland will take a moment today to remember Maureen Martin and her many contributions to our freedom.

See our tribute page to Maureen’s life and work here.

Categories: On the Blog

Americans Are Losing Their Freedom

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 4:00 PM

February 1st was National Freedom Day. It commemorates Lincoln’s signing of the House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment. Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865.

Short of another Civil War, Americans have reached a point verging on the loss of their Constitutional freedoms as ever before. The issue then was slavery, but Americans are rapidly moving toward having their Bill of Rights annulled by a President intent on ruling as a despot, making them slaves of a regime that rules as he wishes, ignoring the Constitution and Congress.

His actions have been supported by the Democratic members of Congress and because Republicans only control the House they have seen their legislative efforts to oppose the regime blocked, often by one man, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. The nation’s media with few exceptions have supported or ignored the President’s actions.

Why is this happening? A brief review of the means put forth in Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals”, written by a “community organizer”, outlines what Obama is doing as he seeks to turn America into a socialist state. It is a process that progressives/liberals have been pursuing since early in the last century.

1) Healthcare – Control healthcare and you control the people.

2) Poverty – Increase the poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

4) Gun Control – Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income).

6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school.

7) Religion – Remove the belief in God from the Government and schools.

8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to take (tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

We are close to having everything we write and say known to the regime. As Andrew Napolitano asks, “What if the government spies on all of us all the time and recognizes no limits to its spying? What if its appetite for acquiring personal knowledge about all Americans is insatiable? What if the government uses the microchips in our cellphones to follow us and listen to us as we move about?”

And what if Congress, as World Net Daily’s Bob Unruh has written, has empowered the President to “arrest, kidnap, detain without trial and hold indefinitely American citizens thought to ‘represent an enduring security threat to the United States.’” That’s what the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) does!

“Some of the nation’s most respected legal teams are asking the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the indefinite-detention provisions” of the Act “charging that the law has created the framework for a police state.” That’s how far along we are toward the destruction of the U.S. Constitution.

“The 2014 NDAA was fast-tracked through the U.S. Senate, with no time for discussion or amendments, while most Americans were distracted by the scandal surrounding A&E’s troubles with ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson. Eighty-five of 100 senators voted in favor of the new version of the NDAA, which had already been quietly passed by the House of Representatives.”

Ostensibly a law to address terrorists, the NDAA is a blueprint for a nation in which its citizens have none of the rights spelled out in the Bill of Rights. All it will take is the declaration of martial law or a national emergency.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading opponent of Obamacare, writing in The Wall Street Journal, said, “Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the President’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat…the President’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology.”

Americans will soon have little recourse against a government intent on controlling every aspect of their lives, spying on them, and arresting them for criticizing it.

A May 16 march on Washington may cause the White House and the Congress to pause in its attacks on our freedom and liberty. One can only hope that millions participate.

Americans fought a war to end slavery. Will we have to fight to resist becoming slaves?

Categories: On the Blog

After the Heinous Farm Bill – What Next?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 2:51 PM

Congress is on the verge of extruding a new five-year farm bill.  President Barack Obama says he will sign it.

As has each and every farm bill for coming up on eighty years:

This Farm Bill Stinks

Indeed it does.

Congress Seeks to Jack Up Fees on Home Heating Oil…

Thank goodness we’re experiencing such stark global warming.

…In Midst of Frigid Winter

Oh.  Outstanding.

The fee would last for nearly 20 years… 

Four times longer than the interminable farm bill.

…and would siphon the money to develop equipment that is cheaper, more efficient and safer….

Because the government is so excellent as a venture capital firm.

Solyndra, General Motors and Wall Street: Obama Crony Socialism on Parade 

80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Obama Backers

As Many As 50 Obama-Backed Green Energy Companies Bankrupt or Troubled

So they’re taxing our energy bills – for more of these fabulous “investments.”

…and to encourage consumers to update their equipment.

My monthly electric bill is currently the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Cuba – I’m already full-up on reasons to update my equipment.  Yet another tax won’t “encourage” me – so much as infuriate me.

Speaking of infuriating:

…(T)he bill taxpayers may foot for crop insurance subsidies—at least $89 billion over ten years—may outweigh what taxpayers would have contributed in direct (farm) subsidies. There are other many other costly bells and whistles to be found in the bill.

In short, what Congress has billed as a cost-cutting reform measure is nothing of the sort.

The conservative opposition to this nightmare mess is nigh universal.  Heritage ActionFreedomWorks and Club for Growth are all rightly counting a Yes vote against anyone who casts it.

Heck, even the un-conservative Washington Post is opposed.  And look at the uber-Leftist website Crooks and Liars:

Provision Requiring Lawmakers to Disclose Subsidies Removed From Final Farm Bill

The welfare queens in our Congress don’t want Americans knowing how much they are receiving in farm subsidies.

But this is Washington, D.C. – where reality goes to die.  Soon – likely by the end of this week – the farm bill will be farm law.

So – what next?

This Colossus will be astride us for the next half decade.  There will be nothing more to do about domestic farm policy except to sit here and take it.  Oh – and pay for it.  And borrow for it, so our progeny can also pay for it – with interest.

So let’s take all of this unified, righteous energy and channel it towards something with the potential to effect a far better future outcome.

Let’s make the global farm market safe for domestic reform the next go round.

(O)ur lather-rinse-repeat anti-free-market farm policy (has) warped the emerging global farm market.  The worlds growers saw our bad moves – and matched them.  Subsidy-for-subsidy, tax-for-tax, protectionism-for-protectionism. 

Seven decades later, we have a worldwide Crony Socialist nightmare mess….

None of this has anything to do with a free exchange of goods.

The solution? Negotiate a global across-the-board reduction in government.

This is where the World Trade Organization, usually a colossal waste of space, can actually be of some good use…. 

The worlds sugar-producing nations need to sit down together, each with a copy of everyone elses lists of protectionist sugar policies. And start horse trading. 

Brazil – how about if you get rid of this subsidy, well each get rid of one.”

Mexico – if you get rid of this tariff, well each get rid of one.” 

Let the subsequent discussions ensue. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Something good should come of this farm law heinousness.  To set the stage for far less farm bill heinousness five years hence. 

[Originally published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog
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