On the Blog

Some States’ Tax Policies Are Frightful, Others Are Treats

Somewhat Reasonable - October 31, 2014, 5:11 PM

Just in time for Halloween, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation has released its annual “State Business Tax Climate Index,” finding some states treat businesses in a rather beastly manner, while others give their local employers the fiscal equivalent of a king-sized candy bar.

The Tax Foundation notes, somewhat predictably, that states in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, such as New Jersey, received only rocks in their trick-or-treat bags. According to the index, the Garden State has one of “the worst structured individual income taxes in the country” and taxes property owners at one of the highest rates in the nation.

Life after death may not be a certainty for the dearly departed in New Jersey, but high inheritance and death taxes levied on their survivors helps ensure the state’s economy remains zombified, barely shuffling along with real gross domestic product growing by a mere 1.1 percent in 2013.

Its neighbor in the economic graveyard, New York, ranked dead-last in economic growth, as the state’s anti-business policies helped make the economy remain as quiet as the grave. In 2013, New York’s economy grew by just 0.7 percent.

New York’s ghastly combination of high individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and unemployment insurance taxes teamed up to cement the Empire State’s resting place as the worst state for businesses in the nation.

On the “Other Side,” business-friendly states such as South Dakota and Wyoming grew faster than the Blob. Wyoming, for example, does not tax the incomes of corporations or individual taxpayers, encouraging businesses to move to the Cowboy State. With its arsenal of economically sensible policies, Wyoming’s 7.6 percent increase in gross domestic product last year wasn’t the result of some occult ritual performed at the stroke of midnight, but sound economic policies.

North Carolina deserves a king-sized candy bar for stepping up its business tax game. After living in the crypt of a burdensome fiscal policy as recently as 2013, the Tar Heel State’s economy roared to life, growing by 4.1 percent in 2014. The Tax Foundation study credits a cocktail of economic potions such as cutting the corporate tax rate from 6.9 percent to 6 percent and compressing a byzantine individual tax system into a single bracket with “generous” standard deductions.

The “tax climate” is not the only factor involved in determining a state’s prosperity, but one does not have to hold a séance to figure out people are “crossing over” in increasing droves, from high-tax states to low-tax states. Over the decades, states unfriendly to business—such as those in the Northeast and New England—have lost 40 congressional seats to traditionally business-friendly regions such as the Southeast and Southwest.

This Halloween, state legislators across the nation would do well to overcome their fear of enacting pro-growth policies in their states and prepare themselves to reap the treats of good tax and fiscal policies.

[First published at InsideSources.]

Categories: On the Blog

Beware Common Core Proponents Asking for Treats

Somewhat Reasonable - October 31, 2014, 11:56 AM

It always seems appropriate that Halloween comes just days before an election. Politicians are masters at dressing themselves up in ways that obscure reality, in particular their positions on tough issues.

With the midterm elections looming, the winner of this year’s All Hallow’s Eve costume contest could be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who soon may be announcing his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Among politicians of all stripes, Democrat and Republican alike, there has been no more avid booster of the so-called Common Core State Standards (which actually are national in scope) than Jeb Bush, the patrician son of President Bush I and brother of President Bush II.

Bush hasn’t hesitated from taking potshots at Common Core opponents, variously calling them politically motivated, conspiracy theorists, and even intellectual weaklings who value kids’ self-esteem over serious learning. He has shown no sign of seriously pondering critics’ arguments about the perils of CC’s would-be centralization of power over all education and the serious harm its one-size-fits-all and test-heavy regimen will do to children.

Now, in a five-page, pre-Halloween fundraising letter for his new organization, Excellence in Education National, Bush claims in order for any other policy changes in such areas as regulation and immigration to be effective, “we must first transform our failing education system and have no tolerance for the adult-centered K–12 system that exists today.”

Yet, in the 28 paragraphs about education that follow, Bush mentions Common Core not once. Nowhere can the words “Common Core” or “national standards” be found.

Trick or treat?

Bush says his new advocacy organization, for which he seeks contributions, will “build on the work” of his established nonprofit foundation, the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Yet that foundation has partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and accepted Gates’ largesse in pushing Common Core as the one true prescription for all that ails education.

This seems pretty tricky, and not much of a treat unless you are a member of the elite national standards inner-circle. The blog Truth in American Education even suggested a possible ethical lapse in a big Common Core booster asking for money while not being upfront with donors about where the money would go.

The letter primarily touts achievement gains in Florida public schools as a result of policies Bush pushed. Much of that is attributable to the increases in public and private school choice that Bush did champion effectively as governor. However, the real mind-stumper is how he believes genuine choice can survive if nationalized Common Core standards will be dictating not only K–12 curricula and teaching methods but also criteria for admission to college.

Maybe families could choose among schools with differing dress codes. That would be about it.

Other politicians have also attempted to disguise their devotion to Common Core this Halloween.

In a race for reelection against an ardent foe of the national standards, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) rolled out a startling campaign ad vowing to “disregard Common Core scores for at least five years.” Never mind that he didn’t say he would stop the testing; never mind that any hold on use of scores could be lifted after the election; never mind that (as Politico reported) Cuomo had set up a panel earlier this year to speed Common Core implementation after praising the standards as “a critical part of transforming New York schools.”

Then there is U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) who singled out just one of numerous Common Core-aligned programs, telling state schools chief John White, “I am very concerned with the extreme difficulty and frustration many students and parents are having with Eureka Math.”

The real problem is not one commercialized version of Common Core math but rather the whole “new math” approach of ditching fundamentals for abstractions. However, by picking on just one speck of the rotten Core, Vitter can hope to obscure the blistering rebukes he has delivered against Gov. Bobby Jindal, a fellow Louisana Republican, for trying to rid the Bayou State of CC entirely. Vitter, you see, has his sights set on succeeding the term-limited Jindal as governor next year.

Cuomo and Vitter have dazzled in their colorful chameleon get-ups, but they will have to settle for runners-up to Jeb Bush this Halloween.

[First published at Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

Rhode Island Flooding not West Virginia’s Fault

Somewhat Reasonable - October 31, 2014, 9:45 AM

It must have taken the patience of Job for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to participate in Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s climate change tour of the Ocean State on October 10. Whitehouse promised Manchin that he would go to West Virginia to learn about the coal industry if Manchin would come to Rhode Island to view the supposed effects of global warming on sea-level.

It is important to put the concerns of the two senators in perspective.

On the one hand, Manchin is fighting for the survival of West Virginia’s coal sector, his state’s most important industry, the source of 95% of its electricity, and the foundation for thousands of jobs in dozens of communities. The state’s use of abundant, domestically mined coal gives West Virginia the 7th lowest electricity costs in America – at about one-half the price in California, New York, Rhode Island and several other states.

But West Virginia’s coal sector is under siege from increasingly damaging Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules. Those rules have meant total coal production in West Virginia declined 9% between 2012 and 2013, a period during which 17% of the Mountain State’s coal mines closed, and coal employment decreased 6.4% for a loss of 3,457 jobs already. Even before the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan regulations, which Whitehouse promotes, come into force, the EPA and Obama Administration’s “war on coal” has already cost West Virginia billions of dollars.

Senator Manchin, in other words, is concerned about the immediate, real-world impacts of climate change regulations on real people, families and businesses in his state.

Senator Whitehouse has a different perspective and is apparently not concerned about the cost of EPA emission regulations. Rhode Island gets none of its electricity from coal, having chosen less-carbon-intensive natural gas as its preferred source of power.

As a result, the state has the 7th highest electricity prices in the continental United States. The impact of these high prices on hospitals, schools, churches, businesses and families is significant.

The White House, of course, shares Senator Whitehouse’s perspective. Neither seems worried that, under the EPA rules, electricity prices will “necessarily skyrocket,” as Obama put it when describing his energy plans as Democratic candidate for president in 2008.

Mr. Whitehouse is, however, worried about the hypothetical future impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power stations on “global temperatures.” He believes this will cause “dangerous” sea-level rise along Rhode Island’s coast. Mr. Whitehouse does not hide the fact that, because of these beliefs, he sees his mission as “more or less” to put the coal industry out of business.

If it were known with a high degree of probability that dangerous human-caused sea-level rise was right around the corner, then Mr. Manchin might have reason to sacrifice his constituents’ livelihoods to help save Rhode Islanders from being submerged. But this is not the case.

The September 2013 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change states: “Sea-level rise is not accelerating. The global average sea-level continues to increase at its long-term rate of 1–2 mm/year [0.04-0.08 inches/year] globally” – or four to eight inches over the next century.

As it happens, sea-level rise on the coast of Rhode Island is slightly faster than the global rate – about a tenth of an inch per year in Newport, for example – or ten inches over the next 100 years. Nonetheless, such a slow rate of rise is relatively easy to adapt to, and certainly not worth ruining West Virginia’s economy on the off-chance that it would make any difference to coastal conditions in Rhode Island.

Bear in mind that sea levels have already risen nearly 400 feet since the end of the last Pleistocene Era ice age some 12,000 years ago.

The conflict between the two senators arises because of Mr. Whitehouse’s outmoded belief that rapid CO2-driven global warming is occurring. This, he believes, will cause accelerated glacial melting, the ocean volume to expand, and global sea-level to rise quickly. That in turn would subject low-lying coastal areas of Rhode Island to increasingly intense peak-tide or storm-surge flooding.

Drastically reducing our CO2 emissions is necessary to avoid this looming crisis, he asserts.

However, every step in Whitehouse’s chain of reasoning is either wrong or misleading and based on computer models that falsely assume rising atmospheric CO2 levels will cause rapid global warming. In reality, no global (atmospheric) warming has occurred for the last 18 years, even though CO2 levels have risen 9% during this time.

Neither has there been significant ocean warming since at least 2003. As a consequence, the ocean is not expanding and cannot be causing extra sea-level rise. In fact, the global rate of sea-level rise has actually decreased over the last decade.

The only way the sort of sea-level rise feared by Mr. Whitehouse is possible is if massive quantities of the Antarctic and Greenland ice-caps melted. Not only did that not happen even during the two-degree warmer Holocene Optimum, five to nine thousands years ago, but both the Greenland and Antarctic ice fields have been expanding in recent years.

Moreover, rates of modern sea-level change are controlled by the volume of water in the ocean (which is dependant on worldwide volumes of land ice at any given time), by dynamic oceanographic features such as movements in major ocean currents, and by the uplift or subsidence of the solid earth beneath any measuring station. Humans control none of these factors.

Senator Whitehouse should recognize that Rhode Island’s coastal management problems are his own state’s responsibility, not those of West Virginians. As sea-level continues its natural slow rise along Rhode Island’s coast, flooding due to peak tides and storm surges will continue much as it has for the past century. The way to cope with any small increase in the magnitude of these events is to apply and strengthen current strategies that increase coastal resilience.

In his June 4, 2008 speech on winning the Democratic primaries, President Obama said, “If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment …when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Senator Whitehouse may still believe this pious dream. However, Senator Manchin must resist the nonsensical demand that West Virginians sacrifice their livelihoods and living standards in a vain and King Canute-like attempt to stop the seas from rising.

[First published in the Providence Journal.]

Categories: On the Blog

Overregulation ‘Protects’ Consumers from Ride-sharing Carpools

Somewhat Reasonable - October 31, 2014, 9:00 AM

In a classic case of regulatory overreach, the California Public Utilities Commission has notified three ride-sharing companies — Lyft, Sidecar and Uber — that their respective experimental new features violate state laws regarding chartered transportation.

In a letter, regulators announced that ride-sharing companies must first ask permission to experiment with new services such as carpooling. The assumption is that economic activity should happen only when government bureaucracy permits it to happen, not because consumers find value in a service someone freely chooses to offer.

The services in question aim to help customers save money on getting around. Uber’s carpooling program is called UberPool, and Lyft has dubbed its program Lyft Line.

In theory, the programs increase the ride-sharing companies’ efficiency by picking up passengers located along routes the driver is already taking, headed to points near the driver’s original destination. Seats that would otherwise go vacant as a driver takes a single passenger to his or her destination can now be filled. With these programs, one Uber driver — and one car, for those concerned about the environment — can transport more than one passenger by combining rides.

In each case, the three ride-sharing companies passed the efficiency savings on to consumers, by allowing the travelers to share and split the already discounted “multifare.”

However, this business idea made too much sense, and government regulators saw fit to intervene and kill it in the name of consumer protection. Regulators claim that UberPool and its cousins violate the state’s prohibition on sharing cab fares, because Uber and other similar services are classified as being on an individual-fare basis.

In its mission statement, the CPUC says it is committed to ensuring “reasonable rates” and “a healthy California economy” and aims to “stimulate innovation and promote competitive markets.”

Clearly the commission’s actions against the newborn ride-sharing market contradict its stated mission. The question the CPUC and other regulatory bodies across the nations should always be asking is, “What are the consequences of doing nothing?” How, specifically, does barring Uber, Lyft and Sidecar from pursuing this experiment protect the consumer? The only thing from which the CPUC is protecting consumers is lower fares and more convenient services.

[First published at the San Francisco Chronicle.]


Categories: On the Blog

These Policies are on the Ballot

Somewhat Reasonable - October 30, 2014, 2:48 PM

At a speech October 2, President Obama said, “These policies are on the ballot.  Every single one of them.”  This can be said to be the most truthful statement during the six years of President Obama’s administration.

What follows this paper is an October 26 Wall Street Journal article  “The Other Senate Nuclear Option” by Glenn McCullough.  This article points out Harry Reid and President Obama have stopped work on the Yucca Mountain long-term repository for nuclear waste.  This is after Congress on numerous occasions have approved the repository and spent over $15 billion on site selection and construction.  All rate payers in the U. S. have contributed over $31 billion since 1983 to the fund to solve the nation’s nuclear waste problems.

The Yucca Mountain site will not come online while Harry Reid remains Senate Majority Leader.


Glenn McCullough, WSJ 10-26-2014

Much is at stake as Americans vote on Nov. 4. While different races have different issues, the nuclear-energy world is watching to see which party will control the Senate. If Majority Leader Harry Reid becomes minority leader, he would likely no longer be able to sustain opposition to Yucca Mountain, the Energy Department’s chosen nuclear repository.

On Oct. 16 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report 3, stating that the facility meets the government’s long-term regulatory and safety requirements as a nuclear-waste repository, including the benchmark of remaining safe for a million years. The report is a culmination of decades of scientific and technical studies showing the underground facility in south-central Nevada to be safe and secure for storing spent fuel and other nuclear waste. Yet after nearly 30 years of study, at a cost of over $15 billion, Yucca Mountain is stuck in political gridlock.

The idea of a national used-nuclear-fuel repository was conceived in 1987 in an amendment to the 1982 Waste Policy Act, and Yucca Mountain was approved by Congress in 2002. In 2011, however, the Obama administration yanked the project’s funding.

The president had plenty of help. Nevada Sen. Reid has made it his business to personally kill Yucca Mountain. This was despite the fact that ratepayers across the U.S. who use nuclear energy had already contributed $31 billion to the project—until Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz suspended the one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour fee earlier this year, in response to a court order.

Mr. Reid has unleashed his particular brand of heavy-handed politics to get his way on Yucca Mountain. As majority leader, he applied pressure on President Obama’s appointees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to secure commissioners who advanced his agenda. The NRC chairman who pulled the plug on Yucca Mountain was Gregory Jaczko, a former Senate aide to Mr. Reid.

Just over a year after the administration scuttled the project in early 2010, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying the Yucca Mountain shutdown was not only strictly political, but would also set back used-fuel storage efforts by two decades. As the New York Times reported at the time, “The Obama administration did not provide a technical or scientific basis for shutting down the site and failed to plan or identify risks associated with its hasty closure.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority—which operates two nuclear plants in Tennessee and one in Alabama—has a deep commitment to producing safe, reliable and affordable nuclear energy for its customers. Over the last four decades, ratepayers in the Tennessee Valley who rely on the TVA and local power-supply companies paid about $53 million a year to the Energy Department to fund a used nuclear-fuel repository. TVA isn’t alone. All told, 100 nuclear reactors in 31 states produce 20% of the total electricity in the U.S. Nuclear is a vital part of our nation’s energy mix as we seek enhanced energy security and lower carbon emissions.

Pursuant to federal law, the government was directed to begin providing storage for spent nuclear fuel in 1998. That didn’t happen. As a result, reactor owner-operators began suing the federal government for its failure to begin picking up and storing the waste. The government has lost every one of the lawsuits. Now the Treasury has to reimburse reactor owners for the expense of on-site storage. The current cost to the taxpayer for the government’s failure to establish a national repository is estimated to be $20 billion, and growing at a rate of $500 million each year.

As House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said when the 2011 GAO report on Yucca Mountain was released, “It is alarming for this administration to discard 30 years of research and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, not for technical or safety reasons, but rather to satisfy temporary political calculations.”

Nuclear energy is here to stay. It is safe, environmentally friendly, affordable and good for the economy, jobs and manufacturing. But the nation needs a safe repository for used nuclear fuel. When Americans go to vote next month, they have a chance to tell Sen. Reid and Democrats in Washington what they think about people who have seized Yucca Mountain and turned it into a political tool at a huge cost to taxpayers and the environment.

[Originally published at the Wall Street Journal]

Categories: On the Blog

Reducing Ohio’s Renewable-Power Mandate is Progress, Not Regression

Somewhat Reasonable - October 30, 2014, 12:59 PM

Higher energy prices are blowing in the wind.

Thirty states, including Ohio, have renewable portfolio mandates. These laws require a certain percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar power.

Such laws were mostly enacted in the early 2000s. More-recent backlashes over rising electricity prices, lost jobs, and capital flight have led to proposals across the country to repeal or curtail these standards.

Last June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the first governor to sign a law reducing his state’s alternative-energy portfolio standard. Ohio’s leadership likely will open the door for more such policies to be proposed and passed in other states.

An executive of the Environmental Defense Fund called the Ohio bill a “step backwards.” Those who believe that renewable sources such as wind and solar energy are new, emerging technologies assert that government help is necessary to jump-start these industries. That isn’t true.

In fact, wind and solar power are old, stagnating technologies that date to the 19th century. They have benefited from lavish subsidies, tax credits, and mandates for many years.

Yet wind power provides only 1.4 percent of all energy consumed in the United States today. Solar energy provides less than one-fourth of 1 percent.

Such is the paradox of government interference in the energy sector: People turn to government to spur innovation, but government is a monopoly, shielded from the market forces that create innovation through competition and consumer choice.

That’s why wind and solar energy, propped up by governments everywhere, have stagnated instead of innovating. By contrast, technologies for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling suggest what market forces can accomplish when government gets out of the way.

The boom in natural gas and oil extraction, in Ohio and other states, has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and lowered energy prices. It has led to a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, as power plants convert from coal-fired generation to cleaner-burning natural gas.

The Economist magazine reports that America’s natural gas boom “seems to be doing as much to reduce pollution as many of the efforts introduced over the years to restrict emissions from vehicles, power stations, and other sources.” Yet many renewable-energy supporters oppose fracking and horizontal drilling, even though lowering greenhouse-gas emissions is the main reason they say we need to force people to buy renewable-generated electricity.

The positive effects of energy breakthroughs are felt everywhere in the economy. But no one — including lawmakers and government officials — can foresee when or where the next energy breakthrough will occur. Conversely, government-created stagnation in energy has negative effects throughout the economy.

A 2011 study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston projected that Ohio’s alternative-energy portfolio standard would cause the state to lose 9,753 jobs by 2025. It predicted Ohio consumers would face $8.6 billion in higher energy prices between 2016 and 2025, including more than $1.4 billion in 2025 alone.

Those figures might be a little lower, now that a modest reduction of the standard has been enacted. But Ohioans should continue to press for outright repeal of the mandate, to avoid these negative consequences altogether. Indeed, Ohio should eliminate all other energy mandates, subsidies, and tax preferences, to increase competition and cut energy prices.

Energy is one of the most crucial inputs of economic growth. The pricing, production, and distribution of energy are embedded in everything people and businesses do and create.

If Ohio lawmakers enact policies that promote competition and lower energy prices, households will benefit directly by having their money freed up for other purposes. They also will benefit from lower prices and more jobs, as money becomes available to businesses to redirect to hiring, investing, and increasing their payrolls.

That is, consumers benefit in both ways. It will take time for these benefits to be fully realized, but they should not be underestimated.

[First published in The Toledo Blade.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Wayne Crews

Somewhat Reasonable - October 30, 2014, 9:49 AM

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Vice President for Policy C. Wayne Crews joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor, Jesse Hathaway, to discuss his new working paper, Tip of the Costberg: On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway.

In his study, Crews attempts to create a more complete picture of the cost of government over-regulation by compiling information from several official government databases. Through this extensive use of data, Crews tells Hathaway, one can begin to peer into the halos of hidden “regulatory dark matter” exerting its influence upon the economy.

Categories: On the Blog

Regcession—Why Americans aren’t Feeling Obama’s “Vigorous Recovery”

Somewhat Reasonable - October 29, 2014, 1:59 PM

President Obama is trying, according to CNN, to “convince voters of a vigorous recovery that a majority still doubts.” Describing comments the president made on October 2 at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, CNN calls his attempt, the “political problem inherent in having to describe an economic recovery that many Americans still aren’t feeling.”

The coverage points to polling data that shows the public still sees that the economy is “poor”—with 56 percent disapproving of how Obama has handled the economy.

Perhaps people are beginning to sense what a new documentary makes clear. We may not officially be in a recession, as some numbers have ticked slightly up, but people, as CNN pointed out, aren’t feeling it.

What are they feeling? Higher electricity rates at home, plant closures, and jobs being sent overseas, while few new jobs are being created at home.

On a recent radio interview, a caller told me that companies shouldn’t be allowed to move their business—and the jobs previously held by Americans—overseas. He wanted laws passed that prevented closing an American plant and reopening in China, hiring the locals. I believe laws can be passed that would slow, what Ross Perot called, the “giant sucking sound”—the sound of jobs and economic growth being sucked from America to Mexico, China, or some other country that makes it easier to do business. Instead of controlling whether or not a company can do what is best for its bottom line, wouldn’t it be better to make America the best business environment?

Current government policy is actually the cause of that “giant sucking sound,” the reason people aren’t feeling a supposed economic recovery. These policies, in the form of regulations—especially those from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are keeping people from living the American dream and are even lowering the standard of living from that of our parents.

While we may not technically be in a recession, we are in a regcession—an economic decline caused by excessive regulations. The cost of complying with the regulations makes it virtually impossible to meet them and remain competitive or make a profit. The result of these regulations: Americans lose their jobs, as businesses close or move to more hospitable countries.

Released on October 7, a new documentary (on YouTube): Regcession: The EPA is Destroying America” boldly posits that regulations are actually causing more world-wide pollution, destroying American jobs, and even putting America itself at risk.

Citing President Abraham Lincoln: “If America is to be destroyed, it will be from within,” Regcession makes a strong case illustrating Lincoln’s wisdom.

Regcession proclaims: “Instead of standing up to regulatory insanity, companies have taken the path of least resistance and sent jobs to China.”

Detroit is one such example. President Obama proudly claims the bailout of General Motors (GM) as one of his great successes. We taxpayers had no say in the $49.5 billion we funded to keep GM afloat—supposedly saving jobs and saving Detroit. Yet, as Obama-appointed GM CEO Dan Akerson (2010-2014) said during a 2011 visit to China’s Shanghai Auto Show: “Our commitment to working in China, with China, for China remains strong and focused on the future.” He called the eleven joint ventures with China “eleven keys to success” and bragged that seven out of ten cars GM makes are made outside the U.S. Only one-third of GM’s workers are in America.

We bailed out GM. China’s economy is booming, while Detroit became the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. GM sells more cars in China than in the U.S., while American’s can’t pay their mortgage—let alone buy a new car. Regcession points out that Americans are increasingly driving older cars.

“China’s unregulated industry and underpaid workers, combined with free trade policies make it impractical for American corporations to keep American jobs in America,” states Regcession.

The film features Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) saying: “This administration has generated nothing short of a mountain of red tape—hundreds of new regulations. Of these, at least 219 have been categorized as significant. What that means is that they will cost more than $100 million a year.” It shows TV host John Stossel, author of Give Me a Break and No they Can’t, surrounded by boxes—the 160 thousand pages of new regulations. Yet, the EPA keeps proposing more regulations.

“Anything that hurts the economy, hurts the American worker,” Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama in Huntsville, states. “Environmental regulations in general, while originally well intended to try to protect the environment, end up going overboard and ultimately destroying jobs.”

Since the Clean Air Act was revised in 1990, demand for electricity in the U.S.—along with the American lifestyle—has dropped. Concurrently, China’s demand for electricity—and its lifestyle—has gone up. A growing economy requires more electricity, not less.

America used to manufacture goods that the world wanted. But manufacturing is messy and regulations sent industry away. We now send China, for example, our coal and our lumber. Due to regulations and free-trade laws, it is cheaper and easier for companies to use these American raw materials and manufacture products there and then ship the finished goods to the U.S. America loses the jobs, economic growth, increased property values, and the taxes that would have been generated through the entire process. China puts our cash in its pocket.

Using mitigating human-caused climate change as the excuse, EPA regulations increasingly ratchet down on American industry and electricity generation. Hundreds of billions of dollars have already been spent to remove sulfur, mercury, and particulates from emissions—only to have new regulations force those same factories and power plants to shut down over new carbon dioxide regulations. Jobs go overseas, electricity rates rise for the average American, global pollution goes up.

Don Blankenship, Regcession Executive Producer, explained to me, that with the debt trajectory, the U.S. will be broke—thanks to excessive regulations—long before the planet’s projected warming takes place. Yet, the business community is afraid to fight, as regulators have punitive power.

Industrial chemist Chris Skates, author of Going Green, explains it this way: “If we have an amalgam filling in our mouth for a cavity, there’s enough mercury vapor in the vapor of our breath to contaminate the sample. My question is, if the levels we are testing for are that low, who cares?”

Regcession concludes: “The American dream is being eroded by abusive overregulation, corporate greed, union misrepresentation, environmentalists, and a president whose priority is supposed to be protecting and improving lives of Americans, yet is instead hurting Americans.”

But all is not lost. Americans can end the regcession, by abandoning the doomsday-based regulations and instead have practical, meaningful regulations that give American workers a chance to compete. Dumping bad regulations would be an economic shot-in-the-arm, a true “vigorous recovery.”

President Reagan said we needed to do whatever it took to protect the last bastion of freedom that is America—it is too big, too important to fail. Let’s protect America, not change it.

Stand up for America. Stand up for American jobs. Stand up against over-regulation.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Winning Freedom Requires Radical Solutions

Somewhat Reasonable - October 29, 2014, 1:39 PM

Suppose that there was a button in front of you that if you pushed it would, in one instant, abolish all the governmental controls and regulations on the U.S. economy. Would you push that button, and transform America into a society of free men associating with each other on the basis of voluntary exchange, with government limited to protection of life, liberty and honestly acquired property?

There are many people today who speak about the heavy-handedness of government, and its increasing stranglehold on people’s freedom and the country’s potential renewed prosperity. They often cogently demonstrate the failure and corruption of political manipulation of society. And they say the “private sector” is the key to real and lasting solutions to our social problems.

However, we almost never hear voices declaring a desire to “push the button.” Indeed, what passes for “deregulation” or market-based reform has limited connection with any call for a truly laissez faire capitalist America.

Whether the policy issue is the coming crisis in Social Security, or the failure of public education, or the supposed environmental apocalypse, or the claimed threat from mass immigration into America, or the fear of jobs and business lost to foreign competition, the proposed “fixes” all entail a continuing intrusion of political power into the peaceful affairs of the citizenry.

Let’s look at two examples.

Don’t Abolishing Rather Than Tweaking Social Security

For 70 years the government has asserted its right and duty to plan the retirement of the American people through a compulsory pension system perversely called Social Security. Now, finally, the game is almost up, with not enough people in the working-age population to subsidize all the retirees who have been promised a certain level of income in their later years.

However, rather than admit that it’s all been a fraud and simply end this forced intergenerational redistribution of wealth, even the pro-market advocates merely propose various tweakings of the system: raise the retirement age, lower the promised benefits, and allow Americans to “invest” a portion of their plundered money into government-approved mutual-fund accounts.

This is not freedom; it is merely a continuation of the same old compulsory system under different rules and regulations. What might a real market reform look like? Well, one possibility would be to just abolish Social Security. The government directly owns more than one quarter of all the land in the United States. The land could be sold off at public auctions over a period of time with the proceeds being disbursed to Social Security recipients in descending order beginning with the oldest recipients. Best estimates suggest that the payments would more or less equal what the government robbed from them over the decades.

With Social Security taxes gone and millions of acres of formerly government-owned land transferred into the productive hands of private individuals, those who have been victimized by the system and who cannot make ends meet would and could rely on the benevolence and generosity of good people—just as it was before Social Security was imposed in the 1930s as part of FDR’s New Deal.

Real School Choice Means Ending Government Schools

Many Americans are also frustrated and disappointed with the failure of mandated government schooling, as well as imposed “political correctness” in the government monopoly school system, perversely called “public” education. The shift into private schools and the growth of home schooling demonstrate how much people desire to take greater control of and responsibility for their children’s education. More and more parents are making this financial sacrifice in spite of the tax load with which the government burdens the average American family.

But where are the free-market voices that propose simple abolition of the government’s schools? Instead, schemes are devised for vouchers, educational tax credits, and charter schools. The more fundamental question that is left out of these debates and proposals is: why is government in the school business to begin with?

As a number of writers have pointed out, government schools began in the United States as a tool for political indoctrination to make all young Americans uniform and obedient “good citizens,” as defined by the political authorities. This has continued up to the present time. The only thing that is different today from, say, 30 or 40 years ago is what the state curriculum designers consider to be politically correct.

All the often-angry battles over prayer and sex education in the classroom, or evolution versus intelligent design in the biology curriculum, or saying the pledge of allegiance at the start of the school day would disappear if the state school system were fully privatized.

Parents would send their children to the schools that taught the values and offered the curriculum they considered best for preparing them for the trials and opportunities of adult life. Furthermore, privatization would introduce real competitive excellence as schools strove to attract students at market-determined prices. Under a free-market educational system, rarely would any child be “left behind,” because competition would lower the cost of a good education and private charities would extend opportunities for the less financially fortunate through scholarships and grants.

How could this be brought about? Real market reform would entail privatizing the existing network of government schools. They might be turned over to the existing administrators and teaching staffs, who would become the “stockholders” of the companies. Or they could be auctioned off to private firms desiring to operate a single school or acquire a chain of schools on the market. At the same time, all legal and regulatory restrictions on operating private schools and all government rules on curriculum and staffing would be abolished.

Freedom Needs People Willing to “Push the Button”

I am well aware that many in the free-market camp view such proposals as too “radical.” Americans are not ready for such root-and-branch change, it is said. They need to be weaned from government dependency through gradual changes that would make them amenable to more comprehensive free-market reforms down the road.

There are two responses to this argument. First, many of these more “moderate” and “modest” reform proposals actually threaten to entrench state power even more. “Private” investment accounts with Social Security dollars run the risk of politicizing the financial markets even more than at present. And the voucher plan could extend even further the government’s rules and regulations to all private schools that accept these political dollars. Second, unless there are voices unafraid to present clearly and persuasively the principled and uncompromising case for a truly free society, the goal of liberty may never be established. Freedom requires people who call for “pushing the button,” and who demonstrate why it would be good if we could.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

You Want More Affordable, Accessible Food for the Planet? You Want Less Government

Somewhat Reasonable - October 29, 2014, 10:06 AM

What is far and away the most important global trade commodity?  Food.  People have to eat.

Before the world’s peoples can afford to purchase from us an iPhone, or a Ford pickup truck – they have to buy (hopefully our) food.

And governments are making sustenance so much more expensive.

Governments raise the prices of everything we try to buy. They do so indirectly – via hidden costs of government we can’t clearly see. Just here in the United States:

America’s Soaring Regulations Cost $1.8 Trillion A Year

That $1.8 trillion is added to the cost of everything we make – including everything we try to sell to the rest of the planet.

Much of that government cost-increase is in the food sector. Farm Bill, anyone? Making it harder for peoples around the world – many of them in abject poverty – to afford food.

Governments don’t just sneak up on us – they go after us directly. And tax and tariff what’s left of the daylight out of everything.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) just did this:

Digital Drag: Ranking 125 Nations on Taxes and Tariffs on ICT Goods and Services

ICT stands for “information and communications technology”- how the world taxes iPhones, laptops and Internet service. Shocker – many of the governments are exceedingly greedy.

What do these government impositions do to their peoples?

The scholarly economic evidence is clear that higher taxes and tariffs on ICT goods and services reduce adoption.

“Adoption”means: whether or not they buy tech stuff. More government means they buy less stuff.

Including food. More government – regulations and taxes – means higher food prices. And the global food sector is loaded up with way too much government.

For instance, Americans for Limited Government (ALG) just did this:

Getting Rid of Sugar Subsidies: A Look to the Future After Decades of Failure

Which broadly examines the Crony Socialist nightmare mess that is this global market sector.

India is the second largest sugar producer in the world behind only Brazil. In spite of a five year glut on the worldwide sugar market, India’s government increased supports for sugar exports with a goal of increasing them from 1.3 million tons in 2013 to an average of 2 million tons in 2014 and 15….

Brazilian sugar policy matters, because the South American giant dominates the world market with 25 percent of global production and 50 percent of all exports in the world. Brazil’s dominance and influence is so great that Jonathan Kingsman, founder of the eponymous consultancy states in the Financial Times that, “This harvest, the Brazilians will continue to sell at any price and set the world price in the process.”…

Thailand is the second largest exporter of sugar in the world, and their new military government has plans to immediately and dramatically expand production by opening up new state-owned land for sugar production and encouraging some rice producers to change crops….

Twenty percent of the Mexican sugar industry is owned by the Mexican government creating the ultimate government subsidy –immunity from needing to produce a profit. To assist the rest of their domestic sugar industry, the government provides subsidies for them to export sugar and government loans with debt forgiveness features built into them.

And round and round we go. This is a regulatory arms race – governments meeting governments tax for tax, subsidy for subsidy.

Which raises the price of food for everyone.

If you want to put a real dent in global hunger – put governments on a diet.

[Originally published at RedState]


Categories: On the Blog

Warmists Watch Wrong Weather Warnings

Somewhat Reasonable - October 28, 2014, 1:24 PM

Climateers keep trumpeting alarms that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, thus threatening land-based life with rising seas and supporting their dubious claims that Earth faces catastrophic global warming.

Life on earth cannot be extinguished by a sun-warmed atmosphere or retreating ice – sea levels merely rise steadily as land-based ice melts, animals and plants migrate and the slowly warming seas expel carbon dioxide. This allows the biosphere to thrive with more ice-free land in a benign, warmer, wetter, carbon-rich world.

The threats we should fear are the periodic violent eras of volcanism and the life-killing ice ages many of which start with massive snow/hail storms such as the one that suddenly extinguished the mammoths. This is why many ancient peoples celebrated the warmth of spring and worshipped the Sun God.

For too long the western world has been misled by alarmist claims that a tiny trace of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere will cause catastrophic global warming. In the continuing drama of natural climate change, global temperatures are the result of far greater forces.  Climate research should focus more on the cycles of the sun and solar system and their effect on global climate and on the periodic eruptions along our vast sub-marine volcanic belts. These control the ebb and flow of ice ages and most of the many extinction events that Earth has suffered.

Most geological eras have ended with massive volcanism on land and in the long volcanic/tectonic rifts beneath the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans. Outpouring of lava under the seas causes ocean warming and increased evaporation while the dust from land-based volcanoes darkens the skies, creating a frigid atmosphere. Warms seas and cold skies cause heavy precipitation of rain, hail and snow. The increased snow cover then reflects any solar energy that gets through the volcanic dust, thus maintaining surface cooling. That is how the life-killing ice sheets grow.

Atmospheric modellers have dominated the climate debate for too long. It is time to ask well-informed geologists about Earth’s ever-changing climate history which is written indelibly in the rocks. Instead of wasting billions on bigger computers for yet more atmospheric models, let’s do some factual research on volcanoes beneath the oceans. Then ask some astro-physicists about the possible influence of solar cycles, sunspots, cosmic rays, cloud formation, earth magnetism, rogue asteroids and movements of the solar system through the galaxy.

To believe mankind can counter the effect of these powerful natural climate controllers by trading carbon credits and capturing a few sea breezes and sunbeams using green energy toys is indeed a sad sign of the modern climate madness.

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Rarely About the Environment Anymore

Somewhat Reasonable - October 28, 2014, 11:49 AM

Back in 1970, when I got involved in the first Earth Day and nascent environmental movement, we had real pollution problems. But over time, new laws, regulations, attitudes and technologies cleaned up our air, water and sloppy industry practices. By contrast, today’s battles are rarely about the environment.

As Ron Arnold and I detail in our new book, Cracking Big Green: To save the world from the save-the-Earth money machine, today’s eco-battles pit a $13.4-billion-per-year U.S. environmentalist industry against the reliable, affordable, 82% fossil fuel energy that makes our jobs, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality possible. A new Senate Minority Staff Report chronicles how today’s battles pit poor, minority and blue-collar families against a far-left “Billionaires Club” and the radical environmentalist groups it supports and directs, in collusion with federal, state and local bureaucrats, politicians and judges – and with thousands of corporate bosses and alarmist scientists who profit mightily from the arrangements.

These ideological comrades in arms run masterful, well-funded, highly coordinated campaigns that have targeted, not just coal, but all hydrocarbon energy, as well as nuclear and even hydroelectric power. They fully support the Obama agenda, largely because they helped create that agenda.

They seek ever-greater control over our lives, livelihoods, living standards, liberties and wealth. They know they will rarely, if ever, be held accountable for the fraudulent science they employ and the callous, careless, even deliberate harm they inflict. They also know their own wealth and power will largely shield them from the deprivations that their policies impose on the vast majority of Americans.

These Radical Greens have impacted coal mines, coal-fired power plants, factories, the jobs that went with them, and the family security, health and welfare that went with those jobs. They have largely eliminated leasing, drilling, mining and timber harvesting across hundreds of millions of acres in the western United States and Alaska – and are now targeting ranchers. In an era of innovative seismic and drilling technologies, they have cut oil production by 6% and gas production by 28% on federally controlled lands.

Meanwhile, thanks to a hydraulic fracturing revolution that somehow flew in under the Radical Green radar, oil production on state and private lands has soared by 60% – from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 (the lowest ebb since 1943) to 8 million bpd in 2014. Natural gas output climbed even more rapidly. This production reduced gas and gasoline prices, and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in hundreds of industries and virtually every state. So now, of course, Big Green is waging war on “fracking” (which the late Total Oil CEO Christophe de Margerie jovially preferred to call “rock massage”).

As Marita Noon recently noted, Environment America has issued a phony “Fracking by the Numbers” screed. It grossly misrepresents this 67-year-old technology and falsely claims the industry deliberately obscures the alleged environmental, health and community impacts of fracking, by limiting its definition to only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured. For facts about fracking, revisit a few of my previous articles: here, here and here – and another new US Senate report.

Moreover, when it comes to renewable energy, Big Green studiously ignores its own demands for full disclosure and obfuscates the impacts of technologies it promotes. Wind power is a perfect example.

Far from being “free” and “eco-friendly,” wind-based electricity is extremely unreliable and expensive, despite the mandates and subsidies lavished on it. The cradle-to-grave ecological impacts are stunning.

The United States currently has over 40,000 turbines, up to 570 feet tall and 3.0 megawatts in nameplate output. Unpredictable winds mean they generate electricity at 15-20% of this “rated capacity.” The rest of the time mostly fossil fuel generators do the work. That means we need 5 to 15 times more steel, concrete, copper and other raw materials, to build huge wind facilities, transmission lines to far-off urban centers, and “backup” generators – than if we simply built the backups near cities and forgot about the turbines.

Every one of those materials requires mining, processing, shipping – and fossil fuels. Every turbine, backup generator and transmission line component requires manufacturing, shipping – and fossil fuels. The backups run on fossil fuels, and because they must “ramp up” dozens of times a day, they burn fuel very inefficiently, need far more fuel, and emit far more “greenhouse gases,” than if we simply built the backups and forgot about the wind turbines. The environmental impacts are enormous.

Environmentalists almost never mention any of this – or the outrageous wildlife and human impacts.

Bald and golden eagles and other raptors are attracted to wind turbines, by prey and the prospect of using the towers for perches, nests and resting spots, Save the Eagles International president Mark Duchamp noted in comments to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. As a result, thousands of these magnificent flyers are slaughtered by turbines every year. Indeed, he says, turbines are “the perfect ecological trap” for attracting and killing eagles, especially as more and more are built in and near important habitats.

Every year, Duchamp says, they also butcher millions of other birds and millions of bats that are attracted to turbines by abundant insects – or simply fail to see the turbine blades, whose tips travel at 170 mph.

Indeed, the death toll is orders of magnitude higher than the “only” 440,000 per year admitted to by Big Wind companies and the USFWS. Using careful carcass counts tallied for several European studies, I have estimated that turbines actually kill at least 13,000,000 birds and bats per year in the USA alone!

Wildlife consultant Jim Wiegand has written several articles that document these horrendous impacts on raptors, the devious methods the wind industry uses to hide the slaughter, and the many ways the FWS and Big Green collude with Big Wind operators to exempt wind turbines from endangered species, migratory bird and other laws that are imposed with iron fists on oil, gas, timber and mining companies. The FWS and other Interior Department agencies are using worries about sage grouse and White Nose Bat Syndrome to block mining, drilling and fracking. But wind turbines get a free pass, a license to kill.

Big Green, Big Wind and Big Government regulators likewise almost never mention the human costs – the sleep deprivation and other health impacts from infrasound noise and constant light flickering effects associated with nearby turbines, as documented by Dr. Sarah Laurie and other researchers.

In short, wind power may well be our least sustainable energy source – and the one least able to replace fossil fuels or reduce carbon dioxide emissions that anti-energy activists falsely blame for climate change (that they absurdly claim never happened prior to the modern industrial age). But of course their rants have nothing to do with climate change or environmental protection.

The climate change dangers exist only in computer models, junk-science “studies” and press releases. But as the “People’s Climate March” made clear, today’s watermelon environmentalists (green on the outside, red on the inside) do not merely despise fossil fuels, fracking and the Keystone pipeline. They also detest free enterprise capitalism, modern living standards, private property … and even pro football!

They invent and inflate risks that have nothing to do with reality, and dismiss the incredible benefits that fracking and fossil fuels have brought to people worldwide. They go ballistic over alleged risks of using modern technologies, but are silent about the clear risks of not using those technologies. And when it comes to themselves, Big Green and the Billionaires Club oppose and ignore the transparency, integrity, democracy and accountability standards that they demand from everyone they attack.

The upcoming elections offer an opportunity to start changing this arrogant, totalitarian system – and begin rolling back some of the radical ideologies and agendas that have been too institutionalized in Congress, our courts, Executive Branch and many state governments. May we seize the opportunity.

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Channel Co-Founder on ‘The Kelly File': Al Gore Got a ‘D’ in Only College Science Class

Somewhat Reasonable - October 28, 2014, 10:58 AM

John Coleman, a good friend of Heartland and the co-founder of The Weather Channel, was on “The Kelly File” on Fox News Monday night. Megyn Kelly wanted to interview him after viewing the open letter Coleman wrote to UCLA’s Hammer Museum, asking them to offer balance to a one-sided climate change discussion featuring one of the world’s most famous climate alarmists,  Michael Mann. The museum declined.

Kelly was obviously charmed by Coleman (he tends to do that) as he explained how “life is good.” The icecaps are not experiencing accellerated melting, neither are the seas rising faster than historical norms, nor are we seeing an increase in strong storms — all predictions Al Gore made in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There’s a bit of cross-talk, but Coleman noted that Al Gore took only one science class in college, taught by Roger Revelle, and “Al Gore got a ‘D’ in it … and has made a billion dollars on climate change.” It was a 20-second version of the presentation Coleman gave at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change this past July titled “How the Global Warming Frenzy Began.”

Watch the Fox News segment in the player below:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Categories: On the Blog

Progressives Offer Bipartisan Plan for Health Care? Not Quite

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 5:39 PM

Last week the Center for American Progress released a health care reform plan it claimed should draw bipartisan support because it includes Republican ideas. The first four words of an Associated Press article reporting on the plan were “Borrowing a Republican idea.”

But instead of drawing on the best ideas from both sides of the ideological divide, this latest plan simply repackages left-wing ideas on government-run health care while offering a single token concession to those who believe in market-oriented reform. Instead of showcasing a willingness of progressives to seek common ground with free-market advocates, the plan demonstrates just how little progressives understand about what the free-market means when it comes to health care.

The plan itself is hardly novel or groundbreaking. Its two main pillars are government rationing of health care and price controls on medical services, neither of which is market-oriented or likely to appeal to people with a center-right perspective.

The Accountable Care States plan would require participating states to agree to cap total expenditures on health care for both the public and private sectors. Historically, health care costs have grown faster than the economy. Under this plan, states would agree to limit health care spending growth to just one-half of a percent above state economic growth, well under the one- and-a-half to two percent growth that is otherwise projected.

In the first year or two, shaving a percentage point or two off health care spending growth may not have a large impact. But the effect is cumulative, meaning small cuts at first become very large cuts over time.

This leads to the situation Canada finds itself in, with its global budget limiting how much money can be spent on health care: Extremely long waits for needed care are common.

Half of all patients needing hip replacement in British Columbia, for example, wait more than four months, and 10 percent wait longer than 10 months. Overall, patients in Canada wait about 18 weeks between the time a general practitioner refers them to a specialist and the time they actually receive treatment.

In the United States, the cap imposed on health care costs would force doctors, insurers, and hospitals to ration care, because they simply wouldn’t have the funds to provide all the care that is necessary, at least not in the current third-party payer system.

We’ve already seen the result of this policy here in the United States, with the recently uncovered scandal at the Veterans Administration. Patients were denied care while bureaucrats manipulated wait lists in order to pretend they were hitting their budget and treatment goals.

The second pillar of the Accountable Care States plan is the dubious idea price controls in health care can be substantially improved. The plan would effectively require Medicare, Medicaid, and even private insurers to sign on to new payment schemes modeled on HMO practices of the 1990s, where doctors and hospitals are given a limited amount of money to care for all their patients and are rewarded for saving money. One great way to save money, of course, is to withhold treatment.

Having worked for a primary congressional author of the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which was written to rein in HMO abuses, I can predict with some confidence that reviving this payment strategy will not go over well with the public.

What, then, is the “Republican idea” in all of this rationing and price controls? Apparently people on the right are supposed to swoon because state participation in the plan would be voluntary. The generous compromisers at the Center for American Progress won’t force states to adopt this scheme—at least, not yet.

The Accountable Care States plan is in no way bipartisan. It’s simply a scheme to bribe states into enacting policies long-favored by progressive activists.

There may be hope for real bipartisan, pan-ideological reforms on health care—Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon certainly has some good ideas on this—but the Accountable Care States plan isn’t even a decent starting point.

Categories: On the Blog

EU Climate Compromise ~ I Will If You Will

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 11:41 AM

After the 2009 Copenhagen global climate conference failed to produce a legally-binding global treaty to replace the lapsing Kyoto Protocol, climate campaigners are eager to put some kind of win on the board. Therefore, despite threats to veto the deal and discussions that ran into the wee hours, the European Union’s agreement on a new set of climate and energy goals is being heralded as “a new global standard”—though it is really more “I will, if you will.”

On Thursday October 23, 28 European leaders met at a summit in Brussels to reach a climate deal that would build on previous targets of a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases, a 20 percent boost in the use of renewable sources, and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, from the benchmark year of 1990, by 2020.

Prior to the meeting, countries such as Poland (which wanted to protect its coal industry) and Portugal (which has excess renewable energy that it cannot, currently, export to the rest of Europe)threatened to block the deal. Poorer states in Eastern Europe feared new cuts in carbon output would hurt them economically by slowing business growth. Industrialists complained that the new regulations would discourage business and investment in the bloc, at a time when its faltering economy can ill afford to lose it.

In an interview with Reuters before the summit, Connie Hedegaard, European Climate Commissioner, declared: “There should not be problems that could not be overcome.” As predicated, a deal was struck—though the current team of commissioners steps aside in days and the new commission will have to finesse the implementation.

“It was not easy, not at all, but we managed to reach a fair decision,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated.

The “problems” mentioned by Hedegaard were “overcome”—by cash. To get opposing countries, like Poland, to come onboard, Van Rompuy pledged “extra support for lower-income countries, both through adequate targets and through additional funds to help them catch up in their clean-energy transition.” Reports indicate that Poland “secured a complex set of financial incentives …to soften the impact of the target on Polish coal miners and the coal-fired power stations on which its 38 million people depend.”

The “decision” calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40 percent and a 27 percent increase in renewables and energy efficiency, from 1990 levels, by 2030—though the original plan called for a 30-percent increase in renewables and efficiency.

Already complaining, environmentalists are accusing Europe of abdicating its “climate policy leadership.” The EU accounts for about a tenth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but has generally done more than other major industrial powers to curb them.

Greenpeace claimed the compromise “pulled the handbrake on clean energy” and Oxfam called for targets of 55 percent in emissions cuts, and increases of 40 percent in energy savings (efficiency) and 45 percent for use of renewable energy.

While Environmentalists are not happy, the BBC reports: “Europe’s leaders have been under heavy pressure not to impose much higher costs, especially when the economy is struggling.”

“Poland has long argued,” according to Reuters, “there is no reason for Europe …to commit to deeper emissions cuts before the rest of the world does”—and this is where “I will, if you will” comes in.

EU leaders claim to be “setting an example for the rest of the world,” yet the final text includes a “flexibility clause,” also called the “Paris review clause.” According to the EU Observer, “The EU agreement—the so-called climate and energy framework—is to be reviewed after an international summit on climate change in Paris in 2015. This means that, in theory, the European Council can change the targets if they are not matched by non-European countries.” The report continued: “Several eastern and central European countries feared that if the EU set too ambitious targets, while other nations like China or the US, slack, it could harm their competitiveness.”

The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch explains it this way: “the EU goals are not legally binding until a new United Nations climate treaty is approved.” He adds: “the EU’s climate targets are only proposals laid out as a bargaining chip before next year’s UN summit in Paris. A clause in the EU agreement would trigger a ‘review’ of key climate targets if the UN summit is a dud.”

Dr. Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation agrees: “The EU announcement was reported in the media as if the EU has already adopted these aggressive new CO2 targets. This is however not the case. In reality the EU Commission only proposed a conditional offer as a negotiation card to be played during the 2015 negotiations at the UN climate conference in Paris. In the absence of an international agreement it is very unlikely that the EU will adopt any new unilateral targets. The EU has made it perfectly clear that it is no longer willing to go it alone.”

The chances of a new global treaty in Paris are slim.

190 countries, that, in 2009, pledged $190 billion in aid for climate-related projects for developing countries, can’t agree on a formula for their aid commitments. Without the aid, island nations won’t agree to emissions reductions.

President Obama, according to the New York Times (NYT), looks toward an “agreement,” a “politically binding” deal, not a “legally binding treaty”—as the Senate will not ratify a new climate treaty (especially if the Republicans take control). The NYT quotes Paul Bledsoe, a top climate-change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House in international climate policy: “If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time.” The “agreement” would include “voluntary pledges.”

Addressing the potential success of a 2015 global climate agreement, Roman Kilisek, in Breaking Energy, posits that “it will be illusive and will at best consist of a plethora of watered down, voluntary, and above all, flexible carbon emission reduction targets and strategies.”

The NYT’s reporting concurs with the “I will, if you will” approach: “unilateral action by the world’s largest economy will not be enough to curb the rise of carbon pollution across the globe. That will be possible only if the world’s largest economies, including India and China, agree to enact similar cuts.”

For more than twenty years, international discussions designed to address climate change have taken place. Parties have signed treaties, pledges, agreements, and accords. Yet, carbon dioxide emissions are higher than ever, predictions haven’t come true, and the planet hasn’t warmed. Polls continue to show that climate change is a low priority for Americans. Even NPR has cut its climate reporting staff by 75 percent.

Engaging in the symbolism over substance that is typical of the climate change campaign, the EU agreed to emissions cuts—but only if everyone else does (the U.S. won’t).     [Originally published on Breitbart.com]
Categories: On the Blog

Activists Push to Censor Texas Textbooks

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 11:12 AM

There is a controversy over proposed new school textbooks in Texas—not over what is actually in the books but instead over scientific facts environmental lobbyists want the publishers to keep out of them. The activists want to censor the textbooks.

Texas is a huge market for textbook publishers, so publishers listen seriously to questions raised by the Texas Board of Education (TBOE). When TBOE adopts a textbook, much of the nation follows.

The TBOE is in the midst of adopting new social studies textbooks for the first time in 12 years. The books approved will probably be used in schools for more than a decade.

Thus the controversy. With the ability to influence the thoughts of millions of schoolchildren regarding environmental issues, especially climate change, these alarmists want to censor the textbooks. They want to pressure the TBOE to remove passages which are accurate but, in being so, question the alarmists’ beliefs.

The global warming dogma is fairly simple (although the array of arguments used to support it are complex even though simpleminded): Humans are causing climate change; the results will be catastrophic; and governments must force people to use less energy and live poorer and simpler lives in order to prevent disaster. These activists want textbooks to teach students what to think about climate change, not how to think.

The TBOE and textbook publishers are not following the activists’ lesson plan. Instead, they recognize each of the dogma’s key points is still open to question and subject to lively debate within the scientific, economic, and public policy communities.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has been at the forefront in criticizing Texas’ textbook selection process. The NCSE is not a group of scientists or science teachers, but instead an activist group devoted in part to promoting global warming alarmism. That’s why it issued a report condemning the proposed textbooks for recognizing basic questions of climate science are still up for debate. Dr. Minda Berbeco, director of the NCSE, has stated, “The scientific debate over whether climate change is happening and who is responsible has been over for years.” That comes as a big surprise to the plethora of climate scientists who have published and continue to publish peer-reviewed academic journal articles skeptical of one or more of the three tenets of the climate dogma.

The NCSE falls back on the tired old claim that 97 percent of climate scientists agree humans are causing dangerous global warming. First, it’s important to note consensus is a political term, not a scientific one. The ability of a theory to be disproved is essential to the scientific method. Second, although the 97 percent claim is based on faulty (and in fact phony) studies, there is indeed consensus on two points: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and humans have had some effect on the earth’s climate.

The important questions remain unanswered, however. Are humans or other natural conditions responsible for the majority of the past century’s warming? Would a global warming be bad or good for humanity, on balance? And if humans are responsible and the results are generally harmful, what are the best responses? There is widespread disagreement on each of these points, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

The proposed textbooks don’t deny human-caused global warming is happening; they just accurately report scientists are still debating the matter. They present the evidence and invite the students to make up their own minds. That’s what real scientists do.

Openness to evidence and ongoing questioning are the cornerstones of scientific discovery, but this is what critics of the social studies textbooks fundamentally dispute. They aren’t just questioning the value of continued debate concerning global warming but actually denying the foundations of the scientific method and calling for censorship to enforce their bigotry. The NCSE wants to replace observation, hypothesis, testing, and success or retraction with dodgy polls of self-described experts. Their agenda is not science; it’s censorship.

[Originally published at Human Events]


Categories: On the Blog

Ronald Reagan’s ‘A Time for Choosing’ Speech at 50

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 10:52 AM

Today marks 50 years to the day that, to paraphrase the late great Libertarian Murray Rothbard, Ronald Reagan made ‘The Speech’ entitled ‘A Time For Choosing’, “delivered over nationwide TV during the 1964 Goldwater campaign” and thus “established him as the ‘Great Communicator’ of the right wing” … of the GOP and most Conservatives and many Libertarians throughout the USA and beyond. As recently reported in Breitbart: “This oration on behalf of conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964, put Reagan on the political map and eventually launched him to the presidency.” Interestingly, the LA Times reminded in 2011 that, “if the address has become one [of] the landmarks of Reagan’s political career” since then, “it certainly didn’t start out that way” back-in-the-day.

Regarding ‘The Speech’ itself, Breitbart gives a good overview of the way many, if not most, on the modern American Right would characterize, not only the flavor of this particular 1964 dissertation, but also, Reagan as President and man and in both word and deed. “Reagan’s half-hour performance in front of a live audience drew from American history … and laid out the deep principles that would become the cornerstone of the conservative movement for the next half century. Channeling the American tradition and ideas stemming from the founding, Reagan proposed to set out a bold, new course for American governance that departed from the mantras of a calcified twentieth century progressivism. By appealing to patriotism, the American dream, and simple, common-sense ideas Reagan helped lay the groundwork for a resurgent conservative movement. Reagan energized young people, many of whom would help put him in the White House [for most of the 1980s].”

Regarding ‘Reagan the man’, his former budget director David Stockman recently stated: “I would say he was quite well informed, but his education, particularly on economic matters, was pre-1930. … So a lot of people misunderstood his … old [classical] liberal worldview of economics, for lack of information, or lack of knowledge, or lack of intelligence. I think that was wrong. … [H]e had a tremendous temperament. He had a willingness to listen to people. He gave people an opportunity to do their job. So there are pluses and minuses, but I think a lot of the conventional stereotypes, negative or positive, really don’t capture the more complex reality that existed.”

I am nowadays a self-described Libertarian of the Austrian School rather than of the Chicago School (and more so Rothbardian Austrian than Hayekian Austrian). Fellow Austro-Libertarians have largely taken a dim view of ‘Reagan the President’, particularly given the sorts of pro-liberty things he said over many years during and prior to his Presidency, including of course in ‘The Speech’. (Austro-Libertarians usually provide a small caveat in favour of the Jimmy Carter appointed Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who stopped printing money like a drunken counterfeiter … which has rarely been the case in the past 100 years of US central banking.) Sheldon Richman in 1988 summed up the Austro-Libertarian view as follows: “Ronald Reagan’s faithful followers claim he has used his skills as the ‘Great Communicator’ to reverse the growth of ‘Leviathan’ and inaugurate a new era of liberty and free markets. … Yet after nearly eight years of Reaganism, the clamor for more government intervention in the economy was so formidable that Reagan abandoned the free-market position and acquiesced in further crippling of the economy and our liberties. In fact, the number of free-market achievements by the administration are so few that they can be counted on one hand—with fingers left over.” Paraphrasing Austro-Libertarian historian John Denson who was more charitable a dozen years later: “His often expressed campaign slogan was ‘Government is not the answer, it is the problem’, but, unfortunately, he did not—or was not allowed to—put the idea into practice during either of his two administrations.”

Another Austro-Libertarian historian, Thomas Woods, not too long ago said: “[T]he Thatcher record, like the Reagan record, is less impressive than the legends of Right and Left would have it … [but] even though, with both Reagan and Thatcher, the free-market program was sometimes more rhetorical than real, pro-market rhetoric was better than nothing, especially in the late 1970s [or mid 1960s … or even, regrettably, in 2014].” It is in this spirit that I choose to look at ‘The Speech’, particularly as the words of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (along with the ideas of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman) helped to start me on a positive life’s journey to eventually reach the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and words of Ron Paul, as well as many others.

The whole of ‘The Speech’ can be viewed here (or in the embedded video above) and read here. What also follows below (in order of their appearance within) is a sample of just some of the many quotes that, are not only still inspiring for tomorrow, but are sadly still pertinent for today. Enjoy:

Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. … And we’ve just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.

We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.

If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

‘[T]he full power of centralized government — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be.

For … decades, we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.

And when the government tells you you’re depressed, lie down and be depressed. [tongue-in-cheek]

We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.

So [the Democrats are] going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it [more like 100+ years] — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? … But the reverse is true.

Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency. [tongue-in-cheek

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things — we’re never “for” anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

[The Democrats] called [Social Security] “insurance” to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term “insurance” to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax.

[W]as Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation, so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar’s worth … ?

I think we’re against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.

I think we’re for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we’re against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

These proliferating [federal, state, and local] bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you … back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And … to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists.

Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state …

They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.



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Categories: On the Blog

Net Metering Gives Big Advantage to the Wealthy

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 9:38 AM

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams are coming true thanks to a government policy called net metering, which allows wealthy environmentalists who have installed solar panels on their roofs to profit unfairly at the expense of economically-disadvantaged people who can’t afford the technology themselves.

Here’s how it works.

Solar panels and special electricity meters that run both forward and backward are installed at a residence and hooked up to the grid. The panels generate electricity that can be used in the household, and any extra electricity generated by the system is sent into the grid and is credited to the homeowner’s account by rolling back the numbers on the meter.

When the solar panels cannot produce enough electricity because of lack of sunshine at night or on cloudy days, these homes use electricity from the grid (typically generated from coal or natural gas), causing the meter to move forward.

At the end of the billing cycle, the homeowner is charged for the electricity purchased from the local power plant (the grid) minus the amount of electricity generated from solar “sold” to the grid, resulting in households paying for the “net” difference of electricity used, hence the name “net metering.”

Here’s where it becomes unfair: Many states require power companies to pay the full retail price for electricity generated from rooftop solar, instead of wholesale prices, even though it is generally less expensive for them to generate this power themselves. In Arizona, this means utilities are forced to pay nearly 300 percent more for electricity than if they were allowed to buy power on the open market.

This is a problem because the retail price of electricity is calculated to include the costs of upkeep for the entire grid, such as power lines, electric poles, transformers, traditional power plants (which people with solar panels still use on a daily basis), the salaries of people who work at utility companies, and taxes. When power companies are forced to buy solar electricity at full retail prices, owners of solar panels are not paying their fair share, because they don’t support the costs of the grid.

In fact, because net-metered customers are both buying and selling electricity, they rely on the grid more than customers without rooftop solar, but they are paying less into the system. As a result, utility companies must raise electricity prices for everyone else to make up this cost. Wealthier people are predominant among those who can afford solar panels, which means a shift in the cost burden from the well-to-do to those who can afford it least has now occurred.

Solar panels are undoubtedly a rich person’s game. The average home solar power system costs $20,000 to $30,000, a barrier for most middle and lower income households.

This barrier isn’t just speculation; it’s supported by the numbers. The California Public Utilities Commission conducted a study on the state’s net-metering policy and found 78 percent of solar-customers had higher incomes than the median California household. In fact, the average annual household income of solar customers was $91,210, much more than the $54,283 average for non-solar customers.

Another study shows just 4.1 percent of solar installations occur in ZIP code areas where households earn below $40,000 dollars median income. Imagine what the percentage of households with solar panels is for families with even lower yearly incomes, and then imagine how people in this situation must feel when they see their electricity bills rising and know there is nothing they can do about it.

In its current form, net metering encourages wealthy people to install solar panels on their roofs by forcing utilities to pay full-retail costs for the electricity generated from the panels. This increases the costs for everyone who doesn’t have solar panels, including those who already live in poverty.

The obvious way to remedy this is to change the compensation price for the electricity solar customers produce so that it reflect the costs of grid upkeep. Unfortunately for the poor, wealthy environmentalists tend to wield inordinate political power, and they don’t like it when you try to take away their subsidies, even if it hurts everyone else.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: David Schnare

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 9:30 AM

The Energy and the Environment Legal Institute promotes free-market environmentalism through strategic litigation.  David Schnare, General Counsel of E&E Legal, discusses several ongoing actions, including E & E Legals’ request that the IRS and FEC investigate the Sierra Club for illegal fundraising and improper electioneering activities.

E & E Legal requested that the FEC investigate the Sierra Club for potential federal and state financial disclosure violations. The Sierra Club recently bought $1 million in ads aimed at smearing and defeating Iowa Republican State Senator Joni Ernst in her bid for the U.S. Senate.

The FEC complaint argues that the Sierra Club has taken money donated to it for environmental programs, but then spend that money on political activities, which E & E Legal believes violates campaign finance laws.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Ripping Off Taxpayers to Support its Policies

Somewhat Reasonable - October 27, 2014, 8:54 AM

For those concerned about the U. S. government going in debt $1.5 billion every day, rejoice.  Here is a chief example–EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be in Atlanta October 26 to address the National Congress of American Indians.  (The News Announcement follows this article.)  No doubt she will be giving out large amounts of ‘wampum’ to keep tribal support for EPA regulations that inhibit economic growth of the United States.

EPA gives out grant money (your tax dollars) to insure support for its economy killing policies like the most recent Carbon Pollution Standards (Clean Power Plan).  Look at this waste in the past ten years–6398 grants for $1.8 billion for Indian Tribes. “In its war against fossil fuels, the EPA has a variety of tools of which one powerful help is the grants to a variety of organizations such as governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations called non-government organizations (NGOs). The database shows grants for the past ten years, including earlier grants that started before that time and still continuing, are 34,208 for a total cost of $58.724 billion.  Using a conservative estimate of $100,000 grant money equaling one man-year of effort, this sum represents 590,000 man-years of employment. Many of these workers do the bidding of EPA on supporting its policies.  Enthusiastic support may be necessary for grant renewals.

These grants from EPA included 6398 grants for $1.807 billion to Indian Tribes.  With the U. S. government going into debt $1.5 billion per day, all grants are an extraordinary waste of tax dollars. This activity should be stopped.”

It would be great if a demonstration can be held in front of the hotel protesting this waste of tax dollars.  Going to the link–grants to a variety of organizations shows detail about individual grants.

James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog
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