The great Angelo Codevilla recently wrote about a subject keenly on the minds of many Heartlanders — especially Research Fellow Steve Stanek. (If you’re not familiar with Codevilla’s peerless prose, do some Googling.)
In Codevilla’s piece for the Library of Law & Liberty blog, he notes with alarm that too many American police forces — from federal SWAT team of the (yes) U.S. Department of Education, to your local black-and-whites taking down 107-year-old men in a shootout — “operate militarily and are trained to treat ordinary citizens as enemies.”
This is a very troubling development, because it seems that the government at all levels considers citizens who refuse to comply (even peacefully) as enemies of the state — subject at a whim to the full, lethal force of government. As Codevilla writes:
The people from whom the government personnel take their cues routinely describe those who differ from them socially and politically as illegitimate, criminal, even terrorists.
Do you remember that incident from earlier this month when a lady rammed her car into the barricades a block from the White House, injuring a police officer (not seriously), then fled and rammed the barricades several blocks from the “important people” in the Capitol? You don’t?
Miriam Carey had no beef with the government — and God knows we’d never hear the end of it if she ever attended a Tea Party rally or drove past one on her way to Wendy’s. Carey was apparently the most-unfortunate sufferer of post-partum depression in history. The woman died in a hail of bullets, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that her child in the back seat was not also killed as she rammed a second barricades. Was lethal force really necessary. Obviously, in hindsight, no.
Our government buildings in DC are locked down in permanent “war footing,” and we all know why. Terrorists who would load a bomb with massive explosive devices are itching to take out government officials. That’s a legitimate threat and we must always be vigilant. I’m loath to ever Monday-Morning-Quarterback the actions of DC’s finest, but did Miriam Carey — driving a sedan, not a truck — deserve the instant death penalty for running into a barricade designed to stop her? Terrorist masterminds who have executed far worse intentional attacks sit in comfort at Club Gitmo, awaiting trial.
Codevilla puts this scene in a way we all must see:
This month in Washington DC, Federal police riddled with bullets a woman suffering from post-partum depression who, had she been allowed to live, might have been convicted of reckless driving, at most. She had careened too close to the White House and Capitol, but had harmed no one and her car had stopped. In the same month, California sheriffs’ deputies killed a 13 year-old boy who was carrying a plastic toy rifle. It is not illegal to carry a rifle, never mind a toy one. America did not blink.
That last line is the nut: “America did not blink.”
Shouldn’t we at least blink?
The Obama administration is beginning to resemble a damaged car windshield: A small ding from an unexpected flying pebble turns into a spider web of cracks, leaving the windshield difficult to see through and dangerously unstable.
Given the years of failure of both domestic and foreign policy, and the many real scandals born of this administration’s incompetence and corruption, it is a measure of the stubborn refusal of the mainstream media to behave as journalists that the first cracks have been caused by the rollout of the Obama administration’s proudest “achievement,” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare.
But where most windshields remain serviceable for months after the first chip, the façade of President Obama’s credibility is cracking up with stunning rapidity, even among some ardent “journalist” supporters and erstwhile human shields. Until Obamacare is either functioning well or substantially delayed or repealed (none of which is likely before the next election), the spreading web of cracks will make the administration’s efforts in any other policy area — and its ridiculous attempts to distract Americans from the disaster that is the Affordable Care Act — impossible to see. When the windshield is badly cracked, it is difficult to focus on anything but the cracks themselves.
If I may mix metaphors, reporters and the news organizations they work for are sharks, ever ready to gorge on a wounded potential meal. Unlike sharks, most of those who take up the profession of journalism preferentially smell conservative blood in the water. But at some point both the strength of the odor and the recognition that “if I don’t eat him, another shark will” overcome their inherent bias. And when enough join in, the feeding frenzy can be an awesome sight.
And so it comes to pass that on Tuesday morning, Lisa Myers of NBC News — a crew that has been one of the most eager propagandists for the Obama administration, with Ms. Myers herself calling the press one of Obama’s “most important constituencies” — publishes a devastating article entitled “Obama admin knew millions could not keep their health insurance.”
According to NBC, at least half, and perhaps as many as 80 percent, of Americans who buy their insurance through the individual market will have their policies canceled due to Obamacare. And, the administration knew that this would be the case throughout the past few years while the president was repeatedly assuring Americans that “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan.”
(I dealt with the left’s desperate retorts to NBC on these pages yesterday.)
Also on Tuesday, on CBS This Morning, Jan Crawford reported that insurance companies are cancelling more than two million insurance policies in the several states from which they were able to get data. (Another analyst says that “Because the Obama administration’s regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent as many as 16 million are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal.”)
With language that the administration only expects from Fox News, the CBS report was aggressively critical: “The White House is on the defensive, trying to explain how when the president said ‘If you like your doctor or your health care plan,’ he really didn’t mean it.”
Crawford’s report wasn’t a one-off: Just the day before, she announced that “For many, their introduction to the affordable care act has been negative. A broken website and now cancellation notices from insurance companies, followed by sticker shock over higher prices for the new plans. It’s directly at odds with repeated assurances from the president.”
It doesn’t help Obama’s credibility that just as he drew a red line regarding Syria and then claimed he didn’t, his propagandist-in-chief is now saying that “what the president said and what everybody said all along” was that there are existing plans which will not be permitted under Obamacare. Jay Carney had the gall to call such policies, which millions of Americans have researched and voluntarily purchased, “substandard.” Perhaps the administration should also ban “substandard” cars like Hyundai and Buick, and require everyone to buy Mercedes-Benz and Maserati.
The Chicago Sun-Times (the other Obama home-town paper to pile on the Obamacare disaster) reports a former Democratic congressional staffer’s buyer’s remorse: “I spent two years defending Obamacare. I had constituents scream at me, spit at me and call me names that I can’t put in print. The congressman was not re-elected in 2010 mainly because of the anti-Obamacare anger. When the congressman was not re-elected, I also (along with the rest of our staff) lost my job. I was upset that because of the health care issue, I didn’t have a job anymore but still defended Obamacare because it would make health care available to everyone at, what I assumed, would be an affordable price. I have now learned that I was wrong. Very wrong.”
As if Tuesday wasn’t already bad enough for Team Obama, CNN reported that “The Obama administration was given stark warnings just one month before launch that the federal healthcare site was not ready to go live, according to a confidential report obtained by CNN.” And later the same day, CNN also described how the Obama administration is trying to silence potential criticism from health insurance companies, noting that the companies warned the White House that Obamacare would necessarily cause the cancellation of many Americans’ insurance policies.
Even Politico, which has drifted steadily into stultifying run-of-the-mill liberal bias during its brief existence, is now beginning articles with anti-Obamacare snark: “Trying to sign up for Obamacare the old-fashioned way — paper, pen or telephone? Good luck with that.” Of course, those routes to use the federal exchange are only necessary because the “supposedly state-of-the-art $600 million HealthCare.gov portal [is still] malfunctioning.”
The sharks in the press pool smell the Obama administration’s blood in the water. Despite their inclination to defend a president and a law they so deeply support, no half-decent political reporter will want to be the only journalistic remora in the room who drifted by while everyone else gorged themselves on the historically spectacular collapse of a historically flawed and partisan piece of legislation — a description equally apt for the president whom the law is named for. And so White House Press Secretary Jay Carney watches the fins draw ever nearer.
But it’s not just reporters. Some of the most aggressively liberal media pundits are also now worried that without criticizing the too-obvious incompetence and failure of the administration, their “slobbering love affair” with the president may come back to hurt what little integrity they have left.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, the man who famously felt a “thrill going up my leg” when Barack Obama got elected, admitted on Tuesday that the “average person [feels] double-crossed by the president” and that the Obamacare fiasco — which is to say the impact of the law itself and not just the issues surrounding the website — “will be a real problem for the president in terms of his credibility.” One wonders whether Matthews then called himself a racist since his most consistent theme has been that any critic of Obama might as well be a Klansman.
On the very same Tuesday as the NBC and CBS reports, the reliably liberal Richard “tea party brats” Cohen of the Washington Post published an op-ed entitled “A question of competence” in which he calls the administration’s response to the failed Obamacare rollout “pathetic.” Cohen suggests that another president (presumably almost any other) would have reacted much differently, taking the problems with more seriousness than this White House seems to. He worries that Obama “has lately so mishandled both domestic and foreign policy that he is in mortal peril of altering his image.” Better late than never, Richard.
And even Richard Cohen now agrees with so many rational Americans that the failure of Obamacare (along with the president’s disastrous performance regarding Syria) “help validate the once-frivolous Republican charges of incompetence. A competent president would beware.” It must have pained Cohen to write this almost as much as it pains his Post readers to read it.
It’s becoming a feeding frenzy.
If I may return to my original metaphor, it will take some time — but less time than the left expects — for the cracks in the Obama administration’s windshield to spread into the president’s approval ratings and, shortly afterwards, to boost Republican prospects in the 2014 elections. The Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll of Obama’s job approval shows 23 percent “strongly approve” (versus 40 percent strongly disapprove) and 47 percent overall approval (versus 51 percent overall disapproval), representing substantial declines over the past two weeks and hovering near his lowest levels of the year. Gallup’s daily job approval survey has shown the president’s disapproval level exceeding his approval level consistently for the past month.
The increasing negativity about Obama and Obamacare is not yet influencing polls regarding the 2014 elections, in part because House Republicans came off looking so ineffective during the government shutdown. This will change soon, as the GOP works to make the election a referendum on those who supported an increasingly damaging and unpopular law.
The important change is not that Republicans will campaign against Obamacare, but that they suddenly have allies, albeit hesitant, unwilling, or unwitting, among “mainstream” media reporters and pundits. The Obamacare website fiasco may have caused the first ding in the windshield, but with even liberals — who used to serve as the president’s own chip repair kit — pounding on it now, the sound of the administration’s last bit of credibility crashing into thousands of sharp pieces cannot be far off.
[First Published by American Spectator]
One year ago [Tuesday], Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, killing more than 100 people and causing more than $50 billion in damage. Global warming activists and their media allies will spin the anniversary as a wake-up call to impose costly economic restrictions in the name of combating global warming. In reality, we should thank global warming for making hurricanes less frequent and less severe. Indeed, Hurricane Sandy may well have been much more deadly in the absence of global warming.
As an initial matter, we must keep in mind that hurricanes are nothing new. Hurricanes slammed the U.S. coast long before people drove SUVs and enjoyed the many benefits of affordable, coal-powered electricity. Nevertheless, global warming activists attempt to connect every hurricane, tornado, drought and flood to global warming, as if these are all new climatological events ushered in by our modern economy. We can easily determine whether global warming is having a substantial impact on such extreme weather events by examining historical records. If hurricanes and other extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe in recent decades, this is significant evidence that global warming may be making extreme weather worse.
Any way you measure it, however, global warming is having no impact or a beneficial impact on hurricanes. Objective National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data show hurricanes are becoming less frequent as our climate warms. Atmospheric scientist and tropical cyclone climatologist Ryan Maue presents the data for all to see on his Policlimate website. The data show quite clearly that for as long as satellites have tracked global hurricane and tropical storm activity (since 1970), hurricane and tropical storm activity has been in steady decline.
Importantly, the declining trend in hurricanes is especially strong regarding major hurricanes. Major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) struck the United States 50 percent more often during the first half of the 20th century than in the decades since. (see Past Tracks of U.S. Landfalling Major Hurricanes) As our planet warms, the strongest hurricanes are the hurricanes in most striking decline. Indeed, the United States is currently experiencing its longest period in recorded history (since records began in 1850) without a major hurricane strike. It has been 8 years since a major hurricane struck the United States, blowing away the old record of 6 years, 2 months.
The trend is also striking regarding Northeast U.S. hurricanes. Major hurricanes routinely struck the U.S. Northeast during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. (see Past Tracks of U.S. Landfalling Major Hurricanes) From 1960 through 2010, however, just one major hurricane struck the U.S. Northeast. Hurricane Sandy brought merely 80 mph, Category 1 winds at its New Jersey landfall, which pales in comparison to prior hurricanes, such as Hurricane Carol which struck Long Island as a Category 3 hurricane in 1954. When people say, “We never used to have hurricane events like this here in the Northeast,” it is only because those people either weren’t alive or don’t remember the much stronger and more frequent Northeast hurricanes before our recent global warming.
Beyond the general hurricane trends, it is quite possible global warming had a very direct, beneficial impact on Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have documented that global warming has increased upper-atmospheric wind shear, which rips apart hurricanes before they can grow to major hurricanes. Without the global warming-induced increase in wind shear, Hurricane Sandy may well have grown to a more powerful hurricane with stronger winds and more substantial storm surge.
For global warming activists, uninformed media pundits and the weak of mind, Hurricane Sandy may well provide a convenient opportunity to sell a fictitious global warming hurricane crisis. For the rest of us, we should thank global warming for its beneficial impacts on hurricanes that save countless lives with each passing year.
[Originally published on Forbes]
Tesla’s once-Teflon Elon Musk, the adored Paypal/SpaceX/electric-car innovator who’s been showered with unmitigated media praise and highly inflated stock values, has another lithium ion battery fire to explain.
This one happened after a Model S crash in Mexico. The last one happened less than a month ago in Kent, Wash. Since then Tesla’s share price has fallen from $193.90 on Sept. 30 to $160.58 this afternoon. The irrational exuberance that made the electric automaker the darling of Wall Street has now become merely excitable, although still unjustifiably so. Even Musk himself told Bloomberg last week, “The stock price that we have is more than we have any right to deserve.”
While the fanboy fave exhibited a measure of humility about Tesla’s stock market prestige, the two fires have not moved the needle in that respect. The official stance the company took in both cases was, in essence, “we are glad the drivers did not die. Our safety features had a lot to do with that.”
It’s become obvious that nothing riles the nerves of top executives in the electric vehicle industry as much as lithium ion battery fires do. When Fisker Automotive faced similar incidents in Texas and California last year, the corporate spin emphasized how many miles its electric Karmas had traveled without such incidents, that fires happen in gas-powered cars too, and that nobody was hurt. Your garage may have burned down, but hey, at least you don’t have any hospital bills!
In the case of General Motors and fires in its Chevy Volt, both corporate and governmental authorities that have advocated electric vehicle adoption exhibited skittish behavior after such incidents. As NLPC colleague Mark Modica reported two years ago, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration waited six months to notify the public of a Chevy Volt that burst into flames three weeks after it was crash-tested. And in separate residential garage fires in Connecticut and North Carolina that involved Volts, GM deployed its own rapid respondersto investigate. Then…no conclusive findings from the investigations were reported afterward. Were the Volts the cause, or not?
In Barkhamsted, Conn., authorities ultimately cleared the homeowner’s Volt as the cause of the fire. Storm Connors, who also owned a Suzuki Samarai that he converted to electric as well, said a number of items could have been the culprit (electrical wiring, candles, discarded ashes, and oily rags were also in the garage).
“The Volt was ruled out as the cause both in the post-fire investigation and by the first responding firemen who observed the fire more intense on the left side of the garage — the Volt being on the right,” Mr. Connors told NLPC in an email.
“The investigators also did a thorough evaluation of the charging system for the Suzuki electric conversion and found no evidence of an electrical problem. No cause was officially determined. I do have my suspicions as to the cause, but I don’t think exposing my guesses would serve any purpose. For the record, I did purchase a replacement Volt which I keep in the rebuilt garage.”
The cause of the Nov. 2011 North Carolina garage fire was also a mystery, although Iredell Co. fire marshal Garland Cloer early-on said the Volt was unlikely the cause, based on his experience – not scientific observation. Nevertheless the incident was the subject of numerous studies that involved dozens of investigators from GM and various agencies and insurers. Over the past 20 months NLPC has periodically checked with Mr. Cloer about the findings, and finally last month he said via email the NC fire’s cause was also inconclusive:
“After a year of numerous joint investigations by electrical, mechanical engineers and fire investigators; we could not produce conclusive results as to the cause of the fire. Erie Insurance spent thousands of dollars on evidence storage and examination including x-raying approximately one hundred and fifty (150) forty-five (45) gallon plastic totes of fire debris from the garage floor. Any unexplained items and all electrical components in the totes were examined by hand for unusual activity.
“We modeled a potential scenario involving a charging system from a large hobby helicopter. The homeowner had connected a charging system with lithium-polymer batteries to the primary battery of a Nissan Armada, which was parked beside the Volt. The charging system connections were too short to reach the garage floor, so the homeowner pulled a fifty-five (55) plastic gallon trash can in front of the Nissan and placed the charger on the container. During the day of the fire, the homeowner removed and replaced an old set of box springs and mattress from a bonus room above the garage and placed the old sleep set in the garage in front of the Volt. The old set was to be disposed of the next day.
“A timeline of the events and data received from various sources including the Volt charging system and the Volt’s VICM ‘black box’ indicated that from the time the helicopter charging system was connected to the Nissan and the fire was visible and noticed by the neighbors there was sufficient enough time for the fire to start. Our unconfirmed theory was the that the helicopter charging system batteries failed and began to burn, igniting the plastic trash can and in turn the radiant heat from the trash can ignited the mattress and box spring which then ignited the surrounding combustibles in the garage.
“The helicopter charging system was in the Area of Origin of the fire, along with the Volt charging system and a central vacuum system (the plastic waste container mentioned above which was the dust storage for that vacuum system) and other components. This scenario was electronically modeled by one the private fire investigators and each time the model indicated that there was enough heat generation to cause complete destruction of the garage and its contents.
“The helicopter and charging system were purchased on line and assembled by the homeowner. After a long search, we were unable recreate the event because we could not locate a similar helicopter or charging system since the original devices were manufactured in China.
“This case has been closed by investigators and is ruled as ‘Undetermined.’”
For an outside opinion, NLPC turned again to Lewis Larsen of Chicago-based Lattice Energy, LLC, an expert who has examined and researched “thermal runaways” in advanced batteries used in many different functions, but especially in electric vehicles and in Boeing’s new (and troubled) Dreamliner jumbo jets. While he agreed the Volt might deserve to be absolved of blame in the North Carolina fire, he said lithium-based batteries do not:
“My personal opinion is that a battery runaway fire was absolutely the most likely proximate cause of the fire that destroyed the garage and contents,” Larsen told NLPC.
“As to whether it was the Chevy Volt battery pack or the lithium-polymer battery pack of the made-in-China model helicopter that was being charged, I would agree with Mr. Cloer that a thermal runaway of the helicopter battery pack that was being charged while resting on top of a 55 gallon plastic garbage can best fits the facts of the case. Of course, this does not prove that it WASN’T the Volt that did the deed, but it’s very likely that the Volt was innocent in this particular case….
“Low-end (as was probably used in the ‘large model helicopter’) inexpensive lithium-based batteries from China have had really bad safety records with respect to the frequency of thermal runaways,” he added.
The bottom line is that lithium-ion batteries, cheap or expensive, are susceptible to thermal runaways (i.e., “fires”) and are still deep in the trial stage when it comes to transportation functions such as automotive and aviation travel. Taxpayers, via the Obama administration’s “green” stimulus and other government tax breaks and subsidies, have been put on the hook to the tune of billions of dollars for the privilege of such experimentation.
Advocates like Elon Musk point to the Tesla incidents and say “a big chunk of metal” (Washington) or “big collision” (Mexico) caused the fires, and that gas-powered vehicles might have caught fire too. The difference with electric cars is that the lithium-ion batteries are enormous, and when they undergo stress, the heat from their fires burns extremely hot, and traditional suppressants do not work on them.
Back when he was flying high, Musk felt so good about himself that he intruded into Boeing’s business by offering help with the disastrous Dreamliner shutdown earlier this year. Calling Boeing’s lithium ion battery packs “inherently unsafe,” he boasted that neither Tesla or SpaceX ever had fires, despite “fly(ing) high-capacity lithium-ion battery packs in our rockets and spacecraft, which are subject to much higher loads than commercial aircraft and have to function all the way from sea level air pressure to vacuum.”
Two Model S fires in less than a month have knocked Musk down to earth, while Tesla’s stock has been brought back into this planet’s atmosphere. Despite the Volt findings and the Tesla causes, all is not right in the electric transportation sector and taxpayers ought not to be forced into financing the speculation.
[Originally published on the National Legal and Policy Center]
A new tax proposal on the ballot in Colorado designed to increase P-12 education funding could have wide ranging effects on both individual taxpayers and businesses in that state. The tax reform package, known as Amendment 66 is an income tax increase comprising of two tiers with higher income earners paying a higher rate. For the first tier, comprising of taxpayers with state-taxable income of $75,000 or less, the state income tax rate would increase from the current flat rate of 4.63 percent to 5 percent. Taxpayers with state-taxable income more than $75,000 would be charged at a higher rate, 5.9 percent.
In addition, the Amendment 66 tax reforms would require that 43 percent of the state’s budget be spent on education and not on other projects or programs. According to the Summit Daily News, Colorado’s state and school districts currently spend about $5.5 billion per year on school operating costs. The supporters of the plan contend the Amendment should raise about $950 million for Colorado schools while costing the average household around $133 per year.
ColoradoCommitstoKids.com, an organization supporting Amendment 66, argues that the additional revenue raised by the increased tax will dramatically improve school performance and allow for new teachers to be hired and new programs to be offered. Coupled with earlier reforms from Senate Bill 213, the increased tax would allow for more funds to be move toward disadvantaged districts, while funding full-day kindergarten. These plans will not be fully funded if the Amendment does not pass. The Colorado Legislative Council questions these numbers, contending that the plans will really cost $1.12 billion with lawmakers needing to fill the funding gap next year.
Critics of the Amendment argue that the tax increase, portrayed by proponents as a tax on the wealthy, actually has a wider effect on all taxpayers. According to Americans for Tax Reform, Amendment 66 represents a 27 percent increase in the top income tax rate. They argue that the tax will not only raise tax on all workers, but the increase will also be imposed on thousands of Colorado small businesses.
While conventional wisdom would lead most to believe that the corporate income tax is the primary means of taxation for small business, in many instances these businesses actually pay through the personal income tax. Liz Malm, an economist at the Tax Foundation explains:
“A majority of firms within Colorado are what we call “pass-throughs” because their business income tax is ‘passed through’ to individual owner, rather than paid by the actual business entity itself. According to a 2011 Ernst and Young study, 95 percent of firms in Colorado are pass-throughs. Amendment 66 would raise taxes on all of them.”
Examining IRS date, ATR found that 417,698 small businesses in Colorado filed under the individual income tax system in 2011 and that when S-Corps & partnerships that pay the individual income tax are included, upwards of approximately 550,000 Colorado small businesses bear the tax increase. The Tax Foundation also points to a 2011 report from Ernst & Young LLC that found that 57 percent of private sector employment in Colorado was created by pass-through entities.
The tax reforms proposed in Amendment 66 would have wide ranging effects that could slow job creation and hinder economic development. The increased tax would hit small businesses at a time when additional taxes would hit the hardest. Small businesses remain the engines of any economy and it is not wise to place a new tax burden on them. This proposal is highly unpopular with Colorado small businesses, a September 2013 poll from the National Federation of Independent Business found that 96 percent of Colorado’s small business sector was opposed to Amendment 66.
Instead of increasing taxes to fund education, Colorado should consider tax reform that lowers tax rates for both businesses and individuals that stimulates the economy and creates additional tax revenue for schools. Increasing funding for education does not always create positive results. Fundamental reforms that encourage competition while empower parents and children are also needed. School vouchers and education tax credits allow funding to follow the child and give parents additional choice over their child’s education, all while reducing costs over the current system.
The Heartland Institute’s Author Series hosted Mark Rhoads on October 30 to promote the release of his much acclaimed book, Land of Lincoln: Thy Wondrous Story. This book is the first in 40 years to give a detailed historical account of Illinois’ history. Mark Rhodes served as a former Illinois Senator and was also a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. He served as the President of the Illinois State Society in Washington, D.C. and as President of the National Conference of State Societies.
Land of Lincoln explores the vibrant Illinois history on two tracks, the first, exploring the history of the Illinois State Society in Washington, D.C., and second, what was going on back home in Illinois’ politics and culture. He explains that the book highlights the three cities of: Chicago, Springfield and Washington, D.C. Rhoads reminds us that the Windy City is known for more than its infamous hot air blowing politicians. Illinois was the host to the monumental Colombian Exposition, better known as the World’s Fair, which occurred just 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire.
As we approach the bi-centennial of Illinois in 2018, Rhoads stresses the imperative of state history to be taught in the education system. Currently, Texas is the only state that requires state history to be taught. The important of learning history, Rhoads says, is to learn from the past and not have history negatively repeat itself. Just as in 2008 when then Governor Rod Blagojevech was convicted of attempting to sell Senator Obama’s Senate seat, the same event had happened 100 years before. In 1909, Senator William Lorimer had paid to secure his re-election seat, and, after being convicted, bribed two juries to acquit him. This historic event led to the changing of the Constitution which stated that Senators are to only be elected by direct popular vote.
Land of Lincoln: Thy Wondrous Story reminds us that there’s no time like the present for students and Illinois citizens to immerse themselves in the rich history of our state.[Editor's note: The public is welcome to attend Heartland's Author Series events located at One East Wacker, in Chicago's Loop. Tickets and event information can be found on our website here.]
According to “Crazifornia: How California is Destroying Itself and Why It Matters to America”, about 150,000 Californians have been fleeing the state each year of late. “In fact,” wrote Laer Pearce, “Los Angeles alone has lost more households than New York, Miami, and, incredibly, the economically decimated city of Detroit…combined.”
The tide of traffic leaving the state is likely to increase. According to a news release from Earthjustice, one of the innumerable environmental organizations bent on destroying every form of energy that has fueled the growth of the American economy, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has “finalized a groundbreaking decision to build innovative high-tech energy storage systems that will lead California toward a future of clean, renewable energy and away from dependence on fossil fuels.”
You remember fossil fuels, oil, natural gas, and coal. The “clean, renewable” energies are wind and solar because, of course, the sun shines all the time and the wind blows all the time. Or not.
By definition, energy “storage systems” can use mechanical, chemical, or thermal processes to store energy; these processes range from battery technologies to energy storage within compressed air or molten salt. If that sounds bizarre, it is.
According to Will Rostov, an Earthjustice attorney, “Clean, renewable energy sources will shape our future, whether the dirty antiquated fossil fuels industry likes it or not, so it’s excellent to see California getting there first. It took years by environmental advocates and state regulators to reach this point.”
Actually, Europe has been there for some time now. In England’s Yorkshire Dales, they’re tearing down four wind turbines that have been around for twenty years and “have not worked in years.” Indeed, across Europe there is a lot of buyer’s remorse for having embraced wind and solar. As Marc Morano, the editor ofClimateDepot.com, noted in an October 17 article, “Wind and solar mandates are breaking Europe’s electric utilities.”
“Last week the CEOs of Europe’s ten largest utilities finally cried uncle and called for a halt to wind and solar subsidies. Short of that, they want subsidies of their own. They want to be paid, in essence, not to produce power.” Thanks to mandates to use electricity from wind and solar Europe’s energy costs increased 17% for consumers and 21% for industry in the last four years.
California, in addition to requiring comparable use of wind and solar power while pushing to close coal-fired plants and keep some nuclear plants shuttered, will require its utilities to purchase 1.3 megawatts of “energy storage” power by 2020.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that “The first-in-a-nation mandate is expected to spur innovation in emerging storage technologies, from batteries to flywheels. Once large quantities of energy can be stored, the electric grid can make better use of solar, wind and other technologies that generate sporadically rather than in a steady flow, and can better manage disruptions from unpredictable events such as storms and wildfires.”
This is another very expensive Green pipedream that, like other California initiatives, would prove impossible to achieve and will be abandoned or ignored.
Since neither wind nor solar produce electricity in a steady, predictable fashion that enables utilities to ensure a flow of electricity to consumers, “energy storage” is the new, idiotic, alternative way of providing electricity that has been in effect since Edison first invented the turbines to produce it.
There is, simply put, no reason to require “energy storage” if “dirty, antiquated fossil fuels” were used. Wind and solar provide just over 3% of the electricity used in the U.S.
According to the Western Region Deputy Director of the Sierra Club, Evan Gillespie, “Fossil fuels like natural gas are a dead end for the people of California, the power companies, and the entire planet.” If you listened to Strela Cervas, Coordinator at the California Environmental Justice Alliance, fossil fuel use is a conspiracy against “low income communities and communities of color overburdened by pollution, in particular from power plants. California does not need any new gas-fired power plants.”
Those low income communities might not agree, along with all the rest of the Californians, in the wake of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. While California strives to save the state from a warming that has not been occurring for more than 15 years, the new mandate that 33% of the state’s energy come from wind and solar is estimated to cost $114 billion, all of which will come out of the pockets of energy consumers.
According to Pearce, “Legislators, regulators, lawyers and environmentalists have driven up the cost of doing business in the Golden State until it has become 30% greater than in the neighboring states.” The result of 40 years of anti-business (and anti-energy) policy has caused a decline in the state’s standard of living. “California’s median household income plummeted by 9%–nearly twice the national average between 2006 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
This is the kind of environmental insanity that has been at work at the federal level since Obama was elected in 2008. Billions have been lost in loans to wind and solar companies that went bankrupt within months and years. Think Solyndra. Now apply that same insanity to the whole of the nation as the administration continues its “war on coal” and actually laments the growing access to natural gas and oil due to hydraulic fracking technology.
The U.S. will produce more oil than Saudi Arabia this year. It has several centuries’ worth of affordable coal, scads of natural gas, and could expand its nuclear power generation if it wanted.
California is leading the way as it drives out its citizens and businesses, leaving behind only those too poor to leave; those dependent on a range of welfare programs that “redistribute” money from “the rich” and the middle class. They are turning the entire state into Detroit.
It is a war on the provision of electricity; the lifeblood of the nation’s capacity to function.
Solar systems are being installed at hundreds of schools across the United States. Educators use solar panels to teach students about the “miracle” of energy sourced from the sun. But a closer look at these projects shows poor economics and a big bill for citizens.
Earlier this month, the National Resources Defense Fund (NRDC) launched its “Solar Schools” campaign, an effort to raise $54,000 to help “three to five to-be-determined schools move forward with solar rooftop projects.” The NRDC wants to “help every school in the country go solar.” The campaign uses a cute video featuring kids talking about how we’re “polluting the Earth with gas and coal” and how we can save the planet with solar.
Wisconsin is a leader in the solar school effort. More than 50 Wisconsin high schools have installed solar panels since 1996 as part of the SolarWise® program sponsored by Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a state utility. The program solicits donations and provides funds to schools to install photovoltaic solar systems. The WPS website praises the program, stating, “The best way to leave a healthy planet for future generations is by teaching young people to become good stewards of the environment.”
But one has to question the utility of solar panels in Wisconsin, a state beset by low sunlight levels and ample winter snowfall. Last summer, solar panels were installed at Mishicot High School, the 50th school in the SolarWise® program, at a cost of $30,000. The panels save the school about $300 per year in electric bills. With a 100-year payback, this system would never be installed by anyone seeking an economic return on investment. Are they teaching economics at Mishicot High?
In Illinois, Lake Zurich Middle School South installed a five-panel one-kilowatt photovoltaic system in August. The Lake Zurich Courier provided the headline, “Lake Zurich, Vernon Hills schools save with solar power.” The panels will save the school a little over $100 per year in electricity charges at a system cost of almost $9,000, a project payback of more than 70 years.
While the school may be saving, Illinois citizens are paying. Ninety percent of project funding came from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which was established by a $225 million grant from Commonwealth Edison in 1999, provided from the electricity bills of Illinois citizens.
In Southwest Florida, 90 schools are installing 5- to 10-kilowatt solar arrays to “reduce energy costs and provide a learning opportunity” as part of Florida Power and Light’s “Solar for Schools” initiative. Panels cost from $50,000 to $80,000 and save electricity worth about $600 to $1,000 per year, depending upon the size of the system. With a 70- to 80-year payback, these projects will never pay off, because solar cells need to be replaced after 25 years of operation. Will they teach that to the kids? The program is funded from an energy conservation fee on customer electricity bills.
Solar energy is dilute. When the sun is directly overhead on a clear day, about 1,000 watts of sunshine reaches each square meter of Earth’s surface at the equator after absorption and scattering by the atmosphere. For the southern US, this is reduced to about 800 watts per square meter, since the angle of the sunlight is not quite perpendicular. Solar cells convert about 15 percent of the energy to electricity, meaning that only a single 100-watt bulb can be powered from every card-table-sized surface area of a solar panel, and only at noon on a clear day.
Los Angeles Community College (LACC) adopted solar energy in a big way. One of seven LACC solar systems is the Northwest Parking Lot Solar Farm, installed in 2008. The farm was purchased at a price of $10 million to produce about one megawatt of rated power, a price more than five times the cost of a commercial wind turbine farm on a per-megawatt basis. LACC spent a whopping $33 million to reduce electricity bills by only $600,000 per year. The total cost, including government subsidies, was $44 million to California taxpayers.
Solar energy has excellent uses, such as powering call boxes along highways, or swimming pool heating. But it’s trivial in our overall energy picture. Despite 20 years, billions in state and federal subsidies, and warm, happy solar school programs, solar provided only 1.1 percent of US electricity and only 0.2 percent of US energy in 2012.
Suppose our schools get back to the study of physics and economics and drop the “solar will save the planet” ideology?
[Originally published at the Washington Times]
On October 30, the Heartland Institute’s Senior Fellow Ben Domenech appeared on Glen Beck’s “Real Talk” on Blaze TV to discuss the topic of 21st Century Conservatism — and, inevitably, “The Godfather” came up.
Domenech was on the panel with Buck Sexton, Will Cain and Ellison Barber discussing the seemingly daunting task of the Conservative Movement appeal to on- the- fence voters. Buck Sexton asserts that the task of Conservatives is to persuade these voters that the free things they are drawn to, are not actually free. If it is not a monetary loss, it is a loss of liberty and freedom.
Will Cain stresses that in order to persuade these voters, the abstractions of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ need to become tangible and applicable to their lives. We are just beginning to see just how expensive these ‘free’ tangible goods and services really are. However, Will Cain appeals to the need to adopt the ever prevailing spirit of optimism in the self-sufficient American people that has been a continuous and binding theme to Conservatives.
Ben’s allusion to “The Godfather” seems evermore prevalent now. Reckoning the hot- headed Tea Party to Sonny, and ‘the establishment’ to Fredo, he states that “…what the world really needs is more Michaels.” Watch this concise and entertaining commentary below:
If you like this kind of analysis, sign up for The Blaze. And be sure to also check out Ben’s outstanding new publication The Federalist; subscribe to Ben’s politics and policy newsletter The Transom; sign up for his free Consumer Power Report weekly email newsletter on health care policy from The Heartland Institute; and also listen to his contributions to The Heartland Daily Podcast and the Coffee & Markets podcast.
… and that is not an exhaustive list of Ben’s projects. He’s the hardest working man in new media!
It was on Friday, October 25th, that Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaking at a panel in San Antonio, urged potential healthcare consumers to disregard ObamaCare website horror stories and partisan bickering over the law. In Sebelius’ words when asked what advise she would give to those seeking federal healthcare plans:
“Sign up,” she said, “Don’t believe what you’ve heard. Just check it out, look at the prices, look at the plans.”
Sebelius further indicated that “significant improvements” have already been made and that administration officials vowed to have the site fully repaired by Nov. 30 (two months after the October 1st roll-out), and fully workable in time for users to buy the coverage that takes effect on January 1st.It was several days earlier on Tuesday, October 22nd, during a CNN interview that Kathleen Sebelius informed Dr. Sanjay Gupta that President Obama had no warning of issues with the Website before its roll-out.
It’s seems too much of a coincidence that once again we have an uninformed President Obama, which seems to be happening with regularity whenever an issue surfaces that might harm Obama’s image or his political standing. The most recent incident, according to a report on Sunday, Oct. 27th by a German newspaper, was that President Obama knew his intelligence service was eavesdropping on Merkel as long ago as 2010. This contradicts reports of Obama telling Angela Merkel that he was unaware of the eavesdropping.
It will be interesting to hear what Sebelius has to say about the website roll out disaster when she testifies in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this coming week. On the government end, construction of the disastrous Healthcare.gov website was overseen by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMs), a division Kathleen Sebelius’ Dept. of Health and Human Services. Has Ms. Sebelius no culpability for a website that was basically untested before it was rolled out on Oct. 1st, with known problems existing prior to its rollout?
On the same day (Friday, October 25) Kathleen Sebelius urged Americans to sign up for healthcare and not to be swayed by the horror stories they have been hearing, it was reported that a Princeton classmate — Toni Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of ’85 — was a senior vice president of CGI that earned the no-bid contract to build the $678 million Obamcare enrollment website of Healthcare.gov. Although four companies submitted bids, a senior vice president for the company testifying last week before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, could not name those companies or explain why only CGI’s bid was considered.
Stranger yet is, as reported in the Washington Examiner by Richard Pollock on Thursday, October 10, is that the Canadian provincial health officials last year fired the parent company of CGI Federal, the prime contractor of the Healthcare.gov website. CGI Group was terminated in September of 2012 by the Ontario government health agency after the firm had missed three years of deadlines and had failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry. The online registry was supposed to be up and running by June of 2011.
After a tough couple of weeks following the roll-out of Healthcare.gov, President Obama, realizing that his signature policy achievement was being threatened with derailment, bought some time over the weekend when in his weekly address of Saturday, October 26, he informed the American people:
“As you may have heard, the site isn’t working the way it’s supposed to yet. In the coming weeks, we are going to get it working as smoothly as it’s supposed to.”
Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients, appointed on Tuesday, October 22 to figure out how to manage the complicated fixes for the website, had the following to say when he unexpectedly participated In a conference call with health reporters on Friday, October 25. Although a deadline was given of Nov. 30 to have the website up and running, Zients cautioned there was a lot of work to do: “By the end of November, healthcare.gov will work smoothly for he vast majority of users.”
Zients further said that he had hired a “general contractor” to manage the many contractors on the project, and had developed a “punch list’ of dozens of problems to address, including sending error-ridden application data to health insurers and improving basic user experience.
But does it serve the interests of the administration to set a Nov. 30 deadline? It might buy the administration and tech experts time to iron out the bugs in the website, but the American people are likely to hold the administration to that date. Even when and if the website is fixed, it will be a problem to lure those people back who have had bad experiences with the website.
According to many tech experts, the White House faces a tall order in fixing the ObamaCare website.Jon Wu, an analyst and co-founder of consumer finance site Value Penguin, had this to say:
“You can probably make corrections in the code, but if they need months to test the process before, I don’t see how you can say that you’re going to be able to have it up and running in a couple weeks.”
Based on public reports, Wu related how many of the glitches appear to be the result of problems in how different government systems interact with each other. Those problems are more difficult to identify than simple errors in code or a shortage of server capacity. Said Jon Wu, “It’s definitely past the point where it’s a superficial problem.”
Wu also questioned how useful the “surge” of additional information technology experts will be. Noting that any new programmers will have to be brought up to speed on the existing code, Wu remarked, “You can’t throw a hundred surgeons into a room and expect it to take one one-hundredth of the time.”
More insight over the ObamaCare website glitch came from Clay Johnson, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow and the CEO of the Department of Technology. Johnson nailed the problems existing in HealthCare.gov from the way the government hires outside contractors. Because of the lengthy forms and technical language, the firms rewarded have the best lawyers rather than those firms with the best programmers.
Also noted by Clay Johnson was a host of regulations that make it more difficult to build a government website than a private one, i.e., regulations requiring that all government websites be accessible to the blind and meet a host of security requirements. These are well intended regulations but lead to many projects coming in late, over-budget, and full of technical problems.
Jim Geraghty of National Review, in referencing Jeffrey Zients’ pledge that ObamaCare.gov will be working by the end of November, cited in his article, HHS Probably Can’t Fix It by the End of November, and That’s Probably Too Late Anyway, ten estimates offered by tech experts outside of government of how long it would take to fix the exchange websites to get them up and running and functional. None of them were positive about the fix happening by Nov. 30.
Technical experts told USA TODAY: ”The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months an the eventual overhaul of the entire system.”
Yuval Levin, after talking to sources in the insurance industry: “No one wants to say how long it might take, and no one would share with me what estimates they might be getting from their contractors (whom they no longer trust anyway), but there has so far been relatively little progress and it seems like everyone involved is preparing for a process that will take months, not weeks.”
And from Bruce Webster, NR cruiser and increasingly frequent Morning Jolt contributor: ”You need to have strict controls on what changes are allowed to be made to the source code through the alpha and beta phases just before release. If you do not handle this process rigorously, you’ll just keep oscillating for weeks, months, or even years. I’ve seen it happen time and again.”
Bruce Webster was told by his father who worked for nearly 30 years in electronics in the Navy: ”If you don’t have time to do it right, will you have time to do it over? That is exactly the problem that the Obama Administration caused for itself (‘We needed five years but only had two’), and it is exactly the problem that they face going forward.”
Coming on the heel of how web experts are addressing the failure of the HealthCare.gov and the probability that it can be fixed by October 1st was a report of yet another glitch that happened this past Sunday (Oct. 27) on the federal government’s online portal to buy health insurance, when a conduit for verifying the personal information of people applying for benefits under the law went down in a failure. The website failure was blamed on outside contractor Terremark. A spokesman for Verizon Enterprise Solution, of which Terremark is a part, told the Associated Press,
“Our engineers have been working with HHS and other technology companies to identify and address the root cause of the issue.”
Terremark is the data services hub that supplies tax information to websites run by the U.S and 13 states to sell medical coverage.
It is fair to ask whether the HealthCare.gov website glitches are only the ‘tip of the iceberg.”
Republican concerns expressed by Fred Upton (R-Mich), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, in this week’s Republican address were directed on whether enrollment glitches will provider payment glitches? Furthermore, will patients show up at their doctor’s office or hospital only to be told they aren’t in the system? Also of concern is whether personal information Americans provide as part of the enrollment process will be safe from cyber hackers and identity theft.
Fred Upton continued to reflect about the need to pay a fine if the deadline was not met, given that the law requires Americans not covered by healthcare insurance to sign up so they’re enrolled by the end of March 2014,
“How can the administration punish innocent Americans by forcing them to buy a product many cannot afford, from a system that does not work?”
Democratic senators who spent more than two weeks opposing Republicans’ request for a delay in Obamacare have suddenly seen the light. In tough battleground states (swing states) four senators have signed on to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s letter of October 22 sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking that the open enrollment date by extended past March 3, 2013.
Bad choices do have a way of boomeranging back and hitting us on the head, even Democrats![Originally published on the Illinois Review]
While Americans grapple with the Obamacare debacle and 90 million are officially unemployed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is another threat to our future as environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth continue their assault on the provision of electrical energy, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy and our ability to function at home and on the job.Recently, Sierra Club members were told that they, “supporters, partners, and allies have worked tirelessly to retire 150 coal-fired power plants since January 2010—a significant number in the campaign to move the country beyond dirty and outdated fossil fuels.” Coal, oil and natural gas are labeled “dirty” for propaganda purposes, but what the Sierra Club and others do not tell you and will never tell you is that they account for most of the electricity generated in America, along with nuclear and hydropower. Wind and solar power provide approximately 3% of the electricity and require government subsidies and mandates to exist. Their required use drives up the cost of electricity to consumers. Among the many ongoing lawsuits that the Sierra Club is pursuing is one against Navajo coal mining, the Keystone XL pipeline, one seeking penalties for “ongoing violations” at Montana’s Colstrip power plant. They filed a suit against the power rate increase for Mississippi’s Kemper County coal plant. In early October, The Wall Street Journal published an article, “Mississippi Plant Shows the Cost of ‘Clean Coal’.” It is testimony to the nonsense about “clean coal.” The plant, the reporters note, was meant to demonstrate that Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County plant was “meant to showcase technology for generating clean energy from low-quality coal” but it “ranks as one of the most expensive U.S. fossil fuel projects ever—at $4.7 billion and rising.” “Mississippi Power’s 186,000 customers, who live in one of the poorest region of the country, are reeling from double-digit rate increases,” adding that “the plant hasn’t generated a single kilowatt for customers…” Seven power plants in Pennsylvania are under attack by the Sierra Club and EarthJustice which have filed a federal lawsuit. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has exposed this common practice by environmental groups to “sue and settle.” “It works like this. Environmental and consumer advocacy groups file a lawsuit claiming that the federal government has failed to meet a deadline or has not satisfied some regulatory requirement. The agency can then either choose to defend itself against the lawsuit or settle it. Often times, it settles by putting in place a ‘court-ordered’ regulation desired by the advocacy group, thus circumventing the proper rulemaking channels and basic transparency and accountability standards.” High on the list of government agencies that engage in this is the Environmental Protection Agency, but others include Transportation, Agriculture, and Defense, along with the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. One recent victory touted by Friends of the Earth is an EPA air pollution regulation is one that affects ships navigating along the coasts of the United States and Canada, out to 200 nautical miles, to “significantly reduce their emissions.” Like the touted benefits of wind and solar power, “clean coal” is another environmental myth that is costing billions. Recently, the Global Warming Foundation reported that “The world invested almost a billion dollars a day in limiting global warming last year, but the total figure–$359 billion—was slightly down on last year, and barely half the $700 billion per year that the World Economic Forum has said is needed to tackle climate change.” The report cited was generated by the Climate Policy Initiative. The problem with this is that there is NO global warming. The Earth is in a perfectly natural cooling cycle and has been for 15 to 16 years at this point. The notion of spending any money on “climate change” is insanity. The climate is largely determined by the Sun and other natural factors over which mankind has no control. The claim that carbon dioxide is a contributing factor to climate has been decisively debunked despite the years of lies emanating from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Indeed, during the current cooling cycle, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen! For all their caterwauling about fossil fuels, environmental groups have resisted the expansion of the use of nuclear power that emits no so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions. The Friends of the Earth recently declared that “The quickest way to end our costly fossil fuel dependency is through energy efficiency and renewable power, not new (nuclear) reactors that will suck up precious investment and take years to complete.” The Obama administration’s record of bad loans to companies providing renewable power—wind and solar—is testimony to the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars. In September, the Department of Energy made $66 million in green-energy subsidies to 33 companies, half of it to companies by a single venture capital firm with close ties to the White House. The continued loss of coal-fired plants has reduced their provision of electricity from over 50% to around 47%. The resistance to the construction of nuclear facilities slows the replacement of their loss, but plants utilizing natural gas have benefitted greatly from the discovery of billions of cubic feet through the use of hydraulic fracking technology holds the promise of maintaining the nation’s needs. Need it be said that “fracking” has become a target of environmental organizations? Environmental organizations are the enemies of energy in America and worldwide. Without its provision third world nations cannot develop and the ability to provide the energy America needs is put in jeopardy.
The nation’s lackluster economic performance continues to be a concern. This is evident in stubbornly high unemployment rates (See: Suburban and Urban Core Poverty: 2012 Special Report),which continue to be well above historic norms. There is another indicator, which may be even more important – underemployment. This figure, 80 percent above the unemployment rate, can be used as a measure of the “output gap,” which a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report refers to as “the rate of actual output (economic) growth compared with the rate of potential output growth.” CRS continues: “Potential output is a measure of the economy’s capacity to produce goods and services when resources (e.g., labor) are fully utilized” (Note 1).
Both rates are reported by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The national underemployment rate (BLS “U-6” labor underutilization measure) is far higher than the unemployment rate (BLS “U-3” labor underutilization measure). The 2012 underemployment rate was 14.7 percent, compared to the unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. The total unemployed population was 12.5 million in 2012, while the total underemployed population was 23.1 million.
The difference between underemployment and unemployment comes by adding two groups: marginally attached workers and workers on part-time schedules for economic reasons. According to BLS, marginally attached workers are not counted as unemployed because they have not looked for work within the last four weeks, but they have sought work within the last year and are available for employment. Marginally attached workers include “discouraged” workers, who are not looking for work “because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.” In 2012, there were approximately 2.5 million marginally attached workers, including 900,000 “discouraged” workers.
However, there was a much larger number of involuntary part time workers, at 8.1 million in 2012. This is nearly two-thirds of the 12.5 million workers unemployed in 2012.
The number of underemployed may be higher. Gallup estimated the nation’s underemployment rate at 17.4 percent in August, well above the BLS August figure of 14.7 percent. The Gallup estimate would place underemployed workers at more than 27 million. This is approximately equal to all of the combined employment in the first and second largest states, California and Texas, as well as Colorado (Figure 1).
Indeed, the number of underemployed could be higher yet. Economists Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity have estimated that 48 percent of employed college graduates hold jobs that do not require college degrees, using BLS data. None of these, as long as they are full time employees, would be included in the underemployment figures.
Underemployment by State
In addition to its monthly national estimates, BLS provides quarterly, year-on-year estimates by state, but only for Los Angeles County and New York City below the state level. Data is shown for 2006, the year of the best underemployment rate in the last decade, 2010, with the worst underemployment rate and the most recent year for which data is available, ending June 30, 2013 (Table).
Underemployment Rates by State, Los Angeles County & New York City 2006 2010 2013q2* Rank United States 8.2% 16.7% 14.3% Alabama 7.3% 17.3% 13.0% 22 Alaska 11.8% 14.3% 12.4% 16 Arizona 7.6% 18.4% 15.7% 42 Arkansas 9.1% 14.5% 13.6% 25 California 9.1% 22.1% 18.3% 50 Colorado 7.9% 15.4% 13.8% 28 Connecticut 7.8% 15.7% 14.6% 37 Delaware 6.4% 14.3% 14.1% 30 District of Columbia 9.8% 14.0% 14.1% 30 Florida 6.2% 19.3% 15.1% 39 Georgia 8.1% 17.9% 15.6% 40 Hawaii 6.2% 16.9% 11.4% 12 Idaho 6.9% 16.3% 13.6% 25 Illinois 8.1% 17.5% 16.1% 47 Indiana 8.1% 17.4% 14.5% 36 Iowa 6.7% 11.6% 9.5% 5 Kansas 7.4% 12.4% 10.9% 9 Kentucky 9.3% 16.4% 14.3% 34 Louisiana 8.1% 12.9% 12.5% 18 Maine 8.2% 15.2% 14.2% 32 Maryland 6.5% 13.0% 12.0% 15 Massachusetts 8.2% 14.3% 13.3% 23 Michigan 12.2% 21.0% 16.1% 47 Minnesota 7.9% 13.8% 11.2% 11 Mississippi 10.2% 17.6% 15.8% 45 Missouri 8.0% 15.8% 12.4% 16 Montana 6.9% 14.9% 12.7% 20 Nebraska 6.1% 8.6% 8.7% 3 Nevada 6.8% 23.6% 19.0% 51 New Hampshire 6.1% 11.8% 11.1% 10 New Jersey 7.8% 15.7% 15.7% 42 New Mexico 7.5% 15.6% 13.7% 27 New York 7.7% 14.8% 14.2% 32 North Carolina 8.6% 17.4% 15.6% 40 North Dakota 6.2% 7.4% 6.2% 1 Ohio 9.7% 16.9% 13.5% 24 Oklahoma 7.3% 11.4% 10.0% 6 Oregon 10.4% 20.0% 16.9% 49 Pennsylvania 8.0% 14.7% 13.8% 28 Rhode Island 8.9% 19.2% 15.9% 46 South Carolina 10.8% 18.1% 15.0% 38 South Dakota 6.2% 9.7% 7.8% 2 Tennessee 8.7% 16.6% 14.3% 34 Texas 8.6% 14.4% 11.6% 13 Utah 5.8% 15.1% 10.5% 7 Vermont 6.4% 12.5% 10.5% 7 Virginia 6.0% 12.9% 11.6% 13 Washington 9.4% 18.4% 15.7% 42 West Virginia 8.8% 14.0% 12.5% 18 Wisconsin 8.1% 14.8% 12.9% 21 Wyoming 5.8% 11.5% 9.0% 4 Los Angeles County 9.1% 24.3% 20.5% New York City 8.7% 15.6% 15.1% Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics *2013q3: Year ended June 30, 2013
Worst Performing States
Underemployment in the states is highest in some Western and Midwestern states. For the 12 months ended June 30, Nevada had the highest underemployment rate, at 20.3 percent. California was second, at 19.3 percent, while Oregon had the third highest underemployment rate, at 16.9 percent. Michigan and Illinois were tied for fourth highest, at 16.1 percent (Figure 2).
Over the past decade (2003 through 2012), four of these states were among the five with the highest underemployment rates. Michigan, hard hit by manufacturing losses, had the highest average underemployment rate (15.6 percent), followed by California and Oregon (both at 14.8 percent), South Carolina (13.8 percent) and Nevada (13.7 percent). For the most part, underemployment has become intractable in these states. Only Nevada, with its precipitous decline from the housing crisis ranked better than 40th worst in underemployment in any year between 2003 and 2012 (Figure 3).
Best Performing States
The best underemployment rates were literally concentrated in five adjacent states with strong energy sector states, principally in the Great Plains. North Dakota led the nation for the year ended June 30, 2013, with an underemployment rate of 6.2 percent, less than one-half the national rate (14.7 percent) and less than one-third the rates of Nevada and California. North Dakota’s neighbor to the south, South Dakota had the second best rate, at 7.8 percent, while Nebraska ranked third at 8.7 percent. On Nebraska’s western border, Wyoming, the only non-Plains state in the top five, ranked fourth with an underemployment rate of 9.0 percent. Nebraska’s eastern neighbor, Iowa, ranked fifth, at 9.5 percent (Figure 4).
As with the states with the worst underemployment rates over the last decade, those with the lowest current figure also did best from 2003 and 2012. North Dakota is again number one, with an underemployment rate of 6.7 percent. Nebraska (7.5 percent), South Dakota (7.7 percent) and Wyoming (8.2 percent) follow, with New Hampshire ranking fifth best, at 8.8 percent (Figure 5).
Underemployment in New York City and Los Angeles County
For the year ended June 30, 2013, the city of New York had an underemployment rate of 15.1 percent, somewhat above the national rate of 14.3 percent. Over the past decade, the state of New York’s underemployment rate has been lower than that of the city in every year.
Los Angeles County is the largest county in the United States and if it were a state would rank eighth in population, between Ohio and Georgia. Further, it Los Angeles County were a state, it would have had the worst underemployment rate in every year from the 2008 to the present. For the year ended June 30 2013, Los Angeles County had an underemployment rate of 20.8 percent, nearly 1/2 higher than the national underemployment rate 14.7 percent and above the highest state rate of 20.3 percent in Nevada.
Closing the Productivity Gap
The productivity gap that results from underemployment constrains the US economy at a time of unusually severe financial challenges. College graduates face not only a grim employment market, but have student loan repayments that require good jobs. The nation continues to spend more than it collects in taxes. The inability of state and local governments to fund their government employee pension programs could lead, in the worst case, to much higher taxes or severe service cutbacks.
Yet things could get worse. The soon to be implemented “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (“Obamacare”) has a built-in incentives for employers to shift workers to part time status (weekly schedule of fewer than 30 hours of work per week). The law exempts them from providing health insurance for employees who work part time and so some establishments are shifting full time employees to part time status. Others establishments may substitute hiring part time employees instead of full time to reduce their expenses. This incentive is not just being executed by private companies seeking to maintain profitability. It extends to state and local government agencies, which unlike the federal government, must balance their books each year. According to a running of enterprises announcing shifts to part-time by Investors Business Daily, more than 75 percent are government agencies.
All of this points to two important policy implications. The first is the necessity of focusing on the underemployment measure, the improvement of which is so crucial to maintaining and improving the standard of living and reducing poverty (by reducing the productivity gap). The second is that, with such a focus, policy makers from Washington to Sacramento, Lansing, and Carson City must pursue policies that encourage investment and employment.
Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris and the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.
Note 1: A detailed comparison of the unemployment (U-3) and underemployment (U-6) rates is provided by economist Ed Dolan. A useful chart comparing the two indicators, with numbers from June 2012 will be found on qz.com.
Note 2: Vedder, Denhart and Robe also suggest the possibility of “over-investment,” as more students may have been encouraged to higher education levels than there are likely to be correspondingly appropriate jobs. The extent of such over-investment is not known.
[First Published by Newgeography]
Americans are getting increasingly angry about the realities of Obamacare — and for good reason. President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” turns out to mean something else: If Obama likes your health care plan, you can keep it. If he doesn’t, you’re out of luck … and a lot of money, choice, and liberty.
Millions of Americans who were happy with their health insurance plans in the individual market are now getting “pink slips” from their insurers. Millions more who get their insurance from their employers will experience the same next year. That leaves many Americans with what “liberals” today would frame as a false choice (but a genuine false choice this time): Either pay dramatically higher premiums — with a much higher deductible — or go to the always-crashing Healthcare.gov website and enter the government exchanges … where you will see fewer choices and high premiums and deductibles.
The Heartland Institute has been warning about this stark reality for years. Catch up on our research on this topic at the links below, and become a member of The Heartland Institute to remain current on the developing, government-caused health care crisis in America.
- Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara had Obamacare nailed from the beginning. Get a copy of his book, The Obamacare Disaster.
- Ferrara had it figured out in 2009, as well. Read this Heartland Policy Brief from 2009 titled Obama Health Plan: Rationing, Higher Taxes, and Lower Quality Care. A larger collection of Ferrara’s work on Obamacare can be found here.
- The Heartland Institute’s Government Relations Department produces a regular stream of “Research & Commentary” documents for local, state, and federal legislators. Check out the latest Obamacare-related outreach here.
- The Heartland Daily Podcast has also provided extensive coverage of Obamacare. Click here to see the latest episodes.
- Also review Obamacare-related posts here at Heartland’s blog, Somewhat Reasonable. In a recent post, Heartland Senior Fellow for Health Care Policy Benjamin Domenech was a guest on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV to talk about Kathleen Sebelius’ Oct. 30 testimony to Congress. Lots of truth at that link in a short amout of time.
- Check out Heartland’s coverage of Obamacare at the Health Care section of the Heartlander, a digital version of Health Care News — which is a print publication sent monthly to legislators across the country.
For even more Obamacare news coverage, research, commentary, and podcasts, browse Heartland’s enormous data base of free-market knowledge called PolicyBot. Just enter “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act,” or other relevant terms of your choice in the search window.
Heartland Institute Senior Fellow for Health Care Policy Benjamin Domenech was a guest today — as he is many Wednesdays — on “Real News” on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV. It was a timely day to have Ben on the panel. (Watch video below.)
He and the other panelists discussed today’s congressional testimony by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — and whether or not individuals losing their plans was some kind of screw up, or part of the nanny state design of Obamacare.
Buck Sexton, leading the discussion, said this was a day in which he would have given an online “hat tip” to Ben for his years of reporting on this issue for Heartland’s Health Care News and other publications … so it was good Ben was on so he could tip his hat in person.
Ben explained on the show how he and his fellow health care policy wonks knew that the president’s innumerable, explicit promises that Americans could keep their health care plans if they were happy with them “wasn’t going to turn out to be true.”
Indeed, the administration made an active choice to restrict the grandfathering rule for health insurance plans — after Obamacare was signed into law — so that most plans would not qualify, and millions would not be keeping plans they liked. Why? Because Obamacare doesn’t work unless millions of Americans are funneled into the government-run exchanges against their will.
That’s why, Ben said, it was “silly” for Sebelius to go on Capitol Hill today and blame the “evil insurers” for millions of Americans getting cancellation notices this month. “That shouldn’t pass the smell test,” Ben said, noting that Republicans a good while back held a vote to restore the first-blush and honest grandfathering rule to Obamacare … and “every single Democrat in the Senate voted against it.”
Another panelist, Will Cain, said something I have muttered at the TV while viewing mash-ups of Obama’s lie: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” No. What Obama really meant was: “If I like your health plan, you can keep it.” Turns out the only plans Obama likes are the expensive, limited choices found in the government exchanges.
Near the end of this clip, Buck Sexton says: “This is intentional pain that was inflicted on Americans.”
Exactly right. Watch the 2:34 segment from The Blaze TV below.
So where do we go from here? Below, on the same program, The Blaze crew quiz Ben about the future — which includes the employer mandate kicking in Oct. 1, 2014, a month before Election Day, with “all this rigamarole” happening again. Not good for Dems, I’m guessing.
What’s even longer term? “Medicare for all,” Ben says, the single-payer Dream System that the left has wanted all along. We’ll see how that works out. Watch it below:
If you like this kind of analysis, sign up for The Blaze. And be sure to also check out Ben’s outstanding new publication The Federalist; subscribe to Ben’s politics and policy newsletter The Transom; sign up for his free Consumer Power Report weekly email newsletter on health care policy from The Heartland Institute; and also listen to his contributions to The Heartland Daily Podcast and the Coffee & Markets podcast.
… and that is not an exhaustive list of Ben’s projects. He’s the hardest working man in new media!
The Heartland Institute’s Steve Stanek interviews Vikrant Reddy, from the Right on Crime Initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, to discuss alternative conservative approaches to incarceration. The United States has the highest prison population, which Reddy raises and answers the questions ‘why did it get so bad’ and ‘how is it being fixed’?
The typical conservative response has upheld the policy of ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ for offenders. This response of incarceration has not deterred crime and has wasted valuable resources because the prison population has not decreased. Reddy stresses the importance of a more effective judicial system to deter punishment by implementing an immediacy of punishment.
Progress has been made on the state level to deter and decrease crime and the prison population in Texas and Hawaii. In Hawaii, the HOPE initiative has an 80% success rate that uses public health oriented solutions. Listen to more detailed responses of Vikrant Reddy here.
Listen to the podcast in the player above.
[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link]
On October 24, as part of the Heartland Institute’s Author Series, Travis H. Brown spoke to promote the debut of his book entitled, “How Money Walks”. Brown completed his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Missouri, and his MBA at Washington University in St. Louis. After lobbying in an extensive part of the country, he co- founded and is the current CEO of Pelopidas, LLC, a public affairs and advocacy firm located in St. Louis.
Brown’s book explores how taxing personal income affects economic growth by movement of people in between states and counties. The variables that Brown uses to determine economic status of each area are population and an individual’s income. The net loss or gains are measured by either adding or deducting a person’s income from the state’s total net worth. The data shows that people are leaving states and counties that pose a high income tax, to states with lower or no income taxes. This movement is exemplified by Illinois, who has one of the highest income taxes in the country and, subsequently a negative net worth. People are moving from Illinois to states such as Florida, who have no income tax and a state with one of the highest net gains.
In regards to income tax, Illinois is part of the 7 states that impose a flat rate. There are only 8 states that do not have an income tax. All of the states that have no income taxes show a net gain, while the states with the highest taxes, Oregon and California topping the list, exemplify Brown’s data by having the highest net losses. This data can be found on Brown’s interactive map, which shows where people are moving on both the state and national level. The maps can be found on his website, and are also available as an interactive app on iPhone and Android devices.
The people are speaking with the movement of their wallets. Money talks, and politicians should listen.
President Obama and his henchmen in Congress have had political success (not to be confused with policy success) by enforcing, as leftist dictatorships always do, an iron-fisted party discipline and loyalty.
From passing Obamacare without a single Republican vote to the Democratic “victory” in the government shutdown-showdown, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have routinely been able to corral nearly every Democratic vote in Congress despite the peril it may have posed to individual members’ re-election hopes. That’s a remarkable achievement in a town where self-preservation is considered the highest pursuit.
No less with his employees than with members of Congress, Obama demands, expects, and rewards loyalty, and values it over competence, success, or even popularity.
Nobody has been fired for Fast and Furious, for allowing the murders in Benghazi, or for the IRS abuse of conservative groups. Loyalty to Don Obama is repaid with job security in the Cosa Nostra that is the Obama administration.
But regarding Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ career and Obamacare’s individual mandate, we are seeing the first cracks in the Democratic wall of solidarity.
Sebelius is under fire, directly or indirectly, from at least a few Democrats in Congress, as well as from important voices in the liberal media.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said “somebody ought to get fired” while Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan (MN), getting slightly personal toward Obama, said “The president should man up, let us know who was responsible, who was in charge here and fire them.”
Last week, a New York Times editorial pointed out, with uncharacteristic honesty, that “The administration created the Web site so the buck necessarily stops with high officials — Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, and President Obama himself — who allowed this to happen.”
Despite a smattering of Democrats piling on Sebelius, Barack Obama will not ask her to go — so long as she professes complete devotion to Him and his mission to “fundamentally transform” the United States of America. Again, he values loyalty over ability.
Obamacare and its failed rollout are also receiving criticism from the left:
Barack Obama’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, editorialized that “the problems with Obamacare go much deeper than a few million lines of faulty code and a sign-up system that swallows enrollee applications in a single electronic gulp. The bugs aren’t just in the software. They’re in the law itself.”
The ultra-liberal Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that “Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don’t like what they see.” (In one of the great lines in Obamacare history, we learn of a letter written by a young woman to the president of Anthem Blue Cross in California saying “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it.”) You don’t say.
Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulder, CO), a supporter of Obamacare who believes that we should eliminate private health insurance, is requesting a waiver from the Obamacare mandate (to have insurance or pay a penalty) for an entire county because of high insurance prices.
And then there’s the Obamacare website train wreck:
Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA), whose district includes much of Silicon Valley, noted that “Amazon and eBay don’t crash the week before Christmas, and ProFlowers doesn’t crash on Valentine’s Day.” (Ironically, ProFlowers was founded, and later sold for nearly $500 million, by Jared Polis.)
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) believes that “The problems surrounding the federal exchange for the Affordable Care Act are absolutely unacceptable.”
Hagan is one of a growing list of Senate Democrats, most up for re-election in Republican-leaning states next year, who are calling for a delay in Obamacare’s open enrollment period, which could then lead to a delay in individual mandate deadline (substantially longer than the six week delay already enacted, illegally and unilaterally, by the administration).
Others facing an election and pushing for a delay include Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Begich (AK), Mark Pryor (AR), and Mary Landrieu (LA).
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), neither of whom is facing an election in 2014, are also calling for delaying the mandate, though their primary reason is to limit “how many days we’re going to be watching these critical Obamacare rollout stories.”
And on Friday, we learned that three more Democratic Senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich (both of NM), Mark Udall (CO) and, remarkably, Dianne Feinstein (CA) have signed an open letter written by Senator Shaheen to President Obama calling on him to “consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014.” Both Udalls (who are cousins) are facing re-election in 2014, and Dianne Feinstein must be petrified of no longer chairing a Senate committee if the GOP gains a majority in next November’s elections.
This brings to at least ten the number of Democrats in the U.S. Senate who want a delay in the individual mandate — still not enough, even with unanimous Republican senators, to overcome a Democrat filibuster of any mandate-delaying legislation.
Regarding both Kathleen Sebelius’ future and the implementation of the individual mandate, political self-preservation is predictably rearing its head and, among a few members of Congress who are simultaneously brave (to oppose Obama) and frightened (of losing their next elections, or the Democrat majority in the Senate), causing the first visible cracks in the Democratic wall of obedience.
More cracks will soon appear among other Democrats in competitive races unless the administration is able to meet its newly-set but unlikely-to-be-met deadline of November 30 to fix the Obamacare enrollment website.
The peril this poses to the political left in 2014 is substantial. With Democrats squawking publicly about the early failures of Obamacare, the “signature achievement” of this president and his party and therefore their current raison d’être come into question, at least among young and moderate Americans who voted for Obama or other Democrats because they were looking for “hope and change” and were (understandably) not enthusiastic about Republican offerings.
Equally important is the impact of a delay in the mandate on the ability of Democrats to demonize Republicans for the recent government shutdown. One of the last offers made by House Republicans before the Democrats’ tactic of non-negotiation won the day was to fund the government at current levels in return for a one-year delay in the individual mandate (and to end Obamacare subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs.)
In last Thursday’s speech on immigration — a failed ploy to distract the nation from the ongoing disaster of Obamacare — President Obama used the word “shutdown” three times and “default” twice, while laughably mentioning “work[ing] together” four times. Did I mention the speech was about immigration?
But how can the left continue to bang that drum when twenty percent of the Democrats in the Senate — including half of the Democratic senators running for re-election next year — imply that John Boehner’s offer was reasonable?
Suddenly, the shutdown — the Democrats’ strongest current political argument and fundraising message — becomes a matter of equal blame between an overly aggressive Republican House and an intransigent Democratic president and Senate.
Democrat Party leaders understand this risk which is why House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who hopes that anti-GOP sentiment will propel her return as Speaker of the House, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid are furiously trying to caulk the cracks in the Democrat wall.
Pelosi, while acknowledging problems in the Obamacare rollout, told CNN that she disagrees with Senator Shaheen’s call to extend the deadline: “I think we should fix what we have. Move forward with the deadline we have, respectful of what her experience may be, of her suggestion, but not supportive of it.”
And Reid, while not specifically addressing Obamacare, is setting — or, more accurately, reminding us of — the tone and approach he will bring to any debate: Last week he told a Nevada radio station that Republicans are “illogical and not rational,” that they are “bullies,” and that there will be no grand bargain on budget issues despite “happy talk” about such a possibility because Reid and Democrats have been “too lenient” with Republicans. Saul Alinsky would be proud, and his current disciple in the White House surely is.
Mere days after their shutdown victory, the president and Senate Democrats face a difficult, perhaps no-win, decision due to the very public failure of the Obamacare website.
If they refuse to delay the individual mandate, Democrats risk public (especially middle-class) ire and their majority in the Senate. Twenty of the 33 contested seats in 2014 are held by Democrats, of whom five are retiring rather than face re-election.
If they do delay the mandate, they can no longer credibly savage Republicans for the shutdown. Furthermore, a delay would cause an even greater explosion of Obamacare’s costs as the young and healthy won’t buy over-priced insurance or pay the penalty needed to subsidize the old and sick. Insurance premiums will skyrocket in an arc that will make the last few years of repeated, compounded double-digit percentage increases look like the good old days. And of course, a delay would hurt Obama’s ego.
Obama would also object to the precedent that Congress has authority to change the law; after all, he has successfully, illegally changed multiple aspects of the law by fiat. The “imperial presidency” of George W. Bush was child’s play compared to the tyranny of Barack Hussein Obama.
In the end, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will get their way, most Democrats will toe the party line, and the mandate deadline will not be extended further. But the fact that so many Democrats are calling for a delay is a welcome salve on Republicans’ still-stinging post-shutdown wounds.
It remains to be seen whether excursions away from party discipline become a repeated characteristic of a handful of congressional Democrats, accelerating Barack Obama’s slouch into lame duck status. The wall of Democratic unity is not yet crumbling, but current cracks represent political opportunity for Republicans, risk for Democrats, and a big problem for Barack Obama.
[First Published by American Spectator]
In Texas, more than 2,000 students per week are dropping out of public schools — 3 million students during the last two decades. This level of failure has occurred year after year, creating millions of underachieving adults, and incarcerated criminals, as a direct result of a poor public school experience. No other issue better illustrates the dark side of Texas politics than this problem.
Consider that almost half of Texas African-American, Latino and low-income public school fourth-graders in Texas score “below basic” proficiency in reading. That is below the lowest level of achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Among the 5 million Texas public school students, one-third of African-American and Latino students drop out before completing high school. In major urban areas, it approaches one-half.
But year after year, the Texas Legislature, with the help of rural Republican lawmakers, exclusively pursues more money and more regulations of a bigger bureaucracy, rather than empowering parents with choices.
According to the Texas Comptroller, over the last decade, student enrollment has increased by 19.7 percent while total education spending has increased by 95.3 percent. It is well documented that there is little to no correlation between aggregate spending and student achievement.
Each legislative session, urban Democrats and Republicans team up to pass legislation that will provide more choice to parents but are thwarted by rural Republicans and Democrats. Parents have no professional lobby.
Among the least controversial education reforms are charter schools. With 100,000 Texas children on the waiting list for a slot in a charter school, Aycock would only allow 10 new charter schools per year for the entire state. Other states — such as California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and many others — have essentially no limits on charter schools.
School choice legislation — allowing students to escape bad schools and use the funds allocated to their education in a better private school — could not even get a hearing in Aycock’s committee. He also would not allow a vote in committee on a bill allowing “Home Rule” districts that would have freed good districts from regulations holding them back.
Democratic Sen. Royce West sponsored a bill to create “Achievement School Districts,” allowing the state to take over a district that was persistently low performing and turn it around, doing what was necessary to raise performance (including firing bad teachers). After five years, the state would return control of the school to the original school district after it was improved.
This bill seemed assured of passage after it passed the Senate 26-5. Even Sens. Wendy Davis(a Democrat running for governor) and Leticia Van de Putte (rumored to be running for lieutenant governor) voted “aye.”
Nevertheless, despite leadership from urban Democrat lawmakers with failing schools that needed it most, it is widely believed that Aycock and the speaker killed this bill, too — on the floor of the House when the speaker upheld a point of order on a typo in the bill.
A “Parent Trigger” bill also passed the Senate 26-5 with bipartisan support but died at the hands of Aycock.
This legislation would have given 50 percent of the parents of attending students the ability to vote for new school management if the school was low performing for three consecutive years.
Parents and students endure the same failure year after year. Attorney General Greg Abbotthas called school choice “the civil rights issue of our time.”
Indeed it is.
[Article originally posted on mysanantonio.com]
Revisiting IPCC Official’s “North Pole Melts after 50 million-year Freeze”; That’s Not his Only Problem
James McCarthy, a senior IPCC official between 1997 and 2001, made a statement about Arctic ice melt in 2000 so erroneous that the New York Times needed to write a major retraction about its mention of it. Later in 2004, McCarthy was part of an ‘expert’ press briefing about “Global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity”. In Donna Laframboise’s 2011 blog, she tells how that press briefing is tied straight to the infamous resignation of Chris Landsea from the IPCC. As many know, the predictions for hurricanes haven’t worked out so well lately. More recently, we are told McCarthy was involved in the origins of the idea that skeptic climate scientists are ‘paid shills working for the fossil fuel industry’.
To recap the old NY Times incident: In an August 19, 2000 article with the title “Ages-Old Polar Icecap Is Melting, Scientists Find“, the paper said the following:
…for the time being, an ice-free patch of ocean about a mile wide has opened at the very top of the world, something that has presumably never before been seen by humans and is more evidence that global warming may be real and already affecting climate. The last time scientists can be certain the pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago.
“It was totally unexpected,” said Dr. James J. McCarthy….
This strange statement prompted skeptic climate scientist Dr. S. Fred Singer to submit a take-down to the Wall Street Journal, which was published nine days later. In his letter, Dr Singer succinctly pointed out how the kind of open ice McCarthy saw was nothing unusual, that after “…a long summer of 24-hour days it is not unusual to find open leads all over the place, especially after strong winds break up the winter ice.” His letter was influential enough to cause the NY Times to append their article just one day later, with this note at the bottom:
Correction: August 29, 2000, Tuesday, a front-page article on Aug. 19 and a brief report on Aug. 20 in The Week in Review about the sighting of open water at the North Pole misstated the normal conditions of the sea ice there. A clear spot has probably opened at the pole before, scientists say, because about 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean is clear of ice in a typical summer. The reports also referred incompletely to the link between the open water and global warming. The lack of ice at the pole is not necessarily related to global warming.
Anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan reproduced the article at his web site with what may have been the article’s sub-headline at the top, “North Pole Melts after 50 million-year Freeze“, with no mention of the correction. And, Gelbspan’s ties with McCarthy and one other ‘science expert’ in the 2004 ‘outbreaks of intense hurricane activity’ press briefing, the late Paul Epstein, is significant.
For those unfamiliar with him, retired Boston Globe reporter/editor Ross Gelbspan began a second career with the 1997 publication of his “The Heat is On” book, which is widely credited as being a definitive exposé of how skeptic climate scientists are corrupted by fossil fuel industry money. Gelbspan’s oft-repeated story of how he became involved in the global warming issue concerns a backlash he received after co-authoring a March 19,1995 Washington Post article with Epstein. As I point out in my own blog, Gelbspan’s particular narrative about becoming a temporary skeptic as a result of those backlash letters has its problems.
McCarthy’s association with Gelbspan raises far more questions. In his 2010 “Climate Cover-up” book, James Hoggan says the following about McCarthy and Gelbspan on page 3:
….he told me that when he had started looking into climate change, he actually thought the “science skeptics” had it right. He thought the science was truly stuck in uncertainty. Then Harvard oceanographer Dr. James McCarthy showed Ross how the deniers were twisting the data to mislead people, and he posed what for Ross became an important question: where were these purported skeptics getting their money? The answer to that question formed the backbone of The Heat Is On…
In that story, that’s all we see about McCarthy. But in a late 2011 interview Hoggan had with The Green Interview site, the story is more specific about Gelbspan’s situation back in the spring of 1995:
He had been running into climate scientists who thought it was a problem and other scientists who thought it wasn’t, and he was actually leaning in the direction of thinking that climate change maybe wasn’t as serious a problem as these climate scientists were saying it was. And one of his friends said, “I think you should check out this Fred Singer guy who’s telling you that climate change isn’t such a big problem and see who’s funding him.”
It is unlikely that Hoggan made a wild guess there, since he doesn’t just have a superficial association with Gelbspan. His web site was founded by Gelbspan (who says that only eight seconds into this audio interview), Hoggan credits Gelbspan as “a big part of the inspiration for starting the DeSmogBlog” (4th paragraph here), and Gelbspan frequently wrote therefrom January 2006 to November 2010.
Consider the whole picture: as a scientist having heavyweight Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change credentials, James McCarthy made very public pronouncements about Arctic ice conditions and hurricane intensity predictions that both fell apart, and now a prominent individual’s two separate recent descriptions apparently places McCarthy at the heart of the accusation that skeptic climate scientists are paid by the fossil fuel industry to lie to the public – a nearly two decade- old accusation that has yet to be proven true.
Was Dr Singer’s WSJ letter revenge against McCarthy? Hardly. Hoggan’s details about McCarthy’s association with Gelbspan are seen a decade after that event, and unless someone can find what I haven’t found, Gelbspan never referred to McCarthy as as someone who tipped him to look into the funding of skeptic scientists back in 1997-2000 (or anytime afterward, for that matter).
There is a far larger question to ask: why would a trained scientist like McCarthy give credibility to the notion of corrupt funding, if there was no proof at the outset that it leads directly to false climate science assessments from Fred Singer or any other skeptic scientist?
Is it because he feared , thus there was an immediate need to marginalize skeptics in the eyes of the public by any means possible?[Article originally posted on junkscience.com] [Photo credit: lilies-diary.com]