On the Blog

Community Organizers Chase Trader Joe’s Out of Portlandia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted:

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

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

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

Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.

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

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

Presidential Hubris in the State of the Union Address

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

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

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

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

Constitutional Separation of Powers

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

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

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

Micro-Managing the People’s Lives

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

He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;

He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Presence of Knowledge in Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrogance of Dictating People’s Pay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reduced to Pawns on the Chess-Board of Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally posted at Epic Times

Categories: On the Blog

Remembering Maureen Martin

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Americans Are Losing Their Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

After the Heinous Farm Bill – What Next?

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

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

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

This Farm Bill Stinks

Indeed it does.

Congress Seeks to Jack Up Fees on Home Heating Oil…

Thank goodness we’re experiencing such stark global warming.

…In Midst of Frigid Winter

Oh.  Outstanding.

The fee would last for nearly 20 years… 

Four times longer than the interminable farm bill.

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

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

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

80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Obama Backers

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

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

…and to encourage consumers to update their equipment.

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

Speaking of infuriating:

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

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

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

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

Provision Requiring Lawmakers to Disclose Subsidies Removed From Final Farm Bill

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

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

So – what next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

Build the Keystone Pipeline, Already!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 11:08 AM

President Obama frequently says he wants to turn the economy around, put America back to work, produce more energy, improve public safety, and open new markets to goods stamped “Made in the USA.” In his State of the Union address he said, if congressional inaction continues, “I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.”

Unfortunately, like Arafat, he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to do all these things.

Most Americans are no longer fooled by empty hope and change hype. In December only 74,000 jobs were created (many of them low-paying part-time seasonal positions), while 374,000 more people gave up looking for work. Not surprisingly, recent polls have found that three-quarters of Americans say the country still appears to be in a recession, two-thirds don’t trust the President to make the right decisions for the country, and barely 30% say the nation is “heading in the right direction.”

The President needs to use his pen and phone to free our energy, economy and entrepreneurial instincts. But ANWR, OCS, HF, KXL and other solutions were AWOL from the SOTU. They were sacrificed on the CO2 and CMGW altar, by the POTUS, EPA, DOI and DOE, in obeisance to the EDF, NRDC, other environmentalist pressure groups, and assorted unelected, unaccountable, unconstitutional autocrats.

(Don’t you love Washington-speak – from the land of acronyms, that pricey patch of real estate on the banks of the Potomac River, bordered by reality and places where people actually work to earn a living, despite presidents and hordes of legislators and regulators doing their level best to make that difficult. For those whose Wash-speak is as bad as their Spanish and German, translations are provided below.)*

Our nation is blessed with vast energy, metallic, mineral, forest and other resources, waiting to be tapped. But they are locked up in favor of crony-capitalist, eco-unfriendly, land-hungry, subsidy-dependent, nigh-useless pseudo-alternatives that are dearly beloved by utopian environmentalists – and by politicians hungry for campaign contributions from businesses that they repay with billions in other people’s money, taken from taxpayers at the point of an IRS gun to prop up renewable energy schemes.

Our hydrocarbon wealth especially offers amazing benefits: improved human safety, health, welfare and living standards, in a more stable world, with new sources of jobs, wealth and income equality. Not tapping these resources is contrary to Obama’s promises and our national interest. It is immoral.

Of all the opportunities arrayed before him, the 1,179-mile Alberta to Texas Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) is the most “shovel ready.” Indeed, it awaits merely a presidential phone call or signature, to slash bureaucratic red tape, streamline the permitting process, and create construction and manufacturing jobs. Some 40,000 jobs in fact – more than half as many as were created nationwide last December.

As I have pointed out before (here, here, here and here), there are compelling reasons why the president should end this interminable six-years-and-counting dilatory KXL review process – right now.

Jobs. KXL would create an estimated 20,000 construction jobs; another 10,000 in factories that make the steel, pipelines, valves, cement and equipment needed to build the pipeline; thousands more in hotel, restaurant and other support industries; and still more jobs in the Canadian, North Dakota and other oil fields whose output would be transported by the pipeline to refineries and petrochemical plants where still more workers would be employed. With Mr. Obama and his EPA waging war on communities and states that mine and use coal, these jobs are even more important to blue-collar workers in Middle America.

Revenue. States along the pipeline route would receive $5 billion in new property tax revenues, and still more in workers’ income tax payments. Federal coffers would also realize hefty gains.

Safety. Right now most of the oil from Canada’s oil sands and North Dakota’s Bakken shale deposits moves by railroad and truck fuel tanks, often through populated areas. Truck and rail accidents have forced towns to evacuate and even killed 50 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Corporate executives and federal regulators are working to improve tanker designs and reroute traffic. But even despite occasional accidents, pipelines have a much better safety record. KXL would be built with state-of-the-art pipe, valves and other components, to the latest design, manufacturing, construction and inspection specifications. It has been configured to avoid population centers, sensitive wildlife areas and the Ogallala Aquifer.

Resource conservation and energy needs. Building Keystone will help ensure that vast petroleum resources can be efficiently utilized to meet consumer needs. In conjunction with other pipelines, it will greatly reduce the need to flare (burn and waste) natural gas that is a byproduct of oil production in Bakken shale country. The pipelines will also help get propane and natural gas to places that need these fuels. Recent pipeline problems, plus unusually high demands for propane to convert corn to ethanol, created soaring prices and shortages amid one of the nastiest North American cold spells in decades.

KXL will also enable state and private lands to continue contributing to America’s hydrocarbon renaissance. That is especially important in the face of congressional and Obama Administration refusals to open more federal onshore and offshore oil and gas prospects in Alaska and the Lower 48 States.

US-Canadian relations. The endless dithering over KXL has frayed relations between Canada and the United States. It has compelled the Canadians to take decisive steps toward building new pipelines from the Alberta oil sands fields to Superior, Wisconsin … and to Canada’s west coast, for shipment to Asia’s growing economies. Further delays will not reduce oil sands development – only the oil’s destination.

Climate change. In his SOTU speech, President Obama informed us that “climate change is a fact.” Well, duh. It’s been a fact since Earth was formed. The only pertinent issues are these: Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented climate change disasters? And can we control Earth’s climate, by drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, slashing living standards and switching to renewables?

No evidence supports either proposition. Moreover, oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions, a tiny fraction of that amount to global carbon dioxide emissions, and an undetectable 0.00002 deg F (0.00001 C) per year to useless computer-model scenarios for global warming.

A January 24 letter spearheaded by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and signed by all 45 Republican Senators notes many of these points and requests that President Obama permit KXL pipeline construction “as soon as possible.” Several Democrats told Hoeven privately that they support his effort and Keystone, but are nervous about challenging the President or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly.

On January 31, the State Department reaffirmed its previous conclusions that KXL is unlikely to noticeably increase demand for Canadian oil sands or global emissions of carbon dioxide. With reelection behind him, the President has “greater flexibility” and doesn’t need to kowtow to his radical green base. By picking up his pen and phone, cutting off another year-long study of whether Keystone is “in the national interest,” and approving the pipeline, he could satisfy independents and his union base. He’d even reduce CO2 emissions, which State says would be 28-42% higher if Canada’s oil is shipped via train or truck, instead of through the pipeline.

Democrats are urging unemployed workers to lobby Republicans for extended benefits. They should instead lobby Democrats and the President to do what’s right for America: create the jobs they promised, by approving Keystone – along with drilling, fracking, mining, and reduced taxes and regulations.

America is waiting. Will there finally be real hope and change? Or just more hype and empty rhetoric?


* Acronym translator: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Continental Shelf, hydraulic fracturing, Keystone XL pipeline, absent without leave, State of the Union, carbon dioxide, catastrophic manmade global warming, President of the United States, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council.

Categories: On the Blog

Michelle Malkin to Headline Heartland’s Benefit Dinner

Somewhat Reasonable - February 05, 2014, 8:29 AM

The Heartland Institute is proud to announce Michelle Malkin as the keynote speaker at our 30th Anniversary Benefit on September 12, 2014. Save the date — and reserve your table or tickets now so you don’t miss out on this exciting evening for liberty!

Michelle is a New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist, wildly successful digital entrepreneur, and Tea Party champion. She was there at the beginning, amplifying what the mainstream media still doesn’t understand about the Tea Party — that it began and remains the most patriotic, bottom-up, truly grassroots movement to restore Constitutional principles our country has seen in generations.

She will be joined at Heartland’s 30th anniversary gala by our Master of Ceremonies, The Hon. Joe Walsh. Joe was the greatest champion the Tea Party ever had in Congress. He lived his small-government principles by refusing to accept his taxpayer-funded Congressional health benefits and sleeping in his office. Joe will bring to Heartland’s event the same energy and enthusiasm for liberty he displays every night on the radio in Chicago at AM 560 The Answer.

The Heartland Institute is most honored by the opportunity to award its 2014 Liberty Prize to M. Stanton Evans — the legendary conservative journalist and global champion of liberty. He studied under Ludwig von Mises at New York University, and went on to join the staff of William F. Buckley’s fledgling National Review (where he served as associate editor from 1960 to 1973). He later became managing editor of Human Events, where he is currently a contributing editor.

Evans was present at Great Elm, the Buckley family home, at the founding of Young Americans for Freedom — where on September 11, 1960, he drafted YAF’s charter, the Sharon Statement. Many conservatives still revere this document as a concise statement of their principles. He became a proponent of National Review co-editor Frank Meyer’s “fusionism,” a political philosophy reconciling the traditionalist and libertarian tendencies of the conservative movement.

You won’t want to miss this night of good food and drink, great speakers, and excellent fellowship and networking opportunities with fellow lovers of liberty — especially as the 2014 midterm elections draw near. Individual tickets are just $49, but it is best to purchase a table for your Tea Party or non-profit group at a an early-bird discount rate. Visit Heartland’s Benefit Site for more information.

See you there!

Categories: On the Blog

Breaking Down Obama’s Energy and Environment Plans in the #SOTU

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2014, 10:49 PM

Barack Obama is fortunate to be president during the U.S. energy revolution. Extraction of oil and natural gas from dense shale is occurring with no help from the administration. It is occurring on private or state controlled lands and driven by private initiatives.

According to 2012 statistics compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the production of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids and coal from federal lands and waters all fell.

The difference between what is occurring on non-federal lands and federal lands demonstrates the economically punitive policies of this administration.

Mr. Obama correctly stated that climate change is a fact. It has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years and there is little governments can do to stop it. The great fear of global warming was artificially contrived. In its claim that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and welfare, the EPA claimed its findings are supported by science and cited three lines of evidence.

1.)   EPA claims a distinct human fingerprint — a hot spot in the atmosphere centered over the tropics at about 33,000 feet. It does not exist. Satellites and weather balloons have failed to find it.

2.)    EPA claims late 20th century surface global warming was unprecedented and dangerous. It was not. A similar warming occurred in the early 20th century, which was not associated with carbon dioxide. The late 20th century surface warming stopped 16 years ago.

3.)    EPA claims climate models are reliable. Climate models failed to predict that global warming would stop and greatly exaggerate the warming over the past 30 plus years.

The EPA finding that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare is based on failing science and sub-prime climate models that are wrong.

For a president to declare that he will expand executive powers, without congressional approval, to fight this non-threat is a drastic step towards authoritarian government. Already, the administration has contrived an artificial concept called the social cost of carbon. All life on the planet is carbon based. Is life a pollutant? Does life have a social cost? The concept is an insult to logic, language, and science.

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has produced reports reviewing the appropriate scientific papers and concluded carbon dioxide emissions are not a major cause of global warming or climate change. Also, the reports cited thousands of studies in laboratories and in the field that demonstrate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations promote growth of virtually all forms of green plants and are a tremendous boon to agriculture and the environment. Three decades of satellite observations confirm these findings. The earth is greening. Though the greening is occurring everywhere, it is particularly noticeable in arid or semi-arid regions. This should not be a surprise, because carbon dioxide is the principal food for green plants.

In an October 2013, Craig Idso of CO2 Science published an independent analysis in which he estimated that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide would yield about $9.8 Trillion in total benefits to the global society over the period from 2012 to 2050.

In August 2013, the White House reported that in FY 2013 U.S. government climate change expenditures amounted to $22.6 billion. Based on previous reports by the GAO and the Congressional Research Service, this brings the total expenditures to over $165 billion since 1993. With all that money, we did invent some very good instruments to measure climate change, particularly from satellites; but those are largely ignored.

Where has most of the $165 billion gone? Much has been spent on failing science, failing climate models, failing alternative energy policies, and extreme exaggerations of the human influence on climate.

Western Europe has led the fight on global warming/climate change with dire economic results. Those industries that can are fleeing high electricity costs brought on by a big commitments on renewable energy. Countries such as Germany and the UK face unpleasant choices – subsidize electricity costs for industries or face enormous job losses. The promised green jobs are unsustainable without continued government subsidies and/or mandates.

Now, President Obama desires to lead the U.S. into adopting similar economically disastrous policies, without bothering to obtain congressional approval. There is no justification for ignoring the Constitution in a constitutional democracy. Global warming/climate change is not a dire emergency and should not be used to justify ignoring the Constitution.

Categories: On the Blog

Dumber and Number: The Destructive Pursuit of Fixing Income Inequality

Somewhat Reasonable - February 04, 2014, 10:03 PM

Over at a place called The Patriot Post, writer Burt Prelutsky recently posted an amusing if profane piece called “The Dumbing & Numbing of America,” which addresses mostly the topics of legalizing marijuana, gender voting demographics, and political correctness and the Olympics, none of which we care to talk about today.

But if anything shows how dumb Americans can be, it’s a recent Pew Research/USA Today poll purporting to show that 60 percent of Americans think the U.S. economic system “unfairly favors the wealthy.” It would be more accurate to say that the U. S. economic system – if allowed to operate freely – creates more wealth than the alternatives.

Having done so before, we won’t waste time and energy pointing out once again the differences between wealth and income. Instead, we’ll make just a few simple points that may be easier to grasp.

First, any kind of economic system – mercantilism, unrestrained capitalism, a regulated market, socialism, communism – will “unfairly” favor “the wealthy” because – wait for it – “the wealthy” will by definition be the ones who wind up having the wealth. Regardless of how you start, once you earn it, steal it, inherit it, or have the government take it from somebody else and give it to you and your friends, then you have material wealth and you are “wealthy” – at least for the moment.

Chances are, if you didn’t earn it through hard work, thrift, and making better rather than worse choices about things like marriage, education, a socially useful career, the number of children you have, and whether to commit crimes and do drugs, you won’t keep it very long. But saying that the U. S. economic system unfairly favors the wealthy is simply oxymoronic, because whoever the system favors will – by definition – wind up with more wealth.

Second, the only way to permanently rid a society of a “gap” in either wealth or income is by making everybody equally poor. If nobody has any more wealth than anybody else, then nobody can be “wealthy.”

You want a new pair of hiking boots or a new car? Sorry, not unless you buy enough for the whole class. And in this case “class” means everyone – because otherwise you will be wealthier than someone else and things will be unequal. You want a 10% raise? Then everybody else must get one too. But the price of everything will suddenly go up 10% on average, too, because everyone who wants those things will have 10% more in bitcoins with which to buy them, so your raise won’t really be worth anything. So both absolutely and in relative terms you’ll still be as poor (or wealthy) as you used to be.

President Obama’s current lament that income inequality has “stalled” upward economic mobility therefore makes little sense, because without inequality there’s no higher place to go. Think about it: Most poor people want to move up the economic ladder, we presume. But as they move up, they become wealthier, which necessarily increases the amount of inequality between them and whoever is now below them. And if their moving up gives their children a better start in life, then their children may move even higher up the scale, which will again increase inequality compared to those who don’t.

The truth of the matter is that redistribution of wealth in the name of equality is just feel-good happy talk that benefits no one but professional politicians. Its premise is to buy votes based on envy and resentment while creating more of both. Redistribution of wealth makes no financial or economic sense for the people as a whole, but it lets members of the political class fly around in Air Force One and get ambassadorships to Norway.

In the end it always breaks down, but not before causing needless misery and loss of freedom. Just ask the survivors of the Soviet gulag or Pol Pot’s regime, or the starving people of North Korea.

Or someday soon, perhaps, your next door neighbor.

Categories: On the Blog

Chicago’s celebration of School Choice Week: Making the case for School Choice in Illinois

Somewhat Reasonable - February 03, 2014, 4:24 PM

Last week was National School Choice Week.  Negative vibes and views about school choice whether achieved through vouchers, charter schools, Educational Savings Accounts, or by other means are quite common. Three years ago a study by Greg Forster, PhD used available empirical studies to show that vouchers improve outcomes for both participants and public schools in A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice.

It’s easy to understand how participants would benefit by giving them more options, but schools likewise benefit as vouchers introduce healthy incentives for public schools to improve.  Forster’s 2011 report indicates how 11 out of the 12 gold-standard studies on school choice found that choice improves student outcomes; the other study found neither a negative nor positive impact (Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence, April 2013).

Chicago’s celebration of School Choice Week was commemorated at a joint venture held by The Heartland Institute and the Illinois Policy Institute at an evening event on Thursday, January 30, at the headquarters of The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive #2740. Joe Bast is President and CEO of The Heartland Institute.  John Tillman heads the Illinois Policy Institute as its CEO.  Moderator was Bruno Behrend, Senior fellow for education policy, The Heartland Institute.  Members of the panel were Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president; Tom Morrison, Illinois State Representative (R-54); and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute.  All were credited as having expertise in education policy.

The discussion centered on how to improve our schools and give children a chance at a better future.  There was ample time provided for attendees to direct questions to the three panelists.  Free school choice educational materials was on hand to help spread the reform message, as was the book “What American Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries,” which presents a wealth of information and insights into how parents in many other countries have more freedom of choice in education than Americans do and without the financial penalty.

In his opening statement moderator Burno Behrend spoke of the need to transform instead of reform, questioning why school districts and administrators even have to exist.  The panelists were given a series of questions by Behrend for general response.  At other times a specific question was directed to only one of the panelists for his consideration.

The following article is worthy of consideration prior to the responses of the three panelists when quizzed by Burno Behrend about the use of technology to advance education.

Frederick Hess and Bror Saxberg in their joint article published in the SPRING 2014/ VOL. 14. NO 2 of Education Next, “Schooling Rebooted: Turning educators into learning engineers”, advances the understanding of technology as a tool rather than some kind of secret sauce. . . The most important thing is the vision of what you’re going to do.  Once you’ve got vision, there are various kinds of support that are needed in terms of curriculum and infrastructure.  Trying to backfill technology into existing systems can be difficult. 


All three panelists spoke favorably about the use of technology in education.  Ted Dabrowski is convinced that technology will break down the status quo in education, allowing for more innovation.  Tom Morrison spoke of the use of tablets enabling students to work at their own pace with a teacher available to check that students are doing their assignment, while Joe Bast believes that a technology revolution is already taking place outside of the school in virtual learning.

Selected statements made by Ted Dabrowski, Tom Morrison, and Joe Bast on a variety of subjects:

Ted Dabrowski -

  • Children who are forced to remain in failing schools must be turned into heroes and not the victims they are perceived to be by those resisting vouchers or school choice.
  • Four of 100 kids in Illinois’ worst schools won’t be college ready, meaning 96% aren’t going to make it.
  • Make the case for vouchers by 1) doing a better job of promoting the money case, 2) having an action plan when the anti-choice side fights back with massive amounts of money, and 3) thinking more of being in a constant campaign mode as is the practice of unions.
  • The pro school choice side is lousy at building coalitions.  We miss opportunities by not partnering with parents who have children in the worst schools or who do want a choice.  There are those even in suburban schools who would prefer to send their children to a private school. [Moderator Behrend raised the issue of how to overcome the stigma of poor kids attending mostly white suburban schools.]

Tom Morrison -                                                         

  • Taxpayers are no longer willing to keep paying higher tax rates even if guaranteed a better educational outcome, in a realization that throwing more money at education is not the answer.
  • The term “voucher” has gotten to be a bad word and doesn’t sell well with so-called soccer moms.  Might be better to call them “opportunity scholarships” instead, where the money follows the child.
  • In crafting a bill for Educational Savings Accounts, a family would receive the money and could choose how to spend it.  Shopping around is possible as there is no need to spend the money all at one place.  Any bill would need to stipulate non-means testing and a further requirement for qualification at 1-1/2 times the poverty level. Without these factors the legislation would be difficult to sell to legislators.
  • Raised the question of whether it’s fair to force kids in Chicago to attend faulty schools?

Joe Bast -

  • People in the front lines are the last ones to realize how much progress has taken place in school choice:  1.6 million children are attending charter schools. 250,000 are attending private school through vouchers.
  • The other side has lots of money.  We are outspent 100 to 1.  We must win the political argument and the rest will fall into place.
  • In answer to Ted Dabrowski who suggested that every child might be given the opportunity of school choice, Bast cited the lack of money and of political support for Ted’s universal proposal.
  • Teacher burn out does happen.  Burned out teachers who remain in the teaching profession, lured to stay by generous pension, do just as well as do younger and more enthusiastic teachers.  How so?  The really talented teacher leave the teaching profession to work in other fields, leaving in its wake the burned out teachers.
  • Believes the next governor will sign on to vouchers or choice legislation.  Illinois is way out of line with other states.

Question and Answer Highlights -

  • Jeff Berkowitz of Chicago Now spoke about the importance of keeping the message simple.  As related by Berkowitz, there are 15,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools.  Unless we get 30 senators to vote for voucher legislation it won’t happen.  At the end of the day it will be a pitchfork political battle with the fierce educational lobby.  Whether school vouchers or pension reform, it’s all about money which is the driving force.  When you can’t get the money, what do you do?  Said Berkowitz:  If the right message (public policy) is presented to get the people to move, the money will be found.  Legislators must then be convinced to vote the right way.  A better job of messaging is needed.
  • Education doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution because the Founders didn’t want the government to manipulate schools.
  • Common Core with its standards for each grade level might sound good to many.  This presents the opportunity to show how ineffective Common Core actually is with government centralization.  Common Core was referred to as “Obamacore.”
  • Schools are to serve the children; children are their customers.
  • The best schools in Chicago are charter schools.  Even when located in areas with the same demographics, children fare better than in a traditional school setting.
  • There is 60% support for school vouchers.  The pubic gets it.  It’s all about politics!
  • All total there are 6.3 million individuals in public school education.  Half of the system (3.2 million) is made up of pricy and often unnecessary administrators.

Moderator Behend’s closing thoughts:

The envelope must be pushed. Common Core was depicted as the “last gasp of centralized, top-down education.”  And why doesn’t centralization work?  Because one size fits all just doesn’t work.

Two dates to consider saving:

1.  Tuesday, February 11 – Tevi Troy will present a lecture on his book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted:  200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.  To register call 312/377-4000 or visit heartland.org.

2.  Friday, September 12 – Michelle Malkin has been engaged to be the Keynote Speaker at The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner.  Visit:  benefit. Heartland.org or contact Gwendalyn Carver at gcarver@heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.


Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s State Of The Union Formula For Economic Stagnation

Somewhat Reasonable - February 02, 2014, 6:06 AM

In a piece last month, I explained that President Obama’s presidency has been a complete failure by his own standards. He tells us that he is fighting for the middle class. But real middle class incomes have been declining steadily throughout his entire time in office, more since the recession than during the recession.

He tells us that countering increasing income inequality is the defining issue of our time. But income inequality has been accelerating throughout his entire presidency, with the real incomes of the top 20% rising, and the real incomes of everyone else, the bottom 80% — the middle class, the working class, and the poor – declining.

As a result, poverty has been soaring while he has been president, faster probably than even under Jimmy Carter, despite exploding welfare dependency. We need so-called liberals and so-called “progressives” for this?

President Obama has been promising us economic recovery, restored economic growth, and jobs, since before he was elected. He and his Democrats spent nearly a trillion dollars on so-called “stimulus” to deliver on those promises. But all that was stimulated was government spending, deficits and debt, with the worst recovery from a recession than under any other president since the Great Depression, and even before. Six years after the recession started, we still have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, while in all previous post Depression recessions all the jobs lost were recovered within 2 years on average. Obama’s strongest supporters, blacks, Hispanics, and the young, have been hurt the most, with the highest and longest unemployment

President Obama told us that Obamacare would provide universal health insurance for all. But after Obamacare was passed, CBO told us that 10 years after it was implemented, 30 million Americans would still be uninsured. Much worse, the only results so far have been to increase the number of uninsured, as more Americans have lost their health insurance than gained it under Obamacare.

The president told us that if you liked your health insurance, you could keep it. But it turned out that if he liked your health insurance, you could keep it, as millions of Americans found their health insurance cancelled by the new law, with probably tens of millions more to be cancelled once the delayed employer mandate becomes effective. He told us that if you liked your doctor, you could keep him, or her. But with your insurance probably goes your doctor, even for a deathly ill cancer patient being treated by the best in the world, keeping her alive beyond her life expectancy, as she explained in the Wall Street Journal.

President Obama told us that Obamacare would reduce health insurance costs by $2,500 per family. But health insurance costs have doubled or even tripled for millions of Americans under Obamacare.

So now let us judge President Obama’s State of the Union by his own standards as well. He told us near the start of his speech, “what I offer tonight is a set of concrete proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

His first concrete proposal was corporate tax reform. He said:

Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.

Corporate tax reform that closed crony capitalist loopholes in return for lowering the rates would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But that is not what Obama and his Democrats are supporting. They want corporate tax reform that would impose a net tax increase from the current corporate tax code with the highest marginal tax rates in the developed world. That tax increase would then be used to finance increased government spending, which is what President Obama thinks is the real root cause of economic growth and prosperity, a concept reflecting miseducation in my opinion. That is what Obama meant when he said in the State of the Union:

Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first class jobs gravitate to first class infrastructure.

But increasing taxes still more on corporate employers, drawing still more funds out of private business and industry, to increase government spending still more, is not going to produce jobs, rising wages, and economic recovery and growth. Those still higher taxes are just going to cause still more capital flight from the United States, which is going to mean still fewer jobs and still lower wages for middle class, working class, and poor working people.

Higher taxes to finance increased government spending at best adds nothing to the economy on net. Increasing government spending on “infrastructure” was the central strategy behind all that spending in the 2009 stimulus, which again stimulated nothing except government spending, deficits and debt. Moreover, Congress is already preparing to spend hundreds of billions more on such infrastructure in this year’s Transportation bill, and what Obama called the “Waterways” bill. What Obama is proposing is not a new, progressive idea, but outdated ideology from the New Deal almost a century ago.

Enough Congressional Democrats are ready to join with Republicans to pass pro-growth tax reform with overwhelming bipartisan support. President Reagan, or President Kennedy, both strong growth titans, would be able to get such bipartisan reform done. But not President Obama, which exactly contrary to the rhetoric he used to get elected, is such a hostile partisan, he has never been able to get anything done on a bipartisan basis.

But that was not the only tax increase Obama called for in his SOTU to finance still more spending. Obama added:

Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

But oil and natural gas producers taking deductions for the same costs of doing business that any other manufacturer takes is not “giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries.” What Obama cannot understand is that the federal government does not subsidize oil and gas companies. Oil and gas companies subsidize the federal government. Check out the federal taxes they pay, as compared to other businesses.

What the president is proposing here is increasing taxes still more on oil and gas companies producing low cost, reliable energy, to give crony capitalist handouts (more spending) to high cost, unreliable energy producers. That is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. That is driving down the productive with higher taxes, to subsidize the unproductive, meaning less production, and more waste. Which translates into the economic stagnation of the Obama Democrat new normal.

The market chooses “fossil fuels” to power the world’s leading economy because the energy in “fossil fuels” is highly concentrated. So naturally by the laws of physics it costs less than solar power from sunlight, where the net usable energy is highly diffuse, and so naturally more expensive to collect and use.

President Obama’s next concrete proposal was to further increase regulatory burdens and barriers. He said:

But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.

The term “carbon pollution” further reflects miseducation, as the carbon dioxide targeted by the regulations is a natural substance in the environment essential to all life on the planet. The only documented effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so far is actually increased agricultural production, which greater atmospheric concentration of CO2 promotes. That increased production has been estimated by studies to be worth well over a trillion dollars.

But more directly pertinent, that increased regulation is not a concrete proposal to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class, as Obama promised at the start of his speech. Increasing regulatory burdens and barriers to production of low cost, reliable energy is just going to increase the cost of energy, which is a dagger to the heart of the economy.

Still more increased regulation is Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage. If increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 is a good idea with no harmful effects, then why not increase it to $110.10? The drawbacks of the lower increase are just a difference of degree.

To the extent that wages are raised by legal decree, without a concomitant increase in productivity, fewer workers will be employed, as employers will use less of any factor whose costs are increasing. But when the legal minimum wage is increased, the least skilled and productive simply do not get employed at all, and so are effectively banned from the labor force, reducing economic supply to match the reduced demand at the higher price. Even worse than economic Darwinism, this is economic cannibalism.

One of the first things the new Democratic Congress entering office in 2007 did was increase the minimum wage. That played out with teenage unemployment ultimately soaring to over 25%. Even in December, teenage unemployment under Obama was still 20%. Black teenage unemployment ultimately well over 40% was still 35.5% in December. Hispanic teenage unemployment was still 22.3%.

Wages can be raised to the sky without limit as long as productivity increases at the same pace. And how is productivity raised? By capital investment, providing workers with more productive tools. But capital investment has to come from the rich, as by definition it is the rich who have the most capital. If federal income taxes are going to be so heavily skewed against the rich, however, with the top 1% of income earners earning 14.9% of before tax income, but paying 39% of personal income taxes, and 49.5% of corporate income taxes, as the CBO reported in December, the result is going to be the capital flight we have suffered.

That means the capital of the rich is creating jobs and raising wages in Brazil, or the Far East, or Eastern Europe. Overregulation further increasing business costs, and loose dollar monetary policies threatening the decline of the dollar, will only increase that capital flight further.

Another concrete proposal President Obama raised in the SOTU was “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” Such expanded free trade would lead to booming economic growth, jobs, rising wages and economic recovery. But not if the trade legislation is burdened with poison pill requirements to increase environmental and labor regulatory costs on the economy.

Or with poison pill favors for Obama cronies, such as government authority to restrict access to the Internet by users merely accused of copyright infringements by copyright owners, with no right to judicial appeal, and even government authority to take down sites accused of repeated infringement. Hollywood has long been seeking such potentially abusive government power for the politically friendly Obama Administration. Last Fall, Wikileaks published a draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors for the public, but with access by Obama friendly corporate lobbyists. That draft agreement references precisely such potentially abusive government authority over the Internet.

That reflects growing Democrat partnership with Hollywood cronies. Congressional Democrats are supporting legislation that would impose so-called royalty taxes on radio stations for the free music they play on air, with half the funds going to the big record companies as an institutionalized corporate bailout. Those radio stations already pay the song authors or other copyright owners under long institutionalized arrangements. The record companies promote their songs to be played by the stations, like book or otherwise published authors seek interviews on free media, for which they are not paid. But the record companies, free to negotiate their own deals with radio stations, now want the government to force the stations to pay them.

But Obama and the Democrats don’t seem serious about these free trade deals. While Republicans embraced such pro-growth policy, if the deals are not vehicles for more costly regulation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly opposed any fast track trade authority. This was reminiscent of 2009-2010, when Obama posed publicly as a supporter of free trade, while hiding behind then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who killed any such deals, until Republicans took over the House in the 2010 elections.

So the pattern continues. President Obama paints pretty pictures with flowery pro-growth and populist rhetoric. But the results are consistently the opposite of his promises, whether due to duplicity or just incompetence.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Feds Spend Millions to Promote Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - February 02, 2014, 2:16 AM

The federal government is paying to promote controversial testing and curriculum mandates called Common Core, and so are a collection of big-name private foundations and states. They are employing a number of strategies, but topping the list is training pro-Common Core teachers to multiply their support and hiring professional communications teams.

The federal government has provided all the operating funds—$330 million total—for two groups that will roll out national tests in spring 2015. These are the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC). Together, the groups’ proposed budgets submitted to the federal government indicated they would spend almost $5.5 million in taxpayer dollars to convince taxpayers their money has been well spent and should continue once the federal funds dry up in September 2014. Later documents show PARCC and SBAC have upped that amount to at least $9.9 million.

Convincing the Public with Their Own Money
PARCC planned to spend $400,000 “for a retainer with a communications firm” to provide “public and targeted outreach materials tailored to Partnership state needs.” Such materials includes “toolkits” and “policy briefs.” It also budgeted $3,453,719 to “develop a leadership cadre of content experts.”

That cadre is now known in PARCC states across the country as the “PARCC Educator Leader Cadre” (PELC). Between 16 and 35 people are in each such group in the sixteen PARCC member states across the country. Here’s a list of Ohio’sOklahoma’s (before it withdrew from PARCC), Florida’s, and Illinois’. More than 1,000 teachers and education staff participate in the cadres, according to a PowerPoint from Lynn Brabender, a PARCC program associate.

SBAC budgeted $1.5 million “to work with an outside communications firm” to reach “key stakeholders and legislatures about the assessment system and for building support for the system from the public and those stakeholders.” A December 2013 request for proposals (RFP) from SBAC allows up to $5.2 million for a communications contract.

Spending on these projects doesn’t include other public relations activities, such as paying for testing representatives to deliver essentially marketing presentations to state officials. In fall 2013, for example, both PARCC and Smarter Balanced sent employees to the Indiana legislature in an attempt to convince them to keep Common Core and its national tests.

The testing organizations have increased their federally sponsored public relations push just as parents and teachers across the country have begun objecting to the national initiative and pressuring their state representatives to withdraw. It’s a crucial moment for the consortia, as their federal money runs out soon and must be replaced by state-collected tax dollars if they are to survive. The consortia have been using federal tax dollars to convince taxpayers and their elected representatives to continue ponying up. Meanwhile, Alaska, Kansas, and Utah have dropped out of SBAC and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania  have dropped out of PARCC.

How It Works
PARCC spends federal funds on two in-person meetings of PELC members per year, consortium documents say: “PARCC will cover travel and lodging costs for all participants. This includes airfare, meals, ground transportation and hotel room costs.” PARCC contracted with the National Math and Science Initiative to create and lead the cadres nationally. NMSI is a nonprofit that has also received donations from Common Core supporters, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, College Board, and Exxon-Mobil. NMSI has also received federal funds from the Department of Defense Education Activity, U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Naval Research.

PARCC actually gave NMSI more than it had budgeted for the cadre: The contract is worth $4.3 million in redirected federal funds.

Teachers, curriculum directors, and other administrators who participate in the cadres perform a variety of duties, including reviewing test items for PARCC, attending meetings and webinars, helping PARCC write curriculum, and training other teachers how to teach according to Common Core. Illinois PELC members have given workshops on Common Core and PARCC “in many venues,” and some sent a newsletter on those topics to all teachers in the state’s southern region, said Mary Fergus, a spokeswoman for the Illinois board of education.

“They have also served as local liaisons for schools and districts for new standards and PARCC,” she said over email. A request for more information yielded this: “A liaison serves as a bridge, passing on the flow of information, resources, training opportunities around the standards and upcoming assessments. They may not always be the ones leading professional development but could be involved in the planning and support of PD sessions.”

School Reform News repeatedly contacted officials in five state departments of education for comment on PELCs. Some did not return calls, others promised to, but didn’t, and also ignored follow-up messages. SRN also contacted at least half a dozen cadre participants in several states. None would discuss the initiative.

For example: Char Shryock, a curriculum director and PELC member outside Cleveland, Ohio requested all SRN’s questions in writing, which were provided that afternoon and never answered, despite a follow-up phone call and email three weeks later. Most people contacted, however, simply didn’t respond.

PARCC’s spokesman also did not respond to a request for comment.

Getting to the Teachers
PELC members are also expected to promote Common Core to teachers and the public, say state and PARCC documents.

“The cadres are intended to be an integral part of each state’s strategy for engaging educators in the CCSS and PARCC,” state materials from Arizona’s education department.

Materials from Ohio’s education department describe PELC members as “Distributors/messengers/ambassadors” for Common Core and “strategists, editors, listeners, and messengers”: “Think of them as a focus group.”

“[C]adre members are in a great position to push out messages and materials and to ensure benefit from the widest possible circulation,” the document says. “At a minimum, they all have e-mail lists of colleagues and ideally are part of broader professional networks.”

PARCC recommended that states select cadre members “who have a broad professional network that can be leveraged to reach an ever expanding number of educators,” the Arizona document says.

Oklahoma has pulled out of PARCC, and state lawmakers are considering bills to repeal Common Core entirely. Meanwhile, the state department of education is still convening its former PARCC cadre, according to an employee there whose name is withheld because he was not cleared to speak on the topic.

“We’re still doing work with it here in Oklahoma,” he said. “We’re just doing it within our state, because we found it so beneficial.” Then he stopped talking and said he needed permission to speak with reporters and would call back if he got it. Two weeks later, he returned a follow-up call with a phone message, saying “I’m not really able to talk about the PARCC Educator Leader Cadres,” and directing questions to the department’s communications office. That office did not return repeated phone calls.

Leading from PARCC
State departments of education selected the PELC participants, but PARCC suggested how they should do so, its latest report to the federal government says: “The consortium provided recommendations indicating the qualifications states should look for in nominating individuals for Educator Leader Cadres, such as commitment to the work, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, team orientation, interest in pedagogical and curriculum development work, innovation and creativity, and facility with technology.”

That report says the cadres are a central component of PARCC’s communications strategy, which the consortium intends to expand in “scope and reach” in 2013-2014. The cadres “develop a group of educators who can serve as ambassadors for the consortium in their state. As… interest [in the Common Core tests] increases, the twice-annual convenings of the Cadre members and periodic webinars will be an important opportunity for these educators to become even more active in sharing information with their own communities.”

“A common characteristic among ELC members: They are passionate about the promise of the Common Core and PARCC and stand ready to help make the public case,” says a PARCC guide  to PELCs for policymakers.

The guide highlights the cadres in Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico, most of which have made dozens of presentations on Common Core to fellow teachers. It also says PELC members might be expected to advocate for Common Core to state lawmakers and local media, “Write op-ed columns for local newspapers and opinion blogs,” and “Present at informational briefings with community organizations and education-reform advocacy groups.”

What About SBAC?
It’s not just PARCC putting millions of federal dollars into public relations. In its latest report to the federal government, from May 2013, SBAC acknowledged “the consortium faced challenges” in communications.

“The Common Core State Standards, and the consortia building assessments aligned to those standards, have become objects of well-organized and effective political opposition,” SBAC’s December RFP says. It also expects “significant drops in proficiency rates” on the new tests and the difficulties of working with so many states on one project to be communications risks: “If not managed well, the public and political reaction to this change could endanger acceptance of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.”

It aims to remedy that with a full-court communications press as its tests roll out across the country this fall.

Its RFP seeks “a comprehensive Communication Plan to enable adoption and widespread acceptance of common college- and career-ready performance standards for the Smarter Balanced summative assessments across all member states.”

For $5.2 million, SBAC wants “compelling messages” aimed at education decision makers such as state superintendents, legislators, and state board of education members before key votes over SBAC’s cut scores, or the level kids are required to reach to pass the tests. It also wants materials aimed at “grasstop” people like the media and business leaders, and at “grassroots” people like parents and teachers. Other communications targets include governors, superintendents, teachers union leaders, college and university officials and faculty, and community leaders.

The organization that wins the contract must develop a communications plan that includes:

  • “background meetings with reporters, press releases and media advisories, press teleconferences, and on-the-record interviews”
  • “A rapid-response capacity to identify and respond to opposition when and where advantageous”
  • “Web and social-media strategies”
  • “Identification, training, and use of effective spokespeople”
  • “Turnkey resources for state use (presentations, sample web pages, op-eds, etc.)
  • And “Contingency planning for crisis communications.”

The many communications materials already available should be folded into SBAC’s messaging push, the RFP says. A plethora of private foundations and advocacy groups are continuing to prepare such materials, many of which focus, like PARCC, on raising the profile of supportive teachers.

“As educators, ELC members are credible voices in the reform conversation and can explain to key audiences—including teachers, parents, policymakers and the public—the rationale and value of new standards and assessments,” says PARCC’s policymaker guide. “Leveraging their leadership and expertise is critical to the success of the Common Core and PARCC.”

[First published at Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

A Trip Too Far: The Chris Turney Antarctic Expedition

Somewhat Reasonable - February 02, 2014, 12:51 AM

Climate scientist Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales spent several years organizing an expedition to Antarctica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition by Sir Douglas Mawson (1911-1913.) This expedition sailed into Commonwealth Bay directly below Australia and collected vast amounts of geographic and meteorological data. The courage and endurance of these Australians is an epic story that deserves reading by all interested in the history of the world’s true heroes. The name for the commemorative expedition is Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition of 2013-14.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interview November 25, 2013, claimed the expedition cost $1.5 million. The presenter for the interview, Emma Alberici, wrote, “A modern-day scientist adventurer is about to undertake one of the largest Australian science expeditions to the Antarctic. Professor Chris Turney from the University of New South Wales and an 85-person team will spend two months trying to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might already be shifting weather patterns in Australia. The $1.5 million expedition is driven by a unique 100-year-old legacy, the largely forgotten scientific records taken by Australia’s heroic Antarctic explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.”

The interview said 86 individuals would go on the expedition; but this number had to be reduced to 54 due to the small Russian chartered Antarctic cruise ship, MV Akademik Shotkalskiy, having a capacity for only 54 passengers. Four passengers were members of the media — one from the BBC radio, two from The Guardian British news paper, and one from Radio New Zealand. The ship left New Zealand December 8, and traveled to within 60 kilometers of Commonwealth Bay due to the width of ice shelf off Antarctica at that time. The expedition carried vehicles that could travel over ice and visited the Mawson hut left over from the 1911 expedition. On December 24, wind-swept sea ice trapped the MV Akademik Shotkalskiy in a firm grip that required helicopter rescue of the 54 passengers ten days later.

Much world-wide media attention was given the ice-bound Russian ship and its 20 member crew and 54 passengers. Rescue attempts were made by the Chinese ice-breaker Xue Long to no avail. Attempts were made by the Australian ice-breaker Aurora Australis also to no avail. Rescue of the passengers was achieved on the tenth day by a helicopter from the Xue Long. The passengers were transferred to the Aurora Australis for transit back to Australia.

Chris Turney wrote an article during transit describing his trip “This was no Antarctic pleasure cruise,” published in Nature, vol. 505, January 2014, p. 133. As quoted in the article, Turney wrote:

The aim was to study various aspects of this vast, remote region to better understand its role in the Earth system, and communicate these results directly to the public. Yet most people only became aware of our work when we got stuck and had to be rescued.

Nowhere in Turney’s article was it mentioned global warming in the Antarctic was to be studied. No one seemed to pay attention to how Mawson sailed to shore at Commonwealth Bay in 1911, while sea ice prevented Turney from sailing closer than 60 kilometers of Commonwealth Bay shore in 2013. Is this a proof of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causing global warming?

An additional comment by Prof. Turney:

Never before has a science expedition reached out live to so many people from such a remote location. Public engagement was always a core theme.

Apparently Turney forgot moon landings were covered live on television decades earlier, The moon is quite a distance further from humans than Antarctica.

Australian writer Joanne Nova wrote a detailed description of the rescue attempts  of the ill-founded Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition to show global warming had changed the Antarctic climate. Due to the blow to the theory increased carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels the past 60 years has caused global warming, the reported story of the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy was changed from scientific expedition to tourist frolic. Of course, the media around the world failed to report the true story — which cost tax payers millions of dollars, mostly from Australia.

Jo Nova further reported the return of polar expedition members to Australia on January 21:

 The ABC PR machine covers for their embarrassment — lest anybody think that climate scientists might be clueless. In the ABC’s world an “Australian Research Team” with “60 scientists” left because “scientists believe there is evidence of climate change.” After they got stuck in ice they didn’t predict, and looked like partying fools on an ill-prepared junket, the magic wand of ABC-apologia stopped using the term “climate” and they underwent a magical transformation to become a “Russian Passenger Ship.”

Basically a ship full of climate scientists left NZ, got stuck and turned into a Russian cruise ship.

The Australian Mowsan Centenary Expedition may be compared to other events in history where adventurer’s goals went beyond their achievable distances. In September 1944, Field Marshal Bernhard Law Montgomery thought he could end World War II in Europe by a 65-mile dash over five bridges to the Dutch city Arnhem on the Rhine River and outflank German defenses. This would be followed by an advance on Berlin. The attack ended in failure due to advancing forces being unable to cross the fifth Rhine River bridge at Arnhem. The war was probably prolonged due to this failure because of the vast expenditures of men and material.

Historian Cornelius Ryan published the epic history of this battle in 1974 with the title “A Bridge Too Far.” This was followed by the movie with the same name. The title came from the unconfirmed report British Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning had told Field Marshal Montgomery before the attack, “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”

Possibly the failed Australian Mowsan Centenary Expedition can be called “A Trip Too Far.” Will there be writers and actors lined up to portray this 21st century epic warning the planet of the dangers of global warming?

Categories: On the Blog

Efforts to Cap CO2 Emissions Are Adverse to Human Health and Welfare

Somewhat Reasonable - February 01, 2014, 8:26 AM

In his State of the Union address, President Obama advocated an energy policy aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which he claims are causing catastrophic changes to the earth’s climate and “harming western communities.”

In his policy prescription, the president advocates a combination of increased regulation of the energy and transportation industries and more government spending on research designed to bring low-carbon-emitting sources of energy, i.e., so-called renewables, to market. He considers those actions to be the only viable options “leading to a cleaner, safer planet.”

But the president’s concerns for the planet are based upon flawed and speculative science; and his policy prescription is a recipe for failure.

With respect to the science, Obama conveniently fails to disclose the fact that literally thousands of scientific studies have produced findings that run counter to his view of future climate. As just one example, and a damning one at that, all of the computer models upon which his vision is based failed to predict the current plateau in global temperature that has continued for the past 16 years.  That the earth has not warmed significantly during this period, despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric CO2, is a major indictment of the models’ credibility in predicting future climate, as well as the president’s assertion that debate on this topic is “settled.”

Numerous other problems with Obama’s model-based view of future climate have been filling up the pages of peer-reviewed science journals for many years now, as evidenced by the recent work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which published a 1,000-page report in September highlighting a large and well-substantiated alternative viewpoint that contends that rising atmospheric CO2emissions will have a much smaller, if not negligible, impact on future climate, while generating several biospheric benefits. (Read the report’s summary here, and the full report here.)

Concerning these benefits, atmospheric CO2 is the building block of plant life.  It is used by earth’s plants in the process of photosynthesis to construct their tissues and grow.  And as has been conclusively demonstrated in numerous scientific studies, the more CO2 we put into the air, the better plants grow.  Among other findings, they produce greater amounts of biomass, become more efficient at using water, and are better able to cope with environmental stresses such as pollution and high temperatures.

The implications of these benefits are enormous.  One recent study calculated that over the 50-year period ending in 2001, the direct monetary benefits conferred by the atmospheric CO2 enrichment of the Industrial Revolution on global crop production amounted to a staggering $3.2 trillion. And projecting this positive externality forward in time reveals it will likely bestow an additional $9.8 trillion in crop production benefits between now and 2050.

By ignoring these realities, Obama’s policy prescription is found to be erroneous.  The taxation or regulation of CO2 emissions is an unnecessary and detrimental policy option that should be shunned.  Why would any government advocate to increase regulations and raise energy prices based on flawed computer model projections of climate change that will never come to pass?  Why would any government advance policy that seeks to destroy jobs, rather than to promote them?  Why, in fact, would they actually “bite the hand that feeds them?”

We live in a time when half the global population experiences some sort of limitation in their access to energy, energy that is needed for the most basic of human needs, including the production of clean water, warmth, and light.  One-third of those thus impacted are children.  An even greater portion finds its ranks among the poor.

As a society, it is time to recognize and embrace the truth.  Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.  Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere.  Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions will hurt far more than they will help.

[First published at The Hill.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is Your Child Being Dumbed Down Through an Experimental Educational Method?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 31, 2014, 4:53 PM

Is your child really being dumbed down as Illinois continues with full implementation of nationalized Common Core standards?

There is a growing controversy throughout America.   Parents, teachers, state officials, and concerned citizens from most every state have become concerned about the new nationalized education system, known as Common Core. The professors who wrote the commentary “Common Core and Continued Prosperity” published in the O.C. Register (1-27), provided reasons for it being initiated and referred to specific expectations by its promoters, but then failed to adequately address opponents’ specific concerns

The above commentary provided Bonnie O’Neil and me with the impetus to delve into the nature of Common Core which both California and Illinois have endorsed wholeheartedly.  An Illinois Education Association (IEA) website explains Common Core Standards under the guise that the resources will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn to ensure that all students achieve college and career readiness.

The public deserves to know why some states rejected it outright and why other states are now speaking out against it.  New York is an example.  Their schools incorporated Common Core and have since discovered a multitude of problems, including student test scores that plummeted 60%.  According to teachers and parents, even the best and brightest students are discouraged, losing confidence, and no longer enjoy school.  The New York State United Teachers Union recently announced they are rejecting Common Core and want to remove their State Education Chief, citing “a lack of confidence” in both.

Meanwhile Alaska, Kansas, and Utah have dropped out of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have dropped out of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  Both consortiums will be rolling out national tests based on Common Core in the spring of 2015.  Both have been using millions of federal tax dollars to promote the controversial testing and curriculum mandates of Common Core.

O’Neil and Thorner first became concerned about Common Core when they learned it was being initiated at a federal level, and fairly covertly at that. Who knew a small committee was working to change our entire education system?  Who knew about it being sold to the states?  Why did California, Illinois, and most other states agree to sign up for Common Core without any conclusive data proving its effectiveness?  There are still parents in O’Neill’s county of Orange in California, as in Thorner’s county of Lake in Illinois, who have no idea their child’s education program has radically changed.

Promises and Possibilities are not the same as proof and to have unleashed an unproven education system on most every school in America is simply irresponsible.  Shame on the State governors and legislators for agreeing to accept it sight unseen.   Was it revealed to state officials that a group of educators on the accreditation committee saw enough wrong with Common Core to refuse signing on to it?  Even more revealing is that two of those dissenters were so concerned, they became activists against Common Core, warning all who would listen about its innate problems.

While the Federal government did not force states to accept Common Core, they certainly sweetened the deal by offering federal funding and releasing states from their previous “No Child Left Behind” obligations.  Possibly the multi-billion dollar advertising campaign for Common Core helped as well.  If this new program was so good, why the need for “perks” and such an expensive advertising promotion?

It is important to emphasize how education is not the federal government’s role.  Our Constitution gives states that responsibility for good reasons.   The United States is large and varied, making a one-size-fits-all approach is difficult due to varying cultures and job opportunities that differ from state to state.  Accepting Common Core Standards means a state must adhere to 85% of it, without any changes or additions.   Most of us agree that local control is best and even essential, but Common Core limits what local school districts can now do.

O’Neil’s Orange County Board of Education, after much deliberating, signed a resolution outlining the concerns they have uncovered about Common Core.   Some of California’s legislators are also expressing a desire to revisit Common Core, due to their lack of information as to whether this education system is right for California.

In Illinois Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) introduced House Resolution 543 in August of 2013 to urge the Illinois State Board of Education to delay the implementation of the Common Core State Standards by filing a common core delay resolution until a fiscal study is done.  The resolution was co-sponsored by representatives Sanda Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), Bill Mitchell (R-Decatur), Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake), and David Leitch (R-Peoria).

What should concern parents here in Illinois is a report by Ben Velderman of students coping with Common Core stress by hiding out in bathrooms and nurse’s offices. Sources have told Velderman that “young students are finding Common Core math problems so confusing — and the amount of class time devoted to working on them so overwhelming — that they’re looking for ways to escape the classroom just to get a mental break. One elementary school teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said:

Educators are under so much pressure to prepare students for the upcoming Common core-aligned standardized tests in math and reading — known as the PARCC exam, debuting in 2015 — that they’re ramping up math and reading instruction and eliminating a number of other activities from the school day. 

Nobody has answered the question of what happens if this experimental, untested program proves to be a failure? Will a generation of school children be so negatively impacted, that they may never recover?  What is the back-up plan?  We don’t believe there is one!   It reminds us of the experimental Fuzzy Math and Whole language programs in schools in the late 70’s. They proved to be failures and disappeared, but not before damaging many students who suffered under them.

Authors of the Orange Register’s commentary, Professors Duncan and Murman, as referenced in paragraph one, stated how America’s education system has fallen behind other countries, and Common Core is the solution to regain our standing.   But if that is true, how can one explain our educational system produced a nation of people who have invented, created, and out-performed every other country in the World?   Maybe we should look for other reasons to explain the decline in student test scores?

Consider the fault may not lie in our education system, but instead in our declining culture.  Parent often rightly believe lower student test scores are linked to the difficulty of firing non-performing teachers and/or administrators, due to union contracts.  Instead of firing, which tenure makes almost impossible, inept teachers are often transferred to specific schools where parents are not as vocal about their ineffectiveness.  These parents are summarily convinced that the quality of a classroom teacher matters more than the system to help students succeed.

Educators blame lower test scores on the changing culture, and they offer examples which seem credible.   Test scores indicate 80 percent of white students taking the SAT completed the core curriculum, as did 73 percent of Asian students. However, only 69 percent of Latino and 65 percent of black students were able to do so.  Students with English as their second language will struggle no matter which teacher or education program they have.  Homes with little or no parental support hinder a child’s success.

Dan Proft, in an article posted at IllinoisOpportunity.org — The Death of Work and Education in Illinois — recently related this dismal story about education in Illinois:

66 is the percentage of Illinois 4th graders who do not read at 4th grade level, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.  61% of 4th graders cannot do 4th grade level math either, according to those same NAEP tests . . . K-12 education is not producing defensible results.  And remember, spending on K-12 education in Illinois has increased three-fold in the past two decades (in real terms). 

This experimental educational system will cost California taxpayers over $1.8 Billion dollars. The estimated cost for Illinois to adopt Common Core standards is $799 million.  With the federal grant money received to implement Common Core, Illinois’ share of the funding amounts to $733 million in a state already experiencing acute financial difficulty.  Why are we implementing a costly, unproven program, when we have not made a stronger effort to resolve the most obvious problems first?

Our children are too valuable and our country too vulnerable to be forced into accepting a national education program, based largely on hope and promises and with absolutely no guarantee of proven success!

As many states are finding out, Common Core standards will not succeed in promoting critical thinking, competency, or the marketable jobs skills so necessary in students to meet the challenges and succeed as adults in life.

Categories: On the Blog

Congratulations, Progressive Millennials: You’re The Cheapest Date In Town

Somewhat Reasonable - January 31, 2014, 8:13 AM

In the two decades since the Washington Post described evangelical Christians as “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command,” we’ve seen sea changes take place within both political parties as certain parts of the base have been rewarded or denied the reins of power.

On the right, social conservatives have achieved significant victories on the abortion issue even as their stance on marriage has crumbled; fiscal conservatives found themselves embraced under Clinton, then ignored under Bush, then resurgent in reaction to Obama; and the rise of a populist and libertarian strain of new leaders and organizations has roiled the established order of things.

Even as the media has focused on these dramatic shifts, less attention has been paid to the incredible transition that has taken place on the left, where we’ve seen an equally dramatic change. Over the past two decades, the forces who favor technocratic corporatism have subjugated the ideological core of progressivism under a new strain of elitist authority-based transactional politics, built on false promises of systemic change and sustained by shallow appeals to hot button social issues.

Ever since the Nixon era, the Democratic Party has faced its own internal tug of war over fiscal matters, as the party has replaced white working-class voters in the South with upscale voters, especially in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, who are mainly drawn to the party’s social liberalism. This has placed political constituencies that desire more redistribution of wealth and view corporations and Wall Street with suspicion if not outright animus at odds with those who seek to protect their interests and use the levers of power to gain advantage – typically with the taxpayer paying the price for their cartel-like activity.

With the dominance of Bill Clinton’s post-1994 approach to triangulation and the pro-war, pro-surveillance push of the party after 9/11, the progressives have been shoved aside again and again – their positions ignored if not denigrated in matters foreign and domestic. This has continued and even expanded under Barack Obama, whose approach to fiscal and regulatory policy has led to an America where corporations thrive, wages stagnate, the surveillance state expands, Too Big To Fail lives on, and Wall Street grows fat and happy.

In this understanding of what’s taken place over the past twenty years, the Obama campaign of 2008 takes on a new and more tragic depiction. It reads as the death rattle of a political movement that traces its lineage to Robert La Follette, Samuel Gompers, and Ida Tarbell: a charismatic, appealing candidate who gives verbal endorsement to the frustrations of ill-treated progressives, promising a rejection of traditional political quid pro quo, the end of wars and privacy invasion and Gitmo and lobbyists in government, and a new aspirational and transparent communitarian approach to policies that achieve positive change… and then, once elected, reveals these to be words, just words.

Consider the health care issue alone as an example of where Obama’s progressive promise vanished once he got the White House. The inspired liberals who flocked to the Obama who rejected an individual mandate as the encroaching bailout it is – a requirement that makes it illegal not to buy a corporate product – now, with the dutiful nature of paid insurance representatives, defend the further bailout of insurance company “risk corridors” as companies fear the mandate will fall flat. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

The latest Battleground poll revealed the opposition to Obamacare for what it is: just 20% said the law took the right approach, while 49% said it went “too far”. What of the 23% who said it was “not far enough”? Who will that 23% look to for leadership in 2016, when Democratic candidates will promise to fix Obamacare’s failings and moderate it rather than pursue the single payer approach favored by the progressive base?

It won’t be someone building on Obama’s approach. Priorities USA, the biggest liberal super PAC, built to re-elect Obama and staffed by Obama and Clinton insiders, has already announced it’s backing Hillary to the hilt. Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager, is co-chairing the group even as he remains chairman of Organizing for Action. For OFA, he’ll be sending out appeals based on hot-button issues to the small donors who gave Obama $26 million last year to push his agenda on gun control and the environment. For Priorities, Messina will be seeking big dollar checks – six and seven figures only, according to the New York Times – from people who want to get in early on a sure thing. Messina says the groups have the same priorities – but I wonder which constituency will get theirs noticed first?

The Elizabeth Warren strain of the Democratic Party may inspire plenty of articles, and support from true ideologues and union backers, but she is rejecting calls to challenge Hillary Clinton for the same reason others will as well: they recognize that the other side has won, that the Party’s views on drones and spying depend entirely on who’s issuing the orders, and that you can’t beat the firm grip of the corporatists on the money, power, and media that drives politics. And as a practical matter, the road to electoral success is only harder today for progressives – after winning his insurgent campaign, Obama and his allies changed the Democratic primary rules and process to make it harder for similar insurgents to pull off such upsets in the future. Bill de Blasio may inspire the left – but the Andrew Cuomos of the world are the ones who prevail.

A decade ago, Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas argued that it was heartland social conservatives who were being bilked by party elites to support policies against their own self-interest. For the progressives, the uncomfortable truth is that they’ve been the ones strung along by leader after leader within a party that pays lip service to their views on social issues – matters such as gay marriage, which are decided by the courts anyway – while largely ignoring their views on virtually every other area of policy.

Today, it’s clear progressives have turned out to be as easy to command as their caricatures of backwards evangelicals. Today, one out of three of Millennials aged 18-31, the young progressives who gave Obama’s campaign its inspirational heart and voted for him overwhelmingly, are living at home with their parents. They put their heart and soul into campaign after campaign, believing they could change the country and the planet. And after all their effort, what do they have to show for it? “Free” birth control that you have to pay for in higher premiums to big insurance? Talk about a cheap date.

Congratulations, progressive Millennials: you’re more like Jerry Falwell than you ever imagined.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Then They Came After Our Swimming Pools

Somewhat Reasonable - January 31, 2014, 12:53 AM

Using the non-existent claim carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming, the environmental movement claims the right to control all activities in our lives. A new attempt following these remarks is a proposed ban on fossil-fueled swimming pool heaters. Georgia is one of the states targeted for the pool heater ban.

In Atlanta, Georgia, I have a natural gas-fueled pool heater for a 12,000-gallon pool that is kept at 88 degrees. The pool is used from April 15 until the end of October for one-hour daily exercises to relieves the aches and pains of old age. Taking the heated pool away will drastically reduce my quality of life.

As an engineer I considered solar swimming pool heaters and saw them impractical to achieve pool temperatures desired. A pool is a 100 percent efficient pool heater when the sun shines on its surface. I live in a heavily wooded section of Atlanta and the sun shines on the pool a couple hours per day. The same applies for solar swimming pool heaters. Would environmentalists want trees cut down to allow solar pool heaters?

If we go back in time four score years, public apathy allowed the Third Reich arise from a minor political party to governing Germany by 1933. At the end of the war, anti-Nazi survivor Pastor Martin Niemoller was asked how those past events could happen. He is reported to have responded with a verse that describe the rewards of complacency.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

In our present times, Pastor Niemoller might have said the following about energy regulation rules:

First they closed the coal mines, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a miner.
Then they stopped oil and gas drilling, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work in oil fields.
Then they shut down nuclear power plants, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t work in nuclear power.
Then they shut off all my lights and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Apparently these remarks can be amended to include: “Then they came after our heated swimming pools.” Allowing this type of tyranny to persist due to apathy will only lead to personal loss of all controls of energy sources.

Categories: On the Blog

The Case Against Early Voting

Somewhat Reasonable - January 29, 2014, 1:05 PM

To the delight of anyone who’s ever waited in line to cast a vote, a bipartisan election commission convened by President Obama concluded last week that states across the country should increase their use of early voting.

As the Presidential Commission on Election Administration notes in its new report, “no excuse” early voting — meaning it is open even to those who don’t qualify for an absentee ballot — has grown rapidly in recent decades in what the commission called a “quiet revolution.” In the 2012 election, almost one-third of ballots were cast early — more than double those cast in 2000 — and 32 states now permit the practice, allowing citizens to vote an average of 19 days before Election Day.

The commission rightly notes that early voting has its advantages for individual voters — not just avoiding long lines, but in many cases also getting to vote on weekends without having to miss work or school. But early voting run amok is bad for democracy. The costs to collective self-governance — which the report refers to only in passing, in a single sentence — substantially outweigh the benefits. Instead of expanding the practice, we should use this moment as an opportunity to establish clear limits on it before it becomes the norm.

Why? For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government. In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign — from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October — to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.

The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts. They may cast their ballots without the knowledge that comes from later candidate debates (think of the all-important Kennedy-Nixon debates, which ran from late September 1960 until late October); without further media scrutiny of candidates; or without seeing how they respond to unexpected national or international news events — the proverbial “October surprise.”

The 2008 election, for example, could have ended differently had many voters cast their ballots before the massive economic crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers that September. Similarly, candidates often seek to delay the release of embarrassing information, or the implementation of difficult policies, until after votes have been cast. A wave of votes starting months before the election date makes this easier.

Early voting not only limits the set of information available to voters; to the extent that it decreases the importance of debates, it might also systematically help incumbents and quasi-incumbents like vice presidents, who generally have the advantage of having been in the public eye longer.

More fundamentally, early voting changes what it means to vote. It is well known that voters can change their minds — polls always go up and down during a campaign season. A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls. People will be able to vote when the mood strikes them — after seeing an inflammatory ad, for example. Voting then becomes an incoherent summing of how various individuals feel at a series of moments, not how the nation feels at a particular moment. This weakens civic cohesiveness, and it threatens to substitute raw preferences and momentary opinion for rational deliberation. Of course, those eager to cast early will be the most ideological — but these are precisely the voters who would benefit most from taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.

Moreover, there are other ways of achieving some of the benefits of early voting, such as old-fashioned absentee ballots or setting up more polling places. Even a limited few-days-early voting period could convey most of the advantages of the practice while limiting the most severe democratic costs.

Early voting is a matter of degree: Even Election “Day” lets people cast ballots at different times. But at the moment, there is no upper bound at all on the growing practice, and the president’s commission made no mention of such an option. With the group’s report opening a new round of discussion over voting policy, now is the time to consider whether the “quiet revolution” of early voting has gone too far.

[First posted at Politico; John McGinni is the co-author of this post.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts React to Obama’s State of the Union Address

Somewhat Reasonable - January 28, 2014, 11:13 PM

Below you can read the reaction of staff, fellows, and policy advisors at The Heartland Institute to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. The comments may be used for attribution.

To book a Heartland expert on your program or for your story, please contact Heartland Institute Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org or text or call his cell at 312-731-9364. For more information about The Heartland Institute, a 30-year-old free-market think tank, visit its website.

“The president displayed a remarkable lack of gravitas in his State of the Union address. For a while, he was crouched over the lectern leaning on his elbows, like a college professor leading a discussion rather than the Leader of the Free World addressing the nation.

“There was so much else wrong with this speech. Taking credit for things he’s done so much to prevent (like rising oil production), the repetitive call-outs to sad sacks in the gallery in order to cite anecdotes instead of making credible arguments, the incredibly insulting and condescending notion that Congress should ‘give America a raise’ by raising the minimum wage. Do we all work for government? Would we not make more than $10 an hour unless government told our employers to pay us at least this much? That line – ‘give America a raise’ – should appear in dictionaries as part of the definition of ‘pandering.’

“His line about Obamacare – ‘come on guys, voting to repeal it 40 times is enough’ – trivialized an effort by a co-equal branch of government to keep promises its members made to voters back home, to repeal and replace legislation that was passed under false pretenses. He mocked his critics when he should have been apologizing for telling lies to the American people in order to get that legislation passed. The right thing to have said is: ‘I apologize for misleading members of Congress and the American people to get a piece of flawed legislation enacted. Let’s work together to repeal and replace it with something that can work.’”

Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute


“The president continues to place his faith in government programs as a means to promote growth and prosperity. Economic history shows government efforts to direct and control the economy tend to detract from growth and impoverish people. America’s historical success is due to an alternative – faith in the freedom of individuals and markets.

“By replacing individual freedom with government control and direction, the president’s policies have produced the weakest recovery in over a century. Had our forefathers placed their faith in government instead of individuals, the U.S. today would be a third world nation. By moving to replace our precious individual freedoms with progressively more government control over the economy and markets, the president opts for policies that will continue to erode the living standards of most Americans.”

Robert Genetski
Policy Advisor, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute


“The president says that the economy is improving substantially. Sadly, the average worker does not believe that. As President Barack Obama enters his sixth year in the White House, 68 percent of Americans say the country is either stagnant or worse off since he took office, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

“There is good reason for the pessimism. In 2007, 66 percent of Americans over age 16 either had a job or were looking for one. Today, that is down to 62.8 percent, the lowest labor-force participation rate since 1978.”

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University


“In his meandering mess of a speech, President Obama managed to completely gloss over the relevant facts regarding the failures of his signature health care law. Rather than admit the problems and apologize for them, the president chose to ignore the millions of Americans who’ve learned that even if they like their plan they can’t keep it, or even if they like their doctor they can’t keep him. Instead, he based his metric of success on the number of Americans signed up for Medicaid, an already overburdened and failing entitlement system which offers the false promise of care to millions of Americans.

“President Obama has made health care unaffordable for millions of citizens while needlessly disrupting our economy. At most, his health care exchanges are signing up 15 percent of the uninsured Americans they were supposed to enroll. And why? Because the American people are finding that the promises he made about bringing down the price of health insurance for individuals and families were complete and utter lies. If all the promises he’d made about Obamacare had come true, the president’s speech would’ve been a victory lap. Instead, it’s a grim insistence that his broken policy will endure, despite how much it has hurt Americans across the country.”

Benjamin Domenech
Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
The Heartland Institute


“President Obama dares to say ‘research shows government preschool is a great investment’ just a few months after yet another highest-quality study shows it’s fool’s gold. The president apparently prefers only the poor-quality research that supports his agenda of saddling kids with debt while failing to equip them to pay it off.

“The president is quite bold to claim his micromanaging, dictatorial education policies are already improving student achievement when the statistics show his penchant for making laws without Congress has slowed poor and minority kids’ achievement growth. The Common Core education standards and tests his administration has illegally pushed on schools still have no positive track record despite millions spent, and millions more to come.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News


“Claiming credit for Common Core by name is problematic for President Obama because many parents and teachers (including even the largest teachers’ union in New York State) are rebelling against this nationalized, cookie-cutter model of education. However, by boasting of his administration’s Race to the Top bribes to bring states on board – plus its funding of the linked national assessments and curricular materials – Obama implicitly took full ownership of Common Core last night. To call it ObamaCore is no exaggeration. Indeed, its implementation is proving to be every bit as productive for education as ObamaCare is for health care.”

Robert G. Holland
Senior Fellow, Education
The Heartland Institute


“I sat down at my television set with a yellow legal pad and a mechanical pencil to take notes and jot down comments I’d like to make. My legal pad is blank. I fell asleep and might still be asleep if my daughter hadn’t nudged me awake. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, so maybe I missed something important but I doubt it. I didn’t hear anything inspiring, uplifting or amusing, aside from his quip about how mothers might appreciate a phone call from their kids to help them sign up for Obamacare.

“It seems to me if there was a theme that ran through his talk, it’s that executive orders will drop from his pen like leaves from trees on a breezy day in late fall. Congress should grow a spine and remind the president that its job is to make the laws, and the president’s job is to see that the laws are faithfully executed. That’s why Congress is called the legislative branch of government and the presidency is called the executive branch.”

Steve Stanek
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News


“As a society, it is high time for us to recognize and embrace the truth. Contrary to President Obama’s misguided assertion, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Its increasing concentration only minimally affects earth’s climate, while it offers tremendous benefits to the biosphere. Efforts to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions are simply ludicrous. They will hurt far more than they will help.”

Craig D. Idso
Senior Fellow, Environment
The Heartland Institute
Co-editor, Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change


“The president said ‘climate change is a fact’ and vowed action via the Environmental Protection Agency in his State of Union Speech, but he did not ask for any new legislation such as the cap-and-trade bill he touted a year ago. As a scientist who knows without a doubt there is no significant man-made global warming, perhaps I should be pleased the president took a softer stance on the issue, But I am far from happy about the state of affairs on the issue.

“It has become purely a rock-solid, lock-step political position of the Democrat Party to believe in global warming, and of the Republican Party to disbelieve. I see no hint that the leadership in either party is truly interested in opening their minds to a scientific debate — to study the evidence and reach a reasoned non-politically motivated position and take actions accordingly.

“Science and politics do not match well. Science is not settled by a vote, and slogans and platform planks are not scientifically significant. It is my deepest regret this has become a political issue. I think we will make little progress in obtaining an open hearing from the public as long as the political leaders line up their followers on one side or the other.”

John Coleman
Meteorologist, KUSI-TV San Diego
Policy Advisor, Environment
The Heartland Institute


“President Obama seems to have toned down his climate rhetoric this year given the obvious reality of no rising global temperatures for 17-plus years and the current cold snap gripping the nation. Saying the phrase ‘climate change is a fact’ is meaningless.

“When our children look us in the eye, we want to tell them that our generation rejected the belief that regulating emissions alters our climate and weather. We want to tell our kids that we rejected the belief that acts of Congress or the U.N. or the EPA could alter storms or global climate. We want to say ‘Yes we did’ to our kids when they ask us if we stopped bureaucrats at the EPA and in our government from attempting to restrict our energy choices based on the belief politicians can change the weather.”

Marc Morano
Climate Depot


“Mr. Obama is fortunate to be president during America’s energy revolution. Extraction of oil and natural gas from dense shale is occurring with no help from the administration. It is occurring on private or state-controlled lands and driven by private initiatives. According to 2012 statistics compiled by the Energy Information Administration, the production of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and coal from federal lands and waters all fell. The difference between what is occurring on non-federal lands and federal lands demonstrates the economically punitive policies of this administration.

“The president correctly stated that climate change is a fact. It has been ongoing for hundreds of millions of years and there is little governments can do to stop it. The great fear of global warming was artificially contrived. For a president to declare that he will expand executive powers, without Congressional approval, to fight this non-threat is a drastic step towards authoritarian government. Already, the administration has contrived an artificial concept called the social cost of carbon. All life on the planet is carbon based. Is life a pollutant? Does life have a social cost? The concept is an insult to logic, language, and science.

“The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has produced reports reviewing appropriate scientific papers and concluded carbon dioxide emissions are not a major cause of global warming or climate change. Also, the reports cited thousands of studies in laboratories and in the field that demonstrate increased atmospheric carbon dioxide promotes growth of virtually all forms of green plants and is a tremendous boon to agriculture and the environment. Three decades of satellite observations confirm these findings.”

Kenneth Haapala
Executive Vice President
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)


“Last night’s State of the Union Address reminds me of the idiom ‘on one hand, on the other hand.’ On one hand, President Obama extolled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to ‘help America wean itself off foreign oil.’ He touted the new reality of ‘more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly 20 years.’ On the other hand, he promised to use his ‘authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations’ – which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.

“He took credit for his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which he claims has ‘moved America closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.’ And, regarding natural gas, Obama said he’ll ‘cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work.’ He also proclaimed: ‘I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.’ Yet, the Department of Energy has dozens of permits for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities languishing on some bureaucrat’s desk. One of the few approved terminals – Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal Project in Cameron Parish, Louisiana – created more than 2,000 jobs in 2013 and looks to create another 2,000 jobs in 2014. Let’s get those permits issued.

“On one hand, the president says he wants to help. On the other hand, everything he does hinders.”

Marita Noon
Executive Director
Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy


“In his State of the Union Address, President Obama asked whether we will leave our children’s children with a safer, more stable world with respect to the ‘settled’ issue of climate change. Why doesn’t Obama apply the same standard when it comes to government spending?

“Reckless overspending in Washington is creating an unsustainable mountain of debt that will be passed on to our children’s children. Yet throughout his speech, Obama outlined additional spending initiatives with no consideration of how they will be paid for. One such proposal would create a new ‘minimum wage’ for federal contractors. This gimmicky proposal will have little impact other than to force the federal government to pay more for goods and services – additional costs that will no doubt be passed on to future generations.

“If Obama is truly concerned about leaving our children’s children with a safer, more stable world, he should start by cutting government spending and reducing the tax burden on American workers so that the economy will finally begin to grow and the private sector will create jobs.”

Jonathan Steitz
Policy Advisor, Budgets and Taxes
The Heartland Institute


“President Obama seems hell-bent on dismantling America and its system of government one day at a time. He continues, in my opinion, to cavalierly jettison the constitutional system of checks and balances which was the genius of the Founding Fathers. First came the unauthorized czars, and now we have the proclamation of anticipatory end runs around the legislative branch through executive fiat using the moniker of executive orders.

“These unilateral acts are those of a man who would be king, which he is not. As I recall we fired the king more than 200 years ago. Jefferson, Madison, and the legions who staked and gave their lives on creating this republic to operate as a democracy are surely turning in their graves.”

Kurtis B. Reeg
President/Managing Partner
Reeg Lawyers, LLC
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute


“Apart from throwing a few crumbs to his base, President Obama produced nothing novel or interesting in his speech. But he did sadly reaffirm his commitment to a virtually Utopian society in which government takes the initiative on nearly all fronts. And that is plainly not in the spirit of what is distinctively American or just.

“I had hoped for some learning from the president – to the effect that the private sector is where solutions lie to nearly all our real problems. Government’s only role must be, as Jefferson said, to ‘secure [our] rights’ – not to train Americans for anything other than, perhaps, defending the country from potential aggressors. It is not the job of government to ‘give us a chance,’ since our form of government doesn’t include some monarch handing out favors to subjects.”

Tibor R. Machan
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Auburn University
R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise
Argyros School of Business & Economics
Chapman University


“From the SOTU, you’d never guess that we have a record low in number of people employed, record levels of debt, abysmal international standing in education, chaos in the Middle East, and millions losing their health insurance. But we’re going to the Olympics, finding natural gas (on private lands only), and planning (still) to close Gitmo (thereby upholding our constitutional ideals). Amanda in Arizona got health coverage, a small business opened in Detroit, and carbon emissions are way down (no attribution given to our dismal economy). All we need to do now is extend unemployment insurance, raise the minimum wage, and end gun violence. That last bit is one of a number of things Obama promises to do single handedly if Congress won’t cooperate.

“Now that ObamaCare has fixed health care, and reduced al Qaeda to a mere remnant, we can move on to fixing education.

“From the enthusiastic applause, it would appear that Congress is persuaded by this fantasy, though a few audience shots showed some dour-looking Republicans. They’re the ones getting blamed for ‘creating crises.’ Otherwise, all is well, and God bless America.

“How can anyone take this charade seriously?”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons


“What Obama delivered was a list of the same policies that have ill-served the nation. After five years, we know that what he cannot do is provide leadership sufficient to govern America. Foreign or domestic, his policies have been marked by failure.

“On the long roster of issues he addressed, he placed an emphasis on putting Americans to work again, but that remains a difficult goal to achieve when his administration is scaling new heights in the production of regulations that choke the nation’s business community, from large corporations to small businesses. There was no mention of the Keystone XL pipeline, which his own State Department estimated could produce 42,000 jobs.

“He advocated raising the minimum wage when all that will accomplish will be to reduce jobs and drive up costs to consumers.

“He dramatized Obamacare by using examples of people he said benefitted from it, but made no mention of the millions who have or will lose their health care plans and even their choice of a personal physician.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute


“President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was all about ‘micro-management.’ It was micro-management at one level since he realizes that a divided Congress will not pass any ‘grand’ legislation that he might try to submit. Thus, he proposed a series of small changes that he hopes that either Congress would go along with, or that he can try to impose through ‘executive order’ without Congressional approval.

“But the other level of his focus on micro-management highlights the inescapable political paternalistic mindset in which he thinks:

  • He knows what wage government contractors should pay their workers;
  • He knows how pre-kindergarten children should be taught;
  • He knows how businesses should organize their use of energy in their manufacturing of products;
  • He knows how long people should be financially able to be unemployed between jobs while looking for employment;
  • He knows how divergent income inequalities should or should not be in America;
  • He knows how to create career opportunities for young people and the type of education they should have available;
  • He knows the type and quality of health insurance and medical care people should receive.

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

“The president’s government-imposed ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions to what he considers to be America’s ‘problems’ are in stark contrast to the diversity of America, and the more reasonable and common-sensical view that people in their own circumstances and with their own knowledge can far better handle their own problems than someone in a far-away national capital with none of the real micro-knowledge of people’s lives. This partly explains the president’s low poll ratings. People come to resent the arrogant ‘do-gooder’ who presumes to know better how people should live than those people themselves.”

Dr. Richard Ebeling
Professor of Economics
Northwood University


“President Obama mentioned his desire to see election reforms, including ‘reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.’ For all its conveniences, early voting threatens the basic nature of citizen choice in democratic, republican government.

“In elections, candidates make competing appeals to the people and provide them with the information necessary to be able to make a choice. Citizens also engage with one another, debating and deliberating about the best options for the country. Especially in an age of so many nonpolitical distractions, it is important to preserve the space of a general election campaign — from the early kickoff rallies to the last debates in October — to allow voters to think through, together, the serious issues that face the nation.

“The integrity of that space is broken when some citizens cast their ballots as early as 46 days before the election, as some states allow. A lot can happen in those 46 days. Early voters are, in essence, asked a different set of questions from later ones; they are voting with a different set of facts.”

Eugene Kontorovich
Professor of Law, Northwestern University
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute


“President Obama does not seem to grasp the fact that in a free-market economy an employee gets a raise by showing his or her employer that their value has increased through more training, skill acquisition, education, or productivity gains. Workers who are currently paid less than $10.10 are so because their contribution to total revenue is less than $10.10 per hour.”

Jack A. Chambless
Economics Professor
Valencia College


“I fully support the president’s proposal to increase the minimum wage. However, if this will work as the president believes to increase employment and reduce income inequality in America, would it not do the same for other countries as well? Therefore, America should eliminate foreign aid and tell our former aid recipients to simply raise their minimum wage. If it works for us, it will work for them as well.

“Our aid recipients are likely more savvy than our president and I would expect few to accept the advice.”

Barry Keating
Professor, Mendoza College of Business
University of Notre Dame

Categories: On the Blog

No 1930s Regulations for the Internet – Let’s Modernize Instead

Somewhat Reasonable - January 28, 2014, 1:03 PM

The D.C. Circuit Court recently threw out the Barack Obama Administration’s huge 2010 Internet power grab – the all-encompassing uber-regulation known as Network Neutrality.

The Left has since been giving birth to herds of live bovines.

The Internet is Dead !!!! Government Kills Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Is Dead

Three judges in D.C. just killed Net Neutrality.  This could be the end of the Internet as we know it.

More than a little overwrought.  The ruling is now almost two weeks old – and the Internet is only better, stronger, faster.  Which is utterly unsurprising.  It’s been dazzling us for nearly thirty years without government-imposed Net Neutrality – we were only hobbled with it for three.

The first commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) emerged in the late 1980s.  Congress in 1996 last addressed Tech law with the Telecommunications Act - in which they said the Internet was so new and nascent, they would leave it alone.

Net Neutrality was created out of whole cloth in 2003 - when the private Web was already at least fifteen years old.  And had been all along growing exponentially.

And it continued throughout the 2000s to be an ever-expanding free speech-free market Xanadu – all without government-imposed Net Neutrality.

Did that stop the Left from all along the way freaking out?  Of course not.

Network Neutrality – Broadband Discrimination (2003)

Communications regulators over the next decade will spend increasing time on conflicts between the private interests of broadband providers and the publics interest in a competitive innovation environment centered on the Internet.

Google’s Comments on “Broadband Extortion” (2006) 

If comments like that don’t tell you why principles of net neutrality must be codified, then I don’t know what will. 

Net Neutrality: We’re Still Waiting (2010) 

“Its time for the FCC chairman to stop dithering….(T)he FCC must enact Net Neutrality rules that safeguard the open Internet for all users, no matter how they get online.”

Post-removal of government-imposed-Net-Neutrality, we will get even more of the same Internet extraordinariness we got pre-government-imposed-Net-Neutrality – the Left’s histrionics notwithstanding.

Only now they want the government to overreach further still

The Progressive response?  Go back in time to 1934 (and even before) – and impose landline telephone (Common Carrier) regulations on the Web.  The government regulates the daylights out of landlines – so Progressives want the government to jam the Web in there too.  Which would allegedly allow them to reimpose Net Neutrality – and tax the Net, and…. This move is called Reclassification.

The Left’s justifications for this are at best uber-flimsy.

ISPs still piggyback to a great extent on a government-built core infrastructure - thus the Common Carrier telephone regs should apply to the Internet.

A common carrier was when “Ma” Bell was a government-imposed landline phone monopoly, and everyone was forced to use them. Bell received a monopoly in exchange for adhering to the additional stifling regulations.

On the Web we have a free market-produced wide array of ISPs – myriad companies delivering service on multiple platforms (cable, wireless, satellite, etc).  No one is everyone’s “common carrier.”

ISPs have spent more than $1 trillion building the Web – they left “common carrier” regs in the dust hundreds of billions of dollars ago.

And the ISPs have over the years paid enough in taxes to buy outright a hundred (a thousand?) times over the government-funded infrastructure.

This would be like me saying I once lent Bill Gates $20, so I should have oversight over his entire fortune.

The industry is dominated by a few big companies, so oversight is needed to ensure that abuses are reduced.  

There are already laws to protect consumers from unfair Internet business practices – under the auspices of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and to a lesser extent (God help us currently) the Justice Department. Should an ISP block content, existing law would have the FTC and Justice raining down upon it.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Net Neutrality would be totally redundant – in addition to being destructively preemptive rather than reasonably responsive to problems as they arise.

Especially when only four such instances have arisen – ever.  All of which were resolved by the respective parties – without any government involvement whatsoever.

You know what protects us from private companies?  The freedom to choose. If Comcast is blocking you, you can fire them and hire Time Warner.  Or Cox.  Or Verizon. Or AT&T. Or Sprint. Or T-Mobile.  Which is why Comcast won’t block you.

The only monopoly in this discussion is – government.  See: schools, postal service, passenger trains,….  And how are those services doing?  Compared to how the Internet is doing inprivate hands?

And the Left wants to invite in the incompetent former to preemptively, prophylactically lord over the dazzling latter?  Thank you, no.

Instead of going back to the Great Depression and imposing those fabulous policies,…: 

Congressional Leaders Call for Communications Act Makeover

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) say its time to bring the 1996 law, which governs the nations communications networks, into the 21st century. 

We can write a new, updated, forward-looking, free market law – or Michael J. Fox our way back to the Depression and crush the Internet with a huge, antiquated, completely inapplicable regulatory superstructure.

Said new law would (amongst many other things) (hopefully) prevent any more absurd, obnoxious government overreach power grabs.

Like beginning to regulate (and tax) the Internet like we once did a rotary telephone – or the one Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor had to ask Sarah to dial for him


[Originally published on PJMedia]
Categories: On the Blog
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