David King has a point. In an article entitled “Why Public Transit Is Not Living Up to Its Social Contract: Too many agencies favor suburban commuters over inner-city riders,” King, an assistant professor of urban planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University notes that transit spends an inordinate share of its resources on suburban riders, short changing the core city riders who cost transit agencies far less to serve and are also far more numerous. He rightly attributes this to reliance on regional (metropolitan area) funding initiatives. Many in transit think it is necessary to run near empty buses in the suburbs to justify the use of transit taxes to suburban voters (what I would refer to as “showing the transit flag”)
King asks: “So does public transit serve its social obligations?” He answers: “Increasingly the answer is no.” King is rightly concerned about the disproportionate growth in spending on commuter rail lines that carry transit’s most affluent riders from deep in the suburbs to downtown. Transit policy has long been skewed in favor of the more affluent suburban dwellers in the United States.
My Experience in Los Angeles
I saw this first-hand as a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (LACTC). When we placed what was to become the first regional transit tax on the ballot (Proposition A in 1980), the shortage of transit service was critical in the highest demand, largely low-income areas of Los Angeles such as Los Angeles and East Los Angeles. I described the situation in a presentation to the annual conference of the American Public Transportation Association: “Often waiting passengers are passed at bus stops by full buses” Approximately 40 percent of the local bus services between the Santa Monica Mountains, Inglewood, Compton, Montebello and Santa Monica reached peak loads of 70 passengers, well above seating capacity
At the same time, suburban area buses were usually less than half-full. In connection with this concern, I produced a policy paper, Distribution of Public Transit Subsidies in Los Angeles County, which was published in by the Transportation Research Board. The abstract follows:
“Public transit today is faced with the challenge of serving its clientele while subsidies are failing to keep pace with increasing operating costs. In Los Angeles County, there are service distribution inequalities–overcrowding and unmet demand in some areas and, at the same time, surplus capacity in other areas. To use subsidy resources efficiently requires that the effects of present subsidy allocation practices be understood–that is, how subsidies are translated into consumed service, both by type of service and by geographic sector within the urban area. An attempt is made to provide a preliminary understanding of that distribution in Los Angeles County. It is postulated that significantly more passengers are carried per dollar of subsidy in the central Los Angeles area than in other areas and local services require a lower subsidy per passenger than do express services. A number of policy issues are raised, the most important being the very purpose of public transit subsidies.”
Generally, transit operating subsidies per passenger were far higher in the suburbs than in the central area (where incomes are the lowest, and poverty rates the highest), and subsidies were much higher for commuter express services than for local bus services.
I attempted to address this problem by proposing a “Mobility Policy” that would have reallocated service based on customer needs, giving precedence to areas where mobility was restricted due to limited automobile availability and lower incomes. Some colleagues whose constituents were disadvantaged by this inequity objected, feeling compelled, it appeared, to rally about the “transit flag”
On a Siding: Transit Policy in Recent Decades
Since that time, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas have built expensive rail and busway systems. Despite the promises of attracting people out of their cars (routinely invoked during election campaigns for higher taxes), the reality is that single occupant commuting has risen from 64 percent in 1980 to 76 percent in 2012. Over the same period, transit’s share of urban travel has fallen, though stabilized in recent years at very low levels in most metropolitan areas. Indeed, when New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and San Francisco are excluded (with their “transit legacy cities“), the 46 major metropolitan areas have a transit commute share of just three percent. Overall, more people work at home than commute by transit in 38 of these metropolitan areas and more people walk or cycle to work in 27, according to American Community Survey 2012 data.
Yet the politically driven inequality in transit spending continues. Transit subsidies continue to be far higher for services that are patronized by more affluent riders. For example, subsidies (operating and capital expenditures minus fares) are three times as high for the commuter rail services, with their higher income riders, than for buses, with their lower income riders (Figure).
The difference can be stark, as an example from the New York area indicates. A Fairfield County, Connecticut commuter rail rider with the median family income of $102,000 would be subsidized to the extent of $4,500 per year (assuming the national subsidy figure). By comparison a worker from the Bronx or Hudson County, New Jersey, with a poverty level family income of $18,500 per year (or less) would be subsidized only $1,500 per year. In fact, the bus subsidy would likely be even lower, because transit in lower income areas is much better patronized and thus less costly for the public. My Los Angeles research found inner city services to be subsidized approximately half below the average of all bus services (Note).
Where Transit Works
The functional urban cores contain the nation’s largest downtowns (central business districts). Their population densities are nearly five times that of the older suburbs and nine times that of the newer suburbs. The functional urban cores have transit market shares six times that of the older suburbs and 15 times that of the newer suburbs. Yet, it is in these poorer, denser areas where overcrowding is most acute and the need for more service is most acute. In Los Angeles, for example, the greatest potential for increasing transit ridership is where ridership is alreadyhighest.
The vast majority of suburban drivers are not plausible candidates for transit, simply because it cannot compete well with automobiles, except, for example, for some trips to the downtowns of the six transit legacy cities (which account only one of seven jobs in their respective metropolitan areas).
Where transit makes sense, people ride. Where it doesn’t, they don’t. Allocating resources inconsistent with this reality impairs the mobility of lower income residents, wastes resources and relegates transit to an inferior role in the city. Charging the affluent fares well below the cost of service compromises opportunities to serve more people in the community.
Better allocation of transit resources would likely improve core area unemployment rates by increasing the number of jobs that can be accessed by lower income workers. Further, because the better used services would require lower subsidies, there would be funding available for additional service expansions.
The principal fault is not that of transit management. It’s the politics.
Note: These data (expenditures per boarding) are estimated from Federal Transit Administration and American Public Transportation Association data for 2012. Commercial revenues other than fares are excluded (the most important such source is advertising). Debt service is also excluded because it is not reported in the annual reports of either organization. The subsidy ratios between lower income and more affluent riders would be changed by including transfers (though the subsidies would still be considerably higher for the more affluent). Some low income riders use more than one bus or rail vehicle for their trip, while some commuter rail riders transfer to bus or rail services at one or both ends of their trips. No readily available data is available to make such an adjustment. The New York area example assumes 225 round trips per year.
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.Originally published at www.newgeography.com
The American presidency has grown in power almost continuously since the outbreak of World War II. The executive has risen from being simply the chief magistrate of the government to be being a quasi-legislative force, a leader who pushes an aggressive legislative agenda as well as enforcing the laws passed by the legislature. The president is frequently referred to as “the most powerful person in the world,” or “the leader of the free world.” Such appellations represent far more than good PR. They are statements of fact that the president of the United States has drastically more power and authority than any other individual on Earth.
For that reason certainly, presidents should be restricted to a single term of office. After the Second World War it became clear that a president with no term limits could accrue enormous personal power through networks of patronage in Congress and through a monopoly on judicial appointments. During his more than three terms in office, Franklin Roosevelt used the power of the presidency to significantly truncate the power of the other branches of government. No president in history had ever enjoyed such unrestricted power.
A Lack of Self-Restraint
The Constitution was framed with the expectation that the country’s leaders would behave justly in office and would not seek to build permanent bases of power. Presidential self-restraint was a tradition started by George Washington, the so-called Cincinnatus of the West, who led his nation through its early turbulent years and then returned to his fields as a private citizen. It was that example to which Washington’s successors looked for guidance. So long was his shadow that for 150 years those who came after him did not seek a third full term of office.
That changed with FDR, who decided that the country needed his leadership more than it needed the propriety of self-restraint. Opinion is fiercely divided on the wisdom and rectitude of Roosevelt’s decision, but what was certain to the leaders of Congress after his death and the accession of Harry Truman was that such a decision should not again be permitted. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1951, restricting presidents to serve a maximum of two terms in office. The amendment was meant to create an electoral environment in which a president could serve eight years, but not cling to power indefinitely.
One and Done
Certainly, the two-term limit is better than no limit. However, it is not enough. There are three crucial reasons that the president should be limited to a single term. The first reason was alluded to earlier in this article, that the president’s much increased power in the contemporary political landscape demands an even greater restriction on his ability to dominate the public arena. Whereas the legislature and judiciary are composed of many competing views, with members of various parties and outlooks represented, the executive speaks with a single voice. In Congress, even the party leaderships are not the sole centers of power, with factions and alternative nexuses of influence forming throughout that branch of government. Executive power, on the other hand, rests solely in the hands of the president. The president has full power over the policies of the executive branch of government. The cabinet, which is a critical part of the executive in practice, is directly answerable to the president, and can be dismissed if they are uncooperative or otherwise incur the president’s displeasure. Presidents should be elected to fulfill their constitutional duty, not to grow their power and the power of their office. Making the presidency a “one and done” business would act as a useful balancer to the tilting landscape of contemporary American politics.
The second reason is an outgrowth of the increased presidential authority, namely the increased power of incumbency. More than just the name recognition and patronage channels created by senators and congressmen, the sheer grandness of the office of president makes it one that is hard to assail from the outside. A challenger in an election necessarily has to go toe-to-toe with the most powerful person in the world. That is a daunting challenge. A sitting president has had years to lead the mightiest nation on Earth. It is hard to beat that, even if the president is unpopular in his own right. The problem this situation creates is that it makes it exceptionally hard to get rid of a sitting president. Sure, the president will still be gone for good after another four years, but a lot of damage can be done in that time. The very nature of the presidency skews the electoral field so far that elections to unseat a president are definitionally unfair.
What’s more, presidents probably should not be campaigning for office at all. That is the third reason to restrict presidents to one term. When a president takes office for the first time, he has a relatively brief window in which to enact his policy aims before he has to focus most of his energies on getting reelected. Once reelected, presidents frequently run out of steam. The result is a presidency that is, when at its most energetic, is focused myopically on the retention of power. A one-term limit would serve to galvanize presidents to be focused on issues, not on power. It would dispose of the lost years spent campaigning for reelection in which presidents are out to protect themselves, not serve the people.
A Hard Sell
Getting a constitutional amendment underway that would limit the president in this way would be an arduous endeavor. The Constitution is hard to change at the best of times, and an amendment that takes away powers from the president can never meet smooth sailing. The hope for such a policy must rest in people waking up to the inherent flaws in the system as it is. Certainly this past election threw a lot of the problems into stark relief. Now it is a matter of showing how things would be better if Obama, or any president, had to strut their hour upon the stage without hope of an encore.
Who says bipartisanship is dead?
We recently had 57 Senators and 152 House members – (obviously) culled from both Parties – sign letters to Barack Obama Administration Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. In which they expressed concern about inexpensive Korean steel being in mass quantities imported here.
Interestingly, they express this concern within the context of their appreciation of the greatness and import of…fracking. The oil and gas extraction method that is hurtling us towards energy independence – in spite of the Left’s vociferous, irrational opposition. Steel is, of course, a vital component of fracking. This same sentence appears in both letters:
The discovery and production of shale gas in the United States is a strategic benefit for both America’s economic and energy security.
See – bipartisanship. The environmentalist loons should take a flying leap.
Why is the bipartisan contingent concerned about the cheap Korean steel dumping? American job loss.
U.S. steel producers employ 8,000 workers across the country making OCTG. Each of these jobs supports seven additional jobs in the supply chain and the steel produced for the U.S. energy market accounts for approximately ten percent of domestic production.
They are diagnosing a real problem – foreign countries dump all kinds of oft-subsidized products here. But they are prescribing the wrong long term solution. To truly fix this – for the world and forever – we need less government. Both here and abroad.
In actual free markets – domestic and global – consumers benefit from the least expensive goods produced by the most efficient companies. But we have nothing remotely resembling free markets – either domestically or globally.
This steel situation is a fabulous example of the high cost of terrible domestic government policy. The damage being done by government to domestic manufacturing and production has been awful and increasing – for decades. As government piled on ever higher taxes and more and more laws and regulations, more and more domestic production became internationally-manufactured imports.
We have the industrialized world’s absolute highest corporate income tax rate. The cost of the regulations we dump on businesses is simply stunning – more than $1.8 trillion per year. And then we wonder why less and less people want to do business here.
If I invite you into my house, and then beat you about the head and shoulders with a bat – I should at least have the decency to not act surprised when you get up and leave.
Korea can make steel – and then ship it half way round the world – and still price it below our domestic production in part because they are abusing trade laws. But also because our domestic price of government is so incredibly huge.
Congress is responsible for the gi-normous tax and regulatory burdens on our businesses. They should get their own House (and Senate) in order.
Cut and reform dramatically the tax code, cut way back the regulatory uber-thicket – and rein in the unelected regulatory agencies that are each and every day piling more and more burdens on business.
Our government is smothering us. It needs to allow us up for air.
By Nancy Thorner –
The Heartland Institute attracted an overflow crowd at its headquarters’s library at 1 S. Wacker Drive, #2740, Chicago, IL, for an event on Thursday, July 17th at 5:30 p.m. The event was billed by The Heartland Institute as “An Evening with Stephen Moore and Travis H. Brown,” co-authors with Dr. Arthur B. Laffer and Rex A. Sinquefield, to discuss their new book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States. Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of “Forbes Media,” referred to the book as “a bible for state and local leaders who truly want rapid economic growth. It will profoundly, positively change politics and economics in America.”
The book makes a positive argument for tax reform through an analysis of the economic growth or malaise resulting from the tax policies employed by states over a fifty year period. These four policy variables are analyzed that can have enormous effects on the financial well-being of states and individual residents:
- Personal and corporate income tax rates
- Total tax burden as a percentage of personal income
- Estate and inheritance taxes
- Right-to-work laws
The book’s final chapter of “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States” deserves special attention, as it rebuts the criticism directed against the book and its authors for the ideas and analyses presented therein. The first of fourteen rebuttal arguments refutes those who believe that “Taxes and Other Supply-Side Policy-Variables Don’t Affect Population and Gross State Product Growth.”
About co-authors Moore and Brown
Co-author Stephen Moore founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. He was a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and frequently opines on the pages of their op-ed section. In 2014 the Heritage Foundation announced that Moore would become its chief economist. Moore is known for advocating free-market policies and supply-side economics. Having grown up in New Trier Township, Illinois , Moore graduated from New Trier High School in 1978.
This is the second visit by co-author Travis H. Brown to The Heartland Institute. On Oct. 30, 2013, he gave a presentation at a Heartland Authors Series luncheon about his solo best-selling book How Money Walks, that explores how wealth and people move between the states. Mr. Brown is the CEO and co-founder of Pelopidas, LLC, a St. Louis-based public affairs and advocacy firm, a frequent contributor to Forbes.com, and a nationally sought-after speaker who regularly appears on national media outlets, including CNBC and Fox New Business.
Steven Moore’s thoughts
Just what was the impetus that inspired Stephen Moore to be on board as one of four co-authors of “An Inquiry into the nature and Causes of the Wealth of States? When traveling around the country, Mr. Moore noticed that red states were getting redder and the blue states bluer. Further observed was how different the blue states were from red states in their cultural views and economic policies. It was like being in two different countries. Furthermore, Democrats were becoming an endangered species in red states, while Republicans were becoming the same in blue states.
When considering the four largest states population-wise, Texas, California, Florida, and New York, there are two red (Texas and Florida) and two blue (California and New York). The four states combined are of great importance to this nation, as one in every three Americans live in one of the four most populated states. But why are Texas and Florida outpacing CA and New York in both population and economic growth? Might it be because red states have adopted Reganomics while blue states are bogged down in Obamanomics? Factors such as taxes, drilling for resources, Right to Work status, and how the economy is regulated in each state do matter. Consider the job growth in all four of the most populated states over the last twenty years: Texas (58%); Florida (44%); New York (zero net growth); and California (12%).
Moore spoke about debating New York Times Paul Krugman over why people move from Point 1 to Point 2. To Paul Krugman there is a simple explanation. It’s all about sunshine and weather. But this doesn’t explain the surge of individuals from CA to Houston, Texas. Three moving vans move to Houston from places in CA for every one van that travels from Houston to CA. This didn’t happen by chance. Accordingly, Texas has added one million jobs or 40% of the total job gains in the U.S., while CA has lost one-half million jobs.
Moore believes that if Illinois lowered its income tax rate and became a Right to Work state it would see tremendous economic growth. As Moore reflected, “Liberal states and cities must either change or die like Detroit.” According to Moore, the governor’s race in IL is the most important race in the nation come November. If Quinn is re-elected, Illinois will keep on its downward trajectory toward certain death.
Travis Brown’s thoughts
In evaluating research compiled over the last fifty years, Illinois has experienced a bleeding of state income with most of it occurring in Cook County. It is easy to be fooled about Chicago. How we love the amenities and the reasons for being here in Chicago, but facts convey another story.
Without the tremendous job growth in Texas, as already noted, things would likely be much worse now with possibly a flat rate of growth nationally, rather than the dismal 2.9% U.S. GDP realized in the first quarter of 2014. Temporary, urgent tax hikes are often used by many states — described by Brown as a “tax on work” — as a way to cure problems. How then can it be explained that the nine states having a zero price on work (no state income tax) perform better than those having a state income tax? Often forgotten is that throughout one-half of this nation’s history, there were no taxes. The state of New Jersey once had no income tax. Now New Jersey levies state taxes at rates ranging from 1.4 percent to 8.97 percent, assessed over progressive income brackets.
New Jersey’s current economic situation, as the one here in Illinois, gives validity to this statement that no state has ever taxed its way into prosperity. Instead, high state tax rates have resulted in mass migration from states having an income tax to those states without income taxes. California’s income tax rates are the highest in America, reaching an astronomical 13.3 rate, which explains why people are moving out of California. According to Brown, one out of every five individual employed in this nation resides in states with a zero income tax. They include: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. States with nearly no income tax are Tennessee and New Hampshire New Hampshire. A dichotomy: Liberals love jobs but they dislike business!
As to what happens when taxes increase on work, Brown used the analogy of the cigarette tax, questioning what happens when cigarette taxes increase? The outcome is that less cigarettes are sold, which results in less tax revenue. But because of the competitive market people can buy cigarettes somewhere else like out of state. The same happens when the price on work is raised. There is less work due to the loss of jobs, which results in decreased tax revenue.
Regarding the presidential election of 2016, Travis Brown related how the most important thing is to beat HER in 2016. The use of HER produced some perplexed looks until Brown explained that Hillary may not be the choice of all Democrats. Elizabeth Warren is becoming the darling of many on the party’s far left wing. Speaking on Friday, July 18, at Netroots Nation, a convention for liberal bloggers and activists, Warren got the crowd more fired up than Vice President Joe Biden was able to do the day before when she outlined the 11 tenets of progressive policies which should define the Democratic agenda. Those who doubt Elizabeth Warren can overtake Hillary Clinton in popularity must only look back to the big upset in 2008 when Obama, virtually an unknown, beat Hillary.
Question and Answer Period
A lively discussion followed the remarks by Stephen Moore and Travis H. Brown. Of merit were the following responses given by Moore and Brown to questions entertained from those in attendance.
- The mobility of tax payers is part of the American dream. Individuals move up and down tax brackets as incomes change. It is important to keep the price on work as low as possible to stem job losses. In states where income tax rates are high, people are leaving for other states. Unfortunately Colorado is becoming a blue state as CA residents migrate to Colorado and continue to vote Democratic. The same is happening to New Hampshire, which used to be a red state, as residents from Massachusetts flee to N.H. taking their Democratic allegiance with them.
- With the highest corporate tax in the world at 35%, the U.S. is essentially putting a tariff on everything it produces. This is resulting in companies moving abroad where tax rates are lower. In essence, we are exporting American jobs abroad, an unpatriotic thing to do!
- Walgreen is being pressured to ditch its US headquarters in Deerfield, IL, for Europe. The Drugstore chain Walgreen Co. (WAG +2.55%) has come under intensifying shareholder pressure to use its large ownership stake in the Swiss-based Alliance Boots as a justification to re-domicile in Europe and reduce its U.S. tax bill, according to a Financial Times report. The company’s tax rate of 37.5% could drop to 20% overseas.
- Chicago is even worse than Detroit in its overall debt level when it should be a world class city. A major drawback is that the Democratic Party is owned by the Chicago Teachers Union. Even some Republicans are guilty of the same. It is thought that Mayor Rahm Emanuel should have stood up to CTU president, Karen Lewis, who might be a formidable candidate for mayor to unseat Mayor Emanual now that Toni Perwinkle has indicated her disinterest in running for the mayoral office.
- Rick Snyder was cited as a governor who has turned around Michigan in his first term in office. Even though Michigan has lost the car industry, cars are still produced in the U.S. but in other states, mostly southern “Right to Work” states.
- On the whole Northeast states are being bleed to death as its residents migrate to other states because of the heavy tax burdens placed on citizens and businesses. This has resulted in Northeast states losing political power (seats) in the U.S. House. It was noted, however, that despite losing House seats, each state still has two senators.
- Without hesitation, both Moore and Brown predicted that if Republicans take over the governorship here in Illinois, things will change for the better. Moore and Brown met with Republican candidate Bruce Rauner before their Heartland appearance and liked what Rauner had to say for turning the state around. If Pat Quinn wins in November, Illinois will completely fail as a state and will bleed to death.
- Not to be forgotten: Government spending is taxation and consists of the spending of something that is yours!
It was nice to see Illinois Republican legislators Jeanne Ives (42nd Representative District) and Tom Morrison (54th Representative District) in attendance.
St. Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), author Travis Brown (c) and Nancy Thorner (r)
Check out these coming events sponsored by The Heartland Institute:
Ninety percent of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and lack light to study and work by, refrigeration to prevent food spoilage and power to operate equipment that could multiply their productivity.Having recently returned from The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change held in Las Vegas from July 7-9, “Just Don’t Wonder About Global Warming, Understand It,” I was privileged to hear some of the world’s hundreds of leading climate scientists and researcher discuss the latest state of global warming science, all who question whether manmade global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare.
Eight hundred participants were on hand to hear 64 speakers from 12 different countries (14 countries if counting the moon with Astronaut Walter Cunningham and Washington, D.C.) despite the fierce heat of Las Vegas in July. At one point 4,000 individuals were listening to the conference as it was streamed live from the conference website in Las Vegas.
This year’s delegates’ speeches showed how the myths of the climate alarmist are false, which shatters the often quoted 97% consensus figure given for those who believe most of the warming since 1959 was man-made. On the contrary, only 0.5 percent of the authors of 11,944 scientific papers on climate and related topics over the past 21 years have said they agreed that most of the warming since 1950 was man-made. Furthermore, according to the RSS satellite record (Remote Sensing Systems), there has been no global warming for 17 years and 10 months.
Obama’s statements conflict with scientific findings:
The above conclusions conflict with the statements made by President ObamaOn Tuesday, May 6, when he warned that “people’s lives are at risk” because of man-made climate change proclaimed during a series of interviews with National and Local television meteorologists. “Not only is climate change a problem in the future, it’s already effecting Americans,” Obama told CBS News, warning that the phenomenon was “increasing the likelihood” of floods, droughts, storms and hurricanes.
Even the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said in its last two reports that there has seen no particular change in the frequency or severity of floods worldwide. Neither are droughts getting worse (the fraction of the world’s land under drought has fallen for 30 years), nor are hurricanes getting worse (combined frequency, severity and duration has been at or near the lowest in the 35-year satellite record).
There was an element of truth, however, to be found in President Obama’s remarks on Tuesday, May 6, but as happens time and again, Obama’s spoken version of the truth amounted to fantasy. Instead of putting people “lives at risk” by failing to take drastic measures to curb CO2, millions of people are dying because Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life itself.
Such was the topic of the final panel discussion, “Panel 21: Global Warming as a Social Movement,” on Wednesday afternoon before adjournment of Heartland’s 9th Annual International Conference on Climate Change.
The distinguished panelists included E. Calvin Beisnert, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance; Paul Driessan, J.D. senior policy advisor with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise; and Peter Ferrara, J.D., general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union at the Heartland Institute. Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo was the Moderator, a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives representing District 588.
Panelists Beisnert, Driessan and Ferrara laid out a convincing message how climate alarmists, as environmentalists, view people primarily as polluters and consumers who use up Earth’s resources and poison the planet in the process, rather than being good stewards. It might even be said that environmentalism is the new face of the anti-human, “Pro-Death” agenda. Through the bogus “crises” of man-made global warming, affordable and reliable energy and other modern blessings are being denied to the developing world. This despite the $3.5 billion spent around the world to combat climate change. Worth reading is an opinion piece by Caleb S. Rossitger, updated May 4, 2014, “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change.” Change.”
Social Impacts of Reducing Carbon Emissions:
- 90% of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and lack light to study and work by, refrigeration to prevent food spoilage and power to operate equipment that could multiply their productivity. Environmentalists’ oppose building large power plants and electric grids. Each American accounts for 20 times the emissions of each African. With 15% of the world’s population, Africa produces less than 5% of carbon-dioxide emissions. Shouldn’t real years added to real lives trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe?
- Because of the lack of electricity, two to three million women and children die annually from lung disease around the world from burning wood and dried dung to cook their food or heat their huts.
- Another one to two million people die annually from malaria since the banning of DDT.
- Where energy is available, regulation of greenhouse gas and other environmental regulations drive up the cost of basic necessities such a food, fuel and electricity, stifling economic growth and costing jobs.
- America’s ethanol policy alone is estimated to cause nearly 200,000 premature deaths every year in the developing world by limiting the amount of corn for human consumption, which, in turn, raises its purchase price.
- Golden corn seeds could end Vitamin A deficiency in millions of children. Genetically produced rice with Vitamin E is also available. Even so, eight million children have died since the invention of this life-saving rice out of fear of using genetically enhanced food items.
- Proposed caps on emissions, and so-called renewable energy mandates, would cost our nation millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Even though Americans are wealthy by world’s standards, poor and single-income families in the U.S. would be hardest hit, while much poorer people around the would suffer even more if required to restrain greenhouse gas emissions.
- A carbon tax on Cap and Trade is a regressive tax which would hit hardest the poor among us. The poor already pay a higher proportion of their income for energy, plundering the poor, as would state mandates for wind and solar power, which would result in higher energy costs over what is currently being provided by power plant now under fire by the EPA for CO2 emissions linked to Global Warming.
- Wealth increases more when the overall global temperature is warmer and furthermore correlates with happiness, better health, and longevity. The more we do to fight Global Warming, the less off the poor will be in poorer nations, with higher rates of disease and death.
If this nation really cared about the poor, our government would stay off the Global Warming bandwagon and use the billions currently being spent to combat EPA fuel emissions standard, which have no effect, and instead put the billions to where it would do the most good fighting disease and poverty. Building fossil fuel plants and a grid to provide electricity to all the houses around the globe where dung and wood are still burnt in the absence of electricity, would cost 1/2 billion a year less than compliance with EPA’s fuel emission standards.
Evident is that those who control carbon control our lives. Shutting down power plants could carry some health benefits by reducing the risk of asthma and heart attacks in areas near the plants, but will cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants by about 25% from 2012 levels by 2020 make the planet healthier? Greenhouse gasses would still escape into the atmosphere from around the world? Hence, cutting carbon emissions would be a drag on this nation’s economy. See this article by Sally Deneen for National Geographic,“One Key Question on Obama’s Push Against Climate Change: Will It Matter”, for further clarification.
Global Warming could rightly be called a social movement, a big green and government movement, not unlike the “Population Bomb” which warned of mass starvation of humans in 1970′s and 1980′s due to overpopulation, and which advocated immediate action to limit population growth.
The emphasis on Climate Change as a urgent threat, propagated by President Obama and being carried out through the EPA, is in actuality a weapon of mass destruction and a war on women and children. Alarmists use threats as a way to justify their power to decide how much energy is available for use by humanity throughout the world. As such, big green with its eco-friendly measures appears callous to human destruction.
It is not being denied that global temperature have risen over the last 150 years or more, but it is mostly a natural occurrence, and certainly within the range of natural climate variability over the centuries; i.e. the Medieval Warm Period, an interval from approximately AD1000 to AD1300. During that time many places around the world exhibited conditions that seem warm compared to today. Heartland and the scientists it works with have never promoted “denial of a changing climate.” The climate is always changing. The question is whether man’s contribution to climate change rises above statistical noise and whether it is a crisis.
The issue of Climate Change is the greatest moral and ethical battle of our time. We must stand up for the tyranny resulting from the seizure of that which powers our civilization, sufficient energy production at an affordable cost. Without this availability, the global death toll will rise before is decreases due to the dark forces of a Climate Change fantasy.
View here videos of all Speakers and Panel Discussions at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change.
Most veterans get most of their medical care from private doctors through Medicare or private insurance. Just think what those secret waiting lists would be like if they didn’t!
Still, a VA-like system for all has been proposed as a replacement for our unsustainable current system—at least until the recent scandals broke.
One enormous difference between the VA and Medicare is that veterans are free to go elsewhere—if they pay privately. Some veterans use their VA doctor only to get free medications.
Medicare patients, on the other hand, are trapped. There is virtually no private coverage available to persons over 65 to replace Medicare—President Lyndon Johnson wiped it out to prevent competition with “his” beloved system. There are only policies to “supplement” Medicare. And Medicare patients can’t just pay out of pocket for a “covered” service they can’t get otherwise, say because the Medicare-allowed price is too low—unless they see a doctor who is opted out of Medicare or disenrolled. For doctors, Medicare is all or nothing, so most doctors are still enrolled.
Most people don’t care about that—not yet. Who would want to pay for something that is free?
So it’s a good idea to look at those “free” (taxpayer-paid) VA services.
In an online survey by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), less than two percent of 1,000 respondents said care at the VA was the equivalent of the care in the private sector or a model for the entire U.S. medical system. Only 4 percent said it was “generally good, but uneven.” A bare majority (52 percent) said that VA care was “good in some areas, but fraught with many serious problems,” and 22 percent responded that it was “ok if you can get it, but access is seriously limited.” Nearly 20% checked “other” and suggested a term equivalent to “poor.” One said “hard to tell how bad because they destroy or hide records.”
Only about 9 percent of respondents said the problems could be “fixed” by firing people, and less than 3 percent by large increases in funding. The main problems, elaborated on in the more than 200 comments, are a huge, rigid bureaucracy and the “VA way” at the “VA Spa.”
The bureaucracy interferes with care and punishes anyone who calls attention to problems. The main concern of the unionized workers appears to be to leave work on time. This means that surgery cannot be scheduled to start much later than 1:00 p.m. The response to a request to call a “code” for a patient who has had a cardiac arrest might be “I’m on break” or “it’s not my job.” Staff might record normal vital signs every 4 hours on a patient discovered to be dead and cold when physicians make morning rounds.
“No VA employee, however incompetent, could ever be fired,” stated one physician. Another said, “Incompetence is accepted…, and keeping quiet about it is the accepted norm.”
There are many dedicated physicians and workers who truly care about the veterans, rather than seeing them as “something to be endured in order to receive a paycheck.” And some facilities, mostly associated with medical schools, are described as excellent. But they seem to be exceptions to the rule.
“Basically, patients need a doctor advocate in the private sector,” one respondent commented.
And what will happen to the private sector under ObamaCare? Reformers want to abolish fee-for-service payment (payment for doing work) and replace it with VA-style incentives: a steady paycheck with “bonuses” for making the numbers look good. The VA’s electronic medical record is said to be particularly good for tracking those metrics, though private doctors complain that they cannot get a useful, accurate record for a VA patient, if they can get any record at all.
ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board will soon be clamping down on total Medicare expenditures, and then private expenditures also. It is already “fraud” to provide a “medically unnecessary” service to a Medicare patient, and physicians can be excluded from all ObamaCare health plans for not “performing” as the bureaucrats think they should.
Doctors may be soon escaping to the VA, instead of the other way around. But patients will have nowhere in the U.S. to go.
Heartland Institute CEO Joe Bast awards Dr. Arthur Robinson with “Voice of Reason” award
Ongoing today in this nation is a full court press to convince the public that everybody knows that a catastrophic global warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living.
The earth can be either warm or cool and has done both at one time or another for thousands of years, even before there were SUVs. Had there never been any global warming in the past, enjoying a visit to Yosemite Valley today would be impossible as it was once buried under thousands of feet of ice.
Forty-five years ago in the 1970′s, the environmental hysteria was all about the dangers of a new ice age. This hysteria was spread by many of the same individuals who are promoting today’s hysteria about global warming.
Today the far the political left’s favorite argument is that there is no argument, that science is settled, despite the cooling trend in the 70′s and now the absence of any warming for 17 years and 10 months.
Radical environmentalist Al Gore believes that disasters around the world can only be avoided by imposing a new form of authoritarian government. Democracy is dismissed as a model that can sustain the world. How then do climate alarmists like Al Gore explain the following discrepancy? Progress on the environmental front has been steady over the last half century without the transformative agenda now being proposed and enacted by President Obama to save the planet.
To President Obama climate change policies represent an important plank of his political agenda, one that Obama wants noted as an important presidential legacy achievement. Obama unequivocally accepts the claims made by climate change alarmists that are set forth by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He is not at all hesitant to bash what he calls “climate deniers” and their obstruction by daring to debate science behind man-made global warming. So it was on Friday, May 9, in a speech at a California Wal-Mart that Obama once again proclaimed “climate change as a fact” and that climate change skeptics are wasting everybody’s time on a settled debate.
In the mindset of President Obama, storms, floods and droughts have been made more severe by rising global temperatures. This despite a report by IPCC that shows there “is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century” and current data shows “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century. … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”
In keeping with the “science is settled” argument falsely being conveyed to gullible Americans by Al Gore, the Obama administration, other radical environmentalists, and the mainstream media, it was gratifying and most appropriate that nine individuals (with a surprise tenth award), were selected prior to Heartland’s recent 9th International Conference on Climate Change through a request process solicited by The Heartland Institute for ideas and nominations of individuals world-wide who were willing to speak out against global warming alarmism. Without shame, The Heartland Institute considers it a badge of honor to have been called by The Economist in a May 26, 2011 article “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”
Heartland’s ten award recipients, all global warming skeptics accorded by President Obama as climate deniers, are but representative of countless of scientists who are routinely shunned by politically correct universities and scientific societies by simply speaking truth to power. Climate skeptics or deniers often take great risks regarding their personal safety and their professional careers, which have cost them the promotions and rewards they might have otherwise received from their peers. Government money falls on those who seek grants to study global warming and then produce solutions for it. That money is not likely to fall on skeptic in the scientific community who refuse to join the global warming stamped.
The awards delivered at Heartland’s conference were sponsored by eight organizations. Their purpose was to give long-overdue recognition and encouragement to the recipients, increase public awareness of the global warming realism movement, and send a signal to the academy and other elite institutions saying if they won’t recognize our heroes, The Heartland Institute will. All of the ICCC9 videos can be viewed at this site.
Following are the ten award winners — global warming heroes — individuals you should know about who are deserving of your praise and congratulations for their willingness to speak out about global warming alarmism:
- “Speaks Truth to Power Award” to Dr. Patrick Moore, an internationally renowned ecologist and environmentalist who began his career as an activist/leader in the Greenpeace movement.
- “Frederick Seitz Memorial Award” to Dr. Sherwood Idso, president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and the world’s leading authority on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants.
- “Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science Award” to Dr. S. Fred Singer who was among the first and is still the most prominent scientist in the world speaking out against global warming alarmism. In the August 2007 issue of Imprimis (a publication of Hillsdale College), Dr. Singer wrote this excellent article: “Global Warming: Man-Made or Natural?”
- “Outstanding Spokesperson on Faith, Science, and Stewardship Award” to Dr. E. Cavin Beisner a theologian, historian and national spokesman for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and author or co-author of several major papers and articles on global warming produced by the Cornwall Alliance.
- “Outstanding Evangelical Climate Scientist Award” to Dr. Roy W. Spencer, a former Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer has made no secret of his evangelical faith.
- “Excellence in Climate Science Communication Award” to Tom Harris, the founder and executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, a non-partisan group of independent scientists, economists, and energy and policy experts who are working to promote better understanding of climate science and policy worldwide.
- “Courage in Defense of Science Award” to Dr. Willie Soon, who as an astrophysicist and a geoscientist he is a leading authority on the relationship between solar phenomena and global climate. His discoveries challenge computer modelers and advocates who consistently underestimate solar influences on cloud formation, ocean currents, and wind that cause climate change.
- “Climate Science Whistleblower Award” to Dr. Alan Carlin, now retired, who was a career environmental economist at EPA when the Competitive Enterprise Institute broke the story of his negative report on the agency’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases in June, 2009. Dr. Carlin’s supervisor had ordered him to keep quiet about the report and to stop working on global warming issues.
- Surprise Heartland Award: “Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award” to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (Lord Christopher Monckton) who has for years been crisscrossing the globe sharing the inconvenient truths about global warming. Known as the high priest of climate skepticism, Lord Monckton advised Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Monckton has attended United Nations conferences since the Rio Conference in 1991, during which time steps have been taken to create what is in effect a world government. He urged conference attendees to write their congressmen and senators, telling them to press for the inclusion of an escape clause in the Treaty of Paris that will permit any State to resign from its obligations by giving a few months’ notice. In that way, as the world continues to fail to warm anything like as fast as predicted, nations can break free from the regime of terror by stealth that has been furtively planned.
- “Voice of Reason Award” to Dr. Arthur Robinson, a distinguished chemist, co-founder of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, and editor of the newsletter “Access to Energy.”
It is worth noting that Dr. Art Robinson, as the internationally respected scientist that he is, is running in Oregon Congressional District 4 against Democrat Peter DeFazio, who cast one of the four deciding votes for Obamacare after telling Oregonians he would vote against it. This is Art Robinson’s third attempt to defeat Democrat Peter DeFazio, the first attempt being in 2010. Robinson wants to restore sorely needed common sense in Washington, D.C. He is not afraid to speak up publicly on behalf of sound science and common sense. May he encourage others to follow the same course of action in the political arena.
Robinson’s book, Common Sense in 2012, although published and distributed in 2012, is just as relevant to the problems this nation is facing today as it was two years ago.
This is your chance to get behind candidate Art Robinson, Ph.D., one of the ten distinguished award winners at Heartland’s Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Send an outstanding scientist to Congress in November. His “Voice of Reason Award” should serve him well in his role as a U.S. Congressman on the Chamber floor.
More on Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Global Warming:
© Alan Caruba, 2014
Thursday, July 17 was a big news day. The world was shocked to learn that a Russian-made missile shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet with 298 on board as it flew over Ukraine en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. Though flight 17 eclipsed the news cycle, there was another thing shot down on July 17.
Almost a year ago, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott won a landslide election with a nearly single-issue campaign: repeal the carbon tax. On July 17, he made good on that promise, as the Australian Senate voted, 39 to 32, to abolish the “world’s biggest carbon tax”—a tax that was reported to “do nothing to address global warming, apart from imposing high costs on the local economy.”
Australia was one of the first major countries, outside of the European Union, to adopt a carbon price—first suggested in 2007 and passed under Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011. Gillard’s campaign promise was: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” While she attempted to brand it a carbon price, not a “tax,” Sinclair Davidson, a professor in the school of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University, said: “the electorate had a very specific understanding of her words” and perceived it as a broken promise.
Australia’s carbon tax, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was “recognized by the International Energy Agency as model legislation for developed countries.” WSJ reports that when Australia’s carbon tax was passed, the Brookings Institute “described Australia as an ‘Important laboratory and learning opportunity.’”
So, what do we learn from the “laboratory” the now-failed “model legislation” offered?
First, WSJ states: “The public hates it.” The (UK) Telegraph calls the tax: “one of the most unsuccessful in history” and points out that it is “unique in that it generated virtually no revenue for the Australian Treasury due to its negative impact on productivity; contributed to the rising costs that have taken the gloss off the country’s resources boom; and essentially helped to bring down Ms Gillard’s former Government.” The Telegraph, in an article titled: “Australia abandons disastrous green tax on emissions,” adds that the tax failed in “winning over voters who faced higher costs passed on by the companies that had to pay for it.” In Slate, Ariel Bogel claims the 2011 bill required “about 350 companies to pay a penalty for their greenhouse gas emissions.”
While Australia is, as WSJ put it: “the world’s first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions,” it is not the only one to back away from such policies. New Zealand has weakened its emissions trading scheme; Japan has retreated from its pledges to cut greenhouse emissions and instead committed to a rise in emissions;Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in 2011; England, where “the bill for green policies is rising,” has “so far resisted calls to expand tax on carbon emissions”; the European Union carbon emissions trading scheme—the biggest in the world and the heart of Europe’s climate-change program—is in dire straits; and, just the day after Australia’s news was announced, South Korea—whose planned 2015 emissions trading market launch would make it the world’s second largest—hinted at an additional delay due to projected costs to businesses.
The Telegraph offers this summary: “carbon trading mechanisms and green taxes have largely been a failure elsewhere and especially so in Europe where they have dragged on investment and threatened long-term energy security.”
These are important lessons in light of the renewed push for a carbon tax in the U.S. as evidenced by the partnership of President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who are, together, calling for a climate tax.
According to the WSJ, the World Bank called Australia’s repeal, “one of the biggest international threats to the rollout of similar programs elsewhere.” The climate lobby is concerned as “Australia’s vote shows that the real obstacle to their dreams of controlling more of the world’s economy is democratic consent.”
In the U.S., similar efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by increasing costs to emitters, and therefore consumers—in our case, cap and trade—failed to achieve “democratic consent” even when Democrats had control. The people didn’t want it. So, the Obama administration now is trying to go around Congress with onerous rules and regulations on emissions.
As in the U.S., a carbon tax—or cap and trade—is not the only policy increasing energy costs to Australian consumers. In the U.S., we have the Renewable Portfolio Standard; in Australia the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Both require the addition of expensive wind-and-solar energy.
Jennifer Marohasy, PhD, who worked for twelve years as a scientist for the Queensland government, told me: “Of course while the carbon tax needed to be repealed, its abolition will go only some way to reducing pressures on Australian businesses and households. The so-called Clean Energy Act 2011 is part of a tsunami of regulation and legislation introduced over recent years that has seen the average electricity price in Australia increase by 70 percent in real terms. Next in line must be the mandatory RET, a government-legislated requirement on electricity retailers to source a specific proportion of total electricity sales from renewable energy sources including wind and solar, with the extraordinary costs serving as a hidden tax—paid by all electricity users.”
In the Australian Financial Review, Alan Moran, an economist specializing in regulatory matters, in particular covering energy, global warming, housing, transport, and competition issues, and Director of the Institute of Public Affair’s Deregulation Unit, agrees that the carbon tax is just one of the burdens holding down the Australian economy. He sees a cascade of programs for support of high-cost renewables and penalties for fossil-fuel use and “a bewildering array of subsidies and programs.”
Both see the RET as the bigger issue. Marohasy says: “In short, repeal of the carbon tax is a big symbolic win. But it’s mostly just window-dressing: to appease the masses. In the background, proponents of anthropogenic global warming who dominate our political class still very much control the levers of government and intend to continue to terrorize the population with claims of catastrophic global warming, while consolidating their rent-seeking through the RET.” She explained: “Money collected from the carbon tax went to government, money collected through the RET largely goes to the global warming industry.” Which is why some in the Australian Senate agreed to vote for the repeal—as long as the RET isn’t touched.
However, Abbott has stated: “All of us should want to see lower prices and plainly at the moment the renewable energy target is a very significant impact on higher power prices.” Time will tell how Abbott fares in the RET battle. But for now, he’s given the world a “learning opportunity” on climate change and energy policy.
Meanwhile, the climate lobby resorts to hyperbole to push its scare-mongering tactics. In closing her piece in Slate, Bogle whines: “As someone who has to live in the quickly cooking world Abbott leaves behind…” Perhaps she’s missed the data that the planet’s predicted warming hasn’t happened—despite ever-increasing CO2 emissions. According to satellite records, there has been no warming in almost 18 years.
May America learn from, as the Brookings Institute observed, the “important laboratory” of Australia’s foray into climate schemes.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
Ethanol damages your cars, small engines, food budget – and kills Gulf of Mexico animals
Ethanol and other biofuel mandates and subsidies got started when politicians bought into claims that we are rapidly depleting our petroleum, and fossil-fuel-driven global warming is boiling the planet.
Hydraulic fracturing destroyed the depletion myth. It also reminds us that “peak oil” applies only if we wrongly assume that resource needs and technologies never change. The 18-year “hiatus” in planetary warming has forced alarmists to change their terminology to climate change, climate disruption and extreme weather mantras – which allow them to continue demanding that we stop using the hydrocarbons that provide 82% of the energy that makes our economy, jobs and living standards possible.
In recent years, people have discovered that ethanol harms lawn mowers and other small engines. The fuel additive also drives up gasoline prices, reduces automotive mileage and corrodes engine parts.
Corn-for-ethanol growers make a lot of money. But meat, egg and fish producers pay more for feed, driving up family food bills. Biofuel mandates also mean aid agencies pay more for corn and wheat, so more malnourished people go hungry longer. This is not what most would call “environmental justice.”
The 10% blends are bad enough. 15% ethanol is much worse, and truckers say a highly corrosive 20% blend will be needed to meet California’s looming low carbon fuel standards.
US law mandates that ethanol production must triple between 2007 and 2020 – even though motorists are driving less and thus using less gasoline, which then means refiners need less ethanol to produce 10% blends. That “blend wall” (between what’s needed and what’s produced) is driving the push to allow 15% ethanol blends, which would void most car engine warranties.
The guaranteed income incentivizes farmers to take land out of conservation easements, pasture land and wildlife habitat, and grow corn instead. Just to meet current ethanol quotas, US farmers are now growing corn on an area the size of Iowa. Growing and harvesting this corn and turning it into ethanol also requires massive quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels and water.
Corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of fresh water per million Btu of energy – compared to at most 6.0 gallons of fresh or brackish water per million Btu of energy produced via fracking. Across its life cycle, ethanol production and use also releases more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline.
Now we learn that ethanol is bad for the environment in another way. It kills marine life.
A large portion of the nitrogen fertilizers needed to grow all that corn gets washed off the land and into streams and rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, where they cause enormous summertime algae blooms. When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen in the water – creating enormous low-oxygen (hypoxic) and zero-oxygen (anoxic) regions.
Marine life cannot survive in those “dead zones.” Fish swim away, but shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers and other stationary or slow moving bottom dwellers cannot escape. They just die.
Thousands of square miles of water off the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as far southwest as Corpus Christi can remain blanketed by a dead zone until fall winds or tropical storms or hurricanes come through. These events cool the water down, churn up the anoxic zones, bring in new oxygen supplies, and restore livability.
In 2012, nearly 2,900 square miles (about the size of Delaware) turned into a dead zone. Last year, because of much greater water flow from the Corn Belt, the region of animal cadavers covered nearly 8,560 square miles (New Jersey). This year, the zone of death could cover a more average Connecticut-size 4,630 to 5,700 square miles, say Louisiana State University, Texas A&M and other researchers, due to lower water flows; strong eddy currents south of the Mississippi Delta could also be playing a role.
A friend of mine recently observed vast stretches of green algae blooms in the normally “blue water” areas beyond the 15-mile-wide region where fresh Mississippi River waters mix with Gulf of Mexico salt water, in the Mississippi Canyon area south of Louisiana. The green zone extended to some 40 miles from shore, he said. As the algae die, they will create huge new suffocation zones, rising up into the water column, invisible from the air and surface, but deadly to millions of creatures that cannot swim away.
The dead zones also mean fishermen, crabbers, shrimpers and other recreational and commercial boaters must travel much further from shore to find anything, putting them at greater risk in the event of storms.
“More nitrate comes off corn fields than it does from any other crop, by far,” says Louisiana State University zoologist Gene Turner. The nitrogen drives the formation of dead zones, and the “primary culprit” driving the entire process is corn-based ethanol, adds Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Center for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.
The US Geological Survey estimates that 153,000 metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer and other nutrients flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in May 2013. That was 16% more than the average amount over the previous three decades. The enormous nutrient runoff is primarily the result of feeding just one crop: corn for ethanol, the USGS affirms. The lost seafood is worth tens of millions of dollars.
Fertilizer and pesticide runoff is substantially higher in wet years. But in dry years much of the excess chemical application just builds up in the soil, waiting for the next big rainy season to unleash it. The more acreage we put in corn for ethanol – and soybeans for biodiesel – the worse the fertilizer and pesticide runoff, algae blooms, dead zones and eradicated marine life become in wet years.
Water use is also skyrocketing to grow these biofuel crops. And if it weren’t for biotechnology, the problems would be far worse. GMO corn is engineered to need less water, and to kill insects that feed on the crops with far lower pesticide use than for traditional, non-biotech varieties. However, the same greens who hate hydrocarbons and promote ethanol and biodiesel also detest biotechnology. Go figure.
Some biofuel advocates tout cellulosic ethanol as a partial solution – because switchgrass requires less fertilizer, and this perennial’s roots help stabilize the soil and reduce runoff. But no one has yet been able to turn this pipedream source into ethanol on a commercial scale. Another potential manmade fuel could be methanol from natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing, but greens continue to oppose fracking.
This algae boom, bust and dead zone phenomenon may not be an ecological crisis, and it’s been going on for decades. But why make it worse, with an expensive, engine-wrecking fuel that eco-activists, politicians and ethanol lobbyists pretend is better for the planet than fossil fuels? Why don’t biofuel boosters at least include this serious, recurring environmental damage in their cost-benefit analyses?
And why do we continue to tolerate the double standards? Environmentalists, politicians and bureaucrats come down with iron fists on any private sector damages involving fossil fuel or nuclear power. They have different standards for the “natural” and “eco-friendly” “alternatives” they advocate. Ethanol from corn is just one example. An even more grotesque double standard involves wind turbines.
Big Green activists and Big Government bureaucrats (especially Fish & Wildlife Service) let Big Wind companies kill eagles and other raptors, conduct deliberately insufficient and incompetent body counts, hide and bury carcasses, and even store hundreds of dead eagles in freezers, away from prying eyes. Using German and Swedish studies as a guide, Save the Eagles International experts calculate that the real US wind turbine death toll is probably 13 million or more birds and bats every year, slaughtered in the name of saving the planet from computer-concocted ravages of manmade global warming.
These policies are unsustainable and intolerable. The same environmental and endangered species standards must be applied to all our energy alternatives – and the ethanol quotas must be terminated.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.
Last week, I discussed tax reform as the first component of a comprehensive agenda to restore booming economic growth, and the American Dream. This week, I will discuss a second essential component of such a growth restoration agenda: deregulation.
Last week, I attended and spoke at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, organized by the Heartland Institute, the world headquarters for skeptics of anthropogenic (human caused), catastrophic, global warming. The event was co-sponsored by 32 organizations, demonstrating broad support for the Resistance. Nearly 700 people attended (a record among all 9 such conferences), with climate scientists from all over the world. Those included 64 speakers from 12 countries.
The event was broadcast live by CSPAN, and online by Heartland, where 6,000 more viewers watched at least some of it. The presentations are all still available online at http://climateconference.heartland.org/, where another 40,000 unique visitors have also watched them.
I came away from the conference convinced that the climate alarmists are right in at least one respect. The debate over anthropogenic, catastrophic, global warming is over. But it is the alarmists who have lost it. This is further confirmed by Australia this week repealing its carbon tax, with popular, newly elected, Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbot calling the claim that humans are causing global warming “absolute crap.” Indeed, I as a lawyer and economist am intellectually fascinated by the subject, because the skeptics have by now so thoroughly trashed alarmist arguments.
Check it out for yourself. Read the latest Assessment Report of the establishment Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And read the three, thousand page volumes published this year of Climate Change Reconsidered II, written by the dozens of scientists in the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).
I see no science left after that for any argument that there is any real serious threat of catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming. The international scientists at the recent Heartland conference do not dispute the theory that “greenhouse gases” have some effect in heating the earth’s atmosphere. But there is no sound science showing that such heating would be so substantial as to threaten catastrophic results for humans, other animals, and plants.
Yes, sea levels are rising. But not any faster than they have for the last 12,000 years, since the end of the last ice age. The polar ice caps are not melting. The Antarctic is at record ice levels, and the Arctic polar ice cap has been restored. Some glaciers are receding, but others are still growing. The weather is not getting more extreme. The worst hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme weather are all in decline. Now that the alarmists have been exposed for these scare tactics, they have lost all credibility.
The only argument for catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming now rests entirely on climate models, which not only have never been validated. They have been falsified now by the almost 18 years of no global warming, which more recently has trended towards global cooling. Spare me the comments by pop tarts, all of whom turn out to be on the government payroll, claiming oh no that cessation of any warming is not true. Too many alarmists have now admitted as much, and it is even being discussed now in the socialist party press.
The growing, yawning gap between the spiking temperature projections of these models and the flat reality not only discredits the models. It is now proving that the climate is not nearly as sensitive to carbon dioxide, or CO2, (a natural substance essential for the survival of all life on the planet, not “pollution”) as the alarmists have tried to claim. That has been proven as well by the up and down pattern of global temperatures going back to the start of the last century, and beyond, despite steadily rising concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere that entire time.
The NIPCC scientists and others at the Heartland conference argue that these climate patterns are more consistent with, and determined by, natural causes. Indeed, the most interesting and challenging scientists at the conference argued that these natural causes now portend a sustained period of global cooling.
Sebastian Luning, doctorate in geology/palaeontology, has been studying the history of solar cycles for 20 years at universities in London, Manchester, Wales, Vienna, and Bremen, Germany. He co-authored with Franz Vahrenholdt, long a leading environmentalist figure in Europe, the book The Neglected Sun, published in 2013. While the U.N.’s IPCC insists that variations in solar activity play no role in climate change, Luning emphasized at the conference that 99.98% of the total energy contribution to the earth’s climate comes from the sun. He postulated that slight changes in that huge force, as reflected in documented cycles of solar activity, would be the dominant factor in causing climate changes, rather than comparatively puny human activities.
Luning referenced a data set of reconstructed cycles of solar activity going back 9,000 years, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. That data set shows the most well-known recurring cycles of 11 years, plus cycles of 90 years, 210 years, 500 years, 1,000 years, and even 2,300 years. He argued that these cycles were the dominant causes of the up and down pattern of global temperatures shown in the historical temperature records, including over the last 150 years, when the industrial revolution began contributing to rising atmospheric CO2 levels.
Periods of high solar activity, such as sunspots and solar flares, correspond closely with historical warm periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period, running roughly from 950 AD to 1250 AD, and the Roman Warm Period, from roughly 250 BC to 400 AD. Periods of low solar activity correspond closely with historical cold periods, such as the Little Ice Age, running from roughly from 1300 AD to 1850 AD. The IPCC’s climate models, which purport to show catastrophe if we do not cease using the energy that fueled the industrial revolution (bitterly resisted by environmentalist reactionaries today), cannot reproduce the temperatures of the Little Ice Age, or these other historical climate variations. So climate hysterics have tried to deny these variations occurred in the past. But the variations proved too thoroughly evidenced in historic records for such ploys to prevail.
Luning concluded that taking the impact of these solar cycles into account would ultimately reduce the estimated climate sensitivity from an atmospheric doubling of CO2 to just 1 degree. That estimated sensitivity is already being forced downward from a previous high of as much as 3, or even 4, degrees, by the now sustained lack of global warming for almost two decades now.
Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov is head of space research at the Pulkovo Obervatory in St. Petersburg. He is author of Grand Minimum of the Total Solar Irradiance Leads to the Little Ice Age (2013) and The Sun Dictates the Climate of the Earth (2009). In 2013, the European Scientific-Industrial Chamber awarded him a gold medal for exceptional achievements.
The Little Ice Age from roughly 1300 AD to 1850 AD was accompanied by several cycles of dramatically reduced sunspots and other solar activity. The Wolf Minimum began in 1280 and persisted for 70 years until 1350. That was followed by a period of even lower sunspot and other solar activity that lasted 90 years from 1460 to 1550 known as the Sporer Minimum. During the period 1645 to 1715, the low point of the Little Ice Age, the number of sunspots declined to zero for the entire time. This is known as the Maunder Minimum, named after English astronomer Walter Maunder. That was followed by the Dalton Minimum from 1790 to 1830.
Abdussamatov argues that similar patterns of sunspots and other solar activity began in 1990, which he says was the start of another solar decline, caused by a quasi-bicentennial solar cycle. He says that all 18 periods of substantial climate change over the last 7,500 years have been caused by such cycles. Indeed, he has charted such effects going back 800,000 years.
That quasi-bicentennial phase has already shown up in sharp declines in the much smaller 11 year solar cycles. He argues that a new Little Ice Age resulting from this solar decline can be dated as starting this year, which he first predicted about 10 years ago. The solar decline will continue, he says, reaching a new solar Grand Minimum period starting in 2043+/-11 years. That will be the beginning of what he calls a “solar autumn,” passing from the recent period of “solar summer.”
The decline will continue, he says, passing into “solar winter” in 2060+/-11 years. That will be the equivalent of a new Maunder Minimum, which was the deepest cold period of the Little Ice Age. By then, global temperatures will have fallen about 1.5 degrees from current levels, he expects. The decline will then stabilize at that level for another 50 years or so. Abdussamatov argues that to prepare for this, governments need to be maximizing economic growth, so that countries will have the economic resources to best deal with the new frigid climate. Astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon also emphasized the role of the sun as the dominant factor in climate change.
Dr. Don Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University, emphasized instead the role of natural ocean cycles in causing climate change. He has collected data showing 20 periods of global warming and 20 periods of global cooling since 1480 AD, each lasting for roughly similar periods of 27 years on average. These were caused, he said, by the cycles known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Atlantic Multidecadel Oscillation (AMO).
On the basis of these historical cycles, in 1999 Easterbrook predicted 25 to 30 years of global cooling, as he estimated that the PDO began phasing from warm to cold in that year. That is the primary reason there has been no warming for almost 18 years now, with a slight cooling trend over more recent years. He says the 20 years of global warming before that were due to a natural PDO warming cycle, not mankind’s CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Overregulation Squelches Energy Production, Costs Necessarily Skyrocket
Politicians and “journalists” who insistently express fervent belief in catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming do so not because of any science they have read, but because they want to believe in it. That desire stems from the recognition that the theory provides the justification for wildly expanded government powers of taxation, spending and regulation that would displace markets and capitalism. This applies to President Obama and his Democrats, Federal, state and local, and major media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.
This is why Obama and his Democrats have so overregulated energy production that output of traditional fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal, on federal lands and other federally controlled areas (primarily off-shore) has declined sharply under President Obama, while such production on private and state lands has soared to record smashing levels. Today, America now has the resources to be the world’s number one producer of each of these energy sources, plus nuclear energy, which America originally pioneered, but since has ceded to other, rival economies.
This deprives America of the full scope of increased jobs, wages, income, and tax and royalty revenue that would result directly from a fully liberated energy boom as America reaches its renewed potential as the world’s number oil producer, number natural gas producer, number one coal producer, even number one nuclear energy producer. Clumsy overregulation has now killed the Keystone Pipeline, as Canada has given up on Obama’s misleadership, and decided to build a pipeline to its west coast to export its energy bounty to America’s emerging top rival China, which will soon surpass America as the world’s number one economy.
Moreover, the resulting supply of reliable, low cost energy from such an energy boom would fuel a broader, economy wide, boom. The fracking boom in natural gas production quickly earned an echo in the developing return of manufacturing to America’s shores.
But stunting the supply of traditional fossil fuels, plus adding the costs of unnecessary overregulation, will spike the cost of energy in America, as Obama boasted behind closed doors to deluded supporters in 2008, saying that under his plans, “the cost of electricity will necessarily skyrocket.” Forcing in addition a shift by regulatory requirement to necessarily much more costly “renewable” fuels like solar, wind, and biofuels will further skyrocket America’s energy costs.
These added costs are like an additional tax burden squelching the economy, just like the carbon tax that Australia just so wisely jettisoned. The Liberal Establishment told us the awful stagflation of the 1970s was the result of oil price spikes caused by Arab oil embargoes. But now that same establishment is telling us we must now voluntarily do the same thing to our own economy, for our own good.
Restoring maximum, booming, economic growth requires deregulation to remove this counterproductive overregulation, which the discussion above of the science of catastrophic, anthropogenic, global warming shows is not necessary. Restoring growth requires liberating energy producers to lead an historic energy boom directly creating millions of good paying jobs, spreading the 3% unemployment and booming wages of North Dakota across America. And producing burgeoning supplies of low cost, reliable energy that would spread the boom economy wide, through a renaissance of good paying jobs in manufacturing and other industries.
State governments should further contribute to the boom by repealing costly renewable energy mandates, and telling the EPA that if it wants states to adopt their own carbon taxes, or cap and trade, the states will see them in court.
Costs of Obamacare Regulatory Delusions
Both the Obamacare Individual Mandate and the Employer Mandate are regulatory disasters killing jobs and the economy in America. The Individual Mandate because exactly the opposite of what Obama promised it is sharply increasing health insurance costs by requiring the purchase of more extensive benefits than people want to pay for. That includes the costs of Democrat “fairness” in guaranteed issue and community rating, which are like requiring fire insurers to issue insurance policies at the same cost as for anyone else to those who call in to buy after their house is already on fire. And the Employer Mandate because it is adding these costs to employment, which is reducing jobs, at least full time jobs.
The Obama Administration was celebrating the labor report for last month reportedly showing an increase of 288,000 jobs. But those were all part time jobs, as the employer mandate does not apply to jobs of less than 30 hours a week, which is all that the economy is currently producing as a result. Full time jobs actually plunged by 523,000 last month. But part time jobs more suitable for teenagers skyrocketed by 800,000. As a result, overall, fewer than half of American adults are working full time. No wonder middle class incomes are falling so steadily, Obama’s misleading rhetoric notwithstanding.
Restoring booming economic growth requires removing all these costly, counterproductive, Obamacare regulatory burdens. More people would be covered through carefully constructed, free market incentives for health insurance, which free market economists have been advocating for 20 years. But the dishonest, so-called “mainstream” media won’t cover them, or tell anyone about it, because they will only support increased government power and control.
Dodd-Frank’s Regulatory Overkill
The Dodd-Frank legislation (Democrats thought it would be a great idea for those who caused the financial crisis to devise legislation to address it) imposes hundreds of new regulations on financial institutions that burden small and community banks the most. Instead of ending financial bailouts as advertised, the legislation actually institutionalizes them. The Justice Dept. is vigorously pursuing the same imaginary discrimination suits that led to the financial crisis in the first place, on the idea that denying loans to people who can’t pay them back is unfair and discriminatory.
This regulatory overkill has deprived the economy of the credit needed for a full recovery. Employers are constrained from gaining the necessary capital to start or expand businesses, killing the jobs and higher wages that would result. Consumers can’t get the credit necessary to support a booming economy. Restoring booming economic growth would require removing these unnecessary and counterproductive economic burdens.
Next week, we will discuss monetary policy reform, which may be the most important reform of all for restoring booming economic growth, and the American Dream.
The Labour Party, the main opposition political party in New Zealand, made headlines last week when it announced its proposed policy for trying people accused of rape. According to the party’s justice spokesman, Andrew Little, the party is proposing that the burden of proof be reversed in rape trials. In other words, people accused of rape would have to prove their innocence.
It is quite astonishing that any mainstream party in a Western democracy could actually entertain the idea of eliminating, even in one instance, the presumption of innocence. That presumption, which demands that the government never treat a citizen as a criminal until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they have actually committed the crime, is the Golden Thread binding together the whole of the Anglo-American criminal justice tradition. It is enshrined across laws and constitutions, and is even recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
The government’s first role is the upholding of the law and the protecting of its citizens. That is fundamentally impossible if the government can brand citizens as criminals unless they can directly prove otherwise. The policy of the Labour Party, should it be implemented, represents a death knell to the legal protections citizens have come to expect and fundamentally deserve.
The avowed justification for the change in the case of rape is the indisputable fact that it is very hard to convict anyone of rape. It is true that convictions are difficult to achieve on a forensic level. It is also hard for people who have been raped to come forward at all, due to very real social pressures not to speak out, and the frequent tendency of societies to engage in victim-blaming. These are truly tragic problems, ones that are probably not addressed nearly enough by governments around the world. Rape is a horrific crime, and the victims of it are frequently scarred for life. The violation of one’s self in that way is one of the most grotesque that can be experienced. Governments the world over have done too little to address the problem.
But the underlying problem does not call for simply lowering the bar of what it takes to convict someone of the crime, and it certainly does not call for reversing the burden of evidence that is instantiated across the laws of all countries with British common law traditions. The Labour Party is groping blindly for a solution that will paper over social factors currently hampering investigations. The advocates of this policy are seeking a blunt tool by which to redress a clear injustice. But answering injustice with another terrible injustice is not the way forward.
It would be naive to assume that a policy of reversing the burden of consent in cases of rape would stop there. When the fundamental relationship between citizen and state in the investigation and prosecution of transgressions is shifted, even in one instance, it changes the relationship across the board. If underlying difficulties in enforcement of rape prosecutions is justification to reverse the burden of proof, why not do the same for other difficult-to-prosecute crimes? Where would it end?
Some pundits say slippery slope arguments are invalid, but they are unquestionably wrong in this case. The policy proposal of the Labour Party would permanently and irrevocably transform the entirety of the legal system. It might just take a few years for the case-law to accrete before people notice.
The Labour Party is not currently in power to act on this policy, and it would likely face substantial legal challenges in the courts were it to do so. But it is reflective of a dangerous strain in left wing political ideology that seeks to outright reject many of the sacred institutions of personal liberty and limited government to serve their myopic conceptualization of justice. When a position attacking a venerated precept like the presumption of innocence as a tool of the “patriarchy” to oppress women is met with anything but instant ridicule, there is a problem.
Rape, and all non-consensual violence, is monstrous and unambiguously evil. But a government demanding that citizens prove their innocence of a crime is also unambiguously evil.
Gambling and marijuana are corrupting the people and Michael Gerson is on it:
Two of the larger social trends of our time — the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana — have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty, and they serve the interests of an expanding government. The ideological alliance behind these changes is among the strangest in U.S. politics. Libertarians seek to lift governmental restraints on consensual acts. State governments seek sources of revenue without the political inconvenience of requesting broad tax increases. Both find common ground in encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses and addictions of citizens. (And business interests and their lobbyists, of course, find new ways to profit from reliable vices.) …
Parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children. But now some states are profiting from actively undermining those norms. Apparently, only consenting adults matter. Libertarian utopias are always childless. For the strongest ideological advocates of this approach, the outcomes are largely irrelevant. It ultimately doesn’t matter if teen drug use increases by X percent or gambling addiction rises Y percent. Ending “consensual crimes” is a matter of principle — not just on pot and slots but on heroin and meth. The idea of a political community upholding standards, in order to help other institutions (such as families) pass healthy cultural norms between generations, is anathema.
It goes on from there as you might expect. Peter Wehner joins in on the idea here, in the odd context of advocating policies that will appeal to… single women? Emphasis mine:
In addition, Republicans would be wise to enlarge the social issues they speak about. Liberals and the elite press will want to keep the focus on issues like contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Republicans need to counter by speaking in compelling ways about the intellectual and moral education of the young, about education as the civil-rights struggle of this generation, and protecting children from harm, including drug use and standing against drug legalization. They need to speak about an agenda focused on social mobility and helping people gain the skills they’ll need to succeed in a 21st century economy. Republicans also need to make it clear they want to strengthen, rather than weaken, the social safety net, including about the purposes of government in ways that reassures rather than unnerves people, especially those who are most vulnerable.
I have difficulty with viewing these arguments from Wehner and Gerson (and David Frum) as anything but naive posturing. For Gerson, the aim seems to be that the drug war is something that is helping people, and backing off from it is bad for society; for Wehner, he seems to conclude that the path back to electoral success is doubling down on the drug war to appeal to single women and moms.
Given the logic of Gerson’s piece, I have a hard time seeing what shouldn’t be banned as a waste of money or a private vice in the name of his favored cultural norm. He argues that making something that is illegal legal – thereby reducing crime, reducing the prison population, and taxing the activity instead represents an expansion of government. I see no conceivable way this is accurate. On the drug front, the experience in Portugal completely goes against the idea that decriminalization breeds greater government dependency (fewer addicts using fewer social services, fewer people in jail and the courts, and so on). Yes, of course there will be some Americans who choose the simple life of welfare, Medicaid, and marijuana – but given that decriminalization of low level drug offenses also means that we will stop sending hundreds of thousands of young fathers to jail, the social dependency outcomes there are at worst a wash – and I would argue that over time, this will lead to dramatically less government dependency as opposed to the status quo for people bouncing in and out of prison.
Nothing has done more to increase government dependency than government drug policies which have dramatically increased the number of single moms who are pushed to look to government for help and become trapped by that help. There are 1.5 million kids in America who have a parent in jail, and of those in federal prison, half are there for drug related crimes. The continued criminalization of even low-level drug offenses has dramatically increased the burden on the welfare state and government dependency. How on earth does supporting a policy that often is the cause of making these women single moms by throwing their children’s fathers in jail something that will win the votes of single women?
On the gambling front: there is precious little evidence of a dramatic increase in dependency associated with areas around casinos, nor has there been an increase in the number of compulsive/problem gamblers despite the dramatic increase in casinos over the past several decades (the research on that also actually indicateseven fewer problem gamblers online, because they stop quicker). If Gerson wants to argue against something demonstrably unfair to the civic order, he shouldcriticize state lotteries, which are ever-present, cash-based, purposefully target poor areas, and actually doen’t make a lot of revenue for states. While casinos are typically gambling destination spots for the better educated middle class (they want people with more money to burn), state lotteries are only played by the dumb and desperate because of the ridiculous odds. State lotteries function as a regressive tax on people who don’t make enough money to pay a lot of taxes, while casinos function as a sin tax on people with disposable income. And if the latter is the unacceptable, we better start banning a lot of other things, too.
Here as in so many cases, those who are defending the status quo of American policy toward drugs and gambling, arguing against the current push for legalization, also demand that those who seek more liberty prove, beyond a doubt, that eliminating the current restrictive policy will have no negative outcomes. Gerson and Wehner would be better off presuming a default policy in favor of liberty and self-determination over the power of the state. Instead, we should demand a very high burden of proof from those who seek to restrict liberty and expand the state. If Gerson truly believes that the drug war represents a “political community upholding standards, in order to help other institutions (such as families) pass healthy cultural norms between generations,” then he must demonstrate how our these policies actually do that, and how helping parents enforce those norms is worth breaking up tens of thousands of families, instead of just ignoring the ample evidence of the failure of the drug war as irrelevant. Who knew that what was really crushing civil society all along wasn’t working class dads bouncing in and out of prison for non-violent crimes, but the creeping pestilence of pot, porn, and poker?
Perhaps they needs to revisit the understanding of what a Republic is. I’ve always thought John Wayne’s description, as Davy Crockett in The Alamo, is apt: “Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose.”
[Originally published at The Federalist]
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday called on the state legislature to repeal the state’s Common Core education standards, national guidelines that are proving to be increasingly controversial in many states. Walker said he wants Common Core to be replaced “with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”
The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely firstname.lastname@example.org and 312/377-4000.
“Pressure from the upcoming national elections has combined with years of steady grassroots pressure in Wisconsin to finally shift Gov. Walker towards giving some attention to Common Core. He had previously stated opposition to Common Core, but his Common Core solution included putting its chief proponent in charge of replacing it.
“If that remains his best idea, Wisconsin kids are still in for a weak curriculum and another decade of ignoring that monopoly education and the deterioration of the family are root causes of poorly prepared teachers, academic-lite curriculum, a culture that shirks the hard work and personal responsibility required for high achievement, and an attenuating citizenry.”
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News
“Now that the rank awfulness of the Common Core standards is finally becoming known, states are starting to back out. That is democracy in action, whereas the initial imposition of Common Core was a top-down, command-and-control approach done through a smoke-and-mirrors sleight of hand intended to look like private, state-led action. The fact that states are leaving the program proves that Common Core never was state-led and always was a big-government scam.”
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.
The Australian Senate on Thursday voted to repeal the country’s carbon tax of $25 per ton, keeping a promise by new prime minister Tony Abbott to get rid of it. Australia becomes the first Western nation to repeal a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
The following statements from climate and energy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at email@example.com and 312/377-4000.
“The decision by Australia to repeal its carbon tax is further evidence that the global warming movement is now in global retreat. Australian voters realized the tax, which cost the average household more than $500 a year, had zero impact on the climate while it destroyed jobs and punished the poor and people on fixed incomes. Elected officials took longer to realize their mistake, but the right decision was finally made.
“The odds of a new international treaty with binding provisions being adopted at the next United Nations meeting in Paris in 2015, already poor, have dropped even further. People all over the world are seeing through the hype and exaggeration of politicians and environmental activists. They understand that there simply is no climate crisis, and they no longer are willing to passively accept the taxes, regulations, and subsidies passed at the height of global warming alarmism.
“Politicians who campaign on the promise of repealing such useless and destructive taxes and laws can expect to be rewarded at the polls. President Obama has given Republicans here in the U.S. a golden opportunity to make major advances this November. Australia has shown the way. Are they paying attention?”
The Heartland Institute
“Australia is the latest nation to realize expensive restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions punish living standards while accomplishing no real-world environmental benefit. Canada, Japan, Germany, Spain, the UK, and other nations have also been rolling back efforts to stifle conventional energy usage in the scientifically unsupportable war against carbon dioxide emissions.
“Money wasted imposing expensive energy restrictions could be better spent on education, housing, health care, nutrition, real environmental challenges, or simply allowing people to keep more of their earnings. Australia has seen the light and I expect more nations will soon follow suit.”
James M. Taylor
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast sat down with the New American’s Bill Jasper during the 9th International Conference on Climate Change to talk about the origin and purpose of the conference. Boasting 64 speakers, from a multitude of disciplines, ICCC9 was the most “star-studded” climate conference yet.
Bast explained that when the Heartland Institute started looking seriously at the issue of global warming in 2006, its first aim was to find a way to make a difference. To do so, Bast conducted a “gap analysis” in order to find something missing in the climate skeptic movement. Heartland quickly hit upon the idea of a conference to bring together the world’s leading climate skeptics.
Bast explained that ICCC was born out of that idea:
“One of the things that was missing was an opportunity to bring all of these global warming skeptics together and develop some personal relationships, to develop a social movement. And unless people get to know each other and actually sit around the table and talk and bring their families together, they’re not going to form a social movement. It’s especially important when you have a minority point of view. You need that support network of friends and colleagues who agree with you.”
Bast spoke wistfully of the first ICCC as “a beautiful thing.” It was the first time these climate skeptics had met together. It sparked a wave of collaboration and new research projects. Science relies on cross-pollination of ideas, and there had been a marked absence of such collaboration in the field of climate skepticism. As organizer, Heartland played midwife to a burgeoning skeptic movement.
Bast had a lot to say about what he perceives to be an extreme bias in the way science is conducted and discussed in the mainstream:
“I think very few people realize just how imbalanced the debate is. There are estimates that we spend a billion dollars a day, globally, on global warming. Between subsidies for the researchers and all these programs to subsidize renewable energy, a billion dollars a day! That is an industry. That is a global warming industry, and its self-interest is to exaggerate the threat, to ignore any doubts, and to pursue one avenue, which is reducing emissions.”
A growing problem, according to Bast, is one of funding. Each time Heartland has put on an ICCC, it has had to dedicate a tremendous percentage of its manpower and resources to making it work. They are expensive, and Bast explained that each time he was always reticent to do it again. And he still was, even after the big turnout at ICCC9, saying, “I’m not sure we’re going to do a tenth.” It all comes down to money and resources, a subject Bast turned to more broadly when he described the plight of many climate skeptics who pay a high academic cost for holding their views:
“We need to find new sources of revenue and support for these skeptics. You’ve got very competent, very courageous academics like Willie Soon, and David Legates in Rhode Island. These guys are losing their academic positions, losing grants, losing all the usual awards and privileges that a successful career would bring. We have to create competing institutions, or set of institutions, that reward these guys.”
The problem to which Bast alluded, that the academic discipline of science has become a monolith, is certainly a serious one. It is a problem that even people who accept the mainstream view on climate change should acknowledge and try to fix. There was once a time when private research institutions were the dominant players on the science stage, in all the varied disciplines. A glut of government funding has made even private universities and institutes junkies for government cash. That desire for subsidies and grants can make scientists alter their research programs to better align with the views of those who have their hands on the tap.
Science as a discipline thrives in a marketplace of open ideas and competition. Any time a majority view seeks to not just defeat, but to strangle, opposition views, people should be worried. Accept anthropogenic global warming or don’t. Either way, don’t support a scientific establishment that is more concerned with raking in government funding than pushing the boundaries of human understanding.
At the Examiner, Gene Healy writes about why the Rand Paul/Rick Perry initial sparring is good for the foreign policy debate on the right. Whether it’s good or bad in the long run, I do believe it illustrates a number of challenges Republican candidates in 2016 will have to deal with, and the difficulty of assessing where the Republican base is headed at a time when few leaders have run in tandem with its shifting views on national security and foreign policy.
It should be clear, however, that Rand Paul has been elevated for three reasons, all of which are concurrent with the trendlines of Republican opinions to varying degrees. He has become the lone prominent voice on the national stage rejecting the nation-building approaches deployed by both parties in the past decade and a half; he has advocated for bringing home troops and withdrawing from or avoiding additional actions in hot spots around the world; and he has spoken to the distrust of government within the realm of security policy domestically.
It is actually this last arena in which the poll numbers have experienced the most dramatic change over the past year. The actions of the Obama administration in regards to invasions of privacy by the IRS and inappropriate actions by government officials in a number of different agencies have led Republican and Independent voters to shift significantly toward a total rejection of the established security policy. Today 77 percent of Republicans saying the National Security Agency’s spying intrudes on their privacy (even exceeding the 70 percent of Democrats!), a 27 point jump from before Obama’s presidency. 60 percent of Americans oppose the NSA collection of phone and internet data; 74 percent believe the NSA is violating their privacy rights; and a majority of Americans by a 13 point margin disapprove of the NSA itself, with again more Republicans than Democrats opposing the agency. Pew finds that almost 70 percent of self-identified Tea Partiers disapprove of the NSA – a demonstration of a shift on civil liberties that really did not exist as a phenomenon prior to the Obama era. It’s not hard to see why.
Yet even as this rising Republican suspicion of government surveillance and power has elevated Rand Paul beyond the anti-war backing of his father, I suspect it has not simultaneously led to an endorsement of Paul’s other policy views. It is notable that the same majority which wants to eliminate the ability of the NSA to spy on them also favors the prosecution of Edward Snowden. Republican primary voters don’t share the views of many Obama 2008 voters (and one suspects Rand 2016 voters) who remain incensed about the existence of Gitmo, CIA black sites, torturing bad guys, killing terrorists with drones… On all these scores, Republican voters do not display significant movement. In particular, they display no qualms about spying on foreign countries – indeed, most will agree we should absolutely be doing that in a time of an ascendant Russia and increased dangers in the Middle East. The problem this presents for Paul is that while they may be of the same mind on the NSA, the leftward portion of his base believes that Edward Snowden is a saint and Glenn Greenwald is his prophet, while the rightward portion believes both should be in jail. I don’t think he’s figured out how to deal with that yet.
As for the challenge for Rick Perry’s faction, which effects virtually every other realistic 2016 candidate, I think the back and forth with Paul reveals that non-neoconservative hawks are going to have to deal with their own discomfiting trend lines. Perry wanted to criticize Paul without having to also defend prior policy positions regarding Iraq – which Paul of course raised in his response oped. Here, Perry and his ideological allies would probably prefer to deflect: after all, just 22 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war was worth it. Even majorities of Republicans share that view, an indication that Republicans have, along with the rest of the country, largely rejected the ideas of Bush’s second inaugural as well as the view that national security requires sacrificing a significant degree of privacy. But I don’t think their candidates have come to share that view yet, at least not explicitly.
Now, this is not an indication that the Republican base is becoming anti-war, or anti-American power, or isolationist. It is an indication that they are opposed to costly lengthy humanitarian-minded missions without clear goals or conditions for victory which include putting soldiers in harm’s way doing just about anything outside the realm of what they think the military ought to be doing. The shift has been toward opposition of the international freedom agenda where it involves boots on the ground, using the military to nation build, and do a bunch of stuff that isn’t killing bad guys. And this opposition does not make one an isolationist – that label does not work when people like Jonah Goldberg have to defend themselves from being called isolationist because they didn’t want to get involved in Syria.
(As an aside: The danger in a Republican presidential primary is not to be tagged as an isolationist. It actually plays to Paul’s advantage to run with that attack, because of the rhetorical pivot it allows: “does opposition to nation-building make one an isolationist?”. No, the real danger for Paul is to be tagged as no different from an Obama-Kerry liberal. He is vulnerable on this count, and will likely remain so absent a change in his approach which includes more of an embrace of the realist policy legacy.)
Republican voters want someone who is genuinely neither neoconservative nor isolationist. They want someone who will reject the overreach of nationbuilding and sticking our nose into every conflict, reject internationalism and hypocritical spying on American citizens, and embrace a more traditional Jacksonian policy which says that if you hit us or if we see you’re going to hit us, we will use any and all Constitutional resources to hunt you down and kill you in your cave in the middle of the night.
This may seem rather simplistic. But Republican candidates are still struggling with this, and they will have to work it out before the question gets asked on the Iowa debate stage of “Was it right to go to war in Iraq? Would you do it again? And what would you do about the NSA?”
In a sense, this is just another consequence of Republicans losing the adult in the room status on security and foreign policy. The party has always included realists and idealists, and there was in the past a degree of trust that elected leaders could sound more like idealists but govern more like realists. Welcome to life in a political realm where that trust no longer exists.
[Originally published at The Federalist]
The appointment of Iowa’s Angela Tagtow, a controversial “environmental nutritionist” and local food activist, to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is causing more headaches for the agency, already facing criticism about politicization of federal nutrition advice and its consequences for public health.
By using the government’s official dietary guidelines as a tool to advance her well-established environmentalist agenda, Tagtow would undermine the USDA’s mandate — to provide families with science-based, impartial nutrition advice.
The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services administer the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations regarding the dietary guidelines mandated by Congress. The guidelines, now being revised, are the basis for federal food and nutrition programs and welfare benefits such as SNAP and educational campaigns, including MyPlate (formerly the food pyramid). The USDA touts them to be “authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.”
The fourth meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee started Thursday and will conclude today.
According to Politico, recent advisory committee meetings raised eyebrows because “hot-button issues, such as diet and climate change,” are being discussed in an unprecedented way. The committee has even dedicated one of five subcommittees to “food sustainability and safety” to discuss how the food we eat contributes to climate change and how the government should recommend changes to our diets based on those concerns.
Sustainable food systems and environmental protection may be important, but these issues don’t belong in discussions of healthy eating.
That hasn’t stopped the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee from delving deeply into them over the past year. In the January meeting of the committee, member Miriam Nelson gushed about the importance of promoting foods that have the “littlest impact on the environment” and invited testimony from sustainability expert Kate Clancy, who argued it would be “perilous” not to take global climate change into account when dispensing dietary advice.
In April, a USDA spokesperson seemed to back away from the row by minimizing the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s role in policy-making, saying, “The committee is still in the early stages of its work, so it is premature to guess what their recommendations might be, and even more premature to speculate about what will be included in the final dietary guidelines.”
But the appointment of Tagtow to the USDA office responsible for not only developing and promoting the dietary guidelines, but advancing prominent programs such as MyPlate, suggests that the USDA is doubling down on raising the profile of our diet’s alleged effect on the climate and other issues that have more to do with political science than nutritional science.
For instance, Tagtow boasts that the mission of her consulting firm, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, “is to establish healthier food systems that are resilient, sustainable, ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable.”
This isn’t nutrition. This is code language for politically charged activism. In what amounts to her policy platform statement, Tagtow writes that we should select meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed only grass diets.
She also repeats the myth that meat is an environmentally reckless form of protein, suggesting a plant-based diet instead. She says we should reduce our consumption of meat, lean or not, not because of any potential health benefits, but in order to “conserve natural resources and energy.”
Tagtow has suggested that Iowans could improve the state’s economy by eating only food grown in the state, at least part of the year.
She touted a Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture study, claiming that ” if Iowans ate five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and Iowa farmers supplied that produce for three months of the year, these additional crops would add $300 million and more than 4,000 jobs to the Iowa economy.”
She fails to mention that in her utopian Iowa, residents wouldn’t likely enjoy the benefits of staples like oranges or pineapples for those months. Nor does she consider the devastation to Iowa’s agricultural community if her agro-protectionist ideals were implemented in other states.
Well, now she’s headed to the federal government to promote her narrow ideology.
The maxim that in government, “personnel is policy,” is especially true here, given Tagtow’s policymaking role. The priorities she’s spent her career advancing are far from the consensus among mainstream nutritionists.
Her appointment is a slap in the face to thousands of men and women in nutrition who daily work tirelessly and impartially to help Americans eat better. And it casts doubt over whether USDA is willing to dispense nutrition advice based on science rather than an activist agenda.
JEFF STIER is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He heads its risk analysis division. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at www.jeffstier.org.
When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.
It is not until the signing of the Magna Carta that most people trace a tentative rekindling of the concepts of limited government and representation. While far from a republican document, let alone a democratic one, Magna Carta represented the first time one of the European monarchies that arose from the ruins of Rome formally constituted a limited relationship between ruler and subjects (or ruler and barons as was the case at first).
The Magna Carta is still thought of as the nucleus of the British constitution. It represents a starting point out of which arose parliamentary primacy, and eventual parliamentary democracy. It was the concept of the natural and constitutionally guaranteed Rights of Englishmen, and their perceived impugning by taxation without appropriate representation, that spurred the American colonists first to demand redress, and then to open revolt.
This is the story most students in the English-speaking world are taught. A line is drawn through history showing the unbroken thread of liberty and limited government, from Greece to Rome to Britain, and finally to the United States where it reached its full and final flowering in republican splendor.
Yet this substantively Anglo-centric view leaves out several important episodes in the saga of republican government. If we cast our eye further afield we may find a far richer history than the textbooks permit. Casting our gaze northward to another island in the Atlantic we see another, independent birth of republicanism, one that has carried its own legacy to the present day. This is the story of Iceland and its discovery of representative government.
Iceland was first settled by Norwegian Vikings around 874AD. The impetus to leave their homeland appears to have been twofold. For some it was the desire to find new lands on which to build farms and to raise families. For others it was the desire to escape the authority of the Norwegian king.
These early pioneers found a fairly barren, inhospitable land, but they swiftly went about making a home for themselves. In many ways the settlers replicated life as it was on the Scandinavian mainland, with family and clan groups forming the primary centers of social life. Architecture and farming practices were successfully transferred wholesale.
The one thing the settlers did not bring along with them was an established government. No nobility or royal family staked claim to the Icelanders. Indeed, among the early Icelanders there was no central form of government at all. This state of affairs proved somewhat unstable, as no set rule of law resulted in feuds that cost many lives. Eventually the most respected and powerful clan leaders met to resolve these problems. As pragmatic as they were warlike, the Icelanders agreed to establish a permanent government to uphold a binding rule of law and to arbitrate disputes between individuals and families.
In 930AD this government took shape as the Althing, or assembly. It would be a sort of proto-parliament, with seats apportioned to the major families and regions. The Althing was to be a deliberative and legislative body, as well as central judiciary. No one was denied access to it by merit of birth.
It was settled that the permanent meeting place would be in a valley within easy riding distance of the major population centers. As a quirk of history, or maybe as an auspicious sign, the particular valley chosen happens to fall directly on the dividing line of two tectonic plates. On one side is the plate carrying most of Europe. The other, to the west, holds the eastern North American continent. The Icelandic pioneers could not know that, of course, but looking back on it through history, it dredges up a sense of symbolic importance. Here, in this rugged frontier, men with little or no education had settled on a break with the only way of governing they had ever known, a break as palpable as the split in the earth dividing the Old World and the New over which they met.
The imagination calls up images of these brave men who embarked on a new course, one with which they had no experience and no guidance from Greek or Roman forebears. As they met beneath the moon-cast shadows of ancient crags, they could hardly have known what a revolutionary path they had chosen to tread.
While far from as representative as what modern citizens would expect from a legislative body, the Althing was a remarkable first step in the direction of parliamentary governance. The body was large enough to include many landowners, not simply the mightiest in the land. It enacted a binding law that was recognized and respected by the citizenry with a remarkable zeal. The respect for the rule of law was inculcated in Icelanders in a time when much of the rest of the world was ruled by the fiat of kings or warlords. Even their kinsfolk in Scandinavia were subject to powerful kings and lords.
The difference in mindset between the Icelandic people and the Scandinavian society they left behind is perhaps best reflected in the extant legends and sagas of the two groups. Scandinavia is famous for its bloody epics detailing the exploits of mighty heroes who slay preposterous numbers of warriors and monsters. In Iceland, the sagas still have some of that blood and thunder. But the centerpieces of the stories tend to revolve more around intricate legal disputes and oratorical, rather than martial, brilliance.
Over the centuries, despite successive foreign invaders and occupiers seeking to quash it, the Althing has persisted, showing as much stubbornness as the Icelandic people. It remains the chief governing body of Iceland, though it now fits squarely in the mold of modern parliamentary democracy. It is the oldest extant parliament in the world. It is a living reminder of humans’ desire to rule themselves and to be free of arbitrary government. It is wise to reflect on the many paths nations have followed to the promised land of representative democracy. Doing so allows us to see its invaluable worth to humanity and to the enduring truth it upholds.